Sunday, November 30, 2008

How to put smart people off teaching

Putting young, inexperienced teachers into sink schools is a sure way to cause them to think of another career. Some of them last only weeks in such a situation. You would think an education boss would know that but when you are a Leftist, you don't need facts. Sounding good is all that matters

Top teaching graduates will be offered extra money to fill difficult jobs and work at "challenging" state schools. State Education Minister Rod Welford will today unveil what he describes as an innovative plan to get elite teachers into tough classroom roles. Mr Welford told The Sunday Mail the graduates would be offered incentives in the form of scholarships to work in specialist subject areas, difficult schools or remote locations.

The minister said he was alarmed at the number of teachers quitting after just four or five years on the job. [So he wants them to quit even faster??] "Recruiting and retaining top teachers is the key to ensuring all Queensland students can access the best possible education, no matter where they live," Mr Welford said.

Mr Welford, who will quit politics after 20 years at the 2009 state election, said there was a shortage of teachers in manual arts and maths B and C. Bonded scholarships would be offered to high-calibre final year undergraduate students to teach in subjects where shortages had been identified. Queensland Health had introduced a similar program for doctors, a bonded medical scholarship to work in areas of "priority service" for six years after graduating from Griffith University.

Mr Welford said other positions that were difficult to fill included schools in areas of socio-economic disadvantage and in rural and remote locations. "Increasingly we need to recognise that to attract the right talent we need to have incentives and we need to apply our most talented people to the most challenging jobs," he said.

The minister said the State Government would also implement a sister program with universities to provide graduates with initial teaching experience in the location of their choice. "This would be followed by a placement in a difficult-to-staff location with a guaranteed return to their preferred location after an agreed time. "Boomerang transfers will also be offered, with staff supported to undertake short-term placements in challenging locations with a guaranteed return to their preferred location on completion."

Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan supported the plan but said the teachers must be fully qualified before taking the demanding roles. "We accept that there is a need for a variety of ways in which we can attract teachers to the profession . . . the best way is to make sure they are getting the right salaries," Mr Ryan said. The Government plans to introduce the scheme for 2009.


Media Bias in Australia

The ABC's partisan preferences are not limited to Australian politics

The taxpayer-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) occupies a position in Australia similar to that enjoyed by the BBC in the United Kingdom. The ABC runs two free-to-air national television channels, four national radio networks, nine metropolitan radio stations in major cities, 51 radio stations across rural and regional Australia and a range of Internet and subscription services. No Australian commercial network approaches the ABC in terms of reach and, arguably, influence. It is well-funded, amply staffed and under more or less constant criticism for projecting a left-wing take on just about every aspect of Australian life that it touches.

Grahame Morris, a chief of staff to former conservative Prime Minister John Howard, once described the national broadcaster as, "our enemies talking to our friends." The recently retired presenter of ABC TV's national gardening show was a former member of the Communist Party. The ABC, you see, takes no chances. Even when you were invited to tiptoe through the tulips, the ABC provided an ideologically reliable guide.

Obviously, the political and cultural disposition of the national broadcaster, as it sucks up taxpayer dollars, is an important and legitimate area of public debate. The left does not see it that way. Conservative criticism of the national broadcaster's political and cultural perspectives is usually brushed off by the ABC and its friends as an attack on the "independence" of its journalists, producers and managers.

But an obligation to provide balance and diversity of opinion is enshrined in the ABC's charter; and the corporation's editorial policies and style guide set out rules for news and current affairs journalists in an attempt to ensure that the obligation is met.

The ABC's partisan preferences are not limited to Australian politics. Consider this comment in the lead up to the 2004 U.S. presidential election from Red Symons, the presenter of one of its prime time radio programs:
"774 ABC Melbourne is, of course, supporting Senator John Kerry in his endeavor to become President of the United States. We can't take sides in Australia, but I've had it from management we can take sides elsewhere in the world. We want Kerry to win."

The Australian chapter of Democrats Abroad would have been chuffed to know that.

There are broadcasting codes that can be used to try to hold the ABC accountable to its charter. The process is far from satisfactory because, in the first instance, the ABC itself is the arbiter of complaints made about it. So between 2005 and 2008 the Howard Government attempted to use the Senate Estimates Committee process to take the problem of political bias straight to the corporation's managing director.

Over the three-year period, the Government tabled more than 1,000 examples of ABC journalists violating the organization's editorial guidelines and style guide?its rule books for providing fair and balanced reporting. The examples were extracted from a very small part of the network's output?the program transcripts that the ABC makes available online?and thus represented only a very small percentage of the total network programming. Unquestionably, a complete analysis of ABC output would have yielded thousands more.

A particularly egregious example of ABC mischief had occurred in February 2003 when Prime Minister Howard visited then Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri in the lead up to the war with Iraq. In a meeting with Mr. Howard, the president of the world's largest Muslim nation gave an undertaking that her Government would explain to the Indonesian public that a war on Iraq would not be regarded as a war on Islam.

However, ABC News, broadcast across Australia and beamed into Asia, that evening reported, "Well, there's support for Iraq tonight from the world's largest Muslim nation. Indonesia claims a war on Iraq would be a war on Islam." The ABC was forced to run a correction the next day, but the damage to the national interest had been done.

The Howard Government's efforts to modify the behavior of the ABC resulted in a number of smoke-and-mirrors efforts to address the issue of bias in its current affairs broadcasting. However, one year ago, the 11-year-old centre-right Liberal-National coalition of John Howard was defeated in a federal election by the centre-left Australian Labor Party (ALP) led by Kevin Rudd.

On election night, the ABC's TV anchor and network icon Kerry O'Brien, on air live from the national tally room, declared that there had been a big swing "to the ABC" in Bennelong, the electorate of Prime Minister John Howard. The gaffe, if O'Brien's comment had, indeed, been unintended, provided an eloquent metaphor for the symbiotic relationship between the ABC and the ALP. Maxine McKew, the ALP candidate who went on to win Bennelong from the prime minister, had been a 30-year veteran journalist and presenter at the ABC. She left the network at the end of 2006, laughing off suggestions that she intended to stand as a Labor candidate in the federal election.

Two months out of the ABC, McKew joined the office of Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd; and one month after that she announced her intention to contest Bennelong for the ALP.

Kerry O'Brien, the election night anchor, presents a 30-minute national current affairs program four nights a week on ABC TV. In the 1970s, O'Brien himself was on the staff of a Labor Party leader. On Sunday mornings, ABC TV presents "Insiders," a national review of the week in politics anchored by Barrie Cassidy. In the 1980s, Cassidy served as press secretary to Labor Party Prime Minister Bob Hawke. ABC Radio National has Phillip Adams, another former member of the Communist Party, covering politics and current affairs for about seven hours a week. One of his regular guests is Bruce Shapiro, contributing editor to The Nation.

The gratitude of one Labor prime minister for the election-time efforts of the ABC is recorded in the Cabinet diary of a former minister: "The ABC deserves a decent go because it has done well by the ALP in the last two elections," Labor's Paul Keating said in 1992.

The Rudd Labor Government has promised to restore a staff member to the ABC board of directors, a position that was abolished by the Howard Government. It has also said it will depoliticize the ABC board; which really means it will stack it with its own ideological allies and friends. The ABC, after almost 12 years of confrontation with a conservative foe, once again has in Canberra a government that many of its foot-soldiers are happy to believe in.


Tasmanian public hospital waiting lists continue to grow

It's a problem in the public hospital systems of all Australian States -- though NSW and Queensland seem to be the worst

The waiting list for elective surgery in Tasmania increased by almost 10 per cent in the three months to the end of September, compared with the same period last year. New figures from the Health and Human Services Department show that at the end of last September, the number of patients waiting for elective surgery was 8,600. That's a jump of 9.9 per cent from the end of September 2007, when about 7,800 people were waiting.

The department's Progress Chart, which has just been released, says the waiting list will continue to grow because of Tasmania's ageing population and increasing rates of chronic disease.

Other figures show the number of women screened for breast cancer in the September quarter dropped by 9 per cent, compared to the same quarter in 2006.

The number of adults getting dental treatment increased by 15 per cent.


Rule-breaking pet-owner outraged at enforcement of the rules

She obviously thinks she is special and can pick and choose what rules she obeys. But town planning is an inherently arrogant profession, from what I see. That allowing her to break the rules would make the rules unenforceable generally is obviously too much for her tiny mind to comprehend. She should study Kant. It sounds like she hasn't got a bloke, either. No wonder

A defenceless pooch has been forced out of a plush apartment complex, home to some of Melbourne's most elite residents, after a costly legal dogfight. Owner Natalie Gray has criticised "pet-hating" neighbours at the Domain Park complex in South Yarra who filed a civil complaint at the Melbourne Magistrates Court to get rid of Princess, her seven-year-old papillon. "They are pet haters, it's outrageous," she said. "I think they lack compassion. It's really sad they are being so unreasonable."

Accountant Colin Tatterson, a director at Pitcher Partners, is on the board behind the anti-pets campaign. Another resident at the Domain Rd apartment block, which overlooks the Royal Botanical Gardens, is former governor general Sir Ninian Stephen - but he said he did not mind pets as long as they were quiet.

It is understood at least $50,000 was spent on the 10-month stoush. The dispute was resolved late last week after Ms Gray agreed not to take Princess into the building. She was unable to afford to continue the legal battle.

Ms Gray, 47, says she can't understand why there has been such a fuss over her pet. She said her dog didn't bark, would never leave a mess and was so well behaved she was welcomed at Mass by the nuns at the Carmelite Monastery in Kew. Ms Gray said Princess lived at her mother's house in Kew and visited overnight only about 20 times a year, often on Thursdays when they watched dog detective television show Inspector Rex. Ms Gray, a town planner, also accused some residents in the block of spying on her.

But under the rules of the Domain Park's resident-controlled management company, no pets are allowed, not even budgies or goldfish. And that's not the only rule - prams and bicycles must enter the building through the car park, not the lobby, and "soiled" running shoes are not welcome either. Even buying into the building is difficult. Prospective owners must prove they are of good character in an interview with the company board before they are allowed to buy an apartment.

Michael Trumble, solicitor for Domain Park management, said his client was pleased with the outcome. Some residents had bought into the building at 193 Domain Rd because of the no-pets rule, he said.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

The flow of "Boat people" has resumed

Kevvy's new softer policy was noticed immediately. A problem that Howard solved is back again

Indonesian and Australian police have stopped 14 boats laden with asylum seekers from travelling to Australia this year, including at least three in the past six weeks, as people-smuggling activity accelerates across the archipelago. Four boats have made it to Australian waters. On Thursday, one of them, with 12 Sri Lankans aboard, became the first boat in two years to reach the mainland, near Shark Bay in Western Australia. Government sources said the arrivals, who were being transferred to Christmas Island, would have access to Australian law should they claim asylum.

The previously undisclosed figures on people-smuggling disruption, confirmed by Australian Federal Police, highlight the success of the joint operation combating human trafficking. But the data also points to a spike in asylum seekers trying to come to Australia, a politically sensitive issue for the Rudd Government. This year, the Government softened its policy towards illegal immigrants and has allowed the navy - which intercepts boats - to stand down for two months over Christmas due to a manpower shortage.

"We have a lot of problems with this smuggling," Paulus Purwoko, deputy chief of criminal investigations at Indonesian National Police, told the Herald. He said the number of boat crossings to Australia had increased, particularly in recent months. "They transit first through Malaysia, then from Malaysia to Indonesia. We believe it is organised by a syndicate. "When they get to Indonesia, they try to make a deception to the Indonesian police. They throw away their passports. They get a UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] letter of recommendation or ID. Some of them have originals, the rest have fakes."

The Australian Federal Police has played a critical role in combating human trafficking by providing intelligence. But Mr Purwoko said it was difficult to keep tabs on smugglers due to Indonesia's long coastline and because the boats were leaving from different places each time. He expressed grave fears for the asylum seekers, saying the syndicates use the flimsiest of boats to save money, creating huge risks for their human cargo. The worst time to attempt the crossing is over summer, when the seas are roughest. It is also when the navy will be undertaking limited operations.

Indonesian police have made numerous arrests, including Afghan, Pakistani and Indonesian nationals. Many of the asylum seekers are from Afghanistan, reflecting the deteriorating security there and rise in persecution against ethnic minorities as the Taliban exerts more control. Others have come from Iraq, Somalia and Sri Lanka, all countries besieged by violence.

The Herald interviewed two Afghan asylum seekers this week in Jakarta. The men, who cannot be identified because it would jeopardise the safety of their families, said people-smuggling syndicates are paid up to $US12,000 a person. "They promise they will arrive in Australia or some other country like Britain," said one of the men. They said asylum seekers wanted to come to Australia because it was "safe".


Global cooling fails to cool protagonists of global warming

Europe is shivering through an extreme cold snap. One of the coldest winters in the US in more than 100 years is toppling meteorological records by the dozen, and the Arctic ice is expanding. Even Australia has been experiencing unseasonable snow. But the stories about global warming have not stopped, not for a second.

In May last year, The Sydney Morning Herald breathlessly reported that climate change had reduced the Southern Ocean's ability to soak up carbon dioxide, claiming that as a result global warming would accelerate even faster than previously thought. The story was picked up and repeated in a number of different journals around the region. But this week the CSIRO suggested the exact opposite. "The new study suggests that Southern Ocean currents, and therefore the Southern Ocean's ability to soak up carbon dioxide, have not changed in recent decades," it said. This time the story got no coverage in the SMH, and was run on the ABC's website as evidence the Southern Ocean was adapting to climate change.

CSIRO oceanographer Stuart Rintoul, a co-author of the study, said it did not disprove global warming and he did not believe its lack of an alarmist tone was responsible for the poor coverage. But the story is being pointed out as an example of media bias on global warming. Critics argue that the ABC and the Fairfax media are the worst offenders.

ABC board member Keith Windschuttle said yesterday the national broadcaster was in breach of its charter to provide a diversity of views. "The ABC and the Fairfax press rarely provide an opportunity for global warming sceptics to put their view," Mr Windschuttle said. "The science is not settled. "We are seeing an increasing number of people with impeccable scientific backgrounds questioning part or whole of the story. I don't believe the ABC has been reflecting the genuine diversity of the debate. Under its own act, the ABC is required to produce a diversity of views."

Bob Carter of James Cook University, one of the world's best-known climate change sceptics, said there was no doubt Windschuttle was correct. "With very few exceptions, press reporters commenting on global warming are either ignorant of the science matters involved, or wilfully determined to propagate warming hysteria because that fits their personal world view, or are under editorial direction to focus the story around the alarmist headline grab -- and often all three," Professor Carter said.

National Climate Centre former head William Kininmonth said coverage of global warming had been hysterical and was getting worse, with a large public relations effort inundating the media with information from the alarmist side.


Another stupid government computer cock-up

Frustrated Queensland police are turning a blind eye to crime to avoid time-consuming data entry on the force's new $100 million computer system. Queensland Police Union vice-president Ian Leavers said the system turned jobs that usually took an hour into several hours of angst. He said police were growing reluctant to make arrests following the latest phased roll-out of QPRIME, or Queensland Police Records Information Management Exchange. "They are reluctant to make arrests and they're showing a lot more discretion in the arrests they make because QPRIME is so convoluted to navigate," Mr Leavers said. He said minor street offences, some traffic offences and minor property matters were going unchallenged, but not serious offences.

However, Mr Leavers said there had been occasions where offenders were released rather than kept in custody because of the length of time it now took to prepare court summaries. "There was an occasion where two people were arrested on multiple charges. It took six detectives more than six hours to enter the details into QPRIME," he said. "It would have taken even longer to do the summary to go to court the next morning, so basically the suspects were released on bail, rather than kept in custody."

He said jobs could now take up to seven hours to process because of the amount of data entry involved. "It's difficult to navigate because it's not a matter of following steps in a logical manner. You go from A to G then back to A, then C, then H," he said. "It's a nightmare." At most stations at least one officer was responsible for carrying out "compliance checks" on the new system, which took about 90 per cent of their time, Mr Leavers said.

Supplied by a Canadian firm called Niche Technology, QPRIME was promoted to Queensland police as a one-stop database that would reduce the administrative burden for officers. Its implementation began in April 2006, replacing 230 other systems, many of them non-compatible. Mr Leavers said the Canadian police employed civilians to carry out data-entry, freeing up officers to catch criminals.

A Queensland Police Service spokesperson conceded the introduction of QPRIME had created a "challenge for individuals having to learn the new system". "However, the benefits of the QPRIME system into the future far outweigh short-term disaffection by some officers," the spokesperson said. "It is already showing its worth in assisting officers to solve significant crimes by allowing them to access information in a holistic manner."


Workplace law reforms asking for trouble

Kevin Rudd shouts from the rooftops each day that the global financial crisis has changed the world, but the Prime Minister does not believe his own words. A bizarre fate has befallen Australia. At the precise time it faces a global crisis, a business downturn and rising unemployment, the Rudd Government is recasting workplace relations to increase trade union powers, inhibit employment and impose new costs on employers.

Normally this would defy any test of common sense. Indeed, it would seem the essence of irresponsibility. But it has instead won widespread applause, and its architect Julia Gillard has won almost universal acclaim as a political hero. It is as though Australia's workplace relations system exists in some interterrestrial immunity from the rest of the economic world.

The global crisis means everything has changed: the budget goes into deficit, fiscal stimulus replaces fiscal restraint, the Reserve Bank does a volte-face and begins to slash interest rates, and the Government guarantees deposits as Rudd declares the crisis is "sweeping across the world". But standing immovable is Labor's support for greater trade union power, more costly restrictions on employers, a greater role for the revamped industrial relations commission, an effective end to individual statutory contracts, a revival of arbitration, and a sharp weakening of direct employer and non-union employee bargaining.

The new workplace relations model introduced by Gillard is a significant step into the past. It does more than abolish the Howard government's Work Choices model; it goes beyond Work Choices to Howard's 1996 reforms and even further to Keating's 1993 reforms in reshaping the system. It is hard to imagine how its impact will be other than to weaken productivity and employment. The immediate economic impact should be small. But this is major institutional reform with a long fuse. It is designed to endure and, as the unions test the laws and refine their procedures, it will shift workplace relations a long way from their present moorings.

This bill constitutes a defining moment for the Rudd Government, a historic victory for the trade union movement, and Gillard's most important political legacy. Her skills in translating policy from the 2007 election into the Fair Work Bill are impressive. The Opposition under Malcolm Turnbull is cowed. It has no political option, as Turnbull signals, but to give passage to Gillard's bill. The Government has a mandate from the election. Gillard, via her exploitation of the hated Work Choices symbol, has guaranteed the bill's passage and, in the process, provided brilliant cover for the serious regression to workplace re-regulation and greater union powers that the bill implements.

It affirms that the 2007 election was a turning point for Australia. The combined impact of the Labor Government and the global crisis means that Australia is taking a different economic path, defined by a sharp lift in intervention and regulation, the new global trend. In her second-reading speech, Gillard endorsed the 1907 Harvester judgment that enshrined new protectionism and set Australia on its calamitous 20th-century path of wage welfarism at the cost of productivity. Indeed, the language Gillard used is the same as that of Alfred Deakin and Harvester case judge H.B. Higgins a century ago, with her dedication that "the ideal of fairness should lie at the centre of our national life" and, by implication, be enshrined in a regulated industrial system.

Consider the bill. It will have a substantial impact on the resources, retail and services sectors, but less so in manufacturing. First, the new commission, called Fair Work Australia, is more powerful and influential than the former Australian Industrial Relations Commission. The Freehills brief on the new bill says: "FWA will have a much more important role than is currently the case, particularly in setting and adjusting minimum wages, facilitating bargaining for enterprise agreements, the expanded unfair-dismissal jurisdiction and dispute resolution under modern awards and enterprise agreements."

This is what makes the bill so reactionary. It genuflects before the idea of a powerful umpire now made user-friendly, the umpire that the Keating and Howard reforms curtailed. It shows the Rudd Government's true character beneath its modernist disguise. Of course, building up FWA will be presented by the Government as an example of virtue and balance, as a responsible alternative to transferring power direct to the unions.

Second, the effect is to empower unions in enterprise agreements and severely limit genuine non-union agreements. A union needs only one member in a workplace to become a bargaining party. Freehills says: "In effect, this means that true non-union agreements are only possible, (1) in workplaces where there are no union members; or (2) where the union chooses not to be covered by an agreement." IR legal experts report that employers hoping to create non-union enterprise agreements, a cause absolutely fundamental to genuine enterprise bargaining, have only a remote hope.

Third, the new right-of-entry provisions for unions are extraordinary and unacceptable in a democracy. Freehills says that union right of entry to businesses "will be significantly broader". Unions will have right of entry to premises where they have no members, and they will be able to inspect the records of individuals who are non-members where this relates to a suspected contravention. In order to justify right of entry, unions will need only to show the business is engaged in an activity where employees are potential unionists. This has been stamped by cabinet in an insight into its real notion of individual rights.

Fourth, the bargaining process is rewritten to favour unions and to allow FWA to intervene more liberally. This is via the beautiful euphemism of "good faith bargaining" that must apply universally. Understand that these rules are highly prescriptive and instruct employers in detail on how they are to bargain and what information they are to provide. The task of FWA is to enforce these requirements. Freehills says this will result in "significant changes to the ways in which many employers bargain". In a situation where an employer commits multiple breaches of good faith bargaining, a union can seek and obtain from FWA compulsory arbitration of the agreement. In addition, FWA is entitled to decide (only a petition is needed) whether there is majority employee support for bargaining and then order an employer to bargain collectively.

Fifth, an entirely new bargaining system is created for low-paid workers, who are entitled to negotiate across an industry with multiple employers. Gillard says this can relate to child care, cleaning, security and community workers. The bill does not define a low-paid worker, leaving upward flexibility. This stream can be accessed only with FWA's approval, and the bill enables FWA to play a hands-on role. The bill does not allow industrial action across an industry but, critically, it does allow industry-wide arbitration. Freehills' brief says that "in certain circumstances where bargaining breaks down", parties can seek "an arbitrated workplace determination".

"This is the way the unions will move into the low-income workplaces," says Peter Anderson, director of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. "In effect, it will be pattern bargaining. The Government is opening new avenues to multi-employer bargaining with industry-wide arbitration that has not existed before."

Sixth, businesses will be more exposed to union demarcation disputes. Employers will no longer be able to bargain with one union in preference to another. Provided a union has a member in the workplace, the union can apply to be covered by the agreement. Freehills' brief says: "Any attempt to bargain with only one union may well mean that an employer is not bargaining in good faith and so could be subject to bargaining orders." This will become a test of the ACTU's authority to manage its member unions.

Seventh, as is well-known, Labor's aim is a workplace system devoid of individual statutory contracts. This realises a Labor-ACTU objective that originates with the Howard government's 1996 reforms that introduced such contracts. This campaign long predates Work Choices. Individual contracts, while not central to the system, operated for a decade before the 2007 election.

Labor's complaint has never been about unfair Australian Workplace Agreements. It has always been about the principle of AWAs that became law on Coalition-Democrat votes. There is no moral, political or economic case for outlawing the AWA principle. There is only one justification: to protect collective power. Labor and the trade union movement waged a brilliant campaign over three years in the name of fairness to bolster collective power. It is another Work Choices legacy.

The Rudd-Gillard new industrial system seems to have firm foundations. The business groups are divided. The Opposition is unwilling to fight. The 2007 election mandate is legitimate and irresistible. The new structure, however, will prove untenable and the struggle will be resumed at a later date. In the interim, the Government will be responsible for all the consequences of imposing on Australia at a time of unusual financial crisis a workplace relations system that means higher costs, a weaker labour market, a more interventionist umpire and a union movement with greater legal powers.


Friday, November 28, 2008

An unusually "incorrect" entertainer

Rolf tells it like it is: Aborigines do very little to help themselves -- so why should we worry?

Rolf Harris regrets the racist verse on Aborigines in Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport, the song that made him famous in Britain and launched the wobbleboard on an unsuspecting music world.

In Melbourne yesterday to plug a book of illustrations of the same name, the singer and painter said he had tried to erase the lines "Let me Abos go loose" and "They're of no further use" from all recordings over the years, with limited success. "It was a mark of the times, done totally innocently with no realisation that you would offend at all . Just trying to create a fun song for a bunch of Aussies who were drinking themselves stupid on Swan Lager in London at the time," he said.

But half a century after penning the controversial lyrics, the London-based expatriate has not succumbed to political correctness. He blames traditional Aboriginal values for the dire living conditions in many indigenous communities. "The attitude is that in their original way of life they would really wreck the surrounding countryside that they lived in and they would leave all the garbage and they would go walkabout to the next place," he said. "The traditional attitude is still there and I wish there was a simple solution but I'm not certain."

He has strong views about some Aborigines lamenting the conditions of their communities. "You sit at home watching the television and you think to yourself, 'Get up off your arse and clean up the streets your bloody self' and 'Why would you expect somebody to come in and clean up your garbage which you've dumped everywhere?' But then you have to think to yourself that it's a different attitude to life."

Aboriginal children were never disciplined or expected to adhere to rules until adulthood, he said. "[Until] then they have a totally carefree life to do what they want and that quite often involves smashing everything that they have."


An old-fashioned responsible father: Good to see

Boy, 5, made to walk two-and-a-half hours to school

A NORTHERN TERRITORY man has been making his five-year-old son walk two-and-a-half hours to school every day, after he was kicked off the school bus. When Jack Burt confessed that he'd been banned for five days for hitting the bus driver in the head with an apple core, dad Sam thought he should learn the hard way. He and Jack last week were getting up at 5.10am for the dusty 13km-hike from the Darwin rural area of Herbert, all the way to Humpty Doo. Mr Burt also took the wheels off Jack's bike so he couldn't be tempted to ride to school.

At the end of the old-fashioned punishment, Mr Burt, 38, took out a public notice in the Northern Territory News. "Jack Burt and his dad wish to thank all the kind people who stopped to offer them lifts in the past week," the ad read. "It's good to see a number of good people in the community. Jack hopes to be allowed back on the bus on Monday."

But in the battle of wills between tall and short, the smart money's on Jack. "Shame it didn't work," Mr Burt told the Northern Territory News. "He got back on the bus Monday, and within three stops he was in trouble again. I couldn't believe it. "I don't understand - he's good at school, he gets awards all the time."

However, a breakthrough might be in sight. When Jack this week said he didn't mind walking - because it made him strong for fighting - he was told if he started fighting he might have to walk home in the afternoons too. Jack's eyes got a little teary. He said he might not get home before dark. Mr Burt told him not to worry - they'd leave the key out for him.


Leftist "national treasure" was a crook

The disgraced former Federal Court judge Marcus Einfeld has been stripped of his Queen's Counsel title after pleading guilty to making a false statement under oath and perverting the course of justice. Einfeld, 69, who has been battling prostate cancer for several months, falsely claimed in 2006 that a female friend was driving his silver Lexus in Mosman when he incurred a $77 speeding fine. The friend, however, had died before the offence.

But in a spectacular fall from grace, Einfeld finally pleaded guilty last month to knowingly making a false statement under oath in Sydney's Downing Centre Local Court on August 7, 2006. He also pleaded guilty to making a false statement in Sydney on August 23, 2006, with intent to pervert the course of justice

Einfeld, who had served a term as chairman of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission, had been a Federal Court judge for 15 years. He had been appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia and proclaimed a National Treasure by the National Trust. His sentencing hearing has been set down for February 25.

More here

Student testing 'gets best results'

TESTING literacy and numeracy is vital to helping students complete high school and continue their education into adulthood, says the head of New York's education department, Joel Klein. In Australia at the invitation of the federal Government, Mr Klein yesterday dismissed concerns that publicly reporting test results between peer groups of schools meant students only mastered what was in the tests.

"What we've found is that kind of mastery is significant, and has the most significant impact on students' achievement," he told The Australian. "We're finding right now with student progress that you can seea direct correlation with likelihood of a student graduating and making it to post-secondary education." Mr Klein is a leading proponent of using tests to measure the improvement of students and school performance, and publicly reporting the results to share expertise and hold schools to account. Even among high-performing schools in New York, Mr Klein said lifting students' test scores by 0.2 points increased their chances of graduating by 15 points.

Punchbowl Boys High School principal Jihad Dib said increased literacy and numeracy testing had been a key part of a remarkable turnaround in student performance at his school. "We put literacy and numeracy in every activity and I always ask teachers where that component is," Mr Dib said.

During Mr Klein's week-long visit in Australia, sponsored by global financial firm UBS, he will promote the tools underpinning the accountability system adopted in in New York. He addressed a forum in Melbourne yesterday on leading transformational change in schools, will address the National Press Club in Canberra today, and tomorrow will speak at a corporate dinner hosted by UBS on strengthening the links between business and schools.

Mr Klein's visit comes ahead of a looming showdown between the commonwealth and states and territories at the meeting of the Council of Australian Governments on Saturday over the reporting of school performance.

Addressing the forum yesterday, Mr Klein was effusive in his praise for Education Minister Julia Gillard, and described her speech outlining the Government's commitment to transparency in schools as one of the "greatest" on education reform he had heard. "The level of courage in a public official isn't as rare as I sometimes thought," he said. He warned that any changes depended on political will.

Ms Gillard said yesterday the Government was still working on the final form of school reports, but she envisaged a paper report for parents on their child, and a website on schools. Ms Gillard made it clear the Government would not bow to pressure from the states and teaching unions over reporting school results. "We want a new era of transparency so that parents and taxpayers know what is happening in Australian schools," she said. "I want to see a system where parents can get full information about schools in their local community which (they) can compare with similar schools around the nation."

In her speech, Ms Gillard acknowledged concerns over reporting school results, saying publishing test performances "out of context can be misleading". But she said Australia had failed to grasp that it was not appropriate for information on students' learning to be held by schools and government but not made available to the community. "I absolutely reject the proposition that somehow I am smart enough to understand information and parents and community members are somehow too dumb," she said. Ms Gillard said boosting teacher quality was key to improving standards, especially at schools in disadvantaged areas that did not attract their share of good teachers.

Mr Klein received a mixed response from the 100-strong group of educators and policymakers at the Melbourne forum. While teachers generally supported boosting accountability and empowering parents, president of the Australian Secondary Principals Association Andrew Blair was concerned that tests for ranking schools were simplistic. Mr Blair said measurements of performance should cover multiple methodologies, beyond "raw grabs" of test data.

Mr Klein said multiple measurements risked covering up underperformance. "The more we have multiple measures the risk is we dilute the power of accountability," he said. "What matters isn't finding the perfect indicator, but settling on a consistent intelligent method of assessing outputs and tracking them."

Mr Klein trumpeted the importance of mathematics and literature, and defended tests as being effective in teaching higher order thinking beyond the test itself.

It was important to empower parents with information. "Don't believe for a second that when you provide them with the information and the transparency, that parents won't become the greatest advocates for their kids. Sure, it will make you uncomfortable to think your kid isn't in a great school, but it will make you much more uncomfortable not to know that."

In an interview with The Australian, Mr Klein said the key was to measure progress in groups of like schools, to give information to parents and identify the most effective teaching practices.

An analysis of middle schools in New York found that almost regardless of the level of achievement at which students started, students in 90per cent of schools lost ground in their results from year to year. But in 10 per cent of schools, student results improved. "We learn by studying that 10per cent and particularly wondering why students in one out of 10 schools are moving forward," he said. "We analyse different results from different teachers, and how some are getting steady progress of students, and use that information to support teachers and improve their work. That's the power of accountability systems; to shine a spotlight right on the best practice. There is no question about it."

Mr Klein said three basic tools of accountability underlined his system: a progress report measuring student improvement; a quality review of schools; and surveys of parents, students and teachers.


The Kiwis are still coming

The number of Kiwis flooding into Australia has hit another record. Nearly 48,000 New Zealanders moved across the Tasman in the past 12 months. Statistics New Zealand has released figures showing 47,800 Kiwis came to live in Australia in the year to October. In the same period 13,200 people living in Australia emigrated to New Zealand, leaving a net loss to New Zealand of 34,600.

New Zealand's new Prime Minister John Key campaigned on a platform of trying to reverse the exodus of Kiwis to Australia.

In what may be an indication that global economic woes are hitting tourism, short-term visitor arrivals in NZ were down 3 per cent to 173,900 in October compared with a year earlier.


Thursday, November 27, 2008


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG comments on the "achievements" of one year of Rudd.

Huge government transport bungle in Sydney

Even at a cost of billions of dollars, building just 19 kilometres of railway was too difficult for them. The contractor did as it was told but the things it was asked to do were half-baked. Governments should never attempt anything "innovative". You need close involvement for that -- not bureaucratic inertia and indifference

Serious defects have emerged in the $2.3 billion Epping to Chatswood Rail Line that could threaten its long-term reliability and have the potential to increase dramatically the cost of running the still unopened railway. A secret Government report, obtained by the Herald, has exposed thousands of flaws in the way the tracks have been fixed to 19 kilometres of concrete slabs. It details the widespread failure of the epoxy, which was often water-affected or contaminated with slurry, the use of incorrectly tensioned bolts and clips, and cracks in the sleepers.

The line was meant to open in 2006, but it has been repeatedly delayed. Full operation of the line was again deferred after revelations in the Herald last month that noise levels inside test trains were equivalent to a Boeing 737 coming in to land.

The latest report, commissioned by the State Government's rail-building agency, the Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation, raises grave questions about the long-term cost of maintaining the line. "Any assurance of reliable track performance remains presently 'out of the question' until action to solve the thousands of track component defects, currently being uncovered and listed, can be accomplished," the document of March this year says.

There is already a feud between the Government and the contractor, Thiess Hochtief, over the noise problems, which will cost $29.5 million to fix. The Government is now demanding the contractor also pay to repair the latest problems. A TIDC spokesman, Peter Whelan, told the Herald that "95 per cent of the track has been lifted and fully inspected", as part of its "quality assurance and audit process". "The issues noted [in the report] were identified by TIDC and were required to be addressed by the construction contractor at its cost," he said.

But the Herald understands that senior RailCorp staff consider the long-term maintenance risk to be so serious that they have begun their own work on how to fix the problem. "Some concerns have been raised [by RailCorp] and are being addressed," Mr Whelan said.

Unlike traditional railways, the multibillion-dollar line uses more than 54,000 "Delkor Eggs" as sleepers - these are oval-shaped rubber mats designed to absorb vibration. At the core of the problem is the lack of reliable bonding between these eggs and the concrete slab. "It would, in this author's view, be a grossly irresponsible and negligent act to certify as to the suitability of the ECRL track structure reliability prior to the above conclusion items being satisfied," the report finds. "Such action would constitute grave compromise of professional integrity of those individuals involved in my opinion."

The document questions whether the problems may also stem from an incorrect concrete mix being used to lay the slab: "The presence of slab cracks and prevalence of voids under [base plate] pads suggests some level of variance from design and placement requirements for ECRL." But Mr Whelan said there was no problem "with the integrity of the concrete slab".

The report reveals that the failure of individual eggs increases the pressure on neighbouring eggs, eventually buckling the tracks and causing "ride discomfort". This accelerates the wear on the track, increases the cost of routine rail grinding, reduces longevity and can only be repaired as effectively as "the integrity of the initial track construction provides", the report says.

The problem was first revealed by the Herald in February. But for several months before that TIDC and Thiess Hochtief carried out works to try to solve the problem. At first, attempts were made to squeeze more epoxy under the baseplates - but this only made things worse, the report reveals. The problem's persistence led to the independent site inspection that formed the basis of the leaked document. "It is considered possible that RailCorp will decline to accept handover of [the] project on the basis of inadequate assurance available for future system reliability," the report concluded.

But Sue Netterfield, a Thiess Hochtief spokeswoman, said the problems had "been rectified". "Having met all the contract requirements, the joint venture is in the process of handing the project over to the client and is not aware of any outstanding issues."


Beware the church of climate alarm

As the Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, an economist, anti-totalitarian and climate change sceptic, prepares to take up the rotating presidency of the European Union next year, climate alarmists are doing their best to traduce him. The New York Times opened a profile of Klaus, 67, this week with a quote from a 1980s communist secret agent's report, claiming he behaves like a "rejected genius", and asserts there is "palpable fear" he will "embarrass" the EU.

But the real fear driving climate alarmists wild is that a more rational approach to the fundamentalist religion of global warming may be in the ascendancy - whether in the parliamentary offices of the world's largest trading bloc or in the living rooms of Blacktown. As the global financial crisis takes hold, perhaps people are starting to wonder whether the so-called precautionary principle, which would have us accept enormous new taxes in the guise of an emissions trading scheme and curtail economic growth, is justified, based on what we actually know about climate.

One of Australia's leading enviro-sceptics, the geologist and University of Adelaide professor Ian Plimer, 62, says he has noticed audiences becoming more receptive to his message that climate change has always occurred and there is nothing we can do to stop it. In a speech at the American Club in Sydney on Monday night for Quadrant magazine, titled Human-Induced Climate Change - A Lot Of Hot Air, Plimer debunked climate-change myths.

"Climates always change," he said. Our climate has changed in cycles over millions of years, as the orbit of the planet wobbles and our distance from the sun changes, for instance, or as the sun itself produces variable amounts of radiation. "All of this affects climate. It is impossible to stop climate change. Climates have always changed and they always will."

His two-hour presentation included more than 50 charts and graphs, as well as almost 40 pages of references. It is the basis of his new book, Heaven And Earth: The Missing Science Of Global Warming, to be published early next year. Plimer said one of the charts, which plots atmospheric carbon dioxide and temperature over 500 million years, with seemingly little correlation, demonstrates one of the "lessons from history" to which geologists are privy: "There is no relationship between CO2 and temperature."

Another slide charts the alternating periods of cooling and warming on Earth, with the Pleistocene Ice Age starting 110,000 years ago and giving way, 14,700 years ago, to the Bolling warm period for 800 years. This in turn gave way to the Older Dryas cooling for 300 years, then the Allerod warming for 700 years, and so on, until the cooling of the Little Ice Age from 1300 to 1850. Since 1850, we have lived through the "Modern Warming", one of the most stable climate periods in history. Plimer said some astronomers predict we are headed for a new cooling period.

Plimer said there is a division between those scientists who sit in front of super computers and push piles of data into the mathematical models that drive the theory of climate change, and those who take measurements in the field. We are not sceptical enough about the data. For instance, Plimer cited differences between results from temperature measuring stations in urban and rural areas. Those in urbanised Chicago, Berkeley, New York, and so on, show temperature rises over the past 150 years, whereas those in the rural US, in Houlton, Albany and Harrisburg (though not Death Valley, California) show equally consistent cooling. "What we're measuring is urbanisation," Plimer said. To understand the chaotic nature of climate change, we need to consider all the inputs - cosmic radiation, sun, clouds and so on, he said.

There was much more but essentially Plimer's message is that the idea humans cause climate change has become a fundamentalist religion which is corrupting science. It is embedded with a fear of nature and embraced principally by city people who have lost touch with nature. He likens the debate to the famous 1990s battle he had in the Federal Court, where he accused an elder of The Hills Bible Church in Baulkham Hills of breaching Australia's Trade Practices Act by claiming to have found scientific evidence of Noah's Ark in Turkey. Plimer says creationists and climate alarmists are quite similar in that "we're dealing with dogma and people who, when challenged, become quite vicious and irrational".

Human-caused climate change is being "promoted with religious zeal . there are fundamentalist organisations which will do anything to silence critics. They have their holy books, their prophet [is] Al Gore. And they are promoting a story which is frightening us witless [using] guilt [and urging] penance." It is difficult for non-scientists to engage in the debate over what causes climate change and whether or not it can be stopped by new taxes and slower growth, because dissenting voices are shouted down by true believers in the scientific community who claim they alone have the authority to speak.

Quadrant is under fire for publishing articles by sceptics but, as its editor, Keith Windschuttle, said on Monday night, "People who are really confident [of their facts] relish debate."

In any case, ordinary people already have suspicions. The zealotry and one-sidedness of the debate alarmed an 81-year-old Seven Hills pensioner, Denys Clarke, so much that last month, at his own expense, he hired the ballroom at the Blacktown Workers Club for two public forums, titled The Truth About Climate Change. He invited a climate sceptic, the James Cook University professor Bob Carter, a geologist, to speak. More than 300 people attended, some from as far away as Nowra. Carter, like Plimer and Klaus, has come in for his fair share of vilification. But as Clarke proves, you can't stop people thinking. Yet.


NSW public hospitals in crisis: report

A landmark report into the state of NSW public hospitals says they are "in a period of crisis" and on the brink of demise unless radical reforms are made. Commissioner Peter Garling, SC, said in his report, tabled in Parliament today, that cultural change was needed from the top down. "To start with, a new culture needs to take root which sees the patient's needs as the paramount central concern of the system and not the convenience of the clinicians and administrators," Mr Garling said. "Given the demographic changes and rising costs, it is the case that we have entered into a period of crisis for a public hospital system which has always been free and accessible to all. We are on the brink of seeing whether the public system can survive and flourish or whether it will become a relic of better times," he said.

The NSW Health Minister John Della Bosca said the first report into NSW public hospitals, released today, was a "landmark report" that would improve the way health care is delivered. Mr Garling, SC, has made 139 recommendations in his report, which focus on improving patient care and safety, Mr Della Bosca said. He said it was critical to take pressure off emergency departments and staff. He has recommended several changes in the way emergency departments operate, including that patients who do not require treatment within 30 minutes be seen by a doctor other than an emergency specialist.

Mr Garling has also recommended the Federal Government fund emergency "primary care centres" that should be set up in all hospitals to treat less urgent cases. "In my view, if it is all right for you to wait for an hour or more to be seen in an emergency department then you probably didn't need to be seen by an emergency specialist. "Many other well qualified doctors can help you." He said patients who were in the more urgent categories of one, two and three should be channelled through the emergency department and patients in categories four and five should be channelled to "primary care centres" to be set up within hospitals.

Mr Della Bosca said the Government would respond formally by March. "The Government will carefully consider this report. It is a first and important document," he said.

Mr Garling has also recommended that hospitals should have a "safe assessment room" for mental health patients close to the emergency departments. Mr Garling said a culture of bullying was "endemic" in the health system. "Almost everywhere I went, I was told about incidents of bullying. Many witnesses asked to be allowed to give their evidence in private."

He said NSW Health should establish a casual medical workforce within 12 months through a centralised register and annual performance reviews for all doctors. Mr Garling said a single health service, called NSW Kids, should be set up within six months for newborns and children needing acute care to "ensure that children of Walgett get as good care as do the children of Woollahra and Wollongong".

He has also said that all hospital staff should wear colour-coded uniforms or vests identifying in large print the role of the health professional" after the inquiry repeatedly heard that patients were confused about who was responsible for their care or even if they were a doctor or nurse.

Other recommendations include that NSW Health refund patients the cost of medication to treat hospital-acquired illness after discharge after the inquiry that only about 60 per cent of medical staff adequately washed their hands.

He said there should be an audit system for measuring how hospitals compile patient records many complaints were heard about poor record keeping and note taking.

The inquiry was called after scathing criticism from Deputy State Coroner Carl Milovanovich that systemic problems had contributed to the unnecessary death of teenager Vanessa Anderson at Royal North Shore Hospital. Vanessa, who was hit by a golf ball in 2005, died from respiratory arrest due to the depressant effects of opiate medication after a doctor misread her chart.


Must not express negative views about homosexuality

Health Minister Nicola Roxon has dumped one of her new men's health ambassadors over his "abhorrent" views about homosexuals, but her other appointee is still railing that "extreme feminists" are on a witch hunt to get him. Ms Roxon said today she took full responsiblity for failing to vet the candidates properly before they were appointed this week. Controversy has also erupted over appointment of Julia Gillard's partner Tim Mathieson to an unpaid role as one of her men's health ambassador.

Warwick Marsh, who co-authored a paper that suggested gay men were more likely to be child molesters than heterosexuals, has been removed from the position today, after he told The Australian Online yesterday that lesbians were often sexually abused women rebelling against a "gender wound". "They're rebelling. They actually end up hating the gender that's hurt them," he said. "Ultimately the really sad thing is...have you talked to people with AIDS? I don't like to see people get AIDS and get abused and a trail of destruction. The bottom line is there's heightened levels of drug abuse and suicide. "(But) If you are asking me if I hate homosexuals I just think that's ridiculous."

Ms Roxon said today Mr Marsh has not repudiated ``extremely offensive'' statements he had made, including in a document on gender. ``This makes his position as an ambassador untenable and I have made a decision to dismiss him from this role,'' she said in a statement. "I take full responsibility for this setback in the policy development and engagement process.

"But I remain firmly of the view that to reach men that feel disfranchised, disengaged - and often at high risk - we will need to continue to be prepared to involve men with varying [But not too varying, apparently] views and experiences. This is an attempt to consult with men beyond health professionals and academics."

But another ambassador, Lone Fathers Association head Barry Williams, said he was not homophobic. ``I don't endorse that gay people would be child molesters,'' he told ABC Radio. Mr Williams described the allegations as a witch hunt, saying the criticism had come from the media or ``extreme feminists''.


The dreadful DOCS again

Just grabbed a kid out of school. And it wasn't even the one they were looking for

The Department of Community Services (DOCS) has apologised to the parents of a child mistakenly taken from a primary school by one of its staff. The seven-year-old was picked up yesterday by a DOCS worker who had gone to the western Sydney school to take another girl to an appointment with a speech therapist, the Education department and DOCS said. The DOCs worker gave Penrith South Primary School the girl's full name and was taken to a classroom by a staff member, but the wrong child was identified. The worker realised she did not have the right girl after they had driven away from the school and took her back within 10 minutes.

Simon and Sara Raffan, parents of seven-year-old Angel, said they were distressed when they were told about the mix-up. "How can someone go into a school with no paperwork, simply say they are from DOCS and just take a child," Mr Raffan told The Daily Telegraph. "It could have been a pedophile or a killer or anything. They never even asked any questions."

"(The departments) have apologised unreservedly to the families involved in an incident," DOCS and the Education department said. "The DOCS regional director has spoken to the father of the girl who was incorrectly picked up and personally apologised to him and his family for any distress that they have experienced. Education Director General Michael Coutts-Trotter has called the father of the child who was picked up to apologise on behalf of the department."

Both departments promised to investigate what went wrong and if protocols needed to be improved. The incident comes just days after a year-long special commission of inquiry into child protection in New South Wales, which found the department needed an extreme overhaul.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Beer sends you blind (?)

Another stupid "correlation is causation" claim

Knocking back four beers a day doesn't just risk a serious beer gut - it could also be damaging your eyesight, a study of Australian men has found. Melbourne research shows men in their 60s who drink alcohol heavily are about six times more likely to develop the most debilitating form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). About 15 per cent of Australians are affected by the disease - where sight fades in the centre of the visual field - and 1 per cent will have the advanced or end-stage form that eventually steals sight.

Smoking and genetics have been linked to the condition but Dr Elaine Chong from the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital decided to study the diet and eye health of almost 7000 people over a period of time to determine the contribution of alcohol. "We found that higher levels of alcohol, more than four standard drinks a day, was associated with a three-fold increase in end-stage AMD in men," Dr Chong said. Beer drinking, in particular, carried a six-fold increased risk. Quantities of wine and spirits drunk were too low to evaluate their risk. The same link was not see in women, possibly because they were less likely to drink heavily, she said.

Explaining the trigger, Dr Chong said it was possible alcohol could increase oxidative stress to the retina. "Alcohol is a neurotoxin so it is thought that high levels can actually cause retinal damage that might lead to the disease," she said. An earlier study found rats fed alcohol in the lab were more likely to develop signs of end-stage AMD.

While the new findings, presented at an ophthalmology conference in Melbourne today, suggest drinking habits could be contributing, it may not be that clear cut. "It might be that heavy drinkers were also more likely to smoke, which is a well-identified disease risk," Dr Chong said. "But regardless, heavy alcohol intake is harmful so cutting back will always do you good."


Black influx creates crime problem in mining town

The Mount Isa City Council is considering a youth curfew to combat out-of-control children in the north-west Queensland mining community. The issue was brought to a head on Monday when a 12-year-old girl, who later allegedly recorded a blood alcohol content of 0.172 per cent, allegedly stole a car which crashed into a house. The girl failed to appear in court yesterday and a warrant has been issued for her arrest.

Mount Isa mayor John Molony, who will put the idea to the council today, said the problem stemmed from "alcohol refugees" fleeing the intervention in the Northern Territory and dry communities in the north-west. They were neglecting their children who were running wild, Mr Molony said. He said at present 80 to 150 people who had fled their communities seeking alcohol were in Mt Isa. "They're a problem," Mr Molony told AAP.

"The ones from the Northern Territory are not only drunk, they're sick as well," he said. "It's no good for the hospital situation here. "If they keep coming in the numbers they are we'll have to ship them (out) or do something with them."

Mr Molony said he had a mandate for a curfew. The People's Group which he heads and which controls the council had campaigned for the curfew ahead of the March local government elections in Queensland, he said. "When we fought the local election in March this year a curfew was part of our platform," he said. If the council agreed he would then approach the police and the State Government requesting they impose the curfew.


Tribunal grants taxi accreditation to nutcase who killed wife

VCAT and "human rights" again. The fact that the nut is an African would have influenced VCAT in his favour. The VCAT is the same body which decided that Christian pastors must not criticize Islam

An insane killer who stabbed his wife to death has won the right to drive a cab due to a legal loophole. A tribunal granted the man taxi accreditation despite pleas from Victoria's Director of Public Transport to ban him from the roads. A Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal order prevents the Herald Sun revealing the name of the driver, known only as 'XFJ'.

But Transport Minister Lynne Kosky has announced new legislation is being introduced to Parliament to eliminate the technicality that his acquittal was based on an insanity plea. "If he had been found guilty of manslaughter he wouldn't be able to drive a cab whether he had been rehabilitated or not," Ms Kosky said. "Because he was found not guilty by reason of mental insanity he's actually allowed. "The legislations didn't cover that particular instance. The legislation has been re-written and it's about to go into Parliament. We've done it as a result of this case."

Ms Kosky said she hadn't seen the tribunal's full decision but had briefings from her department late last night. She said she was "unbelievably disappointed" by the decision and expressed anger that she had not been briefed on it earlier.

VCAT deputy president Michael Macnamara said in his decision that XFJ's violent history raised a significant safety issue for taxi passengers, but still ruled the killer could get behind the wheel.

The tribunal heard XFJ, an African refugee, repeatedly knifed his new wife in the head and stomach in a frenzied attack in 1990. Deeply depressed, he tried to hang himself - but failed when a tree branch broke. A jury acquitted him of murder on the ground of insanity. He was detained in a psychiatric institution until his release under supervision about 10 years ago. The tribunal heard he wants work as a cab driver so he can have more flexibility to care for his young son, who is battling leukemia.

Lawyers for the Director of Public Transport raised the risk of a recurrence of the major depressive disorder that underpinned XFJ's earlier violence. The stress of dealing with intoxicated or angry passengers might also affect XFJ's mental state, the tribunal heard. But Mr Macnamara ruled the "apparently blameless life" XFJ had lived since 1990 should outweigh any unease taxi passengers would feel about his violent history. "I accept that the ordinary man in the street would probably say, 'I would prefer not to have as a taxi driver somebody who has killed in whatever circumstances'," he said. "On the other hand, the decision that I have to make must be based upon more than mere prejudice. In my view XFJ has established that he is suitable in the relevant respects."

The Director of Public Transport had twice refused to grant XFJ accreditation before the appeal reached VCAT in October. The case is one of the first tests of new State Government laws intended to weed out rogue cabbies. Convicted murderers are automatically refused driver accreditation under the new laws, but because XFJ escaped a murder charge with a plea of insanity, he remained eligible for consideration.

Ms Kosky said she had worked tirelessly to clean up the taxi industry and was incredibly upset a decision was taken that may have jeopardised passengers. "It is about the perception of safety in our cabs," she said. "Cab drivers are often alone with individuals in the cabs. "People who drive cabs have a special responsibility and I've got a responsibility to give that certainty to the public that they can feel safe every time they pop into a cab."


Big improvement to unfair dismissal laws

The three strikes and you're fired policy will not apply under Labor's new workplace regime. One warning will be enough, Small Business Minister Craig Emerson says. The changes to unfair dismissal laws were an important concession to small business, he said. Any employee who committed theft, fraud or violence in the workplace could be dismissed on the spot. "You just say you're finished,'' Dr Emerson told ABC Television today.

In other circumstances, employees - who have worked for longer than 12 months - would have one chance to improve their performance. "No three written warnings, appropriately spaced over time, no legalistic processes.''

Under Labor's laws, three million more workers will have access to protection against unfair dismissal, almost doubling the number now protected. Casual employees will be covered for the first time and unfair dismissal protection will be available to workers in businesses with fewer than 100 employees provided they have worked there for six months.


The Times pleads with Australians to stay in the United Kingdom

A LEADING British newspaper has pleaded with Australians living in the UK not to head home amid concerns a looming recession and plummeting pound are fueling an exodus. The Times praised the cultural contribution of famous Australians who have made Britain home, including Barry Humphries, Clive James and Germaine Greer as well as the generations of Antipodeans who have flocked to the "old country''. But in its editorial yesterday, the Rupert Murdoch-owned daily voiced alarm at new figures showing record numbers of Antipodeans are leaving Britain and its economic gloom for better job opportunities back home.

"This is largely a vote of no confidence in the old country,'' The Times said. "As the recession bites, the lure of home, with unemployment at a 33-year low and the Australian dollar at an 11-year high against sterling, is very tempting.''

According to the paper, Australian Immigration Department figures show an average of 2700 Australians are leaving the UK each month, up from 1750 a month in 2005. In the 12 months to June, 13,062 Australians applied for working holiday visas compared with more than 27,000 two years ago. Online readers blamed more than the economy. "The weather, bad schools and healthcare and poor infrastructure will not keep highly educated and mobile workers. not to mention the rising tax on 'the rich' ," wrote j of London in the paper's online comments. "Ever get the feeling the whole place is going to pot?" asked Jez W, of Leeds.

But not everyone was sure about the weather in Australia. "The sun doesn't always shine. My colleague has just come back from Brisbane where there was TEN INCHES of rain overnight!", wrote Ben Foster of Wokingham.

A strong pound, the chance to travel widely and superior job opportunities - particularly in London's financial sector - had enticed thousands of professional Australians to the UK in recent years. But with mass redundancies, a falling currency and the poor economic outlook, there is an exodus from the City of London.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Greens do some good for once

Greens could block plans for internet filter

The Australian Greens won't be supporting plans to introduce compulsory internet filters. The Federal Government wants to introduce filters to stop people accessing X-rated material, child pornography and inappropriate material. The plan is being opposed by the internet industry which says it opens the door to censorship of other material, including political views.

"We're very, very concerned that there's going to be a unnecessary clamp down on the internet and it has to be watched," Greens leader Bob Brown told the ABC today. His colleague Scott Ludlam has been lobbying against the changes. "He's working very hard with community groups in Australia to oppose the current proposals by the Government," Senator Brown said.

The Government needs the support of all seven crossbench senators - including the five Greens - to have draft laws pass parliament against coalition opposition.


Labor party ready to axe maternity leave policy

The proposed federal paid maternity leave scheme appears to be dead in the water with the Government saying the country may not be able to afford it. Even the minister in charge of the status of women, Tanya Plibersek, has warned it might have to be put off because the country can't afford it. "We are in very difficult economic circumstances and these things have to be worked through in the budget context," she said yesterday.

While noting the enormous community and government support for paid maternity leave, she said it may no longer be possible to deliver it. "When we were elected, we didn't predict the financial crisis and everything we do and everything we've done has to be in the best interests of the whole community," she said. Education Minister Julia Gillard said at the weekend the policy must be "weighed in the budget process".

The only female minister publicly backing paid maternity leave is Health Minister Nicola Roxon. Ms Roxon last week said allowing mothers time off to recover from the birth and giving newborns time with their mothers was an important health issue. "I am on the record, as are many members of the Government, acknowledging the issue of paid maternity leave is very important to women across the country," she said yesterday. "I will make sure the areas for which I have carriage, including the maternity services review, are ready for those options to be seriously considered."

Women's groups argue that paid maternity leave would do the economy good. National Foundation for Australian Women spokesman Marie Coleman said it was one of the best ways to kickstart the economy because the money would be spent on nappies and baby paraphernalia.

The Productivity Commission has proposed a $450 million a year paid parental leave scheme in which mothers would be paid for 18 weeks leave at the minium wage with a further two weeks of paid leave for fathers to be used on a take it or leave it basis.


Unions to regain bargaining power under proposed new workplace rules

A RADICAL overhaul of workplace laws will be unveiled today by the Rudd Government that will give much more bargaining power to unions. The new Fair Work Bill will replace the Howard Government's WorkChoices with new rules for unfair dismissal and the creation of a `wage umpire' who will be able to set pay for low-paid industries.

Businesses have criticised the new laws, with The Australian Mines and Metals Association warning they will "give unions the key to the door of all workplaces", even though just 14 per cent of private sector workers belong to a union. AMMA chief executive Steve Knott called it a "throwback" to days when unions could get involved in all workplace deals and said the new rules would let unions access non-members information.

However, unions say the Fair Work Bill will shift the power balance back to workers, after WorkChoices changed unfair dismissal laws and pushed individual Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs). The Acting Prime Minister and Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard, who has been working on the 600-page legislation `Fair Work Bill' for more than a year, says the laws fulfil Labor's election promise to scrap WorkChoices.

The new legislation creates a `wage umpire' called Fair Work Australia, which will have the power to set wages for workers in low-paid industries and for employees whose employers refuse to bargain. It will allow industry-wide wage settlements for low-paid industries, like childcare or hotels, on a wide scale. Businesses say the laws would force pay deals across the board, while unions say it will benefit low-paid workers.

In workplaces with one at least one union member, the union will get a seat at the bargaining table, and new `good faith' rules mean unions will be involved at every stage of negotiating wages. Under right-of-entry, unions will be able to inspect a company's books and chat to potential recruits.


Lazy teachers "forget" toddler

An 18-month-old toddler has been left abandoned inside a locked childcare centre in Sydney's west - the second such case in just months. Uriah Vollmer, son of Daily Telegraph reporter Tim Vollmer, was left sleeping in a cot inside Penrith's Nepean Pre-School when staff went home early. His mother Michelle arrived 10 minutes before closing time to find the centre already locked and empty - apart from baby Uriah. It was only when a centre staff member drove by and spotted a distraught Mrs Vollmer that Uriah was discovered asleep inside.

The two incidents have prompted calls for a State Government review of centre lock-up procedures. "(This) is proof that a serious overhaul of the procedures is urgently needed," Mrs Vollmer said. The first case, in May, resulted in the baby being left alone for more than an hour before police broke in.

Mrs Vollmers' concerns have been backed by the body that represents childcare centres around the country. Childcare Associations Australia conceded yesterday that it was timely for the State Government to re-examine centre training programs in the wake of two incidents in just six months. "The fact that it has happened twice might mean there needs to be a training program and a review of lock-up procedures," executive director Helen Kenneally said. "It does astound me people have these things happen."

A spokeswoman for Community Services Minister Linda Burney said yesterday a total review of the regulations was under way but changes, if any, would not come into effect until 2010. The current regulation states that two primary contact staff must inspect the premises to ensure no children are left behind.

Mrs Vollmer said the delay was "completely unacceptable and it is putting the safety of kids at risk". She also criticised the fact she was still yet to be contacted by DOCS investigators despite making a complaint on Friday. Ms Burney's spokeswoman said investigators had already interviewed staff at the centre and checked its records and would move on to the family.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Schools failing the children of the poor, says Rupert Murdoch

Below is a large excerpt from his latest Boyer lecture. It has been accepted for centuries that education is the high-road to advancement for the able children of the poor but far-Leftists hate that. They want everyone ground down to a uniform low level. And they have been doing that in the schools with considerable success. Murdoch is reasserting the more compassionate traditional message of opportunity

As a child, I attended boarding school outside Melbourne. Bucolic and idyllic it wasn't. So I made myself a promise. I swore that I would never become one of those fogeys who goes on and on about how his schooldays were the best days of his life. Today I intend to keep that promise. But I do want to talk about schools. In particular, I would like to talk about why you hear so many business leaders talking about the problems with public education. Far from reminiscing about some glorious and largely mythical past, I want to focus on the challenges we face today - and what they mean for our future.

Let me say at the outset: it is not a pretty picture. The unvarnished truth is that in countries such as Australia, Britain, and particularly the United States, our public education systems are a disgrace. Despite spending more and more money, our children seem to be learning less and less -especially for those who are most vulnerable in our society.

In my view, things will not really improve until we begin setting much higher expectations - for our students, for our teachers, and for our schools. At the very least, we ought to demand as much quality and performance from those who run our schools as we do from those who provide us with our morning cup of coffee. And then we ought to hold these schools accountable when they fail.

In Australia, we pride ourselves on our passion for equality - we have popularised the word "egalitarian". That passion is an attractive part of the Australian personality. But it is getting harder and harder to square Australian pride in equality with the realities of the Australian system of public education.

Like me, most of you probably went to a decent school. Your children will probably do the same. This means that your family will probably thrive no matter what happens, because you are no doubt primed to succeed. But too many children are socialised to fail.

We can argue over whether our better schools are as focused as they should be on mathematics and science. But it is inarguable that our lesser schools are leaving far too many children innumerate, illiterate, and ignorant of our history. These are the people whose future I am most concerned about. For these boys and girls to rise in society - and have a fair go at the opportunities you and I take for granted- a basic education is essential.

The tragedy today is that in many nations like Australia, the people who need a solid education to lift them out of deprived circumstances are the people who are falling further and further behind. That is unacceptable to me. And it should be unacceptable to all of us.

So I will talk about three things. First, I will discuss how the dividing point between the haves and the have-nots is no longer how much money they have. Increasingly, your life chances and your life choices will be defined by your skills and knowledge.

Second, I will talk about why we need to stop making excuses for schools and school systems that are failing the very children they are meant to serve.

Finally, I will talk about the need for corporations to get more involved - especially at the lower school levels. Corporate leaders know better than government officials the skills that people need to get ahead in the 21st century. And businessmen and businesswomen need to take this knowledge and help build school systems that will ensure that all children get at least a basic education.

Let me begin with the growing importance of education in our new economy. At first glance, it might look as though advances in technology are making education less important. After all, thanks to computers and calculators, even people without a good education now have the ability to have their sums done for them by a cheap calculator . to have their faulty spelling corrected by a word processing program . and to have even complex tasks completed for them by a specialised software program.

For example, if you go to a McDonald's or the milk bar the person behind the counter no longer has to calculate the change. The cash register is now a mini-computer and the barcode does the work. In industry, computers and automation have reduced much of the need for calculation and repetitive labour. And, as unions in Europe have been quick to notice, that means many enterprises can be more productive with fewer workers. This in turn is one big reason that so many unions - like the Luddites before them - are so opposed to new technology.

But ultimately, fighting the new and better technology is a fool's errand. History clearly demonstrates that a technology that shows itself to be more productive will win out in the end. The reason is simple. Over the long haul, no one is going to pay more than he has to for something that can be done far more cheaply. Even if an individual businessman or two were willing to forgo such an improvement, in the end they will be forced to adopt the more productive approach just to keep up with their competitors.

That's where a good education comes in. New technology is replacing many tedious tasks. That means that there will be fewer and fewer satisfying jobs for people without skills. In the new economy, the people that companies are craving - and are willing to pay for - are people who add value to their enterprises. That means people with talent and skills and judgment.

Talent and skills and judgment are part of what economists call human capital. Human capital is a broad term. It includes formal skills - for example, a degree in computer science or the ability to speak a foreign language. But human capital is much more than this. It also includes such things as good work habits . the judgment that comes from experience . a sense of creativity . a curiosity about the world ... And the ability to think for oneself. Free societies succeed because the people who have these skills are free to use them to advance themselves, their enterprises, and society.

It's true that some people manage to develop these skills on their own. For the most part, these people are highly driven self-starters. They exist in every society. They are also very rare. For every Steve Jobs who drops out of college and founds a company like Apple . for every Jim Clark who leaves high school and starts up Netscape . for every Peter Allen who drops out and becomes a successful entertainer, there are tens of thousands of others for whom leaving school early means shutting the door forever on opportunity - and permanent condemnation to an underclass.

For most of us, the best path to success is through an education that will allow us to fulfill our potential. That begins by setting high expectations, adhering to real standards, and ensuring that when you do leave school, you leave with the tools that will help you get ahead in life. These tools begin with the basics of any education: the ability to read and write . to add, subtract, multiply and divide ... And to use these basics to acquire other, more advanced skills.

For those who doubt me, the relationship between education and opportunity is most obvious in the pay cheque. As a general rule, the more education you have, the more you are going to earn over your working career. That differential can be very large. Two Australian economists found that for each additional year of education a person has, he can expect about 10 per cent a year in increased income. That's true even after taking into account the lost earnings from starting work later. And though that figure is for Australia, it roughly tracks with similar findings in the United States....

Another way of putting it is this: it's not that the poor are getting poorer. It's that the economic rewards to the skilled are making them much richer. This is clearly understood by the leaders of developing countries. But it seems beyond the comprehension of much of the developed world.

That leads me to my second point: what we ought to do about it. As the world economy grows more competitive, it is will become even more difficult for people without skills to keep up. Billions of people are now entering the global workforce. And a recent study by Goldman Sachs suggested that 70 million people are joining the new global middle class each year. These people are talented . they are confident . and they are increasingly well-educated. That means the competition is getting keener. And unless we stop making excuses for our failures, a good many of our own young people will be left behind and bereft of opportunity.

Most of you are well aware of the public debate about education. And you will be well aware that there is a whole industry of pedagogues devoted to explaining why some schools and some students are failing. Some say classrooms are too large. Others complain that not enough public funding is devoted to this or that program. Still others will tell you that the students who come from certain backgrounds just can1t learn.

The bad schools do not pay for these fundamental failings. Their students pay the price, because they are the victims when our schools fail. And the more people we graduate without basic skills, the more likely Australian society will pay the price in social dysfunction - in welfare, in healthcare, in crime. We must help ourselves by holding schools accountable - and ensuring that they put students on the right track.

As a rule, we spend too much time on avoiding failure. The real answer is to start pursuing success. Developing countries seem to understand this. When I travel to places like India and China, I do not hear people making lame excuses for mediocre schools. Instead of suggesting that their students cannot learn, they set high standards and expect they will be met. And they have crash programs for more and better schools.

The obstacles they have to overcome are as difficult and challenging as any we face here. Recently, for example, American public television ran a special called Chinese Prep - which followed five students through their final year at an elite high school. These students are competing for slots at the top universities in a system based almost entirely on merit. The pressure is intense, and most Australians watching would probably think that the time and effort these boys and girls put into their studies is inhumane.

Now, the high school in this film is elite, and it is far from representative of the schools that most Chinese attend. But the interesting thing about this show is the emphasis on competition, on merit, on doing well on standardised tests. Some of the children who do end up doing well come from very poor backgrounds. The television cameras showed that one of them lived in essentially a hut in the countryside.

But no one makes allowances for them. They compete with the children of high officials. And they succeed. In a sense, the entire school system is taking a lesson from Confucius, who observed sagely, as a sage does: "If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher. I will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them, and the bad points of the other and correct them in myself."

I am not saying that Chinese education is perfect. It certainly is not. But it is clear that in a system where you are expected to perform, there is less slacking off. Maybe that1s because poor people in China know that doing well on tests and getting a good education is the ticket to personal progress. Or maybe they know that the consequences for failure are much more severe than they are in, say, the more comfortable societies that are America and Australia.

My point is this: the children of poor people always have fewer options than the elite. That's true whether you live in Sydney or Shanghai or San Francisco. For these people, a solid education is the one hope for rising in society and levelling the playing field. If we have any real sense of fairness, we owe these children school systems that hold them to high standards.

However tough their schools may be, the world is going to be tougher and less forgiving. That is one reason I have two key criteria for education programs that News Corporation supports: schools must be focused on achievement. And they cannot make excuses for why some students are supposedly poor scholars.

It's amazing the results that you get when you actually expect your students to learn regardless of race, background, or income. In Manhattan, for example, my wife and I have been involved with a local public school called Shuang Wen. Shuang Wen is unique. It is the only public school in America offering a mandated bilingual program in Chinese and English for all students. Two-thirds of its students live below the poverty line. Despite this, Shuang Wen is one of New York's top-ranked schools in terms of performance. It also has the highest daily attendance rate - 98 per cent.

What's the secret? In the morning, its students study in English. Then they stay until 5:30 pm to study Chinese. They come in on weekends too. Not many American children have a school day or school week that goes as long as Shuang Wen. But instead of repelling students, the school is attracting them. African-American parents are clamouring to get their children into this school. They know that the hard work and sacrifice Shuang Wen demands of its students is their children's ticket out of poverty and hopelessness.

Another school we support in New York is the Eagle Academy for Young Men. This is a charter school. Although charters are public schools, charters have more freedom than traditional American public schools. They are also directly accountable to the people who run it. The Eagle Academy for Young Men is boys-only. And it was started up by a group of concerned African-American men who are simply unwilling to allow the next generation of African-American boys to be written off by the country's public schools.

Let me put this in context. The Eagle Academy has a student body of almost all Latino or African-American boys. It also operates in a part of New York City where three out of four young black men drop out before they receive a high school diploma. So failure is all around them. But inside the Eagle Academy doors, they don't talk about failure. The students have long days, often until 6pm. They come in on Saturdays. And they are paired with mentors. It's tough. But the results are impressive.

The fact is, the boys at Eagle Academy are getting the education they would never get from soft-hearted, supposedly well-meaning people who would just make excuses for them. And, like Shuang Wen, the Eagle Academy has a waiting list of parents who are ambitious for their children.

In Australia, our problem is a little different. In America, the children whose futures are being sacrificed tend to be those who are stuck in rotten schools in the inner cities. In Australia, by contrast, the children who suffer the most tend to be those in our rural areas and outer suburbs. But whether urban or rural, no government of any decent society should be effectively writing off whole segments of the population by refusing to confront a failing education bureaucracy.

More here

Federal education boss pledges transparency of school performance

Rupert has an influential convert already

JULIA Gillard has marked the first anniversary of the Rudd Government by pledging a new era of transparency in Australian schools, allowing parents to compare student performance across the nation. The Acting Prime Minister and Education Minister outlined her goals for a revolution in transparency at a conference in Melbourne today, warning schools that withholding information from parents on national tests and performance in literacy and numeracy was not an option. "We need a revolution in transparency," Ms Gillard said.

"I absolutely reject the proposition that somehow I am smart enough to understand information, and parents and community members are somehow too dumb. "I therefore absolutely reject the idea that rich performance information about schools should be confidential to government and denied to the parents of children in schools and the taxpayers who fund schools."

Accusing unions of running a fear campaign about transparency on funding, she said this approach should be viewed for what it is - the last gasp of those who think education policy in this country is a sterile debate between school systems about who wins and who loses. "Transparency about resources isn't about the politics of envy. Rather, transparency about resources is the tool which will better able us to understand what difference resources make to educational outcomes," she said.

Ms Gillard also said News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch was making a "hell of a lot of sense" when he described Australia's school system as a disgrace. Mr Murdoch said yesterday that schools and school systems must stop making excuses for failing the children they are meant to serve, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Australian-born Mr Murdoch, now a US citizen, used the fourth of his six Boyer Lectures for the ABC to focus on the state of public education, saying the school system in Australia, along with the US and Britain, is a "disgrace".

"I certainly think Rupert Murdoch is making a hell of a lot of sense," Ms Gillard, who is also federal education minister, told ABC Radio. High-achieving students in Australia were not doing well enough against their counterparts in other countries, she said. There were too many students - overwhelmingly from poor backgrounds - who don't reach minimum standards.

Ms Gillard agreed with Mr Murdoch's suggestion Australian businesses must take an active role in the reform process, saying she would like to see all major corporations enter a relationship with schools.

Ms Gillard is hailing the Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, Joel Klein, who is touring Australia as the example Australian schools should follow. "You have to admire the dedication of someone who deliberately located a school in his education department building so that every bureaucrat every day heard the sound of kid's voices," he said. "And you have to admire the relentless reform dedication of someone who is prepared to say that putting a bright light on a problem is the best way to get it fixed."

In Australia, Ms Gillard said too many students from disadvantaged backgrounds were clustered in a small number of schools, with low expectations and low rates of achievement. "Let's be honest. Current achievement levels are simply not good enough in too many schools," she said. "Australia still performs well in international studies. But we do not achieve as highly as we should or could. Our performance at the higher levels of achievement is static or declining. And our persistent tail of low achievement, associated as it is with socioeconomic disadvantage, is too long." "Our participation and attainment rates at Year 12 have plateaued for the last decade or more at around 75 per cent," she said. "And as a result, a child from a working class family is only half as likely as a child from a high income family to go on to tertiary study. "This level of failure is not acceptable."

She named Cherbourg State School in Queensland, where principal Chris Sarra pioneered his "strong and smart" philosophy of educational leadership and Punchbowl High School in Sydney as examples to follow in Australia.

Ms Gillard said a major government survey of parents' attitudes about the information they want from schools revealed 96.9 per cent of parents in all school systems agreed that important information relating to school activities and performance should be made available to parents. "What this shows is that parents are hungry for information about how they can help their own children to learn better, both at home and at school. And that they understand the importance of information for producing systematic school improvement," she said. "I know that national testing is controversial. And I know that publishing information about student test performance out of context can be misleading."

The Council of Australian Government meets on Saturday to finalise the new National Education Agreement and the new National Partnerships on teacher quality, improving disadvantaged school and literacy and numeracy and the Schools Assistance Bill, that will provide $28 billion to non-government schools over the next four years must also pass the Australian Parliament by the end of the fortnight.

"Together the new agreements and the Bill will mean every jurisdiction will sign up to transparency and accountability for the same measures of achievement, from the readiness to learn of our youngest children to attainment at year 12 and its equivalent. A comprehensive framework of this kind is unprecedented in Australia," she said. "To those who oppose transparency the message is clear. The Rudd Government is absolutely determined to achieve this reform for Australia's children."

Ms Gillard said future reforms may include rewarding accomplished teachers to work in the most difficult schools or "developing an extended or full service school offer, where breakfast clubs and after-school activities combine to offer children from chaotic homes or homes without a focus on achievement, extra learning opportunities and encouragement to pursue their studies in a structured and supportive environment."

"As a nation we have to say we will no longer tolerate an education system that under-achieves," Ms Gillard said. "We will no longer turn a blind eye to results that say in our nation if you are a poor kid you are likely to fail at school."


Red tape in government hospital denies dying boy a chance

Power-mad bureaucrats again

A SIX-year-old boy with only half a heart is dying as red tape prevents Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital surgeons giving him an operation and a chance to save his life. As well as hypoplastic left heart syndrome, Nathan Garcia suffers from scoliosis - a condition that has deformed his spine and now places so much pressure on his arteries and lungs he is unable to undergo life-saving surgery to re-rout his half a heart before it stops beating.

Royal Children's orthopaedic surgeons had planned to place a new type of metal rod in Nathan's back to ease his scoliosis, improve his heart and lung function, and hopefully make him healthy enough to undergo the heart surgery. However, the hospital's New Technologies Committee has refused permission for the operation. It says processes have not yet allowed it to evaluate and approve the French-designed Phenix Rod for safe use, and instead Nathan has been placed in palliative care.

Nathan's distraught mother, Monique Garcia, said her son would be dead or too crippled for the operation before the red tape cleared, and was appealing for the decision to be reversed for a one-off operation. "They say it might be OK to use in a few months, but I'm terrified he'll be dead in two months," Ms Garcia said. "Normally I would accept the process of approval, and it is warranted, but it doesn't have a place in this situation - he is going to die anyway. "We have a surgeon who is wanting and trying to save his patient's life, but on the other side we have red tape, and I don't think anything should get in between a doctor and the welfare of their patient. He will die if he does not have this operation - and soon."

Royal Children's orthopaedic surgeon Dr Ian Torode and director of cardiac surgery Dr Christian Brizard met the Phenix Rod's inventor, Arnaud Soubeiran, in Paris last month to discuss Nathan's case.

Royal Children's spokeswoman Julie Webber said the committee was examining the use of the Phenix Rod and a decision about its suitability as a treatment for Nathan would be made in his best interests. "The decision will be made around what is in the best interests of the child," she said. [Dying is in his best interests?]


Skinny models a turn-off in TV commercials

A QUEENSLAND study has found that skinny models in TV commercials and other advertising are a turn-off to consumers. University of Queensland psychologist Phillippa Diedrichs found images of super-thin models carried no advantage in encouraging young women to buy products. For most adult women, advertisements showing skinny girls discouraged sales, whereas plus-size models encouraged women to buy, the study found.

Ms Diedrichs created a series of mock ads for underwear, shampoo and party dresses using a skinny size 8 model and another featuring a size 14 woman. When the ads were shown to 300 young men and women aged between 18 and 25, they felt better - and more likely to buy - after viewing images of larger models.

"For anything to change, research has to be convincing, not just to government and health researchers but also to people in advertising who actually make the decisions," Ms Diedrichs said.

Recent fashion shows in Madrid and Milan banned "size 0" models deemed unhealthy by a body mass index measure.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Teacher quality the 'focus of education revolution'

What a lot of bosh. Good teachers are born, not made. But Leftists can never accept that anything is inborn, of course (homosexuality excepted). But if the four-year courses that teachers now undergo (one year used to be enough in the past) still turn out lots of ineffective teachers, more of the same will not do any good.

While teaching is a bottom-of-the barrel choice for smart people, teacher quality will always be low. Better discipline among the kids is the main thing that would improve teaching -- if only by restoring teaching to the attractive profession that it once was. Another improvement would be larger class sizes, so that the dud teachers can be fired and the abilities of good teachers put to wider use. Heresy! But there are in fact decades of research showing that large class sizes work well. See here and here and here and here and here

The so-called education revolution will have a new focus on improving teacher quality, Education Minister Julia Gillard says. The federal government will use next Saturday's Council of Australian Government's (COAG) meeting in Canberra to push its education reform agenda. Improving teacher quality and lifting investment in disadvantaged schools will be key to the discussions, Ms Gillard said on Sunday.

"I'd like to see us next Saturday at the Council of Australian Governments put new investment into teacher quality, new investment into disadvantaged schools," Ms Gillard told ABC Television. "Quality teaching is the thing that makes the biggest difference to a child's learning outcomes," she said. "If you want to lift quality, you need to lift teacher quality."

Labor had already made a significant investment in education via its computers in schools program, the introduction of new trades training centres and steps to introduce a national curricula.


Qld. Premier backs tough love as right to smack upheld

The State Government has backed the right of parents to smack their children, despite growing calls Australia-wide for a ban. In a controversial decision, Premier Anna Bligh said Queensland would not join 26 countries -- New Zealand the most recent -- to introduce anti-smacking laws. Ms Bligh told The Sunday Mail yesterday that adults would be allowed to use "reasonable force" when disciplining their children. But, she warned, parents would be punished if they used excessive violence.

The strong stance will put Ms Bligh and Attorney-General Kerry Shine offside with several Labor backbenchers who had campaigned for law changes. Led by former attorney-general Dean Wells, the group had wanted Section 280 of the Queensland Criminal Code to be amended so it no longer operated as a defence to any kind of assault on a child. In an exclusive Sunday Mail report in March, Mr Wells revealed that 700 parents a year were charged with assaulting their children, about 400 of those for serious assaults. He believed many got off because they could legally claim -- under the "archaic and dangerous" Section 280 -- that they were using reasonable force.

Ms Bligh ordered a Justice Department review in May of all relevant cases with a view to changing the law if the audit showed prosecutions had failed. The Premier said yesterday the review of almost 200 cases showed Section 280 was not being used as a loophole protecting violent parents and there would be no amendment. "What this exhaustive review has shown conclusively is that the current system works," said Ms Bligh, a mother-of-two who had previously admitted smacking her children as toddlers. "There is no excuse for using excessive violence towards a child, and under Queensland law there is nowhere for violent parents to hide."

Queensland's Council of Churches, parenting organisations and a group of prominent psychologists had lobbied the Government for a change to the law. Other countries to outlaw the practice include Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Austria, Germany, Norway, Cyprus, Croatia and Latvia.

However, Ms Bligh said the review showed Section 280 was rarely used as a defence. "I am confident that parents who assault their children will face the full force of the law," she said. "At the same time, this review revealed some shocking cases involving parents using weapons or their fists to discipline or slapping their children about the head. "It is not discipline, it is assault and appalling behaviour from any parent and police and the courts have responded accordingly."


Global cooling hits NSW

Gale force winds and snow in the NSW central-west are keeping State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers busy, just a week from the start of summer. Since Friday, SES crews have responded to 18 requests for assistance in the Blayney, Bathurst, Lithgow and Orange areas. Most of the damage has been caused by falling trees, but local roads are also being monitored after snow falls on Saturday night. The road between Bathurst and Oberon is currently closed but all other roads are open.

SES Central West Region Controller, Craig Ronan, said the weather conditions are particularly unseasonable. "It's very unusual the week before summer to have such weather conditions," Mr Ronan said. "I believe it's supposed to ease this afternoon. "Let's hope it does ease but obviously our volunteers are ready to help and they're willing to help."

The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a severe weather warning for NSW, with a deep low pressure system off the south coast expected to bring gale force winds to most of the state before it moves east late on Sunday. Winds are expected to average 65km/h with peak gusts in excess of 90km/h.

Blizzard conditions are also anticipated in alpine areas of the Southern Tablelands, South West Slopes and the ACT. "As winds continue, I'd say we'll get a few more calls today," Mr Ronan said.


This Weeks Brisbane Storms Due To Global Warming?

Here is that loveabale TV celebrity of Two Men & A Tiny fame, Tim Flannery prediction on March 3rd 2007.
Environmental researcher Tim Flannery has warned that Brisbane & Adelaide …. home to a combined 3 million people could run out of water by years end.. He said the country was facing a ‘catastrophic’ situation.

‘Even a year ago, this would have been unthinkable,’ Flannery told AFP. ‘I think it’s the most extreme and dangerous situation arising from climate change facing any country in the world right now’

In May last year Brisbane’s water supply dams were hovering at 23%. Rain since August 2007 to current has lifted Brisbane’s water supply dams to 45% and it’s only the start of the wet season.

Agmates reader Margaret tells us that QLD Premier Anna Bligh is blaming this weeks tropical storms on … Climate Change. Margaret said:
Premier Bligh and the AM commentator this morning were both pushing hard the idea that the intense storms in Brisbane were due to global warming. It was PATHETIC how they were talking - as if there was no doubt about it. The ABC is so much a propaganda government media tool it is TERRIBLE.

University of Southern Queensland professor of climate and water resources Roger Stone agrees with the Premier that the rain is a sign of climate change.
ONE of Australia’s leading climatologists has warned the extreme weather that hit southeast Queensland this week is consistent with climate change modelling of weather patterns.

However the Australian Newspaper in the same article speaks with Queensland weather bureau spokesman Gavin Holcombe who states what is obvious to anybody who is a long term Queensland resident:
But back in the 70s and 80s we did have plenty of Novembers which were very wet indeed. I just think people are now thinking of the sort of dry Novembers that we’ve had over the past decade as the norm, but if you look over the long term, there have been plenty of wet Novembers.

You can’t win with the global warming alarmist. Dry weather is a sign, wet weather is a sign, hot weather, cold weather it does not matter, its all a sign to the green religion faithful.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Arrogant homosexual judge criticized from the Left

NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos has staged an extraordinary attack on High Court judge Michael Kirby, describing recent comments as unnecessarily provocative and profoundly wrong. Mr Hatzistergos took aim at the outgoing judge's support for a charter of rights and his claim last week that the tenure of judges should be limited to 10 years. While the conservative side of politics has often taken aim at the judge, the comments represent perhaps the first time that a Labor politician has taken aim at "the great dissenter". "Justice Kirby has said a lot of things in recent time that I don't agree with," the Attorney-General said.

Mr Hatzistergos's federal counterpart, Robert McClelland, said he welcomed Justice Kirby's views, but Mr Hatzistergos warned that the judge was on dangerous ground.

"I think it is important for judges to be able to make contributions to public discourse," Mr Hatzistergos said. "They have tremendous capacity to be able to provoke debate on issues that are important to us as a society. "But I think -- particularly if they are serving judges -- that entry into debates that might lead to criticism of themselves may also reflect adversely on the court. I think people need to be circumspect and be sure the balance is properly struck. "I don't agree with the views of His Honour in regard to a use-by date for judges. I think that was unnecessarily provocative. "I think there are a number of judges who have been outstanding and who have served the court for a very long period of time and if I may say so, with respect, that he is probably one of them."

Justice Kirby said last week: "Ensuring change and turnover, fresh ideas and a reflection of the values of different generations, is a vital aspect of a dynamic and open-minded final national court."

Mr Hatzistergos said he favoured giving judges different experiences over the "blunt instrument of termination".

Mr McClelland described Justice Kirby as a highly regarded and well-respected judge. "However, the Government has no plans to change the current term arrangements for the High Court," Mr McClelland said.

The NSW Attorney-General also said he disagreed profoundly with Justice Kirby's support for legislative protection for human rights, whether in a bill or a charter.

Mr McClelland has declared his support for a charter and the Government has set aside $2.8 million for public consultations on how best to protect rights.

"His Honour is profoundly wrong," Mr Hatzistergos said. "Frankly, it's not his role to legislate. He doesn't have the mandate. No one is ever elected judge to be able to go out there and institute social change and that's what a bill of rights effectively does. "We have democratically elected politicians with the capacity, the mandate, the authority, the skill and the experience to be able to reflect the values of the community and distil those into legislation. "The judge's role is to interpret and apply the law of the legislature. It is not to be make it up as they go, the way they would like it to be."

Justice Kirby must retire on turning 70 on March 18 next year, but is widely tipped to hand in an early resignation to allow his replacement to take his seat in the court at the start of the legal year in February.


Mufti of Australia vows to end segregation in mosques

Rather surprising. He is of Lebanese origin and is a Sunni

AUSTRALIA'S most senior Muslim has said he will end segregation of men and women in mosques, in a bold response to Islamic women's anger at entrenched discrimination. The Mufti of Australia, Sheikh Fehmi Naji el-Imam, said he would put his proposal to the next meeting of the Australian National Imams' Council and consider how women could share the room with men during prayers.

Sheikh Fehmi said segregated worship had been introduced long ago, as a cultural change, not a religious one, and he would argue to end it. "It is good to hear the complaints of the sisters, and to try to find some solution to their concerns," he told The Age in an exclusive interview. "My duty is to propose, to discuss and try to convince. I can't guarantee the outcome." Sheikh Fehmi said that in the time of the Prophet Mohammed 1400 years ago, women were not segregated.

His announcement is likely to attract international attention and may spark fierce debate among highly conservative mosque communities within Australia. In some mosques overseas, there are no physical barriers between men's and women's areas but in Australia almost every mosque separates men's and women's sections.

Sydney lecturer Jamila Hussain this week told a conference at the National Centre for Excellence in Islamic Studies that women found facilities at some mosques "insulting" and that they were treated as second-class citizens. Last night, Ms Hussain welcomed Sheikh Fehmi's promise to try to end segregation. "It's an excellent start. But I'm a bit hesitant about when or whether it will happen - it will be a while." She said many men would oppose such a move and, sadly, some women too. Imams didn't necessarily have much say.

Islamic Council of Victoria vice-president Sherene Hassan said it was a fine initiative, and it was good to see imams being proactive. She said it was in line with true Islamic teaching. Sheikh Isse Musse, imam of Werribee mosque, agreed that at the start of Islam men and women had prayed together, "but it's not allowed that a man stands to the right of a woman or to the left of a woman". At his mosque, all pray in the same room, with men in rows at the front, then children in rows, then women. But he did not think this was palatable to many Muslims, especially as many new mosques gave better facilities to women in their own areas.

Several Muslim women spoke out about discrimination and disadvantage this week at the conference. In particular, a report by the Islamic Women's Welfare Council of Victoria highlighted problems with imams, claiming some were condoning domestic violence, polygamy, rape in marriage, welfare fraud and exploitation of vulnerable women.

Sheikh Fehmi, who is also secretary of the Victorian Board of Imams, acknowledged there were problems. "Imams are human beings, and every human being is fallible, so if one imam errs on a point we should not generalise and say all imams are the same." Sheikh Fehmi also addressed many of the criticisms in the council report. On divorce, he said the committee of the Victorian Board of Imams that dealt with applications always spoke to both parties before ruling, and required men to give women their full due, especially dowries that had not yet been fully paid.

On rape within marriage, he acknowledged this could be a problem and said the solution was to link legal divorce with Islamic divorce - something the board was working towards.

On domestic violence, he said imams taught that men should never strike their wives. "The prophet said, 'I never hit a wife in my life', and everybody should do the same." On polygamy, he said Islam allowed a second wife only if the husband guaranteed he could treat both exactly alike, which almost amounted to a prohibition. "Polygamy in Islam is not willy-nilly. There are a lot of restrictions, which sometimes make it impossible."

On a charge by educator Silma Ihram that Muslim women could speak out in the mainstream community but not in the Muslim community, Sheikh Fehmi said women should "tell us what they are going through. That's the only way we can rectify mistakes and wrongdoing." He said that if Muslims received unsatisfactory advice from an imam, they could consult another imam or the board of imams.

Ms Hussain said this week that provisions for women and children in mosques lagged far behind men's. In most mosques, men entered the prayer room through large front doors, but women usually had to enter a small door at the rear, often competing with traffic while leading small children. Their space was always considerably inferior to the men's, and was sometimes entirely blocked off so that they could not see or hear the service. Ms Hussain, who studied Sydney mosques, said that in some, women had to pray in the yard under a blazing sun while men enjoyed the cool interior, or to pray in a kitchen between stoves and sinks, or to pray in a tent in full view of a pub over the road.

The chairwoman of the Islamic Women's Welfare Council, Tasneem Chopra, said Sheikh Fehmi's response made her optimistic that better outcomes could be negotiated. She said she had not received much critical feedback from the Muslim community yesterday, but a lot of questioning.


Secretive public broadcaster

As a founding member of Australia's Right to Know Coalition, the ABC has been leading high-minded lobbying efforts to make governments transparent and comply with freedom-of-information laws the way legislators originally intended. But when it comes to its own affairs, the national broadcaster closes up as tightly as the most obstructionist bureaucracies.

Take this latest example involving a Four Corners profile of Malcolm Turnbull in the dying days of Brendan Nelson's Opposition leadership. The leader-in-waiting refused to be interviewed, but there were enough glimpses of a testy Turnbull to suggest he had strong views about the show. To test that thesis, and to see if he had shared his opinions with the ABC, we submitted a FoI request seeking access to correspondence from Turnbull complaining or criticising the program. The ABC confirmed existence of an unspecified number of documents but refused to release them. It did not argue particular letters were exempt but instead relied on an obscure part of the FoI Act which says the ABC and SBS are exempt from the whole act "with respect to documents in relation to its program material".

When the act was written a quarter of a century ago, that section was included so the ABC was not flooded with people requesting access to tapes of interviews and transcripts and other journalistic material genuinely used to make programs. Fair enough. But it's a huge stretch to classify letters of complaint from Turnbull, who refused to even be interviewed by Four Corners, as "program material". Plenty of agencies release such letters. John Howard released scores written by Alan Jones when the Herald sought them under FoI, so too did Bob Carr along with many of his ministers. But not the ABC.

To understand why the ABC can ignore most FOI requests, you need to go back to 2006 after journalism students from the University of Technology, Sydney, had taken the broadcaster to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for refusing their FoI request. The students wanted to see complaints about the ABC's Middle East coverage and the tribunal said they should have them as they were not program material. When SBS got a similar request, it handed them over. But the ABC went to the Federal Court. It won. It got a decision so broad almost any document can now be classified as relating to program material.

That decision has since been demolished by Ron Fraser, the former principal chief legal officer in information access in the Attorney-General's Department. In an erudite article for the Australian Journal Of Administrative Law Fraser went right back to the Senate standing committee report to demonstrate legislators never intended to give the ABC this sweeping exemption. Fraser highlights the court's misunderstanding, and laments the fact the decision was not appealed, but it looks set to stay. But if ABC managers want to be taken seriously in their calls for more government transparency, they should start applying the same standards they expect from every other government agency.


Corrupt Leftist politics in NSW

No wonder NSW is in an economic mess

Is the NSW Government totally dysfunctional or is it just suffering from a series of disconnected unfortunate events? The list of events is long and often reads like a series of episodes from a television soap drama. A minister is jailed for being a pedophile. He abused boys in his ministerial office yet his closest staff members deny any inkling of his behaviour. Another minister is stood down over allegations of abusing restaurant workers and another for abusing his staff. These are just some stories emerging from the NSW Government at its highest level.

Below this level, other stories constantly appear. A transport union safety fund receives about $700,000 from the Government. The transport union gives a similar amount to the Australian Labor Party. A senior union official demands and receives from the Education Department lists of apprentices and employers in breach of privacy laws. The union then approaches employers demanding apprentices become union members. Senior judges caught for traffic offences pervert the course of justice to hide their offences.

At the local government level bribery and sexual favours determine who receives town planning approval for development projects. The developers see this as normal business requirements in NSW. Systemic bribery is revealed in a state transport department. People caught paying the bribes plead that if they didn't bribe, they wouldn't win jobs.

Maybe there's just a lot of bad people doing bad things in NSW. Surely we can assume the system of government remains solid and honest? Unfortunately, this is not the case. The overload of scandal is in fact endemic and reflects the functioning of government itself. The problem is bigger than just bad individuals. It's a problem created by the culture of the labour grouping that runs NSW. It's embedded in the institutions and processes that administer NSW. It's enforced by the laws of NSW. It affects everyone living in NSW. It's the factor causing NSWto descend into deepening economic recession when the rest of Australia is managing reasonably well.

Before the problem can be fixed, it needs to be understood. NSW Labor is not just a political organisation. It's a bigger machine than the ALP and elected parliamentarians. It is a complex web of interconnecting, personal relationships built around families, friends and associates. Its obvious core membership comes from unions. But it extends to selected lawyers, academics, business representative bodies, investors and business people. It's a large but tight group.

Ordinarily, extended networks are the lifeblood of political groups in healthy democracies. But there's something special about how NSW Labor has institutionalised its network, which makes it uniquely powerful and corrupt.

First is the culture. NSW Labor networkers live in a time warp, obsessed with the idea of class warfare. They imagine that employers are evil by nature. They fantasise that they are the guardians of good against evil. This bonds them, giving them their justification for power. They allow business to function but only those businesses that comply with the Labor machine. They relentlessly try to crush businesses that are defiant.

What makes this culture so powerful is that it's given legal sanction through the NSW industrial relations system, which is unique in Australia. Orders of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission cannot be appealed. It overrides the authority of the High Court and NSW civil and criminal courts. Unions are its authorised enforcers, with search, seizure and prosecution powers exceeding that of the police, tax and business regulation authorities. This is the law in NSW. The legal powers are all reaching beyond normal industrial relations matters to controlling commercial prices in the transport sector, overriding commercial leases and dictating who can tender for government work. It controls construction work through agreement setting and links into town planning processes.

What is alleged to be an industrial relations system is in reality a legal mask for the delivery of power to NSW Labor. It's awesome in its reach. It's so powerful that it part-neuters Australia's competition watchdog, causing the competitive business environment in NSW to be corrupted. Normal business regulation is overridden by the necessity to conform to the Labor machine.

It has taken total control of the administration of government in NSW, such that the parliamentary ALP is a government in name only. This was demonstrated by the effective sackings of premier Morris Iemma and treasurer Michael Costa. More significantly, the public service is controlled through a vast number of oversight committees on which only NSW Labor machine members sit.

The Labor committee and network process effectively controls the NSW government budget. Reforms to the transport, education and health systems are frozen because any reform threatens vested labour interests within the organisations. Great wealth has been delivered to some inside players. Important NSW-based businesses depend on the system for their market power. Individual fortunes have been built on it.

It's a power frequently reflected in the arrogant behaviour and even swagger of those at the top of the system. This was demonstrated by the recent union raid on the desalination plant construction site under the cover of ministerial inspection. Here the Labor machine is furious that a government-funded construction site is not NSW union controlled. The site is subject to federal, not NSW, industrial relations laws.

This entrenched and unelected power structure in NSW assaults the very fundamentals of good society. The failure to prosecute a union-owned labour hire company following the work-site deaths of three of its employees demonstrates how destructive of justice is this labour network. What's happening in NSW is that many individual acts of corruption are being exposed. The state's Independent Commission Against Corruption is swamped with work. But the ICAC's powers do not extend to the systemic cause of the problem. Corruption, dysfunctional government and the declining economy of NSW are all products of a Labor culture disconnected from normal moral reasoning. Its extreme power is made possible because it has a mask of legal authority.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Straight-talking Australian retailer

He built his huge business from scratch so is in good touch with reality -- and is confident of that

RETAILING billionaire Gerry Harvey has lamented that Australian charity is being wasted on "no-hopers". Asked in a new book about his community role, Mr Harvey said giving to people who "are not putting anything back into the community" is like "helping a whole heap of no-hopers to survive for no good reason".

He said it was arguable that giving charity to the homeless was "just wasted". "It might be a callous way of putting it but what are they doing?" he said. "They are just a drag on the whole community." He emphasised that he and his retail chain, Harvey Norman, had given "plenty away over the years . the more quality individuals you develop in the community, the better off the community should be". The comments are in the book Master CEOs, by funds manager Matthew Kidman.

Clare Martin, of the Australian Council of Social Service, said she had always thought Harvey Norman was aligned with the wider business sector on community involvement. "It does surprise me that Gerry Harvey, who's a very significant business figure, should not share the values of many other corporates."


Muslim leaders condone rape, violence

SOME Muslim imams condone rape and domestic violence within marriage, exploitation of women, welfare fraud and polygamy, a report has found. The report was based on a study commissioned and funded by the former coalition government and produced by the Islamic Welfare Council of Victoria, Fairfax newspapers report. The report, presented on yesterday at a National Centre for Excellence in Islamic Studies conference at the University of Melbourne, alleged that some Victorian imams:

* Apply Sharia law only where it benefits men;

* Hinder police investigations of domestic violence claims; and

* Knowingly perform polygamous marriages, which allow a second wife to claim Centrelink payments because they are regarded as de facto wives under Australian law.

The study was based on extensive community consultation; interviews with police, lawyers, court staff and academics, and meetings and interviews with the Victorian Board of Imams, Fairfax said. The report said the 24-man board ignored or did not directly answer many of the questions put to it.

Women, community and legal workers and police said they were concerned about domestic violence and said imams put the interest of families ahead of women. Relatives and community members sometimes pressured women to drop domestic violence cases, the report said. Former husbands entered the houses of their separated but not religiously divorced ex-wives, demanding sex and, in some cases, committing rape. "Workers who have assisted women in this situation said that the advice women received from the imams was that it was 'halal' - permitted - because there was a valid - 'nikah' - marriage," it says.

Melbourne Muslims were increasingly accepting polygamous marriages while police in Shepparton say many de facto relationships were really polygamous marriages, the report said.

The imams' narrow religious training, lack of life experience, poor English and a lack of understanding of Australia caused problems, some quoted in the report said. The secretary of the Board of Imams, Sheikh Fehmi Naji El-Imam, denied the complaints "absolutely". "They must have heard stories here and there and are writing about them as though they are fact," he said. "I haven't heard of any case where the board disregarded a woman or did not try to help her."


NSW department set to lose children's care roles

Not a moment too soon

The NSW Department of Community Services is likely to be stripped of some of its responsibilities for child welfare, including an expensive early intervention program known as Brighter Futures that was designed to prevent children from being abused or neglected. The department is also likely to lose responsibility for some foster care, meaning that children who cannot live with their parents will instead be placed in the care of non-government agencies, or, more controversially, with a range of private corporations that compete for government grants.

These recommendations are believed to be contained in the still-secret Wood report, which had a controversial reporting date of New Year's Eve, but is now expected to be released as soon as next week. A source told The Australian the department was preparing to receive the report as early as 2pm on Monday. The reporting date of December 31 had angered welfare workers, who believed it was a sign the report would be shelved, but the Minister for Community Services, Linda Burney, has told The Australian that she intends to implement the report's recommendations. It is not clear why judge James Wood has bought the release of the report forward. He did not respond to calls for comment on the issue yesterday.

Justice Wood is believed to have prepared a blistering assessment of the beleaguered state of child protection in NSW, where 13,000 children are now living away from their own homes. The inquiry into child protection was called in response to the deaths of several children, including a case in which the body of a small boy was found floating in a suitcase in a lake.

In a separate case, a seven-year-old girl was found starved to death at a house in Hawks Nest, the beachside town where former prime minister John Howard used to holiday. The girl's parents have been charged with manslaughter. At a committal hearing earlier this year, the girl's parents said they did not attempt to resuscitate their daughter because her mouth was blackened with dried blood, and full of ants.

The Wood inquiry has been examining all facets of the NSW child protection system, which is close to collapse. A hotline established decades ago to record cases of suspected child abuse last year took 280,000 calls, or one every two minutes. Children are being removed from the care of their parents at unprecedented rates. There are currently 13,000 children in care in NSW, and the nationwide total is 28,000.

There are too few foster carers, and some of those who have been approved to provide care live in squalor. Foster care is being out-sourced to private agencies, with varying standards. Some foster carers have six or even eight children living with them. DOCS has been forced to extend the homes of some foster carers, or provide them with larger cars.

The Australian understands the Wood report recommends that the Brighter Future program be handed to the NSW Department of Health to manage. The report also considers the role of mandatory reporting and the rise of the private foster care agencies.

Association of Children's Welfare Agencies CEO Andrew McCallum said families dealing with drugs or alcohol issues, family violence and mental illness were being torn apart by the current practices. "As a result, we are seeing an explosion of child removals, and the system is buckling under the strain," he said.

Brighter Futures was introduced in NSW in 2004. It is delivered by DOCS and non-government agencies. As of last year, 975 families had participated in the program, with 39 per cent managed by DOCS and 61per cent by other agencies.


Lower speed limit to tackle obesity crisis, say "experts"

A good way for a government to lose power

SPEED limits in suburban streets should be slashed to 30km/h to encourage pedestrians and cyclists and tackle the obesity epidemic, experts say. Griffith University transport planning researcher Matthew Burke said cutting speeds from 50km/h on local streets would not only reduce road trauma, it would also curb obesity rates by encouraging more people to walk and cycle. "A car can stop in 3m travelling at 30km/h," Dr Burke said. "It would make walking safe for everyone, it would make cycling safe enough for grandmas. It would be a very easy thing to do ... for next to no money."

Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young has identified obesity as the biggest health issue facing the state. Her recently released report, The Health of Queenslanders: Prevention of Chronic Disease, says almost 57 per cent of the state's population is overweight or obese, including 21 per cent of children.

Dr Burke said cutting neighbourhood speed limits to 30km/h would make walking or cycling to school safer for children. "By reducing road speeds, you limit traffic danger," he said. "I think it's a joke that we think we're doing kids a favour with a 40km/h safety zone around schools when best practice globally is for all local streets to be down at 30km/h."

Lowering the speed limit indirectly addresses parents' fear of stranger danger, Dr Burke said. Encouraging more people to take up walking or cycling, increases the number of "eyes" that can look out for children as they make their way to school, he said. Mental health may also benefit. "A convivial street environment where walking and cycling are possible are streets where neighbours meet each other, where there are greater social networks," Dr Burke said. "We've seen much research about the importance of those networks for the importance of people's mental health."

Dr Burke was backed by international expert Rodney Tolley, an honorary research fellow at Staffordshire University in Britain and director of Walk 21 - an organisation attempting to make communities more "walkable". Dr Tolley, who addressed Queensland Health staff this week, said the city of Graz in Austria had set 30km/h limits 20 years ago. "Motorists will often say we can't possibly travel that slow, it will disrupt our day," he said. "But the time losses involved in travelling at those speeds are very, very small."


Thursday, November 20, 2008

System soft on young thugs

Almost half the young offenders committing serious assaults in Queensland get away with a slap on the wrist. Of the 846 under-16s who committed serious bashings in 2007-08, 346 or 41 per cent received a caution. Another 95 offenders were sent to community conferencing, where social and youth workers talk about their offence.

State Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg yesterday accused the Government of going soft on youth crime. "Serious juvenile offenders are getting away with a slap on the wrist," he said, calling on Premier Anna Bligh to support his plan to have boot camps for young offenders. Mr Springborg said a legal loophole that made jail a "last resort" sentence for serious and violent juvenile criminals also should be closed.

Figures in the Queensland Police annual statistical review, tabled in Parliament last week, showed more than a quarter of young burglars also walked away unpunished. Of the 1886 under-16s caught after breaking in or attempting to burgle homes, 514, or 27 per cent, got off with a caution. Another 105 had community conferencing. One in five young arsonists also escaped punishment. Only 46 out of 95 were actually arrested and charged. Queensland Police Union president Cameron Pope said officers were disturbed to see serious juvenile criminals back on the street in quick time.


Southeast Queensland deluge smashes rainfall records

We were repeatedly told by the Warmists that the previous drought conditions were proof of global warming so I guess this proves global cooling

Rainfall records have been smashed by last night's storm, as unprecedented falls deluged parts of southeast Queensland overnight. Forecaster Gordon Banks said monthly and daily rainfall records would have been "pretty much smashed" in certain areas but the true extent would not be known until all figures had been received after 9am. Mr Banks said Amberley recorded 157mm overnight, smashing the previous November daily high recorded in 1981 of 72mm. Brisbane's highest daily falls of 170mm were also recorded in 1981. He said the highest rainfalls overnight were recorded at Tallegalla, near Rosewood west of Ipswich, with 243mm - 222mm of which fell in just three hours between 9pm and midnight. Rosewood recorded 216mm.

Mr Banks said the storm cluster formed when a trough, that had been moving across southern Queensland in the past few days, combined with a very sharp upper trough near Toowoomba. "It was in just the right location to give it a huge amount of assistance in developing further, and as a result those thunderstorms became organised into a little low pressure system near the surface, which then moved east and off the coast in the early hours of the morning," he said. Mr Banks said further showers and storms would develop this afternoon, though they were unlikely to be as strong as last night's, with more rain on Saturday and into next week.

He said Brisbane was on track to recording one of its wettest Novembers - there had been more than 200mm so far, with the record standing at 413mm. "Looking forward we're actually seeing on the modelling at the moment that the monsoon trough tracks south - the first time we've seen it this summer, tracks south across Queensland next week and could bring some significant rainfall to other parts of the state and also some further showers and storms around the south-east.


Students lose if low-performing schools shielded

Students in low-performing schools have the most to gain from publicly reporting their results, with a report by the Centre for Independent Studies arguing this is one of a suite of reforms required to improve education. In a paper released today, CIS research fellow Jennifer Buckingham says that arguments against so-called league tables protect schools at the expense of students and parents.

Ms Buckingham says the concern is only about revealing the schools that do not perform well, not the high-achieving schools, for fear of stigmatising the students and damaging a school's reputation. "This argument holds no water," she says. "In essence, it says that students in under-performing schools will be fine as long as nobody knows they are getting a poor education. "It protects schools, and the people responsible for them, at the expense of the children and families they are meant to serve."

Ms Buckingham says education departments already know which public schools are under-achieving and that publicly identifying such schools is crucial to turning them around. "These schools are allowed to under-achieve year after year, and under-serve hundreds of children, with no redress," she says. "Public identification will put schools and the governments responsible for them in the spotlight, and force improvement in these schools through the weight of public pressure. "What is worse, short-term loss of face or long-term neglect? Some schools may go through pain initially, but when 'problem schools' have been publicly identified in the past, students have ended up better off."

The paper says Australia has already laid the groundwork for a school reporting program, with national tests starting this year in literacy and numeracy and the establishment of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority to oversee the tests and the reporting of results. It says the Australian Government is in the enviable position of being able to learn from the experiences of other countries, and cherry-pick features from different systems.

Education Minister Julia Gillard has pointed to the model of rating groups of like schools adopted in New York City, and has organised a trip to Australia next week by the city's schools chancellor, Joel Klein. New York schools are awarded a grade of A, B, C, D or F weighted for student improvement, with schools receiving a D or an F facing closure if they fail to improve.

The CIS paper cautions against overplaying the value of student progress because it can distort the way schools are portrayed, with some very high-achieving schools in New York given an F because their students, already at the top, failed to improve. The report says public accountability and school choice are deemed important as well.


Time to smash trade barriers, says Simon Crean

Good old Simon. He always was an exceptionally rational leftist. He is a big improvement on his father, the blundering Frank Crean in the Whitlam government

SMASHING barriers to international trade will give the world its best hope of avoiding a depression caused by the global financial crisis, according to Trade Minister Simon Crean. Mr Crean believes that although all nations face tough economic times because of the crisis, freer trade could give Australia a greater share of Asian trade markets at the expense of the US and the European countries, which are both either in recession or on the verge of it. The minister's comments came in an interview with The Australian yesterday in Lima, the Peruvian capital, where he is attending a meeting of trade ministers of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation group.

The APEC summit, to be attended by Kevin Rudd later this week, follows last weekend's meeting of G20 leaders, which vowed to use trade liberalisation to kick-start the stalled global economy by resurrecting the World Trade Organisation's Doha round of international trade talks, which collapsed in July.

Mr Crean yesterday began work on reviving the Doha round by meeting trade ministers of the APEC nations, nine of which were also represented at the G20 meeting in Washington. As the International Labour Organisation predicted 210 million jobs could be lost worldwide, Mr Crean said he hoped ministers could deliver on the G20 decision to boost economic activity and prevent the credit and growth crisis, which originated in developed countries, from causing misery in the developing world.

Asked whether enhanced global trade could prevent a recession from becoming a depression, Mr Crean said: "I believe it can. Trade is fundamental to stimulating economic growth. Trade is a big driver and multiplier of economic development. Historically, trade has grown three times faster than output. "If you want to secure your economic future, whatever your stage of development, you've got to engage with trade and you've got to drive the liberalisation agenda."

The collapse of the Doha round, which was aimed at helping developing nations accelerate their growth through trade, came amid disagreement between India and the US over market access, with Washington particularly concerned about the effect on the US cotton industry. Mr Crean said these concerns were still in play, but that the G20 leaders' meeting in Washington had injected political impetus to the negotiations amid fears the crisis could cause some nations to revert to protectionism -- seen as a key mistake in the Great Depression of the 1930s. "It isn't just a question of 'Let's not revert to protectionism'," Mr Crean said. "Let's engage with liberalisation. That gives you a jolt to economic activity."


Wednesday, November 19, 2008


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG comments on the implosion of the Labor party in NSW and sees that it could damage Federal Labor.


Climate change may not be as severe as predicted, suggests an international study that shows current modelling of carbon dioxide emissions from soils are overestimated by as much as 20%. The view, reported in the latest Nature Geoscience journal, is based on a study of Australian soils that finds the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released by Australian soils is much lower than previously believed. The finding has major implications for climate change predictions as annual carbon emissions from soils are estimated to be more than all human-made CO2 emissions combined.

The Australian and US researchers say emissions from soils are lower because they contain a much higher proportion of charcoal, or black carbon, than estimated by previous models. "Current models of global climate change .. are inaccurate if a larger fraction of soil organic carbon than postulated has a very slow decomposition rate," they write. Co-author Dr Evelyn Krull, of CSIRO Land and Water, says charcoal, which is formed in the aftermath of bushfires, is a very stable form of carbon that can last for millennia. "In effect it's a carbon sink," Krull says.

Under the commonly used RothC model, the proportion of black carbon is calculated to be about 6.6%, she says. Krull says in their study of 452 soil samples from the Australian National Soil Archive and two landscape transects of about 3000km in Queensland and the Northern Territory, charcoal content ranged from zero to 82%. She says the average proportion of charcoal present for all 452 soil samples was 20.4%.

The team found by including realistic estimates of charcoal in their climate prediction models, the amount of CO2 predicted to be released from two Australian savannah regions under a 3ºC warming scenario was 18.3% and 24.4% lower than previously calculated. For Australia, a proportion of 20% charcoal in soils would lead to a 135 teragram (135 billion kilograms) overestimation on a continental scale. "On an annual basis, an inflated prediction from topsoils alone equates to ... 84% of CO2 emissions associated with aviation for Australia using values obtained for 2006," the paper says.

Krull, who has analysed soil samples from across the globe since the paper was prepared, says she has found soils from countries around the same latitude as Australia have similar charcoal content. She says this means that current scenarios predicted by climate change modeling "are making it look worse than it actually would be". This highlights the need for a global initiative to analyse soils worldwide for charcoal content so that modeling can be more accurate, she says.


Global financial crisis exposes follies in climate modelling

The global financial crisis showed how foolish the Rudd Government would be to base its climate change response on economic forecasts for the coming century, academic and Reserve Bank board director Warwick McKibbin said yesterday. A frequent commentator on carbon reduction schemes, Professor McKibbin said the carbon pollution reduction scheme proposed in a green paper, and the subject of an upcoming white paper, was the result of a "diabolical policy process" and risked disadvantaging Australia in global markets.

Speaking at a Committee for the Economic Development of Australia lunch in Brisbane, the economics professor said the Garnaut Report, released on September 30, was originally commissioned by the states, partly as a political tool to attack the federal Coalition, and has since had to be embraced by the incoming Labor Government. He questioned whether that required Climate Change Department secretary Martin Parkinson to have a "schizophrenic" approach to policy development.

But Professor McKibbin, from the Australian National University, was most critical of Treasury's long-term economic modelling, which was used by the Rudd Government to allay fears an emissions trading scheme would damage the economy. While partly involved in the modelling, Professor McKibbin said he was not responsible for the scenarios and believed it was "stretching the imagination" to believe you could forecast 100 years in advance and use that process to determine targets.

"I don't think we can calculate cost-benefit analysis over 100 years into the future," Professor McKibbin said. "We just have very poor tools at our disposal to work out what the costs will be, or what the world economy will look like, in 2100, just as we didn't have a really good idea at the turn of the 20th century, in 1900, what the world would look like today."

He said the economic crisis further demonstrated how policies should not be framed around long-term economic forecasts, how poorly-developed regulatory systems would have ramifications, and climate change responses needed to be able to withstand the inevitable "shocks".

Professor McKibbin said the Kyoto experience showed how even most environmentally-friendly countries, such as New Zealand and Canada, could commit to rigid, long-term targets only to find themselves disadvantaged when their economies or external conditions changed. He declared there would never be a uniform global carbon scheme and urged the Rudd Government to take the time necessary to develop a workable national scheme.


Goji berry may stop skin cancer

A tiny red berry celebrated for its antioxidant qualities may also help protect against skin damage that leads to cancer, researchers believe. Scientists at the University of Sydney fed diluted juice from the goji berry to mice in the laboratory and found it protected them against the same sun damage as other mice when exposed to harsh UV rays. Another experiment showed skin cancer advanced slower in mice that had drunk goji juice.

Cancer specialists have cautioned that while the berry, strong in antioxidant properties, appears to act like a sunscreen in mice, it is untested on humans. Goji juice has been the subject of bad press in recent years after tests by the Australian Consumer Association showed it was no more beneficial to health than standard fruit juices.

Dr Vivienne Reeve, from the university's Faculty of Veterinary Science, told a medical research conference in Brisbane on Monday that she fed mice either water or diluted juice and then exposed them to UV radiation to give them sunburn. "The goji berry-drinking mice had significantly less inflammation of the skin," said Dr Reeve, who is a scientific adviser to a company that distributes the juice. "And the juice seemed to protect the immune system because they didn't get immuno-suppression which is a major risk factor for skin cancer development in chronically over-exposed skin."

It also appeared to have protective properties against skin cancer growth, she said, with another experiment showing skin cancer-induced mice had significantly slower growing tumours.

"We haven't tested it on humans but this gives us every indication that we should if we want to help protect people from sun damage and disease," she said.

Cancer Council Australia chief executive Professor Ian Olver said the research was interesting but should be viewed with caution. "Just because it works like sunscreen in mice does not mean it will do the same in humans as the two types of skin are very different," Prof Olver said.


The Implant Coast

Gold Coast Coast women boast the largest fake breasts in Australia, according to the nation's leading implant supplier. Confirming what Gold Coast men have suspected for years, Nick Steventon of breast implant supplier Mentor has told The Bulletin that the average size of implants sold on the Coast is 50 to 75ml larger than the average nationwide.

"The average size we sell is 325ml-350ml, but on the Gold Coast we add another 50ml-75ml on top of that -- and more," said Sydney-based Mr Steventon. "You just have to walk along the beach there. This is my job, so I can spot them a mile off and they are definitely bigger."He said not only did Coast women have, on average, larger fake breasts, they were also more inclined to make a real statement with their new assets."Our largest implant is about 700ml. We sell them all the time on the Gold Coast but I don't recall selling any in Melbourne," he said. "Melbourne is very conservative in its sizes -- the Gold Coast is not."

Coast plastic surgeon Dr Craig Layt said his average implant size was 375ml-400ml. He believed the main reason Coast women were out in front was environmental, not socio-cultural."It's been known for years that as you head north the size of breast augmentation tends to be larger," he said. "People on the Gold Coast are more likely to be wearing bikinis and low-cut tops. It's the same in the US: if you go to Boston the augmentation rate and size is significantly less and smaller than it is in California."

Ethnicity could also be a factor, he said."In Melbourne there's a larger Italian and Greek population than here and those girls often have larger breasts to start with, so often you are topping up what they already have," he said."I am guessing that we have a larger Caucasian population -- smaller-breasted girls who want to be larger -- but certainly the major factor is just the outdoor, beach-girl culture."

He said the lion's share of his clients were 'for want of a better word, yummy mummies' who wanted their original breasts back -- and maybe a few centimetres more."I see lots of ladies who have had their children and who then want back what they had -- and sometimes with a bit more," said Dr Layt. "I am not considered to be someone who puts in huge breast implants ... but if a patient comes to me and wants it, maybe if she's an exotic dancer, or has a particular frame or wants a certain look, then I'm not averse to that."

Most of those clients were after 'dress-up dress-down breasts' -- a natural look when needed and a 'less-natural' look when desired, he said."A lot of them don't want their breasts to be the centre of attention, they want to throw on a T-shirt on a Sunday morning and go have a coffee and have nobody notice, but then they can go to a ball and put on a more figure-hugging top and suddenly they've got a great set of breasts."


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More public hospital negligence -- and no apology

Woman wakes during surgery but is paralysed and unable to scream. Hospital admits she woke but won't talk to her. This is the second horror from the Northern Territory in the last week

A Northern Territory woman says she will have nightmares for the rest of her life after an horrific operation gone wrong at the Alice Springs Hospital. During the ordeal Rebecca Jones, 24, claims she woke up during abdominal surgery and could feel every cut of the surgeon's knife, the Northern Territory News reports. But she was unable to scream for help as the anaesthesia had paralysed her.

Ms Jones said she woke up just as doctors were about to start the full operation. She was paralysed and could not open her eyes, but could hear and feel everything. "I was very aware of what was happening to me," she said. "I thought the doctors had woken me up because the surgery was over - I quickly realised that was not the case. "It first hit me when I tried to take a breath. I couldn't move and started to panic. I could feel them cutting me open. I can't describe how it felt. I've never felt anything like it before.

"I was freaked out. Then I actually managed to move my hand and someone in the room noticed it. "He said, 'she's just moved her hand'. But they kept going. I was trying to scream, to do anything."

The hospital's general manager Vicki Taylor has refused to meet with Ms Jones over the issue and refused to be interviewed last night. In a written statement last night, Ms Taylor conceded Ms Jones had been "awake" during the operation to remove her gall bladder. She denied the hospital knew of Ms Jones' pain. [But she was AWAKE, stupid bitch!]

But an official hospital review of the case stated a second anesthetist had found "the administration of the anesthetic may not have been adequate" and adjustments were made. Ms Jones said hospital staff had been "well aware" she was in agony. "My husband was told that I'd almost died on the operating table," she said. "Doctors said the heart machine was going crazy, my oxygen levels were really low and my blood pressure was high."

Ms Jones has discussed the case with the NT Health Ombudsman and is considering legal action.


Diabetes link to germ-free environment

This theory became well-known in connection with asthma -- where it has not worked very well subsequently -- so much caution is advised. There could, for instance, be no group that disconfirms the "dirty environment" hypothesis more strikingly than Australian Aborigines. They commonly live in appallingly dirty environments that shock outsiders.

So what is their incidence of asthma and other autoimmune diseases? Is it low? Far from it. We read, for instance: "Contrary to popular belief, Indigenous Australians are more likely to have asthma than non-Indigenous Australians. This difference exists across all age groups but it is most pronounced in older adults, especially women aged over 35 in whom the prevalence for Indigenous Australians is double that for non-Indigenous Australians". Beat that! Another great theory stubs its toe on pesky facts. Aborigines also have very high rates of diabetes but I could not find a breakdown into Type 1 and Type 2

Amy-Lee Nakhl was the picture of health - but, in fact, she was at death's door. She ate healthily and drank lots and lots of water, just as the health experts advise. However, it was her never-ending water guzzling that prompted a relative to suggest that perhaps something was wrong. Amy-Lee's mother, Belinda, took her to the doctor where alarms bells rang. A quick blood-sugar test showed the then five-year-old's levels were at 38.5 - far above the safe 4 to 6 range. Suddenly, Amy-Lee was in hospital battling type 1 diabetes, a life-threatening condition that affects about 140,000 Australians.

Unlike type 2, type 1 diabetes is not preventable because it is not linked with lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise.

Work funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in the US backs the theory that the Western world's germ-free environment is leading to increased rates of some diseases. Mike Wilson, chief executive of the foundation in Australia, said scientists had found that mice kept completely free of bacteria had alarmingly high rates of type 1 diabetes. "Type 1 diabetes is caused by a combination of genes and environmental triggers," Mr Wilson said. "This research helps build our understanding of the increasing numbers of new cases of type 1 diabetes. It suggests there is a certain level of exposure to bacteria that is, in fact, healthy."

Mrs Nakhl said Amy-Lee, now 11, had been hospitalised many times since her diagnosis and even though she receives her insulin though a pump, rather than injections, the disease was a constant worry. "Every day is full of fear and it's a horrible life to live," she said.


Mass failure in the Western Australian justice system

Great to see the b****s getting sued. Not before time. Too often people in such positions get away without any redress against them at all

The man wrongfully convicted of the 1994 murder of Perth jeweller Pamela Lawrence is suing eight police officers, the director of public prosecutions and others accused of bungling the investigation. Andrew Mallard, who spent 12 years in jail for the murder before the High Court quashed his conviction, has lodged a writ in the WA Supreme Court for damages against 14 individuals and the state of Western Australia.

A recent inquiry by retired NSW judge John Dunford QC found two assistant police commissioners, Mal Shervill and David Caporn, then detective sergeants, caused witnesses to change their statements. They either used persistent and repeated questioning or deliberately raised doubts in witnesses minds, Mr Dunford said. Mr Shervill was also found to have changed police records.

Deputy DPP Ken Bates engaged in misconduct and failed to question forensic pathologist Dr Clive Cooke about whether Mrs Lawrence's injuries were consistent with the use of a wrench, Mr Dunford said. Police claimed Mr Mallard had identified the wrench as the murder weapon during interviews.

Also listed in the writ are the police commissioner, the police minister, the chief forensic pathologist, a chemist and a psychiatrist.

Mr Mallard is seeking damages, aggravated damages, exemplary or punitive damages and interest from most of those named in the action, including current DPP Robert Cock QC. Mr Cock is being sued for negligence, breach of statutory duty, misfeasance in public office and malicious prosecution. An undercover police officer and another investigator are also being named in the writ for encouraging Mr Mallard to use cannabis at a time when he was "psychologically vulnerable".

West Australian police union president Mike Dean says lawyers will have a field day. "Matters of compensation are essentially with the government," Mr Dean said. "We're looking at a four to five year civil process which will cost both sides many millions of dollars. "I think the theatre has overtaken the facts in this case ... and they seem to want someone's head. "If you read the (Dunford) report closely, you'll see that there are no corruption issues. There were 52 separate allegations of corruption, originally, and none of them (were carried)."

Mr Mallard was released from jail in 2006 and is now living interstate.


No navy for two months!

AUSTRALIAN navy chiefs have ordered a two-month shutdown over Christmas in an unprecedented step to combat a defence force staffing crisis. All ships not deployed on operations have been ordered home for Christmas to address a shortfall of 2,020 trained personnel. The navy will reduce the number of sailors forced to stay on board ships docked in their home port on "duty watch''. The number of sentries will be reduced, while sensors and alarms will be used to guard the ships, Fairfax reports.

All local commanders have been ordered to allow personnel affected by the ABC Learning childcare crisis more flexible working arrangements. They will be able to work from home if necessary, until they have found alternative care. Defence relies heavily on ABC Learning for childcare services for its workers.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Child obesity checks should start from birth, say "experts"

Which means that it is mostly inborn behaviour that they will be trying to change! When will people start to rebel against this ever-growing intrusion into their personal lives?

Children should be weighed and monitored for obesity from birth to stop them becoming unhealthy, fat adults, according to researchers. The experts argue the Federal Government's Healthy Kids Check plan to weigh all children from the age of four from next year is leaving it too late, given one in five children are already overweight by the age of three.

Their advice comes as a senior Adelaide heart specialist predicted the nation would fail to cut obesity levels over the next 20 years unless it developed new strategies to tackle the "complex" epidemic. Dr Anthea Magarey, a dietician with the Childhood Obesity Research Group at Flinders University, and colleague Rebecca Perry want the Federal Government to consider an ongoing monitoring system - starting from birth - of children's weight, diet and activity.

While sometimes early weight gain may be "puppy fat" which disappears with a growth spurt, they say it can often instead be the start of an ongoing weight problem linked to poor eating habits. "If you're monitoring a child you can identify where their weight is increasing disproportionate to their height," Dr Magarey said. "They may not be overweight or obese yet, but it can ring a few bells and then we can say ok, maybe we should be looking at what this child is eating and what their activity levels are." Parents whose children were putting on excessive weight for their age and height could then receive advice about how to properly feed them.

The plan comes as advertising companies have rejected a proposal to ban junk food advertising to children, arguing the term "junk food" is "derogatory" and that all food is healthy. The Australian Association of National Advertisers has also tried to downplay the obesity epidemic, citing a Commonwealth study this year that showed "no appreciable change in childhood obesity levels since 1995". "The claimed 'epidemic' has been exposed as a deliberate attempt at misinformation of the Australian public and its politicians," it says in comments made to the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

The association argued that it would be "unreasonable and unjust" to place impositions on television advertising. "There is overwhelming evidence that food and beverages advertising to children is neither the primary nor a significant contributor to childhood obesity."


The mayhem in North Queensland public hospitals continues

And all the managers and administrators have been no help at all. The cardiac unit at Townsville had to be closed because of infighting and now Cairns hospital seems to be going down the same road

QUEENSLAND Health faces unprecedented legal action after a report found a junior surgeon was harassed by senior Cairns Base Hospital doctors. The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, in an independent review, cleared doctor Heng-chin Chiam, 39, of allegations of incompetence and botched surgery. The father of three, who has been off work on five months stress leave was a "cautious but safe surgeon" whose medical skill could not be faulted, the audit found. The University of Queensland-educated specialist was a victim of "harassment" allowed to "fester" by management, it said.

CBH director of surgery Christina Steffen, who stood down in defence of Dr Chiam, yesterday told The Courier-Mail the findings opened the way for legal action. She said it was a clear case of "workplace mobbing" by a group at the hospital. "This is a surgeon who has had his whole career destroyed where there is no basis and nothing proven," Dr Steffen said. She said they had both been the victims of the "virus" or "cancer" of malicious rumour and unfounded accusations.

Queensland Health did not respond to questions about the alleged workplace harassment, except to say "all appropriate action will be taken".

Dr Chiam said he had been hurt and demoralised by the claims, made in secrecy under the Whistleblowers Act, but still wanted to return to work. The medico had been investigated twice before for the same complaint but both internal inquiries found no evidence to support the allegations. Dr Chiam felt he had been denied natural justice.

Four surgical procedures a week had to be cancelled with the two full-time surgeons on stress leave. Two months ago, a separate inquiry was launched when Dr Steffen revealed concerns of a party culture at the hospital. She claims that a group of doctors held a booze-fuelled staff meeting and joked about a patient who bled to death on the operating table. "When there is a power vacuum such as at Cairns Base Hospital with a transient ... administration, it allows the formation of these powerful cliques," Dr Steffen said.


White 'gatekeepers' part of black problem

Leftist knowalls hinder rather than help

INDIGENOUS leader Warren Mundine has attacked ideologically driven white "gatekeepers" in Aboriginal communities, saying one of the biggest problems they have is "people who want to protect Aboriginal people". "There are some people who seem to go to these communities who, quite frankly, wouldn't get a job outside," Mr Mundine said. "There are other ones who go there who are totally ideologically driven and become gatekeepers. In fact one of the biggest problems we have is people who want to protect Aboriginal people. "It drives me to no end of madness. "We have people also who are going into the communities and they are not moving on and letting Aboriginal people move up and take over those positions."

The former national Labor president's comments came after indigenous educator Chris Sarra sparked an angry reaction when he told The Weekend Australian that while Aborigines were blamed for the dysfunction in their communities, the standard of services and the people providing them were not subject to the same scrutiny. "In its crudest form, remote communities are the place to tuck our white trash away," Dr Sarra said.

While Mr Mundine said he thought Dr Sarra's comments were a bit strong, he understood his frustration, particularly in the area of education, "because the statistics are telling us that the education system is failing Aboriginal people miserably and has been failing Aboriginal people for a long time".

Dr Sarra, executive director of the Indigenous Education Leadership Institute at the Queensland University of Technology, yesterday retreated from his choice of words, saying he would never use the term again. "If I had my time again I would use the term lazy and incompetent," he said.

But he stood by his central claim that white workers in education, health, police and public service who would not be able to hold down jobs in larger communities were a major part of the problem for Aboriginal Australia. "I stand by what I said - the language was unfortunate," he said. "A lot of people are saying this (the white trash comment) is stereotyping and this is despicable language and I absolutely agree with them," Dr Sarra said. "I had not intended it to bemalicious." But he said experienced and hardworking white people in remote communities would not be offended by the comments "because they know exactly what I'm talking about".

Dr Sarra said after his comments in The Weekend Australian he had received many emails saying his language was not acceptable. He is also being heavily criticised by readers on The Australian's website. One reader wrote: "Imagine if a white academic, or any academic or anyone for that matter, called Dr Sarra a black bum or wog. Not acceptable these days, but reverse racism, no make that, racism full stop against whites is acceptable." Another wrote: "I am an electrician that has worked out at several communities does that make me white trash?"

Dr Sarra himself posted a response yesterday: "Imagine then what it is like for Aboriginal people to be continually described stereotypically as drunks, child abusers, wife bashers, and some of the things that some of you describe here, when clearly this is not the absolute truth." He told The Australian he agreed with many of the criticisms because the phrase he had used was despicable. But he said there was a common saying in many Aboriginal communities - "upright and with a heart beat" (if you are upright and have a heartbeat you are good enough to teach).

He said he was told recently of a school in Queensland where on Fridays it was common for only half the students to turn up. The teachers took those who did turn up fishing or swimming, but a good teacher, he said, would use the opportunity of a smaller class to better help those who had attended.

Mr Mundine also yesterday backed the Northern Territory Government's plan to force Aboriginal bilingual schools to teach the first four hours of classes each day in English.

The principal of the Areyonga School, Tarna Andrews, said that English was a second or third language for many of the school's 42 children and the new policy spelled the end of a focus on traditional Pitjantjatjara language and culture. "I want to keep my language going in the school, the kids' language - we want to keep the kids in two ways, not only one way," she told ABC radio. "It will die, the language will die. The school is a place where the kids learn proper language."

Mr Mundine said he supported bilingual education. While English provided the tools for living in "the real world", traditional languages enhanced culture and self-esteem. "Kids have to learn in English and they have to learn the maths and the sciences as well. If they don't do that, they are being retarded and they're not able to function in the job market, or in the wider Australian or world communities," he said.


Black dog danger for coronary patients

Not exactly surprising that a heart attack would make you depressed but the much poorer outcome among depressed patients is interesting. Gordon Parker is a very old hand at depression research and I think he may be onto something here

HEART attack patients should be screened for depression in the months after they leave hospital, a ground-breaking Australian study suggests. Low mood that develops following a cardiac event significantly increases the risk of death or readmission, research by the Black Dog Institute found. But the increased risk only applies to coronary patients who are experiencing a depressive episode for the first time, and not to those who had a history of depression before, or at the time of, their heart attack.

The discovery challenges the long-held view that a lifetime of depression or being depressed at the time of the heart attack increases the risk of subsequent cardiac death or readmission to hospital. "The study suggests that the time to screen people is once they've left hospital and in the months afterwards," said Professor Gordon Parker, executive director for the institute. "There is no need to screen people when they are admitted and prescribe antidepressants as a public policy, yet that has been the [standard] wisdom."

The study evaluated 500 patients from the cardiac ward at Sydney's Prince of Wales Hospital for lifetime and current depression. Their progress was tracked for 12 months and even after taking into account cardiac risk factors such as age, gender and smoking status, depression that developed in the month after the heart attack increased the patient's odds of cardiac readmission - or death - up to seven times.

Professor Parker said the discovery suggests depression which occurs soon after a heart attack may be a different, more physical type than that experienced by lifetime sufferers - which may explain the increased effect on the heart.

He said: "We know there are a number of biological changes that occur in depressed patients that may be related to their poorer cardiac outcome, such as increased blood clotting, sympathetic nervous system activity and inflammation."


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Leftists frantic to keep British National Party head out of Australia

Leftists use words for their emotional impact rather than their simple meaning so it is entirely expected that the proposed visit of Nick Griffin to Australia is being opposed on the Left by calling him a "Fascist". See below. The amusing thing is that, probably unknown to them, they are absolutely correct. The BNP has lots of policies that sit comfortably on the Left, just as the prewar Fascists did. Like the Left from at least Karl Marx on, the BNP and all the Fascists of history want the government to control large swathes of what people do. So the only real beef that the Left have with the BNP is its patriotism. The BNP is not even nationalistic. Far from wanting to embroil Bitain in more wars, it claims that Britain embroils itself in too many wars. Its only distinctive policy is its wish to reduce the immigrant proportion of the British population and that view is now so widely held in Britain that even the British Labour party is now clamping down (in appearance anyway) on immigration.

After all the name-calling, however, the idea that the Cambridge-educated chief of a legal and influential British political party should be kept out while disgusting creatures like American "rappers" are allowed in, is quite absurd. It is certainly an attack on free speech but what Leftist ever cared about free speech? Free speech only for themselves and those they approve of is their definition of free speech. It is true that Griffin has expressed doubts about the Holocaust but even many Jewish writers have opposed attempts to suppress such views, on the grounds that suppression efforts tend to give such views enhanced credibility. Even the article below probably does that

Denying a visa to British fascist leader Nick Griffin, who has a conviction for inciting racial hatred, will only increase the likelihood of Cronulla-style racial conflict, his supporters say. Mr Griffin, head of the far-right-wing British National Party, has applied to visit Australia to tackle the issue of "the demographic genocide . caused by large-scale immigration of people from the Third World". Darrin Hodges, the NSW head of the extreme Australian Protection Party, which is backing his visit, said: "Having a full and frank debate was more helpful than not . and suppressing the debate leads to events like Cronulla." He said Mr Griffin would speak at private forums in Sydney and Melbourne.

However, Jewish lobby groups opposed to the December speaking tour by Mr Griffin - a Holocaust denier with long-standing links to far-right-wing groups throughout Europe - believe the free speech argument has to be balanced against the harm done to local communities. British anti-fascist activists who track his movements say Mr Griffin and the BNP have a history of fomenting racial hatred in Britain. "Australia should not let the racist in," said Matthew Collins, a former member of the BNP who now works for a London-based anti-fascist monitoring service. "Nick Griffin is as dangerous to the community as any radical Islamic preacher."

The BNP has 49 elected councillors and 51 parish councillors among Britain's 6000 local councillors.

Jo-anne Schofield, the head of Catalyst, a left-wing Australian think tank opposed to his visit, said: "The BNP is very clever at moderating its message to appear more acceptable. But scratch the surface, they still have a hateful message at their core. "The burden of free speech is carried by the people harmed by his message."

Mr Griffin, who reportedly lost an eye when a shotgun pellet he threw into a fire exploded [Note: Shotgun pellets don't explode. Sheer Leftist ignorance], was denied entry to Australia in 1998. He once called the Holocaust the Holohoax: "I have reached the conclusion that the 'extermination' tale is a mixture of Allied wartime propaganda, extremely profitable lie and . hysteria."

A spokesman for the Immigration Department said because Mr Griffin's name appears on a Movement Alert List for individuals who may be a security, character or immigration concern, his application was not electronically approved and will be reviewed by the department. No decision had been made yet on whether to issue him a visa


Schools to ban candy

Talk about the ultimate killjoys! What would childhood be without candy? Zero evidence that the ban will do any good, of course. It could well make candy more attractive

The Victorian Goverment will ban lollies from school canteens and vending machines from next year to boost student health and stamina. The sweets will be replaced with fruit, salads and fresh wraps.

"With alarming statistics showing almost one-quarter of children aged two to 16 years are overweight or obese, it is vital that we work together to reinforce the healthy living message," Education Minister Bronwyn Pike said on Sunday in a statement. About 100 schools will be audited in 2009 to ensure they comply with the confectionery ban.


Skin cancer vaccine?

Looks like it is only a minor cause of skin cancer that is affected

The pioneering Australian scientist who discovered the cure for cervical cancer is on the verge of creating the world's first vaccine for skin cancer. Professor Ian Frazer, former Australian of the Year, has revealed the vaccine could be ready within the next five to 10 years.

As with the jab now given to millions of young girls each year to prevent cervical cancer, children aged between 10 and 12 would be given the vaccine to prevent skin cancer later in life, Professor Frazer envisages. Testing on animals has shown the vaccine to be successful and human trials will start next year. Australia has the world's highest rate of skin cancer with more than 380,000 people diagnosed with the disease and 1600 dying from it each year.

Professor Frazer will reveal this ground-breaking skin work at the Australian Health and Medical Research Congress to be held in Brisbane tomorrow. He said it would be rewarding to develop a vaccine for a cancer that was so prevalent in Australia with its hot climate. "It's an important challenge with a very major health benefit if it works," Professor Frazer told The Sunday Telegraph. "If we get encouraging results we will try and push it on as fast as we can. It's really a given that we try to focus on health problems which are significant ones. "When you're looking at treatments, your focus needs to be on diseases that are most common."

The new skin-cancer vaccine works by targeting papillomavirus, a common skin infection that affects most people and can linger in the body, turning abnormal cells into cancer. Prof Frazer and his team from the Diamantina Institute at the University of Queensland are focusing on preventing squamous-cell skin cancer, which is strongly linked to papillomavirus. Squamous cell is the second most common skin cancer, affecting 137,600 people in Australia this year and killing 400.

It's not yet known if melanomas which are the most deadly form of skin cancer, are also caused by papillomavirus. "My entire career has been focused on understanding the interaction between papillomavirus and the cancers they affect," Prof Frazer said. "We know it causes at least five per cent of all cancers globally so one in 20 of the cancers that people get is caused by papillomavirus. It's a huge issue."

The new vaccine is part of a two-pronged approach to tackle skin cancer. The other approach involves "switching off" one of the skin's controls to allow killer cells to destroy potentially cancerous cells. "Getting the vaccine is the easy part," Prof Frazer said. "We need to introduce this other component to change the setting in the local environment. "The skin has a number of defences against the body's own immune system. "What we're learning is the nature of those controls and how to turn them off. "We can turn them off in animals and if we turn them off, the vaccine does its job."


Censor the Bible!

Some satirical comments on Australia's proposed internet censorship laws. I like his conclusion

Now, I know it's got a lot of good stuff in it, and that there are many millions of people to whom it brings great joy, but I do believe it's time we did something about the more "inappropriate" passages in The Bible. It's not good enough that each household make its own decisions with regard to Biblical censorship - there are copies of this book in every school library and hotel room, all in plain reach of the children. Last year in China - Australia's frontier scout when it comes to censorship - Hong Kong's anti-porn watchdog received over 200 complaints about The Bible, and I can see why, page after page of the book featuring violent imagery and promoting messages so dreadful it's a wonder it ever got past the OFLC.

Thankfully, as Senator Stephen Conroy assured the Christian Media Association back in May, the Australian Communications and Media Authority's blacklisting of harmful content "is currently compiled by a complaints-driven mechanism", so it is within our power to prevent other people from reading that which we ourselves find offensive. It shouldn't matter that others might find it enlightening or explainable, any more than it should matter that the paedophile finds the stuff in his scrapbooks work keeping. What follows - just a sampling of what's available to readers of The Bible - is plainly revolting by modern community standards, and, if Stephen Conroy is at all consistent, he'll brand all who leap to its defense as sympathisers of rapists, murderers, cannibals, kidsters and blokes who use dead men's foreskins as fun vouchers. Behold.

If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl's father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives. - Deuteronomy 22:28-29

- What this appears to be telling our children is that rape is a crime against not the victim, but the father of the victim, whose silence can be purchased - perhaps even before the fact - with a few dollars, the rapist's sentence being marriage to the girl, so that he can rape her `legitimately' again and again. The potential damage from this verse alone (I see there has been at least one curious party on the Internet) would give just cause for pulping the entire chapter.

With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. - Acts 1:8

- Now that's just disgusting. That he died was well enough, but one is hard pressed to think of a responsible reason for the gratuitous gore that follows.

If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity. - Deuteronomy 25:11-12

- One gets the impression the author was still smarting from some laughable neighbourhood episode about which he remained very much aggrieved at the time of writing. Whatever the case, this couldn't possibly be deemed an "appropriate" message to be sending our children in an era that encourages sensible conflict resolution.

If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. - Leviticus 20:13

- There is not a court in this land that wouldn't regard this as "hate speech" of the first order. Senator Conroy, filter this vile junk out of the book, out of our schools, and out of our lives immediately.

"Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man." - Numbers 31:17-18

- Murder and rape of women and children, on the advice of Moses, God's servant of the Old Testament. Anyone promoting, indulging or downloading this filth should have the book thrown at them, and a less obscene book at that.

So he went out and caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail to tail in pairs. He then fastened a torch to every pair of tails, lit the torches and let the foxes loose in the standing grain of the Philistines..- Judges 15:4-5

- Animal cruelty by Samson, hero to the Israelites. I'm sure plenty of rural schoolboys would find this passage most instructive.

But Jael, Heber's wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died. - Judges 4:21

- Perhaps this might be a more "appropriate" passage if it were edited to see Jael simply filing for divorce instead.

But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go. Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man's house where her lord was, till it was light. And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold. And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place. And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel. - Judges 19:25-29

- So much for happy endings. It is a thought of some discomfort that my daughter might one day find herself in a relationship with the boy whose parents allowed him access to this yarn.

David and his men went out and killed two hundred Philistines. He brought their foreskins and presented the full number to the king so that he might become the king's son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal in marriage. - 1 Samuel 18:27

- Men trading in women with currency consisting of the severed foreskins of murder victims. What say you, Guy Barnett?

"So we boiled my son, and ate him. And I said to her on the next day, `Give your son, that we may eat him'; but she has hidden her son." - 2 Kings 6:29

- And they complain about Gordon Ramsay!

Happy the one who takes and dashes your little ones against the rock! .- Psalms 137:9

- With such stuff espoused in the `Good Book', is it any wonder this sort of thing happens in Christian society?

Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell. .- Proverbs 23:13-14

Or this? "Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great." - Revelation 19:17-18

- Cannibalism aside, this does not exactly promote healthy eating habits, and is bound to give rise to more than a few eating disorders, particularly if taken literally.

And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. - Genesis 19:31-35

- I wonder what Steve Fielding would say if he burst in to find me reading this little verse to his daughter?

And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out. - Matthew 5:29

The most sensible few words in the book.

Source (See the original for links)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Offensive censorship proposal

The Leftist Australian goverment seems to be modelling itself on Communist China: The proposal is a bigger obscenity than the obscenity it is allegedly trying to control

Why is some faceless bureaucrat to be given the same powers to censor our internet access as a prison screw has over the perversions of an uncontrollable pedophile? The mechanics are different but that is the ultimate result of the Federal Government's ill-considered and illiberal plan to filter the internet. We learnt this week that the Government has a blacklist of 10,000 sites which will be added to 1300 already identified by the Australian Communications and Media Authority to be filtered out of our consciousness.

Just what might we be protected against? The ACMA list is said to be mainly of child pornography sites but Broadband and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy cannot even define the grounds for restricting the 10,000, although they are supposed to contain "illegal and unwanted content". "Will the minister provide a definition of unwanted content and where we might find a definition of unwanted?" asked Greens Senator Scott Ludlum. The answer was: "No."

Call me suspicious but I find it sinister and arrogantly offensive that the Federal Government has a blacklist of banned sites even before it has established any definable criteria for censorship. We are supposed to presume they are all violent or child-porn nasties but can we be sure?

The Vatican got away for two millennia with a library of forbidden books - the Index Librorum Prohibitorum - but I don't know that a government in a modern society is entitled to such presumptions of literary, artistic and political infallibility. The Catholic Church had the good manners to suppress its list in 1966 but at least its list had some definable purpose - the prevention of the contamination of the faith or the corruption of morals through the reading of theologically erroneous or immoral books. "Erroneous and immoral" doesn't sound a world away from "illegal and unwanted".

Without a workable (and legally disputable) definition of what is "unwanted", the scope for government intrusion seems unlimited. Given Australia's sorry history of censorship, petty misuse of power, presumption of moral authority and political exploitation of secrecy in war and peace, is the alleged protection of children (and the deprivation of deviant sexual material) really worth the dangers to a society that should be travelling down a road towards transparency and honesty?

Somebody wise (me, in fact) once wrote: "The web is one of the greatest innovations of the late 20th century, probably the ultimate expression of the communications revolution that began with movable type." The Rudd Government, stampeded by moral crusaders, seems to have embarked on a counter-revolution to turn back the clock. It not only wants to make a massive withdrawal on a bank of freedoms we have built up since the Magna Carta, it seeks the biggest blank cheque since the Howard government asked us to trust it on national security.


Vampire Leftist government in NSW

The donors give their blood freely for the benefit of all at the moment. If this change leads to commercial donations, the vampires may find that this costs them more than it gains

Ruby Russell is the latest victim of a cash-strapped State Government that has plummeted to a new low by forcing private hospital patients to pay for blood. The Government's latest grab for cash runs the risk of jeopardising the entire donor system, already struggling with a lack of blood donors. And last night it emerged Premier Nathan Rees sacked senior bureaucrat John Pearse - the longest serving state treasurer secretary. And for the first time in Australia, the Rees Government will collect money from private hospitals instead of supplying the blood products free. The move which will net the Government $8 million annually.

Lifelong donors have threatened to stop donating if the Government makes money from their blood.

Insurance giant Medibank has also warned that patients will ultimately have to buy their own blood, as the cost will be passed on from hospitals.

Sydney mother Jane Russell is outraged the Government could stoop so low by taxing blood. For the past few months she has been encouraging Avalon residents to donate blood to help her seriously ill daughter Ruby, who needs regular transfusions of immunoglobulin. "It is unfathomable, really," she said.

Under the current arrangement, the State Government picks up the bill for all blood supplied to private and public hospitals. Each year, it places its blood order with the National Blood Authority - which is funded by all states and the Commonwealth - who contract the Australian Red Cross Blood Service to collect and distribute the product. Yesterday NSW Health confirmed it would no longer cover the cost for private hospitals.

The Government's woes continued last night with the shock sacking of Mr Pearse just days after he handed down the mini-budget on behalf of the government. It is believed Mr Pearse was disillusioned with the new administration. Sources inside Treasury revealed that a number of senior Treasury staff including Mr Pearse believed that their own credibility was being harmed by the Government's handling of the economy.

In what insiders claim was a "appalling dismissal, Mr Pearse found out about his sacking after being phoned by associates. Mr Pearse then contacted Treasurer Eric Roozendaal to confirm his dismissal and was told it was true. Mr Roozendaal then turned around and asked Mr Pearce if he would still stay on for the interim and go to New York on behalf of the Government to argue the case with ratings agencies. Mr Pearce said no. He will be replaced by former head of Sydney Water Terry Schott.


Police thugs in Queensland again

Queensland police face disciplinary action after they held down and tasered a 16-year-old girl who had defied an order to move on because she was waiting for an ambulance to treat her sick friend. The Crime and Misconduct Commission and police ethical standards unit are investigating the April incident - during a year-long trial of tasers - which has drawn a strong rebuke from a magistrate of the Brisbane Children's Court.

The girl, who cannot be named, had a charge of obstructing police dismissed after the Children's Court yesterday ruled one of the two officers involved did not give adequate directions, under police move-on powers, before he and two private security guards held the slightly built teenager down, shot her in the thigh with the taser and then arrested her, initially on a charge of assaulting police.

Magistrate Pam Dowse also criticised the police officers for over-reacting to the teenager's refusal to leave her unconscious friend, a girl, before the ambulance arrived. The teenagers were alleged to have been involved in an earlier altercation with another group of tourists. Ms Dowse said it was not unreasonable for police to have allowed the group of about six to remain until the ambulance arrived, given that the number of adults present appeared to have the situation under control. "It didn't seem to be a crisis requiring such a stern response," she said.

The Weekend Australian was initially refused access to the court proceedings, following an objection by police prosecutors. Access was later granted after undertakings were given not to identify the defendant, any of the police involved or the location of the incident.

The Bligh Government has been widely criticised after this year announcing the full-scale arming of more than 5000 frontline police with the 50,000-volt tasers - barely six months into the year-long trial. According to police guidelines, a taser should not be used on juveniles "except in circumstances where there is no other reasonable option to avoid the imminent risk of injury".

In the hearing yesterday, the police officer - who said he believed at the time that the girl was between 16 and 20 - conceded he may have breached guidelines. "In hindsight, I can say yes, but at the time I didn't know she was a juvenile," he said.

A CMC spokeswoman last month said it had concerns the use of the taser had been "inappropriate and excessive". "We have have made some preliminary inquiries into the matter," she said. "We will await the outcome of the court proceedings before deciding whether further action is warranted."


State Labor Party leaders opposing federal Labor over greenhouse plans

Premiers are in revolt over Kevin Rudd's plans for an emissions trading scheme, urging changes to the proposed formulas for compensating export industries to ensure they are not pushed offshore. The premiers of South Australia and Tasmania have written to the Prime Minister raising specific concerns about the design of the scheme, its impact on major industries and expressing fears that the ETS will spark major losses of jobs and revenue. Queensland, Victoria and the West Australian Liberal Government have raised concerns about the effects on emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries.

The concerns come as one of the world's largest petroleum companies warned that a $7billion gas project could literally be floated out of Australian waters to avoidthe impact of the Government's ETS. Woodside chief Don Voelte said the company would consider locating a floating LNG plant in Timor Leste waters to process gas from its Sunrise fields rather than pipe it to Darwin. "Carbon leakage; we'd be the first project that Australia could lose," Mr Voelte said.

Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett yesterday launched an extraordinary attack on the scheme, saying Mr Rudd and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong had "got it wrong" because they were penalising companies that used renewable energy. He also stepped up pressure on the federal Government to deliver on an election promise to introduce mandatory renewable energy targets.

Mr Bartlett told The Australian he wrote to the Prime Minister this week, requesting changes to the scheme to ensure global smelting giant Nyrstar did not close the doors of its Hobart zinc smelter. The company, which employs about 3000 people, warned on Wednesday the ETS would wipe $70 million a year off its bottom line, threatening the future of its operations in South Australia's Port Pirie as well as Hobart. "I wrote to him about the carbon pollution reduction scheme and the potential for perverse outcomes on Tasmanian trade-exposed industry such as Nyrstar," Mr Bartlett said.

He said he had urged the Prime Minister to reconsider the compensation formula, which was based on emissions per unit of revenue, as it failed to account for the "materiality of the carbon cost impact" on companies like Nyrstar. He also asked that companies receive recognition for using renewable energy sources, which were prevalent in Tasmania.

SA Premier Mike Rann revealed he had made submissions to the Prime Minister a month ago asking for "special exemptions" for Nyrstar. "We've made submissions to the federal Government to see if we can get some special exemptions for Nyrstar and I'm sure that will be sorted out," Mr Rann said. "The federal Government doesn't want to export jobs to another country. What it wants to do is to see companies transition to become much more energy-efficient and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Senator Wong attempted to hose down concerns about Nyrstar and other trade-exposed companies, saying consultation on the scheme was still continuing. "The Government has considered and will continue to consider the views put to us by industry and by state governments," Senator Wong said. She has also been pressured from those within her party to change the ETS compensation formula. Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Duncan Kerr, whose electorate takes in Nyrstar's Hobart smelter, said he had raised the company's concerns with Senator Wong, including "their argument about the metrics of (the compensation formula)", but the Government was still "some distance" from finalising the scheme.

Victorian Premier John Brumby warned the states expected to be fully consulted on the design of the ETS. "Our Government has made repeated and strong representations to the commonwealth on behalf of Victorian industries," a Brumby Government spokesman said. He said the Brumby Government had argued for one-off assistance to existing coal-fired generators and transitional assistance for trade-exposed businesses.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Statistics about black crime in Victoria conceal the truth

Andrew Bolt (below) has finally smelt a rat, catching up with the fact that police statistics where race is concerned are notoriously unbelievable. Andrew initially believed the guff fed to him by Victoria police about low rates of black crime (is there anywhere in the WORLD where there is a low rate of black crime?) but he has now seen how pro-black are official police policies. Note that the Leftist Premier of NSW has confirmed in Parliament the crime problems with black African refugees. (See also the full Hansard transcript here). I say more about the policy issues of the matter here

I am sorry. I may have misled you about the Sudanese gangs I defended last year. Back then, I denounced the hate-merchants demonising Sudanese here as misfits, too prone to violence. True, one gang of boys had just bashed a policeman, but I gave you police statistics showing the crime rate among Sudanese immigrants was no higher than for the rowdy rest of us.

But days later, gangs of African youths fought each other in the Highpoint shopping centre. And Indian taxi drivers kept getting robbed by African men. Just this week, Sudanese gangs in Adelaide attacked each other in a clash so deadly that one youth was killed and another near death.

But those police statistics tell us there's no problem among the Sudanese. Which makes an article like this unfair and unhelpful. Yet, I started to sniff something when Police Commissioner Christine Nixon banned police from using the word "gangs" to describe, well, gangs. I worried more when an African community leader, Berhan Ahmed, asked Nixon to stop police checking Africans in Flemington quite so often.

And now charges have been dropped over a riot in Racecourse Rd last December in which some 100 Africans surrounded 21 police trying to arrest a rock-thrower, and sent one to hospital with suspected cracked ribs. At the time, the force defended its officers. Region 3 boss Insp Nigel Howard denied they were racist or too heavy-handed: "Enough is enough."

It's a different story today, and Sen-Sgt Mario Benedetti, in charge of Moonee Ponds police station, says he suspects charges against the rioters were dropped because of their race. The explanation that Supt Jack Blayney gave our reporter, Mark Buttler, didn't seem to deny it: "The withdrawal of these charges followed consultation with the members and youths concerned and was deemed to be the best outcome for both parties."

Pardon? Is this a peace negotiation between two warring gangs, then, one of them the police? And is there not actually a law to uphold, regardless of race, and a force to defend? But no charges means no offence recorded. And the police can keep telling us: the Sudanese crime rate is no higher than everyone else's.


Arrogant architect

"Character suburbs may make way for medium density". Who does this b****** think he is to say which suburbs are "worth retaining" or not? It is one of the glories of Brisbane that it has so many Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco houses. No doubt they are to him simply "vernacular" but his taste has no more authority than anyone else's -- and the houses concerned are widely admired. The Latin proverb which almost all architects seem to deny and detest: "De gustibus non disputandum est". They all seem to think that they have an elite taste which is superior to the tastes of "the herd". Theirs is the contemptible and dangerous old message: "We know what's best for you"

Brisbane may have to flatten some of its character suburbs to make way for medium-density housing to achieve population targets, an expert has claimed. Brisbane has to accommodate an extra 140,000 people over the next 20 years through what is known as infill development, or redeveloping areas with higher density.

But University of Queensland Associate Professor Peter Skinner, who sparked the public outrage that killed off the North Bank development, said it should be in suburbs where the character housing was patchy, such as Kelvin Grove, Dutton Park, Indooroopilly and Toowong. "I think in general Spring Hill is the most distinguishable suburb in Brisbane, so it's worth retaining. Similarly the core of West End is really important and in their own way they have been much more frugal (with land) but it's the next ring of suburbs - Toowong, Indooroopilly, Kelvin Grove and Dutton Park. "I think the character in these suburbs is pretty patchy. They had all the six-packs built in the 1970s, so there's already a breakdown of the fabric and we need to design a better six-pack."

Professor Skinner is among a growing list of architects and urban planners calling for a return to terrace housing. Unlike other cities, Brisbane never adopted terrace housing as early planning laws outlawed them because it was thought the design helped spread the plague. But he said although they were more expensive to build, more could be constructed on available land to reduce prices. However, he said the industry was not flexible enough to build them. "The townhouse models we have are pretty miserable," he said.

In a recent paper, Professor Skinner also said "an equally important battle is in our mid-range suburbs where residents accustomed to 800sq m to 1200sq m sites need to be given every possible incentive to consider redevelopment to higher housing densities".

The Urban Development Institute of Australia said character of the suburbs could be retained but there were places with row after row of "ordinary" post-war housing that could be sacrificed. "A number of the houses will have a use-by date for many reasons and they will provide opportunities for future growth," executive director Brian Stewart said. He said if there were going to be delays in developing large housing sites, Brisbane needed a quick response that would work and improve affordability.


ABC interviews the unclean

By Andrew Bolt

Green alarmist Ticky Fullerton on Lateline Business rings the leper's bell before interviewing warming sceptic Professor Ian Plimer:
He is a geologist, not a climatologist. Ian Plimer by definition works closely with the mining industry.

Then come the questions from a woman who cannot believe a scientist could dare doubt her faith:
You are a greenhouse heretic. Is this scepticism genuine, or it it also about economic self interest?

Still, maybe this is just the ABC's refreshingly hard-hitting style, applied to all who preach on global warming. So let's see if Rajendra Pachauri, head of the IPCC, is similarly introduced on Lateline as "a mining engineer and economist, not a climatologist" who "by definition works closely with green groups and warming believers":
Well, we are joined in the studio by the chairman of the Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr Rajendra Pachuari. Dr Pachauri is an economist, engineer and environmental scientist and he's been the head of the IPCC for the past six years. Just tonight he was awarded an honorary doctorate of science from the University of NSW.

Hmm. No leper's bell there. But perhaps Tim Flannery, then, is introduced as "a paleontologist and mammalogist, not a climatologist" who "by definition works closely with people who pay him to scare us about global warming":
Joining us now is Professor Tim Flannery, arguably Australia's best known popular scientist. He's also the author of The Weather Makers and he was recently named Australian of the Year.

No leper's bell there, either. And no question of the offensive "are you for real, or just for the cash" kind asked of Plimer, whose own many awards didn't get a mention last night.


I missed this classic line from Fullerton, aghast that this scientist dares to defy the real experts:
How can so many governments and the media have got it wrong?

Gosh. Where do I start?


Well-known Leftist thug rips off the workers he supposedly represents

Electrical Trades Union boss Dean Mighell takes $80,000 junket. Having control of a $100 million fund was just too big a temptation for him

HIGH-profile Electrical Trades Union boss Dean Mighell led an $80,000 luxury junket to the United Kingdom paid for by a workers' redundancy fund. The ETU state secretary flew business class to London and stayed in the posh Royal Garden Hotel, near Kensington Palace, together with union mates and bosses linked to the fund's board. Hotel receipts seen by the Herald Sun reveal:

MORE than $27,000 was splurged on accommodation.

AT least $10,000 was spent on meals, drinks, valet service, the internet, in-house movies, the mini-bar and other items.

A PHONE call from Mr Mighell's hotel room was made to a transsexual escort named Suzana. Touted as a "shemale", Suzana says on a website: "I am a sexy and very convincing 'TV girl' escort. I work in central London from a nice, quiet and clean flat."

Mr Mighell, who has criticised PM Kevin Rudd for being out of touch with workers, was happy to live it up at the redundancy fund's expense in the 2006 jaunt. When confronted with details of the trip yesterday, Mr Mighell admitted it was paid for by the ETU-controlled workers' fund, called Protect. He said the first he knew of the phone call to the escort was when contacted by the Herald Sun. "During the trip, there was a night when approximately a dozen union officials, including some local UK unionists, attended my room," he said. "I did not make the phone call. I did not know the purpose or content of the phone call. I want to make clear that no escort service was ever provided. "I have made inquiries today and been informed it was a prank phone call."

Senior industrial relations lawyer Richard Bunting said the UK trip was unusual. "A board of a trustee company should only spend funds if they are confident it's in the interests of the members of the fund to do so," said Mr Bunting, a partner with firm Blake Dawson. "It may sometimes be legitimate for an entire board to go to another country to investigate a scheme, but it would be unusual and it raises a question whether the board had thought through the benefit to the members."

Mr Mighell is chairman of Protect, which was set up by the union and employers to help electrical workers who get sick or injured, or lose their jobs. He said the London trip was justified as a fact-finding mission into a portable long-service scheme run in Britain. The scheme was not adopted.

Former ETU state council member Vanessa Garbett said no written report of the trip was provided to council. "It's indefensible. Why eight of them needed to go and investigate is beyond me," she said. "It's all members' money. It's something that should have been reported in full (to state council)," she said.

But Mr Mighell said the trip and the portable leave scheme were tabled at numerous council and executive meetings. He said it was decided the UK scheme was not a suitable model because of differences in tax and annual leave laws.

Mr Mighell's seven travelling companions included ETU assistant state secretary Howard Worthing, Protect secretary and former state Labor MP Pat Power, and employer representative Philip Green, head of the Victorian branch of the National Electrical and Communications Association. Mr Mighell, Mr Worthing and Mr Green are board members of Protect, which has assets of more than $100 million, and a membership of about 22,000 electrical workers and 1300 employers who contribute funds. In September, the Herald Sun revealed that Protect had come under the scrutiny of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission after it allegedly received a complaint about some of its activities. It is believed ASIC has requested documents relating to the fund's administration and business transactions, including a computer software deal.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Leftist love of censorship is running amok in Australia

Internet filter to block 10,000-plus "unwanted" sites. I guess that this site will be pretty "unwanted" too

AUSTRALIA'S mandatory internet filter is being primed to block 10,000 websites as part of a blacklist of unspecified "unwanted content", Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy revealed in Federal Parliament. The 10,000 blacklisted websites would be blocked in addition to 1300 websites identified by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Senator Conroy revealed details of the Rudd Government's proposed web filter as he called for expressions of interest from internet service providers for a live trial of the technology. As part of the trial, ISPs will test different methods of filtering the web with subscribers who volunteer. The trial is expected to last six weeks and will start before Christmas. "The pilot will specifically test filtering against the ACMA blacklist of prohibited content, which is mostly child pornography, as well as filtering of other unwanted content," Senator Conroy told Parliament. "While the ACMA blacklist is currently around 1300 URLs, the pilot will test against this list as well as filtering for a range of URLs to around 10,000 so that the impacts on network performance of a larger blacklist can be examined."

ACMA's laboratory trial of web-filtering technology this year found filtering technology could slow internet access by as much as 87 per cent and by at least 2 per cent.

Electronic Frontiers Australia board member Colin Jacobs says live trials of ISP-based web filters would be rushed, as they were scheduled to occur as internet companies geared down for Christmas. He said large internet providers such as Telstra and Optus would find it difficult to participate, while mid-sized providers might take part in the trial simply to prove the technology "unfeasible".

Mr Jacobs said the civil liberties group was also concerned at what would be deemed "unwanted content". "It is unclear how ACMA will scale up their blacklist to 10,000 websites and what will go on the list," he said. "Conroy said the list would contain illegal and unwanted content but we still have to see what would end up on that list. "Under the current mandate that includes adult material, which would mean most material that could be rated R and, in some circumstances, material rated MA15+."

Readers of The Courier-Mail online have spoken out against the filter plan, with the majority of 191 comments posted to 11.44am yesterday revealing fears of interference from ''Big Brother.'' Britomartis of Camp Hill thundered: ''How can the government be allowed to do this? ''Block content and not tell us what it is! ''The list should be public or they should listen to the people and not go ahead with this at all!''

Johan Zetterlund of Annerley and Jason Davies of Greenslopes said the move seemed more in line with certain authoritarian, communist regimes rather than the ideals of a free nation. Paul of Carina raged: ''This is typical of a government that thinks it knows better than the people that voted them in and the arrogance of (Prime Minister Kevin) Rudd to think he should impose his morals and ideals on the population! ''This is a communist style of imposition and the dopes that voted Labor into power should wake up to themselves!'' Derek Squire of Redcliffe and Dan of Brisbane said that implementation of the policy would ensure electoral defeat for the Labor government.


Special privileges for Muslim criminals

Charges have been quietly dropped over a riot in which an out-of-control mob attacked and injured police. The policeman who laid the charges said last night he was disgusted at what had happened and he believed there was no justification for abandoning the case. Sen-Sgt Mario Benedetti, the officer in charge of Moonee Ponds police station, said he did not find out until this week about last month's decision.

He said he suspected the matter may have been dumped because those charged after the incident at Flemington one year ago were of north African descent. "That could be a factor. I wonder if that applies to youth in Sunbury or Craigieburn or Broadmeadows," he said.

Sen-Sgt Benedetti said four teenagers arrested were initially hit with charges including assaulting police, assault in company, resisting arrest and hindering police. When those charges were dropped, less serious counts, including offensive behaviour, remained; but they were also withdrawn last month.

Senior police last night did not indicate that the prosecutions were dropped because of a lack of evidence. Sen-Sgt Benedetti said the matter could not have been dropped because it would not stand up in court, as the case was "cut and dried". "It was a very strong case. The evidence is there. It wasn't circumstantial. It was corroborated," he said. Sen-Sgt Benedetti, who is on sick leave, said he had never known a case to be dropped in such circumstances. "I was never consulted, nor were any of the co-informants. I'm flabbergasted. We've been left high and dry," he said.

Violence broke out after police attempted to arrest an 18-year-old for throwing a rock. One member was assaulted and taken to hospital with suspected broken ribs, while others were abused. Supporters of the youths later claimed police had been harassing local youths.

Supt Jack Blayney said last night: "The withdrawal of these charges followed consultation with the members and youths concerned and was deemed to be the best outcome for both parties. "There are a number of pro-active projects in place at the moment which are aimed at improving relations between some youths in the Flemington area and the police, to increase social responsibility and awareness."

But Sen-Sgt Benedetti said last night he had not been approached nor, to the best of his knowledge, had the brief co-ordinator or the co-informants. At the time, police said they were surrounded after 21 officers converged on a commission housing estate on Racecourse Rd


"Green" government puts crocodiles before people's lives

The fewer the people the better, from a Greenie viewpoint

A CROCODILE that killed a man in far north Queensland three years ago was returned to the river by the State Government - which said it had been shot. The disclosure is the latest controversy over relocations of the dangerous reptiles. Sustainability Minister Andrew McNamara yesterday made the admission in the case involving Townsville man Barry Jefferies - who died at Lakefield National Park in 2005 - after a letter from a whistleblower was tabled by the Opposition in State Parliament.

The letter, authored by a Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service officer, alleged a "culture of secrecy, deceit and intimidation" within the agency covered up two human deaths after bungled croc relocations. "Both fatal attacks were both closely connected with QPW's ill-conceived, unnecessary and poorly managed crocodile research/relocation management decisions," the officer wrote. The case - and another involving the disappearance six weeks ago of war veteran Arthur Booker in Cooktown - were referred to the Crime and Misconduct Commission yesterday.

The Government denies the crocodile in the latest incident had been relocated. The revelations come amid a review of relocation policies following a furore last month when a crocodile was removed from Magnetic Island after being relocated to an area near the tourist mecca.

Mr Jefferies was dragged from a canoe at Lakefield National Park in August 2005. QPW later claimed the suspected crocodile had been shot dead. However, the whistleblower's letter yesterday forced Mr McNamara to admit the wrong crocodile had been shot. He admitted the offender, known as Midway, had been moved back to the national park before the attack after problems at Cape York's Kalpowar Station. "That was at the request of the local traditional owners who said they wanted to return it to its existing home," he said. Mr McNamara said Mr Jefferies's widow requested Midway not be killed, prompting its journey to Australia Zoo.

The Sunshine Coast zoo yesterday denied the crocodile was displayed for tourists but the whistleblower said that while at the park it had "disgorged a dental plate that presumably belonged to Barry Jefferies".

Demanding a public inquiry, Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said the revelations showed the relocation programs had to be abandoned. "These are absolutely goofy scientific experiments," he said.

The whistleblower also claimed material related to the cases had been destroyed or "lost" following the receipt Freedom of Information applications.


Global Warming leads to more crimes - against reason

Australia's State capital cities are located in areas of very different temperatures -- from cool Hobart to very hot Darwin -- yet there has never been any talk of markedly different crime-rates among them. I have lived in all 3 cities mentioned sarcastically below by Andrew Bolt and was never made aware of much difference in crime incidence

The police know better, but there's no stopping a global warming opportunist alarmist from beating that doomsday drum: A new report from the Strategic Policy Institute says climate change could lead to an increase in crime.

An independent think tank has found most senior police officers do not consider climate change to be relevant to their work. But the report's author, Anthony Bergin, is predicting global warming will lead to an increase in violent crime and so called `climate crime'.

This explains, of course, why Brisbane is more violent than Sydney, and why it's now not safe to walk the streets of Darwin. The odd thing is, though, that the temperature still hasn't warmed above the level of 1998, and has in fact fallen for more than six years.


An army of bull-artists

QLD Premier Anna Bligh has revealed that her government uses tax payers money to employ 640 media spin doctors.
The Premier last night released figures showing the government employed 640 people in media, communications, graphic design, marketing and advertising.

Premier Bligh only released the figures after continued pressure from LNP leader Lawrence Springborg.
ANNA Bligh has defended the number of State Government communications staff, saying they are necessary for circulating important safety messages.

When you break the numbers down tax payers are paying for 1 spin doctor per 6,200 Queenslander's. If they are paid the average wage of $54,000 per year plus super, QLD tax payers are paying $37,670,400 in wages alone each year for Bligh's Labor media propaganda machine.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG comments on the NSW budget and its shortcomings.

NSW public hospitals not safe

Not one public hospital in NSW is operating at a safe occupancy level with Royal Prince Alfred, Royal North Shore and Gosford hospitals singled out today by the Australian Medical Association as performing particularly poorly. RPA operated at 95 per cent occupancy and RNS 92 per cent and Gosford even reached 110 per cent at times, according to the AMA's national report card released today. The internationally recognised safe level is 85 per cent before patient care is compromised.

There are 1500 unnecessary deaths in Australia each year due to overcrowding in public hospitals, the report said. The president of the NSW branch of the AMA, Brian Morton, said "no matter what the spin is given all our hospitals are under great stress". "Not one of our hospitals is operating at a safe level. We can no longer cut beds, cut funding in our hospitals," Dr Morton said. He said NSW needed an immediate injection of $1 billion to lift bed numbers to an acceptable level. He said yesterday's announcement in the mini-budget that NSW area health services would have to save $64 million would inevitably mean more bed closures. "This translates, it appears, to bed closures as in RPA closing its obstetrics and gynae ward." The AMA said in its report card that over the past 20 years, 67 per cent of beds have been cut.

However, NSW performed the best when it came to the percentage of elective surgery and emergency department patients seen within recommended times. NSW also had the second-most public beds per 1000 weighted population, behind the Northern Territory and ranked third for recurrent expenditure, behind NT and ACT.

But the president of the AMA, Rosanna Capolingua said all states rated "F for failure and then it's really how badly they have failed". "There's not enough equipment, beds, capacity, doctors and nurses ... because hospitals have been stripped of their funding over time." She said stories of patients banked up in corridors of emergency departments and even on chairs and floors were too common and were simply due to a lack of beds. "It's a ridiculous scenario. How much more do we need to hear about this before we do something to stop it," she said.


Leftist politician abets union thugs

A SENIOR state Labor minister has defied Federal Court action to lead a group of union officials into the site of Sydney's proposed desalination plant, against the will of the firm constructing it. NSW Water Minister Phil Costa yesterday led a delegation of eight senior union officials into the proposed $1.8 billion plant at Kurnell in Sydney's south, despite efforts by construction company John Holland to keep them out. Mr Costa appeared to use the cover of yesterday's NSW mini-budget to enter the site as public attention was directed elsewhere. The decision to march on to the sight ignored drawn-out legal action in the Federal Court in which John Holland has sought to limit union access under national building industry rules. John Holland received less than 24 hours notice of the visit.

The company is known to be concerned that unrestricted union access to the site, on the pretext of a safety inspection, using NSW's union-friendly workplace safety laws, could lead to disruptions costing millions of dollars.

The Howard government imposed tough union access rules for building sites, including a construction industry code of practice that appears to have been subverted by yesterday's entry of NSW union leaders including Bernie Riordan, Russell Collison, Tim Ayres and Chris Christodoulou.

Federal Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard declined to comment on the NSW minister's tour with union officials, which prompted protests from John Holland. Opposition workplace relations spokesman Michael Keenan said he found the incident extraordinary after past attempts to clean up the building industry. "We established the Australian Building and Construction Commission and a national framework for the industry to ensure law and order was restored,'' Mr Keenan said. "The NSW Government is ignoring due process by bringing these union officials on to the site.'' For the past 12 months, John Holland has been fighting the militant Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union in the courts to limit their access, arguing federal workplace safety laws apply to the site.

Yesterday's visit also confirms the more intimate relationship between the NSW Labor Government and unions since NSW Premier Nathan Rees replaced Morris Iemma nine weeks ago, with strong union support. The Australian received a tip-off last week Mr Rees himself planned to conduct the union visit, but both he and Mr Costa yesterday denied the backdoor plan for union access was the Premier's brainchild. Asked about entering the worksite despite John Holland's legal action to stop union access, Mr Costa told The Australian he was given full approval by Sydney Water and the building contractor to enter. "The unions have met with me and expressed some issues concerning the desalination plant construction site," he said. "I decided to go on site today to have a look for myself. The proper approvals to enter the site were obtained from Sydney Water and the builders John Holland were very accommodating of my visit. "This visit was of my own undertaking following discussions with the unions."

Officials and organisers from the CFMEU, Australian Workers Union, the Electrical Trades Union and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, accompanied Mr Costa on the 20-minute visit. Mr Costa appeared ruffled by the presence of The Australian at the site, asking union officials and John Holland staff on his arrival "Are they with you?" before jerking his thumb over his shoulder in a gesture suggesting he wanted the journalist and photographer removed. His media adviser then attempted to block photographs of Mr Costa with the union delegates during the walk-through.

When asked what he was doing on the site and whether he was acting contrary to the pending court decision, Unions NSW assistant secretary Chris Christodoulou said he was "on a normal PR visit" which had "nothing to do with (the court action)". Mr Tullock, the CFMEU assistant secretary, said the last time he had visited the site, over a worker who refused to return to work over safety issues, John Holland had called the police. "This is apparently the only way we can gain access to the site, if we come as a visitor with the minister, which is pretty ordinary," Mr Tullock said.

He said unions had been contacted by members who had many concerns over safety at the site, including hazardous dust and wetness [Dust and wetness!! How awful!!] and the danger of people falling from heights. "There is an atmosphere of fear, loathing and intimidation on the site here in regards to safety," he said. "We believe we have got a right under the NSW Occupational Health and Safety Act to be here and John Holland believe we don't."

NSW Opposition leader Barry O'Farrell said: "Under Nathan Rees's premiership, it's obvious the boys are back in town and union bosses are in control."


'Spousal maintenance' for mistresses


PHILANDERING husbands could soon be forced by the courts to keep paying for their mistresses after an affair ends. That is just one outcome set to arise from laws on broken de facto relationships that will take effect early next year, The Courier-Mail reports. Under the Family Law Act reforms, de facto partners together for two years will get the same rights as married couples to seek "spousal maintenance" claims. Maintenance, as distinct from child support, may be ordered when the other party is "unable to support herself or himself adequately" following separation.

But legal experts warn the amended Act - passed in the Senate on Monday - opens the definition of a de facto couple to wide interpretation. It prescribes a de facto relationship as an opposite-sex or same-sex couple "living together on a genuine domestic basis". Yet it also stipulates that a de facto alliance can exist even if one of the partners is legally married to somebody else or in another de facto relationship.

Veteran Brisbane family lawyer Paul Hopgood said the door was ajar for jilted lovers to seek maintenance orders. "I get high-profile people from around town saying, 'I'm having an (affair) with so and so. I wine and dine her and take her on holidays. I look after her and it's been going on for five years. But I'm safe - she hasn't got the key to my house'. "You don't have to live in the same house and under the same roof to be a de facto. A lot of people are living in de facto relationships and don't think they are."

Mr Hopgood cited a couple who might not share a home because of international business commitments. "If everything else is there, apart from the common residence, they've still got a de facto relationship."

In a further twist, the laws shape as a threat to the coffers of polygamist husbands. Queensland Law Society family law chairman Julie Harrington said: "In polygamy, you have only one marriage that's recognised, so you have wives two, three and four as the de factos. "At least those women will now have some rights which they otherwise didn't (have) under the Family Law Act."

Ms Harrington said the new laws could also create a debt nightmare for others, who now face the possibility of ongoing spousal support to a string of previous de facto partners.

With married couples, maintenance orders generally end when the ex-partner receiving the money remarries. De factos will come under the same rules if they marry a new partner. But no explicit provision exists in the legislation for maintenance payments to stop should a recipient enter a new de facto relationship. "Young people might have a series of short de facto relationships - and they're potentially up for paying spouse maintenance for several," Ms Harrington said. "It could be a big problem."

However, a spokesman for federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland said that in this situation the payer would be entitled to head back to the family courts to show "just cause" for discharging or varying the order.

The Family Law Amendment (De Facto Financial Matters and Other Measures) Act aims to end discrimination in the treatment of married and unmarried couples after separation. Previously, Queensland's de facto couples could access the Family Court to resolve child custody issues, but property disputes had to be heard in Supreme or District courts. With the new laws, de factos can have all matters heard in a federal family law court. Claims on superannuation also are allowed.

In August, a Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs inquiry heard grave concerns about the reforms from family and religious agencies, including FamilyVoice Australia. FVA feared that by extending equal rights to de facto couples, marriage would be devalued and undermined.


Alarming teen suicide rate in lesbians, gays, and bisexuals

Not a lifestyle to be encouraged

Lesbian, gay and bisexual young people are attempting suicide and harming themselves at an alarming rate because of bullying in Queensland schools, a new report shows. The Open Doors Action Research Report 2008 shows that over the past 12 months 37 per cent of affected young people had attempted suicide and 82 per cent had considered suicide. It also showed that of the 164 participants who completed the anonymous online survey, 59 per cent had harmed themselves.

"Given that LGB (lesbian, gay and bisexual) young people reported extensive maltreatment and lack of support, it is unsurprising that they also reported high rates of self-harm, suicide ideation and suicide attempts," the report by the support organisation Open Doors says.

The report highlights schools as a significant source of distress for lesbian, gay and bisexual young people. Four out of five respondents reported they had been bullied for their sexuality at school, but only 12 per cent said the school took action to stop the bullying. "Bullying not only came from students. Adults such as teachers, school administrators and parents also bullied LGB students," the report says. "Many young people felt so afraid at school that they had missed over two school weeks worth of classes to ensure their safety. "Clearly current school anti-bullying measures do not adequately protect LGB students - this is providing a discriminatory educational environment for LGB students which is illegal. "Schools need to take further actions to ensure LGB students are safe at school."

Sexual health education at schools was also found to be inadequate, as out of the two-thirds of LGB young people who reported that they had engaged in sex, only two per cent reported being adequately educated in practising safe sex. "It is essential that LGB young people are provided equal opportunity to their heterosexual peers to learn about safer sex," the report said.

The average participant in the survey was 17, attending school and sexually active. The report stated 98 per cent of participants were certain of their sexual orientation. Open Doors Youth Service has operated since 2001, tackling youth homelessness in the greater Brisbane area.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

WWI Diggers made of tougher stuff

For overseas readers: "Digger" is a respectful Australian term for a soldier

Ned Farrelly has never been armed with anything more than an iPod and a mobile phone. But like hundreds of other Australians, the 18-year-old yesterday came to the Somme in northern France to understand how generations ago youths like him carried a pack, a gun and bravery as they lived and died in unimaginable hell. "You hear about it but you can't imagine it until you come here and see it," the youth said as he stood before rows of white headstones. Hundreds of Australians yesterday braved freezing conditions to attend memorials at sites across the French and Belgium battlefields to mark the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I.

From Villers-Bretonneux to Verdun, they paid their respects to the 46,000 Diggers who died on the Western Front in four years of mental and physical pain. Governor-General Quentin Bryce led the Australian commemorations in France with Veterans Affairs Minister Alan Griffin. Sprigs of wattle were laid about memorials as well as Australian flags and insignias stating, "Thanks and peace to our boys".

Ned had just finished his last school exam last Friday, but rather than celebrate with his mates, the Sydney school leaver decided to run away with three uncles and his grandmother and learn about the sacrifices made during the Great War. "My great grandfather fought here," Ned said. "He's got all these medals and stuff and I was just interested in seeing where he earned them all." "You see it all -- the graves. They were probably like me, some of them -- and here, what they had to deal with we've never faced back home. They raised them tougher then. I couldn't do it, I don't think."

Geelong psychiatrist Anne Ward came to the Somme for a family reunion with both the dead and living. She wanted to spend holiday time with her brother, sister and cousin and decided to visit the site where her grandfather fought and survived but other family members didn't. Ms Ward described the mood as sobering. "It's been a chance for the family to spend time together and reflect on the family history, particularly for me to get to know a man whom I never met," she said. "I feel incredibly proud to say this is what my family has done and I think it lovely to travel to the other side of the world and feel something of meaning, something so personal. It's hard for generations today to appreciate what generations before them were prepared to do."


Paternity tests prove hundreds of men duped

"Mothers are being forced to pay back as much as $60,000 to men they wrongly claimed fathered their children following a contentious reform of child support laws. The Daily Telegraph can reveal 18 men, cleared by DNA testing, have made use of changes permitting them to claw back funds paid through the Child Support Agency. More than 300 men have been cleared by DNA of being fathers. Documents obtained under Freedom of Information show orders for $171,567 to be returned have so far been made against the mothers.

Angry women's groups said last night that it would be the children at the centre of the disputes who would suffer most if money were paid back. The money is being garnisheed from mothers' incomes by the Child Support Agency in the same way that payments are taken from the wages of non-custodial fathers.

In each case the duped men were able to prove beyond doubt in the courts they were not the fathers based on DNA paternity testing. The new law, section 143 of the Child Support (Assessment) Act, requires the Family Court to consider issuing orders for repayment where paternity is successfully challenged and child support has been paid. The law allowing such repayment debts to be collected by the Child Support Agency became effective on January 1 last year.

In the biggest case, Queensland man Ken Rodgers obtained orders for the repayment of $60,000 after making child support contributions over a decade to a woman who refused to even send him a photograph of his alleged child.

But not every man who is disproving paternity using DNA testing through the courts is getting his money back. A Child Support Agency spokesman said courts decide on a section 143 order based on "particular circumstances of the parties".

But making mothers pay back child support was last night condemned by women's groups. Sole Parent's Union president Kathleen Swinbourne said garnisheeing a mother's wages would only hurt the child. "The money has already been spent on rearing the child," she said. "If the mother is forced to pay it back, its hard to imagine the child won't be disadvantaged." She said men should raise doubts about paternity when they are first told they are a father.

Men's Rights Agency director Sue Price said men wrongly named as a father of a child were entitled to justice. She said all child support payments made by a man should be "refunded in full" by the Child Support Agency where paternity is successfully challenged and then recouped from the woman. "A woman's knows who she's been with in a particular month," she said. "They must know if there is any doubt about whether the man they are pointing their finger at is actually the father."

The repayments are being made despite a landmark 2006 High Court ruling that stripped a $70,000 compensation payment for pain and suffering to father Liam Magill. The High Court ruled there was no legal obligation for husbands and wives who cheat on each other to disclose their infidelity.


Minor procedure in public hospital nearly kills man

A man says he could have died after an operation left him bleeding heavily and turned his penis black. Michael Eglington, 53, Mr Eglington went Royal Darwin Hospital last Tuesday to have a wart removed from the base of his penis, The Northern Territory News reports. He said he collapsed from blood loss as he rushed back to the hospital less than an hour after being discharged.

"Why did they let me go?" he said. "I could have passed out while I was driving." The internal bleeding caused his penis and testicles to turn black - and his testicles swelled to more than three times their normal size. The Northern Territory News reports it has seen photographs to prove it.

He was treated under local anaesthetic but said he was sent home straight away. "Next thing I started feeling a bit warm about the groin," he said. He said he looked down to see that he was sitting in "an inch of blood" in the chair. He used a nappy to soak up the blood as he drove back to hospital where he collapsed against the emergency counter. "My shorts, my shirt, everything was covered in blood," he said.

Royal Darwin spokeswoman Michelle Foster said the hospital would not comment until an investigation into the incident was complete.


100-year construction completed on Brisbane cathedral

After 100 years of construction, Brisbane's Anglican cathedral was finished this morning when a 22-tonne copper spire was put in place. A massive crane has lifted the 22-tonne copper clad spire into place.

At one stage there was concern about the wind but Brisbane's Anglican Archbishop Doctor Phillip Aspinall was not worried. Dressed in all his religious robes he climbed aboard a cherry picker to bless the spire and cross which will forever rest over the central tower. "It's wonderful, it's a great day," he said.

The church is believed to be last gothic cathedral under construction anywhere in the world. Edward Taylor organised this morning's lift and shortly before the spire was lifted in to place he was hopeful the weather would prevail. "At the moment it's blowing perfect for us to lift it," he said. "If it stays like this all day it will be great."

More than 100 people cheered as the spire was lowered into place. Parishioners say it is a huge achievement that has taken years of fundraising.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Carmakers get $6.2bn of taxpayers' money

This is insane. We can get all the cars we want from Japan without it costing the fisc a cent. And the idea that we can compete with Japan is a fantasy

THE Federal Government's $6.2 billion automotive industry package will support jobs at a time of a global financial crisis and into the future, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says. The nation needed a green-car industry that would create high-paid, high-skilled green jobs for the future, he said launching the Government's new car industry plan in Melbourne today. The plan sets aside $500 million - double the amount recommended in former Victorian premier Steve Bracks' inquiry into the industry - for a green car innovation fund. It also confirms a reduction in the automotive tariff to 5 per cent will go ahead as planned in 2010.

"In the time of global financial crisis the Government today has taken further decisive action to support Australian industry, to support Australian jobs, because we believe this industry has a future,'' Mr Rudd said. "We take decisive action to build an international, competitive green economy for the future. "Australia needs a green car industry that manufacturers the fuel efficient, low-emissions vehicles of the future and creates the well paid, high skilled green jobs of the future.''

The choice was not between having a growing economy in the short-term and a green economy in the medium to long-term. "We can work effectively to develop both, and that's what a large part of today's package is all about. The automotive industry was part of Australia's future, Mr Rudd said. Building a low-emissions economy was the next step in the Government's response to the global financial crisis. "By implementing a green investment strategy today we can transform our industry and create green jobs for tomorrow,'' he said. "It's a future in which we should have absolute confidence - fuel-efficient technologies, low-emissions technologies, better designed and safer vehicles.''

Australia could be world leader in green car technology, Mr Rudd said. The automotive industry faced a whole new set of market, economic and environmental changes and challenges. "The domestic market for cars has become more fragmented. Australian car makers do battle in a very crowded field, with 60 other car brands, Mr Rudd said. "Consumer preferences have shifted away from sedans, to both smaller vehicles on the one hand and four-wheel drives on the other.'' Higher petrol prices had driven consumer demands for more fuel-efficient vehicles, he said.

Mr Rudd said the automotive industry had a key role to play in climate change and faced a complicated set of industry challenges. "Some might say it's not worth trying to have a car industry, that is not my view, it is not the view of the Australian Government and it never will be the view of any government which I lead,'' he said. "I don't believe that car making is yesterday's business or something better left to the Germans and the Japanese. "But I also don't believe that industry policy is about 'saving' the automotive industry, it's about helping to transform the industry to meet the challenges of the future. "It's not about passive assistance, it's about active support for innovation and change.''


School bullying victim sues for $2m

I hope this guy wins. It might motivate the schools to take discipline seriously

A MAN who says his teachers stood by and did nothing while he was violently bullied by his classmates is suing the state for $2 million. David Gregory went to his teachers in tears during six years of "consistent and systematic bullying" at the hands of his classmates and the school did nothing, the New South Wales Supreme Court was told today.

Mr Gregory, now 30, from Mollymook on the state's south coast, suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder and agoraphobia and is unable to work, which he blames on the years of humiliation and isolation he endured at Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School in Tamworth in the state's north. He is seeking upwards of $2 million in lost earnings from the state, arguing that the school's failure to look after him caused his psychological problems.

Giving evidence before Justice Elizabeth Fullerton today, Mr Gregory described a system designed by students which had been in place while he was there in the 1990s. All younger boys had to obey older boys or risk being "nicked" - hit across the knuckles with a steel ruler, or "broomed" - when they had to bend over and be hit with a broom. "The teachers just accepted it at Farrer," he told the court.

When he criticised the system he was ostracised and the name-calling and physical abuse began. Called "sterile", "faggot", "midget", "loser" and "Nazi", Mr Gregory said he was forbidden to socialise with his peers and had rocks thrown at him regularly. When he complained to his year master and other teachers, his fears were ignored, he said. "I was upset and in tears when I (told them)," Mr Gregory told the court.

Eventually he developed obsessive compulsive disorder, washing thoroughly in hospital strength disinfectant because he felt "dirty", his lawyer Russell McIlwaine told the court. He also began self-mutilating, Mr McIlwaine said.

The school has acknowledged in court that it should not have allowed the system to operate and that it failed to implement "adequate control so as to protect and prevent abusive conduct by the students".


Superheroes good for kids

SUPERHEROES outlawed by Victorian kindergartens have been thrown a lifeline by the Federal Government. The caped crusaders have been banned in many individual kinders and childcare centres for encouraging rough play by groups of boys. Parents are sent letters at the beginning of the year advising of a ban on superhero dressing up and toys.

But new research from the Government argues superheroes such as Superman, Spiderman, Buzz Lightyear, Ben 10, and Batman play the same role as fairytales for past generations. An article in Putting Children First, a journal published by the federally-funded National Childcare Accreditation Council, argues superhero play leads to complex, imaginative games.

Childcare consultant Heather Barnes said there were many reasons why early learning teachers adopted a zero-tolerance approach to superhero play, including the risk of accidents and themes of war, violence and masculine strength. But she argues superhero play can instead be seen as a way of releasing tension and giving children a feeling of courage. "Preschool-age children seem drawn to the power, strength and special attributes of superheroes, and when engaged in this type of play, it helps them to feel in charge of their world," she writes.

Kristy Bianchin, 24, of Pakenham, who is the mother of Lewis, 2, and Max, four months, encourages her older son's superhero play. "He loves Sportacus . . . and I don't mind because it's fun, active play that encourages interaction with others and encourages healthy eating," she said.


Financial crisis good for Queensland's beautiful old houses

The economy may be faltering but our desire to live in the home of our dreams has never been stronger and renovations are going strong in Queensland. Financial storm clouds have Queenslanders bunkering down and redirecting resources to the lifestyle area closest to our hearts: the family home.

Housing Institute of Australia statistics show that in the three months to August, the value of approvals for alterations and additions to buildings in southeast Queensland was $271 million - 22 per cent higher than for the same period last year. HIA chief economist Harley Dale said spending on renovations was rising while new home construction was falling. "The global economic turmoil has generated considerable uncertainty but the profile for building approvals suggests that in the southeast ... the renovations sector will prove to be resilient," Mr Dale said.

Demographer Bernard Salt told The Sunday Mail that people were now looking to live more within their means. "I think there has been a mood shift. Whereas before the dream homes may have been inspired by McMansions, I think that's all now becoming politically incorrect. Those excesses of the past are now seen as immoral," he said.

The Parker family of Wilston have just finished building in underneath to add another two bedrooms, lounge, laundry and bathroom. Mum Michelle Parker said she and husband Stephen had bought and sold several houses but were now staying put. "We had thought about buying a bigger house," Mrs Parker said. "But we wanted to be able to add our own personal touch."


Nothing wrong with Australian banks

NAB capital raising oversubscribed. Seeing I have 2600 NAB shares, I am pleased about this expression of confidence

NATIONAL Australia Bank will place shares with institutions at $20 each, after its offer was oversubscribed following "overwhelming'' demand, the head of the bank's Australian operations Ahmed Fahour told AAP. NAB announced the $2 billion placement to institutions and sophisticated investors earlier today.

It took just one hour to build the book from the fixed price offer of $20 per share, said Mr Fahour. The pricing is equivalent to a 9.7 per cent discount to NAB's closing share price on Friday of $22.15.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Some meandering Sunday morning thoughts

Most of what I put up on my blogs is written by others. I suppose I am lucky that I do regularly find stuff that I agree with or find interesting. Every now and again, however, I do put up something that is entirely written by me and today is one of those occasions. And, seeing it is a quiet, relaxed Sunday morning, I am just going to meander a bit.

I was just listening to the superb "Sea pictures" by Sir Edward Elgar (pic above). I am lucky to have a CD on which Dame Janet Baker is the contralto and she does a superb job. The poems Elgar chose to set were drawn from quite obscure poets for the most part and my favourite song is "Where corals lie" -- written by a little-known Scotsman. I was born where corals lie (by the sea in tropical Queensland) so maybe that has a little to do with it. Following "Corals", however, is a song which is set to a poem ("Swimmer") by Adam Lindsay Gordon, a highly esteemed Australian poet. And that sparked the thought that I should have a poetry evening for the more profound Australian poets. I have already had an evening for the Australian balladeers -- Lawson, Paterson, Dennis etc -- at which the inimitable Michael Darby starred, but, much as I love the balladeers, they are not the whole of what Oz poetry has to offer. Writers like Gordon, Kenneth Slessor etc are also in my view outstanding.

Michael Darby is coming up from Sydney in a week's time to give us his renditions of English poetrty so I am somewaht inclined to give him the job of introducing my son to the more profound Australian poets as well. And I may do that. I put on a poetry evening at my place once or twice a year to help fill in the gaps in my son's education. He went right through High School without even hearing the names of such greats as Wordsworth and Coleridge.

On the other hand, is it not a little broad to look at a whole class of poets? Poets are intensely individual. So should I not also have an evening devoted to a particular poet? In one sense I do that every year of course -- on January 25 when I have a Burns Night -- a ritualized celebration of the birth of Robert Burns -- and next year I even have an old Kiwi friend coming up to help with the festivities who does a reasonable Scottish accent. I gather that his Dunedin origins account for that. So I will dragoon him into reading most of the poems.

But in my strange way, there is also a religious poet whom I very much like: Gerard Manley Hopkins. See the icon above (an icon of the pre-computer sort). And I am not alone in that liking. There are actually Hopkins literary festivals in some places. I could of course have an evening devoted to Hopkins in which I did all the reading. There are plenty of his poens that attract my enthusiasm. But while my poetry nights are mainly for the benefit of my son, I like to get a little extra out of them myself as well. So I would rather like to have a Hopkins enthusiast to do the honours. And the obvious enthusiast would have to be a Jesuit -- which is what Hopkins was. But does the Society of Jesus even exist in Brisbane? I suppose it might. I will have to look into it.

Self-aggrandizing hospital bureacrats waste public money

Staff at Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital are outraged that $100,000 was spent buying highly specialised neonatal equipment, which is sitting idle during a new round of cost-cuts. The Health Department was unable to stop RPA administrators recently spending public donations to set up a fetal laser surgery unit, despite medical staff saying it was unnecessary and potentially risky for mothers and babies. No fetal laser surgery has been performed at RPA since the equipment was bought, and sources say obstetricians are unwilling to refer patients to an inexperienced unit. The nearby Royal Hospital for Women has successfully provided intrauterine laser surgery for NSW and New Zealand patients since 2003. Only about 15 procedures take place each year.

RPA staff say there is a lack of clinical governance at the hospital and the decision raises questions about the waste of scarce health dollars. The hospital is already under siege after the resignation of executive director Di Gill on Friday and the ongoing public furore at the closure of the 20-bed women's ward. It will no longer be a women-only ward. "There are a lot of upset people in gynaecology at RPA because they wasted money on lasers which don't need to be bought, yet they're closing the women's ward," said a clinician who did not want to be named. "Some doctors are egotistical and it's about them, not what's best for the patient, and you have to wonder about the governance of the hospital."

A spokeswoman for NSW Health confirmed it had urged clinicians at RPA to work with existing services at RHW. Victoria and Queensland each have a centralised fetal laser service to treat rare conditions such as twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome and amniotic band syndrome. "As the service at RPA is new, the Department has asked the Area Health Service to ensure clinicians work together across both sites to ensure high standards of patient care," the spokeswoman said.

The RPA expects to treat up to 20 cases a year of twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, a life-threatening condition in which there's an uneven blood flow between identical twins.

John Smoleniec from fetomaternal medicine at Liverpool Hospital, said spreading cases among multiple hospitals will lead to a dangerous dilution in procedural experience and eliminate the capacity to monitor success and complication rates.


Some practical policing in NSW

Squeegee men and bill posters beware - you could soon be fined

In an internal notice, police officers have been encouraged to issue fines of up to $400 for washing car windscreens at intersections or putting up posters on power poles. But NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione, who is championing the initiative, said it is not a revenue raising exercise, instead insisting it is what the community wants to feel safe. He does not expect his officers to drop everything else but Mr Scipione wants them "to know what their powers are" in case they come across such crimes. "They are clearly crimes," he said. "While they might not be the biggest [issues] they are often the most important when it comes to the community."

Mr Scipione said he ranked this with other "quality of life issues" such as noise, car hoons and alcohol-related crime. People being approached in their cars at intersections or walking through streets "just covered" in posters may feel like they are in a dangerous situation, he said. So the crackdown is about "making people feel like they are being looked after".

Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research director Don Weatherburn said while people often express a great deal of concern about minor crime such as vandalism and graffiti, there is little evidence that cracking down on it reduces serious crimes.

Mr Scipione's initiative comes as the City of Sydney Council has announced it will start fining bill posters from tomorrow, targeting mainly large entertainment venues, who have been warned to stop the practice. They could face council fines of up to $1500 for a corporation and $750 for an individual. Bill posters wash into stormwater drains and damage the environment, said a council spokesman. In the past four years, the council has paid $6million to remove hundreds of thousands of posters from poles, hoardings and signs.

Council of Civil Liberties president Cameron Murphy sees the clampdown on bill posters as a restriction of freedom of speech. He said: "Do you really want to live in a community where we are fined, bankrupted or arrested for putting up posters without having cleared it with council or the police commissioner or another person in authority first?" Mr Murphy cited the proposed powers against demonstrators during APEC and the raid on Bill Henson's exhibition as examples of "a pattern" of police initiatives. It was the role of the police commissioner to ensure tolerance of different views to build relationships with community groups, he said.

In a recent Police Gazette, Deputy Commissioner Dave Owens reminded officers of the "value of issuing infringement notices" that can be issued as on-the-spot fines under the NSW Protection of the Environment Operations Act. People washing windscreens at intersections face a maximum fine of $53 while those who put up bill posters can be fined $200, with corporations facing a fine of up to $400.


Obesity inquiry told extreme health programs too risky

A rare burst of realism

Some dieting and exercise programs may do more harm than good, a parliamentary inquiry into obesity has been told. A submission by the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, co-written by Professor Fiona Stanley, warned that "toughening up" exercise and diet programs wasn't the answer to the obesity epidemic. The submission was presented to the inquiry on Friday.

"We fear that there is a risk, if exercise and diet strategies are taken to extremes, that they could cause harm to some people," the experts wrote. "Extreme diets may have unwanted side effects. ''While high levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol have been linked with heart disease, low levels have been linked with depression and attempted self-harm." [Both links are likely to be epidemiological nonsense but it is nice to have one cancelling the other out]

The institute's submission criticised other arguments presented to the Inquiry into Obesity in Australia. It said some recommended diet and exercise programs "had never been properly tested and (were) based on some measure of faith or belief". "Where evidence is weakest is regarding the question of what works to reduce obesity. Some trials of increased exercise and/or various diets show limited benefits, if any."

The submission questioned experts' calls for "toughening up" strategies that had not shown any impact on the rate of obesity. Increasing the "dose" of strategies - such as mandating exercise through schools or further reducing fat content in fast foods - could be futile if the strategies were flawed. "There may be some element missing, or some flaw in the strategies or the ideas underlining them, that prevent them being successful or lead them to be ineffective," it said.

The report recommended new policies should be trialled first. [What a revolutionary idea for the food Fascists!]

The House of Representatives Health Committee is holding national hearings and will make recommendations to the Government next year. Committee chair Steve Georganas said there had not been enough monitoring and tracking research in recent years, but there were successful programs that could be rolled out across the country. "No one advocates over-strict diets,'' he said. ''It's about a healthy lifestyle, not flogging people to death. ''There is evidence of many programs working. [What sort of evidence? Not double-blind, I'll warrant] ''But there's no easy solution. ''We need people to eat less and exercise more, but getting the whole society to change their habits is very difficult." [And improper]


Saturday, November 08, 2008

Truly inconvenient truths about climate change being ignored

Last month I witnessed something shocking. Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was giving a talk at the University of NSW. The talk was accompanied by a slide presentation, and the most important graph showed average global temperatures. For the past decade it represented temperatures climbing sharply. As this was shown on the screen, Pachauri told his large audience: "We're at a stage where warming is taking place at a much faster rate [than before]".

Now, this is completely wrong. For most of the past seven years, those temperatures have actually been on a plateau. For the past year, there's been a sharp cooling. These are facts, not opinion: the major sources of these figures, such as the Hadley Centre in Britain, agree on what has happened, and you can check for yourself by going to their websites. Sure, interpretations of the significance of this halt in global warming vary greatly, but the facts are clear.

So it's disturbing that Rajendra Pachauri's presentation was so erroneous, and would have misled everyone in the audience unaware of the real situation. This was particularly so because he was giving the talk on the occasion of receiving an honorary science degree from the university.

Later that night, on ABC TV's Lateline program, Pachauri claimed that those who disagree with his own views on global warming are "flat-earthers" who deny "the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence". But what evidence could be more important than the temperature record, which Pachauri himself had fudged only a few hours earlier?

In his talk, Pachauri said the number of global warming sceptics is shrinking, a curious claim he was unable to substantiate when questioned about it on Lateline. Still, there's no doubt a majority of climate scientists agree with the view of the IPCC.

Today I want to look at why this might be so: after all, such a state of affairs presents a challenge to sceptics such as me. If we're right, then an awful lot of scientists are wrong. How could this be? This question was addressed in September in a paper by Professor Richard Lindzen, of the Program in Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Lindzen, probably the most qualified prominent global-warming sceptic, suggested that a number of changes in the way science is conducted have contributed to the rise of climate alarmism among American scientists.

Central to this is the importance of government funding to science. Much of that funding since World War II has occurred because scientists build up public fears (examples include fear of the USSR's superiority in weapons or space travel, of health problems, of environmental degradation) and offer themselves as the solution to those fears. The administrators who work with the scientists join in with enthusiasm: much of their own funding is attached to the scientific grants. Lindzen says this state of affairs favours science involving fear, and also science that involves expensive activities such as computer modelling. He notes we have seen "the de-emphasis of theory because of its difficulty and small scale, the encouragement of simulation instead (with its call for large capital investment in computation), and the encouragement of large programs unconstrained by specific goals.

"In brief, we have the new paradigm where simulation and [computer] programs have replaced theory and observation, where government largely determines the nature of scientific activity, and where the primary role of professional societies is the lobbying of the government for special advantage."

Lindzen believes another problem with climate science is that in America and Europe it is heavily colonised by environmental activists. Here are just two examples that indicate the scale of the problem: the spokesman for the American Meteorological Society is a former staffer for Al Gore, and, probably the world's most authoritative alarmist web site, was started by a public relations firm serving environmental causes.

None of this is necessarily sinister, but the next time you hear a scientist or scientific organisation warning of climate doom, you might want to follow the money trail. Sceptics are not the only ones who have received funding from sources sympathetic to their viewpoint. (And yes, Lindzen did once receive some money from energy companies.)

Lindzen claims that scientific journals play an important role in promoting global warming alarmism, and gives a number of examples. Someone else who's looked closely at scientific journals (although not specifically those dealing with climate science) is epidemiologist John Ioannidis of the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. He reached the surprising conclusion that most published research findings are proved false within five years of their publication. (Lest he be dismissed as some eccentric, I note that the Economist recently said Ioannidis has made his case "quite convincingly".)

Why might this be so? Later work by Ioannidis and colleagues suggests that these days journal editors are more likely to publish research that will make a splash than that which will not. They do this to sell more copies of their publications and of reprints of papers in it. Ioannidis believes these publication practices might be distorting science.

It's possible the forces described by Lindzen and Ioannidis have imbued climate science with a preference for results that involve (or seem to involve) disastrous change rather than stability. Rajenda Pachauri's recent Sydney lecture suggests that in this relatively new field, inconvenient truths to the contrary are not welcome.


For a full scholarly paper showing that Pachauri is wrong, see here. The graph below is taken from that paper. It shows the global temperature data derived from land-based measurements by Britain's Hadley Centre (HADCRUT) and the American satellite data from the University of Alabama (UAH). Both datasets show 1998 as the warmest of the last 10 years. The paper also evaluates in detail the significance of that datum and what influences produced it.

Employment figures riding the storm

An extra 34,300 jobs together with an unchanged unemployment rate of 4.3 per cent showed Australia was still weathering the global financial crisis. But Employment Minister Julia Gillard said the impact of the crisis would come soon. After weeks of negative data, the Australian Bureau of Statistics jobs figures for October had been expected to record a fall. Instead the number of part-time jobs grew while full-time employment slipped by just 9200. But Ms Gillard warned that the global crisis will impact on employment. "The Government does expect to see unemployment rise," she said.

CommSec chief equities economist Craig James hailed the figures as sensational. "Not only is it a great shot in the arm for the economy but for the confidence of consumers and businesses across the nation," Mr James said.

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull said the Government should be focusing its attention on jobs now. "We've got to make sure that every decision, whether it is relating to fiscal policy or monetary policy, is focused on jobs, jobs, jobs," Mr Turnbull said. "We've got to make sure that as we go into times of forecasted slowing growth that Australians stay in work and that employment remains high."

In its Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook released yesterday, Treasurer Wayne Swan forecast that the unemployment rate would rise to 5 per cent by June 2009 and 5.75 per cent by June 2010. Economists have described the forecasts as optimistic. Recently several big companies have said they will offload staff, including Ford, Optus, Boeing and the ANZ Bank.


Killer delays from ambulance service in Victoria

Victoria's ambulance service needs a major overhaul, especially when it comes to treating children with asthma, the grieving father of a young footballer said yesterday. And paramedics are frustrated that they are "always playing catch-up" with their huge workload and lack of resources, an inquest was told.

Peter Hindhaugh, whose son Jake died after suffering an asthma attack and cardiac arrest, said long delays, a better priority system and better response times needed to be addressed in a system that was already overcrowded.

The Coroner's Court heard that had an ambulance arrived within seven to eight minutes of Jake's respiratory or cardiac arrest on April 15 last year the outcome may have been different. Instead it took an ambulance 24 minutes to arrive after his parents made an emergency call to 000. Jake, 11, suffered an asthma attack 30 minutes after playing his 50th match with the Yarra Glen Junior Football Club -- a day after ambulances treated him for two other attacks. Paramedics arrived 18 minutes late on one of those occasions. He had brain damage by the time he was revived by paramedics and four days later his life support was switched off.

Coroner Jane Hendtlass yesterday said Jake's death provided a very valuable case study of what Ambulance Victoria needed to think about. The inquest heard that the Metropolitan Ambulance Service did not review Jake's case after his death because the MAS did not review asthma cases. Operations quality improvement boss Kevin Masci said the MAS did not find out about the outcome of Jake's case until it was contacted by the Coroner's Office about the inquest. "In our case we at least got Jake to hospital alive but we don't know what happened three to four days later," he said. "Unless we get a complaint or a physician rings up we don't know." Mr Masci said the delay in dispatching an ambulance in rural areas or the outer suburbs was frustrating because of the lack of resources.

Outside court Mr Hindhaugh said Jake's death was a clear example the system was beyond its limits and needed immediate intervention. He and his wife, Cheryl, also want recommendations for teachers and the parents of asthmatic children to be trained to deal with attacks.


A mental health system that is as crazy as its inmates

Prisoner with murder plan released from Queensland jail, kills man days later

A dangerous mentally ill prisoner killed a man eight days after leaving jail after warning he would do so two months before his release. An under-resourced and under-staffed Queensland prison Mental Health service cleared his release despite him telling his prison psychiatrist that he wanted to "achieve" killing a man.

A coronial inquest into the fatal bashing of John Simpson, 56, has exposed a struggling system which has no legal means of keeping dangerous prisoners behind bars. It was told this week neither Dr William Kingswell, former director of the central and southern zones Forensic Mental Health Services and the man's psychiatrist at the time, nor other officials who were told of the threat, informed the man's mother or the private psychiatrist who would care for him on his release.

The inquest, which will continue into the new year, was also told by current Prison Mental Health Services director Dr Edward Heffernan that the agency was "50 per cent underfunded". It had 3.5 full-time clinical staff to treat about 1000 prisoners with mental illness in eight state jails.

Dr Kingswell said there were "significant barriers to information sharing (about mentally ill prisoners) that persisted" between Corrective Services, the Queensland Health-linked Prison Mental Health Services and Disability Services Queensland. Dr Kingswell, who was not made aware of notes taken by Corrective Services and DSQ staff that showed his client was dysfunctional and experiencing delusions, also accused DSQ of "abandoning" its clients if they were jailed. He said offenders with intellectual disabilities and developmental disorders needed to be diverted from jail in the way those with mental illness were.

Mr Simpson, whose daughter called for the coronial inquiry, was slain on June 3, 2005, in the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, where he had fallen asleep. In her letter to the State Coroner last year, his daughter wrote that the public's safety had been jeopardised "because it appears that the (prison) system does not have a safety net for violent, mentally ill people who have been released".

Her father's 33-year-old killer had been released from the Maryborough Correction Centre on May 26, 2005, after serving three years for attacking a Sunshine Coast taxi driver with scissors and a hammer in 2002. Last September he was found by Mental Health Court Justice Anthe Philippides to be unfit to stand trial for the murder and ordered to be held at The Park high security mental health facility west of Brisbane, where he continues to be treated. The inquest heard the man, who had a developmental disability from birth, had over the years been diagnosed with conditions ranging from Asperger's Syndrome to schizophrenia. His mother had asked that her son be cared for in a high security psychiatric facility after his release.

Dr Kingswell said he knew the man was dangerous but there was no legal means to detain him once he had served his time. He could have arranged community-based mental health care for the man but his mother had said she had no faith in the service. A raft of lawyers packed Court 4 at the Brisbane Magistrate's Court complex every day this week for the inquest.


Friday, November 07, 2008

Suspect hospital statistics

Queensland doctors say the public hospital system is still not working, despite improved waiting list figures. The September quarter waiting list figures show a 17 per cent drop in patients waiting too long for elective surgery and an improvement in emergency case timeframes. But Queensland is still behind national targets in four of the five emergency categories. Queensland Health Minister Stephen Robertson says overall it is one of the best reports. "The trends are going in the right way," he said.

However, the Queensland Opposition and the Australian Medical Association have questioned the figures. Australian Medical Association Queensland president Dr Chris Davis wants more time to study the data "We've been trying since early this morning to get a copy of this report," he said. Dr Davis says hospital performance is not improving enough. "The Government, despite record public spending, is actually relying increasingly on the private system to actually do the surgery," he said. "That means that our public hospitals are still not performing like they're meant to."

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle is not impressed by the results. "There are people who phone me every day and say they can't even get on the waiting list," he said.


Trial ruled unfair due to sleeping judge

Rather amazing that this had to go to the High Court to reach an obvious conclusion

Two drug traffickers could not get a fair trial because a judge fell asleep for up to 20 minutes at a time during their trial, the High Court has ruled. Both Rafael Cesan and Ruben Mas Rivadavia appealed their 2004 convictions in the New South Wales District Court, saying Judge Ian Dodd was asleep for some of the trial. Judge Dodd, who suffered from sleep apnoea, retired from the bench in July 2005. Cesan was jailed for 13 years and six months, while Mas Rivadavis was jailed for 11 years after they were convicted of conspiring to import a commercial quantity of ecstasy.

The High Court, which upheld their appeals in September, published its reasons today. Evidence from a hearing of the NSW Criminal Appeal Court indicated Judge Dodd appeared to sleep for periods of up to 20 minutes at a time, sometimes accompanied by snoring. His sleep periods became longer as the trial proceeded with members of the jury visibly distracted and, at times, amused. Court officials sometimes loudly dropped documents in a bid to wake the snoring judge.

Cesan, in his appeal evidence, said the judge's snoring was disruptive when he was being cross-examined. Crown prosecutor Geoffrey Bellew swore an affidavit referring to occasions on which the judge appeared to be asleep.

The High Court unanimously ruled Judge Dodd did not exercise supervision of the trial as required by law and, as a result, the jury was distracted. Chief Justice Robert French said a judge must be seen to be upholding this duty. "Where the judge is noticeably and repeatedly asleep or inattentive during the trial, there can be a miscarriage of justice," he said. "The trial in this case was so flawed. There was a miscarriage of justice. It could not be said that the miscarriage was not substantial." The court ruled the men should be retried.


Australia has crappy airport security too

Passenger belongings have been stolen and allegedly destroyed during security processing at Brisbane Airport, in the latest embarrassment for ISS security. The airport has been plagued with security breaches and staffing problems under ISS, which is contracted by airlines and the Brisbane Airport Corporation.

When Brisbane businessman Gareth Oram turned over his laptop to ISS guards at a Qantas screening point, it was the last he ever saw of it. ISS guards scanned the $2000 computer, then allowed another passenger to walk off with it while Mr Oram struggled to get his shoes back. "It was just a farce," Mr Oram said. "When I asked, 'where is my laptop?' they stuck their heads in the sand. No one wanted to know me. "No senior supervisor made themselves known to me at any time during or following this episode."

The product manager lost important business records and missed his flight waiting for an ISS supervisor to be located. He said he had to insist the incident be reported to police. "Surely once you hand over your belongings to be X-rayed, it should become the responsibility of these airport security personnel to ensure all your possessions are handed back correctly rather than having a free-for-all," he said.

Stanthorpe retiree Allan English claimed his $650 camera was dropped and destroyed when he was being searched by ISS guards in January. He wrote to ISS management and the Brisbane Airport Corporation, and has not received a response.

Mr Oram credited the Australian Federal Police and one ISS worker for eventually getting CCTV tapes and determining the laptop was taken by a foreign passenger. ISS company secretary Mal Day said ISS helped track down the laptop and it was being returned. He declined to comment further, except to say passengers were responsible for their belongings "at all times".

Mr Oram and Mr English said it was impossible to keep control under screening conditions, when they were prevented from entering certain areas.


More on Australia's Nov. 4.

The victory for racism that took place in the USA on 4th. is sure to be very destructive so I much prefer the events in Australia on that date: The Melbourne Cup. There is still information emerging about events of the day and I am quite pleased to hear a little more about the winner of the "Fashions in the Field" contest. Fashions are completely opaque to me. They seem like unmitigated nonsense. So I originally clicked on some fashion links for a laugh at the hats. The hats are meant in good fun and they amuse me too.

As I noted on 5th., however, I was struck by what a pleasant-looking lady was Kirsty MacGillvray, winner of the "Fashions in the Field" contest. There was at the time, however, just the one picture of her and no information. So I reproduce below some of the information about her which has just been published, plus a couple more photos.
A 20-year-old retail assistant who has not yet got her driver's licence yesterday won the richest fashion prize in Australia, including a $66,500 Saab convertible. Kirsty Macgillvray, from Brighton in Melbourne, walked away with $100,000 of booty that also included Paspaley jewellery worth $10,000, a $5000 Myer shopping voucher and a $4000 Longines watch after winning the national Fashions on the Field competition on Oaks Day at Flemington. Ms Macgillvray captivated the judges in Melbourne's favourite colour, wearing a black Alex Perry jacket, a black Kirrily Johnston dress and a black and white hat by Ward and Wylie. "I'm a bit speechless," Ms Macgillvray said yesterday. "I don't even have my (driver's) licence yet."

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Woolworths abuses its market dominance to dictate to customers

They are even "Greener" than the politicians. Below is a letter I wrote to them followed by their reply. Note that to them it is "progressive" to deny choice to customers. That's certainly consistent with "progressive" politics generally. And in the best Fascist style they say that "our decision is in the broader best interests of the community", and stuff the individual. Clearly, even having a little power corrupts.

The fact that I much prefer the warm yellow light of a tungsten bulb to the stark and glary light of a fluorescent tube just does not matter to our Green dictators, obviously. Fluorescent lights have been around almost as long as tungsten globes but most people have always chosen the tungsten ones. So I am not alone in my preferences. And it would hurt no-one to allow people to have their preferences in the matter. So what it all shows is that the Fascist urge to dictate to other people is sadly still with us. The only difference is that it now justifies itself by a Greenie ideology which is just as crazy as the old racist one

TO: Chairman, Woolworths
17 Oct 2008

Dear Mr Strong

I have the feeling that Woolworths is departing from commercial principles in its stocking polices and as both a shareholder and a customer I would like you to talk to management about it.

I notice in particular that Woolworths seems to be pushing the twisty lightbulb barrow very hard. You do stock convenient sixpacks of the old tungsten globes but they are almost always sold out at my local Buranda branch -- while every possible iteration of the twisty globe is always available. Shouldn't the firm be stocking what people want to buy?

Please remind management that they are running a business and not a government Department.

Woolworths Limited
29th October 2008

Dear Dr Ray,

Thank you for your letter and for taking the time to write. At Woolworths we appreciate customer feedback, both positive and negative, and see it as an opportunity to improve our business.

You are right that we are actively supportive of the new 'twisty' light bulb. The reason for this is that The Federal Government announced in June 2008 that many incandescent bulbs currently on retail shelves would be banned from import in November 2008; and banned from retail sale completely in November 2009. The list of products includes the six pack bulbs you refer to in your letter. Whilst the traditional incandescent bulbs remain popular, their sales volumes have been rapidly decreasing as more customers make the switch to the Energy Efficient alternates.

Woolworths has taken a decision as a corporation to remove the banned bulbs from sale completely as of November 2008, a full year ahead of the legislative requirement.

We've undertaken this action as we fully support the Government initiative to reduce the use of inefficient energy products. The move is consistent with Woolworth's decision to pursue an ambitious carbon reduction target of 40% by 2015 across its entire business through a broad range of initiatives.

Historically the Energy Efficient alternates have carried a price premium to the incandescent globe and this has discouraged some customers from making the switch. This is now more than ever a false economy as the Energy Efficient alternates last many times longer than the incandescent bulb and use a fifth of the energy to operate. Along with this the retail price of Energy Efficient lights has decreased significantly in recent times meaning that real savings are to be made within twelve months of use. The diversity of styles and quality of the Energy Efficient product has also greatly improved at the same time.

We appreciate our progressive move to remove the older inefficient incandescent bulbs will not please everyone, but trust our decision is in the broader best interests of the community.

Naum Onikul
Director of Supermarkets

Reserve Bank member calls for halt to green scheme

A RESERVE Bank board member has called for the Federal Government to delay the proposed 2010 start to its emissions trading scheme. Warwick McKibbin, who sits on the RBA board and is a climate change economist, says Prime Minister Kevin Rudd should not act before Australia knows what commitments other countries will make to reducing carbon output. That will be discussed at the world climate change conference in Copenhagen in December next year.

"There is no way that at Copenhagen there can be a firm commitment on abatement because the US administration, whoever it is, won't have the people in place to negotiate a rules-based system," Professor McKibbin told The West Australian newspaper. "What they will negotiate in Copenhagen is a set of principles - if you're lucky - and hopefully they'll separate mitigation or cutting emissions from investment in new technologies and forestry and land use actions.

"We've got the Kyoto period to run until 2012 and whatever new system begins would begin in 2013. Now we should have something in place (by then), we need a couple of years to get it going and I think 2011 is feasible, depending on the nature of the system."

The Government, in a green paper published in July, outlined plans for a carbon pollution reduction scheme from 2010, covering 75 per cent of national greenhouse gas emissions.


Public hospital turns abused boy away

A toddler was locked out of Beaudesert Hospital and his family turned away despite their fears the boy had been sexually assaulted. Queensland Health said the incident should never have happened, The Courier-Mail reports.

The boy's grandfather called Beaudesert Hospital before 5am on Monday when he suspected his three-year-old grandson had been sexually assaulted. Hospital staff told the man to bring his child to hospital immediately. But the family was not let inside the hospital when they arrived at the emergency department, but was instead spoken to outside its main entrance. The nurse then returned inside and continued the conversation over an intercom. She said the family would need to go to Logan Hospital - 45km away - where there was a child sexual assault unit.

The grandfather, who cannot be identified to protect the child, said he told the nurse he couldn't get the child to Logan because the family could not afford any more petrol. The nurse later denied knowledge of this.

On Tuesday, Queensland Health issued an apology and began an investigation. "The situation was not handled appropriately, or in accordance with Queensland Health policy," Southside Health Service district manager Dr Mark Mattiussi said. "Queensland Health takes any allegation of child sexual assault seriously and is following up these concerns in accordance with child safety laws." Under Queensland Health policy, the family should have been taken into Beaudesert Hospital for support, initial assessment and referrals.

When asked if hospital staff faced disciplinary action over the incident, Mr Mattiussi said: "Staff have been given feedback . . . and relevant Queensland Health policy has been discussed and clarified." The Beaudesert Hospital registered nurse in question has claimed the boy's grandfather "appeared angry", which was why she retreated inside to use the intercom.

But the boy's grandfather said he was just desperate to get the young child treated. "It was a terrible experience, to be so worried and to just get turned away," he said.

Child protection campaigner Hetty Johnston said the hospital should have offered preliminary care and advice to the family. "I can't imagine it being handled in a worse way," Ms Johnston said. Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle said all cases of suspected child abuse should be reported as a matter of law: "The parents of any child should not be treated like participants in a game of pass the parcel," he said. The boy ultimately received further treatment at a GP and later attended the Logan Hospital.


Hospitals hurting, say doctors

Clinicians fear the financial crisis may distract governments from the need to fix public hospitals

Even for the scandal-plagued NSW hospital system, the news two weeks ago struck a new low: that a doctor in a busy regional city hospital had to spend $700 on her personal credit card to buy a three-day supply of a chemical reagent essential for routine blood tests. The chemical's supplier, fed up with the chronic non-payment of bills by the state's Greater Western Area Health Service, had decided enough was enough. It only seemed to make it worse, not better, when it later emerged the company had all along been prepared to continue supply in essential cases, such as this. Communication was so bad that even this vital message had not been passed on by health service management. Other hospitals in the same area had already been reduced to serving meatless meals, after butchers similarly put their foot down over ballooning unpaid accounts.

Coming after a barrage of previous disasters -- ranging from a miscarriage in an emergency waiting room toilet, to the botched design of a brand-new hospital where trolleys could not fit through doors, nor ambulances into the car park -- all this seemed to be moving from the tragic to the ridiculous.

But while the doctors, nurses and other health workers are hoping for some strong medicine to be prescribed by a parliamentary inquiry, due to report within a month, there is now concern that the opportunity for a once-in-a-generation shake-up is starting to recede.

The Garling Inquiry was announced by the NSW Government in January after strong criticisms from an inquest into the death of a 16-year-old girl who died in Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital two days after being admitted with a skull fracture. Since then the inquiry has become imbued with extra significance. As well as the clinical and organisational disasters, and tangled bureaucracy, other problems are coming to light -- such as concerns that a lack of training positions in hospitals will soon reach critical proportions as the massive increases in medical student places starts flowing through the system. At some point in the near future, critics say, these newly-minted doctors will emerge from medical school with no training places in hospitals where they can complete their training and further their careers.

That issue, which is clearly national, is slowly coming to a head, with a rally of medical students, junior doctors and medical educators being organised by the NSW Australian Medical Association at 11am this Saturday on Sydney's lower north shore. But more generally the inquiry's outcome has implications for other states, which have been experiencing some of the same problems, if usually to a lesser degree. Health experts say other state governments will be watching what happens after Garling reports almost as intently as NSW itself does.

But there's an increasing fear that the inquiry's recommendations will be buried -- either drowned out by the welter of economic bad news, or pushed out of the limelight by a state government that suddenly finds itself with more pressing political problems and a quickly souring financial position. "We are expecting quite a lot out of the Garling report," says emergency physician Clare Skinner, one of a number of doctors, nurses and others who are part of the Hospital Reform Group. "We think it's probably the last chance to help fix the NSW hospital system. Every single state in Australia has overcrowded emergency departments. Every single state is struggling to find enough doctors and nurses, and every state is watching this (inquiry) to see how we can do things smarter." However, the caution stems from the long existing list of previous health inquiries that have received little more than lip service from the government of the day, and are quickly forgotten.

Skinner puts workforce and training as the two highest priorities on the to-fix list. Both of these problems, she thinks, require taking politically unpopular decisions: a feature of NSW hospitals is that there are many more specialised units spread across many smaller hospitals, which she says disperses the available expertise.

While NSW has six to eight trauma centres across the state, Victoria has just one. The difference means that Victoria's centre has the best staff, and enough of them to ensure 24-hour cover; while in NSW, someone taken to hospital after a 2am car crash is much more likely to arrive with no specialist on duty to look after them.

Physician and immunologist Professor Brad Frankham agrees, saying for too long rosters have been run along old-fashioned lines that benefit senior doctors rather than patients. Although elderly and complex cases increasingly arrive in hospitals in the evenings and at weekends, he says these are exactly the times when senior doctors aren't around, and instead there is a skeleton staff of inadequately supervised more junior clinicians.

But despite the workforce pressures, budgets are controlled so tightly and centrally that it's usually impossible to hire an extra staff member, as the request has to go through as many as nine management levels before approval -- by which time the need, or more often the candidate, has evaporated. Often this merely ends up wasting money, as when hospitals prevented from hiring permanent staff bid against each other to secure locums at sky-high rates, costing the system far more.

Another area of waste that the Garling inquiry may sort out is in how hospitals are funded. Currently budgets tend to be based on adjustments of previous budgets, whereas reform advocates are arguing for a more comprehensive roll-out of Victoria's activity-based funding, also known as casemix, which pays for the work that hospitals do.

What Skinner, Frankham, a senior nurse who spoke to Weekend Health, and another member of the Hospital Reform Group, emeritus professor at Sydney University Kerry Goulston, all agree on is the need to give back to clinicians more say in the running of hospitals and how care is delivered. Currently doctors and nurses are kept so far from the decision-making that Frankham, even though he's an area director, says he "can't spend even $100" without getting authorisation from several rungs up the management ladder. Frankham says given a greater say, clinicians would be more innovative, working out "clinical networks" or teams of doctors, nurses and allied health workers involved in particular diseases, to ensure the best ways of dealing with those patients.

Goulston says restoring clinicians' decision-making autonomy would both restore trust between clinicians, managers and patients, and also restore clinicians' morale, which he says is currently as low as it has been for some years. "Our main concern is that the recommendations, when they are released, are implemented," Goulston says. "We think Garling and (counsel assisting the inquiry, Terence) Tobin have done a very thorough job. "My concern is that the Government and the bureaucrats will say 'We are doing all these things', when in actual fact they are not doing them."


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Climate, coral and the attention-seeking Dane

Can Prof. Hoegh-Guldberg read a textbook?

Once again Hoagy has been on TV and in the news recently moaning piteously at the impending doom of Australia's Great Barrier Reef due to global warming. So I thought the brief history lesson below might explain why he is essentially talking though his anus. The reef has been around for half a million years at least, and is still there despite going through far greater climate upheavals than we have seen in our times.

The excerpt is from World Atlas of Coral Reefs by Mark D. Spalding et. al.

Hoagy is a crook.

The other winners

On the Left above: Melbourne Cup Myer Fashion in the Field. Winner Kirsty MacGillivray. What a charming lady. The judges judged well. I suspect that it is also she who appeared in the big hat in my post of yesterday.

In the middle: My personal pick of the funniest photo. Former Miss Australia and Miss Universe, Jennifer Hawkins with Melbourne Lord Mayor John So. Mayor So is very popular and I believe deservedly so but his Han ancestry does leave him rather short in some ways.

On the Right: My personal pick of the best fascinator (A fascinator is a hat that isn't really a hat). Worn by Daria Komyza of Russia.

Below: Hats/fascinators galore

Some background on the off-field activities here.

Queensland "Free" education not so free

PARENTS at a state primary school have been hit with unexpected "mandatory" fees to fund basic classroom equipment and resources. Robina State School on the Gold Coast last week wrote to parents demanding up to $120 per student for ink, work sheets and computer software. The first page of the 2009 Resource Scheme Years 1-7 Contract Form demanded parents participate in the scheme or have their child's access to equipment and resources cut off. The second page gave a choice for parents who opted out to pay for and secure themselves the resources and services, including technology licences and classroom readers.

According to the Education Act 2006, state education is to be free. Section 56 allows principals to ask parents for "voluntary" financial contributions. And it demands there be no negative consequences for those who do not pay.

This case has outraged parents, who say it is a mockery of so-called free education.

Education Queensland is unaware how many Queensland schools have made similar demands, citing a lack of data. Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens Associations president Margaret Black believed it was the first time a school had omitted the word "voluntary" and issued the request as a contract. She urged parents to "make sure the word voluntary is included". Only after The Courier-Mail asked about the legality of the contract did Education Queensland instruct the Robina school to change its tune. "The principal has been asked to clarify the statements in the letter to rectify any misunderstanding it may have caused," a department spokeswoman said.

McCullough Robertson Lawyers partner Malcolm McBratney said the school's Resource Scheme appeared to be compulsory. "It's a legally enforceable contract," he said. "It doesn't seem you've got much choice."

Angry parents said the letter was deceptive. "The letter basically aims to blackmail parents into paying the voluntary annual state school contributions," the parents said. "We send our kids to a public school because we cannot afford a private school and the fees. "The school is trying to force parents and caregivers to pay voluntary contributions by sneakily ... calling it the 'resource scheme' and saying there's 'membership' to be had."

Ms Black will seek an explanation from the Assistant Director General for Education. "I'll ask, 'When did voluntary contributions become signed contracts?'," she said. Primary and high schools often send letters to parents in October and November seeking money to shore up resource budgets for the following year.


Just one example of tyrannical "Guardianship" laws

Petty and unaccountable bureaucrats are given vast powers and act like mini-Hitlers

A MAN whose affairs were taken over by the state after he spent $200,000 on phone sex will appeal the orders he says have made his life a misery. "The mental stress has been unreal," the 78-year-old told The Courier-Mail. "It's with you every minute you're awake and it's cost me $40,000 in medical and legal fees, and that's a conservative estimate. "I've also lost money as a result of being under the financial orders because of the way the Public Trustee has invested my money in shares."

The man was placed under the orders by the Guardianship and Administration Tribunal in October 2006, after relatives claimed he had spent tens of thousands of dollars on 1902 calls in almost 10 years. The relatives alleged the man was delusional, incapable of looking after himself and had dementia. However, The Courier-Mail reported last year, medical evidence stated he did not suffer dementia or other mental disability.

His challenge to the tribunal's ruling is supported by Carers Queensland and pro bono lawyers appointed by the Queensland Public Interest Legal Clearing House.

It follows the recent distribution of more than 1000 discussion papers by the Queensland Law Reform Commission, as part of the second stage of its sweeping review of the state's controversial guardianship laws. The discussion paper - Shaping Queensland's Guardianship Legislation: Principles and Capacity - looks at changes that need to be made to the guardianship of people with impaired decision-making capacity and their right to appropriate health care.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG comments on the imminent execution of the Bali bombers and the pennypinching over travel for schoolkids in NSW

What a great occasion!

I have just watched the running of the Melbourne Cup on TV. Bright sunlight, a track of perfect green, the colourful silks of the jockeys and the drama of the slow buildup to the race. The horses spend more time getting to the barrier than they do racing and seeing them parade out is fascinating: Beautiful, noble but very tense animals.

And the winner was yet another horse trained by Bart Cummings, a legendary Australian trainer. And the emotion of the occasion of course got to him. Some stupid interviewer asked him: "Is it an emotional occasion for you?" Bart said: "It's just a nice win" -- with tears streaming down his face!

A great day today

Note the date at the head of this post. Nov. 4th. A great national day of decision. A great race will be decided. Millions will watch the outcome. And the outcome will make many jubilant while others will be sad or indifferent. I am referring, of course, to the Melbourne Cup, Australia's premier horserace and the one race of the year for which everyone stops in Australia. They flock to their nearest TV or glue a trannie (transistor radio) to their ear. Businesses stop. Schools stop. Factories stop. Offices stop. And even Presbyterians have been known to bet on the outcome. Due to the peculiarites of timezones, however, the race will be run on Nov. 3 in America. And the election in America on 4th, will happen on 5th in Australia. Below is a good comment written by an American last year:
On the first Tuesday of November, most people in Melbourne get the day off for the public holiday. What holiday you ask? Is it the Queens birthday? Boxing Day? Australia Day? No friends, today is a holy occasion where a little over 100,000 people dress up, get drunk, and bet on a bunch of horses as they run around a track. Basically, everyone gets the day off for a race that only lasts minutes.

This is actually a big deal here. Someone told me that teachers in grade school have the kids do "play bets" on what horse they want to win. Women seem to especially love this day as they dress up all pretty and wear funny hats as you see below. There are several contests as well at the cup including "best hat" and "best overall dressed". Today a horse named "Efficient" won the cup and the owner won a prize of $5 million dollars. I know what you are asking me now, "well who won the best hat!?!" Well, I scoured the internet and couldn't find the winner of best hat, which is the thing I was really interested in. Again, what a fun and great country. I'm in Brisbane and so didn't get the day off, but I still got to enjoy a city full of pretty girls wearing funny hats.

I have got two horses in a sweep: 19 Red Lord and 23 Barbaricus. So I will be watching the race keenly when it runs shortly.

Famous Australian weather forecaster is a warming skeptic

The Crohamhurst observatory was started by Inigo Jones in 1927 and became famous for accurate long-range weather forecasts. Jones based his forecasts on solar variability and planetary movements. It was claimed that his forecasts were not "scientific" but farmers swore by them. At one stage many Brisbane couples would not set their wedding date without first consulting Jones. After Jones's death, first Lennox Walker and then his son Haydon Walker carried on the work

The Sunshine Coast could be in line for substantial flooding over the next five months with the first of the rains only two or three days away. That's the tip from long-range weather forecaster Haydon Walker who has warned that not only will the Coast experience serious flooding, it is ill-equipped to deal with major downpours. "Look at the 1893 floods where Crohamhurst, in the hinterland, received 36 inches (914mm) overnight," he said. "If that happened now, we would all be in Moreton Bay." Coast drainage simply would not cope with such a deluge.

"I maintain that higher (population) density in coastal areas has had more impact due to run-off from subdivisions, roadways and increased roof areas," he said. Mr Walker is predicting "good strong rains" starting shortly and continuing through November, mainly from storms, with some likely to register more than 100mm or more. "They will continue good and strong in December," he said. "Going into January we will continue to get good-to-heavy rains, and cyclonic activity probably as far as the NSW border." While things should settle down a bit after that, the wet weather will return in March, Mr Walker said....

While some old-timers might describe his prediction as nothing more than a return to normal weather for the region, he disagreed. "This will be more intense than `normal'," he said. "And there will be (at least) local flooding." Mr Walker said sunspot activity, which he uses to make weather predictions, was on the increase. "Solar flares make changes to the barometric pressures." The sunspot cycles are 11.15 years, but we are moving into "a strong phase". "There's a fair bit of water coming," he said. "The fronts are here already and we can expect rain in the next two to three days."

Mr Walker said he held a sceptical view of predictions about climate change at this stage. "Until someone can show me further evidence, I am unconvinced. "I have (weather) charts from the year dot, back prior to the Industrial Revolution. "I am disgusted with what we are putting into the atmosphere but I believe the climate change debate is too politically driven."

Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) data tends to cautiously support Mr Walker's predictions, indicating the chances of exceeding average rainfall between now and March is 50%. The BOM website said the Southern Oscillation Index has been at +14 - a strong La Nina influence - pointing to more rain likelihood, with the same conditions predicted for the remainder of spring and summer.


"Muslim Massacre" game

Previous comment here

The Australian Muslim community has accused the Federal Government and police of double standards over their treatment of a free online game in which the aim is to kill as many Muslims as possible. Keysar Trad, president of the Islamic Friendship Association, wrote to the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, expressing outrage over the game, Muslim Massacre, saying it teaches young people to "further hate Muslims" and encourages them to carry out "acts of discrimination, vilification or outright violence against Australian Muslims".

The game, launched as a free download on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, invites players to take control of an American "hero" and "wipe out the Muslim race with an arsenal of the world's most destructive weapons". It was created by a 22-year-old programmer going by the online handle Sigvatr, who says on his website that he is from Brisbane and works part-time as a service station attendant. Sigvatr, who claims the game is "fun and funny", is also responsible for the website, which ranks real-world killing sprees based on the number of victims.

In his letter, Trad said he believed Muslim Massacre was a breach of the sedition provisions of counter terrorism laws and laws that prevent the incitement of violence against sections of Australian society. He cited the case of Belal Saadallah Khazaal, 38, from Lakemba, who was found guilty in September of making a "do it yourself terrorism guide" knowing it could be used to assist a terrorist act. Khazaal had compiled the online manual, which included an assassination hit list of prominent political figures, based on information sourced from the internet.

But the response to Trad from the Attorney-General's department was little more than a two-page explanation of Australia's content classification and racial discrimination laws and the government bodies tasked with administering them. The response noted that the game's creator "has voluntarily taken the game down from the internet". However, the game is still freely available to download from

Trad said the letter looked like a standardised form response and accused the Government and police of selectively applying counter-terrorism laws. He said the Khazaal case had set a precedent that should be applied to Muslim Massacre and its creator. "I could imagine what would have occurred if the game had been developed, God forbid, by a Muslim with Western people as the targets. The people would have been immediately subjected to criminal prosecution," Trad said.

The Attorney-General's Department said it was up to the Australian Federal Police to investigate whether the game breached sedition laws. Trad said he received a response from the federal police "telling me that I can complain to the Australian Communications and Media Authority if I wished". But it is unlikely ACMA can do anything to have the game removed from the net as it is not hosted on Australian servers.

Trad said he felt he was being "palmed off" to bodies such as the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, which took years to investigate claims. "I do not have faith in ACMA. You may note that even though they found a certain radio station to be in breach of the code prior to the Cronulla riots, all they did was ask them to get some cultural training," he said.

British Muslim youth organisation the Ramadhan Foundation has also called for the game to be banned, saying it was "unacceptable, tasteless and deeply offensive". "When kids spend six hours a day on violent games, they are more likely to go outside and commit violence," the group's chief executive, Mohammed Shafiq, said.

In September, Queensland Police Minister Judy Spence said police were investigating the game to see whether it breached any legislation. No announcements relating to the case have been made since then. Comment was being sought from Queensland Police.

But even if the creator is charged, local authorities could run into trouble in trying to get the game removed from the web if it is hosted on servers located outside Australia. In 2006, the Government was powerless to remove from the internet a racist board game based on the Cronulla riots. It was eventually removed by the US-based web host, Angelfire, following extensive lobbying by anti-racism groups.

Similarly, in 2007 a game based on the Virginia Tech massacre, developed by a Sydney man, was removed by its web hosting service after the Federal Government failed to come up with a way of using its powers to have the game blocked.

However, this sort of content could be blocked in future if the Government proceeds with its controversial plans for mandatory ISP-level filters of "illegal" material

[So ACTUAL massacres by Muslims are OK but just playing at massacring Muslims is not?? Has Mr Trad condemned Osama bin Laden and his ilk? Have the hate-preaching Mullahs all been silenced?]


Orthodox Jews fined and insulted for jaywalking in Melbourne

If they had been Muslims, all would have been fine, of course. You can't even laugh at Muslims, let alone be rude to them

Police are investigating allegations officers made "rude and inappropriate" remarks to Jewish women who flouted pedestrian crossing rules. Orthodox Jews are forbidden to touch anything electrical on holy days. Last month, two women were fined $57 each for crossing on a "red man" because their religion prevented them from touching the button at the crossings.

A Caulfield North woman was fined after crossing the intersection of Glen Eira and Hawthorn roads on the morning of Yom Kippur on October 9. Her $57 ticket has since been revoked. Nine days later a St Kilda East woman was fined for crossing at Hotham St and Alma Rd on October 18.

Police are now investigating the behaviour of officers who allegedly made rude and inappropriate comments to the women, and met several Jewish community leaders on October 28 to discuss the issue. Caulfield Insp Margaret Lewis expressed regret and concern over the incidents. She said the police investigation would take about a month.

Jewish Community Council of Victoria executive director Geoffrey Zygier said all Melbourne synagogues would be consulted to find out which intersections should have an automatic function on the Sabbath and Jewish festivals. State government, local government or the synagogues themselves would pay, he said.

Mr Zygier said he accepts police have a duty to look after public safety. "At the same time the Jewish community has religious obligations," Mr Zygier said. "We live in a multi-cultural society. "If we can make changes without inconveniencing others, I think that's fair enough."



When it comes to radical trends including anti-Zionism, Australian campuses are like most other Western universities, only even more extreme. The ubiquity of left-wing politics in Australian academia means that writing about campus Israel-phobia requires discrimination since the range of subjects is so large. The focus here will be on just a few of Australia's most egregious academic anti-Zionists.

Evan Jones

The most virulent is the University of Sydney's Evan Jones. Although his field is economics, he maintains a political web-log called Alert and Alarmed.[1] Its name is a play on the slogan of an Australian government public awareness campaign on terrorism-"alert, but not alarmed." Jones detests the Bush administration and the Australian government of John Howard. His hostility toward Israel runs so deep as to apparently render him unaware of the anti-Semitic overtones of his rhetoric.

For example, Jones often claims that the Jews dominate press coverage on issues relating to Israel. In a blog posting called "The Wall and `topographical considerations,'" he asserted: "All university programs in politics should have a compulsory unit on propaganda, and all such units should include a compulsory component on Israeli propaganda. The Israeli propaganda machine makes the Nazi apparatus under Geobels [sic] look like amateur hour."[2]

The Israelis are not very skilled at public relations. The opinion pages of Australia's newspapers regularly feature leftist critics of Israel. ABC, the country's main publicly funded broadcast network, models itself on the BBC, with predictable results in its Middle East coverage.

Nevertheless, Prof. Jones upholds the idea that pro-Israeli Jews dominate journalism. He refers to the "reactionary war-mongering Zionist Wall Street Journal."[3] The British writer of a pro-Israeli letter to the editor of TheIndependent is nothing more than a "lobotomised Zionist."[4] ....

Jones also constantly equates Zionism with Nazism. In his view, Israel was established through conscious collaboration with Hitler's Germany. In support, Jones cites an assertion by the radical Israeli anti-Zionist Uri Davis: "Zionist leaders made themselves accomplices by default, and sometimes by deliberate design, to the mass murder of Jews by the Nazi annihilation machinery."[7]

Amin Saikal

Other academics cloak their animus toward Israel in a pseudosophistication that facilitates their access to the media as commentators. One such anti-Zionist op-ed contributor is Amin Saikal, who heads the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (CAIS) at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. Founded in 1994 as the Centre for Middle East and Central Asian Studies, CAIS assumed its current name six years later. This reflected a radical shift in orientation that stemmed from an influx of funding from various Middle Eastern sources.

In December 2000, the Centre announced the receipt of an A$2.5 million donation from Sheik Hamdan bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the Emir of Dubai and brother of the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates.[10] This sum not only purchased the name change but also the creation of a Chair of Arab and Islamic Studies that was eponymous with the Centre's new title. The government of Iran contributed another US$350,000,[11] which underwrote the establishment of the Centre's perpetual foundation in Persian Language and Iranian Studies. In both these cases, the ANU's Endowment in Excellence provided matching funds for these foreign donations, bringing the total amount generated in support of the CAIS to almost A$6 million.[12]

Centre director Amin Saikal's view of both U.S. and Israeli policies is profoundly negative. But if the Americans can at times be excused for their folly because of naivety, Israel receives no such leniency. Saikal takes a "less is more" approach that is more pernicious because it seems reasonable on the surface. At first glance he appears simply to be deploring the violence that plagues the Middle East. But a closer look reveals that his regrets are selectively applied to serve his anti-Zionist views.

This reticence to condemn Palestinian violence against Israelis is so deeply ingrained in Saikal's worldview that it infuses his vocabulary. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, he accused Israel of using disproportionate force "to contain what it calls terrorism, including suicide bombing."[14]

Saikal demonstrates ignorance of simple geostrategic matters. Again in the Sydney Morning Herald, he asserted that the Israeli navy has deployed "nuclear-powered submarines" to launch preemptive strikes against Iran.[15] The Israeli submarine fleet, however, consists of three German-built Dolphin-class diesel boats. Although the Germans' submarines are world-class, their own navy does not possess nuclear vessels.

Saikal also praises the Islamic Republic of Iran as "a sort of democracy which may not accord with Western ideals, but provides for a degree of mass participation, political pluralism and assurance of certain human rights and freedoms which do not exist in most of the Middle East."[16] He has nothing to say about the reign of terror that is inflicted on political opponents, and the many other human rights abuses.....

Scott Burchill

In Melbourne, as in other venues of Australian academia, there are many anti-Zionist academics. A notable example is Scott Burchill, who teaches international relations theory at Deakin University. In the wake of 9-11, Burchill argued in the Sydney Morning Herald that any American military reaction would constitute a "myopic and undemocratic" exercise of extrajudicial injustice.[25] Moreover, he claimed in the Australian Financial Review that these were "not irrational, cowardly or random attacks"; instead, "the rational logic of cause and effect" made 9-11 an understandable response to "US aggression."[26]

In October 2003, The Age published Burchill's thoughts on the first anniversary of the Bali bombing, which killed eighty-eight Australian tourists among others. It was, he wrote, an inevitable reaction to "Washington's support for Israel's brutal occupation of Palestine," and to a "Western collective of terror whose leaders had bombed Islamic states such as Afghanistan and Iraq."[27]

Yet, however profound Burchill's hostility toward the United States, he does not challenge the legitimacy of its existence. He does, however, in the case of Israel. Burchill describes the Palestinians as a "looted people" who justly refuse to "reconcile themselves to occupation and humiliation, regardless of the odds stacked against them."[28] Israel, then, is a "thief" who must return the "stolen property" of Palestine to its rightful Arab owners.[29] ....

Andrew Vincent

A final example is Prof. Andrew Vincent, who heads the Centre for Middle East and North African Studies at Sydney's Macquarie University. Last year in the Macquarie University News, he put forward a viewpoint that: "the Israelis quite possibly murdered Yasser Arafat."

Typically, in the wake of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Vincent wrote an apology for this aggression in Melbourne's Herald newspaper. Citing Iraq's small coastline and Kuwait's historic association with Baghdad, Vincent argued that Saddam's expansionism was legitimate.[34] More recently, Vincent invited blogger Antony Loewenstein - a far-Left freelance writer - to join the board of the Centre that he heads.

Antony Loewenstein

It was "bigotry, hatred and intolerance," Loewenstein suggested, that motivated Jewish opposition to Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi's receipt of the Sydney Peace Prize in 2003.[35] He apparently could not conceive of honest opposition based on Ashrawi's statements and deeds. In Loewenstein's view, Israel is a nation of "apartheid-like policies."[36] This author, after publishing an article in The Australian on the impact of Ariel Sharon's stroke, was characterized by Loewenstein as one of the "dutiful Zionists who are already lining up to praise the unindicted war criminal."[37]

Loewenstein's superficial knowledge of the Middle East was evident last December when he referred to a senior female Israeli cabinet minister as a man. In an article for the leftist online magazine New Matilda, he wrote:
Yet more evidence of Israel speaking the language of "peace" but acting entirely differently came from a senior ally of Sharon, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. He [sic] told a legal conference in early December that, despite years of Israeli denials, Sharon himself imagines the 425-mile separation barrier as the future border between Israel and a potential Palestinian state.

As one commentator on his blog pointed out: "if Loewenstein can't even get the gender of an Israeli cabinet minister right, then what does it say about the quality of his analysis of the Israeli political scene? Nothing good." When confronted with evidence of his gaffe, Lowenstein pleaded that he was "rushed" and that "mistakes do happen."[39]


In their anti-Zionism, Evan Jones, Amin Saikal, Scott Burchill, and Andrew Vincent[42] are some examples among many in Australian academia where radical Leftist ideology is monolithically predominant. A core element of the far-Left doctrine is a relentless hostility to Jewish national self-determination. With Australia's youth being exposed to this outlook during their university years, it remains to be seen how this will affect the next generation of Australian leaders.

More here

Monday, November 03, 2008

Great Barrier Reef could adapt to climate change, scientists say

Hoagy, the Danish nature-lover, gets a long overdue kick in the pants. Coral already grows in very warm waters -- in the Torres Strait, for instance. Species diversity is greatest there, in fact. Hoagy is a nut

The prediction of a prominent marine biologist that climate change could render the Great Barrier Reef extinct within 30 years has been labelled overly pessimistic for failing to account for the adaptive capabilities of coral reefs. University of Queensland marine biologist Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said yesterday that sea temperatures were likely to rise 2C over the next three decades, which would undoubtedly kill the reef. But several of Professor Hoegh-Guldberg's colleagues have taken issue with his prognosis.

Andrew Baird, principal research fellow at the Australian Research Council's Centre for Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, said there were "serious knowledge gaps" about the impact rising sea temperatures would have on coral. "Ove is very dismissive of coral's ability to adapt, to respond in an evolutionary manner to climate change," Dr Baird said. "I believe coral has an underappreciated capacity to evolve. It's one of the biological laws that, wherever you look, organisms have adapted to radical changes."

Dr Baird acknowledged that, if left unaddressed, climate change would result in major changes to the Great Barrier Reef. "There will be sweeping changes in the relative abundance of species," he said. "There'll be changes in what species occur where. "But wholesale destruction of reefs? I think that's overly pessimistic." Dr Baird said the adaptive qualities of coral reefs would mitigate the effects of climate change.

His comments were backed by Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority chairman and marine scientist Russell Reichelt. "I think that he's right," Dr Reichelt said. "The reef is more adaptable and research is coming out now to show adaptation is possible for the reef." Dr Reichelt said the greatest threat facing the reef was poor water quality in the coastal regions, the result of excess sediment and fertiliser. "If a reef's going to survive bleaching, you don't want to kill it with a dirty river," he said.

Professor Hoegh-Guldberg, who in 1999 won the prestigious Eureka science prize for his work on coral bleaching, said the view "that reefs somehow have some magical adaptation ability" was unfounded. "The other thing is, are we willing to take the risk, given we've got a more than 50 per cent likelihood that these scenarios are going to come up?" Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said. "If I asked (my colleagues) to get into my car and I told them it was more than 50 per cent likely to crash, I don't think they'd be very sensible getting in it."

He told the ABC's Lateline program on Thursday the threat posed by climate change to the Great Barrier Reef should be treated as a "global emergency". "Why we aren't just panicking at thispoint and starting to really make some changes? Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said. "It just ... it blows my mind sometimes."


Challenges ahead for Australia

By Rupert Murdoch (Rupert Murdoch is chairman and chief executive of News Corporation. This is an edited extract of the first of his Boyer Lectures, Aussie Rules - Bring Back the Pioneer, delivered in Sydney last night.)

I appreciate that many Australians will debate whether I still have the right to call myself one of you. I was born in Melbourne, was educated in Britain and now make my home in Manhattan. My answer is that people can call me whatever they like - and believe me when I tell you, they do. But this country means a great deal to me. And the main reason I agreed to come to Australia to deliver these (Boyer) lectures is that the country I see before me simply is not prepared for the challenges ahead.

As I speak, the Australian economy is coming up against one of these challenges: a financial crisis whose origins are overseas. In recent weeks, the Australian dollar has fluctuated as wildly as a whirling Dervish, and the impact is beginning to be felt in the real economy. There is no use bemoaning the problem. Australia is wedded to the world - mostly for richer, very occasionally for poorer, certainly for better, and only rarely for worse. And I fear many Australians will learn the hard way what it means to be unprepared for the challenges a global economy can bring.

I want to start today by talking about some areas at home. By this I mean a need to reduce dependency on government, to reform our education system, to reconcile with Australia's Aboriginal population, and to maintain a liberal immigration system. At a time when the world's most competitive nations are moving their people off government subsidy, Australians seem to be headed in the wrong direction.

In a recent paper, Des Moore pointed out that while real incomes increased since the end of the 1980s, about 20 per cent of the working-aged population today receives income support, compared with only 15 per cent two decades ago. While a safety net is warranted for those in genuine need, we must avoid institutionalising idleness. The bludger should not be our national icon.

Traditionally the Liberals have been more free-market in their outlook than their opponents. But the Labor Party has also recognised that central planning does not work. The larger the government, the less room for Australians to exercise their talents and initiative. That is why earlier this year we heard a Labor Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, declaring that his Government is unashamedly pro-market, pro-business and pro-globalisation.

That's a good start. But being pro-market, pro-business and pro-globalisation means working for a society where citizens are not dependent on the Government. That means ending subsidies for those who do well. It also means sensible targeting and persistence - so that when subsidies are given, they help those passing through a rough patch or born into abject poverty build themselves up to a point where they can provide for themselves.

And it means smaller government and an end to the paternalism that nourishes political correctness, promotes government interference and undermines freedom and personal responsibility. Remember, it's not the Australian Government that competes in the global market, it's Australian businesses and workers. With the relatively small domestic market, Australian workers and businesses must be able to beat the best of them.

Second, we need to reform our education system. The bottom line is this: it is an absolute scandal that we are spending more and more and getting less and less in return. For those still in school or just entering the workforce, the opportunities a global economy offers are greater than at any time in our history - if you have the right skills.

Australians have always been a people who stress equality, who believe what you make of yourself is more important than where you came from. That's still a good philosophy for a frontier society. But let's be honest, tens of thousands of people are going to be deprived of these opportunities if we continue to tolerate a public education system that effectively writes off whole segments of Australian society. In short, we have a 21st-century economy with a 19th-century education system, and it is leaving too many children behind.

School reform leads me to the next domestic priority: full reconciliation among all Australians. We are now beyond the day when Australian governments would take Aboriginal babies from their mothers' arms and hand them over to be raised by white Australians. Even that action was inspired as much by ignorance as arrogance. Many of the missionaries of the past were full of good intent, but simply did not understand or respect Aboriginal culture.

Members of both major parties have made eloquent, clear-headed statements expressing regret for the historic injustices visited on our Aboriginal Australians. That there were victims, and many of them, is beyond dispute. But apologies alone will not achieve true reconciliation, and neither will allowing victimhood to remain dominant in our national psyche. Far from liberating our Aboriginal brothers and sisters from the colonial yoke, we have cultivated a well-intentioned but stultifying dependency. The best way to redress the past and advance true equality for all Australians is to ensure the next generation of Aboriginal children have access to top-quality schools and teachers, which they do not now have. Australia's system of public education can never be called a success until Aboriginal Australians benefit from it as much as any other citizens.

At the same time, we cannot avert our eyes to the abuse of women and children within Aboriginal communities. These are not simple problems. And they will remain serious problems until our response is informed more by true compassion and less by remorse.

Finally, Australia will be strong only if it is open to immigration. Thank goodness we are beyond where we were a few decades ago. In a relatively brief time, we have buried "White Australia" and in its place have raised a modern, diverse society. This does not mean we are neutral or valueless. We must expect immigrants to learn our language and embrace the principles that make Australia a decent and tolerant nation. At the same time, Australia needs to recognise that immigrants bring energy, skills and enthusiasm. They often better recognise the virtues of Australian society, virtues we are too shy or embarrassed to laud.

In my view, Australians should not worry because other people want to come to our country. The day to worry is when immigrants are no longer attracted to our shores. We should be a beacon to all. To our region in particular, we should be a living, happy, civil and contesting democracy that is a model for the emerging democracies around us.

Those are priorities for Australia on the home front. But Australia also has a role to play on the world stage. Part of this role is ensuring that Australian interests are represented and advanced internationally. In the 21st century, we must lead rather than react. In trade, for example, Australia is one of the few resource-rich societies that have embraced the open market. In many ways, our experience is the exception rather than the rule. Generally when nations have natural resources, they sit back and savour these resources rather than do the hard work of building a competitive economy around them.

Today Australia is probably the leading country for freedom in the area of trade that is most restricted around the world - agriculture. Restrictions on agriculture hurt many of the world's poorest nations, and we have both a moral and strategic interest in seeing them lifted. The global trade dialogue should echo with Australian accents.

Climate change is another area where Australia needs to lead rather than follow. I'm not sold on the more apocalyptic visions of climate change. But I do believe that the planet deserves the benefit of the doubt. I believe there will be great rewards for those Australians who discover new ways of reducing emissions or cleaning the environment. Here at News in Australia, we are encouraging that process through an initiative called One Degree. It's about every one of our people making small changes that together make a big difference. This program is part of a larger corporate initiative that is designed with a clear goal - to have all of our businesses around the world carbon-neutral by 2010. And we are counting on the talents and creativity of all our employees to meet that goal. Our emphasis should be on practical solutions. We cannot address climate change merely with emotion.

The ultimate solution is not to punish the Australian economy by imposing standards that the rest of the world will never meet. It's to take the lead in developing real alternatives to solve the problem by offering clean, cheap energy to meet the growing demand. The world desperately needs these cleaner and more abundant sources of energy. That will require huge investments in new technology. But the upside is huge. If we can develop cleaner and cheaper sources of energy, we will grow our economy while leaving a greener, cleaner world for our children and grandchildren.

Our world remains a dangerous place. In this promising new century we are still seeing naked, heartless aggression - whether it comes from a terrorist bombing in Islamabad or a Russian invasion of Georgia. At the same time, our traditional allies in Europe sometimes seem to have lost the will to confront aggression, even on their own doorstep. We can lament these developments, but we cannot hide from them. Throughout our past, Australian lives have always been affected by events in distant, unfamiliar places. That will remain true for the future. We need to be prepared to respond to these threats, as we have done in Iraq and are doing in Afghanistan.

But we need to be more than a reliable partner that the United States can call on. Australia needs to be part of a reform of the institutions most responsible for maintaining peace and stability. I'm thinking especially of NATO. Though NATO was designed to prevent a land war in Europe, it is now fighting well beyond its borders. As we see in Afghanistan, not everyone is doing their share, and that is a problem too many people want to ignore. The only path to reform NATO is to expand it to include nations like Australia. That way NATO will become a community based less on geography and more on common values. That is the only way NATO will be effective. And Australian leadership is critical to these efforts.

Finally, there is an even more fundamental constitutional question about our identity. Should Australia be a republic? There has been more maturity to this debate over the past couple of years, and there is now no need to rush to the exit. But the moment is not far away when the country will decide its fate. And if I were in a position to vote, it would be for a republic. The establishment of a republic of Australia will not slight the Queen, nor will it deny the British traditions, values and structures that have served us so well. But we are no longer a dependency, and we should be independent.


Is Australia persecuting Falun Gong followers too?

It seems so. There is no doubt that Falun Gong followers are persecuted by the Chinese Communist regime -- even though they are a spiritual movement rather than a political one

The Immigration Department is endangering failed Falun Gong asylum seekers by forcing them to apply for travel documents from the Chinese consulate in Sydney, exposing their status to authorities and putting them in danger of persecution, refugee advocates say. One woman, Zhang Lilin (not her real name), now needs to file a sur place claim, one created when the Government's actions, in forcing her to go to the consulate, initiate a need for her protection.

A spokesman for the department denied that it alerted foreign authorities about former protection visa applicants. Australia deported 770 Chinese nationals in 2007-08 but the department could give no figure on what percentage of them were failed protection visa applicants.

The chairwoman of Balmain for Refugees, Frances Milne, who works with Chinese asylum seekers, said it was naive to assume, as the Australian Government did, that because it did not consider the asylum seeker a refugee, the Chinese Government would not be offended by a person claiming protection from alleged human rights abuses. Last month a Chinese consular officer told Ms Zhang that China opposed its citizens applying for asylum. "If you don't understand, I have to say simply this is policy. As you applied for a protection visa, you should know this is against the Chinese Government's policies." A transcript of that conversation has been sent to the Immigration Department.

The Chinese Government has described Falun Gong as an "evil cult" and banned its practice since 1999. Since then it has staged frequent crackdowns on practitioners, detaining and torturing members because of their religious beliefs, Amnesty International says.

Mrs Milne said "the crackdown on human rights protests throughout the Olympics clearly indicates that China is very sensitive and brutal when it has to defend its human rights record against overseas claims of human rights abuses". In a letter to the Immigration Minister, Mrs Milne said "the Government has created the situation where [Ms Zhang] needs to make a sur place claim for protection". She called on the minister to change departmental regulations that create such situations.

The Herald spoke with three Falun Gong practitioners who have had their claims for protection rejected, and are facing deportation. However, none of the women has a valid Chinese passport - two have expired passports and the third has lost hers since arriving in Australia - so new documents must be issued.

The three are caught in a Catch-22 scenario: the Department of Immigration, seeking to deport them, will only issue a bridging visa (removal pending) that allows them to stay if they present travel documents that show their intention to leave Australia. The Chinese consulate will only issue them with travel documents if they spell out the nature of the bridging visa E they are seeking. Fearing persecution from authorities, none of the women want to reveal they have applied for protection from China. A second woman, 57, who came here in 1999, was told to get a new passport or the department would send her to Villawood. She said, through an interpreter, that she went six times to the consulate, and each time she was refused help. The consulate had said her letter from the department did not clearly mention the immigration category so it would not take the application.

One time a consular officer asked her directly: "Are you applying for the refugee visa? They said if you are . you must give us all the [protection claim] documents. I dare not say directly [I am a refugee] because spies here take pictures of Falun Gong activities here," she said.

A third woman, 47, who arrived in 2002, gave the consulate with a letter from the Immigration Department requesting travel documents. The consulate asked "'What is an E visa? What kind of visa?' Finally I said I am a refugee and they threw [the passport application] back across the counter at me. They looked very angry." Despite the women's experience, a departmental spokesman said its officers would undertake to get travel documents for them if asked.


The Dr. Moeller immigration case: Where is the flexibility at the political level over this?

The bureaucrats are just following their rules. The immigration minister should see that this is an exceptional case and intervene. Or has all that Leftist "compassion" gone out the window? The pic below is of the minister concened, the rather dimwitted Chris Evans

Former Cabinet minister Mary Delahunty has blasted Immigration officials over the handling of a migrant doctor's visa application, saying she is "flabbergasted at the stupidity". Dr Bernhard Moeller's application to stay in Australia was rejected last week because his son has Down syndrome.

The prospect of losing the only internal medical specialist at Horsham has outraged its residents, who have demanded the decision be overturned. Ms Delahunty yesterday revealed the German-born doctor had treated her late father in hospital at Horsham until August this year. "If we're serious about providing decent health care in regional Australia this decision has to be overturned," she said. "Why are we disadvantaging regional Australia? We must end this lunacy."

Ms Delahunty's comments follow Premier John Brumby's slamming of the decision to reject Dr Moeller because the potential long-term costs of caring for his 13-year-old son are too great. Mr Brumby said last week he was shocked to learn the specialist's application had been rejected, and had written to Immigration Minister Chris Evans demanding an urgent review.

Ms Delahunty, a former arts minister who retired before the last election, said she and her family got to know Dr Moeller this year, and was outraged the decision had not already been overturned. "We are so short of doctors in regional Australia, and you have to experience it to appreciate the disadvantage," she said. "I've been out of government coming up to two years and I've never spoken on anything, but there has to be an end to this lunacy, this doctor has to be allowed to stay."


Sunday, November 02, 2008

Australia is enjoying a baby boom. Why?

In what he says below Bernard Salt tries desperately to avoid giving credit to the policies of Australia's previous conservative government. Salt says the boom is mostly due to prosperity. But the birthrate rise did not coincide with any obvious leap in prosperity, even allowing for some lags. But the big leap did coincide with the introduction of monetary rewards for having babies. So I am inclined to think that the rise is almost entirely due to the Howard/Costello baby bonus payments and that Rudd's likely scrapping of the payments will largely end the baby boom

Big news during the week: Australia is in the grip of a baby boom. New figures confirm that 285,000 babies were born during 2007 - up 19,000 over the previous 12 months, and up 50,000 from the number recorded in 2001. Australia's fertility rate now stands at 1.93 births per woman. Japan, for example, can manage only a paltry 1.1. The yen might be rising against the Aussie dollar but we can still beat the Japanese at breeding.

Babies are everywhere. But why? During the Great Depression the birth rate plummeted. People do not breed when they are uncertain about the future. But this also means that during times of prosperity, such as the past 18 years, the birth rate rises. Although this increase was far from immediate. It took the whole of the 1990s for Australians to get used to the idea that prosperity was here to stay, for a while at least. As such the birth rate didn't do its hockey-stick up-turn until 2002 - some two years in advance of the baby bonus.

The baby bonus merely accelerated a rising trend, which I think reflected a broader confidence in the future. Australians were already well on their way to "having one for the country" before former treasurer Peter Costello popularised the notion.

There is also the argument that Gen X women who had delayed having children in the 1990s to concentrate on careers suddenly switched priorities at about this time. And to some extent you also have to admit that babies really are infectious. One person has one and before you know it everyone is having a baby. Even celebrities are doing it. Role models such as Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett show that motherhood and glamour are not mutually exclusive. (Are you reading this, Kylie?)

Other factors have also contributed. Medical advances in IVF, and especially in the care of later pregnancies, have given older women the confidence to have children.

A firm and rising birth rate is a federal treasurer's dream. After all, this is an investment in the taxpayer population base in the late 2020s. (A rising tax base makes politicians look good economic managers.) Although it must be said that a rising birth rate can also place pressure on the labour market since more women come out of the workforce to have children, adding to the immediate skills shortage.

But the future of the current baby boom must be questioned with the likely onset of recession in 2009. The figures released this week relate to births in 2007. This time next year the figures will reflect the 2008 trend. And most babies born in 2008 will have been conceived amid the euphoria of prosperity but will be born into a period of uncertainty. Oddly enough the fluctuation of the birth rate over the next two years will be one measure of how seriously Australians regard the current economic crisis.


A crazed basher free to work with kids

The notorious Leftist VCAT again. If the guy had said anything critical about Muslims he would have been finished. But bashings and insanity are no problem. This should be appealed to the Supreme Court

A court has granted a convicted killer described as "brutal, vicious and cowardly" a licence to work with children. The man spent three years of a five-year sentence in jail for the race-based gang killing of a Samoan teen. But the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has overturned a Justice Department ban, allowing him to work with children.

Despite the Sunday Herald Sun obtaining the killer's name and image, we are gagged from using them. We are also banned from showing a photo of the fresh faced youth he killed, or identifying the young people's groups the killer works with.

The Justice Department refused him a permit to work with children after checks revealed his past. But a tribunal judge overturned the ban when the killer - a youth worker - appealed against the department's decision.

Before being convicted of manslaughter, the man was convicted of possessing and using cannabis and cultivating and trafficking cannabis and amphetamines. His most recent conviction was in 2002 - after being released on parole from his manslaughter sentence - after he tried to buy amphetamines from an undercover cop.

In her decision, VCAT judge Marilyn Harbison said that in 1995, the man was drinking with a group in Frankston who mistook a family out for ice cream for a rival ethnic gang. "After some preliminary heckling, a fight ensued. In the course of the fight one of the members of the family group was attacked viciously by the group," Judge Harbison said.

The killer and three other main offenders punched and kicked the man, before one of the other offenders stabbed him. ". . .(The) applicant hit him several times viciously with a stick whilst he was lying on the ground," she said. Judge Harbison said the victim died of his stab wounds, but a pathology report found he could have just as easily died from the repeated kicking and punching. The victim died in hospital.

Summarising the Justice Department position, Judge Harbison said: "How could a man who had committed such a violent act be entrusted with the care of children?" But she concluded there was "no unjustifiable (sic) risk to the safety of children from this applicant". The killer had schizophrenia, but it had not contributed to the killing.

She also noted the applicant was remorseful, was in a long-term relationship, had a child and wanted full-time work to set up his family. She said the man's family gave evidence that he was devoted to youth work and wanted to warn others off drugs, alcohol and violence. The sentencing judge in the manslaughter trial described the gang's actions as "brutal, vicious and cowardly". The Justice Department would not comment, but warned identifying the killer would breach an order made by VCAT.


The faddist hatred of salt has had a worrisome side-effect

Iodine deficiency was long ago thought to be dealt with adequately by putting iodine in table salt. Your salt container probably says "iodized" somewhere on it. There is iodine in sea salt naturally as well. But the report below reveals that iodine deficiency is now showing up. Obviously the totally unwarranted hatred of dietary salt has had the intended effect of reducing consumption of it and the unintended effect of reducing iodine intake

AUSTRALIA'S top food regulator Food Standards Australia New Zealand has ruled that iodine must be added to all bread by September 2009. Food Standards Australia New Zealand is responding to its Australian Total Diet Study, which found that about 43 per cent of Australians have an inadequate iodine intake. It estimates this will drop to no more than 5 per cent after iodine-fortification of bread.

The ATDS is conducted about every two years to ensure the Australian food supply is safe and nutritious. "Insufficient iodine intake, particularly in groups such as pregnant women, babies and young children, is of great concern," Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing Senator Jan McLucas said. "Mild to moderate iodine deficiency can result in children having learning difficulties and can affect the development of motor skills and hearing. "In extreme cases it can result in severe intellectual disability."

Women aged 19 to 49 need between 100 and 200 micrograms of iodine a day but the study found 70 per cent were not getting enough. Ten per cent of children aged two to three years are also not getting enough iodine.

Ninety-six types of food were tested in a "table-ready" state for the trace elements selenium, chromium, molybdenum, nickel and iodine. The survey found that selenium intake also needed further investigation. FSANZ chief scientist Dr Paul Brent said that the agency had taken a new approach to producing a world-leading total diet study focused exclusively on nutrients.


Brain-dead Greenie assumptions underly Australian climate proposals

China and India have ALREADY said: "No deal"

You don't have to be a Treasury modeller to work out that if the developed world signs up to a global climate change deal next year and the biggest emitters in the developing world agree to follow suit soon after, then "carbon leakage" isn't going to be a huge problem. Carbon leakage is the spectre raised by many emissions-intensive trading industries - such as LNG, cement and aluminium - that they will be forced offshore if made to bear a domestic carbon price when their competitors overseas pay none.

If their competitors overseas are already paying a price, or are clearly going to have to pay one in the relatively near future, then long-term investment decisions won't be influenced by the international price differentials. That, effectively, is what the comprehensive Treasury modelling released yesterday assumes. Given the stated intentions of the European Union and both US presidential candidates, this assumption may prove right. Given the back-pedalling by some EU members and the political ramifications of the present economic meltdown in the US, it might not be.

If it does prove right, then the news from this ambitious modelling exercise is good. The costs to Australian businesses and households of the proposed emissions trading scheme seem manageable. Electricity price rises of between 17 and 24 per cent are not insignificant. But translated into an extra $4 or $5 on the average weekly power bill they don't seem impossible either, particularly with the compensation the Government has already promised.

The upheavals in Australian industry will also be significant, with some sectors thriving and others shrinking. And there will, of course, be major changes in the way we generate electricity, this being one of the main points of the exercise. But if the carbon price ratchets up slowly and structural adjustment money is available for sectors and regions hit hardest, these difficulties don't seem insurmountable either. Kevin Rudd made it pretty clear on the 7.30 Report last night that a slow rachetting up is exactly what he has in mind. The Prime Minister sounded like a thesaurus reciting the entries for cautious: "calm", "cool", "sober", "practical". He was going all out to be reassuring. And the modelling makes the economic case for acting quickly clear. The environmental case for rapid action already was.

But the big unanswered question is where we will end up if the assumption is wrong, if Copenhagen fails, if the outcome is messy. Surely we have to take into account the possibility that the pressures of the global economic crisis will mean isolationist short-term self-interest prevails over a multilateral solution in the interests of all.

More here

Saturday, November 01, 2008

"Soft" female judge lets child rapist walk free

She should be removed from the bench and put on administrative duties only

Cairns judge Sarah Bradley is again under scrutiny after a teenage boy with a previous conviction for rape walked free from court despite pleading guilty to sexually assaulting three sisters. Attorney-General Kerry Shine yesterday requested a copy of the sentencing remarks, the first stage in what could be an appeal following local outrage over the case.

The controversial judge came under fire last year for giving lenient sentences to a group of men and boys who raped a girl at Aurukun, in far north Queensland, but was later cleared of judicial misconduct. Mr Shine successfully appealed the non-custodial sentences given to the nine males. Chief Justice Paul de Jersey said Judge Bradley made several errors in that case, which led to the imposition of manifestly inadequate sentences.

Judge Bradley again hit the headlines this week when she reportedly sentenced the teen rapist to two years' probation and 408 days in detention. Local media reported Judge Bradley said the boy should not be required to spend any more time in jail because he had already served 204 days, angering the victims' family who said the sentence was too short.

Cairns District Court heard the boy had repeatedly sexually assaulted three foster sisters aged 14, 16 and 17. The boy was 14 at the time and living in foster care. He pleaded guilty to 14 counts of indecent treatment.

Judge Bradley could not be contacted for comment yesterday, while Attorney-General Shine also did not want to comment before seeing the sentencing remarks. "The Attorney-General has requested the sentencing remarks to determine whether there are grounds for an appeal," his spokesman said.

But the Department of Child Safety also came under fire over the case yesterday, with the Opposition demanding to know why the boy was placed in the foster home when he had a conviction for raping a toddler. "Placing a youth who had already raped a child back into foster care with young girls was the last thing that should have occurred," Liberal National MP Jann Stuckey said. "This Government has again failed children in care."

Child Safety Minister Margaret Keech said she was "distressed" by the incident but was unable to comment because of pending legal matters. "It is a terrible thing to occur in a family," she said. Mrs Keech indicated an investigation would be conducted.


Amazing public hospital negligence in Melbourne

The Alfred hospital allowed its former trauma chief to operate on patients' vital organs despite his medical licence restricting him to orthopedic surgery. The revelation could pose further legal problems for The Alfred, which already faces the prospect of medical negligence claims from some of Thomas Kossmann's former patients. A report by State Ombudsman George Brouwer found Professor Kossmann performed surgery on lungs, kidneys and bladders - procedures normally done by specialists.

The report, which exposed Professor Kossmann's systematic rorting [misdirection] of public funds and serious administrative failings at The Alfred and the Transport Accident Commission, also found he attempted "difficult and dangerous" surgery in areas in which he had "little experience or proven skill".

Mr Brouwer said The Alfred allowed Professor Kossmann to operate in areas outside his speciality of orthopedic surgery between 2002 and 2007. Orthopedic surgeons primarily deal with bones. The approval was despite an August 2002 ruling by the Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria which stated: "You are restricted to practising within the speciality of orthopedic surgery and are not permitted to practise outside this speciality." Mr Brouwer said the restriction was clearly visible on Professor Kossmann's annual practising certificate and the medical board's online register of practitioners.

Medical negligence lawyers told The Age yesterday that the failure to ensure Professor Kossmann stayed within his area of speciality could pose legal problems for The Alfred because it had a duty to ensure its surgeons were operating in their accredited fields. Law firm Slater & Gordon is already examining potential medical negligence cases against The Alfred and Professor Kossmann.

Alfred chief executive Jennifer Williams earlier this year announced a new policy requiring surgeons to demonstrate their skills before getting hospital approval to perform specialist surgery.

Mr Brouwer found that The Alfred did not act on an undertaking to review Professor Kossmann's credentials after he received an orthopedic fellowship from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 2002. While he awaited acceptance from the college, The Alfred granted temporary approval for him to perform a broad range of procedures under the close supervision of college fellows. At the time, The Alfred acknowledged it would need to review Professor Kossmann's credentials once he was made a college fellow.

But Mr Brouwer found: "There is no evidence that Professor Kossmann's credentials and clinical privileges were ever reviewed. It appears Professor Kossmann, his surgical colleagues, his divisional directors and hospital medical administration did not revisit this important issue during the six years he was with The Alfred."

Professor Kossmann told Mr Brouwer he did not understand that his medical licence from 2002 onwards only permitted him to perform orthopedic surgery. It was only in the course of the Ombudsman's investigation that he became aware he had operated in areas he was not registered to do so. Professor Kossmann resigned from The Alfred in April.


Another breast cancer victim sues government for negligence

A NSW case was reported here just a couple of days ago.

BREASTSCREEN Queensland radiologists failed to detect a malignant tumour in a woman's breast, according to a claim filed in the Supreme Court. She is the second breast cancer sufferer to file for damages in the Supreme Court in the past month over alleged medical negligence. A central Queensland resident has also sued four doctors and Queensland X-Ray after she was allegedly told all was well following a breast image and biopsy on October 19, 2005.

However, according to a claim filed in the Supreme Court registry in Mackay, her Queensland X-Ray image and biopsy report stated: "I am uncomfortable with the cytology (analysis of cells) finding so reassessment of the films is recommended with a review to a repeat biopsy." It is alleged a second doctor she visited did not advise the woman of this, while a third doctor on March 12 last year also failed to advise her. Despite that, two days later they suggested an early follow-up mammogram.

The woman, 53, has since allegedly been diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer with bone, breast and liver lesions. "Had the plaintiff been warned and advised ... she would have undergone further testing," her claim stated. It went on to say that had the further testing been carried out, an early diagnosis of cancer would have been made. Along with pain and suffering, she faced a "loss of expectation of life" and is suing for $276,400.

The woman's case came after another breast cancer sufferer, who now lives in Port Headland in Western Australia, claimed two radiologists at a BreastScreen Queensland service at the Nambour Hospital mistakenly interpreted an increased tissue density in her right breast as "benign". A claim filed in the Supreme Court registry in Brisbane alleged she in fact had a malignant tumour in her right breast, which radiologists should have detected at the time, in June 2005. A proper diagnosis was delayed by 15 months as a result of the negligence of the radiologists, her claim alleged. As a result she would need breast reconstruction surgery in the future and faced a 14 per cent increased chance of dying within the next 10 years. She has sued the state of Queensland for unspecified damages.

Spokeswomen for Queensland Health and Queensland X-Ray declined to comment, saying the matters were still before the court.


Slow but steady climate backdown underway

The Rudd Government has no ambitions to set an example by moving dramatically ahead of other countries with its emissions trading regime, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong has indicated. Senator Wong told The Weekend Australian the Government had "very deliberately" timed the final decisions on the limits or "caps" it would put on Australian greenhouse emissions so they would be taken after a crucial UN meeting in Copenhagen next year. "We will clearly have strong regard to the outcomes of Copenhagen when we are taking those decisions," she said. "We modelled what we are working towards."

Treasury modelling released this week, which found the costs of an ETS would be modest, assumed that developed countries would clinch a deal in Copenhagen and that developing countries such as China would agree on specific emission reduction plans soon afterwards. But industry remains concerned, because of the Government's promise to introduce a scheme regardless of the outcome of Copenhagen.

Business Council of Australia policy director Maria Tarrant said: "The entire focus of the modelling is on there being a global agreement and a global carbon price. It is very disappointing that we don't get any information about what happens if a global agreement does not eventuate."

Kevin Rudd yesterday highlighted the economic dangers of failing to act, pointing out that some countries had threatened border taxes against imports from nations without a cost on carbon. Malcolm Turnbull repeated his call to delay the ETS, saying: "We won't know how much this (ETS) is going to cost until the Government takes into account this global financial crisis".


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