Monday, November 30, 2009

After the tumult, the Liberal party may be getting back on track

Decision on Warmist laws (the ETS) now likely to be deferred

AFTER a tumultuous two weeks, the leadership and policy of the Liberal Party appears on track to match the sentiment of the Liberal Party faithful. Joe Hockey is set to replace Malcolm Turnbull, but based on a policy of voting against the ETS until after the Copenhagen climate conference next month.

Hockey's popularity over Turnbull and his other potential rival, Tony Abbott, is carrying the day for him among the public and Coalition supporters. Turnbull's unpopularity with the public as an alternative prime minister and among Coalition supporters who favour both Hockey and Abbott over the Liberal leader, is reflected in the collapse of support within the parliamentary Liberal Party. However, in what could be an early warning for Labor of a change in sentiment on the emissions trading scheme, the Rudd government failed to get a significant boost out of what was the most calamitous week for their opponents in more than 50 years.

Turnbull's decision to support Kevin Rudd's ETS has gained strong approval among the voting public and Labor voters who support "action on climate change", but it is being repudiated by Coalition voters. On the policy side, the leadership ructions have led to a dramatic turnaround for the Liberals, with Hockey and his expected deputy, Peter Dutton, as well as Abbott and Nick Minchin, supporting a deferral of an ETS vote until February.

This dichotomy of views between the public, Labor voters and Coalition voters has been at the heart of the Liberal dilemma. The prime objective of the Liberal Party now is to unify itself and Hockey, Dutton and Abbott have all demonstrated a wish for consensus on personnel and policy.

The Liberals will now be led by a popular leader seen to be a conciliator who has accepted compromise on the ETS to satisfy the party membership and heal the divisions within the parliamentary party. The final result will be that the Liberals, like the Nationals, have decided to try to restore their lost bedrock support by deferring the ETS instead of trying to go after swinging voters who voted for Rudd at the last election.


Vandals destroy artwork at community festival

I must say that I have a distinct lack of sympathy for the "artists" below. I don't see why public property should be defaced by some arty-farty nonsense. I think the bridge looks just fine by itself. It is a REAL work of art. The arty-farties are entitled to their obsessions but there are plenty of art galleries to hang their stuff in without trying to force it down everybody's throat. I am sure that they are completely aware that most people do NOT like what passes for art these days but they are determined to assert their superiority

ART lovers danced on a bridge in defiance yesterday after vandals destroyed an artwork that took over a year to create. The large knitted art installation had been slashed and cut down just hours after it was put on display across a bridge in Melbourne's inner suburbs. But organisers behind the community-based arts and culture festival continued with their party as parts of the project sagged into a creek in tatters.

"Our spirit was not going to be dampened," The Big West Festival director Karen Hadfield said. "We all danced on the bridge. It was a bittersweet moment." About 40 people had volunteered over 18 months to make The Big Knit, a giant sheet of knitted neon plastic strips that was hung across the historic Footscray walking bridge.

The art installation, 150 metres long, was designed to take a domestic craft such as knitting and put it in a contemporary context. "It was this big, loud, beautiful, wonderful piece that just stuck out from the trees and everyone passing on the train would see it," she said. "It created this whole dialogue about art and life."

Police are attempting to track down the persons who used scissors or a knife to destroy the installation. It's believed the vandals cut up the artwork between 11pm on Friday and 6am yesterday (AEDT), causing $40,000 damage. Ms Hadfield said the vandals would have needed at least two hours to complete their mayhem. Police are asking anyone who saw the vandalism on the bridge across Maribyrnong Creek to contact them.



Four current articles below

State's hospital beds fail to keep pace with population

QUEENSLAND health authorities have responded to booming population growth with just one extra hospital bed for every 13,553 new residents. The abysmal planning failure is exposed in state and federal health figures analysed by The Courier-Mail. Between 1995 and 2008, Queensland grew by 1.03 million people. During the same period, the number of overnight beds in the state public hospital system stagnated. There were 10,115 beds in 1995 and 10,191 in 2008 – a 13-year net increase of 76 beds.

Australasian College for Emergency Medicine Queensland chairman David Rosengren said funds had been siphoned from in-patient care to hospital bureaucracy as part of a "close a bed, open an office" syndrome. He said the number of hospital administrators rose sharply in the first half of this decade. "There are buildings and buildings . . . floors and floors and floors of administrators in Queensland Health," Dr Rosengren said.

Statistics from Queensland Health show the State Government began tearing at the heart of acute-care hospitals with the rise to power in 1998 of Premier Anna Bligh's predecessor Peter Beattie. Bed numbers tumbled each year under the false assumption that new medical techniques and efficiencies would reduce gross occupancy. New and redeveloped hospitals were built with less [fewer beds], culminating in a low-point of 9262 beds in 2002.

The Government has bolstered bed stock in the past three years, and embarked on a new $6 billion hospital infrastructure makeover. Health Minister Paul Lucas says the building and refurbishment agenda will deliver more than 1800 beds over the next seven years. The Gold and Sunshine coasts, Cairns, Townsville and Mackay are among the beneficiaries. "On any examination of the statistics of health care in Australia, we have (one of the) best if not the best systems in the world," Mr Lucas said.

But research by QUT public health academic Gerry Fitzgerald indicates otherwise. In a 2008 report, Professor Fitzgerald, a former Queensland chief health officer, calculated that the state was around 3000 beds in arrears. From 1997 to 2007, the effective bed reduction – taking in population growth – was double the national rate. Since then, Auditor-General Glenn Poole has issued a rebuke over the disarray of the hospitals' infrastructure program.

Following that report in June, Queensland Health director-general Mick Reid confessed that some future services may have been wrongly placed. He also said hospital buildings had been announced without recurrent funding to operate them.

Meantime, the pressure on hospital beds is destined to accelerate with the most recent 12-month population increase a record 112,666.

QUT School of Public Health head MaryLou Fleming said the focus needed to turn from more hospital beds to greater investment in health maintenance. "Currently, 2 per cent of the money that is spent in health federally goes to promotion and prevention strategies," Professor Fleming said. "Unless we turn that around, we are headed for a catastrophe." [Typical theory-driven academic ignorance. All the research shows that prevention strategies are not overall cost-effective. I quote from a comprehensive recent survey of the research evidence: "Although some preventive measures do save money, the vast majority reviewed in the health economics literature do not." MaryLou's gross ignorance of the research makes her a disgrace to her university. The journal I quoted is NEJM. I wonder has MaryLou ever had anything published in NEJM? -- JR]


National cash infusion wasted on paperwork, says doctor chief

The Rudd Government has spent too much on hospital pen pushers at the expense of patient care as waiting lists rise and overcrowded emergency departments struggle to cope, the president of the Australian Medical Association said yesterday. Andrew Pesce said Labor had broken its election promise to reduce red tape in the health system, and called for an independent review into how much money has been spent on bureaucrats and unnecessary administration.

Dr Pesce, who marks six months as AMA president tomorrow, said the public hospital system was no better off than under the Howard government. "There's been too much spent on administration and bureaucracy. Administrators at a local level in hospitals have stopped being assistants to clinicians, to ask them, 'What is it that you need and we'll see how we can help you deliver that,"' Dr Pesce said. "They're [doctors] just told, 'You can't do this, you can't do that; there's no money for this, there's no money for that."'

The AMA has had discussions with the Federal Government on reducing the complex paperwork doctors must complete to satisfy funding requirements, but Dr Pesce said the debate had "fallen into a hole", with little progress made since Labor took power.

Dr Pesce, an obstetrician and clinical director of women's health for Sydney West Area Health Service, said clinical decisions were increasingly being made by bureaucrats, potentially putting patients at risk. "Often the replacement of staff who leave is tied up for ages because of budgetary constraints so people are working understaffed and overstretched … That contributes to the lack of morale and is going to increase the risk of poor outcomes and adverse events because people are working very much at capacity," he said.

"I can guarantee that if you walk into the maternity ward [at Westmead], of the eight midwives on duty at the time, six would be sitting down at the desk filling out paperwork rather than looking after the women."

Dr Pesce believes that during his tenure relations between the AMA and the Federal Government have thawed, after a frosty relationship under former president Rosanna Capolingua. He described plans to cut Medicare rebates for cataract surgery, IVF and some obstetric services, without consulting doctors, as a "cock-up".

The move announced in the federal budget was part of a crackdown on specialists who were rorting the system by charging excessive fees. Health Minister Nicola Roxon said Australian ophthalmologists were among the highest paid in the world, with some eye surgeons earning up to $28,000 a day for performing cataract surgery.

"The Government basically unilaterally announced they were going to do these things that didn't acknowledge it was going to cause a lot of problems for some patients," Dr Pesce said. "The solution they came up with meant that even the doctors who were charging very reasonably, their patients were getting punished just as much as those who weren't."


Patients die prematurely because they lack access to radiotherapy in NSW public hospitals

Radiotherapy is an essential cancer treatment needed by half of all cancer patients, according to national benchmarks, yet in NSW from 1996 to 2006 only about a third of newly diagnosed cancer patients were treated with it. More than 50,000 cancer patients were not treated, and we estimate that 8000 patients died prematurely.

Access to radiotherapy in Australia has been subject to more than 20 reports in the period since 1989. The three factors that stop Australians receiving appropriate radiotherapy for the cure or palliation of their cancer are: a lack of linear accelerators and staff; reliance by state governments on the private sector shouldering the burden of supply in regional areas; and a rigid and inappropriate regime of assessment of new technology.

Radiotherapy is a cost-effective service that requires a particular configuration of technology, buildings and professional staff. Establishing new centres demands careful planning so that all these features come together at the right time and in the right place.

Radiotherapy is not a novel cancer treatment. The demand for services is easily determined from central cancer registry figures that have been available for decades. Health departments have developed detailed and thoughtful plans but these have not been supported by governments. Consequently, the expansion of facilities has only just kept pace with the ever-increasing number of new cases of cancer.

State governments seem to have preferred to shift their responsibility for service provision onto the private sector. Private medicine is supposed to increase patient choice, but in some parts of NSW, the only radiotherapy treatment centre is a private facility.

In those areas local residents have to decide between travelling further afield to a public centre, or using the closer centre and incurring the costs. Fees charged by private providers exceed the amount covered by Medicare; patients using private centres must pay the difference or "gap fee". Private health insurance does not cover outpatient radiotherapy, which is sometimes a surprise to cancer patients who have private health insurance.

Country patients who do not wish to forgo the benefits of radiotherapy but cannot afford gap payments must live away from home or travel large distances each day for treatment for many weeks, often because patients need to run their businesses or care for their families. These trips can be distressing for people who are in pain or suffering the side effects of treatment.

NSW Health offers a financial assistance scheme for country patients travelling for treatment - at the rate of about $30 a day for accommodation. It would be difficult to find a tent site in Sydney for $30, and it is hard to imagine a public servant accepting such meagre travel support.

While no one is saying that taxpayers should be subsidising patients in luxury accommodation, most would support a more reasonable level of comfort for cancer patients undergoing treatment away from home.

To add to the burden, patients must pay $20 per application for "administrative costs" when accessing the scheme and patients reported many months delay in reimbursements.

Australians have good access to new drugs through the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Unfortunately, the rigid evidence-based medicine approach applicable to drugs has been a key impediment to the introduction of cancer treatment technologies widely available elsewhere in the world. Even minor improvements to linear accelerators may take 10 years or more to enter Australian departments.

Major improvements such as intensity modulated radiotherapy are only used on a tiny fraction of Australian patients despite being a standard of practice in North America and Europe. Proton therapy and tomotherapy are not available at all in Australia. The Government has sponsored a handful of patients to have treatment overseas, but the vast majority miss out.

It has been said that survival from cancer in NSW is second only to the United States; it is surely not an honour to be second in any measure to the developed world's most notoriously inequitable health service. With a small investment and commitment we could have the best survival rates for cancer patients.

NSW must commit to a strategic plan and back it with associated funding to expand radiotherapy services so that there is capacity to treat all the cancer patients who can benefit from it. Fifteen new accelerators are planned for NSW, but these will only keep pace with the expected growth in demand. To overcome the gap, only 12 more accelerators are needed.

There is a universal and often expressed hope in the community for a cure for cancer. Yet here is a treatment known to be beneficial, but unavailable to all who need it, and those who do receive treatment are enduring hardship in the process.


Some comments from a doctor who has seen it all

FOR 50 years, Colin Owen has been the bush doctor you can rely on. The medical marvel has never had a sick day – not once in the 53 years he has been on Queensland Health's books. Want proof? Check his latest pay slip. The accrued sick leave column shows 5416 hours, or more than 135 weeks. And the numbers will keep piling up because Dr Owen, 70, has no plans to leave the town of Inglewood, southwest of Warwick....

Dr Owen has been a trailblazer for the nation's rural doctors, taking their fight for better conditions to Canberra where he was on a first-name basis with several federal health ministers....

"Health should be about the delivery of health services. But it isn't at this stage. It's about the economic delivery," he said. "In Queensland, it's dreadfully obvious that it's about the economics of health care rather than the delivery of patient services. There is no doubt about that."

Dr Owen says he often does not get his budget from Queensland Health until three months into the financial year, and then it changes as the year unfolds. And it often doesn't make room for factors such as a 4 per cent pay increase for nurses.

The Inglewood hospital is controlled by six layers of bureaucracy, including one federal level. Just which level is responsible for what tests even someone of Dr Owen's experience and brilliance. "If the administrative people in Queensland Health were as effective as the health and medical staff I wouldn't have a problem. The qualifications and the background of some administrative people are quite worrying," he said. "There is a culture of micromanaging and a culture of bullying, although the latter has gone a bit quiet.

"The circle keeps going around. Over the decades people have tried to reinvent the wheel. They will say 'we're going to try such and such' and I'll say that we tried that in the 1960s and it didn't work then."

Would a federal government takeover improve the delivery of health services, particularly in the rural areas which often feel a long way from Queensland Health's Brisbane headquarters? "The closer government is to the area concerned, the better. Whenever there is centralisation, the voices near the periphery are not heard," Dr Owen said. "Local hospital boards bring the governance back to the local area. They are the best way to go providing they have local medical professionals on them. The boards in the days of the old National Party government were dreadful because they were often political appointments.

"Maybe you could have one control authority in Canberra and local boards – maybe that would be a good way to go. But the thing that worries me is the middle-range public servants who will move wherever they can go regardless of which level of government runs it." ...


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Australia's kindly "Green" bureaucrats at work

A warning about giving them any more power. Anybody else would have just sent the document back for re-signing instead of applying the guillotine. And, far from apologizing, they are digging in their heels over their obnoxious behaviour. Just the usual Greenie people-hatred, I guess

A WOODSIDE pensioner has condemned "dead headed" government bureaucrats for refusing to pay a grant for an $8000 solar panel - because he signed the form in the wrong place. Don Purvis and his neighbours applied for funding under the federal Solar Homes plan, but his application was rejected because he signed his name in a box reserved for the installer's signature.

Eight other households at the Woodside Lodge Retirement Village are now looking forward to cheaper electricity, but not Mr Purvis, whose appeal was flatly turned down. "I signed where the installer should sign. The forms went off to Canberra and some less-than-nice public servant picked up that mine was signed in the wrong place," the 72-year-old said. Mr Purvis said he had to fill in the forms quickly after the Government announced it was closing the scheme 18 months early.

Despite writing to apologise and begging officials to reconsider, his appeal was rejected. "It could be they're trying to keep the numbers (of applicants) down after they brought forward the cut-off date. But I also think there is some dead-headed public servant not even bothering to read the letters," Mr Purvis said. "It's obvious my intent was there, the signature was on the paperwork."

Mr Purvis, a former Ansett employee who spent more than 50 years in the travel industry, is an AGL customer who spent $301 on his last quarterly electricity bill. He lives alone with Bernice, his golden retriever, for company. "I'm a pensioner. I can feed the dog and have a drink, that's all I need. It would make a difference,"' he said. "His neighbours have called for a change of heart.

A woman who lives nearby but asked not to be identified, said: "I was accepted along with several other people and assumed Don was too - there needs to be a little bit of leverage there."

Mr Purvis' local MP, Jamie Briggs, described his plight as "outrageous" and wrote to Environment Minister Peter Garrett urging him to overrule the decision, but has not yet received a reply. "Common sense would say this is a stupid thing for the Government to do," he said.

Mr Purvis also appealed for the Environment Minister to reconsider. "Hopefully, if Peter Garrett intervenes, they'll see the light, because it's just so bloody stupid," he said.


Insane waste in treatment of illegals

You can bet there would be none of this if the bureaucrats were spending their own money

TONNES of bottled water, costing thousands of dollars, are being airlifted to Christmas Island for dehydrated asylum seekers as they step on to the arrivals wharf - despite a tap being just metres away. And the Federal Government will not splash out a couple of thousand dollars to bring a new tap closer for the thirsty arrivals, preferring to jet in the expensive bottles.

Problems arise when refugees first land on the island. Initial screening takes place at the wharf with the tap about 20m away. The asylum seekers are then moved to a construction camp – formerly used by workers who built the detention centre and now housing refugees – where the Department of Immigration and Citizenship said there were "limited options for tap water".

The latest shipment of water, about 2.5 tonnes, was flown to the island on Monday on a department charter flight. The department would not reveal how much it cost, but a four-tonne delivery earlier this year is understood to have cost $6 a kilogram – or $24,000.

One long-standing islander, who did not want to be named said: "It's bloody ridiculous. There's plenty of water to drink on the island, there are taps near the wharf, but the Government won't fix it up. "I could do it for a couple of thousand dollars. No worries."

Flying water to the island also angered local businesses but it is understood that when the Government invited them to tender for the supply their prices were higher than the cost of air-freighting.

A department spokesman said this week's delivery was part of a freight consignment on a charter flight. The spokeswoman said the department and its detention centre service provider Serco, had a duty of care to people in detention. "The provision of bottled water occurs when new arrivals to Christmas Island undertake their initial screening procedures and induction to immigration facilities," she said. "The initial processing is carried out on arrival at the wharf and subsequently at the construction camp. There are limited options for tap water to be provided at both these sites. "Those people are often dehydrated from an extended period at sea and sometimes nauseous.

"The department is aware that the water supply on Christmas Island is classed as potable and fit to drink and encourages all people to drink it as a matter of course." She said the department was "sensitive to the needs" of local traders and endeavoured to deal with them equitably. "However, on occasions it is necessary to freight large amounts independently to meet demands imposed by a sudden surge in the numbers of arrivals," she said.

Christmas Island Shire President Gordon Thomson said it was not the council's responsibility to put taps on property "whether government or privately owned".

The jetty and the construction camp are operated by the Commonwealth Government but a spokesman for the Attorney-General's Department, that has responsibility for the island, said: "There are taps with potable water in the picnic sites in the Flying Fish Cove area which are directly adjacent to the wharf. "As it is a working cargo wharf there is no intention to place a drinking water facility there. There is potable water available at the construction camp site, as there is with any other residential location on the island."


Government hospitals chase away the sick by long delays and then call them "treated"

The "DNW" racket. Australian government hospitals are clearly just as good as British ones at "fudging" their statistics, and that is saying something

ALMOST 70,000 sick or injured Queenslanders walked out of emergency departments at the state's largest public hospitals in the past year, mostly because they became fed up waiting to see overworked doctors. And they were not only people with runny noses or sore throats – thousands needing urgent attention also left.

A Right to Information (RTI) search by The Sunday Mail and The Courier-Mail has uncovered the numbers of "Did Not Waits" previously hidden by Queensland Health. The Did Not Waits registered upon arrival but left before they saw a doctor, mostly because of the exasperating wait in overstretched emergency departments.

More than 100 people classified as "emergency" – requiring attention within 10 minutes – left. Another 10,700 classified as "urgent" (within 30 minutes) did not wait. The figures came from the state's 27 largest hospitals.

The 69,800 people who did not wait in the past financial year were not mentioned in the quarterly hospital performance reports published by a department which Health Minister Paul Lucas has praised for its openness. Instead, they were included as "treated". [What a fraud!!] "Queensland reports more than 1800 (health) statistics every quarter – more than any other state," he said. "There are talks at a national level about how other states can implement similar reporting standards."

Doctors have told The Sunday Mail that they believe Queensland Health keeps quiet about the figures simply to make itself look better. The newspaper has been told about two recent occasions where doctors walked into crowded waiting rooms at major hospitals and told patients who were not critically ill that they would not been seen for at least six hours. One doctor, who asked for his name to be withheld, said he advised patients who thought they could hold off seeing a doctor that they should consider going home and taking with them any medication, such as Panadol, that might help them recover from their ailment.

One doctor conceded that, while most left because they were tired of waiting, there were some who took off for other reasons, including that they were scared that their injuries were part of a potentially criminal incident.

The RTI search was done as part of the Critical Condition series, which will continue this week in The Courier-Mail. It will look into public hospital bed numbers and the strain on emergency departments.


An Australian hoax detective

It was the great Chocolate Bar Bomb scare. Last month an anonymous email, breathlessly titled "Cadbury HALAL Please read! & Forward", hit in-boxes around the country, warning recipients of a sinister link between Australian-made chocolates and Islamic terrorism. Claiming to be "absolute fact", the email urged consumers to boycott products marked with the logo of the Halal Certification Authority Australia. According to the email, companies that paid the HCAA, which certifies food as fit for consumption by Muslims, were "supporting a religion that is actively trying to destroy the Australian way … [and] may be supporting terrorism."

But the email, which sparked an anti-Islamic backlash on Queensland radio, was false, one of many such bogus messages debunked by an Australian website, Hoax-Slayer. The site, which started in 2003 and now boasts a million visitors a month, is the work of Queenslander Brett Christensen. A former caravan park cleaner, Mr Christensen, 46, has fast become the cyber-world's Clark Kent, a soft-spoken father of two who single-handedly smashes scams from the comfort of his home in Bundaberg. "The emails can be politically or religiously motivated," he said. "They can also be corporate sabotage or simply trying to rip people off or waste their time."

You name it, Mr Christensen has seen it: Nigerian fraudsters, fake charities and dating scams, urban legends and bogus petitions. There was the "Cancer Tips From Johns Hopkins" hoax, the fake Marks & Spencer giveaway, and, most recently, a "confidential inter-office memo" from "Robert Trugabe", manager at a McDonald's outlet in South Australia, who implored his staff to deliberately leave out items from orders to cut costs. "Most hoaxes are variations on the same scam," Mr Christensen said. "But by changing background stories they are constantly reworked, thereby gaining new victims."

Mr Christensen started the site after being caught by the Budweiser Frogs virus hoax in late 2002. "I sent the virus warning to all my contacts and then was embarrassed and annoyed to find it was fake."

He now works full-time on the site, which makes about $50,000 a year in advertising. He also produces a Hoax-Slayer newsletter that goes out to 30,000 subscribers. Most of the scams are sent to him from around world, up to 900 emails a week "from people who have been ripped off or want to know if something is true or not."

Mr Christensen uses government or company publications and consumer alerts for his research, plus press releases and credible websites. Unlike the hoaxes, he typically includes in-text hyperlinks and separate references that allow readers to check the information themselves.

While his site is not without precedent -, aka the Urban Legends Reference Page, has been going since 1995 - Hoax-Slayer also includes a section dedicated to apparently ludicrous emails that are actually true. Buzz Aldrin really did perform a Communion service, featuring wine and wafers, on the Moon in 1969, armless Arizona woman Jessica Cox is indeed the first pilot in the US to be licensed to fly using only her feet, and the mysterious "sailing stones" of Death Valley do move by themselves.

Even the dreaded chain email has some validity. Australia's Autism Advisory and Support Service, the Animal Rescue Site and America's The Breast Cancer Site have all used such emails to raise money and awareness. "Even though there are lots of hoaxes out there, it pays not to become too cynical," Mr Christensen said.


Saturday, November 28, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is quite cheered by the rebellion against Warmist laws among Australia's Federal conservative politicians


Three current articles below

Only the market can make health system person-centred

Vouchers needed, says Dr Jeremy Sammut

According to the NHHRC, the most important health reform recommendations in the Bennett Report will make the health system person-centred by reorienting the system around stronger primary care. This will supposedly allow health consumers to have access to the services they need rather than only have access to the current mix of ‘hospital-centric’ health services that governments want to offer.

The idea of a person-centred rather than government-centred health system is borrowed from the market-based principles associated internationally with the consumer-directed health care movement. The aim of consumer-directed health care is to reform the old-fashioned ‘command-and-control’ arrangements that limit choice and prevent competition in the government sector of the health system.

Right now, the type, amount and mix of taxpayer-funded health services that are or are not provided to Australians are determined by federal and state governments, whose crucial yet often imperfect policy decisions frequently overlook the actual needs of patients.

Health departments allocate taxpayer subsidies in the form of population-based, capped global budgets to public hospitals and community health services, which are expected to deliver an unquantified and indeterminate amount of health services to the community. For consumers, this is well described as a ‘take what you’re given’ system.

Consumer-directed health care would improve the responsiveness of hospital and other health services by the application of quasi-market mechanisms. The key reform is to make funding flexible, responsive, and far more accountable. The taxpayer subsidy should be tied directly to the delivery of services and only be paid at the point at which each occasion of care is provided.

Funding should follow patients by means of a taxpayer-funded voucher, and patients, subject to clinical referral, should be allowed to purchase appropriate services from competing public or private providers.

In the long run, empowering consumers and tying funding to patients based on clinical need and choice of competing providers would reduce costs, while increasing access, quality, productivity, and allocative efficiency. Most importantly, governments would no longer centrally plan the type, amount and mix of health services as the supply would be set by the actual health needs of individual patients.

Market-based structural reform that promoted the efficient use of scarce resources would therefore establish a truly person-centred health system.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated November 27. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Government health agency gets criticism of its incompetence censored

Another botched and dangerous attempt at computerization

The University of Sydney removed from its website an extremely critical essay about a new multimillion-dollar emergency department IT system after pressure from the NSW Health Department. Doctors, nurses and administrators at four area health services heavily criticised the system - which tracks patients - as posing an "unacceptably high risk" to patient safety because it was so slow, cumbersome and inefficient. Some hospitals have boycotted Cerner FirstNet and reverted to paper to record clinical notes because it is too difficult and too time-consuming to retrieve critical patient information from the system, the essay said. "In a number of cases we know senior clinicians have shut down the use of FirstNet within a few days of it coming online," it said.

This flies in the face of the recommendation last year from Peter Garling's inquiry into public hospitals for full electronic medical records to improve efficiency and patient safety.

The essay, by a medical IT professor, Jon Patrick, said several hospitals also reported it "doubled the delay" before emergency patients were first seen by a clinician. He also said the Cerner contract proposal suggested it was giving a "cheap price" on the proviso of a "speedy finalisation of the contract" which left NSW Health with such an "incredibly tight schedule" it stymied proper clinical consultation.

The essay was published late last month but NSW Health asked that it be removed, Professor Patrick said on his website. The university then published it again two weeks later. "I have been able to establish confidently that NSW Health phoned my head of department and asked him to remove the article without giving a specific complaint," Professor Patrick wrote on November 5. On Wednesday, he wrote: "The university has affirmed my right to publish my critical essay and the attempt to censor me has been mitigated."

The Deputy Director-General of NSW Health, Tim Smyth, told the Herald that the acting chief information officer, Craig Smith, contacted the university about the essay but did not ask for it to be removed. "That's entirely a matter for the university but my personal view having read the article is that I don't believe it's balanced, it's certainly not accurate and it certainly misrepresents reality," Dr Smyth said. The assertion of a cut-price deal was "just wrong", he said.

One doctor said: "I prefer looking at a paper result than the counter-intuitive waste of my time trolling [sic] through the system." Another said: "Every single user *hates* it with a passion … ENTERING the data is a pure nightmare."

Cerner FirstNet follows emergency patients and includes test results and statistics such as beds available. It is part of a massive three-year electronic records project due by June.

Professor Patrick has worked on IT projects with permission from area health services but was not asked to assess Cerner FirstNet.


Grim treatment of patients in government mental hospitals in Western Australia

A psychiatric patient claims to have been raped while in the care of WA's mental health system, according to a new report. The disturbing claim was contained in a report by the WA Council of Official Visitors, which includes allegations of serious breaches of mental health patients’ rights.

The patient claimed to have raped by a guest of another resident while staying at a mental health hostel. The Council of Official Visitors supported the rape allegation and the claim led to an upgrade of security at the hostel. The alleged victim has since left the hostel.

Other claims of neglect include allegations that some patients were being tied down and forced to spend the night soaked in their own urine. Food served in mental health facilities was often described as poor by patients. Meanwhile, parents of patients have complained that they are searched before they can see their children as if entering a jail. An elderly female patient said she was not allowed to keep personal belongings like a toothbrush. Some patients had been dumped in maximum security wards for up to six years when they should be cared for in the community.

According to the council, life for patients in these wards was grim. “They live in an artificial locked ward environment, not receiving the type of care which would best enhance their recovery potential,” the report said. “They don’t get to choose when to eat, how much coffee to drink, who to associate with, or if and when to smoke.”

Council of Official Visitors head Debora Colvin said some mental health patients were not given access to the toilet while they are "secured" in a locked ward. Patients are still being forced to travel in the back of a “paddy wagon” for long distances without a break. The report said there were major concerns that second opinions weren't being properly conducted throughout the WA mental health system.

Mental Health Minister Graham Jacobs said there was some good news in the report. Dr Jacobs said it was the first time in 11 years there was a 20 per cent reduction in the number of people who contacted the council to make a complaint. “The natural assumption is we’re doing a little better,” he said.

Dr Jacobs said there was a need for more community supported accommodation for people with a mental illness, which his Government was establishing. “Instead of large cluster homes on hospital grounds we want small home-like facilities in the community,” he said. Dr Jacobs said there had been improvements to secure wards at hospitals in Graylands and Joondalup.

A Mental Health Commissioner is also expected to appointed early next year for WA.


More stockmarket hotshots playing with other people's money -- and losing

St Vincent's hospital board loses $24m on junk bonds. The Sydney Anglican diocese had a similar meltdown over the same period

THE board of one of Sydney's biggest hospitals is under fire after losing more than $24 million on the sharemarket using money taken from trust funds containing public donations and federal government research grants. Senior doctors at St Vincent's Hospital have called for an independent inquiry after discovering about $80 million, some of which was earmarked for new equipment, research projects, education and salaries, was used to buy high-risk bonds, the same kind responsible for triggering the global financial crisis last year in the United States.

Doctors are furious because they say research projects, which had already been granted funding, might now be cancelled and donors will be upset to learn their money has been lost.

The National Health and Medical Research Council forbids its grants being used for any purpose other than the approved project and demands funds be returned if the research is not carried out, but a spokesman for the hospital said its financial and legal advice "doesn't support that argument". He declined to outline how much research money had been used to buy bonds, but denied claims by doctors that the hospital had been attempting to fill an $11 million hole in its budget. "Any idea that millions of dollars were funnelled into our black hole couldn't be further from the truth," he said.

The president of the Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation (NSW), Tony Sara, said the Government must launch an investigation. "We can't have hospitals gambling away vital funds. Staff specialists have undertaken research on the understanding that this money was secure. For them to now turn around and find out that that's not the case is disappointing to say the very least." He said money was also lost from accounts used to pay doctors' salaries. "The personal funds our members have lost must be reinstated immediately … We have already written to St Vincent's Hospital seeking clarification and their legal advice on how they have allegedly allowed this to happen," Dr Sara said.

The hospital said it lost 32 per cent of its investment because it bought securities known as collaterised debt obligations, which are now worthless, but defended its right to use public money. "Trust money gets banked and sometimes the family stipulates we invest that money and use the interest to buy equipment so it is an enduring bequest," the hospital's spokesman said.

In a letter to colleagues, obtained by the Herald, pathologist Andrew Field said donors would not see it that way. "Donors will be extremely upset to lose their donated funds to financial mismanagement by the board. We believe this whole matter will badly damage the St Vincent's Hospital name."

The hospital yesterday promised to underwrite any lost money allocated for research projects and said it had changed its investment strategies since the loss. "St Vincent's has always acted prudently and has conservatively invested in Standard & Poors AA-rated or better portfolios," the spokesman said. "We're very sorry this has happened. We can understand why the doctors feel the way they do, but we did not operate outside the law in the way the money was invested and a lot of companies have had to take sobering losses." [So irresponsibility is OK as long as it is legal??]

The Greens health spokeswoman, Lee Rhiannon, said taking risks was "a sign of a hospital system under stress". "If NSW hospitals were fully funded this quest to find extra cash through dodgy investment schemes would be unnecessary," she said.

The decision to invest was overseen by the former chief executive officer, Mary Foley, and a former chairman, Nick Curtis. Neither still works at the hospital.


Australia a top place to live, say expats

EXPATS rate Australia as the second best place to live in the world, according to a new survey. More than 3000 people living abroad in more than 50 countries responded to the Expat Explorer survey by HSBC. Australia's weather, lifestyle and the ability to integrate with locals came up as the reasons why people voted for Australia.

Canada was voted the best, followed by Thailand and Singapore. Qatar, India, Russia and the United Kingdom ranked poorest.

Those who took part in the survey were asked to vote on food, social life, accommodation, healthcare, working hours, family life, ease of organising finances, ease of finding accommodation and ability to make friends in their adopted country.

HSBC Bank Australia's head of personal financial services Graham Heunis said there was a distinct trade-off between income and overall quality of life. "What is clear is that in locations where salaries may not be as high, like Australia, expats are enjoying not only an increased quality of life but are also finding it easy to fit in to their new communities," he said.

Over half of expats living in Australia own property here compared to the global expat average of 31 per cent.

The survey also confirmed that expats generally enjoy a better quality of life once they move away from their country of origin - so good they are choosing to stay abroad. More than half have lived abroad for more than five years, compared with 45 per cent last year and one in five expats have found love overseas.

Almost half said the better environment and quality of life for their children was the number one reason for staying while 45 per cent said it was experiencing an improvement in their personal health. While making friends is easy for most expats, they prefer to make friends within the expat community


Friday, November 27, 2009

Proof that Australians are more honest

The brain-dead "researchers" below appear to take self-reports at face value. That Americans might be much more prone to saying "the right thing" is not mentioned. Australia does have a tradition of bluntness -- of being "fair dinkum" and not "bunging on an act"

AUSTRALIAN boys are more violent than American boys, new research suggests. A study by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in collaboration with the University of Washington asked almost 4000 students aged 12 to 16 in Victoria and Washington state about violent behaviour. They were asked if in the previous year they had either attacked someone with the idea of seriously hurting them or beaten someone so badly that they required medical treatment.

In the first interview, 12.6 per cent of Victorian boys admitted to such behaviour, compared with 10 per cent of Washington boys. A year later the numbers were even higher: 17.5 per cent in Victorian and 12.6 per cent in Washington. The researchers also compared risk factors for violence between the two groups, and found that in Victoria almost 20 per cent of the students admitted to binge drinking at least once, compared with 8 per cent in Washington.

Other factors linked to violence included low-income households, sole-parent status, family conflict and low school grades. The longitudinal study, published this week by the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, found students who were suspended from school or arrested were 1.5 times more likely to engage in violence 12 months later. [Is that a surprise?]

A researcher, Dr Sheryl Hemphill, said that the higher rate of violence in Australia was unexpected. ''This study is important in determining whether we need to specifically address violent behaviour in Australian boys.'' [It sounds like Hemphill has been having a hill of the hemp herself]


Hate crime?

Then how come not all the victims were black? It sounds like no more than a misguided attempt to chase away some noisy kids to me. Playing the race card has clearly come to Australia

AN Australian Army soldier allegedly shot two boys with an air rifle in a Townsville playground in what one victim's family describe as a "hate crime". Digger Craig James Gordon, 31, is accused of wounding two boys, aged eight and 10, after allegedly firing on a group of seven mostly Aboriginal children playing footy in a park in the north Queensland city. Queensland Police and the Defence Department yesterday provided scant details about the soldier and declined to respond to claims of a racially motivated attack.

Ursula Cedric, mother of victim Lloyd, 8, who was treated in hospital for an open pellet wound in his calf, said she was "horrified" by the alleged shooting about 6.30pm on Wednesday. She said the shooting came amid rising racial tensions in the north Queensland city. "These are innocent kids playing footy in a park," said the Wulguru mother-of-seven. "My little boy is scared to go outside. I'm nervous. It's too much. "We've been threatened in our own home."

She said it had all the hallmarks of being a hate crime. "It must be very embarrassing for the Defence Force to get dragged into all of this," she said.

Defence, in a statement, said they were working closely with Queensland Police on the matter. "Defence has strong policies and guidelines for the handling of all weapons, and does not condone the actions of soldiers who mishandle firearms," it said.

Lloyd told The Courier-Mail he thought he was "going to die". "I thought I had been hit with a rock," he said. "But then I felt the pain and heard the crack of the rifle shot. "I looked down and it was like my leg had been sliced open by a knife. "Someone was shooting at us."

His friend, who is not Aboriginal, suffered a minor pellet graze on the ankle. Another boy claimed he felt a bullet whistle past his head. They said the shooter opened fire from a veranda about 50m away.


Another man dies because of an incompetent government ambulance service

No funds for a GPS in each ambulance but plenty of money for a metastasizing bureaucracy

A NEW South Wales man suffering from a heart attack died before ambulance officers reached him because they got lost and did not have GPS, his wife says. The man's wife of 54 years, Velma McFadden, phoned emergency services from a property on the outskirts of the village of Cullen Bullen, near Lithgow west of Sydney, on September 28, she told Macquarie Radio. She waited for the ambulance to arrive, only to be told it was lost. "He was alive when I started CPR," Mrs McFadden said.

Mrs McFadden said a man waited at the local pub for the ambulance so he could direct it to Mrs McFadden's property, two kilometres from the pub. She received a call advising the ambulance was lost. "I was told they haven't got GPS in their ambulances," she said. "That they would have them up here in a couple of years time in the western area."

By the time the ambulance arrived Mrs McFadden's husband was dead.

In a separate incident in far northern NSW this week, an emergency services operator hung up on a man who needed help at a remote property near Boomi. Stuart Jamieson dialed triple zero to get help for a local man who had become seriously unwell after working in the heat. The call was terminated because Mr Jamieson was unable to provide a street number and the operator could not find his location on a map.

The incident followed an inquest earlier this year that found triple zero operators bungled their response to calls for help from Sydney schoolboy David Iredale because they did not have a street address. The 17-year-old died after he became separated from his two classmates on Mount Solitary during a three-day trek in 2006.


Man waits six years to see a public hospital doctor

TOWNSVILLE man Bill Edwards has waited six years to see a specialist at the Townsville Hospital. Mr Edwards was diagnosed with tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, by his family doctor on November 25, 2003 and was referred to see an ear, nose and throat specialist at Townsville Hospital. But on Wednesday, six years later to the day, Mr Edwards said he was more likely to win the lotto than see an ear specialist. "To me it's more ludicrous than upsetting," he said. "Waiting six years for an appointment is just ridiculous."

Townsville Health Service District executive director of medical services Dr Andrew Johnson yesterday said the six-year wait wasn't good enough. "Waiting six years for a specialist appointment is clearly not good enough and we apologise unreservedly for this regrettable delay," he said.

Mr Edwards, now 54, was diagnosed with tinnitus after taking the drug Zyban to help him stop smoking in 2003. The condition is a possible side-effect for a small portion of the population who take the drug. "I've still got ringing in the ears and it seems like I'm stuck with it," Mr Edwards said. "I just want to have it physically checked out and I need the advice of a specialist on how to proceed. "I'm fairly sure that once you've got it, you can't get rid of it but I would still like to know one way or the other."

Dr Johnson said the Townsville Hospital only had one full-time ear, nose and throat specialist on its staff, who saw around 15 patients a week. Another specialist was due to start in January. "We've had difficulty recruiting ear, nose and throat specialists as we're in competition on a global basis for skilled staff," Dr Johnson said. "Unfortunately, this has affected patients who need to see such specialists." He said the hospital had 1692 referrals for appointments with ear, nose and throat specialists so far this year.

Mr Edwards was admitted to Townsville Hospital twice since 2003, for a back operation in 2006 and for an eye problem in 2008. He said the staff were faultless. "It seems once you are in there it's fine but getting in there is the hard part," he said. "I'm on the lowest scale of urgency but ... even if they saw 10 patients a day - that's 50 a week - I'd have more chance of winning the lotto. "I'm on a disability pension and ... I am entitled to medical help."

Dr Johnson said the hospital had scheduled an appointment for Mr Edwards within the next three months. [Big of him!]

Opposition Health spokesman Mark McArdle said Queensland's hospital waiting lists were the worst in the country. "Queenslanders are putting themselves at risk when they place themselves at the mercy of a health system which is pathologically incapable of meeting their needs," Mr McArdle said.


Child protection workers 'fudging figures'

This lot were once the worst in Australia but they have been overtaken in that by the even-worse DOCS in NSW

A SCATHING Ombudsman's report has identified gross deficiencies in Victoria's child protection service, with workers manipulating figures to cover up children neglected by the system. The report, tabled in state parliament today, found 2197 at-risk children, or one in five, were not allocated a case worker as at June 2009. And many allegations of child abuse and neglect did not receive a timely response.

Staff even reported fudging response records to achieve targets. "I received sworn statements from witnesses that the immediate response indicator is at times manipulated to achieve targets," Ombudsman George Brouwer said in the report. "Senior departmental staff said this performance measure was often recorded as met despite the child not being sighted."

The report said families were often lied to about the case being responded to, despite the child not being seen. "Even where the department meets its performance measures it would appear that compliance does not necessarily equate to an effective response to a report." Nonetheless, the report, Own Motion Investigation into the Department of Human Services, Child Protection Program, blamed lack of resources for poor service quality and said the failures were not a reflection on the staff.

Community Services Minister Lisa Neville admitted there were significant failures in the system and said each of the ombudsman's 42 recommendations would be implemented. Ms Neville said she was "disturbed" that figures had been manipulated. "If this is happening it's unacceptable and will stop," she said.

The department had asked for an investigation of these allegations and would report back within three months, Ms Neville said. She said case workers spent 50 per cent of their time in the Children's Court and this was a significant factor in staff attrition. Some 37 child protection workers had been employed since the government's recruitment drive for an extra 200 staff began.

Attorney-General Rob Hulls said the Children's Court would be overhauled to address flaws in the system. The Law Reform Commission was examining court processes and would report back to the Government within six months. "The courts, the child protection sector and the government are as one on this issue - we want to see a less adversarial system that delivers better results for children and reduces the administrative burden on child protection workers," Mr Hulls said.

Meanwhile, the Child Safety Commissioner has released a report into the death of a two-year-old toddler who died after being abused by her father despite being known to child protection workers. The report has not been made public but the Government said it would adopt each of the recommendations.

Ms Neville described the ombudsman's report as sad and disturbing. "Anyone who has read this report will be disturbed that parents are capable of inflicting this sort of abuse on their children," she said.


Thursday, November 26, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks that conservative leader Malcolm Turnbull is a useless pustule (I paraphrase) -- given Turnbull's determination to support climate change laws.

Will they ever learn? Another NSW ambulance bungle over lack of street address

How many people do they have to kill before they get their act together? These phone helplines where some know-nothing just sits in front of a computer screen are a disaster. They usually fail completely when something non-routine comes up. I have experienced it many times with Telstra and have only got action by writing a letter to the Telstra boss. But writing letters is no help in an emergency. Emergency services should have somebody with local knowledge that they can call on if their computer data is inadequate. With Telstra, I have had arrogant and ignorant operators hang up on me too. That's just how computer-driven helplines deal with non-routine problems

Six months after an inquest found NSW triple-0 operators bungled a series of calls from a dying schoolboy lost in the Blue Mountains, the service has been accused of failing another person in need of help. Stuart Jamieson called the emergency line from a remote property near Boomi in far northern NSW on Monday to get help for a man who had become seriously unwell after working in the heat. An operator ended the call because Mr Jamieson could not provide a street number.

"I gave the road that went past [the location]," Mr Jamieson told Fairfax Radio network today. "They said they wanted a house number. I said there's no house number." Asked what road his property was on, Mr Jamieson said: "The Boomi-Goondiwindi Road. They couldn't find Goondiwindi on a map because ... it's in Queensland. "They said they could not find the Boomi-Goondiwindi Road."

AAP found the road in seconds, with two clicks on Google. Because the operator could not locate Mr Jamieson on a map, she terminated the call. "We were quite prepared to meet the ambulance at the road," Mr Jamieson said. An ambulance eventually arrived after he contacted a local stock and station agent who found help by knocking on the door of the Goondiwindi ambulance service, he said.

The emergency services operator who disconnected his call has since been stood down, The Daily Telegraph reports.

The incident followed an inquest earlier this year into the death of Sydney schoolboy David Iredale. The 17-year-old became separated from his two classmates on Mount Solitary during a three-day trek in 2006. The inquest found three triple-0 operators bungled a series of calls for help he made to them before he died - because they did not have a street address.


Some more observations of Queensland police goons

An email from a reader of With dishonour they serve

Perhaps getting older one becomes more sensitive to things, but since I moved to Cotton Tree at Maroochydore 4 years ago, I have found myself thinking more and more with dissatisfaction on the matter of the police force in Qld, from the most basic level, that being, someone in the street who simply observes and takes note.

Each and every instance of observing members of the police has been unsatisfactory-to-highly unsatisfactory, and here I find myself, searching Google and reading a blog such as yours.

Of late, I witnessed a police car pull up an acquaintance of mine as he was walking home from work, and watching the manner of their interaction with him, I was appalled. It was a police car with 4 members inside, patrolling the very quiet waterside neighbourhood of Cotton Tree. They pulled the car right off the curb in front of this chap, blocking his progress along the footpath, wound down a window and demanded with aggressive tones what he was doing. When he replied he was walking home from the Plaza where he worked as a store manager (he was in full uniform, very neat, with a work bag), they queried him further about his address and place of work, then drove off abruptly with no further comment.

The interaction contained no salutation, no final words of thanks or recognition, nothing, just abrupt, aggressive bullying with absolutely no reason. The person was clearly shaken, quite badly, to the point where I offered to walk him home and hear what had happened in further detail.

I was so taken aback, and so affronted by this event in my little street, in my sleepy neighbourhood, involving a person who in no terms looked like a victim or suspect either, that I actually called the local Maroochydore station, and made a formal complaint.

This in itself was an ordeal, in which I had to endure every effort to shunt my complaint aside, to verbally badger me into recanting and hanging up, and eventually to placing obstacles in my path to making a complaint which I felt was my right, as a taxpaying citizen concerned at the conduct of a public employee. I am not so much of a pushover, and can string a sentence together, an attribute I have found that absolutely infuriates the police communications office, luckily as otherwise my complaint would have gone the way of many others, I am betting.

It seemed that at some point I passed a test, the "do we really have to do something about this person" test, after which a police communications person called me back and addressed the issue, albeit in a way that I suspect meant it would go no further. As it turns out, the car was responding to a call reporting a woman yelling in the area, and they were doing a drive by of the street.

Since then I have kept careful note of all further incidents I have witnessed by police in my town, and I must say, the attitude of dogged rudeness and self entitlement absolutely appalls me. I started out thinking along the lines of your latest blog entry, the hardships of the police job, and the social penalties they must work under, and giving them benefit of the doubt for that. But my observations are all in instances where really ordinary, respectable for lack of a better term, people have born the absolute rudeness and bullying of their local police force.

When an officer cannot enjoy an interaction with a pleasant member of the public, one like my acquaintance who would have been pro-police, polite to a fault, helpful and thankful, then there is something wrong, seriously wrong, in the system. The excuse that they deal with the awful spectrum of humanity, and hence their job is so difficult, no longer pulls weight with me.

As a PhD, a MPsych and a very well travelled, intelligent law abiding citizen (yes after dealing with the communications office one finds oneself pulling out all the armour and giving it a polish) I say the Queensland police force is a repulsive organisation, not fitting of the tax payers dollars to fund it, nor the good will it so belligerently demands.

Toothless police watchdog?

Parliament told CMC head 'refused to act' on complaint about police Mafia. They could at least have looked into it. The claim that it was outside their jurisdiction is risible. Once again we see evidence that the CMC is just a reincarnation of Sir Joh's old Police Whitewash Tribunal

A MAGISTRATE'S wife has detailed explosive claims about how the head of Queensland's corruption watchdog refused to investigate her allegations about cabals of police families committing serious crimes. Respected academic Dr Christine Eastwood has claimed Crime and Misconduct Commission chair Robert Needham failed to act on her allegations that a senior member of his own organisation was a member of one of the families. But Mr Needham last night denied the allegations, saying they appeared to stem from a long-running family dispute.

In a statutory declaration, Dr Eastwood, the wife of Southport magistrate John Costanzo, claims she and her husband held a meeting with Mr Needham in a Coolangatta hotel room in August. Dr Eastwood alleged Mr Needham taped their conversation but refused to accept her complaint. "Towards the end of the meeting, when I expressed concern that he had left me with nowhere to go, he again discouraged me from going to police and reiterated that the CMC would not accept the complaint," she said. "He left the meeting room and refused to take with him any of the documentation I had prepared in relation to the complaint."

Mr Needham said it was a case of "adding one and one and getting 10". "Unfortunately, the emotional situation means their objectivity has totally gone." Mr Needham said the allegations were not in his jurisdiction and did not raise "reasonable" suspicion.

Opposition deputy leader Lawrence Springborg attempted to table Dr Eastwood's declaration yesterday, as well as a complaint and correspondence with the Parliamentary Crime and Misconduct Committee, in Parliament. While Mr Springborg said Dr Eastwood's declaration had not yet been put before the parliamentary committee, Speaker John Mickel stymied the tabling of the documents out of caution not to breach House rules applying to submissions before a committee.

But last night, under federal parliamentary privilege, Liberal MP Peter Lindsay read Dr Eastwood's statutory declaration into the Lower House record.

Dr Eastwood claims in the documents that senior police, including detectives in the fraud squad and in the drug and property crime squad, were potentially involved in serious crimes including fraud, forgery and murder. The documents show Dr Eastwood wrote to the PCMC after Mr Needham allegedly refused to act but she objected to the committee informing the CMC of her complaint to seek a report from the watchdog on the issue. She said such a move could potentially inform the allegedly corrupt police of her complaint, putting her family at risk.

In Parliament, Mr Springborg questioned Attorney-General Cameron Dick on whether he was aware of the issue and if he was satisfied they had been fully investigated. Mr Dick criticised Mr Springborg for trying to table the documents before the PCMC but promised the matter would be properly investigated.

SOURCE. There's a smell of coverup over this -- JR

Token ETS the best idea for Australia

By Greg Sheridan

THE battle of expectations over the Copenhagen climate change conference next month has been fascinating to watch. At first, everything had to be done by Copenhagen, which would produce a binding agreement: targets, offsets, compensation for low-income countries and all the rest. Now everyone knows that nothing real will be achieved at Copenhagen. Of course, whatever happens there will be hailed as a great success. But nothing much will happen.

Watching the debate, I am afraid I have become a climate change agnostic. I am not a denier, nor really a sceptic. I am agnostic. I do not know whether the science that says we're all doomed if we don't de-carbonise the economy is true. Neither does anyone else.

But I am more than half convinced by the argument that we should give the planet the benefit of the doubt. It would be good if we polluted less. I'd like to end the dependence of Western societies on Middle Eastern oil. And one day, even if climate change is not a killer, the world will run out of fossil fuel. So by all means let's diversify our energy sources and clean up our environments. But I don't want us to go broke in the process.

And given that what we physically do in Australia will have almost no effect on the global climate, whatever the scientific faith you choose to believe in, we would be much better off facing the future, whatever it is, as a rich nation rather than a poor one.

In trying to evaluate this issue I have tried to gauge the seriousness of the key players. I'm not convinced that anybody in power anywhere really thinks this is an end-of-the-world issue. Certainly no one is behaving as if it is.

Kevin Rudd said this week that climate change is an "existential, fundamental" issue, then came up with an emissions trading scheme package so recondite and larded with giveaways that it seems unlikely to have any great effect on greenhouse gas emissions. I don't want to misrepresent our beloved PM, but this is really Rudd adopting the agnostic attitude, with his usual rhetoric of moral grandeur attached: sensibly do as little as necessary and see what comes up.

It would be folly for Australia to get out in front. In the end I suspect we'll do more or less whatever the Americans do, plus or minus half a per cent. Copenhagen will not produce anything like the binding deal originally envisaged, but will produce some movement to lower carbon emissions. Australia needs to shelter in the mainstream of developed but resource-rich countries (which really means the US), doing our bit but not overdoing it.

Washington under Barack Obama certainly doesn't appear to regard climate change as an existential question. Obama has clearly given health care a higher priority. He may well announce some sort of target before the Copenhagen meeting but no real economic action will be taken before next year and my guess is the economic action ultimately will be pretty equivocal.

The Europeans look, at times, as though they believe their own rhetoric. But most of their ostensible greenhouse reductions come from switching from coal to gas, decommissioning East German industry, exporting factory jobs to China and creative accounting.

As for China and the other developing nations, there is not the slightest chance they will sign up to any binding targets. To get them on board at Copenhagen, the world has to accept the most spectacularly rubbery figures. China, and all the countries I love such as India and Indonesia, will commit to actions only on the basis of what the boffins call counterfactuals: facts that don't exist.

A couple of years ago Indonesia's environment minister told me his country would cut emissions by 19 per cent. This sounded impressive until I realised he meant 19 per cent of what would have happened had there been no change. That kind of calculation is infinitely malleable.

A couple of weeks ago in New Delhi, India's Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor told me India had 17.5 per cent of the world's population but produced only 4 per cent of emissions. He said: "Per capita we are about 120th in the world. We're not part of the cause of the problem, but we do see the moral need to be part of the solution." He said quite a lot of nice things about the environment, but concluded: "We are still a country that cannot take 24 hours of electricity for granted. Six hundred million Indians are still not connected to electricity. If we approach development as consciously green minded, can we get help for the technology that works? (We also) have a duty to our people's development."

Two things strike me about Tharoor's elegant words. First, where is the technology that works, at anything like a reasonable price, in generating electricity without greenhouse gas emissions? Second, no Indian politician is going to tell 600 million fellow Indians they can't have electricity, but everyone in the West can. I describe this not to condemn it or to praise it but simply to register it as reality. The vast majority of new electricity generation in India, as in China and most of the developing world, comes from coal-fired power stations, and still there is no clean coal technology that works.

You cannot give electricity to 600 million people in India, and similar numbers in China, without massively increasing greenhouse gas emissions. The only technology that could possibly generate electricity on a big scale other than coal is nuclear. The Rudd government shows all its fine words on climate change are not to be taken too seriously by refusing to export uranium to India. No one in the world really takes this issue as seriously as they pretend to. Neither should we.


Sri Lankan government cracks down on people smugglers

I am guessing that this is in part driven by a hope that most of those caught will be Tamils. Sri Lankan Sinhalese have a hatred of Tamils created by many years of ferocious Tamil terrorism -- and a desire for some degree of payback is very understandable

As a further 52 asylum seekers were brought ashore on Christmas Island [Australia] yesterday, a fleet of fishing boats carrying 142 Sri Lankans bound for Australia was intercepted. Sri Lanka's navy last night said it seized the four fishing trawlers off the island nation's southern coast and handed them over to local police.

"The passengers had paid large sums of money to people smugglers to take them abroad," navy spokesman Athula Senarath said. In recent months there has been an increase in the number of Sri Lankans trying to enter Australia, many claiming political asylum - most famously the 72 who ended up aboard Australian Customs vessel Oceanic Viking.

At Christmas Island yesterday, however, the 52 new arrivals - brought to land under the watchful eye of an Australian Federal Police contingent - were Afghans.

They were transferred from an Australian Customs vessel standing off the island and conveyed by barge to the public wharf in Flying Fish Cove, where interpreters were waiting with buses to take them to the island's detention centres. Sources said the latest group comprised 39 adult males, one adult female and 10 minors, plus two crew.

Extra security precautions have been in place since Saturday night's violent riot at the island's principal immigration detention centre - where the men will be housed while their identity and security checks are carried out.

The women will be put in temporary accommodation of prefabricated huts behind barbed wire in the grounds of the recreation centre and at an adjacent construction camp. The male arrivals will put further stress on the already overcrowded camp, which was built to hold 400, expanded to cope with 800 and has recently held more than 1000. On Monday, nearly 70 people who were processed on Christmas Island were informed they were to be granted permanent visas and taken to Australia. [A reward for forcing the gates!]


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hungry Jack's criticized over monster burger

"Hungry Jack's" is the Australian branch of America's "Burger King". When something is attacked by "the chairman of the Sydney World Action on Salt and Health", you know you are dealing with an attention-seeking fraud -- and you can be pretty sure that the truth is the reverse of what he says -- since a low salt diet REDUCES your lifespan. The full range of scientific evidence shows NO basis for the salt phobia. Salt deficiency ("hyponatremia") is however a major cause of death in some settings. Google it

HEALTH experts are demanding warning labels be put on a new burger that contains almost twice as much saturated fat and 40 per cent more salt than the recommended daily intakes. Hungry Jack's double Angry Angus, packed with deep fried onion rings, two slices of cheese, two beef patties and several rashers of bacon, contains 26 grams of saturated fat and 5.6 grams of salt - 10 grams more saturated fat and 1.6 grams more salt than the daily intake recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Eating the Angry Angus would cause a diner's blood pressure to rise immediately and eating it regularly would cause chronic high blood pressure, leading to heart attack, kidney failure and stroke, the chairman of the Sydney World Action on Salt and Health, Bruce Neal, said yesterday. Children who eat a high sodium diet risk developing obesity, asthma and high blood pressure. "Hungry Jack's appears to have little commitment to the health of their consumers. In the context of our national obesity crisis this type of product is reckless," Professor Neal said.

Australians should eat one to two grams of salt a day but most ate about nine grams, he said. If that was cut to six grams, the chances of heart attack or stroke would drop 15 to 20 per cent. "If manufacturers were forced to use front-of-pack warnings, they would reform their products pretty quickly to ensure they didn't have to carry that label," he said.

The chief executive of the Heart Foundation, Tony Thirlwell, said the company was behaving irresponsibly. "The burger has a great title because it makes me doubly angry. It is highly disappointing that a manufacturer in modern-day Australia would consider serving this to people. "To think that you could have only one of these burgers every two days and nothing else is a ridiculous idea." [It's the food "standards" that are ridiculous]

He called on food manufacturers to put pressure on Hungry Jack's to act responsibly before the Government was forced to step in, banning or taxing high-calorie meals. "This behaviour is not in the best interests of the food industry or the consumers because this burger can cause serious heart disease." [Proof?]

Hungry Jack's did not respond to the Herald's inquiries but late yesterday altered the nutritional figures on its website, lowering the saturated fat content for the double Angry Angus to 21.3 grams and salt to 4.5 grams.

An associate professor in nutrition and dietetics at the University of Newcastle, Clare Collins, said people needed protection against "monster foods". "It's shocking," she said. "We don't need a burger like this. It should carry a message saying 'increase your health premium now because you'll need it for your coronary care'."

A survey this year found three-quarters of sandwiches and burgers sold by McDonald's, Subway, Oporto, Red Rooster, KFC and Hungry Jack's contained over half the maximum daily allowance of salt in a single serve.


More racist "justice"

A disgrace that this had to go to appeal after previous protests and appeals over judicial racism

An Aboriginal man who raped a pregnant woman was given leniency because of his race and background, the Court of Appeal ruled today. Justices Marcia Neave and Robert Redlich said the sentence imposed on Rodney Daryl Moore, who raped a woman who was eight months' pregnant, was "manifestly inadequate". They upheld an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions, who argued that too much weight was given to his background and that Aboriginal offenders should not be sentenced more leniently than non-Aboriginal offenders.

"It appears that his Honour, for reasons of compassion, gave too much weight to the offenders deprived and tragic circumstances," said Justices Neave and Redlich. "The sentence imposed on Mr Moore is so disproportionate to the objective gravity of the offence as to shock the public conscience."

Moore, 24, was originally sentenced in the County Court at Mildura to four years and six months in jail, with a non-parole period of two years and six months, after pleading guilty to rape and aggravated burglary. He was re-sentenced today to five years and six months with a non-parole period of four years.

Justices Neave and Redlich said Judge Michael Bourke recognised that Moore’s Aboriginality had contributed to his disadvantaged background of alcohol, drug abuse and violence. But this had to be balanced against the gravity of the offence, general and specific deterrence, community protection and the respondent’s prospects of rehabilitation.

The DPP argued in the appeal that legal precedent dictated that race should play no part in sentencing. Justices Neave and Redlich said a previous appeal decision had stated "in sentencing persons of Aboriginal descent, the court must avoid any hint of racism, paternalism or collective guilt".

In the judgment, the court said Moore broke into the home of his 21-year-old victim in the early hours of January 10, 2006. The night was extremely warm and the woman, who lived alone, was lying naked on a mattress on the floor to keep cool. Justices Neave and Redlich said that after he raped her Moore said "everyone f***s you’’ which suggested he regarded her as nothing more than an object for his sexual use.

Moore told a psychologist who examined him that he regarded the victim as a "slut". He had prior convictions for aggravated burglary, the appeal judges said, and for offences involving violence. Moore had previously received two community based orders and Judge Bourke found that his prospects for rehabilitation were not good.

"The attack was a violent one," Justices Neave and Redlich said. "The appellant (Moore) invaded the victims home in the early hours of the morning and raped her while she was in an advanced state of pregnancy. "Not surprisingly, the victim was terrified and the rape has had lasting effects on her. (His) impaired mental functioning could not substantially eliminate his responsibility for the offending."


Emissions Trading Scheme will cost Australian families $1100 a year

KEVIN Rudd's Emissions Trading Scheme will increase the average family's bills by about $1100 a year. Based on the Federal Government's own modelling, by 2012 the ETS will add more than 20 per cent to electricity tariffs - a surge of nearly $300 for typical households already reeling in New South Wales from a similar blow from the state pricing tribunal in July. And industry forecasts predict grocery prices could surge 5 per cent once the estimated price of carbon is imposed, making stocking a home larder $520 more expensive, The Daily Telegraph reports.

For those on lower incomes, overall costs are tipped to rise $630. While lower in dollar terms this represents a bigger slice of their outgoings. They will be compensated by taxpayers - the Government yesterday vowed nine in 10 poorer households would receive more than what the ETS added to their bills but middle-income families won't get the same deal.

The Government's latest changes to the proposed ETS actually reduce consumer compensation by $5.8 billion over the next decade. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said the high Australian dollar meant the carbon price would be lower, so less compensation was required.

Experts said that higher-earning households looking to limit the financial impact of the scheme would either need to spend up on going green or cut back on power use.

National Institute of Economic and Industry Research head Dr Peter Brain, author of the most commonly cited study into the cost of the ETS for households, said: "It's carrot and stick. It has to be. Otherwise emissions won't decline by anything like the rate required."

Mr Rudd said the latest version of the ETS would ensure that Australia could "achieve its ambitious unconditional target" of a 5 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 when compared with 2000 levels and its conditional target of 15-25 per cent.

Energy price comparison service GoSwitch CEO Ben Freund said: "What the Government wants people to do is shift from cheaper sources of power to more expensive sources like wind and solar. "How do you make people do that? By making the expensive sources of energy more compelling. And you do that by making the cheaper sources of energy more expensive."

Professor Joshua Gans from the Melbourne Business School said the other way middle - and higher - income families could limit the impact was to cut power usage. "The idea of the CPRS is not to cause people to spend more on electricity. It is to change their behaviour so they don't spend more on electricity," Professor Gans said.

Small business owners James and Kylie White, of Botany, said they were worried about how much the ETS was going to cost them. "It's obviously a concern, coupled with the interest rates heading back up," Mr White, 34, said. "Over the last 12 months we have been seeing less and less income and the bills increasing. This is going to make it a little bit tougher."


Infamy, insanity, inanity in Australia's proposed climate laws

We had a prime minister who declared economic war on his own country. And an opposition leader who spent the rest of the day trying desperately to make it unanimous. Finally, succeeding. Or, perhaps not.

As I wrote yesterday this is one case where the devil is not in the detail. So making the detail of the Emissions Trading Scheme seemingly 'better' is without the slightest merit. And indeed is worse even in its own distorted terms. The ETS remains a direct, if slightly diverted attack against our national interest, against the very foundation not just of our economy but of our society. And it is completely incompatible with the government's population growth 'policy,' for want of a better word.

Yes, the extra 'assistance' to the power industry would probably help - literally - to keep the lights on in the short term. But only in the short term, and only if the debts of Victoria's power stations are guaranteed by the federal government, whether directly or indirectly.

There still wouldn't be another coal-fired power station built anywhere in Australia while this insanity prevails - while dozens are built in China and India.

And with nuclear also prohibited, we would face an 'interesting' intersection point between population, power and permits some time around 2015. Not, obviously, that nuclear could have 'saved us' in just five years anyway. That's when a bigger population demands more power; there isn't any; and all that 'generous assistance' is reaching its use-by date and then we face the prospect of the existing power stations going broke or breaking down.

This is when the reality of prime ministerial insanity catches up with Australia. Not even in 'distant 2020' but a few years before that. Because all that so-called assistance doesn't alter the basic reality of the ETS and the government's overall Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

What's in a name? Digressing, one really wonders how Kevin Rudd and his co-destroyer Penny Wong can literally live with themselves, as they spread the same 'pollution' every breath of their lives. As Rudd said yesterday, seemingly proudly, certainly totally unaware of his own stupidity: "the deal will ensure that Australia can achieve its ambitious unconditional target of 5 per cent (reduction in CO2 emissions), conditional target of up to 15 per cent and top-end target of 25 per cent off 2000 levels by 2020." This is the bottom line that isn't altered by all the extra so-called assistance. That once the ETS is in place, we are legislatively committed to cutting CO2 emissions by 5 per cent by 2020, whatever - the nothing - that the rest of the world does.

So if coal-fired power stations emit more as a consequence of their extra assistance, the cuts have to come from somewhere else. Or we pay foreigners for the right to over-emit. Doesn't sound too tough? Just 5 per cent? But factor in our roaring population growth and we have to cut by closer to 33 per cent per person. And do it in just 10 years!

Now committing to something like this this would be bad enough coming from any leader of any country. Directly attacking the wellbeing of its citizens. Especially when that leader knows, and I mean knows, that it is utterly pointless, even in his own misconceived terms, as no-one of major emitting substance is going to follow.

Coming from the leader of a country whose entire economy is built on carbon-based energy and the export of carbon-based products, it is criminally - there really are no other words for it - insane. In the context of my opening reference, it is as if Rudd himself had launched the planes on our Pearl Harbor, our economy.

In this case, double apologies are due to the author of the original quote, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The usual apology for amendment. The additional one for associating it with something and someone so grubby.


Victorian parliamentary committee says mens-only clubs should be allowed to restrict entry

ELITE clubs should retain the right to restrict entry to men or women only, a parliamentary committee has recommended. A report tabled in State Parliament yesterday said that gender-specific venues, including the upmarket Melbourne and Athenaeum clubs on Collins St, should be able to continue to operate as single-sex institutions, despite a campaign by Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls for them to lose their exemptions from anti-discrimination laws.

Earlier this year, Mr Hulls said that the predominantly men's-only clubs had become outdated.

The report by the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee recommended yesterday that freedom of association was a "fundamental human right" that should be balanced against the right to non-discrimination. "The committee does not recommend a change that would prevent single-sex clubs from continuing their operations or require them to seek an exemption in order to continue their operations," the report says.

Mr Hulls said the Government would consider the recommendations: "While the recommendations in relation to private clubs appear unclear and somewhat confusing , the committee did recommend that Section 78 of the current legislation, which allows clubs to be exempt from anti-discrimination laws as of right, be amended."


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Socialist attack on childcare businesses

"Childcare centres are not just a business – they must be in the services of the common good". "Gemeinnutz vor Eigennutz", as Hitler put it. Businesses can be badly run but any bureaucratic substitute is going to be a lot worse

CHILDCARE regulation should be overhauled to remove the profit-driven problems leading to the massive collapse of the ABC Learning empire, a senate committee has found.

A 12-month inquiry into child care tabled in the Senate last night recommended the formation of a new national statutory body as part of an overhaul of the multibillion-dollar industry. The report was damning of the business approach taken by ABC Learning, whose collapse last year sparked the inquiry. "That an organisation catering for up to 25 per cent of the long-day care market should fail so rapidly following its rise to market dominance says as much about the deficiencies in childcare policy and regulation as it does about highly questionable business practices of the company," the report found.

It recommended small-scale or individual independent operators and not-for-profit and community-based organisations as the best to provide services. "Childcare centres are not just a business – they must be in the services of the common good," the report said.

A boost to funding was also highly recommended by the senate committee, especially to services for disadvantaged children and those in rural, remote or poorer areas.

The report said economic modelling of various childcare funding models should be done to find the most effective way to increase spending on the sector.

While looking at current state regulations, the committee found Queensland had improved services by tightening up on centre-hopping. It cut back the amount of time newly recruited carers could work without qualifications as some were avoiding minimum training by changing centres.

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said it was now up to the Federal Government to commit to reform.


Learning to add up by using calculators?

YEAR 2 students are learning to add up on calculators in a Cairns school. Mother-of-four Fleur Nightingall was disgusted when her seven-year-old son Jayden's teacher at Trinity Beach State School asked for him to be supplied with a calculator to learn maths for his year 2 classes next year. "I just shook my head. I was stunned," Mrs Nightingall said. "I didn't start using calculators until year 7, but you had to show you could work out your sums on paper without using a calculator. "My son is still learning how to do sums on paper, let alone getting a calculator. It's disgusting - absolutely disgusting."

Education Queensland maintains the calculators support students' mathematics learning and does not detract from this focus.

Ms Nightingall said she had been disappointed by the standard of numeracy being taught in the early years of school. "I think the education department is letting down my son," she said. "I just can't think of any good reason why he needs to learn this in year 2, he just doesn't need to learn how to use a calculator. "I've spoken to a few people, and they just think it's a joke."

James Cook University academic Professor Peter Ridd, who has been vocal on slipping standards of numeracy within state schools, said it was worrying students were being tempted to use calculators at such an early age. "It is a worry that by giving them a calculator, it's a crutch and then they never learn to do arithmetic properly," Prof Ridd said. He said calculators were banned from first-year mathematics exams at JCU, in order to challenge students' mental arithmetic skills. "Their skills are almost universally woeful at first-year level," Prof Ridd said. "They're a little unhappy to start off with, but they accept it well. By the end of the year, their mental arithmetic is tremendous."

The Tableland-based president of the Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens Associations, Margaret Black, said she had been assured the school calculators played only a minor role in year 1 and 2 students’ learning. Calculators were taught as part of a national test in numeracy. "Using the calculator is one out of 44 subjects being taught," Ms Black said. "It's a necessity for our children to sit the national testing."

An Education Queensland spokeswoman said the department placed a strong emphasis on improving literacy and numeracy standards in state schools. "It is important for their future learning that students learn to use appropriate technologies from an early age," she said. "The Australian Association of Mathematics recommends that all students have ready access to calculators and computers to support and extend their mathematics learning."


The lawyer who under-charged...and other fairytales

Heard the one about the lawyer who charged like a perfectly reasonable, unmolested, even-tempered bull? Me neither. There are plenty of them, but it is the horror stories and the bills so far-fetched that they read like cruel jokes that get repeated at barbecues and in organs such as this one. The $50 or $100 accounts for opening Christmas cards, returning an umbrella, or photocopying, for example. There have been some crackers told in the past year.

Sydney man Mohammed Tariq has been plying his one-man stand-up comedy act on the steps of the city's courthouses, employing a sandwich board, a pony and a donkey as props and telling the ones about the welcome letter he received from Keddies Lawyers ($60, ker-ching) and the two-kilometre taxi ride his family was billed for (that'll be $600, thank you). A costs assessor, barrister Michael Robinson, recommended Keddies refund Tariq $37,000 because of what he called deliberate "systematic duplication and overcharging".

Legal bills have become such a sought-after form of popular entertainment that the consumer group Choice went looking this year and found one poor sucker whose lawyer charged $750 for the typing of a three-page document.

The great irony, of course, is that the farcical bills that come to light are often the more honest ones, where a lawyer has been silly enough to list their actual activity on the ledger. Consumers of legal services should be given a glossary, informing them that the all-too-common entries of "case management" or "strategy advice" can mean anything from "Opening Christmas card" to "flirting with paralegals", "choosing fancy dress costume online for Natasha's Halloween party", or "scratching self".

The root of the problem is the absurd six-minute billing system that persists in most legal firms. For the unitiated, here is how it works: I just spent a good six minutes thinking about how to begin this article. If I were a lawyer, I would now be obliged to enter "Thinking about how to begin article" in a cell on a ledger — or something more presentable, such as "One-person strategy meeting". I might even be tempted to say I'd begun it. "Started article". "Drafted mildly-arresting opening". Anything but "thinking". Even if I'd only spent two minutes thinking about it, I'd bill the full six to you, the reader. Six minutes later, I'd have to record what I did next.

I've never said this before, but it's enough to make you feel sorry for lawyers. Any wage slave who feels their boss circles like a seagull should spare a thought for the poor sharks in suits who have to account for every tiny block of their working day with a pithy description. The accounting alone must take up a good half hour a day, and most have onerous "budgets" to meet; a minimum number of hours they must bill. Is it any wonder that many bills read like an exquisite work of fiction, and that some are simply laughable?

Even such luminaries as Joe Catanzariti, president of the NSW Law Society and partner at top-shelf firm Clayton Utz, agree that six-minute billing is counter-productive. But no one quite knows how to do away with it.

The financial crisis has led to some change in the way firms bill large commercial clients, but a survey last week by Melbourne's Institute of Knowledge Development confirmed six-minute-ism was here to stay, particularly for so-called "retail" clients like Joe Average. As one law firm partner said, a "smorgasbord" of alternative billing methods is being prepared, "but everyone keeps taking the chicken because it's safe".

Compensation lawyers believe contingency fees are the answer for retail clients, where lawyers get a percentage of the client's winnings, pure and simple — and only if they win. But the jury is still out on contingency fees in Australia; they remain illegal and mistrusted as an Americanism that we don't want down under.

Dodging the bigger issue, a federal government taskforce has determined to put a stop to joke bills by banning the charging-up of administrative costs. In a discussion paper released this week, the taskforce said firms should absorb menial costs that lawyers have been passing on, "including opening files, sending 'welcome letters', sending or reading 'thank you' and Christmas cards, closing files, reordering an untidy file, the use of a legal practitioner's trust account, the use of a telephone directory, or charging for contributions to professional indemnity insurance".

But will those costs simply be shifted onto another part of the bill and disguised in less explicit terms? That will be alleviated, the paper says, by better regulation, which is where the taskforce's suggestion of a national legal ombudsman comes in. One regulator to rule them all, is the idea. Up to 40 per cent of complaints against lawyers in some parts of Australia relate to overcharging and there are 55 different bodies that regulate the legal profession around the country, the Choice report found.

They're the sort of numbers that inspired federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland to tap the public mood by describing anyone who hires a lawyer in Australia today as being "up the creek without a paddle".

Under the current system in most states, making a complaint about overcharging pits a client against their own lawyer on a very uneven legal playing field. In NSW, for example, gripes go to mediation or to a costs assessor, and if you still can't out-negotiate your lawyer, they continue to a tribunal or a court. The NSW Office of the Legal Services Commissioner — which has no power to decide the disputes itself — dealt with 1544 consumer disputes last year and said hundreds were closed after reductions or waivers of bills.

Former costs assessor Paul Garde has said that in NSW and Victoria, where upfront costs disclosure is already compulsory, many lawyers still aren't doing it. When it comes to legal bills, it seems the truth is entirely negotiable.

So national regulation with teeth is sorely needed. The sticking point now is who will set the rules and how will they be enforced? The Federal Government, consumer advocates and the taskforce itself want an independent board to set standards and a consumer representative to play a role. What do the lawyers say about that? They want consumers to pay for the regulation but to be left out of setting the rules. "We are a proud and independent profession and we won't have imposed on us rules that are unacceptable to the profession. That just does not work," Law Council president John Corcoran wrote in a submission.

Self-regulation has got us to where we are now. If lawyers don't want to be the butt of jokes, it's time they got real about protecting naive clients from the sharks in their midst.

Have you heard the one about 100 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? If jokes like that are to stop doing the rounds, consumer protection would be a good start.


Rednecks! The new racist term for ordinary Australians who are critical of illegal immigration

As a moderator of comments for I see a lot of intolerance expressed in the debate over asylum seeker boats, especially from a vocal minority prepared to get very nasty. The Oceanic Viking has stirred the asylum debate. The comments from this quarter typically employ broad-brush terms of abuse to stereotype on the basis of nationality.

The targets of these hateful attacks are Australians. The most popular terms of abuse are “redneck” and “racist”. Those commenting along these lines normally express a boundless compassion for asylum seekers. Strangely however, they seem completely devoid of any interest in sympathetically understanding the views of their fellow citizens, without name calling.

The overwhelming sentiment I’ve seen online mirrors what opinion polls say, most want a hard line on boat people. Undoubtedly sometimes this does reflect racism or xenophobia and a desire to keep Australia “white”. I occasionally see these type of comments.

What is more interesting, I think, are the other reasons repeatedly given by those advocating a hard line. The general sentiment is that the boat people are queue jumpers. Often the strongest outrage is from people who have recently migrated or know others trying to. Australia is not an easy country to move into, the process can be long and expensive. So for people to sail in and simply claim residency upsets many, whatever the boat people’s circumstances. For all our supposed larrikinism, Australians, I’d say, value law and order. They like those who “do the right thing” and “go through the proper channels”.

The legalistic argument that asylum seekers are not jumping the queue because “there is no queue to jump” generally doesn’t wash. There is a UN process for refugee settlement readily available offshore and it certainly puts you in a long bureaucratic queue, one that may take years. When some asylum seekers are seen to get a special deal, as appears to have happened for those who occupied the Oceanic Viking, it looks even more unfair.

Another sentiment often expressed by those opposing asylum boats is that those onboard will become welfare bludgers and we have lots of other things to spend money on. Australia resettles migrants with extensive welfare and social community support, teaches them English and provides training to those who can enter the workforce. That’s all well and good because jobs are the key to upward social mobility for migrant groups. Without plentiful jobs you are likely to perpetuate welfare slums, crime and often alienation extending into a second generation.

All the high wage and highly economically regulated countries in Europe that have relatively high and entrenched levels of unemployment have struggled with immigration. Many make it difficult for outsiders to become full citizens. Some, like Denmark, are even paying migrants to go back. Many have trouble with ethnic populations, who sometimes war in tribes against the police, as in France. Some nations have seen the rise of anti-immigration parties.

Britain with low minimum wages has had high migration but it isn’t escaping the other problems, especially during an economic downturn.

The world’s most successful immigrant society is America, at least by scale. America has resettled the “huddled masses”, including large refugee communities and millions of illegal migrants. This has been done by basically saying people should look after themselves, with minimum welfare offered and not even universal healthcare but usually free education. What America traditionally provided was plenty of low wage jobs that require no skills and limited or no English.

In Australia we do not believe in low wage jobs. So except in times of real economic boom unskilled migrants without English will have few employment prospects.

Sometimes it seems widely forgotten, even by Australian Workers Union boss Peter Howes when he talked about “Labor hero stuff” in leading the debate for a more welcoming approach, that Labor heroes of yore were leaders in keeping people out. The unions and Labor were strong advocates of the White Australia immigration policy. The traditional aim was to preserve Australian wages and conditions against the hordes of cheap Asian workers.

I would suggest that most people who call their fellow Australians rednecks or racists often also value award-set high wages, extensive economic regulation with universal and generous welfare. Probably many of these same people have environmental concerns and support policies that will result in higher costs of resources and lower economic growth. None of this is really compatible with increased humanitarian immmigration on a major scale, or perhaps greatly increased immigration of any sort.

Tightly controlled borders are the precondition of much of the Australia we know, the barrier behind which “the Lucky Country” (said with or without irony) was built. Having our borders opened in a major way would threaten to undermine this. We would likely see a less orderly Australia, a less equal one and perhaps a less safe one.

On the other hand it would be more interesting, more dynamic and more exciting. Personally I’d pick the more exciting version. I acknowledge though that I am pretty well economically protected from the real costs and pressures of increased immigration, whether that is competing for unskilled jobs or living in a potentially high crime suburb. I suspect many of those who want the boats welcomed are in a similarly fortunate situation. I’d also guess many are just as committed to preserving the insular “Australian way of life” as the people they call “rednecks”.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Rudd government’s non-solution to hospital crisis a wasteful threat to private practice

By Dr Jeremy Sammut

Under the $275 million Super Clinics program, the Rudd government is funding the start-up costs involved in bringing together GPs and allied health professionals, such as physiotherapists and podiatrists, who want to amalgamate their practices into an initial 36 ‘one-stop shops.’

This move has the potential to nationalise Australian general practice, and the Doctors’ Action group is right to be worried about the impact of Super Clinics on the traditional family GP.

Why would young doctors buy into an established practice when they join a Super Clinic for free with the capital costs paid for courtesy of taxpayers?

The legitimate fear is that state-funded Super Clinics represent creeping socialism and will render private practice uncompetitive. Once it becomes too costly and difficult to establish a private surgery from scratch, future governments might force doctors to work in Super Clinics on a salaried basis.

The official rationale for Super Clinics is they will take the pressure off overcrowded public hospitals. But in reality, taxpayer’s money is being wasted on a non-solution for the hospital crisis.

Every credible study shows that public hospitals are dangerously overcrowded because of the national shortage of hospital beds, which forces over one-third of all seriously ill emergency patients to wait longer than eight hours to be admitted to a bed.

Yet the Rudd government maintains Super Clinics have already proven worthwhile. A Tasmanian Super Clinic has reportedly reduced the number of people with minor illness turning up at the nearby emergency department by 13%.

A number of previous studies have demonstrated that patients with minor conditions such as a cold or sore toe account for only between 10 and 15% of total emergency presentations.

The same studies have also shown that treating these patients constitutes a mere a fraction, 2 to 3%, of the total emergency workload, and that it is far cheaper to treat them in the emergency department rather than incur the capital and infrastructure cost of establishing alternative GP facilities.

In other words, diverting ‘GP-style’ patients into Super Clinics is imposing a huge cost per occasion of service on the federal budget. The Rudd government’s highly inefficient spending on Super Clinics makes a mockery of its supposed commitment to micro-economic reform.

Dr Jeremy Sammut is a Research Fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies and author of ‘The False Promise of GP Super Clinics’ and ‘Why Public Hospitals are Overcrowded.’

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated November 20. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Teachers warned off online Facebook contact with students

This is a bit authoritarian but is probably prudent

TEACHERS would be banned from contacting students on social-networking websites like Facebook or Myspace under proposed changes to their code of ethics. The move comes after the WA College of Teaching disciplinary committee reprimanded about 10 teachers in the past year for inappropriate cyber interaction with students. The behaviour included teachers sharing private photos with students and in some cases engaging in online sexual innuendo.

WACOT's disciplinary committee chairwoman, Theresa Howe, said the code of ethics needed to be updated to specifically target inappropriate and over-friendly computer correspondence between students and teachers. ``We're seeing an increase in it and it has to be specifically addressed," she said. ``That should be in both the code of ethics and in professional development courses for teachers."

Under proposed changes, teachers would be banned from becoming friends with students on social-networking sites. Ms Howe said she would take the matter to the WACOT board. She revealed that online behaviour was central to half the investigations conducted by the committee in the past year.

WA Council of State School Organisations president Rob Fry last night agreed that any cyber contact between teachers and students was fraught with problems. ``I do know that there have been issues where teachers have gone down this track and it has caused some very distressing problems," Mr Fry said. ``The problem for a teacher can be that they form a close relationship of a platonic nature that unfortunately can get misinterpreted. ``Once the damage is done and the finger is pointed, the mud sticks. ``There has got to be a barrier between the relationship of a student and a teacher. ``That barrier cannot be crossed."

Catholic Education Office of WA director Ron Dullard said his schools already banned teachers from becoming friends with students on social-networking websites. ``It is covered by our internet protocols and relationships with students," he said. ``We would see that it would be inappropriate for it to occur. ``Teachers shouldn't accept students as a friend unless it is a relative." Mr Dullard said internet guidelines for teachers at Catholic schools were revised every two years to keep pace with the changing medium.

Some independent WA schools have started advising teachers against creating personal profiles on websites such as Facebook or MySpace. Association of Independent Schools of WA executive director Valerie Gould said teachers were told to remember that any information on public websites could be accessed by students and parents.

Education Department boss Sharyn O'Neill said teachers and staff must maintain appropriate boundaries in their relationships with pupils. ``The department expects teachers to exercise common sense and act on the side of caution when dealing with students," she said. The Education Department is reviewing its code of conduct for teachers.


A typical Telstra experience

I too have got this sort of "service". One overseas helpline operator could not understand what I was saying at all so just hung up on me. Sheer arrogance. I should have been referred to someone higher up, preferably back in Australia

Like most horror stories, this one begins with an everyday setting where the familiar gradually gives way to the sinister. The first harbinger of the pain to come, not recognised at the time, was a letter sent out to me and millions of other Australians on July 20 by Ramon Gregory, "Executive Director, Customer Sales and Service", at Telstra, Australia's largest service company. This places Gregory at the centre of an enormous commercial machine, with huge databases, thousands of operators in call centres, and billions of customer inquiries recorded with Orwellian efficiency.

A study of the conditions in call centres conducted by Ruth Barton of RMIT University, released last week, found high stress levels and oppressive management control, as call centres field an average of 16 million calls a day.

Ramon Gregory's letter was also oppressive. It announced that people who paid their Telstra bill by return mail, or in person, or by credit card, would in future be charged a $2.20 "payment administration fee". He suggested various ways to avoid the fee, which actually did not avoid the fee at all. The letter was so infuriating and so poorly drafted that Telstra customers made their displeasure known in an outbreak of spontaneous combustion. Telstra rescinded the fee earlier this month.

But the company's latent aggression remains. Last Wednesday, my internet service was cut off by Telstra even though I have paid my bills on time, year-in, year-out, with a Telstra home phone account, and a Telstra cable account, and a Foxtel account. My bank statement shows Telstra banked my latest cheque on October 19. I had assumed I would be treated as a valued customer and notified before any drastic, summary action took place. How naive.

Telstra has shown, repeatedly, that it does not grasp the concept of political and consumer blowback. That's why the Rudd Government is destroying Telstra's market value, and why I have the Telstra support number, 133 933, programmed into my mobile phone, because losing service is part of the Telstra experience.

When I called Telstra's inquiry number at 9am last Wednesday, I got a "consultant" called Craig. When he turned out to be a drama queen, I began taking notes. When I suggested that Telstra should have contacted me before taking such draconian action, given my long history of reliability, Craig threw a tantrum. "You can't expect us to send out 50,000 notices to people," he said. Yes, I do. It's part of the service.

"You have to step up to the plate!" Craig replied. "It's your responsibility!" I asked him why he was treating me like a retard. He directed me to "credit management". I called credit management and got a message: "All our operators are busy. You have been placed in a queue." I was not surprised.

A heavily-accented young man came on the line and gave his name as "Matt". I realised I had been directed to a call centre in India when Matt insisted my name was not Sheehan. After he had called me "Mr Goodhope" three times I hung up.

The next operator was "Beau". He, too, was Indian, and simply not coherent. I politely abandoned the call and tried again. Next on the line was "Chari", another Indian. He was the first person I could describe as pleasant and competent that day. He set up a direct debit payment system for future bills, took care of the small outstanding amount, and thanked me for the call, the first of the five Telstra operators to do so. He said my service would be quickly restored.

It was not. It was still blocked the next day. And so the merry-go-round resumed. I was directed to technical support, because the billing department said there was no problem. A technician told me to switch off my modem and then try again. That did not work.

I called the original number again. Another heavily accented operator eventually responded. Her name was "Marie". "Are you in Australia?" I asked. "No," she replied. She told me I could not have my service restored because my account had not been paid. "You need to speak to the billing department." I told her I had spoken to the billing department at great length. She was adamant.

I called the billing department and Kirsty came on the line. She was working from a call centre on the Gold Coast. When I explained that she was the eighth person I had spoken to in two days, and my account was fully paid, she put me on hold and got someone further up the food chain. When she came back, she said the problem was a "shadow" payment system, which was showing my account to be inoperative. Kirsty was a pleasure to deal with, and restored my service.

The real problem was not the shadow payment system. It was the incompetent Indian call centre operators, and it was Telstra's attitude towards its customers. Nothing of my experience will show up on Telstra's key performance indicators.

And Ramon Gregory, it turns out, is yet another American brought in to run Australia's service giant. That explains his tin ear. I received another letter from him on Friday: "Telstra is reinventing the home phone," he proclaimed. He was selling an upgrade called the Telstra T-Hub. I'm interested in going in exactly the opposite direction - getting rid of the Telstra fixed line altogether. And that's just the start.

By the standards of global telco giants, Telstra is an efficient, productive enterprise, but you have to ask at what cost to us, the people who used to own the company, and are now the company's serfs?


Unbelievable: New South Wales shark spotters gagged

Someone should drop Nathan Rees into the middle of a pack of sharks at this rate

Helicopter shark patrols over NSW beaches this summer will be gagged by the State Government, which last year kept secret warnings about the predators. Despite New South Wales Premier Nathan Rees's promises of open and transparent government, secrecy demands are part of the tender documents for a trial of government-funded helicopter surveillance this summer.

The tender document includes the condition: "Neither the contractor nor crew shall communicate in any way with any media organisation or media representative concerning any aspect of aerial surveillance shark patrol trial without the express written authority of I&I NSW, and must refer all such inquiries to the I&I NSW Media Unit." I & I NSW is the state government department Industry & Investment NSW, based in Orange.

Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald, sacked by Mr Rees last weekend, did not mention warnings of unusually high shark numbers last summer by a privately funded chopper patrol. Within months of the warnings he kept secret, there were three serious shark attacks in Sydney. The trial patrols beaches from December 19 to January 10.


No ambulance service: Uproar as patients must travel in the back of a truck from a Queensland country town

The interesting thing about this story is that it represents a deterioration of service. In earlier times, there was a regular railmotor service on which patients could be transported in some comfort. The railway line is still there but it is used for occasional tourist outings only. The budget of Queensland Health must have increased at least 100 times since then but the service is worse

THE sick and injured are being carted to the Mt Surprise airport on the back of trucks and utes [pickups] because the town does not have a helipad or suitable patient transfer vehicle.

The rural community, 290km southwest of Cairns, is demanding the State Government provide the basic services after a patient's trauma, following a serious accident, was increased because of the situation. In the most recent example, a patient was loaded on to the back of a ute and was subjected to an excruciatingly painful journey on the rough 5km trip. Open-sided trucks have also been used.

Outraged Mt Surprise resident Rick Tomkies told The Weekend Post these incidents highlighted the need for a suitable transfer vehicle and a helipad in the community. "Not only is the carriage of persons on the rear of a vehicle illegal but it could also cause further trauma to a seriously ill or injured person with serious consequences," he said. "Already there has been an occasion when an attending Royal Flying Doctor was injured by a flapping tarpaulin, used to shade a patient from the sun. And on another occasion, the legs of a patient became sunburnt."

Mr Tomkies said police figures showed the Mt Surprise area had a higher rate of medical evacuation rates compared with neighbouring communities and it was vital the standards were lifted to an acceptable and legal level.

A spokeswoman from Queensland Ambulance Service said the organisation recently held a community meeting at Mt Surprise to set up a first responder unit in the area. "The community were very supportive of the development of this group and several residents were identified as possible members for a first responder unit," she said. "QAS approved the application to develop a first responder unit in Mt Surprise in September and the establishment of the unit in the area will occur over the coming months."

A Department of Main Roads spokesman said: "The question of whether or not a helipad should be built at Mt Surprise is an issue for the Etheridge Shire Council". "Should Council decide to construct a helipad, the Department of Transport and Main Roads would be happy to discuss with them possible avenues for funding assistance," he said.


Sunday, November 22, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks that Malcolm Turnbll has more in common with the Labor party than with the conservative party that he ostensibly leads

A remarkable example of Jewish drive

For fellow lovers of onomastics: Edelsten is a slight modification of Edelstein, which means "noble stone" or gemstone -- a typical Ashkenazi surname

LUNCH is over at Bondi's Icebergs Dining Room and Bar and she's American and blonde, teetering on patent-leather heels and wearing a diaphanous dress, short and plunging. He wears black hair, black shoes, a white mattress-ticking cotton linen suit and the thousand-yard stare of hardened celebrity.

Icebergs is the stylish and expensive watering hole where being seen is part of the fare, but surely none of the clientele had seen anything like Geoffrey Edelsten starring in the latest instalment of his life as a movie. In eight days he will marry Oklahoma-born Brynne Mariah Gordon, 26. At 66, it may be his last picture show.

Edelsten has swum in the fountain of youth for years. He wants to be forever young. His first wife, Leanne, was fresh out of Alice Springs and 19, two decades younger than he.

Brynne Gordon burst on to the Australian scene and nearly out of her dress in September at the Brownlow Medal count, when she walked down the blue carpet on Edelsten's arm. Journalists scurried to fill in her background, finding her MySpace entry oddly compelling: "You are only as strong as the tables you dance on, the drinks you mix and the friends you roll with."

With the media treating her words as a life philosophy, Edelsten says they were removed from the website but he has sent a DVD invitation to his second wedding at Melbourne's Crown Casino to hundreds of friends, including Jeanne Pratt, Malcolm Turnbull, Karl Stefanovic, Lisa Wilkinson, that certainly enhances a table-dancing attitude to life.

Not only did Edelsten pay Seinfeld's Jason Alexander and The Nanny's Fran Drescher to narrate their love story but the couple re-enacted their meeting, proposal and courtship.

They were filmed staying at the Beverly Wiltshire Hotel and shopping in Rodeo Drive – two locations, along with Alexander's presence, that prompted memories of the film, Pretty Woman, the heart-warming story of a rich, work-obsessed and lonely man falling for a younger woman.

The Iceberg lunchers watched agog as Edelsten's party left the restaurant. Some might have recognised the GP who introduced corporate medicine to Australia. Others might have remembered him as the face of the Sydney Swans, or the high-flyer who went to jail and was barred from working as a doctor. All were clearly astounded by his bride-to-be. "I hate all the attention," Edelsten says before obligingly going down to the Bondi sand to be photographed with his fiancee.

Once he was the king of the world. The eldest of two sons of financially comfortable Melbourne ragtraders, Edelsten was born in Carlton but grew up in Toorak.

He had been a prefect at Mount Scopus Memorial College, captain of the school Australian rules and cricket teams and shared the 1963 third-year anatomy exhibition at the University of Melbourne with the present vice-chancellor of Monash University, Richard Larkins.

After graduating, he worked as a GP in Sydney and the bush and after some time in the US in the 1970s returned brimming with ideas. He sponsored Carlton's scantily clad cheerleaders and started a chain of medical clinics that offered not only attention-seeking white pianos and chandeliers but bulk-billing of patients. Edelsten earned the ire of the Australian Medical Association, which was upset that mass-produced medicine stopped patient choice and the doctor's handy gap fee.

Having made millions in Sydney, Edelsten was a natural fit to personify a new image of the flagging Swans. He seemed to possess the money, the woman, the cars, the helicopter, the pizazz. The Swans drew crowds of 40,000-plus, got into the finals, somebody won the Brownlow, Swans au go-go.

Then it stopped. There were telephone threats, tricked-up pornographic photographs distributed, resignation, marriage breakdown, bankruptcy, a sensational trial and jail. After being released from Long Bay [jail], he was barred from practising medicine but free to run a medical corporation. He started doing university courses and in four years took masters degrees in law, business administration, sports medicine, occupational medicine, science, family medicine and health-care management and a doctorate in health from New England, Wollongong, Edith Cowan and Charles Sturt. "An achievement believed unequalled in Australia by one individual . . . No, I don't think I'm obsessive," Edelsten says.

Interest in Edelsten waned after his fall from grace. Occasionally there were reports – unsuccessful attempts at re-registration on the NSW and Victoria medical boards, a $200 speeding fine.

Edelsten devotes much energy to challenging media coverage. He has gone to the Press Council, conducts long exchanges with editors, pays Google to alert him when his name appears. A website,, appeared this week naming 10 journalists – including the Herald's Andrew Hornery and Kate McClymont, the investigative reporter Paul Barry and A Current Affair's Adam Shand. Eight of them have one thing in common – they reported on Edelsten.

Edelsten brought a public relations man to the Icebergs lunch. The waitress had run through the Italian-style menu, lingering on the selection of seasonal fish, when the PR man said Australian journalism liked to tear down tall poppies, and noted that Michael Jackson had been attacked during life but lauded after death. Gordon ordered steak. Edelsten's PR man went for the baby snapper, Edelsten too. When the fish arrived, Gordon said she did not like the eye staring at her.

Edelsten seems to have suffered much illness and injury. The late Fred Hollows removed his right eye in 1985. The next year a car crash broke his legs. He reportedly suffered a heart attack the day after he was struck off the medical roll in Victoria in 1992.

Earlier that year he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Vinko Dolenc, a neurosurgeon, removed it in July 1995. Edelsten says he feels fine, apart from the fact that when he scratches his nose, he feels it on his left forehead.

Edelsten says he would not do everything again. He worries about the impact of his fame on his family. His father, who died two years ago, loathed the publicity. They did not speak for four years.

But it was not all sadness. "I was driving through east Los Angeles, a poor black area, in a Rolls-Royce, and there are some poor blacks kids, obviously out of work, and they see this car and they get up and they clap. You can see their thoughts: 'one day, maybe me', " Edelsten says.


Injustice at the hands of the crooked Australian Federal Police

Yet more hot water for an arrogant, incompetent and poorly-led body

A PILOT who spent almost 1000 days in jail for a crime he did not commit is planning to sue the Australian Federal Police and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for compensation.

Frederick Martens, 60, was sentenced to five years' jail after being accused of a 2001 sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl in Papua New Guinea. But last week in Queensland's Court of Appeal, Justice Richard Chesterman quashed the conviction on federal child sex tourism charges in 2006 and set aside the jail sentence, finding there was insufficient evidence to support the charge.

And now Mr Martens is demanding a change in the law that left him unable to defend himself against the false accusations. "Because of the nature of the accusations nobody wanted to know me or have anything to do with me," Mr Martens said. "This has totally ruined my life. It has cost my businesses in Papua New Guinea millions in lost earnings. "But more importantly it has cost me the life of my daughter Stephanie, who died at six months old from malaria because I was unable to travel and secure her paperwork to bring her back to Australia for treatment."

The case against Mr Martens, who ran PNG's equivalent of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, hinged on the timing of the assault allegation and the claim he was flying at the time. He requested the official flight records but was told they did not exist.

Justice Chesterman said: "After his arrest the petitioner was released on bail, a condition of which was that he not leave Australia. It was therefore impossible for him to travel to PNG to conduct his own inquiries ... It was, in any event, eminently reasonable for him to rely upon the resources of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the AFP to obtain the records. They undertook the task and informed the petitioner that the records did not exist. "The records have always existed and have now been produced. It is a poor reflection upon the two organisations that one should have failed to find them, and denied their existence, and the other objected to their use in the reference on the ground that the petitioner should have obtained them earlier."

Mr Martens said it was only when his wife, Rose, went to PNG and made a request over the counter at a government agency that the flight records were discovered. "They were there all along," he said.

Mr Martens' solicitor Chris Rose said it was unjust that "anybody can accuse anybody of having sex with somebody overseas and the AFP can take away your passport".

Mr Martens is now with his family at his farm at Mareeba, west of Cairns."This must never be allowed to happen to anyone again," he said. "It has ruined my life."

The AFP declined to comment.


Conservative politicians are "coming out" over their disbelief in global warming

The Libs' Senate leader is encouraging climate sceptics to speak out. Nick Minchin, the Liberals' Senate leader, is playing a very edgy political game as he tries - in a direct challenge to Malcolm Turnbull - to get the Opposition to vote down the emissions trading scheme. It's high risk for Turnbull, Minchin and the Liberals. Minchin is openly rejecting the science on climate and encouraging other Liberal sceptics to speak out. This is audacious behaviour by the fourth most-senior person in the Opposition, who's in the leadership group.

But it seems likely Minchin, chief of the Liberals' conservative wing, is more in tune than Turnbull with the party's grassroots. Sources report the rank and file has become more critical of the ETS in the past three months, and Minchin's outspoken comments have been getting positive feedback.

The obvious downside for Turnbull is that his pro-ETS view has become increasingly out of sync with the membership (which, of course, should not be equated with the public). However unhelpful Minchin's comments, he's reprising views he expressed in the Howard years. By 2007, the then prime minister, previously himself a sceptic, had shifted, in the desperate hope of getting some ''cred'' on climate, and the government started to look to an ETS.

But Minchin, though government Senate leader, was having none of it. Saying ''scepticism is one of the all-time great Australian attributes'', he told The Age's Katharine Murphy the science of global warming wasn't settled, and ''to have some Mickey Mouse thing in Australia might make some people feel good but will do nothing for emissions and it will hurt the Australian economy''.

If a greater cause demands, he can, however, be flexible on the issue. When in July last year Turnbull and environment spokesman Greg Hunt were trying to stop then Opposition leader Brendan Nelson moving to the right on emissions trading, Minchin backed the Turnbull-Hunt line, presumably fearing that if they were thwarted, the leadership of Nelson, who he supported, would be undermined (it was anyway, even though Nelson gave in).

Minchin is one of the most experienced and savvy Liberal MPs. He is also among the toughest factional warriors, and yesterday was accused by moderate Liberal backbencher Mal Washer of using the climate change issue to pursue the factional war between conservatives and small-l liberals in the party.

In personal style, Minchin is friendly, relaxed and open (perhaps partly because he was always around journalists - his mother was in the federal parliamentary press gallery; his wife worked in The Age's Canberra bureau before their marriage). But in views he's an ideologue, with strong stands on issues ranging well beyond climate. When Howard in 2006 was trying to reassure people he wouldn't bring in even more severe industrial relations changes after WorkChoices, Minchin was caught on tape advocating another wave of reform. He has also championed unfashionable causes such as voluntary voting.

As the emissions trading issue inches towards its dangerous climax, Minchin seems emboldened.

He said last month that even if the Government met all the Opposition's demands, there was no guarantee the party room would approve the legislation (which begged the question of why you'd bother with negotiations).

Then last week came Four Corners, where Minchin said a majority of the Liberal Party wouldn't accept the position that humans were the main cause of global warming; it would be difficult for Coalition members to vote for the scheme, he said.

Addressing the Senate yesterday, Minchin began by congratulating Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce (who won't vote for the scheme in any circumstances) for his ''erudite contribution to this debate''.

In interviews this week, Minchin did not take a backward step. But he insisted it was not about Turnbull's leadership. At one level this might be correct, despite Minchin battling to keep Turnbull out of the leadership after the last election, and later attempting to prop up the failing Nelson. Joe Hockey, the most likely alternative, is a left-winger; his views on climate would be no more acceptable to Minchin than Turnbull's. Minchin would find Tony Abbott's opinions congenial, but knows Abbott lacks one vital attribute - numbers.

Minchin is not, however, going to do Turnbull any favours or worry excessively if his in-your-face campaign against the legislation undermines Turnbull, who has declared that having a credible climate policy is for him a leadership issue.

The tough line taken by Minchin is empowering other hardliners. Earlier, it was thought most critics would be inclined to roll over if they didn't have the numbers. Now their behaviour is unpredictable, which means that if Turnbull gets party support for a deal, the number of Liberals crossing the floor in the Senate could be quite large, putting up in lights how split the party has become.

The irony would be that Minchin, bound by shadow cabinet solidary, would be forced into formal lockstep with his leader.


Prominent Australian Greenie dubious about immigration

The former Australian of the Year, environmentalist Tim Flannery, is worried what effects a growing population will have on the environment.

South-east Queensland is a region where population pressures are at their greatest, with 2,000 people moving into the area each week. Some are from interstate, others from overseas. Queensland's population is set to double within 50 years.

Professor Flannery says no-one has any real idea of the environmental effects of population growth and it is time for an independent inquiry to look at the issue. "I'm pretty aware that we live in a fragile country with limited water availability, with a significant biodiversity crisis, a limited capacity to feed ourselves because our agriculture is under increasing stress from climate change," he said. "And what I see is a government-set program for immigration, which really seeks to increase our population very quickly but without any proper analysis of the environmental impacts or indeed the social impacts of that program."

Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner has weighed into the population debate, saying it is laughable to argue Australia has too many people at this early stage. He says Bangladesh is roughly twice the size of Tasmania but has seven times the population of Australia.

Professor Flannery says that is a meaningless comparison. "Antarctica is bigger than Australia and it hasn't got any people at all, size isn't everything," he said. "Lindsay Tanner may well be right but we need the figures. We need the analysis to understand what we can do in terms of a sustainable population living at this standard of living. "It's all very well to wave your hands in the air and say everything's going to be okay, but show me the data, that's what we actually need. "At the moment ... all of our population-related policies, such as immigration and rebates for children, all that sort of stuff are just happening in a vacuum and that's not good enough."

Premier Anna Bligh says Queensland can handle the projected population growth. "I think this growth is manageable but it does have to be managed, we can't let it happen unchecked and we can't let it happen without a plan," she said. "What's interesting living in a federation and governing at a state level is that some of the levers on population are often beyond your control but the consequences all fall into your basket. "Some of the levers, such as immigration policy, things like the baby bonus, have consequences and state governments end up having to manage some of those consequences. "It does require serious and careful thinking and serious and careful planning and some very serious infrastructure that does I think need partnership from all levels of government."

Ms Bligh says she agrees with the current immigration levels but says there is scope for better planning between state and federal governments about where the new Australian population should be concentrated. And she says more debate is needed on the issue of sustainability, environment and resources. "Over the last five years, as we've put together our south-east Queensland plan which is a statutory plan to manage growth, there has been a wide consensus about the need to restrict growth and not let it go in to big urban sprawls," she said.

"But as the rubber hits the road on making decisions about higher density in people's neighbourhoods, the community I think is becoming less settled about that. "They're very alarmed by the prospect that they'll see a lot of high rises and concerned about the character of their neighbourhoods and their communities changing and changing too rapidly."

Professor Flannery concedes population growth is needed to grow the economy but he says it's vital to get the balance right. "The economy will always need more people, business will always need more customers, government will always need more taxpayers," he said. "That's not a valid argument for eternal growth. We all know there are limits to growth and we need to work out how to grow our population, if that's what's required, at the appropriate level over the appropriate time scale.

"To do that you've just got to really look at proper triple-bottom-line accounting and the Government's always getting onto businesses about doing triple-bottom-line accounting, well it's time the Government did it itself. "Our environment, social and economic outcomes all have to be fed into these very important policies that will change our country in the long term, change it forever. You can't really wind back population once you've built it in."


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Must not say anything harsh about Muslims

But you can say anything you like about Christians, of course -- and Muslims often do. I gather that Mal Mac Rae is a recent Muslim convert and there are some remarks of his online that are too obscene and disgusting for me to reproduce here. It appears to me that young Douglas Darby was simply paying Mal Mac Rae back in his own coin -- not that that is wise or Christian. Disclosure: Michael Darby is a friend of mine but I do not know his son

ABUSIVE emails written by the son of the campaign manager of the Christian Democratic Party containing anti-Muslim and homophobic comments have embarrassed the party's president, the Reverend Fred Nile, only two weeks before the December 5 Bradfield byelection, in which the party will field nine candidates.

Mr Nile has been forced to apologise to dozens of recipients of the emails, which also attack the Reverend Gordon Moyes, the CDP-turned-Family-First MP in the NSW upper house. Their author, Douglas Darby, the son of the former Liberal identity Michael Darby, who is the CDP's campaign manager, has been expelled from the party.

In one email Douglas Darby attacks a Muslim activist, Mal Mac Rae, as a "stupid moslem c---" and says "muslim scum are too busy stacking ALP branches and raping Aussie chicks".

In another, Douglas Darby suggests Muslims "who habitually engage in child molestation, incest, pack rape … obey the laws of this country or f--- off to Afghanistan where Australians are allowed to shoot you people". Yet another urges Mr Mac Rae to become a suicide bomber. "Please do it inside either a Sunni or Shiite mosque."

The emails are part of a bitter exchange between Mr Darby and Mr Mac Rae that appears to have begun when Mr Mac Rae wrote questioning an aspect of Mr Nile's military service record.

On Tuesday Mr Nile wrote to recipients "on behalf of the Christian Democratic Party to sincerely apologise for the appalling emails you have received". He told them that the CDP "disassociates itself completely" from the comments, "which we totally reject", and apologised to Mr Mac Rae. "No one deserves to be subjected to such language and insult," Mr Nile wrote.

Douglas Darby did not respond to a request for comment, and Michael Darby declined to comment.

Mr Nile said Douglas Darby had begun working for the party but was soon "upsetting people left, right and centre" and was banned from the parliamentary offices of the CDP and its headquarters a year ago.

One of the CDP's campaign slogans for Bradfield is "Stand your ground in defence of Christian values".

Mr Nile and the NSW upper house Liberal MP David Clarke are advertised to speak at an Australian Christian Nation Association conference today which has the theme "Australia's Future and Global Jihad".

Mr Mac Rae said yesterday he had accepted Mr Nile's apology. "However, the vilification of the Islamic community in the party continues behind closed doors." Dr Moyes said he had asked Mr Nile for an apology, "which I haven't received".


Limited public radiotherapy services add to cancer trauma

Australians are given to believe that they can rely on their State government for "free" medical care. "Free" does not mean "available" or "high quality", however. What it DOES mean is that what you save in money, you pay in time

THE last straw for Angela Baines came when she arrived at school 45 minutes late and found the police had been called to collect her children.

The Umina single mother of four had struggled to Royal North Shore Hospital on the train every day for five weeks for radiation therapy after breast cancer because no public facility was available locally and she could not afford private treatment. But any wait for her radiation doses or a missed transport connection could scupper her tight timetable.

"I said, 'That's it. I'm going home. I'm pulling out. I cannot endure another day of this possibly happening again,' " said the 39-year-old of her experience two years ago. Ms Baines told the hospital she was cancelling her last week of treatment, but a doctor immediately called to promise that she would be treated the moment she arrived. She completed the course and is now in good health.

Inequitable provision of radiotherapy services across NSW is resulting in serious emotional trauma to patients already vulnerable from surgery, drug treatment and a potentially life-threatening diagnosis, according to a survey released today by the Cancer Council NSW.

Its Roadblocks to Radiotherapy report collects stories of the practical, financial and psychological hardships experienced by people who have to travel long distances for radiation or miss out on the treatment - which can prevent recurrence and is recommended for at least half of cancer patients but in NSW is received by only 36 per cent.

Based on a telephone call-in earlier this year, the survey found rural and regional patients were impressed and grateful for their treatment, but were distressed by practical difficulties. "We hope showing the human element adds urgency to the need for reform," the council's manager for policy and advocacy, Anita Tang, said.

The Auditor-General concluded in a June report that NSW Health needed to intensify its long-term planning for radiotherapy services, especially in high population growth areas including the Central Coast, Hunter, New England, Illawarra and Shoalhaven areas. The department has prepared a draft Radiotherapy Services Plan 2007-11, but has never released it.

In his landmark report on NSW public hospitals a year ago, Peter Garling identified services for patients outside cities as a major problem, recommending revitalised training for doctors outside urban centres and improved travel provisions for people treated far from home.

The Opposition spokeswoman on health, Jillian Skinner, said: "Labor has failed to match radiotherapy services with population growth, with the result that many families are undergoing extreme hardship just to get access to treatment. Cancer cases are predicted to grow by 30 per cent over the next 10 years … what is Labor waiting for?"


Climate change negotiations hit stumbling block

CLIMATE change negotiations between the Rudd Government and the Opposition have hit a stumbling block just days before an agreement was to be taken to the Coalition party room.

But problems at the negotiating table are being dwarfed by the groundswell of climate-change sceptics and growing speculation that Malcolm Turnbull's leadership could be challenged by Liberal frontbencher Tony Abbott.

It comes as Liberal negotiator Ian Macfarlane, who met Climate Change Minister Penny Wong twice yesterday and will again tomorrow, has admitted for the first time he was facing hurdles. "It's (the negotiations) really got complicated," Mr Macfarlane told The Courier-Mail. "We've had a setback. But I remain optimistic." Mr Macfarlane would not delve into the specifics of the negotiating hurdle, although questions have been raised within Labor and Liberal circles as to how the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme could afford to have expensive amendments.

Mr Macfarlane has taken to the negotiating table five "buckets" with core issues. With agriculture sorted out late last week, it leaves Coalition demands for more money for electricity generators, big polluters, small-to-medium business and coal.

D-day is approaching for the Coalition, which wanted amendments presented to shadow cabinet on Monday. Mr Turnbull has said the Coalition would support amendments only if he had the majority support of the party room. There are only four sitting days left this year and the Government has demanded a vote be taken before Parliament rises.

Former Liberal MP Bruce Baird yesterday said Mr Abbott might have his eye on the top job, but a spokesman for Mr Abbott outrightly rejected any suggestion of a leadership challenge. Mr Turnbull would not answer questions about Mr Abbott, but on the CPRS said: "Our support for the Bill will depend on the outcome of these negotiations. "The idea that you take a unilateral view and either wave it through willy nilly or knock it back willy nilly regardless of how it might be amended, I don't take that view."


Stabbed 5 times -- "unintentionally"!!

This verdict should be set aside as manifestly misguided

The acquittal of a woman who stabbed a teenage girl in an after-school brawl sends a dangerous message to students that fights can be settled with weapons, not words, a police officer says.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been facing trial for wounding with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm after she stabbed the year 12 student five times in the chest during a fight between the two sets of sisters, opposite a school in south-western Sydney last year. But this week a jury found the 21-year-old not guilty on the grounds that she did not intend to inflict grievous bodily harm when she stabbed the 17-year-old. She was also acquitted of the lesser charge of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm in company.

Her younger sister, a year 11 student, had also been due to stand trial, but pleaded guilty to reckless wounding.

"I am concerned about what message the decision sends to our youth in as far as it was clear that more than one weapon was taken to what was supposed to be a fist fight," said the officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Senior Sergeant Stephen Crews.

But the woman told the Herald that police and the school had not done enough to combat bullying and a gang culture and that she was forced to take matters into her own hands. "I don't condone people carrying weapons … that is the wrong thing to do, but sometimes in situations like that you don't have much time to think about it," she said. "All that is on your mind is ensuring your family member's safety."

During the trial the woman's barrister, Graham Turnbull, SC, argued she had been protecting her sister against two other sisters at the school who had singled her sibling out after an argument over a boy, at Westfield Shopping Centre in Liverpool. Suggestions had been made during the trial that the victim and her sister were affiliated with gang members who carried weapons. But both denied this.

Shortly after the stabbing the woman's sister left the school and their family moved out of the Liverpool area when "weird cars" started to drive up and down her road at night, she said.

Four days after the stabbing, while the victim was still in intensive care, the boy at the centre of the argument was beaten up by two boys. "My friend got stabbed five times because of you and you're going to pay for it," one of the boys allegedly said during the attack.

While Sergeant Crews acknowledged the bashing was "no doubt" connected, he denied the school had a problem with bullies or gangs. "This whole case wasn't about a gang war. It was what should have been a high school fight that went horribly wrong."


Watchdog slams Queensland police corruption

ANTI-corruption watchdog chief Robert Needham has slammed police mishandling of the Mulrunji death in custody, unleashing his most scathing attack yet on an internal police investigation. The Crime and Misconduct Commission is expected to release its report on the police investigation into the 2004 Palm Island death in custody of Cameron Doomadgee, 36, known by his tribal name as Mulrunji, next year.

Mr Needham, the CMC chair, said yesterday the CMC was less than happy with the handling of the police probe into the death of the Aboriginal man inside the Palm Island watchhouse five years ago. "What we've done is go back to ground zero," he said. "We've gone right to the primary documents. We went to every interview that's ever been had with all the relevant officers and gone back through every single thing in great detail."

The CMC report is expected to recommend disciplinary action against senior officers who investigated the death in custody and to criticise the case as an example of police protecting their own. Mr Needham said he would wait until the report was finished before going any further.

Yesterday he released the three-year investigation into policing in remote indigenous communities ordered after the infamous riots and burning of the police station on Palm Island, five years ago today, and another 2007 riot in Aurukun.

The CMC report calls on the State Government to make finalising all outstanding legal matters in the affair by the sixth anniversary of Mulrunji's death next year a high priority "goal".

But the man's family remains sceptical. "It's not over yet,"' said sister Lizzie Doomadgee. Yesterday Lizzie and two sisters admitted to a case of deja vu as they sat in the front row of Townsville Magistrates Court. They sat, resolute, as they did through a first coronial inquest, a CMC inquiry, a Department of Public Prosecutions decision, an Attorney-General's appeal, a manslaughter trial, and now another inquest. "We're waiting for justice," said Ms Doomadgee. They still have a civil damages suit pending against Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley and Queensland Police.

Five years ago, Mulrunji died of internal bleeding with four broken ribs and his liver cleaved in two after a jailhouse tussle with Sen-Sgt Hurley. Sen-Sgt Hurley was tried and acquitted of the manslaughter of Mulrunji in 2007.

Deputy Chief Magistrate Brian Hine yesterday ordered the second inquest be held over 10 days on Palm Island and in Townsville from March 8. The second inquest comes after a Court of Appeal ordered the findings of the 2006 inquest that Hurley caused the injuries to Mulrunji by punching him be set aside.

It later emerged Mulrunji probably died as a result of a catastrophic injury caused by compressive force to his stomach, most likely a knee. [The knee of a hulking cop by the name of Hurley, to be precise]

Counsel assisting the coroner Ralph Devlin said there had been "many conflicting and inconsistent accounts of witnesses".


Friday, November 20, 2009

Ignorant scientists again: Say "Hobbit" was distinct species

They say the female "hobbit" was too short to be a modern human but, at 3'6' tall, there are Australian blacks alive today of that height. These "experts" are just ignorant of basic physical anthropology -- which is what they are talking about! They obviously know nothing of Australia's pygmy race. I come from the area where they survived and have had them walk right past me in the street. And Australia is quite close to Indonesia

Researchers have added new weight to theories that a prehistoric "hobbit" found by Australian and Indonesian scientists in Indonesia is an unknown human species. Bones belonging to a mini-human and believed to be about 18,000 years old were unearthed on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2004, sparking theories about our ancient relatives. Since then, scientists have debated whether Homo floresiensis was a descendant of a known human species suffering from some sort of genetic disease which caused them to be so small, or whether they belonged to a new species.

A new study of the bones of a female "hobbit" (several skeletons were ultimately unearthed at the site) by American scientists William Jungers and Karen Baab has given fresh impetus to the theory that floresiensis is a genuine ancient human species and not a descendant of healthy humans dwarfed by disease.

Their study, published in the December issue of Britain's Royal Statistical Society magazine Significance, was based on a detailed examination of the individual's skull and other bones which led them to estimate her weight and height. Their analysis suggests it was unlikely she was a relative of Homo Erectus or other known human species and was instead "probably derived instead from an even more primitive hominin species".

They found her brain was "remarkably small" compared to living humans, including modern pygmies, and more similar to those of chimpanzees and ancient hominins like the bipedal "ape men" of Africa. While some scientists have argued the hobbit's head was unusually small because she suffered from a disease, Dr Jungers and Dr Baab found no resemblance between her brain shape and that of modern humans with abnormally small heads.

They suggested the hobbit was not a dwarfed descendant of Homo Erectus but a different species "with already-small bodies and smaller brains when they arrived on Flores".

Dr Jungers and Dr Baab also reconstructed the hobbit's body shape and size and found it to be unlike any modern human because of its shorter thigh and shin bones. They estimated she was much smaller and stockier in shape to modern humans, even when compared to the smallest living people. [Rubbish!]

She was just 106cm tall and weighed 30-35kg, suggesting a "very non-human body shape for our hobbit, in the sense that a relatively large mass is being distributed over a relatively small skeletal frame". "This is not a pygmy human," Dr Jungers, who works closely with the Australian scientists who discovered the skeletons, said.

The Australian Research Council is providing funding for a five-year project so Dr Jungers and Australian scientists can continue their work on trying to establish the hobbit's status.

Dr Jungers said the team would return to Indonesia to examine sites near to where the skeletons were found and where tools dating back one millions years have been unearthed. "We will focus on finding skeletons that go with the tools," he said. "If we dig up bones of H Erectus, the diseased dwarf theory will gain credibility. "But if there are bones like Lucy's (Australopithecus afarensis, a 3.2 million-year-old set of fossils found in 1974) or H Habilis, our hypothesis that this is a more primitive human than H Erectus will gain more support."


Unbelievably brainless waste of taxpayer's money

$600k for 'sub-standard hot-box' house that is totally inappropriate for the tropical climate and for the people concerned. Open timber houses were needed. The most any aborigine would do with such a house is sit outside it

SMALL brick houses with no airconditioning, no fans and no landscaping are costing taxpayers $600,000 a pop to build in remote communities. Kennedy MP Bob Katter has condemned recent federally-funded community housing "slapped up" on Mornington Island, saying it cost $4 million to build seven tiny homes that local contractors have since valued at being worth less than $300,000 each. And the high building costs do not include the "hundreds of millions" blown on the government administration of community housing projects - all to provide indigenous communities with "substandard hot-boxes".

"The house I stood outside of was a hot-box that you couldn't even swing a cat in - it was a bloody disgrace," Mr Katter said. "And they set the taxpayer back about $600,000 apiece."

And indigenous mayors from the Cape met in Cairns yesterday to debate land leases tied to future funding. The proposed 40-year lease system will see indigenous communities sign over their land in return for a share of more than $1 billion in social housing dollars in the next decade. "To me, this is the Federal and State governments saying, 'We're going to give you a fair trial, then we're going to hang you'," Mr Katter said. "They are telling these people they aren't capable of running their own affairs.

"When it (housing) was controlled by the council, they were getting 10 times as many houses built for infinitely less, but if you compare the (Federal Government controlled) Northern Territory to Yarrabah, then I think it will become clear who is doing the better job. "This is just blood sucking for white fella bureaucrats."

The caucus of mayors, who labelled the 40-year-lease as ransom bargaining, unanimously called for the State Government to extend the December 11 deadline for four months to allow the communities to pursue their own legal advice in regards to the land sign-over bid.

"Communities are in dire need of housing, but the delivery should be one of consultations, not predetermined policy and those who must benefit most are those on the ground, not only for this generation but for the generations to come," Cherbourg Mayor Sam Murray said.


Australian conservatism less divided than its American countertpart

By Hal. G.P. Colebatch

AUSTRALIA'S conservative intelligentsia may have a lot to complain about, but there is one thing at least that they should be grateful for: the Australian conservative movement has almost entirely escaped the toxic division, which in the past few years has bedevilled much of American conservatism, into so called neo-conservatives and paleo-conservatives.

This is probably largely due to John Howard's position that the Liberal Party is the bearer of both Australia's liberal and conservative traditions, and the fact that Howard himself has taken, and continues to take, far more interest in the intellectual content of Australian conservative thought than any other Liberal prime minister. It also owes a lot to the fact that most of those associated with Quadrant, Australia's most important anti-left intellectual journal, including long-time editor Peter Coleman, the late P. P. McGuinness and present editor Keith Windschuttle, have not been concerned with expending their energy fighting their own allies, or exposing alleged traitors and heretics in the conservative ranks. Further, since its foundation they have kept Quadrant and its circle free of the "anti-Zionist" ratbaggery that has crept into some American paleo-conservative work.

This anti-totalitarian ethos may owe a lot to Quadrant's founder, Richard Krygier, a Polish Jew and former social democrat and its first editor, the Catholic poet James McAuley. After more than 50 years this ethos seems firmly established.

Certainly there are crank groups on the Right but in terms of serious political and intellectual debate they are of little relevance.

This is in considerable contrast to the situation in the US, where attacks on the so-called neo-cons - and Israel - have become major pre-occupations of Patrick Buchanan, former Reagan speech-writer, former hopeful Republican presidential candidate and founder of the grotesquely misnamed American Conservative, and much of the American conservative circle.

Recent effusions by Buchanan include attacks on the pre-World War II Polish "regime" (his term) for provoking World War II by not giving Danzig to the patient and reasonable Adolf Hitler (a line also taken up recently by some Russian militaristic, ultra-nationalist and anti-Polish circles), and claims that, in effect, the countries liberated from Soviet occupation at the end of the Cold War have no right to self-determination because they lie within Russia's sphere of influence. The fact that tiny Estonia, the victim of countless Soviet atrocities, moved a war memorial erected by the Red Army from the centre of its capital has been described by Buchanan as a reckless provocation to Russia. The American Conservative, as well as all its other attacks on Israel and Zionism, actually published an article after Buchanan left the editorship insinuating - with obvious implications - that Israel had prior knowledge of 9/11.

Buchanan's work is also pushed on a website run by Greek multi-millionaire Taki Theodoracopulos, another ceaseless critic of the neo-cons and of Israel, from a so-called paleo-conservative position. One article published on the Taki website earlier this year, "Little Miss Zionist Gossip Queen", was a self-congratulatory account of how the Palestinian author, one Adam Kharii, had intimidated and chased away a lone Jewish girl in a nightclub: "I shouted at her, 'Don't be here when I'm back.' She was not even worthy of all the insults I'd hurled at her." Such, it appears, are the heroisms of self-styled US paleo-conservatism, descended more or less from the isolationist, anti-Semitic-tinged America First movement of World War II. I doubt it is a conservatism that Ronald Reagan, William Buckley or John Wayne would recognise.

One Australian-sourced attempt in The American Conservative to blame an alleged collapse of Australian conservatism on a neo-con takeover left its author lamenting that no notice had been taken of it. Among the alleged neo-cons listed there were Tim Blair, Andrew Bolt, and the late Frank Devine. The same author lamented elsewhere that his application to edit Quadrant had been, for some reason, rejected. He further described Howard as: "a semiliterate school prefect, haunted (to an extent remarkable even for antipodean statesmen) by what Mencken would have called the nagging fear that someone, somewhere, might be free", a description which, whatever one thinks of Howard, is simply off the planet. The big battle facing conservatives in Australia at present is against the expansion of government power and control in the name of environmentalism and here neo- and paleo- divisions are also irrelevant.

Mike Carlton recently attacked "shameless neo-cons" in The Sydney Morning Herald. His rogue's gallery included Tony Blair, who far from being any sort of conservative is probably the most socially radical prime minister Britain has had.

It appears most Australian intellectual conservatives think that what unites them is more important than what divides them. Most of them also seem to think that Israel is an island of democracy and civilisation, to be supported rather than attacked. On the potentially divisive questions of the war in Afghanistan and attitudes to Barack Obama's America in general, there is little they can do anyway but wait and see.


The Dog on the Tuckerbox

This is indeed a famous Australian song but many people these days don't know why. What is notable about a dog sitting on a tuckerbox? Explanation: The original version, as sung by shearers and other such profane folk, was "The dog shat IN my tuckerbox"

He has always been five miles from Gundagai but now the nation's most famous dog and his tuckerbox are to be relocated to lure tourists to the town. In the legendary original version of the 19th century poem, the dog sat on the tuckerbox "five miles from Gundagai".

Historians are outraged at the idea of moving the iconic statue from its spot of 77 years, just off the Hume Highway, to the far end of town to drag tourists through it, The Daily Telegraph reports. The town is split between those who want tourist dollars funnelled into their drought-stricken tills and those outraged at the changing of history. A consultant has been paid $20,000 by the Gundagai Shire Council to survey the community and find the cost of moving the pup. A report is due soon.

"We're a little town in the bush, doing it tough, and we have a great Aussie icon five miles out of town only benefiting the multinationals," pub owner Peter Lot said. "You come into Gundagai and it's a ghost town. Our biggest enquiry is, 'Where is the dog on the tuckerbox?' People don't realise they've already passed it."

National Trust advocacy manager Graham Quint blasted the move, revealing that the Trust is considering listing the dog on the National Trust Register, which would save it from being moved. "This is probably one of the most well-known and celebrated roadside monuments in Australia," Mr Quint said. "It was dedicated to the pioneers and bullockies who made the highway of today possible. "The very location 'five miles from Gundagai' is part of the Australian psyche and moving the monument to Gundagai would make nonsense of its historic setting and severely degrade its historic significance and purpose."

Mr Quint said the site was chosen five miles from Gundagai rather than at the nine-mile mark in the original poem because it was closer to Gundagai. Town mayor Len Tozer said: "I'm sitting on the fence on this one."


Thursday, November 19, 2009

QANTAS again (1)

Who gives a damn about passengers? They were made to wait 90 mins. on the plane for nothing and then just dumped over an hour's drive away from their destination. No help. No explanation and no apology

Disgruntled passengers say Qantas deserted them at the Gold Coast Airport last night after their flight into Brisbane was diverted due to bad weather. The QF 665 flight was also struck by lightning during its descent into Coolangatta.

Passenger Denis Gailey said the plane landed about 7.50pm but passengers weren't allowed to disembark until 9.35pm.

A Qantas spokesman said the airline didn't have engineering support at the airport, as it was no longer a Qantas port, and had to wait for an engineer from Brisbane to arrive. "That explains why people had to stay on board for that long. "They stayed on board in the expectation we'd get them up again. But unfortunately the plane was declared unserviceable by the engineer," he said.

But Mr Gailey said there was no communication. "When we got off, we were told to follow the staff in yellow safety vests and that buses were on their way. But we never saw anyone in yellow safety vests. "Passengers found their bags themselves. There was no co-ordination," he said. Some passengers organised hire cars while others waited for buses which arrived after 11pm. "We had no food, no direction and no-one to ask.

Qantas spokesman admitted passengers might not have had access to shops or food between the meal served onboard at 6pm and arriving in Brisbane after midnight. "The opportunity to provide refreshments just didn't eventuate unfortunately. "I think our focus would be on getting our passengers to Brisbane as quick as possible," he said. [It was obviously a "focus" that didn't succeed]

Mr Gailey said Qantas crew avoided the group of passengers after disembarking and refused to make eye contact. "The cabin manager had a moral obligation to take control of (the situation) and stay with us." There was no apology or offer of compensation, he said. "It was a complete sham," Mr Gailey said.

The Qantas spokesman said "cabin crew essentially did their job for the day when the flight landed". "Ultimately the crews have responsibilities as far as the flight was concerned and they hand it over to ground crew once they're on the ground. He said he would talk to the customer care department about compensation, but said the event was unavoidable due to the weather conditions. "We certainly regret any inconvenience the incident might have caused our customers but our focus was on getting our customers to their destination as quickly as possible.''


QANTAS again (2)

Cost-cutting has undoubtedly hit maintenance, as well as customer service

A QANTAS passenger plane taking off from Hong Kong was brought to a screeching halt after a pilot heard "a loud bang" from the engine. QF30, a 747 Jumbo with 313 passengers onboard, was heading to Melbourne from Hong Kong International Airport at 9.55am local time yesterday (6:55am AEDT yesterday) when it came to an abrupt halt.

Clasina Cue, a Melbourne grandmother and former airport worker, was aboard along with her friend, Lisa Taliana, also from Melbourne with both returning from a Hong Kong holiday. Both say the plane was nearing taking off speed. “The plane's nose was a bit up in the air,” Ms Cue said. “There was a big bang and a shudder. The pilot slammed the brakes and stopped the plane. It had been close to the point of no return.”

Both Ms Cue and Ms Taliana said they could smell smoke in the cabin. Ms Cue believed it was from the “screeching” tyres. Ms Cue and Ms Taliana both praised the pilot. “It was the pilot’s quick thinking. We could have gone up in the air. It could have been a lot worse,” said Ms Cue. “I’m just thankful we’re not dead,” said Ms Taliana. “The pilot did an awesome job. Not taking off was the best thing he could have possibly done.”...

The Qantas spokesperson said there had been no cockpit indications of engine failure but it was later found that the engine needed new compressor blades. The spokesperson could not say why there was no cockpit indicator of a problem before the bang alerted the pilot.

Qantas planes have been bedevilled with numerous incidents over the past couple of years. There have been union claims that safety is being compromised with maintenance work being outsourced to overseas terminals. The Qantas spokesperson however said the plane in question had been maintained in Sydney.


School defies parents; kills boy; no penalty

Sounds like teachers getting full of themselves again. Maybe a big civil lawsuit will get some questions answered and the guilty parties identified. You don't send your kid to school to have him come home in a coffin. My son is not a good swimmer. It could have been him. But I was told when he was due to swim and was there to watch him

THE parents of a Tasmanian student who drowned say they had no idea he had been going on a school excursion. "We had no knowledge of any excursion to Bells Parade, no permission slip was signed," Sera Levi, the mother of Latrobe High School teenager Rene, told The Mercury. His father Laupule said he had told the school his son was to be excluded from school trips. "He was not a strong swimmer and we did not encourage him going in the water," Mr Levi said.

Tasmania Police spent a couple of hours with the family yesterday afternoon, but Rene's parents were still unsure exactly what had happened at the Mersey River near Devonport on Monday afternoon.

"There were five teachers with 120 students," Mrs Levi said. "Some of the children were swimming. They went under the trees when it started raining. "A boy saw splashing, but no one was there," Mrs Levi said.

Rene's parents did not know their son had drowned; they only knew he was late returning from school. "We went looking for him and turned up at the school, and no one had anything to say," Mrs Levi said. "I was asked to wait for the principal. Phil McKenzie said he was sorry. I asked what for and then ran from the building screaming. "When we arrived at Bells Parade there was no sign of life. He had just been found and he was dead."

Tasmania Police said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the teenager's death. The Department of Education, he said, would be asking Latrobe High School staff some more probing questions about the incident in days to come.


Big watchdog bungle -- at the taxpayer's expense

THE corporate regulator has suffered a crushing defeat and been left with a $35 million legal bill after its pursuit of One.Tel founder Jodee Rich and former finance director Mark Silbermann was yesterday thrown out of court.

After one of the biggest cases ever brought before the NSW Supreme Court, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission was criticised for running a civil suit that was "too wide" and "produced an excessively long and burdensome proceeding". The regulator had wanted Mr Rich and Mr Silbermann to pay $92m in compensation for allegedly misleading the board about One.Tel's true financial position ahead of the telecommunications company's collapse in May 2001. It also sought orders banning the pair from managing corporations. Instead, ASIC was told it had "failed to prove any aspect of its pleaded case".

Judge Robert Austin said he did not agree with ASIC's submission that businessman James Packer - a director and financial backer of One.Tel - was "an impressive witness".

To add to the injury, ASIC will pick up Mr Rich's legal bill, which is more than $15m. ASIC is believed to have spent a further $20m during its eight-year pursuit of Mr Rich. Justice Austin said in his mammoth 3000-page judgment that "ASIC's contentions have a superficial appeal". "But time and time again they were shown to be unpersuasive when the underlying financial detail was investigated," he said.

Mr Packer and businessman Lachlan Murdoch, a director of News Corporation, publisher of The Australian, gave evidence in the case, which ran for 232 days from September 2004 to August 2007. Mr Packer's PBL and News Limited, News Corporation's Australian arm, were majority shareholders in One.Tel and jointly invested close to $1 billion in the company. The pair, who proposed a $132m rights issue to recapitalise One.Tel in May 2001, claimed to have been "profoundly misled" about the true state of One.Tel's finances before its collapse.

"Essentially Mr Packer Jr appeared to misunderstand the purpose of cross-examination, and treated it as an opportunity to attempt to `put his side of the story' by argumentative and non-responsive answers, and even occasionally evasive answers; and that was coupled with an inability to recollect important matters," Justice Austin said. The judge said Mr Murdoch had a "poor recollection" of the events, and his evidence should therefore be "treated with caution". He made no adverse findings against the pair in terms of their credibility.

One.Tel's special-purpose liquidator, Paul Weston, said yesterday he was likely to launch legal action against Mr Packer and Mr Murdoch over the collapse of the company within weeks. With interest, Mr Weston said the claim would now top $230m.

Mr Rich told The Australian yesterday he had twice been close to settling the case with ASIC over the years, and claimed he had been placed under political pressure not to fight it. Mr Rich claimed that in 2001 his father was called by Stan Howard, the brother of then prime minister John Howard. "The PM was sending a message through Stan Howard; it was very important that I settle and didn't defend the case," Mr Rich said. "And I thought that was just extraordinary." Last night, John Howard emphatically denied the claims. "I have no recollection of any discussion of that kind," he said. "I didn't do it and I am absolutely certain my brother would not have done that."

Mr Rich kissed his wife, Maxine, after the verdict yesterday. Both had tears in their eyes. Outside court, Mr Rich said he was "absolutely delighted" with the result. The hardest moment was being in the witness box for 33 days, which Mr Rich likened to "climbing the most amazing mountain".

Mr Silbermann was not in court yesterday but was very happy with the outcome. "It is such a good feeling to kick ASIC in the balls," he said. However, he said the damage to his reputation had been done "years ago". "We were crucified without anybody giving us the benefit of the doubt," he said. "I have lost everything, everything."

Justice Austin made a number of criticisms against ASIC in regard to the arguments put before the court and "aspects of its conduct of this case".

"Amongst the more serious are my views that . . . the scope of the case, endeavouring to prove the financial circumstances of a large multinational corporate group over each of four months, was far too wide and produced an excessively long and burdensome proceeding," Justice Austin said. "In a substantial number of significant ways, ASIC's final submissions were outside its pleaded case."

ASIC launched the court case against former One.Tel chairman John Greaves, joint managing directors Brad Keeling and Mr Rich and Mr Silbermann. Proceedings were settled against Mr Keeling in 2003 and Mr Greaves in 2004.



Three current articles below

The usual Greenie people-hatred

Birth control should be used to cut "greenhouse gas" emissions

INVESTING in birth control to reduce population growth could be more effective in cutting greenhouse gas emissions than building wind turbines or nuclear power stations, according to a United Nations report. Taking action to prevent one billion births by 2050 would save as much carbon dioxide as constructing two million giant wind turbines.

The UN Population Fund report predicted that the global population could reach 10.5 billion by 2050, up from 6.8 billion today, unless urgent action was taken to reduce fertility rates. It said that even its medium-growth forecast of 2.3 billion more people by 2050, which assumes a fall in average fertility from 2.56 to 2.02 children per woman, would make it much harder to achieve the cuts in carbon emissions needed to prevent catastrophic climate change.

The report said that reducing population growth would allow the 2050 target for global average emissions per person to be increased significantly above the 2 tonnes recommended by Lord Stern of Brentford, the author of an influential government report on global warming in 2006. Living standards would be higher because each person would be able to emit more CO2.

The report said: "No human is genuinely carbon neutral. Therefore, everyone is part of the problem, so everyone must be part of the solution in some way. Each birth results not only in the emissions attributable to that person in his or her lifetime, but also the emissions of all his or her descendents."

The report rejected the idea of Chinese-style laws to control population but said that a similar result could be achieved by promoting contraception and better education for women. It said that 215 million women, mainly in developing countries, wanted contraception but had no access to it. Funding from donor countries for the UN's birth control program has fallen from $723 million at its peak in 1995 to $338 million in 2007.

The report also said that the longer women remained in education, the fewer babies they had. Women who had never gone to school had an average of 4.5 children. Those who completed one or two years of university had 1.7. "Dollar for dollar, investments in voluntary family planning and girls' education would, in the long run, reduce greenhouse gas emissions at least as much as investments in nuclear or wind energy," the report said.

It revealed that, contrary to received wisdom, rates of unintended pregnancies were higher in rich countries than in poor ones. In Europe, the US, Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand, an average of 41 per cent of pregnancies were unintended, compared with 35 per cent in developing countries.

However, most of the projected increase in population would be in developing countries. The population of Africa was expected to double to two billion by 2050. The population of all developed countries was likely to rise only 3 per cent, though this masked big differences, with the US population expected to rise by a third to 400 million and Japan's expected to decline by a fifth to 100million.

The Population Fund acknowledged that reducing population growth in developing countries would have little immediate impact on emissions because their inhabitants have relatively small carbon footprints. But it said that the savings would increase as the economies of developing countries grew and levels of consumption - and, therefore, emissions - rose.

The report said that population growth was only beginning to be recognised as an important topic in international negotiations on climate change. It will not be discussed at next month's UN summit in Copenhagen. "Fear of appearing supportive of population control has, until recently, held back any mention of 'population' in the climate debate."

A spokeswoman for Cafod, the Catholic aid agency, said it did not support the promotion of birth control in poor countries, where the "underlying causes of large families ... are lack of education of women and unequal power relationships between men and women".


Up to 30 conservative parliamentarians may vote against Warmist laws

UP to 30 Liberal MPs and senators are set to defy their leader Malcolm Turnbull on emissions trading, one of the party's prominent climate change sceptics said. More than a third of the party would "probably cross" the floor of Parliament to vote against the scheme even if Labor agreed to Coalition amendments, backbencher Dennis Jensen said. "I don't want to name them but there are 30 MPs," he told AAP.

Coalition MPs and senators were expected to consider the outcome of negotiations presently underway with Labor when they meet in Canberra next Tuesday. A Senate vote was expected late next week and any changes the upper house makes to the legislation would need the support of the Lower House, where Labor has a majority. In the Senate, Labor needs the support of at least seven Liberals to win parliamentary approval for its scheme.


Enterprise is not the enemy

A conservative political advisor looks for a middle ground below

Georges Clemenceau, the French prime minister during World War I, said that war is too serious a matter to entrust to military men. In the same vein, the environment is too important to be left to the Greens. Bob Carr made the point recently that the Greens are not the environmental movement, they are a political party.

Environmental issues are mainstream and not a luxury. They go to the heart of how we sustain our growth and living standards in the face of rising population and resource depletion pressures. Environmental costs are not always incorporated in market prices but there is now ample evidence that market approaches, including appropriate property rights, have an important role to play in conservation regimes. They can reduce pollution at lesser costs than regulatory approaches, as the acid rain cap and trade system showed.

There is no incompatibility between private enterprise or capitalism and the environment. The success of capitalism in raising living standards has been used by some Greens to equate it with environmental degradation. The poor state of the environment in Eastern Europe when the Berlin Wall fell demonstrates that there is no corollary between social and economic systems and the condition of the environment.

The Greens have often used environmental issues to peddle an anti-capitalist and populist agenda, focusing on renewable energy sources as good, soft power while rejecting nuclear energy as hard power that is the dirty product of multinational corporations. These attitudes are not shared by many of those who vote Green.

In the previous federal election Labor made a good fist of owning the environment and climate change. In the public mind concern for the environment has come to be equated with action to address climate change. Kevin Rudd focused on the Coalition's failure to sign the Kyoto treaty as evidence of its lack of credentials on environment and climate. The issue was used to define John Howard as backward-looking and not interested in the future.

So Labor now has equity in the issue. Every day that the Coalition spends discussing, and dividing on, climate change is a day lost to other issues more to the Coalition's advantage. The party should neutralise these issues and move on or risk alienating a whole constituency of voters, not restricted to the young, who genuinely feel strongly about these matters but who do not wish to embrace Stone Age living standards.

So does that mean that climate change sceptics should just shut up? No, because scientific inquiry that improves our knowledge and uncovers errors must be encouraged. Scientists should have the moral courage to change their position as ugly facts slay beautiful theories. But as a layman, how do I know who is right in the climate change debate? Is it the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or the scientists who claim that the IPCC has been too timid in its projections of global warming? Is it celebrities jumping on the bandwagon or more isolated scientific voices such as that of Ian Plimer?

How is a politician to make a principled decision on such a weighty matter? The French mathematician and religious philosopher of the 17th century, Blaise Pascal, tackled a related issue. He formulated a wager to guide those wrestling with the concept of faith. Because faith was beyond reasoning he proposed that one should weigh the consequences of belief v unbelief. If you believe and hence lead a virtuous life on earth but there is no hereafter, what have you really lost (apart from a good time perhaps)? On the other hand, if you act as if there is no hereafter and God does exist, you have consigned yourself to purgatory and worse. The cost of unbelief is literally infinite compared with the cost of belief in these circumstances.

Applied to climate change, what are the costs of belief v unbelief? If you act and climate change turns out to be the new Y2K, it is true that resources will have been invested in the transition to a less carbon-intensive economy and there is the opportunity cost of locking up our remaining fossil fuel supply. But provided that there is genuine market in emissions trading the carbon price should crash and restore relativities with fossil fuels and other energy sources.

If climate change is genuine, urgent and otherwise irreversible, then early action pays off while late or no action results in mounting economic and social costs. The most rational strategy for a climate sceptic is to short the carbon market and wait for the big crash.

The recent Lowy poll picked up on a slide in the ranking of climate change as an issue of concern to Australians. Securing jobs was the No. 1 issue. This is the real challenge with polls and governing. People want climate change tackled but they want to do it without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Howard faced up to this dilemma in the 2004 election when he wrestled with what do about old-growth forests in Tasmania. On the eve of the election his advisers were urging him to tuck away a very substantial compensation package to pay for locking up significant forest reserves. The then-Labor leader Mark Latham had highlighted the issue during the year with a high profile visit to Tasmania and the recruitment of Peter Garrett to run in the seat of Kingsford Smith.

For the campaign, Latham put together a big forests package and according to Tim Gartrell, the then ALP national secretary, it polled well. Howard played cat and mouse with Latham during the campaign.

Early on in the campaign in the seat of Richmond on the NSW North Coast, Howard alluded to his dilemma. He was worried about sacrificing the jobs of timber workers in isolated communities with few alternative job prospects. He wanted a fair go for them and the environment. His chance came when Latham finally blinked and went down to Tasmania at the start of the last week of the campaign. The images of him being driven into an underground car park and virtually throwing his plan across the table in a "take it or leave it" attitude said it all.

Howard moved to finalise his policy in consultation with affected communities and in the middle of that week turned up at the Albert Hall in Launceston to announce it. He was rapturously received by the timber workers and their families; he had looked after them and had the courage to meet them and address their concerns. It sent a message to other affected communities on the mainland that Howard was about balancing jobs and conservation.

In a recent welcome development, Bob Brown, the leader of the Greens, and John Gay, the executive chairman of Gunns, have met to discuss the proposed paper mill that has caused no end of controversy in Tasmania. It is good that they are at least talking and perhaps will find a practical outcome to this long-running saga.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Victorian Human Rights watchdog again interferes with people's human rights

VCAT rejects woman's bid to set up women-only travel service -- but Muslims can do anything, of course

A TRIBUNAL has rejected a Melbourne woman's bid to set up a women-only travel service. Erin Maitland, a former tour guide, applied to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for an exemption under the Equal Opportunity Act to set up her business, Travel Sisters. She argued some women would feel more comfortable travelling in women-only groups and safer than travelling alone.

Ms Maitland said her tours would also be tailored to common women's interests including cooking, shopping and crafts and that women's partners would be more supportive of them travelling if they knew they were with other women. Ms Maitland relied on a ruling two years ago in which VCAT granted an exemption to a woman, allowing her to arrange tours for women only.

But the tribunal must now assess exemption applications in line with the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities. VCAT president Judge Marilyn Harbison refused Ms Maitland's application, saying she had not shown enough evidence that limiting a human right is reasonable or necessary. "The grant of an exemption may well be convenient and practical to assist Erin in the establishment of her business but it cannot presently be justified on human rights principles,'' she said.

Judge Harbison said there were other steps that could be put in place to ensure women feel safe and comfortable travelling in groups, without having to exclude men.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, which argued during the hearing that the evidence provided was "weak'', said Ms Maitland could enforce standards of conduct, select facilities with separate male and female change rooms, ensure privacy for her clients and encourage people to report safety concerns.

The commission said that even without an exemption, market forces could result in Ms Maitland's business being successful because men would not be interested in it. The ruling comes after a Melbourne party company specialising in dance events for lesbians and bisexual women won the right to ban men earlier this year.

In May, VCAT granted a three-year exemption to an inner western suburbs gym, enabling it to conduct women-only swimming sessions and related programs. Many of the women at the YMCA gym in Ascot Vale are Muslim who, because of their cultural and religious beliefs, cannot take part in mixed swimming lessons.


Absurd attack on freedoms in Western Australia

YOU don't have to be a civil libertarian to oppose giving police the powers to indiscriminately stop and search people without so much as a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. Yet that is exactly what the West Australian government is trying to do with legislation before parliament this week.

Think about it for a moment. You could be walking down the street (or even driving a car) and a police officer, for whatever reason, could stop you, frisk you and go through your personal possessions. If you are a woman that includes rifling through your handbag. No reason needs to be given, no discussion had, no consent.

These are extraordinary powers, unprecedented in this country. West Australian Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan defends them on the grounds that they won't be used unnecessarily. But the legislation is silent on this opaque promise, which, with the sands of time, could wash away. Anyone who values their freedoms should be appalled.

The newly elected state Liberal MP Peter Abetz (when he isn't referring to the actions of Adolf Hitler to improve law and order in fascist Germany) says: "When it comes to the crunch, people prefer to be safe than to have freedom."

But a large component of safety is protection against an all-powerful state. That is why the term "reasonable suspicion" is a bedrock of policing standards across the globe.

The real reason the Barnett government wants to introduce these absurd laws is because there have been recent well-publicised cases of botched "reasonable suspicion" arrests resulting in the courts letting the accused walk free. That happens when police don't do their jobs properly. The solution is to improve policing, not simplistically widen their powers so as to infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens.

And of course Western Australia now has mandatory jail sentences for anyone who assaults a police officer. If you resist a search you can be pinned against the floor and, if you in any way react, you could be deemed to have assaulted the officer who without reason stopped and searched you. So blokes out there, don't go getting too offended when a cop runs his hand up your wife's inner thigh without reasonable suspicion. It could land you in jail.


Rudd is treating us like mugs

THERE is an emerging credibility gap in the Rudd government's navigation of contentious policy issues, a compulsion that denies the obvious and rests on the apparent assumption that Australians are mugs.

There are many examples but the issue of asylum-seekers offers compelling evidence. Kevin Rudd invested much time in parliament on Monday insisting that the 22 asylum-seekers who first left the Oceanic Viking were receiving no preferential arrangement. Asked by 3AW's Neil Mitchell last week if there was special treatment, the Prime Minister replied: "Absolutely not." Yet the terms set out by the Minister-Counsellor Immigration in the Jakarta embassy, Jim O'Callaghan, to the asylum-seekers suggests a set of detailed special arrangements. They were authorised by the Rudd government's border protection committee of cabinet chaired by Immigration Minister Chris Evans.

The Australian's Jakarta correspondent Stephen Fitzpatrick reported yesterday that the Oceanic Viking people were quarantined from others because of resentment at their preferential conditions courtesy of the Rudd government.

There are three key provisions in O'Callaghan's document: if the UNHCR has found a person to be a refugee they will be resettled within four to six weeks of disembarkation; if an individual has already registered with the UNHCR they will be resettled within 12 weeks of disembarkation; and if people are not yet registered and are found to be refugees, they will also be resettled within 12 weeks. These provisions are highly generous. It is no surprise they are exceptional within UNHCR Indonesian operations. There are many refugees in Indonesia and none is given resettlement in four to six weeks.

The Australian offer included English language and orientation classes while cases are being processed. A "highly professional" team of Australian officials will work "every day" to assist refugee applications. The Red Cross will assist in tracing family members. The Sri Lankans were told many services will be provided in the resettlement country and these may include "assistance with housing, medical care and counselling, income support, English language tuition and help to find a job".

Rudd has been desperate to persuade the Sri Lankans to disembark in Indonesia. He had rightly drawn a line in the sand; he would not allow the boat to come to Christmas Island and he had a victory yesterday with reports that all Sri Lankans would disembark after the past month's protracted agony.

To grasp the nature of the special arrangement, consider the following: at October 1 there were 1760 registered asylum-seekers in Indonesia and 573 people recognised as refugees by the UNHCR in Jakarta; the typical delay time for processing and resettlement far exceeds 12 weeks and usually runs beyond 12 months. Australia, in short, is fast-tracking the Oceanic Viking people.

Evans said last week that Australia was "more likely to get the larger proportion" as the final destination. The exceptions to this, mentioned by Evans, was "if, for instance, they've got a first cousin living in Canada". Decoded the message is most are headed for Australia. However, this is far from the normal arrangement.

About 1300 people have been resettled from Indonesia to third nations in recent years and Australia has taken about one-third, with the rest going to Canada, the US, New Zealand, Sweden and France. Having rejected force to remove people, Australia had only one option left: it had to persuade them. Nobody should be surprised at the inducements offered. It was the price Rudd had to pay to keep the boat out of our territory. The price is justified. After the shambles of the past month it is a relief that Australia did not have to offer more. The criticism of Rudd is not that he paid such a price; it is that he pretends he paid no price whatsoever. He seems to think almost any line can be spun and will be believed, even when it is nonsense.

On Monday Rudd tabled a letter in parliament from Immigration Department Secretary Andrew Metcalfe to Evans, dated the same day. It was a classic example of recruiting under duress a senior public servant to buttress the government's line. The letter is a study in fact and political evasion. On tabling Metcalfe's letter, Rudd claimed it showed from the perspective of the departmental secretary "that these are not preferential arrangements". The letter shows nothing of the kind. Indeed, it is significant that Metcalfe avoids any such formulation.

He merely says that the group is being treated in a manner "consistent with that afforded to any other asylum-seeker or refugee in Indonesia". He does, however, say that Australia and Indonesia have agreed on "timeframes for the processing", which may imply a special arrangement. Requesting such a letter achieved nothing and the request should not have been made. Yet Rudd persisted in using Metcalfe as a shield and, responding to criticism from Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull, he claimed that Turnbull was disputing advice from "the independent Public Service of Australia". On the contrary, it shows the government stooping to use the public service to buttress a bad case.

It is noteworthy that Rudd was not involved in authorising the offer to the Sri Lankans. He told parliament on Monday that he was unaware of the offer's terms and did not authorise it. Turnbull seemed to find this unbelievable. But Rudd's denial was unequivocal. It stands despite his subsequent clarification that the cabinet committee that did approve the offer contained Rudd's staff.

The real point is that the Rudd government authorised a necessary special deal and, embarrassed about its domestic ramifications, tried to deny the obvious.


New Zealand less corrupt than Australia?

That's a laugh. NZ is the "orchestrated litany of lies" country. The raters just don't know NZ well

Lawless Somalia and war-torn Afghanistan have topped a blacklist of the world's most corrupt countries drawn up by the anti-graft watchdog Transparency International. Australia ranked as the eighth most honest of 180 countries, according to the annual study. New Zealand, Denmark, Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland were the top five least corrupt countries.

TI's corruption index showed how countries devastated by conflict have become overrun by graft, with Iraq, Sudan and Myanmar accounting for the three other states in the bottom five of the chart.

The Berlin-based organisation said that countries whose infrastructure had been "torn apart" by conflict needed help from outside to prevent a culture of corruption taking root. "The international community must find efficient ways to help war-torn countries to develop and sustain their own institutions," said TI's head Huguette Labelle.

Overall, the 2009 corruption list is "of great concern", the organisation said, with the majority of countries scoring under five in the ranking, which ranges from zero, highly corrupt, and 10, which is very clean.

Six years after the US-led invasion and the chaos that followed, Iraq was perceived to be slightly cleaner, with its score rising to 1.5 points from 1.3 points. It also climbed two places in the list. But Afghanistan slid from 1.5 points in 2008 to 1.3 in 2009, giving further ammunition to critics of President Hamid Karzai who has just been re-elected after a vote marred by rampant fraud.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Karzai this week that future financial support from Washington would be linked to steps to tackle graft and said that a culture of "impunity for those who are corrupt" had to end. The Afghan government announced on Monday it had formed a major crime unit to tackle corruption, in a move designed to assuage Western concerns about Karzai who is due to be inaugurated for a second term later this week.

The most corrupt nation on Earth remained Somalia, the impoverished and war-torn Horn of Africa state that has been without a functioning government for two decades, notching up a score of 1.1 points. African countries accounted for half of those in the bottom 20 of the list, including Angola which is now the continent's top oil exporter after emerging from a 27-year civil war.

But it was not just countries riven by conflict that saw their ratings slide. Italy, a member of the Group of Seven rich countries came in at 63rd on the list, from 55th last year. Fellow EU member Greece fared even worse, at 71st, slipping from 57th. [I believe those two rankings]

Seemingly winning the fight against corruption were Liberia - whose score improved from 2.4 points to 3.1 points, shooting up 41 places on the list to 97th - and Gambia, which went from 158 on the list to 106. Other significant improvements were registered by Norway, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Montenegro and Malawi.

The United States inched up from 7.3 points to 7.5, but dropped one place in the rankings to 19th. China's rating was stable at 3.6 points but also fall seven places to 79th. Russia continued to be very low down in the list, coming in at 146th place, although its score edged higher to 2.2 points from 2.1 points.

The five countries seen as least afflicted by corruption were New Zealand, Denmark, Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland - the Alpine country seen as a bastion of bank secrecy. New Zealand scored 9.4 points whereas Somalia scored 1.1 points. The score is based on perceptions of the degree of corruption as seen by business people and country analysts.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

4th boatful of illegals in 4 days

THE Australian Navy has intercepted another boatload of 41 suspected asylum-seekers near Ashmore Islands as tensions rise between Australia and Indonesia over the influx. The fourth boat to arrive in four days was intercepted by HMAS Broome, after it was initially spotted by RAAF P3 aircraft, operating under the control of Border Protection.

The Rudd government remains under pressure over claims of special deals to get Oceanic Viking protesters off the boat and speculation of a diplomatic snub behind the Indonesian President's decision to cancel a visit to Australia on Sunday at short notice blaming “scheduling difficulties”. Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull said Dr Yudhoyono's cancelled visit to Australia showed relations with Indonesia were clearly “very strained”. “The last-minute cancellation of the president of Indonesia's visit is an extraordinary slap in the face for Kevin Rudd and Kevin Rudd's claims to be the great Asia-Pacific diplomat,” he said.

Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said Mr Rudd had “botched something” about the visit. But Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said there was still a possibility Dr Yudhoyono could make an a end-of-year visit. Mr Smith rejected suggestions of tension in the relationship, saying the relationship was “very, very good, first class”. “The opposition on this matter should quietly calm down.”

Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor said today the latest group detected yesterday will be transferred to Christmas Island where they will undergo security, identity and health checks. “The Australian Government remains vigilant and committed to protecting Australia's borders,” he said.

Today marks a month since the asylum-seekers still refusing to disembark the Oceanic Viking customs vessel in Indonesia were first detected by the Australian Navy in Indonesian waters. “It is a special, almost unique, circumstances of a search and rescue in Indonesian waters ... and we want this to conclude as a search-and-rescue operation,” Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told ABC Radio. “We have an abundance of patience ... as do our Indonesian counterparts.”

The Rudd government today rejected Indonesian media reports claiming Australia had agreed to resettle the asylum-seekers as part of the deal to get off the boat, arguing Australia is simply one of a number of countries were they could go if their claims are found to be genuine. While the Australian government has long argued the vessel was detected in Indonesian waters, local media has reported Indonesian military concerns over why the boatload wasn't taken by the Oceanic Viking to Christmas Island.

As spokesman for Mr O'Connor said today that the original vessel in distress was detected 120 nautical miles off the coast of Sumatra. “The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) advised the position of the vessel was in international waters in which Indonesia has primary responsibility to coordinate search and rescue (known as the Indonesian Search and Rescue Region,” he said.


Public hospital dental clinic used unsterilised equipment

Will the repeated carelessness at Bundaberg never stop? -- even after they have in the past killed people by their negligence?

Bundaberg Dental Clinic patients have been treated with unsterilised equipment, potentially exposing them to blood-borne diseases such as HIV. However Australian Medical Association Queensland infectious disease spokesman Mike Whitby said the risk was "extremely low". One batch of equipment used at the Queensland Health clinic on November 6 was washed with high-pressure water and detergent, then dried, but failed to go through the final sterilisation process.

Queensland Health, which only found out about the error on Friday, has started trying to track down patients who attended the clinic from November 6-13 who may have been treated with the unsterilised equipment. More than 30 people treated on November 6 before the problem occurred have been asked to undergo blood tests for infectious diseases, so Queensland Health can assess the risk to other patients. Most are understood to have agreed to have the test, and results are expected tomorrow.

Dr Whitby said if those tests proved negative for blood-borne diseases, the risk to patients treated with the unsterilised equipment was zero. He said even if one of those patients tested positive, the chances of others treated with the same equipment becoming infected was "very, very small". "Viruses are designed to live inside the human body so even putting them out into the open, into the air, will kill many of them fairly quickly," Dr Whitby said.

"Secondly, if you've had viruses immersed in detergent, the detergent . . . kills it fairly quickly. "Having said that, it's really not something that should happen. There should be checks and balances in the sterilisation process to make sure that that doesn't happen."

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle described the situation as "shocking". "I can't believe that after the series of blunders we've had in the past four or five years, it just keeps getting worse," he said.


Federal education boss 'determined' to publish school results

THE Federal Government is refusing to back down on plans to publish online the results of national school tests despite opposition from some principals, teachers and parents. "We are determined to go ahead with this plan," Education Minister Julia Gillard told ABC Radio today.

From next year, the Government's "myschool" website will publish demographic information about a school's population, together with teacher and student numbers and attendance rates. It will also contain each school's results from national literacy and numeracy tests, known as NAPLAN.

Six organisations, including the Australian Education Union and Australian Council of State School Organisations, have written to the minister urging her to ensure the information is not made public.

Ms Gillard said she understood why publishing the information would make some principals and teachers uncomfortable. "But transparency is necessary to shine a light on what is happening in our schools," she said.

Ms Gillard said there would be "moments" for some schools that don't do well compared with schools teaching similar kids.


British view: Not enough censorship of climate debate in Australia

It's all about double standards and fashions. When Tom Schieffer, the former US ambassador to Australia, interfered in the domestic debate by criticising Labor's Mark Latham in 2003, he was rebuked by some commentators for undiplomatic behaviour. Fair enough.

Last week Baroness Valerie Amos, who recently became Britain's high commissioner, also intervened in Australian politics. She expressed surprise that there was a debate in Australia about whether humans are the principal cause of climate change and added: "In the UK there is a degree of political consensus about what in broad terms needs to be done … You would certainly not see on a daily basis … the kind of negative reporting that you have here."

Amos evoked a modern cliche and suggested that it was time, on this matter, that Australia "moved on". Put simply, Amos wants there to be no debate whatsoever about human-induced climate change and, to the extent to which this takes place, she wants the media to refrain from reporting it. It seems that platitudes are handed down in the British high commission in Canberra.

Helen Liddell, Amos' immediate predecessor, delivered a similar lecture at the National Press Club in April 2007 - not long before the federal election of that year in which climate change was a matter of contention.

How come, then, that Schieffer's comments on Australian politics caused offence whereas those by Liddell and Amos passed virtually without criticism? Well, Schieffer is not only a conservative but a friend of George Bush who supported American policy in Iraq. Liddell was a Labour MP from 1994 to 2005 and became a minister in Tony Blair's government. And Amos was appointed to the House of Lords by Blair in 1997 becoming a minister and, later, leader of the House of Lords. Moreover, both Liddell and Amos believe in the most fashionable cause of the modern age - namely that human behaviour is responsible for global warming.

So it seems that there is one rule for conservative Americans Down Under who want to talk publicly about Iraq. And quite another rule for social democratic Brits who want to talk publicly about climate change. Last September, shortly before she left Australia, Liddell appeared on ABC1's Q&A program and used the occasion to lecture the audience about emission trading schemes. It is most unlikely that the Australian high commissioner in London would appear on the BBC Question Time program and lecture the British on, say, how to run an economy.

The British high commission's lecture-at-large to the Australian population invariably overlooks two central facts. First, British carbon emissions are low because, when Margaret Thatcher was conservative prime minister in the 1980s, the coalmines were allowed to close down. This policy was not continued when John Major succeeded Thatcher.

This was done in the face of opposition from British Labour, the radical leftist National Union of Mineworkers and assorted Guardian-New Statesman reading inner-city luvvies. Had this lot had their way, the British taxpayer would have been forced to subsidise dirty British coal and Australians would have been spared the subsequent moralising of such former Labour parliamentarians as Liddell and Amos. At the meeting of the United Kingdom-Australia Leadership Forum in Canberra in 2006, John Howard mentioned that on his first flight to Britain as prime minister he had watched the film Brassed Off, which depicted the anger at the wind-up of the British coal industry, and joked that he had been impressed by the impassioned speeches delivered by Thatcher's opponents at the time. Tony Blair joined in the humour, declaring that he might have delivered one of these orations himself. By then, of course, Blair was more interested in the reduction of carbon pollution.

The second reason why Britain has relatively low carbon emissions turns on the fact that it has a nuclear power industry. As its Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband, announced recently, Gordon Brown's Government intends to begin the construction of up to 10 nuclear power stations.

It is true that there is little debate in the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties in Britain about the cause of climate change. Perhaps this explains why it is not as high profile an issue as in Australia. Meanwhile, the Americans seemed subsumed in the debates on health insurance and the war in Afghanistan. That's why - contrary to many predictions - President Barack Obama will not take a firm carbon pollution reduction proposal to the Copenhagen conference early next month. Within the OECD, the Australian economy most resembles that of the US and Canada. The US did not ratify the Kyoto Agreement - not even when Al Gore was vice president in Bill Clinton's administration. Canada signed up to Kyoto - but never got close to meeting its targets. Australia did not ratify Kyoto under Howard, but met its targets.

Quite a few members of the European Union have not met their Kyoto targets. Perhaps the likes of Liddell and Amos might have more effect by taking their climate change diplomatic advocacy to Ottawa or Brussels.

The Rudd Government is attempting to get a carbon pollution reduction scheme through the Senate before Copenhagen. If he does, well and good. If he doesn't, Australia's situation will be no different from that of the US. In his surprisingly strident speech to the Lowy Institute on November 6, the Prime Minister acknowledged that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had found that it was "90 per cent probable" that humans were responsible for climate change. While there is a 10 per cent doubt, it is unlikely that this debate will be silenced in Australia - irrespective of the views of British diplomats in the Antipodes.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Leftist suspicion of a constellation of stars in the night sky!

Trotskyites, Leftist labour unions and various other far-Leftist groups in Australia have often flaunted Southern Cross ("Eureka") flags but when other Australians use a representation of the same cross, it becomes "racist"! That it is essentially just a geographical identifier (it is not seen in the Northern sky) is too deep for them. A representation of it is included on the right-hand side of the Australian flag

It shines in our night sky. It is plastered across the uniforms of our elite sporting teams and inked into the skin of everyone from pro surfers to supermodels. It was made infamous during the Cronulla race riots and is being stuck to an increasing number of car rear windows. It even features on the Australian flag and the Eureka flag, the latter which first flew in 1854 during a goldminers' revolt. Whichever way we look at it, and whether we like it or not, the Southern Cross has become our de facto national symbol.

But a debate has erupted as to whether the Southern Cross has been commandeered for social and/or political agendas. Many say patriotism should be commended but others point to its complexity and argue that it is more divisive than unifying. As the Australia Day Council launched a campaign last week to ask which symbols and images best represent our country, opinion-makers and public figures were at odds on how to answer the question - variously describing the Southern Cross as everything from "beautiful" to "racist".

While Southern Cross tattoos adorn celebrities such as television tradesman Scott Cam, cricketer Peter Siddle and Bra Boy surfer Koby Abberton, there has been something of a backlash. On the internet community site Facebook, groups have started such as "The Southern Cross tattoo is bogan and racist" and "I'm sick of seeing people with Southern Cross stickers on cars and tattoos".

Australia Day Council ambassador Elka Graham said a website launched last week - - is designed to promote debate over our national identity. "You're not just having people of status and wealth talking about what it is to be Australian but you're getting the average person online," the Olympic swimmer said. "I think you're going to find a diverse range of what Australia is."

Tim Soutphommasane, a first-generation Australian and author of Reclaiming Patriotism: Nation-Building for Australian Progressives, said symbols such as the Southern Cross came to be associated with a new wave of patriotism under the conservative Howard government. "Many Australians have been content to regard all expressions of national pride as thinly disguised racism," he said. "The result has been a surrender of all things patriotic to extreme nationalists."

Soutphommasane said Australians needed to work harder at tying national symbols to civic virtues, such as inclusion and democratic participation. "This is what's frustrating about occasions such as Australia Day," he said. "People often reduce everything that's great about our country to sport and lifestyle - that sells Australia short, it trivialises our achievement. "We have a democratic and egalitarian public culture that is worth celebrating. Symbols such as the national flag should be things that unite us rather than divide us along racial lines. Since Cronulla [in 2005], this has been a challenge."

Dr Russell McGregor, an academic at James Cook University, said if there was a rising perception of the Southern Cross as racist, it's nothing new. "The Southern Cross became famous because of its connection with the Eureka Stockade … The race element is because at one stage [it was used] by the National Front, a far-right organisation back in the 1970s, but before that it was adopted by various communist groups," he said. "It's been adopted by the left, the right and the centre of Australian politics at various stages. I don't think there's any inherent racial [meaning]."

Research shows Australians have become one of the "most patriotic" peoples in the world. International research company the Reputation Institute, last month released a report that found Australia rated highest among 33 countries in self-image. The poll found Australians score themselves 91.9 out of 100 when it comes to the esteem, respect and admiration they hold for their country - although foreigners have a rather lower opinion of Australia, giving it a score of 72.5.

Russel Howcroft, a panellist on ABC TV's The Gruen Transfer , said outside Australia, the Southern Cross was a more distinctive symbol than we have traditionally used. "I think the Southern Cross is really important to how Australians view themselves," he said. "To me, it's far more unifying than the Union Jack … And it's interesting because over time, it has become a key image."

Mr Howcroft said as an advertisement for the country, the national flag failed to promote Australia. "What it says is that we're colonial, because it's basically a colonial design, and it isn't differentiating because there are many other countries in the world … who use that basic structure," he said.

Australians for Constitutional Monarchy national convener Professor David Flint disagreed, saying critics were out of touch with the Australian people and that it was a "pity to undermine the great symbols of the nation". "The fact [the symbols] have been imported doesn't make them any less Australian."


Honest cop back at work after beating corrupt police bosses -- for now

A OFFICER who exposed cronyism and corruption in the police force has returned to duty after 18 months of being forced to see psychiatrists despite being fit. Sergeant Robbie Munn said he was greeted by "a lot of smiles, handshakes and pats on the back" by other officers at the Maroochydore police station after battling against police bureaucracy.

Sgt Munn, who rebelled against a culture he said deterred whistleblowers from reporting "dirty little secrets" in the service, credited an October story in The Courier-Mail with restoring his career. Only days before the story ran, Sgt Munn was barred from duty but within hours of the story's publication his doctor received a report clearing him for service. "The story was the only reason I was allowed back," he said. "I still think they want me out and will try to medically retire me."

Sgt Munn is working three days a week on a rehabilitation program recommended for him last year but only offered to him after the story appeared. Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson said he would meet with Sgt Munn to discuss his concerns, but the meeting has yet to occur.

Sgt Munn was supported by Queensland Police Union general secretary Mick Barnes, Maroochydore's Sgt John Saez, a 37-year veteran, and dozens of Dayboro residents impressed with his services as officer-in-charge in the town.

Sgt Munn, who was in charge of 70 police officers at Maroochydore, said he was smeared in the bureaucracy after exposing that police cheated on promotion exams by plagiarising and paying others to complete their work. He also unsuccessfully tried to reform rosters at the Maroochydore watchhouse after becoming concerned at some work practices. A year later, two officers were charged and eventually jailed for taking advantage of female prisoners.

When he was overlooked for promotion in Dayboro, he appealed to the CMC and won, embarrassing his managers. After having a heart attack, Sgt Munn said he was not allowed to return to duty despite his GP and two psychiatrists saying he was fit. The police service was accused of doctor-shopping for a negative report to keep Sgt Munn from returning.

He was embarrassed to be paid more than $100,000 from a fund for ill police officers while he was on enforced leave. "At least now I have direction. For 18 months I had no direction," he said.

Police bureaucrats sat on a favourable report on his mental condition until after the newspaper article appeared.

Evie, his wife, said her husband had been "honest to his own detriment". Union secretary Mr Barnes said Sgt Munn was a victim of "bastardisation" in the force. "It highlights the mindset within many senior QPS officers who are unable to agree to disagree," he said.


Australia sends some Sri Lankans illegals home

How come these guys did not get the normal big welcome? As far as I can tell, they forgot to say the magic word "asylum" when first interviewed

THE Rudd government chartered a 100-seat jet to Sri Lanka at the weekend to forcibly remove six asylum-seekers who staged a dramatic eight-hour protest inside the Christmas Islands immigration detention centre last month.

The six Sinhalese fishermen became the first asylum-seekers to be isolated inside the centre's controversial "red block", built by the Howard government, with small metal cells to detain violent or unstable detainees.

They were among 50 Sri Lankans who had been trying to reach New Zealand when their boat hit a reef in Torres Strait on March 28. So far, only 12 have been found to be refugees and granted visas.

Another 29 have gone home voluntarily on commercial flights from Perth, one is in detention in Perth in preparation for returning voluntarily on a commercial flight and the remaining two are in detention on Christmas Island while their claims are resolved.

On October 30, the protesting six, who had been assessed and rejected, refused to board a charter plane from Christmas Island to Perth, where they were expected to join a commercial flight to Colombo as voluntary removals. Instead, one of the men stunned onlookers by swiftly climbing a pole thought to be more than 12m. He stayed there poised to jump for the most of the day while the five others refused to co-operate with people sent to the scene, including a psychologist.

The operation to return the six to Sri Lanka began on Friday when the Department of Immigration and Citizenship chartered a Fokker 100 from the mainland. It brought in guards specially trained in involuntary removals. At 6.30am on Saturday, the Sri Lankans were brought to Christmas Island's airport in two minibuses with guards. In total, 17 guards and immigration workers accompanied the men to Colombo on the airliner. The minders returned to Christmas Island alone yesterday morning.

Yesterday there were 1114 asylum-seekers on Christmas Island and 14 crew. Authorities were preparing for the delivery early this week of the 40th boatload of asylum-seekers intercepted this year. The group of 47 and three crew were spotted on Friday near Ashmore Reef.


Pettifogging bureaucracy is just creeping totalitarianism

By Miranda Devine

Two Qantas pilots have been suspended after they came close to landing a Boeing 767 at Sydney Airport without lowering its wheels, which was rather forgetful of them. But in the absent-minded department they were not alone, with reports recently of two similar incidents. Two US Airbus pilots were suspended after they did not notice they had flown past their destination in Minneapolis. Another two Delta pilots were stood down when they did not notice the runway they were landing on was blue with a yellow stripe, indicating it was not a runway but a taxiway.

Such incidents may become commonplace as aircraft become more complex and the once-very busy pilot brain becomes underutilised. Put highly trained, intelligent humans in jobs where they have to stare at computers for hours and act only if something goes wrong, and the brain will find something else to do - sleep, daydream or plunge into a fugue. Cash-strapped airlines are solving this problem by employing pilots who are less skilled and cheaper.

The effects of excessive automatism on pilots are a example of what happens to human ingenuity, resourcefulness and independent thought when it is rendered surplus to requirement in a bureaucracy.

The spread of brain-dead supplicants to the state has grown with the rise of the bureaucratic class, which reached its zenith when the former Queensland bureaucrat and chief jargon generator Kevin Rudd became Prime Minister. He may be a perfectly fine human being but he believes in one thing - that systems and processes can solve any problem, that if you have enough meetings, summits, talkfests, reviews, studies, probes, resolutions and facilitations, preferably with some connection to a United Nations body, solutions will miraculously occur without hard decisions being made.

As Rudd's disintegrating policy on asylum seekers demonstrates, this approach rarely works.

His 2020 Summit, stacked with whiteboards and McKinseyite facilitators, was a prime example of bureaucracy syndrome, with much talking and nothing happening.

Bureaucratism obfuscates with jargon that is impossible to understand, making your mind behave like a skittish colt. You finally give up and turn away with a sense of failure, suspecting that if you had tried harder you might have reached the golden truth. Only there is no golden truth. It is all dense verbiage, with no reason to exist except itself.

Bureaucratism operates by adding layers of complexity to a problem so that much time and effort can be spent on assembling the architecture of that complexity and then solving the problems created by that architecture. You become so caught up in solving the human resources issues or occupational health and safety concerns or constructing risk analysis that the original problem is rendered meaningless.

Take the consultant called in recently to define the "strategy and objectives" of a big metropolitan rail network project. He told me he was stuck with senior management who thought safety was their first priority, "ahead of moving an ever-increasing number of people across the network". He told them the only safe train network is one that has no trains.

The Institute of Public Affairs showed recently that state bureaucracies were growing at a rate of 8 per cent a year, as expressed by the cost of state public sector workers. The number of state public servants nationwide has grown from 972,000 in 2000 to 1.2 million last year. They all need something to do, and the results can be seen in the dozens of small ways our lives are burdened with bureaucratism every day.

Try getting a passport renewed at Neutral Bay post office. They will have you back and forward retaking photographs to eliminate a shadow or the hint of teeth. Any deviation and your application can be spiked. You cannot collect the application form from the post office. You must download it from the internet and print it out. But woe betide you if the margins are a millimetre too wide. You will be running back and forward to the printer for days. It is like being lost in a Kafka play. There must be people who enjoy such useless activity.

The main problem with pettifogging bureaucracy is that it puts immense power in the hands of people who are constitutionally unfit for it. It is evident from early years in the school playground that some people are destined to be paper shufflers. But give them power and they become drunk with it, wielding it not only unwisely but unjustly.

It may be tempting to think of over-bureaucratisation as a benign, though annoying, malaise that will pass quickly. But one of its strongest early opponents, the US president Ronald Reagan, argued it was as much a threat to liberty as communism. As his biographer Steven Hayward recently told ABC radio's Counterpoint, Reagan believed bureaucratic government, "undermines self-rule and consent of the governed".

Governments in Australia, the US and Europe "don't have secret police or concentration camps but they do behave arbitrarily and sometimes … even lawlessly, and are not very accountable to voters. So even in our two-party systems in Western democracies we are governed in some important respects like a one-party state."

The great shining symbol of bureaucratism's triumph over freedom is, of course, the carbon pollution reduction scheme, and its elaborate bureaucratic apparatus, which brooks no dissent.

The CSIRO economist Clive Spash, for instance, reportedly has claimed CSIRO management suppressed his research criticising emission trading schemes. Spash said he was not allowed to publish his paper, The Brave New World of Carbon Trading, because it commented on "policies", as if no CSIRO scientist had ever done such a thing.

The totalitarian threat of bureaucratism is nowhere as clear as in the climate change industry's creeping assaults on liberty.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Rudd buys off the farmers. He wants a climate deal at any price

Agriculture now to be exempt from Warmist laws but that blows a huge hole in any effect the laws might have. Rudd is showing his Chinese influences: He is now just trying to save face. He cares about global warming about as much as I do

In a shock move, the Federal Government has decided to exempt all agriculture from its proposed emissions trading scheme, turning up the heat on Malcolm Turnbull's Opposition leadership. The Coalition has been calling for the exemption – and the Government's surprise move dramatically raises the stakes for Mr Turnbull to close a deal with Climate Change Minister Penny Wong to pass the ETS in the next two weeks of Parliament.

Yet sections of the Opposition Leader's Liberal Party and the Nationals are likely to remain opposed to any such deal regardless, leaving Mr Turnbull's authority in shreds.

The surprise concession by the Government will be announced by Senator Wong today ahead of the resumption of Parliament this week. The initiative will also isolate the Nationals, who have been using the inclusion of agriculture in the proposed scheme by 2015 to spearhead its opposition to the package.

Senator Wong's announcement is likely to get backing for the scheme from key Nationals constituencies such as the National Farmers Federation, which has been lobbying heavily for such a decision. In another concession, Senator Wong will also announce the Government will develop plans to give farmers carbon credits for any efforts to capture and store carbon as part of their farm practices.

Opposition climate change spokesman Ian Macfarlane has been locked in talks with Senator Wong trying to negotiate a deal to get the scheme through the Senate. By announcing the exemption of agriculture, the Government will be able to say it has made major concessions and Mr Turnbull should now secure the backing of his party room to pass the scheme.

But Mr Turnbull is still likely to face a revolt. A number of Liberals, including Senate Leader Nick Minchin and senators Cory Bernardi and Julian McGauran, along with WA backbenchers Dennis Jensen and Wilson Tuckey, remain sceptical of the idea of man-made global warming and the Nationals are continuing to oppose the ETS outright. A refusal by the joint party room to back a compromise that includes the exemption of agriculture could make Mr Turnbull's leadership untenable. He has previously said he does not want to lead a party that does not embrace the idea of climate change.

The exclusion of agriculture had been presented by Mr Macfarlane as a "deal-breaker" in the ongoing talks. The move by the Government means farmers now will not have to buy permits for their carbon emissions, substantially reducing farm costs.

The exemption is likely to be attacked by economists, who argue that to be effective a carbon emissions system must be broadly based to share the huge costs. If one sector is exempted it increases costs on other sectors, such as energy-producing industries.

The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists has estimated Australia has the potential to store up to a billion tonnes of carbon a year for the next 40 years through improved pasture management and farm practices. The group says if Australia were to capture just 15 per cent of this capacity, it would offset the equivalent of 25 per cent of our current annual greenhouse emissions over that period. Under the new concessions farmers will be compensated for such carbon offsets, opening up new sources of income.


Ambulances sit waiting for hours before hospitals can take patients from them

Too bad that patients arriving by ambulance are generally seriously ill

MORE patients than ever are waiting over 30 minutes in ambulances "ramped" outside busy Queensland public hospitals because doctors and beds are not available. State Government figures reveal a 26 per cent increase in the number of sick and injured people being forced to wait before being seen by an emergency department doctor. Queensland Ambulance Service staff reported waits of three to four hours were not uncommon before they could hand over a patient.

In 2007-08, the cumulative hours spent waiting in the back of an ambulance were 10,528 across the state's 27 public hospitals. That jumped to 13,269 in 2008-09. Brisbane experienced the biggest jump, from 3879 hours to 5823 – a 50 per cent increase.

Opposition emergency services spokesman Ted Malone described the waiting as disgraceful and said it was costing taxpayers millions of dollars every year. "The Bligh Government's own statistics prove just how serious this issue has become," Mr Malone said yesterday. "Public hospitals have been in crisis for years and I have repeatedly questioned the Bligh Government to detail the costs of hospital ramping. "Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts has arrogantly brushed my questions aside and refused point blank to detail what the considerable cost is to the QAS."

Mr Malone said the union representing ambulance officers had kept a tally of hours spent ramped outside southeast Queensland hospitals. He said Mr Roberts should have access to the information, but suggested it would embarrass the Government. "This is a critical issue and Queensland taxpayers deserve to know what the dollar cost of ramping is to the QAS," he said.

The Liquor Hospitality Miscellaneous Union said that on one day in September, 11 ambulances were ramped at Logan Hospital for more than two hours.

In an answer to an Opposition question, Mr Roberts said the average off-stretcher time across Queensland was 13 minutes. He said 92 per cent of all patients were in hospital beds within 30 minutes and it was not possible to work out the cost of what officials termed "access block".


Another Muslim rapist?

A young woman has escaped the grasp of a man during an abduction attempt in Sydney, police say. About 12.30am today the 18-year-old woman was walking along New South Head Road at Edgecliff in Sydney's east when a man got out of a parked car and approached her. He allegedly grabbed the woman and tried to pull her towards his car.

"However, the woman managed to break free by hitting the man before running to the Double Bay CBD to seek help from her friends," police said in a statement. The woman was not injured.

Police were called and officers searched the area but found no trace of the man or his car. He is described as being aged in his mid-40s, of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean appearance, with short black hair. A car driven by the man is described as an older model Ford Falcon, with faded red paint.


Middle ground not always right

London's Mayor, Boris Johnson, rescued a woman being attacked by an armed girl gang this week by chasing them away on his pushbike and calling them ''oiks''. Johnson, a right-wing journalist and Tory politician, had been riding his bike home when Franny Armstrong, a climate activist who voted for his mayoral rival ''Red Ken'' Livingstone, called out for help.

Despite not sharing his politics, Armstrong, who directed the greenie movie The Age of Stupid, told reporters she was grateful to Johnson for his gallantry, calling him her ''knight on a shining bicycle". And she made this telling observation: ''If you find yourself down a dark alleyway and in trouble I think Boris would be of more use than Ken.''

I would suggest that, when push comes to shove, it is muscular conservatives with the courage of their convictions, of either sex, who are of more use in dark alleys than wishy-washy leftists, or simply people who don't like to get their hands dirty, make a judgment call or risk unpopularity.

If you are worried that someone might think you are a violent, chauvinistic bully if you chase the girl gang, you're no use. If you want to examine the motives of the assailants to establish beyond a shadow of a doubt that they mean Franny Armstrong harm, and aren't just asking her to admire their big iron bar, you're no use. If you are a peacenik who avoids all confrontation, you're no use. If you are a post-modernist who believes there are multiple truths, you will be too confused to be of any use.

In this age of cowardly consensus, feigned reasonableness and radical tolerance, the middle ground has been sanctified, no matter how stark the choice between right and wrong. Few are willing to do the right thing because no one will agree what the right thing might be, because that would imply there is a wrong thing, which is supposedly the view only of right-wing extremists.

Thus Kevin Rudd, the king of the middle ground, can hold two contrary ideas on asylum seekers, unpicking the allegedly heartless border-protection policies of the Howard government and replacing them with some sort of "tough and humane" apparatus that seems only to cause more suffering. His "Indonesian solution" of detaining Australia-bound asylum seekers in Indonesian camps will no doubt be harsher than keeping them in Australian-run centres in Nauru or Manus Island, and Australia will have less control over their living conditions.

But out of sight, out of mind, is a good way for the activists of the Howard era to avoid inconvenient truths.

Imagine if it were John Howard presiding over the stand-off with 78 Sri Lankan asylum seekers on the Oceanic Viking, the Australian Customs ship on which they have been languishing in Indonesian waters for three weeks, and counting. It would have been proof of his racist, xenophobic, inward-looking, 1950s-mired, white-picket-fence narrow-mindedness and meanness of spirit that had turned us into a pariah nation. As for Philip Ruddock, bring on the cadaver metaphors.

Imagine if Howard were prime minister last weekend when a boat of asylum seekers capsized near the Cocos Islands, drowning 12 people, including two teenage boys. It would have been SIEV X all over again. Blood on your hands, little Johnny. Crack journalistic investigative teams would be signing book contracts. Hannie Rayson would whip up another play applauded by chatterers and doctors' wives. The Refugee Action Coalition, Flotillas of Hope, Free the Refugees Campaign, Stop the War Coalition, North Shore Greens, Western Sydney Peace Group and North-West Friends of Refugees would be marching on Kirribilli House.

And yet the criticism of the Rudd Government from our public moral guardians has been oh, so muted. Where are Julian Burnside, Tony Kevin, Malcolm Fraser and Phillip Adams with their fearless commentary? Tom Keneally and his taped mouth? Ian Macphee, Greg Barns, Richard Woolcott, Marcus Einfeld? Oh, I forgot. He's in jail.

The lobby group A Just Australia, which hounded the Howard government over asylum seekers, has issued five press releases this year, of which four have led with attacks on the Opposition, including dire warnings about "a punitive … hardline faction within the shadow cabinet". The other press release mildly reproached Rudd for "disappointing" use of the term "illegal immigration" before moving to familiar territory, lambasting irresponsible "Sharman Stone and other shadow cabinet extremists". Old habits die hard.

Mandatory detention, it is worth pointing out at every opportunity, was introduced by Howard's Labor predecessor, with nary a murmur, even when about 350 children were locked up in 1993. It was Howard who ended the policy of detaining children.

But opportunists who despised Howard and the rednecks who voted for him used refugees as a political bludgeon, without any real attempt to help them. Those who once decried Howard's border protection policies, including the Pacific solution, which had asylum seekers processed in Nauru and on Manus Island, have a much more relaxed take on Rudd's Indonesian solution.

Howard and Ruddock were demonised for their clear, firm stand in 2001 after the Tampa crisis. Yet the results were more humane in practice than the rhetoric might suggest. Boat arrivals all but stopped by 2002 as the criminal syndicates who run people-smuggling rackets got the message that there was no point risking people's lives in leaky boats. The drownings at sea stopped.

Rudd, on the other hand, adopted a soft-talking approach, repudiating Howard's border protection policies and pandering to the activist lobby while attempting to retain border control on the quiet.

In practice his policies may turn out be less humane than Howard's, not least because his rhetoric has offered asylum seekers false hope. But at least no one hates him.


Australia gives illegals plush treatment while assessing them

They get an island holiday with all expenses paid by the Australian taxpayer

DETAINEES on Christmas Island have access to both fast-speed internet services and mobile phones, raising fears they have may have been encouraging the stand-off on the Oceanic Viking. The Department of Immigration confirmed the internet and phone access but declined to answer questions relating to detainees having made contact with either those on the Oceanic Viking, people smugglers or other family members encouraging them to make the illegal boat trip to Australia.

The department says the use of the 30 computers is "supervised''. However, according to eyewitness accounts given to The Sunday Telegraph, such supervision is minimal if it exists at all. Eyewitnesses say guards on the island told them the computers were filtered for the "usual sites like porn'', but that was all. One person who observed detainees using the two computer rooms on the island said: "It's clear they were able to have contact with the outside world. Therefore it's conceivable they might have been in contact with the Oceanic Viking.

"All they have to tell other refugees is that if you get to Christmas Island you'll spend three months max and then 90 per cent are waved through. You'll do less than three months in good surrounds.''

The department refuses to say whether it has any record of who detainees have been in contact with but "restricted internet access'' has been available since early 2007. "Any monitoring of phone calls or internet use would be under-taken by law enforcement or security agencies in accordance with relevant legislation,'' a spokeswoman said, but she did not say whether any such monitoring actually took place.

According to those who have recently been on the island, detainees are also provided with free yoga, fitness and art classes. All health costs are also paid by the Commonwealth - including free dental care. The spokeswoman would not comment on claims one group of detainees destroyed their footwear to get new shoes after one asylum-seeker, who had no shoes, received a new pair on arrival. Fresh food and vegetables are airlifted into the detention centre.

The department refused to confirm this included freshly baked bread costing $10 a loaf - despite there being a bakery on the island. But it did confirm a vegetarian option was made available on the daily menu. Snacks and cigarettes are also available under a "purchase allowance'' points scheme.

The spokeswoman said the total cost for running the island in the less than three months between July 1 this year and September 9 was just over $11 million. A breakdown of the cost included: $6.68 million for overall services, $2 million for interpreters, $1.3 million for health costs, $330,000 for aircraft charter and $800,000 in wages. Those who have been to the island recently say locals have noted the department spares no expense airfreighting the detainees' requirements, while food and supplies for locals come by boat.

The spokeswoman confirmed all health costs were met by the Commonwealth. One recent visitor observed that many ordinary Australians in the bush could not receive access to free dental care.

The spokeswoman said food supplies were ordered from the mainland. She added: "We have a duty of care to ensure the health and well-being of people in immigration detention, including ensuring access to appropriate physical and recreational activities, such as a grassed area for soccer.''

Meanwhile the stand-off on the Oceanic Viking, moored off Indonesia for more than four weeks, showed signs of thawing when 22 of the 78 Sri Lankans on board left the vessel after the Australian Government guaranteed them a special 12-week turnaround of their claim for refugee status.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

More dreamers who want you to believe that they can see 100 years into the future

The usual stupid straight-line extrapolation; No mention that sea levels have stopped rising in recent years; No mention that we could well be in the middle of an ice-age by then

Almost 250,000 homes, now worth up to $63 billion, will be "at risk of inundation" by the end of the century, under "worst-case but plausible" predictions of rising sea levels. The study -- released ahead of the crucial Senate vote on Labor's emissions trading scheme -- modelled the effect of a 1.1m sea-level rise on cities and towns around Australia. This is a higher level than the 79cm end-of-century rise predicted by the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but in the mid-range of some subsequently published research.

It found between 157,000 and 247,000 homes "at risk of inundation" -- meaning they would be permanently flooded or frequently flooded by storm surges or king tides -- with hospitals, water-treatment plants and other public buildings also found to be at risk. Even Sydney airport would be at "increased risk" of inundation, according to the study, written by the Department of Climate Change with input from CSIRO, Geosciences Australia and scores of academics.

The study -- which models possible risks down to township and local government areas complete with aerial photographs of towns showing the possible inundation -- appears timed to give the public a sharp reminder of the possible dangers of climate change. It also increases pressure on the opposition as the government's ETS bill is brought back to parliament next week.

It found NSW had "the greatest exposure", with between 40,800 and 62,400 homes at risk, followed by Queensland (35,900 to 56,900), Victoria (27,600 to 44,600), South Australia (25,200 to 43,000) and Western Australia (18,700 to 28,000). Within each state, it identified the local government areas where property was most "at risk" -- for NSW, Lake Macquarie, Wyong, Gosford, Wollongong, Shoalhaven and Rockdale; for Queensland, Moreton Bay, Mackay, the Gold Coast, Fraser Coast, Bundaberg and the Sunshine Coast; and for Victoria, Kingston, Geelong, Wellington and Port Phillip.

The study says that "based on the recent science 1.1m was selected as a plausible value for sea-level rise for this risk assessment. It is important to note that the purpose of a risk assessment is to identify areas of risk and therefore plausible worse-case scenarios need to be considered."

Andrew Ash, director of the CSIRO climate-change adaption flagship, said the 1.1m sea-level rise was "certainly plausible". "As things stand, the only variation will be exactly when we reach that level," Dr Ash said. Given the study was meant to help government planning decisions, it was therefore "both plausible and appropriate" to model a 1.1m rise. As well as the threat of inundation, the study calculates how many buildings are under threat from "soft" erodable shorelines.


Crooked Australian Federal Police suppressed exculpatory rape evidence

This adds further to the poor record of the AFP. They need a big shakeup

An Australian wrongly spent more than two years in jail for child rape after the Australian Federal Police and the federal prosecutor denied the existence of crucial documents that would have exonerated him. Pilot Frederic Arthur Martens, 60, is threatening to sue the two agencies for millions of dollars after his conviction was quashed and his 5 1/2-year jail sentence was set aside by Queensland's Court of Appeal yesterday.

The court slammed prosecutors and police over their mishandling of the case. In a scathing judgment, judge Richard Chesterman was critical of the AFP and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for not producing flight records from the Papua New Guinea civil aviation authority that proved Mr Martens was 1000km away from Port Moresby on the night he was accused of raping the girl. The documents were eventually discovered by Mr Martens's partner and were instrumental in the quashing of his conviction.

Mr Martens also blames the AFP for the death of his infant daughter, Stephanie, who he says died from malaria in PNG after his arrest because he was prevented from leaving Australia and his wife could not afford a doctor after police froze his bank accounts.

Mr Martens was the first person convicted under Australia's sex tourism laws, when a Cairns jury found him guilty in October 2006 of raping a 14-year-old PNG girl in Port Moresby in 2001.

Justice Chesterman said that after Mr Martens was arrested, his bail conditions prevented him from travelling to PNG so he had to rely on the federal authorities to find the records. "(The AFP and CDPP) undertook the task and informed the petitioner that the records did not exist," Justice Chesterman wrote. "The records have always existed and have now been produced.

"It is a poor reflection upon the two organisations that one should have failed to find them, and denied their existence, and the other object to their use in the (appeal) on the ground that (Martens) should have obtained them earlier."

Justice Chesterman said Mr Martens had consistently requested the documents since 2004, but the agencies did not produce the records. Justice Chesterman said the records were crucial and critical to quashing Mr Martens' conviction. "The fresh evidence shows the conviction to have been unreasonable, or unsupported by the evidence . . . at the very least it raises a reasonable doubt about (Mr Martens's) guilt," he wrote.

Mr Martens last night said his case was an example of "gross ineptitude on behalf of the AFP, the immigration department and the CDPP. I was defamed with being a child pedophile," he said. "Both the AFP and the CDPP bragged about it in their annual reports, saying I was a predator, a pedophile," he told The Weekend Australian.

Mr Martens's brother Peter Wheatley said Mr Martens and his family had suffered enormously. "I call it our nightmare of reality," Mr Wheatley said. "He's scarred for life. The wounds are not repairable."

Mr Martens's barrister, Michael Sumner-Potts, said his client was considering suing the AFP and CDPP, and called for an inquiry into the handling of the case. "His life has been wrecked, financially, emotionally, psychologically," he said. "His business has crashed."

An AFP spokeswoman declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the office of the CDPP said it had prosecuted the matter in accordance with policy. [Some policy!!]


Victoria police again

Vic Police IT unit is 'shambolic' and corrupt. This has been rumbling on for years with nothing useful done about it

VICTORIA Police's IT department has been exposed by the state's chief watchdog as a dysfunctional, shambolic unit where taxpayer funds are wasted, government tender guidelines flouted and questionable million-dollar tender deals done. In a scathing report tabled in parliament, Ombudsman George Brouwer said the Business Information and Technology Services Department had grossly inadequate record-keeping, "apparent disregard" for contract processes and should be investigated for the misuse of taxpayer funds.

He identified the two senior managers of the $191 million unit -- including one handpicked by former police commissioner Christine Nixon -- as key problems but also criticised Ms Nixon for failing to address issues in the unit first identified several years ago.

The report detailed some of the examples of oversight, including paying $81,000 for a lease for a communications tower that had held nothing but an empty cupboard since 1995, tenders blowing out by $39m more than they were given government approval for and the only record of a $27m IT deal being a scribbled handwritten note. Senior staff at the unit also accepted free tickets to the Melbourne Cup, AFL grand finals and Australian Open tennis from potential IT contractors.

Mr Brouwer found there had been "no fewer" than three external reviews and five internal audits, and two criminal investigations of the unit since August 2006 but police had only recently taken "remedial action". One of the earlier police investigations found "correct practices and policy for procurement of contractors within BTIS were blatantly disregarded by senior managers and employees, who were involved in unethical, dishonest and deceptive practices".

Chief Commissioner Simon Overland was quick to admit that he was embarrassed by the activities of the unit and had accepted all the recommendations. The state government said it had become aware of the "terrible" breaches only last Christmas and hoped the revelations did not undermine the public's confidence in the police force.

Mr Brouwer's report, which contained more than 30 recommendations, found that the head of the unit, Valda Berzins, who was Victoria Police's chief information officer at the time and has since resigned, admitted she did not "closely monitor" the day-to-day functions and left it to her offsider, John Brown. "The extent of Mr Brown's control over knowledge of BITS finances and the general lack of proper records is best illustrated by the fact that Victoria Police's figures relating to the funding of a contract worth in excess of $27m are largely based on a handwritten note he provided to a BITS manager in a meeting several months after his resignation," Mr Brouwer wrote. "In another example, in February 2007, BITS obtained the relevant approvals to redirect security services valued at more than $11m from IBM to Fujitsu," Mr Brouwer wrote. "In March 2007 the former CIO entered into a contract with Fujitsu to the value of $27.2m, some $15m above the approved expenditure."

He said there had been 56 breaches of financial regulations by unit staff when processing government IT contracts.

Mr Brouwer said Ms Nixon had not done enough to fix the problems at the unit. "I consider that Victoria Police management permitted an environment to develop where two senior BITS staff committed Victoria Police to unfunded multi-million-dollar IT projects," he wrote.

Mr Overland, who accepted the report's findings, said corruption was not the issue, rather, it was a case of "trusting people too much". "I think essentially we probably trusted some people a little too much and we didn't have appropriate oversight arrangements in place that picked up the sorts of breaches and the sorts of behaviours that have been identified (in the report)," Mr Overland said. "There are very clear guidelines, very clear rules about how we actually expend public money and essentially they haven't followed proper process so it's not money that we didn't have to spend but they've gone about it in a way that didn't follow proper process.

"The criticisms that were made are fair criticisms and we absolutely need to accept and learn from them," he said. "It is embarrassing, yes. Obviously no one likes to receive criticism of this nature but I have to say I think the ombudsman has been very thorough and very fair in the way that he's gone about his task."

Mr Overland said the behaviour of accepting gifts and benefits was "clearly unacceptable". He said a new policy had been drafted but he would wait for a broader government review being conducted by the State Services Authority before making any announcements. "I want to actually wait and see what comes out of that to make sure my policy is consistent with that position. "But I don't believe my senior managers are under any misapprehension around what are appropriate gifts, benefits and hospitality."

Mr Overland said two criminal investigations had been completed but no charges would be laid. "They are now complete and finalised so there's no criminal conduct here."

He denied that trust in his staff was diminishing. "Two of the people that most of the criticisms have been levelled against are no longer with the organisation. ... I've had an opportunity to bring in a new senior executive team. "I have the utmost confidence in my team and the people working for them. I'm not going to single people out. I think in the end all of us have to accept responsibility for what's happened, I have to accept responsibility for what's happened, and make sure that the recommendations that the ombudsman has made are implemented and that this issue is fixed," Mr Overland said.


Happy, illiterate kids won't do -- says Federal education boss

EDUCATION Minister Julia Gillard has remained defiant in the face of criticism that comparative school performance results only measure children on an academic basis. Ms Gillard this week gave principals from around the country their first look at a soon-to-be launched website which will compare nearby schools, or those that share a similar socio-economic profile, against each other. Schools will have a profile page that includes details such as student-teacher ratios, attendance rates and what happens to high school leavers.

But the website's main section will compare results attained from National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy tests, which are taken by Year 3, 5, 7 and 9 students. Teachers are worried the profiles unfairly pin student achievement solely on academic results.

In a speech to public policy think tank the Eidos Institute in Brisbane yesterday, Ms Gillard agreed the website didn't measure every element of a child's development. "But I actually don't believe our aim is to have schools full of happy, illiterate, innumerate children," she said. "Our aim is to have happy, confident children who are getting the skills they need for work and life like reading, writing and maths."

Ms Gillard said these weren't the only measures of educational progress. "But I do not believe it is controversial to expect that every child in this country should master literacy and numeracy," she said.

The website will also include general data about students' backgrounds and a value reflecting the cohort's average socio-economic status. Ms Gillard said this information would help identify why certain schools did better or worse than others. "Background characteristics such as parental occupation, family income or indigeneity may help to explain the educational challenge facing those schools and those children," she said. "But they still do not excuse poor performance or low expectations in those schools - demography is not destiny."


Taxi whistleblower fired

THIS is the man allegedly dumped for saying what many people think - that Queensland's taxi industry isn't up to scratch. Caleb Maybir has been dismissed as a taxi rank supervisor at Brisbane Airport, allegedly for speaking on ABC talkback radio about the falling driving standards.

Mr Maybir, who identified himself only as a "supervisor", said that passengers were being overcharged by drivers who didn't know basic locations in greater Brisbane or how to drive by satellite navigation.

Within five minutes of ending the interview, Mr Maybir said he was contacted by a taxi official who had recognised his voice and told that his position was in doubt. Queensland Workplace Rights Ombudsman Don Brown is investigating the Taxi Council of Queensland and Yellow Cabs for alleged retaliation against Mr Maybir, who has been supported by more than 500 taxi drivers who signed a petition demanding his reinstatement. Mr Brown said if the claims were justified it would be one of the worst cases he had seen in decades of handling industrial relations complaints.

The fallout follows Tuesday's explosive comments in State Parliament by LNP member Vaughan Johnson, who criticised overseas-born taxi drivers and claimed some may be illegally sharing the same licence. Mr Maybir was employed for six shifts a week on the airport rank by Yellow Cabs but his services were being paid by the Taxi Council.

Taxi Council chief executive Blair Davies admitted he was behind the decision, telling Yellow Cabs the council was "not prepared to pay" for Mr Maybir's services.

Mr Davies said the radio comments added to his objections, which also included unspecified complaints of which Mr Maybir said he was never informed. Mr Davies refused a request by The Courier-Mail for details about the complaints.

Mr Maybir, a 40-year veteran of the taxi industry, was off-duty and speaking from his home when he contacted the radio station on August 31. "I was very upset that night. I felt it was an invasion of my freedom of speech," Mr Maybir said. "It's been getting to the level of unacceptable service at the airport." Mr Maybir said he received at least six complaints an hour from dissatisfied passengers.

Mr Brown said he was investigating Mr Davies for allegedly providing misleading information to the Ombudsman – a criminal offence – and for allegedly taking additional action against an employee for making a complaint to his office.


Friday, November 13, 2009

More government meddling in personal matters

Australian governments back plan to boost breastfeeding rates. Is anything private any more? Mothers are already pressured over this -- leading to distress among mothers who have difficulties breast feeding

MOTHERS will be urged to ditch the baby bottle under a controversial and potentially divisive five-year plan to boost breast milk feeding rates. The government-backed pro-breast milk message will argue that babies fed on breast milk for longer may reduce risks of obesity and chronic disease.

State and federal health ministers today will endorse the plan and consider establishing a national breast milk bank, The Courier-Mail reports. The move will be among a raft of measures designed to monitor and persuade Australians to consider how their lifestyles affect public spending. It will be the latest in a series of government attempts to influence mothers' choices on feeding.

In June, a $100,000-a-year Queensland Health breastfeeding campaign was attacked for using "guilt-inducing" language. The campaign was called "12+months on the breast: Normal, natural, healthy".

The new federal strategy would include increasing community acceptance of breastfeeding as a cultural and social norm, establishing breastfeeding support networks for pregnant women and improved breastfeeding training for health professionals. A national breast milk bank would collect, screen and dispense human milk donated by nursing mothers to be fed to premature and sick babies whose mothers were unable to feed them or who needed supplementary feeds.

At the centre of the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010-15 is the goal of increasing the percentage of babies who are fully breastfed from birth to six months, and beyond 12 months. "Breast milk is an environmentally-friendly product and there are health risks and financial costs associated with not breastfeeding," the draft strategy says. "Breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from a range of serious illnesses and conditions (and) ... protective effects ... in infancy may extend to later life, with reduced risks of obesity and chronic disease."

A study of Australian children in 2004 found 92 per cent of newborns were initially breastfed but within a week that dropped to 80 per cent. At three months, about 56 per cent were still being fed breast milk. A federal report in 2007 championed the benefits of breast milk and recommended the Health Department fund a feasibility study for a network of milk banks.

A Mothers Milk Bank established on the Gold Coast in 2006 closed two years later because of a lack of funding. It is scheduled to reopen in the next few months. Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon also is likely to announce today an initiative to screen for perinatal depression.


PM Kevin Rudd branded an 'economic illiterate'

The price-maintenance decision on books is really gross. It just rips off less resourceful people (whom Labour governments claim to protect) and local booksellers. Like most internet denizens, any book I want I order from overseas -- either from Amazon or the publisher. So I don't pay the inflated local prices that Rudd supports by force of law

FORMER Labor finance minister Peter Walsh has savaged the Prime Minister as an "economic illiterate" in the wake of the government's decision to reject the Productivity Commission recommendations that would have slashed book prices.

Mr Walsh, who remade the national economy in the 1980s with Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, is regarded as a tough and uncompromising economic reformer but one who never forgot Labor's working-class roots. He slammed Kevin Rudd's reform credentials and style of governing. "The Prime Minister is an economic illiterate," he told The Australian, "an economic illiterate and an egomaniac". "He won't take any hard decisions. He's capricious. He sees himself as some sort of Platonic philosopher king."

But Mr Rudd declared himself a brave economic reformer. Mr Rudd, who has previously painted himself as the inheritor of the economic reforming zeal of the Hawke and Keating years, defended the decision on books as being partly about the preservation of Australian culture. Asked what it said about his stomach for real economic reform, the Prime Minister launched into a spirited defence of his record, insisting he had led a move to meet business calls for a seamless economy through the pursuit of regulatory reform by the Council of Australian Governments.

He was pursuing changes previous governments had found "too difficult to even touch", he said in New Delhi during a visit to India. "When it comes to our micro-economic reform agenda, it is vast, it is comprehensive, it is across the entire regulatory agenda of the commonwealth and the states," Mr Rudd said. "It is proceeding apace." He was referring to his push through COAG to harmonise business regulation across the states in areas such as licensing, occupational health and safety and fees and charges.

Although the reforms have the strong support of business groups, they are not targeted directly at benefiting consumers, which the Productivity Commission had proposed by reducing publishing- sector protection. Mr Rudd said the books decision was difficult but had his full support. "On the question of the book industry, obviously it's a controversial debate in Australia and one which actually goes to the heart of Australian culture as well," he said.

Former Hawke arts minister Barry Cohen said a review of the public lending right scheme, which makes payments to authors and publishers with books in public libraries, may have been better. "That's not a very expensive program," he told The Australian. "For a relatively small amount of money I would have thought that you could satisfy a lot of people and at the same time pass the books on cheaper to the general public."

Publishing commentator Peter Donoughue said the campaign against the reforms had been based on a "big lie". "The central thesis was that it was all about maintaining territorial copyright in Australia, because without it, this great and successful industry would collapse," he said. "The Australian book buyer shouldn't have to put up with high prices unrelated to today's exchange rates, frequent out-of-stocks and slow delivery times."


Excerpt from another comment on the book decision:

Robyn Higgins was in a Texas book store last month when she spotted Where Is The Green Sheep? by Australian children's author Mem Fox. Having bought the book in Sydney for $19.95, the mum of two was keen to see how much Americans were paying. Answer: $US10, or $11 in our money.

"It's just crazy," Mrs Higgins said. "I could have gone crazy in that bookshop. It was just amazing. I could have filled my suitcase."

The Federal Government's decision to maintain regulations protecting book publishers will mean shoppers will pay 30 per cent more for titles at stores than if the rules had been abolished, Allan Fels, the former head of the ACCC, told me yesterday. "I am puzzled why consumers are being put last," Professor Fels said of Parallel Import Restrictions (PIR).

Emergency rooms fail to deliver, say Queensland health figures

One of the world's oldest "free" hospital systems (from 1944) shows where such systems end up. They employ more bureaucrats than medical staff so the patients get the short end

EMERGENCY departments are failing to meet national performance targets in every area but non-urgent treatment, according to latest Queensland Health figures. Quarterly public hospital performance reports released yesterday showed emergency departments fell short of recommended treatment time targets for resuscitation, emergency, urgent and semi-urgent patients. The figures also revealed more than a third of Queenslanders waited in excess of eight hours for a bed in a ward after arriving at emergency departments.

Elective surgery figures showed that at October 1, 17.5 per cent (or more than 6000 patients) were still waiting longer than clinically desirable for treatment.

Defending the results Health Minister Paul Lucas said the number of long wait patients in the September quarter had decreased by 15.3 per cent compared with the 2008 September quarter. Mr Lucas said that emergency department admissions were increasing well in excess of population growth and swine flu had placed additional pressure on hospitals. "Surgeons must give priority to emergency cases and both medical and surgical emergencies use beds that would otherwise be used for elective surgery," Mr Lucas said.

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Dr Mason Stevenson said there was little good news in the report, and labelled the average wait of six hours and 20 minutes for a bed in emergency, "unacceptably high". Dr Stevenson said there was a "cascading effect of suffering" from emergency departments to elective surgery lists. "Its very frustrating for clinicians to see that patients are suffering unnecessarily as a result of unavoidable delays due to resource shortages," he said.

High priority patients at Townsville hospital waited an average of 17 days for oncology radiation – falling short of the national benchmarks of 10 working days. Mr Lucas said the three other hospitals performing the treatment, the Mater, Princess Alexandra and Royal Brisbane and Women's hospitals, had improved to easily meet the benchmark. "At Townsville there is still more work to be done . . . This report is a benchmark that identifies where our strategies are working and where we can do better."

LNP Health spokesman Mark McArdle said the figures showed Labor's 12 years of neglect and mismanagement. "Labor's ad hoc approach to health planning is downright dangerous for patient health."


Another false rape allegation

These are a dime a dozen in Britain so it is lamentable to see an Australian court taken in by an uncorroborated and false allegation that was at variance with other known facts

A COURT has quashed the conviction of a charter pilot jailed over the sexual assault of a girl in Papua New Guinea. Frederic Arthur Martens, 60, of Cairns, was sentenced to five years' jail by a Queensland court in October 2006 for a 2001 sexual assault involving a 14-year-old girl.

In April, federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland ordered the case be referred to the Queensland Court of Appeal after new evidence came to light and Mr Martens was granted bail.

The evidence revolves around an affidavit from a family member of the girl saying the teenager told her in November 2003 she had been pressured to make up the allegation by Mr Martens' former partner. The Court of Appeal today quashed the conviction and set aside the jail order. "The fresh evidence shows the conviction to have been unreasonable or unsupported by the evidence," the judgment read. "At the very least it raises a reasonable doubt about the petitioner's guilt."


Muslims allowed to rule the roost in an Australian school

Parents say son was tormented for eating salami sandwich during Ramadan

A SYDNEY couple has withdrawn their two children from a public primary school, claiming their 11-year-old son was bullied by Muslim students because he ate a salami sandwich during Ramadan. Andrew Grigoriou said yesterday he complained to the school and to police after his son Antonios was chased and later assaulted by Muslim students after a confrontation over the contents of his lunch, The Daily Telegraph reports.

Antonios, a Year 5 student of Greek-Australian background at Punchbowl Public School in Sydney's southwest, said he and a friend had to be locked inside the library for an hour after being chased by a group of Muslim boys offended by his choice of food while they were fasting. The Grigoriou family said the following exchange took place:

Muslim student to Antonios: "Why are you eating ham, it's Ramadan?"

Antonios: "My mum packed this for lunch today."

Muslim student: "Don't eat that. How can you eat pig, it's disgusting."

During the confrontation a Muslim boy allegedly accused Antonios of saying: "F--- the Muslims" but Antonios denied swearing.

Mr Grigoriou said he removed his son and a younger child from the school on Tuesday after the boy was punched in the eye and kicked in the legs by a Muslim student. "It has broken my heart to see this happening to my boy," he said. Antonios, who wrote about his experiences in words and drawings, still has nightmares.

The Department of Education and Training said it had a zero tolerance policy [A fat lot of good a "policy" is without enforcement] towards racism. "Claims of bullying or racial intolerance are taken very seriously and looked into," a spokeswoman said. "The School Education Director is looking into the matter and called the father concerned. "As a result ... the school will work with all families and students involved to ensure that the values promoted by Punchbowl Public School and the department are understood and supported." [In other words, all talk and no action]

After the salami sandwich incident a student described as "the ringleader of the group" was suspended from the school [And was back in a few days, no doubt]. The department said that the school had "ongoing cultural and interfaith awareness programs to improve understanding among students of events like Ramadan and Christmas". Other parents also complained to The Daily Telegraph about bullying at the school and claimed victims received too little protection. One said her 12-year-old son was scared to open his lunch box at school because he was harassed about what is in it. "He has been bullied from day one ... about being a Christian and about the hot salami in his lunch," she said.

"My boy has a Greek background ... the bullying is extreme. "He has been called a fat pig and hit on the back with a stick." Another mother said her young son refused to go on school excursions for fear he would be bashed.


Australian Labor Party MP wants to stop New Zealand migration to Australia

There is virtually NO objection in Australia to "Pakeha" (white) immigrants from New Zealand but Australioa also gets a large number of Maori -- who have high rates of criminality, child abuse and welfare dependency. All unspoken below, of course

New Zealand migration to Australia would be slashed under a federal Labor MP's plan to curb our population growth. Outspoken Melbourne MP Kelvin Thomson believes the open-door policy for Kiwis made it impossible for Australia to control its numbers and maintain quality of life. "The trans-Tasman travel arrangement with New Zealand would need to be renegotiated to do away with the open door," he said yesterday.

Australia's migrant intake is at record levels, with almost a quarter of the influx due to New Zealanders who have an automatic right to live here, the Herald Sun reports.

Mr Thomson said there should be a cap on Kiwi arrivals that was linked to the number of permanent departures from Australia each year. "This would give Australia control over our net migration number, which we presently don't have," he said.

In a challenge to his leader, PM Kevin Rudd, Mr Thomson last night spelled out the details of his plan to deal with the population explosion. "Population is now a runaway train," he said in a speech to a community group in North Melbourne. Mr Thomson called for annual net immigration to be slashed from more than 200,000 now to just 70,000. This would stabilise the population at 26 million by 2050, instead of the 35 million predicted by the Government.

Under the Thomson plan:

* SKILLED migrant numbers would be cut from 114,000 to 25,000 a year and refugees would rise by 6000 to 20,000.

* THE baby bonus would be abolished and family payments cut to lower the fertility rate.

Mr Thomson, who heads the Parliament's joint standing committee on treaties, said his measures would stop Australia wrecking the environment and force governments to focus on education and training. "They would address the declining quality of life in our cities, the traffic congestion and the disappearing back yards and open spaces," he said.

Monash University population expert Dr Bob Birrell said Mr Thomson's proposals were refreshing and realistic. "Population policy is not made in heaven, it's determined by government policy and, currently, Labor policy is to run record high migration," he said.

Despite concern about urban congestion and water shortages, Mr Rudd recently said he was a "big Australia" man. "I make no apology for that. I actually think it's good news that our population is growing. I think it's good ... for our national security long term, it's good in terms of what we can sustain as a nation," he said.


Thursday, November 12, 2009


Five current articles below


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG draws our attention to a video by an Australian Liberal Party Senator Cory Bernardi that pisses all over proposed global warming laws

Open Letter to the Australian Prime Minister from Dr David Evans

The letter below appears on the site of Science Speak, a scientific modeling and mathematical research company. David Evans [] has a background in mathematics, computing, and electrical engineering. He helped build the carbon accounting model for the Australian Government that tracks carbon in plants, debris, soils, and agricultural products

Dear Gullible Kevin

The banks want us to trade carbon. The big financial institutions saw you coming, didn't they? Make you feel all important and "progressive", save the planet, lead the move to save humanity from disaster. No you patsy, they are just taking Australia's sovereignty and locking in a profitable carbon trading scheme for themselves. A world "emissions" currency manufactured from thin air, world government, and worldwide wealth redistribution based on imaginary carbon "crimes". There will be no escape.

You are rushing to sign away our wealth and impoverish us, because you wouldn't take a couple of hours to understand the science of global warming and it's weak points. You never audited it did you? Just jumped into the scam feet first. "Oh, all those people said it was right", you smirk, "and those who don't believe are so.evil and inferior!"

That's the thing about scams Kevin, they always rush you so you don't have time to check it out properly, you just have to get in right away. All those admirers telling you how smart and compassionate you are, for swallowing an unaudited tale about wind and clouds, invisible trace gases, and will-o-the-wisps! Smartest man in the ALP, but you cannot understand what the "boneheads" in the National Party already know?

The alarmist theory is based on an assumption made in 1984, when there was insufficient data. The chronology is important. That assumption was disproved beyond reasonable doubt in 1999, after the IPCC had been set up, Kyoto was signed, a huge bureaucracy was in place to deal with carbon emissions, carbon trading plans were hatched, and the western climate establishment was lavishly spending billions looking to blame carbon dioxide for global warming. Too much at stake for the bureaucracy and government scientists to turn back. Hence the fracas.

Here's a clue Kev, find out about "feedbacks", especially those involving water-clouds, water vapor, humidity, evaporation, rain, and so on. How does the Earth respond when it is warmed a little by our carbon dioxide? Does the Earth amplify the warming, tripling it due to water feedbacks as the carbon dioxide theory claims? Or does it dampen the warming, as any stable system would do, as recent radiosonde and satellite data indicate? But the banks want carbon trading.

Carbon emissions will be the biggest "commodity" market soon, bigger than oil. Carbon traders will trade back and forth, creaming off a few percent on all those government issued permits created out of thin air, and the rest of us will be compelled to pay for them. Brilliant Kev! Why not a carbon tax if you just want to reduce carbon emissions? And it's no use asking shiny-pants over in the opposition, because he used to be head of Goldman Sachs in Australia. No wonder he wants carbon trading.


Warmist data manipulation shames science

Kevin Rudd went over the top last week in a speech to the Lowy institute, declaring it was "time to remove any polite veneer" from the climate change debate, which he claims is the "moral challenge of our generation". Then he launched an extraordinary tirade against "the climate change sceptics, the climate change deniers" who he claims are "powerful", "too dangerous to be ignored", "driven by vested interests … quite literally holding the world to ransom … Our children's fate - and our grandchildren's fate - will lie entirely with them."

If he had any shame, the Prime Minister would be mortified to be associated with such a hysterical, undergraduate piece of ad hominem hyperbole. History will record his embarrassment and the debasing of his office. But the speech shows Rudd's desperation in the week before his Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Emissions Trading Scheme) is debated in Parliament and less than a month before the Copenhagen climate summit at which he wants to parade a signed-off scheme. As the public cools towards this new energy tax, politicians, green groups and other alarmists with the real "vested interest" in this debate are stooping ever lower in their attempts to shun dissenters....

Against the apocalyptic rhetoric pushed by Rudd comes a cool-minded new book which unpicks the science underpinning the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's reports. Global Warming, False Alarm by Ralph Alexander, an Australian-born US scientist with a PhD in physics from Oxford, is subtitled ''The bad science behind the United Nations' assertion that man-made CO2 causes global warming". Alexander wrote the book, "because I'm a scientist. Because I'm offended that science has been perverted in the name of global warming."

He became a sceptic when he taught a course on physical science and found the textbook presented the "alarmist line on man-made global warming without question". "To me that made a mockery of the history of science presented in the course, which featured several examples of how mainstream scientific thinking has been wrong in the past."

The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change says the earth has effectively developed an allergy to CO2. The effect of a tiny amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is amplified by water vapour and clouds - in a positive feedback loop which enhances the climate's sensitivity to extra CO2 and causes "runaway global warming". That is the big Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change hypothesis. Alexander explains the three problems with the hypothesis.

* First, recent satellite observations show cloud feedback to be a negative loop, that is, clouds reduce global warming, rather than amplify it in a positive feedback loop, as the panel's models predict.

* Second, the panel has used flawed data. It "stooped to trickery and rewrote history" to make the temperature and CO2 records correlate over the past 2000 years, creating the notorious "hockey stick" graph that wiped out the well-documented Medieval Warm Period (a warm spell about the year 1000) and Little Ice Age (cool period in about 1650). The graph relied on data from a few tree rings to estimate historic temperatures, which have since been shown to be inaccurate.

* The third problem for the panel hypothesis is that CO2 lags behind temperature in the Ice Age era, which has been explained by the delayed release of stored CO2 from oceans, but the panel model has CO2 and temperature rising together since 1850. "Either temperature and CO2 go up and down at the same time or they don't … You can't have it one way during the ice ages and another way today."

Alexander says data manipulation has been the panel's main tool of deception. For instance, it has ignored the bias in the modern temperature record caused by the "urban heat island effect" that inflates warming near cities.

The panel has also ignored the bias in its temperature data caused by the shutting down of weather stations in cold parts of the world in the 1990s - from about 5000 to 2000 or so - most notably in the former Soviet Union. Again, this artificially increases the recent warming rate. Alexander says the panel has "cherry-picked" 19th century CO2 data to exaggerate the rise in CO2 levels since pre-industrial times, and has trivialised the sun's contribution to the present warming trend.

Don't get him started on computer climate models which he says are "full of unfounded assumptions". He points to the drop in the earth's temperature since 2001 which wasn't predicted by the models. Ultimately, "trillions of dollars could be wasted to fix a problem that doesn't exist''.

Alexander's book is a useful tool to make sense of climate change. As they did in the republic debate, regardless of elite consensus, Australians make up their own minds, and are probably turned off by official attempts to stifle dissent.


A footshot by the Federal "Greens" -- they block new Queensland dam to save fish, turtles etc.

So the "Green" Queensland State government now plans to meet water needs by building and running desalination plants at huge cost -- which will gobble up huge amounts of electricity -- while Federal "Green" policy is trying to REDUCE electricity use!

AFTER the emotion and relief that accompanied yesterday's no-go for the Traveston Dam comes the sobering reality. There are three major outcomes that flow from federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett's decision and none of them are especially pretty.

Australia's fastest growing region is welcoming thousands of new residents each week yet remains without a sustainable water supply adequate to meet its needs. The Bligh Government is now the biggest landowner in the Mary Valley, with 17,000ha it has no use for.

And water policy in southeast Queensland consists of a desalination plant that is rusting, a recycled water facility that is not being used properly and plans for a dam that will never get built.

The ad hocery that has afflicted the Government's approach to meeting the region's water needs was exposed for all to see yesterday. It has spent six years drawing up a regional water supply strategy and billions of dollars borrowed at the top of the market to arrive at a place where it still cannot guarantee it has the definitive answer to our water problems.

The Government now faces yet another fight to convince residents of the merits of more desalination plants at a time when Queensland needs to find ways to reduce its carbon footprint or pay dearly for its energy usage. One of those plants will have intake and outfall pipes traversing Mt Coolum National Park, hardly a good look for a Government desperate to be seen to be greener than green.

The proposed Marcoola desalination facility also could affect a major economic driver for the region, the Sunshine Coast Airport. But its biggest problem is likely to be cost. No matter where they are located, desalination plants are extremely energy intensive. The existing Tugun plant uses enough electricity to power every home in a town the size of Mt Isa. Think what another two plants of the same size mean for the region's electricity use. The abacus at Energex would have been working overtime yesterday.

Consultants Marsden Jacob estimated last year that, compared with building and operating Traveston Dam, the cost of a desalination plant would be up to $807 million more expensive over its life. That translates into ever higher power and water prices, which is what Anna Bligh was referring to when she said yesterday that axing Traveston meant people would pay more for water sooner.

But blaming Canberra entirely would be disingenuous. Ms Bligh painted herself into a corner last year when she declared purified recycled water would not be added to the drinking supply unless there was a repeat of the so-called millennium drought. The price to be paid for the region's explosive growth keeps getting greater and greater and this Government is beginning to show signs of being overwhelmed by the task before it.


And even the existing desalination plant is so troubled as to be virtually useless

Fortunately, the Good Lord took charge and sent down lots of rain, so the plant is not for the moment needed

FEARS the $1.2 billion Gold Coast desalination plant was rushed, compromising its quality, have been raised by officials overseeing the troubled project. The Tugun plant, meant to be a showpiece of the State Government's $9 billion water grid, has been plagued by problems including rusting pipes, cracking concrete, faulty valves and leaching of contaminants from a rubbish dump. The Government is refusing to take delivery of the facility until next June because of serious faults that have delayed the handover by 18 months.

Now, documents obtained by The Courier-Mail under Freedom to Information laws reveal serious concerns were raised about the pace of construction. Executives from what is now WaterSecure, the Government authority in charge of the water grid, held crisis talks in January this year after it became clear the technical problems would delay the plant from meeting its operational targets. Minutes from an executive meeting reveal at least 10 problems with the plant had been identified, including excessive vibration and rusting and leaking parts. "The EMT (executive management team) expressed concerns . . . about more issues and problems which may surface," the minutes stated.

The executives, including current WaterSecure chief Keith Davies, held "lengthy discussions" about construction time versus quality and cost. The mammoth plant was built in about two years by a consortium known as the Gold Coast Desalination Alliance, headed by French water giant Veolia and construction company John Holland. "The EMT believes that the GCD Alliance have focused on time as a priority, compromising quality . . . ," the meeting minutes said.

WaterSecure executives questioned whether Veolia and John Holland were liable for the faults and also sought legal advice. They also discussed withholding payments to the alliance. "VWA (Veolia Water Australia) and John Holland stand to gain a lot of money from gain share," the minutes said. "If WaterSecure decides to withhold money, this will be a major issue."

The minutes reveal WaterSecure officials held an emergency meeting in mid-January on the same day Deputy Premier Paul Lucas held a press conference at the plant to announce expected delays. Officially opened by Premier Anna Bligh last November, the desalination plant has been periodically shut down for weeks at a time and has failed to meet production targets.

Last month Mr Davies said the facility had been running at full capacity that month. But he said the faults were still being fixed and the Government was not expected to take ownership until next June.


Australia's Leftist government capitulates to illegals

They obviously want to set a precedent to say that anyone can come to Australia if they really want to

FORMER immigration minister Philip Ruddock has warned the Rudd government's offer of a special deal to get the Oceanic Viking 78 off the boat will create a "diabolical" precedent that will encourage more boats and more standoffs. And Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce has accused the government of “capitulation” in its offer to fast-track refugees' claims simply to get the asylum-seekers off the boat before Parliament returns next week.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans confirmed the offer of a special deal for the protesters today, saying he was “hopeful” of a breakthrough and conceding it was not humane for them to stay on the boat indefinitely. The deal could deliver the Oceanic Viking asylum-seekers resettlement in Australia faster than if they had been taken to processing on Christmas Island, which aims to process claims within three months.

Mr Ruddock told The Australian Online that the government's concessions and offer to fast-track processing and resettlement of the group after they refused to get off in Indonesia will feed perceptions that if you put the government “under duress you will get the outcome you are looking for”. “It's a diabolical situation of the government's own making. It's going to feed expectations that if you put the government under duress you will get the outcome you were looking for,” Mr Ruddock told The Australian Online. “It becomes a clear incentive and it is a clear indication that if you put the government under duress you will get what you want.

“You can't look at this issue in isolation. Of course people want to get them off the boat, I understand that. But we have always been faced with push factors in the past. What we have now is a series of pull factors that the government refuses to acknowledge exists. “What the Indonesians have been saying is code for, `what are you doing to encourage people to get on these boats?”'

Confirmation of the special deal for the asylum-seekers, who had warned they would rather die than get off the boat in Indonesia, comes just days after the Prime Minister would not negotiate with protesters threatening self harm. “When it comes to Australia's border protection policy, let me be absolutely clear that that policy of ours, in the Australian national interest, will not be changed in response to any protests, any threats, any threats of harm, any threats of self harm,” Mr Rudd said on Monday.

Mr Ruddock said using force or calling in the Australian Army was clearly a difficult option when you were under the jurisdiction of foreign government. Mr Ruddock said while it would not be appropriate to turn the boat back to Sri Lanka without offering the refugees a safe harbour, he had an open mind to such a tactic if asylum-seekers refused to disembark in a safe port, as the Oceanic Viking 78 had refused to do so. “But if you have given people the opportunity to disembark somewhere they are safe and they have chosen not to that's a different set of circumstances,” he said.

Senator Joyce said Mr Rudd had surrendered the sovereignty of Australia's immigration policy. “It is in summary capitulation. He has lost the fight and they are on their way to Australia. Bonza, beauty, but pathetic,” he told The Australian Online.. “The tactic is simple. Mr Rudd wants them off the boat before parliament sits next week. Our immigration policy has become determined by Parliamentary sittings. “You can't have people use an element of duress to determine your policy.”



THE 78 Sri Lankans aboard the Oceanic Viking have been offered resettlement in Australia in as little as a month, as well as homes, jobs and social security payments once in the country, in an unsuccessful effort to end the boatpeople standoff.

But the Sri Lankan Tamils rejected the offer because it would have required them to wait in an Indonesian detention centre, The Australian reports.

The written offer, made by Australian Government negotiators to the Sri Lankans on Sunday and Monday, included "lessons in the Australian way of life", help in tracking down family members and "assistance in . . . accommodation, medical help and advice, income benefits, English lessons and help with seeking employment".

Is this magistrate fit for his job?

Victims 'less important' than defendants, says magistrate

A MAGISTRATE has said that victims are less "important" than the defendants in court. Darwin-based Alasdair McGregor made the comments when considering whether to move a sexual offences case to Alice Springs, where the alleged offender lives, from Darwin, where the alleged offence occurred, The Northern Territory News reports.

The 33-year-old man is charged with having carnal knowledge of a seven-year-old boy in 1999. His lawyer Ambrith Abayasekara asked Mr McGregor to move the case because the man now lived in Alice Springs, and he would be able to go to court there.

Granting the application, Mr MrGregor said: "We seem to have developed a habit of putting cases down for where the victim lives," he said. "It's not the victim who's important, it's the defendant, who has to get to court. "Victims are bit players in this. They get the media attention," he said.


Breaking the law: the NSW exam results that the do-gooders do not want you to see

THE Herald is breaching state law today, risking a $55,000 fine by comparing the test results of three schools. After an announcement by the federal Education Minister, Julia Gillard, that she will publish test results from around Australia on a new website in January, the Herald has learnt that publishing the exam results of just two of the schools could result in a fine in NSW.

And half of that fine could be paid to the Teachers' Federation or any other complainant under the anti-league table laws introduced by the NSW Greens MP John Kaye in June and supported by the State Opposition.

The national literacy and numeracy test results published today were obtained from the schools' annual reports. They show the selective schools Sydney Girls and Hornsby Girls scored higher than Macarthur Girls High in Parramatta.

The legislation, which levies the fines on newspapers for the publication of school comparisons and league tables, has caused rifts in the Liberal Party. The Government initially backed it because it was part of a package of legislation which guaranteed federal funding of schools, but the Premier, Nathan Rees, tried to overturn it in September in a bid to wedge the Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell. He was defeated in the upper house by the Opposition and the Greens.

It states: ''A person must not, in a newspaper or other document that is publicly available in this state: (a) publish any ranking or other comparison of particular schools according to school results, except with the permission of the principals of the schools involved.'' Yesterday the Government confirmed that should a breach occur, action would be able to be taken in a court by a local community or the Teachers' Federation, and should a fine be levied half the proceeds would go to the plaintiff.

The act allows only for the publication of the rankings of the top 10 per cent of HSC schools. A Government spokesman confirmed yesterday that should the newspaper decide to publish the top 15 per cent instead, the newspaper would be subject to penalty. Mr Kaye defended his legislation yesterday, saying he is trying to protect poorer communities from being ''stigmatised''. ''It's no more draconian than the ban on naming minors in the criminal justice system, no more draconian than our laws on libel,'' he said.

The Opposition's education spokesman, Adrian Piccoli, said the Herald was welcome to publish information ''in alphabetical order'', as long as schools were not ranked. ''We think ranking schools simply on one result is unfair and provides no useful information to parents, does the school no justice, nor the students any justice.''

Bob Lipscombe, president of the NSW Teachers' Federation, said he was ''hopeful'' newspapers would not publish league tables but if they did the federation would ''make a decision at the time as to what action we would take''. Angelo Gavrielatos, president of the Australian Education Union, said the school reports would go live without vital information about school income that Ms Gillard had promised.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Individual responsibility upheld at long last

Blame for drunken folly falls on drinkers in High Court judgment

THE High Court has dramatically shifted the responsibility for drunken actions on to the individual, ruling that the nation's publicans have no general duty of care to protect patrons from the consequences of getting drunk.

Hailed as a victory for common sense, the country's highest court yesterday tilted responsibility for the safety of drunken patrons towards "the drinker, rather than the seller of drink". Without dissent, five judges overturned a decision of the full bench of Tasmania's Supreme Court that found a publican who returned motorcycle keys to a drunken patron, who then died in a crash, had failed in a duty of care.

Three of the judges opted to make a more detailed explanation of their decision to "avoid repetition" of such cases and to warn against "interfering paternalism". They ruled that outside exceptional cases, hotel owners and licensees "owe no general duty of care at common law to customers ... (requiring) them to monitor and minimise the service of alcohol or to protect customers from the consequences of the alcohol they choose to consume".

"That conclusion is correct because the opposite view would create enormous difficulties ... relating to customer autonomy and coherence with legal norms," ruled justices Gummow, Heydon and Crennan. "Expressions like 'intoxication', 'inebriation' and 'drunkenness' are difficult to both define and to apply. "The fact that legislation compels publicans not to serve customers who are apparently drunk does not make the introduction of a civil duty of care defined by reference to those expressions any more workable or attractive."

Public health experts said the decision was "immensely worrying" and could undermine responsible service of alcohol.

The publican at the centre of the case, Michael Kirkpatrick, said he was "over the moon" at the decision. The Australian Hotels Association cautioned against patrons seeing the judgment as a green light to "get plastered" at licensed venues. But the AHA and individual publicans hailed the ruling as sending a strong warning to drinkers to take responsibility for their own actions.

Sydney University professor of public health Simon Chapman said yesterday's legal decisions "will effectively mean that publicans will seek to reduce costs and reduce security". "It reveals the whole pretence of responsible service of alcohol as farcical, to say the least," Professor Chapman said.


At last I've been singled out by the PM

By Andrew Bolt

I HAD no idea I was a corrupt, reckless, arrogant, dangerous and gutless conspirator who'd rather put my children in danger than help the Prime Minister stop global warming. But so Kevin Rudd has told the nation, naming me as one of just four Australians who've joined a global cabal plotting to stop him from saving you.

Never have I heard such a mad speech from a prime minister as the one Rudd gave on Friday at the Lowy Institute, when he exposed an alleged "legion of climate change sceptics" who were "active across the world" and had "tentacles" deep in the Opposition. These "deniers", now a "major force", "simply do not care" that "the clock is ticking for the planet" since "the vested interests at work are simply too great". So "well resourced" were we "political cowards" that we were "prepared to destroy our children's future".

And four times Rudd singled out the four villains at the heart of this plot, as in: "Malcolm, Barnaby, Andrew and Janet - stop gambling with our future." From the left, that's Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull (actually a climate change dupe), Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce, me and Australian columnist Janet Albrechtsen.

Has any past prime minister singled out just four people - two mere journalists - as part of a conspiracy to hurt the Australian way of life? It is grotesque, a misuse of Rudd's authority. But it also shows how fatally weak is Rudd's reason - or at least his reason for wanting to hit us with a colossal tax on our emissions that will shut power stations, throw thousands out of work and yet do nothing to lower the world's temperatures.

Rudd's speech also confirmed he had no answer to my challenge last week: to tell us how much he'll pay of the $7 billion a year the United Nations asks from us under the draft Copenhagen treaty he wants to sign next month.

Let me make a few things clear to Rudd. First, no one pays me a cent to be sceptical; in fact, my boss suggests I "give the planet the benefit of the doubt". Your claim that I argue from just a "vested interest" is a despicable lie.

Second, the real "vested interests" in this debate are behind the alarmists, not the sceptics, which is why your Government has just given a $90 million grant to a trial "green" energy plant whose shareholders include doom-preacher Tim Flannery - even though all three wells of the company's first geothermal plant have broken down.

Third, what threatens my children's future is not my scepticism but your mad plans to waste billions of dollars on a threat that seems not to exist.

Fourth, you deceive when you say "4000 scientists" wrote the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on which you base your claim man is heating the world to hell.

In fact, just 60 of those (actually fewer than 3000) scientists specifically endorsed that claim, and even they admitted they were just 90 per cent sure. Moreover, their finding has been rejected by petitions signed by thousands of other scientists.

Lastly, I'm in no conspiracy, and until a year ago fought almost alone here as a sceptic. The real "political cowards" are those of your own ministers who know your global warming plan is a hoax fix to a hoax scare, but dare not speak.

Now this, Prime Minister, is how to argue. By citing evidence. Checking predictions against reality. Your attempt to instead demonise me as a menace to even my own children proves nothing but that you have no facts to justify your megalomaniacal plan - and that you may be unworthy of your office.


Rudd's hysteria is certainly telling -- JR

Ban Tamil Tigers, Sri Lanka urges

OFFICIALS in Sri Lanka are urging Australia to ban the militant group the Tamil Tigers and strike a clear distinction between genuine refugees and economic opportunists. As Foreign Minister Stephen Smith flew to Singapore following talks with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Foreign Minister, Rohitha Bogollagama, aimed at stopping the flow of boats, officials in Colombo told The Australian Sri Lankan people fleeing their country did not need protection.

Yesterday, Mr Smith announced Australia would provide $11 million in funding to Sri Lanka. Most of the money, $6m, will fund de-mining and rehabilitation in the nation's north after decades of violent conflict, while the rest will go towards housing, food and resettlement services. The two countries also signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at increasing joint anti-people-smuggling efforts and intelligence-sharing.

The talks follow a surge this year in the number of asylum-seeker boats leaving Sri Lanka for Australia. Senior Australian envoy Brian McCarthy and people-smuggling ambassador Peter Woolcott will stay on in Colombo for a series of meetings aimed at hammering out the details of the agreements.

Yesterday, Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry secretary Romesh Jayasinghe said there was a need for a clear distinction between genuine refugees and those not in need of protection. "The fact is that the (1951 Refugee Convention) provides for refuge in instances when there is a well-founded fear," Mr Jayasinghe said. "I would submit to you that there is no such situation in Sri Lanka."

Mr Jayasinghe said the legal status of the separatist Tamil Tigers, or LTTE - whose defeat in May by the Sri Lankan government triggered the massive internal displacement Labor says is behind the surge in boats - was also a significant issue for Colombo. "The LTTE in the form it was known is no more," Mr Jayasinghe said. "But there are sinister elements that are endeavouring to try to re-stoke the cinders of secessionism. It is necessary to be vigilant and prevent such attempts. "That's the position that was presented quite clearly by our side to our Australian guests."

At a press conference on Monday, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama explicitly linked the Tamil Tigers with people-smuggling: "Sri Lanka's stand has always remained, that people-smuggling has been part of terrorist activities - it has previously been associated with LTTE activities."

The Tamil Tigers are a banned terrorist organisation in the US and Europe but have never been proscribed in Australia.

Yesterday, the 78 Sri Lankans on board the Customs ship Oceanic Viking managed to communicate by hand signals that they remained unwilling to come ashore to a detention centre at Tanjung Pinang, on Indonesia's Bintan island. As another delegation of Australian officials boarded the vessel in a bid to break the deadlock, some of the Sri Lankans made crossed forearm gestures to demonstrate there was still no deal. The major sticking point remains the issue of where the asylum-seekers would be held if they agreed to go ashore, with many having already spent several years in Indonesian detention centres.

Australian claims that the Indonesian side is considering a request to house the Sri Lankans in community facilities has been met with bewilderment by senior officials, on and off the record.


The unreasoning fearmongers

By Janet Albrechtsen

And the prize for giving vacuous prizes goes to... the Left. Last week John Pilger delivered a speech after becoming the 2009 recipient of the Sydney Peace Prize. Predictably, he railed against the war in Afghanistan. There are no terrorist training grounds there, he said. No mention of Al Qaeda from Pilger. He railed against the suffering on the "besieged people of Gaza". No mention of the role of Hamas from Pilger.

And then he railed against Australia’s immigration policy and the "concentration camp on Christmas Island." No mention that the 78 Sri Lankans on board the Oceanic Viking are determined to take up residence on Christmas Island.

What Pilger has done for peace is not entirely clear. But the progressive mindset says that if you are expert enough at crafting emotional arguments that’s enough to deserve a prize. One need only look at the two big issues of the day – climate change and border protection - to realise the progressive predilection for emotion over reason and stealth over honesty. Some of them – mostly politicians - use emotion for calculated political purposes. Others – commentators and activists - seem to genuinely suffer from arrested development, frozen in perpetual adolescence where emotion trumps reason.

A few months ago, NSW Premier Nathan Rees labelled those sceptical about the climate change science as akin to Nazi appeasers in the 1930s. Last week at the Lowy Institute Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said that those same people are fear mongering, gambling with their children’s future. It’s a powerful allegation, full of emotion. It is also dishonest.

To be curious about the state of science, to ask questions of the orthodoxy, to suggest that we not rush ahead of other countries in a way that will punish the Australian economy is the antithesis of fear-mongering. It says let’s draw breath, put aside the wild hyperbole, ignore the growing group think, the cheap symbolism and think rationally about climate change. Those who predict the end of the world, those such as Al Gore who tell us sea levels will rise by six metres in by 2100, those such as Tim Flannery who say it’s now or never, telling us we have about 20 years to act on climate change or else place our future at risk of apocalyptic droughts, floods, war and famine. Here are the fear-mongers.

The emotional claims by Rees and Rudd do nothing to advance debate. That is not their intention. Their aim is to shutdown debate by shaming opponents into agreeing with them, or at the very least, just shutting up. Anyone who disagrees with the Left on a range of issues is invariably labelled as cold-hearted and lacking basic human compassion.

No issue highlights this more than border protection. Here, once again, the language used by the Left is replete with emotion. On Sunday morning on ABC1’s Insiders, journalist David Marr ABC1’s said that Australians – unlike any other people in the world – fear refugees. Fear is a strong word. It is full of emotion. It is also a dishonest way to describe the attitudes of Australian attitudes border control. Recent polls movements against the Rudd Government suggest that Australians remain concerned about border protection. But being concerned about border control is not the same as being fearful of refugees.

Those on the left, such as Marr, pepper their language with emotion because their thinking is premised on the same. They cannot fathom that Australians have long expressed a rational preference for an orderly, controlled system of immigration and border protection. It’s nothing to do with fear, David. It’s to do with facts. And a simple compact.

As former Prime Minister, John Howard, reminded us in his weekend interview, the facts speak for themselves. Under Howard the boats stopped. And, as he said, "the consequence of our policy was that because we stopped the boats public support for a higher immigration rate to Australia rose—and public support for a humanitarian refugee program was maintained and even strengthened. "The Australian public will always support a reasonably high immigration program if they think it is properly managed and serves the interests of Australia."

Howard was not alone in understanding that and formulating policy to reflect that deal with the Australian people. As my colleague, Paul Kelly, sets out in his book, The March of Patriots, the politics of people movement grew from an enduring compact that began with the Chifley Government in 1945 when increased immigration became both a reality and a necessity in a globalised age.

It is, as Kelly writes, "the most powerful political compact in Australia’s history. Mass migration was presented to people, business, unions and churches on the condition that government would control who came to Australia in the interests of people." And that policy platform has been maintained by every Prime Minister from Chifley to Rudd.

How easy the Left forgets or deliberately ignores the facts underscoring that compact. Remember in the 1970s it was Gough Whitlam who said: "I’m not having hundreds of f.... Vietnamese Balts coming into this country with their political and religious hatreds." And Bob Hawke in 1990 who said: "Do not let any people… think that all they’ve got to do is break the rules, jump the queue, lob here and Bob’s your uncle. Bob is not your uncle on this issue. We’re not going to allow people to jump that queue."

And Paul Keating, who, as Prime Minister in 1992 introduced mandatory detention for unlawful arrivals.

How easily the Left forgets or deliberately ignores the success behind that compact. As Kelly records, from the 1940s Australia became a story of mass migration, accepting about seven million migrants, the highest per capita outside of Israel. By the time Howard left office, one in four Australians have been born overseas. The compact between the Australian people and the government of the day to support and sustain an orderly immigration program has been integral to Australia’s success as a country that has accepted millions of people from around the world.

Rudd understands the compact. But in his quest to be all things to all people, he now finds himself and his policy held to ransom by a group of savvy asylum seekers who are highly strategic in their actions and demands. Clearly, Rudd did not count on the resolve of the 78 Sri Lankans on board the Oceanic Viking. But as he figures out what to do, he can count on the resolve of the Australian people in expecting - not through fear, but through reason and proven success – that his government will keep his side of the compact on immigration policy. Better Rudd listen to history than the overblown and unthinking emotion of those on the Left.


A tribute to Quadrant magazine

By Rafe Champion

As we celebrate the Fall of the Wall 20 years ago we should remember the effort that was put in by the friends of freedom in the West during the Cold War. I am thinking of the worldwide network of groups which resisted the propaganda efforts of the communists and their fellow travellers. This was an uneasy alliance at times, involving a coalition of social democrats, social conservatives, classical liberals and others. Not surprisingly, the alliance did not long survive the Fall of the Wall. Robert Manne, who earned our gratitude for his principled stand on communism did not maintain alliance with the free traders, for example.

Quadrant magazine was the Australian organ of his effort, initially under the editorship of James McAuley. The early issues make interesting reading, especially for those of us who came to it years after when we had been told that it was a magazine of unbridled rightwing prejudice. For the most part, excepting a fiery editorial and mission statement from McAuley it was nothing of the kind. It hosted a wide range of opinions which were expressed with the utmost civility. This is Peter Coleman’s account of the McAuley Quadrants.

The first issue was far more literary than some of McAuley’s polemics had suggested it might be. He would not allow Quadrant, he had announced, "to exemplify that ideal of a completely colourless, odourless, tasteless, inert and neutral mind on all fundamental issues which some people mistake for liberalism." The first issue had poems by Rosemary Dobson, Judith Wright. A.D.Hope, Vincent Buckley and Roland Robinson. (They all were metrical and rhymed.) There were articles by Hope, Alan Villiers, George Molnar, and George Kardoss. There were reviews of Patrick White, David Campbell and Judith Wright.

The friends of communism had a windfall when it was found that the CIA contributed funds to the freedom movement, including Quadrant. As if this invalidated a single word that was printed in the magazine. The knockers of Quadrant have yet to understand or admit that in the Cold War the friends of Quadrant were on the correct side and the communists and fellow travellers were not.

Rest in honourable peace, James McAuley, Richard Krygier and other helpers.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pervasive love of the Nanny State

Below is a circular from Greg Lindsay of the Centre for Independent Studies, dated November 9. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590. The idea that ANY Australian supermarket does not sell fresh produce is truly remarkable. A classical example of how simplistic theories trump facts among Leftists. The major supermarkets have a huge range of produce wherever they are and even mini-markets have some

Conversations at dinner parties often reflect the fashion and fads of the moment. House prices, schools, the GFC, climate change, and refugees—all have cropped up over the past few years. Lately, it’s the so-called 'obesity epidemic.'

No contemporary issue divides the people who believe in personal choice and responsibility from those who think government should be constantly at our elbows, as it were, nudging our hands away from the salt, butter, eggs, meat, etc.

A recent conversation I had with a dinner companion went something like this.

Dinner Companion: 'I accept that markets are the best way of supplying goods and services for people, but what about the less well-off people who are not eating properly?'

GL: 'What do you mean?'

DC: ‘Oh I don't mean people who live around here who have access to fruit and vegetables but those who live out in (suburb) X where the supermarkets don't stock fresh fruit and vegetables.'

GL: 'They don't?' DC: 'No, they don't.' GL: 'I don't believe you.' DC: 'It's true!'

And so on.

The serious but bizarre suggestion that followed was that the government should force retail outlets in less affluent areas to sell fresh fruit and vegetable and also compel the less well off to buy them ‘for their own good.’

So I checked with the supermarkets located in suburb X. And yes, they do stock plenty of fresh produce. So presumably enough people are buying fruit and vegetables, and no wonder. For as long as I can remember, taxpayer-funded health campaigns have been preaching the benefits of healthy diets.

If there is a legitimate role of government here, it may be to disseminate important public information so people can make informed decisions. But now this seems to be morphing into something altogether different. My dinner companion’s attitude to the Nanny State demonstrated the soft authoritarian streak that is pervading society.

It would appear that we can’t leave it up to individuals to make rational decisions about what is in their best interests. Indeed, it’s now the government’s job to treat us like infants in the high chair and make sure we eat our vegetables! Moreover, if there is a growing issue, such as obesity, overstating the case as my dinner companion did can trivialise it and the public loses interest. (Climate change alarmists for instance are increasingly guilty of this.)

The problem, of course, is that ultimately this attitude is self-defeating. Social theorists call the phenomena ‘learned helplessness.’ The more government does, the less responsible people need to be, and the less responsible they end up becoming. And ever-bigger becomes the role of governments in our lives.

Amazing political censorship attempt by the Rudd government

KEVIN Rudd's word police have banned the Opposition from describing his Government as disgraceful, inept and reckless under new printing entitlement regulations. The Opposition has cried foul as a team of "black marking" bureaucrats are voluntarily vetting letters, newsletters and Hansard in a bid to explain what words are in and what words are banned under the regulations.

Under the new regulations, MPs may not use their printing and communications allowance to disparage or denigrate another political party. Federal Liberal Gold Coast MP Steven Ciobo labelled the regulations as absurd, accusing the Rudd Government of censorship. The words Rudd's word police have banned:


"These sets of rules only benefit the Labor Government (and) Queensland constituents should be very concerned about the mass political interference in the role of federal MPs," Mr Ciobo said. "These are rules that we would point at (within) China and say 'How disgusting'."

Special Minister of State Joe Ludwig hit out at the Opposition, but conceded some bureaucrats were being overzealous. "This is not about what parliamentarians can say, it is about what they can spend taxpayers' money on," Senator Ludwig said. "There is no doubt that the Department of Finance and Deregulation has been overzealous in its application of the rules, (and it's) an issue the Government is working closely with the department and a cross-party consultative group to address. "What is clear is that not one word in these regulations prevents policy criticism by any member of Parliament. "What it does is stop the taxpayer picking up the tab for personal attacks and denigration."

But Michael Ronaldson, the Opposition's spokesman on the contentious issue, accused the Government of taking too long to address the problem. "Unfortunately, the officials in the Department of Finance who are vetting the material have taken this to mean that any strong criticism of Labor policy is forbidden," Senator Ronaldson said.

"We all agreed with the Audit Office findings that the old entitlements system was open to abuse, lacked clarity and needed reform. "Unless we get changes which protect our freedom of speech, the Coalition will have no alternative but to disallow Labor's unfair regulations."


Illegals from New Guinea flooding into Australia's Northern islands

PAPUA New Guineans are pouring into islands in the Torres Strait, flouting immigration laws, running drugs, terrorising people and overwhelming local health and basic services. Community leaders, including the chairman of the federal government's Torres Strait Regional Authority, John Kris, have accused the Department of Immigration of turning a blind eye to the worsening problem north of Cape York, with the political debate instead focusing attention on boat arrivals in the Indian Ocean.

"They are not policing the border . . . . it is difficult to know how many people are coming across," Mr Kris told The Australian. "There has been too much focus put on the boat arrivals and not enough attention on the Torres Strait, where more people are moving into these waters."

Some communities have recently taken matters into their own hands by "closing the borders" to visitors - some of whom they claim roam islands armed with machetes and who are either not eligible for or have overstayed free movement provisions extended to some villages in the Western Province of PNG. The Torres Strait Treaty, signed 30 years ago, allows traditional activities to continue between specified villages on both sides of the border.

But documents obtained by The Australian early last year showed that the government was already aware that thousands of PNG citizens were illegally crossing the border. The Torres Strait Island Regional Council, which represents 14 islands, says little has been done, with some communities having "in excess of 500 PNG nationals turn up" without warning, draining the local water supply. "Immigration turns a blind eye to the fact that 'overstayers' are on the island; their inaction in dealing with the problem makes a mockery of the treaty," Mayor Fred Gela told a Senate inquiry. "Immigration must start to do their job."

Mr Gela told the Senate that PNG nationals were stealing, running drugs and sly-grogging, and had even been suspected of abducting local women. The Senate inquiry has also heard warnings of biodiversity and health risks to Australia, with some figures suggesting one in five PNG villagers who cross the Torres Strait have tuberculosis.

There were 59,000 recorded movements between the two countries last financial year.

Queensland Liberal senator Sue Boyce, who sits on the inquiry committee, last week wrote to Kevin Rudd, saying the federal and state governments were ignoring the problem. "Ignoring these Australians and leaving them to their fate is not an option and, in fact, it would be an international disgrace if no action was taken to secure their safety and protection," she wrote.

In its submission, the federal Department of Health said it was providing services to visitors on humanitarian grounds despite travel not being permitted for health purposes under the treaty.



Three current articles below

Prime Minister Rudd's Chilling Speech

In Australia, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has given the most chilling speech (PDF here) with respect to open policy debate that I have ever heard from a leader of a democratic country. The focus of his speech is on "climate change deniers." Who are these people? They include people who are skeptical of climate change science, but remarkably, they also include people who believe that climate change is real and a problem, but disagree with the Prime Minister's preferred policy approach. Rudd states that "climate change deniers" fall into one of three categories:

· First, the climate science deniers.

· Second, those that pay lip service to the science and the need to act on climate change but oppose every practicable mechanism being proposed to bring about that action.

· Third, those in each country that believe their country should wait for others to act first.

He says of these groups: "As we approach the Copenhagen conference these groups of climate change deniers face a moment of truth, and the truth is this: we will need to work much harder to reach an agreement in Copenhagen because these advocates of inaction are holding back domestic commitments, and are in turn holding back global commitments on climate change."

Rudd uses extremely strong terms to characterize those who disagree with his policy prescriptions:
"Climate change deniers are small in number, but they are too dangerous to be ignored. They are well resourced and well represented by political conservatives in many, many countries.

And the danger they pose is this by collapsing political momentum towards national and global action on climate change, they collapse global political will to act at all. They are the stick that gets stuck in the wheel, that despite its size may yet bring the train to a complete stop.

And that is what they want, because they are driven by a narrowly defined self interest of the present and are utterly contemptuous towards our children's interest in the future.

This brigade of do nothing climate change skeptics are dangerous because if they succeed, then it is all of us who will suffer. Our children. And our grandchildren.

Rudd explains why it is that the Copenhagen meeting may fail:
If Copenhagen does not deliver the outcome we so urgently need, no individual climate change skeptic will be responsible, but each of them will have played their part.

Rudd explains that there is no place in government for people holding these views, a position seemingly reinforced this week when the CSIRO stands accused of censoring a paper critical of the Australian ETS:
Climate change skeptics in all their guises and disguises are not conservatives. They are radicals. They are reckless gamblers who are betting all our futures on their arrogant assumption that their intuitions should triumph over the evidence. The logic of these skeptics belongs in a casino, not a science lab, and not in the ranks of any responsible government.

Can witch trials and pogroms be far behind? What bothers me about the speech is not so much the criticism of people who reject mainstream science. Fine, criticism of them as rolling the dice on a minority view is fair and appropriate. What bothers me is the explicit equation of people who question a policy's effectiveness or desirability with the idea of being a "denier" and thus being "dangerous." Rudd is openly conflating views on science with views on politics. Not only does this further the politicization of science, but it also make a mockery of democratic governance. Imagine if George W. Bush had given this same speech in 2003 but about people who deny the merits of his desired policy of going to war in Iraq. There would have been national and international outrage, and rightfully so.

Rudd may be trying to set the stage for domestic failure of the CPRS and more generally that in Copenhagen. But he is doing so in a way that stomps on the notion of democracy and the fact that people have different values and perspectives that can only be reconciled through the democratic process. An observer at the Lowy Institute (where the speech was given) said afterward:
The implication was that these descriptions applied to anyone who opposed the Government's climate change agenda — the PM seemed to admit of no possibility that anyone of good will could be opposed to that agenda

That is a pretty good description of the climate debate. Demonizing one's opponents and calling their views "dangerous" is a first step down a path we don't want to go.


"Snouts in the Carbon Trough"

Mr Rudd accuses opponents of his Ration-N-Tax Scheme of “bowing to vested interests”. That is the pot calling the kettle black. The biggest vested interest is the ALP itself, hoping to harvest Green preference votes from their green posturing. Supporting the alarmists are the gaggle of green industries already reaping dividends from the Rudd subsidies and market protection rackets.

Mr Rudd also tells us that his big business mates want the “certainty” of Emissions Trading. A roll call of these people reveals domination by big firms of auditors and accountants, bankers and brokers, speculators and solicitors, touts and traders - all longing to get into the biggest trading lottery the world has ever seen - more snouts in the carbon trough. The rest of big business merely wants the “certainty” of free emission permits or other special exemptions denied to Joe the Plumber and Fred the Farmer.

Sceptics on the other hand do not have a mercenary army of academics, bureaucrats and publicists who can be bribed or bullied to produce scary climate forecasts or doomsdays ads on demand. Nor do sceptics have the power to silence or sack dissidents in their ranks. Nor do they have the pulpits and power of the UN which, having failed at “peace keeping”, sees “climate control” as its new business model.

The climate realists have only one big vested interest – the desire to live their lives free from the “certainty” of new taxes on everything they buy and new controls on everything they do. This is not about global pollution or global warming – it is about global energy taxes, global government and global redistribution.


Pervasive climate skepticism among Australian conservative politicians

LIBERAL Senate leader Nick Minchin's warning that a majority of the party does not believe in man-made climate change has emboldened Malcolm Turnbull's critics with fresh warnings today the partyroom may reject a deal on emissions trading.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong today challenged the Liberal leader to repudiate Senator Minchin's outspoken rejection of climate change science. She described Senator Minchin's comments as a “direct attack” on Mr Turnbull's leadership.

But today Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop joined the attack, backing Senator Minchin's outspoken comments on last night's Four Corners program, suggesting it was he and not Mr Turnbull who was speaking for the party. “I thought Nick Minchin put the position of the partyroom very well,” she told Sky News. “There is a belief that when we voted the legislation down last time that was the right thing to do. This is a tax that does not address the climate change problem one iota.”

The climate change stoush comes amid fresh speculation Joe Hockey is positioning himself for the leadership with a speech on God and religion. But the opposition Treasury spokesman today denied this was the case. “The leadership is not vacant,” he told ABC Radio today. “Malcolm has my very, very strong support.” Mr Hockey sidestepped questions about whether he wanted to be Liberal leader down the track. “I went into politics to serve my country, my party and my community, and Lord knows where that will take me,” he said. “If one day an opportunity came up then it would be up to others to determine that, not up to me.”

Earlier, Senator Wong conceded getting a deal through will be difficult with many in the Liberal Party convinced climate change is some sort of left-wing “conspiracy”. “It will be difficult. There are too many people in the Coalition who are not fair dinkum on climate change,” she said. “I think the question most Australians would have is who is speaking for the Liberal Party.”

Senator Wong also conceded what world leaders have been saying for weeks that a political agreement with goals and aspirations rather than a binding treaty to replace the Kyoto agreement on climate change is the most likely outcome of talks in Copenhagen. “What we need at Copenhagen is that effective political agreement,” she said. “Not every detail of the treaty is going to be sorted out by Copenhagen.”

Mr Turnbull said today that “good faith” negotiations were continuing with the Rudd government on emissions trading legislation ahead of the talks. “We are in good faith negotiations with the government. I'm not going to be deflected from those negotiations. They will have an outcome. At the end of that we will then decide whether we as a shadow cabinet agree with the outcome and then we will either recommend its acceptance or not to the partyroom,” he said.

“Now the fact of the matter is the Australian people expect us to take a constructive approach to this and that is exactly what we're doing. I mean the Prime Minister's outburst last week was not consistent with those good faith negotiations. But I can assure you we will not be deflected by him and the negotiations are continuing and they will have a conclusion and then we will consider it.”


Monday, November 09, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks that the crackdown on graffiti by the NSW Labor government is empty symbolism. Courts Australia-wide do indeed seem very reluctant to jail even the worst of the offenders concerned, despite the large costs they sometimes impose on others.

Incredible incompetence at government welfare agency

When I had some dealings with them many years ago, they made a very ill-informed ruling against me without talking to me about it either beforehand or afterwards. So it went to an appeals tribunal and was reversed. It seemed clear to me at the time that they behaved entirely arbitrarily, with zero effort to get the full facts. Just talking to me was obviously too hard for them, even though that would have saved a lot of bother. It seems to have got even worse since then, hard though that is to believe

CENTRELINK has been forced to overturn more than a third of its decisions because staff continually get facts and legal advice wrong. Complaints about Centrelink decisions surged 104 per cent in the last two years, making it the most complained about government agency in the country, the Welfare Rights Centre said. Appeals against Centrelink's decisions cost taxpayers more than $33 million a year. More than one-third, 34.5 per cent, of its decisions were overturned on appeal, The Daily Telegraph reports.

More than 6.5 million Australians receive some form of payment from Centrelink each year. In the 12 months to July 2009 there were 103,427 reviews of and complaints about Centrelink decisions. The number of internal Centrelink reviews of its own decisions more than doubled from 40,474 in 2006-07 to 82,774 in 2008-09.

There were 13,429 applications to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal in 2008-09, up 56 per cent in the last two years. In the same period the Ombudsman received 7224 approaches and complaints about Centrelink. The largest number of complaints to the Ombudsman were from people on Newstart Allowance, followed by Disability Support Pension, Family tax Benefit and the age pension.

The Social Security Appeals Tribunal annual report found that 33.1 per cent of Centrelink's decisions it overturned involved an error of fact, and 14.7 per cent involved an error of law.

"As a legal centre we are puzzled by the lack of public outrage or scrutiny of this result, but you have to remember that we are dealing with some of the most vulnerable people in the community," Welfare Rights director Maree O'Halloran said. "It is hard to reconcile the fact that over 30 per cent of decisions are found to be wrong, with Centrelink's own survey results which claim Centrelink has a payment correctness figure of 96 per cent."

The surge in complaints led to a 27 per cent - or $7 million increase - in the Social Security Appeals Tribunal's budget. The tribunal spent $33.2 million in 2008-09 and the average cost of each appeal against a Centrelink decision was $1992.


Cambridge University study finds children too young for school

What rubbish! It all depends on the IQ of the kid. Smart kids can not only handle the work better at an early age but tend to be more socially adept too -- typically playing with kids older than themselves. There should be minimal rules about age to start school. It should depend on an individual assessment of the kid. The present NSW laws seem about right

CHILDREN in New South Wales can start school as young as four but an international study says enrolment should be delayed until they are at least six years old. A Cambridge University study recommends children aged under six engage in a year of play-based learning before they start school. It found younger students are not emotionally, socially or developmentally prepared to tackle the rigours of a curriculum. The findings are at odds with other research which suggests four and five are the ideal ages to start school.

Children in NSW can enrol in the first year of school, called kindergarten or Year K, at four years and six months. They must be enrolled by the age of six. Kindergarten students are taught English and maths for at least 12 hours a week. Their lessons include reading, writing, spelling and counting as well as simple addition and subtraction. From next year, all public school kindergarten students will be tested in basic literacy and numeracy for the first time.

Most European children don't start school until they turn six and in Sweden, Poland and Finland, they begin at age seven.

Cambridge Primary Review co-author and chairwoman Gillian Pugh said forcing subject-based learning onto four-year-olds could dent their confidence. "They are not going to learn to read, write and add up if you have alienated children by the age of four and five,'' she said. "If they are already failing by age four-and-a-half or five, then it's going to be quite difficult to get them back into the system again.'' The authors call for a "full and open debate'' on the issue.

Child psychologist Dr John Irvine warned that accelerating children's learning could backfire. "Play is the way a child learns what no adult can teach them,'' he said. "But we're trying to cut short children's childhood to fast-forward them into this manic anxious state where they get learned early. "In time, the brain will turn off something it's not enjoying so they'll be at school in body, but missing in spirit.''

Primary curriculum officer at Sydney's Catholic Education Office Franceyn O'Connor said children should be assessed individually. "The idea that six, or any age, is the magic number when all children are ready to embark into the structured world of formal education does not make sense,'' she said.

National president of advocacy group Early Childhood Australia, Margaret Young, said children would be disadvantaged if the starting age changed. She said delaying the start of kindergarten worked in Europe because they had strong transitional early childhood education programs, something lacking here. "That's why we're reluctant to say `let's move on to this model'. It's really dangerous to impose one without the other,'' she said.

Western Sydney mother Monique Fenech held back her eldest son, Nicholas, who turns six next March, from school this year because she felt he wasn't ready. "The extra year has given him so many more skills. It means that when he starts school, he's going to enjoy it a lot more,'' she said.

An Education Department spokesman said the NSW Government had no plans to change its enrolment policy or lift the school-starting age.


Common sense has no place in our burgeoning bureaucracy

A group of altruistic young mothers has organised a school fete for next Sunday. They want to raise money to pay the salary of a remedial reading teacher at their state primary school. It's a noble purpose, but the mothers made a grave tactical mistake. They decided to hold the fete outside the school grounds, in a nearby park. This placed them at the mercy of the local bureaucracy, Woollahra Municipal Council, an institution not noted for mercy.

I have on my desk a 10-page document the council gave the mothers. It is 10 pages of legalistic, pedantic, pettifogging strictures, demands and obligations devoid of any sense of compassion or common purpose. Compliance with the council's demands has taken months and cost thousands of dollars. The council requires a $4000 deposit be lodged against the potential cost of any repairs to the park deemed necessary as a result of the fete. It required a development application and an environmental impact statement (cost $500). It required a traffic management assessment and scheme (cost $1000). It required liability insurance.

To convey the full flavour of the majestic repressiveness, I quote from the document: ''The applicant must provide a copy of a certificate of currency prior to each event showing public liability insurance to the value of $10,000,000 for each fete …'' That is not a misprint.

The council's thought police have also been busy. Stipulations have been made about what can be written on any promotional banners and where they can be displayed. The council has provided two pages of instructions about food service. It requires the hire of portable toilets. It also requires ''adequate security measures''. And so on.

This response is not singular to this fete, this school or this council. It is the way Australia's occupying army of 1.5 million federal, state and local bureaucrats and lawyers see the world - through a prism of risk and legal liability. Mercy? Flexibility? Community? The lower you go down the administrative chain the more inflexible and rule-driven the administrators behave. Last week I saw a parking inspector put a ticket on a neighbour's car that was parked in their own driveway. They had been packing the car for a trip. When I told this to the parking inspector, he replied stonily: ''It's illegal to park in your own driveway.''

Common sense suggested he cancel the ticket and place a warning sticker on the windscreen advising of the change to the law. But that's not how the system works. Once written, a parking ticket cannot be cancelled. Only formal administrative disputation can change the result.

Australians have this outdated idea of themselves as easy-going pragmatists, but we are becoming a nation of petty laws and fearful citizens, too gutless to confront this creeping, productivity-killing, initiative-destroying, community-sapping tide of compulsion and constriction, much of it driven by a corrosive ideology of the need for government control and intervention.

Look no further than the volunteer surf lifesaving movement, a totemic symbol of Australian culture and mateship. It is being progressively suffocated by local councils and their obsession with legal liabilities and micro-management. Instead of reforming our ponderous, expensive, dysfunctional, excessively technical legal system, it is the dysfunctional legal system that is colonising the rest of society. Laws pile upon laws, regulations upon regulations. Nothing is repealed, every rule is expanded.

But laws and compulsion do not create civil order. The real moral authority in society comes from community standards, peer pressure, communalism and a sense of natural justice, and all of these elements are under assault.

That's why transparency is crucial. Take the shocking conduct of the Office of the Board of Studies that affects the lives of the 67,000 students who sit for the HSC each year. In 2001, when a group of aggrieved students sought to see their raw marks, the board blocked them at every turn, even after the Ombudsman intervened on the students' behalf. The Ombudsman's office held 19 hearings into the matter and issued a report last month that found the board had engaged in an adversarial, obfuscating, legalistic war of attrition that was itself in breach of the law. No one at the Board of Studies resigned, because the board is a bureaucracy devoid of honour.

These are no more than a few fleeting examples of the oppressive cultural monolith we are building for ourselves, a monolith whose construction has sped up with the arrival of a genuinely Napoleonic prime minister in Kevin Rudd. All the trends towards the centralisation of control have accelerated and consolidated as the Federal Government seeks to spread its power over every aspect of society in ways the framers of the Commonwealth never intended.

This growing distance between the flexibility of localism and the rigidity of centralism took me back to a brilliant little book by a social visionary, the late Jane Jacobs, whose last work, Dark Age Ahead (2004), offered a warning. Among her many observations was this: ''Central planning, whether by leftists or conservatives, draws too little on local knowledge and creativity, stifles innovations, and is inefficient and costly because it is circuitous.''

Central planning does not come only from Canberra. It comes from every level of government, and the cost of the bureaucratisation of society is as enormous as it is insidious. As the mother who helped organise next Sunday's school fete told me: ''If I had known in March what I know now, there would never have been any thought of a fete.'' Multiply this by a million.


Majority of Australians think government doing a 'bad job' of managing illegals

KEVIN Rudd is doing a "bad job" on managing asylum-seekers, according to a majority of voters, while almost half think he is "too soft" on the issue. A Newspoll, conducted exclusively for The Australian reveals 53 per cent think the Government is doing a bad job of handling the large influx of asylum-seeker boats this year, while only 31 per cent of voters are happy with the Prime Minister's performance on the issue.

Labor voters are increasingly concerned about Mr Rudd's stance, with the number of supporters who believe he is doing a good job on asylum-seekers falling from 53 per cent in April to 44 per cent.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith is due to arrive in Colombo today for emergency talks on the large number of Sri Lankans seeking asylum in Australia. The Sri Lankan Government said yesterday Australia was considering a special "joint mechanism" to boost maritime and border control security, aimed at stopping boatpeople from leaving the region.

As Mr Rudd attempts to find a diplomatic breakthrough to the standoff that has left 78 asylum-seekers in limbo on Australian Customs vessel the Oceanic Viking for three weeks, only 21 per cent of voters believe Labor is the best party to best handle the asylum-seeker issue.

Newspoll also found 46 per cent thought the Government was "too soft" while only 16 per cent believed the government's policies were "too hard". But voters are also unimpressed with the Opposition, with just 22 per cent convinced that the Coalition would better handle the issue if it were in government. Voters have lost faith with both parties on the issue since April, but the Government - down from 27 per cent to 21 per cent - has fallen further than the Coalition - down from 26 per cent to 22 per cent.


Howard unleashes on Rudd over immigration

Former prime minister John Howard has lashed out at Kevin Rudd's handling of asylum seekers and accused his Government of wasting the nation's cash. Mr Rudd's approval rating dropped considerably last week as the impasse continues over what to do with hundreds of Australia-bound asylum seekers who remain in limbo.

Mr Howard used an interview with The Sunday Telegraph to attack the Federal Government's so-called Indonesian solution and defended his own record on immigration. "We stopped the boats coming. The facts speak for themselves. The Indonesian solution? Well, there doesn't seem to be one," he said. "The current handling of the 78 people aboard the Customs ship? I'll refrain from comment on that ... but speaking robustly in defence of our policy - we stopped the boats.

"People knew where we stood. We didn't try and be all things to all men. The net result was support for immigration and a humanitarian refugee program increased.''

Mr Howard also claims the Government has achieved very little since defeating him in 2007 and took credit for Australia keeping its head above water during the global financial crisis. "I can't think of a major thing it has done, except spend the bank balance that Costello and I left behind. Nothing else," he said....

"Mr Rudd will say he had the global financial crisis to handle. Well, courtesy of us he was well endowed with money in the bank."


Sunday, November 08, 2009

Another doomster who got it expensively wrong

University of Western Sydney academic Steve Keen made a name for himself with forecasts of economic doom, predicting a 40% decline in Australian house prices. Keen put his money where his mouth is, selling his unit in Surry Hills in October last year for $526,000.

In November last year, Macquarie Bank’s Rory Robertson raised the stakes, proposing the following wager: "On the maybe 1% chance that he is right, and capital-city home prices do indeed fall by 40% within the next five years—starting from Q2 2008, and as measured by the ABS—I will walk from Canberra to the to the top of Mt Kosciusko. If Dr Keen turns out to be less than half right, as I expect, and home prices drop by (much) less than 20%, he will take that long walk. Moreover, the loser must wear a tee-shirt saying: ‘I was hopelessly wrong on home prices! Ask me how."

Following this week’s release of ABS data showing capital city house prices up 6.2% for the year-ended in September, Keen conceded defeat and will be putting on his hiking boots and tee-shirt.

What does Keen say when we ask him how? ‘I didn’t know the government was going to be stupid enough to bring in the first home buyer’s boost.’ The increased first homeowner’s grant has certainly inflated house prices, transferring wealth from taxpayers to incumbent property owners, but it would be a gross exaggeration to say this prevented a decline in house prices of 40%.

So where did Keen go wrong? For a start, he neglected the supply-side of the housing market and the growing shortage of dwelling units that is putting upward pressure on prices. More seriously, Keen made the mistake of assuming that he knew something that everyone else didn’t. The efficient market hypothesis tells us that this is unlikely and we cannot reliably predict future movement in asset prices. Keen inadvertently demonstrated the veracity of the idea that asset prices are informationally efficient. Rory Robertson made the more reasonable assumption that house prices reflect fundamentals and was vindicated.

According to RP Data-Rismark, the median Sydney unit price rose 8.3% in the year-ended September. With a little help from Treasurer Swan, Keen’s bet against the market has so far cost him nearly $44,000 in forgone capital gains on his former unit.

The above is part of a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated November 6. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590. Telephone ph: +61 2 9438 4377 or fax: +61 2 9439 7310

Rudd just lucky so far; real challenge ahead

Spending taxpayers' money is easy. Saving is hard. The Rudd Government was exceptionally lucky to inherit government with no net debt and with a $19.7 billion surplus in the federal budget. It was lucky, first, because it meant that Australia was almost unique among the rich countries of the world in being so strongly financed. It was lucky, second, because it was not any national inevitability but a whim of personalities that allowed it to happen.

The Howard government was strongly tempted not to stockpile any surpluses at all. John Howard wanted to spend as much of the national revenue as possible. Peter Costello told me in an interview last year that "I had big fights with Howard, all the time" over budget policy. "Politically, [Howard] always wanted to err on the side of further expenditures." And Howard confirmed this: "Part of the job of treasurer is to resist any additional expenditure, and it's part of the job of the prime minister to insist on it,'' he told me.

Costello managed to put some money aside, unspent, as surpluses. If there had been a less assertive treasurer, or a less prudent one, Australia would have had a very different national fate.

Why was there pressure within the Howard government against the concept of surpluses? "Our worst nightmare," explained Howard's longtime chief of staff, Arthur Sinodinos, "was you might sit on these surpluses, get lambasted by the public [for not spending them], and then have Labor or someone else come in and spend them anyway." That nightmare came true. It was Australia's good fortune that it did.

This was the third way in which Australia was exceptionally lucky. Because when the global recession hit, we were one of the very few countries in the world with enough cash in the bank for the Government to be able to use it decisively as a recession-buster. Almost uniquely among the advanced economies, Australia was not constrained by debt worries. Proportionately, the Rudd Government spent more to fend off recession than any of the rich countries in the Group of 20.

Britain and Germany spent the equivalent of 1.6 per cent of their total economic output, or GDP, on stimulus this year, a comparison of stimulus spending published this week by the International Monetary Fund shows, while Canada spent 1.9 per cent, the US spent 2 per cent and Japan 2.4 per cent. Australia? We outspent them all, outlaying 2.9 per cent of GDP for 2009. Canberra's spending is fully half as much again as the average for the rich countries in the G20.

Rudd and Wayne Swan get credit for taking "early and decisive" action, as they like to remind us. Australia avoided recession and is recovering strongly, partly as a result.

For the Rudd Government, that was the easy part. The hard part is upon it: to rebuild the budget, to rebuild a surplus, and not to piss away the national future on populist spending to get re-elected. But which lesson will they learn? Will Rudd and Swan learn the narrow political lesson of the Howard "nightmare" and try to spend as much as they can get away with? Or will they learn the bigger lesson, the lesson of the national interest, and put rigour into the national budget?

We have to hope that they care more about Australia than they do about Labor, because Australia is going to be put to the test, and rather severely. Not by the downturn but by the upturn. In recent days, in a pair of speeches Australia's two most important economic technocrats have set out troubling visions of Australia's national future. While Swan and Rudd still like to theatrically wring their hands and furrow their brows about the short-term economic recovery, the Reserve Bank governor, Glenn Stevens, said plainly on Thursday: "The issue before us now is not, in fact, how to get onto the road to recovery: we are already on it. The question, rather, is how to make sure that the road to recovery will connect to the road to prosperity."

In his speech, Stevens foresaw the same big looming problem that the Secretary to the Treasury, Ken Henry, sketched in a speech two weeks earlier. It's this: as China and India continue their historical return to the front ranks of the world's rich nations, their demand for Australian minerals will create a mining boom without parallel in Australian history, longer and stronger than anything we have imagined, a boom powerful enough to transform the country. The commodities boom that Australia experienced from 2003 to last year is already resuming.

How can this be troubling? As Ken Henry put it, "this has conferred on Australia a large boost to its real wealth but, at the same time, set up a set of structural adjustments that will challenge policy makers for decades". The term "structural adjustments" is an economist's euphemism for wrenching change. In this case, he's talking about the advent of the so-called Dutch disease.

As Australian commodities exports boom, this drives up the value of the Australian dollar. And this is OK for the mining sector because China and India will pay almost any price for the essential ingredients to their economic modernisation. But what about manufacturing? What about tourism? What about every other Australian export industry? A booming Australian dollar, now at about US90c but conceivably rising to $US1.90 over the years ahead, could easily price them out of existence. In stark layman's terms, Australia faces the prospect of returning to our industrial structure of a century ago - as a quarry and a farm.

Glenn Stevens's euphemism was that our "trade patterns could end up being less diversified". He went on: "Such concentration would not be unprecedented and may well be worth accepting if the returns from doing so were high enough, as it appears they might be. "But we might also think about how to manage the risks associated with any concentration. The emergence of China and India is a benefit to Australia, but we stand to have a heightened exposure to anything going seriously wrong in those countries. How then to manage an income flow that is higher on average, over a long period, but potentially more volatile?"

Other countries have faced this challenge and met it. When Norway discovered oil, it set up a fund in the 1960s to save the windfall revenues against the day when the oil would run out. The fund today has some $US400 billion. When Chile ran into the commodities boom of this decade, as Australia did, it set up two reserve funds in 2006 to accumulate the windfall revenues from a soaring copper price. Those funds today hold about $US17 billion.

Australia needs to do the same, urges Professor Warwick McKibbin, a leading economist and a member of the Reserve Bank board. David Hale, the prominent US economist and adviser to the Commonwealth Bank, concurs: "Chile is a good example for Australia to follow. Chile's finance minister had to fight off others who wanted to spend the money immediately, as there always are, and he prevailed. It's given Chile the autonomy to deal with the downturn."

The closest in Australian experience was Costello's successful struggle against Howard to pay down debt and stockpile surpluses. Now the Reserve's governor and the Treasury Secretary have clearly spelled out the huge challenge looming for Australia, Rudd and Swan have no excuse. They have to stop pretending to be worried about the economic recovery as a pretext for continuing excessive levels of spending. And they need to start worrying about the next phase - a resurgent mining boom strong enough to blow the national economy apart unless it is prudently managed. Rudd and Swan need to demonstrate rigorous credentials in saving, not just spending. When they do, even their own staff might take them seriously.


Bottlenecks choking recovery

THE return of infrastructure bottlenecks is threatening to push up inflation and interest rates, and so choke off the Reserve Bank's forecasts of a quick recovery from the global crisis. Rather than being at our export ports, however, the new bottlenecks are gripping first in our big cities in the form of rising home prices and rents, as a rapidly growing population competes for a limited supply of new housing.

"A huge chasm is opening up between the demand and supply for housing," Westpac chief economist Bill Evans yesterday told the Road to Recovery conference presented by The Australian and the Melbourne Institute.

Evans said this had pushed up housing prices at an annualised rate of 20 per cent over the past six months and was one of the reasons the Reserve Bank had "decided to move as fast as they did" on starting to lift interest rates.

Urban infrastructure bottlenecks in major cities, including road congestion and housing supply, are becoming the first new capacity constraint on the economy as it shrugs off the global crisis. By pushing up inflation and interest rates, these urban chokepoints have much the same supply-side economic impact as the lengthening shipping queues off the east coast coal ports during the pre-crisis resources boom.

Failures to deal with the new housing chokepoint were highlighted by a string of speakers at the Road to Recovery conference over the past two days, led by Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens and Productivity Commission chairman Gary Banks.

Conference speakers blamed an increase in housing demand from the faster population growth since the 1960s; extra artificial demand generated by the Rudd government's boost to first-home buyers grants; entrenched poor urban transport planning; deep-seated failures by state and local government to release affordable land for housing development; and a lingering credit crunch hitting finance for apartment building. The Reserve Bank's upgraded forecasts that the economy's growth recovery will accelerate to 3.25 per cent by this time next year yesterday came with a warning that increased China-driven investment in mining development could spill over into the rest of the economy and lead to "capacity pressures re-emerging in the near term".

The central bank's monetary policy statement warned prices for houses and apartments had increased 6 to 8 per cent over the past year due to lower interest rates, the economy's resilience and the stimulus-related increases in first-home buyer subsidies.

And it warned of "ongoing pressures in the housing market over the next few years" because of a "general underbuild in dwellings".

"Addressing this will require further steps to improve the supply side of the housing market," the Reserve Bank said.

The signs of inflationary housing shortages jarred against Kevin Rudd's claim to a Master Builders conference on the Gold Coast yesterday that the government's fiscal stimulus was financing 49,000 "major construction projects across Australia", including 10,500 for schools.

The Prime Minister said the government was committed to the "development of strategic planning frameworks for our largest cities" to cope with a forecast 35 million population by 2049. Lower interest rates and the government increase in first-home buyer's grants had " helped thousands of Australians realise their dream of home ownership" while creating jobs for builders and tradespeople.

But Mr Banks said told The Road to Recovery conference that the increased first-home buyer subsidy "seems to have contributed to a boom in house prices at the lower end of the market; an unusual phenomenon in recessionary times which will have tended to offset the affordability gains from historically low interest rates".

Mr Stevens told the conference that, while alleviating skilled labour shortages, strong population growth was putting pressure on urban housing and infrastructure.

Though the credit crunch on apartment finance was temporary, he pointed to structural problems in "land supply, zoning and approval" that meant increased housing demand was not fully flowing through to increased housing construction.

"It's a question of how is it, in a country this big in area and this small in numbers of people, we can't manage to make the marginal price of a dwelling lower than it is," Mr Stevens said.

"It seems to me quite high."

Opposition housing spokesman Scott Morrison said housing supply bottlenecks were making Australia's cities unaffordable and was now playing out in "retail politics".

"It's the big rock in the jar for housing affordability," he said.


Kevvy is all at sea over the "boat people"

A COUPLE of days ago, I found myself shouting at the radio. "For God's sake, answer the bloody question!" I suspect there were many such cries of frustration in households around the nation. Kevin Rudd was being interviewed - one of the 14 or so radio and TV appearances in his much-publicised media blitz on the asylum seeker issue. And he had nothing to tell us. No answers. Just platitudes, slogans and spin.

The Prime Minister's minders would have done better to keep him locked up in The Lodge and away from the phone. What is the point of a media blitz when you have nothing to say? All Rudd achieved was to deepen suspicion that he hasn't a clue about how to deal with the problem. He resembled a headless chook running around in circles.

Tuesday's dramatic Newspoll - Labor down seven points and an 18-point two-party preferred lead slashed to just four - shocked Rudd. And his response to the poll shocked quite a few in the Labor caucus. As one of them said: "It doesn't matter if this is a rogue poll. It doesn't matter if the swing against us is seven points or five or three. What matters is the way the PM and those around him reacted."

Under real pressure for the first time since he became Labor leader three years ago, Rudd found himself without a message and without a position. He was wrong-footed by a bad poll and a difficult issue. And now a growing group of critics in the party are pointing the finger at structures Rudd has set up around himself and the Government. It is no exaggeration to say there is a degree of panic among Labor MPs as the crisis over asylum seekers worsens.

The panic has deepened with every day that the Customs ship Oceanic Viking remains off the coast of Indonesia with its cargo of rescued Sri Lankans refusing to go ashore. The group, with its "take us to Australia or else" demand, in effect hijacked the vessel. They have made Rudd - who claims to have tough policies - look weak and indecisive.

According to caucus sources, as a result of Rudd's dominance of the party and the way his office is set up, he is isolated from the kind of advice that might help to deal with the situation. The older, more experienced hands originally on Rudd's staff have left. And, to quote one of Labor's longest-serving parliamentary operators: "We no longer have powerful people in caucus who can walk in and offer a frank view. "That's because they're all, in one way or another, clients of Kevin's."

In short, there is no way wiser heads can get a message of sense into Rudd's office, and that's a serious problem. Even Labor MPs who simply want to register their concern at the extent of anti-boat people sentiment in their electorates have to be very careful. One of them explains: "If you give Kevin or his staff a hard message, they just cut you off."

The Government has not been inactive. During the week, the PM belatedly got around to phoning the Sri Lankan President in a bid to ease the pressure on Tamils to flee that country. And Australian officials aboard the Oceanic Viking went to great lengths, with offers of rapid processing of claims, to tempt the 78 asylum seekers to leave the ship. But the perception is that it has all been ineffectual.

No one suggests there is any easy solution to the situation Rudd faces. It's as complex a political problem as an Australian leader is likely to encounter. John Howard handled a lot of difficult situations and experienced some horrific opinion poll slumps. At times - in 1998, 2001 and early 2004 - pundits were just about ready to write him off. But I can't recall Howard looking as though he didn't have a handle on a problem - except at the very end.

In tough times, a political leader needs a machine to help him fight his way through. Rudd - pretty much by choice - has no such machine. If he is now forced to order the Oceanic Viking to take the stubborn Sri Lankans to Christmas Island, it will be a humiliating backdown, and caucus criticism will become more vocal.

Rudd may be close to over-reaching himself in his cavalier disregard for party feeling. ALP anger stirred up by the appointment of Peter Costello to a cushy post on the Board of Guardians of the Future Fund - coinciding with the concern over asylum seeker policy - should be a warning to him. It provoked muttering not just among Labor MPs, but among Government staffers as well. Labor, after all, had spent years painting Costello as economically incompetent. Front benchers - including Treasurer Wayne Swan - had repeatedly accused him of dishonesty. And now the Labor Government praises his expertise and gives him a key economic job. It demonstrates the hypocrisy that causes politics to be held in great odium by the public.

When, three days later, Costello announced that he would become managing director of a new investment and corporate advisory firm, the muttering increased. In the words of a prominent MP: "Think of the credibility it gives to the CEO of a new merchant bank to also be on the board of one of the world's biggest sovereign funds." Paul Keating's bitter denunciation of the appointment was far closer to rank and file Labor thinking than Rudd's justification of jobs for the (Coalition) boys.


Saturday, November 07, 2009

Rupert Murdoch voices his concerns about Kevin Rudd

Kevin Rudd is delusional if he thinks Australia can lead the world or act as a bridge between the US and China, according to Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of News Corporation. He's very intelligent, he's very interesting, but he's kidding himself with the G20 - the grouping of the top 20 countries in the world, Mr Murdoch said.

"(President) Obama actually wants to cut the even more exclusive G8 to a G4 - and really, to a G2; just the US and China," Mr Murdoch said in a wide-ranging interview yesterday, the Herald Sun reports. "If Rudd thinks we can set an example for the rest of the world with a cap-and-trade system on greenhouse gas emissions - the ETS - all it would do is push up the cost of living in Australia and the rest of the world will laugh," he said. But is it hurting the country yet? No. But the Prime Minister should focus on running Australia.

Mr Murdoch said many difficulties had arisen from Mr Rudd making so much in the election campaign about his knowledge of China. It probably led the Chinese to expect too much from him, he said. "But I think he was right to disillusion them," he added immediately. And any idea that Australia could be a bridge between China and the US, that's "certainly delusional".

In another interview, Mr Murdoch has told The Weekend Australian that Mr Rudd is wasting time on spats with the media. Mr Murdoch's concerns follow public disagreements between Mr Rudd and editors at News Limited newspapers, including The Weekend Australian. "He's oversensitive and too sensitive for his own good," Mr Murdoch said. "I've said that to him, sympathetically. Politicians all over the world are paranoid about editorials and in their own interest they would be better employed reading something else, or albeit more laid back about it, put it that way."

Mr Rudd has accused News Limited of running vendettas against him and his government, citing things such as The Australian's scrutiny of the Rudd Government's "education revolution" and other stories, such as the Godwin Grech fake email affair.


Sea rise much slower than predicted

SEA levels on Australia's eastern seaboard are rising at less than a third of the rate that the New South Wales Government is predicting as it overhauls the state's planning laws and bans thousands of landowners from developing coastal sites. The Rees Government this week warned that coastal waters would rise 40cm on 1990 levels by 2050, with potentially disastrous effects. Even yesterday Kevin Rudd warned in a speech to the Lowy Institute that 700,000 homes and businesses, valued at up to $150 billion, were at risk from the surging tide.

However, if current sea-level rises continue, it would not be until about 2200 - another 191 years - before the east coast experienced the kind of increases that have been flagged. According to the most recent report by the Bureau of Meteorology's National Tidal Centre, issued in June, there has been an average yearly increase of 1.9mm in the combined net rate of relative sea level at Port Kembla, south of Sydney, since the station was installed in 1991. This is consistent with historical analysis showing that, throughout the 20th century, there was a modest rise in global sea levels of about 20cm, or 1.7mm per year on average.

By comparison, the NSW Government's projections - based on global modelling by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as well as CSIRO regional analysis - equate to a future rise of about 6.6mm a year. Such a projection has caused widespread concern for landowners and developers, derision from "climate sceptics" within the scientific community and even some head-scratching from Wollongong locals such as Kevin Court, 80.

"I have swum at this beach every day for the past 50 years, and nothing much changes here," Mr Court said yesterday as he emerged from the surf at Wollongong's North Beach, just a short paddle from the Port Kembla gauging station. "All this talk about rising sea levels - most of us old-timers haven't seen any change and we've been coming down here for decades. "A few years ago part of the bank at the back of the beach was eroded. But you look at it now, and all the grass has grown back over it. The water hasn't washed back there for years. "And that's nature. It's up and down, it comes and goes in cycles - nothing dramatic."


Incompetent African doctor stood down from public hospital

The cases of incompetent overseas doctors in Australian public hospitals never stop coming -- despite all the checks that are supposed to be done. Why? Because Australia does not train enough of its own doctors and public hospitals are desperate for staff

AUTHORITIES will investigate a doctor over concerns he was not fully qualified for his job and examine why it took a month for knowledge of a past criminal charge to reach the top. Queensland Health stood down Zimbabwe-trained Dr John Chibanda over concerns he was working outside the scope of his credentials at Emerald Hospital. The matter will be investigated by both the Health Quality and Complaints Commission and the state's Crime and Misconduct Commission.

Dr Chibanda, an Australian citizen, had previously worked at Katherine Hospital in the Northern Territory without incident. He started work in obstetrics at Emerald Hospital in late 2007 and was supervised due to the level of his experience. After complaints about the standard of his work around August 2008, he was stood down from obstetrics, but continued to work in emergency and other general areas of the hospital. He was again investigated after further complaints in May this year, and a Google search in late September turned up a criminal charge for fraud in Zimbabwe.

Health Minister Paul Lucas said Dr Chibanda was challenged about the information - which related to the fraudulent supply of a death certificate for insurance purposes - and he claimed the conviction had been quashed. "However, the form that one is required (to fill in) when one seeks registration as a doctor in Queensland clearly requires ... that one disclose not just criminal convictions but if one has ever been charged with a criminal offence," Mr Lucas said.

"I want to make it crystal clear. "I expect there to be a full and rigorous investigation of these matters. "If there is anyone who has misled, if the wrong thing has been done, then there will be no forgiveness, no mercy, there will be very, very strong action."

About a dozen complaints were made about Dr Chibanda - some from patients and some from nurses - but none relate to deaths or permanent injuries.

Also under investigation is why it took about a month for his criminal history to be reported to the top, with Queensland Health's centre for healthcare improvement chief Dr Tony O'Connell saying he only became aware of the matter this week.

Mr Lucas said the appropriate checks through medical bodies and referrals were done, in addition to an earlier Google search that had failed to pick up the fraud matter. "I would have thought that we would be bending over backwards to check these things," Mr Lucas said. "I would have thought that the relatively modest things that you can do in addition to the rigorous checks would be second nature, and I want it investigated as to why this happened."

Dr O'Connell said "a few dozen" obstetrics cases handled by Dr Chibanda and hundreds of other cases would be reviewed. Patients with concerns about treatment by the doctor were urged to come forward. Dr Chibanda is the second doctor to be stood down from Emerald Hospital within months. A doctor at the hospital was suspended in September over a disciplinary matter.


State headed for dumb, immoral future, warns teacher

And such problems are far from isolated to Queensland

A BRAVE Queensland teacher has spoken out against thousands of students and their parents who couldn't care less about education. Cooper Dawson, who has taught at 12 state primary schools across the Gold Coast and Cairns, says levels of apathy, petty crime and disrespect in classrooms are now so bad that Queensland faces a dumbed-down and immoral future.

While most teachers fear going public with such opinions, Mr Dawson, 38, says breaking the silence about pathetic learning attitudes and behaviours – often triggered and passively supported by parents – might be the only way to stimulate much-needed change. "As a teacher in an industry where the burnout rate is five years, I am taken aback, astounded and shocked by the behaviour and disinclination of students to learn," he said. "We are facing a generation of single-minded children equipped with little academic knowledge (through no fault of teachers) and wavering morals determined to ask or steal from society any tangible item. "And, remarkably, they believe they deserve it.

"The social behaviour of primary school children is hard to ignore when faced with the growing epidemic of school bullying and student suspensions. "Children from negative households and with parents who are disinterested or fail to see the importance of education are contributing to a cycle where their child is entering a world without the tools to become a positive part of society."

His view, backed in private by many teachers, principals and parents across the state, supports figures released by the State Government this year showing a 46 per cent spike in suspensions for "refusal to participate" from 2006 to 2008 (with 6620 last year). Over the same period, there was a 40 per cent spike in suspensions for "property misconduct" (with 3785 last year).

Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens Association president Margaret Black said Mr Dawson's revelations and the suspension data were a reminder to parents and teachers to work together to solve the crisis. "There's nothing more powerful than a three-way (parent/teacher/child) partnership," she said.

A rapid rise in schoolyard bullying, including cyber-bullying, has also been documented this year, with an average of three students in each class bullied every day.


It's Rudd's fatal shore

Andrew Bolt comments on the illegal immigrants who come to Australia on overcrowded small boats -- some of which sink. The "Fatal shore" is an allusion to the fact that many of the original British immigrants to Australia died on the way because of the primitive sailing-ship technology of the time

TWELVE more dead. Now will the Rudd Government finally see that its "compassion" kills? The sinking on Sunday of a boat carrying Sri Lankan asylum seekers brings to 54 the number of boat people who have died this year trying to reach us. Yes, 54. That's the price of the "compassion" this Government showed last year by weakening the laws that once deterred boat people from risking their lives like this.

And don't tell me I have no right to be angry. I've warned a dozen times, in print and on air, that people would die as a consequence of what Rudd had done. Just last week I showed that 42 boat people had died already in sinkings off Malaysia and Indonesia, and in an explosion at Ashmore Reef, proving the Government had again deceived you in claiming there was "no evidence" of these deaths. Now we have these latest deaths - including two boys - and more will die, too, unless this deceitful and opportunistic Prime Minister undoes the mischief he has wrought.

No, I do not blame Rudd directly for these deaths. He didn't man the boats or sink them. But I do blame him directly for luring people into such lethal voyages through his sheer foolishness, political opportunism and vanity. And I blame him for then deceitfully disclaiming all responsibility.

Let's first nail the worst of those deceits - his claim that he's actually been "tough" on boat people, and this year's 12-fold increase in arrivals has nothing to do with his policies: That it's outrageous to suggest that he's luring people to their deaths. Well, look at the graph on this page, taken from the website of his own Department of Immigration.

See the circle? I've added that to mark the date in late July last year when Rudd revealed his most dramatic changes to the boat people laws. And see the number of illegal immigrants caught and detained immediately soar? Draw your own conclusion.

As for Rudd being "tough" on boat people, let's check what he actually did that day to instead persuade them their luck was in, and Australia once more a soft touch.

Rudd had already scrapped the temporary protection visas, which allowed us to send back refugees who'd got here by boat once their countries were again safe. He'd also scrapped the "Pacific Solution", under which boat people were sent to Nauru and Manus Island, with no guarantees they'd ever be let into Australia. And on July 29, he sent the biggest signal of all to show that unlike wicked John Howard, he was compassionate. Automatic detention of boat people was over. From now on, children and adults cleared of security risk would no longer be held. They'd be free to stay at large while the government worked out if they really were refugees. What's more, the onus of proof would be switched: rather than making boat people prove they were no threat, the government would have to prove they were to keep them in detention.

How the Left cheered! How journalists praised. How rights activists sighed they could feel proud again. And how the people smugglers pricked up their ears.

Rudd denies he went weak, but this is how his grand gesture in July was hailed at the time by constitutional law expert Professor Clive Williams, a human rights activist and candidate for Labor pre-selection, who summed up well the mood in Rudd's ranks: "A clear break has been made from the Howard era ... this risk-based approach is more compassionate ... "

Rudd was warned against this "clear break", of course, and not just by some who-cares journalist. The Australian Federal Police, the International Organisation for Migration and Indonesian officials all said it gave people smugglers a green flag.

Look at the graph again: he had. Or ask boat people themselves if they'd seen this signal - people who'd waited in Indonesia for months, even years, for some such sign. An Iraqi told the ABC: "Kevin Rudd - he's changed everything about refugee. If I go to Australia now, different." An Afghan told The Australian: "I know Kevin Rudd is the new PM ... he has tried to get more immigrants. I have heard that if someone arrives it is easy."

But Rudd was too intoxicated with the easy praise to heed such warnings. Too pleased with this chance to damn the Liberals as the nasty party which put children "behind barbed wire". Oh, how easily Labor preened and mocked back then, and how feebly the spineless Liberals took it.

In the very month that Rudd watered down the laws, the Labor head of a joint parliamentary committee on migration toured the detention centre at Christmas Island and declared it "an enormous white elephant". Michael Danby said his committee agreed with him, and was now wondering what to do with Howard's "stalag". Could they turn it into a tourist centre, perhaps?

Still laughing, Michael? Thanks to the great wave of boats unleashed in large part by your boss, this "stalag" at Christmas Island is so crammed that Rudd is now having to double its size, and has rushed over dongas once intended for Aboriginal communities.

Of course, Rudd is trying to dodge any blame. Here's his latest spin to explain the surge in boats: "What we're faced with in Sri Lanka is 260,000 people displaced because of the civil war." More deceit, I'm afraid. In fact, that war ended in May with the defeat of a terrorist group the Tamil Tigers. Sri Lanka is now safer, not more dangerous, both for the Tamils and Sinhalese there.

While it's true that some Tamils, especially those connected with the Tigers regime, are now trying to leave Sri Lanka, not least for economic reasons, it's also true that many of the 78 rescued Tamil boat people now refusing to leave our patrol ship Oceanic Viking have said they'd actually left their island years ago, and have spent up to five years in Indonesia, waiting for this chance to sail here. And let's not forget that many of the boats now coming are filled not with Tamils but Afghans, Pakistanis, Iraqis and even, it seems, some Sri Lankan Muslims.

But it's the lie of Rudd's "compassion" that most needs puncturing before more people die. LET me give just one more example of how misapplied "compassion" can actually kill. The Oceanic Viking Tamils were rescued by Australia last month after issuing a fake SOS from their ship, after reportedly drilling holes in the hull. Likewise, 42 Afghans were rescued in April at Ashmore Reef and even granted permanent residency here after blowing up their own boat, killing five.

How compassionate we were both times. And foolishly so, in the case of the Afghans, who can now stay despite refusing to say which of them set off the deadly explosion.

But now check the price of this compassion. The Government has just ordered a coroner's inquiry into the deaths on Sunday of the 12 Sri Lankans to find why their boat suddenly capsized off the Cocos Islands, just as they and 27 others were about to be rescued in Australian search-and-rescue territory. Why the inquiry? Because some of those involved in the rescue claim the Sri Lankans may have deliberately sunk their own boat. Plus, of course, an inquiry lets Rudd say "no comment" in the meantime.

Yes, it's nice to seem good. But it's far finer to actually do good, even if it makes you look bad. Kevin Rudd chose last year to seem good, but with the dead now bobbing in our waters, he must be judged instead by the deadly consequences. What has his "compassion" - of a flashy kind so common in this Age of Seeming - actually brought?


Friday, November 06, 2009

Woman forced to wait six-hours in public hospital emergency department after suffering suspected miscarriage

A WOMAN who presented at Geelong Hospital on Sunday after a suspected miscarriage was forced to wait six hours in emergency before being told her case was not serious enough to receive an ultrasound. The young couple last night told the Geelong Advertiser how they endured a frustrating day agonising over whether their first child was still alive as they waited in a crowded waiting room for medical attention.

Pregnant Jess, not her real name, was eventually seen late in the afternoon, but was told only urgent cases with a serious health risk were entitled to ultrasounds on weekends. Instead, Jess received a blood test, followed by a secondary blood test on Tuesday, revealing she had suffered a miscarriage.

Husband Rob, also not his real name, said they should have been told they were not eligible for an ultrasound upon arrival, saving his suffering wife six hours of languishing in a waiting room.

Barwon Health spokesperson Kate Nelson said all patients were categorised using the five triage categories identified by the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine. "Unfortunately, at times of high demand, which it was on this occasion, patients with a triage category of four may experience extended waiting times or stays in a cubicle," she said in a written statement.


Australian Govt policy 'benefits people smugglers'

Federal Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has accused the government of outsourcing its immigration program to people smugglers as 78 Sri Lankan asylum seekers continue to refuse to leave an Australian customs vessel.

Australia has been trying for almost two weeks to convince the ethnic Tamils to voluntarily leave the Oceanic Viking and enter the Tanjung Pinang Detention Centre on the Indonesian island of Bintan. Security clearance for the vessel to remain in Indonesia expires on Friday night and it is not yet known whether Indonesia will grant another extension.

Mr Turnbull said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's changes to the previous government's asylum-seeker policy had resulted in a system that benefited people smugglers. "He made those changes and what do we have? Thousands, 2,000, unauthorised arrivals, a surge in people smuggling. Our immigration program is being outsourced to the people smugglers," Mr Turnbull told ABC Radio on Friday.

He said he was reluctant to give advice about the current situation on which he was not fully briefed, but said his party had a clear policy on border protection. "If we have an election next year and I win and become the next prime minister, our border protection policies will be tougher and we will over time once again, as we have before, eliminate people smugglers," he said.


Student beats the Tax Office

Succeeds in claiming education expenses

UNIVERSITY undergraduates will be able to claim educational expenses as a tax deduction after a former student had a landmark win in the full Federal Court yesterday. Symone Anstis, a former Australian Catholic University student, was successful in her bid to claim $920 as self-education expenses after fighting the Taxation Office through a number of jurisdictions over three years.

While studying full-time to be a primary teacher, Ms Anstis worked as a part-time sales assistant for retail chain Katies, where she earned $14,946. She also received a youth allowance of $3622 during the 2006 income year. She claimed education expenses including travel costs, supplies for children during teaching rounds, student administration fees and depreciation of her computer.

The Tax Office rejected the claim, so Ms Anstis and her father, Michael, who is a qualified solicitor but does not work as a lawyer, fought it all the way to the hearing in Melbourne yesterday. The full court of the Federal Court upheld an earlier decision that because the former student had to be enrolled in a full-time course of study to get her assessable income of Youth Allowance, any costs incurred in the course of studying should be deductible.

''I am very happy with the outcome; my Dad did a very good job,'' she said. ''When you are a student everything makes a difference, every little bit helps. I think I will be able to get $300 back. I have been waiting a long time but it will go pretty quickly.''

Tax experts say hundreds of thousands of university students who receive Youth Allowance could benefit from the ruling, but they will need to generate a taxable income above $15,000. About 440,000 students receive Youth Allowance or Austudy. Many of these students would earn enough with the addition of part-time work to have a tax liability, according to Asssociate Professor Dale Boccabella from the University of NSW.

He said items including computer depreciation, stationery or textbooks could now be claimed as a deduction. In the past, the Taxation Office had made it clear it would not allow educational expenses to be claimed against welfare payments. "The decision further complicates tax administration in the area of self-education expenses, an area that is already riddled with difficulties," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Tax Office said the decision was being assessed.


Killers, rapists and other criminally insane patients walking streets of Melbourne

KILLERS, rapists and other criminally insane patients are walking the streets of Melbourne on outings to the movies, fishing and shopping. The controversial leave pass program at the Thomas Embling Hospital was hastily shut down after inmate Peko Lakovski allegedly committed a gruesome double murder with a carving knife. Lakovski was considered a low security risk and allowed out on day leave.

Almost a third of the inmates at the 118-bed facility in Fairfield have been approved for unescorted leave in the past year. The hospital sanctioned 8900 leave passes in 2008-09, most of them supervised trips for court and medical reasons. The hospital houses mentally ill patients including some offenders referred from the criminal justice system. Inmates include killers, sex offenders, arsonists and even a man who attempted to hijack a commercial plane. But the system allows the inmates to graduate from supervised walks within the grounds to unescorted visits to public locations.

A 2003 report said on a given day more than a dozen inmates are walking the streets near the hospital.

Embattled Minister for Mental Health Lisa Neville was forced to order a snap review of the hospital's internal processes after admitting that "something has gone wrong in this particular case". Ms Neville could not explain how patients in a secure psychiatric hospital, many of whom have killed before and are suffering with schizophrenia, had access to knives. Ms Neville has overseen a series of major departmental bungles in recent months including the shocking incest case with a man accused of fathering children with his daughter over a 30-year period.

The day leave program at Thomas Embling Hospital was cancelled after the alleged rampage left two people dead. The frenzied attacks were sparked by an argument between two room-mates and fishing buddies. Lakovski, 59 is facing charges of fatally stabbing Paul Notas, 36, and Raymond Splatt, 54. Police will allege Lakovski went on a stabbing rampage with a carving knife about 11pm on Wednesday in a low-security residential area of the hospital after getting into an argument with Splatt. It was alleged he then went to another room and repeatedly stabbed Notas.

The Department of Human Services increased security at the site in January but arrangements are again under review.

Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu said the "safety and security" of the community must be put ahead of the rehabilitation of patients.

Since the hospital opened in 2000, at least three inmates have escaped with a further 15 absconding while on day leave. Escapes by killers Neville Garden and Robert Debruyn while on the leave sparked major manhunts. Others on day release to escape include sex offender Sean Broaders and Peter John Evans, who both slipped their minders at the Austin Hospital.

A hospital insider told the Herald Sun in 2007 that David Mark Robinson, who tried to hijack a Qantas jet in May 2003, walked out of the hospital without minders. Robinson was armed with sharpened wooden stakes, a cigarette lighter and aerosol cans to use as flame-throwers when he threatened staff on the Melbourne-Launceston flight. A cabin manager and flight attendant thwarted his attempt to kill all 56 passengers.

There has been a significant increase in inmates applying for leave in the past decade.

The report into Wednesday night's rampage is expected to focus on the decision to allow Lakovski to move into Jardine Unit, which has the lowest level of security in the facility. Victoria's chief psychiatrist, Ruth Vine, admitted the leave assessment process was "not a perfect science" as it involved factors with regard to the patient and the community. All of the patients in the Jardine Unit are under active consideration for release. Dr Vine said patients must undergo a clinical assessment before they are moved to the unit, which has no security camera and allows patients access to kitchen knives.


Thursday, November 05, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks that Kevvy should admit that he has got it wrong with his handling of illegal immigrants

Prolonged degrees at Melbourne university not popular

Despite the spin. Melbourne is moving to the American model of a generalist first degree followed by specialized study only at the graduate level -- which increases the time you need to spend in order to get a useful qualification. Australia has always in the past followed the Scottish model -- which allows considerable specialization from Day 1.

MONASH University has again topped the Victorian first preference popularity polls while rival Melbourne University has suffered a steep fall as it transitions to its graduate model and cuts undergraduate courses.

Melbourne stresses that the fall is expected as it discontinues undergraduate courses in professions that are becoming graduate-only like law, dentistry and physiotherapy. But nevertheless, timely first preferences have dropped from 9771 last year to 8022 this year, a fall of 1749. That cuts its share of first preferences from 17 per cent to 13 per cent.

On the plus side Melbourne says first preferences for its "new generation" undergraduate degrees, that are to be the feeders to postgraduate study, are up by 3 per cent. But the drop in Melbourne's first preferences clearly indicates that many would-be students are prepared to look elsewhere so they can take professional disciplines at undergraduate level. But at over 8000, Melbourne's first preferences are still well above its 2010 undergraduate intake that will be limited to about 5000, in line with 2009.

In a statement Melbourne University's new provost John Dewar was upbeat, saying the numbers were "a welcome endorsement" of the new model.

Melbourne's Group of Eight rival Monash was buoyed by an 11.6 per cent rise in first preferences to 15,175, giving it 24 per cent market share.

Demand for places at Deakin University was also strong as its first preferences rose by 16 per cent to 9978 giving it 16 per cent market share.

La Trobe University secured a 15 per cent rise in first preferences to 6767, reversing its falling market share over the past two years. La Trobe's share of first preferences rose to 11 per cent from 10 per cent. At time of writing data from the other Victorian universities had yet to be released.


Australian government being conned by Tamil tall tales about persecution

By Michael Roberts (Adjunct associate professor of anthropology at the University of Adelaide)

AS a dual Australian Sri Lankan national, what has struck me most about the ongoing debate in Australia about Sri Lankan boat people is the abysmal ignorance about Sri Lanka's geography and distribution of peoples. This has led to the inability of Australians to put Tamil migration in its historical context and instead to uncritically accept tales of Tamil persecution and even genocide that are patently untrue.

Those known as Ceylon Tamils did not just begin migrating because of the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka. In fact, Tamil migration is a two-stage process and it has been under way for more than a century.

Ceylon Tamils began migrating from the north to the south in search of jobs from the late 19th century. By 1921, they constituted 11.5 per cent of the population in Colombo, while Indian Tamils (more recent migrants from the nearby state on the Indian mainland of Tamil Nadu) accounted for 13.4 per cent. So Tamils, (both Ceylonese and of more recent Indian origin), have resided in the city environs for generations. Some Ceylon Tamils have also been a segment of its Westernised elite. However, such status did not protect them during the mini-pogroms of 1958 and 1977 and the major pogrom of July 1983, which involved widespread assaults on Tamil persons and property in the south of the island.

It is worth noting that although the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam had been formed in 1976, and the goal of an independent state of Eelam proclaimed that year, the pogrom of 1983 - which followed a deadly assault by Tigers on the military - is widely regarded as the start of the civil war.

While middle-class Tamils have, together with Burgher, Sinhalese and Muslim families, been participating in the migration from Sri Lanka in search of better employment and education for their children since the 50s, the big surge in migration occurred after July 1983.

Despite this migration, Colombo District has not been denuded of its Tamil population. The Tamil population as a whole rose from 11.2 per cent in 1981 to 12.2 per cent in 2001. The number in the metropolitan cluster in fact rose by 58,291 in that period. This is because migration to foreign lands has been exceeded by internal movements from the northern and eastern parts of the island, to escape the conflict and in search of better economic opportunities.

Tamils have been under-represented in state-sector employment for some time, no doubt at least in part due to positive discrimination in favour of Sinhalese and negative discrimination against Tamils. Remarkably, however, a handful of senior Tamil officers remained in the armed services, a minute proportion of the senior ranks, but notable in a context where one might anticipate a zero figure. Moreover, a number of Tamils are sprinkled through the mercantile sector and professions. Indeed, some of the richest entrepreneurs are Tamil. Such success, however, has not eliminated memories of July 1983 and the sense of political marginalisation among some Tamils.

Such sentiments encourage some Tamils to migrate; but in a fair proportion of cases, the desire to migrate is inspired by a concern for the educational prospects of their children and the monetary support provided by kinfolk who are already in some Western country. The migration of Tamils from the Jaffna Peninsula and Batticaloa regions to Colombo in the recent past, therefore, is often a first stage in a projected step outwards.

This second step, of outmigration, calls for patience. Not all can meet the strict criteria laid down in Australia for skilled migrants or family reunion. Some, therefore, seek the illegal pathway provided by people smugglers who take them to Italy or Australia. It is usually young males, mostly Sinhalese but also Tamils and Muslims, who take the sea lanes by trawler to Italy.

It appears recently a few families elected to fly to Malaysia where they boarded the Jaya Lestari. This was a costly exercise. It also required passports and visas. It is unlikely that any of the Tamils (numbers uncertain) who slipped out of the internally displaced persons camps by, say, July could have secured the necessary papers in two months, unless they had connections with the LTTE or criminals engaged in forgery. In view of all the above, my conjecture is that Brindha, the tearful nine-year-old filmed by the ABC pleading for asylum, and her family did not spend time "in the jungle" as they claimed and were not fleeing the IDP camps, but are much more likely to be from the Tamil communities of Jaffna or Colombo. This is not to say they should be refused admission to Australia as migrants, simply that they are unlikely to be refugees.

Australians engaged in public debate about Sri Lanka need to be better informed. People such as Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young have uncritically accepted "the stories of the conditions in the camps . . . of people being persecuted and executed simply because they say, 'We don't want to be here any more' ". The fact is there is absolutely no evidence that people are being persecuted, much less executed. There is a vital distinction between political dissatisfaction and a well-founded fear of persecution, and Australians need to recognise that what is driving Tamil boatpeople is a mix of political grievance and economic hope, which is inspiring migratory moves along uncomfortable, and even perilous, paths.


Being overweight blamed on food, as usual

The fact that obsessive "safety" rules now ban many traditional childhood activities and thus reduce exercise is rarely mentioned. And politically correct bans on anybody "winning" are very bad for sport. So it is in fact government meddling that has created much of the problem and abolishing the meddling would be the surest path to solving it

It's the weighty issue that can no longer be ignored and one that is being blamed for an alarming rise in obesity among young girls. New research released yesterday shows that tweens are wearing their food choices on their waistlines, setting themselves up to be overweight as adults and suffer major health problems such as infertility.

The muffin top, made famous by the TV show Kath and Kim, is now the norm for teen girls who are between 5-20kg overweight, with one in three girls aged between nine and 13 overweight or obese.

Health experts yesterday warned that the sensitive issue could no longer be ignored, and had been avoided in the past out of fear it could lead to eating disorders. "It is a particular age group that has been overlooked and there needs to be more focus because they are much more in control of their food choices," Associate Dean of Clinical and Molecular Medicine at Flinders University Professor Lynne Cobiac said. "If they are overweight now, most, but not all, will often go on to be overweight when they are adults and they could [COULD being the operative word. Most fat people do NOT get diabetes] develop diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. It's really important that we understand what is influencing their choices so we can help them to be healthy, and set them on the right path."

Professor Cobiac's research found that by age 12, girls are doing almost no exercise, compounding weight problems. As they grow older, girls become more body conscious, restricting meals or overeating and developing disorders. Girls fall into two dietary patterns, eating meat, fruit and vegetables - or snacks, no meat and vegetables. Those on the snack, no meat and vegetable diet eat smaller lighter meals, characterised by more cereals, chocolate, fried chips and soft drinks.

Professor Cobiac's findings, based on the 2007 National Children's Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, reveal that at least 30 per cent of girls are overweight before they enter high school. "Part of the explanation is that they are pre-pubescent and that can sometimes increase weight," she said. "What we found is that they are having a high fat diet on weekends and in school holidays." In some cases, girls were starving themselves during the school day but then "demolishing a pack of Tim Tams" when they got home.

What is concerning experts is the drastic change in girls' attitudes towards sport in high school. Paediatric nutritionist at The Children's Hospital at Westmead Susie Burrell said this was an age group that had been neglected in the past.


Traffic engineering stupidity

I must say that anyone who has driven in Los Angeles must wonder why left turns at red lights are not allowed in Australia. Such turns work well and do speed up traffic. It's just bureaucratic fear of change that obstructs reform

RED lights cost precious fuel. Yet Queenslanders are still not allowed to turn left on the red. Queenslanders have to cop another set of traffic lights for almost every new housing or shopping centre development dotted across the southeast. And stop at isolated intersections in the middle of the night when flashing amber lights could suffice.

Queenslanders still have to stop at pedestrian crossings where there is not a person in sight; when someone has pushed the button and scurried across before the walk signal.

How come Los Angeles' drivers are allowed - all by themselves - to work out a four-, even five-way intersection with just a set of stop signs? How come there, in one of the most motorised cities on Earth, drivers across six lanes will stop for simple flashing pedestrian lights - when there is a pedestrian?

Then, back here, there is the business (or not) of synchronisation of traffic lights. In all the discussions about saving fossil fuel, in all the mandates hurled at car manufacturers and drivers, there appears to be little talk about the role of traffic engineers and planners and common sense. As efficient as modern cars can be, stop-start traffic guzzles fuel. Decelerating, accelerating costs energy.

At least the state and Brisbane City Council are working towards a single system of traffic lights with some 1400 sets soon to be controlled by one management system, at an estimated cost of $6 million. A synchronised trial at a dozen lights in the Indooroopilly area found travel times down 13 per cent during weekday peak periods and 17 per cent on weekends. Hallelujah. Less travel time equates to less fuel used.

Anecdotal evidence suggests a two-litre fuel saving over 10km of commute in school holidays when Brisbane roads are less congested.

Still, too many traffic controls and too many rules are framed for the lowest common denominator. Rather than educating drivers, we dumb them down. Every K over is a killer? That's trite. And tripe. But that's veering off the subject.

If we are going to have motorised transport, even if it becomes all-electric (and to save the planet, that power must come from non-polluting sources), we need progress to be as smooth as possible down the road. This should mean less stop-start traffic. Why do we have 10 cars idling either side of a minor street while one or two cars dribble out of a shopping centre? It should mean cars turning left, with care, at red lights.

It should mean fewer traffic lights, less roadside signage screaming dire threats, more 7am-7pm clearways to stop wastage as motorists brake and swerve around parked cars.

Dutch civil engineer Hans Moderman had radical ideas about modern traffic. His view was to make drivers more responsible for their own actions by removing most traditional road markings and signs, creating spaces shared by all. Moderman's reasoning was that people became more civilised, more thoughtful about the right-of-way principle. Moderman, who died early last year, managed to engineer 100 of these shared spaces across his native country. Most saw accidents and incidents drop.

So, with less regulation, road users of all types can become a little more caring and sharing. More adult. And it would save fuel and frayed tempers as Queensland's summer of congestion approaches.


A truly heartening story

Doctor cures 'Baby Z' of molybdenum cofactor deficiency in medical world first. Pity about the bureaucratic hurdles, though. The baby would have done better if the drug could have been given immediately

A MELBOURNE baby given no chance of survival has amazed doctors after being saved with one of the biggest long shots in medical history. "Baby Z's" brain started virtually dissolving soon after she was born 18 months ago because she had too much toxic sulphite in her system.

But her parents and doctors refused to give in to the one-in-a-million genetic condition and stumbled on a highly experimental drug. The Herald Sun can reveal treatment began a month after she was born and within days Baby Z "woke up". "It was really like awakening - it was just bang, and she was switched on," pioneering neonatologist Dr Alex Veldman said.

Baby Z's overjoyed mother said she had grown into a happy and determined little girl. "She is absolutely delightful and as stubborn as anything - I don't know where she gets that from," she said. "She has just started saying a few words and is constantly moving around. "Every day just gets better and better. We look at her every day and just think, 'Wow'."

The first person to be cured of molybdenum cofactor deficiency - a condition that poisons the brain and kills within months of birth - Baby Z has made world medical and legal history for Monash Children's at Southern Health. The child and her parents cannot be named for legal reasons and to protect their privacy. But her relieved mother told the Herald Sun she refused to accept her daughter would die, even when told she had no chance. "(The procedure) was a tiny bit of hope but, when you have nothing, that is a lot of hope. She might have one bad gene but she has a lot of other good and strong genes."

Soon after she was born in 2008, Baby Z's toxic sulphite levels were almost 30 times higher than normal and were dissolving her brain. After three weeks looking for answers, biochemist Dr Rob Gianello found a research paper by German plant biologist Prof Gunther Schwarz describing how he had developed an experimental drug that was able to save mice with the disease in 2004. The drug had hardly been used in animals and nobody had more than an educated guess at what it would do in a human.

But Monash's Dr Alex Veldman contacted Prof Schwarz in Cologne and appealed to the hospital's ethics committee to use the drug on Baby Z. The long shot was backed because the only other option was a painful death.

The Office of the Public Advocate then called on special medical procedure powers - used just twice before - to convince the Family Court to allow the unique treatment to go ahead. Within an hour of the court's approval, Baby Z was given the drug.

Within hours of receiving her first daily dose of cPMP (cyclic pyranopterin monophosphate), tests showed Baby Z's sulphite levels immediately dropped from near 300 to below 100. Within three days they fell to the normal level of about 10.

Baby Z's neurological development is delayed due to some brain damage in the weeks it took to find the cure, but she is now improving. The full details of the treatment are now being analysed for a planned human trial of the medication at Southern Health. Victorian Public Advocate Colleen Pearce said she was thrilled everything had fallen into place for Baby Z and her family.


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Seeing through the hoax of the century

Janet Albrechtsen

INCREASINGLY, the road to Copenhagen resembles a suburban street on Halloween with the number of climate change freak shows and stunts reaching a nadir in recent weeks. Nicholas Stern says we should turn vegetarian in order to combat climate change. If you must eat meat, eat kangaroos, says Ross Garnaut, because marsupials emit negligible amounts of methane. And that champagne you drank on Melbourne Cup day? Scientists scolded us with a report that a 750ml bottle of bubbly could produce 100 million bubbles, releasing five litres of carbon dioxide.

Yet far from rallying people to the cause of immediate action on climate change, every new cri de coeur may be turning people away. Could it be that those derided as the great unwashed are beginning to ask more questions than their smart political leaders or the bastions of intellectual curiosity in the media?

Late last month, activists gathered at Sydney Opera House to listen to Sydney mayor Clover Moore announce that “the time for talk is past”. “Already we know that this building, our Opera House, for decades a symbol of optimism and the human spirit, is under threat from global warming,” she says.

The Opera House under threat? That would be from rising sea levels, right? Just like the small island nation of Maldives where, last month, the president conducted a cabinet meeting underwater to remind the world that his country would be rendered uninhabitable by rising sea levels. Kitted out in full scuba-diving outfits, Mohamed Nasheed and his ministers sat at a table underwater off the coast of the capital of Male. As planned, the president’s stunt made headlines across the globe. Send us money - and lots of it - is his message. The media love stunts. They are so easy to report.

Sadly, the media is not inquisitive enough to report those who question the circus acts of climate change. A week after the Maldives underwater show, Nils-Axel Morner - a leading world authority on sea levels - wrote an open letter to the president telling him that his stunt was “not founded in observational facts and true scientific judgments”.

Morner is a former professor who headed the department of paleogeophysics and geodynamics at Stockholm University and past president (1999-2003) of the International Union for Quaternary Research commission on sea level changes and coastal evolution. INQUA was founded in 1928 by scientists who aimed to improve the understanding of environmental change during the glacial ages through interdisciplinary research. In other words, the Swedish professor has gravitas when it comes to sea levels. Alas his letter did not make headlines. That is a shame. Morner says there is “no rational basis” for the hysterical claims that the people of Maldives - or the rest of the world - are threatened by rising sea levels. And he sets out some facts.

Fact number 1: During the past 2000 years, sea levels have fluctuated with 5 peaks reaching 0.6m to 1.2m above present sea level. Fact number 2: From 1790 to 1970 sea levels were about 20cm higher than today. Fact number 3: In the 1970s, the sea level fell by about 20cm to its present level. Fact number 4: Sea levels have remained constant for the past 30 years “implying that there are no traces of any alarming ongoing sea level rise”. Fact number 5 (and I am paraphrasing here): The notion presented by the President of the Maldives that his country will be flooded is bunkum.

Yet, last week a federal parliamentary report told Australians to make plans to evacuate if we live on the coast. Warning that the “time to act is now”, the bipartisan report said the 711,000 addresses within 3km of the Australian coast - and less than 6m above sea level - face threats from rising sea levels. The report called for an inquiry by the Productivity Commission to examine the need for bans on homes within these areas. Viewers of the 7pm News on ABC1 were told by a Richard Branson lookalike - complete with longish wavy grey hair, beard and crisp white shirt - that the township of Byron Bay would be completely flooded by rising sea levels. His expertise? He is a resident of Byron Bay.

Despite the headline grabbing rhetoric about climate change calamity, recent polls reveal that more and more people appear to be challenging the orthodoxy. The most recent Lowy Institute poll found that while 48 per cent of Australian believe that global warming is a serious and pressing problem, the numbers are down 12 points since 2008 and 20 points down since 2006. “This is also the first year that it has not had majority support,” said the Lowy Institute.

A poll by Ipso Reid in Canada in September found that global warming has dropped down the list of people’s concerns. Indeed, a full 41 per cent now say the threat has been overblown. In the US, Associated Press reported on a poll last month that found 57 per cent of people believe there is clear evidence that the world is heating up, down 20 points from three years ago. These are some trend lines worth watching.

Perhaps we are wising up to modern day millenarianism where end-of-the-world cults - those who have the most to gain from their fear mongering - preach calamity. Remember Y2K? The cult back then comprised computer experts. They predicted disaster. Planes would fall from the skies. People would be caught in halting elevators. Chaos would descend on anything that relied on a computer, from financial markets to utilities. Governments duly prepared for disaster with the BBC reporting that global preparations for the millennium bug were estimated to have cost more than $US300 billion. All for nought. Nothing happened. It was, as James Taranto wrote in The Wall Street Journal, the hoax of the century.

Maurice Newman, who was chairman of the federal government’s Y2K committee told The Australian last week that “in pressing the urgency for compliance, the committee members relied heavily on confirmatory bias. Most of this came from so-called experts who had much to gain from creating a sense of alarm. The consequence of widespread inaction was claimed to result in chaos and systemic failure. As there was no alternative authoritative voice, this became perceived wisdom and was certainly believed by the committee. As such the Y2K phenomenon took on a life of its own.”

Deja vu? Preparing for the deluge of rising sea levels, we were treated to footage last week from parliamentary question time starring Julia Gillard and her gumboots. Appropriately she was followed on ABC1 by Bananas in Pyjamas. Could man-made climate change turn out to be the greatest hoax of the present century? Certainly, ordinary people are beginning to ask questions.


Australians want a tougher stand on illegal immigrants

MOST voters believe Government weakness on border protection is to blame for the rising number of boats in Australian waters, according to a new poll. The Essential Media poll, reported on The Punch today, also finds more than half of voters believe there is a “real prospect” there are terrorists aboard the boats and say the Government is doing the right thing in trying to turn the boats away.

The findings coincide with the latest Newspoll showing a 7 point rise in primary vote support for the Coalition and a corresponding fall for the Rudd Government.

This spectacular swing comes amid a mounting sense of crisis surrounding the arrivals of asylum-seekers in Australian waters.

Only one in three respondents in the Essential poll said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was doing an “excellent or good” job on border protection. More than half rated his performance as “not so good” or poor.

But the Essential research finds a majority of voters also agrees that asylum seekers are coming from countries that have seen an escalation in violence and persecution.

Writing on The Punch, director of Essential Media and Communications Peter Lewis said the findings showed Mr Rudd’s “attempts to play tough cop are failing to translate into public approval for his handling of the issue.” Mr Lewis said the public understanding that asylum seekers were fleeing violent countries “suggests that if the public were presented with a story that humanised the plight of the asylum seekers they would be more likely to take a global view” and less likely to blame the Government for the current troubles.


Liberal Party members have every right to feel vindicated

By Piers Akerman

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd's appointment of ex-treasurer Peter Costello to an $87,000-a-year job with the Future Fund is a huge endorsement of his former opponent's economic track record. The funny thing is, it's the same track record that Rudd and his ALP comrades have spent the past 13 years deriding.

Costello is unlikely to bend his tried-and-proven economic philosophy to accommodate Rudd's bizarre flights of fiscal fancy during his term on the Future Fund, which means that a future clash over economic theory is not unlikely.

There will be those on the Liberal side, also, who believe Costello has accepted the Rudd shilling far too soon and too eagerly, giving the Rudd Government a green card and the Future Fund a sanctuary from Opposition attack.

Rudd claims that he wants to "harvest" the best talent the nation has to offer, regardless of political background, but his appointments reflect a greater desire to make appointments which will embarrass the Opposition and defuse their attacks.

The first of Rudd's Opposition opponents to be given a significant office last year was Bruce Baird, a notorious soft-liner on refugee policy. The former Liberal member for the southern Sydney seat of Cook was appointed chairman of the Refugee Resettlement Advisory Committee, one of Labor's most influential committees on immigration issues. Baird, of course, had been one of the harshest critics of his party's successful refugee policies, along with West Australian MP Judi Moylan and Victorian Petro Georgiou.

Now Baird is spruiking the Labor line that the ALP's softening of policy in August last year has nothing whatsoever to do with the current surge in boat arrivals. This position is demolished by Immigration Department statistics, which show the number of asylum seekers using people smugglers increased immediately after Labor watered down the Howard government's tough stance on illegal boat arrivals.

Next, former Nationals leader Tim Fischer was appointed Australia's first resident ambassador to the Holy See. The universally liked Fischer heads a new diplomatic mission within the Vatican City, costing taxpayers more than $1 million a year. Fischer is furthering the Rudd Government's vainglorious campaign for an appointment to the UN Security Council in the 2013-2014 session.

Rudd's recent appointment of former Howard defence minister and former Opposition leader Brendan Nelson to the European Union should be viewed as similar to those other placements. While Nelson is to be commended for taking the poisoned chalice of Liberal leadership in the aftermath of the party's 2007 election loss, his acceptance of the Labor Government's appointment blunts Opposition attacks on Rudd's fawning approach to the EU. At this time, with Euro-bureaucrats planning to install a new world government under the guise of the Copenhagen summit on global warming, precise and thorough criticism is crucial. Not that the Opposition leadership has shown inclination to illuminate the electorate on the EU's plans.

The tactic of keeping one's friends close, and one's enemies closer is an old one but Labor has made the play an art form. While Baird, Fischer and Nelson were not seen as major impediments to Labor during the ALP's years in opposition, Costello was without doubt the Liberal Party's most effective parliamentary weapon.

Rudd may embrace him now as a tool to use against the Liberals but there are many in Labor's ranks who will not forget and forgive so easily. Among them are such staunch attack dogs as the current Defence Minister John Faulkner, long renowned for his ability to carry on the fight against former opponents. Even former Labor prime minister Paul Keating, another good hater from the ALP's ranks, said at the weekend: "The Prime Minister's goodie-two-shoes approach of appointing former opponents to the Labor Party to important public jobs is no substitute for thoughtful and mature reflection as to the public requirements of those jobs. It is also disloyal to those members of the Labor caucus in the Keating government and Labor members of the Beazley, Crean and Latham oppositions who stood and fought Costello."

Proof, if necessary, that it is difficult to spend a dozen years in opposition screaming invective across the Chamber and then be expected to cosy-up to the Liberal's best performer and Labor's greatest tormenter.

Rudd may think it is smart to have Keating criticising him over this appointment from one corner and Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull criticising him from another - though in fact Turnbull has welcomed the appointment - but he cannot dodge the claim that he is a monstrous hypocrite. In embracing Costello, he has embraced the Howard government's economic reforms, including the introduction of the GST, which he railed against. The Opposition has every right to feel vindicated.


Extraordinary stupidity

And despite the evidence staring them in the face, they are not admitting any error. Mother to sue for second-degree sunburn after hot day at childcare centre. Sunburn like that could well lead to skin cancer in later life. The child obviously had very fair skin but there is plenty of that about in Australia (principally from our extensive Irish heritage) and failing to allow for it is just thick

A YOUNG Queensland mum is planning legal action after her toddler suffered second-degree burns from being exposed to a day of blazing sunshine at her local childcare centre. Sixteen-month-old Ozzy Buisson sustained badly sunburnt arms which burst into deep, weeping blisters the morning after his stay at the Jumping Beans Children's Community Child Care in Kingaroy just over a week ago.

His mother, Michelle Murton said she was horrified to find the fair-skinned Ozzy "as red as a beetroot" when she picked him up about 4pm on Friday, October 23, The Courier-Mail reports. "I've never seen sunburn like it before," she said yesterday as a still red-armed Ozzy played. "He was so red it was almost purple. For him to be burnt this bad, he must have been outside in the sun most of the day."

Ms Murton said she questioned Ozzy's centre group leader and the woman replied that the toddler had been playing in water and his sunscreen must have washed off.

She was told centre staff had applied sunscreen in the morning and when they noticed Ozzy's skin looked red after his noon nap, they reapplied cream but still let him play outside.

Ms Murton said she bought after-sun gel for Ozzy's arms that night but when huge blisters appeared the next day she rushed him to the Kingaroy Hospital emergency ward where he was treated with an antibacterial burns cream and strong painkillers. "Everyone at the hospital was amazed at his burns," she said. "They all came to look at him."

Ms Murton said it was clear the centre's sun safety policies needed an overhaul and she had contacted solicitors about instigating legal action for her son's pain and suffering. Ozzy was immediately withdrawn from the centre. "I just want them to recognise that they are responsible instead of denying they did anything wrong," she said.

Jumping Beans owner and manager Bevan Pearson said all sun safety procedures had been followed on the day, which had been a special playground fun day to farewell two of the centre's long-term youngsters as well as a business partner. He said the top temperature on the day was 29C and all children had sunscreen applied, wore hats and spent their rest and meal times in the shade.

Mr Pearson said the centre usually suggested to parents that children also wear long-sleeve shirts. "All the children played in the water and of 39 children on the day he (Ozzy) was the only one who had sunburn," he said. Mr Pearson said while he was "sympathetic and apologetic" over the incident he was not admitting any liability.


QANTAS near-disaster again

Qantas pilots forgot to lower wheels. Qantas is going to run out of luck soon

QANTAS has stood down two pilots after a Boeing 767 landing in Sydney came within 700ft of the ground before the flight crew realised they had not lowered the plane's undercarriage. The airline and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau have launched investigations into the October 26 incident. The pilots are due to be interviewed by authorities on Friday.

The crew on the Melbourne-Sydney CityFlyer service apparently recognised the problem and had started go-around procedures when they received a "gear too low" aural warning from the aircraft's enhanced ground proximity warning system.

It is understood investigators are looking at possible human error and a communication breakdown between the first officer and captain about who was lowering the landing gear.

According to a former Boeing 767 pilot, a crew on an instrument approach would normally start lowering the undercarriage when the plane was between 2000ft and 1500ft in order to ensure that it met requirements that the aircraft was stable and configured to land at 1000ft. In visual conditions, the aircraft needed to be stable by 500ft, but lowering the gear at 700ft or even at 1000ft was still far too late, the pilot said. Landing gear problems or gear-up situations were involved in 15 per cent of airline hull-loss accidents last year, according to an analysis by the International Air Transport Association.

But Qantas said yesterday that a crew failing to lower the undercarriage was extremely rare and it was taking the incident seriously. "The flight crew knew all required procedures but there was a brief communications breakdown," a spokeswoman said. "They responded quickly to the situation and instigated a go-around. The cockpit alert coincided with their actions. There was no flight safety issue. "The incident was reported to the ATSB and the pilots were stood down. We are supporting the ATSB's investigation and our own investigations will determine what further action might be warranted."


Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Racegoers pouring in to Flemington Racecourse for the Melbourne Cup

RACEGOERS have already started arriving at Flemington as Australians gear up for the race that stops a nation. With the Melbourne Cup still hours away, the gates are open at the track as organisers make last-minute preparations. It is expected the race will draw a massive betting plunge today, with punters shelling out $88 million last year with the TAB in Victoria and NSW alone.

The Melbourne Cup carnival will see gamblers bet much more. In 2008, a whopping $171.1 million was bet on Cup Day in NSW and Victoria with a grateful Tabcorp, not including the busy boomakers at the track.

Bart Cummings, the sentimental favourite, is seeking his 13th Melbourne Cup win, with last year's winner and favourite Viewed, which is backed at $4.80.

The South Australian gelding Alcopop is backed at $5.50 to win.

The Victorian Racing Club is expecting a crowd of more than 100,000. Melbourne streets are quiet for the Cup holiday, apart from punters headed to morning functions in their racing finery. Taxis are gearing up for a huge day and operators of the city’s trains and trams are under pressure to avoid any problems.

Melbourne’s plastic surgeons have reportedly been busy in recent days as women – and a few men – go under the needle to look their best.

Following overnight showers, the weather has cleared and forecasters say blue skies can be expected for much of the day. A top of 20C is tipped. Weather bureau senior forecaster Scott Williams said there had only been a small amount of rain at about 5am today and it would dry out quickly. "It will not affect the racetrack, and there won't be much for the remainder of the day at Flemington,'' he said. "There will be a cool blustery west to south-west breeze throughout the day. "It will average 35-40km/h gusting to 60km/h.

"It will be blustery for the ladies and their attire at the track, including those large brim hats they might regret wearing.''

The eldest granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, 28-year-old Zara Phillips [left above] will attend the event and present the winning jockey with a trophy. Ms Phillips is a world champion equestrian competitor.


Carbon tax will light a slow fuse

A FORM of carbon tax such as the emissions trading scheme cannot reduce global emissions unless there is agreement for a similar level of tax across all economies. That aside, the government's immediate issues are how to spend the money the tax raises, including how to avoid compensating the privatised brown coal generators for losses the tax causes.

Naturally, to ensure re-election, the Rudd government wants as much of the revenue as possible to go to voters. But the government is constrained because the tax would cripple firms that are unable to pass on all its costs. Twenty-five per cent to 35 per cent of the revenues raised are, therefore, to flow to the emissions-intensive, trade-exposed industries. This has kept those firms quiet by cushioning the effects of the carbon tax on their existing assets.

That the carbon tax means nobody will again build an aluminium smelter, a steelworks or any other facility that makes use of Australian low-cost energy is not their worry. Nor, apparently, is it a concern of governments, all of which seem to envisage a dreamy, new low-energy economy that jettisons domestic consumption of our coal reserves and, eventually, our gas reserves.

Other business users also will be losers from the higher priced electricity brought about by the ETS tax. Higher energy costs will undermine the profits of all firms and even destroy some businesses. But the damage to relatively low energy users will be less easily traced to the government imposition.

The other major loser industry comprises carbon-based electricity producers. These provide 85 per cent of Australia's electricity. The ETS tax hits the brown coal generators hardest, followed by black coal generators. Notwithstanding the government's fantasy about new low-cost power generation technologies emerging, there is no alternative to the present supply profile, so it's more than likely we will see few generator departures.

Indeed, the compensation offered to the coal power stations is contingent on them remaining online when the only way the government can meet its stated carbon reduction goals is if they close down.

That aside, as with energy-intensive industries, the government has made it impossible for any firm to again build a base load power station in Australia without giving it a cast-iron carbon tax indemnification. As with the energy-intensive industries, the proposed tax will impose substantial costs on the existing generators. The most vulnerable are Victoria's privately owned brown coal generators.

Though Canberra refuses to publish its own estimates of the cost to the generators' shareholders, these are unlikely to differ from the $8billion to $10bn estimated by commissioned studies for the Victorian government and for the generators themselves.

Canberra is keen to avoid paying these costs to businesses it has already demonised as producing dirty energy. Its process has been to play the tough cop, soft cop game. The tough cop, Labor's consultant Ross Garnaut, argued that the generators should get no compensation on the (incorrect) basis that there was no tradition for such provision in Australia. Uncharacteristically, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong played the soft cop and offered $3.5bn in compensation.

The Coalition is arguing for $10bn in compensation, though an unknown amount of that is to go to the state-owned black coal generators in NSW and Queensland.

The issues are perceptions of "sovereign risk" on all future foreign investment and whether a hardline approach will mean distress sales and low maintenance causing power outages. The latter is an open question but has belatedly become a concern of the Brumby government since brown coal provides 96 per cent of Victoria's supplies.

With regard to sovereign risk, it is argued that the investors bought these facilities more than five years after the 1990 Kyoto Protocol writing was on the wall, and any business risk of expropriation by regulatory taxation should have been built into their decision frameworks. The generators would maintain that the state government sales documents contained no indication that a future government would impose a new discriminatory tax on the assets being sold, thereby reducing their value. Nor did the opposition at the time indicate such likelihood.

If the sale was by a private enterprise that withheld information about the imposition of post-sale measures, that would significantly devalue the assets and the buyers would have legal recourse.

In fact, the generators have a better case to be compensated than emission-intensive industries, at least those built or bought in the past 15 years, since the emission-intensive industries were not bought from the government, a related branch of which is now imposing a discriminatory tax on them.

This haggling over compensation is vital to present investors and of concern also to the government, which could see some depletion of its election-buying pot of new taxes.

For the Australian economy the stakes are far greater. The planned carbon tax regime (and opposition to nuclear generation) makes significant new power plant investment impossible. This lights a slow fuse under the economy's growth potential.


Hard decisions on "refugees" must be made by the Australian government

An editorial from the Sydney "Daily Telegraph" below, referring particularly to the recent capsize and sinking of an illegal immigrant boat

THE current refugee crisis - and that often-overused word is sadly justified, with at least 16 people presently unaccounted for in the waters off the Cocos Islands - has effectively paralysed Australian politics.

Decisions are difficult to make in circumstances where so many lives are at stake. An error could lead to a further massive increase in the number of deaths of those seeking unauthorised entry. Yet decisions must be made. An absence of authority on this issue guarantees yet more attempted arrivals, and with them the attendant deadly risks.

The decision-making process would be far easier if the atmosphere were not so charged with allegations of racism. These accusations ought to be put aside. Australians, including those who argue for strong border protection, are not - in the overwhelmingly majority - racist. It is not racist to insist on orderly procedures for immigration, be it formal or through requests for asylum.

Nor is it racist to make Australia a difficult target for people-smugglers and others who would exploit both this country's welcoming nature and the desperation of those who wish to come here. In fact, a case can be made that deterring people-smugglers is a humanitarian act, in that it exposes fewer people to the dangers of rogue sea travel. By some counts, more than 50 have perished since the recent upsurge in attempted arrivals.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has faced criticism over his claim to be both tough and kind over refugee issues, as though it is impossible to be both. This is not the case. By maintaining the toughness of our approach - for example, by not caving in to those who threaten self-harm unless their immigration demands are met - Australia is extending a kindness to others who might be inspired to attempt the same thing.

In response to the current situation, Rudd must add steel to Australia's border protection policies. It matters little that some opponents may make capital from this. Lives are in the balance. Some issues are more important than politics.


Stupid home ownership scheme

By Terry McCrann

THERE is only one thing dumber than the First Homeowner's Grant and that is the ceiling that politicians around the country have now put on it. Talk about designing something specifically to hurt desperate home-seekers, especially the very ones that most need real help, this is it. This is an all-too classic example of the politics of envy over-riding good policy and even just some basic thinking.

Thinking, you know, the sort of thing that we used to rely on public servants doing, and then hauling politicians back a little way from their tendency to utter populism and stupidity; when we used to have public servants.

Controversial economist and property market soothsayer, Steve Keen, says it should better be called the 'first home vendor's grant' and on this, he is dead right. That its primary achievement is to push up the price of property - and not just of 'used' property but new homes as well. Even when 'generous' builders 'give it and more' to buyers.

Yes, it might 'help' someone into a property. But at huge and largely unrecognised cost to both the 'beneficiary' and even more to all the other desperate home-seekers. The ones that don't succeed, and see the 'affordable home' disappearing out of sight.

So you have a dreadful policy and you now make it exquisitely worse. With what is at best a 'good idea at the time.' To stop 'rich people' buying expensive homes and getting the grant, by placing a cap on the property price. Over the weekend, the federal housing minister, Tanya Pilbersek announced that state governments would be allowed to set a price cap on the grant. She twittered (in the old fashioned way) they could set it at the level they thought "most sensible."

Almost all of them were ready to go Three, NSW, WA and the NT, opted for $750,000. Our premier John 'chip on my shoulder' Brumby, showed again his tendency to slip towards envy politics by going for $600,000, Queensland confirmed itself as the home of white shoes by opting for $1 million. Terrific. So if you stop the children of rich parents getting the grant if they buy a house/property that costs more than those sums, what is the single most obvious thing they are likely to do?

Buy a house under the limit. That works just great for Joe and Joanna average trying to buy the average home. Now they've got somebody extra bidding against them. Somebody with much deeper pockets. Before the weekend they might have worried that competition amongst similar stressed home-seekers to them could have forced that $500,000 house up to, say $550-560,000. Now they can rest 'assured' that the pollies have guaranteed it will go to the rich kid at say $595,000. Indeed if push really came to shove and he or she wanted the property, the rich kid might be happy to go to $601,000 and lose the grant (in Victoria); whereas they the average home-seeker couldn't.

This just adds further pressure to a broader trend so damaging to first home-buyers. As they get priced increasingly out of 'used' property in the inner city, they go looking for cheaper houses in the new estates in the outer and now very outer suburbs.

Thanks to the 'wisdom' of the pollies, more will be doing so. The developers will certainly be happy - they get to lift their prices at the margin. And what do the buyers get? To put it bluntly, a very bad investment. You buy a house in the inner suburbs for $500,000. You might be able to sell it for $900,000 (tax-free) in ten years time. You buy a cheaper house in the sticks for $250,000. In ten years time you will be selling an even cheaper (in relative terms) house, for say $350,000. Do the math.

Thank you prime minister, thank you premier. You pretend to whack the rich, the only people you hurt are the very ones you should be helping and who rely on you not to wilfully hurt them.

Quite apart from the way it also stupidly hurts the state itself. The cap stops a rich kid buying a $1.5 million house and paying $82,500 in stamp duty. Instead our premier has insisted that the rich kid shouldn't pay more than $31,000. That's wonderfully 'clever' budgeting, 'chip'.

The really clever thing would be to actually persuade rich kids to buy $1 million-plus houses. The extra tax wouldn't only pay for their first home grant but a few other ones as well! Or more preferably a more sensible form of assistance. But then public servants would have to think and politicians forego pompous preening.


Monday, November 02, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks that people are beginning to wake up to Kevin Rudd's "global warming" scam

NSW churches generously allowed to follow their faith

CHARITIES and religious groups could discriminate against gay people or anyone else who might offend their values after a landmark decision quashed a finding in favour of a gay couple who wanted to become foster parents. Both the Catholic and Anglican churches have praised the ruling and Cardinal George Pell said anti-discrimination cases threatened churches' ability to do charity work.

The couple were refused access to the Wesley Mission's foster care agency because they are homosexual. They took their case to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal and were awarded $10,000 and the Wesley Mission told to change its practices so it didn't discriminate. The charity appealed and a highly critical appeal panel overturned the decision and ordered the original tribunal to hear the case again.

The panel headed by Magistrate Nancy Hennessy even instructed the tribunal to this time take into consideration whether monogamous heterosexual couples are the norm for "Wesleyanism" and whether they might have had to reject the couple in order to preserve their beliefs and not offend people in their religion.

Wesley Mission and the couple both declined to comment, as the case must now be reheard, however Cardinal Pell [above] hailed the move as a great win for freedom of religion. "The decision is very helpful, a step in the right direction," he said. "It is important to protect people from unjust discrimination but it is ridiculous to claim discrimination every time we show a preference for some people over others. "Anti-discrimination laws should not be used to change how church agencies organise themselves."


Bid to gag scientific attack on Australia's proposed Warmist laws

Censorship of disagreement is a kneejerk reaction among Leftists but it is sad to see it from a major science organization. The CSIRO is obviously putting politics before science

THE nation's peak science agency has tried to gag the publication of a paper by one of its senior environmental economists attacking the Rudd government's climate change policies. The paper, by the CSIRO's Clive Spash, argues the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is an ineffective way to cut emissions, and instead direct legislation or a tax on carbon is needed. The paper was accepted for publication by the journal New Political Economy after being internationally peer-reviewed.

But Dr Spash told the Australia New Zealand Society for Ecological Economics conference that the CSIRO had since June tried to block its publication.

In the paper, Dr Spash argues the economic theory underpinning emissions trading schemes is "far removed" from the reality of permit markets. "While carbon trading and offset schemes seem set to spread, they so far appear ineffective in terms of actually reducing GHGs (greenhouse gases)," he says. "Despite this apparent failure, ETS remain politically popular amongst the industrialised polluters. "The public appearance is that action is being undertaken. The reality is that GHGs are increasing and society is avoiding the need for substantive proposals to address the problem of behavioural and structural change."

Dr Spash said trading schemes did not efficiently allocate emission cuts because their design was manipulated by vested interests. For example, in Australia, large polluters would be compensated with free permits while smaller, more competitive firms would have to buy theirs at auction. The schemes were also flawed because: global warming was caused by gases other than carbon; emissions were difficult to measure; carbon offsets bought from other countries were of dubious value; and the schemes "crowded out" voluntary action by individuals. He concludes that more direct measures, such as a carbon tax, regulations or new infrastructure would be simpler, more effective and less open to manipulation.

Dr Spash could not be contacted by The Australian. However, his presentation to the ANZSEE conference in Darwin last Wednesday stated: "The CSIRO is currently maintaining they have the right to ban the written version of this paper from publication by myself as a representative of the organisation and by myself as a private citizen." Dr Spash said CSIRO managers had written to the journal's editor demanding the paper not be published.

CSIRO spokesman Huw Morgan said the publication of Dr Spash's paper was an internal matter and was being reviewed by the chief executive's office. However, he said that under the agency's charter scientists were forbidden from commenting on matters of government or opposition policy.

The CSIRO charter, introduced last year, was trumpeted by Science Minister Kim Carr as a way to guarantee freedom of expression for scientists. Senator Carr said he was seeking a briefing from the CSIRO. Opposition science spokesman Eric Abetz accused the government of empty spin.

Julian Cribb, adjunct professor of science communication at the University of Technology, Sydney, said gagging scientists deprived the public of scientific knowledge they had funded. ANZSEE president Wendy Proctor said if Dr Spash's research questioned current orthodoxy, it should be made public to inform debate.


World Bank says Australia is model economy

A legacy of many years of conservative management -- now put at risk by a spendthrift Leftist government

WORLD Bank managing director Juan Jose Daboub says Australia can be a model for developing nations struggling to recover from the global financial crisis. Australia's success with macro-economic reform over the past 20 years should be an example to the world's poorest countries, which received $US59 billion ($64.4 billion) in aid in 2009, Dr Daboub said during a visit to Australia.

"The many reforms that you have taken on in the last 20 years have paid off," he told the Sky Business Channel yesterday. These included macro-economic stability, flexible labour markets and nurturing an open economy, he said. He also praised the "persistence and the consistency" of the reforms. "I look at Australia as a model that others can follow," he said.

The World Bank expects GDP of all developing nations except China and India to grow by 2.5 per cent in 2010 after falling by 2.2 per cent this year. "This is a recovery but there are still frailties and there is still (the) risk of unemployment (growing) at dimensions that we need to be very concerned about," Dr Daboub said.

The World Bank expects the combined GDP of high-income developed nations including Australia will grow by just 1.3 per cent in 2010 after this year's 4.2 per cent drop.


Migration to Australia: the true story

By Paul Sheehan

I begin this column as someone who has been accused of being a ''shameful'' person, ''a nasty piece of work'', an ''ungrateful, unkind maggot'', because I recently wrote about refugee policy in a column that was described as ''bollocks'', ''biased'', ''poorly researched'', ''sensationalist drivel'', ''crap'', ''rubbish'', ''unworthy tabloid rubbish'' and ''playing the race card''.

These insults are useful. They are irrational, immature, febrile. They are also consistent with a slightly more subtle orthodoxy that argues that anyone who supports the detention of asylum seekers on Christmas Island is not merely on the wrong side of a moral and legal argument, but is of cruel and deficient character.

A predictable orgy of blame-throwing has accompanied the latest influx of boat people, an influx that followed changes in the policy and rhetoric of the Rudd Government, which announced it would use mandatory detention as a last resort.

The term xenophobia has immediately been thrown about by the usual suspects, the refugee lobby, the human rights lobby, the utopian left and a predictable section of the media. The policy of detention has been portrayed as self-evidently cruel and discriminatory, and the bipartisan political support for a regime that acts as a deterrent to unauthorised arrivals has been presented as proof of this country's latent xenophobia. Australia is not a xenophobic nation. The argument is nonsense. Let me count the ways:

1. The number of refugees or humanitarian cases admitted by the Howard government was the highest of any government in Australian history, other than a brief spike after World War II. This legal intake did not generate significant public opposition or partisan division in Canberra. The number of humanitarian arrivals admitted during the Howard years was more than 128,000, says the field's leading expert, Dr Katherine Betts.

2. The number of Muslims admitted to permanent residence was far higher during the Howard years than during any other government. The Muslim population rose from 200,000, in 1996, to 340,000 in 2006, a 65 per cent surge in 10 years. (Figures again supplied by Betts.) This surge took place during a time of rising violence by militant Islamists, and the murder of scores of Australians by Islamic fundamentalists. Yet the historic increase in Muslim numbers via legal channels generated no meaningful political opposition.

3. Australia has the highest number of foreign-born residents of any large, advanced Western democracy. The proportion is almost one in four. For years Australia has maintained one of the world's largest per capita immigrants intakes, and the majority of arrivals have been non-European. Debate over immigration has flared only when the immigration stream has been abused by widespread fraud. The most sustained opposition has come from environmentalists concerned with sustainable growth.

4. People who arrive by boat present a more confronting challenge to legal, security and health screening than those who arrive by air and overstay their visas. Arrivals by air must present valid documentation before travelling. It is common practice for those who arrive by boat to destroy their travel documents, and engage people smugglers, measures designed to create a fait accompli, and make it more difficult to send them back to their nations of origin. This makes a far more difficult and expensive process of checking arrivals' legal, security and health status.

5. The rigorous deterrence and screening of unauthorised arrivals is integral to national security. Some of those who have settled in Australia and later engaged in criminal behaviour or welfare fraud have arrived via the refugee or humanitarian programs. The screening process for such programs is more problematic. So, too, is the absorption process. A recent spate of convictions for terrorist activity within Australia has largely involved people who came as immigrants.

6. The Tamil Tigers, whose campaign for independence from the central government in Sri Lanka led to a long and bloody civil war, have received considerable support from within the Tamil community in Australia. In April more than 1000 ethnic Tamils blockaded the gates of Kirribilli House, the Prime Minister's Sydney residence, calling for a ceasefire in the Sri Lankan Government's military offensive against the Tigers. The Sri Lankan high commissioner to Australia, Senaka Walgampaya, said the Tamil Tigers had received significant support from Australia, a view shared by Australian intelligence.

7. The number of refugees or displaced persons in the world, more than 20 million, is roughly the same as the population of Australia, 22 million. Advanced economies could only accept all these people by incurring domestic social and economic costs, which they are not prepared to make. Immigration policies have ripple-on effects, hence the need for quotas.

8. The Rudd Government deploys a zero-sum refugee policy. Although it increased immigration and temporary-working visa intakes, it maintained the annual intake of refugee/humanitarian at 13,500. Government policy thus dictates that those who arrive by boat and are given asylum status have displaced people who have registered with the United Nations or the government. The 13,500 annual refugee quota is a real waiting line of people with real needs. It is a queue that cannot simply be rendered invisible or irrelevant.

9. UN laws and conventions pertaining to the treatment of asylum seekers have no override authority over Australian law. The concept of ''the international community'' is no more than a rhetorical device. In reality the phrase refers to other like-minded human-rights activists overseas. Most democracies punish governments that fail the test of border security.

10. The 78 ethnic Tamils who have illegally occupied the Australian customs vessel Oceanic Viking are demanding rights that do not exist under international law. Most have been in Indonesia for some time. They want to settle in Australia, or another wealthy country, but that decision is not theirs to make.

The Oceanic Viking needs to be reclaimed, secured, prepared for sea, then sail for Sri Lanka with the 78 recalcitrants on board. They have rejected Indonesia. Anything less is a capitulation to moral blackmail, where children have been used as props and pawns. The impasse is not a test of rights but a test of wills. The prolonging of the Oceanic Viking saga has shown Rudd to be a man who seeks to be all things to all people.


Sunday, November 01, 2009

Weapons maker funds new school curriculum

Leftists are fuming. Nobel peace-prize nominee Adolf Hitler condemned the "armaments madness of the world" too. See the actual prewar German election posters here

An Adelaide public school has come under fire for reaching a deal with the world's largest manufacturer of guided missiles to fund a new curriculum. The principal of Aberfoyle Park High School says the program will get students more interested in maths and science and encourage them to consider engineering as a career.

But critics argue it is helping US-based contractor Raytheon poach students into the defence industry.

Principal Allan Phelps says the $500,000 deal to co-develop the curriculum with Raytheon provides students with the best real-life learning examples possible. "The focus is on learning and teaching in maths and science," he said. The deal also funds about 250 new laptops.

It does not have the support of the education union's president, Coreena Haythorpe. "I think the question the community would be asking is whether you want a company that has been involved in global conflicts and developing missiles, working in education with our children," she said. Ms Haythorpe says schools should not have to resort to business deals and wants the Government to increase education funding.

South Australian Education Minister Jane Lomax-Smith and Raytheon would not comment.


National Party at war with wishy-washy conservatives over Warmist laws

Australia's rural-based National Party is one of the few in the world to reject outright the global warming theory

Nationals Senate Leader Barnaby Joyce says he is frustrated by personal criticism from within the Liberal Party and has threatened to quit the Coalition. Senator Joyce's strong stance against an emission trading scheme has angered some Liberal Party MPs.

Senator Joyce told Channel Seven his critics should have the courage to state their views in public. "If after about four years you continually deal with unnamed sources in the paper and those unnamed sources say that the source of all their problems in life is you, then you say if you want to make yourself public and you are at the appropriate level, I'll leave," he said.

The Coalition is in negotiations on an emissions trading scheme with the Federal Government. However, talks have been stalling over Government claims the Coalition is not negotiating in good faith. Several Coalition members have made comments about the emissions trading scheme that seem to be at odds with Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull's stance.

On Friday, Senate Leader Nick Minchin said the Coalition would not necessarily vote for an emissions trading scheme even if the Federal Government accepted the Coalition's amendments. Senator Minchin's comments came amid a report in The Australian newspaper that Liberal frontbenchers were getting cold feet about supporting a scheme because the party's research shows voters are becoming hesitant about the idea.

Mr Turnbull has said he will recommend supporting an emissions trading scheme if the Opposition's amendments are accepted. Senator Joyce has been outspoken in his opposition to an emissions trading scheme and has said he would vote such a scheme down.


Obesity study to measure hospital visits

This sounds perilously like obesity skepticism. Fancy looking for evidence of what "everyone knows"!

Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) have started a long-range study on people who are overweight or obese and the number of times they need to visit hospitals. The study is following 265,000 people aged over 45 years, their weight and the number of hospital admissions.

ANU Associate Professor Emily Banks says very little is known about whether being overweight can increase your risk of going to hospital. "To look at if there are any points where we can intervene, actually to make people who are overweight or obese less at risk of hospital [visits]," she said. "So we are not only going to describe the relationship between being overweight or obese and going to hospital, we're also going to be able to look and see if there are points where we can make a difference and we can actually prevent it."

Professor Banks says the team will collect data which could be used to help develop future health policy. "The group's going to be investigating the effect of obesity and overweight on the risk of going to hospital and I think a lot of people would be quite surprised to find we don't know very much about that," she said. "We don't know what the risks are. We also don't know what the ideal weight is in terms of whether or not people are at risk of going to hospital."


"Asylum-seekers" admit living in Indonesia

A rather gross example of "asylum-seekers" being anything but

Family First senator Steve Fielding has questioned whether 78 Sri Lankan asylum-seekers, who have "hijacked" an Australian customs boat, are real refugees. It has been revealed that most of the ethnic Tamil group, who are refusing to leave the Oceanic Viking moored off Indonesia's coast, have been living in the country for years. In written messages thrown off the boat, Fairfax newspapers reported the asylum seekers as saying they'd been living in Indonesia for as long as five years and had been accepted by the United Nations office in Jakarta as genuine refugees.

Senator Fielding said on Sunday it was the first he'd heard of the development but questioned whether the group, whose spokesman is a man called Alex, really were legitimate asylum seekers. "I remember the first phone call we took from, I think Alex, his English wasn't so good," he told Network Ten. "Within two weeks his English is better than mine, so I'm not so sure how genuine some of these people are."

The group were meant to be offloaded from the ship under a deal struck between Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. But they haven't budged for two weeks and Senator Fielding said the situation was bamboozling the federal government. "This is our boat, it's been hijacked by the refugees, and the Rudd government hasn't got a clue what to do," he said.

Senator Fielding said Labor's border protection policies were attracting more asylum seekers to Australia. "People smugglers are using these laws to send more people our way," he said. "That is a huge concern, something needs to be done. "The Rudd government has a band-aid solution, the Indonesian solution is an Indonesian fiasco and it's clearly not working."

Senator Fielding said every time one asylum seeker was granted an Australian visa, another who had been waiting their turn in a refugee camp missed out. "Those people trying to jump the queue should go to the back of the queue," he said.


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