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

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


30 November, 2012

Bureaucracy at its largest in 24 years

The federal bureaucracy continued to grow earlier this year despite the toughest crackdown on spending in over a decade, and at a time many agencies were retrenching staff.  The Australian Public Service employed 168,580 people as of June 30, its largest workforce since 1988.

Six months earlier, when the government foreshadowed steep cuts to the bureaucracy's administrative budgets, the APS had 859 fewer staff.

However, Public Service Commissioner Stephen Sedgwick said the latest headcount was a "rear-view mirror" only, suggesting the government workforce had since shrunk.

"There has been a lot of activity that agencies have taken to respond to the efficiency dividend measures which are about preparing for next year, and they always have a tail."

Mr Sedgwick's State of the Service Report, tabled in Parliament on Thursday, also criticised the Business Council of Australia's recent call for a "smaller public service".

In September, the council's chief executive, Jennifer Westacott, demanded an audit and overhaul of the bureaucracy, with a view to cutting it.

However, Mr Sedgwick said that, contrary to such commentary, "the optimal size of the APS is difficult to establish a priori".

He told Fairfax Media the number of employees depended on what work ministers wanted done and how they wanted it done.

"If the government has a high-touch approach to managing projects, then you'll have [more] people. If priorities are being reordered in favour of programs that are high touch, as opposed to ones where you just write a cheque and send it to the states, then you'll have a different outcome for people than if it's otherwise."

Mr Sedgwick's report also hinted to the Labor government that it could not continue to increase the efficiency dividend – an annual cut to agency budgets – indefinitely.

More than half of the senior executive service said they had faced "greatly increasing" pressure on their workloads over the past three years due to the need to reallocate funds.

Mr Sedgwick said it had been "many years since the APS has operated in such a constrained financial environment".

"Recent decisions of government have increased the incentives agencies face to secure cost savings in their operations through increases in the efficiency dividend ... More substantial changes to the scale and priorities of the APS, however, require clear decisions by government about which activities should be scaled back or eliminated."

The latest State of the Service Report also draws attention to "conundrums" against which the public service has failed to make headway.

Mr Sedgwick said the inability of the APS to retain staff who were indigenous or who had a disability was a continuing concern, as were the relatively high rates of workplace absence.

He was also disappointed that fewer than half of employees believed their most recent performance review had helped them improve their work.

It was also unacceptable that one in six public servants felt they had been bullied in the past year, the commissioner said.

The latest snapshot of the APS shows that the typical public servant is a female university graduate, aged 42, employed as an APS6 officer. She earns about $82,000 a year.

The report also suggests the glass ceiling is slowly rising: women now make up 39.2 per cent of senior executives, 4.3 percentage points higher than five years ago.

The most sought-after staff are IT workers, accountants and human-resources professionals.


More union thuggery

A pattern is emerging in the building and construction industry – a pattern of battles not between capital and labour but between labour and labour. More specifically, union versus non-union.

In what looked like escalating into a Grocon Mark II dispute, unionists blockaded the Little Creatures brewery in South Geelong on and off for more than a month until last week in breach of a Supreme Court injunction.

Unionists from the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) have been in dispute with Western Australian contracting firm TFG Group over the use of non-union contract workers at the Little Creatures brewery.

The unions object to the employment of non-union labour on individual contracts, and are demanding that TFG employ local workers from Geelong on an enterprise bargaining agreement.

The new brewery represents a $60 million investment from Lion, Little Creatures’ parent company, and TFG has been hired to administer the fit-out of specialist brewing equipment. According to Little Creatures, 95% of TFG’s contractors are Victorians, and the brewery will offer significant opportunities for local jobs upon its completion.

The CFMEU and AMWU claim that TFG has engaged its labourers in sham contracts to avoid paying entitlements normally afforded to regular employees, such as sick and holiday leave, superannuation, and redundancy payments.

But if unionists were really worried that TFG was engaged in sham contracting, they only need to refer the matter to the building and construction industry watchdog. No such action has occurred.

This dispute is not about workers’ rights or sham contracting. According to Leela Sutton from Lions, the workers have indicated satisfaction with their conditions and do not wish to be represented by the union. This dispute is about growing membership through intimidation and boosting membership fees.

In an economy where just 18 per cent of the workforce is unionised, workers ought to have the right to union representation, but equally, workers ought to have the right to represent themselves, free from a meddling union.

Gone are the days of the 1970s when one in two workers was a union member and unions had a guaranteed place at the bargaining table.

The Fair Work Act has a place for unions but it does not authorise a group of unionists who do not even work at a site to blockade it and prevent workers from entering and earning an income.

Under the Fair Work Act there are several ways in which employees can gain union representation. Every worker has the right to associate and be a member of a union. The union is also the default bargaining representative for any employee who is a union member.

However, in this case the specialist workers are contractors, not employees.  As such they are employed under commercial terms, not regular employment terms. This means if the workers wish to be unionised, they would first need to become regular employees of TFG. Only then should the union be involved.

But there is also a bigger story. The building and construction industry has long had a reputation of militant union activity, and the CFMEU has long-standing reputation for thuggish behaviour.

The Cole Commission (2001–03) was established to investigate the degree of lawless and criminal behaviour in the building and construction industry, and its report found widespread disregard for the rule of law, particularly in relation to illegal strike activity, pattern bargaining, and intimidation tactics.

To remedy this problem, it recommended establishing a watchdog – the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) – to police the sector.

The ABCC has had positive effects on the industry, including a reduction in illegal strike action, pattern bargaining and intimidation, and an increase in productivity. Unfortunately, the ABCC was replaced with a new watchdog this year, Fair Work Building and Construction (FWBC). The new watchdog has reduced powers compared to its predecessor.

Most significantly, the maximum fines that can be imposed by the commissioner on organisations (or unions) and individuals have been reduced.

Several in the business community, including the ABCC’s former commissioner John Lloyd, believe that watering down the commission’s powers has weakened its deterrent effect and emboldened the union movement.

Times are tough for manufacturing in Victoria. Qantas has just sacked 250 heavy maintenance staff from its Avalon facility, 440 jobs have been cut from Ford’s Geelong plant, and a further 50 workers are expected to be sacked from Alcoa’s smelter in Point Henry.

At a time when local communities in Victoria need all the investment and job opportunities they can get, the industrial campaign at Little Creatures in Geelong serves as a deterrent to firms considering investing their time and effort in Victoria.


Independence lost

WHAT do the latest James Bond movie, `Skyfall', and Sir Robert Menzies, Australia's longest-serving prime minister, have in common? If you say, no idea - then that's understandable.

If, on the other hand, you answer Tennyson's poem Ulysses, then you win the prize.

In the latest Bond movie, M, facing a parliamentary inquiry into her failures as head of MI6, recites the final lines from Tennyson's poem, which supposedly was a favourite of the founder of the Liberal Party.

In the poem the ancient Greek hero Ulysses, though old and soon to confront death, longs for one last chance to prove his valour and strength and to embark on another perilous journey. He states:

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

The sentiment is one of overcoming adversity, not giving in to suffering, and battling against all odds to demonstrate one's bravery and heroism.

Pain, suffering and loss have always been with us and are an inevitable part of being human. The challenge, though, is how best to overcome adversity.

For Sir Robert Menzies' generation, who experienced two world wars and the Great Depression, the belief was that individuals, although often with the help others, had to rely on their own bravery, resilience and the conviction that after the tempest, still waters would prevail.

The welfare state, with its insatiable desire to intervene and comfort all, had yet to take control and individuals and their families still relied on one another and local networks to meet their needs.

Welfare payments were few and far between, unemployment relief was meagre and universal health care had yet to be introduced.

An essential part of Australia's bush ethos and the ANZAC legend was to fight against adversity and face a harsh future stoically. Stories such as Henry Lawson's The Drover's Wife epitomised the ability to survive in a hostile environment and to do what was necessary to raise a family.

In modern-day tragedies such as Victoria's Black Saturday bushfires and last year's floods in Queensland, we saw again this spirit of resilience and bravery when ordinary people achieve heroic feats.

Tennyson's poem and Lawson's short story embody a romantic notion of the hero and one increasingly lacking today when the common cry is one of victimhood.

Read the papers, watch or listen to the news or surf the net and it's clear we are surrounded by those seeking redress and government action for what has been or is being suffered.

As Joe Hockey said in a speech earlier this year, we live in a time characterised as the age of entitlement.

Many succumb to drugs and alcohol and, instead of taking responsibility, argue it's because of the sins of others and they must get government support.

Some are the victims of violence and abuse and, instead of breaking free, bemoan their fate, trapped in the past.

Even in education, the victim mentality is now rife with working class, migrant and indigenous students told that only positive discrimination will turn failure into success.

Supposedly, performance at school is not a matter of ability or effort, but the result of home background.

Instead of working harder, at-risk students are told it's not their fault that they underachieve.

Today's generations are wrapped in cotton wool and expect that all they have to do is to complain and things will work out in the end.

Worse still, the victim mentality drains individuals of their ability to stand on their own two feet, confront and overcome problems and get on with life with a positive attitude.

While there's no denying that those experiencing pain, loss and disadvantage need help and support, maybe, just maybe, things would be better if, like Ulysses, instead of victimhood, the cry was one of: To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.


Health funding cuts to hurt Victorian patients

The Feds can afford a vast new Federal Health bureaucracy that just overlaps State services but actually fixing up ill patients is a low priority

ELECTIVE surgery in Victoria will be slashed by 20-25 per cent in the next seven months as $107 million worth of Federal Government health funding cuts start to bite from next Friday.

Victoria has calculated the Commonwealth funding cuts are equal to losing the funding for 20,000 elective surgery procedures or reducing Victoria's elective surgery volumes by 20-25 per cent in the next seven months.

The $107 million cut is equivalent to 3150 bone marrow transplants or 6620 hip replacements or 6605 knee replacements.

Victoria's Health Minister, David Davis, has warned operating theatres could have to close over the summer.

He has written to his local area health services warning them to prepare for the cutbacks to start biting from next Friday.

A detailed spreadsheet complied by the minister shows how each of the local services and hospitals will be affected by the cuts.

The Alfred hospital will lose $7.9 million in funding, Austin Health $7.9 million, Eastern Health $8.5 million, and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute $1.2 million.

Mr Davis warned: "The risk is that hospitals will have to close theatres over summer, reduce capacity and put off staff."

The federal funding cuts are due to a recalculation of population growth figures based on the 2011 census. The

Commonwealth is also demanding the state refund $40 million of health funding it has already been paid as a result of the population growth recalculation.

These cuts will begin to hit the state on December 7 when monthly funds are transferred from the Commonwealth to the states.

But Paul Perry, spokesman for Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, said the Gillard Government's investment in Victoria was continuing to grow by 26 per cent in the next four years and "this is a desperate smokescreen by the Baillieu Government to distract people from its $616 million Budget cuts".

The State Government's own savage cuts would impact on frontline services, blowing out waiting times and eroding the standard of patient care, he said.

Mr Davis called for Prime Minister Julia Gillard to stop the federal cuts.

He said the cuts' effect would be even more severe in the next seven months because a full year's worth of cutbacks would be crunched into the last seven months of the financial year.


29 November, 2012

Inert Vic cops spark international umbrage

There have been lots of violent offences with a racial angle  in Melbourne but because most of the offenders are black, the cops have got used to hushing them up -- which is the diametric opposite of what they claim to do

“They lied to me. At first they said the attackers were under investigation. Later they said they didn't know who some of them were."

A South Korean student whose finger was chopped off has spoken of his frustration with a police investigation into the incident.

Mr Chang, who is keeping his identity concealed, and a friend were attacked by a group of teenagers while sitting in Box Hill Gardens in Melbourne at night in September.

The attackers severed his left little finger and broke his arm. Mr Chang, who has worked as a designer and is left-handed, fears the injury will affect his ability to work in future.

“I feel so embarrassed and humiliated,” the TAFE Box Hill Institute student, 33, said. “I don't want to go outside alone. I haven't even told my family about what happened. They don't know.”

Over the past two months two other Korean nationals, a 33-year-old Sydney man and a 27-year-old man from Brisbane, have also been attacked, fuelling outrage in South Korea, with media reports questioning whether Australia is a safe place to visit.

Two weeks ago, French woman Fanny Desaintjores was threatened by passengers on a Melbourne bus for singing French songs. One man said “speak English or die”, while another commuter shouted: “I'll f---ing boxcutter you right now, dog.”

Victoria Police is continuing its investigations into the assault against Mr Chang after the South Korean government requested they conduct a "more thorough and fair investigation", capture the perpetrators and compensate the victim.

The Foreign Ministry of South Korea also demanded Australia "come up with measures to prevent future incidents", the Korean broadcaster KBS reported.

Mr Chang, from Seoul, still believes Australia is a “safe and good country”, acknowledging every country has its share of offenders. But he said he was “unhappy” about the ongoing police investigation.

A spokesman from the Korean Consulate in Melbourne told Fairfax Media they formally requested Victoria Police to “carry out a thorough investigation that will also eliminate perceptions of unfairness and inadequacy from the victim and Korean public”.

Mr Chang had declared he was told by police he was responsible for the brutal attack because he “was in the wrong place at the wrong hours”, sparking alarm in Korea.

But the spokesman said that while police eventually apologised for the remark to Mr Chang, he may have “misunderstood the intention behind it, taken in the wrong way due to cultural differences”.

The Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported Mr Chang was approached by a group of teenagers who asked for a cigarette. When he refused, they assaulted him while shouting the words "f---ing Chinese".

Mr Chang blacked out during the attack and was taken to hospital, where his little finger was reattached.

Victoria Police has told Fairfax Media a 14-year-old boy from Doncaster, Melbourne, was charged the day after the assault.


Australia the world's second-best place to be born: study

Just behind Switzerland.  I think this is pretty right, if only because of our largely untroubled economic climate

Australia will be the second-best country in the world to be born in next year, a study says.

The "lucky country" scored 8.12 out of a possible 10 points, just 0.1 behind Switzerland, The Economist's Intelligence Unit said in their 2013 where-to-be-born index released last week.

Following closely behind were Scandinavian countries Norway, Sweden and Denmark. New Zealand was ranked seventh with a score of 7.95, while Nigeria came in 80th and last with 4.74 points.

The magazine said the list, the first since 1988, was compiled using a combination of surveys - where people said how happy they are - with objective determinants about the quality of life.

"Being rich helps more than anything else, but it is not all that counts; things like crime, trust in public institutions and the health of family life matter too," the unit's director of country forecasting services, Laza Kekic, said in a statement.

Indicators used include geography, demography, social and cultural characteristics, government policies and the state of the world economy.

The list was dominated by smaller economies, with larger European economics such as Great Britain (27th), France (26th) and Germany (16th) languishing further down the list. The US, which topped the 1998 list, came in 16th.

Australia was ranked 18th on the 1998 index.

Last year, Australia was ranked second behind Norway in the annual United Nations Human Development Index.

It was the second year in a row that Australia was ranked second to Norway on the UN index, which looked at indicators including education, health, per-capita income and life expectancy.


Fascist "planner" wants to dictate how big peoples houses can be

Sure to be a Leftist.  She thinks she can say what people "need"

A ROW over so-called McMansions on the city fringe has revealed a split between the Baillieu Government and its chief planning adviser.

Professor Roz Hansen, chair of the ministerial advisory committee for the Metropolitan Planning Strategy, has called for a campaign to discourage families from building huge homes in new estates.

"Do you really need four bedrooms, four bathrooms, the home theatre, play area, formal and informal living areas?" she told the Herald Sun. "What is it costing you to run this and do you really need all this space to be able to function as a household?"

Prof Hansen said families hit by rising mortgage stress on the urban fringe would have more money in their pockets if they chose to have less space.

But Planning Minister Matthew Guy said families shouldn't be criticised for their housing choices.  "It's a bit undeserved because families have different needs," he said.

"A large portion of families live in our growth areas, so that's why you find in our growth areas larger family homes because predominantly that is the housing type out there."


Homeopathy regime is rejected as judge tells parents to immunise child

Homeopathic beliefs can be a dangerous mental illness -- as shown in this case.  The mother believes in her homeopathic "vaccinations"  DESPITE the fact that her daughter got whooping cough, a very nasty and sometimes fatal illness.  Homeopathic potions are just water so have placebo value only

A JUDGE has ordered a couple to immunise their eight-year-old daughter according to government health guidelines, in a rebuke to the homeopathic regime pursued by the mother.

But the father will shoulder the cost of doing so.

The mother had sought in a injunction in the Family Court to stop the father and his partner from immunising the child without her written permission.

She made the application after discovering that her daughter's stepmother had secretly taken the child to a medical centre to have her immunised against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, polio, HIB, measles, mumps, rubella and meningococcal C.

Previously, the mother had been arranging homeopathic vaccines.

She told the court that she adhered to a "simple and healthy way of life", that included eating organic food, using non-toxic cleaning products and sending the child to a Rudolph Steiner school where the toys were made from natural products such as wool, wax and silk.

Most parents at the school focused on "building up the immune system of the child through homeopathics", she told the court.

But when the girl was five, she contracted whooping cough, and the father and his new partner became concerned that she was not vaccinated, possibly placing their new baby at risk.

The stepmother then took her to the medical centre for a course of traditional immunisations, with the support of the child's father, but without the mother's consent or knowledge.

This upset the mother, in part because it engendered feelings of disempowerment, but also because she feared the health risks of traditional immunisation.

She told the court: "The homeoprophylaxis regime is more than adequate for her needs, provides her with immunity against childhood diseases and does so in a far safer and more risk averse way."

A doctor in homeopathic medicine told the court that homeopathic vaccination was safe and effective, whereas traditional vaccination had short- and long-term risks, including a link to ADHD and autism.

But Justice Bennett accepted the evidence of a doctor at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, who said there was insufficient evidence of the effectiveness of homeopathic immunisation to justify its replacement of traditional immunisation.

The links to ADHD and autism had been disproved by studies in Scandinavia, France and the United States, the doctor said.

Justice Bennett said the risks associated with traditional immunisation did not outweigh the risks of infection.

"It appears to me that the efficacy of homeopathic vaccines in preventing infectious diseases has not been adequately scientifically demonstrated," she said.

However, the mother has lodged an appeal.

The case is one of several before the courts that involve differing philosophies over childhood vaccination.

The Federal Magistrates Court was asked to intervene between two parents disputing whether their daughter should be immunised in 2010, resulting in an order for the child to undergo the immunisation program recommended by the federal Health Department.


28 November, 2012


Two reports below

The usual Leftist charm:  Abuse is all they've got

Gillard recently seized on Abbott's normal conservative views about differences between men and women and quoted them as misogyny.  Her own Labor Party members however make jokes that deliberately degrade women

In this case a Leftist deep thinker appears to have concluded that Julie Bishop's blonde hair makes her a "bimbo".  The fact that she is a very sharp and effective parliamentarian is clearly too much for his penile mind to handle

The Bishop

A FEDERAL Labor MP has accused deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop of being "a narcissistic bimbo".  Steve Gibbons also said Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was "a gutless douchebag".

Both were not fit to be MPs let alone prime minister and deputy prime minister," he tweeted on Wednesday.

Mr Gibbons later tweeted: "Apologies to those offended by my use of the word Bimbo. I'll replace that word with Fool".

His Labor colleagues distanced themselves from the tweet.  "Steve, I love you, but you're way out of line," MP Ed Husic told Sky News.  "I wouldn't do it and I wish he hadn't have."


Sexist joke at big union dinner

The report below is from over a month ago but it is about a joke made at a big union dinner that was so vile that nobody in the media has so far been game to repeat it.  And none of the Leftist heavyweights at the dinner protested it in any way.  It's pretty clear who the real front-runners in misogyny are

The gorgeous Peta Credlin

CFMEU Victorian assistant secretary John Setka, who helped lead the blockade of a Grocon building site in Melbourne in August, was at the dinner on Wednesday night with the Prime Minister, ministers and officials from the Australian Workers’ Union and the Commonwealth Public Sector Union.

Ms Gillard left the CFMEU dinner before the joke was made by a paid comedian. She complained to the union later.

Treasurer Wayne Swan, who spoke at the event after the comedian, conceded he should have raised concerns on the night rather than waiting until yesterday morning.

Ministers stayed in the Great Hall even though Ms Gillard berated Liberal MPs on Tuesday for remaining at a dinner when radio host Alan Jones said her father died of shame.

“No one walked out of the room, no one walked up to Mr Jones and said that was not acceptable,” a furious Ms Gillard told Parliament in her now-renowned attack on Mr Abbott about sexism.

The comedian hired by the CFMEU to perform on Wednesday night, “Allan Billison”, joked that Mr Abbott and Ms Credlin were having a relationship. Both are married. The remarks left the room silent, according to Labor MPs.

The joke came amid a furore over Ms Gillard’s accusations that Mr Abbott is sexist and misogynistic.


Bureaucrats to lose hospitals

This should happen throughout Australia

CONTROL of Territory hospitals and clinics is to be taken away from Health Department bureaucrats.

They will instead be self-governing agencies responsible for their own budgets.

The biggest shake-up in health service delivery was announced by Health Minister Dave Tollner in Parliament today.

A health source admitted that the new model was similar to what Kevin Rudd tried to force through in 2010 as Prime Minister. He faced stiff opposition from the States and threatened to take hospitals away from them.

The ALP Territory government responded by establishing health network boards. But the source said: "That was just window dressing. It wasn't real reform.  "The boards have no real power. Their budgets are still controlled by public servants in the Health Department.

"And they don't have powers to hire and fire. A lot of people ask what the boards do. And the answer is that they hold meetings."

The NT Government argued hospitals and clinics managed in a grassroots way would let them be more responsive to local needs.

"At the moment, decisions about the clinic at Yuendemu are made by public servants in Darwin," the source said.  "The Government thinks they should be given more power to manage themselves.  "That would improve service delivery and we should never lose sight of what hospitals are all about - the good of the patients."

The Territory has five hospitals - Royal Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine, Tennant Creek and Nhulunbuy.


Sham education bill

Complete hot air.  An amazing exercise. "Nothing contained in the laws will be legally enforceable" (!!)

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard says Labor will target and eradicate the "great moral wrong" faced by children who do not have access to educational opportunities.

Ms Gillard on Wednesday introduced legislation to parliament in response to the Gonski schools funding review, saying the bill would enshrine in law "our nation's expectations for our children's achievements at school".

"This is a distinctively Labor plan for a matter of the highest Labor purpose: to eradicate the great moral wrong which sees some Australian children denied the transformative power of a great education," she told the lower house.

"It is now clear, with the information we have today, that in Australian schools it is the poorer kids who have been let down the most in the past."

The prime minister said the "ruling passion" of her life was to ensure no child missed out on quality education.

"All my determination, all our resolve is directed towards getting this done," she said.

Australian Education Union federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said he was confident Labor would achieve the proposed funding reform, which is expected to cost the federal, state and territory governments about $6.5 billion a year.

"Not only are we confident, we have every expectation that an agreement will be achieved between the commonwealth and the states," he told reporters in Canberra.

"The state premiers must step up now and negotiate in earnest."

But opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne said the bill was devoid of detail.  "Labor has introduced an empty shell this morning as a desperate distraction," he said in a statement.

"The prime minister calls this a uniquely Labor bill and she is right - it is all spin over substance, a classic Labor hoax."

Neither he nor Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was present in the lower house when Ms Gillard introduced the bill.

"This was one of the most significant moments in the history of schools funding and yet they chose to ignore it," Mr Gavrielatos said.

The explanatory memorandum accompanying the Australian Education Bill 2012 legislation says: "There is no financial impact associated with the bill."  The bill also contains a clause stating nothing contained in the laws will be legally enforceable.

However, federal School Education Minister Peter Garrett has previously said the legislation would be changed once agreement was reached with states, territories and private education authorities.

The nation's education ministers are expected to provide initial advice on the structure of a funding system to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting on December 7.

Ms Gillard wants COAG to sign the funding agreement at its first meeting next year, which is likely to be in March.


Australia's Left walks back its support of Israel

Bob Hawke was a great supporter of Israel but Gillard is no Bob Hawke

JULIA GILLARD has been forced to withdraw Australia's support for Israel in an upcoming United Nations vote after being opposed by the vast majority of her cabinet and warned she would be rolled by the caucus.

As a result, Australia will abstain from a vote in the United Nations General Assembly on a resolution to give Palestine observer status in the UN, rather than join the United States and Israel in voting against the resolution as Ms Gillard had wanted.

In a direct rebuff of her leadership, Ms Gillard was opposed by all but two of her cabinet ministers - Bill Shorten and Stephen Conroy, both of the Victorian Right - during a heated meeting on Monday night.

She was then warned by factional bosses she faced a defeat by her own backbench when the caucus met on Tuesday morning.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bob Carr, who met Ms Gillard before cabinet, drove the push to oppose the Prime Minister.

The former Labor foreign minister Gareth Evans briefed Labor MPs on Monday, warning they would be on the wrong side of history if they stood with the US and Israel against the rest of the world.

Ms Gillard had wanted to vote no while the Left faction, which is pro-Palestinian, wanted to vote for the resolution.

The Right faction, which would usually support Ms Gillard, backed an abstention, in part due to the views of its members that the government was too pro-Israel, and also because many MPs in western Sydney, who are already fearful of losing their seats, are coming under pressure from constituents with a Middle East background.

Senior sources have told Fairfax Media that in cabinet on Monday night, at least 10 ministers, regardless of factional allegiance and regardless of whether they were supporters of Kevin Rudd or Ms Gillard, implored the Prime Minister to change her view.

At one stage there was a heated exchange between the Environment Minister, Tony Burke, and Senator Conroy, the Communications Minister.

One source said Ms Gillard was told the cabinet would support whatever final decision she took because it was bound to support the leader but the same could not be said of the caucus.

Ms Gillard told the caucus meeting that her personal view was to vote no because she believed the UN vote, which will pass easily with the overwhelming support of UN member states, would hurt the peace process because the US has threatened to withdraw funding for the Palestinian Authority.

But she conceded that after sounding out ministers and MPs, Australia should abstain.

The Israeli government is understood to be furious but an embassy spokesperson declined to comment.

The opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman, Julie Bishop, said the decision to abstain was disappointing because the Coalition backed a no vote as "the path to peace and reconciliation".


27 November, 2012

Attempt to get tough with "asylum seekers" falls over

Five year wait for right to work scrapped

NEW rules denying asylum seekers work rights for up to five years will be softened in response to a backlash from Labor MPs and one of the principal architects of the Gillard government's policy to stem the number of boat arrivals.

Paris Aristotle, a member of the government's expert panel on asylum seekers, has described the no-work-rights rules as inconsistent with the policy's controversial "no advantage" test, punitive and in breach of Australia's international treaty obligations.

Mr Aristotle welcomed a nuanced retreat by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, who signalled a willingness on Monday to put in place "some mechanism" for those found to be refugees, but having to wait several years for permanent protection, "to be able to support themselves".

Mr Bowen announced last Wednesday that, "consistent with "no advantage", those who could not be sent to Nauru or Manus Island would be released into the community with "no work rights and will receive only basic accommodation assistance and limited financial support [of $430 a fortnight]".

The move followed the recognition that too many asylum seekers have arrived since the new approach was announced on August 13 for them to be transferred to Nauru or Manus Island.

It was an attempt to put those who will now be released on bridging visas on the same footing as those on Nauru and Manus Island, but it prompted warnings that it would create an underclass of refugees who would be ill prepared to build new lives when finally granted protection visas.

It has also escalated unrest and anxiety among the 387 who have been sent to Nauru. They say they have been treated unfairly and warn that one Iranian is close to death after being on a hunger strike for 45 days.

After representations from Mr Aristotle and others, Mr Bowen asserted on Monday that the new rules were "not actually linked to the no-advantage principle as such", and were more about the surge in numbers from Sri Lanka and the belief that many were "economic migrants" and not refugees.

He also vowed to work with those in the refugee sector to determine "how we will deal" with those found to be refugees under the new system, where asylum seekers whose claims are upheld must wait for as long as they would have waited to be resettled if they had stayed in a transit country - a period Mr Bowen concedes could be five years.

In comments welcomed by Labor MP Melissa Parke, Mr Bowen said he wanted "over time" to work out how these people had "appropriate support and care, and where appropriate they have some mechanism in place to be able to support themselves".

Writing exclusively in The Age today, Mr Aristotle argues the correct response to concerns about economic migration from Sri Lanka is to "properly and quickly" establish if this is the case by processing applications. "Those that are refugees should be protected and those who are not can be returned," he writes.

"The announcements last week to disallow asylum seekers work rights and timely access to family reunion, even after they have been found to be a refugee, were not recommendations of the panel.

"The measures are highly problematic because they are a punitive form of deterrence in response to a specific and new phenomenon in people smuggling from Sri Lanka, which the government believes is for economic reasons as opposed to refugee protection."

Mr Aristotle expresses dismay at the opposition's proposal to slash the humanitarian quota to 13,750 places and reintroduce temporary protection visas, saying it makes little sense.

He laments that the debate on asylum-seeker issues continues to be on a "destructive and combative course".


Sydney's Lebanese Muslim gangs have moved on

POLICE don't go to Telopea Street much more these days.  More than a decade ago, it was a regular haunt as they tried to quell the 800 metre strip in Punchbowl that had become home to Sydney's worst violence, drug dealing and criminality.

As the new millennium began, Telopea Street was a brazen stop and shop for cocaine, heroin and ice.

Now, it is a quiet suburban strip like any other in Sydney. You can't tell it used to be run by a network of sophisticated gangs with loyal foot soldiers.

Many of those men have moved on, many are in jail. A good number were part of an unprecedented migration to traditionally anglo-saxon outlaw motorcycle clubs. Some are already dead.

Central to the evil of those times was Mustapha Dib, whose family arrived in 1977 from Miniyeh, in Lebanon's north.

On Friday, Mustapha Dib, known by friends, family and police as 'Fairy,' received a 30-year minimum jail sentence for the Lakemba murder of pregnant Anita Vrzina, 20, and wounding her partner, Ahmed Banat, with intent to murder in November 2000.

It was the second person he killed before he was 18.

Aged just 15, he stabbed and killed schoolboy Edward Lee in a brawl on Telopea Street. Lee's violent and senseless death forced Sydney to face the reality that a new generation of gangs were on the streets that had no qualms about killing innocents or anyone who got in their way.

Police had become targets too. In the month following the Lee murder, amid an intense police operation, the Lakemba police station was targeted in a hail of bullets.

Now an acting Deputy Commissioner, David Hudson was the Campsie crime manager when Telopea Street was a virtual war zone.

He told Fairfax Media this week, criminals in south-west Sydney got a foothold while police were rebuilding after the Wood Royal Commission that made sweeping reforms to rid the force of corruption.

"There was so much stuff going on internally we sort of took the eye off the ball and this gave them a strong foothold," he said.

But Mr Hudson said police gradually clawed their way back with in-your-face policing.

"We pushed back and eventually took back the streets," he said.

In two years, they made more than 60 arrests and seized $3 million worth of assets in an attempt to strangle the Telopea Street menace. It culminated in Dib being charged with Mr Lee's murder.

For the Dib family, it was a double-blow.

Mustapha's brother Mohammad Dib, 34, who has spent at least eight years in jail for car rebirthing and his role in trying to cover up his brother's role in the Lee murder, told Fairfax Media they are a "normal family despite a few murders and shit".

"It's quiet here, it's like any other street in Sydney," he said. "Before, yeah, there was drug dealing and stuff but we were young guys misled by older guys," he said.

Many of Sydney's worst crooks of that era grew up on or near Telopea Street, working together or on opposing gangs to control the underworld, while the infamous Danny Karam gang - known as DK's boys - fought it out for control of Kings Cross.

Michael Kanaan, serving life in jail for three murders, and the warring families of the Razzaks and Darwiches epitomised the lawless, ruthless bloodlust that Telopea Street thrived on.

These were the people Dib and his family called "friends". Mohammad Dib described Kanaan as "a top bloke".

Nonetheless there was a hint of regret at the years wasted on the criminality for which they are renowned.

"If I worked legitimate like I do now since day one, I'd have more money in the bank than a life of crime. I've got nothing and jail is the worst place ever. It's not worth it," he said.


Gillard still under attack as a participant in union corruption

Gillard is combative but so is Julie Bishop.  It takes a woman to tear down another woman.  Abbott's actually a bit of a softie so he needs Bishop.  The claim that Abbott is anti-woman is a real laugh

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's chief of staff Peta Credlin, left, speaks with Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop.  Abbott depends heavily on both

Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop is ramping up her attack on Julia Gillard's conduct as a lawyer in the 1990s, accusing the Prime Minister of creating the "stolen vehicle that the bank robbers took to the bank".

Ms Bishop told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday that when Ms Gillard was a partner with Slater & Gordon, she set up a union association, which saw money siphoned out by her then boyfriend Bruce Wilson and fellow AWU official, Ralph Blewitt.

"The reason [Ms Gillard] didn't open a file within Slater & Gordon ... was because she and Wilson and Blewitt wanted to hide from the AWU the fact that an unauthorised entity was being set up..." Ms Bishop said.

"She created the stolen vehicle that the bank robbers took to the bank, to rob the bank."

Ms Gillard has maintained that she only provided legal advice about the set up of the AWU Workplace Reform Association and did not know anything of the fraud that followed.

She has consistently denied any wrongdoing and yesterday in a second "marathon" press conference on the AWU affair, she said claims she set up the fund were defamatory.

This morning, Ms Bishop said: "I am able to say that Julia Gillard set up an unauthorised incorporated association that was in breach of the laws of Western Australia."

Ms Bishop also called on the Prime Minister to ask the AWU and Mr Wilson to get Slater & Gordon to release all the documents they hold on the matter, "so that that this matter can be thoroughly investigated".

This follows a similar request from Mr Blewitt, calling on Mr Wilson to release Slater & Gordon from client privilege.

This comes as the law firm released a statement, defending its actions over the AWU affair and confirming it cannot "divulge confidential and privileged information of one client to another client or any other party".

Responding to questions about why Slater & Gordon did not notify the police or the AWU when allegations surfaced about Mr Wilson in 1995, the law firm said: "At all times it has acted in accordance with its legal and ethical obligations in relation to all aspects of the AWU matter."

Slater & Gordon said it had also sought independent legal advice from law firm Arnold Bloch Leibler and Philip Crutchfield SC on its conduct.

Both sets of advice - received yesterday evening - found that Slater & Gordon did the right thing by ceasing to act for the AWU and Mr Wilson when it became aware there was a conflict between the interests of the two.

Ms Bishop has been spearheading the attack on the Prime Minister about the AWU affair, yesterday asking all the Coalition questions in question time.

Speaking to reporters on her way into Parliament on Tuesday morning, Ms Bishop said it was entirely appropriate that she, not Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, lead the charge.

"I'm the Deputy Leader of the opposition and I happen to be a lawyer with 20 years experience," she said.

"Why are you suggesting that Tony Abbott has to ask the questions? I am the deputy leader of the party."


90pc of Sudanese refugees want to go home

I support free tickets for them

A new study has found the majority of refugees from Sudan who arrived in Australia over the past decade want to return home.

Many of those surveyed experienced isolation and reported being discriminated against, particularly when it came to employment and housing.

Nyok Gor is one of around 23,000 Sudanese refugees who fled to Australia over the past decade.  He arrived in late 2003 as one of the "lost boys of Sudan".

He began studying at university, but found it difficult to get work and accommodation.  "While I was looking for accommodation, that was one of the areas that I felt discriminated," he said.

"As a student I was looking for share accommodation and somebody would be calling to organise some of the houses that I was interested to apply for, and when I turn up later would tell me sorry we don't have enough room.

"There were other cases where somebody would ask me over the phone what background do you come from and I would say an African background and they would say no sorry we don't have available room for you."

According to the study by international policy research agency, STATT, that was a common problem among the 350 people surveyed.

STATT researcher Robert Onus says most people found there were good support services provided by the Government, but their ability to get help differed between cities and regional areas.

"People in regional areas felt quite a bit of isolation, particularly because the people that were settled in regional areas didn't have access to some of the support networks that people in bigger cities would have with the larger communities," he said.

"The other thing is definitely with regards to employment.  "A lot of people have worked hard to get skills and develop their skills in Australia.  "They've done education in Australia but they can't seem to get jobs in areas that they feel that they're skilled at working in."

Mr Onus says many people felt potential employers discriminated against them based on their race.

"On the other hand I think it's the question of getting skills, job skills in the Australian market," he said.  "A lot of people don't have the resume that local people might have or people that have been in Australia for a longer time might have."

The study released today also found that since South Sudan gained independence, many people want to return home.  "About 90 per cent of people had signalled that they would be intending to return. That includes both temporarily and permanently," he said.

"When it comes to more permanent return, people had a range of opinions about how long they would go and for what reasons."

But Mr Onus says most people who wanted to return to South Sudan did not hold negative opinions of Australia.

"It was very much a question of going home to support the development of their new nation and there's really a lot of positive energy and enthusiasm in the community towards helping the South Sudanese nation develop and repatriating the skills that they've gained here," he said.


26 November, 2012

Disgusting "child safety" bureaucrats

They knew they were at fault so decided that the best defence is attack

A MOTHER fighting Child Safety to get justice for her son says she has been overwhelmed by public support and no longer feels she is a "bad parent".

The woman, who cannot be named by law, is suing Child Safety for failing to tell her that her foster child - who has been accused of allegedly raping her eight-year-old boy - had a history of sexualised behaviour.

After The Courier-Mail last week revealed her story, readers relayed their condolences to their family, urged her to keep fighting.  A Brisbane barrister and psychologist also offered to represent the family for free.

The mother is now urging other families who have been let down by Child Safety to come forward and tell their stories.

"I'm so overwhelmed. So many people are supporting me, it's unbelievable," she said.  "Thank you very much. I feel so relieved.  "I'm not the only one who thinks that the system needs to be fixed."

The mother, 36, is suing Child Safety for negligence, but in a cruel twist, the Department has sent her legal documents stating she was to blame for any alleged abuse because she failed to appropriately supervise her 15-year-old foster son.

The mother said she felt better after supporters questioned how it was possible to constantly supervise children.  "I'm not a bad parent. You can't supervise 24/7.  "You have to at some point (let foster children) be part of your family and show them trust.

"We should have been told (about the foster boy's history). If we knew we never would have let him into our house."

Despite asking on two separate occasions about the foster boy's history, an internal Child Safety review found officers told the mother that he only had problems with aggression and stealing.

They did not tell her that they had records stating he had a history of sexualised behaviour.

Meanwhile, when the Commissioner for Children and Young People and Child Guardian Elizabeth Fraser was asked whether she believed Child Safety was not being honest with carers about the history of foster children, she referred The Courier-Mail to her 2010 report that found staff were not doing their job properly.

"The Department's records demonstrated low compliance providing) proposed carers with information about a child, to assist carers make an informed decision about whether to agree to a placement.

" The Departmental officers are not adequately recording on departmental files whether proposed carers are being provided with information about a child, to assist carers make an informed decision about whether to agree to a placement."


Climate skeptics equated to pedophiles on ABC

This morning on the “science” show Robyn Williams equates skeptics to pedophiles, people pushing asbestos, and drug pushers. Williams starts the show by framing republicans (and skeptics) as liars: “New Scientist complained about the “gross distortions” and “barefaced lying” politicians come out  with…” He’s goes on to make the most blatant, baseless, and outrageous insults by equating skeptics to people who promote pedophilia, asbestos and drugs.
“What if I told you pedophilia is good for children, or that asbestos is an excellent inhalant for those with asthmatics, or that smoking crack is a normal part and a healthy one of teenage life, to be encouraged? You’d rightly find it outrageous, but there have been similar statements coming out of inexpert mouths, distorting the science.”

“These distortions of science are far from trivial, our neglect of what may be clear and urgent problems could be catastrophic and now a professor of psychology at UWA has shown what he says is the basis of this unrelenting debauchery of the facts…”

What the "professor of psychology at UWA" (Stephan Lewandowsky) said:
“They were rejecting the science not based on the science... but on other factors… what we basically found was the driving motivating factor behind their attitudes was their ideology.  People who endorse an extreme version of free market fundamentalism …  They are also rejecting the link between smoking and lung cancer, and between HIV and AIDS…

Ladies and gentlemen it’s time to get serious. Both Williams and Lewandowsky are ignoring the scientific evidence, denigrating their opponents, destroying rational conversation and honest discussion before it can even start. We can’t let them get away with this.

They are paid public servants who use taxpayer funds to push their personal ideology. It has to stop.

Robyn Williams, what you do is not science. It’s crass tribal warfare.

Stephan Lewandowsky, skeptics base their arguments on evidence. You are in denial. We don’t deny AIDS or that smoking causes cancer, and we never have. Your tactic of deliberately seeking out a few nutters (or fakes) to interview, then besmirching the names of serious commentators is blatant, obvious and  documented.

Name-calling in order to suppress debate

The class of people who use regulations to control others, rather than persuasion and voluntary competition, have resorted to name calling for years to suppress the free and fair debates that they cannot win. Now they are employing that technique in other areas.

What they road-tested on skeptics, they  now use in the wider political debate against their political opponents — such as Tony Abbott and Alan Jones. With each success they are becoming more loud, aggressive, and obnoxious.

The mainstream media makes this cheap tactic successful.  As long as they promote these anti-science, baseless smears as if they were serious commentary the media is the problem.


Official prediction:  Solar and wind to be the cheapest sources of energy

Just dreams.  I wonder what the heck they are on?  Sounds like potent stuff. 

Nothing comes close to brown coal for cheap energy.  Even "Green" Germany is building more brown coal power plants

SOLAR and wind could become the cheapest sources of energy and almost exclusively power the country in coming decades as carbon prices climb, the Climate Commission says.

A report, to be released today by chief commissioner Professor Tim Flannery, notes the vast potential from sunlight and wind and "solar PV and wind could be the cheapest forms of power in Australia for retail users by 2030, if not earlier, as carbon prices rise".

Prof Flannery said improvements had driven down the cost of renewable energy so much that Australia's uptake had increased more than a decade faster than earlier imagined.

He said people might find it hard to believe communities could one day be powered almost entirely by renewable energy, but people would never have believed they would one day carry around little computers in their pockets.

"It's like anything, computers or mobile phones, they started off expensive and over time the cost just declines and we've seen that with wind and now with solar," he said.

But the report The Critical Decade: Generating a Renewable Australia has no detail around how renewable energy and fossil fuel prices might compare in the future. Prof Flannery said technology moved so quickly, it was impossible to form concrete predictions.

Renewables currently make up 10 per cent of Australia's energy mix and the report says growth was subject to innovation, community acceptance and regulation.


NT Govt in the dark on illegal arrivals

THE Territory Government has yet to be told how many asylum seekers to expect following a decision to hand out 8000 bridging visas.

Chief Minister Terry Mills said he had been "left in the dark" on the issue.

"What we do know is police, fire and ambulance services have already been under strain since the detention centre opened," he said.

The Federal Government is to allow asylum seekers who have arrived in Australia since Canberra announced a return to offshore processing to stay on temporary visas without the right to work.

The new visas will also cover future arrivals and will apply even if a person's refugee claim is successful.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said people could expect to be on the visas for up to five years

The Coalition yesterday said it would overturn the decision if elected next year...


Proposed 17-storey tower will leave St John's Cathedral in its shade, opponents say

I think "heritage" claims are often overdone but St. Johns is a magnificent building.  You feel like you have time-travelled  into the best of the middle ages when you walk into it.  Nothing should be allowed to detract from such a rare gem. It took 100 years to build.  I usually go to the sung eucharist there on Christmas day

A DEVELOPMENT battle looms over a 17-storey high rise proposal that will tower over Brisbane's heritage-listed St John's Cathedral.

The Anglican Church and National Trust oppose the project, saying it contravenes the City Plan which limits buildings to four storeys in that area.

They say a building of that size is too close to the church and will destroy its vistas, which should be protected.

The site is separated from the cathedral by two smaller church buildings, one of which is also heritage listed.

National Trust president Stephen Sheaffe said the application would have a detrimental impact on the best cathedral of its type in the nation.

"The last thing you'd want is a building like the cathedral surrounded by high rises and not being seen from any angle," he said.  "This is an important community building and should be looked after."

Cathedral dean, the Reverend Peter Catt, said St John's was designated one of Queensland's 150 architectural icons during Q150 celebrations in 2009 and its heritage value to the state would be impacted by the project.

National Trust executive director Stewart Armstrong said the high rise would block all views of St John's as people travelled up Ann St and lessen its stature as one of the state's major heritage buildings.

"The City Plan and City Centre Master Plan clearly limit any development on this site to three to four stories," he said.

Consolidated Properties managing director Don O'Rorke, who owns the site, was not available for comment.

Brisbane City Council neighbourhood planning chairwoman Amanda Cooper would not reveal where she stood in the dispute but said the cathedral and its heritage would be protected.  The council would make a decision after final submissions were lodged this week.

Cr Cooper said the site was important because people passed along Ann St as they travelled into the city centre which meant any building must reflect the CBD's overall aesthetic.

"As such, we made provisions in the 2006 Neighbourhood Plan to ensure that any surrounding developments reflected the character of the cathedral," Cr Cooper said.


25 November, 2012

How will we pay for the big dreams of Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan?

by: Terry McCrann

IN Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan, we have a Prime Minister and a Treasurer who dare to dream big dreams, at least in terms of how to spend very large sums of money. The name Gonski and the letters NDIS spring immediately to mind.

Astonishingly, though, they show no interest in the means by which the requisite large sums of money to fund the big dreams can be generated. Indeed, they preside over a government taking active steps to undermine such money generation.

The gap between the government's rhetoric of fiscal stringency and the big spending promises that are being almost casually embraced is obvious and has been criticised by this paper.

Similarly, the individual decisions that damage either the economy broadly, specific industries or geographic locations, or undermine directly or indirectly the core underlying health of the tax base, have also been criticised.

But the observations and analysis have tended to operate separately -- the extravagant spending promises on one hand, the anti-business, anti-growth decisions on the other. Like two hands waving and not clapping.

It is the fact that the two hands are clapping that is or should be really disturbing, as it defines not just how bad this government is but how dangerous it is for our future. As it locks us into huge increases in future government spending while undermining what I call the real tax base.

This threatens to set us up for, at best, chronic and significant budget deficits; or future "budget wars", which will be fought over on the one hand, significant and selectively punishing tax increases, and on the other, significant and selective cuts in government spending.

It will happen in a context which would demand a treasurer like Peter Costello and a budget like his inaugural tough 1996 one. But which is unlikely to find similar circumstances as conducive to taking the tough decisions.

Nor would we be likely to be mugged by quite as much good fortune, comparable to the benefits conveyed by that first really explosive growth of China in the early 2000s.

For those benefits conveyed to us mostly came without countervailing challenges, at least not then; and really helped wash away much of the negativity and pain that would otherwise have flowed from, first, the tough 1996 budget and then, second, the introduction of the GST.

The single biggest new commitment this government has made is to the NDIS, the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The Productivity Commission estimates its cost at $15 billion a year. As we revealed, the Australian Government Actuary has calculated it would grow to $22bn a year by 2018-19.

That alone represents a quantum increase in both the rate of growth of government spending and its absolute level. It would represent something like a 4 per cent increase in outlays, lifting them by nearly 1 per cent of GDP.

On its own the NDIS would likely wipe out any budget surplus -- on the heroic assumption there was a surplus available to be wiped out.

And it would single-handedly destroy the government's hand-on-heart, oft-repeated commitment to keep growth in government spending to just 2 per cent a year in real terms, until the budget was in significant surplus.

The actual commitment is until the surplus is at least 1 per cent of GDP. Today, that would be around $14bn, somewhat higher than the $1.1bn promised in the mid-year update.

It is interesting to note that in the May budget documents, while the 1 per cent surplus target commitment was rigorously stated upfront, later in the document the commitment was stated as "until the budget returns to surplus". Whether this was deliberate or just casually sloppy, with this government, this Treasurer and his office, and this Treasury, both are entirely possible.

Even on the government's own heroic projections of the budget surplus, it is not going to get anywhere near 1 per cent of GDP this side of 2015-16. It only gets, if I can use that word loosely, to 0.4 per cent of GDP in that year.

So how can the government contemplate a measure that would boost spending by 4 per cent in one hit? Unless it also contemplated swingeing cuts elsewhere.

But the NDIS, while clearly the biggest, is not a one-off. There's the $5bn a year promised to implement the Gonski recommendations on education, the dental scheme, starting small and growing who knows how big, the raft of commitments -- promises? -- on new defence hardware, multi-billion expenditures on submarines, destroyers and fighters, to name just the biggest.

Then there's the raft of measures that sit between the two hands, so to speak. That on the one hand will cost money -- compensating for the closure of so much of Australia's waters to commercial fishery, buying back water along the Murray-Darling.

While on the other hand, make their direct contribution to undermining the tax base. It does not seemed to have occurred to our fiscal mastermind that if you close down industry that previously operated in those spaces, you reduce your tax revenues.

The biggest anti-(real) tax base measure is of course the carbon tax. The whole purpose of the tax is to close down or reduce the activities of certain businesses and industries. Fine. They will pay less taxes in general and ultimately less carbon tax specifically.

The Treasurer probably thinks, as does Treasury and any number of economists, that the carbon tax broadens the tax base. The nominal tax base, obviously yes. Just as imposing a special tax on, say, the winnings of high-rollers at casinos would.

But in both cases -- the actual one of the carbon tax, my hypothetical example of casinos -- at the cost of undermining the real tax base. What is provided by a healthy, growing economy that is not artificially handicapped.

The mining tax sits in a bizarre space all of its own, threatening to raise little or no revenue, while "succeeding" in discouraging future development and in the process undermining the real tax base.

This is not just about budget chaos and the inevitability of continuing perhaps serious deficits under a Gillard-Swan government. The bifurcation between extravagant spending promises and anti-growth and anti-business policies actively threatens our future prosperity. Indeed, our future generally.


Green/Left accused of keeping Aborigines in poverty

THE Aboriginal academic Marcia Langton has accused the left of standing in the way of indigenous advancement, consigning the nation's first peoples to lives of poverty.

In her second Boyer lecture, an extract of which is published in the Herald, Professor Langton argues the environmental movement has emerged as "one of the most difficult of all the obstacles hindering Aboriginal economic development".

"Among the left and among those opinion leaders who hang on to the idea of the new 'noble savage', Aboriginal poverty is invisible, masked by a 'wilderness' ideology," Professor Langton argues in the lecture, which will be broadcast on Sunday.

"Whenever an Aboriginal group negotiates with a resource extraction company there is an unspoken expectation that no Aboriginal group should become engaged in any economic development. They only tolerate Aboriginal people living on their own land as caretakers of wilderness, living in poverty and remaining uneducated and isolated."

Professor Langton, the chairwoman of Australian indigenous studies at the University of Melbourne, attacks environmental campaigners who teamed with dissident Aboriginal groups to oppose development at Jabiluka in western Arnhem Land and elsewhere "not because of impacts on Aboriginal people but to preserve nature and 'wilderness"'.

"Whether Aboriginal groups had projects imposed on them or negotiated successful settlements, these professional protesters, supported by sophisticated non-government organisations funded by a gullible public, accused Aboriginal leaders of 'selling out'. Not once have they campaigned against Aboriginal poverty. They assume that this is the normal for the natives.

"Time and again, native title groups have spent years getting an agreement with a resource company over the line, negotiating income streams that might shift indigenous people from the margins to the centre of regional economic development in return for land access, only for a ragtag team of 'wilderness' campaigners to turn up with an entourage of disaffected Aboriginal protesters to stop development at the eleventh hour."

She accuses Labor of taking Aboriginal voters for granted since the days of the Whitlam government but says this changed with the election of the West Australian Liberal MP Ken Wyatt as the first indigenous member of the House of Representatives, and the defeat of the Labor government in this year's Northern Territory election, largely due to the disaffection of indigenous voters in bush seats.

Professor Langton says the territory result challenged mainstream perceptions of the marginal power of the Aboriginal vote and demonstrated the Country Liberal Party - once rabidly opposed to Aboriginal rights - had changed its colour.

Professor Langton's lecture will be broadcast on ABC Radio National on Sunday at 5pm and will be available at


Weather forecasting a shambles in Australia too

A NEW $30 million meteorology forecasting and warning system has failed in its key aim of freeing up staff to focus on severe weather events.

The NexGen FWS computerised system is being rolled out nationwide over five years with Queensland the second-last state or territory to get it in late 2013.

Federal Sustainability parliamentary secretary Don Farrell said the timing was deliberate to allow additional development to cater for the more complex weather in tropical areas such as cyclones.

In making its case for the NexGen FWS system to be included in the 2009-10 Budget, the Bureau of Meteorology argued that it would "provide additional time for forecasters to focus on activities such as the prediction of high-impact weather events".

But a major independent review of the bureau's capacity by Clean Energy Regulator Chloe Munro, commissioned after the 2010-11 summer of disaster, found it failed to deliver.

Unlike a system introduced by the UK's MetOffice, NexGen still requires forecasters to spend time editing automated text and images.

"While automation has enabled forecasting offices to meet greater demand for day-to-day forecasting services with current staff levels, there is no evidence that it has freed up forecaster time in a way that augments capacity to respond to severe weather events," the June report says.

Of the 500 employees classified as "meteorologists", only 220 of them had the necessary qualifications to work as "operational meteorologists" and 100 of those were employed in aviation and defence support roles, leaving just 120 frontline staff across seven regional offices.

Overall, 10 per cent to 15 per cent of text forecasts generated by NexGen FWS were altered by forecasters.

The bureau has been criticised for failing to give specific warning of the intense storm cell that hit Brisbane last Saturday until 20 minutes after it happened.

Three months ago the Crime and Misconduct Commission, in its report on the performance of dam engineers during the fatal floods of January 2011, noted that the bureau failed to issue a flood warning for the Lockyer Valley and Gatton until an hour after the disaster despite Weatherwatch forecaster Anthony Cornelius highlighting the danger four hours earlier.


In Soviet Australia defence is welfare

I’m not sure whether Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare is a fan of ‘in Soviet Russia’ jokes, but I’m hoping there is a punch line somewhere in his recent speech at a Submarine Institute of Australia conference.

Talking about the $40 billion Future Submarine project (which will replace our six ailing Collins Class subs with 12 Future subs) the Minister noted, ‘We are not just building 12 submarines – we are building an industry … that could potentially last for a century or more.’ The Future Submarine project is billed as the ‘biggest and most complex defence project’ ever undertaken in Australia. Yet apparently that level of complexity is not sufficient – it now also needs to create and support an entire industry for a century.

In the rest of the world, defence safeguards the welfare of citizens. In Soviet Australia, it seems defence is welfare for some groups (companies in politically sensitive industries and regions).

Unless you are a Bond villain, grand schemes should be a last resort, not the first choice. How can one justify starting an extremely risky nation-building project ‘potentially the same size as the national broadband network’ without examining all options?

In my recent paper I made it clear that I believe Australia should investigate leasing US nuclear submarines. This position has received a great deal of support – and a fair bit of criticism, particularly from those who want to see the submarines built in Australia.

Debate on the relative complexities and capabilities of submarine options is fine, as is consideration of issues such as safety and strategic objectives. However, what should not be acceptable is blindly supporting local jobs, especially not with this price tag.

Australians need to start asking hard questions on government spending. Do we need home-built subs more than we need the National Disability Insurance Scheme? Call it the ‘NDIS test’ – is this cause more worthy than wheelchairs for kids with disabilities?

When seen in that light, corporate welfare doesn’t look like such a good idea, does it?


23 November, 2012

A conservative politician shows up the bureaucracy

Liberal MP Ivan Venning has followed through on a promise to personally paint a public road bridge in his electorate.  He said the South Australian Government had taken too long to get around to it.

The MP and a team of volunteers started painting the bridge in the south of Nuriootpa on Thursday and expected to finish within a day or so.

The Government said paint on the bridge handrails contained lead and its removal needed to be managed professionally.

But Mr Venning said he had taken all the right precautions.

"We did put down sheets, big plastic sheets, and even where it was worst we didn't get half a cupful of dust," he said.  "We sanded it off by hand, so in other words it didn't go anywhere, it just fell straight down onto our sheets.  "We had respirators there and I had an industrial vacuum cleaner there as well. And now we've filled it with modern paint."

Mr Venning said the job was originally costed at $600,000 by authorities, but he thinks his group can do it for about $2,000.


PM faces new claims over union past

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard knew about a $150,000 Slater and Gordon mortgage for a property used by union fraudster Bruce Wilson more than two years before the date she admitted to knowing about it in an interview with the firm's management, a former senior partner claims.

In the latest revelation in the Australian Workers Union scandal, Nick Styant-Browne also revealed there was "deep disquiet" among S&G's top-tier management about some of Ms Gillard's conduct as a lawyer acting for the AWU.

And pressure on the Prime Minister over her role in the 17-year-old union scandal is expected to intensify today when former AWU official Ralph Blewitt will meet Victorian fraud squad detectives to provide extensive information about the fraud, involving up to $1 million in misappropriated funds.

Mr Styant-Browne, speaking from his US home, told the ABC's 7.30 program that he was speaking out to challenge a "stunningly incomplete account" by Slater and Gordon of Ms Gillard's departure from the law firm in late 1995.

The lawyer released new documents, including previously unseen portions of the transcripts from Ms Gillard's "exit" interview which he suggested challenged comments made by the PM to her former firm.

His claims revolve around a $150,000 mortgage provided by the law firm for the purchase of a Melbourne property in 1993. The Fitzroy property was purchased in the name of Ralph Blewitt, who subsequently signed a Power of Attorney to Mr Wilson. The document was witnessed by Ms Gillard, who was in a romantic relationship with the union fraudster from 1991 to 1995.

According to Mr Styant-Browne, Ms Gillard "claimed in the interview in 1995 that the first she heard about the Slater and Gordon loan for the acquisition of the Kerr Street property was in about August of (1995)".

But he said documents showed there was "no doubt that Ms Gillard knew about the mortgage from Slater and Gordon in March of 1993 (and) was specifically involved in taking steps to facilitate that mortgage".

"That is a matter of documents, it's not a matter of assertion and hearsay," he said.

Last night, the Prime Minister's office said there was "no contradiction" between Ms Gillard's recollection of the mortgage documents and the claims made by Mr Styant-Browne.

"Ms Gillard has no recollection of seeing the correspondence from the Commonwealth Bank dated 23 March 1993," a spokesperson for the PM said.

"Ms Gillard stands by her statements in the Slater and Gordon interview of 11 September 1995 as her best recollection of events two and a half years earlier."

Opposition deputy leader Julie Bishop said Ms Gillard's stance on the AWU scandal was "increasingly untenable" and called on her to make a full statement to parliament next week.

Mr Blewitt is expected to outline key details about his knowledge of the AWU Workplace Reform Association the $400,000 "slush" fund used by Mr Wilson.

Mr Blewitt is also expected to tell fraud squad detectives about Ms Gillard's role in helping to establish the Association and discuss how certain monies from the fund were spent.


Australia Defends Tough Media Detention Center Restrictions

SYDNEY — Australian immigration officials have defended restrictions that limit press access to detention centers.  While the media are barred from offshore processing camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, journalists are allowed into facilities on the mainland but are subject to strict rules and barred from formally interviewing detainees.

Eighteen months ago the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said that the country’s immigration centers were “less open and transparent than Guantanamo Bay.”

Since then, the Immigration Department has given reporters limited access to detention facilities under a Deed of Agreement on media access.

Journalists are permitted to speak with detainees but are not given permission to formally interview them or record their comments, nor are they allowed to publish images of inmates’ faces.

Immigration officials say the restrictions are in place to protect the privacy of asylum seekers, in much the same way that school children or hospital patients have their privacy protected from the press in Australia.

While reporters are allowed to visit mainland immigration facilities, they are barred from recently reopened camps in Papua New Guinea and on the tiny South Pacific island of Nauru, which houses asylum seekers from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan.

Senior Australian immigration department spokesman, Sandi Logan, told a forum at the University of Technology Sydney that he hoped the press will eventually be allowed in.

“I have got to say that operationally there are much greater priorities for us in Nauru at the moment than a media access policy. But having said that, I think it is absolutely essential that journalists have access to that facility and likewise to the facility in Papua New Guinea, and that will be something that in time, in time, will be negotiated.  And when those two parties i.e. the government of Australia and the government of Nauru have agreed on the settings, the parameters for that media access then it would be my expectation that will occur," said Logan.

Australian journalists say that the Deed of Agreement that governs visits to detention centers is too restrictive, and prevents them from telling the true story of conditions behind the razor wire fences.

The head of the Australian Press Council, Julian Disney, says the public does have a right to know.

“People in those detention centers are there because of government policies," he said. "They are the policies adopted by the governments we have elected and they are having a very substantial impact on people, even if those people are not our citizens.  Therefore as citizens of Australia people are entitled to know what the impact of their government policies are.  But we think there are substantial ways in which these restrictions go too far.”

Since the restrictions were brought in a year ago, about 50 journalists, including reporters from Switzerland and Germany, have toured mainland immigration centers in Australia.

It is unclear when press access will be granted to Australia’s two offshore detention centers on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, which reopened Wednesday, and another on the tiny South Pacific republic of Nauru, which reopened in September.

Both facilities were used by the former conservative government in Australia.  In the past critics derided the policy as cruel and ineffective, and they are taking aim once again. 

Amnesty International this week said conditions on Nauru were responsible for a "terrible spiral" of hunger strikes and suicide attempts.

Australia grants protection visas to about 13,000 refugees each year under a range of international agreements.


Illegals getting a hard time

A storm in Nauru has caused quite a bit of flood damage to the island and the processing centre for refugees living in tents. Fairfax Media. Photo: Angela Wylie. November 22 2012.

Wet, wet, wet: Tropical downpours have caused flooding and damage in Nauru's detention centre. Photo: Angela Wylie

TORRENTIAL rain left parts of the Nauru detention centre underwater on Thursday in what Amnesty International described as vindication of their assessment of conditions at the centre as "totally unacceptable".

"Some spots of the camp were under nearly a foot of water," Amnesty's Graham Thom told Fairfax after visiting the centre. "Shoes were floating on the water, some of the tent floorboards were floating. It was extraordinary how much like a pond the front of some of the tents had become in a very quick period of time."

The heavy rain followed a reported suicide attempt at the centre by an Iranian asylum seeker on Wednesday night after the Gillard government announced that many of the asylum seekers who have arrived since offshore processing resumed would be released into the community on bridging visas.

Immigration officials confirmed an "incident of attempted self-harm" at the centre, saying the injuries were minor and the man had been treated on site, where 387 asylum seekers are accommodated in tents.

Refugee advocates said the Iranian tried to take his life after hearing of the new policy under which the "no advantage" principle intended to apply to those sent to Nauru has been adapted for those who will remain in Australia. They said that the injured man had been taken to the facility's medical centre and remained separated from other detainees.

Amnesty officials, who were at the centre as asylum seekers became aware of the news, reported that many asylum seekers were in a highly anxious state, and asking why they had been sent to Nauru, when others who arrived at the same time would be released into the community.

Despite assurances that they would be allowed to photograph detainees and conditions inside the centre on Thursday, the Amnesty officials were refused permission to record any images.

Dr Thom said the theme of interviews with asylum seekers over the past three days was how unfair they considered their situation. "They said, 'Look at what we have been going through for the last few months, and now it's even worse for us'.

"A lot of them said, 'We're happy those people are going to be out in the community, but why have we been forgotten? Why have we been cast aside, pushed into a corner? Why are we locked up like this?' Again and again, they just spoke of the injustice of the situation."

There was also despair after Immigration Minister Chris Bowen confirmed that they could be waiting five years before being resettled in Australia if their claims for refugee status are upheld.

"I think the news came as a real kick in the guts to the guys inside," Dr Thom said. "Those aware of the five years said, 'Come and look where we live? How can we stay like this for five years? We are going to die here."'

Aside from the uncertainty of their situations, Dr Thom said that the leaking tents had left many with wet bedding and led to skin conditions before Thursday's heavy rain.


Fair Work Ombudsman extorting bosses with threat of legal costs

AN EMPLOYER has agreed to make a public apology and repay more than $17,000 owed to one of his staff rather than endure litigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman in a rising trend among workplaces to avoid court.

Giacomo Ferretti will take out an advertisement in the Herald and pay nearly three times the $6600 maximum penalty that could have been imposed if the matter had gone to court after he admitted to terminating his employee's contract without paying out his annual leave.

The employee had been retained as a senior mechanical engineer at Mr Ferretti's engineering, design and consultancy business, Enjenia Services, which went into liquidation in March.

Mr Ferretti's act of contrition is one of 34 "enforced undertakings" that the Ombudsman has negotiated since they were introduced into law in 2009.

Among them, Coles has donated $20,000 to a program that educates pregnant women about their rights at work and James Hardie has contributed $10,000 to support workers with disabilities.

In each case, the recipients of their generosity were far from coincidental.

Coles had moved a pregnant employee into a more menial job, with a lower salary, when it was concerned she could not do heavy lifting as her pregnancy advanced.

James Hardie rescinded its offer of employment to a business development manager after he did not pass a medical exam, even though his disabilities were not relevant to the job.

The Ombudsman has also required two employers – Cotton On and Sadamatsu Katsuyoshi, who operated the Japanese restaurant Masuya in Sydney – to publish apologies on the Facebook walls of their businesses.


22 November, 2012

Asylum-seeker flood sinks Australian Labor Party's offshore processing policy

THE Gillard government has admitted its Pacific Solution has been overwhelmed, declaring asylum-seekers arriving since the policy was announced will be allowed to live in the Australian community.

As Papua New Guinea's Manus Island processing centre received its first detainees today, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen conceded Nauru and Manus would not be able to accommodate all the asylum-seekers intercepted since the August 13 policy announcement.

He said the government's new “no-advantage” principle would therefore have to be applied to the overflow of unauthorised arrivals brought to Australia.

The principle requires asylum-seekers to wait for a refugee visa for as long as they would have if they had waited offshore to be settled through official channels.

“Accordingly, some of these people will be processed in the Australian community,” Mr Bowen said in Sydney.

“They will not, however, be issued with a permanent protection visa if found to be a refugee, until such time that they would have been resettled in Australia after being processed in our region,” Mr Bowen said.

“People arriving by boat are subject to this `no advantage' principle, whether that means being transferred offshore to have their claims processed, remaining in detention, or being placed in the community.”

Asylum-seekers settled in the community will be placed on bridging visas without work rights and would receive only basic accommodation assistance, Mr Bowen said.

Nauru and Manus Island will accommodate about 2100 asylum-seekers when at full capacity.

About 7000 asylum-seekers have arrived since the new Pacific Solution was announced.

Mr Bowen said all post-August 13 unauthorised arrivals would be processed according on the no-disadvantage principle, even if they were processed in Australia.

He said their status as offshore entrants would be unchanged, and “consideration can be given to transfer these people offshore at a future date”.

A charter flight arrived on Manus Island early today from Christmas Island with 19 asylum-seekers aboard.

The group of seven families from Sri Lanka and Iran, including 15 adults and four children, were accompanied by Australian Federal Police officers, Department of Immigration personnel, interpreters and medical staff.

Mr Bowen also announced the transfer of 100 Sri Lankan men back to Colombo today, the ninth and largest involuntary removal to date.

The transfers come amid growing unrest on Nauru, where 387 asylum-seekers are housed in conditions that have been condemned by Amnesty International.

The human rights body has also expressed concern about nine asylum-seekers who have been on a hunger strike, including one who has not eaten for 40 days.

Tony Abbott said he was “all in favour” of offshore processing but did not believe Labor's plan would stop the boats.

“This government just doesn't have its heart in it,” Mr Abbott said.

“And for this government to say, oh look at the (19) that have gone to Manus when you've got 2000-plus coming every month demonstrates that they just don't get it.”

The Opposition Leader said people who came to Australia could not expect “to be treated like they are staying in a four or five star hotel”.

“The people who have come illegally to this country need to know that they are breaking our laws and that they are, if I may say so, taking unfair advantage of our decency as a people,” Mr Abbott said.

“It is illegal to come to Australia without papers, without proper documentation, without adhering to the normal requirements that we expect of people coming to this country.”


It's offensive to be called Australian?

Few Australians would think so

A CZECH-BORN woman has been found guilty of racially abusing her New Zealand-born neighbour by calling her a "stupid, fat Australian".

The Daily Mail reports that the row started after New Zealander Chelsea O'Reilly called the police following a fight between her neighbour Petra Mills and her husband in Macclesfield, England.

Ms O'Reilly said: "She called me a stupid, fat Australian b****. Because of my accent there can be some confusion over my nationality. She knew I was from New Zealand.

"She was trying to be offensive. I was really insulted. She said she would kill my dog. Bizarrely she then blew raspberries at me like a child."

Ms Mills said she did yell at Ms O'Reilly but that "it had nothing to do with racism". "I did not use the word Australian. I used to live with an Australian person. She was very nice," Ms Mills said.

Judge Brian Donohue however saw things differently.  "The word Australian was used. It was racially aggravated and the main reason it was used was in hostility," he said.

She was fined 110 pounds ($168) for racially aggravated public disorder, 50 pounds to be awarded to Ms O'Reilly and 500 pounds to cover all court costs.

Ms Mills and her husband have since moved away from Macclesfield.



Three current articles below

The fine art of scaring children

by Tony Thomas

Ballarat has a great art gallery, with its original architecture and gold-financed 19th century acquisitions. I was stooging around there last week after enjoying its show on floral illustrations, dating back to William Dampier.In the main halls it has an “art trail” for children, directing them to half a dozen works. Each has a screed alongside backgrounding the painting and giving the kids some quizzes.

So far so good…until I began reading those screeds.

The first involved an aquatic storm scene by ship captain-turned-artist Johan Bennetter (1886), A Bore on the Hooghli. Sailing ships and lifeboats thrash about amid surges and spume under a furious sky. (A “bore” is a storm surge after a very low tide).

The screed quickly cuts to the chase:

“Climate change, bringing with it an increase in extreme weather and rising sea levels, means that phenomena like the famous bores on the Hooghli at the Bay of Bengal now threaten the lives and livelihoods of literally hundreds of millions of people. This is one of the places in the world most vulnerable to catastrophe arising out of rapid rises in sea level…

What other changes in natural phenomena do you know of as a result of global warming?

How will predicted climate change affect your life?”

Hmmm. The author may be referring to the prediction in 2005 by the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) of 50 million “climate refugees” by 2010.[1] An astute reporter for Asian Correspondent realized last year that the prediction had fallen due, but not a single “climate refugee” could be identified. Embarrassed, UNEP and its scientific boosters furtively rubbed out their map of 50 million climate refugees, circa 2010, and shifted the year out to 2020.

Let us move on to the next way-station along the kiddie-art climate trail.

At Kiddie Station 2 we find David Davies (1890), Under the Burden and Heat of the Day, which shows a swaggie  near-collapsed from heat and being offered a mug of water by his fellow swaggie in the red shirt.

The screed:

“…Australia is getting hotter and climate change has arrived. There is more on the way, but how much of an increase will depend on us. How do we cope with such heat? Massive air conditioner use threatens peak electrical supply while the electricity used to power them comes mainly from coal. Greenhouse gases are produced to cope with the symptoms of existing greenhouse gases – we are kelpies chasing our tails on a hot day.

Renewable energy, better house design and a reduction in the atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases will all be needed if we are going to beat the heat…

How can we keep cool without making demands on energy supplies? How do we know whether our individual actions make a difference?”

It was a fairly hot day outside but cool inside the gallery. Reason: It is air-conditioned.[2] [3]

Kiddie Station 3. A modern work: Tony Cran (2007) – “We’ve come for what’s ours” . This shows a kangaroo, a reindeer and a wolf on the coastline, two of them brandishing a eucalypt swatch.

Our narrator tells the kids:

“In this vision we have poisoned our environment with toxic waste and used up all the natural resources until the earth could no longer support us…In this painting, people are just a memory. The earth has survived and with it some of the plants and animals which lived in harmony with nature, only taking what they needed and adapting…

We have become reckless with our consumption, buying bigger and better things with more and more packaging [blah blah, insert here more Greens Party boilerplate].

Who should be responsible for the effects of our heavy consumption of resources? How can we reduce the cost of sustaining our natural resources?”

To me, this draws the long bow. For a start, although "people are just a memory", a lighthouse in the background is still lit up. Maybe the reindeer is maintaining it. Second, it’s nice that the three animals are living in harmony with nature, only taking what they need. Let’s hope for the ’roo and reindeer’s sake that this particular wolf is a vegetarian.


High chance of above-average rainfall for southeast Queensland until February

Wot??  No drought.  Warmists are united in saying the the drought in parts of the USA is due to global warming so surely Australia should be having drought too?  I hate to mention it, but Australia IS part of the globe!

THE chances of southeast Queensland and eastern NSW receiving above median rainfall from next month to February are 60 per cent to 75 per cent.

National Climate Centre climatologist Andrew Watkins said the forecast for potentially wetter than average conditions was because it was the wettest time of year for the southeast and an expectation that moisture would be dragged across the continent by warmer Indian Ocean temperatures.

"It will be wetter than the last forecast period but even though it will be above median odds, it will be nothing like (La Nina years) 2010-11," Dr Watkins said.

Chances of a drought-bearing El Nino occurring had reduced over the past two months and the Pacific ocean had cooled to neutral levels.  It will be the first neutral summer since 2005-06.

Sea surface temperatures in the Indian ocean off the West Australian coast were the equal second warmest on record for October.  A warm Indian Ocean is associated with increased summer rainfall over eastern parts of the continent and large parts of WA.

It and a powerful La Nina were the major factors in floods last year and in 2010.


Greens support sliding away in Tasmania

Tassie is the stronghold of the Greens in Oz

THE Tasmanian Greens and their leader Nick McKim have suffered a major slump in popularity, according to the latest EMRS poll.

At the same time that the Tasmanian Liberals have continued a strong showing in the polls, Mr McKim's approval rating as preferred premier and that of his party have dropped to the lowest levels since the March 2010 election when the Greens formed government with Labor.

The Opposition's push for a majority government also appears to be working, with the figures showing that for the first time since August 2011, the gap between support for the Liberal Party and the cumulative support of Labor and Greens has widened.

The poll of 1000 Tasmanians undertaken between November 12 and 16 shows support for Labor had remained steady while the Greens slumped by seven percentage points.

Coming off the back of calls for Mr McKim to be kicked out of Cabinet for linking forest protesters to Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, the Greens leader's approval rating as preferred premier dropped from 15 per cent to 11 per cent, down from 17 per cent in May this year.

Ms Giddings approval rating as preferred premier grew 3 per cent to 25 per cent while Mr Hodgman's went to 47 per cent, up from 45 per cent in August but down from 48 per cent in November last year.

Support for the Liberal Party returned to that seen in August 2011, 55 per cent, largely on the back of a decrease in support for the Greens.

Ms Giddings said the Liberals' strong showing was the result of a strong advertising campaign off the back of tobacco donations. "It just goes to show what $40,000 of tobacco donation money can buy you in months and months worth of TV advertising," Ms Giddings said. "I believe you are also seeing people don't accept the glib one-liners from Will Hodgman."

Mr McKim said the poll had highlighted the volatility of opinion polls. "The Greens are not a poll-driven party," he said. "We will always act based on our values and what we believe is right, no matter what the polls are saying."

Will Hodgman said the poll showed that Tasmanians saw the Labor-Green experiment as failing. "It's clear that only the Liberals can deliver the strong, stable majority government that Tasmania needs."


21 November, 2012

Environmental activists want control of primary industry

Environmental activists plan to control the way all Australian primary produce is harvested and marketed, Queensland Senator Ron Boswell has warned. Senator Boswell said environmental non-government organisations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) wanted all primary producers to pay for “sustainability certification” before their products could be marketed.

“It is by no means far?fetched to say that WWF and other ENGOs fully intend that all food and fibre products harvested in Australia will be forced to go through one of their cash-producing sustainability certification schemes,” he said. “Last year, WWF International stated it was focusing on commodities including beef, bio?energy, cotton, dairy, farmed fish, palm oil, pulp and paper, soy, sugar cane, timber and wild?caught fish. It intended to target companies such as commodity traders, manufacturers, retailers and banks, insisting they deal only with producers endorsed by WWF.

“In Australia, we have already seen WWF sustainability certification bodies established or projected in a number of primary production areas: for example, forestry, fishing, and now beef. “I believe these schemes raise issues of fundamental importance about how Australia will be governed in future – certainly about how food, fibre and timber products will be harvested.”

Senator Boswell said a common tactic by ENGOs involved environmental blackmail, commonly referred to as “green?mail”. “This involves action to devalue the public perception of the brand name or reputation of producers and retailers to pressure them to adopt certification systems developed by ENGOs. That way, ENGOs are able to control the supply chain.”

Senator Boswell made these statements today while speaking on the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill, which he said could force timber producers and processors to join a sustainability certification scheme.

“The growth of ENGO-controlled certification bodies highlights an apparent abdication of responsibility by the current federal government for making important decisions about primary production.

Received from Qld. Senator Boswell

Fed. Govt pushes savage new discrimination law

THE federal government plans to simplify national laws that will include a discrimination ban on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The measures are outlined in an exposure draft that Attorney-General Nicola Roxon will release on Tuesday.

Labor made an election promise in 2010 to consolidate discrimination laws from five acts down to one.

"I think many business groups will welcome this because instead of having to comply with five different laws at the commonwealth level, there will be one," Ms Roxon told ABC Radio.  "It's actually a really good opportunity for people to enhance their processes but in a way that's very simple for people to understand."

Australian Greens leader Christine Milne said she was interested in seeing details of the proposed changes.

"We want to make sure that it really will enable people to take action more easily," she told reporters in Canberra.  "I am pleased that they are expanding the areas of discrimination to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."

Senator Milne said she hoped it would lead to the government abandoning its discrimination against same-sex marriage.

Her colleague Sarah Hanson-Young said the move was welcome but there should not be any "out clauses".  "If religious organisations want to continue to discriminate against people just because of who they are, then I just don't think that's right," she said.  "I don't think the majority of Australians think that's right."

Finance Minister Penny Wong dismissed criticism the proposed changes would give too much power in discrimination cases to complainants.

She told Sky News the changes would allow a commissioner to dismiss discrimination cases that were without merit earlier, while making cases with merit easier to pursue.

Shadow attorney-general spokesman George Brandis acknowledged there was an obvious argument for a single consolidated anti-discrimination statute.  But he was very concerned about reports the onus of proof would be reversed, saying that would be a bad thing.

"It violates the whole principle upon which our justice system has always operated," he told Sky News.  "That is that if you make an allegation against someone, it's for you to demonstrate that they have done the wrong thing, not for them to prove that they have done the right thing."

Senator Brandis warned the change could result in a huge increase in claims.  "Do we want many, many more complaints tying up the courts, particularly when the onus of proof is thrown on people to prove their innocence - I don't think so," he said.


Amazing legal fees in a divorce  -- now in contention

The whole law firm is in the gun over the deeds of one rogue partner

FOUR top lawyers have blamed their former business partner for a divorcee's $4.12 million legal bill and claim he alone should have to repay it.

The group, from Donaldson Walsh Lawyers, has moved to distance itself from Australia's most expensive divorce case by offering an out-of-court settlement.

They have promised to pay the woman $800,000  but say the remainder of her refund must come from their former partner, Alan Branch.

Since 2005, the woman - who cannot be named - has been embroiled in divorce proceedings with her ex-husband. The former couple has spent a combined $36.5 million on lawyers and court fees during their dispute.

In 2010, The Advertiser revealed the woman was suing Donaldson Walsh over the services it had provided during the case, for which she was billed $4.12 million.

She said the firm needlessly generated 23,000 documents and 480,000 computer files - enough to fill 182 archive boxes - about the matter.

She asked the court to review her bill and determine how much she should have to pay.

Court documents obtained by The Advertiser show the woman has been offered a settlement by Donaldson Walsh partners Karl Luke, Alastair Donaldson, William Esau and John Walsh.

The documents say each has paid her $200,000 and offered to give evidence against Mr Branch - who was the principal on her case - in court. In an affidavit, Mr Branch says dividing up any alleged responsibility for the bill is unfair. "In April 2009 I suffered an illness and later was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome," he says.

"Doctors have certified it is difficult to predict when I may return to full health and (they) do not consider I am fit to return to work."

In a ruling contained on the court file, Judge Robert Lunn says splitting the case is inappropriate. "It is not consistent with the exercise of supervisory jurisdiction that the Court should be asked to make one partner responsible for the propriety of what has been done by the firm as a whole," he says.

"It is also inconsistent ... that a former client should be permitted to seek to recover, from that one partner, any overcharging."


Sentence changed in Facebook sex ratings case

Sounds like a heavier sentence for what was, after all just an expression of opinion

A man has had his suspended prison sentence quashed after he created a Facebook page rating the sexual performance of central Victorian women.

Bendigo man Joshua Turner, 25, pleaded guilty to using a carriage service to offend and to publishing objectionable material online.

During the case the prosecution told the court Turner set up the page with a friend after seeing similar pages for other towns online.

The court heard there was public outcry about the page, prompting police to remove it from Facebook and lay charges.

The youngest victim in the case was just 16.

Turner received a six-month suspended prison term in July and was banned from using Facebook for two years.

But today a County Court judge overturned his sentence and instead imposed an 18-month community corrections order and 100 hours of community service.


20 November, 2012

50 more Sri Lankans turned away from Australia

A FURTHER 50 Sri Lankan asylum-seekers have been forcibly sent home as the government struggles to cope with record boat arrivals.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen yesterday confirmed the largest involuntary transfer to Colombo to occur since Labor's tough new processing regime took effect on August 13.

"This latest group takes to 282 the number of Sri Lankans returned involuntarily," a statement from Mr Bowen read.

"The men were advised of their status and that they were subject to removal from Australia."

This year there has been a dramatic spike in the number of Sri Lankan arrivals, resulting in the continued returns to Colombo.

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare last night confirmed two new boat arrivals, with a combined 195 asylum-seekers on board. A third boat, carrying 53 asylum-seekers was intercepted on Saturday.

The vessel brought to 247 the number of boats to arrive in Australian waters this year, carrying 15,504 passengers, according to Customs. Detention centres continue to be swamped by detainees.

Last night 2224 asylum-seekers were being housed on Christmas Island, well over the planned capacity of 1500.

The Australian understands tents are being used at the facility for recreational purposes, but no asylum-seekers are sleeping in the makeshift accommodation.

Mainland detention centres are also near or at capacity, with tents also being used for recreational purposes.

At the tented facility on Nauru, tensions are continuing to escalate with another asylum-seeker being admitted to hospital as part of a hunger strike. Last week an Iranian asylum-seeker by the name of Omid was transferred to Nauru hospital after more than a month of voluntary starvation.

The Refugee Action Coalition's Ian Rintoul said an Iraqi had been admitted to hospital yesterday after eight days of starvation and kidney failure.

A total of 387 asylum-seekers are being housed on Nauru, with the latest transfer occurring last Monday.

Labor says transfers to Papua New Guinea's Manus Island will occur "shortly".


Backlog at Forensic and Scientific Services leaves justice on hold

HUGE workloads and staff shortages at the state's forensic testing facility are causing chronic delays in the criminal justice system and compromising community safety.

Despite ongoing denials of a backlog by Queensland Health, new evidence obtained by The Courier-Mail under Right to Information laws shows scientists from Forensic and Scientific Services are warning that the state's most dangerous sex offenders are at risk of re-offending because the scientists are unable to meet court deadlines.

Reports show chiefs from the facility, formerly known as the John Tonge Centre, held regular high-level meetings to try to deal with the backlog.

"MKE and GG met with [FSS senior director] Greg Shaw to discuss the current stats/backlog and what we are doing to combat the backlog," minutes of a meeting between FSS managers for May 29 state.

Minutes from another meeting state: "The workload in clan labs remains at an unsustainably higher level. Situation will get worse as a result of (a) number of staff taking long service leave."

When The Courier-Mail asked about the backlog in May, Mr Shaw denied one existed. The Queensland Health documents show in toxicology alone, 600 cases were outstanding as of February this year. Of those, 123 were older than three months and 28 were older than six months.

"Turnaround times have been increasing since June 2011 due to the loss of four experienced staff," minutes from an inter-departmental working group committee meeting chaired by Coroner Michael Barnes on February 15 state.

In September, the State Government axed 74 jobs at FSS.

That was six months after FSS team leader Mark Stephenson warned staff shortages were causing a delay in confirming drug testing.

"Not meeting court dates and leaving offenders in the community, especially those from the Dangerous Prisoners and Sex Offenders program, is a high risk which could lead to negative media attention," he wrote in a business case recommending the appointment of more forensic toxicology staff in February this year.

The forensic toxicology laboratory tests for drugs, alcohol and poisons in deceased people, and also tests samples of drug and drink drivers, along with people on parole or in jail.

Mr Stephenson said workloads for urine drug testing of samples had increased three-fold from about 4500 to 12,000 since 2003.

"In this time permanent staffing numbers have remained essentially constant," he wrote in the submission.

"This increase is mainly due to the expansion of the standard testing program as well as the introduction of random community drug testing by Probation and Parole."

Mr Stephenson said temporary technicians had been brought in to help but it wasn't enough. "These temporary appointments were based on figures from 2007; current numbers are double those of 2007."

Chief Justice Paul de Jersey and the Queensland Police Union complained of delays in forensic testing in recent months but Health Minister Lawrence Springborg this week said there were no backlogs, despite the documentation.


Attack on the confessional is stupid

Waleed Aly

WHO says politicians can't sing in unison? This week we have seen the full array of politicians - Green, Labor, Liberal and independent - lining up to dismantle the Catholic Church's institution of sealed confession. The idea that a priest could hear another priest's confession of child sex abuse, and fail to report it to the authorities is, says Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, "really abhorrent". New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell "just can't fathom" it. Independent Nick Xenophon brands it "a mediaeval law that needs to change in the 21st century".

No freedom-of-religion argument can succeed against this. The secular liberalism that defines our public culture simply won't accept it for one simple reason: religious freedom ends where harm to other people begins. And it's a rare kind of harm that is more horrific than children being raped.

The church can argue all it likes that the confessional seal is "inviolable". But what obligation does the secular state have to canon law? What interest does the state have in ensuring people can receive absolution? The church simply has no answer to this. Hence the spectacle of practising Catholics such as Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne jumping on the anti-confessional bandwagon. There's just no politically viable alternative.

But here's the problem: the whole issue of the confessional seal is a monstrous red herring. This becomes clear once you pay attention to the way politicians are talking about it. Xenophon recounts the story of a 10-year old boy who told his story of being abused to a priest at a confessional, only to be told that he is the sinner and he needs to repent.

If that's the full story, then Xenophon is right to call it "sickening", but it simply has nothing to do with the confessional seal. There's no confession from the abuser to reveal. The child is perfectly entitled to take his story to the police and the priest is perfectly entitled to help him do it. This case isn't about confidentiality. It's about a priest with a septic morality. I would want that priest fired. I would want the church to apologise, help prosecute the abuser, compensate the victim and make sure it never happens again. And breaking the seal of confession doesn't help any of that.

Demanding laws that require priests to break the confessional seal sounds good. It sounds tough, uncompromising, common-sense. But it's also the kind of thing you do when you don't understand the problem you are trying to solve. That's what we are witnessing here: irreligious people trying to address a religious problem with brute secular force. That might make perfect intuitive sense to the staunchly secular mind, but we need more than intuition and declarations of secular supremacy here. What matters is what works. And taking an axe to the confessional box won't work. It might even make things worse.

The anti-confessional argument rests on an assumption that the confessions are taking place. Even if that's true - and there's little evidence of it - there's no reason to assume they will keep coming. When people confess, they do so with a guarantee of confidentiality. Do we really think people will continue to confess if we take that guarantee away? And if the confessions stop, does that really help at all?

The confessional seal means the priest cannot reveal the identity of the paedophile. But he can encourage the paedophile to turn himself in to the authorities or get psychiatric treatment. He could recommend the paedophile resign from his position. He can even warn a third party that a particular child is at risk of abuse, provided he doesn't say from whom. Sure, that's not as satisfying as taking a sledgehammer to the abuser. But it's surely better than nothing, which is probably the alternative. I would rather the confession take place confidentially than not at all.

But suppose I'm wrong. Suppose a paedophile's desire for forgiveness and absolution is so strong that they are prepared to take the risk and confess anyway. Then what? Canon law prohibits a priest from revealing a confession even under the threat of his own death. Should we expect him to buckle under the threat of a prison sentence? Here it's essential to understand that any priest who violates the confessional seal faces excommunication.

That might mean nothing to you. You might even see this as the threat that underpins a dangerous fairytale. But you are not the one hearing the confession. What matters is what this means to priests and, in Catholic terms, excommunication is as serious as it gets - far more serious than any prison sentence. This leaves us searching for a very strange creature indeed: someone devoted enough to enter the priesthood, but not devoted enough to care about eternal damnation. And we need lots of them. We're betting on a team of rogue priests. That doesn't sound like a plan to me.

You can't legislate away people's religious convictions, however much you might want to. And you can't ignore them simply because you hold them in contempt. What matters here is the stuff outside the confessional box: the lame responses to abuse that seem calculated to protect paedophile priests rather than their victims; the legal manoeuvring to avoid paying compensation; the failure of police to follow through on investigations. These are the things we should be pursuing relentlessly. This should be the focus of our desire for justice. Let's not dilute that by getting lost on some doctrinal excursion it's clear we don't understand.


A good idea for little-used pools

EVEN as a kid taking a dip in a friend's swimming pool, Derek Spielman would think about how it would be much better if it was full of turtles. Now his own backyard swimming pool is one of 50 on Sydney's north shore that have been turned into ponds, saving thousands of dollars on power and water bills.

There are no turtles, but Dr Spielman's pool at his home in Gordon is swarming with native fish, such as empire and spotted gudgeons and Pacific blue eye. It's noisy with a chorus of frogs and full of water lilies and other aquatic plants, attracting native birds, dragonflies and bees.

There's not a mosquito in sight (or sound) because the gudgeons eat the mosquito wrigglers. And the mosquito species that live in water deeper than 30 centimetres don't bite humans.

"I wanted to turn our pool into a pond for years," said Dr Spielman, adding that it took some time to convince his wife.

After realising that the family of four used the pool only six times in one year, they decided to turn it into a pond.

"It was costing us a lot of time and money, and nobody used it," he said.

Most people who don't use their pools think they have only two expensive options: chlorinate or fill them in, said Peter Clarke, the co-ordinator of Ku-ring-gai Council's "wild things" program. Few realised if they turned off the power, and stopped chlorinating the water, it would slowly turn into an inexpensive "giant rainwater tank without a lid", Mr Clarke said.

Ku-ring-gai's program is special because it actively encourages households to do something good for the environment with their unused pools. Mr Clarke is used to countering arguments from naysayers who presume these pools are dirty breeding grounds for mosquitoes and bacteria.

"When you look at a disused pool, you presume it must be a danger to health. The leaves gather, it is dark on the bottom and you see mosquito wrigglers," he said. But random tests for ecoli and other bacteria by the University of Sydney on eight pools converted to ponds found all were within the guidelines for primary water contact.

They're also fine for a quick dip, as Callan Spielman, 23, showed Fairfax Media.

"We've seen pools not looked after for years and years, and the water is always clear," Mr Clarke said. These conversions are also reversible.

In some cases, households are using the ponds as biobanks, stocking native fish.


19 November, 2012

Socialized medicine fails in Australia too

"Free" public hospitals, tax rebates for having private insurance and refunds for private health expenditures are all in place but are still insufficient for many people with expensive illnesses.  Governments just can't afford to look after everyone.  They should confine their help to the seriously ill only but that would now be politically impossible.  The Left's new "disability" scheme will make things worse -- unless someone invents a money tree

FAMILIES are being forced to sell their homes or raid their superannuation to pay medical bills, with some going bankrupt as Medicare rebates [sometimes only a third of the actual cost] fail to keep pace with inflation and health funds fail to cover all medical charges.

The financial nightmare has exposed the growing inadequacy of Medicare and health fund rebates and the crippling health costs to those with multiple or serious illnesses.

Battling breast cancer, chemotherapy and a life-threatening infection, Leonie Havnen's biggest challenge was not her health but the $31,300 in medical bills not covered by Medicare.

This year the 52-year-old Sydney mother of two was forced to raid her superannuation nest egg to cover her treatment costs.

"As a taxpayer for the past 36 years who pays around $30,000.00 a year in tax, $2,500 health insurance and the Medicare levy, to have to pay out of pocket for life saving medical treatment, just screams to me the 'the system is broken'," she said.

"Why did I have to access my superannuation to pay for my life saving medical treatment?  We aren't a third world country."

Since being diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago Ms Havnen has had surgery six times, first to remove both breasts and then to deal with the consequences of a golden staph infection. She spent time in hospital when one of her kidneys collapsed. A statement from her health fund for the 2011-2012 financial year shows her private hospital treatment cost $77,732 and she received rebates of just $59,400 from Medicare and her health fund  leaving her $18,331 out of pocket.

On top of these hospital expenses, Ms Havnen had another $12,000 in bills for specialist appointments, scans, health fund excess payment, and medication.  Her health fund reviewed her case after being contacted by The Sunday Telegraph and have since refunded her a further $6000.

While our Medicare and health fund systems are praised as among the best in the world, there is emerging evidence they are leaving hundreds of thousands of Australians in poverty.

A Menzies Centre for Health Policy study has found 250,000 Australians spend more than 20 per cent of their income on health costs. Doctors and anaesthetists who charge large out-of-pocket gap fees, poor health insurance cover, Medicare rebates that haven't kept pace with inflation and the $35.40 copayment for medicines are at fault. As well, many treatments and medicines are not covered by either subsidy schemes.

A recent Health Consumers NSW survey has found families were being forced to sell their homes or skip doctors' appointments or medicines because of the cost.

"Due to the combination of suddenly not being able to work, and the high out of pocket costs of my illness, we had to sell our family home," one respondent told the survey.  "Have not attended a cardiologist since February 2011. Cannot afford to," another said.

The government's Private Health Insurance Administration Council said health fund members paid $4.3 billion in out of pocket expenses last financial year.

Research by the George Institute found 11 per cent or 28, 665 bankruptcies in 2009 cited ill health or absence of health insurance as the primary reason.

A recent survey of 3000 National Seniors members found one in five Australians aged 50 to 64 are skipping doses of their prescription medicines because of cost.

Gaps fees for plastic and reconstructive surgeons averaged $1588, for orthopaedic surgery $1485, the gap for scans averaged $88 and for specialists $56.

A spokesman for Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said gaps came about when doctors charged more than the scheduled fee.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figures show Australians spend an average $1075 a year in out-of-pocket health expenses.

"The issue is whilst we say we have a universal system, the reality is many people are struggling," Consumers Health Forum chief Carol Bennett said. "The cumulative costs of a chronic illness mean you have multiple scripts and scans and appointments and you've got to make the difficult choice of whether you see your doctor or put food on the table."


Injured toddler's two-night wait a sign of casualty crisis

A TWO-YEAR-OLD boy who needed stitches to a gashed lip had not been seen by a doctor more than a day after being taken to The Children's Hospital at Westmead by his father, the former rugby league star Frank Puletua.

Puletua has spoken out about his emergency room nightmare on behalf of other parents he saw enduring long waits at Westmead.

A senior emergency physician at Royal North Shore Hospital, Tony Joseph, described the Puletuas' experience as "totally unacceptable".

He said: "What has happened in the Westmead children's ward is reflective of a broader problem across NSW where there is a lack of senior physicians in emergency departments."

Unpublished figures obtained by Fairfax Media show NSW has the lowest proportion of senior doctors in emergency departments in the country, apart from the ACT, the state government failing over the past six months to hit reduced waiting time targets.

On the front line, in the state's 95 hospitals, that translates into times when patient demand swamps medical manpower.

After two nights and a total of nine hours in the Westmead waiting room, Puletua was forced to call on his former team doctor at the Penrith Panthers, Norm Southern.

By then, the wound had healed too much for stitches and the ragged scar inside Noah's mouth might require future plastic surgery, the family has been told.

When Puletua arrived with Noah on a week night after a trike accident at home three weeks ago, he was told there were 27 patients in front of him but, due to the two-year-old's bleeding and agitated state, the triage nurse said she would put the child on the "injuries list" for faster treatment.  By 10.30pm, Puletua was told it was unlikely that his son would be seen before morning and he took Noah home.

The next day a GP put plastic stirrups on the wound but they came off quickly and Puletua was back at Westmead that night. This time, there were more than 30 on the list but Noah was put on an injuries list of just three.  "I lost track of how many SpongeBob shows we watched but I changed his nappy and managed to get him off to sleep," he said.

"By 10.30pm, I was wondering what was going on. I waited politely and asked the nurse, to be told that the injuries list finishes at 9.30pm and we were back behind other patients on the normal list.   "I'm not a fiery person off the footy field but it was at that point that I lost it."

Puletua was told to "write a letter to the government". He did write a long letter about his experience, which found its way to Fairfax Media. He said: "Westmead was specially built for kids but it is not a special experience for those parents I saw waiting around. The place was packed. I just wanted to speak out."

A spokeswoman for The Sydney Children's Hospitals Network said: "On occasion, children with less urgent health complaints may need to wait to be seen by a doctor … We trust parents understand the need to care first for children who may present with life-threatening conditions."

The government recently increased the number of senior doctors in triage at Westmead to reduce waiting times. But hospital physicians, GPs and health experts said emergency rooms were at times "overwhelmed" over the past six months during a winter in which the flu bug and several viruses affecting children spiked.

Arrivals in emergency have grown nearly 8 per cent in a year to 2.3 million. At the same time, the Health Minister, Jillian Skinner, is about to cut $775 million from the state health budget over the next four years and implement $2.2 billion in efficiency savings.  Dr Joseph said that it was "very unlikely" the NSW government would meet the national target of treating 90 per cent of patients within four hours by December 2015.

NSW hospitals achieved 58 per cent in the latest three-month period reported, which was from April to June.

In Perth, hospitals are regularly achieving 85 per cent, he said.   "In NSW, there is a lack of senior physicians. The government needs to get serious and think about how it will meet national emergency targets," he said.

Richard Paoloni, an emergency physician at Concord Hospital, said: "The number of people presenting in ER continues to grow but the number of emergency physicians has slowed and then plateaued over the past few years.  "We are falling behind other states, particularly Queensland and Victoria."

Dr Paoloni said it was not uncommon for people to be forced to endure long waits.  "There are incidences in which numbers peak and overwhelm the number of staff present," he said.

According to Australian College for Emergency Medicine figures, there is a higher proportion of foreign doctors in the NSW system who require more oversight and instruction.

Paramedics still complain of "trolley block", the long wait for patients arriving in ambulances to be transferred to a hospital bed.

Wayne Flint of the Emergency Medical Service Protection Association, representing ambulance staff, said: "Some days and nights emergency is an absolute nightmare with people queuing up everywhere to be seen.

"We had a spike in winter but, with Christmas coming, we're going to see the peripheral and regional hospitals under pressure from holidaymakers having accidents."

A spokesman for Ms Skinner said: "Local health districts are focusing on implementing new models of care that are helping to deal with an unprecedented increase in emergency department presentation".

Labor's spokesman on health, Andrew McDonald, a paediatrician who works one day a week in hospitals in western Sydney, said the government has little hope of achieving its national emergency access target of 69 per cent of people being seen and treated within four hours.

The figures for April to June, finding 58 per cent had been treated within that timeframe, were attributed by the government to an "unseasonal increase" of more than 6000 patients.

Dr McDonald said it was obvious the flu bug and child viruses were coming and the government had left the state's hospitals underprepared.  "The whole system went into meltdown, unable to treat patients."


"Discrimination" to fire the medically unfit?

PUBLIC servants have won the right to challenge unfair forced medical and psychiatric examinations, after a landmark court decision.

In what has been described as "a victory for the little people", the State Government has lost an appeal that was fought by the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner and a public servant.

"This is a great win for civil rights in Queensland," said Susan Moriarty, who represented Peta Attrill, a former probation and parole worker who was medically retired after a psychiatric examination. Ms Attrill, 39, will now seek reinstatement.

Ms Moriarty said compulsory medical examinations were very common in the public service and often were used as a means of forcing people with illness or disabilities out of their government jobs.

The November 2 Court of Appeal decision means that government employees who are made to have medical or psychiatric examinations can object on the grounds of discrimination.

Ms Attrill, who had worked for Corrective Services for 51/2 years, last year lodged an impairment discrimination complaint.

A court heard that she had suffered from depression since losing sight in her left eye at the age of 21, but she claimed she managed it with medication and counselling.

But Queensland's Civil and Administrative Tribunal ruled that part of the Public Service Act, allowing the compulsory examination and ill-health retirement decision, was not subject to provisions of the Anti-Discrimination Act.

The Anti-Discrimination Commissioner then joined in Ms Attrill's appeal against that decision, which was successful.

It meant that public servants who were directed to attend a medical assessment could get an injunction stopping the process, until their discrimination complaint was resolved.

The State Government's subsequent appeal was unanimously rejected this month, with the Court of Appeal awarding costs against the Government, represented by Solicitor-General Walter Sofronoff, QC.


Litany of major pledges axed to keep surplus

The Gillard government's year of "decision and delivery" has been followed by 12 months of what could best be described as "decision to dump".

An obsession with maintaining the budget surplus means many of Labor's key promises have been watered down, delayed or pushed off the table.

A Fairfax Media analysis of Labor's policy agenda for 2012 reveals the big-ticket items that failed to make the grade.

A casualty of the last budget, the long-promised "tick and flick tax returns" were scrapped as the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, scrambled to deliver the $1.5 billion surplus.

The reform of the tax return system - which frequently involves expensive trips to the accountant and excess paperwork - was a Rudd government proposal that would let people simply tick a box and send back a standard form that had already worked out their deduction.

The baby bonus fell to the razor in the mini-budget last month. The $5000 payment will be reduced to $3000 for the second and subsequent children - a decision unpopular with families but embraced by key independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, who call for the scrapping of middle-class welfare.

And the government's plan to end the influx of asylum-seeker boats - the Malaysia solution - appears becalmed. The Coalition and the Greens are opposed to the people-swap deal, which proposed Australia sending to Malaysia 800 asylum seekers who arrived by boat. In exchange, Malaysia would send 4000 UN-approved refugees to Australia over a four-year period.

The Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, has conceded his policy may never make it into law - a reversal of his previous statements.

The hard-fought mining tax has not lived up to expectations and is a large black spot on the government's scorecard, raising almost no revenue in its first three months.

Mr Swan responded to the revelations his tax has failed to fill the coffers by saying it was unfair to judge on just one quarter.

A referendum to implement the constitutional recognition of indigenous people was shelved for three years in September, despite it being a key part of the power-sharing deal with the independents and Greens.

Instead, Labor has proposed an "act of recognition" as an interim measure to build for a future referendum, and a new joint select committee to look at constitutional recognition.


18 November, 2012

Principals say teachers forced to do risk assessments for things like painting and drawing, children too frightened to "have a go"

PRINCIPALS say children are becoming too frightened "to have a go at things" as teachers are forced to do risk assessments for activities including painting and drawing.

Principals say common sense has been abandoned in "the litigious age", with society's risk aversion starting to have a visible impact on children.

They warn risk-taking is "absolutely crucial to learning and development", with some students visibly frightened of making mistakes.

Tiggy [tag], handstands and running on bitumen have all been banned in some schoolyards over the past few years.

State schools now keep a Curriculum Activity Register recording all approved high and extreme-risk activities and some medium ones.

In one of the 134 Curriculum Activity Risk Assessments (CARA), painting and drawing is considered as dangerous as ice skating.

Teachers are told the use of toxic material in painting and drawing activities including glues, pigments and solvents require them to document controls or complete a curriculum activity risk assessment.

"Consider obtaining parental/carer permission," teachers are told.

It comes after the Queensland Association of State School Principals (QASSP) warned a senate inquiry "risk management is no longer left to good old 'common sense'."

QASSP president Hilary Backus said workplace, health and safety issues now gobbled up budgets and time, but there was no turning back from the CARA requirements because of fears of being sued.

She said while people once walked around uneven pavers or underneath branches, they were now pointing them out and expecting principals to deal with them immediately.

She said helicopter parenting and a desire to protect children was hurting learning. "We are starting to see children actually frightened to have a go at things and frightened of making mistakes - it does hinder the learning process," she said.

Queensland Secondary Principals' Association president Norm Fuller said people were now looking for someone to blame when accidents occurred.

"In this day and age the (CARA) forms are necessary," Mr Fuller said. "I believe that we have gone past the area of common sense and we are now seeing a trend of relying more on legal interpretation of risks . . . these days everything must be written down and signed."

Education Queensland assistant director-general Marg Pethiyagoda said parents expected their children would be safe at school.

"The department is working to streamline the curriculum activity risk assessment process to reduce the administrative burden on schools while still ensuring schools are safe places for students to engage in a range of learning activities," she said. She said painting involving toxic materials such as glues could result in students being exposed to dangerous fumes, but general art classes in primary school would use non-toxic materials and were considered low risk.

Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said the register and CARA guidelines were in line with community expectations and brought schools in line with the private sector.

He said people might decry any suggestion a game like tiggy could be dangerous but children could be seriously hurt.

Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens' Associations president Margaret Leary said she was worried children were being "bubble-wrapped", but CARA was a result of "the litigious nature of society these days".

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said the top priority for all schools should be student safety, which is why CARA guidelines existed. He encouraged staff to take "a commonsense approach" to decisions on playground safety.


$100m off power bills after solar credits scheme axed early

The Gillard Government will phase out its solar credits multiplier because a massive surge in panels fitted to roofs was driving up electricity costs. Source: The Courier-Mail
HOUSEHOLDS will avoid up to $100 million in power bill increases next year because a green scheme is being axed early.

The Gillard Government said it would phase out its solar credits multiplier in January, six months ahead of schedule, because a massive surge in panels fitted to roofs was driving up electricity costs.

The multiplier effectively provides double payments for solar energy created by homes with photovoltaic panels.

But Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said households had borne the brunt of those payments, through higher power bills, and the multiplier should be scrapped early.

"This will lower the impact of the high uptake of solar PV on electricity costs for homes and businesses," Mr Combet said.

"Phasing out the multiplier early will strike the balance between easing upward pressure on electricity prices and supporting households and suppliers who install solar PV. The overall reduction in 2013 electricity bills is estimated to be in the order of $80 million to $100 million."

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt said the Government had "finally admitted its solar phantom credits scheme has driven up electricity prices".

"The Coalition warned the Government for over three years that the creation of so-called 'phantom credits', where people were paid for solar energy they didn't generate, would drive up the cost of the scheme for everyone else," he said.

He said the decision to scrap the multiplier was welcome but "does nothing for the current high power bills which people have just paid this quarter".

Australian Solar Council chief executive John Grimes hit out at the decision, saying it had left the industry in a state of chaos.

He disputed Mr Combet's assertion that solar was driving up electricity bills, saying it would bring down generation costs and help ease demand on hot summer days.


Disability scheme will be The New Leviathan

In August, The Centre for Independent Studies broke the story that the National Disability Insurance Scheme would cost a lot more than what politicians and the media were saying it would.

Time and time again we heard (and are still hearing) that the NDIS would provide disability care and support to 411,000 people at an annual cost of $15 billion when it is fully operational in 2018–19.

These figures came from a comprehensive feasibility study by the Productivity Commission. However, there was a significant problem with the commission’s numbers that was not reflected in the public debate – they were 2009–10 figures and did not take into account nine years of price inflation, wage increases, and population growth to 2018–19.

The CIS requested under Freedom of Information laws a review of the commission’s NDIS costings conducted by the Australian Government Actuary that said the NDIS would not cover 411,000 people at a cost of $15 billion a year in 2018–19, but would in fact cover 441,000 people at a cost of about $22 billion a year when the scheme was fully operational in 2018–19.

However, those figures are for the first year alone. My report, released on 15 November 2012, shows that the NDIS will start big and get bigger rapidly, and grow to become the new leviathan of the Australian welfare state. In a nutshell, the NDIS is another Medicare.

A number of structural factors relating to increases in the pension age will drive growth in the NDIS-eligible population, and therefore NDIS expenditure, in the years after full implementation in 2018–19.

Combined with political pressure to expand NDIS eligibility to the 600,000 people aged 65 and older with a severe or profound disability and the 500,000 disability support pensioners who will not be eligible for NDIS-funded supports, there is serious potential for the size and scope of NDIS to grow beyond the government’s official estimates.

Looking at similar schemes in Australia and overseas, it is clear that once the NDIS is fully operational, government expenditure on the NDIS will grow rapidly at a rate of around 6% every year. By 2023–24, the NDIS eligible population will likely grow to about 500,000, and cost nearly $30 billion a year. The NDIS will need more than 8,000 public servants to administer the scheme.


SA Attorney-General  repeals internet comments law

THE State Government has moved to repeal the hugely controversial law it introduced before the last election that required people to give their real name and postcode when making comments online about the poll.

Today Attorney-General John Rau introduced changes to Parliament that will formally overturn the requirement applying to internet bloggers and others making a comment about an election on news websites or social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

The original laws started in January 2010, just months before that year's March election and sparked an immediate outcry over censorship when revealed by adelaidenow and The Advertiser.

The public response was so overwhelming - with more than 1000 critical comments posted on adelaidenow - that then attorney-general Michael Atkinson backflipped within hours and announced the law would not be enforced.

"From the feedback we've received through adelaidenow, the blogging generation believes that the law supported by all MPs and all political parties is unduly restrictive. I have listened. I will immediately after the election move to repeal the law retrospectively," Mr Atkinson said at the time.

The Right to Know Coalition, made up of Australia's major media outlets including News Limited, publisher of adelaidenow, labelled the requirements "draconian" while the Australian Council for Civil Liberties said they would have a "chilling" effect on free speech.

Attorney-General Michael Atkinson says his idea to censor internet blogs during the election campagin was "lousy".

Today, Mr Rau said the Government "has listened to community concerns over those provisions and will repeal the condition that obliges an online publisher to record the name and postcode of the person taking responsibility for political content".

He said the new amendments would also:

MAKE the Electoral Commissioner the sole distributor of postal vote applications.

REQUIRE authorised electoral material to disclose the political party affiliation, not just the name and address of the person who authorised its publication.

HARMONISE State and Commonwealth electoral roles.
Michael Atkinson

South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson will step aside from the Rann ministry Picture: Kelly Barnes

INVALIDATE ballot papers marked in a way that might identify the voter.

PROPOSE that how-to-vote cards must be submitted in advance to the Electoral Commissioner.


16 November, 2012

Have you Googled yourself lately?

After a Melbourne man won compensation from Google for being defamed in its search results, Newcastle Herald reporter Greg Ray decided to find out what happened when he searched his name

Greg does however appear to have overlooked that the man who won against Google did so because Google ignored a request from him, not because of the initial listing

Googling your own name used to be mocked as a vanity thing.  Or maybe a paranoia thing.

But perhaps after some recent court wins by an Aussie bloke against two search engine giants, self-Googling might become a lot more popular and interesting.

You may have read about it. Milorad (Michael) Trkulja was unlucky enough to have been shot in a Melbourne restaurant in 2004.

The crime was never solved, although Mr Trkulja has been quoted saying he believes he knows who tried to shoot him.

The story of the shooting was reported in the Melbourne Herald Sun, and scans of the newspaper article were posted on a variety of websites devoted to Melbourne crime.

Those scans apparently popped up – complete with Trkulja's name and picture – when people searched Yahoo and Google.

Trkulja, a music promoter described by the Herald Sun as "a colourful identity", felt that so many people were seeing his picture online alongside those of various gangland identities that his reputation was suffering.

So he sued both Google and Yahoo for defamation, and won a couple of hundred thousand dollars from each.

The search engines argued that it wasn't their fault. They just found stuff that other people had produced.

But the court put them in the same category as a newsagent, say, that distributed papers and magazines. Such shops could be liable for defamation, so search engines could too.

Up until now, search engines have been able to put responsibility for defamatory content back on the providers of that content.

But cases and judgments are starting to mount up.  Former German first lady Bettina Wulff sued Google because the words “prostitute” and “escort” used to appear as suggestions next to her name on searches.  And a Japanese man won an action against Google because the “autocomplete” feature linked his name to crimes he didn't commit.

After the Trkulja case I imagine people all over the world will be doing online searches on their own names, just in case.  I did one, just to see.

I don't think I can sue Google on the basis that people might think that I am the well-known racing car champ Greg Ray. Or a comedian of the same name.

But when I do an image search and find a couple of mug-shots of criminals with the same name as me I might be getting warmer.

So, how will all this affect the internet?  Will actual, real crooks be able to scare search engines into deleting search references to them? Would that be a good thing?

I still get emails from people who can read, online, old articles I wrote in the Newcastle Herald about legendary cancer con-man Paul Perrett, and many of them tell me those archived articles have made them cautious about dealing with him.

Perrett, twice jailed for fraud and robbery, ripped off scores of people with fake cancer cures and fooled hundreds with fanciful tales of his alleged university qualifications.

He lives outside the Hunter now, but I still get calls from people telling me they've met him and heard the latest versions of his astounding stories and interesting investment ideas.

Could Perrett demand that the stories about him be struck from search results, preventing people from finding out about his murky past and being put on their guard?

And will it go further than defamation?

Newsagencies have been found liable in the past for distributing offensive material such as illegal pornography.

Would search engines be liable if they directed people to websites containing illegal material?

Seems to me that either the law or the internet is going to have to change.


I am no relation of Greg Ray (above) as far as I know -- though I have thousands of relatives so you never know. But I am sure he is a very fine fellow. 

I decided to do as he recommends and Googled myself as:  "John Ray".  I found I was third on the list after a 17th century naturalist and a fashion wholesaler!  My Dissecting Leftism and Greenie Watch blogs were both there towards the top of the page.  A little more surprising was that on the second page of results there appeared an entry on my personal blog that I had put up only an hour earlier.  And nothing adverse at all. The occasional Leftist abuse of me must be well back in the search results

So I can say anything I like about myself and that is what people will read.  Amusing!

Australia's largest fishery to be wiped out

It's been fished for a couple of hundred years and is still there  -- but you would never know that listening to the Greenies

THE commercial fishing industry fears a $100 million assistance package will not be enough to compensate people affected by the proclamation of the world's biggest network of marine reserves.

More than 2.3 million square kilometres of ocean environment around Australia will be protected from July 2014.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke says the government recognises there will be impacts on some fishers which is why $100 million is being allocated under a fisheries adjustment assistance package.

Furious commercial fishers and charter operators say the move will doom their trade and end in a skyrocketing price and more imported seafood for consumers.

The Commonwealth Fisheries Association, which represents the interests of commercial fishers, is concerned compensation is being capped.

However, Protect Our Coral Sea and marine conservation groups such as the Pew Foundation welcomed the proclamation as "one of the most significant" in the nation's conservation history.

Under the plan, no new "on-the-water" changes will come into effect until July 2014 after the next federal election, after which the Coalition has promised to revoke any declaration should it win government.

Veteran Nationals senator Ron Boswell, a fierce opponent of the marine reserves, said the $100 million allocation would not go far enough.  "There is going to be a lot of people put out of business with no compensation."

Mr Burke dismissed the criticism, saying people needed to know the parameters of any assistance. "You can't have an open-ended bottomless pit," he said.

The average recreational angler in a runabout is unlikely to be affected with the closest new "no-go zones" 440km out from Brisbane, 330km from Townsville, and 210km from Cairns.

Commercial operators in the Coral Sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria including tuna long-liners and prawn trawlers out of Mooloolaba, Cairns and Karumba, will negotiate over a $100 million fisheries adjustment package.

"Australia is a world leader when it comes to protecting our oceans," Mr Burke said.  "And so we should be, we've got responsibility for more of the ocean than almost any other country on Earth.

"Many of the world's endangered marine animals, including green turtle, blue whale, southern right whale, Australian sea lion and the whale shark, are found in these protected waters," Mr Burke said.

Most of 80,000 submissions supported the national marine network plan - that will cover an area roughly equal to Australia's land mass, he said.

Catch-and-release fishing practised by the marlin fishing game boats will still be allowed in the Coral Sea except in the designated green zone over the eastern half of the proposed marine park.

Outraged third-generation aquarium collector Lyall Squire Jr, of Cairns Marine, said the decision had the potential to put his family-owned $6 million-a-year company out of business.

"We have grave fears for our survival, worse, this is not about science," said the director of Australia's largest aquarium supplier, who exports species such as clown fish, sharks and rays to Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the US.


Flight attendant awarded compensation for injuries sustained on day off

Individual  responsibility takes another hit.  Qantas was in no position to supervise the guy in his day off

A QANTAS flight attendant has won a legal case that could affect hundreds of airline employees and other workers who are injured while travelling for job-related reasons on days off.

John Kennerley was injured on March 10, 2010, after setting off from his Gold Coast home to spend the night in Brisbane, the day before he was due to fly to Sydney to renew his US visa.

Queensland's Industrial Court President David Hall last month ruled Mr Kennerley's traffic accident injuries were suffered in the course of his employment, even though he was on a day off.

Qantas required Mr Kennerley to renew his visa in his own time, it had booked his 8.45am consulate appointment and had paid for his 5am flight to Sydney on March 11, 2010, the court heard.

The airline's insurer, Qantas Airways Ltd, originally rejected his worker's compensation claim, and there were subsequent appeals to Q-Comp and the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.

But on October 18, the Industrial Court president found that Mr Kennerley's employment was "a significant contributing factor" to his injuries and he was entitled to compensation.

"It was the nature and terms of his employment together with decisions and initiatives of Qantas which caused Mr Kennerley to be riding his motorbike where and when he was injured," Mr Hall said.

The Industrial Court heard because he had such an early flight to his Sydney consulate appointment, Mr Kennerley decided to travel the day before and stay overnight with a friend in Brisbane.

While Qantas Airways Ltd tried to argue that he was spending the night with a Brisbane friend for social reasons, this was rejected by Mr Hall.

Mr Kennerley said he was unable to travel by train in time to meet his flight on March 11 and felt it was unsafe to make an early morning motorcycle journey to Brisbane in the dark.

Mr Kennerley's lawyer, Greg Black of Turner Freeman, said the decision was significant for hundreds of Queensland flight attendants and the Flight Attendants' Association had supported Mr Kennerley's appeal.

Mr Black said it also could protect "fly-in, fly-out" workers and other workers whose employers required them to travel in their own time to renew work-related licences or visas or meet job conditions.


Jail time for Vic hoons

DRIVERS who spark police pursuits in Victoria will soon face up to three years' jail.  Police Minister Peter Ryan will introduce legislation to crack down on hoon drivers into parliament on Thursday.

Under the changes, drivers who prompt police pursuits can be jailed for up to three years and have their licence cancelled for at least 12 months.  There is no mandatory minimum term as that will be left for the courts to decide.

Mr Ryan said the government was determined to crack down on drivers who spark pursuits, which place police and the community at risk.  "You cannot have people breaking the law with impunity and doing a runner and expect that they can just get away with it," he told reporters.

There were more than 720 police pursuits in 2011.


Price controls have 'not protected consumers'

The NSW government’s pricing regulator IPART has thrown its weight behind moves to remove all price controls on electricity by arguing that controls have not protected households from hefty price rises in recent years.

"Retail price regulation has not protected consumers from electricity price shocks," the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal chairman, Dr Peter Boxall said.

"A well-functioning retail market - in which there is competitive rivalry between electricity retailers - is the best way to ensure that ... electricity prices are driven towards the efficient cost of retail supply."

Electricity prices for those still on government-regulated pricing contracts, which make up for around half of all consumers in NSW, have risen sharply in recent years, with rises averaging around 20 per cent taking effect from July 1.

Studies are underway to assess the extent of competition in the NSW market, although price controls are expected to remain in place until at least after the next state election, which is due to be held in early 2015.  IPART is to review prices with the aim of setting thresholds for the period 2013-2016.

Even though the NSW government is committed to holding price rises to less than the level of inflation, recent rises in the cost of renewable energy, most notably the Federal government’s small scale renewable energy scheme, is expected to result in most retailers pushing for higher prices.


15 November, 2012

New Zealand criminal gets "asylum" in Australia

There's an inviation to the crooks of the world!

A FORMER New Zealand bikie, given refugee status in Australia after seeking asylum from fellow criminals, has become the centre of a new political row in Canberra.

A tribunal decided that the 36-year-old Kiwi, who was in a witness protection scheme before flying to Australia in 2005, faced a threat of significant harm in his home country.

News Limited reports that Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen appealed the ruling in the Federal Court. But the court cleared the man to stay because of the government's own protection visa rules.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the Labor government's new asylum laws had allowed a convicted criminal from New Zealand to gain asylum from "fellow crims and bikies back in New Zealand who want to settle some scores.

"What's next? An 'underbelly visa'? This absurd farce is just another mess of Labor's own making," Mr Morrison said.

News Limited says the man was warned when he arrived in Australia that if he committed one offence on his temporary visa he could be removed.

However, he went on to drink and drive, commit forgery, and breaching his bail conditions. He has also been charged with weapons and drugs offences, and receiving stolen property.


His Eminence replies to the opportunistic local politicians who think they can get a worldwide church to violate a canon dating back at least 1,000 years

Cardinal George Pell defends confessional protocol

Cardinal George Pell told journalists that 'The Seal of Confession is inviolable' when one priest talks to another under confession.

The miserable and aggrieved end of politics versus the cheerful end

So rancorous are relations between the government and the opposition that even the humble Christmas party invitation is being used as a political weapon. At least in Labor's case.

With the festive season approaching - and for many in this place, the temporary lull cannot come soon enough - the usual round of Yuletide knees-ups are being organised for the final sitting week, which is the last week of November.

The Coalition invitation, extended to MPs, senators and staffers, features an innocuous Christmas tree illustration. The most frightening aspect is the revelation that the Northern Territory Country Liberal Party senator, Nigel Scullion, will be plying all and sundry with his "famous mango daiquiris".

Labor's invitation is far more foreboding. It features Tony Abbott, portrayed as the evil Christmas Grinch, poised atop Parliament House, his pointy fingers holding a bright red Christmas bauble upon which is inscribed the word "no".

The portrayal of Mr Abbott as the Dr Seuss character - a bitter, grouchy, cave-dwelling creature with a heart two sizes too small - has not gone unnoticed in the Coalition.

"There's a clear choice this Christmas: enjoying Nigel's famous mango daiquiris, or a Labor Party obsessed with Tony Abbott. Which would you rather attend?" said one senior Liberal figure.

Moreover, the Coalition party is free.  Depending on who you are and when you pay, Labor's shindig costs between $25 and $50 a head. Mr Abbott may be the Grinch but Labor is Scrooge.

A Labor staffer returned fire: ‘‘The Coalition’s has to be free otherwise no-one would turn up. They’ve got to bribe staffers with free booze.’


Eyes are averted from indigenous abuse

Gerard Henderson

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard's, decision to establish a royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse has received overwhelmingly public support. We know, on the available evidence, that the wide-ranging and expensive inquiry will focus on past crimes and whether people in authority, in Gillard's terminology, "averted their eyes" with respect to abusers.

We also know, on the available evidence, that indigenous children in some Aboriginal communities are being sexually assaulted in 2012. Despite the efforts of Commonwealth, state and territory authorities, these crimes continue. Moreover, regrettably, there is scant public outrage about this contemporary abuse.

Sections of the media have focused on the Catholic Church's deplorable inability in the past century to stop the crimes of some priests and some brothers with respect to primarily male children.

However, as the Jesuit priest Frank Brennan said on Lateline, the Catholic Church reformed its handling of sex abuse allegations in 1996. Soon after Pell became Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996, he set up the Melbourne Response, which was aimed at confronting abuse of children by clerics and assisting victims.

The terms of reference for the royal commission will be announced before the end of the year. However, the Prime Minister has indicated the inquiry will not be limited to the Catholic Church or, indeed, other Christian churches. All religions will be covered, as will secular bodies. This approach is supported by the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott. On Tuesday, child migrant David Hill said "you won't hear only kids from Catholic institutions coming forward … I think it will go to all of the children's institutions over the last 40, 50 years".

The Gillard government faces a difficult task in drawing up appropriate terms of reference. If they are too limited, there will probably be accusations of a cover-up. If they are too wide, the financial costs could be huge and the inquiry might drag on for years with few if any recommendations of prosecutions.

The Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney is a media target. Many journalists do not like Pell since he is a moral conservative who publicly upholds the Vatican's teachings on abortion, same-sex marriage and divorce.

Pell was interviewed by Geoff Thompson for the Four Corners "Unholy Silence" program which aired in July. The Cardinal made it emphatically clear that, as Archbishop of Sydney, he is only responsible for his own diocese and reports to the Vatican.

Four Corners not only failed to run Pell's comment. More seriously, it edited the extended interview (which is on the ABC's website) and deleted the Cardinal's comment about the extent of his authority. This reeks of censorship but the decision has been supported by ABC managing director Mark Scott.

The failure to understand the structure of the Catholic Church has led to confusion. In recent days there has been criticism of Pell on such programs as Lateline, Mornings with Linda Mottram, Radio National Breakfast and Paul Murray Live where suggestions have been made that he should resign or be sacked because of mishandling of sexual assaults in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. The journalists involved should be aware that Pell has nothing to do with, and is not responsible for, the Catholic Church in the Hunter region or anywhere else outside the Sydney archdiocese. He is the most senior Catholic in Australia but he is not managing director of the Australian Catholic Church.

The media would be well advised not to adopt double standards when dealing with child molestation. It is now accepted the late Sir Jimmy Savile was one of the worst paedophiles in British history.

Yet the media initially engaged in a cover-up. Freelance journalist Miles Goslett could not get his article linking the long-time BBC star with attacks on young girls published and had to rely on The Oldie, where his article was printed last March. As is now known, the BBC spiked a Newsnight program on Savile's criminality so as not to upset a program scheduled for Christmas 2011 praising the molester.

And then there is the case of the late Fairfax columnist Peter Roebuck. Roebuck's work for the ABC as a cricket commentator increased after he was convicted of common assault on two young African men. There are now claims that Roebuck was a sexual predator who targeted young black males.

Despite this, when Roebuck died last year he was lauded by journalists - particularly at Fairfax and the ABC. Even yesterday, sections of the media remembered the first anniversary of Roebuck's death but conveniently forgot that he was an offender.

The good news is that the proposed royal commission will cover all instances of child abuse and not just crimes committed by Catholic clergy. Tragically, it is not likely to stop attacks on young Aboriginal boys and girls.


Queensland private schools announce fee hikes of up to 7 per cent for 2013

Fees at Eton are approx. $48,000 p.a. at current exchange rates.  But that includes full board, which is not discussed below.  Considering the standard at Eton, one imagines that food and accomodation accounts for around $20,000 of that.  So Australian private schools are well funded, considering that they get substantial Federal money as well

ELITE private schools have announced fee hikes of up to 7 per cent for next year, with one charging parents $19,880 for annual tuition.

Brisbane Girls Grammar School (BGGS) has posted the most expensive "all inclusive" tuition fee so far of $19,880, just above the 2012 tuition fee for Brisbane Grammar School (BGS) for Year 8 to 12 students.

In a letter to parents, BGGS board of trustees chairwoman Elizabeth Jameson said the 6.4 per cent fee rise reflected "the lowest percentage increase in many years and the school's concerted effort to constantly contain the impact on our families".

"Brisbane Girls Grammar remains one of the few independent schools which does not impose additional levies on top of our tuition fees," the letter states.

Brisbane Boys' College (BBC), Clayfield College and Somerville House have posted the biggest fee percentage increases so far of about 7 per cent each.

BBC is charging $17,920 for annual tuition in Years 7 to 12 next year while Somerville House is charging $17,776.

Extra levies and other school costs mean BBC Year 12 parents will pay more than $20,000 next year for the cost of education.

BGS parents are expected to pay more than $20,000 for tuition in senior year next year - the first time in Queensland a tuition fee would have risen above that mark.

The all boys' school, which is also the state's most consistent top performer in OP rankings and NAPLAN, charged Queensland's top 2012 tuition fee of $19,635. Parents of Year 8 to 11 pupils also paid $1005 for a tablet PC levy.

Independent Schools Queensland executive director David Robertson said fee increases generally reflected the rising cost of education.  Education costs have gone up 6.1 per cent over the past year according to Australian Bureau of Statistics Consumer Price Index figures.

"Around 70 per cent of a school's expenditure generally goes to teachers' salaries," Mr Robertson said.

"Education costs include increases in salaries, capital costs for new buildings and maintenance programs plus implementation of the Australian curriculum."

Somerville House principal Flo Kearney said fees needed to go up "because of the increasing cost of delivering a quality education", including recruiting and retaining the best teachers.

"There are things that are out of our control as well such as significant increases in the cost of insurance and also meeting growing costs of compliance," she said.

Cairns-based Trinity Anglican School principal Christopher Daunt Watney said they tried to keep their costs to a minimum.


Crackdown on fat bus drivers in Tasmania

Obesity does limit mobility but it depends on how "obese" is classified

METRO'S move to ban drivers who are obese may be discriminatory, says Tasmanian anti-discrimination commissioner Robin Banks.

Bus drivers have lashed out at Metro after being told employees who weigh more than 130kg will be banned from driving, put on other duties and placed on a weight-loss program.

Ms Banks said obesity had been classified as a disability in successful anti-discrimination cases in other states.

"As I understand it, there's certainly the potential for it to be unlawful under the Anti-Discrimination Act," she said.

"It will depend on whether or not Metro is able to show that a person of 130kg or more couldn't perform the inherent requirement of their job."

Overweight employees of the Government-owned bus company have six months to lose weight.

Ms Banks said employers were only allowed to discriminate on the basis of disability if the employee could not fulfil the requirements of the job, or the cost of modifying the equipment created an unjustifiable hardship for the employer.

Rail, Tram and Bus union branch secretary Samantha Simonetis said the cost of installing new sturdier seats into the Metro fleet was going to cost $750,000.

Ms Simonetis said while the union had campaigned for years for a health program, the office had been inundated with calls from upset Metro drivers.

"Drivers not even affected by the new obesity rule say that people are getting on the bus and looking at them wondering how much they weigh," she said.  "They feel like they are being publicly humiliated and they are."

Metro advertisements for casual bus drivers on the weekend said people over 130kg need not apply because of bus seat design limits.  Metro CEO Heather Haselgrove said the obesity law was designed to ensure employees' health and safety and the seats were rated only to 130kg.

Ms Haselgrove said weight should not get in the way of employees performing their duties and using equipment.

Australian Psychological Society chairman Darren Stops said it was positive if Metro was looking after employees' health and it was an unfortunate spin-off if it meant drivers were subjected to public scrutiny.


14 November, 2012

Politicians make calls to end the secrecy of the Sacrament of Penance

The privacy of the confession is an ancient church canon and breaching it would largely destroy confessions.  Politicians can spout all they like but will have no influence on church canons.  Priests may not reveal what they have learned during confession to anyone, even under the threat of their own death or that of others.  The paedophile priests should be severely dealt with but attacking penance solves nothing.

The Catholics concerned below are just covering their behinds.  They are not faithful to the teachings of the church.  But, then again, nor are the paedophile priests.

And the references below to His Eminence as "Mr. Pell" seem  deliberately insulting.  Is "Cardinal Pell" too much to expect?

Senior federal Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne has declared that priests should report child sex abuse crimes revealed in the confessional to police.

On Wednesday, Mr Pyne - who is a practising Catholic [He needs more practice] - said that as a member of Parliament, it would be wrong of him to advise citizens not to report crimes, particularly something as serious as child abuse.  "If a priest, or anyone else, is aware of the sexual abuse of children that is going on, I think there is an obligation on them to report it to the appropriate authorities," he told ABC Radio.

On Tuesday, in the wake of Prime Minister Julia Gillard's announcement of a royal commission on child abuse, Cardinal George Pell said that the seal of confession was "inviolable".

Mr Pell said that if a priest knew what would be confessed prior to the confession, then they should refuse to hear it.

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said on Wednesday that it was important that she did not have a position on particular issues that were going before the commission.

"We really want the commissioners appointed to be able to explore every issue that they feel they need to," she told ABC TV.

But she also said that the commission needed to look at institutional barriers to reporting child sexual abuse, noting that it was a crime.

"I think the whole community finds that idea [that priests would not report abuse] really abhorrent and we've been through these debates for mandatory reporting for doctors, teachers, for others that [are] meant to be in close relationships and nevertheless have been required to make reports, so I think we really need to look carefully, there aren't a different set of rules that apply."

Ms Roxon added that it wasn't just priests who didn't report but other adults in other school or institutional communities. "A lot of people knew and somehow the system still failed those children," she said.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said that everyone has to obey the law when it comes to reporting child sex abuse, including priests.

"There are various requirements on people if they become aware of sexual offences against children," he told reporters in Brisbane on Wednesday.  "Those legal requirements must be adhered to."

In Australia, mandatory reporting requirements differ between states and territories. For example, in South Australia, the confessional is exempt from mandatory reporting. In the Northern Territory, "any person with reasonable grounds" must report.

Under the NSW Crimes Act, a person must disclose knowledge of a sexual assault or risk being charged with concealing a serious indictable offence, but priests are one of a small class of occupations that cannot be prosecuted unless the Attorney-General consents.

On ABC Radio, Ms Roxon cautioned that the royal commission would take "years, not weeks or months".

Ms Roxon said that when the terms of reference were set later this year, there should be "proper report-back", so the public could be updated along the way.

Cabinet Minister Bill Shorten has said the royal commission must address the controversial issue of whether priests should be legally compelled to report evidence of abuse they hear in the confessional.

Mr Shorten, who strongly urges a general system of mandatory reporting, said: "What immunity can you claim when it comes to the safety and protection of little children?  "When it comes to the abuse of children, that privilege, if it ever had validity, is well and truly exhausted."

New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell, a Catholic, has also questioned confessional privilege. He said he struggled to understand how, "[If] a priest confesses to another priest that he has been involved in paedophile activities, that that information should not be brought to police."

Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu supported mandatory reporting but said there had been "a separate issue" about the confessional. This would be looked at by the Victorian inquiry into abuse and he expected it would be raised through the commission.

Mr Shorten said Victoria police supported mandatory reporting and state law should be changed to bring it in. Police should not be obstructed by institutions failing to report matters, and it was important institutions understood that internal processes were no substitute for police investigation.

Mr Shorten said his own strong views had been influenced by the fact his family had for years attended the Sacred Heart parish in Oakleigh, served by notorious paedophile priest Kevin O'Donnell. He said thousands of Australians had been victims of sexual abuse, "and too many haven't received a real apology, atonement or recompense".


The $5000 question - claims Julia Gillard's ex-boyfriend Bruce Wilson put cash into her account

JULIA Gillard's past continued to haunt her last night, with allegations emerging that in June 1996 a union employee told the national head of the Australian Workers Union that he deposited $5000 cash into her account.

The allegation, outlined exclusively in The Australian today, is that the cash had come from the Prime Minister's then boyfriend, AWU official Bruce Wilson.

Ms Gillard has always denied any wrongdoing over the creation of a union slush fund on behalf of Mr Wilson and union official Ralph Blewitt during her time as a lawyer for Slater and Gordon.

The allegation comes as Mr Blewitt indicated he is willing to speak openly about his role in the union scandal but wants the police to guarantee him immunity from prosecution.

The Australian reports that then national AWU head Ian Cambridge, now a Fair Work Australia Commissioner, recorded in his 1994-1996 diary allegations by union employee Wayne Hem that Mr Wilson, after a night at a casino, had given him a wad of cash totalling $5000 along with Ms Gillard's bank account details and told him to deposit it.

The report also states that Mr Hem's allegations formed part of a statutory declaration sworn to the newspaper in Melbourne three days ago during a lengthy interview.

The report stressed it was not known from where Mr Wilson got the funds and there was no evidence, nor was it suggested, Ms Gillard asked for the payment or knew of its origins. Ms Gillard yesterday repeated her denial of any wrongdoing.

Her spokesman issued a statement to The Australian saying: "The Prime Minister has made clear on numerous occasions that she was not involved in any wrongdoing.

"I also note that despite repeatedly being asked to do so, The Australian has been unable to substantiate any allegations of wrongdoing."

Mr Hem told The Australian that he told Mr Cambridge about the bank deposit on June 7, 1996, during a drive to Melbourne. During this time Mr Cambridge was investigating AWU fraud.

Mr Cambridge's June 7, 1996 diary entry notes Mr Hem telling him "about an event that took place in about July last year (1995)", The Australian reports.

"This event involved Bruce Wilson handing Wayne an envelope which contained approximately $5000 in $100 and $50 notes and Wilson instructed Hem to deposit this $5000 into a personal account of Julia Gillard."

Mr Hem provided further detail on the allegation in his statutory declaration to The Australian, saying he had been asked to attend Mr Wilson's office. "I went down and he handed me about five grand," Mr Hem said in the report.

"Then Bruce handed me a piece of paper with the account number and a name on it, and it was Julia's name.  "He said 'Go put this in Julia's account'. I said 'OK'.  "He (Wilson) made a comment about not saying anything. I just went down to the bank, put it in, came back, gave him the receipt.

"I didn't know if it was for Julia or if the account was a private account or a Slater and Gordon account. It just had Julia Gillard's name on it and I put it in the bank account."


Another emptyheaded Anglican cleric

He's probably never even heard of salvation or read Romans chapter 1.  His gospel is secular

TERRITORIANS were more likely to find the gospel at work at Throb nightclub than Potter's House Church, a senior religious figure has said.

The Very Reverend Jeremy Greaves from Darwin's Christ Church Cathedral yesterday slammed Potter's House after the NT News revealed it had been using a Halloween show as a ruse to preach its anti-gay, anti-abortion message.

"It is no wonder the church has become irrelevant to so many when the loudest voice in Christianity is one of hatred and bigotry," Rev Greaves wrote in a letter to the NT News.

"The Gospel is more in evidence at Throb on a Saturday night with their clear message of welcome and acceptance than it is in those churches that continue to peddle such a narrow understanding of the faith."


Abbott ventures into indigenous minefield

The rule in Australia today is that all blacks are equal, even if they are white.  So Abbott's even hinting at that absurdity provokes outrage.  It should be noted that Abbott personally works with Aboriginal communities to do what he can to help them

TONY Abbott has blundered into one of Australia's most dangerous minefields - the question of who is a "real" Aborigine.

The Coalition leader said he wanted Territory Indigenous Advancement Minister Alison Anderson in federal politics because she would be an "authentic" indigenous representative in parliament.

He described federal Liberal lower house MP Ken Wyatt as an "urban Aboriginal" - a "good bloke" but "not a man of culture".

"It would be terrific if, as well as having an urban Aboriginal in our parliament, we had an Aboriginal person from Central Australia, an authentic representative of the ancient cultures," he said.

"It's very important that the Aboriginal people of Australia are represented in our decision-making institutions, including the national parliament."

Ms Anderson was born at Haasts Bluff and speaks six indigenous languages.  She was chief executive of Papunya Community Council for 15 years from 1985.

Award-winning author Russell Skelton said in his book King Brown Country that Ms Anderson oversaw "motorcar dreaming" during her time as council leader.

Prominent traditional owners were said to have been allowed to buy cars with money from the community store.  Ms Anderson has denied the allegation.

Mr Wyatt became the first indigenous member of the House of Representatives in 2010.  He is of Aboriginal, Indian, English and Irish descent.  Wikipedia describes him as the first "self-identifying" Aboriginal MHR.


Students get right to sue training colleges

This could lead to damaging litigation by dim students. 

DISGRUNTLED students will be able to sue their training colleges for shoddy education under new laws to be introduced in Victoria.

The state government hopes the new rules will prevent dodgy training providers from delivering substandard education. The rules will apply to students whose vocational training was subsidised partly or fully by the state government.

An explanatory memorandum of the legislation, seen by The Age, said students could seek compensation for a college's "failure to deliver training". The state government contracts training providers to deliver courses to students.

An Education Department spokesman said students would soon have the right to enforce terms of that contract.

"This is designed to provide greater protection for students if there is a breach of contract between the government and vocational training provider," he said.

But he said contracts would vary between providers.

Earlier this year the national training regulator rejected a training college's registration after finding it had failed to meet quality standards.

More than 1200 students were enrolled at the college, which offered a wide range of courses from aged care, childcare and transport and logistics. The students were forced to find other colleges to complete their courses.

The Australian Education Union's TAFE vice-president, Greg Barclay, said the new laws were a "good move" but the government needed to ensure the contracts were fair to students.

The Victorian TAFE Association's education policy consultant, Nita Schultz, said the greater capacity to seek compensation would "fill a gap" in students' rights as consumers. "It's got to give students more confidence," she said.

Ms Schultz said students might also be entitled to sue their training college if it closed their course before they could complete it.

The new laws are part of legislation recently introduced to the Victorian Parliament about how universities and TAFEs are governed.

Some of the new legislation is highly contentious, including the removal of the requirement that university councils and TAFE boards must include students and staff.

More than 220 academics have signed an open letter protesting against this change.

Melbourne University professor and author Raimond Gaita and La Trobe politics Professor Dennis Altman are among the high-profile academics who have lent their names to the "defence of university autonomy and academic freedom". The letter calls on the state government to abandon the bill.

"Universities are not businesses selling education and research products. They are some of our oldest public institutions and their autonomy is crucial to a properly functioning democracy and vibrant civil society," the letter said.

But Higher Education Minister Peter Hall said there was nothing to stop universities appointing students and staff to their councils if they had the necessary skills.

He said the government was introducing the changes after extensive discussions with chancellors and vice-chancellors from Victoria's universities.


13 November, 2012


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG comments on the way Kevin Rudd keeps popping up like a bad penny

Australia's hero of the hour

Australia's cricket captain Michael Clarke is 218 not out in the match against the South Africans at The Gabba.  I live within earshot of the Gabba

Steve Biddulph overgeneralizes

Steve sometimes says sensible things but he has got carried away by some unpleasant events in the form of initiation rituals at one Sydney college.  See below. 

If he was up on his anthropology he would know that initiation rituals are as old as the hills and a powerful bonding agent.  They really are quite masculine.  Like anything else, they can get out of hand and sometimes do but in our society they are generally a lot less destructive than (say) the subincision ritual of Aboriginal "secret men's business'. Or will Aborigines "never be real men"? 

For Biddulph to condemn a whole generation of Australian men on the basis of one or two incidents is quite hysterical and certainly shows that he is no scientist.  Perhaps he is just angry that his frequent earnest advice about parenting is little heeded.  All that abuse and vitriol below certainly sounds like it has got rage behind it

YOU'D have to say it's a theme in the culture - the outrageous mistreatment of girls at Sydney University's St John's College, which almost took the life of a student there this year. The scandal that shook the Australian Defence Force Academy over sexual violations present and past, and similar problems right across the defence forces. And of course the recurring sagas involving sportsmen's behaviour towards women.

We are only just coming to grips with our tendency to create generations of defective men. That this happens in places that are the incubators of our nation's political, legal and business leaders, means it couldn't be more urgent.

Schools and university colleges have long claimed to be about making honourable men. The now laughably pompous-sounding name "Johnsmen" for the Sydney college's former residents must have had its origins in some ideal of masculinity. It doesn't square with images of students collecting their own faeces to leave lying in corridors, or setting fire to furniture, let alone violating vulnerable students. What is most concerning is that the adults in charge were for so long unwilling to intervene.

The concept of initiation is a clue to what has gone wrong. Acts of cruelty from those a year or two ahead of you are not initiation. They're a reductionist act, not a liberating one, creating conformity and leaving a legacy of fear and shame.

The clear sanctioning of bullying by those in charge of what is to be their new home creates a terrible dilemma for the victims - since the only escape is to become part of the problem. Bullies have long operated by enlisting the frightened to stand alongside them.

We've long understood how this process works. From the origins of the British military, to the boarding schools of the empire, the leadership class has often been weak and effete. It relied on fostering a harsh pecking order among the ranks, letting them rule themselves, and issuing favours to those who survived. The school bully was almost a designated role.

Whether in the barracks of the Australian Defence Force Academy, or a university college full of socially inadequate and under-parented young men, it's not enough to merely offer room and board. This age group requires intense engagement with adults who have strong values and who live in the same space as those they educate. Boys become the men they look up to and spend time with.

The role of alcohol needs to be revisited. Experts in youth mental health are campaigning for a change in the selling of alcohol in-house by colleges. It is well documented that binge drinking arises from peer pressure in halls of residence, and is a serious mental health risk actually created by college life.

Suicide, depression, sexual assault and fatal accidents haunt the world of tertiary education. This is not a rite of passage that we need.

There is much thinking going into helping boys turn into men. Schools across the world have begun to deliberately tackle this issue, since it clearly does not happen if merely left to chance.

Secondary schools, both church and government, hold programs that involve parents, staff and boys, usually in year 9 or 10, as they begin a formal parting from boyhood and spend a year studying manhood. The qualities of respect for self and others, of becoming a responsible adult, are meshed into the curriculum, with the active involvement of men the boys know and respect.

What happened at St John's College - the formative ground of many men in public life today, including a prospective prime minister in Tony Abbott - is not a small or isolated problem. Several months ago, a group of Australian private school boys tied up and sexually abused a disabled girl student, and filmed themselves doing so. The police investigated, but her parents declined to bring charges, understandably wanting to spare her the ordeal.

The school moved to suspend the boys concerned - no more - but their parents expressed outrage at any disciplinary action, and the matter lapsed.

Doubtless these young men, like thousands before, will continue on with their lives and become charming husbands and fathers and respected community figures. At least, on the surface. But they will never be real men.


The net is slowly closing on Julia  -- and her dubious past

LAW firm Slater & Gordon has contradicted Julia Gillard's claim that she was not in charge of legal work for the purchase in 1993 of a Fitzroy property later found to have been bought with stolen union money.

Ms Gillard - a former salaried partner with the firm - last week denied responsibility for conveyancing work on the purchase of the Kerr Street unit by a crony of her disgraced former boyfriend Bruce Wilson.  "I was not in charge of the conveyancing file," she told journalists during a visit to Laos.

But Slater & Gordon managing director Andrew Grech has confirmed Ms Gillard "acted directly" in the conveyancing work on the property purchase. The confirmation came in documents lodged with the Australian Press Council in support of a complaint against Fairfax newspapers and this journalist over reporting of the firm's role in the Australian Workers Union "slush fund" scandal.

Ms Gillard is under sustained opposition attack over her role as a legal adviser to the union in the early 1990s when Mr Wilson was a senior official. She has denied any wrongdoing.

A West Australian fraud squad investigation discovered in 1996 that Mr Wilson had stolen more than $400,000 from the AWU Workplace Reform Association.

The association, established with Ms Gillard's professional assistance in 1992, was incorporated to promote workplace safety and training, but she has publicly confirmed it was a "slush fund" designed to raise union election campaign funds.

More than $100,000 from the association was used to purchase the Fitzroy unit in the name of Ralph Blewitt, a close associate of Mr Wilson and then WA secretary of the AWU.

The property - which Mr Blewitt had never seen - was bought at auction by Mr Wilson in the company of Ms Gillard using a power-of-attorney she had drafted. She then arranged finance from a Slater & Gordon loan facility to complete the purchase and waived legal fees on the conveyancing work.

Slater & Gordon has complained to the Press Council about reports in Fairfax newspapers and associated websites on October 13 detailing internal tensions within the firm in 1995 over Ms Gillard's conduct and her role in the formation of the AWU association.

One of the reports detailed how a letter written by Ms Gillard to the WA Corporate Affairs Commission in mid-1992 had vouched for the bona fides of the association and been instrumental in securing approval for its incorporation.

In a "summary of issues" submitted to the Press Council, Mr Grech objected to accusations by lawyers representing Mr Blewitt that Slater & Gordon was stalling the release of an unofficial file created by Ms Gillard detailing work on the incorporation.

"The only documentary evidence Slater & Gordon was in possession of was that Ms Gillard acted directly for Mr Blewitt in relation to a conveyancing matter, a union dispute and a defamation matter," he said.

Mr Grech confirmed to Fairfax on October 16 that the file was missing.


Former principal sues Jewish school

No freedom of religion, I guess.  He seems to have been generously treated considering that most of his staff refused to keep working with him

A FORMER principal of one of Melbourne's top Jewish schools, Bialik College, is suing the school for millions of dollars over his abrupt and mysterious sacking last year.

Joseph Gerassi - believed to be the first openly gay principal of a Jewish school in Australia - was called into a meeting on August 24 last year and told the school council had "lost confidence" in him.

However, in a case which has similarities to the termination of Methodist Ladies' College principal Rosa Storelli, the council of Bialik College acknowledged the "positive changes" Mr Gerassi had made to the school.

Documents filed in the Federal Court reveal Mr Gerassi alleges his dismissal contravened the Fair Work Act and was a breach of his contract.

He is seeking compensation for loss of income, shock, distress, humiliation and damage to his reputation and professional standing.

Mr Gerassi, who is believed to have earned more than $300,000 a year as principal, is unlikely to find an equivalent job at another Jewish school given homosexuality is not condoned by sections of the Jewish community.

The mystery that surrounded his termination also meant rumours were rife within the Jewish community that were damaging to his reputation.

Mr Gerassi started as principal at Bialik College in 2009. In 2010, Bialik was ranked the equal-top performing private school in VCE, with 35 per cent of study scores 40 or above, and enrolments at the kinder to year 12 school in Hawthorn East had risen during Mr Gerassi's time.

Mr Gerassi was told to resign at the meeting on August 24 or have his employment terminated within an hour. Council president Graham Goldsmith told him 15 staff members were going to resign if his employment was not terminated.

"While the council has acknowledged many of the positive changes you have made to the college, the council has come to the difficult but unanimous decision that they have lost confidence in your ability to lead the college into the future," Mr Goldsmith wrote in a letter to Mr Gerassi.

He was given nine months pay - and for nine months was ordered not to attend Bialik College or speak to the media, staff or school community.

The court documents claim the school council's ultimatum that Mr Gerassi resign or he would be fired prevented him from exercising his workplace right to make a complaint in relation to his employment. They say he was not able to obtain advice or respond to the conclusion the school council had lost confidence in him.

His lawyer, Andrew Farr of Lander & Rogers, also alleges that Bialik College breached Mr Gerassi's employment contract by not offering mediation. In the notice of defence, Bialik College said a mediation did take place.

It denies Mr Gerassi is entitled to the compensation sought or that he suffered any loss or damage due to the council's conduct.

A spokesman for Bialik said the school could not comment on the case because it was before the courts. "This happened 12 months ago - the school has put it behind it. The school community has been kept informed of the situation throughout," he said.

Mr Gerassi said: "The only thing I would like to say at this point is that I took the decision to take this matter to the Federal Court at great personal cost in an attempt to clear my name and to restore my reputation."



Three current articles below

Green bank won't deliver "clean" energy by 2020

Unless it's backed up by more compulsion

The $10 billion clean energy finance corporation will not deliver additional clean energy by 2020 but will just shuffle renewable energy investment from wind power to solar, new modelling says.

But the modelling found the "green bank" could deliver "bang for its buck" if the government expanded the renewable energy target to apply to the projects it funded.

Two sets of modelling for the WWF and the Australian Solar Council found that, as it is proposed, the green bank's proposed $2 billion a year in investments would drive no additional renewable energy investment by 2020.

But expanding the renewable energy target - which requires electricity providers to source 45,000 gigawatt hours of power from renewable sources by 2020 - could see Australia generate an additional 3 per cent of its electricity from renewables (26 per cent rather than 23 per cent) without any change to government spending and without hitting electricity prices.

The green bank is intended to provide both commercial and subsidised loans to big clean energy projects, but from its inception green groups argued that while the carbon price was still relatively low the projects would also need the additional "leg up" from the ongoing effective subsidy of being included in the government's renewable energy target (RET).

The modelling shows that, if the RET was expanded, both wind and solar photovoltaics would get a boost, substantially reducing emissions.

And it argues that because renewables, especially solar, reduce peak demand and lower wholesale prices, this would offset a slight increase in retail prices from the move - resulting in no net increase for household power bills.

"There is an opportunity for the CEFC to have a greater potentially no additional cost to the public," said WWF climate change manager Kellie Caught.

Chief executive of the Australian Solar Council John Grimes said even though solar would be the winner under current policy settings, it made sense to boost renewables overall.

The modelling will be provided to the Climate Change Authority which is reviewing the RET, with many industry groups and state governments arguing that it should be wound back rather than expanded.

The new modelling came as proponents confirmed the demise of the $1.2 billion Solar Dawn project, which was to begin construction of a 250 megawatt solar thermal power plant near Chinchilla in 2013, after the decision by the new Queensland Government earlier this year to cancel promised state funding.


Renewable energy scheme cost $3.2 billion

The federal government’s solar renewable energy scheme has cost households $3.2 billion over the past two years alone, according to Origin Energy.

At its annual general meeting today, Origin managing director Mr Grant King said the funds could have easily funded a roll-out of smart meters which would help cut electricity use.

"The uncapped nature of the small scale renewable scheme has led to an increased cost of the scheme to customers of about approximately $3.2 billion," he said.

“The $3.2 billion cost of the [scheme] would have allowed most Australians to have smart meters installed.”

The small scale scheme forms part of the federal government’s renewable energy target for at least 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity supply to come from renewable sources by 2020.

Origin estimates renewable energy could supply up to 27 per cent of electricity by 2020.

"This will come at a considerable cost," the chairman Mr Kevin McCann said. "Homes and businesses will bear the cost and are likely to be unaware of that. In addition, there will be technical build and grid impact issues that must be carefully considered."

“I never thought Australia would be in this position where the dysfunctional regulation between state and federal authorities could cost us, for example, the flawed Queensland pricing determination mechanism.”

The cost of complying with the renewable energy scheme was a prime factor in Origin’s profit downgrade at the end of last week. It now expects no profit growth this financial year, which has pushed the company’s shares to 5-year lows.

Origin also attributed the share price slide to a “lack of patience by investors who are concerned whether large resource projects like [Origin’s] APLNG will be on time on or within budget”.

Shareholders expressed concern about the impact of coal seam gas extraction by the company, with one shareholder worried that Origin may become "a modern day James Hardie", in reference to that company’s ongoing asbestos liability.

“We won’t jeopardise our social licence and we certainly don’t want to be a James Hardie,” Mr McCann said. “We have a team of environmentalists working with the government under strict regulations in Queensland. But it is important to note that gas is no longer a transitional fuel."

Shareholder concerns about the lack of geothermal, solar and wind energy production dominated the rest of the meeting.

Mr McCann said investment in renewable energy is not cheap in Australia, although the company is active in overseas countries such as New Zealand and Chile, where it is more competitive.


A scientist's open mind snaps shut

by Tony Thomas

Suzanne Cory AC, FAA, FRS, has been president of the Australian Academy of Science since 2010 and is a distinguished researcher in the molecular genetics of cancer. I interviewed her on climate change for Quadrant (May 2012) and was impressed that she was more open-minded on the controversies about catastrophic human-caused global warming (CAGW) than her authoritarian predecessor Kurt Lambeck.

As I quoted Cory:

“As a professional I’d be happy to talk about cancer but not about climate change… It is really important to allow scientists to seriously question any matter from any perspective. You discover truth by knocking down an hypothesis with new evidence. Scientific debate on climate change is the only way we will improve the science.”

“So the science is not settled?” I asked.

“Exactly,” she replied.

It was therefore disappointing to read her remarks in The Weekend Australian magazine on October 20. Her views on the climate controversies seemed unworthy of her. Maybe the reporter edited out any sensible comments. The published bits of her Good Weekend interview were:

Q: Do you find the lack of scientific literacy in the general community dispiriting?

A: Yes. We have people taking false comfort in alleged cancer remedies and others dismissing climate change research or immunization research as a matter of political opinion. Such poor understanding of current knowledge diminishes all our social debates.

Q: Has the climate change debate politicized science?

A: The media’s pursuit of balance in reporting has meant that a very small minority has been given equal weight to the huge majority. Science is not political. It is a process of observation, hypothesis, challenge and proof, and the science of anthropogenic climate change is very well established.

Cory assumes there is some solid corpus of scientific knowledge called “climate change research”, which would only be challenged by those with “a poor understanding of current knowledge”.

Similarly she refers to “the science” of anthropogenic climate change as being “very well established”. This is equivalent to her saying that “the science” of molecular genetics of cancer is “very well established”, thus skating over the molecular-genetic controversies which I am sure exist in her own discipline (or is the job done?).

Cory has merely set up a straw man to attack. Indeed AGW is well established, and most skeptics agree that human-caused CO2 emissions may well be causing some mild (maybe beneficial), warming.

If Cory were conversant with the actual climate debate, and chose to take sides, she would instead have said that (a) “the credibility of CAGW forecasts” is very well established. She would also have said (b) that “the three-fold feedback impacts on temperature asserted by the climate modellers, consequent on a doubling of atmospheric CO2” is also very well established. These are statements capable of falsification and therefore worth making, in lieu of motherhoodisms.

She taunts anti-consensus climate researchers and aligns them with quacks in other fields in a way I am sure she would not do to any researchers within her own discipline. To Cory, disagreement with her take on climate catastropharianism is “taking false comfort”, or “poor understanding” which “diminishes all our social debates”.

Her argument includes that the media should not give equal weight to “a very small minority” of skeptics, compared with “a huge majority” of warmists. Cory appears to have swallowed the finding of a student M.Sc. thesis that 97% of climate scientists believe in CAGW.[1] Anyone in her medical cancer research field who put out data of such mendacity, would be tarred and feathered by Cory and run out of town on a rail.[2]

Cory ignores the roll-call of American scientists, 31,000 to date, who have rejected the CAGW hypothesis.[3] Even allowing for the credibility issues in all such petitions, there is obviously a reputable and substantial group of her global science peers who do not subscribe to her “climate-majority” views. This formidable body of scholars, she asserts, has “poor understanding”, a la anti-vaccination nuts, and is degrading public debate.

She also seems unaware of her crushing non-sequitur. She argues that the media should respect only the views of the “huge majority” of warmists. Then without pausing for breath she says that “science is not political” but based on “observation, hypothesis, challenge and proof”.

So what is the media meant to do if it comes across scientific findings that, say, Antarctic ice is increasing (despite the globe allegedly warming strongly), that the Roman and Medieval warmings were higher than the 20th century warmings (giving our CO2 warmists an obvious question to answer), or, dare I mention it, that there has been no statistically significant warming for the past 16 years?[4][5][6] Would the President of the Australian Academy of Science prefer that such findings be suppressed by a compliant media?

Cory began her term at the AAS as an unthinking warmist, accepting the fanciful findings of the Raupachs, Karolys and Flannerys as holy writ.[7] [8]  [9]A few months ago she appeared to have become more respectful of “the science” as opposed to “the warmism”. But today she’s again a climate dogma devotee. How sad for the Academy.


12 November, 2012

Shock, horror!  Speaker at Catholic college fails to honour politically correct custom

He paid a tribute to the real founders of a college instead of the imaginary Aboriginal founders.  He said nothing at all about Aborigines but saying nothing was to insult them!

Non-Australians will find this hard to follow but in Leftist and particularly academic Australian circles, big meetings such as graduation ceremonies begin these days by acknowledging the fact that Aboriginal tribes used to live on the land concerned.  The pretence is that the meeting is held only with permission of the "traditional owners" of the land  -- which is of course complete garbage.  They have no title to it at law at all

A leading Sydney barrister and senior counsel at the trouble-plagued St John's College has sparked outrage after mocking the Aboriginal community at an official dinner at the University of Sydney.

Jeffrey Phillips, SC, stood in the college's 150-year-old Great Hall and, in front of more than 250 staff, students and guests, paid tribute to the "traditional custodians of this place" whom he identified as being the "Benedictines who came from the great English nation".

The comment was made in the presence of several indigenous students, one of whom has lodged a formal complaint and, according to senior staff, remains "deeply traumatised".

Mark Spinks, a respected member of Sydney's Aboriginal community and chairman of the Aboriginal men's group Babana, said: "How disgusting, how disgraceful, how disrespectful are those comments. I am outraged and I am disturbed. For that to have been said at the university, in a room full of students, I am almost speechless."

Last night, the University of Sydney's vice-chancellor, Michael Spence, condemned Mr Phillips' remarks. He said: "The university is very proud of the fact that it stands on land where indigenous peoples have been teaching and learning for many thousands of years before us and we acknowledge this publicly whenever we can."

Mr Phillips graduated from the college more than three decades ago but today he is back and, on occasions, reliving the good old days. The students appointed him as patron of the student club in 2009 and he is always a phone call away. He drinks and sings with them at formal dinners. He invites a select group to long lunches and "networking" events in the city, including a recent cigar and whisky appreciation night. He helps to find work for the law students of the college and hosts an essay competition each year, with a prize of $500.

Yesterday, Mr Phillips said his comments had been taken out of context, adding that he had sent the upset student a letter.

"It is a great pity that my speech was misinterpreted by one student," he said in a statement. "The speech was not intended, nor delivered in any way to disrespect or mock indigenous people. On the contrary, the speech had an important message of forgiveness and tolerance.

Neither the rector, Mr Bongers, nor anyone else present at the speech complained. In fact, the Rector personally thanked me warmly for my speech. Whilst I apologised to the student, as she had been offended, it is important, especially in an environment of vigorous debate, such as a university, that simple misunderstandings by one student not be blown out of proportion."


Official buckpassing:  Nurse wrongly blamed for death at poorly resourced public hospital

Jane Thompson says her life has been reduced to 49 minutes.  In that space of time, three children can lose a mother, a husband can lose a wife and a nurse can find herself publicly blamed for the whole lot, in a case that became a cause celebre for stretched hospital resources.

Ms Thompson has written reams of statements and answered thousands of questions about her movements between 8.03am on June 24, 2007, when a 29-year-old woman who had just delivered a baby girl by caesarean section came into her care at Bathurst Hospital, and 8.52am, when she urgently called back the doctors. The woman later died from post-partum haemorrhage.

Now, finally, Ms Thompson has been exonerated of wrongdoing. But the nurse's battle to clear her name came at the cost of her marriage, her career and almost her sanity.

After the incident, the hospital conducted a "root cause analysis", which indicated that it took Ms Thompson 36 minutes between noticing the blood loss and calling back the specialists. That report has since been discredited but it was seized on by the grieving family desperate for answers and the Health Care Complaints Commission, which has pursued Ms Thompson ever since.

It also came into the possession of the then opposition spokeswoman for health, Jillian Skinner, who held a doorstop with the patient's widower in which she presented it as the epitome of what was wrong with NSW hospitals: "Poor communication, inexperienced staff, equipment that didn't work." When that hit the headlines, the town rounded on its hospital, which fielded death threats and abusive phone calls in the days that followed.

Brendan Smith, who was in charge of the anaesthetic department, said the effect on staff was debilitating. "Nurses were bursting into tears in the corridors," he said.

For Ms Thompson, it was too much. She moved out of the operating theatre, which she loved, and into a community role.  "I felt that I was No.1 target," she said. "I couldn't cope with it any more, with that high pressure environment."

Worse was to come. In June 2009, a coronial inquiry into the incident was held at Westmead. Ms Thompson was labelled as "junior" and "untrained". She was blamed for taking too long to call the doctors, keeping poor notes and failing to recognise that the patient was about to haemorrhage.

Professor Smith said staff were confused by the focus on Ms Thompson.  "I don't know quite what happened at the coroner's inquest but somewhere behind closed doors there seemed to be some kind of agreement that Jane Thompson's pelt was going to be tied to the back fence," he said.

Ms Thompson gave evidence for five hours. "The family's barrister … said I was a liar and incompetent, and I did not look after my patient," she said. "Apart from losing [the patient], it's the most horrific thing that ever happened to me. I can't sleep at night. I'm still stuck in that coroner's court."

The coroner made no adverse findings against Ms Thompson, but the commission pressed on with its case against her. It took its complaint against her to the Professional Standards Committee, and when she was cleared in that forum, it appealed to the Nursing and Midwifery Tribunal, which ordered a new hearing.

But by now, Ms Thompson had legal representation and was better prepared. Two emergency doctors gave evidence that she could not have anticipated the haemorrhage and a more thorough investigation of call records indicated she had informed doctors immediately.

She told the tribunal: "I still cannot believe that out of the entire team that was on that day that I am the only one that is being accused of anything … I looked after my patient."

The Nursing and Midwifery Tribunal dismissed the case against Ms Thompson earlier this month. The decision is a vindication of Ms Thompson but for her there is something bigger at stake.

"These five years I've been under intense pressure, fighting for every breath I took," she said. "If I gave up, I knew I was going to be tainted with the death of [the patient] and I didn't want to live with that and I didn't want them to live with that.  "I didn't want those three little children to believe that I was the cause of their mother's death."


Stupid  Bureaucrats put Customs staff in  danger

They should be indentifiable but numbers should suffice -- as is long-standing police practice

AN INDUSTRIAL dispute involving Customs and Border Protection has erupted after officers expressed fears a new dress code forcing them to wear badges with their full names will make them targets for organised crime syndicates, drug dealers and angry members of the public.

The Community and Public Sector Union has warned Customs that the move is considered to be a potentially serious security risk.

It is understood that there has already been a case, in which the family of an officer whose identify was revealed, were stalked.

Rebecca Fawcett, the acting deputy secretary of the union, said the members felt so strongly that the matter may escalate and end up before Fair Work Australia.

"Customs officers have difficult and dangerous duties particularly when they are our frontline of border protection. This presents a real risk and makes them a target."

The changes follow a review of uniform policies earlier this year, in which Customs introduced a requirement for all uniformed and non-uniformed officers with public contact to wear a name badge with their full name displayed.

A spokesman for Customs said that the requirement is not new, adding there have been discussions with the union since April this year, regarding the change in policy.

"Customs and Border Protection is aware that staff and the Community and Public Sector Union have concerns regarding the name badge policy," said the spokesman.

He said that where an officer has "evidence that complying with these requirements would compromise their personal safety, the officer can seek an exemption."


Food Fascists still bleating

No correlation between health and advertising restrictions has ever been shown but it seems to give these do-gooders a high to propose restrictions on what people do and see

A group of leading public health agencies says current measures to restrict junk food marketing to children have failed and tougher restrictions are needed.

The Obesity Policy Coalition has sent a report to state and federal health ministers, calling on them to forcibly restrict junk food ads targeting children.

The coalition's executive manager, Jane Martin, says there is a clear conflict of interest because the code is regulated by the food industry.  She says the Government's own research backs the coalition's findings that there has been no reduction in advertising exposure to children.

"The reason this is so important is because children's diets are incredibly bad," she said.  "They're eating more and more unhealthy food.

"This food is cheap, heavily promoted, easily available and so we need to look at all the levers we can push, and we know that as part of a comprehensive approach, controls on marketing are absolutely critical."

Ms Martin says something must be done to curb the record levels of childhood obesity.

She says regulating junk food advertising is not the only way to tackle bad eating habits but it is an important factor.  "It's part of a comprehensive approach," she said.  "It has reduced exposure of children to some extent and we know it's a key driver. So it's very important that we address all the drivers of overweight and obesity."

She said parents also need to be conscious of the food their children eat and resist pressure to buy junk food.  "I think parents want the Government to step in now and support them," Ms Martin said.

"Government has been pushing this issue around since the preventative health task force recommended they do something and look to moving beyond self-regulation, if it doesn't work.  "I think we've shown that it's not working.  [Show something that does work!]


11 November, 2012

Coral reef alarmists can't keep their story straight

Australia's Great Barrier Reef is an immense coral structure stretching over more than 1500 miles in a roughly North to South direction. Its corals and fish are beautiful and it is a "must see" for recreational divers.

Because it is so admirable, however, Warmists have long had their beady eyes on it.  If they can make a case that global warming is destroying it they see a propaganda victory.  It is however peskily resilient so far.  When bits get damaged they heal up again. (Diaz-Pulido, 2009; Bellwood, 2006)

But WHAT IF we do finally get the two or more degrees of warming that Warmists regularly predict?  Aha!  Then the reef will be in trouble, they say.

As I live in the Australian State where the reef is located, I hear rather a lot about the doom hanging over the GBR, with academics from both the University of Queensland and James Cook University huffing and puffing from time to time. Hoagy (Prof. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg) used to be the chief doomster but he mostly seems to be handing over to a younger generation these days.


And, hey presto!  Included in my local newpaper that I got yesterday (Nov. 11) was a colour magazine called "QWeekend" which included a big feature on coral.  I reproduce the attractive opening page below. 

Magazines of this sort seem to be beyond the reach of Google so it is interesting to see what is slipping by the reach of internet users but still lodging in at least the local public consciousness.

And it's a lot of fun.  I reproduce below a couple of bits.  I rather like this bald assertion (end of excerpt) from a Dr. Matt  Lybolt, protege of Fra Pandolf himself:  "A sea-level rise is good for reefs".


WHAAT?  Panic stations!  That is the WRONG thing to say!  Any Warmist will tell you that global warming will lead to sea-level rise.  So will global warming be GOOD for reefs? Unthinkable!  Dr. Lybolt is a very bad boy,

p. 29

So we come to our next excerpt.  Lybolt is at it again:  "The Great Barrier Reef is not in trouble".  He qualifies that statement in a totally confusing way but he is obviously having trouble toeing the party line.  That he and his supervisor are Warmists, however, there is no doubt.

I have dealt with Fra Pandolf's nonsense about the effects of human settlement a couple of days ago -- JR


Bellwood, D.R. et al. (2006) "Coral bleaching, reef fish community phase shifts and the resilience of coral reefs" Global Change Biology 12 (9), 1587–1594

Diaz-Pulido, G. et al. (2009) "Doom and Boom on a Resilient Reef: Climate Change, Algal Overgrowth and Coral Recovery"  PLoS ONE 4(4): e5239.

Australia's superannuation  system is one huge ripoff

 Alan Kohler

And after 5 years of Leftist government nothing has been done to help the little guy.  The ALP are too busy putting up people's power bills and building a superfluous phone network.  I kid you not

I survived the GFC in good shape because I manage my own stockmarket investments -- on conservative principles.  But the average person cannot be expected to do that.  He puts his trust in "managers", who mainly manage to impoverish him -- JR

It doesn't take more than a few moments thought to understand that Australia's superannuation system is not the paragon it's cracked up to be.

Savers and retirees are fully exposed to both market and longevity risk, there is very little regulation around where the money should be invested and virtually no regulation of fees.

In other words, Australians are required by law to save 9 per cent of their salaries in an effectively unregulated privately managed system.

The industry will argue that it is, indeed, tightly regulated, but not where it counts. Other utilities' prices are set according to the returns on capital of the providers; in super, not only are fees essentially unregulated, but few customers even know what they are.

Those who can actually work out the dollar amount by multiplying the basis points by the amount in their fund, which is not very many people, would have to make sure they include all the different fees in their statement - administrative and investment fees. It's virtually impossible.

So the superannuation industry is in the happy position of providing a service that is mandated by law where the price is both unregulated and effectively unknown.

No wonder there are more than 400 super funds in this country and many more investment managers fighting to manage the $1.4 trillion in super and $9 billion a year in inflows, and little wonder that the fastest growing sector is self-managed super.

I met an English investment manager for a coffee yesterday who, unsolicited, expressed amazement at the levels of investment fees in this country.

"How long has this been going on?" he wanted to know.

But that's not the worst thing about our superannuation system. The worst thing is the brutal risks to which Australians are routinely exposed.

Between about 1985 and 2000 all capital, both private and public, was removed from the support of retirement pensions. Up to that point most corporations, life offices and governments allocated part of their capital to guarantee their employees a certain retirement income.

But in the space of a few years they all rushed out of "defined benefit" super, as it was called, to "defined contribution", or accumulation, funds. Billions in capital was given back to happy shareholders or deployed elsewhere by even happier managers and politicians.

It has taken about a decade for the risks of this process to become evident. For the first 10 years the fact that Australian super funds had over-exposed their unknowing clients to equities was not a problem because the stock market boomed.

Now the funds have been going backwards for five years and suddenly the nation's retirement savers are exposed to what is politely called "sequencing risk" - that is, if you want to retire when the market is down, bad luck!

In general, very few people in Australia now know what they will have to live on when they retire. It is a lottery. In the space of two decades we have gone from knowing and not having to worry, to not having faintest clue, and worrying like hell.

Many people, realising late in life that they won't have enough, start taking bigger and bigger risks as they approach retirement to improve their returns, when the opposite is recommended. For some this pays; for many it is a disaster.

Meanwhile, when we retire we are left to our own devices with a lump of money. Usually, but not always, we consult an adviser. Sometimes we give the lot to a nice man who then runs off with it.

The advisers used to be paid commissions by investment managers, as well as unscrupulous shysters, to ensure that the money found its way back to them.

Those commissions are now banned, in the face of a ferocious campaign from the industry, but the money still mostly goes back into "balanced" investment portfolios - that is, shares, property, hedge funds, private equity, bonds and cash - using expensive managers for each category.

As during the saving years, retirees are thus playing the asset markets once again; nobody is guaranteeing them anything.

So once they retire, Australians are exposed to the greatest risk of them all: that they will have the misfortune to live a long time.

According to the Bureau of Statistics average life expectancy in Australia is now 79.5 years for males and 84 for females. But that's an average - half the people will need to fund a retirement of more than 15-19 years (assuming retirement at 65), and many will live much, much longer than that. It's another lottery.

Moreover, the crackdown on smoking, the advent of effective anti-cholesterol drugs and advances in cancer research, among other things, will ensure that life expectancy increases dramatically from here.

The cost of retiring, already enormous, is set to soar. Yet just as nobody knows what fees they are paying to have their savings lost, nobody knows what it will cost them to retire and whether they will be able to afford it. Mind you, it's usually better not to know, because you can't afford it.

As Winston Churchill would say, superannuation in this country is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

It is a national disgrace.


Teachers 'failing to champion excellence', Australian academic warns

Speaking in Britain

School standards are being damaged by a "conspiracy of silence" among teachers who refuse to champion excellence, a leading academic has warned.

Pupils may be missing out on the very best results because of a "great equalisation" at the heart of the teaching profession that fails to mark out and reward top-performing staff, it was claimed.

John Hattie, professor of education at Melbourne University, suggested that too many teachers were reluctant to value expertise for fear of denigrating struggling colleagues.

He insisted that the "tyranny of the closed door" was a major problem as it prevented teachers sharing their best ideas and lessons with their colleagues.

A rigorous focus on teacher improvement is the hallmark of top education systems around the world but a reluctance to adopt a similar system in the UK risks undermining standards, Prof Hattie suggested.

He warned that the impact that schools can have on pupils "will barely change" until drastic reforms are made.

The comments come amid continuing concerns the variable quality of lessons in schools.

In its annual report last year, Ofsted warned that teaching was not good enough in more than four-in-10 English schools, with "dull" lessons fuelling bad behaviour in the classroom.

Ministers have now introduced new rules making it easier for heads to sack consistently struggling teachers. The Government is also considering introducing a new system of performance-related pay to reward the very best staff.

Prof Hattie, an expert in the evaluation of teaching standards, said there was a "great equalisation in the profession that does not welcome excellence and a conspiracy of silence to even talk among each other about the impact of their teaching".

Speaking ahead of a presentation to the London Festival of Education on November 17, he said too many teachers failed to properly observe their colleagues at work.

"The greatest difference between one school and another is the quality of teaching," he said.

"Yet in spite of this there is a conspiracy of silence, with teachers unwilling to talk to their colleagues about the impact of their teaching.

"Teachers, like politicians, prefer to talk about the curriculum, children, assessments and the structural parts of schooling such as the state of the school building.

"Until this situation is properly acknowledged, it just isn't possible to truly change the impact a teacher, a school, even an entire education system, can have on its pupils."

The academic, author of the book "Visible Learning", said the UK education system was not sufficiently geared towards teacher improvement, adding that the profession failed to sufficiently "rejoice" at evidence of improvement being made.

"Teachers too often live in their private worlds with teaching often done in front of classes not visible to colleagues," he said.

"And our studies show that the most high impact and passionate teachers are not always the most social in the staffroom."

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, insisted that teachers constantly "strived for excellence" but were hampered by a lack of on-the-job training and attacks from politicians.

"Teachers find their efforts to improve the quality of their teaching stymied by the low priority given to continuing professional development," she said.

"And teachers' morale is at rock bottom - damaged by wave upon wave of denigration by Michael Gove [the Education Secretary] and his acolytes.

"If the situation is to improve, teachers must become partners in the drive to improve education performance. After all, it is teachers who will make the difference - not politicians."


Future of NSW environment office at risk after cuts

THE Premier, Barry O'Farrell, has refused to guarantee future funding for the Environmental Defender's Office of NSW, the legal agency that represents community groups against developers in environmental disputes.

With reduced funding available only to March, the office has been put on notice while the Attorney-General conducts a review of community legal advice.

The Minister for Energy, Chris Hartcher, has accused the group of helping activist groups hurt the coal and coal seam gas industries as part of a "left agenda to destroy the economy".

When asked if he endorsed Mr Hartcher's views, Mr O'Farrell did not comment.  "The Premier supports the comments made last week by the Attorney-General," a spokesman for Mr O'Farrell said.

The Attorney-General, Greg Smith, said no decision had been made about the EDO's future. Most of its funding - about $1.12 million this year - comes from the Public Purpose Fund, based on interest on unclaimed solicitor's fees.

Mr Smith would be concerned if resources were "diverted from those who need it most to other activities, particularly given limited funding and the state of the Public Purpose Fund", a spokeswoman for Mr Smith said.

The environmental office said its staff would have to be reduced from 25 people to just three people if funding was not restored. It denies it is engaged in activism and said most of its cases involved providing legal help to farmers.

"We have had an extraordinary level of support from people in the community since they heard about the threat to cut funding," said the office's executive director, Jeff Smith.

Among supporters is a group of 59 environmental law academics, who have written to the state government asking that the future of the office be guaranteed.


Even mothers to be don't get no respect in Victorian  hospitals

CROWDED hospitals are sending women home just hours after giving birth, despite them wanting to stay longer.

New mothers are also being discharged without enough help to care for themselves and their babies, forcing some to reach crisis point, maternal and child health experts say.

One Melbourne mother, who only wanted to be known as Viki, said despite receiving excellent care at Sunshine Hospital last year, she was asked to go home nine hours after giving birth because the hospital was too full.

"They said, 'You know how we said you could stay overnight, well, actually, we've just had some new admissions and we have nowhere to put people.' I thought there must be people who need the beds more than I do, so I'll go," she said.

The single mother went home to care for her infant and 10-year-old-child without assistance and had a midwife visit her the next day. While she coped, Viki said the hospital needed more funding for services.

"It will reach a point where it gets unsafe," she said.

One year later, Viki cannot get her baby into the local maternal and child health nurse for a developmental check.

"They said they were completely booked for six weeks and that they don't want to book any further out than six weeks because they don't know how many babies they'll have at that time, so it's pretty bad," she said. "With my first baby I can remember being able to drop in any time if you had a problem or a question and now you can't get an appointment."

Terry O'Bryan, chief executive of Isis Primary Care - the group funded by Brimbank City Council to provide maternal and child health services in Melbourne's west - said the waiting list was a reflection of inadequate funding. "There are waiting times for almost all of our services now and that's because we haven't had commensurate increases in funding for the population rises we've had over the last decade."

Experts said many postnatal services were under pressure in Victoria, including hospital breastfeeding clinics and child and family health services that run programs for parents struggling with unsettled babies.

Professor of women's health at Monash University and the Jean Hailes Foundation Jane Fisher said women were waiting up to three months to get help for problems that could have been prevented with earlier education and care.

While some women could afford to pay for private services, she said research found many new mothers were taking unsettled babies to hospital emergency departments because they were desperate.

She said the government needed to boost community care in the earliest weeks of a baby's life to prevent problems from developing.

"There's a huge need … and people with the highest needs are concentrated in the areas of greatest disadvantage and that's where the services are really stretched," she said.

Dr Lisa Amir, a breastfeeding expert at La Trobe University, said although Victorian women received better care than women in other countries, breastfeeding services had deteriorated in recent years, with the Royal Women's Hospital closing its breastfeeding clinic to women who had not given birth there.

"We need more of a focus on postnatal care," she said.

A spokeswoman for the Victorian government said it was about to release new guidelines to improve postnatal care and had funded two labour and delivery rooms to be added to Sunshine Hospital.

A spokeswoman for Sunshine Hospital would not comment on Viki's case, but said: "Each mother and baby is assessed on a case-by-case basis and discharged from the maternity unit when it is safe for them to return home."


9 November, 2012

Labor Party gives up plan for internet censorship

LABOR has abandoned its controversial plan to introduce an internet filter, but is banning all websites related to child abuse.   The federal government will use its powers under the Telecommunications Act to block hundreds of child abuse websites already identified by Interpol, Fairfax reports.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said blocking these websites met "community expectations and fulfils the government's commitment to preventing Australian internet users from accessing child abuse material online".  "Given this successful outcome, the government has no need to proceed with mandatory filtering legislation," he said.

Kevin Rudd promised to introduce an internet filter when Labor won office at the 2007 election, but it was always a controversial policy.  Internet lobbyists argued against censorship and predicted a filter would be ineffective and would slow internet speeds.

Both the coalition and the Greens opposed the plan.

The internet filter would have required Australian internet service providers to block overseas-hosted "refused classification" material as identified by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The list of banned websites would have been based on public complaints to ACMA.

Fairfax said Internet Industry Association chief executive Peter Lee welcomed the decision as "a positive step".

But the Australian Christian Lobby insisted a filter was needed because "it is important to prevent unwanted access to pornography".  "We must protect our children from forming unhealthy attitudes towards women and sex," lobby spokeswoman Wendy Francis said.


Some out of date tokenism

AUSTRALIA will sign up to a second commitment to the Kyoto protocol, ahead of what the Gillard government expects will be a comprehensive global emissions agreement taking effect in 2020.

Signing the first Kyoto protocol was one of the first acts of the Labor government in December 2007, following John Howard's reluctance to back the agreement.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet told a carbon expo in Melbourne on Friday that Australia was "ready to join a second commitment period" of the protocol, which is to be discussed at global climate talks in Doha in December.

But the protocol - which covers less than 15 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and only from developed nations - was not enough on its own, he said.

Australia will continue to push for a more comprehensive agreement, to be concluded by 2015, and take action through such measures as carbon pricing.

"From 2020 we expect all countries - including the United States, the European Union, China, Japan, India, Indonesia and South Korea - will be part of a new agreement to reduce emissions," Mr Combet said.  "This will bring all countries onto the same legal platform to reduce emissions."

Without taking action to reduce emissions, the Australian economy would face a "severe economic shock" from 2020 and it was better to tackle it now.

The Kyoto protocol was the first global treaty to set binding obligations on countries to cut emissions.

It also created the world's first global carbon market spanning developed and developing countries and the private sector.

It establishes a set of rules and accounting procedures for emissions, and the Kyoto market mechanisms help developed countries meet their commitments and developing countries access clean technology.

Australia's preparedness to join a second commitment period relied on a continuation of the existing land sector rules and access to the Kyoto market mechanisms from January 1, 2013, Mr Combet said.

If these conditions were met in Doha, Australia would take on an emissions reduction target for the Kyoto protocol's second commitment period consistent with the bipartisan commitment to cut emissions by five per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.

There also was the potential to increase this target to 15 or 25 per cent, depending on the scale of global action, Mr Combet said.

Signing the protocol would not affect the liabilities of companies covered under the carbon price which started on July 1.

Rather, it would give businesses greater certainty of access to international carbon markets and provide new opportunities for carbon farming.

In his speech, Mr Combet criticised the Australian Greens and the opposition, saying Labor had been committed to climate action since "before the Greens existed" and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott had "wilfully deceived" people over carbon pricing.


Monarchists in Canberra

Kings and queens, princesses and princes are more than the stuff of fairytales in the Leggatt household.

Dad Garth, is the chair of the ACT branch of the Australian Monarchist League and says his children "find royalty magical".

The family will be helping to welcome the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to Canberra on Saturday, attending each public event - at the renaming of a section of Parkes Place to Queen Elizabeth Terrace on the banks of Lake Burley Griffin and the laying of a wreath at the Australian War Memorial.

Ingrid, 7, and Alexander, 4, will likely see the future monarch, Mr Leggatt believes.  "Charles, I think, will be king and I think Charles will be a very good king. He has been in training for a very long time," he said.

"What people don't realise is that he's written a number of books, he's very intelligent and he's been ahead of his time in matters such as the environment. And, importantly, he knows Australia."

Mr Leggatt, 34, of Stirling, doesn't fit the blue-rinsed stereotype of a royalist. He joined the monarchist league at the tender age of 18, in the lead-up to the referendum on a republic, not convinced a new system could better or even equal the existing one.

He believes the push for a republic is now "on the backburner".   "It's really not an issue. It doesn't excite people because I think we really do have a very effective system of government," he said.

While this royal visit is to celebrate the Queen's diamond jubilee, her 60-year reign, there was also an eye to the future of the monarchy.

Mr Leggatt said Prince Charles would likely be a "transitional monarch", holding the post for a short time "paving the way for William", who still needed time.

He said it was now almost unthinkable to expect William to have become the monarch at the age of 25 as his grandmother had done.

And the Queen "hadn't put a foot wrong since".  "She didn't choose the position, the position chose her," he said. "I'm sure she would be much happier living out in the countryside sowing potatoes and playing with her dogs."

The debate over the renaming of a section of Parkes Place to Queen Elizabeth Terrace meanwhile continues.  Prime Minister Julia Gillard approved the renaming of the section running along Lake Burley Griffin on the advice of the National Capital Authority.

An online petition started by Dr Benjamin Jones, a visiting fellow at the Australian National University, has now been signed by 343 people. Dr Jones says the renaming is an "unacceptable insult" to the memory of Australia's father of Federation, Sir Henry Parkes.

Authority chief executive Gary Rake said the western section of the road had also been renamed Parkes Place West and the eastern section Parkes Place East. Descendants of Sir Henry had been satisfied with that arrangement.

"The renaming of Queen Elizabeth Terrace complements the names of the adjacent parallel streets Queen Victoria, King Edward and King George Terraces," Mr Rake said.


I don't know if I should comment on this ...

But I note that Britain's Daily Mail has put up very derogatory coverage of the Melbourne Cup, Australia's most beloved horse race.  As happens at almost any race meeting anywhere, there were some people who stayed on after the horses had finished running and partied on -- leading to some unattractive drunken behavior.  The "Mail" photographed some of that behaviour and used the photos to condemn the Melbourne Cup generally and the patrons in particular.  They used photos such as the ones below

But the photos above were not taken in Melbourne.  They were taken at Aintree, location of Britiain's premier jump race, The Grand National.  I got the pictures not by wandering the grounds with a camera and looking for the worst I could find but rather by spending 5 minutes looking at the pix returned by Google in response to the search term "Aintree".

There were many other pictures I could put up  -- of tarts in short skirts, ladies showing a lot of breast and, above all, more painted FAT ladies than you would ever want to see.  But I will be kinder than the "Mail".

So why are Brits in glass houses throwing stones?  It's simple, really.  For 200 years Brits have been migrating to Australia for a better life.  And they still do.  A recent survey suggests that half of them would move to Australia if they could.  So that puts "The Old Dart" in a poor light, does it not?  All those Brits voting with their feet don't make Britain look very attractive.

So to retain their self-respect and explain to themselves why they are still in grey and poverty-stricken Britain instead of sunny and comfortable Australia, it helps a little to find a few faults with Australia.  Freud would understand.


I wonder how this fits in with British criticisms of Australian racecourse behaviour?

CCTV images have been released by police investigating a mass brawl between Swansea and Cardiff City fans which brought terror to an afternoon at the races.

Between 50 and 60 people clashed in front of families at Newbury Racecourse in Berkshire at around 4pm on July 14.

It is thought the violence erupted on the ground floor of the grandstand and then spread to the racecourse, marring what should have been an enjoyable afternoon at the Newbury Summer Festival.

Superintendent Robin Rickard said: 'This was a nasty incident involving up to 60 people fighting in the middle of the afternoon and impacted on lots of innocent people and families who had planned to spend an enjoyable day at the races.

More HERE 

Tell me the old old story about wicked mankind and coral reefs

I have been hearing the story at the bottom of this post all my life (and I am now in my 70th year) but it has remained just theory.  At least global warming gets a rest this time, I suppose.

If someone measured agricultural runoff and correlated coral damage with it, I might believe it  -- but there are no such studies. And I think I know why.  At least a third of the Great Barrier Reef runs alongside Cape York Peninsula, which has no significant agriculture  -- and there are changes in the reef there too.

Note that the data for the study below was from one small island  -- while the reef is 1500 miles long!  They don't call it the "Great" barrier reef for nothing.  And Pelorus is actually a popular diving spot for coral reef exploration so is anything but  blighted!  I shouldn't laugh.

I wonder what Hoagy (Prof. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg), Australia's no.1 coral doomster, has got to say about this?  He seemed to fall into a depression for a couple of years when his own research showed that coral reefs bounce back rapidly from damage but he has started squeaking up again lately.  But his evasiveness shows what slime he is.

While I am talking about it, I might as well mention another recent bit of alarmism headed "Coral recovery may not herald the return of fishes on damaged coral reefs" by Bellwood et al.  That sounds pretty alarming, does it not?   In fact it's just Bellwood's attempt to ingratiate himself with the alarmists.   The paper is essentially a reprise of an earlier paper with some awkward findings.    Let me quote:
"We found no decrease in diversity, richness or abundance in reef fishes over the 12-year study period. Indeed, as in most previous studies,  the three main metrics, species richness, diversity (H0) and total abundance showed no response to a major disturbance (in this case the 1998 coral bleaching event).

So what gives? What Bellwood actually found was that a disturbance altered the *makeup* of the fish community.  Some species became relatively more abundant and other species less so. And overall there were MORE fish! Not quite what you might expect from his more recent heading! 

You have to feel rather sorry for scientists who are under such pressure to be "correct" but it is a pity that truth tends to get lost in the process
The influx of Europeans to Australia had a catastrophic effect on the Great Barrier Reef as far back as 90 years ago, before tourism and climate change made an impact, new research claims.

A study found that run-off of pesticides and fertiliser from farms near the Queensland coast clouded the waters of the reef, killing off its natural coral and drastically changing its ecology.

The change was disastrous for many of the animal species that lived in the reef, and for the nearby coastline since the native species had weakened the surf as it came crashing in from the Pacific Ocean.

The study, published yesterday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, suggests that humans had disrupted the ecology of the Great Barrier Reef decades before climate change and reef tourism.

'There was a very significant shift in the coral community composition that was associated with the colonisation of Queensland,' study co-author John Pandolfi of the University of Queensland told LiveScience.

The European colonisation of Queensland began in the 1860s, with settlers hacking down forests to make space for farming. By the Twenties, rivers were pouring huge quantities of fertiliser and pesticides into the ocean.

To find out the impact that this early European colonisation had on the Great Barrier Reef, Professor Pandolfi's team drilled sediment cores 6.5 to 16.5ft deep into the reef off Pelorus Island, off the Queensland coast.

The professor told LiveScience that when coral dies, new coral sprouts on the skeletons and ocean sediments eventually bury them in place. The story of the reef can thus be reconstructed by dating the sediment layers.

The team found that for a millenium prior to the arrival of the European colonists, the reef was dominated by the massive, three-dimensional Acropora coral.

This species grows up to 16ft high and 65ft across, forming a labyrinthine network of nooks and crannies for marine life to inhabit, Professor Pandolfi said.  'They're like the big buildings in the city, they house a lot of the biodiversity,' he told LiveScience.

However, from the Twenties onwards, the impact of humans on the environment began to stifle the Acropora and sometime before the mid-Fifties it had stopped growing altogether - replaced by a slow-growing, spindly coral called Pavona.

The University of Queensland team believes that the polluted run-off from the new farms over time clouded the pristine waters off the coast, poisoning the native species. They also believe that same pollution fed an algae that smothered the native coral species' attempts to regenerate.

Several recent studies have shown that climate change and snorkellers have proved catastrophic for coral, with one finding that half the Great Barrier Reef has died off in the past 50 years.

But Professor Pandolfi and his colleagues' findings suggest that man has been damaging that reef and others for much longer than previously thought. The professor, however, says his work also suggests that the problem has a straightforward solution - reduce polluted run-off into the ocean.

'Any kind of measures that are going to improve the water quality should help those reefs to recover,' he added.


8 November, 2012

Stupidity gets its reward

In the absence of strong moral guidelines it always will. But  morality is old-fashioned and car theft is treated as a minor crime  these days.  In my experience police are not even interested in apprehending offenders.  Are thieves better off dead?  The community might be 

Three teenagers are dead and three others are in hospital after a horror high-speed smash involving a stolen car in Melbourne’s north early this morning.

Six teenagers, including a boy and a girl aged 14, were crowded into a Toyota Camry when the unlicensed female driver lost control on Pascoe Vale Road in Coolaroo and slammed into a brick wall next to the Coolaroo railway station just after midnight.

The 16-year-old female driver from Sunbury, as well as a 12-year-old Preston boy and a 14-year-old Pascoe Vale girl died at the scene of the crash, which left the car a crumpled wreck.
Six young people were believed to have been crowded into the Toyota Camry when the driver lost control on Pascoe Vale Road in Coolaroo.

A 16-year-old Broadmeadows boy was taken to Royal Melbourne Hospital with life-threatening injuries. A 15-year-old Dallas boy and a 14-year-old Lalor boy were taken to the Royal Children’s Hospital in a stable condition.

All are from Melbourne’s northern suburbs, and none are related.

Paramedic team manager Jonathon McKeown said two male passengers, aged 16 and 15, were critically injured.

The 16-year-old suffered head and leg injuries and was stabilised at the scene by paramedics before being taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital in a critical condition.

The 15-year-old boy suffered abdominal injuries and was taken to the Royal Children’s Hospital in a critical condition. Police said the condition of one of the critically injured boys had since improved to stable in hospital.

Mr McKeown said the 14-year-old boy who was also a passenger in the vehicle was taken to the Royal Children’s Hospital in a stable condition.

Assistant Commissioner Andrew Crisp said the maroon vehicle had been reported stolen from Meadow Heights, and did not have enough seatbelts for the six teenagers on board.

He said the car was travelling south on Pascoe Vale Road when the driver lost control on a slight right-hand bend in dry conditions.

The vehicle crashed into a "substantial brick wall" about 100 metres further south of the bend, Mr Crisp said.

There are skid marks on the road and police believe speed was a factor in the crash.

Mr Crisp said some young people were risk-takers and believed they were invincible.

"It’s about what we can all do as a community, as family, as friends, to try to protect, discourage and support young people that might actually engage in this sort of activity. It’s a tough one, it’s a community issue," he said.

Mr Crisp said emergency service workers who arrived at the scene were shocked at the carnage.

"As police officers, whether the most junior attending these scene or the most senior looking after a whole region, we take these personally and we shake our heads when we see these sorts of situations," he said.

He urged family and friends of the victims who wanted to visit the crash scene today to take care on busy Pascoe Vale Road, which is an 80km/h zone.

"We know that people will probably turn up here but we just want to send a message, please, that if you’re going to turn up please be careful, don’t park on the road itself and just be very, very careful if you’re coming to the scene," he said.

Police from the Major Collision Investigation Unit cordoned off the crash scene, near the intersection with Barry Road, and the road remained closed until about 7.15am today.

"It’s a very sad day for, not just the families and the emergency workers, but for the Victorian community," Mr Crisp told radio station 3AW.

At least one of the boys who survived the crash is known to police, Mr Crisp said.


The parents will no doubt be grieving.  They might like to say what their kids were doing in a stolen car, though.  With one of the kids being only 12, one suspects feral parents


THE mother of a teenager killed in a triple fatality claims the Victorian Department of Human Services abandoned her family weeks ago, and is to blame for the tragedy.

Christine Kite, mother of 14-year-old Yasmein Irfan, who died in the crash, said the department walked away from her family three weeks ago.


Obama win punches through to Australian stockmarket

The stockmarket knows an anti-business  politician when it sees one

The share market has started trade in negative territory, although losses are far smaller than steep falls in the US.

After the US election result, which maintained the status quo of a Democratic president and Senate but Republican House, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 2.4 per cent on fears the nation will not avoid an impending fiscal cliff of tax rises and spending cuts.

After the US slide, the local market has been dragged down by losses in mining, energy and bank stocks.

The All Ordinaries Index was down 1 per cent, to 4,491 shortly before 11:00am (AEDT), and the ASX 200 index has also lost 1 per cent to 4,473.

The major miners were all at least 1 per cent lower: Rio Tinto was down 1.6 per cent; BHP Billiton was down 1.2 per cent; and Fortescue was off nearly 2 per cent to $3.98.

The dollar was slipping against the greenback, buying 104.04 US cents.



Three current articles below

Extreme heat in 1896: Panic stricken people fled the outback on special trains as hundreds die

It is as if history is being erased. For all that we hear about recent record-breaking climate extremes, records that are equally extreme, and sometimes even more so, are ignored.

In January 1896 a savage blast “like a furnace” stretched across Australia from east to west and lasted for weeks. The death toll reached 437 people in the eastern states. Newspaper reports showed that in Bourke the heat approached 120°F (48.9°C) on three days (1)(2)(3). It stayed above 100 degrees F (38.8°C) for 24 days straight.

By Tuesday Jan 14, people were reported falling dead in the streets. Unable to sleep, people in Brewarrina walked the streets at night for hours, the thermometer recording 109F at midnight. Overnight, the temperature did not fall below 103°F. On Jan 18 in Wilcannia, five deaths were recorded in one day, the hospitals were overcrowded and reports said that “more deaths are hourly expected”. By January 24, in Bourke, many businesses had shut down (almost everything bar the hotels). Panic stricken Australians were fleeing to the hills in climate refugee trains.  As reported at the time, the government felt the situation was so serious that to save lives and ease the suffering of its citizens they added cheaper train services:

 “The Commissioner of Railways promised a deputation of members of Parliament to run a special train every Friday at holiday excursion rates for the next month to enable settlers resident in the Western part of the colony to reach the mountains to escape the great heat prevailing.”  (Source)

It got hotter and hotter and the crowded trains ran on more days of the week. The area of exodus was extended to allow not only refugees from western NSW to flee to the Blue Mountains but also people to escape via train from the Riverina to the Snowy Mountains. The stories are heartbreaking. “A child sent to the mountains to escape the city heat died at the moment the train arrived.” “Six infants have died at Goulburn since January 1 through the excessive heat.” Towns were losing their esteemed, lamenting the loss of the good reverend, or of their well known miners. Children were orphaned.

“A woman has been brought to the Bulli Hospital in a demented condition, suffering from sunstroke.  She was tramping the roads, with her husband, two days before, when she was prostrated by a sunstroke.  Her husband carried her through all the sweltering heat to Bulli, taking two days over the journey.” (Source).

In 1896 the heat was causing people to faint, become demented and was even blamed for driving people mad. “Several women fainted in the streets. A little girl, while walking along Surrey Hills, suddenly became demented through the heat.” In Bendigo “a young man named Edward Swift, hairdresser, was so overcome by the heat that he was unable to work, and in despair shot himself, in the breast. It is a hopeless case.” Longreach “police authorities at Longreach received information that a man who was insane was about fourteen miles out of the town.” “The bodies of people who die of sunstroke decompose very quickly”.  An axe wielding man in Bourke cut down three telegraph poles before he was “secured” by police. Presumably the real cause of the madness was something else, but the heat was the last straw. “Birregurra was stirred from its wanted sleepiness on Saturday evening last by the appearance in the streets of a mad man who caused no small consternation.”  It could be that nuttiness was equally common on other months, or other years. But at the time, people blamed the heat.

With this and people dropping dead in the streets from Perth through Adelaide to Sydney, the heat wave was described as being universal from west to east . It went north into Queensland and south through Victoria.…twice, by which time Australians considered themselves to be “Under Fire”.

Later in 1896, heat waves also occurred in India, Burma, Borneo, America. (It was bad in New York.  Listen here.) There was heat in England, Germany and Spain. 1896 was an example of extreme weather. [It was obviously the fault of the evil power stations, eh? Just 14 years earlier, Edison had built the first coal-fired electric generating station. If only people had understood just how dangerous it was.  - Jo]

More HERE (See the original for links)

Energy dreams tempered by realism

AUSTRALIA could source 85 per cent of its power from clean energy sources by 2050 according to modelling contained in the government's energy white paper.

But the transformation from coal dependency to a clean energy future would require more than $200 billion investment in new power plants, including $100 billion in renewable sources of powers and $50 billion to $60 billion in gas, it says. The paper also makes it clear that fossil fuels will continue to underpin Australia's energy security "for many years to come".

It says the striking advance of clean energy envisaged is "far from guaranteed" and that some of the technologies are not yet commercially available.

Releasing the paper on Thursday, Resources Minister Martin Ferguson will also demand NSW and Queensland t follow Victoria's lead and deregulate electricity prices to stop soaring power bills.

He will concede that electricity price rises over recent years have hurt households and businesses and are "simply not sustainable".

And he will challenge the states to sign up to energy market reforms that tackle the biggest cause of price rises — on top of the carbon price which, he says, adds only "marginally to costs".


Green/Left coalition continues in ACT despite near wipeout of Greens in recent election

Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury has been handed five portfolios in the new-look ACT government cabinet, announced this morning, while the Chief Minister has retained the Health portfolio.

Mr Rattenbury will take the reins at Territory and Municipal Services, Corrections, Housing, Ageing, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher unveiled her new-look cabinet, this morning, confirming that she will stay on as Minister for Health, and will also take the newly formed Regional Development and Higher Education portfolios.

Ms Gallagher pointed towards reform in ACT Health as her reason for retaining the portfolio.

"A massive reform agenda is underway across the health system and it will be a privilege to serve alongside all the doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and administrators as we continue to build and improve a regional public health system,” Ms Gallagher said.

Simon Corbell has kept his position as Attorney-General, while Andrew Barr will stay on as Treasurer.

Ms Gallagher said the portfolios announced today deliver the right balance of skills, experience, interests and shared workload within a five member Cabinet.

“Finalising the Ministerial arrangements is an important first step in getting on with the agenda we took to the 2012 election along with the shared commitments in the Parliamentary Agreement with the ACT Greens,” Ms Gallagher said.

"I think I can speak on behalf of the ACT cabinet to say that we are all looking forward to serving the community in our new roles and the hard work of the next four years begins today.

“I look forward to working with all of my colleagues as we meet the challenges and opportunities head on and work to create a better and stronger Canberra."


7 November, 2012

Feminist gets incoherent about pornography

Feminists mostly are.  They preach sexual liberation but don't like what it produces. Liberation for me but not for thee, seems to be their gospel.  They are prudes without moorings.  Just some excerpts below.  In the second last paragraph she says she has no problem with pornography  -- as long as it is "nice" pornography, apparently.  She'd make a good little Fascist:  Cheerfully intolerant of other people's choices and preferences.  Nobody forced her to buy a lads' magazine.  She is just a self-righteous busybody

By Clementine Ford

I’ve spent the past few weeks monitoring the hideous mess that is the Zoo Weekly Facebook page, a group which currently boasts more than 33,000 members.

As far as I can tell, the group’s updates seem to divide their time between two things. Firstly, inviting female fans to submit half naked photographs of themselves to be ‘liked’ and commented on by the group’s members, presumably with the purpose of being later featured in the magazine itself for the financial reimbursement of ‘Validation’. And secondly, to conduct a complicated game called ‘Left or Right’ in which members are presented with two images (mostly of women) and asked to choose which side they’d prefer. While the game seems to mostly preoccupy itself with the challenge of choosing between which of the attractive women in the pairings the members would most like to insert their penises into, the occasional inclusion of morbidly obese women seems designed to elicit sophisticated responses like this: “I’ve got a awesome pick up line for the one on the right.. I’d just roll up with “Geeze you don’t sweat much for a fat mole”” and I’ll smashing it all night..”

Ladies, form an orderly queue.

 Unfortunately, this isn't just about the antics of a bunch of perpetually juvenile men and their light-hearted fondness for female objectification. It's also part of a much broader attempt to limit the roles women are allowed to play - to offer a retro system of reward for those who play along, and punishment for those who don't. It explains why a handful of fans and commenters on Zoo Weekly's Facebook page are women, why so many of them send free photos of themselves in g-strings and disembodied poses, and why these things leap so jarringly off the page with the palpable desperation to be noticed by the discerning critics around them. The world is full of the kind of female chauvinist pigs that Ariel Levy wrote about in her polemic of the same name; women who prostrate themselves before a cavalcade of men, whose mutually shared view of their value is inherently tied up in female willingness to subjugate itself for approval.

 Let me be clear about one thing. I have no problem with sexting, pornographic photographs or women getting off on being looked at and sexually desired. But the mass objectification that takes place in a realm like Zoo Weekly is something different, and sits uncomfortably in any kind of dialogue trying to pass it off as empowered sexual expression. Getting off on being fantasised about is one thing. Facilitating a system that sees your ONLY value as being how much its male participants want to ‘smash you’ is another thing entirely.

 At the end of the day, we can talk all we like about empowered choice and sex positive feminism. These things have no currency in a model that thrives on offering women up on a platter to cater to the sexual fantasies men who will never respect them. It doesn’t matter how many enthusiastic endorsements a woman might get for how her bottom looks in a lacy g-string. At the end of the day, she’s still nothing more than a vagina that can't talk back or a torso that can't run away.


Codeine abuse leads to calls for painkiller rethink

Once again a foolish minority can apparently reduce otherwise good options for the responsible majority.  The regulatory attack on painkillers is very vigorous because some people overuse them.  And that often leaves available alternatives -- such as paracetamol -- that are quite unsafe.  APC's (Bex) were banned to prevent a few cases of kidney disease but their preferred replacemnent -- paracetamol -- causes thousands of destroyed livers.  My own preferred remedy for post-operative pain -- Di-Gesic (Dextropropoxyphene) has now been banned because some addicts were using it

Senior health officials are warning of a looming public health crisis from abuse of over-the-counter painkillers.

Doctors are frustrated by admissions of critically injured patients to emergency rooms after sustained use of painkillers that contain a mixture of codeine and ibuprofen, such as Nurofen Plus.

While many take the drugs responsibly, the consequences for those who do not can be so severe that some doctors and pharmacists believe it's time to review the sale of these drugs.

Frankie Bean began using Nurofen Plus 24 hours a day to stave off the chronic pain of Lupus disease, an auto immune condition that leaves her in pain every day.

"Initially it was just that I could work and I could have my life back and I was really excited about that, so I was just willing to do whatever it took to do that," she told ABC1's 7.30.

"But then I sort of started realising that I was a bit hooked on it. I didn't want to be, but I didn't want to give up my life again."

The constant use of pain killers lowered her blood pressure so badly she passed out at work.

The next thing I knew my sister was by my side balling her eyes out and I was passed out out the front of my work and I was on the ground and there were ambulance people around me taking me off to the hospital.

"I was just at work and I hadn't felt good in the morning, like I was getting a bit dizzy and stuff and I just put it down to Lupus," she said.

"The next thing I knew my sister was by my side bawling her eyes out and I was passed out out the front of my work and I was on the ground and there were ambulance people around me taking me off to the hospital."

Weeks later Ms Bean quit cold turkey and now says she will never take the tablets again.  "I had headaches, I vomited a lot, I was absolutely horrible to be around," she said.  "It is something that people don't realise, I had no idea that I could get addicted to codeine."

Now she has turned to yoga every morning to help with the joint pain.

Doctor Matthew Frei runs a drug treatment clinic in Melbourne and knows first hand how addictive codeine can be.  "It is a close relative of drugs like morphine and heroin, so yes, it is an addictive drug," he said.  "We're a bit unusual in Australia in that you can purchase codeine over the counter, that's not the case in all parts of the world."

It is quite a scary and foreign idea to someone who has not had much contact with the drug-using culture to be offered a treatment that's usually offered to heroin addicts.

"It is quite a scary and foreign idea to someone who has not had much contact with the drug-using culture to be offered a treatment that's usually offered to heroin addicts," he said.

"However, the principles of addiction to codeine or prescription opioids, to all the opioids are very similar."

Back in the 1950s and 1960s people were getting addicted to Bex headache powder [APCs], which contained caffeine.  The serious problems that resulted saw them banned in 1977.  [It was actually the Phenacetin in them which was seen as a problem.  If caffeine is a problem we should ban coffee!  But guess what phenacetic metabilizes into?  Paracetamol!]
Dr Frei says drug addiction is a marketing manoeuvre for these over-the-counter pain killers.

"It's using an anti-inflammatory agent, linking it to another drug which causes the patient to keep on taking it because of the withdrawal symptoms they get when the effect wears off, and thereby accumulating bigger and bigger doses," he said.

"This is headache powders [APCs] revisited."

Today's compound analgesics are known by their popular brand names like Nurofen Plus, Panafen Plus and Mersyndol.

The codeine in the drugs gets consumers hooked, but the real danger is the ibuprofen they contain which in large doses is toxic and can cause internal bleeding.

One of my worst moments in the last few years was when I was up all night with a young man who was otherwise well, who was bleeding torrentially from a giant ulcer in his stomach which was caused by compound analgesics.

"The peptic ulcers can also be lethal, in fact, one of my worst moments in the last few years was when I was up all night with a young man who was otherwise well, who was bleeding torrentially from a giant ulcer in his stomach which was caused by compound analgesics," he said.

There has been at least one death from over the counter codeine in Australia and Dr Foy says it was only through good fortune that this young patient survived.

"This man needed 14 units of blood and we were running out of blood, and by the time he was anesthetised, he was in really big trouble, but fortunately for him there was a very good surgeon handy who moved quickly and stopped the bleeding and he has now recovered," he said.

Since 2008 doctors around the country have been documenting scores of cases of codeine abuse some leading to peptic ulcers, kidney failure and even pancreatitis.

Dr Foy says it is extremely frustrating to see young people turn up with life threatening conditions created by codeine and ibuprofen abuse.

"It is an extremely unpleasant sensation to be up in the middle of the night with somebody who looks as though they're going to die to no purpose. It's pointless," he said.


Vic. Department of Human Services cuts reporting as attacks on children and disabled in state care surge

A SURGE in assaults and sex attacks on children and disabled people in state care to record levels has seen the Department of Human Services respond by slashing its reporting.

Critics say the move ignores calls for reform and transparency to protect our most vulnerable and will hide any future increases.

There were a record 512 assaults, sex attacks and rapes of kids in care last year - a 130 per cent jump in three years - data obtained by the Herald Sun after a six-month Freedom of Information battle for annual figures reveals. Attacks on disabled DHS clients was up 180 per cent to 236.

People in care are most likely to be attacked by state-appointed carers or case workers, with more than one attack a day.

Despite the toll, the DHS has axed more than half its reporting categories.

Public Advocate Colleen Pearce said it was important that, as the Government sought to understand the type and extent of abuse, violence and assault in services for people with a disability or mental illness, that incident reporting was as clear as possible.

"Only that way will the service system properly understand abuse and develop effective strategies to prevent it and respond to it," Ms Pearce said.

Actual assaults, rapes and sex attacks are now recorded in the same categories as threats.

DHS also no longer separately reports overdoses or drug use nor the type of drug involved.  And children in care caught with illegal weapons or explosives are recorded under the same heading as those found with alcohol and cigarettes.

DHS said reporting was simplified to encourage staff to report incidents.  "The previous categories were unclear and overly complex, reducing compliance and reporting," spokeswoman Gen Farrell said.

Opposition child safety spokeswoman Danielle Green said the Government's "blatant attempt to hide this damning truth" was alarming.

"Public sector job cuts to watchdogs will further erode scrutiny of the Government's performance on protecting the most vulnerable," Ms Green said.

"Under (Community Services Minister) Mary Wooldridge's watch, more children are being abused in state care, not less. This is deeply disturbing."

Ms Farrell said all allegations of client physical or sexual assault were Category One incidents and were investigated internally, by police and referred to the relevant commissioner for monitoring and review.


Murdoch media still thriving

News Corporation says its Australian newspapers are suffering from weak advertising markets and the shift of readers online.

The global media company has tripled its net profit for the three months to September 30, 2012, making $US2.23 billion ($A2.16 billion), up from $US738 million ($A715.50 million) in the prior corresponding period.

The result was boosted by the sale of News Corp’s stake in software company NDS in July 2012, which produced a $US1.4 billion ($A1.36 billion) gain.

But News Corp’s publishing unit, which includes News Ltd mastheads such as the Herald Sun and The Australian, posted a significant fall in earnings as advertising revenues continued to fall.

"In Australian publishing, the decline in display and classified advertising has clearly hit these businesses," News Corp chief operating officer Chase Carey told analysts.

"As discussed previously, we have major plans already being undertaken by our management team to address these shifts."

News Corp’s Australian arm, News Ltd, in June said it would consolidate its newsrooms and reduce staff, cutting its 19 divisions on Australia’s east coast to five.

News Corp’s total publishing business earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) fell 48 per cent from the previous year to $US57 million ($A55.26 million).

Mr Carey said "most of our other businesses" were on target, including the benefits of a new Sunday edition of The Sun newspaper in the UK, which had started to flow through.

"That said, these businesses continue to face challenges stemming from lower advertising revenues as readers continue to migrate to digital platforms," Mr Carey said.

The company also incurred $US67 million ($A64.96 million) in costs related to the phone hacking scandal in the UK.

Another $US5 million ($A4.85 million) in costs were booked for News Corp’s proposed separation of its publishing and entertainment business.

News Corp chief financial officer David DeVoe said earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) were expected to grow in the "high singles to low double digit range" in 2012/13, from an adjusted $US5.6 billion ($A5.43 billion) in 2011/12.

The media group’s cable network programming division posted the strongest growth in first quarter earnings, generating $US953 million ($A923.94 million) in EBIT, up 23 per cent from the prior corresponding period.

Its film and television divisions also posted earnings growth.

News Corp’s total revenue in the three months to September of $US8.14 billion ($A7.89 billion) was up two per cent from $US7.96 billion in the prior corresponding period.

Chairman and chief executive Rupert Murdoch did not attend Wednesday’s results presentation.

"Even against considerable currency headwinds due to a stronger dollar, we were able to increase News Corp’s revenue and adjusted segment operating profit over the prior year quarter while continuing to make key investments to position us for future growth," he said in a statement.


6 November, 2012

Why would we expect truth and accuracy from the Australian Climate Commission?

They are official Warmists but only the credulous would be deceived by them.  Their latest puff says:

"Temperatures are expected to continue rising this century. The average temperature for Queensland has risen by about 1°C since early last century, with most of the warming occurring since the 1950s..."

But the rise is almost all "adjustments" to the actual temperature record -- as the blink comparator for S.E. Qld. below shows:

To make it worse, the graph that they themselves provide is completely wacky:

As Jo Nova says:  "Eyeballing this graph suggests Queensland’s average temperature has risen by 2.7 C since the 1950′s."

So which is it?  A rise of "about" one degree or 2.7 degrees?

With carelessness like that, one is inclined to infer that they are not really serious:  Just doing the hack job to deceive the uninformed public that the government pays them to do.  If they put up a piece saying that there has been no significant rise in temperatures for the last century, they would soon be out on their ear.

Anybody with normal healthy skepticism would accept government science pronouncements with a large dose of rock-salt and the nonsense above is a good confirmation of the need for that.  What does it say about the integrity of the "eminent" people who have put their name to it, however?

Warwick Hughes has a laugh at them too.

Qld. Households to be slugged $240 a year to pay for solar power feed-in tariff

HOUSEHOLDS will soon be slugged $240 annually to pay for the power produced by rooftop solar systems.

New modelling has revealed that by 2015-16, almost 15 per cent of the total household power price will fund the solar feed-in tariff.

The Newman Government has already cut the tariff for home-produced power to 8 per kilowatt hour for all solar systems bought after July 9.

However, the new figures exposing the huge burden being carried by all consumers to pay those who produce solar power may prompt the Government to also reduce the 44/kWh tariff paid to those who previously installed photovoltaic systems.

The Government is investigating ways to reduce network costs - the price of moving electricity from the power generators to people's homes - which account for about 50 per cent of all electricity prices.

The modelling by the Queensland Competition Authority estimates the costs caused by solar for consumers will fall to just under $100 annually, or 6 per cent of power bills, by 2019/20.

Energy Minister Mark McArdle said the Government's decision to cap the scheme had already produced significant savings.

Mr McArdle said the solar feed-in tariff would have cost $1.8 billion by 2028 but this had been reduced by $300 million.

"This cost is passed through to all households in the form of higher network charges, which just adds to the burden of this scheme," he said.

"What we have here is Labor, and its Green partners, hiding its head in the sand and continuing to claim that renewable energy schemes are decreasing the cost of electricity. This is blatantly untrue and the modelling by the QCA should finally end this."

The QCA has been tasked with developing a "fair and reasonable" feed-in tariff by early next year.

However, any move by the Government to retrospectively remove the 44/kWh from households with existing solar systems could be political poison.

About one in every five homes is now fitted with solar panels and the figure is growing daily, with Energex paying out about $10 million a month in August to households with solar panels.

That figure has increased to $13 million in three months.


Job ad decline points to rising unemployment

The number of jobs advertised has fallen for the seventh straight month, hinting at further rises in unemployment ahead.

ANZ's monthly survey shows job ads declined 4.6 per cent in October, following a 3.9 per cent fall in September, and are now down 15 per cent on the levels recorded a year ago.

The level of job ads is now the lowest since January 2010, and ANZ's head of Australian economics Ivan Colhoun says this will translate to further increases in unemployment.

"The general trend of weaker job advertising and continuing job losses as businesses restructure and/or cut costs, suggests continuing upward pressure on the unemployment rate," he noted in the report.

"ANZ forecasts a 5.75 per cent unemployment rate in mid 2013."

The Bureau of Statistics will be releasing official employment data for October on Thursday, and ANZ is forecasting around 8,000 less jobs, but unemployment steady at 5.4 per cent.

Macquarie's senior economist Brian Redican says the longer term trend for jobs is not looking good.

"It's been a deteriorating trend in the job advertisements. We are already seeing unemployment rising to 5.4 percent, and this number shows that the pace of job shedding is actually accelerating, not declining," he told Reuters.

The ANZ report shows newspaper job advertising was particularly weak in Victoria, Western Australia and the ACT, but jumped more than 40 per cent in the Northern Territory, which is typically volatile because of its small size.


Queensland Health's waiting list shows an eight-year delay to see medical specialists

QUEENSLAND Health has published its "waiting list to get on the waiting list", showing some patients are languishing years to see a specialist.

Figures on the department's website for the September quarter show some patients waiting more than eight years to see a specialist before then going on the elective surgery list for an operation.

Across the state, less than a third of the urgent category 1 patients requiring appointments for gastroenterology, rheumatology, neurosurgery, cardiology, pain management and dermatology are seen within the recommended 30 days.

At the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, only 27 per cent of category 1 patients requiring an appointment with a neurosurgeon are successful within the time frame.

The figures show most category 1 patients wait up to 329 days to see a neurosurgeon at the RBWH and may experience further delays if they require an operation.

Queensland's largest hospital has so many category 1 patients needing to see a neurosurgeon, less urgent patients are no longer being seen.

The longest waits at the RBWH are for non-urgent category 3 patients needing to see a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, with 90 per cent waiting up to 3092 days  or almost 8 1/2 years.

Category 3 patients are supposed to be seen within 12 months.

But RBWH's executive director, David Alcorn, said the category also included appointments for issues such as "tattoo removals, piercing removals, the removal of excess surface fat and breast reductions".

Waits to see ophthalmologists stretched for years across the state for category 3 patients. Australian Medical Association Queensland president Alex Markwell welcomed the decision to publish the data for the first time, saying it was important to be transparent about how long it took for patients to be seen in the public hospital system.

Queensland Health deputy director-general Michael Cleary defended the figures saying the state's increasing and ageing population was having a significant impact on demand for specialists.

A spokesman for Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said the Newman Government was determined to be honest about waiting lists.

He said publishing the data put more onus on the newly created 17 hospital and health service boards to fix the problems.


Qld police union wants druggies in the force

REFORMED drug users should be allowed to pursue policing careers, Queensland's police union says.

The union says current rules can prevent former drug users from becoming officers, but not stop them from becoming lawyers or politicians, The Courier-Mail reports.

Talks have been held with the Crime and Misconduct Commission, Queensland Police Service and the union about a review of the standards.

Union president Ian Leavers said the service must acknowledge that some people who experimented with drugs in their youth could still be good police officers.

When asked about the union's push, Queensland's new Police Commissioner Ian Stewart: "We are reviewing our standards in line with community expectations".

Police Minister Jack Dempsey said he would not support any move that would lower recruiting standards.

He says those standards must always reflect community expectations.

Police recruit applicants must declare their drug use, traffic history and other offences when applying to join the service.

Mr Leavers said police recruit applicants were denied entry if they admitted to previous drug use or had significant or recent poor driving history.

"The Law Society, accounting boards, medical registration boards and even MPs take into consideration the circumstances and time of illicit drug use admissions, it makes sense the police service would too," he told the newspaper.


5 November, 2012

Commodity prices threaten budget surplus: economist

An independent economic forecaster is predicting this year's promised budget surplus will turn into a $4.2 billion deficit, partly due to a shortfall in mining tax revenue.

In its mid-year budget assessment, Deloitte Access Economics believes the slowdown in China and falling commodity prices will undermine the Government's commitment of a $1.1 billion surplus this financial year.

Instead of delivering $2 billion to the budget bottom line, the mining tax is predicted to contribute just $520 million in 2012-13.  "The MRRT (Minerals Resource Rent Tax) will have a dog of a year - when China sneezes, the MRRT was always going to get pneumonia," the Deloitte Access Economics report states.

It emerged after the Government delivered its mid-year budget update, that the mining tax had raised no revenue in its first three months of operation.

Chris Richardson from Deloitte Access Economics says changing Chinese demand will affect growth projections for Australian national income.

"The slowdown in China and its impact on coal and iron ore prices is more important for the average Australian than I think they realise," Mr Richardson told ABC News Breakfast.

"Despite the decisions the other day, which included some genuinely good and tough decisions around the baby bonus and private health insurance, you'd still need to do more to get a surplus."

The Government announced billions of dollars worth of savings and increased charges to get the budget back into surplus, but Mr Richardson has described some of the measures as "fig leaf territory".

Some of the measures included bringing forward the payment dates for company tax and the early collection of unclaimed superannuation and bank accounts.

Speaking from Mexico, Treasurer Wayne Swan rejected suggestions that the Deloitte Access Economics report painted a more realistic picture of the budget situation than Treasury's predictions.

"Access Economics doesn't always get it right," Mr Swan told AM.

"The mid-year review shows that the Government's on track to return the budget to surplus, but of course we know that we had to write down revenues substantially in the mid-year review and we wrote them down by $22 billion."

According to Deloitte Access Economics, the budget is not expected to return to surplus until 2015-16 - well after the next election.
'We would do better'

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has used the latest economic predictions to attack the Government's handling of the nation's finances.

"This Government is never ever going to deliver even a dishonest surplus, let alone the honest surplus that the Australian public deserve," Mr Abbott told reporters in Canberra.

Asked whether he stood by his promise to deliver a surplus in each of the first three years of a Coalition government, Mr Abbott replied: "Yes, we will do better - significantly better - than the Government".

He says the Coalition would achieve that through spending cuts and productivity growth.

But the Opposition has been forced onto the back foot over Treasury analysis which reportedly shows three of the Coalition's tax policies would cost businesses $4.57 billion dollars in their first full year of operation.

According to reports in Fairfax newspapers, Treasury has considered the Coalition's paid parental leave policy which is funded by a 1.5 per cent levy on big businesses, its decision to axe the instant asset write off for small businesses that was part of the carbon tax package, and its commitment to get rid of the loss "carry back" provisions that were introduced as part of the mining tax.

The Treasury analysis reportedly shows that businesses would lose $17.2 billion over the forward estimates once the changes were introduced.

But Mr Abbott has accused the Government of "misusing" the Treasury work.  "This analysis... doesn't take into account the fact that the carbon tax is gone, the mining tax is gone, and there'll be a modest company tax cut," he said.

"I'm saying that taxes on business will be less under the Coalition than under Labor."


Traditional owners (i.e, non-owners) to decide Cape York's fate

This is just a scheme to ban mining in an area the size of Britain

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke says it will be up to traditional owners to decide whether or not the Government nominates Cape York as a World Heritage Area.

Mr Burke will today travel to Cape York in far north Queensland to discuss the Government's plan for nomination with traditional owners.

He says if they do not give their support the Government will drop the plan.

"If consent's given for something over a particular boundary to go forward in February, then I'll happily sign off the letter and put it forward and advocate to the world heritage committee that it's a good thing to do," he said.

"If traditional owners decide they don't want to do it, they don't want to do it yet or they want to do it over some different boundary and meet a different timeline - that's going to be their call."

Mr Burke says traditional owners will also determine the boundaries of any area nominated for world heritage listing.

"Exactly what areas people want in or out I've got to tell you I don't know the answer to that yet," he said.  "That answer is only known by traditional owners who'll make their own decisions on consent and what they decide will be exactly replicated in what I put forward."

Last month, Queensland Environment Minister Andrew Powell announced the State Government would no longer take part in negotiations on the nomination.

"I'll offer the support where we can, but as I said it's in the Federal Government's hands now as to who they will negotiate with and what outcomes they look to achieve on the cape," he said.

"We certainly will continue to keep an eye on it and represent the interests of the state."


Elective surgery waiting lists to blow out after $107 million cut to Federal Government funding

ELECTIVE surgery waiting lists in Victoria will blow out further following the slashing of more than $100 million in federal funding for hospitals.

The impact will be most felt in Melbourne's biggest hospitals, which will lose $77 million - money that had been earmarked for vital surgery and outpatient appointments.

A recalculation of health funding, based on data showing Victoria's population has declined, prompted Canberra to claw back $107 million.

Midway through the financial year hospitals are being told to rewrite their budgets and slash up to $13 million each.

Victorian Health Minister David Davis has written to hospital chiefs warning they need to hand back the money and adjust services.

He accused Canberra of manipulating population figures to boost its budget.  "The Federal Government plans to rip more than $100 million out of Victoria's public hospitals this year to prop up its own budget with a scam based on dodgy population figures," Mr Davis said.

"This is part of an outrageous $475 million Commonwealth reduction in the Health Agreement.  "The loss of $100 million this year is the equivalent of the closure of many hospital wards, thousands of elective surgery procedures, or the closure of a medium-sized hospital."

Paul Perry, a spokesman for federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, said federal funding for Victoria had grown 26 per cent to $4.5 billon, and that Mr Davis was trying to create a "smokescreen" to divert attention from State Government cuts.

Based on the proportional funding formula, Southern Health is the biggest loser in the recalculation: it stands to lose $13.7 million.

Eastern Health and Melbourne Health will have to give back $8.5 million each, The Alfred faces a $7.9 million cut, and Austin Health misses out on $6.8 million.  It is up to individual hospitals to decide which services they cut.

But the most likely option will be delays to elective surgery, which have already seen 7000 people added to waiting lists in the past year. Now, 46,131 Victorians are awaiting an operation.

Eastern Health chief executive Alan Lilly said all services would be reviewed in light of the funding cut.

A miscalculation in the 2006 Census resulted in Victoria's population appearing to have declined by 11,000 in 2011 - which the Federal Government based its funding allocation on.

As a result, Canberra has asked for the return of $40 million from the 2011-12 budget and $67 million from the 2012-13 budget.


Rudd wants jobs quota for Asian speakers

Since Kevvy's only skill is Chinese, this is predictable

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd says the business community should set aside a quota of jobs for Australian students who can speak an Asian language.

Mr Rudd has praised the Federal Government's white paper on Asia, which outlines how Australia can deepen its engagement with the region.

The white paper calls for more students to be taught at least one of four Asian languages - Mandarin, Japanese, Hindi and Indonesian - in every school in Australia.

Mr Rudd told Sky News that businesses also need to provide incentives for students.  "They need to know there's a career path for them," he said.

"So if the 100 businesses which make up the Business Council of Australia were simply to say each of us will provide 10 graduate jobs for first class Chinese speakers, Japanese speakers or whatever, each year, that's 1,000 jobs on the Australian market.

"Kids will respond to that and they will master these languages and become as they were, the army of the future in our economic engagement with the neighbourhood."

He says the roadmap to 2025 set out in the white paper is comprehensive and a "wake-up call" to Australia.

"It draws together the various arms of what both government, corporates and others in Australia are doing in their engagement with Asia and charts a framework for the future," he said.


4 November, 2012


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG mocks Peter Garrett's pontification on school bullying.

Aboriginal people 'in welfare trap'

THE Territory's Indigenous Advancement Minister has given Aboriginal people a severe ticking off.  Alison Anderson [above] said she "despaired" at their reluctance to work.

"I look at the men of Yirrkala and ask why they will not drive the 20km to Nhulunbuy to earn excellent money in the mine and the processing plant there," she said.

"It is the kind of question the rest of Australia has been asking for years, as it tries to connect the dots, tries to understand why a long-running mining boom can exist literally next door to a culture of entitlement and welfare dependency."

In a major speech to the NT Legislative Assembly, Ms Anderson said welfare dependency meant indigenous Territorians expected the government to "do everything for them"...


Climate link to Sandy invalid

AUSTRALIA'S Climate Commission has misrepresented data from the leading US meteorological bureau to highlight a link between climate change and the severity of Superstorm Sandy which this week crippled New York.

In a statement on the disaster that hit North America on Monday, the federal government-sponsored Climate Commission said "all the evidence suggests that climate change exacerbated the severity of Hurricane Sandy".

Matthew England, chairman of the commission's Science Advisory Panel, said it was important to get the message out that storms today were "operating in a different environment than they were 100 years ago".

Professor England said increased humidity, higher sea levels and warmer sea surface temperatures were all contributing to the severity of storms.

The commission quoted data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that "the temperature of the surface waters from which Sandy drew energy were three to five degrees warmer than average".

However, senior NOAA climate scientist Martin Hoerling said the higher sea-surface temperatures quoted by the Climate Commission were not significant in relation to Sandy.

Dr Hoerling told US public radio in the aftermath of Sandy that ocean temperatures adjacent to the US eastern seaboard had been running several degrees higher than normal.

But he said the unusually warm waters were in areas where the background temperature was relatively cool. "So adding a few degrees Fahrenheit at that cool water temperature doesn't matter too much for the intensity of a hurricane," Dr Hoerling said.

Dr Hoerling is a research meteorologist, specialising in climate dynamics, in NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory located in Boulder, Colorado.

He is chairman of the US CLIVAR (Climate Variability) research program, has served as editor of the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate, and has published more than 50 scientific papers dealing with climate variability and change.

Late yesterday, Professor England conceded the sea-surface temperature highlighted in the Climate Commission document was not significant.

"The ocean temperature anomalies of 3-5C off New York that would feed energy into the extra-tropical cyclone in that part of the world matter much less than if such anomalies were located under the storm in the tropics," Professor England said.

"Basically tropical cyclones are very sensitive to underlying ocean temperatures, but cyclones outside the tropics care somewhat less about the underlying ocean temperatures.

"So the climate change signal in Sandy is largely due to sea-level rise, the increased humidity in the world's atmosphere, and the tropical ocean temperature anomalies. The temperatures up near New York, while still a factor in the storm, are less of a factor than the above three changes."

Dr Hoerling said Sandy was not unprecedented. He said a storm surge at New York in 1821 was greater than that of Sandy. However, like the Climate Commission, he said rising sea levels could exacerbate the damage from big storms.

He said the record showed a rise in the total sea level of about 30cm over the past 150 years in New York. "We have a 14-foot (4.2m) rise related to Sandy," he said. "So one foot out of 14 may not be something that is critical, but it may very well be in the sense that that last foot may be the foot that moved the water into very prone areas."


Gillard rejects Greens advice on mining tax

The Federal Government has flatly dismissed efforts by the Greens to increase budget revenue from the mining tax.

The Greens have used their 20th national conference in Sydney to spruik their economic agenda.

Greens leader Christine Milne urged the Federal Government to delay the budget surplus.

They have also commissioned costings data which reveal that a 40 per cent increase in the Minerals Resource Rent Tax would increase budget revenue by $26 billion over four years.  "If we invested it wisely we could lift Newstart, we could make sure we ploughed that money into education," Ms Milne said.

But Prime Minister Julia Gillard says she will not be heeding the Greens advice.  "We have implemented the mining tax that we believe is the right one for the nation," she said.

Senator Milne says Ms Gillard's refusal proves she has caved in to the mining industry.

"At the moment the mining tax is securing zero, it's projected to secure $9 billion, well we could take that out to $26 billion," she said.

"So this goes to the heart of the Prime Minister's claims to be the great negotiator, she negotiated a tax that has resulted in zero in the first three months."

The Greens conference also canvassed the party's core policies towards the environment, Indigenous recognition and same-sex marriage.


Automotive expert says Holden poised for collapse

A motoring expert has claimed that Holden is poised to shut down for good because it can no longer compete in the global market.

The Australian car manufacturer announced yesterday that 170 jobs would be cut from its Elizabeth plant in Adelaide.  The announcement came just seven months after a $275 million rescue package was promised by the Federal and South Australian Governments.

The editor of car buyers' Dog and Lemon Guide, Clive Matthew-Wilson, says propping up the industry with taxpayer-funded bailouts is useless.  "Let's not be fooled by this they are going to close anyway," he said.  "It is 40 per cent cheaper to build cars in Thailand than it is to build cars in Australia.

"If you look at the long-trend track record of car companies in Australia, they take billions and billions of taxpayers' dollars and they close down anyway."

One of Holden's major parts suppliers, Autodom, also stood down 400 workers in South Australia and Victoria this week.

Wayne Hanson from the Australian Workers Union says the Australian car manufacturing industry is relying on techniques of the last century and needs to be brought up to speed.

"What needs to be done is to re-tool so that we can better equip ourselves to make sure that we are the leader," he said.

"[We need to] follow the model that has been set by Germany ... they've established themselves into niche markets and are doing very well."


Millions of Britons would move to Australia if they could

A majority of middle-class families want to leave Britain because it no longer offers them an adequate quality of life, a new survey has concluded

Researchers found almost two in three families wanted to emigrate overseas because of the poor weather, rude locals and a celebrity-obsessed culture.

Families say they also want to escape the economic downturn, expensive housing and the “loss of community spirit and neighbourliness” in British society.

The survey, conducted by the University of Huddersfield, also found most wanted a new, more relaxed life in a community with a more optimistic “can do” attitude.

Despite celebrating a year when British national pride is arguably at its highest, families admitted they wanted their “children to grow up in a country with a stronger sense of community than they believe exists in the UK”.

Australia was the first country of choice, with almost one in three wanting to move Down Under, followed by the United States, New Zealand, Canada and a host of European countries such as Spain, France and Italy.

Among the factors highlighted for wanting to leave Britain was the poor weather, with almost six in 10 blaming miserable conditions as their number one reason to leave.

Almost half blamed the economic downturn, more than four in 10 wanted to live in cheaper housing while more than a third highlighted "bad manners" and a loss of community spirit and neighbourliness for their motives.

Nine in 10 British parents said they wanted their children to live in a country without a "celebrity-obsessed culture" but which had a more "optimistic, can do attitude".

The poll of 1000 British families was commissioned alongside a report for the Government of South Australia’s Office of Agent General, based at the Australian Embassy in London, to coincide with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

“The comparative prosperity of our nation and children is fundamental to our sense of 'Britishness'," said Prof Paul Ward, co-director of university's Academy of British and Irish Studies and the report’s author.

“But losing this position in the world's economy is prompting many Brits to reconsider where they live.

"Many are choosing places founded by British settlers which retain core British values, or values similar to them, but are more affluent and in a better position to invest in economic drivers for the future such as health, education and transport."

He added: "Many of the families we speak to, tell us they want to live in a community that embodies old-fashioned British values while enjoying a warmer climate and better work-life balance."

The report, titled When the British built Adelaide they wanted to build a better Britain, suggested that "old-fashioned British values, thriving community spirit and a more relaxed way of life" were evident in the South Australian capital.

The SA government is currently embarking on a major drive for skilled, middle class migrants and officials say a recent series of organised “road shows” were heavily oversubscribed.

Today, Matt Johnson, the SA deputy Agent General, told The Daily Telegraph that more than 800 people attended the roadshows last month alone, with almost the same number turned away.

“Our study provides an interesting insight into the aspirations of British people," he said.

"Interest is very strong and bear in mind also that we now pre-screen all attendees to ensure we're speaking with the right demographic – age, skills, language and experience-wise.

"The reality is, you can't buy the sun. Brits continue to be really interested in Australia."

Officials are also currently undertaking a wide-ranging review of the state's "brand" as part of a new marketing strategy to lure tourists, new business and migrants to the state, which is said to be "pro-monarchy".

It is understood the report's findings have been discussed with senior government officials in Adelaide after the local state Premier Jay Weatherill, visited London in May this year on a "trade mission".

Mr Weatherill met the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at a highly publicised black tie gala dinner of the Thirty Club at Claridge’s hotel – organised by the Agent General Bill Muirhead – and conducted high level meetings with several British-based businesses.

Next week, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will visit South Australia as part of their tour of the Asia-Pacific for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.


2 November, 2012


Gillard is the "ad hominem" queen.  Instead of answering the question, she attacks the questioner

Larry Pickering

Successive AWU questions from Julie Bishop appear to have unsettled our Julia. Her confident upbeat demeanor vanished like Costello's surplus as she again refused to answer the question.

(Video here.  Gillard, as ever, dodges the question)

Gillard's body and facial language displayed emphatic discomfit as Ms Bishop exhibited her best death-stare and waved a copy of a slush fund cheque in her face.

Everyone noticed Gillard's reaction. The House went from bedlam to silence as the cry of, "You are corrupt!" stunned both sides.

Those three words, that one outburst, exposed a chink in Gillard's armour and marked a course-change in the AWU saga and now the time is right for Abbott to join with Bishop and all other front benchers in an all out attack.

Abbott's "There will be no carbon tax under..." lie is losing traction. It has run its course. A reminder every couple of weeks will work better than twice a day.

Many will disagree with me but I have never thought the famous carbon tax lie was politically significant. It was an unavoidable lie for Gillard. It was a lie forced on her by the Greens. She felt she had no choice if she wanted to be PM and boy did she want to be PM.

There were alternatives. Gillard did not need to sign an agreement with the Green devils, she had them in her pocket anyway. It's inconceivable the Coalition could ever have aligned with the Greens. it was never even discussed.

But Gillard wanted this arrangement formalised and was prepared to pay the price.

Gillard stared into her Cornflakes that morning, thinking, thinking. "I went into this election with a `no carbon tax' promise but how the hell could I have suspected a hung Parliament? It's all different now. Hey, I'm a woman, what's a little white lie, everyone knows even blokes lie?"

"Bugger it, I'm going to sign a deal with that pillow bitin' bastard. And I reckon I'll give Windsor and Oakeshott me best come-to-bed look and if that doesn't work I'll keep chuckin' billion-dollar deals at `em until they fold.

"Jules baby, you are goin' to be Australia's first elected PM. What a bloody ripper! I could get three terms out of this... if only that Wilson shit doesn't come up again."

You see Tony, didn't you notice? That's her weak spot! Not the carbon tax.

The media ball is slowly starting to roll and they are waiting for you to grasp the nettle. How can media get serious about something the Leader of the Opposition doesn't think is important enough to even ask a damned question about?

Those commentators who are "waiting for a smoking gun" have not read the AWU Cambridge Affidavit, which was co-written by her own colleague Rob McClelland. It's a message they don't want to hear.

If the Lefties of the Press gallery had read it, they would have known exactly what Gillard needed to explain in that out-of-the blue, no-questions, no-answers farce she called a Press conference.

I mean, why would Gillard have supplied answers when nobody knew what the questions were?

Or was that the general idea, Julia?


Australia could rethink Palestine stand on UN

AUSTRALIA could still back a Palestine state winning a place at the United Nations, despite "hot debate" inside the government and determined opposition from the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

The Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, has told Israeli and Palestinian officials in recent weeks Australia will not take a final decision on the potentially explosive issue until the wording of any resolution is clear.

But Labor's longest-serving foreign minister, Gareth Evans, has warned Australia could be on the "wrong side of history" by opposing a Palestinian push to win observer status at the UN General Assembly.

"The issue has been hotly debated within the government over the last year but it is one on which the Prime Minister has very strong views, and her views have so far prevailed," Professor Evans said on Thursday night.

The former foreign minister Kevin Rudd had written to Ms Gillard last year advising that Australia should abstain in the General Assembly, but the issue was left unresolved after Palestinian diplomats decided not to send a resolution for a vote.

Palestinian officials, frustrated by peace negotiations with Israel, are driving for the UN seat as a way of securing international recognition of Palestinian statehood.

But Israel is fiercely opposed to the move, accusing Palestinians of breaking an agreement not to make any unilateral declaration of statehood.

Australian diplomats had feared the Palestinian question could be brought on before last month's vote on the campaign for Security Council seat - with the potential to cruel Australia's chances to win over Arab and Islamic nations.

Australia had already risked a backlash by siding with Israel, the US and 11 other nations last year to oppose Palestine joining a key UN cultural body, after Ms Gillard over-ruled Mr Rudd.

But Australia has also sought in recent months to send subtle signals of support for a two-state solution to the conflict, with officials switching back an earlier formulation and referring to "Palestine" instead of "Palestinian Territories".

The debate over Palestinian membership of the UN is set to resurface, with the Palestine leader, Mahmoud Abbas, expected to return to the General Assembly, possibly later this month.

"When the resolution is put the only uncertainty about the outcome will be the size of the affirmative majority," Professor Evans said. He said estimates of support had 115 votes in favour, 20 against and between 50 to 60 set to abstain.

A spokesman for Senator Carr said Australia would look at the text of the resolution when it was available and make a decision.


Bunbury mother outraged over hugging ban:  Letter to paper

Stupid Fascist school Principal:   If something is a problem, don't deal with it.  Ban it!

Heidi Rome

I am writing this to you as a concerned parent.

My daughter is in year six and is in the Academic Class of Excellence.   She is a well-mannered, bright and caring person who her teacher thinks highly of her and she would never do anything to hurt another person.

 Last Friday she received detention from the principal, the reason she received this was because she gave her classmate (female) a friendly hug goodbye after the end of day bell had gone.

I have since spoke to the school and the principal and apparently there is a rule at the school that the students are not allowed to hug one another.

I have never heard of this before and I read nearly all of the schools newsletters.

I asked why such a harsh punishment and her reply was because she had only just spoken to the whole school about this issue two hours previously so she was taking a stance on the matter. Well I think this is way over the top to punish a child for a friendly hug.

 My concern is the harsh punishment and the fact kids are no longer able to be kids and hug one another. Her reasoning for this rule that was bought in was to stop boyfriend / girlfriend hugging (some parents had complained about it) and the students that were running across the schoolyard and slamming into one another.

So everyone suffers now because of a few silly children, I asked her why not teach those children appropriate behavior instead of banning hugs altogether.

What is that teaching the children instead, that hugs are inappropriate and wrong?

I have also asked the question have they spoken to a child physiologist regarding the effect on giving the impression to the students that they must not hug your friends?

The answer was no, but I can if I want too. Also siblings are not allowed to hug each other, so how can you explain to a five year old that they cant hug their older brother or sister.

 According to theorist regarding child development this is a natural development of children and I certainly don't want my children not to be able to hug friends or family.

I have spoken to a number of parents from this school and teachers from other schools and they completely agree me and are outraged about this rule.

Research has also shown that in this day and age where communication is ruled by technology children need to have more affection and be encouraged to have human empathy.

Schools should be a comforting place for kids and be all warm and fuzzy as for some children it may be the only bit they get.

I hope this matter can be bought to the attention of other parents out there and something done about it as I do not want my younger primary aged children being bought up in a society that says hugs between friends and siblings are inappropriate at school and also the school is not going to change this rule.


Sri Lankan asylum seekers sent home

A group of Sri Lankan men have been sent home from Christmas Island after they were found not to have legitimate claims for asylum.  Immigration Minister Chris Bowen confirmed the 26 men left on a charter flight late yesterday.

Mr Bowen has also confirmed the final member of a group of 15 Sri Lankans involved in allegedly hijacking a boat in Sri Lankan waters has also been returned.

Political correspondent Sabra Lane told AM the group of 26 men sent home was not connected to that case:

   " We understand that this was only the second time that the Minister has used powers available to him under the Migration Act to do this.

    He used these powers last weekend to send home a group of men who were accused of piracy. But this group last night, they were totally separate to that group and not involved in that case.

    These 26 Sri Lankans, according to the department, had no legal right to be here and they didn't make, according to the department, credible or legitimate claims for asylum.

    Crucially here, these men apparently raised no issues about Australia's international obligations.

    They made no reference to Australia's being obliged under the UN Convention for Refugees to consider their claims."


1 November, 2012

Alan Jones has the last laugh;  now tops

With puffed-up pseudo-indignation, the Left tried to destroy him over a minor gaffe but they failed utterly

THE public has delivered an extraordinary verdict on the Alan Jones controversy and the attempt to destroy his program via an advertiser boycott.

The Alan Jones show has surged back to the top of the market. It is again bristling with ads. His number of listeners – all voters and consumers – is showing a healthy glow.

Prior to the recent anti-Jones campaign, Jones had a cumulative audience of 442,000 listeners in his 5.30am to 9am slot on weekday mornings. It was 2 1/2 times the audience size of his most direct commercial competitor, 2UE, but still trailed ABC 702.

This changed dramatically in the latest Nielsen ratings. Jones cruised past ABC 702, gaining 22,000 listeners while 702 lost 17,000 listeners.

The survey was generally bad for the flagship ABC station. Its daytime audience fell 9 per cent as ABC 702 suffered losses across every shift from 5.30am to 7pm, losing a cumulative 142,000 listeners.

This probably had nothing to do with Jones and more to do with changing media consumption patterns but the difference in fortunes was striking.

The latest Nielsen numbers are also a blast of cold air for 2UE. The station is not just a direct commercial competitor of 2GB but has also mimicked the 2GB formula, for a time even hiring David Oldfield, the former strategist for Pauline Hanson. The station should also have benefited from a ferocious coverage of Jones in Fairfax Media mastheads.

The upshot: prior to the boycott, 2UE had 166,000 cumulative listeners during the 5.30 to 9am slot, the equivalent of 38 per cent of the Jones audience. In the latest survey, 2UE shed 30,000 listeners while Jones was on air, a plunge of 18 per cent. Its audience has fallen to an equivalent of just 29 per cent of Jones's audience.

The Alan Jones show took a big commercial hit during October from the boycott but the show again has plenty of advertisers. Shares in 2GB's parent company, Macquarie Radio Network, fell sharply at the height of the boycott, from 64¢ to 54¢, but have since sprung back to pre-boycott levels.

The anti-Jones campaign has become problematic for its organisers.

In the marketplace of ideas, and the arena of freedom of speech, this controversy was a setback for Jones but has proved an abject defeat for his political adversaries in terms of market share.

The campaign targeted small businesses that advertised on the Jones program, jamming their online operations with anti-Jones spam. The campaign thus inflicted commercial damage on companies that had done nothing wrong.

The social media campaign which drove the anti-Jones campaign has been exposed as having organisers with clear organic links to the left, the unions and the Labor Party.

Ten days ago, Simon Sheikh, the long-time national director of GetUp, a social media network imported from the United States, announced he would seek preselection from the Greens as a Senate candidate in the ACT at the next election. This removed the fig-leaf, if one even existed, in front of the reality that GetUp serves as a proxy for the unions and the Greens.

Another anti-Jones organiser,, which like GetUp is a progressive social media network imported from the US, used to market itself as a politically neutral platform. It revealed itself as far from neutral when become an active cheerleader for the anti-Jones boycott campaign.

The campaign via was white hot for a week but quickly ran out of steam. After an initial surge of 100,000 online signatures in support of a boycott the growth in numbers fell to a trickle. When the petition closed after a month it had 116,000 signatures.

Any further attempts to target companies that advertise on Jones will be perceived as vindictive, given that Jones has apologised for the remark which sparked the campaign (that Julia Gillard's father had died of shame because his daughter lied so much) and commercial damage has been inflicted via the advertiser boycott. The point has been made.

The offending remark were made at a private function, and quickly withdrawn, but the outrage directed at Jones came from people who never listened to his program and are not remotely interested in his extensive philanthropy.

Based on the overall reaction to the Jones controversy, as distinct from the froth on social media, the campaign has proved to be a flash flood with little impact on the wider audience.

The Nielsen ratings suggest the campaign is widely perceived as an exercise in overkill. This morning a clearly nervous man went on air during the Jones's show and said: "First-time caller. I just want to give you my support."

Another caller, Stephanie, a Jones regular, wanted to talk about the two years of abuse she endured from another radio talk host who indulged in an obsessional hatred of Jones.

"Was your name and address ever mentioned on air?" Jones asked, in classic Dorothy Dix mode.  "Indeed my full name was mentioned for nearly two years by a broadcaster, and where I live," replied Stephanie. "My sons were mentioned … I was referred to on air, several times, as a skanky ho."

Jones: "There are rules for some and different rules for others … It's perfectly OK to refer to Tony Abbott as a 'douchebag' or 'Jack the Ripper'."

A sense of resentment has energised Jones, and his audience. It's called blowback.


Asylum seekers told of no-advantage rule

IMMIGRATION Minister Chris Bowen says he has explained to asylum seekers on Nauru that they will not go to the head of the queue in their claims to come to Australia.

Mr Bowen visited Australia's offshore processing detention centres on the Pacific Island of Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island in early October.

"I have spoken to the people in the centre at Nauru, and I have explained the no-advantage principle to them to their face," Mr Bowen told ABC television on Wednesday.  "I have told them that it is a period of years, and talked that through."

The principle was to deter people arriving by boat without a visa as they would not gain an advantage over those who waited in a queue in refugee camps.

On Wednesday, Mr Bowen introduced legislation to remove the migration rights from any asylum seeker arriving by boat on the Australian mainland.  The measure is one of the recommendations from the Houston expert panel handed to the government in August.

Mr Bowen defended his and Labor's change of mind on the policy.

In 2006, Labor opposed the measure when then prime minister John Howard tried and failed to excise the Australian mainland from the migration zone.

"If I have a choice between saving somebody's life and being entirely consistent with something I said in 2006, well, I'll go for saving the life, thanks very much," he told ABC radio earlier on Wednesday.

He said not every party had the same position in 2012 as it did in 2006.  "In 2006, the Liberal Party supported putting a price on carbon for example," Mr Bowen said.

The Immigration Department confirmed two asylum seekers attempted self-harm at the detention facility on Nauru.

A spokesman for the department said the two people had been treated on Wednesday by health services provider International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) for superficial injuries.  "They have since returned to their accommodation," he told AAP.

Two more asylum seeker boats have been intercepted, both detected late on Tuesday off Christmas Island. One was carrying 51 passengers and two crew and the other carried 12 passengers.

The increase in the number of boat arrivals was likely to blow the government's aim of a budget surplus for 2012/13, opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said.

Mr Bowen introduced two bills to parliament on Tuesday requesting appropriation of the money needed to implement the recommendations of the Houston expert panel on asylum seekers.

It comes at a cost of $1.67 billion in 2012/13 and includes $267 million to build regional asylum seeker processing centres in Nauru and Manus Island.

Mr Morrison said before the mid-year budget update the estimated cost of processing and accommodating asylum seekers was $4.97 billion.  "That figure today is up to $5.4 billion for this financial year and out over the forward estimates is $6.6 billion," Mr Morrison told parliament.

In the May budget the government had estimated 450 people a month would arrive in 2012/13.  That figure had blown out to 2000 each month, Mr Morrison said.


Greens agree to back wheat deregulation bill

Sad that it takes the Left to do this

The Federal Government has agreed to a deal with the Greens to get its wheat deregulation bill through Parliament.  The bill abolishes Wheat Exports Australia (WEA) and the 22-cents-a-tonne charge it imposes on producers.

The legislation has split the Coalition, with east coast MPs against it and some Western Australian MPs wanting to back it.

Some Coalition MPs had threatened to cross the floor in support of the bill.

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert says her party will back the legislation in both houses of Parliament after Labor agreed to support amendments in the Senate.

She says they will ensure a port-access code of conduct is legislated and an oversight body is set up.  "And that none of the provisions of the Act would come into place until that regulation ... putting in place that mandatory access code are in place," she said.  "We have also reached agreement there will be an amendment that puts in place a ministerial advisory taskforce or body."

The former Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey has congratulated the Greens for supporting the bill.

But, he says he is disappointed about the lack of support from his former WA colleagues, including the deputy Opposition Leader, Julie Bishop. "As I have made very plain, I am extremely disappointed that there is not a total vote of West Australian Liberal members for this particular measure," he said.

The WA Farmers Federation has welcomed the deal.  The federation's president, Dale Park, says he is not concerned which party backs the bill as long as it gets through.  "It's good to see this bill going through," he said.

"We've said right from the start that we don't see any need for WEA so it doesn't really matter how we get it, as long as we get what we wanted."


After-school care paedophile angers parent

Governments seem to have a manic determination to protect sexual offenders from the consequences of their own deeds

A mother whose two children attended after-school care in Adelaide's north-western suburbs says she is angry the Education Department failed to tell parents the students had been supervised by a now-convicted paedophile.

Mark Christopher Harvey, 41, was sentenced last February to six years in jail for sexually abusing a young girl attending the care program.

A mother - who cannot be identified - says she was told Harvey quit his position because of ill-health and she did not find out about his conviction until after the matter went through the courts.

She says her two children have since made allegations against Harvey, which police are investigating, and she is demanding to know why the school and the Education Department did not inform parents when charges were first laid.  "For me to find out that my children were in care of a paedophile and I had to find out through my children over a year after it happened, that's wrong," she said.

Police issued a statement, saying the principal was with officers when Harvey was arrested and was advised to consult with the Education Department on how best to tell parents what had happened.  They said the principal was also told it was not a police role to tell the school community.

Education Minister Grace Portolesi later promised an independent review of the incident and its handling.  "I certainly have acted on the advice provided by my department and as has been demonstrated yesterday ... SAPOL (SA Police) has a different opinion and so that's why we will get to the bottom of what's going on," she said.

"Of course it's a concern there appear to be differing opinions in relation to this matter. There clearly has been miscommunication and I'm organising an independent review to get to the bottom of that, I think that's what's important."

She said she had acted on clear advice from her department when she made the statement to Parliament that: "The school did not send information to the community about this incident on the advice from SAPOL."

"This is a symptom of incompetency both in the department and in the minister's office. I mean if I received a brief that told me that the police said the best way of dealing with this is to keep it secret, I would be asking very severe questions," he said.

The day after the matter surfaced publicly, Ms Portolesi made a ministerial statement to the Parliament.  "We acknowledge the importance of the community's right to know and for parents to be supported in the care and wellbeing of their children. We must strike this balance for the community," she said.

"In regard to the serious matters raised yesterday, I advised the House on the basis of advice given to me. However it is now apparent that there is a difference of opinion and that is cause for concern. That's why, Madam Speaker, I have asked that an independent review investigates and reports to me in relation to this matter."

Ms Portolesi said the matter also was raised with the Ombudsman several months ago.  "I understand that it was an aggrieved parent who went to the Ombudsman and that sparked the investigation," she said.  "They are establishing the line of communication, they are establishing events as they transpired.  "I think it's a good thing we've got the Ombudsman inquiring in relation to this."

While the minister is claiming there may have been crossed wires, child protection expert Freda Briggs thinks otherwise.  She was contacted months ago by members of the school governing council, who claimed they had been silenced by the Education Department.

"The parents think that the school or whatever the organisation is is trying to conceal what has happened. Shoving it under the carpet," she said.

Now-Premier Jay Weatherill was education minister at the time Harvey was arrested but said he had no recollection of the case.


Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.

Most academics are lockstep Leftists so readers do sometimes doubt that I have the qualifications mentioned above. Photocopies of my academic and military certificates are however all viewable here

For overseas readers: The "ALP" is the Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. The "Liberal" party is Australia's major conservative political party.

Again for overseas readers: Like the USA, Germany and India, Australia has State governments as well as the Federal government. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).

For American readers: A "pensioner" is a retired person living on Social Security

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

On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.

I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!

I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"

UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.

Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.

A delightful story about a great Australian conservative