Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Labor Party gets real about Kyoto

They have finally seen that dragging down the economy for Greenie tokenism is not a good deal

KEVIN Rudd has said it is "absolutely fundamental" that developing nations sign up to Kyoto emissions targets as he tries to limit the fallout after forcing Peter Garrett into an embarrassing backflip on Labor's policy. Mr Garrett said yesterday that the inclusion of developing nations China and India - major greenhouse gas emitters - was "not a deal-breaker" to Labor signing on to a post-Kyoto climate accord if the party wins the federal election. By the evening he said it was a pre-requisite.

Mr Rudd has said on ABC radio this morning that any deal would be sent back to the drawing board if developing nations refused to sign. He had said yesterday that developed nations should show leadership by signing on first. "It's absolutely fundamental that such commitments are contained, and that for us is a pre-condition," he said. He said Labor's policy was "clear-cut" and Mr Garrett had been totally consistent. He said Mr Garrett had originally been speaking about the four years between now and 2012, when Kyoto expires. From then on, Mr Rudd said, developing nations had to be on board.

Mr Garrett's backdown came after a Labor crisis meeting, which followed a day of sustained assault by John Howard and senior ministers on Mr Garrett's comments. The Coalition seized on the Labor position. Mr Howard said it was a policy to "reduce Australian jobs", not to reduce Australian emissions.

Last night, Mr Garrett issued a statement, attempting to clarify his position. "Appropriate developing country commitments for the post-2012 commitment period ... would be an essential pre-requisite for Australian support." The blunder enabled the Coalition to shift the heat on climate change away from Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull. It was revealed on the weekend that Mr Turnbull had asked Cabinet six weeks ago to sign up to Kyoto because Australia would meet its targets anyway. Mr Rudd had attacked Mr Turnbull, highlighting his difference with Mr Howard - who rebuffed Mr Turnbull's suggestion - and the rest of Cabinet.

A Newspoll released this morning has found a four-point swing back to the Coalition, but Labor still had an election-winning lead with 54 per cent of the two-party-preferred vote. But in worse news for Labor, Peter Costello - who would take over from Mr Howard at some point if the Coalition wins - has almost double to support of Wayne Swan as preferred Treasurer. Mr Costello and Mr Swan will debate each other this afternoon.

Mr Howard had said Mr Garrett's original commitment, in an interview with The Australian Financial Review and on ABC radio, was against Australia's interests and would put Australian jobs at risk. "We can't have a situation where Australian industry is bound to take steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions, but competitive countries like China are not bound," Mr Howard said. He said that would effectively export Australian emissions - and Australian jobs - to China.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said committing to any new deal without the explicit support of developing countries was "absurd". "You cannot be the government of Australia and go into negotiations saying 'developing countries don't have to make a contribution, we'll sign the agreement anyway' and think you are going to do something to solve this problem of greenhouse gas emissions," he said.....

Only after Mr Howard and other Coalition ministers began to publicly question the policy, and the media began asking questions, did Mr Rudd, Mr Garrett and a team of advisers hold a crisis meeting at lunch-time in Cairns. It was decided that Mr Garrett, who had made the initial commitment, should release a statement that "clarified" Labor's position and recognised the need to lock developing nations into targets for greenhouse gas emission cuts.....


Kids do what a negligent Green-influenced government refused to do

Having a 6' croc living behind your house is no problem?

Two boys have admitted taking revenge on a crocodile lurking near their Cairns home, hooking it and bashing it to death with a rock. Police and wildlife officials are investigating the attack on the 1.8m croc in a drain at Dillon St, Westcourt, and have warned the boys may face hefty fines. But residents last night defended the boys' actions, saying they were fed up with the number of croc sightings in suburban creeks and drains and had been forced to take matters into their own hands.

David Stallwood, 12, last night told how they caught the animal and killed it because of safety fears. "We got a torch, a big hook and some meat and went down and got it," he said. Added his mate Henry Tabuar, 14: "We just wanted to get it out for the safety of the people."

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service conservation services manager Dr Mark Read said the croc was the same animal spotted in the Dillon St drain on Sunday. He said he would work with police today to further investigate the attack and possibly lay charges. Dr Read warned anyone caught harming a croc could face a $16,000 fine.

The incident comes after a spate of sightings of crocs in Cairns in the past week. Also yesterday, a Miriwinni woman told how her horse was mauled by a croc at a popular fishing spot and two northern beaches were closed following another sighting. Cairns Mayor Kevin Byrne said people had probably had enough of finding crocs in urban areas. But he said there was not a crocodile problem in the city. "It's a fact of life, they (crocodiles) get in, they get out," Cr Byrne said. "It's unfortunate that an animal has been killed, but it's probably an indication that people have had enough." ....

Lifeguards closed both Yorkeys Knob and Trinity beaches again yesterday morning after a croc sighting at Trinity Beach. The beaches were closed all day Friday when a crocodile was spotted swimming north, close to the shore.


Another butcher doctor still operating in Queensland -- a "Professor", would you believe?

Left-run Queensland seems to specialize in "overconfident" doctors. The scum is now in private practice. Beware!

A prominent member of the Brisbane medical establishment has been charged with manslaughter after he allegedly sliced open a woman's vein in a botched operation then prescribed blood-thinning drugs that hastened her death. Before the Dr Death scandal that brought about major health reforms in Queensland, Nardia Annette Cvitic, who was suffering from cervical cancer, went to Brisbane's Mater Hospital to have a hysterectomy performed by Bruce Ward. The 30-year-old collapsed in hospital three days after the operation, having lost half her blood volume. She died on February 22, 2002, despite having undergone emergency surgery, where Dr Ward's initial response of a double-dose of blood-thinning drugs was overruled by experts summoned by his worried colleagues.

Trained in Australia and Britain, Dr Ward - who maintains he is a good doctor - was working at the Mater and Royal Women's hospitals at the time of the death of the mother of two; he was a professor at the University of Queensland and remains a fellow of the Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. The Australian revealed last year that the Mater approached Cvitic's family to offer an out-of-court settlement in 2003 - eventually paying out $175,000 for her two young sons.

Dr Ward is understood to have been retrained after Cvitic's death. He has unrestricted registration through the Queensland Medical Board and was released on bail yesterday after Deputy State Coroner Christine Clements formally charged him with manslaughter. Ms Clements used the old Coroner's Act to charge Dr Ward with manslaughter, 18 months after the inquest into the death finished. In the inquest, Ms Clements heard evidence that the bloodied operating theatre at one point resembled the aftermath of the Granville train disaster in NSW in the 1970s.

While Dr Ward testified that he made reasonable, albeit incorrect, clinical decisions, Ms Clements found 13 instances where a properly instructed jury might find him criminally negligent and responsible for the death. Dr Ward declined to respond to the charge yesterday, leaving his barrister, David Tait, to continue his defence in the media, again extending his sympathies to the Cvitic family. Mr Tait said his client was devastated by her death and disappointed by Ms Clements's decision. "Over 20 years he has looked after thousands of women in Queensland for serious gynaecological cancers and, indeed, he has dedicated his life to medicine and to helping women in this position," Mr Tait told reporters, reading from a prepared statement. "Dr Ward is adamant that he has done nothing wrong, he has committed no criminal offence."

Cvitic's elder sister, Helen Liversidge, who was in court to hear Ms Clements's findings, said she was pleased with the result. Describing her sister as "very fun-loving, happy, vivacious young lady, full of life", Ms Liversidge said she had lost the opportunity to see her children grow up. "Her eldest son is now starting his first day as a butcher," she said.

Ms Clements was supportive of the reforms undertaken at the Mater, and across the health system, since the death, but lamented the lack of closer monitoring for blood and fluid loss. "If this had been recorded and coupled with so-called standard blood tests ... the problem of blood loss might have been identified earlier," Ms Clements said.

Ms Liversidge said she believed the reforms introduced after her sister's death were already saving lives. "My sister's death has helped a lot of people," she said. Under the 2003 Coroners Act, Queensland coroners are only able to recommend that charges be laid against a person. However, because Cvitic's death occurred before the law change, Ms Clements was able to charge Dr Ward under legislation passed in 1958.


Bureaucracy choking universities too

Three new bureaucrats for every new teaching position

Universities had increased administrative staff numbers by nearly 300 per cent in 10 years because the federal Government had swathed them in red tape, a sector union said yesterday. National Tertiary Education Union policy analyst Andrew Nette scoffed at Education Minister Julie Bishop's comment on ABC radio that universities did not need more money but rather better management, more academics and fewer administrators. "It's a simplistic argument to say that universities should employ less general staff and more academics, given the demands of her own Government that have been a significant factor in the increase in general staff," Mr Nette said.

Education Department figures show that full-time academic staff increased by 85 per cent between 1997 and last year, from 21,787 to 40,216. In the same period, general staff numbers increased by 293 per cent, from 17,665 to 51,792. The Group of Eight largest universities released a report at the weekend saying that because of a fall in public funding, university standards were falling as students paid more to attend.

In response, Ms Bishop told ABC radio: "The administration costs of universities are increasing at the expense of teaching and research. I believe the universities should be employing more lecturers and fewer administrators ... they should be changing that balance."

National lobby group Universities Australia said that since 2004, increases in academic staff were higher than in administrative staff. UA chief executive officer Glenn Withers said: "We are prioritising teaching."

Labor education spokesman Stephen Smith agreed that universities had to be efficient. "When the commonwealth hands over money, it needs to be satisfied that sufficient and appropriate governance and accountability procedures are in place," he said. "My criticism is there is not enough invested. The Government has tried to micro-manage the inputs and not stand back and focus on the outputs. There is no doubt some of the regulatory red tape-burden can be relieved."



Post below lifted from Boortz. See the original for links

In Australia they are actually thinking about using global warming as an excuse to pay the electricity bills for poor people. Prime Minister John Howard announced that money from the sale of carbon permits would be used by a Coalition government to 'subsidize' (that's a fancy word "redistribute income") electricity bills for 'low-income earners.'

This redistribution plan would come into effect after his emissions trading scheme begins in 2011. He will establish a 'climate change fund,' which will be funded from revenue from the auctioning of permits under the emissions trading system. Then that fund will used to finance a variety of government programs including financial assistance to poor people ... who will 'inevitably have to pay for higher electricity' as Australia moves toward cleaner technology.

Now, perhaps, we're seeing part of the real reason big-government liberals and anti-capitalist environmental activists are pushing this phony global warming nonsense. They see it as a source of revenue! Maneuver the government into charging private companies for carbon emissions, and then use those funds to promote leftist causes.

We all know what happened to the home heating oil assistance program here in the U.S. It was supposed to be a short-term solution to the oil crisis decades ago. It is still with us today as another massive government entitlement program. The same will happen in Australia with this aid for pitiful poor people to pay their light bills. Even when global warming has been proven (as it will) to be a massive fraud, the assistance for poor people will remain in place. Count on it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Howard on Leftist crime laxity

Howard is spot-on with this. The Queensland Police do not even try to trace car-thieves -- which is probably why Queensland has Australia's highest rate of car theft. When my car was stolen recently, it was recovered shortly after and I found in it an ID card that had obviously been dropped by one of the thieves. I took the card to Dutton Pk. police station but they were not remotely interested. When I complained in writing about their inaction, they said that they had "lost" the ID card concerned! I was thus deprived by the police of the opportunity of recovering valuable contents that had been stolen from the car

Prime Minister John Howard has slammed the State Government for failing Queenslanders over policing. Mr Howard yesterday launched a stinging attack on crime in Queensland and vowed to step in and protect communities. "Law and order should be a top priority for any responsible state government," Mr Howard told The Sunday Mail. "Sadly, the Queensland Labor Government is letting down the people of Queensland by failing to adequately fund basic policing services to protect communities."

But Police Minister Judy Spence hit back at Mr Howard yesterday, describing it as a last-ditch election stunt.

Mr Howard said the Coalition would fund community crime prevention programs, particularly focusing on hooning, vandalism, graffiti and break-ins.

In September, councils in Logan, Warwick and Thuringowa received almost $300,000 between them for closed-circuit TV cameras to crack down on local crime. Mr Howard last week announced a further $50,000 for CCTV for education facilities. sports dubs and community halls in southeast Queensland. Almost $25,000 was directed to the marginal Liberal electorate of Dickson, held by Peter Dutton.

The above article by Darrell Giles appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on October 28, 2007

Vague description of serious crime -- Sudanese?

What does the detail-deprived report below tell you? Probably that the attackers were Sudanese blacks. It certainly tells you that the police are not at all keen on catching any of them. There is no mention of the event at all on the police media site -- even though many much more minor crimes are listed there

Police are seeking help hunting down a group of about 15 men who attacked a man with baseball bats and bars in Melbourne's north-east last night. Police said the 25-year-old victim was attacked just before 11pm as he was getting out of a car, in Capricorn Avenue, Doncaster. A group of about 15 men, who had been chasing the car on foot, set upon him with shopping trolley bars and baseball bats.

The Templestowe man had his wallet and mobile phone stolen during the attack. He was taken to hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries.


Poverty exaggerations

AUSTRALIA'S welfare lobby is at it again. In a report issued last week, an alliance of welfare groups claimed that more than 11 per cent of Australian households are living in poverty, and that their numbers are rising. The Uniting Church president described this as scandalous. A St Vincent de Paul activist said it shows the need for a national vision instead of piecemeal programs. And the head of the Australian Council of Social Service came right to the point by demanding more funding for essential services.

Working people in this country are paying tax to support more than 700,000 disability support pensioners, about 600,000 welfare parents, nearly half a million unemployed and two million aged pensioners, not to mention more than three million families claiming Family Tax Benefit.

While unemployment figures are at 30-year lows, total welfare dependency is at record highs. A workforce of 10million is supporting two million welfare claimants of working age, plus another two million aged pensioners. The cost is phenomenal: more than $70 billion on social security and welfare payments alone. Yet ACOSS says we should be spending even more.

Few Australians begrudge helping those who really need support, but they do resent paying for people who could be supporting themselves. Research a few years ago found 56 per cent think the welfare state makes people less willing to look after themselves, and only 34 per cent want more of their taxes spent on welfare benefits for the poor.

The welfare lobby is well aware of this public resistance to higher welfare spending. That's why it persists in producing wildly exaggerated and misleading reports about the size of our poverty problem. They think if they can get us to believe that huge numbers of our fellow citizens are suffering, our sense of fairness will lead us to support their demands for more government spending. They even called their latest report Australia Fair.

There are two reasons why we should refuse to go along with this.

The first is that their definition of poverty is entirely arbitrary. They say anyone is poor who has less than half the median income. On this definition, 11 per cent of Australians are poor. But their report also says you could define poverty as an income less than 60 per cent of the median income, in which case 19 per cent of Australians are poor. We could play this game indefinitely. To increase your poverty estimate, simply draw your line at a higher level.

What this report is really doing is measuring income dispersion, not poverty. It shows that the proportion of the population receiving less than half the median income has grown from 10per cent to 11 per cent during the past three years. It calls this an increase in poverty, but all it really means is incomes have become slightly more spread out.

Comparing the incomes of people at the bottom with those higher up tells us about the difference between them, but it tells us nothing about whether they are poor or rich. This slight increase in the income spread has actually coincided with a rapid rise in real incomes at all levels, so everyone has been getting better off. To describe this as a growth of poverty (and even as sad and scandalous, as the Uniting Church did) is clearly absurd.

The second reason for taking this report with a pinch of salt is that it takes a static snapshot rather than looking at people's incomes over time. Household incomes fluctuate, so most people who appear under any arbitrarily drawn poverty line do not stay there long. Research following a panel of Australian households for several years found 12 per cent had less than half the median income in the first year, but only 6 per cent had an income this low for two years running, and just 4 per cent stayed under the line for three years. Sustained poverty, as against a temporary income drop, is thus much lower than the welfare lobby would have you believe.

Moreover, people adjust to fluctuating incomes through their lifetime by changing their pattern of borrowing, saving and spending, so their living standards actually vary much less dramatically than their incomes do. Research at the Melbourne Institute has found people on low incomes do not necessarily consume less food, clothing, transportation, gas, electricity, health insurance, alcohol, meals out or home maintenance than other people do. Living temporarily on a low income does not necessarily translate into poor living standards.

The Melbourne Institute study combines income and consumption into a single measure of poverty. It finds that only 3 per cent of the population comes out as poor at any one time on this measure, and just 1 per cent remains poor over two successive years. The study concludes: "Existing income-based measures (of poverty) are seriously in error. The results they give are much too high."

Some of us have been saying this for a long time, but it is not a message the welfare pressure groups seem willing to listen to.


Green/Left deal has a worrying precedent

Australian Greens leader Bob Brown says his party is moving towards a deal which would see Labor give preferences to the Greens in the Senate. However, he says it is the first time the Greens in Tasmania will not be directing preferences to either Labor or the Liberals because of both parties' support for the pulp mill and old-growth logging.

Senator Abetz, the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, says voters should remember Tasmania's Labor-Green accord. "People left the state, investment collapsed, the young people lost confidence in Tasmania and they went to the mainland," he said. "If that were to happen Australia-wide people would have to leave the country and that's not the sort of future I want for Australia."

But Mr Brown has dismissed the reference to the accord, which saw unemployment skyrocket and investment collapse, saying the Greens have alternatives. "We don't have to have a big jobs bath like the Gunns pulp mill with just 284 jobs, we're talking about hundreds and thousands of jobs in alternative clean green industry," he said. "Eric Abetz doesn't understand that, that's why he doesn't like the word accord, which means getting along well together, and that's why he's feeling a little bit panicky."


Monday, October 29, 2007

Computer systems: When will they ever learn?

Government computer projects almost always end up costing megabucks and even then they often do not work -- Britain's 12 BILLION pound hospital project being the star example. Governments should just use commercially available database programs but the arrogance of thinking that they can do it better usually seems to trump experience. But what do you expect of Leftist bureaucrats? The amusing thing is that these projects are always sold as bringing "savings". So Queensland is doing its little bit towards multiplying the waste:

A State Government management project that has blown an admitted $60 million of taxpayers' money could be $300 million in the red. Government sources said "clever accounting" may have covered up a loss five times worse than reported to Queensland Parliament. Coalition Deputy Leader Bruce Flegg called on Treasurer Andrew Fraser to reveal the true extent of losses from the controversial Shared Service Initiative.

The much-vaunted project, introduced in 2003, involved a five-year overhaul of information and communication technology systems in government departments. But a recent report by the Service Delivery and Performance Commission revealed the initiative had cost taxpayers $157 million for just $97 million in savings. The Government had expected the scheme to save $100 million a year.

A private sector management consultant, who had been contracted by the Government to work on the initiative, told The Sunday Mail that the reported loss of $60 million was way off. "They have overspent by more than $300 million ... the figures have been covered up and buried in various accounts," said the insider, who declined to be identified. He claimed millions of dollars were being spent every week on consultants charging between $1500 and $2000 a day as the Government tried to rescue the project.

Dr Flegg, who told Parliament last week the scheme was a "basket case", said it was time the Government came clean on the cost to taxpayers. "This half a billion-dollar initiative has been poorly executed and has been carried out in secrecy, if not deception," he said.

A public servant who worked on the initiative said it was an ill-thought-out scheme that had been "crippled by mismanagement". "The projected savings have not materialised, the government agencies being serviced are unhappy at the reduced level of service being provided and job satisfaction and morale amongst staff is extremely low," said the bureaucrat.

Mr Fraser told Parliament the Government had to make a significant investment up front "to make gains in the longer term". He ruled out scrapping it or making major changes. "I am moving to appoint a centralised prime contractor to ensure that costs are controlled and time lines are achieved," he told The Sunday Mail. "The Government remains firmly of the view that there are long-term savings to be made from the initiative."

The above article by Darrell Giles appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on October 28, 2007

Deceptive interest-rate propaganda

In line with its whatever-it-takes politics, Labor has been running an unrelenting - but highly misleading - campaign emphasising interest-rate rises under the Howard Government. Brought to you by former Carr spinmeister Walt Secord and the Hawker Britton team, it's sufficiently long on fabrication and short on fact to excite the naive and the foolish. Those who lived through Paul Keating's 1991-1992 "recession we had to have", and endured the crippling rate rises used as a blunt instrument to cudgel into submission galloping inflation, aren't so easily fooled.

Seeing the former prime minister and treasurer launch candidate Greg Combet's campaign last week brought to mind Marx's words from 1852 - "history repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce" - but with the twist that Keating's reappearance is history repeating itself first as tragedy and second as tragedy.

Although it's indisputable that there have been five interest-rate rises since March, 2005 and the prospect of a sixth on Melbourne Cup day seems, according to all the economists, a foregone conclusion, Labor wants to skim over the details. Why? Because each of those rate rises has been by just 0.25 per cent, for a total increase of 1.25 per cent over three years.

During last Monday's worm-infested debate, Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd counted on his fingers to lampoon the five 0.25 per cent increases. It was his little joke, but had he attempted to convey the magnitude of the size of just three rate rises under the Hawke-Keating government in just five months using 0.25 per cent as the equivalent of a finger, he would have needed both fists and a few toes. Between August and December of 1994, interest rates increased by 2.75 per cent. There was a 0.75 per cent hike in August (three times the size of any of the rises under the Howard government); a further one per cent jump in October (four times the size of any of the increases under Howard); and another one per cent in December - all within five months, as opposed to the incremental increases the present Government delivered over 36 months.

Putting it another way, in the space of five months, the Hawke-Keating government whacked home mortgagees with increases more than double the size of those delivered under Howard over three years. It's the comparison Rudd, Secord and the Hawker Britton team don't want you thinking about.

This was at the end of the period that John Howard, from Opposition, dubbed Australia's "five minutes of economic sunshine" because the number of unemployed peaked at one million during the March, 1993 election campaign. A little over 18 months after unemployment hit one million, interest rates were jacked up 2.75 per cent.

There's another significant difference between the record of the last Labor government and that of the current Government that Rudd and the myth-makers prefer to ignore: in 1993-1994, the Budget was in deficit to the tune of $17.1 billion - or 3.7 per cent of GDP - which is equivalent to $37 billion in today's terms. Under the Howard government, Australia has had significant, above-expectations Budget surpluses for four years in a row, and it aims to keep producing surpluses of one per cent of GDP. The surplus was 1.5 per cent of GDP in 2004-05, 1.6 per cent in 2005-06 and 1.6 per cent in 2006-07. For 2007-08, it's expected to be 1.3 per cent.

Further, the constant cry that the 22 per cent overnight cash rate in 1982 - when Howard was treasurer in Malcolm Fraser's government - is a record, is an absolute furphy. Labor has craftily taken Reserve Bank data for the overnight cash rate that was published on a daily basis, but the series only goes back to 1976. On its website, however, the RBA lists monthly averages for the overnight cash rate going back to 1969. They clearly show the highest monthly average for this figure was 21.75 per cent in May, 1974, whereas the monthly average in April, 1982 was 21.39 per cent. This may be splitting hairs and counting angels dancing on the heads of pins, but if you're going to toss a figure out you should get it right. Labor's claim is just not true.

For those who still don't understand the magnitude of the achievement of the Howard fiscal policy and who continue to shriek about the threat of high interest rates, let me put it another way. It would take another eight rises, each of 0.25 per cent, just to get to the 10.5 per cent interest rate that applied when Howard was first elected in 1996. To get to the Keating level, it would take nearly three years if an increase of 0.25 per cent was applied each month.

True, the Hawke-Keating government made some welcome economic reforms - all of which were supported by the Opposition at the time. True, all of the Howard government's economic reforms have been opposed by the ALP.

But, further, it is Rudd who now wants to wind back the Government's reforms, risking a breakout in wages growth that would inevitably force the RBA to impose interest-rate hikes of a magnitude not seen since the Hawke-Keating era. That threat alone shows that Rudd has no idea of the economic consequences of his industrial-relations policy. Labor claims to be able to manage an economy. The evidence clearly demonstrates otherwise, as Paul Keating's presence reminded us last week.



It's not only NSW. Three reports below

Public hospital negligence destroys a baby's future

How would YOU like to send your baby to hospital with diarrhoea and get him back with a damaged brain? It didn't happen to me. When my son developed gastro problems in his early childhood, he was taken to a top private hospital and immediately put on a drip. He was not released until he was well again. He is now a 6' tall healthy wealthy and happy mathematician. Working hard and saving your money really helps. Spending it as you get it is negligent because trusting your children to the government is negligent -- as negligence is all you can reliably expect from any government system. Negligence works in its own way too -- a very sad way, as we see below:

A year ago baby Ryan Mason was a happy, healthy newborn, delighting his young parents with his smiles. But at just 11 weeks Ryan developed severe brain damage after being sent home from Caboolture Hospital while allegedly still dehydrated and suffering gastroenteritis. A few hours after arriving home the baby turned blue, stopped breathing and suffered cardiorespiratory arrest while his parents rushed him back to hospital. Ryan was flown to Royal Brisbane Hospital, where his 22-year-old parents, Teisha-Lee and Tim Mason of Toorbul, north of Brisbane, were told he had brain damage. Ryan, now 13 months, developed cerebral palsy, cannot hold his head up or control his arms and may have vision problems.

A claim for damages for personal injuries has been served on Queensland Health, along with an expert's report, by Quinn and Scattini Lawyers. Dr John Raftos, a senior Sydney emergency medicine specialist, said in the report it was his opinion that if hospital staff "had properly assessed and treated Ryan's gastroenteritis and dehydration he would not, on balance of probabilities, have developed hypovolaemic shock and permanent brain damage".

Ryan had been having bouts of diarrhoea when Mrs Mason first took him to Caboolture Hospital on December 10 last year. He was diagnosed with gastroenteritis and sent home, but the next day he was admitted and treated with intravenous fluids for dehydration. Mrs Mason said that during his second night Ryan had diarrhoea every 20 minutes from midnight until 5am on December 13 and was screaming.

Medical records showed that a pediatric team ordered that Ryan and his wet nappies be weighed four times a day to check on his rehydration. Dr Raftos said in his report this was not done and in his opinion Ryan was discharged home while still dehydrated. Lawyer Damian Scattini said Ryan's case was "another preventable tragedy brought about by systems failure within a Queensland public hospital".

A Queensland Health spokeswoman said the department could not comment on legal proceedings.


State government caves in on one hospital

With a "fudge" that would do the British proud. A "British fudge" is a bit hard to define but it is basically a partial retreat or concession that is disguised as not being a retreat or a concession

The crisis at Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital has been solved, with all beds to be reopened and surgery restored after cancellations. A budget blowout had forced the hospital to turn away the sick last week, with 60 beds closed and 20 per cent of operating theatre procedures cancelled. But Premier Anna Bligh stepped in yesterday and ordered the impasse be resolved. She eased the squeeze on hospital budget constraints - giving the PA an extra year to balance the books - and hinted that extra funds would be handed over in December.

The situation had been in deadlock with PA management and the Australian Medical Association Queensland accusing the Queensland Government of under-funding one of the state's biggest public hospitals. Ms Bligh had refused extra money for the hospital, saying it had to manage on a record $33 million budget increase this year. An eight-hour "bypass" on Wednesday, when all new patients were redirected to another hospital, made the emergency worse.

But Ms Bligh - as she did with the Caboolture Hospital ER crisis two years ago - brokered a peace deal with the AMAQ and hospital managers. There was no initial new money, but sources said the PA Hospital would be well compensated by the Government at the mid-year Budget review. Ms Bligh told The Sunday Mail the agreement would see the projected budget over-run of $18 million progressively reduced over the next 18 months rather than in the current financial year.

She said PA chief executive officer Dr David Theile would introduce efficiency measures, including replacing nursing agency staff with Queensland Health-employed nurses. "This agreement, achieved after constructive talks between the Government, hospital managers and the AMAQ today, is good news for patients," Ms Bligh said. "The PA Hospital will progressively reopen beds and restore theatre lists. This will enable the hospital to return to full activity within a few weeks. "I have restated my commitment to reviewing the need for any increase in the PA Hospital's budget, along with all other public hospitals, in the mid-year Budget review. "Further, the Government will review funding needs for the whole public health system for 2008-09 and following years, as part of the Budget process early next year."

Ms Bligh and Dr Theile had clashed last week, with the Premier saying taxpayers were "entitled to see strong management ensuring that budgets are maintained". She denied a Government backflip on the issue yesterday after sending in her Director-General Ken Smith to negotiate with hospital management and the AMAQ. Ms Bligh said the Government would work with the hospital to manage its budget to ensure clinical standards were maintained, beds were reopened and theatre lists restored.

Leading PA visiting medical officer and AMAQ president Ross Cartmill welcomed the agreement and said the resolution was in the best interest of patients. "The Government's commitments today give me the confidence the PA Hospital can continue to provide top-quality service to our patients now and into the future," he said.


Hospital pen-pusher jobs on increase

ALMOST two-thirds of new appointments in Queensland public hospitals are non-medical, latest figures reveal. From May 2005-2006, Queensland Health boasted, clinical staff increased by 1200, but official figures show that 3196 extra staff were employed. A report stated that Queensland Health spent 82 per cent more on administration than any other state. [Because it is Australia's oldest "free" hospital system (started in 1944) and the cancer of bureaucracy has had longer to grow]

Liberal leader Bruce Flegg said money was being wasted on pen pushers: "Patients should not have to suffer because the numbers aren't right in the budget. Cuts should have been made from non-clinical areas." The Australian Medical Association said no cuts had been made to administration staff at the PA, but patients' operations had been cancelled.

Queensland AMA president Dr Ross Cartmill, who works at the PA, urged QH to investigate how many non-clinical staff were employed. "There are two types of non-clinical staff - the clinical support staff who work with the clinicians to make their life easier, and then there are the other group which is those who are employed purely in an administration role. We do believe too many of those . . . have been employed."

Representatives of QH and Health Minister Stephen Robertson refused to reveal how many non-clinical staff QH or the PA employed in the last year.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Daydreaming Left is in for a surprise: This is a contest for the centre, not the extremes

An editorial from "The Australian" below:

THERE is the real election campaign in which a centre-left challenger is fighting to regain the middle ground from a centre-right pragmatist. And then there's the fantasy election in which a left-liberal socialist is fighting to end 11 dark years of despotic rule by a scheming far-right culture-warrior. Having spent the last decade miscasting John Howard as immoral and mendacious, the intellectual Left is now compounding its mistake by portraying his likely successor as a social crusader on a mission to restore morality to public life.

Kevin Rudd has spent the past eleven months signing himself up to Mr Howard's policy agenda, but the fantasists from the Left have refused to believe him, recreating instead an Opposition Leader from a parallel universe. In an essay in The Monthly, Robert Manne details the manifesto of the fantasy Labor leader. "If Rudd is elected, the kind of mimetic foreign policy that followed our blank-cheque endorsement of the US in every twist and turn of policy in its war on terror, which led us into the catastrophe of Iraq, will be reversed," Manne muses. "If Rudd is elected, the industrial relations laws will be softened and humanised ... universities will most likely be more generously funded ... some elements of the former independence of the public service and of the former vigour of the parliament (may) be revived ... the gulf between the government and the country's creative artists will be bridged." Well dream on.

The banal truth is that Howard's Australia was never the nightmare of the Left's imaginings and Rudd's Australia would not be the liberal utopia of its dreams. In the areas where there is some substance behind its attacks, the politicisation of the public service, for example, their criticisms would equally apply to earlier governments of both persuasions and it is unlikely that Rudd, who cut his governmental teeth in the Goss administration, will be likely to turn the tide.

The most obvious failings and missed opportunities of the Howard era are conveniently ignored, the growth of big government, for example. There again, for all Labor finance spokesman Lindsay Tanner's talk of razor gangs, it is hard to imagine that the welfare promises, tax deductions, committees and commissions offered by Rudd's Labor will help facilitate a contraction in the public service.

These must be dull times for the class warriors who refuse to accept that the use-by date on Das Kapital is well and truly passed. Kevin Rudd does not look like Che Guevara and, prudently for a candidate who sees popular election rather than a proletarian uprising as a route to power, he is fundamentally conservative. He is delivering on his promise in an interview with The Weekend Australian's Christine Jackman earlier this year to "mess with Howard's mind", but his secret has been to outflank the Prime Minister on the Right rather than attack him from the Left. As Paul Kelly writes in a major profile of Mr Rudd in The Weekend Australian Magazine today, there has never been another Labor leader like him. He is dedicated to his Christian faith, trained as a Mandarin-speaking technocrat and is married to a businesswoman who runs a global company.

The tongue-in-cheek description of Mr Rudd as a politician who joined the wrong party may be a little harsh, but the fact is that his ascension to the leadership has brought the two major parties closer together on policy than at any time since World War II. His success may well have been a factor in persuading Mr Howard to modify his own position on Work Choices, climate change and reconciliation as he struggles to maintain his grip on the middle ground.

A sober analysis of the Howard years, however, does not support the portrayal of the Prime Minister as a culture warrior. If indeed he has been waging war against the insidious forces of liberalism entrenched in universities, public broadcasters and publishing houses, Mr Howard has lost. As Christopher Pearson wryly observes elsewhere in these columns, Australia's universities are still, in effect, 37 publicly funded leftist think tanks. No fair-minded listener of Radio National or viewer of The 7.30 Report would conclude that Mr Howard's culture offensive, real or imagined, has made any more progress at the ABC.

Of course, we may be wrong about Mr Rudd. He may turn out to be the most convincing actor ever to walk the Australian political stage and once in office might reveal his true identity as a starry-eyed activist waiting to unleash a Whitlamesque program of social reform.

Prime minister Rudd may withdraw Australia from the ANZUS alliance, shut down the coalmines, declare Australia a republic, make gay marriage compulsory and transform the nation into a wind-powered, mung-bean-eating Arcadia. But we think not. And while The Weekend Australian is not foolhardy enough to call the result of an election which is still four weeks away, we will make one prediction. The agenda of a Rudd government is likely to be much closer to the position advocated in the editorial columns of this newspaper than the outdated, soft-left manifesto supported by our broadsheet rivals.


Foolish failure to attack Leftist capture of the institutions

By Christopher Pearson

On Thursday The Australian's foreign editor Greg Sheridan devoted a column to the latest manifestations of the zeitgeist. While recognising that the Coalition may still win the election, he argued that it "has comprehensively lost the culture wars". Despite some tactical victories, he concluded: "This could turn out to have been a very hollow period of conservative government indeed, and our culture may move quite sharply in ways we cannot now imagine."

The most telling part of Sheridan's critique is his targeting of the "utterly unreformed" ABC. As he says, "no one seriously even argues that the ABC is balanced or unbiased, merely that it balances the Howard Government, or the commercial media, or some such. Yet every year the Government has given it generous budget increases, so the ABC world view is stronger."

Starving the national broadcaster of funds is a policy with some obvious attractions, but I doubt it's the best way of correcting the problems of "staff capture" and entrenched ultra-leftism. Well-resourced networks are far likelier to attract staff who are highly professional and don't make a habit of grinding ideological axes if the upper echelon of management has a mind to recruit them. A better-resourced ABC would also have been better able to offer packages to recalcitrants in middle management and the twilight zone of Radio National.

The unreconstructed ABC has remained a delinquent institution for lack of reforming zeal from its leadership. John Howard has to wear the responsibility for having appointed as its chairman Donald McDonald, who plainly wasn't tough-minded enough to resist the blandishments of its old guard. To make matters worse, the Prime Minister gave him a second five-year term.

If the chairman, the board and the managing director had all steadily insisted on higher professional standards, the ABC could have been a far more healthily pluralistic institution. For example, it is inconceivable that Michael Brissenden, political editor of The 7.30 Report, would have felt at liberty to resile from an agreement with Peter Costello's office about off-the-record remarks a year earlier, on the flimsiest of excuses, or that Kerry O'Brien, the show's presenter, would have sanctioned his behaviour. Nor would Media Watch have felt able to turn a blind eye.

Sheridan says the Coalition "has governed against the relentless opposition of the big institutions in our society: the media ... the public service and the universities. It has at times outmanoeuvred these institutions; it has not reformed them." The ABC and SBS are more obviously susceptible to reform than commercial media, and I'd have thought that from a conservative point of view the lighter the regulation of privately owned media, the better. The public service and tertiary education are very different kettles of fish.

The era when public servants routinely gave ministers advice without fear or favour is long gone and it's hard to imagine how sufficient levels of mutual trust and an apolitical bureaucracy could be restored. While the best career public servants are formidable operators and still have a sense of esprit de corps, there are an awful lot who chose the public service primarily as a sheltered workshop and are damned if they'll leave this side of retirement.

In terms of reining in the public sector, Howard started off by at least temporarily reducing its size and hiring a few private-sector managers capable of inspiring terror. In future, most departments should have a Max Moore-Wilton clone at or near the top. Apart from that, perhaps the best the next Coalition government could do by way of reform would be to resolve anew to cut burgeoning staff numbers and outsource where it makes sense, to get out of the habit of rewarding proven incompetence, to further foster the development of evidence-based policy and to put more people with private-sector experience in charge of service delivery.

Reform of the universities is, as Sheridan says, an important task the Coalition has largely squibbed. There have been some welcome developments, notably in freeing up the fast-growing private tertiary sector and providing funding through FEE-HELP for its students. Compulsory student union fees have been abolished and don't look likely to be reintroduced. But, as Keith Windschuttle is fond of saying, the Government still has a poisonous relationship with what are in effect 37 publicly funded leftist think tanks trying with varying degrees of enthusiasm to achieve its end.

Perhaps there should have been more initiatives along the lines of encouraging Carnegie Mellon to open a campus in Adelaide. Perhaps there should have been more weighting of funds to benefit empirical disciplines at the expense of the heavily politicised: cultural studies, history, politics, media studies and the like. Making the students who are the main beneficiaries of any course of study contribute more towards the cost was unpopular but right in principle. It fits with the ethos of the emerging enterprise culture, rather than the culture of entitlement, and it's a wholesome change to encourage young people to invest in themselves and their futures.

Sheridan thinks the Coalition "has on occasion been clever at arousing a popular backlash against elite opinion on this or that subject. But it has not changed elite opinion. And in the end it appears that it is impossible to govern permanently against elite opinion. Elite opinion shapes popular opinion." This strikes me as rather a melodramatic way to characterise the situation and I think he's selling the long-term legacy of the Howard Government short.

Elite opinion is by no means a homogeneous entity, unless your definition of the elite excludes anyone who's not a latte-sipping, inner-urban dwelling admirer of Robert Manne. Nor, almost by definition, are the latte-sippers amenable to having their minds changed, least of all by conservative governments. The views of this narrowly defined elite are only one of the many factors that influence popular opinion and it seems to me he overrates their importance.

Take, for example, the broad economic argument that the Government mounts regularly and the emergence of the enterprise culture, which is superseding the older lackadaisical values of the lucky country. There is no turning back for the hundreds of thousands of new small businesses and the enterprising people who've gone out and got themselves an Australian Business Number. Elite opinion can be as dismissive as it likes, but the experience of being your own boss and doing well by working hard changes people profoundly and most often permanently. These are people who've been persuaded of the virtues of free enterprise. To the extent that they consider voting for Kevin Rudd, it is only because he seems to stand for them too.

Elite opinion, narrowly conceived, passionately supports public-sector schools, even if many of the elite choose to send their children to private schools. About 40 per cent of senior secondary students in Victoria attend non-government schools because parents have good reason to believe they do a better job. There are similar, seemingly irreversible, trends in every state. Rudd's embrace of the existing private school funding formula for the foreseeable future is proof that this is another front of the culture wars where the Coalition is winning the argument hands down.

One area in which the Howard Government may reasonably have expected to change elite opinion is the war over teaching spelling, literacy and numeracy. It's understandable that latte-sippers would have conscientious objections to teaching history as narrative, complete with dates, but you'd think any elite worthy of the name would want the next generation to have a good grounding in the fundamentals. In fact I'm sure quite a lot of them do, some more sotto voce than others. But it is popular opinion that has shifted firmly behind a back-to-basics approach and explains the new bipartisan consensus. It was instructive to hear The Age's political editor Michelle Grattan professing herself amazed that Howard should have chosen that theme at the end of the debate with Rudd and suggests to me that he's more in touch with public opinion than she realises.

During the course of the past week Rudd was asked about his attitude to gay marriage. He was howled down for opposing any change to the law that would allow it and for upholding the traditional view that marriage was strictly for heterosexuals. Were he to win the election, it's conceivable that he might change his stance. But because Howard and his ministers very effectively harnessed popular opinion against legalising same-sex marriage, Rudd would risk alienating a crucial blue-collar, socially conservative constituency that is far less committed to him than the latte-sippers, who have no one else but the Greens to vote for.

Sheridan is worried "our culture may move quite sharply in ways we cannot now imagine" and I suppose it's always on the cards. Part of Howard's unacknowledged achievement has been in general terms a matter of keeping things on an even keel. Sometimes that's a more considerable accomplishment than it seems. Take the case of the intervention in the Northern Territory. Its ultimate justification was putting a stop to the astonishing incidence of child abuse, including sexual abuse, in remote communities. It was an appeal based on a confident assessment of the decency and common sense of middle Australia. While Labor decided to support it, no one in the political class imagines Labor would have initiated it.

Last week Marion Scrymgour, the NT's indigenous Community Services Minister, labelled the intervention an example of a "vicious new McCarthyism" and "a deliberate, savage attack on the sanctity of Aboriginal family life". Her rhetoric epitomised the elite view of matters, but one of her indigenous parliamentary colleagues, Alison Anderson, rebuked her in no uncertain terms. She said abusers were sick people who had no rights and "this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get things right". Now that it has gained bipartisan support, I can't see the new spirit of pragmatic conservatism in Aboriginal affairs dissipating anytime soon.


Suburbs attacked because the middle-class hates plumbers in big houses

Comment by Michael Duffy. When I lived in Sydney, the electrician I used for maintenance jobs on my properties lived in Vaucluse -- an elite suburb. But he was very clever at his job and a fast worker so he earned it fair and square

Sixty years ago this month something happened on Long Island near New York that was to help shape Australian cities. It deserves to be better known. The first homeowners moved into Levittown, a 17,000-residence housing estate built by Bill Levitt. Essentially, Levitt applied the principles of Henry Ford's production line to housing. In the process he brought prices down so much that suburbia became available to the working class. This did more than perhaps anything else to democratise the prosperity of the postwar economic boom.

Of course, Levitt couldn't put a house on a production line. So what he did was bring the production line to the house. He broke up the construction process into several dozen separate tasks. Then he broke up his workforce into teams, each specialising in just one task. Each team would do its job on one lot and then move on to the next house and do it again. (Levittown had just three house designs.)

When those around him refused to share his passion for cutting costs, he simply went around them. The unions didn't like his work practices so he hired non-union labour and paid them top dollar. When suppliers wouldn't give him satisfactory discounts for his bulk purchases he bought forests and timber mills and nail factories to supply himself. He reformed conveyancing practices to help low-income clients who had never been able to afford a lawyer before.

As a result of the innovations Levitt and other developers introduced, house prices tumbled. At a time when the average manufacturing worker was earning $US2400 a year, Levitt was selling a basic Cape Cod for $US7990. He went on to build other large housing estates, providing decent accommodation for hundreds of thousands of (white) working class Americans and inspiring developers in other countries, including Australia.

Another legacy of his success was the vitriolic criticism he attracted from intellectuals, people such as academics, writers, professionals, and government policy experts. The negative attitude to the outer suburbs that formed then has persisted to this day.

Lewis Mumford, the most respected writer on cities of his time, was particularly contemptuous. He said Levittown was socially "backward", inhabited by "people of the same class, the same incomes, the same age group, witnessing the same television performances, eating the same tasteless prefabricated foods, from the same freezers, conforming in every outward and inward respect to a common mould manufactured in the same central metropolis." This criticism of suburbia was to be repeated by thousands of intellectuals around the world from then to now. The grounds for the criticism have changed a bit over time, with environmentalism now providing the flavour, but the level of hostility has been pretty consistent.

A persisting feature of the criticisms of the intellectuals is that most have been mere assertions without basis in fact, and have been proved wrong once anybody bothered to test them. Eventually a sociologist named Herbert Gans went to live in one of Levitt's estates and published a book called The Levittowners in 1967, disproving just about all the assertions of Mumford and the other critics. He found there was a rich diversity of human beings living there - but his findings were largely ignored by the intellectuals, who continued to be unable to see beyond the buildings to the people living in them.

A similar blindness affects much criticism of so-called suburban sprawl today. For years it has been asserted by intellectuals that the outer suburbs, compared with areas closer to the city, are socially and environmentally inferior. There are now numerous studies disproving this (for example, the recent one showing lower density improves sociability, by Jan Brueckner and colleagues at the University of California), yet the intellectuals continue to assert it. Why so?

It comes down to self-interest. First, jobs: most of the criticism of sprawl is used to justify an alternative vision of the city where intellectuals of various kinds would play a strong role in planning and regulation. The media is happy to promote this view because a planned city, with all the reports and regulations and formalised disputes this entails, is much easier to report on than a city made of the spontaneous decisions of thousands of individuals.

Another reason for the persistent anger is middle-class status anxiety. Most intellectuals are members of the middle class, which defines itself in part by possession of an old inner-city pad or a nice house and garden in an inner-ring suburb. To see mere tradesmen in the 1980s acquiring bigger houses than those owned by many lawyers and academics sent a shiver through the middle class, and helped create an audience for absurd criticisms of prole housing, of the sort embodied in the term McMansion.

Does any of this matter? I suspect it does. I believe that over time the relentless criticism of the new suburbs helped create the intellectual and then the political environment in which governments were able to impose massive levies and taxes on new homes for the first time in history. This was one of the worst cases of intergenerational inequity this country has seen, and did much to produce the housing affordability crisis we face today. I suspect governments were able to get away with this only because the intellectuals had denigrated new suburbs to the point where they had almost no defenders among the ranks of the powerful and the influential.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Rudd's blurred vision

Australia's probable next Prime Minister seems to have a very shaky grasp of economics

WITH Kevin Rudd poised in the polls to become our next prime minister, an examination of the philosophy underpinning his policy positions is long overdue. Rudd says he's a social conservative and economic liberal, but he's neither. He's really a moderate social progressive and an economic recidivist. Rudd's very smart, but Ruddonomics is badly compromised by the influences of ideological bias and vested interests. His budding social aspirations appeal, but they'd bloom better if he'd discard the economic blinkers.

Rudd paints John Howard as a social conservative and economic neo-liberal. He claims neo-liberals push economic reform too far - beyond where his definition of a liberal would go - at the expense of the social institutions Howard professes to value, such as the family. Howard certainly is socially conservative, but he falls well short on the economic reform front and Rudd would take us even further away from the economic liberalism we so sorely need.

The best glimpses of Rudd's philosophy are contained in a couple of articles he wrote in The Monthly last year before becoming Opposition Leader. His social aspirations - and genuine passion about them - are admirable, although not ambitious enough. But his economic philosophy, or lack thereof, is worrying. The ideologically driven uni-dimensional view of the world outlined in the essays prevents him from entertaining the thought that freer markets could help him better achieve his social aspirations. Rudd depicts the "real battle of ideas in Australian politics" as the "battle between free market fundamentalism and the social-democratic belief that individual reward can be balanced with social responsibility". This depiction - replete with false mutual exclusivities (free market v social responsibility) and put-down labels (free market fundamentalism) - implies that anyone who supports free markets must be a selfish bastard who doesn't care about social goals. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Rudd confuses three crucial concepts: values, goals and means. The values and individual preferences of any community's citizens should drive the goals that its government seeks to achieve; government should choose the best means to achieve these goals. Rudd puts the cart before the horse. His attack on free marketeers is entirely values-based, a tirade against what he sees - incorrectly and, quite frankly, offensively - as their values. This reflects Rudd's misunderstanding of what economics is all about. It's about means; specifically, the best means to achieve whatever goals a community's citizens, collectively and individually, want to achieve. Markets and governments are merely two means that may help (or hinder) us in meeting these ends.

Let's examine Rudd's values and goals first, then his case against free market economics. That will put us in a better position to examine how freer markets can help. Rudd offers us "an enlarging vision that sees Australia taking the lead on global climate change ... (that) leads by example in dealing with the chronic poverty in our own region ... that becomes a leader ... in the redesign of the rules of the international order ... to render future genocides ... impossible and ... an Australia (that) takes the values of decency, fairness and compassion that are still etched deep in our national soul ... not limited by the narrowest of definitions of our national self-interest ... guided by a new principle that encompasses not only what Australia can do for itself but also what Australia can do for the world". This vision encompasses values (decency, fairness, compassion) and social goals (dealing with climate change and human suffering). Elsewhere, Rudd adds to his lists of values (family, community service, social justice) and goals (improving education, health care and industrial relations).

As Labor prides itself on social progressiveness and Rudd's goals sound progressive, his self-description as a "modern conservative in social policy" is surprising. The conservative claim reflects his view that the underlying values are traditionally Australian. It's hard to argue with those values. Who would say they're against decency, fairness or compassion?

One may wonder why some other values aren't there, such as freedom of choice for citizens. While Rudd stresses the need for greater inclusiveness, nailing his colours to the "social conservative" mast contradicts this. Emphasising conservative values (really institutions) such as family and his own Christian faith serves to disenfranchise many citizens such as single people, gay couples, people of other faiths and non-religious citizens. It deflates their hopes that Labor will take steps to give them the same rights, opportunities and respect as other citizens, and puts them off engaging in the community stuff that Rudd says is so important.

But my bigger beef is economics. Rudd describes his approach as "liberalisation in economic policy". Yet, with few exceptions (emissions trading and the recently announced partial deregulation of wheat export marketing), his economic policies don't liberalise markets at all, and many (including IR and industry policy) constrain them. Since becoming Opposition Leader, he's frequently described himself as an economic conservative, but that's in terms of fiscal policy, to head off the Howard tax-and-spending scare campaign. In terms of attitudes to markets, he thinks he's a liberal.

This startling claim is couched entirely in terms of values. Rudd fixates on the extreme polar case of economic liberalism, to which he assigns various labels: "brutopia" of "unchecked market forces", "market fundamentalism", "neo-liberalism" and "unrestrained market capitalism". He argues that this extreme case is inconsistent with his values. Yet not a single credible economic liberal advocates it. Rudd argues that his economic policies are based on the view that "the market is designed for human beings, not vice versa, and this remains the fundamental premise that separates social democrats from neo-liberals". Not a single credible economic liberal holds the premise that Rudd implies.

The essence of liberalism - following John Stuart Mill in On Liberty (1859) - is the belief that citizens should be free to do whatever they wish, provided they don't hurt anyone else. Liberals naturally tend to like markets because market participation is voluntary; citizens will participate only if they gain by doing so. Mill's broader definition of liberalism derives from Adam Smith's description of free markets, in Wealth of Nations (1776) - as allowing all citizens to pursue their "own interest" in their "own way, upon the liberal plan of equality, liberty, and justice". The last bit caused Smith and all economic liberals, even Rudd's favourite whipping boy Friedrich Hayek, to favour some checks on markets.

Rudd attacks "market fundamentalists", a label he liberally attaches to Hayek and modern economic liberals, for believing that humans are "almost exclusively self-regarding" and for holding self-regarding values themselves. He contrasts this with "other-regarding values of equity, solidarity and sustainability" of social democrats such as him. Ironically, he claims fundamentalists "distort Smith, adopting his Wealth of Nations while ignoring ... his The Theory of Moral Sentiments". I can't believe that an intelligent, reflective man such as Rudd has read either book. If he had, he would not have drawn this conclusion. It is a gross distortion....

Free marketeers have just as strong social consciences as other citizens. In fact, they're often free marketeers because they care. In 18th-century Britain, Smith advocated universal government-financed education and "just and equitable" government action to reduce poverty and "support the workman". Edmund Burke, also lauded by Rudd (and, ironically, Hayek's hero), campaigned against the persecution of Catholics in Ireland and the East India Company's widespread human rights abuses throughout Asia. Mill advocated the full rights of women in 1869. All advocated assistance to those in need. Rudd's lauding of them for advocating some taming of markets leads him to his breathtaking conclusion that he's an economic liberal. The illogicality of this claim is highlighted by reducing it to a syllogism: those liberals advocated taming markets, I advocate taming markets, therefore I'm an economic liberal. That's as logical as saying you're a lion tamer because you own a whip and a pussycat.....

Nevertheless, Rudd still has room to distinguish himself through real social and economic liberalism. Modern Australia's great reformers have generally been Laborites. Gough Whitlam launched a social revolution after years of repressive, paternalistic conservative rule. Bob Hawke and Paul Keating drove a vital economic revolution, so sorely needed following their predecessors' moribund conservative nothingness. After another 11 years of stifling conservative rule, we need a government that is progressive on both the social and economic fronts. We can only hope that, like Hawke and Keating, Rudd surprises us.

Much more here

Just "ticketing" minor crime is little deterrent

First we talked to a young thief who backed Premier Morris Iemma's plan to allow criminals to buy their way out of jail - now red-faced police are hunting for their own patrol car after an unmarked Drug Squad vehicle was stolen in Sydney's northwest. Officers were this morning warned to be on the lookout for the black SV6 Holden Commodore stolen from a Richmond address. Police Minister David Campbell today said there was nothing "particularly sensitive" in the vehicle. "There was some police equipment (inside)," Mr Campbell said. "I understand there was a police radio in the vehicle but it has been disabled."

The latest police debacle comes as delinquent Eric said Mr Iemma's bid to replace law and order with token fines held one message for him and his mates: "Go and shoplift." Eric, 17, has appeared in court twice on shoplifting charges and admitted yesterday to stealing Game Boys, DVD players, expensive clothes and mobile phones. The teenager, from St Marys, told The Daily Telegraph he would spread word of the Premier's surrender to thieves to his mates - and predicted a shoplifting bonanza. "Put it this way, my mates all wouldn't really give a f. . . about the fines, they'll just shoplift and they'll come back and do it again," said Eric, whose last name cannot be published for legal reasons. "Basically it says, 'Go and shoplift' - it is an easy way out. "If we are not getting charged for it, let's go and do it. I guarantee it is going to increase and increase and increase. I'll spread the message to my mates."

Luckily for Mr Iemma, Eric will be old enough to vote at the next state election in 2011. It can be revealed that the State Government's move to replace some criminal prosecutions with on the spot fines - dubbed Criminal Infringement Notices - has increased petty crime in several areas and failed to achieve any overall reduction in minor offences. And, in a further demonstration of the laws' absurdity, people will now receive a bigger fine for swearing at a RailCorp transit officer than for swearing at a police officer....

Figures obtained by The Daily Telegraph show that 10 of the areas where the CINs have been trialled have actually seen an overall increase in petty crime. Bureau of Crime Statistics figures from the two years to June 2007, beginning three years after the introduction of the trial, show offensive conduct was up in Bankstown, Gosford-Wyong and Sutherland Shire, while theft from a motor vehicle was up in Blacktown, Parramatta and City Central. The only areas to experience a reduction in any category of minor offences were City Central, where offensive language and "other theft" went down, and Parramatta, where miscellaneous theft also dropped. Every other area of crime was stable.

Police Minister David Campbell argued that petty crime may have risen in those areas because more criminals were being caught, but it was hoped serious offences had been reduced.

Shoplifter Eric had some extra advice for Mr Iemma, telling the Premier that most people who steal and commit other offences that attract CINs will simply ignore them. "Most of the people from around here wouldn't be able to pay fines. As well as their kids, they're stealing to support drug habits - I could go on and on," he said.

Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione conceded that the fines, if paid within 21 days, would be recorded like a traffic offence rather than as part of a person's criminal history. "If you pay the fine we will still have that record (but) it's not being deemed as part of the criminal history," he said. Eric said arresting shoplifters and forcing them to face court was the only way to "snap a shoplifter out of it".


Anger over butcher doctor's green light

SENIOR doctors at a private hospital are alarmed that a controversial obesity surgeon being pursued over a patient's death has been given the green light by Queensland's newly boosted Medical Board to continue doing the operations. Russell Broadbent, who has strenuously defended his surgical conduct and disputed mounting claims of wrongdoing -- allegedly leading to at least six deaths and dozens of serious complications -- has booked a patient, 24, for an obesity-related procedure on Monday at the Gold Coast's Allamanda Private Hospital.

The hospital's operators, publicly listed company Healthscope, are opposed to the procedure -- a limited part of the radical biliary pancreatic diversion operations which Dr Broadbent has been banned from performing since a damning 2004 internal audit. However, the Medical Board of Queensland has given its blessing.

The position of the board, which this week initiated action on a complaint against Dr Broadbent in the Health Practitioners Tribunal, has surprised surgeons at the hospital and prompted a written plea for further clarification. "The Medical Board has received new information from various sources today and we will be holding a meeting on the weekend to consider the information," said board executive officer Kaye Pulsford.

The board imposed conditions on Dr Broadbent last month after receiving an independent expert's report, which is understood to be highly critical, but the conditions do not extend to preventing him performing obesity-related surgery. Numerous patients who have undergone Dr Broadbent's surgery have come forward since patients and experts in The Weekend Australian and on the Nine Network's 60 Minutes highlighted the risks.

It is understood the Medical Board of Queensland has received a dossier of names of patients who claim to have suffered life-threatening complications, while other patients have reported massive weight loss and a positive outcome.

The procedure still being done by Dr Broadbent, known as a tube gastrectomy, will make the full-blown BPD operation with the removal of about 70per cent of the stomach inevitable. Hospital staff describe the tube gastrectomy as "BPD by stealth". Dr Broadbent declined to comment yesterday, telling The Weekend Australian: "I'm not going to talk about it." His staff and several of his patients, infuriated by the complaints against him and an ongoing investigation, describe him as a saviour.

Healthscope's chief medical officer, Michael Coglin, confirmed yesterday his staff had expressed concern that the procedure booked for Monday would inevitably require a second operation, and that the method was circumventing the hospital's embargo on BPD. It is understood that Healthscope, which has been accused by Dr Broadbent of acting in bad faith for not showing him its confidential audit and not letting him do the full BPD operations, has written to the Medical Board of Queensland with its concerns.



We have been hearing mostly about disasters in the NSW hospitals lately but the Qld. hospitals are still worthy contenders for the booby prize. Three current articles below.

Hospital expert gets sarcastic with Qld. State government

FORMER health commissioner Tony Morris, QC, has lampooned the Bligh Government's health reforms for setting up the boss of the besieged Princess Alexandra Hospital to fail. The attack came as Premier Anna Bligh yesterday refused to say whether the management at the Brisbane hospital was pressured to clear waiting list backlogs.

Mr Morris said senior doctors such as PA clinical chief executive David Theile still did not have enough funds to cope with huge workloads. The Courier-Mail reported this week that the PA's overspending by 2.1 per cent had actually achieved a 7.8 per cent increase in clinical services. The budget blowout in the first quarter, which was initially blamed on management, forced the closure of 60 beds and resulted in a 10 per cent cut in waiting lists.

Mr Morris headed the 2005 Bundaberg Hospital Commission of Inquiry, one of two inquiries that resulted in sweeping reforms including having doctors in charge of public hospitals instead of bureaucrats. "Theile's appointment has proved to be the complete disaster that the Charlotte St mandarins (at Queensland Health) would have predicted: A doctor (who) is likely to focus on trivia such as reducing waiting lists, increasing surgical throughput," Mr Morris said. "And while he is enmeshed in such trifles, who is going to concentrate on the really important issues, like whether or not . . . to send the administrative director to a conference in Acapulco? "Dr Theile was set up to fail. They put a man in charge who didn't have enough funding in the right area of clinical services."

His comments came as Ms Bligh refused to deny accusations from the Australian Medical Association that the Government pressured management to clear waiting lists more quickly without realising the extra costs involved. "I can only repeat what I have already said on this: The PA is one of our great hospitals," Ms Bligh said. "We're seeing some really terrific things happening at this hospital."

But Opposition health spokesman John-Paul Langbroek called for the Premier to immediately reopen all available hospital beds at the PA. "Hospitals are meant to treat sick people," Mr Langbroek said. "If the Bligh Government is going to make cuts to public hospitals they should focus on the non-patient areas." [i.e. the bureaucracy]


Major Queensland hospital is "broke"

As time goes by the hospital's service gets worse and worse -- as the ever-growing cancer of bureaucracy strangles it. Money to pay clerks and "administrators" MUST be found. Their pay packets never miss a beat. Too bad about the patients who have insufficient doctors and nurses to see to them

A LACK of money has forced Princess Alexandra Hospital to turn away sick people for only the third time in more than half a century - and more waiting list cancellations are on the way. The eight-hour "bypass" at the major Brisbane public hospital on Wednesday night was on the agenda at a heated meeting between furious senior management last night.

Clinical chief executive officer David Theile was yesterday forced to cancel another 17 operating theatre waiting lists from next week, taking the total cut to 20 per cent of the hospital's roster with as many as six people on each list. About 30 of the 60 beds that were closed earlier this week are expected to reopen from the weekend. PA visiting medical officer Dr Ross Cartmill yesterday said the closure of the emergency department, linked to the cutbacks, was only the third time since 1956. The PA, one of the state's biggest public hospitals, normally handles overflow from other nearby hospitals. "We can't get patients into the beds because the beds just aren't there," Dr Cartmill said.

While Queensland Health has claimed demand has "diminished" this week, hospital sources say that is only relative to peak work levels at the weekend. Premier Anna Bligh has refused extra funding for the hospital, saying it should be able to manage on a record $33 million boost this year. The Courier-Mail reported this week that while the hospital was 2.1 per cent over budget for the first quarter, it had performed 7.8 per cent more work.

Dr Cartmill yesterday said the only meaning of a hospital being efficient and over budget was that it was underfunded. "We clinicians believe we should be service-orientated - not budget-driven," said Dr Cartmill, who is also the Queensland president of the Australian Medical Association.

Acting Health Minister Rod Welford denied the bypass was linked to the bed cutbacks, saying "it can happen regardless of cutbacks". "This was utterly exceptional circumstances (on the southside, with the Mater Hospital also on bypass) and the hospitals do co-operate so if they go bypass the people are moved to another hospital," Mr Welford said.

But the State Opposition is demanding the Bligh Government reach into to its budget surpluses and find some money. Opposition Leader Jeff Seeney called for extra financial support to stop the situation getting worse. "Closing beds in a hospital that has achieved that sort of result seems incomprehensible to me," Mr Seeney said. "It is an intolerable situation."


Crazy government hospital provision in all Australian States

With the unbelievable cutbacks in available beds, it is no wonder that waiting lists are so long. As the bureaucracy has ballooned, the number of available beds has drastically shrunk: Socialism at work. Quite insane.

PUBLIC hospitals throughout the country are failing to achieve essential performance standards, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) says. AMA president Rosanna Capalingua, who will release a report card comparing the performance of public hospitals, says there has been a persistent deterioration in the ability of public hospitals to cope with demand.

"Their capacity has gone down," Dr Capalingua said on ABC radio today. "In fact, would you believe that we have a statistic that there are 67 per cent fewer beds in public hospitals across Australia compared to 20 years ago, remembering the increase in population and increase in age of population we've had in that time in Australia, for the increase in demand."

Dr Capalingua said all jurisdictions had serious problems. "Across the board, all states and territories failed to come up to the benchmarks and standards that we would expect public hospitals to deliver to the Australian public," she said. "In the Australian Healthcare Agreements, we need a top-up of $2 to $3 billion to start off with and then we need an indexation increase."


Friday, October 26, 2007

"Progressive" myths encourage child abuse

The initial reference below is to a recent and notorious case in which an underclass mother shook her toddler to death and then dumped his body in a pond. The toddler was Aboriginal. Welfare authorities knew of the case before the killing but probably threw up their hands from the beginning as Aboriginal families are very commmonly severely dysfunctional, with child abuse frequent. And it is absolutely VERBOTEN to take children away from black families. That used to be done sometimes but in recent years the Left set up a huge howl about "The stolen generation" (the black children fostered out to white families) in reference to the practice. The authorities obviously now feel that it is better to let black kids die than risk any more of that abuse

The family of the dead toddler Dean Shillingsworth this week gathered by the Ambarvale pond where his body was found stuffed into a suitcase. In his honour they launched a small boat on which was written: "An eye 4 an eye." As one of the relatives told this newspaper's Jordan Baker: "There is a lot of emotional blaming."

Since Dean's body was discovered last week and his mother, Rachel Pfitzner, was charged with his murder, there has indeed been a lot of blame going around. But the idea which seems to have taken popular hold, that the Government, or "the system", is entirely to blame for the two-year-old's tragic end is a sign of something amiss with our concept of personal responsibility. As one reader asked me in an email: "Who actually killed the child in the duck pond? A social worker? A clerk? A policeman? A member of Parliament?"

While the NSW Department of Community Services has been an incompetent bureaucratic basket case for years, you have to have some sympathy for the minister, Kevin Greene, when he says there is "no foolproof way" for DOCS to prevent all child deaths. DOCS has failed in the past to intervene when children were in danger, so the suspicion it has failed again is not unreasonable. But reflexive attacks on overloaded social workers, regardless of the evidence, not only absolves families of the prime responsibility for their children but also deflects attention from the growing community dysfunction which is the root cause of child abuse. However, Greene's absurd claim that one in five children in NSW has been reported to DOCS as being "at risk", does make you worry about the department's judgment.

It is no secret what kind of social conditions breed child abuse and neglect, so you would expect public servants with limited resources to narrow their focus if they are going to be any use. It might suit progressives babbling on ABC radio to claim abuse and neglect occurs in all families, and it's just that the richer ones "hide it behind closed doors". The facts say otherwise, and efforts to soft-soap them are part of the intellectual corruption of the elites, which has trickled down to the bottom of the social heap and wreaked such havoc over the past 40 years. It is stating the obvious to say child maltreatment occurs predominantly in the welfare-dependent underclass, whether it's in a remote indigenous community in the Northern Territory or a public housing suburb on the outskirts of Sydney.

Joblessness, jail and illegitimacy are a way of life for so many people in these chaotic parts of Australia that what the Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson describes as the "basic social cultural norms that underpin any society" have collapsed. The expectations that children will be brought up safely, of mutual obligation between citizen and society, of public order and safety that the rest of us take for granted, do not exist.

The solution is "structure", says the sociologist Peter Saunders, from the Centre for Independent Studies. "There is no doubt that work is what puts structure and discipline in people's lives. It is what makes people get up in the morning and have a shave. "You sound like a wowser [killjoy] when you say this but it's rules, responsibility, consequences for actions. You've got to enforce laws when laws are broken - including the drug laws." A life of welfare dependence "undermines autonomy and capacity and encourages you to believe you have no control of your life". It underpins the breakdown of social organisation in communities, the "anomie" described by the 19th-century French sociologist Emile Durkheim.

As a social libertarian, Saunders has always believed that people should be free to do whatever they want as long as they are not harming others. But he is coming to the more complex idea "that you have to have one rule for one population and another for another. You've got to start discriminating." While aiming to increase the autonomy and freedom of individuals in society we should recognise that we need "paternalistic intervention . for those who don't cope at the bottom or their lives will descend into chaos".

For instance, Saunders and readers of this newspaper might agree with the plan by Sydney's Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, to liberalise drinking laws to allow more small bars to open in Sydney, while also supporting the Government's crackdown on grog in the Territory, as alcohol has caused such distress and dysfunction in indigenous communities.

To avoid the charge of hypocrisy, Saunders says we need to distinguish between those who are competent to manage their affairs and the minority who "engage in such self-destructive behaviour that any reasonable person would understand the need to intervene". It is natural to feel squeamish about demanding restraints on the behaviour of others down the social scale that you would not tolerate for yourself. But warnings from conservatives that the social upheavals of the past 40 years would have their most tragic consequences on the most vulnerable have been ignored. The elites have grabbed the social freedoms to which they feel entitled, devaluing the role of fathers and the value of the old-fashioned nuclear family and proclaiming tolerance of all lifestyles as the greatest virtue.

The trickle-down effect has been disastrous, as recounted in Theodore Dalrymple's book Life at the Bottom. There is no doubting parents in the underclass love their children, but for too many, their child-rearing philosophy is what Dalrymple, a former British prison psychiatrist, calls "laissez-faire tempered by insensate rage". They "live in a torment of public and private disorder [which is] the consequence of not knowing how to live". It is the behaviour and lifestyle of these parents, particularly the mothers, which leads to the abuse and neglect of their children. So government social policies need to be focused on changing that behaviour, rather than sanctioning it by providing welfare without obligations, and refusing to be judgmental about lifestyles that are obviously detrimental to children.


Bishop of the C of E (Church of the Environment) attacks Catholic cardinal

Having abandoned the Bible, the Church of England has turned to Environmentalism instead. Who wants to save those silly old souls when you can save the planet?

AUSTRALIA'S most prominent religious sceptic of climate change, the Catholic Archbishop George Pell, was out of step within his church and the global Christian community on global warming, a leading Anglican environmentalist says. The head of the Anglican Church's international body on the environment, George Browning, said Dr Pell's position on global warming defied scientific consensus and theological imperatives to protect the Earth and its future generations. It also made no sense and would be proven a mistake. Bishop Browning's stance came as the Australian Anglican church prepared to adopt its strongest position yet on climate change, committing 23 dioceses to initiatives reducing their carbon footprint.

But Dr Pell said last night he had every right to be sceptical about extravagant claims of impending man-made climatic catastrophes. "There are many measures which are good for the environment, which we should pursue," he said. "We need to be able talk freely about this and about the uncertainties around climate change. Invoking the authority of some scientific experts to shut down debate is not good for science, the environment, for people here and in the developing world or for the people of tomorrow. "My task as a Christian leader is to engage with reality, to contribute to debate on important issues, to open people's minds, and to point out when the emperor is wearing few or no clothes. "Radical environmentalists are more than up to the task of moralising their own agenda and imposing it on people through fear. They don't need church leaders to help them with this, although it is a very effective way of further muting Christian witness. Church leaders in particular should be allergic to nonsense."

Bishop Browning supported warnings that climate change refugees would, in the future, pose a bigger threat to world security than terrorism by triggering massive population shifts. He also warned Australia had to dump the "language of drought" because it offered false hope to farmers by implying that after drought would come flood and a return to normal farming life. The warming of the planet had triggered irreversible climate changes that warranted fundamental changes in farming and investment practices. Bishop Browning took issue with Dr Pell's Easter message this year at which the cardinal said Jesus had nothing to say on global warming. He told the Anglican synod meeting in Canberra yesterday he had written to Dr Pell after the Easter message because he found his statement "almost unbelievable". [I wonder could the good bishop point out the chapter and verse of the Gospels where global warming is mentioned? I rather foolishly thought that Jesus said "my kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36)]


One unfixable public hospital

Despite huge pressures on the politicians, it is still a disaster zone

WHEN young mother Sara Claridge received a third phone call from Royal North Shore Hospital relaying the news that her urgent surgery had been postponed yet again, she broke down in tears. The 26-year-old was in line to have cervical surgery to remove pre-cancerous cells and relieve crippling pain from a gynaecological condition, but was told the hospital's theatres were closed. Ms Claridge - whose mother had a similar condition and had a hysterectomy at the age of 27 - had already had her operation cancelled once before she was moved up the priority list for surgery in October.

The incident is the latest in a string of alarming cases emerging from Royal North Shore Hospital following the case of 32-year-old Jana Horska, who miscarried in the hospital toilets last month. Following Mrs Horska's miscarriage tragedy, Associate Professor Bill Sears, a neurosurgeon at the hospital, spoke out, revealing operations are cancelled frequently at the last minute because of theatre closures.

Ms Claridge's setbacks now, sadly, catapult her into being a new symbol for Premier Morris Iemma's Government's failure to cope with the state's growing hospital crisis - a crisis that Health Minister Reba Meagher appears reluctant to admit, address or provide policy responses for. This latest case will increase pressure on the Government to explain how it intends to turnaround health care in NSW - it is another example of ordinary people being let down.

"But then she called and said the theatre was closed and we'd had to reschedule again to November. I was in tears, I just couldn't handle it any more," Ms Claridge said. "The pain knocks me sideways. Some days I can't get out of bed and I don't want to leave the house. "I'm 26, I shouldn't have to worry that when I have a shower my hair falls out in clumps. "I should be able to take my daughter to the park, or even be able to get up and make her breakfast without feeling like I have to go back to bed for the rest of the day."

An RNSH spokeswoman said the postponement of Ms Claridge's surgery was the decision of the doctor, who already had 21 patients on his waiting list. "(The) hospital has contacted Mrs Claridge and is investigating the possibility of an earlier date for surgery by transferring her care to another surgeon," the spokeswoman said.

Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said yesterday it was a standard State Government defence to blame the doctors. "It is another example of the minister being at odds with doctors and their clinical decisions," she said. "She is in discomfort and she has a toddler to care for - it is cruel to delay the surgery."


Windschuttle to take over at Quadrant

A worthy successor to Paddy McGuinness

Keith Windschuttle, scourge of leftist historians, will campaign against decadence in the arts when he takes over as editor of Quadrant magazine next year. Consider Wagner's Tannhauser, that myth of the sacred and profane now on show at the Sydney Opera House. "There's a guy painted in gold (who) stands there with a giant erection - symbolises lust or something," Windschuttle said yesterday. "That kind of gratuitous offensiveness is almost everywhere."

On Monday in the Sydney suburb of Balmain, the management committee of the small-circulation magazine chose Windschuttle, a former Leftist critic of Quadrant, as successor to Paddy McGuinness, who retires at the end of the year. His decade as editor roughly parallels the Howard years and the Prime Minister has praised Quadrant for "fine scholarship with a sceptical, questioning eye for cant, hypocrisy and moral vanity". Quadrant has an influence, especially in the history and culture wars, well beyond its modest circulation of 6000-odd.

But what if Kevin Rudd dislodges John Howard in Canberra - would the magazine have to reinvent itself? "Good heavens, no," said Peter Coleman, the longest-serving editor and Quadrant's unofficial historian. "The magazine has a certain liberal, conservative, cultural, literary outlook. That has sometimes coincided with support for the federal Government (under Mr Howard), but it's also published lots of articles sympathetic to the Labor Party cause."

Asked yesterday about Quadrant's influence, McGuinness said: "The big impact, of course, was the Windschuttle stuff on the so-called (frontier) massacres (of Aborigines) where he demolished the comfortable left-wing university consensus comprehensively. It's meant that people are increasingly open to renewed debate about how to make Aboriginal policy work." McGuinness believes he's been able to "re-establish" Quadrant as a "sceptical and non-ideological" journal in the conservative spirit of Samuel Johnson, the literary colossus of 18th-century England.

"Re-establish" is a diplomatic reference to McGuinness's predecessor, the political scientist Robert Manne, who fell out with the Quadrant crowd over economic rationalism and the Aboriginal "stolen generations". It was McGuinness who suggested Windschuttle delve into things Aboriginal. A book review assignment grew into three articles for Quadrant in 2000. The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, which accused well-known historians of exaggerating and even concocting massacre stories, emerged in 2002 and provoked bitter debate.

"If Paddy hadn't been editor, I would never have gone near the issue," Windschuttle said yesterday. Both men say not to expect radical change when the new editor's first issue appears next March. But if McGuinness, an atheist, has had a soft spot for religious debate, Windschuttle is not feeling charitable towards luvvies. "I've become concerned in recent years about the cynicism and decadence that you get in the opera, in the theatre, in other parts of high culture - even the dance companies," he said.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Criticism of Leftists an 'attack on freedom' -- again

The first thing any Leftist does when someone disagrees with him is to question the motives of the other person. Does the other person work for "big oil" etc.? But do they howl when the same is dished out to them! No suggestion that they work for "big Labour" is allowed. And you CERTAINLY must not mention that the Leftist "researcher" concerned is an avowed admirer of Mao Tse Tung! It all shows just how rigid, dogmatic and elitist Leftists are. They really believe that their simplistic theories and demonologies are the whole truth and that any criticism of them is illegitimate

Personal criticism of a researcher by Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey was "extremely silly" and an attack on academic freedom, University of Sydney vice-chancellor Gavin Brown said yesterday. Speaking at a forum organised by the National Tertiary Education Union, Professor Brown said Mr Hockey had "played the man and not the ball" in attacking Sydney University's John Buchanan and other researchers over their findings that some workers were paid less under Work Choices legislation.

"It is legitimate for a minister to criticise conclusions but it is extremely silly to simply smear on the fact that the study was partly funded through the union movement," Professor Brown said. "I believe that universities have a sacred trust to do a critique of society. "I certainly think there should be no undue pressure placed upon researchers. Academic freedom is under attack."

Mr Hockey said the work was that of "former trade union officials who are parading as academics". His criticism of Dr Buchanan was echoed by opinion writers in The Australian, who said he lost objectivity by being "overtly political and passionately militant" and by telling unions they should follow Mao Zedong's teaching and "retreat to their strongholds and protect their militant cores".

Dr Buchanan, director of the university's Workplace Research Centre, said he was not alone in being attacked. "Anyone in the IR field who has stuck their heads up lately has been brutally treated by the Government," [If he were living in his beloved Maoist China the loon would know what brutality meant] he said.

Fellow academics Rae Cooper, Marian Baird, Barbara Pocock and David Peats had also felt the lash of criticism. [How AWFUL for them!] "If they can't write without being vilified, then it is a very sad state of affairs," Dr Buchanan said. He said the attack on personalities obscured the debate on the biggest change in labour laws in 100 years. "This scares researchers," he said. "If I can't say things freely as an individual because it might affect my professional (standing), that limits free speech."

He said the "lowest act" came on October 6 when The Weekend Australian published a front-page story on a speech he had given at a pub in 2005 in which he had warned that leftists would be "locked up" and "crushed" under the Howard Government's IR laws [Which was a false prophecy if ever there was one]. "That (story) ruined my Saturday ... but what made me happy was not one news source contacted me for comment (to follow up the story)," he said.


Deadly airline OK for Australia?

This is just politics. Must not offend Muslim Indonesia

GARUDA will be allowed to continue carrying tens of thousands of Australians to Bali and Jakarta despite Federal Government warnings that Indonesia's aviation standards do not measure up. Garuda, along with all Indonesian airlines, was banned earlier in the year from using European airspace by European Union aviation authorities concerned about their abysmal safety record.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) yesterday ducked calls for a ban locally amid widespread dismay at how badly the Garuda pilots got it wrong in the Yogyakarta crash that killed five Australians. The authority said it would not review the airline's access to Australian airspace until it had read the full crash report.

Both sides of Australian politics urged the Indonesians to consider laying charges against the pilots who ignored 15 alerts before the crash on March 7. Transport Minister Mark Vaile warned that safety standards in Indonesia were below those in Australia. "Australians travelling overseas should understand that that level of safety doesn't necessarily exist in every country across the world," Mr Vaile said.

Garuda carries about 80,000 passengers to Bali every year, with daily flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Darwin.

CASA tried to downplay any threat to Australian lives, saying Garuda had not put a foot wrong since the March crash. [Big deal!]

More here

Your government WON'T protect you

It cannot even protect vulnerable children. 100 kids die despite calls to DOCS

More than 100 children died in NSW last year despite the fact they or their families had been reported to the state Department of Community Services in the three years before their death. This figure, to be released in the NSW Ombudsman's annual report on Friday, has remained almost constant over previous years, despite the department receiving $1.2 billion of additional funding since 2002. While Ombudsman Bruce Barbour did not release the exact figures contained in the report, he did confirm yesterday that recent trends relating to these deaths were set to continue. This means that about 30 of these 100 children died in suspicious circumstances or as the result of neglect or abuse, while one in 10 was murdered.

"We continue to see examples of multiple reports to DOCS where there is, in our view, an inadequate or no assessment made of risk to the children," Mr Barbour said. "DOCS closes many cases on the basis of competing priorities or on the basis of resource issues. "We still have concerns that cases were closed that should not be closed."

The failure of DOCS to adequately investigate all children reported to it has been highlighted by the death of two-year-old Dean Shillingsworth, whose body was found in a suitcase in Sydney's southwest. Dean's mother, Rachel Pfitzner, was charged with his murder and is due to face court in December. Dean's father, Paul Shillingsworth, was released from jail yesterday. It had been expected he would be released temporarily for his son's funeral, but he was instead granted general parole.

The Australian revealed yesterday that Dean's family was referred to DOCS by the police as early as February last year, while the department has confirmed a number of subsequent calls were made to its Helpline.

Embattled NSW Health Minister, Reba Meagher, who was responsible for the department until March this year, denied yesterday she or her staff had been contacted about Dean. The current minister, Kevin Greene, told parliament that of the 286,000 calls regarding children at risk made to DOCS in 2006-07, "each and every one of those reports was assessed" at the department Helpline. "None of these reports could reasonably be assessed that the child's life was in danger," he said.

DOCS's annual statistical report for 2004-05, however, reveals that of more than 140,000 calls to its Helpline that were judged to require further assessment that year, it was carried out in only half of those cases. Mr Greene told parliament DOCS had improved since then, but it was impossible to guarantee against another death. "I can advise the house that one in every 15 children is reported to DOCS - it's a shocking figure," he said. "Of all those hundreds of thousands of calls, there is no foolproof way of identifying which case could sadly end in death," Mr Greene said.


A blatantly ideological judiciary

Most senior judicial appointments in Australia have always been made with overwhelming regard for legal ability and experience. That convention has now been decisively broken down by a Leftist government

Strident Howard government critic and human rights lawyer Lex Lasry QC - famous for defending international drug traffickers and terror suspects - has been installed as a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria by the state Government. The Victorian Attorney-General, Rob Hulls, yesterday came under fire for his latest round of judicial appointments which - aside from Mr Lasry - also includes a former ACTU assistant secretary, Iain Ross. The promotion of Dr Ross - a former ALP member and union official - to the County Court was immediately attacked by the Liberal Party as the latest in a long line of political appointments.

And Mr Lasry's appointment to the bench of the Supreme Court has ruffled feathers within pockets of the Labor Party concerned about the number of "unilateral" civil libertarians being appointed to the bench. Mr Hulls has previously installed three former presidents of civil liberties group Liberty Victoria to the bench, with left-wing lawyer Gregory Connellan the latest to become a judge.

Overall, he has made sweeping changes to the judiciary in Victoria - appointing more than half of the 214 judges since he became Attorney-General in 1999. Even one of his former chiefs-of-staff, Fiona Hayes, was made a magistrate this year, and one-time Labor candidate Stuart Morris served as head of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals tribunal before resigning earlier this year. Several of Mr Hulls's appointments, including County Court head Michael Rozenes and Court of Appeal judge Frank Vincent, were members of a group called "Lawyers for Labor", which backed Mark Latham's election bid in 2004.

After a career as a trade union official, Dr Ross served for 12 years as a vice-president of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission before becoming a partner at law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth. Opposition legal affairs spokesman Robert Clarke attacked Dr Ross's appointment, saying he had spent only a brief period as a solicitor and that his judicial experience was questionable. "His appointment seems to owe as much to his union or industrial relations background as to his qualifications for the bench," he said. "It's worrying that an increasing number of judicial appointments are coming from a strong Labor or union background under Rob Hulls."

However, Mr Clarke endorsed the appointment of Mr Lasry, who was described by one of his legal peers yesterday as the leading criminal advocate in Victoria not already on the bench. Mr Lasry has been a successful and high-profile criminal lawyer who has represented terror suspect Jack Thomas, two of the so-called Bali Nine drug smugglers, as well as convicted heroin trafficker Van Nguyen, who was executed in Singapore. He has assisted several royal commissions and inquiries, including the Costigan royal commission and the inquiry into the 2003 Canberra bushfires.

He was once a member of the ALP but has recently criticised the party's stance on refusing to stand up for Indian-born Queensland doctor Mohamed Haneef, pushed out of Australia despite the farcical collapse of charges of aiding terrorism levelled against him.

A spokeswoman for Mr Hulls said Supreme Court and County Court appointments were advertised and he always consulted widely before taking recommendations to cabinet.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Leftist leader rejects homosexual marriage

This is in line with his general adherence to the status quo but it may also show that he still retains some sensitivity to what the workers want -- instead of being totally in the grip of the Left intelligentsia

KEVIN Rudd has rejected homosexual marriage, insisting the institution should be reserved for men and women. But the Labor Leader has also insisted on equal legal rights for homosexual couples in all other areas, including superannuation and inheritance.

Mr Rudd today took his campaign for the November 24 election to younger voters with an appearance on Sydney radio 2Day FM and heard controversial broadcaster Kyle Sandilands demand gays be allowed to marry. Mr Rudd: "Look I know it's not a popular opinion on this program and with you, but I actually believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. "But when it comes to the other legal discriminations which exist, we're committed ... to making sure that all those things are taken away. "But on the institution of marriage itself our view is this _ it's an institution between a man and a woman and that's just been our traditional continuing view.''

Asked what he would do if one of his three children way gay, Mr Rudd said he would "love them equally''. "When it comes to respecting same-sex relationships I understand the absolute important of that _ absolute importance,'' he said. "But on the institution of marriage I think it's important that we articulate a clear view on that. "But I don't think at all that people in such relatiobships are in any way second class citizens at all.''


Lance the bloated beast of hospital bureaucracy

Even better to abolish the bureaucracy altogether and send the money direct from the Treasury to the hospitals

In another bout of me-tooism Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd has picked up John Howard's proposal to encourage retired nurses back into the public hospital system by declaring, yet again, whatever you can do I can do better. Confronting the chronic shortage of hands-on nursing staff in the country's public hospitals, a problem encouraged by the introduction of university training for nurses, Howard has announced plans to establish 25 hospital-based training schools for nurses. Howard has also foreshadowed plans to replace state government management of the 750 public hospitals around the country with community-based boards - something that Rudd has rejected, claiming it will add another tier of bureaucracy in the system.

This is rubbish. It is in fact what is urgently needed to attack the bureaucratic monster created by the state Labor governments which is sucking the life out of our public hospital system. It is a sad fact that only about one in six people employed in the public health system is engaged in face-to-face patient care. The bulk of the remainder are involved in what are essentially administrative areas. Hospital funding needs to be directed away from the back office staff and towards the areas where it is needed most - direct patient care.

You can see where the money goes when you look at the plethora of bureaucratic bodies that administer public hospitals in NSW alone under the state Government's Health Department. The charter for these Area Health Services sounds simple - even altruistic: to keep people healthy; provide the health care they need; deliver high-quality health services and manage these services well; and to provide sound resource and financial management with skilled and motivated staff, and so it goes on. Pity it's not working.

And it will be interesting to see if the parliamentary inquiry into a string of patient care and administrative crises at Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital, which the Iemma Labor Government has reluctantly agreed to hold, will address the real problem of a bloated and dysfunctional bureaucracy. Royal North Shore is one of 20 hospitals situated in the area from Sydney's north shore to the NSW central coast covering a population of 1.3 million. These are administered by the Northern Sydney Central Coast Health Service, which is one of eight similar health service administrative bureaucracies overlording all public hospitals and health care facilities in the state through a complex web of sub-services and committees.

The NSCCHS has a 50-member executive structure operating under a chief executive, with a total staff, including casuals, of 15,700. The 2005-06 annual report by the NSCCHS gives an insight into how this bureaucratic system staggers along in the state. It is clear that an enormous amount of time is spent in strategic planning to identify areas of need and improve efficiencies through seemingly endless reviews. But to what end? For example, detailing its workforce strategies, it says, in part, that it was unlikely the medical and nursing workforce would be enhanced significantly in the next five years. And the report shows that about 35 per cent of emergency department patients had still not been admitted to a hospital bed within eight hours of active treatment starting.

In pointing to a major challenge in clinical sustainability the report acknowledges "a lack of critical mass" in a range of services offered at many acute facilities such as intensive care, emergency services and maternity. It goes on to state that this situation "has the potential to produce many undesirable effects such as inefficiencies, quality and safety concerns, unsustainable rostering demands for current staff and insufficient volumes for teaching purposes". It seems to have concluded that the best way to address this was to instigate a five-year review plan.

But as one senior specialist told The Australian this sort of approach to the crisis in public hospitals was like sending a fire engine to a burning building and then initiating an inquiry into how the fire started before rescuing those trapped inside. Another specialist recounted the story of a senior nurse in a NSW baby health care centre who wanted to change one line in a brochure given to new mothers to make it more intelligible. The process took 12 months and was the subject of innumerable conferences and committee meetings before the change was finally agreed to.

Rudd, like Howard, has identified the extent of the hospital crisis. That is why he announced plans on Friday for a federal Labor government to spend $600 million to help reduce the waiting list for elective surgery in public hospitals. But simply pouring more money into the hospital system in the fond hope that it will go where it is needed it is like filling a bucket full of holes: it's an endless and pointless process. And by the time these funds have gone through the administrative sieve there is not enough left to maintain the sort of health care standard the community deserves.

Howard's move to restore the traditional system of individual hospital boards is a sound start to dealing with waste and mismanagement which has flowed from the over-bureaucratised structure of hospital administration established under the Labor state governments. If the Liberals and Labor are serious about addressing this disgraceful waste of tax dollars and resources they should commit to a national audit of public health care spending to identify where the areas of greatest need are and make sure that commonwealth funding is not sidetracked away from these.


Leftist State government blames hospital boss for keeping the doors open

They say he should put his budget first, not patients

The boss of the Princess Alexandra Hospital said it was overworked as he slammed Government claims his overspending had led to crucial patient services being cut back. As Premier Anna Bligh yesterday blamed clinical chief executive David Theile for bed and waiting list closures, Dr Theile sent an email to staff explaining how they were recently praised by Queensland Health for efficiency and performance. He said the PA had handled trying conditions "extremely well" in recent months, frequently saving southeast Queensland's health system from "crisis".

A budget blowout over the first quarter forced 40 of the hospital's 892 beds to close and 10 per cent of operating theatre procedures to be cancelled. "For an increased expenditure of 2.1 per cent, we delivered 7.8 per cent more crucial clinical services," Dr Theile said in the email obtained by The Courier-Mail . "When all others were on bypass, we kept our doors open by ad hoc setting up of beds in radiology and theatre recovery. "Please be assured of my pride in this organisation and its achievements, and continue to deliver with the same professionalism in these times of restricted activity. "The administrative efficiency of our delivery has been acknowledged by Queensland Health."

The revelations come less than a week after Ms Bligh praised the progress of the Government's $10 billion health action plan in State Parliament. In a thinly veiled swipe at Dr Theile yesterday, Ms Bligh rejected more funding for the hospital, saying taxpayers were "entitled to see strong management ensuring that budgets are maintained". "The PA, like every other hospital, has to live within its budget," Ms Bligh said. "The PA Hospital budget this year has increased by $33 million. That is a very significant increase that will buy extra and additional services."

The war of words comes after the Government blamed Dr Theile on Friday for the closures. Acting Health Minister Rod Welford distanced the Government from the overspending, saying the PA was managed by a clinical chief executive and not a bureaucrat. "The decision about managing the work flow of surgery is a local hospital decision made by the most senior medical officer in the hospital, the CEO," Mr Welford said.


Diabetes treatment from pig cells?

Promising but early days yet. Rejection problems might not be so bad as pig valves (politely called "tissue valves") are routinely used to replace faulty human heart valves -- which also makes the bans on this work extremely stupid

A RADICAL pig cell treatment being tested by an Australian drug company has raised hopes of a cure for diabetes. A Russian woman injected with pig cells four weeks ago has not needed the regular insulin injections she had relied on to keep her type 1 diabetes in check. A second patient, a Russian medical student, has seen his insulin injections cut by 40 per cent in the four months since receiving the pig cell transplant. Melbourne scientists have been conducting the trial in Moscow's Sklifasovsky Hospital because animal-to-human transplants have been banned in Australia until 2009.

Living Cell Technologies medical director Prof Bob Elliott said the early trial results were stunning. "These early-stage results have exceeded our expectations," Prof Elliott said. "Both patients are doing very well, and we hope to continue to see such positive results as the trial progresses."

The middle-aged woman and young student are the first of six Russians to be implanted with DiabeCell, made from neonatal pig islet cells collected from the pancreas of disease-free pigs bred on a remote New Zealand island. Cells are then put in coated capsules and injected into the abdominal cavity of the type 1 diabetes patients. The pig cells are intended to produce insulin, mimicking a healthy body's natural production of the hormone that controls blood glucose levels.

Pig cell treatments have been tested before, but Prof Elliott's 12-month trial is the first to use the cells without the need for drugs to stop the human body rejecting them. About 520,000 Australians have been diagnosed with diabetes, but just as many don't realise they have the disease. Type 1 diabetes, in which the pancreas does not produce insulin, accounts for 10 to 15 per cent of all cases. It is usually diagnosed in childhood or early adulthood. Current treatment centres on daily insulin injections and regular tests to check blood glucose levels.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Surprising BBC impartiality

In debates between political opponents, the media almost always say that the Leftist "won". The Australian media certainly did so in reference to the debate last night between Prime Minister Howard and challenger Kevin Rudd. But not the BBC. Their report below:

Australian Prime Minister John Howard and his opponent, Labor leader Kevin Rudd, have faced each other in a TV debate as the election approaches. The two sparred over economic policy, climate change and troop levels in Iraq in the live, 90-minute clash. Both politicians grew more irritable as the debate went on, but the BBC's Nick Bryant in Sydney says neither was able to land a knock-out blow.....

The two also sparred over Mr Rudd's commitment to pull Australian forces out of Iraq by the middle of 2008, even if it damages relations with the Bush administration - a commitment Mr Howard argues will embolden terrorists.

But our correspondent says neither man was able to claim outright victory in the debate. Current opinion polls suggest Mr Howard, who is seeking a fifth term in office for his Liberal-National coalition, trails his Labor rival by between six and eight percentage points, with five weeks to go before election day.

More here

The notorious DOCS (child welfare agency) of NSW under fire again

THE horrific death of a toddler mauled by dogs will be raised in State Parliament this week amid claims the Department of Community Services ignored cries for help. As new figures show the number of child abuse cases is rising, the Opposition will demand answers from Community Services Minister Kevin Greene. Mr Greene told Friday night's budget estimates hearing that one in 15 NSW children was now reported to DOCS, but he deflected an Opposition question about Tyra Kuehne's death.

The four-year-old died in July 2006 after she was attacked by three dogs in a neighbour's yard in Warren, in the state's north-west. Her violent death was the catalyst for the tightening of the state's dog laws.

Opposition community services spokeswoman Katrina Hodgkinson said the minister's response to the tragedy was inadequate. "I wrote to him on September 3 on behalf of Tyra's father, who is seeking answers about his daughter's death," Ms Hodgkinson said. "It is simply not good enough for the minister to say he will seek extra information when he already knew about the case. The minister cannot plead ignorance. Given the lack of answers, I am definitely going to pursue this in Parliament this week."

Ms Hodgkinson said she was sickened by the details of Tyra's case. "This little girl was in need of attention and she slipped through the DOCS cracks," she said. "She needed to be taken out of that situation and be put into care. "It really is up to the minister to make sure the children in this state are cared for properly regardless of where they live."

A spokeswoman for Mr Greene said an ongoing DOCS investigation meant he could not comment. Tyra's distraught dad Peter, of Windsor, said yesterday that the loss of his "little princess" followed a series of family tragedies that included the loss of their home and all their possessions, when another child accidentally caused a fire. He said he had made repeated attempts to find out from DOCS the status of its investigation into his daughter's welfare.


And another failure by DOCS

The boy, Dean Shillingworth, appears to have been shaken to death by his mother, Rachel Pfitzner -- who only had occasional care of him. He was normally cared for by loving grandparents. The boy was Aboriginal and the father is in jail -- and child abuse is very common in Aboriginal families -- so DOCS probably gave up on the case from the outset. Given the usual intractibility of Aboriginal family problems, that is perhaps a little understandable but it is inexcusable that DOCS overlooked the fact that the boy had loving grandparents who were anxious to do all they could to protect him

THE NSW Department of Community Services (DOCS) will review its handling of the case of a two-year-old boy whose body was found in suitcase in a pond in Sydney's south-west last week. It emerged yesterday that the boy had previously been referred to DOCS. NSW Community Services Minister Kevin Greene said today he could not say how many times DOCS had been contacted about the boy or in what period of time the calls were made. The 26-year-old mother of the boy has been charged with murder after his body was found in a pond in Ambarvale.

"There were calls to the department's helpline about this tragic child," Mr Greene told ABC Radio today. "Some of these cases are extremely complex where there are various parents involved, different relationships and often different surnames. "We'll be doing a review of all the processes and procedures that were undertaken ... but there will also be an internal investigation by our department because there has been a death of a child, and certainly the ombudsman will undertake a review of the case."

An ombudsman report from 2005/06 said 190 DOCS case workers dealt with 240,000 calls a year relating to 110,000 children - roughly 1200 calls and 600 children per caseworker. "Seventy five per cent (of calls) come from police, health workers or also school teachers," he said.

Mr Greene said the DOCS helpline service manager had said the service could cope with the number of calls it received. "In the last five years the NSW Government has committed an additional $1.2 billion so we can provide over 1000 extra case workers over the last five years,'' he said.


Obesity epidemic among children is 'overstated'

A STUDY has revealed that the obesity epidemic among children has been grossly overstated, and that the problem is concentrated among poorer families and some ethnic groups. Fairfax newspapers say the study shows children from low-income families are twice as likely to be obese as children from high-income families, and their risks are increased if they are from Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, Aboriginal or southern European background.

Based on a national sample of 8500 children aged six to 18, the study of health, fitness and fatness is the first of its kind to measure social class and ethnicity. Jenny O'Dea, associate professor of nutrition and health education at the University of Sydney, will present the findings today at the Community and Change conference, hosted by the university's faculty of education and social work. Dr O'Dea said the child obesity rate is "not rocketing out of control" and appears to be levelling off. "There's a suggestion the whole of Australia is at risk of obesity and that's been blown out of the water by this research," she said.

The big increase in childhood obesity had occurred between 1985 and 1995, when the rate grew from 1.5 per cent to 5 per cent. By 2006 the proportion of obese children had grown slightly to 6.3 per cent. "High-income Anglo children are at very low risk of obesity compared to low-income children from Aboriginal, Islander or Middle-East backgrounds," Dr O'Dea said. The main health risk for obese children was developing type 2 diabetes, she said.


Global warning to Prof Tim Flannery

A satirical comment from Tim Blair

JUST like our precious planet, Tim Flannery's reign as Australian of the Year is quickly coming to an end. And what a topsy-turvy, harum-scarum reign it's been! Flannery's endured crushing lows (complaining in February about "a real attempt to marginalise me and what I say") and soaring peaks (reacting in June with, as he described it, "lofty disdain" to mockery from NSW Treasurer Michael Costa). And all the while, he's kept up an international travel-and-lecture schedule such as would stomp down a carbon footprint deep enough to conceal Thunderbird 2.

You didn't get that sort of drama with the likes of Patrick White (Australian of the Year, 1973) or Sir Gustav Nossal (2000). Then again, Pat and Gus weren't in the business of predicting the coming apocalypse (well, maybe Pat was, but nobody ever read any of his books to find out; for all we know, he was listing Melbourne Cup winners in there). Gus mainly occupied himself in 2000 quietly writing songs for a then-unknown comedy team called The Chaser and inventing Crazy Frog ringtones. [Sir Gustav Nossal is in fact a distinguished medical scientist and also something of a do-gooder]

No such distractions for Flannery, who in between marginalisations and loftiness and pushing his books in the US - just this month he's appearing in North Carolina, Virginia and New Mexico - stuck determinedly to telling us we were screwed. And not just us; on the Ten Network's brilliantly low-rating National Carbon Test, Flannery distressed the two or three children watching by telling them "it's likely to be too late for the polar bear". That's our Tim; always ready to fun things up for the kids with a joke or a quip. He puts the "pal" into "palaeontologist"!

I wonder if he does birthday parties. He sure provides gifts. Journalists requiring a few lines to support their theories about the End of Times need only turn to Flannery, or dial up his latest ABC appearance. Flannery, the original Energizer Glummy, just keeps on delivering the major-league sad long after all the others have quit.

The Melbourne Age's Kenneth Davidson - who, speaking of sad, looks like a Soviet drone who's just been told production at Official State Girder Factory No. 5 has fallen 14 per cent below optimum - quoted Flannery last weekend: "Professor Tim Flannery said the International Panel on Climate Change 'synthesis' report for 2007 due next month would show that greenhouse gas levels already in the atmosphere have 'the potential to cause dangerous climate change' . . . "Flannery said in an ABC interview: 'We are already at great risk of dangerous climate change. It is not next year or next decade - it is now'."

Interestingly, people always cite Flannery on the magnitude of the problems we're allegedly facing but they rarely mention any of Flannery's suggested solutions. That's because Flannery, when he's in solution mode, switches from sane-sounding (inasmuch as we've heard so many other science-type people say the same things) to Ranting Guy with Theories About the Role of Television Antennas in Hair Loss. Further into the ABC interview Davidson quoted, here's Flannery's idea for saving the planet from global warming:

"I think that what needs to happen is we need to put the people who own those tropical lands in direct contact with the people who want to buy their climate security. And we could do that using these amazing things we've got now, like Google Earth. "You can imagine, you know, Googling 50 villages in Papua New Guinea who've got some carbon to sell, who want to regrow their forests. You could buy it over eBay. A lovely thing that keeps everyone honest." Hmm. "Regrowing forests" in Papua New Guinea isn't exactly creative or labour-intensive work. It's mainly a passive profession, sort of like being a wave builder at Bondi, or a volcano eruption engineer. The human element isn't hugely significant. Chopping forests down; now, that's going to take a bit of effort. Some tools would be required, for a start. Chainsaws and the like. But growing them? I can take care of that from Sydney by the simple tactic of not going to Papua New Guinea and chopping them down. Send your carbon simoleons my way, Professor. Saving the planet here.

Policing this enterprise might be difficult even if I'm not involved. Who's going to check that our lovely forest regrowers (in their internet-connected remote villages) are being honest? In fact, how could you tell that you're actually dealing with a genuine highland chieftain/carbon entrepreneur? I bet those old "villagers" getting us all hot in forest regrowth carbon websites and asking for money turn out instead to be nothing but Swedish babes in lingerie having pillow fights. The internet's like that. Always letting you down. It's only a few months until Tim Flannery hands in the Gilded Wallaby Sceptre, or whatever it is Australians of the Year carry around to indicate their elevated status. Who will be chosen next? My (serious) pick: Noel Pearson. More likely: Oh, I don't know. David Hicks [former Guantanamo Bay inmate], probably


Monday, October 22, 2007

This is the sort of thug that the Labor party intends to put in Federal Parliament

This is one of several who have now been unmasked. How many more of their numerous union candidates are this type?

A LABOR candidate has been forced to resign on the eve of Kevin Rudd's crucial televised election debate with Prime Minister John Howard. Labor campaign headquarters forced the candidate for the Queensland seat of Maranoa, Shane Guley, to quit after allegations he acted as a union thug, assaulting one of his managers and routinely intimidating co-workers. Mr Rudd has pledged to adopt a "zero-tolerance" policy towards "violence or thuggery in any workplace."

The resignation follows a concerted campaign by John Howard in which the Prime Minster has claimed Labor is controlled by the unions and that Mr Rudd will be powerless to stand up to them if he wins government. The claims have been backed by an advertising blitz pointing out that 70 per cent of the Opposition frontbench have union backgrounds.

Queensland State Secretary Milton Dick confirmed the resignation. Mr Guley's letter read: "Dear Milton, I write to tender my resignation as the endorsed Australian Labor Party candidate for Maranoa. I take this step in response to the re-surfacing of allegations made against me more than six years ago. These matters were dealt with by the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, and my claim was upheld. However, I take this step today so that my candidacy does not distract in any way from the election of a federal Labor Government. Yours sincerely, Shane Guley". Mr Dick said in a statement: "Nominations for Maranoa will be re-opened on Monday and we expect to have a new candidate in the following days."

Mr Guley is a former AMWU delegate who held a number of union positions and worked for Queensland Rail at the Rockhampton Railway Workshops. It's now been revealed that, in 2001, he was sacked after years of persistent violent behaviour that included:

* Assaulting a manager in a pub in front of several work colleagues;

* Making a threatening phone call to the same manager, saying: "I will f****** get rid of you, you're No 1 on my hit list ..."

* Threatening to call in his political connections in the Queensland Labor government to get rid of people on his "hit list";

* Threatening and intimidating a work colleague who had made allegations against him of bullying and harassment;

* Intimidating investigators brought in to investigate employee complaints against him, and;

* Allegedly making vexatious and vindictive allegations against other employees in response to their legitimate complaints.

Following two Queensland Rail investigations confirming Mr Guley's repeated bullying and threatening behaviour, he made an unfair dismissal claim to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission. The QIRC upheld his claim on a due process technicality but found he had engaged in repeated bullying and intimidation of co-workers. It refused his application for reinstatement on grounds that his conduct "was unacceptable and inappropriate behaviour to the extreme."


Labor Party's committment to Kyoto would be costly

Labor's goal is to reduce Australia's CO2 emissions to 60 per cent of 2000 emissions by 2050. This sounds fine in the abstract - but what might it mean in reality? In 2000 Australia's total emissions were about 550 megatonnes in CO2-equivalent terms. So Labor's policy translates into a target of 330 megatonnes of emissions by 2050. In the absence of any policy interventions, business-as-usual greenhouse emissions are projected to grow strongly. Indeed, the Australian Greenhouse Office's best-case scenario projects that even with abatement measures in place, total emissions will be about 700 megatonnes by 2020 -- which is more than double Labor's 2050 target.

By 2050, Australia's emissions will probably exceed 1000 megatonnes. In other words, achieving Labor's target could easily be equivalent to eliminating more than 100 per cent of current activities that use fossil fuels. All of this in order to reduce global temperatures by exactly nothing.

The other part of Labor's climate change policy is to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. This is a strange objective, given Kyoto is basically dead in the water. The Kyoto Protocol limits emissions to percentage changes from a 1990 baseline. The biggest problem is not with the targets themselves, but the process by which emissions cuts are supposed to be achieved. The ratifying countries were forced to agree to their Kyoto targets without knowing what the costs of meeting those targets would be. This is like agreeing to spend the rest of your life with someone you have only just met during a one night stand. It is simply not a credible or sustainable commitment.

As a result, most Kyoto-ratifying countries have failed to significantly abate their greenhouse emissions and reach their targets. And why should they? There is nothing unreasonable about exceeding emissions targets by significant amounts when you are unsure of the costs of meeting those targets. Any other course of action would be sheer folly.

But Kyoto has very little to do with reasonableness. Just ask the New Zealanders. Our friends across the ditch signed up to Kyoto in December 2002, even though a 2001 National Interest Analysis on the case for ratifying the Kyoto Protocol could not decide whether moderate global warming would be detrimental or beneficial for New Zealanders. Helen Clark's Government ignored this information and committed her country to a program of reducing emissions over the 2008-12 period to 1990 levels or to take responsibility for the difference. In practice, that means hundreds of millions of Kiwi tax dollars will be paid to former Soviet Union countries, which have been lucky to accumulate carbon credits.

Actually, luck has had little to do with it. The surest way for a country to reduce greenhouse emissions and accumulate carbon credits is to implement policies which wreck the economy - something at which many former Soviet Union countries excel.

The New Zealand Treasury estimates New Zealand's Kyoto liability currently stands at NZ$708 million. This doesn't sound like very much, but this guess is more than double what it was two years ago. At that rate of increase, at the end of the first Kyoto commitment period in 2012, New Zealanders will owe about NZ$4.2 billion - or about NZ$1000 per person. So, in a nutshell, the main effect of Kyoto will be for New Zealand taxpayers to subsidise bad economic policies by politicians in the former Soviet Union. Does Kevin Rudd have similar plans for Australia?

On the one hand, ratifying Kyoto and committing to a process which has unknown costs seems to be a very strange policy, particularly for someone who constantly bombards us with claims that he is an economic conservative. On the other hand, history suggests Labor has a strong record of reducing greenhouse emissions. The only prime minister who has managed to do it was Paul Keating in the early 1990s, when he engineered "the recession we had to have" and our emissions levels plummeted. Perhaps this is exactly what Rudd has in mind.


Bishop too fat for surgery

In general, discrimination on the basis of weight sounds to me no different from discrimination because of skin colour. But I have to agree with the doctors here. The vast weight of the man would undoubtedly be a factor in why his knee has collapsed and leaving the weight as is could well make a replacement knee largely futile

A BISHOP who has dedicated his life to the church has been refused surgery by a Victorian hospital because he is too fat. Bishop R.J. Gow of St Mary's House of Prayer, at Elaine, west of Ballarat, is in desperate need of a left knee replacement. "It's my praying knee," the good humoured priest said. "I'm having a lot of trouble walking and standing at the altar."

Three months ago the clergyman, 66, was referred to an orthopedic surgeon. "The surgeon said the waiting list at Ballarat Hospital for that surgery was two years, but he was now doing surgery at Bacchus Marsh hospital so to go there," Bishop Gow said. "I made an appointment, but within five minutes of them seeing me they said "unless you lose weight you won't be having surgery here". Bishop Gow, who stands six feet tall, weighed 147kg (330 lb.). Since that first appointment he lost 15kg in 11 weeks and is now 132kg. "They told me to lose 17 kilos before I came back," he said. "But when I came back they told me I'd have to lose another five before I see the anaesthetist on October 26. "The only way I can do that is to starve myself."

Bishop Gow said he was annoyed at the level of discrimination towards overweight people. "This is a hospital discriminating against people who are overweight," he said. "They're excluding people and I'm not the only one. I heard them saying to the person in front of me that they would also have to lose weight before an operation. "I questioned her about it and she said it was hospital policy. She showed me a copy of minutes of a meeting where it was stated they would only operate on patients who had a BMI (body mass index) of below 40. "This is discriminatory. Obesity is a disease caused by pyschological or physical factors - people don't get fat because they want to. "But what really annoyed me was I had a look around the hospital and there were empty beds. What's happening with our health care?"

Bishop Gow, who has spent more than 20 years working with the poor, sick and disadvantaged, said his knee was deteriorating and he was in a lot of pain. "But I haven't private health insurance and the operation would cost thousands of dollars," he said. Bacchus Marsh Hospital's Acting CEO David Grace said the hospital had a policy on surgery for the obese "for patient safety. We use an objective BMI assessment. "If someone is higher than the cut-off point of 40 they're considered a high anaesthetic risk and we wouldn't allow treatment." He would not comment on a specific case, but said he didn't consider the practice discriminatory. "It's about patient safety," he said.


Australia's education wars

Education unions and left-wing education academics cling to proven failures in education theory, despite years of evidence demonstrating the errors of their thinking. They reject, for instance, the research-based evidence showing that "whole language" dominated reading programs do not work for a large proportion of children.

The power of sensible thinking by political leaders in holding off barbarian ideologues can be seen in the influence of the former NSW premier Bob Carr, who saved NSW from the worst educational excesses suffered elsewhere, particularly in Western Australia, where a decade-long experiment in outcomes-based education has just been abandoned.

But while governments control the purse strings they have little effect on deep-rooted cultural prejudices in organisations such as the ABC and teacher unions. In the battles for hearts and minds, they are outclassed by ideological guerillas, who can only be vanquished from within. At last, however, there are encouraging signs from teachers that the civil war may have begun.

Take the English Teachers Association, which claims to speak for all English teachers. Its most honoured operative is former president Wayne Sawyer, an associate professor at the University of Western Sydney, who has helped develop the NSW English curriculum and is editor of the journal English in Australia. It was his editorial that blamed the Howard Government's 2004 re-election on the failure of English teachers to properly educate their charges in critical theory.

And in the last edition of the International Journal of Progressive Education, Sawyer tackled the discredited "whole language" theory of teaching reading in an article entitled Whole language and moral panic in Australia. He claimed "moral panic" was behind a "media campaign . to demonise whole-language methods" of teaching reading, despite the fact the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy (which I served on) spent a year examining the worldwide evidence about the best way to teach children reading and came down on the side of systematic, direct instruction in phonics.

If you ever wondered how the teaching of reading could be politicised, the journal is instructive, having devoted its entire June edition to whole language, including "the multilayered dimensions of social justice activism involved in whole language teaching". The articles read like a long confession from the stubborn practitioners of a movement which has condemned so many underprivileged children to illiteracy, while professing to care about injustice.

In an article about teaching sixth graders in Grover Cleveland Middle School, New Jersey, the authors "search for ways to disrupt the pre-service [trainee] teachers' traditional notions of teaching, learning, and curriculum . We strive to help our pre-service teachers understand that their roles as teachers include a political dimension . "Too often," they complain, the teachers "fall back into the direct instruction model with which they feel comfortable."

Naughty teachers, trying to teach rather than indoctrinate their students. But Sawyer and his acolytes at the association have so provoked those they purport to represent they have sparked a grassroots protest movement of teachers across the country. In Western Australia, one group of teachers became so fed up at having to implement outcomes-based education, a favourite of the English Teachers Association, that they managed to have it overturned this year. Their lobby group PLATO, People Lobbying Against Teaching Outcomes, persuaded the West Australian Government to reinstate the traditional syllabus, concentrating on literacy and numeracy.

Now a group of secondary English teachers from Catholic, government and independent schools in Western Australia have formed the English Teachers Forum, the ETFWA, in direct opposition to the English Teachers Association, because they are "concerned about the misrepresentation of English teachers and their views regarding the implementation and the efficacy of the English Course of Study". In a letter to the association, the breakaway group wrote: "The ETAWA must realise that the collective voice of the majority of English teachers simply cannot be ignored any longer. It is not just a matter of numbers. It is also a matter of fairness." The English Teachers Forum has also managed to have Western Australia's year 11 and 12 curriculum reviewed by a "jury" of impartial classroom teachers, with the result the West Australian Government agreed to rewrite the courses by 2010.

In NSW, there is similar grassroots unhappiness with the English Teachers Association, judging by a letter I have received from an anonymous secondary English teacher of 30 years. "The problem in NSW English teaching is not the syllabus. It is the way the syllabus has been interpreted by the English Teachers Association of NSW and its transformation from a wonderfully principled, supportive professional association to a site of left-wing political activism and ideological posturing .. "My dismay comes from a jettisoning of our literary heritage for an obsession with critical literacy and an approach to English based on overt critical theory. "I look through my past issues of [the association's journal mETAphor] and ask myself what has happened to the aim of fostering a love of literature in our children? What has happened to the great works of literature?"

That journal is full of articles about postmodernism and such literary gems as: "Power Struggles in the Big Brother House" and "Earnestly Queer: Responding to Oscar Wilde's The Importance of being Earnest Through the Critical Lens of Queer Theory" by Mark Howie, the president of the English Teachers Association. It is no good for Australian students that a body promoting extremist ideology should have come to represent their English teachers. But it seems their teachers have finally had enough. Hoorah for them.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Another Muslim serial rapist

Gets only nine years. If a Muslim serial rapist (such as Bilal Skaf) gets a really long sentence, the legal establishment turns itself inside out to overturn the sentence -- though they don't seem to have been able to do anything about the disgusting Hakeem Hakeem -- so I suppose this is the best we can hope for

A man has been jailed for at least nine years for raping four women and attacking two others. Sedat Avci, 21, of Broadmeadows, terrorised women in the northern suburbs between April and August 2005. Most victims were walking alone in the evening and were subjected to terrifying sex attacks. Avci had pleaded guilty to seven counts of rape.

County Court Judge Jeanette Morrish said yesterday Avci had waged a "cowardly, aggressive and violent campaign" on vulnerable women but believed his prospects of rehabilitation were good because of his youth and his return to the Muslim faith. She sentenced Avci to 16 years in jail, with a minimum of nine. The maximum term for rape is 25 years.

Crime Victims Support Association president Noel McNamara slammed the jail term and said he planned to write to the acting Director of Public Prosecutions, Jeremy Rapke. "That's 1.5 years each for six women who have got life sentences -- it's a terrible disgrace," Mr McNamara said. "It's a great insult to the victims and the community." Mr Rapke will review the case.

Avci was just 19 when he violently assaulted women in Coburg, Coolaroo, Brunswick and Hawthorn. One victim was about to drive off when Avci asked to use her mobile phone. He then forced his way into her car and repeatedly raped her. In a victim impact statement read in court, the woman said her life had been turned upside down. "I will have to work every day of my life to make sure this doesn't define who I am," she said. A victim who was raped twice while walking her dogs said the memory of the attack haunted her.

Avci also pleaded guilty to a count of aggravated burglary and another charge of robbery after attacking a pregnant woman in front of her children, aged three and four.

The serial rapist was arrested in August 2005 after police matched his fingerprints to those on a newspaper at the scene of an attack. A psychiatric report revealed Avci did not have a mental impairment at the time of the attacks, but was using amphetamines. Avci threatened most of his victims with a knife and in one case told a woman who tried to escape he would shoot her if she tried again.

In a letter of apology to his victims, Avci said he had "no good excuse" for what he had done. "To say sorry is not enough to heal the heartache and pain I have caused to your lives and your families' lives," he said.


Hope for the innumerate

A teaching program that helps students "trust their heads" to recall basic mathematical facts has turned students failing maths into some of the best performers. The QuickSmart program, developed at the University of New England at Armidale in northern NSW, targets students failing national numeracy benchmarks who enter high school struggling with basic arithmetic and who often still count on their fingers.

John Pegg, who developed the program with Lorraine Graham, said QuickSmart was a last chance for students who needed to be proficient in basic maths before the end of primary school to develop the skills and proficiency required in high school. "These students use inefficient and error-prone approaches to learning and recalling information," he said. Professor Pegg, director of the National Centre of Science, ICT and Mathematics Education for Rural and Regional Australia, said students likened the improvement to "trusting their heads", meaning the answer to a sum like 7x5 came immediately.

The program received funding last week worth $200,000 from the federal Government and is being used with 800 students in 60 schools in NSW and the Northern Territory, including remote indigenous communities, where the rise in test scores is more than double the improvement in the average student.

At Orara High School in Coffs Harbour on the NSW north coast, about 70 students in Year 7, with about one in three having failed to meet minimal national numeracy benchmarks, were then taught using QuickSmart. Learning support teacher Lyn Alder said the school had a large proportion of students from low socio-economic backgrounds and about 11 per cent were indigenous. When they sat the NSW numeracy test earlier this year, the improvement in their results had almost doubled compared with the rest of the state, while the indigenous students' marks more than doubled compared with other indigenous students.

Ms Alder said about 40 per cent of the students jumped two levels in the four-level assessment system, from low to proficient or elementary to high. "It's given students the confidence to put up their hands and answer questions in class," she said. "They may not always be correct but they're prepared to have a go, and when you're dealing with students in a low socio-economic school, that's not always the norm."


Mad ideas crack me up

Andrew Bolt comments on the latest Greenie commandments

NOT a month goes by without even more crackpot schemes to save a planet that shows no sign of sickness - and we are the ones to suffer. It's official: global warming zealots really do want humans to go rot to "save" the planet. Barrister Robert Larkins, founder of the Victorian Environment Defenders' Office, this week confirmed what I always suspected. No more cremations, he demanded. Hell is hot enough without us cremating our globe as well. As he puts it: "Cremation produces carbon dioxide and pollutants that go directly into the atmosphere."

And what does all our wicked carbon dioxide do, children? Repeat what you've been taught, please: That's right: it is killing your world. It is causing blistering heat. It is causing seas to drown whole islands. So, plop the dear departed in a cardboard box and offer his body to the species of life that best symbolises sacred Gaia: feed him to . . . a tree.

Oh, yes. Heed the sermon of "natural burial advocate" Roger Short, a Melbourne University professor: "Being buried at the base of a tree is such a simple way to go . . . it's the best sequester of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that's ever been invented, powered by sunlight and giving off oxygen as a waste product."

Such a comfort to the grieving. Feed humans to the trees to save the world. Says it all. After all, what is there left that we must not give up to "save the planet"? We're told by the Greens to "use alternatives to air conditioner", by Greenpeace co-founder Paul Watson to fly not in jets but "solar power blimps", by Greens leader Bob Brown to scrap coal-fired power, by Rough Guides founder Mark Ellingham to "travel less", by the Brumby Government to shower shorter, and by the Howard Government to use only stark-light low-energy globes.

You'll be sweaty, smelly and stuck at home lit like a toilet block with only a dole cheque to cover your soaring power bills. But that's OK -- it's to save the world, a cause so great that we must even sacrifice our children.

Absolutely true. Britain's Optimum Population Trust this year said having a large family should be regarded as an "environmental misdemeanor". Alarmist of the Year Tim Flannery has called for our population to be cut by up to a third, and ABC radio even ran a lecture by a green zealot suggesting we "put something in the water, a virus that would be specific to the human reproductive system and would make a substantial proportion of the population infertile."

Not a month goes by without even more crackpot schemes to make us suffer to save a planet that shows no sign of sickness, or gratitude. Here's some newspaper reports from the last two weeks alone.

Item: More kangaroos should be slaughtered and eaten to help save the world from global warming . . . Greenpeace . . . urged Aussies to substitute some red meat for roo (or vice versa, actually) to help reduce land clearing and the release of methane gas. Now, even Skippy must die to save the planet from gassy cows?

Item: Plans to switch 90 per cent of milk supplies to long-life UHT have been put forward by (British) Government officials. They claim the move would help curb carbon emissions. Drink foul coffee after eating your roo -- for the planet's sake!

Item: Flat screen television manufacturers will have to become greener after the release of a (Howard Government) discussion paper suggested many plasma and some LCD TVs could be banned for being energy hungry.

Remember how Mao Zedong once demanded the Chinese peasants melt their cooking woks for scrap iron to feed the revolution? How we laughed at such a brainless gesture, which just left people even worse off. Now, the laugh is on us. And, again like Mao, we force even children to do useless work to show their faithful hearts. Here's a news report on an Adelaide child care centre which has just been given an certificate for forcing children to work for the planet:

"They help their carers by planting seedlings in the yard, recycling plastic containers and hanging out the washing on the line, rather than using the power-hungry clothes dryer." Work, children, work! It won't alter Adelaide's weather by a zephyr, but the planet demands your sacrifice, even though it hasn't actually heated since 1998 and may soon cool.

Of course, you'll console yourself with the thought that nobody could ever force such schemes on you. Not in a democracy. But the faithful have thought of that problem, as Professor David Shearman, an assessor with the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, explained this week on ABC radio.

"Do you believe that climate change can be arrested under our own sacrosanct system of liberal democracy?", he sneered. We voters would never agree to the "solution" to global warming, and "this condemns democracy".

Shearman, a medico, had a better idea: "If you were a patient in the intensive care unit, would you wish each decision made authoritatively by a medical expert or by a democratic committee?" So, feed democracy to the trees, too! To save the planet! And I can only ask: save the planet for what? It sure isn't being saved for humans, or even Skippy. So for whom?



Three current articles below:

Negligent NSW public hospital staff doomed baby boy

GRIEF-stricken Fatima Abdallah should be celebrating her baby boy's four-month birthday this weekend - instead she is mourning his death and left wondering how a Sydney hospital failed to diagnose her son's life-threatening heart condition. Marwan Yahya died on June 19, five days after being sent home from Liverpool Hospital despite showing signs of a serious problem.

NSW Health has launched an investigation but his heartbroken mother contacted The Daily Telegraph yesterday desperate for authorities to explain the bungle. "It's been four months and I still haven't been told anything," a distraught Ms Abdallah said yesterday. "I keep calling the hospital but they brush me off and tell me to wait. I have a feeling they just want this to go away."

The first-time mum knew something was wrong with her little boy just hours after he was born. Marwan was blue around his mouth and fingers, breathing faintly and, as the hours passed, he refused to eat - just laying in his cot. Ms Abdallah said she asked nurses what was wrong but was told his condition was "normal". "I didn't enjoy those first few days with him because I was so worried. I knew something was wrong. I felt like they were treating me as if I had no idea," she said.

Her worst fears were confirmed when the two-day-old infant was sent home and started having seizures because his brain was starved of oxygen. After rushing back to Liverpool Hospital, Ms Abdallah and Marwan were transferred to the Children's Hospital Westmead, where tests revealed he had hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Doctors told the family that, had the condition been detected at birth, Marwan could possibly be alive today. "They had booked him on a flight to Melbourne where the operation is performed but when they found out how severe his brain damage was, there was nothing they could do," Ms Abdallah said. "We were told to say goodbye to him and they turned off the machines."

The harrowing ordeal follows a litany of hospital scandals that have embarrassed Health Minister Reba Meagher. South Western Sydney Health Service apologised to the family when they met with them yesterday. A health service spokeswoman said the disease that claimed Marwan can be "difficult to detect at birth". Ms Abdallah said she could not comprehend how doctors or nurses at Liverpool could have missed her son's condition. "He may still have been alive today if someone had listened to me," she said.


Man dies after old ambulance breaks down

Plenty of money for bureaucrats but no money for new vehicles

A MAN has died after paramedics from a broken-down ambulance were forced to run almost two blocks to try to revive him in Melbourne's southeast. Ambulance Employees Australia (AEU) general secretary Steve McGhie confirmed a 56-year-old man died from a cardiac arrest before paramedics could reach him at his Elwood home last night. Mr McGhie said an ambulance broke down about two blocks from the house about 6pm (AEST), forcing paramedics to run with life-saving equipment, including a defibrillator. But the man's heart had stopped by the time the paramedics arrived.

"The vehicle had 160,000 on its odometer - it should be retired ... even though the Government has assured Victorians that they are safe and secure," Mr McGhie said. "The ambulance had power failure and they couldn't keep it running. "They grabbed the defibrillators and the oxygen equipment and ran to the house. "They tried to resuscitate the man at the scene but were unsuccessful."

The death follows a bitter dispute between the Metropolitan Ambulance Service (MAS) and its members' union over "unsafe" vehicles. Paramedics last week said the MAS threatened them with $6000 fines unless they use the vehicles, which have exceeded their agreed service life of three years or 150,000km. About 45 Mercedes ambulances had exceeded their agreed lifespan, Mr McGhie said.

Mr McGhie called on Victorian Health Minister Daniel Andrews to get new ambulances on the road, saying it "was a sad state of affairs in Victoria" if paramedics are forced to run to save their patients. "This is the sixth incident in the last two weeks and the Government has to step in," he said. "They've got to get more vehicles."

Tim Pigot, spokesman for Mr Andrews, said it was an operational decision by the MAS of how they managed resources. "We have more than doubled funding for ambulance services across Victoria since 1999," Mr Pigot said. "This has resulted in an extra 738 paramedics and 101 ambulances on Victorian roads. "Victoria has the safest and best ambulance system in Australia." Metropolitan Ambulance Service spokesman James Howe said the service was investigating the incident.


Inert bureaucracy incapable of dealing with the sort of family problems they are set up to deal with

More "child welfare" destructiveness. They should sack all the Left-indoctrinated social workers and employ experienced mothers instead -- who would have learnt some commonsense from experience and who should at least be a lot less intimidatory. If the mother below had REALLY been a druggie, they would have had the kid back with her straight away. That is the firm rule of social workers worldwide -- because it shows how "non-judgmental" they are. Accusing normal middle-class families of "witchcraft" and the like is fine, however

All Michelle wants is what most mothers take for granted. To be able to tuck her seven-year-old son tightly into bed every night with a kiss and a fond "sleep tight". But for five long years, that has not happened often. For Michelle is the mother of Cameron, the autistic boy whose plight of being trapped for five years in an inappropriate respite centre for severely disabled and disturbed people in Hobart was raised in the Tasmanian Parliament on Thursday.

After a public furore yesterday, the State Government announced last night that Cameron would finally be leaving the Lutana facility where he has lived most of his young life this weekend to live with a foster family. The Government's Director of Children Services, Mark Byrne, said on Thursday that despite four years of trying, it was not possible for Cameron to live with his own family. Human Services Minister Lara Giddings wrote in a letter to Opposition Leader Will Hodgman in March that "after many efforts to support Cameron in his home environment" his mother had acknowledged "he could not return home as she was unable to care and support him".

It is these sort of official judgments and comments that make Michelle distraught, bewildered and angry. "I'd move heaven and earth to get Cameron living here with us," a tearful Michelle said yesterday. "There's not a day that goes by that I don't wish he was here with all of us. "And I've never said I won't have him. I just want him home."

The first Michelle and her partner knew about the uproar over Cameron's plight was when she looked at the newspaper yesterday morning. She could not believe what she read. First, that letters expressing dire concern about her son and his future had been circulating between ministers and within high levels of the Government for the past 12 months, without her being told. Second, that the Government was claiming Cameron's mother did not want him to return home. And finally, that allegations were being made that she was somehow a "troubled mother" with a dysfunctional lifestyle and a drug problem who had given Cameron a horrific start to life and who then rarely visited him while he was in care.

Michelle and her partner claim nothing could be further from the truth. It is why yesterday morning they rang Mr Hodgman -- who highlighted Cameron's predicament in Parliament this week after 11 months of government inaction -- and then got in touch with the Mercury. They wanted to tell their side of the story. And it is a very different one to that portrayed.

Instead of being a tale of abandonment and a callous lack of caring by a little boy's mother, it's a story of how battling families can become so worn-down and demoralised by government bureaucracy, bullying and inertia that they feel they no longer have any rights or say about their own child. Mixed in with that is a sorry saga of government departments failing to communicate with each other. And of a mother, fearing judgments were being made about her every time she visited her son or met Child Protection case managers, developing a reluctance to interact with government officials and disability workers about her own aspirations and wishes for Cameron.

But amid the sadness and lack of communication, there is also hope. Hope instilled by a close-knit Glenorchy family with little money but lots of resilience, desperately longing for nothing more than to have Cameron back living in their midst, alongside his four brothers and sisters. A shiny new boy's bicycle sits in the backyard of the red-brick home on a steep hill. It's the longed-for bike that Michelle and her partner gave to Cameron last weekend for his seventh birthday, when he came home for an afternoon visit after a birthday party organised by staff from the Lutana home at Hungry Jack's in Glenorchy. All the family were there to see Cameron, including his sister and brother. And there was the new bike, a big chocolate mudcake covered with candles -- and plenty of love and excitement.

A weepy Michelle shows photos of Cameron, a beaming smile on his face as he tried out his bike surrounded by family and friends. "We all love him to bits, he's such a gorgeous fantastic kid," Michelle's partner said. "Sure, he can be a handful, but Michelle's a great mother and she adores that kid -- we all do. "All this about him having troubled family life and Michelle having a drug problem, it's all just rubbish."

Michelle says she has never been on drugs or had a drug issue. She doesn't deny when she left Cameron at Lutana aged just under two that she was at her wit's end. He had just been diagnosed as autistic, she had a tiny baby and older boy to cope with too, her partner had just left her, and she was clinically depressed. Just after putting Cameron into respite care, for what his mother hoped would be just a short-term stay, she had a nervous breakdown and tried to commit suicide by overdosing on pills. But since then, and since moving in with her partner to his Glenorchy home four years ago, life has become much more settled for Michelle and her extended family.

Cameron, a bright little boy who loves nothing better than curling the hair of visitors, is at Glenorchy Primary School, while his brother is a budding soccer star. Michelle has just got a part-time job working in a canteen, while her partner is a pensioner while he waits for a knee reconstruction next week. "We've always been battlers, but the kids come first," Michelle's partner said. "It's like that when Cameron comes to stay -- we take him out fishing on the boat or take him driving in the four-wheel-drive -- we'll do anything to help our kids."

Michelle angrily denies she has not visited Cameron for six months at a time and disputes court documents that say she has refused to collect Cameron or "engage with (departmental) services (staff).". Instead, she tells a story of not being offered help. Of not being told about support systems that were available -- which she has since been offered in droves since yesterday when Cameron's case was made public. "It's not as if I ever said that `OK, he's autistic, I'll dump him here and someone else can deal with him'," Michelle sobs. "But you just feel after a while that you are banging your head against a brick wall; that the department is stretched to the limit and doesn't seem to have the funds or the services they need to have to help people like me or Cameron."

The big issue for the couple is really as much about public housing as getting more support to cope with an autistic child. They say they cannot have Cameron back with them while they live in their Glenorchy home surrounded by steep steps, footpaths, fast cars and a little back garden. "Ideally, we need another government house that is a bit bigger and out of town on a bigger flat block, where Cameron can ride his bike and play, without me having to watch him 24 hours a day," Michelle said. "I've never said I don't want Cammy, just that this house is too dangerous for him to live in."

The family have never been offered a combined case management session with a public housing representative and a disability services or child support worker. Last night, Michelle was told that a foster family had been found for Cameron to live with immediately. At first tearful, she then conceded it was probably a good thing in the short term for Cameron, if only to get him out of the inappropriate Lutana centre. But after the fuss of the past day, Michelle and her partner are determined to get Cameron back living with them in the long term, and for regular access visits in their home while he remains in foster care.

Mr Byrne said he was reviewing all of Cameron's case and was absolutely prepared to "re-engage with the family" if they wanted to be involved. Michelle said: "All I can hope is that out of all these half truths and lies told about me and my family in the past day, that it is all for Cameron's good in the long run. "I don't want empty promises -- I've had enough of them -- but if we can get a more suitable house and some help with Cameron and then get him home, that's all I could ever want."


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Red in more ways than one

Background: Julia Gillard, the Deputy Federal leader of the Australian Labor Party has red hair. The rather nauseating picture below shows her cosying up to Australia's most famous former union leader, who looks distinctly wary. Pic of peacenik Cindy Sheehan with Jesse Jackson (who also seems unmoved) included for comparison. Such "liberated" women!

Comment by Andrew Bolt:

What you were matters less than what you are, so it can't hurt Julia Gillard to admit her past -- and reject it. Then why won't she? Fact: for at least eight years the deputy Labor leader was an official of the hard-Left Socialist Forum. Here's how Melbourne University's archives describe her group: "The Socialist Forum was established in 1984, initially by disaffected members of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA). Its membership included Australian Labor Party (ALP) members and political activists . . . (Its) stated aim was to contribute to the development of democratic socialism in Australia . . ." And one of its unstated aims was to help former communists join Labor.

Back then Gillard had no trouble admitting to that communist influence, writing in an SF pamphlet: "Around 45 of the forum's members left the Communist Party of Australia in the division of a year ago . . ." She'd know. She not only wrote such pamphlets for the SF's 200 or more members, but worked until 1993 -- when she'd already become a lawyer -- as its organiser and then on its management committee. The policies she pushed were the usual sandwich-board stuff: scrapping our US alliance, super-taxing the rich, introducing death duties, blah blah. But here's a novel one: twinning Melbourne with Leningrad -- renamed now, post-communism, St Petersburg.

Of course, most of us grow wiser with experience and -- note well, young radicals -- leave such heady but ruinous Leftism behind. But has Gillard? It's a fair question to ask someone who wants to be our deputy prime minister, in charge of workplace "reform", especially when she's part of a Labor team of which some 70 per cent are ex-union officials. But here's the troubling thing about her replies. Far from repudiating her past radicalism, she refuses to even admit to it. Here, for instance, is part of her interview on the ABC's Lateline program on Wednesday:
Gillard: I was a full-time university student and I had a part-time job for an organisation called Socialist Forum, which was a sort of debating society . . .

Interviewer: It wasn't a front organisation for communists?

Gillard: Certainly not. It was an organisation where people who identified themselves as progressives, some in the Labor Party, some outside the Labor Party, would come together and would talk about ideas. I did clerical and administrative work . . .

Good skills with that airbrush, Julia.

Gillard -- a long-time official and a leader of a group created by communists -- is transformed. In her new version, she becomes just a part-time typist in her "student days" for "progressives", who merely debated stuff. Her communists become simply people "outside the Labor Party". That's neither frank nor, I suggest, quite honest. And when asked a direct question . . .
Interviewer: Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?

Gillard: Tony, I think that question shows how silly all of this is getting, though I suspect in this interview, probably the Howard Government would think you're the dangerous radical. After all, I'm only from the Labor Party, you're from the ABC.

A "no" would have been shorter. But more importantly, can Gillard now own up to her past radicalism, and explain how she came to reject it? After all, she's still of the Socialist Left and as Labor's health spokesman at the last election offered us the Whitlamesque Medicare Gold disaster, after choosing as her leader the anti-American Mark Latham. She has some reassuring to do.


Another shocking public hospital

With official coverup, of course

TWO sisters told yesterday how they kidnapped their mother from the troubled Hervey Bay Hospital because they feared she was starving to death. The sisters, who are nurses, said they were horrified at the treatment their mother, Marjorie Holland, was receiving after suffering a stroke in November last year. Cecile Lyons and Michelle Downes, 51-year-old twins, said they tricked hospital staff into thinking they were taking their mother out for fresh air.

"My partner John (Reason) was waiting in the carpark for a quick getaway," Ms Lyons said. "I took her out in an armchair with wheels. We ditched the chair in the carpark and sped off to the Royal in Brisbane. "We had no choice. She was lapsing into unconsciousness."

The twins accused some hospital staff of incompetence in a formal complaint in which they alleged their 76-year-old mother was dehydrated and starving. Other more serious allegations cannot be reported on legal advice. They said their mother did not see a doctor for days and was not put on a drip until her eighth day in hospital.

In hospital Mrs Holland developed deep vein thrombosis and later had her leg amputated at Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital. Mrs Lyons said she and her sister were the first to diagnose the DVT. "It was a nightmare," Ms Lyons said. "She was left to dehydrate and starve as a treatment for stroke. She did not have food for 17 days yet the hospital told us my mother was happy with her care."

An expert panel set up by the Health Quality and Complaints Commission to investigate the sisters' complaints agreed Mrs Holland should have been given intravenous fluids earlier. The panel led by the University of Queensland's Professor Ian Scott, also found that "heparin (anticoagulant) therapy should have been given from the date of admission". However, earlier treatment "was unlikely to have changed the outcome for Mrs Holland", Professor Scott said. The commission concluded that the care provided to Mrs Holland at Hervey Bay was "reasonable".

Mrs Holland, who suffered some brain damage, now lives in a NSW retirement village. There were findings against Hervey Bay Hospital in 2005 in the health inquiry headed by Geoff Davies, QC. The Courier-Mail understands several former patients have since received confidential settlements.


Government hospitals under fire for mistreating elderly

POOR care of the elderly in some hospitals is prompting nursing homes to photograph their patients before admission and as they leave. Aged patients are often discharged from hospital malnourished and with bed sores, a national survey of 370 nursing homes found. A majority of nursing homes said they experienced several cases every year of residents returning from hospital with ulcers and skin tears, but without acknowledgement in the hospital's clinical notes. The author of the study, Tracey McDonald, professor of ageing at the Australian Catholic University, said the numerous "compromised skin integrity" cases raised by nursing homes was "a very disturbing issue".

The reputation of some hospital staff was such that at least four nursing homes had taken to photographing their residents' skin before and after hospital stays to prove to relatives of the patient that the nursing home care was of good quality. Nursing home staff saw few attempts by hospital staff at preventing trauma or even treating wounds when they occur. "In fact, respondents [to the survey] perceive an attitude of mendacity and blame emanating from the hospitals . where some clinicians falsely accuse aged care homes of causing the wounds and even mislead families into blaming the aged care home."

Professor McDonald's report was commissioned by Aged Care Association Australia, which represents nursing homes, as a result of significant concerns about the condition of patients transferred between nursing homes and hospitals. The report assessed the detailed answers from 371 nursing homes who responded. A breakdown of the findings showed that NSW hospitals performed better than other states on most indicators, but poorly on medication arrangements for aged care patients leaving hospital. Inadequate or absent notification of drug requirements could lead to "dangerous" problems in such areas as the prescription of sedatives and psychotropic drugs for mental illness.

Poor nutrition of elderly patients was also at disturbing levels and while NSW reported fewer problems, the issue was still a cause for concern, with 40 per cent of nursing homes in large regional centres reporting residents with nutritional problems on return from hospitals. Another key issue was the timing of transfer of residents to aged care facilities, which said Professor McDonald, could often be late at night and at short notice, a confusing experience for people in their 80s or 90s.

Other shortcomings often mentioned were lack of patient records provided by the hospital on the patient's treatment, hampering the home's efforts to provide proper care of what could be life-threatening conditions. Poor care of mental health patients was also reported, with evidence suggesting that in some cases patients were sedated before departure from hospital, leaving them unsupervised and vulnerable at points in the transfer process.

The chief executive of the Aged Care Association, Rod Young, called for urgent action to avoid harm to vulnerable and confused patients which, he said, would inevitably end up "leading to death in some instances".


Government school unable to stop bullying

Good at bulldust, though

Dale Fitzhenry was a happy grade 4 student until he was picked on by a vicious school bully last term, his family says. Over 12 weeks Dale, 10, said he was repeatedly kicked, punched and pushed by a classmate. He claims he was assaulted so badly he suffered concussion one lunch time. His glasses were shattered in another playground attack at River Gum Primary School in Hampton Park.

His attacker, who was in Dale's 3/4 composite class, received a suspension, Dale's mother said. The school said the accused bully was moved to another class. It said every effort was made to settle a dispute between the students.

Dale now attends another school. His mother said her boy suffers nightmares and his doctor has recommended that he see a psychologist. Mum Melissa Fitzhenry believes the school did not do enough to protect her son. "I was going up to the school every second day, begging them to do something, telling them my son is coming home terrified," she said. Ms Fitzhenry said the school's decision to keep the bully in Dale's class made no sense. "I am so angry that I have had to pull Dale out of school while the bully remains in class," she said. "I think the bully should have been pulled out of the school."

Acting principal Joan Johnston said the school put strategies in place to deal with the situation and kept Ms Fitzhenry informed with letters and offers of further help. "Any bullying is taken very seriously at River Gum Primary School and is simply not tolerated," Ms Johnston said. "If any students or their parents have any concerns they are always encouraged to come and see me and we will take immediate and appropriate action. "I can assure parents that it was taken very seriously at the time by the school and dealt with promptly and appropriately."

Dale said he was disappointed with the school. "They just told me to stay away from him, but he kept coming after me," Dale said. "It made me very sad and angry, and I just wished they would have made him stay inside at lunch time like I asked, or I wished they expelled him." Bullying expert Evelyn Field said the school had failed Dale. "The situation always seems to end with the bullies staying and the victims leaving," said Ms Field, a psychologist.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Howard tells Rudd to 'grow up'

The usual Leftist glass jaw again. (In boxing, a fighter who is easily knocked out is said to have a "glass jaw")

PRIME Minister John Howard has told Labor Leader Kevin Rudd to "grow up" and stop complaining about government attacks on him and his party. The government has this week run ads attacking Mr Rudd and his treasury spokesman Wayne Swan as inexperienced L-platers. Labor quickly launched counter-ads in which Mr Rudd says the ads are part of a government scare campaign.

Mr Howard today said Mr Rudd's complaints about being attacked were "extraordinary". "What the Labor Party is saying is please don't attack us," Mr Howard told reporters in Brisbane. "What they're really saying is it's unfair and illegitimate for the Labor Party to be attacked in this election campaign."

Mr Howard said Mr Rudd and Labor seemed entirely happy to attack the government and were applying a double standard. "Can I just say to Mr Rudd: grow up," Mr Howard said. "I mean realise that you are in a very willing political contest, and this is a contest for the government of Australia, it's a contest for the hearts and minds of the Australian people."

Mr Howard said "of course" the government would point out in its new ads that 70 per cent of Labor's frontbench were former union officials: "It's not negative, it's not dirty, it's not personal, it's true."


Australians getting rich

Treasury data shows local consumers have never been in better financial shape. Australians' average net wealth has doubled in the past five years to about $408,000 - up $22,000 in the past three months. It's the world's fastest rate of growth in personal wealth over five years, according to a Boston Consulting Group study. Much of the 19 per cent annual gain was boosted by a slide in the US dollar, but Australia's rate of growth was more than twice the increase in the global average of 8.6 per cent a year.

CommSec chief economist Craig James said yesterday wealth levels were now likely to level off after the solid gains of recent years. "But rather than slow down, private-sector wealth has picked up steam, rising in the past quarter just shy of the fastest pace in nine years," he said. Mr James said the financial strength of Australians meant most consumers could cope with another interest rate rise as early as next month. A hike in an election month would be unprecedented, but financial markets said it was nearly an each-way bet, with the pricing at 46 per cent. "The Reserve Bank will look at the wealth figures and conclude that Australians can weather another rate hike," Mr James said. "The economy is at full capacity. The good news is that immigration and investment are rising and supply is continuing to expand. "The Reserve Bank clearly has reason to be worried about inflation."

The publication of September quarter inflation numbers next Wednesday will be a critical point in the RBA's negotiations on Melbourne Cup Day. Westpac senior economist Anthony Thompson said the bank expected headline inflation to reach 1.1 per cent in the quarter. Higher food, housing and alcohol expenses were likely to make the largest contribution to price increases.

BCG partner and Australian financial services practice head Matthew Rogozinski said the increase in wealth was due to the combination of strong financial market performance over an extended period, and the superannuation system, which had mandated a high level of savings.


Ears to the pulpit, when it suits

The article below by Gerard Henderson might also have mentioned the enormous outrage when a tiny Christian sect -- the Exclusive Brethren -- supported the conservatives in the last election. A non-Leftist church was just unforgiveable and had to be in the wrong

Believe it or not, it now appears that Christian leaders in Australia can enter the political debate without being lectured concerning that which belongs to God and that which belongs to Caesar. Provided they choose a fashionable topic, of course. As in criticising the Howard Government's Work Choices legislation.

Take the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, for example. Earlier this year Cardinal George Pell was severely criticised for his public comments opposing a bill to expand stem cell research, which was then before the NSW Parliament. So much so that his views were referred to the Privileges Committee, for possible censure, by the Greens MP Lee Rhiannon. Pell was cleared. But this does not negate the fact that Rhiannon believes the Archbishop's views should be curtailed when he speaks out on what is clearly an issue of faith and morals.

Last Wednesday Pell addressed the National Press Club in Canberra on the topic of World Youth Day, to be celebrated in Sydney in July. Following the talk, he was asked a number of questions, including one on Work Choices. Pell reaffirmed that he'd been critical of the Howard Government's industrial relations reform agenda but said he was "very pleased" to see that the Coalition had "reinstated the no-disadvantage clause, especially for minimum wage earners".

Did Rhiannon have any objection to Pell's criticism of the original Work Choices legislation? Not at all. It seems the Greens MPs only get upset when church leaders speak about morality and are unfazed by their entry into political debate, provided their views are at least compatible with a regulatory agenda.

During the question period, Pell was asked about Labor's education policy under Kevin Rudd - who has junked Mark Latham's approach at the 2004 election and brought the ALP into line with the Coalition. He replied that he was "certainly happy to endorse . the schools policy, for the Catholic and independent schools, of the Labor Party". Fair enough.

On the ABC Radio Sunday Profile program last weekend, the presenter, Monica Attard, claimed that Pell "has come out in support of the ALP - and its education policy, in particular". Pell has not endorsed either Labor or the Coalition. Rather, he made it clear at the National Press Club that he was "more than happy" to leave the choice between John Howard and Rudd "to the individual voters". This is the kind of howler that should be picked up by the ABC TV Media Watch program. But as Attard presents that program as well, this seems unlikely. Attard is focused on the (alleged) errors of others.

Attard's false claim re Pell occurred during an introduction to her guest Peter Jensen, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney. As was to be expected, the presenter indicated her disagreement with Jensen on such matters as the consecration of female bishops in the Anglican Church. However, the questions were much softer when Jensen criticised the Howard Government's reform of industrial relations. His point was that Australians are "financially wealthy" but "relationship poor". He advocates a re-regulation of the industrial relations system to bring about a "shared day off".

When the likes of Pell and Jensen express doubts about industrial relations reform, they invariably receive sympathetic coverage in the media. This suggests that, now at least, it's okay for church leaders to talk about politics - at least when they are opposing deregulation in particular and economic reform in general. Most of the journalists and academics who comment on such matters agree with the Pell/Jensen position and this ensures favourable coverage.

For politicians who are committed to an economic reform agenda, however, the publicly expressed views of church leaders and clerical organisations can be frustrating. This was evident when the federal Health Minister, Tony Abbott, addressed the Institute of Public Affairs, also on Wednesday. Abbott, a Catholic, criticised bodies such as the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council and stated that "a political argument is not transformed into a moral argument simply because it's delivered with an enormous dollop of sanctimony".

Abbott's frustration is understandable. Industrial relations reform started with Paul Keating's Labor government and the rate of change was substantially increased due to the initiatives of Howard, Peter Costello, Abbott and the like. Before the reform process, unemployment was more than 10 per cent. It is now close to 4 per cent, with a rate of about 3 per cent a real possibility.

Yet the publications of such bodies as the Social Justice Council and the Australian Catholic Council for Employment Relations make virtually no reference to the fact that unemployment has been substantially reduced following the industrial relations reform. Interviewed on the PM program on Thursday, Sister Libby Rogerson, social justice director for the Parramatta Catholic diocese, ran the same line as those two councils when she complained that "a young person from Mt Druitt going for his or her first job" is in "no position to negotiate their pay and conditions". Clearly she wants the trade unions involved.

Rogerson seems oblivious to the fact that, without industrial relations reform, such a young person would have found it very difficult - if not impossible - to find a job. This is something that church leaders, and organisations run by the Christian churches - such as the Social Justice Council and Anglicare - rarely acknowledge.

The unfashionable fact is that nations which have paid heed to Catholic social teaching have had poor economic outcomes. Ireland and Italy come to mind. Ireland recovered from high unemployment only after it embraced economic reform. The churches have a right to enter the public debate. And citizens - Christian and non-Christian - have the right to contest their views with respect to the secular and the spiritual.


Amazing medical job offer

Politicians trying to spin out of it

A job offer made to a doctor who pleaded guilty to contributing to the death of a patient has been withdrawn, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has said. The Queensland Medical Tribunal yesterday banned Dr Jaideep Bali from practising for 10 months after he pleaded guilty to misconduct over the death of Lillian Shaw, 67, in January 2005. The tribunal heard that despite the plea, Logan Hospital, south of Brisbane, was prepared to offer the foreign-trained doctor a job.

Ms Bligh today said the offer was always conditional on the tribunal's decision, and had now been withdrawn. "An offer by Logan Hospital of a temporary junior doctor position was always conditional on the doctor having current registration and meeting other medical board and Queensland Health requirements," Ms Bligh told state parliament. "The offer to Dr Bali has been withdrawn following yesterday's outcome in the tribunal."

Ms Bligh said the case was proof that the checks and balances put in place after the Dr Jayant Patel scandal were working. Dr Patel fled to the US after he was linked to the deaths of 17 patients at Bundaberg Base Hospital. "Queensland Health will not employ any doctor who does not have current registration with the Medical Board," Ms Bligh said. "Put simply - no registration, no job - this doctor did not get through our screening processes."


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bishop: Anglicans must abandon Anglicanism in order to save it

Or something like that. Decoding theologians is hard work. The take-home message below seems to be that the Sydney diocese is divisive and a big problem and it should give up its old-fashioned adherence to the Bible. The Sydney diocese is the only one that is true to the heavily evangelical principles of the Church of England's original 39 "Articles of religion" of 1563. It is also the only diocese that is flourishing and growing. Just that one diocese accounts for a third of Australia's churchgoing Anglicans. So how come it is the problem? Is it not the other dioceses -- which are fading away -- that are the problem?

Tribalistic tendencies are preventing the Anglican Church of Australia from presenting a united front to the nation and only a comprehensive "makeover" will render it a viable force. Warning of the potential for "anarchy" and highlighting the "political naivety" of church leaders, bishop and scholar Tom Frame says market research is needed [Good Lord! Market research to dictate what is taught!! How pathetic can an alleged Christian get? A real Christian would look to the teachings of Christ] to improve the denomination's profile and boost creative planning.

Bishop Frame, director of St Mark's National Theological Centre in Canberra, has set out his thoughts on the future of the church in a book, Anglicans in Australia, released as final preparations are made for the three-yearly general synod, which begins in Canberra on Saturday. "Both clergy and laity have a poor understanding of Anglicanism, and in many places commitment to the church is weak and faltering," Bishop Frame writes. Highly critical of the in-fighting between the church factions - evangelical, liberal and Anglo-Catholic - Bishop Frame says Anglicans "need to develop and retain a clear focus on the world and its redemption rather than focusing on the church and its structures".

Anglicans are the second-largest group of Christians in the country after the Catholics. According to last year's census, there are 3.7 million adherents. But attendance has been slipping for years and latest national attendance figures, from the National Life Survey of 2001, show 178,000 attend weekly. [less than 5%] Archbishop Peter Jensen's Sydney diocese is a notable exception to the trend.

Bishop Frame's Anglicans in Australia is a history of the church, and while he does not offer a plan for wholesale reform, he casts forward to the likely fate of the institution if trends persist. "I believe that in a generation's time, the Anglican Church of Australia will continue to exist as a national entity, although it will remain internally fractured by theological differences entrenched in diocesan identities." One of these is the ascendance of the evangelical viewpoint, which emphasises the authority of the Bible above all else, including the church traditions of Anglicanism.

But he warns Sydney will face an identity crisis when its leadership finds "the abandonment of Anglican structures and customs leaves little in church life that is distinctly or demonstrably Anglican. Ecclesiastical anarchy and theological incoherence is a distinct possibility." [Adherence to the 39 articles is "abandonment of Anglican structures and customs"??? Pure projection. It is the "modernizers" who have "abandoned Anglican structures and customs"]


Below are some of the great old 39 articles that have defined Anglicanism since 1563. They remain a pretty good statement of evangelical Christianity to this day. The Christian message doesn't need changing. It is hypocritical bishops who need to embrace it. They are just men in dresses otherwise -- or "whited sepulchres" [whitewashed tombs] as Christ vividly called their equivalents in his day:

Article 6:

Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.

Article 20:

The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything contrary to God's Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation.

Article 21:

General Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of Princes. And when they be gathered together, (forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and Word of God,) they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of holy Scripture.

Article 22:

The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping, and Adoration as well of Images as of Reliques, and also invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God. ["fond" at the time meant roughly "insane"]

Article 24:

It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the Primitive Church, to have publick Prayer in the Church, or to minister the Sacraments in a tongue not understanded of the people.

Article 38:

The Riches and Goods of Christians are not common, as touching the right, title, and possession of the same, as certain Anabaptists do falsely boast. Notwithstanding, every man ought, of such things as he possesseth, liberally to give alms to the poor, according to his ability.

NSW hospital crisis deepens: Toddler with head injury waits five hours for treatment

More examples of the state's crumbling health system had the Government on the back foot yesterday, after two Sydney families reported waiting up to five hours in emergency for treatment. Howard Williams likened Liverpool Hospital's emergency department to a "war zone" after he rushed his injured son to hospital on Monday night. Mr Williams, a marine engineer, condemned the Government for forcing the public to sit and wait in "third world conditions". Having moved from the US 10 years ago, Mr Williams said he was considering returning because of the poorly run state.

When he arrived at Liverpool Hospital's emergency department at 6.40pm, Mr Williams did not expect to see close to 40 people in front of him. His screaming 15-month-old son George had blood dripping down his head yet it was not until 11.30pm that Mr Williams said he left emergency. "There were people who had been waiting hours before me just sitting out on the street with IVs in their arms," he said. "It was like a war zone." A hospital spokeswoman denied the toddler waited an excessive period. [I would like to see him wait around for 5 hours with his head split open!]

Another family from Sutherland gave up waiting at St George Hospital and took their hysterical son - who had split his head open - to Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick where he was admitted immediately. The entire debacle took close to four hours.

A member of the Government's Emergency Department Taskforce and Nepean Hospital's head of trauma Dr Rob Bishop said there was no excuse for the public to wait. "We don't accept that people should have to wait for long periods and hospitals are overcrowded," he said. "We should be able to treat these people and not have their experience described like a war zone. "It's not a war zone, it's a first class health system." .... [!!!!]


"Green" water supply is filthy and unhealthy

Tank water is often so contaminated with bird and possum poo that it does not pass minimally acceptable standards for consumption, a new study has revealed. Research presented in Queensland suggests about 40 per cent of rainwater tanks contained "heavy amounts" of animal faeces contamination that could lead to gastrointestinal disease. The findings, from a study of 560 homes tracked over five years, originated from New Zealand but Australian experts say the data, the first of its kind, would be an accurate reflection of contamination rates here. It comes as authorities encourage more Australian households to take advantage of tank subsidies to cope with drought and be more environmentally sustainable.

Microbiologist Stan Abbott, director of the Roof Water Research Centre at Massey University in New Zealand, analysed samples of roof-collected rainwater and found 41 per cent were heavily contaminated with faeces. "This contamination can lead to gastrointestinal diseases such as salmonella, campylobacter, giardia and cryptosporidium," Mr Abbott said. At least half the rainwater samples would not have passed the minimally acceptable standards for drinking water, he said. "The likely sources of the faecal contamination were faecal material deposited by birds, rodents, possums and frogs either on the roof, in the gutters or in the water tank," Mr Abbott said.

Relatively few disease outbreaks linked to contaminated roof-collected rainwater have been reported, but specialists in the field believe there is massive under-reporting of such illnesses. Professor Ted Gardner, an expert in water-wise strategies at Queensland Institute of Technology where the research was presented, said more than two million Australians depended on roof-collected rainwater for their drinking water. Most lived rurally with the exception of Adelaide, where well over a third of residents had opted to use rain water. "People love rain water because it's soft and apparently pure, but clearly it comes with more risks than many people realise," Prof Gardner said.

He said authorities nationwide were actively encouraging more Australians to use rainwater, with the Queensland government offering up subsidies for 147,000 tanks in the past 18 months. While these tanks were designed for garden irrigation only, there was a risk that people will decide to drink it too, he said. Experts recommended householders use downpipe debris screens, a first-flush diverter and regularly disinfect their tank to reduce the risk of contracting waterborne diseases. "The risk of disease from roof-collected rainwater can be low if the water is visibly clear, has little taste or smell, and the collection of the rainwater is via a properly maintained tank and roof catchment system," Mr Abbott said.


Can Kevin Rudd ever stop his whining?

Leftists just can't stand criticism

By Andrew Bolt

CRITICISM in politics is not just healthy. It's essential. So can Kevin Rudd stop his whingeing? On Sunday, in his first speech of this election campaign, the Labor leader just couldn't stop complaining about being criticised. "In the days and weeks ahead, the good people of Australia are going to be bombarded with the mother of all negative fear campaigns," he moaned.

But while it was meant as a complaint, it turned out to be a promise. You see, Rudd went on to devote precisely 458 words, or 31 per cent of his speech, to a negative fear campaign, attacking Prime Minister John Howard as "old", "stale", out of ideas and "negative". By the time he'd fielded questions as well, he'd used an astonishing 1820 words, or more than half his comments, berating Howard.

Howard, by contrast, devoted just 125 words - or 20 per cent of his own election announcement -- to criticising Rudd. Same story the next day. Howard went positive, announcing a $34 billion plan to slash taxes over three years. Rudd's line for the day? An absurd scare-'em claim that a re-elected Howard might force state employees on to individual contracts. Yeah, right. So, who's really peddling scares?

Mind you, Rudd's spin sure is working. Here, for instance, is The Age's Michelle Grattan commenting on the two leaders' opening speeches: "Resting heavily on the crutch of negatives, he (Howard) played up the inexperience of the Rudd team . . ."

But why criticism is suddenly a negative anyway is a mystery. For years, Howard has been subjected to one of the most brutal negative campaigns in Australian politics, with the happy participation of the very people complaining he's now going "negative" himself. Remember these lines? Howard is a "liar", a "racist" who "doesn't like Asians", a "suckhole", an "a---licker" and the rest. A Liberal Party elder badly injured in a car crash was "deformed". A conservative columnist and Howard supporter was a "skanky ho". All from Labor.

Rudd, to his great credit, has cracked down on Labor's tradition of vitriolic personal attack, best exemplified by Paul Keating, long a media darling. But more civilised though Rudd is, he certainly isn't above implying Howard is up to his neck in lies and even bribery. Here, for instance, is Rudd on Monday: "This is the Prime Minister who's never accepted a skerrick of responsibility for children overboard, a Prime Minister who's never accepted a skerrick of responsibility for taking us to war in Iraq . . . and a Prime Minister who's not taken a skerrick of responsibility for $300 million worth of bribes being paid to Saddam Hussein to buy guns, bombs and bullets for later use against Australian troops."

Some sledge. But do I criticise Rudd for being negative? Not at all. I accuse him merely of being a hypocrite. In fact, Howard indeed deserves some criticism over those very issues and it's Labor's job to hold his joggers to the fire. Rudd has done that brilliantly. Good on him. From criticism comes better performance. And we need politicians not just to advertise their best, but their opponents' worst, because unless we know the best and the worst of both, how can we wisely choose?

But if Rudd thinks criticism of Howard is legitimate, why is criticism of Rudd not? Lord knows he deserves the scrutiny, and here's why. Few of us really know what Rudd is like, and what a leader he'd make. I've had coffees, lunches and dinners with him, so am better placed to tell than most of you, and even I don't know. I admire his ferocious hard work, his self-discipline, his intelligence, his civility, and his apparently conservative bent - well, conservative for a Labor leader. His family seems a great tribute to him. But what does he really stand for?

So far, the best we know is that he's a mini-Howard. A me-too man, who said me-too when Howard booted out Mohammed Haneef, intervened in Aboriginal communities, sold off the last of Telstra, and tricked up the Murray Darling Basin plan. He also copied Howard's policy to send troops to Afghanistan, keep training troops in Iraq, and maintain logging levels in Tasmania. He even did a me-too on Howard's May Budget.

How much of that was sincere? Take Rudd's most recent me-toos - on the Government's decisions to take in fewer African refugees, approve a pulp mill and keep up funds to private schools. Was that politics or principle? Here's a more troubling example. Just before last week's Bali bombing anniversary, Rudd ran into strife over his policy to lobby everywhere against the death penalty, even for terrorists. He responded not only by junking his policy, but by waving a Liberal document on TV, and protesting: "The Liberal Party's policy, like Labor's policy, is identical." Identical to Howard's? That's all right then. But who will Rudd copy when Howard is gone?

Of course, you might like all this if you are a conservative, as I am, and thought Rudd was sincere. Yet even Leftist commentators are no longer sure of Rudd. Some are now even hoping he's just a fake. Take Professor Robert Manne, who on ABC TV reassured the Left that Rudd might still be their man, despite all his astonishing me-toos. "I think that we will only know what the Rudd government will do in three or four years time because at the moment the Rudd government is avoiding the kind of polemical stoushes with Howard because it knows it can't win ... when he gets into government then we'll begin to see the differences again."

Moralising Manne clearly hopes that when Rudd says me-too, he's just putting the con in conservative. So too, it seems, does the Sydney Morning Herald's political editor, Peter Hartcher, who claimed: "Rudd's me-tooism is his way of refusing to respond to Howard's agenda." Actually, no, Peter. Rudd isn't refusing to respond to Howard's agenda, he's adopting it. Or do you, too, believe he's just lying?

And that's precisely why Rudd, more than most Labor leaders, will face criticism - a "negative" campaign. When his policies to date are so close to Howard's, even on Iraq, the key difference between the two leaders must come down to believability. In Rudd's case we must ask - along with his supporters - whether he really means what he says. Is me-too a promise or a trick? And does he have the strength, the smarts and especially the team to deliver what's promised? That's not being "negative". That is asking the fundamentally important questions of a man who in November may well be our prime minister. Rudd's response should not be to complain, but explain. Oh, and do a little negative campaigning of his own.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Read the three reports of the same event below. I initially read just the first report below on the general News Corp site but immediately smelt a rat because such a thing has never happened in Australia before to my knowledge. Googling turned up the other two reports below -- one of which mentions Muslims and the other of which mentions Africans. Was it Africans versus Muslims or just Africans?

(1). Six people have been arrested while shops and a cinema in Melbourne's west were forced to close during a brawl involving more than 150 people. Police were first called to the Highpoint Shopping Centre in Maribyrnong when a brawl, lasting an hour, erupted inside the cinema at 5pm (AEST) yesterday. Officers helped eject a number of fighting youths then returned to Footscray police station.

But the officers were soon called back, when a second brawl, now involving more than 150 people, broke out. Scores of police cars blocked the shopping centre's entrance as officers from 15 stations attended, and the cinema and shops on level one were shut down as the fighting continued. Six people were arrested, some of whom were dragged away, and capsicum spray was used to subdue the crowd. Those arrested face charges including hindering police and resisting arrest. Police will review video footage of the incident as investigations continue.


(2). Police have denied Highpoint shopping centre is a problem area for ethnic gangs after a wild post-Ramadan brawl at the weekend. It is believed the fight between up to 20 youths erupted about 5pm on Saturday after several members of the group were ejected from the Hoyts cinemas because they were caught without tickets. The group then spilled into the centre's food court where several girls began fighting each other. By the time police arrived to disperse the group, numbers had swelled to more than 100.

Sen-Sgt Dave Byrt, from Footscray police, said the group had gathered to celebrate the end of Ramadan. "Saturday night was just one out of the box in terms of one cultural group coming together in the one place," Sen-Sgt Byrt said. Police arrested six people and were forced to use capsicum spray to subdue sections of the crowd.

Sen-Sgt Byrt denied there was a problem with ethnic gangs at the centre. "In terms of Highpoint we wouldn't have any more trouble there than at any other centre," he said. One trader disagreed, saying some of his staff were too intimidated to work weekend night shifts. "A lot of the girls just won't work nights, we have mostly guys on because they know what can happen," the trader said.


(3). Restaurant patronage next to a cinema complex in Melbourne's west was yesterday said to be down, following a series of violent confrontations between rampaging teenagers and at least one altercation with police on Saturday night. African youths were among the crowd of at least 150 teenagers who confronted police in a series of fights that culminated in two brawls at the Highpoint shopping centre, in Melbourne's west, on Saturday. Teenagers charged at police as they arrived to contain a series of fights at the ground-floor entrance to the Hoyts cinema complex, off the Maribyrnong centre's Warrs Road car park, just after 5pm.

Six people were arrested for hindering police after a series of fights broke out between groups of African youths. Police yesterday said about 10 officers were initially called to the scene. They ejected about 30 people from the Hoyts complex and arrested four others. But after clearing the scene, 20 police in a convoy of more than 15 vehicles returned to the shopping centre less than an hour later to clear a crowd of 150 that had gathered outside. They arrested another two youths and used capsicum spray on a group of 20 who charged at them, then shut the cinema and nearby shops as the brawls continued. No police were injured.


Big tax cut

"John Howard has promised to return $34 billion to taxpayers in one of the boldest starts to an election campaign in Australia's political history. Firing the first shot in what promises to be a Coalition "shock and awe" offensive to destroy Labor's bid for office before it gets started, the Prime Minister and Treasurer Peter Costello outlined a tax policy that would boost family incomes by up to $50 a week. The sweeping reforms - which Mr Costello insisted were fully funded - would set a new tax course for Australia until 2013 if the Coalition was returned to office at the November 24 election.

Labor appeared to be caught out by the announcement, with Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd saying that, while he supported tax cuts, Labor had yet to decide if it would match the Coalition's package.

The Coalition's tax proposal promises, within five years, an end to tax for anyone earning up to $20,000 and a top marginal tax rate of 35 per cent for 98 per cent of taxpayers. The reforms are also designed to spearhead an expected series of policies rolled out over the next six weeks to directly appeal to those missing out on national prosperity.

Mr Costello used an impressive mid-year economic review - showing growth will increase to 4.25 per cent, half a per cent more than budget forecasts - to back his claim the Commonwealth could afford the new tax regime.


Labor to dump ID Card

Wise decision. Government computer databases are almost always a disaster. Britain's NHS database has cost 12 billion (Yes. billion) pounds so far and is still in trouble

A LABOR government would scrap the contentious $1.1 billion Access Card project, human services shadow minister Tanya Plibersek has confirmed. Labor would scrap the proposal entirely, says human services shadow minister Tanya Plibersek. "We have said all along that if the Access Card had not been introduced by the time of the election we would not proceed with it," Ms Plibersek said. "So, yes, we would scrap the proposal entirely."

Touted by the Howard Government as a health and welfare smartcard and anti-fraud measure, the scheme has met with sustained opposition as a de facto identity card. Originally proposed and promoted by then minister Joe Hockey in April 2006, the project has been in limbo since July, following a series of legislative and procurement stumbles.

Human Services Minister Chris Ellison was forced to withdraw enabling legislation in March, after the draft bill was rejected by an all-party Senate committee. A revised exposure bill has since been languishing, with Senator Ellison in June saying the consultation period would extend beyond the 2007 election. "I think the timeline we set was an ambitious one," he said, adding that he would not put the legislation forward until early 2008.

The future of two crucial technology contracts, systems integration and card issuing, is uncertain nearly a year after private sector tenders were called. But the bulk of the $1.1 billion project spend is related to the huge task of registering some 15 million Australians for the card. Other key tenders are for transaction services and the supply of Eftpos terminals. Overall, spending on project consultants, technology and advertising had reached $52 million by September.

Ms Plibersek said Labor considered smartcard technology to offer useful applications, "but we have no plans to look at any similar projects". Labor declared its opposition to the Access Card back in March, with Ms Plibersek describing it as "simply a national ID card in disguise". "It is an ill-conceived, poorly executed project that will cost a great deal more than the Government imagines or is prepared to admit," she said.

Ms Plibersek predicted the card would be an election issue. "It will be on the radar, as people realise every single Australian will have to attend an interview, be photographed and provide original documents they will have to apply for and pay for," she said. "With the potential for the information they provide to be lost, stolen or misused, I think they'll be very anxious."


NSW government caves in -- authorizes full public hospital enquiry

ROYAL North Shore Hospital's emergency department was on its knees the night Jana Horska miscarried in a public toilet of its waiting room, but the hospital has refused to concede just how overcrowded it was. The Herald has learned that at the time she miscarried about 9pm there were 43 patients in emergency and all 28 acute beds were full, including the three resuscitation bay beds.

Ms Horska waited twice as long as her designated triage category of one hour. Sixteen patients had been admitted to the hospital but were waiting for an inpatient bed, and seven of those had been waiting more than eight hours.

Yesterday, the Premier, Morris Iemma, bowed to pressure and said he would support a full, open parliamentary inquiry into systemic problems at the hospital, proposed by the Christian Democrats MP Fred Nile.

Ms Horska, 32, was 14 weeks' pregnant when she miscarried on September 25 after waiting for two hours in acute pain for medical attention. The incident led to a flood of serious complaints by doctors, nurses and patients of similar cases, but the Government had insisted it would not broaden its investigation beyond the incident to examine the entire hospital.

The Herald has repeatedly asked the hospital to explain how crowded the emergency department was that night. Yesterday, a spokeswoman for the hospital said it had already explained that the emergency department was "busy". "Clearly, it was a really busy night, but I don't know whether all the beds were full," she said. She confirmed that 43 patients were in emergency at 9.06pm on September 25. Of those, she said one was categorised as the most critical triage one - a child suffering a seizure who required immediate attention. There were seven triage two patients who needed to be seen within 10 minutes, and 14 triage three (to be seen within 30 minutes). There were 18 semi-urgent category four cases needing review within 60 minutes, including Ms Horska, and five non-urgent cases requiring attention within two hours, she said.

She said the acting director of clinical operations, Julie Hartley-Jones, had previously apologised to Ms Horska and her family. "She [Ms Hartley-Jones] mentioned that the emergency department was busy with staff treating a number of critical cases on the night Ms Horska was waiting to be seen," the spokeswoman said. An internal investigation into Ms Horska's case was launched immediately. "Royal North Shore Hospital felt Ms Horska's case was serious and deserved to be responded to in its own right," she said.

Emergency heads from several public hospitals are to meet the Health Minister, Reba Meagher, this week to discuss their concerns about staffing. Mr Nile will move a motion in the upper house today for a joint select committee to inquire into clinical management systems at the hospital, staffing, resource allocation (particularly in emergency), complaints handling, and to consider strategies for improving patient care which could also be adopted at other public hospitals.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Election date now set

Post lifted from a fellow Queenslander. See the original for links

John Howard called the 2007 federal election yesterday, ending what many would have considered an almost marathon wait for the election to be set.

In calling the election, Howard cleverly rebutted Labor's slogan of `New Leadership', by stating that Australia does not need new leadership, or old leadership, but the right leadership. This is an intelligent way of deflecting attention on his age, and turning his experience into a plus. The debate then turns not on whether Howard has served for long enough, but whether he is still the best candidate. Given the fact that he is the incumbent, this is a good way of turning the nation's economic success into a powerful election weapon.

For the fourth consecutive occasion, many lefties will be wringing their hands, believing that this time will surely will the end of their great anti-hero, the Prime Minister that up to now has managed to elude defeat time and time again. As we have pointed out many times, they have still yet be bitterly disappointed.

We say this particularly since the Coalition's campaign will again focus on the economy, and who the voters can rely on to keep it strong. This campaign was so effective in 2004 that already we have seen the use of those infamous "L" plates used to describe the leader of the Opposition again. Coalition commercials will no doubt continually bombard our television sets with the same messages about the economy, just to make sure that everyone gets the idea. Those who think that this election is a foregone conclusion for Labor forget the fact that until now the Coalition has conserved fire, but will surely return fire consistently over the next six weeks.

The expected election issues will be:

- the economy (major issue)
- interest rates
- climate change
- education
- health
- industrial relations
- troops in Iraq (not a great difference here).

Non-issues, or points of agreement between the Government and the Opposition include:

- tough entry restrictions on unions entering workplaces
- the private health insurance rebate
- intervention in NT indigenous communities
- troops in Afghanistan.
- The Tasmanian pulp mill.

Some have accused Labor of too much "mee-tooism", as a result of the fact that Labor is in agreement with many Coalition policies. This however neglects the fact that Labor must to the centre in order to appeal to swinging voters, as have we previously pointed out. The only danger is that Labor is accused of lacking policies of their own, or of lackjing substance.

It will be interesting to see how this campaign goes. Certainly the Government has some good material at its disposal, for instance Kevin Rudd's stumble on productivity earlier this year on ABC radio, and his ignorance concerning the marginal tax rates. These can be used to show that Kevin Rudd does not know much about the Australian economy, and hence represents a risk to jobs and growth. If the Coalition are to have any chance at all, their election ads will have to be hard-hitting and brutally effective. The message has to always be that Labor is a risk, and hence cannot be trusted.

Labor in turn will have to do its best in minimising the economy's ability to undermine its campaign. It will be interesting to see how the `economic conservative' tag that Rudd has applied to himself will succeed in assuring the voters that the Labor party will be a safe option. Releasing an actual policy will be helpful to this end, otherwise Labor runs the real risk of being seen as good at spin and light on substance, a theme that the Coalition has been increasingly employed when attacking Mr Rudd.

Attempting to revive history education

AS expected, Prime Minister John Howard's intervention in the culture wars, represented by the proposed Australian history guide for years 9 and 10 of high school, has drawn a chorus of criticism from the usual suspects. State Labor education ministers are one in the argument that each of their history curriculum documents represents best practice and that the guide is superfluous and a political stunt. Historians such as the University of Melbourne 's Stuart Macintyre, author of The History Wars and a vocal opponent of the Howard Government's education polices, have criticised the guide as well meant but overly detailed, solipsistic and difficult to implement in the classroom.

As a result of a 1991 meeting of Australian education ministers, the school curriculum was divided into eight learning areas and history was re-badged as "time, continuity and change", disappearing into the amorphous and politically correct stew represented by the subject known as studies of society and environment.

While the secondary school curriculum in NSW, and more recently Victoria, gives history special status, treating it as a stand-alone subject and detailing significant events, people and historical forces that must be taught, the subject has not fared as well in other jurisdictions.

The more conservative view - where students are taught a narrative associated with significant historical events, individuals and historical forces that shaped Australia's growth as a nation - has been jettisoned in favour of an inquiry-based issues approach that emphasises what is local and contemporary. Teaching what US academic Jerome Bruner has termed the structure of a discipline has given way to so-called generic skills, dispositions and competencies. This is largely as a result of Australia's adoption of outcomes-based education, otherwise known as Essential Learnings.

The Tasmanian and the South Australian Essential Learnings approach defines curriculum in terms of broad and vacuous categories such as futures, identity, interdependence and thinking and communication. In Queensland, the main SOSE values are defined as peace, ecological and economic sustainability, social justice and democratic process, all with a politically correct slant. The West Australian Curriculum Framework document describes history as "time, continuity and change" and, instead of detailing what should be taught, provides teachers with generalised outcome statements, such as: "They (students) can identify the constructive and destructive consequences of continuity and change and describe examples of both evolutionary and revolutionary change."

Unlike the approach associated with SOSE, Howard's new Guide to Teaching Australian History in Years 9 and 10 treats it as a stand-alone subject, and its authors bite the bullet and stipulate in detail a series of topics, milestones and essential content that all students need to learn if they are to understand and appreciate the nation's past. Although it's being attacked as the product of a conservative ideology, it should be noted the new guide is inclusive when it suggests students should study history through a range of perspectives, including those of gender, the environment, and indigenous and everyday life.

History teaching, and education more broadly, was once based on a belief in essential content, and that some interpretations are closer to the truth than others and that evidence should be weighed impartially. But the SOSE curriculums argue that interpreting the past is subjective and clouded by each person's ideological baggage and that it is wrong to stipulate what must be taught about it.

In 1992, the new history within the Victorian curriculum was celebrated on the basis that "there is no single version of history that can be presented to students. History is a version of the past (that) varies according to the person and the times ... each generation reinterprets the past in the light of its own values and attitudes." The 2000 edition of the Queensland SOSE document says students should be told "knowledge is always tentative", that they should "critique the socially constructed elements of text"and understand "how privilege and marginalisation are created and sustained in society".

Instead of providing a clear narrative detailing Australia's unique cultural and social growth and valuing what we hold in common, the SOSE approach emphasises diversity and difference. The Tasmanian curriculum, in explaining what is meant by social responsibility, emphasises the need to endorse "multiple perspectives" and "diverse views".

The South Australian curriculum, in outlining the importance of students having an understanding of cultural and global connections, also emphasises diversity and difference, as does the ACT curriculum, under the heading "Australian perspectives", in saying that students should experience the "diversity of Australian life".

The way studying Australian history is described in the Victorian curriculum also stresses diversity and multiple influences. Significant is that the new federal guide, in opposition to the idea of cultural relativism, acknowledges under the perspective "beliefs and values" the importance of "the influence of Christian churches and the liberal democratic philosophies" that underpin and safeguard our unique way of life.

A 1999 report, The Future of the Past, funded by the federal Government and written by historian Tony Taylor of Monash University, concludes that "Australian history in schools is characterised by lack of continuity, topic repetition and lack of coherence". The national history report also includes an observation by Monash University historian Mark Peel that many students enter university with a fragmented historical understanding.

Peel observed that while they might be strong in terms of questioning interpretations and appreciating the contribution of those voices normally excluded, such as Aborigines and women, undergraduate students lacked an understanding of the larger picture or the ability to place isolated events and issues within the broader context. Peel states: "Students seem anxious about the absence of a story by which to comprehend change, or to understand how the nation and world they are about to inherit came to be. They do have maps of the past. Their maps are more likely than mine to focus on particular visual images, those snatches of documentary film or photographs (that) increasingly encapsulate the past. Indeed, their sense of the world's history is often based on intense moments and fragments that have no real momentum or connection."

In a speech given at the Queensland Teachers Union conference in 2005, Australian Education Union president Pat Byrne effectively argued that the cultural Left had extended its influence in and through the education system. Byrne said: "We have succeeded in influencing the curriculum development in schools, education departments and universities. The conservatives have a lot of work to do to undo the progressive curriculum." Although yet to be translated into classroom practice, the new guide to Australian history suggests that Byrne should not be overconfident.


Wholesale hospital takeover ruled out

The Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott says he will not commit the Commonwealth to taking over all of Tasmania's public hospitals. The Australian Medical Association this morning called on the federal government to either to own and manage all of the states public hospitals or none. The Commonwealth has already intervened at the Mersey Hospital in the state's north west and has also hinted it could do the same at the Launceston General Hospital.

But Mr Abbott says they will not manage all of the states public hospitals and has urged Tasmanians who are upset about the health system to reflect it at the ballot box. "My message to people is if they don't like what the State Government has done, they shouldn't vote Labor," Mr Abbott said. "State Labor created this mess and Federal Labor would just make it worse."


Hope for toad problem

Not even a Greenie could love Northern Australia's toad plague

Scientists have made an intriguing discovery that could help the fight to eradicate cane toads. They have found the fastest toads leading the westward invasion across Australia's Top End - the ones with the longest legs - have a remarkably high incidence of spinal disease. And they are hoping with a bit of biological engineering they can take even more spring out of their step.

Biology professor Rick Shine says the toads' fast-paced spread could help bring about their demise. "What we discovered is that there's a real cost to that behaviour, and that the toads at the invasion front have got a remarkably high frequency of spinal arthritis," he said.

Professor Shine says scientists in Darwin recently stumbled on a peculiar phenomenon: that the fastest, fittest toads - particularly the ones with the longest legs - often have huge lumps on their backbones. He says this suggests that those toads leading the invasion are developing serious spinal problems. "It's sort of the mathematics of evolution: any individual that slows down gets left behind," he said. "The only animals you get at the invasion front are the ones that are the descendants of the ones that went fastest, who in turn are the descendants of the ones that went fastest. "So it's a cumulative process where any characteristic that enables toads to go quicker and quicker ends up at the invasion front, and it reaches the stage where it's pushing the toads' body plan about as far as it can go. "So we start to see these rather horrific spinal problems developing."

Professor Shine says the discovery is bolstering hopes that with a bit of biological tinkering, the toads could at least be slowed down, if not reduced in number. "The arthritis is partly driven by a soil bacteria; normally it's all over the place, and it normally doesn't cause any problems except for people who have got immune problems," he said. "It looks like the toads' immune system is under such pressure that they're actually now vulnerable to attack by these otherwise very benign bacteria. "And that kind of gives us a hint that maybe the toads' immune systems are a real Achilles heel that we might be able to exploit in looking for ways to control cane toads."

Professor Shine says researchers are now looking at a worm parasite that afflicts older toads and frogs, to see if it can be developed against the wider toad population. "We've taken a relatively simple-minded ecological and behavioural approach - the idea being that rather than jumping out there trying to kill toads, maybe the first step is to try to understand them," he said. "Maybe with a better understanding of the ecology of toads we'll get a much better position to work out how to control them."


Monday, October 15, 2007

A very noisy "silence" among Australia's "censored" Leftist intellectuals

Unless you listen to them worshipfully, they claim that they are being "censored". They are like spoiled children. They should encounter REAL censorship -- like the difficulty a conservative has in getting a teaching job in the Arts faculty of a university

Seldom in the history of public debate have the allegedly silenced been so vocal. Last Friday the ABC Radio National Australia Talks program ran a session from the recent Brisbane Writers Festival. It was one of those familiar taxpayer-subsidised events where members of the left intelligentsia gather to have their prejudices confirmed.

On this occasion the Australia Institute executive director, Clive Hamilton, essentially agreed with the social researcher Hugh Mackay who essentially agreed with the journalist David Marr about contemporary Australia. Needless to say, the audience had a ball. Especially when Hamilton argued that pokie taxes at the Rooty Hill RSL should be increased to fund 1000 public intellectuals. In certain circles, there is a lot to be said for redistribution of income which takes money from lower-income earners in the suburbs and uses it to fund inner-city types who like to describe themselves as public intellectuals.

Hamilton and Sarah Maddison are the editors of Silencing Dissent (Allen & Unwin, 2007), which argues that the Howard Government is controlling public opinion and stifling debate. In keeping with the forum's format, Marr agreed with Hamilton that John Howard was intent on silencing his critics. No one in the audience appeared to query how this could be the case when both men had a gig at the Brisbane Writers' Festival and their thoughts would be preserved for posterity, courtesy of the taxpayer-funded public broadcaster.

It was much the same message on Sunday night when SBS ran an episode of Pria Viswalingam's documentary series titled Decadence. Early in the program, footage was shown of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz with the now familiar link to modern Australia. Also, the presenter primarily interviewed members of the left intelligentsia who agree with him that Australia has become a decadent democracy. Then the academic Robert Manne joined Hamilton in alleging that dissent was not allowed under the Howard Government.

The very existence of Viswalingam's taxpayer-subsidised documentary indicates that, whatever its intentions, the Howard Government has not prevailed in the culture wars. However, the likes of Hamilton and Manne used their interviews on prime time television to argue that people like them are not heard.

The opinion polls provide the only scientific evidence about the likely outcome of the forthcoming election. They indicate that the Howard Government is heading for a devastating loss. Moreover, Kevin Rudd and many Labor candidates - especially Maxine McKew, who is hoping to defeat the Prime Minister in Bennelong - have experienced a most friendly media throughout the year. This would not have been possible if Howard either controlled public opinion or stifled debate.

The argument that the Howard Government is silencing dissent has now gone so far that ministers are criticised for taking on their critics. No such standard was ever required of the former governments headed by Paul Keating, Bob Hawke, Malcolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam.

Last Tuesday the Herald and The Age gave page one coverage to a report called Australia@Work, which was funded by Unions NSW and the Australian Research Council. The study, which is critical of the Howard Government's industrial relations reforms, was soon attacked by the Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, and the Treasurer, Peter Costello. They drew attention to the fact that the project was partly funded by the trade union movement and that two of its authors, Brigid van Wanrooy and John Buchanan, have worked for trade unions in the past.

Hockey and Costello were soon hit with the allegation that they were attempting to silence dissent - in spite of the fact that their comments were accurate. Writing in The Age last Thursday, journalist Michael Bachelard went so far as to suggest that the Howard Government had somehow sanctified the report because it was partly funded by the Research Council and because van Wanrooy had once worked in the Commonwealth Public Service "under Peter Reith", the former Howard Government minister for industrial relations. The previous morning Buchanan had run a similar line when interviewed by Fran Kelly on Radio National Breakfast.

The fact is that funding by the council does not imply Government support for the findings of publicly financed research. What's more, the fact that someone once worked in the public service has no connection whatsoever with the views of any minister - Coalition or Labor. It is disingenuous to imply otherwise.

The Australia@Work report was severely criticised in The Australian last Friday by academics Sinclair Davidson and Alex Robson. The important point about Buchanan and his team at Sydney University is not that the report was partly funded by Unions NSW or that he is on record as being a Howard-hating socialist (witness his Politics in the Pub speech of February 18, 2005). Rather, what matters about Buchanan is that he is a long-term opponent of industrial relations reform, under both the Howard and Keating governments (see his article in the June 1999 issue of the Journal of Australian Political Economy).

In other words, Buchanan's dissent has not been stifled under either the Keating or Howard governments. Nor was Manne ever silenced - not even when he wrote in 1992 that the Hawke Labor government had "put Australia in a situation from which it is genuinely difficult to foresee a non-disastrous exit". Nor was Hamilton quietened when, in 1991, he called for a "healthy" inflation rate of 7 to 8 per cent.

The fact is that many one-time opponents of the economic reform process remain credible today because neither Labor nor the Coalition ever implemented such advice. This applies to Hamilton, Manne, Buchanan and more besides. But the refusal of a government to follow (flawed) advice does not amount to censorship. Just good sense.


Homosexual judge wants more judicial law-making

THE High Court's most vocal dissenter, Michael Kirby, has lashed out at the backwardness of his fellow judges, identifying freedoms that he says would never have been won under the chief judge, Murray Gleeson. In a bold speech, even by Justice Kirby's standards, he spoke out yesterday on behalf of "stirrers and troublemakers" and criticised a tendency by the Australian public to only recognise heroes after they died. "I often ask myself whether the Mabo decision in 1992 or the Wik decision in 1996 . would be decided by the High Court the same way today," he said.

After listing a series of developments that emerged from dissenting judgments, including expanded freedoms of the press, free speech and rights to a lawyer, Justice Kirby said: "The answer to all of these questions of whether such cases would be answered the same way today seems to be: probably not. "The surprising feature of the decisions of the present High Court is . that there are not more differing voices than mine amongst the other justices given the major questions and inherent disputability of the issues commonly presented for the court's decision."

At an annual speech in Adelaide to honour Bob Hawke, Justice Kirby called for a charter of rights and praised the freedoms developed under the stewardship of Sir Anthony Mason, chief judge from 1987 to 1995. "Australian citizens and Australian lawyers who know of these decisions of the Mason court know that law does not inevitably have to be unjust, out of date and unequal," he said. "It does not have to sustain unquestioningly the power of the past. Law can be modern, human rights-respecting, equal in its treatment of minorities and attentive to the rights to equality of all individuals."

Justice Kirby, who is the court's most frequent dissenter, said dissenting judges frequently offered a beacon whose views were ultimately accepted as correct by subsequent courts. "Occasionally progress is only attained by candid disclosure of differences; by planting the seed of new ideas; and waiting patiently to see if these eventually take root."

Justice Kirby said judges were independent and free of political influence and expediency and were therefore in a position to break with consensus opinions. This had encouraged courts to expand freedoms for women, Asians and non-white immigrants, gays and sexual minorities, and prisoners. "Other changes only gathered pace when the independent courts broke the spell of the existing consensus and injected a new dynamic," he said.


Wishy washy church fading away

AUSTRALIA'S third-largest Christian denomination wants senior church leaders to make way for a more youthful flock to arrest a numbers crisis and reverse the effect of a congregation ageing so rapidly that half the membership could be dead within 15 years. Thirty years after the church deliberately pushed women to the fore of its leadership councils [Thus denying the Gospel], the Uniting [Methodist] Church in NSW has approved a proposal to discriminate in favour of leaders aged 50 and younger in order to encourage youth into the greying church.

The church wants to bring to its next synod in 2008 plans to allocate half of its key representative positions to those aged under 50 - or at least 60 years - during the next seven years. A draft blueprint for greater youth involvement includes the possibility that all future ministers would require experience working with young churchgoers and that the next moderator be "gifted and aged under 40".

The NSW church has been urged to reallocate the assets of disbanded inner-city parishes to new congregations in boom suburbs in Sydney's south and north-west that have no church legacy. It is also being encouraged to explore a "gradually introduced tithe" on congregational income for new mission initiatives.

The Uniting Church was one-third of the size it was 15 years ago, had experienced a 17 per cent decline in attendance since 2001, and based on present trends would probably see half its membership dead by 2002, its leaders were warned this week. Ruth Powell, director of National Church Life Survey Research, delivered a bleak prognosis to the church's NSW synod this week. "If nothing changes, the Uniting Church in NSW will halve its current size in the next 25 years," she said. "This is no time for fiddling. We have to take courageous steps now to face this future." Calling for fresh ways of expressing faith, Dr Powell said the Church of England, the Methodist Church and the United Reform Churches in Britain had all had some success in turning membership around.

Almost double the number of Uniting Church attenders were involved in practical community care and welfare as other churchgoers in other denomination and at least one-third of the synod's churches were growing. [The evangelical ones]

"The Uniting Church still has the potential to be the most relevant, connected church for Australians to explore a faith journey," Dr Powell told the Herald. "It has to celebrate and end well the institutional infrastructure suitable for a previous era and burst new structures, new leaders and hand over assets and responsibilities to a new generation to be part of a church relevant for the current context."

The incoming NSW moderator, the Reverend Niall Reid, said the church needed to stop worrying about dying, and express faith in new ways. "If we follow our calling, like Jesus we may die. But be assured, it will change the world," he said. "Our commitment has to be, whatever the outcome, to be people of grace, who do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God and if that means we die so be it." The outgoing moderator, Jim Mein, said the church's future lay in connecting with the wider community. Lay leaders needed to be part of the "tsunami of change".


Staff shortages leave ambulance 000 calls unanswered

Now in Western Australia too

STAFF shortages and a lack of phone operators to answer emergency calls are crippling WA's ambulance service, potentially putting lives at risk. The revelation comes amid claims that up to three St John Ambulance stations could be closed on any given night because there are no staff to man them. Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union secretary Dave Kelly said the situation had reached crisis point, with a severe shortfall of phone operators to handle emergency calls and not enough staff to fill the next two-month roster.

Mr Kelly warned the staff shortages were potentially putting lives at risk. "These shortages must be rectified before they cost lives,'' he said. "West Australian's expect and deserve a quality ambulance service at all times,'' he said. "There are almost 30 places left blank on St John's most recent eight-week roster. "Consequently it has become common for up to three depots to be closed on any one night.''

Mr Kelly said there could be as little as two phone operators in the communication centre when there was meant to be six people before midnight, and five after 1am to take calls from across WA. The operators could receive about 6000 calls a day from WA, he said. Mr Kelly said much of the problem lay with St John's inability to recruit and retain quality staff. "Being a paramedic is simply not an attractive proposition for many people,'' Mr Kelly said. "At a base rate of about $25 an hour, their pay can be less than a registered nurse who has the advantage of working in a controlled environment. "St John's has an obligation to the public to ensure they receive the highest quality of care. This cannot be assured if there is not even enough staff to keep a depot open.''

St John Ambulance did not return calls from The Sunday Times yesterday to discuss the union's claims. But last week spokeswoman Jacqui De Roach said the agency was "certainly not struggling'' to fill vacancies. Ms De Roach said the organisation had been successful in recruiting experienced paramedics from interstate and overseas, particularly from South Africa and the UK. In addition, the ambulance service recruited 45 student paramedics from 200 applications last year. There are about 500 paid paramedics in metropolitan area and volunteers at country centres.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

A rational response to rising home prices at last

The Federal government has been pushing the States to do things like this for some time. Treating developers as a cash cow just leads to higher house prices for everyone

DEVELOPERS of land on Sydney's outskirts will no longer have to contribute towards the cost of hospitals, parks, schools and police stations after the NSW Government bowed to industry pressure to reduce taxes for building in unestablished suburbs. The Premier, Morris Iemma, yesterday announced the cost of building a new house in the growth areas of Sydney's north-west and south-west would be cut by about $25,000 after both council and state levies are cut. "It's part of what we are doing to get young families into their first home," Mr Iemmasaid.

But there was no guarantee, except for the impact of "market forces", that the property industry would pass on the savings to new home-buyers. Local government in so-called greenfield, or undeveloped, areas would be required by the State Government to spend infrastructure levies within seven years, rather than saving the money for when parks and libraries were needed down the track. But the peak council association questioned the ability of the Government to pay for new amenities without the taxes, accusing it of "pandering to developers". "Unless the Government guarantees it will pick up the funding shortfall, and puts in place strict guidelines requiring developers to pass on savings, we'll be faced with a situation where communities wait 20 or 30 years for basic infrastructure," said the president of the Local Government Association, Genia McCaffery.

The Treasurer, Michael Costa, said the decision was expected to cost $2 billion in the medium term but would not affect the state's AAA credit rating.

Developers had complained bitterly over the gradual rise of government charges on developers who built homes in the government's growth areas, where zoning has been fast-tracked by the Government's Growth Centres Commission. Developers have blamed the levies for the stagnation of markets on Sydney's fringe. The Government has maintained that interest rates were more to blame for the high cost of real estate.

The Planning Minister, Frank Sartor, said the changes were part of a "new philosophy" about what the council and the government could ask developers to help pay for. Instead of levying for future population growth, they would only be levied to develop the land in its current state. The changes would eventually apply across the board, prompting the Property Council of Australia to say it was unclear if the new regime would result in extending levies in established urban areas. "It's extremely unclear what the Government wants to do in that area," said the council's NSW executive director, Ken Morrison.

A spokesman for Mr Costa said the new approach was designed to avoid making developers "pay for everything". The criteria was whether the new amenity was enjoyed only by residents of a new development as opposed to the general population. Councils would gradually be banned from charging developers for the construction of libraries, parks and sports facilities. The Government also said it would take over the management of more than $750 million in unspent developers' levies in council coffers.


Corrupt phone company

TELSTRA has handed its US mobile phone distributor Brightstar a multi-million-dollar windfall by paying it as much as three times the industry rate to provide handsets to its branded and third-party retailers as part of a deal worth $1 billion a year. Telstra also paid the Miami-based company a one-off fee of $6 million for a so-called implementation plan, according to a contract the companies signed in May last year. The contract, details of which have been obtained by The Australian, could result in profits of tens of millions of dollars for the Miami-based Brightstar.

Telstra is paying Brightstar, whose owner Marcelo Claure is a business partner of Telstra chief executive Sol Trujillo, between $17 and $21 per handset, the contract shows.

Telstra has said it supplies more than 2.2 million handsets a year but the numbers are thought to have grown since it launched its Next G network last October. The going rate for handsets is about one-third of Brightstar's contracted rate, according to Roadhound, one of Brightstar's three main industry competitors. "That is a joke, that is over three times the market going price," Roadhound owner Ben Sharma said. "If I received that contract it would make me very rich, very quickly."

In September 2005 The Australian revealed that Telstra was in talks with Brightstar for the first of two deals the US company would sign with Telstra in 2005 and 2006. The first, handed to Brightstar with no tender, was for an exclusive arrangement to source at least 2 million handsets each year for Telstra. The second was for an outsourcing deal to warehouse and distribute mobile phones and accessories. As part of the deal, Telstra has forced its licensed shops and third-party dealers to refrain from buying phones from any company except Brightstar. This has cut the profits of hundreds of Australian small businesses and handed them to Telstra's US partner.

Telstra claims to have invited Brightstar rivals Brightpoint and Roadhound to tender, but Mr Sharma said all he received was a one-page document signed by Telstra executive Terry Trewin. "They didn't ask us to present any figures, they just asked for a capability. I don't think they wanted anything from us. I think they had already made up their mind who the contract was going to," Mr Sharma said.

According to the Brightstar contract, as well as handing over $6 million for an "implementation plan" to be completed within 60 days of signing the contract in May 2006, Telstra also handed over the keys to its main mobile phone warehouse and distribution facility in Sydney. Mr Sharma said he was not told any of this when he was asked to "submit a proposal to manage Telstra's full supply chain capability".

The Australian understands that Brightstar approached Telstra consumer chief David Moffatt in December 2004, only to be rebuffed, and it was not until Mr Trujillo arrived that serious discussions were resumed. Telstra has claimed that the deals with Brightstar will save it up to $150 million this year but it has refused to provide any detail on how these savings would be achieved, and Telstra's bottom line has shown little improvement since Mr Trujillo took over.



Four current articles below

Rage boils over at public hospital delays

Three days in great pain waiting for treatment becomes too much

TERRIFIED patients and staff were evacuated from the Gold Coast Hospital as an enraged bikie demanding immediate haemorrhoid surgery for his wife threatened to call in his gang to "trash the place", a court was told yesterday. "I'm the king of the Gold Coast and we don't wait in line for anyone," senior Finks bikie gang member Richard Savage told hospital staff. "I'm going to get 30 of my Finks mates and drink piss and party 'til my wife gets her operation."

Savage pleaded guilty yesterday in Southport District Court to threatening violence and wilful damage. The charges stemmed from a fracas on July 8, 2005, when Savage's wife was in the Gold Coast Hospital awaiting haemmorrhoid surgery. Crown prosecutor Bob Falconer said Savage became aggressive as the wait for surgery continued. Mr Falconer said Savage snapped after being told by staff that operating theatres were full and it was doubtful his wife would be operated on that day. He punched a hole in the wall and told staff: "You better call the police because my mates are on the way. "We're going to trash this place. My wife has been waiting for surgery for three days and I'm sick of waiting."

Mr Falconer said frightened and tearful patients, some of whom had just had surgery, had to be evacuated from the ward, along with staff. He said while the Crown accepted that Savage's wife was in "terrible pain" and he was frustrated, his behaviour was unacceptable. Barrister Tony Glynn, for Savage, said his client had been under great stress but accepted his actions went "well beyond what was a proper and measured reaction to that sort of stress". Mr Glynn said Savage had completed an anger management course and was so impressed he referred two associates.

Judge Fleur Kingham said she accepted that Savage's wife was in extreme pain and had been for some days. But she said he had "simply lost control" and reacted in a way which was "firstly out of proportion and, secondly, entirely unacceptable". "In seeking to alleviate the pain and distress your wife was in, you also caused a great deal of distress, including to patients who had already undergone surgery," Judge Kingham told Savage. She accepted Crown and defence submissions for a wholly suspended 12-month jail sentence for Savage.


Hospital doctor shortage getting worse, not better

SYDNEY's emergency departments are in crisis with one in five senior doctor positions vacant and no recruitment program in place, leaving burnt-out staff angry and ready to quit. More than 22 specialist positions in 24 metropolitan emergency departments had been vacant for several months, despite pleas from doctors who were working overtime to cover the shortfall, the executive director of the Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation, Dr Sim Mead, said yesterday. "The health department is denying there is a freeze on recruitment, so why are they not advertising these positions? It is completely baffling and I can only draw the conclusion that the longer they take to fill the positions, the more money they save, but it is at the expense of the doctors trying to hold the system up." Dr Mead said advertisements for some positions were later cancelled when it was discovered all the applicants were from other Sydney emergency departments "It's moving the deck chairs around on the Titanic."

The NSW chairman of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Dr Tony Joseph, said emergency specialists could earn up to $100,000 a year more in Queensland and many younger doctors were tempted to leave. "When you spend all day cajoling and arguing with people about moving patients out of the emergency department and into wards, the registrars see that and they don't want it for the rest of their lives." Dr Joseph said the Health Department needed to address overcrowding in hospitals, employ adequate numbers of senior doctors and start listening to staff on the frontline.

One emergency medicine registrar, Dr Claire Skinner, said several doctors were reducing their hours because they felt burnt-out and unable to cope: "The intensity of the work is incredible and has definitely increased. It is stressful and emotionally intense and there is no recovery. We cannot provide the quality of care that we should be able to and that is making us all very stressed. People are leaving and there is a massive risk that we won't be able to train the next generation." She said 43 per cent of emergency department registrars were trained in Australia, with the balance made up of overseas-trained doctors and locums, costing the State Government an extra $35 million a year. "Some are great and some are disasters. Most locums are not familiar with the environment, and emergency departments are quite chaotic at the best of times. It is also erosive for morale when permanent staff are overseeing locums who are earning three times as much as they are."

A survey in May by the University of Sydney's Workplace Research Centre found that almost half of the 140 emergency doctors surveyed said they did not have the time to take a toilet break as soon as they needed. About 66 per cent of the doctors had reported rarely or never completing clinical support activities in rostered time. The Health Department said yesterday it was advertising in Britain and that it had increased the number of staff specialists by 13 per cent and junior staff by 10 per cent in the past three years.


Stupid penny-pinching by hospital bureaucrats

Firing just one of their many "administrators" would have done a whole lot more good but bureaucrats are sacrosanct, of course

A SURGEON says removing cracker biscuits from Royal Hobart Hospital operating theatres to save money is exhausting staff and putting patients' lives at risk. Senior surgeon Stephen Wilkinson said low blood sugar interfered with doctors' ability to make life and death decisions during overnight emergency surgery that often ran into the morning. "It's administration gone mad," said Dr Wilkinson, who was doing emergency surgery into the early hours yesterday. "Morale is already at an all-time low, with surgeons close to walking out. All we want is the Salada biscuits and Vegemite reinstated. It might sound petty but it makes a big difference. "We get hypoglycemic, a headache and we're trying to think clearly so you can make difficult decisions on the run. People's lives are relying on it."

He said the hardest work was at night. "That's when you get the car accidents, bowel obstructions, perforated ulcers," he said. "We need to get our concentration back and sugars up. "It's a stressful environment already. I think it's unsafe." The operating suite tearoom had long had "simple crackers and biscuits", but now had only teabags and instant coffee.

Dr Wilkinson was so angry he rang chief executive officer Craig White during the early hours of yesterday. The hospital said it had stopped providing food and snack items to maximise resources for direct patient care. "The RHH is experiencing significant budget pressure and identified the provision of food and snack items to doctors' lounges and staff tea rooms as an expenditure that would be redirected to patient care," spokeswoman Pene Snashall said.


And we trust Indian doctors?

There is no way these doctors can have received anything like Western-standard medical training

A COUPLE has been charged with the murder of one of their sons after they tried to transfuse his blood into his elder brother to make him smarter. The elder boy is fighting for his life. The Indian Express said the couple were both doctors and the mother had a dream in which a guru advised blood transfusion to make their elder son do better at his studies. Police said the couple initially claimed the boy, 11, was killed in an attack but later confessed.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Leftist approach to black history rejected by both major parties

Some Australian Leftists claim that white Australians should "apologize" to the descendants of Australia's original black inhabitants -- even though nobody now alive had any hand in the white colonization of Australia. So the demand is pure Leftist racism: Whites are targeted not because of anything they personally did but just because they are white. The push is an Australian counterpart to the "reparations" demand in the USA

MILLIONS of Australians will never entertain saying sorry to Aborigines because they think there is nothing to apologise for, John Howard said today. The Prime Minister has promised to hold a referendum within 18 months, if re-elected, on formally recognising indigenous Australians in the constitution.

Indigenous groups view the promise as a step in the right direction but say reconciliation will not be achieved unless Mr Howard apologises on behalf of non-indigenous Australians for past treatment.

But the Prime Minister today ruled out an apology, saying millions of non-indigenous people would never entertain such a thing. "I have always supported reconciliation but not of the apologetic, shame-laden, guilt-ridden type," Mr Howard said on Southern Cross radio. "I think in the past we have become obsessed with things like apologies and there are millions of Australians who will never entertain an apology because they don't believe that there is anything to apologise for. "They are sorry for past mistreatment but that is different from assuming responsibility for it." ....

In a joint statement last night, Labor leader Kevin Rudd and indigenous affairs spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said that while they would like to see details of Mr Howard's plan, the ALP would offer bipartisan support to the concept "in the spirit of the 1967 referendum".


Public hospital gridlock kills

TWO patients with lung cancer went undiagnosed although early signs of the disease had been detected on X-rays but not reported to the referring doctors at Liverpool Hospital. The hospital has a huge backlog of scans that have not been interpreted by radiologists. It has emerged that emergency patients are being called back months after being examined.

As evidence of the state's health woes continues to mount, the embattled Health Minister, Reba Meagher, declared yesterday that she trusted the word of nurses over that of a senior doctor in the case of an elderly patient at Royal North Shore Hospital who was moved out of a ward and into a treatment room overnight. Tony Joseph, the hospital's head of emergency, who is also the NSW chairman of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, said that Ms Meagher should admit that hospital emergency departments were in chaos.

Meanwhile, the director of radiology at Liverpool Hospital, Glen Schlaphoff, confirmed that two patients examined at the hospital in the past two years had early signs of lung cancer that were detected on X-rays but not reported to the referring doctors. He said one of the patients, X-rayed last year, had died and the second, seen this year, was still living. In both cases, X-rays had revealed a cancerous lump in the lung. "The nodule was reported and a report issued, but the doctor team that requested the report never saw the report," Dr Schlaphoff said.

Investigations into both incidents had blamed the hospital's paper-based system for the failure to pass on such crucial information. He said he had campaigned for four years to have an electronic system of reporting radiology examinations. This would be installed by next year. A senior staff member, who did not want to be named, said that at best X-ray reports were completed within several days of examination, but "there are examples of reports that come to us with significant findings that come to us months after the person has passed through the emergency department. You are left in an awkward position of having to contact the person and calling them back to the hospital." While most doctors were trained in how to read an X-ray, "radiologists are able to detect more subtle findings". The Herald reported on Saturday that the hospital's official estimate of the backlog was 4500 images that had not been reported on by a radiologist.....


PM to revive real history teaching

JOHN Howard has gone above the heads of state education ministers and bureaucrats and set out a detailed course on the nation's history that he says should be taught to every student in every Australian school. The Prime Minister's guide to the teaching of Australian history, which will be released today, organises the nation's story into 10 chapters, stretching from indigenous settlement 60,000 years ago to the effect of globalisation on Australian life between 1976 and 2000.

The document is aimed at parents and teachers, but The Australian understands that the Government will use its four-year education funding agreement with the states, due for re-negotiation next year, to force them to teach a version of Mr Howard's course. Students in the program, which the Prime Minister says should be compulsory across Year 9 and Year 10, will be expected to be familiar with more than 70 "milestone events", along with the biographies of hundreds of characters from 18th century botanist Joseph Banks to former prime minister Bob Hawke.

The 10 periods are: First peoples; Early encounters; British colonies (1788-1850); Emerging nation (1851-1900); The new Commonwealth (1901-19); The Roaring Twenties and the Lean Thirties (1920-38); World War II and post-war reconstruction (1939-49); Building Modern Australia: Times of Prosperity and Social Change (1950-75); and Australia and the Shrinking Globe (1976-2000). In addition, students will be expected to analyse the material through nine "perspectives": Aboriginal; regional and global; biographical; beliefs and values; economic; everyday life; gender; environmental; and local.

Each period has explanatory notes, with the 1950-75 segment, for example, including the dismissal of the Whitlam government and urging students to "reflect on the emergence of new social and protest movements, reflecting changes in gender relations and family structures, in attitudes to race and ethnicity, and to human rights and morality".

The course is the latest step in the "root and branch renewal" in the teaching of Australian history for which Mr Howard called last year, and follows last year's History Summit, convened by Education Minister Julie Bishop, which delegated a working group to develop an ideal history course based on dates and narrative, rather than abstract themes.

The fact Mr Howard has chosen to release the model syllabus now, and brand it with his own authority, suggests he plans to give the so-called "culture wars" a prominent role in his campaign for a fifth term in office. At the moment, with the exception of NSW and Victoria, the states teach Australian history within a larger subject, Studies of Society and its Environment, along with geography, environmental studies and political and other social studies. However, since the summit, Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania have all shown a willingness to return to a more traditional approach believed to be popular with voters.

And Opposition education spokesman Stephen Smith last night made Labor's support for the push clear. "I strongly believe that history, particularly Australian history, is a very important part of the curriculum," he said.

Earlier this year, Mr Howard said Australian history, which he insists should be a stand-alone subject, was being taught "as some kind of fragmented stew of moods and events, rather than some kind of proper narrative". Importantly, a suggestion from the summit that the new subject should be taught via "open-ended questions", which was criticised by some conservative scholars, has disappeared from the final draft, which was overseen by a committee that included social commentator Gerard Henderson and historian Geoffrey Blainey. The Government plans eventually to follow the document with specific guidelines on outcomes and assessment and detailed curriculum resources for schools.

One of Australia's leading conservative historians, University of Wollongong scholar Gregory Melleuish, last night described Mr Howard's course as "the ultimate camel" because it had been shaped by so many committees. Dr Melleuish, who participated in the summit but criticised its outcomes, said: "The problem with this sort of document is that it tells one very little about how things will actually work in the classroom." He was particularly critical of the "nationalist" drift of the course, which he said did not include enough international context and would not equip students for understanding Australia's role in a globalised world.

Anna Clark, grand-daughter of the late Manning Clark and a historian at Monash University, said she was pleased Mr Howard's course "requires not only knowledge of what happened, but how we relate to it". But her Monash colleague Tony Taylor, whose draft version of the course was the basis for the Henderson-Blainey panel, said the final version was too crowded.


Obesity doctor to be prosecuted over 'dangerous' surgery

About time. While bureaucrats dither, people die

A CONTROVERSIAL obesity surgeon who has been investigated for three years over patients starving to death and others suffering shocking outcomes will be prosecuted by health regulatory authorities. Kaye Pulsford, the new head of the Medical Board of Queensland, told The Weekend Australian yesterday that Russell Broadbent would be referred to the Health Practitioners Tribunal for alleged unsatisfactory professional conduct. "The investigation is complete and the board has decided to refer it to the tribunal for the hearing of disciplinary proceedings," she said. "Solicitors have been briefed."

The action of the Medical Board, which failed to notice bans in the US on rogue surgeon Jayant Patel when he applied to work in Queensland, comes three years after repeated complaints by one woman, Leesa MacLeod, who watched her mother die in 2003. Since early 2004, Ms MacLeod has tried to persuade the Medical Board and its counterpart, the former Health Rights Commission, now the Health Quality and Complaints Commission, of the seriousness of her concerns. It took both bodies until 2006 to retrieve an audit report from a Gold Coast private hospital, Allamanda, which had banned Dr Broadbent's bilial pancreatic diversion (BPD) procedures as a result of its confidential findings on a high rate of deaths and injuries. At least 10 patients underwent the BPD procedures at another private hospital, Pindara, after Ms MacLeod's concerns were raised with regulatory authorities, resulting in the death by starvation of patient Rosanne Mafi in April last year, and several major complications.

Most obesity surgeons are reluctant to perform BPD operations. Experts interviewed by The Weekend Australian describe it as too dangerous compared with the alternative of gastric banding.

Dr Broadbent, who strenuously rejects criticisms of his surgery and care, fears obese Australians will die because they cannot benefit from what he regards as his lifesaving surgery. He has vowed to fight any action taken against him.

Ms Pulsford, who took on her new role this week, would not be drawn on whether the tardiness of the Medical Board and the commission had contributed to further adverse outcomes for patients. "I believe that we have followed the investigative procedure as thoroughly and as carefully as we can," she said. "In hindsight there may have been some timesaving actions that may, or may not, have resulted in a quicker outcome, but not necessarily a better outcome."

The head of the commission when Ms MacLeod brought her complaint was David Kerslake, now in charge of the Electoral Commission of Queensland. His successor, Cheryl Herbert, chief of the new HQCC, was unavailable to comment on the delays. Ms MacLeod said she was appalled at the delays.

Michael Coglin, chief medical officer for Healthscope, which owns Allamanda Private Hospital, said hospitals, doctors and patients "look to regulatory authorities to protect the community by promoting high standards of practice by doctors and other healthcare providers, by investigating complaints and by taking appropriate action


Muslim pedophile verdict to be appealed

THE Director of Public Prosecutions has been ordered to appeal the sentence given to a medical student, who walked free from court after pleading guilty to attempting to indecently assault an 11-year-old boy. Shakeel Mirza, 26, was given 12-months probation and had no conviction recorded, after admitting to attempting to "massage the boy's penis".

The District Court was told the offence came about as a result of Mirza volunteering for community group Aunties and Uncles - a mentoring organisation for families in need. On the day of the incident, Mirza, the 11-year-old complainant and his brother were watching TV while lying on a single bed when the accused massaged the boy's head before saying "this would feel better if I did it on your penis". But the boy said no and pushed his hand away and the incident stopped.

There was said to be no planning involved in the incident and Mirza, who provided glowing references to the court, has no criminal history. His lawyer characterised the offending as a moment of stupidity -- a description accepted by Judge Searles. Mirza reportedly said the offence was almost done in a "joking" fashion.

But Attorney-General Kerry Shine said after reviewing the transcript of the sentencing remarks, and receiving advice from the office of the DPP, he had ordered an appeal be lodged.


Friday, October 12, 2007

His Eminence endorses conservative policies -- in both parties

AUSTRALIA'S most senior Catholic cleric has publicly endorsed Kevin Rudd's schools policy as a rejection of the ALP's old politics of division and class warfare. In a reversal of the Catholic Church's dramatic intervention in the 2004 election campaign to condemn Labor's "divisive" policy of stripping funding from rich private schools, George Pell has backed the Opposition Leader's new approach.

Cardinal Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, also endorsed both Mr Rudd and John Howard as "serious Christians" but noted their parties had adopted such similar policies that they were scarcely distinguishable.

In an interview with The Australian, Cardinal Pell conceded his endorsement was a shift in his position at the last election, during which he attacked the schools policy put forward by then labor leader Mark Latham. "I think the policy at that stage was calculated to divide the non-government sector and to divide the rich against the poor and possibly the Catholics against the non-Catholics," he said. "That would have been most unfortunate. I'm happy to endorse the new policy."

Cardinal Pell also touched on the controversy surrounding Labor's death penalty policy, saying he thought Mr Rudd would not lose votes on the issue. Mr Rudd this week repudiated his foreign affairs spokesman Robert McClelland, accusing him of being "insensitive" for expressing his opposition to the death penalty for prisioners across Asia in the anniversary week of the 2002 Bali bombings.

Cardinal Pell said he thought there was public support for the death penalty in Australia. "I think that this, capital punishment, is one of those issues ... where public opinion is quite at variance with elite opinion. "I suspect, and I might be wrong, that there is clear majority approval in Australia for capital punishment in certain circumstances."

The Australian revealed on Tuesday Labor would keep the socio-economic status model of funding private schools until December 2012. Although Mr Rudd has previously promised to abandon the "schools hit-list" policy promoted by Mr Latham, the ALP has until now retained the needs-based formula that underpinned it. Mr Rudd said the [conservative] SES model would be used as a $42billion "minimum starting point" for funding to be negotiated between a Labor government and the states and private schools.

The Independent Schools Council of Australia welcomed the policy yesterday. "The ALP's promise to retain the SES model and full indexation of schools funding, together with its repeated assurance that no indepedendent school would lose funding under a Labor government, is a welcome reflection of the key principles we believe should underpin government schools funding policies," ICSA executive director Bill Daniels said.

At the last election, Catholic and Anglican churches joined forces to savage the ALP's schools policy, accusing Labor of driving a religious wedge into the private school sector. Expressing deep concern over Labor's redistribution of funds from the richest private schools to struggling low-fee private schools, the churches argued the policy was setting faith against faith.


Public hospital doctors revolt against NSW government lies

HEALTH Minister Reba Meagher's credibility is in tatters today as leading emergency doctors break their silence to condemn patient care at Royal North Shore Hospital. As the minister frantically downplayed The Daily Telegraph's revelation that a 91-year-old grandmother had been placed in a supply room, experts came forward to tell the truth about the RNS.

NSW chairman of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, RNS senior emergency doctor Tony Joseph, disputed the minister's claims that the rooms were used for "clinical" reasons. He confirmed it was hospital policy to shuttle patients into rooms not designed for patients when the emergency department overflowed. "They are unsafe and it is part of the over-crowding policy," Dr Joseph told The Daily Telegraph. "When emergency departments are bursting . . . they will put patients in these side rooms."

The "over-census" policy was even admitted to by one of Ms Meagher's hospital bureaucrats, who said the side rooms were used to deal with over-crowding. The 91-year-old's granddaughter yesterday said the family were unhappy with the treatment of their frail grandmother


African refugees bash policeman

A GROUP of drunken youths assaulted a policeman in Melbourne's troubled suburb of Noble Park following a wake for murdered Sudanese teenager Liep Gony, police said. Det-Sen-Constable Scott D'Razario, 30, was driving along Isaac Road with his female police partner just after 2am when the pair stopped to speak to a group of 20 youths standing on the road. The detective asked the men, aged in their late teens to early 20s, to keep the noise down.

But when another police van pulled up, one of the youths king hit the detective and others began to kick him. Several other members of the group joined in the attack, kicking the detective a number of times before fleeing. "I've got some chipped teeth and I've injured my knee," said Det-Sen-Constable D'Razario afterwards. He also described the incident as "painful", adding that he "wouldn't want to be in the same position again." He was taken to Dandenong Hospital suffering facial injuries and cut hands and was later released.

Up to 12 police cars and 22 officers were called to the scene and it took up to 40 minutes to clear the area. The incident occurred during a tense time in the suburb following the recent fatal attack on Mr Gony and his funeral yesterday. "What happened last night was two experienced detectives on patrol, they were night shift, they came across a group, coincidentally, of about 20 young Sudanese men, drunk, some of them were known to these detectives and they struck up a conversation," said Assistant Commissioner Paul Evans, who heads the police region.

"At the same time one of our divvy vans pulled up, because we have significant patrols around at the moment, and then for no apparent reason one person has king hit one of my detectives." Mr Evans said of the situation:"It's hugely dangerous and hugely tense." .... Mr Evans said in Sudanese culture boys were taught to be men from a young age and not back off from a fight. "That is part of their cultural upbringing, and this is what we're seeing and this is why we have had some injuries with police and some confrontations, because they don't back away," he said.

Yesterday, up to 300 people attended a funeral and wake for Liep Gony, who died after being bashed in what is believed to have been a racially motivated attack two weeks ago near the Noble Park railway station. Two men, aged 19 and 21, have since been charged with his murder.

Mr Evans said there had been increased patrols in the area because of the wake, but until this incident there had been no problems. "There had been no problems at all, but there had been this breakaway group of young men who had gone away and unfortunately, timing's everything, and our CI (crime investigation) unit pulled up because they were known to them and they were a bit untidy, a bit unruly, so that's when the confrontation occurred," he said.

Mr Evans said the Noble Park community was afraid and the police were attempting to restore confidence through increased patrols. He said most Sudanese were good people, but a small group caused problems. Police are interviewing an 18-year-old Dandenong man who was arrested nearby. "He was involved but there were others involved as well," a senior officer said.

Police Association Victorian secretary Paul Mullett said a police "softly softly'' approach had failed to combat youth group violence. "Let's get away from the slowly, slowly, hang back, warm fuzzy style and back to a good, practical, strong visible police presence,'' Mr Mullett said. "Policing should be proactive and preventative, and we should let them do their job and core function properly supported by a proper level of resources. "Our members are accountable and the blue uniform is sacrosanct and should not be touched.''


Howard hits out at 'jihad' Muslims

JOHN Howard has strongly criticised aspects of Muslim culture, warning they pose an unprecedented challenge for Australia's immigration program. While he remained confident that the overwhelming majority of Muslims would be successfully integrated, the Prime Minister said there were two unique problems that previous intakes of migrants from Europe and Asia did not have. "I do think there is this particular complication because there is a fragment which is utterly antagonistic to our kind of society, and that is a difficulty," Mr Howard told The Australian. "You can't find any equivalent in Italian, or Greek, or Lebanese, or Chinese or Baltic immigration to Australia. There is no equivalent of raving on about jihad, but that is the major problem."

The Prime Minister also expressed concern about Muslim attitudes to women. "I think some of the associated attitudes towards women (are) a problem," he said. "For all the conservatism towards women and so forth within some of the Mediterranean cultures, it's as nothing compared with some of the more extreme attitudes. "The second one of those things is a broader problem, but to be fair to them, it's an attitude that is changing with the younger ones."

The comments are contained in a new book to mark the 10th anniversary of Mr Howard's rise to power. Written by The Australian's team of journalists and commentators, The Howard Factor -- a decade that changed the nation will be published on February 27 and launched by the Prime Minister on March 2. Mr Howard gave a series of interviews for the book on December 9, the final sitting day of the parliamentary year for 2005. This happened to be just two days before the race riots in the Sydney beachside suburb of Cronulla.

The Prime Minister did not specify which Muslim source nations he was concerned about. By placing Lebanese immigrants in the same integrated category as the Italian, Greek, Chinese and Baltic, he appears to have been referring to the Christian rather than the Muslim intake from the Middle East.

The president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Ameer Ali, said the conservative Muslims about whom Mr Howard was talking represented only a "tiny fraction". "There is (also) a tiny fraction of Australians who believe in white supremacy," said Dr Ali, who chairs Mr Howard's Muslim advisory group. "I think he (Mr Howard) understands that the large majority of Muslims are like everyone else. "In any society there are immigrants who try to hold on to their traditions, and it takes time to change. My faith is in the following generation -- the next generation will be more adaptive."

In the interview, Mr Howard was upbeat about the immigration program. Australia crossed two immigrant thresholds in 2003-04, which is the latest year for which Bureau of Statistics tables are available. The overseas-born population rose to 24per cent -- its highest proportion since the 1890s. And the European share of the immigrant total fell below 50 per cent for the first time. The previous Labor government of Paul Keating had the overseas-born at 23 per cent of the population, and the European component was 57 per cent. Mr Howard seemed genuinely pleased when the numbers were read out to him. "Really? I think what it demonstrates is that we have run a truly non-discriminatory immigration policy."

After slashing immigration in his first term between 1996 and 1998, Mr Howard has steadily ratcheted up the intake to levels that now exceed those under Labor's Bob Hawke in the 1980s. As Opposition leader in 1988, Mr Howard attacked Asian immigration. He later apologised and conceded the move cost him his job at the time. His comment in August that year was: "I wouldn't like to see it (the rate of Asian immigration) greater. I'm not in favour of going back to a White Australia policy. I do believe that if it is -- in the eyes of some in the community -- that it's too great, it would be in our immediate-term interest and supporting of social cohesion if it were slowed down a little, so the capacity of the community to absorb it was greater."

Mr Howard's latest observations on Muslim culture are not in the same category, because they do not suggest the rate of Muslim immigration should be slowed down in the interests of social cohesion. "The public sometimes mixes up attitudes to immigration with attitudes to our identity and our history," he told The Australian. "I think one of the reasons why people have been accepting of all of this is that they feel they have a Government and a Prime Minister that is in favour of what I might call a slightly less zealous multiculturalism than was practised by my predecessor. "Not a return to assimilation so much, but somewhere in between, which is what people want. "What resonates most with people, I find, is they don't mind where new people come from, as long as they've got skills, and as long as they become Australians when they arrive. "But that doesn't mean they should forget where they were born."


A most well-deserved award

Barry Humphries collects honour from Queen -- in his usual good form

SIR Les Patterson and Dame Edna Everage have long treasured their royal titles, and now their creator Barry Humphries has collected a CBE from the Queen. While Humphries might have missed out on a knighthood and the chance to add "sir" to his name like his badly behaved alter ego, he described the honour as "extraordinary". "This is the highlight - the first of many," the Australian comedian, dressed in top hat and tails, said after the ceremony at Buckingham Palace. "It felt extraordinary. I had my back to the audience. It felt very unnatural. It was a little disconcerting. "Someone else who was getting a CBE said I suppose this is the end of the road. "I thought perhaps I should ask the Queen if she had any future plans for me, but I forgot."

Humphries, who is celebrating 50 years on the stage, picked up his honour for services to entertainment after being named a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in June.

Also receiving honours today were English cricket star Ian Botham, who was knighted, and author Barbara Taylor Bradford, who picked up an OBE.

Humphries refrained from mentioning to the Queen anything about either Sir Les or Dame Edna, who famously dubbed her majesty the "jubilee girl" when introducing her at celebrations marking her Golden Jubilee in 2002. Instead, Humphries chatted to the Queen about renowned horseman, Monty Roberts, whom he was due to meet later today. "She's a huge fan and said 'Please give him my very best'," he said.

Born in Melbourne, 73-year-old Humphries moved to Britain in 1959 and launched his showbiz career in musicals including Sweeney Todd on stages in London's famous West End. Seventeen years later, he introduced Dame Edna to the world in her own show Housewife Superstar!, which later led to her hosting her own TV shows. Humphries has also enjoyed success in the US, with his Dame Edna shows appearing twice on Broadway - Dame Edna: The Royal Tour in 1999 and 2005's Dame Edna: Back With a Vengeance.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Australia's universities of Leftism

WHEN federal Treasurer Peter Costello and Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey attacked the credibility of two researchers over a report that found workers worse off under Australian Workplace Agreements, it looked like a classic case of blaming the messenger. That impression was heightened when one of the researchers, John Buchanan from the University of Sydney's Workplace Research Centre, threatened legal action against the ministers over their descriptions of his work as contaminated by trade union connections. But Buchanan's howls of protest regarding his academic impartiality sound a wee bit precious now after revelations in The Weekend Australian that, in a 2005 speech, he described himself as a socialist and counselled his comrades to "strike the enemy (that is, the Howard Government) hard."

Perhaps more disturbing than the firebrand rhetoric, however, is that Buchanan appeared to have already made up his mind in February 2005 on the key issues that he would be reporting on 30 months later: "We are going to see wages get more and more unequal," he said. "We are going to see hours become more fragmented and we are going to see more casualisation and contractors." So why do research?

I was prepared for the Australia@ Work report and the kerfuffle that followed by some other research on the Howard Government's workplace laws released in August. Down and Out with Work Choices, by three academics from the Women and Work Research Group, also at the University of Sydney, concluded that the changes brought about by the new regime "have been negative and deleterious, reducing decency and democracy at work and in society".

Never mind that this was a conclusion based on interviews with just 25 low-paid female workers. More extraordinary was that two of the researchers, Rae Cooper and Marian Baird, chose to launch their report at NSW Parliament, sitting alongside NSW Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca, the man identified, more than any other, with the political campaign to use the workplace changes to bring about the downfall of the Howard Government. This was politicisation on a new level and suggested some of our publicly employed intellectuals have decided the game is up for John Howard, so what the hell?

None of the above should come as a surprise. A quick scan, using the internet, of research centres at universities reveals that many are structured around the "softie Left" world view that former Media Watch host David Marr memorably nominated as the primary qualification for entry into Australian journalism.

The University of NSW, for example, boasts a Centre for Corporate Change, a Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity, and a Co-operative Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism. Indeed, sustainable is the buzzword in university research: we have a Centre for Sustainable Technology at the University of Newcastle, a Foundation for Sustainable Economic Development at the University of Melbourne, a Centre for Sustainable Regional Communities at La Trobe, an Institute for Sustainable Systems and Technologies, along with a Centre for Research into Sustainable Health Care at the University of South Australia, a Centre for Research in International Education and Sustainability at the University of New England and, in an apparent attempt to establish a sustainable monopoly, a Sustainability Institute at Monash.

Other highlights of my search included the Centre of Full Employment and Equity at Newcastle, the Centre for Research on Social Inclusion at Macquarie, the Centre for Equity and Innovation in Early Childhood at Melbourne, the Centre for Colonialism and its Aftermath at the University of Tasmania, the Social Justice and Social Change Research Centre at the University of Western Sydney and the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining at the University of Queensland.

What's in a name, you ask, and you could be right. Scholars in all of these centres could be pursuing good work. And perhaps there is no reason to be concerned that, in the era during which the mainstream political class has come to accept the logic of the market, an academic paid to conduct research into the Australian labour market still describes himself as a socialist. For me, however, it confirms a point made by Paul Kelly in last week's Australian Literary Review: "A healthy democracy will see a healthy gulf between its politicians and its intellectuals. But this gulf in Australia is a chasm that demands serious attention."


Tasmanians detest being told what to do by mainland elites

By Barry Cohen, a federal Labor MP from 1969 to 1990, well-known both for his sense of humour and for his sincerity, and an environment minister in the Hawke Labor government. He is pointing out that the recent Federal government support for the building of a pulp mill in Tasmania -- supported also by the Tasmanian Labor government -- will help the conservative vote in Tasmania in the forthcoming Federal election

IT was a bright, sunny day in the mid-1980s as I winged my way across Bass Strait to do battle with the forces of darkness who wanted to clear-fell and woodchip what was left of Tasmania. OK, I exaggerate a little, but that was the picture painted by the saintly Bob Brown [Greenie leader]. Trying to find the middle road as environment minister was not an easy task. Senator Brown, as he now is, has difficulty with the word compromise.

Mid-flight, the Ansett flight attendant sidled up to me and whispered conspiratorially in my ear. "Mr Cohen, you should know that there is a reception party waiting for you at the Hobart terminal." "How nice," I responded jovially. "Anyone I know?" "I'm not sure you'll want to know them," she answered. "They are loggers and their trucks are lined up back to the city." I must have paled visibly because she started mopping my brow while whispering gently, "Would you like a police escort out the back way?" "That would be nice," I croaked, reminding myself how much I abhorred violence, particularly when it was aimed at me. I was hustled down the plane steps into a police mini-car and whisked out of the airport, thus missing the opportunity to converse with my fellow workers.

On the same plane, my colleague Brian Howe, then minister for social security, blissfully unaware of my act of cowardice, strode languidly across the tarmac to be greeted by cries from the assembled loggers: "There he is, let's get him." I've never been able to look Howe in the eye since.

I recount this anecdote for readers to grasp the depth of feeling that inhabits the breasts of Tasmanians whenever visiting firemen or politicians arrive to tell them what is best for them. Cast an optic over the following list and you will understand what I'm talking about: Lake Pedder, the Franklin River, the southwest Tasmanian forests, Wesley Vale and the pulp mill. See what I mean? It's hard to recall an election in the past quarter of a century when some "environmental vandalism" wasn't being visited on the Apple Isle. Try to imagine a federal election without Brown [the permanently unhappy Greenie leader] whining about the end of Tasmania as we know it. Most of us take these triennial eruptions as par for the course. In Tasmania they take them seriously.

The question, however, that is occupying the minds of John Howard and Kevin Rudd is how will last week's pulp mill decision affect the voters in the five Tasmanian seats up for grabs at the forthcoming election.

Tasmania is entitled to five House of Representative seats because the Constitution guarantees the original states that minimum, otherwise its population would entitle it to only four. Since Federation, Labor has controlled the state government for about 75 per cent of the time, while at the federal level it has been more even, with the Liberals having greater success during the past 30 years.

Things started to go awry for Labor in 1975 when the Whitlam government, which held all five seats, appointed deputy prime minister Lance Barnard as ambassador to Sweden. Barnard had been a long-serving member for Bass. Labor's tariff cuts had bitten deeply into the state's small manufacturing sector, ensuring voters took their revenge at the Bass by-election, won by Kevin Newman with a 17.5 per cent swing to the Liberals. It was the trigger Malcolm Fraser needed to block the 1975 budget and force the dismissal election. Labor subsequently lost the other four Tasmanian seats.

Seven and a half years later, the environmental issue du jour was the proposal to dam the Franklin. Much like the pulp mill debate, the Franklin generated considerable emotion throughout the country, but nothing like the passion it generated in Tasmania, where people bitterly resented being told by those from the mainland what they could do in their own state. In 1983 Labor had hoped to pick up a couple of seats in Tasmania. We were bitterly disappointed. While Bob Hawke won office, all five Tasmanian Liberal MPs saw their majority increase handsomely.

The greens (not yet a political party) claimed credit for Labor's victory because of the vast number of seats they had delivered to Labor on the mainland. It was nonsense. It was impossible to discern a significant anti-dam vote in any mainland seat.

Being the minister responsible for introducing the legislation to stop the damming of the Franklin, I was acutely aware of the passions raging in Tasmania. Nothing like that happened in the rest of Australia. After the Franklin we had the Helsham inquiry into logging in southwest Tasmania. The greens were allowed (not by me) to hand-pick all three of the commissioners, and when the commissioners recommended limited logging the greens denounced them. Much the same happened with Wesley Vale and other environmental issues of the day. Does anyone seriously believe that Brown will accept a decision, by any commission or inquiry, that recommends any industrial activity in Tasmania other than basket-weaving?

Several polls on the proposed mill have been leaked to the media. Those made public indicate widely differing views. The one I liked was taken in Wentworth, in the affluent eastern suburbs of Sydney, the seat held by Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull. It suggests that 98per cent - that's right, 98 per cent - oppose the pulp mill. Imagine how impressed unemployed Tasmanians will feel about the good burghers of Wentworth telling them what's good for them. That will determine the fate of the five Tasmanian seats.


Greenies are now aiming to control space exploration!

They never let up and they are never happy

It may be a century or two, or even three, before humankind calls another planet home, but researchers say lessons learnt from the settlement of Australia will prove useful for the future colonisation of other planets. NASA plans to send human exploration missions to the Moon and Mars within the next two decades, with scientists hoping this will eventually lead to the building of a lasting civilisations beyond the Earth.

But a University of Queensland research team shows extraterrestrial colonies could end up resembling the worst aspects of outback mining towns. While the images from popular movies, television shows and books tend to shape most people's concept of space travel, the research team has now boldly gone where no researchers have gone before. In an attempt to come up with scenarios for what they say is the inevitable colonisation of other worlds, they have analysed attitudes toward space exploration.

Dr Toni Johnson-Woods says she and her colleagues found there is a prevailing belief that other planets and their natural resources are there simply to be exploited. "The focus is on exploitation of the minerals. Basically, it's just Australia all over again," she said. "You go out like the British did to Australia, you take everything you bloody can out of a place, and then you ping off." [What a totally false depiction of Australian history!]

She says the "spirit of exploration" that has marked the space age appears to have given way to thinking that is closer to that of pre-20th century colonialism. "There's also an idea that there's nothing already on Mars, which I presume there isn't, in the same way that Australia had that terra nullius, like there's nothing in Australia, so, 'we're just going to go there, take what we need and leave'," she said.

The researchers concluded that the digging up and processing of minerals is likely to be a factor driving future planetary colonisation and Dr John Cokley says that is where Australia's experiences could provide valuable lessons. "In fact, some of the space research people, they build little practice colonies, they call them biospheres," he said. "They're actually practising in the desert, in the middle of Australia, because it looks and feels like the surface of Mars."

Sustainability in space

Dr Cokley says the social and environmental mistakes made during the opening up of Australia - and in particular its rugged mining regions - could serve as examples of how not to establish communities in space. "We know that our mining towns have come a long way in the last 30 years," he said. "They used to be pretty challenging places to live and those mining towns - we've all been to pretty rough towns, they're not really sustainable and we talk about sustainability now, when people never did 50 or 100 years ago.

"The other thing is that space is not an infinite resource. If we go to the Moon and litter the Moon and wreck it, there's not another one just down the road. "It costs a lot of money to go there and if it's worth going there, then it's worth looking after."

It may be long into future before people are living and working on the Moon or on Mars or other more distant planets, but Dr Johnson-Woods believes it is not too early to consider the impact a human presence will have on these new and pristine worlds. "You put a footprint somewhere, it's never the same again," she said. "I can just see bubblegum on the undercarriage of a space station... it doesn't take long, and if we do destroy a planet that's uninhabitable, is that a problem? It's an ethical issue."



Three articles below

Grandmother, 91, left in hospital storage room

On the same day embattled Health Minister Reba Meagher met with staff at Royal North Shore Hospital, 91-year-old patient Edith King was wheeled into a storage room - and left there. The shameful treatment of the great grandmother has plunged our public health system to a new low. Suffering from blood clots in her legs and in need of treatment Mrs King, of Hornsby, was wheeled into the storeroom of ward 10B at the embattled hospital - and left there for 24 hours. She was moved to the storage room just hours after her granddaughter Sharon Hooper left her bedside on Monday afternoon.

It came on the same day Ms Meagher visited the hospital to meet with aggrieved medical staff and establish a professional practice unit to deal with complaints from staff and patients. Ms Meagher hoped her visit to the hospital would bring an end to almost two weeks of constant criticism of the State Government.

Despite their spin, Mrs King's treatment proves nothing has changed since expectant mother Jana Horska miscarried in the hospital's waiting room toilet two weeks ago. Hooked up to a drip and monitor and without an emergency buzzer, Mrs King's bed was left just centimetres from a sink and basin - with a bedpan and oxygen tanks stored nearby. Above her bed were shelves stacked with medical equipment. The room affording the ailing woman little privacy or rest. While nurses kept an eye on Mrs King, she suffered the indignity of being left in essentially a thoroughfare with staff pushing past her bed to get to supplies and handbasins.

The Daily Telegraph reports health sources revealing that at least one patient would be housed in the storage room most days. Mrs King was finally moved to a ward yesterday afternoon, but her spot in the store room was taken by another patient.

Mrs Hooper said yesterday she was shocked to learn her grandmother was left in the storage room. "I'm glad you got a picture. She turns 92 on October 24 and she doesn't deserve to be chucked in a room like that," Mrs Hooper, who works as a doctor's receptionist, told The Daily Telegraph. "I work with people who are ill everyday and I know how they should be treated. "That's pathetic when a person can't get up and fend for themselves. "She's confused at the best of times but (being left in a room) would have thrown her right out. "You think your relatives are safe in there. Now I know she's not safe and it's going to worry the daylights out of me every day," Mrs Hooper said.

Mrs King was transferred to RNSH from Hornsby Hospital last Thursday and placed in a ward after 13 hours lying on a bed in the emergency ward. Ms Meagher last night tried to defend the shameful treatment of Mrs King by stating she was moved to the storage room for her "own safety". "I'm advised she was confused and nursing staff decided she needed close observation to prevent her falling," Ms Meagher said. "The decision was made because her allocated room was not in view of the nursing station."


Stretchers become beds; Ambulance service stopped

SYDNEY'S problem-plagued Royal North Shore Hospital was yet again plunged into crisis this week, with ambulance services crippled by a shortage of beds. Six ambulances sat in the RNSH car park for more than four hours on Monday night, unable to answer calls because their stretchers were needed as beds for patients waiting in hallways.

One patient, an elderly woman brought in by one of the ambulances for a fractured hip at 8.30pm, was still waiting for medical attention at 3.30am. Three others, two men and a woman injured when their car overturned in Delhi Rd on Monday night, waited over four hours to be assessed by a doctor. The chaotic scenes are further proof of the ongoing staffing and management crisis at RNSH, which is already the subject of two clinical inquiries and a massive overhaul.

A paramedic, who did not want to be named, said he feared "someone could die waiting - and it's happened before". "We have more than enough paramedics but what we don't have is beds and doctors," he said. "Normally in half an hour you've unloaded and are ready to go, but there are no beds. "I've been here four hours and I can't do anything but wait."


Bureaucracy is the public hospital problem: Federal minister gets it

By Tony Abbott, the federal Minister for Health

Inadequate funding has been a serious problem at Royal North Shore Hospital but not as serious as management structures which intimidate staff and cover up bad decisions. A leaked letter from Northern Sydney Central Coast Health's acting chief executive officer shows that, this year, Royal North Shore is expected to make do with $13 million less than last year's budget and $31 million less than last year's actual spending (of $377 million). This is a 9 per cent cut imposed on a hospital already under great strain. The acting CEO's letter to Royal North Shore Hospital managers demonstrates a fixation with meeting budget rather than treating patients. A department or ward is a "cost centre". A hospital is a "major cost centre".

In fact, the whole NSW hospital system is obsessed with meeting budget rather than delivering services. Managers are told that "achieving this [budget] target will be a central component of assessing your performance". They're warned that "efficiency contributions" must be achieved and told that "under no circumstances" can they spend above budget without written authority from the area head office. They're instructed to reduce operational costs by "absorbing additional volume within current funding levels". Given this type of official bullying, it's no wonder that emergency departments are under extreme pressure.

The acting CEO's letter also reveals that the overall Area Health Authority has had a budget increase of just 1 per cent this year (compared with 7 per for the rest of the state) and that even this paltry increase is funded by "internal contributions and efficiencies".

Like Royal North Shore, public hospitals on the (Liberal voting) northern beaches have had a 7 per cent budget cut. The discrepancies between the acting CEO's figures and the self-serving claim of the NSW Health Minister, Reba Meagher, that Royal North Shore had a 10 per cent budget boost over two years reflect the administrative chaos inside NSW public hospitals. No one really seems to be in charge or accountable to anyone else.

The Howard Government is proposing to replace faceless area health bureaucracies with individual hospital boards including local doctors and nurses. These couldn't prevent state governments from imposing budget cuts but they could at least warn people about them in advance. Hospitals with local management boards would be less obsessed with budgets and more focused on treating patients. It would be harder for officials to move services around like pieces on a chess board, regardless of the views of patients and clinicians. This is why state governments don't like them. Although the "Dr Death" Royal Commission in Queensland noted the need for co-ordination of public hospital services, it concluded that "hospital boards . were attentive to local issues [and] planning was firmly focused on the clinical needs of the immediate population".

More money is certainly needed for better public hospital services but it's just as important to reform the way public hospitals are run. Patients, doctors and nurses need access to someone with the authority to fix their problems. A CEO accountable to a local board would treat the hospital budget as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. It certainly wouldn't resolve all the difficulties inherent in meeting public expectations but it would at least guarantee that patient and staff concerns were taken seriously. With real authority over the hospital budget and the capacity to keep extra revenue, the "buck could stop" with a hospital CEO in a way it never can with state health ministers, let alone a prime minister.

Kevin Rudd's claim that, as prime minister, the "buck" would stop with him for every single hospital problem is just spin. It's only necessary to imagine the call: "Mr Rudd, I've been waiting two hours in the emergency department. Could you please get me a doctor?" to dismiss this flaky boast.

Rudd thinks that the ultimate solution to public hospital problems is a takeover by the federal government. By contrast, John Howard thinks that the best answer is a takeover by the local community. Rudd was part of the Queensland Government that abolished hospital boards and cut 2200 public hospital beds. This ultimately produced the current disastrous situation in that state, described by the Dr Death commissioner: "There are so many bureaucrats writing memoranda to one another, reading memoranda from one another and attending meetings with one another that nobody has time left to actually get anything done". Hospitals need fewer bureaucrats but more doctors and nurses. Labor can't deliver this but local boards would.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Stupid government formula responsible for hospital disaster

Basing funding on actual demand was too simple for these brainiacs. Result was a famous meltdown at the RNS hospital

A NSW Health executive told a forum of 150 senior managers and clinicians that the high rate of health insurance in northern Sydney was taken into account when funding public beds at Royal North Shore Hospital, a senior doctor said yesterday. Yesterday, Danny Stiel, clinical director for the Division of Medicine and Aged Care at the hospital, confirmed with the Herald that he had asked the then acting chief executive of the Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service, Terry Clout, whether the level of private health insurance was taken into account in the funding formula. Mr Clout, who was recently appointed chief executive of South Eastern Sydney Illawarra Area Health Service, rejected the comment yesterday.

The exchange took place at a question and answer session at the Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health service managers forum, held at the Central Coast Leagues Club on August 29. "We've never previously had anyone admit openly that it is taken into account," Dr Stiel said. "Colleagues have said to me I've never heard anyone actually confirm that that is the case and now that we know that is the case we can at least take it into account. "My main issue was bed block . it seems to me that ours is worse because we seem to be less bedded because of this type of formula. We think we're particularly disadvantaged by our otherwise good fortune in having people with private health insurance." Another hospital administration source, who did not want to be named, first contacted the Herald about the exchange. "The question was, is Royal North Shore funded based on the fact that we have a wealthy population and we have a high rate of private health insurance, and Terry Clout said absolutely, without a doubt," she said. "His answer was 'yes, Danny, you're spot on, that's how the hospital was funded' . most people weren't really that surprised."

This follows the revelation in the Herald on September 28 by a former staff specialist, Linda Dayan, that staff were told 10 months ago it was Government policy to slash the budget because "people on the North Shore had money" and could afford to use private hospitals. The Health Minister, Reba Meagher, rejected that claim.

Dr Stiel said yesterday that he asked Mr Clout specifically if private insurance affected how many public beds were funded. "The question I was asking was, when people determined how many public beds there should be, is the private/public mix in a particular geographic area taken into account in that decision-making, so if an area is very heavily insured . is that taken into account, and the words that he said were 'absolutely'," Dr Stiel said. "What he said was 'yes, by doing that the number of public beds is likely to be less than it would have been if there had been no private beds in the area', and that explained to us that that could be why we have worse bed block than other areas."

Dr Stiel said "as a consequence [of an assumption] that you don't have to worry about funding these people because they have private beds and we can now fund areas of need, one of the unforeseen consequences of that is bed block . "The point I make is it is true, that that's taken into account. Maybe people should rethink the funding formula."

Mr Clout said yesterday the funding formula is a "health-needs adjusted, population-based formula". "What I then said was that there is clearly some correlation between a population that have a, that is more affluent, and the rate of health insurance . and to that extent there is a relationship - that's how I answered that question." He denied ever saying the rate of private health insurance was taken into account. "It's not in any way, it's not. It's a clear formula. It's those determinants of health that I have indicated to you," he said.

A spokesman for the North Sydney MP, Joe Hockey, said the hospital was also used by people from out of the area, and not all locals could afford insurance.


Labor party to keep private schools funding

Careful hewing to the (conservative) status quo again

KEVIN Rudd will retain the Howard Government's controversial private schools funding system until 2012 if elected, in a major pre-election pitch to parents. Abandoning plans to introduce a "needs-based" funding model that takes into account private school fees and income in his first term, the Opposition Leader will guarantee parents the existing framework will remain for five years. The policy shift, which was welcomed by private schools, delivers a blow to the Coalition's attempts to run a fear campaign over Labor's education policy.

Although Mr Rudd has previously promised to abandon the "schools hit list" policy promoted by former Labor leader Mark Latham, the ALP has until now retained the needs-based formula that underpinned the hit list. The change follows years of Labor criticism that the socio-economic-status model was "dysfunctional and unsustainable" and did not take into account the individual wealth of private schools. It follows similar reversals over the Medicare Safety Net, which Mr Rudd recently announced would be retained if he is elected. The major shift in ALP schools policy also ensures Catholic schools will not lose funding.

The strategy, designed to shift attention to the ALP's plans to boost funding to primary schools, was hailed by private schools last night as a breakthrough. Independent Schools Council executive director Bill Daniels said: "It's a huge shift from the past and a clear acknowledgement that the policy they took to the last election was a mistake. We would support that because it provides stability and certainty."

The ALP's move angered unions, prompting Australian Education Union deputy president Angelo Gavrielatos to describe the policy shift as "indefensible". "It is indefensible in this nation that we continue to deliver such large increases to the wealthiest schools," Mr Gavrielatos said. "To maintain that indefensible model until 2012 makes a mockery of everything the ALP has said about introducing a needs-based funding model. "It ensures private schools will maintain a position of privilege."

The federal Government's funding model - known as the socio-economic-status model - does not take private school fees and income into account when determining funding. Instead, it links enrolment details of where students live with census data on average income and education levels. Under current SES arrangements, 60per cent of Catholic schools are guaranteed more funding than they would be allocated if the SES model were strictly applied.

The ALP's decision follows lengthy negotiations with the Catholic sector. At Labor's national conference in April, references to the Howard Government's funding arrangements as "unfair and divisive" were removed from the party's new education platform. Opposition education spokesman Stephen Smith also sought to dump a reference that criticised the SES formula as having "delivered the largest increases in commonwealth funding to some of the best resourced schools in Australia". However, at the time he did not indicate any plans to retain the SES funding model, instead maintaining that a Rudd government would pursue a needs-based funding model. Labor's new policy platform pledges that public funding should be subject to non-government schools meeting quality standards for curriculum and teaching.

Currently, the basic entitlement to commonwealth assistance under the SES model ranges from a minimum of just $989 a student to $5052. For secondary students attending a private school, it ranges from a minimum taxpayer grant of $1277 a student to $6524.


Hopeless "child safety" bureaucracy

A MOTHER whose toddler son died while under the supervision of the Department of Child Safety has accused authorities of inadequate care. Joshua, 2, died after he was allegedly bashed to death by his father on September 25. His mother, who wanted to be identified only as Kristin, told Channel 9 she had dealt with six case workers. "The person who is working with you doesn't know the situation," Kristin said. She said many of the case workers were too young and inexperienced. "The Department of Child Safety change their case workers like they change their frigging underpants."

She also told Channel 9 she had contacted child-safety officers for help four weeks ago, but no one returned her calls. Government sources said Child Safety removed Joshua from his mother when he was three days old because of domestic-violence issues between his parents. He remained in foster care before he was gradually reunited with his mother last October.

Child Safety sources said the case was monitored by a Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect team which involved their department, police, health and education. The SCAN file was believed to have been closed in March, with the condition that Child Safety continue supervision.

The Sunday Mail has also learned a postmortem examination showed the boy had extensive injuries, including 271 bruises, a broken arm and a broken nose. Sources said some of the injuries appeared to be "quite old" and had occurred some time before the boy's death on September 25.

The boy's father, 34, has been charged with manslaughter and torture. He was remanded in custody to appear in Redcliffe Magistrates Court on November 27. A spokesman for Child Safety Minister Margaret Keech said the department could not comment on the case as it was before the courts and subject to a departmental review. The spokesman denied claims from within the department that two Child Safety officers stationed at Redcliffe were juggling 160 cases between them. He said that was the approximate number of cases for the whole office and the average caseload per person was 24.


Nutty concept of "endangered"

These native Australian trees are found in thousands of Brisbane backyards -- as well as being a major crop in Hawaii

THERE are so few macadamia trees left in the wild that growers believe they should be given the same recognition as the wollemi pine. At least 80 per cent of macadamia rainforest trees have been destroyed for agricultural and residential development - sparking fears that wild varieties are at risk of extinction, especially with climate change impacts.

Lismore grower Ian McConachie has set up the Macadamia Conservation Trust, aimed at protecting the tree that is the only Australian native produce to have become a major international food. The trust's primary aim is to ensure wild macadamia numbers do not decrease any further. Mr McConachie, a commercial macadamia grower for more than 30 years, started the trust after searching rainforests and finding hardly any of the trees that are also known as Queensland or bauple nuts.

Queensland nuts are found along a 600km coastal strip between Grafton, NSW, and Maryborough, about 300km north of Brisbane.


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Australian policy on troublesome African immigrants defended

Both the conservative government and the Leftist Opposition are defending the big cut in the number of African refugees accepted. No glass jaw over "racism" allegations in evidence in Australia

Colleagues have leapt to the defence of embattled Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, while Labor admitted to agreeing with the new policy on Sudanese refugees. Mr Andrews' decision to cut the number of Sudanese refugees coming to Australia was not racially based, Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile says. Mr Andrews has been accused of racism while defending the government's decision last week to cut the quota of Sudanese refugees.

Meanwhile, Labor has admitted to agreeing numbers of African refugees should be cut, but also denies its policy is race-based. Mr Andrews said the decision had been made due to concerns that they were failing to integrate and were becoming involved in crime.

Mr Vaile said the government's intake of migrants was greater than any other Australian government and it had a choice of who to accept. "This decision is absolutely not racially based," Mr Vaile told the Nine Network today. "Every government in Australia's history has always had the opportunity to adjust the mix if you like in the immigration policies of the day to benefit the nation and to benefit the migrants coming in and particularly refugees," Mr Vaile said.

He said he respected the view of Victoria' federal member for Mallee John Forrest that there should be more Sudanese refugees accepted into Australia. "He comes from an electorate where historically they've always been stretched in terms of getting a solid unskilled workforce if you like to work in their industries in the Sunraysia," [Fruit picking] Mr Vaile said. However, Mr Andrews' decision took in the interests of the broader community, he said, despite Labor's insistence the decision was born of incompetence.

Mr Andrews drew accusations of racism earlier this week when he declared Australia had reduced its African refugee intake because some, particularly Sudanese people, were failing to integrate and were becoming more involved in crime. His statements were totally at odds with his reasons in August for reducing the African intake - namely that Australia needed to accept more refugees from countries like Burma and Iraq and it had already filled its African quota to July 2008.

Labor agreed with the government's decision to cut back the African intake, but immigration spokesman Tony Burke today said he was mystified as to why Mr Andrews' had used this "new rhetoric". "I don't understand it," Mr Burke told ABC television. "I've got to say I think with Kevin Andrews you can't look past the possibility of incompetence. "I don't think you can discount incompetence in him misrepresenting the reasons that have been given." Asked if he thought the government was playing racist politics, Mr Burke said: "I hope not with something like this, I genuinely hope not. "I hope they're not dealing with it in that way." Mr Burke said police Not police in general. Just one very ideological police chief], who have disputed Mr Andrews' assertion that Sudanese people are over-represented in crime statistics, were a "more reputable source". "(Mr Andrews) has provided anecdotal evidence but he hasn't been willing to put publicly or provide directly to the opposition all of that information, he's just put out snippets of information," Mr Burke said.


Failure of the PhD

A comment from another skeptical Australian

THE PhD is a dinosaur from a previous age of elite education.  It has failed at least one generation of research scholars and continues to fail the overwhelming majority of currently enrolled candidates. A radical rethink would be justified.

I’d like to stir the possum [be provocative] and canvass two options: enrolments could be slashed by at least 50 per cent with a doubling of scholarship and research support funding; alternatively, the degree could head in the opposite direction with an overhaul to take into account the employment prospects of those two thirds of students who will never find full-time employment within the university sector.

There is endless corridor chatter about shady practices surrounding the offering of higher degree research at Australian universities, but very few seem to want to speak out about the degraded state of the PhD itself. There is good reason for this.  It is called self-interest. 

At the top of the pile is an allocation system where universities receive competitive funding for PhD enrolments and successful completions.  Witness the trend in recent years towards advertising campaigns for research degree places around scholarship times, as universities attempt to trump and outbid one another for precious enrolments. This is reckless stuff and a possible breach of trust.  The ads do not mention that around 70 per cent of all enrolling PhDs will never secure research-related jobs in their fields of specialisation.

Down at the coalface, Gollum-like supervisors are endlessly suspicious of their colleagues’ intentions as they rake off workload points for the advice they offer to their students.  Such is the obsession with enrolments and candidacy that extra financial incentives are being offered for supervisions at a number of Australian universities. Given the circumstances, few would blame PhD supervisors for working the system in the manner they do.  Competitiveness is the name of the game and, like the bulk of Australian academics, PhD supervisors are afflicted by endemic workplace insecurity. 

The contemporary PhD suffers from a split personality.  The major and historic functions of the degree were to credential aspiring academics.  The problem is that only around a third of all successful contemporary PhD candidates will end up working in their specialist fields.

The PhD has been caught up in the movement towards mass education, but the degree itself has remained elitist and virtually unchanged for around fifty years.  Training in research methods is the exception and most universities provide a high standard here.  There is little evidence to suggest that other forms of training are being implemented.

Four years ago, DEST released a report into what it euphemistically called “generic capabilities”. The phrase was catchy corporate-speak, and there the debate seemed to end: “When workplace-related skills are discussed, a variety of terms is applied (such as generic skills, transferable skills, and graduate attributes, to select but a few). This report uses the term generic capabilities to mark off the skills and attributes that have a direct link to postgraduate research students’ employability, whatever their research topic and/or discipline base.”

The substantive matter was lost: “The past decade in Australia has seen increased debate and scrutiny by government, employers and universities themselves on the readiness of graduates to enter the workplace. This report is concerned with strategies and practices Australian universities have developed to address the issue of employability in relation to postgraduate research students. In the domain of research graduates, employability is conceived as including entry to the workplace and also career enhancement and change.”

Four years on, the PhD continues to fail its most important people: the best new research minds in the country.


What Australia's "noble savages" are really like right now -- after years of politically-correct "respect"

An excerpt from a recent speech by Mal Brough,Federal minister for Indigenous Affairs

Recently I was in South Yarra with about 200 people for breakfast, and I gave them a warning before I spoke that I would be honest with them, I'd be frank with them and, as such, some of them may find that a little difficult to take their breakfast, because there is nothing palatable whatsoever about what you see and hear in indigenous communities. And unless the rest of Australia actually understands that, the depth of despair that people are in, and the lack of culture that is resulting as a direct result of that despair, then we are going to lose not only another generation, we are in fact going to lose the last remnants in many places of what was a very rich culture.

The focus has been on the Northern Territory, and there are those who like to think this is just a problem of remote Australia, but last week I was not in the Northern Territory, I was in Western Australia. And I'm here to tell you the circumstances in Western Australia, not just the East Kimberleys, not just the Pilbara, but also the Central Desert and also in the suburbs of Perth, are worse than many of the circumstances in the Northern Territory.

And those who have not read the report, Little Children are Sacred, its two authors visited 45 communities in the Northern Territory. They didn't find sexual abuse in some of those communities, they didn't find it in most of those communities, they found it in every single community; 45 out of 45. Think about that, the enormity of that for a moment. People coming forward with the most horrendous stories. We have children as young as three with gonorrhoea, we have twenty-four year old grandmothers, we have so many babies being born with alcohol foetal syndrome that their - a capacity to pass on the oral history of their people is gone before they're even born. We have physical and sexual abuse of boys and girls and men and women. It knows no boundaries. That is the reality in the Territory and it also in South Australia, it is also in Western Australia, it is in New South Wales and Queensland to differing degrees.

The reason that the Federal Government has acted in the Northern Territory is simply because we have the capacity and the power to do so. Let me answer right up front the allegation that is thrown at me and thrown at the Prime Minister as to why didn't you do this for the last 11 years? Well, this time last week I was in South Australia before 700 indigenous childcare workers. And the first question that was thrown at me was by a white woman who said you have stood before us today and said that most of these interventions have come from direct requests from indigenous people to you, and that's true. And I'll articulate some of those as we go through.

She said, but tell me who told you to breach the Racial Discrimination Act, the Human Rights Act, and the Land Rights Act? I said, well, funny thing that, no-one, because no-one talks about it in those sort of terms when the children haven't been fed or they've been bashed the night before, or the situation they're living in is just horrendous. They actually talk about surviving. They talk about not being stabbed. They talk about some form of normality around their circumstances. And the crowd actually all applauded her for asking that question, long and loud, because I have breached the Racial Discrimination Act in a positive sense.

So the last question that was put to me on that morning was first of all the lady said I'm from Darwin. She said the first thing I want to say is thank you for what you've done. Then she went on to say that why didn't your government do this some time in the last 11 eleven years. And there was the same raucous applause, and I thought isn't it interesting the same audience can have two totally different perspectives. One, why did you breach the Racial Discrimination Act, and point up that that's wrong, and then 15 minutes later applaud when challenged for why I didn't breach it 10 years ago.

Now, that is what we get every single day. People dress up, and I think the comments by Noel Pearson that were quoted at the outset say it all: they dress up self-determination, they dress up land rights, they dress up all sorts of nuances of arguments that really in their heart are saying that the right of a child to be born and to be safe and to have an education and to have an opportunity in this country is somehow below that of these other niceties that don't even reflect anything of what occurs in their life.

Do you know how many times that I've had raised with me the issues of the stolen generation? Once in the Northern Territory in Darwin by a woman who wanted to be connected to family. The other time was at ANU by people who are not part of the stolen generation.

Treaties: never is it raised to me by Aboriginal people in the communities, it's raised by white people in universities. They don't seem to understand the disconnect between where people are today and where they want to be and the fog that they're living in. Most of you probably don't realise that there is a thing called kava. Kava is used in the South Pacific for ceremonies, and it is coma inducing. That's what it does. People sip it. But no, in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory it's been legal for years. Why? Because it stops people having violent outbursts. Instead, they're just comatosed under trees, they don't feed their children. Their children don't go to school and white fellas thought that was a better outcome because there were less people going to hospital.

When I discussed that with Galarrwuy Yunupingu, who was one of the champions of land rights, who is one of the most powerful lawmen in the Northern Territory, and I said, well, I understand why they did it, is to protect people from the violence of alcohol, and he said that's rubbish. I said, how do you mean? He said the reality is that the women are so comatose they get raped, but the difference is they don't actually fight back. He said this is another insidious drug that white man has inflicted upon us that needs to go. Alcohol needs to go, marijuana or ganja, as it's known, needs to go. Kava needs to go.

Let me take you to Kalumburu. Kalumburu is up in the East Kimberleys. It is a town of about 300. There are only 90 males in Kalumburu. It's isolated by the wet for a good part of every year. The wet will set in some time this month. Of those 90 men, in the last two months 15 have been charged with child sex offences. Fifteen out of 90 men. These are the charge sheets. Not one page, not two pages, not three pages, four pages. They're all an offence against a child, predominantly penetrating a girl or a boy under the age of 13. Who were these 15 men? They were the mayor, the deputy mayor, two other councillors, the police liaison officer, a truancy officer, two wardens. What does that tell you? These are people of authority. These are the people that white fellas like me and bureaucrats turn up to, who go to consult with about answers to their communities, who we give money and more empowerment to and we walk away saying, haven't we done a good thing.

I was one of them. I went there 18 months ago and I thought that this place had a smell of decay about it. It worried me. But you talk to the leaders. One of those leaders, who was the police liaison officer, was a man who I had great faith in. He was a man that the local police sergeant had great faith in and thought he would be an indigenous sworn police officer soon. He and his wife were doing good things. They asked for money from me to assist them to take young boys out of the community who had been truant or had come with brushes to the law to take them back onto the homelands to teach them cultural ways. We provided that money to him.

He has been procuring children as young as five and six. He sat before the police sergeant who he had worked with - and you need to hear this - and said to him, and by the way, there are no paedophile rings in these places they tell me. But you tell me what this is. He said, a friend of mine told me how to procure children. He said, what you do is you say to a six year old, a seven year old, a 12 year old, here, here's some cigarettes, here is some ganja, come with me. And they came with me, he said, and it worked. I tried it and it worked, so I did it. The depths of depravity, if you wish to look at them, are in these charge sheets. That's bad enough.

This week, or last week, I went back. Last week I went back because Magistrate, Dr Sue Gordon, who's heading up our work in the NT and is dealing with all the women's groups, she is a children's magistrate in Western Australia. She said to me, the problem with Kalumburu is that so many adults have just left their children behind. The adults have gone and left their children behind, just blown through. She said we can't actually find the parents to deal with these issues. This community needs some of your support. They need to know that you care, they need to know that even though we've got these criminals out of there, that we can do more.

So Professor Judy Atkinson, we organised for her to do some healing work up there over the next few years. I organised for the AFL, Australian Football League, to go up and to actually do work with the kids. But on Monday of last week, the one child protection officer discovered that the six and seven year olds in the community were running amok in a really unreasonable fashion. And it came to light on Monday of last week that eight six and seven year olds had been sexually penetrated by 11 to 15 year olds. They've been charged this week. What does that tell you about the society in that town, is that not only has it been passed from one generation to another, but it's been seen to be so normal that it is happening between children. Not just when they're becoming adults, but child to child.

This isn't a culture. This is not part of indigenous culture. This is not part of any sane culture. This is a culture that is being destroyed. And the people that stood outside there today were not prepared to come in here and hear this, because they're confronted by it. We should all be confronted by it.

More here


Two articles below today

It's not only Britain that has poor public hospital hygeine

MORE than 7000 patients die and billions of dollars worth of health care is wasted every year in Australia because doctors and nurses do not wash their hands enough. And now they risk being sued for negligence for failing to prevent the spread of infectious disease.

The startling revelations have come from evidence and background documents given at public hearings last week of the Queensland Parliamentary select committee on health. Health Quality and Complaints Commission chief John Youngman said in evidence that half of all healthcare providers did not have appropriate hand hygiene processes in place. Surgery was a high-risk area in Queensland hospitals because of poor hand hygiene, he said. Dr Youngman said poor hand hygiene "is a major cause of healthcare-associated infection". He said research confirmed that "over half the adverse events that occurred were related to the operating theatre". Dr Youngman said the new health commission had published guidelines to fight infection outbreaks.

The report points to a lack of education, a lack of recognition and a lack of understanding of good hand hygiene. It said there was a lack of commitment and awareness at government level. The guidelines stress the need for hand washing with antiseptic rubs to reduce transmission of antimicrobial-resistant organisms such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or "golden staph".

It is estimated there are as many as 150,000 healthcare-associated infections in Australia a year. Yet compliance with hand washing guidelines "remains universally low", according to the report. "These infections can result in a prolonged hospital stay, culminating in significant financial and health outcome implications for both the patient and the hospital," the report says.

A companion report warned health professionals they risked claims for civil damages and criminal actions. "It is conceivable that medical administrators could be charged with offences if they were to permit the spread of infectious disease," the report warned. During the inquiry into the Bundaberg Hospital, whistleblower Toni Hoffman said infamous surgeon Jayant Patel did not wash his hands regularly.


Archaic medical training needs drastic revision

The prospect of managing ageing populations, the cost of whizzbang medical technologies and a demanding public is an awesome task. Health is arguably the greatest non-security challenge that Western governments face. One key piece of the jigsaw is medical training, a fact acknowledged by the chairman of the State Government's ministerial taskforce to investigate emergency departments, Dr Rod Bishop, who partly blames the crisis on the staffing of departments by locum doctors. A locum doctor is a casual doctor who works for an hourly rate. More and more junior doctors are heading into such a lifestyle, attracted to its rates of pay and flexibility. By doing so they opt out of the long path to becoming a specialist.

Rather than blame junior doctors for wanting to have control of their lives, medical authorities and the Government should examine the real nature of the problem, part of which lies in the archaic conventions of medical training. Medical training is one of last bastions of the old world and requires a genuine shake-up. In the past 10 years almost every other sector has faced enormous pressures, resulting from the phenomenal pace of communications development, to perform their tasks faster, cheaper and better simultaneously. Failure to do so quickly resulted in extinction. Medical training is not such a sector. It is the East Germany of our society, waiting for its wall to fall.

It is only in the past year that doctors in training have had a say in the colleges that govern them, after strong recommendations from the Australian Medical Council, which accredits colleges. The length of training that graduates face borders on the farcical. If we assume that someone entering university never takes time off, something highly unlikely for this generation, he or she is unable to practise independently for, on average, about 13 years. In that time, their friends in other industries have often progressed to senior positions, established themselves financially or experimented with multiple careers. The present batch of young doctors is among the biggest relative losers in the globalisation and economic boom of the past decade, trapped in the public sector with limited mobility.

In NSW, the wages of training doctors have risen an average of 3 per cent a year since the mid-1990s, barely keeping abreast of inflation. Despite the great power of the profession, their union representation has been poor, relying locally on an ineffective Health Services Union, which represents everybody from hospital cleaners to paramedics.

While the work of any kind of doctor, especially those practising complex procedures, requires enormous technical expertise, there are few tasks in today's world that require a decade and half to practise independently. Fighter pilots are ready in a fraction of that time. Barristers complete an exam and are deemed ready to start. It is only in medicine that each new facet of knowledge is just placed on top of the pyramid of training, so that the pyramid gets higher and higher and is administered by colleges that are not subject to genuine scrutiny or competition. This is despite the fact that the ultimate tasks of modern specialists are exceedingly narrow and usually very repetitive. The modern specialist trains to be a fighter pilot, but spends most of his life riding a bike.

In my experience, the main gripe from colleagues is the sheer length of time it takes to come out the other side and the terrible working conditions along the way. They feel that training is a euphemism for serving as cheap labour in under-funded public hospitals, especially when they reach a senior level. Only federal MPs have a greater disconnect between their hyper-responsibility and monetary reward.

The problem is only likely to worsen, considering the number of medical students is set to nearly triple in the next decade, the likely oversupply giving them even less industrial clout. The governmental dream is a bottleneck where a host of highly qualified doctors are trapped at the point of becoming a specialist, effectively doing the same work but for a fraction of the pay. Some of the country's best and brightest young people are being short-changed by a system that does not value them and places undue demands on their lives. Unfortunately, the arrangement suits many in authority, both within the profession and in government.

It is high time that competition was introduced in this sector by allowing universities to run training programs alongside colleges. Senior trainees should have the capacity to claim Medicare rebates, perhaps at a reduced rate, considering they are often doing exactly the same work as a specialist. This will be a good start to producing a more motivated medical workforce, an absolute prerequisite for the world-class public health system we deserve.


Monday, October 08, 2007

Muslim pedophile case reviewed

It clearly needs appeal, not "review". What was the asshole doing in bed with an 11-year old boy anyway?

A JUDGE'S decision not to record a conviction against a medical student who pleaded guilty to attempting to indecently deal with a boy has caught the attention of Attorney-General Kerry Shine, who is reviewing the case. If he does lodge an appeal in the next month, the matter would be decided by Queensland's Court of Appeal, which has the power to change the original sentence. Third year medical student Shakee Mirza, 26, was punished with 12 months' probation when he appeared in Brisbane District Court on Wednesday over his conduct in late 2005 involving a boy, 11.

At the time, sentencing judge David Searles agreed with a request from Mirza's lawyer that a conviction for the offence not be recorded. If a conviction was recorded, it could have jeopardised Mirza's student visa status. His future registration as a doctor is now a matter for authorities to consider.

The court was told the offence came about as a result of Mirza volunteering for community group Aunties and Uncles - a mentoring organisation for families in need. On the day of the incident, Mirza, the 11-year-old complainant and his brother were watching TV while lying on a single bed when the accused massaged the boy's head before saying "this would feel better if I did it on your penis". But the boy said no and pushed his hand away and the incident stopped.

There was said to be no planning involved in the incident and Mirza, who provided glowing references to the court, has no criminal history. His lawyer characterised the offending as a moment of stupidity - a description accepted by Judge Searles. Mirza reportedly said the offence was almost done in a "joking" fashion.

Judge Searles said after considering all of the submissions from both sides, he was satisfied the circumstances of the case were "exceptional" and out of the realm of an actual custodial sentence. He said he did not think the circumstances warranted a jail sentence and recording a conviction could impact on Mirza's career and put his student visa status in jeopardy.

Anti-child abuse campaigner Hetty Johnson said she contacted Mr Shine's office yesterday about whether an appeal would be lodged and was told the Attorney-General had received a report from the DPP on the matter and would be considering it in coming weeks.


Leftist public broadcaster attacks abuse revelations

"Noble savages" don't abuse children! Oh No! So the shakiest of grounds can be used to attack reports of it happening

The ABC's Media Watch program has appealed for help from the Northern Territory Government to attack The Weekend Australian over a report on two Aboriginal girls who fell pregnant at the age of 12. The article, "Girls who become mums at age of 12", appeared on the front page of The Weekend Australian on August 18 and detailed issues relating to children in Aboriginal communities becoming sexually active at a young age. In it, journalist Simon Kearney reported that two girls, Marisa Marshall and Marisa Brown, fell pregnant at age 12 in the community of Papunya, northwest of Alice Springs. Permission to name the girls was sought and received from their parents and an aunt.

Aboriginal Territory Labor MP Malarndirri McCarthy yesterday confirmed she had spoken to Media Watch in general terms about the media's coverage of the Howard Government's intervention in indigenous communities. Ms McCarthy, a former ABC journalist, said she did not know the details of this particular case but had concerns about naming children in such circumstances. "Naming of a child when you are talking about sexual abuse or alcohol or substance abuse, of course, I have serious concerns in regards to that," she said. "But this is not about two media organisations fighting. This is about our children and let's see what we can do to fix this and make this (intervention) work, and that includes the coverage."

A Territory Government spokesman said the Government had no wider role in the Media Watch story beyond passing on a request for comment to an MP. "The first I heard about this was when Media Watch contacted me this afternoon," he said.

In written questions, Media Watch story editor Michael Vincent asked Kearney in what language permission was sought for the girl to tell her story, why it was necessary to identify the two girls by name and whether he considered the "further long-term embarrassment" of publication. Kearney was also asked a hypothetical question about whether he would have published the name of a non-indigenous girl living in Sydney who had become pregnant and had an abortion at the age of 12. "In the same circumstances, yes," Kearney replied. Vincent's fifth question to Kearney centred on the "vulnerable" community of Papunya allegedly having a limited understanding of the publicity of the story.

"In my experience, the residents of these communities are not that naive," Kearney replied. "The Central Land Council appears to go out of its way to show people in communities stories about them that appear in the national media. The general level of distrust of the media and the lengths you need to go to gain trust indicates that they are no less naive than anyone in the wider community." Vincent said Media Watch would not comment when contacted yesterday by The Weekend Australian.

The Weekend Australian's editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell said: "As usual, Media Watch is off on a political frolic. "The program would be better off asking why more people in the media had not questioned Clare Martin's $80 million spending shortfall in Aboriginal affairs rather than pushing an unfounded allegation against the national daily, the only media outlet committing the sort of resources needed to fairly report the federal Government's intervention."

Papunya council chief executive Rod Richardson said while he did not know the girls personally, he did not have a problem with their names being used if permission was granted. "I didn't hear anyone running around complaining about it," said Mr Richardson, who said he was also contacted by Media Watch in relation to the issue. The same story is the subject of a complaint to the Australian Press Council, with a complainant expressing concern about the "rights of a child who is a member of a vulnerable population".


Rudd to raise the bar for schools

He sounds good but the teachers' unions will nobble him

KEVIN Rudd has attacked the nation's schools as unacceptably patchy in quality, expressing sympathy for parents struggling to find schools that provide a decent education. And the Labor leader has promised to impose on schools a level of rigour not yet seen in Australia by linking funding to improved standards rather than handing state governments or private schools "a blank cheque".

In an interview with The Weekend Australian yesterday, Mr Rudd also called for four-year fixed electoral terms "entrenched in stone" and said John Howard had created a whole new class of "forgotten people" marooned by his rejection of traditional liberalism. He also posed his alternative to Mr Howard's vision statement, delivered in the 1996 election campaign, that if elected, he wanted Australians to feel "relaxed and comfortable". Mr Rudd said he wanted Australians to be "confident in their kids' future, confident in Australia's future".

Mr Rudd made the comments in Sydney after a hectic week of campaigning on public hospital standards and amid increasing tension over when the Prime Minister will name a date for the federal election. Asked whether parents could be confident that any government school would provide an adequate education, Mr Rudd said one of the education system's worst problems was its variability. He said he felt sympathy for parents who faced a "vexed choice" on schooling, admitting he had seen excellence in public and private schools as well as inadequacy. "What you'll find us doing increasingly is lifting the bar nationally on performance measures for schools," he said. "When we talk about a new national curriculum, let me tellyou, its core hallmark when it comes to English, maths, science, history, languages, will be absolute rigour."

In an indication that the Opposition Leader is likely to take on the powerful teachers' unions if he wins office, Mr Rudd said Labor would negotiate a national curriculum with states and tie funding increases to improvements in educational outcomes. "We are doing kids an absolute disservice by a lack of rigour in schools' curricula, an absolute disservice by not testing them forrigour all the way through," he said. "And we are doing an absolute disservice to our kids if we don'thave intervention strategies properly resourced to deal with literacy and numeracy non-performance." A Labor government would deliver to the education system "a rigour that I don't believe any federal government has embraced before".

While he agreed he had no magic wand, Mr Rudd said a carrot-and-stick approach would deliver change, with schools measured against tough standards that would be regularly lifted. "Unless school performance continues to improve against robust measures of learning outcomes for kids, whether it's in trades or it's in academic subjects or their primary school equivalents, then we are not in the business of signing blank cheques," he said.

Mr Rudd is a product of the Queensland state school system and sent his three children to state primary schools and private secondary schools. Having ruled out a return to Labor's 2004 election policy, which included funding cuts affecting a "hit list" of exclusive private schools, Mr Rudd said his ambition was for the standard of Australian public and private schools to be the best in the world.....

Mr Rudd said he wanted Australians to feel proud of their country and confident it had the the best-educated and most highly skilled workforce in the Western world. He said he wanted "a country which celebrates enterprise, initiative and success, but which doesn't throw the fair go out the back door".

He said Mr Howard had spent his 11 years in office trying to shift the national character towards one opposed to concern for others and accused him of attempting to "terminate the fair go with extreme prejudice". ....



Three articles below:

More deaths due to government medical services

Zoltan Fekete, 30, went into Maroondah Hospital for a routine operation to remove his appendix, but he never went home. The hospital, dubbed "The Killing Fields" by doctors who say it relies on under-trained doctors to manage critical cases, is being investigated by the State Coroner.

Great-grandmother Nancy John died after her doctor's call for an ambulance to respond to her "heart failure" was initially ignored in a mix-up. Paramedics were sent only after the doctor called a second time, demanding urgent help.

The family of 1.98m tall "gentle giant" Mr Fekete are too distraught to talk about their son's death, but they want answers. Mr Fekete checked himself into the hospital on August 22 suffering stomach pains and was told he needed to have his appendix out. But the next day, after he was anaesthetised for surgery, it is understood his heart failed and his brain was starved of oxygen. Family and friends were told there had been "complications". They went to the hospital and found Mr Fekete in a coma. On August 29 his life-support machine was switched off. Friend Mat Veale said: "It was meant to be a simple operation. That's what is so hard to take. We all want to know what went on."

Questions also hang over the August 29 death of pensioner Mrs John, a volunteer for the Red Cross and Dimboola East Ladies Hospital Auxiliary. Andre Coia, of Rural Ambulance Victoria, said a doctor at Mrs John's Dimboola home called for an ambulance at 7.55am. "The doctor said it was heart failure," he said. "It was categorised as a non-urgent case. The doctor then called back at 8.12am saying it was urgent and the patient was quite unwell. A crew arrived at 8.21am." Mrs John was dead when the ambulance arrived. RAV has admitted the case was wrongly categorised, but there has been no external investigation.

Opposition health spokeswoman Helen Shardey said the tragedies pointed to chronic problems in Victoria's health system.


Bloody-minded hospital bureaucrats again

Five doctors who alleged Melbourne Health tried to force them to work 60-hour weeks for only 36 hours' pay, have been paid $293,000 in compensation. The revelation is an embarrassment for the health service and State Government.

Doctors claimed the network tried to bully them into working the extra hours by warning their contracts would not be renewed. The Australian Salaried Medical Officers' Federation alleged harassment in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.

The network yesterday confirmed it had settled with the doctors. A Melbourne Health spokesman said the service had "addressed the issues . . . and the matter has been resolved". Opposition Health Spokeswoman Helen Shardey said it was disgraceful the staff were treated in such a way.


Replace doctors with nurses??

When will they face the fact that they need to train more doctors? There is no shortage of applicants for university medical places -- just too few places

THE Australian Medical Association has slammed a Federal Parliament report suggesting practice nurses could do up to 70 per cent of the work now performed by GPs. The report comes as other GP groups call on both sides of politics to commit to funding a nurse for every general practice in Australia. The Practice Nursing In Australia research paper, by the Australian Parliamentary Library, said: "Review of research into the substitutability of nurses for doctors has also suggested that nurses could assume up to 70 per cent of the work currently undertaken by doctors and this could enhance the quality of primary care services."

But AMA president Rosanna Capolingua, a GP, said the idea was "simplistic" and "puzzling" and suggested the report was part of a Government agenda of "task substitution" directed at addressing the shortage of GPs. She said the current distinction between nurses and doctors, where the doctor is the natural team leader due to their superior medical knowledge, worked well.

On Friday, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners called for the Government to "provide a nurse with every doctor". The Howard Government has spent $234 million since 2001 to entice GPs to employ practice nurses for tasks such as immunisation, wound care and pap smears. Almost 60 per cent of doctors' surgeries now have at least one practice nurse. They cost the Medicare system less with a rebate of $10.60, rather than $30.

Dr Capolingua said practice nurses were not the solution to the GP shortage. "We need to make sure when an Australian needs to see a doctor they get to see a doctor." Australian Practice Nurses Association chief executive Belinda Caldwell said: "Nurses provide a different clinical experience which enhances the experience for the patient, rather than being a substitute for the doctor."


Sunday, October 07, 2007

Anti-democratic Greens

The self-elected elite who are sure they know what is best for the world and damn what the peasants think

Anti-pulp mill protesters vowed to keep up the fight to stop the proposed Gunns Ltd pulp mill at rallies yesterday. Despite the approval by state and federal authorities, more than 300 people gathered for what was called Community Judgment Day in Princess Park, Launceston. It came as opponents in Sydney and Tasmania geared up for the federal election campaign.

Businessman Geoffrey Cousins told ABC's Lateline program on Thursday night that campaigners would target Gunns' bankers and lobby during the election campaign. A rally is planned for Low Head, north of George Town, at noon tomorrow, as well as in Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull's Sydney seat of Wentworth on the same day. Wilderness Society campaigner Sean Cadman said the society would fight the proposal until it was dead and buried. He said approval from the federal minister under a process that was still under appeal in the Federal Court had a few risks associated with it. "We are not intending to go into details about possible future action but all I can say is that yesterday we sent a legal request to Mr Turnbull asking for a statement of reasons why he made the decision he has. "We believe that there are major flaws in the decision and we will be pursuing all of those options," he said.

In Hobart, anti-pulp mill protesters strangled traffic on one of the city's busiest streets yesterday when a man chained himself to a log truck. The truck had stopped at the traffic lights near Franklin Square on Macquarie St shortly before 3.30pm when a group of about 20 protesters approached it. One man chained himself under the truck while other protesters climbed onto the vehicle to unfurl banners reading "Kill Bill" and "Stop woodchipping our ancient forests."

Police closed all but one lane of the busy road while attempting to break up the group. The man chained under the truck was eventually removed and taken away by police and Macquarie St was reopened about 3.50pm.

In Launceston, speakers rejected Premier Paul Lennon's call to heal the wounds in the Tasmanian community. Tamar Valley vintner Peter Whish-Wilson said the Premier's call was not genuine. "He couldn't help himself though because he stuck in a big barb to `all those scaremongers'," he said. He added that the assessment by the Chief Scientist, Jim Peacock, had been very narrow in scope.

Tasmanian Greens leader Peg Putt said Mr Lennon had the gall to talk about healing divisions. "He talks as if they were nothing to do with him -- wrong, abandoning the independent RPDC drove these divisions deep. "It told us that corporate mates matter more to Paul Lennon, Labor and the Tasmanian Liberals than you the Tasmanian people," she said. "The first step to healing is for Paul Lennon to resign."

State secretary of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre Trudy Maluga said the pulp mill would threaten shell stringing and mutton birding. "Gunns paid to get an Aboriginal heritage assessment that would OK the site location," she said. "There was not a single scrap of consultation with Aboriginal people because Gunns, the Tasmanian Government and Mr Turnbull all knew our people opposed the destruction of our sites." [Tasmanian "Aborigines" are actually whites who claim some remote Aboriginal ancestry]


Africans unwelcome: Hanson

PAULINE Hanson has backed Kevin Andrews' views on African migrants - saying he was right to be concerned about crime and other issues. The former One Nation icon and current Queensland Senate candidate says the government needs to protect the ``Australian way of life''. Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews has cut the African migrant intake, saying there appears to be specific problems with them fitting in to Australian society. His remarks prompted passionate feedback from readers on both sides of the debate - and Premier Anna Bligh accused Mr Andrews of being racist.

Speaking at a Gold Coast Media Club function today, Ms Hanson said she welcomed Mr Andrews' move ,adding, ``It's been recorded in Victoria that there is a 25 per cent increase in HIV. ``There is TB, and a case of leprosy which has been recorded in South Australia.''

Ms Hanson said the federal government had a responsibility to ensure the safety of Australians. ``You can't bring people into the country who are incompatible with our way of life and culture,'' she said. ``They get around in gangs and there is escalating crime that is happening.'' Ms Hanson, who has formed a new political party, Pauline's United Australia Party, for this year's election, said Australia should send aid to Sudan instead of accepting refugees. ``If we want to do things for the Sudanese people, then let us send medical supplies, food, whatever they need over there - but let them stay in their own country,'' she said.

Ms Hanson said she would make an election issue of placing a moratorium on immigration into Australia. ``I receive emails and letters from people of all ages, including young people, who agree with my stance on this,'' she said.

Ms Bligh, whose own electorate of South Brisbane has a strong Sudanese community, eafrlier today said Mr Andrews' views were disturbing. "It has been a long time since I have heard such a pure form of racism out of the mouth of any Australian politician," she said. "When it comes from the immigration minister it is particularly disturbing." She said police statistics showed very low levels of crime among Sudanese people in southern Queensland. "To hear this sort of attack on these people is frankly something that belongs to the deep south of America in the 1950s," she said.

Mr Andrews last night accused Sudanese migrants of fighting each other in bars, forming gangs and congregating in parks to drink alcohol. He did not provide statistics to back up his claims. He had earlier announced that the federal government is to cut the number of African refugees it accepts from 50 per cent of the total to 30 per cent, allowing more asylum seekers from other troublespot around the world to come to Australia. "Having a more equal focus across Africa, the Middle East and Asia hardly constitutes racism," Mr Andrews said.

Most of Queensland's 6000-strong Sudanese community are located in the Brisbane suburbs of Moorooka, Annerley, Yeronga and Coorparoo, as well as in Toowoomba. Brisbane Liberal MP Gary Hardgrave said his community was "exhausted" by the influx of African refugees and needed a break.

Sudanese immigrant Jacob Gai Kuai, who settled in Brisbane with his wife and five children in 1998, yesterday accused Mr Andrews of racism. "I ask myself what integration the Minister means," Mr Kuai said. "From what he's saying, it seems that he's a racist." Mr Kuai said Sudanese migrants were thriving in their new homes and were productive members of their communities. The Sunnybank Hills father of five, who fled war-torn southern Sudan with his family more than a decade ago, said Mr Andrews was pandering to undercurrents of racism to win votes at the looming election.

Prime Minister John Howard described as "contemptible" any suggestion his party was playing race politics, despite police saying Sudanese refugees were not over-represented in crime statistics.

Also today, the Anglican Archbishop of Adelaide, Jeffrey Driver, called on the federal government to review a decision to cut the number of refugees coming from Africa. Archbishop Driver said he would be deeply saddened if there was a drastic cut in the number of Sudanese refugees. ``I do understand that Australia has a primary responsibility to its own region, and that it may be time for a reduction of numbers from Africa,'' he said. ``However, Australia made a commitment to the Sudan when it opened the way for something like 30,000 refugees to come to this country. ``I do not believe we can cut that commitment suddenly.''


Another fair and unbiased academic

Nasty how Google strips off hypocritical masks

The academic who authored a report being used to attack Work Choices [Federal government labour laws] is a self-declared socialist who issued an extraordinary call to arms against the Howard Government's "neo-conservative agenda" in 2005. John Buchanan's speech revealed he was so traumatised by Mark Latham's defeat at the 2004 federal election that he did not read a newspaper for two months and "could hardly talk to my friends".

In an address to a Politics in the Pub forum held in the Sydney suburb of Surry Hills in February 2005 -- uncovered by The Australian's columnist Janet Albrechtsen -- the University of Sydney academic sets out what he believes "socialists and the Left" should do in response to the Howard Government. "Call me old-fashioned but I am inspired by the Romans, they took the view, attack is the best means of defence." In a sustained attack on the the workplace laws, he said the Howard Government was proposing detailed legislation prescribing exactly where unions and workers fit in the world, "and if you don't fit in that world you are going to be locked up or you are going to be crushed".

"And it's a very important thing to grasp because neo-liberalism is there in the background but it's a neo-conservative agenda that's coming through," he said. "We've seen it in foreign policy, its now coming through in domestic policy. The outcomes are going to be essentially the same -- it's capitalist power inscribed in a different ideological guise so we are going to see deepening inequality. "We are going to see wages get more and more unequal, we are going to see hours become more fragmented and we are going to see more casualisation and contractors."

Dr Buchanan had been at the centre of a political dispute this week after he was attacked by Howard government ministers following the release of a report he co-authored, Australia@ Work. Federal Labor and the union movement seized on the report's finding that low-skilled workers on Australian Workplace Agreements earned on average $106 a week less than those on collective agreements.

Dr Buchanan and fellow report author Brigid Van Wanrooy are considering legal action after Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey described them as "former trade union officials who are parading as academics".

Peter Costello said the study was "contaminated" because it was half-funded by Unions NSW. It was also funded by the Government's own Australian Research Council. Dr Buchanan said last night his comments to the 2005 forum were made as a private citizen and his views had no impact on his research. [And pigs fly] "The views I expressed at Politics in the Pub were made as a private citizen and using this against me in my professional life is an attack on the freedom of speech," he said.

"The methodology and draft report of the Australia at Work research project were scrutinised by a panel of academics with different viewpoints to ensure the methods and analysis were valid and reliable. "I look forward to a time when attention is devoted to the substance of research; not the personal views of researchers."

Mr Buchanan told the ABC's Lateline on Tuesday that he wanted Howard government ministers to retract their attacks on his research. "I want them to retract very harsh statements, saying that we have concocted information, saying that we are guns for hire for anyone who pays us money," Mr Buchanan said. "These are the lowest claims you can make about a researcher, and we think the Government is quite recklessly going out to destroy our reputations, and we would hope they see the error of their ways and shut this matter down quickly."

In his speech, he described himself as a "workplace delegate", and said the fundamental strength of the union movement was determined by its militants. The Weekend Australian understands Dr Buchanan was a Canberra-based delegate for the Community and Public Sector Union between 1985 and 1990. While saying in the speech that he was not a Maoist, he said the union movement had to take inspiration from Mao's tactics in the 1920s and early 1930s when he gave up strategic ground to his enemies but consolidated around "red bases". "It might be old-fashioned, it might be idealistic but, for me, the reason I am a socialist is because I want to live in a world where its easier to have friends," he said. The current situation was "just another stage in the steady winding-down of the Left". "So don't think it's all about to end," he said. "We have been losing it for a long time anyway."



FIVE articles below today:

Useless Queensland health complaints body

Probably better known as the hospital whitewash commission

VALERIE Prowd was admitted to Nambour hospital in January 2005 with a broken leg. Sixteen days later she was dead. The tragedy rocked her loving husband Ray, who is relentlessly seeking answers. He has waged a paper war on health bureaucrats and has even attacked the Queensland Health Quality and Complaints Commission, which he said was too slow to investigate his wife's death. Mr Prowd believes his wife suffered a severe reaction to a narcotic painkiller which should not have been prescribed. He says he had five different death certificates - all "useless bits of paper".

At a Maryborough sitting of the Queensland parliamentary select committee on health, Mr Prowd had his day. "The Health Quality and Complaints Commission is about as useless as they come," he said. When told the commission said it needed six more weeks to complete a report, he told the hearing: "I could write a novel in that time." Mr Prowd complained also to the Crime and Misconduct Commission and was astounded when it referred his complaint against the commission to the commission.

Also critical of investigators was Leesa MacLeod, whose 57-year old mother, Ursula, died on the Gold Coast after obesity surgery known as biliary pancreatic diversion or BPD. Mrs MacLeod was 136kg when the operation was carried out at Allamanda Private Hospital. The hospital ceased BPD when it was revealed others also had died from the procedure. In a poignant submission to the select committee, Ms MacLeod said she was kept in the dark about the probe. "The investigation has taken so long it has greatly added to my grief and suffering," she wrote, claiming the commission was a grossly under-resourced toothless tiger.

Then she made what must be seen as a startling observation - the Health Quality and Complaints Commission and the Medical Board did not co-operate with each other. If correct, it is an astounding claim. "Information is not freely passed between the two entities," she said. She also said they changed courses of action when it suited them.


38 more patient deaths probed in Queensland

QUEENSLAND'S new health watchdog is investigating the deaths of 38 patients believed to have died from negligence or catastrophic failures in the medical system. Medical staff are facing criminal prosecutions over two of the deaths. With only seven of the 38 investigations finalised, more prosecutions are likely.

Informed sources said the remaining 31 cases could take a year to complete while investigators quiz scores of doctors, nurses, ambulance officers, wardsmen and grieving family members. The deaths were among 5067 complaints fielded by the independent Health Quality and Complaints Commission in its first year. More than 4400 complaints were "resolved", some over the phone.

The Courier-Mail learned the watchdog body received disturbing claims of gross negligence, system error and communications breakdowns resulting in deaths in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Logan, Townsville, Cairns, Redcliffe, Normanton, Cherbourg and other Aboriginal communities.

Some of the details filtered out last week during Queensland parliamentary select committee hearings into the commission's first year. One serious case involved a 43-year-old Woodridge woman - previously reported in The Courier-Mail - who died on a stretcher at Logan Hospital because no beds were available. Other deaths were blamed on drugs mix-ups. The parents of a psychiatric patient who committed suicide complained their daughter was sent home without adequate treatment.

Nine complaints were referred to the State Coroner and two to the Child Guardian. Not all complaints were about failures in hospitals, with 1600 mostly minor grievances with private medical practitioners and dentists. The Health Quality and Complaints Commission was set up in 2006 after a health systems review by private consultant Peter Forster. It followed health inquiries by Anthony Morris, QC, and Geoff Davies, QC, who revealed major flaws in the system highlighted by the Bundaberg Hospital tragedy.

The new watchdog's CEO, Cheryl Herbert, said the commission had made a significant impact in its first year. "We are immensely proud of our achievements," she said. Mrs Herbert said complaints could be broadly placed in two categories: service and quality. She said the commission had 77 staff, of which 58 were permanent. Mrs Herbert called for better co-operation between the Coroner, the Crime and Misconduct Commission and police in investigating complaints. She said a computer systems upgrade in November would lead to better management of complaints.


NSW Surgeons told to accept cuts -- as saving lives 'too expensive'

A CASH-strapped Sydney hospital has ordered orthopaedic surgeons to cut back on operations and not book "emergency" cases outside business hours because it costs too much money. In another indication the NSW health system is at breaking point, The Daily Telegraph can reveal Sutherland Hospital this week told surgeons to scale back orthopaedic surgery as it was having a "detrimental effect" on the budget. The internal memo by the hospital's clinical group manager Aileen Lawther, sent on Tuesday, also complained of increased costs caused by "emergency" operations conducted after 5pm.

The letter has outraged surgeons who are concerned management is putting lives at risk. "Overall, the elective cases are being managed well ahead of the allocated clinical timeframes," the letter said. "While that is an indicator of the improved efficiencies within the service and beneficial to patients, it is having a detrimental effect on the budget for the procurement of goods to support the work."

At the same time, the hospital has also made an embarrassing plea for donations from the public to fit out its operating theatres. In a pamphlet distributed to families in southern Sydney, the hospital urges people to donate $100 to help buy six anaesthetic machines at $80,000 each. "We need your assistance to purchase these machines and ensure the best possible treatment is available to all residents of the Sutherland Shire," the letter said. The Daily Telegraph revealed last month that the State Government was capping the amount of donations hospitals could receive from charities to buy equipment.

Australian Society of Orthopaedic Surgeons co-ordinator Stephen Milgate said the hospital's actions would impact on already long waiting lists. "We are concerned that elective surgery is coming under pressure again and waiting lists will grow because operations have to be scaled back," he said. Opposition health spokesman Jillian Skinner said Sutherland Hospital was indicative of the health system. "It is very revealing of what middle management is dictating to doctors how they are to treat their patients and it's all driven by cutting costs," she said.

Health insiders yesterday said they hadn't seen so many senior doctors going on the record slamming the health system since the Camden/Campbelltown crisis. In the last week two senior doctors, Dr Tony Joseph from Royal North Shore and Dr Valerie Malka from Westmead, have condemned the system - calling it a shambles and demanding the Government take immediate action.

Yesterday Dr Kate Porgeos, a member of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine and acting director of Gosford and Wyong hospitals, added her name to the list. "Everywhere across Sydney we are seeing severe access block, you can't see patients in appropriate places, we are very dependent on junior medicos and often overseas trained doctors or locums - we feel like we are losing registrars because they say it is a sweat shop and go elsewhere," she said. "It is a very stressful workload and you constantly feel like you are cutting corners and it is unsafe."


Radiology logjam in NSW

I have been in hospitals (e.g my local Brisbane Catholic hospital) where a typed radiological report was made available to me within an hour or two of the scan. That's what's possible. That's not remotely what many Sydney people are getting, however

THOUSANDS of X-rays and other medical scans are not being interpreted by radiologists in Sydney hospitals because of outdated technology and a national shortage of radiologists. In some cases films and scans have been lost. Liverpool Hospital has confirmed it has a backlog of 4500 images that have not been reported on by a radiologist. But a radiologist from the hospital, who did not want to be named, said the number of X-rays, CAT scans and MRI scans not being diagnosed by a radiologist was twice that.

At Westmead Hospital, staff say the backlog of scans not accompanied by a radiologist report is even greater, running into tens of thousands. The Opposition health spokeswoman, Jillian Skinner, said the backlog at some hospitals was putting patients in danger by delaying the diagnosis of potential conditions, including cancer. "A backlog of X-rays means patients aren't getting treated and therefore their lives are potentially at risk," she said. "The Commonwealth provides the training places at the university but without the resources and support from the State Government at the hospital level, they can't work."

Hospitals including Royal Prince Alfred and Westmead Children's have a computerised digital imaging system and are not reporting the same level of backlogs of unread scans. Some hospitals are paying private radiologists twice the rate they pay salaried radiologists to report on scans. Westmead, Liverpool, Royal North Shore, Nepean and Coffs Harbour hospitals are among those believed to be experiencing delays in reporting on images and are waiting for digital systems to be introduced.

A spokeswoman for Sydney South West Area Health Service said Liverpool Hospital would move to electronic reporting of all radiology examinations within 12 months. The health service and the Government denied that patients' safety was compromised and said that even if a radiologist had not viewed the images, a doctor or other professional would have in most cases.

Michael Fulham, head of medical imaging for the area health service, said the digital imaging system installed at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in 2000 ensured that films were always available to medical teams managing patients. The digital system itself was not the solution, but "where you have a shortage of radiologists, I think the next best thing is ensuring the films are available where they are needed", Professor Fulham said.

The president of the Royal Australian College of Radiologists, Liz Kenny, blamed a national shortage of radiologists and radiographers for the problem. But Dr Kenny, who also represents the interests of private radiologists, was reluctant to plumb the depth of the problem. "It is hard for radiologists to read all the scans that are taken," she said. "The number not being reported is likely to be many thousands." She called for more radiology training positions.

The Health Minister, Reba Meagher, said NSW had increased the number of trainee positions for radiologists from 56 to 93 in the past six years. "The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists has not approached the Health Department to suggest this number of trainees is insufficient," a spokeswoman for Ms Meagher said.


Bully culture rife in NSW hospital

NSW Premier Morris Iemma says he is disturbed by a report alleging bullying of staff at Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital. Mr Iemma said today Health Minister Reba Meagher had briefed him on the September 18 report into the RNSH, which was leaked to News Ltd newspapers yesterday. Written by public servant Vern Dalton and nursing professor Judith Meppen, it found evidence of endemic misconduct by nurses, doctors and other medical staff at the hospital.

It said there were strong concerns about bullying and harassment and staff have been too terrified to speak out. The report was written shortly before a pregnant woman miscarried in the hospital's emergency department toilets after waiting two hours for attention.

Mr Iemma said he was "disturbed to see these reports" and pledged to weed out any bullying. "It has no part in our health system," he told reporters. "It is a disciplinary matter that does go to misconduct. "Anyone found to have acted in this way will be dealt with." He said new northern Sydney area health chief executive Matthew Dally had already made a good start in tackling the bullying problem at RNSH.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

Australian army growing

JOHN Howard has resurrected an army unit killed off 10 years ago in the second stage of a $4.1 billion program to increase the number of regular battalions from six to eight. The Prime Minister yesterday formally re-established the Royal Australian Regiment's 8th/9th Battalion - with 1200 troops to be based in Brisbane. The move implements the second stage of the Enhanced Land Force initiative after the raising and deployment of the 7th Battalion to Darwin.

The 8th/9th, the youngest battalion of the Australian army when it was formed in a post-Vietnam War merger in 1973, was disbanded in 1997 and its regimental colours confined to the Infantry Corps museum in Singleton. However, the 8th/9th - which as separate regiments raised during the Vietman War won two Distinguished Service Orders, five Military Crosses and nine Military Medals between them - will return to its old home at Gallipoli Barracks in the Brisbane suburb of Enogerra. "The nation should never scrimp and save when providing for its defence," Mr Howard said at the barracks yesterday.

He said the $10 billion initiative would increase to eight the number of regular army battalions from five in 1996. "This success has been made possible by the Government's significant investment in defence recruitment and retention, which this year has produced one of the best recruitment results in 30 years," he said. "Today's announcement marks a further down-payment on our commitment to a larger, more versatile and more capable army suited to an uncertain strategic environment." Mr Howard also announced an $80 million redevelopment of facilities at the Gallipoli Barracks in Brisbane's northwest suburbs.

While the barracks are in the safe ALP seat of Brisbane, many military personnel live nearby in the more marginal seat of Dickson, held by Assistant Treasurer Peter Dutton. Queensland has several marginal seats up for grabs in the election, and as well as Mr Howard and Defence Minister Brendan Nelson, the Opposition were out in force, with Kevin Rudd and Labor deputy Julia Gillard both in Queensland yesterday.

Ms Gillard acknowledged Labor's need to snare a swag of seats in Queensland, where all but six of the 28 lower house seats are held by the Coalition: "If we don't do well in Queensland, we won't win government." Ms Gillard complained that as part of its increasingly personal attacks on the Opposition front bench, the Government had begun portraying her as a "hard-edged shrew" - the dictionary definition of which is a "nagging, bad-tempered woman", or a small mammal with a long snout. "I actually think women and men have moved beyond that and if anything, there's a sense of 'Go girl' rather than anything else," she said.

Dr Nelson was unmoved by her complaint. "I don't know about shrew, but plenty of Australians would be unnerved by the idea of her being acting prime minister while Kevin Rudd is overseas," he said. Mr Howard's visit to the Gallipoli Barracks was carefully stage-managed. Soldiers were told by officers to "chat to him about the football". He was greeted by heavily armed 6th Battalion soldiers, veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, in full battle gear.


Government inaction on black crime in South Australia

THE infamous Gang of 49 will continue to commit serious crimes because the State Government is doing nothing to stop it, Adelaide's Aboriginal community believes. The Aboriginal gang of youth offenders is believed to be responsible for a wild crime spree in which five people were assaulted on Tuesday.

Despite the attacks, Attorney-General Michael Atkinson yesterday said the Government has had some success dealing with the gang. He said 20 members were in prison and recommendations from a report prepared by Social Inclusion Board chairman Monsignor David Cappo would soon be implemented. Mr Atkinson also said he did not know if this week's crimes had been committed by the Gang of 49.

Aboriginal elder Tauto Sansbury, who assisted Mr Cappo in preparing his report, accused the Government of having done nothing. "The Aboriginal community does not believe the Government is doing anything," he said. "The people I have spoken to are saying they are disappointed with what is happening. "I think the Government needs to take this seriously. They say they are, but I know they are not." Mr Sansbury said an Aboriginal social justice commissioner must be appointed and key recommendations from the Cappo report should be implemented immediately.

Mr Atkinson said amendments to the law were being drafted to deal with the gang as the report recommended. But Opposition Leader Martin Hamilton-Smith said the Government had failed. "Mike Rann said he would get results on law and order and he has got no results," he said. "Some of these people . . . need to be locked up and we need to throw away the key. "How would you feel if it was your mother or your wife or your grandmother that was beaten to a pulp the other day by this vicious gang?"


Amazing: No penalty for pedophilic Muslim -- free to work with children!

A medical student who tried to give an 11-year-old boy a "penis massage" will be allowed to undertake pediatric training as part of his degree after a Brisbane judge spared him a criminal conviction. Defence counsel for Pakistani-born Shakee Mirza, 27, this morning suggested the would-be doctor may have been inspired to touch the boy's genitals after watching sci-fi comedy film Spaceballs.

Mirza, a University of Queensland student in Australia on a study visa, was charged in February last year with attempted indecent treatment of a child. The District Court was told he had been assigned as a mentor to his victim's younger brother in 2005 by the Lions Club of Queensland under its "Aunties and Uncles" program for at-risk youth. Mirza was booted out of the scheme several months later because the organisation felt he had become too close to the family. But Crown prosecutor Vicki Loury said the part-time school tutor continued to have contact with the boys at their mother's invitation and would visit several times a week. He was also given permission to sleep in their beds.

The court heard Mirza had been watching television in a bedroom with his victim and had been massaging the child's head when he told the youngster "it would feel better" if he massaged his penis instead. The child said no, but Mirza tried to force his hands down his pants and was only stopped when the boy pushed his hand away. Despite pleading guilty to the offence, Mirza today escaped a jail term and a criminal conviction after his lawyers convinced Judge David Searles that it would ruin his future medical career, including a compulsory pediatric rotation as part of his degree. He had also donated much of his spare time to charity work and had never been in trouble before.

"Given my client's impeccable background ... he really can't offer much of an explanation," defence barrister Brad Farr said of the incident, which he stressed did not involve actual contact with the child's penis. "It was almost done in a joking fashion. "Coincidentally, they were watching a movie called Spaceballs - whether that put the idea in his head, I don't know."

Mirza was sentenced to 12 months' probation. Outside court, the boy's mother said the lack of a recorded criminal conviction meant Mirza could keep his blue card - or security clearance - allowing him close contact with children. "We've now placed our community at high risk," the woman, who cannot be identified, told the media. "I definitely feel he should have been stripped of his blue card, because the blue card allows him to become a doctor and a pediatrician." She also blasted the organisers of the "Aunties and Uncles" program for not properly "screening" mentor candidates before placing them in people's homes. "They've wiped their hands clean," she said.


AMA backs better checks on foreign doctors

DOCTORS have backed a report which found under-qualified foreign medical practitioners are getting work in Australia because of inadequate checks of their credentials. The Monash University study found state and federal authorities were reluctant to require compulsory assessments of foreign doctors' qualifications and work histories, for fear of deterring them from coming to Australia.

Australian Medical Association (AMA) president Rosanna Capolingua said today she was not happy with the existing vetting of overseas-trained doctors' credentials. "We're not satisfied and we're very pleased to see the scrutiny that has come upon these processes," she said. "We've had a need for overseas-trained doctors for a long time and they've served us very well, but of late we've become aware of situations where the qualifications of doctors or their clinical skills ... have not been quite right."

The immigration department approves foreign doctors' visas, including character and security checks. But it is up to state medical boards and each doctor's recruitment agency - often a state health department - to ensure their work histories stack up. Dr Capolingua said health authorities were reluctant to conduct compulsory checks of qualifications, referees and work histories because it slowed the process of recruiting doctors. "It is variable - it's not done in some states," she said. "Some states do primary qualification verification, but it needs to be nationally consistent. What we find is if governments get involved, the imperative for them is to get doctors in. They are a little resistant to wanting to go through these processes."

She called for offshore screening to assess doctors before they come to Australia, as well as a clinical interview before they begin work. A senate inquiry last month called for urgent action to implement nationally consistent checking of overseas doctors' credentials to prevent a repeat of Queensland's scandal involving Indian-born Dr Jayant Patel. Dr Asif Ali, a colleague of former terrorism suspect Dr Mohamed Haneef, was sacked from his Gold Coast Hospital job earlier this year for giving misleading information on his CV.

Up to 37 per cent of GPs in rural areas are foreign-trained. Australia is significantly short of medical professionals and has turned to overseas-trained doctors to make up the shortfall, with 3000-4000 arriving each year.

Health Minister Tony Abbott today rejected suggestions that large numbers of incompetent foreign doctors were slipping into Australia. "If particular boards have approved particular doctors who people think are not adequately trained, well let people say which board has made that mistake and which doctor has been inadequately assessed," he said. Queensland Health Minister Stephen Robertson said overseas-trained doctors applying for work in his state faced the most stringent registration system in the world. [Ho, Ho!]


Friday, October 05, 2007

Victoria: Attempted coverup of African gang problem

Just what one would expect from Victoria's politically correct Lesbian police chief

IMMIGRATION Minister Kevin Andrews has accused senior police of trying to paper over a serious Sudanese gang problem, but has refused to release evidence to back up claims African migrants were a major crime threat. Despite Victorian Chief Police Commissioner Christine Nixon said Africans committed just a fraction of crime in the state and were not a problem, but Mr Andrews said anecdotal evidence suggested otherwise. The Immigration Minister cited "cabinet in confidence" for not releasing a report that he said detailed a serious problem among African refugees.

Announcing a freeze on refugees from troubled nations such as Sudan, Mr Andrews said the inability of Africans to adjust to the Australian lifestyle was a factor in the decision, which was first flagged in The Australian in February. "The advice on which we made the decision was largely material which was provided in submissions to cabinet and, as you know, cabinet submissions are confidential. But can I say that there was widespread examination of this, including by an interdepartmental committee particularly in relation to the settlement issues."

Mr Andrews said Victorian police had to admit there was a problem with violence among young African migrants. "I have anecdotal reports from police which indicate that there is a gang culture in Victoria, in some parts, and they are concerned about it," Mr Andrews said. "It concerns me that, at an official level, this seems to have been played down. But ignoring the problem won't make it go away." Police might be underplaying the seriousness of gang-related violence and refusing to label it as such in the interest of creating "a perception of community harmony", Mr Andrews said. "But the reality is that there's evidence that this is occurring," he said. "The best way to deal with it is to name the problem, for a start. If you don't name the problem, you're not going to adequately be able to deal with it."

Mr Andrews' comments came after Ms Nixon said young African men accounted for less than 1per cent of the state's crime statistics and did not present a major difficulty for law enforcement. "Even the Sudanese group, there's only really a particular group, about 100 of them actually, who are repeat offenders," Ms Nixon said. "And so they're the ones we're strongly focusing on."

Ms Nixon's official line was at odds with comments from police on the beat in Melbourne's southeast last week. "They walk around in packs," said an officer who wanted to remain anonymous. "It's a real problem at the moment for us."

John Howard said the decision to reduce intake from Africa was made as the Government adjusted its refugee program this year to favour Middle Eastern and Asian refugees, including Iraqis displaced by the war. "It's not in any way racially based but the program is just going to be rebalanced and one of the consequences of that is the reality that there will be no more people coming from Africa until at least July of next year," Mr Howard said yesterday. Mr Andrews said reducing the number of African refugees into Australia was to indicate that "we've got a challenge, we need to find a solution for it".



Replacing most of the army of bureaucrats with medical staff is the only solution but it is not going to happen. Three current articles below

The NSW public hospitals disaster is government-created

By Dr. John Graham, an emeritus honorary consultant physician at Sydney Hospital, where he is also chairman of the department of medicine

LET me say from the outset that I am not a professor of medicine or surgery. I am not a professor of nursing. I am not an economist, a bureaucrat or a politician. I am simply a medical practitioner with 40 years’ experience in five public hospitals in Sydney, two of them teaching hospitals. My comments are thus based on experience limited to NSW.

Until I entered medical school in 1962 at the University of Sydney, no medical student in Australia had been subject to an entry quota. But now young Australians have to be Albert Einstein to gain entry to any medical faculty anywhere in Australia. This is sad. To be a good doctor, one probably only needs a Universities Admissions Index of about 85 to 90 (certainly not 99 plus), an aptitude for rote learning and a passionate desire to help one’s fellow man.

When I began my student clinical years in 1966 at Sydney Hospital, student nurses lived and trained in the hospitals. Their practical skills and compassion were fantastic. Then some disgruntled soul decided to move nurse education into universities. Another big mistake. Resident medical officers also resided in the hospitals, thus enabling a far greater opportunity for learning than is available today.

Medicare, introduced as Medibank by the Whitlam Labor government, hasn’t helped either. It lets the well-off take up beds in public hospitals, which should be available for the disadvantaged. Reinstatement of a means test, or more accurately a wealth test, for classification of public-private status in public hospitals is long overdue.

During the 1970s, some huge advances occurred in the technologies relevant to diagnosis, therapeutics and surgery. As a result it was possible to treat many more patients in considerably shorter times in the available hospital beds, but that put more pressure on the public purse, especially as Medicare had made the treatment notionally free.

To cut the costs, and with little regard for the general wellbeing of the community, it was decided the number of beds should be cut. But there was no health minister with the courage to make the cuts. And so in the ‘80s the NSW Labor government dreamed up the idea of area health boards to make the cuts on behalf of the minister. These cuts, however, also required the silencing of all adversaries to the plan, and so the NSW Labor government removed nearly all the independent public hospital boards.

Next to go were the general medical superintendents who, until then, had made sure the interests of patients were paramount. And from that point onwards the chain of communication from clinicians to administration collapsed, and out the window went efficiency, morale, trust and institutional loyalty. You didn’t have to be a Harvard business school professor to know that corporate disaster for public hospitals would be just around the corner.

Governments, through their area boards, became deceptive on budgets. No longer was a hospital budget a firm commitment, and few hospitals would be given their budgets until nearly six months into a financial year. That made it easier for governments to throw all the blame on clinicians for budget overruns that were artificially orchestrated.

The health bureaucracy burgeoned with countless people who have since spent their working lives attending endless meetings, staring at computer screens and doing precious little else. As a result, much of the funding intended for patient care and for the salaries for nurses and hospital doctors had to be switched to salaries for health bureaucrats. In NSW alone more than $2 billion each year is spent by NSW Health on salaries for people who don’t heal anyone.

The reasonable expectation of young doctors that they will be granted a Medicare provider number as soon as they are qualified has also no doubt caused federal governments to put a limit on entry into university medical faculties, which brings us back to the start. It is quite outrageous that Australia should be importing doctors.

Fortunately for all Australians, the Howard Government has indicated it is going to roll back the mistakes that have been made by health bureaucrats and state politicians during the past 40 years. The recent announcement by John Howard and Tony Abbott that they wish to see nurse training reintroduced to the hospital setting is to be greatly applauded. Universities can still play their part by providing the postgraduate nursing courses in intensive care unit nursing and the like. The further announcement that a Howard Government would return a discrete community board of directors to every public hospital in Australia will bring joy to the heart of every nurse, doctor and patient across the land. This has been the single most important health initiative to be announced by any government in Australia for a half century.

By comparison, the federal Labor Opposition so far has offered only a few hypothetical platitudes that won’t cure anything before mid-2009. In fact, Kevin Rudd has amazingly offered to pour another $2 billion into a system that is patently faulty.


Nurses juggling 17-hour shifts at government hospital

A FRUSTRATED nurse at Royal North Shore Hospital's emergency department has spoken of despicable working conditions saying: "I get paid $22 an hour and have five patients' lives in my hand." The nurse - who asked not to be identified - yesterday described the situation at the hospital as unbearable, comprising 17 hour shifts, in-fighting between staff at different wards, patients being placed on top of desks and in store rooms and staff having to share basic equipment.

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Telegraph, the nurse said it was understandable the public was angry about the lack of care. "No one knows what is going on behind that door when they walk through emergency," the nurse said. "The reason why you might be waiting for hours is because there are just no beds, no doctors and even though we try and help we just don't have the time. My biggest worry is the neglect of patient care."

Embattled Health Minister Reba Meagher has agreed to review the state's emergency departments. But the nurse said it would take a massive injection of money into all hospitals before horror stories cease.

Royal North Shore has been embroiled in controversy since Jana Horska miscarried in the toilet last week. The nurse did not want to comment on the circumstances surrounding Ms Horska's case but said the triage nurses would never be able to forget the tragic night. "Those nurses left for the day and it will never leave them," the nurse said.

"People don't realise we are working 17-hour shifts, sometimes twice a week. By the time you are reaching your 16th hour you are scared you are going to make a mistake. "You are arguing with your colleagues and then you have to fight with the ward up the other end just to get a bed."

There are 100 nursing vacancies at Royal North Shore, with staff leaving faster than they can be replaced. If those jobs were filled, John Tague says his elderly mother may not have "suffered in hell" on her deathbed. Mr Tague, of Pyrmont, sat with his 85-year-old mother Elizabeth, who died of heart complications, around the clock because he was not confident of the care she was receiving. "You would call for attention but it could take up to an hour sometimes," he said. "I had to remind nurses to give her her medication. Sometimes there wasn't someone senior enough on shift who had the authority to change her medication. You could see there just weren't enough nurses."

Mr Tague's mother was placed in a store room at night because she was suffering from hallucinations and was disturbing patients. He said while individual nurses were not to blame, pressure on staff caused some to have appalling attitudes. "There's an expectation that Royal North Shore will be an excellent hospital but the reality is vastly different," he said.

Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said the Government could not persist on refusing a full inquiry. "It's pointless holding a review into all emergency departments . . . a full, independent inquiry is needed into Royal North Shore," she said.


Don't blame the medical staff

By Dr Phil Huang, an intern at Royal North Shore Hospital. Dr Huang sounds like the sort of doctor everyone would like to have

I have just finished four evenings in emergency at Ryde Hospital, part of the North Shore network, with minimal sleep over the long weekend. I am a mere intern, fresh out of medical school, driving with a learner's licence, but driving nonetheless. Recent events at Royal North Shore Hospital and its aftermath have brought tremendous sorrow into my life. Sorrow for the mother who miscarried, sorrow for the hospital and sorrow for our health profession. What is more unfortunate however, is that the event has become a platform for politicians to campaign while the real problem disappears into the background. There is no doubt that what happened to Jana Horska was a tragedy. Miscarriage at any stage is a harrowing experience and you do not need medical training to appreciate that.

We live in a time of medical miracles. Heart attacks can be prevented and stopped as they are happening, degenerating hips are replaced with synthetic ones, cancers can be beaten into submission through chemicals. But we are helpless in effecting change in the early period of pregnancy. There are no absolute predictors for which pregnancy will proceed and which will terminate. Such is the nature of conception. Mothers are usually fit and healthy. Telling them that something may go wrong is exceedingly difficult.

For better or worse, our emergency departments are designed for emergencies. Patients are categorised by severity and reversibility. It is unfortunate but necessary. Patients who may die from a easily reversible condition are given priority over patients who we are helpless to assist. In an ideal world, Ms Horska would have been placed into a bed and protected from the ultimate horrors that ensued, but hospitals in their current form cannot provide that. We as health professionals have no control over who receives a bed. Guidelines and codes determine which patients receive a bed.

The attempt to categorise human suffering has led us ultimately to this destination. Having spent all my student years at Royal North Shore Hospital and feeling like I was part of a family, I have watched it degrade over the past five years. It is no secret that many hospitals are underfunded and under-resourced. Budgets are exceeded each year and the response by the bureaucrats is to give less. This will encourage less spending over the next financial year as workers attempt to be more fiscal at a cost to patients. Thus reports of budget "blow-outs" are often misrepresented because hospitals have less to work with each year. Hospitals are not businesses and yet are managed as such with boards and chief executives. Patients are not profits and yet economic models are applied in attempts to manage them. These are the cards we are dealt everyday.

There is a belief that we practise medicine for financial gain yet, any doctor working in today's health system will laugh when this is suggested. I am not implying that doctors are scraping the poverty line and most do live quite comfortably. But the sacrifices made to attain that level of comfort come at the expense of their own families and their own lives. Thus the real reward in medicine lies in the ability to help another even if there are difficulties in expressing this undeniable truth.

I was completing a research masters at Cambridge when my professor discovered I was finishing to pursue medicine. He laughed and tried to dissuade me. "What would you rather, Phil?" he asked in a typical pompous British accent. "To affect the life of one? Or the life of millions ?" I chose the life of one. The doctors, nurses and health workers I have encountered at North Shore and elsewhere have served to confirm my initial decision. I can confidently say that most I have encountered hold the above ideal true. This ideal is what brings my colleagues and myself into work every day, to face abuse from patients for an article they read that morning, to go through shifts of 14 hours or more without breaks and to find increasingly that we have less to work with. This ideal and its current state forms the basis for my compulsion to write and make an impassioned plea.

As the hype settles and the blame game takes its turn moving around the board, I hope the real issue resurfaces. What happened with Ms Horska is the tip of the iceberg of faults that exist in the health system and not just at Royal North Shore Hospital. Inquiries and articles blaming doctors, nurses and health workers may satisfy the anger of the mob, but it will never effect change.

In a period of prosperity, the resources of hospitals and universities have dwindled. Politicians will debate the foibles of my colleagues and seniors, shifting blame and providing a smokescreen to the truth. I love my job and medicine in spite of the system and I can attest that many of my colleagues feel the same. Yet the current system has drained the passion away from so many, turning them apathetic as they are blamed for actions beyond their control. The media have tremendous power and effect. Effect that can be directed towards change and empowering individuals. Effect that is lacking in current stories about blame and fear.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

Minister cuts African refugee intake

Note that the Leftist Premier of NSW has confirmed in Parliament the health and crime problems with black African refugees. (See also the full Hansard transcript here). I say more about the policy issues of the matter here

IMMIGRATION Minister Kevin Andrews has for the first time explicitly said that the Government squeezed the African component of the refugee program because "some groups don't seem to be settling and adjusting into the Australian way of life". Mr Andrews has previously skirted this issue, including stating in August that recent cuts in the African intake reflected "an improvement in conditions in some countries" in the region.

But questioned yesterday about last week's fatal bashing in Noble Park of Sudanese refugee Liep Gony, 18, and whether better settlement services were needed, he said: "I have been concerned that some groups don't seem to be settling and adjusting into the Australian way of life as quickly as we would hope and therefore it makes sense to put the extra money in to provide extra resources, but also to slow down the rate of intake from countries such as Sudan."

It yesterday emerged that Mr Gony's alleged attackers were not African. Two Noble Park men, David Rintoull, 22, and Dylan Sabatino, 19 have been charged with Gony's murder. A girl, 17, is facing other charges. Victorian detectives will seek the trio's extradition when they face court in Adelaide today. Akoch Manheim, of the Lost Boys Association - an advocacy group for Sudanese youth - said the Noble Park incident had "absolutely nothing to with integration".

Other refugee and ethnic representatives were also critical of the latest singling out of the Sudanese. "It almost borders on vilification of Sudanese refugees," said activist Jack Smit. Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia advocate, Voula Messimeri, said all migrants experienced problems in settling and more intensive support was needed, despite a recent $200 million increase over four years announced in this year's budget.

Mr Andrews confirmed Australia's 13,000 refugee allocation - which has been stable since at least the mid-1980s - included 30 per cent reserved for those from Africa. "Last financial year it was 50 per cent of the refugee and humanitarian program and the two previous years it was 70 per cent," he said.

Senior Constable James Waterson, a multicultural liaison officer with Victoria Police, who works closely with Sudanese and other minorities, said labelling a group of people as a gang was not always the reality. He said while the vast majority of Sudanese who settled in Australia were not used to cars, email and other luxuries, "you get them congregating in public areas just as they do back there, which is how they've grown up for the last 15 to 20 years". "Just because these social groups are hanging around railway stations doesn't mean that they're a gang, they're up to no good or that they're carrying weapons." He said cultural training within the police force and the community could make a big difference.


Empty rhetoric in Leftist stunt

What does this stupid asshole think he is going to achieve? Sanctions might help but this won't

A LABOR government would attempt to bring Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, before the International Court of Justice to face charges of "inciting genocide" in an effort to force the rogue Middle East leader to justify his attacks on Israel. In a dramatic lift in diplomatic pressure on a bellicose and defiant Iran, Kevin Rudd has committed a Labor government to take "legal proceedings against President Ahmadinejad on a charge of incitement to genocide". The Leader of the Opposition said the charge of incitement to genocide "could occur through the International Court of Justice on reference by the UN Security Council" because of Mr Ahmadinejad's public statements. "They refer to statements about wiping Israel off the map, questioning whether Zionists are human beings and the recent abhorrent conference that he convened on the veracity of the Holocaust," Mr Rudd said. "It is strongly arguable that this conduct amounts to incitement to genocide, criminalised under the 1948 genocide convention."

But Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said last night Mr Rudd was knowingly misleading the Australian public and the Jewish community with a "ghastly stunt" that he knew could not be carried out and would only undermine Australia's diplomatic standing. Labor has also been previously advised by international prosecutors of difficulties with such a proposal.

The ALP has for months been considering the steps against the Iranian President and similar moves against the leadership of Zimbabwe and Burma. Labor foreign affairs spokesman Rob McClelland was recently advised by the International Criminal Court's special prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampi, of the difficulty of taking such action. Mr Moreno-Ocampi emphasised to Mr McClelland that the ICC wanted to ensure it undertook cases where warrants could be executed and action taken.

Labor's diplomatic offensive came as Mr Rudd ruled out support for a US military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Asked about US reports that Australia had been briefed on Pentagon plans, the Labor leader said: "The only viable strategy that we can see is diplomacy."

Last night, Mr Downer condemned the plans to charge Mr Ahmadinejad with inciting genocide, telling The Australian that countries only could be taken to the ICJ. Individuals such as Mr Ahmadinejad can only be taken to the International Criminal Court. "To take an individual to the ICC the relevant country has to be a party to the statute of the ICC, but Iran, Zimbabwe and Burma are not. You can only take them to the ICC if the country is not a party and if all five members of the UN Security Council agree," Mr Downer said. "The reality is there is just no chance of the UN Security Council agreeing to send to the ICC the leadership of Burma, Zimbabwe or President Ahmadinejad. "Mr Rudd knows this, he can't (take legal action), but he says he will for a political purpose. He just comes up with stunts and the problem is that Australia's voice will be seen as a voice of stunts."

Mr Rudd said an Australian-sponsored charge would undermine the President's international legitimacy and require him to "justify his inflammatory and destabilising posturing and rhetoric". The Iranian embassy in Canberra was aware of Mr Rudd's statements but did not comment last night. Mr Rudd said Mr Ahmadinejad's comments about wiping Israel off the map and his "abhorrent" conference questioning the veracity of the Holocaust were grounds to bring genocide incitement charges.

Mr Rudd's remarks come as he is deeply involved in campaigning in the Sydney seat of Wentworth where there is a large Jewish population and Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull is fighting for his political life against a Jewish Labor candidate, George Newhouse. Mr Rudd and Melbourne Ports Labor MP Michael Danby, the only Jewish MP, have been working hard to repair relations between Jewish communities and the ALP with policies aimed at helping low-fee private schools. In a series of written replies to the latest edition of the Australia/Israel Review, Mr Rudd said Iran's "repeated violations of international law and monitoring requirements for its nuclear program are intensely concerning". He said Iran represented a threat not just to Israel but also to the broader Middle East and the rest of the world as well, and he supported further sanctions.

John Howard, in the same AIR edition, said the Australian Government was "seriously concerned" about the support Iran was giving insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its breach of nuclear regulations and Security Council resolutions. The Prime Minister said Australia supported the sanctions in place against Iran and would implement any further sanctions imposed by the UN.

Mr Ahmadinejad was at the centre of a furore in New York last week when Columbia University president Lee Bollinger slammed his guest speaker in an opening address that had the Iranian President seething. "Mr President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator," Mr Bollinger said. He described Mr Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust as "simply ridiculous", saying "the truth is that the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history".

Mr Ahmadinejad has denied making some of the claims attributed to him but sponsored a conference that challenged whether the Holocaust, which killed six million people, mostly Jews, took place.

Last night, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff said Mr Ahmadinejad had been allowed to threaten Israel and the free world for "too long". "The benefit of Mr Rudd's initiative is that it would challenge Ahmadinejad's legitimacy and highlight the dangers he represents, both directly and through his proxies - Hamas and Hezbollah," he said. "The most critical issue, however, is Iran's drive towards nuclear enrichment. That is where effective pressure is most urgently needed. A nuclear Iran threatens the entire free world."


New climate guesses from Australian scientists

The guesses are getting more cautious. Who knows what next years' guess might be?

NEW climate change projections for Australia have lowered worst-case forecasts of temperature rises by 1 degree Celsius but are more certain of temperature increases causing more droughts and bushfires this century. The CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology warn Australia is almost certain to be 1C warmer by 2030 and will warm by between 1C and 5C, depending on the amount of greenhouse gases emitted. This is a narrowing of projections six years ago. In 2001, those predictions were for warming of up to 6C.

The CSIRO report updates projections for the Australian climate for the rest of the century, incorporating material from the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment report, released in February. They project the impact of different greenhouse gas scenarios, predicting a 1C rise in temperature in Australia in 2030, compared with 1990, with the inland warming more than the coast. Under a low-emissions scenario, the report projects warming of between 1C and 2.5C by 2070, which could increase to more than 3.4C with high levels of greenhouse gases. There will also be changes in temperature extremes, with fewer frosts and substantially more days over 35C. The number of drought months is expected to increase by 20 per cent by 2030, 40 per cent in eastern Australia by 2070, and up to 80 per cent in southwestern Australia by 2070.

Yesterday, Britain's Chief Scientist, in Australia for a national greenhouse conference, said a global deal to cut greenhouse emissions would need to be brokered by meetings of world leaders rather than forums such as the UN, although these would still be needed to formalise a deal. Attending the conference in Sydney yesterday, Britain's Chief Scientist, David King, said he was less hopeful of an international climate agreement being brokered by the UN at a meeting in Bali in December. "My feeling is the critical meetings are meetings of heads of state. They're the real decision-makers," he told The Australian. Sir David said the likelihood of some kind of deal by 2009 had improved following a "substantial" policy shift by the Bush administration. "President Bush can open the way for his successor by taking the Republicans towards an agreement but leaving whoever becomes president to run it through," he said. "They have removed the questions of doubt in saying the science is now clear, there is still talk about technology providing the solution and of course we all agree, but we must have fiscal drivers and processes for dealing with adaptation for countries that can't afford it."

Penny Whetton, from the CSIRO, said the projected temperature increase would depend on the rate of greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere. "Decreases in rainfall are likely for southern Australia, particularly through the winter and in southern and eastern Australia through the winter and the spring," Dr Whetton said. She said those decreases would mean more drought. The flipside would be an increase in downpours. "Even if average rainfall declines, heavy downpours will be more intense." That will result in more flooding.

The Bureau of Meteorology's Scott Power said there had already been a substantial decline in rainfall across most of eastern and southwestern Australia. "At the moment what we are seeing is a combination of human-induced climate change and a huge amount of natural variability, and it is very likely the temperature change is due to human intervention," Dr Power said. "The rainfall decline in west Australia is most likely human and natural variability, but beyond that, you really need to know the relative contributions and we are not able to do that with any accuracy."

Rainfall declines in the southwest had resulted in annual inflows into Perth's dams decreasing from 338 gigalitres between 1911 and 1974, to 114GL between 1997 and 2005. Dr Power said Victoria was set to experience 11 years in a row of below-average rainfall. The report said one of the major impacts of rainfall decline was a reduction in inflows into streams and dams. The yearly inflow into Victoria's Eildon Dam had fallen from a pre-1997 average of 1533GL to a post-1997 average of 956GL. Dr Power said the increase in greenhouse gases was "likely to have contributed to the drying in the southwest and is a major suspect in the east". He said temperatures in the Murray-Darling Basin for the period January to September were a record, as was the temperature over southern Australia. "The warming is consistent with climate change," he said.


Surprise! Patients shun disaster hospital

It is a damning indictment of what the NSW public thinks of its health system - a deserted waiting room at Royal North Shore Hospital's emergency department. Only a week ago the same waiting room was crawling with people and staff so busy they were unable to attend to a woman who miscarried in a toilet.

Health Minister Reba Meagher today admitted relations between emergency doctors and the NSW Health Department have broken down. She said emergency staff "feel pressured to perform and they feel pressure to meet the targets around performance that are set for them." Ms Meagher said she met with senior staff last night. "It came out during the course of the meeting that relationships had broken down between the Department of Health and our senior emergency physicians. That's a concern to me," she said. "I understand there have been some difficult industrial negotiations recently and I'm also confident with the position that was put to me by the emergency physicians that they feel pressured. "There is no doubt that there is pressure. Demand for emergency services is rising very rapidly. For June this year it was an 8.8 per cent increase on last year."

However the admission came as demand at Royal North Shore Hospital was reaching record lows, with staff telling The Daily Telegraph they had never seen the ward empty and were concerned patients had turned their backs on the hospital. As the exclusive photograph shows, the waiting room at 1.15pm yesterday was like a ghost town - with critically ill patients choosing to attend other Sydney hospitals. The decline in admissions follows a week of horror stories emerging from the hospital. A nurse in the hospital's emergency department told The Daily Telegraph the waiting room had never been empty. "We have never seen it like this - it has been like this since last week when all the attention started," he said. "Normally there are at least 20 to 30 people and we are run off our feet."

The only people entering through the hospital's emergency doors were the elderly or those who were being transported via ambulance. "All we are doing is restocking supplies," the nurse said. "There is nothing we can do but we have to turn up for work."

One person who has vowed not to return to Royal North Shore is Cathy Wastell of Cromer, who was given a bucket for her miscarriage in 2005. "I received excellent care in the foetal department but I would never go back to emergency," she said last night. "I have lost faith in the system - I can understand why people would not want to go there." Mrs Wastell, who now has a one-year-old daughter Mia, was at Royal North Shore for six hours before being told to put her lifeless baby in a bucket. "I was bleeding profusely and a nurse gave me a fresh sanitary napkin. That was the level of medical care I received," she said.

As the State Government refuses to accept the health system is in disarray, it has also emerged that paramedics are having to store critically ill patients on the floor of ambulances. Yesterday The Daily Telegraph revealed the Ambulance Service was spending $53 million in overtime because of staff shortages. Paramedics have said there are now serious concerns a death will occur because crews are being delayed for hours at blocked emergency departments - leaving no ambulances to respond to urgent medical calls elsewhere in the city. "If we are stuck in the emergency department and an urgent call comes through, then one of us has to stay behind with the bed while another officer attends the job," the paramedic, with 15-years service, said. "We have had to place patients on the floor. "I don't like working overtime . . . some do it because there is just not enough ambulances out there."

Health Minister Reba Meagher was last night holding a crisis meeting with hospital emergency department heads to address the litany of problems. Doctors and nurses are split over whether a Howard Government plan to install local hospital boards will improve patient care or lead to an abdication of health planning.

Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd has attacked the plan even though his own $2 billion health policy states "regional and local communities would directly participate in the management of public hospitals'

And Health Minister Tony Abbott denied the plan would add yet another layer of bureaucrats to health care management and said hospital board members would "work for the love of it and not the money".

Australian Medical Association president Dr Rosanna Capolingua said local hospital boards would "bring management responsibility right back to the community". "It is a good idea," Dr Capolingua told The Daily Telegraph.

The NSW Nurses Association feared the Howard Government would use local boards to "meddle in the employment conditions of nurses and other hospital staff". But mother of two Therese McKay, who publicly condemned Royal North Shore Hospital as having the conditions of a "third world country" after her husband Don died last May, welcomed the plan. "At least with hospital boards it is more personal, you can go and speak to someone and thrash it out," she said. "After Don died I tried to make a complaint and it was like shadow boxing, no one was listening."


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Only two years for a string of vicious rapes?

Lots of women will suffer because of this irresponsible sentencing decision

A sex predator who terrorised a north Queensland town was jailed last week after a five-year merry-go-round of court appearances, trials and appeals. Serial rapist Daniel Cris Phillips, 23, was 16 when he committed his first rape in 2000 in Innisfail where he lived with his family, who run one of Australia's largest barramundi farms.

His predatory behaviour did not come to light until November 2001, when a girl, 15, told police he had raped her in a vacant farmhouse on one of his parents' Innisfail properties. After investigating the attack, police said he had allegedly raped four other teenage girls. Phillips, whose appearance earned him the nickname of "Caveman" or "Cavie", was charged with five counts of rape in September 2002 and, despite objections, was released on bail a month later.

While on bail in May 2003, Phillips allegedly attempted to rape an 18-year-old girl at his parents' home at Burbank in Brisbane. The woman, now 22, told The Sunday Mail: "I had no idea he was on bail for rape. "(After) I got very antisocial ... I stopped eating and looking after myself ... everyone I met was a potential rapist." Phillips' mother stopped the alleged attack. He was charged with attempted rape and was returned to custody awaiting trial for it and the Innisfail rapes.

In August 2003, despite objections from prosecutors, the Cairns Supreme Court released him on conditional bail. In March 2004 he was convicted of three counts of rape, assault with intent to rape and two counts of unlawful carnal knowledge. He was acquitted of two other sex offence charges, but jailed for a total of 12 years, reduced to 10 years on appeal. Judge Peter White said Phillips showed "callous disregard for the rights of the young women, going to the absolute integrity of their persons".

Former detective Sean Luke, who resigned last year after more than 20 years in the police force, said Phillips might have ended up killing his victims if he had not been stopped. "He never believed he did anything wrong, never showed any remorse for what he did to those girls. And then when he was released on bail, he raped again. Nothing seemed to stop him," said Mr Luke.

In March 2006, Phillips appealed to the High Court of Australia, which ordered retrials for the six charges, relating to five victims, on which he had been convicted. Three of his alleged victims decided against going through the court process again. In May 2006, while on bail waiting for the retrials, Phillips raped a 16-year-old girl twice at his family's Burbank home. In the Rockhampton District Court last week, Phillips pleaded guilty to that rape.

He also received a sentence for the 2000 rape of a 16-year-old girl at his family's property in Innisfail. A jury found him guilty of that attack this year.

Judge Michael Shanahan said it was clear both women had suffered "significant difficulties" as a result of the rapes. In sentencing Phillips to six years' jail, Judge Shanahan said he took into account a psychiatric report which said Phillips had suffered from a genetic disorder from birth which had a "psychological and physical impact". "You have seemed. to have come to some realisation of the seriousness of your conduct and are perhaps showing some signs of remorse."

Phillips will be eligible to apply for parole in August 2009.

The above article by Paula Doneman appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on September 30, 2007

Australian citizenship test now in operation

Still a bit of fine-tuning to go, I suspect. I am a history buff and yet I would not have a clue about the years in which nine Australians nabbed Nobel prizes

Ronald Dela Cruz has spent the past week cramming for a test that made him more nervous than any other he has sat before. Although he'd experienced many complicated and lengthy exams in order to obtain an IT degree, this test was for something different, and to Mr Dela Cruz, for something more important - citizenship.

For the 31-year-old, Australian citizenship would demonstrate his commitment to his home of the past two years, and the nation's commitment to him. His head, he said, had been buzzing with recently learned dates ranging from the 1956 Melbourne Olympics to the years in which nine Australians nabbed Nobel prizes. "I was so nervous, especially with all the dates of the Nobel laureates, I tried to squeeze in as much as I could," he said. Yesterday his efforts were rewarded when he became a citizen by passing the Federal Government's controversial new citizenship test with a perfect score of 20 from as many questions.

Mr Dela Cruz, from Chile, and 25 other hopefuls from across Victoria and Brisbane were the first to sit the multiple-choice exam, which included questions covering some of Australia's history, traditions, geography and government. To pass the 45-minute exam, prospective citizens need to answer at least 12 questions correctly, including three mandatory questions about Australian values. Of the 26 who sat the test yesterday at Department of Immigration and Citizenship offices in Victoria and Queensland, all but one person passed. Twelve obtained a perfect score.

Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews said the computer-based test, in English, was designed to make sure new citizens had a basic knowledge of English and understood the "privilege" of being Australian. "The reason the Government introduced the citizenship test was that we believe the great achievement of Australia has been to balance diversity and integration," he said. Mr Andrews said most Australians would be able to pass the test - and if not, it would be a failing of the country's educational system, not the immigration department.

However, the test has received widespread criticism - including a Democrats video posted on internet site YouTube that mocks the exam. Yesterday Australian Democrats leader Lyn Allison said the test promoted exclusion. "I think the test is about excluding people and getting votes from people who want to see immigrants to this country as 'other' people who are not worthy of the same rights that other Australians have."

Premier John Brumby yesterday broke ranks with Federal Labor leader Kevin Rudd to criticise the test. He said the Federal Government could make better use of taxpayer money by spending the money on education, such as more English classes.

South African migrant Marius van Eeden, his wife Mariette and son Gavin, 20, all sat and passed the test yesterday. Marius van Eeden said he believed it was important to test applicants on their knowledge of Australia, although he joked that "some guys in Canberra" wouldn't know some of the answers. Alejandro Ruvilar, who sat and passed the test yesterday, said it was a good idea and that all citizens should have a basic knowledge of Australian history. The 29-year-old Geelong resident believed some people would be disadvantaged by sitting the test in English.


Islamic cleric preaching 'hate'

MELBOURNE Islamic cleric Mohammed Omran has been accused by his estranged son-in-law of preaching extremism and hatred in a bitter war of words following his separation from Sheik Omran's daughter. The accusations have been levelled by 26-year-old Ali Kassae, a former member of Sheik Omran's fundamentalist Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jammah association, who was married to Sheik Omran's daughter, Zaynab, until they separated in August last year.

Mr Kassae claims he has been prevented from seeing his children since the split, and has been threatened and abused by other members of Sheik Omran's group. He also accuses Sheik Omran's organisation of inciting violent attacks on people who disagree with them. Mr Kassae, who moved to Australia from his native Syria as a nine-year-old, blames the break-up of his seven-year marriage on the extremism of Sheik Omran and his group. "I couldn't stand their attitude and beliefs," Mr Kassae said. "I had left that culture behind. I just wanted to live an Australian life. Then I was forced into the culture again."

Mr Kassae said he and other group members were "taught to hate" by being shown violent propaganda videos about conflicts involving Muslims in places such as Palestine. One DVD, shown to The Australian, which Mr Kassae said was distributed among members of Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jammah, declares: "You should hate them as they hate you, invade them as they invade you, fight them as they fight you. Whoever dies will be granted the mercy of God and paradise. Jews have no place in Palestine. Jews shouldn't be there. Jews should die. We should proclaim jihad until they all die, until every single one of them is dead."

A spokesman for Sheik Omran yesterday said the cleric completely rejected Mr Kassae's statements, claiming his estranged son-in-law had a "mental illness". Sheik Omran's organisation has been under close scrutiny by ASIO for years and several of its members are known to have undergone training with the militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba in Pakistan. In 2000, members of the group were raided by NSW and Australian Federal Police. Mr Kassae said he was visiting a fellow Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jammah member in Sydney's Wiley Park, when armed police burst in. "There was an AK-47 loaded next to me with an 80-round magazine," Mr Kassae said. "The house was full of weapons. It was like they were preparing for war." The police seized an AK-47 assault rifle, handguns, shotguns and grenades, according to Mr Kassae.

In an affidavit filed in the Federal Magistrates Court in Melbourne in November, Zaynab Omran cited her husband's paranoia about ASIO among the reasons for their marriage break-up. "He thought that I was in contact with ASIO or the CIA about him, and thought people were out to get him," the affidavit reads. "He would leave pornography magazines everywhere, and told me that this was to confuse ASIO or the CIA if they ever raided the house."

Mr Kassae was a troubled street punk who had dabbled in drugs and had run-ins with the police when he was recruited into Sheik Omran's group by his brother-in-law, an Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jammah member. Sheik Omran, who knew Mr Kassae's mother, proposed that the 17-year-old marry his daughter, Zaynab, then aged just 15. "I was ripped out of my life and put in this life," Mr Kassae said. "I was just a kid trying to grow up. I wasn't into it for the religion. "I was a child. I looked at them as role models."

The newlyweds went to live with Sheik Omran's family in Melbourne, where Mr Kassae worked on construction sites before setting up his own mobile phone business. A reference from one employer described him as "always reliable, punctual and respectful".

Mr Kassae said that Sheik Omran put him in charge of "security" for his organisation, which involved looking after visiting sheiks from overseas, and helping to organise the weekend bush camps where Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jammah members would engage in paintball skirmishes, described by one participant as "jihad training". By Mr Kassae's account, his life was totally controlled by Sheik Omran and his group. "I wasn't meant to have any friends but them, I couldn't talk to anybody but them, I couldn't do anything without their permission. "It was like, 'You want to be part of this family - this is how it's got to be. This is who you've got to be now, and this is what you've got to do.' Basically, they wanted me to be a sheep - he's the shepherd and I'm the sheep."

Mr Kassae claimed he became increasingly disturbed by Sheik Omran's puritanical interpretation of Islam. "I couldn't hack their understanding of Islamic teaching," he said. "Their teaching was inappropriate. It was like they were God's angels given a key to paradise. So who are we? Slaves from hell?"

Mr Kassae said the group was paranoid about anyone they suspected of talking to ASIO, including Sydney man Mamdouh Habib, who was believed by some members to be an ASIO informant. Mr Kassae has told Mr Habib's lawyer that a meeting was held in Lakemba in Sydney's southwest in 2000 where it was agreed to "do something about this guy (or) he will destroy us". A group of Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jammah members later physically attacked Mr Habib outside the association's Haldon Street prayer room. Mr Habib was treated at Bankstown hospital for cuts and bruising to his head. Mr Habib was arrested as a suspected terrorist in Pakistan in late 2001 and held by the US at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba until his release without charge in February 2005.

In November 2005, Mr Kassae was accused by fellow Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jammah members of being an informant, after several of the group's followers were arrested in ASIO raids in Sydney and charged with terrorism-related offences. Ostracised within the group and with his marriage failing, Mr Kassae said he became depressed and took to drugs again. In May last year, after an amphetamines binge, he was admitted to the mental health unit of the St George hospital, in Sydney's south, where he spent a month being treated for drug-induced psychosis. His wife cites his mental illness as the key reason for their break-up, stating in her affidavit: "There were many incidents leading up to our separation, including him disappearing for several days without explanation, and being extremely paranoid about things that were going on." She also claims he was abusive towards her and their two children, now aged five years and 15 months. In November, a federal magistrate granted Zaynab Omran sole parental responsibility.

A spokesman for Sheik Omran said yesterday that Mr Kassae's drug abuse and mental problems were the reason for his marriage failing. "We appeal to Ali to seek medical help for his mental illness. We totally refute and reject the statements he has made," the spokesman said. Mr Kassae claimed that since leaving the organisation, he had been threatened numerous times after members spread rumours that he was working for ASIO or the CIA.

In February, Mr Kassae was attacked by two men in the southwest Sydney suburb of Belmore and stabbed in the back. He was treated in the acute care facility of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. A NSW police report on the incident said Mr Kassae had been accused by his assailants of spying for ASIO. No one has been charged over the incident. "Since leaving (the organisation), I've committed an even bigger crime. I've been judged - I'm a disbeliever and I should be taken apart," Mr Kassae said. "All I wanted was a future, a wife and a family and a home. And they took that away from me."


History lost in new school charter

History regularly reveals the failure of Leftist ideas so Leftist teachers want as little as possible to do with it

A NEW primary-school charter has ditched history as a core subject in favour of the broader "social education", which includes geography, the environment and civics. The Australian Primary Principals Association yesterday launched its final version of the charter, which is designed to drop courses such as bicycle safety and animal care and focus on the key areas of English, maths, science and, now, social education. A draft version published in August named history as the fourth area, but after consultation with principals and teachers in government, independent and Catholic schools, it was included in social education, which as well as geography and the environment will include other cultures and places, and how decisions are made in Australia.

APPA president Leonie Trimper said the association was not entirely happy with the name "social education" and was working on a different title. But she said it was not intended to mimic the high school subject of Studies of Society and Environment, which states and territories have agreed to drop in favour of traditional disciplines. "We had feedback that history was far too narrow and conjured images of students just learning dates," she said. "The emphasis is on children learning about their identity and stories about significant Australian events and people, but the thought was we needed to have some geography to do that, and people also wanted to include the term environment."

The federal Government has spearheaded a campaign to make Australian history compulsory in Years 9 and 10. Associate professor of history and politics at the University of Wollongong Gregory Melleuish said primary schools risked repeating the mistakes of SOSE in high schools, and history should remain a distinct subject. "The danger with social studies is that it becomes vague and wishy-washy, and another way of indoctrinating kids with the fashions of the day," he said. "If you include history under social education, then it will get submerged under things like climate change and ecology and all the '-ies' of Western society. "History can be taught in a relatively objective fashion; some of these other things I just wonder how objectively you can teach them." Professor Melleuish said one way of engaging young students in history was to teach it through the lives of exemplary people.

But History Teachers Association of Australia president Nick Ewbank said it was important for primary students to be taught a range of content areas and skills so it was understandable that it might not be viable to have history as a distinct subject. "History is an important part but it's not the only part of a sensible humanities curriculum and I can understand why the primary principals have done it this way," he said.

The charter also broadens the purpose of science to help "children to make informed decisions about the environment and their health and well-being". The draft charter was criticised for underplaying the importance of the arts, music and sport in primary schools and the final version emphasises that the core "is not intended to imply that other learning areas are unimportant". The charter is a response to the curriculum in primary schools becoming cluttered with non-essential courses in social problems traditionally the province of families and the community. It will be given to federal, state and territory governments and the APPA will lobby education ministers to adopt it at their next meeting.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007


It sure is tricky in what it does. Note the contrasting reports from Australia in the two articles below. Perth and Adelaide are roughly in the same latitude but have a big desert in between them. Extreme weather is ALWAYS blamed on global warming so we KNOW what is causing the events below

Perth wettest for four years

PERTH has recorded its wettest September in four years. The city got 101mm of rain in September, slightly above the long-term normal of 90mm. It was a wet month right across the southwest corner of the state, meteorologist Matt Pearce said. "However, the rain did not penetrate very far eastward," he said.

"Forrest, in the Eucla district, did not record any rain during the month, the first time this has occurred for September in 11 years of (the company's) records." With the exception of the stormy southwest, the rest of WA experienced warmer than normal days. "Warburton, in the state's Interior, had an average maximum of 31C, making it the equal hottest September there in 28 years of records." Perth had an average maximum of 20C, right on the long-term average.

Mr Pearce said he was expecting the next few months to continue wetter than normal across WA. "It is also likely to remain warm, especially by night."


Adelaide suffers driest September in decades

This September has been the driest in Adelaide for 20 years. The city had 23 millimetres of rain, compared with the average of 64. Temperatures were also above average. Weatherzone meteorologist Matt Pearce says there is more rain on the way. "The waters of the Indian Ocean, just off the west coast of Australia, are in the process of warming up at the moment," he said. "Now that does tend to result in increased rainfall, especially in Western Australia but also extending into South Australia as well. "I guess the bad news however is that temperatures will remain above average, especially the daytime temperatures so we're looking at quite a warm spring and summer."


Your government will protect you -- again

Australian airport workers sidestep security

QANTAS has employed casual staff to work at Brisbane airport without Australian Federal Police security clearances. The airline has rushed to hire 60 extra staff from an outside agency for Qantas Flight Catering Ltd, which prepares food for its own and many other international airlines. The Transport Workers Union, which says other staff have had to undergo full security clearance checks, has expressed major concerns about the risk of terrorist or criminal infiltration. "Under the present climate of terrorism around the world, I don't think anybody should be working in the airline industry, particularly near food preparation, without first having full and thorough security checks," TWU state secretary Hughie Williams said.

Qantas says the casuals will work in the washing-up area at the airport catering facility to cope with the busy period before Christmas. A former Qantas catering employee said this area was next to the room where food for passengers, pilots and crews was stored and loaded on to trays and airline trolleys. "There's nothing to stop them walking from one area to another," he said. "There are already people from that agency working in the food areas."

Australian National University terrorism expert Clive Williams said there should be security and criminal checks to clear any catering employee who prepared airline food or worked close to and had access to food preparation areas. "You could actually get somebody vexatious, who doesn't have to be a terrorist, who doesn't like a particular airline, who might contaminate the food," he said. He said it was relatively easy to contaminate food and if an airline catering company was preparing food for an American airline, there would be increased concern.

Qantas Flight Catering Ltd's Brisbane people manager Graham Beal told the union in a letter on September 21 the company had to employ 60 extra staff "to cover all positions in the business" over the next three months. He said he had asked the agency to supply the extra labour "as quickly as possible". "The advice we have received from Qantas security is that we can have agency labour admitted to work in the building before they are given a clearance from the Australian Federal Police," Mr Beal said in the letter. He said the staff could work in catering as long as they had put in an application to the AFP, which required them to have Queensland Police Service clearance. The Queensland check would show only state criminal convictions, but staff could have come from other states.

The TWU was told on Friday that 18 people from the agency already had started work without AFP checks. Union boss Mr Williams was told it could take up to two months for the AFP criminal history checks. "I'm very concerned about the security within the airline industry and the security in the catering division is absolutely necessary," he said.

Qantas executive general manager services Curtis Davies said the casual workers, employed in the washing up area, did not need Aviation Security Identification Cards because they were not working in a security restricted area. However, he said they would be supervised at all times. "Qantas is in the process of obtaining background checks for these staff," Mr Davies said.


Government hospitals crisis is Statewide

Sacking half the bureaucrats and employing medical staff instead would transform the situation rapidly but Leftist governments regard bureaucrats as sacrosanct -- far more important than healthcare for the peasants. Bureaucrats = CONTROL in their sick thinking

DOCTORS in charge warn that every emergency unit in the state public health system is plagued with chronic management problems that jeopardise patient care. Valerie Malka, head of trauma at Westmead Hospital, said the situation was so critical that lives were at risk. "My philosophy is that patients should get the care I would want my mum and dad and family to get, and there is no way that would happen, certainly not at Westmead," she said. "You cannot get anything done for patient care at Westmead because everything you try to do is an obstacle." The head of the trauma unit since 2000, Dr Malka said she was at the "end of her tether" and ready to quit.

Sally McCarthy, head of emergency at Prince of Wales Hospital, and Tony Joseph, head of trauma at Royal North Shore Hospital, have also warned of systemic problems across NSW. "They just don't listen to anyone at the clinical coalface," Dr McCarthy said.

Dr Malka said some toilets in the wards at Westmead were so filthy that patients refused to use them. Misdiagnosis was common because junior and inexperienced doctors were left alone after hours and at weekends. "Patients are at the mercy of the system and its failures," said Dr Malka, a surgeon. Her comments followed a wave of complaints about lack of staff and resources in emergency departments after Jana Horska, 32, miscarried in the toilets of Royal North Shore last week after waiting two hours to be seen.

Dr McCarthy, who is vice-president of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, said every emergency department was under intense pressure. She said the problems at Royal North Shore were "the tip of the iceberg" and all emergency departments had similar issues.

The Health Minister, Reba Meagher, has launched an inquiry into Ms Horska's treatment but has refused to broaden it to include all emergency departments. Instead, she announced a new "model of care" for pregnant women.

The Opposition health spokeswoman, Jillian Skinner, said the announcement was a knee-jerk reaction, while Dr McCarthy described it as "absolute rubbish" because it was devised by bureaucrats who were not emergency specialists.

Ms Meagher's spokeswoman said the minister had also established a taskforce to examine workforce issues, but doctors say the system is in crisis and will only improve when the Government's attitude changes.

Dr McCarthy said that two weeks ago an elderly woman was made to wait on an ambulance stretcher at Prince of Wales for almost six hours, with 12 ambulances in the bay, because there were no emergency beds. "There needs to be a change in attitude because out-of-date bureaucrats in NSW Health think that emergency departments are meant to be chaotic but fail to acknowledge that we are treating the most critically ill people there are, people who are often much sicker than anyone that turns up in an ambulance," Dr McCarthy said.

Dubbed the "invisible minister", Ms Meagher has been accused of refusing to meet doctors and health groups in the six months since taking on the health portfolio. Her spokesman rejected the claim, saying she had made more than 50 visits to hospitals since March.


Fertility rate link to family policies

AUSTRALIA has become one of the world's most generous nations for family handouts after more than trebling taxpayer-funded assistance in real terms over the past 20 years. Public money flowing to families ballooned from 1.1 per cent of the national economy in 1985 to more than 3.3 per cent by 2003, putting Australia sixth among developed nations, analysis undertaken by the Australian Institute for Family Studies shows. The funding has contributed to Australia keeping its fertility rate above the average for developed countries, the AIFS report finds.

Australia is almost certain to rank even higher today because policies introduced since 2003, such as the baby bonus, currently worth $5000 for each child born, were introduced after the international comparison was made by the OECD.

In 1990, Australia was near the bottom of the ladder of OECD countries for expenditure on families with children, but by 2003 it was eclipsed only by the Scandinavian countries, Hungary and Luxembourg.

The AIFS report, titled Fertility and Family Policy in Australia, highlights the spike in family payments over the past decade. "It is estimated that between the years 1993-94 and 2003-04, expenditure on family payments increased in real terms by about 115 per cent, from $7 billion to $15.3 billion in 2003-04 dollars," the report said.

AIFS director Matthew Gray said a strong economy over the past decade meant "massive amounts of public money was now being committed to families" via policy initiatives. Dr Gray, a co-author of the report, said family-focused policy measures were in part responsible for the nation's fertility rate remaining higher than most European and Asian countries. "Our fertility rate hasn't tumbled like it has in Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy, South Korea, Japan," he said. "It is now at the upper middle of OECD countries, and government spending does play its part in a nation's fertility level. "The fertility rate ... is affected by financial incentives, but also I think there is a message to parents that runs alongside the actual policy that says their government believes having children is important."

The report finds "government support to families as a proportion of GDP has increased rapidly in Australia over the last 25 years with the level of spending ... having gone from being at the lower end for OECD countries to being well above the average". "Policies which lower the direct and indirect costs of raising children to families and allow women to combine paid employment with child-rearing are likely to boost fertility rates," it said. "Recent policy changes in Australia have certainly reduced the direct costs of child-rearing through expanding the family payment system to include families with relatively high incomes, (and) the recently introduced maternity payment also provides significant financial support."

In 1985, the OECD average of family spending in cash, services and tax measures was 1.6 per cent of GDP, while Australia's was just 1.1 per cent. By 1990, the OECD average had barely moved but Australia's percentage had risen to 1.5 per cent. In 2003, the OECD average had increased to 2.1 per cent, whereas Australia's was more than 3.3 per cent.


Monday, October 01, 2007

Discipline forbidden so instead thousands of unruly kids are expelled from Western Australian schools

How are these kids ever going to learn good behaviour?

GIRLS as young as five are being booted out of WA schools for assaulting or intimidating teachers. An Education Department spokesman confirmed that last year, "three girls in pre-primary were suspended for physical assault or intimidation of staff''. "Two (girls) in pre-primary were suspended for physical assault or intimidation of other students,'' he said. More than 2000 girls were suspended last year and there were 134 violent or intimidatory acts by girls against staff. There were another 950 such offences by girls against other students.

The spokesman would not reveal the schools involved, the girls' ages, or previous years' figures, but a media release conceded overall suspension rates were up from 2005.

State School Teachers Union vice-president Anne Gisborne said violence among young girls had been rising for five years and unruly students were getting younger. She said also violence in schools was significantly under-reported. Teachers who spoke to The Sunday Times said they could not stop violent students for fear of being disciplined or hurt. Ms Gisborne said: "But I think what's happening in schools reflects an increase in aggression and violence in the broader community because schools are a microcosm of the community.'' She said families' resistance to deal with out-of-control children meant behavioural problems went untreated and got worse when students left school.

Peak parent group the WA Council of State School Organisations called for more teacher powers to tackle violence. "Many times, if a child does something and a teacher does try to prevent them misbehaving -- and that could involve some sort of physical restraint -- the child will often shout `assault','' president Rob Fry said. "That puts the teacher under investigation when all they have tried to do is prevent the escalation of violent behaviour. "We have to bring back some strong rules. "I'm not advocating bringing back the cane. But the department needs to somehow put in more support behind teachers so they know that they are protected when taking appropriate action.''

He said the use of centres to deal with disruptive students at high school addressed the problem too late. "Maybe parents of disruptive students should be forced to attend school and look after their children,'' he said. Among the 9649 boys and girls suspended last year were 518 incidents where girls abused or harassed staff, 142 such incidents against other students and 628 cases in which girls violated school rules. The were 21 expulsions overall, compared with 26 in 2005.

Education Minister Mark McGowan said the Government had created three centres for badly behaved high school students. But he said the Opposition and Greens were blocking the passage of parental responsibility laws, which could force parents to control badly behaved students.


Got breast cancer? Too bad

QUEENSLAND Health will struggle to diagnose suspected cancer victims identified through a new breast screening campaign because of staff shortages. The $1.5 million advertising campaign, which features veteran television journalist Jana Wendt, is aimed at increasing rates of regular screening among women aged 50 to 69.

But documents obtained by The Courier-Mail reveal women suspected of having breast cancer following the screen are likely to be exposed to lengthy delays in their diagnosis and treatment at Queensland hospitals. Queensland Health's latest "Allied Health Vacancy Data" shows the state has an acute shortage of radiographers, who are trained to operate medical imaging machines. In southeast Queensland alone there are currently 35 vacant radiographer positions listed as "critical", meaning their absence has caused or will cause service closures. The number of critical vacancies is three times worse than a year ago and has been predominantly caused by unfilled positions at the Gold Coast's Robina Hospital and Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital. The Courier-Mail revealed in June that the advertising campaign featuring Ms Wendt had been shelved amid concerns BreastScreen Queensland could not cope with extra patients.

Health Minister Stephen Robertson yesterday said the service was now well-placed to cope with increased demand with only 10 vacancies and two clinics with unacceptable wait times. Mr Robertson said the Government was also addressing the shortage through a new pay deal. "There is an enterprise bargaining agreement currently in the process of being finalised that will ensure that we are nationally, and arguably internationally, competitive," he said.

The campaign is aimed at addressing figures showing only 58 per cent of Queensland women aged 50 to 69 have regular breast screens. Wendt said women often delayed screening but research showed it could dramatically cut the number of breast cancer deaths.


Greenhouse mania in Australia

A SUCCESSION of public figures succumbed to climate change hysteria this week as if it were a contagion. Sufferers exhibited symptoms that included an inability to deal with facts and a propensity to offer wild surmises, to adopt irrational positions and to ignore practical solutions.

On Monday, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty told a criminology conference that "climate change would be the biggest security issue of the 21st century". Mr Keelty's feverish imaginings conjured up a new "Yellow Peril", with millions of Chinese on the move because of their "dramatically shrinking" land, crossing "borders and oceans" in forced migration.

There is one small problem with Mr Keelty's doomsday predictions: he based them on outdated statistics. The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts a possible rise in sea levels during the whole of the next century of only 43cm, half the figure cited by Mr Keelty. Which means that climate change might be the biggest threat of the 22nd century, assuming that no effective action were taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

John Howard also abandoned rational positions he had adopted as recently as June, opting for populist policies to appeal to voters. The Prime Minister's hand-picked task force on climate change had recommended a national carbon emissions trading scheme that dispensed with the mish-mash of state government political fixes. Unable to deliver this in the lead-up to an election, Mr Howard opted to rebadge the states' targets as his own.

The Opposition continued its opportunistic scaremongering about nuclear power yesterday with an announcement that the federal Government had a secret nuclear reactor plan after Mr Howard stated what in fact was obvious, that it would be unlikely that laws enabling nuclear power would be ready before the election. The ALP never tires of trumpeting its support for the Kyoto Protocol, but it is loath to acknowledge the key role that nuclear power has played in enabling some Kyoto signatories to keep emissions in check. If the ALP were serious about fast, deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, they would be barracking for the next power plant in NSW to be nuclear, but it is more interested in greenhouse gasbagging.

Quick to capitalise on the drought to push the climate change barrow, Greens senator Rachel Siewert said on Wednesday, "We are now dealing with the impact of climate change on agriculture". More informed voices begged to differ. Amanda Lynch of Monash University and University of Southern Queensland professor in climatology and water resources Roger Stone said more research was needed to establish what, if any, influence climate change had on drought.

At the heart of the moral panic being whipped up about climate change is the belief that global warming is not an environmental challenge that requires technological solutions but a moral judgment on a sinful society, divine retribution meted out by the earth goddess Gaia for our willful destruction of the planet. Green millenarians like to claim that the only solution is to return to a pre-industrial economy. The truth is that scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs are already coming up with solutions. In July this year, with no fanfare, three Welsh inventors announced a method of capturing the carbon dioxide emissions from cars, allowing them to be recycled into bio-fuels. The Victor Smorgon Group is also assessing a system to use algae to reduce carbon emissions at power plants by up to 80 per cent. It is these quiet achievers, not the greenhouse hysterics, who deserve our acknowledgement and support.


More hatred of childhood

CHILDREN are being banned from dressing as their favourite superheroes in Victorian kindergartens and preschools. Batman, Shrek and Wonder Woman are being outlawed in pre-school care in a clampdown on childish behaviour. Parents have been told to leave their children's dress-ups at home for fear they could cause violence and injury in the playground. There are concerns a child may try to fly like Superman or scale a building like Spider-Man, causing serious injury and sparking legal proceedings.

Bentleigh early learning centre director Tracey Young said the costumes were not allowed because they could trigger violence. [so could frustration with stupid rules] "Our main reason has always been it permits quite rough and outlandish behaviour," she said. "They are role-modelling their . . . play to become violent when they are dressed as a superhero."

Swinburne Childcare spokeswoman Janelle Blaess said many centres banned the costumes because they distracted children. "They can find it difficult to differentiate between what is reality and what is fiction," she said. [Well how about helping them to learn? Or are they not supposed to learn at school?] "The safety issues related to that are a real concern."

Several kindergartens contacted by the Sunday Herald Sun said they had banned costumes in the playground. Some strongly encouraged a no-costume policy and others were considering bans. The issue is being taken so seriously it was discussed at a statewide kindergarten conference this month. Kindergarten Parents Victoria president Meredith Carter said that bans on toy knives and guns were becoming more common in schools.

But a ban on dress-up costumes, which are hugely popular among young children, could turn them against preschools. "Small children will take risks no matter what," she said. "It's not the costume doing the damage; it's just that children will always find a way to test the boundaries."


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