Saturday, October 31, 2009

Australia's Prosperity Index result down because of poor public healthcare

By Greg Lindsay and Roger Bate. Greg Lindsay is the Executive Director of The Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney. Roger Bate is the Legatum Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. The 2009 Legatum Prosperity Index is now available. A majority of Australians rely on "free" government hospitals, where low standards and long waits are common

The 2009 Legatum Prosperity Index rates Australia an impressive sixth out of 104 countries surveyed – the top five are all small Northern European countries with populations of less than 10 million.

However, inefficiencies in public hospitals are hurting Australia’s prosperity. While Australia is very strong on the economic fundamentals required for long-term growth, the nation’s ailing health care system is keeping Australia from reaching its full potential, in terms of both economic progress and quality of life. Legatum ranks Australia a lowly 21st in health care, behind countries like Singapore, Spain, and the Czech Republic; 28th in infant mortality; 47th for number of doctors per capita; and behind Slovakia and Hungary on available beds.

The Australian Medical Association recently found that waiting times far exceed acceptable levels. The median wait for hip surgery in Australian public hospitals is nearly three months. For cataract surgery, it’s more than two months. Major public hospitals throughout Australia are bursting at the seams with bed occupancy rates of well over 100% a daily occurrence.

Overcrowding and inefficiency have compromised patient safety. According to the Queensland University of Technology, $1 billion annually is lost in bed days because of hospital-acquired infections. Medical errors cost an estimated $1 billion–$2 billion annually, with half of these errors classified as ‘potentially preventable.’

These health care problems are draining billions from the Australian economy, both directly by taking money away from players in the health sector and indirectly by compromising worker health and undermining productivity.

Australians are among the most prosperous populations on the planet. But the country’s health sector is in need of significant improvement. Cutting away waste and improving quality in health care would go a long way toward making Australia even stronger.

The above is part of a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated October 30. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590. Telephone ph: +61 2 9438 4377 or fax: +61 2 9439 7310

Rudd on the horns of a dilemma over illegal immigrants

Talking about a big Australia and waging a desperate struggle to salvage a tough border protection strategy may appear a contradiction, yet as Rudd knows and John Howard proved, border protection and Australia's high immigration program have always gone together. This compact, pivotal to Australia's progress, is at risk. An unpredictable mix of events on the water, in Indonesia, and worry about Rudd's hard line from within his own constituency has created a diabolical dilemma for Rudd and Stephen Smith. Faced with a limited array of unpalatable options the government's tough border protection stance is at risk. The political centre, it seems, may not hold with Rudd under aggressive assault from opposite positions on the Right and Left.

There are two boats in Indonesia with Sri Lankan asylum-seekers refusing to disembark, the first intercepted by the Indonesians within their own waters with 250 people aboard and the Oceanic Viking, an Australian boat that rescued 78 asylum-seekers at Indonesia's request in Indonesia's rescue zone.

Rudd and his Foreign Minister are standing firm. The plight of the Oceanic Viking has become the most difficult test of Rudd's resolution. The claim that he cannot take a hard decision offensive to his own side will now be determined. Does Rudd have the nerve and patience to prevail or will he crack before the political blackmail of the asylum-seekers and reluctance of local Indonesian authorities?

This week the Australian media seemed unable or unwilling to describe what was happening before its eyes: the Oceanic Viking asylum-seekers, by refusing to disembark in Indonesia, exploited their moral plight as a device to intimidate the Rudd government into a retreat and re-direction of the boat to Christmas Island where they could be processed.

As Smith signalled, this is a case of asylum-seekers trying to decide what country will process their claims and what country will become their new home if those claims are upheld. Asylum-seekers have no such rights under the 1951 Refugee Convention. The situation is exactly the reverse of the interpretation given wide currency this week. Far from Australia ignoring its obligations under the convention, the asylum-seekers are insisting on rights they do not possess under the convention. It is obvious what should happen: if the Sri Lankans are serious about being refugees they should leave the boat immediately and claim refugee status from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Their real purpose, however, is different. It is to self-select Australia and to resist any effort to have the UNHCR process their claims outside Australia. "It's not their choice," Smith told the AM ABC radio program. "It's not a matter for the Sri Lankans on board to choose where they make their application for refugee status. We absolutely defend their right to make that application."

The spectre of an ignominious retreat now overhangs Rudd and Smith that would see them forced to bring the asylum-seekers to this country. Such a move would destroy Rudd's credibility on border protection and represent an Australian submission to the campaign by boatpeople to self-select Australia as their home.

The government has no legal obligation to bring these people to Australia. As Rudd said, Australia took two decisions in relation to the Oceanic Viking asylum-seekers: it engaged in rescue when a vessel was in distress and, having collected the people and in consultation with Indonesian authorities, it decided to take the people for processing in Indonesia.

There is no credible case that Australia should have done otherwise. Rudd and Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono agreed that the people be processed in Indonesia. The problem is that Yudhoyono is struggling to enforce the agreement in the teeth of provincial hostility and resentment against Australia seems to be rising.

On Wednesday Smith was unequivocal about the result. "The President has already made that decision," he insisted. "Now that (going to Indonesia) is what will occur." He was confident the Rudd-Yudhoyono agreement would be honoured. On Thursday, Smith told radio station 2UE that Australia wasn't setting any timetable. "These things always take time," he said. Asked if the government would back down and bring them to Australia, Smith said: "We don't have that in contemplation."

Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told ABC1's Lateline on Wednesday that Indonesia would not use force to remove the asylum-seekers and said: "We have an abundance of patience". Yet he intensified the pressure, saying if the people won't budge then the Rudd government must take that into account. The next day Rudd followed by saying that Australia also had an abundance of patience. It is a polite way of describing a stalemate in which Rudd and Smith hope they can prevail but have limited leverage and only marginal control over a situation vital to their policy.

It is a game of political poker for high stakes. The more the Sri Lankans believe that Rudd may retreat, the more they will stay the course. In the meantime, Rudd will be under growing criticism at home for his inhumanity and hypocrisy.

The deadlock highlights the agonising nature of asylum-seeker policy. There is little doubt the Sri Lankans are genuine refugees yet the Indonesian and Australian authorities have met their obligations and are fully entitled to insist the boatpeople disembark.

Rudd and Smith know they must ensure the one-off Oceanic Viking event does not disrupt the substantial and permanent regional co-operation they seek with Indonesia that will be canvassed at the next Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation meeting. In this sense the resilience of the Rudd-Yudhoyono concord is being tested. It must survive that test for Rudd to have any prospect of salvaging his asylum-seeker policy.


Law to save Australian meat pies drafted by politicians

Meat pies are Australia's national religion. Even people who don't follow the neddies still like a meat pie. And most people have a "church" (pieshop) that they mostly go to for their pies. So we don't need politicians to tell us what is a good pie

A LAW to save the Aussie meat pie has been written by three politicians who argue that consumers are being dudded by misleading food standards. Current standards allow manufacturers to claim a meat pie is Australian-made, even if the meat is sourced from overseas - which will eventually include countries with mad cow disease after the easing of meat restrictions. As long as some of the packaging, pastry and gravy is made locally, products can carry the green and gold "Australian Made" logo.

Outraged federal Senators independent Nick Xenophon, Nationals' Barnaby Joyce, and Greens' Bob Brown said the Rudd Government needed to get fair dinkum with consumers. "This is pathetic. You can have a meat pie that says 'Australian Made' but contains 100 per cent foreign meat," Senator Xenophon said. Senator Joyce said labels should carry a pie graph to show what percentage of the product was actually from Australia.

The Trades Practices Act says products can claim to be made in Australia if they have been "substantially transformed" and have 50 per cent or more of the cost of producing or manufacturing in Australia. The Food Standards Amendment (Truth in Labelling Laws) Bill 2009, was yesterday scrutinised in a Senate inquiry. The senators want greater detail about the content of food products, including imported ingredients. It would mean the word "Australian" would only apply in relation to food that is 100 per cent produced in Australia from Australian products.

But the Australian Made, Australian Grown Campaign, Dick Smith Foods and the Australian National Retailers Association have argued there could be unintended consequences. "Cheese ... made in Australia today is made with imported rennet (a substance that curdles milk). Under this proposal cheese made in Australia from 100 per cent Australian milk could not be labelled Australian cheddar," said the Australian Made, Australian Grown Campaign in a submission to the inquiry.


Queensland becoming as authoritarian as Britain

Both have for some years been run by Leftist governments

With the government recently waging war on everyone from smokers to skateboarders, bikies to binge drinkers, civil libertarians warn Queensland is on the verge of becoming a nanny state.

Queensland Council for Civil Liberties president Michael Cope said the passing of state laws yesterday banning smoking in cars with children recalled the classic Mark Twain cry, "No one's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session." "You can see the justification for [non-smoking laws], but where does it stop?" Mr Cope said.

Further legislation, tabled by Attorney-General Cameron Dick yesterday, designed to dismantle outlaw gangs by tearing down clubhouses and banning members from associating with each other drew more ire from the long-term campaigner for civil rights.

"These days politicians have this great urge to be seen to be fixing everybody's social ills ... inevitably the minute you do that you reduce people's liberty," he said. "Every time a problem arises a politician passes a law to fix it - that is why we are creeping towards a nanny state. [The government] is slowly chipping away at people's freedoms; there is no doubt about that."

He said the State Government was ignoring the follies of outright bans. "The problem with any law is that it may cover problems B, C and D but it does more harm to people's liberty than what's intended."

Civil libertarians have widely opposed greater paternalism of "health and safety", but a spokesman for Premier Anna Bligh today maintained the government had introduced new legislation to "protect people".

In August this year the State Government banned skateboarders and rollerbladers riding after dark. The government cited safety reasons for the crackdown on riders of "wheeled recreation devices", claiming they became almost invisible to motorists after sundown.

Less than one month later Premier Anna Bligh announced the use of regular glass would be banned in bars deemed high risk by the end of the year. The government cited safety and health reasons, saying the glass ban would strip people of the "weapon of choice" in pubs and clubs. Glass is expected to be banned in at least 74 late-night watering holes throughout Queensland as the Government fine-tunes its list of high risk venues. Forty-one venues have until the new year to justify why they should not be made to serve drinks in plastic cups.

The Government's legislative reach may be further extended as a parliamentary inquiry seeks to curb the increasing incidents of alcohol-related violence in entertainment precincts in Brisbane and the Gold Coast. The Queensland Police Union this week proposed shutting down Brisbane's entertainment precincts at 2am and suburban hotels at 12pm. Fortitude Valley venues were quick to slam the ambitious proposal arguing the call signalled a return to the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era. "We're dangerously heading down the path of becoming a nanny state," chairman of the Valley Liquor Accord Danny Blair said.


Friday, October 30, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has an idea about how to discourage illegal immigrants

Australian banks 'don't need fixing'

ANZ Bank is pushing back strongly against the rising tide of global regulation, with its outspoken chief executive Mike Smith cautioning the local prudential regulator against "fixing something that's not broken". Mr Smith's comments came the day after Australian Prudential Regulation Authority chairman John Laker said local banks would not be spared from tighter global standards, even though they have withstood the ravages of the financial crisis, The Australian reported. "It would be curious indeed for our financial institutions to promote their strengths to the marketplace while at the same time shying away from global benchmarks; investors will not allow that to happen," Mr Laker told a Finsia financial services conference in Sydney on Wednesday. "There can be no unilateral declaration of independence from global reform."

But Mr Smith told analysts in a conference call yesterday that people were quick to jump on the regulatory bandwagon after a crisis. He pointed to a proposal emerging from the Basel Committee, the global standard-setting body for banking regulation, for a leverage ratio to put a floor under the build-up of leverage in the financial system. While such an initiative might be appropriate for a more leveraged operation, for example UBS, Mr Smith said, a commercial lender like ANZ had a "totally different make-up" and a different portfolio of businesses. "I think there is a real danger of fixing something that's not broken," he said. "We have to say our piece on this; there's not one size that fits all."

ANZ chief financial officer Peter Marriott said such proposals would affect everyone, because they represented an additional cost that would inevitably be passed on to customers.

Mr Smith said it was imperative APRA considered the effect of such regulation, noting there was a limited amount of government-issued paper available for stocking up bank liquidity.

The Basel Committee, apart from looking at a leverage ratio, is also examining the introduction of capital buffers that can be drawn down in periods of stress, strengthening the quality of bank capital, and the development of stronger liquidity buffers.


Conservative politicians lose faith in Warmist laws

LIBERAL Party frontbenchers have begun to dump their support for carbon emissions trading after receiving party research showing voters are increasingly skittish about putting a price on carbon. Despite Malcolm Turnbull's ongoing attempts to broker a deal with Labor that would clear the way for Kevin Rudd's proposed ETS, political hardheads among the Liberals are moving closer to the Nationals' view that endorsing carbon trading is political poison. They are now urging the Opposition Leader to take a harder line in negotiations and to reject Labor's legislation unless the government accepts the Coalition's proposed amendments in full. And they believe their best chance in next year's election is to attack Labor's proposals as leading to higher costs for consumers.

The shift has been on for the past few weeks and has gained pace since Liberal MPs were briefed on Tuesday on party research indicating voters overwhelmingly want action on climate change but do not understand the detail of the ETS proposals. Several sources said party director Brian Loughnane told the meeting that when interviewers explained the implications of an ETS to survey respondents, they were negative about the proposed scheme.

News of the shift emerged yesterday before today's launch by Liberal ETS opponent Cory Bernardi of a highly critical assessment of the European Union's emissions trading scheme which estimates it has cost consumers up to E116billion ($190bn) since 2005, with little environmental benefit.

The study, prepared by Britain's Taxpayers' Alliance, says climate change policies there form 14 per cent of household electricity prices and that electricity generators have made windfall profits at the expense of low-income earners and the elderly.

The Coalition has been negotiating with the government for more than a week on proposed amendments to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Kevin Rudd told parliament this week the bill would be introduced in the Senate on November 23, before the UN's global climate change conference in Copenhagen in December. If it is rejected the Prime Minister can use the Senate vote as the basis to call a double-dissolution election for both houses of parliament next year.

Mr Turnbull, a strong supporter of the need for a properly designed ETS, wants the government to amend its scheme to provide greater support for industries affected by a shift to carbon trading to adjust to the change.

Yesterday, the government rejected a Coalition bid to force an early vote on the scheme in the House of Representatives.

While Mr Loughnane refused to comment on party research yesterday, accounts of his briefing to MPs were broadly similar from sources on all sides of the ETS debate, with their differences relating to conclusions about the meaning of the findings. Some said the research made clear that the party should not back Labor's legislation unless the government embraced all of its amendments -- an unlikely prospect. "There is a move afoot in our party, depending on what happens, to say we should actually dump an ETS as a policy and go with something better and more effective," one source said.

But another shadow cabinet source said the research demonstrated that the party could not afford to accept the Nationals' approach of an outright rejection of carbon trading, and therefore must press hard for its amendments. "The message he was sending was that this is a dangerous zone but that because of the public acceptance that something must be done on climate change, doing nothing is simply not an option," the MP said.

Whatever the interpretation, Liberal frontbenchers who previously supported the idea of passing an amended ETS and then holding the government accountable for the outcome have shifted their view, insisting that only a "wholesale capitulation" from the government to Coalition demands would stand any chance of winning Coalition backbench endorsement.

Senior Liberals are now saying the party polling, and public polls, show increasing concern about the costs of an ETS. They believe the best political option is to run a campaign against the government based on increased costs to households and industry. Another MP said voters were starting to doubt the seriousness of climate change. It is also understood backbench pressure is growing from marginal seat holders who fear they will lose their seats. The Taxpayers' Alliance says the EU's ETS "has failed to perform and is imposing serious costs on ordinary families".

According to the EU's own figures there were only minor reductions in most European countries in greenhouse gas emissions between 2005 and 2008. Senator Bernardi, who is leading the Liberal revolt in the Senate and running a direct opposition campaign, said yesterday the British report showed an ETS was "a massive economic impost that has no real environmental benefits". "An ETS in any form is bad for business, bad for families and bad for our economy," he said. "With clear evidence of how ineffective and expensive it has been in the European Union, there is no way an ETS should be introduced in Australia."

Last night the author of the report, Matthew Sinclair, said from London that the European ETS had failed to "produce a stable carbon price, leaving consumers with an unpredictable addition to their bills".

Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said he was not surprised by the Liberals' research, which reflected his long-standing position.


Uncontrolled Muslim influx a threat

A FEW weeks ago in London, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told me that 75 per cent of the terrorist plots aimed at Britain originated in the federally administered tribal areas of Pakistan. Some 800,000 Pakistanis live in Britain. The vast majority, it goes without saying, are law-abiding citizens. But there is a link between uncontrolled Muslim immigration and terrorism.

The real historic significance of the illegal immigration crisis in our northern waters is that this could, if things go wrong, be the moment Australia loses control of our immigration program, and that would be a disaster.

It is extremely difficult to talk honestly about Muslim immigration. All generalisations about it are subject to countless exceptions. Muslims are very different from each other. Most are reasonably successful. But a much bigger minority end up with social, political, extremist or other problems resulting from a lack of integration than is the case with any other cohort of immigrants in Western societies. A lack of honest discussion about this results in bad policy.

The most enlightening book you could possibly read on this is by US journalist Christopher Caldwell, "Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West". It is by far the best book on public policy of any kind I have read for a long time. It is wittily written but attempts to be neither provocative nor politically correct. It is dense with data but its greatest strength lies in laying bare the intellectual, political and social dynamics that have led to the mess in Europe. The way the Australian debate is reprising what were profoundly destructive and misguided European debates, dominated by moral sanctimony and a failure to grasp reality, is eerie.

Caldwell is enlightening on the way asylum assessment processes are so easily scammed, and the sophisticated, intense exchange of information that means the slightest change in attitude by a receiving country is instantly relayed throughout illegal immigrant networks. He writes: "An easily game-able system was in place that made admissions automatic to prospective immigrants who understood it. Various immigrant advocacy NGOs in Europe made sure they understood it... migrants knew the best countries to claim to come from. They also knew the best countries to go to ... (There was an) incredible sensitivity of prospective migrants to shifts in immigration law, and to countries' moods towards immigrants."

Caldwell also shows that once an illegal immigrant route is established as reliable it becomes immensely popular. This is what the struggle in the waters to Australia's north now is really all about. He further demonstrates how completely subjective and plastic the asylum-seeker assessment procedures are. In 2001 Denmark approved a majority of asylum applicants. By 2004, when the mood had changed, it approved only one in 10, though of course in Europe rejected applicants basically don't go home.

At times Caldwell seems to be arguing against immigration in principle, although all the problems he adduces relate specifically to Muslim immigration, and he acknowledges the success of other immigrants in Europe. He frequently acknowledges the success of immigration in Canada, the US and Australia. In Canada and Australia, the governments choose the immigrants. In the US, most illegal immigrants come from Latin America and don't have the Muslim problems.

But in so far as he makes a general case against immigration, I strongly disagree with Caldwell. What he is really concerned with is uncontrolled Muslim immigration. The facts he produces are very disturbing. No European majority ever wanted this to happen. There are 20 million Muslims in western Europe and this number will double by 2025.

How did this mass immigration of people with few relevant job or language skills, and a culture deeply alien to Europe, come about? Caldwell argues that the post-World War II period saw a radical disjuncture in European attitudes. Europe had just been wrecked by an enemy, the Nazis, who were avowedly racist. The unimaginable disaster of the Holocaust haunted every discussion of morality or policy. Europe was in the throes of decolonisation and felt guilty about its relations with non-white people. This made an ideology of anti-racism - which itself became extreme and distorted, detached from reality and in many cases downright intolerant - the more or less official state religion of Europe. This had little to do with really combating racism.

In one of history's countless ironies, Muslim immigrants benefited from the legacy of the Jewish Holocaust. The determination initially to extirpate anti-Semitism didn't help many European Jews because they were almost all gone, but it offered a template for Muslim immigrants to find and exploit an ethnic victim status. This set up profoundly destructive dynamics and, in another irony, reintroduced serious anti-Semitism to Europe, carried with the Muslim arrivals.

Caldwell suggests a welfare state makes a bad marriage with mass, unskilled immigration. Welfare rather than opportunity becomes the attraction. More importantly, welfare becomes a lethal poverty trap. At the same time, satellite television, the internet and mass immigration from a few countries means the old culture is always on hand for Muslim migrants. They don't need to integrate if they don't want to or find it difficult. In many cases Caldwell cites, the second-generation of Muslim immigrants is less integrated than the first, and the third less than the second.

The demographic figures he cites are familiar but still shocking. Native Europeans won't have babies at anything like replacement level while the fertility of Muslim immigrants does not decline through time, as is the case with other immigrants. Religion is the strongest predictor of fertility in Europe. By mid-century Islam will be the majority religion of Austrians under the age of 15. In Brussels, most births are to Muslims and have been since 2006. In France, one in 10 people are Muslims, but they are one in three of those entering their child-bearing years, and Muslims have three times as many children as other French.

Caldwell writes: "Europe finds itself in a contest with Islam for the allegiance of its newcomers. For now, Islam is the stronger party in that contest ... when an insecure, malleable, relativistic culture meets a culture that is anchored, confident and strengthened by common doctrines, it is generally the former that changes to suit the latter."

Uncontrolled Muslim immigration is a change to Europe so great it makes all the treaties and bureaucratic falderol of the EU look footling and transitory by comparison.


More media amnesia about the sins of the Left

Hal G.P. Colebatch

IT is a graphic demonstration of the political skew in Australian culture that the killing of a group of journalists, probably but not quite certainly, by anti-communist Indonesian troops at Balibo in Timor in 1975 has been the subject of ongoing agitation, including two books, a recent film and countless articles, ever since as well as demands for reparation and the punishment of the guilty. East Timor President Ramos Horta has recently awarded Balibo director Robert Connolly and producer John Maynard the Presidential Medal of Merit for the film.

Meanwhile, the killing of a group of Australian journalists by communist Viet Cong in the Cholon district of Saigon during the 1968 Tet Offensive has been almost completely forgotten. In contrast to Balibo, there has been a complete absence of any indignation by the Australian Left over the Cholon massacre. No chance of a movie there. This is despite the fact that, unlike Balibo, the circumstances of the Cholon killings are known in detail.

There was one survivor, journalist Frank Palmos, who has written a detailed account, Ridding the Devils, published in 1990, including an account of how he came to meet one of the killer-squad members after the war.

In the Australian section of the London Spectator of September 26, Eric Ellis fulminated over the Timor killings: "It would be correct and just, if the word were so, for Jakarta to offer up the military officers who murdered the defenceless Balibo Five, the biggest single-incident killing of media personnel in any war anywhere, killed simply because they were journalists in the right place at the wrong time. But Balibo agitators will be disappointed if they expect Indonesia to offer up the killers."

The voluminous writings on the Balibo killings have a hole at their centre: the lack of witnesses and of facts. We do not know if the journalists at Balibo were murdered - that is, killed deliberately by people who knew they were non-combatants - at all. Fighting was going on between the then communist-aligned Fretilin and Indonesian or pro-Indonesian Timorese forces. It is not even certain which side killed them, let alone what individuals.

I was at Balibo in early 1973, in the last days of Portugese rule, writing a script for a travel film. The area was thickly grown with semi-jungle vegetation and bush, in many places more than man-high, often right up to what primitive roads there were. On much of the terrain nothing would have been easier, during fighting, than for someone moving in this dense bush to be mistaken as an enemy target or to walk into a burst of gunfire.

John Whitehall, writing in the October Quadrant, has repeated an earlier statement that at least two of the journalists, who he saw shortly before, had then actually been wearing military uniforms, the equivalent of painting a target on oneself.

On the other hand it seems plain that the killing of the Australian journalists in Cholon by communist forces was the killing of obviously unarmed non-combatants. On May 5, 1968, at the height of the Tet Offensive Palmos, then aged 28, was driving through Cholon in a civilian jeep with fellow Australian journalists Bruce Pigott, 23, John Cantwell, 29, Michael Birch, 24, and British correspondent Ronald Laramy, 31 (Michael and I read poetry together in Perth coffee-shops when we were junior reporters on The West Australian).

The journalists were watching US helicopters firing rockets at guerilla positions. Fleeing Vietnamese civilians shouted warnings to them: "VC, VC, beaucoup VC. Di di mau (get away quickly)! Go back, go back!" They turned a corner into a lane with a roadblock of oil drums. Suddenly several Viet Cong guerillas stood up and started firing. Four of the journalists were killed or wounded.

The communist commander, wearing tiger-pattern jungle fatigues and not the usual black pyjamas of the guerillas, walked forward. Birch, already wounded, cried: "Bao chi, bao chi." ("Press, press.") The commander repeated "Bao chi!" derisively - apparently no question of mistaken identity there - walked towards Birch and shot him at point blank range with a Chinese K54 pistol, before firing bullets into Cantwell who was lying on the ground nearby. "The man shot and missed," Palmos said, "then shot again and again, hitting. He seemed to enjoy his work. Not only did he ignore all pleas of innocence, killing Westerners seemed to appeal to him."

Palmos, who had played dead while the Viet Cong officer was reloading, ran and hid among the fleeing Vietnamese civilians, who sheltered him at risk to themselves. He returned to Vietnam after the war, and, oddly enough, the communist authorities and Vietnamese journalists co-operated with him in finding the killers. They located one of the few surviving men who had been in the Viet Cong squad, Nguyen van Cuong, in 1989. The Vietnamese government in 1988 had offered a statement expressing "profound regret" and said the killings "were clearly a case of mistaken identity". It added, somewhat backhandedly: "We regard the Western journalists as very important in our struggle because they were telling the truth of the war to the world outside."

An interview was arranged with Nguyen van Cuong, after he had apparently been assured the authorities would protect him. Shooting the unarmed and wounded men, he told Palmos, was "carrying out normal procedures". He was close-mouthed. When asked: "How do you feel, sitting opposite the man you tried to kill?" he froze. And there, apparently, the story simply came to an end, save that it emerged that Palmos had unintentionally been the instrument of revenge for his colleagues.

Apparently the officer in charge, Minh Pung, who had actually fired the pistol shots into the journalists and had pursued Palmos when he fled, had been taken by the chase into an open street where he had been blown to bits by fire from a US helicopter. Palmos concluded of Minh Pung: "It was without any thought of innocence that he shot my friends, and would have shot me. And it was with plain murder in his mind that he chased me down the road to kill me. "He knew even then that we were not armed. Our Jeep was not followed by any other attacking vehicles. We were white, we were Westerners, and we had to be blown away with the smallest risk and the greatest number of heroic points accrued."

The point is not to establish degrees of guilt here: the Viet Cong, as communist authorities in Vietnam said later, may have thought the journalists in Cholon were enemy agents, even though the killer's derisive cry of "Bao chi!" and the fact that both the men and the Jeep were obviously unarmed tell against this. Both massacres might be ascribed to the heat of battle and the fog of war. There is probably little to be gained by picking over either of them further.

The point is now not what happened in Cholon or Balibo then: the point is the completely different sets of reactions to the two massacres in Australia: one ceaselessly dwelt upon (and at a time when Indonesian goodwill is important in the anti-terrorist campaign), the other virtually ignored.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Conservative politician calls for debate on Muslim enclaves

Liberal [party] MP Kevin Andrews has called for a debate on Muslim "enclaves" in parts of Australia, blaming political correctness for a failure to discuss the issue. Mr Andrews, a former immigration minister who is heading the Coalition's policy unit in the lead-up to the next election, told radio broadcaster Alan Jones this morning that to "have a concentration of one ethnic or one particular group that remains in an enclave for a long period of time is not good".

And Mr Andrews told The Australian Online that it was clear that some Muslims were not "dispersing" into the community as other ethnic groups had in the past. "I don't think it's happening as rapidly as with other communities in the past. I think it's desirable," he said.

Mr Andrews coincided with a call from outspoken Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey this morning for Australia to call in the army to get asylum-seekers off the Oceanic Viking customs vessel and onshore to an Indonesian detention centre.

Asked about the growth of Muslim population in Australia, Mr Andrews said it was a topic that had to be discussed. "You should be able to talk about it ... It's ridiculous if you can't talk about any subject," he said. "When a subject becomes politically incorrect to talk about, then it ends up with a backlash. "I think part of the (Pauline) Hanson movement in the early 1990s was because some subjects were simply said to be off the table, they couldn't be discussed and a lot of Australians wanted to discuss them. "Whether they were right or wrong is not the point. In a democracy you should be able to discuss them."

Mr Tuckey said today the Prime Minister should send in the army if the asylum-seekers onboard an Australian customs vessel after 11 days at sea refused to disembark. "He can ask the army to go up there and take those people off," Mr Tuckey said. "He can send that vessel back."

Senior Liberal senator Eric Abetz said the Government would be embarrassed if it had to use force to end the stand-off. "If you're soft on border protection you then become hostage to situations like this," he said in Canberra.


Army brass knew armour was defective

Risk to Australian soldiers fighting in Afghanistan

DEFENCE chiefs were told more than a year ago about serious safety concerns with combat body armour worn by Diggers in Afghanistan. Federal Government documents obtained by The Daily Telegraph confirm troops were issued with armour with "known defects". The documents also show that top brass knew in April this year that troops were forced to use split pins and nails to prevent quick release catches on the armour from failing.

The military ordered 14,688 sets of the suspect armour under a $24 million project and by May this year more than 8400 had been delivered. Despite two years of field testing by the army, the body armour, known as the modular combat armour system (MCBAS), will now be replaced by a lightweight system called American Eagle that is worn by special forces troops.

The documents show serious failures in the original armour were identified in September 2008 and in February and April this year. Amid concerns about the impact of weight and a dodgy quick-release mechanism, the armour put soldiers at risk as they attempted to drag the body of Corporal Mathew Hopkins to safety during an ambush in Afghanistan in March this year.

An official report said the armour "did contribute to the difficulty in recovering Cpl Hopkins from an exposed position and evacuating him" to a medical post. According to one document dated September 23, 2008, the armour's quick-release system had opened "without the wearer's intent" when "simulated" casualties were dragged by the shoulder straps by two personnel.

However, despite the numerous documented complaints, Defence Materiel Organisation official Brigadier Bill Horrocks told a Senate inquiry in June "the feedback we have ... is that they are very happy with what we delivered to them; however, it is certainly heavy".

Another Defence document dated April 6, 2009 said that one inspection had found that 15 sets of the armour had failed. "Some MCBAS issued to units and members has shoulder straps with single loop brown plastic buckle. These buckles are a known defect," the document said. Another report dated February 17, 2009 said quick release could not be operated by a single hand pull if the armour was wet or submerged. Troops in Afghanistan patrol through channels and streams.


There are dangerous Tamil Tigers among illegals heading for Australia

By Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

THE debate in Australia over the influx of Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka should take into consideration the nature of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lankan conflict that ended on May 19.

Since the LTTE's defeat, the Sri Lankan government has been weeding out hardcore LTTE fighters to ensure that the group cannot regenerate. So far, according to Sri Lanka's Ministry of Defence, out of nearly 272,000 internally displaced persons, 9818 LTTE fighters have been identified and interned. Nonetheless, the government remains cautious, as suggested by Disaster Management and Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe: "There are still some persons among the IDPs who have not disclosed their former affiliation with the LTTE."

In early August, the Sri Lankan government suspected that about 10,000 unidentified LTTE fighters were hiding in IDP camps, posing as civilians. However, in early October the leader of the Tamil United Liberation Front, Veerasingham Anandasangaree, claimed that most, if not all, of the remaining undetected LTTE fighters had fled overseas.

Sri Lankan military officials believe that two categories of refugees are fleeing: those who are fighters or who have collaborated with the LTTE; and those who are fleeing for economic reasons. Many of these civilians are known to have been strong supporters of the LTTE and constitute maveerar (war hero) families whose children fought in elite LTTE units.

In September, reports emerged that since May about 20,000 IDPs have escaped from dozens of these camps; many of them are suspected by the Sri Lankan government of being former LTTE fighters.

Conditions in these camps have been the subject of considerable media debate, but recent visits by senior foreign officials suggest that significant improvements have been made. For example, IRIN News quotes Walter Kaelin, the UN Secretary-General's representative on the human rights of internally displaced persons, as saying: "Certainly people do get food, they do get medical assistance and there is education in the camps. So from that perspective, the government and international community have done a lot."

The Indian daily The Hindu reports that 41,685 IDPs have been released and resettled and the government is engaged in the process of resettling another 58,000 in line with its target of releasing and resettling more than 70 per cent of the IDPs by January 31.

The LTTE in the diaspora is engaged in a process of reorganisation and there are no credible indications that it will move away from terrorism, a view affirmed by Canadian terrorism expert Tom Quiggin, who says: "The LTTE has not given up its program of an independent homeland, and they will continue their campaign of violence from wherever they can re-establish themselves."

It is beyond doubt that hardcore LTTE fighters have infiltrated the Tamil refugees who have arrived in Australia, as noted by Victor Rajakulendran, who represents the Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations: "There will ... definitely ... be (LTTE) in these boats. The ex-combatants are in danger in Sri Lanka so they will have to flee somewhere."

Australia needs to be aware that many LTTE combatants were involved in serious acts of terrorism against Sri Lanka and its citizens, including suicide bomb attacks, other forms of bombing, torture and murder. For instance, there was a sustained LTTE campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Sinhalese and Muslim populations of northern and eastern Sri Lanka, which from 1984 to this year involved an estimated 257 attacks that killed 4485 civilians, wounded 5897 and displaced close to 200,000 Sinhalese and Muslims. Furthermore, according to Dharmalingam Siddharthan, leader of the anti-LTTE People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam, at least 10,000 dissident Tamils were eliminated by the LTTE during the conflict.

Rajakulendran claims that LTTE combatants "are not going to be fighters here. They were fighting for a cause, even if some of the tactics are unacceptable ... They are not going to fight for a cause here. They are not like Islamic terrorists." However, evidence of LTTE activities in the West suggests otherwise. For instance, a 2006 Human Rights Watch report, Final War: LTTE Intimidation and Extortion in the Tamil Diaspora, reported serious LTTE infringements of law and order in the West, including extortion, wanton intimidation, violent repression of dissenting Tamil voices and even homicide.

Canadian-Tamil journalist D.B.S Jeyaraj has written that "the activities of pro-Tiger elements in the West have often been provocative and blatantly defiant of Western laws governing terrorism. In spite of the LTTE being banned under anti-terrorism laws, the diasporic Tiger supporters have flagrantly flouted them."

Examples of serious LTTE infractions of the law in the West include: the murder of a French policeman; suspected murder of dissident Tamil journalist Sabaratnam Sabalingam; death threats to the dissident Tamil Broadcasting Corporation in Britain; assault and intimidation of dissident Norwegian-Tamil journalist Nadaraja Sethurupan; and, according to the Asian Tribune, alleged death threats against Selliah Nagarajah, a political columnist and law lecturer at the University of Western Sydney. In addition, dissident liberal Sri Lankan Tamil group University Teachers for Human Rights-Jaffna claims that the LTTE was responsible for the murder of Subramaniam Muthulingam, an Australian citizen who was on holiday in Sri Lanka and was known to have refused to co-operate with LTTE attempts to streamline fundraising from a Hindu temple in Perth.

Hence, based on its actions in Sri Lanka and abroad, it is not surprising that the LTTE is outlawed in 31 countries. Indeed, the US FBI website states: "The Tamil Tigers are among the most dangerous and deadly extremists in the world (and their) ruthless tactics have inspired terrorist networks worldwide, including al-Qa'ida in Iraq."

The FBI goes on to say: "(The LTTE) perfected the use of suicide bombers, invented the suicide belt, pioneered the use of women in suicide attacks, murdered some 4000 people in the past two years alone and assassinated two world leaders (former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan president Ranasinghe Premadasa), the only terrorist organisation to do so."

While the Australian government ponders whether to outlaw the LTTE, as practically every other Western country has done since 2006, it should take an uncompromising view of LTTE combatants and operatives and ensure that a thorough screening process is conducted.

Clearly, not all the Tamil refugees coming to Australia fit this category, but those found to be members of the LTTE should be treated no differently from the way Australia would expect other countries to treat operatives of Jemaah Islamiah and al-Qa'ida.


The story behind Melbourne's famous Shrimp

Caught short with fabric

It may have been 44 years ago, but time has not clouded Jean Shrimpton's recollections of the stir she caused on Victoria Derby Day in 1965. The British model shocked Melbourne's conservative racing crowd when she wore a white mini-dress cut 10cm above the knee. Melbourne's establishment matrons were left reeling not only by the high hem, but also by the beauty's daring decision not to wear a hat, stockings or gloves.

Jean Cox - as she is now known - said she blamed herself for the controversy. "It was my fault, I suppose I wasn't very professional," said Cox. "I got asked to go to the Melbourne Cup and didn't do any research." Despite being, arguably, the world's first supermodel, she said she presumed she was being asked to attend the races because of who she was rather than what she would wear.

"People think because you are a model you are interested in fashion, and I never was," she said. She said she had no intention of upsetting the racing hierarchy -- it was merely a matter of metrics. "The fabric company who sent me the material for the dress never sent me enough material," she explained. "I said, `Nobody's going to take any notice so just make the skirt a bit shorter -- it was as simple as that. Then it caused this huge furore, which was really rather surprising."

Cox, who stopped modelling in 1972 and is the owner of chic Cornwall hotel the Abbey, run by her son Thaddeus, said she was more than happy to be out of the spotlight. "I much prefer architecture to fashion," she said.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

We were very wrong on closing bank branches, says Westpac executive Peter Hanlon

Back to the past for the latest wisdom! It sure took a long while for that penny to drop. I was a Westpac customer for decades but when they closed their local branch, I had to go to a back street in a distant suburb to find another one -- and the staff there were useless anyway. I now get much better service at a smaller bank, not that any bank is good at handling anything beyond the basics

A BOSS at one of the big four banks has admitted its two-decade policy of shutting branches has cost it - and consumers - dearly. In a classic mea culpa, Westpac group executive Peter Hanlon said removing customer-orientated bank managers and centralising operations was a massive mistake. He said the banks had failed to care adequately for customers by morphing into an automated and faceless service that account holders were increasingly fed up with.

"Closing branches has been a complete failure. We have closed branches in places we simply should not have closed them. This is an admission we made a mistake," Mr Hanlon said. In attempt to redress those mistakes, Westpac has revived a key role long thought extinct - the true bank manager focused on local customers and their communities....

Mr Hanlon said the focus on "short-term cost-cutting" had led to a reduction of service. "Banks have done a range of things in the name of profitability. "No one can argue with that, because we have closed hundreds and hundreds of branches, and we have shrunk our workforce by tens of thousands, so it’s undeniable that we’ve reduced services," he said.

Mr Hanlon said Westpac had hired 400 new bank managers this year, telling them to be more hands-on, giving them more autonomy, and requiring them to be more active in their local communities. "Over the last 20 years we've taken away the capabilities of bank managers to get involved in any lending decisions, we've taken away their ability to hire their own people, we've even taken away their ability to sponsor the local bowls club," Mr Hanlon said. "The bank managers now decide who they hire, when they open and close, they decide where their sponsorship dollars go, they decide on what to do with specific customer inquiries.

"I want us to be respected again. I want bank managers to be respected members of the local community and I think the work people like me have done over the last 20 years, while not on purpose, has engineered the drop in respect of the local branch manager. The bank has also committed to opening at least 200 new branches in the coming years, many in locations where Westpac closed its doors barely 10 years ago.


Note that NAB seems to be in rather better shape. Despite their problems, both banks have been pretty good sharemarket performers. I have shares in both

How lacking in perspective can you get?

No wonder the guy below is "controversial". He ignores the fact that the overwhelming majority of studies on the subject show no risk. Outside his own field he appears to know nothing more than the layman and it is popular but poorly substantiated beliefs that he echoes

BRAIN cancer surgeon Charlie Teo has urged people to put mobile phones on loudspeaker, move clock radios to the foot of the bed and wait until microwaves have finished beeping before opening them.

The controversial Sydney specialist told a Melbourne fundraiser that although the jury was still out on mobile phones and other forms of electromagnetic radiation, we should not take risks. "Even though the jury's not in, just to err on the side of safety I would try and limit the amount of electromagnetic radiation that you're exposed to," he said. "The American government, for example, recommend that all electrical appliances should be put at the foot of the bed and not the head of the bed.

"Electric blankets should be turned off before you get in bed and definitely wait for those five beeps before you open the microwave. "With the mobile phone I encourage you to put it on loudspeaker and step outside rather than sticking it up to your brain."

Dr Teo, who tackles tumours other surgeons deem inoperable, said some hair dyes, particularly red, could also cause brain cancer in people with a predisposition. "The body needs some genetic predisposition. The hair dye, the mobile phone, they're just catalysts but you probably need some sort of genetic aberration to get the cancer in the first place," he said.

Dr Teo said while breast cancer doubled its cell numbers in weeks or months, the quickest brain cancers took just 16 hours. No age group was immune and the incidence of brain tumours was growing. [Because the population is getting older, mainly] "It's increasing in frequency both in this country and developing countries and it used to be ranked out of the top 10 but it's just joined the top 10 most common cancers," he said.

Recent studies have raised alarm bells about mobile phones. An unreleased World Health Organisation study reportedly found "a significantly increased risk" of some brain tumours related to use of mobile phones for 10 years or more. A Suleyman Demirel University study in Turkey also found wearing a mobile phone on your belt may lead to decreased bone density in an area of the pelvis commonly used for bone grafts.

Dr Teo said there had been some advancements in treating tumours, like microwave therapy and putting chemotherapy directly into a tumour. A healthy diet, meditation and positive thought could also be beneficial. "We believe that they probably boost the immune system," he said.


Journalistic dirty tricks against a Christian conservative

News Limited was willing to pay dearly for this story not to be published. It first offered a $110,000 payment, plus a private apology, to avoid going to court. But the price it demanded was that the matter be kept confidential. The company was told to take a jump. See you in court.

The Daily Telegraph had published four stories about Michael Towke which he believed had defamed him, destroyed his political career, and caused untold stress to his family. "These stories sent my mother to hospital," he told me. "They demonised me. I wanted to confront them in court."

But a court was not where News wanted to see Towke. "They spent a lot of money fighting me," he said. "Their lawyers made me jump through every hoop. They asked me 30 pages of questions."

Near the eve of the court date, lawyers for the subsidiary which publishes the Telegraph, Nationwide News Pty Ltd, offered the confidentiality package, which Towke emphatically rejected. On the eve of the trial, Nationwide came up with another offer: $50,000, plus costs, plus removing the offending articles from the internet and dropping the confidentiality requirement. On the advice of counsel, Towke accepted. He was never willing to accept any settlement that was confidential, despite the risk that entailed. "I was willing to bankrupt myself to clear my name," he said.

Here is his story.

Michael Towke is 34. He attended Marcellin College, Randwick. He is a Lebanese Christian, a practising Catholic and the eldest of eight children. He has a first-class honours degree in engineering and a BA, both from the University of Sydney, and won the Alan Davis Prize, the top prize for sociology.

He has an MBA from the Australian Graduate School of Management. At 17, he joined the Army Reserve and served for 20 months. He is president of the Sylvania conference of the St Vincent de Paul Society and has been volunteering for Vinnies since he was 15. He works as a telecommunications engineer. He has lived in the Sutherland Shire for 10 years.

Towke is also a long-serving member of the Liberal Party. In July 2007 he won preselection for the then safe federal Liberal seat of Cook. He was set to replace the outgoing member, Bruce Baird. The contest attracted a large field, including Paul Fletcher, who recently won Liberal preselection for Bradfield (vacated by the former Liberal leader Brendan Nelson), and a former state director of the NSW Liberal party, Scott Morrison.

Towke won easily. On the first ballot, he polled 10 times as many votes as Morrison, 82 votes to 8, who was eliminated in the first round. His victory meant that a Lebanese Australian would represent the Liberal Party in the seat where the Cronulla riot and revenge raids had taken place 18 months earlier, in December 2005. "The campaign against me started four days after preselection," Towke said.

Two senior people within the Liberal Party, whose identity is known to a widening circle within the party, went through Towke's nomination papers to find every possible discrepancy and weakness. Then they started calling selected journalists to tell them Towke was a liar. The first story appeared in The Daily Telegraph on July 18, 2007, under the headline, "Liberal ballot scandal in Howard's backyard." Three days later, on July 21, a second story appeared in the Telegraph: "Towke future on hold." The next day, in The Sunday Telegraph, a third story: "Party split as Liberal candidate faces jail."

"That was the story that sent my mother to hospital," Towke told me.

Then came a fourth story in the Telegraph, on July 25: "Towke lied, but just by degrees." Four different Telegraph journalists, two of them very senior, wrote those four stories, so the campaign of leaks and smears was assiduous. There is insufficient space to detail all the claims made and disputed. Towke was portrayed as a serial liar, an exaggerator. He disputed every such imputation with factual evidence. After it was obvious his political credibility had been destroyed by these stories, he started defamation proceedings. A year of legal attrition ensued.

Shortly before the matter was to begin in court this month, Nationwide News paid and settled.

It is telling that experienced Telegraph journalists appear to have based their stories on sources they trusted, suggesting those doing the leaking were both senior figures and seasoned in dealing with the media.

Though Towke would eventually win his legal war, the damage had been done. The adverse media coverage set in train a reaction within the party to get rid of him. A second ballot was ordered, in which the balance of power was shifted away from the grassroots in Cook and to the state executive. The second ballot gave the preselection to Scott Morrison. Amazing. He had been parachuted into the seat over Towke's political carcass. Morrison clearly had backers who wanted him to get the seat. "These guys were prepared to ruin my life," Towke said.

Why? There was a view among some senior Liberals that a Lebanese Australian could not win Cook in a tight election.

Two years later, Towke's honour has been restored. His name has been cleared, his standing in the party rehabilitated, and his ties to the electorate broadened. Justice will be served when the two assassins within the party are politically terminated. That process has begun. The circle will only be complete if this Lebanese Australian represents the shire in Federal Parliament.


A much-honoured Greenie nut

Being a crank makes you a "public intellectual" apparently. Comment by Andrew Bolt below

THIS sure is a strange way for Professor Clive Hamilton to spend the few years that he - and we - have left. I mean, if you thought the end of the world was nigh, would you really waste your last moments trying to become the next member for Higgins?

Still, who knows what now goes on in the grim skull of the Greens candidate for the Melbourne seat just vacated by former treasurer Peter Costello. And who understands what dark currents swirl in the brains of the thousands who will vote for him on December 5, in a poll that will measure how mad these times now are.

Hamilton has a CV that might make an innocent reader, impressed by titles, think: "Wow! This man must be smart." He describes himself as a "public intellectual". He's written books and is professor of public ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics. The Rudd Government made him a Member of the Order of Australia. Yet that CV measures not Hamilton's greatness, but this country's idiocy.

His message is just one preached by religious cranks for centuries: "Repent, for the end of the world is nigh!" Here's his new version of this faith: "I think where we're going is to begin to see a Gaian earth in its ecological, cybernetic way, infused with some notion of mind or soul or chi, which will transform our attitudes to it away from an instrumentalist one, towards an attitude of greater reverence." And if we don't repent? "Unless we do that, I mean we seriously are in trouble, because we know that Gaia is revolting against the impact of human beings on it."

In fact, Hamilton fears we're doomed already by Gaia's revolt against wicked us and our greenhouse gases: "It now seems almost certain that, if it has not occurred already, within the next several years enough warming will be locked into the system ... (and) humans will be powerless to stop the shift to a new climate on Earth, one much less sympathetic to life."

So sure is Hamilton of this danger that voters may get just one chance to vote him in - and none to throw him out if the world's temperatures start rising again: "The implications of (a rise of) 3C, let alone 4C or 5C, are so horrible that we look to any possible scenario to head it off, including the canvassing of emergency responses such as the suspension of democratic processes."

Even our freedom to shop offends this embryonic dictator: "Shopping has become both an expression of the meaninglessness of consumer society and an attempted cure for it." But good news: "It has recently been shown that compulsive shopping disorder can be effectively treated with certain anti-depressant drugs ... "

Can't wait to see Hamilton lash the ladies of Higgins out of their fine shops in Chapel St and Toorak Rd. Still, be fair. He actually wants all of us to be poorer, and not just the rich: "We can only avoid catastrophe - including millions dying in the Third World - if we radically change the way we in the rich countries go about our daily lives. Above all, we must abandon our comfortable belief in progress."

Here's how: "Australia, along with the rest of the world, must cut its emissions by at least 60 per cent ... " But how to get people to agree with a target so ruinous? Hamilton's answer: "Personally I cannot see any alternative to ramping up the fear factor." Actually, Clive, consider that fear factor ramped. If you're now the kind of thinker voters prefer, even I will agree we're doomed.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is critical of Kevvy's "Indonesia solution" to illegal immigration

Black gang-rapists get sympathetic judge

THREE men repeatedly gang raped a teenager during a horrific nine-hour ordeal but a judge yesterday ruled the trio were not "depraved monsters". The men, Zambian nationals Tyrone Chishimba, Likumbo Makasa and Mumbi Peter Mulenga, were found guilty of aggravated sexual assault without consent after a 15-year-old was repeatedly raped at a unit in Hurstville in August 2006.

During the three-month trial, the court heard the intoxicated girl, who cannot be identified, passed out at the unit and later woke up to find one of the men having intercourse with her, while the other two watched.

During sentencing submissions yesterday, a judge said the trio were guilty of serious crimes but were not depraved monsters, before sentencing them to at least three years in jail. Attorney General John Hatzistergos last night ordered a copy of the transcript to be sent to him and will discuss the possibility of an appeal with the DPP.


The latest Greenie attack on ordinary people

They want to evict everyone from waterfront properties "for their own good" -- because of allegedly rising sea-levels

MORE than 80,000 buildings on Victoria's coast may be at risk of rising sea levels, but Liberal frontbencher Tony Abbott isn't worried. Mr Abbott says he is unconcerned that beachfront areas of his northern Sydney electorate may be inundated by rising sea levels caused by climate change. Sea levels had risen along the NSW coast by more than 20 centimetres during the past century, the Liberal frontbencher said. "Has anyone noticed it? No, they haven't," he told reporters in Canberra today.

Mr Abbott, whose electorate of Warringah takes in Manly, Harbord, Dee Why Curl Curl and Balmoral, on Sydney's north shore, was responding to a parliamentary inquiry report which canvassed the option of forcing people living near the coast to move from their homes as climate-induced sea levels rose. Australia had the resources to cope with the issue in "the normal way", he said. "Ask the Dutch, they've been coping with this kind of thing for centuries and they seem to manage."

In Victoria, the Western Port region is especially vulnerable amid estimates that 18,000 properties valued at almost $2 billion are in the danger zone. And the effects of storm surges, heatwaves and insect-borne diseases associated with climate change are likely to increase the nation's mortality rate.

The alarming forecasts emerged last night in a new report tabled in Federal Parliament by the all-party House of Representatives Climate Change, Environment, Water and the Arts Committee. Titled Managing our Coastal Zone in a Changing Climate: the Time to Act is Now, the 368-page report urged the Federal Government to take greater charge of protecting the nation's coastline in co-operation with state and local governments.

Australian Greens leader Bob Brown said today a rise in sea levels would cause a big re-alignment of coastal housing and other buildings. "(Climate Change Minister) Penny Wong herself has said that up to 700,000 properties are threatened this century by rising sea levels on the eastern Australian seaboard," he told reporters. The government and opposition should be looking at how they would prevent people settling in areas threatened by rising sea levels in coming decades.

Senator Brown had some advice for people already living in areas likely to be under threat. "Assess your future and become active with the Rudd Government and the Opposition who simply don't get the need for action on climate change."

Greens climate change spokeswoman Christine Milne said the inquiry's finding revealed a "complete disconnect" between science and the climate change policies of Labor and the coalition. "This is not just for people on the coast, people who live on estuaries are extremely vulnerable as well," she said, urging householders to check their insurance policies to ensure they were covered for storm damage and flooding.

It is estimated 80 per cent of Australia's population lives in coastal areas and 711,000 addresses lie within 3km of the coast and less than 6m above sea level.

Expert evidence to the committee estimated one metre of sea level rise this century - the upper limit of expectations - would drive the shoreline back 50-100m, depending on local wind, wave and topographical features....

Today. senior Liberal senator Eric Abetz admitted he had not read the report, but hoped it was based on sound information. Sea levels were unlikely to rise overnight, he said, "So, we've still got some time."

Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said sea levels had been rising for about 10,000 years. "And if you wait around they'll cover the flood plains of the major capital cities," he told reporters, adding that a "massive new tax" from an emissions trading scheme (ETS) would not stop the sea rising. He accused the government of "grossly exaggerating" the effects of climate change to get its package of ETS bills approved by parliament.


Labor party claims credit for work of previous conservative government

NEARLY three-quarters of projects claimed by the Rudd government as evidence of its delivery of major new infrastructure were conceived by John Howard. But Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese has defended the government's record, saying its infrastructure investment is on track and has insulated the economy against the effects of the global recession.

Mr Albanese faced opposition ridicule last night after rejecting Business Council of Australia concern about infrastructure provision by saying the government had completed 32 big road and rail projects since taking office late in 2007.

However, Nationals leader and former transport minister Warren Truss scoffed at Mr Albanese's list of projects, insisting at least 22 were the work of the previous government. Mr Truss said one -- the upgrading of the Bruce Highway at Gympie in Queensland -- had been completed in the same month the government took office in November 2007.

Describing Mr Albanese's claims as "astonishing", Mr Truss said: "Labor is bereft of original thought. "No amount of spin covers up the fact that the Rudd Labor government is spending $5 billion less on road and rail than theCoalition committed before the election."

In opposition, Labor campaigned heavily on infrastructure, accusing the Howard government of having failed to reinvest the fruits of the 1990s resources boom in infrastructure, leading to export bottlenecks. After taking office, the government created the independent Infrastructure Australia organisation to audit and prioritise infrastructure needs. Earlier this year, IA announced $22.5bn in funding for a range of major projects, also appealing for greater private sector effort.

Yesterday, the BCA released a report noting that only 14 per cent of government spending on economic stimulus had been devoted to productive economic infrastructure and pointing to its continuing concern about the need to address export bottlenecks.

Mr Albanese said the government and the business community were "talking the same language" and investment in road and rail had been instrumental in insulating the Australian economy.

The minister said the government had completed 32 large-scale projects in its first two years in office, slightly modifying a claim in parliament last week that the government had "announced, built, completed" the 32 projects. Asked yesterday to name the 32 projects, Mr Albanese produced a list of 29 road and rail projects from all Australian states.

But Mr Truss said at least 22 of the claimed projects had been announced, commenced or even completed by the Howard government. "The biggest infrastructure reform that this government has undertaken is to rename a number of successful Coalition programs or shuffle funding around others," Mr Truss said.

Last night, Mr Albanese's spokesman said Labor had never claimed to have originated all of the projects, only to have delivered them. Earlier, Mr Albanese told question time that Labor was spending more on rail infrastructure in 12 months than the previous government spent in 12 years. "During the Howard years, public investment in the nation's infrastructure, as a proportion of national income, fell by close to 20 per cent," the minister said.

He said 70 per cent of government stimulus spending had been dedicated to infrastructure, including $4.7bn towards the national broadband network, $3.5bn in clean energy infrastructure, $16.2bn on schools and $6bn on housing. "The largest growth in social housing in Australia's history is occurring right now," Mr Albanese said. "We also have a longer-term investment when it comes to infrastructure development with the $36 billion we have allocated in road and rail infrastructure through the Nation Building program -- some $9.3 billion is under way right now," he said.

Opposition acting infrastructure spokesman Scott Morrison backed the BCA report, accusing the government of having overlooked "shovel-ready infrastructure projects". "Under Labor and Kevin Rudd, economic infrastructure has taken a back seat to old-fashioned Labor spending on social infrastructure," Mr Morrison said. "Labor's reckless spending has meant they have wasted a once-in-a-generation opportunity created by the economic legacy of the Howard government to invest in our nation's economic infrastructure."



Three current articles below:

Teachers failing the maths grade

STUDENTS in almost 60 per cent of high schools are being taught by unqualified teachers, with mathematics one of the worst-hit subjects. The disturbing number of teachers working in areas outside their expertise has been uncovered in a special survey of 1473 principals across Australia.

One in five schools in NSW said they had at least one maths teacher who was not fully qualified. Other subjects shown to be suffering from a lack of specialists include technology, computer science, languages, science, music and special education.

The shock figures emerged as more than 30,000 Year 12 candidates sat the HSC General Mathematics paper yesterday and a leading maths educator warned Australia was slipping behind other countries.

The Australian Education Union said its survey showed schools faced major problems including serious shortages of teachers qualified in key subjects and difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff. "(It) found that because of the shortages 59 per cent of secondary schools had teachers working outside their area of expertise," AEU president Angelo Gavrielatos said. "We need a long-term plan to address the chronic problems with the supply of teachers. "It is not good enough to have unconnected initiatives that do not go to the fundamental issue of how we value and reward teachers."

Principals were also asked what they believed the Rudd Government's main education priority should be. Twenty-eight per cent said increased teacher numbers. None suggested computers for Year 9-12 students, a policy plank of the Government.

One of the state's top maths students in the 2008 HSC, Ahmad Sultani (Parramatta High School) said maths needed a much better image in the early years of high school. Mr Sultani, now completing his first year at UNSW, said the subject should be promoted more vigorously to students.


School heads to get more control

STATE education departments should hand control of school finances and the power to hire teachers to principals and school boards, reversing a century of bureaucratic stranglehold over the running of schools. A federal government report, released to The Australian, argues that the starting point in school governance should devolve decision-making to the school level, allowing principals to respond to the individual needs of the students and their communities. The only place for centralised control over schools should be in setting frameworks for curriculum and standards and, in exceptional cases, where a school believes it is more efficient for decisions to be made by the department, such as for very small schools and those in remote areas.

Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard yesterday backed the broad directions outlined in the report, saying the Rudd government was already pursuing the measures in its education reforms. "School principals should have the autonomy to make more staffing and salary decisions to help tackle local problems like poor literacy and numeracy," she said. "It is important principals have the support and flexibility they need to respond to the needs of their students. The creation of the first national education authority responsible for curriculum, assessment and reporting provides a solid framework for greater principal autonomy."

The report highlights the need for principals to be trained as managers to run the business of schools, and Ms Gillard said the new Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership formed by the commonwealth, states and territories would fulfil that role in developing the tools and support required.

The release of the report, commissioned by the previous federal government, comes in time for a national forum hosted by Ms Gillard next month, giving individual school principals a rare opportunity to speak directly to the government about its education revolution. Announcing the forum at the weekend, Ms Gillard said she wanted to have a "national conversation with school principals about the challenges they are facing on the ground".

The report identifies widespread support among principals for greater autonomy, with a large proportion wanting greater involvement in the selection and management of staff and their performance and greater flexibility in the allocation of school budgets. "There is a general acceptance of the view that a degree of autonomy is necessary if schools are to respond to the expectations of their communities and the mix of student needs in the local setting," it says. "Principals accept the need for accountability and seek to exercise a higher level of educational leadership. "(But) administrative support for government schools is inadequate given expectations for schools and in comparison to the support for principals in most independent schools."

In Australia, state and territory governments give varying degrees of autonomy to schools within a framework of standards and accountability, with Victoria giving principals the greatest control and NSW the most rigid centralised system.

The report notes that, as a result, there are less innovative approaches to school autonomy in Australia of the kind gaining momentum in other places around the world, such as the charter movement in the US of publicly funded and privately operated schools, usually run by local communities, and the academies in England, of privately run and funded schools operating as public schools. "New governance arrangements should be established to allow federations of schools to be established and greater creativity should be encouraged in the development of new kinds of schools that will have higher levels of autonomy ..." the report says.

"(It) shall provide schools or several schools planning together with a range of options to traditional patterns of governance, including federations of schools to share resources and other innovative governance arrangements. After more than a century of operations in which the 'default position' has been 'centralisation', a new default position of decentralisation should be adopted, with exceptions to be based on local and regional circumstances. "The default position should remain at centralisation in establishing frameworks of curriculum, standards and accountabilities."

It says the most effective model for school autonomy has "direct school involvement in the selection and performance management of staff, the deployment of funds in a budget that covers real costs in all aspects of recurrent expenditure, adaptation of curriculum and approaches to learning and teaching to the needs of the school's community, and choice in determining the source of support required by the school".

But it says autonomy should not permit schools to change the selection of students, such as enrolling only smart students and excluding students in their local catchment area.

The report says any system must allow individual schools flexibility in the level of autonomy they think is appropriate, saying that a one-size-fits-all approach will not be successful. "The extent of autonomy in each instance may be varied according to exceptional circumstances," it says.

The report, commissioned in 2007, calls for decision-making to be simplified and a reduction in the compliance and paperwork demanded of principals. It says school budgets should reflect the actual salaries paid to teachers rather than the average.


Teachers accused of sexual misconduct missed by government screening system

TWO private school teachers under investigation for sexual misconduct against students were able to walk into state school jobs without background checks. One teacher was accused of further misconduct in the state system before Education Queensland learnt of the original allegations, 18 months after the teacher was hired.

The cases, which allegedly occurred at Brisbane and Gold Coast schools, have highlighted flaws in Education Queensland's teacher screening system. The teachers were not required to reveal whether they were under investigation when they applied for jobs in the state school system.

Documents obtained under Right to Information laws show Education Queensland only became aware of the alleged misconduct when the teachers were referred to the Crime and Misconduct Commission by the Queensland College of Teachers in September last year. One teacher has been sacked and is facing court action. The other has resigned. The QCT is investigating six other alleged inappropriate relationships.

The State Opposition has labelled the screening process for teachers a "disgrace", accusing the Government of putting the rights of teachers before student welfare. "It's not acceptable they can slip through (the net) and turn up teaching somewhere else while they're under investigation," Opposition Education spokesman Bruce Flegg said.

The RTI documents show one of the teachers was under investigation following allegations he "inappropriately touched a student, breached the student protection policy, carried on an inappropriate relationship with one of the students, (and) allowed students to engage in behaviour that could have exposed them to physical harm" while working at a Brisbane Catholic school. The Courier-Mail understands the teacher subsequently resigned, before taking up a position at a state high school. This teacher has since been sacked and the matter is before the courts.

In the second case, the teacher resigned following allegations of sexual misconduct at a Gold Coast Catholic school, only to be given full-time work at two state high schools during which time the teacher was accused of further misconduct. That teacher has since resigned.

An internal investigation by the State Government's Ethical Standards Unit recommended in October last year that the Department of Education and Training "urgently undertake a risk assessment process to determine the appropriateness of retaining these officers in their current teaching roles". It found hiring processes "do not require an applicant to declare outstanding or incomplete investigations". "The department does not have any jurisdiction to investigate the conduct of employees prior to their engagement . . . and cannot be held accountable under the department's Code of Conduct for his alleged behaviour whilst employed in the private school sector."

Education Minister Geoff Wilson refused to be interviewed but said in a statement that he "understands" additional checks were now being undertaken. They include a disciplinary investigation by a past or present employer and police check.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Incredible stupidity from the Australian medical bureaucracy

Yet another boneheaded and useless attempt at computerization. Britain has spent 12.5 BILLION pounds on their system and it still is not working. Let's hope the Australian authorities stop their nonsense long before that point

A FEDERAL scheme to provide thousands of GPs with communications encryption technology so they can send sensitive health information securely over the internet risks turning into an expensive white elephant because hardly any other health workers can decode the messages. A revamp of federal government incentive payments in August meant GPs must be signed up for the secure communications method known as "public key infrastructure" in order to remain eligible for grants worth up to $50,000 per practice each year.

The idea of the system is that it allows doctors to send sensitive patient data, including referrals and test results, to each other without risk of the information being seen by other people.

But Mukesh Haikerwal, one of the 10 commissioners who wrote the recent National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission report, says the scheme is turning into a "superhighway to nowhere" because hardly any hospitals, specialists or allied health workers have the technology, and they have been given little incentive to adopt it.

Dr Haikerwal above. Good to see that he seems fully recovered from the vicious gang attack on him by Melbourne street thugs

"If everybody was connected, it would be a very useful thing to be doing," said Dr Haikerwal, a former Australian Medical Association president who is also a vocal advocate for greater use of information technology in health care. "But it's not (currently useful) -- either you stop the rollout, or you enable everyone to be part of the system. Ninety-eight per cent of us (GPs) are able to send stuff securely, but none are able to receive it in a secure electronic form, and none are able to send us stuff back."

Once GPs have signed up to the scheme, the federal Health Department sends them chip cards that encode a GP's identity, and the readers used to verify the card information and activate the system once a password is entered. Mini chip cards that fit into a USB key that plugs into the GP's computer are also being sent out. The federal Health Department estimates 10,000 GPs are likely to apply for the technology, and says 9000 have done so already.

Medicare sends the necessary equipment free to those who apply, but a Medicare Australia spokesman said the cost of this was commercial-in-confidence. Dr Haikerwal estimated that the cost of extending the technology to specialists could be $7000 to $10,000 a practice for the hardware, software and training, although not all of this would be expected to come from taxpayers.

Dr Haikerwal's concerns were backed by Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Chris Mitchell, who said there was no point in having a secure messaging system "that allows you just to communicate with yourself".

Stephen Johnston, head of national infrastructure services for the federal government's National E-Health Transition Authority, said the "whole health system has to be connected". "GPs are just one part of the story," Mr Johnston said. "But it won't happen overnight." A spokesman for the Health Department said take-up of the technology was "progressing" and predicted others would come on board steadily.


Crimes have gone unpunished after Victoria police failed to lay charges

Corruption is all that they are good at

HUNDREDS of crimes have gone unpunished after police failed to follow through and lay charges. An audit of the Victoria Police database has found more than 5000 cases in which an intent to charge on summons was documented but then not acted upon.

Among them are people accused of drug matters, crimes of violence and traffic breaches. The Herald Sun understands hundreds were cases that went uncompleted as the result of members telling offenders they would be charged then failing to take further action.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said most of the 5000 cases involved members not updating the system where charges had actually been laid, police being unable to find victims or members resigning or transferring to another office. "This situation is being monitored closely and Victoria Police is committed to resolving this issue quickly and thoroughly," the spokeswoman said.

The audit of the Law Enforcement Assistance Program database was started to reduce the number of matters that had gone unfinished.


Power in those old school ties

AUSTRALIA enjoys clout and access in the Asia-Pacific thanks to politicians and officials in the region who have not forgotten their student days here. This is the claim of a report released last week to talk up the non-financial benefits of the $16 billion industry in international education. "What we've found a bit distressing is that so much attention is given to the economic impact of international education," said Peter Coaldrake from the peak body Universities Australia, which commissioned the independent report. "It's important that we remind ourselves and everyone else of some of the other benefits."

Those benefits include more positive attitudes to Australia, open doors for our diplomats and a better hearing, according to the Hong-Kong based consultancy, Strategy Policy and Research in Education Ltd, which is behind the report.

The report says the son of Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is a graduate of Curtin University of Technology, and the country's top three economic policy-makers have close ties to Australian education. In 2001-02, when the issue of East Timor's independence strained relations between Jakarta and Canberra, the Indonesian cabinet at that point had five Australian-educated members. This helped ease tensions, according to Ric Smith, a former ambassador quoted in the report.

The report makes much of the good work done in Indonesia and China by the Australian National University. Mr Smith said ANU economist Ross Garnaut played a remarkable role in the education of Chinese economists. "For a time those (ANU-trained) economists exerted disproportionate influence in China," he said. Former ANU vice-chancellor Deane Terrell pointed out that ANU's expertise in the region rested heavily on languages, a field under pressure in the education system.

The report attributes the rise of Australia's soft power in the region especially to the elite former students of the Colombo Plan. The report asks why they "appear to shine brightly against those who followed them in the fee-paying era for international students which began in the late 1980s".

It suggests the fruits of the Colombo Plan are well known because its former students have by now reached or passed the peak of their careers. "However, the far larger wave of fee-paying students is still to hit their career pinnacle ... expect to see more eminent Australian alumni emerge soon into senior roles in Asian countries," the report says.

Monash University's Bob Birrell said the report failed to come to grips with criticism of the overseas student industry, its poor standard of English and the "dumbing down" of courses popular with these students, many of them seeking permanent residency. "On outcomes (the report's) rosy assessment relies mainly on research which shows that some 90 per cent of overseas students in our universities successfully complete their courses. This is hardly surprising since the students have heavily invested in the course fees and thus have a very strong motive to finish," Dr Birrell said.


Green 'brainwashing' scaring preschoolers, say experts

PARENTS have accused early childhood centres of "greenwashing" their children by burdening them with the responsibility of saving the world. Tots as young as three have sent letters to Kevin Rudd about their passion for green living and asked companies to reduce their packaging. Others are growing their own food, repairing toys and walking to preschool in an effort to reduce their toll on the environment.

But experts have called for caution in teaching children about climate change because of the potential for fear, anxiety, frustration, anger and despair at catastrophic events.

Mother Paula Driscoll, from Sydney, said environmental disaster was the new nuclear holocaust. "Nuclear war and weapons were our big worry," she said. "This generation, their great worry is green. It is drummed into them everywhere."

Schoolchildren raised running out of drinking water, rising sea levels and the extinction of polar bears in a survey on their views last year. "Children of that age should not be thinking the world is coming to an end," Sydney father-of-three Andrew Potter, 35, said. "It is a form of propaganda."

Youngsters also put the environment at the top of their worry list - along with crime and terrorism - in research for the Australian Childhood Foundation.

"It is the adult world impinging on childhood," chief executive officer Dr Joe Tucci said. Ideally, children's strongest concerns should be about their friendships or toys, he said. He suggested that adults had to deal with the fact that children were exposed to bigger issues by helping them to understand them.

Australian Psychological Society guidelines advise caregivers to avoid strong reactions about green issues in front of preschoolers. In severe cases, climate change worries could escalate into anxiety disorders or depression, said psychologist Dr Susie Burke. "These issues are frightening and upsetting for adults and even more so for children."

Parents should not avoid the topics with their youngsters, but emphasise that they are safe now and that positive efforts for conservation are being made around the globe. "Families can teach children simple things they can do to help," she said.

Dr Lyndall Strazdins, a researcher at the Australian National University, said children needed to be recognised as a "very vulnerable group" in environmental action plans. "They are clearly feeling that there is a problem looming that they have to deal with," Dr Strazdins said.


The airline mayhem never stops

Federal police guard Tiger Airlines staff after passengers told they would be stranded in Hobart for three days

POLICE guarded Tiger Airways staff while they announced to a crowd of angry passengers they would be stranded in Hobart for three days.

Flight TT567 out of Hobart was cancelled on Friday night after a flight attendant became ill, and no replacement staff were available.

A passenger who was to return to Melbourne on that flight said federal police arrived at the terminal about 9.30pm on Friday night before the announcement was delayed.

Passengers stranded in Hobart are due to arrive in Melbourne tonight. Tiger Airways has been contacted for comment and will be issuing a statement shortly.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Australian country life and a great little red-headed kid

AN eight-year-old boy has been hailed a hero after he hot-wired a two-way radio to call for help as his dad lay trapped in the wreckage of a horror truck rollover. Michael Bowron stripped the radio wires and connected them to a spare battery he found among the wreckage.

Yesterday, the Bonnie Rock youngster told The Sunday Times his fingers burned from sparks flying off the battery while he desperately called for help. "I was scared, but I was trying to be brave," Michael said. "My dad had heaps of blood on his face and heaps on his leg. "I had heaps on my leg too, but not as much as my dad."

Michael and his father, Justin, were driving home to the family farm in a prime mover truck on Saturday, October 10, when a tyre blew. "It blew on the left-hand side of the truck and the right-hand side swung around," Mr Bowron said. "The truck was heading straight into a bush and I tried to correct the steering wheel. "When I did that, it tipped over. The last thing I remember was the driver's side hitting the ground."

He regained consciousness minutes later to find himself wedged between the steering wheel and the dashboard. His leg was caught in the mangled truck, trapping him in the vehicle. Glass covered him and blood was pouring from his head.

"Diesel was leaking from the truck and the engine was still running," Mr Bowron said. "I was worried it was going to burst into flames. "I couldn't find my mobile phone and the two-way radio had been thrown out of the truck."

Michael, who had been sitting in the sleeper cabin, crawled out of the wreck through the windscreen and tried to free his dad with a tyre lever. When that didn't work, he rummaged for the radio. "It was pretty bunged up," Mr Bowron said. "It couldn't work because it wasn't connected to the truck anymore. "I told Michael he could get it going with the spare battery."

The spare battery had been thrown out of the truck. "I found the battery on the side of the road and dragged it over to my dad," Michael said. "He told me to strip the wires from the radio and put them on the red and blue parts of the battery." Under his father's guidance, Michael was able to get the radio working and call for help.

One of the first to respond was Michael's mother, Christine. She immediately organised family members and neighbours to go to the crash. "I was the first to arrive on the scene," Mrs Bowron said. "I didn't think it was going to be as bad as it was. "At the time I was just thinking, `How can I help?'. It wasn't until later that I thought about how I could have lost them both forever."

Mr Bowron was trapped for just over an hour before he was able to escape from the truck. It was another 45 minutes before the local ambulance service arrived at the scene. Local volunteer ambulance co-ordinator Peter Geraghty said Mr Bowron could have been trapped until night time if Michael had not been able to work the radio. "There's basically no traffic on that road," he said. "The trouble with farmers, too, is that they often don't come home until late at night so they don't get missed until 10 or 11 o'clock."

Mr Geraghty said Michael had shown courage beyond his age. "What he did was very impressive," he said. "We say he's too old for his age. "But a lot of country kids are like that. They know how to fend for themselves because often they is no one around to fend for them."

St John Ambulance spokes-woman Bianca McGougan said the volunteer ambulance crew played a big part in keeping Mr Bowron safe. The nearest hospital, about 50km away, was without a doctor because the sole medico recently retired. The on-call doctor at the Merredin Health Service could not be located. Mr Bowron was taken to Mukinbudin and treated by the town nurse. "Our closest available doctor was more than 200km away so we treated Justin for what we could and liaised with the Royal Flying Doctor Service," Mr Geraghty said. "The plane was in the air by about 4.55pm."

Michael had concussion, bruising and a black eye. Mr Bowron needed stitches in his arms and legs and doctors removed a lot of glass from him. His hip has not yet recovered and he is only walking with the help of a crutch.

Ms McGougan said Michael would be nominated for a bravery award. "He is an outstanding young West Australian whose quick-thinking actions and ability to stay calm in a highly stressful situation helped save his father's life," she said.


Childhood policy straight out of fantasyland

Get up and Grow, the guidelines for healthy eating and exercise in early childhood, part of the Federal Government's anti-obesity drive, are nearing release. They recommend children should be banned from watching television until they turn two and from two to age five viewing should be limited to one hour a day. Such policy recommendations emanate from a fantasyland where officials never seem to learn from the past or understand the real world where most of us live.

Television is omnipresent and a powerful means of educating young children. It has always been true that one-third of children do two-thirds of the viewing and many of these heavy viewers are children who live in disadvantaged families. This fact of life provides educators with an opportunity.

There have been only two comprehensive educational experiments that have attempted to fundamentally change the focus of early childhood education through television. The first was Sesame Street developed 50 years ago to address disadvantage among American preschoolers; the second was Lift Off, developed in the '90s by the Australian Children's Television Foundation. In both cases the television program was the centre-piece for a nationwide community outreach program with support materials designed for families, carers and teachers.

Lift Off exemplified the way in which the media and the education system could work together with parents to create a valuable resource for the education of children. The process of collaboration worked, but the ABC, for its own political purposes, took the program off air and the project collapsed. As a concept, Lift Off was ahead of its time but that time has come again with the Government acknowledging the vital importance of early childhood education.

Education does not begin when children go to preschool or school for the first time. Eighty five per cent of brain development takes place in the first few years of life. Research has taught us that infants and toddlers' brains are voraciously active from birth and that disadvantage in society is born when young children's education is neglected.

The major influence on children's learning comes from the home, from parents, without a formal teacher, with no clear curriculum and with few conscious goals. Community, culture and place are important influences. So the starting point of all formal early childhood education has to be each child's unequal and diverse family and community background and an attempt to expand each child's horizons beyond what has already happened to them. That means working with parents as much as with children and ensuring the broader social environment – the neighbourhood playgrounds, shopping centres and mass media - supports and enriches the experiences of every child as they grow.

Former British education minister Alan Milburn, in his recent report Unleashing Aspiration, emphasised the central importance of "pushy parents". So did US President Barack Obama in his "no excuses" call to the underprivileged to improve their lot. But parents need government to help them make a difference. Some children are born into a world rich in resources and experiences while others are deprived from the start. And this is where the Government should focus its attention.

The kindergarten movement began as a philanthropic attempt to redress working-class disadvantage; the maternal and child health system was set up to ensure every parent had access to professional health care and sound advice on child development; child care was to ensure a safe environment for the children of employed parents; primary schools were made free and compulsory to help remove the disadvantages of the working poor. None of these reforms were meant simply to develop services for the already privileged.

So what of the new policy initiative from the Council of Australian Governments (COAG)? The first Early Years Learning Framework for Australia is intended to make sure all children from birth to five years and through the transition to school get off to a good start in life. It has recently been released for trial and comment. In the introduction, the document states that the Framework "has been designed for use by early childhood educators working in partnership with families, children's first and most influential educators". Following that acknowledgement the document has nothing further to say to parents but goes on to address, in professional jargon, only those educators working in formal child care and preschool settings.

The Learning Framework for birth-five skirts round the inequalities and disadvantages that exist for many children by addressing the general themes of "Belonging, Being and Becoming" — goals that remind teachers that every child needs to be included, to feel they belong, that they should not be pushed too quickly towards formally defined educational outcomes. The framework's five outcomes for children are listed as having a strong sense of identity; feeling connected with and able to contribute to their world; having a strong sense of wellbeing; being confident and involved learners; and being effective communicators.

These are worthy objectives but missing is the content and the means by which each of those objectives can be achieved for the diverse child population entering preschool. There is no notion of how child care or kindergarten teachers can overcome gaps in wellbeing or confidence or communication skills that derive from the home. The framework is not informed by a theory of intelligence or developing competence.

Apart from a list of desired outcomes there is no discourse on what sort of experiences the child-care centre or playgroup or kindergarten might provide to expand the horizons of children from disadvantaged homes, or on the effectiveness of praise for effort and process rather than results. The dominant philosophy is "play-based learning" with a nod in the direction of teacher-directed play and with few mentions of the need for teachers to use the ever-more potent media technologies at the disposal of most children.

This blinkered approach, which makes only passing mention of learning outside formal child care and kindergartens, will do nothing for the development of most toddlers in their vital formative years and leaves parents out in the cold without help and guidance at the same time as too many children are falling through the kindergarten gap.

Soon parents are to be informed they should ban their children from watching television as part of the Government's anti-obesity drive. The onus is to be thrown back on parents to cope, with government abdicating a role in ensuring the television programs available to children during these years provide educational and entertainment value appropriate for their rapidly expanding brain power.

The important early years at home are being ignored within our first national framework and the education revolution, which began with such a bang, is wandering along through assorted bureaucratic tunnels with no one looking at children's environment as a whole. A critically important opportunity for integrated child policy is being missed again.

The new Early Years Learning Framework for Australia is still in development. It presents an opportunity to reach parents, to use constructively the ubiquitous media and influence those who shape the wider social environment of Australian children, as well as teachers, with a comprehensive statement on early childhood education.


Our Obama beats theirs

Australia's Obama does more than just sound good

By Janet Albrechtsen

WHY the surprise over Barack Obama - the first black US President and the Democrat who ousted George W. Bush - winning the Nobel Peace Prize? On one level, it’s a joke without a punchline. Yet, it also demonstrates the power of oratory. Whatever one thinks of Obama, he knows how to harness language to further his success....

Now let me put this proposition forward. Australia has its own Obama, only a much better one. One who has that final ingredient of being able to carry people with him, even those he skewers with his criticisms. Noel Pearson may not appreciate me saying this. But the Cape York indigenous leader has more than a touch of Obama about him, but with genuine substance.

It struck me one evening recently. When it’s on, the sound of the radio in my kitchen is usually lost to the evening clamour of dinner cooking. Not this time. Not when Pearson’s opening address to the Brisbane Writers Festival played on the ABC’s Radio National. His voice stops you in your tracks. When you listen to Pearson’s conviction and passion, the brain buzzes. He challenges you to think again, to think differently. This is oratory not wasted.

Oh, and Pearson’s 40-minute address, which deserved greater press coverage than it received, was delivered extempore. I know that because I asked Pearson for a copy of his address. It was off the cuff, he told me. No Obama-style teleprompters.

It is hard to convey the power of Pearson without listening to him. So listen. The link is below. Listen to how he describes himself as “completely promiscuous” when it comes to drawing on the three great schools of political philosophy: conservatism, socialism and liberalism.

But he is indignant about that “strange state of affairs” where the “progressive position is regressive”. Listen to how he attacks those who have told people that welfare is their right. “We in Cape York say no. We’ve got a better right than welfare. We have a right to take a real place in the economy, just like everybody else. “And so on numerous policy settings, we set the sails in a completely different position from the progressive prescription. And ... when I think why those sails are set in ways that could not be more calculated against our interests, against what is really in our interests, I shake my head as to how it is that a culture can produce currents that get oppressed peoples to accept their oppression ... to accept that they have a right to welfare.”

Compare Pearson with feminist Germaine Greer, who is no slouch with language either. Still charismatic, she knows how to use words to be noticed. But hers is oratory wasted. Her exhausted ideology - she justifies indigenous rage on the basis of invasion, genocide and stolen land - does nothing to further the cause of indigenous Australians.

Now listen to Pearson. There is plenty of anger there. It simmers underneath every sentence, drawing you in, daring you not to listen, distinguishing him from the milquetoast mob in Canberra. He directs his anger in productive ways: to stop people thinking of themselves as victims.

Most important, Pearson’s oratory delivers results. As The Australian reported this month, he is the driving force behind a four-year Cape York Welfare Reform Trial. At the halfway mark of this grassroots initiative, which links school attendance to welfare, school attendance rates in Aurukun, on the western coast of Cape York, have risen from 37 per cent to 62 per cent. Western Australia is considering using the same reforms to tackle rising truancy rates. This is the power of ideas.

Pearson’s latest battle is with the Queensland government’s Wild Rivers Act, which limits the ability of indigenous people to pursue economic development on their own land. Listen to how Pearson describes how: “The dignity of being responsible for looking after their country is now taken away from them” in favour of “16-year-olds who run around in koala suits”.

Listen to what he calls the final indignity of spending “10 years fighting the conservatives for the Wik decision, 10 years calling John Howard a racist scumbag, all for Anna Bligh to take it off me in five minutes. And all because she has a sacred (environmental) cause behind her. And not a word of support has been uttered by those who believe themselves to be in the cause of social justice. Not a word ...”

Comparisons never quite work, of course. Unlike Obama, Pearson is probably not made for politics because politics is not made for people like Pearson. More is the shame. Pearson’s address is here.


In Victorian government schools, some "temporary" classrooms are over 40 years old!

Some would undoubtedly be closed down if they were part of a private school

THOUSANDS of Victorian state school students are being taught in old and shabby portable classrooms, including some believed to contain dangerous asbestos. Almost three-quarters of the 8070 portables spread throughout our schools are more than 20 years old, according to an Education Department audit seen by the Herald Sun.

Berwick Lodge primary school principal Henry Grossek said he was concerned about asbestos-lined ceilings among his 18 portable classrooms. "If you leave it there it's largely safe, but it can be dangerous if there's damage to the walls and ceilings," he said. "It costs a fortune to remove asbestos and if you need to do an upgrade it could blow a hole in the school budget." "Portables are not a good option for most schools."

Melton West primary and Wangaratta's Carraragarmungee primary have 48-year-old portables - the state's oldest, according to the audit released under Freedom of Information. They are among nearly 500 temporary classrooms that are more than 40 years old. A further 3000 portables are between 20 and 30 years old, and 2357 are aged between 30 and 40 years.

Liberal education spokesman Martin Dixon said that there was something very wrong when more than 70 per cent of portable classrooms were more than 20 years old. "It is conceivable that in some schools, three generations of one family could have been educated in the same portable, temporary classroom," he said.

Education Minister Bronwyn Pike said the Government had acted on a 2002 auditor-general's report that identified 1000 portables needing immediate replacement. Since 2005, the Government had spent $95 million rolling out 1000 modern portables, she said. "These newly-designed relocatable buildings contain two classrooms, providing schools with flexibility in a modern setting and replace older style relocatable classrooms," she said.

Parents Victoria spokeswoman Elaine Crowle said there were some pretty ordinary portables around, but a lot of good things were happening in education. "The Government deserves some credit for its building program and it is pretty much on track to phase out many of its old portables," she said.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Australia's African Muslim "refugees" at work in Melbourne again

But they get extremely lenient sentences for their outrageous and explicitly racist crimes

A gang of racist youths nearly killed a man during an armed rampage in an Indian grocery store in Melbourne's west for the "sheer thrill" of the attack, a judge said today. Drunk and carrying wooden planks ripped up from a nearby bus stop seat, the seven youths raided the Impex shop in Sunshine yelling "are you Indian?" as they randomly struck their victims on December 1 last year, the County Court heard today.

Indian student Sukhraj Singh, 28, was in a coma for 15 days and will suffer the effects of a severe acquired brain injury for the rest of his life after being beaten during the assault. Eight men were punched and hit with the weapons and most suffered minor injuries but Mr Singh was beaten unconscious and spent months in hospital and rehabilitation after being struck three times to the head and body.

In sentencing one of the attackers, Zakarie Hussein, 21, of Braybrook, Judge Pamela Jenkins said today the group had deliberately targeted victims of Indian ethnicity in the "unprovoked rampage". The youths had been drinking beer in a park for about four hours before they went to the store in City Place just after 6.30pm where two of the teens began a racist argument with two customers, the court heard.

About five minutes later, the pair returned with their friends, most armed with wooden bars and one with a fluorescent light tube, and began smashing up the store and indiscriminately striking customers and staff as they yelled "are you Indian?" and "bloody Indians, f--- off". The shop's cash register was stolen and the loot divided up among the offenders. Hussein received about $15.

In a victim impact statement tendered to the court, Mr Singh said metal plates had been inserted into his face, he had shed up to 15 kilograms and been left with lumps and scars on his head from the assault. "I am lucky to be alive, all my friends and family thought I was going to die," Mr Singh said in the statement. He said he suffered from dizzy spells and had undergone counselling after being plagued by nightmares and flashbacks. The court heard his injuries had been potentially life-threatening and meant he had been unable to work for five months, may not be able to complete his studies and was too frightened to live alone.

Hussein had pleaded guilty to armed robbery, recklessly causing serious injury, and six counts of recklessly causing injury. Judge Jenkins said Hussein had not used his wooden weapon but had planned to before being knocked out of the way by a co-offender.

She said the victims had tried to cower from their attackers and had done nothing to provoke the attack. "Your victims presented no threat to you or your co-offenders whatsoever. They did not provoke you, they did not fight back and indeed they made every effort to escape from the assaults," she said. "Notwithstanding these circumstances the victims were beaten apparently for the sheer thrill, Mr Singh being subjected to a particularly savage beating with the terrible consequences for him."

Judge Jenkins said the assault was among a number of racist attacks that had rightly provoked international and local community outrage and should be condemned. "Short of becoming prisoners in their own homes, there is little potential victims can do to prevent such attacks," she said.

Judge Jenkins sentenced Hussein to four-and-a-half years' jail with a minimum non-parole period of two years. Hussein, dressed in a black suit and white shirt and supported in court by family, bit his nails throughout the hearing and stood with his hands clasped while he was sentenced to serve his time in an adult prison. The court heard he had migrated to Australia from Somalia, aged about six, with his older brother and mother, who were both later diagnosed with bipolar disorder. [Africans do have an unusually high incidence of psychotic illness and the psychoses do have a strong hereditary component]

Hussein had prior convictions including, for robbery, assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest.

Four of Hussein's co-offenders, aged between 14 and 17 at the time of the attack, had already received 12-month sentences in a youth detention centre and a fifth teen received a 12-month youth supervision order. The Director of Public Prosecutions Jeremy Rapke has appealed against the sentences, arguing they are "manifestly inadequate". The Court of Appeal is yet to hand down its judgment. A sixth offender, who has pleaded guilty in the Children's Court, will be sentenced following the result of the appeal.


What rubbish! Police bravado blamed in death

Audrey ought to go home and mind her kids, if she's got any. I am an unrelenting critic of police thuggery but the cop in this case behaved entirely reasonably. What was the cop supposed to do? Ignore the nut? This is at best totally misguided sympathy for the mentally ill. A person behaving in an extremely dangerous way has to be stopped, mad or not. The cop is not in a position to put someone on a couch for half an hour before he decides how to repond to his behaviour

A VICTORIAN policeman is facing the prospect of criminal charges over a fatal shooting after a coronial investigation into the death of a man brandishing two samurai-style swords referred the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions. State Coroner Audrey Jamieson yesterday found Sergeant Samuel Cahir failed to take an appropriate level of care for his own health and safety, or that of his junior officer, when he approached and shot dead Gregory Biggs on Melbourne's Lygon Street in May 2004. She described the death of 27-year-old Biggs as "a poignant example of the tragic consequences when the police rely too heavily on bravado and spontaneity at the expense of policy".

Sergeant Cahir was driving with Senior Constable John Hawkins down Lygon Street, a popular restaurant and tourist strip just north of the CBD, when they saw Biggs wielding two samurai-like swords and damaging property. While Senior Constable Hawkins turned the car around, Sergeant Cahir jumped out of the passenger side and approached Biggs alone. Drawing his gun, Sergeant Cahir said: "Police, don't move. Drop the weapon."

Biggs, under the influence of a cocktail of drugs at the time, continued to advance, swinging his swords and smashing the rear window of the police car. Fearing for his safety, Sergeant Cahir discharged one shot into the man's torso.

Ms Jamieson concluded Biggs's death was preventable [How?] and that Sergeant Cahir may have committed an indictable offence under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The Coroner's comments follow a scathing Office of Police Integrity report handed down in July on the use of force by Victoria Police.

Deputy Police Commissioner Kieran Walshe said the finding, to his knowledge, was unprecedented. "This is the first time that I am aware of that a coroner has had a finding such as this but again, we have to await the outcome of the DPP," he said.

The Coroner said the investigation into Biggs's death "raised issues regarding Victoria Police training and communication techniques, including dealing with people with mental illness, people (who are) drug-affected and the use of firearms." She said Victoria Police should review the amount of time given to officers so they could complete operational strategy and tactics training. Referring to the two officers involved in the shooting, Ms Jamieson said, "Their training appears to have played such a small part in their actions ... "The actions of Sergeant Cahir are difficult to reconcile with the fact that he had been a fully operational officer for some 13 years."

OPI director Michael Strong earlier this year recommended giving frontline officers "alternatives to a hands-on approach that is heavily reliant on tactical equipment such as capsicum spray or firearms". "Training must refocus ... on equipping police with the necessary skills to accurately assess situations and identify individuals who may have a mental health problem or are under the influence of alcohol and drugs," the OPI report found.

Police Association boss Greg Davies said the Coroner's findings sent a message to serving police members that, "they are damned if they do and they are damned if theydon't. "I think the use of the term bravado is a very unfortunate term. I think it is very easy, five years down the track in the clear light of day, to judge something as an act of bravado," Mr Davies said. He said the death of Biggs makes a compelling argument for the rollout of Taser stun guns for frontline police.


Can a diet of cheese and dairy help you shed that unwanted fat?

This seems to be a reasonably strong study but I doubt that it will suit the food freaks. Cheese and dairy are popular and everything popular is wrong according to them. Cheese in particular has a lot of fat in it and fat is the original sin to food freaks. They are all still wedded to the counterfactual claim that fat gives you cancer, heart disease etc.

It has long been blamed for causing nightmares. But cheese may also give you a dream figure. A diet packed with cheese and other dairy products helps with weight loss, a study found. Australian slimmers were put on low-calorie diets which included varying amounts of cheese, yoghurt and low-fat milk.

Those who increased their daily servings of dairy products from three to five lost the most weight. They also had lower blood pressure, the least tummy fat and 'significantly improved' their chances of avoiding heart disease and diabetes.

The researchers, from Curtin University of Technology in Perth, said that although dairy products are widely perceived as being fatty, they have a place in the slimmer's shopping basket.

Dieters, however, should still keep an eye on their fat and calorie intake. Cheese and other dairy products are high in protein, which helps us feel full quickly and speeds up the metabolism. Laura Wyness, of the British Nutrition Foundation, said dairy products were a good source of calcium and vitamins, as well as protein. However, she warned that cheeses can be high in salt and advised dieters to check labelling before buying.



Three current reports below

Unbelievable failure to learn at Queensland's Bundaberg Public Hospital

The deaths and injuries caused by an incompetent Indian doctor at the hospital became a national disgrace but the same casual disregard of qualifications is still happening there. And for all its legions of "administrators", Queensland Health has done nothing about standards at what is one of their own hospitals

A new report by Queensland's health watchdog reveals overseas-trained doctors continue to work at Bundaberg without their credentials being properly checked. And it accuses the hospital of attempting to cover up its credentialling errors.

The Health Quality and Complaints Commission quoted from a review by PricewaterhouseCoopers that said: "The report also found that retrospective granting of credentialling still occurs at Bundaberg Base Hospital. "That is, in some cases practitioners commence work before being formally authorised to do so by the district manager or CEO. "The report pertinently points out the legal and reputational risks involved."

The commission said in one case the hospital could not even find a doctor's employment application. In two other cases there was no evidence of referee checks and and in three cases there was no evidence of more than one referee check.

A second report critical of Bundaberg's emergency department says there are inadequate bays, inadequate staff, inadequate security, inadequate radiology services and inadequate training.

That report, released by Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle, warns that most medical staff have never been involved in a performance appraisal and that only a quarter of the nurses have "post-basic" qualifications.

The report, by Dr Peter Brennan of Melbourne University, also warns the emergency department was not ideal for children. "The waiting area, triage area security room and reception are very small and cramped," Associate Professor Brennan said. "The environment is not conducive to calm behaviour. The physical layout has given rise to some shortcomings in triage. "There is no separate area for children or babies to wait. The reviewer witnessed toddlers being mixed up with verbally abusive patients."

Dr Brennan said the "failed implementation" of a discharge policy "is clearly an issue of leadership".

Mr McArdle said the State Government had broken its promise to fix Bundaberg Hospital and was attempting to hide problems from the public gaze. The commission was even more scathing of the hospital – and Queensland Health. Its report, by Dr Tim Smart and Dr Jill Newland, found "defects in a number of areas", including "incomplete documents and forms, inadequate database fields, incomplete, out of date, inconsistent and inaccurate database entries, incomplete filing, inadequate bring-up systems, inadequate resources". There was a "lack of clear accountability and active leadership for credentialling".

The Bundaberg Hospital claimed it had reviewed the credentialling process and that improvements had been implemented. "The Dr Smart and Dr Newland reports indicate this could not have been the case," said the commission's chief executive, Cheryl Herbert. In other words, Bundaberg was papering over the cracks.

Ms Herbert reserved some of her harshest criticisms for the department running the hospital. She said: "There is no evidence that Queensland Health assists its facilities by providing uniform and standard databases, training and resources for credentialling ... Further, the Health Quality and Complaints Commission is concerned that Queensland Health does not promote or support a leadership culture that insists on 100 per cent compliance with credentialling at Bundaberg Base Hospital."

Her report last month was ignored by the metropolitan media.

Ms Herbert's sharp words were followed this week by more bad news for the executives of Queensland Health. The Australian Medical Association's annual report card shows the State Government is failing to stem a decline in vital areas of service. There are long waits at emergency departments and intolerable waiting lists for patients waiting for even the most urgent of surgeries.

More than 180,000 Queenslanders are languishing on the so-called waiting list to get on a waiting list, which was exposed during the 2005 health crisis with a total of about 110,000 people waiting.

The AMA said so-called "access block" in emergency departments and bed occupancy levels above the recommended safe level compromised patient care. Again, it's all about the beds. Emergency rooms remain clogged with patients waiting to be admitted. Elective surgery is cancelled when accidents happen because there are not enough beds.

In private hospitals, surgeons start cutting at 7am and often don't finish until 11pm or midnight. In public hospitals, strangled by numbers and union regulations, operations are mostly restricted to nine to five.

Since July 2008, the total number of available beds statewide increased by only 76. This is despite a population growth of more than 1000 a week.

Health Minister Paul Lucas remains invisible. He has been warned the severe shortage of beds in Queensland's public hospitals has contributed to "access block" and hospital bypass, lengthy elective surgery and emergency department waiting times.

Clearly, our public hospitals don't have the capacity to cope. The result is that people are dying needlessly. Successive state governments have failed to repair the system.


NSW bureaucrats think they know more about medical problems than the doctors do

A WOMAN was denied a late-term abortion at a leading Sydney hospital, forcing her to carry a severely deformed foetus with no chance of survival for an extra week, in a decision that has infuriated senior doctors. The doctors at the Royal Hospital for Women in Randwick are angry senior management vetoed their clinical decision and have called for clarification.

The hospital's termination review committee, made up of senior clinicians and hospital managers, considered the case of the woman who was 32 weeks' pregnant. The foetus had severe brain abnormalities and would have had no functional life, the Herald has been told. The abnormalities became evident late in the pregnancy and a termination was sought for the mother's wellbeing and safety.

The Herald understands the hospital's director, William Walters, and its medical superintendent, George Bearham, opposed the termination although others on the committee - including a psychiatrist, a pediatrician and an obstetrician - supported it. The Herald has been told clinicians at the hospital are concerned about the role of the managers in the decision.

NSW Health guidelines on terminations after 20 weeks' gestation call for an assessment to be made by a multi-disciplinary team "with a mix of skills and experience".

The Herald understands the decision was made within the past two weeks. The woman went into labour about a week later and the foetus was stillborn.

A spokeswoman for the South East Sydney Illawarra Health Service said the case was given the "most complete medical attention and consideration by a wide range of highly specialised medical, allied health and nursing professionals'', who collectively did not support the termination. However, the service did not respond to specific questions about whether the clinicians had been overruled.

Lachlan de Crespigny, the doctor at the centre of a late-term abortion controversy in 2000 in Victoria, said: "If this is the way women are treated, what does it say about the state's abortion laws?" He said it was wrong for a woman's life to be put on trial by an anonymous committee and that the decision should be left to the woman and her doctor.

Other specialists told the Herald they feared a clampdown on abortion within state public hospitals. The NSW Government was anxious to avoid a backlash from people opposed to abortion generally or to late-term procedures, they said.


The huge and unproductive costs of Australia's Medicare

Huge explosion of bureaucracy following the introduction of a "public option" for health insurance

By Dr Jeremy Sammut

Under the rubric of stimulus and economic security, the role of government has been significantly expanded across a range of sectors, including education, banking and finance. This new era of regulation and micromanagement threatens to crowd out private enterprise and civil society for a generation.

It is therefore timely to ponder Australia’s last great leap backwards towards socialism in 1984, right at the start of the long period of economic reform of the ’80s, ’90s, and the 2000s. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of Medicare. This year, the CIS has published a trilogy of papers cataloguing the damage Medicare has done to the Australian hospital system.

The short version of the story is that the era of ‘free’ public hospital care has led to the misallocation of huge amounts of taxpayer’s money to pay for massive and unnecessary growth in the size and cost of the health bureaucracy. The massive government expansion into the health sector has resulted in fewer and fewer health dollars out of ever-increasing hospital budgets reaching the frontline to pay for the health care the community wants and needs.

The decline of public hospitals into their present state of waste and inefficiency is proof, if further proof is needed, of what happens when dynamic and independent parts of our society become subject to the dead hand of statist domination and bureaucratic command-and-control.

We should remember the anniversary of Medicare when we calculate the cost of the GFC. The impact on the national bottom-line won’t only appear on the balance sheets for 2008–09. I fear we will be paying the price for the revenge of the political economy nerds for many years to come.

In 2009, the CIS published Radical Surgery by Professor Wolfgang Kasper (February); Why Public Hospitals are Overcrowded by Dr Jeremy Sammut (August); and The Past is the Future for Public Hospitals by Dr John Graham (October).

The above is part of a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated October 23. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590. Telephone ph: +61 2 9438 4377 or fax: +61 2 9439 7310

Friday, October 23, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is mourning the death of TV entertainer Don Lane

Clergy unite against human rights charter

THE nation's most powerful church leaders have united in a bid to scuttle efforts to create a national charter of human rights, warning the Rudd government it could curtail religious freedoms and give judges the power to shape laws on issues such as abortion and gay marriage. Catholic cardinal George Pell led a delegation of about 20 church leaders to Canberra to raise strong concerns about the impact of a charter on religious freedoms.

The leaders, representing major churches including the Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist and Pentecostal, warned that a charter of rights could restrict the ability to hire people of faith in churches, schools and welfare bodies. Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen did not attend the meeting with Attorney-General Robert McClelland on Wednesday because of a synod meeting but said he staunchly backed the delegation's views. "We strongly support human rights, but we don't think a charter such as this is necessary or even effective in protecting the rights of the most vulnerable people in our community. It may in all likelihood make things worse, particularly in the area of religious freedom," he said.

Cardinal Pell said there was no doubt a charter of rights would be used against religious schools, hospitals and charities by other people who did not like religious freedom and thought it should not be a human right. "If these protections are to be revised, it should be done by MPs answerable to the people, not by judges or human rights commissars," Cardinal Pell writes in The Australian today.

It is understood the Uniting Church was the only major church not to take part in the delegation because it did not support opposing a charter.

The meeting with Mr McClelland came after the government's hand-picked human rights committee led by Jesuit priest Frank Brennan recommended the government adopt a charter of human rights and give the High Court the power to declare laws incompatible.

Opposition legal affairs spokesman George Brandis warned if rights such as the right to found a family were enshrined in a charter, as recommended by the committee, this could allow the courts to shape laws on issues such as gay marriage and adoption. Senator Brandis, who also met the church leaders to hear their concerns, said such issues should be resolved directly by parliament and not via the "elliptical way" of expanding court powers. "The agenda of the human rights lobby in Australia is a secular agenda and that fact has been somewhat masked by the fact the chairman of the government's human rights consultation committee is himself a priest," Senator Brandis said. "It's a Trojan horse for the secular leftist human rights agenda."

A spokesman for Mr McClelland said the church leaders had raised a number of issues which the government would "give careful consideration to".

Australian Christian Lobby managing director Jim Wallace said church leaders had spent almost two years fighting the Victorian government's review of the church's exemptions from anti-discrimination laws, born out of the Victorian charter of rights and responsibilities. He said no measures could alleviate the church's concerns about a charter of rights. "We think it's a bad idea and the government should not go down that path," he said. He said the church was also adamant the government should not establish a human rights charter through the "back door", for example by changing the law so that courts were forced to interpret legislation with regard to specific human rights.

Australian Federation of Islamic Councils member and former senior legal adviser Haset Sali said he was concerned the nation was headed to receive a rights charter. "My concern is that statutes quite often reduce rights rather than add to them," he said. "Overall, I think we've got a pretty good situation in Australia at the current time."

The Great Synagogue of Sydney's Jeremy Lawrence said the Jewish community was passionately involved in the debate but did not have a consensus view. However, Rabbi Lawrence said: "I'm always hesitant to lock certain values in writing to the exclusion of others, thereby disadvantaging people whose core tenets become abrogated through omission."

Ambrose Centre for Religious Liberty chairman Rocco Mimmo said experience in Britain showed that a human rights charter could be used to limit religious freedoms.


Ideology dressed up as social justice

By George Pell, Roman Catholic archbishop of Sydney. His Eminence recognizes an underhand attack on Christianity when he sees it

THE Christian churches strongly support human rights and their attendant responsibilities. But religious freedom should not be eroded by stealth.

The Brennan committee's report on human rights gives the government two options: an upfront charter of rights or a Trojan Horse version.

The upfront charter is the committee's proposal for a federal human rights act. Committee chairman Frank Brennan already has acknowledged that parts of this proposal are unviable and unworkable because the High Court of Australia probably won't be able to play the part the committee wants to assign it. But that's OK, the report says. The Australian Human Rights Commission, with increased powers, should be able to fill the gap.

In whatever form it comes, Brennan's charter of rights is a bad idea because it is a threat to some freedoms. The upfront version at least has the merit of being in plain sight. The Trojan Horse version is more difficult to come to grips with. It is contained in the recommendations the committee describes as "the primary options" the government should implement even if it rejects an upfront charter.

The keystone is a "definitive list" of rights, to be selected from the international treaties Australia has signed. The beauty of making up your own list of rights is that you don't have to include those you don't like. And if you do have to include some of them for appearance's sake, you can redefine them so they're not too much of a nuisance. The charters in Victoria, the ACT and Britain leave out the internationally acknowledged right of parents to choose the appropriate moral or religious education of their children.

The law on judicial review of administrative decisions will then be amended so that the definitive list of rights will have to be observed in every federal government decision. The law governing the interpretation of commonwealth legislation will also be amended so that all federal laws must be interpreted in a way consistent with the definitive list of rights.

Finally, every bill introduced to federal parliament will need a statement of compatibility with the definitive list of human rights.

The report's recommendations also include "a comprehensive framework" to educate everybody about the list of rights, and create a "human rights culture" in the public service. Sounds like imposing an ideology.

Strangely, the Brennan report is weak on defending human rights. Stranger still, it wants the Human Rights Commission to have more power to investigate breaches of the definitive list of rights. The commission is presently inquiring into whether religious freedom is compatible with human rights. It doesn't even understand that religious freedom is a fundamental human right.

There is no doubt that if Australia gets a charter of rights, upfront or by stealth, it will be used against religious schools, hospitals and charities by other people who don't like religious freedom and think it shouldn't be a human right. The target will be the protection in anti-discrimination laws that allow religious schools to exercise a preference in employment for people who share their faith.

If these protections are to be revised, it should be done by MPs answerable to the people, not by judges or human rights commissars.

Under the British Human Rights Act, religious freedom claims have almost never succeeded. The Victorian charter's protection of freedom of religion and conscience has been shown to mean nothing against the more important claim to a right to abortion. We can expect a similar hierarchy of rights under a federal charter, with religious freedom well and truly at the bottom.

Things in Australia are not too bad, but religious freedom is under pressure. The push for a charter of rights should be seen in a wider context that includes the attempt by the ACT government to force the sale of Calvary public hospital in Canberra, which is run by the Little Company of Mary. If it succeeds in this, other public hospitals run by religious organisations will be targeted next.

A charter of rights, upfront or by Trojan Horse, will politicise the judiciary and erode the separation of powers by transferring legislative power to the courts. Neither a charter nor the Human Rights Commission will protect religious freedom, which is why so many religious people oppose both. Other Australians should do the same.


Conservative party leader (NSW) replies to his media opposition

The media don't criticize governments. They only criticise conservatives, in or out of government

While I hope Andrew Clennell is right to predict the community will elect a NSW Liberals & Nationals Government in March 2011, I know he's completely wrong about our approach - both in preparation for government and for government itself. Ultimately, the piece just falls for trite cliches and stereotypes – usually invented by our political opponents – to try and characterise the NSW Liberals & Nationals as anti-public sector, pro-privatisation, and lock-em-up and throw-away-the-key luddites.

The parties have been working hard on the prescriptions to the State's woes. We've already released more than 30 policies in areas ranging from economic growth, fiscal responsibility, public administration, health, transport, environment and others. Importantly we've applied the discipline of setting out our over-arching policy goals; the fundamentals that will guide our decision-making before and after government. They are available at - and some have even been reported in the pages of The Sydney Morning Herald!

We start with a desire to put the economy and economic growth back at the centre of government. We do so because of the opportunities it creates for people and the revenue it generates for government to provide the services people rely upon. Our commitment to lower taxes – highlighted by our payroll tax initiatives – recognises that to grow the State's economy we have to again be a competitive State for people to invest and do business in.

On public sector management, we've committed ourselves to reform. Our approach reflects our determination to restore focus onto the community, those who depend upon the services government provide. It's unashamedly about better performance, rewarding excellence and restoring integrity.

We understand that a professional, independent public service – providing frank and quality advice – will be critical in helping a NSW Liberals & Nationals Government restore the State's services and revive its economic fortunes. It's why we're committed to ending Labor's politicisation of the public service. We will establish a Public Service Commission to ensure jobs are advertised, appointments are made on merit and there is a full-time effort on lifting professionalism.

Mr Clennell continues to run his own privatisation agenda.

On DOCs he seems to have missed the fact that Justice Wood recommended, and both sides of politics supported, greater involvement of the non-for-profit sector in the provision of these critical services. It's an approach that the Coalition has always supported. On privatisation generally our position has been very clear: we support private sector involvement where it is in the public interest. We've also pointed out there are many ways the private sector can be involved from asset sales (like lotteries), public private partnerships and contracting out (as we have proposed for ferries). Given the media gave us a bollocking for our opposition to the sale of the State's electricity assets last year, it's surprising to be accused of simultaneously wanting to privatise everything and of running a small target strategy!

On law and order, we've very publicly called for an end to the auction. We mean it and we've stuck to it. We know the community understands that the repeated offer of simplistic approaches by NSW Labor hasn't improved public safety. Importantly, from their years as a prosecutor and police officer, so do my future Attorney General and Police Minister - and that's why they take an intelligent stance rather than try and repeat past mistakes. It's odd to be accused by Andrew of contemplating the opposite.

Why not throw in the usual tripe about North Shore and Anglo – and ignore the fact our most recently selected candidates have been a Vietnamese Australian and former ABC journalist, an Italian Australian, and a Lebanese Muslim Australian?

So Andrew, thanks for the viewpoint, but frankly it's just odd. It would be better to judge us on what we've actually said, done and become – which is a competent, mainstream and united team offering solutions - rather than an a dated depiction of what our side of politics is about.


More official bungling during the Victorian bushfires

Sounds like they were too proud to admit that they needed help

AS BUSHFIRES consumed Victorian lives, forests, homes and townships in February, the Russian Government offered to send two of the world's biggest and most advanced waterbombers to the battle. Each of the giant Ilyushin-76 jets could drop in a single pass 42,000 litres of water or retardant on a fire - almost five times the maximum capacity of the ''Elvis'' skycrane helicopters.

However, the offer, which came from the highest levels of the Government of the Russian Federation, was rejected, according to the Russian embassy in Canberra.

The Russian offer seems to have been lost in the confusion engulfing federal and Victorian authorities as they tried to deal with the disastrous fires, which cost 173 lives. A spokesman for Emergency Management Australia, a division of the federal Attorney-General's Department, said: ''During a severe natural disaster such as the Victorian bushfires many offers of international assistance are provided. ''As states and territories have primary responsibility for dealing with natural disasters, all offers of international assistance are forwarded to relevant state and territory agencies for their assessment.''

However, a spokeswoman for the Victorian Government said that despite a search of all available material, no record of the Russian offer could be found. A spokesman for the Country Fire Authority said he also knew nothing of the proposal, but would make further inquiries.

A spokesman for the Russian embassy in Canberra, Yaroslav Eremin, told The Age that the aircraft - part of a purpose-built fleet on standby in Russia to fight fires anywhere in the world - could have been in Australia within two days. They were not being used, because the northern hemisphere was in winter while Victoria burnt. He said the offer was made through diplomatic channels directly from the Russian Government to the Australian Government. But the response from Australia, which he said ''took some time'' was that the planes were not required....

The IL-76 waterbombers were developed to fight wildfires in remote areas of Russia such as Siberia, but have been used to fight major fires in Greece, Portugal and Yugoslavia. Their two large water tanks are capable of being filled in 10 to 12 minutes and can be dumped in a single burst, producing a downpour akin to heavy rain over an area 550 metres long by 100 metres wide. If the tanks are emptied sequentially, the saturated area extends to 900 metres by 65 metres.

In a letter submitted to the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission last week, the Russian ambassador to Australia, Alexander Blokhin, said experts from the Russian Ministry of Emergencies estimated that two such aircraft ''would have been enough to cope with the firefighting task near Melbourne in February 2009''. He also stated that a smaller, Russian-built firefighting jet, the amphibian Beriev BE-200, which can scoop 9000 litres of water from the sea - even with waves of up to 1.5 metres running - could have stopped the East Kilmore fire ''in one or two hours if the firefighting operation started in due time''. The East Kilmore fire eventually consumed Kinglake.


Corporate boredom to cost the shareholders $15m?

As an ANZ shareholder, I am mightily peeved by this. It might even motivate me to go to the next AGM!

It is just three elegantly curved blue shapes appended to 'ANZ', but chief executive Mike Smith believes it reflects a world of difference at his bank. ANZ Bank's new logo, proudly unveiled yesterday by Mr Smith at the group's new headquarters in Melbourne, will be backed by an initial $15 million marketing spend, The Herald Sun reports.

On Sunday ANZ will begin selling the new brand through a wide-ranging television, billboard and newspaper advertising campaign in Australia, New Zealand and Asia. The global brand-building comes after 18 months of research in which customers, staff and advisers from M&C Saatchi concluded the bank needed to streamline its brand as it widened its push into Asian markets such as Cambodia, Vietnam and China. The strap-line of the brand will be: "We live in your world". [So who doesn't?]

"In recent years, the ANZ brand has become fragmented," Mr Smith said. "To deliver on its growth strategy and regional aspirations, ANZ has to look like one bank and provide a consistent experience for our customers and our people wherever they come into contact with the bank." The three shapes in the new signage reflect ANZ's three core markets - Australia, New Zealand and Asia Pacific - while the central human shape represents customers and staff.

Mr Smith, who took over the reins of the country's fourth largest bank two years ago, said the rebranding was driven by the company's values which put people at the centre of the organisation. [I don't know whether to yawn or groan at that]

Banks in developed economies are now trying to reposition their brands to head off public anger flowing from the global financial crisis. While the level of home loan defaults has been relatively small in Australia, Mr Smith said ANZ was prepared to sacrifice market share to protect its reputation as a responsible lender.

He cast doubt on the wisdom of some other lenders that grew their home lending this year on the backs of borrowers who received first homebuyer grants from the government. "I feel that with an interest rate environment likely to rise it's just a recipe for disaster to lower your loan to value ratios," he said. "We tightened lending criteria earlier this year and haven't relaxed them . . . we have a responsibility to our customers, I think."

The image overhaul will be phased in over two years because Mr Smith said a gradual change was less costly than an overnight makeover. The bank will spend $15 million on the signage overhaul in 2010, with further spending planned in 2011.

Mr Smith said ANZ was now "almost running" with its growth plans in the wake of the global financial crisis and the Opes Prime securities lending scandal. He said the bank had exited its problematic businesses in private equity and securities lending following big losses in his first year at the helm. "I think we're in a stage now where we are almost running with our strategy and all the remedial work on discontinued businesses is behind us."


Thursday, October 22, 2009

These busybody ignoramuses will be ignored, fortunately

"Evidence-based", my foot! There is certain to be plenty of epidemiological speculation but I know of NO double blind studies in support of any of the crap below. It is all just the popular "wisdom" of the day, wisdom that can be and often is dangerously wrong. Look at the official backflip over peanuts, where the official advice of the past produced an epidemic of peanut allergies. And I don't suppose I should mention the joint problems (hip and knee) now being suffered by devotees of the '80s jogging craze

CHILDREN should not be forced to clear their plates at meal times under new parenting guidelines released by the Federal Government. The Get Up And Grow guides, available free to every parent and childcare centre, recommends toddlers under two be banned from watching TV or using computers altogether, The Daily Telegraph reports. And children aged between two and five should spend less than an hour a day in front of the television and computer and get at least three hours exercise a day.

The booklet advises parents about correct daily portion sizes of healthy food that should be fed to children, a serve of milk for a child aged under five is just 100ml, a serve of cheese is just 15g and a meat portion should be just 45g. "If your child refuses to eat at any meal or snack do not force them to eat," parents are advised.

The guide provides healthy eating and exercise prescriptions for babies and children aged up to five developed by experts at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne. "New parents are bombarded with information and knowing what advice to take can often be difficult and stressful," Health Minister Nicola Roxon said yesterday. "These guidelines are an evidence-based, easy to read resource parents can rely on when raising baby."

Children aged five and under need three meals and two snacks per day and should eat chocolate, fruit juice, soft drinks, flavoured milk and takeaway very rarely. Babies should be exercised and from the age of one should do at least three hours of active play a day. Restraining children for more than one hour at a time in car seats, prams or high chairs is also frowned on because it limits a child's development and learning time.

The Australian Communication and Media Authority said four-month-old babies watch an average of 44 minutes of TV daily, while under-fours spend at least three hours a day in front of the screen. But the new government guidelines state this is too much. "Screen time is not recommended for babies and children less than two years of age, because it may reduce the amount of time they have for active play, social contact with others and chances for language development."


Boat was scuttled by "asylum-seekers" to force a rescue

A BOAT carrying 78 asylum-seekers whose case was personally taken up by Kevin Rudd with the Indonesian President was rescued by the Australian navy only after those on board deliberately sabotaged it.

As Indonesian officials yesterday expressed irritation at the face-saving deal struck by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Kevin Rudd, Border Protection Command intercepted another boat in Australian waters carrying 24 people. The boat with 22 passengers and two crew was stopped 10 nautical miles north of Ashmore Reef. The interception was the 34th this year.

The debate over asylum-seekers continued to gather heat yesterday, with the Uniting Church writing to the Prime Minister urging Australia to lead on the issue. The intervention of the church into the already charged debate came as sources told The Australian those on board the vessel rescued off the coast of Sumatra on Sunday sabotaged the boat. Sources said the boat had been deliberately disabled, by punching or drilling holes into the hull, effectively forcing the navy to take the passengers on board.

The revelation gives credence to claims by the opposition's immigration spokeswoman, Sharman Stone, that asylum-seekers were manipulating Australian goodwill to ensure their passage to Australia, a suggestion angrily rejected by a succession of Rudd government ministers.

On Tuesday, SBY announced Indonesia would take the asylum-seekers after Mr Rudd personally raised their plight. It followed an hour-long meeting between the two leaders at the presidential palace on Tuesday night after Dr Yudhoyono's inauguration, and was a historic first step in a new Canberra-driven "Indonesia solution" to the boatpeople crisis. Mr Rudd confirmed Australia and Indonesia would work together to resolve the issue. "That will mean providing additional assistance to our friends in Indonesia to help with the resettlement task," he said. "There is nothing remarkable in that."

While Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal talked up the resolution as a "humanitarian" one based on the poor health of a girl on board the Customs vessel the Oceanic Viking somewhere off Sumatra, there was little urgency in Jakarta or Merak yesterday about receiving the group. "The news is still extremely unclear," a senior operations officer in the Indonesian navy's western fleet said. "If it was Australia that helped (the asylum-seekers), Australia that answered the distress call, why should they be brought to Indonesia? It's strange." The navy colonel, who asked not to be identified, pointed out that his role in any operation to transport the Sri Lankans to the port at Merak would be a major one. "But so far I have been given no information from headquarters," he said.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans said he had not been privy to discussions between Mr Rudd and SBY. "I think it's just a sign of the broadening regional co-operation with Indonesia, Malaysia and other partners," Senator Evans said of the deal.

But international law experts said Indonesia was obliged to allow the asylum-seekers to land anyway. International law expert Don Rothwell of the Australian National University said once it was clear that HMAS Armidale had rescued the 78 Sri Lankans from a vessel in distress in the Sunda Strait, international law permitted them to land at the nearest port.

Senator Evans was also forced to defend Mr Rudd over his use of the term "illegal" migrants in relation to asylum seekers. "The PM is a very effective communicator," Senator Evans told the ABC. "He was very keen to send a strong message about our attitude to border security and he did that."

Senator Evans's remarks came in the wake of growing criticism of Mr Rudd's rhetoric on asylum seekers, with the Australian Workers Union, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, and Victorian Labor MP Michael Danby rebuking the Prime Minister for his language. Yesterday, the Uniting Church president Alistair Macrae added the church's voice to those concerned about Mr Rudd's toughened stance. "While we acknowledge the importance of appropriate national security policies, we do not believe these should adversely affect the fulfilment of our international obligations to people in genuine need of our protection from persecution," he said. "As a stable and wealthy country in the region, Australia has a responsibility to lead by example in providing protection to refugees."

Senator Evans also lashed out at suggestions by Dr Stone that the rescue on Sunday represented a new tactic by people-smugglers. "I think the opposition was suggesting yesterday somehow that we shouldn't respond to these crises," he said. "I think that's just reprehensible."

Yesterday, a spokesman for Mr Rudd denied the Indonesians had been offered any inducements to take the 78 asylum-seekers, who according to Senator Evans were expected to arrive in Merak today....


Immigrants 'who can't adapt should leave'

A MAN harassed by anti-war mail after his son was killed in Afghanistan says immigrants who can't adapt to Australian life and values should live elsewhere. Private Gregory Michael Sher, 30, was killed in a rocket attack in Oruzgan Province, in southern Afghanistan, in January. He was the eighth Australian Defence Force soldier to be killed in Afghanistan since 2002, but the first to die as a result of indirect fire.

Mr Sher's father Felix received a phone call and letters, allegedly from self-styled Muslim cleric Sheikh Haron, just before his son's funeral. "I feel bad that you have lost your son but I don't feel bad that a murderer of innocent civilians has lost his life," a line in one of the letters reportedly said. Other Australian families of men killed in Afghanistan have allegedly received similar letters in the past two years.

On Tuesday Sheikh Haron was charged with seven counts of "using a postal service or similar service to menace, harass, or cause offence". He was granted bail to appear in court on November 10.

Mr Sher says he's now waiting for justice to take its course. "There is no point in getting angry or upset, nothing is going to be achieved by it," he told Fairfax Radio Network today.

Asked if he had something to say to Sheikh Haron, Mr Sher called on immigrants whose values were not in line with the general community to live elsewhere. "What I would like to say (is) that when people immigrate to Australia, when they actually do so with the intention of integrating with the general community and living in peace and harmony, rather than confronting it, and causing tension and conflict, and irrespective of what one's religious beliefs are, one can still live happily with the community but not dissolve," he said. "If people don't like what's happening in Australia, live elsewhere."


Lebanese Muslim gangsters again

THE sister of nightclub owner John Ibrahim has appeared briefly in court charged over a stash of nearly $3 million found in a ceiling of a western Sydney home. Maha Sayour, 39, is also the sister of Fadi Ibrahim, who was shot five times in June as he was sitting in his car outside his home in the northern Sydney suburb of Castle Cove.

Detectives from Strike Force Bellwood, set up to investigate the shooting and related matters, found $2.86 million in the roof of a home in Pearson St, Wentworthville, in a raid on April 29.

Ms Sayour was charged with recklessly dealing with the proceeds of a crime last month. At a very brief appearance at Fairfield Local Court today, Ms Sayour's lawyer Stephen Alexander requested a brief be ordered and the matter put over to a later date.

The matter has been adjourned to Liverpool Local Court on December 9, when Ms Sayour will not be required to appear, with a brief to be served on December 2. Ms Sayour's bail conditions have been continued. She refused to say anything to waiting media as she left the court.


Nanny state helps to drown us in our own stupidity

Here's another triumph of the NSW Government: tough new legislation against pool owners. Under proposed changes to the Swimming Pools Act of 1992, council officers will have the right to invade private property and slap the state's 300,000 pool owners with fines of $5500 apiece if they do not lock up their pools more tightly.

This latest attack by the nanny state on the humble property owner is a kneejerk reaction to a spate of child drownings last summer. No matter that almost all child drownings in backyard pools are the result of inadequate adult supervision, it's the fences that are the focus of government energies. It's just too hard to tell parents the bleeding obvious, which is that if their children are near a large body of water, fence or no fence, then there is no alternative but to watch them like a hawk; and it's not a task that can be outsourced or shared. Children will always find ways of getting around fences and no barrier is a substitute for human vigilance.

But every time there is a terrible accident involving a child, there are calls for fences around dams, wharves and rivers, safety barriers at train stations or draconian new laws, no matter how impractical or futile. Whether it is a toddler falling to his death out of an open third-floor window, as happened this week in Kogarah, or a pram rolling off a train platform into the path of a train, as happened in Melbourne last week, with the six-month-old baby escaping injury, or two babies drowning in Adelaide in two separate incidents after their prams rolled down riverbanks, there are calls on authorities to "do something".

It is part of a cultural paradigm in which any tragedy that befalls us is not just the result of bad luck or carelessness or simple human error but is the fault of inadequate regulation. There is this fantasy that with enough government intervention we can create a safety utopia.

Of course, many lives have been saved and injuries prevented by good laws - the original Swimming Pool Act requiring pools be fenced was one and compulsory seatbelts and random breath tests were two more. It may have been safety standards for prams that saved a life on that Melbourne train platform last week.

But flushed with success, the nanny staters went too far, and governments became hooked on the idea that they could fix the world with the stroke of a pen and win plaudits into the bargain.

The phrase nanny state is a cliche but that is because government intrusion in our lives is so pervasive we barely protest. From the ugly, low-carbon, high-mercury light bulbs we have to use, to the time at which we are allowed to water our gardens, we are like frogs in boiling water, unaware of our predicament.

The worst thing about nanny statism is that even in the most resourceful person it induces a state of learned helplessness and complacency, in which, for instance, a mother no longer keeps alert to dangers in her child's environment because she thinks ''they'' will do it for her. The problem is that human stupidity is infinite and ''they'' aren't on the railway platform with you at the moment you turn the pram around so its wheels point towards the tracks and then you take your hands off the pram handles to hitch up your trousers.

Eventually, nanny statism removes the imperative of common sense, just as satellite navigation devices in cars give you a partial lobotomy, since you never bother registering where, in a navigational sense, you are going any more, as the machine does all the work.

Lulling people into a false sense of security potentially endangers more lives as parents and carers lose the commonsense skills needed to monitor and identify potential dangers. The result is behaviour that can only be described as stupid, even from those who probably are not.

The Melbourne pram incident, which made headlines around the world, is part of an increasingly familiar pattern of inexplicably careless behaviour. Only one day earlier, Connex, the company that runs Melbourne's trains, had begun a campaign to warn parents of the dangers of prams on platforms.

An accompanying video had a sequence eerily like the real thing, with a women letting go of her child's pram, which heads towards the edge of the platform for several seconds before she manages to haul it back. Connex said at the time that it was compelled to issue a "red alert" over an "alarming number of potentially serious incidents involving children and babies in prams travelling on our trains. In recent weeks there had been several incidents including: unrestrained babies spilling from prams falling between the train and platform, runaway prams in high winds after being left with their brakes off, pram front swivel wheels getting caught in the gap between train and platform."

There is some sort of increasing disconnect between action and real-life consequences so that, for instance, jaywalking is also on the rise. Oxford Street has become a jaywalker-killing alley in the wee hours as revellers wander across the road, seemingly oblivious to the fact the cars braking and swerving around them could cause them serious injury.

Perhaps the mass decline of common sense is the inevitable result of what Susan Greenfield, a British neuroscientist, says is the altered brain architecture of a couple of generations of people reared on technology rather than real-life experience.

If common sense is the accumulation of millions of real world experiences and the amalgamated sensory input from our environment, then no wonder people habituated to a two-dimensional virtual world without physical consequences seem increasingly to be so clueless.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG wonders why it is only the conservatives that the media are scrutinizing over the proposed Warmist laws

Coverup of official injustice to Australian Navy sailors -- with whistleblower penalized

The navy has trouble enough as it is in recruiting enough highly-skilled men. Do they think this is going to help? How dumb can you get? And the top brass are such *holes that they have still to apologize for their precipitate actions. It doesn't say much for the leadership of the Australian navy. Isn't there anyone at the top with some decency?

THE navy knew within days that claims crewmen on the supply ship HMAS Success ran a competition on how many female sailors they could sleep with were false but did nothing to set the record straight, the federal Opposition says. The three men were removed from their ship in Singapore in May because of the allegations and have not been posted back to sea since.

The Opposition defence spokesman, David Johnson, said last night the navy's treatment of the men was ''shoddy'' and their careers may have been irreparably damaged. Senator Johnson said the claims were fabricated by an aggrieved shipmate. He said they were told they were to be sent home in disgrace and were given 30 minutes to pack their gear and get off the ship. HMAS Success's commander told the crew a ''rotten core'' had been removed.

Senator Johnson also said a Navy lawyer appointed to represent the men raised concerns about why they were ''landed'' before the allegations were investigated and the navy ignored his requests for information for months. The legal officer was also called aside by his superiors and told that he worked for the navy command and should not consider the men to be his ''clients''. The officer was so concerned that he wrote a report to his superiors setting out his concerns about the way the episode was handled, Senator Johnson said. That officer had since been posted to Western Australia even through his wife worked in NSW.

After the initial media reports in July, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said what was claimed was ''disturbing'' and the Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said the claim should be investigated and such behaviour could discourage women from joining the defence force. The claims were widely published around the world.

Senator Johnson said the Navy's investigation report was due out soon. He said it became very clear to ADF investigators from the start that the claim about sailors keeping a ledger on how many female colleagues could be ''bedded'' was blatantly untrue. Senator Johnson said the Navy had over-reacted because of the intense media and political pressure that followed the initial claims run on commercial television.


The unending disaster that is Australia's European-sourced submarines: Will they EVER work properly?

Coupled with the constant problems and groundings of the A380 Airbuses, one has to wonder if welfare-cushioned Europeans now have the fire needed to make advanced projects work. The computer program that runs the boats eventually had to be scrapped and replaced with an American one. It might end up that way for the diesel motors too. The Australian workforce that maintains the boats also seems to be heavily bureaucratized and hence idle

The navy's $6 billion Collins-class submarines face serious operational restrictions after being hit by a run of crippling mechanical problems and troubling maintenance issues. Some senior engineering experts now contend that the Swedish-supplied Hedemora diesel engines may have to be replaced - a major design and engineering job that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars and take years to complete. So serious are the problems that the Defence Materiel Organisation has put the Collins boats at the top of its list of "projects of concern" - the key equipment issues troubling Australia's Defence leaders.

The Australian understands that in recent times only a single Collins-class boat has been available for operational duties but it is unclear whether this involves more than extended training missions.

Senior Defence leaders are also vitally concerned about the productivity and efficiency of ASC, the Adelaide-based wholly government-owned builder and maintainer of the Collins class. One senior Defence source characterises the level of concern in senior government ranks about the availability of the Collins submarines as "extreme".

In the recent defence white paper, Kevin Rudd announced that the government would double the size of the RAN's submarine fleet from six to 12 when it came to replacing the Collins-class boats from 2025. "If you can't do this right, how do you do the next one," observed one senior Defence source last night. "We spend a lot of money on this core defence capability and they aren't working properly."

Defence Minister John Faulkner and Defence Materiel Minister Greg Combet have now demanded monthly updates from the navy and Defence about the operational state of the Collins-class vessels. ASC, the Adelaide-based builder and maintainer of the Collins class, is now working through a range of mechanical issues affecting the performance of the six submarines with the state of the diesel engines a fundamental concern. The trouble-plagued diesel engines are expected to last at least another 15 to 20 years before they are progressively replaced by the planned next-generation submarine from 2025.

While ASC believes they can still last the expected life-of-type and has called in a Swiss consultant to advise on a long-term remediation plan, other external experts believe there may be no option but to start planning for their eventual replacement. The Hedemora diesel engines have never functioned well from the start and there are now real doubts that they are robust enough to see out the life of the Collins boats. Other mechanical issues include the performance of the electric motors, batteries and generators but ASC sources are confident that these glitches are being satisfactorily resolved.

HMAS Collins is undergoing repairs on its diesel engines and there are temporary restrictions on two other boats while the bands on their electric motors are fixed. But ASC remains confident that four "operational" boats will be available to the navy early in 2010 while HMAS Rankin and HMAS Sheean enter ASC's Adelaide yard to undergo a "full-cycle docking" - a major refit and overhaul.

ASC has the maintenance contract for the Collins boats worth nearly $200 million and this year is budgeted to spend $330m on maintaining and upgrading the submarines, including the combat system. But Defence leaders are concerned about the company's ability to efficiently manage the regular full-cycle dockings (FCD) and other lengthy maintenance periods that the Collins boats require. Defence wants to cut the average time taken for a FCD from three to two years, saving at least $60-70m a year, which would be ploughed back into supporting the Collins capability.

ASC has a $3bn long-term through-life support contract for the Collins boats with the DMO which is due to be renegotiated by next March. Senior Defence sources say there will be three key performance indicators that they expect from the new contract with ASC including an increased availability of boats for operations and a reduced cost of ownership to the commonwealth. "We are concerned with the amount of availability of the boats and the cost of doing the maintenance as well as some of the technical outcomes being achieved," DMO chief Stephen Gumley told The Australian. "We are working with the company to improve in each of those areas.

We hope to have a new through-life support contract for the Collins by Easter next year, which would commence in the financial year starting on July 1, 2010," Dr Gumley said. "Like any complex asset, there is a series of technical challenges. "We are working with ASC and external consultants to evaluate some of the challenges that we have."

A recent external consultant's study of workforce productivity on the Collins boats at ASC's Adelaide yard suggests room for significant improvement. According to documents obtained by The Australian, the study showed that some mechanical tradesmen working on the Collins boats were idle for much of their time on the shop floor. One electrical tradesman was present for the entire day but his only role was to insert and remove the fuses for a pressure test. This test took 10 minutes and was held mid-afternoon. Another electrical tradesman was clocked to have spent three hours and 12 minutes of productive work in a day. "The average efficiency observed (using generous definitions of productive work) was 30 per cent. Over 15 days of tradesperson time across multiple disciplines was observed, and nobody has suggested that theperiod of time we studied was not representative," the consultant report found. "We believe that an efficiency of 80 per cent should be considered world-class in this environment. This would be a 167 per cent increase in the work output of the current workforce or opportunity for a dramatic cost reduction," the report said.

Ever since they were launched, the Collins boats have been plagued by mechanical problems. As early as June 1999, a report to the Howard government found a range of serious technical defects in the Collins boats, three of which had been delivered to the navy by that time. These included problems with the diesel engines as well as noise propagation and the performance of propellers, periscopes, masts and the combat system. By far the most expensive fix was the the [computerized] combat system. The original system never worked and was eventually replaced [by an American one] at a cost of close to $1 billion.


Warming harms mental health

Warmists are certainly disturbing a lot of people (That's their aim) but there is no evidence that warming is, just assertions. The stuff below is just health academics trying to clamber aboard the global warming bandwagon

The negative impact on mental health worldwide may be one of the most severe effects of climate change, with children at greatest risk, according to experts. ["Experts" say that something "may" happen. Not much more persuasive than "My old Mommy told me"]

As climate change causes extreme weather events, drought, financial strain and changes in work and migration patterns, people will be at increasing risk from mental health issues such as post traumatic stress disorder and depression, said Dr Helen Berry from the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University (ANU). Despite the risk, this is an area that has received little attention, she added.

She spoke at an Australian Science Media Centre online briefing on 16 October alongside Professor Brian Kelly, Director of the Centre for Rural and Remote Health at the University of Newcastle, and Dr Lyndall Strazdins, a Fellow at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health and the ANU. "Mental health problems aren't just collateral damage from climate change, they could well be one of the most profound effects," said Dr Berry.

According to Dr Berry, scientists, health services and governments need to work together to stop the damage to mental health at a regional level before it becomes a serious problem. "It's becoming apparent that we're experience the IPCC's worst case scenario of climate change - or even worse," said Berry. "We need to address the impact that this will have on mental health, now."

Climate change can affect people in a number of different ways, according to Dr Berry. It can act directly on mental health through trauma exposure, for example a cyclone caused by increasing temperatures, or it can act indirectly via disease and community changes. "All of these factors interact and could result in a great increase in severe mental health problems," she added.

Currently half of all Australians will suffer mental illness at some point in their life, and this number is set to increase, according to the Dr Strazdins. "Mental health problems are already the second largest burden of disease in Australia, and by 2020 this is predicted to be the case worldwide," said Dr Strazdins. "Climate change amplifies the existing risks, particularly for children," she added.

According to Dr Strazdins, the mental health impacts of climate change will be more severe for children because they will be exposed to climate change for longer over their lifetime. Children are also less mentally prepared to deal with the stress from climate change related trauma, such as bushfires, which are set to increase by up to 75 per cent by 2050, said Dr Strazdins. A study on children whose school burnt down during the Canberra 2003 fires found that at least 40 per cent were suffering mild to moderate post traumatic stress disorder.

The impact that climate change has on others, such as financial strain put on parents, will also affect children, Dr Strazdins added. "A number of studies have revealed that children are already anxious and fearful about climate change. They need to be at the centre of the debate - yet the impact of climate change on children and the costs to future generations is not being discussed," said Dr Strazdins.

According to Professor Kelly, in order to minimise the problem we need to predict how people will adapt to and cope with climate change, and provide services that will help them to 'bounce back' more easily. "The people most at risk are those that are in isolated regions. In order to reach them, health services need to work very closely with organisations that respond to other impacts of climate change, such as financial counsellors, vets and local banks. "The aim is to try to see mental health as part of an overall strategy that deals with climate change impact," he said.

Despite their warnings, it's not all bad news - Dr Berry added that there could be a positive side effect to communities facing the risks of climate change. "Climate change could motivate collective action, which is the number one thing to protect mental health," she said.



The constant and ever-growing influx of "boat people" taking advantage of the Rudd government's eagerness to class almost anyone as a "refugee" has drawn a lot of public attention in Australia, as Rudd is clearly going against what the great majority of Australians want. Three current articles below

'Humanitarian' boatpeople deal breaks deadlock

KEVIN Rudd and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last night resolved their standoff, with Jakarta agreeing to accept 78 asylum-seekers rescued by Australia at the weekend, citing the plight of a sick child on board. As the 78 Sri Lankans prepared to spend their third night aboard the Australian Customs vessel the Oceanic Viking, Indonesia agreed the asylum-seekers rescued by HMAS Armidale in the Sunda Strait on Sunday would be brought to shore as soon as possible.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and Dr Yudhoyono's spokesman cited the sick child as a factor in the "humanitarian" decision. "President Yudhoyono has advised for humanitarian reasons and safety-at-sea reasons the Oceanic Viking will come to the port of Merak where the 78 on board will be put in temporary accommodation until international agencies have had the opportunity to process them," Mr Smith told ABC TV last night. "We had a young girl on board who was unwell. "That's a very good humanitarian result. It's a very good example of co-operation between Australia and Indonesia."

After high-level talks about how to stem the flow of asylum boats to Australia, Dr Yudhoyono's spokesman, Dino Patti Djalal, said the Sri Lankans' claims for refugee status would be dealt with as soon as possible by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. "Basically, it is because there is a sick child on board and the President is quite concerned about the health of the child," he said. "We need a clear framework for how to deal with this in the future so that we don't deal with these sorts of situations on an ad hoc basis."

He indicated that officials from both countries would be working over the coming weeks to establish such a framework. Mr Rudd and Dr Yudhoyono would discuss the matter in Singapore in November at the APEC leaders conference. The agreement came as the Prime Minister held bilateral talks with Dr Yudhoyono and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak aimed at stopping the boat surge.

Before the deal was struck in Jakarta last night, there were further indications of an emerging schism in Labor ranks over the Prime Minister's toughened rhetoric on boats. Last night, Labor MP Michael Danby [who is Jewish] rebuked Mr Rudd over his use of the term "illegal immigration", pointedly noting he preferred Immigration Minister Chris Evans's "non-hysterical" approach. "I don't like expressions like illegal immigration," Mr Danby told the ABC.

Last night, Mr Rudd was on his way home from the Indonesian capital, where he had been attending the inauguration of Dr Yudhoyono with Mr Smith and Defence Chief Angus Houston. While in Jakarta, Mr Rudd also held talks with Singapore's Lee Hsien Loong, with people-smuggling high on the agenda.

Mr Rudd's absence from Australia saw no let-up in hostilities between the government and the opposition, with the issue of boatpeople provoking a series of bitter skirmishes in parliament. As Mr Rudd was meeting regional leaders, a Senate estimates committee hearing in Canberra degenerated into a shouting match between Senator Evans and Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who demanded to know what the Rudd government was doing to address the surge.

"We abolished the Pacific Solution. I'm absolutely proud of that. It was a blight on Australia and a blight on our international reputation," Senator Evans said. "But you, senator, you've got a choice, you either argue for it coming back, or you don't."

Malcolm Turnbull attacked the government for "unpicking" the tapestry of measures stitched together by the Howard government, while acknowledging they had been controversial. He defended reviving John Howard's declaration that Australians should decide "who comes to this country". "The previous prime minister, Mr Howard, was criticised for saying that, but the fact is, that is what every Australian expects of their government," said Mr Turnbull.

The 78 asylum-seekers transferred from their boat to the Oceanic Viking after issuing a distress call in the Indonesian search and rescue zone, includes at least five women and five young children. At Indonesia's request, Australia sent the patrol boat HMAS Armidale to the scene. "This is not an area or a matter where Australia is saying to Indonesia, 'It's your problem'," Mr Smith said last night. "This is where Australia is saying to Indonesia, and Indonesia is saying to Australia: 'We need to work together to address a very difficult problem'. It's a very good example of Australia discharging its safety-at-sea obligations. My understanding and my advice is that there's no legal obligation on the part of Indonesia to take them, and that was not a point or a view put to Indonesia by Australia."


Dangerous to let asylum seekers jump the queue

Susan Hocking

THE current debate about how best to handle the boatloads of refugees, illegal immigrants or call them what you will, arriving on Australia's doorstep has taken me back to a time when I was all-consumed with the lot of people trying to get into Australia, people who were failing miserably. I was a chairperson of the Australian Immigration Review Panel – a body that heard the appeals of would-be migrants to this country, people who had applied and been rejected. The panel was their last chance at entry and with that knowledge of what was at stake, it was the sort of role that gave me many a sleepless night. It was a responsibility not to be taken lightly. And it wasn't.

It was, however, a humbling, eye-opening and frequently very sad experience. I suspect that many people born to Australian citizenship, born to peace and relative prosperity and the assumption of all kinds of freedoms, do not always easily grasp what it is that would make people rally their families and head off on a plane, often to the other side of the world, leaving behind friends and loved ones, perhaps a familiar language, culture, a whole way of life.

When that same decision is made by people who jump on leaky boats captained by people who are little more than traffickers in human flesh for dangerous and sometimes futile voyages, our confusion and disbelief are even greater. As is our suspicion and our resentment at those who appear, like uninvited strangers.

And therein lies the stumbling point for me with the waves of boat people heading this way. The people on the leaky boats, no matter how brave they may be, no matter how determined or desperate, raise my concerns because they are unknown entities. And they are jumping the queue. In doing so – and by us accepting them – they are, inadvertently or not, making a mockery of our immigration policy and our refugee programs and of the very patient people spread all over the world – be they living in townhouses in London or squalid refugee camps in Kenya – who are adhering to all the myriad, time-consuming requirements we have of those we invite in.

Those requirements enable us to know who exactly is coming to live among us, what sort of people they are and with what sort of personal histories; to know, as far as humanly possible, what they have to offer us and what we can offer them. Fulfilling those requirements – from the masses of paperwork through to the personal qualities – is not easy and the process is usually slow. But sure. It takes patience and commitment on everybody's part. But ultimately we can rest pretty well assured that in the midst of a world on the move, we have opened the doors to people that we can be comfortable sharing our communities with.

While it behoves us to show compassion and understanding to people knocking to come in, to treat the homeless, albeit uninvited, stranger as we would a person in need knocking on the door of our own home, we have every right to wariness. We would be foolish and we would be risking the wellbeing of our own family if we simply threw that door open willy-nilly. We owe it to ourselves and to our children to think long and hard about who comes to live among us. That does not make us an unwelcoming, uncaring nation. It makes us vigilant, prudent stewards of the Australian "family".

Furthermore, we should be wary of making assumptions about degrees of despair. In a world racked with war and poverty and upheaval, we shouldn't assume that the people on the boats have any greater depth of loss or desperation than the Somali family, for example, or the Cambodians, or the Zimbabweans, all living in camps, waiting it out, counting the days, all their forms painstakingly filled in, doing it by the book, playing by the rules. Patient and with their hearts full of hope.

We shouldn't assume that the boat people have the right to jump the queue because of the sheer audacity of their voyage, any more than we should expect the patient, waiting, would-be migrant to be bumped back further and further down the line because they chose to do things by the book. And to resign themselves to a quiet acceptance of that.

I have read too many immigration applications from too many patient and deserving souls to buy into the business of queue jumping. In many ways, the process of biding time, of compiling the papers and the signatories and producing the certificates and the records – of satisfying the needs of our Immigration Department – is every bit as gruelling as hitting the high seas, bound for Australia by boat. It just doesn't grab the headlines or tug so hard at the heartstrings.

All that said, personally, if the boat people pass muster once they arrive here – if, when all the thorough checks are done, they do qualify as genuine asylum seekers, fleeing persecution and with no other safe place to go – I would not have a problem with them staying on. But please, only if it is not at the expense of those would-be Australians languishing somewhere right now, with very little to sustain them but the knowledge they have already played by our rules; the patient people.


Mainstream Australian concerns about immigration are muzzled

Thirteen years after Pauline Hanson struck a chord with mainstream Australia, the vacuum she left when she departed the political scene remains unfilled.

Civil rights apologists try to bottle up public concern about illegal arrivals, militant Islamism, ethnic gangs, drugs and the murderous danger zones that our CBDs have become, but from time to time the outrage erupts on talkback radio and in the letters to the editor columns. A caller from Bathurst, NSW, recently said the threat of Pacific Islander gangs in western Sydney made him pack up and leave, and he is not alone. A woman who was flying her Australian flag during the Cronulla riots had her house pelted with eggs. Police told her to take down the flag as it was inciting the Muslims.

These are today's forgotten people, Australians of all generations who know their history and are embittered as they see their heritage, values, institutions and way of life devalued. Under Labor, the rapid-fire arrival of boatloads of illegals has, until recently, failed to generate the banner headlines of the past, no doubt heart-warming for those Greens, Laborites and Liberal marshmallows who favour the madness of some sort of open borders policy. Ex-Liberal MP Bruce Baird, now holding a Labor job, told the Ten Network's Meet the Press Labor's policy changes on dealing with people-smugglers had nothing whatsoever to do with the recent surge in arrivals.

As Christmas Island readies to put up the no-vacancy sign, the hitherto silent Libs have broken out, led by Philip Ruddock and Kevin Andrews, and already the polls have spiked substantially in their favour, no doubt creating more grief for Malcolm Turnbull, who is handcuffed to the usual suspects in Wentworth and whose only comment to date has been a limp-wristed call for an independent inquiry.

The chief objective of the illegals and their criminal co-conspirators, the people-smugglers, is to be allowed to come ashore on the mainland and that will surely happen soon.

Still disconnected from the mainstream, there is hardly a mumble from the Liberals as our immigration rates accelerate.

A new Australia is in the making, where our ethnic minorities will become majorities, aided by people running Malcolm Fraser's line that we need a population of 50 million plus, no doubt to be fed by the spring of taxpayer-funded multiculturalism.

In 1976 the Fraser government was warned by the Immigration Department that too many Lebanese Muslim refugees were unskilled, illiterate and had questionable character and health standards. Cabinet documents released in 2007 revealed how Australia's decision to accept thousands of Lebanese Muslims escaping Lebanon's 1976 civil war led to a temporary suspension of normal eligibility standards.

With hindsight we know where Fraser stood on such matters, his sense of guilt over the Vietnam War resulting in 56,000 Vietnamese refugees coming to Australia plus 2000 or so boatpeople, culminating in him establishing the Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs with his protege Petro Georgiou as its director.

Fraser has stubbornly rejected any criticism that he was responsible for sowing the seeds of unrest in Sydney's west, instead blaming schools and communities and forgetting that at no time have the views of the Australian community been honestly and properly considered on immigration and refugee issues by any government.

It is not just multiculturalism that is fuelling anger. Included in the ranks of the forgotten people are the self-funded retirees who have seen their hard-earned super and share portfolios head south during the global financial crisis, while some MPs debate and defend their salaries and maladministration allows $82 million worth of stimulus to go offshore to Australians, many of them citizens ofconvenience.

Sadly, these mainstream Australians have no one with the courage to become their flag-bearer in these challenging times. The fear of violent reprisal and being ostracised by the political elite is a reality that tarnishes and denigrates the sacrifices of past generations. Despite this, the talkback lines hum, as this form of protest is more rewarding than contacting a Coalition office.

Fearless journalism is required to expose the many unpleasant truths and maybe, just maybe, a resurgent Nationals with a Barnaby Joyce-type at the helm could strike out on its own, embracing and claiming a large and powerful constituency that has been neglected for far too long.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Leftist love of terrorists again

Muslims can do no wrong, apparently. And it was George Bush who blew up the twin towers in NYC, of course

Last week the ABC 702 radio presenter Deborah Cameron referred to the "so-called terror trial in Parramatta". On Friday, after deliberating for over a month, a jury at the Supreme Court returned guilty verdicts against five men on terrorism charges. The jurors were unaware that four other men, charged following the same police investigation, had already pleaded guilty and had been sentenced.

Clearly the jury was convinced, beyond reasonable doubt, that the five men acted in the preparation of a terrorist act. Certainly the evidence, albeit circumstantial, was overwhelming. There were numerous intercepted conversations and telephone buggings and some of the men had collected large quantities of weapons and ammunition, along with chemicals that could be used in constructing explosive devices.

What was a "so-called terror trial" to an ABC presenter in Ultimo was the real thing to the men and women of the jury in Parramatta. In her initial report of the jury's decision on The World Today on Friday, Philippa McDonald, even after the guilty findings, was still referring to what had been "alleged" against the men. She editorialised the case was "hugely circumstantial" and maintained it "had to be said that, for a lot of the Crown case, the defence came back with something else".

There is considerable evidence that members of what is best termed the civil liberties lobby - including some journalists, lawyers and academics - do not want to accept that a few men in Western societies want to engage in violent jihad. The evident cynicism is not confined to Australia but extends to Britain and the United States, where acts of violence by militant Islamists have occurred.

Writing in The Australian in 2006, Phillip Adams identified with the cynics within the left and the Muslim world concerning the reported attempt to use liquid explosives to bring down seven airliners flying from Heathrow in Britain to the US and Canada. He went so far as to hint all this might have been a distraction to divert attention from the political difficulties of the then British Labour prime minister, Tony Blair. Antony Loewenstein, a high-profile critic of Israel, supported Adams in the Crikey newsletter. Loewenstein maintained the Heathrow incident might have been a political concoction.

Once again, a jury found otherwise. Last month, three British Muslims were convicted of planning a series of suicide/homicide attacks against trans-Atlantic airlines. The case was documented in the first-class BBC Panorama documentary Terror in the Skies, shown here on Four Corners last month. The program showed the "suicide" videos recorded by the terrorists before the intended attacks were thwarted by British police and intelligence services.

The evidence suggests the threat to Australia from local citizens and residents is less than in Britain or the US. Even so, it is real enough as several recent cases - before last week's verdict - attest.

- On September 25, Justice Megan Latham sentenced Bilal Khazal to a non-parole period of nine years. Khazal had been found guilty by a jury of the offence of making a document connected with assistance in a terrorist act. The judge found the prisoner had not demonstrated any remorse or contrition.

- On September 2, in the Victorian Supreme Court, Justice Bernard Bongiorno sentenced Shane Kent, who had pleaded guilty to being a member of a terrorist organisation and making a document connected with preparation for a terrorist act, to a non-parole period of three years and nine months. The judge noted that Kent, a convert to Islam, was not contrite for his actions. Moreover, he did not accept that Kent had abandoned the cause of violent jihad.

- On February 3, Bongiorno sentenced seven men who had been found guilty in Victoria of knowingly being members of a terrorist organisation. Some of this group were also convicted of other terrorism offences. In handing down his sentences, the judge commented about the unwillingness of the prisoners to renounce violent jihad.

- Justice Anthony Whealy made a similar finding when sentencing Faheem Lodhi, in the NSW Supreme Court in 2006, to a non-parole period of 15 years for a terrorism- related offence.

It is not as if those convicted of terrorism offences in Australia in recent years have come up against an unfair system - despite complaints reported in the media by some of their family members and supporters. In all the cases cited above, judges have gone out of their way to ensure a fair trial. And juries have exercised considerable caution, including reaching some "not guilty" findings. Also, Justices Bongiorno and Whealy expressed valid concerns about the extremely harsh conditions experienced by some prisoners.

The fact is that guilty verdicts have been reached, and relatively tough sentences handed out, on account of evidence which led to convictions beyond reasonable doubt. ASIO, the Australian Federal Police and state police forces tend to receive criticism. However, the convictions in the terrorism-related cases in both NSW and Victoria demonstrate that Australia's intelligence and police services have done a first-rate job in protecting the liberties of all of us.

The same can be said for our politicians. The present terrorism legislation is the product of agreement between the Coalition and Labor in Parliament. Most - if not all - of the convictions have been assisted by the much derided terrorism help-line set up by the Howard government. Among those providing evidence against terrorism have been Australian Muslims. Clearly, they are not convinced that terrorism deserves the "so-called" label.


Hugging banned at Primary School in South Australia

YEAR six and seven students have been banned from mixed-sex consensual hugging at a primary school in South Australia for fear it would set a "bad example" to younger students, AdelaideNow reports. Following complaints from parents at Largs Bay Primary School, the school has banned hugging and other displays of affection for "boyfriends or girlfriends" in the two senior grades.

"Hugging is not banned (between friends) at Largs Bay Primary School but we do discourage displays of affection in the schoolyard among students in years 6 and 7 who have a boyfriend or girlfriend at the school," principal Julie Gail said in a statement. ". . . we want our older students to set a strong example for younger students at the school."

The SA Education Department yesterday refused to endorse the policy and could not say whether it applied at any other school in the state.

Parents from two families not happy with the policy contacted The Advertiser and said the school should act only if the display of affection was inappropriate, rather than a blanket ban for all 11 and 12-year-olds. Neither would be named because of fears their children would suffer at school, saying students had been punished for hugging. They said the school's deputy principal and counsellor had told the students of the ban at a meeting of Year 6 and 7s this week, after an outbreak of hugging when friends were reunited following the recent school holidays.

The school's governing council has not discussed the ban at its meetings but one family which has a girl at the school, and another with two students, are not happy with the policy. They said it was far more strictly applied than the school suggests. "I don't want my child to go to a school in which displays of affection lead to punishment," one mother told The Advertiser. "My daughter has boys who are friends and she is being told she will be punished if she hugs them, I think that is setting a very bad example for younger and older children."

UniSA child protection expert Elspeth McInnes said the benefits or disadvantages of the policy would depend on how it was applied and policed. "Commonsense needs to prevail and if someone has just heard of terrible news and is being hugged you would not expect the school to overreact as opposed to what may be going on at the back of the class," she said.


Teen net addicts at risk of mental health problems

Where's his proof? Epidemiology deals in correlations. It proves nothing. This is just an exercise in speculation motivated by the usual academic contempt for ordinary people

OBSESSIVE use of the internet could create a mental-health epidemic, with up to 10 per cent of adolescents at risk, a Sydney academic warns.

World studies have documented dangerous levels of "internet addiction" – computer use that interferes with daily lives – says Lawrence Lam, a behavioural epidemiologist at the University of Sydney and the Children's Hospital at Westmead.

In Greece and the US, studies found 8 per cent of adolescents could be classified as computer addicts. In China, where Dr Lam helped conducted recent research, the level of addictive computer use was 14 per cent. "I would say in Australia we would be following the same trend," he said.

Dr Lam said researchers were yet to agree on whether to label the problem as an addiction or a mental-health problem but it was expected the condition could be added to the next edition of the key reference book for mental-health professionals, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

He said people who played online role-playing games such as World of Warcraft, were especially prone to the condition, which he defined as an “uncontrollable and damaging use of the internet”.

Dr Lam said boys were 50 per cent more likely to be affected than girls. He advised parents to watch for sharp changes in how often or how long children were online.


Welcome to Minnesota, NSW

Is there no end to the corruption and incompetence of the NSW Labour government? Sir Lunchalot has got nothing on these guys

The Rees Government's $2 million economic stimulus advertising campaign will be investigated following a series of embarrassing revelations from breaching advertising regulations to using images of a US city to represent Sydney in commercials.

In what the NSW Opposition has described as a blatant taxpayer-funded political ad, it has been revealed that the Premier's office also deliberately chose disgruntled Labor voters to use in focus groups to test whether the ads would work. It has also been revealed that the Premier's office donated $1000 to a local public school for permission to use children in the ad.

Equally embarrassing was an admission it sourced images of a city in the US state of Minnesota for use in the campaign to boast about the Government's infrastructure investment - in NSW.

The six-week Government advertising blitz was launched following the June Budget as a public information advertisement promoting a $62 billion infrastructure package to create 160,000 jobs. Mr Rees was later forced to admit the jobs were Australia wide, not in NSW alone.

The Government's own advertising guidelines restrict advertising to public notices, public awareness and recruitment notices. The ads must be clearly distinguishable from party political messages. The guidelines also stipulate that the ads must be factually correct and substantiated.

Documents obtained under Freedom of Information revealed the Premier's own chief of staff Graeme Wedderburn was responsible for the scripts used for the TV and print ads.

They also revealed the person vetting the scripts for the ad was the Commerce Department's director of advertising, Alun Probert, who wrote the rules on what the Government can and can't do.

In an email from the advertising agency to Mr Probert, concerns were raised about the political nature of the ad when choosing the focus group participants along the lines of how they vote. "Please note that . . . are very clear that this ad is a public announcement and should not have a political skew, however, it is easier and they feel that we will have more success when recruiting if we classify them as above," the email from George Patterson advertising executive Emma Boyle to Mr Probert on June 9 said.

Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell said it was a clear breach of political advertising regulations and has referred it to the NSW Auditor General to investigate. "This is the clearest evidence yet of Nathan Rees using taxpayers' funds to get Labor re-elected," he said.


Loss of staff puts Quentin Bryce in hot seat

It does seem that she has got her top jobs for being female rather than because of the content of her character

ONE-THIRD of the Governor-General's staff has left in the past 12 months, prompting fresh criticism of how Quentin Bryce operates, The Australian reports. The turnover of personnel at Government House in Canberra will reinforce the reputation Ms Bryce gained as Queensland governor for being difficult to please. Ms Bryce's official secretary, Stephen Brady, told a Senate estimates hearing yesterday there had been 10 "separations" from the Government House staff since May, on top of 20 departures from September last year.

This takes to 30 the number of departures out of a total of 90 staff at Yarralumla. Opposition spokesman on affairs of state Michael Ronaldson demanded to know why so many staff had left Government House. In a tetchy estimates hearing, he said it was clear from Mr Brady's refusal to provide details of conversations with Ms Bryce that staff had complained about working for her. "What were the nature and extent of complaints made by staff who were leaving?" Senator Ronaldson asked.

Mr Brady defended his boss, saying it was a privilege to work for Ms Bryce. He said life at Government House was demanding and required an ability to deal with change. "Some people deal with that, work well and enjoy it; others don't," Mr Brady said.

Government House later moved to scotch suggestion Ms Bryce was to blame for the departures. A spokeswoman for Ms Bryce said staff turnover during her first year was 5 per cent lower than in the last two years under her predecessor, Michael Jeffery. The spokeswoman said nine of those staff members had been on short-term contracts, three had retired, 13 had moved to other agencies, four moved interstate and one resigned for personal reasons. "Turnover rates for the office are generally higher than the public service average due to the contractual nature of employment, the number of secondments from other agencies and limited opportunities for career progression in a relatively small agency," she said. Some positions had not been filled because of budget and operating constraints.

Ms Bryce ruffled feathers at Yarralumla on her arrival 18 months ago by sacking former official secretary Malcolm Hazell, who had served both Michael Jeffery and his predecessor, Peter Hollingworth.

Her five years as Queensland governor were punctuated by claims of a walk-out by senior personnel, dismayed by how Ms Bryce treated the staff and by the demands she and her family placed on them. One former member of the Queensland household estimated yesterday that two-thirds of the senior staff had quit or been dismissed under Ms Bryce. The positions turned over included those of the governor's official secretary, the executive officer, the head chef, the head driver, estate manager and communications manager. "She is just a very difficult person to work for," one ex-employee at Government House in Brisbane said yesterday. "She plays favourites, and if she doesn't like you, you are history. She freezes you out."


Monday, October 19, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is very unimpressed by Comrade Rudd's open door policy towards illegal immigrants

Australia's proposed new Warmist laws will be costly but will not reduce power station emissions

The Greens and Nationals are both opposed to the scheme and new evidence supports their cause. In the odd way that is characteristic of political party names, the National Party represents rural and regional interests

ONE of the more genial aspects of the seemingly interminable debate over the emissions trading scheme is the way the Left and the Right bump up against each other in slightly comic fashion as the circle of debate closes. So, as it stands, you have both the Nationals' Barnaby Joyce and the Greens' Bob Brown vehemently opposed to Penny Wong's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. For completely different reasons, of course. Brown wants it to go further and greener. And Joyce wouldn't want the scheme even if he won it in a pub raffle.

But the intensity of their opposition is just the same politically. Wong will have to persuade them both if the CPRS is ever to become law. Unless, of course, Malcolm Turnbull miraculously convinces his entire party room to vote for an amended version of Wong and Kevin Rudd's proposed emissions trading scheme. Which he won't.

That would see Barnaby and Bob standing shoulder to shoulder against Rudd's ETS at any subsequent double dissolution election. But there's a way to go yet, including this week's supplementary Senate estimates hearings. The Department of the Environment, including Climate Change, is up Monday night and Tuesday. Treasury gets its go Thursday.

With that in mind, left-leaning think tank the Australia Institute has been doing its own research into the Treasury advice underpinning the ETS. In the context of the Left-Right ETS alignment discussed above, what the institute has found will please both Joyce and Brown, albeit for different reasons.

The institute plans to publish the results and analysis of its freedom of information requests to Treasury today as a research paper. According to the institute's executive director Richard Denniss, it should make Senate estimates a little more interesting, come Tuesday and Thursday. Part of what Denniss has uncovered concerns Treasury spreadsheets that underpin work appearing in the departmental publication entitled Australia's Low Pollution Future: the Economics of Climate Change Mitigation. The bottom-line charge is that while Wong has been relentlessly sounding the alarm about the dramatic action needed now to cut carbon pollution, Treasury modelling buttressing the CPRS shows it will in fact have little or no impact on one of the key offenders -- the coal-fired electricity generation industry -- in our lifetime.

Denniss takes up the story: "What she (Wong) doesn't tell us is that her CPRS, complex and impenetrable as it is, does not actually result in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from our coal-fired power stations."

Using graphs taken from Treasury spreadsheets of the CPRS modelling, Denniss argues that when the CPRS comes in there is a slight reduction in the amount of electricity generated from black coal between 2010 and 2020 and virtually no reduction in brown coal electricity -- the dirtiest form of electricity generation -- over the same period.

After 2020, says Denniss, emissions from black coal-fired power stations are actually forecast to rise slightly before stabilising until about 2033. Brown coal emissions are also stable between 2020 and 2033. It's only after 2033 -- that is, in 24 years -- that emissions from black and brown coal both begin to fall rapidly.

Not only that. The decline in electricity generation from black coal is actually driven solely by the introduction of the government's 20per cent renewable energy arget, an entirely different policy instrument from the CPRS. It is the projected increase in the supply of renewable electricity -- unrelated to the introduction of the CPRS -- that will slightly reduce the amount of electricity generated by black coal power stations. The bigger polluting brown coal power stations will be virtually unaffected.

In light of the Treasury modelling, Denniss says: "After the 20 per cent renewable energy target is achieved in 2020 there is no further reduction in the amount of electricity generated by black and brown coal-fired power stations. "This is because the CPRS has no effect on the competitiveness of coal-fired power stations."

"The projected carbon price of around $20-$25 per tonne is significantly less than the cost difference between renewable electricity and coal-fired electricity. While the introduction of a carbon price will reduce the profits of the coal-fired power stations, it will not reduce the amount of electricity they generate."

And the reason emissions from black and brown coal-fired power stations plummet in 2033 also has nothing to do with the CPRS. According to Denniss, Treasury has simply assumed that in 2033 we will invent clean coal and that, having invented it, it will turn out to be cheap. Further, it assumes that between 2033 and 2043 we can replace or retrofit every coal-fired power station in Australia. Despite the fact that it takes five years to plan and build a normal one, Treasury seems to think we can replace them all in 10 years.

Based on his analysis of Treasury figuring, Denniss wants three questions thrown at the Treasury and Climate Change bureaucrats this week: first, is the government aware that Treasury modelling shows that emissions from black and brown coal don't fall until 2033? Second, is the government aware that they only fall after 2033 because of the assumed invention of clean coal? And finally, can the government describe the "transformation" of the coal-fired power industry that results from theCPRS?

All good questions. And all ones that Joyce and Brown would like asked. For different reasons, of course.


More illegal immigrant boats bound for Australia

URGENT talks were under way last night between Canberra and Jakarta over responsibility for a suspected Australia-bound asylum-seeker vessel carrying 79 passengers that had issued a distress message off the Indonesian island of Sumatra. HMAS Armidale was sent to help and was last night alongside the boat -- one of three new vessels found heading for Australia -- said a spokesman for Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor.

Last night, the question of which nation was responsible for the boat and its occupants had not been settled. Under maritime law, if the vessel was in international waters, responsibility would fall to Australia.

The boat, whose identity was not given, radioed a distress call giving its position as 548km "north-northwest" off the Australian territory of Christmas Island and 222km off Java. The distress signal was picked up by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which sent the Armidale to intercept the boat. Asked which country was going to take responsibility for the boat and those aboard, a senior government official told The Australian last night: "They're still trying to work that out." None of the passengers were in danger and the vessel was regarded as seaworthy, a spokesman for Border Protection Command said last night. A photograph of the boat released last night appeared to indicate the vessel was of Indonesian origin.

Mr O'Connor last night said another boat, thought to have 39 passengers and three crew aboard, was intercepted yesterday near Ashmore Island, off Australia's north coast, after being spotted by an RAAF aircraft.

Meanwhile a third refugee-crammed vessel was yesterday reported to be in distress 200 to 300 nautical miles from Malaysia. The Malaysian navy has taken charge of that vessel but few details have been released on its whereabouts. Unconfirmed reports say the total number of asylum-seekers on all three boats is more than 310.

It is understood the asylum-seeker boat near Malaysia is off the west coast, but few other details were given. Its last stated position could put its location either off Bangka Island on the approaches to the Sunda Strait, or west of Aceh in the Indian Ocean.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard told the Nine Network yesterday the location of the boats off Indonesia and Malaysia put them within the areas of those countries' responsibility. "They are in the Indonesian search and rescue zone and in the Malaysian search and rescue zone, so our (Australian) role is to assist if our assistance is asked for or required by the Indonesian or Malaysian authorities, but they (Indonesia and Malaysia) are the ones in control of the efforts there," Ms Gillard said.

The latest boat sightings come as Kevin Rudd seeks a new strategic compact with Indonesia to halt the flow of asylum-seekers. As reported in The Weekend Australian, the Prime Minister heads to Jakarta tomorrow for talks with his Indonesian counterpart, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, on greater Australian support for Jakarta's long-term resettlement of asylum-seekers. The Rudd plan envisages Canberra funding the cost of Indonesian naval arrests of asylum-seekers, and cash to fund additional detention centres to be administered by the UN-backed International Organisation for Migration. Australia would boost training and intelligence sharing with Jakarta, including military and police co-operation.

The visit comes after an appeal by Mr Rudd for Indonesia to intercept a boatload of 250 Sri Lankan asylum-seekers believed to be bound for Australia. Moored at the Javanese port of Merak yesterday, the asylum-seekers abandoned their 52-hour hunger strike.

The Australian Greens say they want Mr Rudd to urge Indonesia to sign the UN Convention for Refugees, to ensure asylum-seekers who end up there receive fair treatment. Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said Australia needed to work with its regional neighbours such as Indonesia and Malaysia to ensure fair treatment for asylum-seekers.


Leftist corruptocrat comes unglued

THE state's biggest housing project has collapsed after the Planning Minister, Kristina Keneally, admitted she acted unlawfully in approving the 7200-home Hunter Valley proposal. On the eve of a court challenge by residents opposing the Huntlee New Town project near Branxton, Ms Keneally and the developer of the $1.8 billion complex have conceded the minister's approval of the concept plan and a rezoning application breached planning laws.

Her concession sounds the death knell for a project the planning department had ranked last of 91 potential housing development sites in the Lower Hunter, and which was approved only after the Labor Party donor behind it hired the lobbyist and former Labor minister Graham Richardson.

On Thursday the department wrote to lawyers acting for the Sweetwater Action Group, which represents opponents of the project, conceding ''the minister took into account irrelevant considerations'' when approving Huntlee, that ''there was a reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of the minister'' when granting approval and that the approvals "should be quashed". The letter, obtained by the Herald, was sent four days before a court case due to begin today and says the department and the developer, Huntlee Holdings, will agree to the court making orders to stop the building of homes for 20,000 people.

Revelations that the Government acted unlawfully comes on the day the upper house inquiry into planning will resume. Huntlee was conceived and backed by one of the biggest donors to the NSW Labor Party, Duncan Hardie's Hardie Holdings, a part owner of the project.

Ms Keneally's admission appears certain to unravel a host of agreements for other new estates in the Lower Hunter, which the Government wants to take an extra 160,000 people by 2031. Others under threat include developments with Hardie Holdings for Sanctuary Villages, near Cessnock, and with Coal & Allied for Catherine Hill Bay and Gwandalan, and nearby sites at Minmi, Link Road, North and South Stockrington and Black Hill.

Once the court approves the orders, the Huntlee land will revert to rural zoning. Approval for a new development would require the Government again to declare it a state significant site.

In rezoning the land in January and approving the concept plan a month later, Ms Keneally breached the law because her predecessor, Frank Sartor, had signed a separate land-swap memorandum of understanding under which Huntlee would give almost 5900 hectares of its conservation land to the state as part of the project approval. In August, the Land and Environment Court's Justice David Lloyd, said such land-swap deals were ''land bribes'' when he overturned planning approval for another big Labor donor, Rose Group, to build 600 houses at Catherine Hill Bay. Justice Lloyd said that deal, under which Rose Group gave the Government conservation land, meant the minister might have appeared biased when approving the project.

Electoral Funding Authority records show that in the four years to the election last year, companies associated with Duncan Hardie donated $174,600 to NSW Labor and Rose Group, gave $143,500.


Human rights platitudes

Janet Albrechtsen

THE Left has a gift for using clever language to push its causes. The trick is to start with a literal truth, a platitude so steeped in emotion it tugs on the heartstrings of human nature, something that just about every sane person will agree on. But what makes the use of a literal truth so seductive is the way it is used to hide a substantive untruth. A bit of intellectual rigour lifts the cloak on these dishonest word games. Just a few quick examples before we move to something far more serious.

Last Thursday evening I was a panellist on ABC1’s Q&A program. On the left side sat Todd Sampson, a successful advertising executive who appears on The Gruen Transfer, also on the ABC. Like any good advertising executive, Sampson, who is also the co-creator of Earth Hour, knows how to use an emotional platitude to get a response.

When the emissions trading system came up for discussion, he said that “we care” about the environment so “we want to lead” the way in Copenhagen. He gave politicians a serve. People wanted them to “do something”, he said. The audience cheered. These are the kind of sentimental platitudes more at home with a wide-eyed teenage girl who has just finished reading The Catcher in the Rye.

Look at how Sampson cleverly uses a literal truth to convey a substantive untruth. The literal truth that “we care” about the environment is used like a bait. If you accept that bait, then maybe you will swallow the rest of what he says, hook, line and sinker. It is true that people care about the environment. The substantive untruth is that Australia should be out in front, leading the world on climate change with ambitious targets to reduce emissions.

Sampson’s substantive untruth is clear enough. Just ask a coalminer in the NSW Hunter Valley who may lose his job to a scheme that will make no difference to global warming whether he thinks Australia should lead the way on climate change.

The same kind of emotional, but intellectually vacuous, belief explains Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel committee said the new US President gives us “hope for a better future”. We can all agree on the literal truth of the importance of hope. Hope tugs at our heart. But there is no substance behind that cliche: nothing yet achieved by Obama, nothing but teenage-like infatuation with everything Obama represents, as opposed to the cold reality of his incomplete record.

Now for something more serious. When Frank Brennan released his report recommending a federal human rights act for Australia last week, supporters of an HRA used more of their literal-truth word games to hide substantive untruths.

The emotional bait this time, and an incontrovertible truth, is that we all care about protecting human rights. Then they slide seamlessly from a truth to a falsehood by claiming that Australians support the introduction of a federal HRA.

George Williams, a long-time advocate of an HRA, said of the response to the Brennan report: “Australians spoke not only in overwhelming numbers but with a clear voice, with 87 per cent supporting a human rights act.” Brennan said much the same thing on this page last Friday. Catherine Branson, from the Australian Human Rights Commission, said: “The Australian people want it; the Australian government should now accept that and act on it.”

These statements are untrue or, at the very least, completely untested. There is no evidence that Australians support an HRA in overwhelming numbers. Even the numbers that Brennan and his cheer squad rely on are deceptive. The figures are set out in the final appendix to the Brennan report: of 35,014 submissions, 27,112 were what Brennan calls “campaign submissions” (more than 25,000 came from GetUp! and Amnesty International supporting an HRA). That leaves 7900 other individual submissions and 4200 submissions opposed to an HRA.

In other words, put aside the orchestrated campaign activists and more than half of submissions were opposed to an HRA. If there were overwhelming support from Australians for an HRA, supporters would happily put their proposal to the Australian people. Yet they are opposed to hearing from that democratic voice.

In justifying their refusal to hear from the Australian people, supporters resort to yet another literal truth to convey yet another substantive untruth. Brennan says the HRA is “just an ordinary piece of legislation”. Ordinary laws don’t require a referendum. It would be un-Australian, he says. Strictly speaking, an HRA is a normal piece of legislation. But the con is clear enough. The entire rationale of an HRA is to operate as a super-statute, dictating how every piece of existing and future law will be interpreted. No other law does this in the way an HRA will. British judges in the House of Lords have described their Human Rights Act - on which Brennan’s model is based - as an extraordinary law in its reach and what it asks of judges.

So don’t succumb to the seductive word game that Brennan has suggested a modest reform that will merely encourage a dialogue between the courts and parliament. We all like dialogue. It sounds so damn reasonable no one could object. But, again, this is a blatant falsehood. When you grant courts the power to declare a piece of legislation incompatible with a list of ambiguous rights, the courts are given the power to define the ambit of social and political issues that ought to be decided by the people.

Just ask former prime minister Tony Blair, who introduced the British act. It did not take long for Blair to ‘fess up that the act had led to a battle between the courts and parliament. Once again, the numbers reveal the substantive untruth behind the claims of those advocating an HRA in Australia. As of January this year, since the British act came into effect on October2, 2000, 26 declarations of incompatibility have been made by British courts. While some were overturned on appeal, the British government has never had the political courage to reject those that remained. Those pushing for an HRA know that.

In February this year, Brennan conceded that the Victorian Charter of Rights - another model for his proposed human rights act - was “a device for the delivery of a soft-Left sectarian agenda”. Emotional calls for a simple dialogue are a deliberate ruse to hide that pursuit: the fundamental transfer of power to unelected judges. The real view of those campaigning for an HRA is to hell with old-fashioned democracy. You will never hear them utter that literal and substantive truth. But if they think this debate will continue without others applying a bit of intellectual rigour to their seductive and deceptive arguments, they are mistaken. For starters, watch this space.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Entrenched corruption in the Victoria police

A CABAL of experienced Victoria police see themselves as "guardians" of a counter-culture that promotes self-interest ahead of ethical service and encourages rule-breaking among younger officers as a necessary part of the job.

Victoria's police watchdog, the Office of Police Integrity, yesterday handed down its annual report, exposing the practice of some officers "green-lighting" unethical conduct. It also raised the alarm over the leaking of sensitive information from corrupt police to criminals.

The OPI report was one of three reports tabled in parliament that raised questions about police systems and performance during the 2008-09 financial year. They included Victoria Police's own annual report, which showed a 9 per cent rise in the number of homicides and a 7 per cent rise in the number of assaults.

OPI director Michael Strong said his organisation had provided information to Victoria Police about individual officers identified as leaders of the counter-culture. "Like the police involved in criminal associations, they cling to the myth that breaking the rules goes with the job," he said in the damning report. "Most of them appear to have little or no understanding of the ethics in policing and, despite working in operational policing areas, little knowledge of police policies and procedures. They provide negative role models for younger, less-experienced police and, in some cases, actively encourage more junior members to cut corners or break rules."

The reporting period covers the final months of Christine Nixon's term as chief commissioner and the start of Simon Overland's tenure.

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius vowed to use "every resource available" to rid the force of corrupt officers.


Thuggish attitudes and behaviour among the Queensland police start at the top

If there's one thing police officers are good at, aside from crime fighting, it's putting on a tough exterior. With a job description that includes dealing with hardened criminals, drunks and nuisances, there's an understandable emphasis on remaining authoritative, tough and unbreakable. It's one of the reasons that many cops don't associate much with people who don't wear the uniform. "No one else can really understand what it's like, what you go through," one experienced officer, who asked not to be named, said.

This collective mentality and feeling of camaraderie is generally a good thing - most officers will tell you the best therapy they get comes from chatting to their workmates. So when you find yourself on the outer, in conflict with the upper echelons of the police service, it can be hard to cope. "When the police department turns on you like that it's sort of like being rejected by a parent," one officer said. "You get institutionalised to that extent and when the institution turns against you it really is like your mother or father has abandoned you."

Which may help explain what was going through Senior Sergeant Mick Isles' head when he disappeared on September 23. The highly respected officer in charge of Ayr police station, in north Queensland, had been off work for 13 months on stress leave as first the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) and then police ethical standards command investigated allegations of wrongdoing. He returned to work on September 21, fully exonerated but still feeling humiliated by the lengthy investigation that was well known around town and the police service.

"We were all stressed, but then we were never the ones who were publicly humiliated, so we cannot understand what was going through his mind," his son Steven said. "This destroyed him."

Exactly what happened to Sen Sgt Isles is unknown. An extensive search south of Ayr located his vehicle but no sign of the 58-year-old. Theories about his fate are plentiful. Many believe he committed suicide, while some have raised the prospect of foul play. Most who knew him, however, believe he is still alive and in hiding somewhere.

In his father's absence Steven Isles has begun a crusade of sorts against what he calls a culture of victimisation within the Queensland Police Service (QPS) and the CMC. Steven Isles has been inundated with support from dozens of serving and former officers from Cairns to South-East Queensland. Many agreed to be interviewed for the purposes of this article, though declined to be named for fear of recrimination. All were scathing in their criticisms of the treatment of Sen Sgt Isles, beginning with his very public arrest at a charity event last August.

"If it was me running (the investigation) I would have phoned him and said: `Mick, we've got a problem, meet us at the station'," one senior officer said. "It's not like he's not going to turn up, they know where to find him, it's just not reasonable."

Others spoke out against the delay in finalising the investigation, but say the case is not uncommon. "They are notoriously slow, they have no consideration for what it puts the copper and their family through," one officer said. "The CMC can drag it on for as long as they like, it's absurd."

However, the CMC and Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson have claimed the investigation would have been completed much earlier had Sen Sgt Isles agreed to speak to investigators. Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said lawyers had advised Sen Sgt Isles to speak to the CMC. "When our members are under investigation we get the best lawyers in Queensland and members need to follow their advice," he said. "I believe if that advice was followed, the conclusion would have been a lot quicker."

Steven Isles says his father was willing to speak with the CMC but wanted correspondence with the anti-corruption watchdog in writing first.

Other officers raised concerns of bullying within the police service. One station boss, who says he fell out of favour with upper management over disputes about funding and officer safety, says he was repeatedly subject to intimidation tactics. He said one inspector would make unannounced visits to his station, some two hours away from the regional headquarters, simply to inspect his haircut. "It was so blatantly obvious that they didn't like you and they came after you," he said. "If they get in their mind that you are questioning them they will chip away at you until it drives you over the edge and that's obviously what's happened to Mick."

For his part, Steven Isles said his father had been warned six weeks before the investigation was launched that a commissioned officer was "gunning for his head". However, those who worked with him say they can't imagine how Sen Sgt Isles would have got himself on the wrong side of upper management. "He wasn't one to ruffle feathers, I can't see him annoying anybody," Steven Isles said.

Mr Atkinson this week denied there was a culture of intimidation within the QPS. "I reject that, I really do," he said. "We're not perfect as an organisation ... but I think the last two decades have seen an incredible change in the department, and I would hope the next 10 years sees further change."

Whatever the case, the many questions surrounding Sen Sgt Isles' disappearance will now be investigated by the state coroner. In the meantime, Steven Isles is going to make sure his father's case won't be forgotten. "We are here to fight this culture, we want to make sure that no employee is treated like this again."


Kevin Rudd criticized for spanking his chldren

CHILD experts are sending Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to the naughty corner over his admission he whacked his children when they were young. Leading psychologists and child advocates say Mr Rudd sent the wrong message to Australian parents when he said that it was okay to give children a smack.

Weighing in to the debate, Mr Rudd said: "And the rule that's been applied in our family ever since they were tots is that if they're doing something dangerous they'll get a, you know, whack across the knuckles." "The key thing is a gentle tap on the wrists which is usually, if you know anything about two and three-year-olds, the cause of the quivering bottom lip and the general collapse into tears."

His comments come after the smacking debate was ignited last week when Melbourne mother Claire Davidson was dobbed in to police for disciplining her nine-year-old daughter with a wooden spoon.

The Association of Children's Welfare Agencies chief executive Andrew McCallum told The Sunday Mail hitting children was never acceptable and Mr Rudd's comments did not set a good example. "In this day and age we know any form of violence against children is unacceptable and unproductive," he said.

Leading child psychologist John Irvine said he was yet to meet a parent who got positive results from smacking a child. "The Prime Minister is trying to show he is human but he is also saying to parents who have smacked that they are not nasty people," he said. "But for the ones who do tend to hit, it is a little bit of a licence for them and it wouldn't do those who are hitting their kids any good."


Aussie Mac: Canberra buys mortgage-backed paper to 'promote' competition

Derisive comment below from the Wall St. Journal

America's mortgage meltdown has given a bad name to government intervention in housing finance, but not Down Under. Australia's Treasurer Wayne Swan announced with no apparent irony this week that Canberra will expand a fledgling program to buy mortgage-backed securities in the name of promoting "competition." Call it an Aussie Mac in the making.

Mr. Swan says government investment in residential mortgage-backed securities, or RMBS, is essential because small banks and nonbank lenders that relied on capital markets to fund themselves couldn't do so in the wake of the financial crisis, and bigger banks ate their business. Last September he ordered Australia's debt management agency to buy $4 billion Australian dollars ($3.7 billion in today's dollars) of "AAA-rated" RMBS. At the time, he called it a "temporary initiative" to promote "strong and effective competition in Australia's mortgage markets." Canberra soon added another A$4 billion to the pot, and guaranteed big banks' wholesale funding too.

But borrowers would have naturally migrated to the big four domestic banks anyway. Unlike their U.S. peers, they by and large didn't have big portfolios of subprime debt and boasted piles of deposits from which to back mortgage financing. Nonbank lenders had no deposit bases and had expanded rapidly in the era of ultra-cheap credit. In July 2008, while Fannie and Freddie were imploding, Australia's central bank observed that while risky borrowers had a harder time getting mortgages, high-quality borrowers had little problem. "The Reserve Bank does not see a case for government intervention in the mortgage market to address what is a cyclical issue due to the tighter conditions in financial markets, rather than a structural change," the bank added.

Canberra intervened anyway—and then proceeded to blow through almost the entire A$8 billion program in a single year. Sunday, Mr. Swan announced a "temporary extension" of the program, to the tune of another A$8 billion. This time, rather than generically support "smaller mortgage lenders," the Treasurer wants to back "prime residential mortgages used by small business owners to fund their business." The first slug of money helped exactly 13 institutions. Time for Canberra to pick more winners.

This is pure politics, given that the government's securities purchases are far too small to bring the RMBS market back to its former glory. Every deal done so far has relied on the government backstop. Nor will these small deals be big enough to push down interest rates paid by borrowers; the central bank has far more influence there. But it sure makes for smart politics, given that the Labor Party wants to co-opt small- and medium-sized businesses into their camp, and away from the opposition Liberal Party.

Nowhere in this discussion is risk that this venture poses to the taxpayer. Fannie Mae also boasted about its exposure to "AAA-rated" securities. Most investors know the denouement of that story. Canberra may be taking smaller risks because the country's subprime market is smaller. But it's still a risk that wasn't there before, and needn't be there now.

Australian consumers enjoy a wide variety of mortgage products, and thanks to prudential regulation, little prospect of a U.S.-style debacle—yet. Washington meddled in private-market mortgages and brought the world the financial crisis. It would be a shame if Australia didn't learn from that experience.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Australia weighed down by ballooning bureaucracy

"BUDGET-breaking" blowouts in public service numbers are destroying the financial position of the states and threaten economic recovery, new research has found. State governments have significantly increased their workforces since the economic reforms of the 1990s, according to a report published by the Institute of Public Affairs. The total number of workers employed by the six states jumped by 28 per cent between 2000 and 2008. Victoria led the way with a 37 per cent increase in the total number of public servants. NSW, South Australia and Tasmania each recorded growth of about 25 per cent or more.

But frontline services such as health, education and policing have not benefited from the boost in numbers. Instead, the greatest growth in state public service staffing has been in administration. The paper finds no clear evidence that the bigger bureaucracies have led to better service delivery.

And public service earnings have grown strongly, with average pay increases outstripping those of private sector workers. The research warns of an "unsustainable trend" that has seen state general government sector employee expenses rise from $43.3 billion in 2000-01 to $77.1bn in 2007-08, an increase of almost 9 per cent a year in the period.

"Continuing growth in state government bills for bureaucrats and public servants has significant national economic implications," report author Julie Novak said. "Unless states take additional actions to reduce the cost burden of their employees, the extra financial burden will stunt our national economic recovery. "It is estimated that taxpayers will need to pay an additional $15.6bn to cover state government employee expenses above wage policy benchmarks over the next four years. "The aggregate amount of payroll tax revenue collected by state governments last financial year was about $16.5bn. In effect, the states will be approaching taxpayers seeking another payroll tax to subsidise extra public servants and their salary costs."

Ms Novak said state taxes were some of the most inefficient in Australia. "More taxes means less private investment and job creation," she said. She warned of a risk that rising state wage costs would spill over into the private sector under a re-regulated industrial relations system, stoking inflationary pressures and putting pressure on interest rates.

The report's findings were endorsed by Scott Prasser, professor of public policy at the Australian Catholic University and a former senior state bureaucrat. "The states have been big spenders and overspenders for a long time," he said. Professor Prasser said large amounts of the increases in state spending had been consumed by operating expenses. "The states are consuming vast amounts of money in bureaucracy, not delivering frontline services," he said.

NSW Opposition Treasury spokesman Mike Baird agreed that, long-term, staff spending by the states was unsustainable. "Expenses are growing much faster than revenue," he warned. "I'm very happy to support growth in frontline services, but what we continually get from the NSW state government is a complete lack of transparency about what is actually going into the frontline and what is slipping to the back."


Squandering the crisis

Comment from distinguished Australian economist, Henry Ergas

A CRISIS is a terrible thing to waste. But it is easy to do. Here is how, in three simple steps. Step one, before the crisis strikes, hit roadblocks to continued growth. Step two, as the crisis strikes, promise to protect every important constituency from its ill effects, throw billions of dollars to do so and leave all the roadblocks you had so presciently identified unaddressed. Step three, as the crisis abates, claim the credit, bask in the warm glow and prepare to return to step one. Sound familiar? It should, and not only in Australia. In fact, on any objective assessment, the advanced economies' long-term growth potential has gone backwards over the past two years.

What will the US get for the many hundreds of billions of dollars it has committed? A collection of terminally ill auto companies on taxpayer-funded life support, a social security system mired in claims it can never meet, and a fiscal position worthy of a failed African state.

Nor are matters any better across the Atlantic. Gordon Brown, who combines the skill of Nathan Rees with the pretentiousness of a Rudd essay, has been fully occupied staking his claim to have saved the world. Angela Merkel speaks like a conservative and governs like a social democrat: too bad Germany needs the opposite. As for Nicolas Sarkozy, the reforms he promised have turned to dust, leaving the distortions that plague French labour and product markets, and the rents they create for favoured constituencies, happily undisturbed. And Italy, already suffering from two decades of economic stagnation, is in the clutches of Silvio Berlusconi, of whom the less said, the better.

Why has this happened? Blaming the politics would be too easy. Leadership was, after all, hardly less challenging in the wake of the oil shocks, as "Sonny Jim" Callaghan, Jimmy Carter, Valery Giscard d'Estaing and Malcolm Fraser all discovered the hard way. These were smart men. But those who replaced them knew one big thing, famously captured by Maggie Thatcher in the acronym TINA: there is no alternative. Restoring sustained growth demanded a genuine commitment to market-oriented reform.

That reform, implemented in the midst of high unemployment, persistent inflation and deteriorating budgetary positions, was spearheaded by an outstanding collection of finance ministers. Of those, only one, Nigel Lawson, was in a centre-right government; the others - Miguel Boyer (Spain), Kjell-Olof Feldt (Sweden), Jacques Delors (France), Roger Douglas (New Zealand) and our own Paul Keating - were all of the centre-left. But formed in the intellectual ferment of the 1960s, theirs was a politics of conviction, not of ticking the boxes. And they were surrounded by officials and advisers, also products of the rebellious 60s, who seized the opportunity to break with the past.

Those days are over. Restored to its former glory, the Keynesian orthodoxy, no less confused than before, is a packet of aspirins always at one's elbow, permitting every temptation to be indulged. As for the officials, they understandably prefer to be players rather than moralists, even if that means defending the indefensible.

The lead character in Woody Allen's latest film, Whatever Works, captures the spirit of the age: what counts is what works. And work it does. Few voters complain when they get cheques in the mail. As for stimulating economic activity, it would be difficult to spend as much as governments have been spending without having some effect on the economy.

The question, however, must be whether any desired stimulus has been provided not only effectively but also efficiently: that is, in a way that avoids imposing unnecessary burdens on future taxpayers. That is a question governments studiously avoid. As a senior official from our Department of Finance said a few days ago to a Senate committee, the problem with cost-benefit analysis is that "there's a huge amount of work involved". That it is easier and more pleasurable to spend other people's money than to assess whether it is being spent wisely is not a proposition one can argue with.

Taxpayers, on the other hand, might well think that was exactly what departments of finance and treasury exist to do. But ministers clearly have other priorities.

However, it is not only the billions that have been wasted: it is the opportunity to tackle the accumulated impediments to sustained growth. Our case speaks for itself. The export ports on the Eastern seaboard remain a paralysed mess. Grain transport is inefficient to the point of collapse. The telecommunications network is being renationalised. The underlying problems in health care remain to be addressed. Education reform has descended into the farce of computers in schools and subsidies for building new classrooms. The labour market has been re-regulated, in ways that seem certain to reduce its flexibility. Urban development restrictions, that feed inflationary pressures in housing markets, remain entrenched. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, hardly the best idea to begin with, has become ever less efficient as exemptions, exceptions and side-payments proliferate.

And as for COAG, which was held out as the key to a new wave of reform, it has coagulated, with the number of meetings becoming its main performance indicator.

Overall, vast sums of money have been thrown at problems, but the required changes in governance are as far off as ever. Dollar notes can paper over cracks, but it is only a matter of time before they reappear. This is not to suggest we are the worst of the pack: that is not the case. But the fact that our economy is rebounding should not blind us to the reality: none of the roadblocks to sustained growth that Labour quite rightly pointed to before the 2007 election have been seriously tackled, much less overcome.

Little wonder, then, that inflationary pressures have emerged even while the economy continues to show signs of weakness, with full time employment 57,000 down compared to 2007. The reappearance of bottlenecks and shortages seems around the corner. Despite this, the government sticks to its stimulus spending with angry obstinacy. Fully two-thirds of that spending lies ahead, much of it on infrastructure projects that have been poorly chosen and seem more likely to divert resources from productive uses than to expand our productive potential. In a recent paper, Alex Robson and I estimate that even on generous assumptions, the result will be welfare losses of between $10 billion and $48bn.

Those losses can still be avoided, and they should be. Whether the initial spending was sensible or not is water under the bridge. What government needs to do now is draw the line. For unless it can shift from being the tooth fairy, dispensing favours to every core constituency, to the hard work of serious reform, it is not only the crisis that we will have wasted but also the opportunity for sustained growth.


Illegal immigrant realities now detonating the delusions and deceptions of Australia's Leftist government

After a fatal explosion on a boat of asylum seekers under escort by the navy to Christmas Island in April, Western Australia's Liberal Premier, Colin Barnett, said those on board had doused the boat with petrol and deliberately set it alight.

The quivering self-righteousness of the then minister for home affairs, Bob Debus, was something to behold. "I am not going to allow this particular incident to be politicised as some incidents have been politicised in the past, often to our national shame," he told ABC TV. Immigration Minister Chris Evans likewise denounced Barnett's truth-telling as unwise, unhelpful and even "silly".

Canberra claimed that Australia's border protection had never been stronger. It was a neat example of how traducing people who point out inconvenient truths, rather than engaging them in reasonable debate, ends up blowing up in your face. Six months later, the smell of vindication is in the air.

It is boom time for people smugglers. The dismantling of the Howard government's border protection policies has led to a surge in boats, the likes of which we have not seen since 2001. At the weekend, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had to ask Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for help to turn back a boat carrying 260 asylum seekers for fear the detention centre on Christmas Island would be overwhelmed. The centre can house only 1200 people and already has about 1000.

Northern Territory police have meanwhile confirmed Barnett's story: SIEV 36, which exploded in April, was doused with petrol and set alight, killing five passengers and injuring scores more, including naval personnel. The police were unable to identify the "one or more persons" responsible, but that is different from Evans' inference that no crime was committed because police "found they had no basis to charge anyone".

No sooner had the police announced the results than the Government granted residency visas to all 42 Afghan men who survived the explosion. Barnett thinks they should have waited until after the coronial inquest expected to start in January. ''Further information has come forward that it appears they deliberately ignited that fuel," Barnett told Fairfax Radio. ''Now that's a criminal act … people died … it could be seen as murder."

It didn't take long in office for Rudd to start dismantling Howard's border protection policies, under the guise of being more humane. He has relaxed the so-called Pacific Solution of offshore processing, temporary protection visas and mandatory detention. Regardless of your views of these policies, it is increasingly hard to argue their relaxation has not caused the surge in boat arrivals.

As former immigration minister Philip Ruddock pointed out this week, those were all "difficult public policy issues … and that's the reason the Rudd Government has been unwinding them. [But] the reason we've lost control of our borders now is because … all of these measures have been unwound and the people smugglers are back in business".

It was all predicted. The Australian Federal Police warned senior Government ministers this year that relaxation of border protection policies was making Australia a magnet for people smugglers. As one Iraqi asylum seeker in Indonesia told the ABC in April, "Kevin Rudd - he's changed everything about refugee. If I go to Australia now, different, different … Maybe accepted but when John Howard president [sic] Australia, he said come back to Indonesia.''

So far this year 32 boats carrying more than 1700 asylum seekers and 66 crew have been intercepted on their way from Indonesia to Ashmore Reef, 610 kilometres north of Broome. More than one-third of the people have reportedly been given visas, and the boats are still coming.

Now Rudd is talking tough. ''The Australian Government makes no apology whatsoever for deploying the most hardline measures necessary to deal with the problems of illegal immigration into Australia," he thundered this week. ''No apology whatsoever.'' The fact he used the verboten term "illegal immigration" shows the pressure he is feeling.

A Lowy Institute poll this week shows why. It reveals 76 per cent of Australians are concerned about unauthorised asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat. By contrast, concern about climate change has plummeted, from 75 per cent of people classing it as a "very important" foreign policy goal in 2007 to 56 per cent this year. Even the ABC described this as a "disjuncture between government policy and public opinion".

This wasn't what Rudd promised before the election. But if the Government's policies are fair and reasonable and in the best interest of the country, then he shouldn't underestimate the willingness of Australians to go along with them. Hypocritical posturing, doing one thing while saying the opposite, is an insult to voters, underpinned by the favourite false assumption of the chattering classes that the majority of Australians are racist rednecks.

If Rudd really wanted to show compassion he would back the audacious plan of the Christian Democrat Fred Nile and go into the people smuggling business.

Hosting a meeting yesterday at NSW Parliament House for Christians from Egypt, Iran and Iraq, the upper house MP said he was worried about the plight of Christians in the Middle East, who were desperate to come here and make good migrants. In Iraq, says the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, there are only 400,000 Christians left, down from 1.4 million in 1987. Australia has a special responsibility for the Iraqi people, and from a self-interested viewpoint, Christians are likely to settle more easily into a Christian country than Muslims. "It's a desperate situation," said Nile. "They're being told 'convert or die'."

Seeing how free and easy the Government has become with boat people, Nile has hatched a plan to bring a boat of 2000 Christian asylum seekers from Indonesia to Australia. He wants donations and he dares the Government to stop him. So how about it?


Foul-mouthed surprise for mother in store

The "musicians" below:

A MOTHER outraged by clothing shop music peppered with the F-word could not find a single agency to deal with her complaint. Deb Sorensen was in a city Deborah K clothing store this month with her 14-year-old stepdaughter and her friend when "degrading and offensive" music was played. "We were subjected to a loud barrage of foul and highly disturbing lyrics, including the 'F' word," she said. "I could have simply walked out. However, my children were in the changing rooms and that was not immediately possible."

Store manager Hussein Kaiser dumped the music, which he said was chosen by young sales staff. But Ms Sorensen said there was nothing to stop others playing it. Victorian Consumer Affairs had referred her to ARIA (the Australian Recording Industry Association), which sent Ms Sorensen to AMRA (the Australian Music Retailers Association), which suggested the Australian Retail Association, which passed her on to the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission), which suggested ASIC (Australian Securities and Investments Commission).

Ms Sorensen also contacted her local MP and Melbourne City Council. While most were sympathetic, no one could help. A spokesman for the State Government later said offensive behaviour was covered by the Summary Offences Act, enforced by police and amenity laws administered by local government. But a city council spokeswoman said it was not responsible, leaving only the police.

Ms Sorensen said police could hardly be expected to patrol shops to ensure music was appropriate. "There is obviously a gap in legislation, and authorities seem confused about who is responsible," the mother of seven said. "Vulnerable children should not be exposed to sexually explicit, violent material, anywhere, at any time."

AMRA executive officer Ian Harvey, who said he'd also encountered foul in-store music, said while music faced classification when it was sold, what a store played seemed to be up to the store. "The trouble is no one envisaged this scenario of a store playing music of this type when laws and codes of practice were written and developed," he said.

Kids Free 2B Kids director Julie Gale said it was ridiculous to expect busy police officers to be responsible for the unacceptable situation. "What it shows is this is a big hole when it comes to looking after kids," she said.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Golliwogs in trouble again

Golliwogs were originally an American invention but were never popular there. They WERE from the beginning based on the appearance of Africans. For generations, however, they have been a popular soft toy for children in Britain and in Australia, where American race tensions were absent. The "global village" of TV, films and the internet has however brought American sensitivites to the rest of the word and a treasured feature of British and Australian childhood is under threat. I had a golliwog myself when I was a little kid. All is not lost, however, Anne (the lady in my life) recently found what she sees as a "pretty" golliwog (one dressed as a little girl) in a shop somewhere in Brisbane and has bought one as a gift for an expected baby. So that baby will grow up with fond memories of her golliwog too

They were popular toys for generations of children but now golliwogs have become casualties of the Hey, Hey It's Saturday blackface controversy - banished to the back of some shops to keep them out of the public eye. Melbourne toy store Dafel, which has sold dolls and bears for more than 70 years, relocated golliwogs from its window display to deeper inside the shop where the soft, cloth toys are less visible to passing shoppers.

Sources said the golliwogs were moved the morning after a singing troupe's controversial performance on the second Hey, Hey reunion show. The troupe's Red Faces send-up of Michael Jackson sparked international outrage when guest star Harry Connick Jr condemned their performance.

Some toy shop owners claimed that before the controversy golliwogs were enjoying a new popularity with children, the Herald Sun reports. "In multi-cultural Melbourne, our little customers should be allowed to walk in and select a doll of any colour or any race of their choice," said Diarne Revelle of Golliwog's Toy Store in Brighton. "Kids aren't racist and they don't relate to their dolls as being black or white, to them they are their little friends and that's it. "We are imposing adult sensibilities on childish desire and fancy. Kids aren't racists - golliwogs to them are bright, friendly toys, dolls, scallywags."

Golliwogs have gone in and out of flavour over the decades but are increasingly being seen in both specialist doll and toy shops. Various stories trace their origins, but the most widely accepted is that they were based on a hero in a book in the 1890s, featuring a little golliwog character who travelled far and wide with his friends, the Dutch Dolls.

"They are one of our top sellers when we stock them," said Alan Williams, owner of Boast Decor at Southgate. He said denying kids golliwog dolls because of "political sensibilities" would be a step backwards for mutli-culturalism. "Children should not be bothered by issues surrounding the colour of the toys they want to play with," Mr Williams said. "Allowing children to play with dolls differently coloured to themselves carries an equally powerful argument that it helps promote racial harmony."

Staff at Dafel, a specialist doll store in Melbourne's The Block Arcade, declined to comment. The Block Arcade's centre manager Don Parsons yesterday denied telling Dafel to change its front display.


Australians say it is OK to spank your kids

TOUGHEN up, kids of Australia: you live in a country where more than 90 per cent of people are happy to see you smacked, according to polling nationwide. The naughty corner is out and spanking is in for thousands of parents who overwhelmingly support a swift whack round the rear when children misbehave. The discipline debate raged today after a nine-year-old girl told her classmates in Year 3 at Yea Primary School her mum had hit her with a wooden spoon.

Mother Claire Davidson was then reported to police by a school support worker. "I was told it was assault with a weapon to hit her with a wooden spoon on the bum," Ms Davidson said. Ms Davidson said she grew up with a wooden spoon in the house and admitted she and her partner, Joe Oravec, used it – sparingly - on daughter Anna. "We only use the wooden spoon and that is only when she is being naughty and we give her fair chance to rectify the situation and we talk her through it," she said. "I give her three warnings and then it is spoon time."

Readers across the country backed Ms Davidson: 93 per cent of those who voted in a national online poll supported smacking, and backed up their votes with a torrent of comments. “ …parents should be allowed to give the do-gooders of this world a darned good thrashing for their meddling in parental relationships and misguidance of family matters outside their bureaucratic understanding,” wrote Stardust on

Reader Kat said “a quick smack on the bum never did any child harm”. “We grew up to respect our parents and knew how far we could go. You only have to look around at the shopping centres to see children who should be dealt with there and then but the parents don't dare - and the children know it. So we have unruly kids making life a misery for all until they grow up and move out to become full-time thugs.”

But others were appalled by the practice. “Why should an adult have the right to hit someone that is smaller than them? There are other ways to discipline children without laying a hand on them,” wrote Terri-Louise Fryar of Stockholm, Sweden.

Others blamed physical punishment for violent behaviour later in life. “I'm tipping most of the thugs who go 'round bashing others in Melbourne's CBD were also hit with objects as kids. School employees are mandated to report incidents such as this so Ms Davidson needs to get over herself,” wrote Riles.


Australian immigration policies 'a marketing tool for smugglers', says United Nations official

The "boat people" had been stopped stone dead by the policies of the previous conservative government so it can be done

The United Nations refugee agency says changes to Australia's immigration policies have given people smugglers a new marketing tool.

The agency's regional representative, Richard Towle, says there has been a large increase in boats heading to Australia. "I think the 32 boats to date is significantly more than last year, but I do think we need to keep this in a sense of balance and perspective - the statistics are not peculiar to Australia, we've seen very large numbers and very sharp increases across the world," he said.

"I think perceptions of policy can certainly play a role in people smuggling. They have a product that they need to market, and to show that Australia is a place where refugees can get fair and effective refugee protection is something that is understood. "But I think we need to be careful about apologising for that. If Australia is renowned as a country that does the right thing, that offers fair and effective protection for those who need it, and requires those who don't need it to leave the territory, then I don't think any apology is needed." [Except to the Australian people, who are overwhelmingly against illegal immigration!]

Mr Towle has confirmed Australia could be asked to offer asylum to more than 250 Sri Lankan men, women and children whose boat was intercepted by Indonesian authorities this week. The UNHCR says it is ready, if asked, to assist the Sri Lankans and help resettle them if they are deemed to be genuine refugees.

But Mr Towle stopped short of urging Australia to take the Sri Lankans. "As and when we find them to be refugees, if we get to that, then we'll approach our good resettlement country partners, including Australia, to see if they can help find solutions," he said.



Three current articles below

The beginning of the end?

The press are becoming less hysterical and more outspoken about challenges to "global warming". The video accessed below is from the Left-leaning Melbourne "Age" and while it's hardly ground breaking, it's not your typical doom and gloom story. Click HERE

Going fission: Is nuclear power the only way to meet Australia's future energy needs and cut carbon emissions?

Another surprisingly realistic article from "The Age" below. The "Age" is usually just a Leftist rag

THE 500 environmentalists who last month tried to shut down Hazelwood, Victoria's second-biggest power station, have inadvertently illuminated a distinctly Australian problem.

If asked, most Australians would profess to wanting to lower greenhouse gas emissions, now among the highest per person in the world. They would also want to retain living standards, supported by an economy that has slipped largely unscathed through the global financial crisis. And most would want this without resorting to a largely greenhouse-free energy source that has gained favour in many other advanced or growing economies: nuclear power.

The Rudd Government (and most of the states) walk a strange tightrope: they admit generating 80 per cent of the country's electricity with coal creates huge environmental problems but, unlike most other countries, have pinned hopes of future energy supply on unproven technologies to clean up coal, which, incidentally, is also our biggest export earner. The Federal Government's favourite option, carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS), has not worked on a large scale and, even if it proves feasible, might be decades away. Says Professor Mark Diesendorf of the University of NSW's Institute of Environmental Studies: ''If it works, and if it is not as expensive as some of the overseas estimates suggest, you are looking at somewhere between 2025 and 2030 before CCS could start really making a difference.''

Three years ago Victoria was applauding a planned clean-coal power station for the Latrobe Valley, which Energy Minister Peter Batchelor said would make it a world leader in clean-coal technology. But last month the project was converted into a ''dual gas'' station. Carbon capture was scrapped. At the earliest, the plant will begin to produce power in 2013. The company responsible, HRL Technologies, says carbon-capture technology will be retro-fitted ''when commercially viable''.

CSIRO scientist Dr Lincoln Paterson, who is researching carbon dioxide storage, says all the elements of the technology exist, but have yet to be tied into a power station. A demonstration project at Loy Yang B is capturing carbon from flue gases. And in a demonstration near Port Campbell last year, 60,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide was removed from one underground ''reservoir'' and piped into another two kilometres away. ''If cost was not a factor you could do it today … but the reality is you can't ignore cost. Cost is a critical element of the practicality,'' Paterson says.

Against this backdrop, Australia, a uranium exporter, has about 39 per cent of the world's most easily accessible uranium (but political restrictions mean it supplies 19 per cent of the world's demand). The Federal Government even admits that nuclear power helps reduce greenhouse emissions - but refuses to consider using it. ''Nuclear power globally is part of the climate change solution,'' says federal Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson. ''The Government accepts that and we are committed to the development of the uranium mining industry with all the associated safeguards. Australia, unlike a lot of those other nations, is energy rich, hence our focus on the immediate energy options. Here there is no requirement on us as a nation to go down the nuclear path. ''It is the view of the Australian community that we should pursue all energy options other than nuclear.''

While no proposal to explore nuclear energy has been prepared or is under consideration for cabinet, senior Government figures are speculating about what Australia's options might be if renewable energy technologies and carbon capture don't deliver sufficient cuts in emissions and adequate energy supply.

The Government expects Australia's population to almost double to 35 million by 2049. Even with efficiencies, that is going to mean a big increase in electricity demand.

Professor John Price, of Monash University's mechanical engineering department, says: ''We are reaching a point where there are no choices available to us. What are we going to do in 10 years' time? We are going to have electric cars. We are going to have desalination plants in every capital city. These are huge new demands that are not yet on our electricity system. ''Nuclear energy requires carbon dioxide production during mining and construction, but after that it's really zero.''

Proponents of nuclear power say it is the only way to provide baseload power for a growing economy and meet climate change targets. But in July three high-profile supporters gave up the cause. Hugh Morgan, Ron Walker and Robert de Crespigny applied to deregister their company, Australian Nuclear Energy, in recognition of the Government's hostility. It had been set up in the last years of the Howard government, as the prime minister appointed former Telstra chief Dr Ziggy Switkowski to head an inquiry, which came down in favour of a domestic nuclear power industry.

Morgan says he believes Australia has left itself vulnerable to a future energy supply disaster by placing its hopes in unproven carbon capture and renewables: ''If you need high-voltage electricity to maintain any significant industry in the country you need regular baseload power that they can rely on in 20 or 30 years. That is the umbilical cord to everyone else's industrial investments.''

He says 450 new nuclear plants are planned or under construction globally, which will double the existing number of plants. But he fears even if Australia wanted to start building, because of global demand it would be way behind in the queue.

There is one Labor identity who has spoken out in support of an Australian nuclear industry. National secretary of the Australian Workers' Union Paul Howes says most of the opposition to nuclear power is seemingly from older people influenced by the Cold War nuclear disarmament movement. ''People are worried about nuclear waste, but they are only now beginning to consider the environmental costs of coal,'' says Howes. ''There are new generation reactors being developed which will largely eliminate radioactive waste. They say nuclear is more expensive, but it becomes cheaper than coal when we add a carbon price as well as the costs of carbon capture.''

Indeed, energy production has social costs that the independent Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering tried to quantify this year that are not included in any wholesale price. These include effects on human health, climate and crops. ''Combining greenhouse and health damage costs for Australia gives representative total external costs of $19 a megawatt hour for natural gas, $42 a megawatt hour for black coal and $52 a megawatt hour for brown coal,'' the academy says. These ''external costs'' were found to be much lower for renewable and nuclear energy: from $1.50 for wind power, $5 for solar photovoltaic and up to $7 a megawatt hour for nuclear energy.

IT IS a sparkling, blue-skied day above the hills of Toora, near Wilsons Promontory. From a distance the green ridges seem to have been colonised by a troupe of baton twirlers, as the blades of the wind farm respond to a rising south-westerly. It is about 100 metres to the tops of the blades, prompting critics to lament the industrialisation of the landscape.

Still, wind is the most practical of renewable sources right now, clean and cheap. Victoria has approved wind farms up to 2000 megawatt capacity (one megawatt equals 1 million watts, roughly enough to power 400 homes a year), with another 2500 megawatts in prospect, but since it is an intermittent resource, wind delivers only a third of its nominated capacity.

If fully deployed, Victoria's water desalination plant will consume 92 megawatts. To compensate, AGL will build a wind farm of more than 300 megawatt capacity. With more than 150 turbines, Macarthur will dwarf Toora's 12 turbines, but wind energy is only ever a top-up to baseload power. In Europe, particularly Germany, Denmark and Spain, experience has made energy authorities reinforce wind energy with baseload coal or nuclear up to 90 per cent of their potential.

Martin Ferguson adds that solar photovoltaic energy - which converts sunlight directly to electricity - is not a renewable energy answer.

Solar thermal energy may hold more potential. A German company, Solar Millennium AG, has built several solar thermal plants in southern Spain that, by storing heat during the day, can run at full power for 7½ hours after sunset. ''Now that we have thermal storage it is no longer true that solar energy is not a baseload electricity source,'' says Diesendorf.

Solar Millennium is looking to Australia for expansion through the Federal Government's Solar Flagship program, but its existing plants are, at 50 megawatts, less than one-thirtieth the capacity of Hazelwood. The solar cause also suffered a huge setback last month when Australia's leading solar energy developer, Solar Systems, which was to build a 154-megawatt power station in Mildura, went into liquidation. The persistent doubt is that renewables may not economically deliver sufficient capacity to replace existing power stations.

Nuclear power, which does provide baseload power stations of similar capacity to coal, continues to be deeply opposed by many Australians. A poll conducted this year by the Uranium Information Centre found the 40 to 55 years age group most trenchantly opposed to nuclear power. This is the generation that grew up in the shadow of the Cold War; that experienced the anti-nuclear movement of the 1970s; that witnessed Chernobyl and the breakdown of the Three Mile Island reactor in Pennsylvania, overlaid with cultural influences including films such as the apocalyptic Dr Strangelove and the nuclear industry conspiracies The China Syndrome and Silkwood.

In the face of climate change, younger people are less resistant.

However, the climate change threat has not diminished opposition from veteran anti-nuclear campaigner La Trobe University professor Joseph Camilleri. ''I don't think we have anywhere near a fully fledged, widely accepted, long-term system of waste disposal. Until and unless that comes through … to be thinking of a substantial expansion of the industry is foolhardy,'' he says.

Equally pertinent, he says, is that while nuclear power, in theory, may help counter climate change, in practice it is problematic. The reality is the sizeable expansion of nuclear energy would take place in parts of Asia and Latin America, which may not meet the operational and waste-handling challenges. There would be serious questions about ''the technical, regulatory and other requirements, and whether on grounds of safety, waste disposal and proliferation they would be able to meet the standard that we currently accept in most parts of the industrialised West'', Camilleri says.

But so-called fourth-generation nuclear reactors, which yield much more power with less nuclear fuel, actually consume large amounts of their own dangerous waste. Some have already been successfully tested in pilot plants.

Neverthless, Mark Wakeham, director of Environment Victoria's anti-Hazelwood campaign, says political and practical obstacles such as the long construction time for nuclear plants, stand in the way. ''It takes decades and we don't have decades,'' Wakeham says. ''Every proposed nuclear power plant in the last two decades internationally has delivered over budget and has been significantly delayed. Our view is it's inherently problematic. It's a very large consumer of water so there's very few locations that you could actually site a nuclear power station in Victoria. Basically it would need to be near Port Phillip Bay or Western Port Bay, and if you reckon it's hard to get a wind farm constructed in Victoria at the moment, try building a nuclear power station.''

Monash University's Price, who has worked as an engineer in the UK nuclear power industry, says that the public perception in Australia is at odds with reality. ''[Nuclear energy] is a great deal cheaper than wind power and solar power, though is more expensive than brown coal,'' Price says. ''There have been very few large accidents. In fact, only Chernobyl stands out, and that is not a reactor system that would have been approved in the West. The other reactor systems have all had terrific records.''

Although the Federal Government remains resolutely anti-nuclear, it has an agency that is quite the reverse. The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) runs Australia's only nuclear plant at Lucas Heights in Sydney's outer south-west, the 20-megawatt OPAL reactor, a joint German-Argentinian design that opened last year. (Lucas Heights was founded in 1958 in the early stages of the Cold War by the Menzies government with a 10-megawatt reactor, which was mainly used for nuclear medicine.)

HEAD of ANSTO Ziggy Switkowski believes that in its opposition to nuclear power Australia is alone among developed countries committed to deep greenhouse reductions. ''Australia stands alone in claiming that we are different, that we have a whole range of alternatives that in combination will get us to our target. It is ambitious but the numbers just don't work,'' he says. ''[We must] provide for the next generation of baseload electricity generation with clean energy. The only way to do that is with nuclear power. There is no other alternative. ''If we accept we want to move to a carbon-free economy by 2050, while there will be contributions from solar, wind and geothermal, the largest driver of that transition globally will be nuclear power. I don't think the case can be made that Australia is different, because we are not.''

CSIRO's Lincoln Paterson says he is no advocate for the nuclear industry, but even accounting for the Chernobyl tragedy, nuclear is relatively low risk considering 6000 or so people die annually from coal mining in China. ''There is a risk with nuclear, but there's a pretty horrendous risk if we do nothing,'' Paterson says. ''I've flown in and out of Bangladesh and there are 160 million people within 10 metres of sea level, and you start wondering what's going to happen to them. ''Wind by itself can't do it. Carbon capture and storage by itself can't do it. Nuclear by itself can't do it. It's going to require all of those technologies to make a contribution, and that's going to depend on where you are in the world and what the particular attributes of your country are.''

It is, Camilleri says, one of the most serious challenges humanity has faced in the past several hundred years, calling for extraordinary political and technical responses. And we are not there yet.


Sun goes down on solar-powered Australian schools

I suppose we have to be thankful for small mercies but the amount of taxpayer funds already spent on Greenie tokenism that will achieve precisely nothing is a disgrace. Typical of uncaring Leftist waste of other people's money, though

THE Rudd government's $480 million "national solar schools" program was quietly suspended yesterday afternoon via a notice posted on the popular scheme's website. "The National Solar Schools Program has been suspended to any new claims in 2009-10. This suspension takes effect as of 3:00pm 15 October 2009," the notice said.

A spokesman for Environment Minister Peter Garrett, who did not formally announce the program's closure, said 1300 schools had been approved under the program last year and 500 had already been approved this financial year, with another 700 "still in the pipeline for assessment". Those 700 would be funded if eligible, and additional money made available if required. [Plenty of money for Greenie causes] But no more applications will now be considered until next financial year.

Announcing the program in July 2008, Mr Garrett said "the Rudd Labor government wants every Australian school -- primary, secondary, public and private -- to have the opportunity to become a 'solar school' and the commencement of this half-a-billion dollar program delivers on our election commitment." "... Industry too will benefit from the program from the $480 million federal funding injection, creating increased demand for large solar power systems for school roofs," Mr Garrett said at the time.

The suspension is the latest in a series of changes and cuts to government solar programs, including the introduction of a means test on the household solar panel rebate and the ending of the remote solar program.

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt said it was "amazing that this government can waste $16billion on unwanted school halls but suspend a key solar program that every school appears to want".

The program has already hit implementation hurdles with NSW's centralised tendering process meaning no school had installed panels more than a year after the program started, and many schools running into problems hooking their panels into the power grid.

Mr Garrett's spokesman said the Department of the Environment would contact every school registered under the program as well as those with applications on hand to advise of the suspension until next year. Under the program schools were eligible for up to $50,000 to install solar power systems, or energy efficiency spending on items such as lighting, fans or awnings. Rainwater tanks, small wind turbines, small hydro power generators and skylights were also eligible.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Anglicans know as much about investing as they do about the Bible

Very little. None of them seem to have read Romans chapter 1, for instance. Using gearing is a risky strategy justifiable only by greed, not the cautious strategy one would expect of a church. And so they got their just reward in the form of a huge loss. Although I have used gearing with real estate, I would never use gearing with shares. And as a result, the value of my share portfolio is now getting close to where it was before the crash. Rather amusing for me to get much better results than the Church's "good stock-pickers". My good Presbyterian caution has paid off. I was brought up to believe that gambling was of the Devil and gearing share purchases is pure gambling

UPDATE: I take back what I said about Romans 1. I was forgetting that this was the Sydney diocese -- the most fundamentalist diocese in the Anglican communion. They DO know their Bible

Anglicans may be frugal, but they are not good stock-pickers - especially in a downturn. The Glebe Administration Board posted a $160 million loss for the year to December 2008 after its highly geared share portfolio crashed amid the global sharemarket downturn.

The $160 million loss wiped out the surpluses the trust had made over the past four years, and dragged down its net assets from $265 million in December 2007, to just $105 million at the end of last year.

The loss was mostly due to the shrinking value of shares it owned in publicly listed companies, but was also blamed on the falling value of commercial and other properties and investments in listed property trusts, a sector that has also been buffeted by the downturn. The loss was made up of $143 million loss on the board's investments overall - including $123 million lost in shares and $33 million lost on "property related investments".

In 2007, the board's equity investments were something to boast about, producing $44 million for the board, and overall the board made $51 million on its investments. Its Australian share portfolio - once the pride of the board's canny investment picking - had grown to $296 million at the end of 2007. But it fell to just $78 million by the end of 2008 due both to the sale of stocks, and their falling value.

The fact that the board did not just invest its own funds, but borrowed to buy more shares, meant the falls were far steeper.

The board did not disclose which stocks it had invested in, however it avoids investing in gambling, alcohol or tobacco companies known as "sin stocks". The board blamed its high gearing levels for the massive loss.


Mother accused of assault after disciplining child with a wooden spoon

It sounds like the Melbourne police think they are in New Zealand. It is certainly a misallocation of police resources with all the street crime directed against Indian students and others

A mother was hauled before police and accused of assault after disciplining her nine-year-old daughter with a wooden spoon. Officers warned Claire Davidson she risked being charged with "assault with a weapon" after her daughter revealed during a classroom discussion on bullying that her mum smacked her.

A shocked Ms Davidson told the Herald Sun a support worker from Yea Primary School reported her to police. "I was told it was assault with a weapon to hit her with a wooden spoon on the bum," Ms Davidson said.

The case has sparked a major debate between parent groups and child welfare advocates over smacking. Ms Davidson said she grew up with a wooden spoon in the house and admitted she and her partner, Joe Oravec, used it - sparingly - on their Year 3 daughter, Anna. "We only use the wooden spoon and that is only when she is being naughty and we give her fair chance to rectify the situation and we talk her through it," she said. "I give her three warnings and then it is spoon time."

Ms Davidson, of Flowerdale, said officers at the sexual offences and child abuse unit at Seymour spoke to her daughter: "She (the officer) said if it did happen again, or was reported to her again, she would charge us with assault with a weapon." "We are allowed to threaten her with it. We are just not allowed to use it," she said.

A Victoria Police spokesman said smacking a child may constitute unlawful assault or lawful chastisement. Each case had to be judged on its merits, he said. "We are not going to take every single smacking case to court, but the full facts of every case have to be taken into account," he said.

Yea Primary School yesterday refused to comment on the case for privacy reasons but said the safety and wellbeing of students was paramount. "Our support staff are on hand to assist students in that regard," principal Deborah George said. An Education Department spokeswoman said staff were obliged to report any alleged abuse to authorities.

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Children, Maxine Morand, said the Government had no plans to ban smacking. "The minister is unaware of the specific details of this case so cannot comment on it," she said.

And the Australian Childhood Foundation's Joe Tucci said: "Children should never have to be hurt to be taught a lesson. "It is not effective in shaping children's behaviour."

Criminal lawyer James Dowsley added: "Just because you are mother or daughter doesn't make you exempt from the law. "There needs to be degrees and you would need to carefully examine each case. "It comes down to the severity of it. It does happen where parents are charged with assaulting their children."

Child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg said there were better ways to discipline a child. "I prefer parents not to do it, but I am not going to criminalise them for doing it," he said.


Welfare reform working

SINGLE parents have dropped off welfare in droves since the Howard government forced them to look for work once their children start school. The Centre for Independent Studies has calculated a 20 per cent drop in the number of parents depending on welfare "parenting payments" since the job-search requirement was imposed in 2006. "This is a dramatic result," says the What's Next for Welfare-to-Work? report, to be published today.

The Howard government angered welfare groups in 2006 when it began forcing unemployed parents to start searching for work once their youngest child started school. New applicants for parenting payment (PP) would lose the welfare benefit once their youngest child turned eight, if they were a single parent, or when the child turned six if they were partnered. Those already receiving a parenting payment had to start looking for paid part-time work of at least 15 hours a week once their youngest child turned seven.

The CIS study says the reforms were designed to push some parents onto unemployment benefits. "However, the reforms occurred at the same time as unemployment was dropping," it says. "This suggests that the positive result achieved was not simply due to PP recipients being shuffled from one payment to another but instead moving off welfare altogether."

The study cites Australian Bureau of Statistics data showing that the overall proportion of sole parents who are jobless fell from 56 per cent in 1996 to 47 per cent in 2006. The number receiving parenting payments has fallen from 593,089 in 2006 to 472,688 last July.

The report notes that many of the jobs being created are in female-dominated service industries. "These jobs are well suited to (parenting payment) recipients, most of whom are relatively young women, suggesting that part of the reason why the welfare to work reforms have been so successful in this area is because there are plenty of jobs available," it says.

The report says Australians are leaning less on welfare, with the proportion of households reliant on government income support falling from 28.5 per cent in 1994-95 to 23.2 per cent in 2007-08. In the mid-90s, one in every six households headed by people in the prime of their working life - aged from their mid-30s to mid-50s - relied primarily on welfare. Now only one in 30 of those households depends on welfare.

However, the number of Australians relying on the disability support pension (DSP) has grown nearly 5 per cent since 2006, to 746,629. "Many DSP recipients are older, unskilled people who have work experience in areas where jobs are limited," the report says. "If thousands of unskilled people are pushed off DSP, they will have nowhere to go. "It appears that there is not as much political will when it comes to reducing DSP numbers."

The report calls for the creation of more low-skilled jobs to lure people off welfare benefits. "Allowing the real minimum wage to fall will result in job-creation, and a complementary system of in-work benefits will ensure that the living standards of low-paid workers are maintained," it says. "A time of rising unemployment is a dangerous time to abandon welfare reform."


"Drought" in some parts of Australia -- such as Melbourne -- is more a failure of "Green" governments than a failure of nature

ENOUGH water to supply Melbourne's needs for a month has been lost because of the Brumby Government's failure to live up to its own water-wise campaign. As Victorians endure tough restrictions, more than 30 billion litres of water was lost into Port Phillip Bay because there wasn't pumping capacity on the Yarra River to save it, the Herald Sun reports.

Thirty billion litres of water would:

* WATER our city parks for 60 years.

* SUPPLY Melbourne's water needs for a month.

* IRRIGATE 24,000ha of farmland.

* FILL 12,000 Olympic-sized pools.

Angry ratepayers, farmers and the Opposition all slammed this failure.

About 30 billion litres flowed down the Yarra River and overflowed from O'Shannassy Reservoir before it could be pumped to Sugarloaf Reservoir because the pump is limited to 1 billion litres a day.

Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu blamed penny-pinching by the State Government. "John Brumby spends plenty of taxpayers' money on TV ads lecturing Victorians about water use, but can't find the money to upgrade vital water pumps at Yering Gorge," he said.

Victorian Ratepayers Association president Jack Davis said it was a shame to waste even a drop of water when it was so desperately needed. "How many people are installing water tanks at their own expense ... while opportunities like this are missed," he said.

Victorian Farmers Federation president Andrew Broad said the water would have translated into millions of dollars in productivity among farmers. "When you consider that they are taking 75 billion litres down the north-south pipeline it would have been a whole lot cheaper to harvest this water."

Jan Beer, from a lobby group against the north-south pipeline, said it was "disgraceful" that the water flowed out to sea. "Why spend $1 billion to build the pipeline when they can catch the water in their own backyards?" she said.

Melbourne Water manager of water supply John Woodland said O'Shannassy was Victoria's smallest reservoir and didn't take much rain to fill. "When it spills, it spills into the Yarra and we pick as much of this as we can further down the river and pump it into Sugarloaf Reservoir."

Water Minister Tim Holding said Melbourne Water was taking as much as it was legally entitled to and protecting the health of the Yarra at the same time.


Comment on the above by Andrew Bolt

Oi, you! Yes, you under the umbrella. Splash over here and check out Melbourne Water's website. Look at its latest excuse for not building the dam that would have spared Melbourne its insane - and insanely expensive - water restrictions. "Why aren't we building another dam?" it burbles, shamed at last into defending its Labor masters' failure to build what we needed years ago.

"Unfortunately, we cannot rely on this kind of rainfall like we used to." We can't? Stick your head outside, sunshine. See those clouds? We've had a monster September for rain over our catchments - falls 60 per cent above average - and now check the latest forecast. More rain and showers for days.

No water for a new dam? Watch the last excuse for the Government's mismanagement of our water supplies being washed away. Good god, the water now flowing to waste in the sea, thanks to that bungling.

Check this time the flood warnings for the Yarra. Which government failed to put in bigger pumps that could have grabbed another 30 billion litres of this to fill our Sugarloaf Reservoir - or enough water to supply Melbourne for at least three weeks?

Check the O'Shannassy reservoir upstream, overflowing for almost two months now. Which government failed to make this puny dam bigger, not just to catch more of this water, but to help save the Upper Yarra from flooding? Check also the Glenmaggie Reservoir on the Macalister, which is now so full that it's had to tip out as much as 40 billion litres these past few days. That's as much water wasted as Melbourne uses in a whole month.

You see, the Glenmaggie is not only another reservoir that's too small, but it's even been left unconnected to Melbourne's water network.

Of course, decades ago, back when dams were no sin, there were government plans to build a bigger dam farther up the Macalister, and build a short diversion so the water could fill Melbourne's biggest reservoir, the still-two-thirds empty Thomson. But it wasn't done, was it? Dams were suddenly evil. Hear it from the Government's Water Resources Strategy Committee, which in 2003 ruled out any new dam because of its "unacceptable environmental and social cost". Or read it in the Government's 2006 "water strategy", which called dams "no longer ... socially acceptable".

In fact, so unacceptable were they to this green-maddened Government that it turned the dam reservation on Gippsland's Mitchell River into a national park. And, just to make doubly sure, it then declared the Mitchell a "heritage river" never to be dammed.

How the Government must now be praying the Mitchell does not again flood, too, this spring. Now that would really drive home to voters the vast stupidity of this irrational ban. Why so stupid? Because the Mitchell flows so strongly that a Melbourne University water resources audit published in the Federal Government's Natural Resources Atlas in 2000 estimated a new dam there could harvest 435 billion litres a year - or about all the water Melbourne now takes from its current 10 dams.

Indeed, in one flood two years ago, more water went to waste down the undammed Mitchell than Melbourne used last year. And how much would this dam cost? $1.4 billion, admitted Minister for (No) Water Tim Holding last year.

Let me draw a comparison that will put this blur of figures into sharp focus. To avoid a new dam, the Brumby Government will now build a $3.5 billion desalination plant to each year use expensive power to turn sea water into 150 billion litres of drinking water. That's right: the Government's plan will produce just a third of the water of a Mitchell dam, but at three times the price. Which, incidentally, is why your water bills are now going up, up, up.

What a price we're paying for the Government's green faith - and ours. Billions more for less water.

Even that isn't the full catastrophe. To "save" the environment from thirsty Victorians, the Government for years preached that all we needed do to survive its man-made shortage of water was to use less of the stuff. So to "save" a river, the Government vandalised a city. Its harsh water bans killed gardens, closed public fountains, shut ovals and forced home owners and councils to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on rainwater tanks and drought-resistant lawns instead.

Don't buy the excuse that all this is the fault not of blind politicians but of a never-before-seen drought, or even of "global warming". There's actually been no warming of the globe for eight years, and this drought is no worse than some others we've suffered in even the short time of white settlement.

This is, after all, the land of "drought and flooding rain", and the real story is this: Melbourne has grown by a million more people in the 26 years since we built our last dam. But rather than look for water, we went to water instead, and fell prey to a green faith that has left this city on water bans, even when our rivers are in flood and rains we were told had gone once more fall on our roofs.


Blogger fired after deriding the major Australian newspaper he worked for

I'd say that he's a lot dumber than he thinks he is

A small-time Brisbane blogger has found out the hard way it doesn't matter how many people read a blog but who reads it. Despite only having "five readers" of personal blog yeah whatever, the casual News Limited sub-editor was given their marching orders after posting a blog attacking The Courier-Mail, which they were doing work for at the time.

The blogger, who writes under the pseudonym "Dr Zen", wrote about being "soooooooooooooooo bored" at work before attacking the content, character and columnists of the newspaper.

"It appeals to the miserable middle classes, who spend their entire lives worried about being robbed, mostly by people at the margins: blacks, teens, foreigners," Dr Zen posted. "No one sane could read the Courier-Mail without going 'don't give a f--- about that' on every page."

While not directly involved in the incident, The Courier-Mail editor David Fagan told The Australian's Media liftout the sacking was "just common sense".

Social media commentator Dr Jason Wilson, who lectures in digital media at the University of Wollongong, said many employees were beginning to run into trouble over their use of social media. "Social media makes it so easily spreadable, you can quite easily lose control of the things you do say and you do commit to social media," he said. "We all make mistakes and we all are learning together about this sort of stuff but it's worth being a little circumspect about what you write, especially Twitter.

"You've got to be very careful about what you post and if you've got only one account and in your profile it says `I work for such and such' in effect you are, whether you like it or not, representing the organisation in that space."


The C-M is a Murdoch publication and is one I read daily. I suspect that the blogger concerned did not like its failure to preach Leftism

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Human rights report a poisoned chalice

THE Rudd government is under pressure to introduce a human rights act, transfer significant new powers to judges and launch a campaign to entrench a rights culture in the community. This follows the threshold victory of the human rights lobby, which has won much of its agenda in the recommendations of the National Human Rights Consultation report chaired by Frank Brennan.

Despite its qualifications, caution on social and economic rights and gentle start on a long escalator, this report is ambitious for a recasting of Australian governance. Its aim is to entrench values enshrined in human rights ideology. Every vital institution is affected: public service, the parliament and the courts. For the the human rights lobby, with its long-run plan to transform Australia, this is an important start. The Brennan report, rather than drawing a line in the sand, has encouraged the lobby, given its campaign a new legitimacy and brought pressure on the Rudd government to bring Australia into line with international human rights norms.

This report, in effect, seeks the obliteration of the Howard cultural legacy. It makes clear the driving force behind the submissions was the hated Howard agenda of national security laws, the Northern Territory intervention and tough asylum-seeker laws.

The intent of the human rights lobby is to change Australia's system of government to prevent such measures being introduced in future. Its initial progress is manifest in this document.

The terminology is deceptive. The human rights debate is about politics: it is a device to achieve social, political and economic change opposed by a majority of the population by recourse to human rights law as interpreted by the courts. The Brennan report will further divide the country.

It is a poisoned chalice for Rudd. He has three choices: repudiate the report's thrust and alienate a significant section of elite and "true believer" opinion; embrace its recommendations and hand the Coalition an election campaign on a populist values platform around which it is united; or strike a compromise to defuse human rights as a frontline political issue.

This may be hard because Brennan backs a human rights act and this will become the political litmus test. Because the Brennan committee refused to make the tough decision and reject the human rights act, the decision passes to Rudd. Brennan has left Rudd with a comprehensive mess and without political cover.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland seemed terrified of giving the slighest endorsement to the report when it was released this week.

Shadow attorney-general George Brandis signalled the Coalition will fight it. It has no choice.

Seeking to rally the demoralised conservative banner, Brandis resorted to hyperbole, saying the report threatened "the most important de facto alteration to Australia's system of government in our history". He raised the spectre of courts having the final say on military conscription, trade union rights and gay marriage.

Brandis captured the essence of this report by calling it "the ultimate triumph of the elites". There is no public demand for such action. Research commissioned by the inquiry found that only 10 per cent of people felt their rights had been infringed and most felt their rights were not threatened. Yet our system of government is to be recast.

This report testifies to the blind utopianism of the human rights cause. It cannot see the obvious political and public administrative impact from this report: it will lead to bigger and weaker government, more bureaucracy, more litigation, a politicisation of the judiciary, a more polarised community, the undermining of much of the existing human rights protections built over decades and, ultimately and ironically, a failure to make any real improvements in human rights.

The report is revealing and unconsciously patronising. The uneducated Australian people are consumed by "complacency" that is "not conducive to the achievement of a human rights culture". They must be re-educated in a massive campaign at school and university so they understand the need to respect "the dignity, culture and traditions of other people".

The contempt is breathtaking. The spectre of Australian racism and a flawed Constitution that disrespects human rights are the assumptions that underpin this mission to change Australia's political culture.

The main critique of this report is its unworkability and its refusal to make hard decisions. This point is conceded by Brennan himself on the pivotal question of how the proposed human rights act would function. The committee supports the dishonestly described "dialogue" model that requires the High Court of Australia to issue "declarations of incompatibility" when a law is deemed to conflict with human rights guarantees. The committee dismisses the view this constitutes an "unwarranted interference" by judges into parliament's domain.

However, it insists that only the High Court should issue such declarations and cites the Solicitor-General's advice that this is constitutional, a contentious point disputed by constitutional lawyers and sure to be tested if Rudd goes down this path.

Incredibly, however, the committee (or at least some of its members) doesn't believe this recommendation can actually work. There could, the report reveals, "be a problem" with it.

In many cases the High Court might not necessarily grant leave for an appeal. Because the committee opposes other courts having the "declarations" authority it is entirely possible, therefore, that this measure is unworkable.

Brennan told this column yesterday that this is his own position. "My own view is that I think this provision is not going to be workable," he said. "That's why we have outlined in the report a fallback provision.

"If the Rudd government was to consider this 'declaration of incompatibility' provision it would need to engage the High Court in a discussion on this issue first and also seek further advice from the Solicitor-General.

"I think that while the declaration of incompatibility may be constitutional there are enormous practical problems with it that mean it may not be viable."

It is idle to believe that Brennan would not have discussed this issue with former High Court judges. There allows only one interpretation: there are dangers for the High Court as an institution in this course of action.

Given this, how stupid would the Rudd government be to tamper with the court's standing when the chairman of the report believes the pivotal provision in his own recommended "dialogue" model cannot work?

Yet Brennan's fallback alternative, which brings the issue back to parliament for "correction", still depends on judicial reasoning. The "bottom line" throughout this report is judicial action. In an exercise of tortuous artificiality, the committee asserts that parties to the court case or the Australian Human Rights Commission could be given the power to notify the parliamentary committee whenever a court's reasoning "indicated non-compliance" with the human rights act. This typifies the distortion of administrative and judicial process that will be entertained in the campaign to achieve a human rights act.

Reviewing the "dialogue" model, University of Sydney professor Helen Irving says: "The proposed HRA is much closer to the sort of act that creates real powers of judicial review and allows the courts to encroach upon the legislature. The erosion of the separation of powers, as we know it, will follow. Advocates claim they do not intend this but, reading the report, one cannot avoid the conclusion that their claims are disingenuous."

Former NSW premier Bob Carr says: "I would assume there will be a great deal of scepticism within the Rudd cabinet about something that reeks of such 1980s enthusiasms. There is no evidence of a groundswell from the Australian community in favour of a quantum increase in judge-made law."

Irving argues such complications in the "dialogue" model mean the more substantial change may be independent legal action against public officials alleged to have breached human rights provisions in their decisions.

The integrity and professionalism of public servants will be under siege. The defect is the report's view that government decisions be enshrined around individual rights and its downgrading of the public and national interest.

There are millions of decisions made each year by public servants affecting individuals. The committee seeks to change the basis of administrative law such that these decisions be governed not just by relevant statute but by a new set of human rights guarantees, and that failure to do so will be an error at law that opens the way for damages to be awarded. This changes the basis of Australian governance.

The tragedy of this report is that Brennan had a chance to create a consensus for action - stronger parliamentary oversight over human rights - but threw it away in the quest for a human rights act. This creates a problem for the Rudd government, threatens to divide the Labor Party and offers a gift to the Coalition, though it may be incapable of seizing its chance. It is a debate essentially about Australian values and governance that will take the culture war to another zenith.

The platform the committee envisages for human rights advocacy is enormous. It wants a definitive list of Australia's human rights obligations drawn up within two years. It requires a "statement of compatibility" with human rights provisions attached to every bill. It calls for a joint parliamentary committee on human rights to review all bills for compliance with human rights provisions. It wants the Acts Interpretation Act amended to require judges to interpret laws consistent with codified rights obligations.

In advocating a human rights act it wants coverage to include all people in Australia, not just Australian citizens.

This means our system of government will be changed partly to secure the human rights of people who are not citizens. It illustrates the human rights mindset. The more Australians understand this issue, the more suspicious they will become.


Will a human rights charter be popular?

The public opinion research accompanying the report of the National Human Rights Consultation suggests that those proposing a charter of rights have a tough task ahead.

These days, only bastards and people who know a little political philosophy are likely to question the whole idea of ‘human rights’ (’nonsense upon stilts’, as the utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham memorably called them). So on questions about parliament paying attention to human rights or increased education on human rights only one or two percent of respondents express opposition.

But only 7% of respondents disagreed with the proposition that human rights are adequately protected (with a large 29% not expressing a view).

Worse for the main advocates of putting general human rights into legislation or the Constitution, the public isn’t in general very sympathetic on some of the issues that are driving the human rights push in the first place.

Only 28% think that the human rights of asylum seekers need more protection, and 30% think that asylum seekers need less protection. Only 32% think gays and lesbians need more protection (18% less).

While 57% think that Indigenous people in remote areas need their rights better protected, other polling shows overwhelming support for the NT intervention human rights advocates opposed. An ACNielsen poll in 2006 found only 29% of respondents believing that the federal government had shown ‘not enough respect for civil liberties’ in dealing with the terrorist threat, another issue where human rights advocates have been active.

So while when the issue of human rights is phrased at a very high level of abstraction most people will say that they are a good thing, when they understand what human rights laws are likely to mean in practice opinion is likely to turn negative.


Baby supposedly protected by an ideologically blinded child welfare Dept. was 'horrifically' injured

A BABY girl has brain injury and suffered two broken legs since being put in the care of relatives after DOCS took her from a loving foster family. In one of the worst Department of Community Services failures since the starvation death of seven-year-old "Ebony" two years ago, the baby was left fighting for life in June.

Ebony is just one of an unknown number of children that DOCS hands back to relatives in blind adherence to the belief that the child is better off remaining in the family. The policy has come under fire from experts who argue it is not always the safest option.

DOCS admitted yesterday that, despite dire warnings contained in a DOCS review of Ebony's murder which clearly stated that case workers overlook problems in their desire to return children, she was given back to relatives.

The horrifically injured nine-month-old, who can be known only as "Chloe", was removed from her mother days after her birth. She thrived with a foster carer in Western Sydney and was taken on weekly visits to see her mother who was in Silverwater jail. But in March, DOCS caseworkers insisted Chloe, who has another sibling in state care, be moved to Lismore to live with relatives.

Police are investigating whether her horrific injuries were caused by violent shaking and detectives from a joint investigation response team were working on the case.

A DOCS spokeswoman said Chloe was rushed to Lismore hospital in June and then flown to Brisbane. She is now back in Sydney and DOCS said her new foster family was being supported in "meeting the baby's medical needs".

The spokeswoman said the family members who took the baby were subjected to police checks and checks by the NSW Commission for Children and Young People. DOCS will now apply to a court to have custody of the girl until she is 18.

Opposition community services spokeswoman Pru Goward said the Government should review poor outcomes to determine whether DOCS caseworkers should be criminally investigated for malpractice. "DOCS are just careless. They are so absorbed with returning children to their families that they don't give the child the right to protection," she said. "It is such an obvious dereliction of duty. Somebody's head should roll." Ms Goward said the prospect of punishment for caseworkers could provide better outcomes.

But Community Services Minister Linda Burney rejected the threat of criminal action against case workers. She said all placements were considered carefully and on the grounds of safety. A desire to keep children with their families would not change, Ms Burney said. When it was put to her that baby Chloe's life-threatening injuries were caused in June in Lismore while in family care and not when she had been safe with a foster carer in Sydney months earlier, she replied: "You just don't know that."


Government hospitals operating at dangerous capacities

Not one hospital in Sydney is operating at a safe level, with patients waiting longer for elective surgery and in emergency, the latest AMA Public Hospital Report Card says. Australian Medical Association NSW president Brian Morton said average waiting times for elective surgery patients in NSW had "significantly increased". This meant that one in four patients needing semi-urgent surgery, such as the removal of a breast lump, were being put at risk, Dr Morton said. "Our public hospitals are being forced to operate dangerously above capacity, compromising patient safety and quality of care," he said.

He said all major metropolitan hospitals including Westmead and Royal North Shore were often forced to operate at 95 per cent capacity or higher, which is well above the benchmark of 85 per cent.

Dr Morton said that a cash boost of $448 million by the Federal Government in 2007-08 had clearly not improved public hospital performance and partly blamed NSW Health for cutting its expenditure by $7 million for that year. He said that, to keep up with inflation, NSW should have provided about half a billion dollars in funding.

The performance of emergency departments was worse for 2008-09 than in 2006-07. Only 66 per cent of category three patients (urgent, to be seen within 30 minutes) were seen within the recommended time in 2008-09, compared with 71 per cent in 2006-07. Also, the percentage of category two elective surgery patients (recommended to be seen within 90 days) seen within the recommended time was 75 per cent for 2008-09, an increase of only 1 per cent from the previous year. The median waiting time for elective surgery has increased by four days to 39 days.

Australian Medical Association president Dr Andrew Pesce said it was the worst AMA report card ever. He said the Rudd Government and the states needed to be more transparent about where extra funding was going because it was not improving patient care. Even worse, the true waiting lists were hidden because many patients were waiting even to get on a list, he said.


Gimme that old-time religion

A FORMER political running mate of Family First senator Steve Fielding says dark forces are casting spells on Federal Parliament. Catch the Fire Ministries pastor Daniel Nalliah has organised a "prayer offensive'' to combat evil forces including witchcraft, homosexuality and abortion.

The discovery of a "black mass altar'' at Mount Ainslie in Canberra by a group of school students had inspired him to organise a prayer gathering at the area on Saturday. "The type of altar discovered on Mount Ainslie pointed to a black mass and the work of dark forces wanting to cast spells on Australia and federal parliament,'' Mr Nalliah said. "These days people don't think the devil is real but we have seen the bad effects of the spiritual being known as Satan and we believe there is a spiritual fight over the nation of Australia being fought in the heavens.''

Asked what evidence of Satan there was in parliament, Mr Nalliah said: "The number of politicians who have serious marriage problems.'' Legislation supporting homosexuality, abortion and a push for a bill of rights were other areas where Mr Nallian said the devil was having influence. "Me trying to explain it to you is like trying to teach a cricketer how to play soccer,'' Mr Nalliah said.

He said 100 Christians from across Australia would be at Mount Ainslie this weekend. "Our main reason for going to Mount Ainslie is to pull down the strongholds of the devil to repent and pray against any evil done in our land including the adverse effects of witchcraft, homosexuality and, of course, the devastation of abortion, so that God will save our land.''

Senator Fielding and Mr Nalliah occupied the first and second spots on Family First's Victorian Senate ticket in 2004. But Senator Fielding, who was elected to the Senate with Labor preferences, said Mr Nalliah had been asked to leave the party in late 2004. "Family First has had no connection with Danny Nalliah since he was asked to leave the party five years ago after he made demeaning comments about a minority group,'' Senator Fielding said in a statement. "He has no voice in Family First.''

Asked about Senator Fielding, Mr Nalliah said his former running mate did not have a long-term political career because of his failure to defend the nuclear family. "He won't get re-elected because the Christian vote won't be there for him,'' he said. "Steve has not been standing up for the Christian cause.''


Kevin Rudd's "refugee" policies make Australia a soft target

When federal Labor MP Michael Danby visited Christmas Island last year he declared that the new $400 million, 800-bed Christmas Island detention centre, a legacy of the Howard government, was "an enormous white elephant".

For more than a year Immigration Minister Chris Evans maintained the pretence that the Government's softening of policies on asylum seekers would have no material effect on the number of arrivals. To support this fiction, the Government transferred boat people to Christmas Island, but housed them in a construction camp, private accommodation, and an obsolete detention facility at Phosphate Hill. Anywhere but the Christmas Island detention centre.

Today, the detention centre is not just full, it is overflowing. The Government has been forced to ship 200 bunk beds to Christmas Island, where more than 1000 detainees are being housed. Another 58 are on their way. The Rudd Government is readying another 500-bed detention centre in Darwin. It is also funding the construction of yet another detention centre, in Sumatra, on behalf of the Indonesian Government.

The policy announced last year that "detention in immigration detention centres would be a last resort" is now in tatters. For the past two months, boat people are have been intercepted up at a rate of 100 a week. Thousands of asylum seekers from South Asia have reached Indonesia to apply for refugee status in Australia or by-pass border controls and reach Australia by boat.

The Christmas Island detention centre, with its 800 beds, shows that the numbers are far higher than the previous government envisaged under its policies. Not only has the number of boat people built steadily since the change of policy, so too have the tensions and confrontations implicit in people smuggling. As this piece was being written, the Indonesian military was engaged in a volatile and potentially life-threatening stand-off with a small cargo ship packed with an estimated 260 Sri Lankan asylum seekers.

The ship was heading for Christmas Island when it was intercepted. The stand-off is taking place in Indonesian waters and was instigated by a tip from Australian intelligence. Some of the Sri Lankans on board are threatening to scuttle the ship or jump into the water rather than allow the vessel to be towed back to Indonesia. In accordance with the tactics long used by people smugglers, the putative asylum seekers are engaging in brinkmanship. Since arriving in Indonesia they have destroyed their passports and are now threatening their own lives.

This tactic has already produced deadly results this year. On April 16, five Afghan asylum seekers were killed when their boat exploded off the Ashmore Reef. Within 24 hours, West Australian Premier Colin Barnett said he had been advised by police that the explosion was the result of deliberate sabotage. He was roundly criticised by the Rudd Government. For six months, the Federal Government refused to comment on the incident, saying it was under police investigation. Last week police confirmed that the fatal fire had been deliberately lit.

The Premier accused the Government of delay and dissembling: "I was quoting from a formal report from the emergency personnel at the site." He said the Rudd Government had been given the same report at the same time, but said nothing. He was also highly critical of the Federal Government's decision last week to grant asylum status to the remaining 42 Afghans who had been on the boat, before the coronial inquiry had even taken place.

Barnett said the perpetrators of the crime had never been identified, Australian Navy personnel had been injured by the explosion, and there was a possibility that some of those complicit in the deaths had now been granted asylum status. This, he said, was another signal of weakness from the Government.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was talking tough about "illegal immigrants". But thousand of people have read the signals sent by his Government and mobilised to bypass Australian refugee and immigration procedures. They have taken this risk in the confidence that once they enter Australian waters, they are highly likely to be rewarded with Australian residency. While that confidence remains well founded, the ugly events of the past year and the present day will continue.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Australians cooling on global warming

AUSTRALIANS are becoming less concerned about the threat of global warming, pushing environmental issues down the list of threats. Climate change is no longer rated the top foreign policy issue for the Federal Government, a Lowy Institute poll will reveal today. It was top of the list in 2007 but now is ranked seventh out of 10 policy priorities. Out of 12 possible threats, Australians rated global warming the fourth most critical, the survey found. However a significant majority of Australians, 76 per cent, still saw climate change as a problem.

The poll follows comments from Professor Ross Garnaut, author of the federal Government's climate change review, who claims the rancorous debate on an emissions trading scheme (ETS) is one of Australia's worst cases of policy making on a major issue. "I think this whole process of policy making over the ETS has been one of the worst examples of policy making we have seen on major issues in Australia,'' he told ABC television. "It is a very difficult issue so I suppose it was never going to be easy. But the way it has broken down is extraordinary.''

Professor Garnaut recommended the Labor legislation be passed. "If we could find it within ourselves to pass the ETS - and everyone knows that I don't think it is perfect - and then lay the base for implementing earlier rather than later, that would remove one bit of uncertainty in what is a very difficult and uncertain international climate for discussing these issues,'' he said.

The Government knows how difficult it would be to get its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation, which would set up an Emissions Trading Scheme, through the Senate. Preliminary negotiations underlined that the Government will need Opposition support if it is to get a moderate version of the Bill approved.

The Greens produced amendments - almost certain to be rejected by the Government - which called for harsher treatment of fossil fuel users, and Family First's Steve Fielding accused the Greens of wanting to send Australia back to the Stone Age. "If we did what the Greens propose, Australia would no longer exist because there'd be no industries left to drive our economy," he said. Their amendments yesterday called for limited compensation to emission-intensive industries.


Lenient treatment of black rapists again

Who cares about victims when you can show how politically correct you are? Too bad if the offender goes on to commit more horrendous crimes

A FOUR-year-old Broome girl was lured from her home and allegedly raped by a man bailed only six weeks earlier on child-sex offences. The 23-year-old indigenous man, described as a "serial sexual predator", was granted bail by a magistrate 220km away in Derby, despite facing three child sex offences, including a count of sexual penetration of a child under 13 years. He had been ordered out of the Kimberley town by the magistrate and reported to Broome police as part of his bail conditions 30minutes after the alleged rape of the four-year-old on October 4. He is in custody and will face Broome Magistrates Court next week.

It will be alleged the man lured the girl away from outside her Broome house where she was playing with other children. He took her to a deserted state housing home 200m away where he allegedly sexually assaulted her in a storeroom before spraying her with a garden hose. The girl's 30-year-old mother told The Australian her daughter was left "like a dog".

Criminologist Carol Ronken of Bravehearts said the incident highlighted an urgent need for a government inquiry into bail conditions involving child sex offences. "And to release offenders charged with those types of offences is just insane," she said. "Our criminal justice system needs to get so much more serious about the way it handles and manages sex offenders."

Had the Derby magistrate ordered the man to be remanded in custody, he would have been held in the Derby police lock-up pending transfer to Broome regional prison until his court date. Broome police said the man was also forbidden from unsupervised contact with children under the age of 16 by the Derby magistrate on August 20.


Pedophile rapist jailed -- but still OK for a senior police job!

A FORMER police chief inspector - who kept his job despite admitting sexually assaulting two girls - has been jailed for nine years for his "loathsome" criminal offending. Graham Bennett Fraser was imprisoned for nine years by the District Court today after pleading guilty to seven counts of indecent assault. Judge David Smith said Fraser's two victims were aged nine and 14 when the sexual abuse started in 1980. "The offending was loathsome ... you exploited and harmed them for your own sexual gratification," Judge Smith told Fraser.

Most of the offending occurred in Fraser's northern Adelaide home during a three-year period but Judge Smith said the crimes were part of persistent sexual abuse, some of which had not been subject to criminal proceedings. "The offending conduct is not to be regarded as ... out of the ordinary," Judge Smith said.

Fraser, now aged 68, sexually abused his victims in his shower, shed and pool, with one victim telling the court she was assaulted daily. The victims initially contacted authorities in 1986 but a statute of time limitations meant criminal charges could not be laid.

Fraser admitted his guilt in 1986 and was demoted as a SA Police chief inspector to the rank of inspector. Judge Smith sentenced Fraser to nine years' jail with a non-parole period of six and a half years.


Catholic pharmacist refuses to sell the pill

Good to see someone not intimidated by the prevailing wisdom

A PHARMACIST in western NSW has banned the sale of condoms, the contraceptive and morning-after pill because it is against his beliefs as a Catholic. In a move that has angered health experts, Griffith pharmacist Trevor Dal Broi has refused to sell the oral contraceptive pill, the morning-after pill and condoms, referring customers to other chemists in the area.

Mr Dal Broi, who runs the East Griffith Pharmacy, told The Sunday Telegraph he was strictly against the use of artificial contraception. "As a practising Catholic, it is my obligation to accept the official teaching of the Catholic Church against the use of artificial contraception," he said. "When I dispense an oral contraceptive pill I will ask the lady to sit at our counselling desk where I explain that there is a leaflet in the box regarding our pharmacy policy on the pill. "It explains that I accept the teachings of the Catholic Church against the use of artificial contraception, and asks the lady to respect my view on the use of artificial contraception and have it filled elsewhere next time if it is being taken for contraceptive purposes."

Mr Dal Broi said the pharmacy would continue to dispense the pill to women taking it for other medical purposes, such as painful or irregular periods, and hormonal and skin problems.

Family Planning NSW CEO Ann Brassil said contraceptive options should not be taken away by a health-care professional's personal beliefs. "We strongly believe contraception should be freely available at all pharmacies," she said.

A spokesman for the Pharmacy Guild of Australia said individual pharmacies were entitled to sell, or not sell, any product or medication they liked: "Pharmacists, like anyone, are entitled to hold ethical, religious or moral views."


Another Australian blackboard jungle

A TEACHER was attacked at school by a nine-year-old pupil who kicked her, threw rocks in her face and dragged her by the hair to the staffroom floor. Recalling the incidents yesterday in evidence to the District Court, Margaretta Slingsby said the boy threatened her: ''I'm going to get you, Slingsby slut.''

Ms Slingsby, 58, is suing the Department of Education and Training for negligence over the attack on May 30, 2005, which she says left her with post-traumatic stress and unable to return to her job. She had been teaching Italian at Lismore Heights Public School. Her barrister, Andrew Lidden, SC, said the school had more than its share of unruly children. While the pupil involved - known for legal reasons as B - had a history of ''at times quite violent misbehaviour'', the school had no plans in place to manage his extreme behavioural problems, Mr Lidden said.

The principal at the time, Trevor Pryor, had informed staff that B was coming to the school ''for a new start'' but said he had no records from the boy's previous school, Ms Slingsby told the court. She had taken time off work in March 2005 after B verbally abused her in the playground, an incident she reported to the principal. Two months later, she saw B chasing a girl into the library, screaming, ''You f---ing slut, I'm going to get you.''

When she and the librarian restrained him, the boy kicked them both and punched the librarian. He was taken away by the principal but returned and again attacked Ms Slingsby. ''He came up behind me and tried to push me down the stairs,'' she said. ''He grabbed me by the hair and was dragging me. I could feel my hair being ripped out of my scalp.'' The boy punched a female staff member who tried to intervene and threw rocks and dirt in Ms Slingsby's face.

Later, she said, she was sitting in the staffroom when B ''came tearing in'' with the principal in pursuit. The boy ''grabbed me by the hair and he threw me down on the ground''.

In a statement of claim filed to the court, Ms Slingsby alleges the department was negligent in failing to determine that the boy had a history of verbal and physical violence, and enrolled him when it was not safe for teachers or other students. It breached its duty of care by failing to remove B from the school or notify police after she was first assaulted, she claims.


Qantas does it again

Qantas passengers stranded for 26 hours. TWO planes faulty. When will they get back to their old maintenance standards? Do they have to have a crash first?

FRUSTRATED passengers have been stranded in Sydney for more than 26 hours following problems with two Qantas planes. Around 120 passengers on flight QF31 experienced the lengthy delay on the Sydney-Singapore-London service.

The flight was originally delayed for over five hours due to a hydraulics issue, a Qantas spokesperson said. A replacement aircraft also experienced technical problems, forcing it to be returned to the terminal. “The flight was originally delayed by just over 5 hours... a replacement aircraft was allocated," the Qantas spokesperson said. "In the early stages of its take off roll just before 11pm, the flight crew received an engine control message which required a return to the terminal and a night stop."

The passengers were provided with overnight accommodation and meals, and have been booked on other flights later today. However frustrated passengers have told of their anger over the extensive delays. “They don’t understand that time is precious,” one passenger told Channel Seven.

Passengers flying from London-Singapore-Sydney on flight QF32 will be delayed by approximately 22 hours as a result of the incident, the spokesperson said. The spokesperson has apologised for the delays. “We regret any inconvenience this delay has caused but will always put operational safety before schedule.”


Monday, October 12, 2009


Two current reports below. Leftists grab any excuse to mess up their own society. Most of the Afghans Rudd is allowing into the country are going to become welfare dependant with no skills (except in thuggery) and with contempt for Australian society. Warlike Muslims are exactly what Australia does not need

If you are from Afghanistan and say you are a refugee, you get accepted into Australia

None have been rejected so far. Australia could get millions at this rate. Yet NONE are in fact refugees. They ceased being refugees as soon as they arrived in Pakistan, where millions of them now live

All surviving asylum-seekers from the boat that exploded near Ashmore Reef in April will be granted permanent residency in Australia, ahead of a coronial inquest into the cause of the blaze that killed five of their fellow passengers. The 42 Afghan men from the boat that was set alight on April 16 will be released into the community this week.

Police believe the fire was deliberately lit by one or more of the asylum-seekers, but do not have enough evidence to lay any charges. An inquest in January is expected to find out more about what happened. The Australian understands that if any of the asylum-seekers are convicted of serious charges as a result of the inquest, Immigration Minister Chris Evans is prepared to cancel their visas and deport them.

While Northern Territory Assistant Commissioner Mark McAdie said earlier this month that there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone, police had ruled out the two Indonesian crew members as suspects. "It's unknown whether the person or persons responsible for the fire intended to cause the explosion that resulted in the loss of five lives," Mr McAdie said. He refused to say whether those responsible for the fire were still alive, but said there was insufficient evidence to charge any of the survivors. "Clearly someone knows what occurred ... but they're not telling us," he said at the time.

The Australian understands that Senator Evans ordered a ministerial briefing on the men's cases, which he received on Friday. The minister asked for the briefing after serious concerns were raised about their mental health; they are adamant they were not involved in lighting the fatal blaze and many have become distressed and anxious.

When the men are granted their permanent protection visas this week, the total number of asylum-seekers to be granted protection visas since a run of boats that began last September will reach 687.

The men from the boat that exploded are being detained in Perth and Brisbane, not on Christmas Island, because of their special medical needs. Doctors from hospitals in Perth and Brisbane have provided the men with regular follow-up treatment for their burns. They have also had regular visits from members of the Afghan community, imams from local mosques and refugee advocates.

Immigration officials have allowed the men to go on excursions to local cinemas, parks, shops and cultural events organised by Afghan communities in Perth and Brisbane. In Perth, the men have been allowed to play volleyball every Sunday. They play against members of the Afghan community and are supervised by guards from security firm G4S, which is contracted by the immigration department to run detention facilities in Perth.

Specialist counsellors from the Association for Services to Torture and Trauma Survivors have also regularly seen the men to help them cope with depression and other issues stemming from the horrific explosion and their lives in Afghanistan. They have all had their refugee claims examined and have undergone health, security and identity checks.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship found that, as Afghans, their cases triggered Australia's obligations under the UN Refugees Convention. It is understood Senator Evans also believes that granting the visas now, instead of after the inquest, will help the group recover from a traumatic ordeal, settle in the community and recover their physical and mental health.

Northern Territory police were consulted and raised no concerns, it is understood. The men will be provided with settlement services including short-term torture and trauma counselling where necessary, English language tuition and help with funding somewhere to live. The department will provide assistance to the NT Police should any of the group be summonsed to appear at the inquiry.

On Saturday, Sri Lankan asylum-seeker Sarath Tennakoon was deported to Colombo, leaving just one man from the group of 12 who reached the Australian mainland last November but were found not to be refugees. The last asylum-seeker from that boat, Roshan Fernando, has his hopes pinned on a court appeal.


Australian government's strange way to stop illegals coming from Sri Lanka

They say it's effective. In which case, why are the Sri Lankans still coming? The previous conservative government had the effective way: Lock them up behind barbed wire for long periods and invite the media to see that. The stuff below is just pissing into the wind: Another addle-headed Leftist idea. There is nothing wrong with giving aid to the very poor but giving them volleyball nets (!!!) won't stop the illegals

The Rudd government will offer micro-loans, free volleyball nets and fishing nets to poor Sri Lankans as part of a campaign to dissuade them from illegally migrating to Australia. Four hundred chairs, 300 fishing nets and 50 volleyball nets will be distributed in coming weeks to community centres and churches across the country's west coast -- all the products bearing warnings of the perils of the Indian Ocean crossing. Australia will also offer community grants and micro-financing for local job creation projects in the hope that improving the lives of poor Sri Lankans in their own country will reduce the likelihood that they will seek a better life elsewhere.

Sri Lankans are now among the largest group of asylum-seekers in Australia with more than 300 washing up on our shores in the past year. Another 260 Sri Lankan migrants, heading for Australia, were yesterday detained by Indonesian authorities in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra.

The freebies, known as "livelihood products" are part of an advertising campaign being launched this month in Sri Lanka. Australia Customs has hired the International Organisation for Migration and advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi to deliver its message through posters, stickers, bookmarks and street theatre performances. IOM Sri Lanka spokeswoman Stacey Winston said: "These products are really effective, small amounts really make a big difference. There will be two rounds of distribution of livelihood products. That's what we will deliver in the first round but we have some flexibility to change the products".

While posters and performances had proven "wonderfully effective" in previous public information campaigns in Sri Lanka "we wanted something tangible to give them also", she said. The loans would not be advertised in the campaign but offered to community leaders in follow-meetings.

The Australian government has identified Sri Lanka's west coast, a series of largely Sinhalese Catholic fishing villages and the most popular jumping-off point for illegal boats, as the first target in their campaign. So prevalent is illegal immigration from that area that whole pockets of one village are known as Little Italy in honour of the Italianate villas financed with money sent back by locals who have washed up on Europe's shores. Last week six Sinhala Christians from that region became the first Sri Lankans to be returned by the Rudd government. The men were deemed to be economic migrants with no reasonable fear of persecution on their return.

The Australian understands the Sri Lankan navy intercepted a boat with up to 60 asylum-seekers last week as it left Negombo Port headed for Western Australia. All those on board, believed to be mostly west coast locals, are now in Negombo prison.

The first street performance for the Australian campaign was to have been launched yesterday during a Catholic feast day at St Sebastian Church in Negombo -- an event attended by hundreds of local parishioners. But the Australian government cancelled the event less than 24 hours before it was scheduled. Parish priest Father Erington Silva said the Australian Government had missed an opportunity to reach a large audience of locals and drive its message home.

He also questioned the effectiveness of handing out free volleyball nets to communities of people so poor they were prepared to risk a perilous, month-long boat trip in the hope of a better life in a more prosperous country. "I think people might be a bit cynical about that," Father Erington said. But he said the Rudd government plan to offer grants and micro financing could help in an area where mass unemployment was forcing many to either work in the people-smuggling trade or take their chances on the boats. "If you can do something like that for people here, where there's so much poverty and unemployment, then maybe we can change peoples' minds little by little."


Army stupidity

They dismiss serious complaints against a serving soldier on the basis of no evidence. This is very bad for the Army's reputation and should be swiftly reviewed at a higher level. It is extremely important that citizens have confidence in their military

THE Australian Defence Force has declared it is not bound by civilian court and police orders banning soldiers from access to guns in cases of domestic violence. The military's position was exposed when it dismissed complaints by two ex-partners of an army cook, subject to domestic violence orders taken out separately by the women, that the soldier was receiving intensive weapons training associated with his deployment overseas. The army had been served with the court orders specifying the man must not possess a gun before it decided to give him firearms training.

ADF regulations say state and territory court or police orders do not apply to defence force personnel. Senior army officials told the two women that the court orders had "no application for his military service". "At no stage have we had reason to prohibit the member's access to weapons. We do not intend to do so and will continue to employ him as a rifleman," they told the women in letters obtained by The Australian.

The first DVO was obtained by the army cook's ex-partner in Queensland, who has an infant child to him. In her application to the court seeking the order prohibiting access to her or their child, she alleged she had been subjected to mental, physical and sexual violence, and their baby son had been threatened with physical violence by the man. She lives at a secret address with the baby and says she is in fear of her former partner discovering where they reside.

The second DVO was taken out by a woman with whom the soldier established a relationship after separating from the mother of his child. That relationship broke down after his return from East Timor when, according to court documents, he attempted to stab her in the neck with a screwdriver. She was allegedly also subjected to mental, physical and sexual abuse and has moved to another state to ensure she is not found. Both women have repeatedly contacted the army expressing their concern that the soldier is receiving weapons training despite the court orders banning his owning or handling firearms.

The army has said the soldier has received psychiatric and religious counselling. A letter from his commanding officer to senior army personnel says the soldier has his full support. "I hope that the upper echelons of Defence do not inadvertently act to disadvantage the member due to unproven and sensationalist claims," the letter says. [A strange description of court orders!]

Although he has never met the woman or examined any witnesses in regard to the issue, the officer, a captain, dismisses the complaints by the former partner from Queensland. "My personal opinion is that (the woman) has attempted to make (the soldier's) deployment untenable to either damage his reputation in the army or have him returned to Australia so that legal issues between the two can be finalised," he writes. "I have little doubt that this latest instance is simply a continuation of this course of action."

In a letter to the two women, the army's director of co-ordination, Jeff Quirk, said the exemption for defence force personnel was outlined in Section 2 of the Queensland Weapons Act. However, the Queensland Domestic and Family Violence Act 1989 says domestic violence orders override any exemptions outlined in the Weapons Act. In correspondence with Colonel Quirk, the women have been advised that the court orders are "a civilian matter, not a defence matter".

Asked by The Australian why the soldier was trained as a rifleman in the face of the court orders restricting access to firearms, a spokeswoman said there were "very strict policy and protocols regarding the use of weapons and these are thoroughly enforced". The spokeswoman said that upon being informed of a court order issued against an ADF member, the member's commanding officer is advised to implement a 48-hour embargo on the use of weapons and if necessary, require the member to undergo assessments.


Hospitals across Australia forcing ambulances to queue for hours with seriously ill patients

With Westmead in Sydney again singled out

SERIOUSLY sick patients are queuing for hours to be unloaded from ambulances at busy hospitals across Australia. "Ramping" of patients is so common at major Sydney hospitals that ambulance officers routinely order pizza while they wait, ambulance union officials claimed yesterday.

In Queensland, more than 25,000 patients a year have had to wait at least half an hour to be unloaded from a waiting ambulance, Ambulance Service statistics reveal.

And in Melbourne this past winter, nearly 1000 patients had to wait more than an hour on an ambulance trolley. In 145 cases between May and July, patients waited more than two hours, according to data submitted by the ambulance union to a Victorian parliamentary inquiry.

The National Council of Ambulance Unions secretary, Jim Arnuman, yesterday said ramping was a growing problem in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Western Australia. Ambulance officers attending Sydney's Westmead Hospital routinely ordered pizza because delays were so long, he said. "Unfortunately, the hospitals are using the ambulances as a labour pool to look after patients because of their own staff shortages," he said. "On bad nights in various areas of NSW, we have 40 to 70 per cent of our on-shift ambulances tied up in hospitals. "It is impairing the ability of ambulance services across the country to respond urgently to serious cases."

In Queensland - where the state government is probing the death of a critically ill elderly man when his ambulance was diverted from a busy hospital this month - new statistics reveal that more than 25,000 patients had to wait longer than half an hour to be unloaded from an ambulance in 2007-08. The figures, furnished by the Ambulance Service as part of an industrial arbitration, reveal 7 per cent of patients had to wait more than half an hour.

Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union spokesman Kroy Day said it was a "daily event" for ambulances to be diverted from the nearest hospital. "In the past 12 months, two patients died on ambulance stretchers waiting for a hospital bed," he said, adding this did not include the elderly man who died in transit this month. "It's an absolute tragedy, a disgrace and unacceptable."

Mr Day said ambulances had been forced to wait three hours to unload patients at Royal Brisbane Hospital, and up to four hours at the city's Princess Alexandra hospital. "It's a systemic problem and indicative of a system in crisis," he said. "The doctors and nurses and paramedics are doing a great job but they don't have the resources."

Steve McGhie, the general secretary of Ambulance Employees Australia, said he knew of up to 11 ambulances queuing outside a Melbourne hospital. "If your ... paramedics are all lined up for three or four hours waiting to offload their patients, you need more ambos to respond to the waiting emergencies," he said.


The force of corruption again

Police whistleblower sent home, told to see psychiatrist. No time for integrity among the Queensland police hierarchy. Is Terry Lewis back?

A VETERAN officer who has exposed cronyism and corruption in the police force has been ordered off work even though his doctor says he is fit for duty. Sergeant Robbie Munn – who wants to resume his decorated 30-year career – says the service has a culture that deters whistleblowers from reporting "dirty little secrets".

The police force claims Sgt Munn, who has fully recovered from heart surgery, requires psychiatric help and has ordered him off the job for 18 months. Sgt Munn's treatment has prompted serving officers to speak out, claiming he is being shunned because he is seen as "dangerous because he stands up for the truth". Sgt Munn, who was in charge of 70 police officers at Maroochydore, has revealed:

• Police cheated on promotion exams by plagiarising and paying others to complete their work.

• He unsuccessfully tried to reform rosters at the Maroochydore watchhouse after becoming concerned at some work practices. A year later, two officers were charged and eventually jailed for taking advantage of female prisoners.

• The anti-corruption watchdog made a rare decision to overturn a police appointment and install Sgt Munn after he was overlooked for promotion.

"There's a culture within the service to avoid accountability for management practices. There are a lot of dirty little secrets," Sgt Munn said. "A lot of your rank and file would come forward but they have seen what has happened to previous whistleblowers."

The Police Service has been accused of "doctor shopping" psychiatrists to block his return and refusing to provide a rehab program for the officer. Sgt Munn is on paid leave and says he has received more than $100,000 in the past 18 months from a police sick leave fund. Sgt Munn says the fund is meant for other officers "with genuine medical problems". "The harassment is continuing even though I'm not at work. I'm not ready to retire. I've spent 30 years of my life helping the community and there is value in me being able to do that," Sgt Munn said.

The QPS refuses to answer questions about Sgt Munn, former officer-in-charge of the Dayboro and Maroochydore police stations. Commissioner Bob Atkinson has been on leave this week. "The QPS is currently seeking medical information to determine (Sgt Munn's) fitness and ability to undertake the role of a police officer," a police spokeswoman said.

Evie, his wife, said her husband had been "honest to his own detriment" for speaking out years ago against fraudulent promotion practices, drawing the ire of supervisors and those involved in the rort.

Sgt Munn has arrested hundreds of criminals, had his jaw broken and a knife held to his chest. But he said criminals would be "envious" of shady activities within the force.

Queensland Police Union general secretary Mick Barnes said Sgt Munn was a victim of "bastardisation" in the force. "It highlights the mindset within many senior QPS officers who are unable to agree to disagree," he said.

Maroochydore's Sgt John Saez, a 37-year veteran, said he knows of no reason why Sgt Munn shouldn't be working. He said Sgt Munn was an intelligent supervisor "always looking out for the welfare of his troops" and was quick to suggest reforms to the force. "I honestly think they think Robbie is a dangerous fellow. Because he stands up for the truth, they want him out," Sgt Saez said. "If you buck the system, they put your name up on the wall with a black mark on it."

Sgt Munn's problems began in 1996 when he was wrongly denied a promotion at Dayboro. He took the matter to the then Criminal Justice Commission, which found in his favour.

In 2002, Sgt Munn blew the whistle on corruption within the promotion system of QPS. He found evidence of officers paying for answers to promotion tests, prompting an ethics investigation that led to the police service installing plagiarism software.

In 2005, when he was in charge of Maroochydore watchhouse, he suggested reforms to the roster system after becoming suspicious of shift requests from some officers. His suggestion of a larger rotation was vetoed. The following year, it was revealed officers had been sexually assaulting female inmates. Two officers were jailed over more than 20 charges and several others resigned.

"One of my motivations is to improve the lot of other officers. They might think if I can stand up against a corrupt system, they can too and it will make it better for them," Sgt Munn said. "I've got the runs on the board for doing that. If I can bring it out, maybe it won't happen to others. "Regardless of what they say, I can still hold my head up high."

Sgt Munn believes he was victimised after his whistleblowing by officers who made unsubstantiated complaints against him. He took stress leave and later had heart surgery and now the QPS refuses to take him back. The QPS made Sgt Munn visit one of its consulting psychiatrists, Petros Markou, who has suggested he return to work with a rehab plan that the QPS has yet to develop. Dr Markou said Sgt Munn's challenging of the police selection panel for the Dayboro position sparked retaliation.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Why is a large modern house a "McMansion"?

And why is anybody who wants one "obsessed"? This hate-speech from America's Green/Left now seems to have arrived in Australia. See below. It is just a sneer at ordinary people who don't follow Green/Left fads.

NSW'S obsession with the McMansion is as strong as ever. While the rest of Australia opts for smaller, more efficient abodes, new homes being built in NSW are 22 per cent larger than the national average. Data from property research firm BIS Shrapnel has revealed the average size of new homes in NSW grew 3 per cent this year to about 308.3sq m, compared with a national reduction of 0.8 per cent to 253.1sq m, The Daily Telegraph reports.

AVJennings NSW general manager Rod Killick said the figures revealed NSW buyers still believed "bigger is better". "It has been clear for some time that Australians are starting to prefer homes which are more efficient with their use of space," Mr Killick said. "That means smaller homes in terms of square metres, but it doesn't mean less comfort or amenity. "NSW homebuilders are clearly bucking that trend. "In fact, while NSW's homes were exactly the same size as the national average in 1990, they are now more than 50s m larger - that's more than the size of a double garage."

According to BIS Shrapnel, while the national average house size had grown by almost 12 per cent over the past decade, the NSW average had almost doubled. "In the last 10 years, NSW homes have grown by 23.9 per cent. That's double the national growth average and shows that home builders in NSW still believe bigger is better," Mr Killick said. However he expected obsession with size to wane, with trends suggesting buyers were becoming focused on design and quality.

Mr Killick said he didn't expect the outlandish growth to continue. "AV Jennings is finding that customers are starting to prefer spending their money on smaller homes with better quality inclusions and combined living areas, rather than paying the same for a larger home," Mr Killick said.


High marks for Australia in financial affairs

AS the global economic crisis crippled traditional financial powerhouses, Australia scaled the ranks to be placed second among the world's top financial centres, just behind Britain and up from 11th place last year, according to a World Economic Forum report. The US, which topped the list last year, slipped to third position overall, due mainly to poorer financial stability scores and a weakened banking sector, the WEF Financial Development Report, published on Thursday, said. Germany and France dropped out of the top 10.

Australia also ranked first for financial market access and for low risk of sovereign debt crisis, fifth for banking, and third for non-banking financial services.

"This report highlights what has been a remarkable performance for Australia's financial services sector and gives the nation well-deserved global recognition," Financial Services Minister Chris Bowen said. "This is testament to the strength of our financial system; our solid financial skills base and well-run financial institutions; our system of prudential regulation, and proactive regulators."

Australia has four of the only dozen or so AA-rated banks in the world, due in part to a tight regulatory regime and the domestic banks' limited exposure to poor-quality loans that were the downfall of many banks globally. [They also got a nasty shock over bad debts from Alan Bond and his ilk after deregulation in the '80s -- and they learnt some caution from that]

Australia's so-called "four pillars" policy prevents the four largest banks from merging. That has shielded the four -- ANZ, National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank and Westpac -- from takeover and allowed them to build up profitable, dominant market positions without the need to delve into riskier lending practices.

John Brogden, chief executive of pension and managed funds industry lobby group the Investment & Financial Services Association, said the results were a "testament to our deep and liquid markets, supported by Australia's superannuation (pension) and managed funds sectors". Australia has a $1 trillion-plus retirement savings industry, aided by the introduction of mandatory employer contributions to employee pension funds in the early 1990s.

The WEF's Financial Development Report ranks 55 of the world's leading financial systems and capital markets. Rankings are based on more than 120 variables across institutional and business environments, financial stability, and size and depth of capital markets.

Britain was buoyed by the relative strength of its banking and non-banking activities, such as insurance, said the forum, which each year gives scores to countries according to factors, policies and institutions that lead to effective financial intermediation -- matching savers with borrowers -- and deep and broad access to capital.

Britain's comparative success came despite a poor score for financial stability, one of seven categories of performance on which countries were assessed. For financial stability, the forum identified as problems worries about exchange rate stability, the frequency of banking crises, the manageability of private and government debt and the vulnerability to property bubbles. It ranked Britain 37th out of 55 nations in this category.

This left Britain trailing a string of countries often regarded as economically volatile, including Thailand, Brazil and Poland. Norway, Switzerland and Hong Kong took the three top places for financial stability.

The WEF, best known for its annual gathering of business and political leaders in Davos, also said that Britain needed to improve its institutional environment.


Australia's recovery races ahead of the world

THE Australian economy seems to know only one speed on its road to recovery: fast. After standing tall as one of the few major developed economies to escape the ravages of recession induced by the historic financial crisis, the domestic economy has become a beacon of hope for global markets that the worst of the downturn has passed.

The Reserve Bank this week broke from the powerful G20 pack to become the first central bank to begin a new cycle of tightening monetary policy, at a time when the world's biggest economies are seemingly spluttering back to life. How things have changed. At the very same RBA board meeting one year ago, the bank implemented the first 100 basis point "emergency rate cut".

The response to the 25 basis point rise to 3.25 per cent among global investors to the RBA's policy shift was instant -- and somewhat surprising. For once, an Australian economic move had led the world. The Dow Jones rallied 1.1 per cent on the news and the European markets saw the upside of the stance, which was hailed widely as a positive signal that sustainable growth is back on the agenda. The Australia dollar sailed through US90c, its highest level since August last year, and the S&P/ASX 200 gained 4 per cent in the two days that followed the decision. "People are looking at the Australian rate increase as telling the world that we're coming out of this," a New York trader said.

The tighter monetary stance in Australia is almost certain to be followed by further rises in the months ahead. The interbank futures market, which tipped this week's rate rise even though economists were lukewarm on the prospect, is certain that the central bank will order another 25 basis point hike when it meets in Sydney on Melbourne Cup Day. The odds of a follow-up rise in December are firming, which will give Australia its first three rate hikes in a row in recent times.

But this rush of action comes at a time when the central banks in the major economies of the US, Britain and Europe are still trying to avoid a second shock from emerging and showing no signs of shifting on monetary policy any time soon. On Thursday night, the Bank of England left its main interest rate on hold at 0.5 per cent, while the European Central Bank voted to keep its lending rates steady at 1 per cent.

The futures market predicts there is no chance the US Federal Reserve will move at its November meeting, but is pricing in that the funds rate could be up to 74 basis points higher in the year ahead.

Economist Kieran Davies has forecast rates in Australia will reach 4.5 per cent by June next year after two more hikes in November and December. "In terms of other central banks holding fire, I think it's a reflection of we did not have the banking sector trouble the US and Europe had," he says. "Australia has not had the overhang from the credit crunch. There are other emerging economies that are looking at tightening policy. Australia was the first in the G20 to go but there has been some hawkish commentary from the Reserve Bank of India, Norway looks like raising and there has been talk from the Bank of Korea. It has been a mixture of aggressive policy reaction and good luck that has made this a mild recession in Australia."

The tighter monetary policy conditions in Australia are also expected to make the nation's financial markets a hotspot for global investor funds. The natural home for this market has been the $A, which pushed through the US90c barrier and the maintenance of its momentum has prompted economists to speculate whether parity could occur in the next few months. "We do stand out, with New Zealand, in terms of the returns that are on offer compared with the rest of the world," Davies says.

The dollar was last night trading at US90.37c, as it tracks towards US90.75c -- the high point it reached in August last year before the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the worst of the downturn emerged. The recent trajectory means the $A is now 44.06 per cent higher from its March trough of US62.72c and 27 per cent higher than the US71.13c where it began the calendar year.


Australian universities rate highly

DESPITE a hammering in the Asian media over student safety, and fears for the higher education sector's international reputation, Australia's elite universities have consolidated their place in the global rankings. Times Higher Education today published world rankings showing Australia's Group of Eight research universities are all placed in the global top 100.

The ranking, a collaboration between THE and higher education consultants Quacquarelli Symonds, is used around the world by consumers - parents and students - as well as academics looking for work and employers seeking recruits. Universities are ranked in six categories, the most important being peer review. Scores are also given by international students.

Coming as it does in the same week as US-based Australian researcher Elizabeth Blackburn's Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine, this year's THES ranking is a fillip to a sector struggling to maintain its international standing against intense global competition. The Australian National University remains the standard bearer for the Group of Eight with an international ranking of 17 - down from the 16th place it enjoyed for the past three years. The ANU is the first university listed on the league ladder outside Britain and the US, which maintain their joint stranglehold on the top positions. Harvard once again claims the No1 world ranking, while Cambridge leapfrogs Yale to take second place.

The other big movers in the top 10 were University College London, whose rise from 7th to 4th relegates Oxford to 5th, a rank it shared with Imperial College London, and California Institute of Technology, which drops five places to 10th. Of the Australians, the University of Sydney gains one spot to tie for 36th place with the University of Melbourne, its perennial interstate rival. Melbourne improved two places on last year's ranking.

The University of Queensland also rose in the rankings, from 43 to 41, as did Monash, from 47 to 45, while the University of Adelaide vaulted from a disappointing 106th place last year to regain a position within the top 100 at 81. The University of NSW dropped two places, from 45 to 47. And while the University of Western Australia slid one place to 84th, it will consider this a minor victory given its fall of 19 places between 2007 and last year.

Senior figures within the higher education sector will feel some relief at the consolidation of Australia's position against the backdrop of negative international publicity generated by the overseas student debacle in the private training sector.

The other international bellwether of university performance, the Shanghai Jiao Tong University world university ranking, will be released next month. The SHJT ranking focuses more on research in the sciences and is regarded by most experts as a more rigorous measure than the THES league table, if more mono-dimensional.


Saturday, October 10, 2009


The management at this big NSW government hospital seems to be nearly as hands-off it was at the disgraced and now-closed King/Drew hospital in Los Angeles. Two brand new reports below plus re-runs of two previous reports -- one from yesterday and another from March 8th:

Amazing bungle at Westmead leaves family seething

"He was in agony"... a feeding tube was wrongly inserted into the lungs of Francis Wilks-Tansley, 7. The bastards should be sued for millions for what they did to the boy

THE family of a boy who almost died after a ''breathtakingly basic'' hospital bungle nine months ago is still waiting for a written apology and a change in policy to prevent other children suffering the same fate. Francis Wilks-Tansley will be fed through a hole in his stomach for the rest of his life and is unable to breathe properly after a feeding tube was inserted into his lungs - and not detected for 36 hours.

During that time the seven-year-old, admitted to The Children's Hospital at Westmead for seizures, was given water and six medications through the tube, causing him to develop a life-threatening pneumothorax, where air gets trapped in the cavity around the lungs, and his right lung to collapse. One of the drugs, sodium valproate, causes severe chemical burns to lung tissue.

Up to six staff tended to Francis, who was born partially blind, deaf and with limited voluntary movement, over several shifts before the error was discovered, despite repeated calls from his mother, Sarah Wilks, that he was in respiratory distress. A chest drain was then inserted for 17 days to remove the fluid in his lungs. ''He was in agony, in extreme pain,'' she said yesterday.

One staff member, who did not want to be named, described the mistake as ''breathtakingly basic''. Staff must draw out some contents of feeding tubes as soon as they are inserted to test for the presence of stomach acid. A drop is placed on litmus paper, which turns a vivid pink if stomach acid is present. A chest X-ray can also be used to confirm the tube's placement, particularly in heavily sedated or unconscious children.

But Dr Wilks, who has a PhD in biology, said the lamp next to Francis's bed, used to check the colour on the litmus paper, was not working, making the room dim and difficult for staff to determine if the tube had touched stomach acid or lung secretions.

A case review carried out by the hospital found there had been three attempts to insert the tube, and its blood-stained contents had turned the litmus paper pink, leading staff to believe it had been placed correctly. But it also said difficult or repeated attempts should alert staff to the need for an X-ray to check position. After the incident, staff were sent a short email reminding them of the importance of correct tube placement.

''They almost killed my son and yet haven't changed their culture,'' Dr Wilks said. ''This is not an error made by one person. It was a group of people, which means there must be a systemic or cultural problem, and I want to make sure they can't do it again. I don't want them punished; I want them educated.''

Dr Wilks, who also has three teenagers, had bought a house in Hobart the day Francis was admitted to hospital and has been commuting twice a week to be with him. Yesterday the hospital offered to reimburse her air fares and promised a new policy would be in place by the end of the month.

But she is adamant the offers were made only because she contacted the NSW Health Minister, Carmel Tebbutt, last week. ''It's been an unconscionable length of time. An apology now is worse than no apology at all. There is nothing I can do to reverse the damage done to Francis but, at the very least, the hospital needs to ensure this doesn't happen to other children.''

A spokeswoman for the hospital yesterday said staff had verbally apologised to Francis's family. She said a statewide safety notice had been issued in February and a compulsory education program was being developed for all staff inserting feeding tubes, but it was not known when it would begin. ''The hospital sincerely regrets this incident and how it has affected Francis and his family. We are not denying we made a mistake, and we are sorry about it.''


Patients catching lethal bugs at Westmead

FOUR patients a week admitted to Sydney's biggest hospital, Westmead, are being infected with potentially lethal golden staph and MRSA infections picked up while in the wards, hospital documents show. An investigation into where every one of the reported 2392 hospital-acquired infections, some known as "superbugs", occurred in 2008 in public hospitals showed Westmead topped the list, but other big hospitals including John Hunter, Liverpool, Blacktown and Royal North Shore were not far behind.

Experts believe the spread of infection is largely due to poor handwashing and other hygiene controls by nurses and doctors, The Daily Telegraph reports.

Official NSW Health records, obtained by Channel 9 under Freedom of Information laws, reveal the numbers of infected patients at public hospitals for central line associated bacteremia, surgical site infection, staphyloccus aureus (golden staph), multi-resistant staphyloccus aureus (MRSA) and acinetobacter baumanni.

A report on golden staph and MRSA, published in the Medical Journal Of Australia this week, reported golden staph infections can prove fatal for up 21 per cent of those infected within a month. Survivors can face having treatment sometimes over years to beat the illness.

The documents show Westmead recorded 243 infections in 2008, including 201 cases of golden staph and its antibiotic-resistant variant, MRSA.

Newcastle's John Hunter Hospital came in second with 150 infection cases, including 126 golden staph and MRSA incidents. The third highest hospital was Liverpool, which had 144 cases including 100 golden staph and MRSA cases. Children's hospitals also reported potentially life-threatening infections.

The Children's Hospital at Westmead had 31 cases of hospital acquired infection while its sister facility at Randwick, Sydney Children's Hospital, recorded 28 cases.

NSW Health Deputy Director General Tim Smyth said the likelihood of getting an infection in a public hospital was very small. The Department reported in 2008 an average of just 3.8 cases of MRSA infection for every 1000 intensive care days in public hospitals and 2.5 infections for every 10,000 bed days for golden staph bloodstream infections.


Unmonitored patient left to die at Westmead

Staff switch off "annoying" monitors that are there to save lives

A YOUNG mother at risk of sudden death from a brain cyst was left without a heart monitor for 20 hours before going into cardiac arrest at Westmead Hospital. Monitoring systems in the hospital's high-dependency unit were ''less than perfect'' when Rashpal Hayer died in July 2007, the NSW Coroner Mary Jerram said yesterday.

She was delivering findings after an inquest into Ms Hayer's death, which examined the failure to reattach the monitor and heard evidence of ''a 'culture' of silencing irritating alarms in that ward''.

Ms Hayer, 36, went to hospital with a severe headache. A CT scan revealed she had a colloid cyst, ''a very dangerous condition in which sudden death is known to be a possibility'', Ms Jerram said. A neurosurgeon instructed staff to monitor her closely, but a cardiac monitor was removed before a scan on July 2 and was not replaced when she returned to the ward. Ms Hayer was found in cardiac arrest at 6am on July 3. She never recovered brain function and died four days later.

Ms Jerram said nurses on the night shift and three doctors - including neurosurgical registrars - either failed to notice or saw no problem with the fact that she was without a cardiac monitor. Ms Hayer could possibly have been treated if a monitor had been fitted and sounded when she went into arrest, she said.

The inquest also heard that a finger probe monitoring Ms Hayer's pulse and oxygen levels had detached half an hour before her cardiac arrest. It should have sounded warnings.

Ms Jerram said it was possible the alarm connection to the nurses' station was not working, or that ''the alarms were deliberately silenced at some stage … not necessarily from any malice''. She accepted evidence from a nurse that the ward had a culture of ''silencing irritating alarms''.

Ms Jerram made no formal recommendations, noting that the hospital conducted three investigations into the death and had policies to remedy some of the problems highlighted.


Westmead public hospital bankrupt and partly closed down

Bed numbers have been slashed this week at Sydney's biggest hospital, in a round of ward closures aimed at reining in a $70 million blow-out in the region's health spending. Ten of 16 operating suites have been closed and elective surgery has been cancelled, with staff forced to take leave, sources said. Forty-three cardiology and heart surgery beds have shut since late last year, said medical and nursing staff, culminating last week in the closure without notice of the heart surgery ward - which staff found empty and locked when they arrived for work.

The unprecedented axing of about 70 beds comes after the Herald revealed in late January that Sydney West Area Health Service, which oversees Westmead, owed $26 million to creditors - more than any other region and almost a quarter of NSW Health's outstanding debt to suppliers at that time.

Neurosurgery and general surgery beds have also closed, said the sources, while casual nursing shifts have been curtailed across the entire hospital, as displaced permanent staff are redeployed into vacancies on the roster. The closures represent about 9 per cent of Westmead's total capacity, and are the biggest round of cuts at a single hospital to strike the beleaguered state health system. The chairman of the hospital's Medical Staff Council, Andrew Pesce, said the closures were by far the most severe the flagship teaching hospital had seen. "It's a quantum leap [compared with] the modest bed closures usually built around [public] holidays," Dr Pesce said.

Coming a month before Easter and without any promise that beds would reopen or surgery resume, the closures were the equivalent of an extra Christmas closedown, said Dr Pesce - referring to the practice of selectively suspending services during the holiday period to save money. "If things continue the way they are going, the morale of the place will become so low that doctors and nurses will start leaving," he said. Hospital managers were not solely to blame because NSW Health gave them "unrealistic budgets".

Public hospitals had traditionally been insulated from state spending cuts, Dr Pesce said, but NSW's wider financial crisis meant they were no longer receiving favourable treatment. Health accounts for about one-third of the state's spending, and had blown out by about $300 million at the time of November's mini-budget. Area health services were ordered to save $943 million over four years.

A spokesman for the Health Minister, John Della Bosca, declined to address the Herald's specific questions about closures, offering instead in a written statement: "There have been adjustments to bed platforms and relocations of some services within Westmead's overall funding base . Westmead has further capacity to improve bed utilisation and this is a priority for management attention in the relevant services as part of the operational strategy." He also did not answer a question about the number of patients whose elective operations were cancelled, instead insisting elective surgery was still available but saying the hospital was "under resource pressure and needs to ensure that its priorities are met but not exceeded and that all opportunities to ensure it operates efficiently are explored".

The president of the NSW branch of the Australian Medical Association, Brian Morton, said he understood patients would be moved to general wards under the care of "staff who don't have the same skills". Patients would be at risk if already overcrowded hospitals were further stressed. .. That's when mistakes happen."

The Opposition's health spokeswoman, Jillian Skinner, said the closures would endanger patients. "The evidence is quite clear that delayed treatment makes conditions worse and makes the hospital stay longer - and therefore more expensive."


Refugees know Kevin Rudd has opened the door

By Paul Toohey

SOME are stuck, their spirits broken and their money gone. They are unable to move. Others are just waiting for the right deal and are ready to make the journey at a moment's notice. At the mountain resort town of Puncak, two hours south of Jakarta, an estimated 400 Iraqis and Afghans, including Naghmeh and her son Milad, are scattered about in rundown inns and hotels. Most of them barely know each other but they are united by a common obsession - getting to Australia. The Indonesian authorities know they are here, as do the Australian government and agencies such as the International Organisation for Migration and the UN High Commission for Refugees. Most of them are registered as refugees with the UNHCR, and are waiting and praying for legal settlement in countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

But they say the UN moves too slowly for them. Those with the money will take their chances with the people-smugglers and book a passage on an Indonesian boat to Ashmore Reef or to Christmas Island - anywhere, as long as it is within Australian waters.

There is a surge happening, with 10 boats, carrying 542 passengers and crew, arriving in Australian waters last month alone. Another boat, carrying 55 people, was intercepted yesterday near Ashmore Reef. Observers say it is either an organic spike, or it may be that people have chosen to move before the monsoon weather sets in.

But all the people The Weekend Australian spoke to were sure of the new ground rules in Australia - that is, that anyone who makes it to Australian waters will, if they pass the health and security checks, be on the mainland with a visa within 90 days.

Samer, a 31-year-old Iraqi now living in Puncak, knows all about Kevin Rudd and his new immigration rules. "I know Kevin Rudd is the new PM," he says. "I know about him. He has tried to get more immigrants. I have heard if someone arrives it is easy. They have camps, good service and if someone arrives they give us a limited visa and after three years you become an Australian citizen."

The Howard government's Pacific Solution is dead, and they know it. That is why Australian police are working in Indonesia trying to encourage people to turn back before they arrive in Australian waters. In places such as Sri Lanka, the source of a recent wave of boatpeople after the civil war, Australia is using street theatre to spread its message about the dangers and illegality of the journey in an effort to deter people-smugglers and those who use them. In Colombo, the first failed asylum-seekers to be forcibly deported by the Rudd government, including Stanley Warnakulasuriya, face an uncertain future.

Australia funds the IOM to accommodate irregular arrivals in places such as Puncak, and to offer them the opportunity to volunteer for free repatriation. Few take it. The IOM's best estimate is that there are several thousand Afghans and Iraqis in Indonesia, trying to find a route south.

While many in Puncak identify as Afghans, they may not have lived in that country for years. One such is Ali, 18, who was born in Afghanistan but was taken to Iran with his mother, brother and sister when he was three after his father was killed by enemies. Ali says life in Iran was unbearable, and his family were never accepted into the Iranian community. "They do not treat us as friend but as enemy," he says. His family gathered the money from their dressmaking business and have sent Ali to find a path to Australia, and with any luck to bring the rest of them later.

Ali says he has never possessed an official document that identifies him. If he gets to Australia, how will he prove he is who he says he is? He does not know. "I am not Taliban," he says.

Ali left Iran seven months ago with $US5000 ($5535). He flew to Malaysia, which provides immediate tourist visas on arrival to visitors from Muslim countries. He stayed for four months, hooking up with four other Afghan teenagers. With safety in numbers, they each paid $US800 to a local agent, who brought them on a boat to western Sumatra. They island-hopped on ferries to Jakarta, where they immediately registered with the UNHCR. This gave them a modicum of security. Those who do not register can find themselves locked away in one of Indonesia's 12 detention centres.

They have no faith that the UNHCR will find a Western country to take them, so they stay in contact with a Jakarta-based Afghan people-smuggler. He is asking $US6000 to deliver them to Australian waters. It is too much money for Ali, who is waiting for the price to drop. He says he would prefer to enter Australia legally, but he is running out of time and money. "If I get a suitable price, I will take a boat," he says. "I have to go. I have to take my chances."

Migration experts in Indonesia dismiss the notion that there is a "snake-head" - that is, a major international criminal syndicate moving Afghans and Iranians from Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iran to Australia. "If there was a snake-head, we could simply cut off the head," said one source. "But it's not like that. It's the lack of any highly organised structure that is in fact its strength. It's more like a series of travel agencies."

The Australian Federal Police are working on a training program with Indonesian police to tackle the irregular migrants, as they are called in Indonesia, but it's a battle. They have identified 12 key departure points across Indonesia, but these are only temporary. Once the heat is on, the smugglers just shift location.

The Indonesian navy last month intercepted a boatload of 70 Afghans headed for Australia. They were put in a low-security detention centre on the island of Lombok. On the evening of September 23, during Ramadan, their guards were elsewhere or were looking the other way (during Ramadan, you are required to be kind to all people). They walked out the door and have now broken up into smaller, less conspicuous groups and have scattered across the islands. They will presumably try again.

During 2000 and 2001, the time of the Tampa crisis, women and children were making the journey. Now it is almost exclusively men, who hope to settle and bring their families afterwards. We did meet one rare Afghan woman, Naghmeh, 28, who was living in a decrepit motel in Puncak with her 10-year-old son Milad. She was originally from the Oruzgan province of Afghanistan but left for Iran as a child., She still considers herself an Afghan. Naghmeh, who has Asiatic features and could pass as an Indonesian, has been a refugee nearly all her life. She says her husband had hardline religious views. "I didn't want to be with him," she says. "I want to be secular."

Naghmeh says she flew from Iran to Dohar and then to Singapore. She arrived in Jakarta in January. She had paid $US6000 to an agent in Iran, which was for her airfares and boat travel to Australia. "The agent took the money and ran," she said. Naghmeh and Milad are trapped in Puncak. Many are in a similar fix, running down their money and marking time. For registered refugees, the UNHCR will eventually come through with subsistence cash - 1.77 million rupiah a month ($210). But the Afghans say it takes seven to eight months to start receiving it.

Thair, 23, is an Iraqi who fled to Syria in 2007. He is yet another male emissary, sent by his family to make his way to Australia. He says he is surviving on the UNHCR money, hoping he will be legally resettled in Australia. "You know why people take the boats?" he says. "They are waiting too long here in Indonesia. We are all registered with the UNHCR, but we wait, wait, wait. Every day I die here. I can't eat, I can't sleep. Now I want to go back home, but I cannot go back home. "I do not want to catch a boat. The ocean is not easy. I want to build my life. I want to change my life, to get married, to go to Australia."

Muhammad, 16, from Kandahar in Afghanistan, is another recent arrival. His money is running low but he is hoping to buy a passage with $US2000. He has been told the weather is turning bad and that he may have to wait three months. Some of the Afghan refugees have heard about the SIEV36 explosion at Ashmore Reef on April 16, in which five of their countrymen died. They have also heard that anyone who makes it to Australian waters is almost guaranteed fast processing. "Everybody knows about the 90 days," says Muhammad. They know little about Australian politics, but they do know something has changed. And that it is not hard to become an Australian if you can only make the crossing.

A group of Afghan teenage youths, who are yet to receive the UNHCR allowance, eat two meals a day - rice with a salad of cucumbers, onions and tomatoes. They insist we share their food. They say they want Australians to know their stories. They have many stories, but they're all the same. They are the last hope of their families back home. Ali says he wants to continue in the dressmaking trade. Matin wants to be a mechanic. Muhammad would like to study medicine, and Amir wants to be a carpenter.

These teenagers describe themselves as Muslim, but just outside their rented home, for which they pay about $100 a month, there is a small musholla, or prayer room, which is used by local Indonesians. They do not use it. They indicate, in circumspect fashion, that the last thing they're interested in is religion. It has been the cause of all their problems.

Samer, 31, says he was a photo-journalist in Baghdad and has a picture of himself in a media flak jacket with a press badge and a camera around his neck. He says he worked for One World magazine and fled after he was threatened by terrorists. He went to Syria but says local intelligence agents put the heavies on him to become a spy. "They're like Gestapo," he says, "and I could not tell them I support America." He caught a plane to Doha, and then on to Malaysia, where he applied through the UNHCR to become a refugee. "I got no help from them," he says. "They are useless." He says he was dumped in a jungle in Sumatra and caught ferries and buses across to Jakarta.

"So many Afghans here in Puncak have been cheated. The people who organise to get you on the boat are wealthy Afghans or Iraqis who live here. I met one; I didn't trust him. He says to give him $4000 and after a few days we'll move to a boat. There were no guarantees."

Thair says he has heard from friends that Australia is clean and peaceful. But for now, he doesn't know what he's going to do. He was so terrified catching the boat from Malaysia to Indonesia that he refuses ever to go on one again. Thair is afraid of going back to Iraq, but he believes taking a voluntary repatriation is his only option. "I was so stupid coming here," he says.


Call for a charter based on stitch-up

THE report of the consultation committee on a charter or bill of rights for Australia was released yesterday. The committee was set up by the federal Attorney-General, who favours a statutory bill of rights; it was chaired by someone who was already on the record as supporting such a bill and contained no known sceptics; and its terms of reference favoured a pro-bill of rights outcome.

To no one's surprise the committee recommended the enactment of a national human rights act, which is to say a statutory bill of rights. And down the line the recommendations are worse than any sceptic might have hoped. Calling for a federal bill of rights, the committee has recommended a declaration of incompatibility power be given to judges, no doubt inviting a challenge to this power on constitutional grounds.

On top of that it wants all bills introduced in parliament to be accompanied by a statement of compatibility, despite the fact in other countries such a requirement has collapsed into a lawyer-driven exercise that involves guessing what the judges are likely to think about the bills' compatibility with the enumerated amorphous rights guarantees.

Perhaps worst of all, it recommends a reading down provision be included, though this is described as an "interpretative provision". There is a tiny bit of genuflecting towards those who point out the awful outcomes in Britain after just such a provision was enacted. The committee recommends this provision be "more restrictive than the UK provision" (recommendation No.28).

At the same time, it also recommends a form of words (recommendation No.12) for the same sort of provision should the government decide to forswear a statutory bill of rights. This provision would then go into the Acts Interpretation Act, and its wording is almost identical to the wording in Britain, save for a rider that mimics the one in Victoria. But that rider has done nothing, as the latest case law shows, to stop the judges there from looking to the awful British precedents.

So down the line this committee has recommended virtually everything that the most fervent advocate of a bill or charter of rights (and the terminology is an irrelevant red herring) could have wanted. It will revolutionise the relations between unelected judges and the elected parliament.

Think of it as a wish list created by your typical self-styled human rights lobby group. Throw everything at the wall - a reading down provision, a declarations power, a compulsory statement of compatibility and a lot more - then see what sticks.

What you don't see is all that much intellectual rigour. We are told the reading down provision should be more restrictive than the one in Britain. We are not told what that wording should be, at least not if the goal really is to achieve a more restrictive outcome as opposed to just saying so. Any wording is apt to let the lawyers and judges have their way in the end.

Then we are told what is being recommended is the dialogue model of a charter of rights, as in New Zealand, Britain and Victoria. But that label, dialogue, as soothing as it may be to the uninitiated, is disingenuous. No one can read the case law coming out of Britain and NZ, and more recently Victoria, and think the relations between judges and legislators are aptly described as being a dialogue. As a political scientist said, it's a dialogue in the same way you'd have a dialogue if judges walked into a restaurant and ordered a meal from a legislator, which the legislator then brought then. It's that sort of dialogue.

Last point. The committee makes much of the fact it received 35,000 responses, with another 6000 odd people attending its round-table sessions. That is the same as saying it heard from 0.2 per cent of the Australian population, or hasn't heard from 99.8 per cent of us. And those it heard from were disproportionately from charter cheerleading lobby groups.

This report is entirely predictable. Indeed, it is more or less what I predicted when the committee was announced and why I refused to make a submission. It looked like a stitch-up job from day one. And nothing in the report makes me think any differently now that it's out.

Time for those of us who think this issue is too important to be left to a coterie of like-minded charter cheerleaders to speak up against this awful report and to demand that something this fundamental to our governing relations be put to us in a plebiscite orreferendum.



The science of climate change is too doubtful to dramatically change Australia's national defence plans, according to a key adviser on the Australian Defence Force's recent White Paper. While the white paper acknowledges for the first time climate change is a potential security risk, it says large-scale strategic consequences of climate change are not likely to be felt before 2030.

A key adviser on the white paper, Professor Ross Babbage, says he is not convinced that climate change exists at all. "The data on what's really happening in climate change was looked at pretty closely and the main judgment reached was that it was pretty uncertain - it wasn't clear exactly what was going on," he said. "When you look at that data, it really does suggest that there hasn't been a major change in the last decade or so and certainly no major increase. So the sort of judgments that were required have to be fairly open at this stage."

However Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has frequently put forward the opposite view, and other security analysts believe Defence should not be debating the basic science of global warming. Anthony Bergin, from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, says the ADF's judgement goes against most scientific conclusions. "There was no supporting evidence presented in the Defence White Paper for the judgement that there would be no strategic impacts of climate change for 30 years," he said. "It seems to run counter to most of the scientific judgements that are now concluding that impact of climate change is indeed faster and more severe than previous estimates."

In the US and the UK, security agencies and the military are providing resources to prepare for potential new climate conflicts over water, food and refugees as well as increasingly frequent natural disasters. They are also moving to ensure defence equipment will function in more extreme weather conditions. Sydney University's Professor Alan Dupont says the CIA in the US had the right approach. "They accepted the scientific forecasts of the IPCC as their starting point because they thought they were not qualified to contest the scientific issues. And I would have thought the same applied to our own defence department."

At the internationally respected Royal United Services Institute in London, Dr Tobias Feakin, the director of national security says the Australian white paper is out of step. "Climate change is already happening, so to press pause on considering it as a strategic issue, I think, could be a mistake," he said. "The time cycles for buying equipment rotate in about 20-year cycles so you need to begin to make the decisions now to purchase the kinds of equipment that you'll need for climate change world. "So to not actually acknowledge the kind of changes that we will be seeing then, I think will be quite short-sighted."

Because of long lead times and high expense, Professor Babbage says Defence moves cautiously when it comes to adopting new planning scenarios. "At this stage there isn't really the case to fundamentally change the direction of the Defence Force as a consequence of what we are so far seeing in terms of climate change, given the uncertainties that we still see in the data sets. Professor Babbage says Defence considered a variety of climate scenarios and judged Australia's current defence capabilities and force structure would cope.

He points out that Prime Minister Rudd, as chairman of the National Security Council, signed off on the white paper's conclusions.


NOTE: The Australian Government's Defence White Paper is available here

Friday, October 09, 2009

Blackface row over Australian TV show

Must not use black faces to portray Michael Jackson's backing singers apparently. I kinda thought they WERE black. Shows how much I know!
"An embarrassing row has erupted during the second Hey Hey Its Saturday reunion special, after a a Red Faces skit featuring singers in blackface performing a Michael Jackson tribute.

American singer Harry Connick Jr, who was appearing on the segment as a guest judge, led a chorus of criticism over the Jackson Jive skit, prompting an apology from red-faced host Daryl Somers, the Herald Sun reports.

The singer gave the troupe a score of zero and said the act would not have gone down well in the US. He said he needed to "speak up as an American" to say the skit was in bad taste.

But the man who dressed as Jackson in the segment, which was an encore of the skit first performed on Red Faces 20 years ago, said the group had checked with the show's producers on whether it should go ahead. Dr Anand Deva said the act was meant to be a tribute to Michael Jackson and if Hey Hey staff had expressed concern, it would have been axed. "It certainly was not meant to be racist in any way at all," Dr Deva said. "I think he (Connick Jr) is taking it the wrong way."

Dr Deva, whose face was painted white in the skit to portray Jackson, said he and his friends came from ethnic backgrounds and were all too aware of racism. "Two of us come from India and one of us comes from Lebanon so we can't afford to be racist to be honest," he said. "If we did offend him (Connick Jr) we truly didn't mean to."

Source (See also the video there)

Conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is not much impressed by the role of Harry Connick Jr. in the matter. The skit has made it big on American TV news and other media. Americans find it hard to accept that their neurosis about race is not universally shared. Even Australia's Leftist Deputy Prime Minister has defended the skit as being innocuous and most Australians have said likewise in online polls.

Seriously, can't we have a laugh anymore?

A NEW division has been set up within the Federal Police to deal with a scourge on society. The Fun Police will conduct raids on homes across Australia searching for evidence of jokes about blacks, Jews, sex, cyclists or fatties. Anyone seen laughing, snickering or smirking at jokes deemed to be in poor taste will be punished.

"Those in possession of humorous material, without government authorisation, will be sentenced to a year detention in the home of a member of the Australian Family Association," says AFP boss Tony Negus.

The list of offenders is as long as your arm. Kyle Sandilands faces two months without pork (including makin' bacon) for joking about weight loss in concentration camps. Magda Szubanski must ride to work for 12 months after encouraging drivers to knock over cyclists. John Safran's eyes will be plucked from his head for masturbating to an image of Barack Obama in a Palestinian sperm bank. Reporters on the ABC's Hungry Beast will cop a tongue-lashing from Liz Ellis for gags about gang-banging the Australian netball team. And Daryl Somers will be sent to a re-education camp on the life and times of Malcolm X after a blackface skit on Hey Hey It's Saturday.Seriously - why can't we just have a laugh any more?

We all know that dying children, injured cyclists, concentration camps and slavery aren't funny. But black humour (oops, sorry, I mean dark humour - oh, actually, how about satire?) is a way of coping with tragedy. Comedy is a vehicle (not the type used to kill cyclists) to help us escape our banal, day-to-day existence. It's supposed to be edgy, to challenge our way of thinking, to push our boundaries. Whether its funny or not is a matter of personal opinion.

Let's take the Jackson Jive segment on Red Faces, for example. The lead singer (incidentally, a plastic surgeon) wore white make-up while the rest wore black to pillory Michael Jackson's grotesque quest to deny his African-American heritage. Wacko Jacko impersonator Dr Anand Deva says it's ironic he has been called a racist, given his Indian background. Judge Harry Connick Jr took offence, saying if the skit had appeared in the US it would have been "hey, hey no show".

"I'm one of the thousands of viewers who were offended by John Blackman's last name," writes one blogger. "What a nerve to call himself Blackman when he is clearly white!"

In the dark (whoops, there I go again!) old days of slavery, black humourists made fun of white people as a coping mechanism. But when the tables are turned, all hell breaks loose.

In the hilarious movie Tropic Thunder, Robert Downey Jr stars as an Australian actor playing a black soldier in a parody of Apocalypse Now. "I'm just a dude playin' a dude disguised as another dude," the character famously says. Like the Hey Hey sketch, the film ridicules the Black and White Minstrel's use of blackface makeup. But Downey Jr was lambasted in the press with banner headlines screaming, "It's Racism".

The self-appointed moral majority is also outraged by guerilla comedian John Safran encouraging a Palestinian man to masturbate in an Israeli sperm bank. Whether you view this as an "edgy comedy sequence about cross-cultural harmony" (ABC press release) or a desperately unfunny grab for ratings, there's an easy solution: either watch it, or turn it off. Ditto Kyle Sandilands, Magda Szubanski and the hundreds of other entertainers who make their living trying to make us laugh.

Wanna know what makes me laugh? The hypocrisy of it all. Magda bags Kyle for making fun of starving Jews then jokes about injuring cyclists. Robbie McEwen says Magda "deserves to get hit crossing the road" while Tour de France rider Michael Rogers makes a fatty jibe: "Maybe Magda should ride a bike a bit more." It's the same rationale used by pro-lifers who firebomb abortion clinics to save lives.

So who are we allowed to poke fun at? In his best-selling book Stuff White People Like Canadian Christian Lander skewers middle-class, Caucasian, urban-dwelling folk, who "pretend to be unique, yet somehow they're all exactly the same". And guess what? No one seriously accuses him of being racist.

Back home, the brief for the Fun Police is simple - if the joke targets a minority, it's offensive. If it's about middle-aged white people, say what you like.

Law firm Slater & Gordon is preparing a class action on behalf of comedians who suffer financial loss and public humiliation as a result of the new laws. Their defence depends on whether the jokes are actually funny.


Integration, the missing ingredient of immigration

The recent call for a review of Australia's migration intake has, in my opinion, a great deal of merit. In fact, I am pleasantly surprised that the usual assortment of jibes attacking those who advocate a more measured migration program hasn't yet taken place. Perhaps that's because this time the advocacy comes from a leftist Labor politician. I have no doubt that had a conservative made such a call the cries of "xenophobia" and "dog-whistle politics" would have been deafening.

I have benefited from migration more than most Australians. My father came here from Italy in 1958 and my wife is an Irish migrant. I have an extended family comprising Australians who have originated from Malaysia, Denmark, Austria, Ireland, England and Italy. They all add to the richness of my life and that of our nation, which is why I don't want any of you to construe what I am writing here as being anti-immigration. Nothing could be further from the truth.

But there is something clearly wrong with the migration system in Australia today, and it is about time we had a decent conversation about it. Unfortunately, it is a conversation that many conservatives shy away from due to the vile and outrageous pot-shots it often provokes. I recall receiving a most abusive e-mail from an ABC journalist over a previous comment of mine in which I dared to raise the subject of benefits given to those entering our territory illegally and claiming asylum.

However, the immigration problems we need to deal with are not limited to illegals. Our authorised migration processes are clearly not working effectively either. The past few years have seen what can only be described as an explosion in race-oriented violence, ranging from riots in Cronulla and terrorist plots to gang stabbings and gang rape. The question is: why?

Shooting from the hip, my view is that it comes down to lack of assimilation. Unfortunately, too many new Australians put their faith, their clan or their longstanding hatreds ahead of the values of their adopted country. They seek to use our freedoms, our systems and our tolerance as a means of undermining our values and indulging in behaviour that is anathema to most Australians.

The suggestion that our migrant intake should be reduced to ensure sufficient vetting of applicants and their background is a step in the right direction. But I believe there is a bigger problem. Evidence suggests that the many so-called "race" problems are not caused by the original immigrants but by their radicalised children. Somehow, the progeny of those who have been offered a better life in Australia are keener at continuing ancient rivalries or religious hatreds than their forebears. Such beliefs can only be cultivated by the same extremist poison that is far too prevalent in the United Kingdom, Europe and parts of Africa and South East Asia.

The question many ask, but too many of us avoid answering, is: where does most of this indoctrination of hate begin? For some it is in the home, but evidence suggests that for many it begins in the mosque. Yet to say so is to subject oneself to claims of intolerance and bigotry. Frankly, it is time for the excuses to stop.

For how long can we be expected to accept sermons of hate explained as being incorrectly translated? Surely, it is right to ask how the so-called "religion of peace" can be so regularly used, by the very people it proclaims as scholars of its holy book, as an excuse for murder and destruction.

Recently, the activities and arrest of an alleged Islamic terrorist were blamed by one of his relations on the Australian welfare system. Let me tell you: if this was a genuine reason for the dismantling of the welfare state, then I'd probably join the campaign. The problem, though, is that this claim, like many other rationalisations, is nonsense. It is simply an excuse to seek to exonerate the vile alleged activities of a religious extremist.

In Australia we are yet to see the openly public protests advocating death to infidels or other displays of bilious hatred that have occurred elsewhere. The day we do and are expected to accept it as freedom of speech is the day our nation ceases to become the egalitarian one previous generations have fought so hard to defend.

You may ask, as I do, how we can prevent the expansion of racial and religious hatred from infecting Australian society. Unfortunately, I don't have the answer. However, it is clear to me that unless we are prepared to stop making excuses for those who support the doctrine of intolerance and hatred, and until we are prepared to talk openly about the problems associated with a clearly flawed immigration policy, we will be ignoring a battle that we must win.

Winning that battle requires great courage from our politicians, honesty from members of the fourth estate, and greater advocacy by members of the public. We must now be willing to engage in the same debate that too many nations have ignored to their own regret.

Unless we are prepared to learn from the experience of others, the difficulties we are experiencing today may just be the genesis of a problem that could change our country forever.


Unmonitored patient left to die in NSW government hospital

Staff switch off "annoying" monitors that are there to save lives

A YOUNG mother at risk of sudden death from a brain cyst was left without a heart monitor for 20 hours before going into cardiac arrest at Westmead Hospital. Monitoring systems in the hospital's high-dependency unit were ''less than perfect'' when Rashpal Hayer died in July 2007, the NSW Coroner Mary Jerram said yesterday.

She was delivering findings after an inquest into Ms Hayer's death, which examined the failure to reattach the monitor and heard evidence of ''a 'culture' of silencing irritating alarms in that ward''.

Ms Hayer, 36, went to hospital with a severe headache. A CT scan revealed she had a colloid cyst, ''a very dangerous condition in which sudden death is known to be a possibility'', Ms Jerram said. A neurosurgeon instructed staff to monitor her closely, but a cardiac monitor was removed before a scan on July 2 and was not replaced when she returned to the ward. Ms Hayer was found in cardiac arrest at 6am on July 3. She never recovered brain function and died four days later.

Ms Jerram said nurses on the night shift and three doctors - including neurosurgical registrars - either failed to notice or saw no problem with the fact that she was without a cardiac monitor. Ms Hayer could possibly have been treated if a monitor had been fitted and sounded when she went into arrest, she said.

The inquest also heard that a finger probe monitoring Ms Hayer's pulse and oxygen levels had detached half an hour before her cardiac arrest. It should have sounded warnings.

Ms Jerram said it was possible the alarm connection to the nurses' station was not working, or that ''the alarms were deliberately silenced at some stage … not necessarily from any malice''. She accepted evidence from a nurse that the ward had a culture of ''silencing irritating alarms''.

Ms Jerram made no formal recommendations, noting that the hospital conducted three investigations into the death and had policies to remedy some of the problems highlighted.


Warmist laws guaranteed to swell bureaucracy

Just what the country needs: Another army of tax-eating paper shufflers who produce nothing

ALTHOUGH the Rudd government's emissions trading scheme will put serious pressure on jobs in industries such as mining and agriculture, it will prove to be a significant boon for the federal public service.

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull's decision to stake his future on securing concessions from the government over its climate change legislation will do nothing to avert this, regardless of what he can wring at thebargaining table to protect jobs in these industries.

The government is already well advanced in establishing a super bureaucracy to administer compliance with these laws even though its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is still awaiting its fate in parliament.

At the heart of this is the Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority, which will be supported by a new division created within the Department of Climate Change.

Informed sources say that about 100 staff and officials will initially be involved in this operation, but this is likely to blow out dramatically when the full implications of what will effectively amount to a federal consumption tax on carbon emissions become clear.

This new regulatory agency will have sweeping powers to enforce the government's climate change regime. It will also issue and auction emissions permits and collect the revenue from these. The bill to provide for this agency went up to a Senate committee inquiry earlier this year but it received little attention as the focus was largely on the scope of the CPRS proposals.

In the May budget the government said this new agency would take over the existing functions of other regulators, limiting the risk of conflict, streamlining procedures and reducing the burden for business. Farmers in NSW won't be holding their breaths for this eventuality, having just found their rates have jumped by up to 120per cent after the state government created a new rural super bureaucracy.

Media advertisements for the head of a division of stakeholder support and engagement within the Department of Climate Change give some insight into how this new structure will operate. The division will be responsible for "building communications, outreach, audit and compliance capabilities for ACCRA". The job description goes on to state the division will develop and manage relationships with key stakeholders and devise and implement a range of communications, education and marketing strategies to build confidence in the regulator's administrative processes that will, in turn, support effective regulation and "foster voluntary compliance".

But the terms of employment for members of the regulatory agency and its support division inside the department show that businesses will be expected to make available highly sensitive commercial information about their operations.

In fact, legislation to establish the regulatory body says that given the potential scope and sensitivity of commercial information that will now be collected, penalties for its unauthorised use and disclosure are essential. As a result people working in this area will require a secret security clearance.

All this looks strikingly like the way the Australian Taxation Office operates. For example, the ATO works on a system of self-assessment supported by audit. And it is in this latter area that the requirement for significant staff numbers is generated.

And in setting out the qualities it is looking for in the head of its stakeholder support and engagement division, the department says this person will need to understand the importance of audit and compliance functions that will underpin the effectiveness of its CPRS regulatory framework.

So where does this leave business? Well, apart from meeting endless state-based compliance requirements and filing an annual tax return as well as quarterly business assessment statements, it will now also have to complete an annual energy or environmental tax return.

Tomorrow night Turnbull will address a key business function in Melbourne organised by the Liberal Party. The $1100-a-head dinner was primarily designed as a rallying call for business to get behind the beleaguered party. But Turnbull's response to Rudd's ETS has, instead, increased speculation about his leadership abilities and the possibility of a damaging split in the parliamentary party.

Rather than looking for a way to bring the government and the opposition together on an ETS to avoid the consequences of a double dissolution, Turnbull should be detailing an alternative to what is a clearly flawed policy. More to the point, he should be outlining his broad strategy for a fight back to the Treasury benches.

The reality is that his approach to the ETS issue is just confirming the fears of many Liberals that the party has lost its point of difference and become an mirror image of the ALP.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

Unemployment rate records small drop

This compares with 10% unemployment in the USA. After many years of conservative government economic policy, the Australian economy was well positioned to withstand shocks. Rudd had been in power for only around a year when the shocks hit and he had implemented little in the way of new policy. Yet the Australian unemployment rate remained low throughout

The Australian unemployment rate has unexpectedly dipped to 5.7 per cent in September. Unemployment had remained at 5.8 per cent for the previous three months, despite the loss of 27,100 jobs in August. The official employment survey shows 40,600 more jobs were created in September, with 35,400 of those being full-time positions.

The result was much better than the average economists' expectations of 10,000 jobs being lost for an unemployment rate of 6 per cent.

The result goes some way to vindicating the Reserve Bank's surprise decision to raise interest rates on Tuesday, at least a month ahead of when most economists thought it would move.

JP Morgan's chief economist, Stephen Walters, was one of the very few economists who predicted the RBA's rate hike, and says more figures like these will see further rises coming sooner rather than later. "It's a strong message, if you believe the numbers, that our economy is substantially outperforming the rest of the world," he told Reuters. "After this, I think the chance of a November move has gone up a lot, although there is still a lot of water under the bridge. For example, next week's consumer confidence will likely take a hit from Tuesday's rate hike. I see rates at 4 percent by Q1 [the first quarter of] next year."

Ben Potter, a research analyst with IG Markets, says today's numbers could even mark the peak of unemployment. "It's pretty obvious the RBA had an advanced read on today's employment numbers and can now more easily justify the reason they pulled the rates trigger," he wrote in an emailed note on the data. "The creation of 40,000 jobs against forecast losses of 10,000, and the unemployment rate falling to 5.7 per cent, would certainly seem to suggest we have seen peak unemployment, particularly given the positive reads from recent forward looking indicators."

The participation rate also recovered from a drop last month, when people giving up looking for work was the main reason the unemployment rate remained stable despite a substantial loss of jobs. Stephen Walters says this is a good sign that there is a genuine recovery building in the employment market. "It was a very, very strong number. Most of the increase was in full-time, and interestingly, unemployment went down even though more people entered the workforce."


Claim: Schools 'too focused' on literacy, numeracy

Some incredibly confused nonsense below. They identify people skills and technology skills as of first importance but how are you going to do any of that if you can't read and can't handle numbers? They seem to want kids to run before they can crawl. Sounds like more ivory-tower academic Leftism to me. They appear to be totally unaware of how bad literacy and numeracy skills among young people have become. More confusion: "system is too focussed on .. computing" yet "technology skills is a terrific first focus". These people are perilously close to brain death. Moonshine from Ms Moon, it would seem

New research says Australian schools are failing to properly prepare students for employment. The report by the Centre for Skills Development says the education system is too focussed on basics like literacy, numeracy and computing, neglecting more complex things such as teamwork and emotional intelligence.

Sheryle Moon, the co-author of the report, says young people need more complex skills for the modern workforce. "We live in a globalised world where people need a different set of skills than they needed in the 1970s or the 1980s," Ms Moon said. "It's less about task focus, or hand skills, it's more about brain skills and how you interact with other people.

"Ensuring that people have the technology skills is a terrific first focus. The thing that's missing in the revolution is how you incorporate modern technology applications into the curriculum."


Farmers dispute animal methane measure

Hopefully the research triggered by this nonsense will produce some useful basic knowledge

CLAIMS that cattle and sheep are responsible for 10.9 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions have been called into question after scientists discovered considerable variation in the amount of methane produced by individual animals.

Farmers, fearful of the costs greenhouse gas emissions trading will impose on their businesses, are demanding more accurate measurement of emissions before the ETS is brought in. Beverley Henry, manager for environment, sustainability and climate change with Meat & Livestock Australia, said current estimates were based on livestock overseas, with the actual emissions likely to vary depending on diet and animal type, as well as other factors. "At the moment, we don't reflect those in Australia's national accounts very well," Dr Henry said. "We need to get better quantification of the emissions as well as an understanding of how much mitigation is possible."

Australia boasts 26.81 million head of beef and dairy cattle, and 69.2 million sheep, so even a small error would quickly compound in any attempt to measure the total greenhouse gas expelled by the animals. Earlier this year, the Department of Agriculture put $11.25million into programs to reduce methane from livestock.

Cattle and sheep are ruminants. They possess a special stomach, a rumen, in which microbes ferment grass and cellulose that is otherwise indigestible. The fermentation produces methane, a greenhouse gas about 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide, which the animals burp out.

Dr Henry said scientists were looking at everything from the microbes -- how they are influenced by diet and supplements -- to the whole farm system. Already, there were improvements in efficiency. "We are now producing less methane per kilogram of beef than what was occurring in 1990," she said.

Some small-scale work five years ago revealed big differences in how much methane individual cattle produce. Kath Donoghue, from Industry & Investment NSW, said they found roughly a 20-30 per cent difference in emissions between the high groups and the low groups. "It depended on the diet, there are a greater magnitude of difference on different diets," shesaid. She plans to measure the emissions from more than 1000 Angus cattle, the dominant southern breed, to see if there were genetic differences in emissions.

Dr Donoghue said that while some supplements, such as cotton seed oil and palm oil, had reduced methane emissions, they were not practical in Australia's large-scale northern cattle industry. "The thing about genetics is it is applicable in both intensive and extensive areas and it is a known technology," she said.

A lot of work would focus on the microbes in the rumen. "If we are identifying high- and low-emission animals, we can send rumen samples to the labs and they can say what is different in the rumen of these two animals and what is causing this to happen."

The CSIRO is also working on a system that will use electronic gas sensor technology "to accurately identify, develop and/or adapt a method for measuring emissions" from large numbers of animals.

An earlier study by University of Melbourne researchers found methane emissions varied from 146g an animal a day in a Victorian feedlot to 166g an animal a day in Queensland.


Yet another reason not to fly Qantas

Man dies on 'unbearably hot' flight after plane takes off with no air-conditioning. The plane was clearly faulty and should never have taken off

PASSENGERS on a Qantas-affiliated flight are outraged after an Australian man died shortly after the air conditioning failed and temperatures soared above 35C. The Western Australia man, aged 85, passed away after suffering what was thought to be a heart attack or stroke on board the Air France/Qantas flight from Paris to Singapore last night.

Other passengers were furious the Boeing 777 departed in the first place given the fact the air conditioning wasn't working. Melbourne lawyer Ian Dunn, who was on holiday with his wife, said the pilot tried to start the plane three times in Paris. ”The really awful thing was that it is quite possible that the heat on the plane when we first got on – which probably lasted about an hour and a half – may well have had some impact on this man dying,” he said. ”

I don't think the plane should have gone. ”The plane shouldn't have been as hot as it was. ”We were leaving from 11.30pm in Paris and it was about 15C outside but the temperature in the plane was over 30C when we got on. ”Later in the day a guy with a thermometer recorded it as over 35C.”

The deceased man was believed to be travelling with two other people.

Mr Dunn, who was sitting a few rows behind, said the first he knew of any incident was when an announcement was made asking if there was a doctor on board and several people came forward. The plane made an emergency landing in Bucharest, Romania, but the man died before or shortly after it landed.

Other passengers were left on the flight for more than five hours without air conditioning before returning to Paris, where they started the journey again 15 hours later. Mr Dunn said the pilot again struggled to start the plane. ”It happened to be handled by Air France as part of its relationship with other airlines but we'd booked the bloody thing through Qantas.”

Mr Dunn was supposed to be back at work today (Thursday) but instead had to spend another night in Paris, before flying home to Melbourne via Hong Kong. ”They brought us back today from Bucharest to Paris, the people who are going to Sydney are now leaving on a flight that gets them as far as Singapore,” he said. ”There was a hell of a fuss when they were told they would be waiting for seats to become available on any Qantas flight and the flights are all full.”

A Qantas spokeswoman said the customer who passed away had booked through Air France and it was unable to disclose his nationality for privacy reasons. She said there were 46 Qantas CodeShare passengers on the flight who were now on their way back home. ”It's an Air France flight so it's not a Qantas operated flight,” she said. ”We have sold some seats on it for our customers but it's an Air France flight and an Air France aircraft.”


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

More food-freak crap

Healthy eating message 'doomed' by big supermarkets? The assertion is just the usual Leftist hatred of success in others -- backed up by the usual twisted to non-existent reasoning and counterfactual claims

EFFORTS to get Australians to eat healthier may be "doomed from the start" by the dominance of the major retailers Coles and Woolworths, a researcher says. John Wardle, from the School of Population Health at the University of Queensland, says the major grocers now enjoy a duopoly within the Australian market that is unrivalled in the world. More competition is needed, he says, to ensure the public had broader access to fresher and more nutritious fruit and vegetables outside of the major supermarkets chains. [Cheeesh! Where does this guy live? There are small greengrocers all over the place. There is one right outside the door of my local Woolworths]

"Retailers have a gatekeeper role in the provision of nutrition to the public through their ability to control access to supermarket shelves,'' Mr Wardle said. "Unless competition is improved, the numerous public health programs aimed at increasing consumption of nutritious foods are doomed from the start.'' [Competition? What about IGA? What about Aldi? What about all the smaller supermarkets? There is PLENTY of competition, enough to keep everyone on their toes. Coles and Woolworths succeed so well BECAUSE they are so competitive. They are better at keeping the customer happy in various ways]

Mr Wardle says the 80 per cent control of the Australian grocery market by Coles and Woolworths, which is without precedent globally, ensures they are able to drive down supplier prices. Their nationwide distribution networks for fruit and vegetables also have the effect of locking out, by undercutting, local farmers from supplying produce to their own communities. This ensures fruit and vegetables "travelling thousands of miles and for days'' before they are sold in supermarkets and Mr Wardle says this reduces their nutritional value.

The roll-out of new supermarkets, often in suburban areas, has also prompted the "death of the high street'' in cities and towns, he says. "This has meant the death of the independent butcher and the independent green grocer who were known to provide fresher, more nutritious and often cheaper food to the public,'' Mr Wardle said. [Rubbish! There are still tons of butchers and Greengrocers around]

"The government is trying to encourage more fruit and vegetable consumption and you have a situation that actually makes it hard for the public to access those fruit and vegetables.'' [Even though Woolworths has a huge range of them??? The guy seems to have a completely messed-up head]

Mr Wardle and fellow researcher Michael Baranovic raise the issue in a paper published in the latest edition of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. Mr Wardle also says the problem is not the major supermarkets' fault as they are in full compliance with Australian law. "Coles and Woolworths are just being good companies and looking after their shareholders,'' he said. "It's the fact that competition policy, planning policy seems weighted towards those mega-ventures in the supply of groceries.'' [It's not "policies" at work. It is consumer preferences -- preferences that this food-Fascist would like to forbid]

SOURCE. A reply from Coles here.

More on the latest DOCS disgrace

'Authorities left Ebony to starve'

A SCATHING report has detailed how welfare authorities failed a seven-year-old girl who starved to death on a urine-soaked mattress, The Australian reports. Among the shocking findings relating to the death of Ebony, an alias for the girl who can't be legally named, was that the New South Wales Government Department of Community Services (DoCS) relied on a report by a work-experience student to assess her situation.

During the last two agonising years of Ebony's life, whose body weighed just 9kg when she was discovered at her home in November 2007, the dying girl received not a shred of assistance from official agencies, the report released yesterday by NSW Ombudsman Bruce Barbour says.

The report was particularly scathing regarding DoCS's failure to act, three months before Ebony's death, when the family moved suddenly from its public housing unit at Matraville, in Sydney's southeast, to Hawks Nest, north of Newcastle. At that time, an anonymous caller told the DoCS helpline that Ebony's room at Matraville was boarded up and the house smelt of urine and faeces. Because there had been previous reports of dishevelment in the home, this was classified as "information only" rather than as indicating Ebony was at risk.

Mr Barbour said told The Australian that there was no doubt the "appalling" interagency response to Ebony's plight, together with the failings by DoCS, had contributed to her death. "If you look at the final period of this little girl's life, there was ample time to go in and help her. That just didn't happen."

Mr Barbour's report said it was difficult to reconcile the "intensive involvement" of DoCS with the family between 2001 and 2003 with the agency's "repeated failure" to deal with the same concerns in the last three years of Ebony's life. This is despite the fact DoCS received a $1 billion injection of funding from the NSW Labor Government in the interim.

There were 17 separate reports lodged with the DoCS alone, stretching back to 1993, indicating that Ebony and her siblings were at risk from their dysfunctional parents. Of those 17 reports made to DoCS by concerned neighbours, teachers, doctors and other agencies, 13 occurred between 2005 and 2007.

Among Mr Barbour's detailed findings were that:

* DoCS failed to convince the Children's Court to remove Ebony and her two older sisters from their parents, despite the fact Ebony's younger sister had been removed.

* An inadequate summary of Ebony's case made by a work-experience student in July 2007 meant that, from then on, DoCS helpline workers failed to understand the seriousness of her predicament.

* When the caseworker assigned to Ebony's family left DoCS, she failed to brief her successor because of "competing priorities", which left the new caseworker to rely on the inadequate summary prepared by the student.

* DoCS workers assumed that, because the circumstances of Ebony's older sisters had improved, hers had also - despite the fact her father did not allow them to sight the girl.

The NSW Supreme Court last week sentenced Ebony's mother to life in prison for murder and Ebony's father to 16 years behind bars for her manslaughter. [In my view, they should be burnt at the stake]


State governments show little interest in preventing catastrophic bushfires

by Barry Cohen

ON February 6 I flew to Portugal to attend a whaling conference at the behest of Peter Garrett. The following day the worst bushfires in Australian history left 173 people dead and shattered the lives of thousands more. I watched it unfold on British Sky News. It was horrifying and gut-wrenching.

The interim report of the subsequent Victorian royal commission on bushfires, although written in unemotional bureaucratese, is a grim document. It should be the first step in ensuring a tragedy of this nature never happens again, or if it does the extent of damage and loss of life is dramatically reduced. The report, with about 50 recommendations, covers almost every aspect of the bushfires, including fuel reduction, prescribed burning, evacuation, refuges, state emergency services, economic cost and fire warnings. The recommendation that interests me most is 11.27.

"The commonwealth was asked to provide information on its capacity to provide facts, data, images by means of sentinel bushfire monitoring, satellite imagery, infrared technology, mapping tools or other means." Put simply, the commonwealth has a significant role to play in prevention and not just the cure. That is particularly important if the experts are correct and an even worse summer awaits us.

Allow me to declare an interest. Shortly after I returned from Portugal, old friends stopped at my rural abode in Bungendore for a cuppa after visiting Canberra, where they had introduced ACT emergency service bureaucrats to the latest and the best fire prevention technology, Firewatch. Describing it as the best technology for fire prevention is admittedly a big call, but one that is not idly made. Firewatch was developed by the German Aerospace Institute for NASA's Mars Pathfinder mission. Similar but inferior systems have a smaller range (10km), are much more expensive, or work for only up to eight hours a day when the satellite passes overhead.

Firewatch, on the other hand, is tower-based (rather than satellite-based), has a range of 15km-40km and automatically rotates through 360 degrees every six minutes. It is equipped with night vision, so it works round the clock. It can detect fires faster than the human eye and needs to spot only smoke (rather than flames) for the purpose. It can detect wind speed and direction as well as temperature, which enables it to pinpoint the fire and identify its direction. It can also detect 16,384 shades of grey and tell the difference between smoke, cloud and mist.

You would think the various state and territory emergency services would have been falling over each other to check out Firewatch. Not so. Since February 2006, Firewatch executives have knocked on their doors and discovered they were not interested. One executive said he "didn't care if bushfires started as long as they were not near the urban interface, as carbon dioxide emissions were someone else's problem. If fire started to come close to population centres the public always phoned in and reported the fire", and that was good enough for him. Another Rural Fire Services executive claimed that giving volunteers accurate information about the scale and location of a bushfire to enable the right resources to be deployed would "take all the fun and adventure out of the challenge".

The common thread that ran through discussions with the various state government departments was they were not interested in early detection, only more money for helicopters, fire trucks and other equipment. No one questions their enthusiasm or dedication, but they are fighting the last war, not the nextone.

The big questions are what will Firewatch achieve and at what cost. It has been operating in Germany for eight years, leading to a 92percent reduction in the area burned. Australia, with zillions of explosive eucalypts, is not Germany but if Firewatch is half as good as claimed, countless lives and properties can be saved. It is being tested in France, Portugal, Estonia, the Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Mexico and the US.

The cost will depend on the number of units required but Firewatch will primarily be restricted to areas where dense Australian bush intersects with urban and semi-urban living. The equipment can be purchased outright or leased for a 10-year period at an annual cost of about $90,000 for each unit. The total cost will depend on the degree of protection required. It's worth taking into consideration the Australian insurance industry estimate that the Victorian bushfires cost it $1.12billion. Add government and individual losses and we are looking at more than $2bn.

Then there are carbon emissions. CSIRO estimates that the February fires released the equivalent of one year's industrial production. Under the Kyoto Protocol, carbon emissions from bushfires were excluded from a nation's total output; that will not be the case after Copenhagen.

Most of us lack the expertise to assess Firewatch's claims and no one expects governments to invest millions without extensive trials. Not to trial Firewatch, however, would be criminal negligence.

Fortunately, despite the state departments' lack of interest, matters are moving on the federal front. Fran Bailey, Liberal MP for McEwen, whose electorate covers the area where 169 of the 173 bushfire deaths occurred, was introduced to Firewatch and immediately flew to Germany and spent four days studying it. She says that, having investigated various other forms of early detection, she is absolutely convinced the hundreds of millions spent by the German aerospace industry have led to a state-of-the-art technology that works. "None of the other systems came within a bull's roar of Firewatch."

Bailey has badgered the Prime Minister to order trials this summer and have them assessed by independent engineers. Bill Shorten, one of the brightest stars in the Labor firmament and the parliamentary secretary for Victorian bushfire reconstruction, quickly recognised Firewatch's potential. Shorten's involvement ensures that those who must make the final decision to trial Firewatch, at a cost of $2m to $4m, will have the facts placed before them.

If trials are to be conducted this summer for Firewatch or any other system, then decisions need to be made soon. Firewatch has the potential to dramatically reduce the number and scope of Australian bushfires and, over the years, save thousands of lives and billions of dollars. It must be hoped the Rudd government doesn't miss the opportunity to give Firewatch a chance.


Phonics push held up by ignorant teachers

IT’S not often one gets the chance to say this: NSW is doing something right. At least it is when it comes to literacy. In recognition of the importance of phonics, NSW teaching guides now require teachers to spend part of each day teaching young children the sounds that make up words.

It sounds like a no-brainer that children should explicitly be taught the most basic building blocks of learning to read. Yet one more hurdle - the most important one - remains. New research reveals that new teachers on the cusp of entering our schools have little understanding of how to teach phonics. Until they do, even the most impressive literacy curriculum changes are likely to remain futile.

To understand how long it has taken to fix the teaching curriculum in just one state, you need to understand the history. For decades the education system in Australia was dominated by something that became known as a more naturalistic way of teaching reading, where children were shown words and expected to memorise them. Too many educators disregarded the importance of learning sounds. Too old-fashioned and boring, they said.

No evidence supported the whole-word method. But through the years careers were built and based on it and that soon meant that too many vested interests dictated its influence in education degrees and our schools.

Such was the dismal state of affairs that a 2003 NSW inquiry into early intervention for children with learning difficulties concluded that it was “difficult for this committee to get to the bottom of the debate between exponents of either the whole-word or phonics approach to literacy pedagogy”. So the committee accepted the bogus argument that this is “a divisive and unproductive debate”. The nay-sayers could not have been more wrong. The debate may have been divisive but it has been very productive.

In 2004 a group of leading literacy educators wrote to then federal education minister Brendan Nelson, raising their concerns that the best and latest research about reading was not reflected in how students were taught in the classroom. The Howard government commissioned a national inquiry into teaching literacy, which in turn led to the 2005 national reading review. Last year the Rudd government set up the National Curriculum Board, which has suggested “an explicit and systematic teaching of phonological awareness”. Finally, this year one state - NSW - has taken the findings seriously by mandating that teachers teach the sounds of words to young students. The national curriculum to be introduced in 2011 will hopefully lead to other states and territories doing the same.

Slowly there is progress. But the drawn-out delays over better literacy teaching are nothing short of scandalous. This is not some piddling policy that can be set aside for another day. These delays hurt our most disadvantaged children the most; they often miss out on the added support of engaged parents willing and able to encourage reading.

These are the children politicians love to talk about when they use their grand rhetoric about education. Former Labor leader Mark Latham conjured up a ladder of opportunity. The Rudd government talks about an education revolution. Nice words. But meaningful education reforms must surely start with basic and effective literacy.

Last month, the latest test results from the National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy revealed that one in 10 students fails to meet minimum standards in reading, writing and numeracy. And on the reading front, a new evidence-based curriculum is only part of the reform process.

The next critical step is to teach our teachers how to teach reading. Recent research undertaken by Queensland University of Technology literacy expert Ruth Fielding-Barnsley, and presented in a paper yet to be published, reveals that final-year teaching students in Queensland are ill-equipped to teach young children the sounds that make up words. According to Fielding-Barnsley, the problem extends beyond Queensland.

She tells The Australian: “There is a general feeling in the community of academics ... that we need to be more effective in the area of early literacy.” In her study of 165 students, 95 per cent said they understood the importance of phonics. So far so good. But 75 per cent of those surveyed said they were not well prepared to teach young children the sounds that made up words. In fact, most could not identify the correct number of sounds in words such as box, chop and this.

Here are some of the comments made by soon-to-be teachers who will be responsible for teaching young children to read: “The thought of teaching a child to read is terrifying.” And: “I don’t feel we have been taught (or) prepared enough to be able to cover such a vital subject.” And: “We should do more literacy and learning to read subjects as part of our course.”

Fielding-Barnsley says there is a structural problem in the way we are teaching our teachers. “There needs to be more effort in literacy education because, as you can see from my paper, the students are not confident about going out to teach reading. They know what they don’t know.” She says although the NSW literacy curriculum is commendable for giving teachers materials they can use in the classroom, it would be much better if they learned how to teach reading using phonics during their degrees. Surely it is not too much to expect from a four-year teaching degree for infant and primary school teachers? Yet that is not happening.

When my eldest child was three, she was keen to learn to read. I had no idea where to begin so I signed up for a phonics-based reading instruction course called Spalding in Sydney. It involved seven long days of intensive, explicit instruction about teaching children the sounds that made up words. I had the enormous luxury of time, inclination and money to do that. When I taught her those sounds, she learned to read in a flash, as did her little sister and her little brother.

Most likely they would have learned to read anyway. As Fielding-Barnsley told me, “A lot of children will learn to read without a lot of explicit instruction. They just manage to work it out for themselves. But around 20 per cent of students need that explicit instruction. They are the ones who end up at the end of secondary school with very low literary skills. They are the ones we are concerned about.”

Watching my children learning to read and loving to read leads to one simple question: Why haven’t successive governments, state and federal, Liberal and Labor, started at the start by ensuring our teachers are equipped to teach using the best reading methods in schools across the country? It would be one of the best investments we could make.


Queensland Rail officer spat on, then fired on flimsy grounds

A QUEENSLAND Rail transit officer who was beaten and spat on by a passenger has been sacked by Queensland Rail for hitting back. Trent Geissler, of Geebung, was terminated by QR executive manager for passenger services Paul Scurrah by letter yesterday afternoon.

"I feel betrayed because it was a criminal act perpetrated against me in the line of duty, and this will impact on my work history," Mr Geissler said. "If I had provoked it, I would have been charged as well."

Mr Geissler was called to Northgate station on Easter Sunday to attend an unruly behaviour incident and was assaulted by a 20-year-old man on the train platform. Mr Geissler struck the man in the face and put him in a headlock. Police arrested the man, who pleaded guilty to common assault and was sentenced to 150 hours of community service.

But Queensland Rail said a review of the incident by a HR firm found evidence Mr Geissler acted outside guidelines using excessive force. [It would be interesting to see how finely the bureaucrats could calibrate their actions if they were placed in a similar situation]


Tuesday, October 06, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is very derisive about Kevvy's latest stunt

Man dies as ambulance searches for spare beds

Isn't government-run healthcare great?

A SUNSHINE Coast man died of a heart attack after his ambulance was diverted to a less crowded hospital that was further away, the Queensland Ambulance Service's union said. Paramedics resuscitated an elderly cardiac arrest patient, who had a significant medical history, at Mooloolah on Friday and transported him to Caloundra Hospital. However Australian Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union organiser Kroy Day said the ambulance was advised that if they ramped at the Caloundra Hospital there would be a "significant wait" until the patient could be unloaded onto a bed.

He said the ambulance was instead diverted to the Nambour Hospital, which is 10 to 12 minutes further away. "Unfortunately the patient was declared deceased upon arrival," Mr Day said.

Mr Day, who has 20 years' experience as an ambulance officer, said he backed the paramedics 100 per cent as they were forced to make an almost impossible decision. "What we do know is that in cardiac arrests, literally seconds make the difference," he said. "They made the decision on good faith but unfortunately the patient was declared deceased upon arrival. "All I can think is thank god I wasn't the one who had to make that decision."

Queensland Health has argued that QAS did not advise the hospital the man was a Category One cardiac arrest patient and would have accepted the patient had they known.

However Mr Day said Queensland Health were stooping to a new low when it came to excuses. "I am absolutely appalled and disgusted at that excuse," Mr Day said. "The ambulance was travelling to Caloundra Hospital with its lights and sirens on and they knew that. "The paramedics also called the hospital and told them they resuscitated the man. "If nothing else happened the hospital should have worked out that this was a Category One."

Mr Day said Queensland Health was in need of a serious overhaul, citing that in the 2007-08 financial year there were more than 27,000 cases of ambulances waiting to unload their patients for more than 30 minutes.


Girl dies because of bureaucratic bungling

So much for the government "child safety" agency. This is just another in their constant record of failures

WARNING signs about the welfare of a girl starved to death by her parents were missed because NSW authorities did not work together effectively, the state Government watchdog has found. The girl, who can be known only as Ebony, was a mere 106cm tall and weighed just nine kilograms when she died aged seven in squalid conditions at the family's Hawks Nest home, north of Newcastle, in November 2007.

Her mother was sentenced in the NSW Supreme Court on Friday to life in jail for her murder. Ebony's father was convicted of her manslaughter and will spend at least the next 12 years in prison.

At the age of five, Ebony had been a "chubby little girl" but by the time she died her face resembled skin stretched over a skull and she reeked of urine and faeces, the court heard. Several doctors testified she suffered from the most severe case of malnutrition they had ever seen.

NSW Ombudsman Bruce Barbour examined the actions of the Department of Community Services, the departments of Education, Ageing, Disability and Home Care and Housing as well as NSW Police. His findings were today released in a report. "My investigation shows these agencies did not work together effectively when dealing with Ebony's family," Mr Barbour said. "This lack of coordination meant vital information was not shared and warning signs went unnoticed. "This in turn led to missed opportunities for appropriate intervention to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Ebony and her siblings."

Following Ebony's death there was an inquiry into child protection services, headed by retired Supreme Court justice James Wood, which called for a major overhaul of DoCS.


Crooked NSW police thugs cost the taxpayer $40,000

A LAWYER has won $40,000 in compensation after NSW police wrongfully arrested her and then falsified official documents, alleging she had committed a terrorist act. Andrea Turner, 57, was arrested on December 30 last year when a senior constable mistakenly believed Ms Turner had taken a photograph of her conducting a routine patrol of a train with a junior colleague. Ms Turner, a practising criminal lawyer, had been on her way to a bushwalk in the Royal National Park.

None of the police officers involved has been reprimanded over the incident and there has been no internal investigation.

''Don't take my photo. If you take my photo I will put you on your arse so fast it will not be funny,'' the junior officer had said. The other told Ms Turner: ''You're obviously a bloke.'' Ms Turner was asked for identification and when she refused, was told to get off the train at the next station or be ''dragged off''. The senior constable told her she was being arrested for taking a photograph of an officer in the execution of her duty.

Ms Turner denied taking a photograph and pointed out it was not an offence to do so. As was her legal right, she again declined to provide identification. She was then detained for 30 minutes in front of a crowd of onlookers at Kogarah station.

Ms Turner successfully sued the state of NSW for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment in the District Court, telling the Herald: ''How could I have backed down when I tell my own clients, 'That is thuggery, that is unlawful behaviour and you can't let them get away with it'?''

The state had admitted liability for the incident, but did not accept it should pay aggravated or exemplary damages. Awarding Ms Turner $20,000 in aggravated and exemplary damages, Judge Anthony Garling found she had displayed no signs of aggression during her arrest and there was no suggestion that the officers had needed to use force. Yet three police officers were called in as back-up before she was escorted off the platform. Another five - including two detectives - also arrived on the scene.

Despite several phone calls to their superiors, none of them knew which offence, if any, Ms Turner had committed. ''It was an unjust arrest, it was a wrong arrest,'' Judge Garling said. Without explanation, Ms Turner was freed without charge.

But what happened next was even more serious, with Ms Turner falsely accused of a ''terrorist act'', Judge Garling found. Police had decided not to pursue the matter or formally record the incident in the police COPS system. But later the same day Ms Turner called the police station to complain about her treatment. ''The police officer then decided to lessen whatever complaint could be made against her by falsifying a public record, that is, by alleging that the plaintiff committed an offence which is related to railway property, not to photographing the police officer,'' Judge Garling said.

The senior constable had written in the falsified COPS entry: ''It should be noted that at the time of dealing with the person of interest police were unaware of the exact offence. It is an offence to take photos on railway property under the new terrorism laws.'' The judge said: ''This lady was sitting on a train going for a bushwalk when the police mistakenly did what they did. In no way could [it] be suggested that it related to terrorism.'' He criticised the police force for not removing or amending the falsified COPS entry or apologising to Ms Turner.

In a statement NSW Police said it would treat the judge's comments seriously. ''The matter will be investigated and any issues identified as a result of that investigation will be addressed.''


Deniliquin Ute Muster fans set world singlet record

I wear a blue singlet myself sometimes in summer. It's the traditional summer garb of the Australian working man generally. Wharfies (dockers; longshoremen) often used to wear them before they became mere crane operators. The dark blue colour hides a lot. For American readers: A "ute" is a pickup truck

DESPITE wind and rain, 2230 ute fans stripped down to singlets at the Deniliquin Ute Muster to set an official world record for the largest gathering of people in blue shearers' singlets. Deniliquin, in southern NSW, has staged a blue singlet count at its annual ute muster since 2004, but this year organisers decided to make it an official Guinness World Record attempt.

Guinness Book of Records Official Chris Sheedy said it was an iconic Australian record. "I met a guy here today who drove here from the far reaches of Western Australia to be in the blue singlet count," he said. "They came from all parts of Australia to be here today, and that's what made what happened today such a fantastic thing."

The Deni Ute Muster is one of the largest rural themed festivals in Australia. Last year the event attracted 7242 utes and brought more than $13 million into the Deniliquin town and region. This year, ticket sales indicate about 25,000 attendees. Event organisers are quietly confident they'll break their second record during the festival's second day tomorrow when they attempt to create the largest parade of legally-registered utes in the world.

Festival-goers also have the opportunity to vie for the National Circlework Championship, participate in whipcracking competitions and compete for prizes such as Ute of the Year, Best Sound Audio Ute and the Ultimate Chicks' Ute. The entertainment line-up includes performances by rock band Powderfinger, along with country music artists Troy Cassar-Daley and Adam Harvey.


Fraudsters raiding our garbage bins

MEMBERS of highly organised crime syndicates are rifling through rubbish bins and letterboxes in the dead of night to feed a black market demand for stolen identities. Authorities say most people would have no idea their identities were being used to open bank accounts, apply for credit cards and even obtain drivers licences until it was much too late.

Crime Stoppers chairman Peter Price says identity fraud is Australia's fastest-growing crime. "It's very much under the radar, well organised and a very black market," he said. "We're seeing organised groups of people who understand the value of getting someone's identity." He said people would hit the same address over and over until they had enough documents to create a fraudulent ID. "What they do is put a whole lot of pieces to the puzzle together until they have enough to commit a fraud," Mr Price said. "They go through your letterbox or recycling bin one night, then come back a week later until they have enough bits and pieces of your identity to commit a fraud. It is not something you can be complacent about."

Mr Price said bills, credit card statements, tax documents and even junk mail with the person's name and address could help fraudsters put together a stolen identity. "It is the fastest-growing crime in the world and a very serious business, and yet people generally take a very apathetic approach to it," he said. "We want to teach people to take more care with their personal information by doing things like shredding documents, putting a lock on your letterbox or even using a post office box."

It was also a good idea to use a separate credit card with a low limit to purchase items online.

A recent study found 84 per cent of recycling bins contained credit cards and other documents that could be easily used by ID thieves. The study, which involved searches of 180 domestic rubbish bins and 237 recycling bins across Australia, was put together for National Identity Fraud Awareness Week (this week). "It is almost beyond belief what people throw out," Mr Price said. "We found an online banking card and letter complete with account name, number and access code as well as an unsigned credit card. "Every time we put our bins out, most of us put ourselves at risk of identity theft."

Even the head of Crime Stoppers was not immune, with thieves using a cheque book stolen from his letterbox to obtain a driver's licence in Mr Price's name - which was in turn used to cash cheques.


Monday, October 05, 2009

High mortality among Australia's black children

Maybe the simpletons who think that Aborigines are "just like us only browner" will take notice of this. Alcoholism, rape, wife-beating and child abuse are rife in Aboriginal communities and child deaths are one predictable result. Additionally, people who know Aborigines well will be aware that they not uncommonly "lose" their children -- as a probable product of their tribal customs. The whole tribe raises children rather than just one or two parents so the parents feel no need to keep a close watch on their children. But when much of the tribe is drunk, children can become seriously neglected.

And how is any government going to change all that? Coercion would of course be "paternalistic" and education is a laugh. Many Aborigines have been so propagandized by white do-gooders that they can recite all the "right" practices by heart already. They just don't do it. They can talk the talk but they don't walk the walk. The only thing that might help a bit is a bigger police presence but you will see no mention of that below

AUSTRALIA'S indigneous children aged under five are dying at a rate comparable to some of the world's poorest countries. A Save the Children report, released today, says indigenous children are three times more likely to die before their fifth birthday than non-indigenous children. Indigenous and child advocates say governments need to address this disturbing disparity immediately and give communities more say in managing their own health services.

The report blames poverty and a lack of health care services for the high mortality rate. Poor nutrition was also a factor, with indigenous children under four suffering malnutrition at a rate almost 30 times greater than non-indigenous children. Indigenous infants die at a rate of 12.5 per 1000 births compared with the non-indigenous rate of 4.3.

The report says that is the same as East Timor and the Solomon Islands, which are among the world's most underdeveloped countries. They have poor life expectancy, poor food security and low literacy rates and earning capacities.

CRANAplus president Christopher Cliffe, who represents health workers in remote areas, said it was completely unacceptable for Australian children to have mortality rates similar to children in developing nations. "This absolutely should not be happening in Australia; we are a very wealthy country and we can actually afford to fix this," he said.

The Newborn and child survival in Australia report is part of Save The Children's five-year global "Survive to Five" campaign being launched today. The group has urged the Federal Government to double spending on children's health. Chief executive Suzanne Dvorak said the child mortality rate in indigenous communities must be reduced by two thirds within six years. "Every child deserves the right to a happy and fulfilling life, but today Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have the same rate of survival as children born in East Timor and the Solomon Islands," she said.


Big youth crime problem among blacks

And, as usual, the do-gooders think it can be solved. It would take genetic engineering to solve it. 40,000 years have adapted Aborigines brilliantly to a hunter-gatherer life (the way Aborigines note and remember tiny details in the landscape is legendary -- an ability much used in the past by "black trackers") but that adaptation is a poor fit to an advanced Western civilization

WESTERN Australia's juvenile justice system is in crisis and desperately needs more resources to reduce the number of children being detained, according to the head of the state's children's court.

Children's Court president Denis Reynolds said if the system continued without more prevention and diversion programs, crime rates among children would increase rapidly. "I think we're in a position of crisis quite frankly," he told The Australian. "We can't keep going the way we've been going without the necessary supports."

According to Australian Institute of Criminology figures published in The Australian on September 26, the number of juveniles in detention in WA on any given day had risen from from 118 in 2004 to 139 in 2007.

Judge Reynolds said there was a "crying need" for more safe houses designed to prevent vulnerable children committing crimes and ending up in detention. He said this would mean that some children suffering abuse and dysfunction -- both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal -- would have to be taken away from their families. "The court is confronted by damaged children, we get the train wreck. It's all happened by the time we get it and what there needs to be is a greater focus on prevention and diversion to prevent criminal behaviour," he said. Judge Reynolds said there was also a need for more bail hostels so children unable to get bail could avoid being remanded in detention. Currently around 55 per cent of the 146 juveniles held in Perth are on remand.

He said the unfortunate reality was Aboriginal children represented the vast majority of all children appearing before the court. It was vital that culturally appropriate programs run by Aboriginal people be made available because this would mean Aboriginal children could be placed on alternative community-based orders and bail programs.

Currently 66 per cent of all children detained in Western Australia are Aboriginal but Judge Reynolds said this was not a reflection of the court exhibiting bias against Aboriginal children. "It is an appalling statistic but it doesn't reflect the courts sending children to detention that it shouldn't send to detention. It reflects a lack of prevention and diversion," he said.

In the last state budget, the Barnett government allocated $655 million over the next four years to create more than 1600 adult prison beds across the state. Judge Reynolds said it would have been interesting if the same amount of money was allocated to prevention and diversion. The question that would arise in the long term was what would be better for the community. Attorney-General and Corrective Services Minister Christian Porter told The Australian there were huge problems in regard to the number of children remanded in custody. He said the government intended to expand the number of regional youth justice centres and this would help avoid children being placed on remand.


Lebanese Muslims again: Sydney nightclub ban generates race row

Good to see that one person quoted below understood that the aggressiveness of many Lebanese Muslims is a problem

IT DIDN'T matter that Dr Saade Saade is hard-working and well-educated - when he tried to get into a trendy Sydney nightclub he claims it made a decision to bar him simply because he is Lebanese. The Balmain dentist has accused Bungalow 8 at King St Wharf of being "patronising, humiliating" and acting illegally when it bounced him at the door in September and again in November 2007.

He took the club to the Anti-Discrimination Board for mediation. When that failed he went to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal, which last week ruled his account was "credible" but he did not have enough evidence to uphold his complaint.

Dr Saade said the first time he tried to enter the club a staff member of Mediterranean appearance stopped him and said: "You know what it's like, they don't let us in." He said the man continued: "It's our fault, we have created this reputation for ourselves and that's why we are not allowed into clubs.'We have no one else to blame, it is our fault."

Dr Saade left and wrote an email to the venue's management complaining of race discrimination. A manager wrote back offering him entry next time if he called in advance. But Dr Saade declined and said: "I want to be able to line up like anyone else and get let in like anyone else. I don't want preferential treatment."

Dr Saade said he and his brother returned two months later to meet female friends in the half-empty club. They were refused entry on the grounds they were "not on the guest list". When they said their female friends who were allowed in were not on the list either, the doorman said they must have "slipped through".

"It's extremely patronising," he said at his Balmain surgery. "We're not silly people, we know what's going on. "I'm a credible person in society. I help people on a daily basis. "A lot of people have this experience. I believe in equal opportunity."

In tribunal hearings, Bungalow 8 denied its staff told Dr Saade people of his appearance were unwelcome. It also denied having a policy of refusing to serve people based on race. But Dr Saade said the club was one of many with an unofficial policy of refusing service to people of certain ethnic backgrounds.


Sydney suburb sees 34 shootings in two years

It is of course not mentioned below but I gather that Fairfield has a large Muslim population

GUN violence is so out of control there are three shootings a week in Sydney. The city's shooting capital is Fairfield, with 34 shootings in just two years to the end of June. Exclusive statistics from the Bureau of Crime Statistics show there were 157 drive-by and illegal shootings between July 2008 and the end of June, up from 129 the year before.

Police investigated 29 shootings in the Blacktown local government area, 25 in Bankstown, 24 in Auburn and 20 in Liverpool. There were even 11 shootings in the heart of the city.

Opposition police spokesman Mike Gallacher said NSW was awash with handguns, which were being imported from overseas and then traded on Sydney streets. "Criminals are getting their hands on illegally imported firearms," he said last night. A frightening array of guns have been seized in the past month, including a .357 Magnum handgun and a .22 shortened rifle with silencer. In one raid on September 9, police officers managed to seize five Colt M16 assault rifles, three Colt AR15 assault rifles, three 9mm assault rifles, a tactical assault rifle and seven 9mm handguns at Rosebery.

The last shooting victim was a 34-year-old Auburn man wounded in the shoulder six days ago in Sydney.

Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research chief Don Weatherburn blamed the spike in shootings on a sudden rise in bikie-related drive-bys [biker gangs are often Muslim these days] towards the end of last year. He added that the number of shootings had since stabilised.

The latest drive-by shooting was just two weeks ago at Smithfield, with a family at home when their house was shot at. Truck driver Bob Knight was an innocent victim caught in the crossfire in June when shot dead by a stray bullet from a gunfight that took place in Milperra. "I actually feel sorry for people that live in Sydney, people that lived near it wrote to us saying `It could have been my house'," Mr Knight's son David said yesterday. "I like to hope if something comes out of this for Dad that the Government or the police actually realise what is going on."


Watchdog in the pocket of the government?

Their job is to police government misconduct in Queensland, misconduct by both the politicians and government employees

A former senior state government policy adviser has claimed he was sidelined and sacked by the Government after refusing to lie to Queensland's corruption watchdog. Scott Patterson yesterday said his ordeal was not an isolated incident among ministerial staff and showed the need for a far-reaching royal commission. Mr Patterson said he was the only office member not interviewed by the Crime and Misconduct Commission during a probe in late 2000 after he told senior figures that he would not lie.

Three months later Mr Patterson was shifted to another minister's office, sent on leave with pay and then sacked in late 2001. "I didn't trust the CMC then and I don't trust them now," the former Labor Party member said. "It seems there is an intimate connection between the CMC and the Government."

Mr Patterson said the inquiry needed to probe the Government's relationship with the CMC as well as its interaction with business so corruption could be exposed and public confidence restored. "From my knowledge of government, I believe that it is time for another inquiry to run the ruler over some of the activities of government," he said.

His claims come after numerous allegations have surfaced since corruption fighter Tony Fitzgerald warned in July that Queensland was at risk of returning to its "dark path". Another former ministerial staffer, Jacqueline King, recently claimed she was sacked after raising concerns about jailed former minister Gordon Nuttall in 2002. Premier Anna Bligh has refused to call a royal commission into the numerous claims and has insisted anyone with allegations should take them to the CMC.

Mr Patterson said he had no intention of complaining to the CMC after his past experiences and he believed there were other former staff with similar stories. He expected "sour grapes" accusations from some government figures but said the "predictable political response" only highlighted the need for an inquiry. "If people have got a story to tell then they should be allowed to tell it without fear of being harassed by what amounts to middle management of government," he said.


Sunday, October 04, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is not impressed by Australia's "conservative" Federal parliamentary leader and his embrace of Warmism

Overcoming socio-economic disadvantage in education

Jennifer Buckingham

Literacy and numeracy are not everything, but they are almost everything. Somewhere between one in five and one in six students are barely literate and numerate, according to recent national literacy and numeracy results. These children are concentrated in particular schools and in particular areas, especially where there are high levels of socio-economic disadvantage.

Although the relationship between socio-economic status and school performance is undeniable, it doesn’t have to be inevitable. As the late, great Australian education expert Professor Ken Rowe showed, family background may establish where children start in life, but it doesn’t have to determine where they end up.

Participants at the CIS’s annual conference Consilium in August this year heard the stories of two extraordinary schools that have defied the odds of socio-economic disadvantage. Bellfield Primary School is a public school in one of the most disadvantaged urban areas in Australia. Yet in the space of 10 years, during which time social disadvantage intensified, Melbourne educator John Fleming transformed the school performance from chronic failure to one of the best in the state.

These extraordinary results were not achieved through increased spending. There was no increase in teacher pay. There were no major capital works or new technologies. Fleming attributes the success of the school to three changes in school policy: implementing a research-based pedagogy; introducing performance-based accountability for students and teachers; and changing the school culture to reflect traditional values and discipline.

The same ‘tough love’ strategy was applied at Djarragun College in Gordonvale in far north Queensland, once a crumbling school with low attendance. Educator Jean Illingworth oversaw its incredible transformation into a well-maintained, high functioning school where children from indigenous communities in Cape York and the Torres Strait are achieving outstanding results.

For many students across Australia, social disadvantage is being translated ineluctably into educational disadvantage year after year. The evidence from Australia and elsewhere is that this need not be the case.

The above is part of a press release dated October 2 from the Centre for Independent Studies. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590. Telephone ph: +61 2 9438 4377 or fax: +61 2 9439 7310

Dumb bureaucrats won't protect you from con-men

A CONMAN posing as a psychologist was able to fool NSW health authorities with a PhD bought for $250 on the internet, police say. Using the alias Dr David Kaye, 45-year-old Ali Davut Sarikaya was allowed to treat police officers and public servants with the blessing of the state Government.

Mr Sarikaya, who was arrested by Harbourside police as he attempted to board a flight to New Zealand at Sydney airport, appeared in Central Local Court on Wednesday on fraud charges and was granted conditional bail. Police alleged the Turkish-born "doctor" claimed to be a trained psychologist, despite holding no formal qualifications apart from a bachelor of arts. His patients included police officers, prison guards and senior legal figures who were referred to his medical practice in central Sydney through WorkCover NSW.

A statement of facts tendered to the court said Mr Sarikaya had "deceived" numerous government departments and organisations since moving to Sydney in 1997. The court heard Mr Sarikaya had been convicted of fraud offences of a "dishonest ... identity-type nature" in Victoria in 1994. In the years since, Mr Sarikaya, who runs trauma clinics in Sydney and Parramatta, had been building a profile as the fictitious Dr David Kaye. Police said he used this alias to avoid scrutiny of his Victorian criminal record.

The court heard that Mr Sarikaya had gained membership of several prestigious organisations, including the NSW Bar Association, by touting himself as a doctor, which he justified using a spurious PhD. "Inquiries indicate this PhD was purchased via the internet from an organisation in Minnesota, USA, for $249.95, and is by no means an official document enabling use of titles such as doctor," the court heard.

The police facts stated that Mr Sarikaya also obtained several identity cards, including an Australian Health Professionals Association card, in the name of Dr David Kaye to help bolster his identity. The alleged facade was so convincing that Mr Sarikaya was approved to work as a psychologist under the NSW Health Department's Official Visitors Program. In 2006, he was appointed to the program for three years by then health minister John Hatzistergos, now the Attorney-General, who personally signed off his accreditation. It allowed the alleged fraudster to visit mental health patients in northern Sydney hospitals.


Public hospital sued for negligence

The actions of the hospital staff do seem extraordinarily negligent. In a private hospital they would not have stopped until they found the cause of the problem

A TEENAGER who had part of her skull removed as a result of bacterial meningitis is suing the State of Queensland, claiming a public hospital sent her home four times without diagnosing the infection. Sharna Gallagher, 18, is seeking more than $337,000 in personal injury damages, alleging negligence by Kingaroy Hospital staff.

Ms Gallagher was almost 16 when she first went to the hospital on January 10, 2007, complaining of severe pain in her right ear, with associated bleeding, headache and general pain. In her claim filed in the Supreme Court in Brisbane last month, Ms Gallagher alleges medical staff who saw her failed to diagnose a severe infection, refer her to a specialist or order tests.

It is alleged that Ms Gallagher returned to the hospital over the next two days but was not seen to and then sent home. Ms Gallagher claims that when she went back to the hospital on January 14, she had extreme ear pain and bleeding, fever and rigor, headache and back pain, and was seen by staff but again sent home. On her return to the hospital just over a week later, staff transferred her to Toowoomba Base Hospital, where she was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and middle ear infection.

Ms Gallagher underwent surgery at Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital two days later and remained in hospital undergoing treatment for more than a month. Part of her skull was permanently removed, and it is claimed she suffered conductive hearing loss, ongoing ear infections, scarring and also a related major depressive disorder.

In her claim to the court, it is alleged Ms Gallagher was unable to finish school, return to her casual job at a fast-food outlet or undergo career training because of physical pain, ear problems and psychological injuries. Ms Gallagher claimed she would require further medical treatment, including surgery to repair her skull and ear drum, and ongoing psychological counselling.

Queensland Health said it could not comment as the case was before the court.


Watchdog swamped by phone complaints

CONSUMERS are making up to 350 complaints a day to authorities about the high cost of owning new generation smartphones in a phenomenon known as ''bill shock''. The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, Deirdre O'Donnell, said customers, confused by caps on downloading emails and data, were being hit with exorbitant charges. ''We get around 1000 complaints a day, and about 33 to 35 per cent will be around bill shock,'' Ms O'Donnell said. ''It's the advent of smartphones that have really elevated this issue. We'll get examples of parents going 'my daughter said she was just updating her Facebook page on the way home but here I have a $700 bill'. I don't want to just pick on iPhones … it's any of those smartphones.''

Ms O'Donnell said consumers were easily confused by data downloading caps because they were expressed in terms of megabytes or gigabytes. Typical plans include caps set at 25 megabytes, 200 megabytes, 500 megabytes or one gigabyte. Ms O'Donnell said it was hard for consumers to envisage what those caps mean in terms of time spent on the internet or sending emails. ''People don't seem to have - and I don't - any sense of what the cost will be.''

The chief executive of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Group, Allan Asher, said data caps expressed in terms of megabytes were the root of the problem. ''Getting a contract that says three megabytes per month … there's a lot of folk who don't know what that means … until they get a $600 bill when they were expecting a $200 bill.'' He said consumers needed plans stating that a cap ''is the equivalent of downloading two movies or playing computer games for six hours''.

Mr Asher said bill shock for premium services, international roaming, horoscopes, television voting and ringtones was common. ''I've heard of someone getting a bill for $23,000 after being overseas for a period of three weeks. It just turned out that all the data, satellite navigation and emails were being billed at a very high roaming rate. The more typical examples are bills of $1000 plus, when the customer was paying what they thought was their contract rate of $100 to $200 a month.''

Ms O'Donnell said the Ombudsman's office was working with mobile phone providers on expressing caps in practical terms - a certain number of emails, YouTube uploads or internet surfing time. She said the industry code specified that consumers should be sent a message or email by the provider if they were exceeding the cap.

A spokesman for Choice, Christopher Zinn, said that while mobile phone firms were doing nothing illegal or misleading, ''we generally have a jaundiced view of mobile phone plans because they're so complicated … it's impossible to compare where the value lies. We find it hard to compare, and we're not surprised that many consumers find it hard to compare.''

Sam had a $49 per month capped plan. His first two bills were for $7102 and $3766, respectively. He received an SMS saying he had reached his capped limit. He stopped using mobile internet but when his landline was cut due to bushfires he had to rely on his mobile for a week, which resulted in huge bills.

Mrs C used global roaming on her mobile while in India. She checked her internet usage online, as suggested by her provider, but the charges were not updated. After three months she had incurred a bill of $4500.


Saturday, October 03, 2009


They regularly do that sort of thing in Britain so it is alarming that Australia seems to be on that road too. Compare the two reports immediately below

What do you need to do in order to go to jail?

The most gross and repeated misbehaviour is going to escape with no real penalty? Way to go if you want more crime

A TEENAGER crashed a stolen car into an elderly woman's living room and left her pinned under the wheels as she screamed for help, a court has heard. The 18-year-old youth was 17 and on a learner’s permit when he stole a Holden Rodeo ute at a party at Cheltenham in Melbourne's southeast, the Moorabbin Kingston Leader reports. The teenager did burnouts and tried to “drift” the car around corners before he lost control and smashed into the house. He later blew a blood alcohol reading of 0.10.

Police prosecutor Stephen Healy told a children’s court that none of the boys in the car tried to help the victim, who spent weeks in hospital after the incident. “The vehicle crushed the victim underneath the front passenger wheel and among the wreckage," Sen-Constable Healy said. “The vehicle crashed through the wall of the house with such force, it was partially lodged into the next room.” Sen-Constable Healy said the other occupants the car provided statements that the woman was calling out for help.

The crash was the final act in a two-month crime spree the teenager driver carried out from January to March this year. He pleaded guilty to 13 charges including using a private residential spa in Patterson Lakes without authority, graffitiing a truck in Carrum, stealing two jackets from the Tommy Hilfiger store at Direct Factory Outlets while on a good behaviour bond and stealing alcohol from a Bentleigh East bottle shop and Dan Murphy’s in Parkdale.

The youth’s defence lawyer said his client had suffered significant personal hardship and that alcohol played a major role in his offending. “Once he leaves home and gets with his mates and gets on the alcohol he does these things,” the lawyer said.

Magistrate Thomas Barrett said he was unlikely to sentence the teen to a term of detention despite a police submission that the boy had shown “callousness” and no remorse and should receive a custodial sentence. He will be sentenced on December 16 and was ordered to take part in a group conference before that date.


Mistake by an Australian immigration official led to three years behind bars for a legal resident

This is a disgrace. Three years in jail without a judicial review?? He should have been brought before a court within a week at the outside. Immigration abuses like this do happen in the USA and UK as well but that is all the greater reason for vigilance against such official negligence

THE locking up of an Australian resident for more than three years in what is said to be the nation's longest and worst case of wrongful detention has prompted demands for an overhaul of federal laws by the Commonwealth Ombudsman. Revelations that a Sydney man, Van Phuc Nguyen, spent 1173 days at the Villawood detention centre because of bungles and indifference by public servants have sparked calls for an apology from the Rudd Government.

While Cornelia Rau was given $2.6 million after being wrongfully detained for 10 months, the Government offered Mr Nguyen only $57,900 - less than $50 for each day he was held. His barrister described the offer as a ''wholly inadequate and inappropriate'' response to a ''bureaucratic bungle of enormous proportions''. Last month the ACT Supreme Court awarded $55,000 to a man wrongfully detained for just 29 days.

Speaking publicly for the first time, Mr Nguyen said he was routinely threatened by other detainees and left severely traumatised by his three years, two months and 16 days at Villawood, between November 2002 and February 2006. Mr Nguyen said he witnessed suicide attempts, stabbings and widespread drug use while at Villawood's notorious Stage One wing, which the Human Rights Commission said last year was so bad it should be demolished. ''It was terrible. I was so scared all of the time of the other inmates … after a while, my mind started to shut down. I just sat there and stared at the wall.''

Mr Nguyen fled his native Vietnam by boat as a 14-year-old, spent four years in a refugee camp in the Philippines and was given permanent residency in 1989.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman, John McMillan, told the Herald the Immigration Department repeatedly failed to act on information that could have avoided Mr Nguyen's ''alarming and serious'' predicament in the worst case he had seen. ''Arguably it should not have occurred at all and certainly not for anything like the period of time,'' Mr McMillan said.

The catalyst occurred in 1995, when an immigration official unlawfully and mistakenly issued Mr Nguyen with a one-month visa that led to the cancellation of his residency on his return from a trip to Vietnam.

Before Villawood, Mr Nguyen served several stints in prison for drug offences linked to a heroin addiction formed after an illness and the death of his mother in the mid-1990s. He said he had been clean for several years.

The 37-year-old's barrister, Robert Sutherland, SC, said his client had been subject to ''high-handed, humiliating and unnecessarily long detention. This man deserves an apology and appropriate compensation.'' Mr Nguyen's lawyers said his doctors had found he was traumatised and suffering mental health problems as a result of his wrongful detention.

Mr McMillan has stated Mr Nguyen's case should result in legislative reform to provide a safety net for people adversely affected by government decisions and laws, ranging from improper detention to unfairly missing out on government benefits.

He said it was a foundation principle of civilised society that people should not be unlawfully deprived of their liberty. ''Wrongful detention for over three years is a matter of grave concern, and it is equally a matter of concern that our legal framework does not confer powers necessary to address problems and disadvantage of this kind,'' Mr McMillan said.

The Federal Government denied that bungling and indifference led to Mr Nguyen's detention in its compensation offer. The offer concedes that he was wrongfully detained for 108 days but says that during the rest of his detention officials had no reason to suspect a mistake had been made.


Protectionist threats a lot of hot air

THE threat of punitive tariffs on imports from countries not acting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been raised by Kevin Rudd as a reason Australia should adopt his carbon pollution reduction scheme. He has cited threats apparently made by France's President Nicolas Sarkozy and others. Provisions in the US emissions trading scheme bill are perceived the same way. Paul Kelly (The Weekend Australian, September 26-27) is one of the latest to retail these arguments.

This trade retaliation red herring, per se, is no reason to adopt the CPRS. It doesn't stand up to cursory analysis. At best, it adds another layer of confusion to a confused policy. At worst, it's rubbish.

Existing World Trade Organisation rules are clear. First, countries generally are not allowed to discriminate between imports from different countries by imposing border taxes (for example, tariffs) on imports differentiated by source country, unless that has been enshrined in existing agreements. No such agreements are based on whether different countries have adopted policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Punitive tariffs would violate existing WTO rules and constitute grounds for seeking remedies under WTO processes.

Second, countries are not allowed to discriminate in favour of locally produced goods and services by taxing them less than imports of the same products. Punitive tariffs (that is, higher ad valorem equivalent taxes on imports than applied to locally produced substitutes) would breach existing WTO rules and be a basis for seeking remedies under WTO processes.

In both cases, such punitive action is protectionist. The WTO's role is to punish those adopting such measures. Besides, widespread adoption ofsuch measures by relatively wealthy developed economies would amount to "doing a Samson" on world trade, dragging down global economic growth and living standards in the process. This is the trade policy bogeyman raised by our Prime Minister as a competitiveness threat to Australia if we don't adopt his CPRS. (Let's ignore the negative protection competitiveness threat embodied in the CPRS itself for now.)

Assume the threat is implemented. Assuming substantive failure at Copenhagen (however it's dressed up in the communique), it implies world trade collapses as the developed world, led by Europe, sets off a round of protectionist tariff increases, others retaliate, and chances of even an anaemic global economic recovery are destroyed. Everybody loses, including the European Union, which needs to seek out new, growing markets to buffer growth in living standards from its own slowing domestic markets driven by its ageing (in some cases shrinking) population.

This outcome implies the WTO is ineffective. (Given inaction against present breaches by most members of the Group of 20 - the so-called new driver of the global policy agenda - of their own pious communiques preaching the evils of protectionism, this may be plausible.)

But let's be more realistic. Assume instead all countries decide stronger world growth takes priority over trying to force some to adopt policies they don't want to adopt. That is, governments decide to trade off gains in near-term employment recovery against early action reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (The national politics are obvious. Large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions wrought by the global recession are a convenient excuse.)

What will governments do on climate policy? The easiest courses are (a) to implement "emissions watch" climate policies or (b) do nothing.

The first option has symbolic appeal but does little or nothing to reduce global greenhouse gases. For those adopting option (a), international competitiveness is not undermined (or at least not much). There is little need to violate WTO rules by imposing punitive border taxes on imports. In this case, the punitive tariff threat is empty and the climate policy adopted is pusillanimous. Interested in spin rather than substance? This policy is for you.

Option (b) is just the status quo for many. There's another option: comply with WTO rules and put a serious price on emissions, initially unilaterally. Do border tax adjustments have a place here? Absolutely.

Australian taxes differentiate between different products already. The GST is not uniform. Some food, health and education products are GST-free. So are imports of these products. Some are input-taxed under the GST, including imports. Most products are taxed at 10 per cent, including imports. The luxury car tax is a special higher tax on expensive cars, applied equally to locally produced cars and imports. The same applies to the wine equalisation tax. The excises applied to petroleum products, alcohol and tobacco produced in Australia apply equally to imports of these products (revenue customs duties).

The principle's clear. Whatever tax (as a percentage of value or as a dollar amount per physical quantity) is applied to locally produced goods and services can be applied to imports of those products under present WTO rules. Any country can set a tax on a given product, determined any way you like, apply it equally to local products and substitute imports, and not breach WTO rules.

Suppose any country sets such taxes based on (i) the carbon emissions price in that country and (ii) the emissions intensity of locally produced goods and services. Suppose that process also determines the border tax adjustment to be applied to imports of the same products, so that percentage or specific tax burdens on imports are the same as on local substitutes. Such border tax adjustments are WTO-compliant. They are not protectionist. They are competitiveness-neutral. They are an integral part of a national emissions consumption approach to climate policy.

By eliminating losses of trade competitiveness otherwise incurred by "first movers", they make an effective (as opposed to pusillanimous) global deal on climate policy likelier. They remove an obstacle impeding consummation of a global deal in this area since 1992 and, on present trends, likely to continue impeding such a deal in December and beyond.


When too much self esteem is just too much

This is a remarkably long-lived fad. I remember back in the '80s when psychologists regarded self-esteem as one of the most important indicators of mental health. And faddy California even had an official government body charged with boosting self-esteem! The evidence has however now long been in that promoting high self esteem is more likely to do harm than good. See e.g. here

Every year multitudes of young people line up to unleash their hidden talents at the auditions for the Australian Idol competition. As viewers we are entertained by the many – alas, too many – whose efforts fall well short of what may be objectively regarded as talent. Most interesting is their surprised reactions to being rejected. They truly believe they have something special to offer and cannot fathom that the judges disagree.

How is it that in all the years prior no one around these people, family or friends, had shared reality with them, tapped them on their shoulder and suggested they may be better off pursuing another hobby?

This scenario is representative of the wider outlook and attitudes of young people today, and the younger they are the more this seems to prevail. The mantra for modern parenting is self-esteem. In countless interviews with Australian mums and dads they insist the most important quality they wish to instill in their kids is a high level of self acceptance.

The rationale for this comes for two different angles. On the defensive side parents fear the implications of low self-esteem. Their greatest concern for their kids is that they develop depression or an eating disorder. While the media and public domain are filled with discussion on obesity parents are more concerned with the opposite. They turn a blind eye to the obesity debate worried that focussing on their children’s weight may have negative consequences on their self-image. (Here, there is a clear contradiction, for while mums attempt to instill in their kids self-acceptance and loving their body, they themselves do not believe it for their own bodies, and their kids know it).

On the proactive side parents believe high self-esteem is necessary in order to succeed in today’s competitive society. When they were growing up success could be achieved by going through the ropes, getting an education and skills and entering the workforce. Today’s society is all about self-reliance with success requiring an entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to showcase oneself. So they encourage their kids to do from the earliest.

From the youngest of age kids are encouraged to speak their minds and express opinions. Parents are loathe to simply say ‘no’. Rather they discuss and negotiate, urging their kids to put forward their viewpoint, express an opinion and feel they are being listened to. The result of this focus on the individual and their talents will be felt acutely by our society in the years to come. The reality is that while everyone wants to be above average less than half the population can be.

Kids are being set up with the expectation for great achievement having been told over and over ‘you can do anything as long as you set your mind to it’. Well, no they can’t. And when they discover this truth the disappointment will be great. For some it may too great.

We are already seeing this with Gen Y as they approach their late 20s. Their expectations are high and goals quite profound. Their role models are the billionaires entrepreneurs who started Facebook, or actors and models plucked from obscurity by talent agents, not the millions of others who remain unknown or have failed. On reaching their late 20s and realising they will not be millionaires by 30, not even close, many young people enter a third life crisis. With the past decade of growth and prosperity giving way to uncertainty many will have their dreams shattered earlier.

By focusing on success and achievement we are, with the exception of the lucky and talented few, setting our kids up for failure, something we are not teaching them to cope with.


Friday, October 02, 2009

Aussies top world list of national pride

I just don't believe this. I think the result must be an artifact of poor sampling. Australian patriotism is generally very low key -- unlike the flag-waving American version. Most Australians are pleased to be Australians and believe that Australia is "The lucky country" (In Donald Horne's unfortunate phrase -- Donald meant it as an insult!) but overt expressions of patriotism are rare and understated

AUSTRALIANS have the highest degree of support for their own country out of 33 nationalities polled in a survey published in The Economist. The British newspaper quotes a survey by the Reputation Institute, a branding consultancy based in New York but with worldwide affiliations, that says Australians have a higher "trust, admiration, respect and pride" in their country than do the citizens of any other developed country, The Australian reports.

The high regard Australians apparently have for their nation gives it a score of just over 90 points from a possible 100 point score compared with last-placed Japan, for instance, which rates approximately 56.

The newspaper does not reveal the sample size, survey date or methodology but concludes that "Australians are almost as exuberant about their country as they are about sport".

Closely following Australia in descending order are Canada, Finland, Austria, Singapore and India while the US, usually seen as a global benchmark for national pride, rates 11th with a score in the high 70s.

What is clear from the survey, as the newspaper indicates, is that the results may be affected by the relative scale of economic recession. Australia is regarded by most experts as the country least affected by recession. That said, Spain rates two places above the US, despite having an unemployment rate approaching 15 per cent.


Ambulances get seriously ill patients to government hospitals quickly but then cannot offload them for hours

PARAMEDICS spent about 1000 hours "ramping" outside Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital in the three months to the end of August, their union says. The Liquor Hospitality Miscellaneous Union said the time "wasted" by paramedics looking after patients while they waited to be accepted by the hospital's emergency department had cost taxpayers more than $50,000.

LHMU organiser Kroy Day said some ambulances spent more than four hours at a time waiting outside the hospital's emergency department to hand over a patient. "While a crew is ramping at a hospital, they're unable to respond out in the community to the lady who's had the stroke, the man who's had the heart attack," Mr Day said. "What nobody can gauge is who's died and suffered because a crew has been ramped there."

Mr Day said the problem was an issue statewide, not just at the PA, and was costing taxpayers millions of dollars that would be better spent on medical care. "On Friday night, for example, at Nambour Hospital, we had eight ambulances ramped for up to three hours," he said. "On the week of September 14 at Logan . . . at one point we had 11 ambulances ramped for up to two hours. The public need to be very scared about what's happening."

The LHMU, which is in the 11th month of enterprise bargaining negotiations with the Queensland Ambulance Service, has called for an extra 500 paramedics over the next two years.

Australasian College for Emergency Medicine Queensland chairman David Rosengren said ambulance ramping was problem at all public hospital emergency departments, including the PA. "Every single emergency physician, every single paramedic and every single patient who comes by ambulance knows that the ability to offload our ambulance patients into emergency departments is extremely difficult and there are quite often lengthy delays," Dr Rosengren said. "The problem of ambulance ramping is a systemic problem that's been around for a long time and is progressively getting worse year after year."

Dr Rosengren said a shortage in public hospital beds was to blame. "If an emergency department doesn't have a trolley to put a patient on, ambulances can't offload them," he said. "There's an inability to make space in emergency departments because they're so full of patients that can't get a bed in a hospital ward. That's clogging up the system."


Amazing! The Rudd government has actually rejected a few "asylum seeker" claims

NINE Sri Lankan men are set to become the first asylum-seekers to be forcibly returned home since the Rudd government was elected. Last night the men were being flown from Christmas Island, where they have been detained since arriving in November, to Perth. They are expected to be detained for two days before being placed on a commercial flight to Sri Lanka.

The men were part of a group of 12 whose boat reached Shark Bay, 800km north of Perth, before being spotted by campers. Two of the men have already returned home voluntarily. The Australian understands the nine men were found by Department of Immigration and Citizenship to have come to Australia in search of work. Another man from the group remains on Christmas Island where he is appealing the rejection of his asylum claim through the Federal Court.

Last night Immigration Minister Chris Evans said none of the men would be in danger when returned to Sri Lanka. "All protection issues raised by this particular group have been fully assessed against Australia's international treaty obligations and there are no protection issues which would prevent their return to Sri Lanka," hesaid.

But refugee advocate Ian Rintoul said it was outrageous the government was deporting one of the men, Sarath Tennakoon, after he claimed his life would be in danger if forced to return. In an interview with The Australian in August, Mr Tennakoon said he had told the Department of Immigration and Citizenship that his life was in danger after he was identified by the Tamil Tigers as a member of the air force intelligence unit in 2002.

"The appalling human rights abuses of the Sri Lankan government is well known to the world," Mr Rintoul said. "It is too dangerous for anyone with problems with the Sri Lankan government, Tamil or Sinhalese, to be sent back." Mr Rintoul said he was attempting to lodge a last-minute appeal to the Federal Court against Mr Tennakoon's deportation.

All nine men appealed against the department's decision to the refugee review tribunal but were unsuccessful. They then lodged claims for the minister to intervene and allow them to stay but this was also rejected. The appeals lodged by the men were only possible because they were found so close to shore and classified as mainland arrivals. Asylum-seekers found outside Australia's migration zone do not have such appeal rights.

To date, 22 people detained on Christmas Island have returned home voluntarily and a further 58 Indonesian men are expected to leave voluntarily this weekend. The men arrived on a boat intercepted near Barrow Island last month and were believed to have come to Australia in search of work.


A timely warning about teeth whitening

A MELBOURNE magistrate has effectively ruled that teeth-whitening procedures must only be carried out by registered dentists, after a beauty therapist was fined $2000 for carrying out the treatment.

The trial of the beauty therapist, held in March, was the first time the legality of teeth-whitening by an unregistered practitioner was tested in Australia. The therapist was convicted and fined at the Heidelberg Magistrates' Court yesterday for practising dentistry while not being registered as a dental care provider. Magistrate Jill Crowe said teeth-whitening was an "invasive and irreversible procedure" and should only be performed by registered dental care providers.

The Dental Practice Board of Victoria brought the charge against the beauty therapist after a customer complained following a teeth-whitening procedure in August 2007. The customer suffered severe mottling and marbled teeth, gum ulcerations and chemical burns, the board said. A board spokesman said the ruling set a precedent and would ensure that teeth-whitening was only performed by people with dental training.


Climate folly before failure

THE inconvenient truth is that there is no hope the UN climate change negotiations that start in Copenhagen on December 7 will deliver a new Kyoto treaty, with a global agreement on binding emissions targets. This was, of course, the original aim of the meeting but has been abandoned. On Monday The Guardian in Britain quoted a top European official who described the idea of negotiating on targets as naive and said the best that could be expected was that countries would put up what they wanted to commit to.

Just as well, really, if we consider figures published in an article in The Washington Post, also on Monday, by Danish statistician and environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg.

His Copenhagen Consensus Centre commissioned well-known climate economist Richard Tol, a contributor to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to estimate the cost of emissions targets needed to keep the rise in global temperature to under the 2C limit suggested by the IPCC's work. Tol's answer is a global price tag of $US40 trillion in 2100, to avoid expected climate damage costing $US1.1 trillion. These figures are based on mainstream economic models and subject to the usual limitations of modelling over long periods.

But the global warming projections behind all the alarm about climate change are based on complex climate models that also have serious limitations and, according to Lomborg, Tol's estimates are best-case outcomes. They aren't the only reason to be uneasy about the present thrust of UN climate change policy.

Kevin Rudd has been using various arguments to push his case for urgent, substantial action on climate change and one he used in the US last week is the threat of a European carbon tax on exports from countries "not doing their bit on climate change". Rudd only mentioned remarks by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, but it is actually a joint initiative by France and Germany's newly re-elected Chancellor Angela Merkel. Instead of, at least implicitly, accepting this as a legitimate tactic by the Europeans, Rudd should be denouncing it at every opportunity. The last thing Australia and the world need is a global trade war sparked by European attempts to bully the world into adopting its climate change policies, which are under attack in the EU itself, to shelter its industries from the economic damage its climate policies will impose.

Some more figures from Lomborg. Economic estimates suggest freer trade would deliver global benefits of the order of $US50trillion. Why put these gains at risk to avoid global warming damage estimated at $US1.1 trillion? Fortunately there has already been a reaction in Europe and in other countries against the Franco-German threat.

The looming failure at Copenhagen is a powerful argument against Australia rushing to pass the Rudd government's flawed emissions trading scheme, which isn't even proposed to start operating until 2011. For Australia, with an economic structure heavily dependent on cheap, carbon-based energy, to move ahead of the rest of the world is foolish.

Rudd and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong see things differently. In their view, getting the legislation through the Senate in November is essential for Australia's negotiating position at Copenhagen. According to Wong the eyes of the world are on us, waiting to see if the government succeeds. Nonsense, of course, as Rudd gave away in an interview with CNN in New York. Asked whether the US negotiating position had been weakened by the Obama administration's inability to get emissions trading legislation through the US Senate, Rudd replied that his own legislation had been recently blocked by Australia's Senate. He continued: "That doesn't impede me from being active in these negotiations and my observation of President Obama is that it doesn't impede him either." So much for the importance of passing legislation before Copenhagen and, in any case, the UN knows what Australia's position is on targets and emissions trading.

Rudd, of course, has other arguments. He declared in New York that what drove his government's interest in an emissions trading scheme was the need for business certainty. There can be no certainty in a scheme that has flexible emissions targets that will vary with global action.

Another scare tactic is to paint water problems in the Murray-Darling Basin as a product of climate change. More nonsense. The problems on the Murray-Darling rivers have nothing to do with climate change and everything to do with gutless and short-sighted politicians. Bureau of Meteorology records of rainfall during 108 years examined by Australian physicist Tom Quirk show no statistically significant trend, with rainfall variations entirely random. So much for the impact of global warming.

The government's attempts to create a sense of urgency and set a timetable that demands its legislation be passed in November are a stunt. The issue is whether Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has the courage to do what he says is the only sensible course of action, to wait until after we know the outcome in Copenhagen.

However, having said this, Turnbull, who is in a complete funk over the possibility of a double-dissolution election on the issue, left the door open to negotiate with the government to pass its legislation, with amendments, in November. A clear majority of his back bench and probably at least half his front bench don't agree with this policy.

Both former Labor prime minister and treasurer Paul Keating and former Liberal deputy leader and treasurer Peter Costello have warned a double dissolution is not without risks for Rudd because the electorate likes governments to run their full term. Rudd has said more than once he doesn't want a double dissolution and also believes governments should run their full term.

Turnbull should take him at his word and have the guts to stand by what he says he believes is the right policy, and is indeed the sensible policy: wait until after Copenhagen.


Thursday, October 01, 2009

Hatred of charitable donors who don't do what they are told

We see below a simple outpouring of hate against successful people. There is NOT A WORD about the reasons why they opposed what others sought. Could it be that conservative businessmen created an alternative to the Left-dominated Melbourne university and did not want to lose that?

A SMALL but powerful group of Melbourne establishment figures, including ANZ Bank chairman Charles Goode, has scuttled a proposal to create one of the world's top business schools. In a deeply embarrassing setback for the star-studded Melbourne Business School board, the donor members who helped establish an independent MBS in the 1980s spurned the directors' unanimous recommendation yesterday to merge with Melbourne University's faculty of economics and commerce.

With recrimination thick in the air, one observer commented: "This is a gigantic f**k-up; it's like the board of a blue-chip company unanimously agreeing to a takeover, only to have their own shareholders vote it down."

Three key players, all called John and listed in Who's Who as Melbourne Club members, lobbied heavily against the merger, which required a change to the MBS constitution that called for a 75 per cent voting majority, The Australian reports. Former ANZ chairman John Gough, 81, former Woolworths chairman and Corrs corporate lawyer John Dahlsen, 74, and MBS founding dean John Rose, 73, mobilised their longstanding business networks. But the critical individual, according to close observers, was Gough's protege, Goode, also a Melbourne Club member, who succeeded him as ANZ chairman.

The 79 MBS donor members, most of them large corporates, were allocated votes according to the size of their contributions. In a poll, 54 of them have a total of 16,512 votes and 25 individual donors retain one vote each. Goode, 71, was critical because he is chairman of both ANZ and the charitable Ian Potter Foundation, each a large MBS donor. No one ever had any doubt where the foundation's loyalties lay - Rose and Gough are also on its board of governors.

The three Johns, as they will be forever known, were said to have marshalled a blocking stake of more than 25 per cent, relying on ANZ, the Ian Potter Foundation, the Dahlsen holding and a couple of other like-minded organisations. The merger resolutions will now not be put to the planned MBS extraordinary meeting on October 7.

For this generation of the Melbourne establishment, the MBS battle was probably the last power play. Consistent with its signature style, there was no one to comment yesterday. Networks were activated, business was conducted behind closed doors, influence was wielded, an outcome was achieved and that was it. Dahlsen, Rose and Gough could not be reached for comment, and Goode is now overseas for two weeks.


Silence on red tape due to red tape

Leftist politicians usually talk the talk about "openness" etc. but they don't walk the walk

THE NSW Government cannot talk about its attempts to cut red tape due to … red tape. A freedom of information request for details of the Government's efforts to cut red tape has been denied, because they remain subject to ''cabinet in confidence provisions'' before any public announcement.

The Premier sent a memo to all government departments to report efforts to cut red tape by July 24, but the Government is refusing to disclose the responses. After years of lobbying, the Government set a target of reducing red tape by $500 million, but progress is unclear.

The freedom of information request, lodged by the NSW Business Chamber for details of the departmental responses to the Premier's memo, was refused because "many of these initiatives are subject to cabinet approval or have been approved by cabinet but are yet to be announced", the Government said. The Government said there was ''strong public interest against disclosing the information'' sought.

The chief executive of the NSW Business Chamber, Stephen Cartwright, said: "The NSW economy is bringing up the rear of all the states and territories, and yet the State Government is holding back on announcing much-needed changes while it waits for the right time in the media cycle.''


Stupid breast fear again

A MELBOURNE mother says she was left in tears after a Tiger Airways flight attendant repeatedly asked her to hide her breastfeeding baby from other passengers on a flight earlier this month.

Kathryn Ward said she was feeding her three-month-old son, James, on a flight between the Gold Coast and Melbourne when a crew member asked her if she had a blanket to cover him. ''I didn't say anything because at the same time she asked me she saw a padded insert underneath him and put it on top of him without asking my permission,'' Mrs Ward said. ''She said, 'I know it's natural, but some people may not like to see it.' ''

Mrs Ward said she told the attendant that she had a right to breastfeed, but was asked again to cover her baby because a man seated near her ''might not like to see it''. ''I said to [the man], 'Does this offend you?' and he said, 'No, not at all.' [The flight attendant] said, 'Well, people walking down the aisle might not like it.' '' The mother of two said she felt embarrassed and humiliated after the incident.

A spokeswoman for Tiger Airways said the airline had reviewed the incident and planned to apologise to Mrs Ward for the error. The flight attendant had been disciplined and informed of a new policy as a result of the complaint. ''All relevant staff will undergo training immediately to ensure this situation does not occur again.''

Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission chief executive Helen Szoke said six formal complaints had been received about discrimination over breastfeeding last financial year, although ''that's just the tip of the iceberg''. She said the law protected women breastfeeding in public, including at work, in shops and on public transport.


Hard Leftists boo religion

The organizer of this little shindig was Meredith Burgmann, a long-time hard Leftist. Her audience would undoubtedly be similarly oriented

AN evangelical church pastor who blamed the Victorian bushfire tragedy on the state's abortion laws has taken out the annual top gong for sexist comments. Now in its 17th year, the Ernie Awards are bestowed on those whose public utterings are regarded as the most sexist. The winner is determined by how loud the crowd boos and hisses.

About 250 women who attended the gala [galah?] event at NSW Parliament House last night decided that comments by Pastor Danny Nalliah, head of the Catch the Fire Ministries, were worthy of the top prize, the Gold Ernie. Shortly after the deadly February bushfires, the pastor said: "God's conditional protection has been removed from the nation of Australia, in particular Victoria, for approving the slaughter of innocent children in the womb.''

Second prize, the Silver Ernie, was shared among several men, including shock jock Kyle Sandilands, as well as the NSW Police Force for exhibiting outstanding sexism.

The police force came under fire from equality groups in September after reports an employee was made to work overtime for every minute she spent expressing breast milk for her baby.

Sandilands, who also took out the Clinton repeat offender award, earned his Silver Ernie for his response during a radio stunt in which a teenage girl revealed she had been raped. Sandilands replied: "Right, is that the only experience you've had?'' before the interview was brought to an end. His award was cemented by his second blunder for the year, in which he said actress Magda Szubanski could become skinny if she was in a concentration camp.

The Sporting Ernie, the Warnie, went to Newcastle under-20s centre Simon Williams who insensitively remarked on recent NRL scandals involving group sex: "It's not during the act, it's the way you treat them after. (It) could have been avoided if they had put them in a cab and said thanks.'' The club said his comments had been taken out of context.

The most hostile response at the awards is often reserved for the winner of the Elaine - the woman whose remarks were regarded as "the least helpful to the sisterhood''. This year's Elaine went to journalist Miranda Devine for writing in a comment piece: "Decades of androgynous feminism have stamped on chivalry, deriding men who opened doors or stood back for women as being sexist and patronising. It would have been better for women if feminism had appealed to men's better natures.''

Organiser Meredith Burgmann said Pastor Nalliah was a deserving winner, but he was nearly pipped by the NSW Police Force.


People power: Vegemite 'iSnack2.0' is toast, says Kraft

It's actually not the first such backdown. Vegemite was once called "Parwill" -- for equally ludicrous reasons

JARS of Vegemite labelled 'iSnack 2.0' are destined to become collectors items after Kraft announced today it will change the name. Just four days after Kraft announced the name of the new Vegemite, the company has issued a press release admitting that Australians “just don’t like the name”.

Kraft chose the name from more than 48,000 suggestions collected from a public competition. But the name - announced during the AFL Grand Final on Saturday - attracted an unprecedented outpouring of derision from Australians. About 3 million jars of the new, creamier version of vegemite have been sold since it was launched in July.

“The new name has simply not resonated with Australians - particularly the modern technical aspects associated with it,” Kraft corporate affairs boss Simon Talbot said. “At no point in time has the new Vegemite name been about initiating a media publicity stunt. “We are proud custodians of Vegemite, and have always been aware that it is the people's brand and a national icon."

The “iSnack 2.0” jars would not be recalled and thousands of jars already containing the new label would continue to be distributed around the country for several months. A second vote would be held to decide a new name, Mr Talbot said.


Unrest over illegal immigrants on Christmas island

Community leaders on Christmas Island say they are being treated like second-class citizens in comparison to asylum seekers arriving in Australian waters by boat. Islanders blame the $400 million immigration detention centre at North West Point - where all sea arrivals are taken for health and security checks - for many of the problems facing the remote Australian territory. Inflated food prices, a lack of accommodation for tourists, a shortage of rental cars and even crumbling roads are all due to the immigration detention centre's growing hunger for resources, they say.

Almost 1,500 people on 29 unauthorised vessels have been picked up on their way to Australia this year. There are currently 890 asylum seekers and 16 crew members being held on Christmas Island, which is 2,600km northwest of Perth and just 500km south of Jakarta. Some 726 are behind barbed wire in the detention centre itself. Another 145 are in the unfenced Phosphate Hill and construction camp facilities while 35 are living in the community. They're generally processed and flown to the mainland within three months.

This week, Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce visited the island and declared the asylum seekers ``seem very happy here - which is a concern''. Many had arrived with multi-vitamin tablets, an indication, Senator Joyce declared, that they were economic migrants rather than genuine refugees. Immigration department figures suggest otherwise: 641 people sent to Christmas Island have been found to be genuine refugees this year, while just 29 have been returned home. The rest are still being processed.

The island has a 1,500-strong permanent population, including large ethnic Chinese and Malay communities. Many are sympathetic to Senator Joyce's view. Local Islamic Council president Zainal Abdul Majid says the federal government uses taxpayers' money to look after the detainees while the islanders are neglected. ``They are being very well looked after, whereas the local community has got nothing out of the detention centre,'' Majid said. ``We feel as if we are second-class and not being looked after as well.''

Like most island leaders, Majid doesn't want the detention centre closed down now that it's been built at such expense. Rather, he wants more money to flow into the pockets of locals. ``Even if one per cent of the total amount spent on detainees is invested into the local community then they will say there's a balance and the government is looking after both sides.''

Christmas Island councillor Nora Koh, who is also president of the local women's association, claims food prices have increased 50 per cent since the new detention centre opened in late 2008. ``The traders are taking advantage of the increase in the population,'' she says. ``They know the economy on Christmas Island is up now but the refugees may not stay here long.'' Koh believes the island's four stores are essentially making hay while the sun shines.

When Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor visited earlier this month she pleaded for him to subsidise freight so fruit and vegetables could be sold more cheaply. It could be funded by increasing taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, which are currently duty free, Koh said. Others have suggested locals should be given an ID card that allows them to purchase goods at a discounted rate compared with the asylum seekers living in the community.

Those not locked up in the detention centre receive cash, phone cards and access to a store account equivalent to 90 per cent of the Newstart Allowance. That equates to $410 a fortnight. O'Connor says the assertion that the immigration department's increased presence on the island has pushed up food prices needs to be tested. ``We'll look at that,'' the minister said, adding that it could form part of the work of a newly formed commonwealth taskforce which is examining the economic and environmental sustainability of Christmas and nearby Cocos islands.

On a recent trip, journalist David Marr found prices weren't as high as claimed. ``But the food argument is as much about passion as price, and the feeling there should be something in this for them,'' he wrote.

The immigration department itself insists it goes to great lengths to ensure its presence on Christmas Island doesn't inflate prices. ``The department monitors any impact on the community very carefully and takes appropriate steps such as freighting in food as required to provide for staff as well as the people that are in detention,'' a spokeswoman said. ``The arrival of a large number of asylum seekers doesn't affect the community's food supply.''

There are 50 departmental staff working on the island. About 100 locals are employed by the contractor which runs the detention centre, the food caterer and maintenance companies. Immigration says the ``vast majority'' of staff travel to and from work in a mini-bus provided by the department. It also sponsors a community bus service. But sometimes the department does hire rental cars, which are in short supply.

Tourism association development officer Bill Tatchell blames immigration for monopolising cars and accommodation beds. The island turns away more tourists than it accepts due to capacity constraints, he says. ``We don't have the resources to deliver because the resources are being used by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.'' Like the Islamic Council and shire councillor Nora Koh, the tourism association wants the immigration department to invest in the island and build ``key infrastructure''. In particular, islanders say the road to the detention centre needs to be upgraded before it crumbles from heavy use.


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