Tuesday, September 30, 2008


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG comments on the Wall St bailout and the pathetic attempts of Prime Minister Rudd to get involved

Palin derangement syndrome spreads to Australia

How the Left hate normal, happy people!

Just imagine what the sneering left intelligentsia, in the United States and elsewhere, would have said if a Republican vice-presidential candidate had told CBS News that "when the stockmarket crashed [in 1929], Franklin Roosevelt got on television" and informed Americans what had happened. No doubt scores of left-liberal types would have lined-up to say the Republican Herbert Hoover, and not the Democrat Roosevelt, was in the White House when the Great Depression began, and regular TV broadcasting did not occur in the US until about 1941.

Yet the Democrat Joe Biden made these howlers in an interview with Katie Couric. She did not correct the vice-presidential candidate. This is the same Couric who grilled Sarah Palin in an interview which aired a few days later. The line of this interrogation turned on the thesis that the Governor of Alaska is not well enough informed to hold the second-highest office in the US.

Biden and Palin go head-to-head in their only debate on Friday (Sydney time). Both are able performers so, in scoring parlance, a draw is the likely outcome. However, the constant criticism of Palin by large sections of the predominantly left-liberal mainstream media means Biden will go into this verbal contest as favourite. The real outcome will turn on what impact the candidates have on voters in such swing states as Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Palin has undergone fierce and sometimes personal criticism from the left-intelligentsia, primarily because she is a conservative, Christian, married mother of five from the small town of Wasilla in Alaska. The feminist Maureen Dowd has depicted Palin as "the glamorous Pioneer Woman, packing a gun, a baby and a Bible". Professor Wendy Doniger, of the University of Chicago, has gone further, declaring that Palin's "greatest hypocrisy is her pretence that she is a woman". And the NBC News commentator Andrea Mitchell has been reported as maintaining that "only the uneducated would vote for Mrs Palin".

For her part, Palin has responded as well as possible to this criticism. She pointed to her experience as mayor of Wasilla (population 7000) and, more recently, Governor of Alaska. For an Australian comparison, the position of Alaskan governor would equate with the Tasmania premiership. Tasmania is Australia's smallest state but those who become its premier are invariably politically skilled. The former prime minister Joe Lyons, who was once premier of Tasmania, comes to mind.

Moreover, Palin responded to the Couric putdown that she has travelled very little outside of the US with a matter-of-fact depiction of her life so far: "I'm not one of those who maybe come from a background, you know, kids who perhaps graduate [from] college and their parents give them a passport and give them a backpack and say go travel the world. No, I've worked all my life. In fact, I usually had two jobs until I had kids."

Unlike most media commentators, Bill Clinton has run successfully for public office. The former Democrat president had a different take on Palin when interviewed by CNN's Larry King last week. He said he could only judge Palin from how he believes she is going in his home state of Arkansas "where half the people live in communities of less than 2500 and there are people who are pro-choice and pro-life and more than half the people have a hunting or fishing licence". He added that "they like families that hang together, that deal with adversity, that are proud of all their members". Clinton described Palin as an "appealing person" and praised John McCain's political acumen for choosing her as his running mate.

The anti-Palin ethos prevalent among left-liberals in America can also be found in Australia, at differing levels of intensity. For example, on September 17, the 7.30 Report presenter Kerry O'Brien introduced a report on Palin with a reference to "the pro-gun, pro-life mother of five". For the record, O'Brien does not mention his own family arrangements on either the 7.30 Report website or in his Who's Who In Australia entry. In the subsequent report, Tracy Bowden referred to the Governor of Alaska as "the moose-hunting, evangelical mother of five". Yes, we know.

Meanwhile The Age's house leftist, Catherine Deveny, has gone overboard in her sneering. In a recent column, she described Palin as "the closest thing Republican strategists could find to a man without a vagina", a "white trash trophy wife wearing glasses so she looks intellectual" and a "white trash moron". No need for repetition here, we got the abusive message the first time.

Even so, Deveny repeated the line last week, describing Palin as "a dangerous, divisive moron". Deveny is the embodiment of that part of Australian inner-city professional left which despises those who live middle-class lives in the suburbs and regional centres. Writing on August 6, she could hardly disguise her contempt for suburban Australia: "I can't tell you how often I seriously wish I were living in some outer suburb, content with signed and framed football jumpers on the wall, no bookshelves and a coffee table covered in remote controls, happy to read romance novels over my Cup-a-Soup".

Early in the presidential campaign, Barack Obama was reported at a private function as saying that small-town voters in the US were bitter and therefore took refuge in "guns or religion". He quickly learnt that contempt for suburban and rural America would not lead to political victory in November and he has not repeated such comments. It is most unlikely that Biden will run such a line against Palin in this week's debate. By the way, I will be watching and rooting for Palin.


Professor "Think of a number"

It is clear that there is no science involved here -- just rather inept politics

The federal government's top climate change adviser Ross Garnaut has toughened his recommended greenhouse targets - but fears they won't come to pass. After infuriating green groups earlier this month by recommending a 10 per cent greenhouse target by 2020, he's now more open to a 25 per cent cut in emissions. He also aspires to a 90 per cent target by 2050, compared with the Federal Government's 60 per cent goal.

Professor Garnaut today released his long-awaited 620-page final report on what the nation should do about climate change. "Strong mitigation, with Australia playing its proportionate part, is in Australia's interests,'' the report says. ''(Australia) should express its willingness to reduce its own entitlements to emissions from 2000 levels by 25 per cent by 2020, and by 90 per cent by 2050 in the context of an international agreement.'' [The escape hatch]


Dying man's wait for public hospital bed

A terminally ill man who spent 26 hours in the Caboolture Hospital's emergency department waiting for a bed does not want others to suffer the same fate. John Shea, from Bongaree, said he was admitted about 5pm on September 3 but it took until about 3pm the next day to find a bed in a public or private hospital.

Mr Shea, who has brain and lung cancers, said he spent another four hours waiting for an ambulance to take him to a private hospital in Brisbane. ``In four or six weeks I should be gone but I'd like to see other people be protected,'' Mr Shea said. ``They're understaffed and it's not good enough and I think we deserve something better from our politicians.''

Mr Shea contacted the Herald after reading last week's article on claims northside ambulance stations were understaffed. His wife Maureen said the Caboolture Hospital's emergency department was full when her husband was there. ``They had people coming and going everywhere,'' Mrs Shea said. ``It was just a bit chaotic.''

The Herald asked the Health Department to comment on the Sheas' claims but it did not respond before deadline. Earlier this month it said the Caboolture Hospital's usual occupancy rate was 90 percent.

Former local Australian Medical Association representative Dr Ray Huntley said the hospital had been running at close to capacity for three years and something should have been done to boost its capacity.


The government-funded maternity leave proposal

THE battle over paid maternity leave is raging and this debate has it all. Stay-at-home versus working mums, feminism versus patriarchy, big business, big government, fertility and even super-sized mortgage repayments are all factors. But the real issue boils down to one simple question - who pays?

In yesterday recommending 18 weeks of parental leave for working mums, the Productivity Commission is trying to orchestrate a carefully balanced tightrope walk. On the one hand, fiscal conservatives argue that the world is in financial meltdown - do we really want to be spending more of our taxpayers' (quickly dwindling supplies of) money? On the other hand the unions, women's groups and assorted cheerleaders of big government spending are crying out for more taxpayer dollars. How can we continue to undervalue the needs of our children, they argue.

While the Productivity Commission report resists some of the more outlandish claims to pay women - including those on well-above average incomes - their full salaries for six to 12 months from the public purse, it still calls for an extra $450 million per year from taxpayers. Given that the Government signalled cutbacks on so-called "middle class welfare' in the May Budget by means testing the Baby Bonus and Family Tax Benefit B, this extra spending represents a contradiction in terms of both policy and principle.

The 18-week scheme will cost an extra $280 million when compared to the 14 weeks that the commission was expected to recommend. Of the report's additional spending, $61 million will fund two weeks of paternity leave, reserved specifically for dads on a "use it or lose it" basis. While it seems like a great idea to give mums extra support after the birth and to get dads more involved in child-rearing, the commission's report acknowledges that overseas versions of this policy haven't had the desired effect with the dads.

Is it really appropriate to use such a large sum of taxpayer dollars for what is essentially a feminist feel-good policy? It's a lot of our money to be spending on something that we know from the research overseas doesn't work.

On the positive side, the commission argues that 18 weeks of paid leave will allow most parents to take the six to nine months off work which child health experts say is optimal. This can be achieved through a combination of the paid leave component as well as parents using their own savings and other entitlements such as annual leave. It's positive because it gives mums a chance to breastfeed their babies and recover from childbirth. Parents will be able to provide one on one care at the most important time.

Importantly, this move also sets out a principle of shared responsibility. Sure, it's helpful for the community to ease the burden on new parents through taxpayer subsidies but it also makes it clear to parents that the ultimately responsibility lies with them. Paid parental leave is about supporting healthy babies and women's employment - not about subsidising mega-mortgage repayments or the infamous Baby Bonus plasma TV.

If new parents want to keep the same standard of living, they'll need to plan and save for it themselves. It also helps the Government to resist the inevitable push which will come for longer periods of paid leave.

Australia already spends well over the OECD average on families, and any push for a bigger slice of government funding than that recommended by the Productivity Commission will be extremely hard to justify. In terms of financial support from the Government, Australian parents aren't exactly doing it tough. If longer periods of parental leave are demanded, a fair solution is to help parents fund it themselves.

It's called income smoothing: making sure that money you have had in the past, or will have in the future, is available when you really need it - such as when you're on parental leave. For most Australians, the concept isn't new. We already do it with HECS, mortgages, superannuation and insurance. Why not for parental leave too? Parental Leave Saver Accounts could allow parents to save for their parental leave, rolling unused savings into super or another asset.

The infrastructure for this system already exists, evident in First Home Saver Accounts and superannuation. If families had not saved, or if their savings ran out, they could apply for an income-contingent loan. Repayments would increase as family income increases, ensuring that loan repayments did not have a significant negative impact on household budgets.

The concept of both the community and individual parents meeting the cost of having a child is fair, but we need to keep in mind that Australian families already get it pretty good. While some families will benefit from the new parental leave scheme, everyone will have to pay.


A small smack is not child abuse

The article below is in part a response to this story of official bloody-mindedness

The NSW Department of Community Services thinks the children would be better in foster care than with a family member who smacks the bottoms of naughty children. Has the world gone mad or am I am missing something here?

While I was reading this shocking story, my kids were in a frenzy over some altercation that had quickly snowballed out of control, the way only kids can. On and on it went, until I heard myself shouting at the top of my voice for some peace and common sense. And that's all we can do, isn't it? Shout like a maniac until someone listens, though you have to wonder whether this traumatises both parent and child to a greater degree.

Of course, it was different in our day. Certainly, it was different in the days when the grandmother in the newspaper was a child. Spare the rod and spoil the child was the mantra back then.

I feel terribly sorry for this woman. She has cared for her four grandkids on and off for the last six years as their mother battled drug addiction. Surely she deserves some sympathy, not public humiliation. But some experts say what she allegedly did was unacceptable. I say to them, walk a mile in her shoes.

Bringing up happy, healthy, polite and caring children has never been easy, but it is getting more difficult because of the push for parenting to be so politically correct that there is no room for common sense and gut instinct.

I admire the work of Australian Childhood Foundation chief executive Joe Tucci, but I do not support his push for a national ban on smacking. He has pushed for it since a 2006 foundation survey found most people thought smacking was acceptable. Mr Tucci wanted the Government to legislate against parents doing it. But the Australian Family Association argued that laws which meant the Government decided who was and was not a good parent would go too far.

Former Queensland premier Peter Beattie dismissed it, saying that a smack on the bum never hurt anybody. And I think that is the belief of many of my generation.

Mr Tucci worries that when adults use physical punishment, it's usually because they're frustrated. He believes there's a risk of hurting the child because you're not in control of yourself. Of course there are derelict parents who lash out at their kids, but let's not confuse them with the 99 per cent who only wish to impose some boundaries.

When I was growing up in the 1960s, kids knew that if they behaved badly there would be consequences. Yes, often it was a smack on the bottom. But in all honesty it did us no permanent damage.

I wonder if the same is true of yelling. Verbal abuse is as destructive as physical abuse. And, yes, in a perfect world parents wouldn't yell or smack, and all children would be little angels. It doesn't work that way. I am with John Morrissey on this. The Australian Family Association spokesman says there is a big difference between a small smack and hurting or abusing a child.

In April, there was a push in Tasmania for a ban on smacking. Children's Commissioner Paul Mason told the ABC that corporal punishment taught children not to get caught and that violence was acceptable in resolving conflict. But doesn't it also teach kids not to repeat the same offence? Doesn't it impose on the child a sense that they've gone over the boundary and need to rein in their behaviour?

Of course, I am not supporting child abuse in any form, but there is a profound difference between a reproaching smack and an out-of-control slap or something worse. Most parents understand that, and surely our authorities should as well.

Flexibility and common sense are traits of good parents. It's about time the "experts" and the authorities displayed the same attributes.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Australians "racist"?

The usual facile conception of "racism" below. Believing that some groups are different in various ways is just realism. Many ethnic groups themselves assert their difference quite vigorously. There are several possible more reasonable definitions of racism but advocating that someone be oppressed purely on account of their race is surely the only sort of "racism" that is deserving of concern or condemnation -- and there would only be a hatful of Australians in that category.

Note further that many of those who opposed intermarriage would have been from ethnic minorities themselves. Many minorities have very strong beliefs in endogamy. And as for the idea that Muslims don't fit in with Australia, Muslims, particularly the Mullahs, have done much to foster that view. One again we are looking at realiam, not racism

FOUR in 10 Australians believe some ethnic groups don't belong here, a study has shown. And one in 10 have outwardly racist views, a study shows. NSW appears to be the most racist state, but the project's lead researcher, Kevin Dunn, attributed this to Sydney being the focus of immigration.

The study, led by the human geography and urban studies professor and his team from the University of Western Sydney, shows that racism remains high despite having waned over the years. He will unveil state-by-state statistics on Friday, at the Rights, Reconciliation, Respect and Responsibility international conference at Sydney's University of Technology.

Challenging Racism: The Anti-Racism Research Project randomly surveyed about 12,500 people in different studies during the past eight years. "It's an indicator of a narrow view of what constitutes Australianism," Prof Dunn said.

People were asked which cultural or ethnic groups did not fit into Australian society. In NSW, 46 per cent of respondents said some ethnic groups should not be in the country. In the ACT, 28 per cent gave such a response - the lowest figure. Among those over 65, 65 per cent gave such a response, compared with 31 per cent among those aged 18 to 34. "It's too high, isn't it?" Prof Dunn said. "We've got to bring that down."

Respondents also singled out specific groups they thought didn't belong. "The most often-mentioned groups were Muslims, or people from the Middle East," Prof Dunn said.

On average, about one in 10 people said it was not good for people of different cultures to marry, and about the same number said that not all races were equal. "It's only about one in 10 people now in Australia across the different states that would have that sort of view -- the racial supremacists, for instance," Prof Dunn said. "That's still quite high, I suppose. There's a lot of concern that comes out of that."

He said NSW ranked highest in most categories but attributed that to Sydney being the focus for immigration. "There's just more cultural diversity here - there's more opportunity for cross-cultural contact, and that means some of them will not be positive ones," he said. Prof Dunn and his team will release regional results within each state some time early next year. They will also recommend strategies to lower racist views, the prevalence of which Prof Dunn said remained low by international standards.


Lifeguard attire too brief?

Rather amazing that the younger generation is more modest than their elders -- but so it seems to be. The brief gear would obviously be a lot less drag while swimming so it seems that safety is going to be sacrificed for modesty. It sounds more like the 19th century than the 21st

Budgie smugglers [briefs -- on the left above] versus boardshorts has emerged as a burning issue among image-conscious surf life savers manning Queensland's beaches, The Courier-Mail reports. In a bid to keep more young people in the sport, surf life saving officials have introduced uniform boardshorts as an alternative to budgie smugglers and the David Hasselhoff Baywatch-style gym shorts.

Surf Life Saving Queensland boss George Hill said uniform was always a hot topic among younger clubbies. "The feedback was that they wanted some more comfortable boardshorts, so now we've given them the option," he said. [There's nothing uncomfortable about briefs!]

An official from one Gold Coast club, who asked not to be named, said he had been trying to introduce a new uniform for years, but was met with resistance by club hierachy. "The surf carnivals are a perfect example," he said. "Kids hang around the beach all day in their boardshorts and they only take them off at the last possible second for a race and as soon as the race is over they put them back on," he said. "Bright red and yellow caps and club uniform speedos or those other daggy red shorts are not a good look for a kid who would probably rather be wearing a pair of Quiksilver or Rip Curl boardies." "But some of the old salts at our club don't want to know about it, which is a shame, because we are losing young kids to the sport."

Mermaid Beach club captain Pete Degnian, himself a devoted budgie smuggler, said anything that helped keep kids in life saving was good for the movement. "It's probably cooler for kids to wear boardies than the old budgie smugglers," he admitted. Patrol member Matt Williams, 14, said the new-look boardshorts definitely had appeal. "You do get paid out on the beach wearing speedos," he admitted.


Climate change only the 5th priority for Australians

AUSTRALIANS rate protecting jobs and strengthening the economy ahead of tackling climate change on a list of foreign policy goals, according to a new poll. In a rearrangement of priorities reflecting the level of global financial uncertainty, climate change tumbled from being the most important issue in last year's pre-federal election Lowy Institute Poll to just equal fifth this year. A majority still said climate was a highly important issue, but the drop was significant - from 75% to 66%.

Comparatively, the importance of keeping the economy strong (79%) and job protection (70%) both increased. "Concern over economic issues has risen at the expense of the environment," Lowy Institute executive director Allan Gyngell said.

Environmental issues seem to create a disconnect in the public. While an overwhelming majority want action on climate change, more than half of those polled - 53% - were not willing to pay more than $10 extra a month on their electricity bill to help the fight against rising greenhouse gas.

Political leaders are often quick to highlight the limits on Australia's ability to combat global environment problems alone. However, recent surveys indicate Australians are more attuned to climate concerns. A Melbourne University AsiaLink poll earlier this month showed almost 60% of Australians ranked climate change as their main worry, compared with barely 20% of Indonesians. While in the United States, a poll in March suggested almost 60% of Americans did not believe global warming would pose a serious threat to their way of life.


Australia's criminal cops

This is unforgiveable

THERE are 133 officers with criminal convictions serving in the New South Wales police ranks - guilty of bashings, fraud, illegal use of guns and numerous high-level drink-driving offences - the state's police force admits. Among them are five officers - three senior constables and two detective sergeants - who kept their jobs despite more than one court conviction.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal the officers have 166 offences between them following the release of documents under the Freedom of Information Act.

And efforts by Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione to clean out bad apples from the ranks have been frustrated by rulings in the Industrial Relations Commission, which saw five sacked officers reinstated in the past year.

Serious traffic-related matters dominate the list, which does not name individuals, including 25 high-range and 47 mid-range drink-drive crimes, two cases of drink-driving occasioning grievous bodily harm and eight of negligent or culpable driving. There are 10 assaults, including several occasioning actual bodily harm, three officers convicted of fraud or making false instrument and three of offensive conduct. Two officers were convicted of unauthorised access to the police COPS computer system.

A police spokesman emphasised that none of the 133 officers had served jail terms and they made up less than 1 per cent of the force's 15,236 officers. "The NSW Police Force is no different from every major employer in having staff who have been before the courts," he said.

But the high number of offences raised concerns among legal experts last night that Crown cases before the courts could be placed at risk should any of these officers be involved. Barrister Stephen Odgers, while not wanting to comment on specifics, said that a police officer called as a witness could be cross-examined and challenged over their "credibility" should their criminal history be known.

The list of convictions, which police claimed at first did not exist, was released after an appeal to the Ombudsman. Opposition police spokesman Michael Gallacher said last night that the force had secretly lowered its standards under government pressure to meet election promises on officer numbers - a claim denied by police.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

More government meddling in family life called for

We're getting perilously close to the point where children will be regarded as the property of the State. Uncle Adolf would approve. And who is to judge the "fitness" of a parent? When I was growing up over 50 years ago, my parents often did not know where I was for much of the day and nor did most parents in the small country town where I lived. Were my mother and the other mothers in the town "unfit" parents? No doubt it would be poor families principally targeted by the official Fascists but lots of kids in poor families grow up in unattractive circumstances and turn out fine -- while lots of kids from good middle class families just end up as druggies etc. I know a few

One in five Australian mums and dads is unfit to be a parent, according to child-health expert and former Australian of the Year Professor Fiona Stanley. [And how would she know and how does she judge that?] She says they either lack the means or the life skills to raise children or cannot devote enough time to their kids because of excessive work commitments.

Professor Stanley, an adviser to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, has also slammed the Federal Government's policy on paid parental leave. She said a national effort - on the scale of the climate-change movement - was needed to protect the futures of Australian children. "We need an Al Gore for child development," the founder of the Institute for Child Health Research said.

"There are a worrying number of threats to children's health in society today. "If we don't respond to these challenges ... we will be looking at our generation, my generation, as being the last generation that lives longer than its parents. "If you look at the overall trend in many problems, they are actually showing no improvement - and some of them are getting dramatically worse."

Professor Stanley said paid parental leave, being assessed by the Federal Government, was crucial. "The fact we don't have maternity leave or parental leave in Australia is just indicative of our lack of valuing of parents," she said. A draft report for the Productivity Commission's inquiry into paid parental leave will be released tomorrow.

Professor Stanley said as many as one in five parents were financially and socially ill-equipped for child-rearing. "There's this increasing group of parents who are just not making ends meet. They don't have the capacity to be parents. "And they may represent as much as 20 per cent of the population when you add in Aboriginal people and the most disadvantaged in society. "There are a lot of people who are going to find it difficult to parent." Mental illness, obesity, asthma and substance abuse were the biggest risks for Australian children, Professor Stanley said.


Australia's Leftist government to devalue marriage and make most sex between singles into prostitution

Send your girlfriend home at night, guys!

De facto couples in Queensland are set to receive the same financial and property rights as married couples under a proposed new federal law. Queensland family law specialist Brett Hartley of Hartley Healy said the law could be one of the most significant pieces of relationship legislation in decades.

On June 25, the Federal Government introduced landmark legislation to allow de facto couples to access the Family Court, a federal body, to sort out property and maintenance matters. Since then, a report has been prepared by the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, and the Family Law Amendment (De Facto Financial Matters and Other Measures) Bill is soon to be debated by Parliament. "If this becomes law, a de facto couple in Australia, whether of the same sex or different sex, will have the same rights and entitlements to property settlement and maintenance as a married couple," Mr Hartley said.

It will give de facto couples - including gay partners - the right to seek maintenance, claim on a partner's superannuation and draw up the equivalent of the prenuptial agreements available to couples intending to marry. Under current Queensland law, there is no right to seek maintenance from a de facto spouse. Queensland legislation also does not include superannuation interests as property of the de facto parties.

Mr Hartley said if a de facto couple with a child split up, they currently had to go to the Family Court to sort out child-related matters, and to the Supreme or District courts to sort out property disputes. The new law would allow the Family Court to deal with all problems, saving couples money dealing with different courts. While couples have to be in a de facto relationship for two years for it to be recognised, the law will set out a new definition of de facto relationship, based on circumstances.


Gun laws eased in NSW

CHANGES to gun laws will make it easier for people to gain access to firearms from October 1. But while shooting clubs expect more people to be attracted to the sport, critics say the amendments will lead to more high-powered weapons and gun crime.

The Shooters Party-initiated bill allows more exemptions for people, including minors, without a licence to participate at shooting clubs. The law, passed with the support of the Government and Coalition, also removes the 28-day waiting period for licence-holders buying additional guns and renewing permits.

Greens MP Lee Rhiannon said the amendments "weakened" gun laws. She said the laws should have been tightened, given last week's college shooting in Finland that left 11 dead. "These changes definitely water down the gun laws that had been tightened post the Port Arthur massacre," Ms Rhiannon said. "There is so much domestic gun violence [in Australia] that basically equates to a massacre every two weeks." Ms Rhiannon said the move brought NSW politics one step closer to US-style governing, "where MPs are behoven to the gun lobby and unable to speak out against it". She blamed MPs for supporting the bill despite private concerns because Labor wanted to secure the Shooters Party's two votes in the upper house on issues such as electricity privatisation.

Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (NSW) executive officer Richard Gawned said the changes simply removed the bureaucracy involved in buying more firearms. Amendments also made it easier for people to take up the sport, with those who were unlicensed to be supervised by licence-holders at all times.

Newcomers must fill out a document at the shooting range, and if found to have a criminal record or history of mental illness, will be prohibited from handling a gun.

Mr Gawned said people aged 12-18 could not own firearms. They could only go to a range and use firearms supplied by their parents. The St Marys Indoor Shooting Centre is booked up for October and November, with more than 70 people calling to make bookings since June. Chris Totten, 25, of McGraths Hill, will be among the first to receive his firearms licence under the new laws. He has been keen to try the sport since he watched the target and clay shooting at the Beijing Olympics.


Carbon gas continues to rise -- while the weather gets COLDER!

The warming is just theory, not fact. Only the CO2 rise is fact

GLOBAL carbon emissions are continuing to rise at alarming rates despite efforts by households and governments across the developed world to go green. Official new figures show the rate of emissions is increasing at an alarming 3.5 per cent a year - exceeding the worst-case scenarios of the UN's peak scientific body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Despite years of effort to change our ways, the Global Carbon Project report shows that for the first time, humans are now emitting more than 10 billion tonnes of carbon annually. And the emissions are accelerating, having already increased over the past eight years at four times the rate in the 1990s.

The biggest problems have come from the developing world, which now accounts for more emissions than rich nations. China has overtaken the US as the world's biggest carbon emitter, two years earlier than expected and India is set to relegate Russia to fourth place within a year.

In Australia, meanwhile, the situation is just as worrying. Local fossil fuel emissions are growing by 2 per cent a year, despite all other developed nations cutting their pollution.

Perhaps most alarmingly, the report found that, globally, atmospheric carbon dioxide growth is now outstripping the growth of natural carbon dioxide sinks such as forests and oceans. And the figures only relate to carbon dioxide emissions. While the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is at 383 parts per million (ppm), the concentration of total greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is now about 410 ppm. According to the most recent UN political scientific reports, if the concentrations topped 450 ppm the world risks mass extinction of species and temperatures would soar more than 2.5C.

The report said the findings revealed a concerning trend in light of much-touted global efforts to curb emissions. All of these changes characterise a carbon cycle that is generating stronger climate forcing, and sooner than expected, it warned. British climate expert Corinne Le Quere said the numbers provided a stark reality check. The scale of efforts (to tackle emissions) is not enough, she said.

Meanwhile, the State Government announced it had purchased 18 per cent of its total energy bill last year from carbon offsets, hydro energy, wind farms and bagasse - a sugar cane by-product. But Queensland's 68,000 tonne reduction pales in comparison to the 1.8 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases produced by China last year - 26,470 times the State Government's energy offset.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Christopher Pearson on Rudd's GG and Turnbull's cabinet

The article below is for those who like a more detailed background on Australian politics. Pearson questions the suitability of affirmative action appointee Quentin Bryce as Governor General and also the shadow-cabinet choices of the new conservative leader, Malcolm Turnbull

Pearson is undoubtedly right that Bryce is a marginal choice for GG -- who is supposed to be above politics. Quentin Bryce is known for strong feminist and generally Leftist leanings and is obviously not about to tone that down. She also appears to be personally unpleasant (egotistical?) with her staff. When she was governor of Queensland, most of them resigned. Less well known is that she has been a strong supporter of my old church, Anne St Presbyterian, and she would have heard plenty of good old-fashioned values preached from the pulpit there. So there is some prospect of a balanced approach from her. After all, the quite egregious appointment of Bill Hayden, a former Labor Party leader, as GG worked out well in the end.

I think Pearson makes far too much of Bryce's quite impossible wish for the GG powers to be codified. She is simply wishing not to be vilified in the way the unfortunate Sir John Kerr was after exercising those powers. It may be noted that Kerr was also a Labor Party appointee.

Pearson is undoubtedly right in pointing out that Turnbull has not maximized the strength of his shadow-cabinet. Personal rivalries are the obvious reason for that. Perhaps he will reshuffle if egregious weaknesses in his shadow ministry emerge.

The point about prominent climate skeptics in the new shadow ministry is great good news however. Australia cannot afford to spend taxpayers's money on will o' the wisps and the more that is pointed out the better. Rudd's policies are not in general a large departure from the pragmatic policies of his conservative predecessor. It is only on global warming where he seems at risk of going seriously off the rails. So strong opposition there is just what is needed

QUENTIN Bryce, the newly installed Governor-General, broke with precedent by giving The 7.30 Report's Kerry O'Brien an interview last week on how she saw her role. He took it for granted that she had a personal agenda and asked: "Can you be a quiet activist?" She replied: "Oh, definitely."

Aside from harmless hobbyhorses such as endorsing the preservation of rainforests or promoting cancer research, activism of any kind is the last thing we should have to expect of a constitutional umpire who understands her duties. It was all of a piece with her undertaking at the swearing-in ceremony in the Senate: "I promise to be alive, open, responsive and faithful to the contemporary thinking and working of Australian society."

An indulgent reading would see this as nothing out of the ordinary: just the sort of sententious twaddle that has come to be expected of Australian viceroys. I have a horrible feeling that she means exactly what she said and that she's promising to be a slave to the zeitgeist. How else is it possible to construe being "alive, open, responsive and faithful" to contemporary thinking?

It's a sentiment that is completely at loggerheads with her pledge, minutes earlier, to do her best "to observe, sustain and uphold the principles, conventions and rule of law that are our foundation". You can keep faith with the self-effacing traditions - which she already has breached with her activism - and the constraints that serve to hedge appointed office and its vast reserve powers. Or you can be faithful to the will-o'-the-wisp of contemporary thought. I very much doubt that it's possible to do both.

Part of Bryce's problem is that she's not especially bright and is prone to saying the first thing that comes into her head. Considering that she was once a legal academic, her grasp of constitutional law in recent years has left a lot to be desired, too. I cited several howlers in this column in 2003 when she was appointed governor of Queensland.

Take, for example, her considered opinion on the reserve powers that have just been entrusted to her. "I like the idea of them being written down in the Constitution. I'm increasingly attracted to the need to codify as much as possible. It is another way of empowering people." Let us pass lightly over the notion of empowerment and concentrate on the main point. It is a given in constitutional law that codifying the reserve powers is a herculean task, virtually impossible as well as pointless.

First, it would involve a team of experts agreeing on the proper limits of emergency powers, which it has generally been thought prudent not to define too precisely because not all contingencies are foreseeable. Second, the whole process would need a large measure of bipartisan support. Finally, it would mean a referendum carrying by a majority of votes in a majority of states an amendment specifying in great detail every hypothetical circumstance in which a government's actions might warrant the exercise of the Crown's power to sack it. The consensus at the Constitutional Convention was that the existing checks and balances were the best available guarantee that the reserve powers wouldn't be abused.

Bryce also has said: "I feel very strongly the Constitution doesn't deliver representative democracy." Her reason for saying so? "A very serious lack of representation of women." Had she given more than a moment's thought to this proposition, she'd have seen that the problem is not with the Constitution but with the political parties, which preselect almost all the members of federal parliament. Nor, in the Westminster system where people's votes decide who wins each seat, would it make any sense for the Constitution to predetermine that a fixed percentage of seats be filled by either sex.

Until recently, it would have been hard to imagine a candidate with Bryce's limitations and ideological baggage winning the level of broad acceptance within the conservative wing of the political class necessary for her to function as governor-general. Indeed, since Brendan Nelson, Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull could not be described plausibly as conservatives, it may not be safe to assume that Bryce does enjoy that kind of acceptance. In less than a year, the values for which John Howard, Peter Costello and Alexander Downer provided so formidable a bulwark are no longer taken for granted in the Liberal Party room.

Turnbull tends to see every issue through the prism of Wentworth, the inner-Sydney seat he holds by a narrow margin. It's reckoned to be the gayest, richest and perhaps the most bohemian electorate in the country, light years away from the preoccupations of most of the people who regularly vote for the Coalition.

Given the need to conciliate that broader constituency and not to be seen as taking it for granted, it's surprising Turnbull should have made so few concessions to the conservatives in the party in the selection of his shadow cabinet last week. For example, Nick Minchin and Tony Abbott were the two most senior and experienced cabinet ministers in the Howard government still ready to serve on the front bench. Minchin was demoted, moving from defence, a portfolio that takes a long time to master, and replaced by David Johnston, a neophyte. Abbott, who'd made it clear he wanted a more demanding job, was left in family and community services and Aboriginal affairs, and effectively sidelined.

Unlike most of the front bench, more than half of whom were not ministers in the previous government, Minchin and Abbott have shone in difficult portfolios. Abbott in particular, in industrial relations and health, has proven he can handle tough political problems. He was probably the Howard government's most effective ideological champion and, notwithstanding Costello's brilliance, its most consistent parliamentary performer.

Minchin's imperturbable style and forensic approach are well suited to the Senate, where he remains the leader. Magnanimity in victory towards Nelson's main numbers man would have been a much smarter strategy for Turnbull. No doubt it's true, as some have argued, that Minchin will soon have the measure of Stephen Conroy, whom he shadows in broadband and communications. However, Conroy is widely seen as an easy scalp and a lesser target than Labor's Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon.

It seems that Turnbull is going to have to learn the hard way that he has to field his best team and make sure they're well matched to the ministers they shadow. He'll need to give players such as Minchin and Abbott more of a stake in his victory if it is ever to materialise. The indulgent gesture of giving Bishop the shadow treasurer's job is already beginning to look like a big miscalculation and evidence that he thinks he can just about run the Coalition as a one-man band. The Opposition needs to think carefully about product differentiation because the Rudd Government, by virtue of its leader, is about as conservative-friendly as it's possible for a modern Labor administration to be. Thankfully, it doesn't aspire to be much more than a "mind-the-store" government - except in the matter of climate change - and Rudd often gives the impression that he has already fulfilled his great ambition in life simply by getting elected.

I was agreeably surprised - bearing in mind Turnbull's views on climate change and his performance as environment minister - by one feature of his shadow ministry that should gladden conservative hearts. Three of the five frontbenchers whose portfolios impinge on climate change are known sceptics. They are John Cobb (agriculture, fisheries and forests), Ian Macfarlane (energy and resources) and Andrew Robb (infrastructure, COAG and emissions trading design).

Robb has been a bit more coy than the other two about airing his reservations. But according to Penny Wong, in answer to a Dorothy Dixer last week, he told The Australian Financial Review Magazine that anthropogenic climate change is "lies, lies and damned statistics". He apparently called it a fad, too, saying that after the fall of communism it had become the cause celebre of the Left.

Employing sceptics in shadow cabinet, who will be more than a match for Greg Hunt, his main spokesman on climate change, is a good idea. It leaves the Coalition well-placed in the event that there's no further global warming or unmistakable cooling in the next few years. Then again, in the wake of the turmoil on global markets, emissions trading schemes may suddenly look like the kind of luxury even the developed world can no longer afford. Sceptics are also the best people to be asking the hard questions on how much an ETS is going to cost, cost-benefit analysis and who will be expected to foot what share the bill.


Navy has right to fire at illegal fishing boats

Very pleasing that Rudd has not gone to water (excuse pun!) on this one

ILLEGAL fishing boats caught inside Australian territorial waters can be stopped by direct gunfire if they fail to heed orders to heave to. The Department of Defence today confirmed the extreme measure approved by the former Howard government and upheld by the Rudd Government was available to Royal Australian Navy warships as a last resort. The good news is that the option is increasingly unlikely due to a dramatic decrease in the number of detections of illegal foreign fishers this year.

"In exceptional circumstances the use of (gun) fire to stop a non-compliant vessel in the water may be permitted following consideration at senior levels within Defence," a Defence spokeswoman said in reply to questions from The Australian. Fisheries and Defence officials are now quietly confident they are winning the war on illegal fishing in Australia's northern waters, with only four boats apprehended since May. It compares with a peak of 365 illegal boats apprehended and boarded in 2006, 125 in 2007 and 77 for the current year.

Much of the success is due to a package of tough deterrent measures authorised by the former Howard government which allowed RAN commanders a range of graded options to stop illegal fishing boats. They included the use of "riot control agents" to incapacitate foreign fishing crews, distraction ammunition, the use of warning shots, acoustic devices and as a last resort, direct gunfire to sink or disable poaching vessels.

Other contributing measures are due to new education programs in Indonesia - the main offender country - warning against illegal fishing and the deployment of the new Armidale Class patrol boats has also played a major role. "The Armidale Class patrol boats have proven to be a successful presence due to their increased endurance on task, increased capabilities," Defence said.

The decrease in the number of illegal fishing boats entering Australian waters does not mean the problem has disappeared. "With this decrease in detections inside Australia's EEZ (370km Economic Exclusion Zone) the illegal fishing boats have been observed operating legally just north of the EEZ. "The continual presence of the defence and customs assets conducting surveillance and response patrols is proving to be a deterrent," Defence said.


The NSW Department for hurting kids ("DOCS")

Their own bureaucratic power trips are all that they care about

THEY were two boys who had lived their whole lives in a house with windows covered with sheets of black plastic. They had never been to school and nobody was allowed to visit them. Their mother, who cannot be named because it would identify the children, was in the grip of a serious mental illness. She feared the outside world. When police broke down the door, they found the boys, by then aged eight and 10, wearing clothes so thick with grease they stuck to their skin. Their hair had grown long and wild.

"They looked like they'd just come out of a cave," says the foster mother who took them in, who likewise cannot be named. "The oldest boy was obese, and had a knot in the back of his hair the size of a fist; it was so thick and mangled he had to sit with his head tilted forward."

The case is one of several The Weekend Australian examined as part of its ongoing investigation into the child welfare system. It is hardly a secret that the system is broken. One inquiry after another has exposed the myriad ways in which it does not protect children. What surprises is that foster parents - the volunteers who take the nation's abused and troubled children into their homes - are themselves among the shattered victims.

The foster mother above is a case in point. She took the neglected boys back to her home - a modest but clean demountable with a covered verandah, west of Sydney. She peeled their clothes from their bodies, cut their hair "into a short back and sides, like navy Seals" and enrolled them in school. "I was the flavour of the month," she says. "The Department (of Community Services in NSW) couldn't say enough good things about me."

She keeps an album of photographs of the boys taken at a gala dinner two years after they came into her care. Kim Beazley, then the Opposition leader, shook their hands, comedian Wendy Harmer was the MC. "It seemed to me I was doing everything right," the foster mother says. "But social workers have their way of doing things."

As the boys barrelled towards adolescence, they became more defiant and harder to control. One of them wanted to get an earring in his eyebrow; the other wanted to bleach his hair and get a mobile phone. "I told them, 'there are rules here and you have to obey those rules', but social workers would undermine me," the foster mother said. "The case worker would say: 'They are not your children; they are only in your care.' They wanted me to let them treat my home as if it was a boarding house, let them do whatever they wanted, because as long as the placement didn't break down, they wouldn't have extra work."

At the age of 14, the younger boy ran away with Matthew Norman (one of the Bali Nine drug-runners). The foster mother grounded him and told him "he would have had to live by my rules. But the social worker said no, and they found another foster placement for him". "That placement broke down, too, and within 12 months, he was in a group home, and that's where things really started to go wrong."

Four years ago, the boy pleaded guilty to two counts of supplying a prohibited drug, after selling an ecstasy tablet to a girl who took it and died. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't know that things might go badly for that boy because he was damaged," the foster mother said. "But I think the do-gooders helped."

Other cases encountered by The Weekend Australian during its investigation include that of a baby girl, born to a teenage mother, who was placed in foster care with an infertile couple desperate for a family of their own. She stayed with them for three years; social workers reported that she was happy and stable. "They treated her like a princess," says a woman who acted as an advocate for the foster parents. "They had her enrolled in ballet classes. "But when her birth mother reached the age of 17, she applied to the department for a 'restoration' - meaning she wanted her little girl to live with her, and another newborn baby.

"The foster parents resisted in court, saying: 'Can't you just wait to see how she does with the new baby?' They went to court and they lost, as couples in that situation almost always will, because restoration is what the department wants, and not necessarily because it's for the best, but because it's cheap. "But the restoration failed. Within months, the little girl was back in care and yet DOCS refused to return her to the foster parents who had cared for her for three years. "It was spite, pure and simple. This couple was exactly the kind the department hates: educated, capable, and prepared to take them, and they took their revenge. It was pretty sick to do that to a tiny child, but they were on a power trip. "They trot out this line - it's in the best interests of the child - but they have their own agenda and it's often to the detriment of the child. The couple were devastated. They never fostered again."

In another case, a retired couple in Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains, took a 12-year-old troubled boy into their care, and even built a wing for him on the side of the home. "They were totally committed to him," said the parents' advocate. "He went from a Grade Two level to Grade Four in six months. "But then he moved into the teenage years and he got difficult. He complained about his foster parents to DOCS, saying: 'They treat me differently from their own kids.' "But their own kids were 18 and 24. Of course he couldn't do the same things. And kids will do that. They'll have a big whinge, and say 'Life's so unfair' and if it's your own kids, you can say, 'Well, that's the rules'.

"But foster kids, they have the department. They have a way out and they don't understand the rules are good for them. "So he complained and was moved and three years later he was living on the streets in Katoomba."

NSW is the latest state government to call an inquiry into the problem of child welfare, but it dissolved into farce long ago. Complaints have been pouring in but inquiry head justice James Wood has declared that 90 per cent will remain secret. The secrecy compounds a problem in the department, of not wanting to know. A woman who works with foster parents says: "The department doesn't do exit interviews (when foster parents quit) and you've got to assume it's because they don't want to know the answer. "The foster parents say: 'I'm sorry, but I can't do it any more, and it's not the kids. It's the department. Department.'

An exodus of good-quality carers leaves the sector stacked with those described by one worker as "well below standard". The woman, who once worked for DOCS, says: "I'm not exaggerating when I say to you 70 per cent of them (the foster carers) I would not leave my dog with. They are the most inappropriate, weird people." The woman says some foster parents "are what I'd call compulsive care-givers. They have five or six kids and people are saying to them 'You're a saint', and they are all puffed up with self-importance". "One woman said to me the other day: 'I've got five under five here, and I just line them all up in the morning and spoon some food in their mouths'," says one carer.

The public face of foster care - a retired couple eager to help the troubled young, or a widow wanting to pour love into needy toddlers, "is the ones they wheel out for the gullible media", says one foster carer. "There's some of those, but there's a lot of the others."

Many foster carers are wary of raising their concerns. They speak of the department's "appetite for vengeance" and "revenge". "I went to court with one woman who was distraught at losing the girl in her care," says one advocate. "She lost and when we were walking out of the court, the DOCS worker said to her: 'Don't forget, you've got another one of ours.' I took that to mean, don't take us on again, or we'll come for the other child in your care."

Until recently, foster carers had the support of the Foster Care Association, a 20-year-old group started by foster parents who wanted to support each other. Over time, it received more than $3 million in DOCS funding. It had an office in Westmead, in western Sydney, and a 24-hour crisis line for foster parents who were at their wit's end. A former president, Mary Jane Beach, says the group was effective. "It was never my goal to be popular with DOCS," she says. "It was my goal to work with DOCS to perhaps show them things from our side."

She recalls a dinner where she asked all the case workers to get up and move to a new table, leaving purses and handbags behind. "They were horrified. I said: 'That's what it's like for a child to be picked up and moved, like you do to them, making them leave all their stuff behind."'

Funding to the group was axed in July. President Denise Crisp believes the association had become a thorn in the department's side. "We have grandparents who would come to us, fighting for their flesh and blood, and DOCS would be saying, no, the kids have to go back to some druggie mother and we'd fight that." The association was badly managed. Some of its key members were so completely poisoned by their experiences with DOCS they could not be effective advocates for other foster carers.

Security guards had to be employed to keep the peace at such events as the launch of the group's website; police were called to a board meeting that went on for more than six hours; one board member took out an apprehended violence order against another member.

DOCS says the group lost is funding because it changed its constitution to allow "non-registered" carers to join. Ms Crisp says this was done to allow "retired carers, with no kids in their care any more, to stay on the board and give us their experience". DOCS said the change opened the way for deregistered carers - that is, carers whose children had been removed because of fears for their safety - to become members of the association and, potentially, to sit on the board.

DOCS has redirected the funding toward another foster care group, the Foster Parents Support Network, which has entered into a partnership with Karitane. Together, they have formed Connecting Carers NSW, a group that will soon have a website, and offer online training, a crisis line, and holiday camps for carers.

Ms Crisp sees the group as a front for the department, and says its workers are too scared to stand up to DOCS. "We're going to have to see if they are quite happy to just go along with whatever DOCS says," said Ms Crisp. "That might make DOCS happy, but it won't be much good for foster kids."


There's no such thing as a happy Greenie

AUSTRALIA'S most active unionist pushing for clean coal technology says the Greens are becoming increasingly marginalised by maintaining their opposition to clean coal. Greenies will never be happy because what they want is self-contradictory: A return to a primitive past plus all the comforts of modern life

CFMEU mining division president Tony Maher said his union had done polling that showed roughly 5 per cent of the population supported the Greens' position of opposition to clean coal. "A few years ago there was some scepticism about clean coal, but now you even have environmentalists ... like Tim Flannery who say 'we've got to fix coal'," Mr Maher said.

"I don't think their position has any environmental credibility or any economic credibility. On the environmental front, while coal is a big industry for Australia, we still only produce 4 per cent of the world's coal. We could shut down the industry tomorrow and other countries would just pick up the slack. And economically it would throw a huge amount of people out of work."

He said clean coal research in Australia was moving to a new level and that, while individual states had pursued worthwhile projects in the area, there was now a need for a nationally co-ordinated approach.

Mr Maher said as the states had control of the power system - and in the case of Queensland, were active participants in power generation - it was natural they would initially do most research into clean coal technology. He said that he was hopeful that Kevin Rudd's Global Institute for Carbon Capture and Storage, announced last week, would be able to fill such a role. "Energy is a state-based matter, and while all the research so far has been great, it all needs a bit of direction," Mr Maher said.

"The missing link so far has been co-ordination. In my view there's sufficient money now from both government and industry to get us to the stage of building pilot plants with zero emissions. But the real issue will be the large-scale plants which are commercially viable. Being able to get them coming on stream will mean you're going to have to guarantee commercial viability, and that will need a solid business case, and that's where you need to put together all this research that's being done."

He said Queensland had been the most active state in clean coal research, followed by Victoria. "NSW have got a bit of ground to make up," he said. "There is some research being done at Newcastle University, but it's nowhere near the amount being done in Queensland with Zerogen and with Victoria's Otway Basin project."

The Queensland Government has put $300 million towards the Zerogen project in central Queensland, which involves the construction of a zero-emissions pilot plant near Rockhampton. The Howard government refused to back the project, which is proceeding on a new basis with mining companies putting in extra money. The Queensland Resources Council, which represents coal mining companies, said that, while there was a need for more research, the issue was who paid for it.

QRC chief executive Michael Roche said: "The coal industry knows that in the long term, its social licence to operate does depend on successful commercialisation of low-emission coal technologies. "And as Professor Ross Garnaut has pointed out, this will require a huge investment of public funds, alongside industry funds, over the coming decade."


Friday, September 26, 2008

Lots of surgery on wrong patients in Queensland public hospitals

THIRTY-three public hospital operations have been performed on the wrong patient or body part in a year, with four of the bungles killing or permanently impairing patients. The deaths and permanent impairments were among 127 identified as being due to bungles in the hospital system. Queensland Health today released the latest patient safety report revealing a 30 per cent spike in reported incidents within the department to 46,990 cases.

Almost a quarter of those cases involved patient harm. Three patients died or were permanently impaired after surgical tools were left inside them while six patients suffered the same fate after being given the wrong medication. Seven patients died or were permanently impaired after delays caused by long waiting lists or the department's failure to order or sanction procedures.

Queensland Health strongly defended the results, saying the increase showed more staff were reporting incidents. The report covered 2006-2007 and was compiled as part of recommendations which came from the Bundaberg Hospital Inquiry report which called for greater transparency. However, Queensland Health Patient Safety centre director Dr John Wakefield was unable to exactly how many deaths occurred during the period.

The report showed 127 patients died or suffered permanent impairment, but did not provide a break-down of deaths or impairment. Dr Wakefield said Queenslanders should have confidence in the health system, saying the figures showed it was getting safer. "Sharing information in an open and honest way is fundamental to improving patient safety and building trust in the community and our staff."


Immigration leading to housing shortages

Immigration levels are high these days but State governments and cities are still slow to release land for house building. "Developers" who subdivide and service the land are evil, you see, and must be stopped. But new housing land would not become available without them. So government intertia means that housing supply is inadequate for the new arrivals. And reversing govenment inertia is like asking the leopard to change his spots

AUSTRALIA'S biggest migration boom is exacerbating the rental crisis, while house prices are overvalued by between 5 per cent and 15 per cent, the International Monetary Fund has said. Immigration added a record 199,064 people to Australia over the year to March - the biggest annual rise in history, figures released yesterday by the Bureau of Statistics show. This surpasses the boom after World War II, which peaked at about 149,000 people in 1950. "The inflow of migration is putting pressure on the housing rental market," the IMF said in its latest report card on the Australian economy.

The proposition is supported by new evidence showing rental vacancy rates are lowest in suburban areas where most new migrants tend to settle, such as the western suburbs of Sydney.

The IMF said twin booms in migration and mining added to the risk that the economy might grow faster than desired, sparking inflationary pressures. On the downside, higher interest rates and tighter credit conditions flowing from the global finance crisis were likely to restrain consumer spending. The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, said that since the report was completed, these risks had shifted even further to the "downside". He said the report had given the Government a "very big tick" for its first budget, which the IMF described as "prudent" and "contractionary".

The IMF also concluded that while Australian banks were profitable and well capitalised, the global financial crisis had exposed some "vulnerabilities", including the high indebtedness of Australian households, and banks' reliance on offshore funding, which had become more expensive since the credit crunch. These higher costs have had a direct impact on mortgage holders as lenders were forced to lift interest rates outside the Reserve Bank and restrict lending to less attractive borrowers.

Banks could suffer a "significant fall in profits" if they lost access to funding from offshore markets, which accounted for a quarter of their total funding, the IMF said. But banks' exposure to highly indebted households was less of a concern. While house prices were moderately overvalued, it would take a huge increase in loan defaults to cause problems for the banks.

The Reserve Bank will today release its report on the health of Australia's financial system. In its report, the IMF revealed a doubling in the migration-to-population ratio over the past three years had coincided with a trebling in the pace of growth in rents More immigrants settle in NSW than in any other state or territory, the ABS figures show.

But the federal Housing Minister, Tanya Plibersek, said it was wrong to blame higher rental prices entirely on higher immigration. She said increased housing demand came from many sources, including higher divorce rates and older people staying longer in their own homes. Immigration was also important to fill skills shortages, particularly for tradespeople. "The immigration story is very important for economic development . it's not sensible to suggest then that immigration is the problem."

The Government introduced legislation for its National Rental Affordability Scheme in Parliament yesterday. [Increase the supply and affordability will take care of itself]


Guns OK in Australian schools?

THE father of the youth who took a handgun and ammunition to school said what his son did was "no big deal". The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said he couldn't understand why other parents were "making such a fuss" about his 15-year-old producing the deadly weapon and ammunition during an English class.

The Daily Telegraph yesterday revealed the Year 9 student at Kurri Kurri High School had been suspended after he was found with the gun in his bag. The Education Department had tried to keep the incident quiet from other parents. The school responded late yesterday by sending a note home to parents explaining the incident -- almost four weeks after it happened.

Police confirmed they had seized an antique-looking pistol together with bullets, which had been sent for ballistic testing. But the boy's father said the incident was "old news" and people should have better things to talk about. "What's the fuss, it's no big deal. It happened a month ago. People ought to worry about something else," he said. The teenager is expected to return to school today.

Kurri-Kurri parent Debbie Thornton said she was outraged the school did not inform parents about the incident, instead leaving them to hear about it through the media. A Year 9 student, who was in the English class when the weapon was allegedly produced, said the teenage boy had been "bragging" to his mates when he produced the gun. At that stage, English teacher Alison Miller called the boy to the front of the room and asked him to hand over the weapon. The Education Department said parents were not informed because "there had been no real threat to students".

Meanhwile, a youth who pointed a pistol at his teacher's head and pulled the trigger is about to return to school - but his victim's life may be ruined. The male teacher is now on indefinite stress leave and is undergoing counselling after the 13-year-old male student at Randwick Boys High School pointed the replica gun at him on September 5. It is unknown when - or even if - the computing skills teacher will return to the school. The Year 7 student will return to class at the start of next term after a short suspension.

Sources said the student went to the front of the class and held the pistol to the teachers head. The teacher grabbed the pistol, which he did not know was a fake, from the student and the police were called. Parents at the school say they were not informed of the incident. NSW Teacher's Federation deputy president Bob Lipscombe said schools were meant to be among the safest place in the community, yet incidents like this, and a similar one at Kurri Kurri High School in the Hunter Valley, caused a great deal of stress for teachers. "We are concerned for the wellbeing of teachers, and we expect the Education Department to act appropriately when such acts occur," he said.


Australian universities dumbing down

A REVOLUTION from below is transforming Australian higher education as leading universities unleash radical course reforms in advance of the Rudd Government's policy overhaul. The University of Western Australia has joined a group including Melbourne, Macquarie, Monash, South Australia and Victoria universities undergoing radical course reform unprompted by government policy.

Melbourne, UWA and Macquarie have jettisoned the smorgasbord of credentials characterising Australian higher education in favour of a much smaller number of broad undergraduate courses integrating the humanities and science. UWA last week announced plans to cut its undergraduate courses from 70 to six, while Macquarie University plans to cut the number of undergraduate courses by 75 per cent in time for the 2010 academic year as part of an attempt to "reinvent" and "reposition" the university.

University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Glyn Davis, who in 2005 instigated a process of curriculum reform leading to the Melbourne graduate-school model, told the HES this was the first time in living memory universities had decided to take charge of their own futures rather than allow government to determine policy. "The move for change has come from within the sector and has been attempted without additional federal investment," he said. "This means those universities pursuing change are taking all the risk."

The reform process has strong international parallels, as individual universities such as Harvard, and entire systems such as the European universities covered by the Bologna Accord, have embraced the cause of curriculum renewal. Professor Davis said the curriculum revolution was prompted in part by the sector's internationalisation, and questions about the attractiveness of Australian degrees in the light of Asian, US and European reforms. "If we remain passive, existing markets will drift away," he said. "For universities without viable local income - which is to say all public universities - losing our international markets is slow death."

In a marked departure from Australian higher-education policy's emphasis on structural and financial reform, the curriculum revolution goes to the heart of teaching, learning and graduate competencies.

UWA vice-chancellor Alan Robson told the HES that his course review committee, whose recommendations are the culmination of an exhaustive 18-month process, had on his instructions taken the university back to first principles: "What are the best educational outcomes for our students and how can we implement them?"

At Macquarie, as at Melbourne and UWA, the proliferation of narrow undergraduate courses will be replaced by a broader undergraduate education in which all students are exposed to science and the arts, taught communication skills, and encouraged to participate in projects outside the university. Macquarie vice-chancellor Steven Schwartz told the HES the revamp was needed to ensure Macquarie graduates were better prepared professionally and also ready to take their place as engaged citizens. He said: "Of course we will continue to teach professional skills - accounting students will still learn to keep books - but we will also ensure that each of our students learns how to analyse scholarly papers, criticise research methods, solve problems and integrate information into coherent arguments."

Meanwhile, Monash University has launched an "internationalisation of the curriculum" policy to foster understanding of national and global perspectives, while the University of South Australia is preparing to mandate indigenous studies in all degrees by 2010. Victoria University is also undergoing a curriculum review aimed at strengthening its relationships with local industry and the community. Students will be required to take 25 per cent of their course on the job or in the local community.

Professor Davis remarked that the curriculum revolution in many cases registered a need on the part of Australian universities to ensure their courses were "compatible" with overseas competitors. "All this is happening in a world in which a very large number of Australian graduates expect to work overseas for part of their career," he said. "Without compatible qualifications they will choose international university choices rather than risk a local qualification, such as an Australian undergraduate law degree, that is not instantly recognised in the US." "New curriculum models, such as the 3+2 graduate school structure Melbourne has adopted and UWA is now considering, allow a university to offer foundational training alongside specialisation."


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Moronic police procedures in NSW

Accused handed victim's identity

A 15-year-old girl who was allegedly stalked by a stranger had her identity revealed by police who were forced to hand it over to the suspect when he was granted bail. The teenager told friends she feared for her life in the incident on Tuesday, which is one of a staggering spate of attempted child abductions around Sydney in recent weeks.

The young woman's alleged attacker, a 27-year-old man from Greystanes, had no idea who she was. But within hours of his arrest at Rooty Hill, in Sydney's west, he was free on police bail and had her name handed to him on a charge sheet. Now, only a bail condition ordering the man to stay away from the distressed girl is protecting her.

A police source said it was normal practice to hand over charge sheets to accused criminals on bail. "We are obliged to supply as many documents at the time of charging as we can. It is practice from the Attorney-General's office, trying to streamline the system because whenever anyone appears in court they always ask for a further adjournment," the source said.

But the Attorney-General's office denied it was the result of changes this year to how and when briefs of evidence are served. Victims groups say the system is making thousands of victims of random crimes vulnerable as they wait for their case to come up in court.


Government favours open access to research data

An excellent idea. It would stop Greenies from hiding their sloppy and dishonest research methods

INNOVATION Minister Kim Carr today will flag the possibility that researchers who win grants from public funding agencies will have to make their results freely available over the internet. "Australia may want to consider making its own competitive research grants conditional on recipients sharing their research results through open-access repositories," Senator Carr will say in a video address to the Open Access and Research conference in Brisbane.

Funding agencies overseas, including the British Wellcome Trust and the US National Institutes of Health, have adopted mandatory open-access policies. The Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council only encourage open access.

In his innovation report, consultant Terry Cutler says: "(Open access) progress in Australia has been patchy and lacking the comprehensiveness and boldness of leading countries such as the UK."

In his address Senator Carr strongly endorses Cutler's open access recommendations, saying: "If we are serious about boosting innovation, we have to get knowledge and information flowing freely." He says the push to have researchers commercialise their discoveries could "safely be declared a failure" as universities on average earned less than 1 per cent of their income from royalties, patents and licences.

But Senator Carr told the HES the Government did not want to jeopardise the business done by commercialisation offices such as UniQuest, which had made a success of technology transfer. He said: "The ARC and the NHMRC distribute more than $1 billion of research funding each year. "Very few of those dollars end up as any part of an (intellectual property) deal ... so I don't think there should be any serious adverse effect ... but we want to look at that."

UniQuest managing director David Henderson said some projects, such as the Gardasil cancer vaccine, would never get to market without the confidence that IP protection gave investors: "There needs to be an ability to exclude (from any open access policy) research that requires investment to get to product."


That Would Be Courageous, Very Courageous, Mr Prime Minister

According to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd the most important challenge that Australia and indeed the world faces is global warming caused by man made carbon emissions. But what if its not? The issue is of such critical importance to the PM that during the last week's `one in a centuary" global financial meltdown, the Australian PM seemed hopelessly out of touch with reality.

As the global financial system and indeed Capitalism teetered on the verge of destruction, the PM's contribution was to announce the government was investing $100 million a year to make Australia the Hub of global climate change fighting technology. His other contribution was to announce a symposium of local government councilors. As Senator Barnaby Joyce put it so well on yesterday -
"This guy [the PM] is getting completely disconnected from what's going on and sooner or later he's going to realise that the main game is actually in this nation, not some other nation."

Indeed it is fair to say that the Kevin Rudd on the advice of his scientific adviser has staked his whole governments future on leading the world in the fight against global warming. But what if its not? What if James Hansen and his global spokesperson Al Gore are really the two swindlers from the fairy tale The Emperors New Clothes?

Certainly research from the Space and Science Research Center (SSRC) which quotes itself on its web site as "the leading science and engineering research company internationally, that specializes in the analysis of and planning for climate changes based upon the "Theory of Relational Cycles of Solar Activity," believes its not. In July of this year John L. Casey, Director of the Space and Science Research Center, Orlando Florida, issued what he described as a landmark declaration on climate change.
"After an exhaustive review of a substantial body of climate research, and in conjunction with the obvious and compelling new evidence that exists, it is time that the world community acknowledges that the Earth has begun its next climate change.

In an opinion echoed by many scientists around the world, the Space and Science Research Center (SSRC), today declares that the world's climate warming of the past decades has now come to an end. A new climate era has already started that is bringing predominantly colder global temperatures for many years into the future.

In some years this new climate will create dangerously cold weather with significant ill-effects world wide. Global warming is over - a new cold climate has begun."

In the statement Professor Casey specifically mentions the difficulty in over coming the dogma of political and media consensus on global warming.
"I have consulted with colleagues world wide who have reached a similar conclusion. They have likewise been attempting to advise their own governments and media of the impending cold era and the difficult times that the extreme cold weather may bring. They are to be commended for their bold public stances and publication of their research which of course has been in direct opposition to past conventional thought on the nature and causes of the last twenty years of global warming. "

Professor Phillip Stott in his article "Cogitative dissonance" details why the media and politician are having such difficulty with the world is not warming paradigm.
"How can you talk of the climate `warming' when, on the key measures, it isn't? .. Such media behaviour exhibits a classic condition known as `cognitive dissonance'

This is experienced when belief in a grand narrative persists blindly even when the facts in the real world begin to contradict what the narrative is saying.

Sadly, our media have come to have a vested interest in `global warming', as have so many politicians and activists.

Casey Goes on:
"Casey detailed the solar activity cycles that have been driving the Earth's climate for the past 1,200 years. He condemned the climate change confusion and alarmism which has accompanied seven separate periods over the past 100 years, where scientists and the media flip-flopped on reporting that the Earth was either entering a new `ice age' or headed for a global meltdown where melting glacial ice would swamp the planet's coastal cities.

Casey also touches on the impacts of the onset of global cooling on Agriculture.
"On the subject of cold climate effects on agriculture, Casey was not optimistic. "I can see," he added, "just like the last time this 206 year cycle brought cold, that there will be substantial damage to the world's agricultural systems. This time however we will have eight billion mouths to feed during the worst years around 2031 compared to previously when we had only one billion. Yet even then, many died from the combined effects of bitter cold and lack of food."

Casey called on all leaders to immediately move from the past global warming planning to prepare for the already started change to a cold climate.
"Now that the new cold climate has begun to arrive, we must immediately start the preparation, the adaptation process. At least because of the RC Theory we now have some advance warning. No longer do we need to wonder what the Earth's next climate changes will be two or three generations out. But we must nonetheless be ready to adjust with our now more predictable solar cycles that are the primary determinants of climate on Earth."

Now I'm not saying that John L Casey has got it right either. Readers should click on the links to his site and read the research. He certainly makes a compelling case and we will actually know if his research is ground breaking within the next 2 decades (as he predicts the planet will be 1-1.5 degrees C cooler between 2030 - 2040).

Certainly it is difficult to give the PM's science adviser James Hansen any where near the credibility that Kevin Rudd does after his warming predictions to date have been wildly inaccurate / over stated and his promotion of the universally discredited Mann Hockey Stick theory.

Is Prime Minister Rudd racing to far ahead of the science on global warming? If he is, he is doing the Nation of Australia and its people an enormous disservice and will be remembered by history as a "fool".

On the other hand if he has backed the right horse in James Hansen / Al Gores take on the science he will be viewed by history as a "great visionary" and will probably end up as head of the UN. One thing is for certain - ` he is willing to put it all on the line, no each way bets for our PM and he won't die wondering'. As a great fan of the BBC series Yes Minister, Sir Humphrey Appleby words of wisdom ring true: "That would be courageous, Minister, very courageous."


Deadly danger of hospital overflow in Tasmania

TASMANIANS could die because of ambulance delays and paramedics say there is nothing they can do about it. Angry paramedics parked their ambulances outside the Royal Hobart Hospital's Argyle St entrance yesterday to highlight the problem of "ramping". Ramping refers to when patients are forced to stay on an ambulance stretcher because there are no hospital beds free. "Overnight we had crews who were ramped for nine hours out of a 14-hour shift," one paramedic said. "They just get snowed under."

Another said ambulance officers were "baby-sitting" seriously ill patients because there were no beds for them. "We're getting ramped even with people with chest pains," he said. "There is no doubt people will, or already have, died because of this problem," another ambulance officer said.

The Health and Community Services Union said there were 36 patients in 33 cubicles in the RHH emergency department early yesterday. Nineteen of those patients were waiting to be admitted and some were given intravenous antibiotics in the waiting room. "This situation is nothing short of appalling," said HACSU assistant state secretary Tim Jacobson. "Some months ago the RHH established a committee to look at reducing the incidence of ramping. This committee has not produced any results."

He said providing extra nurses and opening beds would solve the problem. But Health Minister Lara Giddings said it was not that easy. "We are asking staff to work overtime to ensure that beds are not closed, but when you've got staff sick as well and you're already having to stretch your resources to cover the existing beds, it's certainly not an easy thing to just simply open up more beds," Ms Giddings said.

She said a flu outbreak was exacerbating the problem. "At the moment we've got around 35 nurses who are away on sick leave and we have increased admissions to our medical wards as well," Ms Giddings said. "This is putting strain on the hospital and it is impacting on ambulance ramping too."

RHH spokeswoman Pene Snashall confirmed the emergency department experienced "high demand" on Tuesday night. "There's no rhyme or reason," she said. "Saturday night was our quietest Saturday in months."


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The truly evil NSW child welfare bureaucracy again

DOCS takes children from grandparents 'over bum smack'. While children who are actually endangered are left with feral parents -- sometimes resulting in their death. Left-indoctrinated social workers just despise normal people and want to hurt them

FOUR children were removed from their grandparents' care and put into separate foster homes, allegedly because the grandmother smacked one of them on the bottom after the child tried to climb into a drain. The children had lived on and off with their grandparents for six years while their mother battled drug addiction. The children were removed in December by the NSW Department of Community Services (DOCS) and have been living in foster homes, separated from each other.

Details of the case are included in a submission to the Wood inquiry into child welfare, kept secret by inquiry staff but obtained by The Australian. The inquiry is investigating the system of child welfare in NSW, but intends to keep secret 90 per cent of the submissions it receives. The Australian has been publishing some of the secret submissions with the permission of the authors.

A woman who is close to the grandparent case, who cannot be named because it would identify the children, said the four siblings, had been "in and out" of their grandparents' home for years. "Those grandparents loved those kids," she said. "They were really nice people. They weren't hitting the kids willy-nilly. "What happened was, the children had been with their mum and it had gone badly wrong again. "They were put with the grandparents and the idea was to try to make it more permanent." Such permanent placements are often resisted by parents, because it means they lose not only their children but the Centrelink and other benefits associated with being full-time carers.

The woman said the grandmother "saw the littlest one heading down a drain pipe and grabbed him with one hand and smacked him. "It was shock. It was sudden, like a moment of frustration, or fright, a startled reflex."

Soon after the incident, DOCS case workers visited the children at school to interview them, as part of the process of making the placement with the grandparents permanent. "They said to the little one: do your grandparents ever hit you, or smack you? And of course he said: 'Yes, she smacked me last week.' "He was just telling the truth and it spiralled from there."

The children were immediately removed from the grandparents' home "and because they couldn't find emergency carers to take all four of them, they were split up. "Never mind the grandparents for a minute. It's very traumatic for small children. It's like they are being punished." The grandparents appealed to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal and the case is now under review.

"The problem is, it takes time," the woman said. "The children were removed before Christmas, so it's been nine months, and nine months is a long time in anybody's life, and a long time in a child's life."


Guilty of quoting the Bible

The scriptural quotation below is accurately summarized

Gun lobbyist Ron Owen has been told he is entitled to express his homophobic views, but that he went too far with the bumper sticker: "Gay Rights? Under God's law the only rights gays have is the right to die."

Queensland's Anti-Discrimination Tribunal found Mr Owen guilty of inciting hatred against homosexuals with the bumper sticker when he parked his car outside the Cooloola Shire Council officers in Gympie, north of Brisbane.

The publisher of the ultra-right-wing pro-militia magazine Lock Stock & Barrel and former local councillor was also chastised on Monday for comments he made in the ensuing public outcry that engulfed the rural community, The Australian reports. The former president of the National Firearm Owners of Australia was taken to the tribunal by several local lesbians, who claimed they had been offended despite only one having seen the bumper sticker. Two of the women were awarded $5000, with a third awarded $2500 in damages.

Tribunal member Darryl Rangiah handed down a 77-page decision, which also ordered Mr Owen to publish a written apology for inciting hatred and causing offence to the homosexual community of Gympie. Mr Rangiah acknowledged Mr Owen's right to free speech, but said he had gone too far with the bumper sticker and in ensuing comments made during a television interview, in a report to a subsequent council meeting and in a letter on his website. "Ron Owen is entitled to be a homophobe and he is entitled to publicly express his homophobic views," he said. "That much is required in a society that values freedom of thought and expression. However there are limits." [So how can he "publicly express his homophobic views" if even a bumper sticker is illegal?]

The tribunal ruled that Mr Owen - while not the registered owner of the car - had use of it and that the sticker went "beyond a mere joke". "The ordinary member of the public would, in my opinion, understand that he or she was being urged to hate and to have serious contempt for homosexuals," Mr Rangiah said. [That's what the Bible does too]


Envy tax watered down to almost nothing

The Greenies protect luxury car buyers!

The Federal Government's luxury car tax increase finally passed parliament's upper house tonight after being heavily amended by cross bench senators. The Government's four bills seek to lift the luxury car tax, which applies to cars worth more than $57,180, from 25 per cent to 33 per cent. The bills were defeated in the Senate earlier this month after Family First Senator Steve Fielding sided with the coalition to vote it down.

However, the Government resurrected the legislation after striking a deal with Senator Fielding to exempt primary producers and tourist operators from the increase. Senator Fielding's amendment was approved last night, against the wishes of the coalition. A Greens amendment to exempt fuel efficient cars from the tax was also passed. Under the Greens amendment, the tax would no longer apply to cars valued up to $75,000 which use no more than seven litres of fuel per 100 kilometres.

Twenty five imported car models - including the Audi A4, BMW 3 series and Jaguar X-type - would be exempted from the tax altogether as a result of the change.

Coalition front bencher Eric Abetz said only about 1500 of the one million cars sold in Australia each year would be affected by that change. "Nobody could argue that this is going to have a serious impact on climate change," Senator Abetz said. "Nothing but window-dressing."

The Senate also agreed to Senator Xenophon's request to apply a sunset clause to the tax's indexation to the controversial consumer price index for motor vehicles (CPIMV). It also approved Senator Xenophon's request to ensure the increase would not apply to people who entered into contracts before the night of the Federal Budget in May, when the Government announced its plan.

But the Senate rejected an Opposition proposal to have the tax increase applied only to vehicles worth more than $90,000. "This is just another part of the raid on the budget surplus," he said. Three of the four bills passed the Senate unchanged. The amended bill will now return to the lower house where the Government will approve the cross bench changes.

Government Senate leader Chris Evans said the legislation had passed with its major components intact. "We think it's a really useful measure, it provides revenue to the government, revenue that will assist us in dealing with really difficult economic times," he told the ABC. Senator Evans said he hoped the Opposition would abandon its stalling tactics and take a more constructive approach to the Government's other Budget bills.


Conservative politician hits out at child creation for homosexual families

DELIBERATELY creating a child to be placed in a homosexual relationship is irresponsible, a Queensland federal Liberal backbencher says. "Children need a mum and a dad," Stuart Robert told Parliament. Mr Robert was speaking on a Bill that changes many Commonwealth laws to remove discrimination against same-sex couples and their children. The Opposition, while not opposing the measure, has moved an amendment calling on a Senate committee to ensure it doesn't devalue marriage or harm the rights of children.

Mr Robert said a study in Norway and Sweden, two of the first countries to introduce similar same-sex legal protections, had found gay male unions were 50 per cent more likely and lesbian unions 167 per cent more likely to separate in the first eight years. An Australian study showed children of heterosexual couples generally developed better.

Mr Robert said the Bill removed the assumption that a child was born from a union between a male and a female. "I believe that deliberately creating a child to be placed in a homosexual relationship is irresponsible, considering all the available evidence," he said.

Labor's Mark Dreyfus said the Bill was a significant human rights and pro-family measure. It amended 68 Commonwealth statutes to remove "unfair and pervasive" discrimination against gay couples and their children. "Our Commonwealth has treated gay and lesbian couples as second class citizens," Mr Dreyfus said.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New Victorian abortion laws threaten Catholic hospitals

The usual Leftist hatred of Christianity in any form

The Catholic Church's extensive network of hospitals in Victoria faces a "real threat" from planned new abortion laws, Archbishop Denis Hart says. He warned parishioners that Catholic-run hospitals might have to stop running conventional maternity and emergency services if Parliament passed the laws. He warned in a pastoral letter that Catholic staff would face having to break the law if they wanted to maintain anti-abortion beliefs. "This Bill poses a real threat to the continued existence of Catholic hospitals," Archbishop Hart said. "Under these circumstances, it is difficult to foresee how Catholic hospitals could continue to operate maternity or emergency departments in this state in their current form."

Catholic hospitals are central to the state's health system and are responsible for handling about a third of all births each year. A radical shift in how the 14 major Catholic hospitals treat patients could cost the Brumby Government tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Archbishop Hart's opposition to the abortion Bill will place further pressure on undecided MPs in the Upper House, who are due to debate it next month. The church is insisting it won't allow abortions in its hospitals, and at the weekend parishioners were sent phone numbers and electoral office addresses of the state's 40 Upper House MPs. "The . . . Bill, if enacted, will lead to Catholic hospitals and doctors who have a conscientious objection to abortion, acting contrary to the law," Archbishop Hart said.

He said the church did not condemn women who had abortions. "Together with their children, they are the principal victims of the new culture of death," he said.

He has warned that the Bill goes further than existing arrangements, contradicting Premier John Brumby. Women have been able to have abortions in Victoria for decades under the protection of a 1969 common law ruling by Supreme Court judge Clifford Menhennitt. The Brumby Government's Bill decriminalising abortion controversially allows it to be performed at up to 24 weeks' gestation.

In his letter to parishioners, Archbishop Hart said health professionals who opposed abortion would have no option but to terminate a pregnancy if it were deemed an emergency. "The Bill is an unprecedented attack on the freedom to hold and exercise fundamental religious beliefs," he said. "The Bill is seriously flawed as much by what it omits as by what it contains."


Far-Leftist sympathy for terrorists being preached to future army officers

A RETIRED Australian general has dismissed as "unmitigated rubbish" a defence force course which teaches soldiers that terrorists are "victims". A Bali bombing victim has also expressed dismay at the Australian Defence Force Academy's terror studies degree. Maj-Gen Jim Molan, who in 2004 was Chief of Operations of Coalition forces in Iraq, has hit out at the lecturers who run the security and terror course.

Prof Anthony Burke, senior lecturer at the University of NSW where ADFA classes are held, in his book Beyond Security, Ethics and Violence, said students should try to understand terrorists rather than fight them. "In the wake of 9/11, our critical task is not to help power seek out and destroy the 'enemies of freedom' but to question how they were constructed AS enemies of freedom . . . It is to wonder if we, the free, might already be enemies of freedom in the very process of imagining and defending it," he wrote. In another book, Fear of Security, Australia's Invasion Anxiety, Prof Burke said we should "abandon selfish visions of security, sovereignty and national interest".

Maj-Gen Molan said Prof Burke was "naive in the extreme". In 2004, he commanded major battles in Iraq during one of the most turbulent periods of the war. He said the experience taught him that Australia needed to heighten security, not go softly-softly with terrorists, but the ADFA degree seemed to be teaching surrender to a ruthless enemy. "It is like saying Churchill could have avoided World War II by surrendering to the Germans," he said.

He also rejected the idea that terrorists were victims. "Even if some of these people have had it tough, they are still making the choice to strap a bomb to their body, go to a location packed with innocent civilians and detonate," he said. "I didn't see any morality (in Iraq). These Islamic extremists are prepared to use extraordinary levels of violence. "If this is the view of ADFA staff then it is naive in the extreme."

Bali bombing victim Dale Atkins said he was shocked and upset that academics were excusing those terrorists who bombed the Sari nightclub killing 200 people. "Maybe this wouldn't have happened if we didn't go to war, but it's wrong to say it's our fault. We didn't deserve to go through such pain," he said.

Maj-Gen Molan, author of Running the War in Iraq, advocates a tightening in security and is shocked that ADFA is proposing the opposite. And Dr Mervyn Bendle, senior history lecturer at James Cook University, said the ADFA's course was being mimicked at other universities. "They are avoiding using terms like Muslim, Islam or Jihad as if we have to ignore the obvious religious connection that has been confirmed by the terrorists themselves," he said.

The Department of Defence said it encouraged "robust debate among ADF personnel at all levels". [I wonder if "robust debate" about the level of African immigration into Australia would also be permitted? I suspect that debate on that topic would be too robust altogether!]


Dangerous fire station closures in NSW

Cut services, not the bureaucracy: Typical Leftist thinking

MORE than 30 NSW fire stations, including some in bushfire-prone areas, may close over summer, as pressure mounts on the Rees Government to reduce spending in the face of a budget blowout. While the stations would not shut down permanently, firefighters say the plan to take the stations "off line" if the NSW Fire Brigade cannot find enough staff to make up a standard crew of four officers threatens not only property but lives. The Government is trying to crack down on what it claims is an overtime rort by full-time firefighters, who have traditionally filled the gap left by a shortage of "retained", or part-time, staff.

But the secretary of the Fire Brigade Employees Union, Simon Flynn, told the Herald last night: "If fire stations are forced to shut down, even for a short period, it increases the potential that someone will die."

The Government's plan was put forward last by month by the Premier, Nathan Rees, when he was minister for emergency services. It will mean that if a station usually staffed by "retained" firefighters is short of crew, it will shut down for the duration of the shift, usually between four and 14 hours. Neighbouring fire stations will answer emergency calls.

The list of stations on the list for temporary closure includes five in the Sydney region, three along the South Coast escarpment bordering the Royal National Park, and two in Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury area, which is prone to bushfires.

Since 1995, the NSW Fire Brigade practice has been to make up a shortfall in staff at "retained" fire stations by calling in full-time firefighters to work overtime. But a ruling brought down on Friday by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission as part of a pay deal giving firefighters a 12.6 per cent increase over three years will allow the temporary shutdown of stations.

The state's Fire Commissioner, Greg Mullins, confirmed that 33 stations might come off line periodically. "I would have to put out a commissioner's order, overturning the 1995 order," Mr Mullins told the Herald. "I have not yet done that. But if they are taken off-line for a short period as a result of the commission decision, I can guarantee no one will be at risk. We would only do that if an adjoining fire station is available and fully staffed." Mr Mullins also said no part-time station would close during a major bushfire or emergency, such as a factory fire or explosion.

But Mr Flynn said calling in neighbouring fire crews might endanger public safety. "There is internationally accepted evidence that says from the time a fire starts to the time it takes to consume a room in a building can be as little as seven minutes," he said.

Mr Mullins said the practice of filling gaps in part-time crews with full-time firefighters on overtime had become "a rort". "I am being very blunt," he said. "I know they are strong words. My focus will be on keeping enough retained firefighters available to keep the stations open."


Greenie laws threaten gas industry and would INCREASE CO2 emissions

AUSTRALIA'S $15 billion gas industry could shrink by more than a quarter by 2020 unless it is protected from the economic effects of the proposed emissions trading scheme. The industry will use new analysis to reinforce its concerns to the Rudd Government that excluding LNG from compensation under the proposed ETS will stall up to $60billion of new investment, and will actually worsen climate change by forcing developing economies, including China, to build more coal-fired power stations.

The new modelling, by Frontier Economics, estimates the 10 per cent cut in greenhouse emissions by 2020 proposed by the Government's chief climate change adviser, Ross Garnaut, will require a $54 a tonne price for carbon and will slow the economy by nearly 2 per cent over the next 12 years.

Victoria's brown coal industry will be forced to halve its output, while the nation's natural gas and LNG projects would be cut by about 25 per cent because they are not eligible for compensation under the scheme outlined in the Rudd Government's green paper in July.

The Frontier report says LNG and natural gas will suffer from a shrinking electricity market and the perverse effects of downstream industries such as copper and gold processing not receiving compensation under the scheme, while rival sectors such as coal mining will be eligible.

The gas industry's warning of "carbon leakage" - the flight of investment to economies with no carbon price, resulting in no net benefit to the environment - is in direct retaliation to claims made last week that the $15 billion LNG industry should not be protected from a carbon price. A report commissioned by the Climate Institute questioned the effectiveness of any scheme to compensate trade-exposed industries such as LNG without detailed cost-benefit analysis. The analysis by economists McLennan Magasanik Associates said all global LNG resources were already being exploited, so any reduction in Australian production as a result of increased costs under an emissions trading scheme would have no impact on global investment.

But the chief executive of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, Belinda Robinson, said yesterday less LNG production in Australia meant the emissions of Asia-Pacific countries would worsen as they used coal instead. "If the carbon pollution reduction scheme has the perverse outcome of penalising Australian LNG to the benefit of the Chinese coal industry, there will be massive carbon leakage and the Australian economy and the global environment will suffer for no good reason," she said. "We will be faced with a situation of leakage-plus, where lost Australian LNG production is replaced by coal production. "For every tonne of greenhouse gases emitted in Australia through the production of LNG, between 5.5 and 9.5 tonnes are saved in China."

Energy analysts Wood Mackenzie say Australia is substantially "underweight" as an LNG producer - accounting for only 8 per cent of the global market - and already supplies the most expensive LNG in the Asia-Pacific region.


Monday, September 22, 2008


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG comments on the push for a Republic now coming from both sides of politics

Economic madness about ethanol

The feedstock for producing ethanol is sugar and Queensland produces heaps of cheap cane-sugar. It also has a large reserve capacity to produce more of it. Using sorghum as a feedstock is much more costly. But Greenies don't care about what their obsessions cost other people, of course.

It would make a lot more sense to back Brazil-style integrated ethanol production at one of the now-closed sugar mills in North Queensland -- such as Goondi or South Johnstone. That process at present gives Brazil fuel that is cheaper than oil-based fuel. You've just got to crush sugarcane and sugar-laden juice flows out. And that juice can go straight into an ethanol distillery

ANALYSTS have warned that further food price rises are inevitable after the Queensland Government revealed almost half the ethanol to be blended in petrol used in motor vehicles in the state would come from grain. Queensland will become the national leader in biofuel use after the Bligh Government yesterday pledged to press ahead with plans to require petrol to contain 5 per cent ethanol by 2010.

The Weekend Australian reported that Premier Nathan Rees had ditched the commitment by NSW to introduce the nation's first mandated level of biodiesel and to boost the ethanol mandate from 2 to 10 per cent. NSW was the first state to introduce a biofuels mandate last October. Victoria and other states have gone cold on biofuels amid mounting evidence that taxpayer-subsidised mandates have contributed to growing world food shortages and rising prices. Up to 50,000 tonnes of grain a year are used for ethanol in NSW.

Queensland had indicated sugarcane waste would be used for ethanol production, but Regional Development Minister Desley Boyle told The Australian that 40 per cent of the ethanol needed for the 5 per cent mandate would come from grain. Most of the grain-based ethanol would be produced at Dalby Bio Refinery's new plant on the Darling Downs, which makes the biofuel from sorghum.

Ms Boyle said Queensland was not concerned by the about-face in NSW. "We will proceed with a 5 per cent mandate and that will be lifted to 10 per cent over time," she said. "A mandated level of ethanol is a good first step towards an alternative fuels industry." Ms Boyle said the use of sorghum for ethanol would have negligible impact on grain supply and prices. The sorghum would be livestock-feed grain standard. "This will have no effect on the food supply chain," she said.

Queensland would boost research to expand the use of algae, cellulose plant wastes and other environmentally friendly sources of biofuel production.

Biofuels analyst Geoff Ward, an agricultural scientist, said it was inevitable that the Dalby plant would reduce grain supplies and boost food costs. "It is nonsense to imply there is no effect on the food chain because it is cattle-feed grain," Mr Ward said. "Cattle-feed grain and food-quality grain are products from the same resource, produced from the same land and use the same inputs. Besides, feedlots use grain to produce a food - beef."

Meanwhile the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has rejected claims that service station operators were breaching the Trade Practices Act by misleading motorists about ethanol. The Australian Lot Feeders Association told the ACCC in a submission that motorists should be informed that ethanol-blended fuel should be sold for 4c a litre less than conventional petrol to compensate for its poor fuel economy. "Blended fuel is almost never priced less at this discount," said association president Jim Cudmore. However, the ACCC has told the association it was up to motorists to weigh the varying arguments about ethanol, including the possible benefits from its use such as improved urban air quality and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.


Shock! Horror! Politician speaks the truth!

It's only part of the truth but we have to be thankful for small mercies. The previously unmentionable fact is that blacks are, by and large, educationally hopeless. And Queensland has a lot of blacks. But that is not of course the whole story. The other half is that Left-run educational systems don't educate very well and there is a lot of "postmodernist" nonsense in Qld. schools

STATE Education Minister Rod Welford has blamed indigenous and remote area students for dragging down Queensland's academic performance. In comments to the Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens Associations' annual general meeting, Mr Welford said the state had been "weighed down" in the national literacy and numeracy tests for Year 3, 5, 7 and 9 students. Queensland finished second last among the eight states and territories, prompting calls for a parliamentary inquiry into the state education system.

Mr Welford yesterday said he was simply making the observation that "statistically there are groups that get lower scores", which affected average scores. "This isn't a reflection on any of those communities," he said. Mr Welford also acknowledged more had to be done to lift indigenous and remote area classroom standards.

However Mr Welford's remarks have sparked an angry backlash from Aboriginal education leaders, who say Education Queensland has badly failed disadvantaged children. "I find it offensive," Indigenous Education Leadership Institute executive director Dr Chris Sarra said. "I acknowledge the lag associated with indigenous performance (but) the system is failing indigenous kids quite dramatically."

Dr Sarra, leader of a successful national program to raise classroom performance through self-belief, said that accepting low standards and poor use of current resources were at the core of problems.

Indigenous scholarship program founder and Yalari chief executive Waverley Stanley said Mr Welford was trying hard but repeated failures called for a new approach. "It's about time we gave the education system a big kick up the bum," he said. "The definition of insanity is doing things over and over and not expecting the same result."

Academics such as Dr Peter Ridd, of Queensland's James Cook University, claim a wider overhaul of education in Queensland is needed. "There is clearly a problem ... you have to fix the syllabus," he said. Dr Ridd said the Queensland Studies Authority - the statutory body responsible for syllabuses and testing - was "woolly eyed" and corrupted by modern teaching philosophies inferior to traditional approaches in other states and countries that get results.

Opposition education spokesman John-Paul Langbroek, the MP for Surfers Paradise, said Mr Welford's remarks were a sign of failure. The Isolated Children's Parents Association of Australia has been campaigning for more teachers and teacher aides in remote area schools for 18 months.


A bigger hospital is better?

Public hospitals are impersonal and bureaucratic enough as it is and a bigger hospital is going to be even more so. And the bigger the bureaucracy the more error-prone it is

A NEW children's super hospital in Brisbane would save lives, foster research and improve training opportunities, says a respected specialist. As a turf war intensified between doctors over the merger of the Royal Children's and Mater Children's hospitals, Melbourne intensive care specialist Frank Shann said having a single facility was overwhelmingly the best choice for patients.

Professor Shann, who has consulted on children's hospital care worldwide, said bigger institutions delivered better quality care and at lower cost. "Very large centres that do a lot of work have lower mortality rates," he said. "The more you do, the better at it you get." Professor Shann said the existing public children's hospitals were both too small to offer advanced intensive care training for doctors. "Queenslanders who want to train in intensive care of children have to train in other states," he said.

Although some doctors have warned of an exodus of specialists from Queensland if the merger goes ahead, Professor Shann predicted it would attract better qualified staff.

A group of University of Queensland researchers last week warned the pending closure of the Royal Children's Hospital at Herston, in Brisbane's inner north, would cripple research into a vast array of diseases. But Professor Shann said the existing children's hospitals generated far fewer research papers than stand alone facilities in other states. "There'll be a bigger group of people working together rather than having two small groups. You can bounce ideas off each other," he said. "If you have an interest in a particular group of patients ... you'll also double your exposure to those patients."

The Queensland Government has pledged to build a $100 million research facility close to the new hospital but has yet to secure funding. Acting Premier Paul Lucas yesterday accused critics of being afraid of change. "The Government is not doing this to annoy people. The Government is doing this for all the mums and dads out there who expect to have world's best practice in our children's hospital," he said. Mr Lucas defended the current plans, saying all the evidence and analysis showed the Government was on the right track.


ABARE Chiefs Warn Australian Agriculture is Doomed Under Emissions Trading Scheme

The current and former heads of ABARE have joined the growing chorus of Agricultural Economist who are warning that the Emissions Trading Scheme will have dire consequences for Australia's trade exposed Agricultural industry. Dr Brian Fisher, former head of ABARE for 18 years has expressed grave fears for the future of Australian Agriculture under the proposed Emissions Trading Scheme.

"Introducing a scheme ahead of other nations was not prosecuting Australia's national interest, it was prosecuting somebody else's and we are going to be damned if we do. There is absolutely nothing to be gained by going first here. We are a very, very small country. We constitute about 1.3 odd per cent of emissions on the planet. The government should focus its domestic climate change policy on adaptation because it will be "years" before there is an international agreement on emissions trading between the 190 countries involved in the ongoing negotiations."

Dr Fisher's views reinforce what Agmates said in the article: "ETS in Aust & NZ will Zero impact on global emissions" In fact if you are one of the 1,000's of informed Agmates readers you will have know for at least 2 months that the ETS in its existing form is disastrous for Australian farmers. Rural Press finally 10 weeks later have picked up on that fact. On the 5th of July we wrote:.
"What the main stream media have missed in the flood of coverage is the potential devastation to rural Australia the emission trading scheme will be."

Dr Fisher's successor at ABARE Phillip Glyde, supports his views. He points out that regardless of whether or not agriculture was included in the ETS from 2010, the impacts on farming through the use of emission intensive inputs would be significant.
"In the cropping sector, 39 per cent of the input costs to cropping came from emission-intensive inputs, while in livestock those costs were about 17 per cent. There's only one solution to all of this, particularly while the rest of the world doesn't introduce an ETS or have emissions trading schemes excluding agriculture - it is to continue down the path of productivity improvements.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE), located in Canberra, is the Australian government's own economic research agency and is respected for its professional independent research and analysis. It is incredible that the chief architects of the Emissions Trading Scheme Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Agriculture Minister Tony Burke and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong are ignoring their own Economic experts advice.


Global cooling hits Western Australia

PERTH today shivered awake to its coldest September morning on record. The overnight temperature fell to a chilly 1C just before 6am. The previous coldest September morning was 1.5C, which was recorded in 2005.


Sunday, September 21, 2008


Three articles below

No meat at debt-ridden NSW hospitals

MEAT is off the menu at two NSW hospitals because the health service hasn't paid its butchers' bills, a State MP claims. Kevin Humphries has offered to pick up the tab so Gilgandra and Coonabarabran hospital patients, and local Meals on Wheels recipients, can have their meat supply restored. The Greater Western Area Health Service - which has already been accused of failing to pay a Sydney software supplier $22,500 for five months - has conceded it owes money to a number of creditors and has apologised.

Mr Humphries said he was appalled when he found cooks at Gilgandra and Coonabarabran hospitals were forced to provide meatless meals. "Our patients deserve better. It is a sad day when staff are forced to compromise patient care with a reduced and inadequate diet," he said. "I have even heard stories of staff buying meat for their patients out of their own pockets."

Murray-Darling MP John Williams said he knew of several cases of unpaid bills from the western health service. One Broken Hill business was owed almost $2000 and another business in his electorate had been owed more than $12,000 since May. "It's a bleeding ulcer for them - they are all suffering from the drought and they don't need this," Mr Williams said.

Greater Western Area Health is not the only one unable to pay suppliers. Yass air-conditioning mechanic Touie Smith said he is owed $18,386.50 by the Greater Southern Area Health Service for work at Yass and Goulburn hospitals. Part of the debt related to work done as far back as April and Mr Smith said it was putting a strain on his business. Most annoying was the fact that the health service would not return calls to discuss the problem. "We've been shunned," he said. "We are a small business with quite a low turnover - we have to be careful with our money management and outstanding amounts of this size can be very stressful." Mr Smith said the local hospital administrators were embarrassed by the situation caused by their head office.

It's understood Leeton Diagnostic Imaging is owed more than $30,000 by the Greater Southern Area Health Service. Part of that debt dates back to May and the business cannot get any answers about when it will be paid.

Health Minister John Della Bosca said it was reasonable for businesses to expect to be paid "in a fair and timely manner". "Since 2004-05, the department has set a benchmark that creditor payments should not exceed between 35 and 45 days from receipt of invoice," he said. "I believe the benchmark is being met in the majority of cases but I have asked the department to work closely with health services to ensure they're paying suppliers within the set time. "It is important these benchmarks are met as late payments can hurt small businesses."


North QLD Health Services Third World Despite Billions in Mining Royalties

The mismanagement of the Queensland Health service in rural & regional Queensland is a disgrace. In the home of resource rich North Queensland all surgical proceeds now have to be performed at Townsville Hospital which is in crisis. Just 2 weeks ago the ABC `World Today" reported:
"In recent days, Brisbane's biggest hospitals have closed their doors to ambulances and the hospital in the major regional centre of Townsville has resorted to using conference rooms to accommodate patients."

TWO regional north Queensland hospitals at Richmand and Hughenden will close their fully equipped operating theatres. These theatres have not operated for 18 months after the QLD Labor government pulled the plug on funding the popular and very successful flying surgeon service to the centres. The Richmond and Hughenden communities had been waiting and hoping that the service which had operated successfully for many years would be re-instated. Hughenden & Richmand are 400 and 500kms by road from Townsville.

Following on from last months announcement of the closure of the Aramac hospital the people of north-west Queensland are shocked and angry after the latest Bligh Labor Government health plan had promised to close the gap in regional health care. In an email to Agmates QLD Shadow Health Minister Mark McArdle is scathing of the QLD Labor governments treatment of rural and regional Queenslanders:
"The Townsville Hospital is already at crisis point and this incompetent Health Minister is just making it worse instead of taking stress off the Townsville Hospital by de-centralising demand for surgical facilities," The Health Minister's claim that the operating theatres were closed because they didn't provide any surgical procedures as dishonest and arrogant. The reason these surgery theatres wasn't performing surgical procedures is because it didn't fund them.

This is another example of the Beattie-Bligh Government's systemic withdrawal of health services from rural areas. The Beattie-Bligh Government is killing off opportunities for accessible regional health services now, while it is spending millions of dollars on glitzy ad campaigns about what proper health services in 2020."

North West, North and Central Queensland is home to the vast fortunes generated by Queenslands resources boom. Last year the QLD state government collected $1.027 billion in coal mining royalties alone from the region. That figure this year is budgeted to explode to $3.213 billion yet the people of North Queensland have what can only be described as third world health services.

Those mining royalties have made QLD along with resource rich Western Australia the two financial powerhouse states that have largely insultated Australia against the world economic down turn caused by the credit crisis. Yet North Queenslands have seen there health services largely disappear.

It's no wonder that the WA Nationals are the King Makers after the recent state election. They campaigned on a "royalties for regions" policy that promised to return 25% ($700 million a year) of mining royalties too the regional communities of WA. If that policy was adopted in Queensland that would be $800 million just from coal royalties which would be invested into infrastructure & services in rural and regional Queensland each year just from coal royalties.


Nurse backs reports of chaos at a major Brisbane hospital

A SENIOR nurse who recently resigned from Logan Hospital has backed up comments by emergency department doctor Michael Cameron that the hospital is "too dangerous and too dysfunctional". Bill Atkinson, a nurse for nearly 20 years, worked in the same high-pressure emergency department as Dr Cameron. He said his pleas for support were also ignored by hospital bosses and Queensland Health. "I have a lot of respect for the man," Mr Atkinson said. "He had the courage to step up and voice his concerns."

Dr Cameron, senior staff specialist in emergency medicine at Logan Hospital, revealed exclusively in The Sunday Mail last week that he had quit because staff were "overworked and overwhelmed". He had first spoken out about problems in Queensland's besieged health system in a frank open letter published in The Sunday Mail in May. The letter from Dr Cameron prompted Premier Anna Bligh and Health Minister Stephen Robertson to meet with him and appoint him as a special adviser to the Government. But he was largely ignored and the problems at Logan only got worse. "It had got to the point where I dreaded going to work each day," he said last week.

Mr Atkinson, who was a registered nurse and then a clinical nurse in the Logan Hospital emergency department's short-stay unit, had a similar story to tell. He kept detailed records showing a doubling of the number of patients pushed through the short-stay unit, which had a $7.5 million upgrade last year. "However, with this increase in patient turnover, there was no increase in the level of staffing or support," he said. "Like Dr Cameron, I too was dreading coming to work to the job I loved to do. I would often go home feeling overstressed and burnt out from a day's work." He asked the nurse unit manager about the possibility of increasing staff numbers. "I was bluntly informed that it was not going to happen as there was no budget for it," he said.

Mr Atkinson said he wrote to the director of nursing for medical services seeking a meeting. "I stressed that the pressure was overwhelming and that there was not enough staff and support to address the current issues . . . that it was not about me, it was about the quality of care that we were not able to provide to the community of Logan." Mr Atkinson resigned two months ago and said he was not the first experienced emergency nurse to leave Logan Hospital this year. "I know of four other clinical nurses leaving emergency before I did and a clinical nurse and clinical nurse consultant leaving after I resigned," he said.

Ms Bligh last week acknowledged the "very high-stress, high-pressure environment" at Logan but told staff there was "light at the end of the tunnel". The Premier said the State Government had bought nearby Logan Private Hospital and would refurbish it to provide extra beds by 2010. Mr Atkinson, who now works at Redland Hospital, will be joined there by Dr Cameron in emergency.


Is PM Kevin Rudd another James Hansen Disciple?

If you still have doubts about whether man made climate change is real, stop it because according to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd:
We must prepare for a low-carbon economy, to delay any longer, to stay in denial as the climate change skeptics and some members opposite would have us do, is reckless and irresponsible.

The Prime Minister made that statement in an unexpected and impassioned speech yesterday near the end of a long parliamentary debate on a government bill that clears the way for millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide to be stored under the sea. Throughout the speech Rudd emphasized the need for URGENT action:
Expert analysis points to severe global and national consequences including rising sea levels, more severe weather events, water shortages, large-scale migration, increased threats to border security, loss of infrastructure and regional conflict over increasingly scarce resources.

He finished up with the following emotional call to action (more about this later):
"For our generation, for our kids and future generations, we must act now."

The Prime Minister has continually maintained that he takes his advice from the IPCC science on this matter. But who are these expert analysts? From the Prime Minister's agenda and language it would appear that his adviser on the science is none other than James Hansen. Hansen is the father of the Global warming alarmist movement since the 1980's and just happens to be AlGore's science adviser.

A personal letter written from James Hansen written to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on the 27th of March 2008 is most revealing. You can click through and read the letter in full at the Crikey web site, but here are some extract that show Rudd parroting what Hansen has written: In the letter Hansen urges Rudd to act - just notice how he plays to Rudd's ego and his ambition to be a major player on the world stage. Hansen lays it on with a trowel.
I recognize that for years you have been a strong supporter of aggressive forward-looking actions to mitigate dangerous climate change. Also, since your election as Prime Minister of Australia, your government has been active in pressing the international community to take appropriate actions. We are now at a point that bold leadership is needed, leadership that could change the course of human history.

Hansen then goes on to say the situation is URGENT, NEAR critical tipping points and then spells out what COULD happen:
"Global climate is near critical tipping points that could lead to .. progressive, unstoppable global sea level rise, shifting of climatic zones with extermination of many animal and plant species, reduction of freshwater supplies for hundreds of millions of people, and a more intense hydrologic cycle with stronger droughts and forest fires, but also heavier rains and floods, and stronger storms driven by latent heat, including tropical storms, tornados and thunderstorms.

Funny that's exactly what Rudd has been telling the Australian Public, almost word for word. Then Hansen goes on to chronicle the dangers of coal and recommend the development of the very thing that Rudd unexpectantly spoke so passionately about in Parliament yesterday, carbon capture. -
"Due to the dominant role of coal, solution to global warming must include phase-out of coal except for uses where the CO2 is captured and sequestered. Yet there are plans for continuing mining of coal, export of coal, and construction of new coal-fired power plants around the world, including in Australia, plants that would have a lifetime of half a century or more."

Then Hansen lays it on with a trowel again. Note the word COULD
Your leadership in halting these plans COULD seed a transition that is needed to solve the global warming problem. If Australia halted construction of coal-fired power plants that do not capture and sequester the CO2, it could be a tipping point for the world. There is still time to find that tipping point, but just barely. I hope that you will give these considerations your attention in setting your national policies. You have the potential to influence the future of the planet.

Prime Minister Rudd, we cannot avert our eyes from the basic fossil fuel facts, or the consequences for life on our planet of ignoring these fossil fuel facts. If we continue to build coal-fired power plants without carbon capture, we will lock in future climate disasters associated with passing climate tipping points. We must solve the coal problem now.

To finish, Hansen recommends 7 Australian scientist who are his disciples.... Oh don't forget the references to the little children. Hansen said:
Prospects for today's children, and especially the world's poor, hinge upon our success in stabilizing climate.

Or here from Hansen's report on his lobbying trips to the UK, Germany & Japan in July
If we continue to ignore obvious geophysical facts about the magnitude of fossil fuel reservoirs, our children and grandchildren will have little reason to forgive our obtuseness.

Kevin Rudd in Parliament yesterday:
"For our generation, for our kids and future generations, we must act now."

Or Here from his appearance on 60 minutes.
Look at your kids in the eye tonight and ask yourself this question - "If we have this much evidence available to us now "on climate change and just refuse to act, "then what are the consequences for them?"

It's comforting to know that an American NASA professor who cannot convince his own government to sign the Kyoto protocol is driving Australia to leading the world into a carbon constrained future. It appears that on the advice of a one US professor Kevin Rudd is about to launch Australia into the greatest shake up of our economy the nation has ever seen. By the time the Kevin Rudd / James Hansen agenda is in place we will be poorer as a nation, but at least we'll be cleaner.

Oh sorry I forgot because we only represent 1.3% of world CO2 emissions, cutting our Greenhouse gas emission will actually have zero impact on world emissions. But its important to be seen on the world stage as a visionary leader and savior of the planet, when you spend as much time overseas as Kevin Rudd does. Isn't it Kevin?


"Sports" drinks are a con

VITAMIN and sports-water drinks are so laden with sugar and caffeine that claims about their health-giving benefits should be taken with a grain of salt, nutritionists have warned. Despite labels touting their ability to revive consumers and improve focus and energy, the drinks are simply "artificial concoctions" of additives more likely to undermine drinkers' health than improve it, Foodwatch nutritionist Catherine Saxelby said. The sugar content of the drinks - which account for $100million of bottled water sales - is so high the Australian Dental Association wants them to carry warning labels.

Consumer advocate group Choice says the public is being deliberately misled about the benefits of enhanced-water drinks, with some 500ml varieties containing eight teaspoons of sugar, high levels of caffeine and many additives, including flavours and colours.

Choice has complained to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the NSW Food Authority about the allegedly misleading labelling and marketing of Coca-Cola Amatil's Glaceau Vitamin Water. The drink has 6« teaspoons of sugar - that's one third of the average adult woman's recommended dietary intake of sugar. The beverage giant expects to sell 2 million bottles of the drink this year. Choice senior food policy officer Clare Hughes said many health-conscious Australians were buying Glaceau and the other leading enhanced-water brands, Nutrient Water and Smart Water, on the basis of deceptive marketing and labelling. While it purported to be healthy, a 575ml bottle of Nutrient Water had seven teaspoons of sugar, Ms Hughes said; Smart Water's 500ml bottle had eight. A 375ml can of Coca-Cola contains 10 teaspoons of sugar.

"What's marketed as a sensible alternative to sugary soft drinks is nowhere near as sensible or as healthy as the package implies," Ms Hughes said. Ms Saxelby said vitamin waters are an "artificial concoction" with additives such as fructose, sucrose, flavour and food acid. "It's not like drinking juice. It's actually a formulated product from a factory," she said. "I don't think we need these drinks. We can get our vitamins and minerals from normal, natural food."

Australian Dental Association Victoria deputy president Anne Harrison said the high sugar levels could lead to tooth decay and consumers had a right to know what they were drinking.

Coca-Cola South Pacific spokeswoman Sarah Kelly said neither the ACCC nor the NSW Food Authority had contacted the company to raise concerns about Glaceau Vitamin Water, which was launched in February and had "exceeded sales expectations".


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Victorian courts bend over backwards to protect child-molesters

And too bad about the victims

USUALLY, the law protects and defends. Sometimes, it makes mistakes. Two days ago in the County Court, I believe the law caused harm. Grandfather John Maria Beyer pleaded guilty to 31 counts of sexual assault committed between 1973 and 1985. The 12 victims were children - five of them were wards of the state. He had been their coach, their carer and taken some of them away on weekends. He had abused them in his home, in the car and on holidays.

The trauma he caused them as youngsters would have been unspeakable. The suffering they have carried with them ever since is unimaginable. As adults now, these 12 survivors had been questioned by the police. They had given statements. They had remembered as much as they could. They had summoned the courage to face their abuser again. With all that over, they came to court expecting their perpetrator to be sentenced. They came for justice, to reclaim their lives and hopefully put an end to years of torment.

Instead, they were sent away. The judge criticised the prosecutor for not providing sufficient details about the charges to enable him to deliver a sentence. He said he needed clearer information about how often and when the abuse had occurred. This means the prosecutor has to ask the victims to tell their story again. Without more details, he believed that the Court of Appeal might overturn his sentence, as it had done recently in similar circumstances.

In the place of justice, the victims have been re-traumatised. They have been told that what they remember is not enough. They need to remember even more. They need to talk about it again.

These events took place more than 20 years ago to children, some of whom were already very vulnerable and in need of protection. It is unrealistic for them to have detailed recall of everything that happened that long ago when they were so young. It is also painful to be forced to remember experiences that they have tried so hard over the years to forget. Remembering abuse is much more like reliving it all over again.

In pursuing the law, the Court of Appeal has put up an unnecessary barrier for sexual abuse cases. The harder it is for victims, the less likely they will want to come forward. Already, there are very few cases of child sexual abuse that result in successful prosecution.

Victims of child sexual assault require our compassion. They require understanding from the judiciary and fair treatment. Above all, they need to be respected for their strength and determination in telling the truth. The law offers an opportunity for real justice for victims. But it should not make them suffer so much to achieve it.


Teachers of English or ideology monomaniacs?

Of all people, you would think those who run the professional organisation representing English teachers in NSW would be able to write a clear, precise sentence. You would also think they would want students to read books. Alas, no. The English Teachers Association's submission to an HSC syllabus review by the NSW Board of studies uses the sort of incomprehensible cant George Orwell warned against, to argue against the inclusion of more Australian literature in the syllabus. "The ETA opposes the selective nomination of some types of text as this implies hierarchies in generic form and medium rather than in the quality of the texts themselves."

The nine-page document takes some effort to decipher, with its mind-numbing jargon, bolted-together phrases, pompous tone and scare quotes, all cloaking the banality of its thinking. Essentially ETA opposes the board's plan to ensure students read more Australian books, plays and poems. It's not so much the Australian part the association people dislike. It's the books, plays and poems.

In their world, as in the curriculum, "texts" can be books as we know them - words on a page that ideally have some literary merit - and can also be music videos, movies, reality TV shows, comic books ("graphic novels") or songs. To ETA, all texts are equal, and sceptical students are required to expend considerable effort trying to prove it.

The author Sophie Masson recalls her elder son having in year 11 to compare Arthur Miller's play The Crucible - "which he loves and thoroughly responded to" - with an ad for a weight-lifting gym. "If it wasn't horrible, it would be hilarious, and in fact it's both [and stems from] I believe subconscious hate and envy of writers." Masson's sons, who both sat the HSC in the past three years, "had a horrible time with [Advanced and Extension] English despite both once loving it," she says. "They were utterly contemptuous of the syllabus, and the fact they hardly had to read anything at all."

She says defenders of the syllabus point to "heaps of great books on the curriculum [but what] they fail to say is that hardly ever are more than a tiny, tiny proportion of these books studied, because there is no time. What students have to do - and the poor teachers have to enforce - is a whole lot of crappy assignments that are all to do with themes, ideologies, frameworks and outcomes but no originality, curiosity, imagination or thinking for yourself . The students generally loathe it."

So do most teachers, she says, from her experience of hosting writing workshops at schools. "Most of them absolutely hate the new HSC and its heavy emphasis on theory, themes and so on, rather than character, story and response . But they are bound to do it. There is a huge burden on them to comply with curriculum rules and what has to be accomplished in a year."

In the 1980s, when Dr Kevin Donnelly taught high school English in Victoria, his students were hungry for literature. "Kids are like water. They'll find the lowest level. But if you challenge them, and help them, they just love it because they're mastering something difficult." At one boys' school, he said the student favourite was Shane, a short novel made into the classic 1953 cowboy movie. They loved a passage in which a gun slinger and a farmer dig out a tree root and act all "male and aggressive". But it became too politically incorrect to teach Shane and Donnelly was accused of reinforcing masculine stereotypes.

Donnelly, author of Dumbing Down, says Australian curriculums are suffused with a debased neo-Marxist and postmodernist theory that became fashionable among academics 30 years ago. This is the ideology that underpins the ETA submission. It is pure social activism, not aimed at helping children gain wisdom, but to "emancipate" them from blind belief in Western civilisation, especially what they might learn from "literature".

The association is "most concerned at the use of the term 'literature' [and the] privileging of 'print medium' ", its submission states. "This stipulation harnesses Australian literary achievements to an important technology, but one that no longer enjoys the cultural predominance it once enjoyed."

Well, words are words, whether they are on a computer screen, Kindle, iPod or papyrus. They are the marks we recognise as the 26 letters of the English alphabet in combinations to form words, which are then combined to form sentences, in groupings we call paragraphs, with additional marks we know as punctuation, all of which are combined to create meaning. Written language is the highest form of expression, the purest way of communicating ideas, of pinning down the abstract, describing the concrete, explaining the world.

While oral language and iconography - pictures - are important, it is the written word that has helped us most to think. To elevate pictures and sounds to equal status is to rewind human evolution and primitivise the brain. Orwell wrote in his 1946 essay Politics And The English Language that if you can't write you can't think.

English becomes "ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts". "If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself."

Which, of course, is why ETA people write the way they do. If they wrote in their submission: "students should not read good books because literature is elitist", everyone would laugh at them and parents would bite their heads off.

Of the 1800 English teachers the association professes to have as members, just 43 responded to the survey that informed the board submission. This is a clear sign the membership has switched off, as well it should.


Far-Leftist academic teaching at Australia's defence academy

Some of Australia's top thinkers on national security have opened a new front in the culture wars - over whether a postmodernist interpretation of terrorism is brainwashing our next generation of military leaders. At the centre of the intensely personal battle is the appointment as an associate professor at the Australian Defence Force Academy of Anthony Burke - who after claiming he was being misrepresented as "pro-terrorist", has demanded his chief critic be investigated for academic misconduct. Dr Burke, 42, complained to James Cook University over an article in Quadrant magazine by Merv Bendle, a senior lecturer in history and communications, which claimed university terrorism studies had been hijacked by a "neo-Marxist, postmodernist orthodoxy" among academics.

Another senior Canberra academic, Paul Pickering, of the Australian National University, fired off a separate protest to the Townsville-based university, but stopped short of calling for action against Dr Bendle.

The barrage of complaints and counter-claims brought to a head a row that began two months ago when Carl Ungerer, former national security adviser to the federal Labor leadership, questioned Dr Burke's appointment to the defence force academy as "eyebrow-raising". Dr Burke withdrew his complaint against Dr Bendle yesterday after conceding "it may be that administrative action is not the best way to address the problem". He told The Weekend Australian: "I remain deeply unhappy about Dr Bendle's accusations, and the violation of scholarly protocols they represent."

Dr Bendle, 57, turned up the heat on Dr Burke, who describes his political orientation as "liberal-left", by singling him out for being part of an academic clique that had compromised university terrorism studies. "In the war on terror, a main battleground has become the universities where Islamist groups openly recruit members while an updated, post-9/11 version of the old neo-Marxist, postmodernist orthodoxy on terrorism dominates among academics," Dr Bendle wrote in the latest edition of Quadrant, a standard-bearer for Australia's conservative intelligentsia.

Dr Bendle accused Dr Burke of trying to deny the right of countries such as Australia to defend themselves against attack by terrorists. In doing so, "one wonders how students at the ADFA would feel if they are asked to place their lives on the line for Australia in Afghanistan, Iraq or other battlegrounds in the war on terror", Dr Bendle wrote.

Describing the ADFA man's published writings as "astonishing" for someone who was responsible for educating military officer cadets, Dr Bendle said Dr Burke had presented national security in "post-modernist terms, not as a concrete state of affairs or balance of political forces". He turned Dr Burke's words back on him, saying it was clear he doubted that "terrorists are enemies of freedom or that freedom has any particular value". Dr Bendle said Dr Burke's take on Australia's counter-terrorism polices was that they provoked "the very thing they claimed to defend us from - i.e. terrorism is Australia's own fault".

Dr Bendle quoted his fellow academic as saying that Australia's national values and way of life were merely "vast ideological abstractions". Talking up "fundamental freedoms" was actually a "narcissistic performance of self in which Australia is represented as pure and good, as falsely superior to the religion of Islam," Dr Bendle wrote of Dr Burke's work.

Dr Burke told The Weekend Australian that while Dr Bendle had quoted him accurately, he had misrepresented his broader view that terrorism was immoral and politically counter-productive. "The quotes are accurate, but the characterisation is not," he insisted. The inference that he was pro-terrorist was an outrageous slur, Dr Burke said.

In his letter of complaint to JCU vice-chancellor Sandra Harding, dated last Monday, the Canberra academic hit out at Dr Bendle for claiming that he and Dr Pickering, among others, had "relentless sympathy for terrorists, defend the Islamist terrorists who conducted the July 2005 London bombings and are generally pro-terrorist".

Dr Burke initially complained that the Quadrant article raised "serious concerns about the integrity and honesty of Dr Bendle's research", and invited a "formal and transparent investigation by JCU as to whether or not it constitutes a case of serious academic misconduct". Dr Burke, in withdrawing his demand yesterday, said he had decided that a university investigation was not warranted. "I think there is still a matter of principle there," he said. "But I don't believe that asking for administrative action is the best way to respond."

Dr Bendle said he was relieved, but stood by his criticism of Dr Burke's supposedly post-modernist interpretation of terrorism. He disputed Dr Burke's assertion that their altercation was an extension of the culture wars, "very much in the American strain where people see the university as a battleground". Dr Bendle said the issue was actually academic freedom. Dr Burke and Dr Pickering should have approached him with their concerns before going over his head at James Cook University. "It is a basic rule of academic etiquette for parties in an academic dispute to respect the right of free inquiry and free speech," he said. "These gentlemen could easily have emailed or telephoned me with their concerns and I would have done everything possible to reach some compromise."

Dr Pickering did not return calls yesterday.

Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon shied away from comment, referring questions on Dr Bendle's complaints to the Australian Defence Force. In a statement, the ADF said academic staff at the defence force academy were employed on their research and teaching record, according to the rules of the University of NSW. "Taking any course out of context of the whole degree program does not truly reflect the overall education being provided to students at ADFA," a defence spokesperson said.

However, the battlelines were hardening among supporters of the two feuding academics. Dr Ungerer, now director of national security for Canberra-based think tank, the Australian Strategic Policy Unit, yesterday backed Dr Burke's concerns. Many academics teaching terrorism-related courses at university were "off on a tangent", which had no relevance to real-world security issues, he said. Dr Burke's immediate boss at ADFA, humanities and social sciences head David Lovell, said the lecturer had his full confidence. He said the academy, which operates academically as an offshoot of the University of NSW, produced graduates for the military "with no particular ideological views ... who approach issues with an open mind, in a critical spirit".

Dr Burke said ADFA had a balanced mix of teachers. "If everyone was like me, it wouldn't be appropriate ... you don't force your views on students. You must teach a range of perspectives," he said.


Thwarting jihad

Civil libertarian concerns are misplaced

CONTRARY to opinion in some quarters, bleeding-heart naivety and soft-headed stupidity are not virtues, especially in terror prevention. The sooner Australia's misguided civil libertarians understand this, the safer their fellow citizens will be. Law enforcement agencies ASIO, the Australian Federal Police and Victoria Police deserve congratulations for the success of Operation Pendennis. After gathering 16,400 hours of electronic surveillance and bugging 98,000 telephone calls, seven defendants, including radical cleric Abdul Nacer Benbrika, have been convicted of being part of a terror cell. Despite evidence uncovered of plans to attack the 2005 AFL Grand Final at the MCG or Melbourne's Crown casino during Grand Prix week in 2006, the trial has drawn bizarre reactions from some who are well enough educated to know better.

Rob Stary, who represented seven of the men, claimed the fact that four were acquitted showed "they are casting the net too wide". A more rational interpretation might be that the acquittals showed due process worked and delivered justice. The Australian, especially in its coverage of the botched Mohamed Haneef investigation, has been a stickler for due process to maintain public confidence in the laws. It was upheld in this trial.

Sounding like an ingenuous student, Liberty Victoria president Julian Burnside QC condemned anti-terror laws after the trial for their impact on "minority groups". The vast majority of good Australian Muslims want terrorism stopped as much as, if not more than, their fellow citizens. Mr Burnside also claimed the laws "criminalise conduct most people would not regard as criminal at all, including words said or views held which never result in any actual harm to anyone".

Greg Barns, who defended Ezzit Raad, pointed to "a world of difference between preparing to act and acting, and merely thinking and talking". Such cavalier thinking beggars belief. Every week, criminals go to jail for such crimes such as conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to commit fraud, without actually murdering or defrauding anyone. In such cases, it is the evidence of intention that matters.

Pushed to its logical conclusion, Mr Barns's argument implies that anti-terror laws should not be invoked until terrorist acts are unleashed. This would be as unacceptable to the vast majority of Australians as his client Raad's recorded statement that it was a pity more people had not died in the 2005 London terrorist bombings. Raad was found guilty of belonging to a terrorist organisation and of making funds available to it.

After the World Trade Centre attacks and the Bali bombings, critics of the security services were quick to blame intelligence failures in preventing the attacks. In relation to September 11, the criticisms later proved valid as it emerged that some of the perpetrators had been known to authorities for years. In Australia in 2004, concerns over perceived intelligence failures in the lead-up to the Bali bombings prompted the then ALP Opposition, the Greens and the Democrats to demand judicial inquiries.

Despite such concerns, the exemplary intelligence gathering in the lead-up to the Melbourne terror trial, preventing preparation of a terrorist act that may have killed and maimed innocent people, has left parts of the Left upset. As Daily Telegraph columnist Piers Akerman argues: "Predictably, a number of civil libertarians, academics and legal figures who have vilified those who predicted such a development since the 9/11 bombings and the Islamist attacks against civilians in Bali and the West, have continued their attacks on the legal system which enabled these men to be held, tried and convicted."

Such clouded thinking by the Left is nothing new. In February, Amnesty International's main concern about the trial was that the men had been denied bail. Yesterday, The Age's main concern was a front-page claim they had been "mistreated". During the trial, defence claims of terrifying "Nazi tactics" by authorities and suggestions that members of the alleged cell were too stupid and inept to be terrorists were also unconvincing. Unlike the bosses of Jemaah Islamiah and al-Qa'ida, many of those who perpetrate terror attacks are easily-led dupes.

Despite the controversies, Australia's largest terrorist trial and the investigation that led to it nailed a home-grown terrorist cell plotting to wage violent jihad on Australians. That justice was done, and seen to be done, reaffirmed the value of the anti-terror laws, properly implemented.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Another black eye for arrogant regulators

I don't blame the TGA for disliking alternative therapies (though some of the things they have approved -- such as statins -- are arguably no better) but that does not excuse ruinous Gestapo-type attacks on a law-abiding businessman and the destruction of his business. And the two devious feminazis at the heart of the TGA action -- Fiona Cumming and Rita Maclachlan -- are apparently still in their jobs! Since their hatreds have already cost the taxpayers huge sums, they should be relegated immediately to clerk-typist duties only. Their involvement in the destruction of records should in fact lead to criminal charges being laid against them

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has dropped four criminal charges against former alternative medicine tycoon Jim Selim. Mr Selim, the founder of Pan Pharmaceuticals, had been charged with failing to disclose material information relating to four separate board meetings. Last month, Mr Selim won a $55 million compensation payment from the Federal Government over the collapse of his company.

Pan Pharmaceuticals went into liquidation in 2005 after a decision in 2003 by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to suspend its licence and withdraw 219 of its products.

Outside the court, Mr Selim said he felt vindicated by today's decision and he would push ahead with preparations for a $200 million class action against the TGA over the collapse of the company in 2003. "It's good because here everything's over, nothing's left, there's no deal or anything," Mr Selim said. "That's the end of it."

He said an apology from the Federal Government would mean a lot to him, following his "persecution" over the past five years. "I think so," he said, when asked whether an apology should be forthcoming. "I was disappointed with the TGA from the start."

His solicitor, Andrew Thorpe, said there was a "high degree of interest" from former customers and creditors of Pan Pharmaceuticals in pursuing a class action. "We believe that the sort of value of the class action will be in the order of $200 million and perhaps greater than that," Mr Thorpe said. There would most probably be hundreds of parties involved and a claim would be made on behalf of companies which lost money as a direct result of the TGA's handling of the Pan matter, he said.

Mr Selim said it had been a "hard five years", with today's case the latest in a long series of court actions involving Mr Selim and Pan Pharmaceuticals. "We hope justice will be done and we hope people who were damaged and hurt by the TGA action will get compensation, will get justice," he said.


Note: The firm was convicted of offences to do with disregard for government paperwork requirements but those offences were some years before the matters referred to above. And in the paperwork case the judge found no individual culpable but rather a firm-wide indifference to government paperwork. That attitude may have contributed to the TGA animus against the firm but does not excuse their reckless shutting down of the firm. The paperwork matters should have been and were dealt with by a court

Arrogant government auctioneer rejects the highest price

It will probably be challenged in court but government agencies have no hesitation in spending other people's money on lawsuits. Government workers think that no-one can touch them so they can do what they like -- and they're mostly right

Two prominent Brisbane identities are at loggerheads after a Queensland Government auctioneer refused to accept the highest bid for a million-dollar riverfront property. In a bizarre case which has prompted an official complaint and left real estate experts dumbfounded, the Queensland Public Trustee refused to accept a bid $5000 higher than the winning $1.54 million offer for a deceased estate at West End.

The auction last week has left outraged losing bidder David Waller - the nephew of billionaire property tycoon and former Super A-Mart owner John van Lieshout - threatening legal action unless another sale is held. Mr Waller had offered $1.545 million as the bidding petered out but the bid was rejected because auctioneer Wayne Johnson wanted $10,000 increments. The sale was awarded to a preceding offer by a mystery female friend of Brisbane doctor and one-time aspiring Liberal politician Ingrid Tall.

Mr Waller yesterday was backed by several witnesses. "No person would refuse $5000 or more, particularly when they are in a process designed to get the highest price," Mr Waller said. "It raises questions about the transparency of the process."

The Public Trustee was acting as an administrator of the two-bedroom home, built in 1915, which has river views. Dr Tall initially refused to discuss the bid process but yesterday said Mr Waller was "too obnoxious making his bids". "If he was nice, he probably would have got his way," Dr Tall said.

Attorney-General Kerry Shine defended the Trustee, saying the auctioneer had told bidders of the increment limit. "The beneficiary to the estate was present and was aware of the conduct of the auctioneer," he said.

However, several witnesses have confirmed the property was deemed "on the market" when the bid was rejected. Ray White South Brisbane auctioneer Neal Young yesterday said he had never felt so disgusted in his 20-year career. "There was utter disbelief," Mr Young said. "I said: 'You've got to take the bid'. He didn't know if bids would go even higher."


Teacher overhaul report stresses standards for pay rises

TEACHERS would qualify for pay rises only after meeting performance standards under an overhaul of the profession's salary system recommended in a federal government report. The report, obtained by The Australian, recommends a comprehensive restructure of the way teachers are paid that would end the system of awarding pay rises based on length of service.

It outlines a model of performance pay that restructures the pay scale into bands reached by performance thresholds, with a level for accomplished teachers at the top. At present, teachers are paid according to an incremental scale that rises with years of service and reaches the maximum wage in about eight years, after which they must enter administrative or leadership positions to gain any further salary increase. The report will be considered as part of deliberations by the Rudd Government, and state and territory governments, over ways to improve teacher quality and reward good teachers.

The productivity working group of the Council of Australian Governments, chaired by federal Education Minister Julia Gillard, is developing a national partnership with the states on ways to improve teacher quality, including performance pay. The report -- Rewarding Quality Teaching, by Perth-based international management consultants Gerard Daniels -- was commissioned by the former federal minister Julie Bishop. In July 2006, Ms Bishop, now federal Deputy Opposition Leader, first floated the idea of paying teachers more based on their performance but the idea was universally rejected the following year by state Labor education ministers. The states have since agreed to work with the Rudd Government to investigate ways to reward quality teaching. A ministerial meeting in May agreed to research ways of rewarding teachers for performance and skills.

The Business Council of Australia and the Australian Education Union have since released models for paying teachers based on their performance. Western Australia has a limited scheme paying bonuses to teachers reaching a high standard, and the NSW Institute of Teachers launched earlier this year its system of accrediting teachers against standards of accomplishment and leadership. But the NSW Government, which is embroiled in a pay dispute with the NSW Teachers Federation, is yet to allocate any extra pay to teachers accredited as accomplished, which the federal report argues is crucial.

The report's recommendations are based on an examination of other merit-pay schemes for teachers worldwide and in analogous professions. It says the most effective systems exist within a national framework but aim to improve performance locally by linking pay to specific outcomes set at an individual, group or institutional level. The report says that, ideally, the performance-pay system should: use an evidence-based approach to demonstrate teacher performance; make the reward or recognition meaningful to teachers; and provide a clear career structure.

It also recommends a performance-management system be developed to support the pay model, focusing on regular reflection and feedback about teaching practices assessed against standards. It cautions about linking standards to pay. "The process of assessing teachers is most fraught," the report says. "Some independent schools reject any external assessment of their employed teachers. However, most stakeholders expect that for critical performance-based assessment -- between performance bands or for accomplished teacher programs -- there will be a mix of internal and external assessment."


The admirable Philip Ruddock

He was once Minister for Immigration and Minister for Aborigines at the same time -- two of the most difficult and thankless portfolios there are

By Janet Albrechtsen
There are 97,573 voters in the electorate, and on November 24, faced with a contest between John Howard and Maxine McKew, they made the right choice. Living through this has given me a new respect for democracy, although I still don't know how we ended up with Philip Ruddock. No system is perfect.
- Margot Saville, in The Battle for Bennelong

The clueless author won't be there on Friday evening when Philip Ruddock celebrates 35 years in federal parliament. That's a shame. She, and the now notorious band of frenzied Ruddock critics, could do with at least some passing acquaintance with the whole Ruddock story. Facts, of course, will never suffice for some. But for those not hard-wired to hysteria, the facts tell a story about an honourable politician whose 35th anniversary is an opportune time to review his role in some of the most contentious areas during the past decade in Australia.

Few politicians in living memory, apart from John Howard, have been criticised, hounded and lampooned more than Ruddock. He's been accused of being a war criminal, of committing crimes against humanity, of being the minister for racism. Crowds have shouted at him. Audiences have walked out on him. Security details have followed him. Never fazed or flummoxed, Ruddock always responded with indisputable facts, not uncontrolled feelings. Even his demeanor infuriated the critics. Grey and cadaver-like, they said, befitting a man who killed compassion in the country. None of it mattered. Or if it did, Ruddock never let on publicly. He knew his contribution would outlive the criticism of a loud, emotive few.

And so it has. Much more than longevity defines time in parliament though more than three decades is an innings no other politician has matched, rightly earning him the status of father of the house. In that time, Ruddock has had a clear narrative, long before that word became fashionable. He steered Australia towards greater appreciation for, rather than suspicion of, immigration. Even for a country steeped in a migrant history, there is a need for Australians to feel comfortable about immigration.

Rigid leftist orthodoxy once mandated vicious condemnation of anyone who questioned immigration. Progressive minds treated such questioning as a sure sign of racism, ignoring the natural discomfort with strangers that is part of the human condition. As minister for immigration from 1996 until 2003, Ruddock recognised the need to take people with him, not scare them off, when advocating increased immigration. His policies dealt with the progressive dilemma well before British writer David Goodhart made the phrase famous back in 2004. That dilemma-a clash between values of diversity and solidarity-recognises that extracting tax from people to fund welfare works best when people think the recipients are like themselves, behaving the way they would.

Ruddock helped to allay the discomfort with strangers factor. He encouraged community acceptance of immigration where new arrivals would be seen as contributors, not freeloaders. By cracking down on family reunion fraud, cutting immediate welfare for new arrivals and putting a greater focus on the skills stream to address the needs of the country, Ruddock's carefully planned migration policy altered the image of the migrant sponging off Australia society. Rather than seen as stealing jobs from Australians, migrants came to be seen as the saviours for small towns looking to employ people in their abattoirs, on their farms and in their small businesses.

And when, in November 1999, boats of illegal immigrants started arriving on Australian shores just about every second day, border protection became integral to building long term confidence in an organised immigration program. Vocal critics cried cruelty and lack of compassion in response to the Howard government's immigration detention policies for illegal arrivals.

Ruddock knew better than to be swayed by hysterical emoting. His ministerial eye remained fixed on the long-term objective of securing mainstream community acceptance for increased immigration. Ruddock's place in Australian political history will record that immigration grew every year after 1996, rising from 67,100 in 1997 to more than 142,000 in 2006. The fair-minded will call that a genuinely compassionate outcome.

Ruddock was the perfect choice to manoeuvre the Howard government through the complex politics of immigration after Howard attracted criticism in 1988 for suggesting that Asian immigration needed to be slowed down. The appointment of Ruddock-one of four Liberal MPs to cross the floor of parliament to vote in favour of prime minister Bob Hawke's motion against discriminatory immigration policies-signalled a commitment to non-discriminatory immigration policies. Under Ruddock, more than 80 per cent of Afghans and Iraqis were granted protection visas at the primary decision-making stage and the local Islamic community is more than 40 per cent higher than it was in 1996. Under Ruddock, Australia had one of the largest per capita refugee and humanitarian resettlement programs in the world. More compassionate outcomes accepted and supported by the community because they knew that Australia, not people smugglers, determined them.

As attorney-general from 2003 until 2007, Ruddock was again thrown into the thick of the most contentious issues that emerged during the Howard years over national security and anti-terrorism laws. Despite the foaming wrath of vocal elites, Ruddock once again steered a course to ensure community acceptance of laws needed to protect Australia. By securing bipartisan support for security laws, Ruddock neutralised the issue. The significance of those laws unfolded on Monday when a Melbourne jury found six men guilty of terrorism charges, concluding what Attorney-General Robert McClelland described as the most successful terrorist prosecution this country has seen. Ruddock is that rarest of political beasts. In a profession famous for its factions, he was neither a Howard man nor a Costello man. He was a party man, who rigorously debated issues behind closed doors and then, once Liberal Party policy was settled, he would guard and sell the team's message without fail.

When the Howard government lost office last year, he did the honourable team thing. Insisting on the need for party renewal, the father of the house went to the back bench. It was a shame the party allowed him to do that. Ruddock's careful carriage of his portfolios should have seen him back on the front bench replacing some of the deadwood that remains. No matter. Ruddock's place in the history books as a politician with a clear moral compass is secure. The hysteria of his opponents confirms it.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Department of Child "Safety" sends disturbed boy to live with convicted armed robber!

These social-worker a*holes are beyond belief at times. They even ignore their own agreements

A DISTRAUGHT Brisbane mother has launched legal action against the Queensland Department of Child Safety for the return of her young son after he was flown to Western Australia to live with a convicted armed robber. Her solicitor Debra Daniels and state Opposition child safety spokeswoman Jann Stuckey said the department had breached its power in circumstances Ms Stuckey described as "tantamount to kidnap". But Department of Child Safety acting deputy director-general Kath Mandla yesterday rejected the claims and said staff had acted in the best interests of the eight-year-old boy.

Ms Daniels said her client, a 28-year-old woman, entered a temporary care agreement with the department to place her son with a foster carer for a month after she sought help for his apparent suicidal behaviour. Ms Daniels said that under the written agreement, the woman retained full parental rights, was to receive contact details of the foster carer and could revoke the agreement with two days' written notice. But Ms Daniels said the mother was told last Thursday her son was being sent to Western Australia to live with his father, who served five-and-a-half years between 2001 and 2006 for violent armed robbery.

The woman told Ms Daniels it had not been proved that the man was the boy's father and he was not listed on the birth certificate, but Ms Mandla said the woman, the man and the child each identified him as the father.

The mother-of-three immediately revoked the order in writing, but the boy has not been returned to her and she did not know where he was or how to contact him. Ms Daniels said she was not aware of any allegations the woman was unfit to care for her son. "The man (called on Tuesday) and he's enrolled him in school and is applying for custody," she said. "(The boy) is in Western Australia, he's crying, he wants to come home, he's missing his brother and sister. The mother is very distressed. We just want the child returned."

Ms Mandla said while she could not reveal specific details, the boy had been placed with his father after extensive checks were completed and in consultation with his mother. She said the boy had a long-standing relationship with his father and wanted to be with him. Ms Mandla said staff dealt with thousands of parents who were struggling to cope with a multitude of issues, and sometimes could no longer care for their children. "Sometimes there is another parent not living with the child who is willing and able to look after the child. In these cases, we are legally required to allow that parent to look after their child," she said.


Another Muslim rapist

There have been some notorious cases of Muslim rapists in Australis -- Bilal Skaf, Hakeem Hakeem etc.

He was the person she trusted to get her home safely. Instead, teenager Jess Loiterton's taxi driver dragged her into the back of his cab and raped her. But as cab driver Md Kowsar Ali, 22, was convicted of the appalling sex attack yesterday, Ms Loiterton said: "He thought he could get away with it. He definitely picked the wrong girl."

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph after waiving her right to anonymity, the 19-year-old said she spoke for every sexual assault victim who could not speak up for themselves. "Don't keep it to yourself, it eats you inside. You know you haven't done anything wrong. I didn't do anything wrong. If it happened to me, it could happen to anybody."

During Ali's trial, the jury was not told that Ms Loiterton is gay, and she was a virgin. "But it doesn't matter whether I am gay or not - what happened wasn't right," she said. She believes Ali took advantage of her because: "I was drunk and I was an easy target".

Ms Loiterton went drinking with friends in Darlinghurst last November, but when she became drunk she decided to go home. A friend put her into Ali's cab. The District Court was told that Ali twice indecently assaulted her as she drifted in and out of sleep. Then Ms Loiterton woke to find the cab stopped in a side street.

Ali forced her into the back of the taxi and raped her as she screamed at him to stop. Sobbing hysterically, she called triple-0 as she escaped. Played in court, the recording moved several people - including jurors - to tears. It took the jury less than two hours to convict Ali of having sexual intercourse without Ms Loiterton's consent, rejecting his claim that she invited it.

Arrested within an hour of the attack, the accounting student from Bangladesh told police he made a mistake but his passenger did too - by making him interested in her....

The law automatically protects the identities of sexual assault victims but Ms Loiterton made the brave decision to be named, saying: "There shouldn't be any reason I have to hide." Judge Peter Berman, who will sentence Ali in November, agreed when lifting a suppression order. "Why should a person in Ms Loiterton's position, entirely blameless, who has been preyed upon by a taxi driver, feel embarrassed about what happened to her?" he said. "She is entitled to hold her head up high and identify herself as a blameless victim."


More deceitful climate propaganda

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Murray Darling Basin chief executive Dr Wendy Craik are adamant that the drought and water crisis in the Murray Darling Basin is caused by climate change. Rudd & Craik have both stated that the science proves the link between the current drought and global warming. But are they telling the truth?

Recently Rudd mocked opposition leader Brendan Nelson for saying that it had nothing to do with climate change.
BRENDAN Nelson was yesterday accused of being "blissfully immune" to the effects of climate change after he said the crisis in the Murray-Darling Basin was not linked to global warming. "You need to get with the science on this," the Prime Minister said. "Look at the technical report put together by the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology."

Dr Wendy Craik says the current drought affecting Australia's largest river system has the fingerprints of climate change all over it. .
"from the Bureau of Meteorology, the CSIRO and places, there are elements we're seeing in the current water shortage availability that are relevant to climate change. "The reduction in late winter and autumn rainfall is linked by the Bureau of Meteorology to the intensification of the subtropical ridge and that's linked to global warming. "There are features of the current phenomenon that we find ourselves in - water shortage, drought, whatever you want to call it - that are linked to climate change. "CSIRO scientists . say this drought has the fingerprints all over it"

Agmates has on a number of occasions pointed out how dodgy the science is that Kevin Rudd and Wendy Craik are relying on. Now Associate Professor Stewart Franks, a hydroclimatologist and an associate professor at the University of Newcastle School of Engineering, very clearly & precisely explains to Prime Minister Rudd and MDB chief Dr Wendy Craik what the science in fact does say:
IS the ongoing drought in the Murray-Darling Basin affected by climate change? The simple answer is that there is no evidence that CO2 has had any significant role. In fact, the drought was caused by an entirely natural phenomenon: the 2002 El Nino event. In short, the drought was initiated by El Nino, protracted by further El Nino events and perhaps more importantly, the absence of substantial La Nina events. A key claim is that the multiple occurrence of El Nino is a sign of climate change. This is speculative at best. Recent analysis showed the nine-year absence of La Nina was not unusual."

Franks then goes onto deal with Dr Craik's statements:
"Indeed, Wendy Craik, the chief executive of the Murray Darling Basin Commission has stated that temperatures were warmer, leading to more evaporation and drier catchments. This is disturbing to hear from the head of the MDBC, as it is completely at odds with the known physics of evaporation. [ Franks explains the science in detail here]. Craik is not alone in her desire to view CO2-induced climate change as proven and affecting the drought. Numerous politicians, environmentalists and especially scientists have made spectacular leaps of faith in their adherence to the doctrine of climate change over recent years, too many to document here."

Then Stewart Franks delivers a stinging rebuttal to the Prime Minister:
However, the most literally fantastic claim on climate change must go to Kevin Rudd, who has guaranteed that rainfall will decline over coming decades; one can only assume he's based his view on deficient climate models and bad advice. There is no direct evidence of CO2 impacts on the drought, nor is there any rational basis for predicting rainfall in 30 years time.

Franks last statement will put a chill up the spine of each of us that live and work in rural and regional Australia.
One just hopes that sensible and sustainable management from our leaders will enable struggling rural communities to weather the vagaries of climatic and political extremes.

So folks, that is what the science actually says. So why does Kevin Rudd and his long serving Public Servant Dr Wendy Craik keep churning out this global warming alarmist hype? Are Rudd & Craik deceiving the public or are they just hopelessly ill informed by the 100% Government funded CSIRO and BOM ?


Big brother is watching you

TIM RAHR was sitting in his backyard in Paddington "re-reading my tattered copy of Franz Kafka" when the phone rang. It was an officer from the City of Sydney council calling about his application for a resident parking permit. "She wanted to know why was I applying for a parking permit when she could clearly see on her computer satellite image of my backyard that I had off-street parking," Mr Rahr recalled.

It turned out the "apparatchik from central office" was looking at the wrong backyard but Mr Rahr was outraged that his council could monitor anyone's home: "It gave me a nasty feeling. It was just like Big Brother, like something out of 1984."

The council does not use Google Street View or Google Maps, but rather its own in-house aerial mapping program, E-view. Mr Rahr said "that makes me feel even more creepy. It's a bit weird they have their own program just to look at us."

In fact, it is common practice for councils to use aerial mapping programs to keep track of information they gather. Every time a dog attack is reported, a complaint made, a development application submitted or a bike rack installed, the information goes into the mapping system. "If councils didn't have this kind of information, it would be a concern. We wouldn't be able to do our job," said a City of Sydney spokesman, Josh Mackenzie.

More than half the council's staff can log into E-View, which allows them to search on a person's name or address or zoom in on the detailed aerial photos. The City of Sydney's spatial information co-ordinator, Matthew Dobson, said that the aerial shots were soon to be updated. "A number of councils have E-View or similar programs. You just couldn't get by without them," he said.

However, the secretary of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, said statutory authorities should not be gathering personal information without consent. "For example, on Google Street View you can email Google and have the photograph of your property removed. Where's the equivalent facility on this?" he asked.



It started as one MP's complaint about the portion sizes in the Parliament House cafeteria. But the Stroganoff Affair has detonated a depth charge in both major parties and the operation of Parliament itself.

Yesterday, after NSW Labor MP John Murphy's whine about the stingy portions of stroganoff served up to his wife ignited derision and disbelief across Sydney, senior figures in both major parties met and agreed that Parliament should no longer be used as a forum for trivial complaint. "Any reasonable member of Parliament would be embarrassed by it," manager of Opposition business Joe Hockey said last night, confirming that he had met both the Government leader of the House, Anthony Albanese, and the Speaker to discuss the incident. "It's unacceptable in my view that members should be using the people's house for these purposes."

Last night Mr Murphy issued a statement of apology. "With many families in my electorate facing cost of living pressures, I accept that the remarks were insensitive and unjustified," he said.

Plans are now under way for a formal resolution barring MPs from raising such trivial complaints.

On Tuesday afternoon, while Canberra's political establishment was debating the plight of pensioners and marvelling at the swift execution of former Liberal leader Brendan Nelson, Labor MP John Murphy rose in the chamber with a question for the Speaker. He claimed his wife had been served an inferior helping of stroganoff, and had moreover been treated brusquely when she complained. "Is this the attitude customers have to put up with from the new provider of the staff cafeteria?" he asked.

Immediately after Mr Murphy had spoken, the National Party MP for Riverina - Kay Hull - added her own complaint, describing the "quality, presentation and availability of food" as inadequate. Mr Hockey approached Ms Hull in the chamber to reprimand her, but witnesses said Ms Hull told him to "f--- off".

Yesterday, Mr Murphy received a reprimand at the direction of Mr Albanese, while the new Parliament House caterers entered a series of meetings with the building's administration, and news of the incident drew widespread comment on Sydney radio talkback stations.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Three articles below:

Australian teachers oppose more Australian literature teaching

For once I am partially in agreement with a teachers' organization. I think kids should be introduced to the best literature in the language -- regardless of where it came from. Broadening the definition of "literature" to mean anything written or displayed is just a way of evading study of the classics, however. If parents really want their kids to be given lessons in cornflake packaging, let the kids do a separate course in that

ENGLISH teachers oppose moves to strengthen the study of Australian literature in schools, with their professional association arguing it confers a superiority over the literature of other cultures. In a submission to a review of the New South Wales syllabus, the English Teachers Association of NSW says its members also object to giving privilege to print literature above other forms, including film, television and websites.

"A definition of literature with a restriction to the print medium is imprudent, reductive, short-sighted and, most importantly, undermines the integrity of current English syllabuses," the submission says. "The ETA opposes the selective nomination of some types of text as this implies hierarchies in generic form and medium rather than in the quality of the texts themselves."

The ETA's submission, sent to the board late last month, is in response to proposed changes to the English syllabus for all years of school requested by former state education minister John Della Bosca in May. Mr Della Bosca asked the board to explore ways to improve the presence of Australian literature in school English courses and ensure the study of more Australian books, poems and plays.

The ETA says schools are committed to the "notion and practice of diversity and do not want to see a narrow or exclusive interpretation of 'Australian' and Australian concerns". "Any definition of 'Australian' needs to see Australia in a global context, and to take account of indigenous and multicultural perspectives," the association says.

In particular, it opposes the introduction of a mandatory module on Australian literature in the extension English course for Year 11. It argues that most students do not take extension English so the module is a limited response to moves to strengthen the study of Australian literature.

The main criticism was that by narrowing the study to print literature, it reduced the syllabus's focus on comparing different types of texts, effectively "dumbing down" the curriculum. "It also signals an insularity and lack of confidence about the place of Australian achievement in world literature reminiscent of the 'cultural cringe' that we thought had been laid to rest," the ETA says.


Many school drop-outs enjoy life at the top

REPORTS of the death of the self-made man or woman have been greatly exaggerated. Research to be published today shows that despite the widespread perception that a good education is a prerequisite to a good income, many Australians with relatively modest levels of education still push their way into the top bracket of the nation's money earners.

The study, in the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research's third annual report on its longitudinal HILDA survey, finds personality traits, such as a willingness to take risks, and social networks also play a significant role in determining financial success. "Without wishing to cast doubt on the value of education ... it is still worth pointing out that many people who lack much formal education still make good money," the report says. Among men who were working in 2005, 24.8 per cent of those with less than a Year 12 education were in the top half of the male earnings distribution. Among women the figures were even more remarkable; 29.2 per cent of those with less than Year 12 education were in the top half of the distribution."

The numbers were slightly skewed, the study admits, in that those with low levels of education were more likely not to be working at all, and therefore not included in the above figures. The report says factors outside education can influence earnings, in particular personalities that take risks. "For both men and women, not being financially risk-averse was quite a strong determinant of high earnings," it finds.

Also choosing particular industries could help those with lower levels of education earn more money. "Men working in the mining industry were paid well above what is usual for people with their level of education," the report says.


Smutty teacher: Another regulatory failure

A TEACHER who sent smutty messages to students and propositioned one to a skinny dip in a school pool has had his registration suspended. Sean David Grady, 27, has admitted his sex chats with young girls "scarred" a small Victorian country town.

But questions have been raised over why a Victorian watchdog took two years to formally punish him - and how he secured a teaching job interstate despite concerns about his character. A Victorian Institute of Teaching inquiry has heard Mr Grady had graphic phone or computer conversations with four pupils while working as a rookie at the college. The wayward government school teacher admitted he:

SENT messages to a year 10 girl, including words to the effect, "I want to get you into bed", called her and said he was "horny", and asked her to sneak out of her home.

PROPOSITIONED a year 11 student to a naked swim in the school pool and suggested he climb in her window.

BOUGHT a year 12 girl a glass of wine for her 18th birthday and kissed her in a hotel foyer.

INVITED a year 11 student to his flat and pushed her on to his bed.

USED a school computer to email sexual material to another teacher.

Mr Grady told a hearing earlier this year he was suffering personal problems and was drawn into a culture of heavy drinking when he landed in the isolated town as a young graduate. He argued he was now a changed man who had learned from his actions and would keep getting help through counselling.

Mr Grady was found guilty of serious misconduct. He cannot reapply to teach in Victoria until January 2010 and will require a mentor if returned to the classroom.

Opposition education spokesman Martin Dixon attacked the time taken to investigate the teacher. The Education Department advised the teaching watchdog in July 2006 that Mr Grady had been blocked from working in state schools. Despite this and the VIT's separate inquiry, it emerged Mr Grady worked as a teacher interstate this year. His interstate registration was frozen when the Victorian hearing came to light. VIT president Andrew Ius partly blamed workload pressures for the disciplinary hearing delay.


The notorious DOCS fails a child yet again

They are paid to protect children at risk but it is only when a kid dies that the public gets to hear how badly they do that. Sadly, deaths are frequent

From the day he was born, jaundiced and needing a blood transfusion, his parents opposed medical treatment. They believed God would heal him. When he died four-and-a-half years later, the boy was blind, intellectually disabled and slithered around like a snake because he could not walk. Yesterday his mother, 34, pleaded guilty to his manslaughter, having denied him the medical care prosecutors said he so obviously needed.

The boy died in August 2003 from a kidney infection and pneumonia. He was malnourished and weighed under 7kg - less than half the average weight for a child his age. The pathologist who examined his body said neglect directly contributed to his death. The boy's father was minister of a congregation based on the Methodist teachings of the Wesley Church. He and his wife, who cannot be named, had put their faith in God rather than doctors, the Supreme Court heard. Court documents revealed that the mother listed "Jesus Christ" as the contact in hospital forms, while a copy of The Lord's Prayer sat beside toys in the boy's cot. His mother told police she "always believed in God as the healer for her children" and the family would "say a little prayer" for sick members.

But prayers weren't enough to save the boy. Doctors notified DOCS the day he was born in February, 1999, worried his parents risked his health with "inappropriate faith in their religious beliefs". The newborn was given a blood transfusion after DOCs intervened. DOCS staff also ensured that, at six months, he had surgery for cataracts. But the boy had no more medical treatment after September, 1999, and, just before his first birthday, DOCS closed his case file.

On August 29, 2003, the mother found him dead in his cot. She and her husband were charged with manslaughter. The father suffered a fatal heart attack in January before facing trial.

The court was told the boy had arm and leg fractures and almost every rib broken, suggesting a possible genetic bone disorder or weak bones due to malnutrition. One medical expert said he apparently suffered from starvation.

Dr Paul Tait, head of Westmead Children's Hospital's child protection unit, said the couple's decision to trust God led to the boy being "severely neglected medically and ultimately resulted in his death".

The mother told police her son - the fifth of her seven children - was "always a sick little boy". She did not know if she would seek medical attention for her other children, saying: "I'd have to make that decision in that time."

DOCS did not respond yesterday to questions about whether the couple's remaining children were left in their care after the boy's death. Opposition spokeswoman for community services, Katrina Hodgkinson, asked why DOCS would close the file of a child who had been at risk. "All too often the department gets it wrong and it's the kids at risk who end up suffering," she said.


Global cooling hits Sydney

After the coldest winter in a decade, weather experts are warning Sydney to expect an erratic summer....

Bureau of Meteorology climate officer Mike de Salis said the mercury plunged most in August. The average maximum temperature was 17.3 degrees, more than half a degree lower than the average and the coldest monthly average since 1989. The average maximum temperature throughout the three winter months was the lowest since 1998.

"That was due to a blocking system. [It was] a low pressure operating in the Tasman Sea for half the month [of August], dragging a whole lot of cold southerly air over NSW," Mr de Salis said. "It kept the temperatures down, day time and night time." ....


Tuesday, September 16, 2008


There will be a meeting of Australian climate skeptics at Tweed Heads on Oct. 9th. Some good speakers. Details here. Tweed Heads is part of the famous Gold Coast so if you like getting into the surf, you could do that too during your visit.

New Liberal party leader

Note for American readers. In Australia, the Liberal party is the major conservative party. The new leader is only slightly right of center -- but he does have a "Sarah Palin" as his deputy. He has been rather "Green" in the past but there are signs he is wavering on climate change

Malcolm Turnbull says his leadership of the Liberal Party will promote opportunity and fairness. Mr Turnbull toppled Brendan Nelson as Liberal leader in a ballot in Canberra this morning after the former leader last night sprung a surprise leadership spill. "It's a great honour and privilege (and) humbling to be elected to the leadership of the Federal Liberal Party," Mr Turnbull said at his first press conference as leader.

The millionaire lawyer turned merchant banker said he had been raised by a single parent, renting flats and struggling to earn money. "I don't come to the position of the leader of the Liberal Party with a lifetime of privilege behind me," Mr Turnbull said. "I know some Australians are doing it tough ... even in times of prosperity people are doing it tough. "We are a party of opportunity and ... this is a land of opportunity. "But we need to have confidence, we need to have leadership, we need above all to have the opportunities to do well.

"And that is the great difference between our side of politics and Labor, because we believe that government's role is to enable each and every Australian to do their best, to exercise their freedom of choice to do their best.''

Mr Turnbull also welcomed his partnership with Deputy Leader Julie Bishop. "Julie Bishop is a very dear friend of mine, we have worked together over many years, we know and trust each other very, very well indeed.''

Mr Turnbull won this morning's ballot by 45 votes to 41, Chief Opposition Whip Alex Somlyay said. Mr Turnbull - who was the party's treasury spokesman - lost a leadership ballot by just three votes to Dr Nelson late last year.

More here

Muslim politics come to Australia

("Moselmane" means "Muslim")

A family restaurant in Sydney's south was peppered with bullets overnight less than two weeks after vandals targeted it for displaying council election posters. Witnesses say up to four detectives and five police cars were near Hijazi's Falafel restaurant in Arncliffe this morning. "It was about 1am this morning [when] someone pulled up in a car and a couple of them got out and sprayed shots all over there," Mark, a co-owner of nearby Wollongong Road newsagency, said. "There's all bullet holes everywhere," he said. St George police said the shop had damage "consistent with gunfire".

No one was injured in the attack. Police were canvassing the area for witnesses, a spokesman said. It is the fourth time in a month the restaurant, owned by the Hijazi family, has been targeted. Vandals pelted the premises with eggs and threw a brick into its front window on September 3 in protest at the restaurant's owners displaying Rockdale council election posters supporting the incumbent Labor candidate, Shaoquett Moselmane.

Vandals also painted the name "Nagi" over the restaurant's windows on September 1 and August 27. Incumbent independent candidate Michael Nagi, a councillor in the same ward as Mr Moselmane, said at the time he had nothing to do with the incidents and called on whoever was responsible to stop. Both men condemned today's attack.

Restaurant owner Faissal Hijazi said he was worried that vandals had struck again and done so after Saturday's local poll. "I'm father for seven kids. I'm not worried about myself. I have to be worried about my family. Me and my wife and son and daughter and my kids are working in the shop," Mr Hijazi said. "It's happening four times and still police doesn't do nothing, doesn't catch anything.

"Now I think I can't even support football or soccer. I can't support anyone," he said. Mr Hijazi said he believed the attack was related to last month's incidents. "It's the third or fourth time I vote for [Mr Moselmane]. I always put his picture in the shop. Maybe other people from the area like the independent person from the area," he said.

The results of Saturday's local council polls have not been finalised. In Rockdale, Mr Moselmane was at the top of the ALP's ticket in Second Ward. His group has received 30 per cent of the primary vote. Mr Nagi was listed at the top of a ticket for a group of independents contesting the same ward. Their group has received 18 per cent.

The owner of the newsagent, Mark, who did not want his surname published, said the Hijazis were "nice people" who came in to his store every day to get their papers and magazines.


Far-Leftist professor under fire over his attack on free speech for a conservative professor

STUART Macintyre can run from one prestigious appointment to another, but he just can't hide from the Blainey affair. Macintyre, who is at a conference in Canada, will return to Melbourne University and a post on the new National Curriculum Board later this month, after a 12-month stint at Harvard University as chair of Australian studies.

Awaiting him are damaging allegations that he played a role in destroying historian Geoffrey Blainey's academic career. The event, which some regard as the most squalid in Australian intellectual history, if not the opening shot in the history wars, is reprised in a forthcoming essay by Quadrant editor Keith Windschuttle. It relates how Macintyre and fellow academic staff at Melbourne University's history department turned on Blainey in 1984, after he had made public statements about the high volume of Asian immigration amid a bruising economic recession.

Blainey made the comments at a Rotary International meeting in Warrnambool, Victoria, and they were quoted in the Melbourne press. A mild-mannered scholar and elegant writer, Blainey became a controversialist overnight. A fortnight later, 23 staff, including Macintyre, signed a letter of protest against Blainey, then the Ernest Scott Professor of History. This set in train a series of events, including student protests and pickets, that led to Blainey's resignation from his tenured post: an extraordinary move for a mid-career scholar of high repute. Macintyre succeeded him in the post.

The letter of protest began: "As historians at the University of Melbourne, we wish to dissociate ourselves entirely from the widely publicised attacks which Professor Geoffrey Blainey, an eminent member of our profession, and a professor in our department, has recently made on the Government's immigration policy with regard to Asians."

In his forthcoming essay on the history wars, Windschuttle alleges Blainey was the victim of a "calculated move to make him feel as uncomfortable as possible within his own department, to generate hostility towards him among the wider university community, and to sanction the actions the signatories expected students to take". "In short, it was done to get rid of him," Windschuttle writes. He points out that Macintyre was the "greatest beneficiary" of Blainey's resignation.

Soon after the staff letter was published in Melbourne's The Age newspaper in May 1984, Blainey ceased teaching. He became dean of the arts faculty and retired officially four years later.

Macintyre has discussed the events in his book The History Wars, in the guise of an observer rather than a participant.

In an email conversation with The Weekend Australian yesterday, he said: "The claim that I led the attack on Geoff out of malice or ambition was propagated by (former publisher at Melbourne University Press) Peter Ryan, who repeatedly elided four years that passed between the Warrnambool speech and Geoff's decision to retire after his second term as dean."

In a 2006 interview, Blainey, who went on to a successful career as a freelance historian, said he would have stayed at Melbourne University if not for the hostility on campus. "Why should you leave an institution you've been in for a long time, where you are close to a very good library, are well paid and have a lot of time to write after doing your teaching and administration?" Blainey said. "Compared with writing as a freelancer, the university is infinitely preferable. It was a great disappointment having to leave but there was no future for me there."

Windschuttle describes the protest letter as an authoritarian action and its signatories as enemies of free speech. The event was a crux moment in Australian intellectual history, helping to shape the identities of Left and Right.

Former Treasury secretary John Stone regarded Blainey as "a brave man set upon by various political and intellectual thugs", while former prime minister John Howard thought for a time that Blainey, who became his administration's favourite historian, had been hounded out of office.

Left-wing historian Henry Reynolds has argued that Blainey "lost the respect of practically the whole profession" through his intervention in the immigration debate.

In Macintyre's view, the letter's primary purpose was "to declare that he (Blainey) spoke for himself and not for us". "Over the preceding two months he had been regularly identified as a professor of history at Melbourne University and dean of the faculty of arts," he said. "There is a loose convention that academics should reserve use of their university title to commentary on matters of professional expertise and our letter therefore said that he spoke as an individual."

Windschuttle describes this as "dissembling ... the members of his own staff sent a very clear message that they found him unwelcome ... It certainly ended his university career."

Gerard Henderson, executive director of the Sydney Institute and former Howard speech writer, said the impression he had gained from conversations with Blainey was that he resigned not because he was hounded out but because he wanted to go. He also pointed out that Macintyre had declined to join Blainey's critics in a subsequent book on the events of 1984, titled Surrender Australia.

Historian Ross Fitzgerald said the history wars of recent years began with Blainey's 1984 speech and the reaction of his colleagues, who later "slammed his academic work as a way of slamming him". He added that recent criticism of Macintyre, including references to his past as a Communist Party member, amounted to a campaign of vilification "almost as reprehensible" as the attacks on Blainey. Blainey could not be contacted for comment.



Three current articles below:

"The Green Paper? Almost Legless"

Press release from Viv Forbes, Chairman of Australia's Carbon Sense Coalition

The Carbon Sense Coalition today claimed that Penny Wong's Green Paper on the Carbon Reduction Scheme had been overtaken by scientific and political developments and was now almost legless.

The Chairman of "Carbon Sense" Mr Viv Forbes said that of the three pillars of the government's climate change policy, only one was sensible - "Adapting to Climate change that we cannot avoid".

Politicians living in the Canberra hot house seem to think that controlling the climate is as simple as adjusting the thermostat in their air-conditioned offices. Man cannot control the weather and the only feasible climate policy is to make sure we have the brains, the freedom, the flexibility, the funds and the machinery to cope with whatever surprises the climate has in store for us. "Adapt or die" has been the guiding rule for every species since life began on this ever-changing earth.

The first pillar of the policy, "reducing greenhouse gas emissions" is based on flawed science and promoted by scare stories with no evidence to support them. The science shows clearly that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cannot be a significant driver of global warming. Moreover, records going back 10,000 years confirm that CO2 does not drive temperature. Thus any attempts to reduce carbon emissions will be "pain for no gain".

The third pillar of government climate change policy aims to "shape a global solution". This policy is also flawed and should be abandoned. India, China and Russia do not believe that CO2 drives global temperatures and will only join a global agreement if it costs them nothing or, even better, they get paid "carbon sin dispensation money" by silly western nations. Russia has already banked huge carbon credit receipts and other nations are hoping to jump on this gravy train.

Moreover, anyone with a sensitive political antenna can see that in places like Britain, Germany, Canada and the US, the rising costs of food and energy, and the Green destruction of jobs, are worrying electors far more than a mythical global warming bogey-man that never arrives.

More here

Too green is no good

Rudd's Warmist policies are unwise even from an environmental viewpoint

It is too risky for the environment and the economy for Australia to take up calls to commit to cutting our greenhouse gas emissions by up to 40 per cent in little more than a decade. It could be even more dangerous in the unlikely event that Kevin Rudd convinced the rest of the industrialised world to sign on to such ambitious targets in the name of saving the planet.

Although this would be Nobel prize-winning form, such promises simply would not be credible. It may feel good to hope otherwise, but too much of the industrialised world has broken its Kyoto Protocol promises. It quickly would become clear that the rich world would not deliver on even more onerous vows. The ensuing disrepute and disillusion would provoke global political fractiousness, economic tit for tat and even raw aggression, particularly if a warmer planet became increasingly uncomfortable.

By going it alone, Australia could even make things worse for the global environment by sending its emission-intensive industries offshore to dirtier regimes. Unilateral steep cuts could be achieved only at an economic cost too large for Australia's political system to digest. The likelier outcome of missing the target by a wide margin would trash Rudd's hopes for Australia to lead the world on tackling climate change.

This has been evident enough for long enough to predict that Ross Garnaut eventually would reject steep unilateral targets for reducing Australian emissions. It is similarly predictable that Rudd will broadly follow suit. Australia's political class has spent the past generation locking in economic reforms that finally allowed Australia to exploit its comparative advantage in mining and energy. Just like John Howard, Rudd will not risk junking this.

Just as predictably, climate scientists and activists are dismayed by Garnaut's proposed targets, instead calling for Australia to commit to cutting emissions by 25 per cent to 40per cent below 2000 levels by 2020. But such targets would not have the credibility needed for creating durable new property rights - the right to emit carbon into the atmosphere - that can be traded between countries. Business will not invest in less carbon-intensive production if it does not believe the system for pricing carbon will stand up as advertised over decades. Without investment in cleaner capacity, the economic costs of meeting the targets will increase, along with the potential political backlash. And developing countries such as China and India will not buy into a global scheme if the developed nations assuage Western guilt by making promises they patently won't keep.

So far, the most industrialised economies have broken their Koyoto promises to cut emissions by 5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-12. The former Soviet bloc looks good because of the post-Cold War collapse of its dirty industries, although Russia's emissions are rising on the back of its oil and gas boom. In lower-growth Europe, France will meet its target because it has gone nuclear. Britain is on track because it closed its uneconomic coalmines. But others will exceed their Kyoto targets by embarrassing margins. Japan hasn't developed its nuclear industry as foreshadowed and hasn't got the expected returns from technology investment.

Canada has abandoned its Kyoto target because higher crude oil prices have encouraged emission-intensive extraction from its vast northern deposits of tar sands. New Zealand won't be within cooee because East Asian income growth has boosted demand for its methane-rich meat and dairy production. Australia remains on target, but only because of a special deal allowing us to increase emissions to 108 per cent of 1990 levels and to include land clearing. On that basis, Australia's 2006 emissions were 4 per cent higher than in 1990. But excluding the one-off land clearing concession, Australia's 2006 emissions are 40 per cent higher, fuelled in part by the economy's China boom. That's the emissions trajectory we now aim to turn around.

As it is, Garnaut's proposal to commit Australia to reducing emissions by 10 per cent over 2000 levels by 2020 (and 80 per cent by 2050) will take a big effort. As Garnaut tells his scientific and environmental critics, a 10 per cent cut by 2020 amounts to a challenging 30 per cent reduction in per capita terms. And given our emissions are still rising, this would require Australia to cut absolute emissions by 17 per cent from 2012. A bigger, 25 per cent reductions target would amount to a 40 per cent cut in per capita terms and 35 per cent in absolute terms from 2012. Garnaut suggests that his 10 per cent target will require "significant structural change" and reduce national income growth by something approaching 0.2 percentage points a year. While this sounds small, it is a significant income loss in the context of issues such as the ageing of the population.

Even then, Garnaut's numbers assume Australia will spend big on planting forests in Indonesia or Papua New Guinea so we can, for instance, keep on smelting aluminium with coal-fired electricity. If the world doesn't set up a trading scheme to achieve a credible reductions target, the cost of achieving Australia's 10 per cent cut would escalate significantly. In this world, Garnaut lowers his 2020 target to a 5per cent emissions cut.

Garnaut's latest report encourages the idea that a full-blown global emissions trading scheme simply won't fly. Australia's other leading climate change economist, Warwick McKibbin, suggests that any such scheme would soon collapse because it would be too difficult to monitor and enforce each country's emissions targets, thus devaluing emissions permits. Leading US economist Jeffrey Sachs describes such schemes as an administrative mess.

Australians may feel good when telling pollsters they are prepared to sacrifice, but neither Rudd nor Brendan Nelson is game enough to test this by exposing motorists to climate change costs before 2013. Until the weekend, the Government of Australia's resources boom state banned the mining of uranium that could help other countries curb their emissions. That's hardly credible for a nation claiming it is prepared to wear the economic costs of leading the world in tackling climate change.


Rudd's Warmist policies threaten healthcare with $100m power bill

HOSPITALS and nursing homes face a $100 million jump in powerbills under a national emissions trading scheme, threatening to compromise future levels of service unless they are includedin government plans for compensation.

Most debate has focused on the appropriateness and scale of compensation for major emitters such as power stations, trade-exposed, energy-intense industries and low-income households. Australia's biggest not-for-profit health service provider, Catholic Health Australia, is concerned it has been overlooked in the debate, and says it is unable to pass on higher energy costs. Research by the CHA estimates the greenhouse footprint of each of the nation's 83,000 hospital beds is about 28 tonnes a year - double the emissions from an average household. When combined with the emissions from 170,000 nursing home beds and other aged-care services, the health sector accounts for about five million tonnes of CO2 a year.

CHA chief executive Martin Laverty said there was growing concern that not-for-profit organisations operating in this and other sectors would be forced to cut services as a result of an emissions trading scheme.

CHA manages about 9500 hospital beds, 19,000 aged-care beds and 6000 retirement units, and would face an increase in its energy bill of about $10 million a year at a starting price of $20 a tonne for CO2.

In CHA's submission to the Government's green paper, it has recommended all commonwealth or state healthcare funding mechanisms be indexed to compensate for the flow-on effects of a carbon price. "You must factor in a cap and trade indexation component of funding to aged care and public hospitals and private hospitals so the healthcare and aged-care sectors in Australia can play their role and not be a roadblock to climate change," Mr Laverty said yesterday.

"Any service provided by federal or local government operated by not-for-profit organisations will be in exactly the same boat. "I am concerned the green paper spent a long time arguing the science. What it should have done is look at the proper structural impacts across the entire economy, and given the start of the solution."

A coalition of civil society, representing unions, charities, churches and environment groups, yesterday called on the Rudd Government to spend up to half of all revenue from the sale of permits to assist households and vulnerable communities to cut energy consumption and adapt to higher prices. A research paper by left-wing think tank the Australia Institute has warned that the community sector has been overlooked for compensation payments, and could face increased costs in excess of $822 million under the scheme.

A spokeswoman for Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said the Rudd Government welcomed constructive feedback from the not-for-profit sector. The Government is plannning to finalise the design of the national emissions trading scheme by December.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Queensland schools using discredited literacy teaching method

OUTDATED methods for teaching children to read were the cause of Queensland's dismal performance in national tests, a literacy expert claims. Smart State students came seventh out of eight states and territories in the first national literacy and numeracy tests, released last Friday. Only the Northern Territory, where absenteeism and social disadvantage rates are highest, fared worse.

Private literacy consultant Carol Christensen blamed the state's dire literacy test scores on Education Queensland bureaucrats who were obsessed with "whole language" reading philosophies. Ms Christensen, who co-ordinates school reading programs based on the rival phonics method of reading, said it was time the bureaucrats stopped "covering their butts" and start worrying about their students. "You wouldn't believe the amount of (Queensland) children in Years 9 and 10 who can't read simple, three-letter words," Ms Christensen said. "It breaks your heart. "(The department's) practices are the cause of the misery of our children, compromising their whole life opportunities."

Education Minister Rod Welford downplayed the claims, saying academic opinion on the best reading techniques was diverse. "There are a number of academics with varying views," he said. "(Ms Christensen) has one perspective and Professor Ken Rowe, who wrote the national literacy inquiry report, has expressed another that encapsulates world's best practice."

He said the Government was spending $35 million over four years to target literacy blackspots and millions more in one-to-one tuition for struggling Years 5 and 6 students. "Every (Queensland) teacher is being brought up to speed on how to teach literacy and numeracy successfully and effectively," he said.

While he admitted to being surprised at the gap between the state's results and performance in NSW and Victoria, he was confident recently introduced measures would lift future performances. The national test results released last week showed Queensland students in all year levels tested were below average competency in reading, writing, spelling, punctuation and grammar.


Emissions trading 'worse than drought'

The Rudd Government's attempts to combat climate change through an emissions trading scheme will do more damage to the farming sector than the drought, senior industry figures warned yesterday. The claims were made as new economic modelling showed farm profitability under the proposed trading scheme could drop to zero. The research by the Australian Farm Institute suggests that under an ETS, the $100 billion sector could be forced into debt, with livestock farms and smaller holdings worst affected. Using 10 model farm businesses and three future emissions price scenarios, the research showed far-reaching changes for the farm sector.

Institute head Mick Keogh said that even if agriculture were not included in the scheme until 2015, as recommended in the green paper from Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, the impact would hit the sector from 2010 because of the increased prices farmers will have to pay for inputs such as fuel, freight, electricity, fertilisers and chemicals. "Reductions in farm profitability of between 5 per cent and 10per cent are projected even with quite modest emission prices," Mr Keogh said. "Under scenarios where farmers are required to pay the full cost of estimated farm emissions, the modelling projects farm profit reductions of more than 100 per cent, especially for farms running sheep and cattle," he said. "The sector, which is fully trade-exposed, is going to be significantly impacted."

The institute's findings mirror recent modelling from New Zealand's Ministry of Agriculture, which showed profitability across all farm types plummeting under an ETS. Farmer Howard Crozier, 72, is sceptical of global warming, and says the ETS is a waste of time. Speaking from his 1000ha farm at Bungendore, near Canberra, he said it would mean high input costs and lower profitability. "Even if they don't include agriculture before 2015, we're still going to have to pay the higher input costs, with no relief on the credit side," the cattle and sheep farmer said. "Our ability to sequester carbon won't be counted because native pastures and native forests aren't counted under Kyoto. "We have young earnest bureaucrats from Penny Wong's office saying all we have to do is adjust the prices of our products. How? There is no capacity for us to increase our prices to adjust to the huge losses we would suffer."

Queensland Farmers Federation chief executive John Cherry said the concerns of the rural sector were being ignored by the Government, even though the costs associated with an ETS will start to hit within 18 months. "We will be less competitive on world markets from 2010," Mr Cherry said. "With 70 per cent of agricultural produce exported, there is no opportunity to pass these costs on. It's going to cost a fortune. It is an insanity."


New conservative government unlocks uranium riches

The pro-uranium mining stance of Colin Barnett's newly installed WA Government will spark a significant drilling program in the state that is likely to deliver billions of dollars to both state and federal coffers, according to analysts and the industry. Uranium miners with projects in Western Australia have been on a knife edge since the poll, waiting to see whether the pro-uranium Nationals would support the pro-uranium Liberal Party or form an alliance with the anti-uranium Labor Party. Liberal leader Colin Barnett was yesterday announced as Premier after the Liberals secured the support of the Nationals in a move that will launch a new chapter for uranium prospects in the state.

The Australian Uranium Association has conservatively estimated that uranium mining in WA would increase the gross state product by $3.2 billion in net present value terms to 2030 and provide an extra $200 million in royalties over the same period. The association also estimates that WA's export values would be $4 billion higher and Australia's GDP would be $2.25 billion higher to 2030 with uranium mining in the state.

During the election campaign, former Labor premier Alan Carpenter pledged to legislate against uranium mining, prompting Canadian explorer Mega Uranium to threaten to pull out of Australia. Mega yesterday forecast a fast-tracking of their Lake Maitland project after learning that the Nationals would support the Liberals to form government. Mega vice-president of project development Peter McNally said the pro-uranium Government would reassure investors, explorers and international customers. "It will lift their confidence in WA a hell of a lot -- you'd expect a lot of money to be invested now," Mr McNally said.

The most advanced uranium projects in WA include BHP Billiton's Yeelirrie project, the Cameco-Mitsubishi's Kintyre joint-venture, Energy and Minerals Australia's Mulga Rocks and Paladin's Oobagooma/Yampi and Manyingee projects.

According to the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics, Australia exported 10,151 tonnes of uranium oxide or yellowcake worth $887 million in 2007-08, a 5.8 per cent increase on 2006-07 exports.

UBS analysts said last week that a Liberal-National government in WA would be "positive for uranium stocks with significant assets in the state" and would spark a "significant drilling program". But they warned that the majority of deposits were still at an early stage and lacked a JORC-compliant resource. They said they would require significant exploration to firm up the potential resource. "Potential first production would be unlikely within a five-year time frame, due to time needed for exploration, permitting and construction," the UBS analysts said.

Despite renewed enthusiasm for uranium exploration in the west, the Australian Uranium Association said the extended ban meant WA lacked "the policy and regulatory infrastructure and expertise". "You would need to build that capacity within the resources department, the environment department and in the indigenous affairs department as well," said the association's executive director, Michael Angwin. "The ban in WA has left a legacy that will take some time to overcome. But there's scope to make quick gains. You can develop the policy and regulation infrastructure faster than you can develop mines. "The development of mines would take three or four years and you could do the policy and regulatory infrastructure in 12 to 18 months."


Public hospital blamed for woman's death

ROYAL Darwin Hospital forgot to X-ray the bowel of a grandmother who died days later of septicaemia when the bowel burst, her family says. Alma June Green, 83, was admitted to the hospital after complaining of bowel pain, family members told the Northern Territory News. But while she was waiting to have an X-ray she fell out of a wheelchair and broke her leg. Doctors operated on the broken leg before sending Ms Green home. Her son-in-law, Jim Egan, said he believed the hospital staff had forgotten to X-ray Ms Green's bowel.

Ms Green died at her Palmerston flat on November 11 when her bowel burst, causing blood poisoning. Royal Darwin Hospital spokeswoman Michelle Foster said the death was reported to the coroner's office, but she could not comment further.

Mr Egan, 63, of Bakewell, said what started as a complaint of bowel pain at RDH around November 9, 2007, ended in disaster. He said his mother-in-law went in for a bowel obstruction and was admitted and booked for an X-ray. Although she could walk, she was given a wheelchair before a nurse allegedly left her waiting for the radiographer. When called to be X-rayed, Ms Green stood up and the weight of the chair pulled it over, knocking her to the ground and breaking a bone at the top of her right leg near the hip. She was taken to theatre where doctors put "all the plates and pins in".

Mr Egan said he suspected hospital staff forgot to X-ray Ms Green's bowel before she was released from hospital. "Two days later, her bowel burst and she died of blood poisoning," he said. "As far as I am concerned, it is neglect - she should have had a nurse with her. "I think they let the bowel X-ray go and it killed her."

Mr Egan said despite the great-grandmother being aged 83, she was healthy. "There was nothing wrong with her other than the bowel obstruction," he said. "I was wild, she wasn't just a mother-in-law, but a friend for over 30 years."

Justice Department spokeswoman Lorelei Fong Lim said the matter was with the coroner's office. "A decision about whether it will be an inquest or not, has not been made," she said.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Senior doctor quits 'dangerous' public hospital

A SENIOR emergency department doctor has quit one of Queensland's busiest public hospitals because it is "too dangerous and too dysfunctional". Dr Michael Cameron, senior staff specialist in emergency medicine at Logan Hospital, on Brisbane's southern outskirts, said the Bligh Government continued to ignore the problems in the health system.

He said doctors, nurses and other medical staff were under extreme pressure and patients' lives were at risk – but the Government was doing nothing to solve the crisis. "Everyone is overworked and overwhelmed . . . it had got to the point where I dreaded going to work each day, to a job I loved and was good at," he said yesterday.

Dr Cameron first spoke out about problems in Queensland's besieged health system in a frank open letter published in The Sunday Mail in May. At the time, he asked to remain anonymous, fearing that going public could have severe ramifications for himself, colleagues, patients and Logan Hospital. In his letter, Dr Cameron, who has worked for 25 years in the state's public hospitals, revealed the chaotic life in a typical hospital emergency department at Logan. His insightful words about sickness, accidents, drunken abuse, overdoses, death and miracles touched many Queenslanders.

The letter also drew an immediate response from Premier Anna Bligh and Health Minister Stephen Robertson, who met with Dr Cameron and discussed the most serious issues. Ms Bligh said at the time Dr Cameron had much to offer the Government as it continued to implement its $10 million health action plan and she vowed to turn to him for help as her special adviser. But Dr Cameron has been largely ignored since the May meeting, with neither Ms Bligh nor Mr Robertson speaking to him since.

He said one of Ms Bligh's staff had contacted him and sought his comments on proposed health funding and spending outlined in the June State Budget. Dr Cameron told him there was inadequate funding for Logan Hospital – but no extra money was provided when Mr Robertson announced a $1.2 billion boost for health for 2008-09. The doctor had also asked the Government to urgently address mental health issues at the hospital, but measures were put off for several years.

Dr Cameron said another flu-hit winter – with Logan's emergency department inundated with sick and elderly patients – was the straw that broke the camel's back. "We have seen it for eight years . . . the winter crisis. Every year the Government promised they would fix it. They said it again this year, but nothing was put in place. "It all fell over again. Every year it starts earlier, it lasts longer and is more intense. "The pressure definitely got on top of me. I just could not go through it again. I could not go through another year of that."

Dr Cameron said he decided it was time to quit, which went against all his beliefs. He even contemplated leaving the public health system altogether and finding another career. "Logan Hospital has become the dumping ground. Hospitals on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane are overflowing . . . if they are blocked they just send them to Logan. "We were overwhelmed. We could not cope. Logan (Hospital) needs to be twice the size with twice the number of staff."

Dr Cameron said other senior staff had also resigned from Logan and he felt shame for leaving the hospital in the middle of a crisis. "I felt it was personal failure . . . I should have been able to take it." He spoke to colleagues who had worked at other public hospitals in Queensland, interstate and overseas and they offered their support. "Everyone there recognises that Logan is under extreme pressure. It is too intense, too dysfunctional, too dangerous. "They had all experienced the same pressures as me. I have been there for nine years . . . I felt I could move on without any shame."

Dr Cameron confirmed reports of a system in crisis: of patients left hours without being treated, left on trolleys in corridors because there were no beds, and people dying. "The Government needs to address these problems urgently . . . but that is never going to happen, at least not in my working lifetime," he said. Dr Cameron said there had been a major recruitment program at Logan this year "but it has not had a very good response".

He has decided to stick with public health and take his emergency medical skills to Redlands Hospital, which has just undergone a $20 million upgrade. "It has a new emergency department . . . it is the right size with the right numbers . . . with limited population growth in the Redlands, it is more controlled . . . it is more closely aligned to demand. "I am looking forward to it," he said of the senior role that he will start in January.


'Don't blame fat kids on Maccas'

THE Australian head of McDonald's says there's no mystery surrounding childhood obesity - kids are fat because they don't exercise as much as they used to. Chief executive Peter Bush also says McDonald's, according to the chain's own research, provides just one in every 72 meals an average child eats. "You've got to look at those other 71 meals kids consume that often come out of the cupboard at home," Mr Bush told a federal parliamentary inquiry into obesity sitting in Sydney.

"Where we sit on this is that we probably look at it as a very perplexing and complicated issue. "Certainly the studies have indicated that the issue is linked to a change on lifestyle - kids exercising less, watching more TV, kids playing video games."

Mr Bush said academics where now properly studying the causes of obesity, but most pre-existing data blaming fast food was inconclusive. "When the very first obesity summit was held in Sydney in October 2002, my predecessor sat through the two days of that session," he said. "Through that time, overwhelming evidence was presented, but not substantiated, that fast food was the culprit. "What also emerged at that time was there were very few studies completed worldwide at that stage." Mr Bush said fear of crime was a factor in obesity, arguing parents do not allow children to walk to school anymore.

The House of Representatives standing committee inquiry, which began in May, is looking at the increasing prevalence of obesity and future implications for the health system. University of Sydney Associate Professor Jenny O'Dea presented the findings of a study on obese children and a survey of 345,713 adults. It showed poorly-educated parents were more than twice as likely to have obese children as well-educated mums and dads.

The Roy Morgan survey also showed the rate of obesity for adults in the lowest socio-economic groups grew at almost triple the rate of those belonging to the highest earning and educated groups between April 2000 and March 2007. Nearly a third of people in the lowest socio-economic group were regarded as obese in March last year, compared with 26.6 per cent in April 2000. In the highest socio-economic group, 17.8 per cent were obese, up from 15.9 in 2000.

Dr O'Dea said governments should rethink obesity campaigns, saying they must address social inequities rather than opting for "shame and blame" strategies, which did not work. She also said the international standard for measuring obesity was generally fair, but the label should be treated with care as the body mass of some ethnic groups differed. "You can't assume that an overweight, obese child is carrying too much fat," she said. "There are kids who fit into that category. They are the the Samoan kids and the Fijian kids and the Greek boys who are very muscular and the Lebanese boys."

Dr O'Dea studied 960 families of children, from years two to six, in 10 primary schools across regional and rural NSW. She discovered 2.7 per cent of tertiary-educated mothers had obese children compared with six per cent of mums who had completed year 10 or less. Seven per cent of fathers in the low-educated group had obese children, while the figure was three per cent for those in the highly-educated group.


There's no substitute for a loving home when it comes to looking after the little ones

A childcare worker is being investigated over claims she forced a boy, 4, to wipe urine off the floor with a paper towel and bare hands. Mother Nesrine Aziz says she was horrified to find her son Emmanuel on his knees cleaning up a puddle when she collected him from beleaguered childcare giant ABC Learning Centres' Berwick South kindergarten.

State government officials last night confirmed an inquiry had begun into a mistreatment allegation. Inspectors will examine the centre's discipline and hygiene standards.

Mrs Aziz and husband Sam have since removed both their children from the centre. "If you put your children in care you don't expect this kind of unsanitary service," Mr Aziz said.

The Herald Sun believes the carer has told her bosses she ordered two boys to clean up the mess in an inside play area after neither would confess to deliberately soiling it. She faces disciplinary action if found guilty of over-the-top punishment.

Mr Aziz claimed he got an appalling and unco-operative response from ABC Learning Centres' management when he raised worries about his son's treatment. The couple pulled Emmanuel and seven-month-old Nicholas out of the centre after Tuesday afternoon's incident. The boys are now being looked after by their grandmother as their full-time working parents battle long waiting lists for alternatives. Mr Aziz said several other centres nearby were booked out until January.

ABC Learning Centres' spokesman Scott Emerson said quality care and education was the company's priority and all concerns raised by parents were treated seriously. He said an internal inquiry was immediately launched when the matter was raised. Investigations are continuing.

The complaint is the latest woe for Australia's biggest childcare provider, which has been plagued with financial problems.

Department of Education and Early Childhood Development spokeswoman Jennene Rodgers said childcare regulations banned corporal punishment or unreasonable discipline. She said they promoted positive guidance of children's behaviour and set out personal hygiene requirements. "It is vital parents have confidence that their children are well cared for in childcare," Ms Rodgers said. Victoria had the nation's most robust childcare centre inspection system, with more than 4000 held last year, she said.

The Herald Sun this year revealed dozens of children and babies had been mistreated or allowed to roam free from Victorian childcare centres over the past three years. The Government is reviewing child-to-carer ratios amid reports of stressed childcare staff buckling under enormous workloads.


Cast out terror TV

HEZBOLLAH'S terrorist television station is once again being beamed into Australia. Al-Manar, translated as "the beacon", has been called more accurately a beacon of hatred and violence. It is to be hoped that the Rudd Government and the Australian Communications and Media Authority are doing everything in their power to block the station, as has been done in the past.

This is in no way hypocritical, nor does it undermine Australia's commitment to freedom of speech. Even in societies whose commitment to freedom of speech is as strong as Australia's, there are limits to that freedom, such as where the speech incites violence or racial hatred. Indeed, this balancing has already occurred here for stations such as Al-Manar. In 2005, ACMA proposed new standards prohibiting broadcasts that directly supported terrorist organisations. These standards were the direct result of an ACMA investigation into Al-Manar the previous year. And ACMA has acted again since then to have the station removed from satellites that broadcast into Australia.

Significantly, Australia is not alone in drawing a line between freedom of speech and incitement to violence. The US, France, Canada and the European Union have banned their nationals from broadcasting Hezbollah's TV station into their territories because of the station's message and its dominance by a terrorist organisation.

The prohibition is well deserved. Al-Manar acts as the propaganda arm of Hezbollah, helping to raise money for, and recruit members to, the terrorist organisation. The group and its TV station demonise the West and incite violence against it, repeatedly calling for resistance against coalition forces in Iraq and glorifying terrorism, with videos showing suicide bombers detonating themselves. Al-Manar also helps to perpetuate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by stoking violence against Israel.

In one example, a child dressed as Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah repeats one of his speeches to a crowd of children, some of whom are dressed in suicide vests to punish the "Zionist enemy". Other programs extol the virtue of jihad and suicide operations, calling for death to Israel by exploding bodies. The station spreads anti-Semitism by perpetuating noxious anti-Jewish myths and conspiracy theories, such as the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion, blood libel and the lie that Jews were behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in 2003, the station broadcast a 30-part anti-Semitic series, one episode for each night, depicting a supposed Jewish global government. If claims that Al-Manar is popular among Arabic speakers in Australia are true, it is even more important to stop it influencing and inflaming its audience.

Al-Manar cannot be separated from Hezbollah's military wing. Although the terrorist group holds seats in the Lebanese parliament, it makes no distinction between its armed and political branches. Al-Manar, likewise, promotes Hezbollah's political as well as military messages, be it its so-called resistance against Israel or attempts to justify the group turning its arms on Lebanese people, as it did recently. And, as we all know, money is fungible. Hezbollah's funding of Al-Manar cannot be separated from the funding of its armed branch.

So what could the Government do? First, capitalising on its friendly relations, it should reach out diplomatically to the Indonesian and Qatari governments - both of which own shares in the satellite company that broadcasts the station - as well as private shareholders and impress on them the importance of removing Al-Manar from the menu of channels available on the satellite.

The Indonesian Government has made significant strides in the past several years in combating its militant problem. Broadcasting the propaganda of a foreign terrorist group to Indonesians as well as to populations throughout Southeast Asia and Australia is clearly not in Indonesia's interests. Consistent with those interests, it is to be hoped that the responsible leadership we have seen in public and private domains in both countries will come to the fore on this issue.

The Rudd Government should also pursue all domestic legal measures available to it. It is almost certainly illegal under Australian law to provide support to Hezbollah, a banned terrorist organisation, and, by extension, to its TV station. The Government should determine whether any Australian nationals own part of the satellite company and, if so, take appropriate legal action. The Government should do the same for any Australians found to be facilitating the broadcast of Al-Manar in Australia.

Al-Manar spreads a dangerous and violent message in its role as a Hezbollah mouthpiece. It should not be able to use Australia's airwaves to disseminate such poison to undermine our harmonious multicultural society.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Melbourne's charming African "refugees"

MELBOURNE'S Indian and Pakistani taxi drivers are being bashed and robbed by African youth gangs. And there are fears the number of attacks reported to Victoria Police is only the tip of the iceberg. The hot spot for inter-racial violence is Melbourne's inner north. This year between May 8 and August 2 there were 12 reported robberies on taxi drivers in Flemington, Moonee Ponds and Ascot Vale.

Police will not officially acknowledge any particular ethnic group is a target, or that any other group is carrying out the crimes. But in every case the victims told police their attackers were African and there was always more than one. Knives are the weapon in most taxi robberies reported to police, but meat cleavers and screw drivers have also been used. Ten of the 12 victims are from the Indian sub-continent, but police are not prepared to say Melbourne's foreign student taxi drivers have become targets.

Det Sgt Paul Lunt from the armed robbery taskforce said taxi drivers were being chosen because they were seen by some as soft targets. "I can't think of a time in the last five years when we've had a series of attacks like this on cab drivers," Det Sgt Lunt said. "If they commit one robbery it becomes easier to carry out the next one and the one after, and they do escalate in violence as they become a series. "What starts as a threat demanding money progresses into actual violence."

Liberal MP Bernie Finn, whose electorate covers the danger zone, said police had to start acknowledging they had a gang problem. "What we need to do is round up the ringleaders of these gangs and send them home," Mr Finn said. "We are more than capable of producing our own thugs and thieves without importing them. "The biggest hurdle we face is that we have a chief commissioner of police who refuses to accept that gangs exist. She won't even say the word gang."


Another Australian climate skeptic

Dangerous human-caused warming can neither be demonstrated nor measured

By Physicist Dr. John Nicol, Chairman, Australia Climate Science Coalition, former Senior Lecturer of Physics at James Cook University, Townsville, Australia.

There is no evidence, neither empirical nor theoretical, that carbon dioxide emissions from industrial and other human activities can have any effect on global climate. In addition, the claims so often made that there is a consensus among climate scientists that global warming is the result of increased man-made emissions of CO2, has no basis in fact. The results of accurate measurements of global temperatures continue to be analysed by the international laboratories, now with 30 years experience in this process while a large number of scientists continue to perform high quality research. The results of these activities clearly demonstrate a wide range of errors in the IPCC projections.

Among the more obvious of these errors was the prediction of global warming expected by modelling of climate for the last three years. The actual measurements of global cooling in 2007/2008, flew directly in the face of these IPCC models. It would be difficult to find a more definitive illustration of an experimental error.

However, the claim of a consensus continues to be used in efforts to attract attention away from the lack of verifiable evidence, in a final desperate attempt to support the hypothesis that anthropogenic carbon dioxide is responsible for global warming. In the past, verifiable and reproducible evidence was required before acknowledgement of a scientific truth. In regard to global warming, this principle has been replaced by a process involving a majority vote.

The fundamental requirement of reproducible evidence, has been lost in the process of promulgating the messages regarding the output from the experimental computer models providing suggestions of global warming for the IPCC reports. No two of these 23 models provide the same values of temperature - the results are not reproducible.

That human-caused global climate change is so small that it cannot yet be differentiated from natural changes, has not been accepted. Rather our governments are being subjected to calls to provide policies based on unsubstantiated assertions of largely non-scientific executives of the IPCC, who ignore the uncertainties expressed in the main scientific reports of the International Panel. Evidence that no changes have been observed in Monsoonal activity, snow in the Himalayas, the rate of glacial retreat and the rise of sea level is conveniently ignored or presented as perceived evidence of "change". Alarming reports are presented of the many natural processes of glacial cracking, ponding of water in the Arctic Ice and the common and repetitive droughts in the drier continents of Australia, America and Africa while insufficient attention is given to the many benefits of increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, which forms the basis for plant growth through photosynthesis.

In summary, the future global and local climate is as uncertain as it has always been. Multi-decadal warming, cooling trends and abrupt changes, will continue to occur. Appropriate climate related policies are needed that, first, closely monitor change; and, secondly, respond and adapt to deleterious climatic events in the same way that we already approach hazardous natural events such as droughts, storms and earthquakes. Measures include appropriate mitigation of undesirable socio-economic effects and other economic stresses resulting from changes of the world's climate.

The best scientific advice available at present is to "Follow the Sun".

Adaptation to climate change will not be aided by imprudent restructuring of the world's energy economy in pursuit of the mitigation of an alleged "dangerous human-caused warming" that can neither be demonstrated nor measured.


How to get people out of their cars -- NOT

PUBLIC transport users in Victoria are more likely to be attacked than commuters in New York, London or Sydney. Police figures show that assaults, sex offences, robberies and thefts soared last year, the Herald Sun reports. While public transport crime was up 2.5 per cent, transit police insiders say transportsquad numbers have dropped to a new low of less than 200.

The shock figures come amid a fresh outbreak of violent crime on Melbourne's transit system. A woman was stabbed and sexually assaulted on a train between North Melbourne and Southern Cross Station yesterday afternoon. It was the latest in a spate of attacks on women over the past two months, including the bashing of a mentally handicapped woman on the Frankston line. And in the Supreme Court yesterday, a drug user was jailed for 22 years for the stabbing murder of a stranger on the Belgrave line in 2006.

While transit crime in Victoria went up last year, New York's subway crime rate went down by 13 per cent, and London Tube crime dropped 11 per cent. A Herald Sun investigation shows:

- Transit crime in Victoria was double that of NSW: 9559 incidents to 4766.

- New York's subway averages just 6.5 felonies a day, while 26 crimes are committed daily on Victorian public transport -- almost five a day involving violence.

- London's Underground, which carries more than double Victoria's passenger numbers, recorded a much lower rate of sex offences.

Public Transport Users Association president Daniel Bowen said transit police and station staff levels dictated the level of crime. Melbourne has 105 stations without staff, 73 fully staffed, and 31 manned for peak periods. "Both New York and London have a big police presence and a staff presence at all their stations, even at night," he said.

A spokesman for Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky said seven more stations were being upgraded to "premium stations" this year, to be manned by staff from first to last train. But Mr Bowen said the changes were at "glacial pace". Connex has 350 authorised officers patrolling the system. But customer service general manager Geoff Young said they could not be expected to deal with the worst crimes. "My staff aren't police -- station staff and line staff are trained to calm situations without putting themselves in danger." Previously required by its contract with the Brumby Government to patrol a minimum number of kilometres after 7pm, Connex changed the arrangement in February so its officers share their time more evenly between carriages and platforms.

Mr Young said a new program focusing on crime hotspots was making an impact on safety, with suburban train crime down 30 per cent in the first six months of the new scheme. "The problems on Hurstbridge were due to a lot of rock throwing during the school holidays, which we were then able to target. It's a good indication of how quickly issues move and change," he said. He said another good example was the Lilydale line, where increased patrols from 3pm had reduced the number of crimes against school children. Crime reports on the line have dropped from 650 to 240 in the two six-month blocks to July. While some lines have improved, Mr Young said crime had increased on the Pakenham line, while the Frankston line jumped to second worst for crime.

Opposition public transport spokesman Terry Mulder said less than 200 transit police was not enough. "With Melbourne's train lines stretching for up to 58km from Flinders St, many of the 211 stations are lonely places," he said. "Women and senior citizens can feel threatened, even during the day, if gangs roam around unchecked." Frankston MP Inga Peulich said scores of locals had approached her office with concerns about crime on lonely platforms. She said unmanned stations, as well as delayed and cancelled trains forcing longer waiting times, meant people felt more vulnerable as crimes became more common.



Two articles below

Doctor fatigue a problem in public hospitals, says coroner

A CORONER has slammed the Medical Board of Queensland for not stopping doctors working long hours, warning fatigue is a problem in many hospitals. Brisbane Coroner's Court was told yesterday that failures in the health system meant that a 10-year-old girl who had fallen from a bunk bed had very little chance of survival.

Elise Susannah Neville died on January 9, 2002, from an extensive extradural haematoma and a fracture to the left side of her skull after falling 1.4m from a top bunk bed with no guard rails in a Caloundra holiday unit two days earlier. She was taken by her parents to Caloundra Hospital but was sent home an hour later by a junior doctor who was in the 19th hour of a 24-hour shift. Elise was rushed back to hospital and then flown to Brisbane, where she later died, mainly because of delays in medical treatment, the Brisbane Coroner's Court found.

Brisbane coroner John Lock said Elise had died because Dr Andrew Doneman at the Caloundra Hospital failed to assess and diagnose the child's injuries correctly. Mr Lock yesterday also criticised the Medical Board of Queensland for failing to deliver its promised policy to regulate doctors' working hours in hospitals around the state, saying doctor fatigue was a significant problem. "The Medical Board of Queensland accepted responsibility to develop a standard or other policy alternative on doctors' working hours," he said. "It has not completed its work and should do so with priority."

He also criticised the Office of Fair Trading for dragging its feet on work to ensure all bunk beds in domestic and commercial settings were compliant with safety standards.

Outside court, Elise's parents, Gerard and Lorraine Neville, said they were relieved that the inquest was finally over and they were satisfied with most of the coroner's findings. "We believe the doctor should have been charged; the coroner doesn't feel there is evidence to support that," her father said.

But Mr Neville said he was staggered that Caloundra Hospital still would not be getting until August next year a CT scanner - which could have helped diagnose his daughter's injuries and save her life.

In 2004, Dr Doneman pleaded guilty to unsatisfactory professional conduct before Queensland's Health Practitioners Tribunal and he was ordered to be stringently supervised for one year.

Dr Lock said Queensland Health should review the capacity of rural or remote hospitals to perform emergency neurosurgical and vascular surgical procedures which may have saved Elise's life. Queensland Health director-general Michael Reid said Queensland Health had worked hard to address the issues raised by the inquest, with work still continuing.


Public hospital coverup

Some cancer patients at the Royal Adelaide Hospital are believed to have had their lives shortened by up to two weeks because of a radiation treatment bungle. An independent report into the error warns of the possibility of "a reduction in survival of up to two weeks for (five) patients who were receiving radiotherapy for high-grade brain tumours". Health Minister John Hill has ordered a second investigation into the decision by the then RAH management "to not notify patients" or the Government.

The report, tabled in Parliament yesterday, labels the error "significant" and "serious" and states 869 patients were exposed to an under-dose of radiation treatment of about 5 per cent. "In terms of error, this incident is considered significant because of the volume of patients exposed to the error," the report states. "Although . . . the overall clinical impact might be small, an error such as this can provide significant warning for a potential more serious error in the future and should be considered serious."

A review panel led by NSW radiation oncologist Professor Geoff Delaney found the under-dose on a malfuctioning radiotherapy machine at the RAH between July 28, 2004, and July 21, 2006, would not have an impact on the "vast majority" of patients. However, the panel said its "educated estimate" was the under-dose had shortened the lives of a group of brain tumour sufferers by up to a fortnight. This was said to be a "best guess". The panel also said it was not able to study every individual case or assess individual risk because that would take months. Rather, the panel consulted international literature before generally reviewing patients' diagnosis and treatment.

They then identified seven patients in three different tumour groups who may have had a "small but real" clinical impact. Aside from the five brain tumour patients, there was one head and neck cancer patient who "may have had their cancer compromised" and another prostate cancer patient who requires follow-up care. Health Department chief executive Dr Tony Sherbon said he was trying to contact the seven patients yesterday. He said 14 other patients in high-risk categories had since died. "We are not in a position to say whether the under-dosing affected their survival," he said.

The Government has accepted the report's 14 recommendations, including to hire six more staff. When the error was discovered two years ago the dosage was rectified. But the then RAH general manager Virginia Deegan, currently employed by the University of Adelaide, and the hospital's director of cancer services, Professor Dorothy Keefe, decided it was not significant enough to alert the public, the department or the minister.

Dr Sherbon only found out about the error on July 16 this year, after a complaint. He took up his position as Health Department chief executive just weeks after hospital management found out about the error. "I would have liked to have been briefed on it, yes, I would have liked to have known," he said. Dr Sherbon said that in 2006, Ms Deegan was notified by Professor Keefe, who advised "the under-dosing was not signficant and the manager (Ms Deegan) took that advice".

Although he will await the outcome of a second inquiry, by former Premier's Department chief Ian Kowalick, into the hospital's handling of the matter, Dr Sherbon said he will take any action recommended against Professor Keefe. "Mr Kowalick will make reference to the standards of public sector management," he said.

But RAH medical staff society chair Dr James Moore last night warned Dr Sherbon not to "overstep the mark". "He runs a very real risk of making it impossible to attract people to come and work in this state," Dr Moore said. "If he believes that all problems are going to be reported now, he's living in cloud cuckoo land. "The Government had been warned a good 12 months before this emerged that there was a risk of something like this happening because of the staffing problems.

Opposition health spokeswoman Vickie Chapman said the investigation should be widened to include the department.


Friday, September 12, 2008


The conformist societies of Europe seem to produce very little disbelief in global warming but in Australia it abounds. Three more current articles below

Emissions not making rivers run dry

The current drought is caused by natural climate variation but the collapse of the Murray-Darling basin is due to human mismanagement, says Stewart Franks, a hydroclimatologist and an associate professor at the University of Newcastle School of Engineering.

Prof. Franks points out that drought causes warming, not vice versa. The knowall Greenies never thought of that!

Is the ongoing drought in the Murray-Darling Basin affected by climate change? The simple answer is that there is no evidence that CO2 has had any significant role. Like it or not, that is the science. In fact, the drought was caused by an entirely natural phenomenon: the 2002 El Nino event. This led to particularly low rainfalls across eastern Australia. The subsequent years were either neutral or weak El Nino conditions. Significantly, neutral conditions are not sufficient to break a drought. In 2006, we had a return to El Nino conditions which further exacerbated the drought. What we didn't have was a strong La Nina.

Last year finally brought a La Nina event but it was relatively weak. It produced a number of major storm events in coastal areas and some useful rainfall in the Murray-Darling basin and elsewhere. Approximately half of NSW drought-declared areas were lifted out of drought (albeit into "marginal" status) and Sydney's water supply doubled in the space of a few months.

This was the first rain-bearing La Nina since 1999 but proved insufficient to break the drought. In short, the drought was initiated by El Nino, protracted by further El Nino events and perhaps more importantly, the absence of substantial La Nina events.

Despite the known causes of the drought, many have claimed that CO2 emissions are to blame. There have been arguments put forward to justify this claim, all eagerly adopted by various groups, but none of which have serious merit.

A key claim is that the multiple occurrence of El Nino is a sign of climate change. This is speculative at best. Recent analysis showed the nine-year absence of La Nina was not unusual. In fact long-term records demonstrate alternating periods of 20-40 years where El Nino is dominant, followed by similarly extended periods where La Nina dominates. Ominously, the data demonstrates that it is possible to go 14-15 years without any La Nina events. The consequent drought would be devastating but entirely natural.

The observation that El Nino and La Nina events cluster on 20-40 year, multi-decadal timescales is an important one. It demonstrates that Australia should always expect major changes in climate as a function of natural variability. When viewed in this light, the drought is most likely a recurring feature of the Australian climate.

A more recent claim is that higher temperatures are leading to increased evaporation of moisture. The weather bureau acknowledges that rainfall from September 2001 until now has not been the lowest recorded, however much has been made of the fact that consequent inflows have been the lowest. It has been claimed increased evaporation, driven by climate change, can make up this discrepancy. Indeed, Wendy Craik, the chief executive of the Murray Darling Basin Commission has stated that temperatures were warmer, leading to more evaporation and drier catchments.

This is disturbing to hear from the head of the MDBC, as it is completely at odds with the known physics of evaporation. While it sounds intuitively correct, it is wrong. When soil contains high moisture content, much of the sun's energy is used in evaporation. Consequently, there is limited heating of the surface. When soil moisture content is low (as occurs during drought) nearly all of that energy is converted into heating the surface, and air temperatures rise significantly. Consequently, higher temperatures are due to the lack of evaporation, not a cause of significantly higher evaporation.

Cloud cover also provides a major control on air temperatures. El Nino delivers less rainfall but also less cloud cover. This has a major impact on the amount of the sun's energy reaching land; far greater than the trivial increase in radiant energy caused by increased CO2. Again, in the absence of soil moisture, air temperatures increase.

These are known and accepted processes of environmental physics and are not contentious. They are ignored because they detract from the simple message that we should sign up to the concept of "dangerous climate change" and an emissions trading scheme. After all, who would pay for carbon emissions if they were not proven to be detrimental? Who would provide extra funds for climate change science if it wasn't a proven significant factor compared to natural climatic variability?

None of the above is to say that CO2 is not having some effect; the atmospheric CO2 concentration has risen and this is largely attributable to anthropogenic emissions. CO2 is a radiatively-active gas and leads to a minor increase in downward radiation. However, there is no evidence that this is in any way significant, especially when compared to the naturally varying processes that dominate rainfall variability and evaporation.

We do know why inflows are so low and why various ecosystems of the Murray-Darling are in crisis: the system is over-allocated and has experienced a growth in groundwater extraction and in the number of farm dams preventing rainfall from becoming run-off. This is due to a failure of planning, management and leadership from the relevant authorities. Under these conditions, when a prolonged drought strikes, the system collapses. This is a man-made problem but not one that is attributable to CO2.

Craik is not alone in her desire to view CO2-induced climate change as proven and affecting the drought. Numerous politicians, environmentalists and especially scientists have made spectacular leaps of faith in their adherence to the doctrine of climate change over recent years, too many to document here. However, the most literally fantastic claim on climate change must go to Kevin Rudd, who has guaranteed that rainfall will decline over coming decades; one can only assume he's based his view on deficient climate models and bad advice.

Perhaps our leading climate authorities who have played such a prominent role in fomenting speculation about climate change, and who apparently adhere to the notion that climate is amenable to prediction, should also point out that these models cannot reproduce the observed multi-decadal variability of El Nino and La Nina in anything like a realistic manner. Given the uncertainty of El Nino and La Nina behaviour, one clearly cannot predict the future.

There is no direct evidence of CO2 impacts on the drought, nor is there any rational basis for predicting rainfall in 30 years time. One just hopes that sensible and sustainable management from our leaders will enable struggling rural communities to weather the vagaries of climatic and political extremes.


Rudd's emissions trading scheme is futile

NATURAL climate changes include warmings, coolings and more abrupt steps represented by the Great Pacific Climate Shift in 1977. Meanwhile, lurking in the background lies the threat of visitation of another Little Ice Age. The Rudd Government's emissions trading policy deals only with the threat of presumed human-caused warming, and ignores the other all-too-real climate threats. The Government's intended emissions trading scheme, therefore, does not represent proper climate policy but rather constitutes a human global warming policy - which is an entirely different, and speculative, matter.

For the hypothesis that human carbon dioxide emissions are causing dangerous global warming has failed the tests to which it has been subjected. One important test is that global temperature has failed to increase since 1998 despite an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide of almost 5 per cent since then. So to say that human-caused global warming is proven to be a dangerous problem is untrue, and to introduce policies aimed at stopping presumed warming when cooling is actually under way is vainglorious.

An emissions trading scheme also will represent an expensive act of futility, because its introduction will have no measurable effect on future climate. Even worse, the costs of emissions trading will be levied disproportionately against the members of our society least able to afford them. Yet everything that we know from the study of past climate change indicates a real climate problem exists, which is the risk of natural climate change, both warmings and the much more dangerous coolings and sudden climatic events.

Study of the geological record reveals many instances of natural climate change of a speed and magnitude that would be hazardous to human life and economic wellbeing should they be revisited upon today's planet. Rapid temperature switches of several degrees within a few years to a decade have long been known from evidence in ice cores and other ancient climate records. More modern instrumental data record similarly rapid changes.

In Greenland during the 1920s five coastal weather stations sustained average annual temperature rises between 2C and 4C (and by as much as 6C in winter) in under 10 years. At the same time, human history records many examples of damaging short-term climatic hazards such as storms, floods and droughts. Nearly all these varied climatic events remain unpredictable.

Human influence aside, therefore, it is certain that natural climate change will continue. In dealing with the certainties and uncertainties of climate change, the key issue is prudent risk assessment. As for other natural planetary hazards, policies to cope with climate change should be based on adaptation to the change as it happens, and include the provision of financial help for those disadvantaged by the change.

Therefore an appropriate public policy on climate change should, first, monitor changes as they occur and continue to do so; and, second, respond and adapt to any changes in the same way that we deal with other damaging natural events. New Zealand already has such a national monitoring and response system in place for earthquake, volcanic and flood disasters, linked to a compensation and insurance system.

The certainty is that natural climate change and variation will continue. But like Holland in the past, adapt we must and will. More research and better policy advice is needed on how best to manage water and agricultural resources, and urban growth, in the context of natural climate changes certain to occur. Even were generous new funding to be provided towards these ends, the net cost would be orders of magnitude less than will be engendered by introducing a fundamentally misconceived emissions trading scheme.

To boot, contingent damage to the economy, standard of living and world food supply would be avoided. Does that sound like a good deal, Minister


Rudd's Warmist nonsense to send power stations broke

Banks and other financial backers of electricity generators believe there is a significant likelihood one or more power companies will go broke if no compensation is provided under an emissions trading scheme. A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of 15 banks, investors and analysts of the electricity sector found most financiers were still willing to lend to the sector, but were now charging a risk premium because of the current uncertainty over the industry's treatment under an emissions trading scheme from 2010. The survey is included in a supplementary submission to the Rudd Government's green paper by the National Generators Forum. It indicates investors are already looking to reduce their exposure to coal-fired generators, and that most had not started factoring in the risk of a carbon price until 2005.

The main threat of liquidation would be triggered by a major devaluation of generators' assets if an emissions trading scheme rules out compensation when the final terms are announced by the Government in December. This would trigger accelerated debt repayments under the existing financing and hedging arrangements negotiated by the power companies, with some generators understood to be highly geared and at significant risk of loan defaults. Most financiers thought breaches of the financing arrangements were likely if no compensation was provided, with insolvencies rated as a possibility.

The NGF has warned the financial stress would impact on investment in new technology. "Shifting between technologies is not costless and simultaneous -- significant funds and lead times are required to decommission existing generation and replace it with new generation," the submission said.

One of those surveyed was Sajal Kishore, associate director of Fitch Ratings, who said while the questions were biased in favour of a negative response, the sector faced worsening financial stress and uncertainty. "The real thing is whether the generator is able to pass on those costs or not," he said.

A coalition of energy providers has supported the introduction of a trading scheme but said the scale of the transition required structural assistance for the power sector. The electricity supply association, electricity retailers, NGF and the gas pipelines association said a modest target for 2020 was required to "allow the wider economy greater opportunity to adjust to one of the most fundamental structural adjustments ever applied by fiat".

Generators are already unable to negotiate hedge contracts beyond the end of the year because of uncertainty about the carbon price. "To enable generators to write future hedge/bilateral contracts, the emissions cap and trajectory needs to be announced as soon as possible, and permits made available," their joint submission said. "Currently, there are very few hedge contracts being offered beyond June 2010 because the cost of greenhouse gas emissions is unknown."


'Vege maths' to be abolished

The national maths curriculum is still a blank page but the man in charge of framing the document knows what won't feature: easy maths courses for weaker students. While so-called "vege maths" courses teaching day-to-day skills have been offered to less able students, Peter Sullivan said they basically told students to give up. Instead, he envisages a national maths curriculum that gives all students the understanding they need for life after school.

Professor Sullivan, appointed by the National Curriculum Board to draft a direction for maths, said the course should offer the depth for talented maths students to pursue their interest, but still provide comprehensive skills to weaker students. "People need maths to be able to understand the world and their lives but also to be able to participate effectively in the workplace and their job," he said. "That's what curriculum can do, it can make education more interesting and relevant to the world today."

Professor Sullivan, from Monash University, said extended courses were necessary for students in the final years of school, when they were making choices about their careers. But for the compulsory years of schooling, the curriculum should preserve opportunities for all students as long as possible and not discard them as unable to do maths. "If there were low-achieving students falling behind, then schools and systems have to find ways to support them so they can improve, not give up on them and say 'here, do this easy course'," he said.

Professor Sullivan said many young students developed an attitude that they just could not do maths and one of the aims for the curriculum was to teach them that persistence pays off. "Giving up is not the way to do it. The amount of maths they learn depends on how hard they try, not how bright they are. These are the sorts of things the curriculum should try to do."

Professor Sullivan said technology had a crucial part to play. "It has the potential to change the way students study maths. It will allow students to place less emphasis on the memorisation of skills and formulas and use technology to solve real problems with real data."

He said fundamental knowledge such as the times tables would always be required. Rather, he was referring to the blind manipulation of memorised formulas. "A lot of people learn things in maths they don't understand, but once they're able to use technology to explore the concept, the maths makes sense," Professor Sullivan said.


Australian public hospitals kill as many as the roads do

The number of deaths caused in Australian hospitals by emergency department overcrowding is equal to the road toll, a new report has revealed. The report by the University of New South Wales, in preparation for a Friday summit on emergency department access block in Melbourne, also revealed that patients face up to 30 per cent more chance of dying if they attend an over crowded emergency department. Children and the elderly are among those most likely to be affected. Queensland hospitals are among the most overcrowded in the country.

The report, prepared for the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine, suggested that increasing hospital bed numbers is the only method to reduce access block. Access block is when patients are left to wait longer than eight hours for a bed in an emergency department. "A large amount of human suffering (in emergency departments) is preventable," the report said. "There is a 20-30 per cent excess mortality rate every that is attributable to access block and ED overcrowding in Australia. "This equates to approximately 1500 deaths per year, which is similar to the road toll."

The report criticised a lack of extra hospital beds in recent years despite enormous growth in emergency department patient presentations. Bed occupancy rate should not be higher than 85 per cent. "There are not enough available beds to meet demand," the report said. "This results in access block and ED overcrowding. "This is associated with significant mortality and human suffering."

The report claimed that telephone hotlines and after-hours GP clinics did little to improve access block. It also criticised methods of treating patients in non-treatment areas such as hospital corridors and waiting rooms. "Access block and overcrowding have also been associated with increased return rates of hospital re-admissions, return visits to the ED, and inappropriate follow-up care," the report said.


Parent anger over lunchbox police

Rules on junk food in schools will be sent to all principals this week amid parent anger over teachers inspecting children's lunchboxes and confiscating items viewed as unhealthy. Education Department chief executive Chris Robinson told The Advertiser last night guidelines would be reissued to all state schools and preschools. This follows reports yesterday of several schools ordering teachers to search children's lunchboxes for "inappropriate" food. In some cases, confiscated items were not replaced, leaving children to go hungry.

Mr Robinson said the department's ban on junk food under the Right Bite strategy launched last year by Health Minister John Hill and Education Minister Jane Lomax-Smith, applied only to food and drinks sold in school canteens and vending machines. Birthday cakes and food or drinks from home are not covered by the ban. But according to a February 27 memo sent to principals and preschool directors by department deputy chief executive Jan Andrews, each school has discretion to ignore those instructions. "It is up to each school and preschool community and their governing council to decide how to use the guidelines to encourage healthier eating beyond the requirement that bans junk food in school canteens and vending machines," the memo said.

Opposition education spokesman David Pisoni said schools were confused by the "mixed message". "Parents are rightly angry - it should be about education and not confiscation, and kids should not go hungry because food is taken from lunchboxes," he said.

Mr Robinson, speaking yesterday on radio FIVEaa, said: "Teachers don't have any role in going through children's lunchboxes, that's entirely a matter for parents and the healthy eating guidelines don't cover (them)."

But Seaview Downs mother Cassandra Liebeknecht told The Advertiser that staff at her son's preschool had, over time, confiscated a small packet of potato chips and fruit bars. "Where do you draw the line? Is white bread with jam on it healthy," she asked.

Child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg said: "This is an abuse of power. "No school teacher has the right to go into a child's lunchbox and arbitrarily deem some food acceptable and some not. It is a blatant interference in the rights of parents and has to stop now."


Thursday, September 11, 2008

People must not be told that a child molester is living next door??

This is getting as mad as Britain

Your neighbour is a convicted child molester. That's the message that landed Debbe McEwan in court. The 46-year-old mum, from Canley Vale in NSW, was yesterday fined $527, ordered to undergo counselling and placed on a good-behaviour bond for intimidating child molester Geoff Reynolds. "I still can't see that I did anything wrong," she said outside Campbelltown Local Court yesterday. "They say he's the victim but what about the child he molested?"

Ms McEwan told the court she believed Mr Reynolds still posed a risk. "I couldn't have lived with myself if he'd done something to another child," Ms McEwan said yesterday. "Even if he does something now I still haven't done enough to stop him."

She was charged with use intimidation/violence to unlawfully influence a person after she sent letters to at least three houses surrounding Reynolds' rented Macquarie Fields home in July. The letters read in part: "Public warning, 1 x convicted child molester x two times @ Macquarie Fields NSW. Watch your children, daughters, sisters, nieces & friends."

Reynolds was sentenced in the late 1990s to 12 months in jail for molesting a then nine-year-old girl. In police facts tendered to court, Mr Reynolds said since becoming aware of the letters he had "become fearful of local residents seeking retribution against him for his past". He had "become guarded with his movements and kept his time in the front yard to a minimum".

Magistrate Glenn Bartley said Ms McEwan and others should understand it was unacceptable to take the law into their own hands. "You don't seem to understand why this is a crime - you can't take the law into your own hands," he said. "He went to prison and there are sex offender registers ... it's not up to you to take matters into your own hands."


Perverted doctor charged over mutilation of women

This should have been done many years ago -- when the complaints first began. Yet another regulatory failure

A FORMER New South Wales doctor has been charged in relation to alleged sexual assaults and genital mutilations of patients who were undergoing surgery. Graeme Reeves, 58, who was banned from practising obstetrics by the Medical Board in 1997, has been charged with 17 offences against 10 women, Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec said.

Mr Reeves was arrested in the Sydney suburb of Baulkham Hills this morning after extensive investigations into more than 113 allegations of patient misconduct between 2001 and 2003 at Baulkham Hills and at Bega on the state's south coast. The Daily Telegraph was on the scene when Mr Reeves was brought in to a local police station at about 6.45am (AEST) in the back of an unmarked police car.

"It's been a lengthy investigation due to the fact there have been numerous people we've had to speak to including in excess of 100 (alleged) victims and witnesses, medical professionals, plus also examine numerous medical records," Supt Kerlatec said earlier on Macquarie Radio. "We also had to engage our own medical expert to give us advice on the difference between malpractice and what we consider to be criminal action. "This is the first investigation of this size and nature conducted by the NSW Police force and officers are treating the matter very seriously," the Daily Telegraph quoted him as saying.

Police from Strike Force Tarella raided a storage unit allegedly belonging to Mr Reeves last week at Gladesville in Sydney's northwest, where officers allegedly located a raft of medical documents. Mr Reeves is expected to face court today, but police said the probe was continuing. "Today's arrest marks the first phase in this lengthy and complex investigation and inquiries are ongoing," Supt Kerlatec said.

He praised the courage of the former patients of Mr Reeves who had come forward with their allegations. "We were extremely encouraged throughout this whole matter by the strength displayed by these women," he said. "It's been a very traumatic experience for them and it's taken a great deal of courage for them to come forward."

Mr Reeves' appointment by the Southern Area Health Service in 2002 has been examined by Peter Garling SC as part of his wider investigation into the NSW public hospital system. He found that when Mr Reeves applied in 2002 there were "deficiencies" in the system that meant authorities failed to detect he had been banned from practising obstetrics. "I find that Dr Reeves' intentional and calculated dishonesty was the main reason he was recruited to a position he was legally unable to fill," Mr Garling wrote in his report.


Government medicine at work

On a day the State Government promised to fast-track compensation for as many of 100 of Graeme Reeves' alleged victims one woman tells her story in the hope of creating a more accountable health system

MY DAUGHTER Sarah was delivered by Graeme Reeves at Hornsby Hospital in 1995 - her heart rate was falling, she was in foetal distress and he didn't care. The nurses kept coming back to me saying he wouldn't come in, he wanted them to fax through a copy of the foetal heart monitoring strip because he didn't believe them. I had visited him earlier that day and had an ultrasound and everything was OK, I went into labour that night and the nurses rang him at home and he said 'You couldn't be in labour, you're only 34 weeks'. He got me mixed up with another woman, I was 38.5 weeks.

By the time he arrived and delivered her, Sarah was dead. She was revived, it took some time before she took her first breath and I never really saw him again after that. Sarah has cerebral palsy. It is quadriplegic spasticity which means it affects all four limbs. She's blind, she has an intellectual disability and epilepsy, she is in a wheelchair, she has no communication and is reliant on me for everything. The midwives gave me my paperwork when I left the hospital and said 'you might need this one day'. It was that comment that kept in my head. At the time I was sleep deprived and Sarah was fighting to survive but they knew. That is the sad part. I know nurses complained, a lot of nurses complained but what happens to nurses who complain? They get crucified.

I don't work any more, Sarah is 24/7 care, I have equipment costs, medication costs, I have to lift her in and out of our car because I can't afford to have a wheelchair conversion done, which is about $25,000. We're in hospital at least once every year for several weeks a year. She has had six hip operations, she had more than 100 per cent scoliosis of the spine.

But as much as our family has suffered, it is Sarah who paid the ultimate price, it is her life. She has been deprived of the life she should have had and, while we're doing everything to give her the best life possible, it is nothing compared to what she should have had. She would have been one of these kids that is always running. Sarah is beautiful and we love her to death but the Government was supposed to be protecting us from people like Graeme Reeves. There is no system to provide that protection. Sarah loves life, she is a fighter, she loves music and people. Going out in the car, going for coffee and shopping are some of her favourite things, she is such a girl.

I wrote to the Health Care Complaints Commission in 1997. They wrote back to me that the public interest had been served, Graeme Reeves was no longer practising as an obstetrician and his gynaecological business was under supervision. I was happy no one else could be injured by this man but I still protested to have my individual case investigated. I did the right thing, I put in a complaint with the HCCC. That was the system and the system didn't work, it doesn't protect anyone. When it came out in the media in February, that's when I learnt they hadn't done what they had said, he had been practicing that whole time and no one had been supervising him. I felt sick.

We took action against Hornsby Hospital and Graeme Reeves and that's when we found out Reeves was theoretically uninsured and bankrupt. I had a statement of claim against Hornsby Hospital. It was at a time when the full history of Dr Reeves wasn't known and we had to withdraw from our action in 2003. I had to sign a consent judgment to release us with no costs, which means I could not make another claim. With all this new information and the fact there were 35 complaints received at Hornsby Hospital between 1986 and 1997, I wanted to apply to make another claim with the Government's insurance company. They have rejected us.

My lawyer wrote to Hornsby Hospital lawyers in July asking for their consent for the judgment in favour of the hospital from 2003 to be set aside. It was the only way I could make another claim and it was met with outright refusal.

Former health minister Reba Meagher said in February: "I want to assure the community the NSW Health system will take responsibility for any failings of public hospitals relating to Dr Reeves' practice." The Government has not fulfilled its duty to protect Sarah and cover her needs. It is not interested in my daughter. I am happy charges have been brought against Graeme Reeves for allegedly assaulting women but it should never have got to this point.


Why we should teach the Bible in all our schools

Fewer and fewer people know the Bible, even among those with religious commitment. The latest National Church Life Survey of 500,000 people across 22 denominations, reported in yesterday's Herald, shows a whopping 59 per cent of respondents read the Bible only occasionally, rarely or never at all. But why would you bother reading it if you didn't have some belief the words of the good Book were true? What could motivate you to wade your way through those strange, cigarette-paper pages?

To my mind, there are still plenty of reasons to bother with the Bible. But at least one is indisputable, and it reveals a gaping hole in the Australian educational experience. You need to know the Bible in order to understand the history, literature and arts of Western culture. In fact, it is an educational and cultural tragedy that the Bible has quietly disappeared from the schooling experience of many Australians.

In the US, a major project to restore biblical literacy is under way, called the Bible Literacy Project. It is a joint venture of Jewish and Christian educators intended to "encourage and facilitate the academic study of the Bible in public schools". In a country where religion and public education mix like oil and water, it is no mean feat they have got their textbook, The Bible And Its Influence, into the curriculum in 40 states, and counting.

The project had its own statistical grounding. A Gallup Poll for the project found only 37 per cent of American high school students could recognise any of Jesus' words from the Sermon on the Mount (Australia would have to be worse). And yet 98 per cent of English teachers surveyed agreed knowing the Bible delivered a distinct academic advantage in the study of English literature.

I know it firsthand. I was the only one in my first year tutorial who understood what the title of John Bunyan's book, Grace Abounding To The Chief Of Sinners was about. (You need to be familiar with the first letter to Timothy, chapter one, verse 16, to get it.) And I laughed alone at the joke in Waiting For Godot when one of the tramps says, "One of the thieves was saved. It's a reasonable percentage." (See Jesus' crucifixion in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 23.) Two ticks to the boy with the Sunday school upbringing.

We need something similar to the Bible Literacy Project, something that enables the teaching of the Bible in the English, art, music and history classrooms. An Australian version of the project would see discussion of Les Murray, Tim Winton and John Coburn in place of Emerson, Melville and Abraham Lincoln. But the backbone is there in the American work: a textbook that respects the content and structure of the Bible, Hebrew and Christian, and then seeks to communicate to students its vast significance for understanding the Western tradition, and more.

There's no need to be sidetracked by six-day creationism, or Zionism, or the subtleties of denominational differences. This is about teaching the Bible in the same way that you teach scales for learning a musical instrument, or the colour palette for painting. It's necessary to the whole task of understanding what is going on in our culture, literature, and history.

I have a vested interest in biblical literacy; after all, I'm a Christian and I think there's something to the big, unfolding story it tells. But I'm also a literary academic, and I can't bear the biblical ignorance students display. Regardless of whether you find something alive and kicking in the Scriptures, there is a strong argument it should be somewhere near the foundation of Australian education.


Dispelling Delusions: Human-caused climate change and carbon "pollution" mythology

By Dr G LeBlanc Smith, PhD, AIG, AAPG

As a retired CSIRO Principal Research Scientist (geosciences - sedimentology), I make this observation and comment on Minister Wong's statement, (and Professor Garnaut's commentary): "Climate change threatens . icons like the Great Barrier Reef, the Kakadu wetlands and the multi billion dollar tourism industries they support."

Knowing and understanding the past is a vital key to the future, and earth scientists can present much of this information in a context that can assist in exposing the truth and misrepresentations of the current "Climate Change" debate. It is fact that the vast bulk of the Great Barrier Reef area was exposed land and above sea level, prior to 10,000 years ago, when sea levels were over 70m lower than present. There was no great coral reef there until recently, and Kakadu was probably not a swampy wetland then either.

I suggest that statements from Ms Wong and Professor Garnaut should be challenged for veracity by all responsible Government advisors and the CSIRO at the very least, and by any observant scientist to test their logic against evidence. The evidence can be seen from the history of sea level variations mapped as a time-curve derived from joining dots of observed and dated sea levels that track the natural melt-out of the last glaciation ice sheets.

Sea level has risen about 130m in the 10,000 years between 17,000 and 7,000 years ago; with a maximum observed level ~8m above present sea level in marine deposits dated ~ 6000 years old in perched Antarctic lakes. It has subsequently fallen in steps as the planet has cooled to our present level. This is in the published science literature and much can be readily "Googled".

A useful summary sea level vs time graphic can be seen in Robert A. Rohde's artwork (see below) at the following internet address: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Post-Glacial_Sea_Level.png#file. This is largely based on the established 1998 science paper by Fleming (and others) that closely mapped sea level vs time from many sites across the planet. This paper is viewable at the following URL: http://www.csse.uwa.edu.au/~paulj/publications/EPSL1998.pdf Page 1 of 4

The detailed bathymetry levels for the GBR areas can be seen in the many depth maps crafted by Adam Lewis (see below) and in the science paper at: http://www.reef.crc.org.au/publications/techreport/pdf/33 - Adam Lewis.zip

By contrasting the sea levels over time with the land surface elevations it is an obvious inference that the bulk of the GBR AREA would not have supported coral growth as it was above sea level until recently, and has drowned. Any talk of presently located GBR as hundred of millions of years old is incorrect and not based on available science.

The Wong statement should probably more correctly reflect that recent natural climate change did indeed threaten that environment; it drowned the GBR AREA, which was "polluted" by sea water and accompanied by local outbreaks of coral growth, that are now seen as beneficial to our country. On the positive side: a continual current of coral spawn flows down our coasts and will repopulate any suitable growth substrate within a year. This is self evident to any diver who has looked at the thumb-nail sized corals growing on sea grass stems. This holds true also for with the Leeuwin Current on the west coast of Australia.

The massive sea level rise at the termination of the last glaciation would likely also have affected the Kakadu environment, and it may well not have been swamp then, either. Consider the significant difference between ancient Bradshaw rock paintings, dated at around 17,000 years old, and the recent rock art, and the apparent lack of fish and crocodiles in the old artworks. Worth a further thought I would think, to get the true history for these areas in context, so that objective discussion and decisions based of real science can be derived.

More solid facts from the past: It is established fact that the ice core data from both Greenland and Antarctica show information that carbon dioxide variation lags behind temperature variation, throughout the nearly half a million year record contained in the ice cores. I have graphed the last deglaciation to present time (below), from publicly available data of high veracity, which is acknowledged in the graphic. Note the ~1000 year lag of CO2 variation changes behind temperature changes, which are highlighted by the black arrows targeting significant change points on the orange (CO2) and purple (Temp) curves of the EDC ice core. This lagging fact refutes the flawed contention that carbon dioxide is the driver of temperature change. The oceans de-gas and re-gas with CO2 as the global temperatures respectively warm and cool.

The inter-hemisphere variations are striking. The northern hemisphere (green curve) shows massive temperature spikes that range over 22C degrees, which we have not experienced in the southern hemisphere records (purple and blue curves) that reflect moderation with variations under 10C degrees across the deglaciation event. This argues well for Australia, which would appear to be largely exempt from these erratic fluctuations and the extremes of variation as seen in the Greenland records. This should be factored into our planning.

There is no atmospheric hot-spot from "greenhouse CO2" despite over 20 years of serious looking for it (read Dr Evans and Dr Spencer's recent media and US Senate evidence statements). Occam's razor would point to the sun as the driver of climate change of significance. Human generated carbon dioxide is arguably around 3% of the total carbon dioxide budget, and in the light of the above, we are effectively irrelevant to the natural climate change continuum.

Natural climate change has and will continue to pose challenges and threats to human kind. Some of these we can manage for, others we will have to adapt to. My current view is that the suggestion that human-caused carbon dioxide is driving these (natural) changes is built on bad science at best, and any carbon tax will be a fraud at worst.

Much of this above information was submitted into the Garnaut Review, and presented to the Parliamentary Ministers and parties (by me), yet has apparently been ignored.

I contend that those professional scientists and advisors that are knowingly complicit in climate science fraud and all that is derived from it, will continue to be exposed by the science itself.

I wonder if class action legal challenges will flow from any implementation of carbon tax in the future - once the foundations on which it is being built are exposed for what they are? I am surprised that the ACCC has not pulled the current "carbon pollution" advert off TV for lack of truth, and probable deceptions.

I remain open to be persuaded by evidence. In summary, I have yet to see credible proof of carbon dioxide driving climate change, let alone man-made CO2 driving it. The atmospheric hot-spot is missing and the ice core data refute this. When will we collectively awake from this deceptive delusion?

To end on a positive note - Try this for a solution to a non-problem: It is also possible to re-cycle carbon dioxide into food (protein) and fuel (microbial oil) on a sustainable basis. A method I have suggested when representing CSIRO at the 2003 Queensland Science in Parliament Day forum, is to pipe concentrated carbon dioxide generated from oxygen-fired base-load coal fired power stations into farms of solar-bio converters seeded with nutrients, algae, bacteria and yeasts. The pointers to this technology have been around since the 1980s (University Toronto). Our politicians and CSIRO are aware of this.

Using this approach it could be possible to engineer and sustainably generate sufficient microbial oil to supply much of Australian needs. If laboratory production rates (as recollected) are achieved it may be possible to do this with as under 5000 hectares of solar-bio-digesters - to generate 80Mbbl oil per year. Why do our collective government parties continue to ignore this? This sustained inaction has provided us with the opportunity to buy this technology back from overseas - see Sapphire Energy - The Product at http://www.sapphireenergy.com/product .

Key questions remain - What is the real agenda behind this pending carbon tax and is it a fraud? There are a lot of positives - none of which require a carbon tax.

Source (See the original for graphics)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Relax, truth has surfaced -- in the Garnaut climate report

Kevin Rudd's global warming guru has finally - and reluctantly - exposed the con. Ignore everything the Government has told you. The truth, conceded Professor Ross Garnaut last week, is that it really is cheaper for Australians to do nothing about global warming. And, no, it's not immoral to figure there's no point spending big money to "stop" this warming when it won't make a blind bit of difference.

No wonder the Rudd Government refuses to comment on Garnaut's latest report, released on Friday. Much of the argument for its grand plan to make us slash emissions from 2010 has just been destroyed. I guess it's just hoping no journalists, most of whom are warming believers, will care to notice what Garnaut has just admitted through gritted teeth. As far as I can tell, only the Daily Telegraph's Piers Akerman has drawn the unmistakable conclusions.

Let's assume just for now that man's carbon dioxide emissions really are heating the world. Let's also assume that heating would be bad, and wouldn't actually help crops grow. Let's also ignore that the world has in fact cooled since 2002. Even given all that, it's bizarre to think Australia should lead the world in slashing emissions, losing billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. What difference to the world could Australia make, when we pump out less than 1.5 per cent of all man's greenhouse gases? Why make such sacrifices when giants such as China and India are stamping on the growth pedal, getting gassier by the week, and have vowed not to stop until they're rich? It's brainless, of course.

And to that argument, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has had one glib response: panic now or pay later. Or as he put it on June 23, and again on June 26: "The economic cost of inaction on climate change is far greater than the economic cost of action." One government minister, from Treasurer Wayne Swan to Environment Minister Peter Garrett, after another repeated the mantra -- that we must pay now or pay more later. Here, for instance, is Climate Change Minister Penny Wong on June 24: "The economic costs of inaction are far greater than the costs of responsible action now."

But is all this actually true? As Akerman has pointed out, Garnaut in his draft report in July calculated the cost if we did nothing about "climate change" and just adapted to whatever turned up. The cost by 2020, he estimated then, would be a cut of 0.7 per cent in the GDP we'd normally expect. Now compare that claimed cost with what we'd pay if we actually tried to stop global warming. In his report last week, Garnaut says if we cut our emissions by 25 per cent by 2020, and the rest of the world somehow agreed to do likewise, our GDP would fall 1.6 per cent. If we cut emissions by 10 per cent, we'd lose 1.1 per cent. And if we simply adopted the weakest version of the Government's planned emissions trading scheme, even without actually cutting gases, we'd still lose 0.9 per cent.

That is: doing nothing about global warming turns out to be cheaper than "doing something" every single time. So Rudd is exactly wrong: the economic costs of action are far greater than the economic costs of inaction. That's according to Garnaut's own reports, which, incidentally, point out that whatever happens, we're still likely to be seven times richer in 2100 than we are today. That's assuming that any reliance can be placed on his models, which haven't been checked by anyone outside the loop.

Now before you dismiss Garnaut as just another evil sceptic, consider this. He's actually the deepest believer in the theory that man is heating the world to hell. In fact, he even asked the City of Yarra Council for permission to build a steel roof on his home on the grounds that global warming would cause "severe and more frequent hailstorms". And, like so many devout believers in global warming, Garnaut skips over inconvenient truths -- such as the fact that even the alarmist Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's four assessment reports admit that "decreases in hail frequency are simulated for Melbourne".

So Garnaut is a believer and confirmed catastrophist, but even he is now wondering how sane it is to slash our emissions when we're so irrelevant on our own. He now recommends that the Rudd Government promise only to cut our emissions by 10 per cent by 2020, a target that has horrified the green movement and warming scientists. Greens leader Bob Brown in particular is apoplectic, saying cuts of at least 40 per cent are needed to save us from Armageddon. Labor itself was thought to be toying with promising cuts of 20 per cent.

But now Garnaut says just 10 per cent is the most we can realistically hope to cut without sending jobs overseas for no real gain to the climate. Yet even that (relatively) modest target comes with a catch. Garnaut says that if the rest of the world doesn't promise at next year's Copenhagen Conference to make some cuts of their own -- even ones much less than ours -- we shouldn't even bother to cut our emissions by 10 per cent. Just half that would do, and even that would be just to set an inspiring example to the rest of the world that would "keep hopes alive of an international agreement, at reasonable cost".

Yeah, right. Like China and India are just waiting for a cue from Australia.

Why is Garnaut's concession so devastating to the Government? Because he's admitting that nothing we do on our own makes the slightest difference to the climate. Whether we cut our emissions by 5 per cent or 100, if the rest of the world, China and India in particular, keep gassing on, then the Great Barrier Reef will still die, polar bears still drown and St Kilda Beach will move to Fitzroy.

So much for Rudd's deceitful claim that, "if we do not begin reducing the nation's levels of carbon pollution, Australia's economy will face more frequent and severe droughts, less water, reduced food production and devastation of areas such as the Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu wetlands". Rudd's own climate guru doesn't agree. And rightly so. (Oh, and relax: all that doom will only happen if man's gases are indeed frying the world, and even Garnaut admits "there is a large uncertainty" about that. He's not wrong.)

And here's the other damaging thing about Garnaut's report. He's suggesting it's not immoral to balance gain against pain, and to work out whether cutting emissions is a price worth paying for what little it achieves. Why, Garnaut is asking, must we add to our climate woes by cutting our economic throats as well? A good question. And I'd go still further than Garnaut yet dares, even though his own figures say he should: Why try to stop global warming, when doing nothing is cheaper? Indeed, why spend billions to stop a warming that in fact seems to have stopped already?


Far-Left school curriculum coming up under Rudd

The latest chapter in the history wars returns one of its chief protagonists, Stuart Macintyre, to the front line, with his appointment by the National Curriculum Board to draft the course for schools from the first year of school through to Year 12. Professor Macintyre, the Ernest Scott professor of history at Melbourne University and chairman of Australian Studies at Harvard, was sidelined by the Howard government in its pursuit of a national curriculum for Australian history. But Professor Macintyre is one of four educators appointed to draft "framing documents" setting out a broad direction for the curriculum in four subjects.

The board has made another controversial appointment in its adviser on the English curriculum, selecting Sydney University literacy researcher Peter Freebody, who is identified with the critical literacy side of the so-called reading wars. The adviser on science is University of Canberra professor Denis Goodrum, and Monash University professor Peter Sullivan will draft the mathematics curriculum.

Professors Macintyre and Freebody were understood to be overseas yesterday and unavailable for comment, but NCB chairman Barry McGaw defended the appointment of both academics, saying they were leaders in their fields. Professor McGaw said Professor Macintyre - a former communist - was a "very sane historian" and the politics of Australian history was less of an issue with the board developing a broader history curriculum. He described Professor Freebody as a "fine scholar" and while his background was not in literature, the board would convene a panel of experts to work with him on that aspect of the curriculum.

"Almost anyone is controversial in literacy," he said. "If anyone doesn't have enemies, they probably haven't been engaged in the debate." Professor McGaw said the framing documents were intended as a starting point for public consultation. The final decision on the curriculum would rest with the board.

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Julia Gillard said she was confident in the judgment of the NCB, which is independent. But Wollongong University associate professor in history and politics Greg Melleuish said Professor Macintyre's appointment was akin to the Howard government appointing Keith Windschuttle, noted for his questioning of the Aboriginal genocide. "They seem to have selected the person who is most likely to raise the hackles on the other side," he said. "I would have thought it incumbent on whatever government it was, particularly in history, to try to depoliticise the process and Professor Macintyre's appointment won't do that."

Professor Macintyre is often described as a left-leaning historian and co-authored a book about the history wars, which debates the interpretation of European colonisation and its effect on indigenous people. The debate became heavily politicised after John Howard championed an alternate to the black-armband view of history.

Professor Freebody was a developer of a widely used model in the teaching of reading called the four pillars of literacy, which sees it as "not a 'scientific' decision, but rather as a moral, political and cultural decision". Literary academics say Professor Freebody has since moved away from that model, and now has a strong commitment to the need to teach phonics or the letter-sound relationships.

Professor Goodrum, who is working with the Australian Academy of Science in developing school curriculum, said the challenge was to reduce the amount covered in courses. "There's a tendency to succumb to breadth rather than depth of learning and that's one challenge to try to meet," he said.

Professor Sullivan said the challenge was to create a maths curriculum for the 21st century. "Children who start school at the same time as this new curriculum is implemented will enter the workforce in 2030 and they're not going to need the type of skills people needed in the 1950s," he said.

Opposition education spokesman Tony Smith said: "Stuart Macintyre brings a well-known, left-wing perspective to Australian history. We can only hope that Stuart Macintyre is able to suppress his views and develop a quality, non-biased, Australian history curriculum, but I'll guess we'll find that out when it's released."


My worst fears have been realised. No educational balance under Rudd

By Kevin Donnelly

Leading up to the federal election, I welcomed the ALP's policy calling for a national curriculum based, as it was, on a conservative agenda very much like the Howard government's approach to reshaping the teaching of history and English. The fear was that the devil would be in the detail and, given the cultural-Left's control over the curriculum, that the agenda would be captured by those opposed to the more academic and balanced approach.

Stuart Macintyre's appointment as a so-called eminent educationalist to oversee history as a subject in the national curriculum - primary to Year 12 and mandated for all schools at the start of 2011 - shows such fears were well-founded. Macintyre, from the University of Melbourne and one-time member of the Communist Party, is a staunch advocate of what he terms "history from below" - one that dismisses a grand narrative celebrating what we have achieved as a nation. For historians like Macintyre, unlike Geoffrey Blainey, who called for an end to what he termed a black-armband view of history, the subject is about privileging victim-groups and interpreting the past in terms of power relationships.

In his book The History Wars, published in 2003 and launched by Paul Keating, Macintyre condemns so-called conservatives such as Keith Windschuttle, Janet Albrechtsen and me for suggesting history teaching is unfairly slanted towards a left-wing, blinkered view. Macintyre continued his attack on the more traditional view of history at a recent Australian Council for Educational Research conference where he defended "educational progressivism". One wonders what Macintyre has to say about Julia Gillard, the Minister for Education, who describes herself as an educational traditionalist and argues that Australia was settled, not invaded.

The second appointment proving that the national curriculum has been captured by the usual suspects is that of Professor Peter Freebody, from the University of Sydney, who will oversee English as a subject. One of the main criticisms of the way English is now taught in schools and teacher education is the impact of critical literacy - a view of reading that asks students to analyse and deconstruct texts in terms of power relationships and theory. Critical literacy draws on the work of the Brazilian Marxist Paulo Freire and, as noted by one overseas academic: "Where Freire's ideas have found the most fertile soil in recent years is in Australia. The Australians have led the world in a movement now called critical literacy."

Freebody advocates critical literacy on the basis that being literate is no longer defined as being able to read and write to the required level. Instead, in the jargon loved by advocates of theory, it involves "a moral, political and cultural decision about the kind of literate practices that are needed to enhance people's agency over their life trajectories and to enhance communities' intellectual, cultural and semiotic resources in print/multi-mediated economies". Freebody, like the Australian Association for the Teachers of English, argues that any talk about a literacy crisis is manufactured and that teachers need to be wary of approaches to literacy that lend themselves to "centralised political surveillance and technocratic control in education".

Given Kevin Rudd's belief in academic standards and a back-to-basics approach, one would have hoped the national curriculum would represent a break with the politically correct, ideological view so prevalent over the past 10 years. Such is not the case.


PM flags major naval build-up in response to Asian arms race

Surprisingly hawkish for a Leftist

Kevin Rudd has foreshadowed a dramatic expansion of the Royal Australian Navy to counter a military build-up being bankrolled by Asia's growing economic prosperity. The Prime Minister last night warned that nations across Asia were modernising their military forces, particularly with more powerful jet fighters and submarines, and that Australia must respond with its own upgrade.

In a blunt warning to the national congress of the Returned and Services League, Mr Rudd also said he wanted to use Australia's status as "a middle power" to promote comprehensive diplomatic engagement within the region and through the UN as a buffer against regional rivalries. "We see a substantial arms build-up over time," Mr Rudd said in Townsville. "We need to be aware of the changes taking place. And we must make sure that we have the right mix of capabilities to deal with any contingencies that might arise in the future."

Mr Rudd did not name any particular nation as posing a specific military threat. But Australian and US intelligence agencies are known to be wary of the growing economic might of China and India. And they have lately warned that China is building an underground naval base at Sanya, on Hainan Island, off its southern coast, with berths for up to 20 advanced nuclear submarines.

Earlier this year, the Chinese navy had at least 55 submarines, eight of which were nuclear-powered. Many were equipped with Yingji-8 anti-ship cruise missiles that can be launched from under water. It is believed there are a further 13 nuclear submarines in the planning stages. China announced in March it would lift its military budget this year by a record 19.4per cent to $63 billion, but Washington believes its actual spending is much higher.

Since taking power last November, Mr Rudd's Government guaranteed an annual 3 per cent real growth rate in defence spending until 2017-18 and has quarantined the department from budget cuts. He has been preparing a Defence white paper to be completed within months, as well as a national security statement expected to be delivered within weeks. And the Prime Minister has pursued frenetic regional diplomacy, defying Opposition criticism to visit China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Last night, Mr Rudd told the RSL that the Asia-Pacific region was so dynamic and included so many "flashpoints" that Australia could not bank on never-ending regional co-operation. "The Asia-Pacific region will become more prosperous and its population will continue to grow," he said. "Militarily, however, as it has already become economically and politically, the Asia-Pacific will become a much more contested region."

By 2050, Australia's population would reach 35 million, while China's would peak at 1.5 billion by 2020 and India's would hit 1.8billion by the middle of the century. "The demographic changes in our region will mean that by 2020, when we look to our north, we will see a very different region to the one we see now - one where population, food, water and energy resources pressures will be great," he said. These pressures would add to those around pre-existing political fault lines, such as territorial disputes.

With North and South Korea still technically at war and China and Taiwan unable to resolve basic questions of sovereignty, increasing military spending was an issue of concern. "As a general observation, the modernisation of Asian military forces is being characterised by significant improvements in air combat capability, and naval forces, including greater numbers and more advanced submarines." Mr Rudd said Australia must therefore look to its own military resources and maintain a flexible land force able to contribute to "high-end military engagements". "We need an advanced naval capability that can protect our sea lanes of communication and support our land forces as they deploy," he said. "And we need an air force that can fill support and combat roles and can deter, defeat and provide assistance to land and maritime forces."

Mr Rudd said the power of the US would decline relative to that of other nations in coming decades but that it would remain the world's only superpower until the middle of the century and maintain its "global leadership role".

He also used his speech to bring context to his foreign policy moves since taking office, stressing that his proposal for the creation of an Asian Economic Community with a role on security, not just trade, was tied to his determination to use Australia's status as a middle power to encourage regional security. Likewise, he said, his proposed creation of an International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament was part of an attempt to respond to the spread of nuclear weapons to more and more nations. "Australia has the credibility and the drive to lead initiatives like this, in part because they are in our interest, but also because they make a positive contribution to the international community," Mr Rudd said. "But diplomacy must always be reinforced by a credible national defence strategy. "We need to make sure that we have an Australian Defence Force that can answer the call if it is needed."

Earlier yesterday, Brendan Nelson told the RSL there should be a formal national apology to Vietnam veterans, acknowledging they were ill-treated when they returned to Australia in the 1960s and 1970s. The Opposition Leader said Vietnam veterans deserved an apology for being subject to abuse and mistreatment on their return from service.

Within hours, the proposal was rejected by the Vietnam Veterans Association. Vietnam Veterans Association national president Ron Coxon told The Australian last night Vietnam veterans felt they had already been honoured by the 1987 welcome home march, the construction of a national memorial in 1992 and the recognition of major battles such as Long Tan. "I don't think he would achieve anything by doing that," Mr Coxon said of Dr Nelson's proposal. "They would be better looking after veterans in the claims process rather than apologising for it."


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Doomsday talk on Barrier Reef angers tourism operators

I have been reading Australian newspapers for 50 years and cannot remember a time when the reef was NOT "endangered" from something or other. But, with the internet, publicity for the panics is much more extensive now. I suppose I have to mention again the basic fact that corals flourish best where the climate is WARMEST (generally speaking, coral reefs are more diverse the closer they get to the equator), so any global warming would be GOOD for the reef. It is COLD that kills coral, which is why there is little coral in Australian waters South of Bundaberg.

The barefaced lies about all this are an absolute wonder. And should I mention again that corals have been found flourishing in a (warm) place that received a direct hit from a thermonuclear device? A thermonuclear explosion is pretty toasty! It shows that corals are extremely resilient if they are adversely impacted

TOURISM operators reliant on the Great Barrier Reef are battling a new menace they say is as damaging to their businesses as crown of thorns starfish. The north Queensland businesses claim publicity about climate change threatening the health of the Reef system could have an adverse impact on tourism numbers. Peter Wright, owner of Port Douglas-based Poseidon Cruises and director of the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators (AMPTO), said that if environmental research continued to dwell on the demise of the Reef, tourism operators might resort to a "come now or it will be too late" advertising campaign. "We've talked about it in the industry but it is a very doomsday thing to say," he said.

Professor Ross Garnaut, the Federal Government's chief climate-change adviser, brought the issue to the fore again last week when he said "the odds are not great for the Great Barrier Reef." Calling for a cut to greenhouse pollution by 10 per cent by 2020, Professor Garnaut said the Government needed to work harder to ensure the longevity of the Reef in the near future.

Mr Wright said while tourism operators were worried about the impact climate change would have on the Reef, they were not convinced it would ultimately be destroyed by greenhouse pollution. "We are absolutely concerned if the predictions are true, because obviously it would damage the Reef experience," Mr Wright said. "But at the moment, where we are, the Reef is not looking damaged at all. The reefs that we go to are in excellent condition."

Mr Wright said media attention given to the starfish outbreaks over the past two decades had often resulted in international tourists contacting Poseidon to see if it was still worthwhile visiting the Reef.

Tony Baker, AMPTO chair and managing director of the Quicksilver Group which owns a range of Great Barrier Reef-based businesses, said that as the world's most well-known reef system, the Reef was open to constant scrutiny and operators had to endure both positive and negative publicity. "There are a lot of people out there who are making comments about the Reef," Mr Baker said. "The reality is there are areas of the Reef that are in outstanding condition and there are areas of the Reef that are affected by things, like the crown of thorns."

Stephen Olle, chairman of Tourism Tropical North Queensland, said tourism operators were currently having to deal with a range of negative issues that were impacting their business, including high fuel costs and the global economic downturn.


IPCC report the product of a small clique, not a broad consensus

ROSS Garnaut made it clear in his interim report that his climate change review takes as a starting point - not as a belief but on the balance of probabilities - that the claims made in the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are correct. Had he made even a cursory examination of the integrity of those IPCC claims he would have found a very troubling picture.

The IPCC encourages us to believe that about 2500 climate scientists supported the claim of a significant human influence on climate. It fails to clarify that the claim was made in chapter nine of the working group one contribution and that the contributions of working groups two and three were based on the assumption that the claim was correct. The first eight chapters of the WG1 contribution were mainly concerned with climatic observations and the authors expressed no opinion about the claim made in chapter nine, and chapters 10 and 11 assumed the claim to be correct. The entire IPCC thesis therefore stands or falls on the claims of just one chapter.

We are also led to believe that chapter nine was widely supported by hundreds of reviewers, but just 62 IPCC reviewers commented on its penultimate draft. Only five of those reviewers endorsed it but four of the five appear to have vested interests and the other made just one comment for the entire 11-chapter WG1 contribution.

As is the normal IPCC practice, chapter nine has co-ordinating lead authors, who are responsible for the chapter as a whole; lead authors, who are responsible for sections of the chapter; and contributing authors, who provide their thoughts to the lead authors but take no active part in thewriting. The IPCC procedures state that the authors at each level should reflect a wide range of views, but this is not true of chapter nine.

The expansion of the full list of authors of each paper cited by this chapter reveals that 37 of 53 chapter authors form a network of people who have previously co-authored scientific papers with each other: or make that 38 if we include a review editor. The two co-ordinating lead authors are members of this network. So are five of the seven lead authors. Thirty of 44 contributing authors are in the network and two other pairs of contributing authors have likewise co-authored scientific papers.

In other words, the supposedly 53 independent voices are in fact one dominant voice with 37 people behind it, two voices each with two people behind them, and perhaps 12 single voices. A closer check reveals that many of those 12 were academic or work colleagues of members of that larger network. One lead author was from the University of Michigan, as were three contributing authors, two of whom were not members of the network. Another lead author was associated with Britain's Hadley Centre, along with eight contributing authors, one of whom was not included in that network of co-authors.

All up, the 53 authors of this chapter came from just 31 establishments and there are worrying indications that certain lead authors were the superiors of contributing authors from the same organisation. The very few viewpoints in this chapter might be alleviated if it drew on a wide range of references, but among the co-authors of 40 per cent of the cited material are at least one chapter author. Scientists associated with the development and use of climate models dominate the clique of chapter nine authors and by extension the views expressed in that chapter.

Perhaps the increase in the processing power of their computers has increased their confidence in the software they have been nurturing for years. Imagine, though, the consequences were they to imply that the accuracy of the models had not improved despite the extra funding. These models are said to require a human component to reasonably match historical temperatures and the modellers claim that this proves a human influence on climate, but the human factor is an input so a corresponding output is no surprise. A more plausible reason for the mismatch without this influence is that the models are incomplete and contain errors, but of course chapter nine could never admit this.

Garnaut didn't need to evaluate the science behind the IPCC's claim to find that its integrity is questionable and that the report's key findings are the product of scientific cronyism. The IPCC has misled us into believing the primary claims were widely endorsed by authors and reviewers but in fact they received little support and came from a narrow self-interested coterie of climate modellers. We should now ask what else the IPCC has misled us about and why Garnaut, a skilled academic, so blithely accepted its claims.


Parents 'are neglecting manners'

But those parents are themselves the product of a Left-dominated educational system which told them that there is no such thing as right and wrong! Teachers have sown the wind and are reaping the whirlwind

ANGRY teachers are sick of lazy parents who leave it to them to educate their kids everythying from manners and morals to eating habits and hygiene. They say they are fed up with playing "mum and dad" in the classroom and have told families to lift their game by devoting more time and effort to teaching their children on social issues. Teachers told a survey they were now expected to take responsibility for educating children on a host of subjects parents no longer bothered with - including respect, good behaviour and punctuality.

Even the etiquette of mobile phone use is listed in a new six-step guide prepared for parents by an elite teacher group fed up with the rising burden imposed on classrooms. The new guide, Parent-Teacher Partnerships, has been produced by the Australian Scholarships Group and the National Excellence in Teaching Awards organisation. Its key message is, "Education doesn't only happen in the classroom". The guide provides tips to parents to take up some of the slack for teachers whose desks are piled with extra programs on road safety, personal health, obesity, safe foods, civic pride, values, drugs and alcohol, multi-culturalism, child protection, life skills, bullying and anti-homophobia.

Most surveyed teachers said that despite being overloaded with extra curriculum work and other duties, they were under pressure from the increasing load imposed by having responsibility for issues no longer taught at home. The teachers' concerns follow suspension data in NSW showing students as young as five are being sent home at a rate of 1682 a week for misconduct including disobedience and bad behaviour.

Mother-of-three Kim Soldo from Minto in Sydney's south-west agreed yesterday teachers needed more help from their students' families. "I think teachers are getting too much lumped on them," she said. "Education starts at home - if you don't pack the child a healthy lunch you can't expect a teacher to solve it. "There are too many things a teacher has to juggle and it is distracting them so much from the curriculum."

Principal of Sarah Redfern Public School at Minto Cheryl McBride said parents ideally should shoulder responsibility for teaching their kids about punctuality, healthy foods and the benefits of exercise. "Any time there is a popular issue there is a mentality that teachers can cover it," Ms McBride said. "The curriculum gets stretched and the result is you dilute the effectiveness of the things you are supposed to be teaching."


Protection for tell-all bureaucrats in new whistleblower laws

Long overdue

The Rudd Government will today unveil a plan for a national overhaul of whistleblower laws, which would abolish criminal penalties for public servants who reveal crime and misconduct to the media. Instead of penalising whistleblowers for unauthorised disclosures, the scheme would protect them from liability and give them the right to legal redress and financial compensation if they suffer reprisals. By protecting whistleblowers from criminal sanctions, the scheme would reduce the risk of journalists being threatened with prison for refusing to identify their bureaucratic sources. The plan is outlined in a report to be launched this morning by Special Minister of State John Faulkner, who is overseeing the Government's promised introduction of whistleblower laws.

The plan was welcomed yesterday by former Customs officer Allan Kessing who was convicted last year of revealing to The Australian airport security flaws - a charge he denies. "I fully endorse it. It is less about protecting the individual and more about protecting the public interest," Mr Kessing said.

The report, by a team of academics led by AJBrown of Griffith University, calls for an extensive overhaul of public service management systems aimed at forcing the bureaucracy to be more responsive to internal complaints about maladministration. Dr Brown said that if the scheme had been in force last year it would have given Mr Kessing a powerful defence. "If Kessing did what he is alleged to have done, this scheme would have given him a fair day in court to argue that what happened was a public interest disclosure," he said.

The scheme drawn up by Dr Brown's team is intended to provide the framework for a network of laws throughout the nation that would recognise the legitimacy of public interest disclosures. It would protect public servants who tell the media about a broad range of misconduct including crime, corruption, abuse of power, breach of trust, conflict of interest, negligence, incompetence, financial waste and anything that endangers public health, safety or the environment. Even if their disclosures turned out to be wrong, whistleblowers would still be protected from liability so long as they had acted in the honest and reasonable belief that they were revealing wrongdoing.

The scheme aims to encourage government agencies to deal with maladministration internally by holding out the threat of public disclosure in the media if they fail to act. Agencies that fail to address internal complaints about maladministration would risk intervention by a powerful agency that would be responsible for administering the scheme. This oversight role could be vested in an existing organisation rather than a new institution, Dr Brown said.

The report, Whistleblowing in the Australian Public Sector, is expected to influence the outcome of a separate inquiry into whistleblower laws by the House of Representatives committee on legal and constitutional affairs. Labor's Mark Dreyfus QC, who chairs that committee, said last month that the Brown report was "very, very convenient". "They have conducted a whole range of research that we will be able to make use of," Mr Dreyfus said.

Dr Brown, who has led a three-year research project on reforming whistleblower laws, is the son of the late Wallace Brown, who worked in the Canberra press gallery from 1961 to1995.


Monday, September 08, 2008


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG portrays the handover of power in NSW as akin to giving away an old car.

O'Shane again

Pat O'Shane is an aggressive lady and a part-Aboriginal "affirmative action" appointee to the magistrates's bench, well known as soft on crime

The Director of Public Prosecutions is appealing a decision by the magistrate Pat O'Shane in which she dismissed a case after the offender had pleaded guilty, a court has been told. Ms O'Shane threw out the police case against Kim Soon Yeo at Ryde Local Court in January, even though Mr Yeo had pleaded guilty to negligent driving occasioning actual bodily harm. Mr Yeo admitted that the car he was driving hit a cyclist, Graham Lade, at an Eastwood intersection in August last year. He said, however, he had not seen the cyclist until "all of a sudden" he saw Mr Lade "fly up in the air". Mr Lade suffered multiple fractures in the accident including to his skull, collar bone and ribs. He and his bike were propelled at least five metres into the air.

The NSW Director of Public Prosecutions is appealing that decision, arguing that Ms O'Shane, who last month received a 12-month good behaviour bond for drink driving, erred in three areas of the law by dismissing the case. "In this particular case there was an admission and there was evidence clearly upon which that plea of guilt could be seen as a reasonable one," the barrister for the DPP, Ian Bourke, said.

Mr Bourke argued that Ms O'Shane was mistaken in her belief that the police facts about the incident showed no case for negligence. However, he said if she had believed that, she should have clearly directed Mr Yeo and his solicitor to apply to have the plea changed. Mr Bourke also said Ms O'Shane was wrong to have refused an adjournment so police could obtain further information on the case, describing it as a "denial of natural justice".

He asked Justice Peter Johnson to send the matter back to the local court and asked that it not appear before Ms O'Shane. Sally Orman-Hales, who is representing Ms O'Shane and Mr Yeo, told the court the magistrate was correct to have dismissed the case as she had given Mr Yeo and his solicitor "an invitation" to change the plea, but it had not been taken up. Justice Johnson reserved his decision.


Third graders win mathematics awards

ARE you smarter than a third grader? Don't count on it. A national maths contest has proven Victoria has its share of baby brainiacs. Seven budding mathematicians rose to the top in this year's Educational Assessment Australia maths contest: Eddie Yao from Kew East Primary, Mingyi Wu from Tucker Rd Bentleigh Primary; Kelvin Sun from Parktone Primary; William Ruan from Serpell Primary; Laura Hung from Sunshine Christian School, Martin Huang from Glendal Primary and Morris Gu from Southwood Boys Grammar are Victoria's youngest whizzes.

Each will receive a medal for scoring 39 out of 40 on the written test. Kelvin Sun, 9, was shocked at the result. "I'm so surprised that I got that mark," he said. The New South Wales University's EAA program tests 1.7 million students a year across Australia and NZ.


Notice something about the kids concerned? It's the usual Asian educational supremacy. And it's only because they work harder, right? So no white kids work hard? If you believe that you would believe anything. Asians are just BORN brighter at mathematics -- and lots else. If you can't cope with that, you've got a problem -- because it is reality. Australia is now about 10% Asian and is fortunate to have them

Governments know how to get people out of their cars

The Queensland Government Railways were always known for featherbedding (union mandated overemployment) and featherbedding breeds negligence. They think (generally rightly) that nothing they do will threaten their jobs

Had the passengers riding peak-hour train 1856 known what was going on in the driver's cabin, they probably would have thought twice about boarding the Cleveland service. As the normal load of schoolkids and workers knocking off early sped across Brisbane's eastern suburbs, none suspected the sleepy driver behind the controls considered two or three hours' sleep a decent kip. Just after 3.46pm on May 26, 2006, as the train departed Thorneside station, the driver's head dropped. "The driver has succumbed to the apparent effects of sleep deprivation and drifted into a level sleep in which the driver's eyes closed and head dropped for a short period," an internal Queensland Rail report stated.

The train was travelling at 73km/h. The driver, now oblivious to a looming red light, awoke too late and overshot the signal by 40m. An investigation found there was a risk of collision or derailment because another train was occupying the same section of track, 850m ahead. Yet the weary driver kept driving through the remaining five stations to Cleveland, although QR insisted that under its policy a guard would have moved into the cabin to keep him awake.

The case is one of several alarming examples of so-called Signals Passed at Danger, or missed red signals, given to The Courier-Mail by Queensland Rail after Transport Minister John Mickel ordered their release. Red signals are meant to stop trains risking collision or derailment if they enter already occupied sections of track. Mr Mickel's intervention followed a Freedom of Information battle for documents found within Queensland Transport. They were ruled to be exempt as they were created by QR, a government-owned corporation excluded from FOI laws.

Despite the minister's intervention, QR still went to extraordinary lengths to try to thwart attempts by his office to release the reports. QR's media unit even said it had done its own privacy test - on top of the one carried out by FOI officers - and claimed the anonymous drivers referred to could be identified due to the nature of the incidents. In the end, Mr Mickel said commuters deserved to know. "In line with the consistent view of the Premier, I believe openness and accountability leads to better public outcomes," Mr Mickel said.

FOI officers nevertheless appear to have blacked out more information than the basic personal details that could identify drivers. Still, the information eventually released painted a disturbing picture. In Gladstone last October, a tutor driver known for "sleeping and dozing" on the job might have fallen asleep and failed to monitor a trainee in a "safety critical" zone. The tutor, with only two hours' sleep after being called in late, moved behind a trainee as a freight train entered a tunnel. The trainee thought the tutor was watching but was actually looking for an electric jug to make some coffee.

"I've got a red here!" the trainee yelled as he passed a red light at 32km/h. He failed to stop for another 89m. Further details about the tutor's movements the previous day were censored, even though it appeared they were unlikely to include identifying facts.

QR insists it has several levels of protection to help prevent and deal with similar Signals Passed at Danger (SPAD) incidents, including alarms on Brisbane rail services which activate brakes if not acknowledged. Statistics showed the number of rail incidents had been on a downward trend for the past decade until a 46 per cent spike last financial year. "We need to reinforce that going through a red signal does not mean a collision is going to happen," a QR spokesman said.

However the drivers' union claimed the measures were inadequate, saying Brisbane was exposed as there were no Automatic Train Protection (ATP) systems like those used in other parts of the state. Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Employees state secretary Greg Smith blamed underfunding from QR for the lack of ATPs in Brisbane. "QR do talk safety but when safety involves an injection of money to address, safety suddenly seems to come second," he said.

The last fatal SPAD collision was the Trinder Park disaster in Brisbane in 1985, in which two people died and 30 others were injured, but other collisions have happened since. Many of the breaches detailed in the release involved trains overshooting red lights by only a few metres. However, some were more serious. Some involved overruns of several hundred metres and, in one freight train case at Hay Point near Mackay last year, more than 1km. The coal train driver blamed misleading "route cards" for the breach by 1.1km, putting it on a section of track occupied by another train.

Some breaches were blamed on basic lapses of attention, including admiring scenery instead of concentrating on the track ahead. Others were due to technical problems with brakes or drivers battling "greasy rails".

Worryingly, some of the antics outlined in the reports echoed recent cases such as the Bundaberg Tilt Train derailment in 2004, which was partly blamed on a co-driver making coffee when he should have been at the controls. On November 26, 2006, a Tilt Train overshot a red signal at Northgate by 50m after departing Roma St. "The basic cause was that the train crew were talking and this distracted them from maintaining observance of the signal," a report stated.

And on September 27 last year a freight train overshot a red signal by 20m at Dingo, near Emerald in cental Queensland, after a tutor driver failed to monitor his trainee. The tutor began restocking a fridge with drinks but noticed an unexpected surge in power. "Red! Red!" the tutor told the trainee as the brakes were applied. "Give it the lot!"

A few weeks later, a high-speed passenger train being driven by a trainee from Robina to Bowen Hills overshot a red signal at Helensvale by 95m. The supervising driver claimed he was distracted by paperwork and failed to notice the trainee, who had taken the train up to 138km/h, had misread a speedometer and failed to reduce speed.

On one night of the Ekka last year, a train driver ran a red signal after the light extinguished on his console near the Campbell St level crossing at Bowen Hills. "This meant the driver was unable to see the speedometer, the AWS sundial or the brake gauge," the report states. "The train driver did not hear the emergency broadcast."

But other breaches were unavoidable, including a peak-hour passenger train involved in a "near-miss" with a delivery van at the Nudgee Rd level crossing, near Doomben, last March. The driver blamed the sun in his eyes, causing him to fail to see the red signal and just miss the van as it cleared the tracks. A week later, another driver was distracted by QR staff cleaning graffiti in a "hazardous manner". The train broke the red by 25m, stopping 200m from another at Eagle Junction. "(It was a) serious incident which could have caused significant property damage, serious injury or death," the report states.

And just after 8pm on November 5 last year, a service exited Brunswick St for the final stop at Bowen Hills. Feeling weary, the driver lost concentration, missed two warning signals and overshot a red by 10m. He was too busy thinking about his dinner break.


Melbourne public hospital putting women's lives at risk

Victoria's Opposition says internal documents from the new Royal Women's Hospital show lives are being put at risk. Opposition health spokeswoman Helen Shardey has obtained a copy of the hospital's latest operational plan. She says it shows delays in accessing operating rooms and a badly-run outpatient service. She says the $250 million hospital is also suffering from a shortage of nurses.

"What these documents indicate is that the hospital is in trouble. They don't have enough staff, they are being poorly resourced and they will have to cap the number of babies they can deliver," she said. "From this report it appears that the outpatient area is not large enough to accommodate the number of patients that needs to be seen, and this report indicates the architects have been called back to redesign the outpatient area."

The Royal Women's Hospital is playing down possible risks to women and their babies at the new facility. Hospital spokeswoman Mandy Frostick says women should not be concerned about treatment being provided. "We have a yearly risk assessment process, which is a very sophisticated process at the Women's, which looks at any potential risk that could occur in any situation," she said. "And what is most important in identifying any possible risk that could occur is that we also put in place mitigation plans to prevent those risks from occurring. "There are always risks at any major hospital, We are one of three specialist maternity hospitals and we deal with very complex high-risk pregnancies. "And by that very nature we are constantly dealing with risk. We are very experienced in dealing with risk."


Sunday, September 07, 2008

PM's climate change proven to be hot air

By Piers Ackerman

No single issue better illustrates the Rudd Government's gross incompetence than its blindly ideological approach to the question of climate change. Fortunately, and perhaps accidentally, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's own hand-picked climate change guru, Professor Ross Garnaut, has now driven a truck through its principal argument.

In the 10 months since Rudd, Treasurer Wayne Swan, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong and Environment Minister Peter Garrett have held office, the Government has constantly decried and denigrated as "irresponsible climate-change deniers" all who question their views. The snide use of the word "denier" to link sceptics with those who deny the actuality of the Holocaust is so obvious it hardly deserves mention. But its repeated usage is indicative of the gutter nature of the massive propaganda campaign waged by Rudd and his colleagues as they attempt to capitalise on their symbolic signing of the politically correct Kyoto Protocol.

Fixated with the flawed reports prepared by the totally partisan Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and falsely claiming there is a "consensus" among climate scientists that human activity is responsible for global warming, Rudd has pushed a warped agenda based on extraordinarily dubious modelling. And such an agenda can, in all reality, have no effect on the planet, let alone the behaviour of other nations.

For the whole of their period in office, federal Labor's mantra has been simple: the cost of doing nothing about climate change will be greater than the cost of doing something. Now, however, former foreign affairs mentor Professor Garnaut has revealed that mantra is false. First, though, let's look at Labor's determination to repeat that chorus, as captured by Hansard:
"All are familiar with the fact that the economic cost of inaction on climate change is far greater than the economic cost of action on climate change" (Rudd, June 26).

"This government does understand that the cost of inaction on climate change is far greater than the cost of action" (Swan, June 26).

"It is the case that the economic costs of inaction are greater than the costs of action" (Swan, June 24).

"Those of us on this side of the chamber understand that the economic costs of inaction are far greater than the costs of responsible action now" (Wong, June 24).

"On the question of emissions trading, we on this side of the House know a simple fact and it is this: the economic cost of inaction on climate change is far greater than the economic cost of action on climate change" (Rudd, June 23).

"Australians recognise that tackling climate change will not be painless, but I think the Australian people have a very clear understanding that, as I said, the cost of inaction would be greater than the cost of responsible action now" (Wong, March 18).

"The fact of the matter is that it is the costs of inaction that outweigh the costs of action" (Garrett, March 17).

"And overall our view has long been, put in simple terms, that the costs of inaction on climate change are much greater than the costs of action" (Rudd, February 21).

"We on this side of the House recognise the costs of climate change and that the costs of inaction are far greater than the costs of action" (Swan, February 14).

But a comparison of tables taken from Professor Garnaut's July report and the paper he released on Friday shows that this is not so. In his July 4 draft, he stated that the cost of no mitigation - that is, if no action were taken on so-called greenhouse gases - would be minus 0.7 per cent of GDP in 2020. In his new paper he presents three scenarios for carbon-emission reductions by 2020.

At an "as-soon-as-possible" level of 450 ppm (parts per million) he says the cost would be minus 1.6 per cent of GDP.

At the "first best" conditional offer of 550 ppm the cost would be minus 1.1 per cent of GDP.

If a second-best "Copenhagen compromise" was followed, the cost would be minus 1.3 per cent of GDP.

It is highly revealing that in presenting his first specific trajectories and estimated costs of emissions reduction, Professor Garnaut has found that the cost of reducing emissions is greater than the cost of doing nothing - although that is not how he sold his paper. It is Rudd who is the denialist on the economics of climate change, if Professor Garnaut is to be believed. The costs of action outweigh the costs of inaction.

Rudd and Swan have already warned Australians they face increasing unemployment. To that must be added the costs of Labor's as-yet unspecific plans to deal with its over-hyped catastrophic view of climate change. Professor Garnaut's report indicates Labor's mantra on climate change to be false. Why does the ALP want to sacrifice the economy for a lie?


Elderly man dies after waiting 8 hours for a public hospital bed

An elderly man has died while waiting for a ward bed at the overcrowded Townsville Hospital after being left in a corridor for more than eight hours. The man, believed to have had cancer, was monitored by medical and nursing staff during the delay to transfer him to a ward at the troubled hospital.

Health Minister Stephen Robertson yesterday said he had referred the case to the Health Quality and Complaints Commission for independent review. "I view this matter very seriously and that's why I'll be referring this incident to the independent health watchdog," Mr Robertson said. "It's my responsibility to ensure that when events such as this occur that we don't sweep it under the carpet and we get full disclosure in terms of the facts of what actually occurred and learn from them, if there are in fact lessons to be learned."

Several doctors and nurses contacted The Sunday Mail late last week expressing concern at the over-crowding in the hospital. One staff member said it used to be unacceptable practice to have more than eight patients waiting to be admitted to a ward. But, he said, the hospital now had to deal with the tragedy and shame of a patient dying on a trolley in a corridor. "He was very sick, but he waited a very long time for a bed - and didn't get one," said an emergency department nurse, who asked not to be identified, about the man's death last Tuesday. "He was in the corridor with patients on trolleys in front of him and behind him ... he was rushed into the resuscitation room, but he wasn't revived. It's just terrible."

Acting Townsville Health Service District CEO Mary Bonner said the first priority for the hospital was ensuring that the patient's family was informed and supported.

The death comes a week after Mr Robertson dismissed the concerns of Dr Sylvia Andrew-Starkey from the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine. Dr Andrew-Starkey said she had referred information to Queensland Health about people dying because of bed access problems in hospitals. But Mr Robertson challenged Dr Andrew-Starkey to provide evidence of a link between wait times and harm to patients.

Professor Drew Richardson, from the Australian National University, told The Sunday Mail he could direct the minister to two major studies carried out in Australia and two more from America which showed the link. "There are cases where coroners have handed down adverse findings in relation to the outcome of patients who have had to wait for extended periods to be admitted, Prof Richardson said. "There are cases where death has been a direct result of dysfunctional environments in emergency departments."

Townsville Hospital's emergency department was designed to cater for 38,000 patients each year. Last financial year almost 62,000 sought treatment there. The demand has led to up to 24 patients each day remaining in the emergency department, some of them for up to 48 hours, until beds can be found in overcrowded wards.

Doctors and nurses in the department said they no longer provide emergency care as much as determine which patients are most able to cope with a long wait in the corridor. "We do not treat patients anymore. We run around managing an out of control department - it's not because of sick patients. It's out of control because you don't know where to put a patient on a trolley," one doctor said.

Nursing staff said the were likely to lose colleagues if access block continues at the same level. "We've coped for long enough," one nurse said. "The straw to break the camel's back is out there blowing on the breeze and it will land soon. "I've had nurses that haven't been able to come to work just because they are so distressed ... they've had to take extended time off work because of work. "We're not just going to lose a nurse in the short term in ED - we are going to lose a nurse full stop ... they will never come back to a nursing role again."


Paramedics as 'Babysitters' in hospital gridlock crisis

TAXPAYERS spend an average of $70,000 a month for off-duty paramedics to babysit critically ill patients who are unable to get a bed in gridlocked emergency departments. NSW Ambulance figures show the bill rose almost 30 per cent last financial year compared with the previous period as more patients languished in the back of ambulances lined up outside hospitals waiting for a bed. Chronic overcrowding in emergency departments has forced NSW Health to create Ambulance Response Teams, made up of off-duty paramedics paid overtime rates to sit with patients in emergency queues.

Figures obtained by The Sun-Herald show the bill rose to a record $118,218 in July and doctors say it's further proof the health system cannot cope with demand. A response team is called in when one ambulance has waited more than 60 minutes or two ambulances have waited more than 30 minutes outside an emergency department, allowing on-duty paramedics to get back on the road.

Sally McCarthy from the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine said the delays were a direct result of bed shortages. Once seen, one in four patients wait more than eight hours to get moved from emergency to a ward. Last financial year the bill for response teams was up almost 30 per cent, costing $831,769. Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell said the money would be better spent on reducing waiting times, including through boosting doctor numbers.


Leftist thugs allowed to win

"FERAL" rioters who wreaked havoc at 2006's G20 meeting have forced a Remembrance Day event to be cancelled. The three-day defence expo due to start on November 11 has been scrapped amid fears of violence by "low-life anarchists". Organisers of the Asia-Pacific Defence and Security Exhibition, to be held in Adelaide, took the dramatic step after reports hundreds of protesters from Melbourne and Sydney planned to disrupt it.

In recent weeks, police gave several confidential briefings on the scale of the planned protests and the cost of countering them. Police received intelligence on the protesters, including members of the ultra-militant group Mutiny. Mutiny and another group called Arterial Bloc were key protesters in the riots at the G20 meeting in Melbourne in 2006 and last year's APEC meeting in Sydney. Many other protest groups have been attempting to rally support for their cause in recent weeks.

Before the event was cancelled, OzPeace activist Jacob Grech said he anticipated "around 500" protesters would be at the event. He said plans were under way for several busloads of protesters from Melbourne and Sydney. Many would make their own way to Adelaide. "We have a policy of non-violent direct action," Mr Grech said. He confirmed members of the militant Mutiny group were planning to attend.

The Group of 20 nations summit at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Melbourne in November 2006 descended into chaos when a mob outnumbered and attacked police. Protesters tried to break a police blockade at Collins St, pushing and hurled barricades at officers, and threw wheelie bins and milk crates. They vandalised a brawler van in a riot in which glass bottles were thrown at police.

Acting SA Premier Kevin Foley yesterday said the Government had full confidence in police to manage "these feral anarchists that would be descending on Adelaide" if the event had proceeded. "However, the organisers had to take into account a number of factors -- security issues as well as the level of support from the Defence Department," he said. "The decision was taken that the cost of security, the possible threats of violence, were risks that the organisers of the event and the Government agreed were not worth proceeding with."

Mr Foley said the decision should not be seen as a "victory" by the protest groups because the contacts with manufacturers made so far would be followed up. "These are feral, low-life people who want society to be in a state of near anarchy for their perverse pleasure," he said. "People who say they are anti-war, but who resort to violence and destruction to put their case are clearly dangerous."


Saturday, September 06, 2008

A child welfare system fails another little child

Social workers routinely leave even the most endangered children with feral parents. It's only middle-class parents that they train a beady eye on -- often on mere suspicion. Middle-class social workers simply ignore the underclass. The underclass are "too hard". So underclass children -- who are the ones most in need of help -- simply suffer and die with no help from the ones who are paid to help them

The simple question to be answered by an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the return of a toddler to her drug-addicted parents is why? Because of what appears to be bungling by the Department of Human Services, the four-year-old is now in hospital with serious injuries from a suspicious car crash.

The first indications point to a failure to monitor the behaviour of the parents. Had the department done so, it is difficult to believe they would have allowed the girl to be removed from a home where she lived with her grandparents. There were apparently no follow-up tests and the parents are believed to have slipped back into their drug habits.

The girl was in a car driven by her father when it hit a tree in a St Albans street at 5am. She was not wearing a seat belt and ended up jammed under the car's front seat. It is still not known whether she may have suffered a brain injury. The girl's mother was also seriously injured in the crash and is expected to take months to recover.

Whatever happens as a result of the investigation prompted by a Herald Sun report, it is to be hoped this child will grow up to live the life she deserves. In the meantime, the DHS has some serious questions to address.

Source. The appalling background details are here

Australian climate policy now more tokenistic than ever

Ross Garnaut has always had good political antennae so he has now picked up the need to let Rudd off the climate hook

The lofty ambitions of Ross Garnaut's draft report in July have come crashing back to earth under the sheer weight of economic modelling. Earlier rhetoric that Australia needed to lead global action has been diluted to more modest aspirations: a 5 per cent emissions cut by 2020 in the absence of a comprehensive global deal, a 10per cent cut if such a deal can be brokered.

The European Union has committed to a 20 per cent target over the same timeframe, although this translates to about 8 per cent when adjusted for the inclusion of Eastern European countries that are already below the target. That means, by inference, that Garnaut supports differential targets for developed countries in international negotiations and, according to Garnaut at the press club yesterday, so does Nicholas Stern.

Garnaut still fudges the numbers on how much this will cost. His proposed targets are only costed by reporting the rate of change in gross national product, which is gobbledygook to most. The real costs are measured in job losses, where will it hit hardest, what prices will change? These numbers are available in one of the three economic models used by Treasury, but curiously absent from Garnaut's report. He either forgot to ask for them, or maybe he didn't like what he saw.

Garnaut has also dropped his cavalier attitude to a national emissions trading scheme, previously calling for an aggressive approach, welcoming a higher world price on carbon. Now his starting point is considerably more constrained: a capped price of permits starting at $20 a tonne in 2010, and pretty much staying there until a global deal has been brokered. Garnaut is upbeat about this happening at climate change talks in Copenhagen at the end of next year. Few in the know share his optimism.

Unsurprisingly, environment groups are incandescent at the report. They know that if Garnaut cannot match his ambitions when faced with economic reality, the Rudd Government has no chance. Kevin Rudd is the big winner. Garnaut had become something of a liability for the Government since he found green religion and decided to set his own agenda. Serendipitously, Garnaut has now taken much of the heat from activists, and, faced with the data, is wheeling around to be much more in line with the Government's plans.


Palin envy

It's not fair. The Americans have Sarah Palin. Why can't we have one of those? Mooseburgers may not be everyone's idea of the perfect feed, and some people might baulk at giving their kids names like Track or Trig or Bristol. Also, the Alaskan Governor holds some views so far to the Right that she risks toppling off the edge. As a friend of mine remarked on the day Palin accepted the Republican vice-presidential nomination: "It's interesting how the apparent contradiction of being simultaneously pro-gun and pro-life resolves itself through the great US institution of the shotgun marriage."

But, hey! The woman is interesting. She has personality. She's real. Could you say that about any of the current crop of Australian politicians? When you compare Kevin Rudd, Wayne Swan, Brendan Nelson or Julie Bishop with John McCain's running mate, don't you envy the Yanks?

On Thursday, when Palin was wowing the Republican convention with a speech that kept a television audience of 20 million glued to their sets from go to whoa, what happened in the Australian Parliament? In Question Time, as the Prime Minister droned through a reply on economic management and the blocking of the luxury car tax rise in the Senate, Liberal frontbencher Joe Hockey protested: "He's boring Australia." A while later, as the answer went on and on, Tony Abbott echoed the complaint. "Mr Speaker, this is gold-medal boredom," he said.

Sure, Opposition MPs are going to do their best to disrupt proceedings and put the PM off his game. That goes without saying. But it doesn't mean they were wrong. If you could bottle some of Rudd's performances, you'd put the manufacturers of Mogadon out of business. He seems incapable of producing an original or interesting phrase. It's all pollie-speak and repetition. In interviews, he has a special fondness for the phrase: "What we've said is." In other words, this is old news so you can switch off.

Because she's interesting, Palin will get people to listen to her, even if they don't necessarily agree with where she's coming from. The Rudd technique defies anyone to listen for long. McCain may have chosen Palin because of her opposition to abortion and her appeal to evangelical Christians and the gun lobby - the Republican Party's base. But I suspect she will have much wider appeal, partly because of her background. Americans love obscurity-to-greatness stories and this one is pure Hollywood. But more importantly, Palin does not talk or behave like a stereotypical politician. She has a down-to-earth manner that normal people are likely to relate to.

Funnily enough, for a while there Rudd enjoyed a similar advantage. When he was a regular - along with Hockey - on the Seven Network's Sunrise program, he did not come across as your usual pollie, either. He was relaxed, chatty, humorous and sometimes disarmingly frank. The audience related to him. Viewers meeting Rudd and Hockey would say to them: "You're real people, not politicians." This was one of Rudd's great strengths when he became Labor leader and took on John Howard. But he is rapidly losing it. An astute political observer remarked yesterday: "The more Rudd looks like a stereotypical suit, the more he damages his brand."

What is happening to Rudd illustrates a wider problem in Australian politics. The individuality is being squeezed out of our pollies. They no longer have the guts to be different, or even to be themselves. There are a few exceptions. Barnaby Joyce comes to mind. But for the most part Australian politicians play it safe, spout approved "talking points", and embrace cliches. The result is bland and boring. As a result, the pollies - almost all of them, not just Rudd - are losing the ability to communicate with the electorate. Voters cry out for some straight talking. Instead they get pap, pre-processed through focus groups.

Media training aggravates the situation. Highly paid "experts" tell their political pupils that, in interviews, they should "ignore the questions - just hammer your message". That leads to what I call "mantra politics" - repeating the same line over and over. Not only is it eye-glazing. It risks making a politician look like a dill.

An example was Wayne Swan's brief press conference the day the Coalition decided to try to block several Budget measures in the Senate. In his opening statement Swan said: "The Liberal Party has apparently decided to blow a multibillion-dollar hole in the Budget surplus at a time of international uncertainty. "This is dangerously irresponsible, to blow a hole in the Budget surplus at a time of international uncertainty. For the Liberal Party to blow a multibillion hole in the Budget surplus is the height of economic irresponsibility."

It was obviously a line Swan thought would make a good television sound bite, so he kept using it. Then, when he got a question, Swan had another rehearsed slogan to ram down the throats of the journalists and the electorate. "What we're seeing is short-term politics, we're not seeing the long-term national interest," he said. "The Liberal Party is choosing short-term politics over the long-term national interest. "What the Liberal Party has chosen is short-term politics and economic irresponsibility."

Now, Swan is an intelligent bloke and I happen to think he's not doing a bad job. But when he goes on like this he sounds like a parrot, not a Treasurer. Australia badly needs some home-grown Sarah Palins. Colourful, gutsy, outspoken, idiosyncratic politicians. Even if they do shoot mooses. (Or is it meese?)


Australia's changing views

AUSTRALIANS have softened their views on abortion and capital punishment over the past few decades, but we are again growing sceptical about immigration. A study of changing social and political opinion also shows support for the decriminalisation of marijuana has fallen. But our social conscience may well be dictated by our hip pockets, researchers say.

In 1979, less than half the population believed abortion should be readily available, but that grew to 61 per cent of people by 2007.

Almost two-thirds of Australians wanted immigration slashed by the end of the Keating government in 1996, but support for this view fell to 35 per cent by 2001 following the Howard government's crackdown on migration rorts and a focus on skilled arrivals. Concern about high migration is on the rise again, with 40 per cent of those interviewed after the last election favouring a cut.

Society's changing views have been mapped with comprehensive surveys after federal elections. The report, Trends in Australian Political Opinion: Results from the Australian Election Study 1987-2007, was compiled by Australian National University researcher Prof Ian McAllister and Juliet Clark from Deakin University.

Dr Clark said it was hard to say whether Australians had become more liberal or conservative in the past two decades, but said opinions on immigration and other social issues were sometimes pegged to the economy. "It could be a case of the economy and things like rising interest rates because there's more competition for housing and people start to think about immigration," she said.

Dr Clark said she was surprised by people's attitudes towards unions, with more people now thinking big business had too much power, rather than unions.

The study also showed that on average people rated their social attitudes in the middle ground, although just to the right of the spectrum.

The study also found a trend favouring the legalisation of marijuana had turned around recently.

However, support for capital punishment has plummeted since 1987, when 60 per cent of Australians supported the death penalty's reintroduction. Today support is at 44 per cent.

And while the monarchy is losing relevance, it's not necessarily translating into support for a republic. In 1979, more than half of Australians believed the Queen was important, compared with 36 per cent in 2007. But support for a republic has remained at about 60 per cent during the past decade.


Friday, September 05, 2008

Warmist guru calls for only 10 percent cut in greenhouse gases

These guys just make up numbers as they go along

AUSTRALIA'S climate change guru has softened his stand on greenhouse gases, saying we are a 'special case'. In a boost to business, government climate adviser Ross Garnaut has said Australia should try to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 10 per cent by 2020, with immigration ruling out any greater reduction. And if the global community fails to act, that figure should drop back to five per cent.

In a major report released today, Professor Garnaut says high immigration growth makes Australia a special case and its emissions should be reduced by less than any other developed country. Australia's high level of immigration, he says, meant it cannot realistically cut emissions as much as other wealthy nations. And Prof Garnaut believes Australia should soften its target to a five per cent cut, based on 2000 levels, if an international climate pact is not forged.

The 10 per cent target will be a disappointment to the environmental lobby, which wants a cut of up to 40 per cent. But it will allay the concerns of business that emissions trading, due to start in 2010, would cost profits and jobs. The 2020 target will be a crucial factor in determining how much households and businesses will pay under emissions trading. The federal government has yet to set a 2020 target.

Prof Garnaut also recommended emissions trading start in 2010 with a fixed carbon price of $20 a tonne, indexed for inflation plus four per cent each year. The latest instalment of his advice to federal and state governments on what should be done about climate change doesn't make happy reading. He is pessimistic about the ability of the world to tackle climate change, and says there is "just a chance" that dangerous global warming can be avoided. The problem of climate change was "diabolical", "intractable" and "daunting", and the world was rapidly running out of time.

Other developed nations should do more than Australia to cut emissions, Prof Garnaut says. Canada should slash its emissions by a third, Japan by 27 per cent, the European Union by 14 per cent, and the US by 12 per cent. Australia had the "least stringent 2020 reductions targets of any of the developed countries/regions modelled". "Australia's population, because of the country's long-standing and large immigration program, has been and will be growing much faster than populations in other countries," Professor Garnaut said. "The allocation formula ... accommodates Australia's rapid population growth."

Prof Garnaut has recommended Australia adopt a more ambitious 80 per cent emissions reduction target by 2050. The government has committed to a 60 per cent target by then. He also thinks the world should move towards a per-capita system of emissions reductions, which would have a major impact on Australia because it has one of the world's highest rates of per-capita emissions. But the "per-capita" system would not kick in until 2050 under the Garnaut plan.

The report also includes some modelling on the costs of climate change. Prof Garnaut found not acting on climate change would cost Australia dearly, slashing eight per cent from gross national product by the end of this century. Wages would drop by 12 per cent. But taking action on climate change would have a "manageable" cost. Growth would be cut initially by 0.8 per cent, settling to 0.1 per cent in subsequent years. By 2060, taking action on climate change would have a net positive affect on the economy. Prof Garnaut's final report is due at the end of this month.


Romanticizing Aborigines

No one at all seems to dare tell people that some Aboriginal traditions are about as ancient as Pilates, and even less useful. Take the "indigenous afternoon tea" that Melbourne's Bayside Council put on for Reconciliation Week. Asked by a ratepayer what was so Aboriginal about the tea, Bayside's chief executive indignantly replied: "Indigenous food was provided and included chicken and mushroom pies, kangaroo and burgundy pies, emu and vegetable pies." Pardon? Oven-baked pies? Made with chicken? And vegetables? And flavoured with burgundy? This is as Aboriginal as Gordon Ramsay.

This is "indigenous" only to someone determined to imagine traditional Aboriginal society as an inner-urban Eden of people in deep communion with Nature, yet still supplied with the essential luxuries of cooked dinners, fine wine and hot-and-cold running sustainability experts.

And there's no shortage of people much like that. Take Melbourne University lecturer Wayne Atkinson, a Yorta Yorta "elder" on the grounds that his Mauritian great-grandfather married a part-Aboriginal woman. Writes Atkinson: "One can reconstruct a rather idyllic picture of Yorta Yorta lifestyle. It is clear that the people did not want for anything in terms of food and security and their lifestyles fit nicely into the picture of affluence . . ."

How sweet. But it's a dream as tenuously linked to the harsh reality of tribal life as is Atkinson's own genealogy. Yet who dares challenge such dubious recreations of Aboriginality, even when they reinvent paralysing taboos and stereotypes?

Just this week, Dr Mark Rose, general manager of the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association, damned HarperCollins for planning to publish an Australian edition of the Daring Book for Girls with a chapter explaining how to play the didgeridoo. Rose, billed as "a member of the western Victorian Gundjitamara Nation", said this betrayed a "mammoth ignorance" by encouraging girls to play an instrument that Aborigines had banned to women, knowing it would make them infertile. "I wouldn't let my daughter touch one," he said. "I reckon it's the equivalent of encouraging someone to play with razor blades."

Oh, really? This university-educated academic with his pale skin and European looks seriously thinks his daughter would be rendered barren by touching a hollow piece of wood? Or is he saying any backward taboo should be maintained, even if its only purpose is to limit women's freedoms? But the real joke is that Aborigines far, far darker than Rose - and from parts of Australia that actually have didgeridoos - don't believe in the tradition he's defending.

Ethnomusicologist Linda Barwick, of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, has studied this very question on field trips in the Northern Territory, and writes: "In discussions with women in the Belyuen community near Darwin in 1995 I was told that there was no prohibition on women playing . . . "In a discussion with men from Groote Eylandt, Numbulwar and Gunbalanya it was agreed that there was no explicit Dreaming Law that women should not play Didgeridoo . . ." Didgfest Australia, an Aboriginal-backed festival of the didgeridoo, agrees, declaring: "It is not taboo for Aboriginal women to play the didge in most parts of Australia . . ."

But HarperCollins quickly caved into Rose and said the chapter would be removed. Who dares question an Aboriginal tradition? Or, rather, which inner-urban, book-publishing intellectual even wants to?

The fact is a certain class of sensitive white dreamers - not tribal blacks - actually wants to believe in this natural tribal paradise with its hot pies and cool magic. Think, for instance, of all the whites who queued two years ago to be "purified" by the "sacred fire" lit illegally in our Botanic Gardens by activist Robbie Thorpe.

Thorpe, who has British ancestry as well as Aboriginal, also claimed be an "Aboriginal elder" -- but of which tribe? In 1991, he mounted a forest protest as an elder of the Barbuwooloong clan of central Gippsland. In 2000, he was protesting at Goolengook as an elder of the Krauatungalung clan. And five years ago he was "saving" the Strzelecki forest as an elder of western Victoria's "Gurnai Nation" clans. Now he'd lit a sacred fire in Melbourne that Graham Atkinson, co-chair of the Victorian Traditional Owners Land Justice Group, thought was just a joke by a trouble-making blow-in.

But could you tell that to the white callers who rang 774 ABC in ecstatic tears to tell of being "smoked". Heavens no. Age columnist Tracee Hutchison instead wrote mystically of undergoing this "ancient and gentle healing ritual", and how "humbled" she'd been to be told "I've got some kind of blackfella spirit inside me".

You see how fiercely such whites want to reinvent the Noble Eco-Savage. It's a yearning we've seen since at least 1991, of course, when then prime minister Bob Hawke banned a new mine at Kakadu's Coronation Hill. Aboriginal activists, backed by green groups, had convinced him that if the hill were disturbed, an angry Bula spirit would sicken the land -- or at least kill Hawke's green vote. Never mind that no one had ever linked Bula with the site until the 1970s, or that uranium had been mined there for almost 20 years without Bula giving anyone as much as a headache.

More critically, never mind that the Jawoyn leader, Andy Andrews, begged Hawke to ignore the Bula scare and sent a petition from 92 Jawoyn people asking that the mine and its royalties be allowed to go ahead. Forget it. The white politicians and journalists decided that real Aborigines - the ones they'd listen to, anyway - had to be green pagans, not black rationalists.

Same story with the infamous bridge to Hindmarsh Island, blocked by claims by green-backed Aboriginal activists who claimed it would disturb "secret women's business" and make locals infertile. Again, never mind that many Christian Aboriginal women said this "secret women's business" was not just absurd but clearly untrue. White politicians and journalists once more decided that real Aborigines had to be green pagans, not black rationalists.

And the big joke? Despite this reinvention of black traditions, from "welcomes to country" to smoking ceremonies, most Aborigines aren't remotely as superstitious and traditional as the white dreamers behind this push like to imagine. The 2006 census, for instance, found barely 1 per cent of Aborigines followed traditional Aboriginal religions. Most were just boringly, conventionally Christian.

Even more bizarrely, the 2001 Census revealed that a quarter of the believers in Aboriginal faiths weren't even Aboriginal. Whites just really, really want to believe in black gods and black superstitions in ways that few Aborigines seem themselves inclined.


Farmers criticise luxury car tax plan

The South Australian Farmers Federation (SAFF) says the Federal Government's proposed luxury car tax would impose an unnecessary burden on farmers.

The Opposition and Family First Senator Steve Fielding yesterday defeated the Government's plan to legislate for its tax on vehicles costing more than $57,000. The Government says it will reintroduce the measure when Parliament next sits on September 15 and, in the meantime, the budget measure will remain in place.

SAFF president Peter White says most of the vehicles suitable for farmers fall within the tax bracket. He says farmers already have enough to deal with. "The other issue is, I mean if you look at it, we pay GST and tax on the fuel, we pay stamp duty on the vehicle, we pay GST on the vehicle and then they want to add another tax on top of that again," he said. "How many bites of the cherry do they want?"


New CJ sounds very politically correct

ROBERT French has paid special tribute to the role of indigenous people in Australia's history at his swearing-in today as the 12th chief justice of the High Court at a special ceremonial sitting in Canberra. Justice French said it was a great honour to serve in what Kevin Rudd described - at the time of his appointment - as the "most important constitutional office in the land".

The West Australian, who is renowned for his expertise in constitutional law, administrative law and native title, made special reference to the importance of reconciliation with indigenous people. "Recognition of their presence is no mere platitude," he said. "The history of Australia's indigenous people dwarfs, in its temporal sweep, the history that gave rise to the Constitution under which this court was created. "Our awareness and recognition of that history is becoming, if it has not already become, part of our national identity."

Justice French gave special thanks to his predecessor, Murray Gleeson, whom he said gave him "a bottle of very good whiskey in order to tide me over the difficult moments".

His first case tomorrow will involve an exploration of family trusts before he tackles the issue of sleeping judges on Wednesday.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Rudd firm on Afghanistan

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd has warned the Taliban that Australia will not back away from the war in Afghanistan as Coalition forces prepare for more bloodshed. Just weeks after attending the funeral of SAS signaller Sean McCarthy, who in July died in a roadside explosion in Afghanistan, Mr Rudd yesterday acknowledged the war was taking its toll on Australian Diggers.

Mr Rudd paid tribute to Australian Diggers at a ceremony commemorating the Battle for Australia in 1942 and 1943 and said the mission to keep the Taliban at bay was vital. "This action and the toll it has taken on these members of the Australian Defence Force underscores the importance and the dangers of the vital mission they're undertaking on behalf of us all in Afghanistan," he said. "The Taliban can never again be allowed to use Afghanistan as a training ground, a hiding place or a launching pad for terrorist operations around the world."

Mr Rudd later told Parliament: "Our adversaries should take heed of the resolve of Australia's soldiers, the resolve of the Australian Government and the resolve of the Australian people in bringing to an end this unsustainable instability and conflict in Afghanistan. "On behalf of all Australians let me say our thoughts and our prayers are with the wounded soldiers , their comrades in the field of battle, their families and their loved ones."

Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson also paid tribute. "I join with the Prime Minister in ensuring that the political will and resolve of this Parliament will remain as firm as it has ever been to see this through and see that we are able to liberate the people of Afghanistan," he said.

The US-led war in Afghanistan is taking a toll on all Coalition forces. Last month 10 French NATO soldiers were killed during heavy fire and more than 500 US soldiers have been killed since Operation Enduring Freedom started in 2001. Australians SAS Signalman Sean McCarthy, 25, and Lance Corporal Jason Marks, 27, died this year; Private Luke Worsley, SAS Sergeant Matthew Locke and Trooper David Pearce were killed in 2007 and Sergeant Andrew Russell, 33, was killed in 2002.

Defence Force Chief Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said it was inevitable that Australia would suffer casualties in Afghanistan. "It is a very dangerous place . . . I guess we were ambushed and this is what happens," he said. "As always, our people are doing a great job and they have been very successful in recent times. Unfortunately, from time to time, we will have casualties. We have seen we are getting towards the end of the campaign season as they call it. "We are up against a very determined adversary."

Defence spokesman Brigadier Brian Dawson said it was expected insurgents would ramp up their attacks during the last few weeks of the annual "fighting season", during the country's northern summer months. "We are of course in the midst of the fighting season in Afghanistan (and) with winter approaching, Taliban extremists are stepping up their activity across the country before the snow falls and the poor weather limits further operations," he said. "Afghanistan continues to be a dangerous place . . . and we can expect more heavy fighting. "This is the largest number of casualties suffered in a single contact since the Vietnam War."

Australia has about 1000 troops in Afghanistan, including a 300-member special forces group with members of the Special Air Service Regiment and the Commando Battalion


Federal Labor to support GM crops?

AUSTRALIA should accept that genetically modified crops will be crucial to meet the world food crisis, federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke says. State governments have imposed bans on most GM food crops, with the exception of canola in NSW and Victoria. Scientists and environmentalists are concerned that GM crops are difficult to contain and the long-term health effects are unknown.

Mr Burke, addressing an agriculture science conference in Canberra, said GM food crops would be necessary to address global food shortages. "I don't believe we should be turning our back on any part of science, including what I believe is an inevitable situation over time, that there will be growing acceptance of genetically modified crops," Mr Burke said. "This is not a time where I believe the world will avoid the inevitable, and that is that genetically modified crops will find themselves as one piece of the jigsaw in meeting the challenges of food production."

Mr Burke said climate change and growing input costs for producers had led to the demand for food outstripping supply. He said the food crisis was global and all governments have a responsibility to come up with new ways to tackle the issue. "All these issues come together in one simple concept - around the world it is becoming harder for families to feed themselves," he said. "It comes down to families around the table, either in wealthy nations where the shopping bill is higher than it used to be, or families in poorer nations sitting around a table where there is just not enough food to feed the people sitting around it. "The nature of this being a global crisis means new policy responses."

Mr Burke said biofuels had resulted in a reduction of staple crops being harvested for food, but it alone could not be blamed for the food crisis. "The public commentary on world food shortage has disproportionately looked to focus on biofuels as though biofuels are the be-all and end-all of the problem. "It would be a mistake for anyone to think that a reversal of those biofuels policies will get us out of the challenge that we face with global food shortages, because they won't."

Mr Burke said as oil prices continue to rise, markets would be looking towards biofuels. "That means we have the responsibility to try to drive research and development in biofuels away from initial staple food crops."

Mr Burke made the comments during his address to the ATSE Crawford Fund conference in Canberra. The annual conference brings together scientists, economists, policymakers and politicians to discuss the agriculture sector in Australia and abroad.


Didgeridoo correctness

For non-Australian readers: The didgeridoo is a primitive musical instrument with a very limited expressive range. It is basically a hollowed-out tree stem

ANGRY Aborigines say women face infertility - or worse - if they follow advice in a new book and touch a didgeridoo because it is ''men's business''. An indigenous academic claims an extreme cultural indiscretion has been committed by the Australian version of an American activities book - The Daring Book for Girls - as it includes a section on how to play the didgeridoo.

The Victorian Aboriginal Education Association has even demanded the book be withdrawn. The association's general manager Mark Rose said: "I would say from an indigenous perspective, an extreme mistake but part of a general ignorance that mainstream Australia has about Aboriginal culture. "We know very clearly that there's a range of consequences for a female touching a didgeridoo. "Infertility would be the start of it, ranging to other consequences. I won't even let my daughter touch one."

Dr Rose says there is men's business and there is women's business. "And the didgeridoo is definitely a men's business ceremonial tool," he said. "It sends out that Aboriginal culture is tokenistic. That is the issue that perturbs me the greatest."

Publisher Harper Collins has refused calls to withdraw the book from sale.


Disastrous public medicine in Tasmania

DOCTORS say they are forced to treat patients inappropriately because of long hospital waiting lists. Hazardous painkillers were being used as a stopgap, GPs said yesterday.

Anger has followed revelations that a 15-year-old Claremont boy had waited more than three years for a high-priority operation on a burst eardrum. Health Minister Lara Giddings blamed an administrative bungle for the wait, which has led to Jeremy Brewer's deteriorating hearing, speech and learning. Ms Giddings said Jeremy had fallen "through the cracks" because he was accidentally labelled category 2. But Jeremy's GP, Graeme Alexander, has a 2006 letter from the Royal Hobart Hospital saying Jeremy was category 1.

Opposition health spokesman Brett Whiteley said Ms Giddings appeared to have misled the public. "On a daily basis, GPs are managing the worsening conditions of their patients who are waiting longer and longer for elective surgery," Mr Whiteley said. "Some of those patients will present as hospital emergencies because of that wait."

Sorell GP David Dalton said often people needing simple operations were dealt with in a few months, but more complicated operations could take years. "The waits are across the board really," Dr Dalton said. "There are even greater problems with category 2 and 3, they take forever. There are delays in getting people an appointment for a clinic for a start. "Often these are for chronic painful conditions, hips and knees and chronic back conditions." Dr Dalton said that put GPs in the position of treating conditions for which surgery was the only good option. "We are forced to use inappropriate treatment with strong painkillers, when really all they need is an operation."

Meanwhile, Dr Alexander said Jeremy was not an isolated case, and told of situations where even patients with unstable heart conditions could not get into a clinic this year. "I had rung and faxed and had confirmation from the hospital about Jeremy," Dr Alexander said. "They don't even respond any more. We write urgent in 40-font on the referral and it makes no difference. "The communication between the hospital and GPs is terrible."

Ms Giddings urged people who had waited a long time to see their GPs and ask for a reassessment.


Harmful surgery delay in Qld. public hospital

Socialized medicine was supposed to equalize the treatment of the rich and pooor. It has done the opposite

ELEONOR Schmitz had all the signs of bowel cancer but she was forced to wait eight agonising months to have exploratory surgery. Only then was the devastating news confirmed. The Rockhampton woman, 68, who now wears a permanent colostomy bag and is having radiotherapy and chemotherapy in Brisbane, is angry her diagnosis took so long. She believes her cancer would not have been so advanced had she been treated sooner at the Rockhampton Hospital. "I think maybe the tumour wouldn't have been so big," she said, her voice cracking with emotion. "I went twice to the emergency outpatients in too much pain. I said: 'Something has to be done.' It took too long."

By the time she was diagnosed, her cancer had spread beyond her bowel. Queensland Health guidelines recommend people in Ms Schmitz's situation should be seen within 90 days. She waited more than double that time.

Brisbane man Ken Eyre's experience with bowel cancer was vastly different. He was diagnosed after he went to his general practitioner for an annual check-up and had a test for telltale signs of bowel cancer. The test was positive and within days Mr Eyre, 76, who has private health insurance, had a colonoscopy which found cancer. Soon after, he underwent further surgery to remove the tumour, followed by chemotherapy. "I was put into treatment pretty quickly," he said. "As a result of all that, I'm clear. I had my five-year clearance just recently."

An alarming Cancer Council Queensland report to be just released shows people who live outside the state's southeast corner are much less likely to survive bowel cancer. The report found men in regional areas were 30 per cent less likely to still be alive five years after a bowel cancer diagnosis than their city counterparts. The five-year survival rate for regional women was about 20 per cent lower than for Brisbane residents.

Researcher Pip Youl said potential causes included access to medical services and whether the cancer was diagnosed at a later stage in regional areas. But Ms Youl said the news was not all bad. Overall, five-year bowel cancer survival rates had increased from 48 per cent in the 1980s to 65 per cent.

The Cancer Council has called on the Queensland Government to improve its "drastically underfunded" Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme to ease the burden on people who have to travel for treatment.

In 2005, 2601 Queenslanders were diagnosed with bowel cancer and 912 died from the disease.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Two articles below: One from Victoria and one from Queensland. Also see a comment by conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG

Woman in labour sent home from public hospital

Why was such a risk taken? This was already a risky situation. It was just luck that all went well in the end

A woman gave birth to a baby girl at her mother's Mitcham house less than an hour after being sent home from Box Hill Hospital. Angela Valle arrived at the hospital at 9am on August 14 to deliver her second child after her water had broken at 5am that morning. Mrs Valle was having contractions every five minutes and was in a lot of pain. "The doctor came in and she said I was only two centimetres dilated so I probably wouldn't go into labour until later in the afternoon," Mrs Valle said. "I thought at the time I was already in labour because my water had broken and I was in pain."

Mrs Valle said she felt like she was rushed out of the hospital. "There was someone in full-blown labour who I was told was coming into the room directly after me," she said.

Instead of delivering daughter Amy with the safety of a doctor and nursing staff on hand at the hospital, Mrs Valle gave birth with the help of just her husband and an ambulance operator speaking down the phone to them. "She was the best help we had the lady on the phone," Mrs Valle said.

Director of nursing and midwifery Denise Patterson said Mrs Valle wasn't sent home because of a lack of beds. "This was based on a clinical assessment and not related to service capacity or bed availability," Ms Patterson said. "Sometimes women do progress in labour faster than we are able to anticipate. "We understand the distress caused in a case such as this and are regretful that this has happened to Angela and her family."

Mrs Valle said she held no animosity towards the hospital but was upset about the danger she was placed in. "After the delivery we were on a high because we had delivered our daughter, but the next day my husband and I had a bit of a cry because it hit us what could have happened," Mrs Valle said. "If the umbilical cord had wrapped around her neck we wouldn't have known what to do."


Bike rider's pain as surgery for crushed hand stalled

BOB Skinner was kept waiting for four days in excruciating pain by a Brisbane hospital after his hand was mangled in a motorcycle accident. He was admitted to Princess Alexandra Hospital last Thursday night after his hand was crushed and his finger partially severed in the accident near his house at Goodna, southwest of Brisbane. However an operation was delayed three times due to higher priority patients and he was finally treated on Monday morning, four days after he was first admitted. Under surgical guidelines, Mr Skinner's injury should have been treated within eight hours of his admittance, with a maximum 24-hour wait.

"I had two morphine shots each day for the pain," the 39-year-old said. "Every time I moved, a bolt of pain would shoot from my hand and I couldn't sleep." PA Hospital defended the delay, saying resources were badly stretched on the weekend with the hospital performing more than 30 emergency operations. Clinical chief executive David Thiele said emergency trauma on weekends was "governed by saving life or limb". "Where it is unlikely that there will be a change in the outcome of an operation, an operation receives lower priority over one that will either save a life or improve the end outcome for the patient," Dr Thiele said.

"Mr Skinner's surgery was prioritised according to the nature of the injury and the likely outcome of surgery which would not have changed the end result of injury, that being partial amputation of his finger." Mr Skinner said he had only two meals during his four-day stay. "Eventually I got so fed up I got them to disconnect my drip and I was over at the fast food joint across the road in my hospital gown," he said.


Leftist antisemitism in a major Australian newspaper?

Michael Danby is Jewish and is well known as a spokesman for the Jewish community in Federal Parliament. The article below from the Melbourne "Age" endeavours to link him with fraud. Mr Danby's comments on the article follow it:

The former executive director of the Australian American Association has been questioned by Victoria Police about the disappearance of at least $238,000, amid allegations the association may have been used as a mailing address for ALP members. Writer Tony McAdam was yesterday questioned by police about the alleged forgery of signatures on dozens of cheques used to withdraw cash from the association's accounts at an inner-city Commonwealth Bank branch. Mr McAdam, whose lawyer Stuart Winter did not return calls yesterday, is believed to have denied any wrongdoing.

The police investigation into Mr McAdam - who was sacked as the association's executive director in January last year after an internal audit of its 2003-06 accounts revealed the missing funds - has attracted considerable interest from ALP figures, including Federal Government whip and Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby, trade union officials and the US embassy.

Mr Danby's interest in the police investigation was evident by the presence of his electorate officer, Andrew Porter, at the association's annual general meeting last year. Mr Porter pressed committee members for details of the status of the investigation.

Labor sources yesterday said Mr Danby, a former association president and committee member, retained considerable influence over the organisation and supported Mr McAdam's appointment as executive director in 2002. Mr Danby and Mr McAdam, a former publicist for tobacco giant Philip Morris, have an association dating back to the mid-1980s through their involvement in pro-Israel publications. It is understood Mr McAdam has assisted Mr Danby on some of his political campaigns.


The central implication of this article is false. In seeking to link me to this alleged fraud, the article states:
It is understood Mr McAdam has assisted Mr Danby on some of his political campaigns.

Far from having any current association with Mr McAdam, I ceased contact with him years ago, prior to the events described in the article.

The Age article suggested I had a defensive `interest in the police investigation'. It is quite the opposite. I encouraged solicitors to financially liquidate this organisation if it failed to produce financial reports. Further, the Age claimed that I retained an influence after 2002 on the Australian-American Association, where I sought to protect Mr McAdam. The article says:
... Mr Danby, a former association president and committee member, retained considerable influence over the organisation ...

To the contrary, I have not been a member of the organisation, involved in its management or attended its meetings since 2002.

During the parliamentary break, I did the normal thing: I sought correction from Mr Jaspan, the editor of the Age, whose response was to quote from a letter to the editor by Mr McAdam. The Age response quotes Mr McAdam:
It is true I have had a long-standing friendship with Michael Danby-

but the Age left out the rest of the sentence, which was-
... although we have not talked for some time.

Mr McAdam also admitted:
He- That is, Mr Danby-
has had no involvement with the AAA for many years and to suggest otherwise is quite wrong.

I will leave aside the bigotry identified by Senator Robert Ray when he referred in the Senate to the obsessive focus on me by the back page of the Age. Senator Ray referred to the Age's gossip columnist as:
a sneering anti-Semite kind of journalist that I detest.

I will set aside the fact that the Age has censored every opinion article I have submitted since being elected in 1998. My constituents and the tolerant liberal majority of this country can decide for themselves what motivates this pattern of defamation, bigotry and censorship. Lastly, at least I can respond here in this great parliament; what is the fate of the reputation of any ordinary citizen who takes on such a media behemoth with their millions of dollars of defamation insurance?


Below is a picture of "Wee Andy" Jaspan with Fairfax Chairman Don Churchill. Wee Andy has now been fired from the editorship of the "Age"

Bottled water not so special

Victorian MPs prefer the taste of recycled water to spring water sold around the state. A taste test of recycled water from Singapore and bottled water bought in Melbourne found most Parliamentarians could not choose between the two. Only two in 13 picked the difference. Most said the recycled water tasted better than the real thing.

Water Minister Tim Holding, Premier John Brumby and Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu did not take part. Almost all of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, set up to study the state's water future, tasted the recycled H20 and supported it.

The Sunday Herald Sun set up a tasting station outside Victoria's Parliament during the week, asking MPs to drink two blind samples. Committee chair and Labor MP John Pandazopoulos could not tell the difference. "They're pretty much the same," he said. "I'd challenge everyone to try it now."

Nationals MP Peter Hall said: "I couldn't tell you which was which." Liberal MP Gary Blackwood said: "I'd be happy to drink both from the tap." Only Opposition water spokeswoman Louise Asher and Opposition education spokesman Martin Dixon picked the recycled sample. And they said it was difficult to differentiate and "very drinkable".

Only one in 15 members of the public tested could tell the difference. Purified recycled water will be pumped into Queensland dams early next year. It is already consumed in parts of Britain and US.

Environment Victoria spokeswoman Leonie Duncan accused Mr Holding of turning his back on a "good source of water for Melbourne". "The Minister for Water should open his mind a bit more and examine a source of water that could be cheaper, more energy efficient, as clean and as accessible as treated salt water," she said. But Mr Holding said Victoria used more recycled water than any state - just not to drink. "Instead of drinking recycled water we are investing in Australia's largest desalination plant, irrigation upgrades and other water projects to boost our supplies," he said.


Macquarie University opens up access to its academics' research papers

This policy should be universal for taxpayer-funded institutions -- and should in fact be extended to SUBMITTED articles, not only published ones. Published research is often not representative of research done

MACQUARIE University has joined the small club of Australian institutions that require academics to make their research papers freely available over the Internet. "We think it's a blow for academic freedom and for universal access to scholarly work,'' said Steven Schwartz, Macquarie's vice chancellor.

Under a new policy, academics must send a copy of journal articles to Macquarie's open access repository. The open access movement seeks to maximise the public benefit from research by disseminating it beyond subscription-based journals, which are costly.

The movement gained pace this year with institutions such as Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the British funding agency the Welcome Trust adopting policies that require, rather than simply encourage, researchers to use online repositories.

In 2004 the Queensland University of Technology became the first Australian institution to usher in a mandatory open access policy. Charles Sturt University followed suit last January.

Professor Schwartz said most journal publishers seemed relaxed about the rise of online repositories. "Some don't care, some have embargo periods, some want you to request permission,'' he said. The Macquarie policy applies to referred articles accepted for publication.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Putin's ultimatum to Rudd over uranium deal

Bad to sell uranium to India but good to sell it to Russia?

RUSSIA delivered Australia a stern warning last night not to pull out of its deal to sell the former superpower uranium worth an estimated $1 billion a year. Russia's intervention came after Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said Australia would take into account Russia's aggression in Georgia before signing off on the deal, and a Labor MP warned that Russian strongman Vladimir Putin could not be trusted with Australian uranium.

"If you've looked on the TV into Vladimir Putin's eyes - he is one tough son of a gun and I don't think that he cares about what we think," said Kelvin Thomson, who chairs Federal Parliament's treaties committee. "I think that we could supply uranium to him and if he changed his mind about the uses to which he was going to put it, I don't think we'd have any effective comeback at all."

Last night, Russian ambassador Alexander Blokhin hit back, warning the Rudd Government not to renege on the deal, signed by former prime minister John Howard and Mr Putin during APEC last September. "If this agreement is not ratified, in that case we could regard it as an obviously politically biased decision, which could harm the economic interest of Australia as well," Mr Blokhin said through an interpreter. "We do not see any connection between the events in the Caucasus region and the uranium deal. These are completely separate things."

The nuclear safeguards agreement allows the export of Australian uranium to Russia for use in its rapidly expanding civilian nuclear power program. Opponents fear Australian yellowcake could be used in Russia weapons or resold to close Russian allies Iran and Syria.

Mr Smith said when the Government was considering ratifying the agreement it would take into account not just the merits of the agreement, but events in Georgia. During the Olympics, Russian troops crossed into the disputed Georgian territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, drawing condemnation from the West, and prompting fears of rising Russian influence in former Soviet states.
Mr Smith said he had already passed on Australia's concerns about Russia's events in Georgia to the ambassador.

Mr Thomson said the Government should consider delaying ratification of the deal until after the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was reviewed in 2010. The treaties committee examines agreements before they are ratified to ensure they are fair and in Australia's interests.

Mr Smith said the Government would be interested in the committee's views and would take its report into account. But he emphasised that he considered the safeguards built into the agreement more than adequate. "The Government believes that the agreement meets Australia's longstanding safeguards requirements and promotes the highest international standards in this area, including involvement and oversight by the international regulator, the International Atomic Energy Agency," Mr Smith said.

Mr Putin said in Canberra last year that the Australian uranium would not be used in nuclear weapons or sold to other countries for use in bombs.

Despite the war of words, experts said it was extremely unlikely Russia would use Australian uranium in nuclear weapons. The head of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office, John Carlson, said: "Australian uranium won't be used for weapons because Russia has such an enormous surplus there's no reason why it would even think of doing so."

The Bulletin of American Scientists said that last year Russia had 5670 operational nuclear warheads and 9300 warheads in reserve or awaiting dismantlement.

Strategic analyst Rory Medcalf of the Lowy Institute said that, if Australia wanted to stick its neck out, it could use the uranium deal to put pressure on the Kremlin to change its behaviour in areas such as Georgia. Mr Medcalf said that if Australia pulled out of the deal it could damage its reputation as a reliable supplier and send a signal to countries such as China that could damage Australia's interests. "If we are going to show ourselves as an unreliable uranium supplier are we also going to show ourselves as an unreliable gas supplier. Where do you stop?"

Australia's trade relationship with Russia has jumped sharply in recent years, to almost $800 million in 2007.
The Rudd Government has resisted selling to uranium to India because, unlike Russia, it is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.


Elective surgery stopped indefinitely at major Tasmanian public hospital

Elective surgery has been stopped indefinitely at the Royal Hobart Hospital. And an explosion in the number of emergency patient numbers has put a greater strain on the hospital, where 29 staff were off sick yesterday, including seven in the Emergency Department. This meant only lifesaving surgery could be done until staff numbers improved.

RHH spokeswoman Pene Snashall said no reports of influenza had been made by either staff or patients, but winter sickness was blamed. "We had huge numbers in the Emergency Department on Sunday," she said. "A normal day is 110, and we had 143." Ms Snashall said yesterday's elective operations were postponed, as were today's, but it was hoped normal operations would resume tomorrow.

Tony Bell is acting chief executive, with chief executive Craig White on sick and annual leave.

Flu has hit Tasmanian schools hard, but the sickness must be registered with health authorities because it is classified as a notifiable disease.

The latest crisis comes as doctors speak out about the lack of a plan to fix Tasmania's health system. And ambulance "ramping" -- when vehicles have to wait until paramedics' patients are handed to the hospital -- has been highlighted with an industrial campaign.

Last week, retiring Australian Medical Association Tasmanian president Haydn Walters said he was dismayed because nothing had changed in the way the system was being run. "The system is about to fall over. It needs re-engineering. It cannot go on working like this in many strategic areas," Professor Walters said.

And James Freeman, who trained and worked at the hospital before moving to the private sector, said most of the problems could be fixed. "While a new hospital at some stage in the future is an excellent dream, what is required is substantive action right now," Dr Freeman said. "This crisis can be addressed, but it does require money. "More importantly, it requires motivation."


Victorian paramedics falling asleep from overwork, says union

VICTORIAN paramedics have fallen asleep at the wheel they are so heavily overworked, the ambulance union says. The state’s ambulance officers are “dangerously fatigued'' from being worked so hard, and are putting their own and other peoples' lives at risk, the Ambulance Employees Australia (AEA) said today.

The union released new overtime and sick leave figures today, showing country ambulance officers were doing an average of eight hours overtime a week and taking an average 16 days sick leave a year. The latest figures follow a March report in the Herald Sun showing 90 per cent of ambulance workers think fatigue is leading to mistakes and delays. The figures also show Melbourne paramedics doing an average of almost five hours overtime a week and taking an average 13.5 days sick leave a year.

The AEA says the figures, obtained under freedom of information laws from the Metropolitan Ambulance Service and Rural Ambulance Victoria are proof paramedics are dangerously fatigued and need longer breaks between shifts.

AEA Victorian secretary Steve McGhie called on Premier John Brumby to act, with ambulance officers were working so long and sleeping so little, they were sometimes falling asleep at the wheel. “Premier Brumby needs to fix this problem before someone is killed,'' Mr McGhie said in a statement. “After working such long hours and not getting enough sleep, many ambulance officers have told us they've fallen asleep driving and made mistakes at work. “Some have told us they've even drawn up the wrong drugs and nearly administered them.''

The union is battling the ambulance employers, now merged as Ambulance Victoria, for minimum 10-hour rest breaks, compared to the eight-hour breaks they are entitled to now.

Mr McGhie said the data showed the “massive amounts'' of overtime paramedics were working. “It explains why so many say they feel dangerously fatigued,'' Mr McGhie said. “Ten-hour rest breaks will mean ambulance officers can at least get a proper sleep before they go to work again.''

But an Ambulance Victoria (AV) spokesperson said the union's claim is not reflected in its incident reporting data. “AV treats paramedic and patient safety as an absolute priority and has been working to address fatigue since late last year.''

The spokesman said the state government announced a $187.5 million ambulance services funding package earlier this year, which will deliver 258 extra paramedics, more ambulances and other facilities to regional and rural Victoria. All extra paramedics will be placed in areas of greatest need, and are in addition to more than 170 paramedics recruited last year. New roster lines are also being introduced by Ambulance Victoria to address fatigue, reducing the number of nightshifts paramedics work and increasing breaks between shifts.

The union calculates 291 extra paramedics could be employed with the money spent on overtime wages each year. It said the high levels of sick leave being taken showed paramedics' workload was affecting their health.

Ambulance Victoria, formed when the Metropolitan Ambulance Service and Rural Ambulance Victoria merged this year, and the Victorian government are currently in negotiations over an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA).


More on the Cairns hospital mismanagement

ONE of Queensland's most senior surgeons is threatening to sue the State Government after a booze-fuelled staff meeting where doctors joked about a patient who bled to death on the operating table. Director of Surgery at Cairns Base Hospital for 10 years, Dr Christina Steffen, yesterday broke her silence to reveal the death of the critically ill patient, 78, was "the final straw".

Dr Steffen said she felt victimised and harassed after a bitter fallout with staff over the party culture within the far north Queensland hospital. She has been on stress leave since the June incident - along with a junior surgeon under investigation for alleged incompetence - which has left the Cairns hospital barely able to cope with emergency inpatients. "I think it is unethical to be drinking alcohol in a hospital staff meeting and making jokes at the expense of patients and surgeons," Dr Steffen told The Courier Mail. "It is typical of the culture within the hospital."

Queensland Health last night denied they officially sanctioned the booze session. CBH staff were invited by email to a discussion in a tutorial room on July 2 with refreshments including beer and wine. They discussed the death of a 78-year-old man from Atherton who was admitted with a ruptured main artery and bled to death on the operating table. Dr Steffen said the forum was "unethical" and a form of "macabre entertainment".

Dr Steffen's feud with management started after she stood in defence of a junior surgeon who, she said, had been "unfairly" accused of botched surgery and incompetence.

Last night Health Minister Stephen Robertson announced eight new beds at the Townsville Hospital to relieve pressure on overworked medical staff and facilities. "We recognise the stress the hospital and its staff are under, and that is why we are fast-tracking opening more beds," Mr Robertson said.

As the state's health system reels from crisis to crisis, it also emerged yesterday that a paramedic had to catch a taxi to a patient suffering a cardiac arrest on the Sunshine Coast on Saturday night. The officer was travelling in a taxi to pick up an ambulance he had left while attending an emergency call with another crew, when he had to divert to a patient during an extremely busy period.


Monday, September 01, 2008


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has joined the chorus seeking some action from Peter Costello -- who is probably the best hope for conservatives at the next election.


Unusually cool weather from North to South in Australia. See three current reports below. And Australia is a big slice of the earth's landmass. See map:

Coldest SA August in 35 years

ADELAIDE has recorded its coldest August in more than 35 years. The city had an average temperature of 14.8C for the last month of winter. That compared with a usual average of 16.6C for August. Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Allan Beattie said the previous record for a cold August was in 1970 when the average temperature was 14.4C. But the coldest August was in 1951 when the average temperature was 14.1C.

Adelaide's winter this year also had a below-average temperature of 15.5C, compared with the usual average of 16C. Last month was also wetter than usual for August. Adelaide received 85mm of rain compared with an average of 66.5mm, the wettest August since 2005. However, winter as a whole received average rainfall of 222mm of rain.

Adelaide's coldest maximum temperature this winter was 11.1C on July 7, Mr Beattie said, while the coldest minimum temperature was 0.7C on July 28.


Sydney August was coldest in 64 years

SYDNEY'S global warming sceptics have a new bit of ammunition - the harbour city just experienced its coldest August in 64 years. But the skies are expected to clear in September, that is once the current rainy spell clears later this week. With official monthly figures released today, meteorologists say Sydney is likely to clock an average temperature of 12.7C, the lowest since World War II.

Some suburbs experienced their chilliest August on record including Canterbury, Homebush, Penrith, and Richmond - all which started keeping records 12 years ago, along with Bankstown, Parramatta and Prospect Dam, which began keeping records 37 years ago. "They broke minimum temperature records," Weatherzone meteorologist Matt Pearce said.

He said the extreme - by NSW standards - cold was caused by a "longways trough", a large system pushing west to east, over the state. "There's no real indication that September's going to be as cold as August was."


Brisbane records coldest August in eight years

THE weather experts have confirmed what Brisbane people suspected - the city has just shivered through its coldest August in at least eight years. It also was the driest since 2001, with Brisbane picking up just 16mm of rain, below the long-term norm of 35mm.

Brisbane recorded an average minimum of 9C and an average maximum of 22C, slightly down on the long-term normal temperature for the month of 23C, Weatherzone meteorologist Matt Pearce said. "This made it the coolest August in terms of daytime temperatures since records began at the site in 2000," he said. "In fact, on the 18th, the temperature struggled to just 17C - the coldest August day in three years."

August nights also were cool in Brisbane. Gladstone, Yeppoon, Emerald, Toowoomba and Rainbow Beach also set record August lows. Wetter and warmer conditions are expected for the first week of September, with rain and maximum temperatures of 19C to 21C forecast to Friday.



Three current articles below -- again from North to South in Australia

Incompetent management cuts down surgery at major public hospital

Cairns hospital serves an area roughly the size of England

A feud between doctors and management at Cairns Base Hospital has slashed its surgical capacity by half as surgeons walk off the job. The hospital is in disarray with two surgeons - including the director of surgery - on stress leave following a fallout between staff and management. An email inviting hospital staff members for beer and wine during work time, to discuss a patient's death, has also intensified the stand-off from surgeons.

Elective surgeries at the hospital have been cancelled or heavily delayed and outreach surgery to Innisfail Hospital has been suspended. The district's only vascular surgeon is one of the surgeons on leave and patients are now being referred back to their GPs. Some patients have reportedly been sent to Townsville Hospital.

An insider has told The Cairns Post that half of the staff surgical team is now out of action after the two surgeons went on stress leave in June. The comments come on the back of a shocking week for Queensland Health Minister Stephen Robertson who has been under fire for reports of hospital downgrades and department cutbacks.

Queensland Health has refused to comment on why the Cairns surgeons took leave but a source said a dispute between surgeons and anaesthetists sparked the breakdown and led to one surgeon taking stress leave. A complaint about a surgeon was made by an anaesthetist, which eventually led to both surgeons taking leave, said the source, who asked not to be named. The source said the relationship problem snowballed when a patient died and an email was sent to staff inviting them to discuss the death over beer and wine - during work hours. Both of the surgeons were on stress leave at the time and were disgusted to read the email.

"The email was sent out to all of the staff without consent of the relatives or by the surgeon to present the case," the insider said. "Normally, when something happens like a death, you have a small circle of people - you don't have Tom, Dick and Harry there. "And it's completely unethical to have alcohol when you discuss something like that.'' Lawyers are now involved.

The hospital has been plagued with problems of ambulance ramping in recent months and bottlenecks due to a chronic shortage of beds. But the most recent June quarter report showed that long-wait surgical patient numbers had been reduced, largely because of an increase in surgery being outsourced to private doctors. To tackle the overcrowding, Queensland Heath is planning a $450 million redevelopment of the hospital, after a community campaign launched by The Cairns Post.

The source said Cairns' surgical dilemma was beginning to mirror Townsville Hospital's debacle where a squabble between staff saw the hospital's cardiac services shut down last year. The Australian Medical Association is expected to comment on the situation today. Yesterday, a spokesman for Queensland Health could not confirm if the meeting involving alcohol took place or whether a patient's death was discussed.

A spokeswoman for Queensland Health said a comment could not be given in relation to staff's personal details but confirmed two surgeons had been on stress leave since June. Two surgical locums will be employed between now and December to try to cope with the increasing workload.


Government 'in denial' over problems at major Tasmanian public hospital

A FORMER doctor at the Royal Hobart Hospital says the State Government is in denial over issues that have plagued the facility for years. James Freeman trained and worked at the hospital before moving to the private system in search of better pay and conditions. He sums it up: "Houston, we have a problem!" Surprisingly, hospital officials agree with many of his comments.

Dr Freeman said it was frustrating to hear of the despair in the public system when most of the problems were relatively easy to fix. "While a new hospital at some stage in the future is an excellent dream, what is required is substantive action right now," he said. "This crisis can be addressed but it does require money. Far less money than a new hospital . . . more importantly, it requires motivation."

Dr Freeman said the first issue surrounded the number of acute beds. In 1980, he said, there were 600 public beds and today there were fewer than 300, mainly because of the introduction of day surgery beds. "More patients don't fit that well into half as much space," Dr Freeman said.

RHH communications director Pene Snashall said the hospital had a total 550 beds across the Royal, the Repatriation Centre in Davey St and St John's Park at New Town. Ms Snashall said only 90 of those were for day surgery beds. "Of the 460 beds remaining, the amount that are available will fluctuate on a daily basis depending on staff availability and staff sick leave," she said. "And while it has been reported that we only have a 95 per cent occupancy, people have to understand that is because -- being the only public hospital in the South -- we have to balance beds for emergency and beds for elective surgery." Ms Snashall said this balancing act was difficult and, while it could be done better, it worked.

Dr Freeman also highlighted the lack of nursing staff and pointed to the urgent need for federally funded nursing-home beds for patients being discharged from the RHH -- one of the causes of ambulance ramping. Simple measures were needed such as reinstating a cleaner to the after-hours theatre and offering childcare facilities to mothers who were nurses. Until the denial by bureaucrats ended, he said, the treatment and cure of a sick health system was unlikely.


Queensland health system short of 1000 nurses

I gather that bullying and inflexible management -- plus endless paperwork -- is a major reason why many staff have left nursing and will not return

QUEENSLAND'S struggling health system is short of more than 1000 nurses despite some aggressive recruitment efforts, according to a government report. The report, accompanying the Bligh Government's revamped Skills Plan, says research had "projected a shortage of nursing professionals in Queensland of roughly 1100 in 2008". The shortage persists despite recruitment campaigns interstate and overseas, and a rise in the number of people studying nursing in recent years. It threatens to hamper government plans for more hospital beds to come on line with extra nurses needed to staff them. The report comes as hospitals struggle to cope with demand amid dire bed shortages.

Ambulances at the weekend continued to wait for hours outside southeast Queensland hospitals to offload patients to overcrowded emergency departments. Jason Dutton, the state organiser of the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union that represents ambulance drivers, described the situation as no better than last week when ambulances spent hours "ramping" outside a number of Brisbane hospitals and at Logan.

Health Minister Stephen Robertson said none of the state's hospitals had been on bypass but could not rule out further cuts to elective surgery waiting lists, which had affected 11 hospitals last week. "Typically, this is always our busiest time of year," Mr Robertson said.

The Opposition yesterday attacked the Government for including 1370 chairs in its count of 10,234 Queensland public hospital beds. The Courier-Mail's sister paper, The Sunday Mail reported at the weekend that Government figures showed 14per cent of the bed count included chairs, trolleys, cots, stretchers and lounge suites. Opposition leader Lawrence Springborg accused the Government of gross manipulation. "They'll be including photocopiers next - anything you can actually sit or lie on," Mr Springborg said.

Education Minister Rod Welford said nursing and technology were areas in which the Government needed to focus its skills plan. "Enrolments in nursing courses are currently not keeping pace with those retiring from the profession, which is already feeling the impact of an ageing population," he said. He said Queensland Health estimated that 73.4per cent of nurses were aged over 40.


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