AUSTRALIAN POLITICS ARCHIVE
Looking at Australian politics from a libertarian/conservative perspective...
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Two of my ancestors were convicts so my family has been in Australia for a long time. As well as that, all four of my grandparents were born in the State where I was born and still live: Queensland. And I am even a member of the world's second-most condemned minority: WASPs (the most condemned is of course the Jews -- which may be why I tend to like Jews). So I think I am as Australian as you can get. I certainly feel that way. I like all things that are iconically Australian: meat pies, Vegemite, Henry Lawson etc. I particularly pride myself on my familiarity with the great Australian slanguage. I draw the line at Iced Vo-Vos and betting on the neddies, however. So if I cannot comment insightfully on Australian affairs, who could?
30 September, 2012
ABC bias again: Media Watch breached own code of practice
Smarmy Leftist crooks caught out
The ABC's Media Watch program has been found to have breached the public broadcaster's code of practice over a segment criticising a news report by The Daily Telegraph's state political editor Andrew Clennell.
In a release issued this morning titled "Media Watch breaches ABC Code of Practice", the powerful Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) found that the ABC's media watchdog had done what it accuses other media organisations of doing - not seeking the other side of the story.
The authority said that under 5.3 of the ABC's Code of Practice, where allegations were made about a person, the ABC was obliged to make reasonable efforts to provide a fair opportunity for that person to respond.
But it found that when Media Watch criticised a story on poker machine reforms by Mr Clennell and accused The Daily Telegraph of "being one-sided", it never contacted the newspaper or the reporter to seek a comment.
The ABC had rejected a complaint from Mr Clennell. Mr Clennell then took the complaint to the ACMA, which overruled the ABC.
Media Watch claimed that it was never meant to come under section 5.3 of the ABC’s professional code because that only applied to "news and current affairs and other types of factual content such as documentaries" and the program was more about criticism and reviews.
It admitted that it never tried to contact the newspaper or the reporter before its program went to air on September 19, 2011.
"The Australian Communications and Media Authority has found that the ABC breached its code of practice in an episode of Media Watch," said today's release from the authority.
The ABC has said that it proposes to acknowledge the ACMA's breach finding on Media Watch and will add an "appropriate clarification" to its online transcript of the episode.
An ACMA spokesman said it was the first time the ABC had been found to be in breach of Section 5.3 of its own code.
Media Watch issued a response to the ACMA ruling this morning saying: "ABC Television accepts the ruling of the ACMA that Media Watch should have given Andrew Clennell and/or The Daily Telegraph the opportunity to respond to comments by Jonathan Holmes about a report into Norwegian gaming machines published on 14 September 2011.
"In next Monday night’s program Jonathan Holmes will address the ACMA ruling, and the broader question of whether, and when, Media Watch should offer a right of reply," the statement said.
"He will be explaining why the ABC initially rejected Mr Clennell’s complaint.
"In the process, Jonathan says: “I will be telling our viewers what The Daily Telegraph would have told us if we had asked them about the item, and I will be offering an apology to Andrew Clennell."
Mr Clennell said: "All Media Watch had to do was come to me for my side of the story - exactly what they accused me of not doing."
"Then they would have learned that I had, in fact, gone to the minister Jenny Macklin for comment but it was cut out in the editing process, and that The Daily Telegraph had published a letter from Ms Macklin the next day.
"Instead Jonathan Holmes called me a propagandist on national television and he and his executive producer Lin Buckfield steadfastly and stubbornly refused to issue an on-air apology.
"It's disappointing that we had to go to the broadcasting regulator for justice when Mr Holmes, Ms Buckfield and the ABC through its internal complaints process could all have resolved this issue much earlier."
Daily Telegraph editor Paul Whittaker said: "Andrew Clennell and I look forward to Jonathan’s promised on-air apology."
Hysteria over school shooting lessons
STATE school students as young as 12 have their sights trained on high school shooting classes after a "curriculum" review by Education Queensland.
This is despite a risk assessment document that found student participation in rifle and pistol shooting was an "extreme risk" with a "high chance of serious incident resulting in highly debilitating injury".
And the Queensland Police Union has slammed the move, warning that the policy could lead to "another Columbine" shooting spree.
Education Queensland's Curriculum Activity Risk Assessment document approves the involvement of state high school students in shooting lessons, provided instructors are fully qualified and facilities and equipment are up to standard.
It's mandatory for students to receive one-on-one supervision from licensed shooters in their first three shooting classes, followed by an encouraged ratio of one to six thereafter.
Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said students' access to weapons would desensitise them to the "extreme dangers of guns" resulting in a "sure-fire recipe for death and disaster".
"Police don't want another Columbine High School massacre in a Queensland school like we've seen in the United States which could well be an inevitability of this policy," he said.
"It seems Education Queensland think the three R's stand for reading, writing and reloading.
"This crazy policy will see students more heavily armed than school-based police officers who ironically are not allowed to carry their firearms in schools under an agreement with Education Queensland."
An Education Queensland spokeswoman said there was no centralised list of schools which took part in a shooting program and did not answer questions relating to when the risk assessment was first raised or what schools were involved.
Assistant Director-General Marg Pethiyagoda said shooting was an Olympic sport and was able to be offered under "strict supervision".
"Schools determine what extracurricular activities are offered to their students from term to term and school principals are required to ensure all relevant regulations and health and safety guidelines are adhered to," her statement said.
"Any school which chooses to offer shooting as an extracurricular activity must have formal consent from the parents of participating students.
"The department is not aware of any state schools offering shooting as an extracurricular activity."
Shooting programs are not new to private schools. St Joseph's Nudgee College uses its own rifle range and others such as Redlands College and Concordia Lutheran College are involved in programs.
School army cadets also have involvement in shooting programs.
Queensland Target Sports and Queensland Shooting Association spokesman Rex Wigney encouraged more schools to get involved and said it was one of the safest sports for children, who could progress to Olympic level.
Queensland Teachers' Union deputy general secretary Greg Purches said the QTU would be "very reluctant" in encouraging school involvement. "I can't think of many more dangerous things," he said.
Queensland Secondary Principals' Association president Norm Fuller said he didn't want schools or students involved in a shooting program.
Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens' Association president Margaret Leary said she didn't have a problem with schools taking up shooting programs, so long as parents were informed about the risks.
Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said it was up to schools to decide what extracurricular activities they offered to students.
More Sri Lankans head home instead of Nauru
This is all credit to Tony Abbott, who insisted on Nauru re-opening
Sri Lankan men leaving Christmas Island for Colombo last week. They were followed by a second voluntary group yesterday.
Sri Lankan men leaving Christmas Island for Colombo last week. They were followed by a second voluntary group yesterday.
A SECOND group of Sri Lankan men left Christmas Island yesterday, having chosen to return to Colombo rather than be sent to Nauru while their claims for asylum are processed.
"Regular transfers to Nauru and more Sri Lankans returning home is further proof that people smugglers only sell lies and make false promises about what awaits people in Australia," the Minister for Immigration, Chris Bowen, said.
"People in immigration detention can request their removal from Australia at any point in time."
The men included two from Nauru, 20 from Christmas Island and six from mainland facilities including Villawood and Yongah Hill, Mr Bowen said.
Authorities intercepted another two asylum seekers boats on Friday, carrying a total of 133 people, all of whom have been taken to Christmas Island.
Police based at Queensland high schools to steer teens from crime
This is a disgrace. There was none of this when schools had effective disciplinary powers
POLICE will be stationed in a third of Queensland's state high schools to steer out-of-control children away from a lifetime of crime.
Fifteen schools that together had more than 4400 suspensions and almost 100 expulsions in one year have been hand-picked to have a police officer based within school grounds from next year as part of an LNP election promise.
The plan to rid schools of crime and violence will increase police numbers in schools to 50, with officers working across 56 of the 180 state high schools in the state.
"Violence has been out of control and criminals are getting younger and younger, and boosting school-based police numbers provides a vital bridge for potential young offenders to ensure we permanently steer them away from a lifetime of crime," Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers told The Sunday Mail.
"It's all about early intervention."
Schools to get police include Brisbane, Nambour, Glenmore, Pioneer, Gladstone, Bowen, Sandgate, Southport, Toowoomba Locker District and Trinity Bay state high schools and Upper Coomera, Flagstone, Brisbane Bayside and Bentley Park state colleges.
Education Queensland figures show Bentley Park State College in Cairns, a school of more than 1600 students, had 19 expulsions, 377 short suspensions (1-5 days) and 93 long suspensions (6-20 days) in 2010-11.
This was compared with Brisbane State High School, with more than 2100 students, which had fewer than five expulsions, 40 short suspensions and 29 long suspensions.
"The School Based Policing Program is an effective crime prevention strategy that aims to keep students in school," Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said.
"School-based police officers promote positive relationships between young people and police, and play an important role in addressing the issue of violence in schools."
28 September, 2012
Sharks to be killed if close to swim beaches
The pro-shark nuts should be thrown in with them to see how they like it
A PLAN to protect West Australian beachgoers by killing great white sharks that come too close has angered animal welfare advocates and conservationists. Many were also affronted by Premier Colin Barnett's dismissal of the animals as just "fish".
The government today announced a $6.85 million package of "shark mitigation" strategies in response to five fatal attacks in the state's waters within 10 months.
It has allocated $2 million for a new Department of Fisheries service to track, catch and destroy sharks found in close proximity to swimmers.
The government has also redefined the circumstances in which an order may be given to kill sharks that pose an imminent threat to humans.
"Previously the orders were used in response to an attack, but now proactive action will be taken if a large white shark presents imminent threat to people," Fisheries Minister Norman Moore said.
Baited drum lines could also be set to capture sharks that presented a danger, he said.
Premier Colin Barnett said it was "not going to be a shark hunt".
"We will always put the lives and safety of beachgoers ahead of the shark," he told ABC radio. "This is, after all, a fish - let's keep it in perspective."
The Conservation Council of WA said the "guilty until proven innocent" approach was a kneejerk reaction to public concern that would harm the environment and would not protect swimmers.
"We urge the government not to use the new kill powers for sharks," CCWA marine co-ordinator Tim Nicol said. "We are ... concerned that this policy perpetuates the fear that all large sharks are potential killers, when in fact we do not know this."
The Wilderness Society was also critical of "pre-emptive cullings", while ABC radio talkback callers flooded the phone lines, with many saying the best way to stay safe was to stay out of the shark's habitat.
Some said the strategies were vote-grabbing stunts.
Mr Barnett also today reiterated his opposition to shark nets because they posed a threat to marine life.
Instead, $2 million will go towards continuing shark tagging programs, including the use of GPS tracking systems, while $2 million will go into a research fund over four years.
Mr Nichol welcomed the research funding. "If we want to reduce fear of swimming at our beaches, then we need to engage in research and education, not in killing with no purpose," he said.
"For example, we need to explain the times of year that are most dangerous because of oceanic events that attract large sharks to feed near shore, for example when snapper are spawning in Cockburn Sound."
University of WA, where researchers are developing shark attack deterrent wetsuits, also welcomed the research funding.
The government also pledged $200,000 for a feasibility study and trial of a beach enclosure to protect swimmers, $500,000 for extra jet skis for Surf Lifesaving WA, and $150,000 for community awareness programs, including a smartphone application.
Former Treasury deputy secretary Richard Murray's paper proposes abolishing state governments
Not a hope. Queenslanders will resist anything that seems to give Canberra more power -- and Queensland is too big to push around. Sir Joh showed all that
STATES would be abolished and more power given to city and regional councils in a two-tier government under a radical proposal to shake up the nation's economy.
Under the controversial plan, Queensland would split into six regions and shed the state government in favour of a bigger federal parliament, five city and 19 regional councils nationally.
It comes after The Courier-Mail this week exclusively revealed plans for Cairns, Townsville, Mackay and Rockhampton to unite north of the Tropic of Capricorn under an economic co-operation zone.
Delegates told how the state's north wants to lobby as a unified bloc for big-ticket items in the economic powerhouse region worth about $60 billion a year, splitting the state along economic lines.
In his newly published paper, A New Federation with a Cities and Regional Approach, former Treasury deputy secretary Richard Murray offers a blueprint for macro and micro-economic reform.
He suggests rewriting the Constitution to share revenue and power between two tiers of government.
His paper reopens fresh debate on federation, productivity and governance as it looks at the "multiple, overlapping and interacting problems of the three-tier system of government".
Townsville Regional Council Mayor Jenny Hill yesterday said the paper proposed a much more streamlined system of government.
"Many people bitterly complain about too many layers of bureaucracy and government," she said.
"I think some councils would be up to the task, others might not.
"It would be very hard if not impossible to get the state governments to give up their power and let it devolve to the regions.
"But, because we started out as colonies, we've been left with this legacy of the 19th century.
"It is holding us back in the 21st century."
Tasmania's Upper House votes down gay marriage
The Tasmanian Premier and gay rights campaigners have vowed not to give up on same-sex marriage despite a historic bill being defeated in the state's Upper House.
After two days of impassioned debate, the bill was voted down on Thursday night eight votes to six after every member of the Legislative Council spoke at length on the issue.
Premier Lara Giddings said it was a disappointing result but the Government would not give up on the reform.
"We will continue this. It's not the end. It's the beginning," Ms Giddings said. "It took many times for us to get gay law reform through. "It took many times and attempts to get anti-discrimination law reform through."
Greens leader Nick McKim says the legislation's defeat was deeply disappointing. "The Council's chosen fear over love, the Council's chosen division over unity, and it's chosen the 19th century over the 21st century," he said. "And the Council tragically today has held Tasmania back."
The Opposition Leader, Will Hodgman, says the blame for the bill failing rests with the Premier.
He criticised the legislation as hasty, in breach of an election commitment and in reckless disregard of potential cost to taxpayers of a High Court Challenge.
Gay rights campaigner Rodney Croome says he is committed to campaigning for legislative change. "I want to be able to marry the man I love in the state I love and I will make sure that happens," he said.
Amanda-Sue Markham from the group Save Marriage Coalition says while it is a good result, she feels sorry for same-sex couples.
"While I'm pleased that we retain marriage as the Federal Act, it's still mixed with sadness for those people who are very upset about the outcome."
The final speaker before the vote, Member for Windermere Ivan Dean, had been under enormous pressure but decided to vote against the legislation.
Abbott compares carbon tax to an octopus
Tony Abbott's latest description of the carbon tax invites voters to imagine its tentacles reaching into the depths of the economy, pushing up the already high cost of living. He has also likened Labor's propensity to increase taxes to a "poison", with the only antidote to get rid of the Government.
The Opposition Leader took his anti-carbon tax campaign to a frozen fish supplier in Sydney, warning that the tax was hitting the business through higher electricity costs and sky-rocketing prices for refrigerant gases.
"What people are starting to understand is that this is an octopus embracing the whole of our economy," Mr Abbott told reporters.
"Every time you turn on a light, you pay; every time you open your fridge, you pay; every time you buy a cup of coffee, you pay, and as is obvious after a visit like this, every time you buy a piece of fish at the supermarket or elsewhere, you pay because of Labor's carbon tax."
Mr Abbott's latest analogy has prompted Climate Change Minister Greg Combet to question whether the Opposition Leader has a problem with animals.
"Previously he has described the carbon price as 'another cash cow', 'a python squeeze', 'a cobra strike', 'a dog of a tax', and today it was 'an octopus'," Mr Combet said. "What's he got against animals? [What a supercilious and evasive response!]?
"Mr Abbott's time would be better spent having his Coalition policies costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office, rather than inventing a menagerie as part of his shallow scare campaign."
Mr Abbott says 80 percent of the increase in western Sydney power prices was because of the carbon tax. In Queensland, he says the carbon tax was responsible for almost the entire increase.
A report by the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal released in June showed that on average, electricity prices in the state were increasing by 18 per cent.
It said that on average, about half of that was carbon tax related with the bulk of the remainder due to the extra investment in infrastructure, such as poles and wires.
John Howard revives history wars in attack on Labor Party curriculum
JOHN Howard has re-entered the culture wars, describing the Gillard government's national school history curriculum as "unbalanced, lacking in priorities and quite bizarre", and accusing it of marginalising the Judeo-Christian ethic and purging British history.
The former prime minister said last night that "our Western heritage appears to be so conspicuously absent from the history curriculum reflects a growing retreat from self-belief in Western civilisation". In a swingeing critique of the government's national high school curriculum, which is being introduced at various levels in the states through to 2014, Mr Howard said a lack of proper perspective in history teaching would "deny future generations a real understanding of what has made us as a nation".
"The curriculum does not properly reflect the undoubted fact that Australia is part of Western civilisation; in the process, it further marginalises the historic influence of the Judeo-Christian ethic in shaping Australian society and virtually purges British history from any meaningful role," he said in the inaugural Sir Paul Hasluck lecture at the University of Western Australia.
The attack on Labor's curriculum from the Liberals' foremost cultural warrior reflects the opposition to the curriculum from Tony Abbott and opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne, and reluctance from the Liberal states of NSW and Victoria to implement the changes due to start in all states after the next federal election.
As Julia Gillard fights with the Liberal premiers over various policies and draws the Opposition Leader into the disputes, the differences over the history curriculum will provide further antagonism between the government and the Coalition.
Mr Howard called on state education ministers to do something about the curriculum and said only they could act. He and Mr Pyne have both declared the role of Western civilisation is a crucial element in Australian history and must be properly taught in high school.
School Education Minister Peter Garrett told The Australian last night the history curriculum had been developed with educators, history experts and the community, and was endorsed by all education ministers.
"The end result is a curriculum, which is robust, comprehensive and of the highest quality," Mr Garrett said.
"While there will be scope for the curriculum to be reviewed over time, the curriculum is the result of an extensive development process and has the backing of teachers and academics."
Some of Labor's national curriculum is being taught in most states but no state has yet adopted the whole curriculum from the beginning of school through to Year 10, which is due in 2014.
Mr Howard praised policy making history a compulsory subject in Year 10, and said it was good there would be more emphasis on indigenous history and that Asian history would be more prominent.
"Beyond those praiseworthy features," he said, "there is much about the curriculum that I find unbalanced, lacking in priorities and in some cases quite bizarre.
"The teaching of history is meant to explain what happened, why, and what lessons can be learned from the past.
"The structure of this curriculum will not facilitate this occurring."
The national curriculum was changed earlier this year to include more indigenous history and a teaching of Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generations, after complaints from the Greens.
"It is a fact that the modern Australia is a product of Western civilisation; the Judeo-Christian influence is a reality and the British inheritance self evident. We cannot properly understand our nation's history without fully recognising that this is the case," Mr Howard said.
"The laudable goals of enhancing the teaching of indigenous and Asian history could have been fully achieved by the curriculum's authors without relegating or virtually eliminating the study of influences vital to a proper understanding of who we are as a people and where we came from.
"That our Western heritage appears to be so conspicuously absent from the history curriculum reflects a growing retreat from self-belief in Western civilisation.
"It is as if the West must always play the villain simply because it has tended to enjoy more power and economic success than other parts of the world since 1500.
"Magna Carta; parliamentary democracy, the language we speak - which, need I remind you, is now the lingua franca of Asia; much of the literature we imbibe; a free and irreverent media; our relatively civil system of political discourse; the rule of law; and trial by jury . . . these are all owed in one form or another to the British."
On secular pressure to remove religion from consideration in schools, Mr Howard said: "Christianity has often reinforced and inspired many of our most important secular ideas and values, including freedom of speech and freedom of association.
"The curriculum does not reflect this."
27 September, 2012
Labor has lost purpose, says former Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner
BOB Carr has called for Labor Party figures to stop bagging the government after former minister Lindsay Tanner took a swipe at the party, saying it has lost its purpose and removing Kevin Rudd was a mistake.
Mr Tanner told The Australian today: "I agree with John Howard’s assessment. Had Labor kept its nerve we would have won the 2010 election."
"I think panic was a significant factor in the removal of Kevin Rudd as prime minister but there were multiple factors involved."
His comments prompted an angry response from Foreign Minister Bob Carr, who called for an end to the criticism of the party.
Mr Carr, in New York for a meeting of the UN, said the public was sick of hearing about what is wrong with the party.
"We went through a stage where every galah in a pet shop had an opinion about what was wrong with the Labor Party. Now I'm sick of that. I think the public is sick of it , we've got to talk about what the Labor Party has got right and there are a lot of things it's got right in government and talk about what Tony Abbott and the Liberals have failed to do and got wrong," he said.
"I think the Labor Party has been anatomised to the last fibre. Everyone has volunteered to say what's wrong with the Labor Party. I'm saying it time to say what's right about the Labor Party and what the Labor Party has done for Australia.
Bob Carr in New York
Foreign Minister Bob Carr, seen here in New York at a dinner to honour Indonesian President Yudhoyono, said Labor figures should stop bagging the party. Picture: Trevor Collens
"If I were in retirement, if I hadn't taken this job it would have been push over to have polished off another book number 20 on what's wrong with the Labor Party. It's too easy. I'm sure there is terrrific analysis in Lindsay's book because Lindsay is very brainy. But it's got a bit too easy to write another book spelling what is wrong with the battered old Labor Party."
"For goodness sake if you want a case study of a political body without a soul, go to the Liberal Party."
Mr Tanner today labelled the attack on Mr Rudd’s character by senior ministers during the battle over the party’s leadership earlier this year as "high exaggerated" and "extremely perverse".
PM Gillard responds to Tanner criticism
He said the attacks on Mr Rudd damaged the party’s image with voters. "It is impossible to attack the Rudd government without undermining the Gillard government.
"The sad thing about all this is that Labor is trashing its own great achievement. In spite of everything that has since happened, we should be very proud of our government’s handling of the 2008-2009 crisis.
"And we should be proud of the face that when it really mattered, four leading Labor figures with a history of personal rivalry and conflicting ambitions were able to put tension aside and act to protect Australia in a time of global turmoil."
Mr Tanner resigned the day Mr Rudd was removed and did not contest the 2010 election. His harsh critique of Labor comes as he promotes his new book, Politics with Purpose which is a collection of essays, speeches and articles he wrote from 1990-2012.
"I think it is getting a little too easy to bag the Labor Party. I've got a different approach and that is to talk up what is right about the Labor Party," he said.
Mr Tanner also said the party had become poll-driven, lacked purpose and needs a "complete root-and-branch rethink about why we exist".
Prime Minister Julia Gillard who is also in New York, responded to her former colleague’s bleak assessment of by insisting her government understood its role.
"I can be very clear about the government's purpose," she said in New York where she is attending the United Nations Leaders Week.
"The government's purpose is to keep the economy strong, to make sure that not only today, but tomorrow, Australians have got the best of opportunities and we maximise our prosperity as our region changes, and then we find a way to share that, that is fair and meets the needs of the Australian people."
Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott compared the ALP to the shady US political slush fund exposed during the 1970s Watergate scandal.
The Committee to Re-elect the President - nicknamed CREEP - was the controversial fundraising body for US President Richard Nixon's 1972 election campaign.
Mr Abbott today told reporters in Brisbane that the new book by Tanner, in which the ex-MP condemns the coup against Kevin Rudd in June 2010, had "belled the cat about the contemporary Labor party".
"It's a party that has lost its soul," he said. "A once great political party has become a squalid Committee to Re-Elect Julia Gillard, or whoever happens to be the leader at any particular time. "Lindsay Tanner knew from day one that he couldn't trust Julia Gillard - unfortunately the rest of us have had to learn the hard way."
Indonesia foils asylum seeker voyage
Indonesian authorities have arrested more than 120 asylum seekers who were trying to reach Australia.
Water police intercepted them at the mouth of a river in west Java as they attempted to make their way to the ocean and beyond to Australia.
On board were 126 asylum seekers from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but five managed to escape from authorities.
It is understood the remaining asylum seekers are certified as having refugee status, but they will be detained in Indonesia which is not a signatory to the UN refugee convention.
Indonesian immigration authorities are transferring the detainees to the West Java town of Bogor with the involvement of the International Organisation for Migration.
Police insist tougher data retention laws needed
Civil libertarians say the Government's new data retention plans are an intrusion on privacy, but law enforcement agencies say they are nowhere near tough enough.
The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security has started hearing from the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and state police and law enforcement agencies.
The spies and police want radical new powers, including forcing telecommunication providers to keep information indefinitely, but the Government's proposal would restrict them to two years of data retention.
NSW crime commissioner Peter Singleton says police are up against a net-savvy generation of crooks who juggle SIM cards and smart phones to stay one step ahead of the law.
"We have criminals who will walk around town with a pocket full of SIM cards," he said.
"They'll make one call, thrown the SIM card away; make the next call, throw the SIM card away. Each of these is done on a different telecommunications service."
It is against that sort of opponent that police argue for stronger laws to monitor phone and internet activity.
NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione says what they want most is not the content but what is known as metadata - data about data.
"Not the content, but things like where the call or where the message or where the communication happened, the location, the time, the date, who the communication was to," he said.
"It's not the content that we're necessarily looking for storage on."
That is for phone and text, but Commissioner Scipione concedes that police also want records of where people have been on the net as well - "to the extent that we know where people were or what their ISP was that they were using, or the URL that they did visit."
At the moment some companies keep data, like SMS text messages, for only a matter of days.
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus says that is frustrating. "There's no obligation on them at the moment to hold data," he said. "What we're saying is we'd like some consistency about how this is applied and that's really what the committee is here to consider."
Police originally wanted data to be kept for five years.
Stephen Blanks, from the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, says they have not really made a clear cut case for any reform.
"The current law is that telecommunications data can be accessed by these agencies without a warrant, but if they want to access content then they have to get a warrant," he said.
"But what's being proposed sounds like they want to wind back the supervision regime, they say there's never been a problem with corruption or misuse of these powers so the supervision regime is too onerous.
"They're looking at forcing telcos and others to retain data for up to two years so they can access it if they want to."
Keeping track of police
It is possible for anyone to keep track of what law enforcement agencies are up to, to a point.
The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act that allows bugging in the first place also requires that an annual report be published ever year, and it is available online at the Federal Attorney-General's website.
The document includes a table detailing which police agencies have been busy bugging and listening, and by far the most active is the New South Wales police force.
Over 2010-11, they carried out 1,279 intercepts and only three applications for a warrant were turned down.
The Federal Police carried out less than half as many at 523.
The various other state police forces tell quite a different story, carrying out comparatively fewer telecommunications intercepts.
Queensland had 177, WA 231, Victoria 317, and Tasmania, 27.
The overwhelming majority of intercepts are used in chasing down serious crimes like drug crimes, murder, money laundering, bribery and corruption.
Despite some popular perceptions, instances where they are used for suspected terrorism are comparatively rare.
Mr Blanks worries about an explosion of intercepts if federal law makers give police what they want.
"What this legislation, what this proposal would mean, is that all of these service providers would be turned into data collectors for the state," he said.
Seventeen separate law enforcement bodies have the legal right to get a warrant to listen to your phone calls, read your text messages and watch what you do on the internet.
Parliament will decide how long the information will be held, but the telco industry says it will not be cheap. It could cost as much as $700 million.
Police say the question of who would pay for that is a matter for politicians.
Grants to reduce extremist violence 'missing their target'
The Government has given community groups millions of dollars to try and reduce extremist violence, but some Muslim community members say the grants are not working.
The Federal Attorney-General's Department says the grants are aimed at building resilience to violent extremism and assisting individuals who are vulnerable to extremist influences.
Since the program began two years ago, $4.2 million has been handed out to sporting organisations, education providers and Islamic NGOs and community groups.
But some insiders have told triple j's Hack the money has been used to fund other programs which focus on mentoring high achievers instead of helping those likely to be at risk of extremism.
The Lebanese Muslim Association (LMA) is one of 52 organisations that have been given grants as part of the Countering Violent Extremism program.
The LMA's head, Samier Dandan, banded together a group of community organisations to jointly condemn the ugly scenes earlier this month during protests in Sydney.
This year, the LMA was given the equal biggest grant of $100,000 for its Positive Intellect Project.
But according to some Muslim community members, that $100,000 will go nowhere to build resilience to violent extremism and assist individuals who are vulnerable to extremist influences
"They were definitely missing their target audience," one member told Hack.
Rebecca Kay is a converted Muslim and former candidate for Bankstown Council and New South Wales Parliament.
She says those young people vulnerable to extremism do not feel engaged or represented and the LMA could have used the money more effectively.
"I think they really need to self evaluate how they've been running their organisation," she said.
They should be open and transparent about these things. That's one of the problems in our community
Hack asked the LMA for a response last Thursday, but the organisation requested the story not go to air for a few days so they could organise a response.
The LMA's project manager then said she would organise an interview with the group's head, but eventually they decided not to do the interview.
Hack has spoken to someone who was part of the LMA's program but who did not wish to be named.
They said the program gave leadership, religious, advocacy and media training to about 15 to 20 Muslims in their late teens and early twenties.
The participant said they were mostly all well educated and showed leadership potential.
But there was no mention of the training involving engagement with violent extremists.
Kuranda Seyit is the executive director of the Forum on Australia's Islamic Relations (FAIR). He has serious questions about what the grant program is achieving. "They should be open and transparent about these things. That's one of the problems in our community," he said.
Mr Seyit says the programs seem to be missing their mark.
"Well the question is whether we're doing this to empower the community or whether we're trying to counter extremism and radicalisation of Muslim youth," he said.
"If it's the latter then you've just got to look at the participants in the program and whether they're the actual target group or at risk youth.
"You can see that they're fairly strong sort of achievers in their own right so they're not the particularly at risk youth that we're targeting I think."
He says that if the programs are focused on empowering the community rather than directly targeting extremist youth, then it is not the role of the Attorney-General to be providing funding.
"After all the Attorney-General's main area is around legal and judicial issues and law enforcement so it does make sense if they were to put more effort into that side of the issue," he said.
Mr Seyit also has concerns about the level of scrutiny put on the organisations who received the grants.
"It may be excessively high for these organisations to receive such large amounts based on little research and potential for the programs to not really make an impact in the community," he said.
The Attorney-General's Department declined to be interviewed for this story but offered a statement.
It said the overwhelming feedback the Government has had is that these programs are incredibly popular and effective at starting the work to build community resilience.
The Department says these projects are designed to support a wide variety of activities, including mentoring for youth, intercultural and interfaith education in schools and leadership training.
26 September, 2012
Horror tenants facing the boot under new Qld. State Government policy
UNRULY public housing tenants could face a "three strikes and you're out" policy. Housing Minister Bruce Flegg has bowed to pressure from harassed neighbours and will "seriously consider" how the Western Australian laws could be mirrored in Queensland, despite ruling out the move earlier this year.
WA tenants can be kicked out if they receive three "strikes" within 12 months for "minor disruptive behaviour" such as excessive noise or parties that lead to police being called in.
A complaints hotline has been established, with a central Disruptive Behaviour Management Unit charged with investigating reports.
More serious bad behaviour such as the manufacture of drugs on premises may prompt immediate eviction.
The rules in WA were toughened this year amid public outcry over last year's explosion of a clandestine drug lab in public housing in a Perth suburb.
Dr Flegg promised to review Queensland's approach after lobbying from MPs in the state's north, but admitted he was "nervous" about possible negative consequences. "I do not want to simply be tossing people out of public housing in order to move the problem somewhere else and increase homelessness," he said.
But any change will come too late for Keith Fraser, who fled his own house in January after battling abusive public housing neighbours for five years. He told The Courier-Mail his family were driven from their home by constant parties, trail bike antics, burnouts, abuse and graffiti, which the Housing Department seemed powerless to stop despite repeated complaints.
Mr Fraser has been living in a shed ever since.
The tenants were finally evicted last week but Mr Fraser has vowed never to return and has instead put his house, in the small Darling Downs township of Wandoan, up for sale.
The problems are more pronounced in Cairns and Townsville, where fed-up residents have led the push for tougher laws.
Glenn Grant, who co-authored a petition signed by 238 Townsville residents, said a small section of the city's public housing tenants were wreaking havoc.
Those caught misbehaving are given 10 days to remedy a breach, after which if no action is taken, they may be evicted within 16 days. But Mr Grant said many knew how to manipulate the system to ensure they were not booted out: "They'll wait 10 days and then they'll do it all over again," he said.
Fifty-nine households were evicted last financial year.
Australian-trained doctors 'may be forced overseas'
The Federal Opposition says about 180 Australian-trained doctors could be forced to look for work overseas if government talks fail today.
The mostly international medical students who have been trained in Australia have missed out on public hospital internships. Without completing the internships at state-run hospitals, they cannot become fully qualified doctors.
Health Minister Tanya Plibersek will hold a phone conference with state and territory counterparts today and implore them to find extra training places for the students left empty handed.
Opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton says the Federal Government has failed to show leadership on the issue.
"If Tanya Plibersek can't get places sorted for them, we're going to lose these doctors to overseas destinations," he said. "We've got an ageing of our medical workforce, the onset of massive numbers of chronic diseased people in our country, and we want to provide them with the primary care they deserve."
Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand president Justin Beilby says Queensland and New South Wales, in particular, seem to be causing the delays.
"We have a major problem because we have 150 students who will be caught in limbo not being able to complete their training," he said. "It's impossible to practise as a doctor unless you finish your intern year."
Abbott unveils plan to boost defence spending
Tony Abbott has promised to "properly" index military pensions in the first year of a Coalition government along with an aspiration to eventually boost real growth in defence spending.
In a wide-ranging defence speech to the RSL National Conference, the Opposition Leader also committed to delivering a new strategic plan for the Defence Force within 18 months of taking office.
Mr Abbott has given no details about how the spending commitment will be paid for, but says the new Defence White Paper will be fully costed and focus on the desired operational capacity of the Defence Force.
"Any savings that the Coalition can find in the defence bureaucracy will be reinvested in greater military capacity," Mr Abbott said. "Our aspiration, as the Commonwealth's budgetary position improves, would be to restore the 3 per cent real growth in defence spending that marked the final seven years of the Howard government."
A long-running concern among ex-servicemen and women is the use of inflation figures as the basis of indexation for military pensions.
The RSL has been pushing for a new method that more accurately reflects cost of living increases and one that matches the more generous arrangements used to calculate changes in the age pension.
Mr Abbott has committed to change the way military pensions are indexed. "If it's inadequate just to lift Centrelink pensions by the consumer price index (CPI), it's even less fair to apply solely that index to those who have risked their lives for our country," he said. "The very least we can do is pay ex-servicemen and women a retirement benefit that increases in line with the increases of ordinary pensioners."
A 2008 report into the issue estimated it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars a year to change the indexation method for military pension cash payments and add tens of billions of dollars to the Commonwealth's unfunded superannuation liability.
It recommended the Government continue to use CPI figures as the basis of indexation, something the then finance minister Lindsay Tanner accepted.
Mr Abbott used his speech to again attack Labor's record on defence spending, arguing that as a percentage of GDP it has fallen to its lowest level since 1938.
If the Coalition wins the next election, Mr Abbott is promising to make national security his highest priority with a new White Paper to reset the strategic direction of the Defence Force.
Within 18 months, he says the Coalition would make decisions about the acquisition timetable for the new Joint Strike Fighter jets and make the choices necessary to ensure there is no submarine capability gap.
"Probably the most urgent big procurement decision is the replacement of the submarine fleet," he said.
The Coalition is also promising to immediately start the process of buying unmanned surveillance planes, called drones, to help protect Australia's oil and gas interests on the North West Shelf and allow earlier detection of asylum seeker boats.
Finance Minister Penny Wong says Mr Abbott should explain how he would pay for them.
"We've got one question for Tony Abbott: where's the money coming from?" "We have (shadow treasurer) Joe Hockey and others claiming that they have their policies costed, claiming that they've done their numbers, but refusing to let the Australian people in on the cuts to services, the cuts to jobs that they will impose," Senator Wong said.
Mr Abbott also touched on the war in Afghanistan, declaring it could "easily revert to the dark ages" once Australian and allied troops withdraw.
And he says it would be pointless to have Australian soldiers fighting the consequences of religious fundamentalism in Afghanistan if strong action was not taken to deal with religious extremists back home.
"Ten days ago, hundreds of people gathered outside the US consulate in Sydney, many demanding death for everyone who dishonoured the Prophet (Mohammed)," Mr Abbott said.
"This notion that there is only one path to God, with death for all who disagree, is simply evil.
"It's probably the greatest threat to the world's security because it admits of no compromise and here was a kindred spirit, aggressive and outspoken, on our own streets.
"The Sydney riot was so shocking because it seemed that Australia was not immune to lethal hatreds."
Mr Abbott says Australians owe it to the troops serving in Afghanistan not to let the "hatreds" they are fighting against disfigure their own country.
Do you know how much your submarines cost?
When doing research for an upcoming report on submarines, I had the task of looking at the current costs and availability of the Collins Class submarine. What I found was deeply troubling.
The Collins Class acquired a reputation as ‘dud subs’ because of some well-publicised problems with their capabilities at launch (a good summary of these issues can be found in the 1999 report by John Prescott and Malcolm McIntosh).
This reputation may have been somewhat unfair, or if not unfair, it was formed for the wrong reasons. The initial problems with the program (cost, schedule, issues with the first of type) are common to risky developmental projects. Many of these problems have been, or will soon be, solved (even if some, like reliability issues with the diesel engines, are unsolvable).
However, there are serious, ongoing problems with the availability and maintenance of the submarines. These sustainment problems seem to be systemic within Navy (this is essentially the findings of the Rizzo and Coles reviews) and only seem to be getting worse.
A quick look at some figures raises alarm bells.
The cost of operating and maintaining the Collins Class in 2011 was $642.9 million, which included operating costs of $165.6 million and maintenance costs of $477.3 million. Maintenance costs have increased 50% in the last four years, with most of that change coming after 2009–10.
Operational and maintenance costs only need to increase at an annual compound rate of 4.5% to exceed $1 billion a year by 2021. As the 2012 Defence Capability Plan (DCP) indicates that, ‘sustainment expenditure is expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate of 4.7%, primarily associated with support for the Collins Class’, this growth rate may be an underestimate.
This massive annual cost is on top of the approximately $1.6 billion committed for Collins Class upgrades between now and 2021. What are these billions of dollars buying us?
At no stage between 2009 and 2011 (I have been unable to find data for October 2009 to December 2009) were more than three submarines available, because of ongoing maintenance issues. For most of that period (aside from a few months in mid-2010), no more than two submarines were available.
Worse still, at different stages totalling approximately six months, it appears that only one submarine was available – the rest had defects, were in maintenance, or were laid up awaiting maintenance.
It was recently claimed that availability will ‘soon be up to a respectable three of the six submarines at any time.’ Of course this was before our submarine ‘sprang a leak’ on its way home from RIMPAC.
A former submarine commander said ‘lack of platform reliability is the single most limiting factor for the Collins Class, let’s never repeat that mistake.’ Given that the replacement of the Collins Class, the Future Submarine project, ‘will be the largest and most complex Defence project ever undertaken by Australia,’ we must look at all potential solutions to these issues, not just politically opportune ones.
25 September, 2012
Why Campbell Newman has a billion reasons to airbrush the floods 'facade'
The transparently sycophantic report from the US Army Corps of Engineers comes to us from the very same people who were responsible for the New Orleans flood! I think it is actually a satirical comment on their absurd terms of reference
JUST six months ago, the verdict was in. After a year of scrutiny, a $15 million royal commission-style inquiry in Queensland delivered damning findings that exposed something we had suspected - a cover-up by three of the four engineers who had managed the state's Wivenhoe Dam in the devastating floods of January last year.
Those formal findings were clear and unambiguous. The engineers had created a false document - a comprehensive report of their own actions - to dishonestly suggest they operated the dam with deft brilliance (when in truth they had breached the manual). Their false document was described by the floods inquiry as a "facade of precision".
The inquiry's findings left no doubt. They were findings that followed an investigation by The Australian and a series of stories that identified crucial evidence, which had been overlooked, and led to the inquiry dramatically restarting.
The findings were not challenged or appealed by the government or the engineers, who have repeatedly and strenuously denied wrongdoing. Those findings stand.
The inquiry head, Supreme Court judge Catherine Holmes, said in her final report in March this year: "There are several things that may have motivated the three engineers to present the false flood report, including a wish to protect their professional reputations from the damage that would be caused by a disregard of the manual, or the maintenance of SEQWater's immunity (from potentially massive damages claims)."
Six months is a long time in Queensland under the new Liberal National Party government of Campbell Newman, determined to slash costs across the state and avoid a potential multi-billion-dollar cost of law firm Maurice Blackburn's action for thousands of flood victims.
Yesterday, the new, airbrushed version of the management of the dam was delivered up by the Newman government, courtesy of the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Department of the Interior. The engineers from the US were asked by Newman's bureaucrats to analyse the Wivenhoe engineers' report (the one already found to be "false", and a "facade of precision"). And the US engineers said in their review, released yesterday: "The (Wivenhoe) flood engineers should be commended for producing this extensive, well-organised and very readable document in six weeks, while the region was recovering from the flood event."
They went further to commend operational decisions, which the inquiry had earlier found were breaches of the manual.
How the US engineers concluded that their peers in Brisbane achieved an almost perfect result is a story of political panache, the dark art of spin and Treasury's fear of a huge new financial hit to Queensland's sick budget.
They were able to produce this helpful result because of a remarkable omission.
When Newman's bureaucrats asked the US engineers to perform the review, they were also told to exclude, to effectively banish from their thinking, the damning findings about the false flood report.
In this way, the US engineers conducted a review grounded on a false premise, which was that they could rely on the bogus Wivenhoe flood report as a document of truth.
The result was one of the more transparently absurd whitewashes in recent memory. Last month, the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission determined it would be oppressive to prosecute the engineers for possible perjury-related offences, following a formal referral to the anti-corruption body by Holmes.
All of the recent handiwork plays well for the Premier as he seeks to protect a state economy he has compared with that of the European basket case Spain from crippling payouts for another costly debacle.
But the flood victims are being hung out to dry, again.
Sydney council requires horrible art to be erected in order to declare a building safe
FOR the owners of units in 52 Regent Street, Chippendale, the nightmare began soon after they moved in, in 2004.
Most had bought off the plan and were pleased when the developer, Metro Group, told them that their final payments were due and they could move in.
What they did not know was they were moving in under an interim occupation certificate, issued by a private certifier who was employed by the developer to ensure compliance with the plans and the building code. Seven years later, the owners are still trying to resolve the defects in the building and obtain that final certificate.
The developer and builder are long gone. The principal of Metro group, James Jariv, left Australia in 2004 leaving debts of more than $6 million. The companies in the group have been wound up.
But the problems facing residents persist. "The drainage and waterproofing issues are still being dealt with, but at least the building is now safe," Ann Gee, a member of the executive committee of owners, said. "I bought in with my eyes open - we knew the building had problems - but it's been hard on others." She added: "I am an architect and whoever built this building was a moron."
Soon after the developer disappeared the City of Sydney council sent in a fire inspector. It did not take long for the inspector to locate numerous deficiencies and the fact there was no fire safety certification. And by this time it was the owners' corporation, not the developer, who was liable.
"The building is in an unsafe fire condition, lacking, among other things, portable fire extinguishers, emergency lighting, clear paths of travel, [and having] electrical hazards," the fire order says. "The premises has such pipes and miscellaneous services rising through the building which penetrate fire resistive building elements and are not adequately sealed to prevent or resist the vertical or horizontal spread of fire."
It also found the fire stairs were not properly enclosed with fire-resistant material, which meant that in the case of fire it would not provide a safe exit. There was inadequate emergency lighting and the electrical installation in the building was described as requiring "urgent remedial work".
The owners were given 200 days to rectify the faults or face eviction.
Over the next year, the residents found themselves knee deep in the arcane world of fire safety as they attempted to bring their building up to standard, while at the same time trying to chase their developer and claim under builders' home warranty insurance.
They paid $500,000 for the fire safety system repairs but have spent another $300,000 on repairing other defects to the building, the strata manager, David Terry, said. Two other buildings promoted by the same developer have also been given an interim certificate. They too have had problems.
Even though the owners were able to lodge a building defect claim, the process took time and the owners corporation was forced to take out finance and pay lawyers and professionals to help it through the maze of fire safety.
The units were also very difficult to sell. "The main problem of not having an occupancy certificate is finding a buyer," Ms Gee said. "Solicitors and banks don't like it when there's no final certificate, so you really need a buyer with cash."
The only thing now holding up the occupancy certificate is the question of the public art that City of Sydney council insists must still be installed. "The planned sculpture is horrible. It looks like an exploded vacuum cleaner and we've all spent so much on levies we just want council to waive it," Ms Gee said.
Typical Leftist: The bureaucracy is sacred
WAYNE Swan has warned he will have to make more budget cuts after falling commodity prices and tax revenue made it harder for him to meet his surplus promise this year.
But he has vowed not to follow Campbell Newman's path in cutting public servants, saying the federal public service had expanded under Labor and had room to grow.
Final Budget figures from 2011-12, released yesterday, show the Government delivered a $43.7 billion deficit.
This is a $661 million improvement on the May estimate but about double the $22 6 billion deficit forecast by Mr Swan when he handed down the 2011-12 Budget.
The budget position was improved by higher GST payments and income tax.
But in a warning sign for this year's Budget, companies paid $867 million less tax in 2011-12 than expected in May.
Mr Swan said this year's Budget would take a further hit from falling commodity prices and company tax and would force him to make cuts to achieve his promised surplus.
"This will hit government revenues significantly, which does make it harder to deliver a budget surplus. So it does mean we will have to find more savings," Mr Swan said.
The Treasurer vowed to make savings "in accord with Labor values" and flagged an increase in overall federal public service jobs.
Finance Minister Penny Wong said the Government was "trying to prioritise non-staffing savings".
"We don't resile from the fact that you have to make difficult decisions but we certainly take a very different approach to the ones that have been demonstrated in coalition states," she said.
CommSec chief economist Craig James predicted the budget figures, together with Mr Swan's promise of surplus this year, increase the chance of further interest rate cuts. "It may not appear obvious, but the goal of a budget surplus is still on track," he said.
The figures reveal the Government has paid $4.2 billion to Queensland for disaster recovery.
Fear of violence could keep offenders in jail
The New South Wales Government is planning to introduce legislation to ensure violent prisoners can be kept in jail beyond the term of their sentence, if there is a fear they will re-offend.
The Attorney-General Greg Smith is proposing that a Supreme Court Judge will be able to make an order that a person who is a serious risk to the community has to either stay in jail, or be released under strict orders.
He told AM that similar laws are in place for serious sex offenders and the community needs wider protection.
"At the moment, once you finish your prison term you're out." he said. "If you go to parole, you get parole and you're released under supervision but it's certainly not as strict as will be proposed under this legislation."
Mr Smith says it would be applied to murderers and other serious violent offenders who have shown no interest in rehabilitation.
He says it is not going to undermine the sentences handed down by judges.
"Some of these people get worse in prison, whether it's because of mental instability or other things, they turn into very dangerous people," he said. "So we're just looking out how do we best protect the community and we're closing the gap."
The Opposition leader John Robertson says the Parole Authority already takes into account whether a prisoner has undertaken rehabilitation programs.
"I think the government's looking for a distraction here," he said. "This proposed legislation would only impact on fourteen inmates over the next three years. "So I'm not sure how significant this change would be anyway."
But a support group for crime victims says it is backing the moves.
Howard Brown from Victims of Crime says measures used to encourage serious sex offenders to participate in rehabilitation programs have been proven effective.
"It's that interaction with one-on-one psychiatrists and psychologists which actually start to engage these people," he said.
"They just think 'I don't want to become engaged', but once they are engaged with these therapeutic processes, you can actually see that there is a change."
24 September, 2012
The "marriage" slippery slide
I have recently written about one brave Australian politician who was crucified by the media and even fellow colleagues for daring to speak the truth in public. For his efforts, Cory Bernardi has been pilloried and viciously attacked, and has been forced to resign from one of his positions. See my write-up here.
But for suggesting that redefining marriage out of existence can possibly lead to others demanding their “rights” such as the polyamorists, and even those into bestiality, he is still being hounded and viciously attacked by the PC forces of tolerance and diversity.
This is all about the censorious stranglehold of political correctness, a secular left pro-homosexual MSM, and gutless politicians who refuse to support their own. It is also about shooting the messenger. The truth is there are all sorts of folks calling for the acceptance of bestiality, both within and without the homosexual community.
Indeed, one of the world’s ‘greatest ethicists,’ who even wrote the article on ethics for the Encyclopaedia Britannica is quite in support of it. So while Professor Peter Singer gets a Companion of the Order of Australia for his work, Cory Bernardi gets tarred and feathered and run out of town for his. Go figure.
BTW, you can see Singer defending bestiality here, on the ABC show Q&A with the host and most folks just joking about it, thinking this perversion is all just good fun.
The more radical the homosexual activists get, the more they embolden other sexual activists to push their agendas. It is happening big time with group marriage rights campaigners, incest rights campaigners, paedophile rights campaigners and bestiality rights campaigners.
So let me offer just a small sample of those pushing for their rights to ‘human-animal love’. I present them in no particular order, but it should be clear that a cumulative case can be made here.
-Headline: “Indiana Woman Wants to Marry Her Pet Dog – Tries to Rally Support From Gay Rights’ Activists”. The story begins: “Cassandra White of Northern Indiana has petitioned her local government to allow her to marry her dog Brutus. White has sent several letters to gay rights activists to help her lead the march to stop discrimination against her and those like her who should get to ‘marry whomever they want’. Ms. White has made several unsuccessful attempts to get a marriage license after listing only “Brutus” in the section asking for FULL NAME OF PARTY B on marriage certificate form.”
It concludes: “Ms. White applauded President Obama for announcing that he is in support for gay marriage and quoted the president saying, ‘I was so happy to hear President Obama yesterday comment on gay marriage.’ Ms. White is asking the state of Indiana to recognize what the president said and change their perspective on allowing her to marry Brutus. White has also received support from ‘Freedom To Marry Our Pets Society’ who plan to organize a protest in Washington to change definition of marriage to include pets.”
-A woman in Ghana has married her dog. The bride, Emily Mabou, 29 said this: “For so long I’ve been praying for a life with a partner who has all the qualities of my dad. My dad was kind, faithful and loyal to my mum, and he never let her down.” She claims that her relationships have all been with “skirt-chasers and cheaters.” The priest who performed the ceremony told people not to mock the wedding, but instead “rejoice with her, as she has found happiness at last.”
-Another incredible but true headline: “Leading Gay Activist Frank Kameny Says: “Bestiality OK ‘as Long as the Animal Doesn’t Mind”. Said Kameny, “If bestiality with consenting animals provides happiness to some people, let them pursue their happiness.”
-“Zoophiles” are now coming out of the closet. A very lengthy article on this entitled “Those Who Practice Bestiality Say They’re Part of the Next Sexual Rights Movement” has gone into quite a bit of detail on this. It begins this way: “During his sophomore year in high school, Cody Beck finally got fed up with hearing homophobic cracks. If his classmates thought being gay was weird (Beck was openly bisexual), he had a confession that would blow their minds. He told them he is sexually attracted to dogs and horses.
“‘I just couldn’t keep it in anymore, Beck says. Just for the hell of it, I figured I’d throw it out there and have them make fun of me even more. Which they did. An 18-year-old from Arizona who graduated from high school this past year, Beck says classmates taunted him by calling him Bestiality Dude. Being a ‘zoophile’ in modern American society, Beck says, is ‘like being gay in the 1950s. You feel like you have to hide, that if you say it out loud, people will look at you like a freak.’
“Now Beck believes he and other members of this minority sexual orientation, who often call themselves ‘zoos,’ can follow the same path as the gay rights movement. Most researchers believe 2 to 8 percent of the population harbors forbidden desires toward animals, and Beck hopes this minority group can begin appealing to the open-minded for acceptance.”
And of course these folks will tell you it is an orientation – they just can’t help it. Where have we heard all this before? “Among the seven zoophiles I consulted for this article, all say that theirs is an orientation and that to meet the definition, one must not harm an animal. For this reason, a man who has sex with chickens, for instance, is not a zoophile because the act is sure to hurt if not kill the chicken. Zoophiles I spoke with say they are as opposed to forcing sex upon animals as the rest of society is opposed to the rape of humans.”
-A homosexual pride march in Spain was quite happy to have their bestiality mates along for the ride. As one report states, “‘I like dogs, I like apples, in my bed I sleep with whomever I want,’ was one of the principal chants in the Gay Pride Parade last week in Madrid, where hundreds of thousands marched through the streets to advocate ‘gay rights’ and homosexualist ideology, according to local media reports.”
-And this just in from Florida: it seems legal loopholes are allowing folks to share the love with their animal friends. As one news item says, “Eric Antunes, 29, was arrested in May on charges of child pornography and bestiality. Prosecution has now dropped the bestiality charges due to a ‘loophole’ in Florida law. One man’s unique case may have uncovered a loophole in Florida law that allows for certain forms of oral sex between humans and animals.
“Eric Antunes, 29, was arrested in May on charges of child pornography and bestiality. After allegedly finding images of child pornography on his home computer, investigators say they searched his cell phone and discovered photos of Antunes engaged in sexual acts with his girlfriend’s three-legged dog. Florida outlawed bestiality in October 2011. When Antunes was first arrested, many believed he would be among the first few people to be prosecuted under the new law.”
These are just a few of many examples which I can present here. I presented more such cases of this in my earlier article on Bernardi. Once we allow marriage to be destroyed by the sexual militants, then anything goes. And all the various sexual activist groups know it.
A few decades ago pro-family forces were mocked, ridiculed and treated with contempt when they said that allowing de facto unions full marriage rights would open the door to homosexual marriage rights being demanded. They were derided and scorned as hysterical, fear-mongering extremists holding repugnant views.
Hmmm, exactly what they are saying about Bernardi right now.
Julie Bishop casts doubt on validity of Sri Lankan asylum seekers after 16 chose to return home
THE Opposition has questioned the motives of 5000 Sri Lankan asylum seekers who have arrived in Australia, as new figures show boat arrivals from the country have overtaken those from war-torn Afghanistan.
As 16 Sri Lankan asylum seekers agreed at the weekend to return home instead of facing detention on Nauru, Opposition Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said the move "calls into question" the processing of every application since the country's 25-year civil war ended in 2009.
"As asylum seekers, I assume that they were seeking to flee from persecution," Ms Bishop told the ABC.
She questioned why the group would therefore choose to return home, rather than go to the "safe haven" of Nauru.
The number of Sri Lankans arriving has soared this year to 3536, up from just 211 arrivals last year, and exceeding the 2996 Afghan arrivals.
It's the biggest number of arrivals ever recorded by Sri Lankans, including during the years in which a violent civil war killed more than 70,000 people and hugely damaged the economy.
Government figures show just 163 Sri Lankans arriving by boat have been granted humanitarian visas this year, but it is understood many of the arrivals are still being assessed.
It follows Opposition suggestions earlier this month the Government strike a deal with Sri Lanka to send asylum seekers intercepted at sea back to their home country "before they set foot on Australian soil" as most were economic refugees.
The Government said such a move would break international responsibilities.
Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Nick Riemer said the civil war may be officially over, but conditions for Tamils were still "very dire". "There are reports of disappearances ... there are reports of torture by the Sri Lankan authorities," he said.
"The fact that there are 16 people who have consented, or who have been pressured, into returning doesn't tell us anything about the overall situation of all of the other Sri Lankans who are still in the Australian system, who are still coming here, and who are still evidently desperate to get out of the country."
Opposition Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said more boats have arrived in the first quarter of the financial year than the Government budgeted for 12 months.
Mr Morrison said boats continued to arrive daily, in spite of the new offshore processing regime, including 25 boats in the first 23 days of this month.
Police suppress anti-Islam rallies
Will all Muslim rallies now be suppressed too?
A SERIES of anti-Islamic protests planned for every Australian capital city and promoted by members of marginal, anti-immigration political groups were effectively suppressed by police yesterday.
Despite trying to organise co-ordinated protests, demonstrators ultimately took to the streets only in Melbourne and Perth, with Sydney -- scene of the previous weekend's running battles between police and young Muslim men -- remaining quiet.
In Melbourne, members of the right-wing Nationalist Alternative were among a small crowd, which also included Muslims and atheist groups, who gathered outside the state library.
Speaking to the crowd through a microphone, one of these men said the former Victorian attorney-general Rob Hulls had gone too far when he changed the laws to make religious vilification illegal.
Under the gaze of dozens of police officers, the demonstration eventually ended without incident.
In Sydney, two men were arrested on Friday for allegedly using social media to incite violence over the weekend.
The pair was reportedly trying to whip up anti-Islamic sentiment, following the previous weekend's protests in the city against an online film, Innocence of Muslims, that ridicules the Islamic faith.
Eleven people have been charged over this violence, in which four people were taken to hospital. NSW Police commanders will continue to investigate those involved.
A number of other protests had been planned for Sydney, police said, with supporters of the anti-immigration Australian Protectionist Party among those who said they would demonstrate outside the NSW parliament.
A petition on Facebook had called for protests in every state and territory capital, saying the previous weekend's violence "once again shined a light on the darker side of Islam".
"It is time that we as Australians stand up and defend our land from this extremist behaviour," it said.
With hundreds of extra police in the Sydney CBD, however, no such demonstration took place.
The NSW Premier, Barry O'Farrell, said the extra police had "exerted control".
"I think they've told people that this sort of extremism, this sort of violence, is unwelcome in any community," he said.
Police also outnumbered protesters in Perth, with less than a dozen turning up to an anti-Islam demonstration outside parliament house.
One of those, who gave his name only as Tony, said he was concerned that Australia was being too influenced by Islam.
"This is a country where people are free to express religious beliefs, but when you have one group of people that want to impose their religious and political beliefs, the average Australian should be concerned about it," he said. "This country has accepted people of all races, creeds and colours but the violence people are prepared to use is unacceptable. If it was a group of Catholics, I would still be here."
West Australian Premier Colin Barnett said the violence in Sydney represented a dark day for Australia. "One of the great things about Australian society is people from all different races and backgrounds and religions have been able to live happily and peacefully together," he said.
"I will always support the right for people to protest . . . so long as they do it in a peaceful way. Unfortunately, in Sydney last weekend, it got out of control."
Minister's nudge theory doubts
A DECISION to hire an expert in "nudge theory" to advise the state government on innovative ways to influence people's behaviour has been called into question by suggestions it may be of limited use.
The initiative is inspired by the British government's "nudge unit", formally know as the Behavioural Insights Team, which was established in 2010.
The unit seeks to achieve social change without the need for government regulation by employing behavioural science techniques. For example, it might use peer influence to increase energy efficiency by telling one person how their power use compares with their neighbour's.
A senior member of the British team, Rory Gallagher, will be seconded to the NSW government for a year from November to assist the Department of Premier and Cabinet in formulating a local approach.
But last year the British minister for government policy, Oliver Letwin, told a House of Lords committee the nudge unit was experimental and there was no concrete evidence it would work.
"It is, of course, an open question as to whether any of this will have any effect whatsoever," he told the committee.
Mr Letwin defended the Behavioural Insights Team by saying it was low cost, with "almost zero risk". The unit, which employs seven people, costs £520,000 ($806,400) a year to run.
The admission followed a National Audit Office report that said it had been unable to convince government departments to consider any of its ideas. Earlier this month the president-elect of the British Science Association, Lord Krebs, said nudge techniques should not be seen as a replacement for traditional government regulation.
However, the Cabinet Office says it has saved British taxpayers at least £300 million.
23 September, 2012
Sri Lankan illegals sent home voluntarily rather than face long detention
So much for their need of "asylum"
SRI LANKAN male asylum seekers have been sent home after refusing to be transferred to the offshore processing centre on Nauru, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said today.
Mr Bowen says the 18 Sri Lankans left Christmas Island for Colombo today after asking to be sent home instead of being sent to the Pacific island for the processing of their claims as asylum seekers.
The first group to be sent for offshore processing since new asylum seeker laws were enacted were transferred from Christmas Island to Nauru on September 14.
Australia has reopened the processing centre at Nauru and is soon to reopen Papua New Guinea's Manus Island as part of the federal government's policy to stem the number of boat arrivals.
Mr Bowen also said the government would introduce a recommendation from the Houston independent panel to bar people arriving by boat from sponsoring family under the Special Humanitarian Program.
The Houston report on asylum seeker policy, handed to the government on August 13, recommended 22 key measures to stem the boat arrivals to Australia.
Mr Bowen said the plane carrying the 18 men left Christmas Island at 0815 (11.15am AEST) today bound for the Sri Lankan capital.
He said 16 of the 18 men arrived in Australia after August 13, when the government announced its new border protection policies.
"They have asked not be transferred to Nauru, but instead to be returned to their homeland of Sri Lanka," Mr Bowen told reporters in Sydney on Saturday.
"That has been arranged and facilitated."
The minister said the changes to the concessions under the special humanitarian program would ensure family reunions occurred only through the normal channels.
"There will be no special concessions," Mr Bowen said.
"Up until now it had been possible for people who arrive in Australia by boat to sponsor family members and not to show that the other requirements under the special humanitarian program were met."
Mr Bowen said the government had also accepted the recommendation to increase the numbers of people accepted under the family reunion program by 4000.
Nazi-themed striptease slammed by Queensland Jewish Community
Nazi regalia and artifacts are not banned in Australia but no-one forces you to buy them. Similarly, if you don't like the show below, don't go there. All sorts of things that offend Christians are not censored
A NAZI-themed striptease being performed in Brisbane clubs has been slammed as "repulsive" by Queensland's Jewish community amid warnings it's becoming part of a trend towards shows glorifying the Third Reich.
The controversial burlesque show features a syringe-wielding, scantily-clad Nazi doctor with a swastika armband conducting scientific experiments on a pair of hooded girls.
Performed to a crowd of hundreds at the recent Dead of Winter festival at Brisbane's Jubilee Hotel, the show is the brainchild of burlesque artist and model Ali Darling, 24, who adapted it from a Rob Zombie short film.
Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies president Jason Steinberg said featuring swastikas and other Nazi iconography in a burlesque performance was disrespectful and repulsive.
"It is offensive to the Jewish community - also it would be offensive to the majority of Queenslanders," he said.
"It shouldn't be acceptable in this day and age for someone to use Nazi symbols in a way that glorifies that era."
He said there were still Holocaust survivors living in Queensland, and it was inappropriate for images from that era to be used in a burlesque show.
Ms Darling said she had been performing the show, entitled Werewolf Women of the SS, for about six months, and it had become one of her "signature acts".
"It's a pretty popular show and I will be expanding it because it's going to go into my stage production."
She said the show was satirical and highly stylised, and although she had "absolutely" had negative feedback about it, she'd had an equal number of people praising the performance.
"I get as many people loving it as hating it, which is fine with me. I like getting in people's faces," she said.
Ms Darling, who also has an act featuring a real pig's eye and another where she tears pages out of a Bible with her teeth and spits them at her audience, said she knew of a few other burlesque dancers with similar performances around Australia.
Brisbane cabaret performer Bertie Page said she had noticed a disturbing trend towards Nazi-themed burlesque shows.
"I've noticed it around the traps, it seems to be somewhat of a trend at the moment and I find it really quite concerning," she said.
Swastika-themed burlesque costuming has become available on the internet, and a recent film Burlesque Assassins features a group of dancers as Nazi-fighting killers.
Ms Page, who has German heritage, said she was worried such performances could give burlesque a bad name, and said the use of the swastika was an "indisputably terrible thing".
"The minute you put on that swastika you are representing a power that is bought at the expense of others' lives," she said.
Lola Montgomery, a performer who is completing a PhD in burlesque, said she did not think there was a trend towards Nazi-themed burlesque, and saw such performances more as isolated incidents.
Decline in male teachers a 'real cause for concern' says WA education minister
WA's best young male teachers would be sent into high schools to convince students the profession is as worthy as law or mining under a plan by the state's principals.
The proposal is among a suite of strategies that will be put to Education Minister Peter Collier, who is seeking advice from the Equal Opportunity Commission to determine how to entice more men into teaching without contravening discrimination laws.
The latest data from the WA College of Teaching reveals 313 fewer male teachers - including one-quarter who were under the age of 29 - are working in the state's classrooms this year.
Across the state, there are 12,049 men and 36,544 women registered as teachers for 2012, men representing 24.7 per cent. That compared with 12,362 men, representing 25.4 per cent, last year - and 26.4 per cent five years ago.
WA Primary Principals' Association president Steve Breen, along with the bodies that represent Catholic and independent primary principals, will meet Mr Collier, a former teacher, to discuss their proposal to target school students.
Mr Breen said principals were determined to present teaching as a worthy career by sending their best young male teachers into schools to speak to Year 10-12 pupils.
"There is a perception out there that being a lawyer or an engineer is the be all and end all - we need to be proactive in this area, you just can't let it keep getting worse each year," he said.
"The Minister has got great concerns about it, school principals have got great concerns about it, and I would imagine parents have got great concerns about it.
"Schools need both male and female role models as teachers. Both are extremely important and if you only get one point of view, that, to me, is a detrimental factor in a child's education."
Mr Collier said teaching had not been immune to the strength of the state's mining and construction sector, which has lured thousands of young men to ``set themselves up financially in a relatively short period of time". He labelled the decline of male teachers - particularly in primary schools - a ``real cause for concern".
"Only about 14 per cent of teachers in our primary schools are male, which means that a significant number of our students can progress through their primary years of schooling without having had a male teacher," Mr Collier said.
"In some instances, particularly in single-mother families, this lack of male role models is not ideal.
"Ultimately, our ability to entice more males into the teaching profession will rest on our success in changing any misconceptions that exist amongst that group (those being lured into mining or other careers) about the validity of teaching as a career pathway."
Mr Collier said the Education Department would meet with the EOC to determine how to "promote male employment in the primary school sector without contravening discrimination and equal opportunity law".
He said WA teachers were now among the highest paid in Australia, in a bid to ensure "we can attract and retain teachers".
Independent Primary School Heads of Australia WA branch president Andrew Manley said until primary teaching was presented as an appealing career ``from both a status and remuneration perspective", he feared the number of men entering the classroom would ``remain disproportionately low".
"As such, we encourage males to look at primary teaching as a positive and rewarding career," he said. "Nonetheless, when recruiting staff, while finding an appropriate gender balance in schools is an ideal goal, at the end of the day we are always looking for the best person for the job regardless of gender."
WA's largest provider of teacher education, Edith Cowan University, has only 12 men among the 694 students enrolled in early childhood studies this year.
ECU's Centre for Research in Early Childhood director Caroline Barratt-Pugh said more research was needed to understand the impact of less men taking up the profession, but it was commonly believed that men were role models for boys, ``especially for those where men are absent or marginalised".
"I think the bottom line is changing the perception of early childhood education and care as critical to the future of Australia, in which both women and men have an important role to play," she said.
Opposition education spokesman Paul Papalia said the State Government had failed to address attrition rates, particularly among male teachers.
"It may be an indication that teachers are leaving out of frustration due to inability to return to the metropolitan area or the inability to get permanency as a result of the independent public schools program," he said.
"We know that in 2015, there will be a shortage of 2500 high school teachers preceded in the next two years by surpluses of teachers."
Smart meter data shared far and wide
DETAILED information about electricity customers' power usage, which gives insights into when a house is occupied, is being shared with third parties including mail houses, debt collectors, data processing analysts and government agencies.
Customers with smart meters who sign up for Origin Energy's online portal must consent to their data being shared with a string of third parties. The data is stored in Australia but shared with US company Tendril, which is described by Origin as a smart energy technology provider.
Australia's privacy watchdog said the technology could threaten people's privacy. "We are starting to see people voicing concern about the level of data that these meters can collect," federal Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim said.
Smart meters were a common concern among Age readers who responded to our series on privacy.
Mr Pilgrim said electricity companies had a legal responsibility to delete or "de-identify" personal information that was no longer needed. However, an Origin spokesman said the company kept former customers' data for retrospective queries and "tax and compliance purposes".
The state government aims to install smart meters - which log electricity use every half-hour - in all Victorian homes by the end of next year.
At the beginning of the year Electricity distributors Jemena and United Energy released trial web portals that connect to smart meters and more retailers are expected to follow suit.
Origin's online portal was released last month and lets people monitor their electricity costs using smart meter data collected from energy distributors. Customers can provide information about the size of their home, whether they rent or own, the number of adults and children in their family, if anyone stays in during the day and what appliances they own. The portal then calculates how much energy is used in the kitchen, laundry and for heating.
An Origin spokesman said the portal was fully compliant with Australian privacy legislation. He said the additional information requested about each household "adds to the richness of the Origin Smart experience".
Customer information can only be accessed by staff involved in billing. He said the electricity retailer only shared information with third parties when they had a "legitimate business need to do so in order to meet our service obligations to our customers".
Changes to the Privacy Act being debated in Parliament would restrict companies from sending customer data overseas unless the receiver was founded or controlled in Australia.
'More than 1000 people have signed up to United Energy's portal. UE spokeswoman Lisa Drought said the distributor only provided smart meter data to customers and energy retailers, and would not sell the information to third parties. She said the portal also had "internet bank-like security" to prevent privacy breaches.
21 September, 2012
Gillard … Resurrects DEATH Duties By Stealth with New TAX!
Well DEATH DUTIES folks is making a comeback it seems as the Labor government under madam Julia and The Greens now seek to bring this back. But in a very sneaky and typically underhanded way, they will not be directly hitting us when we die. No.
They will be attacking our second largest asset – our superannuation fund!
Under Income Tax Ruling TR 2011/03 when a person dies having a superannuation account, the Australian Tax Office will seek to assess the underlying assets of a superannuation fund for Capital Gains Tax on top of any lump sum tax that will be payable at least at 15% plus medicare.
This effectively implies that your superannuation fund death benefit could by the time this goes to your family be short of up to as much as 40% of your account balance.
So I went to the source, Labors own website to remind myself of those words….Labor Values and I read and of course reflected on their own words.
This government according to Madam Julia “ I’m the best person for this job” Gillard states on Labors Website that:
“ Australia’s superannuation system is unique and provided an important source of finance for Australian businesses during the global financial crisis. But we need to ensure our superannuation savings are enough to provide a secure and dignified retirement to working Australians in the future.”
So I ask simply – why thieve money we have saved for our retirement and ultimately our family with this death tax ? – How simply disgusting and cruel is this thought bubble.
Surely we should be allowed to leave our hard earned asset, for most of us this is our second largest asset to our family.
While perusing the slogans of Labor via their own website on the topic of retirement, it says:
“The Government will increase the superannuation guarantee to 12 per cent. This is expected to benefit around 8.4 million employees. The Government will also extend the superannuation guarantee to cover older workers up to age 75.”
The fact is that a 33% rise in superannuation payments does not come magically from the government. It comes from the small business owners who are struggling to survive. If costs increase to business, jobs will be lost.
Also the reason why the government has extended coverage to older Aussies is simply because many are struggling to make ends meet and are back in the workforce at such a late stage in life because the bills are getting larger than the age pension affords them and as a veiled admission of this governments incompetence in pursuit of a Carbon Tax, they also realize that many older folk will be hit hard by such an abhorrent tax which is the largest of its type on Planet Earth.
'Cairns hospital system has let patients down'
PATIENTS suffering acute heart failure were among almost 50 emergency attendees waiting on stretchers outside Cairns Base Hospital for more than two hours, a three-month snapshot of ambulance ramping at the facility reveals.
A 59-year-old suffering acute cardiac failure waited almost three hours to be admitted to the Emergency Department in March because there was no available bed, documents obtained by The Cairns Post under Right to Information laws show.
A 100-year-old with heart failure waited more than an hour in May.
Craig Crawford, FNQ state councillor for Queensland's ambulance employees union United Voice, said the cases highlight the dangerous strain on the hospital and the failure of the system to provide timely care for critical patients.
"Two hours is quite an alarming time to be waiting, especially if the reason for you being there is for any cardiac problem," he said. "The system has let them down."
The documents show almost 60 patients were ramped outside the hospital ED between March 1 and June 1 of this year, waiting between an hour to almost eight hours to be admitted.
Ten patients waited more than two hours with either chest pain or cardiac failure.
An 81-year-old stroke victim also waited more than two hours on a stretcher in May.
"Code Black", the term used to describe ambulances being ramped outside the ED, was called at the hospital every day – and most days multiple times – between March 22 and March 27.
Cairns anaesthetist and Together Queensland union vice-president, Dr Sandy Donald, said the critical patient levels at the hospital demonstrated the need for increased "surge capacity". "You have to be able to deal with the urgent workload," he said.
The snapshot of the ED comes after hospital management last month revealed the facility was regularly at critical patient levels and was struggling to cope with a 15 per cent increase in admissions to the ED in the past year.
Earlier this year, a 12-bed unit was opened in the former oncology unit to relieve pressure on the ED.
Cairns and Hinterland Health Service acting CEO Mary Streatfield said a team began working this month to identify ways to boost efficiency and improve patient care at the hospital.
Ms Streatfield said a new patient flow management program would also be implemented soon.
"Staff at the Cairns Base Hospital are committed to improving emergency department wait times and patient flow to meet increased demand," she said.
Figures for last month show 50 per cent of ED patients across all five categories waited 17 minutes for treatment, and the most critical patients waited less than a minute.
Under sweeping reforms to reduce ramping, hospital management must implement major procedural changes in the ED by January 1 next year.
The reforms are based on 15 recommendations contained in a Queensland Health-commissioned report on ramping, which Health Minister Lawrence Springborg last month promised to adopt.
Under the reforms, all state hospitals will be banned from returning assessed patients to ambulances to wait for an emergency bed, and patients must also be handed over from paramedics to hospital staff within 30 minutes of their
The reforms also call for improved processes to discharge sub-acute patients to free up in-patient hospital beds.
Health board chairman Bob Norman has said a contributing factor was that at any one time there were 20 to 30 patients not needing acute care but waiting for disability services or nursing homes.
Top Queensland cops face Newman Government axe to bolster frontline
A THIRD of Queensland Police Service's top brass is in the firing line as the State Government looks at new ways to save money and get more officers on the frontline.
The Courier-Mail understands an internal review found 143 police officers ranked inspector or above were superfluous and could be shed by restructure or natural attrition.
Of about 10,600 officers in the Queensland Police Service, more than 400 are commissioned officers after 63 more were promoted last year.
Their ranks include Inspector and Superintendent, whereas the Commissioner and his deputies and assistants are ranked as executive officers, of which there were about a dozen.
The Queensland Police Commissioned Officers Union president John Pointing said if the Government did proceed with such a huge cull, it would adversely affect service delivery.
"In this brave new world, if they're going to shed these vast numbers, we'd like to be involved so we know whether now we're focused on productivity as opposed to process," he said.
"I hope any decisions they make are evidence- based, not a dollar figure.
"We've got people all over Queensland and they've got families. We'd hope to be engaged very early to minimise the impact on the families." Commissioned officers' responsibilities are the buffer between the rank and file police, who deliver frontline services, and the senior executive.
Mr Pointing said their importance was widely recognised post-Fitzgerald and his members were almost exclusively very experienced officers.
"It seems to us to be a breach of trust; the Government promised to increase police on the frontline and when you have more workers, you need more supervision," he said. "If these positions are removed we won't be able to provide that high-level overview.
"Historically there's been an unwritten agreement that the number of commissioned officers would be 4 per cent of the entire service.
"Inspectors inspect the work of the police to make sure it's done properly."
Mr Pointing said in many cases his members were the ones who ensured service policy was executed to the letter of the law and acted as the conduit to other government departments, as well as running service programs such as crime prevention, DrinkSafe projects and overseeing internal integrity investigations.
The Queensland Police Union said it was also aware of the review.
"While this is very concerning as it's promotional opportunities for police, we will hold discussions with government in coming months," president Ian Leavers said.
A spokesman for Police Minister Jack Dempsey didn't rule out the proposal, only saying that a review was under way into QPS but it wouldn't be completed until the end of the year.
"He will not be making any decisions about it until then," he said.
Huge bills run up for travel and luxuries by bloated railway bureaucracy
Great that a lot of them are now being made redundant
TAXPAYERS footed the bill for travel bags, clothing and even an umbrella so top executives at Queensland Rail could travel comfortably overseas.
Credit card records of the government-owned corporation's top bureaucrats, obtained under Right to Information laws, have detailed the high-flying life enjoyed by the fat cats.
Under former chief executive Paul Scurrah, senior bosses spent more than $100,000 on lunches, dinners and catering, and on one occasion bought up $406 worth of alcohol for a network planning and strategy meeting.
Among the trips taken were a jaunt to London to meet with Queensland Rail's insurer, a European tour taking in Luxembourg, Madrid, Amsterdam, Zurich and Vienna, a visit to the US for a training course and a speaking engagement in Singapore.
The items executives claimed ahead of these trips included a coat, scarf, gloves and umbrella totalling $514.83, a Trent Nathan travel bag costing $299, and $67.85 worth of travel goods from Zelows.
Travel kits, carry bags, iPhone accessories and toiletries were also charged to taxpayers, and one executive successfully claimed a $750 set of tailor-made multi-focal lenses.
Monthly personal training sessions at $38 each were part of the executives' salary package, said acting chief executive Jim Benstead.
Despite being entitled to free train travel, the executives made good use of taxis, even catching cabs between Central and South Bank stations.
Almost all meetings were catered for with coffee, sandwiches, fruit, biscuits or cashews, and executives regularly dined at Brisbane's top hotels and restaurants including the Hilton, the Sofitel, the Port Office, Il Centro, Sono and Zen Bar.
Transport Minister Scott Emerson said in his opinion, many of the expenses and purchases under Labor "were wasteful and would shock many train users".
"Former transport minister Annastacia Palaszczuk wasn't focused on running an affordable, reliable and frequent rail network," Mr Emerson said.
"Shortly after coming to government, Queensland Rail was told to reduce this type of spending and waste.
"As a result they have found $42 million in consumable savings this year."
The Government is also slashing the executive structure, reducing the number of senior bosses from 77 to 32.
Mr Benstead said his leadership team was well aware that all expenditure would be closely scrutinised.
He conceded some of the items charged to taxpayers would not necessarily be expenditure he would consider appropriate for approval.
20 September, 2012
'Hateful' Islam critic Geert Wilders wants visa to speak in Australia
If the views of Mr Wilders are "hateful and divisive", what do we call the views of the violent Muslim demonstrators in Sydney recently? If Mr Wilders is not fit to be here, what of the demonstrators?
A DUTCH MP who is a outspoken critic of Islam is seeking a visa to visit Australia for a speaking tour next month.
Geert Wilders, who has compared the Koran to Hitler's Mein Kampf, has been invited by the Q Society to give speeches in Melbourne and Sydney.
The Federal Government has not yet made a decision but Multicultural Affairs Minister Kate Lundy described Mr Wilders as "an extreme-right politician promulgating views that are out of step with mainstream Australia".
Mr Wilders, who calls Islam "a retarded culture" is on an international immigration movement red-alert list. The Immigration Department is still considering the case and has not yet presented it to Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.
Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi, who is Tony Abbott's parliamentary secretary, has previously supported a bid by Mr Wilders to visit on the grounds of free speech. He said he was not involved in organising any proposed visit but asked on what grounds should a democratically elected member of a foreign parliament be denied a visa.
Victorian Greens Senator Richard Di Natale criticised Mr Wilders. "His hateful and divisive views are not welcome in Australia, but to deny him a visa risks giving him more oxygen and publicity," he said.
Mr Wilders was refused a visa to enter the UK, but appealed and won.
Q Society vice president of community relations Andrew Horwood said his organisation was not political or religious and sought to educate people about Islam and uphold Australian values. Critics call it anti-Muslim.
Mr Horwood said after last weekend's Islamic riot in Sydney it was timely for Mr Wilders to "offer advice about Islam and we need to listen and take note".
He said Mr Wilders had been waiting three weeks for a visa and asked why the government was able to "process visas for Islamic hot heads in a hurry, but leave MPs from friendly European nations hang out to dry".
He sent a letter to supporters calling on them to urge Mr Bowen to approve the visa.
Mr Bowen defended granting a visa to British Muslim leader Taji Mustafa saying he was not on any alert list, not a member of a proscribed terrorist organisation and had no criminal convictions. He said the Howard government had not banned his organisation Hizb ut Tahrir despite the Opposition now calling him a hate preacher.
Federal MPs say no to gay marriage
GAY marriage advocates have urged supporters to "maintain their rage" after federal Parliament delivered a crushing defeat of proposed changes to the law.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and former party leaders Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull all voted against same-sex marriage as it was beaten in the House of Representatives by 98 votes to 42.
It came as Mr Abbott sacked Senator Cory Bernardi as his parliamentary secretary after he commented that the push for gay marriage could lead to legalising bestiality and polygamy.
Senator Bernardi told the Senate the "next step" after gay marriage could be "creepy people" who want "consensual sexual relations between humans and animals".
He said: "In the future will we say, 'These two creatures love each other and maybe they should be able to be joined in a union?'."
Mr Turnbull, who supports gay marriage but voted against it because Coalition frontbenchers did not have a free vote on the issue, blasted Senator Bernardi's comments as hysterical, alarmist and offensive.
Mr Abbott said Senator Bernardi had been "ill-disciplined" but was a "decent bloke with strong opinions".
He said after a fairly forthright discussion Senator Bernardi offered his resignation and he accepted it because it was crucial the Opposition be a "strong and disciplined Coalition".
Labor MP Stephen Jones, who sponsored the Bill to change the Marriage Act, urged supporters to "maintain your rage" and predicted he would be attending gay weddings within 10 years.
Time-wasting red tape leads to exodus of childcare managers
CHILDCARE centre managers are quitting because new regulations are creating unnecessary red tape.
The industry says it fears the exodus could force inexperienced people into management roles, leading to untrained workers caring for children.
The Advertiser has been told some centres have closed, meaning parents will be forced to put their children into unregulated care.
Managers are reporting the new national guidelines, introduced at the start of the year, require them to go above and beyond a normal carer's duty.
The increased red tape means managers are spending the majority of their time filling out paperwork to meet targets and worrying about legal implications of the new rules - rather than the core job of caring for children.
Childcare SA president Barb Langford told The Advertiser she knew of at least six managers who had quit because the new regulations, designed to promote the safety, health and wellbeing of children, were making their job too complicated. "A lot of the good managers of centres are leaving the industry and saying this is all too hard," she said.
Ms Langford said she had heard of numerous childcare centres closing. "They could see that things were going to get really highly regulated and difficult to maintain so they sold up."
United Voice SA branch secretary David Di Troia said the sector was in trouble. "With 180 educators leaving the sector each week, early childhood education is in crisis."
Goodwood Community Childcare Centre director Lisa Corigliano said she spent hours in the office ensuring guidelines were met. "We want to just sit and play for a while and enjoy our children (but) a lot of time is taken up with recording, evaluating and doing all that."
Federal Child Care Minister Kate Ellis said centre managers were not required to fill out additional documentation under the new system.
University of Qld. still on the nose
They are still trying to cover something up
GOVERNANCE reforms at the University of Queensland are to come under fresh scrutiny, with two outsiders appointed to conduct an "independent review" of UQ's moves to clean up its act.
But the move immediately faced accusations that the review was premature and being done by the wrong people.
Vice-Chancellor Debbie Terry said former Wollongong Uni boss Gerard Sutton AO and former Queensland Liberal leader Dr David Watson would report in November on UQ's progress in improving its integrity and accountability in the wake of last year's admissions "irregularity".
Professor Terry announced a package of governance reforms in May after her predecessor Paul Greenfield and his deputy were ousted in a nepotism scandal involving a close relative of Professor Greenfield's.
But public sector ethics expert Howard Whitton said it was an "extraordinary" step. "What are they reviewing?" he asked. "They've only just put the reform mechanisms in place. You've got to let it sit for 12 months at least."
Mr Whitton, an adviser to the Commonwealth on whistleblower laws, also questioned the choice of Professor Sutton and Dr Watson, particularly whether Dr Watson would be seen as independent.
He noted that Dr Watson is a former member of the finance committee of the UQ Senate and chairs the board of the Translational Research Institute, a $200 million facility under construction at Princess Alexandra Hospital, where Prof Terry is also a board member, representing UQ.
Prof Terry responded by saying TRI was "a separate entity with its own governance and management structures and processes - therefore there is no conflict of interest between Dr Watson's role as independent chair of the TRI board and his role in supporting Professor Sutton".
Prof Terry also announced the appointment of an associate director, investigations.
In June, UQ made redundant its respected former chief misconduct investigator, Phil Procopis, who was the first to inform the Chancellor, John Story, about the Greenfield matter.
UQ has never disclosed what it found during its investigation into the nepotism scandal, conducted by barrister Tim Carmody SC.
The Crime and Misconduct Commission earlier this year launched separate probes of UQ's handling of that matter and its misconduct investigations in general. It has since passed a brief of evidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
19 September, 2012
Big brother is watching you -- even at the beach
Surf Life Saving Australia says unmanned aerial drones will patrol some Queensland beaches this summer. The organisation's head, Brett Williamson, says the drones will be used on North Stradbroke Island in a trial of the technology.
He has told Radio National's Background Briefing program the drones, which have a wingspan of one metre, use cameras to search for swimmers in distress.
Mr Williamson says the drones will be fitted with flotation buoys that can be dropped down to the ocean.
"[Drones] have also been fitted with a siren so if nothing else the UAVs flying along the coast and either sees somebody in trouble or a group potentially in trouble or if there's marine life, dangerous marine life such as sharks or whatever in the area, the siren can be sounded," he said.
Mr Williamson says he would like to see the trial expanded nationally to provide surveillance of remote beaches.
He says he does not think flying surveillance drones over secluded beaches will intrude on people's privacy. "At the end of the day this is about public safety," he said.
"It's not about intruding on anybody's privacy and, fortunately, with our experience of having the fixed cameras network we haven't had one problem or one complaint or one operator that hasn't operated in strict accordance with those protocols that we have in place."
End the boatpeople-Welfare cycle
FREE-market economists support free trade in goods and services. Free-market economists also support the free movement of capital and labour. But free-market economists warn against the corrosive and adverse effects of government-provided income support and welfare services on people's incentives to participate in the labour market and to improve their economic lot through their own efforts.
I fit comfortably into the category of free-market economist. Not surprisingly, I find the following comment of one of the doyens of free-market economics, Nobel Prize winner Professor Gary Becker, very persuasive.
"Since I am a free-trader, readers might expect my preferred alternative to the present system (of controlled migration to the US) to be 19th-century-style unlimited immigration. I would support that if we lived in the 19th-century world where government spending was tiny. But governments now spend huge amounts on medical care, retirement, education and other benefits and entitlements. Experience demonstrates that, in our political system, it is impossible to prevent immigrants gaining access to these benefits."
This comment applies no less to Australia. Immigrants, particularly those entering under the humanitarian visa (refugee) category, are attracted to Australia in part because of the generous safety net provided by governments. Free health care, free education, income support - these sorts of luxuries are potent magnets for refugees when seeking another country in which to live. It is a form of welfare arbitrage - safety from persecution with the additional advantage of a raft of government-provided benefits.
No doubt, I will be accused at this point of being heartless and ignorant. Surely refugees bring all sorts of economic benefits to Australia and these should form part of the equation when devising the size of the humanitarian quota. After all, refugees have shown determination to leave their homelands and, in the case of those who arrive by boat, to hand over money to people-smugglers to expedite their permanent entry to Australia. Does this sort of energetic resolve not correlate with subsequent economic success in Australia?
Sadly, the figures point to the exact opposite. They show that refugees have very low rates of labour force participation and extremely high rates of welfare dependence, even years after being granted permanent residence. And these figures are the official ones - admittedly released without fanfare - of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
The report, Settlement Outcomes of New Arrivals: Report of findings, was released last year by the department. The report's bland title is a give-away - vacuous, alliterative titles for government reports are virtually de rigueur these days. (Think: Smarter Manufacturing for a Smarter Australia.) The results on settlement outcomes are ugly.
Using the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Australia, the research describes the position of the three key groups of migrants five years after settlement: skilled, family and humanitarian.
In keeping with the findings of previous research, it is absolutely clear that refugees fare very badly in terms of employment and financial self-sufficiency. And note that this study was conducted during a period of low overall unemployment.
For example, the employment rate of humanitarian migrants from Afghanistan was recorded at only 9 per cent - note this is not the unemployment rate - five years after settlement and nearly 94 per cent of households from Afghanistan received Centrelink payments.
According to the report, "Afghans have a different settlement experience compared with most other cultural groups, such as having poorer English skills and lower qualifications levels. Yet they are more likely to borrow money, obtain mortgages and experience difficulties in paying them."
Those from Iraq did little better, with 12 per cent employed and 93 per cent of households in receipt of Centrelink payments. Interestingly, those who did best in the humanitarian group were from Central and West African countries such as Sierra Leone.
Note that these refugees are the least likely to have arrived by boat.
For the sake of typical bureaucratic "balance", the report notes that "given that we are exploring only the first five years of settlement in this study, [The low proportion in employment] is not a surprising result as many humanitarian entrants are strongly focused on creating a new life, and studying for a qualification is an important step in this journey".
But the comparisons with those entering under the other visa categories - and who are also focused on creating a new life - are stark.
Whereas the overall proportion of humanitarian migrant households in receipt of Centrelink payment was 85 per cent, the figure for the family group was 38 per cent and 28 per cent for the skilled group.
In other words, humanitarian migrant households were three times more likely to receive Centrelink payments than skilled migrant households, five years after settlement. (Note that skilled migrants are not entitled to receive Centrelink payments for the first two years of their residence.) Moreover, skilled migrants were more than five times likely to be in employment than refugees.
So how should policy-makers interpret these results?
The first point to note is that there must be a strict limit to the numbers allowed to enter under the humanitarian visa category given the drain on public finances.
The fact that the numbers were kept at about 13,750 for so long probably is a reflection of this reality. The recent increase in the quota to 20,000 is likely to cause an additional strain on both the federal and state budgets.
The second point is to open the debate about whether a portion of the humanitarian intake should be reserved for those prepared to pay a bond to obtain permanent residence.
Indeed, this has been suggested by Gary Becker. "Given these realities of free immigration, the best alternative to the present system is charging a price that clears the market. That is why I believe countries should sell the right to immigrate."
We have clear evidence that some refugees are prepared to pay people-smugglers to facilitate a speedy entry to Australia.
It therefore seems an obvious policy alternative to allocate a certain number of humanitarian places to proven refugees who are prepared to pay and/or forgo welfare benefits for a period of time.
There is clearly not a particularly strong correlation between refugee status and ability to pay, given the numbers of refugees who have paid people-smugglers to reach Australia.
Surely it would be preferable that this money is paid to the Australian government, rather than to people-smugglers offering travel on rickety boats.
The money raised could be used to benefit refugees who cannot pay.
In the light of the arrival of over 2000 asylum-seekers by boat since the government announced the change of policy to deter boat arrivals - a policy which looks set to fail - there is a clear and urgent case for some lateral thinking.
The charter school revolution comes to Australia
They're charter schools in the USA and academies in Britain but the concept is the same: Escaping the educational bureaucracy and the teachers' unions
QUEENSLAND'S first Independent Public Schools have been announced, heralding a new and potentially controversial era in state education.
Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said 26 schools had been chosen for the first round of Independent Public Schools, which would be given more autonomy than their state counterparts.
Only 30 schools applied for 30 available positions, with just 26 granted, after the Queensland Teachers' Union "strongly" advised principals not to take part.
The QTU had threatened industrial action earlier this year and warned it could create a two-tier state school system turning hard-to-staff schools into impossible-to-staff schools.
Under the changes, principals gain the power to recruit all staff, control their budget and school councils can liaise directly with local industry.
Mr Langbroek said he believed local school communities, parents, teachers and principals knew what was best for their children.
"Independent Public Schools will have the freedom to directly recruit teachers and to build a team that is able to deliver innovative educational practices and have more autonomy to manage infrastructure and financial resources," Mr Langbroek said.
Each school gets $50,000 to assist with the change and an extra $50,000 in funding each year for administration.
"I have no doubt that after the first year, when these 26 schools have experienced the benefits of greater autonomy, we'll see many more schools come forward to become Independent Public Schools," Mr Langbroek said.
Palm Beach Currumbin State High executive principal Stephen Loggie said IPS would enable their excellence programs in academic, cultural and sporting areas to grow.
"It gives them their opportunity to evolve to the next level because IPS removes some of the red tape around the way schools are run and it gives more power to the local community to make decisions that are in their interest," he said.
The 26 include the flagship Brisbane State High School, School of Excellence Palm Beach Currumbin High and Kirwan and Smithfield state high schools in north Queensland.
Primary schools include Ashgrove, Miles, Aldridge, Banksia Beach and McDowall state schools, and Tagai State College in the Torres Strait.
The program will extend to 120 schools over four years.
Corruption at the CSIRO
Given their stance on global warming, funding trumps all other concerns
TWO of three CSIRO employees who blew the whistle on alleged "criminal or civil breaches of the law" by the scientific organisation were later made redundant, it has been revealed.
But those officials who were the subject of the complaints remain employed, the CSIRO has confirmed.
The details have emerged after a group of former CSIRO employees began a campaign for a change in culture at the science agency, alleging mismanagement and bullying are rife.
Last Thursday, a parliamentary inquiry examining workplace bullying in Commonwealth agencies published the group's submission. It claims the group is aware of 60 cases involving top-flight scientists and other officials who were bullied or otherwise forced out of the organisation.
This list has names on it such as Maarten Stapper, a soil scientist allegedly pushed out because of his criticism of genetically modified crops, globally recognised oceanographer Trevor McDougall, and award-winning entomologist Sylwester Chyb, who has begun litigation against the CSIRO for misleading conduct and unlawful termination.
The CSIRO has declined to respond to the allegations, but the group says some of those forced out had tried to report misconduct or maladministration. Among the group's recommendations is improved protection for whistleblowers.
"Current whistleblower legislation does not adequately protect from persecution those making public interest declarations," the document says. "This is particularly true in circumstances in which it is hard to identify a direct link between a whistleblower complaint and subsequent, seemingly unrelated adverse action against the employee in his or her workplace."
The organisation is also grappling with a spike in the damages it has had to pay as a result of occupational health and safety claims made to the Commonwealth OH&S regulator and insurer, Comcare. The increased costs of the claims has meant that the premiums Comcare charges the CSIRO have nearly tripled from $1.9 million in 2011-12 to $4.9 million this financial year.
"The CSIRO has consistently achieved lower than average claim frequency and claim cost but has had an upward trend in the average cost of its claims," a Comcare spokesman, Russ Street, said.
At a budget estimates hearing in May, the Tasmanian senator David Bushby asked the CSIRO about its handling of whistleblower complaints and those who made them. In answers provided last month, the organisation confirmed two complaints were lodged in 2010 and one in 2008, all of which made serious allegations about unlawful activity.
But while the CSIRO did not retrench any of those against whom allegations were made, it did retrench the complainants.
"One CSIRO employee, who had lodged a whistleblower complaint on March 10, 2008, was made redundant on August 23, 2010, as there was an insufficient volume of current and projected work to sustain the position," the CSIRO said.
"A second employee, who lodged a whistleblower complaint on February 23, 2010, was made redundant on September 4, 2011 as CSIRO no longer required the job be performed by anyone because of changes in the operational requirements of CSIRO's enterprise."
A CSIRO spokesman, Huw Morgan, declined to describe the nature of the allegations made by the whistleblowers, saying it could help reveal their identities.
18 September, 2012
Sex education from as young as 9 in Australian schools
CHILDREN will be taught to "recognise sexual feelings" from age 11 or 12 under a new national physical education curriculum criticised by religious schools.
Physical, social and emotional changes of puberty will be taught in Years 5 and 6, when children are as young as nine and 10.
But Catholic educators have forced the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority to back down from its plan to explain puberty to children as young as seven, over concerns the kids might "freak out".
ACARA had wanted puberty as a topic to be introduced in Years 3 and 4.
Guidelines for the first national curriculum on health and physical education reveal a shift from a focus on sport and fitness, to the politically correct topics of "gender, sexuality, culture, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and psycho-social environments".
The subjects of "sexual and gender identity" and "managing intimate relationships" will be included in the new curriculum, which will be drawn up in detail during the next 12 months.
Sexuality will be explored in Years 7 and 8 when some students are still only 11 or 12 years old as they "learn to recognise sexual feelings and evaluate behavioural expectations for different social situations".
But ACARA had to delay the puberty sessions after education groups raised concerns.
"Respondents from the Catholic education sectors considered the inclusion of content related to puberty in Years 3 and 4 as inappropriate," ACARA states in a summary of educators' feedback to its earlier draft guidelines.
The final guidelines will be used by education experts to write the detailed curriculum that will be drawn up by a group of education experts during the next 12 months.
Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton said it was rare for Australian children to hit puberty before the age of 11 or 12.
"(Teaching it in) Years 3 and 4 does seem to be a bit early," he said yesterday. "They're still out playing hide and seek."
Dr Hambleton said talking to children about puberty and sex was "best done by family", although it was important children did not hear it in the playground first.
Council of Catholic School Parents executive director Danielle Cronin said classroom lessons on puberty could "really freak kids out".
"It's quite confronting, and it can be distressing enough in Years 5 and 6, so Years 3 and 4 are probably a bit too early, especially if you want to avoid them being freaked out," she said yesterday.
An ACARA spokesman said children in Years 3 and 4 would still be taught about body changes but ACARA had "made a shift in the language as a result of concerns".
"The community will have further opportunities to provide feedback on the Health and Physical Education curriculum as it moves through the development process," the ACARA spokesman said.
He said Catholic schools had not been the only educators to object, but would not give more details.
The final guidelines have removed the reference to puberty but state that Year 3 and 4 students "develop and apply the knowledge, understanding and skills to manage the physical, emotional and social changes they begin to experience during this stage of life."
National Catholic Education Commission chairwoman Therese Temby said Catholic schools would take part in ACARA's drafting of the new curriculum.
Australia seen as too risky, costly for mining companies
MINING companies find the Australian resources sector too tough and too complicated for developing projects compared with its major competitors, according to a global survey of 300 senior industry leaders by Baker & McKenzie.
It's claimed that last week's increase in Queensland coal royalties has only added to the perception of Australia as a high-cost and high-risk investment destination.
Baker & McKenzie also suggested companies may now try to force governments into mine-specific agreements on taxes and charges. The report suggested that senior executives in Australia were more pessimistic about the future of mining investment in this country than those investing in the other jurisdictions surveyed.
About 75 per cent said that investing in the mining sector was more complicated and costly because of increasing red tape and environmental obligations, complex and uncertain project development requirements and the rising costs of mine development and operation.
The survey coincided with a report from the Minerals Council which said the majority of thermal coal developments were at risk and those in other countries had a competitive advantage on cost.
"Each year the completion date of the average Australian coal project is delayed by three to four months," the council said.
It also found that in aluminium, Australia could not compete with the 60 to 80 per cent cost advantage of China.
The Baker & McKenzie report said the level of Commonwealth and state government involvement in the Australian mining industry was also causing concern to investors.
About 60 per cent of respondents said the government was too involved in the industry, and 72 per cent said sovereign risk was on the increase.
Baker & McKenzie global head of mining David Ryan said Australia needed to look much more seriously at the issues impacting the competitiveness of the industry.
"Getting a project across the line in this country is now harder than it should be," he said. "If we want to remain globally competitive and continue to attract investment in the mining industry, we need to look at reducing the complexity of mining regulation and sovereign risk, otherwise we risk companies deploying their capital elsewhere.
"We have already seen a number of high-profile projects shelved in recent weeks. Much of this is due to falling commodity prices and the high Australian dollar."
Mr Ryan said there was a need for a clearer process for project approvals and a more uniform approach to mining regulation across the Australian states and territories.
"Mining is an industry which involves large up-front capital investments and long project lives," he said.
"Investors crave certainty, and miners need more certainty regarding the application of taxes and royalties and land-use restrictions."
While investors were comforted by Australia's security of tenement rights, political stability and enforcement of contracts, the country was still seen by some investors as a greater sovereign risk than Indonesia or South Africa.
Multiculturalism still has a long road to travel to reach all in Australia
There was much intimidation and considerable violence to and from the Muslim demonstration outside the United States consulate in Sydney on Saturday. The banners included such messages as "Behead Those Who Insult Islam!!!" and "Obama, Obama, We Love Osama!!!". But what was of particular interest was the destination.
Perhaps it is understandable angry Muslims in the Middle East or Africa would demonstrate outside American diplomatic missions against the apparent circulation of a YouTube video mocking the Prophet Muhammad by a person based in the US. There is no such excuse for Australian Muslims.
Citizens and residents of Australia know we live in a democratic society in which the government does not, and mostly cannot, engage in acts of political and religious censorship. That's why Americans have not been able to get the cheap film deleted from the web. And that's why footage of beheadings of non-believers by Islamist extremists remain on the web.
Some Muslim leaders in Australia have condemned Saturday's violent demonstration in which several members of the NSW Police were injured. Others have not. Whatever the response of Muslims, the incident provides yet more evidence that multiculturalism - after a promising start - has failed. If some Australian Muslims do not understand how democracy works, it's time for a rethink.
Some contributors to the debate ran the familiar left-liberal line that, when a small minority get violent, it is not entirely their own fault. Yesterday the Monash University academic Waleed Aly criticised the demonstrators but then went on to refer to the plight of a "humiliated people" who are angry about "the West's disrespect for Islam".
Last year, Aly made a similar point about al-Qaeda's attacks on the US on September 11, 2001. Writing in The Sun-Herald on the 10th anniversary, Aly commented that "it is worth considering how we got sucked into contributing to the process".
Get it? Somehow or other, the West contributed to al-Qaeda's attacks on the US in which Christians, Jews, Hindus and Muslims died. Even though this occurred before the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Interviewed about Saturday's demonstration on ABC Radio 702 yesterday, Aly criticised only one person by name: Tony Abbott. No surprise there - since Aly is on record as claiming the Opposition Leader "embraces a reactionary form of monoculturalism". If Aly were just another leftist academic, this would not matter much. It's just that he presents the influential ABC RN Drive program.
Paolo Totaro, the foundation chairman of the NSW Ethnic Affairs Commission, weighed in with a not dissimilar rationalisation. According to Totaro, "if we have children in the streets calling for beheadings, the fault is not of multiculturalism, but of those - all of us - who have not taught, in enough depth, the democratic values of multiculturalism". In other words, don't blame the advocates of arbitrary beheadings. Blame us all, instead.
Mohammed El-leissy, the Melbourne-based Muslim community worker, had a somewhat different take. He told the ABC Breakfast program yesterday: "When I looked at the footage coming out of Sydney, I didn't really see young Muslims. I saw a lot of angry men from Lakemba … I don't believe in the argument that multiculturalism has failed; I certainly believe that Lakemba has failed". He called for more services.
Most Muslims have settled well in Australia. The notable exception involves some of the Muslim Lebanese who were given special privileges by Malcolm Fraser to settle in Australia around 1976 under what was called the "Lebanon Concession", and their descendants. Much of this group is based in Lakemba. As El-leissy has pointed out, "quite a lot of them have very low employment and a huge lack of education". Some other Muslims identify with this group's alienation.
Where El-leissy's analysis falls down is his solutions. All Muslims in Australia came here voluntarily and/or were born here. All have experienced the generous education, health and welfare benefits available to Australians. The rest of the country are not responsible for any alienation that they feel. Such anger will not be dissipated by the provision of more taxpayer-funded services.
It doesn't matter if the disaffected in a democracy are Catholic-born members of the Irish Republican Army or Muslim-born supporters of bin Laden. If a radicalised group in a Western society does not accept democracy and engages in terrorism or violence, there is only one response. It's over to the police to enforce the law with the assistance, where necessary, of the intelligence services. Then it's up to the judicial system.
Australia is a viable democracy in which virtually all groups have prospered, including the vast majority of Muslims. If last Saturday's demonstrators don't appreciate this, tough. It is not our fault.
The Australian Labor Party's 'Pacific Solution' now relocating illegals to Nauru
A PLANELOAD of Sri Lankan boat people is expected to land on Nauru today as the Labor Party’s reinvigoration of the so-called "Pacific Solution" gathers pace.
The new arrivals, the second group to go to Nauru since Labor reopened the John Howard-era detention centre on the tiny Pacific island, were expected to touch down shortly after 7am (5am Australian time).
Like the 30 Tamils who arrived on Friday, they will be taken by bus to the 500-person capacity tent city in the sweltering middle of the island, where they will be hemmed in by thick jungle, the island’s rubbish tip and a rock quarry.
With the Australian Army almost finished building the tent city and with the Christmas Island detention centre already exceeding its capacity due to an influx of boats this year, today’s arrivals will soon be followed by more. Indeed a boat carrying 10 people was detected off West Australia’s coast last night.
Another planeload of several dozen Tamils are expected later this week, and the first group of Afghan Hazaras early next week. By then the camp will house more than 150 asylum seekers.
Some of those 150 may also turn out to be women, children or whole families, as Immigration Minister Chris Bowenlast week told a press conference that "you can expect to see a broad cross-section of people transferred to Nauru next week and in coming weeks".
Despite promises by Mr Bowen that Labor’s system on Nauru would involve a processing centre, not a detention camp, the site’s inhabitants are forbidden from leaving.
A Nauruan government spokesman, Rod Henshaw, said on ABC radio that the situation was a "period of settling in".
"I know the Nauru government is anxious to have them settled and, over a period of time, to give them the privileges of wandering around."
He said he hoped the asylum seekers would be free to leave the camp in weeks or a month. "I couldn’t put a time on it ... but that is the objective, [to give the asylum seekers] the freedom of the island to some degree."
Questions also continue to be asked about the decision to process the refugee claims under Nauruan law. Last week the regional head of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, Rick Towle, said that Australia was handing over legal responsibility for people seeking asylum in that country.
Some have expressed concern that Australia may disagree with a refugee approval made under Nauruan law and refuse to take the person, meaning they can’t be returned to their country or resettled in Australia.
$A now a reserve currency
Because of Australia's well-run banks and low level of public debt, both of which were set in train by the conservative Howard government. For some background on that see here
UP TO 23 central banks from around the globe have included Australian dollar assets in their foreign exchange reserves, underlining the wide appeal the currency holds among overseas investors.
In a sign this interest goes beyond major trading partners, central banks that hold the dollar range from the National Bank of Kazakhstan to Sweden's Sveriges Riksbank, an internal Reserve Bank document shows.
The document, released yesterday under Freedom of Information laws, said 15 central banks held Aussie dollar assets and a further eight could possibly be holding the currency. Some of the larger institutions holding the dollar include Germany's Bundesbank and the central banks of Switzerland, Hong Kong and Russia.
Central banks that may have invested in the dollar include those of Indonesia, Iceland, Jordan and Moldova, the document said.
Central banks, which have historically invested heavily in euros and US dollars, are looking to diversify in response to the dour outlook in these economies.
Chief currency strategist at Westpac, Robert Rennie, said Australia's AAA credit rating and strong economic outlook was an attractive combination for investors, when compared with many other nations.
"It's entirely logical that central banks are looking away from the traditional US dollar and euro cores in their portfolios," he said.
Such strong interest among foreign investors is one reason for the dollar's resilience despite a weaker economic outlook and falling commodity prices, economists say.
Foreigners held 77 per cent of Australia's $245 billion government debt in the June quarter, just below a record 79 per cent in March.
In a separate document, written in April and released yesterday, Chris Potter from the Reserve's international department wrote: "The apparent preference shift and resulting portfolio shift of foreign investors towards Australian dollar government securities has increased Australian dollar demand."
Yesterday's documents, released after an FOI request from Bloomberg News, also show the bank has been examining if the dollar may be overvalued - a complaint of some manufacturing employers and unions.
A briefing titled "Is the Australian Dollar Overvalued?" was prepared in February, but was redacted except for a comment that "strong $A demand from foreign central bank purchases" had supported the currency.
17 September, 2012
Can internet "trolls" be regulated?
I have copped plenty of abuse online but I just regard it as an amusing comment on the inadequacy of the abuser. Why DO people take the stuff seriously? Maybe if you've got a weak ego ....
I do answer abuse with abuse sometimes but mostly I ignore it and that is the last I hear of it
Threats of physical harm are quite a different matter from abuse, however. Most threats are probably empty but all should be prosecuted in my view, as doing so could prevent real harm -- JR
"Trolling is extremely fun," explained one, identified to the Herald only as Apples212. "I've been trolling my whole life, ever since I can remember. It's extremely relaxing, as all you really have to do is put the 'bait' out there, sit back and wait for someone to bite. I do it because it's fun, and sometimes it's necessary.
"Trolling always makes me feel calm and relaxed, it is one of the best feelings I've ever done [sic]."
The use of the word "troll" for those stirring up trouble in cyberspace goes back nearly 20 years, and was originally derived from the fishing term for trailing bait from a line.
In recent weeks it has been all over the mainstream media, courtesy of much-publicised Twitter attacks on the minor celebrity Charlotte Dawson, and the rugby league footballer and Wests Tigers captain, Robbie Farah.
The Premier, Barry O'Farrell, rushed to Farah's defence, The Daily Telegraph in Sydney sallied forth with a front-page declaration of war against trolls, and the federal Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, and the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, declared a temporary cessation of hostilities with News Limited, the Telegraph's parent company, to congratulate the paper on its "worthwhile initiative".
Roxon promised to consult with state colleagues to see "what other action, if any, can be taken to improve the law in this area".
But lawyers, social media experts, ethicists and even the regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, agree that trying to formulate, and then apply, new black-and-white law in this area is almost certainly doomed to fail.
"If you regulate for specific technologies, different ones will proliferate and your technologically specific policy or legislation will be useless," says associate professor David Rolph, a media law specialist at the University of Sydney.
Rolph and others point out that laws against racial vilification, defamation, harassment or menacing behaviour already exist and could be invoked by those willing to take civil action or press for prosecution. But in practice those laws are not well suited to social media and their application in cyberspace has been little-tested in the courts.
One recent exception is a case in Victoria earlier this year, where Michael Trkulja successfully sued Yahoo!7 for defamation and won himself nearly $250,000, after arguing that the search engine was linking his name unfairly with the Melbourne underworld.
Social media on trial over racism
Socialism has been at least as deadly as racism (See Stalin, Mao etc.). Why not ban socialism too?
AUSTRALIA'S Race Discrimination Commissioner wants an urgent national summit to address the harm being caused by hateful and racist comments on internet blogs and social media sites.
"I'm quite upset by what has been happening in the past three weeks," Commissioner Dr Helen Szoke said yesterday after complaints prompted Facebook on Friday to restrict Australian access to a new page called 'Are Abos Scum?'
A Facebook spokeswoman said while it did not share the distasteful views, and the page did not violate the company's terms, local access had been restricted "out of respect for local laws".
Ms Szoke said she also was disturbed by "really horrific" online anti-Jewish pages.
She said the problem of hateful online meme pages seemed to be getting out of hand and she would take "a more direct approach" to the problem next week.
"This has now reached a point where we really have to look seriously at what the full options of management of this issue might be and I think it's a multiple approach," she said.
Last night Peter Wertheim, executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said Facebook and YouTube could not disclaim all responsibility for the way their platforms were used.
He said there needed to be a multi-faceted effort by governments, the media and internet service providers to deal with racist material on the internet.
Many aspiring teachers are dummies
STUDENTS who struggle with reading, writing and arithmetic are being accepted into university courses to train to become teachers.
A national scorecard has revealed students with university admission ranks well below 50 - low by Australian standards - are gaining entry to teaching courses.
The Good Universities Guide says the standard ranges from as high as 90 for entry into Sydney University to as low as 46.5 for the Melbourne Institute of Technology.
In Queensland, teacher admission ranks range from 56 at the Australian Catholic University in Brisbane to 77.75 in order to enter a primary school teaching course at the University of Queensland.
But some students are gaining entry with even lower scores under special entry schemes that offer "bonus points" for disadvantage, such as living in regional areas.
What do you think? Does the admission rank matter? Tell us in the comments section below.
The national snapshot underlines the shock findings that almost half of aspiring primary school teachers tested in Queensland in a recent trial struggled with literacy and numeracy questions Year 7 students should be able to answer.
Queensland is struggling to lift the performance of its students in literacy and numeracy testing, with latest results released on Friday ranking Queensland students third-last nationally.
The average Queensland student to sit the NAPLAN tests this year scored below the national average in every category.
All states are moving to enforce tougher standards, with the Gillard Government pushing for reforms to ensure only school leavers ranked in the top 30 per cent for literacy and numeracy can apply.
Professor Stephen Dinham, chairman of teacher education at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, said while some courses demanded very high standards, others did not.
"If you are not confident in mathematics, you can't teach mathematics," he said. " We've really got to draw teachers from the top quarter of the school-leaving population.
"If you're taking kids with a score of 40, it's a worry. I'd be saying don't go below 75."
However, Australian Catholic University spokesman Julian Leeser said high marks did not necessarily guarantee a good teacher.
"You can have students with very high scores who are not good teachers. They lack empathy. Teaching is about relationship building," he said.
Private schools add value
Literacy gaps and socio-economic status
As a result of the Gonski report and the recent budget cuts to NSW schools, the relative quality and importance of non-government schools to education in Australia has again been questioned.
The most recent issue of the journal Australian Economic Papers has an article by Paul Miller and Derby Voon comparing the performance of government and non-government schools in the NAPLAN (National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy) tests.
The objective of Miller and Voon’s analysis was to determine the extent to which differences in performance between school sectors can be attributed to the different characteristics of their students, including socio-economic status and gender. Their article builds upon other published research papers that use data from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY) and the Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA). The majority of these studies find that socio-economic status does not completely explain school sector differences.
Miller and Voon estimate and compare the contribution of socio-economic status to NAPLAN performance in the different sectors. They find that for Year 3 students, the main effect of socio-economic status is similar in each sector and in each aspect of the NAPLAN tests (approximate r2 = 0.3, a figure that corresponds with the strength of the relationship found between socio-economic status and student performance over the last several decades). The picture changes in high school, however. Among Year 9 students, the impact of socio-economic status is significantly higher in independent schools than in Catholic or government schools.
Overall, the results support the findings of Gary Marks’ studies – the superior test results of non-government schools cannot be fully accounted for by the higher average socio-economic status of their students. There is a ‘moderate value-added effect’ of a school sector once student intake characteristics are controlled.
One limitation of Miller and Voon’s study is that it does not account for the prior ability levels of students. It is well known that literacy gaps exist between students of differing socio-economic status when they begin school. It is therefore likely that students in schools with a lower average socio-economic status have started school with lower literacy levels than their more advantaged counterparts. A similar study comparing the growth in scores between NAPLAN tests in years 3 to 5 and years 7 to 9 would be instructive.
16 September, 2012
Scatological cartoonist Larry Pickering is really down on Julia Gillard and now has his own news site up. There is a lot of commonsense on it.
Queensland homosexuals "bullied" by conservative State government
Because their taxpayer funding was cut off!
A RESPECTED physician has accused the Newman Government of mirroring "the actions of a homophobic schoolyard bully" and has quit the State's newly-formed HIV/AIDS advisory committee in protest.
Brisbane doctor Wendell Rosevear tendered his resignation on Wednesday as the nine-member ministerial advisory committee met for only the second time.
In his resignation letter, Dr Rosevear said the Government had delivered a "king hit" to the gay community by stripping peak body Queensland Association for Healthy Communities of funding with little consultation then effectively silencing other groups under new funding rules.
The rules forbid non-profits from agitating for state or federal law changes if their group receives half or more of its funding from Queensland Health and other state agencies. The Government has argued the new rules ensure groups focus on "outcomes not advocacy".
A spokesman for Mr Springborg said the QAHC funding was axed because the group had "lost focus" on HIV and AIDS prevention while infection rates soared.
Dr Rosevear, who has worked with HIV/AIDS since 1985, accused Health Minister Lawrence Springborg of "acting to divide and silence" the affected community and then refusing to allow the committee to discuss the issue.
"His office are actually saying what can and can't be on the agenda but the committee's job is to give advice without the interference of the external body, the Minister's office," Dr Rosevear told The Courier-Mail.
Dr Rosevear also took aim at Queensland Health's new HIV prevention campaign, which prominently features the Grim Reaper of 1980s AIDS campaigns, as designed to engender only fear and guilt.
The committee had been asked to "rubber stamp" the campaign once it was already completed, he said.
"When you feed fear then some people don't want to test because they're scared of getting a diagnosis or facing death and so fear actually can be counterproductive for AIDS prevention," he said.
Man charged for something he didn't do
Charging him for what he MAY have done -- failing to secure his shotgun -- was not provable so bogus charges were laid
MANSLAUGHTER charges have been laid against the father of a schizophrenic man who killed three people in a shooting spree at Hectorville last year.
Giuseppe Corbo allegedly failed to properly secure a shotgun which his son Donato used to fatally shoot Luc Mombers and his parents-in-law Kobus and Annetjie Snyman in April 2011.
He also tried to kill Mr Mombers' wife, Rika, and their son, Marcel, and wounded two police officers, Travis Emms and Brett Gibbons.
Corbo, 71, had earlier been charged with endangering life and four firearms charges and his lawyer was to have argued there was no case to answer in Adelaide Magistrates Court this afternoon.
Instead, prosecutor Laura Carrocci told Magistrate Sue O'Connor that the endangering life charges had been withdrawn and replaced with three counts of negligent manslaughter.
Corbo did not enter a plea to the new charges and was remanded on continuing bail to face court again in November.
Donato Corbo is detained at James Nash House for life after being found not guilty of the murders by reason of mental incompetence.
Attempted coverup of accident caused by speeding train
A RADIO message sent from Banyo train station to Queensland Rail's main control room will become the centre of a double investigation into what went wrong in Friday's train and truck crash on Brisbane's northside.
QR officials confirmed a staff member at Banyo tried to warn oncoming trains yesterday morning a semi-trailer had become stuck across the tracks on St Vincents Rd, but the driver of the ill-fated train did not receive the message.
The investigation will focus on how a train coming along a straight track in daylight could not stop in time to avoid hitting a stranded truck.
The crash between the semi-trailer and the Shorncliffe-bound train just before 6.30am resulted in the truck being ripped in two, its driver receiving severe leg and pelvic injuries, and morning and afternoon peak-hour services being suspended.
QR Chief Customer Officer Martin Ryan yesterday refused to comment on many aspects of the crash, including the speed of the train or how far away the train was before its emergency brakes were applied, but did confirm the radio call.
Mr Ryan recounted the train driver's initial report, despite many conflicts with police and witness accounts.
"A Shorncliffe train with 11 customers on board, a driver and a guard, has approached Banyo Station and as it has come around the bend has seen a low loader traversing St Vincents Rd crossing," Mr Ryan said.
"He applied the emergency brakes but unfortunately has hit the low loader and has caused significant damage to the train, the track and the truck."
Despite Mr Ryan's claim the train was coming around the bend, the train track runs straight for 1km between Bindha and Banyo stations.
Police Inspector Mark Laing also confirmed witness accounts the truck was stationary at the time of the crash and the truck driver was outside of the vehicle.
Banyo resident John Mahoney witnessed the breakdown of the truck and saw the truck driver, a Victorian, trying to fix the semi-trailer before the northbound train arrived.
"It came roaring in and just took out the semi," Mr Mahoney said. "We got off our train and all you could smell was the burn of the emergency brakes."
The truck driver is in a stable condition at Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital.
PUBLIC HOSPITAL ROUNDUP
Australian public hospitals demonstrate almost daily why 40% of Australians buy private health insurance as an alternative. Three current articles below
Hunger and thirst blamed for 2000 patient deaths in Queensland public hospitals in 2011-12
HUNDREDS of patients are dying every year after becoming dehydrated or malnourished in Queensland public hospitals.
Hunger and thirst were either wholly or partly to blame for more than 2000 patient deaths last financial year and 10 per cent of those weren't malnourished or dehydrated when they were admitted, according to Queensland Health figures obtained by The Courier-Mail under Right to Information laws.
Most of the patients were elderly, prompting concerns they are being neglected because of staff shortages and a lack of supervision at meal times.
Stakeholders warn it's only going to get worse following State Budget cuts while others say the fault lay with under-resourced nursing homes where most of them come from or fasting patients who are continually bumped for surgery.
The Medical Error Action Group said it was a nationwide problem exacerbated by lack of supervision at meal times and the belief older patients were just "bed blockers" who would die anyway.
"It's neglect, just sheer neglect of the elderly in hospitals and they're not supervised in meal times," Medical Error Action Group spokeswoman Lorraine Long said.
“I think it's like if you're at a certain age in hospital, who cares, you're going to die."
Ms Long said for hygiene reasons, the food handlers couldn't unwrap or take lids off the food when it's delivered, but neither could many elderly patients. “It's then up to the nurse on duty to come around to the patient to make sure they eat it, if they can," she said.
In the 2011-12 financial year, dehydration was either the principal or secondary cause of death for 1190 patients who died - up from 1178 in 2008-09. Of those, 218 were not dehydrated when admitted.
There were another 923 cases last financial year where malnutrition was either the principal or secondary cause of death - up from 676 in 2008-09. Of those, 43 were not malnourished when admitted.
Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said the situation was "unacceptable". "Without getting in and understanding each individual case, you would actually hope in a hospital environment, the issue of basic nutrition and hydration would be something pretty easy to control you would think," he said.
Mr Springborg said hospital staff should take the time to ensure the packaging was removed, particularly for patients who would struggle with it.
"The simple reality is a person who’s got a dexterity issue, should they actually be presented with a fruit juice in a foil covered thing where it hasn't been pulled back for them? That doesn't take a lot of time to do," Mr Springborg said.
"It's about getting the basic stuff right and that's what we've got to do...and I'm not going to accept shroud waving and excuses."
Queensland Nurses Union secretary Beth Mohle said the issue was complex and hospitals weren't necessarily to blame.
She said people could have medical conditions that affected their ability to swallow, such as stroke patients.
"The main issue is age. Older people do lose their appetite and it is really almost a full-time job to keep some older people interested in their food and fluid intake," she said.
"That's why it's important to have appropriate numbers and skill mix of people working in aged care facilities. If we haven't got appropriate staffing numbers and skill mix of people to understand that nutritional integrity is really important, then patients can easily deteriorate.”
Australian Medical Association Queensland president Alex Markwell said malnutrition was a common medical problem and patients with cancer and cystic fibrosis particularly struggled to maintain adequate nutrition levels.
"A lot of people in hospitals have some form of malnutrition but that's not because we're not trying to fix it," Dr Markwell said.
"Putting a feeding tube down, food supplements, all of those things help but they're not the same as if you were able to eat as much as your body needs through the normal way.”
A hospital Emergency department that is useless in an emegency
Two patients in severe danger left to wait until they give up and go elsewhere
THE parents of a Garibaldi food poisoning victim who required urgent medical attention say they waited eight hours at the Royal Adelaide Hospital before leaving without treatment - and finding a parking fine on their car.
Chilean migrant pensioners Juan and Nancy Fuentes say they took their adult son to the RAH emergency department on May 3 after he attempted to commit suicide.
The couple say they left the hospital after eight hours, without receiving treatment for their son, and found a parking ticket for $50 on their car, written 20 minutes after arrival around 7pm.
They ended up taking their son to a locum doctor and he was later admitted to Lyell McEwin Hospital, where he stayed for a month. He is now receiving specialist mental health care in Melbourne.
Meanwhile, the couple disputed the parking fine and were sent a letter saying they faced a $424 court-ordered bill - although that has since been waived. They say the hospital showed "no compassion" for their situation.
The Garibaldi epidemic began in early 1995 when Nikki Robinson, 4, died after eating the smallgoods company's metwurst. She was among dozens rushed to the Women's and Children's Hospital with severe diarrhoea and abdominal pains caused by E coli and 23 children developed Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome.
Liberal health spokesman Martin Hamilton-Smith said victims of the Garibaldi food poisoning were "promised gold card-level priority care by the health system" and it was "a disgrace" the Fuentes family were left to wait so long.
"Here is another example of an overwhelmed ED just days after a damning national report which found SA to be the worst-performing state," he said.
Mr Hamilton-Smith said he had written to Health Minister John Hill about the issue of car parking at hospitals. He suggested doctors and nurses be able to issue "pink slips" to patients who arrive "in crisis" which would waive the fee for parking in a restricted carpark in an emergency.
Mr Hill said he had received correspondence from Mr Hamilton-Smith today. He said he understood the family waited for five hours, not eight, and that the son's injuries had been classified as category four. Category five is the lowest priority.
Mr Hill said patients involved in the Garibaldi poisoning were given a Health Department card which gave them "priority and free care" but not "an opportunity to use any of our health systems to get service ahead of anybody else who's got a higher medical need".
Mr Hill said the couple were issued with a parking fine because they parked in a spot reserved for an emergency department doctor.
The fine has since been waived but Mr Hill warned "you just can't park in doctors' car parks ... no matter how urgent you think it is because the doctors need those parking spots so they can get in to the emergency department to do their jobs".
Northern Territory public hospitals trump them all for waiting times
SOME patients are waiting more than 24 hours in Territory emergency departments, often because the rest of the hospital is so full there is nowhere else for them to go, a report shows.
The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) found Territory waiting times have increased since last year and are among the worst in the country. The report used figures taken at 10am on Monday, September 3, which found about one-fifth of Territory patients had been in the emergency department for more than 24 hours.
Health Minister Dave Tollner said the figures were "unacceptable" but did not reveal how the CLP would improve the situation.
"Absolutely I'm concerned about it," he said. "Until we know the financial context of the situation we find ourselves in, i.e. Labor's debt, we can't do a lot as far as identifying what programs we can afford to run."
Labor spokesman Kon Vatskalis said wait times across the board were bad, but had decreased for category one and two patients.
He said the problem was caused by a doctor shortage.
The national study compared figures for regional groups, one of which comprised seven emergency departments in the NT, SA and ACT
Researchers found there were 302 patients in emergency departments across the three jurisdictions, 46 of whom had experienced "dangerously long" wait times of more than 24 hours.
In contrast, Victorian and Tasmanian emergency departments treated twice as many patients but did not have one person with a 24-hour stay.
ACEM president Dr Sally McCarthy said things needed to change. She said hospitals could reduce emergency waiting times by ensuring inpatient resources catered to demand and introducing over-capacity protocols.
14 September, 2012
Footballer of Lebanese origins can dish it out but can't take it
Rather what we expect of Middle-Eastern persons
Robbie Farah, the NRL star who has called for tougher laws to fight internet trolls, has apologised for a tweet he sent last year in which he said Prime Minister Julia Gillard should be given a noose for her birthday.
It has been revealed that, in September last year, on Ms Gillard's 50th birthday, Farah responded to a tweet from former league star, now Triple M radio host, Mark Geyer, asking "what would you buy the PM for her birthday? It's her 50th today" with the words: "a noose".
At the weekend, Farah was sent four tweets from a user who called himself Nathan Elliott Gray. In addition to insulting Farah's late mother, Sonia, one tweet referred to Farah himself as a "football playing f---".
The Wests Tigers captain then called on the Prime Minister and the police to put an end to vicious trolls online.
"I was very shocked and appalled to receive this vile comment on my Twitter account," Farah said in a statement on Monday.
A strange verdict
In many jurisdictions, defence of others is equated with self-defense
THREE men who acted with "great courage" and selfless concern when intervening after they saw a machete-wielding man harassing a pair of teenagers have been jailed for beating him to death.
The men had been driving along the South Gippsland Highway at Cranbourne North in September 2009 when they saw 24-year-old Scott Shaw chasing and swinging a machete at two 15-year-olds.
When one occupant of their car cried out for Shaw to leave the children alone, Shaw repeatedly struck the car with his machete. It was at that point that Stephen McEwan, 40, got out of his car and was threatened by Shaw, before Shaw continued along the highway, intimidating passing motorists with the machete.
McEwan and his co-accused, James Robb, 53, and Normunds Dambitis, 43, chased after Shaw.
They eventually cornered him beside a parked bus and attacked him, with McEwan using a fishing rod and Dambitis a tree branch.
Shaw died in hospital six days later of brain injuries.
McEwan was found guilty of murder by a Victorian Supreme Court jury. Robb was convicted of manslaughter, while Dambitis was found guilty of defensive homicide.
The court heard that earlier that evening Shaw and a friend had set upon another two teenagers, and assaulted one of them, without any cause or provocation.
Justice Stephen Kaye said the men had initially intervened out of selfless concern and "acted with great courage".
"It is quite possible that, as a result of your intervention, you may well have saved those young persons from the serious consequences of violence at the hands of Scott Shaw and his friend," he said yesterday.
But while Shaw's conduct that night could be criticised, Justice Kaye said, it was no excuse for the men to have taken his life in a brutal attack,
McEwan was sentenced to 16½ years' jail with a non-parole period of 12½ years. Robb was sentenced to eight years. He was ordered to serve a minimum 5½ years. Dambitis was jailed for 11 years, with a minimum of eight.
A group of 40 asylum seekers plus AFP officers have landed on Nauru
AN Afghan asylum seeker says he doesn't mind risking his life in a boat journey to Australia and staying for years on Nauru, because all of his expenses will be paid for there.
As the first asylum seekers - between 40 and 50 Sri Lankans - land on Nauru this morning in a return to the Pacific solution the Government hopes will stop boats, the 17-year-old who is waiting with others in Indonesia for boats said he had "no problems" with the arrangement.
Medi said his family were in Pakistan waiting for him to find them better life in Australia so he will brave the danger. "I'll for sure try it," he told ABC Radio from Java about his plans to pay people smugglers, despite the fact he had to be saved in two previous doomed voyages, one in which 200 people died. "I need a life in peace."
Asked if he had heard of Australia's new policy to process asylum seekers in Nauru and PNG he said: "Yea". "That will be no problem for me because here I have to expend my own money but there all of my expenses are (sic) Australia. "But still I will risk my life and go by boat and try again and again."
He said he wanted to be a good citizen in Australia.
The comments came as a team of Federal Police landed in Nauru with the first group of asylum seekers about 7.30am (AEST). They will be taken by bus to the Topside offshore processing camp and stay in tents while permanent accommodation is fixed up.
The last food stocks were delivered to the tent city last night, and final building works finished.
The Government will operate a regular charter air service this month, with the centre expected to host 500 asylum seekers by the end of September.
The Government also announced yesterday it would accept 1000 refugees from Syria in 2012-13. A recent jump in the humanitarian intake from 13,750 to 20,000 has allowed the Government to accept the refugees.
The federal government has said that reasonable steps would be taken to ensure the asylum seekers followed instructions.
"Section 198AD refers to the taking of people to a regional processing country - provides for certain actions that may be taken to effect that transfer, including placing the person on a vehicle or vessel and restraining them," she said.
"It also provides in doing these things an officer may use such force as is necessary or reasonable."
Also yesterday a boat carrying the fifth-largest group of people to arrive this year was intercepted off Western Australia.
All persons arriving by boat since August 13 run the risk of being taken to Nauru for processing or to another detention facility being reopened on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.
Locomotives from five operators hook up to celebrate centenary of the start on the Trans-Australia Railway
TOMORROW will be a train-spotter's paradise: locomotives from five operators across Australia in their gleaming, separate liveries all hooked together for an historic rail trip.
It's 100 years tomorrow since the turning of the first sod, by Governor-General Lord Demnan, on the Trans-Australia Railway - the 1960km stretch of rail from Pt Augusta to Kalgoorlie that connected Australia's east and west coast, decades before bitumen roads.
A special train organised by the Australasian Railway Association and featuring the line-up of locos will leave Keswick passenger terminal at 8am tomorrow.
With a Pichi Richi steam train, it is due to arrive in Port Augusta at 12.30pm for a ceremony led by federal and state transport ministers, Anthony Albanese and Patrick Conlon.
The five-loco train will leave Port Augusta at 3.15pm for a return to Keswick at 8.20pm.
National Railway Museum executive officer Bob Sampson said yesterday train-enthusiast photographers and sound recorders would be out in force at crossings and cuttings along the way.
"We've got train-brains coming in from all states; nothing like this has ever happened before," he said.
One of the drivers will be Adelaide's Mark Mackiewicz in a new loco from Pacific National, which contracts to pull freight as well as the Ghan and Indian-Pacific passenger trains on the line.
"We often see train-spotters photographing trains but I'm tipping there'll be a lot more for this one," he said.
Construction on the Trans-Australia Line continued throughout World War I to be completed in October 1917. It includes what is still the world's longest stretch of straight track: 478km from Nurina to Ooldea.
"The bridging of our nation was one of the great contributors to our economic prosperity and continues to this day," said Geoff Smith managing director of STC, one of the operators providing a locomotive.
Other locos will come from Genesee & Wyoming, QR National, CFCLA and Pacific National.
Long waits in Canberra public hospitals 'frightening': study
A frightening number of patients are being forced to wait in emergency departments for more than 24 hours before being admitted to hospital, according to the author of a new study.
Professor Drew Richardson, of the ANU and Australian College for Emergency Medicine, said unacceptably large numbers of patients in the ACT, Northern Territory and South Australia were experiencing dangerously long stays in emergency departments.
ANU researchers contacted all accredited emergency departments in Australia on September 3 to find out how many patients were being treated and whether they were waiting for inpatient beds.
The results were not broken down by individual hospitals and the ACT's findings were grouped with South Australia and the Northern Territory. In South Australia and the territories, 46 out of 302 patients had been waiting in excess of 24 hours for admission to a ward.
"There's been an increase in the number of patients waiting for beds - quite a frightening number," Professor Richardson said. "I'd particularly like to emphasise the dangerously long ED times of over 24 hours."
Western Australia EDs had an average of 0.6 patients who had been waiting longer than 24 hours for admission and NSW hospitals averaged 1.3 per ED.
Changes are due to begin in The Canberra Hospital emergency department today, which include the opening of four additional beds and a new process which will involve patients being seen more quickly by doctors. Six more beds will also be opened in a medical ward which will allow quicker admission.
Professor Richardson said Western Australian hospitals had improved over the past three years after the introduction of a four-hour target for having patients treated and admitted or sent home.
There had also been improvements in Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania over the past year but things had deteriorated in the three bottom-ranked jurisdictions.
Professor Richardson said other states had made changes to relieve pressure. "Other jurisdictions have gone with international best practice. They've reviewed how many beds they've got and how those beds are distributed," he said. "They've introduced protocols that moved people to the wards in a more timely fashion, they've got a proper winter bed management plan."
Professor Richardson said the territories and South Australia had failed to embrace the same changes.
In an election debate yesterday, Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said the government had increased funding for the emergency department by 146 per cent.
"The health system can't be fixed overnight, it takes a long time to address areas of pressure and the emergency department will not be fixed by necessarily investing only in the emergency department," she said. "One of the biggest pressures is how many [hospital] beds we have. We had 114 beds taken out of the system when we came to government and we had to replace them."
Opposition health spokesman Jeremy Hanson said the report provided further evidence of the "shocking state" of ACT emergency departments. "It's clear that only a change of government will fix the state of Canberra's health system," Mr Hanson said.
13 September, 2012
Trawler ban just Greenie hysteria
A TOP fisheries scientist has slammed the government's 11th-hour move to stop the controversial Abel Tasman super trawler as unscientific and driven by political expediency.
Colin Buxton, the director of the fisheries, aquaculture and coasts centre at the University of Tasmania's institute for marine and antarctic studies, said that the size of the 142-metre Dutch-owned trawler did not mean that it posed any greater environmental risk than several smaller vessels.
"It's just staggering [that] popularism and political expediency is now managing our fisheries," he said. "I think it's incredibly dangerous. It's really sad that the decision has been handed down in this way."
Professor Buxton said the 18,000-tonne fish quota given to Seafish Tasmania was sustainable according to solid science.
He said that an ecosystem model developed by the CSIRO - regarded as the "best ecological model available" - had been used to calculate the total population of fish and any potential impact on the food chain.
Professor Buxton, who stressed he had no connection with any company, industry body or regulator, said that "localised depletion" - the danger of emptying out a part of the ocean if a large ship fished too long in one place - was probably less of a risk with the super trawler.
The advantage of the super trawler, which has its own processing facilities and freezers, was that it could fish over a large area without being tied to ports.
"If you had 10 small trawlers tied to a place like Triabunna [in Tasmania], there would be a much, much higher chance of localised depletion," he said. "These same people who are concerned about the … trawler and [are saying] you could take 10 small boats out there and that's a better idea. Based on what?"
He also rejected claims that not enough scientific research existed.
Professor Buxton said that the net size and catching capacity of the Abel Tasman were "not dissimilar" to net sizes already being used in waters off the west coast of Tasmania.
CSIRO goes off the rails over climate
The CSIRO is supposed to be Australia's premier scientific research organization but hysteria seems to have taken over. The “Planet under Pressure” conference (PUP) in London in March, 2012, is now just a historical curiosity. It was meant to turbocharge the Rio + 20 eco-summit last June but that summit never quite took us to its poverty-ending, green global economy. However, the London warm-up is worth a second look, if only because:
* More than 40 CSIRO people attended. Assuming $6000 per head on fares, hotels etc, that’s a quarter-million dollars
* Another 40 Australian scientists and academics also went along – make that a half-million dollars total.  Did any attend the conference session on “Reinforcing sustainable travel behaviour”?
* “Nut-jobs on the internet” claimed the London show pushed for Dr-Evil-style global climate government. I found coded remarks in the conference verbiage but then turned up a press interview by the conference’ co-chair, our CSIRO’s top climateer Mark Stafford-Smith. He called for a “sustainable development council within the United Nations that has the same level of authority as the Security Council.” Not bad from a non-elected CSIRO politician. Pause to reflect that 55% of the 193 UN countries are dictatorships.
* More than 1200 “scientific” papers were showcased, of which only three or four expressed even a tiny doubt about dangerous human-caused warming (AGW). Yet even the IPCC is only 90% sure. Those papers of interest included “solving the cloud problem in climate models” and “solar forcing of winter climate variability”. The other 1197-plus papers went into third-order issues such as “Solving the problem of how to solve problems: planning in a climate of change”. One I particularly liked went:
“To unite scientists and global publics in a climate change Quest, communicators need to attend rigorously to the narrative-dramatic dynamics of stakeholder sensemaking. The depth of fear and despair when fully engaged with the tragic Downfall plot should not be underestimated…We urgently need to develop the skills of reading and leading climate change plots. In so doing, we can build understanding of the social drama of data.”
* Since the purported AGW would change everything in the world, the 1200 papers at London could be multiplied ten-fold or thousand-fold as long as grant-money continues. An example from the conference of the proliferation: “Care and justice: the contribution of feminist and environmental justice approaches to counteract power in environmental governance.”
The CSIRO claims that “almost all” of its 40+ attendees gave papers. Since the conference was four days of 8.30am-5pm, plus a smidgen of slack or “unconference” time before cocktails and dinners, I thought I’d check.
A search elicits 11 CSIRO papers discussed at the conference. The conference also allowed 13 CSIRO people to put up on the wall, literally, a poster about their research, along with the other 1160 contributors’ posters, thus burnishing everyone’s CVs. Worthwhile? Taxpayers, you be the judge.
One CSIRO scientist scored an own goal in his paper on adaptation of Australian agriculture to climate change. Farmers were managing OK, “given that the climate change signal has not yet exceeded the ‘variability noise’ “. Yet a CSIRO colleague had a paper: “Climate change impacts on farmer mental health: emerging connections”. How can our farmers be going mad from AGW if it’s not yet detectable?
But I’m rambling. What about that world-governing conspiracy? Dr Stafford-Smith gave an interview from the conference to AAP on March 29:
Mark Stafford Smith, scientific director of CSIRO's climate adaption flagship, says it's no longer enough for individual nations to try to be sustainable.
Rather a new "planetary stewardship" is needed, he says.
"Something like a sustainable development council ... in the UN system which has the same level of authority as the security council and which can drive a much more integrated approach," Dr Stafford Smith told reporters via a phone hook-up from London...”
There was now a need for a "constitutional moment", like that in the 1940s which saw the establishment of the World Bank and other institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, to drive the new UN council, he said.
When the conference ended, Dr Stafford-Smith co-drafted with a Dr Lidia Brito the conference’s “Declaration”. As one breathless environment reporter from the New York Times introduced it, humanity’s anti-green obtuseness could hurt the earth as badly as “meteoric collisions”. The key tract from the Smith/Brito manifesto is:
“Fundamental reorientation and restructuring of national and international institutions is required to overcome barriers to progress and to move to effective Earth-system governance…Current understanding supports the creation of a Sustainable Development Council within the UN system to integrate social, economic and environmental policy at the global level.” 
Who is Dr Stafford-Smith, this Napoleon-scale environmentalist? He spent 30 years studying desert bushes and bugs, as a good CSIRO scientist should.
But one of the bugs may have infected him with apocalypse fever. In 2009 he published, with CSIRO colleague Julian Cribb, the paperback “Dry Times: Blueprint for a Red Land”, priced at an alarming $49.95. The book concludes,
“Australians use of the country’s resources, their demand for increasing material standard of living and now their contribution to global climate change [what? 1.5% of global emissions?] have wrought profound changes to this once isolated continent. The great cities of Australia are already experiencing water shortages. … In fact, the dry part of Australia is expanding. The entire continent is now subject to some disturbing trends, which are starting to resemble the desert drivers. The climate is moving into realms hitherto unexperienced: unpredictable and out of local control…” (p145)
Hardly had the CSIRO book hit the counter, than a vast sheet of floodwater travelled the length of the Eastern States. The rivers turned Lake Eyre into a bonanza for operators of inland sea scenic flights, which continue to this day. The rains replenished the dams of Brisbane and Sydney and even the parched Melbourne dams are now 77% full.
His co-author Julian Cribb, unabashed, put out another CSIRO paperback ($29.95) in 2010, “The Coming Famine”. As CSIRO’s blurb puts it, “Julian Cribb lays out a vivid picture of an impending planetary crisis – a global food shortage that threatens to hit by mid-century – which, he argues, would dwarf any in our previous experience.” Deserts, floods, famine, whatever. CSIRO loves the dismal.
Dr Stafford-Smith also claims the scientific community is “thinly-stretched”, which seems a bit whiney after $US68 billion in US federal spending alone on climate research and development from 1989-2009. 
The patrons for the London conference were the usual UN apparatchiks, activist and industry reps, academics, and a couple of standouts: our own Climate Comedian – sorry, Climate Commissioner - Tim Flannery and Phil Bloomer, director of campaigns and policy for Oxfam, a charity celebrated for its “75-million-climate-refugees” howler concerning Pacific islanders, whose population is only 7 million in the first place.
A Professor Iain Gordon of the UK’s Hutton Institute told the conference that humans had upped the natural extinction rate by 1000 times, “based on reliable data”, and 10%-30% of mammal, bird and amphibian species are at risk of extinction. The “1000 times” factoid was a statistical raving from a tract by the activist International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and the “10%-30% extinction” factoid from the 2007 IPCC report was exposed several years ago as a complete crock.  How could Professor Williams be so credulous? Well, his previous career was with CSIRO, which is is too inward-focused even to take this clanger off its website:
“Australia has experienced the worst drought in recorded history, and as one consequence many cities and regions have faced severe water supply constraints. These issues have highlighted the reality of global climate change, the massive impacts that it is likely to have on our continent...”
If the drought “highlights the reality of global climate change”, what do our recent floods highlight?
Still, climate conferences wouldn’t be the same without the CSIRO’s helpful inputs.
Dengue vaccine shows promise in clinical trial
Good news for Northern Australia, where Dengue is endemic. Mosquito eradication keeps it under some control but Mosquito eradication is always imperfect
A major clinical trial of the frontrunner in the race for a dengue fever vaccine is showing great promise.
Every year, the World Health Organisation estimates between 50 and 100 million people are infected with the virus, and the most vulnerable are children and adolescents.
Scientists have been searching for a vaccine for the last 90 years. But now a drug developed by a French company has shown encouraging results, protecting against three of the four types of dengue virus in Thai children.
Cameron Simmons, a professor working in Oxford University's clinical research unit in Vietnam, says the results are hugely encouraging. "It's regarded as a neglected tropical disease. The sheer scale of the disease burden in dengue endemic countries is enormous," he told PM. "It's a major public health problem, places enormous strain on often fragile healthcare systems."
The major clinical trial of the drug involved 4,000 primary school aged children in Thailand.
"We were optimistic and hopeful that we would see protection against all four dengue viruses," Professor Simmons said. "What the study has shown us is that the vaccine seems to offer protection against three and not four of the dengue viruses.
"There's more research to be done to really try and understand why protection is not against all four but we're heading in the right direction. I think that's the important result."
There is no clinical difference between the four types of virus; the patient still presents with symptoms like muscle and joint pain, fever, rashes, hair loss, intense headache and extreme fatigue.
The one type of dengue not affected by the vaccine was the most prevalent type in the study's region, and there are concerns that may have dragged down the results.
The fact that it appears to have worked on the other three has already led to speculation that that could be enough to prevent severe disease, but Professor Simmons is not so sure.
"I think a trial of that trivalent vaccine could be possible," he said. "But it's going to need a lot more research to understand from a modelling perspective what a trivalent vaccine might do to the epidemiology of dengue in an endemic setting and also very importantly the cost effectiveness of such a vaccine."
Professor Simmons says even for countries like Vietnam, where child mortality rates from dengue fever are relatively low, any hope is welcome. "The disease burden is enormous here, 10 to 15 per cent of the hospitalised patients in the hospital that I work in are dengue cases," he said.
"So it's one of the most important causes of hospitalisation for children. So the scale of the disease burden is enormous, public health importance is very large. "One dengue virus infection actually predisposes you to a more severe infection a second time around and so it's a complicated disease in that fashion."
A third stage of the trial involving 30,000 people from South-East Asia and Latin America is due to deliver results in 2014.
Professor Simmons says he is hoping for a fully-fledged dengue virus vaccine within five to 10 years.
Unforgiveable errors in Canberra public hospitals
There have been protocols to prevent things being left inside patients for around a century. It should NEVER happen. That it did indicates complete indifference to the job
A patient at an ACT hospital recently required a second operation after medical staff left a surgical instrument inside the person's abdomen, documents reveal.
The incident, described as a "catastrophic" mistake in internal ACT Health documents, sparked an education session for staff to make sure they understood the policy for keeping track of instruments during surgeries.
Audits were also done to reduce the risk of a similar error but ACT Health refuses to reveal which instrument staff left inside the patient.
The patient was admitted for an emergency laparotomy - a large cut made to access the abdominal cavity which contains a number of organs including the liver, pancreas, spleen and kidneys - which is when the blunder was made.
It is not clear at which hospital the mistake was made.
The documents obtained by The Canberra Times outline mistakes made at The Canberra Hospital and Calvary Hospital from July 2011 to July 2012 and also reveal information about:
* Two deaths in ACT hospitals in the same period have been labelled catastrophic. The deaths of these patients were classed as being unrelated to the natural course of illness and differing from the immediate expected medical outcome.
* Two "near misses" where too much medication was given to patients, one of whom was given 50 times too much sedative.
* A surgery done on the wrong side of someone's body, the second case of its kind in the ACT in 18 months.
* A failure to follow correct guidelines was found when a patient was given another patient's blood, a mistake which did not adversely affect the person given the transfusion.
An ACT Health spokesman said the number of adverse incidents occurring was minuscule when compared with the thousands of procedures performed each year. The Health Directorate did 18,219 surgical procedures in 2011-12.
One of the two deaths described in the documents involved an unrecognised oesophageal intubation.
According to medical references, this mistake occurs when a tube goes into the oesophagus, which leads to the stomach, rather than the windpipe. In the second death referred to in the documents, staff were considering whether to retrospectively refer the patient's death to the coroner. The patient - located in a women, youth and children's ward - had suffered from a condition related to fluid around the heart.
In terms of over-medication cases, the documents say one "near miss situation" involved a patient transferred to the ACT from a regional hospital who was given 50 times too much of a fast-working sedative.
The staff member who gave 25 milligrams of Midazolam to the patient instead of 0.5 milligrams was traumatised by the error which happened when the sedative needed to be administered quickly.
"It seems the error occurred due to communication about the volume of the medication," her supervisor wrote in an internal report.
In a second medication mix-up, a patient was intravenously given 10 times too much paracetamol.
The internal ACT Health documents suggest an administrative error was to blame for surgery being performed on the wrong side of a patient's body.
In a case reported late last year which is now before the ACT Supreme Court, it was revealed an elderly woman, Lima Thatcher, allegedly had an operation on the wrong hip at the start of 2011.
12 September, 2012
Conservarive Archbishop pulls no punches about homosexual health
Some truths should not be uttered, apparently
A LABOR senator and marriage equality advocates have taken aim at Sydney's Anglican archbishop, describing as offensive his comments about the health risks of homosexuality.
As a guest of the ABC's Q&A program last night, Dr Jensen told viewers he supported the Australian Christian Lobby's view first expressed by its leader Jim Wallace. Dr Jensen said: "I am generally supportive of ACL."
But while he did not agree with everything the Lobby stood for he said that the comments made by Mr Wallace gave "us an opportunity to talk about something significant, namely the question of health risk".
Mr Wallace made the comments in a debate last week where he compared smoking to same-sex marriage.
His insensitive comments forced Prime Minster Julia Gillard to pull out of an appearance she was due to make at a function for the ACL.
"It's very hard to get to the facts here because we don't want to talk about it and in this country censorship is alive and well," he said. "As far as I can see … the lifespan of practising gays is significantly shorter than the ordinary so-called heterosexual man … what we need to do is to look at why this may be the case and we need to do it in a compassionate and objective way."
Federal Labor backbencher Trish Crossin told reporters in Canberra today the remarks were offensive. "Particularly for people who have smoked, who have developed cancer as a result of that, and (for) loved ones who have lost families," she said.
Senator Crossin is the co-sponsor of a private bill to legalise same-sex marriage, which could be voted on next week. "What we want to do is force the coalition to have a conscience vote on this, like they do with every other piece of legislation," she said.
Marriage equality advocates called on Dr Jensen to apologise for his "cruel" comments on homosexuality.
Australian Marriage Equality national convener, Alex Greenwich, said he would write to Dr Jensen highlighting the damage his comments will cause and seeking an apology.
"Although we have come to expect extreme anti-gay statement from the Australian Christian Lobby, for a religious leader like Archbishop Jensen to make such cruel claims is a betrayal of his duty of care to his parishioners, especially those who are gay or have gay friends and family members," Mr Greenwich said in a statement.
CSG miners get to drill everywhere in NSW
FARMERS have lost their fight for greater protection from coal seam gas (CSG) miners, with the state government refusing to fence off any land from exploration. The miners were was given the OK yesterday to start drilling on farm land, albeit under the "strongest restrictions in the world".
The government released its strategic regional land use policy, outlining the extra hurdles companies will have to jump to start work.
Mining companies will have to prove any extraction will not destroy water quality, or prime farming and grazing land.
And in a bid to appease farmers, the government has removed the clause that gave it power to override the restrictions in exceptional circumstances. All CSG companies will have to meet the strict guidelines.
Farmers Association president Fiona Simson said farmers were not protected by the policy. "We got an incomplete package with watered down water protections and a virtual green light for exploration and mining right across most of the state," Ms Simson said.
Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham accused the Premier of "declaring war" on farmers.
But Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee said the increased regulation would make NSW less attractive for mining companies. "The area of land classified strategic has increased threefold since the draft mapping was first released in March, so much more land will be covered by the new gateway assessment process," he said.
"This new layer of project assessment comes at a time when commodity prices are falling and production and other input costs in Australia are rising."
Suspect wheat variety not used in GM trial
CALLS to abandon a genetically modified wheat trial in Western Australia amid reports certain varieties could cause liver failure have been dismissed by the state government as scaremongering.
New Zealand-based genetics lecturer Jack Heinemann has warned that if humans eat one of the CSIRO's genetically modified wheat varieties, it could suppress glycogen production, leading to liver failure.
CSIRO said the claims had not been published in a peer-reviewed journal but would be considered by the organisation and regulatory bodies along with all other relevant research.
It was trialling both GM and non-GM versions of high amylose wheat, which had increased levels of resistant starch that could have positive benefits for bowel health and people with diabetes, CSIRO said.
Resistant starch is a type of carbohydrate that is not digested in the small intestine and travels into the large intestine, where it plays a key role in digestive function.
In the wake of the report, WA opposition agriculture spokesman Paul Papalia called on the Barnett government to abandon a trial of GM wheat in Merredin, which was announced in 2010.
However, a spokesman for the state's agriculture minister Terry Redman said the variety in question was not being trialled in WA.
Mr Redman said a trial of the variety in the ACT was not complete, so it was too early to say whether it was safe.
"To claim halfway through a trial, speculating in fact, that something's unsafe now is quite frankly too early to do so, and I think scaremongering," he told ABC.
ACCC still harassing Google
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has told the High Court that Google is responsible for misleading content in its sponsored links.
Google is fighting a ruling that it engaged in misleading conduct when some advertisers used the names of competitors to attract searchers to their links.
The ACCC says these sponsored links give the false impression the businesses are linked.
In April, the full Federal Court found that Google had engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct. Google has gone to the High Court to challenge the decision.
Lawyers for the ACCC have told the High Court that Google is liable because its program Adwords, from which advertisers buy search keywords, sets the conditions under which advertisements appear.
But Google argues it is only a conduit and the advertisers have determined the content.
In a statement, the search giant says, "we believe that advertisers should be responsible for the ads they create on the AdWords platform".
Google has also raised concerns in the High Court that the volume of material which passes through its program would make any compliance obligations difficult and could potentially decimate its sponsored link program.
Law expert Justine Munsie, a partner in the media and intellectual property area at law firm Addisons, has been following the case.
She says Google has faced court cases in the US and Europe over what users expect to see when conducing an internet search, but this case is different.
What the case is about is the ACCC saying that consumers have been misled and deceived by the way that Google runs its search engine formulas and policy.
Because when you or I put a search term into a Google search, two sorts of things come up in the search engine. One is what they call the organic search results, which are those search results that relate directly to the search term that we enter.
And then there are the sponsored links; so that if a person enters a search term on Google, that person's ad pops up as a result but it is in fact not a response to a user's query but essentially an ad, a link to that person's own business.
So you'll find competitors buying search terms of their own competitors so that when people put in a search term, in this case, for example, for Harvey World Travel, a competitor of Harvey World Travel will buy the search term and their ad, the competitor's ad, will pop up as a search result.
And the ACCC took umbrage at this because they said: well, this is bad for consumers because consumers don't know when they are searching on Google whether what they are getting is a real answer to their search question or whether it's simply an ad for somebody else's business.
Graffiti vandal loses freedom of expression appeal
A serial graffiti artist has lost his court fight for the right to paint over public advertising as an act of free expression.
Kyle Magee, a university student from Collingwood, told police he painted over an advertisement on a tram shelter as part of his personal protest against the global advertising industry.
He was convicted and fined $500 for damaging property.
Magee appealed against his punishment, arguing the Victorian Human Rights Charter gave him the right to deface advertising under freedom of expression.
The Supreme Court judge ruled the graffiti did not constitute a protected form of expression and he was ordered to pay the court costs.
Magee has previously spent weeks in custody for painting over city advertising.
Outside court, he refused to speak to reporters, taking issue with what he called a "corporate media presence".
11 September, 2012
A very frank video
About how the carbon dioxide tax land scam works in Australia. It is truly extraordinary to see how much money is involved and where it goes
If the video does not come up, go here.
1. Why does it take a TV group based in the Philippines to provide this insightful view into what is happening in Australia – just WHERE are the so-called mainstream Australian media on issues like this (that’s a rhetorical question: no need to answer); and
2. When will Koozzoo make similar programs explaining the shonky science of climate change, the irrationality of MRET schemes and the futility of alternative energy as a source for the grid?
Councils can jettison UN sea-rise rules
THE O'Farrell government will ditch UN sea-level rise predictions as the basis for coastal management, after local council decisions based on what climate change might do by the end of the century shattered waterfront property values.
The move, foreshadowed by The Australian in March, is likely to lead to renewed national debate on the application of long-term greenhouse effect forecasts to actual planning policy.
In an announcement today, the state government will say that climate change science is "continually evolving", producing uncertainty surrounding sea level rise predictions. The change follows an extensive review by a cabinet committee that re-examined the science of coastal processes.
It comes after revelations in The Weekend Australian owners of 62 beach-front properties at Lake Cathie on the NSW mid-north coast had suffered huge drops in the value of their homes after the Port Macquarie-Hastings council placed notations on their planning certificates saying they were at risk of coastal erosion. Another 17 home-owners at Lake Cathie had faced eviction, when a Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation study recommended "planned retreat" in the face of erosion, a proposal later rejected by the council.
Lake Cathie was one of 15 coastal erosion "hot spots" on the NSW seaboard identified by the former Labor government. Local councils covering those areas are in varying stages of developing coastal zone management plans, and have been required by laws introduced by Labor to take into account sea-level rise predictions of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
These laws compelled coastal councils to prepare for a forecast sea-level rise of 40cm by 2050 and 90cm by the turn of the century. Planners apply a formula known as the Bruun Rule, which estimates that every centimetre of sea-level rise will bring the tide a metre inland based on a standard beach, leading to coastal erosion.
Special Minister of State Chris Hartcher will announce a new coastal management policy that would free councils from having to rely on the IPCC predictions. In a statement, Mr Hartcher says "the heavy-handed application of Labor's sea-level rise planning benchmarks for 2050 and 2100 would go".
"The NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer has identified uncertainty in the projected rate of future sea-level rise given that the scientific knowledge in the field is continually evolving."
Based on the long-term IPCC predictions, the Port Macquarie-Hastings council in 2008 placed "Section 149" notations on houses at Lake Cathie warning they could be subject to coastal erosion, although they are separated from the beach by a 60m-70m strip of bushland and are nine metres above sea level. The notations had caused property values to fall by an average of 44 per cent based on sample valuations of four houses.
"There has been concern about the negative impacts on property values from these unclear Section 149 certificate notations," Mr Hartcher says in the statement.
The NSW government would issue advice to all councils to guide the preparation and use of section 149 certificates. "This will provide much-needed certainty for local communities on how these certificates refer to future coastal erosion hazard," the statement says.
The government will announce further changes to coastal management policy. Councils preparing coastal zone management plans will be given an extra 12 months to complete them.
Teenage meningitis victim 'sent home from Rockingham hospital', dies
A TEENAGE girl died of meningitis after being sent home in extreme pain by a West Australian hospital and told she would recover at home, a coronial inquiry has heard.
On the first day of an inquiry into the death of Amy Lee Dawkins, Deputy State Coroner Evelyn Vicker heard on Monday that the 17-year-old went to Rockingham General Hospital, about 40km south of Perth, on December 28, 2008, complaining of headaches and flu-like symptoms. The teenager was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection, treated with fluids and sent home.
A local GP prescribed antibiotics for Amy the next day, but her symptoms persisted. She returned to the hospital on January 7, 2009, where she complained of a sore neck and "11 out of 10" painful headaches.
This time Amy was diagnosed with meningitis and treated with painkillers, including aspirin, paracetamol, codeine and morphine. [Painkillers? Meningitis is usually bacterial. Why no antibiotics?]
But after a series of tests and being kept overnight, Amy was discharged the following day and told her condition would be "painful, but it would go away in a week".
At that point, she was in such pain she had to taken to a waiting car in a wheelchair. Just a day later, on January 10, Amy was rushed back to the hospital's emergency department suffering cardiac arrest due to complications from her meningitis.
A CT scan found severe swelling and fluid on her brain. Amy was transferred to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital's intensive care unit in Perth, where she was put on life support.
Kerry McGlew made the heart-wrenching decision to turn her daughter's life support off at 8.30pm the next day, and Amy was declared dead.
Media bias on schools policy stifles debate
NOW that Julia Gillard has endorsed the Gonski report in principle, and state and federal governments are deciding what the new model will look like post 2013, Australia's cultural-Left institutions such as the ABC, the Fairfax press and a number of universities are mounting a one-sided campaign against non-government schools by giving critics a free run.
The failure to offer a balanced and objective view of the funding debate is best illustrated by the ABC's 7.30 program telecast on August 20. The program centred on disadvantaged government schools.
Non-government school opponent Richard Teese, of the University of Melbourne, argued: "The biggest single predictor of differences in achievement is the social background of children."
This reinforces the argument that money must be redirected from non-government schools to government schools, but it is incorrect.
Teese's argument that there is no advantage in parents paying fees to send their children to non-government schools, as such schools fail to outperform government school students after adjusting for socioeconomic background, is also not supported by the research.
Another academic who is vocal in his opposition to non-government schools, David Zyngier from Monash University, has also been given airtime on the national broadcaster.
In ABC radio's The World Today on September 7, Zyngier was one of two pro-government-school voices versus a token independent school representative.
Zyngier argues that the main reason why Australia is outperformed by a number of Asian countries is because of "parents paying enormous amounts of their money for private tuition after school". He also repeats the mantra that demography is destiny and that children from low socioeconomic backgrounds are doomed to failure.
In fact, Asian countries outperform Australia because they have a more academic curriculum and more effective classroom pedagogy, their students face high-risk tests and the culture respects and values learning.
It's no accident that, compared with many Western countries, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan have significantly higher proportions of students defined as resilient - that is, classified as disadvantaged but able to achieve high performance.
A recent seminar at La Trobe University organised by Robert Manne, titled Education in Australia: The Struggle for Greater Equality, involved Carmen Lawrence, Teese and Dennis Altman. All were critical of funding to Catholic and independent schools. (Manne says a spokesman from the independent school sector had been invited to the seminar, making it three to one, but was unable to attend.)
Since the Gonski review was established more than two years ago the Fairfax press's editorial stance has been to attack non-government schools and to give priority to critics such as Jane Caro, Teese, Lawrence, Kenneth Davidson, and Trevor Cobbold.
Two pieces in last weekend's edition of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age best illustrate this bias.
In the piece titled "No fair go at school: Gonski", those interviewed include Lawrence, Zyngier and Chris Bonnor, and the argument that socioeconomic background determines success or failure is repeated.
Research by Gary Marks of the Australian Council for Educational Research analysing the impact of socioeconomic background on performance across 30 countries was ignored; it concludes that "both between and within schools, differences in student performance are not largely accounted for by socioeconomic background".
Also ignored is research commissioned by the OECD, published in a report titled "Let's Read Them a Story!", which concludes that, regardless of socioeconomic background, parents who read to their preschool children bolster their chances of educational success.
The report says, "PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results show that even among families with similar socioeconomic backgrounds, reading books to young children is still strongly related to better performance when those children reach the age of 15."
The second piece, published in The Age and titled "The invisible backpack, and why it makes the education gap hard to close", also repeats the cultural-Left view of education and includes comment by Zyngier and Teese.
Luckily, we have a free media and independent universities but on issues like school funding cultural-Left group-think is evident and, as a result, debate and public discussion suffer.
10 September, 2012
Greens' heartland turns against the radical party
AFTER a dramatic lift in electoral support over the past decade, rising from 2.1 per cent of the House of Representatives vote in 1998 to 11.8 per cent at the 2010 election and doubling their parliamentary representation from five to 10, the Greens may have hit a ceiling as their supporters appear to desert them in droves.
Saturday's NSW local government elections saw the Greens lose votes across a range of disparate groups and in almost every area of the state, from the coastal enclave of Byron Bay to the western suburbs of Sydney and the Blue Mountains beyond, and to the inner-city areas of Sydney that were fast emerging as a political base. While it may only be a series of municipal elections in one state, the problem for the Greens is that it comes after so many other recent lacklustre electoral performances and a discernible slide in opinion polls.
The Greens failed to perform strongly, let alone win, the recent by-elections for the state seats of Melbourne in Victoria and Heffron in NSW. In the Queensland and Northern Territory state elections, the Greens vote declined. The Greens argue their emergence as a third political force is only a transitory step towards being a mainstream alternative to the major parties. But, as the vast majority of voters seem to be content opting for Labor or the coalition parties for now, it must be time for the Greens to assess why it is that the voters are no longer going Green.
For too long the party has been content to operate in a political world devoid of reality and responsibility. The Greens make the incessant yet audacious claim that they encapsulate a holier-than-though approach to politics. But, as we have reported, the party is riddled with factions and is racked with internal divisions just like the major parties. The Greens evade scrutiny. They do not allow journalists to report the full proceedings of their conferences. They decry the influence of money in politics, yet accepted the largest individual political donation in Australian history -- $1.68 million from Wotif website pioneer Graeme Wood. When the Greens' party room witnessed a tussle for the deputy leadership between Christine Milne and Sarah Hanson-Young after the last election, it was not revealed until weeks later.
Although taking over from Bob Brown as leader would be a tough ask for anyone, Senator Milne has not taken the Greens forward by explaining how the party would fund its policies, showing it understands the vital art of compromise in politics -- especially over asylum-seeker policy -- or by developing an alternative mainstream policy agenda to interest voters. Instead, the costly list of Greens promises continues to lengthen, from implementing the Gonski Report on school funding to a National Dental Scheme and a National Disability Insurance Scheme. Criticising the Catholic Church, as Senator Milne did in The Weekend Australian, will also not help to win over mainstream voters. Meanwhile, the Greens want to shut down the mining sector, which has laid the basis for much of our economic prosperity and boosts the retirement incomes of many of its voters. It is no wonder that in the Greens heartland, stretching from Balmain to Byron Bay, the voters are turning against the party for taking them for granted.
Nauru ready for asylum arrivals
THE first asylum-seekers from Christmas Island may be on their way to Nauru as soon as tomorrow.
The Australian has been told Australian Federal Police officers and guards from the private company Serco will escort the asylum-seekers to Darwin tomorrow. From there they are scheduled to be taken to Nauru on Wednesday.
But Australia is yet to decide how long asylum-seekers will be kept on Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island to ensure there is "no advantage" for refugees arriving illegally by boat despite a new written agreement with Port Moresby.
As illegal boats continue to come, Australian and PNG definitions of the length of time asylum-seekers will be kept in detention centres remain at odds.
On the weekend Julia Gillard and PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill oversaw a new agreement governing the transfer of asylum-seekers to Manus Island and processing refugees, but the leaders provided different interpretations of how long people would be held there.
After the signing of the agreement, which was designed to head off a High Court challenge similar to the one that sank the Malaysia Solution last year, Mr O'Neill said he hoped asylum-seekers would be moved as soon as possible. Rejecting any suggestion PNG was going to "make money" out of the reopening of the Howard-era centre, he said asylum-seekers would be dealt with as speedily as possible.
But in Vladivostok, before leaving to join her family after her father's death, Ms Gillard said the agreement ensured the principle of "no advantage".
"Even if you are a genuine refugee, you would not get a resettlement opportunity earlier than you would have got it if you hadn't moved by boat," she told the ABC's Australia Network.
"The aim here is so people don't get an advantage if they get on a boat, pay a people-smuggler and risk their lives at sea."
Although Mr O'Neill said PNG wanted people treated humanely and processed as speedily as possible, Ms Gillard said Australia had not yet decided how long a refugee would have to be kept to ensure there was no advantage in coming illegally.
"We will consult with the High Commissioner for Refugees to ascertain what the right amount of time is," she said. "We want people resettled as quickly as possible, as does the Prime Minister of PNG and the President of Nauru."
In Nauru, there is an expectation the first of the asylum-seekers could be on the island by the end of this week.
An earlier deadline that would have seen between 50 and 100 arrive tomorrow was aborted at the request of the Naurans, who said the ablution blocks and catering services were not ready.
Sources on the island painted a picture of intense activity, with RAAF Hercules transport aircraft arriving daily with supplies and equipment.
The Australian has been told the tents to house the first asylum-seekers are up.
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen declined to say if the government would begin transfers this week.
States shrink at culling bloated bureaucracy
TOMORROW'S Queensland budget will provide a true litmus test of the preparedness of state Coalition governments across the eastern seaboard to reduce the size of government.
With revenue growth weak, budgets in deficit or wafer-thin surplus, and as public sector debts continue to mount, cutting government spending is essential to help restore sustainable state public finances.
Since public sector employment costs average about 44 per cent of general government sector operating budgets in the three big states, governments should reduce their workforces as part of meaningful fiscal consolidation strategies.
But the quantum of the public service cuts that the O'Farrell, Baillieu and Newman governments have announced or implemented have been, to put it kindly, meek and mild at best.
In NSW there has been speculation the government will cut up to a further 10,000 jobs, following its announcement last year to reduce its employment by 5000 people.
Queensland has already reduced its public sector by about 5000 jobs, with the budget likely to shed up to 14,000 jobs.
In Victoria, the Baillieu government has announced two rounds of public service reductions totalling about 4000 positions.
While these figures may seem large in isolation, in the context of total public sector employment these reductions represent a drop in the ocean.
According to the ABS, excluding the tertiary education sector, there were over one million state government employees in NSW, Victoria and Queensland as at June 2011.
In effect the job reductions already announced or implemented by coalition governments in the three big states roughly amount to less than two per cent of total state government employment.
And a considerable proportion of the redundancies so far have been either voluntary redundancies or retrenchments of contract workers whose terms were about to expire in any case.
Apart from the actual numbers of employees engaged, salaries and benefits paid will also have a bearing on the ability of state governments to contain their costs.
The O'Farrell government has been particularly active in this area, with its application to the state's Industrial Relations Commission to limit public servants' entitlements following its decision last year to legislate a cap on wages growth of 2.5 per cent.
These reforms are a commendable first step to ensuring that public sector entitlements are not out of line with underlying economic conditions or community expectations, and should be considered by other states.
But as the Baillieu government has discovered through its pay negotiations with police and nurses, alternatively bowing to public sector union demands to be the "best paid in the country" only delivers unnecessary political and budgetary pains.
Clearly the public sector unions have marshalled a well-organised campaign opposing any reductions in public sector employment or entitlement limitations, regardless of the union membership status of affected employees or the state of the budget.
The conventional wisdom is that this campaign is wearing away the political shine of the new kids on the state political block, especially in Queensland where the LNP's opinion poll standings have fallen away considerably over three months.
While all three governments when in opposition rightly made the budgetary recklessness of their predecessors an election campaign priority, they failed to take the next step, then and now, to outline why future public sector employment reductions are necessary.
There was no explanation that state bureaucrats are funded by state taxes, or perhaps even by taxpayers in other states through GST redistributions, and that these adversely affect economic activity and private sector growth.
No mention was made of the fact that fewer skilled workers are available to the private sector, where they could be used more productively, when public sector employment expands as it did over the past decade in NSW, Victoria and Queensland by 290,600 people.
There was silence about the way in which extra public policy bureaucrats advising or enforcing taxes and regulations accentuate cost pressures upon private sector businesses and individuals.
Nor did the Coalition parties mention that frontline staff often deliver sub-optimal services, in areas such as education, health care or welfare services, that could be delivered more efficiently by the private sector.
In fact, they concurred with then Labor governments that frontline staff should be preserved as a protected species shielded from the winds of reform. It is in this deafening silence about the need for public service attrition that public sector unions, and others on the big-government gravy train, fill the vacuum by arguing for the disreputable position that government employment should be either set in stone or even expanded.
Having successfully wagged the dog of state Labor governments for the best part of a decade to fulfil their socialistic objective of public sector expansion, public sector unions are now waging a rearguard, conservative campaign to protect their membership base.
With Coalition governments finding themselves under intense pressure to pull back from trimming the public service to more reasonable proportions, the big question is will they concede to the statist agenda of the public sector unions?
The record so far has been rather uninspiring, but at least the first Newman budget should provide some vital clues as to whether democratically elected state governments have finally acquired an appetite for serious small-government reform.
How much will a degree earn you?
A good idea below
STUDENTS will now be able to determine the job prospects and starting salaries of preferred university degrees.
Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans will today launch the revamped MyUniversity website, which students will also be able to access from mobile phones and iPads to compare different university campuses.
He said the improved version of MyUniversity was timely given students across WA would submit their university applications for 2013 later this month.
"Going to university is a major investment of time and resources so it's important that students can make an informed decision about what and where they study," he said.
"MyUniversity gives students the power to compare courses and campuses, as well as the performance of each university, so they can make an informed decision that's right for them."
His announcement comes as new data reveals the Bachelor of Arts has been the most searched course since the website was launched in April, followed by the Bachelor of Science, Commerce and Engineering.
In WA, 60 per cent of applications to study at university were lodged by female students for the past two years, and 40 per cent from men.
Last year, the University of WA and Curtin University of Technology recorded an even split of female to male students.
Murdoch University and Edith Cowan University had a 60:40 ratio, and the University of Notre Dame, which includes its WA and New South Wales campuses, had only 30 per cent male students.
MyUniversity has received more than one million page views, with the website attracting up to 800 hits a day.
9 September, 2012
G_d! Leftists talk a lot of sh*t at times!
And surely they know it. They cannot be unaware that they are making huge and improbable assumptions. That smart people tend to get rich and that their kids tend to inherit their smarts ought to be apparent even to the average Joe -- and politicians not knowing it is wilful ignorance. But knowing those things is all you need to understand that the children of the poor will, on average, ALWAYS do worse at school than the children of the rich do. The education system has a role but it will never be a Canute that will roll back the tide, no matter how much money you spend on it. Money can't make an Einstein out of a dummy.
And it's a wonder that the poisonous Carmen Lawrence -- she of the bad memory -- is still opening her deceitful trap at all. At least one person below mentions intellectual ability
Increasing segregation of students has led to a two-tiered education system with a widening gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots".
Australian students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are up to three years behind students from more privileged backgrounds in literacy levels, according to figures compiled for the Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling. Poor students also lag well behind their wealthier peers in science and maths and are only half as likely to attend university.
Carmen Lawrence, the director of the centre for the study of social change at the University of Western Australia and a member of the Gonski review panel, said the figures busted the myth that Australia offers a fair go for all.
"For a long time there has been a willful denial that there is a problem," she said. "But we assembled all those data and they don't make pretty reading."
Disadvantaged children are concentrated in the public system, according to Gonski, with 80 per cent of children from low socio-economic backgrounds, 85 per cent of indigenous children and 79 per cent of children with disabilities in government schools.
Australia is achieving only average equity compared with other OECD countries, according to figures from the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment survey, which ranks us behind Hong Kong, Shanghai, Finland and South Korea, which are rated in the top five performing places overall, compared with Australia at ninth spot.
The OECD reports that, among its member countries, differences in students' backgrounds accounted for 55 per cent of performance differences between schools; for Australia, the figure is 68 per cent.
Educational inequity starts when a child reaches kindergarten, according to leading experts in the field.
David Zyngier, a senior lecturer in the faculty of education at Monash University and a former teacher, said disadvantaged children have a vocabulary of 2000-3000 words at the age of six, compared with between 10,000-20,000 for wealthier children.
"When a child comes into school 50 per cent of their academic achievement is already determined by what they bring into school, that is their family background, their home, their culture and intellectual ability," he said.
"Children come to us in our classrooms with what has been called the 'invisible backpack' and some come with their backpack full of privilege and others come with a backpack of disadvantage."
Research from the UK shows that even bright children from disadvantaged backgrounds struggle to perform well academically. By the age of eight, they are overtaken by less intelligent children from more advantaged backgrounds. [Given the "sink" schools that Britain's poor get sent to, that is no surprise]
The inequity is compounded by an education system which siphons more affluent children into the private system and high achievers into the selective system, says Chris Bonnor, a former high school principal and a Fellow of the Centre for Policy Development.
"We subsidise kids to leave low socio-economic status schools to go to higher socio-economic schools," he said. "The disadvantage at the bottom end gets worse because all the aspirant kids have gone."
Tell Nicola Everything!
An innovative campaign against Australia's proposed Data Retention Laws
Timothy Gow sends us this idea on a practical campaign against the proposed new Big-Brotheresque Data Retention laws:
When the Canadian government attempted to pass data retention legislation through parliament, the youth of Canada responded with the twitter campaign #TellVicEverything. A campaign telling Vic Toews, the relevant minister for Public Safety everything they want to know!
This is an excellent idea.
Nicola Roxon wants to know everything about our internet habits. I say we take things one step further, and tell her everything. Jump on your twitter accounts and #TellNicEverything about your day, your lunch, your gardening and your hobbies. Make sure the ALP knows it all. Follow the Reveal it All twitter account, or just search the #TellNicEverything hashtag and get to work. Send all your emails to email@example.com and give them what they want so badly!
Spare no details, and get the tag trending. Let’s send a positive message to the ALP that we want them to stay out of our private business.
Couple who lost baby girl at birth says Victoria's public hospital system is worse than Sudan
A COUPLE who lost their baby girl during birth remain in the dark about why she died or where she is buried almost four years on.
Mum Loli Daoud said she received better care giving birth in her native war-torn Sudan than in Victoria's public hospital system.
The family's plight follows revelations that secret payouts of almost $25 million have been made in the past year to families whose babies suffered bungled births in the state's public hospitals.
Seven months pregnant with her fourth child, Ms Daoud arrived at Northern Hospital in mild pain with her husband, Budrus Toto, on October 21, 2008. Soon after being admitted to the maternity ward, she felt further discomfort and went to the toilet, where her baby girl's head came out.
Through an interpreter, she told the Herald Sun: "I then fell on the ground, and labour began, and in five minutes the baby was delivered."
She had not been told to press a buzzer to alert staff in an emergency, had been too weak and dizzy to cry out for help and after the birth she lost consciousness for 20 minutes.
"When I woke up I was completely covered in blood, the baby was covered in blood and so was the floor. I crawled to the door and knocked on it for my husband to come."
Mr Toto alerted medical staff, who cut the cord, moved her to the bed and put the baby in the cot, where it is believed they tried to resuscitate her. Her baby girl, who had been named Anna, was then taken away, dead, and Ms Daoud never saw her again.
During her two days in hospital, no one explained what had happened, but she was handed a photo of her dead daughter as she left.
Three weeks later, the couple received a phone call from the hospital asking for $300 to pay for their daughter's burial, and they were told they would receive details in the mail of the whereabouts of her remains.
The letter never arrived, and eventually they visited the hospital but still did not get any answers. Despite twice requesting an incident report to explain what had happened that night, they have had no response from the hospital.
The couple are investigating their legal options.
Northern Health chief executive Greg Pullen said the family had been offered support.
Illegal immigrant arrests are on the rise across Victoria
MORE than 11 illegal immigrants are arrested in Victoria every week and the numbers are expected to continue to rise. In the past financial year 612 people were arrested - up from 429 the year before.
Few of the illegal workers were likely to be asylum seekers who arrived by boat, with 517 arrested after overstaying their visa. A further 95 were on the run following their visa being cancelled.
The figure was revealed last month as the Department of Immigration and Citizenship prepared to deport 13 illegal farm workers located in northwestern Victoria. Nine men and four women, all Malaysian nationals, had been employed on farms as pruners. They were caught in a 48-hour operation chasing illegal workers in the Mallee.
The detainees were transferred to Melbourne's Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre and nine to the Adelaide Immigration Transit Accommodation facility, pending their removal from Australia.
All had overstayed their visas and were living here unlawfully, according to the department.
Two other foreign nationals were given warnings, including a Malaysian national who was in Australia on a student visa but had not been studying.
The employer faces fines of $13,200 and two years' imprisonment per illegal worker.
In Australia there are an estimated 19,540 people who have overstayed their visa - an increase of 4430 from the 2009-10 financial year.
In response to the growing numbers of people overstaying their visas, last month the Federal Government announced a crackdown.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen promoted the dob-in line and encouraged anyone with information about illegal workers, visa overstayers or visa fraud to call 1800 009 623.
7 September, 2012
Must not say that homosexuality is a health hazard
Even though it undoubtedly is. Almost all cases of AIDS in Australia are among the cheerful fraternity
PRIME Minister Julia Gillard will boycott the annual conference of a major Christian group because of its "heartless" attitude towards homosexuals.
Ms Gillard was to have given the keynote address to the Australian Christian Lobby next month but today cancelled her appearance.
She accused ACL managing director Jim Wallace of offensive comments Wednesday when he compared gay marriage with the health risks of smoking. Mr Wallace repeated his comments in a statement today.
The Prime Minister has said she opposes gay marriage but today took the significant step of defending those who are agitating for law changes to allow it. In political terms the Prime Minister was ensuring she did not lose the influential gay vote in inner city areas.
"There is a range of deeply held views in the community on the issue of same-sex marriage but it is the responsibility of all parties in this debate to be respectful and responsible in any public comments they make," the Prime Minister said today in a statement.
"I believe yesterday's comments by Jim Wallace were offensive. To compare the health effects of smoking cigarettes with the many struggles gay and lesbian Australians endure in contemporary society is heartless and wrong.
"Although everyone is entitled to their own view, these statements reiterated again today on behalf of ACL are totally unacceptable. In light of this, I believe my attendance at the conference would be inappropriate."
Mr Wallace, who is also a former head of the SAS, made his comments during a debate on gay marriage with Greens Leader Christine Milne in Hobart yesterday.
"I think we're going to owe smokers a big apology when the homosexual community's own statistics for its health - which it presents when it wants more money for health - are that is has higher rates of drug-taking, of suicide, it has the life of a male reduced by up to 20 years," Mr Wallace said.
"The life of smokers is reduced by something like seven to 10 years and yet we tell all our kids at school they shouldn't smoke.
"But what I'm saying is we need to be aware that the homosexual lifestyle carries these problems and ... normalising the lifestyle by the attribution of marriage, for instance, has to be considered in what it does encouraging people into it."
Proposals for greater government regulation of media dangerous
NEWS Limited chief executive Kim Williams has hit out at "draconian" proposals for a new media regulator that has the power to threaten journalists with jail.
Mr Williams said new technology and markets were driving media diversity and a government-funded regulator would be a "threat to press freedom".
In a speech to the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers' Association future forum, Mr Williams said this was a turbulent time for print media publishers who were overseeing major change.
He said quality print businesses would survive by ensuring customers were "front and centre" and by adapting to different modes of delivery.
News Ltd, which publishes this website, is now looking to bundle more products together to build its business, he said.
Mr Williams said in this era, recommendations for sweeping changes to regulation by two government-instigated reviews – one by retired judge Ray Finkelstein and another looking at convergence – were dangerous.
"I find it, as I hope all of you do, deeply concerning we have reached a place where words like 'government', 'journalist' and 'jailing' can all appear in the same sentence when describing a report by a retired judge," he said.
The former head of pay-TV company Foxtel also said that proposals for new public interest tests for media ownership should be "passed into the dustbin of history".
Pointing to a growth in television channels and a "staggering array of online news and information websites", Mr Williams said Australians were able to access a large number of media outlets.
"Australians don't need dangerous new laws to give them greater media diversity, they just need a mobile device, or a television, or a laptop," he said.
"The iPad for instance is now one of the greatest generators of information diversity in human history.
"You literally have the diversity of the world in the palm of your hand."
Mr Williams said there were ways to boost accountability for journalists without the prospect of "unhealthy levels of government oversight".
"None of this is to say our collective journalists and media outlets are perfect," he said.
"I acknowledge freely that the Australian press's self-regulation could have be improved in the past and given greater resources."
But he said that the answer to "who watches the watchmen?" must be "ourselves – through a body that is independent of us".
A growing diversity of choice was causing big issues for traditional media companies and was forcing big changes, Mr Williams said.
"The pace and depth of the changes being driven by consumers and the digital economy has hit newspapers with a combination of punches," he said.
"We need to adjust to the different needs of those delivery technologies and the consumer behaviours and patterns which are abundantly evident."
Mr Williams said News Ltd was in the midst of a major restructure with a focus on customers, innovation, and quality reporting.
Virgin airlines employs bitches, it would seem
Returning from the stress of her mother's funeral and frustrated by being directed to the wrong departure gate, the pressure told and a Canberra woman was kicked off a Virgin Australia flight.
The Melba grandmother said the boarding pass issued by Virgin staff at Sydney Airport had directed her about as far away as possible from the actual departure point. "I was quite shaken up; I could have easily missed my flight," she said.
She had raised her concern with staff at the departure gate and was asked to wait for a supervisor while other passengers boarded.
"I told the attendant not to worry about my complaint. I'll just get on board the plane and we could forget all about it," she said. But the woman had been directed to sit and wait. Finally a supervisor had said the error with the boarding pass was not Virgin's fault as the passes were issued by a separate organisation.
It seemed other passengers had been subject to the same error. "I did notice as I was talking to the supervisor other Virgin staff were herding other passengers onto the plane." She had recognised them as having also been at the wrong departure gate.
"The supervisor ended the conversation by walking away. It was an incredibly frustrating situation to be in. In addition, I was exhausted; I'd travelled many kilometres in two days to bury my mother. I was distraught and tired. No allowances had been made for extenuating circumstances like this."
The upshot was that the grandmother uttered "bitch" as the supervisor walked away. "It was speculation on her part that I was addressing her at all."
After boarding the plane she had been approached by the supervisor who had asked her to leave. "She told me that if I wouldn't leave voluntarily the police would be called."
So the disabled pensioner, with only $10 and a hastily borrowed credit card from her daughter, had to spend a night in Sydney. "I will not be flying Virgin again – ever," she said.
An airline spokeswoman said a passenger had been offloaded from the flight in question because of disruptive behaviour.
"In the interest of the safety of our guests, Virgin Australia has strict policies related to guests causing disruption. In this case, the behaviour of the guest did not comply with our conditions of carriage and was accordingly offloaded from the flight."
She said for operational reasons, occasionally departure gates had to be changed. These changes were notified by public announcements, updates to the flight departure screens and staff were stationed at departure gates to inform passengers.
The woman insists there were no staff at the wrong gate while she was there. Since being contacted by the Canberra Times, Virgin Australia has refunded the woman the cost of the flight but no compensation has been paid for her overnight stay in Sydney. She insists she was not being disruptive and had been of no threat to anyone.
In a letter to the woman, Virgin Australia says under its conditions of carriage, it reserves the right to refuse a guest's uplift or may request a guest to leave an aircraft. [Good of them]
Was Kokoda a sideshow?
It probably was but that does not detract from the heroism of the troops in bringing the fight to the enemy under very trying conditions
MILIARY historians have attacked the "`excessive mythology" surrounding the Kokoda campaign in New Guinea during World War II.
During a conference to mark the 70th anniversary of Kokoda at the Australian War Memorial today eminent historians, Professor David Horner and Ashley Ekins, questioned whether or not the campaign deserved such iconic status.
Mr Ekins said there was "excessive mythology about the Kokoda story" and Professor Horner questioned the significance of Kokoda in the context of the wider battle for the south-west Pacific and the war overall.
They pointed to documents from the Japanese high command that show an invasion of Australia had been ruled out in March 1942.
One man in the audience who actually fought at Kokoda, 92-year-old Bede Tongs, said he and his mates had no doubt that they were fighting to save Australia.
Mr Tongs said the admission that the Japanese had no plans to invade Australia was probably a face saving exercise. He also questioned when Australian commander Sir Thomas Blamey knew about Japanese plans.
"We were fighting for Australia. Our friends died for Australia," he said.
Mr Tongs was awarded the Military Medal for taking out a Japanese machine gun post singled handedly at Templeton's Crossing in September 1942, insists that he and his comrades were fighting to save their homeland.
"Australia was in dire straits, we knew the Japanese intended to invade Australia."
The historians said the great Kokoda myth has been promoted by two prime ministers, Paul Keating and John Howard, and by numerous documentaries and popular books including "Kokoda" by Peter Fitzsimons.
Professor Horner also questioned the withdrawal of Australian forces in September 1942, a move that prompted Blamey to label the diggers "rabbits".
"If the Australians were not outnumbered why were they forced to withdraw?" Professor Horner asked.
He said the Kokoda campaign was important but was only a small part of a much larger campaign in the south-west Pacific.
"There is no doubt that Kokoda has a significant place in Australian military history, but how significant should it be?"
World renowned best-selling author and historian, and inaugural Boeing Visiting Fellow at the War Memorial, Antony Beevor, said an invasion of Australia was never part of Japanese war plans because it would have required 10 divisions of troops and a vast fleet.
"I can understand why the Australian government felt that was the threat because they (Japanese) did appear unstoppable, but it was never part of the plan," he said.
"There would have been raiding and bombing, harassing basically, but it wasn't going to go any further than that."
6 September, 2012
Bjelke-Petersen (the son) to challenge Newman's deputy
That's a magic name in Qld. politics, particularly in the country. He sounds like old Joh too. This may be only the opening shot of a long career
The son of former Queensland premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen says he wants to challenge Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney for Liberal National Party (LNP) preselection.
John Bjelke-Petersen has previously run for state and federal parliament for the Nationals and LNP.
Now he wants to challenge Mr Seeney in his central Queensland seat of Callide.
"As far as I'm concerned, all we want is our fair share of what the state has and we want the issues addressed," Mr Bjelke-Petersen said. "We had 20 years under Labor where cuts took place and yet we're still having cuts."
Mr Bjelke-Petersen says regional areas are missing out on funding and facing staffing cuts.
"It has sort of been irritating me that it doesn't seem to be too much trouble to do things in the south-east corner, but when you get out into rural and regional areas it's a lot harder," he said.
Premier Campbell Newman says he does not think Mr Seeney's grip on Callide is under threat.
"I'm just simply saying good luck to John, if that's what he wants to do. That's the wonderful thing about a democracy," Mr Newman said.
"I'll tell you what; I can confidently predict Jeff Seeney will be opposed at the next election by somebody, and I can tell you so will Campbell Newman.
Survey finds majority of Australian parents think it's OK to spank but most opt for other methods
MANY parents believe smacking is an effective way to deter children from misbehaving, but most do not use the controversial method. Instead, they discipline their children with time-outs and technology bans, a survey suggests.
An adelaidenow poll of almost 1400 people found 39.7 per cent of respondents thought smacking was a useful deterrent, while 36 per cent believed it should be used only in extreme situations.
A further 39.5 per cent said they would be furious if a friend smacked their misbehaving child.
Parent Wellbeing director Jodie Benveniste said the aim of any discipline was to "teach kids to be decent human beings".
"Smacking just doesn't do this and should be avoided," she said.
"Time out, for example, is a much better idea than smacking, as is taking something away the kids value."
Almost 70 per cent of respondents said they verbally told off their children as a method of discipline, while 63.1 per cent said they opted for time-outs.
More than 60.6 per cent ban the use of TV, technology and games and 61.9 per cent deny their child treats.
Smacking ranked fifth on the list, with 43.6 per cent of parents, who said they smacked their children with an open hand.
Dr Justin Coulson, a University of Wollongong research fellow and author of What your child needs from you: Creating a connected family, believes most children misbehave because they are not receiving enough attention from their parents.
Smacking was back in the spotlight last week when a Queensland magistrate ruled that parents fighting for custody of their daughter - diagnosed with a defiant behaviour disorder - must not threaten to smack her.
Almost 60 per cent of respondents to the adelaidenow poll believed courts should not have the power to dictate discipline to parents.
Willunga mum Kate Burr, 37, has recently started using time-outs to discipline her daughter Lily, who turns three on September 20.
"We've been using time-outs for about three weeks now and it's going reasonably well," she said.
Ms Burr said she does not smack her daughter because she cannot justify hitting her.
Ex-Treasury boss defends foreign investment
Former Treasury boss Ken Henry has delivered a strong defence of foreign investment in Australia, arguing the current public debate has been "frequently misinformed" and skewed by "populist instincts".
Dr Henry says Australia has benefited from several waves of foreign investment over hundreds of years; first from Europe, then from the United States and more recently from Asia.
"Every wave in our history has been controversial for a period of time," Dr Henry told a forum in Canberra. "It is perhaps inevitable that people would be concerned about Chinese investment, especially because it's occurred so recently and because it's grown so rapidly."
The most recent debate about foreign investment has been sparked by the proposed sale of Australia's largest cotton farm to a consortium of Chinese and Japanese investors.
Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce has described the decision as a "farce" and questioned how it is in the national interest to sell the 93,000-hectare Cubbie Station in southern Queensland.
Dr Henry says there are robust tests in place to assess foreign investment proposals, but they are at risk of being undermined by a lack of public confidence.
"We have strong mechanisms in Australia to oversee foreign investment, but it's important that we make an effort to explain that framework and to build confidence in it," he said.
"Without confidence in the regime and common sense in the formulation of foreign investment policy, there is the risk of Australia damaging its ability to attract foreign capital and limiting its economic potential in the longer term."
Asked whether he thought there needed to be any change in how the Foreign Investment Review Board considers proposals, Dr Henry said defining the national interest was always going to be difficult and would change depending on the circumstances.
"Writing out a formula to guide foreign investment decision-making in respect of what is or is not contrary to the national interest is, I think, simply impossible," he said.
"So, if you're going to have something which is... more transparent, then we're going to have to remove the national interest test, and I don't think there's a lot of support for removing the national interest test."
There have been frequent public debates about an appropriate level of foreign investment in Australia, particularly in agricultural land.
Earlier this year, the Government bowed to public pressure and established a working group to consider whether there should be a foreign ownership register of farm land.
Dr Henry, who has authored a white paper on Australia in the Asian Century, says the debate surrounding the issue has been sidetracked by "myths".
"Very little, only a tiny proportion, of Australia's agricultural land is in foreign ownership, and so... concerns about foreign ownership of land, and especially agricultural land, in Australia have, I think, been greatly exaggerated.
"I hear quite often that people in the bush are outraged about foreigners buying their land. "Well, they're the people who are selling the land to the foreigners. "I just don't quite know what is the formula for cognitive dissonance that squares that circle."
An air con: when the poor pay to cool the rich
Some class war below. It seems true as far as it goes but it overlooks that the rich subsidize the poor in other ways -- notably via taxes. Striving for some predetermined class balance in everything is an absurdity
It's time to put an end to airconditioner injustice. This summer, the two-thirds of NSW households with airconditioners will be cross-subsidised by about the one-third that don't. It's an unfairness that gets much less attention than it deserves.
Temperature control at home was once considered a luxury but most now seem to view it as a modern necessity. Australian households have installed 1.7 million airconditioners in the past five years and the total number of units has doubled in the past decade to about 6.3 million.
But the way the electricity market works means our airconditioner fetish comes with hidden costs.
Because each unit draws a lot of electricity they put major demands on the power generation and distribution system when many are switched on at once (a single airconditioner can use the same amount of electricity as 40 fans).
The companies that own and maintain the state's electricity poles and wires have invested huge amounts upgrading the distribution network to cater for the peak demand caused by airconditioners on hot days between 4pm and 8pm. High energy appliances - especially airconditioners - have a bigger impact on peaks in electricity demand than population growth, household size or income.
Every airconditioning unit installed in a home can cost $5000 to $10,000 in network improvements, depending on where the house is located. The surge in demand caused by airconditioners also forces electricity generation companies to temporarily ramp up production on hot days using more expensive methods of making electricity.
But the way Australian electricity consumers are billed means the huge costs of catering for peak demand are spread across all small users through higher average prices. The extra generation and network costs are passed onto every consumer. In effect, those switching on the airconditioner at times of peak demand are not paying for the full cost of their actions and those without airconditioners are paying more than they should.
This system isn't just unfair, it's wasteful because more and more capacity is being installed at great expense but rarely used. About a quarter of retail electricity costs come from peak events over a period of less than 40 hours a year. You don't have to be an electricity industry economist to work out that's inefficient. Last month Julia Gillard likened it to building a 10-lane freeway with "two lanes that are only used or needed for one long weekend".
The state's Independent Pricing and Regulatory Authority estimates the state's poles and wires are costing typical households $654 more a year than five years ago, a rise of 72 per cent above the rate of inflation. Residential consumers in NSW are now paying more than $1100 a year just for the upkeep of the distribution network.
Many households have responded to the recent price spike by moderating electricity use when it's convenient. But on the dozen or so hottest days of the year, those lucky enough to have household cooling still switch on all at once. These two trends in consumer behaviour have made the electricity distribution network even more inefficient because even more capacity is left unused for most of the year.
But there's another pernicious side effect. The less well-off, who generally don't run multiple airconditioners, are cross-subsidising consumers who do. Vulnerable families making do without airconditioning are being put under added financial stress so that others can have their room temperature-controlled.
In parts of Europe households that pay more than 10 per cent of their income on energy costs have long been deemed "fuel poor". This category is now growing in NSW because of the recent surge in electricity prices. Earlier this year, IPART said the proportion of households in the state paying more than 10 per cent of their income in power bills was on the rise. About one in nine households in regional areas will slip into the fuel poor category after the latest round of power price rises.
The airconditioner cross-subsidy exposes a major policy failure. Rather than finding ways to encourage consumers to reduce peak demand, authorities have allowed network distribution firms to build more and more capacity at great cost.
In July, economists at AGL Energy warned that the electricity market was in danger of a "death spiral" as wealthy households use less power on average while poorer families bear the brunt of big network investments to cope with peak demand.
The growing electricity price pain has created some momentum for change. The Australian Electricity Market Commission - the body that makes the rules for the national electricity market - will release its "Power of Choice" review tomorrow aiming to help families and businesses make informed choices about the way they use electricity and manage their bills. Last month Gillard demanded that all Australian governments act on the commission's recommendations "as soon as they are made".
One aim of the review is to reduce the need for additional peak generation and network infrastructure. The business sector, which consumes about 70 per cent of the electricity generated in Australia, could also be encouraged to do much more to reduce electricity use during peak demand periods.
A shift away from flat prices and quarterly billing to smart meters that allow more "time-of-use pricing" will help over time.
But it is worth remembering that if we had resisted the collective desire for household temperature control - like most families in the 1970s and 1980s - every consumer would now have a much smaller electricity bill. The billions spent by state electricity companies catering for electricity demand on a few hot days each year could have been spent improving schools, hospitals and transport infrastructure. And of course, we'd be emitting less carbon pollution.
It is surprising how little the airconditioner boom has been questioned, considering its economic, environmental and social costs.
5 September, 2012
A win for brown coal (lignite) power stations
Heh! The Feds have realized that they cannot afford to close Australia's cheapest electricity generators. It must put noses out of joint that super-correct Germany is actually building more of them -- even though lignite puts out about 8% more CO2 than black coal. One of the Victorian generators has the world's highest emissions of CO2! Very good for plantlife
THE federal government has abandoned plans to pay some of Australia's dirtiest coal-fired power generators to shut down under its co-called contract for closure program.
Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said the government could not be satisfied that entering into such arrangements would achieve value for money against the program's objectives.
"The contract for closure negotiations have taken place constructively and in good faith but there remains a material gap between the level of compensation generators have sought and what the government is prepared to pay," Mr Ferguson said in a statement on Wednesday.
The program had sought to support the closure of around 2000 megawatts of highly emissions-intensive generation capacity by 2020. But a June 30 deadline for locking in a deal has already been and gone.
Mr Ferguson said forecasts for lower energy demand in Australia "presented serious questions around the value-for-money evaluation of proposals".
He insisted last week's decision to scrap a proposed $15-per-tonne floor price for Labor's emissions trading scheme - which starts in mid-2015 - and instead link the ETS with Europe's scheme was not a factor.
The government had been negotiating possible closures with Hazelwood, Yallourn and Energy Brix power stations in Victoria as well as Playford in South Australia and Collinsville in Queensland.
The federal energy minister said the $200 million regional structural adjustment assistance program would still be available to support communities significantly affected by the government's carbon price regime.
A $23-a-tonne carbon tax was introduced on July 1 this year.
Environment groups on Wednesday said if the dirtiest coal-fired power stations didn't accept payments to close down generation they shouldn't receive any other carbon tax compensation.
"If these facilities now claim they have a profitable future and their asset values remain high, then there is no public policy justification for the compensation payments that are coming at great cost to Australian taxpayers," Environment Victoria campaign director Mark Wakeham said in a statement.
Four stations in Victoria's Latrobe Valley received the lion's share of $1 billion delivered mid-year to help coal-fired generators cope with the carbon tax.
Hazelwood received $266 million, Yallourn pocketed $257 million, Loy Yang Power got $240 million and Loy Yang B received $117 million.
The cash was the first tranche of assistance from the federal government's $5.5 billion energy security fund.
It will be followed by annual allocations of 42 million free carbon permits from 2013/14 to 2016/17 to assist highly emissions-intensive power stations.
First mangoes fetch whopping $50k
Cripes! Times have changed. When I felt like a mango when I was a kid, I used to climb a nearby tree and pick a ripe one straight off the tree. It was such normal behaviour that it passed completely without comment by my parents or anyone else. We kids had to race the flying-foxes for the ripe ones, though
THE first mangoes of the season have sold for a record-breaking $50,000 at a charity auction in Sydney.
A group of local green-grocers forked out the whopping price for a tray of the lucious Top End treats, pummeling into a pulp the previous record of $40,000 set in 2009.
It means each of the mangoes sold on Wednesday were worth $4166 each - a far cry from 2008, when the entire first tray went for just $7000 as global financial markets were pulverised.
The auction result also means a juicy pay-day for The Cancer Council Australia and the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia which share the fruits of the green-grocers' generosity.
NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell and Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson were among those who watched wide-eyed as the bid price rocketed at Sydney Markets, Flemington.
"It's been an absolutely amazing morning," Ms Hodgkinson told AAP.
Mango growers say the bumper price in Sydney signals a decent season ahead, with 50,000 tonnes of the fruit set to be harvested in the months ahead.
The first tray of mangoes sold for $30,000 in 2011 and 2010.
Gillard condemns far-Left union
She speaks up only as the union is more or less beaten, though
PRIME Minister Julia Gillard says the union blockade at a Melbourne construction site is "grossly unacceptable" as she called for calm among Grocon and union officials.
A blockade by union workers, many from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), has entered its third week after talks failed to resolve the workplace dispute with builder Grocon.
Ms Gillard says the blockade outside the Myer Emporium site, which requires an on-going heavy police presence, is illegal and must end now.
"What is happening in the streets of Melbourne is grossly unacceptable," she told ABC Radio in Melbourne on Wednesday.
"It is breaches of state law. It is illegal actions and picketing and everybody should take a step back and get this dispute resolved. "There's no excuse ever for unlawful conduct."
Ms Gillard said industrial disputes were always resolved by those willing to sit around a negotiation table.
"Everybody should take a step back from the brink," she said.
"This is a dispute, an industrial dispute, that needs to be resolved between the parties.
"They need to engage in a process that will get them there."
She said Fair Work Australia was always available to help.
Last week, Grocon and the CFMEU failed to reach an agreement after a meeting with Fair Work Australia president Iain Ross.
Grocon has now gone after the union in court while workers continue with the blockade.
Croc plan to include zero-tolerance zones
The existing catch and relocate system achieves nothing. They just swim back to where they were, with some epic swims on record
A FAR north Queensland mayor says crocodiles have been menacing local rowers and more must be done to manage the reptiles.
The Queensland government is developing a new crocodile management plan for the state, and is seeking input from local councils.
It says community safety is the priority and there are plans for "zero-tolerance zones".
Cassowary Coast mayor Bill Shannon says some members of the Innisfail rowing club have had some scary encounters.
"It's getting to the stage now where it's affecting the user of the waterways," he told ABC radio.
"There have been cases of crocs following those small racing sculls."
Environment Minister Andrew Powell says councils have been invited to help draft the plan, and promised it will not be a one-size-fits-all approach.
He'll meet with councils and rangers from his department in Cairns on Tuesday.
"Officers from my Department will work alongside local councils to take action. We are taking this issue very seriously and community safety concerns are our highest priority," he said in a statement.
"We will trap and remove any crocodiles which are found to be dangerous and we will work to set up a three-tiered system which includes exclusion and zero-tolerance zones.
4 September, 2012
Manufacturing still shrinking
Which is fine as mining takes over. There is an argument that manufacturing is more stable but plenty of manufacturers go broke too. The difference is that manufacturers often get government help -- while miners get treated like a milch cow
The rate of contraction in Australian manufacturing has slowed, although the sector is still going backwards.
The Australian Industry Group - PwC Performance of Manufacturing Index rose 5 points to 45.3 in August, but is still below the 50-point level that separates expansion from contraction.
Only three sectors out of 11 were growing last month: wood products and furniture, food and beverages, and miscellaneous manufactures.
Ai Group's chief executive Innes Willox says conditions in the sector remain difficult.
"Manufacturing conditions continue to be very challenging across the sector with the high dollar and weakness in demand in the domestic and export markets weighing on growth," he noted in the report.
"There are some encouraging signs in the August Australian PMI with the production sub-index lifting and the forward-looking new orders sub-index rising strongly."
However, despite a small reduction in the rate of job shedding, employment continued to fall in manufacturing for the fifth straight month.
Feds edge toward keeping online data for two years
Only dummies will be caught. Real crooks will be careful to be untraceable
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon appears to have swung her support behind a controversial plan to capture the online data of all Australians, despite only six weeks ago saying "the case had yet to be made" for the policy.
The data retention plan - which would force all Australian telcos and internet service providers to store the online data of all Australians for up to two years - is the most controversial element of a package of more than 40 proposed changes to national security legislation.
If passed, the proposals would be the most significant expansion of national security powers since the Howard-era reforms of the early 2000s.
In a speech to be delivered at the Security in Government conference in Canberra today, Ms Roxon will say that law enforcement agencies need the data retention policy in order to be able to effectively target criminals.
"Many investigations require law enforcement to build a picture of criminal activity over a period of time. Without data retention, this capability will be lost," she will say, in a draft of the speech provided to Fairfax Media yesterday.
She will also say technological advancement since the advent of the internet is providing increasing room to hide for criminals and those who threaten Australia's security.
"The intention behind the proposed reform is to allow law enforcement agencies to continue investigating crime in light of new technologies. The loss of this capability would be a major blow to our law enforcement agencies and to Australia's national security."
But in an interview with Fairfax Media in mid July, Ms Roxon appeared to have a different view. "I'm not yet convinced that the cost and the return - the cost both to industry and the [privacy] cost to individuals - that we've made the case for what it is that people use in a way that benefits our national security," she said.
"I think there is a genuine question to be tested, which is why it's such a big part of the proposal."
Her apparent change of mind may be a result of conversations with the Australian Federal Police, who have long pushed for mandatory online data retention. Neil Gaughan heads the AFP's High Tech Crime Centre and is a vocal advocate for the policy.
"Without data retention laws I can guarantee you that the AFP won't be able to investigate groups such as Anonymous over data breaches because we won't be able to enforce the law," he told a cyber security conference recently.
But Andrew Lewman, the executive director of the Tor software project, which disguises a person's location when surfing the web, challenges that view. In July he told Fairfax Media data retention impedes the effectiveness of law enforcement.
"It sounds good and something sexy that politicians should get behind. However, it doesn't stop crime, it builds a massive dossier on everyone at millisecond resolution, and creates more work and challenges for law enforcement to catch actual criminals.
"The problem isn't too little data, the problem is there is already too much data."
Proposals 'characteristic of a police state'
The proposals are being examined by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security to provide partial scrutiny of Australia's intelligence community.
The committee has thus far received almost 200 submissions from the agencies, members of the public as well as civil liberties and online rights groups.
In a heated submission to the inquiry, Victoria's Acting Privacy Commissioner, Anthony Bendall, dubbed the proposals "characteristic of a police state", arguing that data retention in particular was "premised on the assumption that all citizens should be monitored".
"Not only does this completely remove the presumption of innocence which all persons are afforded, it goes against one of the essential dimensions of human rights and privacy law: freedom from surveillance and arbitrary intrusions into a person's life."
ISP iiNet said government had failed to demonstrate how current laws were failing or how criminals and terrorists posed a threat to networks, and said asking carriers to intercept and store customers' data for two years could make them "agents of the state" and increase costs.
A joint submission from telco industry groups argued it would cost between $500 million and $700 million to keep data for two years. It called for full compensation from the government's security agencies.
The Australian Federal Police and the Australian Taxation Office were among the few supporting the proposal to retain telecommunications data.
The ATO said the proposal would be consistent with European practices and that being able to access real-time telecommunications data would allow it to "respond more effectively" to attempts to defraud the Commonwealth.
The AFP, in its submission, said interception capabilities were increasingly being "undermined" by fundamental changes to the telecommunications industry and communications technologies. It said telco reform was needed "in order to avoid further degradation of existing capability".
Through the use of case studies, the AFP argued that on numerous occasions it had been restricted by what it could do under current telecommunications laws, and said that many offences went un-prosecuted because of this.
Costs may be passed on to consumers
The AFP conceded that the volume of data and its retention by telcos for use as evidence for agencies presented "challenges", but didn’t disclose how such challenges could be tackled.
Such challenges were highlighted in submissions by others like Victoria's Acting Privacy Commissioner Anthony Bendall. He said smaller ISPs, for instance, "may not be able to afford the data storage costs, and these costs may be passed on to consumers".
"It would appear that public support for this type of proposal is largely absent," Bendall said.
Users may abandon web
Bendall also said that data retention could "create an extreme chilling effect" not only on technology but on social interactions, many of which are now conducted solely online.
"Users may move away from using online services due to the fear that their communications are being monitored," he said. "Simply put, the proposal could mean that individuals, due to concerns about surveillance, revert back to offline transactions.
"If this occurred, it would affect existing efficiencies of both businesses and government," he said.
The Australian Privacy Foundation was just as scathing.
"Too many of the proposals outlined ... would herald a major and unacceptable increase in the powers of law enforcement and national security agencies to intrude into the lives of all Australians," the APF said.
The APF said the discussion paper released with the proposals was "misleading, and probably intentionally so".
Fears for journalist's sources
It’s not just privacy advocates and telcos that expressed concern with the proposals, but the journalist union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance. In its submission it said it was concerned that any expansion of interception powers and the powers of intelligence agencies had "the potential to threaten press freedom".
"There is considerable concern about the power of police and intelligence agencies to intercept communications, a concern not given proper consideration in the terms of reference," the MEAA said.
Online users' lobby group Electronics Frontiers Australia raised similar concerns to others but pointed out that one of the 40 proposed changes to national security legislation, which required people to divulge passwords, could lead to self-incrimination. It said should such a law be enacted it would undermine "the right of individuals to not co-operate with an investigation".
The lobby group also highlighted concerns with another proposal which would allow the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to use an innocent person's computer to get into a suspect's computer. "The proposal that ASIO would be permitted to 'add, delete or alter data or interfere with, interrupt, or obstruct the lawful use of a computer' could lead to some very serious consequences," it said.
Such consequences could include, it said, pollution of evidence, potentially leading to failures of convictions. It could also provide the means for evidence to be "planted" on innocent parties, it said.
A "cow" or an "unflushable t*rd"? Conservative versus Leftist abuse
No prizes for guessing which of the above came from a Leftist
When walking my dog Nancy early Sunday evening, I turned on to BBC Radio's World Today Weekend program. Feminist Jane Caro was banging on from Sydney about just how sexist Aussie blokes really are.
Caro soon downloaded how 2GB presenter Alan Jones had recently declared: "Women are destroying the joint." The reference was to the former Victorian police commissioner Christine Nixon and the Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore. Then Caro commented how one-time Liberal Party operative Grahame Morris had called 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales a "cow", after her interview with Tony Abbott.
It seems the level of measurable insult declines if it is directed at a conservative - male or female - by a continuing leftist. At this year's Mid-Winter Ball at Parliament House, Julian Morrow, one of the "Chaser boys" (average age late-30s) referred to mining entrepreneur Gina Rinehart as "the elephant not in the room". Laugh? The room, full of journalists, joined in the joke - knowing it was a personal putdown.
Indeed Morrow's tone is common for the public broadcaster. The likes of Caro said nothing when Bob Ellis, in January 2011, described the NSW Liberal MP Jillian Skinner on ABC's The Drum Online as looking "like a long-detested nagging land lady with four dead husbands and hairy shoulders". Moreover, the ABC managing director, Mark Scott, defended the publication of the piece because it was "particularly robust". You can say that again.
Earlier, Jonathan Green, the then-editor of The Drum, published Marieke Hardy's description of the Liberal MP Christopher Pyne as a "douchebag". It was later spiked. In 2008, The Drum also ran a piece by Ellis referring to Hillary Clinton's "towering frigidity" and complaining (without evidence, of course) that she did not engage in a particular sex act. No word was heard from Caro at the time. In recent times, Green was promoted by the ABC and now presents the Radio National Sunday Extra program.
In March, Germaine Greer appeared on Q&A and urged the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to get over her (alleged) "big arse". Invited back on the program last week, Greer was at it again. Responding to an approved question, Greer declared Gillard has a "fat arse" and advised her to "wave that arse". This was also not mentioned by Caro in her whinge on the BBC.
It is true Gillard has been subjected to some sexist comments by the likes of the Liberal senator Bill Heffernan and the former Labor leader Mark Latham. This has been properly criticised. But there were few defenders of John Howard during his time as prime minister. In his 2005 book Run, Johnny, Run, author Mungo MacCallum variously called Howard an unflushable turd, a little c---t and a shithouse rat. Right now, MacCallum's latest book is being promoted by the supposedly advertisement-free ABC.
Aging feminist sow finds a new pretext to suppress criticism of Australia's Leftist Prime Minister
Just as all criticism of Obama is "racist", so all criticism of Australia's female Prime Minister is "sexist", apparently.
Leftists can't stand criticism. They know how fragile are the foundations of their arguments. Take away the anger and the hate and there is very little left
Politicans, including prime ministers, have always copped abuse. But Dr Anne Summers argues that the level of political persecution directed at Julia Gillard may breach federal laws designed to protect people’s rights at work.
3 September, 2012
Hopes of slashing greenhouse emissions just blowing in the wind
The early signs are that a $23 carbon tax has displaced some marginal high-cost generation in South Australia and Queensland, but it is too soon to say whether this is a trend or coincidence.
But any gains are swamped by the findings of a two-year analysis of Victoria's wind-farm developments by mechanical engineer Hamish Cumming.
His analysis shows that despite receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from green energy schemes driven by the renewable energy target, Victoria's wind-farm developments have saved virtually zero carbon dioxide emissions in the state.
A forensic examination of publicly available power-supply data shows Victoria's carbon-intensive brown-coal power stations do not reduce the amount of coal they burn when wind power is available to the grid.
independent energy analysts who say it is more efficient to keep a brown-coal power-station running than turn it down and then back up.
Without gas or some other form of peaking power supply the Victorian electricity system is not equipped for the vagaries of wind power.
Even in SA, which uses gas, not coal, for base-load power and makes much greater use of wind, Cumming estimates the cost of greenhouse gas abatement at $1484 a tonne.
Cumming used data published by the Australian Energy Market Operator, which tracks power sector generation every five minutes.
The results showed fossil fuel generators, in the same periods when wind turbines had been operating, fluctuated their output to match demand but did not reduce their rate of coal consumption.
In an email to Cumming, electricity generator IPR-GDF SUEZ Australia confirmed his findings.
"Given that the power stations mentioned are all 'baseload', their generation output is relatively constant 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, other than due to minor fluctuations depending on market demand and/or shutdown of generation units for maintenance or repairs," a company spokesman said.
Cumming says his investigation demonstrates how green energy theories do not always match the facts.
A two-year email exchange between Cumming and energy companies and government regulators shows how the industry would prefer to rely on models than real-world data.
In response to questions from Inquirer, the AEMO admits that wind power presents some "challenges" but says it does displace greenhouse gas emissions from coal and gas.
"When wind is blowing and generating electricity it displaces coal and gas-fire plant in the dispatch merit order," AEMO principal media adviser Melissa Baldwin says. "As a result, fossil fuel fired plant burns less coal (or gas)."
In theory, maybe.
Cumming references an AEMO presentation to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission where the AEMO showed that for the wind farms in SA in 2009 the greenhouse gas abatement was only 3 per cent of the total capacity of the wind farms installed.
This equated to a 0.6 per cent reduction of greenhouse gases for the entire state's electrical generation from fossil fuels.
Since then Cumming says he has established that even with the continued expansion of wind farms in South Australia, the AEMO figures show the abatement has risen to only about 4 per cent of the installed capacity, or just more than 1 per cent greenhouse gas abatement.
This is the same figure that was established in the past three months in The Netherlands and presented to the Dutch parliament. The Netherlands report suggests the greenhouse gas used to build and maintain a wind farm will not be abated even across the total life of the wind farm.
Cumming says this is exactly what he has been telling the state and federal government for the past three years.
He says the greenhouse gas savings in Victoria are even less.
In a letter to Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark, Cumming said the owners of Yallourn, Hazelwood and Loy Yang power stations had confirmed in writing that the power stations combined consume about 7762 tonnes of coal an hour.
"They have confirmed that the power stations do not change the coal feed intake 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The coal consumed by these three power stations alone makes base-load power available at a rate of 6650 megawatts," Cumming wrote. "Victoria also burns coal powering an additional emergency standby of 630 megawatts, according to Sustainable Victoria documents that were presented in your Mortlake Planning Panel. Victoria's demand only exceeds 6650MW generally for less than 10 hours every 72, and rarely exceeds 7200MW.
"AEMO five-minute data shows that peaks are picked up (ones that exceed base load) by Hydro or fossil fuel generators."
Cumming has called for Victoria's wind developments to be stripped of public subsidies.
"I have now confirmed that Acciona is not abating any GHG at all, nor has it ever nor will it during the life of the project," Cumming wrote to Clark. "Can you please arrange for a full forensic carbon audit to be performed on Acciona Waubra, and when you also conclude that it is not abating GHG, make it repay the RECs (renewable energy certificates) and other subsidies it is claiming, and ensure Acciona is charged a carbon tax of approximately $15m that it owes."
Hugh Saddler, managing director of Sustainability Advice Team Pty Ltd, says brown-coal power stations in particular are designed and built to operate on a continuous load basis. "You can see that in the longer term, in term of emissions policy, you would get a better outcome from closing down one of the brown-coal power stations altogether and using some more gas for the load following," he says.
In response to Cumming's findings, David Clarke, senior manager, community relations for Acciona Energy, which operates the Waubra wind farm, said a SKM report commissioned by the Clean Energy Council found "a 100MW wind farm operating at 35 per cent capacity factor would each year on average reduce emissions by 26,700 tonnes in the National Electricity Market." And a Sustainability Victoria commissioned report in 2006 found "abatement of between 0.25 and 0.31 million tonnes per annum for the 100MW".
However, Cumming said the reports on greenhouse gas abatement did not take into account the continuation of burning coal during the time the wind farms were operational.
"The reports you refer to are theoretical abatements, not real facts. Coal was still burnt and therefore little if any GHG was really abated," he told Clarke.
"Rather than trying to convince me with reports done by or for the wind industry, or the government departments promoting the industry, I challenge you to give me actual coal consumption data in comparison to wind generation times data that supports your argument.
"The AEMO data for this clearly shows Waubra is not abating any GHG, nor has it since the first day it began operation."
New effort to deter illegals
FOOTAGE of a rickety fishing boat being battered by waves is part of a new multimedia campaign outlining Australia's tough new stance targeted at asylum seekers.
As authorities intercepted a boat carrying 81 suspected asylum seekers off the West Australian coast yesterday - the 10th boat to be intercepted since August 22 - the federal government will today launch its "No Advantage" strategy in countries such as Afghanistan, Sri Lank and Indonesia, telling people that they risk processing in Nauru or PNG, may not be resettled in Australia, and cannot sponsor family members to join them.
Videos show unsafe fishing boats and no-frills offshore processing accommodation while imploring refugees to not deal with people smugglers. It comes after the drowning deaths of up to 100 last week when their wooden boat sank in the Sunda Strait, and the arrival of two boats carrying 145 at the weekend.
The 54 Afghans rescued from the sinking are now in Indonesian immigration detention, along with 50 Sri Lankans whose boat was found floundering on the Sumatran coast.
Brochures, posters and YouTube clips in Farsi, Arabic, Tamil, English and other languages tell people their claims will be heard no faster if they risk their lives and they should instead "do the right thing" and apply for visas, which have been increased to 20,000.
"The people smugglers' trade must be stopped to save people drowning at sea," the video says.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the message was "there is no advantage to risking a dangerous journey in a people smuggler's boat".
"They could be processed in Nauru or on Manus Island, and will wait just as long as they would in a refugee camp.
"They will not be able to sponsor family members under the humanitarian program, and there's no guarantee of resettlement in Australia."
Meanwhile, the Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said Australia should begin sending Sri Lankan asylum seekers home immediately, as most were economic migrants.
I will boost school rankings - PM
Empty promises. Ever if she were to survive the next election, pouring money in is a tried and failed strategy. Better discipline is what is needed
THE Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will pledge today to elevate the international standing of Australian schools so they rank among the top five systems in the world by 2025. The plan is part of the new school funding system her government intends to make law before the next election.
In the government's response to the Gonski review of school funding, Ms Gillard will announce a plan for an "Australian Education Act" to enshrine the new funding model, meaning an incoming Coalition government would have to repeal the law if it wanted to return to the present model, its preferred system.
"By 2025, Australia should be ranked as a top-five country in the world for the performance of our students in reading, science and mathematics and for providing our children with a high-quality and high-equity education system," Ms Gillard is expected to say in a speech setting up school funding as a key platform for the next election.
Ms Gillard will outline what she says are the three main deficiencies: that although four of the top five schooling systems in the world are in our region, Australia is not among them; that poor Australian children have disproportionately low educational performances; and that as a country we are "failing" indigenous students.
The review called for $5 billion in extra funding but the government has so far refused to detail how much money it will tip into the new system. It and the Coalition have promised that no school will lose money.
But the government, unlike the Coalition, is committed to the funding principle the Gonski report recommends, where a base amount for each student is topped up if the student is disadvantaged or disabled.
While Ms Gillard will argue today that the new model "strips away all the old debates about private versus public", in essence it means public schools will receive more funding because they educate more disadvantaged children than private schools do.
The present funding model, under which each school gets money based on the socio-economic background of its students, will expire next year. The new model will begin in 2014. At present, funding is indexed at about 6 per cent a year.
The transition to the new system will not be complete until 2020 and will depend on the co-operation of the states. The government has not said what indexation the funding will attract.
The NSW Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, said yesterday the states had a limited ability to raise revenue and would not support a new system unless the Commonwealth provided most of the extra cash.
"Any significant increase in schools funding has to be largely funded by the Commonwealth," Mr Piccoli said. "That discussion hasn't begun. We are in a pretty tight situation as it is."
The Commonwealth now provides 30 per cent of schools funding and states give the rest.
Where's the money coming from?
As the election clock begins sounding its metronome-like cadence, the promises are beginning to fall from the sky. There'll be pork in every barrel and a chicken in every pot.
There'll also be a filling in every dental cavity thanks to the scheme announced by the Federal Government last week.
We can only presume that Treasurer Swan has hit paydirt with his metal detector, stumbling upon a mountain of gold in the hills around Canberra.
He should get a shovel and start digging quickly because he has about 10 weeks in which to find almost $4 billion for the dental scheme just announced, with Health Minister Tanya Plibersek vowing that the source of these funds "will all be accounted for" in the Government's mid-year economic forecast due by November 8.
Will the new scheme be funded by cutting back on existing health services? No comment from the minister on that score.
Some money will be saved by scrapping the present Chronic Disease Dental Scheme, dumped, Plibersek said, because it was being rorted by "millionaires".
In the interview I heard, Plibersek was fixated on her "millionaire" theme.
Apparently millionaires around the country are driving about in their Bentley convertibles flashing pearly white smiles, all paid for with funds rorted from the tax dollars contributed by little Aussie battlers.
To listen to Plibersek, you would have been hard-pressed to find a vacant seat in a dentist's waiting room in recent years, these being filled to overflowing with millionaires lining up for free crowns and veneers. Bastards!
She didn't mention that the scheme also provided vital dental care for low-income earners who will now be deprived of any assistance until the new scheme starts some time in 2014, well and truly after the federal election.
Should Swan's earnest shovelling unearth $4 billion, there will be no rest for the Treasurer, there being barely time for a few quick choruses of Born in the USA - Nambour in his case - before resuming the search for further billions.
These will be needed to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Once it is up and running, it is estimated the scheme will cost $14.5 billion a year, including the $6.5 billion the states are already spending so someone - Hello! Mr Swan! Are you there or just Dancing in the Dark? - has to find an extra $8 billion a year.
By the end of the decade, the Productivity Commission estimates, the NDIS may have consumed $50 billion. Dig, dig, shovel, shovel!
This does not take into account that other political pie now floating through the electoral sky, the Gonski education review, which will cost $5 billion to implement.
Increased spending on asylum-seekers and the provision of facilities on Nauru and Manus Island will soak up another $2 billion, a figure certain to balloon.
The Government might have shelved increases in defence spending until 2016-17 but this merely postpones the inevitable and means massive catch-up funding will be required, with estimates putting this figure at around $10 billion by 2020.
Fortunately, there's no cause for concern.
There'll be a Budget surplus and all these funds will be found through savings and the schemes - NDIS, dental care and Gonski - unfunded and promised for after the next federal election, will all come to fruition.
Of course they will.
2 September, 2012
Asians are prepared to risk their money to keep an ailing Australian farm going and people are "Concerned"?
As it has been a major export earner for Australia the rescuers should be welcomed with open arms. As it is the conditions on the purchase are onerous
Concerns have been raised over the Government's approval of a foreign bid for Australia's largest cotton farm, with Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce labelling it "a disgrace".
Treasurer Wayne Swan has approved a consortium made up of Chinese and Japanese investors to make a bid for Cubbie Station, near Dirranbandi in southern Queensland.
The station was placed in administration three years ago with debts of more than $300 million.
Mr Swan said in a statement on Friday that the consortium, textile manufacturer Shandong Ruyi, had given undertakings on employment, management and water use.
But critics of the decision say Australia's national interests are at stake.
Dale Miller, a policy officer at rural lobby group Agforce, says the Federal Government must be careful when approving foreign purchases of agricultural assets.
"Agforce Queensland is not opposed to commercially motivated foreign investment, so let's make that clear," he said.
"Our main concerns are that that foreign investment doesn't compromise market competition or pricing for Australian commodity products.
"So as long as that foreign investment is effectively monitored and regulated, we do see some benefit in that capital flowing into our enterprises."
Mr Miller says the Government needs to be aware of Australia's national interests.
"One of the things Agforce has been calling for is the establishment of a national register to make sure that we've got the information that we need to effectively monitor foreign investment and to be able to make decisions about where that investment might be compromising our national interests," he said.
Senator Joyce says Cubbie Station is vital to Australian agriculture, and described the decision as "a disgrace". [Does he think they are going to pick it up and take it back to China?]
"If the ownership of Australia's biggest water licence, if the ownership in commercial terms of one of Australia's biggest properties - the biggest farm in the Murray-Darling Basin, a property responsible for in excess of 10 per cent of our nation's cotton crop - is not in our national interest, then the national interest is a farce, there is no national interest in agriculture," he said.
However, Mr Swan says a successful sale would be in the national interest. "In the event the consortium is successful in acquiring Cubbie Group, it will report to the Foreign Investment Review Board every 12 months on its progress on meeting its undertakings," he said.
"The Government welcomes foreign investment in Australia and continues to ensure that investments are consistent with Australia's national interest."
Mr Swan says the consortium would initially have an 80 per cent stake which would reduce over time.
Lempiere, an Australian-owned wool company, will initially own the other 20 per cent of the company.
"Critically, Ruyi has undertaken to sell down its interest to no more than 51 per cent within three years," Mr Swan said.
Muslim killer shows his contempt for civilized norms
The New South Wales Government is seeking to appeal against the sentence for the killer of truck driver Bob Knight.
Attorney-General Greg Smith has called for advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions on the possibility of appealing against the sentence.
On Thursday, Mahmoud Mariam, who was convicted of killing Mr Knight, laughed after he was sentenced to at least five years and nine months in jail.
Mr Knight was shot dead while he was in his truck waiting at traffic lights at Milperra in Sydney's south-west in 2009.
He was hit by a stray bullet fired by Mariam in a dispute with another family in a nearby restaurant carpark.
Premier Barry O'Farrell slammed the penalty, which he said was "clearly inadequate".
"It's the sort of decision that lowers community confidence in the judiciary," he said.
"It's one that I've asked the Attorney-General to provide a report to me as to what, if anything, can be done to ensure that what should be a tougher penalty is imposed."
In sentencing, Justice Megan Latham said the 28-year-old Mariam wore his contempt for the law like a badge of honour.
"The offender was a mature adult who consciously and arrogantly engaged in a mindless display of violence in the presence of much younger men," she said.
"The offender himself has at no stage expressed the slightest remorse for the death of Mr Knight."
Mr Smith is seeking advice on the possibility of appealing against Mariam's sentence and for two juveniles convicted of affray over the incident.
"Radio Australia" upgraded
It has for a long time been an important source of relatively unbiased news and information for Asians under tyrannical governments
Australia's Foreign Minister Bob Carr has confirmed an agreement has been reached for the ongoing funding of a new-look Australia Network Service, combining television, radio and digital media.
In a statement, Senator Carr said the deal for an 'Integrated Multiplatform International Media Service' would allow the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) to combine the existing Australia Network television operation with Radio Australia’s services, and the ABC's news online and digital operations.
"It will ensure delivery of a comprehensive service to diverse regional audiences using the media platforms of their choice, effectively extending Australia's public diplomacy reach,” Senator Carr said.
He explained that under the agreement the Australia Network service would become a permanent feature of the ABC "bringing greater certainty for the future, (and) allowing the ABC to make more flexible and integrated broadcasting decisions for Australia's international target audiences."
The Government and the ABC will now mutually review the terms for renewal.
Lynley Marshall, CEO of ABC International, said the agreement "should enable the ABC to operate more effectively by converging Radio Australia and Australia Network resources."
"The service description now also provides greater flexibility to shape the services for the future. This is obviously necessary given the changing nature of audience trends, technology and service delivery," she added.
Economist sounds warning over spending promises
Gillard is dreaming impossible dreams
One of the country's leading economic forecasters says both major political parties have spent too much and promised too much over the past decade.
Deloitte Access Economics forecaster Chris Richardson has told Lateline the Government will struggle to pay for its $4 billion dental program, disability insurance scheme, school funding reform, new submarines and offshore asylum seeker processing, and still get the budget to surplus.
And he says the Opposition's plans to scrap the carbon and mining taxes will also leave it extremely short.
"I don’t think the budget’s in shape to deliver those sorts of things. Now, it doesn’t mean that those individual ideas, you know there are some good ideas in there," he said.
"But, you look at what the Government is promising, or at least it would like to do, you look at an Opposition which is aiming to get rid of some taxes, both sides are still making promises, still assuming that China, which forgave the tax cuts and big spending increases over the last decade, will continue to do that.
"If the budget were coming down tomorrow, it would be in deficit. A bunch of things have gone wrong in recent times. You know, share markets down, housing prices down," he added.
"But, the bit of the world economy that is problematic for the budget is what’s happening in China and how that’s led to falls in iron ore and coal prices. "Those things hurt the budget more than anything else."
Mr Richardson says the Government could delay some of its spending if it wants to meet its commitment to return to surplus next year.
"What that means to me is that there’s savings to be made. Now, that’s not impossible, and the Government has already said it will look for savings in and around the new dental scheme, but it may be a reasonably big bill," he observed.
"Most of the things that have happened since the budget are hurting the bottom line."
Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.
Most academics are lockstep Leftists so readers do sometimes doubt that I have the qualifications mentioned above. Photocopies of my academic and military certificates are however all viewable here
For overseas readers: The "ALP" is the Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. The "Liberal" party is Australia's major conservative political party.
Again for overseas readers: Like the USA, Germany and India, Australia has State governments as well as the Federal government. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).
For American readers: A "pensioner" is a retired person living on Social Security
Two of my ancestors were convicts so my family has been in Australia for a long time. As well as that, all four of my grandparents were born in the State where I was born and still live: Queensland. And I am even a member of the world's second-most condemned minority: WASPs (the most condemned is of course the Jews -- which may be why I tend to like Jews). So I think I am as Australian as you can get. I certainly feel that way. I like all things that are iconically Australian: meat pies, Vegemite, Henry Lawson etc. I particularly pride myself on my familiarity with the great Australian slanguage. I draw the line at Iced Vo-Vos and betting on the neddies, however. So if I cannot comment insightfully on Australian affairs, who could?
On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.
I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.
I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!
I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.
The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"
UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.
Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.
A delightful story about a great Australian conservative