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

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


30 November, 2010

New conservative Victorian Premier pledges no change!

In his first press conference as Victorian premier Ted Baillieu says that under his government "what you will see is what you will get". "We will treat families with compassion and dignity," he said.

Labor leader John Brumby conceded defeat late Monday following Saturday's tightly fought state election.

"There will be no hidden agenda, no spin, no secrecy. Accountability and transparency will the principles that underpin our government," Mr Baillieu said on Tuesday. "What you will see is what you will get." "We know that Victorians have given us a mandate to make change, a mandate for reform and we will be getting on with that task.

"But we also understand that Victorian families want to know what affects their daily lives because Victorian families are really best placed to make judgments about what's in their own interests and how the cost of living can be kept down.

"I want to reassure all Victorians that there will be no radical or sudden changes. "We will be taking a common sense and sensible approach to running this state.


But he will obstruct the Federal Left

INCOMING Victorian premier Ted Baillieu will challenge key planks of Julia Gillard's reform agenda. This included the broadband network, health reform, the mining tax and water, in a clear challenge to the Prime Minister's ability to deliver.

The premier-elect last night told The Australian he will launch an immediate audit of Victorian hospital waiting lists to determine whether the national health reform deal signed by outgoing Premier John Brumby provides enough for his state.

Mr Baillieu will also make his support for Canberra's planned roll-out of the National Broadband Network conditional on improved mobile phone reception in regional and metropolitan areas.

Mr Baillieu's aggressive approach towards Ms Gillard's major reforms came as Labor insiders predicted Mr Brumby would soon stand down to allow a smooth transition to a new Labor leadership team.

As Mr Brumby formally conceded that the Victorian election was lost, speculation centred on his Health Minister Daniel Andrews as the likely replacement leader. Water Minister Tim Holding and one of the party's rising stars, Regional and Rural Development Minister Jacinta Allan, were also being mooted as candidates, but considered less likely to run.

Mr Baillieu drove through the gates to the Governor's mansion at about 6:30pm last night to formally accept his commission as next premier. While he is yet to formally outline his priorities for government, he told The Australian more questions needed to be answered before he could support either the NBN or Ms Gillard's reforms to hospital finance.

"Before taxpayers fund an NBN, basic services such as mobile phone reception in many regional and metropolitan areas of Victoria should be addressed and improved wherever possible," he said.

"Victorians don't know enough about the health deal John Brumby signed with Kevin Rudd. We will commence an audit on coming to government to reveal the true extent of hospital waiting lists in Victoria. I've made it clear that we'll examine every aspect of the health deal on coming to government, and if it's not in the interests of Victorian families, we will seek to get a better outcome from Julia Gillard."

The instalment of a Coalition government in Victoria, along with Colin Barnett's West Australian government, will further complicate the Prime Minister's task in securing state support through COAG for her reforms.

The NSW Labor government is widely expected to face a huge defeat in March next year and opposition parties in NSW and Queensland signalled they would also take a critical approach to Ms Gillard's plans. Mr Barnett said he was pleased not to be the only non-Labor premier.

Mr Brumby called Mr Baillieu shortly before a 5pm media conference to concede defeat in Saturday's election and pass on his congratulations. He blamed the "weight of time" after 11 years of Labor government as being the most decisive factor in the result. "The electorate has spoken and we must accept their verdict, no matter how close the result," he said. "The people of Victoria felt it was time to give another team a chance."

In addition to Ms Gillard's NBN and health reforms, Mr Baillieu urged caution towards Labor's proposed national curriculum, Murray-Darling Basin plan and mining tax.

"I am supportive of a national curriculum and it was originally a Liberal idea," he said. "But Victorian families don't want a prescriptive one-size-fits-all approach. There should be a focus on basics, especially with declining literacy and numeracy standards amongst Victorian students. It is also important to have a sound mix of content and skills and there should be a balanced approach to Australia's and Victoria's history and social values".

In a threat to the plans to return water to the Murray-Darling Basin, Mr Baillieu said he would not allow the changes to be fast-tracked in Victoria.

"It is clear that much more work needs to be done on the social and economic impact of the plan on Victorian communities and families," he said. Mr Baillieu will seek an emergency briefing from Ms Gillard on the mining tax and potential impacts on Victoria.

The comments to The Australian reveal the Prime Minister faces an uphill battle to deliver many of her national reforms.

Mr Baillieu said he would push for a "better deal" in the proposed national health reforms and additional commonwealth funding for major infrastructure projects.

In a forerunner to what is likely to become an increasingly difficult climate between the federal government and the states over proposed reforms, Mr Baillieu told The Australian one of the first things he wanted to do for the state on a national level was to re-examine what Victoria received in the health agreement.

"Victoria has the potential to make a bigger contribution to the national economy and do better on service delivery, integrity of government and cost of living," he said. "I will be pushing for a better deal for Victoria on health and infrastructure funding."

Mr Baillieu said he wanted to secure more funding for his proposed railway line to Avalon Airport, near Geelong, and funding to improve the state's level crossings.

He also wanted, as a key priority, "crucial road funding" to stop traffic bottlenecks in the city and suburbs which "damage the economy and slow travel speeds".

It comes as Coalition opposition parties said they would also take a critical approach to Ms Gillard's plans.

Queensland Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek said the Murray-Darling plan, the health takeover, the NBN and the mining tax were all potential flashpoints. "I am encouraged that Queenslanders are growing in confidence with the policies the LNP have been announcing, but we are not taking anything for granted and will work day and night to provide a viable alternative to the tired, long-term Labor government," he said.

And NSW Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell has declared that if he wins government he will not sign deals that left NSW people worse off. "The NSW Liberals and Nationals will not sign up to any national agreements which leave the state's services or taxpayers worse off."

NSW opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said NSW Liberals and Nationals had always voiced concerns about handing over GST funding, especially when there were no details on what levels the "efficient costs" would be set at.

"The NSW Liberals and Nationals have positive plans for health reform in NSW that we believe are compatible with the current arrangements but we reserve the right to act in the best interests of NSW patients should circumstances change".


Something odd about home schooling?

Next year I will educate one of my primary school-aged children at home. It suits him, for now, and it will suit me, now that I have made some changes. Yet it doesn't seem to suit anyone else. Even the government representative – meant to support parents and children undertaking home education – seemed, well, judgmental. When I asked why it took a few months for approval to come through – nothing accusatorial in my tone, just wanting to be across the process – she caustically responded “because we care about the children”.

My son loves to learn – more broadly than the curriculum dictates. I like to teach, and I too am still learning. I will organise help if there are elements beyond me. Basically, we are excited. And I am not asking for the $10,722 it would have cost the government to have him in primary school next year. So which bit is confronting?

Teaching has been around as long as humans have, but education and schools are relatively newer concepts, particularly our industrialised version.

The reactions of others would suggest I am removing my son from a perfect education system, a system that, despite some excellent teachers, stands accused of narrowing education, teaching to the test and moving towards rewarding a school, or recognising the "best" teachers, based on flawed measures that foster stress and desperation.

The NSW Board of Studies oversees home education in NSW. Parents or carers must complete an interview with an authorised person within the home. They need to demonstrate that a suitable education program, in accordance with the curriculum provided by the Education Act and Board of Studies syllabuses, has been devised and learning experiences, student achievements and progress can be recorded. Registration for home schooling is granted for a set period, usually between six months and two years, and once it expires you have to re-apply.

Home schooling has steadily increased in recent years. In 2009, 1945 children were registered for home schooling in NSW compared with 1417 in 2005, according to the NSW Board of Studies. More than 1.5 million students were educated at home in the US during 2007, compared with 1.1 million in 2003 and 850,000 in 1999, the US Department of Education says.

A Stanford University journal, Education Next, reported last year that the phenomenon was becoming mainstream, and the most common reason was a concern about the local school environment, rather than religious beliefs.

Research on the performance of home-schooled children here is close to non-existent. But most overseas studies indicate they perform the same, or better, both academically and socially.

Choosing to educate at home is a way of doing things differently. It may not be suitable for everyone – school is a safety net too for many families – but it should not be maligned or deemed unnatural.

The cartoonist and philosopher Michael Leunig did it for more than 10 years. He says home schooling forces parents to re-examine their own values and learning, and question what is worth doing in life. “Having the top score at 18 isn't going to help if you have a nervous breakdown at 40 . . . We are watching horrible pressure being put on children. Human happiness, sanity and health is involved in this issue. Taking back what we are meant to do is a bold step. It's not just about educating, it's about protecting character, it's about parenting.”

"What about the socialisation?" say many of those who disapprove. Frankly, much of the socialisation at school constitutes quips such as “You're gay” (if you, say, go to the library voluntarily) or, “You're weird” (if you don't own a gaming console).

If repeated exposure to this prepares a child for the adult world, then we are doing something very wrong in the adult world. So much of the school experience is just surviving – a strange way to fritter our Western advantage. Research published this year as part of the UK Millennium Cohort Study, which tracks the development of 15,000 children born between 2000 and 2002, found that one in four boys hate school by the age of seven.

Educating a child at home is a legitimate choice. Why are we so frightened of doing things differently? Why are we so frightened of others doing things differently?


Secrecy tells its own story about the NBN

So much for opening the curtains and letting the sunshine in. The last few weeks of the Federal Parliamentary year have highlighted the farcical lengths the Gillard Government will go to avoid the sunshine of parliamentary scrutiny.

Demanding unprecedented seven year secrecy clauses from MPs. Blocking legislation to allow the Productivity Commission to conduct a cost-benefit analysis. Then finally, dragged kicking and screaming, releasing just a flimsy 36 page summary of the NBN 400-page business plan.

It begs the simple question: why be so secretive? It’s almost as if the National Broadband Network was a figurative political vampire that must be protected from the sun at all costs. No new paradigm sunshine will be permitted to reduce this policy monster to a pile of ashes.

The irony is Labor’s NBN is showing signs it will indeed be a parasitic drain on the public purse while sucking the life out of competition in the communications sector.

The flimsy “business plan” summary relies on extremely optimistic take-up rates to justify its rubbery figures. Laughably, the Government is now claiming it will cost $6 billion less than first expected. Hmmm…sounds reasonable coming from a Government that managed to overspend $2 billion on a school hall program, and waste an estimated $7 billion in delivering it.

And now an international study by two expert consultants has found that the claimed benefits of the NBN are grossly overstated. No earth shattering news here. Indeed, the study has questioned the benefits of fibre-to-the-home networks.

It’s a fair question in a world where technology is advancing rapidly and wireless internet speeds are now so much faster than we dreamt of just a few years ago.

I don’t claim to be an expert on broadband technology. But with demand (and capacity) for mobile technology growing almost daily, it seems extremely antiquated and inefficient to be digging up footpaths and laying fibre across a nation as extensive as ours.

In a fascinating development, last week a subsidiary company of Telstra located in Hong Kong announced the roll out of “fourth generation” wireless internet which will provide speeds of up to 100 megabits per second. That’s wireless technology delivering now the kind of speed promised by the NBN - and at no cost to Hong Kong taxpayers. Makes you wonder.

We all want decent, fast and affordable broadband. But as the Governor of the Reserve Bank so eloquently put it last week, “much hinges on how much you pay to do it and how efficiently it’s done.” That’s the bottom line. That’s what an independent cost-benefit analysis by the Productivity Commission would determine.

While Labor (and their new paradigm pals the Independents and Greens) refuse to subject the NBN to the sunshine of scrutiny, it’s taxpayers who will be figuratively left in the dark with their jugular exposed.


29 November, 2010

The Naomi Oreskes witchhunt comes to Australia

Jo Nova comments below on the professional slanderer and her Australian apostle, Nick Stekete, writing in The Australian. In good Warmist form, Stekete mentions not one scientific fact in support of Warmism. The way Warmists worship authority is positively North Korean

Some people just can’t think. Naomi Oreskes “reasons” by Remarkable Parallels, which is as bogus a way of thinking as any tea-leaf-incantation that we thought we left behind in the caves.

She thinks that because she can find parallels between Tobacco and Climate Skeptics, therefore skeptics are wrong about climate sensitivity due to a trace gas. Go figure why anyone struggles to analyze ice cores when they could have just done a Google search?

I can find remarkable parallels between Lysenko and modern climate science, but I don’t bother writing a book on it. If I want answers about the climate I look at the data from the planet, not data about personalities.

Mike Steketee (Some sceptics make it a habit to be wrong) has learnt a new way to throw names from Oreskes. Nick Minchin (recently retired Senator from the conservative opposition) is just the latest target of this effusion of confusion. Now anyone who raises points against a policy can be called a “doubt-monger” and the Orwellian destruction of our language advances one more notch.

Naomi Oreskes IS the Merchant of Doubt

Ponder the irony of what Oreskes herself is doing. Is she not profiteering from being a doubt-monger about scientist’s reputations? Is she not a conspiracy theorist about webs of vested interests among conservative speakers? Could it be that her entire reasoning dies by its own sword and her claims turn out to be as hypocritical as they are mindless?

Is there any possibility that governments can become too big, too powerful? Not according to Oreskes. Now anyone who even questions the growth of government power can be spat into the box called “conspiracy theorist” or “ideologue”. The mindless vacuity of Oreskes’ reasoning sucks sensible discussion into the black hole of tribal name-calling. Mike Steketee applauds from the sidelines.

Redefining “extreme”

Can governments become too large? Just ask one of the hundred million victims of states where state-power crushed individual rights to speak. Except you won’t get many answers because those victims not only lost their right to speak, they lost their right to breathe. (Think Soviet Russia, Communist China, Communist Cambodia, Nazi Germany,…)

Nothing made by man has killed more people than overbearing government. Yet now, anyone who even questions the creeping growth of government power is dismissed as an “extremist”. There is no balance allowed in this debate.

Attacking reputations to silence a scientific debate

Ad hominem attacks are always a fallacy in science. Fred Singer and Frederick Seitz held esteemed positions for decades of public service, and yet because they were ever involved with anything to do with a program or study that had the words “tobacco” in it (even if it was just a statistical test on the dangers of passive smoke), their views on global warming are therefore wrong. Thus is the great catastrophe “proved” by Oreskes and her ilk.

Nick Minchin has, of course, committed the unforgiveable sin of declaring that smokers have the right to do what they want, and not to be bossed around by the overbearing domineers who want to meddle with other people’s lives. Thus, he’s uttered the word “tobacco” and didn’t chant the right line, comrade!

What Orsekes and Steketee have discovered is merely that people who don’t want to be sock puppet citizens have principles. They don’t want to foist their own non-smoking habit on anyone else, just as they don’t want to foist an unnecessary carbon scheme on the masses. Some people are not gullible.

Why does The Australian think this transparent failure of reasoning is worth publishing in the first place? Every other newspaper in the country has soaked up the smear campaign as if it was science, but we hope The Australian might be the last hold out bastion of reason, where people don’t self-satirize themselves, and journalists don’t mistake a kindergarten name-calling program for an unbiased historical analysis.

The Questions no one can answer

Oreskes is selling doubt mongering, and the skeptics like Nick Minchin are merely asking questions no one in the western climate establishment can answer. Questions like this:

Where are the global records of raw temperature data used to calculate the global warming graphs? No one can find them.

Where are the latest global results from the ARGO oceanic temperature network, and why aren’t they published monthly on a public website?

Where is the empirical evidence for warming greater than 1.2 degrees? No one can name and explain a single paper that shows long term positive feedback that amplifies the warming, as the climate alarmists assert.

Because those who want to alarm us and control us have not got scientific evidence, they resort to the smear campaign to try to diminish the influence of the great independent minds who seek answers we ought to have.

Mankind faces the “greatest threat ever known” — supposedly. So why are the raw data, adjustments, and methods used to study this threat so difficult to find?


Labor party facing disaster in three states

And that's not mentioning the huge unpopularity of Anna Bligh in Queensland

LABOR is in crisis across three states and faces a political disaster nationally as its dismal standing with voters puts Prime Minister Julia Gillard's health reform agenda in serious doubt.

As a shellshocked Labor copped a surprise electoral routing in Victoria, the national health plan is now likely to be a casualty, with both the NSW and Victorian Coalitions confirming they would refuse to sign up to the deal in its current form.

Adding to the party's woes was a near union-led leadership coup against South Australian Premier Mike Rann and NSW Premier Kristina Keneally facing her own union-related crisis.

Ms Keneally yesterday demanded the head of NSW Labor Party boss Bernie Riordan after his union told members to consider backing parties other than Labor at the March election.

She telephoned Mr Riordan just after 6am to tell him his position was "untenable" and "unacceptable", after it was revealed the Electrical Trades Union magazine suggested a vote for other parties.

On the way to Mass, she issued a statement that she had lost confidence in Mr Riordan and then called him back to say: "You'll hear it from me directly - you've lost my confidence as party president."

Mr Riordan is tipped to resign. "He's in absolute f ... ing shock," one Labor source said. "He's in the Riordan compound now thinking about his options. He didn't think she'd stand up to him."

In South Australia, Mr Rann escaped a move by union leaders to remove him as leader at the party's annual state conference on Saturday. He was escorted by police into the meeting before the Australian Workers Union put a motion for him to resign, which he survived by 118 votes to 61.

But it is the threat to federal Labor's health reforms that is emerging as the party's biggest concern. With the Victorian Coalition on the brink of forming government and the NSW Coalition likely to win in March, Ms Gillard will have to radically alter her health reforms. The Liberal West Australian Government is also refusing to agree to the reforms.

A spokesman for Victorian Coalition leader Ted Baillieu yesterday said he would seek an urgent briefing on the reforms if he became the next premier. "We have grave concerns about it," the spokesman said.

NSW Coalition leader Barry O'Farrell said he would not be signing up to the deal in its current form if he wins office in March, as he is expected to do.

The health reforms are a key plank of what Ms Gillard claimed was a reform agenda for the new year. Under the deal, which would see the Commonwealth take over more funding responsibility for the state-run hospital systems, the states have to agree to surrender more than a third of their GST revenue.

Yesterday Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd added to Labor's internal problems, for the first time attacking the faceless men who orchestrated his dumping from the top job and who he claims are now undermining the party and the Government.

In a direct swipe at union boss Paul Howes, Mr Rudd said: "I think it is time people grew up. "We are always in better shape when the troops are singing from the same hymn sheet."

Mr Howes' name was being bandied about yesterday as a replacement as NSW Labor president, along with Treasurer Eric Roozendaal, but Labor sources denied this.


Qld.: Overworked ambulance drivers falling asleep on the job

AMBULANCE officers are falling asleep at the wheel, putting patients and their own lives at extreme risk because of excessive workloads. Paramedics are regularly being forced to work 16-hour shifts, contrary to occupational health and safety guidelines, to combat growing demand exacerbated by hospital ramping and lack of resources.

While paramedics struggle with the workload, ambulance management is boasting over salary savings.

"If you work more than 16 hours, experts say it is the equivalent of having two or more standard drinks and a blood alcohol limit of .05," Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union (which represents paramedics) state organiser Kroy Day said. "Is this what we want for our paramedics? Driving patients around intoxicated, that is not to mention the safety concerns of having to make quick medical decisions and administer drugs."

There were almost 600 occasions (598) where paramedics worked a 12-hour shift or more in June, July and August this year, figures obtained by The Sunday Mail show. In the same three months there were almost 400 (398) rostered shifts not filled. Currently, 14 per cent of overtime in the ambulance service is due to shift extensions. In a 2005 review of work practices, workload and health for the Queensland Ambulance Service, Professor Tony Parker recommended shift duration should not exceed 12 hours including overtime.

There are about 3000 paramedics in the state's ambulance services, but Mr Day said about 250 paramedics were needed to cover the increasing workload.

Assistant Commissioner Rodney Waldz was quoted in minutes of a regional consultative committee meeting earlier this year that he expected to be "up to $600,000 in the black as a result of savings in wages and salaries due to vacancies". This amount would hire about eight paramedics.

Acting Commissioner Russell Bowles said QAS had the "best response times in the nation" and the move to 12-hour shifts was taken in full consultation with the union.


Boats full of illegals are still flooding into Australia

No mystery about how to stop them: Just reinstate the policies of the previous conservative government -- but the present Leftist government clearly does not WANT to stop the illegals coming -- despite fighting an election on a promise of cutting the arrivals back

More than 100 suspected asylum seekers are being transferred to Christmas Island after three boats were intercepted in two days near Ashmore Island off north-west Australia.

The opposition immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, said the arrivals brought to almost 200 the number of boats intercepted since Labor was elected. "Three years ago you could count the number of people being detained who had arrived illegally by boat on one hand. There were just four," Mr Morrison said. "The Coalition's policies stopped the boats."

"Riots, brawling, gruesome protests and self-harm have all returned to our detention network after three years of Labor's failed policies," Mr Morrison said.

A spokesman for the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, acknowledged "pressures on our detention accommodation network". "Yet you have the Coalition running around the country opposing new detention accommodation," he said.

"Last week it outlined a refugee visa cap measure that would have the effect of putting asylum seekers … into arbitrary, indefinite detention."


28 November, 2010

Police Union angry at 'political correctness gone mad' on naming offenders' race

A major restriction on free speech has been imposed. It's never been openly announced but similar restrictions clearly apply in Victoria too

POLICE say a ban on using ethnic or religious words to describe offenders is obstructing investigations. The police union has labelled the policy, a direct order from Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan, as "political correctness gone mad". Officers can no longer use details such as a suspect's nationality, race or religion when seeking public help. Instead, they have been told to say if the person is light or dark skinned.

WA Police Union president Russell Armstrong wants the rule overturned.

The Equal Opportunities Commission says the ban was introduced six months ago after complaints that using ethnic descriptions was racist. The commission said witnesses who made reports to police would often get the ethnicity of a suspect wrong.

Mr Armstrong said using "scant descriptions" made it harder to catch criminals. "If you just turn around and say we are looking for a 20-year-old male, 180cm, with black hair, how many people in the community does that description fit?" he said. "If somebody is Australian or if somebody is English or if somebody is Nigerian, wherever they are from, police should be allowed to say that in their description of offenders.

One police insider said the policy had prevented the capture of suspects. "These rules don't give a true indication of who police are looking for," the source said. "There is a big difference between a dark-skinned person being Aboriginal or African. And if we are looking for an Asian person-of-interest it's a bit narrow to describe them as simply having fair skin and dark hair."

But Equal Opportunity Commission state commissioner Yvonne Henderson said using ethnic descriptions reinforced negative stereotypes. "It can feed into prejudiced ideas in the community about which ethnicities are mainly responsible for criminal behaviour," she said. {Must not let the public know the truth!]

Ms Henderson also said the police use of ethnic descriptions was often misleading. "Often they were inaccurate because they were based on one person's assumption of someone's racial background, which could be wrong," she said. The commission will investigate any incidents where police use ethnic descriptions.

Ethnic Communities Council of WA president Maria Saraceni said the ban stopped police condemning everyone of a particular race in an area they were investigating. "If police say they are looking for an Indian, how would the public know to distinguish between an Indian and a Pakistani?," Ms Saraceni said. "It is much more accurate to use details like height, weight or hair colour."

Police spokesman Insp Bill Munnee defended the rule. "The continued use of ethnic descriptors enforces stereotypes, does not promote understanding between cultures, damages police-community relationships and is not considered a sound investigatory practice," Insp Munnee said. [In other words, catching the crooks is bottom priority for the West Australian police and indoctrinating people with lies is top priority. It is all a coverup for the fact that Aborigines and Africans have a high rate of offending. But people must not be aware of that, apparently]


Bullsh*t school in Victoria cops flak from parents

A SCHOOL that banned homework for young students has been forced to change the policy after a furious backlash from parents. Children from prep to year nine at Carranballac College in Point Cook are not given daily tasks to do at home because it is felt it is unnecessary and even detrimental.

But worried parents feared their children were not keeping up with students from other schools and pushed for homework to be reintroduced.

The school confirmed it has "redefined" its homework policy, but said tasks were still not compulsory. "Families are encouraged to interact in quality learning experiences as a family," principal Peter Kearney said. "Families are advised upon enrolment of our belief in the value of shared family experiences." [What a lot of empty talk! What business does this pr*ick have lecturing families on what they do?]

Child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg said the school made the homework u-turn because "parents delusionally base the quality of their child's education on the amount of homework they were given". "Parents want homework because they think it will make children better educated. But it can in fact have the opposite effect and even be harmful," he said.

Parent Melanie Bluff, who has two daughters at the school, said she approves of the scheme. "I'm a big fan because you are doing things tailored for your child," she said. "My daughter Alexandra, who is nine, lacked confidence a year ago, but teachers were able to suggest real life scenarios that have really helped. We asked her to ring for a pizza on her own, things like that, and the change has been staggering."

Mr Kearney said: "We ask parents to spend some time with their children after school time to reinforce some of the things they have learned. This process is not difficult." [But it is also none of his business]


The "obesity" war gets more and more vicious

Overweight mothers now turned away from hospitals

PREGNANT women are being turned away from several NSW hospitals for being too fat, causing outrage among women's groups. An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has found a number of public hospitals across the state are not allowing women with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or above to give birth there, deeming them too "high risk".

BMI is a measurement of a person's health based on their height and weight, so a woman who stands 155cm and weighs 83kg would have a BMI of 35 and be considered too overweight to give birth safely in many hospitals.

In Sydney, Sutherland Hospital and Ryde Hospital refer women with a BMI of 35 or higher to hospitals with more specialised models of care. At Hornsby, Ku-ring-gai, Mona Vale and Manly hospitals, women with a BMI of more than 40 will be told to book in to another facility.

In regional areas, Shellharbour, Milton Ulladulla, Bowral and District, Wyong, Lithgow and the Blue Mountains hospitals all refer women with a BMI of 35 or more to another hospital.

NSW Australian College of Midwives president Hannah Dahlen said that rejecting women with a BMI of 35 was "extreme" and would push more people into dangerous birthing alternatives. "It is very insensitive - one woman with a BMI of 35 is not the same as another woman with a BMI of 35," she said. "They forget about the individual. Women are making decisions like free birth at home with no assistance and that is a much worse option. "We have to be more flexible in our health system about labelling women and look at things like lifestyle, diet and exercise."

Ms Dahlen said a BMI of 35 was now "very, very common", particularly among certain cultures. [Polynesians]

Publicly-funded birthing centres run by midwives also have a policy to turn away women with a BMI of more than 35, she said.

While there is no statewide policy, all area health services in NSW consider a BMI of 35 as the benchmark. Pregnant women who are overweight run a greater risk of diseases such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia. There are also higher rates of neonatal intensive care admissions, birth defects, prematurity, still birth and perinatal death among obese women.

The president of the Maternity Coalition, a national organisation advocating best-practice maternity care for women, Lisa Metcalfe, said BMI restrictions further reduced women's options. "It is another nail in the coffin for women's choice. Next, they'll be telling you, 'She has blue eyes, she'll need a specialist'," she said.

A spokeswoman for Sydney West Area Health Service said BMI was not the only risk indicator and was used as a guide for clinicians, with other factors including the mother's age, medical history and previous birth experiences.


Growing opposition to Australia's windmill lunacy

Australia is not nearly as far down the windmill road as Britain and there seems a good chance that it never will be

JOHN Coombs, the former maritime union heavyweight who refused to let radioactive waste cross the nation's docks, has experienced a change of heart.

He reckons it's time Australia went nuclear. And that's the message he wants to send to the man who stood beside him during the waterfront dispute - former ACTU secretary, now Climate Change Minister, Greg Combet.

His conversion is part of a new world of climate change politics, in which unlikely alliances are being formed and long-held positions being revised.

Mr Coombs, long retired as national secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia, now finds himself in the same camp as ABC chairman and former Australian Securities Exchange chair Maurice Newman.

Both own property at Crookwell on the NSW southern tablelands, a couple of hours southwest of Sydney. And both have serious doubts about the wisdom of a planned explosion of wind-power developments in the area. "There is a view that wind power will turn out to be for electricity generation what the Zeppelin was for air transportation," Mr Newman said. "It looked promising but was not the answer."

The concerns expressed by Mr Coombs and Mr Newman mirror doubts being expressed in South Australia and southwest Victoria about the cost, efficiency, social impacts and health effects of the new-generation wind turbines that cost more than $2 million each and are as tall as a 45-storey building with blades that take up more than 1ha of sky and create enough turbulence to tear apart any bird that strays too close. Since Australia's first large-scale wind turbine was installed at Breamlea, near Geelong in Victoria, in 1987, more than 1000 have sprung up in wind farms built in every state, with almost half in South Australia. Together they generate about 1.5 per cent of the nation's electricity needs - enough to power 770,000 homes. But there are plans for a multi-billion-dollar, 10-fold increase in the amount of power generated from wind as the federal government pursues a target of generating 20 per cent of our power needs from renewable resources by 2020 as part of its carbon reduction plans. It is estimated that about 40 per cent of the renewable energy target will come from wind.

Yet there is a growing tide of concern that Australia is tying too much of its energy future on a technology that is less efficient, less carbon-friendly and ultimately more expensive for consumers than alternative electricity sources, such as natural gas, coal-fired power with carbon capture and storage technology and nuclear.

Then there are the side-effects of wind turbines - their visual impact, the way they divide rural neighbours when a farm springs up on one property, their effect on wildlife and, potentially, on the health of nearby communities.

Family First senator Steve Fielding has established a Senate inquiry to investigate the health impacts of living near windmills, including concerns over noise and vibrations and the effect of rural wind farms on property values.

Submissions are rolling in and calls are growing for a re-evaluation of nuclear energy.

In Canberra this week, International Energy Agency executive director Nobuo Tanaka said it would be "very difficult" for Australia to meet its target of a 60 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 if its gamble on carbon capture and storage - the burial of carbon emissions in deep underground reservoirs - failed and it did not have nuclear power as a back-up. His comments came as a review of international studies, published by Australian researchers in the journal Energy, identified nuclear energy as the cheapest technology to help tackle global warming.

With the billions of dollars earmarked for wind power, which costs more than twice as much as electricity from coal or gas, Mr Coombs said the sensible thing was to consider nuclear energy.

"Of course if you were to mention me (politicians) could say, 'That bloke fought against nuclear waste going out of this country for 20 years', and I did.

"For 20 years I . . . stopped any ship coming in to pick (nuclear waste) up because we refused to let it go to Third World countries.

"Politically, a lot of members were opposed to nuclear energy but it was a long time ago and I gave up the fight . . . to try to stop the use of nuclear power in this country. Of course nuclear power is a reasonable thing to consider."


27 November, 2010

Land of no hope and vainglory

Contempt for others is quintessentially English. As Irishman G.B. Shaw perceptively commented: "No Englishman can open his mouth without causing another Englishman to despise him".

And while the writer below rightly mocks an outrageously unbalanced comment from England (by Matthew Norman, British Press Awards Columnist of the Year 2008) about Australia, he probably does not realize that the same ignoramus would likely be even more bigoted and patronizing in his attitude towards most of his fellow countrymen: Cockneys, Scousers and Geordies, for instance.

And the fact that England is in a deep economic crisis at the moment while Australia sailed through the global financial crisis quite unscathed must be also galling to a British bigot.

And amid all its own troubles, the cash-strapped British government now has to find 7 billion pounds to help bail out the Irish. Guess how much Australia will be up for over that? Not a cent! Must not laugh!

But perhaps the biggest laugh is the bigot's comment about the cricket: "As for our boys, the tour is going so swimmingly that the Test series is as good as ours already". Perhaps that is why the England captain was caught out in the first over at the Gabba! And must not mention Siddle's hat-trick!

See here for some comments from English cricket fans who are actually IN Australia at the moment

England, I’m told you used to be this terrifically confident place which belied its speck-on-the-map geographical status by civilising the world with such benevolent and enduring cultural endowments as the Westminster system, cricket and The Benny Hill Show.

But suddenly England, you’ve gone all insecure and snipey. England, I can’t tell you how genuinely shocked I was to read this piece by journalist Matthew Norman in The Telegraph the other day. Here’s the really surprising bit.
The peculiarly upsetting thing here is that winning at games - and I hope this doesn’t sound condescending - is all Australia has. For a country without a shred of history or a soupcon of culture, and geographically distended (with apologies to New Zealand) from the developed world, sport is the only route to international relevance. Their economy may have nimbly sidestepped the global downturn, and even be booming, but sporting success is all they care about. And with excellent reason. Without it, Australia is nothing.

England, the first thing I should tell you is that I have no idea what a soupcon is. Although after googling it, I note that it should have one of those funny little hook things underneath the c. My, you really do know so much.

Oh, and speaking of hooks, I strongly suspect that your piece is exactly that, and that Aussie-bashing is the bait. Now all you need is to reel in an outraged Aussie and fillet him or her like one of your scrummy delicious kippers.

Sorry old chap. Not biting. Instead, I am going to sit here in my 25th floor office overlooking the pristine coves and beaches and waters of one of the world’s great natural wonders (Sydney Harbour), and the shimmering sails of one of the world’s cultural marvels (the Sydney Opera House). Munching on my fresh lunch sandwich with local seasonal produce which wasn’t wrapped in 10,000 layers of plastic prior to purchase, I will refrain completely from defending the virtues of my gorgeous, clean, optimistic young nation and its diverse, outward-looking inhabitants.

Neither will I direct my readers to the very first comment underneath your inexplicably insecure piece, where the commenter mentions pharmacologist Howard Florey’s role in the development of penicillin as just one Australian contribution to global culture beyond excellence in sport and the ability to enjoy really, really good beaches without leaving beer cans all over them.

Gosh, that last sentence was a bit long, wasn’t it. Anyone would think I’m getting all worked up. I’m not. I’m actually fabulously relaxed. Why wouldn’t I be? It’s Friday, the sun’s out and I live in a country where I won’t be set upon by thousands of toothless hoons for wearing the wrong colour to a football match. Well, as long as Collingwood aren’t playing.

The real question, England, is why are you so worked up? I always thought it was the little guy in any competitive relationship who was the insecure one. The one who slanders to get attention because he’s desperately unsure of his place in the world and his general reason for being. That wouldn’t be you nowadays, would it England?


A chaotic government hospital

LAWYERS cancelling surgery at the last moment???

A 12-YEAR-OLD girl has been refused life-changing surgery after being caught in an alleged feud between surgeons at the Monash Medical Centre in Melbourne.

Emily Rycken was to have had surgery on Wednesday to treat a bone deformity that has left her unable to walk without a limp or crutches. But hours before the operation, as Emily underwent pre-op blood tests and X-rays, Southern Health corporate legal counsel John Snowden took the extraordinary step of cancelling her surgery.

After seven years of treatment at Monash, the family say it's now been "suggested" they find another hospital.

Emily suffers from fibrous dysplasia, a condition that has deformed and weakened her femurs - which have broken numerous times - and left her left leg about 7cm shorter than her right.

Rick Rycken believes his daughter has missed out after changing doctors when an earlier operation by another Monash surgeon failed. "Monash Medical Centre should be ashamed of their treatment of Emily and our family," Mr Rycken told the Herald Sun. "Emily is a sick 12-year-old caught up in a fight between doctors and the hospital. "Who is accountable for her pain and suffering in missing a vital operation? "If they can't manage this, how are they going to run the promised new $250 million children's hospital?"

Medical sources said the two surgeons had competed for the job of director of orthopaedic services at Southern Health and disliked each other intensely.

The family complained to the Health Services Commissioner in 2008 that Emily's original surgeon "had words" with the second and became abusive to his wife and daughter after they told him they had decided to seek treatment with the other surgeon, rather than repeat the failed operation. That complaint was referred to the Medical Board and is subject to ongoing investigations.

Mr Rycken said Emily was left severely scarred when pins and bracing were removed six months after the original operation in 2007.

The family's hopes were again dashed this week when the Monash unexpectedly cancelled the operation to replace a plate in her leg. In an email to Emily's new surgeon telling him that he was not to operate, Mr Snowden said he was unable to find a surgical plan or clinical evidence in support of the proposed surgery.

He also referred to the "considerable controversy" surrounding the management of Emily's case over the past three years, including the Medical Board probe. "Those factors strongly support the requirement for adequate and meaningful clinical information to be provided to Southern Health prior to performance of further surgery here on Emily," he said.

Hospital surgery program director Alan Saunder then apologised to the family for the "confusion, stress and extreme frustration".

Mr Rycken said Mr Saunder's apology came after he threatened to go to the media. "Why did it take five months to discover that (surgeon two) had not lodged the correct paperwork and no surgical plan was in place? Is he supervised? "How thoroughly was Emily's case discussed?"

Mr Saunder told the Herald Sun Southern Health had a strict policy that all complex surgery was discussed with a senior clinical team to determine the type of surgery in the patient's best interest. "In this case, the operating surgeon did not discuss the surgery with the expert team, nor did he provide a comprehensive care plan."

He denied suggesting Emily seek treatment elsewhere, but said he did agree to help if the family did so.

Opposition health spokesman David Davis said Emily's plight was the "appalling human cost of John Brumby's incompetent management of the health system". "Monash and Southern Health have more than 1000 category 2 patients waiting and hundreds of them, like Emily with very serious conditions, are forced to wait over the allowed 90 days."


The chaotic NSW school system

HUNDREDS of casual teachers had their approval to teach withdrawn after they failed to attain up-to-date teaching accreditation. At the same time, a casual teacher shortage had left some schools unable to supervise dozens of classes.

Department of Education and Training figures showed that 287 casual teachers - almost 15 per cent of all who were considered - were unable to fulfil standards for their accreditation within a five-year timeframe.

The teachers whose approval was withdrawn between 2008-09 were permitted to teach students for up to five years without attaining professional competence accreditation.

Standards teachers must meet include demonstrating communication skills, a knowledge of subject content and teaching methods, planning, assessing and ability to maintain a safe classroom environment. Eight probationary teachers failed to meet a required level of teacher performance between 2008-09, the figures obtained under Freedom of Information show.

One school had 146 classes abandoned this year after no casual teachers could be found to cover for ill staff.

Hundreds of students at Wade High School in Griffith spent the worst day of the casual teacher crisis earlier this year being supervised on the oval. "We don't have a hall so the kids had nowhere to shelter, they didn't have the staff to supervise them sitting in classrooms so the teachers supervised the kids on the oval," Julie Andreazza from the school's P&C said. "It is really disgusting." She said fill-in teachers had finally been sent from Sydney.

Other schools had to cancel library and classroom lessons.

Opposition education spokesman Adrian Piccoli said many of the casual teachers unable to gain accreditation over the five years needed more support.

The teachers have to collect evidence demonstrating their skills and work 180 days, including a block at one school, over the five years to have their performance adequately assessed. "The Government must ensure those who put their hand up to work as casual teachers are given the support needed," he said.


No one fired or demoted over disastrous Greenie scheme

Isn't it grand to be a bureaucrat or a politician?

NO POLITICIAN, nor any bureaucrat, has been held responsible for Kevin Rudd's disastrous home insulation scheme.

Even as police continue to investigate whether a series of house fires, some involving fatalities, were linked to the scheme, the Government admitted no one had been sacked or demoted over the program, under which taxpayers funded the installation of insulation material in tens of thousands of homes.

Earlier this year, Julia Gillard described the home insulation scheme as "a mess" after confirmation that shoddy installers attracted to the subsidies had improperly installed the insulation, leaving some homes live with electricity.

Despite this, the Prime Minister defied opposition demands that she sack former environment minister Peter Garrett, arguing he had been poorly served by his department and reappointing him to cabinet as Schools Minister.

However, despite Ms Gillard blaming the department, no one has been held accountable in the bureaucracy.

When The Australian recently asked Climate Change Minister Greg Combet where the buck had stopped, he referred the inquiry to his parliamentary secretary, Mark Dreyfus.

Yesterday Mr Dreyfus produced a short statement suggesting no one had been sacked or demoted but insisting the government had "learnt the lessons" of the program.

Opposition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt said Ms Gillard had attempted to blame the bureaucracy when she should have simply sacked Mr Garrett. "The department from the outset recognised the risk, warned about the risk and was overridden for political reasons," Mr Hunt said. "Responsibility rests with the then minister and the current prime minister."

Mr Hunt said the government had whitewashed what was "arguably the greatest failing of ministerial accountability" since World War II. "Peter Garrett should not be a minister," he said. "The Prime Minister owns this issue now because she was part of the gang of four that overrode the department's advice. She promoted Peter Garrett and she is complicit."


Keddies finally reined in

Long overdue. The worst legal sharks in the nation

RUSSELL KEDDIE, the founder of the law firm Keddies, plans to retire from practice after "rolling over" and admitting to the Legal Services Commissioner that he was responsible for the gross overcharging of a client. Mr Keddie, 59, has filed an affidavit with the Administrative Decisions Tribunal accepting responsibility for it.

He, the partners Tony Barakat and Scott Roulstone and the senior solicitor Phillip Scroope are facing potential findings of professional misconduct after a severely injured client complained to the legal watchdog that she had been grossly overcharged.

After the Herald wrote about overcharging at the firm, Shuang Ying Meng lodged a complaint of professional misconduct. She is also suing the Keddies partners in the Supreme Court.

Mrs Meng was left a paraplegic after a bus crash in South Australia eight years ago. While her injuries were catastrophic, her legal case was relatively straightforward as there were no issues relating to liability. Her case was settled with the insurers without going to court.

However, Mrs Meng told the Herald she did not receive a bill from Keddies and it was not until she complained to the Legal Services Commissioner that she discovered Keddies had charged her $800,000 in legal fees. This was about a quarter of her total payout of $3.5 million, which was to provide medical expenses for her disability for the rest of her life. Legal experts estimated Keddies had charged Mrs Meng at least 10 times what was reasonable.

Last month Keddies, once the state's largest personal injury firm, was taken over by a rival firm, Slater and Gordon.

On October 20, six days before the takeover was announced, Mr Keddie wrote to Mrs Meng's solicitor, Stephen Firth, stating: "I wish to give you my sincere apology for what has occurred in your claim. As you may know, I [am] presently before the ADT regarding our legal costs and disbursements which were charged by my firm on the successful completion of your case. Although the sum of $180,000 was paid back to you previously, if the ADT decides that there is a different figure I have given my undertaking to the tribunal and I give my undertaking to you to refund this amount immediately with interest from December 21, 2005. I apologise for any inconvenience, stress and anxiety this whole episode may have caused you."

Mr Roulstone, who was the partner in charge of Mrs Meng's case, and Mr Barakat will move to Slater and Gordon once due diligence is is completed in early December.

Andrew Grech, the managing partner of Slater and Gordon, said he was aware of Mr Keddie's intention of accepting the blame at the tribunal but denied it was a condition of the takeover. His firm was satisfied with the professional conduct of Mr Barakat and Mr Roulstone.

The complaint against the solicitors is listed for mention before the tribunal on December 1 and the following day Mrs Meng's matter will be in the Supreme Court. A further 31 former clients are also suing Keddies.


June 13, 2008: The Herald breaks a story about dissatisfied Keddies clients, who accuse the firm of gross overcharging.

June 25, 2008: Keddies founding partner Russell Keddie is found guilty of professional misconduct for advertising his firm's services.

May 29, 2009: Disciplinary proceedings are launched by the Legal Services Commissioner against Keddies' managing partner Russell Keddie, partners Tony Barakat and Scott Roulstone and senior solicitor Philip Scroope.


26 November, 2010

Newspaper editor to sue over Warmist lies

As is normal with Murdoch media properties, "The Australian" tries to give both sides of politics a run. But ANY covering of climate skepticism evokes rage and abuse from devotees of the Warmist religion

The Australian's editor-in-chief, Chris Mitchell, said he will sue journalism academic and prolific twitter user Julie Posetti for defamation.

This follows Posetti’s tweet yesterday from a journalism conference at the University of Technology Sydney in which Posetti quoted The Australian’s former rural reporter Asa Walhquist as allegedly saying "in the lead up to the election the Ed in Chief was increasingly telling me what to write".

Mitchell rejects the allegation and Walhquist has also denied it, saying she has never spoken to Mitchell about climate change.

Mitchell said his lawyers were given a brief yesterday. Posetti is a journalism lecturer at the University of Canberra. "I am not one who believes new media should be exempt from the normal laws of the land," Mitchell said. "Asa may or may not have said what the tweeter alleges. She denies to me that she did. But either way the allegations are a lie and Asa has admitted as much.

"There is not protection from the law in repeating accurately allegations falsely made. Asa works from home and I have neither seen her nor spoken to her in years, as anyone on the paper would attest."

The legal action comes after Mitchell contacted Walhquist yesterday after seeing the reported comments, also saying in an email to her that he had "never spoken" to her about climate change and “have never stood over you about ANY of your stories". "Indeed, I have not spoken to you in at least eight years. And I have never stood over people writing stories in 19 years as an editor."

Mitchell adds he is proud of the paper's environmental coverage. He said The Australian's editorials on climate change "would make it clear that for several years the paper has accepted man-made climate change as fact".

"It has supported market mechanisms to reduce carbon output for the best part of a decade. What people do not like is that I publish people such as Bjorn Lomborg. I will continue to do so, but would suggest my environment writer, Graham Lloyd, who is a passionate environmentalist, gets a very good run in the paper."

The tweets from Posetti yesterday included her quoting Walhquist as saying that writing on climate change for The Australian was "absolutely excruciating. It was torture".

Walhquist responded to Mitchell she had been quoted inaccurately and taken out of context and adding that "I do not think twitters from unnamed third parties should be regarded as an accurate news source. As a journalist I would never rely on information from such a source." "I would like to place on record the fact I have never had a conversation with the Editor-in-Chief of The Australian, Chris Mitchell, about climate change," Walhquist wrote. "In fact I have not had any conversations with Mr Mitchell on any subject for a number of years."

SOURCE. The tweets concerned are at the moment here

NSW poised to reject 'underprepared' national curriculum

NSW is set to upset plans for a national curriculum by refusing to sign up to it at a meeting of education ministers next month. The Education Minister, Verity Firth, received advice from the NSW Board of Studies that more time was needed for consultation in response to concerns raised by stakeholders.

It is understood Ms Firth will heed the advice and is preparing to reject the curriculum, which the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority will present at the meeting on December 8.

The Herald understands the Board of Studies has responded to concerns about a lack of consultation by the authority and the overall curriculum structure, including the times allotted to teach each subject and the capacity to cater for all students.

Ms Firth's decision is a blow to the federal Education Minister, Peter Garrett, as the meeting is the last chance for ministers to reach agreement before the NSW election in March.

The Coalition is widely expected to win power at the election, making the prospects of an agreement more difficult.

The federal government was counting on all education ministers signing up to the curriculum by year's end so that it could be implemented around the country by 2013.

The Board of Studies has consistently criticised drafts of the curriculum, saying it is inferior to the existing NSW curriculum.

Mr Garrett said last night that he had not seen the detail of the board's decision, but urged it to work with the curriculum authority to resolve problems. "This reform is too important to let it slide because of some minor concerns about one aspect. The Australian Curriculum will be a basic learning entitlement for all students in Australia, no matter where they live."

Barry McGaw, who chairs the authority board, said he had received mixed messages from the NSW government. He believed its stance would amount to a delay in introducing the curriculum rather than to its abandonment. "The other states are keen to sign up," he said.

A coalition of seven national principals' associations, representing public, independent and Catholic schools, issued a statement in support of a "truly national Australian curriculum".

The group, which includes the Australian Secondary Principals Association, is scheduled to meet with the curriculum authority in Sydney today to discuss the future of the proposal.

Sheree Vertigan, the president of the Secondary Principals Association, said the associations were "definitely committed to a national curriculum". "It will be really sad if one state is rejecting it," she said.

But Christine Cawsey, the president of the NSW Secondary Principals' Council, said she supported a delay in the introduction of a curriculum as it was important to give stakeholders more time for consultation to improve the content.

"The Board of Studies would not recommend such a serious decision to the minister without serious consideration about what still needs to be done."

The NSW opposition spokesman on education, Adrian Piccoli, said if the curriculum was not signed off by March 26, a Coalition government would support the development of a national curriculum in principle, but it would need to be as good as the NSW curriculum. "It needs more work," he said.


Federal government agency blew $10m pursuing Paul Hogan over tax case

All based on allegations about Hogan's "state of mind", would you believe?

THE Australian Crime Commission spent $10 million pursuing actor Paul Hogan, John Cornell and their financial adviser Tony Stewart, during its five-year criminal investigation into the trio.

The figure is more than half the total amount of $17.3m allocated to the ACC to investigate all Wickenby cases over that period.

The probe into Hogan, Cornell and Stewart was dubbed "Operation Youghal" within the ACC, and was one of nine separate probes into individuals or groups that it undertook.

The ACC announced this week that it had dropped its investigations into Hogan and Cornell, saying there was "insufficient prospects of securing convictions".

However, they are still being pursued by the Australian Taxation Office. The ACC told The Australian yesterday that it had spent "in the vicinity of $10m" on Operation Youghal, but an exact figure could not be given because some of the money overlapped with the other eight "operations".

Mr Stewart is believed to be still under investigation.

ACC chief executive John Lawler said yesterday: "It should also be noted that Operation Youghal is an ongoing criminal investigation. In my statement earlier this week, I made it clear that I was discontinuing the criminal investigation of Mr Hogan and Mr Cornell, but the investigation of the suspected facilitators of the tax-evasion schemes will continue."

The latest figures reveal that, as at the end of last month, Wickenby targets had been hit with $951.61m in tax bills, while $229.52m had been recouped. Taxpayers associated with Wickenby have since paid an additional average of about 276 per cent in tax, according to the figures.

Cornell and Hogan are considering seeking compensation from Canberra for the money they have spent on legal bills and the damage done to their "trashed reputations", according to their lawyer, Andrew Robinson.

While Hogan and Cornell are still being pursued by the ATO for massive tax bills, the decision by the ACC to drop its case could have an impact on talks that are under way with the tax office.

The bills date back to 1985, but the ATO is relying on Hogan's "state of mind" at the time - as told to the ATO by a former employee, John Gibb. Mr Stewart, who replaced Mr Gibb as Hogan's and Cornell's main financial adviser, recently told a court Mr Gibb was upset at being replaced.


Parents finally beat notorious Qld. Health bureaucracy and get to see top doctor

Marvellous what publicity will do

A COUPLE who fear their daughter could die from a mystery illness that killed their four-year-old son will this weekend meet the specialist they have been waiting months to see.

Andrew and Trudy Olive, from the Sunshine Coast hinterland town of Mooloolah, have been overwhelmed by support following their heart-wrenching story in The Courier-Mail on Thursday.

Their son Tom died three months ago from an attack in which his body "turned on itself", destroying his muscle tissue.

They live in fear because their daughter Laura, 3, is showing some of the symptoms that Tom had, including aches and pains and bladder problems. Their heartfelt plea to Queensland Health and Health Minister Paul Lucas has resulted in a meeting being set up with the doctor they believe is "the best" to see regarding their case.

Mr Olive said they had been trying unsuccessfully to get together with Dr Jim McGill, Director of the Department of Metabolic Medicine at the Royal Children's Hospital, for months after being referred to him by their GP. Dr McGill is a paediatrician, clinical geneticist and Clinical Liaison for Division of Chemical Pathology, Pathology Queensland.

"This man is regarded as the best and we can't wait to meet him and give him all the information we have," Mr Olive said.

Sunday's meeting was arranged by Sunshine Coast Health Service district executive director Piotr Swierkowski who contacted them on Thursday. The Olives want everything possible to be done to safeguard Laura from the unidentified disease that killed their son.

Mrs Olive is also pregnant with their third child, adding to their concern.

The couple have been told that Tom died because his muscle cells were destroyed by an "episode", one of six they say he had in two years. Damage to his muscles was so acute, testing was of no use.

The Olives have learnt a sample had been sent to Paris, where scientists would look for a link to the LPIN1 gene, believed to have caused a handful of deaths in children.

The status of this testing is something that the Olives hope to raise with Dr McGill.


Another amazing government bungle

Bureaucrats just don't give a sh*t

On Friday, November 12, electrician Phil Cullen drove through the M2 toll plaza. His tag made four beeps, something Mr Cullen had never heard before.

He went home and logged on to his My RTA e-tag account and discovered his credit of $388 had disappeared, his credit card had been debited for more than $1000 and he had a debt of about $800. "To finish it, my tag was invalidated. All without my knowledge," Mr Cullen said.

On Monday, he rang the RTA contact centre. After what he said was two hours on the phone, he was told his e-tag had never been properly validated and he owed $2148.

Given Mr Cullen always paid his tolls and the error here was not his, he was understandably aggrieved. "I feel something has gone very wrong internally with my e-tag account," said Mr Cullen, who has four tags linked to his account.

A RTA spokeswoman said: "The RTA apologises for this initial error. The RTA is investigating the system error to ensure this problem does not occur again."

That reads like "newspeak" from the novel 1984. Something "ungood", as George Orwell would say, happened and the RTA's response was to raid Mr Cullen's bank account. Imagine if you or I did that -- helped ourselves to more than $1000 without asking? But the RTA thought nothing of it, even though it was their mistake.

When I said the RTA didn't think anything of it, that's not strictly correct. One person at the RTA thought something of it, advising Mr Cullen to contact the NSW Ombudsman about the matter. Which he has.


Vicious Asian bus driver gets away with it

Yet another rogue Brisbane bus driver. This is just going to encourage more of them

A BRISBANE City Council bus driver has been jailed, but released immediately, for causing horrific injuries to a 79-year-old passenger he assaulted for coming up 60 cents short on his fare.

The Brisbane District Court was today told Dennis Fath Chow assaulted Mato Plazino shortly after he boarded a bus at Chermside West and the pair argued after the pensioner failed to pay the full $1.20 fare about 9.30am on September 18, 2008.

The court was told Chow even refused to accept a 16-year-old school student's money -- when she tried to chip in $2 to cover Mr Plazino's fare.

Prosecutor Amanda Meisenhelter said Chow became enraged when Mr Plazino walked toward a seat after high school student Jacqueline Williams helped pay his fare and the pensioner accused Chow of wanting to "keep the money for himself."

She said Chow then blocked Mr Plazino from taking a seat, then remonstrated with the pensioner and pushed him. The court was told Mr Plazino then lost his balance, tumbled out of the bus on to the concrete footpath and fractured his skull, eye socket and sinus bone.

Chow, 40, a father of three, was sentenced to 12-months jail, to be served by way of intensive corrections order. In Queensland a person placed on an ICO is in effect being handed a jail sentence. However, an ICO allows the person the freedom to return and live as a normal member of the community, but under strict supervision by the Department of Corrective Services.

The court was told Mr Plazino was rushed to the Royal Brisbane Hospital where he was treated for the skull and facial fractures, lacerations to his face, hand and leg and various bruises. Ms Meisenhelter said after the incident Mr Plazino was diagnosed as suffering from mental health problems and has since been hospitalised.

More HERE (Mostly bullshit)

25 November, 2010

Spectacular: England skipper Andrew Strauss falls in the first over of the Test at the Gabba

I don't really follow any sport but I live within earshot of the Gabba cricket ground and heard the roar of the crowd at the dismissal below. It's a perfect reply to the derision that the British tabloids have been directing at the Australian captain

AUSTRALIA has made a spectacular start to the opening Ashes Test dismissing England captain Andrew Strauss in the first over. After winning the toss and choosing to bat at the Gabba in Brisbane, Strauss was back in the pavilion after three minutes after square cutting a Ben Hilfenhaus delivery straight to Mike Hussey in the gully.

For all the talk of a greentop Gabba wicket, Australian captain Ricky Ponting said the strip looked a good one for batting.

But Ponting said there was some moisture in the surface to give the Australian fast men some encouragement in the first session. “If we bowl well and hold our catches I think we can do some damage before lunch,” Ponting said at the toss.


Europcar again

Tourist in attempted $8000 'rip off' by rogue carhire firm

A tourist has won a victory for the little man by being let off an $8000 rental car bill.

Paul Douglas-Denton, 60, was billed by Europcar for towing his rental car approximately 300 kilometres from Katherine to Darwin after vandals smashed the vehicle overnight outside his hotel in July, the Northern Territory News reported.

The company said the right to claim the money was contained in the fine print of the hire contact. But NT Consumer Affairs Commissioner Gary Clements said Europcar misinterpreted its own terms and conditions and was forced to back down. "We convinced the company that it was not a good idea to charge the customer,'' he said.

The car damage was beyond Mr Douglas-Denton's control.

Several rental car companies came under fire for "ripping off'' customers with excessive bills earlier this year.



Four current articles below

Cars, Cattle and Ethanol

The Carbon Sense Coalition today accused climate alarmists of scientific incompetence in promoting ethanol as an offset to animal emissions.

The Chairman of “Carbon Sense”, Mr Viv Forbes, was responding to claims by Mr Combet that agriculture (mainly cattle and sheep) “made up 23% of Australia’s emissions”.

“Why are emissions from cattle eating grain classed as bad whereas emissions from cars burning grain ethanol are good?

“Consider a paddock of corn. Most of the carbon in the growing plant comes from carbon dioxide in the air and is converted to plant material using solar energy via the magic of photosynthesis. Some comes from the atmosphere via microbes in the soil. “This plant material, either biomass or grain, can be fed to cattle or made into ethanol for motor fuel.

“Both cattle and cars then use an internal digestion/combustion process to extract the energy stored in the plant material.

“Both processes produce gaseous emissions. In cars, virtually every atom of ethanol carbon burnt produces one molecule of carbon dioxide. In cattle, some of the plant’s carbon is stored for a while in flesh and bones, and the rest is emitted as the natural gases carbon dioxide and methane. This methane is soon oxidised in the atmosphere to produce carbon dioxide.

“Over the life of a car or a cow, they both produce the same carbon emissions. Every atom of carbon extracted from the air by the green plant eventually returns to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, the plant food. This is the cycle of life.

“It is therefore scientific incompetence or deliberate fraud by government climate alarmists to claim that consuming ethanol in cars is good and should be subsidised but consuming the same plant material in cows must be rationed and taxed.

“An ethanol industry propped up by subsidies and mandates is not sustainable. This industry damages taxpayers and pushes up the cost of grains, beef, pork, eggs, milk and cereals.

“Subsidising ethanol brings no environmental benefits and is the enemy of the poor and hungry of the world. Its special privileges should be immediately removed.”

Received by email from Viv Forbes []

A reply to ABC smears

In their usual way, Australia's national broadcasters have unleashed another attack on people who are not true believers in Global warming -- along the way showing their usual inability to set out a scientific case for their addled belief system.

The stalwarts of the ABC show were sloppy American Green/Left "historian" Naomi Oreskes and journalist Graham Readfearn. Jo Nova below has some comments on their effusions

The battle cry: the “skeptics” are shills of big oil, has become an own goal. The PR team for the catastrophic theory have no new evidence of Big Oil funding and thousands of people now point out that the UNskeptics were paid 3500 times as much (at least). So they are moving on…

the religiously devout believers can’t admit they were wrong, and nor can they look at the evidence, so what’s left? Post hoc random over-analysis of the irrelevant. Before, skeptics were paid hacks… and now they’re wrong because they … are ideologically against big government and regulation. From one ad hom to another.

And again, the ABC uses our taxes to promote the smear campaign, support neolithic reasoning, and does everything it can to stop people talking about scientific evidence (by spreading misinformation or slurs about all the characters on one side).

Oreskes and freelance writer Graham Readfearn can’t discuss the evidence (or lack of) for their favourite faith, but they spend a lot of time digging up irrelevant details instead.

Are man-made emissions a problem? How would we find the answer? Look not at sedimentary rocks but at stationery and submissions. As if the answer to tropical convective processes might be hidden on IPA letterhead, or in subliminal messages coded in the number of peer reviewed reports. It’s tea-leaves and rune-stones stuff, and people kid themselves that Blackberries or Androids make us modern, but the writing of people like Oreskes and Readfearn reminds us that human brains still carry software from the paleolithic.

They simply can’t string a reasoned scientific argument together, but instead reflexively resort to discussing motivations, character, ideology or just gossip about “who their friends are”.

Here’s Oreskes. She “knows” she’s right, she just has to figure why other people haven’t seen the light too:

“It’s part of this whole ideological program of challenging any science that could lead to government regulation, because it’s part of an ideological conviction that all regulation is bad, that any time the government steps in to ‘protect’ us from harm, that we’re on the slippery slope to socialism, and this is the ideology that you see underlying a kind of almost paranoid anti-communism. So even after the Cold War is over, these people are seeing reds under the bed.”

Ponder the inanity of “paranoid anti-communism?”

The Death Toll from far-left governments has been tagged at more than 100 million which is about three times higher than the current known death toll from AIDS. You can see how meaningless the Oreskes line-of-wordsmithing becomes. What’s the difference: paranoid anti-communism, or paranoid anti-AIDSism? The difference is, Oreskes won’t be trying to inanely badge or label the AIDS workers.

What is a rational fear if being afraid of mass murder is “paranoid”?

The double fallacy: When the ad hom isn’t even correct: Evidence matters so little to the smear campaigners that Readfearn doesn’t even bother to research his ad hominem targets:

"You can’t help but think that Roskam must have been chuckling to himself as he wrote that statement, given the paucity of actual peer-reviewed scientific research on climate change amongst the book’s contributors, which included Ian Plimer, Richard Lindzen, Nigel Lawson, William Kininmonth, Willie Soon, Christopher Monckton, Garth Paltridge plus the IPA’s own Alan Moran and Roskam himself".

Thus, hundreds of peer reviewed papers are described as a paucity. Richard Lindzen: 235 peer reviewed papers. Garth Paltridge: scores (in journals like Nature, J. Geophys. Res., J. Atmos. Sci., Q. J. Roy.Meteor. Soc), Willie Soon: dozens (Like Climate Research, Energy & Environment, and The Astrophysical Journal).

Ten minutes to google and Readfearn couldn’t be bothered. He apparently wants everyone to think that only people with peer reviewed climate papers should be listened to, but while he thinks climate scientists with hundreds of papers are worth mocking, he’s proud of his own climate science record. His opinions on the climate are worth televising… (According to him, and, of course, the ABC):

"Earlier this year, Lord Monckton was featured heavily in newspaper coverage when he conducted a speaking tour in towns and cities across the country, including a debate in Brisbane which was televised by the ABC (featuring yours truly). Monckton, like the majority of sceptics, has no science training and while he is undoubtedly one of the highest-profile sceptics, he has never had a peer-reviewed climate science paper published".

And Readfearn of course has not published a peer reviewed paper either. But he’s a journalist. Again, one of the anointed for whom the laws of logic part like the Red Sea.

On the plus side though, Readfearn is flexible – it’s not just ad hominem attacks and argument from authority — he can do other logical fallacies too. When he needs to, he can confuse cause and effect:

"At one point or another, pretty much every one of these climate sceptics (or sceptics of the need for action) have also been hosted by one or more of the US-based free-market think-tanks".

He think the “links” are meaningful as if correlation was causation.

The free market think tanks — shock me — approach people who have also come to similar conclusions. And passionate scientists not-so-surprisingly seek out groups and conferences of like-minded people.

Though as it happens the dastardly think tanks also approached Al Gore. The only difference is that Al was too scared to speak at one of the free market think tank events, even if they paid him. He knows he can’t answer their questions.

Oreskes and Readfearn’s ability to reason is so confused they can’t think their way out of a paragraph. You know you’ve found another taxpayer funded cesspit of reason when the writers can’t even pass their own flawed “tests”.


Green/Left attacking Australia's fishing indusrty

THE days of being able to buy fresh, local prawns are under threat from Federal and State Labor following the release of plans to prohibit prawn trawling in the Solitary Islands Marine Park, Federal MP Luke Hartsuyker said.

The NSW Government yesterday announced a proposed new plan of management to expand the sanctuary zone from 12 to 20 per cent and to totally prohibit prawn trawling in the park within two years.

“The extreme actions of the NSW Government follow the Rudd Government’s announcement to further assess an area up to 80 kilometres off shore in order to establish a new Commonwealth Marine Reserve," mr Hartsuyker said. “The local commercial fishing industry understandably feels very threatened by both Federal and State Labor. “The NSW Government has now made it very clear that they want the commercial fishers gone. There is nothing balanced about this approach.

"Both Federal and State Labor want to rip the heart and soul out of the local commercial fishing industry. “If Labor gets its ways we will no longer be able to catch local prawns and consumers will have no choice but to purchase imported seafood."

Mr Hartsuyker said it would not only cost jobs, but would also be a boon for the seafood black market.

“Today’s announcement also highlights why the local fishing and tourism industries are so concerned about the process to establish commonwealth marine reserves," he said. “There are serious concerns that Federal Minister Peter Garrett will be guided by the extreme ideology in his department. "Those concerns are now well based given what the NSW Government has now announced.

“The flow on effect to commonwealth waters is scary. "Sustainable fishing is vital, but I believe it is wrong to blanket ban prawn trawling over the complete area.”

Member for Coffs Harbour, Andrew Fraser, has slammed the decision by NSW Minister Frank Sartor to place further restrictions on the Solitary Island Marine Park.

Mr Fraser said it was obvious this decision was being made in an order to garner Green preference in Labor-held marginal seats in Sydney such as Balmain and Marrickville. “The decision to ban prawn trawling in the marine reserve cannot be supported by any scientific evidence as prawn trawling is done in areas where there are no reefs, because reefs will damage fishing nets worth thousands of dollars," Mr Fraser said.

“I believe recreational fishers will also be severely impacted with sanctuary zones being increased from 12 per cent to 20 per cent as sanctuary zones are only the reef areas and the vast majority of reefs and islands are already sanctuary zones.

“This will mean that fishing competitions such as the Easter Classic could disappear altogether because if you can’t fish where the fish are, you can’t catch any fish and therefore, you can’t have a competition.”

Mr Fraser is urging Coffs Coast residents to make a submission objecting the proposal. “I totally agree with Mr Sartor when he says 87% of people favour the marine park, but if he locks it up to the extent that is being planned he will find that people’s support of the marine park will disappear," Mr Fraser said. “All sensitive areas are currently protected and commercial and recreational fishing can take place without damaging the Marine Park.

"My message to Mr Sartor is to stop destroying a recreational and commercial fishing industry in Coffs Harbour in order to gain preferences from the Greens in Sydney’s marginal seats.

“If the prawn and fisheries close we will have increasing imports, and industry sources have advised me that black market reef fish will be purchased by restaurants as they won’t be able to buy it locally.”


Coal: Realism trumps Warmism

Queensland to increase coal production by 80 per cent over next two decades

DESPITE global concern over climate change and carbon emissions, Queensland will increase coal production by almost 80 per cent over the next two decades, Premier Anna Bligh says.

Making her annual address to the Queensland Resources Council before an audience of 900 miners and business people from related industries today, Ms Bligh announced the Government's new coal plan. "The coal plan estimates that over the next 20 years, the Queensland coal industry has the potential to significantly increase its production of saleable coal from approximately 190 million tonnes per annum up to 340 million tonnes per annum," Ms Bligh said. "That is an increase of almost 80 per cent."

Ms Bligh said the plan outlined how demand for coal will outstrip all other fuels in absolute terms. "But 97 per cent of projected growth is expected to come from non-OECD countries like China and India," she said. "Developed countries on the other hand, like South Korea, are looking to reduce their reliance on coal."

She said South Korea will use Queensland gas to meet its growing energy demands. "I think it speaks volumes about the diversification of the Queensland resource industry and about Queensland as a mines and energy powerhouse of Australia and the region," Ms Bligh said.

Ms Bligh, responding to a "Lock the Gate" campaign launched by farmers in southern Queensland earlier this week, said the state's Strategic Cropping Land policy had been released for public discussion. She said there was a need to provide certainty for miners and farmers. "Government has an obligation to prevent the permanent alienation of the best of the best food producing country in Queensland."

Outside the QRC luncheon in Brisbane, Resources Minister Stephen Robertson said the Government had gone a long way to meeting the concerns of landholders who are objecting to the activities of coal and gas explorers on their land.

Mr Robertson said the Government had redressed the lack of balance, which had favoured miners. "New laws have been put in place to recognise the rights of landholders," he said. "I don't like to see people involved in this type of (protest) action when government has clearly demonstrated a preparedness to listen to their concerns and act on those concerns, and that's what we've done," Mr Robertson said.

The QRC also launched a website it says details the contribution mining makes to the Queensland economy, and it quickly drew fire from the Queensland Conservation Council. Toby Hutcheon, executive director of the QCC, said fossil fuel exports have a questionable future.


24 November, 2010

What world does this guy live in?

The Australian writer of Greek origin below argues that multiculturaliam has been "suffocated" though some vaguely defined lack of support. Since any criticism of multiculturalism was long branded as "racist", it seems to me that the exact opposite actually took place: Multicultuaralism received an oppressively large (and hence probably counterproductive) amount of support.

As with so many of these discussions, however, he appears blinded by the conventional Leftist assumption that all men are equal and that all groups are therefore equal too. The fact is that both people and groups are different, not equal (except perhaps in some religious sense). So it is not multiculturalism in general that is the problem but rather certain cultures -- crime prone Africans and Lebanese Muslims in particular. Nobody has any problem with such manifestations of multiculturalism as Lithuanian folk dancers

His whole logical problem is overgeneralization. Because Greeks and Italians have fitted in well, he assumes that (say) Africans will too -- a totally evidence-free assumption. Has he heard of the rates of crime, welfare dependency, educational failure and mental illness among blacks in Britain, for instance?

Sitting in the Norrkoping campus of the Linkoping University, Sweden, southwest of Stockholm, I am overwhelmed with a sense of wonder that the sun has begun setting at 1 pm. It will be dark by 3.30.

Though a clear, sunny day, snow is forecast for this evening and there is a type of cold that would make most Australians shiver.

In the corridors here, one of the central topics of conversation amongst staff and students is the rise of the far right, anti-immigration party – the Sweden Democrats – that received 5.7 percent of the votes and gained 20 seats in Parliament. Their motto, “responsible immigration policies” for Sweden is, according to one of my colleagues here, a euphemism for limiting Muslim migrants.

Many Swedes are in disbelief that such a party would take hold and it is a conversation that I join in carefully. In these discussions they proudly talk of the liberal attitudes reflected across the country: yes, there are problems, they say, but we all know what happens when you start signalling one minority group.

This rise of the Swedish right reflects a trend that is occurring across Europe riding on the back of anti-immigration rhetoric: Netherlands, Belgium, Hungary and Germany. Reading the tealeaves of her own demise, German Chancellor, Angela Merkal, to announce that ‘multiculturalism has utterly failed’. This echoes former Prime Minister, John Howard’s declaration that ‘multiculturalism has gone too far’ and that the Anglo-sphere needs to be proud of it achievements.

So, is multiculturalism dead and must it be killed off before we can be proud of ‘our’ achievements?

The answer is no on both fronts, In fact, multiculturalism could be more vibrant and alive than ever, it is just that it is slowly being suffocated through neglect and, to put it bluntly, outright lies.

To understand my position, let’s begin by with what multiculturalism actually is: it simply refers to the concept that several different cultures (rather than only one) can coexist peacefully and equitably. [Many can but will they all?]

Migration studies show us that when people arrive in a country, they tend to be attracted to where other recognisable migrants are. As such, Italians coming to Sydney in the 1950s where attracted to Leichhardt and Greeks (in the 1960s) to Marrickville. As time passes, the children of migrants tend to blend into the various other cultures, including the dominant one, and move on.

This is what we have seen happen and will continue to happen. In fact, the children of most migrants want nothing more than to be part of the broader culture – something their parents support because this is exactly why they come to the new country.

Yes, there will always those who resist this, but does this mean that we throw out a policy that has served us well? That would be ridiculous. Think of it this way, there are those who refuse to accept that passive smoking creates health problems – do we abandoned our anti-smoking laws?

Multiculturalism has served us well. Australia has developed into a complex and vibrant society and we have all benefited from it: from the everyday cultural enjoyment of food, music, theatre and dance, to the economic connections that have been built, and the way we are better equipped with dealing with challenges.

So if things are so great, why am I arguing that multiculturalism is being suffocated?

Multiculturalism succeeds for various reasons including an egalitarian approach (that is, giving migrants equal rights), support from major parties and adequate funding of services for migrants. So, for multiculturalism to work, we need to invest into the people arriving as well as in those who are already here. We need to make sure that there is sufficient infrastructure, housing, education and politicians willing to stand up to misinformation.

Anti-immigration parties have emerged because many of these aspects of our society have been neglected. If we combine this with a specific globalisation agenda that focuses on competition rather than cooperation, the world appears unstable and many of us feel neglected. It is easy for this sense of instability to be blamed towards outsiders arriving.

In addition, entire industries have been left to die – such as manufacturing. This is not the fault of migration – but follows the abandoning of any real industrial policies.

Thirdly, we have major political parties that seem to be courting the anti-immigrant sentiment rather than confronting them. Recently, Tony Abbott has been using both the population debate and the refugee boats as a way to deliver an anti-immigration method – hardly surprising given most of his policies where developed under John Howard.

Julia Gillard and the ALP have failed to respond in any meaningful way: seeming to be satisfied in letting Abbott set the agenda.

Declaring multiculturalism dead will not solve any of our problems – it will simply create new ones.

In 1996, Pauline Hanson declared that ‘Asians’ would swamp us? It has not happened.

Forty years before that we were worried about communists would swamp us. Now, when someone declares their support for communist ideals they are considered ‘cute’.

Today we seem to be focussed on the entire Muslim population as potential terrorists who are not ‘fitting in’ and will soon, you guessed it, ‘swamp us’.

It has nothing to do with multiculturalism failing – and much to do with politicians taking advantage of dissatisfaction of their own policy weaknesses to focus attention elsewhere.


The bungling bullies of Qld. Health once again

This whole affair is basically incomprehensible from a rational perspective. Why have they not simply gone back to their old payroll system when the new one has failed so ignominiously? Maybe the old one was not perfect but it was miles better than the present unending debacle. Only bureaucratic stubbornness can explain the present situation.

And stubborn and arrogant bureaucrats they certainly are at Qld. Health. I hear lots about the Qld. Health bureaucracy that's not in the papers -- and it is all appalling tales of waste, stupidity and arrogance. It wouldn't last 5 minutes as a business.

A hospital system that cannot even pay its staff correctly would be the stuff of comedy if it were not so serious. But that's what you get when you have a bureaucracy that has been metastasizing since 1944 -- when Ned Hanlon introduced "free" hospitals to Qld.

A PROMINENT Brisbane doctor is under investigation for fraud after accepting a hardship payment during the Queensland Health payroll disaster. The investigation into the highly respected doctor has angered the medical fraternity, which says he was denied natural justice after QH referred him to police before discussing the allegations with him first.

The department has since given the doctor a "qualified apology" for the distress caused but last night confirmed the investigation was ongoing.

The allegations risk further inflaming a debacle which worsened yesterday when the Bligh Government confirmed that it would spend $209 million to fix the botched system. Spending cuts or borrowings will be needed to raise the funds, which are more than three times the cost of the initial system. The Government yesterday admitted the problems, which it initially advised would take weeks to fix, would not be rectified before the next state election.

Health Minister Paul Lucas said $107 million would go towards extra payroll staff and the rest on paying for software, contractors, advisers and information technology experts.

He said the money would not come out of Queensland Health's operational budget but refused to say whether it would come from cuts or borrowings. But a confidential draft memo leaked to the Opposition details cuts already being considered by one health district.

QH metro south district chief David Theile outlined 14 areas where services could be cut, including closing palliative care beds, reducing overtime, delaying hospital repairs and leaving positions vacant. "Payroll impacts are continuing to distract our expenditure and these effects are not factored into our starting deficit," he said. "In this environment the services we currently perform need to be capped."

Mr Lucas insisted Dr Theile was referring to payroll in only an "oblique" fashion and the system's costs would be absorbed by the corporate, rather than the operational, section of the health budget.

Queensland Health last night confirmed a Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital doctor was being investigated despite the department's Director-General Mick Reid last week giving him a "qualified apology for any unnecessary distress" the police probe had caused. The first the doctor was aware of the fraud allegations was when he was contacted by Fortitude Valley police.

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Gino Pecoraro said Queensland Health had failed to give the senior doctor natural justice by referring him to police for investigation without discussing the issue with him first. "If this well trusted doctor was afforded an opportunity to talk about the issue and to explain it, then it would never have got this far," Dr Pecoraro said.

The AMA and the doctor had the impression the matter had been resolved after a conversation with Mr Reid last week. "This is just another example of how the communication process between Queensland Health and doctors has failed," Dr Pecoraro said.

But QH deputy director-general Michael Walsh said the department had a legal obligation to investigate suspected official misconduct. "The matter has not been finalised and is still under investigation," Mr Walsh said.

RBWH medical staff association chairwoman Dana Wainwright would not comment on details of the case yesterday but said it had caused "significant grief". "It's an appalling thing for an employer to do," she said. Dr Wainwright said doctors were still having trouble understanding their payslips, eight months after the introduction of the payroll system.

Thousands of doctors, nurses and other health workers have been left with incorrect pays since the new system was brought on-line in March.


Australia's arrogant medical regulators take another big tumble

The arrogant bitches (e.g. Rita Maclachlan and Fiona Cumming) at the TGA thought they knew it all -- and to hell with evidence and to hell with people's jobs. No word so far about any of them being penalized for their grossly improper behaviour -- even though one of them even shredded notes in an attempt to hide their deliberations. The taxpayer is just left with a $100m bill for their high-handed actions -- $50m in 2008 and another $50m now

A SETTLEMENT, believed to be more than $50 million, has been reached in the Pan Pharmaceuticals class action against the federal government. The settlement, announced yesterday, brings to a close a string of legal suits since 2003, and is belated vindication for the company's founder, Jim Selim, who died earlier this year after a stroke and battle with leukaemia.

Mr Selim had been giving evidence in the Federal Court in the months before his death. Terms of settlement are confidential.

In 2003, Pan boasted "the largest product offering of its kind in the world", with 4500 formulations of tablets, gels, liquids, creams and powders on offer, when it became the subject of a huge product recall.

In April that year the Therapeutic Goods Administration suspended Pan's manufacturing licence and recalled everything it had manufactured in the past year. Its investigation into Pan was sparked by reports the company's Travacalm product was causing hallucinations in some people. The company collapsed within months.

In 2008 Mr Selim received a $50 million settlement from the federal government.

About 165 of Pan's customers, creditors and sponsors joined a class action, led by PharmaCare, seeking their own payments from the government and the TGA, saying they were left $120 million out of pocket by the action taken by authorities. Three other companies ran their own cases alongside it.

The litigation funder, IMF, said if the settlement was approved by the court they would receive $24 million which would generate a profit after overheads but before tax of $17 million.

Litigation funders generally receive about one-third of proceeds of settlement, making the settlement in favour of the class action more than $50 million. "Any settlement is a compromise from all parties concerned," said the executive director of IMF, John Walker. "[In] this particular dispute, I think everybody involved ought to be happy with the outcome."

Pan's associates had accused the authorities of negligence and misfeasance of public office and some are claiming for a loss of share value, which lawyers for the TGA said there was no legal authority for.

Mr Walker hoped an application for approval would be before the court before year's end.


Average Australians well aware of economic case against more immigration

By Ross Gittins, a generally Left-leaning economist

The Big Australia issue has gone quiet since the election but it hasn't gone away. It can't go away because it's too central to our future and, despite Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott's rare agreement to eschew rapid population growth, the issue remains unresolved.

This year Rebecca Huntley of Ipsos, a global market research firm, and Bernard Salt of KPMG, a financial services firm, conducted interviews with business people and discussions with 13 groups of consumers, showing them two markedly different scenarios of what Australia could look like in 2020.

In the "measured Australia" scenario, governments limited population growth, focused on making our activities more environmentally sustainable and limited our economic links with the rest of the world.

In the "global Australia" scenario, governments set aside concerns about the environment, promoted rapid economic and population growth, and made Australia ever more a part of Asia.

Not surprisingly, the business people hated measured Australia and loved global Australia. But even though global Australia was described in glowing terms - ignoring the environment apparently had no adverse effects - ordinary people rejected it. And although measured Australia was painted in negative terms - all downside and no upside - there were aspects of it people quite liked.

The message I draw is that if governments keep pursuing rapid growth to please business they'll encounter increasing resentment and resistance from voters.

Considering the human animal's deep-seated fear of foreigners, it's not surprising resentment has focused on immigration. It's clear from the way in the election campaign both sides purported to have set their face against high migration that they're starting to get the message.

But at the moment they're promising to restrict immigration with one hand while encouraging a decade-long, labour-consuming boom in the construction of mines and gas facilities with the other. And this will be happening at a time when the economy is already close to full employment and baby boomers retire as the population ages.

Their two approaches don't fit together. And unless our leaders find a way to resolve the contradiction there's trouble ahead.

Business people support rapid population growth, which really means high immigration; there's little governments can do to influence the birth rate, because they know a bigger population means a bigger economy. And in a bigger economy they can increase their sales and profits.

That's fine for them, but it doesn't necessarily follow that a bigger economy is better for you and me. Only if the extra people add more to national income than their own share of that income will the average incomes of the rest of us be increased. And that's not to say any gain in material standard of living isn't offset by a decline in our quality of life, which goes unmeasured by gross domestic product.

The most recent study by the Productivity Commission, in 2006, found that even extra skilled migration did little or nothing to raise the average incomes of the existing population, with the migrants themselves the only beneficiaries.

This may explain why, this time, economists are approaching the question from the other end: we're getting the future economic growth from the desire of the world's mining companies to greatly expand Australia's capacity to export coal, iron ore and natural gas, but we don't have sufficient skilled labour to meet that need and unless we bring in a lot more labour this episode will end in soaring wages and inflation.

Peter McDonald, a leading demographer at the Australian National University, argues that governments don't determine the level of net migration, the economy does. When our economy's in recession, few immigrants come and more Aussies leave; when the economy's booming, more immigrants come and fewer Aussies leave. Governments could try to resist this increase, but so far they've opted to get out of the way.

To most business people, economists and demographers, the answer to our present problem is obvious: since economic growth must go ahead, the two sides of politics should stop their populist pandering to the punters' resentment of foreigners.

But it seems clear from the Ipsos discussion groups that people's resistance to high immigration focuses on their concerns about the present inadequacy of public infrastructure: roads, transport, water and energy. We're not coping now, what would it be like with more people?

And the punters have a point. In their instinctive reaction to the idea of more foreigners they've put their finger on the great weakness in the economic case for immigration.

As economists know - but don't like to talk or even think about - the reason immigration adds little or nothing to the material living standards of the existing population is that each extra person coming to Australia - the workers and their families - has to be provided with extra capital equipment: a home to live in, machines to use at work and a host of public infrastructure such as roads, public transport, schools, hospitals, libraries, police stations and much else.

The cost of that extra capital has to be set against the benefit from the extra labour. If the extra capital isn't forthcoming, living standards - and, no doubt, quality of life - decline.

If we don't build the extra homes - as we haven't been doing for some years - rents and house prices keep rising, making home ownership less affordable. To build the extra public facilities, governments have to raise taxes and borrow money. But they hate raising taxes and both sides of federal politics have sworn to eliminate government debt.

The interviews and discussion groups revealed both business people and consumers to be highly doubtful about the ability of governments - particularly state governments - to provide the infrastructure we need. As well they might be.


23 November, 2010

Punters cancel bookings, abuse jockey club staff over homosexual race day

Why the favoritism? Why not just have a PEOPLE'S day, as was always done in the past?

AN Australian Jockey Club has faced a backlash over its decision to run a gay and lesbian raceday. The South Australian club is catering for a crowd of 5000 at Adelaide's Morphettville this Saturday, for its inaugural Pink Diamond Day.

But several regular racegoers will boycott the event, run in conjunction with the gay and lesbian Feast Festival.

SAJC chief executive Brenton Wilkinson told The Advertiser yesterday trackside diners had rung to cancel bookings, specifically stating they did not approve of the event. SAJC staff have also received abusive phone calls and "outraged" emails from members.

"We're disappointed some people have taken offence that we have got involved with a large festival that has been here successfully for 13 years, " Mr Wilkinson said. "One guy rang up and abused the girls in sales and said we shouldn't be supporting 'poofters' and things like this - that it's not proper. "It's hard to know what to say to people, but attendance is not compulsory and people can make their own choices."

An email to the club, seen by The Advertiser, suggests former champion sprinter Apache Cat should be promoted as the main attraction for the day and not "a bunch of ***pushers and others dressed in pink". The writer adds "you've lost this homophobic for the day" and argues "Adelaide is not like Sydney in the gay stakes".

Feast Festival general manager David Waylen said: "We don't go out of our way to make defamatory comments when they hold straight racedays, so I don't understand this attitude. "The SAJC is arguably the most conservative sporting group in SA and we thought it was a huge coup for us to establish a partnership," he said.

Mr Waylen said that despite the reaction of some, Adelaide was becoming more "gay-friendly" than 10 years ago and sees the arrangement with the SAJC as "win-win". "We're looking to be more mainstream and engage with the wider community, and the Jockey Club gets to diversify its target audience," he said.

"Queer people's money is as good as everybody else's and we, as a community, are no different to others. "These kinds of events allow us to get out of the closets, the back alleys and the basements of Adelaide." [Rubbish. South Australia had a popular homosexual Premier -- Dunstan -- for many years. His homsexuality was not publically acknowledged but it was widely known and obvious in a variety of ways. The Premier's residence is a long way from back alleys]


Another triumph of government medicine

Tumour victim threatens to drill into his head if health system can't get him surgery

A GOLD Coast man says he will take a drill to his head in a desperate attempt to get brain surgery through the public health system. Mark Black, of Merrimac, was diagnosed two acoustic neuroma tumours situated on either side of his head six months ago. But the 52-year-old had already waited two years to get the MRI scan that finally confirmed what was wrong with him.

Mr Black is now slowly losing his hearing and developing facial paralysis because the tumours are touching his nerves.

Still with no answer on a surgery date and the grim possibility he might go deaf waiting, Mr Black plans to stand outside the Gold Coast Hospital on December 7 and drill into his head to receive emergency care if he does not get the response he is after the day before.

Mr Black has a follow-up appointment with an ear, nose and throat surgeon on December 6 but believes he is being shifted through a system that will put him back to where he started. The father of three and grandfather of one said he had been back and forth seeking help over the years but without any answers.

"I'm not blaming the doctors in this, I'm blaming the bureaucrats who don't fund the hospital enough to do the surgery that's needed," he said. "My main concern now is to have this first lot of surgery because the end result is I'll end up totally deaf and have facial paralysis. The longer I let it go the worse the outcome."

Mr Black said he woke every day feeling off balance, had ringing in the ears, facial spasms and dizziness. The former inventor and coffee shop owner said he could not work any more because of his condition. "There's no light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "They're (the hospital) using delaying tactics so they don't have to do it and in the meantime I'm sitting here suffering. "I don't want to push in front of someone else. I just want to be put on the list and dealt with fairly."


Queensland Health payroll debacle still not fully resolved after six months

Another vovid example of how governments and computers don't go well together. It's almost British in scale

SIX months after the Queensland Health payroll crisis first unfolded it is estimated about 50 staff will not be paid this Thursday. Another 11,500 pay corrections are yet to be processed despite the huge resources thrown by the department into fixing the problem.

Health Minister Paul Lucas claimed significant progress had been made, however nurses said the reality was painfully different. Tens of thousands of health workers have been robbed of their correct pay since the department launched its $40 million SAP/Workbrain system in March.

Millions more in taxpayer money has been spent trying to fix the system but, despite that, the complex system continued to falter.

Mr Lucas said he had been told by departmental experts that payroll accuracy had "improved significantly". But nurses such as midwife Diana Wing said they had to live with the reality of not knowing what would be in their bank accounts when they checked them each fortnight. "Yes, it does seem like the problems have decreased, but they are still there and the stress doesn't go away," Ms Wing said. "It has caused distress to my family and I haven't had the guts to get my tax done because I know it isn't correct."

Queensland Nurses Union state secretary Gay Hawksworth said the union heard from nurses every day who hadn't received correct pays – some for six months. "It ranges from termination pays, weekly pays, leave – there are problems everywhere," Ms Hawksworth said. "We are holding our breath, waiting for the independent report into the software because we still don't know if it is a lemon. There is still an awful long way to go."

Ms Hawksworth said that the human element of the crisis was impossible to measure.

The most recent three pay cycles have marked significant improvements on the debacle, with 68 people unpaid last week while in the previous two pay cycles 97 and 130 employees, respectively, did not receive their pays. Six months ago more than 1000 workers were going without pay. Ms Hawksworth claimed the number of incorrect pays was much higher.

Payroll staff still have to make 11,500 adjustments, down from 35,000 at the height of the crisis.

Mr Lucas said he expected to receive independent reports on the matter from KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers within the next few months. He told Parliament this week he "wouldn't rest" until the issue was resolved. [Whatever that means. Sleepless nights? Probably not]


New Federal Police powers trouble civil libertarians

NOT that long ago, Queensland police regularly invoked the "Ways and Means Act". If they couldn't legally demand to inspect a car boot believed to be holding stolen property? No problem. Under the then Traffic Act, police could ask to see a spare tyre. The boot is popped open and there are the stolen goods. A baldy tyre among the bounty and it was a bonus.

It was a way and a means of legally getting the bad guy. And it was a way and means of getting around the system, a system many police argue is stacked in favour of offenders – a view disputed by civil libertarians.

During the past decade, police and legislators have tried to even the score. The long arm of the law for state and federal agencies keeps getting longer in a bid to keep up with technology changes, organised crime and terrorism.

The Crime and Misconduct Commission has the power to access SMS and emails under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act. The Queensland Police Service can issue on-the-spot fines for matters that were once heard by magistrates.

Soon, the Australian Federal Police will be allowed to a enter a premises without a warrant if there is an emergency terrorism threat.

Amendments passed in Federal Parliament this week also expand the "urging violence" offence so it applies to individuals and groups who incite violence on the basis of race, religion, nationality or political opinion.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland last week defended his amendments. "The power of entry without a warrant isn't for the purpose of arresting a person," Mr McClelland told ABC Radio. "The purpose of entry without a warrant is for the purpose of rendering a dangerous substance, that is a serious threat to life or physical safety of citizens, including potentially the occupants of the building, to render it safe."

Presenter Jon Faine fired back "there are no safeguards any more. There's no one to whom, for instance, a judge or anyone else, to whom the police officer has to go to first to say, 'I have a reasonable suspicion here'". "They just do what they like and afterwards they say, 'Oh, we were either right or wrong'," Mr Faine said.

Mr McClelland said he was wrong. "They've got a very limited and very specific power to enter that property for the purpose of rendering that thing safe," he said. "They have no other power. They have no power to gather evidence, or to apprehend . . . a person. "The purpose for the entry is to render that thing safe for the purpose of saving lives."

But Council for Civil Liberties secretary Cameron Murphy says it is only a matter of time before police misused the powers. "The problem is that the legislation is just so extreme," Mr Murphy said. "We told (politicians) that this sort of legislation will be gravely misused in the future and people just couldn't be convinced."

He says it already is easy for police to get a warrant to enter a premises. "They just need to ring a judge. This is more extreme than the Patriot Act (in the US) . . . (because) they have a charter of rights that protects people."

He says police will inevitably enter a premise on the pretence of a serious terrorism offence. "Police will always use powers that they are not intended for," he said.

Alarm bells are also ringing for the Australian Greens, who have sent out an SOS for the nation's civil liberties. But the new powerhouse of Australian politics was sidelined this week when the Government and Opposition joined forces to pass the amendments.

Greens legal affairs spokesman Scott Ludlam argues the terrorism laws, a hangover from the Howard government, are unworkable. "In one or two respects there were mild improvements but in other respects the law is now worse," Senator Ludlam said. "It has deepened and broadened aspects of the laws on material assistance, sedition, vilification, proscription, arbitrary detention, AFP search warrants and presumption against bail."

However, a spokesman for Mr McClelland says the bill has the balance right. "The powers available to police when they are on the premises (entered without a warrant) will be limited to searching for and seizing the particular item," he said. "The police officer would need to apply for a search warrant over the premises in order to deal with anything else they reasonably suspect could be relevant to an offence. "There are a range of safeguards in place to prevent misuse of this new power."

He says people can also complain to the Commonwealth Ombudsman if they believe police have overstepped the mark.

The Government will also establish a new Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement that will enhance overseeing the AFP. Additional powers will be given to the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security to inquire into law enforcement agencies such as the AFP.

Terrorism expert Carl Ungerer says the new bill reins in some of the powers pushed through by the Howard government when it controlled the House of Representatives and the Senate. "There was a real sense it (terrorism laws) went too far in the Howard years," Dr Ungerer said. However, he argues police in emergency situations should have the power to enter a premises without a warrant. "It's a consequence of the speed that they have to act."

He says police would probably rarely draw upon the powers and would be thoroughly scrutinised when they were applied. "Civil libertarians always play to the fears of the individual," Dr Ungerer said.

Dave Walsh, a recently retired Queensland traffic cop who spent almost 40 years in the service, says the more power for police the better. "As a copper, you can never get enough tools. These days, they (police) are struggling against too much," he said. "You can't chase someone doing over 60km an hour but you can fine a mother doing 10km over the speed limit who is rushing to get her kids to school. "Police these days just stand back and do nothing."


22 November, 2010

Fibre network plan has the signs of a historic stuff-up

Says Leftist economist Ross Gittins below. Note that only one independent Senator is standing in the way of this thing being enacted at the moment. It's Australia's version of Obamacare

I am starting to get a really bad feeling about Labor's plan for a national broadband network. The more it resists subjecting the plan to scrutiny, the more you suspect it has something to hide.

I fear Julia Gillard is digging herself in deeper on a characteristically grandiose scheme her swaggering predecessor announced without thought to its daunting implications, when she should be looking for ways to scale the project down without too much loss of face.

The obvious way to start that process would have been to accede to calls for the Productivity Commission to conduct a cost-benefit analysis. The determination of governments to keep their schemes away from the commission is always prima facie evidence they know the scheme's dodgy.

But as each day passes the issue is becoming more politicised, with too much of the government's ego riding on pretending the plan is without blemish. Part of the problem is the role the plan played in winning the support of the country independents.

The independents and Greens are doing the government no favours in using their votes to allow the plan to escape scrutiny. Are they, too, afraid it wouldn't withstand scrutiny?

The case for a thorough cost-benefit analysis needs no stronger argument than that, at $43 billion, this is the most expensive piece of infrastructure this country has seen.

It's true the plan has a lot of attractions. Top of the list is the structural separation of Telstra's network from its retail business so its retail competitors get fair access to the network. This is something the Howard government should have seen to before it privatised Telstra.

I don't have an in-principle objection to a network with natural-monopoly characteristics being owned publicly rather than privately, provided governments don't use their powers to shore up or abuse that monopoly in a way any private owner would and should be prevented doing.

The Productivity Commission could be required to ensure its cost-benefit analysis ranged far more widely than a mere commercial evaluation, taking account of present and potential "social" benefits ("positive externalities") and acknowledging those whose value it can't quantify.

But there are three aspects of the plan that worry me. They're things economists are trained to see but to which non-economists are often oblivious.

The first is the mentality that says we've got a lot of messy and inadequate telecom arrangements at present, so let's scrap 'em all and start afresh. Copper wire to the home - make Telstra turn it off. Telstra and Optus's existing rival optical fibre-coaxial cables to many capital-city homes - close 'em down.

This Ruddish approach would be fine if resources were infinite, or if getting a brand spanking new broadband network was the Australian public's only desire.

But resources are finite, both sides of politics have sworn to eliminate all government debt and we have an infrastructure backlog as long as your arm. In two words: opportunity cost.

Second is the idea of building a gold-plated broadband network up to eight times faster than any present application needs, so we're ready for anything that may come along some time in the future.

If you think that shows vision and foresight, you're innocent of "the time value of money". Every dollar you spend now rather than later comes at an extra cost: the interest you have to pay between now and when you start using the idle capacity.

True, it's false economy to build something today without allowing for reasonable growth in your use of the item. But there comes a point where allowing for more growth than you're likely to see in ages becomes a waste of money.

Private businesses that do this - such as home owners who overcapitalise their properties - do their dough. Government businesses survive either by overcharging their customers or falling back on the taxpayer.

The final worry is the way that - notwithstanding the break-up of Telstra - the plan involves deliberately reducing competition from other networks in the telecommunications market. Why's that a good idea?

And why would the government plan to do it? Because it knows its network will be hugely over-engineered and the only way of charging consumers the high prices needed to recoup that excess cost is to turn broadband into a monopoly.

If Gillard had any sense of self-preservation she'd be using the Productivity Commission to get herself off a nasty hook.


ANOTHER bungling surgeon allowed to run riot in NSW

Once again it took a newspaper to wake up somnolent "regulators" Complaints against him started 7 YEARS before the regulators got off their fat backsides

HEALTH authorities have begun prosecuting former obstetrician Roman Hasil over 15 serious patient complaints from his time at a northern NSW hospital. Dr Hasil was suspended from practising in NSW in 2008 after the Herald revealed he had botched eight of 32 sterilisation procedures in New Zealand.

The Herald also revealed there had been at least 10 patient complaints of sexual assault and medical negligence against Dr Hasil in relation to his time as a junior obstetrics doctor at Lismore Base Hospital from 2001 to 2005.

Complaints to the Health Care Complaints Commission allege poorly performed surgery, failure to use local anaesthetic while suturing women after birth and causing "massive" infections from not using gloves. He was also accused of inappropriate remarks and being physically aggressive with his patients.

Dr Hasil, who lives at a men's shelter in Sydney, appeared before the District Court last Thursday without a lawyer, and was told his hearing was due to start before the NSW Medical Tribunal next year.

NSW Health failed to do any reference checks with the hospitals Dr Hasil worked at in Slovakia before employing him.

Dr Hasil, who was jailed in Singapore for domestic violence in 1995, has two convictions in NSW for high-range drink-driving and one for assaulting a woman.

In a document served on Dr Hasil a week ago, the commission outlined 15 patient complaints against him. One was made by Connie Sholl, who has accused him of not using anaesthetic while suturing her after giving birth and of also not wearing gloves at Lismore hospital in 2002. "He started to suture me without any drugs and I kicked him … he ordered the staff to 'stirrup the bitch'," she said. She said he "slapped" his hand on to her crotch and said: "Who's the boss now?"

Dr Hasil was sacked from Angliss Hospital in Melbourne in 2005 for being drunk. He was also investigated by Tasmanian police in relation to the murder of an Italian tourist, Victoria Cafasso. The now retired detective inspector in charge of that case, Michael Otley, said last week that Dr Hasil was still among the "half a dozen persons of interest" in the case.

Outside court, Dr Hasil said he was being prosecuted because of "racism for overseas-born doctors in this country" and denied any negligence.

"[The patients complained] it hurts, he doesn't have any heart, it's what? Don't be pregnant," he said. He said "many" had complained that he was "rude" and made "inappropriate comments", which he denied.

Ms Sholl said she was "very disillusioned" with the public health system. "I would really like to see some changes [about] who they are employing."

Dr Hasil denied Ms Sholl's claims. "It's absolute rubbish. I wouldn't touch somebody with hands on their fanny."

A civil case against the Wanganui District Hospital in New Zealand - brought by several women treated by Dr Hasil - was recently settled out of court.


$50m bill for overseas criminals filling Queensland jails

FOREIGN murderers, rapists and drug runners are clogging Queensland jails and costing taxpayers $50 million a year. One in seven of the state's inmates are foreign nationals, prompting a push for offenders to be sent home to complete their sentences.

The federal and state Opposition say criminals should be transferred "wherever possible" to ease the burden on prisons.

Britain is moving to send foreign prisoners home to reduce costs and overcrowding, with 33 Australian offenders potentially eligible to be shipped back. But there are more than 50 UK nationals in Queensland jails, and the state could save a fortune by sending them back in a twist on our colonial past.

A total of 762 foreign nationals are behind bars across the state, including a dozen awaiting deportation as they near the end of their sentences. By comparison, 243 Australian citizens are in overseas prisons, according to Federal Government figures.

New Zealand [Maori], Indonesia, Britain, Vietnam, Samoa and Romania top the list of countries filling state jails, Corrective Services said. Foreigners have been convicted of offences including murder, sex crimes, people smuggling, property crimes, arson and traffic violations. Each prisoner costs about $66,000 a year to keep behind bars - more than the cost of hiring a school teacher.

Candidates to be sent home would include Canadian Dale Handlen, jailed for at least 22 years last year for smuggling more than $130 million worth of cocaine and ecstasy into Queensland.

In the UK, thousands of foreign prisoners face being deported in a bold cost-cutting drive. British Prime Minister David Cameron wants to send foreign prisoners to jails in their homeland whether they consent or not.

Federal Opposition legal affairs spokesman George Brandis has backed the return of foreign prisoners. "What Mr Cameron has announced is something that certainly deserves careful consideration in Australia as well where it is feasible. Where possible they should be (sent home)," Senator Brandis said.

State Opposition justice spokesman Lawrence Springborg said more should be done to send prisoners home but added: "You would need to make sure they serve their sentence."

Kay Danes of the Foreign Prisoners' Support Service said some foreign inmates in Australia were desperate to return home to be closer to family, while others wanted to remain because of better conditions. "If you are looking at saving Australian taxpayer dollars, that is one element because it is quite expensive to have foreign prisoners in our jails," she said. "For repatriating our prisoners from jails overseas, it is logical for many reasons - cultural differences, language, access to rehabilitation, access to family and medical care."

There were 27 prisoner requests for transfer from Australia last financial year, and 21 requests for transfer to Australia.


Gay marriage demands should be left on shelf

Christopher Pearson

THE most obvious thing about arguments for same-sex marriage is their shallowness.

IN last Saturday's Focus, Paul Kelly wrote a memorable piece, taking issue with Labor senator Mark Arbib's suggestion that it's time for the ALP to support gay marriage.

"Why is it time?" Kelly asked. "Because the Greens are stealing Labor's votes, that's why. So Labor should cynically abandon its support for the foundational social institution, a move that will trigger a deeply polarising debate and brand Labor indelibly as a libertarian personal rights party ready to ditch any institution or principle. In the process, Labor will alienate permanently an important section of its base."

Kelly's analysis was in marked contrast to that of The Age's political editor, Michelle Grattan. She told ABC Radio National's Breakfast show this week that Julia Gillard would have to change tack on the subject, preferably sooner rather than later.

Mind you, she was talking to the show's presenter, Fran Kelly, whose agenda on same-sex issues is well known, and to some extent may have been framing her remarks accordingly.

Grattan's argument is the same sort of vulgar inevitabilism that she, Paul Kelly and the press gallery at large displayed on the outcome of the republican referendum. But Kelly at least has more of a feel for the values of blue-collar workers in the outer suburbs. As he says, Arbib's push to change the law on marriage "testifies to how politicians can be fooled by opinion polls and miss the bigger picture".

The most obvious thing about the arguments in support of same-sex marriage is their shallowness. The best Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young could manage last week was to remind us breathlessly that we are living in the year 2010, as though that settled the matter. The Greens' line that all loving couples deserve to be treated equally is just as specious.

Few have argued more consistently over many years than I have done that same-sex partners should get a fair deal on superannuation and other entitlements of that kind. Labor's reforms in the last parliament mean that couples are treated pretty much equally except in the matter of marriage.

But the few remaining privileges reserved for matrimony are there for sound, practical reasons.

Men and women tend to have different needs and priorities when they enter a mature sexual relationship.

Most men are not naturally disposed to be monogamous, for example. One of the purposes of marriage is to bind them to their spouses and children for the long haul and to give the state's approval to those who enter such a contract and abide by its terms.

Another of the purposes of marriage is to affirm that parenthood is a big, and in most cases the primary, contribution a couple can make, both to their own fulfilment and the public good.

It follows that societies which want to sustain their population size, let alone increase their fertility level, should positively discriminate in favour of stable, heterosexual relationships and assert the preferability of adolescents making a normal transition to heterosexual adulthood.

It should be obvious to unprejudiced observers that, while there are plenty of well-adjusted gays who manage to lead satisfying and productive lives, rational people do not of their own volition choose to be homosexual.

It should be equally obvious that those who, through whatever mixture of nature and nurture, end up at whatever age identifying as homosexual, bisexual or whatever, need to be protected from any kind of persecution.

Among the reasons the Greens are so keen on same-sex marriage is that they want to reduce the population and drive down national fertility. Their refusal to discriminate positively in favour of heterosexuality and uphold the distinctive value of normal marriage shows their political project yet again for what it is: a dead end.

Speaking of dead ends, some American bishops have recently given a persuasive account of why same-sex marriage has come to look like a modest reform. They put it down to a culture where contraception and abortion are so widely practised that the crucial differences between a fertile couple, a couple childless by choice and a gay couple have been largely obscured and each partnership is seen as morally equivalent. They also lay some of the blame on a UN version of entitlement, in which marriage could be reduced to an unqualified abstract right.

The blue-collar social conservatives of the outer suburbs inhabit a less theoretical world. They are often unapologetically tribal in outlook and their best hopes are often invested in their children.

Most parents on low wages routinely make sacrifices on their kids' behalf in ways middle-class couples seldom do these days. There is also still something self-sacrificial among many of them on marriage: the notion that it's hard work much of the time but worth the effort.

There is another core constituency, sometimes overlapping, who have been critical to Labor's victories in the past two elections. I'm talking about not just the Christian vote but the votes of people who are adherents of all the main, organised religions.

Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists all take the institution of marriage very seriously. As things stand, Labor can normally count on a fair share of those people's votes. However, the electoral implications of giving them a faith-based reason for voting for the Coalition are obvious.

Perhaps Arbib should look beyond the Galaxy polling commissioned by an advocacy group, Australian Marriage Equality. A sample of 1050 found, after a prompt-question on gay marriage being introduced overseas, that 62 per cent supported changing the law.

Another 33 per cent were opposed and 5 per cent were unsure.

The Greens in triumphalist mode have claimed more support for their cause than these figures warrant.

Far more substantial polling comes from Roy Morgan's Single Source face-to-face surveys, which reach more than 50,000 people each year. His data uses proxy questions: Do you think homosexual activity is immoral and are you in favour of gays getting adoption rights?

Attitudes vary widely, of course, between the regions and the inner and outer suburbs, which is why Galaxy's 62 per cent in favour should be treated with caution.

The strongly negative territory included most of regional Queensland, traditional Labor turf comprising three western Sydney seats (Blaxland, Chifley, McMahon), three more in Sydney's southwest (Barton, Banks, Watson), some parts of suburban Melbourne (Lalor, Hotham, Bruce) and the north Tasmanian seats of Bass and Lyons.

Running the risk of alienating so much of your traditional support base, at this stage in federal Labor's history, is daylight madness. At least Gillard seems to have grasped that fact.

SOURCE. (Note: Christopher Pearson is himself homosexual)

21 November, 2010

Billions of dollars likely to be wasted on Qld. water projects

All this has been caused by a Leftist government believing the Warmist crap about ever-worsening drought -- ignoring the traditional observation that Australia is a land "of drought and flooding rains". The government failed to anticipate the "flooding rains" that we have now just had -- and are continuing to have. Only someone blinded by ideology would be unaware that droughts and floods alternate in Australia -- which is why Australia has so many dams and weirs

BILLIONS of dollars worth of newly built Bligh Government water projects responsible for driving up household water bills could be shut down and become white elephants.

A leaked Queensland Water Commission report, submitted to State Cabinet last week, proposes "mothballing" a raft of major water-treatment plants, all but closing the $1.2 billion Tugun Desalination Plant, and deferring building another water plant for 18 years.

Described as "Cabinet-in-confidence", the report gives three options to cut bulk-water prices after an update last month showed the price should be $133/ML less than the 2008 forecast after the aborted Traveston Dam.

The revelations come as the Government scrambles to stem the fallout over soaring water bills, with households hit with rises between $100 and $300 a year to pay for building the water grid.

The report's first option says do nothing, pay off water grid debt two years early and do not risk the "high probability" of reversing cuts if conditions change.

The second option outlines household savings of $4.62 in 2011-12 and $9.23 in 2012-13 - but only if the Tugun plant is run at 33 per cent for 10 years and then 67 per cent thereafter.

An extreme alternative - allowing a $11.53 household saving in 2011-12 - involves a "hot standby" by stopping the plant from feeding into the grid but being available on 24 hours' notice.

Set for mothballing are the Bundamba water treatment plant, either the Gibson Island or Luggage Point plants, and the Brisbane Aquifer Project. The first stage of the Cedar Grove plant at Wyaralong Dam near Beaudesert would be delayed until 2014-15 instead of 2012, with other stages to follow in 2028-29. But the extreme plan defers the whole plant until 2028-2029.

A third option for Cabinet is to announce an "intention" to reduce the destination bulk-water price by $37/ML in 2013-14.


Fruit-Loop Mayor of Sydney wants to swap harmless CO2 for dangerous nitrogen oxides

Clover Moore has heard of co-generation (widely used in Russia) and wants to build a plant in Sydney city. That it would have to be shut down most of the time (whenever atmospheric NOx levels in the CBD exceed permissible limits) she is turning a blind eye to.

THE network of gas-fired engines that are planned to power the Sydney CBD could emit up to 660kg of harmful nitrogen dioxide every hour. That is more than the combined emissions from the Shell and Caltex oil refineries in the region.

Estimates of the pollution produced by these new-generation power plants are contained in an interim policy paper by the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change.

The City of Sydney has pledged to install more than 100 trigeneration turbines - which burn gas to generate electricity and then capture the exhaust to heat and cool buildings as necessary - in a bid to reduce carbon emissions and ease the strain on the existing electricity grid.

They also potentially pose a risk to air quality - and in turn the health of all those who live and work in Australia's largest city.

The network, championed by Lord Mayor Clover Moore, is expected to generate 330 megawatts of electricity, meeting about 70 per cent of Sydney's energy needs.

But, according to the DECC interim paper, the Sydney CBD could accommodate uncontrolled emissions from just 10MW of "co-generation" (a similar engine that heats but doesn't cool buildings) before "health-based nitrogen dioxide goals" are possibly exceeded. Furthermore, emissions from about 200MW of power would result in those nitrogen levels being breached "across the CBD".

High levels of nitrogen dioxide (NOx) and other nitrogen compounds in the atmosphere are linked with a raft of serious health issues, such as respiratory illness and asthma. Children are considered particularly vulnerable.

The City of Sydney defended its plans, saying in a statement last night that the figures cited in the interim report were based on untreated emissions which "are not relevant" to the energy proposal. "Our master plan . . . will comply fully with . . . NOx guidelines," the statement said.

However, that report specifically cites the council's trigeneration strategy by name and was cited in the council's own briefing paper, entitled Removal of the Barriers to Trigeneration. "On an hourly basis 330MW of gas-fired co-generation (the amount envisioned in the City of Sydney strategic plan) could emit up to 660kg per hour of NOx; this is more NOx than the combined emissions from the Shell and Caltex oil refineries in Sydney," the department's report reads.

It also highlights that the proposal is centred on the CBD, where pollution levels are already the highest. "As a result there is little 'headroom' available to accommodate uncontrolled emissions from cogeneration without causing local health impacts," it says.

The National Environment Protection Council has developed air quality standards that govern the allowable levels of nitrogen dioxide that can be released. The benchmark is 0.03 parts per million, averaged over a year.

The City of Sydney would not comment on the implications of meeting the NEPC standards. However, the council said it would find reductions in NOx emissions from cars through its integrated transport plan. "The vast majority of NOx come from motor vehicles. The city's cycling, walking, car-share and public transport strategies will also see real reductions in local NOx," the statement said.


Patients waiting up to 55 hours for a hospital bed

Ain't socialized medicine grand?

EMERGENCY patients in WA are waiting up to 55 hours for a hospital bed, according to new figures that come as a blow to Health Minister Kim Hames. The latest snapshot of emergency departments by the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine found that two-thirds of Perth patients waiting for a hospital bed spend more than eight hours in the emergency department.

The figures, to be released in Canberra tomorrow, have exposed how the WA Government's much-vaunted "four-hour rule" has made little difference to the health system.

Ten emergency departments across WA were surveyed by the ACEM on August 30. On average, there were six patients in each department waiting longer than eight hours for a bed, and at least one patient in each emergency department waiting more than 24 hours. In the worst case, a patient was waiting more than two days for a bed. Another snapshot, conducted in May, found that a WA emergency patient waited 55 hours for a bed.

Australian National University medical professor Drew Richardson, who compiled the figures for the ACEM, said WA had barely improved on previous years when the state was dubbed the worst in the country for hospital patients waiting for a bed. This is despite a State Government campaign requiring WA hospitals to admit or discharge emergency department patients within four hours.

Dr Hames staked his portfolio on the success of the four-hour rule shortly after the state election two years ago. He originally promised that 98 per cent of patients would meet the target by April 2011. However, Dr Hames recently backed down from that and set a new target of 85 per cent.

Prof Richardson said even the watered-down target was unrealistic. "I would like to see the four-hour rule work, but I don't think there has been adequate resources put in place to make it work," he said.

Australian Medical Association state president David Mountain said there had been no significant improvement in the ratio of hospital bed numbers to patients in WA for more than a decade. He said the four-hour rule was doomed unless more doctors, nurses and hospital beds were introduced into the system.

"I'm sure the minister and his spin team will try to say WA is doing better than other parts of the country," Associate Prof Mountain said. "But figures speak for themselves. Things aren't improving and, if anything, they're going backwards."

Dr Hames labelled the ACEM figures "irresponsible" because they were based on snapshots of isolated periods. "Patient surveys report better experiences and greater satisfaction," he said. Dr Hames said 58 new hospital beds had been provided [Is that all?] in WA this year, with an additional 74 due to open in the next few months.


The disaster that is Australia's present Green/Left government

Column by Senator Barnaby Joyce, Leader of The Nationals in the Senate, recently published in the Canberra Times

Certain things paint an indelible image in your mind. One happened to me lately when my mother in law told me that whilst doing meals on wheels in winter there was always a place you could find pensioners, in bed. This was not because of an infirmity but because they could not afford the price of the power to stay warm outside bed. How completely self indulgent and pathetic we have become that in our zealous desire to single-handedly cool the planet we have pandered to those who can afford the power bill over those less fortunate to avoid privation. How pathetic we are that South Korea, using our coal, can provide power cheaper to their citizens after an 8,300 km sea voyage than we can with power stations in our own coal fields.

Oh yes, aren’t the solar panels doing a great a job. In Canberra last week it was revealed that they would add $225 to the average electricity bill, and that the Government's proposed carbon tax would raise them by a further 24%.

It is just that the poverty creep is making its way up the social strata, though I doubt it will reach the most affluent group The Greens. Bitterness on my part I suppose but I represent a party that represents the poorest electorates. Now what other lunacy are we considering, none other than shutting down the Murray Darling Basin so you can have a diet that suits the misery of the winter nights temperature in the unheated house..

Yes we have become so oblivious to the obvious because the loudest voices are not necessarily the neediest. We spend, sorry borrow, for school halls that do not make students more competitive in competency. No school hall taught a student a second language or a higher level maths. We borrowed for ceiling insulation and burnt down 190 houses and 4 installers died.

We borrowed for aimless $900 cheques as we decided that somehow imported electrical goods to Australia would reboot the US economy. We borrowed so much that we are now 170 billion dollars in gross debt. We are told not to worry about gross debt, its net debt that counts. Well try that out on your local bank manager. Try paying him back what you think you owe him, because of what you think others may owe you. Not surprisingly he will direct you to what is noted on your loan statement.

It is funny how the people who try to assuage our concerns with the net debt myth can never clearly identify what are the items that make up the difference between the figure on the Office of Financial Management website as Australian Government Securities outstanding and their miraculous net debt figure.

Since the election, the Labor-Green government has borrowed an average $1.6 billion each week. Every fortnight that amounts to three new major public hospitals or the inland rail from Melbourne to Brisbane. Not bad going for a country that can not keep its pensioners warm.

Whilst we are waiting we are merrily selling at a record rate our agricultural land, mines and now the hub of commerce the ASX, so that when the day of reckoning for or children comes they can try and get out of trouble by working fastidiously for someone else and hoping they feed them. The average foreign purchase of agricultural land over the past two years is 2.7 billion a year or more than 10 times that of the average of the previous 10 years.

So when is all this going to change? When are we going to shake ourselves out of this dystopia that we are inflicting on others less connected but more affected by the self indulgent political delusion. What is our current solution to the very real problems becoming more and more apparent at the bottom end of the lucky country?

Well apparently it is gay marriage. Yep I am sure that will warm the cockles of their hearts, if not their living rooms, that our nation’s wisest are going to engage in hours, possibly days at the end of the political year on gay marriage. Then when we are finished with gay marriage we may have enough time to engage the remainder of our time on euthanasia.

You can not reduce power prices without increasing the supply of cheap power. No other nation has an earnest desire to feed you before they satisfy their own. It is a fluke of history that you are here in this nation but luck is easily lost with bad management and naive aspirations.

Nationals deserve praise for vetoing police state

THANKFULLY, a draconian law backed by WA's Liberal government has been thwarted. WHILE most political commentary is understandably focused on the national stage as Julia Gillard tries to hold together her loose alliance of Labor, Greens and rural independents, last week another minority government faced a split of its own. It was an important moment for good law-making in this country.

In Western Australia, the Nationals refused to support Colin Barnett's controversial stop-and-search provisions, the Criminal Investigation Amendment Bill. It was the minor party's finest hour, exposing the heavy-handed and out-of-touch willingness of the Liberal government to trample on the civil liberties of its citizens.

In this column last year, when the issue began to be debated, I wrote about the dangers of the proposed stop-and-search laws, aimed at giving police the powers to frisk anyone in certain parts of Perth without the centuries-old requirement of reasonable suspicion.

Just stop and think about that for a moment. The Liberal government in WA wanted to give police the power to frisk and search whoever they wanted: a good-looking woman, a kid who looked at them the wrong way, or a couple that for no particular reason the police officers just didn't like the look of. It is one hell of a law for a government to try and inflict on the population that elected it.

The stop-and-search bill was a ham-fisted effort by Police Minister Rob Johnson and Attorney-General Christian Porter.

Johnson is a maverick from way back. He has variously advocated crushing cars and leaving them on speeding drivers' front lawns, chemical castration for sex offenders, and the re-introduction of the death penalty. While extreme, at least none of these targets innocent bystanders, as the stop-and-search provisions would have.

But what on earth is the more rational Attorney-General doing supporting these laws? Porter studied for a masters in political philosophy at the London School of Economics. He understands the writings of 18th and 19th-century thinkers such as Thomas Paine and John Stuart Mill, writings about rights and freedoms basic to Western democracies. He should hand his qualification back.

The Johnson and Porter argument is that the intention of the law isn't to do anyone harm. Rather, it is to make crime trouble spots safer. But that misses the point.

History is littered with examples of well-intentioned moves that led to unintended consequences. As the 19th-century writer Thomas Aldrich noted: "The possession of unlimited power will make a despot of almost any man." Police in WA shouldn't be put in the situation where they have such powers.

Just to be clear, the laws, had they come into effect, would have meant an innocent couple walking through the streets could be stopped simply on a police officer's whim. The woman (or man) would then receive a full body frisk, the contents of her purse could be tossed and both parties would be ordered to turn out their pockets. For doing what? Based on what suspicion of wrongdoing? Nothing and none are the answers.

It could be an older couple out for their anniversary, a woman going to church, a young couple on their first date. Anyone and everyone becomes a target.

And people wouldn't have needed to be walking through one of the no-go areas to be violated. While driving through the suburb (perhaps without the intention of stopping in the area), they could have been pulled over and subjected to the treatment outlined above, with their car being thoroughly searched as well.

If that isn't the stuff of a police state, then I don't know what is. No wonder the opposition and the Nationals refused to support the bill. It is hard to believe educated legislators could come up with such a law, much less get into a situation where the entire Liberal parliamentary party endorsed it.

Another argument used to justify the laws by their proponents is that it is no different to giving police the powers to conduct random breath tests. Apart from the fact you don't get felt up in a random breath test, there are other important differences, too. When you drive a car or take an aeroplane flight, you effectively sign a contract with the state that you will play by the road or air rules, such as being breath-tested or walking through metal detectors. But the stop-and-search provisions would have applied to anyone who simply wanted to walk on the streets. It would have been a contract with the state that no citizen could have chosen to opt out of, a contract would have allowed police to frisk you at will, unless you wanted to stay housebound for the rest of your life.

Removing the reasonable suspicion test from policing is draconian. Anyone who enjoys basic freedoms should be affronted by the Liberal government's attempt to introduce such laws, and the desire to do so by the Liberal Party leadership group should lead to more questioning about other legislative initiatives it pursues. If Barnett is prepared to do this, what else might he be prepared to do?

The Nationals took the view that the bill should be opposed on the back of an upper house committee that considered the proposal for 12 months. Despite many submissions to the committee raising concerns about the proposed laws - with the one exception: the police union (surprise, surprise) - the Liberals on the committee fell into line with the desires of their executive and recommended the bill become law.

The Labor, Greens and, most significantly, Nationals members on the committee disagreed, and Nationals MP Mia Davies managed to convince her colleagues to join her in opposing the proposed law, thereby killing it off. For that, West Australians, should be eternally grateful.

It isn't just that the laws would have violated the rights of free citizens. Overseas evidence suggests such laws don't work anyway.

Britain trialled similar laws to deal with terrorism. But it's terror law watchdog, Lord Carlile QC, found them "poor and unnecessary". In 2008, British police used the powers on 170,000 occasions without one conviction, but with many complaints registered.

That's what happens when people are stopped without reasonable suspicion: citizens lose confidence in the state and the state doesn't improve its policing, because it isn't targeted.

WA has dodged a policy bullet, but the public should never forget what their government tried to do to them.


20 November, 2010

Some very frank and hence "incorrect" comments about homosexual "marriage" from some of the old-timers who email me

A lot of old-timers vote so cannot be disregarded. I am aware that the comments below may offend some but I think all points of view should be aired. We are hardly a democracy if they cannot be aired. If you don't like old-fashioned straight talk, don't read on

1). Re nonsense of same sex marrriage and Paul Keatings immortal words: "Two men and a cockerspaniel do not make a family". To a huge segment of the population these people are deviants and many call them poofters. I suggest you let sleeping dogs lie. They are not prosecuted or persecuted anymore and this is enough.

2). Labor is going to have to start putting some distance between it and the Greens who keep going on about the polls indicating that 62% of the population are in favor of gay marriage.

I would like to know where the polls on this issue are taking place, probably Tasmania, The ABC or Australia Post, the latter, in Brisbane at least, is getting full of the sick bastards. The poofs and lesos at the ABC National are giving this issue plenty of air time, so you don't have to be a Rhodes Scholar to work out which way they are leaning, or in this case bending over.

We had old Chipp and the Democrats keeping the bastards honest. Now we have the Greens keeping everyone's bum to the wall.

Thank the good lord big Julia is in to a bit of the old fashinoned hetrosexual in and out and by the look of the size of her arse it looks like she is geting plenty of practice in the old indoor sport.

She is not the best sort in town but I wouldn't knock her back, mind you I may not come out of it alive and at my time of life you can't afford to knock anything back, not that I am getting any offers at home or anywhere else for that matter.

Jokes aside, the biggest worry is Labor, the Government that is. They aren't too worried about this issue dragging on as it keeps the heat off them on other issues. The big problem with this is the longer it goes on the more chance it has of getting up.

These politicans are ruthless bastards and either party, Labor of the Opposition, would run with this if it meant getting in or staying in government -- and that is the big worry.

3). These Greens in federal parliament are the most dangerous bludgers I have ever seen - or heard. I thought the Moslems were/are dangerous but the Greens are their equal. Ironically if the former ever come here in huge numbers there may be a few poofs dangling from the gallows. I wonder if the Greens consider that.

Charities and church groups join in criticism of child protection in NSW

Government and unions resisting privatization -- even though private organizations do a much better job. The Labor party government is afraid of the unions of course. So the kids suffer

CHARITIES and church groups have banded together to accuse the State Government of failing to move quickly enough to protect children in DOCS care. The 27 groups have claimed the transfer of foster care to the private sector recommended by Justice James Wood in a special commission of inquiry last year was "slow and difficult".

Union fears of job losses had been cited as one reason for the slow transition under new child protection system Keep Them Safe, Anglicare said. Other groups joined to fight the government include the Benevolent Society and UnitingCare Burnside.

They have commissioned a report by Deloitte which showed non-government organisations had 98 per cent stability of foster care placements. DOCS record was 50 per cent with half of children repeatedly moved between foster families.

The charities and church groups have a ratio of one caseworker for every eight children while the Auditor-General revealed this week that the DOCS' ratio was one to 29.

A union yesterday launched a campaign claiming the outsourcing of child protection would put children at risk.


Druggie doctor arrested in relation to hepatitis C infections at abortion clinic

Another gross failure of so-called "regulators"

A DOCTOR has been released pending summons after being arrested in relation to claims that patients at a Croydon abortion clinic were deliberately infected with hepatitis C.

The 61-year-old Hawthorn man is understood to be Dr James Latham Peters, who worked at the Croydon Day Surgery (now called Marie Stopes Maroondah) when a number of patients were infected with the virus between 2008 and 2009.

Taskforce Clays detectives are analysing "a significant amount of documentation that was seized last month". The taskforce was created after a formal request from the Department of Health was received by Victoria Police in April. Police are yet to lay charges over the outbreak, which has so far infected at least 41 victims.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (formerly the Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria) is already facing criticism and legal action for allowing Dr Peters to continue working in spite of his history of drug issues dating back more than a decade before the hepatitis C scandal was uncovered.

So far, 41 women who underwent abortions with Dr Peters have been revealed as having a strain of hepatitis C genetically matching his since the scandal was uncovered last January.

More of his patients also have hepatitis C where the exact strain cannot be matched, while another 1000 women are still being tested after attending the Croydon Day Surgery, the Fertility Control Centre in East Melbourne, St Albans Endoscopy Centre and Western Day Surgery in Sunshine where Dr Peters worked. Police raided the clinics last month.

So far, 37 women have joined a class action against the Medical Practitioners Board.

SOURCE. More background here.

Muslim hostility gets a just reward

Six month' jail for Muslim woman who lied about police conduct

A MUSLIM mother was sentenced to six months behind bars after falsely claiming a highway patrol officer was racist and attempted to tear her burqa from her face.

Carnita Matthews, 46, made a written complaint against the young officer, who fined her for failing to properly display her P-plates, in what a local magistrate described as a "deliberate and malicious and, to a degree, a ruthless crime".

The case sparked calls for all police cars to be fitted with video cameras after the technology was instrumental in exposing the mother of seven's lies.

It also forced a review by Corrective Services NSW, which has no policy on prisoners wearing burqas. Matthews, who refused to give evidence during her two-day hearing at Campbelltown Local Court, claimed it was a case of mistaken identity. Her lawyer Stephen Hopper even argued police couldn't prove that a burqa-clad woman who handed the sworn allegations to police was her.

Documents tendered to court revealed Matthews received help from former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib, who twice spoke to a Police Professional Standards Command senior officer on her behalf.

Senior Constable Paul Fogarty had stopped Matthews for a random breath test near her home in Woodbine, in Sydney's southwest, in June. She accused the officer of fining her because she was wearing a burqa.

Video and audio of the incident, caught by a camera in the highway patrol vehicle, showed the officer did not attempt to remove her burqa and that she started abusing him only after being issued with a fine, shouting: "You are racist. All cops are racist."

Mr Rabbidge rejected Matthews' claims she wasn't responsible for the false allegation due to the knowledge of the incident and the signature on the complaint, which matched her driver licence.

Within minutes of the decision, Mr Hopper appealed against the conviction and Matthews was granted conditional bail while the case goes to the District Court.


NSW nurses fed up with their broken hospital system

NSW nurses vowed last night to walk off the job next Wednesday, despite the industrial umpire ordering them not to. The NSW Nurses Association committee of delegates agreed on Tuesday to take the industrial action to push their "1 Nurse 4 Patients" campaign.

They are calling for a major overhaul of the state's public hospital and healthcare system through the introduction of mandated, minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in public hospitals and community healthcare services.

But the Industrial Relations Commission yesterday ordered a month-long strike ban. The Nurses Association has no plans to heed the orders, issuing a statement last night that the industrial action would go ahead.

It comes as NSW struggles to reduce its operation waiting lists and on the eve of Christmas, when operating theatres are shut down for four and six weeks. [To save money!]

On Thursday, IRC commissioner Justice Roger Boland warned the nurses not to go ahead with the strike due to the devastating effects it would have on the health system.

Union general secretary Brett Holmes said night-duty staffing levels would be maintained during the strike and nurses and midwives would provide life-preserving services at all times.

NSW Health said: "If the strike were to proceed it would have a very detrimental effect on the health system."


19 November, 2010

Private property will save Aboriginal culture, not destroy it

By Helen Hughes, Mark Hughes and Sara Hudson

Australians are fed up. Despite expenditure of vast taxpayer funds – some $5 billion annually on top of normal education and health, etc – Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in remote Australia continue to live without jobs, on welfare, and in appalling public housing. Alcoholism, poor health, and violence are the consequence.

Private Housing on Indigenous Lands, released this week by The Centre for Independent Studies, cuts through to the causes of Indigenous dysfunction – the denial of individual property rights (private home and business ownership) – on Indigenous lands. Private Housing proposes that individual landowners be identified so they can receive the benefits of their land rights rather than allow these to be wasted by land councils and other communal organisations. A kick start to private property rights is proposed by giving long-term public housing tenants the choice of taking ownership – at no cost – of their dwellings, which are often mere shacks.

In mainstream Australia, private and communal property rights are complementary. Australians can get a job, own a house, and start a business side by side with sharing communal property such as schools, hospitals, roads and parks. This two sector economy is denied to Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders on Indigenous lands. By only enabling communal ownership, a communist system has been imposed on these lands.

The benefits are appropriated by a small elite – the nomenklatura – who live in nice houses, while the regime fails to deliver decent housing to everyone else. Indigenous townships are like Omsk without the snow. Most are lucky to have a single shoddy communally owned supermarket, and there are no thriving coffee shops and other businesses of country towns. Criticism of communal landownership is attacked as being ideologically unsound, not on the basis of factual evidence.

The fact is that private property rights are essential to Indigenous economic development. Without private property rights, family and social dysfunction will continue. Indigenous languages are dying out and culture is under threat. Economic prosperity will encourage a revival of Indigenous languages, literature, art, music and dance. Pride will replace despair.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 19 Dec. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Union boss warns Labor faces electoral defeat if it bows to the Greens' agenda

A powerful right-wing union boss has warned that Labor faces "electoral suicide" unless it avoids the Greens' "excessive" influence over the government's agenda. Joe de Bruyn, national secretary of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association, complains that Labor is being dragged to the left.

He has attacked Julia Gillard for allowing Labor MPs to vote for a Greens motion that called on parliamentarians to talk to their constituents about gay marriage.

Mr de Bruyn told The Australian Online that if Labor allowed itself to become “distracted” by Greens issues such as gay marriage it would “lose the next election”. A change in the party platform to accommodate gay marriage would also be an act of “electoral suicide”, said Mr de Bruyn.

He suggested the Prime Minister should focus more on “bread and butter issues” including interest rates, education, health and the National Broadband Network. “The more that Labor gets sucked into the marginal issues the Greens are putting up, the more people see that the Greens are dominating the agenda,” he told The Australian Online.

“The perception of the ordinary person looking at the parliament from the outside must be that the Greens are having an excessive influence over the government's agenda. “The bread and butter issues are not penetrating through to the ordinary person.”

Mr de Bruyn also denied cracks were appearing in the Labor right after powerbroker Mark Arbib came out in support of a conscience vote on the gay marriage issue. “Mark Arbib isolated himself in a most serious way in the right in coming out the way in which he did. He has virtually no support in the right whatsoever for the view he expressed,” he said.

Mr de Bruyn said he thought it was unlikely Labor's party platform would change at the next national conference to accept gay marriage. “Unless the Labor party wants to commit electoral suicide I think the wiser heads will prevail. “By changing the policy all that will happen is that Labor will lose votes.”

Mr de Bruyn said that by embracing gay marriage Labor would surrender the “centre ground” to the Coalition and warned it would be impossible to win an election from that position. “In the extent that Labor panders to the Greens on the gay issue they might at the margin pick up some votes on the left but they will lose the whole of the centre ground,” he said. Labor actually stood to lose votes by embracing gay marriage, he warned.

Mr de Bruyn said Labor should have voted down the Greens motion calling for parliamentarians to sound out their constituents on gay marriage. By passing it, the resolution would keep the issue “indefinitely alive into the future”.

He stressed, however, that “there is absolutely no suggestion” that by holding the party line Julia Gillard was endangering her leadership.

Mr de Bruyn also told ABC radio he was “not threatening” the Prime Minister - who was installed with the help of the parliamentary wing of the SDA - but “offering some guidance”. The SDA is one of the most powerful unions in the country, and has significant representation within Labor ranks, including cabinet minister Tony Burke and MPs Jacinta Collins and Mark Bishop.

The vote on the Greens' gay marriage motion came after several Labor MPs spoke in favour of the party shifting its position on gay marriage, including Mr Arbib and Australian Workers Union boss Paul Howes.

Mr de Bruyn's decision to speak could be seen as a response to Mr Howes' recent decision to speak in favour of gay marriage. Both men run right-wing unions.

Mr Howes today supported Mr de Bruyn's right to speak out over the issue but distanced himself from the union boss's position. “As I've been saying, I think it's important the ALP discuss and debates these ideas openly and it's good that Joe is expressing his views,” Mr Howes said. But he added: “This is Joe's view, I don't think it's a surprise to anyone and he is appropriately communicating it.

“This is what I want in Labor, I don't agree with Joe, but he has the right to say it and he should. I respect his views. It's important for people in the party to be able to articulate their views on issues.”

In his recently-released book, Confessions of a Faceless Man, Mr Howes described Labor's opposition to gay marriage as “indefensible”.

Federal government frontbencher Nicola Roxon denied Labor was pandering to the Greens on same-sex marriage. “I'm not worried about that,” she told ABC Radio, noting that the makeup of the new parliament allowed MPs to raise issues of interest to them.

The ALP national conference is the avenue the party would use to discuss policy change, she said. “And that's the way we'll proceed but we're not going to try to stop people debating in a parliament an issue they've raised.”

Former federal Labor minister Graham Richardson said Ms Gillard needed to do more to attack the Greens’ policies. “Her vote is eroding on the left all the time,” he said. “If she doesn't come out and do something about it, something big, then I think she's really going to struggle.”

Mr Richardson said the gay marriage debate wouldn't go away, especially as it had the support of some conservative MPs. “There's not much of a way to attack this from the right,” he told Sky News, noting Mr Arbib, a right-wing factional powerbroker, was personally in favour of same-sex marriage.

Mr Richardson believes the number of Labor MPs in favour of gay marriage is growing and the policy will likely get over the line with the backing of Ms Gillard. “And I have no doubt that privately she (Julia Gillard) would support it.”

It is an important issue because it affects “several million” voters, he said. “There are a lot of gays in the world.” [Yeah! between 1% and 2% of the population!]


Major Queensland hospitals turn away patients as bed shortage hits

FIVE of Queensland's biggest hospitals have gone on bypass this week, as the Australian Medical Association warns the state is 500 beds short of what is needed. The Queensland Health website shows Princess Alexandra, Logan, Ipswich, Townsville and Gold Coast hospitals have been on bypass during the past five days because of bed shortages.

The Princess Alexandra Hospital on Brisbane's southside has been on bypass for four days in a row, accepting only the most critical patients. PAH executive director Richard Ashby said an increase in the number of trauma victims turning up at its emergency department had forced the hospital to redirect ambulances. "No category-one (urgent) patients are redirected and any urgent patients who require care are taken directly to hospital," he said.

The revelation comes as health workers complain of patients having to stay in the PAH's recovery room after surgery because of a severe shortage of post-operative beds. AMA Queensland president Gino Pecoraro said leaving patients in the recovery room for more than a few hours was unacceptable. "That affects the throughput of your operating theatres," Dr Pecoraro said. In the past week, some elective surgery has had to be cancelled because the hospital's recovery room was full.

Royal Australasian College of Surgeons' Queensland chairman Maurice Stevens said the PAH had been under particular pressure in the past week. "It's not something that's always present but it certainly is a recurring problem," Dr Stevens said. "Until such time as there are more beds, that's not going to be alleviated.

Dr Pecoraro said Queensland needed 500 more hospital beds immediately to meet demand. "We're aware of a large building program that the state Government is undertaking but that won't deliver beds for four, five or more years," he said.

He called for more incentives for surgeons and specialists to work in the regions, rather than patients having to fly to Brisbane for elective surgery. "We also need to make sure we use innovations like telemedicine more than we currently are," he said.


Cancerous growth of the bureaucracy in Victoria

ALMOST one in 10 Victorians works for the state because of unprecedented growth in the public sector under the Brumby Government. The explosion in staff numbers means 40c in every $1 spent by the Government goes on paying staff. The public sector workforce has jumped by almost 40,000 in the past five years but neither side of politics plans to cut jobs.

Almost 250,000 people are employed in the Victorian public sector, according to the State Services Authority. This is dramatically higher than when [conservative] Jeff Kennett lost office in 1999, a Herald Sun analysis shows. The 250,000 figure includes full-time, part-time and contract employees.

Government figures show there are more than 50,000 extra full-time public sector workers now than there were under Mr Kennett. The huge increase in staff comes at a great cost to the Budget - nearly $9 billion higher than in the Kennett era. Wages and salaries are forecast to rise to more than $18 billion in 2013-14.

Drawing from Budget papers, annual reports and departmental statements, the Herald Sun's analysis points to public sector jobs as the sleeping issue of the election campaign.

Treasurer John Lenders said the largest increase in employees was in the public health sector. Other government payroll growth areas include teachers, police, and ambulance and fire services staff.

"Ted Baillieu will have to embark on Kennett-style job cuts to pay for his $11 billion worth of uncosted election promises," Mr Lenders said.

But Opposition scrutiny of government spokesman David Davis said no jobs would go. "We see a critical role for public servants," he said.

The figures are made up of both the "inner" public service - comprising 10 departments and 20 authorities - and more than 1800 other public entities.

Despite the huge blowout in public sector jobs, the Coalition is acutely aware of the perils of announcing plans for job cuts, unwilling to be compared to the Kennett government. At the same time it has vowed to cut debt. The Budget forecast debt would almost double to more than $15 billion by 2013.

Adding further pressure to the bottom line, the state's unfunded superannuation liabilities are on the march again, climbing $1 billion to more than $21 billion by 2014.

This is the amount of taxpayers' money that would be required if the entire public sector workforce quit at once.

Both debt and unfunded super blew out under the Cain-Kirner governments and were hauled in by the Kennett government. But this was at great political cost, with the Kennett government losing the 1999 election in part because of the dramatic cuts to the public sector to deal with the $33 billion debt it inherited.


18 November, 2010

Prince William's wedding good for the monarchy

The British monarch is also the Australian monarch but there are some Australians who want a republic instead

Miranda Devine

The timing of Prince William's engagement is a serious setback for the republican movement. There's no doubt he'd be a better king than his father.

THE Queen announced the news of her grandson's engagement yesterday with the following tweet - yes, tweet - on social networking site Twitter: "The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are absolutely delighted at the news of Prince William and Catherine Middleton's engagement."

It was a sign, not just that the monarchy has finally arrived in the 21st century, but that it belongs to William's generation. Twitter and Facebook, after all, are as alien to fusty 62-year-old Prince Charles as fidelity was in his first marriage.

After all his public agonies, Charles should now take the many heavy hints that have piled up over the years and sail off into the sunset with his mistress-turned-wife Camilla, leaving his far more formidable 28-year-old son to be king, and the far more appropriate Kate Middleton as queen.

Not least among the hints to Charles, first in line to the throne, is the longevity in office of his mother, the Queen, who forges valiantly on with her daily royal chores at the age of 84. Surely, if she thought her eldest son were worthy of succeeding her, she would have retired long ago to relax with her corgis.

With news of the royal engagement, the monarchy can now smoothly bypass Charles and Camilla and instead install the young, wholesome, photogenic, down-to-earth and thoroughly likeable couple as King Wills and Queen Kate.

This, of course, was the original revenge plan of William's beloved mother, Princess Diana, which she unveiled in her famous tell-all 1995 television interview with Martin Bashir on BBC's Panorama, two years before she died in a car crash in Paris.

Diana's sapphire-and-diamond engagement ring on Kate's Middleton's hand now seals the deal. "It's my mother's engagement ring," William said in a remarkably gracious television interview with his fiancee beside him, the highly recognisable ring firmly on her finger. "So I thought it was quite nice because obviously she's not going to be around to share any of the fun and excitement about all this. It's my way of keeping her sort of close to it all."

The couple appeared to be so lovely and genuinely in love, it's no wonder their news has delighted their economically troubled nation, with the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and his Cabinet reportedly pounding fists on their desks with happiness.

In Australia, meanwhile, can't you just hear the sound of republicans gnashing their teeth? "The fact that in 2010, a wedding announcement to the other side of the world between two young English people stands to impact on our own constitutional arrangements is simply absurd," the Australian Republican Movement's chairman, Mike Keating, said in a statement yesterday.

The truth is that Prince Charles was the republicans' best tool. It is hard enough in Australia to justify the existence of a foreign monarch in modern times, let alone one as kooky and flawed as Charles. It's not Charles's age that is the impossible impediment to his taking the throne. It is his track record.

Of course, many people will never forgive Camilla, whom Diana nicknamed "the rottweiler", for ruining her marriage to Charles. Even though she married her long-time lover five years ago, the opposition in the United Kingdom to Camilla becoming queen has grown, and runs as high as 90 per cent in some opinion polls.

William's engagement announcement also couldn't have come at a better time to eclipse the bad publicity that is sure to come from his father's forthcoming greenie documentary, Harmony. To be broadcast this week in the US, it is reportedly an attempt by Charles to pitch himself as a British Al Gore. It could also be seen as his last-ditch pitch for what Diana called the top job.

Charles says in the program: "I can only somehow imagine that I find myself being born into this position for a purpose - to save the planet." Billed as a call to action on climate change, the project was his idea, and comes with a book as well as a children's version.

"He felt there were a lot of urgent issues to be discussed," his co-producer, Stuart Sender, told Reuters. "He is very involved in the movie as a narrator, and on camera . . . some of the prince's projects are also featured in the film."

The timing of William's engagement announcement - made three weeks after he proposed to Kate in Kenya -- may simply be unfortunate coincidence, from Charles' point of view.

But his first response to reporters' questions yesterday was abrasive. "They've been practising for long enough," he said. Camilla said the news was "wicked". Yes, she had just come out of the musical of the same name but why would she employ a slang word used by people 40 years her junior, which has such an obvious double meaning?


Hospital bureaucrats paid more as Victoria's health system fails

MILLIONS of dollars of extra taxpayers' cash is being used to pay for hospital bureaucrats while the state's health system fails. A Herald Sun investigation has discovered the Health Department is paying more money to more bureaucrats than ever before - at the same time as people die waiting for ambulances and surgery.

The number of executives paid more than $200,000 at the state's 13 biggest public hospitals jumped by more than a quarter in just a year, annual reports reveal.

The angry mother of a man who died from a heart attack last month while waiting at home for life-saving surgery says hospital bosses had failed the public.

But Health Minister Daniel Andrews' spokeswoman defended the Government's commitment to hospitals. "Unlike Ted Baillieu, Labor has a fully-costed, fully-funded plan to build or open 941 beds and to treat more patients in hospitals across Victoria," she said. "Labor has recruited almost 11,000 additional nurses and more than 3500 extra doctors and has a plan to recruit 2800 additional clinical staff over the next two years. "Our system is now treating more than 730,000 extra patients a year because we have supported the staff, facilities and equipment that are important to patients." [A non-reply]

Hospitals making the biggest losses were among those with the biggest rise in expensive bureaucrats. Monash and Box Hill top the list of hospitals with highly paid administrative staff while other to see a rise in bureaucrats despite multi-million dollar losses were the Melbourne, Children's, Alfred, and Womens'.

The blowout in executive pays comes as the Government demands up to three per cent be cut from hospital's acute health budgets to achieve savings of up to $185 million.

Gordon Field, 55, was told he desperately needed a heart valve replaced but was still sent home by Monash Medical Centre. Days later his worried mother, Jean Field, 80, found his body on the floor of his home where he had died a day earlier. There was also a letter that had arrived days before, informing Mr Field he had been placed on a category 2 waiting list with a 90-day wait for surgery.

"I can't complain about the doctors and nurses because they do all they can, it is only the bureaucrats in the hospital who are overpaid and underworked who are doing the damage," Mrs Field said.

More than 6000 Victorians have died waiting for surgery in the past nine years.

The pay pool for the state's 64 hospital high-flyers who manage those waiting lists rose by almost a third, from $12.9 million in 2008-09 to $16.7 million in 2009-10. At the same time the hospitals posted combined losses of $134 million and failed to meet five of nine key performance targets.

Artist Peter Horne has been waiting in pain for almost three years to have his arthritis-ravaged ankle reconstructed, and was dismayed when told of the growth in bureaucrats.

AMA state president Dr Harry Hemley said the growth in bureaucrats' pay seemed strange given that public hospitals gave doctors only a 3.25 per cent pay rise last year. "Victoria's health system needs more beds, not desks," he said. "Our hospitals system's performance dropped last year, with more patients waiting longer for emergency care and elective surgery." Dr Hemley said the next government needed a plan that included more hospital beds.

Opposition health spokesman David Davis blamed government mismanagement of public hospitals for the rewarding of executives taking precedence over patient services. "While tens of thousands of patients wait on secret outpatient lists, and tens of thousands languish in emergency departments, John Brumby is busy pumping up the pay packets of hospital bosses," he said. The Opposition has promised an extra 800 hospitals beds.

Health Minister Daniel Andrews' spokeswoman defended the Government's commitment to hospitals. "Unlike Ted Baillieu, Labor has a fully costed, fully funded plan to build or open 941 beds and to treat more patients in hospitals across Victoria," she said. "Labor has recruited almost 11,000 additional nurses and more than 3500 extra doctors, and has a plan to recruit 2800 additional clinical staff over the next two years.

"Our system is now treating more than 730,000 extra patients a year because we have supported the staff, facilities and equipment that are important to patients." [Another non-mention of the bureaucratic bloat. Leftist just LOVE bureaucracy]


Greens say politicians get enough peanuts already

I have to agree --JR

GREENS leader Bob Brown has rejected moves to pay MPs more cash, saying increasing their pay packets won't attract better talent to parliament.

Federal MPs are in line for a new year pay rise, with shadow ministers pay at $200K. Even rookie MPs' salaries will jump from $135,000 to nearly $170,000 as part of the biggest changes to parliamentary entitlements for years. The wage rise will deliver a superannuation bonanza, adding thousands of dollars to the retirement incomes of the 226 federal MPs and Senators.

But they also will lose a raft of perks, which can add $60,000 to an MP's salary. The Gold Pass- lifetime travel to retired MPs - is almost certain to be scrapped for future parliamentarians.

Liberal frontbencher Eric Abetz said there was truth to the old saying "if you pay peanuts you get monkeys", but Mr Brown gave that line a twist. "There is an old saying that if you pay them peanuts you get monkeys, but if you give more peanuts you sometimes get gorillas," he told reporters in Canberra.

Senator Brown says politicians already earn well above the average national wage. "We are very well paid," he said. "We have to be very careful about assuming that it is only money that will get you good politicians."

Liberal MP Don Randall also believed it was time to look at the issue. "The Prime Minister should get more pay," he said.

But some of his colleagues were reluctant to comment. Malcolm Turnbull, believed to be the richest MP in parliament, said it was a matter for independent review. And Opposition frontbench colleague Scott Morrison gave the same one-sentence reply to repeated questions on the issue. "It's a matter for the independent tribunal," he said three times.

Labor backbencher Amanda Rishworth was equally wary of talking about the controversial issue. "I'm quite happy with my lot in life," she said.

But Independent senator Nick Xenophon believes it was his staff who deserved a pay rise. "They are working around the clock and what they're getting paid is completely unfair," he said. "If anyone gets a pay rise first it should be the staff."

Well-placed sources said travel was likely to be tightened for current politicians - a plan that has already triggered a backlash.

The Government, which has since April been sitting on a secret report outlining the changes, is determined to clean up the $340 million entitlements system following a series of critical reports. Perks that have been abused, including the $35,000 electorate allowance and the $18,500 "overseas study" entitlement, will be "cashed out" with the higher salary.

A backbencher salary will rise to $170,000-$180,000, while shadow ministers will get a more generous increase. It will also flow through to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who earns about $350,000 a year, and Cabinet ministers, who earn about $230,000.


Prime Minister Julia Gillard firm on homosexual marriage policy

A CHANGE of Labor policy may not be enough to persuade Julia Gillard to back gay marriage. A motion from the Greens, amended by Labor, due to be voted on in parliament this week calls for all MPs to canvass the issue of gay marriage with their local voters.

The motion has reignited debate on gay marriage, which is not supported in Labor's national platform. Left faction members and other Labor MPs have indicated their support for a conscience vote in parliament and want the platform changed at the party's national conference, expected late next year.

Ms Gillard said she had no problem with the Greens' motion passing in its amended form and for the debate to be had at the Labor national conference. "The platform is decided at the conference and the federal parliamentary Labor Party, led by me, makes decisions on how we will go about working on platform questions," Ms Gillard said. She said people were "getting way ahead of themselves" if they thought the issue could be resolved quickly.

Ms Gillard said she hoped the conference and the party would continue to talk about "the things that will determine prosperity, opportunity and equity in this country for the decades in front of us".

The Herald Sun reported former Labor leader Kevin Rudd had agreed to let MPs have a conscience vote on same-sex marriage in his second term, in a deal with key Left faction leaders, but the plan lapsed when Ms Gillard replaced him as prime minister. Ms Gillard told reporters she was not aware of the deal.


Star warmists are ripping us off

Andrew Bolt

DICK Smith and his two helicopters aren't just evidence that global warming is the first faith preached exclusively by hypocrites. Our petrol-powered greenie also demonstrates a bizarre chasm between private behaviour and public policy that should warn us we're being ripped off.

Smith, in a profile in Good Weekend on Saturday, once more banged his warmist drum. Having criss-crossed the world by chopper and private plane, the entrepreneur declared: "After my research, it is most likely that humans are affecting climate." Er, one human in particular, Dick.

As the same article made clear, few of us would have pumped out more emissions than Smith, even though he's the one claiming these gases are suffocating the planet. For instance: "He has a holiday house, a farm with a homestead, a large house with a swimming pool, two cars, a steam train and all that owning three separate households entails. "He's very open but for some reason refuses to confirm just how many aircraft he owns - there are at least two helicopters and a jet."

Smith objects that cutting back on his joy rides would "make no measurable difference", and change really had to come from governments. Decoded, that means governments must pass laws to force the rest of us to make the sacrifices Smith will not. Or put it this way: Smith wants governments to force up the bills for the power you need to cook dinner and wash the kids' clothes, but won't voluntarily cut down on his helicopter trips to watch birds.

You may say I've picked an extreme example, but how many would you like?

There's Virgin boss Sir Richard Brazen, for instance, who says we must cut our emissions, but then drops in to Brisbane in a private helicopter (yes, him, too) to flog his new line of business - joy rides into outer space.

Or take our own Alarmist of the Year, Tim Flannery, now a consultant for Brazen's gassy Virgin Galactic despite demanding we cut the emissions that "threaten civilisation as we know it".

Or how about Al Gore, the global warming billionaire, who says we must save the world by leaving a smaller footprint, yet recently bought his fourth big house. Or was it his fifth?

Then there's supermodel Gisele Bundchen becoming a United Nations environmental ambassador, then ordering herself a new 20,000sq ft home with a six-car garage, lagoon and lift.

Have I missed anyone? Oprah Winfrey, perhaps, who urges her viewers to "see what you can do to stop global warming", but then announces she'll fly 300 of them to Australia. She herself will probably take her private plane.

And how could I forget Laurie David, producer of Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, the propaganda tape for the warming faithful, who admits: "Yes, I take a private plane on holiday a couple of times a year," but says she has the right attitude: "I feel horribly guilty."

Or director James Cameron, who sold his crazy environmental movie Avatar as a plea to "live with less", yet lives in a Malibu mansion with no less than six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a tennis court, a swimming pool, a guest house and an indoor cinema.

Sorry, but you shouldn't get me started about these celebrity warmists, each blinder than the last.

Take film star Jeremy Irons, who insists "people must drop their standard of living", while enjoying his six houses and a pink castle. Couldn't he at least paint the damn thing green?

But I won't go on. Point made. Well, half the point. Against the refusal of the loudest warming preachers to make observable sacrifices of their own, set the sacrifices demanded of much poorer taxpayers.

See, the thing about global warming is that it not just licenses closet totalitarians to design ways to force others to live more virtuously, but also excuses any harebrained scheme. After all, they're "saving" the planet. How could you question that great work?

And so one planet-saving scheme after another is proposed by governments that achieve nothing and cost a bomb - often so much, that even a Labor politician must finally choke.

Some examples? The NSW government last month had to slash a subsidy for solar panels to stop it from blowing out by $2.5 billion.

The Rudd government's own solar rebates had to be scrapped completely, along with the much-rorted [defrauded] "green loans" scheme and the "free insulation" disaster, in which $2.4 billion was frittered on often substandard or even lethal batts and foil.

Still going is the $100 million a year the Gillard Government is investing into the El Dorado of carbon capture - a quixotic scheme to catch and bury emissions of our power stations. Add the countless millions in subsidies and padded prices paid for wind power and you'll know part of the reason for your power bills soaring.

Rod Mills, head of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, explained it last week to the Labor-Greens carbon price committee: "Household solar and wind generation in particular ... are high-cost measures and ones where the cost is added to the bills of all electricity consumers."

Compare: making electricity with brown coal costs less than $40 a megawatt hour; with wind more than $100, and with solar about $300.

And the sick joke is that solar does little to stop any warming anyway. An Australian National University review of the scrapped federal scheme says it wasted $1 billion to cut our emissions by a microscopic 0.015 per cent, and mostly by importing solar panels from China.

All of it charged to you, dear reader, in the hope that because we're "saving the planet" you won't ask such awkward questions as "will it actually work?" and "how much will it cost?" and "are you out of your freaking mind?"

How else to explain the Gillard Government's "cash for clunkers" scheme, in which owners of old bombs will be paid up to $2000 if they scrap them and buy a "green" car instead. That works out to a lunatic $400 for each tonne of carbon dioxide "saved", even accepting the Government's own figures. Put that in context: the emissions trading scheme proposed by Kevin Rudd planned to start with an effective tax of just $23 a tonne.

Here's a tip for Smith and his kind. You think this joke can go on for much longer, with warming preachers belching hot air while everyone else must cork their own? If the planet really is threatened with warming doom, why don't you act like you believe it?

In truth, a Smith demonstrates the real question we must calmly consider: would each sacrifice we're told to make in fact make so much difference that we should make it? Hear that choppering high over your head? That's Smith's answer.


17 November, 2010

The posts are running hot on both my QANTAS/Jetstar and Australian police news blogs

Australians covered by private health at record high (nearly half of them)

Despite a "free" hospital system which they have to pay for as well (via taxes). At the moment there is a rebate recognizing that double payment but the Labor party wants to take that away -- no doubt hoping that it will force more people into the chaotic government system. That so many people avoid the government system is a good example of "voting with your feet"

MORE than 10 million Australians have private health insurance, the highest level in a decade. And Health Minister Nicola Roxon is using that growth to urge the Senate to approve her means test of the 30 per cent subsidy for insurance.

An extra 243,000 people took out private health cover over the past year, according to figures released by the Private Health Insurance Administration Council. And the largest growth in the past three months occurred among 20 to 24-year-olds: the least likely to use health insurance, The Australian reports.

A Gillard Government plan to save $1.9 billion by means-testing access to the 30 per cent tax break on health-fund premiums was meant to take effect in July, but has been blocked in the Senate, adding to the Government's budget woes.

The Opposition and Independent senators fear the means test applying to singles earning more than $75,000 and families earning more than $150,000 could force people to drop their cover as it becomes more expensive.

But Ms Roxon said the latest figures indicating a large growth in health fund membership over the past year showed this was a furphy.

The membership growth came despite another set of Government changes in 2008 that axed a tax penalty applying to middle-income earners who did not take out health insurance. Health funds fought this measure, arguing it would encourage one million Australians to drop their health cover; instead, Ms Roxon said, 670,000 people took out health insurance. "The proportion of Australians with private hospital insurance has also increased to 44.8 per cent, up from 44.6 per cent in the June quarter, the highest rate since March 2001."

She said the Government would push ahead with plans to take the Private Health Insurance Tax Rebate off the richest Australians. "If the changes do not go ahead, Treasury modelling indicates this will cost the budget $100bn over the next four decades," Ms Roxon said.


School ban issues detention threat for kids seen hugging

What an appalling scale of values! Wrong to express affection? It sounds like "Brave New World"

STUDENTS at a Gold Coast primary school are being warned against hugging a move some parents say is political correctness gone mad. They say children at the William Duncan State School in Nerang are being punished with detention for hugging or touching their friends boys or girls, the Gold Coast Bulletin said.

Father of five, Ross Kouimanis, labelled the decision "an absolute joke". "What on earth are we turning our kids into?" Mr Kouimanis said. "Kids hug all the time. My high school daughter hugs her friends. It's perfectly normal. "It's political correctness gone mad. Banning kids hugging? It's ridiculous."

Mr Kouimanis's daughter Emily was given a warning for hugging her best friend. "My best friend and I confronted the teacher and she said it was a new school rule and some kids have been sent to detention for hugging," Emily said.

Mr Kouimas said the school should be more worried about educating children and said the ban sexualised an innocent gesture. "They are making something so innocent seem dirty or wrong. It's just normal. "It's what kids do, for Christ's sake.

"Hugs not drugs is an international slogan to fight drug abuse where does that fit in with William Duncan's new school policy?"

The Bulletin understands the policy was developed by the school's Parents and Citizens Association and was reviewed each year, with most members approving measures for students to keep their hands, feet and objects to themselves.

Education Queensland South Coast Regional director Glen Hoppner said there was no EQ policy banning hugging in schools. "William Duncan State School has determined that unwanted or unnecessary physical contact, which in some circumstances can include hugging, is inappropriate playground behaviour," Mr Hoppner said. "The school is mindful of protecting their right to not be touched in an unwanted or inappropriate way."

Mr Hoppner said the school principal was "unaware" of students being given detention for hugging.


Kids endangered by long hospital waiting lists

CHILDREN'S lives are at risk if health bosses do not cut an 18-month waiting list to see a paediatric allergy specialist, experts have warned.

Despite government promises to fix the problem more than three years ago, there is still only one doctor treating children across Queensland from an allergy clinic at the Royal Children's Hospital in Brisbane. The long delays in appointment times mean a delay in diagnosis, which could be fatal in children with anaphylaxis - the most severe form of allergic reaction.

Maria Said, president of lobby group Anaphylaxis Australia, said even children with life-threatening allergies had waited 18 months for help. "In children who have severe allergic reactions like anaphylaxis, you sometimes don't know what the trigger is, which can be very dangerous," she said. "What parents need is knowledge about what is causing the allergy so they can implement a management strategy. "The government needs to get its priorities right and to spend money on more doctors."

Not even the long overdue public paediatric allergy service - which opened in March 2008 - has helped.

The latest figures show Queensland has one allergist for every 730,000 people, compared to the national figure of one allergist for every 273,000 people. The state has only one other paediatric allergy specialist. Dr Peter Smith on the Gold Coast takes private patients and has a wait of eight months.

Meanwhile, Queensland Health spends $5.2 million a year on an army of spin doctors to help boost its public profile.

Concerned mum Meredith McNeil, of Middle Park in Brisbane's west, has to wait 16 months - until February 2012 - to see the specialist about one-year-old daughter Holly, who has a number of unidentified food allergies. "When we got the appointment date I thought they had made a mistake," she said. "Parents need help now and the new clinic hasn't made the slightest difference to waiting times."

A Queensland Health spokesman said yesterday the longest patients were having to wait was "just over 12 months", with urgent cases seen within 30 days.

Australian Medical Association vice president Dr Steve Hambleton said the problem was the result of years of neglect.


Loss of values a problem both for kids and for society

I’m mourning the demise of what I call the “respect your elders” values of kids today. But I don’t blame them. I blame a new generation of mamby-pamby (not sure that’s a real term but you know what I mean) parents who want to be a child’s friend rather than a parent. I’ve had these concerns for a while, but they’ve been brought to a head by a couple of recent incidents.

First was that story last week about the Queensland 15 year old pulled over by police for not wearing a helmet while riding his bike. Rather than fine the kid or give him a warning, they made him let down his tires and walk home to ensure he didn’t ignore them and simply get back on after they’d gone.

His mother was outraged accusing the police of bullying and putting her 15 year old angel in danger by making him walk half an hour home.

I interviewed the pair on Sunrise. The 15 year old retold the story, and highlighted how unfair it was that the cops also took his pack of cigarettes. He said he asked for the cigarettes back because he knew he had rights. A 15 year old demanding cigarettes back because he has rights. You can just imagine the tone of the exchange.

Rather than his mother getting stuck into him for riding without a helmet and having a pack of smokes, she gets on the case of the police for “putting him in danger”.

This is the issue I have with modern parenting. It’s the rose coloured glasses that their little angels can do no wrong. Backing the kid rather than the authorities. It’s the absence of basic principles like respecting elders and those in authority like the police.

It’s not the kid’s fault. He’s simply following the example of his mum.

These little things bother me. The values which were pretty standard not too long ago but are now seen as old-fashioned and irrelevant.

Things like standing up on a bus for someone older. Things like calling an adult Mr or Mrs unless invited to use a first name.

I had this discussion with some of my colleagues after I explained that I still expect my adult children to address friends of mine as Mr or Mrs unless invited to do otherwise. They were gobsmacked. I explained it was a mark of respect to someone older.

My colleagues claimed adults must earn the respect of children before they than can expect to be shown it. And that is the root of the problem. In my opinion all adults (and those in authority) deserve instant respect from children until they do something to lose it.

Yes it may sound silly and unimportant, but it exemplifies what is happening on a larger scale. Parents are trying way too hard to be their kids’ best friends, rather than being the parent.

A good friend, and inspiration for me, is Father Chris Riley who runs Youth Off The Streets, an organisation which certainly deals with its fair share of troubled adolescents.

For years he’s been helping street kids, drug dependant kids and abused youth by helping them turn their lives around. Guess what his golden piece of advice for parents is? He says setting boundaries is a sign of love, and that it shows kids that someone cares enough about them to set limits and values. He says all kids crave boundaries and direction because it makes them feel safe and loved.

What I fear is that we’re bringing up a new generation of smart-ass kids who have no respect and assume they can get away with anything they like because the boundaries are blurred.

The results from a UK study this week are claiming that it’s better for a kid’s happiness to be an only-child. But reaching this conclusion involved simply asking a bunch of kids whether they’d prefer to be the sole child in their family (and get spoiled rotten). Not exactly a reliable study I don’t think, but now it’s being touted by child psychologists as new, valuable ‘knowledge’.

It’s time parents did their part, stopped worrying about the emotional fragility of their special little darlings and started acting like a parent.

The problem is that people are over-thinking parenting. It’s not rocket science; it’s just common sense. These sort of basic moral lessons may be old-fashioned, but they work.


16 November, 2010

Lies and misrepresentations in Australia's most Leftist major newspaper

There's nothing like hatred of Israel to bring out the dishonest reporting

Last weekend, the Good Weekend magazine from the Age published a six page spread entitled ‘Project: Gaza’ by Paul McGeough. The article focused on six activists involved in the Free Gaza Movement, how they came to be involved and their involvement with the flotillas, in particular, the fleet that was involved in clashes with the IDF in late May.

Journalist Paul McGeough was on one of the ships involved in the flotilla, and has spent a large amount of his time since then obsessively covering the events that happened on Mavi Marmara. McGeough and a photographer were ostensibly placed by their employer on the flotilla to observe its mission from an objective viewpoint. They were not supposed to be there as supporters of its aims but rather to report the events as they occurred. Well, that was what was supposed to be the case.

Moreover, although he was on the flotilla, McGeough was not on the Mavi Marmara, the ship where the violence occurred. Yet, he has constantly painted a one-sided picture that could only come from one with partisan views closely aligned to those of the flotilla organisers and indeed, to many impartial observers, he has served as an apologist for the actions of those on the Mavi Marmara who were involved in the violence that took place on board. Despite a substantial body of evidence in the form of photographs, videos and oral and written statements that have contradicted most of his claims, McGeough has ploughed on relentlessly with his one-sided narrative.

McGeough’s past form can be found here, here, here and here.

It came as quite a surprise to me at least, that despite the considerably high volume of material already produced and regurgitated on the subject by McGeough, that the Age would devote another six pages dedicated to the dramatic lies that some of passengers of questionable integrity passed on to McGeough. What is more of a surprise is that his publishers, Fairfax, believe that their “papers endeavour to be balanced, and to put both sides of the question”. That quote comes from a transcript of yesterday’s Fairfax AGM. The speaker was its chairman, Mr. Roger Corbett.

Despite Corbett’s extraordinary claim, the contrary view to that which has been repeated ad nauseum by McGeough, has barely seen the light of day in his publications.

Balanced? You must be joking, Mr. Corbett but we would accept a six page lift out on the subject of terrorism and incitement to violence against Israel and its citizens any time.

To understand the one sided nature of the reporting from the Age, one needs to understand the great lengths that McGeough goes to in order to downplay the role of the violent elements from the IHH. His article made sly references to the “sleek and black” Zodiacs with their “bullet-shaped hulls” followed by the declaration: “As the helicopters moved in, activists on the upper deck rushed to the top level of the ship. By sunrise, nine activists were dead and 50 injured.”

In the words of Jerry Seinfeld, he yada yada’d over the best part. (* Video of the cache of weapons including knives, slingshots, rocks, smoke bombs, metal rods, improvised sharp metal objects, sticks and clubs, 5kg hammers and firebombs, * Close up video of “peace activists” attacking the metal batons, *Video taken by the IDF showing passengers of the Mavi Marmara violently attacking IDF officers trying to board the ship, *Video of the radio exchange between the soldiers on their way to the bridge and the IDF ship. The soldiers are reporting their encounter with live fire and serious violence., *Video of Israeli Navy officer describing the violent mob aboard the Mavi Marmara, *Video of the Mavi Marmara passengers attacking the IDF before the soldiers boarded the ship, *Video of the flotilla rioters as they prepared rods, slingshots, broken bottles and metal objects to attack IDF soldiers, *Video of Israeli naval officers addressing the ship )

All of the evidence that exists is in complete contradiction to McGeough’s claims, particularly given the weight of visual evidence showing the IHH preparing for a violent confrontation taken directly from interviews with passengers aboard the ship (see more here, here and here). Perhaps McGeough also missed that!

He certainly missed the photographs published in the Turkish media taken by IHH operatives in order to embarrass Israel of injured Israeli soldiers, and the removal of a knife and blood by Reuters of these pictures. He missed the actual video of a soldier being stabbed. He missed the footage of the soldier being thrown overboard. All of this has been airbrushed totally out of existence by McGeough.

And of course, there was no mention by McGeough that the IHH is a militant Islamist movement with a record of supporting terror, or that several of the flotilla passengers were active terror operatives with links to al-Qaeda, Hamas and other organisations or that the IHH has been banned elsewhere in the world, such as in Germany for having links to Hamas. Perhaps it is because neither McGeough nor the Age believe that these matters are relevant to the story? In the meantime, McGeough obviously saw some bogus footage of “what appears to be Israeli commandos shooting an activist near point blank range” because all other interpretations of the said footage seem to make it clear, even to non-military experts such as myself, that the gun was a paintball gun. But then again, McGeough also talked about supposed CCTV footage of assassins entering Mahmoud al-Mabhouh’s hotel room in Dubai in January, another lie which was later exposed.

To add to McGeough’s tour de force of balanced journalism, he interviewed six people who he believed were the “movers & shakers” of the Free Gaza Movement. Two of the women stated that they became involved in this line of activism after the death of Mohammed al-Dura in 2000. McGeough adds his own commentary in parenthesis: “The 12 year-old-boy died at Netzarim Junction, Gaza, in his father’s arms after being shot by the Israel Defence Forces”.

Right, Mr. McGeough, you’ve researched your subject well except for that some simple fact checking would reveal this story to be not quite accurate (at this stage I would submit that accuracy is no longer relevant in the context of the picture being painted).

At the beginning of the Second Intifada, it was alleged that the IDF was responsible for killing the young child. The images, taken from footage by Charles Enderlin from France 2 Television Network and his Palestinian cameraman, Talal Abu-Rahma, were dispatched worldwide, spurring international outrage directed at the IDF. Over time, various stories came out about the veracity of the reports, including claims that given all of the evidence and the positioning of al-Dura in relation to the IDF soldiers, the fatal shot could not have come from the IDF (see more).

Abu-Rahma’s footage was around 55 seconds but there was another 27 minutes of footage that was never publically released and was only viewed in a French Court after France2 was order to produce the original tapes. Those who were at the hearing and have seen the footage state that none of the frames support the claim that the Israelis were even involved in the particular incident. This is all due to the courageous work of Phillipe Karsenty, who has been dragged through the courts in order to bring this case to a close. Please read this recent interview with Danny Seaman, the former director of the Israeli Government Press Office for more on the al-Dura case.

More HERE (See the original for links)

Crooks forced to pay victims for crimes

A surprisingly good idea from a Leftist government. Anybody would think that they were about to get tossed out on their ears in the forthcoming election

New South Wales criminals will be forced to pay into a compensation fund to cover everything from the trauma suffered by victims to damaged property. Making criminals pay and other changes will add up to $20 million to the beleaguered Victims Compensation Fund, which is bleeding money while more than 13,000 victims wait for aid.

A levy of $64 or $148, depending on the severity of the offence, currently applies to offenders facing jail terms. Under NSW Government reforms to occur by the end of the year, it will be extended to a further 65,000 offences. Criminals will pay the levy regardless of how serious their offence is or what they are sentenced to.

Attorney-General John Hatzistergos said it was right that the state's criminals literally paid for their crimes. "It's only fair that people who engage in criminal behaviour contribute to a fund that helps victims rebuild their lives," he said. "The change now means, for example, that a person charged with low-range drink driving will now have to pay the levy if convicted."

Summary offences will attract a $64 levy and indictable offences $148. Criminals convicted of multiple offences will pay for each crime.

Victims of violent crimes can claim up to $50,000 as compensation for injury or trauma, with the family of murder, rape and domestic violence victims can claim the full amount.

The fund has only $60 million but in the 2008-09 financial year it paid $62.9 million to 8212 victims; 13,328 victims were left waiting. Offenders paid just $3.63 million into the fund but the new levy system and changes to unexplained wealth laws are expected to boost the fund by up to $20 million a year.

The unexplained wealth laws introduced earlier this year will see 50 per cent of money confiscated from those involved in criminal activity placed in the fund.

Criminals will also have to cover the damage they cause, with $1500 payments for "any expense incurred" as a result of an injury. Previously the payments, made to those who fall below the threshold for the $50,000 compensation scheme, had been restricted to items such as broken glasses and medical or dental bills.

The levy will help pay for the expanded Victim Assistance Scheme, which begins today. Many claims will now be able to be made online. The only exemptions will be people who have offences dealt with by penalty notice.

South Australia and the Northern Territory currently charge $60 for the most serious offences.


Will the Greens kill NBN?

They're in a strong position to do so

THE Greens will try to force the Gillard government this week to produce the business plan for its $43 billion National Broadband Network. The 400-page plan was delivered to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy last week and the government has vowed to release the document only after it has been considered by cabinet and commercial-in-confidence information has been removed.

But Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam said he would use a mechanism in the Senate to try to force the minister to produce the plan by the end of the week. “The minister has effectively made every Australian a shareholder in a $43 billion broadband network and I think they have an obligation to put that information into the public domain while parliament is sitting,” Senator Ludlam told ABC radio

He also said the Greens would use an instrument called an “order for a production of documents” to try to compel the government to produce its response to an earlier implementation study. “We will be demanding that the minister table both of those documents by the end of the week.”

Senator Ludlam warned that while Senator Conroy could ignore the demand, it meant he could be found in contempt of the Senate, which is a “pretty serious thing to do”.

Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull also hit the airwaves this morning to accuse the government of being hypocritical for using the Productivity Commission to examine the case for carbon pricing, but rejecting opposition requests the commission also conduct a cost benefit analysis of the NBN.

“Look, it's completely hypocritical, the government believes that the Productivity Commission will say that a market-based approach to reducing emissions is the most cost-effective and so that is why they want the Productivity Commission to look at it,” he told ABC radio.

“The reason why they don't want the NBN to go to the Productivity Commission is because they are concerned that the Productivity Commission will say that this is not the most cost-effective way to achieve universal affordable broadband,” he said.

The government is also expecting a vote today on its competition and consumer safeguards bill, which would fundamentally restructure Telstra ahead of the rollout of the NBN.

While the opposition supports structural separation in principle, Mr Turnbull has proposed amendments to the legislation to ensure greater scrutiny of the deal between Telstra and the NBN. “The Coalition amendments would ensure that the normal operation of the Competition and Consumer Act, the key legislation in this country protecting the interests of consumers and promoting competition, applies to the NBN-Telstra deal,” he told parliament yesterday.

“In other words, our amendments would ensure that this, the biggest merger in the telecommunications sector in our history and the establishment of a government monopoly is not excluded from consideration by the ACCC.”

The amendments would also ensure that the parliament could disallow actions by the minister to try to deny Telstra from bidding for access to wireless spectrum or to force it to divest its share in Foxtel. “We would remove the gun at the head provisions which threaten Telstra with losing access to the next generation 4G wireless spectrum,” Mr Turnbull said.

“We would remove the gun at the head provisions of the bill which threaten Telstra with being forced to dispose of its pay television cable and/or 50 per cent interest in Foxtel if it does not structurally separate in a way acceptable to the government.”


Geography syllabus is under heavy fire

Leftists are even managing to inject propaganda into geography!

THE proposed national geography curriculum lacks clarity and quality. NSW geographers are concerned it contains an inadequate focus on physical geography or the study of "capes and bays", which underpins the study of the discipline.

The NSW Board of Studies argues the proposed curriculum will overemphasise social and economic geography at the expense of the study of the physical world. The sample structure for the course suggests students in Years 7-10 take a "cultural/social constructivist" approach.

The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority said yesterday the geography paper proposed that students become familiar with the various ways geographers approach their study. By year 10 this would include various "locational, spatial, temporal and cultural approaches".

A spokesman said it was not about cultural relativism, "but simply an acknowledgement that in the real world and throughout history, different people might look at problems of geography in different ways".

In its response to the shape paper of the geography curriculum, which curriculum writers use as the basis for the syllabus, the NSW Board of Studies argues the proposed outline is flawed and fails to provide a sound basis for the development of a quality national course.

The board suggests the various approaches be dropped and says the proposed curriculum "will not match the current quality of the NSW geography curriculum and that geography education in NSW will be compromised and diminished". NSW is the only state that has taught geography as a stand-alone subject in high school over the past 20 or 30 years.

Other states and territories teach geography as part of an integrated social studies course with subjects such as history and economics.

The Board of Studies response notes the status of geography in NSW schools, which is compulsory from Years 7 to 10, is not matched in the other states and territories, implying the existing NSW curriculum is superior. "NSW students will have less geographical understanding at the end of their Year 10 education under the proposed curriculum," it says. "The draft shape paper does not yet have a curriculum structure that provides the basis for a high-quality curriculum for geography."

The geography fraternity in NSW is also concerned about the status of geography in the national curriculum, with the time devoted to the course not stated and suggestions that it will be mandatory only until Year 8.

Kevin Dunn, professor of geography and urban studies at the University of Western Sydney, said yesterday the NSW curriculum was a benchmark other states should reach. "Only with the appropriate amount of mandatory hours can we expect the teaching of geography, at the depth necessary, to ensure that students have a satisfactory level of understanding of environmental sustainability, conservation, population, indigenous cultures and land management," he said. "We need citizens who understand their world, and how the world will be in the future."


15 November, 2010

Even the OECD is now criticizing the one solitary idea that Kevin Rudd ever had

THE OECD has urged the Gillard government to slow down the rollout of its $43 billion high-speed broadband network. It has warned that the project is installing a public monopoly that could choke off the development of better internet technologies.

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has declared that a more gradual approach would allow a better assessment of the costs and potential benefits associated with the National Broadband Network.

In a new report, the OECD said the government had adopted a "picking-the-winner strategy" on the NBN that could hinder the development of "as yet unknown, superior technological alternatives". The report also found "substantial financial uncertainties" with the massive project - which is expected to have $26bn worth of equity funding from the government - and cautioned that it may not be the most cost-effective strategy.

The criticism is contained in the OECD's first major report card on Australia since the height of the global financial crisis in October 2008.

The OECD's critique threatens to add to the pressure on Julia Gillard over the NBN.

Late yesterday, opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said the OECD had confirmed "that this is being undertaken without any proper examination of the alternatives to achieve the policy objective of universal affordable broadband".

The NBN will be an optic fibre-based network connected to 93 per cent of the nation's homes and business premises.

Treasury has warned cabinet that the NBN carries significant risks, both for the public balance sheet and risks around competition and efficiency in telecommunications and related markets.

The Treasury advice said the government's response to the NBN implementation study by KPMG-McKinsey - due to be released "shortly" - would set the parameters for outcomes in these areas for decades.

Concerns about competition are echoed by the OECD.

The OECD finds that the NBN would promote "a fairer competition" between private firms for retail services and that the structural separation of Telstra and simplifying the regime governing access to telecommunications infrastructure should also boost competition. But it warns about the competition ramifications of establishing a public monopoly over the supply of access to wholesale internet services.

The proposed $11bn deal with Telstra - under which Telstra would become a customer of the government-owned NBN Co rather than competing with it - established such a monopoly.

The OECD argues that developing fibre-optic networks more gradually than under the government's program "would also allow a better assessment of the new network's costs and potential benefits and the potential positive externalities". It said the NBN pilot project being rolled out in Tasmania was a good initiative that might provide useful lessons.

Residents in the NSW south coast suburb of Kiama Downs, an area chosen for one of the first mainland trials of the NBN, yesterday questioned the value of the network given existing access to fast broadband speeds.

Of the 12 Kiama Downs residents interviewed by The Australian, only three said they thought the NBN was a good idea, and only one could say for sure that he would buy a service when the trial went live. All expressed concern about the lack of a cost-benefit analysis, and they thought the final costs would be too high.

John and Jill Hanna, both teachers, said they would sign up to the free NBN trial but feared it would ultimately prove too expensive and beyond their needs. "I don't see a use for it," Mrs Hanna said. "We're quite happy with the service that we have."

A spokeswoman for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said yesterday the NBN would "introduce genuine competition to the telecommunications market".

Mr Turnbull will read his private member's bill seeking a Productivity Commission cost-benefit analysis of the project for a second time this week. Senator Conroy has dismissed the push as "just another stunt".


There is a very comprehensive critique of the Gillard government's stance on the matter here. The NBN is undoubtedly set to be a monumental boondoggle

Teacher, not class size, key to results, says report

GOVERNMENTS waste millions of dollars in education on expensive and ineffectual programs to reduce class sizes. A new report advocates that the money instead be spent improving the standard of teaching.

A report by the Grattan Institute released today aims to refocus the education debate on teacher quality, arguing improving the effectiveness of teachers is the biggest economic reform governments could implement, adding $90 billion to gross domestic product by 2050.

The report says government spending on education increased about 40 per cent over the past decade, much of it spent on reducing class sizes, which has had no effect on improving student or educational standards.

"It is more important for a student to have an effective teacher than to be in a class with a few less students," it says.

"Smaller classes are intuitively appealing. It is easy to imagine that they result in more one-on-one interaction with students, more effective teaching and learning time for each student, and a reduction in the burden of dealing with negative behaviour.

"Unfortunately, the evidence does not support these assertions."

An analysis released this year of the effects of reducing class sizes in the US state of Florida found the program had "little, if any, effect" on learning and behavioural issues such as absenteeism, suspensions and bullying.

But the program was extraordinarily expensive, costing about $US1 million per school per year to reduce class sizes by 2.5 to three students in every year up to Year 8.

The Grattan Institute advocates concentrating resources on lifting the performance of the bottom 10 per cent of teachers to drive improvements in learning, which would be enough to lift Australian students' results to the top tier in international tests.

In the literacy and numeracy tests of 15-year-olds conducted by the OECD, Australia sits in the second tier of nations behind Finland, Hong Kong and Canada. To reach the top tier, Australian students would need to learn at least an extra half-year of curriculum.

The institute's director of school education, Ben Jensen, argues improving teacher effectiveness is the best way of lifting student performance to this level, and increasing the standard of the bottom of 10 per cent of teachers will achieve this.

Dr Jensen nominated five main mechanisms to improve teaching standards: improving the quality of applicants to become teachers; improving the quality of their initial education and training; evaluating and providing feedback to teachers once they're in classrooms; recognising and rewarding effective teachers; and moving on ineffective teachers who are unable to improve.

The last three steps are the most critical development for teachers in Australia.

Dr Jensen said he was not advocating teachers be assessed solely on the basis of their students' results.


$1.1bn wasted on solar power

MORE than $1 billion of taxpayers' money was wasted on subsidies for household solar roof panels that favoured the rich and did little to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, a scathing review has found.

The review of the now scrapped federal government solar rebate scheme, conducted by ANU researchers Andrew Macintosh and Deb Wilkinson, also found the rebates did little to generate a solar manufacturing industry in Australia, instead sending hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars offshore.

Mr Macintosh, deputy head of ANU's Centre for Climate Law and Policy, told The Age yesterday the rebate had been "beautiful politics, terrible policy".

"I can't see there is anything to be gained continuing to subsidise rooftop solar PV [photovoltaics] in areas where households have easy access to the energy grid," he said.

The program, started in 2000 with lower rebates, offered households an $8000 rebate to install solar panels on their roofs. In total, the government spent $1.1 billion installing 107,000 rooftop solar panels.

In June last year the Rudd government cancelled the program with less than 24 hours notice after surging demand rendered the scheme financially unsustainable. A less generous solar credits program has since replaced the rebate.

The report did not make any conclusion on the merits of the new scheme, or existing state-based solar programs.

By using documents obtained from the federal Environment Department, the researchers found 66 per cent of the solar systems installed under the program were on homes in suburbs with at least a "medium-high" socio-economic status.

All solar panel systems installed under the program combined reduced Australia's emissions by just 0.015 per cent, and cost up to $301 per tonne of carbon saved - hundreds more than the cost of emissions reductions with a carbon price.

In other findings, Mr Macintosh and Ms Wilkinson say while the program drove a six-fold increase in the generation capacity of rooftop solar panels, the technology still generates only 0.1 per cent of electricity output in Australia.

While the rebate benefited the domestic solar industry by up to $780 million, it did little to develop a value-adding manufacturing industry in Australia. Instead solar panels imports, mainly from China, rose from $17 million to $295 million between 2002 and 2009.

Mr Macintosh and Ms Wilkinson's review concludes the experience with the popular solar rebate program "highlights how care needs to be taken to ensure that renewable energy programs are designed and administered to generate public benefit outcomes".

"When poorly targeted and designed, these programs can be wasteful and produce predominantly private rather than public benefits," it says.

Mr Macintosh warned there were several environment programs still on the government's books that had similar flaws as the solar rebate, including the cash-for-clunkers program, which offers motorists $2000 to junk old cars if they buy a new fuel-efficient vehicle.

The chief executive of the Australian Solar Energy Society, John Grimes, said the solar industry needed a clear policy to ensure long-term growth. He said the solar industry had suffered from boom-bust policies, including the sudden closure of the program and the decision by the NSW government to scale down its feed-in tariff.


Bullies win at Qld. govt. hospital

Bullied nurse abandoned; Bullies still in place

A GOLD Coast Hospital nurse who received workers compensation after being bullied has been told to `let it go' and find a job elsewhere.

Queensland Health has been forced to acknowledge it has not dealt appropriately with bullying at the hospital and has ordered its nursing managers to undertake training on how to deal with complex staff issues.

The response drew criticism from business and human resources experts who said any good achieved through mediation and apologies had been thrown out the window by the inappropriate response.

Nurse Susan Dale was awarded compensation for psychological injury suffered while working at the hospital.

In a letter sent to the nurse, executive director of nursing Ged Williams conceded Ms Dale's case had not been dealt with properly, but then told her to `let it go' and find a job elsewhere.

The workers compensation appeal claim found hospital management had acted unreasonably by calling a meeting to address complaints against Ms Dale, which included a manager she felt did not like her, as well as calling a second meeting without allowing time to have a support person present.

Ms Dale, who has been off work on stress leave, has been left confused and upset after receiving the letter. "It's not good enough in the sense that the people who have done the bullying and put me out of a job are still in their positions," she said. "He can say let it go and that I will get another position but how do I get another position? "And these people are still laughing and defaming me."

"I worked in the Psych Dept at the Gold Coast Hospital, where bullying is rife and I was subject to it on a daily basis. Even the powers that be are aware of it, and somewhat powerless to do anything.

I did leave, and get on with my life but Qld Health really needs to pull it's head out of the sand and do some serious work to address the deeply embedded bullying culture that exists. In the end, bullying affects everyone, staff and patients alike, not a good look Qld Health!!"

In the letter, Mr Williams admitted two supervisors had shown poor judgment and used unprofessional administrative procedures in dealing with Ms Dale. He said the Gold Coast Health Service District would now provide all nursing managers with training according to law, policy and human dignity principles. "GCHSD has learnt a lesson," he said. "Your experience is not the first to re-emphasise this need, and I suspect it will not be the last."

He suggested Ms Dale now look for a job elsewhere as it would be inappropriate for her to return to work with her negative feelings towards the hospital. "My personal advice is to 'let it go', that is let GCHSD now deal with its own learning and processes to become the sort of organisation we would all be a lot happier to be associated with," he said.

Mudgeeraba MP Ros Bates, who has been compiling a dossier of complaints from Gold Coast nurses, said it was up to Queensland Health to find Ms Dale a position in a safe environment. "Obviously the letter is an admission of guilt on behalf of the Gold Coast Health Service District," she said.

"They have admitted they handled her complaint inappropriately and also are now implementing supposed training for middle management but that is after the horse has bolted."

Queensland Nurses Union assistant secretary Beth Mohle said the levels of both physical and verbal violence against nurses in the workplace were concerning.


14 November, 2010

UK too full of immigrants, says Pauline Hanson

The only political figure in Australia who tells it like it is

Pauline Hanson has abandoned plans to move to Britain, after discovering it's not the racially pure utopia she was hoping for.

After returning a fortnight ago from an extended holiday in Europe, the former One Nation leader has told The Sun-Herald she's back in Australia for good and considering yet another return to politics.

"I love England but so many people want to leave there because it's overrun with immigrants and refugees," Ms Hanson said.

"France is becoming filled with Muslims and the French and English are losing their way of life because they're controlled by foreigners in the European Union.

"Problems are worse over there than they are in Australia and Australia is still the best place in the world to live, but the same sorts of awful things are happening here too. Residents of Commonwealth countries who want to live here are discriminated against in favour of others."

Ms Hanson, 56, spent two months touring countries including England, the Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania and France.

In February, Ms Hanson told Woman's Day magazine she was selling her home and property at Coleyville, south-west of Brisbane, and moving to Britain, partly because she was disappointed by the way Australia had changed.

Ms Hanson told The Sun-Herald she wouldn't rule out a return to politics. "I still haven't got politics out of my system," she said. "I get asked constantly, 'Are you going back into politics?' - even by people who recognised me overseas."

It was "difficult to say" whether she would sell her Coleyville house, but she said she would move "very soon, possibly interstate".


Bureaucratic obstacle to rebuilding young women's lives

The NSW hospital system again

MICHAELA has dated a handful of men, but whenever the relationships began to get serious, she would end them. "How do you tell someone you don't have a vagina?" she asks.

The 18-year-old, who was also born with two uteruses and a deformed kidney, hopes she never has to - but her future is hanging in a bureaucratic balance, which has infuriated doctors who want to help.

As an apprentice chef, Michaela cannot afford the cost of a surgically created vagina but desperately wants a chance at a normal marriage and sex life.

Her doctor, Michael Bennett - one of only two people in Australia trained to do such procedures - has offered to operate for free, but NSW Health will not allow it. The nation's only other paediatric/adolescent gynaecologist, Sonia Grover, works in Melbourne but spent most of the year on leave in Switzerland. "This is despicable. It's not like [Michaela] can go to anyone else," Professor Bennett said.

The problem began in January when Professor Bennett retired as the head of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of NSW. That role was linked to his contract at the Royal Women's Hospital, in Randwick, where he has been seeing patients for 27 years.

Concerned that women who could not afford private health cover would be marooned, he requested permission to work at the hospital one day a week until Associate Professor Grover returned from Switzerland or a colleague, undertaking training in Britain, returns next year.

South Eastern Sydney Illawarra Area Health Service refused the request on the grounds the hospital could not afford it. Professor Bennett then offered to do the surgery free but was told the hospital had no money and was asked to provide a "business case" to support his request. "I presented the 130 cases I had dealt with in the past five years. All but five of them had been day surgery patients, so the costs are very little. … This is a stupid bureaucratic argument."

About one in 5000 women were born with reproductive abnormalities and almost all were profoundly troubled, feeling alone and lacking self-esteem, he said. "But with very little money or time, someone with the expertise and training that I have can get them back on track to being normal."

Michaela is not the only case Professor Bennett is fighting for. He has another patient, 18, sitting her Higher School Certificate, who needs a vaginal construction and cannot afford the surgery. She wanted the operation before she attended schoolies next week, so she could "do whatever every other girl does at schoolies", he said.

A spokeswoman for NSW Health said women such as Michaela could be treated as public patients at the Sydney Children's Hospital, the Children's Hospital at Westmead or Prince of Wales, a statement that infuriates Professor Bennett.

He has presented evidence that unless these women are treated by specialists, such as himself, they often ended up with botched surgery. One girl, who could have had a vagina surgically created, will now have to go without because her gynaecologist accidentally cut the tissues between her rectum and bladder.

The opposition health spokeswoman, Jillian Skinner, said there was no excuse to deny these young women. "When a highly specialised surgeon is offering his services for free, it makes no sense for the government to act as a roadblock. Health administrators should be looking at ways to make this work, not coming up with excuses as to why it can't be done."

Michaela is saving her minimal wage in the hope she can afford the surgery in a few years, but Professor Bennett has refused to reveal the full cost for fear of dashing her hopes. "This is the last thing I need to do and then I'll be just like everyone else," she said.


Australian psychologists are deep Greens

See an except from an official Australian Psychological Society emission below. That they are so clueless about climate science is entirely to be expected from their cluelessness about psychological science -- which I have often set out at psychology conferences and in the academic journals -- including Australian psychology journals and conferences. See here. Note that there is not a shadow of scientific caution expressed below. Green/Left faith is all that they have

Climate change and other environmental problems are fast becoming daily news items in the media. As our awareness of environmental problems increases, many strong emotions can surface. But climate change doesn't need to be faced with dread. It also needn't require missing out on things, or living a less pleasurable life. There is a lot of information available about what we need to do to combat environmental problems, and many changes are very easy to make. Change can also mean we end up living better.

This information booklet is aimed at helping people cope with the many environmental threats facing us. It offers suggestions for dealing with distressing feelings when learning about environmental problems. It also provides tips for people who want to do something about environmental problems, but may be having difficulty getting started. Finally, the booklet aims to help people work out how to talk with others about these issues, and how to encourage others to join in making positive changes.

* Common reactions to learning about environmental problems

* Managing the feelings climate change can generate

* How to change your own behaviour

* Encouraging others to change

Common reactions to learning about environmental problems

It is common for people to experience a range of emotions and psychological reactions when faced with information about environmental threats and predictions of an uncertain future. People may feel anxious, scared, sad, depressed, numb, helpless and hopeless, frustrated or angry.

Sometimes, if the information is too unsettling and the solutions seem too difficult, people can cope by minimising or denying that there is a problem, or avoiding thinking about the problems.

Being sceptical about the problems is another way that people may react. The caution expressed by climate change sceptics could be a form of denial, where it involves minimising the weight of scientific evidence/consensus on the subject. Or it could indicate that they perceive the risks of change to be greater than the risks of not changing, for themselves or their interests.

Another common reaction is to become desensitised to information about environmental problems. Stories and images relating to climate change flood our daily news. People can become desensitised to the stories, and mentally switch off when the next one comes. The fact that these problems are not easily fixed, and seem to go on and on without resolution, increases the chances that we will tune out, thus minimising our stress and continuing with business as usual.

Once people believe that they cannot do anything to change a situation, they tend to react in all sorts of unhelpful ways. They may become dependent on others (i.e., by believing that the government or corporations will fix things, or that technology has all the answers), resigned ("if it happens, it happens"), cynical ("there's no way you can stop people from driving their cars everywhere - convenience is more important to most people than looking after the environment"), or fed up with the topic.

Managing the feelings climate change can generate

Although environmental threats are real and can be frightening, remaining in a state of heightened distress is not helpful for ourselves or for others. We generally cope better, and are more effective at making changes, when we are calm and rational.
Be optimistic about the future

It can help to remind ourselves that the future is not all bleak. There are millions of people all over the world who share our concerns and are working on protecting the environment, helping others to change their behaviour, and finding other solutions. We already have a lot of information about what we need to do (like reducing greenhouse gas emissions), and what we need to stop doing (like wasting water), and there are tremendous advances in technology being developed every day to help us live sustainably and well.

The power of the individual - taking action

The other good news is that a lot of desirable goals are easily achievable by people simply making changes to their personal life. These changes don't need to be difficult, nor do they need to involve giving up a lifestyle that we enjoy. When everyone makes a commitment to purchasing green energy from renewable sources, reducing petrol use, and making sustainable choices as consumers, then whole communities and nations can drastically reduce their emissions, reduce the pollution of air and water, and develop sustainable ways of living.

Reminding ourselves that there is a lot that we can personally do, and starting to take action to manage the environment better, can help us move from despair and hopelessness to a sense of empowerment.


"The long-run trajectory for Aborigines in Australia is integration", says Labor Party figure, Gary Johns

Any amendments to the Constitution to recognise Aborigines should be minimalist. THE Gillard government's intention to discuss the wording of a constitutional amendment to recognise Australians of Aboriginal origin provides the opportunity to ask where we are headed in Aboriginal affairs.

Should this amendment be seen by activists as a chance to settle old scores, they had better think again. The long-run trajectory for Aborigines in Australia is integration. The experiment with separate development in the past 40 years has been a dismal failure.

To appreciate the nihilism of Aboriginal Australians sitting on their land being fed by the Whiteman, just watch the film Samson & Delilah. Two black kids sitting on their land eating from tins, drinking bore water and staring into space is not much fun.

That does not mean there has not been a flowering of the talents of people of Aboriginal descent, but do these people warrant a special mention in the Constitution?

To make up for this failure of separatism, the Aboriginal lobby, led as it is by wholly integrated Aborigines of mixed descent, is desperate to have every Australian recognise their culture.

The trouble is, Aboriginal culture, in any sense in which the original inhabitants practised it, is long gone. Elements of the original that remain, such as polygamy and underage sex, are illegal or, in the case of sorcery, re-emerging around places such as Yuendumu and Groote Island, is just plain evil.

The fact is, with Aboriginal intermarriage rates at more than 70 per cent and most Aborigines living in the cities and regions and fast integrating, the question of identity is looking very thin. Much more important, Aboriginal identity and culture is a matter for those who claim its ownership, it should not be force-fed to the rest of the nation. If children are to be taught Aboriginal culture, I want for them the full unexpurgated version, not the pretty commemoration of recent invention that one can pick up on the bookshelf at the ABC shop or a university politics department.

The census question "What is this person's racial origin?" has not been asked since 1971. Since then the census has asked, "Is the person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait origin?" As has been observed across the Anglo settler countries, growth in census numbers reflects the movement of ethnicity from the biological to the social realm. Being an Aborigine just isn't what it used to be.

This is fine, as long as no privileges arise from that identity. Already we see the complaint from fair-skinned Aborigines that they are being refused jobs reserved for Aborigines. Those, who because of their looks could never have suffered prejudice, are denied the assistance specifically meant for those who may have suffered prejudice. Identity politics should not be used for people who suffer no prejudice greater than any other.

Be wary that the constitutional amendment is not used to privilege those Aborigines who have made it in the modern world, in the name of those who have not.

Here are my suggestions for the committee considering the constitutional amendment.

The present preamble to the Australian Constitution begins: "Whereas the people have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Constitution hereby established." We could add the words: "Whereas those who came to Australia after the act of settlement by the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland recognise that this land was first settled by Aboriginal people."

Such minimal treatment is not to diminish the Aboriginal people; rather, it is to understand that no one receives a mention in the Australian Constitution. It is also important to reinforce that setting up a constant reiteration of "we were here first" undermines the task that every inhabitant of this land has: to get on with it.

In the Constitution proper, section 25, which states, "if by the law of any State all persons of any race are disqualified from voting at elections", thankfully no longer applies and should be removed.

Perhaps section 51. xxvi, "The people of any race, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws", should remain, although the suggestion by Mick Gooda, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, that this power has been used to discriminate against Aboriginal people is laughable.

A statement in the preamble that recognises the original inhabitants is all that Australians will agree to. Any amendments that acknowledge a special relationship with the land or the culture will invite critical scrutiny.

The nonsense that was forced through the Victorian and ACT parliaments in various acts of rights and responsibilities by Labor (and some Liberal) dreamers will not pass muster at a referendum. If you want a large yes vote at the referendum, the amendment must be minimalist.


13 November, 2010

The usual Leftist hypocrisy

Get Up! funded anti-Abbott ad with union's $1m gift

THE advocacy group GetUp! accepted a record $1.12 million donation from a large union just before the federal election, at the same time supporting a ban on political donations from unions and business.

The donation from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union funded a prominent TV advertisement that attacked the Liberal leader Tony Abbott's "archaic" views on women and social issues in the days before the election in August.

It went to air as a GetUp! advertisement with no reference to being largely funded by a big Labor-affiliated union. The high-profile group, which says it has more than 300,000 members, pursues issues such as climate change and refugees. Its successful High Court challenge before the election enabled tens of thousands of young people to vote.

But its willingness to take such a large donation, of the type it wants banned, has led to claims it has been hypocritical.

The opposition leader in the Senate, Eric Abetz, said the donation showed GetUp! was nothing more than a Labor front and the advertising could have changed the election result.

"It's clear there is a strong relationship between the unions and GetUp! and the Labor Party campaign," he said. "With that sort of money the CFMEU could have run and authorised their own advertisement but they deliberately got GetUp! to do that as a third party so the odium of the CFMEU wouldn't be associated with the advertising campaign."

Since 2008 GetUp! has been campaigning to stop unions and businesses donating to political parties. It says only individuals should be allowed to donate, capped at $1000 a year. It has nearly reached its target of 50,000 names on a petition on the issue. The petition reads. "Tell the government to get corporate and third-party influence out of politics and end all large-scale political donations. "Our democracy should not be for sale but right now the people we elect to govern us take money from those who stand to gain from government policy and contracts."

GetUp! bills itself as "an independent, grassroots community advocacy organisation" and says it received no money from political parties or government.

Its acting national director, Sam McLean, rejected the claims of hypocrisy. "We had a good think about whether we wanted to [accept the money] but in the end decided that we'd already made the ad. It was not like anyone was giving us a cheque and asking us to run a campaign. It was something we already believed in and had on air." He said the group would be happy for future legislation to ban the type of donation, which he said came from the construction division of the union.

The union contribution is nearly 10 times the size of any donation disclosed since it was founded in 2005.


Australian Govt ponders new laws on asylum seekers

The federal government is considering introducing new laws to circumvent a High Court ruling that's undermined the effectiveness of its offshore processing regime for asylum-seekers who arrive by boat.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says Immigration Minister Chris Bowen is weighing up Labor's options after the court ruled that asylum-seekers whose claims are rejected offshore still have a right to judicial review. "He'll work through (the decision) and make some recommendations about need for legislative change," Ms Gillard told reporters in Seoul where she's attending a G20 meeting.

Ms Gillard also rejected claims - most notably from prominent human rights lawyer Julian Burnside - that Thursday's ruling could mean asylum-seekers processed in third countries were entitled to access Australia's courts. "There's a suggestion that somehow this High Court decision affects my plans for a regional protection framework and regional processing centre," Ms Gillard said. "It does not."

Mr Bowen backed the prime minister, saying the ruling could only affect processing in other countries if it was conducted by Australian officials. "The advice to me is that there are no implications for offshore processing where it would not be run by Australian officials," he told ABC Radio on Friday.

But that doesn't mean the coalition's plan to reopen a detention centre in Nauru would be in the clear, Mr Bowen said. "I've noticed a number of eminent jurists saying that the so-called Nauru Solution could be challenged under this regime because it would be run by Australian officials as opposed to being run by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) officials or (other) international officials," he said.

Mr Bowen insisted that offshore processing remained a key plank in Labor's border-protection policy despite the High Court ruling. "I think there's a case for offshore detention continuing ... that would be my intention," he said. "Offshore detention and the excision of islands (are) appropriate."

The immigration minister said the government's options in terms of a legislative response "are open" and that he has sought advice from both the solicitor-general and his own department. "(But) I'm not going to stick into the game of `start ruling in, start ruling out' legislative responses or other responses," he said.

The opposition is refusing to back any such legislative response. Coalition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said Labor should instead reintroduce temporary protection visas and shift processing to Nauru. "Labor can't propose piecemeal changes that will simply paper over their High Court problem while doing nothing to address this growing crisis," Mr Morrison said in a statement. "If Labor is serious about cleaning up their mess they will restore the coalition's immigration and border-protection policy regime that stopped the boats."


New York schools not a good model for Australia (or anyone)

Kevin Donnelly says that only test fraud makes them look good

Australia's approach to testing students and holding schools and teachers accountable has been copied from New York. The head of schools there, Joel Klein, has just announced his resignation, and an evaluation of the success or otherwise of the New York experience suggests we may be copying his mistakes.

Julia Gillard, when she was education minister, touted New York's system of teacher and school accountability as the world's best. She used the US example to justify Australia-wide testing in literacy and numeracy at years 3, 5, 7 and 9 and making school results public on the My School website.

In 2008 Gillard met Klein in New York and was so impressed with his policies that she invited him to Australia to show his approach of publicly ranking schools and penalising the underperformers.

Klein argues that his reforms have turned around failing schools and raised standards, but the evidence is far from convincing. He refers to improved results in the local New York tests over the past five to six years. But while the local results have improved, based on the more credible National Assessment of Educational Progress tests, the reality is that standards in New York have flatlined.

The suspicion that students achieved better results because the local tests had been made easier to pass was confirmed by a recent independent report, commissioned by the New York Board of Regents and carried out by Professor Daniel Koretz of Harvard University.

When benchmarked against the US national tests, the report says, standards in New York have not improved. Students achieving excellent results in the Klein tests fail to perform in the more academically focused and rigorous Regents examinations.

As Marc Epstein concluded in an analysis published in New York's City Journal, "The feel-good story of rising student test scores over the last several years is largely an illusion produced by dumbed-down tests."

The education scholar Diane Ravitch, who I visited in New York and who is largely responsible for me changing my mind on the benefits of testing and accountability, argues that Klein's approach is "antithetical to good education".

Mirroring Australian critics, Professor Ravitch argues in The Death and Life of the Great American School System that focusing too much on testing the basics leads to a narrow and impoverished curriculum. Such is the pressure on schools to raise standards that subjects such as history, music, physical education and literature decline as teachers give priority to what is being tested.

Given the high-risk nature of testing and accountability, where underperforming schools face eventual closure and teacher pay is linked to performance, Ravitch and other critics say test results are manipulated.

Increasingly, schools are refusing to enrol weaker students, telling parents to keep underperforming students at home on the day of the test. In extreme cases, teachers have been caught cheating by coaching students during a test or providing answers.

Ravitch also argues that Klein's approach, where schools are measured from year to year in terms of how well they improve test results, is flawed and inconsistent. New York schools that consistently perform at the top of the test table are graded D or F (as they show no improvement from year to year) while less academically successful schools are graded A based on the fact that results have improved over time.

A group of testing experts from the National Research Council mirrored many of these concerns in a 2009 letter to the US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. They warned about relying too much on standardised, short answer tests such as those introduced in New York, saying "a test score is an estimate rather than an exact measure of what a person knows and can do".

The letter also expresses doubts about the reliability and validity of tests. As the aphorism suggests, there are lies, damned lies and statistics.

As someone who has been a vocal advocate of testing and accountability, I might expect criticism for doing an about-face. But as John Maynard Keynes said, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"


The Greens mess with Labor party's mind

CARBON pricing is shaping as the battlefield for Labor and its leftist rival

THE Greens are playing with Labor's head. They court or pressure Labor with tactical skill - on climate change, preferences, gay marriage, boatpeople and industrial relations - while Labor is trapped between its contradictory needs to confront and pacify its new rival on the Left.

Labor's frustration is palpable. It pretends to be in control but agonises about how to respond. Former finance minister Lindsay Tanner warned this week that "what you get with the Greens is left-wing rhetoric and right-wing outcomes", citing their rejection of Kevin Rudd's climate change bills as ultimate proof of his claim.

Delivering the John Button Lecture this week, Finance Minister Penny Wong, criticising the Greens, said: "We [Labor] do not seek a Senate quota, nor to target a particular seat. We seek to govern Australia for all Australians. We never have the luxury of only playing to a narrow audience. We have to build agreement. We have to persuade." She's right. But the historic failure of the Rudd government, passed to Julia Gillard, was its failure to persuade. And the Greens are the big vote winners from that failure.

Ten days earlier Climate Change Minister Greg Combet, in a considered speech, called on Labor to review what it stands for. Combet said Labor needed the courage to lead. It must uphold the principles of equity, social justice and compassion, and recognise that its abandonment of carbon pricing last term was a gift to the Greens and damaged Labor.

Meanwhile, in The Australian yesterday, Graham Richardson, former NSW right-wing factional master, demanded Labor go the path of "robust exchanges" against the Greens. Betraying a touch of desperation, Richardson asked: "Why doesn't the government cost all of the Greens' policies, lift the veil on the totality of their platform and expose what a joke Australia would be if the Greens actually got to govern the country?"

Sadly, there is an answer to Richo's question. Under the written terms of the Labor-Greens alliance, would you believe, the government actually helps the Greens to cost their policies and offers them access to the public service for their policy development. It's enough to make a Labor veteran laugh, or perhaps cry.

But Richardson went further. He said Greens leader Bob Brown was "arguably the best politician in the country" because he offered the facade of moderation to conceal the Greens' extremist character. Now, when Richo thinks the Greens have Australia's most effective leader, something serious is happening.

If you want proof the Greens have scrambled Labor's head, well and truly, consider the public ruminations by Gillard minister and former NSW right-wing party secretary Mark Arbib that it's time for Labor to abandon its opposition to gay marriage. Why is it time?

Because the Greens are stealing Labor votes, that's why. Nothing else. So Labor should cynically abandon its support for the foundational social institution, a move that will trigger a deeply polarising debate and brand Labor indelibly as a libertarian personal rights party ready to ditch any institution or principle. In the process, Labor will alienate permanently an important section of its base.

So what is the answer to Labor's 2010 political crisis? Support gay marriage, of course. No, it's not satire, this view is gaining serious support. It testifies to how politicians can be fooled by opinion polls and miss the bigger picture. It verifies, again, the far-reaching impact the Greens are having on Labor.

On Thursday evening Australian Workers Union boss Paul Howes warned at the Sydney Institute that Labor risked "ending up in an inner-suburban ghetto where we are just manning the barricades against the Greens hordes".

But the Greens hordes are bereft of the working-class masses. As political analyst and former Labor senator John Black argues, the Greens have the highest income profile for any Australian political party, drawing on tertiary-educated public sector professionals, academics, teachers, environmental, arts, media and culture sector workers, residing in professional households, typically in the inner city, often single or with no children. While divided from Labor by values and ideology, there is also a Greens protest vote, giving Labor hope it can claw back some supporters.

The answer to such hopes and the showdown in this Labor-Greens Shakespearean drama will come later this term over climate change. Make no mistake, it will end in euphoria or tears. At present, the result defies prediction.

But pricing carbon is where Gillard and Combet are in fighting mode. This week Gillard was talking as an economic reformer pledging to "grow our economy without growing our pollution". She defined the principle that will govern her policy: to find the cheapest source of emissions reduction, and this is the reason she wants a market mechanism and a carbon price. Stung by criticism over her reform credentials, Gillard has picked pricing carbon as the issue to prove her mettle.

How will Gillard win this battle? There is only one way. She must prevail with Greens votes. Because the Tony Abbott-led Coalition will oppose carbon pricing Gillard's success or failure in parliament depends on the Greens. If the Greens vote with Labor later this term, then Gillard becomes a Labor hero for having the courage to price carbon. But if the Greens refuse to join the party, every pledge by Gillard and Combet is mocked and denied.

The problem is manifest: Labor is hostage to the Greens on carbon pricing. This gives the Greens vast scope for playing with Labor's head. Yet it also poses a test of Brown's leadership and of Greens priorities.

When the time arrives Gillard and Combet will need to mobilise public opinion and pressure the Greens. Is this feasible? Comments from Tanner, Wong, Combet, Richardson and Howes underscore a justified theme: the need for a new public debate with the Greens put under scrutiny.

This did not happen in the last parliament. In this Labor-Greens intersection the role of the ABC is critical because this fault line reflects one of the broadcaster's heartlands where its influence is significant.

Let's state the issue: it is whether the ABC continues to give the Greens immunity from criticism or whether it changes its de facto policy and treats the Greens not as a minor party of superior virtue but as a party that can make and break public policy, thereby deserving scrutiny similar to the main parties. If the ABC fails to make this necessary re-assessment, Gillard Labor will be the serious loser.


The BER taskforce is a whitewash

The head of the BER inquiry has been spending his time defending the program

WHEN does the evidence become so overwhelming, the list of problems too long, and the community anger so great that a government will move from cover-up to repair?

In the case of the home insulation program it took fires and tragic deaths, but in the Building the Education Revolution, it is becoming increasingly likely we will never truly know the extent of the waste, the reach of the rorts and the people who are responsible for the mess.

In Focus last weekend, Brad Orgill, the head of the Gillard government's BER Implementation Taskforce charged with conducting an independent investigation into this program, did something quite astonishing.

Orgill moved from judge to the counsel for the defence effortlessly and before his verdict is due next month. He has become the program's chief defender when he should be staying above the fray.

When the $42 billion stimulus package was announced in February 2009, the centrepiece was a building program worth $14.1bn that sought to add a new, "iconic" building to every primary school in the country. What we now know is that from the outset the guidelines approved by the present Prime Minister were a recipe for waste, and never checked by the departments of Treasury or Finance.

The Rudd-Gillard government scrapped the extremely successful funding model of the previous government, where federal funding was handed directly to schools, and instead rolled out billions of dollars to state governments with little oversight.

Almost comically, seven months after it's inception the BER guidelines were quietly revised to include the words "value for money" for the first time. It was also at this time that Julia Gillard revealed a $1.7bn blow-out in the BER costings, bringing the total price tag of the primary school program to $16.2bn.

The Coalition and The Australian began receiving complaints about the roll-out of the BER as early as April 2009. Schools were being forced to accept buildings they didn't want or need. Prices for government schools were soaring, and reports of system-wide problems began to emerge.

At first Gillard, who was education minister at the time, described Coalition concerns over the growing examples of waste in the BER as nitpicking. Members of parliament who dared to raise constituents' worries were lampooned by Gillard.

Twelve months after a trickle became a tidal wave of complaints and concerns, Gillard announced she would establish a body to investigate.

Orgill was appointed last April by the Rudd-Gillard government to examine the school hall program, and from day one the Coalition has questioned the independence of a taskforce that works within the Department of Education and has no powers to subpoena documents and summons witnesses.

During the months that have followed, our fears that the taskforce is a whitewash designed to hide the truth about the BER have largely been validated.

From the outset the taskforce appeared to be conducting a public relations exercise rather than a forensic investigation.

The taskforce employed a media adviser to spin before an accountant to examine, and Orgill regularly fronted the national media to defend the decisions of the government and the rollout of the school hall fund. It reached the point where Orgill was criticised in the media for farcical visits, with journalists in tow, to schools where there were no BER complaints.

The taskforce's interim report, delivered in the heat of the election campaign, suggested the evidence of waste could be justified as an "efficiency dividend", that is, an extra amount governments were justified in paying to get buildings quickly, and therefore provide stimulus to the economy during the global financial crisis. But it is clear now that the BER entirely missed the GFC, the first brick being laid at a school only after the crisis in Australia was over and the economy was growing again. We also know that the BER is in some cases years behind schedule, there are billions yet to be spent and only 30 per cent of projects are completed.

Since the election, it seems Orgill has become the government's BER fall guy. During a recent appearance at a parliamentary inquiry, he appeared to contradict evidence presented to other inquiries into the school hall program and even his own interim report. Under questioning, Orgill said: "There is no evidence to say that value for money has not been achieved . . ."

The taskforce's interim report, released during the election campaign, states several times that evidence exists showing value for money was not obtained for taxpayers' funds, including: "From our investigations to date, the majority of complaints raise very valid concerns, particularly about value for money."

Orgill also denied that the taskforce was aware of any intimidation or bullying of principals or staff at schools where complaints had been made. This is contrary to evidence presented at other inquiries that supports media reports of bullying and intimidation of principals and teachers, designed to encourage them to keep quiet about their BER concerns.

Orgill has said he would investigate complaints, but initially said he could not guarantee the anonymity of the complainant, meaning these very people, genuinely in fear for their careers, would never have bothered to get in touch with the taskforce. Surely this is a critical deficiency for any genuine investigation.

It has become a sorry state of affairs and can be remedied only by a fully independent judicial inquiry.

The Coalition sought to introduce a bill into the House of Representatives creating a judicial inquiry, but as it lacked the support of key crossbench members of the house, it was defeated.

We will seek to reintroduce this bill in the Senate, but in addition we will attempt to force the government to keep at least one of its election promises and publish all BER costings.

During the campaign, the Prime Minister promised to implement all of the recommendations from the interim report of Orgill's taskforce. The first of these was to publish all costings data for every school in Australia in a nationally consistent manner. To date the government has made no move to do so.

In the new year, the Coalition will be seeking the support of the crossbench members in the House of Representatives to compel the government to make good on this promise and publish a breakdown of costings for every BER project in Australia on the MySchool website.

If crossbench members feel they need further evidence to support the creation of a judicial inquiry, then the costings information will provide it.

Meanwhile, we will await Orgill's final report in December and hope that it will be a genuine critique of the BER program, not an apologia for waste, mismanagement, buck passing and failure to take responsibility by senior ministers.


12 November, 2010

Inconvenient nonsense infiltrates Australian classrooms

Al Gore's flawed climate change film is to be included in the new national English curriculum. Amusing that it's not in the science curriculum, though

In 2006, former US vice-president Al Gore made a movie and companion book about global warming called An Inconvenient Truth. Gore undertook many speaking tours to publicise his film, and his PowerPoint slide show has been shown by thousands of his acolytes spreading a relentless message of warming alarmism across the globe.

But while audiences reacted positively and emotionally to the film's message - which was that human carbon dioxide emissions are causing dangerous global warming - some independent scientists pointed out that An Inconvenient Truth represented well-made propaganda for the warming cause and presented an unreliable, biased account of climate science.

For nowhere in his film does Gore say that the phenomena he describes falls within the natural range of environmental change on our planet. Nor does he present any evidence that climate during the 20th century departed discernibly from its historical pattern of constant change.

In early February 2007, the Department for Education and Skills in Britain, apparently ignorant that the film was scientifically defective, announced that all secondary schools were to be provided with a climate change information pack that contained a copy of Gore's by then notorious film. Many parents were scandalised at this attempt to propagandise their children on such an important environmental issue.

One parent, school governor Stuart Dimmock who had two sons at a state school in southern England, took legal action against the secretary for education in the High Court, and sought the film's withdrawal from schools.

In a famous judgment in October 2007, Justice Burton, discerning that Gore was on a "crusade", commented that "the claimant substantially won this case", and ruled that the science in the film had been used "to make a political statement and to support a political program" and that the film contained nine fundamental errors of fact out of the 35 listed by Dimmock's scientific advisers. Justice Burton required that these errors be summarised in new guidance notes for screenings.

In effect, the High Court judgment typed Gore and his supporters as evangelistic proselytisers for an environmental cause.

Fast forward to this month and many Australian parents have been surprised to learn Gore's film "will be incorporated in the [new] national [English] curriculum ), as part of a bid to teach students on environmental sustainability across all subjects".

It is, I suppose, some relief the film has not been recommended for inclusion in the science syllabus. Instead, Banquo's ghost has risen to haunt English teachers, doubtless in class time that might otherwise have been devoted to learning grammar.

Some Australian English teachers may feel competent to advise pupils on the science content of An Inconvenient Truth, but I wouldn't bank on it. Of course, the same teachers have to feel competent also to shepherd their flock on to the green pastures of sustainability, that other pseudo-scientific concept so beloved by the keepers of our society's virtue.

Australian schools are being transformed from institutions that impart a rigorous education into social reform factories that manufacture right-thinking (which is to say, left-thinking) young clones ready to be admitted into the chattering classes. This process is manifest in other aspects of the new syllabuses.

Two other biases in the public debate about global warming have occurred recently. The first was the launching of the website Power Shift 2009, which describes itself as "Australia's first national youth climate summit. It's the moment where [sic] our fast-growing youth movement for a safe climate future [whatever that might be] comes together".

In reality, this is simply another website aimed at indoctrinating children regarding global warming, and while it's not surprising to see Greenpeace and GetUp are involved, it is disappointing to see the involvement of persons with the mana of Ian Thorpe.

The second recent bias has been the broadcast on ABC Radio National of the George Munster Award Forum from the Sydney University of Technology. Here, a panel of "Australia's top journalists" examined the proposition: "Telling both sides of the story is a basic rule of journalism, but should it apply to reporting climate change?"

Stellar contributions made by the journalists involved included the notions that carbon dioxide is a pollutant, that 97 per cent of all climate scientists agree that dangerous human-caused global warming is happening, and that there is no real debate about climate change. Independent scientists who question these specious Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change orthodoxies - for the good reason that they are untrue - were referred to as denialists, fruitcakes, clowns and fools who had "invaded the ABC". Giving them airtime was said to "attack the essence of journalism".

The reporting of email leaks from the University of East Anglia last year was "a terrible and wrong disturbance" in the run-up to the Copenhagen climate conference, and the astonishing claim was even made that Fairfax and the ABC "have delivered the objective, factual scientific stories on climate change".

This farrago of nonsense was described by one US scientist who listened as "probably the most horrifying and disturbing Big Ideas-Small Minds discussion by journalists I have ever heard". Book-burning parties for Ian Plimer's Heaven and Earth or my own Climate: the Counter Consensus can't be far away, and if the persons involved in the forum were Australia's top environmental journalists, then God help us all.

Australia is rightly vigilant about preventing child abuse and guarding the freedom of the press. Why, then, are we so willing to tolerate the abuse of educational indoctrination of our children and the deliberate limitation on the scope of the media discussions they will be exposed to as adults?

Gore's movie and book are an embarrassment to US science and its many fine practitioners, a lot of whom know (but are often unable to state publicly) his crusade is mostly based on junk science.

If allowed in Australian schools at all, An Inconvenient Truth belongs not alongside Jane Austen and Tim Winton, nor with Charles Darwin and Richard Feynman, but with the works of authors such as Jules Verne and H. G. Wells in the science-fiction section of the library.


Woman dies waiting 36 minutes for ambulance following collapse

Victoria again, of course. And this was in the centre of its capital city! Don't have an accident in Victoria

A 33-YEAR-OLD woman died last night while waiting more than half an hour for an ambulance after collapsing in Melbourne's CBD. The woman suffered a convulsion and was conscious and breathing when an ambulance was first called at 6.27pm.

An ambulance was dispatched 16 minutes later in a semi-urgent code two response, without lights and sirens. At 7.01pm ambulance dispatchers were informed the woman was now unconscious and in arrest. “We upgraded then to lights and sirens with a MICA unit going and we arrived at 7.03pm,” an Ambulance Victoria spokesman said. “As soon as we knew it was a cardiac arrest we were there two minutes later.”

By the time the ambulance arrived the woman was dead. If the target 20-minute response time had been met after the first call for help an ambulance would have arrived at 6.47pm - 14 minutes before she went into arrest.

Later in the evening there were 60 calls for emergency ambulances “pending” because there were no ambulances available to respond.

Health Minister Daniel Andrews said the death was tragic and acknowledged the system needed to improve. But he did not accept the emergency health system was in crisis. “We don’t have a system that is a perfect system, it’s always important to improve and we are committed to doing that,” he told 3AW. “That’s why we’ve been about more funding and more paramedics.”

He said the ambulance budget had been tripled and the number of paramedics doubled in the past decade.


W.A. Hospitals in plea for police protection

A lot of the aggression is because of long waiting periods. Firing a swag of bureaucrats and replacing them with more doctors and nurses would solve that problem

POLICE should have an increased presence at hospitals on Friday and Saturday nights, and during holiday periods, according to the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union (LHMU). But the Health Department and WA Police have ruled out having police stationed at major hospitals.

LHMU assistant secretary Carolyn Smith said hospital staff were constantly faced with increasing incidents of violent and aggressive behaviour from members of the public. “As the use of drugs and alcohol increases, so too does this sort of behaviour in hospitals,” Ms Smith said. “We would welcome an increased police presence at hospitals during busy periods like Friday and Saturday nights, and over the holiday periods. “Our members are not trained to be security staff after all and should be able to feel safe doing their important work.”

WA Police Metropolitan Region Commander Gary Budge said in recent years, police officers had been specifically stationed at Royal Perth Hospital on New Year's Eve and Australia Day to support hospital staff and security officers. “Police already work closely with hospitals but additional support on these two days was seen as necessary due to increasing levels of alcohol affected people presenting at the hospital and behaving in a violent or anti-social manner,” Supt Budge said. “At other times, police respond to any calls to assist hospitals deal with violence.”

But Supt Budge said there was no plan to have police officers permanently stationed at hospitals, although police would be at RPH on New Years Eve this year and Australia Day next year. He said the culture of “drinking to excess” was an issue that needed to be addressed across the wider community.

A Health Department spokesman said Perth’s hospitals had robust security measures in place, including onsite security staff, and CCTV cameras.


Tony Abbott warns of elected judges

CHANGES to the legal system, including the election of judges, are "almost inevitable" if courts continue to give light sentences, Tony Abbott has said.

The Opposition leader made the comments during a community forum in Brisbane last night when the subject of crime and punishment came up. “I never want lightly to change our existing systems, but I’ve got to say if we don’t get a better sense of the punishment fitting the crime, this is almost inevitable,” he said.

“If judges don’t treat this kind of thing appropriately, sooner or later, we will do something that we’ve never done in this country. We will elect judges. And we will elect judges that will better reflect want we think is our sense of anger at this kind of thing.”

But the proposal was rejected by law experts and by the Gillard government, with Attorney-General Robert McClelland saying a system of elected judges was not a prudent step.

“Judges should be appointed. And we’ve tried to ensure that judges at a federal level at least are appointed on merit.

“I think that there is a real risk that if we appointed judges who had some allegiance to a political outcome that we may see political decisions on the bench.

“And that would be entirely undesirable and quite inconsistent with the system of justice that we have inherited.”

University of NSW constitutional law expert professor George Williams said a system of elected judges would require changing the Constitution via referendum and was fraught with problems.

“In the main I think it’s very clear that judges are doing a good job in this regard. And people do need to remember that if there are sentences that people are unhappy then there avenues for appeal and looking at these matters again,” he told ABC radio.

“Electing judges is clearly not the right way to go. We need to retain an independent judiciary in this country, judges who are free of politics and partisanship.”

Professor Williams said that if judges were elected Australia would go down the path of some US states where judges campaigned and made promises.

“We’d end up with politicians who would decide cases not just according to the justice that was required but according to their desire for re-election and the political promises that they had made.”

Opposition legal affairs spokesman Senator George Brandis rushed to Mr Abbott’s defence this morning, claiming he did not support a system of elected judges, describing him as a “constitutional conservative”.

“[He] is very strongly committed to existing constitutional arrangements. That includes an independent judiciary, not an elected judiciary.”

Senator Brandis said that Mr Abbott had simply conveyed “serious concerns” about the consequences of a judiciary that moved too far away from public sentiment in relation to the leniency of sentencing.


Australian asylum policy in disarray

The Federal Government has been urged to review all asylum-seeker claims dealt with under the contentious offshore processing regime after a landmark High Court decision, labelled "diabolical" by the Opposition but hailed by human rights groups.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has called for legal advice on the unanimous court ruling, which could cast a cloud over the Gillard Government's plans to send unauthorised boat arrivals to a detention centre in East Timor.

The ruling means asylum-seekers taken to Christmas Island would have the same right to appeal when their refugee claims were rejected as those processed on the mainland.

Mr Bowen would work through the "significant ramifications" of the decision and take recommendations to cabinet in coming weeks.

"It's a significant judgment. It's an important judgment," Mr Bowen said yesterday. "It's a judgment which has the potential to elongate the amount of time it takes to process refugee claims."

Former immigration minister Philip Ruddock said the ruling was "diabolical" an opinion echoed by Opposition spokesman on immigration Scott Morrison.

"What this outcome will produce is just seeing more people coming on boats with false claims, making those claims, and appealing them endlessly through the courts, costing taxpayers an enormous amount of money and compromising the integrity of our immigration system overall," Mr Morrison said.


Australia's tougher skills test for legal immigrants angers some business groups

Perhaps they can recruit some of the Afghan and Tamil Tiger "refugees" into becoming waiters etc

Business groups have slammed the Government's new skilled migration test, saying it will exacerbate the skills shortage and make it even harder for small businesses to hire new and qualified staff in specialised areas.

The comments come just after new figures from economists suggest immigration will drop over the next few years and the skills shortage will become worse as employers search for qualified staff, especially in the engineering, trades, manufacturing and construction industries.

John Hart, chief executive of Restaurant and Catering Australia, says the new test will make the skills shortage in the hospitality industry even worse, warning that restaurants and other catering firms may struggle to find qualified chefs who are specialists in overseas cooking methods.

"This is going to make it worse, absolutely. Substantially so, because the harsher English language test requirements have been enhanced. This means that fewer cooks and chefs will be able to get a visa," he warns.

"It's already difficult enough, this is going to make it more difficult. This isn't very good news for us at all."

COSBOA chief executive Peter Strong says the changes will continue to make it difficult for SMEs to get involved with skilled migration.

"We have areas where we know we have skilled shortages, such as the hospitality industry, and it does make it hard. The red tape becomes more difficult, and that's one of the biggest issues here," he says.

"I really would like the Government to stop and think about how this is making it more difficult for businesses. If there are good reasons, there should be some sort of help desk or help services for businesses, especially small businesses."

The Australian Industry Group has slammed the new test, saying it will make it more difficult to attract skilled migrants.

"In particular, the decision to give fewer points to the skilled trades compared with university qualifications does not adequately reflect the critical need for trade skills in our economy," chief executive Heather Ridout said in a statement.

Ridout points out that university graduates receive 15 points while skilled traders receive 10 points, and has also criticised the English test, which she claims will disadvantage migrants from non-English speaking backgrounds.

"We would urge the Government to be open to further changes that would better balance the needs for both tertiary and trades skilled migrants," she said.

Bowen announced the changes yesterday, saying the new points test will assess independent skilled migrants as part of the Government's decision to reform the migration system. The test will, according to the minister, "emphasise the importance of English, work experience and high level qualifications... and is designed to ensure no one factor guarantees migration".

But Hart says this is the most frustrating part of the test, given that so many restaurants rely on authentic cuisine, and in order to provide such services they hire chefs and cooks from their native countries who may not have a firm grasp of English.

"It's nonsense to say that you should have an English language requirement of that level, because the reality is, they don't require that level of English to work in the kitchen. This isn't an academic pursuit."

"In fact, we rely on cultural diversity in this industry, in order to provide those sorts of cuisines. It seems the immigration department is attempting to stamp that out."

The changes come after the Government dramatically changed the skilled migrants list, giving preference to a number of occupations over others. Previously, simply listing an occupation would provide 50% of the test's passing mark, but now, a number of factors will be considered, including qualifications and work experience.

"The existing points test has not always led to outcomes consistent with the objectives of the skilled migration program," Bowen said yesterday.

"For example, the current test puts an overseas student with a short-term vocational qualification and one year's work experience in Australia ahead of a Harvard educated environmental engineer with three years' relevant work experience."
In comparison, Bowen argues the new test will recognise a larger pool of talent, and warns that employer-sponsored visa categories are not affected by the changes.

But Hart says despite the minister's assurances, the hospitality industry will still be affected, and he intends to seek a meeting with the minister as soon as possible.

"We will definitely be speaking with the department. We haven't yet been able to get a meeting with minister Bowen, but I'm sure at some stage he'll get around to talking to us."

The announcement comes just after research from Access Economics and KPMG found the skills shortage will worsen during the next few years. Access predicts net migration will fall to 170,000 over the next few years, and KPMG found 50% of businesses surveyed are complaining of skills shortages.

KPMG migration practices head Karen Waller recently told SmartCompany the Government needs to consider how the skilled migration system will help businesses, rather than keep them from hiring new staff.

"The challenge for government is to ensure there is independent and rigorous discussion about what role skilled migration plays in Australia to help businesses grow," Waller says.


11 November, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG seems to think that the banks could use a bit more diplomacy

VicRoads under fire after refusing to observe Remembrance Day silence

If they really WERE concerned to avoid offending people, they would surely have realized that this will REALLY cause offence. It is an insult to all our troops, past and present -- and an insult to families who lost loved ones in Australia's many wars abroad -- and there are few families not affected by that. This is just some anti-military Leftist bureaucrat at work. Who the hell would the observance offend anyway? All nations honour their war dead

VicRoads has come under fire after confirming it will not observe a minute's silence for Remembrance Day for fear of offending people.

The Victorian Government agency told 3AW radio it has not observed the tradition for a number of years as it is “conscious of possible different cultural issues and don’t wish to cause offence to anyone”.

VicRoads did not specify whether they feared upsetting employees, customers, or both.

The statement drew a furious reaction from listeners, many of whom described the stance as “offensive”. Roads Minister Tim Pallas said he was “aghast” when he heard of the policy this morning, and that steps would be taken to stop the practice, which he described as "wrong".

Remembrance Day is observed in Commonwealth countries on 11 November, to remember the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and civilians in times of war. Most workplaces and events such as the Australian Masters golf tournament will pause to observe a minute’s silence at 11am.


Victory over a stupid and oppressive law

It was an unmitigated attack on freedom of association that was wide open to abuse by unscrupulous cops. It's a sad day when we have to have bikies standing up for our individual liberties

THE South Australian Government must go back to the drawing board with its anti-bikie law after the High Court's ruling it is unconstitutional, a lawyer for the Finks bikie gang says.

The High Court today declared as unconstitutional sections of SA's controversial laws banning gang members from associating.

The majority judgment throws into doubt a key aspect of South Australia's Serious and Organised Crime Control Act, which allows restrictions to be placed on gang members without a court having the power to review the evidence.

The High Court has sided with the Finks Motorcycle Club, upholding a ruling by the SA Supreme Court in 2009.

Finks lawyer Craig Caldicott said the state government should reconsider the legislation. "This legislation is flawed and, clearly, they have to go back to the drawing board," Mr Caldicott said. "We have been saying from the start there are better ways of doing all of this.

"What they have done is decided that they will try to enforce draconian laws that the High Court has ruled invalid."

Following today's judgment, the South Australian government has been ordered to pay costs to Finks motorcycle gang members Sandro Totani and Donald Hudson. [Great!]


Young girl raped by five men while in Victorian government "care"

A 12-YEAR-OLD Victorian girl was raped by five men while in state care and later absconded from welfare care to live with three men who gave her marijuana and cigarettes.

The case was highlighted in a Children's Court hearing last week, The Age newspaper reports. In the hearing, Victoria's Department of Human Services sought to extend a secure welfare order on the girl to keep her in a secure unit and monitor her movements. The order had been placed on the girl by the Children's Court.

The girl was living in DHS residential care when she was raped by five men one day in October, and had since escaped her DHS residential care seven times to live with three men before she was placed in secure care, the newspaper said.

The court extended the girl's secure welfare order until just before Christmas, but the department is now seeking a therapeutic placement for the girl, in which the DHS would have sole custody while the girl gets psychological treatment.

The case comes week's after a damning ombudsman's report into child protection that found the Victorian government was failing to protect some of the state's most vulnerable children.


The Labor-Green Alliance

Senator Chris Back

A year is a long time in politics. Barack Obama has learned this as he counts the Democrats' loss of control in the US House of Representatives during the mid-term election. The Republicans have come in from the wilderness.

In December 2009, many respected Australian political commentators dismissed the Liberal/National Coalition as rabble. Most confidently predicted we could not win government for at least three more terms (nine years).

Nine months later, in the August 2010 federal election, the newly elected Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott ran a conservative campaign which not only improved party support, but finished with more seats and 700,000 more primary votes than its centre-left Labor rival.

In that time, then Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, still in his first term, descended from the height of popularity to be knifed by his deputy and her "gang of four" and was removed from office. It created Australian political history.

On 24th June, then Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard led the coup to oust Rudd because in her own words, "the government had lost its way". A strange admission from one who was at the centre of every decision it made.

Rudd's sin? The likelihood of losing the upcoming Australian federal election. Why? Because he abandoned his much trumpeted Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Emissions Trading Scheme or ETS) so soon after the disastrous Copenhagen Climate Change conference in December 2009. As a result, the focus groups caned him. In Australian Labor language, that spells death.

Tuesday 1st December 2009 was significant for both major political parties in Australia. The Liberal (Conservative) Party changed its leader from Malcolm Turnbull, who supported Emissions Trading and a price on carbon, to Tony Abbott who did not. Later that day, with the support of the Greens and Independents, the Coalition voted down Labor's ETS in the Australian Senate.

Rudd went to Copenhagen without his prize and came home empty handed. He had earlier claimed that increased carbon emissions, caused by humans, were the "greatest economic and moral challenges of our time". When his support reversed in the opinion polls, he dropped climate change like a hot coal. He never recovered.

Gillard promptly called the federal election for 21st August and ruled out a tax on carbon. She wasn’t about to repeat Rudd's mistake. "There will be no tax on carbon in any government I lead", was the mantra.

But even a week is a long time in politics. Early in the election battle, Labor's campaign unravelled. Cabinet leaks abounded. To shore up her support, Labor and the far-left wing party the "Greens" signed a preference deal. Gillard and Greens’ leader Senator Bob Brown denied knowledge of its details.

Pigs were flying over Parliament House. It worked. Seventy five percent of Greens preferences went to Labor. Eight Labor MP's are in the Lower House (the House of Representatives) on Greens preferences and each can thank the other for a new Senator when the Senate changes in July 2011.

There was no policy change on carbon taxing revealed in the deal. Instead Gillard announced that she would establish a 150 member citizens’ assembly to engage the community and discuss issues relating to climate change.

That was strange! Most Australians actually thought we had a House of Representatives of 150 members, and 76 Senators, to undertake this task. Politicians get elected by the populace to perform the role. That is what everyone goes to the polls for. Voting is compulsory in Australia. Gillard's citizens' assembly was widely derided. The idea was quietly dropped after the election and a climate change committee, made up of politicians, took its place.

By the way, the principal criterion for selection to this august body is to pledge your allegiance to the religious mantra of climate change caused by increased carbon dioxide, caused by humans! No heretics allowed.

Want to place a bet on the outcome? The 21st August election resulted in a hung parliament. There were no winners and certainly, no party earned a mandate to govern. The horse trading commenced in earnest.

On September 1st, still awaiting the final result of the election, Gillard signed a formal deal with the Greens to boost her chances of forming government.

On 7th September, ending two weeks of speculation and stalemate, two Independents leant their support to Gillard to form a minority government. This cacophony of convenience cobbled together everyone from far left communist/socialists to far right rural independents, including a past military whistleblower.

During the election campaign Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan, her deputy and treasurer consistently denied they would introduce a tax on carbon. Post election, with the Greens now calling the tune, Gillard immediately announced circumstances had changed and a "price on carbon" must now be considered!

Climate change is not the only battleground on which the Greens are now driving the Australian political agenda. Gillard and her Labor mates have already been neutered although the Greens will not hold the balance of power in the Senate until mid 2011.

At the insistence of Greens’ leader Senator Bob Brown, the Australian Parliament has already debated our military commitment in Afghanistan and euthanasia. Furthermore they are dictating Labor's failing policy on the tsunami of asylum seekers heading to Australia's shores. Changing the law for same sex relationships is next on their agenda. How predictable.

The key battleground for Labor and the Greens is now the Murray-Darling basin. This consists of two major rivers impacting on the four eastern mainland states (Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia). It is the food bowl of Australia but is a wasteland politically for Labor and the Greens.

Management of the system has been fragmented. Disputes between irrigators, environmentalists and governments are endless. Severe drought over the last eight years had reduced the once majestic rivers to trickles. Interstate rivalries overflowed in direct proportion to declining water supplies.

South Australia, at the end of the Murray, was in a desperate way. Ironically, now the drought has been broken and the rivers are returning to health, the political storm about water rights is now unleashed. Climate change, global warming and long-term mismanagement count amongst the accused.

The Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) was established to investigate the issues and advise governments on solutions. The obvious environmental preference is to limit irrigation and return more water to meet environmental goals.

The Greens are in this corner. However, it is argued by the many thousands of Riverland residents attending recent protest meetings that the MDBA failed to adequately consider massive social and economic impacts along the river catchments. Where Labor lands on this will be a litmus test of Prime Minister Gillard's mettle. It may well point to how long she holds the job she so desperately coveted.

Whose voice will sound the loudest?


10 November, 2010

Treasury warns over costings for the NBN

It's just a power-mad obsession with getting their way that makes the Labor party persist with this dog of a thing

TREASURY has warned cabinet it needs to give "very careful consideration" to the National Broadband Network's implementation study over coming months. The department argued that the project carried significant risks to the national balance sheet.

The advice to cabinet, originally suppressed when Treasury's incoming brief to the government was released under Freedom of Information laws in September, was revealed yesterday.

The release of the advice comes after the Department of Communications and Broadband revealed in its brief to the government that the company overseeing the rollout of the NBN disagreed with the McKinsey-KPMG implementation study over recommendations relating to the design of the high-speed broadband network and the nature of the prices and products NBN Co would offer to customers.

Treasury has identified the $43 billion NBN as carrying significant risks relating to competition and efficiency in telecommunications and related markets, which could have an impact on the public balance sheet.

It said the government's response to the NBN implementation study would set the parameters for outcomes in these areas for decades to come. "It therefore warrants very careful consideration by cabinet in coming months," the Treasury brief said.

Meanwhile, a proposed joint venture between the federal and Tasmanian governments to roll out the network has been scrapped. The move prompted claims the $43bn project was in chaos.

Under the now defunct plan, existing optic fibre owned by the Tasmanian government energy company, Aurora Energy, was to be transferred to the joint venture company, NBN Co Tasmania, in exchange for shares in the joint venture. NBN Co has now decided to enter a deal with Aurora to pay for use of that existing optic fibre.


Migrant skills go to the top of the list

The points system for skilled migrants that notoriously preferred hairdressers over Harvard scientists is about to be abolished. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen is scheduled to announce in Sydney tomorrow a new points system in keeping with wider reforms to skilled migration.

The reforms shift the emphasis to high skill levels and employee sponsorship, making it harder for overseas students with low-quality Australian qualifications to secure permanent residency.

Stricter rules for skilled migration have damaged the business model used by private colleges and universities to attract students and fee revenue.

In China, Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans rejected any suggestion the commonwealth should compensate education providers for lost income. "It's not about us making up the shortfall. I mean, universities are a business," he told the HES. "Some universities have gone into the international student market in a larger way than others."

An officially sanctioned and relatively easy pathway from local qualification to permanent residency as a skilled migrant helped create a multibillion-dollar export education industry.

Now, graduates will have to fit within July's new skilled occupation list, which gives prominence to high-skill jobs in health and engineering, and pass a strict new points test.

"The current weighting of points test factors leads to perverse outcomes such as the situation where a Harvard qualified environmental scientist with three years' relevant work experience would fail the points test, while an overseas student who completes a 92-week course in a 60-point occupation [such as cookery or hairdressing] would, with one year's experience, pass," says a discussion paper issued by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

The test gave an advantage to low-skill occupations on the Migration Occupations in Demand List, which was axed in February by Senator Evans when he was immigration minister.

Monash University researcher Bob Birrell said a reformed points test would allow the government "to apply a more discriminating filter to select the best applicants". This was possible because earlier decisions had slashed the number of points-tested places available while the number of former students seeking those places had risen sharply.

The discussion paper says in these circumstances, "Australia can, and should, select the best and brightest migrants for independent migration".

Senator Evans said universities understood the danger of becoming too reliant on one market. "I think most of them have managed that risk quite sensibly over the years," he said. "They know they're vulnerable to such movements, as other industries are, and they'll just have to manage that as they work through the issues.

"But the fundamentally important issue at the moment is that the appreciation of the dollar is impacting on our export industries. It's going to impact on education. But it's not a question of the government picking up the tab for that lost revenue. They'll have to adjust their businesses. "My role is to try [to] support them by encouraging participation in international education in Australia."

February's discussion paper floats possible changes to reward superior levels of English and applicants with higher degrees. It also flags a relaxation of the emphasis on youth, saying the test "does not adequately recognise the trade-off between age and work experience, particularly for highly skilled professionals".

It canvasses a possible end to the points bonus enjoyed by those with relatives in the country or with Australian qualifications.

The paper says local qualifications attracted extra points because of "the general quality" of Australian education and the fact studies were undertaken in English. The poor English of foreign graduates from Australian institutions was one of the triggers for reform of skilled migration.

Maurene Horder, chief executive of the Migration Institute of Australia, said the new points system was keenly awaited. She said students and the market were anxious for clarity after a year of upheaval.

Sydney immigration lawyer Peter Bollard said reform was necessary since the old points test was not performing as expected. "It meant some people, especially with family sponsorship, could get through with very low skill levels," he said.


Australian government bribes asylum seekers to go home

THE Federal Government will offer incentives to asylum seekers who agree to go home. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has announced Labor will provide asylum seekers who come to Australia by boat assistance to help them return to their country of origin. Mr Bowen said the aid would consist primarily of job training and placement, and small business start-up support.

The assistance recognises that some asylum seekers are returning to a country they haven't lived in for years, and where they may have limited assets and support networks, he said. "Properly targeted reintegration assistance for returned asylum seekers can minimise the risk that the return will be unsustainable and that returnees will again become displaced," Mr Bowen said.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) will deliver the assistance and remain in contact with returned asylum seekers to determine the effectiveness of the program.

Mr Bowen said similar assistance programs had been used by previous Australian Governments and were currently utilised by European countries to return asylum seekers who weren't found to be owed protection.


Tax office arrogance

The chief executive of the world's richest diamond field has made a rude discovery. He's been declared bankrupt in Australia. Rick Feneley reports

In his homeland, Zimbabwe, Andrew Cranswick endured death threats and the seizure at gunpoint of his company's multibillion-dollar diamond field. Now roaming in exile, he is powerless while crooked military men and cronies of President Robert Mugabe plunder the gems in defiance of court orders. For the moment, however, Cranswick is fuming not about Zimbabwe but Australia's attack on his civil liberties.

While the fourth-generation Zimbabwean was seeking his fortune at home, the Australian Taxation Office deemed that he was a resident of this country for tax purposes. The Federal Court agreed and, in his absence, ruled last week that the mining executive became bankrupt, owing almost $1 million in taxes and interest, on June 9 last year - the day he left Australia for the last time.

Cranswick protests that the ruling is unjust on multiple fronts: in the targeted years of 2005 to 2009 he was living and working not here but in Zimbabwe, which also claims him for tax purposes; his many visits to Australia were solely to visit his daughters, who live in Perth with his ex-wife; they now stand to lose their home, which their father insists he never owned, following the court's sequestration order; and he had no chance to defend himself because notification of the tax case was sent to his estranged wife's address rather than to the home he has owned in Zimbabwe since 1990.

"So, the ATO creates a fictional assessment of tax against non-existent income of a non-Australian resident and then they use that assessment to bankrupt that person without them being allowed a defence," Cranswick writes in reply to the Herald's inquiry.

"Any future defence or appeal is ruled out by the law and the effective house arrest/travel ban I will be placed under if I attend to defend myself."

A source says Cranswick, while in self-imposed exile, is currently a permanent resident of no country but his work keeps him moving through Zambia, South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland and Britain. He is negotiating for his safe return to Zimbabwe, but Cranswick says he cannot dare to come back to Australia because authorities here have made it clear they would block his exit to Africa and Britain - and hence his livelihood.

"I suppose I might find some comfort in the curious truth that I am freer in Mugabe's Zimbabwe than I could ever have been in Australia," he writes.

Cranswick has been likened to Indiana Jones, which he finds embarrassing. Rather, he draws a comparison with the Crocodile Dundee star Paul Hogan, who temporarily lost his freedom to leave Australia amid a battle with the Tax Office.

Cranswick is chief executive of African Consolidated Resources, a London-registered company established by black and white Zimbabweans. In 2006 ACR discovered what is reputedly the world's richest diamond field, in the Marange district south-east of Harare, with potential turnover of more than $1 billion a year. Precious gem-quality diamonds, like stones to the untrained eye, littered the ground. "They were so common that children were using them in their catapults to shoot birds," wrote Jon Swain, the veteran foreign correspondent depicted in The Killing Fields, in The Sunday Times this year.

However, within three weeks of ACR's discovery, the Mugabe government declared it was cancelling the company's claim. It then invited the community to fossick for the gems. Thousands arrived for the diamond rush, but soon the military and security forces repelled them, killing as many as 200 people in a matter of weeks and igniting international outrage against Zimbabwe's own "blood diamonds" atrocity.

In September last year, Zimbabwe's High Court ruled that ACR was the rightful owner of the Marange field. But Swain reports that the minister of mines and army chiefs - in cahoots with two South African companies - continue to siphon millions of dollars each day from the site, even after a Supreme Court order in February for all mining to stop.

The diamond scandal is adding tension to the fragile coalition government that Mugabe has forged with the Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, and his party, the Movement for Democratic Change. Members of that party accuse Mugabe of building an election war chest and buying the support of the military by allowing soldiers to plunder the diamond field, according to a documentary screened on Britain's Channel 4 last week.

Armed men raided Cranswick's home and office in February. His colleague, facing a "trumped-up" accusation of fraud, was jailed but quickly released. Cranswick, hopeful of reclaiming the diamond field, will not be drawn on any criticisms of Mugabe. But when approached by the Herald he had "no choice" but to answer the attack on his integrity in Australia.

After marital strain dating back to the mid-1990s, his wife had decided Zimbabwe was not a safe place to raise their children and he agreed, reluctantly, to their move to Perth in 2002. He became director of a cattle farming enterprise that owned Moola Bulla Station, in the Kimberley, which handed over 8000 hectares to Aborigines and paid "several million dollars" in tax when it sold the property. Cranswick says he "might arguably" have been considered a tax resident in 2003-2004, but not from 2005 to 2009, the period claimed by the Tax Office.

By law, the Tax Office cannot comment on individual cases but it argued in court that Cranswick declared on his passenger cards - on 28 trips to Australia - that he was resident returning to the country and intended to live here for the next 12 months. But in June last year, on his final return to, and departure from, Australia, he had described himself as a visitor or temporary entrant. The Tax Office said he had bank accounts here, received payments from overseas and admitted he owned two properties in Perth.

"I do not own a house in Australia and have never owned a house there," Cranswick responds. "The longest stretch I spent in Australia was four months in 2003 … I have spent around 30 days a year in Australia over about six visits a year, solely to see my children.

"It appears the ATO now want to seize and sell my ex-wife's house … so it is not enough for them to deny me the right to visit my children, they now want them homeless. I would dearly have liked to have become a citizen of Australia, firstly to have the freedom to visit my children without visa restrictions, and secondly as a safe haven in the event that my residence in Zimbabwe becomes life-threatening, which has now indeed come to pass. This citizenship is no longer an option."


9 November, 2010

Julia Gillard losing ground to Tony Abbott: Poll

JULIA Gillard is beginning to pay a personal price for Labor's continuing problems, with the number of voters dissatisfied with her performance as Prime Minister now equal to those who are satisfied. For the first time since she became Labor leader in June, Ms Gillard has a zero net satisfaction rating.

She has also dropped back to the lowest level of support on the question of preferred prime minister that she hit during her worst week of the election campaign.

According to the latest Newspoll survey, taken exclusively for The Australian last weekend, voter satisfaction with Ms Gillard dropped three points to 41 per cent and dissatisfaction rose four points to 41 per cent.

Meanwhile, support for Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister has risen slightly from 32 to 34 per cent, his highest rating in two months.

Personal support for the Opposition Leader has also improved, with his satisfaction rating rising three points to 44 per cent and dissatisfaction falling four points from 46 to 42 per cent.

The Coalition continues to hold the comfortable lead over the Labor government it has had since the election on both primary votes and a two-party-preferred basis.

The Coalition's primary vote was unchanged on 43 per cent from two weeks earlier, the same vote it had at the August election, and Labor's is up one point to 34 per cent, four percentage points below its primary vote in August.

While not statistically significant, the Greens' primary vote has dropped from 14 to 13 per cent - the lowest level since the election, when the Greens won a lower house seat for the first time at a general election.

On a two-party-preferred basis, using preference flows at the August election, the Coalition has kept its four-point lead over Labor, 52 to 48 per cent. At the election, the ALP had a two-party-preferred vote of 50.1 per cent compared with the Coalition's 49.9 per cent.

It is the first time the Coalition has held a four-point lead over Labor in successive Newspoll surveys since January 2006 when John Howard was prime minister.

Labor took a hit in the Newspoll survey two weeks ago in the wake of the release of the disastrous Murray-Darling Basin report, which appeared to turn off regional voters.

Labor's primary vote and its two-party-preferred vote are still languishing below the party's level of support in June, when Kevin Rudd was removed as prime minister and replaced with Ms Gillard.


Gillard still hot to trot on a carbon tax

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has vowed to put a price on carbon even if the United States scraps plans to address climate change.

The opposition has called for the federal government to renege on a carbon tax after US President Barack Obama was dealt a serious blow in the US mid-term elections last week.

A Republican majority in the US House of Representatives is likely to curtail the plans of President Obama, a Democrat, for a cap and trade system to curb emissions.

But Ms Gillard said Australia would persist with plans to put a price on carbon even if the US, the world's biggest economy, didn't.

"On climate change, President Obama is obviously defining the strategy for his country, in circumstances where the Congress has been difficult for President Obama to deliver his reform agenda on climate change, and post the mid-term elections, it is going to be increasingly difficult," she told the Nine Network.

"We are great friends and allies of America, but we are not an American State. We are our own country, we will determine our own strategy."

Ms Gillard said she looked forward to meeting President Obama at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Yokohama this week.


Health faddists who paid a big price for their fad

You have to be a real nut to think that cow's milk is bad for you -- unless you really are allergic to it

A BRISBANE mother who became dangerously ill after drinking Bonsoy milk has told how the product destroyed her life. Shannon Cotterill, 31, of Coopers Plains, is one of 155 Australians to join a class action against Bonsoy’s distributor Spiral Foods Pty Ltd.

Marketed as “the original and the best” soy milk, Bonsoy was recalled world-wide shortly before last Christmas after it was discovered that one glass contained seven times the safe dose of iodine.

Before the recall, scores of people developed thyroid problems after drinking the milk. A number of women also reported miscarriages or babies with abnormalities. Other symptoms included anxiety and irritability, heart attacks and hair loss.

Ms Cotterill drank Bonsoy for four years before giving birth to her daughter, Lucy, in December last year. Shortly after the baby was born, Ms Cotterill became very unwell with three hospital admissions including one for congestive heart failure. She suffered weight loss, severe muscle weakness and a heart rate of over 150bpm.

“I could not walk up stairs or hold Lucy, I had to give up breastfeeding,” she said. “We had to move back home with my mum and dad because I was too sick to look after Lucy or do anything around the house. “I’ve had to extend my maternity leave because I’m not well enough to return to work.”

Ms Cotterill’s daughter Lucy, now 11 months, has some lumps in her breast tissue, which doctors are monitoring and believe could also be linked to Bonsoy. “I put Lucy to bed every night, kiss her and tell her I love her and that I’ll see her in the morning, then I silently wish for her to not ever suffer because of this,” Ms Cotterill said.

Law firm Maurice Blackburn is handling the legal action.

Company principal Rod Hodgson said the scale of the problem was much bigger than originally thought. “Our clients are health-conscious people – they drank this milk to improve their health and they got sick – some critically ill,” he said. “Some have quit their jobs and lost their businesses because of their illnesses. Others live with on-going health problems and their lives have been devastated.”


Great shortage of male teachers

CHILDREN face going through school without ever having a male teacher because of falling numbers of men in primary schools. Male teacher numbers in Government primary schools have dropped below 20 per cent for the first time in a decade as classrooms become female-dominated.

Catholic primary schools across the state have even lower proportions of men, with only about 15 per cent of teachers from kindergarten to Year 6 being male.

Teacher of eight years Scott Carroll said there was a stigma attached to men who worked with children: "Primary teaching is traditionally associated with females - perceptions need to change."

Principal of Mary MacKillop Primary School at Penrith South, Anne Corrigan, said men brought different perspectives to a school. "I like guys in my school, role models are important," Ms Corrigan said.

Data released by the NSW Government shows classrooms in public primary schools have lost 609 male teachers since 2000. The decline showed an election commitment by state Labor seven years ago to "work to increase the number of male teachers, especially in primary schools" had failed. With just 4695 men in the public primary system, there are children who have never been taught by a man.

Parents have said that, because of the high level of single-parent families in many areas, it is important young children are taught by male as well as female teachers. Many principals agree, telling The Daily Telegraph it is critical that more men work in primary schools.

NSW education chiefs argue that gender is not the most important factor in seeking suitable applicants. A Government spokeswoman said: "There is no definitive research that students, learn better from a particular gender - it is the quality of the teacher."

Low social status, poor wages and fear of being labelled a paedophile were identified as factors in men shunning primary teaching.

The Australian Catholic University said the presence or absence of male teachers had "major implications for the culture of schools".

The NSW Government offers up to 300 teaching scholarships each year using "male teacher role models".


Give us a break, say exhausted NSW doctors

JUNIOR doctors are taking action against hospitals which force them to work more than 100 hours a week, putting patients' lives at risk. The Health Services Union, which represents about 5500 interns, resident doctors and registrars across the state, is demanding NSW Health pays junior doctors more for on-call shifts and give them breaks between shifts - to put an end to doctors working up to 36 hours' straight.

Junior doctors are paid time and a half for the first two hours worked after a 10-hour shift, then double time for any hours after that. But once they have logged 24 hours in a row, the pay reverts to single time. They are paid an allowance of $13.10 for being on call for 24 hours.

"But we've got doctors who work 24 or even 36 hours straight. They then go home and expect to get some sleep but that is interrupted by phone calls from the hospital and they they return for another long shift so any family or social life goes out the window," said the union's industrial services manager, Andrew Lillicrap. "That has big implications for patients."

The union was pushing for 10-hour breaks between shifts, higher hourly rates for overtime and an hour's pay for every phone call a doctor takes at home to advise on a patient, he said. The union's general secretary, Michael Williamson, said 17 hours' of wakefulness "can create an equivalent impairment to having a blood alcohol level of 0.05". "And after 24 hours of wakefulness an equal impairment to a blood alcohol level of 0.1," he said.

The vice-president of the Australian Medical Association, Steve Hambleton, said changes to the NSW Medical Officers Award were long overdue. "If these people were airline pilots their employers would be hauled over the coals, but somehow we expect doctors to be different to normal people. It's time to bring this award into the 21st century - a junior doctor who mis-writes a drug chart because they are tired can put someone's life at risk, and their own career is over. It's not on," Dr Hambleton said.

A survey in 2006 by the AMA found 62 per cent of hospital doctors to be working unsafe hours. For those in surgical rounds, that rose to 85 per cent. The level of risk was determined by calculating total weekly hours, the amount of night work, the length of shifts, the extent of on-call commitments, access to breaks, and the long-term work pattern.

One doctor, who did not want to be named, provided a diary of his week, which showed he had worked more than 106 hours over seven days and was on call for 77 hours.

On some days, he had only fours hours between shifts to sleep, and that time was interrupted by taking phone calls from the hospital. For four consecutive nights last week he did not get home in time to see his three young children before they went to sleep and he often slept on the couch so his wife was not disturbed by his ringing phone when he was on call.

"More money for phone calls wouldn't make much difference. I don't do this for money, but it will make the hospitals stop and think before they ring for trivial matters. Some registrars get 20 to 30 calls a night." He said he often fell asleep at the wheel on the way home and knew of one colleague who fell asleep on a patient while operating.


8 November, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG seems to think that the visit to Australia by Hillary Clinton is distracting attention from real issues with the banks. Good to hear that the banks themselves now say that they will drop "exit fees".

Australian police news has some current entries

A rather comprehensive rejection of political correctness

Labor reverses the push for competition

The Rudd-Gillard Labor government just does not "get" competition

In policy areas as diverse as banking, telecoms and Julia Gillard's $16 billion school hall stimulus program, Labor's policies are failing badly -- and a core reason is Labor's indifference to competitive private sector markets.

In recent days we have seen record bank profits -- and banks increasing their home loan rates ahead of the Reserve Bank's cash rate. When the cash rate was increased by 25 basis points last Tuesday, Commonwealth Bank increased its rates by nearly twice that amount.

Treasurer Wayne Swan blames "a culture of arrogance among the banks". The real explanation is quite different. On Labor's watch, concentration in the banking sector has significantly increased -- reducing competition and increasing the pricing power of the big four.

According to RBA assistant governor Guy Debelle, the major banks' combined market share rose from 60 to over 80 per cent from 2007 to 2009.

During this period significant non-bank operators such as Wizard, Aussie, Rams and Challenger exited the home loan business or were acquired by the banks, while Bankwest was acquired by CBA and Westpac bought St George.

The banks say their rates are going up because they need to recoup increases in their funding costs. But in business there is no automatic relationship between your costs and the prices you charge your customers. It is only if you have market power that you can increase your retail prices with impunity.

In a more concentrated market, the banks now have significantly greater pricing power -- and Australian home loan customers are suffering.

It is a pity that the Rudd government did not think about the competition implications of the panicked decisions it took in 2008 -- decisions it said were necessary because of the GFC. With its rushed introduction of a bank deposit guarantee of $1 million, Labor gave the big banks a competitive free kick. Labor's wholesale funding guarantee further strengthened the competitive position of the big banks, as the credit union and mutuals peak body Abacus has told parliament.

The Rudd-Gillard government has reversed a 25-year trend of increasing competition in banking.

Now they are seeking to do the same thing in telecommunications. Over 20 years, bipartisan policy to increase competition in that sector has delivered clear consumer benefits, most obviously in mobile telecommunications.

More recently, there has been progress in fixed broadband competition thanks to "unbundling". This is where a competitor rents Telstra's copper wire from the exchange to the customer's home, and combines this with its own electronic equipment installed in the exchange. Over 1.4 million broadband services are now provided by Telstra's competitors using unbundling. This has produced lower prices -- and new services.

Unbundling-based competitors were the first to introduce the next-generation ADSL2+ broadband service and the first to allow a customer to purchase a broadband service without also taking a voice service (so-called "naked DSL").

But Labor's extraordinary broadband policy would turn back the clock, establish a new government-owned monopoly broadband network and shut down Telstra's access network.

Under Australian competition law, it is normally illegal for two companies to do a deal in which one is paid by the other to exit the industry. Labor plans to change that law to allow its recently announced deal, under which Telstra will be paid $11bn to stop operating a fixed-line access network, leaving the field clear for the new government-owned monopoly.

A similar indifference to competition has contributed to the wasteful overspending under Labor's Building the Education Revolution.

When the NSW Labor government received $3bn from Canberra, for example, its approach was to divide the state up into seven regions. Each of these was handed to a single large construction company, granting it in effect a regional monopoly.

Is it any wonder that prices paid on a per square metre basis for buildings under this program have been above normal industry benchmarks?

Competitive markets tend to produce the lowest prices and best outcomes for consumers. Companies which charge too much cannot sustain themselves. The discipline of a genuinely competitive market is a much more effective tool for delivering public policy than any amount of regulation imposed by bureaucrats.

There has been a profound reversal under the Rudd-Gillard government.


Greenies hate people

Oliver Marc Hartwich

MORE than 40 years ago, American biologist Paul Ehrlich sketched a doomsday scenario for planet Earth in his book The Population Bomb.

Adding more people to the planet would inevitably lead to mass starvation and ecological disaster.

Since the publication of the book, the global population has nearly doubled but most of its gloomy predictions have not come true. However, this has not stopped its author from campaigning against further population growth, this time in Australia.

As he prepared for a series of lectures to the Environment Institute at the University of Adelaide, Ehrlich warned that Australia was full.

As always in Ehrlich's predictions, a bigger population equals disaster. No doubt, he is striking a chord with many Australians who believe that there are enough of them. At least this is what an Australian National University poll suggests.

In the ANU survey, half the respondents said that families should consider having three or fewer children, in order to save the planet. A majority of 52 per cent claimed that Australia had enough people, and further population growth would harm the environment and place pressure on water resources.

It is remarkable that people now regularly put "nature" and "the environment" ahead of all other concerns. Historically, this is an oddity because not long ago taming nature and overcoming a hostile environment were humankind's priorities. In this sense, the ANU survey does not reveal an Australian eccentricity but it is very much a sign of our times. The new misanthropists are everywhere.

Across the globe, environmentalists are preaching that nature is always good and humanity always a problem. People are seen as some kind of pollution; a book that imagines "the world without us" has become an international bestseller.

This is a remarkable change in human attitudes towards nature. Life in the bad old days was nasty, brutish and short, to quote Thomas Hobbes. Nature was something to be dealt with, controlled or used. "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it," the Bible taught.

The only positive thing about this long-gone age is that at least people would not have been bored to death. They simply didn't have time to worry about their carbon footprint or overpopulation.

Our perception of nature has taken a U-turn since then. No longer do we aim to subdue the earth, but we happily surrender to the goddess of nature. The wealthier parts of the world are so well protected against the dangers of nature that we have almost forgotten that nature is more than cute polar bears, cuddly koalas, and clumsy penguins.

We can trace the origins of this thought to the Gaia theory of British scientist James Lovelock. He claims that the planet is just like one big organism. "Gaia", as he called it, fights back against humanity because she has simply had enough of us. From such a perspective, epidemics, starvation, and natural disasters may well be the planet's response to the human disease.

It looks like Lovelock's followers are no longer satisfied leaving it to the planet to seek revenge on humanity. Rather, they would take matters in their own hands. Having identified humanity as the cancer on the face of the earth, they are advocating more hands-on approaches to reduce humankind's footprint on the planet. Or maybe even reduce the world's population. This is what the ANU survey confirms.

Let's not be fooled by these new disciples of Gaia, though. What is disguised by nice, touchy-feely slogans about sustainability, nature and the environment is often just misanthropy by another name. It has no respect for people in developed countries and is completely oblivious to the needs of people in poorer places.

Just consider the case of urban density. In order to save land from development, city dwellers are advised to live at much higher densities.

Gone are nice front patios and green backyards, leafy suburbs and playing fields. For the planet's sake, let's live on top of one another in tiny boxes, ideally next to busy train and tram lines, they preach. It's a victory of nature over the quality of life in our cities.

Things get even more cynical when our subservience to the planet dictates what we allow poorer peoples to do. The thought that millions of Indians would want to drive their own little cars drives Western environmentalists crazy. They would never admit it, but deep down they wish these poor Indians would just remain poor; all for the sake of the planet, of course.

Worshipping their new goddess nature, the environmentalists have forgotten something. We human beings may not all be cute and cuddly, but we deserve at least as much love and attention as our distant relatives in the animal kingdom.


Anti-fat laws in NSW

There is of course not the slightest proof that this will achieve anything

Fast-food Chains in NSW must display kilojoule counts on menus in an attempt to reverse obesity.

The new food labelling law, to be introduced into Parliament by the Keneally government this week, gives fast-food sellers in NSW 12 months from February 1 to comply before heavy fines kick in for outlets in breach of the new code.

Kilojoule information will be "at least the same size as the price of the product" under the proposed law. Every menu board will also have to feature the recommended average adult daily energy intake of no more than 8700 kilojoules so customers can calculate how much energy each item represents in their daily diet.

The NSW Heart Foundation has thrown its support behind the new system as a "logical first step" but will lobby the NSW government to ultimately include information on saturated fat and salt in the future.

Premier Kristina Keneally said yesterday the government will consider expanding the law to cover fat and salt within a year of its introduction.

After lengthy negotiations that involved the former premier and health food advocate Bob Carr, McDonald's and Yum! Restaurants Australia - the company behind KFC and Pizza Hut - will support the labelling law despite the significant cost of altering every menu in NSW.

The law will affect not only the big-brand fast-food chains but also bakery, coffee and doughnut outlets. "Even salad and juice chains that market themselves as healthy, but often pack a big kilojoule punch, must comply," Ms Keneally said.

Companies with fewer than 20 stores in NSW or 50 across Australia will be exempt.


Hockey won't support gay marriage

I don't always agree with Joe but I think he is pretty right on this one

OPPOSITION treasury spokesman Joe Hockey says he would not support laws to allow gay marriage.

Right-wing Labor minister Mark Arbib is the first frontbencher to say he believes Labor should support gay marriage and that MPs should have a conscience vote on the controversial issue. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has previously ruled out the move.

Mr Hockey said he did not support gay marriage. "I don't agree with gay marriage," he told Sky News today. "I think a marriage is between a man and a woman and that's been my consistent view."

Mr Hockey said it would not be advantageous for Labor to support a conscience vote on gay marriage, despite evidence it is losing support to the Australian Greens on social issues.

"The more the Labor Party talks about non-mainstream issues ... the economy and productivity and a range of other things, the more they talk about other issues, the less Australians are going to listen to them," he said.


Thou shall not teach humanism -- says Victorian Labor party government

EDUCATION Minister Bronwyn Pike has ducked a potential backlash from the powerful Christian lobby by rejecting a proposal to allow humanism to be taught in primary schools during time allocated for religious education.

The Humanist Society of Victoria, which wants to teach an ethics-based curriculum, is planning a legal challenge, saying that the current system indirectly discriminates against non-religious children, causing "hurt, humiliation and pain and suffering" to them when they opt out of religious education classes.

Children in two-thirds of Victorian state primary schools are taught Christian scripture by volunteers, even though the Education Act says state schools must be secular and "not promote any particular religious practice, denomination or sect".

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Parents must sign forms if they want their children to be excluded from "special religious instruction" classes, 96 per cent of which teach Christianity, with the remaining 4 per cent covered by the Jewish, Buddhist and Baha'i faiths.

Children who do not attend these sessions are not allowed to be taught anything their classmates might miss out on during this time, so they are often put in another room where they read or play on computers.

The Education Act has a special exemption from its secular roots to allow religious education.

But Ms Pike skewered an attempt last year by the Humanist Society of Victoria to have its "humanist applied ethics" curriculum approved for teaching during the religion period. The course, designed to be taught from prep to year 6, covered subjects such as the art of living, the environment, philosophy, science and world citizenship.

Ms Pike declared that humanism's "world-view philosophy [sic] cannot be defined as a religion", and that the Humanist Society was "not registered as a religious organisation" and therefore could not "provide instruction in government schools". There is, however, no official registration of religions in Australia.

The man responsible for accrediting non-Christian religious teachers, RMIT professor Desmond Cahill, head of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, said, "We'd consider humanism as a religion since it has an ethical standpoint."

Ms Pike refused to answer The Sunday Age's questions about whether she had been targeted by the Christian lobby.

The Greens candidate in Ms Pike's threatened seat of Melbourne, Brian Walters, told The Sunday Age governments should not use their power to "privilege or promote any one religion or non-religion in our schools" and said children should not be segregated on the basis of faith.

The Humanist Society of Victoria has obtained legal advice that children who are excluded from scripture classes are being indirectly discriminated against.

Religious education arguably breaches equal opportunity law, the advice says, and causes "hurt, humiliation and pain and suffering" to children who opt out as they are "isolated from the rest of the class … with little to do". It suggests aggrieved parents take action in the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and possibly VCAT.

Humanist Society of Victoria president Stephen Stuart said the society was collecting testimony from parents in an attempt to mount a "convincing class action with hundreds of names".


A bad government that’s getting worse

By Tony Abbott

In his recent book, John Howard claimed that the Labor Party would comfortably have won the recent election had Kevin Rudd remained prime minister.

The government, he said, had torpedoed its principal ground for re-election, namely that it had kept Australia out of recession, by politically assassinating the man who’d led it. It’s a plausible argument but I don’t think that it’s right, notwithstanding my respect for my former leader’s insights.

Julia Gillard’s problem is not that she was a worse candidate for re-election than her predecessor; it’s that she’s turning out to be an even worse prime minister than he was.

Boat people aren’t trying to get to Indonesia or even to Singapore. They’re desperate to get to Australia. That’s why the prime minister’s attempt this week to have other countries solve our problem was so lame. Only a prime minister who was out of her depth would ask other countries to fix a problem that the Australian government had created for itself and then pretend that a polite hearing was actually a step towards a regional agreement. Why do we need a regional agreement on a processing centre on East Timor when Australia could so easily agree with Nauru to put one there?

Julia Gillard is usually personable in a way that her predecessor mostly wasn’t and often seems down-to-earth in a way that her predecessor mostly didn’t but that’s not stopped the perception growing that she’s actually a worse prime minister. Whether it was the Medicare Gold policy that she took to the 2004 election as shadow health minister; the original ACTU-wish-list Fair Work policy that she proposed as shadow workplace relations minister before the 2007 election; or the East Timor processing centre that the East Timorese had never heard of, the climate change people’s convention in lieu of the parliament, and reiterating state Labor’s Epping to Parramatta railway serial broken promise during the recent election campaign, the prime minister lacks judgment. Kevin Rudd was hopeless at running the country but at least he didn’t always sound like the alternative opposition leader ceaselessly sniping at opponents.

There’s the carbon tax that was definitely off-the-table before the election that’s on-the-table now. There’s the onshore detention centres that definitely weren’t happening before the election but definitely are happening now. There’s the mining tax that was fixed before the election but that’s unraveling now. There’s the Murray-Darling water plan that was going to be adopted in its entirety sight-unseen before the election but, now that it’s been seen, isn’t going to happen anytime soon and is all the work of independent bureaucrats. This is a prime minister and a government that has the Midas touch-in-reverse. During the election, we were told about fake Julia and real Julia. Now it seems that there were fake meetings of the gang of four and real ones.

None of this means that there’s likely to be a new election anytime soon. The prime minister won’t call one while the government is in so much trouble and the two independents who created the government are hardly likely to surrender their power within three years. The opposition’s job is not to wait for a bad government that’s getting worse finally to implode. Still less is it to bicker about the election result and the spoils of defeat. It’s to be an even more effective opposition this term than last term and thereby to dispel any voter doubts that we are again ready for government.

Last week, the Coalition pledged itself to a fairer welfare system and to lower, simpler and fairer taxes. The Coalition is committed to a more competitive and responsive banking system. This week, Coalition MPs have been campaigning for people to be taken seriously before, not after, government takes decisions that will impact on their lives: such as putting an asylum seeker detention centre in their town or cutting water allocations to their district. It’s an opposition that’s holding the government to account and methodically developing the policy that makes us a credible alternative government. One of the key differences between the Coalition and the Labor Party is that we want Australia to be a better place but they just want to stay in power.

Over the next couple of years, there’ll be announcement after announcement but almost nothing will change for the better because the government is completely torn between political operators and people who wish they were in the Greens. The opposition has to point out all the occasions when the Labor Party, in one of its own senior member’s words, is being “long on cunning but short on courage” while being ready to form a better, more principled government.


7 November, 2010

A small personal note on customer service in Australia and Britain

A Sunday morning reflection

I have spent time in England on three occasions -- including a Sabbatical year. There are a lot of similarities between England and Australia (the constant flow of English immigrants to Australia helps ensure that) but I noted one major difference: How customers are treated in shops, cafes and the like.

I am always pleased by the almost universal cheerful and friendly service I get in such establishments in Australia but in England customers tend to be treated like a bad smell. Just getting staff to recognize your presence is not always easy. Hence the old tradition of the "floor walker" -- immortalized in the TV comedy series "Are you being served".

Fortunately, however, most small businesses in England (particularly London) have now been taken over by people from the Indian subcontinent -- and all it usually takes to get good service from them is a smile.

But how did the English become such unhappy people? It seems to go back to a sense of entitlement. They mostly seem to think that they should not have to work at all -- and routine work in particular is greatly disliked. And the millions of Brits who have never worked and live on welfare payments is some testimony to that. "Pommy bludgers" are also a byword in Australia: Australians who see much of the English almost always end up seeing them as being in general work-shy.

So whence the sense of entitlement behind all that? It seems to be partly the result of official British propaganda, which the English are very good at. They are very good at trumpeting their own virtues in particular -- sometimes in an understated way but propaganda can be all the more effective for that. Even Hitler admired British wartime propaganda -- and he knew more than a little about that subject.

British government propaganda these days is nowhere as jingoistic as it once was but memories of empire persist and Britons almost universally believe that Britain saved the world from Hitler. The fact that over 80% of German wartime military casualties were on the Eastern front is rarely mentioned. It was Russia that defeated Hitler.

But perhaps the biggest source of the sense of entitlement is the welfare State. Since 1945 Britain has had an extensive and generous system of welfare payments which make work optional. Successive Britain governments have made it clear that Britons are ENTITLED to support from the government, come what may. So no wonder that those who do choose to work for whatever reason feel that they should not really have to.

It seems to me that Britons who have some go in them tend to emigrate -- to Australia, Canada, the USA etc. Britons abroad and Britons in Britain sometimes seem like two different races to me -- JR

Australian investors snap up U.S. homes for cost of a car

These very cheap houses will generally be in predominantly black areas and it was the inability of blacks to pay for their accomodation that was central to the big financial meltdown in the first place. One can only wish the best of luck to the investors concerned

MUM-AND-DAD investors are buying bargain-priced houses in the United States for the cost of a new car.

They are cashing in on a combination of a rising Australian dollar and a depressed US property market which has seen recently built five-bedroom houses in cities such as Atlanta, Georgia, selling for as little as $35,000 - or the price of a new Holden Commodore.

They are also avoiding excessive stamp duty costs on buying property in Australia.

More than 200 people attended a seminar about buying US houses at Adelaide's Hilton Hotel last Monday.

The cheap US prices have seen a surge of Australian agents setting up businesses promising to match buyers in Australia with potential US rental properties.

Vincent Selleck, of 888 US Real Estate, based in NSW, said he had seen a "dramatic increase" in inquiries since the Aussie dollar reached parity with the greenback.

With the dollar reaching a 28-year high of $US1.01 on Thursday, Mr Selleck expected interest to continue climbing.

"Investors are now seeing incredible value buying in America where they can get homes that were $300,000 in 2007 for $35,000 with cash (rental) returns between 15 to 25 per cent net after expenses," he said.

He said most Australian investors were buying houses, townhouses and apartments where "the cash price today is a fraction of their former value or cost of replacement" in the expectation of a US economic recovery and appreciating US dollar over the long term.

While the median Adelaide house price hovers around $400,000, houses in the popular tourist destination of Miami are selling for as little as $14,000.

The US property market devaluation came on the back of the sub-prime credit collapse, which sparked the global financial crisis in late 2008.

One South Australian investor to take advantage of the "great investment opportunities" in the US is Sue Wright who, with husband John, is building a property portfolio to fund their retirement savings.

Mrs Wright said "outrageous" land tax and stamp duty costs in SA encouraged the couple to "capitalise on a perfect storm of conditions" and invest in the US, where property taxes were relatively cheap.

Mrs Wright's first experience investing in the US had encouraged her to look at buying more properties, and she attended this week's seminar at the Hilton Hotel by finance advice firm Knowledge Source.

"We started investing in properties in Adelaide in 2001 and have four now but I've never seen such economic conditions in my lifetime and after our superannuation went backwards we thought investing in the US was such a great opportunity," the 60-year-old said.

The Wrights bought a duplex in South West Florida - each semi-detached having a double garage, three bedrooms and two bathrooms - via an internet based real estate company for $US96,000 ($101,000) in March.

They rent it out for a net $12,300 a year.

"We thought we would sit on it for a few months and see how things panned out, and we have had no trouble with the tenants so now we are looking to invest in more properties," said Mrs Wright, who runs a small painting business.


Gillard dismisses Clinton 'tongue slip'

An amusing episode but emblematic of the slight grip that most Americans have on matters outside their own borders

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has downplayed a faux pas from the United States' top diplomat. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton caused a small stir in Wellington when she accidentally referred to New Zealand Prime Minister John Key as "Prime Minister Rudd".

In the faux pas, Ms Clinton wrongly referred to Ms Gillard's predecessor Kevin Rudd but Australia's incumbent prime minister was unfazed. "Not of any interest or consequence to me, just a slip of the tongue and there we have it," Ms Gillard told the Nine Network today .

Mr Key made light of the incident at the joint news conference last week by referring to "President Hillary Clinton".


Spanking children OK with nearly 90 per cent of Queensladers

ALMOST nine out of 10 Queenslanders support smacking children. The Sunday Mail-Nine News State of Families Survey has revealed that 85 per cent of people agree parents have the right to smack their children, with more than a third in "strong agreement".

The new data comes in the middle of an explosive debate about physical discipline, reignited by comments last week from international singer Pink. "I think parents need to beat the crap outta their kids," she said during an interview. "I think that the whole spanking thing has gotten all PC."

More Queensland men than women support smacking – 50 per cent of men surveyed "strongly agree" that parents have the right to smack their children, significantly higher than females at 33 per cent.

Australian Childhood Foundation chief executive Dr Joe Tucci said he wasn't surprised by the results, but didn't agree with them. "It doesn't surprise me that parents want to keep the perceived right to discipline their kids," he said. "They think they have the right to self-regulate, but smacking is not the answer.

"I'd be happy if 100 per cent of respondents insisted on parents being allowed to discipline their children, discipline is absolutely essential, but not by physical force. "It is impossible to draw a line in the sand to separate smacking and assault. There is much research to highlight that physical punishment can hinder a child's development."

The Queensland law on physical punishment by parents has been labelled a joke. The foundation and many other child welfare groups have lobbied for many years for clearer guidelines.

"The law at the moment is a farce," Dr Tucci said. "Basically it says if I hit someone else's child I will be in more trouble than I would be if I hit my own. Why should my own son or daughter have less rights than any other child?

"Under section 280 of the Queensland Criminal Code school teachers and others in authority have the right to use force with a child. Luckily, bodies like education departments and child welfare agencies have had the sense to override the law by banning such action."

Section 280 states: It is lawful for a parent or a person in the place of a parent, or for a schoolteacher or master, to use, by way of correction, discipline, management or control, towards a child or pupil, under the person's care such force as is reasonable under the circumstances.

But as a Queensland Police Service spokesperson said: "Each circumstance is considered on its merit."

Dr Tucci said "reasonable" was open to too much interpretation and shouldn't give parents a loophole in court in serious cases. According to the Commissioner for Children and Young People and Child Guardian Elizabeth Fraser, debate should focus on the best method of discipline from a child development perspective rather than parents' rights to discipline.


Single-sex classes gain momentum as schools opt to segregate

EDUCATION experts say the trend of single-sex classrooms for young students is gaining momentum and works, but the State Government has left the matter up to principals as the debate heats up in primary schools.

Parents at Milton State School are rallying against a proposal to segregate students into gender-specific classes next year – a program that has been on trial in other state schools for some time.

But the State Government keeps no centralised data as to how many schools across the state are trialling the program, nor its success in those schools.

Opposition education spokesman Bruce Flegg yesterday called on the Government to monitor the scheme more closely and move away from such an "ad hoc" approach.

Education Queensland defended the dearth of centralised data, saying decisions about same-sex classes were best made at a local level.

Single-sex classes are being run at Miami State School on the Gold Coast, Earnshaw State College at Banyo and Victoria Point State School. In all of these schools, parents have the option to keep children in mixed-gender classes.

Victoria Point State School has had single-sex classes for about 10 years. Its principal, Lex Bowden, said same-sex classes consistently achieved better academically. "We also get (fewer) problems with behaviour," he said.

Griffith University education expert Alan Edwards said single-sex classrooms had gained in popularity recently across Australia and the US. "The theory about boys and girls learning differently has gained momentum," he said. He said feedback, generally, was positive.

Miami State School has also had boys-only classes for three years. Next year, principal Anthony Green is considering adding a 4/5 boys-only class.


Green gain from Labor party pain

Arbib, together with Karl Bitar, is held responsible for urging Rudd to make the fatal mistake of his prime ministership. This was Rudd's decision to abandon the fight for an emissions trading system.

That one decision fractured Rudd's personal approval ratings, savaged Labor's share of the vote, demolished Rudd's credibility, and sent half a million disenchanted voters into the waiting arms of Bob Brown and his Greens party. This decision destroyed Rudd.

Arbib stands accused of urging Rudd to abandon his election promise to take the counsel of pragmatic politics, to walk away from "the great moral and economic challenge of our times" because focus groups showed that it would be too hard to fight an election against Tony Abbott's attack that an emissions trading scheme would be "a great big new tax."

A section of the Left sees him as having handed Labor's idealism, its soul, and its progressive voting base, to the Greens.

Gillard has moved back to the Left to embrace climate change, but Brown doesn't think it will work politically for Labor: "They will try to take some of the steam out of the Greens cooker, but they can't do what we can do because they're too tied to vested interests."

Even after moving to act on climate change, even after announcing a more humane approach to refugees, Gillard's government has not won any credit in the polls. But the Greens' share of the vote has continued to gain. Now the Greens are enthused about their prospects at the Victorian and NSW state elections. They hope to win lower house seats in both states.

If Labor continues to stagnate and the Greens continue to build, Labor ultimately will lose its ability to run as a stand-alone party able to govern in its own right.

"We have shown we're not the Democrats," says Brown. "We have broken into the House of Representatives. We have the highest share of the vote for any minor party since World War II. We aren't there to keep the bastards honest" [the famous slogan of the now-defunct Democrats]. "We're there to replace the bastards."


What Happens if you Order a Bacardi Breezer in Outback Australia‏

For the benefit of any American readers: "Poofter" is a derogatory word for a homosexual

6 November, 2010

Gillard between a rock and a hard place

This week's US election has delivered another arrow deep into Labor's political heart with Obama, in words sure to wound, abandoning any emissions trading scheme for many years. Read his words because they will cut into Australia's political debate. "Cap and trade was just one way of skinning the political cat," he said. "It was not the only way. It was a means, not an end. And I'm going to be looking at other means to address this problem."

Shadow climate minister Greg Hunt said: "The President has announced that cap-and-trade is now dead, buried and cremated in the US. If she [Gillard] won't listen to Coalition plans for direct action, perhaps she might listen to the US. President Obama will now examine direct action models, just as has been put forward by the Coalition here in Australia."

Yet Gillard has pledged to a carbon price as proof of her economic reform credentials. That means an Australian price without any US congress-approved price. It is almost certainly an impossible call. Tony Abbott will renew his campaign with fresh and simple ammunition: "If Obama says no, than Australia should say no." Understand the magnitude of Gillard's dilemma: she must press ahead or fall away.

Pressing ahead will accentuate the lift in electricity prices and falling away will confirm Labor as a party in a systemic crisis over belief and commitment. The risk, again, is that the Greens and Abbott will look strong while Labor twists in the wind as its support declines.

Could there be any worse situation? Yes. It lies in the explosive outlook building in this country over boatpeople. This protracted crisis is far advanced without any sign of policy resolution. The Canberra-induced trap is to think this issue is settling down. That misses the mood on the ground and the shift in policy.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said last month the refugee approval rate for claims from Afghans is at 50 per cent, down from well above 90 per cent. That is, on Australia's own assessment, only one in two Afghans arriving is a refugee. The others, pending appeals, have no right to be here. "I think that's an important message," Bowen said in a classic understatement. It penetrates to the central issue: that Australia's approval rates have been too generous, that the restrictive language of the 1951 Refugee Convention needs to be upheld and that Australia must deny asylum-seeker arrivals any migration self-selection outcome.

The progressive mantra is about to unravel. This is because the flow of boats is increasing, fewer boatpeople are refugees, it is extremely hard to deport non-refugees, new detention centres are having to be established on the mainland and numbers are such - totalling 5800 this year - that with family reunion included boat arrivals now affect Australia's overall population intake profile.

Far from Canberra, community meetings at Northam in WA and Inverbrackie in South Australia, showed on-the-ground alarm about new detention facilities.

Abbott led the Coalition team. He punished Labor, saying people were "understandably outraged" when governments lost control of the borders.

Bowen says Labor has a plan to stop the boats. It is the regional framework including the proposed East Timor processing centre that Gillard pushed this week in Indonesia and Malaysia. Neither country is persuaded. Both will keep talking.

As a new Prime Minister, Gillard has tied her prestige in the region to this initiative. It will end in Gillard's humiliation or in a regional solution of improbable benefit to checking the boats to this country. The reality is Gillard cannot tolerate the status quo on the boats. Ongoing arrivals reveal Labor's failure to deliver border security, a legitimate expectation of the Australian public since nationhood.

Labor always looks better when the parliament sits. Its tactical skills expose Coalition flaws and divisions and the media duly follows. But such tactics are not enough to save Gillard Labor.

Arising from the resources boom, the finance sector, federal-state relations, climate change and boat arrivals, it is besieged by policy challenges that demand far-reaching and convincing responses that, so far, seem beyond Labor's political character.


Asylum-seekers are not criminals Australia's Immigration Minister tells angry residents

In that case, why does the government jail them?

Chris Bowen has rejected claims people campaigning against detention centres being built in their communities are racists. But the Immigration Minister insists asylum-seekers are safe and unlikely to escape detention and break the law.

Mr Bowen is trying to hose down community concerns after a meeting in Northam, about 100km northeast of Perth, on Thursday night in which the Department of Immigration and the local council answered questions from angry residents about the plan to house 1500 asylum-seekers in the community.

West Australian Labor senator Glenn Sterle was invited to the meeting but left when he was denied a chance to address the nearly 700-strong audience by the meeting's facilitator, former state Labor MP Gavan Troy.

Many residents raised concerns about the detention centre's impact on Northam's already strained and understaffed hospital and the contingency plans in place if there were a riot.

Senator Sterle condemned the constant "heckling and throwing of racist statements" for drowning out what were some genuine concerns about the centre. Mr Bowen said he believed in freedom of speech and people should be able to raise views.

The meeting was dominated by people voicing intense hostility to the detention centre and to asylum-seekers, with some labelling them "criminals" who could escape and attack local women.

Mr Bowen said there had been very few escapes from detention centres. "I'm not aware of any evidence that people who do escape from detention centres on very rare occasions undertake criminal acts," he said. "All the evidence shows that people while their claims are being processed conduct themselves in a perfectly appropriate way."

Liberal Premier Colin Barnett called on the Gillard government to halve the number of male asylum-seekers planned for the Northam detention centre, saying he understood the "great anxiety" expressed by furious locals. But he said T-shirts with "Bomb their boats" written on them worn by two residents at the meeting were inappropriate. He said it showed the issue needed to be handled carefully and there should have been proper prior consultation.

Northam resident Chris David yesterday claimed the meeting had been hijacked by a vocal minority bent on fearmongering. Another resident, Nigel Sutton, said he was shocked when he heard One Nation state deputy president Lyn Vickery tell the meeting asylum-seekers would "slit your throat".


A sad day for independence

Trust the authoritarian instincts of Gillard's Leftist government to attach such onerous conditions to help for a small community

Two centuries after Fletcher Christian rebelled against the King's authority in the form of Captain Bligh on HMS Bounty, his descendants have given in to economic desperation and agreed to be ruled by a foreign power.

In a surprise announcement that shocked other Norfolk Island MPs, the Australian territory's Chief Minister, David Buffett, has told the island's parliament his impoverished administration will give up its fiercely held self-government in exchange for a financial bail-out from Canberra, The Australian reports.

The move will mean the 1800 permanent residents of Norfolk Island will probably have to pay Australian income tax, and lose some of the power to run their own affairs.

Some of the island's long-held unique laws, such as not requiring the wearing of seat belts, will be overturned.

Many islanders yesterday described Mr Buffett's acquiescence as a disgraceful sell-out of the independent values they have held since the 1789 mutiny on the Bounty, the years hiding from British authority on Pitcairn Island and their resettlement as a fully self-governing territory on Norfolk in 1856.

The Norfolk Island telephone book is still dominated by the names Adams, Christian, Nobbs, Quintal and Buffett, descendants of the English mutineers and the Tahitian women they brought with them to Pitcairn.

Ron Nobbs, a retired agriculture officer and former chief minister, yesterday told The Australian he thought the grab for Canberra cash was misguided, presenting the danger that "everyone will be thinking they can go on the dole and people can be sitting around drinking." He blamed unwise big-ticket expenditure by the Norfolk government, such as extending the airport's runway, as being the cause of the cash crunch.

He said the absence of income tax had encouraged doctors, teachers and other professionals to live and work on the remote Pacific island.


Another charming Muslim "refugee"

With their usual attitude to women

A magistrate has refused to sentence a self-confessed paedophile, saying his crime was so serious it must be dealt with in a higher court. Sayed Mohammed Sidaqat, 34, has pleaded guilty to one count of indecent assault.

On July 17, he boarded an Outer Harbor train at Ethelton and squashed the girl before caressing her hand and placing it on his erect penis. Previously, prosecutors told the court the girl felt "extremely scared and powerless" as Sidaqat kissed her neck and touched her.

They said the assault occurred just one month after Sidaqat - a Afghani refugee - was granted a visa on "humanitarian grounds".

Today, Magistrate Joseph Baldino refused to deal with Sidaqat - because state law prevented him from giving the paedophile a harsh enough sentence. "As a magistrate I have limitations - the maximum sentence I can impose is one of two years, and the maximum sentence for this offence is eight years," he said.

"Even allowing for a discount for a guilty plea, I am of the opinion that - given the nature and gravity of this offending - a sentence of imprisonment in excess of two years is warranted. "Therefore, I am referring this matter to the District Court for sentencing."

He noted submissions, made by Sidaqat's counsel, that their client had been tortured by the Taliban and continued to suffer from mental health issues. Those issues, he said, reinforced his decision to move the matter to the District Court.


Bungling education bureaucracy in NSW again

No wonder they are so prone to secrecy. But this goof was impossible to hide

If the teachers who wrote questions for the HSC were being marked, they would be headed for a fail. This week's chemistry exam is the third to be marred by claims of mistakes.

HSC chemistry text book author Dr Geoffrey Thickett said higher performing students would have been the worst affected of the more than 10,500 students who sat the exam on Wednesday. In one question, students were led to believe that the wrong gas would be produced in a chemical reaction from which they were asked to calculate a volume.

Another gas, ethylene, was referred to in other parts of the paper by its lesser known name of ethene, potentially confusing students. Dr Thickett said using different names for the one gas "indicates poor proof-reading of the exam".

An old term for alcohols was used despite the newer term being used in the past three HSC chemistry papers. Another question on combustion concepts also contained a mistake and relied on what Dr Thickett called a "myth". "I am concerned a paper could come out with so many errors in it," he said yesterday.

Last month a mistake was picked up in the business studies paper after the multiple choice answer section was incorrectly listed a, c, b, d. The towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum were confused in the ancient history paper.

A NSW Board of Studies spokeswoman said that the chemistry paper would be examined. She claimed only university level students would be able to identify the issues. "The board will bring in additional science experts to examine claims of error in yesterday's HSC chemistry paper," a spokeswoman said.

"An initial reaction from the board's science inspector and chemistry chief examiner is the criticisms mostly relate to concepts that only appear in university level study rather than senior secondary."

The use of ethylene and ethene would be "brought to the supervisor of marking's attention".

"The chief examiner and supervisor of marking will be closely monitoring responses to see if any adjustments need to be made to the marking guidelines," she said. "All students will be rewarded for the quality of their answer."


Family slams 'disgusting' public hospital treatment

Although it has a church connection, St. Vincent's is a public hospital

An elderly patient was left in blood-soaked, vomit-stained clothing for two days at St Vincent's Hospital after being admitted last week, according to a family member, who today labelled his treatment "disgusting".

Ron Kenyon, 79, was taken to St Vincent's with head injuries after falling down steps in Geelong on Thursday last week. His stepdaughter, Lisa Llewellyn, said Mr Kenyon was rushed from Geelong Hospital after suffering "a brain bleed and also an external bleed and a number of other injuries" from the fall.

But when Ms Llewellyn and her brother, who both live in Sydney, visited Mr Kenyon on Saturday they were shocked to find him still dressed in filthy clothing. "We drove in that delightful weather you had on Saturday up to St Vincent's (from Geelong). We thought the weather was bad. When we actually reached the hospital and saw the condition that my stepfather was in it became a hell of a lot worse," she told 3AW.

"His trousers had been changed, but he was in the same shirt he had collapsed in ... two-and-half days later. It was blood-soaked. It was vomit-stained. They hadn't bothered to change it."

Ms Llewellyn said when the foul state of the man's clothing was raised with staff "they had two excuses". "One being they didn't want to disturb him. The second being 'We find it easier to do the treatment when he is wearing a gown.' I thought, 'Well, he's currently wearing a shirt. Where's the gown?"'

Compounding the family's concerns was the failure of hospital staff to wash Mr Kenyon, to change the dressings on his wounds and to detect a "pretty bad chest infection," Ms Llewellyn said. "It wasn't until we pointed out that, you know, you could hear the chest rattle at the end of the hallway that they eventually did an X-ray and put him on some antibiotics," she said. "... My mother pointed out yet again that he is prone to chest infections, that he'd just recovered from pneumonia. He was in the throes of a pretty damn serious chest infection."

Ms Llewellyn said the family had lodged a formal complaint with hospital administration.

St Vincent's chief executive officer Professor Patricia O'Rourke issued a statement today saying the hospital was investigating the allegations "as a matter of urgency". "We regret that we have not met the expectations of the family," she said. "Any identified shortcomings in our systems, processes and communication will be addressed immediately. We will provide a response to Mr Kenyon's family by close of business today."


Green mirage is killing our future

Comment by Andrew Bolt

When we will wake up? We’re destroying our future by chasing a green mirage:
South Korea and Taiwan are managing to produce cheaper power than Australia, even though they have to ship the Australian coal that fires their furnaces.

In self-sufficient Australia, households are paying one-third more for electricity than those in Taiwan and South Korea - two of the biggest buyers of Australian coal. Residential power prices in Australia have surged 12.4 per cent in the past year, four times the rate of inflation…

Industrialists yesterday declared that Australia’s surging power prices could rob the manufacturing and mining sectors of their competitive edge…

The Energy Users Association of Australia yesterday claimed power prices were on track to double within five years and triple within a decade as utilities spent billions of dollars on infrastructure, and the federal government forced them to source one-fifth of their supplies from renewable energy by 2020…

Industry analyst Ben Freund, the chief executive of energy price comparison website GoSwitch, ... said Australia had not built any new coal-fired power stations for two decades, despite surging demand from a growing population fond of power-hungry air-conditioning, clothes dryers and flat-screen TVs…

“If demand is increasing, we should just be producing more of it; supply should meet demand as it does for any other commodity and we shouldn’t be seeing these sorts of skyrocketing prices.”

Way to go. We’re pricing ourselves out of the market in part by demanding much more expensive ”green power” - a largely token gesture - and frightening off investment in coal-fired power by threatening an emissions trading system.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

Selling out their craft to the global warming cause

Andrew Bolt

Should journalists report the views of global warming sceptics - even just for balance?

A panel of “top” journalists and journalism academics, as chosen by the University of Technology Sydney’s far Left Centre of “Independent Journalism” and broadcast by the ABC, agree that on the whole the answer is ... no, or rarely. (Listen at the link.)

Naturally, in accord with their commitment to debate, not one person on the panel is a sceptic, or challenges this group think.
The ABC’s Sarah Clarke says she prefers to rely on material given the “all clear” by the IPCC, and praises the ABC and Fairfax papers for having been two “responsible” outlets that have been “objective” on global warming.

Monash University’s Philip Chubb says the debate “doesn’t need to go outside the halls of climate change”.

Warmist academic Anne Henderson-Sellers, who says she sets her students the homework of watching the propagandist An Inconvenient Truth and The Age of Stupid to inform themselves, demands to know why journalists didn’t describe Lord Monckton as a “fruitcake” so her hairdresser wouldn’t be so impressed. Chubb calls him a “clown”.

No one panellist, because of this lack of debate, raises one of the more obvious questions. For instance:

- Where on earth is the evidence that media outlets have given an equal hearing to sceptics? For instance, which sceptical scientist here has got equal media time to Tim Flannery? Which sceptical film maker has received the air time of Al Gore? Which media outlets have backed a sceptical propaganda event as they have Earth Hour? Which media outlets have run sceptical specials as they’ve run specials warning of apocalyptic warning? Where is the sceptic on this very panel?

- How would these journalists justify treating as the “truth”, not to be questioned by outsiders, of statements by the IPCC since proved to be false or highly questionable? Are they to be treated as true until the IPCC admits they are not? Are outsiders who point out their error to be ignored unless the IPCC gives the “all clear” to report them?

- How can journalists justify suppressing a debate when even the leading warmist authority, the IPCC, says the chances of its theories of man-made warming being correct are ”at least a 9 out of ten” - which suggests there’s perhaps a 10 per cent chance they are wrong? Does this mean the media cannot even report the IPCC scientists who doubt? And how can mere journalists justify ignoring the views of sceptics as learned and prominent in their field as, say, Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT? Would these journalists have refused to report the views of Galileo? Of that mere assistant patent examiner Einstein?

- Why does the astonishingly certain and peremptory Henderson-Sellers praise An Inconvenient Truth, and use it as a teaching aide, yet demand the media not report the sceptics who have proved that it is in fact riddled with errors and exaggerations? Why must a warmist as untrained and prone to exaggerate as Al Gore be spared scrutiny?

- How broadly should this restriction on reporting sceptics be applied? Should it also include not reporting them when they point out failed predictions? The vested interests , sheer nuttiness, religious fervor, totalitarian tendency or extraordinary hypocrisy of some warmists? The threat to freedom of some “solutions” the warmists proposed? The extraordinary futility and economic cost of Australia taking the lead on emissions trading, or adopting grand schemes for ”green energy”? Examples of mere alarmism? After all, these are subjects which surely may be discussed intelligently even by those “outside the halls of climate change”.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

5 November, 2010

A forgotten celebration

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason
That gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot

Today is the anniversary of the infamous 1605 plot to blow up the British Houses of Parliament and, with them, King James I of England. Although the assassination attempt was thwarted, it remains one of history’s most commemorated events. Throughout Britain, and in parts of the Commonwealth, the foiling of the plot is celebrated each year on Guy Fawkes Night with effigies of the head terrorist burned on festive bonfires.

But it not celebrated in Queensland any more and I gather that most other Australian States are the same. The excuse? "Safety". Kids do get injured by fireworks etc.

I did myself get a burned hand as a kid on one long-ago Guy Fawkes night. But so what? Living is dangerous. We would ban cars if safety was an unalterable priority.

But whatever its initial rationale, Guy Fawkes day was a great treat for kids: Making the guy, building the bonfire and letting off fireworks. It really saddens me that children have had that great fun day taken away from them by those who fancy themselves as wiser than us. Celebrating the defeat of a terrorist act should be an individual decision, not a government one. As it is, most young Australians now have no knowledge or experience of a Guy Fawkes Night -- JR

What a disgrace! A vicious and cowardly attack that could and should have earned 20 years jail gets only a slap on the wrist

One can only hope that the sentence will be appealed

A man who carried out an attack on an Indian student that caused outrage in Melbourne and India has been spared a jail term today. Judge Meryl Sexton told Shayne Casey Comensoli, 20 his random attack on Indian student Lucky Singh was "quite outrageous" but there was insufficient evidence to conclude it was a "race hate crime".

Sentencing Comensoli the judge said he accepted the victim's account that as he and another man bashed Mr Singh unconscious he called him an "Indian dog" and said "shut up you Indian motherf-----, shut up".

"This attack occurred during a spate of reported offences of violence against men of Indian ethnicity in the western suburbs of Melbourne," Judge Sexton said. "I am satisfied that at the point in time when you were attacking Mr Singh you hated him.

"However it is difficult to be satisfied to the same degree that your offence was wholly or partially motivated by hatred for Indian people in general."

The judge rejected a prosecution argument that Comensoli should be sent to an adult jail and instead ordered he be detained in a youth justice centre for three years. [How come? Anyone over 18 is legally an adult. This guy is 20] But under the youth justice system an offender can be released at any time from the date of sentence.

Judge Sexton said Mr Singh, 23, was set upon at a phone box in Sunshine in October last year by Comensoli and co-accused Lennon Metaxas. Mr Singh was hit 15-20 times to the head and face, and kneed, and as he lay unconscious his attackers searched his clothing and stole a wallet containing $80. Mr Singh suffered fractures to his cheekbone and nose, severe swelling and bruising, and required reconstructive surgery.

Comensoli, formerly of Sunshine, pleaded guilty in the County Court to intentionally causing serious injury, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail and robbery which carries a 15-year maximum. At an earlier hearing Metaxas, 20, was also sent to a youth detention centre for three years.

The judge said in his victim impact statement Mr Singh told of the devastating effects of the bashing. He suffered nightmares, was afraid to go out at night or use public transport and moved house twice.

"The effects of your attack have been felt not just by him, but by his friends, who are foreign students and his family in India," Judge Sexton said. "He says that he thought people in Australia were friendly and welcoming but since his assault his perception has changed."

The judge said Comensoli felt ashamed about his racist comments because he played cricket with a number of men from Sri Lanka and India. "Perhaps if you are faced with such a situation again , you will picture the faces of those men whom you count as friends and think how it would be to savagely beat them as you did Mr Singh," she said.


Onya Derryn!

"I’d rather be treated like a criminal than protect them", says Derryn Hinch. We need more like him. Justice in Australia is a rotting corpse

Getting ready for my appearance before the High Court in Canberra this week I did some eccentric research. I watched The Castle for the first time.

Shame, shame, shame. Hinch addressing the victims of crime rally. Picture: Craig BorrowShame, shame, shame. Hinch addressing the victims of crime rally. Picture: Craig Borrow

And whether your name is Daryl or Derryn it is pretty daunting walking up those steps to the towering glass façade of the High Court building in Canberra. With life imitating art, some of the media gang and camera crews who played extras in The Castle were there again in real life for my High Court battle.

That’s where the similarity ended. The battler fighting to retain his home on the grounds that a man’s home is his castle had a suburban solicitor and a QC played by Bud Tingwell against a couple of high-powered lawyers.

In our case there were 30 lawyers packed along two rows. Only four of them were on my side. The other 26 represented most states of Australia and the Commonwealth.

I was there because, earlier this year, I had the rare privilege of being granted leave to challenge the legality of a Victorian law on the grounds that it was unconstitutional.

We challenged on two grounds:

That through suppression orders, our justice system is not being open and transparent – as justice constitutionally must be in a democracy like ours. I believe that the way some of our laws are being interpreted and enforced by our judges, justice is not being done and not being seen to be done.

And, secondly, that I have been denied my right to ‘political communication’ in a long-running public campaign to have a bad law changed.

It stems from my naming two notorious sex offenders at a victims of crime rally on the steps of Parliament House in Victoria several years ago. Thousands of supporters shouted the names but the DPP chose to prosecute only one. Me. Consequently in the Magistrate’s Court I face five charges which carry maximum penalties of $60,000 in fines and up to five years in jail. If the High Court action fails I go back to the lower court for sentencing only.

In the High Court, before a Full Bench of seven judges, I was opposed by the attorneys-general for New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Commonwealth Solicitor-General.

One state was surprisingly missing. Victoria. The state where I allegedly committed this offence on the steps of their own Parliament.

The irony in all this, is that I applauded when that Government appeared to get tough by announcing they were amending the 2005 Serious Sex Offenders Monitoring Act. It meant the Secretary of the Department of Justice could apply to the County or Supreme Court for a supervision order if a convicted sex offender is assessed as posing a serious risk to the community of re-offending on his release from jail.

And they could then have tabs kept on them under an Extended Supervision Order. Where they could live. If they changed their name or their job. Even be ordered to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.

Nobody mentioned to us that, in return, some of the worst rapists and paedophiles in this country could have their names and addresses and photos suppressed by law. For ever. Even after they die. That they could return to the community incognito and melt back into the community without the public knowing who they are or where they are.

That they could be living next to you, or next to your kids’ school, or your local park. They didn’t trumpet that minor point.

Police Minister Tim Holding said in 2005 ‘The public can be reassured that every precaution is being taken to protect the community against these people.’ And Corrections Minister Bob Cameron said ‘The new scheme will….. result in enhanced community safety.’

Both were speaking rubbish. Dangerous rubbish. These suppression orders are not used to protect the identity of other criminals like murderers, or tax evaders, or drug dealers.They are only invoked for serial sex offenders whom the courts believe are likely to re-offend.

I know what I did, and what several thousand others did, on the steps of Parliament House, was morally right. The High Court will decide if I was legally right. Whatever they decide I am proud of what I did and I am ready for whatever happens.

But I can say, whatever happens, I have won. The issue of public interest and open courts is now being debated in the highest court in the land. Questions are being asked. The door of secrecy and suppression has been prised open. And some light is getting in. Can’t ask for more than that.

I accept that at times there must be restrictions and evidence and names must sometimes be suppressed. But that should be a rarity and not the norm as increasingly, and ominously, seems to be the case.

I have said this many times before—in the 23 years since I went to jail for naming a paedophile priest—but never before has this simple question been so important:

Who’s looking after the children?

Footnote: I only got to the High Court this week because of a legal team that understands the constitutional issues at stake here. They are all working pro bono and have put in months of work on my behalf on a complex and, I believe, nationally important, legal matter. I thank them. David Bennett QC, for ten years the Solicitor-General of Australia, my barrister, Geoff Slater and from HWL Ebsworth Nic Pullen and Andrew Thompson.


Note: There are recent posts on my QANTAS/Jetstar blog and my Queensland Police blog

Australian government not only shelters thug illegals from justice but approves their refugee claims and releases them into the community

Given their behaviour, there is a clear likelihood that the thugs concerned are former Tamil Tiger terrorists

A Perth magistrate says the immigration department "effectively sabotaged" police investigations into a riot by detainees on Christmas Island and allowed key players to escape justice.

Magistrate Stephen Malley on Thursday also criticised federal police as he delivered his verdicts on charges against five Sri Lankan Tamil detainees following the riot at the detention centre on November 21 last year.

He said it was "bizarre" that within 48 hours of the extremely violent confrontation, the immigration department shipped off 40 detainees to the mainland, many of whom were involved in the violence. The actions of the department "effectively sabotaged" investigations into the riot by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Mr Malley said.

The Perth Magistrates Court heard that Afghan detainees were violently set upon by Sri Lankan detainees following a dispute between the two groups. Mr Malley said rioters armed themselves with tree branches, pool cues, mop handles, chairs and parts of soccer goal posts that were dismantled during the violence.

He said that following the riot the immigration department showed "little or no regard whether those they were releasing committed serious or criminal acts". Those more seriously involved were in effect "assisted to evade prosecution", the magistrate said. The department showed "reckless disregard" for the significance of the events and had given limited assistance to the AFP, he said.

Mr Malley also said video interviews conducted by police were "poorly done and in most instances worthless" while photo boards used for identification were inadequate.

He found that staff employed by the firm Serco, charged with running the centre, were "not well trained in the manner in which to deal with these events".

Originally 11 Sri Lankans were put on trial over the riots but six had charges against them dismissed. Mr Malley said the case had been frustrating for the court given the inadequacy of the investigations and the "considerable money" invested in bringing lesser players before the courts.

The magistrate found two of the five Sri Lankans guilty on charges of rioting and weapons possession and another guilty of possessing a weapon. On the rioting charges, Pranavan Sivasubramaniyam and Anburajan Anton were given six-month jail sentences suspended for six months. They and Gnararajah Jesurajah were put on good behaviour bonds of $500 on the weapons possession charges. Anantharajeevan Thangarasha and Kokilakumar Subramanian were found not guilty on the charges against them.

The court heard the riot started in a compound at the detention centre and spread onto the sports oval. Sri Lankans, agitated over an earlier confrontation in which Tamils were injured, gathered and pursued outnumbered Afghans, bashing many of them in a "violent confrontation based on racial lines", Mr Malley found. "The evidence is of a running battle, with Afghanis retreating towards the medical compound chased by the Sri Lankan detainees."

In sentencing, Mr Malley told the convicted men they had allowed their emotions to affect their better judgment. The five Sri Lankans have been granted refugee status but have been kept in detention in Perth pending the result of their trial. They are expected to be released from detention within weeks.


A great day for the ladies

An $18 "horse dress" bought online has upstaged Melbourne's most stylish on the biggest fashion day of the spring racing carnival.

Colour and classic styles, with many women drawing their 1950s and 60s inspiration from the popular TV show Mad Men, were the order of Oaks Day at Flemington.

But Cairns resident Jaydee Paino stole the fashions on the field show - and the $100,000 in prizes - in her first time in the competition. The 25-year-old bought her vintage outfit online for just $18 after typing in "horse dress". When the steeplechase print dress arrived from Nashville, Tennessee, Ms Paino and friend Nigel Vogler took it apart and got to work transforming it into a 1950s style with a full skirt. "I love the whole Mad Men style," Ms Paino said. "I think it's so appropriate for a day at the races."

Supermodel Jerry Hall and daughter Georgia May Jagger, both wearing Vivienne Westwood, were the big celebrity drawcard for Ladies Day. Posing for the cameras, Hall described Australian fashion as "gorgeous". "We just got here but we've got our eyes out. Georgia and I have seen a few that we think are possible contenders."

Over in the Lavazza marquee, former Baywatch babe Carmen Electra was revelling in being "treated like a queen" in Melbourne. "It's fun to see everyone get decked out and dressed to the nines and the men as well," she said.

Irish singer Ronan Keating had such a blast at last year's Melbourne Cup that he opted for his first Oaks Day when he couldn't make it back to Flemington on Tuesday. "I absolutely love it, you guys know how to do it in style," he said.


Prominent Australian Greenie false prophet

Tim Flannery does it again

I’m astonished that people still take this shameless alarmist seriously despite all his dud predictions. The latest example. Tim Flannery in The Sydney Morning Herald, February 12, 2009:
THE day after the great fire burnt through central Victoria, I drove from Sydney to Melbourne. Smoke obscured the horizon, entering my air-conditioned car and carrying with it that distinctive scent so strongly signifying death or, to Aboriginal people, cleansing. It was as if a great cremation had taken place.

I didn’t know then how many people had died in their cars and homes, or while fleeing, but by the time I reached the scorched ground just north of Melbourne, the dreadful news was trickling in. And the trauma will be with us forever.

I was born in Victoria, and over five decades I’ve watched as the state has changed. The long, wet and cold winters that seemed insufferable to me as a boy vanished decades ago, and for the past 12 years a new, drier climate has established itself.

Bureau of Meteorology Monthly Weather Review, Victoria, August this year:
OVER half the state recorded rainfall in the highest 10 per cent of previous totals, with some locations in the western district, specifically Weeaproinah, Cape Otway Lighthouse and Apollo Bay, all highest on record. In fact, Weeaproinah experienced not only their wettest August on record, but also their wettest month on record, with a 628mm soaking.

BOM, Melbourne Metropolitan Area, last month: WETTEST since 1975.


How Australia's main public broadcaster shields the Greens

They are a Green/Left outfit that wouldn't know what a free and fair debate even looked like

The Australian Conservative describes how ABC host Jon Faine shut down an attempt to question a Greens supporter:
Melbourne ABC radio presenter Jon Faine threatened to switch off his guest panellists’ microphones this morning when one of them—IPA executive director John Roskam—tried to press questions on the policies of the Australian Greens.

Faine’s threat came after Roskam tried to question “Rob of Monbulk”, a Greens’ supporter, during the program’s talkback segment.

The caller phoned in to criticise Roskam over the IPA boss’s opposition to trialling drug injection rooms. But when Roskam attempted to ask the caller about the Greens’ policies on euthanasia and carbon taxes, Faine would not let him do so, declaring that he wanted to “move on”.

Roskam said this was an example of why the Greens are enjoying growing electoral support – “no one has ever held them to account"…

When Roskam attempted to question the caller about electricity prices, his co-panellist, former editor of The Monthly, Sally Warhaft, urged the Greens’ supporter not to answer.

Jon Faine said, “And we’re moving on, we’re moving on, we’re moving on, we’re moving on, and we’re moving on. I can turn your microphones off, but it would be a drastic step to do so.”

This report doesn’t even describe just how desperately loaded this “conversation” was. Listen at the link. The Greens-leaning Warhaft was allowed to speak long and uninterrupted by Faine, himself Greens-sympathetic. The Greens caller was allowed to speak at length, even when he falsely accused Roskam of being a liar. But whenever the outnumbered Roskam attempted to speak as the lone voice of the non-Greens majority…

SOURCE (See the original for links)

4 November, 2010

White girl claims to be black

Under Australia's absurd laws, someone with a tiny amount of Aboriginal ancestry can claim to be an Aborigine

A YOUNG Aborigine was "shocked" and "humiliated" to hear she might not look "indigenous" enough for a job promoting the Aboriginal employment initiative GenerationOne, founded by the mining entrepreneur Andrew Forrest.

Tarran Betterridge, 24, a Canberra university student, applied for the post through an ACT company, Epic Promotions, which had been asked to find five people of "indigenous heritage" to staff a stall at Westfield in Canberra handing out flyers for GenerationOne.

Ms Betterridge was interviewed for 20 minutes on October 20 and told she was "perfect". However, the interviewer, Emanuela D'Annibale, said she first had to check with her client, an agency called Let's Launch, because of guidelines specifiying it wanted "indigenous-looking" people for the job. Ms D'Annibale then took Ms Betterridge's photo, but denies forwarding it.

Ms Betterridge's mother is white and her father is a Wiradjuri man from the Dubbo area.

When Ms Betterridge phoned the next day, Ms D'Annibale told her she was not needed as Let's Launch had already found enough casual employees.

Yesterday Ms D'Annibale confirmed working to guidelines that required at least some recruits to "look" indigenous. Ms Betterridge was "lovely", she said, but "if you're promoting Italian pasta, and you put Asians there, how's that going to look? Wouldn't you pick an Italian to promote the Italian pasta?"

She would have liked to hire Ms Betterridge anyway because "she was really nice, she had so much knowledge and background … but the reason we needed at least one person who looked indigenous [was] so that it would be friendlier to indigenous people".

"I wouldn't have picked her for Aboriginal at all … to me she looked like an Aussie girl." She said Ms Betterridge hadn't been hired because the agency didn't need five people.

Ms Betterridge is "shocked a company that wants to increase indigenous employment would question hiring a person because they do not meet the colour standard".

The chief executive of GenerationOne, Tim Gartrell, expressed repugnance at the claims last night. He said he instructed those responsible to apologise, and would no longer use the recruiting contractor's services. "The comment made by a recruiting contractor is completely inappropriate and doesn't reflect the views, practice or ethos of anyone in GenerationOne," he said.

Despite this, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council seized on the episode to attack GenerationOne, accusing it of abetting "staggering" discrimination against Ms Betterridge. "For them to deny an Aboriginal student a job - a real job - because of the colour of her skin shows that GenerationOne is not interested in walking the talk," its chairwoman, Bev Manton, said.

Let's Launch was not available for a formal response last night, but unofficially denied issuing the guidelines quoted by Ms D'Annibale.


Locating housing for "asylum seekers" in a pretty Australian country town unwise

HOUSING asylum seekers in the idyllic South Australian town of Inverbrackie will send the wrong message to people smugglers, Tony Abbott has said.

Mr Abbott was in the Adelaide Hills on Wednesday where residents were angry at the federal government's decision to use empty defence force housing for asylum seeker families. "Just as I look at this facility, it's hard to see that bringing asylum-seeker families to a beautiful, idyllic area like this is going to send anything other than the dead wrong message to people smugglers and their customers," Mr Abbott said. "If anything it is going to add the pull factor."

Mr Abbott also met community representatives, attending a forum at Woodside organised by the Woodside Community Action Group.

His trip followed a visit from Immigration Minister Chris Bowen on Monday who has been criticised for failing to consult with South Australians before announcing 400 asylum seekers would be housed at Inverbrackie.

The Woodside action group said it represented 500 people who had a genuine entitlement to consultation on matters that directly affected their community. The group said it was concerned about the logistics of transporting 400 people in and out of the town on days of extreme fire danger during summer and was also concerned about the impact asylum seekers would have on the local health and education services.

Mr Bowen announced on Monday he had set up a community reference group to consult on the detention centre and appointed a liaison officer.


Hundreds of patients shunted off surgery lists in NSW

Western Sydney hospital managers systematically bumped hundreds of patients off surgical waiting lists, artificially improving the area's performance, a damning external review has found.

The patients were reclassified - after waiting almost a year - as not being available to have their elective surgery, typically a fortnight or less before their operation would have become officially overdue, according to the report by the auditor O'Connor Marsden & Associates.

In a sample of 896 patients moved into the "not ready for care" category - either for medical or personal reasons - not a single instance was adequately documented. The time patients then spent in this category "generally seemed excessive", according to the report, with many people recorded as taking unusually long holidays.

Some waited two years for operations that should be performed within one year, without ever being recorded as overdue, and booking clerks had allegedly been told to remove patients from the waiting list in bulk - in one case because their surgeon was travelling overseas.

The auditor, appointed after the Herald reported hundreds of surgical patients in western Sydney were missing from an area-wide booking register, identified, "a strong culture of influencing waiting list figures".

The investigation was ordered in June by the Sydney West Area Health Service's newly appointed chief executive, Heather Gray.

The chairman of NSW Health's Surgical Services Taskforce, Patrick Cregan, said patients had suffered: "There's people who have got chronic, painful conditions and they've waited longer than they should have."

The auditor recommended NSW Health consider disciplining an unnamed manager implicated in the manipulation.

The opposition health spokeswoman, Jillian Skinner, said waiting list misrepresentation could be a wider problem, and called for a NSW-wide inquiry.

But the Minister for Health, Carmel Tebbutt, said the department was already implementing "external rolling audits across public hospitals to monitor compliance" with waiting list rules.


Government waste in a State that can't even fund its hospitals properly

Watch that space - it costs state $300,000 a month. The state government is losing at least $300,000 a month in potential rent while a 13-storey commercial tower that was bought as part of the axed CBD Metro project remains empty.

The building at 12 Castlereagh Street is still untenanted nine months after the Premier, Kristina Keneally, scrapped the controversial rail line that was to link the central business district with Rozelle.

Commercial property agents estimate that the building could fetch as much as $4 million a year in rent, but all its floors have remained unused since at least February, a potential loss of more than $2.4 million.

The bill for the failed project has continued to rise since the government admitted to having spent more than $400 million on property acquisitions, construction and administration costs.

The Transport Minister, John Robertson, told a budget estimates hearing in September that the final costs of the project would not be known until the end of this year because compensation issues were still to be finalised.

The government paid $93 million in compensation to the construction firms that tendered for the project, but most small business owners have had their claims for compensation rejected.

Mr Robertson has maintained that the Castlereagh Street building is in the process of being leased, but nearby small businesses say they have been crippled since the tower was vacated.

The latest business to fold is the Gallipoli Club's Dugout Bar and Restaurant in Chifley Arcade, which was not bought by the government but is next to the tower and relied heavily on trade from its workforce.

Shop owners in the arcade estimate revenue is down at least 30 per cent and several have indicated that they would not be renewing their leases next year because business was so bad.

Steve Papas, who owns a dry cleaning business in the arcade, said operators received a $50,000 business package from the government but it would do little to help them.

"We can't sell our businesses and we can't reinvest because the project was deferred, not cancelled, so we have no certainty that it won't still go ahead in six months or in 10 years," Mr Papas said. He met Mr Robertson early last month but said the minister was not swayed by their concerns. "The minister was just so cold about it all," Mr Papas said. "Even when I said this was our livelihood, and that people could lose their homes because of this, he showed no compassion."

The opposition treasury spokesman, Mike Baird, said the government continued to throw away money on a failed project that was axed months ago. "There cannot be any greater form of waste than having a building sitting idle that could be earning money for front-line services," Mr Baird said.

A spokesman for Transport NSW said the government was working to move tenants into the building as soon as possible. "Advertisements were placed in October for managing agents to assist in the leasing of the premises," he said. "A number of parties have already shown an interest, including undertaking inspections."


3 November, 2010

Labor Party not Leftist enough, says party honcho

How insistence on fibre broadband (NBN) at great cost to the taxpayer represents "equity, social justice and compassion" quite escapes me. One would have thought that "welfare for the bourgeoisie" would be a better description. And how unilateral Warmist legislation is going to help the worker is a VERY deep mystery. We have a very confused man here, obviously

Labor needs to rebuild and promote its image as a party of equity, social justice and compassion if it is to win votes back from the left and endure the full term in minority government, the Climate Change Minister, Greg Combet, says.

Launching a book in Sydney yesterday entitled All That's Left, Mr Combet said Labor failed during its first term of government "to make sure that people grasped what drives us, what our values are and what differentiates us from both the Coalition and the Greens". "Given this view, Labor must rebuild its standing," he said.

Mr Combet acknowledged speculation about whether the minority government Labor has formed with the Greens and the independents would survive the entire term.

"We will be successful if we govern guided by those enduring Labor values I have outlined, and if we ensure that our values are recognised."

Mr Combet cited the national broadband network [NBN], plans to put a price on carbon, and a boosted super guarantee, partly funded by the mining tax, as illustrative of the values he listed.

Mr Combet said part of the rebuilding strategy was for Labor to wean itself off focus group-driven politics.

Focus groups and internal polling had a role in supporting campaigns and policy development; "however, they cannot have primacy … They simply inform strategy and how to promote policies and win support for them. They cannot compel the party to abandon its values."

Mr Combet said Labor failed to promote many of its achievements in its first term, including stimulating the economy against recession, delivering a long-awaited increase to the pension, replacing Work Choices with the Fair Work Act, the apology to the stolen generation, and withdrawing troops from Iraq.

He said it was the Coalition and the Greens that were responsible for defeating the emissions trading scheme, which was "a very significant reform that would have transformed our economy without hurting equity".

"Nevertheless, we must acknowledge that Labor lost votes to the Left at the federal election. It is clear that some of this vote switching was caused by the deferral of the ETS."

Mr Combet said that "in the end, we must return to the eternal Labor values": "In tough times … you rebuild, drawing upon your core values and beliefs."


Australians want a new election - now

AUSTRALIANS want to go back to the polls - sooner rather than later, a social trends report has found. The report found that a surprising amount of voters have serious concerns about the stability of the new government and are in favour of another election, even if it meant another campaign and more cost to the taxpayer.

Adding to Julia Gillard's woes is the fact that many voters are deeply uncomfortable about how she became Prime Minister.

The Ipsos Mackay Mind and Mood October report, which measures Australian attitudes to a wide range of subjects through extensive group surveys, said that the ousting of Kevin Rudd was still an issue for voters.

The report is based on group discussions conducted in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Bendigo and Townsville in September 2010.

Ipsos Mackay Chief researcher Rebecca Huntley said: "For those who believed Gillard instigated the coup, she was viewed as disloyal and power hungry. "For those who believed she was merely a puppet of the ALP's faceless men, they were disappointed she didn't show greater strength and independence."

Many voters feel uneasy the new government did not win a majority. "The new paradigm of politics was causing new anxieties for many. One major concern voiced was that the situation was too precarious, with even a minor event sending us back to the polls sooner rather than later," the report said. "As one voter put it, 'The sooner something gets sorted out in another election the better. At least we will get something that is definite'," Ms Huntley said.

"Another voter… felt insecure about a government 'elected by only half the population. I know it costs money to go back to the polls but I think we should do it,' she said."

Many of those surveyed seemed to feel Ms Gillard stood for nothing, or very little other than holding onto power.

This is a dramatic shift in opinion from just six months before when the Mind and Mood April survey found consumers held mainly positive attitudes towards the then Deputy Prime Minister. "In our April Mind & Mood, consumers seemed to hold great expectations for Julia Gillard. They saw her claims to the top job as legitimate," Ms Huntley said.

A convincing win at the ballot might have changed the sense of unease about how she became Prime Minister before the election, but Labor's lacklustre result and the drawn out negotiations with the Independents have left voters with political fatigue and an overwhelming desire for politicians to "just get on with it". "Certainly the drawn out reasoning of the Independents and Mr Oakeshott’s famous 17-minute speech had worn their patience thin," Ms Huntley said.

The report said that once the decision on forming government was made, consumers were quick to turn their attentions elsewhere. The overwhelming mood amongst the participants when politics was raised in discussion was anger, cynicism and frustration with the two-party system.

"They have serious problems with the two-party system (specifically the perceived lack of difference between the two major parties) and the apparent inability of our political leaders to think and act long-term for the benefit of the nation," the report said.

While the spectacular success of the Greens and their elevation to centre stage was mentioned by many, the report found more wanted to discuss the role played by the Independents. "Despite the concerns about the sudden power of the Independents, consumers recognised that if you were lucky enough to live in one of their electorates, you were likely to be better looked after by government at least until the next Federal Election."

According to Ms Huntley, the test for the Gillard Government is whether it can disprove criticisms that it is weak and plagued by infighting, and can drive it's own legislative agenda on broadband, a carbon tax and asylum seekers.

"It all amounts to a somewhat tentative hold on power," she said.


Immigration Department apologises for saying church hall not suitable for citizenship ceremonies

THE Immigration Department has apologised to a Queensland Lions Club for telling them a church hall was unsuitable for citizenship ceremonies because it was used for religious activity. The Rosewood Lions Club near Ipswich was stunned to be told the Uniting Church hall was inappropriate – despite being used for the ceremonies for the past nine years.

Club president Greg Tutt said their secretary Di McCrae was informed of the decision at a briefing in Brisbane last month. “At the end of the briefing she was called aside and told the hall was inappropriate because it was used for religious purposes,” Mr Tutt said. “They also gave her a brochure explaining it. It’s on page three.”

He said they were “bemused” more than angry and believed it was “political correctness gone mad”. “We get 100 odd people to the ceremonies and we use that hall because of its size,” Mr Tutt said. “The Lions is a non-religious organisation. We don’t care what religion they come from.”

An Immigration Department spokesman said their policy was not to use religious buildings for citizenship ceremonies, but the Rosewood church hall was “entirely appropriate”.

“A building that sits on land that is owned by a religious group is an appropriate location for citizenship ceremonies as long as its purpose is community-oriented rather than a place of religious activity or worship,” he said.

The spokesman said the department had apologised to the Rosewood Lions Club for any confusion.


Genital surgery massively disfiguring, court hears

A doctor who performed a "massively disfiguring" operation on a patient's genitals told a nurse the woman's husband was dead "so it doesn't matter", a court has heard.

The former gynaecologist, known only as GSR as he cannot be named for legal reasons, is charged with maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm on Carolyn DeWagaeneire during an operation to remove a pre-cancerous lesion in August 2002. Mrs DeWagaeneire was 58 at the time of the operation.

He is also charged with excising Mrs DeWagaeneire's clitoris, an illegal operation for a doctor to perform unless it is necessary for the patient's health.

During the Crown opening in the District Court, Crown prosecutor Margaret Cunneen, SC, told the jury that GSR had "deliberately performed this surgery ... either deliberately to harm her or recklessly without considering her human suffering".

"It didn't need to be such a massively disfiguring operation and he didn't have Mrs DeWagaeneire's consent."

During a consultation with the doctor, Mrs DeWagaeneire was told the operation would be a "simple vulvectomy" involving the removal of a small flap of skin, Ms Cunneen said.

"Mrs DeWagaeneire will tell you that while she was lying on the operating table in the theatre before she was rendered unconscious by anaesthetic the accused came over to her and put his face quite close to her and said to her, 'I'm going to take your clitoris too,' "the jury was told.

Ms Cunneen said that, when a nurse present during the operation had seen the cut GSR was making. she told him she thought it was "fairly radical surgery" and asked why he was taking so much. The doctor allegedly replied, "If I don't take it all, the cancer will spread." He added, "Her husband's dead; it doesn't matter anyway."

His barrister, John Stratton, SC, told the jury Mrs DeWagaeneire's condition was a "time bomb ticking, ready to go off." "He was not trying to mutilate or harm [her]. He was trying to save her life."


Background: "They call him the Butcher of Bega: a NSW doctor who has committed such monstrous acts that hundreds of terrified victims have remained silent for more than five years.

Dr Graeme Stephen Reeves is alleged to have routinely mutilated or sexually abused as many as 500 female patients while he was working as a gynaecologist and obstetrician at various hospitals across Sydney and the NSW south coast.

Despite the NSW Medical Board ruling he had psychiatric problems which "detrimentally affect his mental capacity to practice medicine" more than a decade ago, he managed to continue treating women without detection in a devastating trail of botched operations and negligence.


2 November, 2010

Big day today

For Americans it's the Congressional elections. For Australia it is the "race that stops a nation". I am in a sweep, of course. It's the only thing to do if you know zilch about the neddies. I drew nos. 13 and 17.

Each year on this day, Flemington racecourse becomes the play pit for Australia's most elegant, fashionable and classy. It also witnesses some of Australia's most drunk and disorderly behavior.

And there are some pretty dire scenes to be had. Aside from the girls who stumble out at the end of the day, shoes in hand, and the drunken men who vomit on their best suits — I have two words for you: public toilets.

But despite this, the day is one of buzz and excitement, and unsurprisingly Sydney-siders like to get in on the action: some travel to Melbourne, others kick up their heels in their own backyard.

Each year the restaurants in Sydney's CBD — particularly those in Darling Harbour and along the foreshore — play host to Melbourne Cup banquets, complete with fashion shows, sweeps, celebrity MC's, and best-dressed competitions. It allows Sydney-siders to partake in the carnivalesque mood of the day without having to feign interest in track conditions or jockey's weights. So while metropolitan Melbourne and some other parts of Victoria get a public holiday on Melbourne Cup Day, wealthy Sydney-siders tend to just take one for themselves.

But I suspect that many other Australians would like to see Melbourne Cup Day recognised as a national holiday.

Of course, there will be those who would oppose this suggestion, particularly members of the anti-gambling lobby and of various animal rights groups. And fair enough.

Australia is the poker machine capital of the world, with one in five of the world's poker machines calling this country home. While it is socially acceptable to have a flutter on Melbourne Cup day, it is important to acknowledge that problem gambling is a serious and growing issue.

Similarly, animal rights groups have legitimate concerns about the treatment of horses used in racing, as well as other animals used in other legal and illegal betting "sports" (such as cock fights and dog fights.)

But the Melbourne Cup is not only about gambling and horses. Increasingly many people are partaking in it for the fashion, fizzy and food (at boozy banquets). And as far as national holidays go, I think Melbourne Cup Day could be a winner.

Like Australia Day, it would be a holiday where we could hang out with friends and have a few drinks (but thankfully Southern Cross tattoos would remain covered up). Warring families would not have to spend torturous hours together as they do at Christmas. We wouldn't have to spend frantic days in the lead-up, preparing huge meals and battling late-night shopping crowds. Secular groups (and various religious groups) would not need to conceal their bitterness about being forced to recognise the Christian calendar as they do at Easter. We could sidestep the heated and divisive political debates concerning the invasion of this country (as occurs on Australia Day) and our invasion of other countries (as occurs on ANZAC Day).

This is not to say that these debates are unimportant and or that we should sidestep anything that produces controversy or discomfort. But the point is that almost all of our national holidays alienate at least one group; indigenous groups on Australia Day, immigrants of countries who fought against Australian troops on Anzac Day, Muslims and Jews at Christmas, and even republicans on the Queen's birthday.

While many dismiss such complaints as "political correctness run amok" it would still be nice to have more secular and de-politicised national holidays that could be enjoyed Australia over.

If nothing else, it seems bizarre that on the day of "the race that stops the nation", only one state is actually allowed to stop.


Why those hats?

All the ladies will have their most amazing hats on today

Ask the internet why women wear ridiculous hats to the Melbourne Cup and it will answer, "tradition". Ask a fashion historian and it gets more complicated. England at the turn of the 20th century is one starting point. Under the style-conscious rule of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, Royal Ascot Week was the catwalk of its day, launching outrageous fashions topped by eye-catching hats. Competition was fierce as, writes fashion theorist Michael Carter, hats grew in height and circumference to accommodate "little theatres of ornament". Fields of flora and fauna were popular; if feathers were good, a whole bird was better, until an entire barnyard seemed like a good idea.

But according to historian Claire Hughes, beneath these frivolous confections lay a serious intent. Ascot launched the London "season" and that entailed a different sort of race, one with a successful marriage (or generous benefactor) at the finishing line. In this, the hat - with its age-old connections to status and ceremony - was no casual punter. Made from felt, silk or straw, trimmed with ribbon, feathers or flowers, the ornamental hat symbolises the eternal trifecta of money, power and sex.

Men started it all. Go as far back as you like and you'll find crowns and feathered headdresses proclaiming power and rank. Sex was added at the close of the Middle Ages, when men's headwear developed an erotic edge with the liripipe - a long, padded tail that extended from a hood and trailed suggestively, snake-like down the back. In an attempt to keep up, women wore the hennin, a stiff, pointed steeple, equally suggestive, albeit in another direction.

In the 20th century, such sartorial innuendoes attracted Freud and, in The Interpretation of Dreams, he labelled the hat a phallic symbol. Coming from Freud, this is no surprise. More interesting is the semiotics of individual styles. A broad-brimmed hat may be practical, offering protection from the sun, but in the mid-19th century it was not quite respectable. The German name for this style said it all; worn by spinsters on the hunt for a husband, it was called "the last attempt".

If a dalliance of a less long-term nature is what you're after, then look no further than feathers. These flutter in the merest puff of a breeze, imitating the quiver of orgasmic delight, an effect which, fashion journalist Colin McDowell assures us, arouses in men a certain weakness at the knees. At least this would explain the popularity of the fascinator; perched on heads like a half-plucked bird, I am relieved to find they serve some purpose.

McDowell, who spoke at the Victoria & Albert Museum's symposium on hats, deplores the descent into fancy dress that typifies the average racegoer. For him, the essence of a good hat is flattery, a quality in short supply when excess is the order of the day. For a spot on the evening news, the bizarre beats elegance every time.

There is, however, a way to wear a hat without ending up looking like the victim of some mad milliner's joke. But when the secret lies in calculating the correct alignment between the hat, the hips and the nose to within millimetres, no wonder we so often get it wrong.

Such a state of affairs was once unimaginable. In the days when a woman would as soon walk out the door hatless as naked, a woman's hat was part of her personality. Hats themselves had a vivid and full life. They appeared as characters in novels and films, were proclaimed as surreal pieces of art, had their own magazines and a guaranteed segment in the weekly newsreel.

They could even fight a war. In occupied Paris, French milliners, faced with draconian rationing, created hats from crumpled newspaper, a scrap of tulle or wood-shavings. Such hats, in their stubborn frivolity, signalled a clear sign of resistance to Nazi rule.

Perhaps only in France could milliners have their own patron saint, but not even St Catherine could save them from their eventual fate. By the middle of the 20th century, hats were on their way out and, by the end of the 1960s, fashion pronounced them dead and buried.

This moment in the history of the hat is also part of the history of Melbourne's Spring Carnival, and it produced one of the most iconic images of the era. On Derby Day in 1965 - against a backdrop of gloved, hatted and demurely suited women, and men in top hats and tails - stands British model Jean Shrimpton.

She has the focus of every eye and every camera, not because of her spectacular hat but because of her gloveless hands, her skirt that reaches just above the knees and her hair - long, loose and flowing in the breeze.


Must not build sandcastles on beach???

Surf Life Saving Queensland has thrown its support behind Sunshine Coast life guards, saying that digging holes and building sandcastles between the flags can pose hazards – but only in more extreme cases.

The Daily reported yesterday that children had been asked to fill in their hole and not dig or build sandcastles in the area between the flags.

Brisbane visitor Gary Roberts, told how he and other beach-goers were left gobsmacked on Friday when a life guard asked a young family to move on because they  were  playing  in  the  sand in a patrolled zone.

He said the mother and two young children were doing nothing more than building a small castle between the flags and the life guard’s request was met with disbelief by on-lookers.

Mr Roberts said the case of bureaucracy gone crazy would not affect his decision to holiday in the region in the future, but he worried that it would reflect badly in the eyes of interstate and international travellers.

The story was picked up by media outlets around the country and sparked plenty of debate on the Daily’s website. An online poll found 72% believed building sandcastles was part of Australian culture and should be allowed.

Sunshine Coast council’s manager of life guard services, Scott Braby, said that although the council had no hard and fast rules regarding digging and sandcastle construction, it did have a general policy to move on beachgoers if they were posing a hazard to themselves or others.

Sunshine Coast Surf Life Saving services coordinator Aaron Purchase said SLSQ had a similar policy. “From our point of view it would only come into question if it was a big deep hole that was large enough to pose a risk to public safety,” Mr Purchase said.

He said if it was blocking life guard access or vehicle access or at risk of collapse then lifesavers would exercise their judgment and ask the beachgoer to fill the hole in and continue their activities outside the patrolled area.

“If it is posing a risk of sand collapse then they would need to step in,” Mr Purchase said. “We’ve had incidents of this is the past. A while back a guy was digging in a dune at Sunshine Beach and it collapsed – luckily the guys were able to dig him out and resuscitate him.”

But Mr Purchase said kids having a little dig and building small sandcastles within the flagged area was not a problem.


Australians have the world's largest houses

AUSTRALIANS have the world's largest houses, beating traditional champion the United States, however the cost of renting is similarly expanding. Data commissioned by CommSec shows the Australian house has grown on average by 10 per cent in the past decade to a record high of 214sq m, three times the size of the average British house.

But a second report from BIS Shrapnel has also forecast rents would continue to spiral with a rise of 5 per cent a year in Brisbane between 2010 and 2012 and similar levels in other capitals. It was estimated landlords would pocket an extra $2 billion nationally during the period.

According to CommSec, while the houses are getting bigger, so too are the families with the number of people in each household rising from 2.51 to 2.56, the first such rise in at least 100 years.

NSW has the biggest houses in Australia and by a large margin. The size of the average new house built in NSW in 2008-09 was 262.9sq m, followed by Queensland 253sq m. "The increase in the size of the average family unit may mean that fewer new homes need to be built," CommSec's Craig James said. "It makes sense. Population is rising, as is the cost of housing and the cost of moving house, so we are making greater use of what we've got. "Children are living at home longer with parents and more people are opting for shared accommodation."

Had the number of persons per household remained unchanged, CommSec estimates that 166,000 extra homes would needed to have been built in the 2007-08 year. "If the size of the average household continues to rise, there will be reduced demand for new houses and apartments," Mr James said. "It is questionable whether Aussie homes can, or indeed should, continue to grow. "Generation Y is already baulking at the cost of housing, choosing to stay at home longer with parents."

In Europe Denmark has the biggest homes (houses and flats), with an average floor area of 137sq m, followed by Greece (126sq m), and the Netherlands (115.5sq m). Homes in the UK are the smallest in Europe at 76sq m.


1 November, 2010

A secretive and dishonest education bureaucracy

The NSW Board of Studies risks becoming a law unto itself. Unwilling to take full responsibility for errors, such as last week's mistake in a history exam, it seeks to shoot the messenger. Taking its lead from the state government, the Board has a history of trying to dodge blame and discredit its critics.

The Board dismissed an error it made in an ancient history paper by saying it would have little impact on students. The error related to a multiple choice question worth “only” one mark. As any HSC student will tell you, every mark is crucial when competing for a university place. The error also related to another question worth seven marks - something the Board was slow to acknowledge.

Many teachers and academics are reluctant to publicly criticise the Board, fearing a backlash.

Teachers employed to mark HSC papers at the end of the year make no secret of the generous boost this work provides in their pay packets. The Board consults academics.

Last year, the NSW Ombudsman slammed the Board. The Board was forced to release raw HSC results it spent thousands of dollars trying to keep secret, after the Ombudsman criticised its lack of transparency in how exam results are scaled.

The Ombudsman’s final report was scathing, uncovering a culture of secrecy within the Office of the Board of Studies. It said the Board, under its previous manager, had treated a former HSC student as "the enemy", using "'a defensive and overly fastidious tone and approach" in the crossfire of letters to the student.

The extreme, and often questionable, lengths the Board took to protect the integrity of the HSC marking process from public scrutiny was well documented. The Board advised the student that three sets of documents he requested either did not exist or could not be produced when in fact they did exist and could be produced.
The Board gave the student the false impression that a decision had been reviewed by two different officers, when the same person had reviewed the decision twice.

By the time the Ombudsman’s Office had completed its investigation the Board had spent $51,000 on legal costs.

The Board is well motivated when it comes to ferociously protecting students from any anxiety during the HSC exams. But its protectiveness over students and the integrity of the HSC itself, is being used as a shield against all criticism.

After a report of an HSC timetable glitch – which resulted in students sitting the same examination on two different days - the Board was up in arms during a previous year. The reason being, that the report may have upset students sitting the exams. The timetable had raised legitimate concerns from teachers about the potential for cheating. The Board’s outrage also followed the reporting of a politically volatile Work Choices question in an exam paper. The Board wanted to distance itself from any political controversy in the lead up to the 2007 federal election.

The Board of Studies needs to lose its glass jaw. The Ombudsman’s report made it clear that it should focus more on transparency and less on trying to silence its critics.


Man jailed for calling magistrate 'mate'

"Mate" is a friendly form of address that is characteristic of Australia -- and Australians are in general friendly people. To condemn it is unsufferably pompous and reflects much more poorly on the one condemning it than on the one using it.

CHIEF Magistrate has been urged to introduce anger management courses for members of the judiciary after a man was jailed for addressing an Ipswich magistrate as "mate".

Thomas John Collins was sent to the cells after twice calling Magistrate Matthew McLaughlin "mate'' during a hearing last week. When Magistrate McLaughlin objected ordering Collins to address him as "sir or your honour", the defendant replied "okay mate" and was sent for a stint in the cells. He later returned to the courtroom to apologise.

Ipswich City Councillor Paul Tully said the incident followed another in Toowoomba, where a magistrate hauled two tradesmen before the court for making too much noise, and threatened to charge them with contempt.

Cr Tully said the pomposity of some magistrates had gone too far. "It is getting out of control," he said. He said there was nothing "more Australian than calling someone mate" and it was hard to believe someone could be locked up for using the word.

"It's probably time for magistrates to understand they have a wide variety of people before them and calling someone mate is a term of endearment," Cr Tully said. "I say to every magistrate - Come on mate, get off your high horse and show some tolerance."

He also called on the Chief Magistrate Judge Brendan Butler to introduce annual anger management classes for all Queensland magistrates.


Water bills in Victoria 'to double again'

This is the State that lets dam water flow out to sea as "environmental flows"

THE true costs of Australia's largest desalination plant are becoming clearer, with Melburnians said to be facing another doubling of water bills to pay for the Brumby government's $5.7 billion plant.

Consumers, who have already been slugged with a doubling of bills from 2009 to 2013, face further hikes as Melbourne Water's costs soar, an analysis of Auditor-General figures shows.

In the face of the government's repeated refusals to reveal the bill increases for desalinated water, the opposition has analysed figures in the Auditor-General's October finance report and found that Melbourne Water's costs per kilolitre, or 1000 litres, could increase by up to 130 per cent.

These costs are passed on to the retail water companies - City West Water, South East Water and Yarra Valley Water - which then pass them on to customers.

On average, the retailers pay Melbourne Water 70˘ a kilolitre. But the opposition's figures show that once the desalination plant is operating, it will cost Melbourne Water $1.60 to buy a kilolitre of water.

"These figures show there will be a dramatic rise in Melbourne Water's wholesale costs," Coalition scrutiny of government spokesman David Davis said, warning that the rise could mean a quadrupling of water prices.

"Victorian households should prepare to pay up to $2000 a year in water bills … for the exorbitant mismanaged costs of the desalination plant."

The government yesterday rejected the opposition's claim as "back of the envelope" calculations aimed at scaring Victorians.

"We emphatically reject these grossly exaggerated figures, which do not in any way represent what household water bills will look like in the coming years," said a spokesman for Water Minister Tim Holding.

But the government refused, again, to provide an estimate of water bills after 2013 and would not say if the impact on bills had been modelled.

The new water figures come as the Brumby government faces an election backlash on cost-of-living increases, with power bills also set to rise.

On Friday, the Australian Energy Regulator approved an increase of up to $82 on a $1600 bill from next year. This follows the government's mandatory $1.6 billion smart-meter rollout, which added $68 to bills this year and will add $72 next year.

To calculate the water figures, the opposition has taken the cost of the desalination plant in today's dollars and assumed that the maximum 150 billion litres will be taken from the plant each year.

According to the Auditor-General's figures, the plant will cost, in today's dollars, $5.4 billion for its construction and operation, and a further $1.2 billion if the state buys all the available water, taking the overall cost to $6.6 billion.

But a government spokesman said the opposition's figures were wrong because Melbourne Water's costs only made up half the costs on household water bills. The figures were also based on the state ordering a maximum of 150 billion litres a year from the plant, but the opposition had already said this amount would not be required.

The spokesman added that the opposition's figures were inflated because it ignored the fixed component in bills. The costs would be shared between both the fixed and kilolitre, or volume, charges, which would make the volume charge much lower than the opposition claimed.

Also, households would not bear the costs alone: industry, local councils and businesses, as well as water users in Geelong, South Gippsland and Western Port would also contribute.

In 2009, the government signed a public-private partnership with Aquasure, a consortium of three companies. The government has repeatedly cited commercial-in-confidence as a reason not to release information about payments to the consortium. It has also refused to talk about the impact of water bills after 2013, which are regulated by the Essential Services Commission.

To pay for the desalination plant, north-south pipeline and other works to boost Melbourne's water supply, the commission has approved price rises that will push a typical household bill for South East Water from $566 in 2008-2009 to $894 in 2013. The desalination plant is due to come online at the end of next year.


Labor Party not Leftist enough

The following is by journalists who appear to be sympathetic to the ALP. One fervently hopes that the ALP takes their advice and thus hands Mr Abbott an easy victory next election

THE Labor Party is losing support to the Greens on its left, over the issues of refugees, same-sex marriage and climate change.

According to Newspoll, support for the ALP is running at just 33 per cent, 5 per cent lower than the paltry 38 per cent it notched up at this year's election. Support for the Greens is 14 per cent, a record high for the party.

Is this the end of the ALP as a progressive party? Labor's poor primary vote in August was the lowest with which it has ever won an election. The fact the ALP could get so close to losing office less than three years after turfing out the Coalition indicates the extent of the party's problems. But Labor's support has been trending downwards since Bob Hawke's triumph in 1983 when it won nearly half the primary vote. Clearly Labor's problems have deep roots.

Many current and former Labor supporters say yes, Labor has lost its way as a progressive party on the Left. Graham Maddox, a political theorist and old-style social democrat, looks back to a golden age when the ALP, under Curtin, Chifley and Whitlam, was a moral party, committed to achieving greater equality by limiting the effects of the market.

These governments certainly implemented some policies that generated enthusiastic support from Labor's working-class base. But they also tried to maintain employers' profits. Curtin and Chifley expanded social security but paid for it by taxing low incomes for the first time. Their "wage pegging" regulations pushed down real pay.

More than two decades later, under pressure from a massive wave of strikes, the Whitlam government introduced Medibank and other reform measures, before the economy tanked in 1974. The government then turned on workers, delivering Australia's first cost-cutting monetarist budget and introducing indexation to rein in wages.

A century after Labor first formed a majority federal government and took office in NSW, its supporters see nothing to cheer about. Under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, Labor has gone to the voters with the most right-wing platform in the party's history. Party loyalists looked to the ALP to be better than the hated Howard government, with its WorkChoices legislation, prosecution of the "war on terror" in all its manifestations and attacks on refugees. Instead they have more of the same under Labor.

The Labor Left senses the need to pull the party back from right-wing positions, if only to combat the Greens.

The Left, however, is a shadow of its former self. At its recent national conference, the party's left-wing chiefs called on Gillard to scrap the union-busting Australian Building and Construction Commission and to lift the ban on same-sex marriage. But they have also urged her to press ahead with a price on carbon, which will have a regressive impact on workers' living standards, and backed the government's obsession with returning the budget to surplus by keeping a lid on public spending while so much needs to be fixed in health and education after years of neglect during the Howard era.

The ALP has problems that go beyond votes and the party's ideological soul. In his recent book former NSW Labor minister, Rodney Cavalier pointed to structural degeneration including the decline in active membership and the prevalence of branch stacking.

But equally important is the fact there has been no serious post-mortem of the election debacle within the party and none is likely. Nor has there been any sign of revolt from the branches. The absence of any serious ructions within the ALP tells us how inert its internal life is today.

Clearly Labor has been transformed in many ways and would be unrecognisable to its founders, or even the stalwarts of the 1960s.

But there are important continuities as well: the mainly working-class character of core ALP voters (in contrast with the Greens) and the role unions play in the party.

Kristina Keneally, under union pressure, has resisted Gillard's efforts to water down occupational health and safety laws in NSW. Through the extra-parliamentary Labor Party, unions also prevented the Iemma government in NSW from privatising the electricity industry in 2008. Critics such as Cavalier argue that only 20 per cent of the workforce is unionised and it is time to cut the knot. But that would worsen Labor's situation.

The union connection provides the ALP with votes. Who can doubt that after the Your Rights at Work campaign lifted the party into office in 2007? The union link also lies at the heart of Labor's appeal to capitalists, at times. The ALP can use the union connection to discipline the working class, to cut wages and boost profits, as it did during the Accord years.

So there has been change but a continuity as well, that also applies to the ALP's policy orientation.

Labor has shed much of the statist ideology of the early 20th century. Tariffs are gone. White Australia is history. And the apron strings that tied Australia to the "mother country" were cut long ago. Tariffs have been replaced by National Competition Policy, cuts in company tax and privatisations. White Australia has been recast but racism still underpins the Gillard government's refugee bashing. And ties with London have been replaced by unwavering support for the US alliance.

One hundred years after Labor became a natural party of government, its links with the working class, through its core electoral base and the trade unions, still exist although they are somewhat frayed. This explains the distinction between Labor and the Liberals. The ALP's commitment to the interests of big business is as solid as ever. This, along with the current period of economic uncertainty and low-working-class combativity, accounts for Labor's degeneration as a party of the Left.


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.

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.