Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New Vegemite name smart or stupid?

They say that there is no such thing as bad publicity. If true, the stupid name is in fact a winner. Most Australians feel some ownership of their beloved spread so there is great interest in the matter

IT MUST have seemed like a good idea at the time. But no sooner had Kraft trumpeted the name of its new Vegemite variant, iSnack 2.0, than it was met with almost universal condemnation by customers. On Saturday, the internet bristled with indignation at the name chosen from 48,000 suggestions by Vegemite fans as part of a public relations campaign to name its new cheese-based spread.

But the internet-savvy generation that Kraft sought to court with the new name appears to be turning on it with a savagery not seen since Coca-Cola changed its recipe in 1985 and rebranded it New Coke.

By last night the number of negative comments on Twitter, the microblogging site which has 700,000 Australian users and where consumers have collectively vented their spleen, numbered in the thousands. A website, Names That Are Better Than iSnack 2.0, has also sprung up.

Even Kraft appears to be hesitant to give unqualified support to the name - chosen by a 27-year-old West Australian and announced on Saturday. A spokesman, Simon Talbot, admitted it was polarising consumers but said the negativity was confined mainly to older consumers. Kraft has shipped its 3 millionth jar since the competition's launch in July, he said, so the product was proving more popular than the name.

But he left open the possibility of change. ''I can't say that we are not changing it. All I can say is that we are listening to consumers and, yes, there are some strong feelings towards it. It has taken us by surprise.''

Nick Foley, managing director of the branding agency Landor Associates, said the idea of asking shoppers to come up with a name was excellent but ultimately the name failed. ''They are taking the 'i' that is associated with the iPod and 2.0, which is a term for the web. So what does any of that have to do with a food product?''

Other marketing experts said Kraft was being canny, citing the adage that all publicity is good publicity. Paul Harrison, a lecturer in marketing at Deakin Business School, said the product was gaining valuable awareness and if people liked the product then a ''daggy name'' hardly mattered. ''I remember people questioned what Tim Tam meant when that was launched … it takes time for a brand name to be accepted.''


Political dishonesty in search of the grey vote

Are you appalled by the greedy decision by the state governments to appropriate a quarter of the hard-won $32-a-week age pension increase from singles living in public housing? Do you share the view of the federal minister Jenny Macklin that the states' behaviour is ''totally unacceptable''?

If you do, you probably see yourself as one of the more caring members of society. Sorry, I don't agree. Your sympathy's too selective. If you really cared you'd give the matter a bit more thought and not be such an emotional easy touch. When it comes to ''hard head, soft heart'' you flunk on both.

As for the Rudd Government, its outrage is confected. This isn't compassion for the needy, it's vote-seeking populism. Macklin, who's been expert in this area for decades, should be ashamed of herself.

The minority of needy people who manage to make it into the hugely under-supplied public housing are on a relatively good wicket. Whereas those who don't make it struggle to pay a rent based on what the market will bear, those in public housing are charged an amount geared to their ability to pay. In most states this is 25 per cent of their income, up to a cap at the market rental. How many private renters do you know spending only a quarter of their income on rent? Although virtually everyone in public housing is needy, not all of them are on a pension that's just been increased by $32 a week.

When you demand that those who have received such an increase be exempted from paying higher rent, you're saying they deserve a concession the others don't get. Why? Why should their rent contribution drop to 23 per cent while everyone else pays 25 per cent? Why are single age pensioners more deserving than the unemployed or sole parents?

And what about all the needy people on the waiting list for public housing? By arguing for some public tenants to get a concession, you're leaving the housing authorities with less money to spend on additional housing. Why's that fair?

The knee-jerk reaction against the supposed iniquity of applying a fundamentally generous rule to age pensioners is symptomatic of a deeper problem. The NSW Opposition's Pru Goward accused the State Government of ''attacking the most vulnerable in our community''.

Do you agree with that? It's nonsense - as I'm sure Goward is smart enough to know. People on the age pension are nowhere near being the most vulnerable. That dubious honour goes to Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. After them are the unemployed, sole parents, the disabled and carers of the disabled or frail aged.

Only then come age pensioners - and even among them there are gradations. The great majority who own their own homes are comparatively well-off, those in public housing are next, leaving those in private rental the most needy among the elderly.

But the game we're playing isn't about who's most vulnerable or needy, it's about who we feel most sympathy for. And when it comes to the deserving poor, age pensioners win hands down. They're the most socially acceptable among the needy, the ones most like you and me.

Although like all successful interest groups they feel greatly put upon, the aged are hugely powerful politically. That's because there are so many of them, they have so much time to worry about the deal they're getting - there's something about old age that makes people greedy - and they get so much sympathy from their children and grandchildren.

Every politician understands and panders to the political power of the aged. That's why Kevin Rudd gave them a big pension increase even though it wasn't an election promise, was granted after the budget had plunged into deficit and will be an ever-growing burden on taxpayers for decades to come.

The aged were the backbone of John Howard's electoral support and he threw them bones throughout his time in office, without ever being reckless enough to give them a big, continuing pension increase. The increase was Rudd's attempt to bribe the elderly over to the Labor side.

The proof that this was motivated more by vote-buying than genuine concern for the needy can be found in the fact Rudd was far more generous than the report he commissioned recommended he be.

The Harmer report concluded only single pensioners living alone were greatly in need of an increase to recognise the costs they face. Neither married pensioners nor singles living with others needed a rise. The exception was those, whether married or single, living in private rental accommodation.

The report recommended the single pension be raised from 60 per cent of the married rate to between 64 and 67 per cent. So what did Rudd do? He ignored the recommendation for special assistance to private renters. He ignored the recommendation that the married pension was adequate and awarded a $10 a week increase.

He ignored the finding that singles living with others weren't greatly in need and chose to raise the single pension to a top-of-the-range 66.3 per cent of the married rate. And because he'd unnecessarily increased the married rate this meant the increase in the single rate had to be even bigger.

Sole-parent pensioners were specifically excluded from the increase, as were the unemployed. Harmer was not permitted to inquire into the adequacy of their payments. Because pensions are indexed to average earnings rather than prices, they rise by a per cent or two more each year than the dole does. The latest increase puts the gap between the single age pension and the single dole at $108 a week.

What makes the jobless and sole parents so undeserving? Their lack of political clout. Being either bludgers or immoral, they get little sympathy from the public. And since the voters have no sympathy for them, neither has Saint Kevin, the great social democrat. You may call this compassion. I don't.


Mining magnate attacks 'racist' treatment of Chinese

There could be something in this accusation. The unions have never liked the Chinese (they work too hard) and unions do have weight with a Leftist government

THE nation's fifth-richest man, Clive Palmer, has denounced the federal government's foreign investment rules as racist, claiming they are weighted against Chinese companies seeking to buy into Australian resource projects. The Queensland-based mining magnate warned that Chinese investors would not tolerate "the idea of being discriminated against because of the colour of their skin".

Contrasting an exemption allowing US investors to invest up to $953 million in an Australian business without foreign investment approval with the tight controls applying to the Chinese in the resource sector, Mr Palmer said the absence of a "level playing field" could cause Beijing to spend its estimated $1.8 trillion in cash reserves elsewhere. "We've got the opportunity to grab that if our politicians could only be fair and treat the Chinese people and Chinese government with the dignity they deserve," Mr Palmer said. "Why should the average American, regardless of his education or qualifications, have the right to invest $950m in Australia but the average Chinese person, regardless of how much money he has, is not allowed to invest without our Treasurer saying so?"

His comments, to a business lunch in Brisbane yesterday, come at a time when the standoff over the detention in China of Australian businessman Stern Hu, knockbacks under foreign investment rules of a series of Chinese resource investments and a defence white paper identifying China's military build-up as cause to boost the Australian navy have strained Sino-Australian relations.

Foreign Investment Review Board director Patrick Colmer last week warned Chinese investors to talk to the advisory body first, before signing deals.

Two Chinese government-backed companies, Wugang Australia Resources and China Non-Ferrous Metal Mining Co, have been on the wrong end of recent national interest decisions on resource investments in South Australia and Western Australia respectively.

Australia's ambassador to China, Geoff Raby, yesterday sought to further calm tensions on the eve of the ruling Communist Party's 60th anniversary celebrations tomorrow, saying Australia did not see China as a military threat. "Obviously China's own defence spending is rising very rapidly," Mr Raby said in a rare interview via online video with the China Daily. "We think that is as it should be, given the growth of the Chinese economy and the need for modernisation of the Chinese armed forces. "Our white paper is not about any particular nation, or source of threat, but rather looks at the range of contingencies that the Australian government needs to look at in the next 10 to 20 years."

Mr Raby said the bilateral relationship was "excellent", with Australia and China's leaders meeting "regularly either bilaterally or at the margins of major international conferences". "China is our second-largest trading partner, and there are something like 120,000 Chinese students studying in Australia," he said. "So which ever measure you want to use, it's a very busy, dynamic relationship."

Mr Palmer this week returned from an investment mission to China, where he was drumming up support for his company's $7 billion development in central Queensland's Galilee Basin, combining a giant new coalmine with a purportedly "clean" power station, rail and port upgrades.

The larger-than-life businessman has a personal wealth of $3.42bn, making him Queensland's richest and the fifth-wealthiest nationally. Mr Palmer let fly at Wayne Swan, who is responsible for the Foreign Investment Review Board, referring to the Treasurer as a "goose ... or waterfowl of some description" and warning that he would go to the High Court at the first opportunity if one of his developments was affected.

Mr Swan's office hit back last night with a statement playing up Mr Palmer's financial support for the Liberal National Party in Queensland.


"Tough love" welfare policies work -- as quarantining parent payments cuts indigenous truancy

INDIGENOUS leader Noel Pearson's tough welfare reforms in Cape York, which financially punish the parents of children who repeatedly miss school, have dramatically boosted attendance rates.

A report to be tabled today in Queensland parliament shows that school attendance in one of the nation's most troubled Aboriginal communities, Aurukun, has almost doubled since the introduction last year of the Family Responsibilities Commission in four Cape York communities. The report on the FRC, which links welfare payments to social responsibility, allows a comparison of school attendance in the four Cape York communities that are taking part in the welfare reform trial, one year on from its introduction.

The communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge are all part of the $48million four-year Cape York Welfare Reform Trial, which is being funded by the federal and Queensland governments in partnership with the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership, founded by Mr Pearson. It aims to tackle school attendance, drug and alcohol abuse, health, child safety, economic development and housing.

The FRC is a key plank of the Cape York reform agenda, with a magistrate and respected Aboriginal community members sitting on a commission that has the power to direct that a person's income be managed by Centrelink. The FRC is notified if a person's child is absent from school three times during a term or is not enrolled in school, if a person is the subject of a child safety report or is convicted of an offence in the Magistrates Court, or if someone breaches their tenancy agreement. The project is aimed at restoring social norms through collective responsibility.

Figures contained in today's quarterly report show that school attendance has increased in Aurukun, which had an average attendance rate of 37 per cent 12 months ago and now is achieving an average rate of 63 per cent, while Mossman Gorge rose from 60.9 per cent to 81.6 per cent.

Attendance at schools in Coen and Hope Vale have experienced a slight reduction, with Coen's attendance rate falling from 96.8per cent to 93.6 per cent, and Hope Vale's attendance falling marginally from 87.6 per cent to 86.9 per cent. Those two communities have remarkably high rates of indigenous attendance compared with poor attendance rates in remote schools across the nation.

The Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Desley Boyle, said the commission had been working with local schools, parents and case managers during the first six months of this year to devise ways of getting children to come to school. "I want to applaud all those involved, including parents and community leaders," she said. "As a result of this concerted effort, there are important improvements in school attendance."

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said yesterday research indicated that education and employment made the largest contribution to closing the life expectancy gap. "The latest report from the commission shows a promising upward trend in school attendance, and demonstrates what can be achieved when parents take responsibility for their child's future," she said.

Figures contained in the quarterly report reveal that the commission has been following through vigorously on the punitive aspects of the welfare reform project. Between April and June this year, there were 31 conditional income management orders issued. More than 252 school attendance notices were issued, together with 46 child safety notices, 336 magistrates court notices, and two housing tenancy notices.

Those who are issued with such notices are referred to the FRC, which sits periodically in each of the four Cape York communities. When the FRC receives a referral it typically holds a conference in an informal setting with the notice recipient, who is encouraged to come an agreement with the commission about an appropriate response to the issues that have led to the notice being issued. If the person is unwilling to change their behaviour, the FRC can issue warnings, refer the person to community support services, or order income management.

The FRC is a crucial aspect of the Cape York Institute and governments' efforts to reinforce indigenous community values of respect and responsibility, as well as determining what actions will be taken at a community level to address dysfunctional behaviour.

The federal government has also moved to link school attendance to welfare in certain communities in the NT.

But Mr Pearson's tough model measures to instil social norms have not been popular with all Aboriginal leaders. Indigenous education expert Chris Sarra yesterday slammed government attempts to combat truancy through welfare quarantining as ill-conceived and a waste of taxpayers' money. Dr Sarra said the policies -also being trialled in the NT and scheduled for testing in suburban Brisbane - were ill-conceived because they are based on flawed assumptions. "The assumptions are that parents are actively trying to keep their kids away from school, that parents don't want quality education for their kids, and that schools are the kind of places that are really exciting for every child," Dr Sarra said. "That's simply not the case." Dr Sarra is the executive director of the Queensland University of Technology's Stronger Smarter Institute and is the former principal of Cherbourg primary school.

A fortnight ago, Federal Minister for Families Jenny Macklin and Queensland Premier Anna Bligh announced that a year-long trial would begin in Brisbane's urban southern fringe, which could see parents lose welfare payments if their child was routinely and inexplicably absent from school. The trial will also run in the remote indigenous communities of Doomadgee and Mornington Island and follows a trial in several Northern Territory communities.

The Queensland and Northern Territory trials are separate to the Cape York welfare reform trials.


Muslim stupidity again

And official stupidity in pandering to it. The health and welfare of a patient should always be the first priority of paramedics. Muslim males are incredibly insecure about their women -- a sign of weak character, it seems to me

A PRIVATE ambulance crew who stopped at a major accident where a baby's life was in the balance claim they were abused and ordered to leave the scene. Rian Holden chanced on a Melton crash scene where eight people were injured after their people-carrier flipped on Sunday. He said that he and his partner stopped to help Ambulance Victoria crews, who gladly accepted. Mr Holden said paramedics were struggling to attend to all the injured -- with both a mother and her child in a critical condition.

The private operator, who runs Event Medical Solutions, said he followed instructions of paramedics, helping move the child on to a spine board and administering first aid to others while his partner sat with an injured Muslim woman in traditional dress.

But Mr Holden said problems arose as he took the blood pressure and pulse rate of the injured woman. Ambulance Victoria operations manager Paul Holman had ordered him to leave. "It was in bad taste," Mr Holden said. "We copped a gob full of abuse. It makes you not want to do that in future. "It's all because he has a problem with me. Everyone was helping and we rendered basic first aid."

Other trained medical professionals stopped at the scene, including two nurses, while bystanders sheltered the injured from high winds. As helicopters transported the critically injured mother and child, police were asked to ensure Mr Holden left the site.

Mr Holden has written to Police and Emergency Minister Bob Cameron and to Ambulance Victoria chief executive officer Greg Sassella, demanding an apology. But Ambulance Victoria's Mr Holman said he was only short with the private operator because he had the welfare of patients on his mind. He said one of the injured men was becoming irate that Mr Holden was treating his wife -- that created a culturally sensitive situation. "I don't know him (Mr Holden) at all," Mr Holman said. "These people are Muslim. I asked him to get out of the ambulance, thanked him and asked him to leave.

"I was probably short because I had eight critically ill patients. I wasn't in the mood to have a long conversation. "He was asked to leave politely. And I did get the police to make sure he left." Mr Holman said he was concerned about Mr Holden's credentials but insisted he had not been rude to him.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Google monkey business again

They have blocked me from updating DISSECTING LEFTISM on the pretext that it seems to be a spam blog. Since it has had daily updates since July 2002, they must have moronic algorithms to think so. Even more moronic is the fact that they have not blocked the large font version of the blog, which has identical content and is also updated daily. I have applied for a review of the block so I hope the block is lifted soon. I am not due to post there again until roughly 12 hours from now

Only NSW is set to use the best method of teaching kids how to read

The amazing defiance by teachers of all the research evidence shows how deeply they are involved with the most destructive elements of the Left: Simplistic theories must triumph, no matter how much havoc they cause. And the havoc wreaked on literacy has been extreme, with many kids years behind where they could be in reading ability.

FOUR years after the national inquiry into teaching reading, one Australian government has finally embraced the key recommendation that children be taught the sounds that make up words as an essential first step in learning to read. The NSW government has released literacy teaching guides incorporating the latest research evidence on the best way to teach reading. The guides mandate that children from the first years of school be explicitly taught the sounds of letters and how to blend and manipulate sounds to form words in daily 10 to 20-minute sessions.

The guides set out key principles for teachers to follow in reading instruction, stipulating that phonics need to be taught to a level where children can automatically recall the knowledge. They also debunk "common myths" about phonics that "have almost become accepted as truths", including that "phonics knowledge is caught, not taught" or that having a sound of the week is an effective way of teaching. Devised in response to the 2005 national review on teaching reading, the NSW guidelines were yesterday lauded as the benchmark for the rest of the country.

A bitter debate has raged for the past three decades over the teaching of reading, with the proponents of phonics pitted against those favouring the "whole language" method, which emphasises other skills instead of sounding words.

Whole language advocates encourage students faced with an unfamiliar word to look at the other words in the sentence, the picture on the page or the shape of the letters rather than by "sounding out" the word. The national review, released after an inquiry led by the late educational researcher Ken Rowe, was one of three large international studies in the past decade to examine all the evidence about teaching reading, including an earlier US report and Britain's Rose report, completed in 2006.

All three reviews concluded the same thing, that teaching children phonics and how to blend sounds to make words was a necessary first step in learning to read, but not the only skill required.

The Australian inquiry was prompted by a letter from reading researchers and cognitive psychologists, many based at Macquarie University, concerned about the state of literacy teaching in the nation. One of the signatories to the letter, Macquarie University professor Max Coltheart, yesterday said the NSW guides were entirely consistent with the recommendations of the reading inquiry and that "Ken Rowe would have been delighted". Professor Coltheart called on the other states and territories to follow NSW's lead.

Jim Rose, author of the British report and now reviewing the English primary curriculum for the British government, praised the NSW guides for "establishing the essential importance of phonics". "It provides some firm guidance for principals and teachers rather than leaving them to reinvent reading instruction, school by school," Sir Jim said.

The assistant principal and kindergarten teacher at Miranda Public School in Sydney's south, Susan Orlovich, has already started using the guides in teaching her students. "For the first time, we have really clear materials and guidelines for setting up an early literacy program that's integrated and balanced but ensures we also teach phonics and phonemic awareness explicitly and systematically," she said. Ms Orlovich said the guides had struck the right balance between teaching the skills necessary to sound out words and decode the alphabet, and comprehension with students being able to write their own words. They also gave teachers strategies for students at different stages in recognition that some already understand the phonemic basis of language.

"Some kids can learn with whole language, and make those connections and do phonemic substitution, so if they know how to write 'look', they can write 'book'," she said. "Some kids are able to make that substitution without being taught, but for other students, you need to teach them explicitly, make it visual for them."

In an interview with The Australian during a visit to Australia last week, Sir Jim said the simple view of reading was that it had two dimensions, comprehension and word recognition. While teaching sounds is often denigrated by the whole language side of the reading debate as a decoding skill unnecessary to be able to read, Sir Jim said it was essential children knew how the alphabet worked and that it was a code to be understood. "It's not just barking at print, although that is a stage you go through," he said.

Professor Coltheart, said he understood the new national English curriculum being written would include extensive material on the teaching of phonics in the early years of school, including phonemic awareness in the first year. "This alignment between the national curriculum and the NSW guides for teachers is going to be of enormous benefit for the state's young children. I hope other states will be following in NSW's footsteps," he said.

Sir Jim said the reading debate was a false dichotomy and the two sides had more in common than the extremists were prepared to recognise. "A picture has emerged from the research that is overwhelmingly clear; I can't see any conflict, they're closer than they admit," he said. "I don't understand why they can't accept good evidence that would enrich both sides."

The NSW Education Department has produced two guides, one focused specifically on phonics and a companion guide on phonemic awareness, or the ability to hear and manipulate the sounds that make up words. In response to the myth that phonics knowledge is "caught, not taught", the guide says letter-sound correspondences are arbitrary and therefore difficult to discover without explicit teaching. "Left to chance or inference alone, many students would acquire phonics knowledge too slowly or fail to learn it at all," it says.

Another myth debunked is that teaching phonics impedes student comprehension by having them rely too much on "decoding" rather than "reading for meaning", resulting in students "barking at print" without understanding what they're reading. "Effective phonics teaching supports students to readily recognise and produce familiar words accurately and effortlessly and to identify and produce words that are new to them. Developing automatic word recognition will support and enhance students' comprehension skills," the guide says.


More regulation of banks will hit small business

OPPOSITION treasury spokesman Joe Hockey warns further tightening of Australian bank lending will place an undue burden on small business. At the Group of 20 summit's conclusion last week, the world's leading developed and developing nations agreed to improve the quantity and quality of bank capital and "discourage excessive leverage".

Mr Hockey said he was keen to see more detail from the G20 forum on capital adequacy requirements, the ratio of a bank's capital to its risk, and what impact they would have on Australian financial institutions.

"Already you are seeing the Australian banks run a very tight line with small business," he told ABC TV on Sunday. "If there is additional capital needed by those banks, and if it does mean that the banks will tighten up on their lending practices, it will be much more difficult for small business to get money."

Mr Hockey called on the Federal Government to establish a securitisation market in Australia that would provide alternative funding to smaller financial institutions. "My concern at the moment is that there is a lack of competition between the major banks and other financial institutions," he said. "This is a looming issue, a very real issue for small business, a very real issue for home borrowers. "The lack of competition in banking is a problem and the Government doesn't want to do anything about it."



Three current articles grouped below

Lots of climate skeptics among Australia's conservatives

(Reminder for readers outside Australia: The Liberal party is Australia's major conservative party)

Only 12 members of Malcolm Turnbull's backbench support their leader's plan to negotiate with Labor on an emissions scheme. [And the National Party is SOLIDLY opposed]

The opposition's emissions trading spokesman says he's not surprised two-thirds of Liberal backbenchers are opposed to negotiating with Labor over its carbon pollution reduction scheme. But Ian Macfarlane insists the alternative is to let Kevin Rudd force a "crazy" scheme on Australia that could destroy the economy. It's been revealed more than two-thirds of Liberal backbenchers disagree with Malcolm Turnbull's plan to negotiate amendments with the government on its ETS.

Just 12 of 59 federal Liberal MPs support Mr Turnbull's decision to negotiate, The Australian reports. Another 41 want the opposition to either oppose the draft laws completely or negotiate amendments only if a parliamentary vote is delayed until after global climate change talks in December.

"It is obvious to everyone on our side of politics that this is an emissions trading scheme, in its current form, that will cost jobs and will see industry close and move overseas," Mr Macfarlane told ABC Radio. "On that basis, I'm not surprised to see such strong opposition from the backbench." But while everyone in the coalition would prefer the legislation not to come before parliament until after Copenhagen, the prime minister was vowing to rush "headlong into this" so the coalition had to negotiate.

"I'm being pragmatic and I'm being open with everybody," Mr Macfarlane said. "The reality is we do not control the parliament. Control of the parliament lies with the prime minister (and) he is on this crazy path that will potentially destroy Australia's economy. "Without being able to stop him we need to ensure that the legislation that goes forward is in fact legislation that will protect jobs ... and industry." Mr Macfarlane admitted the partyroom would have the final say, but stressed the best option was to amend the legislation "if Kevin Rudd won't see sense".


Victoria celebrates as September's rainfall hits highest level since 2000

A teeth-grinder for the Greenies and their claim that drought proves global warming. Only disaster makes them happy

FARMERS are rejoicing in the best September rainfall for nine years, which could have far-reaching benefits for the Victorian economy. The Wimmera and Mallee in particular have had significant falls, providing a much-needed boost for local farmers. "A lot of people who would have been questioning their future have had their faith restored," said Farmers Federation president Andrew Broad. "It is pretty much the best start to spring we could have hoped for."

At the weekend, many parts of the state gained more than 100mm [4 inches] in 72 hours. The wettest area is Mt Baw Baw, which has received 357mm of rain this month.

And it is also good news in Melbourne as well, with the city's catchments boasting an increase of 17 billion litres. Water storages for the capital have risen from 30.8 to 31.7 per cent. But while Victoria celebrates, parts of southern NSW are still up to 20 per cent below their average for the month.


Coal firms' advertisements hit emissions plan

COALMINING companies have rolled out a multi-million-dollar advertising campaign in key mining areas warning that the Rudd government's emissions trading scheme could force pit closures and job losses. The campaign - designed by Neil Lawrence, creator of the "Kevin 07" advertising blitz that helped put Labor into office - was launched yesterday by Australian Coal Association executive director Ralph Hillman. The "Let's Cut Emissions, not Jobs" campaign began in central Queensland, which includes the key Labor-held seats of Flynn, Capricornia and Dawson, and will be rolled out in other major coalmining areas such as the Hunter Valley in NSW.

Mr Hillman said Canberra's proposed carbon reduction scheme was flawed in its treatment of coal. "The proposed plan would not cut carbon emissions while costing regional Queensland thousands of coal industry jobs," he said.

The advertisements were launched as Anglo-American chief executive Cynthia Carroll warned the ETS could cost Australia's coal industry $14 billion in its first 10 years of operation. The ads, to run on regional TV, radio and newspapers, say: "A new tax on coal mines is coming. Many thousands of regional jobs could be going."

But Assistant Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said Treasury modelling showed the coal industry would continue to grow under the government's scheme. He said only about 12 per cent of Australian coalmines would face a "material" cost under Canberra's plan, and they had been allocated $750 million in targeted assistance over the first five years of the scheme.

Mr Hillman said the coal industry accepted the science of global warming and supported action to cut carbon in the atmosphere. He said the campaign - revealed last week by The Australian - was being run because coalmining communities had not been properly warned of the effects on regional areas of the scheme in its current form. "People need to understand mines will close and thousands of jobs could go as a direct result of the proposed tax," he said. "Even more frustrating is the reality that global carbon emissions will not be reduced."


Monday, September 28, 2009

The usual rush to shriek "racism"

It is only racist that blacks get more severe treatment from the legal system if you assume that blacks are just like us only browner. And anybody who knows the first thing about Aborigines knows that not to be so. Even advocates for Aborigines don't say that and governments from both sides of politics have treated Aborigines differently -- and continue to do so. And a major reason for that is the extraordinarily high rate of child abuse and domestic violence among Aborigines -- something that has often been documented and is denied by no-one involved with Aborigines. I have seen quite amazing examples of Aborigine misogyny with my own eyes.

The different treatment of Aborigines can be explained in many ways without invoking racism. For a start, their much lower IQ will often mean that they present poorly in court -- giving little impression of penitence or hope for reform. Secondly, the extraordinarily lenient sentences handed out when tribal custom can be invoked in some way (try 6 month's jail for raping a 13 year-old, for instance) suggests that the justice system leans over backwards to be lenient, with the result that an Aborigine will sometimes be charged with a much lower level of offence than the crime warrants. And the sentence in such cases might well be expected to be more severe that the norm for that category of offence. It is in fact that which would be my immediate explanation for the statistics below

POLICE across Australia are far more likely to arrest young Aborigines and see that they go to court than non-indigenous juveniles, who are considerably more likely to be let off with a warning or caution. A groundbreaking study by the Australian Institute of Criminology to be published today paints a disturbing picture of young Aborigines' contact with police.

It may go some way to explaining why indigenous 10 to 17-year-olds are 28 times more likely to be in detention than non-indigenous youths.

Pulling together for the first time comparative national data on young people's contact with police and the courts, the AIC report reveals the differential treatment of indigenous children doesn't stop at the front gate of the juvenile justice system. In at least two states, Western Australia and South Australia, young Aborigines are more likely to be convicted in children's courts than non-indigenous juveniles for the same type of offences, the report shows. No other states provided data on conviction rates.

In Western Australia, the one state that issued statistics on sentencing, young Aborigines are more than twice as likely as non-indigenous juveniles to be given a jail term after being found guilty.

The AIC study, "Juveniles' contact with the criminal justice system in Australia", finds that in NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, police are more likely to arrest and refer to court young Aborigines, compared with non-indigenous youths. Information from Victoria and Tasmania was not available.

"(In NSW in 2007-08), 48 per cent of indigenous juveniles were transferred to court, compared to 21 per cent of non-indigenous juveniles," the report says. "And 32 per cent of non-indigenous juveniles receive warnings compared with 18 per cent of indigenous juveniles. "(In Queensland in 2006-07), indigenous juveniles were more likely to be processed by way of arrest (39 per cent) than any other method, while non-indigenous juveniles were more likely to be dealt with via a caution (49 per cent) than any other method of processing." In Western Australia, where half of all juveniles arrested are Aboriginal, 71 per cent of the cautions issued in 2005 were to non-indigenous youths, 29 per cent to Aboriginal juveniles.


Penny-pinching government healthcare system refuses to save seriously ill young woman

Forcing her into expensive but successful private treatment. In their "kind" socialist hearts, they condemned her to death. Now they are in coverup mode and refusing to admit error -- even though she is living proof of their wrong call

THE Department of Human Services has been accused of abandoning a Victorian woman with a brain lesion who survived only because of life-saving surgery interstate. Victorian medicos ruled her condition was inoperable and the DHS has refused to pay $300,000 for the surgery in a private NSW hospital.

Alicia Withington was sent home to die, but the 30-year-old is living proof the Victorian system failed her.

In another twist, the state Opposition has accused the department of hiding documents relating to Health Minister Daniel Andrews' decision not to fund her operation. Details of the case come after a string of controversies involving the DHS, including:

REVELATIONS vulnerable women in state-monitored care homes were trading sex for cigarettes, or being raped.

CLAIMS the DHS was aware of violence in the home of a toddler six months before she died after an assault by her father.

SHOCK details of a man fathering four children with his daughter who he used as a sex slave for 30 years.

Mrs Withington said Victoria's top neurosurgeons refused to operate on her arteriovenous malformations (AVM) - a tangled mass of abnormal blood vessels 12.5cm long in the right side of her brain. "I had a ticking time bomb in my head about to explode and I was told it was too risky to operate," she said. "I feel I was sent home to die at the age of 27."

But Mrs Withington, now 30, who runs a cafe in Ocean Grove with husband Daniel, sought a second opinion. Sydney specialist Prof Michael Morgan agreed it was risky, but operated in March 2008. "No one should have ever said my AVM was inoperable, because here I am today walking, talking and very much alive," Mrs Withington said.

Mrs Withington and other family members have taken out second mortgages on their homes to pay the bill. "The Health Minister, Daniel Andrews, refused to pay it because he said I had gone through the private system in NSW," she said. "It's not like I went to another country." She says the Victorian Government should have funded the operation because it should have recognised it could be successful.

Opposition community services spokeswoman Mary Wooldridge has taken up Mrs Withington's cause, applying under Freedom of Information for documents held by Daniel Andrews and DHS. Officials told her there were no documents held by Mr Andrews' office on Mrs Withington, in correspondence seen by the Sunday Herald Sun. But in a letter obtained by the paper, Mr Andrews discusses with a Labor MP why the Government would not fund Mrs Withington's treatment. A tribunal has ordered the department to answer requests for information.

A spokesman for Mr Andrews said: "It would not be appropriate for the Government to selectively fund private treatments." He said the minister's letter discussing Mrs Withington's plight was not in Mr Andrews' office, but held by the DHS.


Solar Energy Hits the Dust

Dust on a solar panel will reduce its efficiency by up to 50%. See here

The Day Solar Energy disappeared in the Australian Dust Storm (23/9/09). This picture was taken from the office of the Carbon Sense Coalition in south eastern Queensland, Australia.

The green coalition in Canberra recently decreed that by 2020, just a decade away, Australia must produce 20% of its power using feeble energy sources such as sunbeams and sea breezes. This Green Plan will require vast areas of dry and dusty Australian deserts to be covered by solar panels.

Have they allowed for the army of cleaning persons and the Murray Rivers of water that will be needed to wash the panels after every dust storm? Maybe this where the Green jobs are coming from, and why Penny Wong is hoarding water permits?


And still they come

More responses to Mr Rudd's welcome mat

TWO more boatloads of suspected asylum seekers have been intercepted by authorities in waters off Australia's northwest coast. Border Protection intercepted a vessel approximately 93 nautical miles northwest of Darwin just after 4pm on Sunday. It was carrying 12 passengers.

About an hour later another boat carrying an estimated 28 passengers and four crew was intercepted seven nautical miles north of Ashmore Reef. All on board the boats are on their way to Christmas Island for security, identity and health checks.

Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor said people smuggling was a worldwide problem and Australia was committed to working closely with its neighbours to address the issue. "Situations around the world mean that large numbers of displaced people are looking for settlement in stable, democratic nations such as Australia," he said in a statement. Such people can "fall prey to people smugglers", he added. "People smuggling is not just an issue for Australia - it is a global and regional problem," he said.

Mr O'Connor maintained recent meetings with government officials in Indonesia and Malaysia "had led to positive steps forward in bilateral and regional cooperation to deter people smuggling".

More than 1,400 people have arrived on 28 unauthorised vessels so far this year.

The opposition wants an inquiry into border protection and believes the increase in boat arrivals is leaving security at sea and airports exposed as customs assets are deployed to the north in increasing numbers.


Even Victoria is now making nonsense of the Greenie "drought" panic

ONCE parched creeks are now flowing across Victoria as reservoirs fill from days of heavy rain and snow after days of wild weather. The weather bureau has issued a string of flood and flood-watch warnings after deluges in some areas, with up to 175mm of snow and rain at Mt Baw Baw in Victoria’s high country over the past week.

There are minor flood warnings for the Goulburn River, Macalister River, Westernport catchments. Flood watches have been issued for the La Trobe, Thomson and Avon catchments. And initial minor flood warnings have been issued for the La Trobe, Moe and the upper Yarra river.

Ski operators, farmers and gardeners are among those who have welcomed the much-needed spring rains, which are now drifting east of the state....

Senior forecaster Peter Newham said today there would be a “significant improvement to the weather in the next 24 hours” after nearly a week of rain, although the climate was still “pretty miserable" in the city, with showers in the east and Gippsland region. Forecasters now expect a weak front to pass through the state on Wednesday, bringing the potential for showers.

Mr Newham did not expect the falls to be significant compared with the past week of rain, which also saw heavy falls at Monbulk (132mm) and Marysville (122mm). He said the significant falls had seen most catchments receive 50-150mm of rain, with the reservoirs set to rise gradually as water flowed into them from burgeoning streams. Water catchments are finally seeing some rain soak in, and inflows to dams are picking up to push our storages to 31.3 per cent full....

Spring snow has been falling thick and fast on our ski slopes, with such good cover some operators are staying open an extra week for school holiday fun. There have been falls all across the state. Mt Baw Baw and Mt Buller have been belted with rain, with Mt Baw Baw copping more than 80mm since Friday.

Ski resort owners are rubbing their hands as some of the best falls of the season hit the slopes. Mt Buller and Falls Creek have decided to extend their seasons. Mt Buller spokeswoman Rhylla Morgan said almost 60cm of snow had fallen during the weekend, providing excellent cover. "We were pretty much out of snow and were going to close but I was out today and snow was up to my thighs,'' Ms Morgan said.

Deb Howie, from Falls Creek, said a variety of beginner and intermediate lifts would remain open this week. "It's been an amazing season, we have had almost 35cm this weekend,'' Ms Howie said.

Wet weather looks set to continue throughout parts of the state. Forecaster Dennis Luke said the east of the state would get some good falls at the end of the week.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Death panels coming to Australia

Courtesy of a Leftist government, of course: The same folk who brought you eugenics in the first half of the 20th century. This already happens in England and is much feared by opponents of ObamaCare -- after evil Ezekiel proposed such measures

DYING cancer patients could be weaned off taxpayer-funded drugs as the Federal Government is confronted with spiralling health costs. Health Minister Nicola Roxon wants debate about the moral challenge as the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee plans trials to determine when costly drugs become ineffective and should no longer be dispensed.

Talks between the PBAC and oncologists are part of a broader debate on how taxpayer money could be better spent, as doctors brace themselves for a rising tide of cancer patients, an ageing population and growing health expenses.

Ms Roxon is also believed to be talking to doctors and pharmacists about diverting patients to some cheaper generic drugs. It could spark greater competition and save the Government millions of dollars. [But see here]

Ms Roxon argues that relief from cancer drugs in the last months of life should not be underestimated, but says some are not cure-alls. "Would the community support looking at mechanisms to better control the use of these medicines so that they are only used when the evidence shows they are truly effective, balanced by greater investment in palliative care, so we can better meet the needs and preferences of patients at the end of life?" The question recently put to doctors in Sydney comes as PBAC chairman Lloyd Sansom stressed that moves to keep the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme sustainable would not impeach or impair patient safety. The PBS costs taxpayers $8 billion a year for more than 3500 subsidised medicines.

Prof Sansom said more information was needed. "We need trials to be done ... to address any advantages in continuing with drugs when the patient (cancer) has progressed. If there is any benefit," he said.

The Australian Medical Association vice-president Steve Hambleton said the issue was sensitive and some doctors had trouble saying "no" to patients. "If you're on your last legs, there's no point in having expensive chemotherapy if there's no clinical benefits," Dr Hambleton said.

But apart from cancer drugs - which can cost taxpayers up to $50,000 a patient - Ms Roxon is asking why doctors dispense expensive, subsidised drugs to patients when cheaper generics are prescribed.

Ms Roxon told The Courier-Mail yesterday the Government had to be smarter in how health dollars were allocated. "The current pharmacy agreement negotiations are very important," she said.


Disgraceful government treatment of military widows

SIX months after her husband was killed fighting in Afghanistan, Breeanna Till is broke - let down by the government that promised solemnly to look after her. Heavily pregnant with the child Sergeant Brett Till will never know, the Sydney widow fears becoming like "a single mum on the dole" when she gives birth in a few weeks, the Sunday Telegraph reports.

The $905 weekly pay her husband brought home lasted just a fortnight after he died in a roadside bomb explosion. In its place, the military gave Mrs Till a compensation payment of just $305 a week.

Sgt Till, 31, was a much-respected explosive ordnance disposal technician from the Incident Response Regiment, stationed at Holsworthy. On March 19, he was with a group of soldiers conducting "route clearance" work in southern Afghanistan when an improvised explosive device was found.

Mrs Till, who looks after Jacob, 10, and Taleah, 7, Sgt Till's children from a previous marriage, is employed as an school art teacher but will soon receive her final pay cheque as she goes on maternity leave. Last week, she broke down in tears as she told a Department of Veterans' Affairs review panel of her plight at a public meeting in Sydney. "What the DVA are offering the family of a man who died in the service of his country is the same as if I was on the dole as a single mum," she said. "It's disappointing... The public opinion is if a guy is killed overseas, his family will be looked after."

Defence Force head Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said Sgt Till was "highly skilled and very courageous". "I can think of no more admirable action, nor one more worthy of our gratitude and respect, than that of this fine soldier today," he said at the time. "To the family, I say that our thoughts and prayers - my thoughts and prayers - are with you. I'll ensure you're supported through your time of grief." In a condolence speech to Parliament, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd offered the Till family "profound sympathy".

Mrs Till said it had been "difficult" to deal with the issue. "Obviously, I've had to deal with Brett's death itself, but when he died we got the rest of that fortnight's pay, one extra fortnight's payment, then it stopped. "Fortunately, I've been at work still, but the difference between Brett's pay and the compensation is vast."

She said the Department of Veterans' Affairs had also given her a choice of whether to receive a pension or a lump sum. "It's like having to choose whether to house the family or feed them. The lump sum won't pay for a house, the pension won't pay the rent and bills."

The Federal Government is reviewing the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act after a series of complaints by former servicemen.


Homosexuals want to impose themselves on churches

Laws that are already oppressive are not oppressive enough for queers

GAY rights advocates have criticised slated changes to Victoria's equal opportunity laws that will continue to allow religious organisations to discriminate against gays and single parents.

State Attorney-General Rob Hulls said a new Equal Opportunity Bill will be introduced into parliament next year. Under the changes, religious groups will no longer be able to discriminate on the grounds of race, disability, age, physical features, political belief or breastfeeding. But they can continue to discriminate on grounds including sexuality or marital status if it is in accordance with their beliefs.

Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome says the right to employment and education is more important than pandering to religious prejudice. "Too often this issue is seen as gay rights versus religious freedom when, in fact, it is about the right to a job you're qualified for, to attend the school of your choosing and to receive essential services," he said.

Australian Christian Lobby director Rob Ward said some of the options canvassed as part of a review of exemptions to the Equal Opportunity Act, had they been implemented, would have had serious repercussions for churches, religious schools and church-related organisations. "Faith-based groups throughout Victoria have been united in their strong concern about a number of the options being looked at as they would have undermined the very core of these bodies by preventing them from upholding their beliefs in terms of who they employ and, therefore, how they operate," he said. "It is good to see the Victorian Government respecting those concerns and the basic right to religious freedom in this state."

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission chief executive Helen Szoke said the proposed revamp of the law was a positive step towards a better balance between religious freedom and anti-discrimination. She said she was pleased religious bodies would soon have to demonstrate how employing someone of a particular religion is an inherent requirement of a job. "Religious schools or religious charities, for example, will have to show how belonging to a particular religion is relevant to the job they are trying to fill," Dr Szoke said. "In the case of religious education teachers or chaplains, this will be clear. However, in the case of office staff or the maths teacher it will need to be made explicit how religion is relevant to the job."


More news about the "drought"

Greenies told us solemnly and at length that recent water shortages in some parts of Australia signalled global warming. Does the news below then signal global cooling?

BILLIONS of litres of water are being released out to sea as Adelaide's largest reservoir nears capacity following torrential rain - with more on the way this weekend. SA Water this morning started releasing water from the Mt Bold Reservoir for the first time in almost four years as heavy rain pushed storage levels in Adelaide’s metropolitan reservoirs to 84 per cent.

SA Water spokeswoman Courtney Blacker said an estimated three billion litres could be diverted from Mt Bold dam, along the Onkaparinga River and out to sea by the end of the day. Happy Valley reservoir, which usually takes excess water from Mt Bold, is also close to capacity meaning water must be diverted into the Gulf.

"In the past four days there has been too much water which is a good thing to say,’’ Ms Blacker said. "It’s been 2005 since it (Mt Bold) has been flooded and it’s exciting to see the reservoirs getting full and we haven’t had to pump any River Murray water since July.’’

The public lookout at Mt Bold reservoir has been closed since 4.30am today as a safety precaution while police are urging the public to be aware of fast-flowing water further downstream at the Clarendon Weir. [Being a born pedagogue, I will note once again that the difference between a weir and a dam is that water does not flow over a dam. A weir is a simple barrier]


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Brawl involving 200 NON-AFRICAN youths erupts at Melbourne shopping centre

Wow! The embargo on race being mentioned is lifted for once. But only because the offenders were not African this time. Easy to see what we should conclude when race is not mentioned. Around 2006/2007 it was not uncommon for troublemakers in Melbourne to be identified as African but after that an iron curtain on such mentions seems to have come down. Were we supposed to conclude that Africans in Melbourne had suddenly abandoned the very high tendency to criminality that they exhibit in every country in the world where they are found?

GANG violence erupted at a western suburbs shopping centre, with one youth stabbed repeatedly in the chest. The brawl, involving up to 200 teenagers, was only dispersed when police arrived at Aquatic Drive at Highpoint Shopping Centre in Maribyrnong shortly after 4pm yesterday. One boy, 15, was stabbed three times and taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Police were attempting to interview him last night.

The majority of those involved were Pacific Islander and Asian youths, but the cause of the affray is still unknown. Police found knives, sticks and umbrellas at the scene where youths aged between 13 and 15 ran from the scene. Between 40 and 50 people were spoken to by police, who are now searching for CCTV footage.

Acting Sergeant Jacob Bugeja, of Footscray police branch, said fights in the carpark were common. "I'd say it's got something to do with an ongoing school battle,'' he said. "The fact they were all a similar age is an indication of that.''

Sgt Bugeja said they were called to the area every six weeks, but he had not seen as many youths congregating before. The injured teen is in a stable condition.

A similar-sized brawl at Highpoint in October 2007 involved African youths from the Flemington high-rise flats. On that occasion there were in fact two brawls, one inside a cinema and the other in the shopping centre, which had to be shut down. Police arrested and charged several youths.


No security clearance to work at an Australian airport??

That this guy had full access to passenger aircraft shows what bunglers are the bureaucrats who are supposed to keep us safe. No surprise, I suppose. I resolved some years ago never to step on a plane again

A FORMER Qantas cleaner who was jailed yesterday for at least nine years for compiling a ''terrorism training manual'' had been convicted of terrorism-related offences in Lebanon.

Details of Belal Khazaal's overseas convictions emerged in the NSW Supreme Court as the Lakemba man - the first person in Australia convicted of making a document connected with assistance in a terrorist act - was sentenced. In December 2003 a Beirut military court convicted Khazaal in absentia of helping to fund a bombing campaign in Lebanon. He was sentenced to 10 years' jail with hard labour.

His Supreme Court trial centred on a 110-page book, Provisions on the Rules of Jihad, compiled in September 2003 using material he downloaded.

Khazaal had the book posted on an extremist website that was endorsed by al-Qaeda and ran publications by leaders of terrorist organisations. He said it was ''strictly religious journalism''.

Justice Megan Latham said it was a ''terrorism training manual'', advocating ''widespread and indiscriminate loss of life, serious injury and serious property damage within the countries identified as enemies of Islam''.

She jailed him for a maximum 12 years. He intends to appeal against his conviction and his sentence.


Guilty until proven innocent

Woman, 71, held for 9 days by mental health chiefs. This should not be allowed without judicial supervision. The woman should have appeared before a judge or magistrate before she was incarcerated

QUEENSLAND Health has defended a system of involuntary admission for people suspected of being mentally ill, after a 71-year-old woman complained of being handcuffed and incarcerated for nine days without cause. Self-described ''free-spirited'' artist Joanna Antonellie, of Stanthorpe, said emergency services forcibly removed her from her home and took her to Toowoomba's Acute Mental Health Clinic on August 25.

Ms Antonellie, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, does not know what triggered her admission but believes she was subject to an Emergency Examination Order (EEO) or Justice Examination Order (JEO) under the Mental Health Act. An EEO can be made by a police officer, ambulance officer or a psychiatrist to detain a person immediately for six hours and for up to 72 hours after examination. A JEO allows someone to apply to a magistrate or JP to have a person undergo a non-urgent mental health assessment within seven days.

Ms Antonellie said she spent a total of nine days in hospital - six days voluntarily for observation - and was examined by three psychiatrists, but was not found to have a mental illness. ''I want to find out why this happened,'' Ms Antonellie said. ''It's not right that this can happen in Australia.''

The former vet nurse, martial arts devotee, counsellor and crocodile hunter was at a loss to explain a motivation, except jealousy or misunderstanding. "I'm an artistic person and I've been an adventurer. I've lived the sort of the life I think people would probably be jealous of,'' she said.

Ms Antonellie has lodged complaints with local member Lawrence Springborg, the Crime and Misconduct Commission and Queensland Police, and has also lodged Freedom of Information requests with various government departments.

Queensland Health senior director Dr William Kingswell said he could not comment on specific cases for privacy reasons but defended the system as an ''important'' tool. "Yes, it would be possible for (JEOs) to be misused but in practice it would be uncommon because you've got to persuade a magistrate (as to the person's illness),'' he said. [That's a laugh. Police know which magistrate will give them whatever they ask for and go to that one] "The strength of this mechanism is for people at their wit's end trying to get treatment for a mentally ill person.''

A QPS spokeswoman confirmed a complaint was being investigated, and said Ms Antonellie was warned handcuffs would be used if she continued to abuse officers.


More disruptive seekers after personal publicity

Greenies say Queensland koalas are 'near extinction'. Even in the unlikely event that it's true, koalas are in plague proportions in other parts of Australia e.g. Kangaroo Island -- so what does it matter? And there are always plenty of koalas at Brisbane's Lone Pine zoo if anybody wants to get up close to one. Yes. I know I don't get the spirit and that a distant glimpse of one up a tree in a forest somewhere is far better than cuddling one in a zoo

CONSERVATIONISTS say koalas are on the brink of extinction in southeast Queensland and more needs to be done to protect them. Hundreds of protesters are expected to rally in Brisbane and march on Parliament House at noon (AEST) today to raise awareness of the plight of the marsupials.

Rally spokeswoman Carolyn Beaton said there had been 25,000 recorded koala deaths in southeast Queensland - the fastest growing region in Australia - over the past decade.

Ms Beaton said rapid development in other parts of the country, particularly along the east coast, was also threatening koala habitat.

"This rally will show our politicians, and indeed the world, that Australia does care about its wildlife and we, as Australians, will not stand by and let the rest of our koalas be wiped out," she said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Queensland Government today announced it would protect 5.6 hectares of state-owned koala habitat at Alexandra Hills.

State Climate Change Minister Kate Jones said the land, located on Windemere Road and of high commercial value, would be handed over to Redland City Council.

The Government is currently drafting a state planning policy aimed at protecting koalas to halt declining numbers and recently completed a koala mapping project.


Friday, September 25, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is not impressed by Kevin Rudd's poorly-attended speech at the United Nations

Sydney's huge dust storm caused by global warming?

You knew that somebody would say it was, didn't you? They knew that they had scant grounds for saying so but some in the media did. Even the guy below -- who knows what really caused it -- can't quite resist the temptation. He also leaves out a lot: like the fact that Northern and Western Australia have had exceptionally good rains recently. And even the drier Southeast (where Melbourne is) that he talks about actually got rain during the Sydney dust storm! It is utter rubbish to claim that Australia as a whole is getting drier. The rains have tended to move North but have certainly not vanished. Quite to the contrary. Most dams in Queensland are full to overflowing. And the Southeast has suffered that way before. In 1901, the mighty Murray river was just a chain of waterholes. Pesky how awkward the whole truth is!

Australia is the driest inhabited continent in the world and dust storms are fairly common — but only occasionally does the dust reach the coast, and yesterday’s storm was probably the biggest to hit Sydney for 60 years. In fact, this year has been exceptionally violent, with freak weather disasters hitting at bewildering speed every month.

Most bizarrely, this winter (June, July and August) was the hottest on record, and followed desperately dry months, with the lowest rainfall on record in Melbourne. Much of the blame for this can be pinned on an El Niño brewing in the Pacific, as the tropical seas there grow unusually warm and bring heavy rains to South America but leave eastern Australia in drought.

It is no surprise that some of the biggest dust storms in Australia’s history have come in El Niño years — and more dust storms could hit this year.

The storms are an ecological disaster, ripping up valuable topsoil from farmland. But a far greater threat is that much of Australia has been in its worst drought for several years, which has crippled its most prosperous farmland in the Murray-Darling Basin, in the southeast of the country.

This severe drought is difficult to explain simply from natural fluctuations in climate. Instead, Australians are now facing the brutal truth that theirs is largely a hot, dry country that is turning even hotter and drier — and that this is most probably caused by unnatural changes in the climate.


Why are the most negligent and hostile bureaucrats beyond all accountability?

Five people died needlessly because of their indifference to their duties. Unless some of these goons are brought to justice there is just going to be more of such reprehensible behaviour under a cloak of official protection

CRUCIAL evidence on the 2005 sinking of the immigration vessel Malu Sara in the Torres Strait, with the loss of all five on board, has forced the Australian Transport Safety Bureau to acknowledge a failure by rescue authorities to take action that could have averted the tragedy.

A supplementary report, released yesterday by the ATSB, said evidence regarding the state of the Malu Sara had not been passed on, and the "mistaken assumption" that a well-equipped helicopter was not available contributed to the failure to save the lives of five Torres Strait Islanders.

The report said this significant evidence was not provided to the ATSB during the initial safety investigation.

It was revealed during a 2007 inquest that ATSB investigators had not bothered to interview key people involved in decision-making regarding the plight of the Immigration Department boat.

Their original report largely laid the blame for the sinking of the vessel at the feet of the skipper, Wilfred Baira, an Immigration Department official who was instructed to drive the motor vessel on its fateful, 74km trip from Saibai Island near Papua New Guinea to Badu Island, in October 2005.

The instruction was issued by Immigration Department official Garry Chaston, who knew that earlier that day the Malu Sara had been taking water. He was responsible for purchasing the vessel, and knew it had no navigation equipment. Mr Chaston also knew Baira was not licensed to handle the Malu Sara.

Mr Chaston has since been allowed to resign from the department and retire with full superannuation and leave entitlements.

The supplementary report was also strongly critical of Queensland police officer Sergeant Warren Flegg, who was in contact throughout the night with the Malu Sara but did not think its plight required any rescue measures until several hours after Baira reported it was sinking.

The report said: "It was not until 1154 hours on October 15 that the Rescue Co-ordinating Centre in Canberra, at the request of the police, formally assumed responsibility for the co-ordination of the aerial search. This was over eight hours after the water police were told the Malu Sara was sinking and in need of assistance."

The report further acknowledged that Sergeant Flegg did not "task" a helicopter because he did not check earlier information that it was unserviceable. The helicopter was in fact fully operational and available.

On the issue of two people and a pilot in a search plane reporting seeing someone in the water wearing a yellow life jacket, the amended report said because the sighting was unconfirmed, it was officially recorded that there were "no sightings".

In his inquest findings, Queensland Coroner Michael Barnes said the sinking of the Malu Sara was "a foreseeable and totally avoidable disaster that resulted from official indolence and incompetence".

He reported that the five islanders who died were mocked by Sergeant Flegg and rescue officers when they made distress calls by satellite telephone.

No charges have been laid against the builders of the unseaworthy boat or anybody else in regard to the deaths.


Anti-biker laws declared invalid

These laws were a gross assault on civil liberties -- far worse than anything the bikies did. See here

SOUTH Australia's anti-bikie laws have been declared invalid by the Supreme Court, casting doubt on similar legislation elsewhere in the nation. SA was the first state or territory to introduce anti-bikie laws aimed at dismantling the outlaw motorcycle clubs. SA's legislation empowered police to ask magistrates to place control orders on bikie gang members, effectively banning them from associating with each other.

Eight members of the Finks motorcycle club had control orders imposed on them, but two - Sandro Totani and Donald Hudson - challenged the orders in court, arguing they were unconstitutional. In a judgment delivered today, the Full Court of the SA Supreme Court declared the control orders, made under section 14 of the Serious and Organised Crime (Control) Act 2008, invalid.

NSW has enacted similar laws while Queensland and Western Australia were set to follow suit.


Another government that knows how to get people out of their cars

Gross lack of track maintenance forces rail speed limit cuts

A LACK of maintenance has seen speed restrictions imposed on trains across Melbourne as the rail network crumbles. Speeds have been cut by up to 65km/h because the poor state of tracks would make normal limits dangerous. The speed restrictions add up to two minutes extra to each trip, which can lead to chronically late services throughout the day.

Details of the worst 12 locations for July have been obtained by the Herald Sun using Freedom of Information laws. Most speed restrictions were imposed in the outer suburbs. Connex spokesman John Rees said repairs were always going to be required on an older, larger and very busy rail network such as Melbourne's. "Wherever possible, we run trains at line speed, but the comfort of our customers and staff is our priority," Mr Rees said. "Connex will continue to put in place temporary speed restrictions to ensure that our customers and staff remain safe while travelling with us."

Mr Rees said many of the problems identified in the report had been fixed. The top priority for July, a 225m section of track between Watsonia and Greensborough, had been fixed. A flaw detected in the track saw the maximum speed cut from 75km/h to just 15km/h.

One of the most significant causes of delays are "tram squares", on level crossings, where tram tracks cross rail tracks. Speed limits are already low - at 30km/h - but the extreme stress they endure means the limit was cut in half. "The Kooyong tram square is due to receive the same replacement and upgrade treatment that the Glenhuntly tram square received in August," Mr Rees said. "Other speed restrictions were in place while upgrades were being made as part of the Government's infrastructure improvements."

Opposition transport spokesman Terry Mulder said not enough had been spent on maintenance. "Lynne Kosky is obsessed with giving the green light to Labor's myki mess but shows a red signal to stop sufficient investment in rail tracks, signals and points," he said.

A spokesman for Acting Public Transport Minister Peter Batchelor said Connex had spent between $80 million and $100 million on rail network maintenance. "Speed restrictions occur on the rail network when necessary maintenance and track upgrades occur," spokesman Stephen Moynihan said. "As part of the new franchise, maintenance spending will be doubled, with an additional $500 million spent over the (eight-year) life of the contract."


Another NSW government hospital doesn't give a damn

WHEN the family of Emilia Chatterjee complained to Gosford Hospital that she had contracted an infection after being left in urine-soaked clothes, the hospital apologised to the 84-year-old and said the issue had been addressed. The only problem was that Mrs Chatterjee was dead.

In a shocking bungle that heaped insult upon injury, the hospital acknowledged that staff had not cleaned rooms as they should have, nor listened to the requests of her daughters, who were forced to maintain a round-the-clock vigil on their mother to ensure she was looked after.

The family said nurses told them that the urine she was left to lie in had given her an infection - one that took her life on August 28, seven weeks after she entered hospital.

Yet when the Central Coast Health Service wrote three weeks later to say the issues had been addressed it was clearly under the impression that the great-grandmother was still alive. "The Nurse Unit Manager has asked that I extend her apologies to you and Mrs Chatterjee for any distress caused as a result of the actions of nursing staff," CCHS divisional manager Andrew Roberts wrote.

Mrs Chatterjee's daughter Giorgina Neilson said the family was horrified at the conditions her mother was in. "The hygienic condition of the hospital was totally unacceptable. We were horrified," she said. "She wasn't being fed, she wasn't being cleaned regularly . . . The hospital did acknowledge, some of the nurses did acknowledge to my sister that it was because she lay in the urine that she got the infection."

Yesterday the State Government was again forced into a grovelling apology. "Central Coast Health general manager Matt Hanrahan extends his sincere apologies on behalf of the health service for the distress experienced by the family of Mrs Chatterjee," it said in a statement. "Mr Hanrahan said that the failure to acknowledge the death of Mrs Chatterjee in correspondence with the family related to concerns regarding her care was regrettable."

The bungle was also a baptism of fire for new Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt, who yesterday ordered a full departmental investigation.


Thursday, September 24, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is incensed that the NSW government gave no warning of the big dust storm or any expert advice on what to do about it.

Nearly 100 "asylum-seekers" on latest boat

These are nearly always Afghans and the scandal is that the Feds take the "asylum-seeker" claim seriously. They had asylum as soon as they reached Pakistan, where there are now millions of Afghans living. These guys are the rich ones who could afford an airline flight to Indonesia and then pay thousands of dollars to people smugglers. They are no more refugees than my big toe is. They are economic migrants sneaking in the back door. Their low levels of literacy and other skills would not normally qualify them as acceptable migrants

AN Australian navy patrol vessel has intercepted a boat carrying 98 suspected asylum-seekers off Australia's north-west coast. The vessel was initially detected about 2am (AEST) today before it was intercepted after it entered Australian waters.

Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor said HMAS Glenelg, operating under the control of Border Protection Command, intercepted the vessel at 5am (AEST) north-west of Christmas Island. The group will be transferred to Christmas Island where they will undergo security, identity and health checks as well as establish their reasons for travel.

More than 1400 people have arrived on 26 unauthorised boats so far this year, with the latest arrival taking the number of boat arrivals in the past two weeks to seven.

The arrivals have sparked a political row in Canberra, where the Opposition has accused the Government of going soft on border protection.


Jail wasted on juvenile offenders

If the jails were made more punitive and less like a holiday camp, the results would be different. Restricting meals to 1,000 calories a day would be a good start. Dieters live on that much but it is roughly half a demand diet

LOCKING up juvenile offenders appeared to have no greater deterrent effect on the rate of reoffending than lesser non-custodial penalties, a new study revealed.

The finding broadly contradicted two earlier studies, one which found juveniles given custodial sentences were more likely to reoffend and another which found lower reoffending rates for jailed car thieves but higher rates for those locked away for other offences.

The latest study, released today by the Australian Institute of Criminology, involved a detailed assessment of 152 juvenile offenders given detention sentences and 243 handed a non-custodial sentence, all in NSW. All were interviewed at length about family life, school performance, drug abuse and association with delinquent peers. "The results of this study suggest that, other things being equal, juveniles given custodial orders are no less likely to reoffend than juveniles given non-custodial orders," the study authors concluded.

The differing findings of the latest study were probably due to more detailed consideration of the juveniles' prior criminal records, they said.

On an average day almost 1000 young people were in custody across Australia, at a high cost to the community. In NSW, only 10.3 per cent of juveniles appearing in the NSW Children's Court in 2007 were locked up, but they accounted for almost half the budget of the NSW Department of Juvenile Justice.

Despite that cost, actual research on the impact of juvenile detention was scanty, with previous research conducted in 1974 and 1996. The latest study found about half of each group reoffended during the follow-up period, with mean time to reconviction about five months.

That is consistent with overseas studies which pointed to significant future penalties imposed on those who had served jail time, particularly reduced employment prospects.


Child "safety" in Victoria again

The Victorian government's child safety agency used to be the worst in Australia. These days it is probably third after NSW and Queensland. But that is still far from being any honour

THE family at the centre of the horrific abuse case has been let down by authorities for more than 35 years. Last week the Herald Sun revealed a Latrobe Valley man well known to welfare authorities and police had been charged with the rape of his daughter over 30 years, sexual abuse that allegedly produced four children.

Now the Herald Sun can reveal a five-year-old son of the man - the abused woman's younger brother -- died in 1973 in state care.

"There are people who have known about this family for a very long time who should rot in hell," one woman familiar with the case said. "(The surviving victim of the sexual abuse and her brother's) life would have turned out very differently had welfare and police done their job. "That's a tragedy. This should never be allowed to happen again."

The boy drowned at Half Moon Bay on a hot Sunday in February, 1973, during a trip to the beach with 16 other children from the nearby Victorian Children's Aid Hostel in Black Rock in the care of three hostel employees. The temperature that day was more than 30C, and documents show there were many people in the water as well as small sailing boats.

Coroner Henry William Pascoe held an inquest later that year which, including statements, runs to just 14 pages. Mr Pascoe found that the boy's death was "asphyxia from drowning and I further say such a death was misadventure". The boy's body was found floating 25m from shore, and surviving family members say the death was suspicious.

Two men standing near where the body was found were not identified, and inquest documents include no witness statements beyond those directly involved in the rescue attempts, despite the beach being busy. The only statements are from three carers - two who were supposed to be looking after the children, a man who brought the boy ashore, a police officer, a surf lifesaver, a doctor and a pathologist.

The boy had been in the care of the state for at least two years. His parents were not interviewed as part of the inquest, nor do documents indicate why he was in care. Documents held at the Victorian archives show one of the boy's siblings died the same year.

The Herald Sun also discovered documents showing another girl, who the mother claims died of cot death in 1968, in fact died while being taken to hospital by her father in a car. A doctor at the hospital was told the two-month-old baby had diarrhoea for the previous 24 hours and the mother told police the baby appeared unwell, but not seriously ill, about 5pm the day she died. At 7.30pm the dad was taking the girl to the Royal Children's Hospital, but she died on the way.

"Wife (had) told husband to take baby to hospital as she had a heavy cold," doctor David Roberts-Thomson, who would not sign a death certificate, noted in a statement after the death. The death was initially suspected to have been caused by gastroenteritis, but the doctor who conducted an autopsy attributed it to an acute respiratory infection.

Police claimed last week they couldn't investigate the family's concerns because the Herald Sun had not provided enough information.


Rudd has a bet each way on climate change laws

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd has undermined his own argument that his emissions trading legislation must be passed before Copenhagen, admitting its defeat has not hampered his role in international climate-change talks. The Government has previously insisted the legislation's early passage is needed to maximise its muscle for Copenhagen as well as to provide business certainty.

But Mr Rudd, in New York for United Nations climate talks, drew on his recent Senate defeat to refute suggestions US influence is weakened by the stalling of legislation in the US Senate. ''Let me give you a parallel,'' he told CNN. ''Australia is very active in climate change … We are into these negotiations big time. But you know something? Our domestic emissions trading scheme was also voted down by our Senate a very short time ago. That doesn't impede me from being active in these negotiations, and my observations of President Obama is that it doesn't impede him either.''

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt said Mr Rudd was ''telling Australians one thing at home and telling Americans another thing abroad''. Mr Rudd's statement to the Americans ''takes away his own argument for a [trading] system before the world comes to an agreement,'' he said. There should be global agreement first ''so as our action is not futile by merely acting alone''.

Mr Hunt said Mr Rudd's case for the legislation passing in November was also weakened by the shaky state of the international negotiations. ''Copenhagen is looking a little less certain. It is likely to be a process rather than an outcome on the day,'' Mr Hunt said. The US legislation was not likely to be passed until early next year, he said.

Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in a speech at Monash University: ''The Government is determined to get its emissions trading legislation through.''

But acting Opposition Leader Julie Bishop said it would be ''madness'' for Australia to lock itself in before knowing what the rest of the world will do. Her strong wording comes despite Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull's desire to cut a deal when the Government insists on a November vote - to head off a possible double dissolution.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Australian policies in WWI primarily served Australia, not Britain

Another derogatory Leftist myth exploded

IN a bold re-interpretation of one of Australia's pivotal periods, historian Neville Meaney explodes the myth that the Great War broke upon an innocent nation of colonial deference devoid of any independent strategic consciousness. The myths about World War I constitute a cultural fortress in Australian life, perpetuating contemporary prejudices and denying the light of authenticity to a startling political era.

The central narrative beloved by our culture industry is that a generation of young Australians was sacrificed by weak, pro-British political leaders enslaved by Empire and without any concept of Australian nationhood.

Meaney has thrown a brick at this mythology. It is a very large brick in the form of his 535 page project, Australia and World Crisis 1914-1923, published by Sydney University Press and launched several weeks ago in Sydney by Kim Beazley, with support from defence analyst Hugh White.

Meaney has dedicated much of his life to this project while working in the history department at Sydney University and teaching generations of Australians, such as current Washington ambassador Dennis Richardson, New York Times reporter Jane Perlez, historian James Curran and aspiring Liberal MP Tom Switzer.

Launching the book, Beazley said it should transform conventional historical accounts of Australia and the Great War and assessments about the relationship between Australian leaders and Empire central in London.

The thesis is that in World War I, Australia was engaged in a "hot war" against Germany and its allies in Europe and a "cold war" against Japan in the Pacific. Meaney fuses two stories as never before: Australia's obsession about Japan's threat and its struggle with London to have Australia's national interests recognised. He enshrines the notion of an "Australian crisis", the possibility of having to face the menace of Japan, Britain's ally, at a time when all British resources were pledged to the struggle for survival in Europe.

For Meaney, Australia's fierce support for Britain against Germany went far beyond sentiment. With its geographic isolation, Australians were "drawn to embrace Britishness with an intensity which was greater than that evinced by the people of the British Isles". This was tied to the world view of many Australians that the conflict was tantamount to a British race struggle for survival. But it possessed another dimension: the belief that Japan was Australia's real enemy and an ultimate focus of its strategic and defence calculations. Meaney shows this convincingly.

"The cold war against Japan was very different," he writes. "It was peculiarly Australia's war. From its origins - that is, from Japan's triumph in the Russo-Japanese war - Australia had viewed Britain's Asian ally as a potential enemy. Learning from its European mentors (Japan) had set out on an imperial course, seizing Taiwan, annexing Korea, acquiring spheres of influence in Manchuria and seeking to gain a supreme influence in northern China.

"It resented the White Australia policy and took offence at the racial discrimination suffered by its nationals. The British had little sympathy for Australia's distrust of Japan. Even if they had shared Australia's anxieties, the British, hard pressed at home in trying to outmatch the German navy in the North Sea, were in no position to assist Australia.

"As a result, Australian policy-makers, their fears heightened by racial ideas of international politics, pursued their own defence and foreign policies, raising their own military forces, acquiring their own navy and seeking the co-operation of the other British Dominions and even the United States." Japan's entry into war on Britain's side merely intensified the "cold war" fixation of Australia's leaders. Wartime Prime Minister W.M.Hughes, with his international relations philosophy of pessimistic realism and his eyes on Japan, warned: "History shows that there has never been a weak nation worth attacking that has not been attacked. If Britain were defeated, Australia would be left merely to choose to whom it should surrender."

By references to cables, documents and speeches, Meaney shows that Australian leaders were in repeated conflict with London over war strategy, consumed with their inter-related fears about the consequences of a German victory in Europe, worried that if Japan switched sides, it could impose its own terms upon Australia.

He offers vivid portraits of the three war leaders, Liberal Prime Minister Joseph Cook, Labor PM Andrew Fisher and Hughes, leader for most of the war who broke from Labor to join the conservative side. Each of them knew Australia's interests were tied to Britain yet separate from Britain. Australia's diplomacy was dictated by the quest for influence, not colonial servility.

Cook was aware that "Australian and British strategic interests were not identical". Fisher, a practical romantic, realised that Britain had long ignored Australia's Pacific concerns, and he "put Australian interests ahead of imperial sentiment".

Meaney says: "Fisher's assertion of an independent defence policy was not motivated by an Australian cultural nationalism. He did not look to convicts, shearers, bushrangers to provide a separate story for Australians (but) his decision to put Australia first was the result of a settled view that Australia as a political community had a set of interests peculiar to itself and it was those interests which the Australian government had a prime responsibility to protect."

Hughes had the quickest, most incisive mind and a compulsion to action. Yet he was prone to absolutist solutions that polarised the nation primarily in Meaney's view because of his extreme commitment to the "idea of nationalism". Confronted by the European war and obsessed by Japan, Hughes' view was that Australia's survival depended upon Britain's total victory in the war and in the peace.

At the Paris peace conference Hughes was openly contemptuous of US president Woodrow Wilson's peace proposals, demanded a crushing settlement upon Germany and alienated the Japanese by his extreme opposition to their campaign for a racial equality provision. Returning to Australia he declared the Treaty of Versailles was "not a good peace for Australia: nor indeed for Britain". Hughes failed to get his way more often than not because of the extremism of his stances.

"Victory in Europe offered little comfort," Meaney says of Australia's postwar policy makers. "Japan had become a world power." It had extended its empire in East Asia and was facing Australia across the equator. Respite would come with the US-sponsored 1920s Washington naval settlement that, in Meaney's view, ended the immediate world crisis.

The upshot, Meaney argues, was that the sense of independence within Empire displayed before and during the Great War was lost in the more compliant era of Australian history of the 20s and 30s.


Immigrants help to propel population near 22 million

AUSTRALIA'S population soared by almost half a million people in the year to March - boom not seen since the 1960s, according to the latest statistics. Australian Bureau of Statistics data released yesterday shows the population increased by just over 2 per cent – or 439,000 people – in the year. There are now 21.8 million of us.

Most of the recent increase of almost 300,000 people was due to immigration. But there's also a mini baby boom, with 160,000 babies entering the world during the year.

Recent research showed Australia's population would balloon to 35 million – seven million more than previously thought – during the next 40 years. The government says the population boom is great news because it means the economy will keep growing.

However, some green groups say enough is enough. Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Charles Berger said the growing population was on a collision course with the environment. She said more people meant more greenhouse pollution, poorer river health and struggling infrastructure. Every extra million people added 25 million tonnes of greenhouse pollution, she said.

The ABS data showed Western Australia was leading the population proliferation, while Tasmania was last.


Feminists screwing it up for sisters

Janet Albrechtsen

“WHAT the hell has happened to feminism?” grumbled the Herald Sun’s Jill Singer a few weeks back. Here’s an idea. Feminists are screwing up feminism. Take last week. No matter which way you turned, women, especially those who talk most about feminism, were proving that women are often their own worst enemy.

Let’s start in parliament. On Tuesday last week, female ministers in the Rudd government were delighted at news that the Coalition was failing on a new measure of female progress. Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard told parliament that she woke up that day, read the report from The Sydney Morning Herald that this year women in the Coalition have been granted only 8.4 per cent of questions asked in parliament despite making up 20 per cent of Liberal and National MPs, and “thought that it was pretty bad”. Ditto, said her Labor sister Tanya Plibersek, the Minister for the Status of Women.

Forget about counting the number of women in the boardroom, in law firms or on the bench. The real sign of women’s emancipation is the number of questions they ask in parliament. Showing Labor’s enlightenment towards women, four female ALP backbenchers rose that day to ask questions of their frontbench big sisters.

Thinking she had the killer response to Labor’s brazen display of girl power, Opposition Deputy Leader Julie Bishop reminded them that their own Paul Keating used his maiden speech to describe the increasing number of women in the workforce as “something of which we should be ashamed”.

Break it up, girls. As Speaker Harry Jenkins, said at the end of a disgraceful question time, “Calm down ... Not one of the greatest moments for the house.” Indeed, it was a low point for women, too. Bishop’s retort was embarrassing. Keating’s comments, made in 1969, reflected a different era. The world, including Keating, has moved on. Hallelujah for that. Better if Bishop had pointed out that handing out lame dorothy dixers, prepared by the minister’s office, to backbenchers, who take turns jumping up like a ventriloquist’s doll, is hardly a sign of female political empowerment. It’s tokenism, pure and simple.

This is feminism at its most flippant, phony and foolish. Deriding other women for not keeping up with Labor’s empty feminist question time gestures doesn’t advance the place of women. It’s just politics. But, then, feminism has rarely been about women. For so many feminists, feminism is, at its core, about pushing a particular agenda. For some ageing feminists, the agenda was, and sadly remains, one of man-hating. So it is with Adele Horin, The Sydney Morning Herald’s resident feminist.

On Saturday, Horin deconstructed the online responses to Singer’s sepia-soaked vision of early feminists “fighting sexual objectification by refusing to shave our legs and armpits, burning our bras and demonstrating for equal pay” in contrast to modern girls who are “behaving like brain-dead, underpaid and over-waxed hookers”.

The online responses to Singer’s Herald Sun column revealed an avalanche of misogyny, wrote Horin. One chap told Singer to “suck it up princess and just worry about what fabric softner (sic) to put in the wash”. Aghast, Horin concluded: “The Herald Sun is not a fringe publication. This is a segment of ordinary Australian menfolk, unleashed.”

Now, I have more than a little experience with online hate mail. During the past few years, it has arrived each week in predictable lashings: rude, obnoxious, spiteful, nasty stuff. Like Singer, I’ve been told to get back in the kitchen (this chap would like my cooking even less than my writing). Some guy told me not to breed. (Too late.) The Australian is not a fringe publication. But you’d have to be desperate or dishonest to extrapolate from a group of unrepresentative online maddies, whether from the Left or Right, to the views of ordinary Australian menfolk.

The fundamental mistake, made over and again by women such as Horin, is to assume that the world can be utopia or close to it. Alas, some men will take longer than Keating to come to a more enlightened view of women. Some may never get there. A mature, honest feminism would stop dwelling on the trivial and irrelevant.

In that vein, while Horin was lecturing an unrepresentative bunch of dopes for doing the men’s cause no favours, the same can be said for a bunch of women. Their constant cries of discrimination often do women no favours. Three decades ago, feminists maintained that equality in the workplace depended on universal child care for children and full-time work for women. Anything less was discrimination. Never mind that many women wanted to work part time to combine the cherished role of rearing children.

Having finally caught up with the notion that many women want this, the latest feminist demand is that part-time work be regarded as some kind of new human right.

Last week, The Sydney Morning Herald reported a woman’s tale of discrimination woe. Rebecca Salter was offered the position of assistant principal at a primary school in Sydney’s inner west. The job offer was withdrawn when she revealed that she was returning from maternity leave and wanted to work part time. NSW opposition spokeswoman for women and former sex discrimination commissioner Pru Goward said it was “an open and shut case” of discrimination.

Is it too much to expect a former sex discrimination commissioner to stop with the stereotypes? The school, Marrickville West Primary, wanted a full-time assistant principal. Not unreasonably, some jobs cannot be done as well, or at all, on a part-time basis. That’s not evil, unlawful discrimination against women. That’s life, as even Plibersek acknowledged amid last week’s parliamentary melee.

While so many feminists refuse to accept it, some jobs demand full-time attention. Not every job can be done on a part-time basis.

Contrary to the newest feminist mantra, the world of work and families is not some kind of utopia where women (or men, for that matter) can have it all. Having children raises difficult, imperfect choices. You can do the full-time work, full-time child care caper. Or you can work part time, allowing more time at home with children. Each person will make a personal decision but whatever the choice, something has to give: whether it’s losing precious time with young children or making difficult career sacrifices. That applies to men as much as it does to women.

Indeed, let me suggest that society’s bias makes it easier for women to work part time if their preference is to rear children, than for men to do so. So here’s another idea. How refreshing and grand it would be if women could sometimes, just sometimes, resist the temptation to treat every occasion as proof that women are being mistreated by a big bad boys’ world.


Coverup of bullying at NSW government hospital

The New South Wales Opposition says nurses who have complained of bullying at a far south coast hospital would not mind if findings of an investigation were made public. Bega MP Andrew Constance says an external investigator's report on bullying and operational issues at Pambula Hospital should be given to the community.

The Greater Southern Area Health Service says the report will not be released publicly. However, a summary and set of recommendations will be released. Its eastern sector general manager, Ken Barnett, says staff and appropriate unions will be consulted before it is considered whether to implement recommendations.

Mr Constance says if unions are entitled to know the findings, so should the broader community, and nurses names could be omitted from the documents. "You don't necessarily need to disclose names but the community are entitled to know what occurred at the facility and what is going to be done about it in the future," he said. "The only way that the confidence can be regained by the community in what's occurring at Pambula Hospital is for that availability of the information and that openness and transparency around what's happened."

He says not releasing the investigation findings to the community will further erode public confidence in the health system. "I think nurses want accountability in the system. They want to be able to raise issues of concern and I think there's been enough secrecy clouding the hospital as is without it being furthered by a government not willing to be open and transparent about this report," he said. "The community is aware of the investigation. It's important that the community have the recommendations and the findings of that investigation."


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Another overseas doctor disaster at a government hospital

Under quite inexcusable circumstances. Government hospitals will take anyone and turn a blind eye if they need to

AN IRAQI-trained heart surgeon has reportedly had his contract terminated by Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital after concerns about the standard of his work. Channel Nine journalist Dixie Marshall has revealed that SCGH had employed a Fremantle Hospital surgeon to review patient files belonging to Dr Jaffar Shehatha, who had been suspended from conducting surgery at the hospital since February.

In July, The Sunday Times reporter Anthony DeCeglie revealed that a top surgeon at SCGH claimed two doctors were conducting critical surgery without proper qualifications. In an article titled "Doctors in ops dispute", De Cegelie revealed that cardiothoracic surgeon John Manuel Alvarez lodged an internal complaint in which he claimed that last year he warned SCGH bosses that he feared two of his peers were under-qualified for the major surgery they were performing. At the time, The Sunday Times understood that some of the concerns related to whether or not the two doctors had passed specialist examinations.

An SCGH spokeswoman confirmed that Dr Alvarez had made complaints about the quality of some of his peers who were conducting critical surgery last year.

This morning, Marshall said that it was understood the investigation found significent deficiencies in the work of Dr Shehatha, who trained at the University of Baghdad and became a surgeon at SCGH in July 2008. According to Marshall, Dr Shehatha was meant to spend two years in the Royal Perth Hospital's training program but was asked to leave after one year because RPH surgeons believed he could not be trained.


Miners warn of huge job losses under Warmist laws

THE minerals industry has demanded Kevin Rudd overhaul his proposed emissions trading system or risk smashing Australian jobs and the nation's industrial competitiveness.

As the Prime Minister lobbied global counterparts for action on climate change in New York yesterday, the Minerals Council of Australia warned that his ETS plans were far too tough compared with new European Commission ETS proposals that emerged during the weekend. If Mr Rudd's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme went ahead, the council said, it would cripple the ability of Australian companies to compete against Europeans, costing thousands of jobs and billions of dollars and having no environmental benefit.

The dire warning came as Mr Rudd continued to express pessimism about the chance of a new agreement on global emissions reductions at the UN Copenhagen climate change summit in December. While he vowed the government would press ahead with its proposed ETS regardless of the Copenhagen outcome, fresh divisions emerged in the opposition, as the Nationals hardened their opposition to backing Liberal-framed amendments to the CPRS legislation.

Mr Rudd's plan to have the Senate consider his CPRS legislation before the Copenhagen meeting has split the Coalition. Most Liberals agree that if the Prime Minister goes ahead, they will reluctantly co-operate on amendments to make the legislation more acceptable to business rather than reject the CPRS for a second time and hand Mr Rudd a trigger for a double dissolution and an early election. But the Nationals and some Liberals oppose the CPRS outright, insisting it is risky to legislate for an Australian scheme without knowing whether big emitters such as China and the US will also embrace a trading scheme.

MCA acting chief executive Brendan Pearson yesterday backed the cautious approach, seizing on weekend proposals from the European Commission to attack the CPRS as a potential job-destroyer. Under the EC proposals, Mr Pearson said, 80 per cent of minerals producers and manufacturers would receive free permits, meaning the coal, aluminium, copper and non-ferrous metals industries would faced little cost. At the same time, 90 per cent of Australia's mining exports, by value, would be produced without any compensation. "While Australia's coalmining sector pays $5 billion in carbon costs over the next five years, the EU industry will pay nothing," Mr Pearson said. "While the Australian gold sector pays $810million, the comparable industries in the EU (and US) will face no or limited permit costs."

Mr Pearson said Mr Rudd's proposals would put Australia "completely out of step" with Australian industry's competitors, noting the EC proposed giving assistance to 164 industry sectors from 2013 until 2020. "The CPRS needs substantial revision to bring it into line with the approaches being adopted by our trading partners," he said. "Failure to do so will lead to the hollowing out of Australia's regions, as export industries slowly decline under the weight of a self-imposed carbon burden estimated at approximately $130bn over the next decade."

He said the EC proposal included a single, simple, trade-exposure test on industry. If firms met the test, they would qualify for assistance, irrespective of their emissions intensity. "The CPRS should be amended to include such a test," Mr Pearson said.

The call for a fresh look at the scheme came as Mr Rudd's weekend expressions of pessimism about an outcome in Copenhagen sparked further debate within the Coalition. Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said that if Mr Rudd believed Copenhagen would fail, he must delay a vote on the CPRS issue. Senator Joyce also said that Mr Turnbull should dump his willingness to negotiate with Labor on the issue. With Mr Turnbull overseas, acting Liberal leader Julie Bishop expressed concern that Climate Change Minister Penny Wong had proposed a Copenhagen compromise under which developing nations would not have to commit to cutting carbon emissions -- only to producing a schedule for future reductions. "This highlights the madness of Australia locking into an emissions trading scheme without knowing what the rest of the world will do," she said.


Stimulus was unbelievable waste, inquiry hears

An academic believes the Federal Government's approach to tackling the global financial crisis has been a waste of money and that the recession was part of the business cycle, a Senate inquiry has heard. The Senate is hearing from a number of academics to examine the impact of the Government's series of stimulus measures since October 2008 and whether economic circumstances warrant changes to the initiatives.

Professor Steven Kates from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology backed the Government's measures to support the banking system, but said interest rates should have been lowered further and taxation lowered. "But one thing you shouldn't do, you should not have this blanket expenditure as a stimulus - four per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) is an unbelievable amount of money," Prof Kates told the Senate Economics References Committee.

"That will not create growth and, in fact, wastes resources so comprehensively. "They are destroying our savings, they are going to push up interest rates, they are going to push taxation in the future, and may push up our inflation rate."

He said unemployment would have been 6.1 per cent now rather 5.8 per cent, calculating that the Government had spent $1.5 million savings each job.

Labor senator Doug Cameron said Prof Kates' comments had certainly embedded in his mind that you should never let an "academic economist run the economy". "Why have the IMF, the OECD, the ILO, the treasuries of every advanced economy, the Treasury in Australia, the business economists around the world, why have they got it so wrong and yet you in your ivory tower at RMIT have got it so right?" Senator Cameron said.

Prof Kates said the response to the crisis had been based on Keynesian economics that backs government intervention to stabilise growth during a downturn in a business cycle. "The use of Keynesian economics has been one of the great catastrophes for economic theory in the west," Prof Kates said.


Hostility to China re-emerging

The old "white Australia" policy of the early 20th century was in part a response to labor union fears about "the yellow peril" and the low wages it would bring

SIGNS of community concern over Chinese influence on Australian living standards are shaping up as a key domestic issue for the Rudd government as it struggles to mend its already strained relations with China. Home buyers in Melbourne, for example, are complaining that they are being frozen out of a tight housing market by Chinese purchasers who have no intention of living in their new properties. The influx of Chinese money on to the Australian housing market follows a relaxation by the federal government last March of its rules on foreign companies and temporary residents.

Liberal Party officials say uncertainty about this and the effect of Chinese investment in Australian industries are surfacing during the process for preselecting candidates for the next federal election, particularly in Victoria.

This coincides with the launch last week of a campaign by the left-wing Victorian branch of the Electrical Trades Union against Australia signing a free trade agreement with China. The cornerstone argument by the union is that a free trade deal will destroy thousands of Australian manufacturing industry jobs. The campaign launch by the secretary of the union, Dean Mighell, had the support of three lower house independents, Bob Katter, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, who argued that the government should give the parliament a bigger role in evaluating the merits of free trade deals.

What was not revealed at the low-key affair in the Parliament House coffee shop was that controversial Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce had originally agreed to launch the campaign but had taken to his sick bed in Queensland with bronchial pneumonia. Joyce was an outspoken critic of the Chinalco-Rio takeover proposal and his involvement in this latest campaign throws up challenges to his party leader, Warren Truss, who is opposition trade spokesman, and Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull because the FTA negotiations with China were initiated by the Howard government.

Joyce, who is regarded by many as the de facto head of the Nationals, has already crossed swords with Turnbull over the Coalition's response to the government's emissions trading scheme. Further tensions are likely to speed up a split within the Coalition that seems inevitable anyway by the end of the year.

Ironically, while the Australian government has been trying to push the FTA negotiations along, the Chinese have been dragging their heels with the 14th round of discussions yet to be scheduled. But what is certain to antagonise the Chinese if the ETU campaign gains traction is that in arguing against concluding the FTA it savagely attacks China's employment standards and its record on human rights.

Mighell says a union-commissioned report on the FTA, titled The China Advantage, is aimed at sparking public debate on its effect on the livelihood of Australians. It has sent the report to other unions across the country seeking support and has established a "save Aussie jobs" website to drive the campaign. "Astonishingly, there is currently very little public debate," Mighell says. "It is a social-justice matter that all Australians should be concerned about." He says the dangers posed by the FTA would not only be a threat to jobs "but also (affect) the employability of our children".

To broaden the political base of the campaign the union commissioned the FTA report from a conservative consultancy, CPI Strategic, headed by Rick Brown, a former adviser to Howard government ministers Kevin Andrews and Nick Minchin. The report criticises China's lack of labour rights and poor enforcement of regulations in relation to child labour, occupational health and safety and environmental protection, which it says gives the country a disturbing trade advantage, particularly in relation to manufacturing.

All this comes against a backdrop of increasing criticism of the Rudd administration by the government-owned Chinese media, particularly over its response to issues such as the detention of Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu and protests by Chinese Muslim Uighurs.

That the ETU campaign is not endorsed by the Rudd government nor involves Labor MPs (yet, anyway) may not be enough to satisfy the Chinese in the present diplomatic environment. So it would not be surprising for them to expect a public rejection of the campaign by Kevin Rudd in the interests of closer trade co-operation. But the dilemma for the Prime Minister is how to finesse this without exacerbating the issue and potentially triggering a One Nation-type domestic backlash in Australia.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Negligible discipline in schools bears fruit

In most cases the angry parents have reason to be angry. Their kid is being bullied with nothing being done about it

WHEN two girls had a row during an online chat session, a dad phoned one of them at school and warned her: "I dare you to come near my daughter. If you do, I will belt the s... out of you." As the Year 10 student appeared upset during roll call, a teacher asked her to put the mobile phone on speaker. What they heard was a tirade of swearing and foul language. The Daily Telegraph reported the girl was put in isolation for her protection and police called as the father later turned up at the school in southern NSW.

School incident reports obtained from the education department under Freedom of Information show parents are increasingly becoming involved in their children's fights. In one disturbing case, a mother claimed to have paid money to a student to harm a Year 3 boy who had been bullying her son. The woman also made threats towards the school principal, the report said.

Out of 500 serious incident reports over two terms to April this year, there were nine cases involving parents abusing either students or teachers within school grounds. Fifty-six incident reports were of students or teachers being threatened, with a number involving parents. And there were nine assaults on school grounds by "outsiders", including parents and relatives of students.

The serious incident reports also revealed a shameful catalogue of bullying and violence in schools with 155 assaults and 37 more serious assaults with a weapon. In one incident, an argument between two teenage boys over a female that began on the internet was transferred to school when one held a knife to the other's throat at recess.

In another nasty incident, 13-year-old Jade Reardon was treated in hospital after she was attacked by an older girl at Gorokan High School on the Central Coast.

The NSW Government yesterday acknowledged cyber bullying was spiralling out of control by calling a crisis conference of experts to debate ways of making children safer. Child psychologists, academics and teachers would be invited to the conference in early November.


New boatload of "asylum-seekers" stretches Australia's border protection facilities

An uncrewed vessel crammed with 54 people intercepted off the West Australian coast at the weekend has raised new concerns about the number of asylum-seekers attempting the treacherous journey to Australia's shores. Over the past fortnight, Australia's border protection authorities have intercepted six boatloads of asylum-seekers, adding to logistical pressures on Christmas Island's detention facilities and political pressures on the Rudd government.

Details of the latest vessel, which was found adrift in international waters on Saturday afternoon, were released yesterday. The 54 people, including one child, were without food and water when first sighted by Border Protection Command P-3 Orion aircraft about 550 nautical miles (1018km) north of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The group, whose nationalities were not disclosed, asked for refuge in Australia and last night were en route to Christmas Island for security, identity and health checks.

Their rescue prompted the opposition to again accuse the government of going soft on border protection. But Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor yesterday pointed to Canberra's $654 million strategy to combat people-smuggling as proof it was taking the problem seriously. "The Australian government is pleased that the group is safe, but it is only through Border Protection Command's and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's vigilance that these people escaped greater harm," he said. However, he said that the illegal voyages were "extremely dangerous". "Drownings at sea are not uncommon," he said.

And while the new arrivals are stretching the resources of the facilities on Christmas Island, the island's nearest Australian neighbours, the Cocos Malays of Home Island, will soon be working at the Howard government's Immigration Detention Centre under a plan by community leaders to reduce chronic unemployment on their tiny homeland. Serco, the contractor that will take over the operation of Christmas Island's Immigration Detention Centre from G4S next month, intends to hire Cocos Malays to work in administration, social care and client services. Their roles could include helping asylum-seekers prepare food or attend a variety of classes, a Serco spokeswoman said.



Three current articles grouped below

Beautiful Australian island faces rising tide of oppressive Greenie regulation

Last Wednesday I was minding my own business, atop the high, sheer cliffs along Malabar Hill on Lord Howe Island. I was not expecting the company of a ratbag. He was the worst kind of ratbag: intelligent, articulate, informed, focused.

It was a perfect day at a perfect place. Lord Howe is probably the most beautiful island in Australian territory, one of the most beautiful islands in the world and a globally significant bird sanctuary and coral zone. I was using binoculars to gaze at tropicbirds, with their long, trailing, red tails, as they wheeled in circling, looping mating rituals above the sea. Behind me, three people turned up, a couple of visitors from the mainland and their guide, a knowledgeable man. His ratbaggery was not at all evident at first.

One of the visitors commented that plants right on the edge of the precipice had been banded with identifying marks by park staff (the entirety of Lord Howe Island has been declared a World Heritage Site). The guide told the visitors that staff were paid $24 an hour to keep the park free of weeds and preserve native species. He said it was like being paid to bushwalk.

He also mentioned that staff were responsible for setting rat traps, because rats have been a problem on Lord Howe Island for more than 100 years, since they were introduced from a ship foundering on one of the reefs. When I asked this apparent expert whether rats were a growing problem on the island, or in a steady state, he replied, ''A steady state, but we can't be complacent.''

''Is it true,'' I asked, ''that they want to drop poisoned pellets from a helicopter over the island to get rid of the rats?'' ''Yes,'' he replied. The program will be based on successful rat eradication efforts on islands in New Zealand. (I later checked this and it turned out to be true.)

He seemed to know everything, so I asked if it were also true there were plans to get rid of the Norfolk Island pines on Lord Howe Island. There was a proposal, he replied, to phase out the pines over 30 years, leaving a few trees for ''heritage'' reasons. ''Why?" I asked. ''Because they are not native,'' he replied.

What? The groves of giant pines along the central shore of the island, where most people live or stay, are sheltering windbreaks, beautiful, and part of the traditional character of the island almost since habitation began in 1833. They are also the breeding habitat for white terns. Besides, Lord Howe has an airport and a village, and will never to return to native purity. When I registered my dismay, he said the pines should be replaced by native species.

''Are you staying at Pinetrees?'' he asked. Yes. Pinetrees is the oldest and most famous of the hotels on the island. It has been run by the same family for 110 years. He had plenty of suggestions for the owners, too. (Pinetrees is owned by two sisters, Kerry McFadyen and Pixie Rourke, whose family has lived on the island for five generations.)

''They should cut down the pine trees and use the timber to make cabins further up the hill, so that when global warming brings a rise in sea level, they will still have a resort and they can still call it Pinetrees.'' His attitude was a metaphor for the dark side of the environmental movement, the uncompromising, didactic, self-important side. Religious zeal may be on the wane in our society, but the impulse towards crusading, evangelistic certainty is not.

This is why the Greens have failed to break out of their 9 per cent political rump. The party should be in a much more powerful position, with the benefit of the great gale of environmental concern billowing in its spinnaker. Instead, it constantly sails into the politically less rewarding and less pragmatic territory of anti-capitalism, anti-Americanism, drug politics, sexual politics, identity politics, refugee politics and a doctrinaire brand of sanctimonious environmentalism that irritates more than educates.

That same evening, I met Kerry McFadyen and her husband, Bruce, who co-manages the property. She is a marine biologist and qualified as a medical doctor; he is an architect, but they gave up these careers to run Pinetrees. I didn't interview them. I was just a guest chatting about what I had heard that day from the zealot on Malabar Hill. They were worried about their pine trees but they had more pressing problems. Like the rest of society, they were beginning to feel the rising tide of regulation, which, in a social system as small and delicate as Lord Howe Island has a greater impact.

The Lord Howe Island Board, which runs the island, intends to impose a thumping tax increase on the small band of hotel operators. For Pinetrees, the annual bed tax is going to more than double from $32,640 a year to $68,000 next year, and to $85,000 in the year after that. They are also being blocked from renovating their staff quarters by a pedantic bureaucrat. Space precludes detailing the idiocy of this particular obduracy.

Then there is the threat to the pine trees from axe-wielding purists. And a particularly doctrinaire island environmental officer who makes their life hell. Oh, and the NSW Government might be dropping rat poison via helicopter.

Lord Howe Island does not face any environmental crisis, but it does face a rising tide of bureaucracy which could threaten the island's health long before the sea rises even a millimetre.


How cutting carbon emissions leads to wasting energy

Why is the Rudd government's green-team intent on wasting natural gas?

ECONOMISTS can and do get it wrong. The lead-up to the sub-prime mortgage crisis being an obvious case in point. While some economists and regulators were convinced all was well, many people were alarmed at a system that enabled people to buy expensive houses with loans that were beyond their means of repaying. It just didn't pass the common sense test. But have we learned our lesson about relying on complex economics that nobody really understands? In the context of climate change legislation, it would appear not.

Consider the following. If the government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is introduced, it will actually be cheaper for the coal industry to burn the natural gas that is produced by coal mines than to use that same gas to generate electricity.

That's right. Rather than capture what is known as waste coal mine gas, which is a form of natural gas, and use it to generate electricity across Australia, once the CPRScomes in it will be more efficient to set it alight.

Never mind that the world demand for natural gas is rising. Never mind that the gas wasted in this way could be used to reduce the amount of coal burned elsewhere in Australia. And never mind that there are a lot more skilled jobs in building and maintaining waste gas-fired generators than there are in literally watching the gas go up in smoke. If the intent of the government's legislation is to be believed, they know what's best and that, it seems, is supposed to be the end of the issue.

But what if the economists Climate Change Minister Penny Wong is listening to are wrong? Isn't it at least possible that using this waste natural gas is better than burning it?

The irony is that for the past decade the answer has been a resounding yes. Well before anybody had even heard of a CPRS, private companies began building and operating gas-fired electricity generators. In fact, there are 215 megawatts of these generators now in operation. Together they help to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by more than 6.5 million tonnes each year, which is greater than the annual abatement the government hopes to achieve with its $4billion ceiling insulation initiative.

The problem is that it costs a bit more to turn gas into electricity than it does to simply set fire to it. While the electricity that is generated can be sold into the grid, without some form of government assistance it can't compete with the very low price of power generated from burning coal.

And there's the rub: while the existing NSW scheme makes using the gas viable, the proposed CPRS does not.

In response to pressure the government recently announced some changes to the renewable energy target designed to reduce the harm that the CPRS will do to the owners of waste coal gas electricity generators, but in doing so they ensured that no new waste gas generators will be built.

What better example of the lack of transformation that the CPRS will generate could there be? The government is willing to provide some compensation to existing waste gas generators, but its policy will prevent new ones from being built.

The CPRS has been criticised from all directions. Of course the government argues that if nobody likes it they must have the balance right. But of course it might also be the case that nobody likes it because it doesn't really work. The government's whole strategy for selling the scheme to the public seems to be to confuse people into supporting it. In arguing that their scheme is the most effective way to tackle climate change they have placed the burden of proof on their critics. But it is the government that should be able to answer simple questions about its scheme. Simple questions such as:

* If the CPRS is a step in the right direction why will it destroy $350 million worth of planned projects to convert waste natural gas into electricity?

* If the CPRS delivers least cost abatement why is it cheaper to burn the natural gas that comes out of coal mines than turn it into power?

* If the government is interested in creating green jobs why does its scheme encourage coal mines to import emissions credits from other countries rather than invest in the onsite conversion of waste gas into useable electricity?

Australian firms are at the cutting edge of this industry, with their technology and skills in demand throughout Asia where this gas exists in abundance and is being converted to fuel for communities in dire need of energy. Already they are employing hundreds of people turning natural gas, that would otherwise be wasted, into electricity. It's an efficient use of a natural resource and it means that less coal needs to be burned elsewhere. Most important of all, however, is the fact that it is the existing policy framework, not the CPRS, that makes the expansion of this industry viable.

Australia needs a comprehensive national approach to tackling climate change, but that does not mean we need the CPRS as it is proposed. It is the government's fault that the proposal is so flawed and it is the government's job to fix it. Unfortunately, rather than listen to her critics, Wong has sought to silence them. And rather than explain her scheme to the public she has sought to confuse them.

If the Minister is proud of her scheme she should explain why she thinks burning waste natural gas is better than using it. And if she isn't proud of it, she should fix it.


Greenie craze burns down homes

Rather a puzzle why, though. Batts are usually made of glass fibre or wool, neither of which is flammable. Are people using ones made of recycled paper?

DOZENS of NSW homes have been destroyed or damaged by fires which erupted when badly installed ceiling insulation came into contact with downlights. Seven homes in Sydney caught fire, with at least one totally destroyed, in just the past six weeks. The fires are particularly dangerous because they can spread in the roof cavity before the occupiers notice, and have forced an urgent warning from the State Government and NSW Fire Brigade.

In NSW, 129,420 homeowners have taken advantage of the $1600 rebates for the installation of ceiling insulation batts which are part of the Federal Government's $3.9 billion energy efficient homes program.

But NSW Fair Trading Minister Virginia Judge said yesterday too many batts were being laid incorrectly. Ms Judge said at least 26 homes in NSW had been destroyed or damaged this year by fires caused by poorly placed ceiling batts touching downlights. Several fires happened within a day of batts being installed. Downlighting, globes that sit flush in ceilings with their transformers and wiring in the roof space, is one of the most popular ways to light a home.

Ms Judge said batts were being laid directly over downlights, or over older insulation material. "Down lights and transformers should never be covered by ceiling insulation because they act like giant firelighters," Ms Judge said.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Australia's welfare policies help the poor, not the lazy

Roughly speaking

AUSTRALIA'S unemployed are experiencing poverty at a far higher rate than the unemployed in other developed nations. A report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has found that, even before the downturn, 55 per cent of jobless households in Australia were living in ''relative poverty'', on less than half the average income. By contrast, the average rate of relative poverty for jobless households in OECD countries was just 37 per cent.

The report warned that, unlike those of other countries, the tax and transfer system in Australia was heavily geared towards helping working households, but was less successful at tackling entrenched poverty of jobless households. ''Australia's tax and transfer system - targeted towards low-income earners - reduces the risk of poverty among working households by three-quarters, but is less successful in tackling poverty in jobless households,'' the report said.

While more than half Australia's jobless households endure poverty, only 3 per cent of households with at least one person working were classified by the OECD as relatively poor.

Highlighting the topic as a looming budget problem for the Rudd Government, the report also suggested the miserly Newstart system had encouraged the unemployed to try to shift into the relatively generous disability support system. It said receipt of the disability pension had doubled since 1990, with the biggest growth among the working-age population.

The situation of Australia's unemployed will deteriorate further today when the Government's much-touted pension increase begins. The $32 a week increase for single age pensioners means they will now take home $335 a week, including income supplements. Newstart recipients will continue to survive on $227 a week - equivalent to just 68 per cent of the single pension, compared with about 75 per cent before the changes.

Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Clare Martin said the $108 weekly difference between the two payments was ''extraordinary'' at a time of rising unemployment and low rental affordability. She said it was clear the income support system needed to be overhauled as part of the tax system review being undertaken by Treasury secretary Ken Henry, with a single standard payment and add-on components for housing and disability. ''There should be a recognition that it takes a certain level of payment to actually survive on,'' Ms Martin said.

The Federal Government has argued that Newstart should not be compared to income support because it was designed as a temporary payment. Employment Minister Julia Gillard late last week acknowledged that past experience showed many people aged in their 40s and 50s who lose their foothold in the labour market never find employment again, suggesting they could be on Newstart for years until pension age.

The report said about 44 per cent of disability pensioners had previously been on unemployment benefits and only a small proportion ever return to work. And, of pensioners who return to work, within three years three-quarters have either retired or are no longer working.


Negligent State school: 8yo left behind on excursion -- many miles from home

SHE packed her violin, making sure it fitted snugly in its case after she finished her performance and waited for her classmates, teachers and bus to take her home. But the eight-year-old Warwick Central State School pupil sat alone crying on a Toowoomba park bench for a bus which had already left without her. “I was there by myself for about an hour,” the Year 4 pupil said yesterday.

Her mum Belinda Evans was “absolutely disgusted” when she learnt of the ordeal. “You drop your kids off to school and you think they'll be safe,” Mrs Evans said. “You don't think they'd be left behind - sobbing on a bench in Toowoomba - 40 minutes from home.”

The little girl was spotted by another Warwick Central mum who attended the Today's Youth in Music Education event on Thursday. “She recognised the Central uniform my daughter was wearing, saw her crying and alone and knew the bus had already left,” Mrs Evans said.

The Good Samaritan called Central to inform the school a little girl had been left behind and, while grateful for the woman's help, the forgotten pupil's father Brian was ropable. “The bus didn't come back (for her); a stranger drove my daughter home,” Mr Evans said. “I keep thinking 'what if?' What if that lady didn't find her?” Mrs Evans added. “When I got her back, I didn't want to let her go; let go of my baby. “Anyone could have got her, that's what scares me the most.”

The Evans' said the worst part about their daughter's ordeal was that the school was not transparent in their actions or in dealing with the situation. “They (Warwick Central SS) did not contact us (after the incident),” Mr Evans said. “There were 18 kids on the trip. They should've done a roll call or head count; don't they have procedures?”

Angry, the couple went to principal Trish Maskell for answers when their daughter was safely returned about 4pm. Unhappy with the response, Mr Evans contacted Education Queensland. According to the Evans', it will be a while before their daughter goes on another school excursion. “She has been transferred to another Warwick school next term and the first thing I asked them was if they've ever left a child behind,” Mr Evans said.

A Department of Education Queensland spokesperson yesterday confirmed they were investigating the incident at Central. “(The department) is treating the matter extremely seriously and considers it unacceptable that a student could be left behind,” the spokesperson said. “A large number of schools from across the region also took part (in the event); the department has offered its support and apologised to the student and her parents. “The Acting Executive Director Schools has been in contact with the family again (yesterday) to provide further support and an explanation of what happened. “(Warwick Central State School) is reviewing its processes around excursions and student rolls.”


Immigration not the only way to counter an ageing population

THE Rudd government should be wary about using high levels of immigration in coming decades as a means to counteract the decline in productivity resulting from an ageing population because more over-55s are staying on in their jobs, a population expert warns. Monash University demographer Bob Birrell said Treasury's new population estimate for Australia -- 35 million by 2050 -- was based on immigration levels of about 180,000 a year, a rate that may not be necessary to keep the economy running and will be difficult to provide for in terms of urban infrastructure and services.

"The government seems to have bought the argument that business in Australia needs a high amount of labour force growth to keep it going in the future. The rest of us are going to have to bear the consequences of that," Professor Birrell said yesterday. "The government doesn't seem prepared to explore how we need to make social adjustments; rather, they are relying on the prop of bringing in more people of younger ages to essentially put all the older people to bed."

In a speech yesterday to launch the new Australian Institute for Population Ageing Research at the University of NSW, Wayne Swan noted the previous estimate of Australia's future population contained in the last intergenerational report in 2007 -- 28.5 million by 2047 -- was likely to be well short of the mark. "Australia's population is projected to grow by 65per cent to reach over 35 million in 2049, up from around 21.5 million people now," Mr Swan said. "This ... is largely driven by a greater number of women of childbearing age, higher fertility rates and increased net overseas migration."

Mr Swan said while the number of people of working age would grow by 45 per cent over the next 40 years, those aged 65-84 would double and those 85 and older would increase by 4.5 times. "Population ageing will lead to slower economic growth ... and it will lead to increasing levels of Australian government spending per person. Together these factors will contribute to significant ongoing financial pressures," the Treasurer said.

Professor Birrell said research at his Centre for Population and Urban Research earlier this year showed older workers, those aged 55-plus, were tending to stay on in the workforce longer than anticipated. With sustained high levels of immigration added into the workforce mix, the employment prospects of younger Australians were being compromised.

Australian National University demographer Peter McDonald said the recent increase in the birthrate in Australia, up from 1.79 to 1.93 in the past two years, was encouraging. "The lower the birthrate, the more migrants you need," Professor McDonald said. "If we had birthrates like those in Germany or Italy we would need to look at greater numbers of migrants."


One country-school classroom to cost $850,000

More "stimulus money" waste

A 9m by 6m classroom will cost a small country school $850,000 under the federal school building program, even though for only $100,000 more, the local council built a library 10 times the size.

Jerilderie Public School applied to refurbish and extend its administration block under the Building the Education Revolution, which, after approval from the NSW Education Department, added a new stand-alone classroom.

But Parents and Citizens Association president Craig Knight said the project managers appointed by the department, Laing O'Rourke, had informed the school in southern NSW last week that the $850,000 grant would now be enough to build only one classroom.

Mr Knight said the school rejected the offer of a single classroom, saying the administration block, which would include a staff room, one classroom and school offices, was the priority. He said it was unbelievable that one small building could swallow most of the school's grant.

"There are local non-government schools around the district who are getting multiple classrooms, toilet blocks, kitchenettes and covered outdoor areas for their $850,000," he said.

Mr Knight said the local council built and fitted out a library, which opened in March, that covers about 500sqm, including landscaping, toilets and kitchen for $915,000. "Our admin building only has a kitchenette, not even the plumbing associated with toilets," he said.

Answering a question on the issue in parliament yesterday from the local member, Liberal MP for Farrer, Sussan Ley, Education Minister Julia Gillard said she would look into the matter.

"I would issue these words of caution: when matters have been raised by the opposition in the past, we have frequently found that things asserted as facts are nowhere near facts," she said. "We have also frequently found, when we have tried to follow matters up with members of the opposition, or at least some of them, that they are more interested in making a political point than they are in getting matters resolved for their local schools."

Ms Gillard then read to parliament an email from a rural principal, Tony Shaw of Glen Park Primary School in Victoria, lamenting the "unprecedented" attack by the opposition to "discredit" the BER, which he said "calls into question the high-quality education provided in rural schools in a condescending and arrogant manner".

In a letter addressed to Ms Gillard from another school and tabled in the Senate last night, Abbotsford Public School council questioned the cost of a BER proposal to demolish four of the school's classrooms and replace them with four new classrooms at a cost of $2.5m.

The letter said the school community had unsuccessfully sought cost breakdowns and was "bewildered why (the NSW Education Department) employs such practices and products that are quadruple the cost of what could be obtained in the free market".

The department was unavailable for comment last night.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

'I'm stuffed': Migrants boggled by Australian slang

The story below gives some idea of the difficulty I have in writing in an internationally understood way. I speech I am an inveterate user of Australian slang. It is just so much more vivid than standard English

While Australians might think we speak standard English, newly arrived migrants often struggle with the unusual colloquialisms that make up our everyday speech. To overcome that language barrier, an Adelaide TAFE teacher has designed a website so people learning Australian English can translate some of the sayings they hear.

"No worries", "I reckon", "that'd be right", "flat out" and "give it a crack" are just a few of the phrases that leave some new migrants mystified.

The website's creator, Keturah de Klerk, says learning these Australian phrases is crucial for new migrants to feel part of society, and even to hold down their job. Ms de Klerk, who teaches English at Adelaide TAFE, says it's not "coming the raw prawn" or other "bonza" cliched slang that confuses most new migrants to Australia. She says the words she found the hardest to translate were often the ones in most common usage. For example, the phrase "I'm stuffed" has at least three different meanings - "I'm tired," "I'm in trouble" or "I'm full".

"It's simple things, like last week I had some great news for my students. I said, 'guess what?' and they didn't know how to answer me," she said. "[And there are others, such as] 'can you give us a hand' and 'take your time doing this'. "Not to mention just irony and sarcasm, and giving a statement as a question like 'how good is this weather' - they think that they have to provide an answer."

And she says Australians have a habit of shortening words, which can confuse new migrants. "Mozzies, sunnies, chewies, I'm defo - all these sorts of things," she said.

Ms de Klerk found students were constantly coming to her for advice on words they had never heard before arriving in Australia, even though they had learnt basic English. "They would bring in their little tourist book with the lists of all the idioms and slang, but [it was always] the colourful stuff - "crikey", "sheila" and all that sort of thing, which is great but not overly helpful for them," she said.

Kavita Anil Gourd, who moved to Australia from India nine months ago, says it has taken time for her to get used to Australian vernacular. "It is very hard for me because some words like 'hang on' and 'I reckon' I never understand," she said. "Now I understand a little bit what the meaning of 'no worries', 'hang on' and everything."

Parvati Bhattarai, who came to Australia from Bhutan, says before doing the course she was constantly confused by Australian colloquialisms. "They speak English but it is quite different from our tongue and our way of talking, and the most important thing for us is to learn the slang word and to understand the jokes," she said. "When I get on the bus and the bus driver say 'ta'. Ta sound in my country has a very different meaning," said Kae Kwon from Korea. "I tried to get on and he said 'ta'. What's 'ta'?" ["Ta" (meaning "Thanks") is actually of Cockney origin but is also used in Australia]

And it's not just a matter of understanding casual conversation; Ms De Klerk says she knows of some migrants who have lost their jobs because of basic communication barriers. "We have students who we get qualified and who have the English level to get the job, but ... can't hold onto it because the boss sees them as not getting along socially with everyone, which ... has a high level of importance in Australia," she said. "Students were having that problem maintaining their job because they were not feeling comfortable to be social with Australian people at work."

The Aussie slang classes are now spreading around the country, with other TAFEs introducing similar courses. Ms de Klerk simply hopes her classes and the e-phrase website help new migrants make sense of Australian sayings that most of us take for granted.


Thousands of endangered kids 'without care workers'

Victoria's Community Services Minister says 2,000 children who should have been assigned child protection case workers last year were not given one. The revelation comes as the Government announced a $77 million boost for child protection services, or an extra 200 workers, following a damning Ombudsman's report.

The report found child protection workers were overworked and identified three instances of children living with convicted sex offenders. Lisa Neville has told ABC1's Stateline program last night there were 2,000 cases where children were not assigned a case worker last year. "Is that satisfactory in our view? Of course it's not," she said. "Our aim is absolutely that we need to be providing children with a permanent ongoing worker."

Ms Neville says her department failed to tell her about cases of child abuse and neglect raised in the Ombudsman's report. But she says the department's failure to inform her was more of an error of judgement, rather than a deliberate attempt to conceal information from her. "The department respond to a range of complaints all the time - I think that unfortunately they hadn't thought through the consequences of not informing me," Ms Neville said.

Earlier, the union representing child-protection workers in Victoria said the increased funding for the department was tokenistic and further changes were still needed.


Alarm over five "asylum" boats in 14 days

A FIFTH boat of asylum-seekers in a fortnight is emblematic of one of the world's biggest challenges, the Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, said yesterday.

On Wednesday, a boat of 48 asylum-seekers and four crew was spotted sailing west of Darwin. The navy boarded the boat late that night and will transfer asylum-seekers to Christmas Island, taking numbers of detained there to about 750.

Facing growing pressure over the surge in boat arrivals, the Government insisted yesterday Australia's immigration facilities on the island were coping. The island, closer to Indonesia than to the Australian mainland, has a capacity of 1200. Surplus detainees face identity, health and security checks in Darwin, Senator Evans said. ''This will be one of the great issues of the 21st century: people movement,'' he said. ''We've seen record numbers of people moving throughout the world, record numbers of asylum-seekers, and some sort of naive belief that Australia is going to be somehow excused from facing those problems is a nonsense.''

Australia accepts less than 2 per cent of the world's refugees, United Nations figures show. The majority are resettled in developing nations closer to the countries they are fleeing.

People fleeing unrest in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan are increasingly making the voyage to Australia. Indonesia and Malaysia are the stopover points.

Yesterday, the Opposition spokeswoman on immigration, Sharman Stone, asked what the Government would do when the Darwin detention centre was full.

But the Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O'Connor, dismissed her question as ''dog whistling''. The Coalition maintains the rise in boats is linked to the scrapping of temporary protection visas last year.


More Federal waste on trains

Rudd's splurge is beginning to make Howard's Alice to Darwin boondoggle look sane

THE third stage of the Rudd government’s fiscal stimulus risks wasting billions more dollars on unnecessary infrastructure. After the $22 billion cash handouts and the $14bn-plus for building primary school halls comes another $22bn for “nation-building” infrastructure in roads, rail, ports, broadband and so on.

The big-ticket infrastructure splurge means the budget stimulus will last until mid-2012, when it will amount to close to 0.6 per cent of gross domestic product. Employment creation is supposed to peak at 18,000 jobs in 2011-12, with up to another 25,000 broadband jobs.

But on the government’s own forecasts, the economy won’t be in need of emergency demand stimulus by then, as it will be growing at an above-trend 4.5 per cent. The stimulus could end up pro-cyclical rather than counter-cyclical, leading to rising interest rates.

The conceptual muddle of using supply-side infrastructure investment as a demand-side stimulus encourages the political spin that more is always better. In fact, infrastructure is a cost that should be minimised. We may need a lot more of it but only if we’re confident it will be worth the cost. That’s doubtful with the Rudd government’s $4.6bn move into rail networks in Australia’s increasingly congested cities. This is the biggest component of the $8.5bn allocated in the May budget for 15 road, rail and port projects mostly approved by Infrastructure Australia.

The flagship is the $3.2bn allocated to the Victorian government’s $4.3bn Regional Rail Express project to build a 40km western rail line from Melbourne. This would allow express trains from Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo to run into the CBD on their own line without clogging up the suburban rail network. The price tag is huge. Six years ago, the Alice Springs to Darwin rail line cost $1.3bn for 1420km of new track. And the Rudd government is throwing in another $40 million downpayment on the associated $4.5bn Melbourne Metro.

Despite its name, the Melbourne Metro will not provide a Paris-style underground metro system for Australia’s second biggest city. Melburnians will still mostly get around town on their trams. Instead, a 17km inner city tunnel is mainly supposed to reduce congestion between the east and west surburban rail lines. The whole project was recommended in a report to the Victorian government by Rod Eddington, now Infrastructure Australia chairman. Nevertheless, the economics of the program were dismantled by economists Henry Ergas and Alex Robson at the Productivity Commission’s annual policy round-table last month.

Ergas and Robson note that the cost-benefit estimate of the combined project from consultants Meyrick and Associates (now GHD Meyrick) was line-ball on traditional measures, with a $7.9bn net present value for both costs and benefits. But they also note that this wrongly double counts the benefits by including the estimated extra rail fare revenue. This is actually a cost to passengers to pay for the travel time savings, which already have been included as a benefit. Moreover, the project’s stated benefit-cost ratio exceeds 1.0 only by adding $1.3bn of “wider economic benefits”, such as questionable “agglomeration” economies from reducing the “economic distance” between Melbourne and regional centres.

And Ergas and Robson convincingly argue that the consultant’s report is technically wrong to assume that the estimated reduction in travelling time will have the same impact as an increase in wages in encouraging people to work more. Rather, instead of the wider benefit of increased tax revenue, reduced commuting time may mostly prompt a shift to part-time work spread over more days.

Even more basic doubts are raised by public transport advocate Paul Mees, a senior lecturer in transport planning at RMIT University. Mees sensationally claims Melbourne’s train system already has more than enough capacity to deliver the extra 40 trains per hour - including 14 trains at peak hours - promised by the expensive east-west tunnel.

Back in the Australia of the 1920s, Melbourne’s suburban train network was world leading both in its geographical coverage and its operational efficiency. By 1929, Flinders Street station was handling 113 suburban trains at peak hour compared to only 94 in 2008. The network handled more traffic after World War II than now. The official 1969 transport plan, which led to the existing four-track underground CBD rail loop, envisaged passenger trips would double to 300 million by the mid-80s. Instead, they slumped to 100 million.

The decline in patronage that flowed from the rise of the motor vehicle in the 20s and the excess capacity built in from the 70s inexorably eroded operational efficiency. The fat solidified and peak-hour trains now are increasingly over-crowded even through passenger trips have rebounded to less than 200 million.

Tracing how the Swiss-like performance of 20s Australia’s urban train systems degenerated into the world-lagging inefficiencies of today’s Melbourne and Sydney rail networks would make a fascinating historical study. Mees notes that a strong culture of on-time running allowed Melbourne trains to arrive two minutes apart in the 20s. Now this has blown out to three minutes. Cutting this back by just 30 seconds would allow an extra 32 trains per hour.

He points to inefficient work rules (drivers have to leave their cabins to unlock wheelchair ramps), a culture of late boarding (which frequently adds up to 20 seconds to “dwell time") and train layout (two, rather than three, doors per carriage per side). He also identifies underused suburban tunnel space that could separately accommodate country trains.

Sydney’s train system is even more notorious for its inefficiencies. And the shambles of the NSW Labor government meant that Sydney alone missed out on serious Infrastructure Australia money for its proposed $5.3bn CBD metro rail project, which is supposed to link to an $8.3bn 24km underground metro line to beyond Parramatta. Passenger forecasts are now being inflated to support the case.

Some suggest that the project is one way to escape the inefficiencies and union control of the existing system. If so, that would be a hugely expensive surrender to failure.

It suggests that Infrastructure Australia needs to adopt two key principles. First, it must demand that existing suburban rail systems are operating close to world’s best efficiency before spending billions more on new capacity. Second, it must urgently develop a credible, consistent and public cost-benefit framework for assessing and comparing all infrastructure proposals involving federal money.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Sydney's Lebanese Muslim problem

The Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad raided three houses in Auburn last week, looking for people suspected of being involved in the shooting of a 23-year-old man. They allegedly found a handgun and ammunition, two stun guns, cannabis and a large sum of cash. But within 10 minutes of their arrival, 150 local youths gathered to intimidate the police, drawn by text message and, according to the Opposition Police spokesman, Mike Gallacher, by Facebook messages describing police as ''Kefeirs'', a slang Arabic term for non-Muslim unbelievers. ''Kefeirs raiding brother's house, everyone get down hier [sic]!!''

The mob pelted officers with bottles and abuse, while inside one of the houses a policeman was smashed in the face. He was taken by ambulance to Concord Hospital to stitch up his forehead. The new Public Order and Riot Squad, formed after the Cronulla and Macquarie Fields riots, was called in, along with the Dog Squad and PolAir helicopter. This circus was all par for the course for police trying to perform routine law enforcement duties in south-western suburbs such as Auburn and Granville, where whole streets have become no-go zones.

Just three people were arrested that night - two men and a woman - and the alleged police assailant was released on bail the next day, after claiming he was defending his mother.

Then the complaints came thick and heavy from people outraged "culturally insensitive" police would dare execute a search warrant during Ramadan, a holy month of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims fast until sunset. Do they think there should be one law for Ramadan observers and another for ''kefeirs''?

The Auburn raid, at 6pm last Tuesday, when Muslims were sitting down to break their fast, was planned simply to ensure "persons of interest" would actually be home. ''Race, religion, anything - that doesn't come into consideration in criminal investigations,'' Chief Superintendent Ken McKay, told reporters the next day. ''A lot of people like to use excuses for their behaviour. There's a way to solve that - don't commit crime … ''This is NSW. We have laws in this state we must all abide by, and these people have to abide by the same laws.''

Hooray for Ken McKay. That statement was a long time coming. It is a sign the culture of impotence that has infected the NSW Police Force in the troubled decade and a half since the Wood Royal Commission may be on the retreat. The Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, is a quiet diplomat, with little independence from his political masters. But there are indications he is empowering frontline police to do their jobs, going after real crooks rather than only easy targets of jaywalkers or law-abiding citizens bending traffic rules.

The riot squad is one example. The high jinks at a recent police dinner attended by the Premier is another. A home video spoofing the overly bureaucratic softly-softly tactics of policing today was shown. Based on Life on Mars, it featured a 1970s detective time-travelling to 2009 and flabbergasted by his colleagues' inability to fight crime. Just the fact police feel free to openly mock the state of law enforcement shows change is afoot.

The Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad is another example. It is difficult work, and while no one dares mention it in polite company, crime families from Middle Eastern Muslim communities, especially when linked up with bikie gangs, are the biggest law enforcement headache in the state.

So frightened are authorities of alienating the Muslim community, in case they supposedly become terrorists, the go-softly approach has been mandated for years. The Liberal MP John Ajaka wants the squad abolished because he says its name vilifies ethnic communities. But the fact is many other squads within the State Crime Command, from Robbery and Serious Crime to Gangs, are finding more than half their work involves criminals of Middle Eastern origin.

However, as one frontline police officer working at a south-western Sydney police station said yesterday, the criminals he arrests are not representative of the Muslim community, and are a menace to law-abiding, Allah-fearing Muslims in their neighbourhoods. "These people don't go to mosque. They are not religious. They are just using the excuse that they are being targeted because of their religion." They use cultural sensitivities as a weapon to intimidate police.

He describes the difficulty of executing a warrant on a Muslim house: ''We do raids on them and you can't have mums running off to get scarves on their heads because they could be getting weapons. Everything we do is for operational safety … You're in a hostile environment. You don't know if there's a knife here or a gun there. We have to secure everyone in the house and it is dangerous to allow people to go into bedrooms unaccompanied … The mothers don't want their sons dragged away so [they] provoke the police … and if you go near them they say it's assault [and the men] use that as justification to come in over the top.''

For too long he says there has been "a genuine feeling in south-west Sydney that the cops are soft. [The criminals] try to intimidate a police officer to the point where they back down". The Auburn riots were different. "The police just didn't put up with the intimidation. We're not here to make friends.''

Of course, a goal for many years in the NSW Police Force has been to reduce the number of complaints, as some sort of anti-corruption indicator. This has meant any criminal with enough wit can hobble arresting officers for years with spurious complaints and even civil action. It remains to be seen whether front-line police will end up ruing the day they decided to take on the thugs of Auburn.


Another pack attack by Lebanese Muslims

TWO teenagers have been stabbed outside a pub in Sydney's south. Police say the two, aged 17 and 18, were set upon by six males of Middle Eastern appearance outside a hotel on Forest Road, Hurstville, about 7.15pm yesterday. They had been inside the hotel.

During the altercation the 18-year-old man was stabbed in the left side of his chest and suffered a punctured lung, while the 17-year-old sustained a stab wound to his ribcage. The pair were taken to St George Hospital, where they are in a stable condition.

The men who attacked them were last seen running in a westerly direction on Forest Road. The attacker who produced the knife is described as being about 18 years old, of Mediterranean/Middle Eastern appearance, and about 180cm tall.


Panicky NSW dickless Tracy gets off scot-free

Fuller account of the matter here and here.

POLICE did nothing wrong when they shot a woman who was running at them with a dinner fork last year, the NSW Police Commissioner said, despite both the woman and her alleged assailant saying police did not need to fire.

Nine months after Susie Banderas was shot twice in the chest at her Parramatta flat complex, the results of an internal investigation into her shooting have been released and the female constable who shot her has been cleared of any wrongdoing. Ms Banderas was shot in the early hours of December 21 after police went to the Iron Street flats following several emergency calls.

When they arrived they found Ms Banderas struggling with another resident, Sonni Michael Angelo. They were told to lie on the ground, and capsicum spray was used, but Mr Angelo, a professional fighter, ran into a flat and Ms Banderas ran towards police with a fork allegedly in her hand. She was then shot twice and fell to the ground.

''They're judgment calls, they're reflex calls. Our police officers responded and responded well,'' Commissioner Andrew Scipione said yesterday.

After the shooting Ms Banderas told The Sun-Herald the officer shot her at point blank range when she ran towards police for help. Mr Angelo also said there was no need to shoot her.


A gracious act

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd has announced the appointment of former Labor and Liberal Party leaders to prestigious diplomatic posts in the US and Europe.

In a press conference held in Canberra a short time ago, Mr Rudd confirmed former Labor leader Kim Beazely's appointment as Australia's next ambassador to the United States.

And in a surprise move, he also announced former Liberal leader Brendan Nelson would take over as Australia's ambassador to the European Union, and its representative to NATO and the World Health Organisation.

Both Mr Beazley and Dr Nelson had served as defence ministers, both had led their parties and both had earned the trust and respect of the Australian people, Mr Rudd said, defending their appointment over professional diplomats.

There was no-one better qualified in Australia to be the US ambassador than Mr Beazley, Mr Rudd said. And the prime minister said Dr Nelson's experience as defence minister was important in the European role, especially the relationship with NATO.


New Australian citizenship quiz tests facts, not figures

New citizens will need to know about "mateship" and what it means to get a "fair go", but Don Bradman and billiards champion Walter Lindrum have been left out of the nation's revamped citizenship test. Unveiling details of the new test yesterday, Immigration Minister Chris Evans said it was more important for migrants to know about their rights and responsibilities than "trivial Australiana" such as facts about the late Sir Don. "I want people applying to Australian citizenship to know things such as under Australia's domestic law, domestic violence is illegal, that you're not entitled to hit women in Australia," Senator Evans said. "That seems to me to be much more relevant than understanding whether Don, whether Walter Lindrum, was good at billiards."

But before they pledge their oath of allegiance, prospective citizens will be able to learn about the Don, Dick Smith, Eddie Mabo and even lesser-known figures such as gynaecologist Catherine Hamlin in a "non-testable" section of the new citizenship book. The book explains such helpful phrases as "mateship" -- "When my car broke down, the other drivers helped to push it in the spirit of mateship" -- and "try your luck" -- "Every year, I try my luck and bet $10 on a horse in the Melbourne Cup" -- but skips prime ministerial favourites such as "fair shake of the sauce bottle".

Under changes that passed through parliament yesterday -- the 60th anniversary of Australian citizenship -- people with physical or mental disabilities will not have to sit the test, while others who need help will be able to take a citizenship course.

The new laws will also mean children have to become permanent residents before becoming eligible for citizenship. And the rules have been relaxed to make it easier for elite athletes, pilots and cruise ship crews -- who spend a lot of time outside the country -- to become citizens.

The new citizenship test, to be rolled out from October 19, will contain 20 multiple-choice questions. The pass mark will rise from 60 per cent to 75 per cent. The test is also designed to check whether immigrants have a basic knowledge of English.

To mark the 60th anniversary of Australian citizenship, Senator Evans, who is from Wales, told a rowdy Senate in response to a question from Labor senator Doug Cameron: "It's a great day for Australian democracy and citizenship when a Scotsman can ask a Welshman a question, while being interjected upon by people from Germany, Belgium and New Zealand. It says something about the country."

The government has not released the new test, but has published practice questions, which test facts such as the meaning of Anzac Day, the colours of the Aboriginal flag and the role of the Governor-General.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Useless Victoria police do nothing while "refugees" destroy Australia's Indian education industry

You are not allowed to mention it these days but in the past there was more open acknowledgement that the street thugs are mostly African refugees. That means, of course, that the police are hamstrung by political correctness

India has urged Australia to quickly put in place promised measures to protect its citizens after new assaults last weekend in Melbourne. India's foreign ministry confirmed two Indian nationals and two other persons of Indian origin were assaulted in Australia on September 12. "It would help if various measures being contemplated by the Australian side, in addition to those already announced, are put in place at the earliest, to prevent reoccurrence of such incidents in the future," said a statement from the foreign ministry.

Victorian Premier John Brumby said incidents such as the weekend attack on four Indian men will make his mission to repair damaged relations between Australia and India all the more difficult. Mr Brumby leaves Australia for India next Monday for a trip designed to promote Melbourne as a safe destination for Indian students to study. [What a laugh!]

"I don't think there is any doubt at all that some of the events over the last few months have damaged our brand and the Australian brand in India," he told reporters on Wednesday. "It will make that task (promoting Melbourne as a good place to study) difficult. I think it makes the trip to India even more important."

A series of attacks on Indian students since May has strained diplomatic ties between New Delhi and Canberra and each new attack prompts wide media coverage here.

The Australian government has promised to increase police patrols and weed out suspect education and migration agents after revelations that foreign students were falling victim to sub-standard courses and visa scams. "We are concerned at the recurring attacks on Indians in Australia and we hope that the latest incident is investigated with care and the culprits are dealt with," the statement said.

The attacks have cast a shadow over the Australian education industry for foreign students which is worth $15.53 billion. About 95,000 Indians are studying in Australia after a university publicity blitz targeting the country's growing middle class. The ministry said it had taken note of assurances given by the Australian authorities but now expected some action.


Some excerpts from another report about the pathetic police handling of the most recent attack:

Police have defended a four-day delay in releasing details about a racist attack on four men in Melbourne’s north-east that has sparked outrage in India. The Times of India today reported that up to 70 people were involved in the bashing of Sukhdip Singh, 26, his brother Gurdeep Singh, uncle Mukhtair Singh and nephew Indpal Singh, 20.

But Victoria Police acting Senior Sergeant Glenn Parker said the attack had been exaggerated in Indian press reports and denied there had been a cover-up by police. Acting Senior Sergeant Parker today denied Indian media reports that up to 70 people had been involved in the assault. He said 15 to 20 people were believed to have watched the assault and were yelling racial abuse when police arrived...

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said because four men were arrested following the assault there had been no "operational reason" for police to publicise the incident. The four arrested men, aged between 20 and 30, were later released without charge. Police are now seeking witnesses.

Incredible NSW hospitals bureaucracy again

More than 130 doctors at one of the state's most dilapidated hospitals have threatened to walk off the job after being told the Health Department is impotent to change their ''slum-like conditions'' but is demanding they slash up to $9 million from their budget and cull staff.

Doctors at Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital went public in the Herald last month, upset that wards were stained with possum urine, dangerous cabling snaked across floors and operating theatres were too small for modern equipment and lacked emergency arrest buttons, putting staff and patients at risk. Possums had also been found living among open boxes of medical supplies in the intensive care unit.

But, after a visit by the then health minister John Della Bosca, hospital management was this week told to slash up to $9 million from its budget, lose 23 staff and close a ward. Doctors had planned to discuss the proposed cuts with the chief of the Northern Sydney Area Health Service, Matthew Daly, yesterday but the meeting was cancelled at short notice, leaving staff fearing they have been sidelined.

''Is this punishment for bringing the Hornsby debacle to the public?'' the chairman of the medical staff council, Richard Harris, asked yesterday. ''They are all hoping this will blow over, but we are … determined to make sure it doesn't blow over,'' he said.

The hospital's clinical director of surgery and anaesthetics, Pip Middleton, said doctors would give the Government six weeks to agree to a rebuild before considering withdrawing their services. ''In less than two years this hospital will become unsafe and unworkable so it is fast getting to the point where the only thing we can do is walk out. It's not something we'd do lightly but it may be the only thing they understand.''

Dr Middleton, who has previously labelled conditions at the hospital as medieval and offensive, said a recent offer by the area health service to renovate a ward was ''Chinese finance''. ''Sticky tape and a lick of paint does nothing to improve the conditions for anyone here. If they can't rebuild completely, they are throwing good money after bad. We need some firm evidence they are doing something rather than stalling, or we're out,'' he said.

A cardiologist, Jason Sharp, said staff were tired of dealing with '' a dysfunctional bureaucracy that can't achieve anything''. He said the recent resignation of the hospital's general manager had left staff feeling more demoralised. ''Administration is in disarray at a hospital level, an area health service level and a state level. They are immobilised and it leaves us disappointed.''

The hospital's executive clinical director, Sue Kurrle, said staff were perplexed at being told to cut the budget. ''This is one of the most cost-efficient hospitals in the state. There's nothing to cut.''

Dr Harris has called for a meeting with the new Health Minister, Carmel Tebbutt, and wants representatives from the Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons to tour the hospital.


No fond farewell for a Labor party bigot

By Paul Howes, national secretary of the Australian Workers Union

FEDERAL Labor backbencher Julia Irwin has announced she will not recontest the ultra-safe southwestern Sydney seat of Fowler at the next election. Let me provide the first political obituary: a negligible contribution to southwestern Sydney and a dangerous contribution to the foreign policy debate.

Irwin's most ungracious act came last year. The member for Fowler chose to boycott the Prime Minister's speech marking the anniversary of the foundation of the state of Israel. This was probably the most embarrassing intervention from a backbencher in the present parliament. She said at the time, "I cannot congratulate a country which carries out human rights abuses each day."

Yet a quick search of Hansard reveals Irwin's concerns for human rights are a little selective. It seems she believes there are two classes of human rights, for two classes of citizen.

Last year, for example, Irwin heaped praise on the Cuban government and its overseas medical assistance programs. But she made no mention of the plight of political prisoners in Cuba, or the daily repression faced by Cuban citizens struggling to live under the repressive communist regime.

Irwin's moral clarity on human rights seemed also to escape her when she travelled to China in 1999. Irwin was in Beijing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that renowned bastion of robust political debate, the National People's Congress. On her return, the member for Fowler addressed parliament about her trip, thanking the Chinese ambassador in Canberra for his assistance, then turning to the issue of Tibet.

"With regard to reconciliation with the Dalai Lama, the delegation was told that this would require the Dalai Lama to give up any claims for independence for Tibet and to stop separatist activities," Irwin declared. "As for Tibetans living abroad, the delegation was told that they were free to enter and leave Tibet and that some 10,000 had done so in recent years, with 2000 resettling in Tibet."

Human rights campaigners rejoice. Irwin's been to China and discovered everything is peachy for the Tibetans. As for political prisoners, human rights abuses and the legacy of Tiananmen Square, the keen humanitarian conscience of the member for Fowler must have been missing in action.

During 11 years in parliament, Irwin has given many private member statements on her views of the conflict in Israel and Palestinian territories. In 2005 she gave a short speech where in the space of just a few minutes she accused Israel of "ethnic cleansing" and setting up "a walled ghetto" and "a concentration camp".

Comparing the actions of Israel with those of Nazi Germany is the sort of low-rent tactic preferred by those who seek to perpetuate rather than resolve the impasse in the Middle East. It is divisive and intellectually lazy.

Many decent and upstanding MPs on both sides of the house are passionate about the plight of the Palestinian people. Many have delivered valuable, thoughtful speeches on the failure of Israel to secure peace. But Irwin is not one of them. In her short-sightedness, she has refused to acknowledge the important role of progressive Israelis and progressive Palestinians. In short, she is more interested in stoking the flames of division than bringing together those who want peace, irrespective of faith and nationality.

Her legacy to the parliament, her electorate and Labor is not a great one. I suspect few of her constituents could nominate any local achievements. For the Labor Party that protected her preselection, she has shown no gratitude. Her intervention in the House of Representatives this week announcing her retirement was full of vitriol and put the boot into a political party that has kept her and her family in well-paid employment for many years.

However, Irwin was right to point out many of the flaws that exist in the way the Labor Party operates. That Irwin could remain the holder of an ultra-safe seat such as Fowler for 11 years is evidence that maybe the party could do with some reform.

In our grand Labor family, we tolerate different views and vigorous debate. Her parting contribution only reinforces her utter lack of respect and grace. Hopefully in retirement she can enjoy the company of other exiles, such as Mark Latham. So goodbye, Julia, I'm sure someone will miss you, but I doubt that your party or your electorate will.


A rather stupid immigration debate

How can you talk about immigration without specifying WHICH immigrants you are talking about? Should we accept inmates from the prisons of Haiti, for instance? It is certainly true that Australia's large numbers of bright and hard-working Han Chinese (now about 10% of the population) have been very benefical to Australia and Australians but it is equally true that the intake of Lebanese and African Muslims has done little more than push up the crime rate

It was the Herald's IQ2 debate last night at City Recital Hall that got economists, scientists, public opinion leaders - and the audience - speaking on the topic that ''our current immigration rate is too high''.

Professor Tim Flannery, the scientist and 2007 Australian of the Year, kicked off proceedings by arguing that while population growth is in the interests of business and government, it is not in the long-term interests of individuals or humanity because of the strain on the environment.

''Every other species has natural factors which constrain its growth. We have removed them all except for our own volition,'' he said.

The Herald columnist Tanveer Ahmed said migrants have ''driven the economy further, enriched the culture and fabric of our nation, and their children are, by and large, even more successful.''

John Sutton, vice-president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, cited a number of labour-related reasons why migrants numbers should be reduced, including the small Australian labour market being unable to absorb supply.

An economist, Professor Helen Hughes, countered that well-managed migration raises the benefits to all involved.

But for all the talk of the economy, the author Tom Keneally concluded that migration was most importantly a moral and humanitarian concern, bringing discussion back towards the environment with a mention of climate refugees, and the social benefits migrants have brought to Australian culture.


Creepy vitriolic bigotry of the internet's fringe-dwellers

MP Michael Danby in an attack in Parliament on antisemitism in "New Matilda" and "Crikey"

THE editorial bias of the online publications for which they write clearly puts them on the fringe of Australian politics. If one compares the things that they wrote with, say, Labor Party discussions at the recent national conference, one would see that they are completely outside the mainstream of the centre-left party in this country.

The thrust of my previous speech and tonight's lies with the creepier bigotry that their articles and other articles unleashed in these two online publications (Crikey and New Matilda), which apparently had no problem with publishing them.

Our toughest critique must be of their unadulterated racism: the perverse nature of their criticisms and the vitriol that is not present in the appraisal of other conflicts; the use of terms such as ethnic cleansing and Nazi; and the dropping of all pretence of anti-Zionism by openly discussing Jews and so-called Jewish proclivities.

It is clear in my view that New Matilda and Crikey disgraced themselves and the wider circle of Australian journalism and the tolerant ethos that characterises Australia by publishing clearly bigoted comments in the comments sections of their publications in the first three months of this year.

Crikey's publisher pleads partly guilty in The Australian Jewish News on Thursday:

ERIC Beecher rejected the idea that the daily online newspaper was in any way anti-Semitic. "It's true, though, that Crikey pushes the boundaries, and in doing so sometimes pushes too far," Beecher said.


Full speech here. An excerpt:

My analysis prompted an exchange of letters between well-known civil rights organisation the Anti-Defamation Commission and Newmatilda's editor, Marni Cordell. In April of this year the Anti-Defamation Commission sent Cordell a sober, detailed and careful analysis of the magazines' contents for the first three months of 2009, highlighting ADC's concerns over not its partisan opinion but the broad slabs of hate speak published in the comments section following each article. En passant, Cordell virtually agreed that her online publication presented no semblance of fairness, asserting her publication's role was as a counterweight to the biased, pro-Israel media. One wonders what planet she lived on during the war in Gaza.

Cordell [above] fudged why Newmatilda publishes blatantly bigoted commentary, even though the magazine explicitly reserves the right to moderate that commentary if it is abusive or promotes hate. Only since being exposed has Newmatilda stopped publishing race hate in its comment columns.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is incensed that habitual paedophiles are ever allowed back into the community.

Another Greenie false prophet shown up for what he is

Tim Flannery must be running a close second to Paul Ehrlich by now. See the graphic first below about Perth's "declining" water supplies and after that a current picture of the Mundaring Weir in the Perth area (The difference between a weir and a dam is that water does not flow over a dam). Dam and weir levels are up in most of Australia at the moment. Fuller version of the first graphic here. The article has gone offline at its original source, "The West Australian" newspaper (originally June 25, 2004) but some pesky people keep copies of things. Tim should stick to fossils. He knows something about them.

A LONG spell of winter rain in Perth's catchment areas has lifted the city's dams to their highest level in almost a decade. Water Corporation spokesman Phil Kneebone today said the West Australian Government's winter sprinkler ban and consistent winter rainfall had helped fill dams to more than 49 per cent capacity. This compares with levels around 30 per cent before the seasonal winter rains arrived in June.

The Bureau of Meteorology said Perth and its surrounds had recorded rain on all but one day this month - the longest recorded stretch of daily September rainfall since 1915. However, this year's total rainfall of 536.8mm is still well below the city's average of 766mm to the end of September. A weather bureau spokesman said much heavier falls had been received in the catchment areas of the Perth hills and Mr Kneebone said he expected dams to rise above their current volume of 195.7 billion litres.

"I expect they will reach more than 50 per cent capacity by the end of the week," Mr Kneebone said. "It is easily the most water we have had in the dams, in any year, since 2000."

Mr Kneebone said the daily water consumption over the past week was down 16 per cent from this time last year. He said the sprinkler ban had directly contributed to a saving of 50 million litres of water a day, enough to fill about 22 Olympic swimming pools. "We currently have enough to get through an extra 50 hot summer days," he said. "It's great to see the community showing restraint with water use. "We will be able to give our biggest ground water source, the Gnangara Mound, a rest, which is also good news."


Building industry watchdog reject attempt to whitewash unions

BUILDING industry watchdog John Lloyd has criticised the Rudd government over its handling of his future, with taxpayers facing a $115,000 compensation payout if he departs before his contract expires next year...

Mr Lloyd attacked the finding of last week's Senate inquiry into the ABCC, saying the report continued to repeat "misconceptions" about the watchdog's role.

In the report's preface, inquiry chairman and Labor senator Gavin Marshall said the ABCC had taken a narrow view of its role and had not sought to remedy all the unacceptable practices in the industry. He said this had resulted in a perception the ABCC was interested only in protecting employers against union aggression rather than safeguarding the interests of industry stakeholders.

Of investigations undertaken by the ABCC in the past two years, 26 per cent have targeted employers, compared with 64 per cent at unions and 8 per cent at employees. Of the court cases commenced by the ABCC in the same period, 11 per cent have been directed at employers compared with almost 90 per cent at unions.

Mr Lloyd said Mr Marshall's "assertion is wrong". "We administer the act without fear or favour, and we commence proceedings and investigations against whoever contravenes the law," he said. "It's not a role that runs to a quota system, to somehow give equality of treatment. "If we have more investigations and cases involving unions, it's because they're involved in more of the alleged and actual contraventions."


Dumb official attempt to stop school bullying

They are "developing a plan" Big deal!

An autistic boy being bullied at his Ipswich primary school was given a "stop" sign which he waved at his tormentors, sparking outrage from his mother. The eight-year-old boy was armed with the sign by staff at Ipswich West State School after he said he had been pushed down a staircase by bullies and even dangled over a second-storey veranda.

Far from deterring the attacks, his mother said the sign only made him a target for more bullying. “My son is terrified of going to school and no-one is helping him. He’s totally on his own,” she told The Queensland Times. “The situation is atrocious and I think that giving my son a card to wave at these bullies is completely inappropriate."

An Education Queensland spokesman said: “Ipswich West State School implements a range of programs, including one that uses alternative communication methods, to help children – in particular to support students with a disability.”

But the department denied the boy was given the card to show bullies. A spokeswoman said he had been given the card as a prompt for himself, not others. "This student was taking part in a specialist support program called `Stop, Think, Do' which encourages students to stop and think about their own actions before they act or make decisions,'' she said. "This card serves as a prompt for the student to think about his own actions. "This was implemented as part of the student's individual support plan in consultation with specialist staff. The student's parent was aware of the plan. "The school is in the process of developing a new support plan for this student, in consultation with his parents and the specialist staff.''

The spokeswoman also didn't deny that the boy had used the card incorrectly as a defence against bullies.


Why the Australia economy has done so well

Don't be misled by the mildness of this recession into thinking we didn't have a problem in the first place. The pills of budgetary and interest-rate stimulus are working well.

Even so, John Howard, Peter Costello and the Liberals are entitled to a lot of the credit for our comparatively comfortable position. In seeking to deny them that credit, Kevin Rudd is being disingenuous and churlish. In other words, although our position owes much to the size and speed of the Government's response to the global crisis - and the Reserve Bank's - it owes much to the good state we were in when the global financial crisis hit a year ago. And since Rudd had been in office less than a year, the economy's state was largely the consequence of his predecessors' policies.

One of our greatest strengths compared with the Americans, British and other Europeans is that, although some of our lesser financial institutions have failed, our banks have been rock solid. The trouble facing most of the rest of the developed world is because their banks are in trouble. Howard and Costello deserve the credit for this. They resisted pressure from our big four banks to allow them to merge and become ''national champions'', continuing their predecessors' Four Pillars policy and thus helping to keep our banks out of trouble.

Just as importantly, early in his period as treasurer, Costello completed reform of financial sector regulation, placing prime responsibility in the hands of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority. Part of the Americans' problem is that responsibility in their system is shared between four or five buck-passing authorities.

The Liberals' other great contribution was to have returned the federal budget to surplus and paid off the federal government's net debt, which they did to a fair extent using the proceeds from the progressive privatisation of Telstra. Here it's important to remember - as the present Opposition seems to have forgotten - the great advantage of returning the budget to surplus and eliminating debt is it leaves you well placed for the next time you need to run up deficits and debt in the interests of stabilising the economy.

The budget is like a set of dinner plates. You wash them and put them away after the last meal so they're ready for next time. All this was implicit in the Howard government's stated medium-term objective for budgetary policy, to maintain the budget in balance only on average over the course of the economic cycle. Budget deficits are appropriate when the economy is very weak; budget surpluses are appropriate when it's strong. On average, the deficits and surpluses should cancel out.

It was because our fiscal (budgetary) affairs were in such good order that there needed to be no hesitation in the decision last October for the Government to spend big in an effort to reduce the downturn in the economy. (Remember, however, the downturn would have pushed the budget into deficit even without any additional spending - that's how budgets work.)

By contrast, the Americans and most of the Europeans had big annual budget deficits and high levels of accumulated debt when the crisis hit. That didn't stop them spending heavily to stimulate their economies as well as to bail out their banks. Needs must when the devil drives. But this is why there's now so much worry about the huge levels of debt the developed world is acquiring. The need to service and slowly pay it down will be a major constraint on the world economy for many years.

This weak world growth will adversely affect us to some extent but, although Rudd won't find it easy to get our budget back to surplus over the next few years, our debt problem is chicken feed compared to the others'.

Looking at it more broadly, you have to say our economy is a lot more flexible and resilient than it used to be. That is, it's better able to roll with whatever punches the world throws at us. And you have to give the Howard government its share of the credit for this. For a start, it established a much better set of arrangements for the day-to-day management of the economy, setting the aforementioned medium-term objective for the budget and formally accepting that interest rates would be set by the Reserve Bank independent of the elected government.

It also introduced the long-feared goods and services tax - a much-needed reform - cut the tax on capital gains, privatised Telstra, ''marketised'' child care and job placement, and attempted to introduce Work Choices.

Most of the ''structural'' reform that so changed our economy was done by the previous Labor government: deregulation of the financial system, floating the dollar, phasing out tariff protection, sundry privatisations and deregulations, competition policy and moving from centralised wage-fixing to enterprise bargaining.

Now they're out of office, Howard and Costello are happy to acknowledge the Hawke-Keating government's considerable role in transforming our economy though, like Rudd, they refused to admit it at the time. But the first realisation our economy was now much more resilient came at the time of the Asian financial crisis in 1998, well before any of the Howard government's structural changes could have had much effect.

No former government's record is unblemished, however. Hawke and Keating presided over a severe recession (which left a fair bit of government debt) and Howard did, as Rudd charges, leave us with less to show for the resources boom than he should have, particularly in his neglect of productivity-enhancing investment in infrastructure and education and training.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has some thoughts about flogging horses and concludes that the NSW Labor government is a dead one

The charming NSW police again

Female police officers claim harrassment. And now that they have complained, they "face a loss of confidence of the Commissioner". Must not complain, obviously. The normal official bullsh*t is that "These complaints are being taken very seriously" but the NSW cops are too crass even for that

A POLICE command is in turmoil with female officers claiming widespread sexual harassment and intimidation, including being told their place is in the home. The Daily Telegraph has obtained a female senior constable's 30-page complaint against five policemen at the Goulburn Local Area Command in the southwest of New South Wales. In the complaint, the officer alleged colleagues sent sexually explicit emails at her expense, asked her to join a threesome, sacked her locker and intercepted her mail.

Another three officers at the same command's Bowral station have told their local MP they were "demeaned" due to pregnancy or because they were mothers.

Burrinjuck MP Katrina Hodgkinson told State Parliament the women "have always been highly respected members of the communities they have protected".

The alleged harassment of the senior constable and sergeant began two years ago. During one unsavoury exchange in the police station last year the senior constable said a colleague told her a threesome was "every man's dream" and then suggested she "have a go" with the girlfriend of another officer. A sexually explicit email was then allegedly sent to other officers.

When she went looking for support from another female officer, the colleague told her: "If you were female in this LAC and you stood up for yourself and the better you did your job then the more complaints you got."

The policewomen have also made serious allegations a local man was assaulted during an arrest in the middle of 2007 and that it was never investigated, despite his family attempting to make a complaint. The senior constable said the arresting officer told her: "That guy's a piece of shit, he was carrying on like a f**wit and mouthing off, he got what he deserved, we flogged him, he got pile-driven into the ground head first."

Two of the male officers accused of much of the alleged abuse were transferred to the senior constable's station last year and the woman complained: "I felt as though they were detaining me in my own police station."

A police media spokesman said the women, who were unable to comment because of an ongoing investigation, were the subject of a 181D action and faced a loss of confidence of the Commissioner.

"Their reward for a combined 37 years of dedicated front-line service is to be subjected to systematic bullying by male officers because of their gender and because they had the courage to stand up and complain about their treatment," Ms Hodgkinson said. The two women have paid dearly for their service, with the senior constable needing surgery to fuse her spine last year and the sergeant suffering a broken back on duty.


Leftist leader in rare stand against the Greenies

Brisbane could run out of drinking water unless the federal government backs the nation's greenest new dam, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh warned yesterday. "Ultimately the lives of more than two million people and their ability to drink is at stake here," she said. "The next time a drought hits southeast Queensland, and it will, I want to make sure people have got the water they need to drink and to conduct their lives."

Ms Bligh said the state government would have to build two new desalination plants or resort to recycled water for drinking if federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett blocked the proposed $1.5 billion Traveston Dam on environmental grounds. "The ball is now in the court of the federal government," she said. "All I ask ... of Peter Garrett is that they assess this dam rationally and objectively on the best science."

Ms Bligh said she sympathised with residents affected by the Traveston Dam, to be built by flooding the Mary Valley near Gympie, two hours' drive north of Brisbane. "Unfortunately I get the hard decision of making sure everybody has enough water to drink," she said. "We've just been through a period when we came perilously close to running out of it, and I'm not going to be guilty of short-sightedness on the preparation for the future water needs of southeast Queensland."

Ms Bligh said the dam could be functioning by 2017 if the federal government gives the green light before Christmas. The Premier last November deferred the project, which was opposed at the March election by the Liberal National Party opposition.

The dam could have been filled 10times over - providing water for 800,000 people a day - since her government first announced the project three years ago. "This is a dam that will hold all the water southeast Queensland needs for decades to come," Ms Bligh said yesterday. "If the federal government does not give the go-ahead for the dam ... we will have to go back to the drawing board. "I know there are many people who are opposed to this dam, but the southeast corner of Queensland is the fastest-growing part of Australia, and quite frankly it needs water if it's going to survive and thrive."

The Queensland Co-ordinator General has submitted tougher environmental conditions to Mr Garrett's office. Islands and sandbanks would be created for the rare Mary River turtles in the main water storage area, and trees would be planted to increase the area of vegetation around the river and its tributaries from 260ha to more than 2000ha over 20 years.

Ms Bligh blamed farming during the past 150 years for degrading the Mary River habitat to the point of endangering fish, frogs and turtles. Queensland Infrastructure and Planning Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said environmental rehabilitation works associated with the new dam "absolutely will provide the opportunity to save those species".

A spokesman for Mr Garrett said yesterday the project would undergo "thorough and rigorous scrutiny" under the national environment laws. Greens leader Bob Brown denounced the dam as "the most damaging project that's conceivable", and said he did not believe Mr Garrett would support it.


Unruly students 'should be sent to brat class'

VIOLENT and unruly students would be isolated in special classes to cool off under a bold plan to tackle worsening violence in our schools. Public school principals fed up with a lack of resources to deal with troublesome kids who endanger others and disrupt classes have called for the changes in a submission to the Victorian State Government, the Herald Sun reports.

Victorian Principals Association president Gabrielle Leigh yesterday said a network of student development centres staffed by specially trained teachers and welfare workers were needed as schools struggled to cope with extreme behaviour. "It starts at primary level and that's why those schools need the support," she told the Herald Sun. "If the behaviour is being exhibited in year 1 or 2 why can't we do something about it rather than wait for it to become a more serious issue later on in schooling?"

Last year, more than 16,000 public primary and secondary students were suspended in Victoria and more than 200 were expelled. In its submission to the Government, the VPA says the centres would provide an alternative to suspending misbehaving students and hopefully enable them to return to normal classes. Students would be sent with the agreement of principals, parents and department officials.

Ms Leigh said the existing system of dealing with troublemakers was inconsistent and lacked resources. "There are centres, but they are few and far between," she said. "A review into the issue has been going on for months, but nothing has happened and in that time students are being lost to our system."

Youth worker Les Twentyman said the idea was long overdue. "We need to give troubled kids another means of learning. We need to keep them in classrooms and out of court rooms," he said.

Ms Leigh said only one-in-two primary schools had full-time welfare officers. "We want one in every primary school," she said.


Amazing incompetence: Australian troops malnourished

SOME of Australia's front-line troops are enduring dangerous weight loss, months after The Courier-Mail exposed their inadequate diets. Some Diggers in Afghanistan have lost 15kg in a month, prompting doctors at the Tarin Kowt hospital to express grave concerns about malnutrition among troops. "There are some serious nutritional issues out there," one medico said.

It follows the revelation that they were forced to pay for their own combat boots and life insurance.

The worst-affected troops are those with 1st Battalion's combat teams, who travel around Oruzgan Province. They are restricted to an occasional fresh meal consisting mainly of meat. But nutrition has improved for those at the main base camp at Tarin Kowt and forward operating bases elsewhere in Oruzgan province. There are now 10 army cooks in the country and US forces have opened one of their dining facilities to relieve pressure on the much-criticised Dutch mess.

Field kitchens feed troops at the forward operating bases, with cooks such as Private Steven Trezise, from Myrtleford in Victoria, and Queenslander Lance Corporal Nathaniel Murdock preparing meals. With limited equipment, their weekly menu includes barbecued spare ribs, pasta in sauces, curries, chicken fillets and bacon and eggs. "It is a juggling act, especially the gas supply," Private Trezise told The Courier-Mail at Combat Outpost Mashal in the Chora Valley as he prepared pasta bolognaise with vegetables and pork spare ribs. "The soldiers are happy to see a fresh feed when they come back from patrol rather than a plastic bag." Private Trezise provides up to two fresh meals a day with occasional treats such as ice-cold soft drinks and ice cream.

In May this year, The Courier-Mail revealed the Defence Department had written to hundreds of Diggers being deployed to Afghanistan, advising them to buy extra life insurance to top up existing "inadequate" compensation. Soldiers were required to sign a form either accepting or rejecting the extra insurance, costing up to $100 a month.

In earlier reports, The Courier-Mail revealed some soldiers were paying hundreds of dollars to replace ill-fitting combat boots with ones that wouldn't hurt their feet.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Green jobs dopey, says union leader

ONE of Australia's most powerful union leaders has lashed out at the push for green jobs, labelling it a "dopey term", and has dismissed environmental campaigns against some of the nation's major export industries as "judgmental nonsense". The president of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, Tony Maher, said existing industries such as coal and steelmaking would have an important place in the nation's future economic prospects and in producing a lower carbon future.

He said carbon capture and storage and other hopes for cutting emissions such as solar and thermal, would require massive amounts of steel that should be made by Australian steel workers.

Mr Maher said much of the opposition to major industries - particularly the coal industry - was "well-intentioned naivete". "By mid-century we'll be using twice as much coal and a lot more steel and plastic and concrete that aren't the flavour of the month with environmentalists and green groups," he said.

His rhetoric is at odds with ACTU president Sharan Burrow, who has embarked on a campaign to argue the benefits of green jobs, including joining the Southern Cross Climate Coalition, a joint group of welfare, union, research and environmental organisations that have been lobbying the government to do more to create green jobs. In March Ms Burrow said Australia had to position itself to ensure it had the knowledge and skills to capture at least a quarter of what would be a global green products market worth more than three trillion dollars.

"The challenge is to reskill workers in existing blue-collar jobs to ensure they can manufacture, install and operate new technologies and to educate generations of students and young workers to take up new green jobs," she said.

Mr Maher played down any suggestion of a split with Ms Burrow, saying he chaired the ACTU's climate change group. and that there was merely a "difference in emphasis". But while white-collar workers were more comfortable with talking about green jobs, Mr Maher said he was concerned for his blue-collar constituency, keeping existing industries and fitting them into a restructured low-carbon economy. "A lot of the new jobs will be the old jobs," he said.

There would be a lot of new jobs created such as in recycling and harvesting stormwater run-off, but these would be bolt-on skills to existing trades to cope with new developments. "It's no different when plumbers had to adapt to using plastic pipes after years of using clay pipes," Mr Maher said. "Coalmines aren't going anywhere. Power stations aren't going anywhere."

Mr Maher told a trade publication last week the challenge for business leaders in the emerging green industries would be in attracting staff from other sectors who already had good pay and conditions. "A coalminer or a power station worker isn't going to leave their job on $120,000-plus with well-regulated shift arrangements and decent conditions to install low-wattage light bulbs or insulation," he said.

He dismissed the protest at the Hazelwood power station yesterday as "just silly". Hundreds of protesters gathered at Hazelwood in Victoria's La Trobe Valley to protest against the plant's emissions.

Police arrested 22 protesters after the "Switch Off Hazelwood" protest, which started about 11am with organisers planning a "mass civil disobedience action". Police said protesters became gradually more aggressive, and some wanted to jump over the plant's fences. The protesters were arrested for trespassing, and one person was arrested for assaulting a police officer at the Latrobe Valley station, which activists describe as one of Australia's dirtiest plants.

But Mr Maher said Australia produced the best-quality coking coal in the world, and this was used to make steel. He said it was silly to protest against an industry that produced a substantial proportion of the nation's exports.


Woman sent home from NSW public hospital to miscarry on her own

"Alone, in shocking pain and bleeding copiously, Rose Taylor gave birth to what might have become her third child in the bathroom of her St Helen's Park home, while her husband, son and daughter slept. Despite twice visiting the emergency department of Campbelltown Hospital with obvious symptoms of a miscarriage, Mrs Taylor, 26, was not given the option of admission, but sent home on both occasions - delivering a 14-week foetus without professional support and with only paracetamol to counter excruciating labour cramps.

''It had ears, eyes, fingers,'' she said of the traumatic loss two weeks ago. ''It was a fully formed child. That's an image you don't lose. You can't just flush it away.''

Two years after Jana Horska's miscarriage in a public toilet at Royal North Shore Hospital sparked an inquiry, NSW Health has not published promised treatment protocols for women who lose an early pregnancy, so Mrs Taylor's experience cannot be measured against a standard.

Instead, a spokesman yesterday referred the Herald to guidelines issued by the Australian College of Midwives, saying they were used by area health services ''to develop local policies for the management of patients with complications in early pregnancy''. But Hannah Dahlen, a college spokeswoman, said the advice concerned basic nursing care and did not define appropriate treatment for the one in seven pregnancies that miscarry.

In October 2007 the then health minister, Reba Meagher, pledged to respond within a month to an independent report into the Horska case that recommended urgent development of care protocols for miscarrying women. The Government funded extra early pregnancy nursing positions in emergency departments, but did not commit to specific care standards.

Late yesterday the Health Department confirmed it had circulated a draft early pregnancy care policy, understood to detail circumstances in which, for example, women with pain or bleeding in early pregnancy should have an ultrasound or pathology test. A spokesman said clinicians were already using the draft recommendations - which are not available to patients - and the document would be made public this year.

Yesterday a spokesman for Sydney South West Area Health Service, which administers Campbelltown Hospital, offered sympathy to the Taylors, but said: ''Women experiencing miscarriage are not routinely admitted to hospital unless medically necessary''.

Andrew Zuschmann, from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said women in Mrs Taylor's situation should always be offered admission. ''They need access to clinical support and psychological support, and they should be in an environment where they can get that.''


Rudd 'has lost border battle to smugglers'

THE Federal Opposition has renewed calls for an inquiry into Australia's border protection laws, after another boat carrying suspected asylum seekers was intercepted off the northwest coast. Border Protection intercepted the vessel, carrying 83 passengers and four crew, at midnight AEST, Friday night about 80 nautical miles south of Ashmore Island. It is the second boat intercepted this week after a vessel carrying seven passengers was found in the same area on Monday.

Fifty-six Afghans trying to travel to Australia in a wooden boat were also detained in Indonesia this week, a navy official said on Friday.

Opposition spokeswoman for Immigration Sharman Stone said the Federal Government has "clearly lost the battle to people smugglers". It is the 30th boat that has been intercepted since the Rudd government "went soft" on border protection last August, she said on Saturday.

"For the sake of those risking their lives and to better protect Australia's orderly immigration program we must have a detailed analysis of what has gone wrong with Labor's strategy," Dr Stone said in a statement. "Again, I call for an urgent inquiry into the relationship between the Rudd government's softened stance on border protection and the surge in people smuggling in Australia."


Ridicule and hatred are routine hurdles for women rejecting the leftist emphasis on Australian university campuses

Note for non-Australian readers: The major conservative party in Australia is called the Liberal party, which actually makes a lot more sense than the American usage, where "liberals" are big-government devotees, not champions of individual liberty

At the start of her Sydney University orientation, Sasha Uher checked out the political clubs. She found the Socialist Alternative, the Greens, the Marxists, the anti-war party, the Labor Left, the Labor Right. ''I knew university would be more left-leaning but the extreme nature of some of these clubs really concerned me.'' She wondered why the choice was between soft left, mid-left, hard left, far left, lunar left. The Liberals, so important in national politics, seemed not to exist, but Uher eventually found them tucked away in a corner, and decided on the spot to join them.

The abuse started soon after. ''Liberals cop a lot of abuse from the Socialist Alternative, a radical leftist group on campus,'' she told me. ''They label us racist, sexist, homophobic. During an election campaign one socialist came up to me and said 'I campaign against scum like you every day'. There is a particularly strong anti-Israel bias, crossing into anti-Semitism. An insult I've often heard thrown at Liberal students is that we are 'dirty, war-mongering Jews'.

''This is why I am such a passionate advocate for voluntary student unionism. It is a matter that has rallied the Liberals. We strongly believe in individual responsibility … not expecting the government to be the solution to all problems.''

A commerce student, she is president of the university's Liberal Club. Hate speech, Uher says, is not the biggest problem in campus political life because most students are apolitical and steer away from the obsessives and zealots. More insidious, she believes, is the ideological bias of the faculty, and the subtle pressure to conform. ''Lecturers and tutors are predominantly left-leaning and this bias is often reflected in course material and in the way in which class work is marked.''

Every young Liberal woman interviewed for this story said the same thing. ''Unfortunately the only acceptable view within the mainstream of university politics is that of the left,'' said Sarah Constable, 20, an arts student at Sydney University. ''Of course, there is a minority of those who share Liberal values but we are often ostracised. It is pretty tough on campus for us because the minute someone realises you are a Liberal, you are automatically branded a heartless extremist.

''I cannot quantify the countless times I have been called a fascist because I'm a Young Liberal. Tutorials are some of the toughest times. Politics tutorials in particular are filled with people who, if the name John Howard is mentioned, go into some sort of a frenzy. The worst part is that the tutors are often even more extreme. ''At first I thought it was just the Socialist Alternative-types who were extreme; however I have had to sit through countless America-bashing tutorials.''

She joined the Liberal Club after returning from an extended period living in Britain. ''Growing up under an ineffective Labour government just served to reaffirm my Conservative values. I want to see Australia grow and prosper, so I'll work to see the Liberal Party re-elected.''

Prue Gusmerini, 26, studied law at the University of NSW, was apolitical at university, but came to the conclusion she was being fed rubbish by her teachers after two years of volunteer work for poor children. The work led her, after graduation, to her current job as campaign manager for Give Us A Go, a coalition of indigenous groups from Cape York. The campaign is headed by the Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson.

''I worked in some of toughest neighbourhoods in Australia in an effort to understand how the world really worked,'' she said. ''And let me tell you, that reality rarely accorded to the lessons being taught in university halls. ''The predominance of leftist thinking amongst the arts/law faculty was so strong that it took me almost two years to shirk some of its core teachings. I wasn't political at university, but I realised that the emphasis on leftist ideas divorced students from the political realities at play in the outside world.''

Ideological pressure and unreality within universities is a serious issue, but most universities pretend the problem does not exist. An outspoken exception is the vice-chancellor of Macquarie University, Steven Schwartz. ''Universities once had clear ethical purposes but over the years we have lost our moral direction,'' he said in a speech last month. ''The central ethical premise of universities has changed fundamentally … Postmodernists sneered at the achievements of the West and universities slowly sank into the morass of moral relativity.''

Schwartz believes that theory-dominated universities are divorced from practical realities. He is implementing a radical measure to require all students to undertake volunteer work off campus.

He could talk to Prue Gusmerini: ''My first gig in the real world was tutoring children at the Police Citizens and Youth Club at Waterloo, where most of the children were indigenous or the children of recently arrived migrants. From the get-go, it was obvious to me that there were massive institutional barriers to progress.''

She said she later joined the Liberal Party ''because the party's values complement my own conservative disposition, which is in part an extension of my childhood experiences and an extension of my experiences in indigenous politics and communities''.

She was also offended by the left's sneering attitude. ''Within the left there was a group of Howard haters who had no interest in fighting for a strong set of ideas or principles, which I respect, but were motivated by a deep hatred of and contempt for John Howard. It was this group that irked me the most. They stood for nothing.''

Being a Liberal at university can be politically very lonely. Courtney Dunn, 19, has never knowingly met another Liberal at the two University of Western Sydney campuses where she studies for a combined arts and law degree. ''The most visible political students on campus are the hard left, who the average student doesn't relate to, which is further reason why voluntary student unionism is such a positive thing.

''Our assigned reading materials clearly reflect ['progressive'] views. Texts can be so blatantly biased it can be frustrating. One of my lecturers even had the nerve to claim that Anzac Day is a celebration of war and touted it as a strange tradition. One textbook I had this year criticised the Howard government in almost every chapter and did not question a single Labor policy. It is obviously quite intimidating to challenge the views of your peers and ultimately the views of those marking their papers.''

Dunn's family is largely working-class and Labor-voting. She grew up in Campbelltown, and joined the Liberal Party at 17, much to the dismay of Labor-voting uncles.

''I think one of the dangers facing upcoming generations, including my own, is that we are developing an attitude of 'what will the government do about it?' I think the Rudd Government is sending the wrong message to Australians that we can't function without the Government's help in each area of our lives and I feel that this is fundamentally wrong.''

She expects ridicule for being a Liberal at the University of Western Sydney, but adds: ''No-one should be ashamed of being a member of a political party in a country like Australia, which is a democracy and is supposed to be a fair country. Universities are meant to be centres of critical thought.''


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ethnic squad titles 'racist'

I agree that the title of the squad is wrong. Israelis are from the Middle East and they are no particular problem. The squad should be called what it is: The Lebanese Muslim crime squad. Respect for Australian law and Australians in general seems rare among Lebanese Muslims and it shows in the behaviour of many of them. Many have been found with handguns, for instance, despite the ban on them

A LEADING Liberal MP has vowed to do all he can to abolish the Middle Eastern organised crime squad, saying ethnic branding has no place in crime fighting. John Ajaka is a lawyer and parliamentary secretary to the state Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell. He said his stance on the squad contradicted Liberal Party policy but many of his colleagues agreed with him in private.

Mr Ajaka, an MP in the upper house, said he wanted police to have more resources to arrest criminals, but he believed that naming squads after ethnic groups vilified whole sections of society. The NSW Police Force also has an Asian crime squad.

"There should definitely be an organised crime squad and we should have zero tolerance for crime. "I have no problems beating and bashing criminals in the metaphorical sense, but imagine the outcry if we had an Italian organised crime squad or a Hellenic crime squad or an Aboriginal crime squad. "I have lobbied the Government about this and I have lobbied my colleagues and many of them agree with my views and many have said it is something we should look at. "If we get into government I will be immediately pushing my colleagues for a new approach. The names of these squads isolates and vilifies these communities, but even worse, it can generate a hero worship situation with young people."

Mr Ajaka, born in the Illawarra to Lebanese-born parents, said crime crossed all sectors of society. He said people who moved to Australia tried to embrace the country but the Middle Eastern and Asian crime squads showed Australia was not prepared to embrace them. "We put them in pigeon holes and leave them there," he said. [So how did he get where he is today?] Naming squads after ethnic groups made scapegoats of whole communities for the sake of making others feel safe, he said.

Jack Passaris, chairman of the Ethnic Communities' Council of NSW, said organised crime squads "may well be one of the more effective ways of combating serious crime", but the names were a problem. "Police should be allowed to focus on crime while treating all communities equally," he said.

"Race-based crime squads like the Middle Eastern organised crime squad and Asian crime squad are counter-productive as they marginalise communities by associating them with crime. Moreover, the existence of such crime squads has the potential to create undesirable stereotypes within the police force."

The Middle Eastern and Asian squads are the only two squads with race-based names among the 12 state crime command squads. A police spokesman said the two squads did not target ethnic communities, only the criminals who worked within them. "These specialised squads are able to work closely with the communities to target those involved in organised crime," he said. "The NSW Police Force makes no apologies for targeting criminals, particularly those involved in high-level and violent organised criminal enterprises."


Thuggish and negligent Western Australian cops get off free

Pity about the little girl who died as a result of their behaviour, though

THE police who botched an investigation into an indecent assault by sex monster Dante Arthurs will face no further disciplinary action. The decision comes after a corruption probe found police made ``an honest error'' [What's honest about failing to order any scientific tests?] -- three years before Arthurs raped and killed schoolgirl Sofia Rodriguez-Urrutia Shu.

The Corruption and Crime Commission findings, released to The Sunday Times this week, determined there was no misconduct by police over their investigation of the attack against an eight-year-old girl in a Canning Vale park in December, 2003. The inquiry found that police made ``an honest error'' in failing to forensically test Arthurs' blood-spattered shorts after he was charged with indecent assault and deprivation of liberty over the incident.

Arthurs was charged by police at the time, but after a review of the evidence the DPP discontinued the prosecution. Police have been under intense scrutiny that their failure to test the shorts and the conduct of two officers in a heavy-handed video interview, deemed inadmissible by the DPP, may have ultimately contributed to Sofia's death by allowing Arthurs to go free.

But the CCC investigation found that any suggestion the events could have prevented Sofia's death, less than three years later, was ``no more than speculation''.

Eight-year-old Sofia's naked body was found by her 14-year-old brother on the floor of a toilet cubicle at Livingston Marketplace Shopping Centre at Canning Vale on June 26, 2006. In November 2007, Arthurs was sentenced to life for Sofia's murder, with a minimum of 13 years before being eligible for parole.

At that time, Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan said it appeared that police had bungled the investigation into the 2003 attack, in which the girl was grabbed from behind and dragged towards trees, but managed to bite the offender and free herself. He requested the CCC conduct an independent investigation.

In a statement to The Sunday Times, CCC Commissioner Len Roberts-Smith QC said he had sent a letter to Mr O'Callaghan advising that the CCC did not have the statutory function to comment about any possible impact the failure of the 2003 police investigation may have had on Sofia's murder. In the statement, Mr Roberts-Smith said the CCC had found that:

While the decision to not have Arthurs' clothing forensically tested was ``extremely unfortunate'', it was ``an honest error'' and there was no misconduct by the police officers involved.

While the two detectives who conducted the forceful video interviews with Arthurs in 2003 did not engage in misconduct under the Corruption and Crime Commission Act, they had not followed police regulations, and

The internal police investigation into the actions of two detectives who conducted the interviews with Arthurs in 2003 was conducted adequately.

Sofia's mother, Josephine, and the DPP yesterday declined to comment.


Afghans in Indonesia 'paid to return'

It looks like Australia's policy of seeking Indonesian co-operation in stopping illegals is paying off. The illegals arrive in Indonesia on regular airline flights from Pakistan and then pay people smugglers thousands of dollars to take them via small boats to Australia. So they are obviously far from destitute and already had refuge in Pakistan. So they are clearly economic migrants, not refugees. Afghans are primitive Muslims who customarily settle disputes with violence and respect no law other than the law of the tribe so are very undesirable as migrants

Hundreds of Afghan asylum seekers detained in Indonesia as they sought to reach Australia have been sent home in recent months after allegedly being offered a financial inducement. The Age newspaper says the asylum seekers desperate to flee their war-torn homeland had also allegedly been told they had next to no chance of being resettled in another country.

Indonesia's director for immigration law enforcement, Muchdor, told the newspaper 376 asylum seekers - almost all of them Afghans - had been repatriated recently, flown to Dubai and then Kabul under a program managed by the Jakarta office of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

The Age claims a surge in repatriations has prompted criticism from refugee advocates that the policy is endangering lives, and represents a recasting of the Howard government's abandoned Pacific Solution with a similarly inhumane "South-East Asian solution".

It comes as Indonesian authorities said they had detained 56 Afghans off the eastern island of Lombok who were attempting to travel by wooden boat to Australia. Three Indonesian boat crew were also arrested.

Australia provides funding for the IOM in Indonesia, including its repatriation programs. It also funds the detention centres that hold asylum seekers in Indonesia.

The Age reports that asylum seekers say they are placed under extreme pressure and feel they have no choice but to take up the offer to go back to Afghanistan, currently in the grip of its worst violence since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. "The IOM officials come around and they tell us 'don't bother, nothing is going to happen for you'," said one asylum seeker, who asked The Age not to be named. He said the IOM was offering individuals about $2000 in cash payments to return. It is understood that families get more.

Australia allocated $8 million for the IOM in this year's budget. A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Evans rejected the notion that the sharp increase in repatriations had been driven from Canberra.


Economic Nostradamus John Talbott fears another bust

HE could be the modern-day Nostradamus of the finance world. In his books he predicted the and housing market crashes. Investment banker turned author, John Talbott, is accusing big business of bribery and predicts another crash is just around the corner. In his latest book, The 86 Biggest Lies on Wall Street, Talbott says: "I know what you're thinking. How was I able to narrow it down to just 86?"

His 2003 book, The Coming Crash in the Housing Market, saw through the housing market boom. "I really wasn't a housing expert at the time but I think that played to my advantage," he said while in Australia as a guest of the Brisbane Writers Festival. "Everyone that was (an expert) was conflicted because everyone was making so much money and didn't want to blow the whistle on a corrupt system."

The book riled real estate agents and the flak he took for that propelled him to write another book, Sell Now - the End of the Housing Bubble. The book was released in February 2006 before the crash at the end of 2008.

Talbott is now warning of another impending implosion of the global economy. Any signs of economic recovery being seen around the world are due to huge stimulus packages, which will only prop up economies for about a year. "Where is the consumption demand going to come from to drive the local economies?" he asks. "I can tell you it's not going to come from US consumers any more - they are tapped out."

Crippling debt, high unemployment and the retirement of baby boomers means people's ability to spend will diminish.

"Stimulus (packages) around the world are a mistake because if government could create jobs we wouldn't need private enterprise," he said. "I mean if all you had to do was go and spend a trillion dollars as a government we'd never have recessions, depressions and the greatest socialist countries in the world would be the richest - but just the opposite is true. "What they're really doing is applying trillion-dollar bandaids."

While Talbott gives top marks to Australia for keeping its head above water during the global financial crisis he brands the government's stimulus package as a mistake. "They will have some stimulatory effect for a six to 12-month period but I don't see that they're going to create enormous new jobs," he said. And consumer spending sparks a rise in inflation, which pushes up interest rates, he warned.

The high price of gold is evidence investors are concerned currencies will devalue over time because governments have been printing money to bail out banks and industries, he said.

Corporate giants are a poison chalice to politics - big business and politics shouldn't mix, he said. "Let's get control of this corporate-dominated society," he said. "They're not just dominating the banks and the financial system. They're not just dominating the economic market place. "They have now crossed the border into the political arena, to political discussions to bribery of American officials and Congress and huge donations to presidential runners. "And they don't belong there."

The big corporations only have one objective and that is to maximise profit and shareholder value. The most recent example in the US came after the financial crisis when government used taxpayer money to fund executives' salaries and save banks. "I would challenge your readers to ask the question: 'Are they (corporations) too involved in the Australian economy as well?'"

Talbott also has reservations about Australia's reliance on China as he thinks the economic giant may have cooked its books about the scale of its recovery. "The strength of the Australian economy now is directly related to China," he said. "The question is whether the Chinese growth is even accurately reported - which I don't think it is - and whether it's real - and it's not real. "It's being generated by a huge half-trillion-dollar stimulus plan of which 95 per cent went to their state-owned enterprises. "These are the worst people on earth you want spending your money."

Conversely although Australia's reliance on China could leave it vulnerable, its geographic position that was once an impediment is now an asset in surmounting the financial crisis. This is thanks to the rise of China and India, the author said. "You did all the right things and you did them well and now the world's come your way," he said. "You are the geographic outpost of the biggest economic explosion in history - 1.4 billion Chinese and one billion Indians have decided to be capitalists and you're sitting here with the rule book on how to play capitalism. "You're beautifully positioned."


Saturday, September 12, 2009

OECD study puts Australian education policy in perspective

By Jennifer Buckingham

This week, the OECD released its annual Education At A Glance report which provides country comparisons of spending, participation, completion, performance and various other aspects of education. At 475 pages, it contains much useful information, but for those who can’t bring themselves to read the whole report, here are some highlights.

As usual, Australia is ranked fairly close to the OECD average in terms of overall spending on education with the exception of pre-primary education, where we are right at the bottom.

The federal government has chosen to blow steam about this figure out of the thousands of possible figures, but this report suffers from the same flaw as all other OECD publications on early childhood education and care. The expenditure figure is misleading because it only includes direct spending on pre-school education and government programs and administration. It does not include the enormous household subsidies for child care in this country, which form a large part of the early childhood education sector.

There are some interesting figures relating to school education. Although public spending on school education is below OECD average, private investment in school education in Australia as a percentage of GDP is exceeded by only two other countries – Korea and Chile. [i.e. LOTS of Australian families send their kids to private schools -- especially for High School]

Australia is among the countries with the highest number of instruction hours, with an average of 962 hours a year for 12 to 14 year olds. This compares with an OECD average of 892 hours per year. The countries that outperform us in the PISA literacy, numeracy and science assessments have much fewer instruction hours per year– Sweden (741), South Korea ( 867) and Finland (777) – but devote proportionally more compulsory instruction time to these core subjects. Australia only devotes 13% of compulsory instruction time to reading, writing and literature, which is the lowest in the OECD.

New analyses of the 2006 PISA results show that socioeconomic disadvantage has a relatively low impact on performance in Australia compared with most other OECD countries. In the science component of PISA 2006, 39.4% of ‘strong’ performers (with scores in the top two performance bands) were students with a socioeconomic status index below the national average.

Figures provided in OECD publications are often accepted as Gospel, but they should always be viewed with caution and considered in light of each country’s policy context. The above figures, while interesting and informative, are no exception.

The above is part of a press release dated Sept. 11 from the Centre for Independent Studies. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590. Telephone ph: +61 2 9438 4377 or fax: +61 2 9439 7310

A school run by castrati

But they have not been physically unmanned. They have been castrated by Left-inspired anti-discipline laws. Once upon a time a 10 year old waving a small stick would have GOT the stick and that would have been the end of it. Now they have to call police

ANOTHER Ipswich school has been placed into lockdown, after a 10-year-old boy carrying a stick threatened the safety of staff and students. Police were called to Churchill State School yesterday morning after a young student began abusing classmates and teachers before picking up a stick and threatening to attack staff. The boy's parents picked him up before police arrived and no one was hurt during the incident.

The parents of a student at the school said their child also saw the boy hitting classroom windows with his scooter. “My kids said he was rolling along on his scooter and then using it to try and break windows,” a parent said.

The Ipswich Child Protection Investigation Unit said the child lashed out because he did not like being told what to do. Police later spoke to the boy and warned him about his aggressive behaviour.

The lockdown, which lasted for 10 minutes, was the third time an Ipswich school had been closed due to the threat of violence in the past 12 days. Ipswich State High School was in lockdown for an hour late last month after a gang of females invaded the site, threatening students and staff. Brassall State School was placed in lockdown the next day when an Ipswich State High student was chased from that site into the primary school across the road. The fleeing teenage student had to hide in Brassall State School's administration office while police were called.

Education Queensland (EQ) said the incident at Churchill State School was handled swiftly. “The acting principal acted calmly and professionally. The lockdown was put in place as a precautionary measure and it proceeded smoothly and without incident,” an EQ spokesman said. “A student became aggressive towards staff and students on the school oval. The student picked up a small stick and made general threats.”

When a school is in lockdown, students must remain on the ground while all classroom doors are locked and a bell is sounded. After the incident, Churchill State School teachers handed students a letter to pass to their parents explaining what had happened.

A parent who spoke to The Queensland Times said the lockdown was excessive. “I think it was over the top,” the parent said. “You would imagine a 10-year-old kid with a stick could be handled by teachers.”

Education Queensland said lockdowns were necessary for a wide range of incidents. “Lockdowns can be used in any situation that may threaten the safety of staff and students. This can include gas leaks near the school, external police operations or on-site altercations,” an EQ spokesman said.

Most parents The Queensland Times spoke to said the school looked after their children well and the site had not been on lockdown before. “It's a good school, my kids don't cop much stick from other students,” a parent said.


The brainless Qld. Ambulance bureaucracy does it again

Paramedics get TVs, not life-saving equipment. The entire management should be fired

QUEENSLAND Ambulance Service has splashed out on big-screen TVs, sound systems and expensive lounges while paramedics go without critical equipment. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on the entertainment systems for ambulance stations at the end of last financial year despite a desperate need for GPS devices, training defibrillators and replacement uniforms. The splurge has infuriated paramedics forced to cope with broken or dodgy equipment.

In at least three cases exposed by The Courier-Mail, people have died after paramedics lost their way in ambulances lacking GPS or missing a defibrillator which had been removed for training.

The QAS has refused to reveal how much it has spent on TVs, Blu-ray disc players and sound systems over the past two years, but staff estimate it could top $1 million. The QAS strongly defended its spending, claiming the items were for "training". "Education and training is essential to the development of paramedics and QAS employees and the purchase of equipment for training and development such as televisions, DVDs, and lounges in rest areas does not impact on the provision of other essential equipment," it said in a statement. {Really??}

But Brisbane student paramedic Zac Damelian, who had to buy his own GPS for work, said the $12,000 he estimated was spent on his station was over the top. "It's just ridiculous what they spend money on," Mr Damelian said. "Televisions aren't going to bring back the poor old lady (cardiac) arresting down the road." He said the entertainment systems at his station were "hardly ever used for training". "It is for recreation between jobs," he said.

Mr Damelian wasn't against paramedics having comforts, but not at the expense of essential equipment. Lifepak 12 defibrillators are "constantly in and out of service", blood glucose readers, batteries and stretchers needed replacement, and paramedics struggled to get replacement uniforms, he said. Paramedics who want to train on Lifepak 12 defibrillators at their stations must remove units from ambulances, a risky decision.

Some stations now have up to three LCD televisions and two DVD players. The Emergency Medical Service Protection Association, which represents hundreds of paramedics and ambulance staff, said it disagreed with the wasting of public money. "In times of financial crisis . . . there are more pressing priorities," vice-president Jock Ruthven said.

QAS documents obtained by The Courier-Mail under Right to Information showed a Gold Coast child who died after having a seizure was attended to by paramedics who did not have a defibrillator because it had been removed for training. Two Mackay men died of cardiac arrest after waiting more than 40 minutes for lost ambulances which didn't have GPS.

Opposition emergency services spokesman Ted Malone said money should first be spent making sure there was enough staff and essential equipment, including back-up gear, and uniforms.


Fewer lunches for Sir Lunchalot and a new minister for police

Two very desirable changes in NSW. Though I suppose there's not much hope that the new bosses will be any better than the old. Sir Lunchalot above. Background on him here

Tony Kelly has been dumped as the NSW Police Minister after criticism that he mishandled a police pay dispute and was devoting more time to campaigning for a leadership challenge. Ian Macdonald [Sir Lunchalot] loses his energy portfolio, but remains Minister for Primary Industries.

Premier Nathan Rees announced a cabinet reshuffle this afternoon after John Della Bosca quit the cabinet over an affair. Mr Rees said the reshuffle was about loyalty and discipline, indicating that he had punished Mr Kelly and Mr Macdonald for working behind the scenes against him.

The NSW Deputy Premier, Carmel Tebbutt, has taken over as the state's new Health Minister. Ms Tebbutt, from the Labor Left, has been the environment minister for the past year. Michael Daley will become the new Minister for Police....

Mr Della Bosca quit the ministry last week after admitting to the affair with 26-year-old Kate Neill.....

Three recent former health ministers have become political casualties, with two quitting Parliament and one now relegated to the back bench. Former premier Morris Iemma was health minister in 2005, followed by Attorney-General John Hatzistergos in 2006/07, Reba Meagher in 2007/08 and Mr Della Bosca took on the job a year ago. Mr Hatzistergos took over the portfolio for about a week after Mr Della Bosca resigned.


Friday, September 11, 2009

NSW Labor government moves to lift ban on publication of school information

Conservative support for the ban was brainless and unprincipled opportunism. They are a disgrace

THE NSW government is seeking legal advice as to whether the law banning the publication of league tables is unconstitutional. The move came as Premier Nathan Rees yesterday condemned the opposition and the Greens for supporting the ban, saying they were "undermining democracy".

The government failed in its attempt to overturn the Coalition-backed law, which makes it a criminal offence for newspapers to republish information already publicly available, in particular the results of national literacy and numeracy tests, after the Coalition, Greens and Shooters Party voted against its repeal.

The Australian understands that the NSW government is requesting legal advice about the law and whether it breaches the Constitution, which would enable a legal challenge in the High Court to have the law repealed.

At the opening of the Pan Pacific newspaper conference in Sydney yesterday, Mr Rees described the actions by the Coalition and Greens in supporting the amendment as the "greatest assault on press freedom in Australia in 50 years". Mr Rees likened the amendment banning league tables to moves by former NSW attorney-general Bill Sheahan to compel newspapers to disclose their sources when reporting allegations of corruption. "It was an attempt by an Australian government to gag the press," he said. "Today, no government in Australia would dare bring in a measure like the Disclosure of Allegations Bill. Governments, no; the NSW Coalition and Greens, yes."

Mr Rees said the amendment passed by the Greens and Coalition, which they voted against repealing on Wednesday night in the NSW upper house, "undermines the capacity of our democracy to engage in healthy public debate". "It strikes at the very right of journalists and newspapers to report public issues without fear or favour," he added.

Liberal MP Peter Debnam yesterday urged the government to broker a voluntary code of conduct against compiling simplistic league tables, for which he has the in-principle support of newspaper editors.

The Australian's editor-in-chief, Chris Mitchell, questioned the effectiveness of the ban, saying the newspaper had published two tables of school results, in the electorates of Mr Rees and Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell, and had heard nothing from the opposition or the Greens about legal action. Mr Mitchell said he was willing to discuss a voluntary code of conduct, as is the editor of The Daily Telegraph, Garry Linnell. "The Daily Telegraph opposes the archaic legislation currently in place in NSW and strongly supports the right of parents to know how their school performs, as long as this is done fairly and in full context," he said.


Rudd gives a very skewed account of history

Truth and accuracy has always been a low priority for Leftists. Kevin Rudd said recently that Labor was largely responsible for economic reform in Australia and described the Howard government as "indolent". John Howard gives the facts below

LET'S start with some facts. As the 1980s began Australia needed five major economic reforms to ensure success in a rapidly globalising world economy. They were financial deregulation, fundamental taxation reform, dismantling of high tariff protection, privatisation of government-owned commercial bodies and a freer labour market.

The blueprint for financial reform came from the Campbell inquiry, set up by me, as treasurer. The reform process here started with the Fraser government, through the introduction of a tender system for the sale of Treasury notes and Treasury bonds, described by the former Reserve Bank Governor Ian Macfarlane, in his 2006 Boyer lectures, as "second only in importance to the float of the Australian dollar in 1983". The Fraser government also began the politically difficult task of deregulating interest rates, by removing all interest-rate ceilings on bank deposits.

Reversing Labor's pre-1983 opposition to financial deregulation, the Hawke government floated the dollar, admitted foreign banks and otherwise broadly implemented Campbell's recommendations. The float of the dollar was driven by Bob Hawke as prime minister and the then governor of the Reserve Bank, Bob Johnston. Treasury, at that time, opposed the float.

After a number of false starts fundamental taxation reform, involving as it had to the introduction of a broad based goods and services tax, was finally achieved by the Howard government in 2000.

The Hawke government, with Paul Keating as treasurer, was responsible for largely dismantling Australia's system of protective tariffs. The Keating government privatised Qantas and commenced the privatisation of the Commonwealth Bank. The Howard government privatised Telstra.

In the early 1990s the Keating government introduced a limited form of enterprise bargaining. I say limited because under these changes an enterprise agreement concluded between an employer and its non-union workforce still had to run the gauntlet of the Industrial Relations Commission, where any union having coverage in the relevant workforce area could oppose the agreement, even if none of its members were parties to the agreement. The legislation giving effect to this change also introduced the unfair dismissal law, constantly criticised by small businesses in Australia.

The Howard government greatly expanded deregulation of the labour market; first through the introduction of Australian Workplace Agreements in 1996, and in 2005 with the removal of unfair dismissal entitlements affecting firms employing fewer than 100 people and the streamlining of the agreement making process. Importantly, in 1996 it restored Sections 45D and E to the Trade Practices Act. These provided protection to businesses against predatory secondary-boycott union behaviour.

The Rudd government has not only overturned the Howard government's industrial relations changes (excepting the restoration of Sections 45D and E), but has also imposed a further level of regulation, taking our workplace relations system back to the late 1980s.

The other highly relevant fact, in this almost 30-year reform process, was the different responses of the two sides of politics when they were in opposition. The Liberal and National parties supported the reforms initiated by the Hawke and Keating governments. When the dollar was floated, I, as opposition treasury spokesman, described that decision as "correct and courageous". The then opposition strongly supported the Hawke government's tariff reduction program. As prime minister I would, from time to time, praise what the Hawke government had done with financial deregulation and tariff reform.

Privatisation of Qantas and the Commonwealth Bank became Coalition policy in the mid 1980s, and, as both Keating and Kim Beazley will know, the legislation privatising the bank would not have passed through the Senate in 1995 without Coalition support. By contrast the Labor Party, in opposition, fought tooth and nail against the reform attempts of the Coalition. Kevin Rudd called the introduction of the GST a "day of fundamental injustice".

Having promoted the privatisation of Qantas and the Commonwealth Bank in government, Labor in opposition consistently opposed the privatisation of Telstra, which was not finally achieved until after the Coalition won control of the Senate following the 2004 election. Predictably, Labor opposed all of the Coalition's industrial relations changes.

Labor negativity in opposition was not confined to the five major reforms I have cited. It also tried to thwart the fiscal consolidation process, commenced in Peter Costello's first budget in 1996. That budget, the best and most courageous in a generation, imposed real reductions in government spending. Opportunistically, Labor opposed most of these measures. That fiscal consolidation process, which totally eliminated net Commonwealth debt and produced a string of budget surpluses, has proved critical to Australia escaping the worst effects of the global financial plunge.

Surely not even Rudd will dispute that he inherited from the former government a fiscal position and a framework for prudential regulation of the banking system second to none in the western world.

It is tempting for a political leader such as Rudd to highlight his party's virtues and ignore those of other parties. Last Monday, however, the Prime Minister carried political mendacity to new heights, when he launched Paul Kelly's book The March of Patriots. His analysis of the economic reform process in Australia since 1980 was partisan, inaccurate and lacked any semblance of objectivity.

In one fashion or another we are all political warriors, but we have a superior obligation to the national interest. That obligation obtains in opposition as well as in government. No side of Australian politics has a monopoly of either virtue or merit. Each according to its own value system has attempted to improve the lot of Australians. In failing to acknowledge this last Monday, my successor diminished himself, and not the Liberal and National Parties.


Rudd has put power back in the destructive hands of unions

KEVIN Rudd has declared himself the only true inheritor of the Hawke-Keating economic reforms and the only national leader who can carry forward what he calls the great project of economic modernisation for Australia. It is a remarkably brazen claim for a Prime Minister who is presiding over the effective kneecapping of labour market modernisation in this country through his government's Fair Work Act, which came into force on July 1.

The modern era of deregulated Australian labour markets began three decades ago. And it started not with the Hawke-Keating government in Canberra but on the iron ore fields of Western Australia. It began in July 1986, when the chief executive of Peko-Wallsend Limited, Charles Copeman, decided to sort out the union-dominated Robe River joint venture in which Peko had become the majority shareholder.

Copeman had to bear the brunt of a remarkable and at times literally violent onslaught by the unions, the ACTU, the WA state government, the state industrial tribunal, the Industrial Relations Club and prime minister Bob Hawke, who was in the unions' corner. He had little support from other Australian business "leaders" or Liberal politicians, who failed to see the importance of what he was doing.

Copeman's objective was to restore management's right to manage and to deal directly with its workers, instead of having Peko's business run and its profitability, or rather lack of it, determined by unions and their allies in industrial tribunals. Other mining companies, starting with Hamersley, followed.

Importantly, CRA, now Rio Tinto, successfully spread the battle to deal directly with its workforce to its operations across Australia, despite vigorous opposition from Bill Kelty at the ACTU and the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. This was extremely important as Australia expanded its role as a minerals and energy exporter. And through the movement of former Rio Tinto industrial relations negotiators into other areas including telecommunications, banking and manufacturing, what Melbourne industrial relations barrister Stuart Wood calls the "Rio Tinto diaspora" spread more widely.

There were, of course, other important influences at work: globalisation; the dismantling of Australia's tariff walls and the floating of the exchange rate by the Hawke-Keating government and Keating's introduction, after initially opposing it, of enterprise bargaining; the introduction of individual workplace agreements by the Court government in WA and Australian workplace agreements by the Howard government.

Unions and their tactics also had little appeal to a new generation of employees. As a result of all these influences the role of unions and their collaborators in industrial tribunals diminished substantially and was on a path to well-deserved irrelevance. This is now being reversed by the substantial reregulation of labour markets being imposed by Julia Gillard's Fair Work legislation, which restores the role of unions, industrial tribunals and awards. Her supposed contribution to a modern labour market, her so-called award modernisation exercise, was never credible and is now degenerating into a destructive farce even the unions are beginning to whinge about.

But there is another section of her Fair Work Australia legislation that is only just beginning to attract some public attention: Division 8 of the act, which covers good faith bargaining. Over the next few years it will substantially expand the role of unions and the Fair Work Tribunal that replaces the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. Along with other provisions of the Fair Work Act it gives the unions the key to the door of businesses large and small, and a rapidly growing number are finding the unions on their doorstep demanding the right to recruit members and engage in good faith bargaining.

Already Gillard's tribunal commissars are telling companies they cannot deal directly with their workforce, and much worse is to come. This much is clear from the experience of the US with good faith bargaining. Wood, mentioned earlier, and Henry Skene, head of Arnold Bloch Leibler's workplace advisory practice, recently went to have a look at the US experience and it wasn't encouraging. If this is the future, it doesn't work.

Yet it is clear that Gillard's legislation has opened the way for that experience to influence decisions by Fair Work Australia on good faith bargaining matters. Wood believes the legislation heralds a fundamental change in the way industrial relations have been practised over the last 20 years.

The key section of the Australian act, Section 228(1)(e), provides among other things that parties to good faith bargaining refrain from capricious or unfair conduct that undermines freedom of association or collective bargaining. According to Wood, this opens the door for a large body of US and international law to apply here, including a US prohibition on refusing to bargain. And despite a provision in the Gillard act that it does not require parties to good faith bargaining to make concessions, US experience makes it clear that firms will be forced to bargain with unions.

US experience also suggests good faith bargaining will reverse the switch over the past 20 years to firms bargaining directly with their employees outlined earlier, and this is already happening. Good faith bargaining was introduced by president Franklin D. Roosevelt in the US in the 1930s, but in 1947 the legislation was amended to allow US states to opt out. At the last count 22 states had done so, and been rewarded with a significant shift of industries from the states with good faith bargaining to those without it.

In Australia, companies will have nowhere to go, and the discretion provided to Fair Work Australia commissioners under the good faith provisions is huge, a virtually open-ended power. The history of arbitration in this country tells us that over time this will allow Fair Work Australia and the unions to expand their power and influence in ways that take us back to an earlier era.

Steve Knott, chief executive of the Australian Mining and Metals Association, which covers the industry where the modernisation of the Australian labour market began, described the Rudd government's industrial relations legislation to The Australian as the biggest increase in union power since Federation. Even if you think this an exaggeration, Rudd's approach to the labour market hardly suggests he is the safest pair of hands in which to place the great project of the economic modernisation of Australia. If he were serious, he wouldn't have a 652-page act to reregulate the labor market.


Nasty NSW cops again

Publicity seems however to be working its usual magic, with the wallopers being told from on high to mend their ways. The problem seems mainly to be the work of the woman's immediate boss: A bitchy dickless Tracy. It takes a woman to really tear another woman down. Lesbians often rise in the ranks of police forces, with Britain's aptly named but bungling Cressida Dick being a well known example, so I suspect lesbian attitudes being at work in this matter too

A WOMAN employed by the police force was forced to work overtime for every minute she spent expressing breastmilk for her child. The police intelligence analyst, who can only be identified as Sarah for security reasons, was also banned from using morning and afternoon tea breaks because they were "discretionary" and she was denied the use of accumulated leave.

Complaint documents obtained by The Daily Telegraph claim Sarah's repeated requests for hours that suited her childcare needs were rejected and she had to record the time spent expressing milk at work on her timesheet. She was refused a private room and instead was made to use either an unlockable and "unclean" interview room - where she was interrupted by police officers - or a toilet cubicle. Eventually she had no choice but to express milk in her car in the carpark, but because of her "great embarrassment" she drove home and fed the baby. When she returned she was made to work for the time she had been gone.

The Public Service Association claimed yesterday the woman is one of thousands of new mothers in the public service who are being denied proper facilities for breastfeeding in violation of the Government's own policy. The Association will launch action in the industrial court today demanding that the Government finally uphold the policy.

More than 12 years after then-premier Bob Carr announced the new policy recommending private rooms and paid breastfeeding time, only a handful of government workplaces have applied it. Another woman working in the Government's own headquarters - Governor Macquarie Tower, the same building as the Premier - was also made to use a cubicle.

According to the PSA only Parliament House and the Department of Commerce have the appropriate facilities and procedures in place, while Health is working on some arrangements. It raised Sarah's concerns with Commissioner Andrew Scipione, who passed them on to assistant commissioner Mark Jenkins.

Mr Jenkins said NSW Police first had to check with the Department of Premier and Cabinet about the policy and then said such family friendly measures as a private room and paid lactation breaks were "suggestive". He said: "Commanders /Managers and employees need to negotiate these arrangements, taking a commonsense and flexible approach and reaching an agreement that both ensures the health and safety of employees and does not interfere with operational or service delivery needs." Mr Jenkins said that "appropriate background and industrial/policy advice was provided to the Command".

He said the force would discuss Sarah's request to reinstate the time she was docked with the local area command. He also said police were working on a new breastfeeding policy.

The Australian Breastfeeding Association's Katrina Dorrough said Sarah was one of countless women being mistreated. "These are the stories we hear commonly, would you believe," she said. "Women don't often complain about it but I've almost been in tears listening to some people working in the public service who have similar stories."

SOURCE. Story (with picture) about another bitchy dickless Tracy in NSW here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Insane politically correct Federal prosecutors finally see reason and drop oppressive case

"Baby swinging video" charges dropped. More idiotic "child protection" while kids who are REALLY at risk are ignored. "Attack the innocent" seems to be the motto of child protection agencies worldwide. Anything else is too difficult, apparently. But with the prospect of a jury trial they knew that they could't win this one. The publicity probably freaked them too. The children of the light love the light and the children of the darkness love the darkness (John 3: 19-20)

COMMONWEALTH prosecutors have dropped charges against a man accused of transmitting child abuse material by sharing a video on the internet of a man swinging a baby. Christopher Charles Illingworth, a 60-year-old freelance journalist from Maroochydore on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, was charged with two counts of using a carriage service to transmit child abuse material after he shared the video using the website Liveleak.

The video features a nine-month-old baby continually being swung around by its limbs, for about three and a half minutes, sometimes completing 360 degree loops over the man's head.

The video originated from either Russia or Ukraine and was traced to Illingworth's home, which was subsequently raided in November 2008 by police officers from Task Force Argos, which targets child pornography and abuse.

His lawyer argued in court that under Commonwealth law the video could not be deemed as torture, cruelty or physical abuse because it appeared the baby had not been harmed. A Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions spokeswoman today said the charges had been dropped. "This prosecution was discontinued ... after the matter was reviewed by the CDPP in accordance with the prosecution policy of the Commonwealth taking into account all the circumstances involved including the classification given to the material by the Classification Board," she said.

Mr Illingworth, a father of four, had argued the video simply showed a Russian circus family undertaking training, and said the charges were ridiculous. "My name and health has been damaged - I'm going to do something about this," he said. "If anything, I want this to go to trial by jury - 12 adults, 12 parents are going to see the stupidity of this. "Bring it on, bring it on with all your might." He said supporters had raised around $500,000 to cover his legal costs.


Another NSW government school destroyed because of ban on effective discipline

BALACLAVA-clad students jeered as frightened children stood outside the gates of their government high school yesterday with signs reading "Stop the violence". School bullying has become so rampant that parents fearing another Jai Morcom-style death threatened to remove their children from school.

Police have charged two 15-year-old boys with assault and affray after an alleged serious attack on students at Airds High, near Campbelltown in Sydney's southwest. Two students were suspended for 10 days and two others for four days after a brawl that left three teens injured - one with a broken nose.

Yesterday, protesting students shielded their faces with placards. Students worried about bullying plan a mass walkout tomorrow. Parents said the death of 15-year-old Jai Morcom after a schoolyard fight at Mullumbimby on August 29 was a chilling reminder of the potential dangers children faced.

Yesterday, Airds High students said they were "living in constant fear of being next". "All it takes is just looking at someone the wrong way and then you're hit," one student, too frightened to give his name, said.

Students leaving the school yesterday told of a "vicious" culture of bullying at the school. They said the bullying was indiscriminate, with victims targetted regardless of age, race or religion. "It's pretty vicious - people bash each other and call each other names," one Year 7 student said. "The bullies target anyone they think they can get to - they don't hurt people because of race. "But there are always people getting hurt in the playground."

Tracey Ross said she feared sending her son Jacob to school each morning after he was severely bullied by a group of older students. "I was told . . . that not one of these kids is safe between school hours," she said. "Jacob is in Year 8 but the students who were picking on him are in Year 10 . . . he was physically and emotionally bullied so badly that he was removed from school for six weeks."

Rebecca Hoffman said she often felt "scared" for her daughter Danielle in Year 9. "When I saw the (Mullumbimy High) incident on TV I was very worried," she said.

The two 15-year-olds charged after the incident on September 3 will appear in Campbelltown Children's Court on September 28. A Department of Education and Training spokesman said they would be placed on probation on their return to school. [Meaning what? More empty talk]


Another public transport outrage

Another example of how governments get people out of their cars. Driver couldn't change $20 so leaves schoolboy behind on the road. How odd that so many drivers don't know of a government "policy" that says they must not do that? Is it a policy mentioned only in hushed whispers or in fine print? Any wonder why I drove my son to school when he was a kid?

A 14-YEAR-OLD schoolboy has been left behind on a semi-rural road by a Brisbane bus because the driver refused to break a $20 note. The incident was the second serious case in a month for Brisbane Transport after a 10-year-old girl was left stranded in Mt Gravatt.

The boy's father, Nick Smith, told The Courier-Mail he had dropped his son Joshua off on Meadowlands Rd at Carina early last month, with a $20 note to pay for his week of bus trips to school. But the boy, who was dressed in school uniform, was told by the driver he would have to leave the bus because there was not enough spare change to break the note.

"He had a $20 note and then the driver said to him that he couldn't change the note and that he had to get off the bus," Mr Smith said. "I had to pick him up and then take him down to Cannon Hills bus terminal ... but where he was on Meadowlands Rd there are no shops or things close to hand for him to get change. "Being in full school uniform, showing his ID and being of a relatively minor age, I felt it was extremely disappointing that the decision was made not to let him on, given the problems that we have had in the past."

Both TransLink and Brisbane City Council have a "no child left behind" policy, which states that children of school-age or younger cannot be left behind by buses regardless of whether they are carrying the sufficient fare.

Mr Smith said his wife had rung TransLink to complain, and was told the driver had the right to refuse entry if passengers were not carrying the correct fare. "Initially when we complained, my wife actually rang them and they said, 'Look, passengers do have to tender the right change – there is a sign on the bus'," he said.

"If it was an adult, or if he was abusive or the behaviour was not appropriate you would understand but he did nothing wrong, he was very upset, very shaken and quite disappointed that he wasn't allowed to get on the bus."

A spokesman for TransLink said yesterday incidents of children being left behind were "very serious" and the driver had been disciplined but not sacked. "In this instance, following a thorough investigation by Brisbane Transport and TransLink, the driver involved has been disciplined and counselled and an apology has been issued to the child's parent," he said.

Public and Active Transport chair Jane Prentice said a memo had been sent to council drivers, reminding them of the "no child left behind policy". "I understand the latest incident was after we sent the alert but the bottom line is that it is not acceptable behaviour."



Three current articles below

Alarming wait for urgent medical procedures in NSW government hospitals

WAITING lists for urgent operations such as heart bypasses and cancer surgery have blown out dramatically this financial year, with the number of operations performed statewide falling by 5260 to 32,913 in July compared to the same month last year - a 14 per cent slump. The Health Minister, John Hatzistergos, released figures on Tuesday showing an improvement in elective surgery waiting times in the March to June quarter. But surgeons said administrators had approved extra surgery during this period to meet performance benchmarks, only to slash it subsequently.

''On July 1 they took the foot off the accelerator,'' said Patrick Cregan, the chairman of NSW Health's Surgical Services Taskforce. ''There's been an enormous blowout since then.'' While this was partly attributable to the swine flu epidemic, which reduced the number of beds available for surgical patients, ''the vast bulk of it is that we've got a budget problem'', Dr Cregan said. Fully staffed operating theatres were going unused, he said, as surgery was cancelled. ''It's an enormous waste of operating capacity,'' Dr Cregan said.

Another taskforce member, Brian McCaughan, said that at the end of July, 227 people who needed urgent operations such as heart, cancer or brain surgery were still on the waiting list beyond the 30 days recommended maximum, and more than 3000 others had waited too long for less urgent operations. This was in addition to patients who finally received their operation in July after waiting longer than benchmark times.

Professor McCaughan said the swine flu outbreak affected only operations where high-level care was needed afterwards. ''We did fewer hearts, but [the epidemic] doesn't impact on colons, hernias, gall bladders or breasts'', for which waiting lists had also increased. Budget allocations presented by NSW Health to area health services show the number of operations that can be performed statewide this year will be capped at 255,000, with hospital managers financially penalised if they deviate by more than 5 per cent from the targets.

NSW Health's acting deputy director-general for health system performance, Nigel Lyons, said the figures had not been finalised but were ''indicative''. Allocations had been calculated to allow 100 per cent of patients to be treated within recommended times, he said. Western Sydney hospitals will be allowed to perform less than two-thirds the number of operations allocated to eastern Sydney region under the new budgeting method - which awards money for actual ''episodes of care'', rather than allowing area bosses to distribute funds as they see fit.

Despite their similar catchment populations of just over a million each, Sydney West Area Health Service can perform only 30,812 operations, against South Eastern Sydney Area Health Service's 48,853. Dr Lyons and the NSW Health director-general, Debora Picone, would visit Nepean Hospital today to discuss doctors' concerns about the new formula, which the chairman of the hospital's medical staff council, Peter Flynn, said illustrated ''ingrained inequity''.

He said doctors would insist the department commit to 9000 extra operations a year in western Sydney by 2011, as facilities were opened or expanded.


Another overstetched public hospital doctor speaks out in Queensland

I WORK at one of Brisbane's largest hospitals as a surgical registrar. I have been very close to writing this letter many times in recent years but thought it would fall on deaf ears. I often have to work several months straight. That is, leaving my home at 6.30am every day and returning at 9pm or 10pm – often later, in the early hours of the morning, to have a few hours sleep and do it again.

There have been occasions over the years where I have been so fatigued I have fallen asleep while performing surgery, literally slumping forward while standing over the patient's open body on the operating table. On other occasions, I've seen my senior consultants fall asleep while operating, such was their exhaustion. It is terrifying to watch. Imagine if the patient knew the risk they were in.

We are meant to work 38-40 hour weeks. I will often do those many hours in a single weekend on call. My true hours are 50-70 hours per week. I have done over 100 at times. In addition to this, we're supposed to have four days off for every 14 days of work and, if you looked at the roster, it would seem as though they have allowed for this. But there is also an "unspoken" roster that has meant most of us only get about two to three days for every 30 days of work.

Surgery staff don't get time in lieu. If there's no one else to do it, you just have to work. If there's no one else to cover the ward on a weekend, you just have to do it. It doesn't matter to Queensland Health that you have just worked 30 days straight and haven't seen your spouse or kids in a fortnight.

Fatigue pay is what you get when you have worked your "rostered" hours for the day (7.30am-4.30pm). But you have to do so much overtime that your next "rostered" day starts before you get a chance to have an eight-hour break. We're supposed to have eight hours (of every 24 hours) not working. Fatigue pay kicks in when you have to return to work before having eight hours off (often we don't "return" as we haven't even had a chance to leave from the previous day).

If you complain about the hours and workload, you simply will not be able to progress in your career. If you want to get on to a competitive training program, your reference "scores" might be affected and you will not be able to specialise. It sounds crazy, with such a shortage of specialists, but as I have been told many times over: "you have to play the game" if you want to get into your chosen field.

The only problem is – without any exaggeration – the "game" maims and kills patients. It destroys doctors' health, marriages and relationships with their children. In addition to this, think of patient safety – you couldn't drive a car after such long hours of work, so why are we expected to perform surgery?

Most of us are extremely disillusioned, exhausted and in fear of our jobs if we speak about it, even among ourselves. Yes, we need more doctors. We're training more at uni than ever, so we will definitely have the graduates in coming years. But we need the specialty colleges to create the training positions and the hospitals to create the training-approved positions to accommodate these doctors until they become fully qualified (which can be five to 10 years after they finish medical school).

And there are simple short-term solutions at hand that everyone in the hospital system knows about but are too afraid to talk about to the media. At the hospital I work at, there are spare operating theatres that go unused. If they were to open these theatres and have them all fully functioning for urgent cases, we could get the elective lists completed during working hours.

Most doctors I know no longer enjoy what they do. Many have dropped out of surgery. Often our patients, who we sacrifice our family time to help, simply refuse to help themselves and we know we are just beating our heads against a brick wall trying to assist them in medical intervention when they'll just go back to the same habits or self-abuse.

Forget about the pay. Most of us didn't get into the industry for money. Many years out of medical school, I am still paying off my degree. Money doesn't buy you sleep. It doesn't buy you good health or lower stress levels. It doesn't buy you a place on a training program. Nor does it save your marriage. Money doesn't even give you a chance to have dinner with your family or tuck your kids into bed – not even one night a week.

Doctors should not have to put up with these conditions. The Government must step up. There is so much that could be done to help the situation and not all involve multibillion dollar budgets. It just needs some common sense. We need some action. People are literally dying for it.


Study slams jargon in public hospital consent forms

MORE than 80 per cent of the consent forms patients are asked to sign before having an operation are incomprehensible to anyone without specialist medical knowledge. Ninety per cent of the forms do not make clear the purpose of the planned operation, and 95 per cent of them do not list the relevant risks to the patient, research by Australian experts suggests.

The experts, from an Adelaide hospital, reviewed hundreds of consent documents given to patients to sign since 2005, and found one in 15 did not use a single word to describe the procedure that could be understood by looking it up in a standard English dictionary.

Far from being isolated cases, they say such language is typical of consent documents used nationwide, and that such use of jargon is "unacceptable", particularly given that many patients are elderly and in frail health.

The authors of the research, published today in the Medical Journal of Australia, suggest mandatory standards should be introduced to ensure patients are better informed. Lead researcher Mark Siddins, director of the urology unit at Adelaide's Repatriation General Hospital, said many doctors appeared to think the point of consent forms was to protect them from being sued, rather than to help the patient make the right treatment choice. He said while hospital technology had been transformed in the last 20 years, the way doctors interacted with patients had changed little. "We are surprised indemnity insurers don't require that doctors give (understandable) consent information."


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The woman below is a black

Don't believe your lying eyes, will you? She is law academic Nicole Watson. A story about her here. Australia has lots of "blacks" like her -- even natural blonds. I actually have a niece who is also black, even though her skin is the whitest white. That's Australia's politically correct but quite insane law for you. Any amount of indigenous ancestry qualifies you as black and you get all the special deals that go with that -- JR

Lebanese Muslims again

Pack attacks are their style and calling in large numbers of "reinforcements" in attempts to thwart law enforcement is part of that. The fact that there is a special Middle Eastern Organised Crime squad to deal with them tells what a problem population they are. They would turn their suburbs into corrupt and criminal-dominated mini-Beiruts if they could

RIOT police have been sent in to break up a crowd that gathered in western Sydney following police raids on a number of homes in the area. Detectives from the Middle Eastern Organised Crime squad stormed three residences in Cumberland Road and one home in Normanby Street, in Auburn, about 6pm (AEST) yesterday. Stun guns, cannabis, ecstasy, pills, a large sum of cash and a handgun and ammunition were seized from the properties, police said.

One officer was struck in the face during the operation and suffered a cut nose.

A short time later, groups of men began congregating in the area in a threatening manner. After the crowd had swelled to an estimated 150 people, police confronted several groups of men, urging them to leave.

The Daily Telegraph reports officers were forced to use capsicum spray to subdue the angry crowd, with the PolAir helicopter and the riot squad called in to help. The crowd dispersed about 10pm.

The injured officer was taken to hospital to have the wound stitched and was released.

A 25-year-old man, a 17-year-old boy and a woman aged in her 20s were arrested. The man was charged with one count of wounding a police officer and two counts of assaulting police and obstructing police in their duty. He was refused bail and is due to appear in Burwood Local Court today.

The boy was charged with assaulting police, resisting arrest and hindering police. He was granted conditional bail and will appear in Parramatta Children's Court on September 29. The woman was questioned by investigators and released, with charges expected to be laid.



More details here.

Literacy hit squads for schools

Trying to pick up the literacy wreckage caused by disastrous and long-disproved Leftist theories that demonize phonics. The "whole word" madness goes back to the psychology laboratory of Wilhelm Wundt in 19th century Germany, would you believe?

And mathematics results are poor because many of those teaching it have no expertise or interest in it. The small number of people who are good at mathematics and who choose to teach it mostly do so in private schools rather than in chaotic government schools. My mathematician son was inspired to a career in mathematics by good mathematics teachers in his private school

FLYING squads of specialist teachers will swoop into 300 Queensland schools next year under a plan to boost literacy and numeracy results. The so-called Turnaround Teams will be deployed to low-performing schools to identify why their results are below average and develop strategies to improve literacy and numeracy levels.

``Some schools may have problems with truancy or behaviour management, others may need extra help with early childhood learning or teaching science for instance,'' Premier Anna Bligh said today.

The teams are part of the State Government's three-year bid to turn around poor results in Queensland schools and will cost $9 million. The program will be trialled at 10 schools in the Wide Bay/Burnett region later this year before being rolled out to the other schools next year.

The 2008 NAPLAN tests _ National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy _ were an embarrassment for Queensland, with the state's students coming second-last, overall, nationally.


More government medical madness

New immigration regulations forcing top US surgeon out -- but publicity seems to have produced some backpedalling. Mackay hospital has had big problems. They badly need all the expertise they can get. A system that takes expertise away from them is insane.

A WORLD-famous US surgeon pulled out of retirement to fill in at a regional hospital for 12 years has been forced to sell his house and abandon Australia in an "appalling" visa bungle. Dr Frank Trost, 77, a globally recognised orthopedic surgeon, has been locked in a bitter six-month wrangle over his visa status amid new restrictions on foreign-trained doctors. Yet, despite the dire shortage of doctors in regional hospitals, Queensland Health and the Immigration Department have refused to budge.

"I feel badly used," Dr Trost said yesterday. "If I'd not gone back to work, I'd be happily retired and still living the dream. We don't want to go. This is our home. But we have no choice."

Fellow surgeons, locals and patients are outraged at the "appalling" treatment of the specialist, who will be forced to return to the US. "He has been used and abused," said Dr Don Pitchford, chairman of the International Medical Graduates Committee. "They took their pound of flesh, now they've kicked him in the guts, tossed him on the scrapheap, and told him, 'You're too old, get out of the country'. It is a disgrace."

Dr Pitchford, director of orthopedics at Gold Coast Hospital, said one solution would be to give Dr Trost an honorary medical fellowship, or to simply give him back his original retirement visa. "If this is the sort of citizen we are kicking out, we should all hang our heads in shame," he said.

Dr Trost and his wife Nancy came to Australia from the US on a retirement visa in 1996 to live by the beach in Mackay. But once word got out of his international stature as a surgeon and expert in amputations, he was asked to join the understaffed Mackay Base Hospital. Then at 65, he did so, sharing his skills and knowledge, administrating his department for more than a decade after stopping surgery because of age restrictions. Dr Trost had the added comfort of a personal letter from the then federal immigration minister reassuring him he would be allowed to go back on to his retirement visa once he finished work.

"I didn't come here to get a job," said Dr Trost, who is now on a temporary 457 work visa. "But when duty called, I felt I had a responsibility to help my fellow man. It has been nerve-racking, very stressful and strenuous, being in limbo for so long." Dr Frost said he and his wife could not get permanent residency because of new rules against foreign-trained doctors over the age of 45.

Two weeks ago, the couple sold their beachside home and are "mentally packing" to leave to start a new life near San Diego, California. He is today in his last week of work at Mackay Base Hospital after resigning in protest over a series of conditions imposed on his work. One included sitting a multiple-choice Australian Medical Council exam this month before spending two years in the wards as an intern, he said.

Mackay Mayor Col Meng said he sympathised with the highly respected medico. "He's 77 years old, they've been using him, but it shows you've got to play by the rules," he said.

An Immigration Department spokesman confirmed the couple's status was in limbo. "He's not being kicked out. No decision has been made," the spokesman said. "We've been in touch with him, we're still processing it." Mackay Health District chief executive Kerry McGovern said Queensland Health had no control over visa conditions. "The responsibility for meeting those requirements rests with the doctor, not the employer," he said. [They really sound as if they care, don't they? They are one of Australia's most malign bureaucracies]


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Tourists use Ayers rock as a toilet

I am inclined to see this as an appropriate response to the politically correct restrictions on access to the site. Political correctness as a whole needs to be shat upon in my view. I think that imposing Aboriginal superstitions on the rest of Australia is just as offensive as what is described below

TOURISTS are using the top of Uluru as a toilet, says the head of a Central Australian tour company. Andrew Simpson, general manager of the Aboriginal-owned Anangu Waai tour company, said many tourists took a toilet roll with them when they climbed the rock, reports the Northern Territory News. The claims could be another blow to chances of the rock staying open to climbers.

Mr Simpson said if tourists needed to go they found somewhere before making the half-hour descent. "That's been going on for years," he said. "When people climb up the top of the rock there's no toilet facilities up there. "They're sh**ting on a sacred site."

Uluru is sacred for the Anangu people, to whom the land was handed back in 1985. Traditional owners have complained rubbish and human waste has been making its way down from the top into a sacred pool.

Mr Simpson's claims are in a submission on the draft Uluru-Kata Tjuta national park management plan, which includes the proposal to ban climbing on the rock.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he believed the climb should not be closed. But Mr Garrett said he would deal with the recommendations when he saw them. "I will give proper consideration to what the board brings forward," he said. It is not likely Mr Garrett will announce his decision this year.


"Green jobs"? In China

Sun sets on Australian Solar Systems company despite funding promises. A big British windmill factory has just shut up shop too. But I hear that Chinese factories are doing well

AUSTRALIA'S leading solar energy company was placed into the hands of voluntary administrators yesterday and almost all of its 150 staff stood down pending a review to see if the business can be salvaged. PricewaterhouseCoopers partners Stephen Longley and David McEvoy were appointed voluntary administrators of Solar Systems Pty Ltd and two of its subsidiaries just two weeks after 20 per cent stakeholder, the Victorian power utility TRUenergy, wrote down its entire $53 million investment.

Solar Systems had received promises of $129m in funding from federal and state governments to build Australia's first large scale solar power station, a $420m project near Mildura in Victoria. It also had ambitions for 1000MW of large-scale solar installations in Asia, using its unique solar dish technology, at an estimated cost of more than $3 billion, and to become one of the top five global solar energy companies over the next five years.

However, despite mandating Morgan Stanley to seek new funds and bring in new strategic or financial partners, it was unable to attract new finance and TRUenergy decided to cut its losses. It is understood the decision to appoint administrators came after the late withdrawal of two international parties -- one private equity -- from talks about an equity injection of around $50m to $100m.

Mr Longley said he would assess the company's financial and operations position with a view to continuing operations on a reduced scale over the next three months to provide sufficient time to restructure and sell the business as a going concern. He said staff would be advised of their future by the end of the week and a meeting of creditors would be held on September 17.

It is understood Solar Systems has around $56m of secured debt mostly held through some of its shareholders, including TRUenergy, the British financier and founder of Australian Wildlife Conservancy, Martin Copley, and Graeme Morgan, the founder and former owner of financial planning group Sealcorp. Solar Systems' annual report shows that Morgan was the largest shareholder with 30.3million shares, while Copley held 5.5 million. Options given to executives had an exercise price of more than $3 a share. Both are directors of the company. The annual accounts show the company had revenue of just $2.9m, but losses of $21.3m in 2007-08, taking its accumulated losses to $74m.

The recently completed manufacturing facility in Abbotsford, Victoria, which had the capacity to build 500MW of solar PV installations a year, is now on care and maintenance. Development of the Mildura power station, which was not due to begin construction for another 12 months, will also be put on hold.

It is not clear whether any new owner would qualify for the state and federal funding that had been previously committed.


Obnoxious Queensland Health manages to sink even lower: Tired doctors told to drink more coffee

SIX cups of coffee - that's the State Government antidote to sleep-deprived doctors killing and harming their patients in a haze of exhaustion. The astonishing remedy forms part of Queensland Health's new doctor fatigue policy, currently being rolled out in public hospitals, The Courier-Mail reports.

The Courier-Mail yesterday reported the confessions of junior surgeons and medics whose exhaustion-induced errors had killed or hurt patients during "on-call" shifts of 30 to 80 hours.

But a guidelines document underpinning QH's Fatigue Risk Management System claims "solutions such as 'we need more staff' might not be achievable or effective in managing a fatigue risk." Instead, the 102-page document deems the "strategic use of caffeine . . . to be beneficial" as a fatigue fighter for doctors on marathon duties. "The recommended dosage for a prolonged and significant reduction in sleepiness during a night without sleep has been suggested at 400mg of caffeine . . . equivalent to about five to six cups of coffee," the document states.

As this coffee intake is "not always feasible or realistic", QH proposes caffeine tablets as an alternative. Energy drinks also are recommended. "Compared with other psychoactive drugs, for example, modafinil (a prescription-only narcolepsy treatment), caffeine is supported in its use as it is more readily available and less expensive," the document says.

World-renowned addictions physician John Saunders slammed the advice, saying it would turn doctors into addicts. He said caffeine addiction became clinically significant at 600mg a day. But some people would be addicted, or on the threshold of dependence, at 400mg daily. "They're suggesting 400mg is a perfectly fine dose? I would absolutely dispute that," said Professor Saunders, the Pine Rivers Private Hospital alcohol and drug program director. "For a health department to suggest that doctors use caffeine like this is the height of irresponsibility."

Prof Saunders said acute effects of 400mg of caffeine a day were heart palpitations, raised blood pressure, dizziness, anxiety and hand tremors. Doctors caught between caffeine fixes might suffer serious withdrawal consequences. "These will include headache, depressed mood, blurred vision and maybe some degree of confused thinking," Prof Saunders said.

He said the spectrum of side-effects could mean a doctor hooked on caffeine posed a greater threat than a tired colleague who did not use the substance. "I think it certainly could lead doctors to make potentially bad decisions when they are managing patients," Prof Saunders said.

Organisations Systems Professor Peter Smith said fostering caffeine use among doctors was "inappropriate". "It would seem to me to be a strange way of managing long-term fatigue," Prof Smith, of Central Queensland University, said. "(Queensland Health) might be aware that nicotine enhances alertness but they probably wouldn't be promoting that. It's the same with amphetamines."

The $3.6 million FRMS is a key plank of QH human resources policy, aiming to drop the risk of patient harm from doctor fatigue to "as low as reasonably practicable". Its overarching framework involves a suite of fatigue-reduction modules, strategies, education programs and auditing measures. [What a lot of crap! They just need more doctors]

Each hospital is directed to use the guidelines document, or "resource pack," to help tailor a site-specific plan. More than three pages of the document are dedicated to the case for caffeine in an appendix titled "Fatigue Countermeasures". The central nervous system stimulant is extolled for "increasing alertness, sustaining wakefulness and delaying sleep onset". "Caffeine use has been associated with (an) increase in cognitive performance such as sustained vigilance, reaction time, memory and mood."


Vaues and evidence both matter

I RECENTLY had the privilege of listening to a senior government minister speak on the subject of evidence-based policy. My immediate reaction was to be reminded of Rossini's famous quip on Wagner's opera Lohengrin, about which he said: "One cannot judge Lohengrin from a first hearing and I certainly do not intend to hear it a second time."

But history teaches us that you cannot keep a bad idea down. So I want to start by disposing of the myth that evidence-based policy is good policy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The value of public policy does not depend on whether it rests on evidence but on whether it seeks goals that are worth pursuing.....

The lesson is simple; evidence is perhaps a necessary condition for sound policy, but it is far from being sufficient. We need to ask not merely whether policy does what it claims to do but whether what it does is worth doing. Have we learned that lesson? I fear not. Already in the Howard government's third term the rot had set in. Since then it has spread, with the contrast between the rhetoric of evidence-based policy and the reality becoming ever more glaring.

Consider infrastructure policy, where more than $60 billion in taxpayers' funds has been committed in the space of 12 months. Yet staggeringly large decisions, such as the decision to build a national broadband network, have been made without any cost-benefit analysis at all. What is the objective the NBN intended to achieve? It is the objective of having an NBN. Why? As Kylie Mole said: "Cos."

Or consider climate change and greenhouse gas abatement, where the policy response will have far-reaching consequences for our economic and social future. The government's approach, we are told, is based on detailed and comprehensive modelling. But the model itself is confidential and all attempts to secure its public release have failed. I accept that, to some, sceptic is a term of abuse. But, at least in the Western intellectual tradition, evidence is only as good as the tests to which it has been put.

Then there are the schemes such as FuelWatch, the education revolution and the car plan that, rather than lack evidence, wantonly contradict it. Perhaps there lurks among these exotic birds an instance of evidence-based policy; but, so far, every attempt at exhibiting such a specimen has failed, with all those captured having to be declared unsatisfactory and released into the wild after careful examination.

When challenged on these grounds, governments typically respond as if they are in the position that Pius IX enjoyed when the doctrine of papal infallibility was being enunciated. He could say, incontrovertibly, that "before I was Pope, I believed he was infallible; now that I am Pope, I can feel it". Yet however well suited infallibility may be to matters of divinity, it appears to perform less well in the governance of ordinary mortals.

Of course, analysis of evidence has not completely disappeared. The tax review is, by all reports, doing an excellent job. In social policy, too, there is increased interest in careful analysis of data and in experimentation. But tax reform is an area where many interests are diffuse, rather than powerful and concentrated.

As for indigenous Australians, welfare recipients and the mentally ill, they are among the weakest constituencies in the country. Could it be that we are willing to carefully analyse our policies for the weak but would rather buy silence, cut deals, trade favours with the strong? A policy of being strong with the weak and weak with the strong is a recipe for inefficiency and inequity.

Ultimately, hypocrisy is the highest homage that virtue can be paid by vice. Statements of devotion to evidence are no substitute for policy based on sound principle, clear goals and careful consideration of options, and that is not merely open to independent scrutiny but genuinely invites it, especially for decisions where powerful interests are at stake. That is hardly the easy or always popular road; but as all the evidence shows, the alternative brings only ultimate failure, with much needless pain along the way.


Monday, September 07, 2009

Dangerous bureaucratic secrecy

THE revelation that Anthony Albanese, as an opposition frontbencher with a keen interest in Sydney airport, apparently ignored former Customs officer Allan Kessing's legitimate and serious concerns over security flaws at the nation's busiest airport highlights the inadequacy of the Rudd government's proposed whistleblower reforms. In particular, it demonstrates that making federal MPs authorised recipients of public interest disclosures by public servants is no substitute for extending legal protection to whistleblowers, who draw serious examples of maladministration to public attention.

Before drawing up legislation, Special Minister of State Joe Ludwig is considering the report of the House of Representatives legal and constitutional affairs committee, chaired by government backbencher Mark Dreyfus QC. The report recommends an elaborate new system for handling whistleblowers' complaints inside the public sector. Complainants would be protected from prosecution only if their complaints were directed to their own public service agency, to an outside public agency such as the Ombudsman or Public Service Commissioner, or to federal members of parliament.

Unless they were exposing an immediate and serious threat to public health or safety, public servants leaking to journalists would remain liable for criminal prosecution and up to two years' jail under the notorious section 70 of the Commonwealth Crimes Act. The section provides no defences, even if the information made public is in the public interest.

Mr Kessing, a former member of Sydney airport's border security team, received a criminal record under section 70 after being convicted of leaking reports outlining lax airport security. He has consistently asserted his innocence. The publication of the reports, in The Australian in May 2005, led to the Wheeler review, which confirmed the parlous state of security at our major airports.

One of the most worrying aspects of the issue is that while the documents at the heart of the affair remained inside the Customs bureaucracy, nothing was done to address the problems. Once the documents were published, however, the Howard government spent $200 million trying to fix the problems, although a brawl between two bikie gangs at Sydney's domestic terminal in March suggested much remains to be done.

Mr Kessing approached Mr Albanese two months before the reports appeared in The Australian out of frustration that the Customs bureaucracy had suppressed and ignored the issue. His disclosure today to legal affairs editor Chris Merritt about approaching Mr Albanese in vain drives home a vital point that apparently escaped the Dreyfus committee. That is, politicians, like Customs officials, are prone to human frailty and do not automatically respond to every issue in the public interest, even in the face of serious disclosures by public servants. But they would be far more likely to address incidents of maladministration if legal structures encouraged them to do so.

Allowing politicians, senior bureaucrats or anyone else to ignore maladministration and remain safe in the knowledge that the law imposes criminal penalties on those who reveal their inaction to the media is a recipe for cover-ups and inertia. That, however, is precisely what will be encouraged if the federal government turns the Dreyfus committee's recommendations into law. It is also a concern that the government's shield laws for journalists fall short of protecting confidential sources, as the public interest requires.

Mr Kessing's disclosures are credible and all the more compelling because he has nothing to gain and everything to lose - including a second prosecution under section 70 - by going public now. For his part, Mr Albanese owes the travelling public, and his electorate of Grayndler, which borders Sydney airport, a detailed explanation of why he failed to act on Mr Kessing's information in 2005. At that time, Mr Albanese was a senior member of the opposition team, and the material provided revealed a serious problem in a key area of national security. Mr Albanese has been a strident critic of decisions about Sydney airport. In his maiden speech in 1996, he attacked the Hawke government's approval of the third runway, which increased aircraft noise for his constituents.

Aside from the questions Mr Albanese must answer, the wider issue this revelation has raised involves the public's right to know about issues of major importance, and the media's right to inform them. Until public sector whistleblowers are free to approach the media on serious matters of incompetence or corruption, the public interest will suffer.


Australia's Federal environmental protection laws have increased costs but delivered little benefit

Environmental regulation should be left to the States

THE centrepiece of Australia's environmental law largely duplicates existing regulations, provides little extra protection and has added more than $820 million in additional costs to business since it came into force nine years ago, an Australian National University survey shows. The ANU Centre for Environmental Law surveyed 155 individuals and companies that had been subject to the approvals processes of the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. It found that rather than leading to improved outcomes, the EPBC regime had left project proponents saddled with up to $2.2m in costs.

The government has made much of its decision to cut business red tape and encourage major projects, yet the survey found the EPBC regime has hit "major infrastructure, mining and urban development activities, the environmental impacts of which are already regulated under other regimes".

The EPBC legislation was designed to create a national scheme of environment, heritage and threatened species protection. It gives the states responsibility for matters of state and local significance, but allows the commonwealth to intervene in matters of national significance. The survey found that "where actions have been regulated, there is evidence the regime is not adding significant environmental value. "The concentration of the environmental impact assessment regime on large infrastructure, oil, gas, mining and urban development projects has stunted its capacity to generate significant environmental gains. "These types of activity are already subject to other federal, state and territory regulatory processes."

The survey said the average cost of the environmental impact process to project proponents varied between $660,000 and $2.2m. "The inability to identify clear environmental benefits from the environmental impact assessment regime has led to questions being raised about its cost effectiveness." Industry groups have already claimed the commonwealth role had added little to the environmental protection achieved through existing processes, but instead burdened business and taxpayers with significant compliance costs.

Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry director Greg Evans said the survey showed more needed to be done to reduce state and federal overlap. He called on the commonwealth government to restrict its role to "strategic national significance issues", making sure Australia conformed with its international obligations: "There's an issue of whether the commonwealth needs to get involved in a project by project basis."

Environment Minister Peter Garrett referred to the complexities of the act on several occasions while finalising his decision to approve the giant Gorgon gas project off Western Australia last month. A review of the legislation headed by former Department of Defence chief Allan Hawke is due by the end of next month.

A spokesman for Mr Garrett said yesterday most of the study related to how the environmental impact assessment process had been implemented in the Howard years. He pointed to the signing of bilateral agreements with the states for environmental assessments. "Assessments conducted under bilateral agreements cut out unnecessary duplication and are a more efficient way of ensuring we uphold important state and commonwealth environmental protection," he said.

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt said the Coalition strongly supported further simplification. "Many of the states duplicate the federal process," he said. "We will be working towards a single national approvals process covering matters under the federal jurisdiction."


Queensland's brainless medical bureaucracy

One heroic doctor worked 168 days straight. We're killing people, say tired doctors. The tales of incompetence and bureaucratic bloodymindedness from Queensland Health are legion but the disastrous hours many doctors are asked to work is something that has been going on for decades so is probably Queensland Health's worst bureaucratic excess. The EU now stipulates that no doctor may work for more than 48 hours per week. When will Australia catch up?

ANDREW Reedy's devotion to duty is legendary in rural doctor circles. Even his weary colleagues, beat after days and days without a break, say they can't match the man in Millmerran. Dr Reedy said he worked almost six months without a day off in the Darling Downs town in southeast Queensland. He counts them off – 168 days between October 2005 and March 2006. And he wasn't sitting around checking runny noses and writing referrals.

Dr Reedy was on call, meaning he could never be more than 15 minutes away from Millmerran's 15-bed hospital in case of an emergency. Queensland Health did not have a doctor to replace him. So the father of four young children, married to a modern version of Superwoman, ploughed on and on and on.

How did he feel towards the end of the marathon? "Tired, fed up, isolated, questioning my marriage stability," Dr Reedy said. "If I wanted a day off, I would have had to walk away and the town would not have had a doctor. "Queensland Health banks significantly on the goodwill of their employees. They know we won't walk away."

There have been times when Dr Reedy has shivered with sickness. But still he has been called in to the hospital. On one occasion, he stood in the waiting room, produced a thermometer and told the gathered patients that if they could top his fever, he would see them immediately. If they could not, they should go home, take Panadol and come back the next day. No one beat Dr Reedy's mark of 39.9 degrees.

Millmerran now has two doctors, enabling Dr Reedy more family time. But it's not much more time. And the fatigue that has bedevilled the minds of Dr Reedy and many of his colleagues remains one of the key issues for the doctors demanding better conditions from Queensland Health.

Dr Reedy can recall the murkiness when his memory has fizzled. And he admits that he has made mistakes. "There have been times when I've had two to three hours' sleep in four days. I've written incorrect drug orders. I've written incorrect drug amounts. Instead of writing 20mg, I've written 20g," Dr Reedy said. "This is why I rely on my nursing staff. I say that I need them to be checking everything that I do."

Wouldn't it be much easier for him to pack it in, head for a bigger place and revel in a cosier private practice? "If I didn't love my job and I didn't care about the people I treated, I would have left long ago," he said.

Dr Reedy's passion for his career extends to his demands for a fair deal as doctors fight for better conditions. "This is not about the monetary value. It's ensuring that we get what we are entitled to. It's about the conditions," he said. "There are some days when they could offer me an extra $10,000 to work for a day and I would say I would rather have my day off."


Law backs breastfeeding mothers

I think a lot of anti-discrimination legislation is oppressive and wrong but I like this bit

REFUSING a woman the right to breastfeed in public is against the law in Queensland, according to the state's Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Susan Booth.

Last week The Sunday Mail revealed one in four people believed breastfeeding in public was unacceptable. But Ms Booth said women had the right to breastfeed their children in public places. "Queensland's anti-discrimination laws protected their right to do so," she said. "Mothers who breastfeed their babies at work, in education and in cafes, restaurants and shops and public buildings are protected from discrimination under section seven of the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act 1991."

Ms Booth said each year the Commission received several complaints from people about women breastfeeding in public. "Often the complaints are about women breastfeeding in restaurants. Apparently they don't like watching a baby feed when they are eating." she said.

Ms Booth said the Newspoll survey revealed an unacceptable double standard. "There is general consensus amongst health professionals that breast is best for babies."


Sunday, September 06, 2009

A True Tale of Two Houses

By Sara Hudson

Once upon a time in a community called Baniyala, the houses were old, there weren't enough houses, and there was no house for the school teacher. However, the community didn't have very much money and they didn't know very much about building houses.

So they spoke to someone who knew about building houses to see if he could help them build one. He could, and with the help of his friends, he managed to raise enough money to buy some materials and talked some people into giving materials cheaply. The people in the community helped build the house because they knew if they didn't, it wouldn't get built. The house only cost around $250,000 to build because most of the labour was voluntary.

Meanwhile in another community, people were waiting for the government to build them houses under the new Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program. They didn't consider building the houses themselves because the government had always done everything for them. The government wouldn't build the houses without the community giving them some land.

After lots of meetings, the community agreed to lease some land. Now the government had to find the people to build the houses. This took a while. Finally, they found three organisations to be part of their Alliance. These partners were keen to start building, but the government couldn't decide who was in charge and how much it would cost to build the houses. They argued for a while and then got someone else to manage the program.

By now, there were six layers of managers and $45.54 million spent but not one house had been built. The community was unhappy. Lots of people had come and talked to them about the sort of houses they would like, but no building had started. The government wrote a paper saying they were three months behind but would catch up and build the houses for $450,000 each.

And then the wet season started.

Moral: People should not wait for the government to do something.

Note: In the Northern Territory, people living on communally owned land cannot borrow money from banks to build their own homes because they do not have individual title over the land. Individual 99-year leases would solve this, but they also could raise the money independently of banks and build their own houses. Except they have been led to believe that the government is responsible for housing and that private homeownership is not for them.

The above is part of a press release dated Sept. 4 from the Centre for Independent Studies. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590. Telephone ph: +61 2 9438 4377 or fax: +61 2 9439 7310

A cloud of unnecessary debt hangs heavy over Australia

By Joe Hockey, the federal shadow treasurer, who says that the Rudd Government must recalibrate its spending, or Australia's future is gloomy

ONE of the biggest mistakes a government can make is to stubbornly continue with a policy that is no longer necessary or beneficial for the nation. This is the position that the Rudd Government finds itself in with its overblown response to the global financial crisis – a multibillion-dollar economic stimulus that is being financed with borrowed money.

The latest national accounts show the Australian economy grew in the second quarter of the year by 0.6 per cent. Let's not forget that many factors contributed to getting Australia through this downturn in good shape.

Australia had a strong and well-regulated financial system, largely due to financial reforms undertaken by the Howard government. Our banks were well-capitalised with relatively low exposure to subprime loans. The depreciation of the Australian dollar in the second half of last year helped keep our exports competitive on world markets. China's solid growth continued to support demand for Australian resources and the large and rapid reduction in interest rates boosted household and business spending power.

Most importantly, the Coalition's sound financial management during its 11 years in government left the country with a world-leading balance sheet: no net debt and money in the bank. We entered the global financial crisis as the envy of the developed world. In less than 18 months, the Rudd Government has managed to turn Australia's strong fiscal position upside-down.

From the outset, the Coalition has argued that the Government was spending too much. In what can only be described as a massive over-reaction to events offshore, the Government whipped out the national credit card, announced to the markets that it was increasing its credit limit and committed taxpayers to more than $52 billion in "stimulus" spending and at least another $50 billion increase in spending over four years.

Treasurer Wayne Swan and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd are always quick to talk up the effects of their stimulus package, but at the same time as the Government was pushing the pedal to the metal in its spending, the Reserve Bank was doing likewise with monetary policy. Interest rates dropped, with home borrowers receiving most of the benefits, although small business received only minor rate reductions.

In recent weeks the Reserve Bank has been sending clear signals to the Government that it would soon increase interest rates. Some economists predict a rate rise as early as next month. The Treasurer has said on many occasions that monetary and fiscal policy must work in tandem. Yet now we face the imminent prospect of the two major levers of economic policy heading off in opposite directions.

The Government's stubborn refusal to change the course of its own spending policy has thrown the recalibration burden squarely on to the Reserve Bank. This will mean higher mortgage interest rates. Some financial commentators are forecasting the RBA's cash rate to hit 5.5 per cent to 6 per cent by the end of 2011. If the rate rises are passed on by the banks, it means an interest cost increase of $9000 a year on a $300,000 mortgage – an out-of-pocket expense of up to $175 a week for working families.

The increased cost of rate rises on overdrafts may force some small business owners to let staff go. Undoubtedly it will hinder their ability to hire staff as the economy continues to recover. In the face of an improving global and domestic economy, the Government must recalibrate its spending and allow fiscal policy to work in tandem with monetary policy as the economy recovers. The alternative is clearly higher interest rates and higher taxes to pay off the massive debt.

The refusal of the Prime Minister and Treasurer to do so reveals its spending motives as purely political and not in the best economic interests of the nation. The blame for any interest rate rise will therefore lie squarely with the Rudd Government. Its inability to make tough decisions will pose the greatest threat to Australia's recovery.


Biased Leftist researchers can't see Leftist bias

Anybody who thinks the ABC is right wing lives in cloud-cuckoo land. This study just shows how far Left ANU academics are -- which is also no surprise

Newspapers are left wing, television is right wing, and the media as a whole tends to favour the Coalition. And surprisingly, according to researchers from the Australian National University, the ABC Television news is the most pro-Coalition of them all.

Former Liberal prime minister John Howard railed against the alleged left-wing bias of the ABC, but the researchers found Aunty was more likely to favour his side. Researchers pored over news stories from 1996 to 2007 to establish if the media was biased. The results, released today, point to the media being generally middle-of-the-road, with the Coalition tending to win out.

Researchers found journalists were "a centrist bunch". The exception was ABC TV news, which "had a significant slant towards the Coalition". Newspapers were more pro-Labor, while talkback radio and television were more pro-Coalition. Melbourne's The Age newspaper had the most "slanted" pro-Labor headlines. [That bit is correct]

When it came to editorial slant and donations by the media to political parties, the Coalition was laughing all the way to the polls. More than three-quarters of newspaper editorials endorsed the Coalition. The Herald Sun and The West Australian newspapers endorsed them 100 per cent of the time.

Media companies donated significantly more money - 39 per cent more - to the Coalition than to Labor. Every media company that donated favoured the Coalition. Of course, the Coalition was in power for the period studied.

The researchers found that the more a political party spent on advertising with a media outlet, the more favourable the media coverage. "It is consistent with the simple notion that advertising dollars may be an explicit or implicit payment to proprietors for favourable coverage," the study said. But it said the link could also be explained by political parties advertising with media outlets that were slanted in their favour.

Study author and ANU economist Andrew Leigh concluded that journalists were centrists, but editors were "more likely to take a party line". The study suggested "slant is determined at an editorial level rather than through pressure or article selection by journalists".

The researchers measured bias by counting the number of mentions of left-leaning or right-leaning intellectuals. They also rated the "slant" of front-page election stories and headlines, counted electoral endorsements and tallied political donations. The ABC's Radio National was the only media outlet to score dead even when it came to favouring left-leaning or right-leaning intellectuals.


A great way to get people out of their cars

Bus driver suspended after being caught reading while driving. But how long had this been going on? This is just another reason why people feel safer in their cars. And when the drivers concerned get let off with a slap on the wrist, we see how uninterested governments are in protecting the public. It's only their own long lunches that they care about. All the rest is puffery

A SYDNEY bus driver has been suspended without pay after being filmed by a terrified passenger reading a magazine at the wheel, occasionally glancing at the road. The mobile phone footage - taken on the 4am Westbus service from Toongabbie to Parramatta - shows the driver holding the magazine and turning its pages whilst glancing up at the road.

A Westbus spokeswoman said the company was "alarmed'' when it was shown the mobile phone footage, The Daily Telegraph reports. "We immediately downloaded our CCTV footage from that bus,'' she said. "Westbus takes very seriously any compromise to the safety of passengers, drivers and other road users. "We have tried various means to contact the driver today but have been unsuccessful. "We must speak with him prior to resolving this matter, but in the meantime, he has been stood down without pay effective immediately.''

The news comes after The Daily Telegraph revealed last month that a State Transit Authority bus driver reading a book while driving a packed peak-hour service in May was let off with a warning. A passenger who boarded the bus on William St watched as the driver sat stationary - despite having a green traffic light - because he was so enthralled in the novel.

The passenger, who did not want to be named, then photographed the driver for the next 10 minutes as he crawled along Elizabeth St barely looking up from the novel on the steering wheel.


Right to reject medical care upheld

DOCTORS and paramedics must withhold life-saving medical care if a patient has previously made a ''living will'' that clearly states they do not want a specific treatment, such as kidney dialysis or a blood transfusion. A landmark NSW Supreme Court decision has upheld the right to refuse medical treatment, even if the decision was made only in anticipation, and well before treatment was needed.

Doctors' groups have welcomed the decision, saying it allows them to respect a patient's wishes without fear of prosecution or litigation by relatives. In fact doctors and paramedics who treat a patient against their expressed refusal could be charged with assault and battery or be sued for providing unwanted treatment.

The case concerned Mr A, a Jehovah's Witness, who had been admitted to an emergency department in a critical state on July 1. He subsequently developed renal failure and went into a coma, kept alive only by mechanical ventilation and dialysis. On July 14 the hospital discovered that almost a year earlier Mr A had prepared an advanced care directive that specifically refused dialysis. Aware that stopping the treatment would bring on death, the Hunter New England Area Health Service sought an urgent hearing to determine if the directive was valid.

Justice McDougall said that while there was no legislation covering the issue, the common law right to refuse treatment stood - regardless of its basis on religious, social or moral grounds, and whether or not it was a sensible, rational decision based on the relative risks and benefits.

Furthermore, the directive is still valid despite patients not being informed at the time of writing of the consequences of their decision. ''If an advanced care directive is made by a capable adult, and is clear and unambiguous, and extends to the situation at hand, it must be respected,'' he said. ''What my orders did was recognise his right to make that decision … it is no recognition of a 'right to die'.'' An exception could be made if a pregnant woman's refusal of treatment would result in the death of her unborn child.

If a doctor suspected that a directive was made under duress, or the person was incapable of making such a decision, health authorities should ask the court to decide if the directive was valid but administer life-saving treatment in the meantime, he said.

The director of medico-legal relations at the Australian Medical Association (NSW), Sarah Dahlenburg, said doctors faced a stressful dilemma when faced with an advanced care directive, especially when relatives wanted treatment to continue. ''A doctor can now feel comfortable telling the family that they are abiding by the wishes of the patient, and if the family wants to do something about it it's them who should take up the legal case,'' she said.

But a partner at TressCox Lawyers, Don Munro, said hospitals should be reluctant to rely on the Mr A judgement. It would be safer to get an urgent declaration from a judge on each case. ''The legal costs involved would be nothing compared a lawsuit from an aggrieved relative,'' he said.

NSW Health said advanced care directives were legally binding and could not be overruled by family members. But they could not contain instructions for euthanasia or assisted suicide.


Saturday, September 05, 2009

Repeated deceitful sensationalism from Australia's Green Party

The very self-confident but mentally challenged Ms Siewert above

RACHEL Siewert radiated righteous anger last weekend, after flying over the West Atlas oil rig spill in the Timor Sea, and her alarmist comments guaranteed her the kind of media coverage politicians lust after. The West Australian Greens senator said both the Federal Government and the company that owns the rig, PTTEP Australasia, had misled the public by downplaying the extent of the spill. "Literally from horizon to horizon you see the oil on the surface," she told reporters. "I'm extremely worried about the Kimberley coast because this is only 10 nautical miles, which is 20km, from the coast."

Siewert handed out photographs which she said proved her assertions, one of them showing reefs and mangroves on which she said the oil would have a devastating impact. Then she watched with satisfaction as excited journos rushed to file stories.

It was, as it turned out, nonsense. The slick was nowhere near the coast. The nearest oil was actually 148km from the coastline. But when Siewert grudgingly admitted five days later that what she had thought was oil could be algae, there was virtually no media coverage. As a result, many people still believe her original statements were true. All care and no responsibility. Who said it's not easy being Green?

Bob Brown's party is doing well at the moment, picking up support from voters disillusioned by what they see as Labor's failure to deliver on environmental issues. And with Labor not running a candidate, the Greens have high hopes of polling well in the by-election in Bradfield, the Sydney seat being vacated by former Liberal leader Brendan Nelson.

But Siewert's performance on the West Atlas issue raises questions about the Greens' approach. Are they serious, or a group of populist opportunists?

Light crude oil and natural gas began leaking from the rig early on Friday, August 21. According to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, it started mobilising resources within 15 minutes of being notified. The first concern, rightly, was getting workers to safety. Then an AMSA Dornier plane mapped the spill. Two small planes equipped for spraying chemical dispersant were despatched to Truscott aerodrome. Arrangements were made for delivery of up to 50 tonnes of dispersant. Also, a specialist C-130 Hercules was chartered from Singapore by the company to spearhead the dispersant-spraying effort. (It reached Darwin the next day, and was in action by Sunday.)

Reasonable efficiency on Day 1, you might think. But Siewert was on the airwaves saying that, instead of dispersant having to be flown from Victoria, resources to combat such spills should be based in Northern Australia. In fact, the dispersant was stored in Darwin in case of just such an emergency.

Then, Siewert and Brown demanded that the government establish an immediate judicial inquiry to establish how the oil rig was being operated and how the early stages of the clean-up were undertaken. Talk about putting the cart before the horse! Clearly, at that stage, the priorities had to be dealing with the spill's effects and plugging the leak, not drawing up terms of reference and appointing judges. Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson says there will be an independent inquiry – after the leak is capped. Sensible.

Siewert's next foray was over the plan to use a mobile rig to drill into the leaking well and plug it with mud. She insisted the Government force PTTEP Australasia to borrow a mobile rig from Woodside rather than bring one from Singapore or Indonesia. The Government, wisely you might think, preferred to follow expert advice that the overseas rig, capable of fixing itself to the ocean floor to provide a more secure platform, was a better option.

If you can get the Woodside rig there even a day or two earlier, that is 3000 barrels of oil per day that they wouldn't be pumping into the environment, the senator argued. That estimate of 3000 barrels of oil a day appears to be another Siewert special. The Government's experts put the amount leaking closer to 400 barrels a day.

And then came Siewert's flight and her headline-grabbing claims. "The slick is at least 90 nautical miles, which is 180km, east-west from the rig," she said. "And it's fair, it's pretty safe, to assume that it's going north and south as well." In contrast, the observations from AMSA's Dornier aircraft on the same day had the spill covering a rectangular area 15 nautical miles by 60 nautical miles. What's more, only 25 per cent of this area was actually affected, mostly by oil streaks and patches of sheen. The heaviest concentration of oil was within three nautical miles of the rig.

No one would deny that the oil spill is a serious matter. Siewert is right to be concerned. She has an obligation, however, to ensure her information is accurate before she charges in. Considered statements would be more impressive than wild assertions.


Folly of Housing Stimulus without New Houses

By Dr Stephen Kirchner

The increase in the First Home Owners Grant is a key element of the federal government?s fiscal stimulus. But the June quarter national accounts show little benefit in terms of new housing supply. Dwelling investment fell 5.5% over the quarter, the third consecutive quarterly decline, to be down 11% on the June quarter last year.

Where the grant did show was in a 10.6% increase in ?ownership transfer costs,? which measures expenditures made in transferring the ownership of existing homes, but adding only one-tenth of a percentage point to GDP growth. The grant was a boon to the vendors of existing homes, with national dwelling prices up 4.5% in the first six months of 2009, based on RP-Rismark data. Sydney prices were up 5.9%, while Melbourne prices were up 6.5%. But where is the new supply needed to make housing more affordable?

Building approvals for private houses have increased by 4.7% since July last year, but this is offset by a 26.2% decline in approvals for private multi-unit dwellings, leaving overall dwelling approvals down 3.9% on July last year. Moreover, much of the recent increase in housing finance and private house approvals represents a bring-forward of activity to take advantage of the grant that will see a future pay-back in the form of weaker activity as the grant is phased out.

In the December quarter last year, Australia saw only 79 dwelling commencements for every 1,000 persons the ABS estimates were added to the resident population. This is the lowest ratio of commencements to the estimated change in resident population for any quarter going back to 1984, the period for which we have comparable data.

With annual population growth running at just under 2% at the end of last year, Australia does not need to further stimulate housing demand. It needs to start addressing what RBA Governor Glenn Stevens has called the ?serious supply-side impediments? to making housing more affordable.

The above is part of a press release dated Sept. 4 from the Centre for Independent Studies. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590. Telephone ph: +61 2 9438 4377 or fax: +61 2 9439 7310

Bosses hit new Leftist unfair dismissal laws use as costly

EMPLOYERS have criticised the operation of Labor's new unfair dismissal laws, fearing claims will balloon out to 10,000 a year, a level pre-dating John Howard's Work Choices regime. While the new system is just two months old, employers claim a new telephone conciliation system aimed at resolving claims is being dominated by lawyers, with suggestions the cost of settlements has increased.

The business concern comes as unions attacked a new set of modern awards released yesterday, warning proposals for the offshore oil and gas industries risked "industrial chaos" in the vital sector. Union leader Paul Howes will demand Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard intervene on behalf of workers, accusing the Australian Industrial Relations Commission of allowing employers to exploit the current economic climate to have entitlements cut.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the number of unfair dismissal cases being filed with Fair Work Australia showed "that there's probably going to be at least 10,000 dismissal cases a year". "That would be about the number that was there prior to Work Choices," ACCI chief executive Peter Anderson said. "The greater problem will be if the system puts employers to costs and expense which is comparable to the previous system. The number of cases should fall, not remain the same or grow."

A spokeswoman for Ms Gillard, the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, last night hit back at the claims, saying the "government understands that there are some in the business community who wanted Work Choices retained". The spokeswoman said there had been 1233 unfair dismissal applications made nationally since July, and 417 claims had already been resolved.

When Mr Howard introduced Work Choices in 2006, he removed unfair dismissal rights from most workers by exempting firms with fewer than 100 employees from claims. Labor has largely restored the Paul Keating model, but extended the probation period for new workers in small businesses.

Mr Anderson said employers were concerned that the new conciliation process was dominated by legal representatives. "The practical impact of the conciliation process is it has a substantial bearing of what ultimately is paid by way of 'go away' money," he said. "There have been representations that price settlements have gone up because (the conciliator) had not been able to directly express an opinion where the employer felt if he had expressed an opinion to the worker, then the worker would have withdrawn the application."

Ms Gillard's spokeswoman said "the majority of cases have actually been resolved successfully at this stage, which means employers don't have to leave their businesses to attend a formal hearing, reducing costs and inconvenience for all parties involved".

The Australian Industry Group said its experience had been reasonably positive. The AIRC yesterday released stage three of the government's award overhaul, with the ACTU claiming thousands of workers would be left worse off.

Mr Howes, national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, said the new award for the offshore oil and gas industries proposed dramatic changes to pay rates and rosters. For decades, employees have worked a two weeks on and two weeks off roster that required a majority workforce vote to be changed. But the commission had proposed that the roster could now be altered at the discretion of the employer. Mr Howes said casual employees also stood to have their pay cut by 75 per cent.


Dispassionate history an impossible ideal?

That it is difficult does not excuse the ideological abuses of it that so frequently come from the Left. As Windschuttle has shown in detail, a lot of "history" emanating from Leftist historians is just a farrago of lies. We CAN do better than that -- JR

KEVIN Rudd's speech launching Thomas Keneally's Australians: Origins to Eureka has left me scratching my head. It is an odd piece. For example, it includes the statement: "The love for history is, I believe, the handmaiden of country." I have thought hard about what this means but I still do not have a clue; it is just meaningless sludge.

Rudd wants to go beyond "the arid intellectual debates of the history wars". But surely the study of history moves forward only when it engages in intellectual debates, when present interpretations of the evidence are challenged and their inadequacies exposed. Rudd wants to bring the two interpretations, the "black armband" and the "three cheers", together in a love-in. He wants a history that "unapologetically celebrates the good. A history that unapologetically exposes the bad." The problem with this is that he is perpetuating the facile view that the study of history is all about making moral judgments. For him, history is about alternately cheering and booing the past.

This was, in fact, the starting point for the history wars. Some historians in the 1970s and 80s forgot that their role was to inquire into the past and provide as accurate a view of it as possible. For them history was the handmaiden of politics, to be used to support contemporary causes.

Many of those historians who practised the black-armband approach acted as if they were the modern equivalent of Old Testament prophets. They saw themselves as the conscience of the nation. Their role was to scourge the nation by presenting its past in the worst light so that it would repent and right its wrongs.

Manning Clark was the first to don the prophet's mantle. But it was in the area of Aboriginal history, with Henry Reynolds in the lead, that this approach really took off. Historians could influence contemporary politics by making people ashamed of the past. In reaction, the three-cheers brigade, led by Geoffrey Blainey, said: "Hang on, Australia wasn't such a bad place. There were a lot of good people who did good things. After all, they built Australia. We should celebrate their achievements."

The history wars to which Rudd refers long predate the prime ministership of John Howard. They came to public prominence because the agenda of the black-armband brigade was taken up by Paul Keating as part of his "big picture". Their willingness to use history for political purposes provided useful ammunition for Keating on matters such as indigenous affairs, the republic and multiculturalism. Howard was essentially reacting to what he saw as the extreme nature of Keating and his ideological supporters. Rather than going beyond this division, Rudd's approach indicates that he is intent on entrenching it. He seems to think that historical inquiry consists of a constant cycle of celebration and condemnation.

This is not the purpose of studying history. Historians seek to understand the past, to gain an appreciation of how and why people acted in the way they did.

Historians who begin with moral presuppositions, whose concerns are primarily with contemporary political issues, will invariably fail in their endeavour. They will lack the empathy to understand the actions of humans who were quite different from them.

The division of the past into good and bad events is futile. Sometimes bad things happen through no one's fault. For example, the British settlers were not responsible for the diseases they carried with them that wreaked havoc in the indigenous population.

It is not the job of the historian to right the wrongs of the past. They are not prophets, nor will the nation be redeemed if it collectively repents the actions of a past generation. Responsibility for actions in the past lies with the individuals who made them, not with those living decades or centuries after those actions.

The reduction of historical inquiry to moral instruction is not the only piece of muddled thinking in Rudd's speech. He claims that "history is the memory of a nation", that memory "informs and shapes behaviour" and that this "collective memory of the past" is the foundation on which the future is built.

The only problem is that memory is not history. Memory is simply unreliable. The role of the historian is to interrogate the past, to inquire and investigate, to check if the "memory of the nation" is true or false. Their job is to establish, as far as they can, what actually happened. Often they will disagree because they will interpret the available evidence in different ways.

In this sense there will always be history wars because historians, as with scientists, will invariably differ about the interpretation of evidence. This sort of disagreement is a healthy aspect of a liberal democratic society.

Unfortunately, Rudd's speech does nothing to assist Australia's history wars to move from an unhealthy obsession with cheering or booing the past to one in which there is informed intellectual debate. If anything, his speech encourages the unhelpful idea that the real purpose of history is serve moral and political concerns.


Australians 20 per cent more likely to get married than Britons

The number of Australians tying the knot has hit a 20-year high, throwing the equivalent numbers in Britain into stark relief. Figures released by the Australian bureau of statistics on Monday suggested that 118,756 marriages took place there last year, up 2.1 per cent on 2007 and up 12 per cent on a low of 104,000 in 2001. Australia has an estimated population of about 21,885,000. By comparison, there were 270,000 marriages in 2007 in Britain, from a population of roughly 60.5 million at the time (it is now estimated to be closer to 61 million). This was the lowest since statistics on this subject were first compiled in 1862. It puts the marriage rate an estimated 19 per cent higher in Australia than in the UK.

Frank Bongiorno, a senior lecturer in Australian studies at King’s College London, said that the Australian propensity to settle down may be linked to financial inducements. “There is government encouragement in Australia to form households in the shape of first time home buyers’ grants. And then there are grants for when children are born. Both of those things would tend to encourage people to marry. “When I took advantage of it the home buyers’ grant was about $7,000 but now I believe it’s much higher – up to about $21,000 I think.

“There has been concern in Australia about an aging population – how it would support the pensions of the increasing number of elderly. You heard more about it five years ago than you do at the moment. But perhaps the policies it led to have fed through and caused this boom.”

Bernard Salt, a demographer for financial consultants KPMG in Melbourne, said that the marriage rates were least part of this trend. “The divorce rates are also down and the birth rate is up according to the last set of stats, which were for 2008. “The economy in Australia didn’t really start to take a hit of any kind until earlier this year, in January or February. So it might be that some of this is due to optimism about people’s prospects and their lives in general. Their optimism might have made them more prepared to take on a genetic liability in the form of a child. “Plus I think that the present generation of twenty-somethings are more conservative than their parents were. They are into serial monogamy and are less promiscuous.”

The data, which were released on Monday, also suggested that 80 per cent of couples lived together before heading down the aisle.


Friday, September 04, 2009


Three current articles below

Tasers unsafe in the hands of Australian police goons

They are a valuable alternative to gunfire but police use them indiscriminately -- meaning that a valuable tool may have to be taken away from them in order to protect the public from a rogue police force. Can you imagine a cop firing one 28 times into a man lying on the ground? No wonder the guy died of a heart attack! Such an abuse is of course well outside all guidelines for use of the weapon. The cop concerned should be in jail for manslaughter

The controversial Taser stun guns may be scrapped in Queensland after a review warned that the weapons could kill and could not be modified to prevent a repeat of the death of a man this year when he was shot 28 times with the 50,000-volt device.

The joint Crime and Misconduct Commission-police review, launched after the June heart-attack death of north Queensland man Antonio Galeano, has ordered an overhaul of police training and operational policy, requiring the stun guns to be used only when there is a "risk of serious injury".

The review, to be released today and obtained exclusively by The Australian, marks the first time an Australian authority has recognised the possibility the stun guns can injure or kill, especially when fired repeatedly at a person. "The possibility of Taser use causing or contributing to death is possible and cannot be ruled out," the review warns.

The Arizona-based manufacturers have repeatedly denied the weapons can kill.

The report is expected to influence the nationwide rollout of Tasers, amid mounting evidence the weapons are being used by police as an everyday compliance tool and not as a non-lethal substitute for a standard gun in high-risk situations.

Sources have told The Australian a coronial investigation has concluded that amphetamine addict Galeano, 39, was deliberately shot 28 times, each time for a duration of up to five seconds, after he confronted police with a steel bar at his unit in Brandon, south of Townsville. It was initially claimed the stun gun might have malfunctioned or that there was a glitch with the built-in computer system recording the number and duration of shots from the weapon.

But investigators will allege the policeman repeatedly Tasered Galeano, who dropped the metal bar after the first few shots, while he lay unarmed and writhing on the floor. He died minutes later while still in handcuffs.

Civil liberties lawyers called for a criminal investigation into the death of Galeano in June, when The Australian revealed he had been shot 28 times. Until then, police had claimed he had been shot only two or three times.

It will be announced today that the freeze on the rollout of Tasers to 3000 general duties officers -- ordered after the death of Galeano -- will be maintained while police move to implement the recommendations of the review.

Meanwhile, the 1200 Tasers with the Queensland police force will remain in operation. But the use of Tasers is under threat, with the CMC recommending they be modified so a single shot lasts no longer than five seconds, and that a limit be put on the numbers of times the weapon can be fired. Police have been told by the manufacturer that "at this stage, this is not feasible with the Taser X26" -- the $15,000-a-piece weapon being used in Queensland and around Australia.

The review recommends that Queensland Police fit an automatic video device on the weapons, which records every time the Taser is pulled from its holster. Queensland police last year refused to buy the weapons with the optional "Tasercam" because of the cost.

Civil liberties lawyer Scott McDougall, director of the Caxton Legal Centre, said police should be forced to table in parliament every deployment of the stun guns in Queensland. He said an independent medical study should be conducted on the weapons, and a freeze on their use should be implemented until the findings were released. "We have clients who were Tasered who were not offering any resistance to police," he said. "Fears that Tasers would be used as a compliance tool may have come to fruition around Australia."


'Urinating' Queensland cop shocks onlookers

There really are some charmers in the Qld. police

A QUEENSLAND police officer is being investigated after allegedly being caught urinating on a poker machine inside a Sunshine Coast nightclub last night. The officer has been stood down pending the outcome of an investigation. This follows another police officer being stood down after allegedly clocking 223km/h during an authorised pursuit.

In the latest incident, a group of off-duty police officers were celebrating the departure of several colleagues from the force at the Blue Bar at Alexandra Headland, when it is understood an officer was caught urinating on a poker machine inside the premises. CCTV footage from the club has been seized and it is understood the alleged incident was captured on a mobile phone.

Senior officers from the region are investigating the allegations, with oversight from the Ethical Standards Command. The Crime and Misconduct Commission has also been informed about the investigation. Staff at the Blue Bar refused to comment about the incident.


Vindictive NSW police

What a charming lot they are!

Bikie solicitor Lesly Randle may sue police after being thrown in a cell for more than an hour, manhandled and denied access to a telephone - all for not having her driver's licence.

In an uncomfortable role reversal for Ms Randle, who represents Comanchero motorcycle gang members charged over the airport brawl earlier this year, she yesterday faced court as a defendant. Police charged Ms Randle with using a mobile phone when not permitted, driving while not carrying a licence and resisting or hindering police in execution of their duty. But with a two-day hearing due to begin yesterday, police dropped the resisting arrest and licence charge in return for a guilty plea to the mobile phone offence.

Ms Randle yesterday told The Daily Telegraph the events that day had left her "upset, disturbed and absolutely humiliated". She admitted speaking on her mobile phone as she parked outside Waverley Local Court but claimed Senior Constable Adam Staples - who had been having a cigarette nearby - then threatened to "smash" her window if she did not open it and produce her licence. She was ultimately "grabbed" by the arms and dragged in front of the courthouse, in a manner which witnesses described as her being propelled along the footpath.

She was locked in a jail cell with police refusing access to a phone. "I informed the police I was due in court next door for a bail application and due to appear in the Supreme Court at 2pm so it was important that the relevant people be contacted," she said yesterday. However, Ms Randle said a female officer at Waverley simply laughed and told another officer: "Go tell (Ms Randle's client) his lawyer's locked up and he won't be getting bail today."

When Ms Randle was finally let out, on the express orders of the local court magistrate who was informed of the situation by Ms Randle's barrister partner John Korn, she claimed she was pushed twice by officers as she was released.

Ms Randle, who represents most of the Comanchero accused over the fatal brawl at Sydney Airport earlier this year, subpoenaed CCTV footage which she claimed supported her assertions against the police. Magistrate John Favretto fined her $238 plus $76 court costs.

Outside the court, Ms Randle said she was considering a civil suit against police. "It's quite disgraceful that a police officer in the absence of any lawful basis can take somebody's liberty and refuse them access to a telephone at a time when there were only one or two other people in custody," she said.


Stupid Leftist workplace laws exposed for what they are

Workers and bosses 'worse off'

The Rudd government's award overhaul will be delayed by six months, after the Australian Industrial Relations Commission admitted the revamp would increase costs for employers and potentially cut the take-home pay of workers. The commission ruling undermines Julia Gillard's long-stated claim that the creation of the modern award system was not intended to increase costs for employers or disadvantage employees.

A commission full bench, headed by its president, Geoff Giudice, yesterday found the government's objectives were "potentially competing". "It is clear that some award conditions will increase, leading to cost increases, and others will decrease, leading to potential disadvantage for employees, depending upon the current award coverage," the full bench said.

Employers and unions criticised the process yesterday, saying companies and workers would be left worse off. Industry groups said the commission had "brought out into the open" the fact that, despite Ms Gillard's original undertaking, there would be additional costs on business.

The IRC ruling is the latest in a series of setbacks for the government's award modernisation plans. The Workplace Relations Minister was forced to make special provisions for the restaurant and horticulture industries, which had warned that the government's plans would bankrupt many businesses that employed people on weekends and in the evenings.

The ACTU said that, under the IRC's ruling, low-paid workers would effectively suffer a reduction in their take-home pay from January but be forced to wait five years before receiving the full benefits of increased award wages and penalty rates.

Ms Gillard's office last night pointed to part of the commission's decision, which it said made clear the government's "competing objectives" would be dealt with through the "formulation of appropriate transitional provisions".

Limiting the proposed five-year transitional arrangements for the new awards to matters affecting pay, the commission said it had decided to shift the start-up date of the new system from January 1 next year to July 1, to allow employers and employees to come to terms with changes that might have a "significant impact".

Increased costs for employers would be phased in through five annual instalments, each equivalent to 20 per cent of the proposed overall increase. Some but not all employers would be able to absorb additional costs into existing over-award payments while workers would be able to apply for "take-home pay orders" where they believed they were worse off.

Employers expressed further concern after the commission stated it wanted to provide protection for new employees from a reduction in take-home pay as a result of the transition provisions. Industry groups said they would seek clarification from the full bench. The commission said the impact of the award revamp on particular sectors of the economy was a matter of great significance in the process. "On the material presented to us concerning the national and international economy, it is clear that we should take a cautious approach where cost increases are in prospect," the full bench said. "We have decided that any costs increases resulting from the introduction of modern awards should be spread over a lengthy period."

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that, even with the transitional arrangements, the new national industrial awards would "have a considerable sting for many employers in industries traditionally covered by state industrial relations systems".

The chamber's chief executive, Peter Anderson, said: "Recognition by the tribunal that current economic conditions warrant a cautious approach in making new awards is welcome. However, the tribunal's conclusion that 'cost increases are in prospect' will disappoint employers who have relied on government assurances that the process was not intended to increase their costs."

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence accused some employer groups of running a "scurrilous" campaign to overstate the impact of the award changes. He said unions were disappointed that thousands of low-paid workers would have to endure a five-year transition period before they saw the full benefit of a lift in their award wages and penalty rates. "Unions are concerned that the transition provisions are limited to wages and some penalty rates will not apply to workers' allowances and other job conditions," Mr Lawrence said. "This means that many workers will see cuts to their take-home pay through these award modernisation changes. These reductions in allowances and changes to job conditions will come into effect from January 1, 2010, and result in immediate losses for workers." Mr Lawrence said the loss for workers from January next year unfairly contrasted with the five-year phase-in for rises in wages and penalty rates.

The Australian National Retail Association said the acknowledgment from the commission that employment costs would be forced up was long overdue. "Award modernisation has failed to deliver a cost-neutral outcome," said the association's chief executive, Margy Osmond. "On Sundays alone, the cost of retail employment will rise by $100 million. "The transitional arrangements are not unreasonable. The phase-in of higher costs in five equal annual increments is better than the original proposal. "We also welcome the six-month reprieve before higher penalty and casual rates are phased in from July next year."

As Ms Gillard is overseas, Acting Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Mark Arbib last night released a statement saying the commission had done "an exceptional job". "The government welcomes the decision of the AIRC to provide for an orderly and measured transition to the new modern and simple awards," Senator Arbib said. "The government is pleased that the commission has decided to utilise the full five-year transition period provided in the legislation and to phase in key award changes in simple equal instalments. "The government is on track to deliver a profound reform for Australian employers and employees that has defeated governments for several decades."


What a cock-up!

More badly-needed medical schools graduates are coming out and finding that there are no training places in hospitals for them. A medical degree MUST be supplemented by "hands on" training but places for such training have not been provided for all graduates. Instead we import poorly trained doctors from India and other third-world countries! Yet again, Australia is catching the British disease

PUBLIC hospitals across the country will be forced to close their internships to hundreds of overseas-born, locally trained medical graduates in three years, despite the nation's desperate need for doctors. As Australia prepares to spend $18million trying to recruit health workers from overseas, it has already begun turning away willing interns from the ranks of international students from Australian medical schools because of a lack of training funding and resources.

The Australian Medical Students' Association expects no state will be able to offer internships to international students with Australian medical degrees by 2012, when domestic medical graduate numbers peak. AMSA president Tiffany Fulde said the number of internships available after graduation had not kept pace with the explosive growth in the number of domestic medical students, let alone those from overseas.

About 2920 domestic and 517 international students are expected to graduate from Australian medical schools in 2012, up 60 per cent and 22 per cent respectively on last year's levels. "We're just in front of this wave of students coming through and all the predictions show it's going to be really tough to find enough (intern) spots in 2012," Ms Fulde said.

Overseas students who had trained for up to six years in Australian universities and paid $200,000 in tuition fees would not be the only casualties, she said. The health system would also forgo a cohort of committed graduates trained to Australian standards at a time of chronic health workforce shortages. "Having invested in them and trained them, we send them away and then we spend more money recruiting people from overseas," Ms Fulde said.

Federal and state governments have promised a new national body, Health Workforce Australia, to better co-ordinate the workforce, starting with a $18m international recruitment campaign. But The Australian revealed this week that the agency is one of several new health workforce initiatives, ranging from under-subscribed nursing undergraduate places to return-to-work schemes, that are struggling to get off the ground.

Fourth-year University of Western Australia medical student Nishant Hemanth from Singapore said emotions were running high among overseas students over the poor planning that had led to the internship crisis. "Many were extremely disappointed and shocked. They thought this was a severe case of discrimination," she said.

Most sixth-year international medical students in Western Australia this year will go without an internship offer from their state health department for the first time, and NSW and Queensland have also struggled to meet demand.


More public hospital negligence

Man 'stuck' to bed pan after being left on it for a long period

A SYDNEY hospital is searching for answers after an elderly patient was allegedly left on a bed pan for five days and required surgery to remove rotting skin from his buttocks. However, Dr Matthew Peters, who heads the respiratory ward at Concord Hospital in Sydney's west, is doubtful about some aspects of the story.

The man remains there as a patient. It is understood the 80-year-old man has limited English skills and is a large person.

"It is true that he was on a bed pan for a period ... and he does have a bedsore and that bedsore has complicated his stay," Dr Peters told Fairfax Radio Network. "But it's not even in the ball park of five days. "He was sick before all this started. He remains sick now but he is improving."

Dr Peters challenged a Fairfax newspaper report that said the patient's skin was decayed so much that the bedpan was stuck to him. "I believe that's erroneous," he said. "He certainly has a nasty bed sore on his buttock. "I've never seen an incident of this nature in a very long time in hospital medicine." The man did require surgery "to cut away some of the tissue that had begun to die off", he said.

Dr Peters also said hospital staff were working to determine how the injury occurred. "It is a little bit unclear - the most plausible explanation is a simple error of communication or handover," he said.

NSW Premier Nathan Rees told reporters in Sydney that the incident had been referred to the Health Care Complaints Commission for investigation.


School wins right to hire male handler for aggressive student

Except for the complete destruction of school discipline by Leftist "educators", this would never have arisen. It is a disgrace that anyone was ever exposed to danger by an unrestrained monster like this. Plenty of thrashings in response to his acts of violence would have slown him down and taught him the badly-needed lesson that violence begets violence

A SCHOOL has won permission for a male handler for a primary pupil so violent the principal fears for the safety of teachers and other pupils. The special school in Melbourne's eastern suburbs was given an exemption by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to employ a man to supervise the youngster, because he is too dangerous for women. The school will now spend between $35,000 and $42,000 a year on the "education support" officer, the Herald Sun reports.

The youngster's "extreme" violent behaviour is escalating, despite intensive counselling and constant talks with the boy's family and protective services officers, the tribunal heard. The boy, not yet even a teenager, is so unruly he is allowed to use the playground only for a limited time in school breaks and under one-on-one supervision. He was also regularly hauled from class because of the disruption he caused, the school's application to the tribunal stated. The age of the youngster has not been released, but the school only accepts children aged five to 12.

The school contended it was "very difficult to provide a safe work environment for our staff, most of whom are female, and for our student population, without a male education support officer".

VCAT gave the school an exemption from anti-discrimination laws so that it could specifically employ a man for the role on August 26. "This student has exhibited extreme violence both within and outside school grounds," VCAT deputy president Anne Coghlan said in the tribunal's decision. "He demonstrates threatening and aggressive behaviour towards students and staff."

While the school accepts students with "severe behaviour disorders", its assistant principal confirmed the latest measure was a first. "This is the first time we have ever done it, that's purely something we decided as a staff to do," she said. "Within our school we have mainly women (staff)."

Australian Education Union state president Mary Bluett said in rare cases some special schools had to take the measure for extremely difficult students. "They get to a size and physical strength that it is a challenge to restrain them for both their protection and the protection of others," she said. "What it is, on the face of it, is an enormous effort by the school to maintain the student in their care and education. "At least we are not back in the dark days where these children were actually shut away. "In these cases we have to make every effort to ensure it is a safe working environment for teachers and other children."

Department of Education and Early Childhood Development spokeswoman Karen Harbutt said the department backed the school's decision.


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Victorian IVF clinics ask patients for police checks

Infertility is a medical problem. Why are people being harassed because of their medical condition? Will people having treatment for (say) high blood-pressure be singled out next? It would make as much sense. There is Leftist misanthropy behind this

WOULD-BE parents are outraged at new laws forcing them to prove they are not pedophiles or child abusers before they undergo fertility treatment. Victorian IVF clinics have started asking patients to submit to police checks ensuring they are fit to be parents. The new law will affect about 5000 couples each year.

Briony and Lew Sanelle, who completed police checks three weeks ago so they could start trying to have their second child through IVF, said they were insulted by the discrimination. "My friends trying to have babies don't have to have a police check and go and talk to their doctor before they are given the go-ahead to have a baby, so why should I?" Ms Sanelle said. "People who have a shady past who they are trying to direct this at do not have to go through this to conceive naturally . . . this is discrimination."

Tam and Brenton Ward were asked by Melbourne IVF to undertake checks this week. They cannot understand why couples having fertility treatment were singled out. Having already experienced the wonders of IVF with a daughter born 17 months ago, Mr Ward said the emotional and financial hardship meant IVF parents would be least likely to harm or neglect children. "If it applied to the whole community I would not mind, but why single out people like us in particular, especially when we have been through such a rigorous process already - through numerous counsellors, doctors and everyone else."

The requirements were included in the Reproductive Treatment Bill passed by State Parliament last December, which paved the way for single women and lesbians to access IVF. Although the regulations were proclaimed on June 1 they have not yet been enacted because the Government does not have the resources to deal with hundreds of child protection record checks it demands. But clinics are asking patients to volunteer for checks to avoid hold-ups when the laws are adopted, which industry experts expect to happen between November and January 1.

IFV pioneer Prof Gab Kovacs, from Monash IVF, said his patients were stunned when told they would have to undergo police checks. "It is a stupid regulation, a stupid law and it is not evidence-based," Prof Kovacs said. Melbourne IVF chairman Dr Lyndon Hale said the checks were discriminatory and unfair.

A report from the Victorian Law Reform Commission recommends people should be barred from IVF if they have convictions for serious sexual or violent offences, have had children taken from their care, or are assessed as a potential risk to children. [On what basis did they recommend that? How many cases of abused IVF children have there been? None, I suspect. They might as logically bar ALL people from hospitals until they have police checks]


Another Queensland police thug

Law enforcement by a senior cop who has no respect for the law?? He has already killed two people but he apparently wanted another "scalp"

A POLICEMAN has been allegedly clocked doing 223km/h during an unauthorised pursuit, six years after being involved in a wild chase in which two men were killed. Senior-Sergeant Bryan Eaton is being investigated for allegedly racing after a speeding car along a busy section of the Bruce Highway near Brisbane 11 days ago without flashing lights and sirens – or approval. The car got away but the pursuit was captured on camera.

Sen-Sgt Eaton has since been stood down as officer-in-charge of the Pine Rivers traffic branch pending an investigation by Ethical Standards Command. The matter also has been referred to the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

The Queensland Police Service changed its pursuit policy in May 2004 after the deaths of Coen stockmen Andrew Hill, 33, and Alan Toohey, 49, on Anzac Day the previous year. Both men died when their unregistered and unroadworthy car crashed into a creek bed and a police four-wheel-drive driven by Sen-Sgt Eaton ploughed into them. A coronial inquest was told the police vehicle reached about 75km/h on a dirt road and in bad light in pursuit of the men, who were driving a "bull-chaser".

State Coroner Michael Barnes found Sen-Sgt Eaton had driven in a "dangerous manner, with little regard for the safety of the occupants of the car he was chasing". Mr Barnes did not recommend charges because he found a reasonable person would not have foreseen the "chain of events that led to the deaths". But he urged "a more restrictive pursuit policy". After the inquest, Hill's widow, Camilla, attacked the decision not to charge Sen-Sgt Eaton, claiming traffic officers could "get away with murder".

The pursuit policy has undergone further modification since 2004, and yesterday a Queensland Police Service spokesman said every pursuit and attempted intercept was closely monitored "to ensure adherence to these policies". Under current policy, officers must immediately abandon a chase if it creates an unacceptable risk to the safety of any person. Officers also must inform police communications of the pursuit and follow their instructions.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said their best advice to officers was to avoid police chases. "Our union has long recommended to our members that they do not pursue offenders under any circumstances because of the lack of legislative protection and the attitude of the State Coroner should a tragic incident occur," Mr Leavers said. He said earlier this year that police felt extremely frustrated and hamstrung by the pursuit policy, which was seen as preventing them from catching offenders. "I see a lot of anger from police around the state because they are not allowed to do their job," he said.

Sen-Sgt Eaton is continuing to work for the police service in the Metropolitan North regional office. An estimated 650 police chases are conducted by Queensland police each year.


Yet another Queensland ambulance failure

Long delay forces heart victim to take a taxi. A taxi arrived in 5 minutes: The contrast between a government service and a private one. And the government service was the urgent one!

A PETRIE man with a serious heart condition took a taxi to the hospital after he gave up waiting more than an hour for a Queensland ambulance. John Chatfield said his blood pressure soared, his heart was racing and he was shaking with fever when his wife Gaye rang 000 at about midnight on August 9. She called twice more, without being given a projected response time. After waiting an hour and a quarter, they called a taxi. It arrived in five minutes.

"If you have a heart condition, you probably shouldn't drive to a hospital as anything could happen," said Mr Chatfield, who had seven-hour heart surgery three years ago and minor surgery earlier this year. "Speed is important. They need to get their act together."

Wrapped in a blanket, Mr Chatfield rode 45 minutes in the taxi to a private Brisbane hospital, where he was admitted straight away. "I was ill. It wasn't a great ride," he said. He was in hospital for three days battling a bad virus.

The Queensland Ambulance Service said it categorised Mr Chatfield "Code 2 B" meaning a response time of up to an hour. Gaye Chatfield said that if she had been told about the response time, she would have driven him or called the taxi sooner. "Even after the last phone call they couldn't tell me how long it could be. I had in my mind that I could have been another hour," she said. "It wasn't very well handled."

She told dispatchers about her husband's cardiac history, but not about his surgery because she wasn't asked. Instead she was told to turn on lights and put pets away, which led her to believe the ambulance was coming soon.

QAS said more important calls were being handled, and the dispatch category was "appropriate." It said it "regretted" the delay and said it would apologise. [big deal!]

Mr Chatfield does not blame the paramedics or line staff at QAS, but thinks QAS management needs to lift its game. He didn't see his case as a non-emergency, considering his heart problems. "I was getting worried I can tell you," he said.

QAS said dispatchers didn't give callers response times. "QAS works in a dynamic environment and it would not be realistic to provide time frames," a spokeswoman said.


Young mother victimized by welfare officials for no good reason

Evidence so flimsy that the charges were withdrawn by the prosecution. Why could not competent medical evidence have been sought immediately?

An Ipswich teenage mother - forced to give up her baby for more than 18 months - was overcome with relief when charges alleging she shook her daughter in frustration were finally dropped. The prosecution withdrew its case against the woman after medical testimony revealed it was highly unlikely the baby's serious head injury was the result of being shaken and could have occurred during her birth.

Outside court, barrister Steve Kissick, who represented the mother, said his client was delighted with the result. The young mum was now keen to be reunited with her daughter – whom she had been barred from looking after for three-quarters of the child's life. He said the child had been placed in the care of her grandmother after her mother was charged. "(My client) is a lovely young girl and this past year-and-a-half has been terribly upsetting for her," he said. "She is just happy this is now all over and looks forward to getting her daughter back and being a good mother to her."

Mr Kissick said the father of the child played no active role in the child's upbringing, so it was important the child be reunited with her mother. The young mum declined to comment.

The woman, now aged 20, from Collingwood Park, pleaded not guilty in the Brisbane District Court to one count of causing grievous bodily harm to her prematurely born baby at Ipswich between December 2007 and January 2008.

Prosecutor Glen Cash told the court this week that the woman – who cannot be named to protect her child's identity – admitted to an Ipswich Hospital nurse that she shook her baby briefly, but not violently, when she became frustrated. Mr Cash said the child was first referred to the Ipswich Hospital in January, 2008, with an "abnormally" large head and was found to have fluid on both sides of her brain.

The baby was then transferred to Brisbane's Mater Hospital so the fluid could be drained and has since made a full recovery. But yesterday Mr Cash withdrew the charge against the woman, after the jury heard medical evidence which suggested the baby might have received the head injury during her premature birth. The baby was born via a caesarean section at the Ipswich Hospital in July 2007.

Judge Helen O'Sullivan discharged the mother after Mr Cash formally withdrew the criminal charge.


A Fascist welfare bureaucracy in the Northern Territory

Five days after Rachel Pazos' father died, authorities arrived at the home he had shared with his 14-year-old daughter in Darwin and kicked her out.

Rachel was still struggling yesterday to come to terms with her father's death. Her father had paid rent on their housing commission unit in The Narrows for the next six weeks. But when she returned to the unit, she found officials from Territory Housing changing the locks and boarding the door. It is believed they gave her 10 minutes to pack her bags at the home she had lived in for the past four years.

"I only just found out that my dad passed away," she told the ABC as she sat on a suitcase outside the locked unit.

Clothes still hung on the backyard washing line.

"I'm only 14 and I don't really need all this stress." The teenager said the rest of her family lived in Queensland and she was not in a position to call them for help.

Despite this, it has been reported the Housing Department officials did not phone any support services or government agencies when they evicted the girl. But executive director of the Housing Department's Darwin region, Fiona Chamberlain, said the department had been in contact with police.

She made an unreserved apology today, saying the teenager should never have been thrown out. "We made a mistake and we apologise to the family. An immediate investigation will take place and this will not happen again. "There has been serious error of judgment by our staff."

Country Liberals member for Fong Lim, Dave Tollner, said the actions of the officials were "absolutely outrageous". "I just cannot believe that a government department can kick a 14-year-old girl out onto the street with no means to look after herself whatsoever," he said. "Do these people have a heart?"

Mr Tollner said all of the family's possessions were still in the unit when he visited Rachel, who was crying in the front. Ms Chamberlain said the boarding had been removed and the girl would be allowed to move back in.


No visas, boys? Welcome to Australia

The Leftist Federal government short-circuits its own already pathetic checks on whether people are genuine refugees or not. "Unskilled economic migrants from third world countries are welcome" is the clear intention and message. Yet we need an influx of brutal Muslim Afghans like a hole in the head

THE Rudd government last night moved to overturn John Howard's controversial policy of processing all asylum-seekers off-shore, allowing a group of detained Afghan youths to leave Christmas Island and arrive on mainland Australia without visas.

In an unprecedented move that coincided with the arrival of yet another boat of asylum-seekers at the Indian Ocean territory last night, the 10 boys boarded a chartered Qantas jet carrying 56 newly recognised Afghan refugees from the island to Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne.

The move, confirmed by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship last night, was welcomed by the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre as a "substantial departure from the previous policy of condemning everyone including children to detention on Christmas Island".

The flight departed Christmas Island, which was excised from Australia's migration zone in 2003 by the Howard government, just hours before a further 52 asylum-seekers and three crew landed on the island after being intercepted by HMAS Ararat near Ashmore Reef on Saturday.

There are now 665 people in immigration detention on Christmas Island; 571 of them are single men being kept at the Howard government's $400 million immigration detention centre on the island's northwest point; 62 are living in a converted construction workers' compound; and 32 are in houses on the island in what is termed "community detention".

The 10 boys allowed to leave the island yesterday arrived at the island on May 7 without their parents or guardians. They will now live at a department-owned hostel called Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation, which is usually reserved for people who have just arrived from Christmas Island after being granted protection visas. They are the first group of asylum-seekers permitted by the federal government to come to the mainland from Christmas Island for processing. The decision comes just two months after the department moved a depressed Kurdish man off the island and into community detention in Melbourne on compassionate grounds.

An Immigration Department spokesman said the decision to allow the boys to travel to the mainland with their paid carers would give them access to a range of classes and recreational activities. "This move will enable the department to finalise their cases and ensure support to this particularly vulnerable group," the spokesman said. "The government considers this is a measured approach that strikes the right balance between applying a strong border protection regime while also ensuring the welfare of children is of primary consideration."

The department refused to acknowledge that the move signalled a policy shift, saying decisions about who was allowed to come to the mainland before their claims were assessed would continue to be made on a case-by-case basis.

There are now 67 asylum-seeker children being taught by five specialist teachers at the Christmas Island District High School, or in classrooms not on the school grounds. One classroom for older male students was established in April following complaints that the boys were too old to be taught in a cluster of classrooms for children in Years 3 and 4.

The business of immigration detention has doubled the population of Christmas Island. The isolated Australian territory is now estimated to have as few as 1000 permanent locals, according to recent Attorney-General's Department figures. As well as 665 detainees, there is a related workforce of 300.

Refugee advocates have applauded several Rudd government measures that soften elements of the former Howard government's approach to immigration detention on Christmas Island, such as the government's recent decision to allow detainees out of the detention centre for excursions with locals. There were 148 excursions for detainees between last December and May. Conducted under guard, these included visits to Lily Beach and the local Catholic church. Those living in community detention or at the former construction workers' camp can go to the movies, the beach and take part in other activities, and are sometimes taken on picnics by the Red Cross.

Refugee advocate David Manne said yesterday he was at a loss to understand why minors [who are often in fact adults understating their age] should be detained, whether on Christmas Island or at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation. [All youths should be admitted willy nilly??]


No maintenance on Australia's already hopeless submarines??

And with only one out of the six of them operational, I foolishly thought that the news could not get any worse!

MAINTENANCE on Australia's submarine fleet has been suspended following reports they have an unsafe level of cadmium, a cancer-causing metal. Workers from Australian defence maintenance firm ASC raised concerns about the levels of cadmium, a substance used to coat electrical components to minimise corrosion.

Four of Australia's six Collins class submarines are being tested, with results being assessed on HMAS Dechaineux, Collins, Rankin and Sheean. The two remaining submarines will be tested later.

Defence says ASC production staff have been redeployed until tests results are known. "The fleet has not been recalled to harbour," it said in a statement. ["Fleet"? 5 out of 6 are already in harbour] "However, precautions are been taken in accordance with existing Defence policy and procedures for the control and management of cadmium."


Wednesday, September 02, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG takes a dim view of the "fun girl" with the "fat old politician" affair in NSW

School covers up brutal bashing

Days after a 15-year-old boy died after a schoolyard brawl, a Gold Coast high school has been accused of covering up a savage assault that left a 17-year-old boy with a fractured skull. Southport State High School student Angelo Feraru, 17, will need plastic surgery after the unprovoked attack on August 21 that broke his nose and fractured his skull. His mother Mihela is just grateful her son, unlike Jai Morcom, is alive.

Angelo was sitting, eating his lunch when he was attacked by another student and punched in the face. His face was covered in blood and he was taken by ambulance to the Gold Coast Hospital where doctors said the teen's nose was badly broken and his sinus bone fractured. Doctors reset his nose and told Mihela her son would need extensive surgery to repair the damage.

Despite the severity of the attack, Southport State High School failed to report it to police. It handled the issue internally by dishing out a 10-day suspension. [What a joke!] Queensland Police yesterday confirmed they had no record of the vicious assault.

It is understood Angelo's attacker is a fellow student with a history of violence. He was expelled from another Gold Coast school after attacking a fellow student, breaking his jaw. He transferred to Southport High School where he assaulted another Southport student only three weeks before attacking Angelo.

On Monday, Ms Feraru and her son went to the Runaway Bay Police Station to report the incident but were warned against the complaint. The officer who dealt with the pair warned Angelo of the potential fallout if he pressed charges. "They tell us to be careful because Angelo has to live with this kid for the next few months before he finishes school," said Ms Feraru.

Gold Coast police district Superintendent Jim Keogh said it seemed 'incredible' police had only been told of the matter nine days after the assault. He said police needed Angelo to make a formal statement before officers could act on the complaint.

Mrs Feraru said she was scared to send her son back to school.... Ms Feraru said she went to the police station hoping they would stop the violence.

The danger of inaction is all too clear after the death of Jai Morcom last week. The 15-year-old died in Gold Coast Hospital on Saturday after suffering massive head injuries during a brutal brawl over lunch tables on Friday. "It make me feel sick in my stomach," said Ms Feraru.

In a statement released yesterday, Education Queensland confirmed 'an incident took place on August 21 and a student required medical attention'. "A student was disciplined in line with the school's Responsible Behaviour Plan," it read. The department said it would investigate any reports of schools not following policy. [So that's policy?? Expose innocent kids to brutal violence and do nothing significant to prevent a recurrence??]


Teachers are powerless to stop schoolyard violence

Not exactly surprising in the light of the severe limits placed on discipline by a Leftist government

The bashing death at school of a 15 year old boy in Mullumbimby last week is a symptom of a much bigger statewide problem in schools. Teachers are too scared to step in before things get totally out of hand. Put simply teachers now have little control. The consequences for students of bad, even violent behaviour, are now so insignificant students simply don’t care.

A teacher cannot restrain a student at all, they can’t yell at students or else they will be accused of emotional abuse. A teacher must simply say “please don’t do this” and then hope they are obeyed. Step outside this rigid set of rules and you risk being “EPACed” - every teacher’s worst nightmare. To be “EPACed” is to be investigated by the Education Department’s Employee Performance and Conduct Unit, a Gestapo-like division.

Students know this and play on it and why wouldn’t you if you were a child and knew what you could get away with. Eventually the ultimate punishment for persistent disobedience (after the student refuses to come to detention and throws the detention slip at the teacher) is suspension from school.

This means they are rewarded a holiday for their actions. If there are too many suspensions at a school the department then asks the school Principal to explain why so many students are being suspended and to come up with strategies to reduce the high suspension rate at the school.

Any teacher who physically intervenes in a physical fight in the play ground risks being reported by a student for physical assault and marched off to EPAC, where the onus is on them to prove their innocence.

EPAC acts as policeman, prosecutor, judge, jury and then executioner. EPAC do not make final decisions using the words Guilty or Innocent. Unless a student actually admits they were lying when they complained about their teacher, then the most a teacher can expect if they are innocent is if EPAC finds “there is insignificant evidence to prove the conduct occurred” the teacher then has this black mark on their record for life.

Some examples of a teacher being EPACed include a primary school teacher and friend of mine in Sydney’s North Shore who broke up a fight by physically restraining a student who was bashing another student.

That teacher was then EPACed and although it was found that the teacher trying to exercise their duty of care, the record of this incident is in their teacher job file held in Oxford Street (where EPAC keep all files) for the rest of their teaching career.

Another incident involves a teacher at a high school who whilst taking students on an excursion to an Art gallery was asked about a particular painting which was on public display which may have been interpreted as having sexual themes. The teacher told the students they did not want to discuss this painting and to move on.

Two female students then complained and the teacher was EPACed for allegedly showing students sexually explicit artwork. Even though EPAC decided that “there is insignificant evidence to prove the conduct occurred” the teacher now has that case in their EPAC file for the rest of their career.

Whilst a teacher is being EPACed they are told by the Principal not to discuss the investigation with anyone at the school. This makes them feel anxious and even more upset and attempts to punish them psychologically even though nothing has been proven against them.

After two accusations where there is “insignificant evidence” the teachers name is reported to the Commission for Children and Young People, (CCYP) essentially they are labeled a child abuser on the hearsay of often vindictive students who know they have the power now.

As a result of all this is it any wonder that what started as a fight in the playground at Mullumbimby lead to a bashing death of a student?. Students have the power and teachers know they can’t intervene physically anymore. The DET student discipline policy and it EPAC procedures are to blame and the situation statewide is only going to get worse as students relish in their new found power at school.


'Evil' axis blamed for high rate of black detentions

This fruitcake must have had NO experience of Aborigines. They are much prone to drunken violence, mostly against one-another. Even do-gooder official reports acknowledge that. Are we supposed to condone their raping little girls etc.?

A LEADING criminologist says an ''axis of evil'' made up of populist politicians, radio shock jocks and intransigent bureaucrats is the reason indigenous juveniles are 28 times more likely to be locked up and detention numbers are rising for the first time in decades. Those three groups of powerbrokers had failed to grasp the damage that tough law and order policies such as NSW bail laws were doing to Aboriginal children, Professor Chris Cunneen said.

The number of juveniles in detention had been dropping since the 1980s, he said, but that slide ended in 2002, while funding for many indigenous services had gone backwards in real terms.

Professor Cunneen was one of several speakers at a criminology conference yesterday who warned of the prospect of another lost generation if juvenile detention rates were not brought down. ''It's 20 years since I first spoke about juvenile justice issues at an Australian Institute of Criminology conference. Now we just hope things don't get worse rather than hoping for improvements,'' he said.

Aboriginal Legal Service lawyers who represent indigenous people charged with criminal offences were paid less than mainstream legal aid lawyers and worked an average of 10 hours more a week, he said. In the Northern Territory, Aboriginal Legal Services are so underfunded that they spend an average of $17 on a client's court costs, compared with $762 a client for mainstream legal aid. [Because there are so many Aboriginal offenders]

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Tom Calma, said something was seriously wrong when Australia's justice system showed a 27 per cent increase in indigenous juvenile detention rates from 2001 to 2007. ''We have a system more intent on locking up our kids than preventing crime in the first place,'' Mr Calma said. [And how are you going to prevent it? Take their booze away? That has been tried and failed many times and Leftists condemn it as "paternalistic" anyway]


Sometimes discrimination can be reasonable

Will the empty-heads of the Left start protesting against women who discriminate against short men or men who discriminate against ugly women? -- JR

By Janet Albrechtsen

IF only the UN were just a comedy gig. When it is merely amusing, it has a harmless, otherworldly quality. Try listening to former foreign minister Alexander Downer recount his recent run-in with UN Security Council Resolution 1325. Littered with dulcet UN lingo such as “Reaffirming the important role of women” and “Expresses its willingness to incorporate a gender perspective into peacekeeping”, the resolution calls for “gender mainstreaming throughout peacekeeping missions”.

Good for a laugh, sure enough this meant sending a gender officer of African extraction to meet Downer, who is now the UN special envoy to Cyprus. When Downer raised the gender mainstreaming idea with Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders involved in resolving the conflict, let’s just say there was Mediterranean bewilderment about the UN’s predilection for searching for gender discrimination under every stone.

Unfortunately, the UN’s assumption that discrimination is always a dirty word enters more dangerous territory closer to home. Last week a UN special rapporteur on indigenous human rights completed an 11-day fact-finding mission of the Australian government’s intervention in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. While James Anaya, an American professor of human rights law, said he would reserve final judgment until he concluded his visit, we all knew where this was going. The UN view from the transit lounge can focus only on the Big D, discrimination, and the Big R, rights. The government was discriminating against indigenous people by breaching several international treaties to which Australia was a signatory, entrenched racism infected the country and the Racial Discrimination Act needed to be reinstated to protect the rights of indigenous people, he said. No nuance enters the UN’s discrimination equation.

Having delivered headlines, the clever UN professor then went on his way, not offering up any of his own solutions to solve the dire conditions of Aboriginal women and children in remote Australia. Never mind the circumstances that led to the intervention. When Rex Wild and Aboriginal leader Pat Anderson crossed the country visiting 45 remote communities, they found abuse in every one of them. Never mind that the policy - restricting alcohol, requiring welfare money be spent on food and banning pornography - was introduced to stop the appalling abuse of indigenous children.

Imagine for a moment if Anaya had not succumbed to the UN’s default position where any hint of discrimination was derided as an abomination and Australia was given a standard UN bollocking.

Imagine if the UN sermon to the gathering press last week had focused on the need for indigenous people to be accountable for the crimes of violence and neglect so rampant in their communities. Imagine if talk about their rights had been matched with talk about their responsibilities.

Imagine if, instead of praising the new national indigenous representative body, Anaya had the pluck and insight to understand, as Noel Pearson does, that indigenous people do not need “another forum for victimhood” and agreed with Pearson that the proposed new body was “the worst result of all: the ability to complain but no ability to influence or take responsibility”. Imagine, indeed.

Outside the UN, those who jumped on their wobbly high-horse of morality to oppose the NT intervention right from the start - such as Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma - have been equally gripped by the BigD and the Big R, regardless of the atrocities uncovered by the Little Children are Sacred report. A few weeks ago, former governor-general Bill Deane said he hoped the word intervention would be expunged from indigenous policy discussions. “I cringe with embarrassment every time I hear it,” he said, criticising the lack of indigenous participation in indigenous policy.

That lack of participation would be news to Sue Gordon, the indigenous woman who headed the Northern Territory taskforce to protect those most vulnerable from criminal acts within indigenous communities. The view from the city-based armchair and from the airconditioned offices of well-paid indigenous bureaucrats protecting their own power base pays little heed to Gordon’s plea last year that we listen to “what women and some men in the communities are saying about how (the intervention) has changed their lives”. Let Deane cringe with embarrassment if it means pursuing a policy where fewer children will cry with pain.

Sermonising about a rights agenda when you have no responsibility is too easy. Responsibility tends to focus the mind. Hence a hooray is due for the Indigenous Affairs Minister responsible, Jenny Macklin. She defended the intervention and responded to Anaya’s comments by saying: “For me when it comes to human rights the most important human right that I feel as a minister I have to confront is the need to protect the rights of the most vulnerable, particularly children.”

Whether the issue is solemn or trivial, the wider soft-left liberal mindset is equally unable to comprehend any kind of complexity where there is the slightest hint of discrimination. Men’s clubs are inherently evil - “a relic of earlier times”, according to Julia Gillard. The Deputy Prime Minister has publicly taunted them for not accepting Governor-General Quentin Bryce as a member. Last week, when Bryce was made an honorary member of Lyceum, the exclusive women-only club in Melbourne, the sisterhood had nothing to say about relics.

Now here’s a really thorny one. How to respond to recent reports in Britain where local municipal swimming pools have banned swimmers during certain hours unless they comply with a “modest” code of dress required by Islamic custom: women covered neck to ankle and men covered navel to knees. A “relic of earlier times” or culturally appropriate discrimination?

And what about religious schools? Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls has called for a review of the exemptions under the state’s Equal Opportunity Act that allow schools to hire on the basis of religious faith. That’s discrimination. It is also a basic exercise of the right to religious freedom. Will the Left’s legal crusader, Hulls, defend that right by using his Charter of Human Rights? Probably not.

Intellectually inconsistent carping about men-only clubs and religious schools pales into insignificance compared with the hollow morality of those who preach about discrimination in indigenous communities. Consider the sad irony that those hailed as protectors of human rights and seekers of social justice continue to give succour to an outdated mindset that has demonstrably failed our youngest and most disadvantaged citizens. Fortunately, it is a sign more sensible times have prevailed when these misguided people are increasingly relegated to the fringes of meaningful debate while ever small children suffer abuse and neglect.


Your regulator will protect you

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has been in a panic after a failure in its on-line listing system for complementary medicines. The system includes a list of Proprietary Ingredients, that is, ingredients where only the TGA knows the full composition. One of the Proprietary Ingredients contains peanut oil, but when sponsors used this ingredient, the warning statement that it contained peanut oil, and need to declare the presence of peanut oil on the product label did not appear. The TGA is now contacting the sponsors of products containing this ingredient, advising them of the need to add the warning statement to the product.

The TGA responds: At the end of July, the TGA became aware the electronic listing facility was not generating a prompt to the sponsor to add the PEANUT warning (which alerts sponsor to add a warning to their label that the product contains peanut) when either the product contained a proprietary ingredient which included peanut, arachis (peanut) oil or Arachis hypogaea as an excipient ingredient , or when the product contained one of these as an active. The issues have all been resolved. In all circumstances these are correctly generating the appropriate warning upon validation. A total of 16 products were found to be missing the required warning label in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods entry. However of these only 1 of the products was currently being supplied and was found to have the correct warning label on the product already.

SOURCE (Via email)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Australian public health insurance system in a mess

Quick summary for non-Australian readers: Australia's Medicare is a government-run health insurance program that covers ALL Australians out of tax revenues. About 40% of Australians, however, want higher quality care than what Medicare will fund so take out private insurance and go to private hospitals. People with private insurance get a tax rebate in recognition of their reduced use of the public system

MEDICARE has been stretched to the point where it risks putting more into doctors' pockets than into care of the chronically ill. A major government-backed report has singled out poorly targeted payments for patient "care plans" as symptomatic of a primary health system fraying at the edges and in need of funding reform.

The long-awaited report into frontline healthcare, including GP services, was launched by Kevin Rudd and Health Minister Nicola Roxon yesterday with a promise to retain the Medicare Benefits Scheme at its core.

But the Primary Health Care Reform in Australia report warns that Canberra is expecting too much of Medicare by extending it beyond simple fee-for-service reimbursements to fund GP care plans for patients with complex, long-term health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and mental illness.

The costly expansion raised concerns that "the quality of care provided is unknown and that the objectives of co-ordination and continuity of care may not be being achieved", it said. Ten per cent of GPs, for example, claim 54 per cent of all Medicare items for chronic disease management care plans, leaving the program's impact across the population "open to question", the report noted. Payments to doctors for CDM care plans cost taxpayers $204million in 2007-08 alone.

A Medicare Australia audit found that more than one-third of care plan items claimed did not comply with MBS requirements.

The Professional Services Review, which investigates potential Medicare abuses, has also written to the federal Health Department about the risk the claims could be driven more by business than clinical imperatives, the report revealed. "In particular, the PSR is concerned that plans are being opportunistically generated, based on system-driven templates that do not reflect patients' actual needs and that are not necessarily shared with or even provided to the patient," it said.

In the May budget, the Rudd government used excessive doctors' fees as justification for cuts to reimbursements for IVF, obstetrics and cataract operations, claiming the most prolific 10 per cent of eye specialists earned $1m through Medicare last year.

The latest report opens the door to further payment reforms, breaking away from fee-for-service arrangements towards salaries, pay-for-performance or other incentives.

The centrality of GPs' role in patient care could also be eroded in favour of giving people more direct, affordable access to allied health workers, using pharmacies to assess risk factors, and workplaces to deliver healthy lifestyle programs. "There is widespread agreement that the Australian healthcare system, in common with many other countries, does not provide the highest quality care for the money spent," the report noted.

But AMA president Andrew Pesce warned that patients' health would suffer if they lacked a doctor to co-ordinate overall treatment. "Unfortunately, there are some danger signs in this draft strategy and in the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission Report that the government is planning a lesser role for GPs under the guise of 'health workforce reform'," he said. "The AMA must oppose any diminution of the role of the GP in primary care, and so should the whole community."

The government will not, however, finalise the draft primary healthcare strategy released with the report until late this year at the earliest. Despite receiving the report a month ago, the government will defer decisions on which proposals it will pursue until it strikes agreement with state and territory governments on how Australia's future healthcare system will be funded.

Relations between the government and the AMA have been strained by sharp policy differences on issues ranging from GP super-clinics to budget cuts to private health insurance and the Medicare safety net.


Some twitches of economic rationality within the Labor Party

Despite the huge hit to productivity delivered by its recent pro-union laws

IT’S a crucial time for the Rudd government’s policy direction. Does it believe in the Hawke-Keating model of enterprise-driven opportunity and prosperity? Or has it regressed to its base interventionist instincts, blending misplaced Whitlamesque idealism with the cynical politicking of modern Labor?

The global crisis provided the expedient cue for interventionism, validated as government spending to plug the hole left by a feared collapse of private demand and rhetorically justified by Kevin Rudd’s rants against excess finance capitalism. Now it is being exposed for building taxpayer-funded Labor monuments at primary school polling booths.

The next totemic issue may be the cabinet split over removing territorial copyright restrictions on book imports which, among other things, push up the price of student textbooks. The case for book imports is headed by Competition and Small Business Minister Craig Emerson, an economist and a former adviser to Bob Hawke. Yesterday Emerson declared that “Labor is the party of competition”. “It is in the interests of working people, the poor and the vulnerable that business is under strong, competitive pressure,” Emerson said in a speech. “Competition exerts downward pressure on consumer prices.

“Competition makes business tough and resilient, better enabling them to employ people through the good times and the bad. Competition drives innovation, which in turn drives productivity growth. “Business managers will have strong incentives to innovate - boosting productivity growth and future prosperity - when they are under competitive pressure from rivals who adopt and adapt the latest technologies and who develop and apply their own best ideas.”

This is the language of the Hawke-Keating reforms of the 1980s which, for instance, dismantled import protection on the argument that it was not in the interests of poor and working Australians to be forced to pay more for clothes, shoes and cars. Two decades later, Emerson suggests that most demands for new regulation come from business seeking protection from competition, including supposedly unfair big business competition against small business.

Emerson is not against regulating for competition, such as through Labor’s criminal sanctions and jail terms for collusive business cartels. But his message to his small business lobby is blunt. Often big business undercuts smaller competitors simply because of the cost efficiencies from being big. Treating this as anti-competitive would simply result in higher prices for consumers.

Moreover, collusion is not restricted to big businesses such as cardboard box makers. Cartels also have been run by small petrol stations in country towns. “When it comes to collusion, you don’t need to be big to be bad,” hesays. Ouch! And Emerson warns that even proposals to curb apparent market power should be rejected if they simply impose another layer of costly red tape, make it riskier for business to invest and so increase prices for consumers.

Such talk is guaranteed to stir up the small business lobby, the so-called consumer lobby and, in the case of books, the cultural protectionists. And Labor has only itself to blame for whipping up small business and kitchen-table protectionism with its populist opposition campaign against grocery prices, petrol prices and interest rates charged by big supermarkets, big oil companies and big banks.

This has encouraged even more wackiness such as the so-called Blacktown amendment to the Trade Practices Act, introduced by independent senator Nick Xenophon and Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce in cahoots with University of NSW legal academic Frank Zumbo. Zumbo claims Woolworths, Coles and the big petrol companies engage in “geographic price discrimination”. Their prices are lower in suburbs where there is more competition from independents. That’s supposedly because they seek to drive out the independents so they can then raise their prices again.

Named in honour of an independent petrol retailer in Sydney’s Blacktown, Marie El-Khoury, the truly bonkers amendment would require retailers to sell their products at the same price at all their outlets within 35km of each other. Ponder for a moment how this could possibly work for fruit and vegetables, groceries, liquor, petrol and so on.

Yes, the weather is not always perfect and business can be tough. But is supermarket competition between Woolies and Coles, and now between new entrants such as Aldi, Costco, FoodWorks and so on, really weakening? And would the “guaranteed lowest prices bill” really make groceries cheaper? Emerson calls it the Vaucluse amendment, which would require Toorak prices for goods sold in Footscray. [Rich suburb versus poor suburb]

So, given the competition and consumer affairs portfolio in June, Emerson quickly dumped Labor’s useless GroceryWatch stunt. He pulled business-to-business dealings out of the national consumer contract legislation just as it was about to be introduced to parliament.

A new legal notion of “unfair” business contracts would put the terms of bank loans to small businesses more at risk of being overturned by the courts. The banks would have to price in this increased lending risk, which would hurt, not help, small business.

But needing political cover, Emerson instead is looking to reduce barriers to new competitors, such as government zoning restrictions on retail development and restrictive leasing covenants required by Woolworths and Coles before they agree to become anchor tenants in shopping centre developments. A Woolies lease would keep Coles out of the centre, and vice versa. Action here may help consumers, unless it makes it harder to develop new shopping centres. But small retailers should really aim their ire not at Emerson but at Julia Gillard.

The main thing the big supermarket chains offer consumers is one-stop shopping for fresh food, packaged food, toiletries, liquor and even petrol, and in the evenings, weekends and public holidays.

Gillard’s labour market reregulation [pro-union laws] will make it even harder for smaller retailers to compete on convenience. The big supermarket chains are better placed to cope with her unfair dismissal laws and to absorb the increased penalty rates imposed by her award “modernisation”. This will hinder competition but that’s what Australia’s industrial relations system has always aimed to do. And it will push up supermarket prices for working families, but Labor no doubt will have a press release ready for that.


School bullying shame: three children a class bullied daily

But all schools have "policies" about it -- policies that are a vacuity in the absence of significant disciplinary powers

BULLYING has become such a "pervasive problem" in schools that three children in each class are bullied daily or almost daily. Startling research, held by Queensland's Education Department, shows another five children per class are bullied in some way weekly. Education Department assistant director-general of student services Patrea Walton told a community forum at the weekend that bullying was a "pervasive problem in schools" and had been identified as "one of the biggest fears parents have for their children".

The State Government has hired national bullying expert Professor Ken Rigby to help address the scourge.

Up to 70 per cent of suspensions currently handed out in Queensland schools relate to bullying. The horrific death of year 9 Mullumbimby student Jai Morcom, who suffered massive head injuries after he was allegedly targeted during a schoolyard brawl on Friday, has reignited the debate on student cruelty and violence.

Rising school violence continues to dog Education Minister Geoff Wilson, who is trying a raft of measures to tackle the problem, including hiring Prof Rigby. [Ken Rigby is a nice guy but there are severe limits on what psychology can do]

Australia's largest study of school bullying, released two months ago, showed Queensland had among the highest levels of bullying in the country. The forum, organised by the Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens Associations Metropolitan West Regional Council, heard terrifying accounts of cyber bullying in which students spoke of killing peers. Speakers also told of messages in which students wrote of hurting students' families.

Ms Walton said research showed bullying victims were more likely to be depressed, anxious, have low self-esteem, exhibit medical problems and talk about suicide than their peers. But she said it was not a recent phenomenon and not confined to schools.

Tullawong State High School principal Leonie Kearney, credited with turning her Caboolture school around through a tough stance on bullying and bad behaviour, said 70 per cent of suspensions she administered related to bullying.

Ms Walton said she didn't believe the proportion of suspensions for bullying would be as high across the state, but was unable to provide a figure, citing no agreed definition. More than 50 per cent of the 55,000 suspensions handed out to state school students in 2008 were for physical, verbal and non-verbal misconduct.


Australian immigration rules set for revamp

889,722 people in one year coming into a country with a total population of not much more than 20 million sure is one heck of an influx. No wonder even a Leftist government is beginning to show concern

AUSTRALIA'S immigration policy is set for an overhaul amid concerns that it is failing to meet the nation's long-term needs, with a record influx of more than 600,000 temporary residents adding to the strain of a growing population. In a significant shift, Immigration Minister Chris Evans told The Age that cabinet had approved the development of a five to 10-year plan that would consider the types of migrants that Australia needed, where they should settle, and the extra need for housing, transport, water and other resources to accommodate more people.

New figures to be released today show that Australia's official migration program recorded an intake of 171,318 permanent migrants in 2008-09. When the 13,500 refugees and the 47,780 New Zealanders who settled permanently in Australia are included, the migration program saw 232,598 people arriving in the past year, a 12.8 per cent leap from the previous year's record high of 219,098 people. But according to figures obtained by The Age, a further 657,124 temporary migrants with the right to work arrived in Australia during the past year. The 11 per cent surge in temporary migrants was fuelled by big increases in foreign students (up 15 per cent to 320,368) and working holiday visas (up 22 per cent to 154,148). This compensated for a 9 per cent drop in 457 visas - an employer-sponsored visa for temporary skilled labour introduced in 1995 - to 101,280.

The surge in temporary migrants with a right to work has created an unprecedented, unplanned migration wave. Senator Evans said Australia needed a rational immigration debate, beyond the hysteria about the few hundred boat people who arrive each year. ''The annual figure this year [for skilled permanent migration] was, say, 115,000, but more than 500,000 came into the country. They came in as students, temporary workers, working holidaymakers … but the public still focuses on the 115,000 as if it's got anything to do with reality and my attempts to have a more sophisticated debate about this have totally failed.''

Senator Evans said immigration should be the nation's labour agency, meaning a continued high intake of migrants, especially younger, skilled workers. But the desires of migrants - including overseas students who came in on temporary visas in order to gain permanent residency - should not be driving Australia's immigration policy.

Decisions about who came to Australia would be increasingly left to employers although, conversely, Australia would also be competing for the most highly skilled migrants. Senator Evans said to do that successfully the impacts of record high immigration on our liveability had to be tackled. ''In Australia we've got this sense of, 'Well, we're the lucky country' and … people will naturally come here, and that's still true to an extent. But other countries … are increasingly marketing themselves too.''

He said immigration policy would remain non-discriminatory and that Australia's Muslim communities posed no fundamental threat - despite the arrest of five Melbourne men on terrorism charges, three from Somalia and two from Lebanon. ''I don't want to downplay terrorism … It is a serious public policy challenge that has to be tackled … But there's also been this slightly irrational fear and debate about people who arrive unauthorised as possibly posing some sort of threat.''


The never-ending NSW government transport mess

They sure know how to get people out of their cars!

The NSW Government has baptised its new public transport ''super-agency'' with a shiny name - NSW Transport and Infrastructure - and will soon unveil a plan for Sydney's transport. Yes, another new plan. The office of the Transport Minister, David Campbell, this week promised the 2031 Transport Blueprint by year's end. Campbell recently wrote: ''It will not only look at what we need to meet current demand but also to cope with the expected population growth.''

The blueprint is an attempt by Campbell and the Premier, Nathan Rees, to put their stamp on future transport options for Sydney. But as the baseball legend Yogi Berra so memorably remarked: ''It's like deja vu all over again.''

The archives of assorted NSW transport agencies are awash with discarded plans to improve Sydney's sclerotic train and bus networks. Schemes remain just dreams and Sydneysiders have had to endure nearly a century of arthritic transport planning much like the train system at its worst: promises and cancellations, tentative starts, shuddering stops and diversions to nowhere.

Sydney's ghost train history goes back a century but real stagnation set in the 1970s, when Sydney's population boomed without commensurate expansion of transport corridors. In just the past 15 years, at least $28 billion in rail infrastructure was promised by state governments but never delivered. Thirteen projects alone would have extended the rail service by more than 1000 kilometres of track and provided dozens of new stations in areas forced to depend more and more on the family car. Consequently, the city's roads seize with overload as peak periods extend and frustrations overflow.

The blame is mostly levelled at Labor, which has governed NSW for 26 of the past 34 years. Its leaders have made much of their support for public transport to areas that house Labor voters. Their failure to deliver, however, has only heightened the social inequity they complain so loudly about.

Sydney's rail system has changed little since John Bradfield - designer of the Sydney Harbour Bridge - first articulated his vision in the 1930s (it was updated in 1956). Western Sydney's population has increased fivefold since 1940 but its rail lines have extended just 20 kilometres....

Neville Wran won a narrow state election victory in 1976, based largely on a promise to improve public transport. He famously took an early-morning campaign trip from Gosford to Sydney to highlight overcrowding. He finished the eastern suburbs line between Martin Place and Bondi Junction but the extension south to Maroubra was abandoned.

The Greiner government embarked on a public-private partnership to build the underground line to Sydney airport, with stops at Green Square and Mascot, where big housing developments are planned. But the line has been a disaster, with low patronage because commuters find ticket prices too expensive.

Rail plans that would have connected the north-west and south-west with the city - and introduced links between suburban centres such as Hurstville and Strathfield - were abandoned through lack of money or absence of political will. There is now so much cynicism about government proposals - particularly unfulfilled plans by Labor governments, which are supposed to be committed to the provision of public goods and services - that the latest Rees-Campbell blueprint, however well intentioned, is unlikely to convince voters.....


More QANTAS gloom

I've returned from overseas having flown Qantas to and from Singapore from Perth. The flight there was suddenly cancelled with no explanation after numerous people had already checked in, the next available flight was five hours later, which was so packed that they had business class passengers in the front of economy getting champagne and the better meals but still sitting with masses! The return journey actually left roughly on time, but the Q video system was broken. I might as well have been on Jetstar at a fraction of the price, I'm sure I would have got a better meal for just a few dollars. Needless to say I will try another airline next time I go overseas. No wonder their profits are down, people are voting with their feet.

SOURCE (Via email)

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