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

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


31 December, 2009

Turn the boats away, says Tony Abbott

TONY Abbott says he will turn asylum-seeker boats back out to sea if the Coalition wins the next election, accusing Kevin Rudd of lacking the "steel" to fulfil his promise to do the same. As authorities intercepted another refugee boat - the 59th this year - the Opposition Leader said asylum-seekers must know what a risky business it was coming to Australia by boat.

Mr Abbott attacked the Prime Minister over his lack of "steel" in handling the issue, The Australian reports. "If the circumstances permit it, you've got to be prepared to turn boats around," Mr Abbott told The Australian yesterday. "John Howard was fiercely criticised for this. Nevertheless, Kevin Rudd said he would be more than tough enough to turn boats around were he prime minister, but he singularly failed to show any steel whatsoever since becoming our leader."

The Opposition Leader's comments were accompanied by a fresh broadside against the Rudd Government's proposed emissions trading system. Mr Abbott challenged Mr Rudd to release Treasury modelling on who would be worse off under the scheme. Given that this is dribbling out piecemeal, I think it's high time that Mr Rudd came clean with the Australian people," Mr Abbott said.

The remarks prompted a government counter-attack, with Acting Climate Change Minister Peter Garrett challenging Mr Abbott to provide evidence for his claim the ETS would cost the average household an extra $1100 a year.

Mr Abbott's comments on boats echo a promise made by Mr Rudd in the dying days of the 2007 election campaign. "You'd turn them back," Mr Rudd said of approaching asylum boats. In the interview, given to The Australian, Mr Rudd acknowledged such an approach was contentious, but emphasised the importance of deterrence. "Deterrence is effective through the detention system but also your preparedness to take appropriate action as the vessels approach Australian waters on the high seas," the then opposition leader said.

Mr Abbott acknowledged the electoral potency of the asylum-seeker issue, saying the spike in boat arrivals had registered in the electorate. Perhaps in a measure of how the debate had evolved since the Tampa crisis of 2001, Mr Abbott indicated the refugee issue was unlikely to dominate next year's election campaign. "I think it's an important issue," the Liberal leader said. "I'm not saying it's the most important issue, I'm not saying it's necessarily a decisive issue. "But I think it has been a significant issue in terms of illustrating the comparative weakness of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister."

When asked if he was prepared to turn boats back to sea, Mr Abbott replied: "I think you've got to be prepared to turn boats around, as Kevin Rudd said he would be."

Mr Abbott's comments came as 16 Tamil asylum-seekers rescued by the Customs vessel the Oceanic Viking touched down in Australia. A total of 18 have flown to Australia, while the remainder have been taken to a UN transit facility in Romania where they will be vetted by Canadian and American immigration teams.

The Australian understands Canberra will admit more of the 23 Tamils still in detention, although it is not clear how many. The Tamils have been resettled under a special deal underwritten by the Rudd government to find them homes in the West within four to 12 weeks, in exchange for ending their month-long stand-off aboard the Oceanic Viking with Australian authorities.


School building fiasco

Bureaucatic waste again

THE Federal Government should suspend its $16.2 billion school building program until the Auditor-General's office delivers its findings on whether the stimulus money is being spent efficiently, the Opposition said yesterday. The call follows the Herald's report of a public school in Wollongong that was told it could not build a hall large enough for 320 students within its $2.5 million budget from the Commonwealth. This was despite a nearby Catholic school building a hall for 1000 students at less than half that price.

The Opposition spokesman for education, Christopher Pyne, said the Federal Government appeared to be spending twice as much as it needed on school building projects. "The so-called education revolution was more of a spending revolution," Mr Pyne said. "The story about the school in Wollongong is just another example of where the Government is spending twice as much to get half the value for taxpayers' money. "I will be referring this to the Auditor-General's inquiry. The Government should [suspend the program] until the Auditor-General has reported his findings in the … new year."

Mr Pyne said the program was riddled with problems of "profiteering, skimming by states and inflated prices. Taxpayers are probably getting about $8 billion of value for $16 billion in spending." "This is a once in a generation opportunity being wasted. "It should have been properly controlled by the minister [for education, Julia Gillard]."

The Acting Minister for Education, Kim Carr, said the Opposition has made it clear that it does not support the building of infrastructure in thousands of Australian schools. "Mr Pyne should explain to parents and students which schools he'd like to see miss out," Mr Carr said.


Paint roofs white, says "Green" mayor

FORGET painting the town red - Lord Mayor Robert Doyle wants Melbourne's roofs painted white. Cr Doyle believed slathering the tops of inner-city buildings with a white coating would make them cooler and more energy efficient, according to a report in the Herald Sun. He said the whitewash could reflect the sun's rays, reducing temperatures inside skyscrapers, apartment towers, shopping centres and other city structures.

Cr Doyle hit on the city-wide paint job idea after talking to New York mayor Michael Bloomberg at the Copenhagen climate summit. Mayor Bloomberg recently launched a "Cool Roofs" pilot scheme backed by former vice-president and environment campaigner Al Gore. Volunteers in New York will daub 10,000sq/m of roof space white to reduce air-conditioner use.

Cr Doyle has asked Melbourne council officers to investigate how the scheme could be implemented here. "I think it is a real alternative for us," Cr Doyle said.

US President Barack Obama's green guru has encouraged Americans to consider white roofs for the environmental and economic benefits. The special reflective white surface is rolled or sprayed on roofs and dries like rubber. White roofs are easier and more affordable than roof-top gardens, which are also promoted as a way of reducing a city's carbon footprint.


Even sparklers banned

This seems like overkill

With fire bans in place across South Australia today, the Country Fire Service (CFS) advises that sparklers cannot be used in open-air New Year's Eve celebrations tonight.

Temperatures are expected to soar in Adelaide and other regional centres, with severe or extreme fire danger ratings for most regions.

Brenton Eden from the CFS says only professionals are legally allowed to use fireworks and today sparklers can only be used indoors. "Sparklers are also not to be used in the open without a permit during the fire danger season," he said. "So for tonight, for celebrations for the New Year, sparklers not to be used out in the open because we are in the fire danger season."


30 December, 2009

Putting the Angus into a burger

Some interesting background from a cynical Michael Pascoe below. I myself think that the McDonald's version is a definite improvement on an ordinary burger -- but I don't like the Hungry Jack version at all

Hats off to the year’s most spectacular marketing success, or con job, depending which way you care to look at it: the rise and rise of the Angus beef brand via the lowly means of fast food hamburger mince. McDonald's and now Hungry Jack's have pushed beyond the marketing aphorism, “sell the sizzle, not the steak”, by flogging a vague and arguably uninformed concept of the sizzle.

The Land newspaper reported in September that the launch of the two “premium” Angus burgers had resulted in McDonald's beef sales soaring by as much as 20 per cent. The greatest confirmation of that success has been rival chain Hungry Jack's jumping on the Angus bandwagon. Ah, the power of branding.

But also big winners are Angus cattle breeders – to the chagrin of other breeders - as the massive advertising campaigns print on the brains of the great unwashed that Angus is the superior breed of moo cow. Chances are the vast majority of fast food customers seeking something “a little bit fancy” only know the names of two or three breeds anyway and a great deal less about the meat itself.

It’s a dangerous thing to criticise any cattle man or woman’s breed of choice - you’re much safer criticising their religion or even brand of ute – so I’ll play safe and just say that Angus is a very fine breed, as are several others. The Sydney Royal Easter Show steer and carcase competition is by no means a definitive indication of beef superiority, but for what it’s worth, the Stanhill Trophy this year was taken out by the Limousins with the silver going to Charolais, followed by Shorthorn, Square Meaters (yes, there is such a breed), Poll Hereford, then Angus, Murray Grey, Galloway and Santa Gertrudis. Properly prepared and slaughtered, they are all very fine eating.

Beef taste testing becomes very subjective, as several other competitions can show. What’s more, the breed of the beast is well down the list of what makes a particularly tasty steak. What the animal had been eating, its age and condition and how little stress it experienced in the lead up to slaughter all count a great deal more.

And as for what goes into hamburger chain patties, well, despite the advertising, it’s not actually the prime cuts of prime beef. That sticker on the McDonald’s ads, “Prime Australian Beef“, doesn’t seem to be actually defined as anything by Meat and Livestock Australia. It doesn’t necessarily mean cattle in their prime, just good Australian hamburger mince which, depending on the season and what’s being turned off, can mean a whole pile of old cows as well as the usual offcuts and less-marketable bits from trade steers. So there’s actually nothing particularly special about McDonald’s or Hungry Jack's hamburger mince that happens to be made from cattle that are at least three-quarter Angus (the definition allowed McDonald’s by Certified Angus Beef Pty Ltd).

There might have been a hint of what the marketing success was about in this paragraph from The Land: “Bronwyn Stubbs, corporate communications manager for McDonald's Australia, said Angus beef had come up trumps in its extensive research with local customers to identify what they perceived as a good quality, great tasting beef.”

Perception is a wonderful thing. It was probably helped by the availability of plenty of cattle of that breed with a well-organised breeders’ lobby group promoting them. That Angus burgers were first launched by McDonald’s in the US three years ago no doubt has absolutely nothing to do with it. So congratulations to McDonald’s, Hungry Jack's and Angus breeders on a well-copied marketing format that has more Australians eating beef.

For what it’s worth, taste being such a personal thing, the best beef has to be grass fed – all that grain-fed nonsense just ads weight, fat and maybe some tenderness to a beast while taking out taste. The animal has to be prepared well for slaughter – no stress. And then, if you really want something a bit fancy, it will have lived on desert grasses.

Without doubt the best steak I’ve ever had was in Birdsville while doing a story on the Channel Country’s OBE organic beef. I’ve tasted nothing like it before or since. And the breed didn’t really matter.


Australia now a magnet for people smugglers

The federal opposition says the arrival of another boatload of asylum seekers shows that Australia has become a favoured destination for people smugglers. A boat carrying 11 suspected asylum seekers was intercepted near the Ashmore Islands off northern Australia late on Monday by Border Protection Command.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says the continuing arrival of boat people is putting the assessment system under too much pressure. "The government's indifference and weakness, both in their border protection policies and the decisions they've taken, have ensured that Australia has become a magnet for people smugglers," Mr Morrison told ABC radio on Tuesday. "So we're now left with a situation where we have Christmas Island full, boats arriving pretty much at will and this must be putting extraordinary pressure on the processing systems that need to be undertaken under such overcrowded conditions."

The latest suspected asylum seeker arrivals will be taken to nearby Christmas Island for questioning and to undergo security, identity and health checks.

The interception comes only days after the federal government rejected claims overcrowding in detention facilities on Christmas Island had forced it to move 30 Afghan asylum seekers to Melbourne for processing. It is the 59th asylum seeker boat to have been intercepted in Australian waters so far this year.


Victoria police again (1)

Drug case against ex-cop shooter of Gary Abdallah

A FORMER Victorian detective who was acquitted of murdering a Melbourne criminal has been charged with a serious drug offence. Cliff Lockwood was allegedly caught with thousands of pseudoephedrine tablets in a police raid in the Northern Territory. Mr Lockwood, who shot dead Gary Abdallah 20 years ago, was the first Victorian policeman charged with murder while acting in the line of duty. He was found not guilty.

Northern Territory police will allege that Mr Lockwood was found with tablets imported from Asia when he was arrested in Darwin last month. The 47-year-old is facing a charge of possessing and supplying precursor material to be used in the manufacture of a dangerous drug and possession of tainted property. He has been bailed and will face Darwin Magistrates' Court on January 6.

Abdallah was shot seven times at his flat in Drummond St, North Carlton, in April 1989. Police had wanted to interview him over what he knew of the 1988 Walsh St police killings. Mr Lockwood and his partner, Dermot Avon, were charged with murder but acquitted five years later. Prosecutors alleged Lockwood fired six shots from his own revolver and a final shot from Sen-Det Avon's gun. They said the gunfire could not be justified and amounted to murder.

The prosecution conceded Abdallah had produced an imitation .357 Magnum pistol, but said he could not have posed a danger by the time Mr Lockwood fired the seventh shot.

The then-state coroner, Hal Hallenstein, later made an open finding on the death of Abdallah, who he said police suspected of providing and possibly driving the getaway car after the murders of constables Steven Tynan and Damien Eyre in Walsh St, South Yarra. He found there was no evidence that Mr Lockwood had a pre-determined intent to kill Abdallah. Mr Lockwood returned to Victoria Police after the 20-day trial, but later resigned and went into business.


Victoria police again (2)

Drugs at a cop shop! Whoda thunk it?

DRUGS and drug paraphernalia have been found in a maintenance room at the St Kilda Rd police complex. A police statement said "a small quantity" was found and the Ethical Standards Department are investigating.

The stash was found by a building contractor yesterday, and appears to have been there for a considerable period of time, police say. The type of drug involved is not yet known.

A forensic examination will be conducted to determine the exact nature of the substances and items located, the police statement said.


Abbott untried and untested, but in with a chance

RECENT Newspoll research, showing voters are increasingly concerned their standard of living will decline, has handed new Liberal leader Tony Abbott the perfect opportunity to start rebuilding the opposition's economic management credentials. And he must do this quickly if he is to give the conservatives a fighting chance at next year's federal election.

The Rudd Labor government drained the Treasury coffers and plunged the country into enormous debt as a result of populist multi-billion-dollar stimulus handouts to offset the effect of the global financial crisis.

This buoyed the political popularity that carried Kevin Rudd into power in 2007. But three consecutive rises in mortgage rates, combined with the prospect of steep increases in living costs flowing directly from Labor's emissions trading scheme, clearly undermined voters' optimism when polling was conducted early this month before the Copenhagen climate change conference, leading to the ETS being scuttled.

Rudd and defeated opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull dismissed the effects of this tax-based ETS as a small price to pay in the interests of saving the planet and future generations. But this simply did not wash with voters who, although concerned about the effects of climate change on the environment, were spooked by the spectre of a far-reaching energy tax.

At the same time, Wayne Swan has played down the significance of the decision by the Reserve Bank of Australia to raise mortgage rates on the grounds this comes off a record low base. Surely the Treasurer doesn't really believe mortgage holders will accept a kick in the pants if they are first patted on the head a couple of times.

But whatever the case, at least one more, seemingly inevitable, Reserve Bank rate rise before the May budget will test this complacency. This budget is highly significant for several reasons, not the least of which is that it is the last before the federal election. Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner, who has been flagging an austerity budget after months of unbridled government spending, will be pushing it uphill to resist the sweeteners Labor MPs will need to shore up their constituencies in the run-up to the election.

While employment has held up stronger than initial government forecasts in the face of the international financial crisis, industry is guarded in its projections for business activity in the first quarter of next year. This coincides with the introduction from this week of the government's revamped award system, which will hit small business particularly hard.

Christmas has seen a flurry of strikes and threats of industrial action across the country, most particularly affecting transport and mail deliveries. This was preceded by handsome state government pay rises for public servants, including a pace-setting deal for Queensland schoolteachers. While militant unions are likely to succumb to pressure from Canberra to smother disruptive action in an election year, the key to this will be the post-poll price.

In the run-up to the election, Abbott needs to hone not just a range of credible policies for his alternative government but the qualities of his frontbench team if he is to maximise the opposition's electoral appeal. And there are big challenges ahead in this area. For a start, it will be the first election since 1994 that Peter Costello hasn't held the portfolio of treasurer, in or out of office. Costello may have lacked leadership nous but he was nevertheless a convincing economic policy manager. Abbott's choice for Treasury spokesman, Joe Hockey, has a long way to go to demonstrate the same depth of economic skills. And the jury is well and truly out on his potential as a future leader.

Meanwhile Turnbull's continued sledging of the new Opposition Leader and others who opposed his support for Labor's ETS shows his time as a member of the Liberal parliamentary team is up. He must stand down at the next election or lose preselection for his Sydney seat of Wentworth.

The opposition will enter the election year at long odds to reclaim the Treasury benches. Even so, a week is a long time in politics, as they say.

Rudd's mishandling of the climate change issue, coupled with a string of empty promises in areas such as national health reform, provide Abbott and his team with the platform to mount a serious challenge. At the very least the conservatives must emerge from next year's poll within striking distance of victory at the following general election. They have no chance of reaching even this goal unless they go into the campaign convinced they can win.


29 December, 2009

Cancer charity donates less than 1pc

And officialdom just waffles. It's a warning about whom NOT to donate to, however. I mostly donate directly to individuals. That way I know that my money is not going to support parasites and con-men. If you want to donate to cancer research, give it directly to a university medical school. You will even get more thanks that way

LESS than one cent in every dollar raised by an Australian charity has gone to its intended cause in its first two financial years, documents show. The Adelaide-based National Cancer Research Foundation last year picked up $387,864 in donations but gave just $4900 away, according to its audited profit and loss statements. The year before, it raised almost $197,160, giving away only $935.

So far this financial year, one of the foundation's directors says the charity has passed on almost $30,000, but yesterday could not say how much had been raised.

Most of the money raised in the past two financial years went on commissions, management fees, travelling expenses and drivers. The foundation's director, Neil Menzies, blamed the start-up costs of a charity.

In heartfelt letters obtained by The Advertiser the foundation, which was launched in January 2008, outlines its fundraising aims, saying it needs hundreds of thousands of dollars for research. It says it urgently needs to raise $700,000 for ovarian cancer, $650,000 for children's cancers, $800,000 for breast cancer and $500,000 for prostate and colon cancer research. "The costs are staggering, but we will succeed again," its letters say.

Mr Menzies said the company was working hard to improve its margins, claiming it had already given away almost $30,000 this financial year to the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Camp Quality, and the Canberra Hospital. "More will be passed on before the end of the next financial year," he said. "We're changing our structure. Where we relied a lot on telemarketing, which is labour (intensive), we'll be more into events, golf days, dinner dances, quiz nights." "Within two or three years if we're able to pass on . . . (money) in the vicinity of $100,000 per year, that would be terrific."

The Office of the Liquor and Gambling Commissioner monitors charities, under the auspices of Gambling Minister Tom Koutsantonis, who said yesterday that governments were working hard to make them more accountable. "This is what we're looking into - we're making charities publish all their financial details . . . to make them more transparent and more accountable," he said. "While we believe the majority are doing the right thing, South Australians deserve to know where their hard-earned money ends up.

Philanthropy Australia chief executive officer Gina Anderson said it was difficult to pinpoint the proportion that should be passed on. She said the word "foundation", often used by charities, did not have any legal meaning, and she said Australia was finally going to accept standard accounting measures for charities.

The Productivity Commission is reviewing the not-for-profit sector. In its draft report, released in October this year, it found there was a need for wide-ranging reforms. It recommended a "one-stop shop" for regulation, to ensure community organisations and charities were transparent, and to simplify regulatory processes.


The Leftist version of "openness"

As Obama has vividly shown, saying one thing and doing the opposite is the Leftist way

KEVIN Rudd's government has refused more freedom of information requests in its first full financial year of power than John Howard's did in its last full financial year in office despite Labor's stated program to increase transparency of public information. The annual report of the Freedom of Information Act, which was quietly released just before Christmas, shows that 1530 requests, or 6.09 per cent, were refused in the 12 months to June 30. In the 12 months to June 30, 2007, the last full financial year of the Howard government, 1499 requests were refused, or 4.39 per cent. The refusal rate in the past financial year was also higher than in the power change-over year of 2007-08 when 1368 requests were refused, or 4.36 per cent. The percentage of requests granted in full in the past financial year compared with 2006-07 also declined, from 80.6 per cent to 71 per cent.

However the government's response times improved. In the 12 months to June 30, 83.29 per cent of FOI requests were dealt with in less than 30 days, compared with 67.89 per cent in the previous financial year and 77.15 per cent in 2006-07.

The Prime Minister's own department granted full access to 12 of 32 requests (38 per cent), while in 2006-07 Mr Howard's department granted full access to six of 16 requests (37.5 per cent).

The tighter flow of information came despite the government embarking on a series of major reforms of the FOI Act, including the abolition of conclusive certificates, which allowed ministers to veto FOI releases without any reasonable public interest explanations for their actions.

The opposition seized on the figures and accused the government of keeping a tighter rein on the flow of information. Opposition legal affairs spokesman George Brandis said the Rudd government's performance on FOI was "yet another example of the mismatch between the government's rhetoric and the reality of its performance". "Early this year, the then Special Minister of State Senator (John) Faulkner launched a new FOI policy and promised a fundamental change towards a pro-disclosure policy," Senator Brandis said. "But it has sunk without trace and has not been prosecuted by the new minister, Senator (Joe) Ludwig. "The heroic pro-disclosure rhetoric stands in stark contrast to the cold, hard statistical reality that would show that there is less freedom of information under the Rudd government than under the Howard government."

A spokesman for Senator Ludwig said the government remained committed to FOI reform.

The report said that about 80 per cent of FOI requests related to personal information, with Centrelink (37 per cent), Veterans Affairs (22 per cent), and Immigration and Citizenship (21 per cent) receiving the most requests.


Tidal wave of retirees threatens to break the bank

AUSTRALIA is on the crest of a demographic tsunami, with the first wave of 5.3 million baby boomers eligible for the age pension from next week. The country's money box faces the double whammy of paying for older Australians who need extra care and for workers who are retiring in greater numbers than ever before.

With the pension age for women still being phased up to 65, those born in 1946 – the first year of the baby boomer generation – will be entitled to claim a government-funded age pension from next year, when they turn 64. Men born in 1946 will be in line for a pension a year later, when they turn 65.

KPMG demographer Bernard Salt said it signalled the start of a landmark shift in Australia's population – one that would deliver a "double whammy" to Federal Government finances. "Not only will the baby boomers demand more from the tax base, but they will also be coming out of the workforce and will stop paying tax," Mr Salt said. "It is a demographic tsunami, building up, building up and then crashing ashore."

Apart from a surge in demand for age pensions, leading Australian demographers said ageing baby boomers would increase pressure on already stretched health budgets. "They are the most obese generation we've ever had, so reducing their obesity is really crucial if they are going to have healthy older years," said Adelaide University Geography professor Graeme Hugo. [Rubbish! Older people get sick more but obesity is nothing to do with it]

Professor Martin Bell, from the University of Queensland's Centre for Population Research, said the retirement of the baby boomers would also exacerbate skilled labour shortages in Australia and create planning issues for growing cities such as Brisbane. "This is an intriguing transition," Prof Bell said. "I'd rank it alongside the Industrial Revolution. "It's that kind of transition in the nature of Western society – from a young, rapidly growing population, which is broad at the bottom and thin at the top, to one that is almost the other way round."

In response to some of those emerging challenges, the Federal Government last year announced it would push out the pension eligibility age to 67 by 2023. But as the Federal Government considers the Henry tax review – expected to deliver the most sweeping reform of Australia's tax system since the GST was introduced in July 2000 – CommSec chief economist Craig James said the pension qualifying age might have to be revisited. "I think we may see further shifts over the next couple of years," he said. "Perhaps even pushing that pension age out further."

The high cost of Australia's rapidly greying population: "Perhaps it requires more incentives for employers to take on more senior workers,'' Mr James said.

Mr Salt said the problem should be met with a big rise in migration levels, targeting young skilled workers, to boost the tax base. "We either lift migration or we can ask Gen Y and Gen X to pay more tax per capita, and I don't think that's going to be popular,'' he said.

Latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate around 107,000 Australian women will turn 64 next year. By 2047, a quarter of all Australians will be aged over 65 years, almost double the current 13 per cent. In the last financial year, the Government supported 2.12 million seniors with age pensions, at a cost of $28 billion. In the previous year, $24.6 billion was spent providing age pensions for 2.04 million Australians.



Three current articles below:

Man dying because of Warmist laws

As his health begins to fail, protesting farmer Peter Spencer swore yesterday he would die before giving in to a Federal Government decision to make his farm a carbon sink. That vow came as his four children and newborn grandchild arrived in Canberra from the US to support the 58-year-old on day 37 of the protest, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Mr Spencer, who is chained to a wind tower more than 20m above ground, claims the government declared his property in Shannons Flat, north of Cooma, a carbon sink without offering any compensation. He says the move has left him unable to earn a living because he cannot clear land and redevelop the farm, and he is demanding a personal meeting with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to discuss the issue.

Aaron, Emma, Kahn and Sarah Spencer, who were all raised on the property, arrived home on Christmas Day and intend to stay until January 8. Sarah, 30, a registered nurse in her adopted home of Grand Rapids, Michigan, planned to examine her father yesterday after introducing him to her four-month-old son Saxon. "I've got my stethoscope and blood pressure cuff so I want to assess him," the farmer's daughter said. "I want to listen to his lungs, check his blood pressure and look at the swelling on his ankles. The problem is even if I tell him that I think he's coming down with pneumonia or that his kidneys are weakening ... he won't come down.

"It's heartbreaking ... but he's still very much with it mentally and is the same father we've always known. I just don't know how quickly he'll deteriorate. We're going to support him. He will come down if [Mr Rudd] makes an agreement or he'll die waiting." Aaron and Kahn climbed the tower to give their father warm clothes and helped set up a tent to protect him from heavy rainfall.

A spokesperson for Mr Rudd yesterday said the Government had "urged" Mr Spencer to stop the protest. "The Agriculture Minister responded to Mr Spencer's letter on the Prime Minister's behalf, however the Government believes this matter should be settled through the legal system and urges Mr Spencer in the strongest possible terms to end his protest and seek medical attention," the spokesperson said. "The Government sets policy in the national interest. This policy will not be changed by threats of violence or self-harm."


More evidence that CO2 is not the culprit for warming

By Michael Asten (Michael Asten is a professorial fellow in the school of geosciences at Monash University, Melbourne)

THE Copenhagen climate change summit closed two weeks ago in confusion, disagreement and, for some, disillusionment. When the political process shows such a lack of unanimity, it is pertinent to ask whether the science behind the politics is as settled as some participants maintain.

Earlier this month (The Australian, December 9) I commented on recently published results showing huge swings in atmospheric carbon dioxide, both up and down, at a time of global cooling 33.6 million years ago.

Paul Pearson and co-authors in a letter (The Weekend Australian, December 11) took exception to my use of their data and claimed I misrepresented their research, a claim I reject since I quoted their data (the veracity of which they do not contest) but offered an alternative hypothesis, namely that the present global warming theory (which was not the subject of their study) is inconsistent with the CO2-temperature variations of a past age.

Some senior scientists, who are adherents of orthodox global warming theory, do not like authors publishing data that can be used to argue against orthodoxy, a point made by unrelated authors with startling clarity in the Climategate leaked emails from the University of East Anglia.

In the scientific method, however, re-examination of data and formulation of alternative hypotheses is the essence of scientific debate. In any case, the debate on the link between atmospheric CO2 and global temperature will continue since it is not dependent on a single result.

Another example is a study by Richard Zeebe and colleagues, published in Nature Geoscience, of a release of CO2 and an increase in temperature 55 million years ago. At this time there was an increase in global temperature of between 5C and 9C, from a temperature regime slightly warmer than today's (that I will call moderate Earth) to greenhouse temperatures. It can be argued this example may have a message for humanity because the rate of release of CO2 into the atmosphere at the time of this warming was of a similar order to the rate of anthropogenic release today.

However, the analogy turns out to be incomplete when the data is compared with present estimates of climate sensitivity to atmospheric CO2, and Zeebe and his colleagues conclude that the large temperature increase cannot be explained by our existing understanding of CO2 temperature linkage. Indeed, they write, "our results imply a fundamental gap in our understanding of the amplitude of global warming associated with large and abrupt climate perturbations. This gap needs to be filled to confidently predict future climate change."

I argue there are at least two possible hypotheses to explain the data in this study: either the link between atmospheric CO2 content and global temperature increase is significantly greater (that is, more dangerous) than the existing models show or some mechanism other than atmospheric CO2 is a significant or the main factor influencing global temperature.

The first hypothesis is consistent with climate change orthodoxy. Recent writings on climate sensitivity by James Hansen are consistent with it, as was the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its pre-Copenhagen update, The Copenhagen Diagnosis.

Indeed, the 26 authors of the IPCC update went a step further, and encouraged the 46,000 Copenhagen participants with the warning: "A rapid carbon release, not unlike what humans are causing today, has also occurred at least once in climate history, as sediment data from 55 million years ago show. This `Palaeocene-Eocene thermal maximum' brought a major global warming of 5C, a detrimental ocean acidification and a mass extinction event. It serves as a stark warning to us today."

We have to treat such a warning cautiously because, as Pearson and his colleagues pointed out in their letter two weeks ago, "We caution against any attempt to derive a simple narrative linking CO2 and climate on these large time scales. This is because many other factors come into play, including other greenhouse gases, moving continents, shifting ocean currents, dramatic changes in ocean chemistry, vegetation, ice cover, sea level and variations in the Earth's orbit around the sun."

Sound science also requires us to consider the second of the above two hypotheses. Otherwise, if we attempt to reconcile Zeebe's observation by inferring climate sensitivity to CO2 is greater than that used for current models, how do we explain Pearson's observation of huge swings in atmospheric CO2, both up and down, which appear poorly correlated with temperatures cooling from greenhouse Earth to moderate Earth?

The two geological results discussed both show some discrepancies between observation and model predictions. Such discrepancies do not in any sense reduce the merit of the respective authors' work; rather they illustrate a healthy and continuing process of scientific discovery.

In addition, unrelated satellite data analyses published in the past two years by physicist David Douglass and distinguished atmospheric scientist John Christy in two journals, International Journal of Climatology and Earth and Environment, provide observational evidence that climate sensitivity associated with CO2 is less than that used in present climate modelling, by a factor of about three.

Thus we have two geological examples and two satellite data studies pointing towards a lesser role of CO2 in global warming. This argument does not discount the reality of global warming during the past century or the potential consequences should it continue at the same rate, but it does suggest we need a broader framework in considering our response.

The Copenhagen summit exposed intense political differences in proposals to manage global warming. Scientists are also not unanimous in claiming to understand the complex processes driving climate change and, more important, scientific studies do not unambiguously point to a single solution. Copenhagen will indeed prove to be a historic meeting if it ushers in more open-minded debate.


Warmist bribes will cost the country dearly

It is no surprise that the government doesn't count on the altruism of the Australian voter in framing policies. Rather, it relies on providing favours to powerful constituencies to buy support. Nowhere is this clearer than in its proposed emissions trading scheme, with the government strenuously proclaiming that 70 per cent of households will be "more than compensated" for any adverse effects. Generous compensation also will be provided to business.

Far from the "hard reform" the Prime Minister keeps announcing, what is promised is therefore a painless warm glow. That promise is, of course, too good to be true. In fact, the compensation, far from offsetting the harm, will add to it. This flows from some basic properties of taxes on "bads", such as pollution.

In theory, these are the most efficient taxes, for they raise revenue not by distorting market choices but by correcting them. However, these taxes typically raise a great deal of revenue relative to the change they purport to make. This is because while the tax is collected on every unit, the overall fall in output of the bad is small. In the case of the ETS, each emission requires the purchase of a permit, but each year total emissions fall by only a few per cent. As a result, how a tax on a bad affects efficiency depends to a large extent on what is done with the revenues. When those revenues are wasted or used to distort markets, society is worse off, even if the harm done by the bad is reduced.

In the proposed ETS, there is the Swiss cheese of payments to polluters, aimed at buying the acquiescence of a business community that, for more than a century, has more than made up in rent-seeking prowess for all it lacks in insight and backbone. These payments will distort economic activity for decades to come. For example, firms that obtain free permits cannot sell them on exit from the industry. This encourages them to continue to operate even if their output could be more cheaply supplied by others.

The compensation to households is even worse. Those payments will be income-based, phasing out as income rises. This will increase marginal tax rates that are already high, with the lost compensation meaning that each additional dollar in pre-tax earning could translate into less than 60c of take-home pay. Combined with the increase in prices relative to wages caused by the ETS itself, the effect will be to reduce the incentive to work. If this departs from self-interest, it is not out of altruism but folly.

How great are the resulting costs? Unfortunately, none of the distortions arising from the compensation package are captured in the published Treasury modelling. As a result, that modelling provides little guidance as to the efficiency effects of the ETS.

This is not to suggest that a pure ETS, pristine in its underlying economic intent, is politically possible. What it does mean is that the comparison to be made is not between a textbook ETS and less perfect alternatives. Rather, it is between an ETS mired in sordid deals and other options that may be better or worse.

Were altruism to break out, goals such as reducing emissions might be achieved without give-aways and concessions. We know tragically little about how to produce some of life's most important goods, such as mutual respect, tolerance and a genuine interest in the welfare of others. Until that secret is unlocked, government interventions will be shaped by rent-seeking and will often impose costs far greater than its benefits.

Business's search for handouts has long been a primary factor in this respect. Environmental fundamentalism adds dangerous impetus to the pressures. As the ETS shows, our political system, under the guise of public beneficence, panders all too readily to these single-issue voters, while shifting costs around, including on to future generations, in ways that are as opaque and inequitable as they are inefficient.


28 December, 2009

Comeback for religion among Australian politicians

The grumpy article below is by Leftist historian Ross Fitzgerald but does lay out some interesting facts. Australia as a whole remains overwhelmingly secular, of course

SUDDENLY, religion is making inroads again into Australian politics and our secular society. Not only have we now got a devout believer as Prime Minister but the Opposition Leader is even more devout.

The biggest influence is in NSW. When Catholic World Youth Day descended on that state in July last year, many taxpayers resented being forced to pay $20 million in security charges for the event and $40m for the use of Randwick racecourse. The reason that atheists, agnostics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Anglicans and even a few Catholics were being forced to go along with this was essentially because then premier Morris Iemma and many of his fellow committed Catholics in the NSW ALP Right were born into that religion. They didn't want a confrontation with Catholic Archbishop of Sydney George Pell over a cheaper location.

The idea that NSW taxpayers could be forced to fund a Scientology convention or a Rastafarian smoke-in would be laughable. But they're both bona fide religions in their own right and meet roughly the same criteria as Christianity and Islam for all the lurks and perks. Why was there little organised opposition, then, to this unpopular rort [abuse]? The main reason was that there was no significant dissent from within the parliament.

On the opposition side, a man who reputedly is influential in the NSW Liberal preselection processes, upper house MP David Clarke, is very strong in some of his Catholic views. Two other devout Christians, Fred Nile and Gordon Moyes, happened to sit on the all-important cross-benches in the upper house, with the result that the propriety of handing $60m in NSW taxpayers' money to support an already wealthy religion could have been better examined.

More recently, Clarke and Nile were guest speakers at last month's Australia's Future and Global Jihad conference in Sydney, alongside Danny Nalliah from the Catch the Fire Ministries. Other attendees were Peter and Jenny Stokes from the fundamentalist Christian morals group Salt Shakers Inc and Emmanuel Michael from the Assyrian Federation of Australia. Why would one of the Liberal Party's top policy-makers be at such a conference, which was backing the notion that our Christian heritage was under attack from evil forces? And what about Kevin Rudd's attendance at the Australian Christian Lobby's annual general meeting last month?

The secular Nathan Rees's elevation to the premiership in NSW afforded a glimmer of hope that the state's politics would not be dominated by conservative Christian ethics.

But those hopes were dashed by the recent ascendancy of another devout Catholic to the top job in NSW. Sporting a strange mix of American accent and fashion chic, Kristina Keneally boasts a BA in political science and religion and a masters degree in feminist theology from Ohio. She met her Young Labor husband at Catholic World Youth Day in Poland in 1991, which says much about her leanings.

The election of Christian hard-liners to positions of power and influence in NSW doesn't stop at Macquarie Street. NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione is a devout Baptist who worships at the influential Hillsong Church. He is responsible for the first official police Bible, bound in police blue with an official NSW Police crest on the cover. On Scipione's watch, all new NSW police graduates from the Goulburn Academy are routinely offered one of these special Bibles.

While Scipione is doing good work in trying to curtail alcohol-based violence, he has made no secret of the fact he brings his Christian faith into his policing work. Out at Hillsong that means treating homosexuality as a disease to be cured rather than an identity to be lived. But is it a fair whack that taxpayers are funding police Bibles? Will they also produce a Koran with a NSW Police logo for Muslim officers? With 38 per cent of our federal politicians being members of the devout Parliamentary Christian Fellowship, and a half-dozen well-known journalists in the press gallery claiming Jesus as their saviour, the non-believers, infidels, atheists, secularists and our many slightly spiritual but anti-organised religion citizens need to be delivered from this anti-intellectualism.

The final word on the Christianisation of Australian politics surely comes from the head of the Australian Christian Lobby, former SAS officer Jim Wallace. Unlike some stakeholders, Wallace has publicly claimed to have had regular contact with Communications Minister Stephen Conroy - Catholic - as Conroy developed his unpopular model for filtering our internet.

Last month Wallace sent out a media release urging other parties to preference the Australian Sex Party last in the Bradfield and Higgins by-elections, as they had done with One Nation. The Sex Party came third in Bradfield and a close fourth in Higgins. Wallace needs to take a cold shower. That there is now an Australian political party prepared to challenge the pious claptrap that dominates most of the other parties is refreshing.

The Newspoll survey published last month showed that 32 per cent of NSW voters thought there was too much religion in politics. With the orchestrated rise of Keneally and Tony Abbott, that figure may have risen.


Proposed Warmist laws: Grocery industry attacks fraudulent government cost estimates

THE grocery industry has sided with the Coalition's claim the Rudd government's emissions trading scheme will be a big tax.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett said yesterday that claims by the Australian Food and Grocery Council that food prices would be pushed up by 5 per cent overstated the reality by seven times. "The Treasury modelling found that in 2013, the average price impact of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme on food bills will be around $68 a year -- less than 1 per cent of household food bills," Mr Garrett said.

However, the council chief executive Kate Carnell said this was not realistic, given the role of electricity in the processed food supply chain. "The average shopping basket is about $200 a week, so the government's modelling suggests a barely 0.5 per cent increase off the back of increases in electricity prices of 20 to 40 per cent. That is not even vaguely credible in a manufacturing industry," she said.

Her estimate of a 5 per cent rise was based on internal modelling by food companies. She said the modelling had been presented to Coles Myer and Woolworths. "They didn't suggest we were off the money," she said.

Mr Garrett said that throughout the debate on climate change, "various industries have paid for modelling designed to suit their lobbying purposes".

A spokesman noted that Woolworths had rejected the council's claim of a 5 per cent rise when it was first presented in August. The company had put out a release in response, declaring its support for theemissions trading scheme, and noting that the exclusion of agriculture would reduce what was only ever going to be a "slight price rise". Woolworths is a signatory of the Copenhagen Communique on Climate Change, a document developed by global corporations and endorsing ambitious emission reduction targets. [Woolworths is obsessively "Green" in many ways]

However, the grocery council's renewed attack on the scheme highlights the Coalition's support base among industries which believe they will be adversely affected. Ms Carnell said baking, dairy and tinned processed food, such as canned spaghetti, were the most energy intensive parts of the food industry.


Blacks sidetracked from owning their own homes

Leftist governments want to keep blacks government-dependant -- a familiar theme in the USA

CAPE York leader Noel Pearson has called on the Rudd government to urgently realign its policies on Aboriginal housing, predicting that the many billions currently being spent on building public housing in remote communities will result in wastage on an enormous scale and little improvement in the livelihoods of indigenous people.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin's "obsession" with negotiating 40-year leases to provide secure tenure for public housing assets was "completely inconsistent with home ownership", Mr Pearson said. As The Australian revealed this week, negotiations over 40-year leases in Queensland have stalled, with Cape York mayors refusing to sign the leases and seeking legal advice.

Legislative changes introduced by the Bligh government more than 18 months ago to encourage home ownership have so far failed to result in one home loan being issued. "The priority at the moment is to vest 40-year leases in the Queensland Department of Housing, for public housing, and that is what all of the bureaucratic energies are directed towards," Mr Pearson said. "So home ownership is on the backburner and it's not a priority."

Mr Pearson said providing more public housing should not take priority over schemes that encouraged indigenous people to build their own homes or invest in homes that already existed, as risk encouraged responsibility. "We have got to get skin in the game by families, and the best way of getting skin in the game is through some form of home ownership. The second issue is, we've got to bring the construction price down, and the third issue is what the government has made its first issue, which is the urgent need for more housing."

Mr Pearson said the housing policies of successive federal governments had created an "irrational" housing market that made home ownership unattainable for most indigenous people, reflecting a government view that home ownership was only for the privileged Aboriginal few.

People living in Cape York - who, under Queensland policy, must buy the land they effectively already own before they can even think about building a house - have to spend an average of $500,000 to own a house. "It is an irrational housing market that governments are paying for here where the default position is always the most expensive option," he said.

A long-time advocate of private home ownership, Mr Pearson - a lawyer and founder of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership - rejected the notion put forward by the federal statutory body Indigenous Business Australia that native title issues were creating insurmountable complexities in the process of achieving home ownership in Cape York.

Ms Macklin said the government was committed to addressing unacceptable housing shortages in remote indigenous communities, including through encouraging home ownership. "The Australian government is keen to support as many indigenous Australians as possible to achieve their aspirations to own their own home," Ms Macklin said. "Home ownership can bring important social and economic benefits."


Elective surgery wait shows that government hospitals are still not coping with many medical needs

ALMOST 200 Queenslanders have been waiting more than five years to have elective surgery. The 183 patients have conditions classified as "non-urgent" but under Queensland Health guidelines should still have had their operations within 12 months. Another 310 people have been languishing on the waiting list for up to two years, despite having more serious illnesses or injuries that should have put them in an operating theatre within 90 days.

However, the figures – revealed in an answer to an Opposition question on notice to the Government – have improved significantly in the past year. Twelve months ago, almost 400 Queenslanders had been waiting more than five years for surgery. The release of the figures comes as Health Minister Paul Lucas prepares to unveil a new initiative to tackle the so-called long-waits for elective surgery.

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle said yesterday the State Government needed to go back to the drawing board to address the problem. "No Queenslander should be waiting any longer than the recommended time for elective surgery, particularly these 310 category two patients who have waited more than 90 days even though some of them have quite serious conditions," Mr McArdle said.

Mr Lucas said hospitals performed 115,000 elective surgery operations each year, so it was a small percentage that waited longer than the recommended times, but agreed it was "not acceptable". "Frankly it should be 0 per cent. It is simply not acceptable to have people waiting more than five years for surgery, even if it is the non-urgent type," he said. "By this time next year, I want that figure reduced to zero." Mr Lucas remains tight-lipped on his plan to tackle long waits but earlier this month took time out to meet surgeons.

One of the options believed to be under consideration is turning the Royal Children's Hospital at Herston into an elective surgery centre once the new children's hospital opens in 2014. The move would help ensure elective surgeries went ahead.

According to the figures, 310 category two patients who should have their surgery within 90 days have been waiting between one and two years for surgery, 83 have waited up to three years and 21 for four years.


27 December, 2009

Thick-skulled Queensland police missed a rapist who was right under their noses

And the so-called police watchdog was not interested. The man the police framed instead has just had his conviction quashed by the Court of Appeal

A MAN suspected of killing Goodna schoolgirl Leanne Holland is a police informant and convicted rapist. He is a sadistic, violent predator, who was once friends with the Holland family, lived near them and had taken Leanne for rides in his vehicle.

The man, 56, unofficially worked with detectives investigating Leanne's murder. The Sunday Mail spoke to him briefly in 2006. He claimed to have helped police solve the killing by working "undercover" but declined to elaborate.

The Sunshine Coast man served a seven-year sentence for rape and incest before being released in 2003. Coincidentally, he was in the same jail west of Brisbane as Graham Stafford for some of that period. The man was identified by two women in a Sunday Mail report in 2005 as being responsible for Leanne's murder. The women claimed they told police the man, their biological father, carried out the shocking sex slaying but it was never investigated. In the 2005 book Who Killed Leanne? by former detective Graeme Crowley and criminologist Paul Wilson, the sisters revealed:

• Their father knew Leanne and raped them at the same spot at Redbank Plains, Ipswich, where her body was found.

• He tortured them, leaving similar cigarette lighter burns to those on Leanne's body.

• He had photos of her corpse which he either took himself or obtained from the police file and threatened that they would end up the same way if they talked.

The Sunday Mail revealed in 2006 that the man was repeatedly given weekend leave from prison during his rape sentence. Corrective Services sources said the man was given 13 weekend leave passes in one seven-month period.

The Sunday Mail took information on the man to the CMC [police watchdog] in 2007 but it declined to investigate, saying it would be an "unjustifiable use of resources".


Newer playgrounds are too dull for kids

FINDING a decent playground these school holidays should be a walk in the park, but parents and health experts say the quality of Melbourne play spots for children is on the slide. New-age playgrounds designed to minimise injury have come under fire for being boring and limiting.

Experts have warned a lack of older-style "adventure" playgrounds could be holding back our children's development. Child nutritionist Kim Bishop, of Yu Food and Lifestyle, said old-fashioned playgrounds let children exercise more effectively. "I certainly tend to go for the older playgrounds rather than the more sterile environments," Ms Bishop said. "At a playground, kids need a space where they are free to move in a variety of different ways. "There has even been controversy around sandpits as play spaces, but I think it's important to let kids put their hands and feet in dirt and sand."

Researchers at the University of Western Australia have launched a study on the declining quality and number of playgrounds and their effect on children. The project's research leader, Lisa Wood, has said councils and schools go overboard in creating safe and sterile environments, and that children should be given greater scope to play.

Docklands mum-of-three Kristy Seymour-Smith agreed, saying playgrounds should be designed for fun. "I think of the playgrounds that were around when I was a kid - they were quite a bit different," Ms Seymour-Smith said. "As long as there's supervision, they can be fun and safe at the same time."


Centre to tame violent Preschoolers

Without physical punishment, it is almost certain to be ineffective but it least it will keep the badly behaved ones away from the others for a while

CHILDREN as young as four who are too violent to teach will be sent to Queensland's first behaviour school for Prep students. The trial centre will open in January and comes as primary teachers complain of being hit, kicked and sworn at. Experts say the epidemic of broken families and substance abuse in the home is fuelling the anger and volatile behaviour in young children.

Educators want the initiative rolled out across Queensland to protect staff and other students and save troubled kids from growing into dangerous adults. The Early Years Education Centre, partly funded by Education Queensland, will be based on the Gold Coast. Problem students aged between four and six will be referred by state schools and undertake a course for up to a semester. Their parents will be encouraged to take part and will be taught life skills in recognition that behaviour problems usually stem from home.

Education Queensland's South Coast Region executive director Glen Hoppner said principals, parents, teachers and other agencies would confer before referring students. Mr Hoppner said behaviours that "impeded a student's capacity to successfully engage in learning and to interact socially" would be addressed with both parents and students. "To our knowledge, this is the first such centre with this unique collaborative community-based approach," he said.

The breakthrough early intervention centre has been welcomed by teachers, with the union calling on the State Government to extend it throughout Queensland. Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said Prep students were hitting and kicking other students and teachers and throwing furniture. "It's a sad reflection on society that we actually have to go to these steps with kids so young," said Mr Ryan, who added he was concerned the program was not being properly funded by Education Queensland.

EQ will provide a teacher, teacher aide and psychologist for the centre, which will accept 12 students at a time. The community group SAILS (Sailing Adventures in Life Skills), which came up with the idea, will wear the remaining costs for up to six program facilitators and an administration officer. Money will be sought from the community and through fundraising.

SAILS director Russell McClue said there were already more students needing help than could be accommodated. Students and parents would attend three days a week for up to a semester and undergo the American-created "Incredible Years" course which he said had been proven to have the best results. Mr McClue said students would continue their Education Queensland Prep curriculum but in smaller groups with teachers trained specifically in how to deal with them. The children would also be taught how to better interact with teachers, peers and family. At the same time parents will undergo training in life skills and parenting.

Teachers will offer praise and incentives for co-operative behaviour and establish clear rules and routines that promote responsibility. They will also help children stay calm and regulate and understand their emotions.

However, child psychologist Dr Alina Morawska, from the Parenting and Family Support Centre at the University of Queensland, warned that grouping children together with similar problems could make behaviour worse. Dr Morawska said evidence suggested the best way to treat kids was through parenting intervention. [And how do you do that?? The stupid b*tch has obviously had very little to do with the real ferals -- who respect nobody]


NSW Ambulance chiefs still failing to stop bullying by officers

AFTER 11 inquiries in nine years, the Ambulance Service of NSW has failed to properly tackle bullying and harassment, an internal report says. The Report on Staff Support Services - April 2009, obtained by the Herald under freedom-of-information laws, examined the use of counselling services and said the issue of bullying and harassment was still of "great concern". Ten of 121 employees interviewed by independent consultants identified bullying or harassment as an issue for them and all "expressed a concern about management's involvement in resolving these issues".

"We take these concerns seriously and consider that action be taken by the Ambulance Service of NSW in dealing with these harassment/bullying issues," the report said.

A parliamentary inquiry last year found widespread bullying and harassment within the service. It is due to reconvene in the new year to assess the ambulance service's progress in dealing with this and several other workplace issues.

The report said that in the six months to August 2008, 152 employees used counselling services, which was equal to 8 per cent of the workforce. The Northern Division had the most referrals. One case was categorised as "suicide or attempted suicide", and one person was on 83 weeks' paid leave for stress.

The chairwoman of the parliamentary inquiry, Robyn Parker, said she was still getting calls this week from officers complaining of being bullied by management. "They use rostering to bully people and that's still ongoing; nothing seems to have changed," she said.

The support services report also showed that the number of workers' compensation claims had halved and that the service had gone from spending almost $1.5 million on claims for psychological problems in 2006-07 to about $345,000 in 2007-08. In 2006-07 there were 39 psychological claims, including 35 from paramedics, a small proportion of the approximately 3000 paramedics. In 2007-08 there were 17 psychological claims for all employees and 16 psychological claims for paramedics.

The report does not attribute the significant drop to anything in particular, although it notes that a number of "healthy workplace" strategies were put in place last year, including the appointment of a manager to ensure grievances were dealt with swiftly, and that complaints and workplace conflict were properly mediated. The service has also implemented training sessions and standards for raising workplace concerns.

But the report also said the ambulance service needed to provide better access to chaplains in rural areas and improve training and resources for peer support officers, such as providing them with mobile phones and in some cases cars. Overall, the report said support services for staff were being provided at a "high standard".

A spokesman for the Ambulance Service said it "takes bullying and harassment very seriously and we do not and will not tolerate bullying and harassment in any form". [Except when it does, apparently] The service "has undertaken a significant program of reforms", he said. They included additional training in workplace conflict resolution and respectful workplace behaviour. ["Training" won't make a bully into a teddybear. You have to FIRE the bullies. But that needs effort, of course -- largely due to Federal "unfair dismissal" laws]


26 December, 2009

Let's face it: the ETS is dead

By financial journalist Terry McCrann

TONY Abbott almost singlehandedly put the Emissions Trading Scheme on life support. Now Copenhagen has killed it stone cold, motherless dead. Climate change minister Penny Wong, who is too emotionally committed to it to accept that truth, will carry it into the new year.

A responsible prime minister would give the ETS a decent Christian burial. And it has to be a formal state funeral. A Treasury that was not so absolutely compromised by a bizarre combination of religious zeal, institutional pomposity and basic incompetence would be gently but persistently and emphatically advising the government that the ETS was no longer a good idea. If indeed it ever was.

While an argument could have been mounted before Copenhagen for moving towards an ETS, that is not possible after the chaos in doleful Hamlet's hometown that produced the "China solution".

There will be no global agreement to cut emissions of carbon dioxide. Formally, it was "Chindia" -- China and India. But China is the elephant in that pairing. And in any event, nothing that President Barack Obama might have promised in Copenhagen was ever going to be endorsed by the US Senate, as it has to be.

While we wouldn't have quite seen a replay of the 95-0 vote that rejected the Kyoto Treaty in 1997, there is zero prospect of the US adopting either binding CO2 emission targets or a cap-and-trade policy, their name for an ETS.

So we have a situation post-Copenhagen, where the two countries that between them are responsible for nearly half of all global emissions of CO2 are not committed to cutting emissions, far less binding targets. And more pointedly, they won't have an ETS.

It is the latter that makes any move by Australia to have an ETS even more senseless than before. We would become ground zero for every spiv and main-chancer that would have an emission permit or million in their pocket to sell us. Indeed, even "respectable" Wall Streeters would be -- correction, are -- salivating over the next big thing.

Two things simply cannot be denied about Copenhagen. Australia locking in its ETS wouldn't have made the slightest difference to the outcome. Not even Kevin Rudd is delusional enough to believe that if only he and Penny had been able to arrive with their bit of paper, China would have agreed to destroy its future.

Secondly, but for Abbott's aggression -- helped in no small part by Malcolm Turnbull's overweening arrogance -- we would have been locked into a bad policy and a disastrous process, which is even worse. The ETS.

It's time the business community woke up from its dozy slumber, with the doziest of all being the Business Council. This is something they should be able to understand. Copenhagen has shattered any prospect of a local ETS delivering the "certainty" they crave. Now it would only be the certainty of the grave. That of carbon export and permit volatility and rip-offs.

That's the export of jobs, businesses and investment to other places that had no price on carbon dioxide. Those "other places" are essentially the rest of the world except for Europe -- which doesn't matter and in any event has totally debased the permits system, just as it has cynically approached the whole sorry climate saga, starting with Kyoto.

Our ETS could only work as part of a properly regulated and audited global system in which at the very minimum the US, the second-biggest emitter, participated. Even then it would still have been extremely volatile, open to manipulation and outright rorting: the very antithesis of certainty. Without the US, an Australian ETS is an invitation to chaos.

Are our Australian Federal "Carbon Cops" Police going to control the permits that would fall from the sky like confetti from Africa, Asia and Russia? Do you sincerely believe that ASIC, Australia's Simply Ineffective (corporate) Cop, is a match for the masters of Wall St manipulation? They couldn't nail Jodee Rich and Andrew Forrest. But never fear, they'll be right on top of global real-time trading in complex permit derivatives.

It remains extraordinary that any government could embark on a policy that directly attacked its own country. The "production" of carbon dioxide is the absolute foundation of not just our economy but our modern society. It is an ironic comment on the crass stupidity of both our politicians and our bureaucrats that if they'd actually succeeded at Copenhagen, they would have succeeded in destroying our future export growth.

The issue of emission cuts has to be cut free from the dead parrot, the ETS. That leaves one or both of Abbott's direct action emission cuts or a carbon tax. If we believe we have to join hands with the rest of the world in a mutual suicide pact, let us at least choose the more efficient method.


Public hospital doctor operating 'blind' led to woman's premature death

A QUEENSLAND grandmother suffered a premature death due to a litany of failures by a rogue doctor who operated "blind" without equipment allowing him to see properly, a coronial inquest has found. In a case that sparked an apology from Queensland Health, Coroner Anne Hennessy cleared Gold Coast doctor Robin Holland of criminal negligence over the 2007 death of Yvonne Davidson, of Emerald, at Rockhampton Base Hospital.

But the coroner's report identified a raft of errors with the tracheotomy operation, including a "faulty or missing" power lead on a bronchoscope, a visual device with lights to help staff see.

The report found Dr Holland, a qualified doctor now believed to be working at a Gold Coast private facility, had failed to sign his job acceptance contract after starting as a locum six months earlier. It was this error that brought the case to light earlier this year after several locum doctors at Rockhampton and Bundaberg failed to complete their credentialling properly.

The coroner's report found Dr Holland failed to comply with protocol for the procedure at the hospital, despite evidence showing staff had told him about the protocol document. He could not recall the warnings. Ms Hennessy also blamed poor communication between staff, including Dr Holland's failure to note that nurses had problems with a carbon dioxide monitor which was not working properly. "Dr Holland did not properly listen to the nursing staff who were bringing the terms of the protocol to his attention," the report said. "In relation to the requirement to use the bronchoscope, Dr Holland informed the nurse that he would perform the procedure blind."

But Ms Hennessy found there was insufficient evidence to begin a criminal action, saying the Medical Board had already banned him from performing similar operations. She found that Mrs Davidson, 75, died of pneumonia but the operation had been an influence. "Whilst the procedure did not directly cause Mrs Davidson's death, autopsy indications were that death was hastened by the procedure," she said.

The report called for Queensland Health to ensure locum doctors have orientation at different hospitals and that tracheotomy operations require a bronchoscope and not be performed on weekends. Queensland Health yesterday said the case was still being investigated by the Medical Board and recommendations were still being implemented.


Catholics divided in the House

THE Catholic Church, traditionally a Labor heartland, is fast colonising the Liberal Party. A Herald analysis shows as many Catholics on the front bench of the Federal Opposition as that of the Government. A poll of the federal cabinet and the shadow cabinet showed six Catholics in each, or about 30 per cent. Catholics are 26 per cent of the general population.

The Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, is a staunch Catholic who studied for the priesthood as a young man. His shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, is also a Catholic and recently gave a talk at the Sydney Institute on his religious beliefs, "In Defence of God". Both men were educated at Jesuit-run schools, as was the Opposition education spokesman, Christopher Pyne.

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, was raised a Catholic but now attends Anglican services every Sunday. When he was recently photographed leaving the Catholic Mary MacKillop Memorial Chapel in North Sydney, where he reportedly took Communion, Mr Abbott accused him of "exploiting" his religious beliefs to score political points.

The debate over religion in politics comes as a Herald/Nielsen poll found 84 per cent of people agreed with the statement "religion and politics should be separate" - though three-quarters did not care whether politicians identified themselves as Christian or not.

Opposition MPs were more forthcoming about their faith than Labor MPs. Of the 20 members of shadow cabinet, 18 identified as Christian and two did not comment. None identified as atheist or non-believers.

The Labor cabinet was more diverse. Two members - the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, and the Industry Minister, Kim Carr - said they were "not religious". Six identified as Catholic, including the Small Business Minister, Craig Emerson, the Energy Minister, Martin Ferguson, and the Minister for Employment Participation, Mark Arbib. Several Labor politicians said they were "non-practising", including the Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, who said through a spokeswoman that she was a "non-practising Baptist" and "not religious".

The Leader of the House, Anthony Albanese, said he was a non-practising Catholic, and Chris Bowen identified himself as a non-practising Methodist. No one from the shadow cabinet nominated themselves as "non-practising". And no one from either side said they held a non-Christian faith.

The Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner, said he was an "agnostic Anglican", and the Opposition industry spokeswoman, Sophie Mirabella, said she was married in the Anglican church but had a Greek Orthodox ceremony to please her aged mother.


Surge in wealth as markets bounce back

AUSTRALIANS have enjoyed the fastest growth in household wealth for more than a generation, as the rebound on stock markets has given back almost half the money people lost in the global financial crisis.

Financial accounts issued by the Bureau of Statistics on Christmas Eve show that even excluding real estate, households' net financial assets shot up by a record $147 billion or 17 per cent in the September quarter alone. It is the sharpest rise in household wealth since the bureau began to measure it 21 years ago, driven by the fastest rebound on global stock markets since the false dawn in the middle of the Great Depression. Households put just $1.3 billion of new money into the stock market in September, yet soaring stock prices lifted the value of their direct holdings by $52 billion.

Super funds did better still. They invested a net $900 million in the market over the three months, but at the end of the quarter the value of their holdings had climbed by $71 billion. The entire new investment in the market for the quarter was an unremarkable $29 billion - 75 per cent of it from foreign investors - yet it generated a phenomenal $245 billion rise in market valuations. The total valuation placed on the market jumped 23 per cent, from $1080 billion to $1325 billion. In the six months from the end of March to the end of September, the market valuation shot up by 41 per cent or $385 billion.

Rises like this the world over have sparked fears of a new asset price bubble, as investors with access to cheap money have used it to drive up values.

Goldman Sachs, which now borrows from the US Federal Reserve at nominal rates, has made so much from its market investments this year that in the nine months to September it set aside $US16.7 billion for staff pay and bonuses - $US527,000 per employee.

The Australian market has since stabilised, still roughly 30 per cent below its 2007 peak. But the crisis has seen a significant shift in ownership: foreign investors now own 40 per cent of Australian shares, up from 33 per cent at the height of the boom. The foreign investors' stake dwarfs the 25 per cent of shares now owned by super funds and insurance companies, let alone the 17 per cent owned directly by households.

Similarly, the crisis has brought about a significant shift in where households put their money. Two years ago, our shares were worth $431 billion, but we had just $370 billion in bank deposits. By September, our shareholdings had dropped to $327 billion, while our bank deposits had swollen to $507 billion.

Superannuation remains Australians' largest financial asset (the definition excludes housing) but not even the record market surge between March and September, and $80 billion of net super contributions in the past year, was enough to return our stake to pre-crisis levels. Two years ago, private sector superannuation assets were worth $1152 billion. But 18 months later, despite all the new money, those assets had shrunk to $896 billion, before climbing back to $1065 billion by the end of September.

Apart from bank deposits, the only household asset that has grown during the crisis has been the amount of unfunded superannuation the federal and state governments owe to their past and present employees. In just two years, that has climbed from $170 billion to $200 billion.

Households' total financial assets grew by $180 billion in the September quarter, or a cool $8200 per head in three months. At just over $2.4 trillion, they are now almost back to their pre-crisis level two years earlier. But households' liabilities have also grown in that time, adding almost $200 billion of new borrowing in the past two years. Household debt, which was $1.2 trillion going into the crisis, is now just under $1.4 trillion, or $175,000 per household.

The bottom line is that households' net financial assets are still short of pre-crisis levels. They peaked in September 2007 at $1245 billion and then shrank to $786 billion by March 2009, a loss of almost $460 billion. But in the six months to September, with only $12.4 billion of net new saving on our part, our net assets grew by $220 billion, or 28 per cent, to close the third quarter worth $1006 billion, back where they were at the end of 2006.


25 December, 2009


Christmas day hiatus today. No news is good news. But here's some news of my personal Christmas:

I think I have had a rather good Christmas day. Anne and I just had croissants and coffee for breakfast. Alarmingly French. Anne gave me a blue-striped shirt as a present, which I quite like. I wore it to the service at the Metropolitical Cathedral of St John the Divine. We got there rather early but there was already little seating left in the nave. I however have a particular spot just off the nave which I like -- on some plastic chairs (which are much more comfortable than the pews) so Anne and I had a good view of the proceedings. And they definitely kept the show on the road with lots of things happening one after another.

The censer was energetically deployed but no bells! Very slack. They had a rather good-looking beadle, though: A young blonde woman. Rather a change from the usual elderly gents. The sermon was given by a woman, which was of course repugnant to my fundamentalist background. But I am rather deaf these days so I didn't understand a word she said, which I found satisfactory. I just sat admiring the stained glass. And the hymns were good of course.

Anne was less impressed by the service than I was. Her Presbyterian rejection of "Popery" is probably stronger than mine.

I then went off to a small family lunch. The big family do was last night, which was very lively. The lunch was excellent with ham, large prawn kebabs, calamari etc. cooked on the BBQ by our host Russell, husband of my stepdaughter Susan. Russell is a genial soul but I don't know him all that well as yet so I did at one stage ask him a question that I thought would get at least an untroublesome answer. I asked him: "Do you like steam trains?". He replied "I LOVE steam trains". So we had a good chat about that for a while. I am something of a steam fanatic too. I wonder if it's only conservatives who like steam trains? Could be something in that.

I also had a bit of a chat with Joe about 5-dimensional matrices and such things. I am very pleased to have a son who is also a born academic. His Christmas present to me was a very academic one: An excellent edition of Beowulf, with the original text, a prose translation and a verse translation. He knows I take an interest in Beowulf and have even been known to recite bits of it in the original Anglo-Saxon. But only an academic would do that.

Speaking of the Anglo-Saxons, as I sit amid the great Gothic stone cavern of St John's cathedral, it does give me some feeling of unity with my Anglo-Saxon ancestors. I realize that Gothic architecture is Norman rather than Anglo-Saxon but Gothic churches were originally built to recreate the awe of being amid the great forests of primeval Europe so my impression is an accurate one in its way. The Gothic architects have successfully transmitted their message to me.

I still have the order of service for Christmas in front of me and I wonder how many people noticed how discordant it was in a way. We went straight from the aggressive Hebrew triumphalism of Psalm 97 to the humble "justified by grace" of Titus chapter 3. But people are so used to the accepting the message of both the Old Testament and the New that few would notice any discordance, I think.

Anne is now back from her family Christmas lunch so we will shortly have a late -- and light -- evening meal. Ham sandwiches, probably.

24 December, 2009

Corporate regulator loses AGAIN

Third strike as ASIC loses case against miner 'Twiggy' Forrest. And the judge slams them for the frivolity of their actions. ASIC cearly needs a new boss. This constant waste of taxpayers' money is no joke. How about focusing on REAL abuses?

AUSTRALIA'S corporate regulator has suffered its third high-profile court defeat in five weeks after the Federal Court cleared billionaire Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest and his Fortescue Metals Group of misleading investors. Justice John Gilmour dismissed all 22 allegations made by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and ordered it to pay Mr Forrest's and FMG's costs, which could mount to millions of dollars.

Justice Gilmour also took a swipe at ASIC in his judgment, saying it had no basis for the civil proceedings and should exercise extreme caution when making allegations because of the damage they could do to companies and personal reputations. "It is important that allegations of dishonesty should be made only where there is a reasonable evidentiary basis for them," he said. "It is my opinion that, on the totality of the evidence available to ASIC, there was no such basis in this case."

ASIC's latest court loss comes hot on the heels of its failed actions against One.Tel founder Jodee Rich and executive Mark Silbermann and former Australian Wheat Board boss Andrew Lindberg. The regulator plans to appeal those decisions and said yesterday it was considering whether to appeal the Fortescue decision.

A triumphant Mr Forrest was not in Perth's Federal Court for the judgment. However, the billionaire, who owns a $4.3 billion stake in the iron ore company, said later that he felt vindicated by the ruling. "I'd like to take this opportunity to thank God, the Australian judicial system, and my family and friends for their unswerving support throughout the proceedings," he said. "We are pleased we can now move on."

The court's decision follows three years of legal proceedings that began when ASIC claimed Mr Forrest and FMG misled the market, acted dishonestly and failed to meet their continuous disclosure obligations. The corporate regulator alleged Mr Forrest overstated the nature of agreements FMG struck in 2004 with three Chinese companies to build mining infrastructure in WA's Pilbara. At the time FMG had issued a series of statements describing the agreements as "binding contracts" whereas ASIC argued they were merely "framework agreements".

Shares in FMG surged after the announcements were made but the deals later unravelled. ASIC alleged Fortescue ignored its continuous disclosure obligations by failing to update the market when the deals came undone.

In a 285-page judgment that took seven months to produce, Justice Gilmour found there was no basis for ASIC "to assert dishonesty on the part of FMG, its board and, in particular", Mr Forrest. He warned that ASIC must be careful in making such allegations because they attracted widespread media coverage, could injure the business of a particular company and tended to "adversely affect" reputations. "Unless the allegations are withdrawn the director(s) accused have to wait until trial before these can be tested," he said. "Meanwhile, they have to live and work in their shadow. In this case the proceedings have been on foot for more than three years."

Mr Forrest could have been banned as a company director and fined up to $4.4 million, while FMG faced a $6 million penalty.


Psychiatric hospital: Moronic official "wisdom"

Keep psych ward knives in drawers after fatal stabbings, says chief psychiatrist. THAT should be a big help! (NOT). It's often said that the psychiatrists are nearly as mad as the patients and this seems rather a good example of that

AN inquiry into the stabbing deaths of two patients at a Melbourne psychiatric hospital has come up with seven recommendations, including a requirement that knife sets be kept in drawers.

Last month two patients at the Thomas Embling Hospital - Raymond Splatt and Paul Notas - were stabbed to death. Fellow patient Peko Lakovski is facing two counts of murder.

Victoria's Chief Psychiatrist Dr Ruth Vine conducted an inquiry into the deaths, aided by a team of interstate experts with forensic clinical experience. Dr Vine said the government has accepted all seven recommendations and said the inquiry found that there was a ``very high threshold" of safety at the Thomas Embling.

The inquiry recommended that the hospital find a way for night staff, who may not deal directly with inmates, to come into contact with patients so they can assess their mental state and stability.

It also recommended that the hospital remove boxed knife sets from benches and put them into drawers. It said that while Jardine Unit patients were expected to cook and clean for themselves, ``the immediate and visible availability of implements that could be used as weapons should be minimised".

Other recommendations included the regular monitoring of relationships between the residents, getting more feedback on patients from their family and carers and documenting any early relapses of illness. "It is still the case that there has never been a serious incident committed by a patient on leave or following release from Thomas Embling Hospital," Dr Vine said. "The community can feel confident that Thomas Embling Hospital is well managed." [Two patients murdered and it is "well managed"!!??]


Ill people hit by cuts to government health funding

Hitting businesses just ends up hitting the little guy in the end -- as business passes on its increased costs in the form of price rises

THOUSANDS of private hospital patients are being forced to pay gap fees running into hundreds of dollars because of a dispute over price increases between the big health funds and Australia's largest pathology company. The stand-off over a 30 per cent fee increase that Sonic is requiring from members of the second biggest health fund, Bupa Australia, is set to worsen next week when the dispute spreads to Medibank Private. The industry giant estimates some patients could be up to $500 out of pocket after a hospital stay. "We're extremely concerned that Sonic are forcing private health insurance members to pay excessive costs for pathology services, which in the worst-case scenario can be up to several hundred dollars," the managing director of Bupa, Richard Bowden, said. Mr Bowden said the fees demanded by Sonic were up to twice the level set by the Medicare benefits schedule.

Sonic's demand for an increase of more than 30 per cent on current contracted rates was "clearly unaffordable and unreasonable" and was well above prices negotiated with other pathology providers. The breakdown in negotiations has meant that since November 1, Bupa no longer has a contract for no-gap arrangements with Sonic, exposing patients to big surprise bills.

Medibank members will be in the same position once its contract with Sonic expires on December 31. The two funds account for about 200,000 private hospital patients a year.

The Federal Government's 8 per cent cut to Medicare payments for pathology has contributed to Sonic's demand for a big rise from health funds to cover reduced government cover and rising costs, but the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, refused to comment yesterday. "This is a commercial matter between Sonic and the health funds so it's not something we can comment on," a spokeswoman for Ms Roxon said.

The chief executive of Sonic, Colin Goldschmidt, stood by the fee rises, saying they followed years of inadequate payments from Medicare [government insurer], which reimburses 75 per cent of the official schedule fee, and Medibank [private insurer], which had covered part of the remaining costs. The rises were required to restore viability of many hospital pathology laboratories, which he said were running at a loss. Several other funds had accepted Sonic's terms. "Patients are free to change funds. We believe we cannot go on with the same fee structure we have had with Bupa and Medibank," Dr Goldschmidt said. He dismissed as "scurrilous" the Medibank claim that people could be $500 out of pocket.

The Bupa and Medibank members, who account for more than half of the 10 million Australians covered by health insurance, are the latest group to be exposed to surging gap costs. The Government's cut to Medicare rebates for cataract operations is leaving many patients with $300 gap bills.

The health funds have warned that the pathology rise, which would add millions of dollars to health insurance costs, would feed into premium rises currently before the Health Department.

Carol Bennett, the executive director of the Consumers Health Forum, said her organisation was concerned by the growing trend of pathology companies "to maximise their profits at the expense of vulnerable consumers who are often hit with large and unexpected pathology bills". "This is an industry that has enjoyed above average profits for many years now," Ms Bennett said. "No government can continue to drain taxpayers' money to fund ever-increasing pathology costs without proper checks and balances."


Holier than Thou

Christmas is a time when people grow even more tired of politics than usual, but it is also a time when the politically desperate take increasingly cheap shots at others in a ploy to divert media attention from their own failures.

This happened last Monday when ALP Senator Kate Lundy was despatched from the Labor dirt unit to make fun of Tony Abbott's strong Christian faith. Sent out to attack using focus group tested lines, Senator Lundy made a big mistake, and consequently a bigger fool of her emperor Kevin Rudd.

In a humiliating display, Senator Lundy inserted Mr Rudd's name where she was told to insert Mr Abbott's. Here's what she said: "What I think is important here (is) that we challenge Mr Rudd on his propensity to want to inflict his personal religious views, very strongly held, on the rest of the Australian population."

Now if it wasn't for the pointed attack on religious beliefs, pandering to the secular left, in a clumsy attempt at dog whistle politics, perhaps the faux pas could be excused. But how can we excuse the hypocrisy of Kevin Rudd, sending out the lamentable Lundy to attack a man of deep faith whilst claiming to be one himself.

But then again Kevin Rudd has claimed to be many different things in recent times. He was an economic conservative before he became a Christian socialist on his way to becoming a social democrat. He was a Catholic before becoming an Anglican but still demands communion from the Catholic Church, coincidently on the eve of Australia's first Saint being proclaimed.

Rudd condemned the 'political orchestration of organised Christianity' in his essay on Dietrich Bonhoeffer but insists upon doing doorstops in front of church almost every Sunday morning. In one ABC interview he even blamed others for the fact he had to take his faith public.

Kevin Rudd's religious beliefs are his business but he insists upon showcasing them to suggest he is a man of great virtue. Personally I am pleased he considers himself to be a Christian but is it about time we saw the real Kevin Rudd?

Rudd has repeatedly demonstrated himself to be a 'man for all seasons'. He will change his beliefs to suit the climate and is happy to send the unwitting to do his grubby work.

Notwithstanding Mr Rudd's supreme embarrassment at his Copenhagen failure, his attempt to play the religious card to attack his opponent at Christmas time gives another insight into the character of our Prime Minister. I am sure that an increasing number of Australians don’t like what they see.


23 December, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has some derisive words for Kevin Rudd's Copenhagen junket.

Public pressure forces some decency out of offensive QANTAS subsidiary

Too bad if you can't get a major newspaper to give big publicity to your complaint, though

Jetstar has suspended a gate attendant who allegedly abused a female passenger and had her thrown off a flight and apologised for the airline's "unacceptable" response to the woman's complaint.

Mesha Sendyk was removed from a Sydney to Gold Coast flight earlier this month for allegedly shouting at a gate attendant and getting on the plane without a boarding pass. Ms Sendyk, 42, complained to the airline, alleging she was abused by the staff member in front of her six-year-old daughter and had her boarding pass snatched away during a highly-charged exchange with the man.

The airline's customer care manager responded to Ms Sendyk's complaint with an offer to refund her airfare, an accusation she behaved in an "unruly, disruptive or violent" manner and a threat to ban the Byron Bay-based artist from all Jetstar services in future.

But two days after the incident came to light, a senior airline executive phoned Ms Sendyk to tell her the gate attendant had been stood down. "[Jetstar group general manager commercial David Koczka] apologised repeatedly about [the attendant's] behaviour and [customer care manager] Michael Mirabito's letter," Ms Sendyk said. "He said 'I think what happened was terrible for you and then when we responded to your attempt to reconcile, the response we gave was just unacceptable'."

A Jetstar spokesman confirmed the gate attendant had been suspended pending an internal investigation into the incident. "Senior management have taken this matter seriously," the spokesman said. [About time] "We've spoken directly to the customer and apologised for the incident that happened at the gate." "We have very good customer service, we've got very strong passenger growth - we're the fastest growing airline in the region. "We stand by the fact we're an organisation that's proactive and takes these things seriously." [Really?? Not much sign of it]

Ms Sendyk said she was tremendously hurt by the airline's initial response to her written complaint, as well as further accusations, levelled through the media, that she was at fault. "I can't say I'm happy with the whole thing but I think their assurance that he's no longer going to be in a position where he can victimise members of the public is good," she said. "It hasn't been pleasant but I'm happy with the response.


Rudd's Super Clinics won't ease hospital emergency overload

Bed shortage is the major problem in the hospitals so how many beds do these clinics provide? ZERO

THE revelation that most of the Rudd government's GP super clinics will not be operating for at least another two years has brought opponents of this expensive program out into the open. The centrepiece of the government's health and hospital reform agenda is facing renewed criticism just as Tony Abbott has flagged Coalition support for a national referendum on a commonwealth takeover of hospital funding. It is worth remembering that then newly minted opposition leader Kevin Rudd made the same promise in the days of Kevin 07 and has backed away from it since.

Abbott's support for a referendum, however, could prove a policy game changer. The opposition is targeting the systemic problems that plague public hospitals run by giant state government bureaucracies. Direct federal funding of hospitals run by local boards is far superior to throwing taxpayers' dollars at so-called solutions to the hospital crisis, such as super clinics, that are more ideologically driven than evidence-based.

Under the $275 million super clinics program, the Rudd government is funding the start-up costs involved in bringing together general practitioners and allied health professionals, such as physiotherapists and podiatrists, who want to amalgamate their practices into one-stop shops. An initial 38 clinics have been announced in the past 18 months. General practitioners fear super clinics, generously subsidised by taxpayers, will compete unfairly and put established private practices out of business.

This follows the direct action taken by suburban GPs associated with the Doctors Action Group who in early November closed their surgeries in protest against the threat super clinics posed to the traditional family GP. GPs are legitimately worried about the long-term effect of large-scale and centralised super clinics on private general practice. The concern is that young doctors will not buy into an established practice, into which retiring doctors have invested large amounts of capital and years of service, when the alternative is to join a government-controlled super clinic for free with the capital costs paid for by taxpayers.

If private surgeries are crowded out and it becomes too costly and difficult to establish one from scratch, it is conceivable that a future federal government may force doctors to work in super clinics on a salaried basis. Super clinics are therefore a slippery slope that potentially could lead to the nationalisation of Australian general practice.

For the ideologues in the federal health bureaucracy opposed to private medicine, the end of fee-for-service GP care is a time-honoured objective. In fact, super clinics are a throwback to the Whitlam government's polyclinic model of the 1970s.

Publicly, at least, the Rudd government has consistently claimed that federally funded super clinics are designed to boost the provision of GP services and take the pressure off dangerously overcrowded public hospitals. The idea is that emergency departments will no longer be swamped by so-called GP-style patients with minor illnesses once a super clinic offering extended-hours services is established at a nearby location. Hence, Health Minister Nicola Roxon recently claimed the program already was helping to solve the hospital crisis, with a super clinic in Tasmania reportedly reducing by 13 per cent the number of people turning up at the nearby emergency department with minor illness.

This sounds impressive. But in reality this confirms how flawed the super clinics program is and how little pressure on hospitals they will relieve. Several studies have found patients with a cold or sore toe constitute only 10 per cent to 15 per cent of total emergency presentations. But because GP-style patients suffer uncomplicated conditions, they are in fact quick, easy and cheap to treat in emergency departments. They account for a mere fraction, 2 per cent to 3 per cent, of the total workload and for about just 7 per cent of total costs.

Locating extended-hours GP clinics near emergency departments has been found to produce, at best, "an average reduction in attendances of one patient every two hours while the clinics are open". Not surprisingly, studies have also shown it is far cheaper to treat the few GP-style patients in emergency rather than incur the huge capital overheads of establishing stand-alone GP facilities. The plan to divert GP-style patients into super clinics will therefore impose a huge cost on the federal budget, a cost that is difficult to justify given the insignificant effect super clinics will have on emergency workloads and costs.

But this isn't the half of it. Every credible study shows the critical national shortage of acute beds, not a lack of alternative GP services, is the real cause of the hospital crisis. Lack of beds - public beds have been cut by two-thirds since 1983 - is the reason more than one-third of emergency patients requiring unplanned admission are forced to queue on trolleys in hospital corridors for more than eight hours before being admitted to a bed.

Regardless of the facts, the government seems hell-bent on proceeding with a planned roll-out of a 300-strong national network of super clinics. Such waste of taxpayers' dollars on a non-solution for the hospital crisis is anything but an efficient and effective investment in sustainable and evidence-based health reform.

We are right, therefore, to suspect the ideological motives behind the super clinics program. As the health debate heats up ahead of next year's federal election, super clinics will look increasingly like the anachronism they are. Next year is shaping up as the year we finally get serious about structural reform of our public hospital system.


Green dream is just alien

By Andrew Bolt

MOST people will date the death of the great global warming scare not from the Copenhagen fiasco - boring! - but from Avatar. It won't be the world's most expensive warmist conference but the world's most expensive movie that will stick in most memories as the precise point at which the green faith started to shrivel from sheer stupidity. Avatar, in fact, is the warmist dream filmed in 3D. Staring through your glasses at James Cameron's spectacular $400 million creation, you can finally see where this global warming cult was going. And you can see, too, everything that will now slowly pull it back to earth.

December 2009. Note it down. The beginning of the end, even as Avatar becomes possibly the biggest-grossing film in history. Cameron, whose last colossal hit was Titanic, has created a virtual new planet called Pandora, on which humans 150 years from now have formed a small settlement. They are there to mine a mineral so rare that it's called Unobtainium (groan), of which the greatest deposit sits right under the great sacred tree of the planet's dominant species, humanoid blue aliens called Na'vi.

If Tim Flannery, Al Gore and all the other Copenhagen delegates could at least agree to design a new kind of people, they'd wind up with something much like these 3m-tall gracelings. The Na'vi live in trees, at one with nature. They worship Mother Earth and, like Gaians today, talk meaningfully of "a network of energy that flows through all living things". They drink water that's pooled in giant leaves, and chant around a tree that whispers of their ancestors. They are also unusually non-sexist for a forest tribe, with the women just as free as men to hunt and choose their spouse. Naturally, like the most fashionable of Hollywood stars, they are also neo-Buddhist reincarnationists, who believe "all energy is borrowed and some day you have to give it back". And, of course, the Na'vi reject all technology that's more advanced than a bow and arrow, for "the wealth of the world is all around us".

Sent to talk dollars and sense into these blue New Agers and move them out of the way of the bulldozers is a former Marine, Jake Sully (played by Australian Sam Worthington), who drives the body of a Na'vi avatar to better gain their trust. (WARNING: Spoiler alert! Don't read on if you plan to see the movie.) But meeting such perfect beings, living such low-emission green lives, Sully realises instead how vile his own species is. Humans, he angrily declares, have already wrecked their own planet through their greed.

"There is no green" on their "dying world" because "they have killed their mother". Now we land-raping humans plan to wreck Pandora, too, with our "shock-and-awe" bombings, our war on "terror" and our genocidal plans to destroy the Na'vi and steal their lands.

So complete is Cameron's disgust with humans - and so convinced he is that his audience shares it - that he's made film history: he's created the first mass-market movie about a war between aliens and humans in which we're actually meant to barrack for the aliens.

(WARNING: Second spoiler alert!) In fact, so vomitous are humans that Sully, the hero, not only chooses to fight on the side of the aliens but to actually become an alien, too. He rejects not just humans but his own humanity.

All of this preaching comes straight from what's left of Cameron's heart after five marriages and a professional reputation of on-set meanness. Avatar, he's said, tackles "our impact on the natural environment, wherever we go strip mining and putting up shopping malls", and it warns "we're going to find out the hard way if we don't wise up and start seeking a life that's in balance with the natural cycle on life on earth".

Mind you, most of this will be just wallpaper to the film's real audience, which won't be greenies in Rasta beanies or wearing save-the-whale T-shirts made in Guatemala. No, scoffing their popcorn as they wait impatiently for the inevitable big-bang shoot-'em-up after a fairground tour of some cool new planet will be the usual bag-laden crowd from the Christmas-choked megaplex - the kind of bug-eyed folk who thrill most to what Cameron claims to condemn, from the hi-tech to the militaristic.

Still, you can hardly blame them if they don't buy the message that Cameron's selling, since he doesn't really buy it himself. Here's Cameron condemning consumerism by spending almost half a billion dollars on a mass-market movie for the Christmas season complete with tie-in burger deals from McDonald's and Avatar toys from Mattel. Here's Cameron damning our love of technology by using the most advanced cinematographic technology to create his new green world. In fact, here's Cameron urging his audience to scorn material possessions and get close to nature, only to himself retire each night to the splendid comfort of his Malibu mansion.

Not even his own creations live up to the philosophy he has them preach. For all their talk of the connectedness of nature, the Na'vi still kill animals for food - although not before saying how sorry they are, of course, since we live in an age in which seeming sorry excuses every selfishness. Likewise, despite all their lectures on not exploiting nature, the Na'vi still come out top dog in the food chain. Even when they physically become at one with wild pterodactyls, by hooking up to them through some USB in their blue tails, they manage to convince their flying reptiles to act like their private jets.

Isn't this against the rules? I mean, in this caring and at-one-with-nature world, shouldn't a plugged-in pterodactyl just once in a while get to direct its human passenger instead - by either telling it to take a flying jump or to at least act like lunch?

In all of this, Avatar captures precisely - and to the point of satire - the creed of the Copenhagen faithful. Rewind what you've seen from those Copenhagen planet-savers in the past two weeks. There were the apocalyptic warnings of how we were killing the planet. There were the standing ovations the delegates gave last week to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's furious denunciations of capitalism, consumerism and the US military. There was Bolivian President Evo Morales' cry for a simpler life: "It's changing economic policies, ending luxury, consumerism ... living better is to exploit human beings."

THERE were great crowds of activists such as Australia's Professor Clive Hamilton, who, like Avatar's Jake Sully, sermonises on the need to embrace "Gaian earth in its ecological, cybernetic way, infused with some notion of mind or soul or chi". And there was the romanticising of the primitive by the demonstrators outside dressed as ferals and wild bears, as they banged tribal drums or chanted "Om" to Mother Earth.

Of course the Cameron-style have-it-both-ways hypocrites were there, too, luxuriating in the very lifestyles they condemned. Take Prince Charles, who flew in his private RAF jet to Copenhagen to deliver a lecture on how our careless use of resources had pushed the planet "to the brink". And then had his pilot fly him home to his palace.

But, yes, you are right. How can I say this great green faith is now toppling into the pit of ridicule, when Avatar seems sure to do colossal business? Won't a whole generation of the slack-jawed just catch this new green faith from the men in the blue costumes? That's a risk. But having the green faith made so alien and such fodder for the entertainment of the candybar crowds will rob it of all sanctimony and cool.

Would a Cate Blanchett really be flattered to now be likened to a naked Na'vi, running from a pack of wild dogs in a dark forest? Would an Al Gore really like to have millions of filmgoers see in 3D where his off-this-planet faith would lead them - up a tree, and without even a paddle? No, we can now see their green world, and can see, too, it's time to come home.


Beware girls in bars, warns Australian government agency

And it's one government warning that deserves notice

THE following scenario is neither joke nor fantasy, but a travel tip provided by the Federal Government. An Australian man is travelling overseas and walks into a bar. He is beckoned by a woman, who requests a drink. He quickly obliges. What did he do wrong?

According to a travel bulletin titled "Partying Overseas", issued this week by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the bar-goer should have checked the prices before bestowing his largesse. Otherwise, the bill could end up larger than his ego.

"Large numbers of Australians get into trouble overseas as a direct result of partying too hard and forgetting about simple safety precautions," says the bulletin. "Parties and festivals like Full Moon Parties in Koh Phangan, Thailand, and Oktoberfest in Germany can be fun experiences, but drinking too much or taking drugs can put you in difficult and often dangerous situations far from home. Australians have had their drinks spiked, had their documents stolen, been assaulted, injured, arrested, imprisoned and even killed."

The department lists risks and pitfalls such as leaving drinks unattended or getting drunk while carrying passports and valuables. It warns people not to miss the last ferry from island parties, to beware of foreign drinks with higher-than-expected alcohol content, and to pre-pay or check prices for food. "Before entering or ordering services in a bar, restaurant or other establishment that you or your friends are not familiar with, check that it has readily available price lists for food, drinks and other services it may offer. "If you don't, you may find yourself with an unexpectedly large bill, which you might be forced to pay under duress before you can leave. Be aware that in some bars there is strong coercion to buy drinks for others, for example for bar girls, and these drinks may be very expensive."

A spokeswoman for the department said it was concerned about reports of Australian party-goers falling into trouble. The bulletin was a "response to the increasing number of consular cases and comments to our consular feedback inbox regarding drink spiking, assaults and robberies occurring at parties overseas".

The department lists examples of Australians getting into trouble, including two in Europe who were taken to a bar by a friendly taxi driver. They failed to check the prices and received a bill for thousands of dollars. "Security guards" held one person and escorted the other to a nearby teller machine.


22 December, 2009

Barnaby becomes Labor's problem

Barnaby is a Queenslander and in good Queensland style is something of a populist. And populism has always played well in Queensland -- witness the long reign of Sir Johannes Bjelke-Peterson. And a rout in Queensland would tip Federal Labor out of power. From memory, the Whitlam Labor government retained only one out of 17 Queensland Federal seats in 1975 and that was the end of them. And that rout was largely the doing of the populist "Sir Joh"

THE Rudd government is clearly determined to create a media image of the opposition's finance spokesman, Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce, as totally compromised in his new frontbench role, the economic village idiot or a combination of both. Unfortunately for Labor this spin isn't working. In fact there are signs of growing public concern at the bully-boy tactics that Rudd and his cabinet colleagues have used to demonise anyone who dares to criticise the Prime Minister's policies.

Those who questioned the logic of Rudd's emissions trading scheme, and Joyce led this political assault, were denounced as climate change dinosaurs and economic vandals who should be cast into the wilderness because of their lack of support for Rudd's compassion over the future of the planet. But in immediate response to the Liberals' rejection of this scheme, after months of painful internal soul searching, the Liberal Party's stocks rose, as the last Newspoll showed.

The Liberals' decision to dump Malcolm Turnbull and support for the government's ETS, which he had fought tenaciously to preserve, vindicated the stand taken by Joyce. It also meant that the Rudd government had to carry its tattered ETS banner off to Copenhagen on its own. It can blame this humiliation more on Joyce than Abbott, who defeated Turnbull by the narrowest margin. So it is no wonder that when Joyce put his head up to raise the spectre of the US and some Australian states defaulting on their massive debt repayments, Rudd and his ministers tried to kick it off.

Joyce was variously condemned for shooting from the lip, advocating whacko economics and being an extremist. He also was attacked for urging a ban on investment in the resource sector by Chinese government-owned enterprises.

There is undeniable downside potential from the huge debts that have been run up by governments across the world in response to the global financial crisis. And there is considerable concern in Australia that the government is going out of its way to accommodate a resource-hungry China by softening foreign investment rules.

Nevertheless, Joyce seems to be well aware that he strayed into a minefield and, while not recanting his opinions, says he will now focus on his portfolio responsibilities. You only have to look at the wide area covered by Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner to see the potential for Joyce to shake up the government. To start with, he need go no further than the government's much vaunted national broadband network, where administrative responsibility is shared between Tanner and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.

This project has enormous financial implications for the whole country, including rural Australia, which will have to rely on satellite delivery for high-speed services instead of the fibre-optic cable the government plans to roll out into all homes and businesses in large cities and other high-density areas. Yet again the Nationals' rural constituency faces being relegated to second-class status in this latest attempt by government to create a communications superhighway. This assumes, of course, that the NBN gets off the ground.

But so far the taxpayer is being asked to take on trust the government's grand $43 billion scheme which, as yet, has no business plan. On a magic carpet ride of rhetoric recently, Rudd said the national broadband fibre-optic caravan, which is still to roll out of Tasmania, would create a platform for future innovation, drive new business efficiencies, support smart infrastructure, open new trade opportunities and contribute to productivity growth across the economy.

It also would address the challenge of greenhouse gas emissions, which it could reduce by 5 per cent, Rudd assured a government-organised forum designed to pump up the NBN's image. Part of this effect would come through the use of video-conferencing, reducing the need to travel for face-to-face meetings.

Clearly this option does not extend to the office of a Prime Minister who is highly sought after on the global diplomacy speaking circuit. Rudd's assessment of the NBN's positive effect on climate change ignores the increased energy demands that would be required to meet a substantial take-up of this high-speed service. Undaunted, Rudd says the NBN and the government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme go hand in glove in Labor's policy on climate change.

Now this is a worry, looking at how the ETS has blown up in the government's face. But what we are witnessing is an attempt by Rudd to wrap the NBN in the same blanket of political correctness he used to shield his ETS policy from its critics.

Considering Joyce's successful strike rate against this flawed ETS policy, it is no wonder that Rudd is pulling out all stops to try to knock him off his perch before the campaign begins for the next federal election.


Conservatives call for new estimate on cost of emissions trading scheme to families

KEVIN Rudd is under pressure to come clean on the likely cost-of-living impact of an emissions trading scheme if Australia goes it alone before other nations act.

The failure of the Copenhagen talks to deliver a binding treaty has prompted warnings from the opposition that the impact of an emissions trading scheme could now be greater on families. Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt said the government should commission modelling on the true impact of the scheme and whether it would go beyond original estimates of $1100 for families on average. “The real thing now is to release the impact on the cost of living of the ETS. Will the cost rise from $1100 to $1500 to $2000. Because his system was designed to fit in with an international scheme,” Mr Hunt said.

He said the existing Copenhagen Accord was a very weak document. “They've removed all the timeframes. The reason why the document has failed is because it was lower than the lower of expectations. I have to confess I was surprised at the result of the conference. That's because it removed all developed world commitments and therefore developing world,” he said. “In the draft document that was available in the hours before the so-called accord there were targets and timeframes for 2020 and 2050 - both of those disappeared in the final hours.”

Mr Hunt's call for modelling on the likely impact on families came after Climate Change Minister Penny Wong yesterday vowed to continue with the government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme bill in February.

The government's chief climate adviser, Ross Garnaut, has also warned that "deep cuts" in carbon emissions would be necessary to keep the Copenhagen aim of limiting a rise in global warming of 2C.

Greens' leader Bob Brown said the government's only option was to negotiate with the Greens in the Senate to get the ETS through in February.


A government that cannot pay its hospital bills -- even tiny ones

It tells you a lot that it sends its own employees to a private hospital rather than one of its own public hospitals. You can see why when you note the waiting mentioned below

AN injured prison officer waited five hours for treatment in a public hospital after she was turned away from a private centre contracted by the Government because of overdue bills. The State Government has a long-standing agreement with the Wakefield Emergency Centre to treat public-sector workers.

On Saturday, a female officer from the Adelaide Women's Prison with minor head injuries was denied treatment because government bills from early October had not been paid. The bills, totalling $196, were paid yesterday.

"Sometimes the government lapses a bit and the only recourse we have is to do that (deny treatment)," Dr Wolianskyj said. "We make sure it's nothing life-threatening (but) if the accounts are more than two or three months late . . . then we basically suspend the service."

All government accounts are the responsibility of the shared services department. Public Service Association general secretary Jan McMahon said she was "appalled that an injured corrections officer was unable to receive medical treatment because the Government has not paid its bills".


Political bias behind $15,000 funding cut to conservative magazine

THE conservative magazine Quadrant has accused the Australia Council of political bias after its annual grant for next year was cut by 30 per cent, from $50,000 to $35,000.

Quadrant's editor, the historian Keith Windschuttle, a key protagonist in the history wars who denies that the removal of Aboriginal children from their families was racist or deliberate policy, has written to subscribers saying the decision by the council's literature board was "patently political".

"Throughout the 11 years of the Howard government, its appointees never reduced the funding of overtly left-wing publications like Meanjin, Overland and Australian Book Review," Mr Windschuttle says in the letter. He says the entire Australia Council grant is used to pay writers and does not fund Quadrant's political commentary.

Grants to Meanjin ($50,000), Overland ($60,000) and the Australian Book Review ($115,000) are the same as they received this year.

Mr Windschuttle is appealing to readers to cover the $15,000 shortfall by renewing subscriptions or taking a premium $300 subscription which includes copies of Quadrant books such as his own new book, The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, volume 3, The Stolen Generations 1881-2008.

The Australia Council's director of literature, Susan Hayes, dismissed Mr Windschuttle's claims of bias as nonsense. "Politics simply doesn't come into it. It is all done on the literary merit, the skill of the editor and content." She said that this year Quadrant had received more generous funding because applications in another category had been substandard.

For next year funding had returned to its normal size but two new magazines, Griffith Review and Wet Ink, became eligible for funding and were successful. Griffith Review has been allocated $40,000 and the South Australian-based Wet Ink, which has the Nobel Laureate for literature J.M. Coetzee as an adviser, received $20,000.

Ms Hayes said that the board was also concerned that Quadrant and some other magazines were using too narrow a field of contributors, and it was not the only magazine to lose funding. "It is competitive and it's a small pot of money … There have been two chairs over the past two years and I have never seen a hint of political bias … One was a Howard government appointee and one was a Rudd Government appointee."


DC4 gets new lease of life

It's served time in the US Navy, lay dormant for years in the Arizona desert and was even seized for alleged drug-running in the Bahamas. But after a 16-month restoration, a historic 1943 DC4 World War II transport plane which has been out of action for 10 years, made its triumphant take-off at Archerfield Airport in Brisbane yesterday.

The military machine will become a flying museum to educate future generations about how air travel used to be.

Twenty volunteers from the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society, led by project manager Mike De La Hunty spent 5000 hours on the overhaul. "Sixteen months of hard work is about to pay off," a very excited Mr De La Hunty said before boarding. HARS executive member Ben Morgan said the society was proud to be able to restore historic aircraft.

It landed at Illawarra regional airport yesterday where its restoration will be finalised. It will be exhibited at air shows and the airport museum.


21 December, 2009

Weak Copenhagen outcome a boost for Australia's conservatives

Copenhagen's wishy-washy outcome is a boost for Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and a setback for the Prime Minister, as they look to an election year in which climate policy will be a core issue.

A strong agreement would have given Kevin Rudd backing for his decision to bring back rewritten emissions trading legislation in February. At a personal level, a successful conference would have been a diplomatic plus for Rudd, who was a "friend of the chair". Instead, the minimal progress, with eyes shifting to yet another conference some time next year, has made it easier for Abbott to maintain that other ways to cut emissions are better than a "great big new tax".

Rudd so hyped the need to get his scheme through before Copenhagen that, now the conference has ended with only a weak "accord", people will be inclined to say, "So what was the hurry? And why rush now?". The need for hastening the Australian legislation, which both Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull understood, was because of just what's happened. If Copenhagen delivered little, it was always going to be hard to get the wind back into the emissions trading sails here.

While Abbott is helped by Copenhagen, the climate issue will still be a slog for him. Possibly some voters will transfer their anger at lack of international progress on to those at home who have been sceptics or reluctant to do much. Climate will remain a significant issue, and if Abbott is to have credibility his alternative "direct action" policy will have to do enough and be properly costed.

Soon both Abbott and the Government will specify their targets for cutting emissions within Australia's currently declared range, announced for Copenhagen, of 5-25 per cent.

Rudd said at the weekend that "once we've put together all developed and developing countries' targets and commitments", Australia would determine its own target. Rudd is adamant that "Australia will do no less and no more than the rest of the world … That is why we'll wait 'til we see a pulling together of the aggregate commitments from the rest of the world."

The Opposition does not want an argument about the final target - that would complicate its challenge to the ETS. There will be timing issues - when the Opposition policy is released compared to when the Government sets the target. The Opposition will want to know the official target as soon as possible and its current aim would be to match that target, so it can argue it would do as much at less cost.

Abbott will be fighting not just Rudd but Turnbull. In a tough article in The Times, Turnbull has attacked Abbott, saying if he were "a leftist you could understand his reluctance for market-based mechanisms for putting a price on carbon". From now until the election Turnbull will be sitting on the backbench like a black crow, swooping from time to time to attack the man who deposed him over an issue that has become a passionate cause for the one-time environment minister.


Police investigate police in corrupt Victoria

The Victoria police are notoriously trigger-happy. Shooting disturbed people is their bag. A bullet replaces patience and negotiation

VICTORIA's police watchdog does not have the capacity to take over an investigation into the shooting of a fifteen year old boy at the hands of police, a court has heard. In the first hearing of a coronial inquest into the death of Melbourne teenager Tyler Cassidy, who was shot by Victorian police officers at a skateboarding park last December, State Coroner Jennifer Coate said the Office of Police Integrity would not take over the homicide investigation despite a push by Tyler's family for them to do so.

Members of Tyler's family have written to the OPI, requesting it to take control of the investigation so as to prevent a conflict that might arise from police investigating the actions of other police. It is understood that Youthlaw and the Human Rights Law Resource Centre have also made submissions to the Coroner requesting the investigation be taken out of the hands of Victoria Police.

State Coroner Coate confirmed that she had received concerns, "about the inappropriateness of the sector of police investigating police, in a matter such as this." "It's been requested that the investigation be taken over by the OPI, you may be aware that I have had communication with the OPI and the answer to that is no. "That capacity to basically take over an investigation of this magnitude is not available from the OPI," State Coroner Coate said. Justice Coate said she will instead receive "something in the form of an assessment of the adequacy of the police investigation by an experienced officer from the OPI."

Tyler's family did not attend court this morning. Through their lawyer, Jane Dixon SC, they said their absence from the hearing was "in protest of what they consider an inadequate investigation into the death.” "They feel that nothing is happening with the things that they are concerned about," she said. Ms Dixon told the hearing that the family had not been informed by the appropriate authorities that they had a right to refuse to submit Tyler's body for autopsy. "They feel misinformed," Ms Dixon said.

The coronial inquest is not likely to begin until the second half of next year.


Useless ankle bracelet system for Victorian criminals

Another "high" for Victorian law enforcement

A SEX fiend is accused of randomly attacking eight women while wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet. The freed inmate is believed to have been on a night curfew, so the tag would alert authorities only if he left home after dark. But it's understood the assaults occurred in daylight.

The case again calls into question the controversial program of Extended Supervision Orders, under which prisoners are freed on strict conditions and fitted with the bracelets to stop them re-offending.

The man, who can't be named, is accused of going on a two-month spree, indecently assaulting eight women, one of whom was holding her baby in the street. He is also charged with stalking, wilful and obscene exposure, and offensive behaviour.

The woman who was holding her baby could scarcely believe it when she was groped in a western suburbs street. "He didn't turn around; then he did look back, and kept walking as he looked back," she said. She felt "violated". "How do you rehabilitate someone like that?"

The man was arrested on September 25 and is on remand for crimes that occurred over the previous two months. He is expected to face court in February.

Police Association secretary Greg Davies said Corrections Victoria needed to monitor offenders more closely and not rely too heavily on the monitoring technology. "Talk about all care, no responsibility," Sen-Sgt Davies said. "What good's a bracelet on their foot? "It doesn't stop them attacking someone. How many times do you have to take these kind of offenders out of society?"

Corrections Victoria said it could not comment, as the case was before the courts. But a spokeswoman said laws to take effect soon could keep high-risk sex offenders behind bars even after the end of their jail terms. "Courts will have the power to detain sex offenders in prison, if they are deemed as so high-risk they cannot be managed in the community, for up to three years; though this could be extended indefinitely," she said.

In Victoria, 23 sex offenders are on ESOs, and another 22 are living in a compound outside Ararat Prison, in the state's west. In October, the State Government signalled a move towards putting convicted arsonists on ESOs during fire season. The ankle bracelets are linked to a central monitoring system that notifies a central server of any breaches.


"Merry Christmas" makes a comeback after Parramatta Council dumps "Seasons Greetings" signs

COUNCILS have turned their backs on political correctness, reinstating the "Merry Christmas" greeting to its rightful place. Parramatta Council, in Sydney's west, has taken down its "season's greetings" banners in favour of posters wishing "Merry Christmas". The move came after the council produced Christmas cards and 50 banners for five years without mentioning Christmas once.

Councillors believe the politically correct banners reflected "a secular view of Christmas" instead of the "traditional Australian view of Christmas". "Our community is fed up with this erosion of the true meaning and essence of Christmas through this ridiculous pre-emptive surrender of the real Christmas on the basis it may offend someone," councillor Michael McDermott said. "All we do is offend the great majority of our residents by this politically correct nonsense and watering down of the historically accurate view of Christmas. "This is not some puerile statement, it is a debate that our communities need to have about the essence of Christmas and the manner in which political correctness is used to attack and erode it."

He put forward a move to reinstate the phrase "Merry Christmas" on banners, websites, booklets, leaflets, and for Christmas events, as well as to cover the words "season's greetings" on all banners within the Parramatta CBD with "Merry Christmas". Staff were asked to design a range of banners that illustrated "the traditional notion of Christmas, and the nativity version and traditional Christian notion of Christmas".

A council spokesman said four new "Merry Christmas" posters would be hung at selected sites and new Christmas banners would be made next year.


20 December, 2009

Opposition Leader slams Rudd over Copenhagen 'failure'

THE Copenhagen conference on climate change has been a "comprehensive failure" for the prime minister, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says. After 13 days of tortuous talks the representatives of 192 nations have set a goal of limiting warming to 2C and earmarked $US10 billion ($A11.28 billion) in early funding for poor countries most at risk from climate change.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd threw his support behind the deal as "a significant global agreement on climate change action", but said much more remained to be done. "Some will be disappointed by the amount of progress, the alternative was frankly catastrophic collapse," he told reporters at the troubled summit.

However, Mr Abbott said the result was a rebuff to the prime minister. "Intentions are better than nothing, but Mr Rudd has failed his own test," Mr Abbott told Sky News today. "He said a few years ago that what we wanted to get were real targets against real time lines ... and certainly by that standard it's been a comprehensive failure."

He said such agreement as was reached by world leaders was too unspecific to be of value. "We can all say let's get temperature increases down, but they haven't said what they would do to bring that about ... They've said let's not let the temperature go up by more than two degrees but they haven't said how they're going to achieve it. "No country at Copenhagen has committed to any particular way forward. That's why I think it's very disappointing and that's why I think it's very hard for the prime minister, who always said real progress meant real targets against real time lines, it's very hard for him to claim any kind of a victory."

Mr Abbott added: "What this shows is that Kevin Rudd was very unwise to rush Australia into prematurely adopting a commitment in the absence of similar commitments from the rest of the world, and I think it certainly entirely vindicates the opposition's stance in rejecting Mr Rudd's great big new tax on everything when parliament was sitting earlier this month."


Big spending, poor results

TREASURY Secretary Ken Henry observed in a recent speech to the Whitlam Institute that the Whitlam government was "responsible for an enduring increase in the size of government". No argument there. But he went on to suggest this expansion "has never been reversed and I think I can safely say that it never will be".

Not so fast Ken! It is true government spending has increased dramatically. In Australia, commonwealth government spending was pushing 20 per cent of gross domestic product before Gough Whitlam came to power. The Rudd government has taken the commonwealth's expenditure share to 27.8 per cent of GDP this financial year, following the biggest increase in federal spending since Whitlam. Spending by all levels of government in Australia was about 34 per cent of GDP in 2007-08, even before the federal government's stimulus. The Treasury's last Intergenerational Report projected a further 4.75 percentage point increase in the government spending share of GDP by 2046-47 in the absence of changes to government policy.

But how big should government be? According to Henry, "the optimal size of government is not a question that can be answered by a technical economic analysis".The issue, he says, "goes beyond aggregates to broader issues of wellbeing".

Under Henry, Treasury has adopted a "wellbeing framework". It identifies wellbeing with several criteria: the level of freedom and opportunity that people enjoy; aggregate consumption possibilities; the distribution of consumption possibilities; the level of risk that people bear; and the level of complexity people are required to deal with.

Yet no policymaker committed to improving the wellbeing of the Australian people based on this framework can be resigned to a permanent expansion in the size of government. On the contrary, there is abundant evidence that big government fails these criteria for promoting wellbeing.

The literature on the optimal size of government finds that beyond a certain size, government hinders rather than helps the private sector to capture gains from trade and to generate income and wealth. This results in a narrower tax base, so that government revenue and spending actually become smaller in absolute terms than if the government share of GDP remained capped at its optimal size. Limiting the size of government as a share of GDP not only expands aggregate consumption possibilities, it increases the scope for improved distribution of consumption possibilities through the tax system.

The threshold at which the government share of GDP begins to reduce rather than promote economic growth is necessarily imprecise. Gerald Scully calculated that the optimal size of government for the US and New Zealand was between 19 per cent and 23 per cent of GDP. It would be surprising if the optimal size of government were any larger in Australia. Remarkably, John Maynard Keynes took a similar view. Keynes agreed on 25 per cent as the maximum tolerable proportion of taxation.

We can look beyond the implications of big government for economic growth to consider its implications for other indicators in areas such as health, education and the environment. Economists Vito Tanzi and Ludger Schuknecht conducted a review of the effects of increased government spending on a range of non-economic indicators in their book Public Spending in the 20th Century: A Global Perspective.

They found growth in the size of government in the post-war period was associated with worse outcomes in almost every economic and social dimension. They concluded the optimal size of government is less than 30 per cent of GDP and that most governments in the developed world exceeded their optimal size between 1960 and 1980. Tanzi and Schuknecht argue the second half of the 20th century constituted a global experiment in the effects of the growth of government, which pointed to its failure to improve wellbeing as defined by Treasury. Yet Henry insists a "lack of evidence of a clear relationship between increased expenditure and better outcomes is not to say that more expenditure will not improve outcomes". This sounds like a triumph of hope over experience. What makes the expansion in the size of government so insidious is that the economic possibilities and improved wellbeing that are forgone as a consequence are never seen by the public. As someone interested in promoting the wellbeing of the Australian people, Henry should be challenging this complacency, rather than resigning us to it.


Greenies think that libel is free speech -- when they do the libelling

A Greenie MP's costly outburst raises questions about free speech. Must we watch what we say in the tea room? Might we be taped? Note however that the offender is a notorious extremist

The politician who said too much will return to the scene of the crime tonight. There'll be music and comedians at a fund-raiser for Ian Cohen at the Suffolk Park Progress Association hall, just south of Byron Bay. "And I might walk around with a gag on," says Cohen, a NSW Greens upper house MP. "The less I say, the better."

It was in this same hall in April 2001 that Cohen now admits he was unwise to speak out about a local developer, Jerry Lee Bennette, during two benefit concerts for Bill Mackay, a school teacher. Bennette had been suing Mackay for defamation over a letter to a newspaper criticising an environmental award to the developer for his gated community. Cohen was helping to raise funds to cover Mackay's legal costs. Little did Cohen know that Bennette had sent in private investigators who secretly taped his address. As three courts have heard, Cohen called Bennette a thug and a bully who was suing to stop criticism and stifle public debate - a so-called SLAPP suit (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation).

For that outburst, which was found to be untrue, Bennette sued Cohen, too. The MP now owes the developer more than $1 million, only $15,000 of which is the damages for the defamation. The rest is legal costs. "It is not as though he called him a pedophile or a wife-beater or something," Cohen's barrister, Clive Evatt, told the High Court last month. To no avail. Tonight's show will make a small dent in Cohen's bill. He is selling his Tamarama flat, which might cover half of it. He has raised another $45,000 in donations. He's been offered loans.

But this case is about much more than Ian Cohen, Evatt says. It has "very big" implications for freedom of speech, he claims. The barrister says the NSW Court of Appeal has significantly narrowed the common law defence of qualified privilege for defamation. Evatt warns this should alarm anyone inclined to speak their mind in a small forum, or anyone who dares to make robust comments about their boss or the strata manager.

"That's rubbish," says Bruce McClintock, SC, who represented Bennette. "The defence of qualified privilege has never protected gossip, backstabbing or abuse." McClintock says it has nothing to do with free speech and everything to do with a long-term malicious vendetta against his client by green groups in Byron Bay.

While a jury had found in 2007 that Cohen did indeed defame the developer, Justice Ian Harrison accepted Cohen's defence of qualified privilege. To rely on this defence, a person must have an interest or a duty - legal, social or moral - to make the statement to the people receiving it, and they must have a reciprocal interest or duty to hear it. Those who attended the hall had paid an entry fee in support of Bill Mackay. Justice Harrison suggested it was contrary to society's interest that people's rights should be hampered "by constant fear of actions for slander".

The judge ruled there was no malice in Cohen's remarks, at least in those inside the hall. But Justice Harrison said Cohen did demonstrate malice when, in November 1999, he called a local surf club and suggested, without foundation, that Bennette had assaulted a junior member.

The judge also said Bennette had been "prepared to dish it out when it suited him" and had "dedicated much of his life to putting people offside". He considered Bennette's 1996 conviction for assaulting the filmmaker David Bradbury, altercations with neighbours and an often "poisonous" relationship with Cohen. This included Bennette's apprehended violence order against Cohen, later dropped, in 2000. Bennette told the Herald he had been subjected to a malicious campaign, and he disputed Justice Harrison's remarks.

In March this year, the Court of Appeal overturned Justice Harrison's finding. Declaring Bennette was "a thug and a bully does not advance the cause of free speech, the environment or justice", Justice David Ipp said. The High Court refused Cohen leave to appeal last month.

McClintock said: "It is simply ridiculous to say that this case has any freedom of speech implications whatever. What sort of society would we live in if people could purvey … false gossip to their friends under the protection of the law?"

Cohen accepts the right to seek legal redress for defamation. After all, he sued Channel Seven and The Daily Telegraph. But he says there is a key difference: his own remarks, secretly taped, were never meant for wide consumption. Nevertheless, Cohen says: "The damages against me of $15,000 - I can cop that. But when you have a bill for costs from the plaintiff for $1,015,000, there's quite a discrepancy." He now self-censors his remarks.

"That is no good for democracy," says Bob Brown, the federal Greens leader, who believes others will be hushed. Brown was one of the so-called Gunns 20 - the 17 individuals and three organisations that the forestry company sued in 2004 for $6.4 million for activities ranging from protest to public statements. Five years and $2.8 million later, Gunns has dropped its case against 16 of the defendants, including Brown. Its claims against the remaining four amount to just $184,000.

The ACT has adopted the Greens' anti-SLAPP legislation. Brown wants the rest of Australia to follow its lead and that of some US states and introduce the legislation to ensure cases are thrown out if they are designed to prevent protest or debate.

But McClintock rejects the notion that Bennette's cases were SLAPP suits. They were "quite different from Gunns' misguided case … It was not started to shut Cohen up but to vindicate the plaintiff from a false (as the judge found), defamatory (as the jury found), public attack on him."

Cohen will retire in March 2011. Before he goes, he is considering a private member's bill seeking to ensure costs in such cases are commensurate with any damages.

The debate on freedom of speech is far from settled, but there are two certainties: a considerably poorer politician and an aggrieved small-time developer.

Cohen had been planning, in retirement, to do volunteer work in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. "I had big plans but they've been cast astray." He will have to see, but he is not crying poor. He has one property and a stake in another, both with mortgages, around Byron Bay. He knows others do it much tougher. He works with the disabled. Cohen recalls a Buddhist saying: "If they burn down your house, the better you can see the moon."

Jerry Lee Bennette is not so sanguine. "It is not possible to put into a few words the hurt to my family and myself caused by Mr Ian Cohen MP in what I regard as a malicious campaign to destroy my reputation and business."


Dangerously sluggish government medical services again

After a stroke a 73-year-old man has to wait 35 mins for the ambulance

A 73-year-old man waited at least 35 minutes for an ambulance after suffering a stroke at the breakfast table. The ambulance service defended its response in the case of Craig Laird, whose family is upset help did not arrive faster. Paramedics were sent from Lara, outside Geelong, even though he lives near the city's heart.

Mr Laird's daughter Trish McClure said she arrived 15 minutes after her mother Priscilla called for help to find no ambulance at their home in Pleasant St, Newtown. "I pulled up and thought I'd missed it," she said. Mrs McClure said her mother phoned a second time while waiting because she was alarmed.

Ambulance Victoria said the call-out was logged as a code two rather than the top priority code one, because they had been told Mr Laird had had a heart attack but was conscious. A Geelong ambulance was en route to Pleasant St but was diverted to a code one job, so the Lara crew was sent.

AV's general manager of regional services Tony Walker said the code two assessment was based on a "robust process" and, had Mr Laird been unconscious, the ambulance would have been sent with lights and sirens. "We do apologise to the family," he said. Mr Walker said the crew arrived 35 minutes after the first call but Mr Laird's family said it was longer.

Mrs McClure said she did not believe the delay made any difference to her father's plight but he deserved quicker help. Mr Laird was believed to be in a stable condition in hospital last night. Opposition health spokesman David Davis said: "Stroke patients should not be left vulnerable by delayed ambulances."

The Herald Sun this week revealed that Yarrawonga woman Kim Broadbent was left impaled on a fence post for 47 minutes before ambulance help arrived. Former St Kilda footballer Laurie Stephenson was not seen by a paramedic until 38 minutes after he collapsed with a fatal heart attack.


19 December, 2009

I am a lucky lad!

Why? Because I received a Christmas card from Kevin Rudd! I must admit that it is the first time I have received a Christmas card from a Prime Minister. I think it is because he is my local member or something like that. It is a rather small card so I suspect that there is a hierarchy of such things and more important people get better cards. Anyway, I am happy to be at the bottom of the ladder. Climbing ladders has never been my thing.

At least I think it is a Christmas card. The word "Christmas" does not appear anywhere on it -- unsurprisingly in these times. See below. The major motif seems to be an abstract impression of one of Brisbane's splendid "CityCats" (municipal catamaran ferries on the Brisbane river) going under a bridge. The writing on the trees etc is simply a collection of names of Brisbane suburbs, misspelled in one case. I guess they are the suburbs that are covered by the CityCat service.

Kevvy's signature is a bit surprising: Almost feminine. But I doubt that he signs his cheques that way. I wonder what a graphologist would make of it?

The charade of "child protection" by Australian government agencies

By Dr Jeremy Sammut

In 2009, Dantean images of child abuse and neglect have reminded us that child protection authorities continue to fail vulnerable children. Recall the seven year-old autistic girl starved to the death by her parents on the mid-north coast of NSW. When her body was discovered in the faeces-ridden bedroom she died a prisoner in, ‘Ebony’ weighted just 9 kg. Black vomit and bull ants ran from her mouth and nose.

Remember two-year old Dean Shillingsworth who longed to be nurtured by his violent mother. When Dean ‘clung’ to the woman who bore him, she responded not with a mother’s love but with murderous rage – she choked him to death, shoved his corpse into a suitcase, and threw it into a lake in South West Sydney.

Yet amid the darkness appears a slither of light and hope. The least horrific image (relatively speaking) is the most important; it reveals the truth of the child protection crisis.

In 2004, Dean’s elder sister was hit and kicked by her mother’s boyfriend. The girl, aged just three, walked more than a kilometre, unaccompanied, to the home of a relative.

Dean’s sister knew that her family situation was abnormal, that she was in danger, and that she needed a haven. This elemental tale of human instinct and survival (detailed in the NSW Ombudsman’s report into Dean’s death) is in its own way the modern-day equivalent of the story of the ‘Rabbit-Proof Fence.’ It tells us that even a three-year-old knows that the current approach to child protection in this country is fatally flawed.

In the last 40 years, removal of children has become a last resort. Standard practice in all states and territories is to leave at risk children with their parents and instead provide dysfunctional families with ‘appropriate’ support services.

Dean and Ebony’s parents had a long history of involvement with the NSW Department of Community Services. Despite numerous reports of risk of harm, DoCS did not adequately investigate, and Ebony and Dean were not even seen to check on their welfare. Therefore, no action was taken to remove either child from obviously unsafe environments. In Dean’s case, a taxpayer-funded charity did all it could to ensure his mother kept custody of the children she was unfit to care for.

Unless child protection authorities and their political masters face up to the harsh realities and responsibilities involved in effective child protection, the deaths of Ebony and Dean will have truly been in vain.

All reports of child abuse and neglect must be fully investigated, and many children need to be removed from their families to keep them safe. Unless we start rescuing more children, this won’t be the last Christmas haunted by memories of unwanted and unloved kids who should have been saved.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated December 18. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Warmist scientists 'crying wolf' over coral reefs

At last some logic and common-sense. I notice that alarmist Hoagy is not saying much these days after some of his own research showed great resilience in coral. It's just amazing how Warmists routinely ignore the fact that corals survived much warmer episodes in the prehistoric past

A SENIOR marine researcher has accused Australian scientists of "crying wolf" over the threat of climate change to the Great Barrier Reef, exposing deep division about its vulnerability.

Peter Ridd's rejection of the consensus position that the reef is doomed unless greenhouse emissions are checked comes as new research on the Keppel group, hugging Queensland's central coast, reveals its resilience after coral bleaching. Professor Ridd, a physicist with Townsville's James Cook University who has spent 25 years investigating the impact of coastal runoff and other problems for the reef, challenged the widely accepted notion that coral bleaching would wipe it out if climate change continued to increase sea surface temperatures. Instead of dying, the reef could expand south towards Brisbane as waters below it became warmer and more tolerable for corals, he said.

His suggestion is backed up by an Australian Institute of Marine Science research team headed by veteran reef scientist Ray Berkelmans, which has documented astonishing levels of recovery on the Keppel outcrops devastated by bleaching in 2006.

Professor Ridd said scientists who predicted corals would be mostly extinct by mid-century had a credibility problem because the Great Barrier Reef was in "bloody brilliant shape". He said the reef had defied predictions that it would be overwhelmed by crown of thorns starfish, smothered in sediment from river runoff or poisoned by sediment and chemicals washed on to corals from the mainland. He accepted that ocean acidification associated with climate change was a genuine danger because it could impede the process of coral calcification, destroying the reef's building block. Scientists responsible for "crying wolf" over lesser threats had done the research community a disservice, he said.

"Ten years ago, I was told that the coral was going to die from sediment, and we have proved that is complete rubbish," Professor Ridd told The Weekend Australian. "They are saying that pesticides are a problem, but when you look at the latest data, that is a load of rubbish. They are saying bleaching is the end of the world, but when you look into it, that is a highly dubious proposition. "So when something comes along like the calcification problem, you are sort of left with this wolf story . . . they are crying wolf all the time."

Leading scientists including former AIMS chief scientist Charlie Veron and reef research pioneer Ove Hoegh-Gulberg, who attended the Copenhagen talks on climate change, have warned that the Great Barrier Reef will be destroyed by the middle of the century if ocean temperatures continue to rise, unleashing more frequent and lethal bleaching. Mass bleaching was recorded on the Great Barrier Reef in 1998 and 2002, affecting up to 60 per cent of all corals. The last severe outbreak, in which stressed corals eject the symbiotic algae that provide them with nutrients, causing many to die, was localised on the Keppel reefs three years ago.

More than 95 per cent of the corals were affected, of which about a third died. The corals became stressed after the water temperature topped 28.5C and began to die when it hit 30C and stayed at that level for a week or more, with limited wind or cloud cover to ease the heating.

Scientists have found the tolerance level of corals varies. Reefs around Magnetic Island, off Townsville, can withstand water temperatures in the low 30s, while those off Yemen, at the foot of the Arabian peninsula, live in temperatures that can reach 34C.

As The Weekend Australian reports today, some of the corals on the Keppel outcrops are more thickly covered in coral than before bleaching in 2006, raising hope the living heart of the reef can acclimatise to spikes in water temperature through a remarkable process of algal shuffling. "That was a real surprise," Dr Berkelmans said, conducting us on an underwater tour of what he calls his "lab rat" reefs at the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef.

He said the findings made him more optimistic about the ability of corals to adapt to climate change, especially on inshore reefs such as those in the Keppels. "People say the reef is dying," Dr Berkelmans said. "The Great Barrier Reef is 2000km long, with 3000 reefs. Are you telling me all of it is going to die?

"I don't think so. There are some areas that are naturally more resilient than others, there are some areas that see warmer temperatures less frequently because of favourable oceanography or other factors . . . We might lose species, and we might lose them at many reefs. The Great Barrier Reef would look vastly different, but the reef would still be there."

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority chairman Russell Reichelt, a former AIMS scientist who worked on crown of thorns outbreaks, said Professor Ridd had cherrypicked data to support his thesis that the threat to the reef was exaggerated. "I would liken it to the medical debate around `Does smoking cause cancer?'," Dr Reichelt said. [No facts. Just abuse. Typical Warmist]


Conservative leader says all children should be taught about the Bible

BIBLE classes should be compulsory so children have a fundamental understanding of Christianity on leaving school, federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says. "I think everyone should have some familiarity with the great texts that are at the core of our civilisation," Mr Abbott told the Herald Sun. "That includes, most importantly, the Bible.

"I think it would be impossible to have a good general education without at least some serious familiarity with the Bible and with the teachings of Christianity. "That doesn't mean that people have to be believers."

But former Howard government Islamic advisor Dr Ameer Ali, said Mr Abbott's remarks were "over the top". "It's one thing to say every child needs a good knowledge of history and geography or science," Dr Ali said. "But it is something else to say all children should have a knowledge of the Bible. That might hurt other people who have their own holy scriptures," he said.

And the Australian Education Union's federal president, Angelo Gavrielatos, said that religion was not a priority for schools. "There is a place for comparative studies of religion in the curriculum, but ultimately we consider it a private matter for parents and their children," he said.


Australian students save on fees by studying in New Zealand

Some New Zealand universities (e.g. Victoria, Otago) have a very good name indeed so this is good thinking. I would go there myself if I were still a poor student

AUSTRALIAN students are gaining university degrees at half the price by heading across the Tasman to study in New Zealand. It's a chance to turn the tide on the Kiwi influx, because a little-known government deal means New Zealand taxpayers are subsidising more than 2000 Australians to study at NZ universities.

Unlike other international students, Australians qualify for domestic status meaning they pay the same fees as the locals, and they also qualify for the low-cost student loan HELP (formerly HECS) equivalent, Study Link, and also the Austudy equivalent for living allowances.

Year 12 school leavers around the country will soon find out if they managed to get into their desired universities. If they miss out, Renee Walker, head of marketing for Christchurch-based Canterbury University, suggests giving the land of the long white cloud a go. "Course costs are subsidised and generally cheaper than Australian universities, especially with the exchange rate. And on-campus accommodation is also very reasonable," she said. On-campus accommodation ranges from $NZ198 ($158) a week self-catered, to $NZ375 ($299) a week for all meals, electricity and phone.

Recent figures released by the Federal Government revealed 20 per cent of first-year university students in Australia drop out with financial hardship cited as a leading factor. Other students who complete their degrees leave with a HELP debt ranging from $15,000 to $40,000. Last year there were 1.3 million Australians with accumulated HELP debts of about $14.6 billion, according to the Australian Tax Office.

Sue Sundstrom of the NSW Careers Advisory Association said New Zealand was a viable alternative, especially for regional students who faced travel to a major metro university anyway. David Berridge, a career counsellor with a Sydney eastern suburbs school, said two of the school's year 12 students were thinking of studying business at Otago. "The UAI (Universities Admissions Index) is lower, 74-76, so if kids miss out here, it's certainly worth looking at," he said.

At Sydney University, an arts degree costs $5300 a year. At Monash in Victoria, it's about $6300 and $5400 at University of Queensland. At Canterbury University in New Zealand, the same degree will cost $NZ4500 ($3598) a year. Over the course of a three-year degree, that's $6000 to $9000 saved.

More expensive courses such as economics and engineering cost $7567 a year at Sydney University, $7300 at Monash and $8625 at UQ. Over the Tasman, the most expensive courses offered at Canterbury are $NZ5500 ($4398), again a saving of between $3000 and $4000 a year.


More rapes by "refugee" Africans?

Ethnicity of offenders is zealously suppressed these days but the last sentence seems to give the game away. Lebanese Muslims are also known for callous pack rapes but Arabic interpreters should not be hard to find.

I like to do all I can towards defeating censorship. I have a whole blog specifically aimed at that, in fact. And if I get it wrong, the fault lies with the secrecy, not me.

A TEENAGE boy charged over the pack rape of two 15-year-old girls told police he'd done nothing wrong and the girls wanted it, a court heard today. The 16-year-old boy, one of two charged today with the pack rape involving up to 10 males in Melbourne in October, had shown no remorse, police informant Detective Dave Newman told a children's court.

"It seemed in the interview any girl outside at night and drinking alcohol is fair game and I have a major concern he could do this to other people," he told the court. "I am quite disturbed and have major concerns about that attitude being back on the streets and going straight back to reoffending with members of the public or witnesses."

The 16-year-old boy from Broadmeadows was charged with four counts of rape and a 17-year-old boy from Coolaroo has been charged with two counts of rape.

The court heard a graphic account of how the girls were raped repeatedly and taunted by up to 10 males. Someone close to the defendant had talked about burning the girls' house down while the defendant talked about "buying the girls" to get himself off, the court heard.

A lawyer for the boy told the magistrate he had no criminal history and should be granted bail as two other males involved in the case had been. A magistrate said she was concerned the boy was a risk and was convinced that the two girls were petrified and remanded him in custody until another hearing next month.

The 17-year-old will apply for bail next week and will spend the weekend behind bars after an interpreter could not be found to appear in court.


18 December, 2009

A victory for the right to express an opinion

Owners of defunct Sydney restaurant lose defamation case against food critic. Sadly, such cases are not always won by the critic

THE owners of a now defunct Sydney restaurant have lost their defamation case over a food critic's bad review. Aleksandra Gacic, her sister Ljiljana Gacic and Branislav Ciric sued publisher John Fairfax and critic Matthew Evans over the review of their restaurant Coco Roco at Sydney's King Street Wharf.

In September 2003, the Sydney Morning Herald published a review referring to "unpalatable" dishes, describing the restaurant's overall value as "a shocker" and scoring it 9/20 - in the "stay home" category. The restaurant went into administration in March 2004.

The article was found to have conveyed three defamatory meanings. Firstly, that it sold some unpalatable food, secondly, that it provided some bad service, and thirdly, that the trio were incompetent restaurant owners because they employed a chef who made poor quality food.

In the NSW Supreme Court on Friday, Justice Ian Harrison delivered a verdict for the publisher and Mr Evans, ordering the trio to pay their legal costs. He found the defence of comment had been established in relation to the three meanings. He also found the defence of truth had been established in relation to some bad service.


Net filters 'thin end of the wedge': Kirby

I don't agree with Justice Kirby often but I do on this one

Former High Court judge Michael Kirby has criticised the Federal Government's internet censorship agenda, saying it could stop the "Berlin Walls of the future" from being knocked down.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, announced he would introduce legislation before next year's elections forcing ISPs to block a secret blacklist of "refused classification" (RC) websites for all Australian internet users. Most experts agree that Conroy's policy will not result in any meaningful dent in the availability of harmful internet content, will create significant freedom of speech issues and will be prone to abuse by politicians.

Almost 20,000 people have voted in a Fairfax Media poll on internet censorship and 96 per cent of respondents oppose the filters, which the Government itself has admitted could be easily bypassed and do not cover peer-to-peer, instant messaging or other communications protocols. Nearly 120,000 Australians signed a petition against internet censorship by online activist group GetUp.

In an interview with Fairfax Radio this morning, Kirby said some circles feared the controversial policy would be "the thin end of the wedge of the Government moving in to regulating the actual internet itself". "Once you start doing that you get into the situation of Burma and Iran where the Government is taking control of what people hear and what information they get," he said, adding that Australia's approach hadn't been attempted anywhere else in the world.

Google has also entered the debate, saying yesterday the scope of the content to be filtered went too far beyond child pornography and that the "heavy handed" approach would restrict freedom of expression. "Refused Classification (or RC) is a broad category of content that includes not just child sexual abuse material but also socially and politically controversial material - for example, educational content on safer drug use - as well as the grey realms of material instructing in any crime, including politically controversial crimes such as euthanasia," Google Australia's head of policy, Iarla Flynn, said. "This type of content may be unpleasant and unpalatable but we believe that government should not have the right to block information which can inform debate of controversial issues."

Kirby and Google's concerns mirror that of Sydney University Associate Professor Bjorn Landfeldt, who said yesterday that there was no clear definition of "refused classification" and the goalposts dictating what content is prohibited could be substantially widened in future. Already, the refused classification category includes a significant proportion of legal material such as regular gay and straight porn sites, fetish sites, euthanasia material and innocuous sites that have been mistakenly prohibited.

"It was through 'public complaints mechanisms' like the one Conroy is proposing, that classic literature such as The Catcher in the Rye, Ulysses and The Story of the Kelly Gang were once banned in Australia," GetUp said.

Landfeldt also criticised the pilot trial report used by the Government to justify the policy, saying the trials were designed to succeed from the outset, presented no new information and were now being used by the Government to further its political agenda.

The Government has said 15 other Western democracies have implemented the same filtering plan but most of the other countries have made the scheme voluntary for ISPs and the blacklisted content is limited to child pornography. "Australia's proposed regime would uniquely combine a mandatory framework and a much wider scope of content, the first of its kind in the democratic world," Flynn said.

In a phone interview, Flynn said it was too early to say what effect the filters would have on Google's services but "if you were to look at YouTube today and ask: 'Is there material on YouTube which could be considered refused classification?', the answer would have to be 'yes' ".

Conroy's policy has attracted significant ridicule from international commentators and media, with news headlines such as "Australia plans Chinese-style internet filtering" and "Joining China and Iran, Australia to filter internet" appearing on the and FOXNews websites.


Corporate watchdog bites the dust yet again

They're absolutely brainless. Can't they find something useful to do?

WESTPAC has thwarted the corporate watchdog's attempt to stop it issuing 900,000 new debit cards to customers who did not ask for one. The Federal Court yesterday declared the bank had acted lawfully when it began sending customers unsolicited Mastercard debit cards to replace their existing Handycard debit cards, The Australian reports.

Westpac stopped the rollout in May after the Australian Securities & Investments Commission expressed concern that the bank's actions contravened the ASIC Act. The case hinged on whether Westpac had breached section 12DL of the act, which says a person may not be sent an unsolicited credit or debit card unless the card is a replacement for "a card of the same kind".

It was the first time that section of the act had been considered by a court and opens the way for other banks to follow Westpac's lead. ASIC argued in court that the new debit card was not the same kind of card under the meaning of the act because it could be used more freely. In particular, the debit card, unlike the Handycard, did not require a PIN and could be used over the phone or internet.

But judge Steven Rares found withdrawing funds from a customer's account was the defining characteristic of both cards. "It was not the intention of the act to constrain the relationship between an issuer of a card and its customer by preventing the issuer updating the particular kind of card with the latest version of that kind of card," he wrote in his judgment.

ASIC said yesterday it was considering the judgment and whether to appeal. A Westpac spokeswoman said most customers sent the replacement card were happy with the extra features.


School principals win right to expel problem students

PRINCIPALS will be given new powers to expel problem students following hundreds of violent attacks in Queensland classrooms in the past year. The details of the incidents, including sex acts, alcohol and drug abuse, bomb threats and arson, have been obtained by The Courier-Mail under Right to Information laws. A special needs student was tied up and dragged around by the feet, some students were knocked unconscious, threatened with knives and a suspected gun, pushed out of windows or bashed with chairs. A teacher was bitten by a student and left bleeding.

Education Minister Geoff Wilson said that, from next year, principals would be able to expel students instead of having to get permission from an Education Queensland district boss. "I'm appalled by the behaviour that's been reported to me," he said. "The rights of students . . . to a positive learning environment must come ahead of the right of any individual student."

Mr Wilson said exclusions were increasing and that he supported "tough action against unacceptable behaviour". More than 1200 students were up for expulsion or cancellation of enrolment in the past financial year.

Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens' Associations president Margaret Black said greater principal powers needed to be combined with discipline at home to fully address increasing violence "across the board".

Students as young as six are up for expulsion from state schools for violent, illegal or inappropriate behaviour. Queensland Government figures show five of more than 800 recommendations for exclusion in the past year related to year 1 students. It was recommended another 383 students have their enrolments cancelled, which can only occur if they are at least 16 years old. Year 9 and 10 students accounted for more than half of the 864 incidents, which resulted in an attempt by the principal to have them permanently removed.

Education Queensland documents released to The Courier-Mail under Right to Information laws revealed a three-month snapshot of violent, illegal and immoral behaviour at state schools where more than 120 students faced expulsion. The majority of cases, which occurred between July 13 and September 14 this year, related to physical misconduct, including several assaults on teachers where they or their property has been damaged.

In one incident, a teacher was bitten and left bleeding after intervening in a student assault. "I saw (name omitted) holding another student in a headlock," the teacher said. "I instructed him to let go . . . when (he) let go (he) appeared very aggressive. "I stood in front of (him) and advised that he could not go anywhere until he calmed down. "At this point (he) bit my arm in an attempt to escape."

In a statement, Assistant Director-General of students services Patrea Walton said Education Queensland had hired bullying expert Dr Ken Rigby to investigate strategies to address the problem. "The increase in the number of students suspended or recommended for exclusion from Queensland state schools reflects Education Queensland's tough stance on unacceptable behaviour," she said. "It is not in any school's interests to keep badly behaved students in the classroom disrupting the learning of others."

Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said increased violence was a reflection of society. "In terms of general assaults, that's on the increase in the community as well – schools are dealing with that and generally speaking that's why the numbers are increasing in terms of schools taking action," he said.


Barnaby blasts official art

Most Australians will agree with him. It's mainly an arty-farty "elite" who go in for such crap

POLITICIAN Barnaby Joyce has turned art critic, saying sculptures at Canberra's Parliament House look like they were created by a couple of drunken men. The Queenslander, who was recently appointed as Opposition finance spokesman, ridiculed some sculptures as nothing more than a curiosity for "durrie munchers", and described one as an aerial and another as Mr Squiggle's last stand.

He said he had "no problem" with some sculptures but said there was one in every corner. "There's one (sculpture in the building), a piece of steel with a chain that looks like it could have been welded together by a few blokes from Taroom on the turps," Senator Joyce said. "Some of the stuff looks like it's been put together by my three-year-old daughter."

But Senator Joyce's art appraisal has angered Arts Minister Peter Garrett. "As with most things, thankfully not all of it has to appeal to Barnaby to earn its artistic credentials," Mr Garrett said. "Senator Joyce is morphing into the Sir Les Patterson of modern day politics, only without the satirical edge. "Not content being the extremist in chief on climate change we now have Barnaby Joyce appointing himself the nation's cultural attache.

"Australian artists produce an enormous variety of work across a range of mediums [The plural is "media", Peter. Mediums hold seances], to great acclaim both at home and abroad and many are featured in the nation's Parliament for staff, MPs and visitors to share and experience."

Senator Joyce's no-nonsense attack comes as Canberra's Parliamentary Services Department cuts back on the amount of shrubs and plants it hires to adorn the building, in a bid to save taxpayers $120,000 a year. Senator Joyce said the money forked out for art could be spent on repairing a leaking roof at Parliament House or keeping some of the hired trees and shrubs from being sent back to contractors. He said if they were desperate they should sell some of the art.

Greenery has been hired since Parliament House opened in 1988.


17 December, 2009

Impaled woman has long wait for government ambulance

"Ambulance Victoria (AV) will make sure you receive the best possible care", they say. Tell that to the woman below

A WOMAN was impaled on a steel fence for an agonising 47 minutes waiting for an ambulance. The 34-year-old received no pain relief while her body was supported by volunteer emergency services workers during the ordeal at Yarrawonga, in Victoria's north.

Ambulance Victoria has launched an investigation into the delay. It was contacted at 9.42pm on Tuesday and told Kim Broadbent had been impaled through the groin in a fall. A crew did not arrive until 10.29pm. There was no paramedic available in the border town that night and sources said a graduate officer was refused permission to attend.

A crew was sent from Wangaratta, 55km away, but was not cleared to travel over the speed limit or with lights and sirens. By then, Ms Broadbent had spent more than 47 minutes seriously injured, lapsing in and out of consciousness. There is widespread disgust in Yarrawonga at the delay.

Ms Broadbent travelled to Melbourne by air ambulance with a section of fence still lodged inside her. She did not arrive at The Alfred hospital until about three hours after the first call. She was stable last night.

Her mother, Heather Broadbent, attended the scene and said those waiting for the ambulance were supporting her daughter and afraid to move her for fear of doing more damage. Mrs Broadbent said Wangaratta seemed too far away for an emergency job in Yarrawonga.

AV regional general manager Garry Cook said all parts of the case were being examined. Ambulance Employees Australia acting general secretary Phil Cavanagh said the review needed to address a key point: "Yarrawonga had no ambulance. Why?"


Copenhagen 'a big gravy train', says Abbott

Nice to hear it called for exactly what it is

OPPOSITION Leader Tony Abbott says the climate change summit in Copenhagen is turning into a gravy train for some countries. Wealthy nations in Copenhagen have so far pledged some $US22 billion ($24.43 billion) to bankroll the war on global warming. Australia was one of six developed countries that promised to set up a fund to fight the loss of forests in neighbouring countries - a leading source for rising temperatures.

Mr Abbott told a gathering of Liberal Party members in the seat of Deakin in Melbourne's east that the coalition would be bringing out its own climate change policy in a few weeks.

He fears that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who is in Copenhagen, will do a deal that will hurt the Australian economy while not doing much to advance world environment. "My problem is, why does Mr Rudd think the best way to save the environment is to increase your cost of living?" Mr Abbott said. "Why does he give us a tax policy and tell us it's an environment policy?" He said the Coalition policy on the environment would be one that tackles the problem and not one that pretends to fix the environment.

"My worry is that the more we see of Copenhagen, the more it looks like a great big gravy train for people whose objective is not so much the environment but it is to get more for them by leaping on the climate change bandwagon."


No website crash, says fire service, just 'service interruptions'

Typical bureaucracy. But this bureaucracy can be a killer. Its bungles have killed in the past

The Country Fire Authority has refused to admit its website crashed today despite Victorians being unable to view crucial warnings during the high fire danger day. Despite the denial, the CFA has promised an investigation into why browsers were unable to find crucial information on a day posing an extreme fire threat to parts of the state.

The website was beset by technical glitches this morning as the state faced its hottest day since Black Saturday and emergency services warned residents to prepare for fires. It was then completely unable to show warnings or a summary map of current fires in Victoria for a number of hours.

Angry readers contacted The Age, frustrated that on a day of extreme heat and high winds they were unable to check the website. "This is not good enough! I am sick of the excuses," one reader wrote. "The CFA receptionist told me it was being looked at by IT and that I should try connecting again in an hour or so! What??? Ok sure... I could have smoke approaching my house and I should try checking the site in an hour or so!"

CFA chief executive officer Mick Bourke said the website had experienced technical faults and was now again showing fire warnings. "A full investigation into the causes of the service interruptions is being instituted by CFA to ensure that they do not reoccur," he said. "The CFA website has been functioning all day, the site has not ‘crashed’ but the feed of warning messages was interrupted. "Emergency reponse and community safety was not affected."

At 3.35pm in Melbourne, the temperature had hit 38 degrees, with the forecast maximum of 39 expected to be reached between 4pm and 5pm. The bushfire danger rating will be severe and very high for much of the rest of the state.


Queensland council avoids naughty word: "Christmas"

Sunshine Coast Council has defended its decision to exclude the word "Christmas" from its 2009 corporate Christmas cards. Mailed and emailed cards wish their recipients "seasons greetings" and "all the best for the festive season and the New Year", but no reference to Christmas.

Defending its generic message, council initially said it had no policy to remove Christmas but was "mindful of people’s different backgrounds and beliefs". A further statement added: "Council’s vision is to be Australia’s most sustainable region vibrant, green, diverse. With diversity of belief and cultural background in mind council seeks to promote goodwill and peace during the festive season."

Noosa Christian Outreach Centre pastor Michael Clift said he was baffled as to why council would choose not to acknowledge the very season that provided the reason for it to mail cards. "I’d also then ask why they are sponsoring our Christmas carols concert?" Pastor Clift said. "Dear me, at the end of the day why sponsor that event as they do every year when we will be giving Christmas one heck of a belting?"

He said anyone offended by use of the word Christmas should not take a holiday on December 25. "Rock up to work on Friday the 25th and, for goodness sake, don’t have the following Monday off as that would really be hypocritical," he said.

"If the ethos is to avoid offending people then they’ve already done it. "I’m offended they’ve not had the courage to encourage Christmas."

Noosa District Catholic Parish Father Mark Franklin was similarly perplexed. "It sounds a little crazy if you ask me," he said. "I cannot see the sense in sending cards to wish people a happy or merry anything unless it is about Christmas, seeing that is why we have a holiday. "I know that lots of people from our church would find this strange."

Rev Scott Ballment of Tewantin and Sunrise Beach Uniting Churches said it was a shame Council had taken the stance it had, but he added that it would not stop his congregation celebrating Christmas. "It does seem strange that if you’re sending out Christmas cards to only use season’s greetings," he said. "It’s certainly somewhat odd. It’s a shame they’ve removed it but we will still be celebrating in full force."

A former Noosa Council staffer told The Noosa Journal the old council had no policy against use of the word Christmas and had used the word on cards in previous years.

University of the Sunshine Coast lecturer in public relations Dr Amalia Matheson said companies and councils ran the risk of being "bland" in their corporate messages in a bid to try to please all sections of the community with their choice of words. "At least they have not gone for the American `happy holidays’," she said.


International deal to resettle 78 Tamils in several countries

Australia is on the verge of clinching a deal with New Zealand, Canada, Norway and possibly the US to help resettle the 78 Tamil asylum-seekers rescued by the Australian Customs vessel the Oceanic Viking. The Australian understands a number of countries have indicated a willingness to take some of the Sri Lankans, who were rescued in October after their boat foundered. However, while sources say "a significant" number of the Sri Lankans are expected to be resettled in third countries, Australia is still set to take the majority.

News of the expected breakthrough came as a boat carrying 55 people was intercepted off Ashmore Reef on Tuesday night. The interception -- the 54th this year -- will push the immigration detention centre on Christmas Island to a boatload from breaking point. According to an Immigration Department spokesman, there are currently 1443 detainees on the island. But when the 55 intercepted on Tuesday arrive the number will jump to 1498, just 62 shy of the centre's current capacity of 1560.

There is a growing expectation the government will begin transferring asylum-seekers to detention centres on the mainland, possibly as early as next week. At least three countries -- New Zealand, Canada and Norway -- are believed to have indicated to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees a willingness to take some of the 78 Tamils. The US is also understood to be interested, although it is not clear if a formal offer has been made.

New Zealand's involvement would represent an about-face a month after Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman refused to help resettle the Tamils, issuing a pointed rebuff to the Rudd government over its "ad hoc" handling of the incident. A spokeswoman for Dr Coleman could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

Nor would Mr Rudd's office comment on the claims. A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Chris Evans would say only that Australia was in discussions "with other countries around the world which also have resettlement programs".

Yesterday, The Australian reported all 78 of the asylum-seekers had been designated genuine refugees by the UNHCR, increasing the pressure on Canberra to find the Sri Lankans a home. It is not clear how many of the 78 will be resettled in third countries, although it is understood more than half will end up in Australia. One source said the numbers were still the subject of discussion, but that "a significant number" were expected to go to third countries.

Much will depend on whether Indonesia chooses to strictly enforce the timeframes for resettlement. In exchange for leaving the Oceanic Viking, Australia promised successful refugees would be resettled to a third country within four to 12 weeks. But the agreement also involved Indonesia, making continued goodwill from Jakarta essential.

Organising access to the asylum-seekers is also understood to be a potential barrier, with other resettlement countries expected to want see the 78 in order to conduct their own checks.


16 December, 2009

The Leftist Australian government thinks it is a nanny too

Government pushes forward with internet filtering

THE Federal Government is pushing ahead with its controversial plan to filter the internet, saying illegal material can be blocked "with 100 per cent accuracy and negligible impact on internet speed". It has just released results of its latest live filtering trials, used as proof that a national internet filter will work.

Labor will introduce legislation next year requiring all service providers to ban "refused classification" (RC) material hosted on overseas servers. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy says RC material includes "child sex abuse content, bestiality, sexual violence and the detailed instruction of crime and drug use". "Most Australians acknowledge there is some internet content which is not acceptable in any civilised society," Senator Conroy said. "It is important that all Australians, particularly young children, are protected from this material."

The proposed scheme will place Australia with 15 other Western democratic nations that have or are preparing to implement ISP filters. Denmark, Belgium, Finland, Italy, Germany and The Netherlands operate similar ISP filter systems that operate from blacklists which contain child abuse material. However, in those cases the filters are voluntary, while Australia's is mandatory.

The ISP filter plan has attracted a chorus of criticism from industry and internet users, who claim its introduction will strangle internet speeds, curb free speech and be used by the government to ban content it deems "undesirable". Advocacy organisation GetUp's petition against the proposal has garnered more than 120,000 signatures. "It's shocking. This great firewall of Australia is going to hand control of the internet to the moral minority," GetUp acting national director Oliver Maccoll said.

In March, the proposed trial came under fire when a list of about 1000 sites secretly banned by ACMA was leaked online, revealing that harmless sites, including YouTube links and gambling sites, had also been blacklisted. But after the successful live trial ironed out many kinks in the initial plan, the filter has now been given the go-ahead by the Government. The list of banned sites will be maintained by an independent body.

Senator Conroy said the list would be "compiled through a public complaints mechanism", but the Government will add sites containing "known child abuse material" obtained from "highly regarded international agencies". Currently, the Australian Communications and Media Authority issues take-down notices for black-listed content hosted in Australia.



Three current articles below

Australian universities bribed to accept unqualified students

Fixing the High Schools is the real solution to helping the poor but spending the taxpayers' money is so much easier

UNIVERSITIES are likely to have a significant financial incentive to enrol poor students as the federal government's loading for low-socioeconomic status students increases to about $1500 a student by 2012. While the initial loading set for next year of about $540 a student doesn't cover the costs of successfully teaching non-traditional students, who are generally less prepared for university study, it is five times the present rate of low-SES loading.

The loading, which is sourced from a fixed four-year bucket of money, is dependent on the number of students in any year. It is forecast to be about $1033 in 2011 and $1434 in 2013. The HES has seen internal cost estimates from one university suggesting the extra cost of low-SES students is in the region of $1100 to $1200 a student. About $42 million will be available for the loading next year, rising to $84m in 2011 and about $126m in both 2012 and 2013.

"The low-SES student loading is generous and, combined with proposed additional funding for the progress and retention of these students, will ensure that educational equity becomes more than a discretionary policy," said Deakin University's manager of student access and equity Jennifer Oriel. "It is an incentive to give these students the red carpet treatment," Richard James, director of the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne, told the HES.

Professor James said the loading would allow universities to invest in extra student support and new curriculum in the first year to better cater for these students and encourage their retention. He said the initial loading was modest but at the higher rates it would be "a serious financial incentive for universities".

The government signalled that in identifying low-SES students next year it may use Centrelink data on student income support to supplement its reliance on ranking post codes. Such a combined measure would apply in the interim while more accurate measures were developed. These could take into account parental education and may utilise a smaller geographic indicator than post codes such as census collection districts, which comprise about 250 households.

The government has released a discussion paper on measures. Submissions are due by February 5.

The government has allocated $433m during the four years to June 30, 2013, towards raising the participation at university of students from the poorest 25 per cent of society, from about 15 per cent of the student body now to at least 20 per cent by 2020. That is about a further 55,000 low-SES students.

About $325m will be allocated as a loading for low-SES enrolments and $108m will fund partnerships between universities, schools and vocational providers to boost aspirations and pathways to university for low-SES students. About $14m of partnership money will be available to the sector next year and will be divided equally among the 38 universities. From 2011 the money will be allocated as grants to individual proposals and projects as approved by the government.

Successful applications will be judged on a series of principles. Among them are that the proposals include mechanisms to measure results and, where appropriate, that they address early intervention, defined as beginning before year 9.


Principals seek to hire and fire

SCHOOL principals are calling for the power to hire and fire teachers and manage their schools if they are to be held accountable for student results with the publication of national performance reports next month. With the launch on January 28 of the myschool website, on which student results for every school in the nation will be publicly available for the first time, principals are worried they will be held responsible for their school's performance while many are denied the power to effect changes necessary for improvement.

The presidents of the primary and secondary school principal associations, Leonie Trimper and Andrew Blair, argue that international research shows a direct correlation between a principal's ability to select staff and school results.

Education Minister Julia Gillard agrees that principals should be given more control over the running of their school, and says comparison of school results in January will provide evidence on the effectiveness of different management practices. The issue was raised at a principals forum last month hosted by Ms Gillard, where Adelaide high school principal Wendy Johnson questioned the validity of school comparisons on the website. Myschool attempts to compare schools considered alike in their students' social makeup.

Ms Johnson said a group of similar schools could include very different management practices, and compare a school where a principal was able to hire teachers with another where a principal had to accept the teacher sent to them from the education department.

Ms Johnson, principal of Glenunga International High School, yesterday said that international research showed the key to making a difference in student learning was the quality of a teacher, which could account for up to 30-40 per cent of student results. "If you have teachers who want to be working with these students and want to be working in that particular school with its particular emphasis, its particular directions and its particular culture, you have enormous advantage over a situation where a teacher might be not bothered or the match between the school culture and their beliefs doesn't sit well," she said. "If you have no control over it, it's really difficult to hold you accountable. Every principal is committed to making an improvement in student outcomes -- that's why we went into teaching in the first place -- but if you don't have the material to make a difference it makes it really difficult to deliver."

State education departments give their schools varying degrees of autonomy, with Victorian principals having the most control and NSW considered to have the most centralised system. Western Australia is relaxing its control in some schools next year, with the introduction of 30 "independent public schools", allowing principals and parents greater control over their school including hiring teachers.

Mr Blair, president of the Australian Secondary Principals Association, said principal autonomy was a necessary precondition for school improvement. He queried the validity of comparing schools with different principal powers, asking how accountable a principal was for the results of teachers that were sent to the school.

Ms Trimper, president of the Primary Principals Association, said matching the needs of the school and its students with the expertise and skills of the teacher would improve the system. "Name any company that sits back for Centrelink to ring and say, `Here's your 10 staff'," she said. "It just doesn't happen."

Ms Gillard said there were differing views among school principals about the nature of school management and leadership, but the federal government was encouraging greater empowerment of principals through its national partnerships on disadvantaged schools and teacher quality. The Education Minister believed devolving power to local schools and principals could make a difference to students' results. "But the more weight we put on the shoulders of school leaders, the greater the obligation we have to support and nurture school leadership," Ms Gillard said.


A Leftist government cuts the bureaucracy to spend more on teachers!

Sadly, it is only in Tasmania (population 500,000) but it shows what is possible

Tasmania's special schools have received a funding boost. The Tasmanian Government is investing an extra $930,000 a year to provide 10 new teachers. Tasmania has three main special schools catering for about 150 students with disabilities.

The Premier and Education Minister, David Bartlett, says the extra money has been cut from bureaucracy and re-invested in front-line services. "[Thereby] ensuring that parents who choose special schools over inclusion in regular schools have a fantastic level of to provide more in the way of art, in music, in PE, for special needs students," he said.

Mr Bartlett today toured the new southern campus for children with disabilities. The revamped Hazelwood school on Hobart's eastern shore will open next year but the cost has blown out from $3 million $4.6 million. Mr Bartlett is not concerned, saying he made a promise to parents. "We wouldn't be penny-pinching or cutting corners. It has cost a bit extra," he said.

Leanne Wright, from the Education Union, says it has taken almost two years to address a funding shortfall. "I presume part of that would be because of the Global Financial Crisis," she said.



Three current articles below

Greens take moral high road - and finish last

By Peter Costello a former Liberal Party federal treasurer and the outgoing member for the Higgins electorate

Two days out from the Higgins byelection Malcolm Mackerras, Australia's leading psephologist, predicted a Greens victory. Mackerras not only knew the result, he knew the reason for it, forecasting the Liberal candidate would be defeated because of the "arrogance" of the resigning MP and the elevation of Tony Abbott.

When the poll was declared on Monday, the Liberal vote had in fact increased. Mackerras has moved on to other predictions. But the forecast excited the Greens leader, Bob Brown, enough for him to make a whistlestop tour before the ballot, hoping to associate himself with the victory. He appeared in the Melbourne suburbs to tell the media about the concerns of local voters. Surprisingly, they were all his pet policy projects.

I was with the Liberal candidate, Kelly O'Dwyer, that day. The press smelled a rat. "Haven't you been forced into the electorate to counter Bob Brown?" one journalist asked me. I pointed to my former office nearby, explained I had lived in the area for 20 years and that we were in my local shopping centre. "I don't travel here, I have to travel to get out of here," I replied. It was clear the media momentum was on the side of Brown.

It is hard to think of circumstances more propitious for the Greens: a sympathetic press, no Labor candidate, a Liberal leadership spill, parliamentary debate on the emissions trading legislation and the media focus on Copenhagen. And Abbott, as new Liberal leader, didn't get time for a visit. Still the Greens fluffed it. This did not stop Brown declaring a great triumph. As usual, there has been little critical appraisal of his performance. So what went wrong?

In contrast to the Liberal candidate, who was outstanding, the Greens chose a bad candidate. Their central command overrode local supporters to impose someone who lived in Canberra. Most people think an MP should represent locals to Canberra. The Greens had the idea they could represent Canberra back to the locals. And what a representative. When it comes to alarmism, Clive Hamilton is almost without peer.

These days he preaches destruction from climate change. In 2000 Hamilton forecast the GST would kill people on the roads - 65 a year - because it would lead to increased motor vehicle use and pollution. That means the GST has caused well over 500 deaths by now, which is nothing like the body count Hamilton is forecasting from global warming. But it is still a decent set of fatalities he can lay at the feet of the Liberal Party.

Secondly, some Labor voters - particularly among lower-income earners - will not vote for the Greens. To maximise their joint position, the Greens and Labor need to run three-cornered contests, like the Liberals and Nationals do in regional electorates. The Liberal campaign was assisted mightily by Labor's decision not to run.

Thirdly, the Greens have to scale down the sanctimony. They thrive on a message of impending doom. These days the cataclysm is global warming. Previously it was logging, or nuclear annihilation. Only by repentance and obedience to their doctrine can we escape the wrath to come.

But educated people are a little less credulous than that. They know in political policy, outcomes rarely match the promises, particularly the overblown promises of zealous activists. They know that moral absolutists rarely deliver what they promise.

The Greens have a moral superiority complex. In their mind they are not only right but virtuous, which makes their opponents not only wrong but immoral. This is why Hamilton has compared climate sceptics with Holocaust deniers - if you disagree with his policies you are complicit in, or covering, up mass murder. Robert Manne, who launched the campaign for Hamilton, put it this way: "If the Greens can achieve a breakthrough in the byelections … [this] might come to be seen as a turning point in the moral history of this country."

In Melbourne on December 5 electors could have turned to good from evil, to Green from Liberal. Instead, by voting Liberal out of concern for their children's education, or for the lack of aged care, or for their job or business, they demonstrated moral inferiority. One day it might dawn on Brown, Manne and Hamilton that voters do not like moral condescension. Sanctimony can make you feel good, but it rarely appeals to those listening.


Politicians talk green, drive fuel guzzlers

The usual Greenie hypocrisy. It's other people who have to make changes or do without

FEDERAL politicians are using a taxpayer-funded perk to pay for gas-guzzling SUVs, with more than 90 percent of them driving six or eight cylinder cars. A staggering 225 out of the 243 private-plated cars chosen by MPs and Senators have six or eight-cylinder engines, in contrast to the national trend towards smaller, more fuel efficient models. Only a handful of MPs drive low-emission hybrids.

The list, published today on The Punch, shows the most popular car among federal politicians is the Ford Territory, Australia’s answer to the SUV and possibly the heaviest Aussie-built passenger car ever made. It was chosen by 81 MPs, including many who live in suburban electorates. The Federal Government’s own Green Vehicle Guide gives the Territory a woeful 2.5 stars out of five.

The details, released under Freedom of Information laws and current as of March 1 this year, show only 10 MPs drive low-emission hybrids.

All MPs and Senators are entitled to at least one private-plated vehicle for personal use as part of their salary package. They can choose from a list of 35 cars valued at up to $48,990 or with approval from the Special Minister of State, select a “non-standard vehicle”. Apart from the Territory, other popular vehicles include the Holden Berlina and Calais vehicles or the Toyota Aurion V6. Some of the Toyota Landcrusiers, preferred among some country-based MPs, are diesel or in the case of one or two six cylinder cars, dual fuel LPG operated.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was embarrassed into swapping his private-plate Territory for a hybrid Toyota Prius in 2007 when, as Opposition Leader, it was revealed he was calling for action on greenhouse while driving a Territory.

Special Minister of State Joe Ludwig, a Territory driver, said the government was examining “cleaning up” the parliamentary entitlements framework, including the private-plated vehicle scheme. An independent committee would report to him next year with some recommendations intended to “reduce cost and increase transparency”.


The Quixotic war against carbon to add a third to power bills, which will cost $1000 more over three years

AUSTRALIANS will have to pay up to an extra $1000 over the next three years for power, with about a third of the extra cost directly attributable to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. The NSW regulator yesterday issued a draft ruling allowing the state's three electricity companies to raise their charges over the next three years, and it is the first such ruling where the cost of a CPRS can be exactly determined. The federal government has estimated that an ETS would add $1100 a year to the average family's bills, with gas, fuel and groceries set to rise along with electricity.

Power prices in Australia are set by each state within a national framework, and the Australian Energy Regulator recently issued guidelines for South Australia and Queensland, with those for Victoria due to be released in the new year. But these rulings allow only for increased charges for network costs and not a CPRS, making yesterday's ruling by the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal the first on what it sees as the potential cost to consumers of a CPRS.

While NSW is the first state to make such a call, its figures would be a guide for other state regulatory bodies when they issue their rulings for possible rises. Under the NSW body's draft ruling issued yesterday, the three main energy companies would be able to start charging for a CPRS from the middle of next year, even though the scheme was not due to start until the middle of 2011.

Notes issued with the ruling show that customers of Energy Australia would pay an extra $288 over three years for a CPRS, while those with Integral Energy would pay an extra $314, and those with Country Energy an extra $302. This represents a rise in cost between now and 2012-13 of 23 per cent for Energy Australia, 25 per cent for Integral Energy, and 21 per cent for Country Energy. In the case of all three distributors, the cost of a CPRS is about half the overall increase recommended by the independent regulator, with most of the extra cost to consumers coming from the need to replace ageing infrastructure.

The overall costs allowed by the NSW pricing tribunal would see rises over three years of $554, or 44 per cent, for customers of Integral Energy, $727, or 58 per cent, for those of Energy Australia, and $893, or 62 per cent, for those signed to Country Energy.

Tony Abbott seized on the last figure as evidence of how the CPRS would hit ordinary consumers. He claimed that "those massive increases are due in significant measure to Mr Rudd's emissions tax". "There is a real problem here. Mr Rudd is trying to tell us that there is a painless way to tackle climate change," the Opposition Leader said. "There isn't. And we have learnt today from the NSW authorities that Mr Rudd's emissions tax is likely to impact massively on Australian families." But the federal government planned to allow full or partial compensation for electricity consumers who earned less than $160,000.

The NSW opposition said the planned increases showed the extent that basic infrastructure such as powerlines had been allowed to run down under the Labor government.


15 December, 2009

Victoria's pathetic new waterbomber

This is ridiculous when much larger Russian aircraft were on offer. The DC10 is a comparative midget of an aircraft these days. The kickbacks must have been good

THE eagle has landed - Victoria has finally taken delivery of a super water bomber for the bushfire season. The heavily modified DC10 flew in from the US to Avalon yesterday, on a $10 million lease deal. The first such aircraft to be used in Australia, it can reach any part of Victoria within 45 minutes and soak 1.2 kilometres of bushfire in one dump with its 45,000 litres of water. It is expected to be ready for action by early next month for the worst of the season, and will be based at Avalon.

Premier John Brumby said the addition to Victoria's firefighting arsenal was part of a record financing program to make sure the state was as fire-ready as possible. "We have been working with the Country Fire Authority since September to bring a large aerial firefighting aircraft to Victoria for the first time to help protect lives and properties," Mr Brumby said. "Large aircraft that can carry up to eight times the water or retardant of smaller firefighting aircraft are untried in Australian conditions. Victoria will lead the way in testing their ability to help fight fires in the peak of this fire season," he said.

The plane will be deployed when and if necessary by the state's top firefighters. But both the Department of Sustainability and the CFA have warned that aircraft are not silver bullets in fighting bushfires. The Elvis skycrane arrived in Victoria last month.


Loads of money for hospital computers but nothing more for patients?

This is obscene for two reasons: 1). The huge waiting lists for treatment in most hospitals. The money should be spent on more doctors and nurses; 2). The British experience suggests that the money will be completely wasted anyway. The Brits have just given up on their computter system after spending 12 BILLION pounds on it

A BROAD coalition of health professionals believes it made progress in its quest for $6.3 billion in federal funding at the government's massive broadband conference in Sydney last week. The Coalition for e-Health's hopes have been buoyed by strong indications it has support from Kevin Rudd, Health and Ageing Minister Nicola Roxon and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.

Michael Legg, president of the Health Informatics Society, which convenes the CeH, said the group had been asked to hang tight. Professor Legg said the group had been strongly encouraged by comments made by Department of Health and Ageing deputy secretary Jane Halton at the conference that indicated the department was behind the group. "That's the first time that I've really heard anybody at that level in the department declaring their position with respect to it, which means, I think, that that they do have strong political support," Professor Legg said.

The group has been in limbo since June, when the federal government accepted a report issued by the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission that found e-health was critical to improving Australian healthcare. The report convinced the government to recognise e-health as a critical component of its health reform policy.

The Business Council of Australia issued a strategy paper last month that suggested Australia could cut $27.8bn from its national medical bill over eight years if $6.3bn were invested in e-health systems over five years. [What utter bull!]

The Prime Minister was expected to provide feedback on the strategy after last week's meeting of the Council Of Australian Governments. CeH wrote to Mr Rudd urging him to move swiftly to accept the findings of the strategy paper. It said in the letter the government had not made its position clear on e-health and asked Mr Rudd to take a stronger leadership position to ensure stronger cohesion between state and federal health jurisdictions. "We ask you as Prime Minister to lead the way," the group wrote.

"This is a nation-building exercise that requires clear vision and strong leadership. To date, your government, while supportive, has not articulated a clear position and commitment. Without this, all jurisdictions will struggle to move ahead . . . We also believe this is a great opportunity to chart a new course; to give the broader health community something to aspire to and work toward, and that this is an essential step towards providing a health system fit for the 21st century." But Professor Legg said Mr Rudd had declined to provide the feedback on the basis the issue was too complex.

The government has isolated health as one of the five key policy areas to be entwined with its $4bn plan to build a super-fast national broadband network. Delivering his opening address to the Realising our Broadband Future conference on Thursday, Mr Rudd said the NBN went beyond communications policy. "In other words, our national broadband policy is not about communications policy," Mr Rudd said. "It is about health policy, education policy, transport policy and the whole way that governments meet the needs of our people."

Labor has given e-health a prominent place in its health reform strategy, but the Prime Minister's positive mood did not carry over to discussion sessions on e-health later in the day. There, frustration was strong over an apparent lack of political leadership backing the vision. In one session Ms Halton faced strongly worded commentary from health professionals on a range of issues. Some bemoaned regulations that prevented them charging for health services supplied electronically. Others were concerned that the e-health agenda was too closely tied to the NBN and urged the government to take "the low-hanging fruit" by supporting health services that were possible with existing broadband connections.

Privately, others expressed concerns that ongoing political conflict over medicine services between the federal government and states and territories was holding back e-health.

However, Professor Legg took up one of the main barriers to e-health services -- the lack of unique healthcare identifiers linking individuals to healthcare records. As discussions were taking place at the conference on Thursday, the federal government released draft legislation to assign such identifiers to providers and patients. [A national ID card by the back door?] That was expected to overcome security and accuracy problems with medical records.

Some questioned the timing of the legislation but Professor Legg said it was a logical progression from the Council of Australian Governments meeting. "The government was moving as fast as governments do," he said.


Where the conservatives went wrong

By Peter Coleman, an "eminence grise" of Australian conservatism

IT would be a fatal mistake to blame the recent mess in the Liberal Party on its leaders. They must take their share of the blame but the problems go deeper than politicians, even the best of them. Most critics blame Malcolm Turnbull, whose experience shows that leadership calls for more than brains and drive, of which he has plenty. Others blame John Howard, who was a highly successful prime minister but failed on the great test of settling the succession. Others go back further, even to Malcolm Fraser.

But the real failure of Australian conservatism lies not with its parliamentary leaders. It is conservatives themselves. It is the job of the conservative public to point the politicians in the right direction and then trust them, the practical parliamentarians, to navigate through the political currents. In Australia the conservative public has left it to the politicians to create the guiding ideas, something very few of them are good at.

There are four traps into which politicians fall when they are thrashing around in opposition in search of policy. The first is adopting dogma or ideology. It is usually an act of desperation, although it may for a moment seem the solution. John Hewson's Fightback was a great example. It led to a catastrophic defeat in the election.

The second trap is opportunism. A classic case is the decision of the Liberals in the NSW parliament to oppose the privatising of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority. There may have been a political dividend -- the frustration of the Iemma Labor government in NSW -- but the loss of credibility in the abandonment of principle was high and reinforced a growing sense of a party without principles.

A third trap is demagoguery. This is the politics of big gestures. The recent example is Turnbull's espousal of the emissions trading scheme. It will do nothing for global warming and it would burden Australians with new taxes and regulations. But it seemed a splendid gesture at the time.

This sometimes leads to a fourth trap: uncritical loyalty. If the rank-and-file conservatives are uncertain, they are inclined to accept the leader's decisions. This was notably the case with the ETS. Most conservatives were always suspicious of the ETS, of the dislocation, unemployment, controls and taxes involved.

Loyalty is or can be a source of great strength, but there are occasions when the conservative public, the rank-and-file party members or their parliamentary representatives, must stand up, as L. S. Amery did in the House of Commons in 1940 and called out to his leader (Neville Chamberlain): "In the name of God, go!" If enough of them had done this when Howard was plainly losing his touch as prime minister, the Liberal party would not be as devastated as it has been. The same sort of misplaced loyalty prolonged the Turnbull agony. The vast majority of rank-and-file Liberals did not agree with him on global warming but they remained loyal until the last days.

What is to be done? The guiding principle, as always, is: Trust the People! It is to them, to the rank-and-file conservatives, that we must look for solutions. I recall vividly how, after Gough Whitlam's defeat of the Liberal government in 1972, the new Liberal leader, Billy Mackie Snedden, organised a huge canvass of every Liberal branch and member seeking their ideas of what went wrong and how to fix it. The Labor party guffawed. Some Liberals had nothing to tell Snedden. But it was a step in the right direction. It shook up the party and its shibboleths. It placed the onus of reform not on parliamentarians but on liberals and conservatives at large. It contributed enormously to the rout of the Labor party soon after.

I do not suggest a repeat performance under Tony Abbott. We now have what we did not have back then: a range of think-tanks, issue groups, magazines and blogs working successfully in the conservative interest. Their influence has been great and salutary. There would probably have been no privatisation, deregulation or tax reform if it had been left to politicians. It was the think-tanks ranging from the Centre for Independent Studies and the Institute of Public Affairs to the Institute for Private Enterprise and the Sydney Institute, or pressure groups such as the H. R. Nicholls Society, magazines such as Quadrant and publishers such as Connor Court that laid the foundation for the reforms in industrial relations, financial regulation, taxation and indigenous policy.

What would have been the state of the debate on global warming and the ETS without the think-tanks and a few independent journalists? No matter how sound or fraudulent may be the science supporting the Rudd-Turnbull ETS, there was for years little serious attempt to expound or expose it in the parliament. When Ian Plimer wrote the major critical Australian book on the subject, Heaven and Earth: Global Warming: The Missing Science, it was a small and little-known Melbourne show, Connor Court, and the IPA that published it. It is an international bestseller.

In recent years the conservative public and its organisations have too often dropped the ball. How else to explain their quiet when the Howard government committed itself to centralisation in Canberra and the abandonment of federalism? If ever there were a conservative principle, it is the diffusion of political power summed up as federalism. But on issue after issue the government centralised power: in industrial relations, taxation, education. To dress this up as nationalism is an abuse of nationalism.

The first step in the revival of philosophical liberal and conservative ideas will be the strengthening and expansion of the think-tanks, policy groups and magazines. The second step is taking their message to the public at large. Magazines such as Quadrant continue to play a major role. But in the age of the internet, the blog has become a key medium. (Andrew Bolt's blog has been a major player in these debates.)

But there is still one task that is appropriate to the Liberal party itself, whatever support it may draw from outside its ranks. That is the statement and restatement of the underlying philosophy of the Liberal party. I do not mean a crib that tells politicians what to do next. I mean the ideas that broadly guide Liberals in and out of parliament.

This is an old story. The Liberal Party has often over the years set up a philosophy committee to help revitalise the party's ideas and rescue it from the temptations of opportunism. Time and again the committee members spend months on meetings, discussions, drafts. In due course the committee reports to the party. The party then thanks the committee for its important work. Then nothing more is heard of the report. I have a humble example. Some 20 or more years ago when I was doing a stint in the federal parliament, I chaired a philosophy committee charged with the task of drawing up a set of fundamental principles. We dutifully did so. We nutted out 15 of them. (The inevitable crack was that we produced one more than US president Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points.) Our charter was duly debated, amended, and adopted, and then filed and forgotten. Worldly MPs believe that philosophy is no substitute for political savvy.

Yet philosophy is like Freud's unconscious. You can repress it but it will come out somewhere. We have inherited a free, prosperous and peaceful society. But there are always mischiefs and faults to be corrected.

Some call this sort of approach pragmatism and trace it to Edmund Burke or David Hume or Thomas Hobbes or some other conservative philosopher. But most liberals and conservatives call it it simple realism. They prefer an unsystematic approach.

Whatever you call it, the task of the conservative and liberal public is to see to it that the parliamentary party does not abandon realism or fall into the traps of dogma, opportunism or demagoguery, supported by appeals to loyalty. Our present discontents are due to the fact that it has fallen into one of these traps and the conservative public has let them get away with it.

This is well documented in The Howard Era, a new collection of essays on the successes and failures of the last Coalition government. It is edited by Keith Windschuttle, David Martin Jones and Ray Evans and published by a new publishing company, Quadrant Books. The book's first theme is the absolute rightness of John Howard's boast on the night of his defeat in 2007 that he was bequeathing to the incoming Rudd government "a stronger and prouder and more prosperous country" than it had been when he came to office in 1996.

But the book's second theme is how often the Howard government fell into the same traps to which oppositions are prone. It was centralist dogma that led it to undermine the federal compact. Most notorious was the use of the corporations power to justify the centralising WorkChoices legislation. In education policy, Martin Jones argues that one federal minister for education after another set out to centralise or socialise our universities and undermine the classical liberal education.

The government also became increasingly prone to opportunism. The most telling example was the Howard government's last-minute adoption in 2007 of an ETS without any serious attempt to prepare the party or explain it to the public. It was, writes Ray Evans, "an ignominious finale to a distinguished career". When the government did at last adopt a good policy in Aboriginal affairs -- the Northern Territory intervention -- a sceptical electorate suspected more opportunism.

But there is no occasion for despair. When Peter Costello asked Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore why he no longer believed Australians were becoming the white trash of Asia, his answer was: "You've changed!"

It was liberals and conservatives who together brought about that change. They can do it again, provided they remember the war is too important to be left to the generals.


For history buffs, a note from Rafe Champion: "I have one quibble, Peter blamed the excesses of the Fightback package for losing the unlosable election in 1993. I think that was a magnificent package, and it united the party after years of ruinous division between wets and dries.

Two factors killed it, one was the GST, "a bridge too far" that was too easy to ridicule by hostile commentators.

The other was the commentariat, the media and working journalists. They demonstrated for the first time the extent to which they are hostages to a political party, committed partisans in the contest. They are our biggest problem in generating any kind of rational debate. They have sold out their principles and their credibility and the nation will pay a heavy price if they do not lift their game."

QANTAS again

Jetstar is the QANTAS budget subsidiary. And they're animals. The lady below should sue the b*stards

NSW artist, psychologist and mother Mesha Sendyk covered both ends of the emotional spectrum the day she decided to see the Dalai Lama, then try to fly home on Jetstar. Meditation was the last thing on her mind when she says she was angrily challenged over her carry-on bag by a male attendant at the gate. Now she has lodged a complaint with the airline and called for the attendant to be sacked. But the airline is standing by its man.

Ms Sendyk, 42, of Byron Bay, was with her husband and six-year-old daughter when the clash happened at Sydney Airport two weeks ago as they tried to get on the Gold Coast flight. “All of a sudden I heard this yelling match,” said another passenger in the line. “Then I heard a woman's voice say: 'Don't you dare touch me, take your hands off me.'"

The airline alleges Ms Sendyk got on the flight without a boarding pass and shouted at gate staff and flight attendants.

The stand-off began when the male gate attendant allegedly challenged Ms Sendyk over the size of her carry-on bag. The bag fitted the frame and Ms Sendyk was told "you can get on board" but when she remarked on the attendant's alleged “rudeness”, she said he got angry. “He then roared, using the tone of an incensed school madam: 'That's it! Your bag is going under the plane and if I hear another word you won't be flying at all,'” Ms Sendyk recalled him saying in a three-page account of her experience. “I said only, 'You need to stop being rude to me.'"

She said the attendant replied: "I can do anything I want," before allegedly snatching Ms Sendyk's boarding pass and circling the cabin baggage rules. “Look here … it says so here in your contract … I control who and what goes onto this plane."

Ms Sendyk, conscious that her daughter was becoming upset by the exchange and worried it could trigger her asthma, said she tried to move her family through the gate. Ms Sendyk said that when her husband, Xavier Bouquillard, asked the attendant for his name, the man said it repeatedly and spelled it out before saying: “You're not going anywhere.”

Ms Sendyk said she swore at the attendant and tried to move her family through. “I'd just spent three days with the Dalai Lama and just looked at him really dismissively and said 'f--- off' and we kept going,” she said. Ms Sendyk said the attendant cried out to stop her before rushing forward and putting himself between her family and the gate. “[He] rushed to the doorway pushing me with his large belly and manhandling me with his body to hit the doorframe, raising his hands and shrieking: 'Stop her, stop her!'” she said.

Ms Sendyk said she managed to manoeuvre her way through the gate and, after explaining the gate attendant had her boarding pass, was allowed by a flight attendant to take her seat in row four of the aircraft. Mr Bouqillard and the couple's daughter were seated together further towards the back. Ms Sendyk said she sat there for a few minutes before the same flight attendant came to her and told her she was being “deboarded and must get off the plane”. She tried to reason with the flight staff but was told there was nothing they could do. She said she was allowed back on the aircraft once to collect her bag and ask the other passengers if they would be willing to provide witness statements.

Australian Federal Police officers who were called to the gate advised Ms Sendyk to take notes on the incident as soon as possible. She was eventually forced to pay $349 for a Virgin Blue flight to the Gold Coast later that night. Ms Sendyk's recollections are supported by at least three passengers, one of whom heard the boarding gate exchange.

The Brighton Le Sands woman, 50, who asked not to be named, said everyone in line turned around to look. “All of a sudden I heard this yelling match,” the woman said. “Then I heard a woman's voice say: 'Don't you dare touch me, take your hands off me.' “Then she was standing behind me really furious, saying 'I'm going to make a complaint about that man.'”

The incident was handled “appallingly” by the airline, the woman said. “I actually got up from my seat and said 'just let the lady on board, she has her child on board and her husband'. She was not a threat to the plane,” she said. “Then [Ms Sendyk's daughter] started crying and the lady next to me started crying, that's how distressing it was. “It was just totally blown out of proportion.”

Jetstar offered to refund Ms Sendyk's airfare but refused to reimburse her for the Virgin Blue flight. And in response to Ms Sendyk's three-page complaint, Jetstar's customer care manager Michael Mirabito threatened her with a total ban from the airline's services. “In the event of any further reports of unruly, intimidating or violent behaviour by yourself, Jetstar will exercise its right to refuse you carriage on all of its services,” Mr Mirabito said in a letter, dated December 8.

An airline spokesman yesterday said the gate attendant was a “highly-valued” and “long-serving” member of staff. The airline had employee reports that indicated crew were not comfortable with Ms Sendyk travelling on the flight, a spokeswoman said.

The same member of staff had a complaint against him posted on an online complaints forum earlier this year. "Wanted to find out at booking desk if we could upgrade to business [star class] on the return flight from Thailand using frequent flyers points," the passenger wrote. "Was told by [staff member] at desk that there was no possibility as frequent flyer members were the 'lowest of the low'. "He was extremely rude and condescending, it was very tempting to jump the desk and have a quiet word with him, but I wanted to get to Thailand." The passenger said he was told frequent flyer members were "the lowest of the low" a second time, by the same attendant, six months later before a flight to Bali. "The arrogance of the male person ... astounded me, and as an employer of over 20 staff I would have had him fired on the spot; surely this could not have been the first complaint against him," he said.

Two other passengers on Ms Sendyk's flight, who were seated next to her but did not know her, disputed Jetstar's claim she was shouting and using inappropriate language on board. “[Ms Sendyk] was a bit tired and upset but she wasn't loud or obnoxious, or annoying anybody,” one passenger, Diane Harris, said. “When she addressed the plane she was just pointing out that she was being thrown off the plane for whatever kind of behaviour and she thought it was unacceptable when the guy at the gate had been rude to her and now she was being pulled off for being 'obnoxious'.”

Ms Harris, who has been taking the same flight almost every week for three years, said the airline's treatment of Ms Sendyk was “dreadful”. “We were on the [same] flight last Thursday,” she said. “They have drunken yahoos in there on the way to the Gold Coast for a bucks' night or what have you and there's not a word of admonition to them and yet they throw off some poor woman with a family who's not being loud or obnoxious at all,” Ms Harris said.


14 December, 2009

"Rabbit-Proof Fence" grossly inaccurate

RABBIT-PROOF Fence, the film that in the eyes of millions of children around Australia tells the true story of the Stolen Generations, is "grossly inaccurate" and should be withdrawn from schools.

Keith Windschuttle, a frontline warrior in the history wars, has questioned the veracity of the film - though not the book on which it was based - in the third volume of his series, The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, to be released next week, The Australian reports.

In Phillip Noyce's award-winning film, three young indigenous girls are snatched from their family's embrace on a remote settlement in Western Australia, forcibly removed by a racist government bent on "breeding out the colour". Based on a true story, the movie tells of Molly, Daisy and Gracie and their remarkable 2000km trek home following the rabbit fence. It remains the most vivid and poignant example yet of what has come to be known as the Stolen Generations.

The problem is, this big-screen version of their journey, which is now a staple of school curriculums across the country, does not include all the details of the original story. Windschuttle has researched the experiences of sisters Molly Craig, 14, Daisy Kadibill, 8, and their cousin Gracie Fields, 10, for his book.

According to the historian, Molly and Gracie were removed from their families on the Jigalong Depot more than 75 years ago because of their "sexual activity with white men working in the area".

The West Australian chief protector responsible for their removal, Auber Octavius Neville, had not been trying to "breed out the colour" by marrying off half-caste Aboriginal girls to whites as depicted in the film, Windschuttle said. His claim was born of a review of state archives, where he found a letter to A.O. Neville in December 1930 by a Mrs Chellow, from Murra Munda Station near Jigalong, in which Molly and Gracie were accused of "running wild with the whites".

"Running wild' was said to be a contemporary euphemism for promiscuity, which meant the girls were having sex with the white males in the area," Windschuttle writes in the preface of his new work.

He told The Australian yesterday: "They didn't say these girls were sc--ing boys, they said they were running wild . . . anyone from that era knows the meaning of the term. "That is the big lie of the film. Neville did not use child removal in order to breed out the race."


Barnaby challenges Rudd's climate giveaways

Given the parlous state of Australian public hospitals, the giveaways are a disgrace

BARNABY Joyce has demanded Kevin Rudd reveal how much money will be siphoned out of hospitals and roads to help developing nations meet climate change goals. World leaders, including the Prime Minister, will this week arrive at the critical point of the United Nations global climate change talks, which have become bogged down about the responsibilities of developed and developing countries.

Mr Rudd in recent days has spoken to several world leaders, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg about the meeting. "The leaders agreed on the need to increase the momentum for a successful outcome to the Copenhagen meeting and to work closely with Australia to that end," a spokesman for Mr Rudd said yesterday.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong yesterday said she was hoping for an outcome on mitigation and financing. "We will do our fair share . . . (because) we're not going to have a global agreement unless there are arrangements around financing, including private and public," she said.

But Senator Joyce, the Opposition's new finance spokesman, was concerned about Senator Wong's plan to commit Australia to a worldwide fund to help poorer countries cut their greenhouse gas emissions. Senator Joyce said Australia was broke and if it had to help pay for other countries it would have to borrow money. "Australian taxpayers have a right to know how much Mr Rudd and Senator Wong have decided to give people who do not pay tax in Australia," Senator Joyce said. "How much are we going to give to (Zimbabwean President Robert) Mugabe (and) the regime in Sudan?

"I'm scared he's going to be a big man with someone else's cheque book. "For every dollar spent on developing countries is a dollar that can't be spent on hospitals and roads in Australia."


Child protection, Victorian style

No protection but plenty of coercion

A 12-YEAR-OLD Victorian girl was raped by five men while in state care and later absconded from welfare care to live with three men who gave her marijuana and cigarettes.

The case was highlighted in a Children's Court hearing last week, The Age newspaper reports. In the hearing, Victoria's Department of Human Services sought to extend a secure welfare order on the girl to keep her in a secure unit and monitor her movements. The order had been placed on the girl by the Children's Court.

The girl was living in DHS residential care when she was raped by five men one day in October, and had since escaped her DHS residential care seven times to live with three men before she was placed in secure care, the newspaper said.

The court extended the girl's secure welfare order until just before Christmas, but the department is now seeking a therapeutic placement for the girl, in which the DHS would have sole custody while the girl gets psychological treatment.

The case comes week's after a damning ombudsman's report into child protection that found the Victorian government was failing to protect some of the state's most vulnerable children.


Ham-fisted medical bureaucrats again

You sometimes wonder if they are human beings. They are about as subtle as a punch in the head. Paperwork trumps people. And they are not backing down. The only people they don't bother are the crooks

EMINENT doctors - including prominent pro-RAH crusader Jim Katsaros - have been threatened with suspension unless they prove they are qualified. The demand for proof comes as the Health Department belatedly moves to ensure doctors employed in the public system are qualified. The move comes in the wake of the Queensland scandal in which former Bundaberg Hospital surgeon Dr Jayant Patel faces three charges of manslaughter and two of grievous bodily harm, as well as 387 claims for compensation. [All of which happened years ago]

SA Health Minister John Hill declined to answer whether he could guarantee every doctor in the health system was qualified. Public hospital specialists have been sent letters demanding they produce a certified copy of their primary medical degree, certified copy of post-graduate qualifications and a copy of their curriculum vitae. Surgeons with decades of service have baulked at the demand that they dismantle their framed medical degrees, firmly attached to their office walls, to show bureaucrats they are qualified.

Dr Katsaros, the RAH's head of plastic and reconstructive surgery, has written back objecting to the "wasteful and time-consuming" demand, and invited officials to view his degrees in his office where they are "framed and glued to a wall". During the week he was given a curt written warning by RAH general manager Lindsay Gough saying he would be suspended unless he produced the documents within two weeks. [Bluff! He would be in deep do-do if he fired essential medical staff]

Dr Katsaros, who has worked at the RAH since 1968 and is chairman of the Save the RAH committee, said it was "bureaucracy gone mad". "You have bureaucrats sitting in their ivory towers, who never come into hospital wards to see what happens with patients, trying to justify their existence," he said. "We have patients lying in corridors, waiting lists that have blown out, medical staff juggling the workload and these turkeys come up with this blunderbuss approach to belatedly see if the people they have employed are actually doctors. "We work our butts off in the public system because we care about patients and we want to teach the younger generation coming through, and while we are dealing with the reality of health care the bureaucrats want me to dismantle my degrees off my wall to show I really am a doctor."

Director of ear, nose and throat surgery at the RAH, Dr Suren Krishnan - who has been employed at the hospital since 1982 and is a past president of the Australian and New Zealand Head and Neck Society - is similarly livid. "Some patients are waiting 12 months to see me here - I am too busy looking after patients to deal with over-the-top big brother policies of the Health Department," he said. "When someone applies for a job there should be a duty of care to present their Medical Board credentials - surely they can check that by computer or a phone call rather than a bureaucrat demanding we bring in our degrees. "It shows how divorced they are from the coalface of patient care; we're dealing with waiting lists that are out of control and our focus is on patient care. "Then we get this officious letter that has offended quite a number of doctors."

In response to questions from the Sunday Mail , Mr Hill's office provided a statement saying all doctors appointed to specialist positions across SA public hospitals were now required to produce original certificates for their basic and specialist qualifications in the wake of the Patel scandal. "This credentialling reflects national standards, and health systems across Australia are adopting these more rigorous checks," the statement said. "The tighter checks are aimed at protecting the community, and ensuring that doctors are properly credentialled to provide surgery in SA hospitals."

SA Chief Medical Officer Professor Paddy Phillips said the new policy was fundamental to ensuring people working as doctors had relevant qualifications. "It is mandatory for all medical staff employed within SA Health; it is the foundation of safety and quality in our hospitals," he said.


Jailed rapist gets erection problem help

TAXPAYERS are paying to fix the penile erection problems of a jailed rapist who once ran with Ivan Milat's gang. The decision by the New South Wales State Government's Justice Health Department has sparked outrage among victims.

John Powch, 62, is known by Corrective Services officers as a "serious sex offender", a man behind bars for three counts of sexual assault for which he was jailed in 2004 for nine years, four months. Sources said he has never admitted his crimes, believed to be against one woman, and has steadfastly refused to do any of the sex offenders courses in Long Bay jail where he is being held.

However, on November 23, prison guards escorted him to the Prince of Wales Hospital's urology theatre for an "on table erection test".

Justice Health, which caters to prisoners' medical needs and is controlled by NSW Health, refused to comment on Powch's case. However, a spokesman said the department "does not take offending history into consideration when providing health services".

A Sydney urologist, who asked not to be named, said "an on table erection test is usually done for investigations of penile curvature or other disorders related to penile erectile dysfunctions, which, in itself, is not a life-threatening condition".

Howard Brown, from the Victims of Crime Assistance League, said the treatment was "incredible". "I don't object to us paying for life-threatening surgery if required but I'll be stuffed if we should be paying because his waterworks are having problems; particularly when you take into consideration the crime for which he is inside. "This is not life-threatening. This bloke should have been a candidate for chemical castration while he was in (theatre)."

Powch, a hardened criminal who has been behind bars most of his adult life, is in jail until October 19, 2013. He was named one of NSW's 10 most wanted criminals after escaping from Cessnock jail in 1980, during which time he robbed banks. In the 1970s, Powch was involved in armed hold-ups with Ivan Milat, who was cleared of the charges but went on to become a serial killer. By the mid-1980s, Powch was the right-hand man for major drug importer David Kelleher and jailed in 1985 for 18 years for conspiring to import heroin.


13 December, 2009

The Barnaby Joyce phenomenon

Story below from a Left-leaning journalist but generally factual. Joyce is VERY independent but is also a man of the people. He is also an instinctive conservative rather than an economic liberal -- which gives him both strengths and weaknesses. His threat to reciprocate trade barriers is not economically rational, for instance, but it could work wonders politically. Mexico has just caused an Obama backdown through similar measures. So if an economic basket-case like Mexico can roll the legendary Teamsters Union, anything is possible

As 2009 comes to a close, ask yourself who have been Australia's most influential political leaders this year. Kevin Rudd, certainly, but who's next on the list? I nominate Barnaby Joyce. From the time he was elected to the Senate in 2004 until last week, the media and political mainstream refused to take him seriously. It's easy to see why.

He has a bumbling manner and a madcap style. He has described the Prime Minister as a "psycho chook". He called the emissions trading system "a political fascinator - a bit of fishnet with a few feathers you can stick on your head, but it's never going to keep the sunlight out." This is wildly original, but it's also wild. It's not what we are conditioned to expect from serious political figures.

How many heavyweight public identities are named after cartoon characters? His parents say they christened him after the hero of a comic strip they enjoyed as university students, Barnaby the Mathematical Genius. And Joyce himself is happy to invite ridicule. He says he has "a name that resembles a pet cow". He developed his manner of speech while working as a bouncer in an Armidale pub: "Talk as quickly as possible," was the first lesson.

Sure, he got lots of publicity. There are three reasons. First, his wacky manner makes him "good talent". He sputters quotes "like a verbal Catherine wheel," as The Australian Financial Review's Sophie Morris put it. Second, he is a media tart who will meet just about any media request. Third, and most important, he is a political insurgent.

News is about conflict and dissent and dysfunction, and Barnaby Joyce is all of those. He ostentatiously hops into both major parties, slaps the biggest political figures, and ridicules the conventional wisdom. He did all three in just five words in this comment about the positions of Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull on climate change: "They're both full of shit." He got air time because he was a contrary voice, not because he was a powerful officeholder as leader of the National Party in the Senate, a leader with exactly four followers.

But Joyce has now upgraded from maverick to force majeure. Consider what he achieved, almost single-handedly, this year. To start with, he gave the National Party new purpose and identity in rejecting the Rudd Government's emissions trading scheme.

The Nationals like to think of themselves as the third force in Australian politics but had become merely third-rate. They were the passive backseat passengers in the John Howard omnibus, sucking on their pork-flavoured pacifiers. The Nationals were in a long, slow decay. Their share of the vote federally had halved from 11.5 per cent in 1987 to 5.5 per cent in 2007 and their number of seats in Parliament fell from 19 to 10.

Then Joyce happened. Leading the uprising against the emissions trading scheme, the senator from Queensland split the Coalition. The Liberals negotiated themselves closer and closer to Labor while Joyce pulled further and further away. At the 2007 election, both Labor and the Coalition promised an emissions trading scheme. After the election, Joyce decided "to do everything in my power to stop this policy". At the very moment Malcolm Turnbull clinched his climactic deal with Rudd and linked arms politically, the Joyce rebellion reached critical mass in public opinion.

The conservative arm of the Liberal Party exploited the moment, overthrew the leader, overturned the policy, and installed a new leader, Tony Abbott, who had adroitly changed his public position on the ETS only a week earlier.

Joyce led, the Nationals followed, the Liberals came along behind. Australia's national consensus on climate change had been shattered. Rudd was suddenly in danger of losing the signature reform of his first term. "No one gave us a snowflake's chance of prevailing," says Joyce. "In the National Party, we knew what feedback we were getting on this. We had to make sure the pressure from outside the building [Parliament House] was felt inside the building. "The pressure built and built and one day it just went snap."

Joyce identifies two critical moments in his campaign to inflame public opinion. His main challenge was to simplify his case: "If you confuse the message, you lose the message. It was such a complex policy that if we drilled into the detail, we'd lose people." His theme was that a new tax would not change the global temperature. He satirised an ETS as an "energy taxation system". But he and his fellow Nationals searched long and hard for a simple illustration. "One media release just took off, and it was a bit of an odd one - a roast will cost $100. "Labor tried to ridicule it, but the more they ridiculed it, the more it reinforced the message that a roast would cost $100. The ferment built up."

Second was the mobilisation of what Joyce calls "the drivetime talkback community - this is your core constituency, people driving home from work, and they were hearing that they were going to get whacked with a big new tax." Again, there was a notable turning point: "I know exactly when it was. It was when Jason Morrison on 2GB said to his listeners, 'these senators have names - you ring them up and tell them what you think'. And fortunately, Sydney did."

Abbott, hailing Joyce as "probably Australia's most accomplished retail politician", has rewarded him with the shadow finance minister's job. This is notable because it is a post which allows Joyce to range across all portfolios. Finance, unlike families, for instance, or housing, will not corral Joyce into a single area of policy but will gives him freedom to continue to speak widely. He is Abbott's de facto deputy leader, and they share the same style of politics - populist, aggressive, reckless, economically unorthodox, angry and oppositionist.

Joyce was the opinion leader on the ETS, and Abbott the follower, even down to the details. Abbott has embraced the Joyce version of the ETS acronym - "energy taxation system" - for example. And Joyce has since led Abbott on other policy matters too. Joyce has long been vehemently opposed to investment in Australian resources by Chinese state-owned corporations. Now we hear Abbott taking the same position.

But wielding influence is one thing. Using it to produce good public policy is another. Based on what we know of Joyce's positions so far, is he an influence for good or ill?

He is a forceful enemy of the concentration of corporate power - he hates Australia's grocery duopoly and the anti-competitive behaviour of the big four banks. These are classic populist positions. But strict policing of anti-competitive behaviour is also a tenet of sound market-based economics. So far so good.

He is opposed to the Rudd-Turnbull ETS. But what would he do about global warming and carbon pricing? Nothing, seems to be the answer. But the world needs to wean itself off carbon fuels and cut carbon emissions. Joyce has no answer here - a failure of responsible policy. And what about Australia's competitive position? In the US legislation to introduce an ETS, there is a clause that would impose tariffs on goods imported from countries that don't have an equivalent carbon price to the US. Asked on Lateline what he would do in the face of US tariffs on Australian goods, Joyce replied: "I suppose in Australia we would have to put up protection mechanisms as well, similar carbon tariffs so we don't get imports from China and South-East Asia. "What goes around comes around. If we want to start setting up trade barriers, let's go."

This would be profoundly damaging to Australia, a trade-based economy, and a reversion to the destructive protectionism of the Great Depression. It certainly doesn't represent the interest of farmers.

Then there is Joyce's warning that the US Government could default on its debt. It's not a silly thing to say. It is within the realm of possibility. The US defaulted in 1933 and, unlikely though it is, many investors worldwide are anxious that it could happen again. But there are two problems with Joyce's pronouncements on this. First is that he is now a frontbench member of the alternative government of a serious developed economy. He's not a backbench bomb-thrower any more. Second is the prescription that flows from his fear: "Things you look for in that economic Armageddon are the capacity to feed ourselves, the capacity to provide the fundamentals in medicines and basic fundamental requirements for our nation," he told the Herald's Mark Davis this week. Now he is sounding like a member of a survivalist cult, digging bunkers and stocking up with canned food and shotguns. This is madness.

Someone - Joyce thinks it was the writer of a letter to the editor - described him as "the thinking man's Pauline Hanson". Geoff Cockfield of the University of Southern Queensland describes him as "Hanson without the racism".

From political insurgent, Joyce has taken a big step towards being a political incumbent. He will have to make the adjustment in a hurry. Otherwise he will go the way of Hanson, and for good reason. Joyce has become extremely influential. He also has the potential to be extremely dangerous to the national interest.


Australia in on the carbon scams too

The best-known of the carbon scams is the way Germany and Russia were allowed under the Kyoto treaty to count the meltdown of their former Communist industries as carbon reduction credits. And Britain was allowed to count the conversion of much of its electricity generation from coal to gas -- which was in fact done to save money. And America counts the relocation of much of its industry to China. And China and India were exempted altogether, of course. So it must be no surprise that Australia's negotiators found a comfortable little loophole too -- comfortable for the government but hard on Australia's farmers. The coverage below is, rather surprisingly, from the Green/Left blog "Crikey". I notice that they are very wobbly about the difference between "effect" and "affect". I think I have corrected most of the bloopers concerned. I have tamed a few excess apostrophes too

Over the coming week Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will attend the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference and be hailed as one of the world leaders on climate change action. The PM attends the meeting with Australia being one of a handful of developed countries to have met their Kyoto Treaty obligations. Australia’s Kyoto commitment was to limit the Nations Carbon Dioxide emissions to 108% of 1990 levels.

The Carbongate “Trick”

The “trick” is how Australia, with a rapidly growing economy over the last two decades, has been able to achieve this. Emissions from energy and transport have increased by 23% over 1990 levels. Australians might wonder how with our rapidly growing population and economy over the last two decades, as a nation we seemed to be in a position to claim that we only increased our total emissions by 9%. Well, we haven’t. Our emissions have increased by 30% but thanks to the “carbongate” swindle we can claim it’s only 9%.

Here is the “trick” and it is not PM Kevin Rudd’s “trick”, it was actually the Liberal / National Coalition Howard Government’s master stoke. At the Kyoto negotiations in November 1997 Senator Ian Campbell was able to negotiate into the agreement what controversially became known at the “Australian clause” . Clive Hamilton documents the trickery of the Coalition’s bargaining that brought about the inclusion of the Australia clause in his book “Scorcher”. Indeed he devotes a whole chapter to it – Chapter 6 Drama at Kyoto. From page 72: “As emissions from land-clearing had decline sharply since 1990, their inclusion in the base year would give us a cushion of ‘free’ emissions reductions. our fossil-fuel emissions would be able to increase to at least 120 percent of 1990 levels by 2010 while still coming in under overall target of 105 to 110% . The Australia clause represented a loophole in the Kyoto Protocol that a couple of Bulldozers with a chain between them could drive through.”

The brilliant “win” for the Federal Government at Kyoto was only the first part of the “trick”. To make it work the Howard Government then had to stop private property owners land-clearing. Not only did they have to stop them but as private property it had to be done at no cost to the Commonwealth. This in the face of the Constitution which states that if the Commonwealth takes a private citizen’s property for its’ benefit it must compensate the citizen on “just terms”.

The Howard Government then set about having the Carr and Beattie State Labor Governments introduce Vegetation Management laws that effectively locked up 109 million hectares of privately owned land into the world’s largest privately owned carbon sink. The “trick’ is with the Native Vegetation laws being passed by State Governments Under the Constitution the State Governments have no obligation to pay private landholders compensation. Brilliant, they’d created the world’s largest carbon sink – at no cost to the Commonwealth.

With the “trick” now in place Australia’s Greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by 22% when you add back in the 83.7 millions tonnes of CO2 that was not emitted from land that may have been cleared at no cost to the Commonwealth. This and this alone has allowed Australia to meet its Kyoto Protocol Treaty Obligations and in doing so has saved the Commonwealth tens of billions of dollars in compliance penalties by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Australian family farmers have never been compensated for this Kyoto “free kick” that the nation and in particular the energy and transport industries have received.

That is how the Liberal National Coalition government effectively “stole’ what has amounted to 83.7 million tonnes of Carbon Credits from private individual landholders and is the sole reason that todays Labor Prime Minister can be heralded as a true warrior of climate change with Australia having met its Kyoto obligation – cost free.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong being interviewed in Copenhagen on the ABC 7.30 report admitted that the only reason Australia was able to claim it had met its’ Kyoto commitments was thanks to the blanket ban on broad scale land clearing. “I think what you’re referring to is the way we account for emissions from land clearing, which was agreed at the Kyoto Protocol. And Australia did respond to that. We did reduce our land clearing. We took active steps, particularly in Queensland, and Queensland is to be congratulated for fact that the reduction in land clearing in that state and also NSW has reduced Australia’s national emissions.”

The affected Australian family farmers are not celebrating their contribution. The impact on the relatively few citizens who have been asked to bear this enormous burden should outrage each and every fair minded citizen of this country.

The lock-up of their land has caused great hardship and driven many devastated landholders to desperate measures including suicides. A symbol of the despair and desperation felt by those carrying the Nation’s entire Kyoto burden is New South Wales farmer Peter Spencer who is in the 20th day of a hunger strike on a two metre platform high up a 300 foot tower on his property just outside of Canberra. See Video ACA interview with Peter Wednesday 9th – Dec – day 18 of Peters Hunger Strike.

Peter says that Federal Government has declared his 5,385 hectare property a carbon Sink without compensating him. Peter had never wanted to clear his land, but under the vegetation management act the entire property is rendered off limits to any form of development.

These affected Australian farmers have been responsible for virtually the entire burden of the Nation’s greenhouse gas emission reductions but their efforts worth billions of dollars have not been recognized or financially rewarded.

These farming families have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by about 70 million tonnes since 1990 and by 2010 the saving will be about 83.7million tonnes. To put that into context that is equivalent to eliminating the entire annual emissions of New Zealand or Ireland. Over that same period of time emissions from energy and transport have continued to skyrocket.

Hide the takings

Peter’s hunger strike has gathered support from grassroots people from Australia, the US, UK, Pakistan and Malaysia. On the Peter Spencer Hunger Strike causes site over 150 people have been lobbying frantically to get the mainstream media to cover the story and for politicians to intervene on Peter’s behalf.

Peter’s supporters have been bombarding State and Federal Labor, Liberal and National Party Politicians and the mainstream media to bring attention to his cause. But Peter’s story is being stonewalled by the mainstream media and Politicians of all colours and creeds. So far they have managed to have Peter’s story covered by 2GB’s Alan Jones with a live interview with Peter Spencer and his barrister Peter King by mobile phone on Tuesday morning and one with Alastair McRobert who is at the property with Peter on Thursday morning and a 5 minute spot on Channel 9’s A Current affair on Thursday night (the video above).

Fairfax Media, News Corporation and the ABC have steadfastly refused to run the story except for The Telegraph which ran a small piece last Sunday on page 42 titled He’s the Darryl Kerrigan of Climate Change. There has been a small amount of coverage in regional media - see a full list here. The group knows that the mainstream media is stonewalling the story because a journalist from the Sydney Morning Herald was due at the property Tuesday – but the story was pulled without any reason offered by the papers editor.

Peter’s supporters have contacted by phone or email or in many cases both, Andrew Bolt, Laurie Oaks, Miranda Devine, Paul Kelly, Kerry O’Brien, Tony Jones and every major metropolitan TV, Radio and Newspaper with no result. You can read all of there efforts on the Peter Spencer Hunger Strike group wall.

The response from politicians is equally frustrating. Liberal and National politicians for obvious reasons are ducking for cover, not wanting to get involved and saying it is a matter for the Rudd Government to sort out. The Prime Minister has referred Peter’s letter to him to the Federal Police. That is the extent of his response and Labor politicians State and Federal everywhere want nothing to do with the issue.

To his great credit one Federal Liberal Politician Alex Hawke the member for Mitchell was one of the earliest people to join and show his support.

Peter Spencer’s peaceful protest has the potential to embarrass a great number of politicians from all sides of politics , State and Federal, who have been complicit in the “Carbongate” great Carbon Credit theft. They are all keen to “hide the takings”.

How is it that they can all condone the taking of billions of dollars of benefit for the nation from private citizens, yet look at paying the huge polluters billions of dollars of compensation to cut carbon emissions through the Rudd Government’s proposed CPRS? “Carbongate” – is truly an incredible blight on our democracy and an embarrassment to our nation.

Peter's supporters, the majority of whom are from urban areas and from all walks of life, are desperate as time runs out for Peter.


Rudd is in the pocket of the "big two" Australian internet providers: Telstra and Optus

How to ensure that Australian internet users continue to be treated with contempt by their service providers. This whole thing is Rudd's pet idea so he can't distance himself from it

NETWORKING experts have discussed concerns that the national broadband network will put the nation on a $43 billion path "back to the future" by returning incumbent telcos to dominant market positions. Cisco Australia chief technology officer Kevin Bloch said that the NBN Co's minimalist approach to building the network would place an additional investment burden on access seekers that only dominant market players could bear.

Mr Bloch's criticism centred on the NBN Co's choice, revealed early yesterday, to build the network around a standard G-PON (Gigabit-capable Passive Optical Network), which lack technical smarts for routing data called "layer 3" services. He argued that traditionally the cost of building layer 3 services into telecommunications networks for consumers were subsidised by business and government.

He said that there was "not a network in the world for business and government built on G-PON" which would leave telcos footing the bill for the NBN service gap. "Who is going to fund the continual function of the NBN in the future if we don't have some sort of layer 3 service? "There is a fantastic opportunity, right now, which we're going to blow. "There's only one or two players that are going to bear that cost, and guess who that is," Mr Bloch said. "So we are absolutely going back to the future and making a deeper incumbency than we've ever seen before if we don't open this up and really look at what happens in the points of interconnect that's where it's going to hurt. Everybody seems to be skirting over the issue."

While Cisco stood to gain more by selling additional networking equipment to access seekers, Mr Bloch said it was not in the national interest to choose the path NBN Co had chosen.

The concerns were flushed out during a panel session on smart grids at the federal government's Realising Our Broadband Future conference in Sydney shortly after NBN Co chief Mike Quigley revealed detailed plans for the high-speed network for the first time.


Frustrated surgeons walk out of chaotic West Australian public hospital

ONE THIRD of the general surgery team at WA's biggest hospital are so disgruntled they have either quit or are poised to resign, frustrated medicos revealed last night. One senior surgeon, who quit her job at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital late last month, said she was being forced to compromise care because she felt pressured to "push patients" out the door as quickly as possible.

Senior surgeons, a number of whom have detailed a litany of concerns to The Sunday Times, said they are fed up with management, compromised patient care and unreasonable workloads. The surgeon who quit last month said her resignation from SCGH was one of "many fires burning in the department". She said the departures could be as many as eight - equal to a third of the hospital's general surgery team. "At least seven other surgeons have either left or are in the process of resigning and won't be around after December," the specialist surgeon said. "We're all high-calibre people. You're talking a big-time walkout."

She added: "There is so much pressure to push through patients just for the numbers that you're not being allowed to give the appropriate time to communicate and assist them to the level that they should be." Most of the departing medicos have found new jobs, either in other public hospitals or in the private sector.

Another surgeon said budget cuts were forcing doctors to cancel important surgery. The surgeon, who is planning to quit SCGH within months, said staff who complained were bullied by management. Another doctor, who said he went on leave and would not be returning to the hospital, alleged SCGH was recruiting overseas doctors and forcing them to work unfair hours. "The heads of department are hoping to get rid of local people and get overseas doctors because they're more vulnerable," he said. "They don't know the health system or the area and a lot of them are on special work visas."

Australian Medical Association state president Gary Geelhoed said doctors were finding it increasingly frustrating to work in the public hospitals. "We know that the hospitals are under pressure and it's getting more difficult," he said. "People are finding it harder to work within the public system."

The Sunday Times revealed in July that senior heart doctors at SCGH were locked in a bitter dispute after one doctor, John Alvarez, claimed two of his colleagues weren't qualified. SCGH suspended one of the doctors, Jaffar Shehatha, from duty pending an investigation into 18 of his patient files. The Health Department also launched an investigation into Dr Alveraz, over allegations of misconduct.

Opposition health spokesman Roger Cook called for an inquiry into the ongoing unrest among surgical staff at SCGH. "There is an emerging picture of disquiet at SCGH among the surgeons," Mr Cook said. "We need to make sure we're supporting our professional doctors and nurses as much as possible."

A spokeswoman for the hospital confirmed that three part-time surgeons would be leaving. "The timing of the departures is purely coincidental, and we are unaware of any other planned resignations in the near future," she said. "The hospital has not received a formal complaint from any of these surgeons." She said the hospital was looking to recruit two extra full-time general surgeons as soon as possible.


Conservative spokesman calls for debate on slashing immigration

SENIOR Opposition frontbencher Kevin Andrews has called for a debate on slashing Australia's immigration from 180,000 people a year to a "starting point" of just 35,000. In his first interview since returning to the shadow cabinet as spokesman on families and community affairs, the former immigration minister questioned the "blithe" acceptance of projections that the population will hit 35 million by 2050. "You look at the figures - 60 per cent of our population growth is in immigration. It's not as if we don't have any say over it," he told The Age. "Now, that obviously has to be balanced up in terms of the economic needs of the nation and what workers you need, but it's not as if this is just something that is inevitably going to happen."

Arguing that Australians were deeply concerned about problems such as urban sprawl, overcrowding, traffic snarls and dwindling water supplies, Mr Andrews challenged Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's advocacy of "a big Australia".

Risking stepping on the toes of his party's new immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, he called for a debate on cutting the permanent immigration program as one way to curb population growth, saying the levels were "pretty much" plucked out of thin air. "If you look at the 2008 data, you would need about 35,000 immigrants on top of births to replace the population (for that year). So I say the starting point should be replacement levels of population, then ask what additional population we need so the country can be economically and otherwise sustainable and growing," he said.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans branded it hypocritical for Mr Andrews to be complaining about the migration intake when the Howard government had welcomed more than 1 million migrants during its tenure. "In 1995-96, the Labor government set a migration program of 83,000. In their last year in government, Mr Howard and Mr Andrews set a migration program of 158,800 for 2007-08," he said. "It is hypocritical to now complain about the size of migration."

Senator Evans also rejected criticism of the setting of migration levels without adequate scrutiny, saying the Rudd Government had begun to construct a long-term planning framework to help set the size of intakes.

In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Andrews also objected to means-testing payments such as family tax benefits and the baby bonus. "The baby bonus is about two things - one is supporting people who have children, and seeking to raise the birthrate back to replacement levels. "If that is the purpose, then it's not a matter of something that ought to be means-tested."

He signalled plans to partly offset the $3 billion cost of axing Labor's means test - and restoring payments to wealthier families - by creating "one-stop shops" for government services such as Medicare, Centrelink and the Child Support Agency.


12 December, 2009

Influence for "some academic scribbler of a few years back" (To quote Keynes)?

A correspondent writes: "In reading Tony Abbott's "Battlelines", I find you cited. Your "Conservatism as Heresy" seems to have been a seminal influence on the young Abbott's life. Indeed, Abbott picks up your assertion that you are a "Burkean conservative" and opines that you were probably the first Australian to so self-describe. Given that our former prime minister described himself thus, we can now realise he was plagiarising you. Congratulations Dr. Ray for your influence on the re-formation of conservative ideology in Australia."

The hate-motivated party

Comments below by Andrew Bolt. One thing Andrew fails to note is that displaying a flag upside down is a sign of disrespect for it

NOW put some clothes on the lady and explain to me the difference - but slowly, so even I can understand. Let's start with Sam. Last year Channel 9 Footy Show star Sam Newman stuck a picture of a female sportswriter's head on a bikini-clad mannequin, and that was so wickedly sexist that he had to be hounded off air, formally counselled and slagged off by every sanctimonious blowhard in the land. "Punt the bastard," screamed a typical headline, over a piece by Michael Costello, former chief of staff to Labor leader Kim Beazley. Costello was sure feeling righteous on that day. Speaking on behalf of outraged women and their more unctuous gallants, he raged at the "low, sad, pathetic antics of sickos such as Newman".

Now fast forward to this week, when many of this same Costello's Labor cronies, Beazley included, crammed into the Guillame at Bennelong restaurant at the Sydney Opera House to celebrate the 80th birthday of former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke. There they all gathered, these black-tied representatives of the party that inflicted on us so many anti-discrimination laws and hired so many anti-discrimination police to nick the Newmans of this wayward world.

(God still laughs that Hawke, that once notorious womaniser, in 1984 gave Australia the Sex Discrimination Act, presumably as a public sign of repentance.)

There was Paul Keating, for instance, and Simon Crean, as well as Gough Whitlam, the always breathless Maxine McKew and glowering Greg Combet, the fiercest global warming moralist, with his new partner. Naturally, Pope Kevin Rudd turned up to give the blessing, since he's always hogging microphones and always up for a moral sermon, delivered in words of the deadest bureaucratese, like this: "It's very important for sporting organisations across the country to show leadership in demonstrating proper respect towards women."

And then it was party time. The band struck up ... and, golly, the clothes came off. See, a model - far fleshier than Newman's mere mannequin - hopped on to the stage as a treat for bawdy Bob from wife Blanche and stripped down to her bikini, while using an Australian flag, carried upside down, for some peekaboo. And on her head she had not a picture of sportswriter Caroline Wilson, stapled to her skull, but a latex mask of John Howard, the second-longest-serving prime minister of this country, after Sir Robert Menzies.

Hur, hur, hur. That'll cut Howard down to size, turning him into just a girl. Into just a bimbo. Because that was the joke, right: Howard was demeaned, because being a woman is demeaning. Even better, Howard's Labor haters - or at least the men - could at last now really do him over, at least in their fervid minds.

So did Hawke reel away in horror, shouting for his sex discrimination police to come arrest all those responsible? Did Beazley or his old chief of staff thunder denunciations of such "low, sad, pathetic antics"? Did Pope Rudd rise from his throne to counsel "leadership in demonstrating proper respect towards women"?

I've gone through the pictures of that night but all I can see is leers, smirks, mouths wide open with guffaws, people clapping and taking glad snaps, and Rudd with glasses gleaming and jacket off like he was once more back at Scores strip club, and this time could see.

How strange, then, that a paid clown like Newman is required to set a higher moral example than are the men who've run - and again run - this country. But how often we see the great deftly excuse themselves from laws meant for the small.

Yet this is not just a "let them eat cake" teachable moment, or a chance to show that our new moral laws are often more a weapon than a principle. What strikes me most from Hawke's bouncing birthday treat is just what a tribe will excuse itself when bonding - and how tribal a collectivist party such as Labor really is.

And, yes, this is indeed something you'd expect from Labor rather than the more individualist Liberals. Could you really imagine the Liberals using John Howard's 80th birthday for some raucous group-hate of Kevin Rudd, let alone hiring some stripper to strut around with Rudd's picture over her scone? Gentlemen, please. Ladies, shame! And hand over that flag.

But see what the tribe permits itself when in need of some some boyo bonding. THINK how much more it permits itself when its members are such to-the-knife rivals (think Keating and Hawke, Beazley and Crean) that they're best united by a common hatred than a common passion. No wonder such a tribe could forgive - even applaud - a stripper in a Howard mask.

But would these Labor moralisers have forgiven their dancer had she done her jiggle on the Footy Show instead, wearing, say, a Barack Obama mask - or even Caroline Wilson's picture, glued to her nose? Or take the other details of the act. Could Rudd have resisted delivering an improving sermon had he seen a stripper use the Australian flag as a prop not at Bob's bash, but at some bump-and-grind club?

The difference is that a tribe must hate, and hate licences what love could never excuse.


Poor students top performers at elite unis

Which suggests that only the very bright can overcome a poor background

STUDENTS from poor backgrounds are less likely to attend the nation's prestige universities, but those who do are likelier to finish their degrees, according to a report by the Group of Eight.

The report, released earlier this week, will inform a Go8 equity strategy that is being hammered out in response to the federal government's call for a boost in the proportion of undergraduates from low socioeconomic backgrounds to 20 per cent by 2020.

The report found 72.4 per cent of applicants to Go8 universities achieved an equivalent national tertiary entrance rank score of more than 80.05 last year, and of these only 10.4 per cent were from low socioeconomic backgrounds. But the imbalance was corrected to some extent by better retention and academic success rates for students from these backgrounds.

"Retention rates were higher in Go8 universities than any other universities across all equity groups in the five-year period from 2002 to 2006," the report says. "The difference was greatest for remote students (77 per cent in Go8 universities, 66.9 per cent in other universities) and indigenous students (70.2 per cent in Go8 universities compared with 60.6 per cent in other universities)." The report says the dropout rate for low-socio economic status students, likewise, is lower within the Go8 than outside it.

The Go8 report comes after the federal government released its own attrition figures for 2001-07 which revealed a national dropout rate of 18.9 per cent for undergraduates. The worst rate, of 40 per cent, was found at the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education in the Northern Territory, while the lowest dropout rate, of 8 per cent, was recorded by the University of Melbourne.

Earlier this year the Go8 was stung by a higher education equity report written for the University of South Australia's new National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education.

While the report, by Griffith University researcher Leesa Wheelahan, found that universities such as Macquarie and Canberra had worse equity credentials than the sandstone universities, it revealed that the Go8 admitted an average of 10.9 per cent of their students from poor backgrounds. This compared with an average across the higher education system of 17.4 per cent. At the time the Go8 strenuously asserted its members' capacity to retain disadvantaged students through to graduation.

The new report, which pledges to improve ways to identify students with academic potential and develop "multiple pathways through partnerships with other post-secondary education and training institutions", gives substance to this claim.

In a related development, the University of Melbourne has unveiled a "guaranteed access" program which it says will "give certainty" to students from rural or isolated areas and in disadvantaged socioeconomic circumstances who apply to enter the university next year and meet the published criteria. These students will be guaranteed a commonwealth-supported place in the university's new-look degrees (except music, for which students have to audition) if their ENTER is 78 or above for arts, environments or science, or 88 or above for biomedicine and commerce. Disadvantaged students whose ENTER scores are below this level will still be eligible for a place.

Melbourne University's deputy vice-chancellor Sue Elliott said of students from disadvantaged groups who meet the criteria: "They will know they have a place at Melbourne when they get their [Victorian Certificate of Education] results. These are high-quality students whose results don't necessarily reflect their true academic ability."

Professor Elliott said disadvantaged students had been shown to perform at much the same level at university as other students. "The undergraduate experience at a good university is a level playing field where students from all backgrounds have the opportunity to flourish," she said.


Bumbling Police Minister Bob Cameron labelled 'worst in Victoria's history'

BUMBLING Police Minister Bob Cameron has been labelled "the worst in Victoria's history" after a third damning Ombudsman's report in nine months into management and cultural problems at Victoria Police. In a scathing report, Ombudsman George Brouwer warned confiscated drugs were not being stored securely at the Victorian Police Forensic Services Centre, paving the way for corruption.

The report highlighted that some of the issues raised about drug exhibits and staffing problems at the laboratory might date back to 1994. Forensic drug and alcohol branch head Cate Quinn was yesterday suspended.

This is the third toxic Ombudsman's report into Victoria Police, putting huge pressure on the Police Minister - nicknamed Sideshow Bob by his political enemies for his poor performances in Parliament. In March, the Ombudsman found police abused recording procedures to improve crime clearance rates. Last month, Victoria Police was under the microscope with a scathing Ombudsman report about a series of costly blunders and dodgy contracts that left the force's IT budget $39 million in the red.

Victoria Police's credibility took a further battering this week when Chief Commissioner Simon Overland ordered that forensic officers not provide DNA testimony until further notice. The directive came two days after Farah Jama was freed after 16 months in jail and his conviction was quashed after the Crown conceded DNA evidence in the rape case might have been contaminated and there might not have even been a crime.

Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu in Parliament called on Mr Cameron to resign, describing him as incompetent and lazy. "Will he finally accept the title as the worst Police Minister in Victorian history? Or will he resign?" Mr Baillieu bellowed in the last Question Time of the year.

But Premier John Brumby remains fully supportive of his beleaguered Police Minister and Victoria Police.

The Ombudsman's report, tabled in Parliament yesterday, outlined "significant issues regarding the security and storage of drug" exhibits at the MacLeod centre which stores some 18,000 drug items. "(Drug) exhibits were being stored on pallets in an open work space in open boxes without seals or evidence tape," the report said.

In the report, Mr Brouwer admitted he did "not have confidence that all drug exhibits have been accounted for until a full external audit has been undertaken" and warned electronic records of drug exhibits were inaccurate.

Mr Overland said immediate action would be taken to overhaul the centre's drug handling and management issues. Victoria Police has accepted all 43 of the Ombudsman's recommendations. But Mr Overland conceded the recent problems at the centre had tainted the force.

Former Australian Federal Police forensic specialist Graham Ashton will take over management of the centre. Mr Ashton headed the AFP's Bali bombing investigation.


Victoria police again: Thug cop demands unconditional obedience at the point of a gun

A 70-year-old former CFA [Country Fire Authority] captain broke down in court yesterday as he recounted having a detective point a gun at his head at a police roadblock on Black Saturday. Horsham man Donald Carter has pleaded not guilty to charges including assaulting police and resisting arrests that resulted from an incident 300m from his house on February 7.

Mr Carter said he had briefly left his home to check on the progress of a bushfire that was sweeping towards his house. When he tried to return, Mr Carter said Det-Sgt Stephen Walker pointed a gun at his head after he tried to pass a traffic control point to reach his nearby home, which was threatened by the fires.

Det-Sgt Walker has given evidence he was forced to pull his gun after being rammed by Mr Carter's black 4WD ute.

Mr Carter denied ramming the officer with his car. "He jumped in front of my vehicle and pointed (the gun) directly at my head. His left hand was on the bonnet, and the gun in his right hand," a shaken Mr Carter told the Horsham Magistrates Court.


11 December, 2009

Kid killed in busy school playground: Nobody charged

Police should have been able to take someone into custody same day

THE father of a teenager killed in a schoolyard brawl almost six months ago says it is "atrocious" no one has been charged. Steve Drummond, father of 15-year-old Jai Morcom, who died at Mullumbimby High School in northern NSW on August 29, slammed police yesterday after they issued a media release appealing for more witnesses. "It's pretty atrocious that this hasn't been sorted out by now," Mr Drummond told the Courier-Mail newspaper. "There were that many witnesses to it and there's no doubt there were a few (specific) kids involved."

Jai died after a playground fight over a lunch table. Students later staged a mass walkout and protest amid claims of a bullying problem at the school.

Mr Drummond has raised suggestions of "standover tactics" at Mullumbimby High, and NSW education officials have ordered a major review into student welfare at the school.

Tweed/Byron police crime manager Inspector Greg Carey appealed for patience, saying "every effort" was being made to solve the case. "We have conducted interviews with literally dozens of students, teachers and community members," he said. "We have been in constant contact with Jai's parents and the school community. "Investigators have also set up an email address which has been circulated throughout the school community, in the hope that additional information could be provided by that method."

Jai died from his injuries in the Gold Coast Hospital. Insp Carey said NSW police were still waiting the full autopsy report from Queensland authorities. "As Jai died in Queensland, the (NSW police) report will be submitted initially to the Queensland Coroner," Insp Carey said.


Corporate regulator takes 9 years to make its case -- and still bogged down

It's either gross incompetence or a witchhunt with no substance behind it. Or maybe it's both. But as long as you are churning through heaps of taxpayer money, why worry? Very unjust treatment of the accused, though, who is at this stage entitled to the presumption of innocence. Fortunately, the judge recognizes that. Are government lawyers the worst of all? If they were any good, would they be working for the government?

THE Australian Securities and Investments Commission has again come under sustained fire in the Victorian Supreme Court where a judge hearing the regulator's case against the former AWB boss, Andrew Lindberg, has accused ASIC's lawyers of ignoring his rulings.

One day after Justice Ross Robson permanently halted one of two civil penalty cases against Mr Lindberg, the judge reiterated that, in his view, ASIC's claim against Mr Lindberg was limited only to breaches of Mr Lindberg's fiduciary duties that occurred before Saddam Hussein was toppled from power in March 2003, and not after that date.

ASIC strongly disagrees with this interpretation as it believes Mr Lindberg's duties to AWB, including the duty to inform the board and to investigate allegations of corrupt behaviour by the wheat exporter, continued unbroken from early 2000, when he was appointed chief executive, to February 2006, when he quit.

ASIC's board is expected to meet next week to decide if the regulator will appeal against Justice Robson's decision of Wednesday, when he stopped ASIC from proceeding with its second civil penalty case.

Justice Robson also said that considering all the interruptions to ASIC's original case against Mr Lindberg, including the regulator launching its second case in November and now seeking appeals against his decisions, he was concerned about prejudice to Mr Lindberg. ''I think therefore that the primary consideration here must be that Mr Lindberg gets a fair trial,'' Justice Robson said. ''I think we are really reaching the outer limits of when a person gets a fair trial when it is some nine years after the events. I think we should do as much as possible to get the trial over and done with.''

ASIC's original case, filed in December 2007 and amended several times, alleges Mr Lindberg knew about $US225 million of kickbacks that the wheat exporter secretly paid to Saddam's regime in breach of United Nations sanctions, and that by failing to stop those payments he brought the company into disrepute.

In the second case, ASIC alleged Mr Lindberg misled the AWB board and took steps to prevent his fellow directors learning about either the kickbacks or other abnormal transactions.

ASIC's counsel, Norman O'Bryan, SC, told the judge yesterday that if ASIC appeals his decision to halt the second case, then the ''cut-off'' date imposed by Justice Robson will certainly be raised in the Court of Appeal.

Amid some tense exchanges, Justice Robson said he had limited ASIC's allegations of breaches to events before March 2003 because that was the way he had interpreted ASIC's amended statement of claim.


Tony Abbott does well with a female audience

It was a chance for Tony Abbott to put to rest the perception, in the words of his host, that "you don't like women". But the Christmas lunch in Brisbane of the Women's Network Australia became so much more for Mr Abbott and 80 corporate cougars, who ganged up on him over his penchant for Speedos, laughed at his spruiking of their wares and then joined hands as newfound disciples of self-helper Amanda Gore, author of The Gospel of Joy.

It wasn't an orchestrated picture opportunity; Mr Abbott had planned for a catch-up lunch with former MP and recently exhumed candidate Teresa Gambaro, who was already booked to attend the event in a room overlooking Allan Border Oval. And like the great Australian cricket captain, Mr Abbott played defensively when needed -- promising to supply a picture for the group's website, but only in "my boardies" -- and moving on to the front foot about his problematic image among women.

Asked how he could be perceived in such a way when he lived with four women, Mr Abbott hit a proverbial six over the crowd of businesswomen. "Well, I know who the boss is and it's not me," he said, to cheers.

He then paid tribute to his supportive and independent wife and three daughters, before tackling the question of his alleged problem with women. "I think it is (a myth)," he said. "But in the end, I suppose, in politics you just got, to some extent, just roll with the punches. "Sometimes they are low blows, sometimes, they are not and you try and be yourself and you hope people will give you a fair go."

It should have been a segue to Ms Gore -- who near-eulogises on how to deal with competitors in the workplace -- but first, Mr Abbott was called to compere the product promotions of several WNA members.

Ms Gore talked of surrounding yourself with the right people and being a leader who is a "spirit igniter, and not a spirit foofer" of colleagues.


Illegal Immigration Crisis in Australia

By John Stone

ANYONE SURVEYING the Australian immigration policy scene today must be seized with an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. Not only has the Student Visa racket emerged into the plain light of day, with its chains of corruption from beginning to end, but the threat to our borders from the illegals has re-erupted.

The Student Visa program, as noted earlier, stands out for its corrupt practices in an immigration program now grown notorious for corruption across its entirety (including not least its Refugee and Special Humanitarian Visa components). So long as we blindly continue to fail to acknowledge that Australian citizenship (the real goal of almost all involved, both genuine students and bogus “students” alike) is a highly valuable property right—for which people from countries such as China and India will pay whatever bribes are necessary—it will remain so.

As to the re-emergence of the people-smugglers and their human cargoes, put aside, first, the lying (regrettably, there is no longer any other word for it) assertions by the Rudd government that the recent upsurge of illegals arriving on our shores owes its origins solely to “push” factors—in particular, the conflict in Afghanistan and the defeat of the Tamil Tiger insurgents in Sri Lanka. No more people are squatting in UNHCR camps around the world today than there were when the Howard government shut down the earlier people-smugglers’ trade in boat people.

At any given time, people-smugglers and their criminal clients have a choice of destinations—continental Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States (usually via Mexico), Canada, Australia and so on. The choice they make will be a function of the relative expense (that is, the fee charged by the smuggler), the relative value to the client if successful (very high in the case of Australia), and the relative likelihood of such success. Under the Howard regime, that last factor had become so small, and subject to such relative hardship even if successful, that the choice was strongly weighted in favour of attempting to go somewhere other than Australia.

The tearing down by the Rudd government of the barriers erected by its predecessor has changed all that, and no amount of lying denials of that fact will alter it.

At the time of writing, a new element has entered the equation. Having boasted of abolishing “the Pacific solution”, the Rudd government has now been forced to go, cap (plus millions of dollars) in hand to the government of Indonesia. On bended knees, it has been begging that country to “warehouse” two boatloads of illegals—most of them, seemingly, from Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, the criminals involved have resorted—with the eager co-operation of the Australian media—to one threat after another: first, to blow up, or set fire to, one of the boats in question; second, to embark on several hunger strikes—rapidly abandoned when that tactic failed to work; third, refusal to disembark from either vessel without various “guarantees”; and so on.

Not only is this whole bizarre incident leading to Australia being seen as a laughing stock around the world—with both the illegals and the Indonesian authorities playing our government for suckers—but also, even if eventually resolved (temporarily) in our favour, there can be no lasting assurance in such arrangements. To quote again from that above-mentioned Quadrant article three years ago, “we would be wise to avoid becoming too reliant on Indonesia’s goodwill and co-operation. As the record has consistently shown, those attitudes can change overnight.”

Meanwhile, the so-called processing facilities at Christmas Island have become rapidly over-crowded. (I say “so-called” because there is no way that people who arrive there without identity papers can be properly processed as to their criminal—or even terrorist—records, or general character. Nor, as a matter of fact, can they be properly checked for various transmissible diseases, given the facilities available on the island.) The government has been frantically trying to minimise this problem, principally by “clearing” the criminals involved and granting them Permanent Residence visas. So frantic has this process been that even the illegals—one or more of whom is known to have deliberately set fire to the boat off Darwin on which, as a result, five people perished—were also recently granted permanent residence and released into the West Australian community.

If the government’s performance on all this has been abysmal, the Opposition’s has been little better. Not until a former Minister for Immigration, Philip Ruddock, spoke to the Australian (and then gave a succession of excellent, hard-hitting interviews to both radio and television), had we heard so much as a cheep out of the Opposition. Its formal spokeswoman on immigration matters, Sharman Stone (no relation, I am glad to say) had effectively said nothing. The best that the Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, could do was call for an inquiry! Why he would need an inquiry into these matters when he has within his own party room two of the most knowledgeable people in Australia—Philip Ruddock and Kevin Andrews, both of whom he has small-mindedly relegated to his backbench—beggars imagination.

In a larger sense, of course, we do need an inquiry, and a thoroughgoing one at that, into the whole corrupt immigration scene—one leading to an immediate major reform and reshaping of the Department of Immigration. The Howard government failed to take up that suggestion, and the present government will certainly not do so.

The bottom line is this. It is the first duty of any government to protect its citizens, including their protection against invasion by undesirables and incompatibles who seek to penetrate the nation’s borders by entering into criminal conspiracies with people-smugglers. The Rudd government’s palpable failure in this respect means that we have lost control of our borders. Just as the British government under Tony Blair (whom Kevin Rudd more and more closely resembles) lost control of immigration into Britain—with results that are now producing a sharp rise in the fortunes of Britain’s only truly fascist political party, the British National Party—so we are losing control of immigration into Australia. Though the consequences may be literally incalculable, one thing is certain: Australia will be a lesser country—and progressively so—as a consequence.


10 December, 2009


Three current articles below

Climategate: ordering a better scare for Australia

The exchange and comments presented below by Andrew Bolt include something that is really explosive for anyone with the most basic knowledge of statistics. The Warmist scientist has undertaken to present changes that are not statistically significant (i.e. random changes) as if they WERE statistically significant. See the update at the foot of the article. Once again we see a total lack of scientific integrity among Warmists. The UEA is just a propaganda institution. It's not a real university's anus

CSIRO alarmist Barrie Pittock tells off Climategate scientist Mike Hulme of the University of East Anglia for not presenting material that’s scary enough for green groups:
I would be very concerned if the material comes out under WWF auspices in a way that can be interpreted as saying that “even a greenie group like WWF” thinks large areas of the world will have negligible climate change. But that is where your 95% confidence limit leads. Sorry to be critical, but better now than later!…

Dr A. Barrie Pittock

Post-Retirement Fellow*, Climate Impact Group

CSIRO Atmospheric Research
Hulme agrees to help, up to a point, to hide some doubts:
My reason for introducing the idea of only showing changes in T and P that *exceed* some level of ‘natural’ variability was a pedagogic one, rather than a formal statistical one (I concede that using ‘95% confidence’ terminology in the WWF leaflet is misleading and will drop this). And the pedagogic role of this type of visual display is to bring home to people that (some, much or all of) GCM simulated changes in mean seasonal precip. for some regions do *not* amount to anything very large in relation to what may happen in the future to precip. anyway…

The point behind all this is to emphasise that precip. changes are less well-defined than temp. changes *and* that we should be thinking of adaptation to *present* levels of precip. variability, rather than getting hung up on the problems of predicting future precip. levels. This pedagogic thinking is hard to communicate in a short WWF brochure.

Your concern about my message is well taken, however, and I intend to remove any reference to 95% confidence levels, to re-word the text to indicate that we are plotting precip. changes only ‘where they are large relative to natural variability’, and to reduce my threshold to the 1 sigma level of HadCM2 control variability (e.g. this has the effect of showing precip. changes for the majority of Australia even in the B1 scenario).

But I do not intend to abandon the concept. I think it important - even for Greenie groups - to present sober assessments of magnitudes of change. Thus making it clear that future changes in T are better defined that future changes in P, and also to point out that future emissions (and therefore climate change) may be as low as the B1 scenario (is B1 climate change negligible? I almost think so), whilst also being possibly as high as A2 is I think very important.

The alternative is to think that such a more subtle presentation is too sophisticated for WWF. But I think (hope) not. Thanks again Barrie for forcing me to think through this again.
Pittock then explains why he’s so keen to “improve” this material - and also illustrates just how close green groups are to the CSIRO (whose climate change risk expert Penny Whetton is married to a Greens politician):
I should perhaps explain my delicate position in all this. As a retired CSIRO person I have somewhat more independence than before, and perhaps a reduced sense of vested interest in CSIRO, but I am still closely in touch and supportive of what CAR is doing. Also, I have a son who is now a leading staff member of WWF in Australia and who is naturally well informed on climate change issues. Moreover, Michael Rae, who is their local climate change staffer, is a member of the CSIRO sector advisory committee (along with some industry people as well) and well known to me. So I anticipated questions from WWF Australia, and from the media later when the scenarios are released...
Hulme then alerts another colleague to this exchange, under an interesting header, as an example of the massaging of their message to fit an audience:
From: Mike Hulme

To: Jennifer F Crossley

Subject: Re: masking of WWF maps

... it illustrates nicely the nuances of presenting climate scenarios in different Fora
Word sure had got around the green traps about how helpful the University of East Anglia was prepared to be to green campaigners. Here is an email from green entrepreneur Adam Markham to Hulme, asking for “beefed up” scares and directing him to Pittock’s more alarming scenarios, as and example of what WWF likes:
From: Adam Markham

Subject: WWF Australia

Date: Thu, 29 Jul 1999 09:43:09 -0400

Hi Mike,

I’m sure you will get some comments direct from Mike Rae in WWF Australia, but I wanted to pass on the gist of what they’ve said to me so far. They are worried that this may present a slightly more conservative approach to the risks than they are hearing from CSIRO. In particular, they would like to see the section on variability and extreme events beefed up if possible. They regard an increased likelihood of even 50% of drought or extreme weather as a significant risk. Drought is also a particularly importnat issue for Australia, as are tropical storms.

I guess the bottom line is that if they are going to go with a big public splash on this they need something that will get good support from CSIRO scientists (who will certainly be asked to comment by the press). One paper they referred me to, which you probably know well is:  “The Question of Significance” by Barrie in Nature Vol 397, 25 Feb 1999, p 657

Let me know what you think. Adam


Reader Grant:
There is an explosive admission in this exchange that needs to be drawn out and it is to do with the following comment:
Your concern about my message is well taken, however, and I intend to remove any reference to 95% confidence levels, to re-word the text to indicate that we are plotting precip. changes only ‘where they are large relative to natural variability’, and to reduce my threshold to the 1 sigma level of HadCM2 control variability (e.g. this has the effect of showing precip. changes for the majority of Australia even in the B1 scenario
In statistics this is important because any 1st year undergrad is told that the scientific approach for testing for significance is a 2-sigma test; ie the 95% confidence interval. Results that are significant at no more than 1-sigma significant are as good as meaningless in the sense that they are no different to sheer randomness and would be laughed all the way out of a 1st year course on stats.


Nature will decide Earth's future

By Professor Bob Carter, currently aboard a research ship near New Zealand. He is a research professor at Queensland's James Cook University - where he was Professor and Head of School of Earth Sciences between 1981 and 1999 - and the University of Adelaide

AS the core samples from deep underground pass through the logging sensor before me, the rhythmic pattern of ancient climate change is clearly displayed. Friendly, brown sands for the warm interglacial periods and hostile, sterile grey clays for the cold glaciations. And for more than 90 per cent of recent geological time the Earth has been colder than today.

We modern humans are lucky to live towards the end of the most recent of the intermittent but welcome warm interludes. It is a 10,000 year-long period called the Holocene, during which our civilisations have evolved and flourished.

The cores tell the story that this period is only a short interlude during a long-term decline in global temperature - they also warn of the imminence of the next glacial episode in a series stretching back more than 2 million years.

Together with 50 other scientists and technicians, I am aboard the drilling ship Joides Resolution. JR, as it is affectionately known, is the workhorse of the Ocean Drilling Program, an international program that is to environmental science what NASA is to space science.

JR's drilling crew can retrieve cores up to 1km or more below the seabed and we are drilling today about 80km east of South Island in New Zealand. The ancient muds and sands that make up the sediment layers we pass through are the most important record of ancient climate that scientists possess. And they tell the tale that climate always changes.

Some core alterations are ruled by changes in the Earth's orbit at periods of 20,000, 40,000 and 100,000 years, others by fluctuations in solar output and others display oceanographic and climate shifts caused by . . . we know not what. Climate, it seems, changes ceaselessly: sometimes cooling, sometimes warming, oft-times for reasons we do not fully understand.

Similar cores through polar ice reveal, contrary to received wisdom, that past temperature changes were followed - not preceded but followed - by changes in the atmospheric content of carbon dioxide. Yet the public has been misinformed to believe that increasing human carbon dioxide emissions will cause runaway warming; it is surely a strange cause of climate change that postdates its supposed effect?

The now numerous special interest groups who continue to lobby for unnecessary and economically harmful carbon dioxide taxation need to appreciate that nature, not the world's governments, will determine future climate. Second, that there is no scientific evidence that warmings greater than the much-talked about 2C will cause environmental catastrophe; rather, this number is one plucked out of the air for reasons of political targetry and control. And, third, that to limit atmospheric carbon dioxide to 450ppm, also a widely touted figure, makes no sense, because past carbon dioxide levels attained more than 10 times this without known adverse environmental effects, while greening the planet.

Politically popular though it may be, the belief that atmospheric carbon dioxide is the primary driver of average planetary temperature is junk science. For instance, Earth experienced an ice age about 450 million years ago at a time when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are estimated to have been 15 times the pre-industrial level.

It is simply science fiction to believe that 450ppm of atmospheric carbon dioxide and 2C of warming are magic numbers that somehow mark a "tipping point"in Earth's climate system. Rather, they are politically contrived targets, erected for the purpose of stampeding scientifically innocent citizens into a gaping corral of carbon dioxide taxation.

The simplest explanation for the mild warming that occurred in the late 20th century is that it was part of Earth's ever-changing pattern of natural climate change and the job of scientists is to seek evidence to test that interpretation. They have and literally thousands of scientific papers to date have described climate evidence that is consistent with natural change.

Despite all the efforts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the expenditure of about $100 billion of research money since 1990, no scientific paper exists that demonstrates that the late 20th century warming, or the past 10 years of cooling for that matter, fall outside the rates and magnitudes of past (geological) climate change.

Melting glaciers (but, in some places, advancing), rising sea levels (but, in some places, falling), increasing numbers of storms (actually, currently at a 30-year low), increasing numbers of polar bears and changes in migratory patterns of birds may very well all have happened or be happening. But these facts say nothing about a human causality for such changes.

It is not for the independent climate scientists (the so-called "climate sceptics") to disprove that dangerous human-caused warming is happening. Rather, it is for the alarmist scientists of the IPCC and CSIRO to show that the simple idea of natural climate change can be invalidated. This they have failed to do.


Thank heavens cap and trade is dead

By Gary Johns -- previously a minister in the Hawke Labor government

KEVIN Rudd never actually fought the 2007 election on an emissions trading scheme. After all, John Howard offered the same.

There was a consensus on an ETS; Rudd lassoed votes by offering to sign the Kyoto Protocol, just as it was coming to an end. It was a cheap gesture. Now comes the hard part, convincing the electorate that what once seemed like a good idea remains so despite the fact it will not achieve its objective, or at least will be costly and ineffectual in solving climate change, and that it will be positively harmful in distracting from other big world issues such as poverty. Remember the promises made to make world poverty history? What happened to that money?

In all this, the Prime Minister has been operating as an international bureaucrat. His involvement in multilateral matters is immense and mostly futile. The real action takes place in country to country deals, in gas, uranium, climate adaptation and technical co-operation. On these matters he has been largely absent. Labor opted out of the climate change debate years ago by following the consensus between climate change scientists and European economics. There was no political antenna telling them that this stuff really hurts. The consequence is that there is no plan B.

How did this happen? Climate change advocates have become the bullies of policy-making. They have pushed aside a score of important international issues. They are sucking up money and policy oxygen. They claim their demands supersede poverty, clean water, Third World health, international free trade, and that they will protect the poor from catastrophe.

But climate change measures to save the world will not solve world poverty, provide clean water or solve health problems. Indeed, developing a trade in a gas that is essential for life, difficult to measure and therefore easy to cheat to avoid complying with an international agreement will interfere with free trade.

Successive Australian governments fell for this bullying. Fortunately, now the faux consensus between the main parties on climate change response has collapsed, there is no chance the ETS will pass. More importantly, Rudd will not want to take a new version to an election for fear it will be treated like all referendums where there is disagreement among the main parties. They fail.

The prospects for an ETS do not improve with the likely outcomes from Copenhagen. Three things will happen at Copenhagen. There will be no agreement that the world can move to a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas mitigation. Politicians in developing countries, China and India in particular, will announce national targets for carbon intensity (the amount of carbon dioxide emitted for each unit of gross domestic product) but not lower carbon output. Politicians in poor countries will have their hands out for money to help them develop or adapt, which will look pretty much like the old foreign aid game. The agreement will begin to talk about adaptation because scientists are telling the community it is already too late to stop climate change.

Sooner or later we will have to accept that reducing carbon dioxide emissions is not like a crash diet, there is no lap-band surgery. And since modern societies cannot exist without cheap, non-renewable fuel, realistic substitutes such as nuclear energy are fast coming online everywhere except in places such as Australia, where coal and gas are cheap.

The implications for Australia are that the government's ETS is dead. In policy terms it is a rebuttal of the process whereby climate scientists, international diplomats and some economists came up against reality and failed to find the path they wanted. The politicians' job now is to find a way out of the mess.

How did this come about? Bullying. Environmentalists were given too much prominence because too many advocates for other causes stood aside. Even within the climate abatement debate there was bullying. The ETS has a premium on setting limits to greenhouse gases, but in so doing causes price to fluctuate. A carbon tax can make price more certain (at least that part which is the tax) but cannot guarantee certainty in greenhouse gas output.

Cap and trade won over carbon taxes because the environmental lobby was obsessed with setting an absolute limit of carbon output. It drove the economists to deliver a cap-and-trade mechanism. But it will not work without a full international market. And that will not happen, not even in the wildest dreams of the international bureaucracy's wildest fantasies. Cap and trade was road-tested in Europe. But Europe is not the rest of the world. Europe has been working on a common market for 50 years. In a sense the carbon cap and trade suited its greater cause of bedding down its internal market and, incidentally, building barriers to other trading blocs.

The advocates of cap and trade lost their way because the process has been so drawn out. Copenhagen is the 15th UN Climate Change Conference. The game changed beneath the players. Cap and trade seemed a sensible goal when participants aspired to a global response, but without a global response cap and trade falls in a hole.

China and India signed a joint agreement on climate change in October, in which both rejected legally binding caps on their CO2 output and gave equal priority to adaptation and mitigation.

So cap and trade is dead; what to do now? The Coalition at least had a debate; at no time has Labor debated climate change or mitigation strategies or countenanced adaptation as a strategy.

Labor simply chased one mitigation non-solution. The Rudd ETS was a giant washing machine churning taxes. Labor looks vulnerable to an attack that its politicians are dreamers, willing to chase far off threats while forgetting to care about more immediate matters closer to home.



Three current reports below

Pregnant mum and bub fall down ancient lift shaft at hospital

EIGHT weeks' pregnant and with her toddler daughter in her arms, Shavaun Nemere could do nothing but scream as she plunged down a Kingaroy Hospital elevator shaft after its doors malfunctioned. The screams continued as they lay seriously injured at the bottom of the shaft, with a young staffer coming to their rescue before the lift could descend and crush them.

Shavaun, 17, and daughter Izabella, 14 months, face more surgery for the horrific injuries sustained in the accident six weeks ago. They have made almost daily trips to hospitals in Toowoomba, Brisbane and Caboolture from their Benarkin home in the South Burnett to be treated for multiple fractures and gashes so bad they needed plastic surgery. Shavaun is still too distressed to talk about what happened.

Her mother Julie Nemere has spoken for the first time about the ordeal because she wants the hospital's 68-year-old elevator to be replaced. "The hospital has been asking for a new lift for years but their requests have fallen on deaf ears," she said.

Ms Nemere said her daughter was visiting a sick relative at the hospital and decided to go up a floor to make an antenatal appointment. With Izabella in her arms, she opened the exterior polished doors to the elevator and then pushed back the inside metal security doors and stepped forward - into space.

Desperately trying to protect Izabella, she fell 1.6m to the bottom of the lift shaft landing on her left hip, arm and cheek, while the little girl hit the concrete floor with her face. A staff member heard their screams and jumped down the shaft handing the baby up to a doctor and rescuing Shavaun.

Both were airlifted to Brisbane where Shavaun was treated for multiple fractures to her left arm, shock, concussion and amnesia. Izabella's badly gashed face needed stitches and plastic surgery. If the injuries had been a few millimetres higher, she could have lost an eye. Ms Nemere said there had also been bleeding complications with Shavaun's pregnancy and doctors were still monitoring a small haematoma behind her uterus.

The executive director of the Darling Downs-West Moreton Health Service District, Ray Chandler, said the lift had been tested by engineers and was safe and fully operational. "It undergoes a service check every month," he said. [A very cursory check, obviously]


Blame dodged in public hospital death case

TEARS and anger have followed a coroner's finding that no one was to blame for the death of a Mareeba mother-of-five twice turned away in pain from her local hospital. Coroner Kevin Priestly yesterday said Mareeba Hospital did not have the staff or equipment to save Sharon Con Goo, who died of bacterial septicemia in January 2007. But he cleared its doctors of any negligence, finding it was unlikely they could have done anything to save her life.

Relatives reacted angrily yesterday after Mr Priestly found there was "no missed opportunity for medical intervention that would have affected the outcome" of Ms Con Goo’s case. Ms Con Goo was not admitted to the hospital on January 7 nor January 9 after presenting on both dates with serious pain caused by a septic leg. On one occasion she was sent home with Panadol to ease her suffering. [No missed ipportunity???] She returned to the hospital on January 10 and was transferred to Cairns Base Hospital, where she died on January 11.

During the inquest in August, Mareeba Hospital doctor Asif Majeed said he offered to admit Ms Con Goo during her second visit, but she refused. But her husband, Andrew Con Goo, testified that his wife was not given the option of being admitted, despite having her bags packed to stay overnight.

Ms Con Goo's mother, Faye Rigg, broke down outside court yesterday, telling reporters that her daughter was in such a poor state of health, family members had to carry her to the hospital. She said she was upset at the verdict, labelling it ""bulls---''.

Mr Priestly said he reviewed a range of expert medical opinions to conclude it was unlikely Mareeba Hospital staff could have prevented Ms Con Goo`s death. But he also found the hospital was "not properly equipped with the resources or medical professionals required''.

Former Tablelands MP Rosa Lee Long, who attended the inquest, said yesterday's findings should prove worrying for people who rely on Mareeba Hospital. "She packed her bags to be admitted, and what did they do? They turned her away,'' Ms Lee Long said. "Everyone should be frightened, everyone should be concerned.''


Rudd fails to deliver on 35 GP super clinics

KEVIN Rudd's promise to build 35 GP super clinics across the nation appears to be in tatters, with only one completed centre in operation after two years of Labor government. The Australian can reveal that despite the Prime Minister's claims that six more centres are partially complete, at least two are offering little more than conventional GP services. And one centre claimed by Health Minister Nicola Roxon as a partially functioning GP super clinic -- in Darwin -- is in fact being fully funded by the Northern Territory government.

Mr Rudd campaigned for the 2007 election promising to spend $275 million on super clinics -- medical one-stop shops in areas struggling with inadequate medical services. The centres were to offer after-hours general practitioners, specialists, mental health services, chronic disease management, allied health practitioners and training for medical students and trainee specialists.

Yesterday, as the opposition savaged the scheme as a politicised con, Mr Rudd refused to answer questions from The Australian as to whether the scheme was on target and exactly how many clinics he expected to deliver by the end of his three-year term. Instead, the Prime Minister, who was criticised earlier this week by health sector groups for taking too long to deliver promised reform to the health system, blamed the Howard government for being negligent on health.

Last month, Ms Roxon told parliament the GP super clinic program was being well received, with the nation's first super clinic -- at Ballan, in Victoria -- already operating and another six offering "early services".

Inquiries by The Australian yesterday revealed that at least two of the partially complete super clinics -- at Palmerston in Darwin and at Woongarrah in NSW -- were offering simple GP services. The Palmerston facility was offering after-hours, bulk-billed GP consultations. Local mayor Robert Macleod said he was pleased with the extra services. But the super clinic is not due to begin operating until March next year.

Despite Ms Roxon claiming the Palmerston facility as evidence of the success of the program, Health Department officials told a Senate budget estimates committee earlier this year that it was funded by the Northern Territory government and was not a super clinic. The Woongarrah clinic also offers limited services and the super clinic is not due to open for a year.

The opening of the Ballan super clinic has resulted in the previous two GPs being increased to three and the addition of four-day-a-week dental services as well as a range of allied health services. Ballan Bush Nursing spokesman Glenn Rowbotham told The Australian the GPs did not operate out of hours but that one was on-call for emergencies.

Opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton said the government had used the scheme to curry favour in marginal electorates but had failed to deliver. "Mr Rudd was tricky during the election campaign by not putting a deadline on the provision of these clinics," Mr Dutton said. "But most people would have expected they would have been delivered in the first term of government."

Australian Medical Association national president Andrew Pesce said he did not know whether the scheme was running behind schedule because the government had never consulted his organisation at any stage of the program. Dr Pesce said the AMA had always argued it was wiser and more cost-effective to offer grants to existing medical practices to broaden their services rather than building a new system "from the ground up".

Earlier this week, The Australian sent written questions to Mr Rudd asking why the six GP super clinics were operating only partially and whether he would explain the hold-up. His spokesman responded with a written statement that ignored these questions. However, the spokesman said "several more" clinics would begin operating within the next 12 months. "Some GP super clinics have begun providing services while their full infrastructure is being completed in order to allow them to provide a wider range of services," the spokesman said. "The procedures for delivering many of these clinics involves tender processes."



Two current reports below

More Queensland police misbehaviour

Former Palm Island police officer sues state for $2.7m over bullying

A FORMER Palm Island police officer who claims he was bullied by his colleagues and called a "pretty boy cop" is suing the State Government for nearly $3 million. Giovanni Roberto Palleschi, 32, allegedly suffered a mental breakdown after he was subject to ongoing derision, bullying and harassment while working on the island from October 2005 until November 2007.

In civil documents filed to the Supreme Court, Mr Palleschi alleges Senior Sergeant Paul James verbally abused him on a daily basis, including calling him a "f - - - ing ballerina cop" and a "f - - - ing lazy bastard". Sen-Sgt James allegedly belittled Mr Palleschi's police work, saying "all that touchy feely stuff with the locals is crap Palleschi, it is all about arrests".

Mr Palleschi arrived on Palm Island after the death in custody of Mulrunji which sparked riots on the island in 2004. Due to the volatile environment, Mr Palleschi's wife and children lived in Townsville. He lived with fellow officers on the island in a police compound, which is described in the court documents as an "unhappy and unhealthy environment".

The documents allege Sen-Sgt James ridiculed Mr Palleschi, often excluding him from social events. In March 2006, the court documents claim Mr Palleschi approached Sen-Sgt James to advise him he needed help to deal with work-related stress. He alleges Sen-Sgt James reacted in a violent and aggressive manner. He then allegedly said: "You are f - - - ing full of shit. You are just lazy and I have caught you out. It's all about arrests and traffic tickets and not airy fairy community policing".

Mr Palleschi began suffering physical stress symptoms such as bleeding noses, paranoia and insomnia, the court documents claim. On November 12, 2007, he was so distraught he confronted Sen-Sgt James and another officer about the ongoing harassment and soon after had a complete mental breakdown, the court documents claim. He ceased work the next day.

Mr Palleschi now lives on the Gold Coast and was medically retired from the Queensland Police in March. He suffers ongoing mental health issues, the documents claim. He is suing the State Government for $2.78 million for failing to provide a proper and safe work environment and exposing him to the risk of sustaining psychiatric injury

Sen-Sgt James is still working on Palm Island but is currently relieving at Ayr Police Station. A Queensland Police spokeswoman said they had not received any complaints against Sen-Sgt James and that this year he had received an Australian Police Medal in the Queens Birthday honours. The State Government is yet to file a defence. Sen-Sgt James is not being sued directly.


Corrupt Victorian police agency 'lost $120 mil'

An honest policeman's lot in Australia is not a happy one

THE amount squandered by Victoria Police's troubled IT department was more than $120 million, three times the sum detected by the Ombudsman, a former senior police manager says. Richard Kennedy, the force's former manager of strategy and business relationships, said the IT department was systematically milked by IBM for years before any action was taken. "Hundreds of millions of dollars were lost, and the Ombudsman, Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon and the auditor- general were repeatedly warned," Mr Kennedy said. "The whole thing is just an unbelievable disaster."

Mr Kennedy is an auditor who joined the police in 2001 after 15 years specialising in restructuring the outsourcing of information technology contracts. He said he was astonished by what he found. "They were paying out millions of dollars for services that were never delivered," he said.

Mr Kennedy said he complained to the auditor-general, Ms Nixon and the Ombudsman as long ago as 2002, but that his concerns were whitewashed and his identity as a whistleblower revealed by some in senior management.

The Ombudsman finally investigated the matter this year. Though only examining expenditure back to 2006, he found a "gap" in funding of $39 million. "Not only is there a problem in Victoria Police, but there are significant questions which need to be asked of the auditor-general's office and the Ombudsman's office," Mr Kennedy said.

Documents seen by the Herald Sun show senior public servants in the Police Minister's office were aware of a $22.8 million cost blowout as long ago as September 2001.

Mr Kennedy said that he wrote reports for senior police, complained to both the Opposition and the minister, and was even fobbed off by the Ombudsman in 2003. "Nobody wanted to know. The problem was really that big," Mr Kennedy said.

A spokeswoman for Victoria Police declined to say whether IBM had delivered all the services the force had paid for, and declined to respond to questions about Mr Kennedy's claims. "The matters raised are historical and Victoria Police is now focused on improving its future IT practices and contract management arrangements," the spokeswoman said.

IBM spokeswoman Gisele Boulay would not say whether all the services the company had been paid for were delivered to Victoria Police. "IBM cannot provide comment, as we have neither knowledge of - nor seen - these alleged documents," Ms Boulay said. "These are matters that are more appropriate for your informant to raise with Victoria Police, if he has not already done so during previous internal investigations," she said.


9 December, 2009


Five current articles below

Climate claims fail science test

By Michael Asten, a professorial fellow in the school of geosciences at Monash University, Melbourne

THE UN Climate Change Summit started this week in Copenhagen with far more dissent than its organisers hoped for from two extremes of the climate change debate We had the "grandfather of climate change", James Hansen, describing the proceedings as counter-productive and "a farce", while the chief Saudi Arabian negotiator to the summit, Mohammed al-Sabban, doubts the current science and suggests there is no longer any point in seeking agreement to reduce emissions.

It is therefore certain that the global political debate on managing carbon emissions and climate change will continue well beyond the Copenhagen summit. It is to be hoped that the scientific debate is also permitted to continue.

Results released this year suggest that the degree of scientific certainty falls short of that desirable before we set binding targets and dollar values on carbon emissions. Indeed, Tim Flannery, chairman of the Copenhagen Climate Council admitted that: "We can't pretend we have perfect knowledge: we don't."

This is a refreshingly honest comment when contrasted with some of the statements in the hacked emails of the Climatic Research Unit, UK, made by leading British and US climate scientists, who were caught with their fingers on the "delete button" when faced with climate data that failed to agree with their computer models.

Meanwhile two recent results published by top scientists cast doubt on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's theory about the link between atmospheric carbon dioxide and global warming. These are of of significance because whereas the climate models used by the IPCC rely on software to represent a large number of highly complex Earth processes, these results are equivalent to experimental observations on the Earth itself.

Paul Pearson of Cardiff University and his international team achieved a breakthrough recently, published four weeks ago in arguably the world's top scientific journal, Nature. They unravelled records of atmosphere, temperature and ice-cap formation 33.6 million years ago, when the Earth cooled from a greenhouse without ice caps, into something quite similar to our present day. These results from "Laboratory Earth" have a particular advantage: we can see what happened after the event for two million years. With today's records we see changes in atmospheric CO2 and temperature over 50 years and seek to project what will happen in the future.

Pearson's work contains a couple of remarkable results. First the greenhouse atmosphere pre-cooling contained a CO2 concentration of 900 parts per million by volume, or more than three times that of the Earth in pre-industrial days. We can't be sure what triggered the Earth to cool despite, or because of, its changing green-house atmospheric blanket, but once it did, cycles of ice cap formation and glaciation commenced, apparently governed by the same variations in the Earth's orbit that govern the ice ages of the past million years.

Second, while the cooling of the Earth took place over a time-span of around 200,000 years, the atmospheric CO2 first dropped in association with the cooling, then rose to around 1100ppmv and remained high for 200,000 years while the Earth cooled further and remained in its new ice ages cycle.

We can compare these huge swings (both up and down) in atmospheric CO2 with current computer-modelled estimates of climate sensitivity by the IPCC which suggest that a doubling of CO2 relative to pre-industrial times will produce a temperature increase of 2.5C to 4C.

If the Earth started a cycle of ice ages 33.6 million years ago while having its very carbon-rich atmosphere, and if the Earth showed cycles of ice-age activity when atmospheric CO2 was four times the level that it was in humankind's pre-industrial times, what new information must we incorporate into our present climate models?

Another key parameter in climate modelling is the warming amplification associated with increasing CO2 in our atmosphere. This amplification factor is generally believed to be greater than one, giving rise to an understanding that increases in atmospheric CO2 amplify warming (a positive feedback in the physical process), and the IPCC has quantified this to deliver the finding that most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in man-made greenhouse gas concentrations.

However since the IPCC's fourth report, our Laboratory Earth has also delivered new data on this CO2-induced amplification factor. The tool for the study in this instance is recent satellite-based temperature data now extending over 30 years. Building on a methodology published 15 years ago in Nature, climatologist and NASA medallist John Christy and colleague David Douglass studied global temperature impacts of volcanic activity and ocean-atmospheric oscillations (the "El Nino" effect) and separated these from global temperature trends over the past 28 years. The result of their analysis is a CO2-induced amplification factor close to one, which has implications clearly at odds with the earlier IPCC position.

The result was published this year in the peer-reviewed journal Energy and Environment and the paper has not yet been challenged in the scientific literature.

What this means is that the IPCC model for climate sensitivity is not supported by experimental observation on ancient ice ages and recent satellite data. So are we justified in concluding that the concentration of atmospheric CO2 is not the only or major driver of current climate change? And if so, how should we re-shape our ETS legislation?

I don't know the answer to these questions, but as Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman observed: "It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong."


Global warming has stopped, says conservative leader

OPPOSITION Leader Tony Abbott has gone one step further from being a climate change sceptic and has questioned if the world is warming. The comments were seized upon by Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, who will arrive in Copenhagen today for climate change talks that aim to set the foundations for cuts to global greenhouse gas emissions. It comes as the US Environmental Protection Agency plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions because they "threaten the public health and welfare of the American people".

When Mr Abbott seized the Liberal leadership from Malcolm Turnbull last week he rejected criticisms that he was a climate change denier, but said he was sceptical about what level mankind had contributed to the problem. His position yesterday raised further questions about his intentions to address climate change. "Notwithstanding the dramatic increases in man-made CO2 emissions over the last decade, the world's warming has stopped," he told Macquarie Radio.

Senator Wong, who has been accused of not giving enough funds to helping the Torres Strait cope with climate change, hit out at Mr Abbott. "He is out there publicly talking about the world cooling when we have so many world leaders ... going to Copenhagen because they are concerned about climate change," she said. ["World leaders" matter more than the facts? She is a pure apparatchik] "We see Mr Abbott talking about the globe cooling as the rest of the world is trying to work its way to tackling climate change."

A gobsmacked Greens Leader Bob Brown said Mr Abbott's comments would alienate conservatives. "In a world where both big and small business understand the science of climate change and the need for appropriate action," Senator Brown said.

It comes as Opposition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt has said tackling climate change would come at a cost. Mr Abbott has guaranteed there will not be any taxes, either "by stealth" or otherwise to mitigate the problem. "There are no cost-free options, but there are dramatically lower cost options," Mr Hunt said. "The Government picked the highest cost of all the major mechanisms (through its carbon pollution reduction scheme)."


Plimer gets good mainstream coverage in Australia

The story below ran on several Murdoch sites

AN Australian scientist has told a Copenhagen audience that humans are not damaging the climate - and the weather seemed hotter to him as a child. Well-known geologist and author Ian Plimer travelled to the scene of the UN climate conference to question whether the world was warming. "It's been freezing in Perth and bucketing down," Professor Plimer said after his lecture.

The UN's weather body, the World Meteorological Organisation, yesterday announced the last decade was likely to be the hottest on record. Australia has had three heatwaves this year and is on track to record its third-hottest year ever. But Prof Plimer, author of the recent best-selling book, Heaven and Earth, which questioned human-induced climate change, said: "One swallow doesn't make a summer."

The University of Adelaide professor did not make it inside the official climate conference venue, instead giving his speech to a rival conference organised by a US lobby group in central Copenhagen. "Heretics are not allowed," he said of the UN conference. He told the rival conference he remembered summers when he was a child being much warmer and said at the moment it was freezing in Perth and bucketing down.

Prof Plimer said he was in Copenhagen to try to stop the world engaging in the "global collective madness" of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by clamping down on economic development. He said the climate had always changed and it was erroneous to blame emissions from people. Other factors, like the sun, the earth's orbit and extraterrestrial factors, could be responsible. Major ice ages had happened when carbon dioxide levels were high and there had been very warm periods before the industrial age began, he said.


Academics firmly stuck in their ivory tower

A NATIONAL union has broken ranks with the ACTU to demand the Rudd government dump its proposed emissions trading scheme, declaring the plan a costly and ineffective response to climate change. The National Tertiary Education Union said federal Labor should replace the scheme with "a non-market-driven solution that will drastically reduce carbon emissions".

The union said its policy stand was driven by academics and researchers directly involved in scientific and economic work around climate change. The union's NSW secretary, Genevieve Kelly, said the union was motivated by concerns from university staff that the ETS was not an adequate response to climate change. "Rather than get bogged down with a costly emissions trading scheme that rewards big polluters and will have a limited impact on emissions, the Rudd government needs to immediately invest in renewable energy, public transport and a transition from coal-fired power generation," Ms Kelly said.

The union is calling for a 40 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2020. Ms Kelly told The Australian that the union did not believe there had been sufficient debate within the ACTU and the union movement about the direction of climate change policy. "This policy may place the NTEU at odds with the Rudd government and some elements of the union movement; however, we have an obligation to respond to the deeply held concerns of our members who overwhelmingly want action on this issue," she said.

The union is also serving claims on universities to have environmental claims included in workplace agreements. During the current round of bargaining with universities, the union has pushed employers to agree to clauses that commit universities to reducing emissions. "We are seeking a better level of debate within the ACTU," Ms Kelly said. The union's national council has endorsed a resolution calling for the abandonment of the CPRS legislation and development of a national pollution-reduction strategy that does not primarily rely on market mechanisms. The resolution says there should be a planned transition from coal-fired generators to renewable energy.


By-election results a worry for the Labor party and its climate policies

Losing their traditional base

THE double-edged swings in the by-elections for Higgins and Bradfield will force the main parties to rethink their plans for any federal election based around the issue of climate change. Lower-income Labor booths swung to the Liberals, while higher-income Liberal booths swung to the Greens, in a criss-cross of party loyalties that presents challenges for both Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott.

Labor has more marginal seats to defend outside the capital cities, where the opposition hopes to find fertile ground for a scare campaign over the emissions trading scheme. But the Liberals have more marginal seats on the line in the cities, where the government believes voters will punish any party that does not take climate change seriously.

By picking a fight on climate change, the new Opposition Leader will force the Prime Minister to juggle two messages: compensation for lower- and middle-income earners outside the cities, and action for those within the cities. The Abbott strategy looks more viable after the weekend by-elections because Labor's lower- and middle-income base was not interested in switching to the Greens.

In Bradfield, Liberal candidate Paul Fletcher gathered double-digit swings to him in the Labor strongholds of Hornsby (up 12.6 per cent on the 2007 election) and Chatswood (up 13.5 per cent), but lost ground in the blue-blood suburbs of Wahroonga (down 7.7 per cent) and St Ives (down 8.7 per cent).

Kate Brodie, 22, voted Labor at the last federal election, but she voted Liberal in Saturday's by-election because she felt the Prime Minister had failed to make the case for an ETS. Ms Brodie, who works in public relations, said she didn't understand what the ETS meant. She described Mr Abbott as "a last-minute saviour . . . "For me, it came about really fast, so I wasn't quite sure what it involved, and how it would really impact on our future," she said. She was so concerned about the cost of an ETS, she said she would not have voted Liberal at Saturday's by-election had Malcolm Turnbull retained the leadership.

The pattern was repeated in Higgins, where the mortgage belt and Labor stronghold of Murrumbeena swung to the Liberals by 4.7 per cent but the private school hub of Kooyong Park had a 6.8 per cent swing against the Liberals.

The opposition is wary of reading too much good news into the worker swings because Labor didn't run in either seat, and many Labor voters appear to have cast informal ballots. But the numbers do provide a warning to Labor that its base, when confronted with a choice between Green and Liberal, will fracture.

The Rudd government betrayed its sensitivity last year by using its compensation package for the ETS to deliver more in handouts to lower- and middle-income families, and to pensioners, than these groups would face in energy price rises.

By switching its message on the ETS, from bipartisanship to opposition, the Liberals will force Labor to return to the retail politics of climate change by emphasising the benefits over the costs.

At the next election, Labor will have 88 seats, the Liberals 50, the Nationals nine and independents three. Nine of those Labor seats are on margins of less than 1 per cent, with five of those nine being Liberal-held seats that are now notionally Labor after the redistribution of boundaries. Labor has a further five seats on margins between 1 per cent and 1.7 per cent. The breakdown of these 14 most marginal seats -- the difference between holding government and losing it -- is where the climate change rub lies. Only three of Labor's exposed seats are inner city -- Solomon, Swan and Bennelong. The remaining 11 split between the suburbs and the bush. Four are outer metropolitan: Macquarie, Hasluck, Dickson and Deakin. A further four are in provincial centres: Robertson, Herbert, Corangamite and Bass. The final three are classified by the Australian Electoral Commission as rural: Macarthur, Gilmore and Longman.

From the Liberal perspective, some of these seats are worth targeting. But first they must shore up their base. Newspoll has shown a swing to Labor since the last election, so the opposition is at risk of going backwards if the ETS scare doesn't bite, or if it backfires.

The Liberals have nine seats on margins of less than 2 per cent, and the Nationals have a further two. The Liberal nine are split between two in the inner city -- Sturt and Stirling -- five in outer metropolitan areas -- Bowman, La Trobe, Hughes, Ryan and Cowan -- and two rural -- McEwen and Paterson. The Nationals have two rural marginals: Cowper and Hinkler.

George Meredith, a 70-year-old practising accountant from Gordon, believes Mr Abbott can win back the Howard battlers by fighting Mr Rudd on the ETS. "I was happier when Abbott came in and clarified his position on the ETS . . . I think we're rushing the whole bloody thing," he said. "I lost heart with Malcolm, he's not very different from Milky Bar Kid Kevin Rudd."



Three current reports below on Australia's own third-world airline

QANTAS strands blind woman -- illegally

"Australia's national airline" refused guide dog and stranded blind woman. A mainstream carrier that is as ignorant -- and as ignorant of the law -- as an El Cheapo airline

QANTAS left a blind woman distressed and stranded interstate at night because the airline would not allow her guide dog on a flight. Qantas is not alone. Tiger Airways two days earlier baulked at letting the same woman fly with her guide dog.

Donna Purcell and her husband, Ric, of Sydney, met a wall of resistance from Tiger Airways when they tried to fly return to Adelaide with her guide dog for a weekend away last month. First, she was told that Tiger did not take dogs, then she would have to buy an extra ticket for it and even then could not be guaranteed to fly. Eventually she convinced the airline to take her to Adelaide, but when Tiger cancelled the return flight, she approached Qantas.

Despite at least 20 seats being available on a plane that evening, Qantas asked her to stand aside while they processed other Tiger passengers. Qantas counter staff told her to call reservations, who told her dogs were not allowed in Adelaide airport. The airline finally booked them on a flight the next day. It left Ms Purcell and her husband stuck in Adelaide with no accommodation arranged or food for her seeing-eye dog, Hetty, a three-year-old black labrador on a special diet.

Ms Purcell has lodged complaints with both airlines and the Human Rights Commission. "I was shunned because I had a guide dog," she said.

Tiger Airways, which could find no record of the complaint, yesterday apologised to Ms Purcell, blaming an outsourced company for not understanding the airline's policy. "Tiger Airways will take immediate action to remind our staff and business partners of our policies in relation to passengers with special needs," its communications manager, Vanessa Regan, said.

Qantas head of communication Olivia Wirth said the Qantas counter staff did not have the authority to make the seat allocation but the airline took the matter seriously and had apologised to Ms Purcell, offered to pay expenses and was reviewing its processes.


Qantas passengers in dark for eight hours

DOZENS of international travellers' plans were thrown into chaos last night when a Qantas flight to Singapore was delayed by eight hours and then finally cancelled. A faulty emergency exit door has been blamed for the delay.

Passengers on the 2pm flight from Adelaide were initially told that the flight would be delayed by am hour. But at 9.45pm last night, they were told the part needed for the door had not arrived and the flight would be rescheduled. Many passengers missed connecting flights in Singapore as a result and some passengers became irate when advised of the further day's delay.


QANTAS has lost it

Qantas is in the process of reinventing itself, if you believe the company's own hype. It has spent millions on a customer service training centre in Sydney; at least on domestic routes to begin with, it is in the process of redefining the customer check-in experience to radically reduce the time it takes.

It sees the main brand as a premium carrier, complemented by Jetstar as a cheap alternative, with the group able to offer something for each part of the market. But, particularly for long-haul travel, I'm wondering whether the Qantas group has already lost the battle for Australian hearts and minds.

The combined Qantas group share of the market is now below 30% on international routes from Australia, where once its share was nearer 50% (admittedly in the much more regulated old days). Its market share continues to shrink in spite of the invention of Jetstar, which was designed to increase it.

On the US route, Qantas is being clobbered by new capacity from V Australia and Delta, although Qantas still has the lion's share. Between here and Europe, Qantas is being swamped, not only by traditional rivals like Singapore Airlines, which continues methodically and relentlessly to increase its Australia market share (in spite of this year's pause caused by the global slowdown), but also by the new Arabian Gulf carriers, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar.

More than a million Australians - about 20% of everyone heading overseas - are going to Europe, but only 40% of them to English-speaking Europe (that is, the UK). Yet Qantas now has only two European destinations where it flies its own planes - London and the German business capital, Frankfurt. Its key competitors have far more comprehensive European networks. Emirates, for example, now has more than 20 European cities.

In the past two decades, Qantas has axed Manchester, Paris, Rome and Athens - not because it couldn't fill its planes on those routes, but because there weren't enough business travellers to make those routes pay.

Jetstar plans to return to Rome and Athens. But I think Jetstar will not only struggle to find acceptance from Australians if it flies to Europe, but also needs to tap new markets for visitors to Australia - and most (though not all) of those are in Northern Europe. Think Spain, Germany's many big regional cities, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Ireland -- countries from where travel to Australia is already (or potentially) the strongest.

Do you think of Qantas if you're heading to Europe? How would Jetstar go against Singapore Airlines and Emirates? Has the horse already bolted, particularly since its chief low-cost rival, AirAsiaX, already flies daily to London and has just secured rights to fly to Paris?


Liberal Party getting tougher on illegal immigration

The Coalition's dumped immigration spokeswoman, Sharman Stone, says she has been "done over by the Right" as Tony Abbott moves to harden the Coalition's stance on immigration. The Australian understands the Opposition Leader will appoint Sydney MP Scott Morrison to the immigration porfolio in a new frontbench line-up expected to be announced today. Last night Dr Stone lashed out at her demotion, saying she had sought to steer a middle course between party moderates and hardliners.

Mr Abbott's reshuffle comes as the number of unauthorised boat arrivals this year approaches 2500, following the interception of the 51st boatload this year on Sunday.

Mr Morrison was elected to parliament in 2007 following the retirement of Bruce Baird, an outspoken critic of John Howard's hard line on immigration. His appointment to the front bench follows a widespread feeling within the party that Dr Stone had failed to "cut through" in her criticism of the government, a charge she angrily rejected.

"I've been done over by the Right," Dr Stone told The Australian yesterday. "It's about payback. Immigration was so difficult because you were sandwiched between the left and the right wing of the party. I happened to believe that I was steering the right path and I had a lot of support for that, including, of course, from the leader at the time."

Dr Stone is one of a number of moderates understood to have been dumped from the shadow cabinet. One Turnbull supporter said yesterday the reshuffle had rewarded hardline Abbott supporters and punished Turnbull backers. Dr Stone's public outburst came on the same day deposed leader Malcolm Turnbull attacked in his blog Mr Abbott's stance on climate change, suggesting the Coalition's internal bickering was far from over.

Nevertheless, Dr Stone, who has accepted a position as the Coalition's spokeswoman for women, youth and early childhood, pledged to work with her successor, as well as Mr Abbott, her ideological opposite. She said she would bring considerable experience to her new role. "I'm well known for championing the rights of women, particularly in the area of reproductive health and also indigenous, rural and migrant women," she said.

Dr Stone fired a warning shot over the new Opposition Leader's bow, saying it was essential the Coalition did not fall back on the hardline policies of the past. "It will be essential that the moderates that remain in the party continue to steer through the middle ground, ensuring that the real grassroots of the party continues to build in multicultural communities," Dr Stone said. "After all, we were the party that abolished the White Australia policy with Harold Holt in 1966."

Dr Stone's remarks came as authorities on Christmas Island prepared to process a boatload of 40 people intercepted on Sunday night -- the 51st boat to arrive this year. All told, the boats have ferried 2353 passengers and 115 crew to Australia's shores, bringing to 2468 the number of unauthorised arrivals by boat this year. More than half of those people, 1286, remain in immigration detention on Christmas Island.

Refugee Council of Australia chief executive Paul Power criticised the system of offshore processing, saying it made more sense to manage asylum-seekers on the mainland. "Years of strident political debate has lead to a situation where decisions are made to minimise political embarrassment to a government," Mr Power said. "Both major parties have done that."


Some stupid comments on the monarchy

By Barry Everingham -- "a Melbourne writer and commenter on royalty". All he has is hostility. He doesn't even know the difference between Sandringham and Balmoral. Sandringham is in Norfolk, not Scotland

Dear oh dear – the Queen of Australia and her other realms and territories beyond the seas – is very angry. She’s sick and tired of the paparazzi lurking behind the clipped hedges at Sandringham – her multi million pounds holiday house in Scotland – taking pictures of the rollicking royals on their Christmas break. Privacy? What privacy?Privacy? What privacy?

So angry is the Australian head of state, she’s threatening to invoke laws if any of the snappers are caught in the royal grounds – there’s nothing she can do if they stay outside the castle’s fences so the guess is ladders will be the orders of the day.

What the Queen fails to understand is that she, along with the other members of her family are nothing more or nothing less than paid public servants. They get their fortnightly cheques from Whitehall – which are taxed these days – and they go about doing what they are paid to do: open; open fetes, cut ribbons, launch ships and other important day to day duties....

More HERE, if you want to read drivel.

8 December, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is deeply unimpressed by media collusion designed to promote the Copenhagen climate conference.

Australian conservatives riling UN climate bosses

THE head of the world's top climate research body has compared Tony Abbott to former US president and climate sceptic George W. Bush and conceded the failure of Australia's cap and trade carbon bill has given momentum to climate naysayers worldwide. In an exclusive interview with The Australian just hours before he was to deliver the keynote address on the opening day of the Copenhagen global climate summit, Rajendra Pachauri denied the defeat of the legislation would provide enough impetus to derail negotiators at Copenhagen from delivering an agreement.

But Dr Pachauri, who chairs the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former US vice-president Al Gore, said more important was the decision of US President Barack Obama to defer his Copenhagen trip to coincide with the leaders meeting on the last day of the summit. "Yes, of course, it will be a motivator (for climate sceptics), but several positives have taken place, like President Barack Obama coming on December 18th and not the 9th," he said. "The Chinese and Indian prime ministers are also coming."

Asked how he might deal with Mr Abbott -- who has previously described global warming as "crap" -- should he topple Kevin Rudd at the next federal election, Dr Pachauri cited US president George W. Bush's reversal on climate change during his second term. "You don't know what a person will do from one point in time to another. People have also been known to change their opinions," Dr Pachauri said. "I talked to George W. Bush on his sixth or seventh year as president and his beliefs had changed drastically from when he first took office."

As well as the defeat of the Australian legislation, the lead-up to the Copenhagen conference, which began last night, has been complicated by the scandal of "Climategate", the leaking of emails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit which appear to undermine data showing global warming.

IPCC vice-chairman Jean-Pascal van Ypersele said the theft of the emails was not the work of amateurs, but was a sophisticated attempt to destroy public confidence in the science of man-made climate change. He said the fact the emails had first been uploaded to a sceptics' website from a computer in Russia was an indication the hackers were paid. "It's very common for hackers in Russia to be paid for their services," he said. "If you look at that mass of emails, a lot of work was done, not only to download the data, but it's a carefully made selection of emails and documents that's not random at all. This is 13 years of data, and it's not a job of amateurs."

UN Environment Program director Achim Steiner said the theft of the emails had echoes of Watergate -- the burglary of the US Democratic Party's offices at the Watergate building in Washington in 1972. "This is not climate-gate, it's hacker-gate. Let's not forget the word `gate' refers to a place where data was stolen by people who were paid to do so. So the media should direct its investigations into that."

In Adelaide yesterday, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong conceded she would go to the Copenhagen summit with Australia's position significantly weakened because of parliament's rejection of the ETS. "We wanted to go to Copenhagen with a plan to meet our targets; it's unhelpful that we're not," Senator Wong said. "But of course Australia will still be doing all we can to contribute to getting the agreement Australia needs and the world needs."

Senator Wong said that although it was unlikely a legally binding treaty would be finalised in Copenhagen, she was determined to get an "effective political agreement". "We need to do what President Obama said: that is, an agreement that's comprehensive and that has immediate effect," she said.

Last week's Senate vote on the ETS legislation, which would have seen emissions trading in Australia begin in July 2011, had been closely scrutinised by the US and other Western nations which are considering similar domestic measures to help cut greenhouse gas emissions. A political agreement on carbon trading in Australia, the developed world's biggest per capita emitter, would have helped to garner support for action in Copenhagen from other countries. But the legislation was voted down after a mutiny within opposition party ranks led by Mr Abbott, who overthrew former leader Malcolm Turnbull over his support for the ETS legislation.

Dr Pachauri described Mr Rudd, whom he met last month during the Prime Minister's lightning trip to India, as a "remarkable leader and an experienced politician". He said he was confident the ETS bill's defeat last week was a "minor setback". During his India visit Mr Rudd pledged $70 million in funding for a host of new joint agriculture and energy research projects, several of which involved India's top environmental organisation, TERI (The Energy Resources Institute), which Dr Pachauri also heads. "It seems to me the Australian public is fully committed to taking action because Australia is probably one country that has suffered from the impacts of climate change more than any other," Dr Pachauri said from Denmark. "(Climate sceptics) will get momentum from time to time but they are certainly a minority so I don't see in a democracy how they would succeed. "I think as long as Kevin Rudd is the Prime Minister of the government in power and he wants to move in a particular direction the country will rally around the PM."

Dr Pachauri said he was "pretty optimistic" an agreement could be reached in Copenhagen and had been encouraged by commitments made in the past fortnight by China, India and the US.


Hatred blinds Leftist academics to reality

The election prophecies of the Canberra psephologist Malcolm Mackerras are really just harmless entertainment. Last week he predicted that the Greens candidate Clive Hamilton would defeat the Liberal Kelly O'Dwyer in the byelection for the Melbourne seat of Higgins on Saturday, and prophesied that Liberal Paul Fletcher would be forced to preferences in Bradfield on the north shore.

Of greater concern are the byelection predictions of some social science academics who are employed to teach politics to fee-paying students at taxpayer-subsidised universities. Both O'Dwyer and Fletcher increased the total Liberal vote, after the distribution of preferences, over that which was obtained in the 2007 election.

Labor did not run candidates and the Greens were not able to match the combined anti-Liberal vote of two years ago. Yet some academics predicted not only a dismal showing for the new Liberal leader, Tony Abbott, in his first electoral test but also the demise of his party.

In a bizarre article in The Australian on Friday, Robert Manne, a politics professor at La Trobe University, canvassed not only a victory for his friend Hamilton but also "the destruction of the Liberal Party" this week. Manne acknowledged some of his views were "fantasy" but it was difficult to work out what part of his article was fantasy and what was academic analysis. Most teachers would fail a paper like this if it were presented as a university essay.

Manne also made his position clear on the Liberals, referring to the party's "troglodyte-denialist wing" and Abbott as the "troglodyte-in-chief". Such language seems acceptable in the La Trobe University politics department.

Judith Brett, Manne's professional colleague, did not throw the switch to fantasy or engage in labelling. Even so, her analysis was very similar to Manne's. Writing in the Herald on Saturday, she said that "the Liberals risk becoming a down-market protest party of angry old men in the outer suburbs". She also said the Liberals were "the natural party of the big end of town and of the big producer groups".

In fact, big business and the big producer groups are willing to co-operate with whichever party is in government. The core of the Coalition's support turns on medium to small business, farmers and middle-income earners.

According to O'Dwyer, the Liberals gained votes in such suburbs as Carnegie and Murrumbeena, which are not the high socio-economic parts of Higgins, where she received strong support from young married women. So much for Brett's analysis. Or perhaps fantasy is a better word.

Manne and Brett are not alone. Brian Costar, a professor of political science at Swinburne University, said he expected Higgins would go to preferences. And Paul Strangio, a member of the Monash University politics department, wrote in The Age that "Abbott's leadership will need emotional intelligence - a quality in short supply in the Liberal Party in recent times".

Manne, Brett, Costar and Strangio are all left-of-centre or leftist academics who comment on the Liberal Party as part of their professional career. A reading of their analyses this week reveals the pitfalls of projection. Manne, Brett, Costar and Strangio dislike Abbott's social conservatism and his rejection of the Rudd Government's emissions trading scheme. They made the familiar error of projecting their views on to the voters in Higgins and Bradfield.

There is also an unpleasant double standard here involving Tony Abbott's Catholicism. On Friday Manne wrote that "very many Australians will not vote for a Catholic party leader whose religious convictions fashion their politics". Manne was the chairman of The Monthly when it ran Rudd's essay on the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer in 2006, and enthusiastically endorsed Rudd's religious convictions at the time. The views of Rudd and Abbott on social issues are not far apart. Yet it seems, according to Manne, Rudd's religious convictions are acceptable while Abbott's are not.

Come to think of it, the fantasy surrounding last Saturday's byelections has not been confined to academics. This year, the Radio National program Breakfast has been giving publicity to Fiona Patten's new Australian Sex Party. As recently as last Friday it was suggested on Breakfast that the party could win a seat in the Senate. Not on Saturday's vote it couldn't. Patten scored 3.3 per cent of the primary vote, finishing behind the Democratic Labor Party candidate John Mulholland. This is a breakaway from the original DLP, which was formally wound up three decades ago.

Few would expect that Abbott could lead the Coalition to victory in next year's election. His task will become more difficult following the decision of Malcolm Turnbull to adopt the stance taken by such former Liberal leaders as John Gorton, Malcolm Fraser and John Hewson and become a public critic of the party he once led.

Turnbull's announcement that he would cross the floor and support Labor's emissions trading scheme is a blow to the Coalition. But it does not overturn the fact that, based on last week's Liberal Party secret ballot, 75 per cent of Coalition parliamentarians support Abbott's approach on climate change.

The Liberal vote at the weekend indicates that Abbott is capable of at least stabilising the Coalition vote at the level of the 2007 election and perhaps increasing it somewhat. Moreover, Abbott's approach may attract support among the lower socio-economic groups who elected Robert Menzies in 1949, Fraser in 1975 and John Howard in 1996. This is a fact that the left-of-centre academy has invariably been slow to appreciate.


New conservative leader talks to the coalminers

Journalists attack Abbott over his Catholic beliefs but give Rudd a free ride over his Anglican beliefs. Bigotry, anyone?

KEVIN Rudd has a reputation for donning hard hats on construction sites, while Tony Abbott's staunch Catholicism has earned him the nickname of "Mad Monk". But yesterday, in the first open hostilities between the two, it was Mr Abbott who visited a coalmine in the NSW Hunter Valley vowing to save thousands of jobs threatened by an emissions trading scheme, while the Prime Minister returned fire from the forecourt of St John's Anglican Church in Canberra.

In a direct appeal to Labor's working-class constituency, the newly elected Opposition Leader selected the Bloomfield open-cut coalmine at East Maitland as a backdrop to warn that 16,000 jobs could be lost in the Hunter should the ETS come into effect. "You only have to listen to the coalmining unions to understand there's a lot of unhappiness among Labor people with Mr Rudd's rushed emissions tax, which is going to put tens of thousands of jobs at risk around Australia and about 16,000 jobs at risk here in the Hunter," Mr Abbott warned. "The last thing we want to do is jeopardise the competitiveness of Australia's export industries, on which all of us ultimately depend."

With Mr Rudd shelving plans to fly early to the Copenhagen summit next week after US President Barack Obama indicated he would not arrive until later in the talks, Mr Abbott challenged the Prime Minister to a series of debates on climate change. "The problem is, Mr Rudd has explained his emissions tax more to Barack Obama than he has to the Australian people," he said.

In what promises to be an increasingly bitter contest between the two men, the Liberal leader took aim at critics who seek to define him by his Catholicism, and swiped at Kevin Rudd's new prime ministerial tradition of holding "press sermons" outside church most Sundays. Describing Mr Rudd as sounding "more like a public servant in a seminar than a retail politician", Mr Abbott said his personal faith was a private matter, and asked why journalists did not grill Mr Rudd on his religious beliefs.

Responding to a pointed question from the Nine Network's Laurie Oakes about whether or not he believed in evolution, Mr Abbott said his faith was "not out there in the political marketplace". "I don't do doorsteps in front of church, Laurie," Mr Abbott said. "I mean, if there's one person who's put religion front and centre in the public square, to use his phrase, it's Kevin Rudd. "So please, next time Kevin's here, grill him on evolution and all these other subjects."

As if to prove the point, down in Canberra, Mr Rudd emerged from morning service at St John's Anglican Church in Reid to issue a rebuke to Mr Abbott on climate change policy. "Despite our differences, Mr Howard had a policy on climate change, as did Mr Turnbull. It was called an emissions trading scheme. I have a policy on climate change. It's called an emissions trading scheme," Mr Rudd said. "I'd suggest the current Leader of the Opposition calms down, puts in the hard yards and actually develops a policy on climate change."

Mr Abbott has vowed that he will take neither an ETS nor a carbon tax to the next election. And that policy, raw as it is, found plenty of support with the manager of the Bloomfield mine, John Richards. Mr Richards said the miners who would be most affected by an ETS would be those in "gassy underground mines".

"Open-cut miners will also be hurt, but to a lesser extent," he said. "If the ETS goes ahead, it will impose a direct increase of $1.40 to $2 per tonne dependent on our production costs."



Four current articles below:

Surprise! Nobody knows how to fix Australia's unfixable "free" hospital system

Rudd knows he doesn't have the moneypit needed

PEAK health groups have demanded Kevin Rudd stop talking and act on improving the nation's health system, flatly declaring he is taking too long to decide how to reform the troubled sector. And the opposition has ridiculed the Prime Minister as a health bureaucrat more interested in process than action after yesterday's Council of Australian Governments meeting in Brisbane failed to deliver substantive health reform. Mr Rudd yesterday defended his reform process, insisting that reforms of the multi-billion-dollar system must be done properly and with proper consultation.

Mr Rudd won the 2007 federal election promising to end what he called "the blame game" between states and the commonwealth. He vowed he would lift funding to states but relieve them of control of public hospitals if they failed to improve their performance. Despite delivering a 50 per cent, five-year funding boost to the states in a $64 billion funding agreement signed last year, complete with more federal strings attached, Mr Rudd has yet to finalise his plans for structural reform of the system.

Yesterday, he emerged from a two-hour discussion on health with the premiers with no news beyond a $300 million boost in funding for elective surgery and an agreement on a decision-making process for next year. "Our healthcare system is under great stress and pressure, and therefore we must get it absolutely right for the long-term," Mr Rudd said.

Earlier, he had briefed the premiers on the report of the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission, produced earlier this year, proposing a range of possible changes to the operation of the health system.

The lack of progress drew a sharp response, with Australian Medical Association president Andrew Pesce saying the health sector was running out of patience. "People are losing confidence because the timeframes keep changing and getting put back," Dr Pesce said. "We can only tolerate further delays if we can get some assurance that solutions are being considered that will actually fix our deteriorating system. Our governments must give a firm indication of the direction and extent of the health reform that is being developed."

Catholic Health Australia chief executive Martin Laverty labelled COAG a talkfest and demanded Mr Rudd "stop talking and start acting". "We appreciate the level of consultation on health reform but today's Council of Australian Governments talkfest has not delivered what patients in hospitals and residents in aged care services need," he said. "Unwieldy and inconsistent legislation and regulation, and overlapping responsibilities between states and the commonwealth, are delaying or even preventing timely access to aged care for many older Australians in need. "By simplifying and centralising the funding and assessment processes, the federal government could ensure quality aged care is available to all who need it, when they need it, with choice over where and how to receive care."

Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association executive director Prue Power said she was disappointed by the lack of action. "Now that these processes have been undertaken, it is time for governments to act," Ms Power said. "The community expects it and the future of our health system depends upon it. "The outcome today can only be characterised as a continued holding pattern for the Australian community. If the government is not careful, the plane may run out of fuel before it has a chance to land safely."

Opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton said Mr Rudd had spent two years making promises but had done nothing. "Mr Rudd is Australia's favourite bureaucrat," Mr Dutton said. "He loves to talk in bureaucratic terms, he talks in convoluted terms and today he was the health bureaucrat."

Mr Rudd was unmoved. He said his reform process was adhering to his stated targets and that he had significantly boosted funding to states in the new funding agreement. "These are massive numbers which affect the totality of the health system and therefore they have to be got right," the Prime Minister said. "A bit of sticking plaster here and a bit of sticking plaster there frankly, when you are looking at long term reform won't work."


Baby sent home had blood clot that could have killed him

On the one hand, the seven-month-old's life was saved with surgery to remove an 8cm x 2.8cm blood clot pushing on his brain. However, his traumatised mother Tamara says that only hours before, when she first took James to the Gold Coast Hospital's emergency department, he was not treated and allowed to go home.

Gold Coast Hospital emergency director David Green yesterday strongly disputed Mrs Owen's account. He said Mrs Owen and James left the emergency department "against clinical advice after the patient was assessed and under observation". However, Mrs Owen said: "The triage nurse said he had only a minor head injury that didn't need to be seen by a doctor. "If we hadn't taken him back to the hospital when we did, he would have died in a matter of minutes."

Mrs Owen, 28, said James landed on his head after rolling off his parents' bed at the family's Upper Coomera home about 8am on November 24. "Immediately, his head swelled up so we put him in the car and took him straight to see our GP," she said. "Our doctor gave us a referral letter and said, 'Please take him to the hospital', so we did."

Mrs Owen and her husband Steven, 31, arrived with their baby at the Gold Coast Hospital emergency department about 9.20am. She said a triage nurse led them into a treatment room for initial assessment. "However, the nurse then pushed on the part of (my son's) head that was bruised and swollen and he didn't stop screaming," Mrs Owen said. "She said, 'If you like, you can sit in the waiting room for four hours and we'll come and check his vital signs every half-hour'. "She also said that we should try to put him to sleep out there but we thought after a head injury, the last thing you should do is go to sleep."

Mrs Owen said the family retreated to the waiting room as directed, but after 90 minutes no further medical checks had been performed. "So we decided then to take (James) home as he wouldn't calm down and we were the only ones observing him anyway," she said. She said the triage nurse agreed they could leave, handing Mrs Owen a "list of signs to watch out for." "Things like vomiting . . . being non-responsive," she said.

Once back at their house, James, would not take his bottle. He appeared extremely tired, and Mrs Owen says against her better instincts, she let him sleep. "With the nurse earlier saying, 'Put him to sleep', we (now) didn't think there was anything wrong with that," she said.

Three hours later, James barely flickered when his mother tried to rouse him. "He'd kind of look at me and crash again," Mrs Owen said. "He became unconscious."

Returned to the Gold Coast Hospital emergency department via ambulance, James was given a CT scan, which showed he was clinging to life with a fractured skull and a large haematoma compressing his brain. He was rushed to theatre, where a piece of his skull was removed to gain access to the clot and extract it.

Mrs Owen says James has bounced back remarkably and she is thankful for the skill of the surgeons. However, she remains furious with what she can only surmise are procedural flaws in the way emergency departments deal with suspected head injuries. "I'm so angry that when we took him to emergency that morning we were turned away when my baby's life was at stake," she said. "I'm still not coping with how close we came to losing our son due to this negligence. "Standing there, looking at my helpless baby boy – not knowing if he would make it – was the worst thing I have ever felt."


Pregnant women ignored as they suffered miscarriages at RBWH

A PREGNANT woman was ignored by emergency department staff for hours as she miscarried and suffered a life-threatening haemorrhage at Queensland's biggest public hospital. Just six days later, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital emergency staff were again reported over their handling of another woman's miscarriage.

This time, a specialist was shocked to discover the patient "pale" and "dizzy" and "lying in a large amount of blood". The doctor said he filed a patient harm report "given that this is the second similar episode in a week".

In the first case, blood was gushing from the cervix of an 11-weeks pregnant woman who arrived at RBWH emergency on June 8 this year. Despite this, and the fact she had already passed "several large clots at home", emergency staff did only one set of observations in three hours.

A clinical incident report, compiled by an unidentified medical officer and granted to The Courier-Mail under Right to Information laws, criticised the doctors and nurses involved. They were accused of carrying out infrequent and inadequate checks on the patient's vital signs, "distraction and inattention" and "lack of workplace knowledge".

The woman's blood was not sent away for important pre-transfusion compatibility testing and she had a heart-rate of 120 beats a minute when finally delivered to the operating theatre where her haemorrhage was controlled and her "life saved".

In the second episode, a RBWH consultant gynaecologist reported that the emergency department's failure to run tests and perform examinations as instructed – as well as its poor communication – had compromised the care of a miscarrying patient. He explained that when emergency staff initially notified him of the patient, at 9.30am, he asked about the level of bleeding and the results of a per vaginal examination. "But (I) was told these (tests) hadn't been performed as the (emergency) registrar thought it was inappropriate/unnecessary," the doctor wrote on the incident reporting system.

The doctor said he was contacted again about 1pm, by which time an ultrasound scan had confirmed an "incomplete miscarriage". But an internal vaginal examination still had not been done. "I specifically asked the resident medical officer if she thought I needed to see (the patient) immediately and the reply was 'No'," the doctor said. "(Then) I attended the patient (about) 1.30pm. (She) had been moved to (a ward) and had had observations performed showing pulse of 110 – this had not been notified to myself. "The notes also stated the patient had fainted at home after losing 1-1.5 litres of blood prior to hospital (presentation). This also wasn't conveyed to me. On entering the patient's room . . . the patient was lying in a large amount of blood (500ml)."

The doctor said he did the vaginal examination himself, which proved difficult because of the profuse bleeding. He alerted the nurses, but "could get help from only one". "I administered fluid resuscitation while transferring her to the operating theatre," the doctor said.

Queensland Health director-general Mick Reid said the incidents were concerning but media reporting of "isolated" events caused unwarranted community alarm. "Each day nearly 50,000 people are treated in Queensland Health facilities and 92 per cent of patients (are) satisfied with all aspects of their hospital stay," Mr Reid said. [Who cares if a few of the cattle die, in other words]


Public hospital negligence kills baby

A MAN who told staff at a mental institution about his urge to kill a baby was later released into the care of the girl's family, only to kill her three days later. Jayant Kumar Singh, 56, was transferred to Rozelle psychiatric hospital in mid-2006 after receiving treatment at Canterbury Hospital for diabetes and depression. At Rozelle he received a visit from the mother and her children, with whom he had boarded for years. The woman was unaware of his thoughts about killing her 10-month-old daughter.

During a hearing yesterday to determine whether Mr Singh was not guilty by reason of mental illness, the court heard he had had electroconvulsive therapy before returning to the woman's home on December 19, 2006. In the days after his release, the nursing staff who checked on Mr Singh found he had not taken his antipsychotic or antidepressant medication. But he was not readmitted, the court heard.

A crown prosecutor, Tony McCarthy, told the court that on the morning of December 22 the mother had gone shopping and left her three children in Mr Singh's care. She returned to find the back door locked and her two older children, aged two and four, screaming inside. "When the mother left the house the crown alleges that the accused … took a walking stick and commenced to hit the infant child a number of times about the head," Mr McCarthy said. "He also took the stick to the … older children … to stop them interfering." The court heard that Mr Singh tried to suffocate the baby with a pillow and to choke her with his hands. "He then went to the kitchen and took … one of the knives to its throat and ultimately [partially] decapitated the child," Mr McCarthy said.

The woman broke into her home and found Mr Singh. She removed the older children before carrying the dead baby towards her father-in-law, who was at a nearby pub. Police came and arrested Mr Singh.

"Will the Crown evidence establish whether or not the Rozelle Hospital bothered to inform the mother that the accused had told them that he had thoughts of killing the child?" Justice Robert Shallcross Hulme asked Mr McCarthy. "There is no evidence that they did do that," he replied.

The court heard that a psychiatrist, Stephen Allnutt, believed Mr Singh had been "urged" towards a decision to kill the baby. Dr Allnutt said he could not determine from hospital records why staff discharged Mr Singh, but suggested it may have been because they believed his condition had improved.

"Thoughts of killing a baby are so extreme that one would have thought one would need to be pretty well convinced that they [the thoughts] had gone for good, not just a case that he's not 100 per cent," Justice Hulme quipped back.

The family, originally from overseas, had befriended Mr Singh, a Fijian Indian, and he had lived with them for several years. The woman, now pregnant, and her husband, who was overseas at the time, intend to take civil proceedings against Sydney South West Area Health Service and Central Sydney Area Health Service, in charge of Canterbury and Rozelle hospitals.


7 December, 2009

A double dissolution?

A double dissolution is a unique Australian parliamentary device which enables a government repeatedly frustrated by the Senate to call an election for the whole Senate and the lower house all at the same time. In normal circumstances, only half the Senate seats are up for re-election. The Rudd government is now in a position to call a double dissolution. But will it? Kevvy himself does not seem keen and you can see why. The Senate is elected on proportional representation and with twice as many seats as usual up for grabs, the Greens would almost certainly get seats from every State, many more than they usually get in half-Senate elections. And Greens mostly take seats off Labor. So the new Senate would probably still not have a Labor party majority. And Kevvy is enough of a wonk to know that without being told. And the Greens are just as opposed to Rudd's climate scheme as the conservatives are -- though for opposite reasons. And big Senate gains would make the Greens even more ornery than they already are, so Rudd would have a very difficult Senate to deal with for at least 3 and probably 6 years. One can hear Rudd saying "Aaaargh!" to that. To date, Rudd has preferred to do deals with the conservatives rather than the very self-righteous and obstinate Greens -- JR

An old-fashioned Leftist bemoans the new moralistic (but not moral) Leftism

See here for research on how and why the Left use moral talk

IT'S popular to call Clive Hamilton, the Greens' candidate in the Higgins by-election, a left-winger. In fact, he's further to the right than the Liberal candidate. It's a sign of the decline of Left politics that a reactionary, pro-censorship sexual moraliser who hates the idea of working people enjoying a higher material standard of living could ever be considered left-wing.

Left-wing politics is based on the idea that all wealth is created by working people. However, the means to produce that wealth -- factories, call centres, bulldozers, production lines and so on -- is owned by capitalists, and so working people must work for a living. Different strands of Left thought call for different solutions, from working people having a larger share of the wealth they create, to working people revolting and taking over society and the economy and running it themselves. But all the different types of left-wing thought have one ideal in common: that working people deserve a better life, with more material wealth if they want it, and more freedom to decide how they should live.

Unfortunately that dream, and the word Left, have been captured by people such as Hamilton, who have more in common with old-style Catholic haters of the modern world than with left-wing supporters of an industrial society and all the benefits that it brings working people.

Hamilton was chosen by the Greens as their candidate in Higgins for his views on climate change and his ability to push that point of view forward in public debate. As is well known, Hamilton has said that "emergency" responses such as the suspension of democratic processes may be necessary to stave off what he sees as the threat of climate change.

This is not because, like many left-wingers, he doubts that parliament will respond to what working people actually need and want, but precisely because he does not trust ordinary working people to support the measures he deems necessary. Hamilton clearly is looking for the man on horseback who can save the environment, something that all genuine left-wingers distrust.

Hamilton is also proud of being the architect of the Rudd government's plan to censor the internet. Once again this reveals a deep distrust of ordinary people. By beating up a moral panic about pornography available on the internet, and by denying people have the ability to make their own moral judgments and decisions about what they look at, Hamilton rejects the self-responsibility that real leftists demand for themselves and others, and instead insists that the government do that job for us. This view is far to the right of even most people who vote for the Liberal Party.

He also hates the sexual freedom that was won by breaking down the old, oppressive social structures that existed before the 1960s. In his essay Rethinking Sexual Freedom he claims that the only two choices available to us are a "moral free-for-all" or the "careful exercise of restraint". Like a wowser complaining about the behaviour of others, Hamilton refuses to agree that people need to work out for themselves if they want to be restrained or not.

Hamilton's book Affluenza reveals his contempt for people who want to enjoy a higher material standard of living. We are, he says, in the "grip of a consumption binge" and our " whole society is addicted to overconsumption".

A real left-winger would celebrate the fact that people have more pleasure, more tools and more opportunities opening up to them than ever before. But Hamilton, like someone far more right-wing than a mere Liberal, hates the idea and wants us to retreat to a simpler age.

It's time that left-wingers stood up for their beliefs, rejected reactionaries like Hamilton and once again proudly said that we support industrial civilisation, the modern world, and more freedom and more material wealth for the working class. Any left-winger voting in the Higgins by-election this Saturday would do well to put Hamilton where he belongs: at the bottom of their preferences.


Abbott gamble pays off for Liberal Party

LIBERAL Party support has bounced back and Tony Abbott has cut into Kevin Rudd's lead as preferred prime minister within a week of the newly elected Leader of the Opposition spectacularly reversing the Liberals' stand on climate change and rejecting Labor's ETS. As the Liberals declared clear victories in the Melbourne and Sydney by-elections of Higgins and Bradfield, the results were mirrored in Newspoll, which showed Mr Abbott outpointing his predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, as the preferred Liberal leader.

Mr Abbott exploited the by-election victories and continued his attack on Labor's ETS, calling for the Prime Minister to agree to a series of leadership debates on the costs of emissions trading. Mr Rudd rebuffed Mr Abbott's call and said the Opposition Leader would be better off framing his own climate change policy.

After being Liberal leader for fewer than five days, Mr Abbott was able to claim easy victories in both Liberal-held seats on primary votes on Saturday night while the Liberal Party primary vote across the nation lifted, according to Newspoll.

There were dire predictions that the Liberals could lose the seat of Higgins to the Greens -- Labor did not run a candidate in either by-election -- and that there would be a big swing in Bradfield against the Liberals because of Mr Abbott's opposition to the ETS. After counting continued yesterday, it appeared the Liberals would get a small swing towards them in both seats on a two-party-preferred basis and possibly a small swing against them on primary votes.

The Newspoll survey, conducted from Friday to Sunday, exclusively for The Australian, showed a rise of four percentage points in the Liberals' primary vote, taking the Coalition's support to 38 per cent compared with the government's unchanged 43 per cent. The government still has an overwhelming two-party-preferred vote of 56 to 44 per cent, but Mr Abbott has improved on Mr Turnbull's last position as preferred prime minister and won strong endorsement among Liberal voters.

Support for Mr Rudd as preferred prime minister fell five percentage points last weekend from 65 to 60 per cent and Mr Abbott started on 23 per cent, a rise of nine points compared with Mr Turnbull's 14 per cent the previous weekend. Mr Abbott's standing as preferred prime minister is better than all Mr Turnbull's polling against Mr Rudd since the controversy over the then Liberal leader's use of a fake email from then Treasury official Godwin Grech to attack the Prime Minister.

When Mr Turnbull was first elected, he scored 24 per cent to Mr Rudd's 54 per cent and his best position was 26 per cent to 54 per cent two weeks later in mid-October last year. Mr Abbott's start against Mr Rudd is better than all of the preferred prime minister polls for Brendan Nelson.

Although Mr Abbott has polled well behind Mr Turnbull in leadership surveys, and won the Liberal leadership last Tuesday by only one vote over Mr Turnbull, he outstripped his former leader in almost every category when voters were asked if he would make a better or worse leader than Mr Turnbull. While more people thought the two leaders would be "about the same", Mr Abbott finished ahead of Mr Turnbull 28 to 21 per cent with his biggest lead in demographic groups among women, 26 to 18 per cent, and hose aged 35-49 years, 29 to 21 per cent. But the strongest endorsement for Mr Abbott over Mr Turnbull was among Coalition supporters -- 45 per cent to 10 per cent. The only category in which Mr Turnbull was considered a better leader than Mr Abbott was among Labor supporters, where Mr Turnbull got 32 per cent and Mr Abbott 16 per cent.

Mr Abbott was campaigning yesterday in the coalmining NSW Hunter Valley, and challenged Mr Rudd to a debate on the cost of the ETS. "It will ultimately be up to Mr Rudd, I suppose, (a) to agree and (b) to suggest formats and venues, but I would be very happy to come to the Hunter Valley, Maitland, wherever, Singleton, wherever, and debate this with Mr Rudd. I will not run away from this debate," he said.

In Canberra, Mr Rudd responded to the challenge, saying Mr Abbott had no policy on climate change. "You know, here we are in Australia, one of the hottest and driest continents on Earth. Climate change is the great challenge of our generation," he said. "Despite our differences, Mr Howard had a policy on climate change, as did Mr Turnbull. It was called an emissions trading scheme. I have a policy on climate change. It's called an emissions trading scheme. "Mr Abbott, the current leader of the Liberal Party, does not have any policy on climate change. I'd suggest the current Leader of the Opposition calms down, puts in the hard yards and actually develops a policy on climate change."

Greens leader Bob Brown called to be involved in any debate after the Greens' strong showing in the by-elections, which Labor did not contest. After yesterday's count in Higgins, on a two-party preferred basis, Kelly O'Dwyer, former Treasurer Peter Costello's former chief of staff, increased the Liberal margin from 2007 by 1.6 per cent.

"The public think something is happening to our climate, and they think the government should be doing something about it -- and that's right, we should -- but they are very concerned about this tax," Mr Abbott told the Nine Network.


Climate backlash hits a government in denial

When Julia Gillard faced the media outside Federal Parliament in Canberra on Wednesday she looked shell-shocked. She then proceeded to give the most jittery, hollow, nonsensical performance of her career. It was pantomime of the lowest order. "Today the climate change extremists and deniers in the Liberal Party have stopped this nation from taking decisive action on climate change," the Deputy Prime Minister said, deadpan, into a thicket of cameras and recorders.

Extremists and deniers. In case anyone had missed the point, she repeated the phrase five times. "Now [we] have been stopped by the Liberal Party extremists and the climate change deniers. This nation has been stopped from taking a major step in the nation's interests by Liberal Party extremists and climate change deniers." This is clearly going to be the mantra the Rudd Government uses to describe anyone who opposes its pointless legislation on an emissions trading scheme.

Gillard used the terms "denier" or "denial" 11 times, pointed words because they carry the connotation of Holocaust denial. The last time that tactic was used in the national debate, after the release of the Bringing Them Home report, it exploded on those who used it.

So this is going to get interesting because the political ground has shifted in the past six months. It is now the Rudd Government that appears to be in a state of denial. And not just the Rudd Government. The election analyst Malcolm Mackerras told The Australian on Friday: "I think there will be a big swing against the Liberal Party in both Bradfield and Higgins [byelections on Saturday]. The effect of that swing will be that the Greens will take Higgins from the Liberals … Higgins and Bradfield would be the electorates in which people most strongly feel resentment at climate change denialists. That is why electing Abbott was a complete disaster. They will get a terrible shock on Saturday night, they really will."

In contrast to this nonsense, Australia's top election expert, Antony Green, predicted on his ABC blog that the Liberals should win both races comfortably. After the results were in, Green found no discernible swing to the Greens. So who is in denial now? Tony Abbott's political manifesto, Battlelines, published on July 28, confronted the subject of climate change. He quoted and supported the Swedish climate dissident, Bjorn Lomborg: "Natural science has undeniably shown us that global warming is man-made and real. "But just as undeniable is the economic science, which makes it clear that a narrow focus on reducing carbon emissions could leave future generations lumbered with major costs, without major cuts in temperatures."

Abbott reiterated this position at his first press conference as leader on Wednesday: "I think that climate change is real and that man does make a contribution … [But] the last thing we should be doing is rushing through a great big new tax just so that Kevin Rudd can take a trophy to Copenhagen."

Abbott is thus neither an extremist nor a denier on climate change. He is a sceptic about emissions trading schemes. It is a defining difference, because there is much to be sceptical about. The Greens, in voting down the legislation, said they would rather have no scheme than this scheme. At the other end of the analysis spectrum, the noted business commentator Robert Gottliebsen wrote: "Finally the full horror of Kevin Rudd's carbon trading legislation for business is starting to dawn on some Liberal Party politicians."

The public mood has also shifted. There is now majority support for waiting until after the Copenhagen climate summit this month and the setting up of a global template for action.

The upswelling of grassroots opposition to the Rudd's ETS was impressive in both its scale and vehemence. Here, too, there has been a great deal of denial. When I wrote last week that more than 400,000 emails had been sent to Coalition members urging them to vote down the ETS, some people commented that this was a bogus number and a bogus campaign, driven by the technology of mass emailing. This, too, is wishful thinking. As the Liberal senator Cory Bernardi explained: "These are not spam emails. They are not like the junk mail campaigns that the Greens run and Get Up! run. These are real people writing about their personal situations." Coalition members have been logging the email traffic because it is a precious electoral resource, and most of the emails are individually written, not group mail. I've looked at hundreds of them. "I've never seen any like it," Bernardi said. "My office has received more than 10,000 emails. When I put an online petition against the ETS on my website last month I got 4818 responses in about 60 hours. Most of my colleagues have seen traffic like this."

The point Gillard missed in her "extremists and deniers" pantomime was that her government had failed dismally to explain its legislation to the public. People crave authenticity in their elected representatives, not spin. Thus the unlikely hero to emerge from the Liberal carnage last week was Ian Macfarlane, the man with a gravel pit for a larynx. People love authenticity and loyalty and Macfarlane has these qualities in spades. He should be promoted when Abbott remakes his shadow ministry.


Turnbull shows his colours

Just another Left-leaning elitist. Probably bitter that he chose the wrong party to further his ambitions. He has in effect joined the Labor party now. Americans would call him a RINO. Australians will say that he never was a fair dinkum conservative. He's not fair dinkum in general as far as I can see: Just a poser and an ego

MALCOLM Turnbull has today described new Liberal leader Tony Abbott's views on climate change as "bulls**t" and vowed to cross the floor and vote with Labor when the legislation is brought back to Parliament next year. The former Liberal leader this morning posted a blog via the website Twitter where he pledged to tell a few “home truths about the farce that the Coalition's policy, of lack of policy, on climate change has descended into”.

His intervention follows reports today that the opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey attacked Mr Abbott's plans for a climate change switch at a shadow cabinet meeting two weeks ago, warning it would cost over $50 billion.

Mr Turnbull said today that while a shadow minister Mr Abbott was never afraid of speaking bluntly in a manner that was at odds with Coalition policy. “So as I am a humble backbencher I am sure he won't complain if I tell a few home truths about the farce that the Coalition's policy, of lack of policy, on climate change has descended into,” he said. “First, let's get this straight. You cannot cut emissions without a cost. To replace dirty coal fired power stations with cleaner gas fired ones, or renewables like wind let alone nuclear power or even coal fired power with carbon capture and storage is all going to cost money. “To get farmers to change the way they manage their land, or plant trees and vegetation all costs money. “Somebody has to pay. “So any suggestion that you can dramatically cut emissions without any cost is, to use a favourite term of Mr Abbott, `bullshit'. Moreover he knows it.”

Mr Turnbull said the whole argument for an emissions trading scheme as opposed to cutting emissions via a carbon tax or simply by regulation is that it was cheaper. “In other words electricity prices will rise by less to achieve the same level of emission reduction,” he said. “It is not possible to criticise the new Coalition policy on climate change because it does not exist. Mr Abbott apparently knows what he is against, but not what he is for.”

Mr Turnbull goes on to observe that, “the fact is that Tony and the people who put him in his job do not want to do anything about climate change”. “They do not believe in human caused global warming. As Tony observed on one occasion “climate change is crap” or if you consider his mentor, Senator Minchin, the world is not warming, it's cooling and the climate change issue is part of a vast left wing conspiracy to deindustrialise the world,” he said. “Now politics is about conviction and a commitment to carry out those convictions. The Liberal Party is currently led by people whose conviction on climate change is that it is “crap” and you don't need to do anything about it.

“Any policy that is announced will simply be a con, an environmental figleaf to cover a determination to do nothing. After all, as Nick Minchin observed, in his view the majority of the Party Room do not believe in human caused global warming at all. I disagree with that assessment, but many people in the community will be excused for thinking the leadership ballot proved him right.”

Mr Turnbull said voters should remember that Nick Minchin's defence of the Howard Government's ETS was that the Government was panicked by the polls and therefore didn't really mean it. “Tony himself has in just four or five months publicly advocated the blocking of the ETS, the passing of the ETS, the amending of the ETS and if the amendments were satisfactory passing it, and now the blocking of it,” Mr Turnbull said. “His only redeeming virtue in this remarkable lack of conviction is that every time he announced a new position to me he would preface it with “Mate, mate, I know I am a bit of a weather vane on this, but ...”

The former Liberal leader said “we have an Opposition Leader who has in the space of a few months held every possible position on the issue, each one contradicting the position he expressed earlier”. “Many Liberals are rightly dismayed that on this vital issue of climate change we are not simply without a policy, without any prospect of having a credible policy but we are now without integrity. We have given our opponents the irrefutable, undeniable evidence that we cannot be trusted,” he said. “Not that anyone would doubt it, but I will be voting for the ETS legislation when it returns in February and if my colleagues have any sense they will do so as well.”


6 December, 2009

New conservative leader challenges Prime Minister to debate climate change

Rudd is too smart to get sucked into that one -- he knows he will lose -- but a refusal will undermine his credibility

FEDERAL Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has challenged Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to a series of public debates on climate change.

The Government plans to re-introduce its emissions trading scheme (ETS) legislation into Parliament when it resumes in February, after the bills were defeated in the Senate last week.

Mr Abbott says most people want more information on the scheme. "That's code for saying that they don't understand it," he told the Nine Network on Sunday. "I'd like to challenge the prime minister to a series of public debates on this subject before Parliament comes back. "This big emissions tax, it's going to be not just for this year or next year, it's going to be forever if it comes in, and it shouldn't come in with(out) the public understanding exactly what it means."

Mr Abbott said the debates could be in a town hall and broadcast to the public or beamed live from a television studio. "We'll debate it up hill and down dale, we'll debate it once, twice, three times, four times, however many times is necessary until the public feel that they have had their questions answered to their satisfaction," he said.

Referring to former federal opposition leader John Hewson's inability to explain a Goods and Services Tax (GST) to the public, Mr Abbott said: "Perhaps he (Mr Rudd) can explain what the emissions tax will do to the price of a birthday cake".

Mr Abbott said he was prepared to allow the prime minister to choose the debate venue. "It's really up to him but he can't and shouldn't run away from explaining fully this great big new tax to the Australian public," he said.

He said Mr Rudd often sounded more like a public servant in a seminar than a "retail", or one-on-one, politician. "But look, I don't under-estimate him. He didn't get to be the prime minister by being foolish or by lacking the ability to communicate and I'm sure he would give a good account of himself."

Citing comments from Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) board member and economist Warwick McKibbin, Mr Abbott said Australia could reduce its carbon emissions by at least five per cent without an emissions trading scheme (ETS). "I haven't said it will be cost-free ... but I think there are all sorts of ways of paying for this that don't involve a great big new tax that we will live with forever," he said.

"Don't assume that I want regulation, what I want is appropriate incentives. "You could have a fund that would directly purchase emission abatements and that would be a lot less than the $10 billion or $12 billion a year money-go-round which Labor is proposing." Mr Abbott said tree planting and more energy-efficient buildings could make a significant contribution to slashing carbon emissions.


"There's no such thing as right and wrong" bears fruit

Huge rise in assault, drugs at schools as students are taught that everything is relative

NEW South Wales principals have reported more than 500 cases of serious assaults, threats and drug use in public schools this year. More than 109 students were caught bringing firearms, knives and other weapons to school in the first two terms of this year - up 300 per cent compared to the same period five years ago. The 526 cases of serious offences were logged by the Education Department's school safety and response unit hotline, a 24-hour line offering support and advice for principals. The number of students reported with illegal drugs has risen sharply - from nine in 2005 to 60 this year. South Western Sydney and the NSW north coast were the worst offending regions and accounted for 38 per cent of all drug busts.

NSW Parents and Citizens' Federation spokeswoman Helen Walton said there were anecdotal reports of students bringing heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and the drug ice to school. "I think people are silly if they're blind to the fact that it does exist," she said. "It really does happen. It's not just a one-off as some people seem to think. Anybody who turns a blind eye and says it won't happen in our school is just leaving themselves open to be very disappointed."

Ms Walton said the department needed to conduct an on-going review of their programs to address the issue of drug use in schools. "The department needs to make sure the programs are aimed at preventing this violence. Let's make it on-going and let's make it based on the needs over a period of time."

The figures, released quietly on the department's website last month, reveal assaults on students and teachers continue to be a major issue. Schools in south-western and western Sydney recorded the highest number of assaults and threats. In an incident earlier this year, an argument between two teenage boys over a female that began on the Internet spilled over at school when one held a knife to the other's throat. In another case, a mother allegedly paid a student to harm a Year Three boy who had been bullying her son. She also made threats towards the principal of the school.

The statistics don't include the death in August of 15-year-old Jai Morcom at Mullumbimby High School during a brawl over the right to sit at a playground lunch table.

Despite more than four in five schools not recording any serious incidents, 52 filed at least three cases of criminal behaviour. NSW Public School Principals Forum chair Cheryl McBride denied there has been a significant spike in school violence. She said only an "incredibly small percentage" of students were at fault, considering more than 735,000 students attended public schools. "Does this 109 number signal a great concern for us as school principals? No, because it's such an infinitesimal part of the population," Ms McBride said.


Crammed Christmas Island centre to cost extra $45m

Christmas Island will cost the Federal Government $45 million more than it budgeted for this year as the overstretched detention centre is expanded to house hundreds more asylum seekers. The Immigration Department said this week it would boost capacity on the island to hold as many as 2200 asylum seekers, more than double the permanent population. A new compound for 400 men will be completed at the high-security complex by March. There are plans to house asylum seekers in tents until then. "The tents may be used for accommodation or for recreation and education activities," a department spokesman said.

The extension provoked an angry response from the co-ordinator of A Just Australia, Kate Gauthier. Asylum seekers could be supported in the community for a fraction of the price, or $56 a day, she said.

After the budget, the Immigration Department was given an extra $34 million for infrastructure expansion on Christmas Island. It was also topped up for an additional $11 million in running costs, 2009-10 portfolio additional estimate statements showed. "That $45 million is throwing good money after bad," Ms Gauthier said. "When the Government came in, it agreed detention on Christmas Island was a bad policy but said it was obliged not to waste taxpayers' money and use the facility if they needed it. Now they are going one step further."

The detention centre was built by the Howard government to house 800 people but lay dormant until boat numbers began increasing last year. Despite numerous calls to process asylum claims on the mainland, Labor has adhered to an election promise to keep boat arrivals offshore.

The Australian Human Rights Commission said yesterday it was concerned about the level of community support and services available to people held on the small island. "Increases in numbers, of course, exacerbate our concerns," the president, Catherine Branson, said. "The detention centre itself was designed to accommodate a certain number so to have it now modified to take a larger number raises issues we would like to know more about."

Some dongas from the now closed Baxter detention centre had arrived on the island and more would follow, the Immigration Department said.

A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said asylum seekers would be brought to the mainland if the island filled up.

The Opposition said more beds would not stop the dangerous and criminal activities of people smugglers. "The Government must reintroduce measures and messages that make it clear people smugglers will not be tolerated as the de facto selectors of Australia's newest residents," the immigration spokeswoman, Sharman Stone, said. The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said he supported former leader Malcolm Turnbull's pledge to reintroduce temporary protection visas.


Yet more government meddling in people's lives proposed

Walk the dog or face time behind bars

PET owners could be punished for not walking their dogs, under radical new laws being proposed by the RSPCA. Under the legislation, they would have to regularly exercise dogs, ensure animals are not kept chained up and give their pets adequate food and water.

If the proposal becomes law, dog and cat owners across Australia would face prosecution, fines of up to $12,000 fines for animal cruelty and magistrates could consider jail in extreme circumstances.

Dr Hugh Wirth, head of RSPCA Victoria, is one of four experts the Federal Department of Agriculture's welfare division has appointed to draft national animal welfare guidelines. "The draft will tell people what they have to do rather than what they want to do," Dr Wirth said. "The new standards would be regulatory, therefore a breach of the standards is a breach of the law." The proposed new laws are designed to formalise the national code, which states dogs must be walked at least once a day.

Dr Wirth said jail sentences would not be handed out for a first offence, but it would something available for magistrates to consider. "I would be amazed if a magistrate ordered jail time on the first offence, but, like every other offence under cruelty legislation, jail is an option," Dr Wirth said.

The proposed laws would be designed to help overcome the problems animal inspectors have had penalising bad owners. The working party is designed to create a national standard, but ultimately the laws would be have to be passed by State Governments.

A spokesman for the federal Department of Agriculture said the working group was one of six set up to look at animal welfare. "One of the goals of the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy is to develop national standards and guidelines for the care of different kinds of animals," the spokesman said. "The states and territories are ultimately responsible for legislating for animal welfare, not the Commonwealth."


5 December, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is amazed as I am at the elevation of Ms Keneally to the post of Premier of NSW, and has only faint hopes for her.

Australian climate records a mess too

And note that Australian records are a large part of what data we have about one half of the globe (the Southern half)

Australian weather records for an international database on climate change were a "bloody mess", riddled with entry errors, duplication and inaccuracies, leaked British computer files reveal. The Herald found the criticism in a 247-page specialist programmer's log, unearthed among the thousands of files hacked from East Anglia University, which is at the centre of a climate change email scandal. Labelled "HARRY-READ-ME", the log catalogues problems with the raw, historical climate data sent from hundreds of meteorological stations around the world.

The Australian data comes in for particular criticism as the programmer discovers World Meteorological Organisation codes are missing, station names overlap and many co-ordinates are incorrect. At one point the programmer writes about his attempts to make sense of the data. "What a bloody mess," he concludes. In another case, 30 years of data is attributed to a site at Cobar Airport but the frustrated programmer writes: "Now looking at the dates. something bad has happened ... COBAR AIRPORT AWS [automatic weather station] cannot start in 1962, it didn't open until 1993!" In another he says: "Getting seriously fed up with the state of the Australian data ... so many false references ... so many changes ... bewildering."

The log spans four years of work at the university's Climatic Research Unit, the British keeper of global temperature records. The programmer rails that the information has "no uniform integrity".

His criticisms relate solely to the construction of the database and do not question the validity of historical temperature records or analyses that suggest the impact of human activity on global warming trends. "I am very sorry to report that the rest of the databases seem to be in nearly as poor a state as Australia was. There are hundreds if not thousands of pairs of dummy stations, one with no WMO and one with, usually overlapping and with the same station name and very similar co-ordinates. I know it could be old and new stations, but why such large overlaps if that's the case? Aarrggghhh! There truly is no end in sight."

Michael Coughlan, the head of the National Climate Centre at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, said it was difficult to comment without knowing the source of the raw data. It was unlikely to have come directly from the bureau's centre because unchecked, raw data was rarely requested for climate analysis. The bureau had a network of more than 100 specially selected weather stations ["SELECTED"?? Selected on what grounds? Selected to be near urban heat islands? I'm betting that not many rural stations made the cut.] to monitor climate change, and a century of records from them had been checked. "We've put an enormous effort into developing a high-quality reliable climate record for Australia and all that data is freely available," Dr Coughlan said.

But he said that if the British programmer had been using raw weather data, which is sent around the world in real time for weather forecasting, it would not be surprising that it contained errors. This raw data could have come from countries other than Australia, and would have been difficult to correct without access to information in Australia, such as the original field books. "A computer programmer sitting in England won't have the resources to make those corrections. I can understand their frustrations," Dr Coughlan said. [That naughty raw data again]

The programmer's log is one of the most read files worldwide since the email archives were leaked. The log has been treated particularly sympathetically as it reveals his blow-by-blow frustrations, which seemed to be unfolding as his scientist colleagues, including the head of the Climatic Research Unit, Phil Jones, appeared to discuss via email ways to avoid freedom-of-information requests for raw data and to denigrate their critics. Professor Jones, who has denied a conspiracy to manipulate global warming statistics as "complete rubbish", has stood down from his post while the university investigates the leaks.

The Herald attempted to contact Professor Jones and spoke to the computer programmer we believe to be the author of the file. The programmer did not deny his name but referred queries to the university's media unit. Professor Jones has not responded. RealClimate, a website run by climate scientists, confirms the log as the work of a specialist charged with upgrading data.

"Anyone who has ever worked on constructing a database from dozens of individual, sometimes contradictory and inconsistently formatted datasets, will share his evident frustration with how tedious that can be," it says. [Tedious?? It sounds more than tedious. Try complete failure]


New conservative leader changes the game

THIS week Tony Abbott smashed the mould of Australian politics. With the opposition divided and behind, he is forcing Kevin Rudd to an election on climate change, the issue that is supposedly owned by the Labor Party. This is either brilliance or sheer folly.

Abbott does not accept the orthodoxies that have governed politics during the Rudd ascendancy, and this makes him dangerous for both Labor and Liberal. Abbott is an unpredictable and elemental force who defies the modern political rule book. No adviser can tell Abbott what to say or how to say it.

After being elected Liberal leader by surprise, Abbott spent the rest of week throwing political grenades -- supporting individual workplace contracts, backing a nuclear power debate and killing the emissions trading scheme -- while his colleagues held their breath wondering how the public would react.

Abbott has a gift for ridiculing the conventional wisdom. He told Sydney radio station 2GB's Chris Smith the idea that climate change is the greatest moral challenge of the age is "plain wrong", asking what about "man's inhumanity to man". His plan is to force Rudd to re-fight the entire Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme issue, and explain and justify his ETS to the Australian people.

Labor has been rocked by these events. It takes solace in one big idea: that Abbott is an extremist and ultimately unelectable. Yet Labor's control of the political agenda is under threat as Abbott generates a surge across talkback radio. For two years Rudd has carefully identified his likely opponent at the next election: Brendan Nelson, Peter Costello, Malcolm Turnbull, Joe Hockey. Yet it is none of them.

From right field Abbott has emerged, suddenly, shockingly, swinging hard, a knockabout intellectual with a flair for populism that puts Rudd in the shade, a politician who turns his mistakes into confessional honesty, a conviction leader yet a man of humility.

Within hours of becoming leader Abbott mocked himself on radio, repeating his daughter's put-down of him as "a gay, lame, churchie loser". Abbott thinks it's a great joke. Leading a divided party, his recipe for Liberal unity is elemental: attack the government day after day after day. The opening weeks will be vital. If Abbott gets a good start he will only gather momentum. But if Labor can brand him as an unreliable extremist, Liberal woes will intensify.

A natural meeter and greeter, from the fire truck to the beach to the local school, Abbott will talk to the people in the language they know. He depicts Rudd as a remote bureaucratic wonk. "I think he lives in his own world," Abbott says of Rudd. He dismissed Rudd's speech this week to an Australia-Israel function as "just crackers, frankly", saying that facing a nuclear threat from Iran recived a lecture from Rudd about climate change.

Abbott, who once called himself a "Catholic romantic idealist", is branded by his faiths. While this makes him a target, it motivates the moral stands he has taken: stopping Pauline Hanson in her tracks and spending more time inside Aboriginal communities than nearly any other senior politician.

Where Turnbull said the ETS had to be passed for the sake of our children, Abbott dismisses it as a monstrous tax fraud.

Labor can take heart that Abbott was the least popular of the three Liberal contenders and seems hell-bent on making himself a very big target. Yet while his policies are polarising, his personality is engaging. He never walks away from a fight or a conversation, traits that Australians appreciate. Abbott is capable of surprises, just as Mark Latham surprised the Howard government.

With by-elections today in the Liberal seats of Bradfield in Sydney and Higgins in Melbourne -- both with high levels of green consciousness -- Abbott runs the risk of an early setback. His problem is reconciling his anti-ETS crusade with the need to convince urban voters he is serious about climate change action. Operating this week in the fluidity of the huge Liberal reversal on the ETS, he pledged to keep Rudd's emission targets yet rejected any market-based or carbon-tax policy for the 2010 election. It sounds like the Magic Pudding. Here is Labor's opening: the chance to depict Abbott as a populist unfit to run the nation, a good bloke but not a reliable prime minister.

Yet the more Labor attacks Abbott for his irresponsibility, the more it must admit the ETS puts a price on carbon and means higher energy prices, leading back to Abbott's core proposition.

With the most important reform of Labor's first term again rejected, Rudd and Julia Gillard have only one real option: a double dissolution election. Despite endless speculation the outlook is obvious. Rudd now has the grounds for a double dissolution on the original bill. But the fully amended bill (with its extra $7 billion in assistance from the Wong-Macfarlane deal) will be introduced in February and, if defeated twice with a three-month interval, Rudd will have a second trigger on this more preferred bill. That means he can call a double dissolution later in 2010 (the constitutional limitation is by early August), approximating a full-term parliament.

It would be crazy for Rudd to call a snap election now. He needs time to undermine Abbott and get the dissolution on the preferred bill, thereby being guaranteed its passage if he wins the poll.

This is not just a repeat of the 2007 election. John Howard and Rudd agreed on an ETS, so it was never the issue. The 2007 test was climate change credentials and Rudd outshone Howard as a candidate of the future. This time the Rudd-Abbott dispute will be greater and Abbott, unlike Howard in 2007, has political ammunition to fire and a grassroots crusade to lead. He will target Rudd on one issue: explaining the ETS and explaining why Australians need it.

The people will decide this result. For Abbott, the ETS is the prime exhibit of Rudd as a high-taxing, high-spending bureaucrat with Whitlamite overtones, out of touch with people and imposing new cost-of-living pressures on them. The ETS slots perfectly into Abbott's economic campaign.

As an aggressive leader in the Howard mould, Abbott is a mixture of conservative, radical and populist. Many of his opponents misread him. In his recent book Battlelines, Abbott argued "the Federation is broken and does need to be fixed". Convinced the Howard government was punished for the failure of the states, Abbott will hold Rudd to a degree of responsibility for the failures in NSW and Queensland.

As health minister during the Howard era and an unsuccessful advocate for a national takeover of public hospitals, Abbott is guaranteed to put health services at the centre of his campaign by insisting that Rudd is accountable for the condition of public hospitals across the board.

On boat people, he will campaign as a dedicated border protectionist.

On Aboriginal deprivation, he champions Noel Pearson's philosophy and will attack any Rudd retreat to the rights agenda.

On industrial relations, he backs individual agreements on the pre-2005 model before Work Choices.

But there are two urgent lessons Abbott must learn from Howard if he wants to succeed. As a social conservative he must convince people that he does not seek to recast the moral agenda on issues such as abortion and divorce. Second, Abbott's credentials are suspect on economic policy where, too often, he seems inexperienced and unsure, suspicious of markets, reluctant about disciplined costings and inclined to old-fashioned regulation. Labor will gun Abbott on economic policy.


Corrupt public hospital boss

Unbelievable! Charity funds raided for beauty treatments!

THE boss of the Brisbane Royal Children's Hospital approved thousands of dollars worth of luxury beauty treatments for nurses out of the hospital's charity fund for sick children, documents show. RCH district manager Doug Brown is being investigated over a $6500 bill for "pamper packages" at a Brisbane beauty salon, despite department financial guidelines prohibiting staff gifts, The Courier Mail reported.

The Royal Children's Hospital Foundation asks for donations to help support seriously ill kids, buy medical equipment and fund ground-breaking medical research. But an invoice obtained by The Courier-Mail shows Mr Brown approved its funds be used for 65 nurses to enjoy manicures, massages and body polishes at Skin Beautiful in the Queen St Mall two years ago.

The case is part of a wider Queensland Health ethical standards probe into Mr Brown, including his approval of an $8000 interest-free loan of taxpayer funds to a senior bureaucrat for personal overseas travel four months earlier. Mr Brown approved the loan to then director of allied health Gil Hainey despite guidelines banning loans to staff.

The beauty voucher issue allegedly involves a dispute with nurses during the relocation of oncology services from the Mater Children's Hospital at South Brisbane to the RCH at Herston in September 2007.

A group of about eight MCH nurses were allegedly offered six months' free parking at taxpayers' expense in the Metro Car Park at the RCH, despite the entitlement generally being given only to more senior medical specialists. But the plan allegedly backfired when nurses in the Banksia Ward at the RCH, led by a group known as the Oncology Steering Committee, learned of the parking perk and threatened industrial action. Mr Brown, who is listed as the board secretary of the RCH Foundation, allegedly tried to hose down the issue by organising with the nurses for 65 Ella Bache gift vouchers.

The invoice shows the salon billed the RCH for 65 packages costing $100 each, with the 90-minute sessions including eyelash tints, pedicures, manicures, and body polishes. "Approved," Mr Brown wrote. "Foundation to sponsor - oncology consolidation."

Queensland Health yesterday confirmed the bill was paid out of RCH Foundation funds, saying the money initially came from a district account before being reimbursed by the charity.

Director-general Mick Reid said the probe involved "alleged financial mismanagement in relation to car parking and alleged improper purchase of gift vouchers for staff". "Gifts to staff are in breach of the provisions of the Financial Management Practice Manual," he said. "I am treating this matter with the highest degree of seriousness and will act on all recommendations."

Mr Brown did not return calls. The probe is expected to be finalised and handed to the Crime and Misconduct Commission before the new year.


A comeback for Sir Lunchalot?

NSW: The Premier, Kristina Keneally, will reward the dumped ministers John Della Bosca and Ian Macdonald [Sir Lunchalot] by reinstating them to senior positions in a cabinet reshuffle this weekend. Rewarding the plotters against the former premier Nathan Rees will fuel criticism that Ms Keneally is a "puppet" of powerbrokers Eddie Obeid, Joe Tripodi, Mr Della Bosca and Mr Macdonald, who all backed her into the leadership against the wishes of Labor's head office.

Mr Obeid is understood to have given guarantees to at least one minister that his position was safe on Thursday, Government sources say. When asked if she was speaking to Mr Obeid and Mr Tripodi about who would be in her cabinet, Ms Keneally did not deny it, saying she was prepared to consult on who she would appoint.

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, took a shot at the week of plotting saying: "People of NSW are sick to death of fighting, infighting and divisions in the Government of NSW. The time has come for the NSW Government to get its act together … "The people of NSW are now expecting better government, and I would suggest the new Premier of NSW get on with the job, and get on with the job as of today."

Mr Rudd is understood to be unhappy he was talked into defending Mr Rees three weeks ago after the then premier sacked Mr Tripodi, only to see his support evaporate.

After being sworn in as the state's first female premier, Ms Keneally said her Government would be about "respect" and protecting the "vulnerable". She did not rule out scrapping the $5.3 billion CBD Metro and said Mr Rees's transport blueprint would be reviewed and "finalised" before it was released.

Ms Keneally continued to deny accusations she was a "puppet" of Mr Obeid and Mr Tripodi and has said she is "nobody's puppet, nobody's protege, nobody's girl".


Another corrupt Queensland police investigation

POLICE who investigated an alleged cover-up of child sexual abuse at a Queensland Catholic primary school had close ties with teachers and the principal. At least three police officers involved in the investigation last year of a teacher, later charged with the rape and abuse of 13 young girls, had children at the school or spouses on staff at the close-knit Toowoomba school, west of Brisbane.

Police previously said all officers with any involvement at the school were taken off the case at the start of the investigation.

The initial abuse complaint was made by a nine-year-old girl and her father to the school principal in September, 2007. Police were not told and the veteran teacher, 60, remained at the school for another 14 months, during which time he is alleged to have abused another 12 girls, resulting in him now facing 46 charges of rape and indecent treatment. He faces court next year. Police were belatedly alerted in November last year , but only when another child brought her allegations of abuse directly to them.

The Weekend Australian has learned that a detective who last year helped interview the alleged offender and later took the statement of the father -- who made the first abuse complaint to the principal -- is married to another teacher at the school and was treasurer of the parents and friends association that threw a farewell for the alleged pedophile, who retired briefly from the school before being rehired last year. The father told the detective he and his daughter had gone to the principal with abuse complaints about the teacher, involving herself and another girl, more than a year before before he was arrested. Under state law, schools and their governing bodies have a mandatory requirement to report to police any suspicions of sexual abuse by a staff member. Two other police involved in the investigation also had children at the school.

Police last night issued a statement saying they "hold no concerns whatsoever" of any possible conflict of interest among the investigators. But parents of the victims say they were assured by police there had been no prior suspicions about the teacher, who later confessed to some of the abuse.

In February, the state government ordered an investigation into the school because of a series of reports by The Weekend Australian revealing the inaction to the earlier abuse complaint to the principal. In May, the principal became the first person in Australia to be charged under the six-year-old mandatory reporting laws. But this week, he was acquitted after magistrate Haydn Stjernqvist found the principal had met his legal obligations by reporting the complaints to senior officers in Catholic Education.

Documents showed that after the parent's complaint -- coupled with staff allegations about the teacher giving out lollies and putting children on his lap -- the principal suspected he had sexually abused at least one student. Prosecutors accused the principal and Catholic Education of watering down the complaints before taking them to the teacher, who denied the allegations.


4 December, 2009

The NSW Labor party really is amazing

They have elected a corruptocrat as leader

New South Wales has its first female premier. American-born Kristina Keneally was installed following the sacking of Nathan Rees last night in one of the most extraordinary scenes in the state's political history. Ms Keneally's elevation also resulted in the first female double act in Australian political history, with Carmel Tebbutt her deputy.

Mr Rees, whose fate was sealed after he labelled sections of his Government treacherous, was executed by Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi in an ambush caucus meeting, The Daily Telegraph reported. Despite earlier vowing not to hand over the state to the two factional bosses, at 7.15pm (AEST) Mr Rees resigned in front of his caucus, following in the footsteps of the man he replaced last year, Morris Iemma.

He walked from the party room at Parliament House and simply said: "It's a difficult decision and we move on." An overwhelming 47 MPs of the 70 members of the party's full caucus then voted to install Ms Keneally.


Gagged government scientist resigns

Politicized climate science again. Warmism is a cancer of the intellect

Eminent scientist Clive Spash has resigned from the CSIRO and called for a Senate inquiry into the science body following the censorship of his controversial report into emissions trading. Dr Spash has lashed out at the organisation which he says promotes self-censorship among its scientists with its unfair publication guidelines. He has been stunned at the treatment he's received at the hands of CSIRO management, including boss Megan Clark, and he also believes he's not alone.

"I've been treated extremely poorly," he told AAP on Thursday. "There needs to be a Senate inquiry. "The way the publication policy and the charter are being interpreted will encourage self-censorship. "It's obviously happened before at the CSIRO - and there's issues currently."

Last month, Dr Spash accused the organisation of gagging him and his report - The Brave New World of Carbon Trading - and restricting its publication. The report is critical of cap and trade schemes, like the one the federal government is seeking to introduce, as well as big compensation to polluters. Dr Spash advocates a direct tax on carbon.

The CSIRO said the report was in breach of its publication guidelines, which restrict scientists from speaking out on public policy. But it provoked accusations the CSIRO is censoring research harmful to the government. Under intense pressure, Dr Clark publicly released the report on November 26 but warned Dr Spash would be punished for his behaviour and his refusal to amend it.

"I believe that internationally peer-reviewed science should be published or, if Dr Clark wishes to have her own opinion, then she should publish her own opinion," Dr Spash said, who has been on sick leave. "I've been to the doctor under extreme stress. "I was surprised at senior management and how I was treated."

He had been ordered not to speak to the media while working for the CSIRO, which originally headhunted him for the job. Dr Spash, who is heading to Europe where he plans to stay indefinitely, was reluctant to openly criticise the government but noted that Science Minister Kim Carr had been abreast of the situation.

Journal New Political Economy had written to Senator Carr, detailing the changes the CSIRO had demanded and refusing to publish the censored version of the paper. "They cut the conclusion by half, 11 per cent of the text, changed the thrust of the meaning from being an index criticism of an ETS to being an argument that it stands to be redesigned," Dr Spash said. "I was clearly censored."


Deranged health bureaucracy

Political correctness trumps medical knowledge

NURSES trying to re-enter the workforce are being quizzed on unrelated health topics. Disgruntled nurse Janette Morton, 47, from Bargara, northwest of Bundaberg, contacted The Courier-Mail to voice her disgust at some of the questions on a test paper which she believes are "irrelevant" to nursing. Nurses trying to return to the workforce are required to sit a Competence Assessment Service Challenge Test as part of their assessment to regain their qualifications.

Ms Morton said one question related to the percentage of non-speaking English people in Australia in 1997. Ms Morton said the nature of some of the questions contained in the test was "utterly ridiculous". "It's a lot harder than anyone would have thought," she said. "What is knowing the exact percentage of non-English speaking people going to do when I want to go work in ahospital or a nursing home? What is the relevance?"

She sat the assessment test last month in a bid to restart her nursing career after quitting the workforce in 2000 to care for her sick father. Ms Morton said she was "shocked" there was a multiple-choice question on the exam paper asking where the majority of Aborigines lived in Australia.

"The whole thing has been an absolute circus," she said. "Finding the material that we need to study is absolutely up to us. We are given a broad outline of what will possibly be in the exam but I didn't know I would need to know these sorts of things."

Ms Morton failed part A of the test which requires an 80 per cent pass grade. The test is set up by the Central Queensland University and Central Queensland Institute of TAFE on behalf of the Queensland Nursing Council. All questions on the competence test are computer generated and it has two components – part A is a written examination and part B is a clinical competence assessment. Nurses must get an 80 per cent pass in all four sections of the exam to proceed to part B.

Queensland Nurses Union secretary Gay Hawksworth defended the questions contained in the test. "It's cultural awareness and sensitivity, it's working with people from other cultures but it's also about nursing people from other cultures," she said.

QNC defended the testing process and said all questions were based on the "enrolled nurse TAFE curriculum and the registered nurse undergraduate degree curriculum".


Australian Immigration Intake at Record High

New statistics show that over 500,000 long-term or permanent migrants arrive in Australia each year. Figures released from the Bureau of Statistics Australia have confirmed that 510,564 migrants, students, and long-term workers have arrived in Australia in the year to June. This is an increase of 15% on the previous year.

According to the preliminary statistics, Australia has grown by 443,139 or 2.07%. The growth comes due to a number of factors including a significant increase in births, with more than 300,000 new babies born, bringing Australia's fertility rate back to 1.98. Though fertility rates have improved, two thirds of Australia's population growth still comes from immigration.

Within Australia, Western Australia grew the most at 3.03%, and Perth is forecast to house 2 million people in the near future. Victoria's population grew by a record 2.14% for the state, and is expected to reach a population of 5.5 million by February 2010. It is estimated that Melbourne reached 4 million people in September 2009, and is now growing at approximately 2000 a week.


3 December, 2009

New conservative alignment in Australian Federal politics

NATIONALS Senate leader Barnaby Joyce has agreed to serve on Tony Abbott's front bench as part of a new political partnership both hope will yield a 2010 election victory. Senator Joyce's agreement to join Mr Abbott's inner circle yesterday came in stark contrast to his previous refusal to serve Malcolm Turnbull so he would remain free to criticise Liberal Party policy.

It also came as Senator Joyce told The Australian he felt liberated by Mr Abbott's victory and his endorsement of the Nationals' long-argued rejection of Kevin Rudd's emissions trading scheme. "It's just a tax," Senator Joyce said. "We've been saying it for months and now everyone is saying it."

Senator Joyce has become a popular figure among conservatives since his election as a senator for Queensland in 2004, largely because of a straight style of speaking and his preparedness to put his loyalty to the Nationals ahead of the Coalition.

After becoming the party's Senate leader last year, he refused Mr Turnbull's offer of a frontbench position, rejecting the bonds of frontbencher solidarity and reserving his right to oppose the Liberals on issues of concern to rural and regional Australia. However, sources confirmed last night that Senator Joyce had agreed to take a shadow portfolio under Mr Abbott, convinced the new Liberal leader's conservative views would be unlikely to differ substantially from his own.

Earlier yesterday, in an interview in which he would not comment on his frontbench prospects, Senator Joyce invoked his experience as an accountant when explaining why Australia should not adopt an ETS or any other new tax. "I've seen the tears and the terror in people's eyes when they go broke when they are basically turfed out on their backsides because they've got the finances wrong," he said. "Countries should also not get the finances wrong."

Senator Joyce said the country had $115 billion in federal debt courtesy of Rudd government economic stimulus spending and was now about to face "the uncomfortable part of the paradigm" as the debts fell due. "It's not a great time to start rejigging the economy in such a fashion that you can't even service the debt," he said. "We are in a spot of bother. But we don't realise it yet because the demands of repaying the money have not become prevalent in the economy."

He said the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme was a tax on carbon and would destroy the coal industry, the biggest export in his home state. "What are you going to do when you decide that our major export is no longer our major export? What are you going to replace it with?" Senator Joyce said.

He also said Mr Turnbull's backing for Mr Rudd's CPRS had lulled the Prime Minister into the flawed view that most Australians had backed his climate change plans. If fact, rural and regional Australians hated the CPRS. Senator Joyce said Mr Abbott was popular in his community, particularly among men, who saw him as "fair dinkum" [genuine]"


Conservative leader's real trouble is with the sisterhood, not women in general

Apparently, Tony Abbott has woman trouble. Despite the fact he has three daughters, a wife, two sisters and a mother who adore him, the popular perception of the new Opposition Leader is that women can't stand his blokeish, confrontational style.

In just about every interview since he was elected to the Liberal leadership on Tuesday, he has been asked about his lack of appeal to the fairer sex. Kerry O'Brien on The 7.30 Report asked: "Coming back to that hardline image of yours, for a lot of women, you're not exactly a pin-up boy, are you, as a political leader?"

On A Current Affair, Tracy Grimshaw gave him a hard time about contraception, abortion and making divorce harder to get. The Business Spectator e-zine claimed: "Abbott's aggressive approach will do little to sway the female vote at the next election . . . a significant number of women only see an arrogant hardliner . . . it's not surprising that young women are loath to support him."

Women journalists across the country railed to each other that Abbott was "the devil". The female twitterverse was almost universally condemnatory. Former Cleo editor Mia Freedman's attitude was typical: "Oh, Tony Abbott also anti-IVF," she tweeted. "Seems like his Speedos are the least reprehensible of his crimes against women." The ex-Dolly editor Marina Go tweeted: "I would rather eat my first born than vote for Abbott . . . what concerns me most [is] his anti-free choice views . . . [Tweetfems are] outraged that a man with Abbott's beliefs could possibly head up a major political party in Australia in 2009."

Yet, as Abbott pointed out to Grimshaw, polls shows his women problem is a myth. "The last poll showed me somewhat more popular among women than men," he said. "People will make judgments based on what they see now, not some caricature they heard some years ago."

A Newspoll taken last week shows, while Abbott's overall popularity is low compared with Joe Hockey, there is no significant gender gap: Abbott had a 19 per cent following among women, and 18 per cent among men.

And when it came down to a choice between Abbott and his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull, whose appeal to women went unquestioned, guess who was the clear front runner, especially among young females? Abbott was more popular with women at 41 per cent, compared with Turnbull's 39 per cent. For women aged 18 to 34, Abbott picked up 43 per cent, compared with Turnbull's 35 per cent.

One female Coalition MP, an Abbott fan, said yesterday that support for him in the party room this week was "gender neutral". "Tony's the quintessential Australian bloke . . . but he's matured a lot. In the end people will judge Tony for his ideas as a conviction politician."

The fact is, Abbott's so-called woman trouble is with a particular subset of female - the aggressively secular, paleo-feminist, emasculating Australian broad, for whom unabashed red-blooded blokeishness is an affront of biblical proportions. They are unrepresentative of women, and disproportionately influential, because they either work in the media or politics or have high-profile, heavily networked careers, which mean they are quoted in the media, and their opinions sought after.

For them, abortion on demand, no matter what the circumstances, is a bedrock article of faith. This is the essence of their visceral, red-fanged rage against him. They hold firm to an outdated, 1970s view of feminism that requires unquestioning belief in abortion as a social good.

Abbott's pronouncements on abortion in the past have been considered, mild and unthreatening to the legal status of the procedure, but to paleo-feminists, the fact that he is a male practising Catholic who dares to express his private beliefs is secular apostasy punishable by social and political death. His actual words are unobjectionable. In his book Battlelines, he wrote he "never supported any move to recriminalise abortion, because that would have stigmatised millions of Australian women". "Every abortion is a tragedy and up to 100,000 abortions a year is this generation's legacy of unutterable shame," he said in 2006.

Two years earlier, he honestly grappled with a taboo subject that affects the Christian majority of Parliament, including the ostentatiously Anglican (formerly Catholic) Kevin Rudd, in a speech. "Even those who think that abortion is a woman's right should be troubled by the fact that 100,000 Australian women choose to destroy their unborn babies every year . . . I fear there is no satisfactory answer to this question . . . Governments can't legislate for virtue but shouldn't be indifferent to it either."

This led to protesters hurling themselves at him, wearing T-shirts with slogans such as "Get your rosaries off my ovaries". But he was echoing the feelings of many people, whose opinions have been suppressed as successfully as in any totalitarian state. Polls have found Australian support of abortion on demand vacillating between about 53 and 61 per cent for 20 years, according to the 2007 Australian Election Study by Australian National University and Deakin University researchers.

But drill down and attitudes are more nuanced. A 2006 poll commissioned by the Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations found, similarly, that 60 per cent of Australians support abortion on demand. But it found just 39 per cent support abortion for financial or social (non-medical) reasons; just 20 per cent agree with partial birth abortion; 54 per cent believe abortion involves the taking of a human life; and 57 per cent believe a 20-week-old foetus is a person with human rights.

And, reflecting the change Abbott introduced as health minister, to fund a pregnancy support national phone counselling service, 95 per cent of those polled agreed women should receive free independent counselling before abortion. The extremist viewpoint is not Abbott's but that of abortion fundamentalists posing as feminists who are his most strident critics.


Climate sceptics triumphant in Australian conservative politics

At the recent United Nations climate summit in New York, Barack Obama told his fellow leaders that "the threat from climate change is serious, it is urgent and it is growing". The Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, calls the threat "catastrophic", the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, believes addressing it is "crucial for the future of mankind".

Just months ago Tony Abbott described the same threat as "absolute crap". Yesterday the new Liberal leader backpedalled just a little by saying his words were "hyberbole" for debate. "I think that climate change is real and I think that man does make a contribution," he said, before adding the great qualification of sceptics: "There is an argument first as to how great that contribution is, and second, over what should be done about it."

There is no argument that Abbott's leadership marks the triumphant return of the climate sceptics to the top of the federal Liberal Party. Just last month Abbott attacked as "climate change alarmists" those scientists who worked on the peak UN scientific advisory body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and who are warning about the threat from climate change.

Abbott described them on Four Corners as "the people who will tell you as if it's as obvious as night following day that we have a huge problem and that unless we dramatically change the way we live, life as we know it will be under massive threat. As I said, there's an evangelical fervour about those people which you don't normally associate with scientists".

As a member of Malcolm Turnbull's shadow cabinet Abbott cheerfully championed the work of the prominent Australian climate sceptic Professor Ian Plimer. "I think that in response to the IPCC alarmist - ah, in inverted commas - view, there've been quite a lot of other reputable scientific voices. Now not everyone agrees with Ian Plimer's position, but he is a highly credible scientist and he has written what seems like a very well-argued book refuting most of the claims of the climate catastrophists." His remarks were a direct challenge to Turnbull, who had warned that he could not lead a party that did not take climate change seriously.

A decade ago, the Liberal Party's climate sceptics, backed by some of the world's big minerals and energy companies, fought an epic battle inside the Howard government to stop Australia taking action on climate change, ratifying the Kyoto Protocol or passing an emissions trading scheme. With the substantial support from the then Western Mining boss, Hugh Morgan, and successive heads of Rio Tinto, the sceptics quashed Howard's first environment minister, Robert Hill, who had endorsed Kyoto.

The Kyoto fight was lost on World Environment Day 2002, when Howard backed the sceptics. By then, Hill had been replaced by David Kemp, a vocal sceptic of the science on climate change. Only when Howard was under huge electoral pressure before the 2007 election did he moderate his own sceptical views, appoint Turnbull as his environment minister and promise an emissions trading scheme.

Last week Turnbull, at the death knell of his short leadership of the Liberal Party, had no doubt the sceptics inside the party were again fighting to regain control. "The people that have sought to tear me down do not even believe in the policies we took to the last election," he said bluntly. "They basically believe or regard John Howard as being too green. They don't believe in climate change, they don't think we should take any action on climate change."


Woman sues over flesh-eating bug horror

Negligent government hospital

A QUEENSLAND woman has told of her long and arduous battle against a rare flesh-eating bug infection after it was allegedly misdiagnosed by hospital staff. With what began as a superficial graze, Tracey, who does not wish to use her last name, could have lost a leg, even her life, to the gruesome bug, The Courier-Mail reports.

The legacy of the episode is a rough, colourless patchwork spreading from her left foot to above the knee. Those extensive skin grafts followed 12 rapid-fire operations to "debride" or cut away ravaged soft tissue as the rare necrotising fasciitis bacteria advanced into and up her leg.

Targeted also by powerful antibiotics, the infection finally gave up at the back of Tracey's thigh. By then, surgeons had stripped her limb to virtually bone and muscle. "It looked like a chicken leg," she says.

Yet much of her suffering, Tracey is convinced, would have been averted but for an alleged string of systemic blunders at Gympie Hospital. The 46-year-old claims the "attention" she received included:

* Being sent home from the emergency department with headache tablets.

* Returning to the hospital and writhing in a casualty bay, her screams for help ignored by the staff on duty.

* Repeated instances of non or wrong diagnosis.

* Nurses regularly forgetting to re-connect her antibiotic drip.

* An ambulance transfer to Brisbane without her husband being informed.

"They were just so wrong in how they treated me," Tracey says. "I can't believe how bad the health system is in Queensland. It's disgusting."

Tracey is suing the State Government for medical negligence over what her lawyer, Olamide Kowalik, of Trilby Misso, describes as "a sequence of bungles (that) almost cost her life". The avalanche of toxins discharged by necrotising fasciitis not only destroys flesh but shuts down organs. Tracey's daughter Jayde, 23, says fob-offs and delays at Gympie Hospital took her mother to the brink of kidney and liver failure.

However, it was a nightmare out of nowhere, erupting early last year from a simple scratch near Tracey's ankle. "I was walking up my wooden stairs and fell against them," says Tracey of Amamoor-Dagun, in Gympie's Mary Valley region. "I had a normal graze that was really small. It bled but wasn't deep."

Two days later, on Friday, February 22, Tracey felt the first twinge. "I was limping, and I thought 'that was a bit strange', then went to bed," she recalls. "About one o'clock on Saturday morning, I was in severe pain. My husband, Gary, took me to hospital." Tracey says she was seen by a nurse and a doctor in emergency. "They gave me four (paracetamol-codeine) tablets and a script for anti-biotics and sent me home," she says.

"I spent most the of the day lying down. But the pain had got so bad, I remember just yelling at my husband to make it stop. My foot was swollen now, with a purple rash and a few blisters." Early Sunday, Tracey went back to the hospital where she was given a shot of morphine and a vague diagnosis of "infection". Eventually she was again directed to go home.

But on Monday morning, she staggered to her GP, who immediately arranged for Tracey's admission to hospital. "By this stage, Mum's leg literally looked gangrenous," Jayde says. Still, Tracey was forced to wait more than five hours in an emergency department cubicle for a bed to become available.

"They tried to get a drip in my hand seven times," Tracey says. "Nurses tried, doctors tried . . . in the end they got someone from pathology who just did it instantly."

The next day, recalls Jayde, her mother's leg had grotesquely transformed. "The entire calf muscle was one huge blister," she says. "Mum looked like absolute death but all the nurses kept saying to me was that they didn't know what it was. I thought they were going to have to chop her leg off because it just looked rotten."

Jayde says she pressed a doctor for a diagnosis. "But it wasn't necrotising fasciitis," she asserts.

Nurses from other sections of the hospital appeared at her mother's bedside. "Not to see how she was," Jayde says. "Like a sideshow at a circus, they said they had come to see the 'lady with the big blister'."

Tracey's terror, confusion and isolation converged with her overnight transfer to Royal Brisbane Hospital. She claims nobody from Gympie Hospital bothered to let her husband know she was leaving. Tracey says she can't speak highly enough of her swift diagnosis and treatment at Royal Brisbane. She spent three months there, and another three months learning to walk again in a state-run rehabilitative unit.

Necrotising fasciitis, left alone, kills seven out of 10 victims within days. As uncommon as it is, reported cases have increased around the world in the past five years. The bacteria may be carried unwittingly on a person and introduced to the body through an abrasion or cut.

Queensland Health would not comment on the case but Tracey says she has not had an apology and will not hear of excuses. "If they at Gympie Hospital didn't know what the hell it was, why didn't they contact someone who did?" she says. "If they'd got on to it sooner, my leg wouldn't have been this bad. "I get depressed. I get anxiety. Sometimes, I get the feeling that I just don't want to be here any more."


2 December, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG expresses high hopes for new conservative leader, Tony Abbott

Conservative politicians block climate deal in Senate

At last the Liberal party has a real conservative in charge

The Coalition has managed to block the the Government's plan to fight climate change. The senate eventually voted 41-33 to defeat the government's climate change scheme despite two key Liberal moderates, Judith Troeth and Sue Boyce, crossing the Senate floor.

Blocking the emissions trading scheme (ETS) - which would set a limit on carbon pollution, then allow companies to trade permits to pollute within that cap - has handed Kevin Rudd a trigger for an early election.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong hit out at opposing senators before the final vote, saying changing Australia's economy is crucial to fighting climate change. "You do not tackle climate change unless you change your economy," Senator Wong told the senate. "You have to make polluters pay."

Mr Rudd has said publicly he has no interest in going to the polls early, but Labor insiders have said many Government number crunchers are open to the idea. A March election is touted as the most likely timing, if Mr Rudd decided to call a snap poll.

New Liberal leader Tony Abbott, led a revolt against Malcolm Turnbull over a deal done with the Government that would have seen the Opposition support the scheme. But in a secret ballot of Liberal MPs straight after the leadership spill, a majority voted to renege on that deal.

The scheme would make household items and bills more expensive, because polluters would pass on the cost of polluting to consumers. However the Government has promised most families will be no worse off. Mr Abbott has called the scheme a "$130 billion tax". "This great big new tax is not actually going to reduce our emissions, it's just going to make a whole lot of things more expensive," he said on Macquarie radio this morning. "I am confident ... this legislation will be defeated in the Senate today."

Mr Abbott said yesterday he was not frightened by the prospect of fighting an election against Mr Rudd on climate change. He has promised an alternative policy on climate change next year, arguing there is no need to rush a policy that important.

But the Government is already painting Mr Abbott's leadership as a relic of the Howard era, with no new ideas for the future. Mr Rudd and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong had set a deadline of last week for the climate deal to be passed, but offered it again to Mr Abbott after yesterday's spill. The deal negotiated with the Opposition gave billions of extra dollars for polluters in compensation for when the cap is introduced.

The Government wanted the deal passed in time for next week's UN climate conference in Copenhagen. It is supposed to secure a successor to the Kyoto climate treaty, although no-one thinks it will achieve anything binding. Senator Wong has said she will go the summit early to try to salvage something, but it will be harder without an ETS deal.

Meanwhile Liberal Party strategists are plotting a strategy of using the ETS to target the PM as failing to deliver on promises that he would ease financial stress on families. Sources told The Australian that party research showed battlers were angry that costs were rising on Mr Rudd's watch - and that he was proposing to add to the burden with the climate plan.

Mr Abbott said he would pursue Mr Rudd for driving up interest rates with profligate spending, pointing to yesterday's decision by the Reserve Bank to lift the official cash rate by 0.25 percentage points to 3.75 per cent. The Opposition Leader also foreshadowed industrial relations reform. While admitting the Howard government's Work Choices laws had gone too far, he said they had created two million jobs and that "a free and flexible economy" was vital.


New Liberal leader Tony Abbott says he would have 'removed' Oceanic Viking asylum seekers

FEDERAL Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has suggested he would have solved the stand-off aboard the Oceanic Viking by forcibly removing the asylum seekers. The 78 Tamils disembarked in Indonesia after more than a month aboard the vessel following a deal offered by Australian authorities which guaranteed their refugee claims would be fast-tracked.

But Mr Abbott said the group should have been removed. "If 70 people invaded the prime minister's office it wouldn't matter how good the cause was, they would be removed," he told Fairfax Radio. "Now, I think that the people who were on the Oceanic Viking should have been removed."

Mr Abbott, in his first full day as opposition leader, made the comment while taking calls on talkback radio this morning. And like Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said in the lead up to the 2007 election, Mr Abbott has advocated a policy of turning the asylum seeker boats back so they do not reach Australian waters. The newly-elected opposition leader also flagged a return to temporary protection visas, a policy also supported by Malcolm Turnbull before he was dumped.

"We've got to above all else deny to unauthorised arrivals the great prize of permanent residency in Australia," he said. "And that means a new class of visas, akin to the temporary protection visas, it means offshore processing. "It means where you can, turning boats around and it means working closely with host countries to try to ensure that we don't get people setting off in these leaky boats." There have been 49 boats carrying asylum seekers intercepted in Australian waters this year.

Meanwhile, Mr Abbott is set to announce his frontbench team in the coming days after rolling Malcolm Turnbull in yesterday's leadership spill... The Opposition Leader said he would like Senator Barnaby Joyce, the Nationals leader in the Senate, to be a part of his frontbench team and was considering his options. "I'm in the process of thinking about that and obviously talking to Warren Truss, the leader of the Nats," Mr Abbott told 3AW Radio this morning. "Malcolm wanted him on the frontbench because he's the leader of the National Party in the Senate and the Nats leader in the Senate should be part of the frontbench." Mr Abbott described Senator Joyce as a very "effective, accomplished politician". "I think the National Party are lucky to have him and I think the coalition is stronger thanks to Barnaby."

Meanwhile, Christopher Pyne, manager of Opposition business in the Lower House, predicts the nation faces a March election, with today's ETS defeat set to prompt a double dissolution. "I think the election will be on March the 6th," Mr Pyne told ABC TV. "(The government) will be rushing off to the polls because that was what the ETS in my view was all about ... so they could bring it back (to Parliament) and it could be a double dissolution trigger."

Mr Pyne said he expected Mr Abbott to remain in the Liberal top job until then. "I think he will take the party to the election with gusto," he said. "We will certainly know the difference between Labor and Liberal on election day, which is a huge plus in politics."...

Mr Abbott said Mr Rudd was "worse than Whitlam" when it came to wasting public money. "We have to make the Government the issue," he said. "We have to ensure that people are thinking about Labor's broken promises - rising interest rates, wasted money in the education revolution program, the $43 billion broadband program which will never happen."

John Howard paid tribute to his understudy, describing Mr Abbott as "a person of high intelligence, great energy".


Arrogant head-teacher ignores grievous bullying at government school

It was only the glare of publicity that got some decency out of this lazy bureaucrat

BRAVE Tyler Fishlock had to flee his school after standing up to repeated attacks by a bully he cannot see. Tyler - who captured the hearts of Victorians after having both his eyes removed to save his life from cancer - has been beaten with a ruler and a xylophone stick, kicked and punched, pushed, and had scissors clicked dangerously in front of this face. He was also called "retard", "spastic" and "blind kid".

"I can't dodge it. I can't see him coming and I think 'Oh God, here comes the monster again'," said Tyler, 7. "I am terrified of him."

After the third serious attack last week, the bully was suspended for two days and Caroline Springs College hired a "bodyguard" teacher to protect other children.

Tyler's distraught mother Georgette Fishlock yesterday withdrew him from school after the principal refused to remove the troublemaker from Tyler's class. But after being contacted by the Herald Sun, the school reversed its decision and has promised to move the boy to another class from tomorrow.

Ms Fishlock said Tyler will now return to school, but he missed out on performing in The Lion Sleeps Tonight at his first school concert last night because he was too scared. "Up until this point he never felt any different to any other child," Ms Fishlock said. "He tends to tackle life head-on like he always has, but this has put a real dampener on his school year." Ms Fishlock said the bully picked on other kids too, "but I think he favors Tyler because he gets something out of scaring him".

In the worst attack, teachers told the Fishlocks how Tyler was jabbed with a ruler in the area where he has painful scar tissue on his torso from operations. In a separate incident, the boy's mother made him apologise for threatening Tyler with scissors.

Last Wednesday Tyler was hit with a xylophone stick before being kicked in the kneecaps until he was rescued, cowering in the corner of his music class. After that attack, Ms Fishlock threatened to withdraw Tyler from school for the rest of the year unless the bully was removed from his class.

When contacted by the Herald Sun, college director Patrick Waring said the Fishlocks had no right to demand the boy be removed. He soon called back to say an agreement had been reached and the boy would be moved. "Parents are in no position - it doesn't matter who they are - to tell us ... what they want done with other people's children," Mr Waring said. "These are six-year-olds who are having a bit of trouble getting on with each other. We are not talking about high-end bullying, it is just spasmodic bad behaviour." [He might change his tune if someone blinded him and pushed him around]


Australians have the biggest homes

This comparison isn't a guide to much. House prices vary much more in America than they do in Australia. A tangle of Greenie land-use restrictions in California make housing prices there something like three times higher than they are in Texas, for instance. And higher prices mean that most people must settle for smaller homes. Texas prices seem quite low by Australian standards, in fact

AUSTRALIANS have the world's largest houses, beating traditional champion the US, however the cost of renting is similarly expanding. Data commissioned by CommSec shows the Australian house has grown on average by 10 per cent in the past decade to a record high of 214sq m, three times the size of the average British house. But a second report from BIS Shrapnel has also forecast rents would continue to spiral with a rise of 5 per cent a year in Brisbane between 2010 and 2012 and similar levels in other capitals, the Courier-Mail reported. It was estimated landlords would pocket an extra $2 billion nationally during the period.

According to CommSec, while the houses are getting bigger, so too are the families with the number of people in each household rising from 2.51 to 2.56, the first such rise in at least 100 years. NSW has the biggest houses in Australia and by a large margin. The size of the average new house built in NSW in 2008-09 was 262.9sq m, followed by Queensland 253sq m.

"The increase in the size of the average family unit may mean that fewer new homes need to be built," CommSec's Craig James said. "It makes sense. Population is rising, as is the cost of housing and the cost of moving house, so we are making greater use of what we've got. "Children are living at home longer with parents and more people are opting for shared accommodation."

Had the number of persons per household remained unchanged, CommSec estimates that 166,000 extra homes would needed to have been built in the 2007-08 year. "If the size of the average household continues to rise, there will be reduced demand for new houses and apartments," Mr James said.

"It is questionable whether Aussie homes can, or indeed should, continue to grow. "Generation Y is already baulking at the cost of housing, choosing to stay at home longer with parents."

In Europe Denmark has the biggest homes (houses and flats), with an average floor area of 137sq m, followed by Greece (126sq m), and the Netherlands (115.5sq m). Homes in the UK are the smallest in Europe at 76sq m.

Weekend auction clearances showed no let-up in demand ahead of tomorrow's Reserve Bank meeting that could lift interest rates for the third month in a row.


That shirt & Tie!

The man definitely craves attention. And if I owed millions (which he does) I would certainly not be funding the hugely expensive ostentation described below. But my background is Presbyterian and his is Jewish so perhaps we are both right within our own perspectives. I doubt that ostentation is good PR in the long run, though. Presbyterians (mainly people of Scottish origin) do pretty well without it -- and also without attracting odium upon themselves. There is no anti-Presbyterianism that I have heard of. A low profile has its benefits

AUSTRALIA'S most expensive and extravagant wedding went off without a hitch last night - at a rumoured cost of more than $3 million. Blushing bride Brynne Gordon dripped in $500,000 worth of diamonds and dazzled in a tasteful, strapless, ivory gown of silk, satin and tulle, while her groom wore a tuxedo with a twist.

Guests were one as they described Brynne, at just 26, radiating pure and genuine joy to be marrying the man who swept her off her feet and brought her to Australia after a whirlwind courtship in the US.

Members of the wedding party arrived in Rolls Royces, at least one bearing "Brynne" numberplates. Television starlets, AFL stars, radio personalities and talkback hosts, media commentators and fashionistas swarmed into Crown's Palladium Ballroom to watch "Doc" Geoffrey Edelsten wed the vivacious young woman who has given him a new lease of life after a colourful career.

Guests were treated to a sumptuous, seven-course dinner. Molly Meldrum, Chris Judd, Pete Hellier, Dave Hughes, Pippa Black, Tiffany Hall, Jeanne Pratt and Tottie Goldsmith were among them. Former Collingwood legend Tom Hafey knew Dr Edelsten in Sydney and said he had found him to be shy.

Brynne's brothers Nick and Ryan said it was a wedding most women would only ever dream of. "It's hard to imagine just how big and amazing it is," said Ryan, 29. "I think it's probably every girl's dream to meet the man of her dreams and marry in like, a fairytale." Proud and protective of their older sister, Nick and Ryan were equally full of praise for their new brother-in-law. "He's fantastic to Brynne, he's great with our whole family and he treats her so well, we are really happy for both of them."


1 December, 2009

Dislike of Warmist laws causes change in conservative leadership

TONY Abbott's Liberal leadership is a remarkable result for the Liberal party and a victory for those two camps who wanted to remove Malcolm Turnbull and oppose the Rudd Government's ETS. Abbott’s position will now be to oppose the ETS but faces the prospect of rebels immediately undermining his leadership by supporting the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

Mr Divisive – as he is seen – will now have to be the conciliatory and healing leader that Joe Hockey had promised to be.

In the end Abbott’s decisiveness as a potential leader has triumphed over Turnbull’s dictatorial style and crash through approach and Hockey’s attempts to compromise so much he threatened to leave the party without a policy position.

The Liberals have voted for decisiveness and character over indecision from Hockey and overbearing character from Turnbull.

The scene is now set for further ructions within the Liberal party or revolts in the Senate and a Liberal-nationals Coalition attacking the Rudd Government’s ETS as a new tax.


Major Australian resort area runs short of public hospital beds

BOOMING coastal populations in the southeast and north are facing the gravest shortages of public hospital beds in Queensland. The lack of overnight beds, especially on the Gold and Sunshine coasts, has led AMA Queensland president Mason Stevenson to angrily accuse State Treasury of "holding sway" over patients' lives. "If you are a citizen of the Gold or Sunshine coast, (your) health and safety is compromised," Dr Stevenson said. "Dollars and cents appear to come first. "And patients will continue to suffer, and some patients will die, as a result."

For the Gold Coast, the picture only gets bleaker. The Courier-Mail can reveal the new Gold Coast University Hospital will open in late 2012 with up to 150 fewer available beds than promised. Queensland Health deputy director-general (planning and infrastructure) Michael Walsh said staff recruitment delays – not budget cuts – were to blame.

Gold Coast Medical Association president Philip Morris said the hold-up was in stark contrast to the Government's rhetoric. "They keep saying they've got a 750-bed hospital," Dr Morris said.

The Courier-Mail's hospital-by-hospital analysis found the Mackay Health Service District was Queensland's poorest provider of overnight public beds – with six hospitals, 252 beds and only 1.5 beds per 1000 people. The rate was almost half the national average of 2.5 beds for every 1000 residents. According to State Government projections, the Mackay region was expected to be one of the top growth spots from 2006-2026, increasing its population by 37.4 per cent.

However, the Gold Coast was the next most under-resourced area. And its 1.72 beds per 1000 people – based on an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figure of 855 beds – could well be flattering. A Queensland Health spokesman told The Courier-Mail the latest departmental count for the coast was 745 overnight public hospital beds. The Gold Coast Hospital claimed 472 of those, while its Robina campus had 210 and Carrara Health Centre a further 63.

Dr Morris said the coast's population was expected to balloon from 500,000 to 823,000 over the next two decades. He warned that without expansion beyond the University Hospital, the tourism mecca would dive towards a 1000-bed deficit in 25 years. "This will be a disaster for the community," he said.

Dr Stevenson said the Sunshine Coast, the third-worst facilitated district with 1.8 beds per 1000 people, was so bereft of wards and specialist treatments that 180 of its constituents occupied a Brisbane public hospital bed every night. "By 2016-17, the number will have increased to 280," he said. "That denies those beds to Brisbane residents, and also puts enormous pressure on our ambulance and patient transfer systems."

A Coolum Beach GP, Dr Stevenson said the Sunshine Coast population would grow from about 300,000 to 460,000 in 2017. Yet it was missing "tertiary-level services that are now regarded as mainstream throughout the western world". "We do not have access to public cardiology, neurosurgery, vascular surgery or public cancer radiotherapy," Dr Stevenson said.

Brisbane's Metro South Health Service District also failed to meet the national standard, with 2.13 beds per 1000 people. The zone includes major hospitals such as Logan, Mater Adult, Mater Children's, Mater Mothers, Princess Alexandra and QEII.

However, Health Minister Paul Lucas insists there is no crisis. "Of course we want to build more beds and . . . we are doing it," he said. Mr Lucas said the Commonwealth's inadequate subsidising of nursing homes was driving providers out of the sector. "(As a result), there are on average 400 (acute) beds being occupied by Queenslanders who are eligible for nursing home placement," he said.


Teachers bullied to keep quiet on problem government schools

The Queensland Opposition said whistleblowing teachers were being bullied by other teachers to keep problems in schools quiet. New figures released by the State Government showed the number of formal complaints of bullying and aggressive behaviour by teachers against other teachers had increased by more than 40 per cent over the past two years. In 2007, 26 teachers made formal complaints to the education department about other teachers. The number rose to 30 in 2008 and there have been 37 complaints so far in 2009.

Education Minister Geoff Wilson said in an answer to a parliamentary question on notice that the number represented less than one per cent of the state's 47,000 teachers.

Opposition education spokesman Bruce Flegg said he had been approached by a number of teachers concerned about being told by other teachers to keep quiet about school problems. He said the Government was also covering up by refusing to release to the Opposition details of apprehended violence orders against teachers and the number of weapons seized in schools. "There's pressure to cover up those sorts of events, but teachers in those schools want the root causes to be addressed," Dr Flegg said.

"I don't think there is any doubt whistleblowers are being bullied. "The agenda is about controlling the public relations rather than fixing the problems." He said it was a systemic problem that required government action.


Crackdown on rogue bike riders in NSW

You probably have to be full of testerone to ride a bike through fast-moving traffic but the testosterone does seem to foster a disregard for everyone else

Wear bright clothing. Leave MP3 players and mobile phones at home. Never ride more than two abreast. And never travel in packs of more than 20. That's the basic message for cyclists riding in groups contained in new NSW Government guidelines aimed at reducing the increasing number of road injuries and deaths.

"Riding in traffic can be safe and enjoyable for cyclists who follow some commonsense tips," Assistant Transport Minister David Borger said today when he launched the safety campaign at a Darlinghurst coffee shop. “We all know 'the road is there to share' and, in order to save lives, all road users need to obey the rules and respect others. "Cyclists are among our most vulnerable road users and it is important they understand the safest way to travel."

Last year, there were almost 700 cycling accidents, three involving fatalities, in the Sydney region. The number of deaths is expected to have doubled this year. There have been several highly publicised incidents recently. They include two serious accidents on Southern Cross Drive and a case in Seven Hills in which a cyclist, who was allegedly riding illegally on a T-Way lane, followed and boarded a bus, before bashing the 64-year-old driver.

Parramatta police duty officer, Inspector Beth Sturton, said police had still not been able to identify the cyclist involved in the T-Way dispute. "There's still a couple of witnesses [we're] trying to speak to but nothing's come to light there that can identify the individual at this stage," Inspector Sturton said.

Mr Borger said cyclists, like all other road users, were expected to obey the rules. "This includes all signs and signals, staying clear of moving motor vehicles, wearing a helmet, ride no more than two abreast unless passing and follow lane markings. “Cyclists should also look out for pedestrians and give way to them and they are strongly advised to wear brightly coloured or reflective clothing to help make them more visible.”


Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.

For overseas readers: The "ALP" is the Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. The "Liberal" party is Australia's major conservative political party.

Again for overseas readers: Like the USA, Germany and India, Australia has State governments as well as the Federal government. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).

For American readers: A "pensioner" is a retired person living on Social Security

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

On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.

I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!

I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"

UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.

Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.