Looking at Australian politics from a libertarian/conservative perspective...
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Two of my ancestors were convicts so my family has been in Australia for a long time. As well as that, all four of my grandparents were born in the State where I was born and still live: Queensland. And I am even a member of the world's second-most condemned minority: WASPs (the most condemned is of course the Jews -- which may be why I tend to like Jews). So I think I am as Australian as you can get. I certainly feel that way. I like all things that are iconically Australian: meat pies, Vegemite, Henry Lawson etc. I particularly pride myself on my familiarity with the great Australian slanguage. I draw the line at Iced Vo-Vos and betting on the neddies, however. So if I cannot comment insightfully on Australian affairs, who could?
16 October, 2010
"Community release" -- Australia's new euphemism for allowing illegal immigration
HUNDREDS of asylum seekers will be released from high security detention and allowed to live in the community under a plan being drafted by the Gillard government.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen is believed to be preparing to announce the community release to relieve overflowing detention centres on the mainland and on Christmas Island.
Asylum seekers who are not considered a security risk would be eligible for community detention, including family groups, children and unaccompanied minors. The government has been in discussion with charities, church groups and refugee welfare organisations to find accommodation. This would include hostels and houses owned by the groups.
Welfare groups contacted by The Age yesterday said discussions with the government about community detention for asylum seekers predated the August 21 election.
It is understood priority would be given to families with school-age children and that release from detention centres would be staggered as housing becomes available.
According to the Immigration officials, 742 children are detained by authorities, as well as 382 unaccompanied minors. Of the children, 281 are on Christmas Island and 461 are in mainland centres.
All up, 5056 asylum seekers are now in detention, of whom 2769 are on Christmas Island. A record 106 asylum-seeker boats have arrived this year, already 20 more than the previous record of 86 in 1999.
Australian dollar hits parity with US dollar
A final tribute to the fact that Australia's banks were deregulated -- while America's banks were regulated to death. The Australian unit has risen as the U.S. unit fell
THE Australian dollar has reached parity with the US dollar for the first time since the currency was floated in December 1983. The local current rose to $US1.00 at about 11.18pm (AEDT) in overseas trading. It was the first time since 28 July 1982 that the Australia dollar has traded about one US dollar.
Earlier on Friday the local currency was hovering around 99 US cents ahead of the release of US CPI data, retail figures and a Federal Reserve speech that could indicate how much quantitative easing will take place. Quantitative easing is a process whereby the US Federal Reserve increases the amount of US dollars in the economy by buying US Treasuries.
The Australian dollar touched a fresh 27-year high of 99.94 US cents overnight, the closest it has been to parity with the US dollar since it was floated in December 1983. At 5pm (AEDT) on Friday the Australian dollar was trading at 99.28 US cents, down from Thursday's close of 99.61 cents. Since 7am (AEDT), the local unit traded between 98.92 US cents and 99.46 cents.
Nomura Australia economist Stephen Roberts said traders had been waiting patiently throughout the domestic session in the absence of any local data. "It might be a bit of a patient wait for parity, but we will get there," Mr Roberts said.
He said the release of the US economic data and a speech by US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke would drive the momentum of the local currency. "Those factors will certainly have some influence," Mr Roberts said.
Queensland wants to get rid of dummy teachers
But you would have to be a dummy to take up teaching in Qld. schools these days. Some new teaching graduates walk out after a week when they encounter the reality of it
QUEENSLAND'S teaching profession is facing a crackdown on university entrance standards in a bid to boost quality in the classroom.
Students will have to attain an OP score of 12 or better to gain entry to a teaching degree under a proposal being considered by the State Government. OP cut-offs have been as low as OP19 at some Queensland universities in recent years, fuelling concerns over the quality of newly graduate teachers. Students will also have to obtain a minimum standard in English, mathematics and science.
The proposals are among 21 recommendations put to the State Government in a review of teacher education and induction, part of the Flying Start project.
The review, currently being considered by Queensland education stakeholders, follows consultation on proposed national entry requirements for undergraduate pre-service teacher programs. Proposed national standards require a minimum level of mathematics and English for Year 12 students, but not science, as suggested in Queensland.
As of next year, Queensland primary school teaching graduates will be required to sit a test in English, maths and science to become a registered teacher.
Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said while he did not oppose the idea of having an OP12 cut-off for a Bachelor of Education, moves including paying teachers more were needed. "It is quite clear that we need to try to attract the better students in terms of OP scores into the teaching profession but the problem we have got is that the OP score is demand driven," he said.
Mr Ryan said many students who didn't achieve an OP12 could be wonderful teachers. The Christian Heritage College's Colette Alexander agreed, warning some universities which catered for lower-scoring OP students might be badly affected. "Academic performance during school does not guarantee quality teaching," she said. "What makes a difference with a teacher is whether a person wants to teach."
Professor Peter Renshaw, head of the School of Education at the University of Queensland where the OP cut-off was 11 this year, agreed that a student's OP didn't always reflect their capability. But he said the OP cut-off would be good for the perception of teaching. He also said the OP requirement did not apply to many Bachelor of Education graduates at his university, with many coming from other degrees rather than straight from school.
Queensland Deans of Education Forum chair Professor Wendy Patton said contingencies built into the proposal meant most universities supported the cut-off. Under the proposal, students with lower OPs can be granted entry in exceptional circumstances. "It provides the opportunity for individuals to say 'I can put forward a case' and for institutions to say 'well, let's have a look at this case'," Professor Patton said.
The teacher training review follows an investigation into the state's education system last year, when Professor Geoff Masters raised concerns about the competency of beginning teachers.
"Green" scheme bungles blamed on bureaucrats
The Auditor-General has found that bad advice and misinformation from the environment department caused the home insulation scheme to fail. Mustn't blame the clueless politicians concerned
A DAMNING report into the government's $2.8 billion home insulation scheme says the full extent of fraud is unknown and that almost one-third of the 1.1 million homes insulated could have installation or safety problems.
The federal Auditor-General's report, released yesterday, lays much of the blame on the federal Environment Department but attributes most of its bungling to the pressure it was under.
In a new book, The Party Thieves, by the ABC journalist Barrie Cassidy, the frontbencher Gary Gray says it was wrong that the environment minister Peter Garrett was demoted over the debacle because the program was driven by Kevin Rudd's office - if not the prime minister himself. ''How can you have a situation where Rudd executes complete and total influence, micro-manages everything, yet not the home insulation program?'' he says.
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The report says $1.4 billion was spent insulating homes before the scheme was scrapped after it was linked to four deaths and 207 house fires.
Because of the problems, the scheme fell short of its aim to create jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By March this year, about a month before the scheme was abandoned, 29 per cent of the almost 14,000 houses inspected had problems ranging from ''minor quality issues to serious safety concerns''.
The report says the uncontrolled nature of the scheme meant the number of installers blew out to almost 11,000. Since it was scrapped, 4000 potential cases of fraud have been identified with 100 under investigation. ''The full extent of fraud is still unknown and the conclusion of cases under investigation is likely to take many more months to complete,'' the report says.
15 October, 2010
COPS BASH COPS, TOO - THE QUEENSLAND POLICE
Media Release, Peter Pyke: 13 October 2010. (Peter Pyke was a Labor member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly from 1992 to 1995, representing the district of Mount Ommaney. Prior to entering politics he served with the Queensland Police Service for 15 years, rising to the rank of Police Sergeant)
In 1994 I told then-Queensland Premier Wayne Goss that ‘politicians thought they were pretty powerful but - in our system – it was the police who had all the power’. Goss, a former-lawyer, looked blankly at me. He just didn’t understand what I was on about. As a first-time MP I had just told him that I was about to be charged by police with a number of criminal charges which I have always maintained were false, and the jury who acquitted me later seemed to agree. But I was a mere backbencher in his government and he had a huge majority so why should he care? It seemed to me he didn’t.
When Goss lost office in the next election by just one electorate – the ALP now understands that was my seat of Mount Ommaney which I had lost by a handful of votes after the coppers had smeared me beautifully in the media for fifteen months as only they can do – he may have better understood what I had told him.
The Queensland police – whose campaign slogan is the ironical ‘with honour we serve’ – changed the outcome of the 1995 Queensland election in favour of a Borbidge-led government which – happily for some – let convicted and disgraced police commissioner and junior Rat Pack member Terry Lewis out of gaol four years early. But who’s counting?
This week we have seen more of the handiwork of the Queensland coppers with the release of heavily censored CCTV footage of the bashing of handcuffed prisoners in the custody of that outstanding example of one of Queensland’s ‘finest’, former-senior constable Benjamin Thomas Price, who is shown bashing a tourist and a barmaid at the Airlie Beach police station in the state’s north.
The ex-policeman, 34, was sentenced to 27 months' jail on 11 October 2010 after pleading guilty to four counts of assault. Steele, a plasterer from NSW, suffered a broken nose, black eyes, a head wound, hearing problems, memory loss and lack of sensation in his arms and hands after his arrest in the popular Whitsundays tourist town. He told the court he was trying to break-up a fight between two mates when he was capsicum sprayed by police. It is alleged Price led the handcuffed Steele to a police car before saying "watch your head" and smashing his face into the vehicle, knocking him unconscious.
Price allegedly dragged Steele from the car outside Airlie Beach watch-house, repeatedly punched him and "kicked him with his boots" in the face, breaking his nose.
CCTV video footage from the police station shows a dazed, heavily bleeding Steele being dragged into an alley beside the watch-house. It shows the handcuffed man being punched in the head before having a fire hose jammed into his mouth, where it was held for up to 90 seconds as another officer watches.
Steele screams and groans in agony and blood can be seen sheeting down the concrete path as the policeman stands on the handcuffs, pressing his hand into the back of the man's neck, forcing his head into his lap in a brutal spine lock.
"I felt like I was going to drown," Steele told the court. "He jammed the hose into my mouth. I couldn't breathe. I was coughing and spluttering blood. It was pretty scary. It went on for a long time. I called him a pussy. He knocked me about. I was pretty dazed, I'd had a boot to my face, my nose was broken. I was choking on my own blood, I felt like I was drowning."
The vision shows other police officers standing by as Price stuffs a fire hose into his victim's mouth, nearly drowning him. The CCTV footage also shows Price hitting slightly-built barmaid Renee Tom, 21, slamming her to the floor inside the watch-house in January 2008 and pulling her to her feet by her hair.
As a former police officer who saw service as an operational trainer and academy law lecturer, I know full well that any one of the other police who observed Price’s actions could have stopped Price and even arrested him on the spot for each of his savage bashings. So what happened? Only one of the police shown in the censored footage with their faces blurred did something; it was left to courageous female trainee constable Bree Sonter to do the right thing and to complain about the incidents.
Queensland police deputy commissioner Ian Stewart told reporters on 11 October 2010 that five other officers had resigned and three more were facing potential disciplinary actions over the incidents. All of the other officers who did nothing were complicit in the offences in my opinion.
It was my honour to be sworn in under Commissioner Ray Whitrod in 1976 - Whitrod was a real police commissioner. I immediately saw service in North Queensland and soon discovered that police bashings of Aboriginal and homosexual citizens were everyday sport for far too many Queensland police. It’s easy to say, but individual police have the power to control the behaviour of their peers by stepping in and stopping offences like those committed by Price. I know, I was bashed several times in the Townsville watch-house and once out on the street by my police colleagues for intervening to stop other officers from assaulting prisoners.
As I said at the outset, each individual police officer has the power to arrest anyone, the premier, the prime minister, or another officer. With such power comes enormous responsibility.
That’s the job and that is what is required. Don’t like it? Coppers who aren’t up to it should get out of the kitchen.
Prisoners were being bashed in the custody of Queensland police in the 1970s and we now have incontrovertible evidence they are still being bashed, even under the watchful eye of CCTV. Too many police thugs are protected by their peers and deaths in police custody will continue to occur while other officers fail to serve with real honour.
Is it all bad? As someone who will bleed a little bit blue until the day I die, I like to listen to the police radio on the scanner when I am writing, or driving around. While the Queensland police are badly led by their most senior officers whom I wouldn’t feed, I can report that many of the uniformed officers who undertake first-response operational duties do an excellent job. It is with pride that I can report hearing more often than not in the voices of police on the scanner their obvious humanity and concern for children, young people, battered women, the homeless and the elderly, and I commonly hear police going to great lengths to ensure that everything possible is done for people who need police assistance.
No, it’s not all bad.
If there is a hero in this sad story it is Constable Bree Sonter who did serve Queenslanders with honour.
I call on the Queensland Government to appropriately honour this young woman with the highest police award.
Author: Peter Pyke, 0427 388 598, firstname.lastname@example.org
Saving energy will tie us in green tape
SCHEMES to cut power consumption should not cost more than the benefits they bring
IN public policy, bad ideas never die: they go to second editions. The recently released report of the Prime Minister's Task Group on Energy Efficiency is a striking case in point.
Credit where credit is due. The report is well-written, logically presented and thoroughly referenced, virtues no longer common in government documents. But its mistaken premises lead to recommendations that would reduce productivity, cut incomes and tie us up in unending green tape.
Start with the basics. A policy is effective if it does what it sets out to do. It is economically efficient if what it sets out to do is worth doing. The report's premise is that we should reduce our energy consumption; what it fails to show is that reducing energy consumption would make Australians better off.
This is not to deny that there may be climate change benefits to reduced energy use. Some greenhouse gas abatement could be worthwhile. But even were that accepted, it would only be sensible to reduce energy use if that cut emissions at a cost less than the implied or actual price on carbon. And at least for the next few years, that price is likely to be low.
A frontal assault on Australian energy consumption, as envisaged in this report, therefore cannot be justified on climate change grounds. Rather, the report's premise is that consuming energy is a bad thing, with the vice compounded by Australia's relatively high energy consumption per unit of output.
The implication is that our levels of energy use are inefficient. But for this proposition, there is no evidence whatsoever. After all, Australia is endowed with abundant energy resources, such as coking coal, some of which are costly to transport internationally. We are also amply endowed with other resources, including land, whose exploitation involves high energy use. Comparative advantage would therefore result in our energy intensity being well above average for developed economies.
Nor is there any reason for the rate of change in energy intensity to be the same internationally. Rather, it is our factor endowments, one aspect of which is our land use patterns, which should shape our future energy intensity. Indeed, were energy demand to fall, the price of resources such as brown coal would fall with it, causing an off-setting further shift to highly energy-using industries. This could make the disparity between our energy intensity and that of other developed economies even more pronounced over time.
So could the fact that increasing productivity is expensive: it needs concentrated management attention and entails up-front costs. Efficiency requires focusing that effort where it yields the highest return. For a country with our resources, that is unlikely to be in reducing energy intensity.
None of this cuts any mustard with the report. Rather, with energy intensity treated as a problem, the search is on for solutions. The report therefore proposes ramping up many existing measures, from mandatory energy use reporting by larger firms to subsidised energy inspections for small firms and households.
The report claims these measures are effective. But the studies it cites are largely before-after comparisons of energy use, rather than properly comparing unit costs at sites that received the benefit and those that did not. As a result, they do not even establish the spending is effective, much less efficient.
This is all the more troubling given the report's failure to confront the lessons of experience. Like the mad uncle in the attic, pink batts and green loans are never mentioned.
Yet they surely prove that recipients have little incentive to monitor the quality of claimed energy-saving giveaways, while snake-oil merchants on the supply side have every incentive to exploit taxpayer funding for all it is worth.
That said, the report does recognise the problems associated with the proliferation of energy-saving programs, not least the scope for greatly differing "bang for the buck" across initiatives. It therefore canvasses two options. The first, tucked away in an annexe, is simply a tax on energy, disguised, in somewhat Orwellian double speak, as a "public benefits charge".
The second, favoured in the main report, is a vast new trading scheme, in which credits would be given to firms that cut energy use, with corresponding implied penalties for those that did not. The effects of this trading scheme, though not discussed at any length in the report, are at best uncertain. It is conceivable that the credits could make some industries more profitable, encouraging an expansion in their scale of activity and potentially increasing energy use. But it is also possible for output to fall, as the easiest way to reduce energy consumption can be to cut production.
The report speaks, in vague terms, of using administrative measures to prevent output reductions from occurring. But how could that be done? If yesterday I used 100 units of energy to produce 12 large nails, and tomorrow I produce 13 small nails using only 50, what commissar will have any rational basis for deciding whether my decision was or was not efficient and adjusting my energy credits accordingly?
What is certain is that both proposed schemes would be profoundly distorting with the loss magnified by the fact that they tax an intermediate input, energy, used throughout the economy. But that doesn't mean they wouldn't have beneficiaries. They would: the new industry of energy efficiency spruikers, who would earn a comfortable living selling energy reduction projects to businesses, trading in the resulting certificates, and clipping the tax dollar as it is shuffled around. And winners too would be the middle-class families who indulge in conspicuous consumption of energy-saving gadgets at poorer taxpayers' expense.
These are the new rent-seekers. Their rhetoric is not that of national development, as was that of the old protectionists. Rather, it comes clad in lofty claims about sustainability. But it is no less self-interested, nor is it any less specious: for in itself, reducing energy use is no more desirable than reducing consumption of toilet paper or pavlovas.
Eating people is wrong; using energy is not. Until that is understood, public policy in this area will remain a hopeless muddle.
Green mania to cripple us
ENOUGH. It's one thing that this green madness is driving your power and water bills through the roof. But now it threatens to destroy not just your household budget, but entire towns in our richest farming land. Mildura, Robinvale, Coleambally, Leeton, Deniliquin and Moree - all now face devastation.
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has been warned in a survey it commissioned of big lenders to rural business that these specific towns and more will struggle to survive the cut in irrigation water the authority now demands to "save" the Murray and the rivers that feed it.
Yet the MDBA is pushing on, proposing a cut in farmers' water entitlements of between 27 and 37 per cent - on top of the deep cuts it's already made for "the environment".
In some areas, farmers will lose as much as half their irrigation water and will have to close their gates.
Wait and see what that does to the price of your fruit, vegetables and rice. Heavens, even the green faithful will scream at the price of tofu, made of soy beans grown in the same irrigated fields now being robbed of water.
If only we could trust the MDBA'S claim that this huge sacrifice would at least fix a true environmental catastrophe.
But there are five reasons to suspect that this is a largely pointless political gesture, and the small good it would do will be outweighed by huge social pain.
* First, almost everyone along the rivers has noticed that claims of their imminent doom seem grossly exaggerated. For a start, the drought has broken, and the Murray is flowing so strongly that its mouth has burst open again - something it rarely did even before irrigation farmers moved in.
* Second, more care seems to have been lavished by the MDBA on considering the "needs" of the rivers than on the needs of the people depending on them. It's telling that MDBA chairman Mike Taylor has already conceded that the proposals he released just days ago would cost vastly more jobs than the mere 800 his report ludicrously claimed. Try 23,000, says the furious NSW Irrigators Council.
* Third, the people of the Murray-Darling Basin have seen similar green scares before, and learned to consider them as dodgy as Greenpeace.
Take the great salinity scare we were told a decade ago would wipe out the same area and "kill" these same rivers. In 1993 the MDBA predicted dryland salinity would increase by 10-15 per cent a year. Urging it on was the CSIRO, which had a Rising Groundwater Theory and computer models to "prove" that farming land twice the size of Tasmania would become too salty for crops.
Great models they were, too, showing salinity levels soaring in the Murray, when the measuring station at Mannum showed them actually falling over 20 years.
What fear there was then. The National Farmers Federation was screaming for $65 billion to fight the salt and then ... well, hello. The money was not spent and the salinity catastrophe never materialised. As the chairman of Murray Irrigation said four years ago: "It just seems that somewhere the science got it seriously wrong." But were the scaremongers held to account?
* Which brings us to the fourth reason to be sceptical of these new claims of environmental doom if irrigators aren't squeezed dry. You see, this frenzy to "save" the rivers, the fish and the red gums is driven in part by the global warming scare and, more particularly, by the evangelist CSIRO, back with a new theory and new models, this time claiming global warming is drying out the Murray-Darling system, already suffering from an over-allocation of water rights.
And the MDBA has bought it again. "Basin-wide changes of 10 per cent less water (are) predicted" from "climate change effects", it claims in its report, demanding more water to make the Murray "healthy". Yet a 2008 National Technical University of Athens study into the track record of the kind of regional climate models used by the CSIRO to predict a fall in rainfall concluded they "perform poorly" and their "local model projections cannot be credible".
But did we in Melbourne need to be told that? We need only remember the excuse Melbourne Water gave on behalf of its Labor masters for not building a huge dam on the fast-flowing Mitchell River for just $1.3 billion. "Unfortunately, we cannot rely on this kind of rainfall like we used to," it claimed last year.
Global warming, you know: "While the Mitchell has flooded recently, investing billions of dollars in another rainfall-dependent water source in the face of rapidly changing climate patterns is very risky."
Well, look now. Three years ago the Mitchell flooded twice. This year there's so much rain falling again that it may take years before we need the desalination plant Premier John Brumby built instead of a dam- and not for $1.3 billion but for $5.7 billion, plus huge power costs, to deliver just a third of the water.
Queenslanders got stung in precisely the same way. Premier Peter Beattie in 2007 said he'd also build a desalination plant because he, too, had been told global warming was drying up the rain. Three years on, and Queensland is on flood alert. The state's dams are full to overflowing, holding so much water that Queenslanders could survive on it until 2018 even if no drop of rain fell again.
Such madness. Look again at your water bills, never higher. See how much extra you're paying for that desal plant we were stampeded into buying? Or look at your fast-rising power bills. See how much more you're paying now that governments have forced generators to use more "green power"?
See how much more you must pay as generators factor in the taxes the Gillard Government plans to impose to "save" us from a global warming the planet seems not to notice?
Wonder how much more again they'll go up if the Brumby Government goes through with its mad promise to fight this warming by closing a quarter of the giant Hazelwood power station?
You notice the bills, all right. But have you figured what's causing them to rise, and thousands of farmers to fear being sold up? It's green politics.
*And here we come to the fifth reason to be sceptical that science alone is behind the Gillard Government's drive to tip irrigation water back into the rivers. Last January, Frank Sartor, the NSW Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, went up the Murray-Darling Basin to persuade locals they were threatened by yet another green catastrophe that demanded sacrifices.
This time it was river red gums that were "dying" and had to be "saved", by proclaiming a national park on the Murray River flood plain that would put hundreds of timber workers out of a job. Workers in Deniliquin told Sartor to his face that the red gums were actually fine, so what was his game?
About 30 of those workers have since told the ABC that Sartor's reply went like this: "I'm going to give you people a lesson in politics. The Greens hold 15 per cent of the votes, we need those votes to stay in power. They also want or need a national park and they want it in red gum." (Sartor denies this.)
So you wonder why people up the Murray are now sceptical when politicians come calling again, with fresh claims of doom, fancy computer models and demands of sacrifices that seem out of all proportion? Time you grew sceptical, too, at last, because what these zealots are doing to farmers they're already doing to you, too. Difference is, at least the farmers will no longer cop it. Shown green, they now see red, and a counter-revolution has begun.
Patriotic monarchists in Victoria
VICTORIANS all let us rejoice, for our patriotism is growing. A snapshot has shown that Victorians see themselves as artistic, sophisticated and tolerant of others, with an interest in world affairs and a rising connection to the Australian flag.
It also reveals 70 per cent of Victorians are proud of their country, compared with just 55 per cent of other Australians. Two-thirds of Victorians don't want a republic, they largely embrace multiculturalism, and 50 per cent think they are ethical.
Australia SCAN 2010 data, compiled for the State Government, shows 75 per cent of Victorians want to keep the existing flag, up from 57 per cent in 2001. In comparison, only 66 per cent of other Australians believe we should retain the flag. But only 53 per cent want to keep the Queen as the head of state, compared with 48 per cent of other Aussies.
The findings were released to coincide with the launch of Victoria's Australia Day 2011 ambassadors by Deputy Premier Rob Hulls at a reception last night. The list includes ex footballer Glenn Archer, Dr "Feelgood" Sally Cockburn, Denise Drysdale and former premier John Cain.
Australia Day Victoria committee chair Bruce Hartnett said it was interesting Victorians saw themselves as more community-minded and ethical than other Australians. "It reflects my view of Victorians," he said. "I think Victoria has always had a strong church background, a historical influence of the church."
14 October, 2010
Bollywood film paints Australians as violent racists
This is what comes of political correctness. Ordinary Australians are being blamed for what are predominantly the deeds of African "refugees". Africans hate Indians because they are also coloured yet are much more successful in most ways than Africans are. But since about 2007 the Australian media have been very chary of mentioning the race of the attackers. A blanket of silence has descended. So most people would assume that the attackers were white. And on the rare occasion when the attacker is white THAT is mentioned, of course
A BOLLYWOOD blockbuster inspired by the violent attacks on Indian students in Australia has come under fire for producing "venom that's spewed against Australians".
Crook: it's Good to be Bad, tells the story of an Indian who moves to the Australian city of Melbourne and finds himself in the midst of race-motivated violence, the Herald Sun said.
In the film, Melbourne is depicted as a city rife with gang violence between Australians and Indians, while the locals are portrayed as beer-guzzling blokes and immoral women.
Indian critics have panned it for being sensationalist and its stereotyping of Australians. There was particular outrage against the inflammatory language made by the main character. "A country of ex-convicts. A country where they sleep with each other without marrying. A country where they don't take care of their families. Yes that's the sort of venom that's spewed against the Australians in Crook,'" an India Today reviewer wrote.
Last year, the Indian media heavily covered a series of violent assaults on Indian immigrants in Melbourne, including a 10-page special in Outlook magazine entitled "Why Aussies Hate Us".
Director Mohit Suri said he was inspired to make the film after visiting a convenience store in the western Melbourne suburb of Sunshine. "Inside the very same store one of the most brutal racist attacks had taken place just a few months back. The events as told to me were horrifying, about how an Indian was brutally beaten up only because of his colour and religion," he said in an interview with an Indian entertainment website.
DOCS shame file as 38 child deaths erased from records in NSW
BUREAUCRATS have erased the deaths of 38 children from the state's shameful reviewable death records by changing the definition of "known to DOCS". The children all died last year and each of them, or their siblings, had been reported to the Department of Community Services in the three years leading up to their deaths. But their cases will no longer be reviewed by the NSW Ombudsman.
Community Services spokeswoman Linda Burney wrote in government documents released this week that, because the "definition was changed", the deaths of the 38 children "will not be classified as known to Community Services".
For 33 of the children, DOCS workers had made only phone calls and requests for information before deciding the youngsters were not at risk of harm. In the other five cases, DOCS said "no information was held which established any need for intervention".
A total of 147 children "known to DOCS" died last year - but, under the new definition, only 109 will be recorded. "They have, overnight and by definition, reduced the number of reportable deaths by a third," Opposition community services spokeswoman Pru Goward said. "It makes the Government look better, they can say their reforms are working.
"The problem is if they had done an assessment and it has shown the child isn't at risk of harm and then not following up when the child is dead within 12 months of that assessment, they're not making sure their assessments are good enough."
Another 19 children died after Ms Burney said their "cases were closed without response even though it was not known whether intervention might have been required". Six died of illness, six were killed in car accidents, three babies died of sudden infant death syndrome and one young person suicided without receiving any help.
A spokeswoman for Ms Burney confirmed the definition change but said it was based on a recommendation by Justice James Wood in a Special Commission of Inquiry into child protection earlier this year. "A child's death is no longer reviewed by the Ombudsman simply because they or their sibling was notified to Community Services at some point within the previous three years," she said.
Liberal party senators fight Labor MP's wanting to end live sheep exports
LIBERAL senators are trying to stamp out a growing movement among Labor MPs to end live animal exports, calling it misinformed and dangerous to rural Australia. Fremantle MP Melissa Parke has spoken out against live sheep exports alongside animal welfare activists, meatworkers and union leaders.
It comes as Labor MP for the NSW north coast seat of Page, Janelle Saffin, plans a notice of motion against live cattle exports, which Ms Parke says she will support, along with Labor MP for the Tasmanian seat of Lyons, Dick Adams. They argue that it makes better economic sense to process sheep meat in Australia and export a chilled product rather than sending animals overseas.
Ms Parke wants a gradual transition away from live trade, pointing to a study that found live sheep exports earned $341 million for Australia in 2008, compared to $1.5 billion earned for sheep meat processed here. The effort defies Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig, who recently reiterated support for live exports.
Liberal senators have responded strongly to the Labor movement.
Western Australian Liberal senator Chris Back formerly was a consultant for live animal exporters, making several trips on board the ships to the Middle East. Senator Back said the opponents of live exports relied on "spurious claims" and figures from "desktop studies".
He said the mortality rates of sheep on board the ships were similar to that in the paddock, and did not believe there would be a market for them if they arrived in poor condition, as activists claim. "If we do not export live animals to the trade, then our competitors will continue to supply that component of the trade," he said. It was important for farmers to have an alternative market, he said.
Tasmanian Liberal senator Richard Colbeck said the move was proof of the Australia Greens' influence on Labor. "This is yet another example of the invisible hand of (Australian Greens leader) Bob Brown and the Greens guiding the Labor party towards reckless and irresponsible policy for rural and regional Australia," he said. "Without the live export market, Australian farmers - exporters or not - would be subject to lower prices."
Australia's live export industry was worth $996 million in livestock sales and almost $1 billion in wages per annum, employing more than 13,000 Australians, Senator Colbeck said.
Meanwhile a Galaxy poll for the World Society for the Protection of Animals this week showed 79 per cent of Australians believed live sheep exports were cruel, while 86 per cent wanted it phased out if there was an alternative that saved jobs.
Cancer patients wait 50 days for treatment in NSW
Time is of the essence with cancer
CANCER patients are waiting up to four times longer for radiation therapy than clinically recommended, new state government figures reveal, prolonging cancer symptoms and potentially affecting survival rates.
Waiting times are as high as 50 days at Coffs Harbour and 22 days at Westmead Hospital, well above the internationally accepted benchmark of 14 days for non-emergency cases such as head and neck, cervical and bladder cancer.
Of the 11 radiation oncology treatment centres in NSW, seven did not meet the 24-hour timeframe for emergency cases such as brain or spinal cord tumours, despite radiotherapy being the only option to prevent imminent death or another "catastrophic event" such as paralysis. At Coffs Harbour, part of the North Coast Cancer Institute, the average wait for cancer patients has blown out to 4.6 days.
The data, disclosed in an answer to a question during budget estimates, shows that at the end of August, 861 patients were waiting for treatment, including 338 patients who had been waiting longer than 21 days.
The advocacy development and networks officer at the Cancer Council NSW, Kelly Williams, said 50 per cent of all people with cancer benefit from radiotherapy at some stage during their illness.
However, in NSW the latest data shows just 36 per cent of patients receive treatment because of a chronic shortage of linear accelerators and specialised oncologists, therapists and physicists, particularly outside metropolitan areas.
The Health Minister, Carmel Tebbutt, said there are 46 linear accelerators operating in NSW - 37 in 14 public facilities and nine in five private facilities - an increase of 55 per cent since 1995.
New regional cancer centres, funded by the federal government, would be built at Tamworth, Nowra and Gosford, and the state government would fund new services at Lismore and Orange.
"These new centres will mean even further improvements in access as over 90 per cent of the NSW population will be within 100 kilometres of a comprehensive cancer service offering radiotherapy," she said.
The opposition spokeswoman for health, Jillian Skinner, said: "Because of Labor's failure to plan, cancer patients either have to pay high upfront fees for private facilities, or travel long distances - with the associated costs - to a public facility where the wait time will likely be more than clinically recommended."
NSW Health uses the benchmark of a 24-hour wait for urgent cases and 14 days for curative cases, set by the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards.
The figures are measured as the time between the date the radiation oncologist declares treatment should start (when the patient is ready for care) and when the first treatment is delivered.
13 October, 2010
Greenie electricity nonsense causing hardship to families in Victoria
Greenie "smart" meters etc. are behind it. Because of its large and conveniently located suppies of brown coal, Victoria used to have very cheap eletricity -- in the days before Greenie obsessions
MELBOURNE residents are paying up to $285 a year for power before they turn on a single light or appliance. Hundreds of thousands of households are being stung with the highest supply charges in Australia as new smart meters are rolled out and distributors pass on increased costs. Soaring fees for some customers are almost double those in Sydney and Brisbane, a review by fee broker EnergyWatch.com.au reveals.
Homes in Broadmeadows, Sunbury and Preston are among the worst hit.
The finding comes as some distraught customers say they are going to bed early to save money in the face of crippling electricity bills. EnergyWatch national sales manager David Perry said anxious pensioners and struggling families were restricting movements to one room with one light on at night, or going to bed earlier. "For some people it's not only too expensive to go out, it's becoming too expensive to stay at home," Mr Perry said.
EnergyWatch general manager Ben Polis said smart meter rollout costs, electricity network upgrades and higher generation costs were to blame for surging power bills. "It's a bucket with a hole in it," Mr Polis said.
The price study examined charges for customers on combined electricity and gas who have never signed up for a market offer. About 30 per cent of Victorian homes - 800,000 households - are still on default energy prices, which tend to be the dearest on the market.
Even customers who had signed up to competitive deals were paying the most of any major capital city for fixed supply charges, Mr Polis said.
Generators had factored in higher prices since an emissions trading scheme designed to reduce pollution and encourage green energy was first mooted by former prime minister Kevin Rudd.
The Herald Sun last week revealed Victorians were already paying an average $900 more for electricity, gas and water compared with five years ago. Power prices are expected to rise again in January.
FOOTSCRAY residents have been dubbed poor and inarticulate by a Greens candidate who wants to represent them in Parliament.
In an email leaked to the Herald Sun, Footscray Greens candidate and former Maribyrnong mayor Janet Rice said her potential constituents needed a helping hand to protest against State Government's proposed WestLink tunnel plan because "they are poorer and less articulate than Yarraville and Seddon residents".
The put-down comes as the Greens ramp up opposition to the new roads link, with national party leader Bob Brown saying MPs would seek to block federal financing for roads and divert money to to public transport.
Footscray Labor MP Marsha Thomson seized on Ms Rice's comments, saying residents were capable of thinking and speaking for themselves.
But Ms Rice hit back, saying a high proportion of people who do not speak English as a first language need stronger support than they are getting. "There are a lot of refugees and people who haven't had an opportunity for such a good education and don't have the skills to stand up for their rights," Ms Rice said.
Ms Thomson said just because someone was poor did not mean they could not speak up or express themselves. "While there are people who have come from other countries and don't speak English as well as others, it doesn't mean they can't think and don't have an opinion," she said.
NBN: the national boondoggle network
Fibre broadband is a political stunt, not good economics
You might think someone would look at whether it would work before spending $43 billion. You might even wonder what else could work with $43 billion. You might compare the value of alternative purchases as you would in a supermarket. But our government is not as careful about $43 billion as you would be with $43.
The high point of this farcical process came after the election when the government announced that construction on the network would be jumpstarted in rural areas where there are fewer customers rather than metro areas where there are more. Guess where the installation is to commence? Would it surprise you to know priority will be given to the electorates held by the independent MPs Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, whose votes are critical to the government?
The Minister for Communications, Senator Conroy, has figured out how to turn the national broadband network into the national boondoggle network.
What surprises me is the silence from the board of NBN Co. This is the least commercial way of planning the build-out. The point of having a board is to get independent and commercial oversight of operations. If this board is not up to that, then it might as well fold.
The government is showing as much respect for the board as it does for Infrastructure Australia - which is a lot less than it shows for swinging voters in key regional electorates.
Australian local councils enforcing Muslim sexual hangups
A bikini ban for a Ramadan event at a public pool should not be taken lightly as it puts fundamental freedoms of Western society on the line. "Anti-discrimination" body approves discrimination
A COUPLE of weeks ago a report surfaced about families being ordered to cover up before attending a public event to avoid offending Muslims during next year's Ramadan in August. It involved VCAT approving a bikini ban for a community event to be held at Dandenong Oasis, a municipal pool. Dandenong Council, and pool managers YMCA, successfully sought an exemption from the Equal Opportunity Act to compel "participants aged 10 and over" to "ensure their bodies are covered from waist to knee and the entire torso extending to the upper arms", and to refrain from wearing "transparent clothing".
Controversy erupted: tabloid TV lapped it up, talkback callers fulminated, bloggers pontificated, politicians, including Premier John Brumby, were quizzed. Amid the outrage came the predictable and inflammatory warnings that the ruling was evidence of a sinister plan to "Islamise" Australia.
The ruling enforcing what VCAT described as "minimum dress requirements" for Muslims was certainly novel. I'm not aware of any other instance in which the tribunal has made a religious dress code mandatory at a public venue - as opposed to a place of worship - let alone at the local swimming pool. In fact, the ruling was so novel that for some it simply couldn't sink in.
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Perhaps this is why some of the fair-minded people in my orbit initially doubted the story's veracity. After reluctantly conceding it was indeed true, they still thought the thunderous response over the top. We're talking about a one-off, two-hour event, they argued. It will be held when the pool is closed to the public and normally used for a women-only swimming session, the attendees of which are almost all Muslims. And hey, aren't we all covering up to be sun-smart now anyway? (OK, maybe not in the middle of August.) Let's keep things in perspective, they said.
Well, I agree perspective is crucial. And seen from a wider and deeper perspective, the Dandenong pool episode is neither trivial nor insignificant. It is but one example of human rights laws producing outcomes that restrict rights. It raises tough questions about how far public authorities ought to go in accommodating cultural practices that sit uneasily with mainstream Western values.
And it exposes some disturbing and hypocritical currents in progressive thought, a point best and fittingly made by a Dandenong-based Muslim women's group, set up to help newly arrived Afghan migrants integrate into Australian society. "I've spoken to a lot of women; they don't want this," Women's Better World president Mandy Ahmadi told the Dandenong suburban newspaper, flagging her campaign to overturn the ruling. "Enough is enough … why run from the Taliban to come to this?"
And yet, as Ahmadi's "enough is enough" phrase might suggest, the VCAT ruling was not the first example of authorities bending to accommodate religious sensibilities at Melbourne's public pools. Dandenong is not the only municipality to allow gender-segregated swimming. The practice is now almost routine: a development that has unfolded largely under the public radar and therefore attracted scant debate. Viewed against this trend, the VCAT decision is perhaps less of a leap than it first appears.
During the past decade or so, VCAT has approved out-of-hours segregated swimming at many councils. I tried to count how many, but tired of the task after hitting double digits.
There's a degree of fiction here; a legal sleight-of-hand. It presumably would take a brave council, and even braver tribunal, to endorse a "Muslim women only" swim session. But most "women-only" sessions are conducted with Muslim requirements in mind, even if non-Muslims can turn up and even if, as appears to be the case, a small number do. Most councils base their VCAT submissions explicitly around the needs of Muslim women. (One pool in the municipality of Melbourne suspends women-only sessions during Ramadan because so few women attend at that time.) Nearly all these councils also obtain approval to staff the sessions with women only.
The cultural sensitivity goes further still. A spokeswoman for Brimbank City Council, for instance, said their swimming sessions took place in "visually secure surroundings". In other words, there's no danger of women being glimpsed in the pool by passers-by. (Such "security" is a key demand of some Muslim communities.) And while every council I contacted denied that dress codes applied during the sessions, some of the responses suggested the issue was murky.
The Brimbank spokeswoman explained that "participants should be dressed appropriately, as is expected of a centre used by children and families". The City of Darebin's acting mayor, Gaetano Greco, was more candid. "We don't impose a particular dress code," he said. "However, women attending should be respectful of Islamic beliefs."
I admit to being uneasy about our public municipalities treading so carefully around religious sensitivities, particularly when doing so under the banner of "women-only" access, with its (radical) feminist overtones.
But there is another side to this issue because at the centre of this debate are real women whose lives have been improved by these sessions. All very well for the likes of me to lecture about the sanctity of our secular public space, being at perfect liberty to roam through it.
In its 2006 application to VCAT for segregated sessions, Brimbank led evidence about the large number of disadvantaged women in the municipality. Many are refugees and recent arrivals from Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan. They tend to be poor and isolated. The council even produced data showing some residents had a lower-than-average life expectancy. Research had indicated swimming was an activity these women were keen to participate in, and that it would bring health and social benefits. But without segregated sessions, the women would never experience the joys of the pool.
It is a powerful argument in support of women-only sessions. The dilemma is a tricky one, and I don't pretend to have all the answers. But flowing from this is a reasonable question: namely, what's next? If the experience overseas is any guide, we're on a slippery slope.
Britain gives some hint of what's "next". Last year, the Telegraph newspaper reported on swimmers being forced to comply with Muslim dress codes during weekly segregated sessions at six public pools. In the most extreme case, Croydon Council in south London instructed on its website that "during special Muslim sessions male costumes must cover the body from the navel to the knee and females must be covered from the neck to the ankles and wrists". Some British Labour MPs slammed the dress codes as "divisive".
WITH the Dandenong Oasis ruling - which is what came "next" here - we're now almost in Britain's league. Greater Dandenong mayor Jim Memeti defended the ruling as part of a council strategy to promote "greater respect, tolerance and understanding of others". And yet this strategy is directly contradicted by the demand for "tolerance and understanding" being made of one side only, namely the non-Muslims.
The most noteworthy criticism of VCAT came (again) from a Muslim woman, Sherene Hassan of the Islamic Society of Victoria, who feared the dress code would undermine the purpose of the event in fostering harmony. (The media blow-up suggests that she has already been proved right.)
Otherwise, the official defenders of liberty and human rights fluffed it. Liberty Victoria said the curtailing of liberty at the public pool was reasonable because the event was to be held out of hours. Human Rights Commissioner Helen Szoke compared the bikini ban to dress codes in pubs. Really? Banishing thongs in pubs is about preserving decorum. But surely appropriate dress at a swimming pool would be, err, bathers?
A request to cover up, however politely made, is layered with intimate messages; about men lusting and women being lusted over, about the dangerous and vaguely shameful nature of sexuality. Such ideas run counter to the West's more than 500-year struggle for individual freedom - including both freedom of religion and freedom from religion - and for gender equality. Our public authorities ought to be pushing back hardest when these values are under threat. Yet this is precisely where they've been buckling under pressure.
The community workers and VCAT officials who sought and made the Dandenong ruling probably congratulated themselves for their "tolerance". Possibly there are a number of like-minded people who would happily attend the Ramadan function and dress as a Muslim for the night. And when the party's over, they could go home and spread the message of tolerance to their daughters, who are, one assumes, free to visit the local pool wearing as little or as much as they wish.
But what about the young Muslim girl who is beginning to question some aspects of her religious heritage, and wants the same room to move as the daughters of these "tolerant" folk? What if her ideas about how a "conscientious" Muslim woman ought to behave differ from those of Sheikh Fehmi? What if she dreams of ditching her burqini for a bikini?
Isn't there at least an argument that all these publicly funded, respectfully modest and "visually secure" swimming sessions undermine her bid? And what message does the Dandenong ruling send her? Here are the civic institutions of liberal, secular society effectively saying: your cultural practices are so sacrosanct, so unassailable, that even non-Muslims must comply with them.
Shouldn't they instead be resisting attempts to water down our fundamental human rights, which exist for the benefit of all? We don't have to go the way of France and force people to break out of their traditions and join us by the democratic poolside. But neither should we be blocking their path to greater autonomy in the name of "tolerance".
If the Dandenong story made you uncomfortable, trust that instinct. It means the line, to which we've been steadily edging closer, has now been crossed.
Some iconoclastic but interesting ideas
I think they're all pretty right -- JR
Sydney has just hosted the Festival of Dangerous Ideas so, while we are in the mood, how about a few more dangerous ideas? If you'll kindly just sit still, I'd like to whisper them one by one in your ear. I don't want others to overhear. And, of course, if you allege I ever said any of these rashly unpopular things, I'll deny we ever met.
The bad public transport in Sydney is not the fault of the NSW government
Alas, it largely grows out of the spread-out nature of the town. You can't have a Paris Metro without high-density living and every time someone suggests high-density living, Sydneysiders organise a protest. So, the shocking public transport is our fault, not theirs.
Rupert Murdoch has saved journalism. Twice
He did it once in 1986 when he broke the corrupt hold of the printing unions in Britain, allowing new technology and a flourishing of new titles. He's now doing it again by insisting that good journalism is worth paying for, even if it's delivered online. When I go to the newsagent, I don't complain about the “pay wall” that's been erected around the newspapers, magazines and — for that matter — the chocolate bars. Why should it be any different online?
Wikipedia is accurate
OK, everyone smiles and tut-tuts when you admit to using Wikipedia, as if you'd just confessed that your main source of information was the drunk in the local pub. There's no good reason why Wikipedia is so accurate — anyone can change it, any time — but in practice it's nearly always right. On some topics, particularly popular culture, it's the best source around. Wikipedia is an inspiring example of people's ability, unpaid and unheralded, to put their shoulders to the wheel for the common good. We should sigh with pleasure, not snigger with contempt, when it gets a mention.
Most of the ways Australians describe themselves are not true
We are not lazy, despite the way we enjoy describing ourselves as easygoing bludgers. We are incredibly hard-working and always have been. Australian men are not insensitive oafs; we are loyal, sensitive and cry at the drop of a hat. Australian women are not put-upon drongos; they are strong, bordering on the stroppy, as well as spectacularly sexy. We are not an anti-intellectual people; we buy more books per head than the British. What's interesting is that we all know the ocker stereotype is a lie; we repeat it with a sly, knowing smile, as if amused by the false lead we've sent the world.
Books are great but . . .
How come a girl with her nose stuck in a book is considered a marvel, while a boy with his nose stuck in a computer game is considered a horror? No one seems to assess the nature of the book or the kind of computer game, understanding that the book might by simplistic and trashy and the computer game sophisticated and demanding. It's a prejudice in which the delivery system is rated as more important than the content, with a bit of sexism thrown in.
We don't mind the ads on TV
OK, some people do and they only watch the ABC. But for most of us, the advertisements allow a conversation about what we've been watching and the chance to fetch another cup of tea and find a more comfy position on the couch. Some are quite diverting. The new one for AAMI is better than most of the shows.
Mainstream media is not dead
The world is full of consultants making a good income by exaggerating the extent of the new media revolution. “You need someone to help you navigate this radical, all-consuming new landscape,” they say, and — what do you know — for a fee they'll help you. By contrast, there's no scam in saying the obvious: mainstream media remains incredibly dominant. Yes, occasionally there's a three-minute video on YouTube that gets a lot of hits; but where's the new media application that matches the MasterChef finale — 5.7 million Australians glued to their set for half the evening? Maybe one day it will all change but right at the moment, it's a case of “rumours of my death are greatly exaggerated”.
Parking meters are a good thing
Of course we hate paying for that car space but we'd hate it even more if the car spaces were taken all day by the chemist and the newsagent and that guy who needed somewhere to park his boat. And the money goes to the council, so what's the problem?
Personal privacy is overrated
When everything is out in the open a whole lot of hypocrisy, homophobia and sermonising will disappear. We'll all be better off once the glorious diversity of the world is properly on show.
Plastic bags are not so bad
If you are really worried about landfill, worry about where all the old mattresses go.
12 October, 2010
Leftist authoritarianism never stops: "Buy our product or else!"
The Al Capones of politics
THE Gillard government and the key providers of the NBN are still working out how to ensure basic phone services to those people who do not sign up to it. In Tasmania, official estimates forecast that just 16 to 25 per cent of premises passed by the NBN rollout would subscribe. This prompted the state government to switch to an "opt-out" model, where homes and businesses would be automatically connected to the service unless they refused.
Last night, the government revealed that those wanting to retain a fixed-line telephone service in their home would be forced to connect to the NBN.
A spokeswoman for Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy said people living within the planned NBN fibre footprint - which is the 93 per cent of premises that would be covered by the network - must have fibre connected to their homes through the NBN if they want to maintain a fixed-line telephone connection.
"Anyone who has a fixed-line phone service will continue to have a fixed-line phone service," the spokeswoman said. But before a home owner can choose a telecommunications provider for their fixed telephone line they must opt in to the NBN network. The situation facing people within the NBN footprint who refuse to connect to the network remains unclear and is still subject to talks between the NBN Co, the government and Telstra.
Currently, Telstra has a universal service obligation requiring it to ensure basic telephone services are available to all Australians on an equitable basis, no matter where they live. Under Telstra's $11bn deal with the NBN Co, the telco would be relieved of that obligation, which would be transferred to the NBN Co for the areas covered by the fibre network.
That deal would see Telstra gradually shut down its ageing copper network - currently the main way of providing fixed-line telephone services - and "migrate" (transfer) customers to the new broadband network.
A spokeswoman for the NBN Co said yesterday there had been "detailed discussions" over several months about a "range of complex issues". "Those discussions are continuing and include issues such as migration," she said.
While Senator Conroy's office last night pointed to the implementation study into the NBN as proof the NBN Co could develop a "strong and viable business case", concerns have lingered that the project might need shoring up. While Tasmania has chosen an opt-out model, NSW and Victoria have ruled out a similar move. But this issue has sparked intense debate.
Last night, iiNet managing director Michael Malone said other states would need to follow Tasmania's lead in order to shore up the viability of the NBN project.
With an opt-in model, Mr Malone warned, "complacency means people don't opt in". "It's going to be very difficult to get the take-up rates that are needed, and also very expensive because technicians will need to keep coming back to do the houses that missed out the first time around," Mr Malone said.
Paul Broad, the head of the nation's third-biggest telco, AAPT, sounded a note of caution about forcing people into the project. He asked: "If people were forced on to it, what are they going to be charged?" He pointed to Sydney's Cross City Tunnel, where the NSW [Leftist] government initially adopted measures aimed at pushing motorists away from alternative routes and into the tunnel.
Another rogue Qld. bus driver refuses to stop -- and this time a kid dies
It had to happen eventually. Too many of the drivers treat kids with contempt, flouting their official instructions in order to do so
A WOMAN who was on the bus that passed Daniel Morcombe minutes before he vanished says she had an argument with the driver for not collecting him.
Witness Katherine Bird told the inquest into Daniel's suspected death that she saw him motioning to get on the bus while waiting under an overpass on the Nambour Connection Road, on the Sunshine Coast, but the bus did not stop.
Queensland Coroner Michael Barnes is investigation whether Daniel is dead, how he died and the police inquiries into the December 2003 disappearance, The Australian said.
Despite an extensive investigation involving up to 100 police at its peak, he remains missing, presumed dead.
Other witnesses have described one or two identified men with an older style blue car close to Daniel under the underpass at the time. They are believed to be linked to his disappearance.
Ms Bird was on travelling on the 1A Sunbus to Sunshine Plaza, having been delayed when her first bus had broken down.
She said she got angry at the driver when he did not stop for the boy gesturing to get on the bus. "It was a child. He was already sitting there waiting," she told the Maroochydore Coroners Court. "We were already 40 minutes late. I've got kids, I would have liked somebody to pick my child up."
Both Ms Bird and her partner Matthew Findlayson said they previously heard the bus driver being told not to stop for additional passengers because the bus was late.
After making a statement to police and re-visiting the scene, Ms Bird said she did not hear from police at all. She said her statement did not include a description of an older man she saw at the same place. "From seven years ago I've heard nothing, pretty much, until now," she said.
Bureaucrats getting fat on programs designed to help blacks
ABORIGINAL politician Alison Anderson has slammed the massive increase in bureaucracy under the federal intervention into remote indigenous communities.
Ms Anderson, the independent member for the central Australian seat of MacDonnell, said the dramatic increase in red tape was impeding the development of remote economies and entrenching the welfare dependence in remote towns.
"More and more money is being wasted in bureaucracy," Ms Anderson said. "There is more and more whitefellas coming to talk to us and nothing gets done. "Money is being just poured into the bureaucracy and there are no outcomes.''
An investigation by The Australian has revealed a massive increase in the number of public servants employed in the NT since the intervention began, with the number of extra bureaucrats employed since 2007 almost equalling the number of front-line workers such as police, teachers and health workers.
But indigenous affairs minister Jenny Macklin has defended the intervention's progress, saying it was important to ensure public funds for indigenous services were used effectively and responsibly.
As well as an increase of 141 teachers, more than 60 police officers, and hundreds of nurses and doctors, schoolchildren were being fed properly at school and safe houses and support services for women and children had been expanded, Ms Macklin's office said.
Ms Anderson was a strong supporter of the intervention in its early days, in opposition to her colleagues within the NT Labor government who slammed the program as the "black kids' Tampa".
But the Aboriginal politician - who was the NT's Indigenous Policy Minister but quit the government in disgust at the wastage surrounding the $672 million Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program - has become deeply disillusioned with the direction of Aboriginal policy in the NT.
"I just think the intervention is finished, absolutely finished," Ms Anderson said. "Communities have actually gone backwards. There is no employment for indigenous people. It's all just training for the sake of training."
Former top cop slams Victoria police
There's a lot to slam. They were never brilliant but they went downhill fast after the Leftist Vic. government appointed a totally incompetent but very "correct" fat feminist to lead them
OUTSPOKEN officer Gary Jamieson has reaffirmed his call for a return to "back to basics" policing in Victoria, saying the force's entire philosophy must change.
Former assistant commissioner Jamieson - a 37-year police veteran and one-time rival of Simon Overland for the force’s top job – in today’s Herald Sun accused Victoria Police of being distracted by "silly side issues" and raised concerns the force has been taken over by interstate and overseas career professionals who are "running their own agenda".
Speaking on radio 3AW today, Mr Jamieson said police numbers weren’t going to increase in great numbers no matter who was in government, so it was up to command to ease officer’s workload for their many "masters’’ and get them back on the streets.
"You’ve got to get more out of what you’ve got," he said. "And credit to Simon (Overland) he’s doing a lot of good work in trying to get more police back on the street. "But it’s also about trying to cut their workload back down so they can do the things which are important to the public.
"And I think that’s the missing link that we are just not doing that work that is really important to the public. "People just want to be safe. They just want to feel safe and so that means having people out on the streets to make sure that happens."
Mr Jamieson said work for other government departments and increasing PR spin was distracting Victoria Police from its core responsibility. "I think the spin is part of the problem,’’ he said. "But I think the other part is that police have lost momentum.
"It’s a little bit like St Kilda in the grand final. "They come out one week and play absolutely superbly. The next week they work very hard, they battle very hard, but they seem to get nowhere.’’
"This is a whole philosophy of policing that has to change. "The basic role of policing is public safety, keeping the community safe and meeting community expectations.’’
Mr Jamieson said Western Australian police had successfully implemented a back-to-basics approach but the idea had failed to win the Victorian government’s favour when he was a contender for the job of police commissioner. "That’s exactly the line that I took,’’ he said. "They obviously found a better model – a better person perhaps.’’
In today's Herald Sun Mr Jamieson wrote: "Over the past decade, the recruitment of police leaders from outside this state, bringing with them their unique policing models, has resulted in policing in this state becoming far too confused," Commander Jamieson wrote. "We have lost direction on what Victoria Police should be doing by making the model of policing far too complex."
The extraordinary breaking of ranks by Commander Jamieson is a clear broadside at former chief commissioner Christine Nixon, Mr Overland and Deputy Commissioner Sir Ken Jones, all considered management specialists drafted from interstate and overseas.
Commander Jamieson writes the force's top brass drafted from interstate may be placing their own careers ahead of the community. "Can today's police executive create the excitement and passion their police force needs - or is their focus about continuing to experiment with their policing model?" Commander Jamieson writes. "And does the police executive have the ... unwavering commitment to serve our state, or are they happy to serve any state which presents an opportunity to further their own personal careers?"
Commander Jamieson also claims that police officers who understand the community have been passed over for promotion. "Leaders who have a burning desire to improve their own society - drawn from an ingrained understanding about local wants and needs and the best way of satisfying these - are often overlooked," he said. "It is clear to me that policing is very local, fundamental and based on traditional practices of serving your community.
"But does Victoria's own police command today understand grassroots policing? Does it understand the connection established between their police officers and the public? "Have today's police leaders had the same experiences - and therefore built up the same skills - presumably have the same skills - to support the difficult work that is frontline policing?"
Trigger-happy NSW cop shoots frightened guy dead
Turns out he had good reason to be frightened of the NSW wallopers
A NSW officer tasked with bringing a mentally ill man back to hospital chased and shot him, despite warnings he was frightened of police. Elijah Holcombe died after being struck by a single bullet in the chest fired by plain-clothed officer Senior Constable Andrew Rich in Armidale, in northern NSW, on June 2 last year.
On the opening day of a two-week inquest into Holcombe's death, Armidale Coroner's Court yesterday heard police were warned the Macquarie University psychology student suffered from a mental illness characterised by paranoid episodes and a phobia of police.
Counsel assisting the coroner, Chris Hoy, said an "integral component" of the inquest would be to determine whether Holcombe's death was a result of justifiable homicide.
The inquest, which will hear from 71 witnesses, will also look at the role of police officers and how they interact with people with a mental illness.
In the months leading up to his death, Holcombe, who had battled depression for eight years, was living with his parents, Jeremy and Tracey, in Wee Waa, in the state's north, because of concerns about his mental health.
Four days before his death, Holcombe was treated at nearby Narrabri Hospital for "superficial self-mutilation cuts" to his wrists. He was prescribed the anti-depressant Zoloft and the anti-psychotic Risperidone and released the same day.
On June 1, Holcombe took his father's car and drove to Armidale. Mr Holcombe reported the matter to Narrabri police and warned them his son was experiencing paranoid delusions but "would not hurt anybody".
When Holcombe arrived at Armidale, he went to the police station, admitted stealing the car and asked to be taken to Armidale Hospital where he was assessed by nurse Carla Rutherford.
In a witness statement, Ms Rutherford said Holcombe appeared paranoid and despite attempts to keep him at the hospital as a voluntary patient, he was legally allowed to walk out.
When senior constables Rich and Christopher Dufty learned Holcombe had discharged himself, they went to the hospital and nurse Robyn O'Brien asked them to bring him back because of concerns about his mental health.
Soon after, the officers spotted Holcombe walking along Rusden Street, in Armidale's city centre. There was a brief exchange before Holcombe fled, pursued on foot by Senior Constable Rich.
Holcombe ran into a coffee shop, grabbed a bread knife and then fled out the back door to Cinders Lane. Senior Constable Rich confronted Holcombe in the laneway and asked him three times to drop the bread knife before shooting him in the chest.
The inquest heard from Narrabri officers Senior Constable Brett Allison and Leading Senior Constable Alexander Coates who both said they had not received formal training in how to deal with mentally ill people.
Note that I have a special blog on Queensland cops, there is so much misbehaviour among them. And there's plenty up today.
11 October, 2010
Three years in jail without trial. India? Africa? China? Russia? No: Australia
The death of a prisoner in a Queensland jail prompts the question: why was he still awaiting trial after almost three years inside? The evidence seems to point to Cartledge's involvement in Ms Rigg's death. But what if he was innocent?
What do we know about Adam Cartledge? Not a lot except that police reckon he murdered his ex-girlfriend, Michelle Rigg. His best friend, a bloke named Arran Jeffries, couldn't believe it when his mate was charged. saying he was "not a violent person" Whether he changed his mind when Cartledge allegedly led police to her body in a shallow grave is not recorded.
However, we do know is that all this happened almost three years ago, Rigg, 28, was reported missing on November 26, 2007, three days alter she disappeared from a duplex she shared with Cartledge, 39. Cartledge appeared in Southport Magistrates Court on December 3, 2007, charged with her murder.
Last Tuesday, Cartledge was found dead in his cell at Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre. The cause has not yet been made public but there are no suspicious circumstances. But there are disgraceful circumstances because Cartledge was still being held awaiting trial almost three years after he was arrested. He wasn't due to appear in court again until June next year.
He may have been a vicious killer but the fact is that he hadn't been found guilty of anything - not even jaywalking - yet he had been banged up in prison for almost three years. A legal maxim has it that justice delayed is justice denied. Cartledge wasn't just denied justice, he didn't even catch a glimpse of it.
And, somewhere, are family and friends who will never see Ms Rigg's memory receive justice. Cartledge, Ms Rigg and the community have been badly served by a system that allowed this to happen. The original police inquiry was pretty standard, with Cartledge charged fairly pronto and Ms Rigg's remains found not long after. Yet, it was almost a year later that Cartledge appeared in court and was committed for trial.
In February this year - you do the sums - he appeared in the Supreme Court before Justice Peter Applegarth. There, prosecutor Belinda Merrin was granted an adjournment on behalf of both the Crown and the defence so a singlet found on Ms Rigg's body could be further examined and a pathologists report could be gathered. This would take six months!
What choice did Justice Applegarth have, when both the Crown and the defence sought the adjournment in the pursuit of justice as they saw it? The best efforts of men and women of intellect, learning, integrity and goodwill unwittingly led to events that delayed justice until eternity.
No one is to blame but we are entitled to wonder about the workloads and/or efficiencies of the courts, the prosecution and the defence that made these delays inevitable. And we are entitled to wonder about the adequacy and the funding of scientific inquiry in Queensland that judicial exhibits and evidence have to be examined in Victoria and take so long
It's not a new issue but it refuses to go away. In this case, the inadequacies have followed a man to his grave. The evidence seems to point to Cartledge's involvement in Ms Rigg's death, or at least in the disposal of her body. It was sufficient for him to be committed for trial. But what if he were innocent? Magna Carta guaranteed: "To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice."
In this case, no rights were sold or refused, but justice was patently denied to both Cartledge and Ms Rigg. And it is denied to many others, with reports that prisoners in Queensland spend on average 6.4 months in custody compared with 5.9 months in Victoria and NSW.
Sympathy for Cartledge will be limited but these sorts of disgraceful delays might be more important to our confidence in the legal system than any passing anger about the fate of a few kiddie-fiddlers. An inquiry is needed if justice is to be anything more than a theoretical concept in Queensland.
The article above by Terry Sweetman appeared (print only) in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on 10 October, 2010
Four boats in 48 hours!
Arrival of four more "asylum-seeker" boats shows the utter policy failure of Australia's Leftist government. At that rate Australia's sea borders are looking more porous than the U.S./Mexico border. Is Australia ready for 12 million illegals too? At least the Mexicans come to work. The Afghans come only to be supported by the Australian taxpayer
THE arrival of four asylum boats in 48 hours has pushed numbers in the Christmas Island detention centre to an apparent record. The centre has been forced to operate well beyond its carrying capacity.
With Immigration Minister Chris Bowen flying to East Timor today to begin talks on a regional processing centre, his department has revealed 350 asylum-seekers are being housed in tents.
According to the department, there were 2697 detainees on Christmas Island yesterday, with more on the way following the interception of four asylum boats, at least one of which has yet to unload its passengers.
The centre, which was designed to accommodate 400 people, has undergone successive reconfigurations to house the growing number of detainees.
Falling refugee success rates and the Rudd government's freeze on new Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum claims resulted in a blowout in detention numbers. But even at its capacity of about 2500, the centre is over its limit.
A departmental spokeswoman could not say yesterday if Christmas Island was at record capacity.
But in the period leading up to the Rudd government's decision in April to move detainees to the mainland, numbers on Christmas Island were about 2300, suggesting the facility had hit a new high.
Mr Bowen acknowledged yesterday there were "significant strains" on detention centres. "I've announced some short-term measures to deal with that. I'll be announcing some longer-term measures in the not-too-distant future to deal with those pressures," he added.
Mr Bowen will fly to Dili today to discuss the regional proposal with East Timor's President, Jose Ramos-Horta, and senior officials. From there he will fly to Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur for talks aimed at bolstering arrangements for managing the asylum flow.
Despite vocal rejection of the idea by East Timor's opposition parties, Mr Bowen said Canberra had received "encouraging feedback" from Dili about the proposal, announced by Julia Gillard in the lead-up to the federal election. "It's a big issue for East Timor -- it would be a significant development for them, and they obviously have issues they want to work through," Mr Bowen told the Nine Network yesterday. "But, certainly, President Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister (Xanana) Gusmao have indicated they are very interested in talking it through."
Since Friday, authorities have intercepted four boats, two of which were lashed together. Their arrival has edged Australia closer to another record -- the highest number of unauthorised boatpeople in a calendar year. A spokeswoman for Border Protection Command said 4924 passengers and 270 crew had arrived this year, bringing the number of unauthorised arrivals to 5194.
According to the Parliamentary Library, the highest number of illegal boat arrivals on record occurred in 2001, when 43 boats carried 5516 people to Australia, not including the crews.
Gun owners raise objections to changes in Weapons Act
Paul Feeney says the toy guns he bought at the Ekka for his grandchildren are not weapons
GUN owners have unleashed their anger over changes to the Weapons Act, bombarding the State Government with almost 1200 submissions.
Unveiled in August, the draft act includes proposals to licence toy guns, restrict the ownership of certain categories of firearm and allow religious exemptions for the possession of knives.
Sporting Shooters Association state president Geoff Jones said their 45,000 members were fundamentally opposed to the "draconian" legislation which sought to penalise lawful gun owners, rather than criminals.
"The new laws are based on restriction (of gun ownership) which we believe is non-productive to community safety, enormously expensive and a serious misdirection of police resources," Mr Jones said. "It's becoming a monster."
Paul Feeney from the Law-Abiding Firearms' Owners said under the draft laws, gun owners would be lumbered with more paperwork, more charges and greater restrictions.
"Our main objection is the over-regulation. It's regulation for regulation's sake and there's no indication from any of the evidence of the need for this sort of thing," Mr Feeney said. "All this will do is produce a bigger bureaucracy to manage this."
One of the most controversial changes to the law is the proposal to require anyone possessing an object that is a "reasonable copy" of a gun, to licence and store it as a gun.
Mr Feeney said that would mean harmless toys such as those he bought his grandchildren at the Ekka had to be kept under lock and key.
"They rattle and sparkle. The grandchildren love playing with them, but because they are almost exact copies of a Steyr rifle and an American AR-15 they would have to be treated as category D weapons," he said. "The people they were designed to entertain wouldn't be able to touch them."
Police Minister Neil Roberts said the submissions were currently being reviewed, with recommendations to go to the Government in coming months.
"While I don't want to pre-empt the recommendations that will be made, the Government asked the community for its feedback on possible changes to the act," Mr Roberts said.
Mr Feeney said a complete revision of firearms licensing was needed. "We object to them being termed as weapons," he said.
Children still being left at bus stops by Brisbane City Council drivers
Government employees in action
ALMOST one complaint is made every weekday about a child being left behind by a bus in Brisbane. Figures released under Right to Information laws show 208 complaints were made to Brisbane City Council last year about drivers who either refused, or failed, to pick up children.
As a result, 29 drivers were reprimanded after investigation of the complaints. Four of those drivers were dismissed. A further 102 cases were unable to be verified, or the statements made on behalf of the child and by the driver were conflicting so no action was taken. [So no penalty unless the driver actually ADMITS his actions???]
The Courier-Mail revealed last year that a 10-year-old girl had been told to get off the bus in Mt Gravatt because she did not have enough money, while a 14-year-old boy was left behind in Carina because the driver refused to break a $20 note. In both cases the driver was disciplined. [How?]
The cases breached the strict "no child left behind" policy for bus drivers across the southeast, which states that no children should be refused entry to a bus regardless of whether they have sufficient money for the trip.
There were 6670 complaints in total made last year about driver behaviour, including 1260 for rudeness or aggression, 249 for using an incorrect route, 33 for smoking and 25 for discriminatory behaviour.
BCC said that, of the complaints involving children being left behind, 12 were found to be because the driver took the incorrect route and 24 were because the bus was full. In 27 of the cases, the driver was found to have acted correctly.
Public and Active Transport chair Margaret De Wit said BCC took reports of children being left behind very seriously. "Everyone makes mistakes, but we take a very dim view of any driver making these sorts of mistakes - that's why we are very thorough in these investigations," she said.
"Our operators receive very extensive training, which repeatedly addresses the issue of not leaving children behind. They get presentations, they watch movies, they get issued copies of manuals they must have with them, induction class goes through it thoroughly and they get refresher training." She said the four drivers who had been dismissed were previously warned about their behaviour.
Opposition leader Shayne Sutton said it was disgraceful that any child was being left behind. "It's supposed to be council policy that no child is left behind at a bus stop," she said. "That is unacceptable and it must stop."
In critical condition: Corporate doctors' surgeries failing
MEDICAL centres statewide have been closed, sold, or hang in the balance despite a severe doctors shortage. But AMA Queensland says while it is concerned about the closures, running a general practice is a business venture that has to follow reality.
The Federal Govemment has promised 13 GP Super Clinics for Queensland in a bid to improve healthcare services around the state.
At the same time, corporate medical centres are collapsing, leaving patients and doctors in limbo. Queensland Medical Centre at Paradise Point on the Gold Coast, owned by now-defunct The Doctors Company, closed a fortnight ago, leaving sick patients without access to services and their records.
Other centres at Kawana Waters and Maroochydore were sold to Sydney operators. Centres at Beenleigh, Corinda, Inala and Toowoomba have sold while Redlands is still on the market.
AMA guidelines recommend doctors should notify patients six months in advance if they intend to close their practice so that they can obtain their medical records.
The Doctors Company administrator, Brent Khurina of Hall Chadwick, found debts of $9 million across almost 30 centres run by founding doctor Lawrie Clift. Mr Khurina said an investigation had now begun into the company, with an initial report submitted to ASIC.
The company had been struggling after the acquisition of more than a dozen centres. The most recent financial report found it posted a net loss of $245 million for the 2009 year. Dr Clift said he was unable to speak specifically about the collapse, but said healthcare delivery was made difficult by changing government rules.
While pharmacies can be owned only by pharmacists, medical practices can be owned by anyone. The AMA said a key problem was conflict between profit-oriented business and ethics-oriented doctors who work in centres. AMA Queensland offers courses to help doctors to successfully run practices. “The prime focus, as always is to make sure patients get quality care,” a spokeswoman said.
The article above by Mitch Gaynor and Suellen Hinde appeared (print only) in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on 10 October, 2010
10 October, 2010
A GREENIE ROUNDUP
Four current articles below
Australia's malicious ABC Science Show
Anthropogenic global warming (AGW) currently dominates climate science to the extent that many consider it a fact – not a theory. The famous philosopher of science, Thomas Kuhn, would describe AGW as the current dominant paradigm because this is where the majority of professional scientists claim their allegiance. Of course there are dissenters, commonly referred to as sceptics or deniers, and Kuhn would have correctly predict that these individual would be excluded from the scientific community as evidenced in the Climategate emails.
It is particularly evident from the Climategate emails that a group within the scientific community will go to great lengths to deny so-called sceptics the opportunity to publish in the peer-reviewed literature including through the removal of editors and stacking of review committees.
Nevertheless, outspoken sceptic Bob Carter has managed, over his distinguished career to amass a long list of publications in the peer-reviewed literature including publications of direct relevance to climate science in the best international peer-reviewed science journals.
I make specific mention of Professor Carter and his publication record, because yesterday, on the ABC Science Show, it was repeatedly stated that Professor Carter has a very poor publication record.
Robyn Williams’ introduction to the interview explains:
“Bob Ward says those who seek to reinterpret the science of climate change often have minimal publication records. Publication involves peer review. This process weeds out experiments and papers which are sub-standard. By contrast, anyone can write a book, write a newspaper article, or address public meetings. Bob Ward mentions a paper by Bob Carter, saying it contains false quotes and numerous examples of inaccuracy. Bob Ward says the Carter paper is the worst that has ever been published about climate change.”
Worst, in the actual interview not one specific, substantive error of science is raised by Mr Ward, or Mr Williams, to illustrate the general accusation.
While it is generally acknowledged that Mr Williams is hopelessly biased when it comes to the issue of climate change, his malicious treatment of Professor Carter is beyond anything reasonably acceptable on a science show broadcast by the ABC.
While an apology is in order, in addition I suggest that Mr Williams dedicate a show, within the next month or so, to an interview with Professor Carter to discuss the science in his new book ‘Climate: the Counter Consensus’.
Coal OR Crops? NO. Coal AND Crops
The Queensland Government has announced plans to create a new category of restricted land called “Strategic Cropping Land” which bans all mining or development. The Carbon Sense Coalition has lodged a submission opposing the proposal. See: here
If Queensland’s politicians were really concerned about food security they would not have sterilised millions of acres of grazing land under scrub clearing bans, conservation zones, heritage areas, wild rivers, national parks and other anti-farming bans.
Nor would they have encouraged the diversion of cropping land from producing food for humans to producing ethanol for cars; or used false global warming dogma to justify covering food producing land with feral forests of carbon credit trees.
It seems that the Queensland government has a secret plan to destroy Queensland’s primary industries, all motivated by suicidal Green hostility to the production of carbon fuels and foods, mainly coal, cattle and sheep.
Queensland has always relied on both mining and farming. To undermine mining on the pretence of helping food production is false and destructive. This is not about crops or food – it is just another chapter in the Green war on carbon fuels whose goal is to prevent development of new coal mines and power stations.
The hidden tragedy of this silly policy is that we will never know which protected paddock is underlain by a treasure house of coal or minerals. With modern machinery and knowledge of soils and plants it would be very easy to replace the food lost in the tiny area of crop land likely to be disturbed by coal mining.
The choice is not “Coal or Crops”. A sensible policy is “Coal AND Crops”.
This proposal is quietly slipping beneath the radar. Have a look at the enormous area covered. When this blanket of bans is added to the Wild Rivers sterilisation, development and industry will be excluded from a huge area of Queensland. Future generations will be far poorer if this proposal succeeds, but few people will understand why.
The Northern Territory Government is funding a university study to measure the impact of Australia's wild camel population on climate change.
Charles Darwin University has been funded for the year-long study to monitor the impact of the wild camel herd on the carbon cycle.
It is estimated that more than one million camels are roaming the country's arid regions.
The study will monitor carbon emissions and sequestration, in particular, looking at camel flatulence and the greenhouse gas effect created by decomposing carcasses.
The university says Indigenous people in remote communities will be involved in the project on Aboriginal land.
It is expected to shed light on the environmental impact of techniques for camel management, like animal culling.
Labor locked in deadly embrace with the Greens
GILLARD'S alliance with the minority party was ill-advised and could prove fatal
JULIA Gillard's success in cobbling together a slim majority has distracted attention from Labor's biggest problem. The ALP is being cannibalised to the point where it may not have a future as a governing party in its own right.
It hasn't maintained anything like its normal percentage of the 18 to 34-year-old voters, especially in inner-city electorates. According to Newspoll, 50 per cent of them intended to give their primary vote to Labor during the period from July to September 2008, but it fell to 35 per cent during the month of August this year.
Having lost a swag of that cohort at the age when they're apt to be most idealistic and engaged, Labor is unlikely to be able to count on many of them regularly giving it their first preferences later on.
In outer suburban and regional seats, socially conservative, blue-collar workers and their families were once the core of Labor's vote. That support base was eroded under Paul Keating and sizeable chunks of it swung to John Howard until Work Choices. Tony Abbott has won most of them back and can expect to make further inroads.
None of this is lost on Gillard, of course. However, her decision to enter into a formal agreement with the Greens tells us she hasn't grasped the policy implications. If she is to have any hope of surviving as a long-term leader, her first task is to defend what the advertising agencies call Labor's "brand". The ALP can't afford to be cast in the role of a senior partner in a long-term alliance with the Greens because they are competing for the loyalty of the same voters and Labor will keep bleeding votes.
Some party loyalists within Club Sensible say the agreement was necessary to build the momentum, along with Andrew Wilkie's pledge of support, so as to cajole the rural independents. I don't buy it. At this distance, especially in the light of ABC1's Four Corners program last week and Rob Oakeshott's revelations about his voting habits, their decision seems to have been a foregone conclusion.
Given that the Greens' Adam Bandt had already repeatedly ruled out supporting the Coalition, no pact needed to be formalised or concessions made last month. Whatever message it sent to the independents is as nothing compared with the one sent to all the voters who veer from election to election between the two main parties: we are prepared to vacate the middle ground and govern from the Left.
Why, regular readers may be wondering, am I not delighted by Gillard's folly? The answer is simple. The national interest demands that at any given time both main parties should be capable of running competent governments, neither of which would be beholden to fringe parties.
For almost all of its recent history the ALP has understood that the Australian electorate is pragmatic and, if anything, mildly conservative. Modern Labor has been most successful when it framed its policies accordingly.
Even when the Hawke government's primary vote slumped in 1990 and it was relying on the minor parties for their preferences, it made relatively few concessions to them.
Gillard will justify her embrace of the Greens in terms of running a minority government and improving the relationship before the new Greens senators take their places next July. But if her strategic sense was anywhere near as developed as her tactical skills, she and her ministers would be reminding voters of why the Greens' policy on almost everything is utopian, ill-considered and not properly costed.
To consolidate their own position as parties for grown-ups, Labor and the Coalition should always speak of the Greens as the infantile party: resolutely irresponsible, innumerate and a threat to the economy.
They should also be pointing out that the Greens provide a flag of convenience for former Moscow-liners, Trotskyites and other ultra-leftist ratbags.
Rather than promising "to engage in a respectful conversation" with them, Gillard should take a leaf out of Kevin Rudd's book and barely speak to them at all. If she wanted to govern from the Centre, she would seldom need their votes because she could usually be confident of support from the Coalition under Abbott.
Bob Hawke relied on Coalition votes, notably under John Howard, to pass most of his economic reforms.
There was plenty of room for product differentiation to preserve the parties' brands and to allow for politicking at the margins.
Both sides were able to take some of the credit. The reforms were overdue and courageous on the government's part because in the short term they often adversely affected traditional Labor voters. Nonetheless, the national interest has seldom been better served than in the Hawke years and it's no coincidence that he won four elections on the trot.
Gillard's pact with the Greens virtually rules out a return to the Hawke tradition. Even if she cared to do so, I doubt that she's politically nimble enough to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. The junking of her pre-election promise that there'd be no carbon tax and the design of a committee to consider the tax that deliberately excludes half the polity tell us several things.
The first is that the alliance with the Greens is more than merely symbolic. The Coalition's claims about a secret preference deal with strings attached were warranted.
Second, she lacks even rudimentary caution. Given that it was she who persuaded Rudd to drop the emissions trading system, we can be confident her acceptance of a carbon tax is not a matter of conviction but a high-stakes gamble that the rest of the world will move in the same direction. It was an option that she need not have exercised and may well prove disastrous, for Labor and the economy. It's a decision she could comfortably have deferred until 2013. By then we may have a better idea what -- if anything -- the Americans and the Chinese in particular are proposing to do about carbon.
Pragmatic, mildly conservative voters don't like politicians taking premature, high-stakes gambles, especially ones that drive up the cost of living. If Abbott succeeds in painting the carbon tax in those terms, Labor may decide to depose Gillard before he has the chance to defeat her.
9 October, 2010
Greenies to push up the price of food
AUSTRALIAN households are already pay the highest ever rates for electricity. Now get ready to start doing the same for food and clothing. Proposed drastic cuts to water allocations in the Murray-Darling Basin will hit farmers from Griffith to Narrabri and send supermarket prices soaring, industry experts said.
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority - an independent body charged with "restoring balance" in some of the country's most productive agricultural areas - released a proposal yesterday to cut up to 37 per cent from irrigators' water allotments.
The full cost is expected to be at least $1.1 billion in lost agricultural production, while some regional towns relying on irrigation farming may become ghost towns. The authority believes just 800 jobs will be lost, but the NSW Irrigators Council reckons that figure will be more like 17,000.
Regional Australia isn't happy but the flow-on effect will be felt as keenly in the city with more costly food and clothing, to go with already high cost-of-living pressure. "There will be riots in the streets, which is a colourful statement but this is clearly a plan to not only hurt our farmers but to depopulate regional Australia," Murrumbidgee Irrigation chairwoman Gillian Kirkup said.
In NSW, the report recommends cuts of up to 43 per cent in the Murrumbidgee and up to 37 per cent in the Murray and Gwydir as part of a plan to direct more water toward environmental purposes, such as desalination.
Farmers Association vice-president Peter Darley said the report could spell the end of farming as we know it. "They have put environmental flows ahead of food security, which is disgusting," Mr Darley said. "The cuts will push the price of food up but by how much only time will tell. But retailers will certainly capitalise on this."
The report also warns that tough restrictions on the use of Australia's most productive river network - the source of 40 per cent of our food - could push cotton farmers in the state's north to alternative crops, or right off the land. "Some service centres may become more welfare dependent," the Murray-Darling Basin Authority report [smugly] said.
The authority wants to raise environmental water flow [i.e. let the water run straight out to sea] from 58 per cent to 67-70 per cent in a bid to save native birds, fish and trees. The study is a "guide" for a draft report which will lead to a final document not expected before the end of 2011.
History course 'cobbled together'
HISTORY teachers warned yesterday that the national curriculum was being "cobbled together" through a flawed process of "ad hoc" decisions.
The History Teachers Association of Australia has joined the chorus of concerns raised in recent weeks by professional and academic geographers, scientists, visual artists and principals that the rush to finish the curriculum by the end of the year is compromising the quality of courses.
HTAA president Paul Kiem told The Weekend Australian yesterday the process developed by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority was "deeply flawed" and inspired no confidence that quality courses would be produced.
"We want a course that has a pedigree and has been through a gestation period rather than something that has been cobbled together at the last moment to meet a political deadline," he said. "We want to see it got right, not just got out. We want students to emerge with a coherent view of Australian history."
The national curriculum was originally intended to provide a broad framework, setting a common core of essential knowledge for each subject that all students should learn, no matter where they attend school.
But in the process of consultation and writing, ACARA has struggled to determine the core knowledge and expanded the breadth of topics covered, prompting one insider to describe the curriculum this week as a "camel" - a horse designed by committee.
The HTAA wrote to School Education Minister Peter Garrett on September 14, asking for the deadline to be eased to allow a more considered evaluation and review of the course. A letter written in May to then education minister Julia Gillard went unanswered.
While Mr Garrett is yet to respond, he was reported last week as saying the curriculum writers might have to work later and harder to finish the courses by December, when the nation's education ministers are due to consider their approval of the first four subjects of English, maths, science and history.
The ministers were originally expected to evaluate the first four subjects next week but the deadline was extended at the request of ACARA after concerns were raised by some states.
Mr Kiem described Mr Garrett's comments as "ridiculously out of touch" and suggested he was receiving poor advice. "The process has been deeply flawed and it does nothing to inspire confidence when state governments leave it to the last moment to intervene or when the federal minister makes ill-informed comments in the media," he said.
The latest letter from the history teachers follows letters to Mr Garrett and the state and territory education ministers from the Australian Council of the Deans of Science, the Institute of Australian Geographers and geography teacher associations concerned by the direction of the national curriculum, and the speed at which it is required to be finished.
Principals in Victoria and the NSW Board of Studies were also reported last week as holding serious concerns while the Visual Arts Consortium of academics, teachers and artists described the proposed shape of the arts curriculum, which does not include the teaching of skills such as drawing, as "tokenistic participation with no education attached".
The HTAA letter to Mr Garrett says the development of the national curriculum is "operating under considerable duress" imposed by the inadequate timeline set by the federal government.
It says the association finds it difficult to endorse the curriculum when issues about implementation and teacher training remain to be addressed, while the writing of the curriculum for years 11 and 12 lacked an overall rationale and involved "a degree of ad hoc decision-making". Similar criticisms about the process were made in May by the lead writer on the history curriculum, eminent historian Stuart Macintyre.
The HTAA also warned it was being overloaded with content by lobby groups ensuring their pet topics were included.
A spokesman for Mr Garrett said the quality of the curriculum was paramount and ACARA was being given the time to do the work and get it right.
A spokesman for ACARA said it took seriously its mandate to consult widely and the HTAA had been involved extensively in this process. "This is why we are taking a few extra weeks as it finalises the first phase of the curriculum to make sure we present a document that all education authorities can endorse," he said.
Mr Kiem said yesterday the fundamental problem was that ACARA had not developed clear guidelines and criteria and the course rationale from the start, so now there was no coherent version of what the history curriculum should look like. He said it contained more content than could be taught in the time allocated to history, and, without clear guidelines about what should be removed, it was becoming more prescriptive.
States baulk at opt-out on NBN link
Very welcome news. A monopoly of internet connections would be wide open to abuse by government -- abuse both political and financial
NSW and Victoria have ruled out following Tasmania's lead and legislating for all homes to be connected to the National Broadband Network.
The states' reluctance to legislate, coupled with take-up rates mirroring Tasmania's sluggish appetite to connect to the broadband network, could result in the federal government conducting a review into the NBN's roll-out schedule.
Failure to achieve good take-up rates in the test phases of the NBN -- which include the Tasmanian roll-out and 19 sites on the mainland -- would trigger a review to correct the connection deficiencies and pare back the NBN's mandate to connect 93 per cent of the nation to the fibre network, according to the government's $25 million implementation study into the viability of the NBN.
"If the results of the first phase of roll-out suggest the . . . coverage target will not be reached, government should use its performance management mechanisms to correct the course of the roll-out and/or revise its target," the study recommends.
Concerns over the lukewarm response to the Apple Isle's new broadband network -- where only 50 per cent of premises have been connected -- were brought to the fore this week when Tasmania Premier David Bartlett announced he would legislate to change the NBN connection procedure from an opt-in system to an opt-out model.
This means customers will be connected to the NBN unless they actively refuse to have the new fibre-optic cable plugged into their home.
The move is expected to greatly bolster the Tasmanian connection rate of premises to the NBN, where only a few hundred customers have so far activated their superfast broadband services.
The exact subscription figure of the network in the first three Tasmanian towns -- Midway Point, Scottsdale and Smithton -- remains a closely guarded secret but official state estimates predict that only 16 to 25 per cent of premises passed by the roll-out would take up subscriptions to access the high-speed internet it offers.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has welcomed Tasmania's moves to legislate an opt-out method for connection to the NBN, saying that it "will enable faster and more efficient roll-out of the network and minimise inconvenience to landowners", and has thrown his support behind the other states and territories to follow Tasmania's suit. But so far, his calls have fallen on deaf ears.
The NSW government has ruled out any plans to legislate an opt-out model and so too has Victoria. "Our intention is for every Victorian home to be connected to the NBN but individuals would be able to choose whether or not to sign up and use the service," said a spokesperson for Victorian Treasurer and ICT Minister John Lenders.
A spokesman for Queensland Public Works Minister Robert Schwarten said the government was yet to decide either way. "We are contacting Tasmania today about their legislation but we have not made a decision about it," the spokesman said.
The NBN Co has not revealed how many people have opted-in to the NBN first-release sites on the mainland, which include Brunswick, Townsville, Willunga, Kiama and Armidale.
But take-up has not been what the NBN Co hoped, with the company being forced to extend the deadlines for the return of consent forms on at least one occasion. Potential recipients have until today to return the forms. The previous date was August 31.
The charming Victoria police again
What does it take to spur a Royal Commission of enquiry into this bunch of goons?
POLICE officers have been caught joking about the electrocution of an Indian train passenger in a racist email scandal. They circulated sickening video footage of the man being killed and suggested it could be a way to fix Melbourne's Indian student problem.
The Herald Sun has discovered some of the force's highest-ranked officers have been implicated in the scandal, which also involves pornographic material. Three superintendents were nabbed during an investigation into the circulation of inappropriate emails through the police computer system. Several inspectors have also been caught.
Emails probed by the Ethical Standards Department's Operation Barrot contain pornographic, homophobic, racist and violent material.
Chief Commissioner Simon Overland described the emails as "disturbing, offensive and gross".
One of the offending emails contained video footage showing the death of a man who was travelling on the roof of a crowded train in India. When the train stopped at a station the man stood up and touched an overhead power cable. Onlookers screamed as he was electrocuted.
The email containing the shocking video began circulating in the Victoria Police computer system and racist comments were added, suggesting "this might be a way to fix the Indian student problem". It came at a time when force command was trying to ease racial tension after a number of assaults and incidents involving Indians living in Melbourne.
Premier John Brumby yesterday criticised the actions of the police who circulated the racist material. "This is completely offensive and contrary to the views and values at the heart of the Victorian community - tolerance and respect," he said.
A police spokesman said the emails were offensive. "These are matters which demanded we took action. Some of the content was extremely offensive and we can't tolerate that within the ranks of Victoria Police," he said.
Federation of Indian Students spokesman Gautam Gupta said he was appalled. "It is outrageous that police officers would joke about the death of anyone. I am really shocked. This is humour in very, very bad taste," he said.
None of the superintendents or inspectors caught during the sweep have been interviewed by ESD yet. But the Herald Sun believes it has been unofficially suggested to two long-serving superintendents they should retire as soon as possible to avoid disciplinary action.
A sergeant, two leading senior constables and a senior constable have already been sacked and six other low-ranking police have been demoted or fined.
Healesville sergeant Tony Vangorp took his life in March after being suspended and being told he faced the sack over inappropriate emails. Fifteen officers will be dealt with at disciplinary hearings in the next fortnight.
SOURCE. Note that I have a special blog on Queensland cops, there is so much misbehaviour among them.
Heavy metal fan charged over T-shirt
Speech laws are rarely enforced in Queensland but I suppose there are limits
A heavy metal music fan could face six months in jail over an allegedly offensive T-shirt. Alexsei Vladmir Nikola, 34, was due to appear in court this morning on public nuisance charges after Brisbane police officers allegedly saw him wearing the shirt on George Street on May 6.
The shirt allegedly featured the words "Jesus is a c---" in large letters and shows a picture of a semi-naked, masturbating nun.
The fashion item is believed to be merchandise of the gothic-metal band Cradle of Filth. The English band have a reputation for provocative and elaborate concerts and feature band members in corpse-like make up.
Mr Nikola, of Runcorn in Brisbane's south, was due to appear in Brisbane Magistrates Court today but his case was adjourned in his absence. He has not yet entered a plea to the charge.
The offence of public nuisance is characterised by behaviour that interferes, or is likely to interfere with the peaceful passage through, or enjoyment of, a public place by a member of the public. The charge carries a maximum fine of $1000 or six months' jail.
8 October, 2010
The "lucky country" still
The late Donald Horne wrote a miserable carping book about Australia under the title "The lucky country". Donald intended his title to convey that the happy state of life in Australia was all just luck, not due to hard work and good judgment.
Australians generally however took the title to their hearts as a good summary of how well off Australia is compared to most other places. So Donald became famous for saying something that was in fact the opposite of what he intended -- perverse fame indeed.
And the "luck" held throughout the recent global financial crisis. Australia's banks continued to prosper while much more famous banks elsewhere failed completely.
But it wasn't "luck" then any more than it ever was. It was good judgment. Australian banks were extensively DEREGULATED in the 1980s so had acquired very realistic lending policies by the time the GFC struck. So their bad debts were minimal. Banks in the USA, by contrast, had GOVERNMENT IMPOSED bad lending policies so the resulting explosion was inevitable.
The report below is a small survey of the happy state of the Australian economy to date. The RBA is Australia's central bank. The mention below of a "Super Aussie" refers to the Australian dollar and the fact that it is highly esteemed among international money managers -- and has hence risen in value against most other currencies
While most of the developed world spasms with the pain of stubbornly high unemployment, our biggest worry is that the strong full-time jobs growth we saw from the ABS yesterday will continue, eventually building into some inflationary pressures next year that will require the RBA to tap the interest rate brakes a little.
Those rates, mind you, are only average for our economy now, so it's hardly an earth-shattering prospect. The RBA wants to sustain growth, not stop it – the pain is meant to occur at the margin.
Yes, our housing is expensive, especially our most desirable inner-city housing that seems to concern so many of those who comment about this column. We should indeed be doing whatever we can to increase supply, but contrary to the hopes of the doom'n'gloomers, or those who don't own and carry an ideological hatred of the landlord class, there is no spectacular price collapse in the offing.
“Mildly overvalued,” as the IMF described Australia's house prices, is a long way from the bubbles that have exploded catastrophically in the US, Spain, Ireland et al. With so very many different factors at work, everything from our tax and mortgage systems to our culture, when parts of our market do run away with themselves and correct, it is an unhappy grind rather than a screaming plunge.
It would be nice if prices stayed flattish for a while and the RBA would like investors to collectively be smarter - and I would like to win the lottery.
It's arguable that there is a shortage of housing and the industry that builds houses would be happy to build more houses – no surprise in that – but the history of our housing market is that it eventually sorts itself out, albeit in fits and starts. Wiser federal, state and local government policies would help – but I revert to my wish to win the lottery.
The rise and rise of the Aussie dollar creates problems too, although as headline writers we tend to be torn between the good and bad aspects. There's a degree of somewhat nationalistic pride as the Super Aussie struts the world stage, kicking sand in the face of grovelling greenbacks, simpering sterling and edgy euros. There's also the positive feedback for keeping our inflation rate subdued and the self-interest of many in the chattering class at the prospect of cheaper international holidays and the greater job of online shopping.
But of course Super Aussie also creates problems for some industries – the most obvious being domestic tourism and education, but also every company with foreign income that isn't being boosted by higher resources prices. The CSL annual meeting next week will no doubt have a tale to tell about that.
And local manufacturers competing with imports do it tougher, forcing them to be yet smarter and add more value. Does a strong Aussie mean the end of manufacturing? Well, a high cost base hasn't done German manufacturing much harm.
While the usual overshooting as speculators pile aboard for a while and with the caveat that no-one has a track record of accurately forecasting our currency, it's also worth remembering that it's not all about us - the much bigger problem is the weakness of the US dollar.
(As an aside, it is bemusing to watch the Americans accuse China of currency manipulation when the out-of-control American debt and the Fed's threat of printing more money is taking the greenback down and undermining confidence in the world's reserve currency.)
The nation's economy is a mightily complex beast that doesn't lend itself to simplistic analysis in half a dozen paragraphs, but that's what it's subjected to every day. The long story is a lot better than the short headline, the silver cloud right now vastly bigger than the dark lining.
That fabled ‘Big Australia’
By Oliver Marc Hartwich and Jessica Brown
(Dr Hartwich is a German economist with a sense of humour. What next? A German philosopher with a sense of humour? Maybe not. But since Dr Hartwich now lives in Australia, maybe I should refer to him as "Ollie")
Your Most Gracious Majesty,
It is our duty to inform You that the prospects for population growth in Australia are not good. The Royal Commission tasked with planning Australia’s demographic and economic future hath come to the unfortunate conclusion that the obstacles are simply too great. The optimistic vision of a ‘Big Australia’ will never come true.
The noble commissioners have consulted widely and extensively. But, for growth proponents, our conclusion maketh uncomfortable reading.
The challenges are so numerous that it is hard to know where to start. Housing is undeniably a most serious concern. The lack of capacity in the building industry is quite obvious.
The planning profession doth not have the necessary skills and personnel to cope with rapid growth. Uncertain planning guidelines and objectives further complicate the task. It will take years to design and implement a planning system that can deal with the expected population increases.
The acute housing shortage is not the only difficulty. There are severe infrastructure bottlenecks. Port facilities are already overstretched. Developing appropriate mass transport for goods and people will also require minor engineering miracles, given the country’s challenging geography. Just think of Sydney harbour!
Worst of all, the water supply is under threat. It hath become clear that Australia’s climate is unsuited to hosting a larger population. The limits to population growth are well within sight.
The resident population hath been able to cope with these environmental challenges by employing a number of sophisticated water-saving solutions. But simply adding more people to the equation will just not work. If population growth goes on in the fashion that the crazy ‘Big Australia’ advocates suggest, there will simply not be enough food.
The problems of housing, water and transport should be impetus enough to stop the ambitious plans for decades of strong population growth. It is most unfortunate they are only the beginning.
The deeper we dig into the population puzzle, the more daunting the problems we encounter. Schools and universities, hospitals and doctors, sewerage systems and rubbish collection: each poseth an enormous policy challenge, and each requireth gigantic amounts from HM Treasury.
Unfortunately, the commission’s ‘Big Australia’ report alloweth only one conclusion. It is with deepest regret that we commend to order Captain Arthur Phillip to turn back his fleet and set sail for England, our green and pleasant land.
If you don’t like taking policy advice from fables, read our latest report instead: ‘Populate and Perish? Modelling Australia’s Demographic Future’ by Jessica Brown and Oliver Marc Hartwich. You can also watch the authors discuss their research on YouTube.
For non-Australian readers: Captain Arthur Phillip was the commander of the first fleet of English people to arrive in Australia -- in 1788. The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 8 October. Enquiries to email@example.com. Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590. Below is the executive summary of the report referred to
Although population growth has been one of the most hotly debated topics in recent months, public discussions have been driven by populism, not by evidence-based analysis. In the recent federal election, both Labor and the Coalition seemed to suggest that they could—and would—limit population growth, particularly by restricting migration. The Greens went a step further by endorsing a population cap.
But these platitudes overlook a fundamental fact. Under every realistic scenario, Australia’s population is going to keep growing. Australians will also keep getting older—a fact often neglected in the current debate—which will have huge implications for our future policy environment.
Under all but one of the 36 scenarios modelled in this report, Australia’s population will grow. Only with zero net migration and falling fertility—which is practically unachievable and widely regarded as undesirable—would Australia’s population shrink or stabilise. Some degree of population growth is an inevitable reality.
By focussing on cutting migration as a way to limiting population growth, the current public debate has also ignored the role of fertility—which matters as much if not more—in determining population size and age distribution. Anti-growth campaigners suggest that if migration were reduced, we could somehow stabilise population growth. But this is not true. Even if migration were more than halved to 70,000 a year (which we do not advocate), we would still have a population of more than 29 million by 2050 if fertility remained constant.
It is extremely difficult to predict the future of Australian demographics. Changes in the birth rate are hard to predict and even harder to control, yet they will potentially have a bigger impact on population size than migration. Under every scenario, Australia’s population will get older.
However, it is fertility—not migration—that has the biggest impact on population ageing. Increased migration is not the solution to population ageing. If fertility rate drops from its current level of 1.97 to 1.5, the current European Union average, median age will rise from 37 today to nearly 46 in 2050—higher if migration levels are cut.
Under all the most realistic scenarios, more than 20% of Australians will be over 65 by 2050. And regardless of changes in migration and fertility, the number of Australians aged 80 or over will more than double to about 2 million by 2050.
There will be far fewer taxpayers under every scenario. We need to plan for population ageing. There is a trade-off. A faster growing population will require investment in housing and infrastructure; it will also be younger and better able to meet these costs. A more slowly growing population will require fewer investments in housing, roads and schools but will be significantly older, which means the cost of health care and pensions will rise while the tax base falls.
Both population growth and population ageing will happen no matter what, but the degree to which we have to deal with the challenges will depend on the policy choices we make now about migration as well as future changes in the birth rate and life expectancy. No one can know exactly how these variables will change in the future, which means no government can accurately predict what Australia’s population will look like.
Population targets are unrealistic. We cannot plan our demographic future. However, we can be fairly confident in predicting that Australia’s population will both grow and get older—we just don’t know by how much. The best that policymakers can do is make existing institutions more flexible so they can better cope with whichever population scenario emerges.
Politicians should stop pretending that they can control what Australia’s future population will look like. Instead, they should turn their attention to the real policy issues that will be affected by population growth and ageing: housing, roads, pensions and our natural environment.
The debate should not be about whether we will have a ‘big Australia’ or a ‘small Australia’ but about how we can make a growing Australia work and how we can make it a prosperous and liveable place for us all.
"Green" policies hitting people hard in the pocket
THE triple whammy of soaring electricity, gas and water costs follows years of financial pain already biting into budgets across Victoria. A Herald Sun investigation has found typical households are paying a staggering $900 more for the essentials compared with 2005. The blowout is forcing some to cut back on fresh food and skip doctor visits when they are sick. Electricity and water bills are up an average 45 to 60 per cent. Gas is 20 per cent higher.
Thousands of struggling customers are seeking payment extensions to cope with the crippling costs. And industry experts warn it will only get worse.
Ben Freund, of price comparison service GoSwitch, said that electricity costs were set to explode over the next five years as governments forced companies to commit to more expensive forms of green energy such as solar and wind power, and homes overflowed with power-hungry appliances.
"The increase in the price of electricity will not just affect power bills but the entire cost of living," he said. "It will impact the price of groceries from the supermarket and the price of a takeaway coffee. "The causes are necessary and expensive upgrades to the network as well as environmental programs and mandatory renewable energy targets imposed by state and federal governments."
Analysts are tipping power bills to rise at least 10 per cent next year. That's $120-$170 extra for an average household. The hip-pocket hit will be less severe for those on market contracts or who shop around for the best deals.
Conservative estimates put the rise for gas at 5 per cent, or $50 more for a standard home on a basic tariff.
The Herald Sun review found annual utility bills have jumped up to six times faster than inflation in some parts of Victoria. Water bills have ballooned because of the drought and major project costs including the Wonthaggi desalination plant.
Exclusive modelling by Victoria's utilities watchdog, the Essential Services Commission, predicts annual water bills in Melbourne will surge by at least $70 after the next approved price rise flows through from July 1 next year. Increases of up to 10 per cent are locked in for next financial year to fund the State Government's water infrastructure, designed to secure future supplies.
Bill rises in country Victoria will range from at least $8 in the Lower Murray region to $88 in Wannon Water's area.
Victorian Council of Social Service chief Cath Smith said surging utility bills were being deeply felt across the community. "It's noticeable by all - even those who are better off - because the prices of other luxuries or items such as fridges, cars, airline tickets and flatscreen TVs have gone down," Ms Smith said. "Suddenly, instead, everyone is having to devote more of their income to the basic essentials."
Ms Smith said skyrocketing bills, especially for electricity, were hitting low-income households hard, along with pensioners and the jobless. "We know some people are sacrificing on fresh food and health because of utility and rent rises," she said. "They won't go to a doctor because of gap fees, or will share prescriptions among family members."
People desperately needed a boost to pensions and concession payments to deal with the cost crisis, she said.
Energy Retailers Association of Australia executive director Cameron O'Reilly said families that failed to curb energy consumption faced a rude shock. "The increased cost of generating power is going in one direction only, and that's up," Mr O'Reilly said.
"Costs of transporting electricity are also massively driven due to larger houses, population growth, big-screen TVs and the number one baddie of them all - air-conditioners."
St Vincent de Paul Society state president Tony Tome said even customers who weren't using any more power were being harshly stung. "More and more people are presenting, needing help with utilities accounts - whether that be extra time to pay, emergency relief, or food vouchers so that they can cover their bills," Mr Tome said.
Nasty NSW cop
This would not stand up in court -- under the "triviality" defence
If you think being fined for a friendly toot on your car horn is bizarrely zealous policing, it's nothing compared with what one young Sydneysider copped. And if it had happened 24 hours later - when double demerit points applied - it would have cost the 23-year-old P-plater her licence.
So what was her heinous driving crime? Taking her seat belt off for a few seconds because she couldn't reach the car park ticket machine through the car window. With an officer in a police patrol car watching, what was going to be a free park cost her a whopping $300 and three demerit points.
NSW Police have yet to comment on their application of the law in this case, but the young woman's mother, from Lilyfield, is not impressed. Lyndal Gabriel said her daughter had just completed a mail run for her employer last Thursday and was about to leave the car park.
But what happened next left her in tears after she leaned through her car window to press the button for a ticket to raise the boom gate. "She put the ticket in and proceeded and then there was a marked police car behind her which pulled her over," Mrs Gabriel said. "They fined her $300 and 3 points, they kept her for about 30 minutes on site and she does have a clean record."
The "stern" officer, who was "a bit grumpy" told her daughter she should have turned off the ignition before getting out of her car. "They said she broke the law because she should have turned the car off, taken the keys out of the ignition, got out of the car, put the ticket into the machine, then buckled up and started the car and then proceeded," she said. "I guess we will have to cop it but I think it has all just gone mad, really."
Mrs Gabriel said her daughter was genuinely unaware she had broken the law. But then again, as Mrs Gabriel points out, so are most drivers. "To me the fine and points don't match the infringement," she said. "It just needs to be out there that this is the law and that this is happening."
Mrs Gabriel said her daughter had a clean driving history and that her car, a 10-year-old Nissan Pulsar, would not immediately attract the attention of police.
She said her daughter was neither rude nor argumentative to the officer who issued the fine. "My daughter just said he might have been having a bad day. Who knows, but in all honesty she is a bit embarrassed about it all," she said.
At least there's a little good news for the unlucky P-plater. Mrs Gabriel hinted "mum and dad might have to help out" when it comes to paying the fine.
7 October, 2010
Fibre: Coming ready or not
This is just the standard Leftist resort to government compulsion. It's the only way they can get their scheme to pay its way. And even that may not be enough -- unless they ban all other forms of internet access, which they may well do. And what a lovely monopoly that would be! Australians can look forward to the most expensive internet access in the world!
TASMANIAN homes and businesses will automatically be connected to the National Broadband Network unless they actively refuse. The shift from an opt-in system for the NBN in Tasmania to an opt-out model, which could be adopted nationally, was announced by Premier David Bartlett late yesterday.
The move to shore up the viability of Australia's first fibre-optic cable rollout follows official estimates that only 16 to 25 per cent of premises passed by the rollout would take up subscriptions to access the high-speed internet it offers.
Industry experts suggest a take-up of 80 to 90 per cent is necessary if the NBN is to become a focus of service and information delivery.
The shift to an opt-out model came as some of Australia's leading businessmen called for the federal government's $43 billion NBN project to be subjected to a thorough business case. National Australia Bank chairman Michael Chaney said a cost-benefit analysis was needed to ensure productivity gains could be realised. "I feel for any investment of that size you do need to do a thorough cost-benefit analysis," Mr Chaney said at The Australian and Deutsche Bank Business Leaders Forum yesterday.
Wesfarmers chairman Bob Every agreed. "I just see this (the NBN) as another part of infrastructure that we need to go through, stocktake and prioritise," Mr Every said. "And quite frankly I don't know if it (NBN) will rank in priority. I'm not convinced."
ANZ chairman John Morschel said that although faster internet could increase productivity, the business case needed to be clearly made. "I think the lack of a business case and full publicity of that business case is throwing a lot of doubt in people's minds about the level of expenditure - $43bn is a lot of money," he said.
Those involved in the NBN rollout in Tasmania, which is thought to cost taxpayers between $500 million and $700m, have been frustrated by the need to obtain permission from property owners to connect their premises. Without written permission, the law prevents access to premises to take the optic fibre from the street to homes.
Mr Bartlett said he had obtained advice that the state government had the power to legislate to require property owners to opt out of a connection. The state would legislate to achieve this "as soon as possible" and would also consider legislation to exempt the rollout from local government planning schemes.
Mr Bartlett said more than 50 per cent of householders and businesses in the first three towns covered by the rollout had "accepted a connection to optic fibre". However, this figure has been criticised by some in the industry as misleading as it relates to those who have agreed to have their homes made "NBN-ready" - not the number taking up subscriptions to access the network.
That subscription figure, six weeks after the official start-up of the network in the first three towns - Midway Point, Scottsdale and Smithton - remains a closely guarded secret. NBN Co spokeswoman Rhonda Griffin said it was premature to reveal the figure but that "several hundred" homes had taken up subscriptions. "We are pleased with the level of interest we've had," Ms Griffin said.
Mr Bartlett insisted this was a "good early result". "But we're also determined to get that participation even higher, and ensure every Tasmanian householder and business that wants access to super-fast broadband can get it easily and efficiently," the Premier said.
Federal opposition broadband spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said the shift to an opt-out policy "confirms that the business plan of the NBN depends on compulsion and the elimination of competing technologies".
Mr Turnbull said it followed a poor initial take-up at the three Tasmanian trial sites. "The move adds compulsion to Labor's existing plans to shut down competing fixed-line technologies, such as Telstra's copper network, or voice and broadband delivered over HFC pay-TV cables, after NBN is rolled out," Mr Turnbull said. "If Australian consumers want a fixed line for telephony or internet access, they are going to have to use NBN's line - like it or not."
Mr Bartlett insisted the decision was about "finding the most practical and efficient way of connecting our citizens to the digital economy".
A spokesman for Mr Bartlett later confirmed that customers would not be forced to pay for the NBN-ready connection; this cost would be absorbed by the taxpayer-funded NBN Co.
Ms Griffin welcomed the decision to require people to opt out of the rollout.
NSW public hospitals killing babies
NSW hospitals will be ordered to review the way babies are put to bed after an explosive report revealed that one in eight newborns who die from cot death have been placed in unsafe positions by midwives.
The report, by the NSW Child Death Review Team, also found that most of the babies who died unexpectedly at home had been exposed to cigarette smoke, had suffocated while sleeping with a parent or had been put to bed on their stomachs or sides - despite a $15 million, 13-year public health campaign advocating safe sleeping methods.
The campaign had cut cot deaths by 85 per cent, saving more than 6000 babies, but had become "a victim of its own success", with midwives and parents becoming dangerously complacent, the general manager of SIDS and Kids, Ros Richardson, said. "People now see sudden infant death syndrome as a thing of the past. It isn't," she said.
She has called on NSW Health to provide about $100,000 for an educator to visit every hospital to inform midwives of the importance of putting babies to bed on their backs after researchers found 15 neonates (babies under 28 days old) had died in maternity units from side-sleeping or sleeping with their mother.
"Complacency is the product of a stretched public health system but even one death is one too many," Ms Richardson said. "We still have some midwives who have some naivety that babies should be put to sleep on their side so they can drain secretions. This is simply incorrect. "It is one thing to have a poster about safe sleeping on the wall at the hospital, but if no one heeds it, what's the point?"
Hannah Dahlen, a spokeswoman for the Australian College of Midwives, conceded there had been a tradition of putting babies to bed on their sides to help clear their chests, particularly those with fluid on their lungs after being born by caesarean section.
"But babies now are almost always placed on their backs. It is drummed into [midwives]," she said. "I really don't believe this is an issue any more."
More than 3720 babies died in NSW between 1996 and 2008, including 123 neonates. Of those, about a quarter died from metabolic and cardiac problems or infection and two-thirds from cot death, a diagnosis applied when no other cause can be found. About 73 per cent had been exposed to tobacco smoke, 57 per cent had not been put to bed on their backs and 60 per cent were co-sleeping.
"So they were avoidable," Ms Richardson said. "Deaths that occur where a baby is put to bed on its back, has no covers around its face and there's no smoking in the house are extremely rare."
One study suggested cot death babies had abnormalities in their brain stems - the part responsible for controlling breathing. Another study identified a link between some bacterial infections, but no definitive cause has been found.
The NSW Commissioner for Children and Young People, Megan Mitchell, said the report, which was tabled in Parliament yesterday, indicated that "we still have a long way to go to help parents to remember the safe sleeping messages".
A spokesman for NSW Health said clinical midwifery consultants would "work closely with staff in maternity units to look at current practices and educate staff on the policy".
Business 'threatened' by Labor
BUSINESS leaders claim they are being threatened by "thin-skinned" politicians when they choose to speak out on policy issues.
They also believe a culture of "consequence and retribution" has emerged in Australia that threatens free speech and could stifle reform.
Speaking at The Australian and Deutsche Bank Business Leaders Forum yesterday, four of the nation's most senior company chairs said corporate leaders had a responsibility to speak out to set the agenda in the public policy debate.
But they warned that some had been "threatened" by politicians for expressing their views. "I have been amazed how thin-skinned some politicians are," said Michael Chaney, chairman of National Australia Bank and of Woodside Petroleum. "I have found that some politicians have been particularly spiteful about it and have gone around threatening people who have spoken out, which is pretty unfortunate because they are the same people who would extol the virtues of freedom of speech."
Mr Chaney's comments came as the chairs - including Telstra's Catherine Livingstone, ANZ's John Morschel and Bob Every from Wesfarmers and building products group Boral - laid out a bold reform agenda for the government, calling on Julia Gillard to review Labor's new mining tax and potential changes to the GST as part of a reconsideration of the Henry tax review. They also said the government should conduct a cost-benefit analysis on its $43 billion National Broadband Network plan and provide business with greater certainty over its plans for a price on carbon.
Mr Chaney, a former Business Council of Australia president, said corporate leaders had a responsibility to speak out on issues amid concerns that the unstable political environment could damage the prospects for crucial reforms and cause uncertainty for local and international investors.
"When the government announces something like the employee share changes, which were announced without consultation, or the (resource) super-profits tax, which is clearly, in our view, against the national interest and against national productivity, there is an obligation to speak out because ... it is the national interest," he said.
Earlier this week, opposition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey called on business to find its voice on issues such as industrial relations reform. "I think it's hugely important that members of the business community engage more directly in the policy debates that will shape Australia's economic future," he said.
A spokesman for Wayne Swan said he spoke to chief executives on a regular basis. "Of course they agree sometimes and they disagree other times, but the Treasurer keeps the content and nature of those conversations private," he said. "The Treasurer welcomes the contribution of the business community in the key debates about our economy and how we set it up for the future."
But Reserve Bank board member and Brambles and BlueScope chairman Graham Kraehe said he, too, had been targeted after speaking out on key issues. "Certainly I have experienced retribution and there would not be too many business leaders who haven't, and it is not in the nature of our free enterprise and democratic society," Mr Kraehe told The Australian on the sidelines of the forum in Sydney.
Ms Livingstone said there were "consequences and retribution" when executives disagreed with the government, while Mr Morschel said "the retribution situation has been rather prevalent of late".
Their views were supported by Westfield director and former Productivity Commission commissioner Judith Sloan, who also said the culture of retribution was "a great pity. What we need is open and impartial debate about issues rather than people being fearful they will be punished if they express a point of view."
Mr Every said there was a responsibility in being a business leader. "You don't just speak as Bob Every Citizen, you are speaking on behalf of the companies you represent. I think we should be prepared to speak out," he said.
Mr Chaney, Mr Every, Ms Livingstone and Mr Morschel represent six companies with a combined market capitalisation of more than $220 billion, almost 20 per cent of the ASX/S&P 200 index. They also represent a total of 176,000 employees.
Several business leaders have told The Australian they have been subjected to private attacks by senior ministers when they have publicly disagreed with government positions. Earlier this week, the Treasurer warned the big four banks against increasing interest rates beyond any moves made by the Reserve Bank, echoing criticisms he has made over 18 months.
There have also been concerns in business circles that Minerals Council of Australia chief Mitch Hooke could be sidelined by the returned government because of his stand against the resource super-profits tax. Then-prime minister Kevin Rudd reportedly criticised Mr Hooke at a mining function in May and later told a media function: "We've got a long memory." He subsequently insisted the comment was a joke.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said yesterday she had made it clear to all members of the government that she expected them to abide by the Standards of Ministerial Ethics.
Ms Livingstone said a more sophisticated model was needed for public policy development. She said this would require that the public service, which had been "diminished over the past five to eight years", be rebuilt. "Unless we move to a more consultative model which deals with issues before they become issues, we are always going to end up with this reactive situation to policy development," she said.
Mr Morschel said recent positive discussions between the major banks, the prudential regulator, the RBA and Treasury on the G20 Basel 3 amendments covering bank stability showed behind-the-scenes lobbying could be successful.
W.A. transit cop charged with assaulting unaggressive passenger
A TRANSIT officer has been charged with assault after a football fan was pepper-sprayed and left with a bloodied face at Subiaco train station in March.
Police say Liam Barry McCalmont, 22 of Maylands, assaulted James Hagerstrom, 46 of Bassendean, after the March 28 AFL game between Fremantle and Adelaide at Subiaco Oval. It will be alleged the assault occurred while transit guards tried to apprehend Mr Hagerstrom and charge him with obstruction.
The victim received facial injuries after his head was slammed into a platform during the altercation.
A Perth magistrate withdrew the obstruction charge against Mr Hagerstrom in July after viewing CCTV footage of the incident.
The Public Transport Authority conducted an internal inquiry into the incident in July and handed its findings to the Corruption and Crime Commission. Mr McCalmont has been charged with assault occasioning bodily harm and will face the Perth Magistrates Court on October 19. The PTA has placed him on "alternative and non-operational duties in the immediate term".
SOURCE. Earlier report here
6 October, 2010
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is dismayed at the influence already being wielded by the Greens in Australia's government
Bureaucratic financial shenanigans behind Victorian ambulance disasters
With more reports of life-threatening delays emerging, the Herald Sun revealed that health chiefs actually called for cuts to Ambulance Victoria staff in November, because of the mounting debt. Documents show the state's top health chiefs could have put lives at risk by advising Ambulance Victoria to slash staff numbers.
Health Minister Daniel Andrews intervened in January to discuss the money black hole, but when Mr Brumby was asked today about any warnings he received about Ambulance Victoria's problems, he said he there were none provided. "Not to me, no," Mr Brumby said.
Mr Brumby said the government had doubled the number of paramedics and had promised another 400 since it came into government. "When we came to government the ambulance service in this state was in a disastrous state of affairs," Mr Brumby said. "There were 1260 ambulance paramedics. Now there are 2500. And we have got another 400 in the pipeline."
In a bid to cut the service's debts, the Health Department exposed Victorians to longer waits for ambulances and forced over-stretched paramedics to work extra shifts to cover shortages. The organisation's debts hit $44 million in April, according to board meeting minutes seen by the Herald Sun.
The call comes as ambulance waiting times blow out. Worst cases include:
LAST month a jockey, who almost died after a fall at Moonee Valley, waited nearly 30 minutes for an ambulance.
AFTER the first grand final, a man died after waiting three hours for an ambulance in Burwood East.
Opposition health spokesman David Davis said the financial mess risked lives. "The minutes show an organisation careering out of control under John Brumby, leading to cuts in critical services as costs were screwed down to cover Labor's mismanagement," he said. "How many Victorians have to die or suffer before John Brumby finally listens?"
The debt was partly due to the merger of regional and metro services, and also patients and hospitals not paying their bills.
MICA paramedics have also contacted the Herald Sun claiming senior management falsifies records and creates ghost crews to make it look as if more staff are on duty.
Health Minister Daniel Andrews said yesterday Ambulance Victoria was confident it had the right resources. But minutes of a November 2009 board meeting say: "Recruitment has been delayed due to finance discussions with the Department of Health wherein they advise Ambulance Victoria to cut staff numbers rather than recruit." It is not known if Ambulance Victoria followed the advice.
Ambulance Employees Australia state secretary Steve McGhie said the memo showed the Government was more interested in money than lives.
The row comes ahead of a scathing Auditor-General's report into ambulance services to be released today.
The most recent Health Department annual report shows only 80 per cent of the most critical cases - worse than last year - were responded to within the benchmark of 15 minutes. The internal Ambulance Victoria documents also reveal the organisation wrote off more than $18 million in bad debts last year. They also show that Mr Andrews personally intervened in January to discuss the financial black hole.
The State Government yesterday referred the Herald Sun's questions to Ambulance Victoria. Ambulance Victoria chief executive Greg Sassella yesterday admitted the deficit was a major problem in the 2009/10 financial year. But he said Ambulance Victoria had worked hard to have only a $2.9 million deficit without impacting on "service delivery".
The shambles that is Victoria's grandly-named Department of Human Services
Pretty much what you expect of a huge bureaucracy. No effective supervision of anything
VICTORIA'S government watchdog has called for the state's main juvenile justice centre to be closed down, citing “disgraceful conditions.
Ombudsman George Brouwer says in a report the facilities breach human rights and are safety risks.
His scathing report has found that six units at the state's Melbourne Youth Justice Centre are riddled with infectious diseases, overcrowding and assaults perpetrated by staff on inmates, and incited by staff.
Mr Brouwer concludes that the Department of Human Services is not fit to run the facilities and that they are such in a poor state they should be closed down and new facilities built.
“In my view, the design and location of the (youth justice precinct) is inappropriate for a custodial facility which house vulnerable children.
“The dirty, unhygienic and ill-maintained conditions reflect poorly on the management and staff,” he writes.
“It is clear from the unacceptable conditions that the department has failed to meet its statutory obligations under the act and human rights principles. In my view, this brings into question the capacity of the department to operate youth justice services.”
Mr Brouwer's investigation - sparked by a whistleblower - also found that 39 per cent of staff did not have working-with-children checks on their personnel files
His report uncovered concerns that overcrowding had become so bad that young people were in rooms in mattresses and no toilets, so were forced to use buckets.
The investigation alleged staff provide detainees with contraband, and that they incite fights among detainees, even allowing one detainee to be severely beaten by other inmates.
He also investigated reports staff stole and slept during shifts, assaulted detainees, falsified records and used excessive force.
The scathing report follows damning findings into other DHS-run facilities, including child protection and mental health.
More environmental lunacy
FIVE dead trees could cost the Gold Coast a $100 million development because they might be home to an owl and a sugar glider. In an evaluation of a proposed Upper Coomera project, council environmental bureaucrats ruled that the dead 'owl house' trees on the site could not be cut down.
The ruling effectively removes six lots worth a total of $1.2 million from the proposed multimillion-dollar Upper Coomera residential project, a move which developer Norm Rix says virtually makes his development financially unviable.
His development on the corner of Days and Old Coach roads was approved by the city planning committee yesterday, but with a condition he said he could not accept and which could lead to a legal battle involving ratepayers' money.
Mr Rix said he was willing to reduce a proposed eight-storey and another seven-storey tower to three as requested by council, but said giving up six lots worth a combined $1.2 million to protect five dead trees was 'too much'.
The council report stated the trees, classed as 'hollow bearing trees', might provide a home for native animals. It stated that owl pellets were discovered on the site, while a squirrel glider had been spotted 500m south of the trees in July.
The council environmental officers originally wanted 12 lots of land removed from the development to protect the trees, but were talked down to six by Mr Rix.
Mr Rix said he would still lose money on the development in its current form and would take the council to court over its decision. He said with the red tape developers had to battle through, it was no wonder construction jobs were moving up to Logan, Ipswich and Redlands.
Year's 100th boatful of illegals received by Australia
THE 100th boat of asylum seekers to reach Australia this year was intercepted off Christmas Island yesterday, carrying 71 asylum seekers.
The opposition said the government continued to founder on border protection, despite identifying it as a "key reason why Kevin Rudd was dumped". "Despite their failures, Labor continues to refuse to restore the immigration and border protection controls they abolished," opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said. "The consequence of Labor's border protection failures is a detention network in crisis and a budget out of control."
Almost 5000 people have sought asylum in Australia by boat this year and detention centres on the mainland and at Christmas Island have been expanded to cope. Detainees also face longer processing times, pushed out by the recent freeze, and incidents of self-harm are escalating.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen will soon travel to East Timor, Indonesia and Malaysia to discuss people smuggling and gather support for a regional processing centre.
"Rather than engaging in simplistic slogans and reverting to the Coalition's failed policies of the past, the Gillard government is focused on building lasting and long-term solutions to the problem of people smuggling with our regional partners and key international organisations," he said.
The last surge in boat arrivals was in 2001, when conflict overseas drove people to seek asylum in Australia, he said.
LOL! Plants boost grades
Plants in the classroom have been credited with helping Queensland school-children achieve huge improvement in their grades. New research to be presented to a “Plants at Work” conference in Brisbane this week shows plants have the power to boost student performance in maths and spelling by up to 14 per cent.
The conference will also hear how plants in hospitals are helping patients get out up to two days earlier. Other research includes a study showing indoor plants improve performance and productivity in adult workers with stress and negativity at work -- cut by up to 40 per cent for staff surrounded by plants.
The news of plants’ psychological benefits for workers comes as the State Government recently moved to remove plants from several of its department offices in Brisbane to save money.
“Our research has shown that plants can benefit body, mind and spirit," University of Technology Sydney adjunct professor Margaret Burchett said. Prof Burchett conducted a study in 15 Year 6 and 7 classrooms in three independent schools late last year.
More than 200 students were tested with standard maths and spelling exams before plant placements and retested after six weeks of plant presence or absence. “In two schools, there were 10 to 14 per cent improvements in scores in spelling and maths tests in those classes which had plants in their rooms,” she said.
Prof Burchett said some of the improvements could have come about because of plants’ ability to cut pollution. “International research has shown that plants can significantly improve indoor air quality in buildings with or without airconditioning by reducing levels of carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds.”
Hire plants have been removed from offices of the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation and the Department of Public Works as a cost-cutting measure this year.
DEEDl’s Michael Jones said they recognised the value of having plants in the workplace, “but we also need to exercise financial responsibility". “The cost of hiring and maintaining plants in departmental offices in Brisbane’s CBD was equivalent to 1.5 full- time staff members,” he said,
The report above by Suellen Hinde appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on 3 October 2010
5 October, 2010
"Soft" jails a disaster
CHANGES to discipline in state prisons have sparked an outbreak of crime at one of Queensland's highest-security jails. The Courier-Mail can reveal a spate of incidents at Maryborough Correctional Centre since controversial changes to the disciplinary process were implemented across Queensland four months ago.
In one incident at the medium-to-high-security facility – which houses 479 male inmates – a female prison nurse was allegedly assaulted by one of Queensland's most violent criminals. The nurse suffered facial injuries, including two black eyes, when a prisoner serving an indefinite sentence for attempted murder allegedly attacked the nurse with a bottle on August 26.
A prison officer, who did not want to be named for fear of losing their job, said prison management had broken protocol because the inmate was not transferred to another jail. "That nurse is still medicating that prisoner," the officer told The Courier-Mail.
Police did not receive a formal complaint until September 17 – three weeks after it happened.
Corrective Services Minister Neil Roberts refused to comment on the assault, but said the nurse had continued to work in the same area as the offender "under staff supervision". Corrective Services was considering transferring the inmate to another facility, he said.
In another alarming incident at Maryborough, prison sources say management waited two days before acting on reports from prison officers that two inmates had been seen on CCTV "shooting up" (injecting drugs intravenously) in a prison laundry on September 11. The delayed search failed to find evidence of the crime. Two inmates were also seen injecting drugs in a prison yard on June 5, the minister confirmed.
The Queensland Public Sector Union and prison staff blame the rise in incidents on a new Breach of Discipline process which they say has stripped staff of authority. QPSU organiser David McInnes said the change in philosophy "came out of nowhere". Mr McInnes said that until recently "mini-hearings" for inmates who committed offences were conducted by correctional supervisors at any time of the day or night, but now they were heard by a manager during office hours. "At the end of the day (management) is generally perceived as being softer in terms of consequences," he said.
"Management at Woodford are all over it and coping well, but at Wacol they've got big problems with breaches (of discipline) lapsing. Management is running around asking them to not (discipline) prisoners."
A prison officer said inmates had "gained the upper hand" since the power shift. "(Management) are in an admin block and spend hardly any time face to face with prisoners. We're there dealing with them daily," the officer said. "(Prisoners) are pushing the boundaries with their verbal abuse and we've got to be nice to them and treat them with respect. "The prisoners' behaviour, knowing that their punishment is going to be minor, just seems to be getting worse.
Director of the Office of the Commissioner for Corrections, Ross McSwain, gave conflicting responses, denying there was a new disciplinary policy, but admitting there had been changes in procedure. Mr McSwain admitted a review late last year had led to managers replacing correctional supervisors in the disciplinary process.
He said elevating the breach hearings to a manager was designed to ensure greater impartiality and separate the roles of prison officers from managers when investigating incidents. "Maintaining an appropriate level of consistency of penalties has been part of the changes."
Opposition prisons spokesman Vaughan Johnson said jails were not being run in accordance with government policy. "There have been other incidents that have left staff scratching their heads as to who's running the prison," he said.
Unarmed man Tasered 13 times by WA police as 9 police stand and watch
Nine police who surrounded an unarmed man at the East Perth watch house used a Taser on him 13 times even though he wasn't threatening them, the WA corruption watchdog has found.
The Corruption and Crime Commission investigation was part of a wider examination of WA Police's use of Tasers since their introduction in 2007, the majority of which were found to be reasonable.
The watchdog looked into the watch house incident after the Deputy Police Commissioner Chris Dawson brought it to their attention. It found the 39-year-old man could have been suffering from a mental illness or substance abuse when he was Tasered in August 2008.
Police said they tried to arrest the man on a Bayswater street after complaints of a trespasser sniffing petrol from cars, but he fled. They later arrested him after he ran into a stationary car on Guildford Road. He allegedly collapsed and became violent, kicking two officers when he woke.
He was taken to the watch house, where police attempted to strip search him. Police said he had previously been convicted of a number of offences including assaulting police officers, resisting arrest and common assault.
"The man had been compliant, removing his belt and earring when requested by police officers. However, the man refused to comply with a strip search and held onto the armrest of the bench. One police officer kicked out at the man in an attempt to 'startle' him into letting go of the bench," the report said.
"Another officer drew his Taser weapon and said 'let go or be Tasered'. The man did not let go and a Taser weapon was deployed on him. The man fell to the ground and was restrained by other police officers." While he was struggling on the ground a police officer said "do you want to go again?" before discharging the Taser again.
CCC director of corruption prevention Roger Watson said the incident was subject to an internal police investigation and the two officers who fired the stun-gun faced disciplinary charges and were fined $1200 and $750 respectively for using undue and excessive force. Two senior officers were found to have provided inadequate supervision.
Mr Dawson said the inmate, who was later jailed on assault charges, did not elect to press charges against the two officers after consultations with the Aboriginal Legal Service and advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions. He conceded the officers were fortunate not to be sacked, though one had been promoted to a sergeant's position since the incident.
"This is an example which is not a good example to use in isolation, it is an example from which we have learnt, but it should not represent the way in which police deal with people all the time," Mr Dawson said.
"We're dealing with violent persons regularly, in this particular instance, this person had an extensive criminal record, and clearly in my view the officers overreacted. They didn't do it in accordance with the policy and the training. For that we very much regret what happened."
Mr Dawson said since the incident, stun guns had been raised against some of the 25,000 inmates brought through the watch house, but not fired by prison officers. He said Corrective Services officers had used Tasers in the watch house but they had their own policies on Tasers.
WA Premier Colin Barnett said he was disturbed by what he saw in the footage. "It was excessive use of a Taser that could not be justified," Mr Barnett said. "I think anyone seeing that footage would find it totally unacceptable." Mr Barnett admitted the incident was a major breach of procedure by the officers involved, and their actions could not be "swept under the carpet".
WA Attorney-General Christian Porter said the incident was completely indefensible and a breach of police guidelines that stipulate Tasers should not be used to get people to comply with orders. He said the officers' behaviour could "properly described as outrageous" and that the fines against them were insufficient.
Mr Porter said police guidelines setting out when Tasers could be used needed to be reviewed. "The government accepts that those guidelines need to be reviewed, we accept the CCC's recommendation in that respect and they will be reviewed," Mr Porter said.
"As a second point of priority this government will be looking into the police force regulations and ways in which we can ensure that the use of Tasers is put to a higher standard in terms of disciplinary proceedings, than just any old run-of-the-mill excessive use of force."
A second case highlighted in the CCC report concerned a man who was Tasered while running from police officers, causing him to fall and break a tooth. He was Tasered twice again while on the ground and seemingly not posing a risk to the male and female officer trying to apprehend him.
Tasers are meant to be used in violent situations, to stop officers having to resort to guns or use lethal force. The weapons deliver a 50,000-volt electric shock to the target, disrupting their muscles. They can also be used in stun-mode, where the shock causes pain but not incapacitation.
But the CCC also found the high-voltage weapon had become the favoured option for police over capsicum spray, batons and handcuffs, with officers reaching for their Tasers in 65 per cent of cases where force was used.
The CCC said Tasers were increasingly used to impose compliance by alleged offenders rather than as an alternative to firearms to reduce injury, as originally intended.
Tasers were used in 49 per cent of incidents where force was necessary in 2007. That figure increased to 74 per cent in 2008 and settled at 65 per cent in 2009. The use of guns had doubled in the same time-frame, rising from 6 per cent to 12 per cent.
The investigation found the weapons were being used disproportionately against Aboriginal people. The CCC was also concerned about the frequency of Taser use against people with mental illness and drug users.
An analysis of the weapons revealed police usually used them between 9pm and 3am from Friday through to Sunday. "There were common situations in which a Taser weapon was deployed, including domestic violence incidents, disturbances, fights and brawls, traffic stops, vehicle pursuits, and reports of weapons and/or assaults," the report said.
Injuries to police had not decreased since the introduction of the weapons, while a study of incidents over a three-month period in 2009 showed those involved in altercations were a Taser was used were 54 per cent less likely to be injured.
The CCC gave 10 recommendations surrounding Taser use, asking for the policy to be changed so that officers could only use them in situations where a safe resolution could not be reached in any other way.
It recommended the weapons should not be used when there was a risk of the person falling and sustaining a serious injury, if they were near water or at risk of drowning, against pregnant women, on those with pre-existing medical conditions, or near flammable liquid or gas.
Mr Watson said the recommendations would bring Taser use in WA into line with other parts of Australia and the world.
Immature Oakeshott craves attention
The Nationals have reacted angrily to allegations of racism within their party by the former party member turned queenmaker Rob Oakeshott, saying he had invented reasons for his 2002 defection.
Mr Oakeshott has said that during a celebration following his election to state parliament in 1996, a "senior National" saw Mr Oakeshott's wife, Sara-Jane, who is of Pacific Islander heritage, and remarked the party was being taken over by "blacks and poofters".
Mr Oakeshott confirmed the incident in an interview with News Limited yesterday, despite reportedly refusing to discuss it when it was first raised by his wife in September.
The Nationals leader in the Senate, Barnaby Joyce, said Mr Oakeshott should have confronted the person who allegedly made the comment at the time, rather than "slink off and not talk about it for 14 years".
"The idea that the National party is a racist party is absolute codswallop," Senator Joyce said.
The Deputy Leader of The Nationals in NSW, Adrian Piccoli, said Mr Oakeshott's thwarted leadership ambitions were behind his defection.
"Every time I read about why Oakeshott left the Nationals there's a different reason. One minute it's developers on the north coast, the next it's the republic and the injecting room - none of which he ever raised in party meetings or even informally."
Mr Oakeshott cited disenchantment with his colleagues and the influence of property developers when he resigned from the party in 2002. But Mr Piccoli said: "Why he left was he thought he was much more important than the Nats had given him credit for. He wanted to be the boss and he wasn't."
The Nationals NSW upper house MP Melinda Pavey said Mr Oakeshott was responding to criticism of his decision to support Julia Gillard for prime minister by "attacking the party that gave him his start in politics".
Conveyancing slackness in W. Australia
By Noel Whittaker
For hundreds of years, property has been regarded as one of the safest investments around. But recent events in Perth have undermined the unique permanence of property.
Roger Mildenhall, the owner of a property in Karrinyup, Perth, was living and working in Cape Town, South Africa. In June, Nigerian scammers, using a combination of emails and telephone calls, managed to con a Perth real estate agent into selling his house to a neighbour for $485,000.
The money disappeared overseas quickly and the fraud was discovered only when Mr Mildenhall returned to Perth and found out that a second property he owned was about to suffer the same fate.
Consumer advocate Neil Jenman has for years been warning people about the lack of identity verification in real estate transactions. “You need more ID to rent a video than you do to buy a house," he said. Mr Jenman said it was simple to steal someone's house. First, the crook locates a debt-free property with an overseas owner, and does a search to find their full name. He then goes to a real estate agent and tells them he is sick of all the maintenance costs of owning the property and wants a quick sale.
The agent doesn’t ask for identilication and the crook may then ask the agent to recommend a solicitor, or simply claim they are doing their own conveyancing. Not all solicitors ask for ID, especially if the agent has introduced a new client.
When asked for the whereabouts of the title deed, the response will be “I have moved around so much I can’t locate the deeds, can you please arrange for a duplicate".
After a few illegal statutory declarations and some notices in the paper no one (other than banks) reads, they get a duplicate certificate of title. Then the transfer is effected with forgeries and the proceeds are quickly sent overseas.
It’s a classic case of identity theft but what happens to the hapless ex-property owner? As far as I can gather, the buyer who has bought the property in good faith gets to keep it and the only recourse left for the dispossessed "vendor" is to claim on the Fidelity Fund of the Titles Office and then fight for a fair value.
Lawyer Brett Davies, from Brett Davies Lawyers in Perth, says the vendors in these situations are also free to pursue the real estate agent and the conveyancing agent in case there is any negligence.
Identity theft is a fast-growing industry but luckily, at this stage, house stealing is fairly rare. However, it still behoves property owners to be vigilant and do the best they can to protect themselves.
Mr Davies suggests one of the best ways to do this is to merely leave the bank mortgage over the property. “It costs you nothing and the bank holds your duplicate title, generally, for free,” he said.
Or, if your property is debt free, you could arrange for a mortgage to be taken over it to a family member. It doesn’t cost much and will be one of the cheapest forms of insurance you could ever take out.
The report above appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on 3 October 2010
4 October, 2010
Labor fights 'old Europe' over trade
CRAIG Emerson has declared the Gillard government will not bow to the Greens on trade policy. Mr Emerson said the government would fight European threats to erect trade barriers around countries not imposing carbon pricing, dismissing them as "old protectionism".
The Trade Minister said Labor's alliance with the Greens would not alter its free trade agenda, even as Regional Development Minister Simon Crean conceded that the Greens' rise was behind Julia Gillard's decision to put a carbon tax on the table for consideration by the government's multi-party climate committee.
As the Prime Minister prepares for a round of meetings with world leaders in Brussels this week, Dr Emerson attacked European threats to impose trade retaliation against countries not prepared to price carbon as protectionism designed to shield European industries from international competition.
"We won't cop governments cloaking protectionism in this sort of green cloak of respectability, where it's just old protectionism," Dr Emerson told Australian Agenda on Sky News.
Last year in the US, then prime minister Kevin Rudd warned that France was leading a movement to restrict trade from countries without a carbon emissions trading scheme and warned of potential trade imposts on Australia.
But Dr Emerson said Australia would use the World Trade Organisation rules "to rail against this". "Of course we are committed to putting a price on carbon, but let's not believe that this is all about climate change. There is a very clear European old protectionist instinct under this green cloak of respectability and we won't cop it," he said.
But Dr Emerson said a recommendation from the climate change committee to put a price on carbon "would help us somewhat in the international arena in terms of this sort of green protectionism".
However, his comments about fighting environmental protectionism were seized on by opposition industry spokeswoman Sophie Mirabella, who said the government's green car innovation fund was what Dr Emerson had accused other governments of doing -- protectionism under a so-called green label. "The poorly targeted $35 million for the hybrid Camry was an expensive photo opportunity . . . Even the government has admitted the fund is a dog by cutting $400m from it," Ms Mirabella said.
Dr Emerson also sympathised with US moves to pressure China to revalue its exchange rate, saying if China wanted to present itself as having market economy status, "let's have a few market forces applying to the exchange rate".
He said the government would not be swayed by its alliance with the Greens by bowing to their policies to insert environmental and labour standards into trade deals. He specifically declared he was against including labour standards in trade agreements. "I think what'll happen is that the Greens will articulate a Greens platform. Labor will articulate a Labor platform," he said. "On some matters, we may agree with the Greens. On other matters, we won't agree with the Greens. And that is understood."
Dr Emerson said the government would look at good policy proposals from the Greens, "but we will not be in a position obviously where the Greens say, 'This is what we want', and then Labor says, 'Because you want it, we'll implement it' ". "They understand that, we understand that," he said.
The Greens have previously warned that Australia may face trade sanctions unless it takes action to price carbon but have mainly campaigned on biosecurity issues on Australian trade policy as well as inserting human rights clauses into trade deals.
Greens deputy leader Christine Milne campaigned strongly against allowing apple imports from countries with the disease Fireblight and has also opposed beef imports from countries with BSE.
Senator Milne said Dr Emerson was quite right -- the Greens' and Labor's trade policy differed "to the extent that the Greens want fair trade considerations, including environmental standards and human rights conditions, taken into account in negotiating trade deals".
Regional Development Minister Simon Crean defended Ms Gillard's backflip on consideration of a carbon tax. He said her pre-election position of ruling out a carbon tax was because the government had come to the conclusion the most efficient way forward on pricing carbon to address emissions was through a market mechanism.
"Because a tax doesn't actually deliver you the reduction in the greenhouse emission," Mr Crean said, adding that the Greens would now hold the balance of power in the Senate after July next year and it was important for the climate change committee to meet to identity the best way to price carbon.
Kokoda Campaign paintball competition 'disrespectful'
I think this is a bit over-sensitive but the old diggers should have their feelings respected
WAR veterans have slammed a paintball competition dubbed the Kokoda Campaign. They say it exploits the sacrifices of soldiers in one of Australia's toughest battles abroad.
RSL WA president Bill Gaynor said it was "inappropriate" and "insensitive" for the organisers of yesterday's tournament to use the Battle of Kokoda to promote the paintball game.
His comments were backed by Premier Colin Barnett, who said it was "disrespectful" and could offend veterans who had risked their lives in the bloody campaign.
WASP Paintball ran the paintball competition _ a battle between "Australia and the Axis powers" _ at Clackline, 80km east-north-east of Perth, yesterday.
Mr Gaynor said veterans would be disappointed "that a company has gone down the path of exploiting the sacrifices of Kokoda to sell a game". "People should be sensitive to the sacrifices that were made by Australian troops and treat it with some degree of respect," he said. "To actually use that as a promotion for selling their game is, in our view, inappropriate. I'd call upon them to stop and think about those who have loved ones who perished on the Kokoda Track. It's just one of those things that you don't go near."
But WASP Paintball marketing manager Leonie Moore defended the decision yesterday, saying combatants "instinctively need a battle or an adventure to drive them". "It is a battle re-enactment but we are always trying to be respectful of the fact that it's not a real battle and there are people it can offend," she said.
"We are always conscious of that but at the same time we are trying to re-enact a battle. It's hard because I see it as a positive... they're not just going out and trying to be aggressive. It's strategic and I think it's healthy for boys especially to be involved in this and follow orders and do the right thing. That's how I see it.
"It's better than shooting people in a video game... this is more wholesome."
More than 600 Australians were killed and 1000 wounded in the Kokoda campaign_ considered the most significant battle fought by Australian troops in World War II.
Mr Gaynor said he had a duty to remind today's generation that their forefathers risked their lives to ensure they enjoyed the lifestyle they did today. "Were it not for the people in the Kokoda campaign turning the Japanese back, then we could be in entirely different circumstances today," he said. "I would have thought it would be treated with a bit of reverence... a lot of Australians perished on the Kokoda Track."
Mr Barnett said: "I believe this is disrespectful and could easily offend those who fought in the Kokoda campaign, their families and the RSL".
Local council mergers INCREASE bloat and waste
LOCAL government bureaucracy has ballooned more than two years after controversial mergers to make councils leaner and less costly. Staff levels for Queensland councils grew twice as fast this year compared with 2007 – the year before the State Government's forced amalgamations transformed the local government landscape, slashing the number of councils from 157 to 73.
A new workforce census released to The Sunday Mail by the Local Government Association of Queensland shows the number of local government workers grew by 6 per cent in 2010, compared with 2.75 per cent in 2007 and less than 2 per cent in 2006.
Staff numbers in 2008 and 2009 rose by about 3.9 per cent a year. But by March this year, that had soared to 6 per cent, compared with the same time last year, with an extra 2392 employees joining the state's 57 non-indigenous councils.
The rise in staff is estimated to have added more than $119 million to council wage costs. It comes despite State Government promises to make local government more efficient through the mergers, with then local government minister Andrew Fraser predicting it could save ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
Merger critics, such as former Aramac Shire Mayor Gary Peoples, have seized on the figures. "A lot of what was said by councils and mayors has probably come to fruition, in that there is not going to be increased efficiencies, but there is probably going to be a loss in services," he said.
At Logan City another 454 people have started work since 2008, taking the total number of workers to 1371, even after losing 218 staff to the area's new water business Allconnex.
Staff levels at several councils, such as Cairns and Maranoa Regional Councils, stagnated. Townsville City Council shed more than 2000 staff.
Carbon tax not a done deal: Crean
A SENIOR federal government MP has insisted that a carbon tax is by no means a done deal - a shift that could threaten the alliance between Labor and the Australian Greens.
Minister for Regional Australia Simon Crean says the decision to put a carbon tax back on the table does not mean Australia will go down that path in response to climate change.
In the days before the August 21 election, Prime Minister Julia Gillard twice ruled out a carbon tax.
But she has since changed course on the issue after the Greens found an unlikely ally in BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers, who called for it to be considered as part of Australia's answer to climate change.
Mr Crean on Sunday defended the change in direction, saying the political landscape had altered since the failed Copenhagen summit. "At the time we, along with the rest of the world, had come to the conclusion the most efficient way forward was to do it through a market mechanism," he said, referring to Labor under Kevin Rudd and the failed attempt to introduce an emissions trading scheme.
He said that "simplistically put", the point could be made that placing a carbon tax back on the table amounted to a policy reversal, but added that the prime minister had also consistently stated that a price on carbon was needed.
Mr Crean said that while the political landscape had changed since the election, it was wrong to suggest the prime minister had "caved in" to the Greens on climate change, saying they would not necessarily get their way on a carbon tax. "She hasn't caved in. She hasn't said she's supporting a carbon tax. What she has said is we will have a carbon tax on the agenda," he said.
Mr Crean's comments were echoed by Trade Minister Craig Emerson, an indication Labor is attempting to put a little distance between itself and the Greens. "We will not be in a position where the Greens say this is what we want and then Labor says because you want it we will implement it," Mr Emerson said.
The caution from two senior Labor ministers that the government is not wedded to a carbon tax despite the alliance with the Greens could put a strain on the relationship between the two parties. Labor needs the support of the Greens in the lower house to preserve its one-vote buffer.
Mr Crean also conceded the government, under Mr Rudd, had failed to effectively explain its climate change policy. The former Labor leader, however, backed Ms Gillard to be able to manage the difficult policy area, as well as the issue of asylum seekers. "We've got to develop more effectively the message," he said.
"Trying to achieve (progress) in the context of an election campaign was difficult. Now that she's negotiated the basis of the government going forward, I think you will see progress on these areas. "I think that she is a conviction politician. She's clearly a skilled negotiator, which is going to be pretty important over the course of the next three years."
Mr Crean said the economy would also remain a chief focus for the government. "You need a robust economy. Without strong economic growth you can't resource the things that are needed." "You also need productivity in that economy because without lifting productivity you can't lift real wages."
3 October, 2010
A big health bungle by Federal Labor
GP's service at risk. Clinics left in limbo over after-hours incentive payments
New Medicare figures show that almost every family medical clinic in Australia will lose incentive payments to offer house calls or open their clinics after hours from July next year. The figures show more than half the GP clinics in Australia will lose the payments from July 2011, while many others will lose their incentive payments from July 2013.
Doctors have complained the Federal Government has left them in limbo with no idea of how replacement services will be offered.
The Federal Government armounced in the May Budget that it would enhance after-hours care by offering a national hotline staffed by nurses for emergency medical problems outside business hours. The service would then refer patients to GPs, who would offer after-hours care managed by a new govemment agency called Medicare Local. What the Budget papers did not say was that the current program that offers incentives for after-hours services would be axed.
According to information obtained by the Opposition last week, Medicare Australia has begun work to stop the old service and it will affect most practices in Australia. “lt is expected that 4750 practices will be affected from July 1, 2011 and a further 3100 practices affected from July 1, ZOI3,” Medicare said.
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners’ president Chris Mitchell said this meant almost all general practice clinics would lose funding for the service: “We really do need to ensure there is support. None of the structures around the transition is clear," he said.
The telephone service has been operating in New Zealand and the UK already with success, Dr Mitchell said, but added there had been no advice from govemment about how it would work in Australia.
Opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton said the reforms would send more people to emergency rooms because the hotline would err on the side of caution. Health Minister Nicola Roxon’s office did not respond to requests for details.
The report above by Simon Kearney appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on 3 October 2010
It was time to axe our rubber stamp
Rather than an unworkable lower house, perhaps we have a parliament that's closer to what it should always have been
The politicians and the media - and no doubt to a much lesser extent the public as well - have been consumed by the politicking surrounding the first week back in parliament after the federal election.
The Government lost its first vote in the lower house since the 1945. Newspapers headlined the event as some sort of equivalent of the second coming. Really?
The House of Representatives will need to debate policies issue by issue, with no guarantees of legislation passing through to the Senate to thereafter become law. Julia Gillard apparently faces a test like none of her living predecessors under that situation.
Really? So what, I say. Our elected MPs will have to do their jobs, finally, after 70 years of rubber stamping by the House of Representatives. It won’t be enough for MPs to blindly walk through the respective voling doors asking colleagues what they just passed judgment on.
The executive will have to thoroughly explain legislation to at least the crossbenchers to ensure it wins enough support. Surely that is a good thing - having more than just senators responsible for negotiating amendments to legislation to make it acceptable to the parliament?
Doesn't the fact no government has lost a vote in the lower house for 70 years show just how pointless the theatre of debates there has been all these years? The new paradigm is no apocalypse. All it represents is a doubling of what the Senate already does, and has done since the rise of minor parljes controlling its balance of power in the 1970s.
If somebody landed in this country and heard some of the over-inflated predictions about the chaos of the new parliamentary situation, you would think we had been living in some sort of one- party state until now where debate never threatened the machinery of government. In fact, the argy-bargy of the House of Representatives is nothing to be frightened of. It simply means that upper house volatility - a long-term feature of our system - is now shared by the house of government.
The only serious concern to govemment stability with the new shape of the lower house is the prospect of Julia Gillard losing her commission as Prime Minister because she fails to win a vote of confidence. But two things should guard against that- self-interest and the negotiated reforms.
The rural Independents and the Labor Government will want to avoid an early election and the humiliation of having to concede their little deal failed to provide longevity.
The reforms package allows for a follow~up vote when a vote goes against the government, so long as just cause can be displayed. That might simply be an MP missing a vote because of a toilet break or some other incident they couldn’t avoid.
But even if the numbers in the chamber did lead to an early election, is that really so bad? And does the Opposition really need to act “in good faith” and embrace the new paradigm of rolling out the rug on the lawn of parliament and acting like they are all friends all of the time?
Certainly not. Tony Abbott can play the politics of this parliament however he wants to. Yes, he probably risks looking shrill if he plays the game too hard, but the altemative of embracing consensual politics has never really worked for oppositions. Abbott’s instincts that if he takes the govemment on he just might force an early election he can win are well-founded - it is his best chance of gaining the prime ministerial prize.
And it is not as if Labor was all warm and cuddly the last time a minority govemment tried to cling to power federally. The John Curtin-led Labor opposiuon in the early 1940s played a very tough game, making life hard for Robert Menzies as prime minister. So much so that he forced a change of leadership and gained the top job for himself without an election needing to be called.
So Labor MPs up on their high horses about the need for this parliament to develop a consensual style should get real and accept that the Opposition can decide to conduct itself whatever way it likes, without the typical left-wing moral purity as the judge and jury when they do so.
The article above by PETER VAN ONSELEN appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on 3 October 2010
Silenced in court
The right to freedom of speech is being threatened in the courtroom
ANDREW Bolt is getting sued. Don't applaud yet. There's been a lot of outrage about the federal government's proposed internet filter. But lawsuits like the one now faced by the prominent conservative Herald Sun columnist are as much a restriction on freedom of speech as anything Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has come up with.
Nine people are suing Bolt for an article that claimed their Aboriginal self-identification was "fashionable". He had said they all had part-European, part-indigenous heritage (and fair skin) with an opportunity to describe themselves as a range of nationalities. But, he wrote, they chose to describe themselves as Aboriginal. Doing so gave them "political and career clout".
At worst, Bolt is deliberately and provocatively disrespectful.
But as their lawyer has pointed out, there are two tests of whether someone is Aboriginal. The first is an objective genealogical test: a fairly clear cut question of whether they have Aboriginal ancestors. The second is subjective: whether a person chooses to self-identify as indigenous, and whether they are "communally" regarded as such.
Bolt's columns criticised political appointments and government awards that pivot on an individual's Aboriginality. They're absolutely within their rights to apply for those grants, prizes and positions. But like it or not, by sponsoring things like indigenous-specific art and literary awards, the government makes what constitutes Aboriginality a political question.
And it's a question academics have been trying to unpack for decades. Universities teach courses in the "concept of Aboriginality". Surveying the literature in 2002, the Parliamentary Library could only conclude "an individual's ethnic identity is always to some degree fluid, multiple, differing in degrees, and constructed".
Of course, Bolt tackles the issue with trademark belligerence. The merits of his argument will now be tested in court. But put aside the conservative commentator. This isn't about the collected works and opinions of Andrew Bolt. And put aside the complexities of racial identity, Aboriginality and reconciliation.
This case is troubling because of what it says about our right to freedom of speech. If successful - or just really expensive to defend - this lawsuit could have a stifling effect on political debate.
The 19th century philosopher John Stuart Mill argued that only by airing contested views publicly and freely could the truth be known. Societies need free speech if only to test and challenge controversial opinions.
And we're not going to have those necessary debates while legal action stifles one side. No matter how wrong or misguided that side may be.
Silencing Bolt doesn't just silence him. It potentially silences the speech of others who might be afraid of being similarly dragged through the legal system.
After all, Bolt and his employer can afford to defend themselves. No doubt they have lawyers on call. Newspapers know their way around court.
By contrast, bloggers, amateur journalists, Twitterers and Facebookers commenting on sensitive political issues - for whatever reason, with whatever motives - are much more exposed to punitive legal action than newspaper columnists are.
Should only the rich be able to have controversial views? If anything is going to suffocate the blossoming citizen media, it will be lawyers.
Bolt is being challenged under the federal government's Racial Discrimination Act. But that's hardly the only law on the books that has a damaging impact on free speech. Our politicians have a long and shameful history of using Australia's defamation laws to sue their critics - threatening someone with a defamation suit is a public relations tactic.
In Victoria, our Racial and Religious Tolerance Act, introduced in 2001, has been co-opted as a stick for religious groups to hit each other.
First, the Islamic Council of Victoria took the fundamentalist Christian Catch the Fire Ministries to court. Then a Wiccan prison inmate took the Salvation Army to court. Then the Australia-Israel Jewish Affairs Council threatened to take the Islamic Information and Services Network of Australasia to court. That's a shabby record for a law supposed to promote tolerance, not division.
Suppressing offensive views can be counterproductive. The churches and mosques targeted by the Victorian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act were able to say their beliefs were being persecuted - attracting more followers. The victimised dissident is a hero, not a villain.
To his credit, Bolt is a prominent critic of Victoria's vilification laws. Last year, the Human Rights Consultation Committee faced the task of recommending what should appear in an Australian bill of rights. It struggled to balance our right to free speech with a new "right" demanded by some - the right to not be offended by the speech of others.
But there are an infinite number of ways people could be offended. How could we possibly prevent all outrage? You can have the right to free speech, or you can have the right to be protected by the government from the offensive speech of others. You can't have both.
There are other ways to respond to distasteful views. Refuse to buy the Herald Sun. Tell your friends to do the same. Condemn it in other opinion columns. The solution to bad speech is more speech. If something is offensive, it deserves to be condemned, loudly and often.
This week saw the first Aboriginal member of the federal House of Representatives sit in Parliament. Ken Wyatt is a Liberal. He promised to advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Parliament. His mother was [allegedly] one of the stolen generations. In his maiden speech, Wyatt thanked Kevin Rudd for the 2008 apology.
That's a genuine step towards reconciliation. Wielding the legal system as a weapon to try to silence critics isn't - no matter how offensive they might be.
NBN: Fast track to the future - or $43 billion farce?
The government is keeping details of its calculations and costings close to its chest so informed comment is difficult but most observers seem to believe that a subscription to the new, faster fibre network will be sold at a premium (high) price.
But because many people already have cable or wireless connections that meet their needs -- and wireless in particular is very cheap -- few people will want an expensive fibre subscription, meaning that the NBN is unlikely to cover its operating costs, let alone cover the costs of its construction.
The government claims its national broadband network will lift Australia to the top of world internet rankings, but the opposition says it is a white elephant.
What is it?
IT HAS been on the political agenda for years. An initial plan by the Howard government known as "Broadband Connect" was dumped by the incoming Rudd government and replaced by the national broadband network. Labor's initial idea was to set up an optic fibre network connecting nodes (basically service hubs) around the country, with existing copper wire infrastructure to be used to connect houses and businesses to those nodes.
But in April 2009 the government announced it had concluded that the business case would not work. It would instead be building a much more extensive and expensive network with optic fibre running directly to buildings, eliminating the nodes.
To achieve this, the federal government set up a business called NBN Co. The company was given the job of designing, building and operating a network that will supply high-speed broadband to every home, business, school and hospital in Australia.
Under the plan, 93 per cent of homes and businesses will be supplied with super-fast internet using an optic fibre network piping the internet directly to homes and businesses. This network will offer download speeds of 100 megabits per second (that's fast by world standards - roughly equivalent to about 5000 pages of plain text per second). The remaining 7 per cent of buildings outside the so-called NBN "footprint" in remote regional areas will be served by a combination of wireless and satellite technologies, with minimum speeds of 12 megabits per second.
What will it cost?
THE NBN will cost up to $43 billion, although that will be spread over eight years, with taxpayers chipping in $26 billion and the rest coming from private sector investment. That means a taxpayer contribution of up to $5000 per household, $1182 for every man, woman and child, or $12.30 each every month over the eight-year construction phase.
The federal government will hold a 51 per cent share in the network, which will eventually be sold. The government will also sell infrastructure bonds to allow private sector investment, which will be capped at 49 per cent.
Supporters argue that the network is likely to cost less than the estimated $43 billion because of a recent agreement to cut the time and cost of construction by using existing Telstra infrastructure.
Once the network is fully operational, it is expected to generate between $2 billion and $2.4 billion a year, probably enough to cover the construction costs and debt. The government plans to sell the network after 15 years.
How much will my internet cost?
THE network will be run like any company. Internet providers will buy access to the network from the government-owned company, which they can then sell to customers. One of the requirements is that there must be a uniform pricing structure, to guarantee that all customers will pay the same rates regardless of location.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has said wholesale prices will range from about $20 to $30 a month for internet only, or $30 to $35 for internet and phone. The costs of retail plans are likely to vary, but will probably be comparable to current broadband packages.
Why doesn't the opposition like it?
THE criticisms have centred mainly on the scale and cost of the project and the fact that there has been no detailed analysis of the costs and benefits. When Malcolm Turnbull was opposition leader, he said the plan made the Whitlam era look "modest and unassuming".
Mr Turnbull has since been appointed to the role of shadow communications minister, and has the task of "destroying the NBN". Recently he said it would represent "an asset worth somewhere between a half and a quarter of [the $43 billion cost]".
The opposition is not so much concerned about the idea of connecting fibre to most homes, but the huge cost involved. Mr Turnbull argues that many Australians already have good broadband access, and the question must therefore be "how can we most efficiently and cost-effectively insure that all Australians have access to good broadband".
Labor claims that many of the benefits of the NBN are intangible and difficult to quantify, including productivity gains over time from technologies not yet available.
Critics of the plan also claim that the NBN, mainly being a fibre network, fails to recognise the shift towards wireless technology that is occurring naturally without the need for major government intervention.
2 October, 2010
When Kevvy knew his time was up
On a bitterly cold morning in Canberra, Kevvy is being chauffeured to Parliament House. It is so cold that Lake Burley Griffin has frozen over. As he jumps out of the Caprice, Kevvy looks over the Lake and notices that someone has peed on the ice and left a message ‘KEVVY SUCKS’.
Kevvy is enraged and orders ASIO to investigate with ‘no expenses spared’ and to report within two weeks. Two weeks later, the ASIO reports to the PM and says ‘our investigation is over and I have three pieces of news for you…………good news, bad news and terribly bad shocking news’.
Well says Kevvy, ‘give me the good news’. The head of ASIO says ‘We spent $5 million dollars on the investigation and have to a successful result.
‘Well’ says Kevvy ‘what’s the bad news?’ The head of ASIO says, ‘The DNA’ testing shows the urine is Wayne Swann’s’. Kevvy is shocked beyond belief.
Looking pale, Kevvy says ‘and what is the terribly bad shocking news?’
The ASIO chief replies…….’Its Julia Gillard’s hand writing’.
Another nasty Leftist liar
And he went on to become Premier of Queensland!
A PREVIOUSLY unseen Queensland police dossier has finally shed new light on the now legendary political baptism of former premier Peter Beattie.
In 1971 Beattie, an 18-year-old university student, was arrested and bashed by police during the city's wild anti-apartheid protests against a visiting South African rugby team.
He has always claimed he was persecuted for his beliefs and that the incident sent him on the road to politics. The incident cast Beattie as Labor hero.
But the 40-year-old dossier, including police reports, witness statements and medical assessments, alleges that it was Beattie himself who taunted police and sparked the melee outside Brisbane's Trades Hall.
And doctors who assessed Beattie in hospital after his supposed bashing declared he showed no signs of having been subject to undue force by the arresting officers.
Conservatives need to insist that endangered children be protected
Because the Left won't do it -- says Jeremy Sammut, a research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies
THE state has a responsibility to protect children from inadequate parents.
For people on the Right, child protection can be a difficult issue. Those who identify with liberal traditions place a premium on limited state intrusion into the lives of individuals. However, child protection reform that upholds the independent rights of children needs to be on their policy agenda.
The clientele of child protection services consists predominantly of members of the underclass, that proportion of Australians who are long-term welfare dependent and have a range of welfare-dependence exacerbated behavioural issues, such as domestic violence and substance abuse.
The complex problems these families experience include the inability to rear children adequately.
In too many child welfare cases the presumed right of dysfunctional parents to retain custody of children is elevated above the best interests of children.
While encouraging parents to change their behaviour and meet children's needs has always been a part of modern child protection, the pendulum has swung too far towards trying to fix broken families and giving parents almost limitless opportunities to change.
A culture of non-intervention in family situations has developed in the state bureaucracies in charge of child protection services.
The statutory investigation of child welfare reports by caseworkers trained to assess whether a child is in need of court-approved removal from the family home has been marginalised in favour of providing support services (drug counselling, parenting programs, home visits) to families.
Instead of focusing on traditional child protection work, social services departments provide parent-centred rather than child-centred services to allow biological parents to retain custody of children, even where children are identified as being in danger of harm.
Child protection failures create the next generation of dysfunctional parents. The paradox, and the dilemma for those on the Right, is that greater intervention is needed in the lives of dependent members of the community to break the intergenerational cycle of neglect and abuse and save future generations.
The broader cultural issue is whether the Right has the will to defend core community standards or whether the questionable perspectives of the Left will continue to dictate social values in child protection.
When the welfare of children is at stake, it is not too harsh to hold parents accountable for bad behaviour in circumstances that contravene John Stuart Mill's principle that liberty should be interfered with only to "prevent harm to others". Mill was one of the 19th-century progenitors of the progressive idea that a child had the right to enjoy their full liberties and opportunities as a future citizen. In On Liberty, he argued that parents who failed to fulfil their "sacred duties" towards their children were guilty of "a moral crime both against the unfortunate offspring and against society . . . if the parent does not fulfil this obligation, the state ought to see it fulfilled".
However, the moral and social judgments that child protection depends on are beyond the comprehension of those who subscribe to leftist cultural politics.
In an article published in June last year in the Australian Journal of Politics and History, Kate Murphy, Marian Quartly and Denise Cuthbert accused those who frowned on drug-addled parenting of supporting the "conservative family policy of the Howard era".
This would be bad enough if it only reflected the dated ideology pervading the social services sector, which is that removing children punishes poor parents who are victims of structural socioeconomic injustice.
The authors' views also reflect postmodern values that cast child protection as a moral panic deployed to authorise the social surveillance and cultural oppression of the powerless and excluded.
The notion given credence by Murphy, Quartly and Cuthbert is that child welfare laws hold parents to socially constructed behavioural standards to buttress the hegemony of traditional bourgeois family values. Treating parental intravenous drug use in a relativist manner - as if drug-addled parenting is a legitimate lifestyle choice - is wrong and dangerous because it denies the reality of child abuse and neglect.
The idea that welfare-dependent heroin addicts have a right to keep their children reveals moral and ideological confusion. Those on the Right need not hesitate out of misplaced doctrinal concerns to make such judgments about the rights of parents as against the rights of children.
Victoria's "speedy" ambulance service again
Don't have an accident in Victoria
A TOP jockey who almost died after a fall waited nearly half an hour for an ambulance. Danny Brereton fell from his mount, Marquee Player, at Moonee Valley last month and lay unconscious on the track with fractured vertebrae.
Doctors called 000 requesting a mobile intensive care ambulance - and "lights and sirens". One doctor, who did not want to be identified, told the Herald Sun it took too long for paramedics to arrive, and when they did it was in an ordinary van. "I said we needed lights and sirens and a MICA (because) this man's dying," the doctor said.
Ambulance Victoria said the delay had occurred because paramedics couldn't find where to go at the track. It took the crew 26 minutes to reach Brereton, well outside the 15-minute benchmark for code one emergencies. Brereton is now in rehabilitation.
Ambulance Victoria acting general manager Simon Thomson said paramedics had reached the area within minutes, but he would review practices with Moonee Valley racing to ensure similar delays were not repeated.
The wait is one of a litany of horrific cases to emerge in Victoria in the past week. The Herald Sun spoke to 28-year-old Sally Smith who has a heart condition but waited two hours, 12 minutes for paramedics after dislocating a knee on grand final night. That was the same night a man died after waiting three hours for an ambulance in Burwood East.
Ms Smith, who suffers from Marfan syndrome which weakens her heart, said her family made up to 10 calls before an ambulance arrived. "I was in agony and screaming in pain," she said.
Meanwhile Andrew Templeton, 45, of Sunbury, said he was told on Tuesday night that he would have to make his own way to hospital unless he could wait an hour for an ambulance, after developing excruciating pain from kidney stones. The father of three said his wife drove him to the Royal Melbourne Hospital, but he felt for those who lived alone.
Ambulance Employees Australia state secretary Steve McGhie said the cases exemplified the "crisis" in ambulance resourcing and said lives were at risk.
A spokeswoman for Health Minister Daniel Andrews said, "Paramedics, Ambulance Victoria and the Government strive to provide the best care to patients."
1 October, 2010
South Australian schools cutting the crap
Demand for Year 12 humanities subjects has collapsed because of changes to the South Australian Certificate of Education.
Schools have told The Advertiser students choosing their subjects for next year are shunning languages, history, arts and social studies in preference for more "conservative" subjects. Most students are choosing a more traditional pattern of "maths one, maths two, physics and chemistry", meaning schools are likely to axe humanities subjects from their curriculum.
It has raised concerns the cuts could put less academic students at risk as they often rely on the humanities subjects to pass Year 12.
The new SACE, to be rolled out to Year 12 next year, will reduce subject choice from five to four. The new SACE will no longer require final-year students to complete a compulsory humanities or maths subject. They will instead have to complete a compulsory independent research project on a subject of their choice.
Adelaide High School is likely to cut tourism, social studies, economics and geology, while history is also at risk, despite the nationwide push for it to become a core subject in the national curriculum. Assistant principal Michael Black, who is in charge of timetabling, said next year's enrolment for languages in Year 12 had also halved.
"We usually have interest of 12 or 15 but we are down to seven or eight. Because we are a specialist language school we will offer them and (look) at combining Year 11 and 12 classes," he said. "It is narrowing the curriculum and without the comprehensive (choice) it's pigeon-holing students."
A survey of other school leaders by The Advertiser found other subjects at risk include: legal studies, visual arts and geography with principals reporting preliminary enrolments of fewer than 15 students, which meant they were unlikely to survive. They say many subjects could also be reduced from offering multiple classes to just one.
Le Fevre High School principal Rob Shepherd said humanities and biology had taken the biggest hit. "Studies of Society has collapsed ... it was a really strong subject," he said. "Biology has taken a big hit (and) some of our art programs, which means there are a lot less offerings. "The curriculum has narrowed to the same conservative subjects - physics, chemistry, maths 1 and 2." Mr Shepherd said they also expected to take on Woodville High students studying Indonesian, because of low interest in languages at that school.
The Mathematical Association of SA collected data from about 30 schools and said that "surprisingly" maths enrolments for next year were remaining steady - at the detriment of humanities subjects, particularly languages. President-elect Carol Moule said they had feared maths enrolments would drop drastically under the changes. "If kids are happy to take four subjects: double maths and physics and chem ... I would be delighted to see our numbers stay up," she said.
South Australian Secondary Principals Association president Jim Davies said "no doubt" it was an emerging issue. "There is significant variability in subject shifts from school to school ... (it's) complicated because of the reduction in subjects," he said.
Mr Davies said schools were further left in the dark over which subjects they could staff because the state government is yet to release the new funding model.
The SACE Board of SA chief executive Dr Paul Kilvert said the new SACE would provide a broad curriculum for students.
"The Research Project subject, gives students the flexibility to investigate topics from any SACE subject while developing learning and research skills they can use throughout their lives," Dr Kilvert said. "The responses we have received from schools piloting the Research Project indicate the new subject is an ideal vehicle for students to pursue a topic of interest in areas that can come from other SACE subjects, the workplace or the community."
School building programs eating up play space
Government food obsession not matched by promotion of exercise
There was a small flurry of aghastness recently when primary school canteens were exposed as serial breachers of government healthy-food nazism. By "healthy", here, we mean essentially non-fattening, worried as we are that before they hit 30 the roly-poly little dears will blow the nation's entire health budget on diabetes, heart disease, joint replacement and fully funded lap-banding.
Schools across the country, force-fed by Julia Gillard's "education revolution" funding, are eating their own playgrounds. Two-and-a-half thousand in NSW alone, yet we're all happy about this, since it plumps the economy and could, we tell ourselves, drag our education system out of the toilet.
In construction are thousands of brick-veneer multipurpose halls and aluminium-windowed air-conditioned computer rooms with not a single string attached. No requirement to be carbon-neutral (kick-starting a new industry), or to be as gracious as their 19th-century counterparts, so steadfast in presenting education as a dignified pursuit. And no consideration at all, apparently, of what this rampant playground-guzzling might mean to the kiddies.
Perhaps, in Quirindi or Euchareena Heights where land is still (seen as) limitless, it's fine. But here in mid-metropolis - where play space is already scarce and school rolls are still swelling after decades of naked government profit-taking neglected the inevitable city-centre revival as habitat for breeding pairs of young professionals - here it's a problem.
Already, schools have lunchtime "no running" rules. This is true. No big balls (I'm refusing the obvious joke here, but have you ever tried to play soccer with a tennis ball?) and no chasey, barring the tamest possible version. Now that almost every school has a major chunk of its "open" space fenced and scaffolded, what will give?
Boys, and boy-ness, for a start. As even boisterousness becomes frowned-upon and the fighting that is bound to erupt in such pent conditions becomes punishable by that boys' own worst-possible penalty, endless hours of raking-it-over talk, just being a boy becomes a problem.
The incentive is to stay static, watch the screen, make like a girl, gossip, get fat. Which is where the double whammy kicks in. Estrogen. Double whammy, double mammy. For not only does estrogen generate fat; fat also generates estrogen.
Expulsion from Australia looming for Afghans
Hundreds of Afghans seeking asylum in Australia face an increased chance of being sent home after the Gillard government lifted its controversial freeze on processing their applications.
Announcing the end of the freeze, new Immigration Minister Chris Bowen yesterday flagged an increase in deportations. "The percentage of successful refugee claims is likely to be lower than in the past," he said.
But he refused to release advice the government had received about the situation facing Hazaras, who comprise the majority of Afghans seeking asylum, when they return home.
Refugee advocates questioned whether it had become safer to send people back, saying 2010 had been the most violent year in Afghanistan since 2001.
They also blasted the government for introducing the freeze in the first place, saying it had led to bottlenecks and overcrowding in detention facilities. More than 2000 Afghan asylum seekers are now awaiting decisions, including about 1200 who arrived after the freeze started.
The opposition said yesterday's decision confirmed that the freeze on applications by Afghans had been an "election fix" from the start. "The government's grounds for introducing the freeze in April were bogus then and remain bogus today," immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said. "The decision to lift the freeze is an admission by the government that this was a failed policy that should never have been introduced."
It was former immigration minister Chris Evans who ordered the suspension of processing of new refugee claims from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka on April 9. "What the pause says is that we think conditions are improving," he said at the time.
But a report released by the United Nations in June said violence by insurgents had increased and suicide bombings had tripled from the year before. And in Ghazni, where Mr Bowen said many of the asylum seekers were from, deputy governor Mohammad Kazim Allahyar and his son died in a suicide attack this week.
The move to send more Afghan asylum seekers home also comes after the opposition called on the government to bolster Australia's military commitment in Afghanistan in a bid to provide more protection for troops already on the ground.
Since the freeze on new applications was announced, approval rates for Afghans who arrived in Australia beforehand have fallen from about 90 per cent to 30 per cent. Mr Bowen flagged more rejections to come, and said he was working with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the Afghan government to facilitate people's safe return.
Amnesty refugee co-ordinator Graham Thom said the government deserved no congratulations for overturning a ridiculous policy. "The only outcomes of this farcical approach have been negative, including major bottlenecks in the processing system and significant overcrowding in Australia's immigration detention facilities," he said.
Families with children were now likely to spend close to a year in remote detention facilities as a result, he said. "This is manifestly unacceptable."
The Human Rights Commission welcomed the end of the freeze, saying it had created differential treatment of asylum seekers based on race.
Refugee Council of Australia chief executive Paul Power said the freeze had been untenable from the outset. "The fact the government was continuing to process applications from before April 9 on the information they had available undermined any claim that they had insufficient information to process those after," he said.
Said Edmund Rice Centre director Phil Glendenning: "Our concern is that 2010 has been the most violent year in Afghanistan since 2001, and most victims of the increased violence have been civilians, especially women and children. "Our research in Afghanistan has found that a number of returnees from Australia and their children were killed upon return and many today live with the well-founded fear of persecution they sought to escape. We can never do this again."
The Greens said the freeze on applications had magnified anxiety, frustration and trauma in detention facilities.
Top Victorian cop in bid to stop flow of information about police corruption
Victoria Police chief commissioner Simon Overland has banned police from covertly recording colleagues. Police members, well versed in the advantages of recording evidence, have a history of covertly taping workplace disputes, some of which have been made public, embarrassing the force.
Former police commissioner Christine Nixon was recorded when she told detectives she was disbanding the armed offenders squad in 2007, which was leaked to the media and later broadcast.
Only non-operational matters cannot be recorded and the ban applies to all staff working for the force.
Covertly recorded conversations have also cost the force, with one police officer exposing a senior officer racially vilifying him.
Mr Overland's instruction, effective from July 4 for 12 months, was detailed to police members in The Gazette this week, stating the practice undermined workplace relationships. Those found to have recorded conversations could face disciplinary action. An internal notification of the same instruction was circulated on the force's intranet in September last year.
The Police Association has written to members worried the move could leave them vulnerable. Secretary Greg Davies is opposing the ban. "The association does not encourage members recording other members in a covert fashion however, regrettably, on some occasions it is a necessary step in order to protect themselves," he wrote in a letter to union members.
Mr Overland's instruction is at odds with the force's increasing use of surveillance tactics. The Herald Sun exposed Victoria Police were secretly checking phone records of its reporters to save face over whistleblower leaks.
Note that I have a special blog on Queensland cops, there is so much misbehaviour among them.
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.