Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Post below from Angry Harry. His comparison with pornography law is interesting:

Muslim Cleric Causes Uproar Over Women's Clothing: Australia's most senior Muslim cleric has prompted an uproar by saying that some women are attracting sexual assault by the way they dress.

Of course, this uproar was caused by various women's groups who think that women should bear no responsibility for what they do. Well, in my view, Sheikh Taj el-Din al-Hilali is correct in what he says - at least to some extent. Indeed, only recently, I wrote the following on my Your Emails page to a woman who seemed to think that women should be able to dress as they please without needing to take into account how others might respond.

"... if women behave stupidly, then they deserve less sympathy should something untoward happen. And if, for example, they wander about the place showing off all their bits then they should not be too surprised to find that some mentally dysfunctional male might respond to them. And the fact that women know that such unhappy events are more likely to occur if they are sexually provocative then the fact that they carry on regardless suggests that they are not very concerned about such events. That is the message that they are sending out.

As such, the law should reflect this lesser concern - this message - when deciding what level of negative impact any assault might have had, AND when deciding any punishment.

... Many women, however, seem to wish to take no responsibility for their behaviours. They seem to think that they should be able to flaunt their sexuality all over the place - in order to incite men - and then they think that they have the right to claim that they are victims when some men respond to them in a manner which is absolutely consistent with the message that they, themselves, have been sending out.

In my view, women who set out to entice men sexually bear more responsibility for sexual assaults against them than do women who do not set out to entice men sexually. And this should be reflected in the law.

... Are women such sluts that they think that they are entitled to foist their sexuality on to every passing member of the public? Are women so mind-boggling stupid that they cannot see that flagrantly enticing men sexually might bring about consequences? What makes women think that they have the right to overtly sexually stimulate men who happen to be in the vicinity whereas if men did a similar thing in response - perhaps with their hands - they could be prosecuted?

When women stick out their sexual organs uninvited into men's vision then this is not much different from men sticking out their hands uninvited for a grope. After all, in both cases they are merely trying to elicit a sexual response in the other party in the best way that they know how.

... Furthermore, we all have to accept that in order to safeguard our liberties, we have to tolerate many dysfunctional and/or unstable beings in our society, as well as those who are temporarily 'unbalanced' - for one reason or another. The alternative, in practice, is truly horrible. And, of course, some 20% of males have very low IQs. As such, I think that women are - as seems typical these days - being incredibly selfish if they believe that they are entitled to swirl up the passions of whomsoever they wish and then escape all responsibility for any negative consequences that might arise from ending up with the wrong kind of attention.

In a nutshell: People who go out of their way to provoke "an attack" are less deserving - should an attack materialise - than those who do not.

Most people would agree with this. But western women see themselves as so superior that they think they should be above such things. And they think that they should be able to provoke men - all men - as much as they like - and then take no responsibility! (And this is true not just in the area of sex. It is true in many other areas.) 'Ollocks, I say. Their own behaviour must be taken into account. And, take it from me, it soon will be!

And I stand by that view! I think I'll become a Muslim. And, while on this particular subject, I wish to make an interesting point!

Here, in the UK, we are soon going to outlaw certain types of pornography because some sex-offenders have claimed that "pornography made me do it". In other words, the government reckons that men can be 'enticed' into doing bad things by looking at pictures. Well, surely, if lofty people can accept the notion that men can be 'enticed' by pictures, then they should also accept the notion that men can be enticed by 'reality'!

And, if this is so, then women - who bring about their own reality - and who thrust it upon others - must also often be viewed as responsible for enticing men in much the same way that pornography allegedly does. So, how is it that women can escape all responsibility for enticing men, whereas pornography and pornographers cannot?

Well, of course, the answer is obvious. Women are nowadays held to be responsible for almost nothing that they do; not even for those situations in which they choose to place themselves. They are not held fully responsible when it comes to choosing to bear offspring, when it comes to their work choices, when it comes to whom they have sex with - especially when they are drunk - when it comes to child abuse, and even when it comes to murder.

And now we are simply being indoctrinated with the view that pornography can entice men to do bad things, but women, themselves, cannot. What hokum, eh? What lies!

Notice also that misleading women - especially younger women - into believing that their dress has no effect on the likelihood of being sexually-assaulted will simply lead to more women enticing more sexual assaults. In other words, more women will be hurt.

But, despite what they might say, most women do not actually care about this. So long as they can say and do as they damn well please, they do not actually care how many other women might be assaulted as a result.

The link between Islamists and the Left is alive and well in Australia

A group that supports suicide bombers and is being investigated by Australia's intelligence agencies meets in a Melbourne suburb. The Syrian Social Nationalist Party, a self-proclaimed anti-Semitic revolutionary Arabic group, has Victorian branch headquarters in Brunswick. And, in a state election controversy, it has been revealed that a Labor candidate in next month's poll, Khalil Eideh, has close links to the group. Syrian-Australian trucking boss Mr Eideh is running for one of Labor's safest Upper House seats.

The local incarnation of the SSNP, which recently backed Hezbollah and opposes Israel's existence, meets in a semi-industrial building in Albert St. The building facade is blank, with no signs or names on its walls or doors. But the interior has several banners and the party flag on display. On its website, the SSNP heralds "Our Martyrs" -- suicide bombers who attacked Israeli soldiers.

Australian intelligence services have confirmed they are examining possible links between the Melbourne group and the militant arm of Hezbollah. It was revealed in June that Mr Eideh had sent letters to the Syrian regime warning of Zionist threats in Melbourne, reporting on Australians and pledging "absolute loyalty" to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Documents have now emerged detailing SSNP delegates among the guests at functions organised by Mr Eideh's Islamic Alawi community group.

The SSNP has also issued a statement blaming "Zionist fingers" for June's media attacks on Mr Eideh and demanding "widespread solidarity" for him. The SSNP believes in a Great Syria nation -- incorporating Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, Cyprus and Jordan. Its website repeatedly attacks Israel, stating the nation is a foreign entity and should not exist in the Middle East. Party members claim on the SSNP site that Zionist leaders encouraged the Nazis to massacre Jews during World War II to help their cause of establishing an Israeli state in the Middle East.

Weeks ago, SSNP leaders met with Hezbollah fighters, congratulating them on their "defeat" of Israel in Lebanon. Another website, salaheddine.net, linked to the SSNP site and carrying its emblem, calls for a boycott of Western products. "If you cannot buy a bullet for the resistance, then do not pay for a Jewish bullet," it states.

In the SSNP's Melbourne branch, one banner reads: "All international decisions that go against the will of the Syrian nation and its right to self-determination are false decisions". When the Sunday Herald Sun visited the Brunswick building earlier this month, three men who came to the door refused to comment on who they were.

The group's Melbourne branch president Sayed Al-Nakat on Friday defended the SSNP as a democratic, peaceful political party. Mr Al-Nakat denounced terrorism, including the September 11 attacks on the US and the Holocaust of World War II. But he defended the suicide bombers who had sacrificed themselves against Israelis, saying they were not terrorists. If a foreign force invaded Australia, he would do the same to protect his home, he said. "In Israel's idea, there's no place for us," he said. "She wants to be the boss of the Middle East." In 2004, Mr Al-Nakat was quoted in Arabic newspaper El Telegraph at a meeting: "Oh my leader, you warned us what the Zionist plot is all about and that the danger won't be contained in Palestine, but it will touch Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. It's a danger on all Syrian people".


Amusing: Hospital meals carry more fat 'than fast food'

Most traditional home-cooked dinners would too. They are the source of hospital "cuisine"

Public hospitals serve meals that contain more fat, salt and calories than McDonald's burgers. The Sunday Times obtained a Royal Perth Hospital hot meal and sent it to a laboratory for testing. The analysis revealed that the chicken and vegetable dinner had more fat, sodium and energy than a Big Mac or Quarter Pounder, and nearly as much as a burger and french fries combined.

But this meal is far from the worst that is often on the menu for patients. The Sunday Times is aware that fatty pork chops in sauce and sausages and bacon are also served. "The pork chops are horrible, they must be about 50 per cent fat," one hospital worker said.

Prominent dietitian Margaret Hays said patients should get a selection of food, but the Government also had a responsibility to offer healthy choices in hospitals -- especially considering the obesity epidemic. "With such a huge number of Australians being overweight, or having heart conditions or diabetes, I'd expect that hospitals, of all places, should be paving the way to healthy eating and setting standards," she said.

The lab results showed the hospital meal contained 28.4g of artery-blocking fat, 1208mg of high-blood pressure-friendly sodium and 625 calories. This compared with a Big Mac's 25.5g of fat, 846mg of sodium and 480 calories. A Quarter Pounder has 20g of fat, 690mg of sodium and 460 calories. Grab a McChicken burger and fries, with 944mg of sodium, and you still get more salt in the hospital meal. There's also not much more fat and energy in the burger and fries, at 33.5g and 672 calories respectively.

Hospital workers said there were "boring" healthier choices, such as cold meat and salad, and cereal. But people often opted for "greasy hot stuff", such as roast beef swimming in gravy.

Ms Hays said healthy food did not have to be bland, nor would it cost more for hospitals. Tasty casseroles and soups, using plenty of vegetables and lean meat, were among many cheap and healthy options. Australian Medical Association president Geoff Dobb said unhealthy meal options should eventually be phased out in all hospitals. Opposition health spokesman Kim Hames said with obesity now the major cause of health problems, it was disgraceful that there was still hospital food that was less healthy than burgers. The Health Department refused to comment.


Low income students do well at university

Research has exploded some myths about university entry and performance - including the notion that richer children and students from private schools get better marks. They do not, sometimes by a wide margin. One study, based on research that examined the performance of 26,000 children, found that less well-off students often performed better at university than their richer or privately educated peers. But the truth of some perceptions was reinforced: the research shows that far fewer students from less privileged backgrounds ever make it to tertiary study, and fall dramatically behind their richer peers in the final years of high school even if they have the same measured ability in year 9.

Economists at La Trobe University and the Australian National University examined the students - 13,000 starting year 9 in 1995, and 13,000 who started it in 1998 - to shed light on why students of high ability from disadvantaged backgrounds remain badly underrepresented at university. The results of their research, which was funded by the Australian Research Council's Discovery Project, could force policymakers to reconsider how to improve access to tertiary education.

The researchers found no evidence that fear of large HECS debts discourages poorer students from proceeding to university - contrary to Labor Party rhetoric. The authors say HECS appears to have solved the problem of funding constraints for poorer students.

And the findings imply the Federal Government is wasting its money on scholarships designed to increase university participation among rural, indigenous and other disadvantaged groups. If they achieve the same entry score, students from disadvantaged backgrounds are just as likely as rich students to enter university - and they are more likely to go on and do well. "We're failing to find any evidence that money is an issue once they've finished high school," said one of the researchers, Buly Cardak, of La Trobe University. Dr Cardak and Chris Ryan, of the Australian National University, present their findings in Why are high ability individuals from poor backgrounds underrepresented at university?

A separate study, to be published by the University of Western Australia's Professor Paul Miller and Dr Elisa Rose Birch, shows students from less-privileged backgrounds get first-year university results that are more than 3 percentage points higher than rich children, for any given university entry score. Their paper, The Influence of Type of High School Attended on University Performance, shows the private school students were significantly more likely to fail.

Both studies imply that disadvantaged children smart or motivated enough to get to university may not need help from there. "But something is going on before then," Dr Cardak said. "They're not able to convert their talent into the same entry score as more advantaged kids." Dr Cardak and Dr Ryan found two out of three students from privileged backgrounds went to university; fewer than one in five disadvantaged students did so.

Having a disadvantaged background was found to weigh hugely on performance in the final years of school. If a rich student and poor student had the median level of literacy and numeracy in year 9, the rich one was likely to go on to achieve a university admission index (or ENTER) score of 77. But the poorer student was likely to have a score of just 63 - and probably miss out on university . The gap was even greater at lower levels of year 9 aptitude. "Disadvantaged students are unable to capitalise on their ability in the same way as their advantaged counterparts in terms of ENTER scores," they write.

The results were broadly unchanged even when the sample was limited to students who stated an intention to go to university in year 9 - which seems to rule out student motivation as the difference. Dr Cardak and Dr Ryan argue that "policy needs to address the schooling decisions and outcomes of these students . well before the beginning" of their final year at school.


Monday, October 30, 2006

Christianity Returning to Australian Schools

Chaplains will be posted in schools across Australia under a federal Government plan to provide students with greater spiritual guidance. Prime Minister John Howard will today unveil details of the $90 million national chaplaincy program, which also aims to give support to students during times of grief. The initiative, which was immediately criticised for discriminating in favour of Christians, was approved by Cabinet earlier this month.

Today's announcement follows last weekend's fatal car crash near Byron Bay which killed four teenagers from Kadina High School. It also follows the tragic death of a Sydney high school student who was found dead the night before her first HSC exam.

Under the plan, government and non-government schools will be able to apply for a grant of up to $20,000 a year to employ a chaplain. The federal Government wants to encourage schools to spend more time developing the ethical and spiritual health of students. While not necessarily requiring to have a religious background, the chaplains will be expected to provide religious support. The chaplains will also be required to work with existing schools counsellors in supporting students dealing with issues such as a family break-up or the death of a fellow student. The program will leave it up to individual schools to decide on whether to employ a chaplain on a part-time or full-time basis.

Andrew Macintosh, of political think tank The Australia Institute, condemned the proposal as "ridiculous". "The money would be far better spent on teaching resources," he said. "And it is overtly discriminatory if you are only talking about Christian chaplains." It would be more appropriate to appoint professional counsellors without religious affiliations to provide support to students in times of grief, he said.


The usual defence equipment purchasing disgrace

Surveillance equipment needed for the light armoured vehicles used by Australian troops in Iraq will not be delivered until 2008, five years behind schedule, a damning audit report has found. The Australian National Audit Office uncovered a litany of embarrassing mistakes in the $280 million Australian Light Armoured Vehicle project, including the Department of Defence's failure to pay a $12 million GST bill. And after overpaying $7 million to the contractor - which the company returned - the department was forced to pay $350,000 to accountants to find out exactly what it had spent under the contract.

The extraordinary revelations about the acquisition and upgrade contract for 257 vehicles were another blow in a bad month for Defence. Other examples of bumbling and mismanagement included a $625 million blow-out in the cost of a fleet of 22 new Tiger helicopters due to a poor tender process, and a plague of problems besetting a multibillion-dollar upgrade of four navy frigates.

The most embarrassing finding was that a major upgrade had not included an essential part of the army vehicles' surveillance capability. In 2004 Defence committed the vehicles to operations in Iraq, following deployments of the vehicles in East Timor and Kuwait. Multispectral surveillance systems were to be installed in October 2003, but are now scheduled for July 2008.

Another embarrassing finding was that no up-to-date contract existed for the multimillion-dollar project and that it had broken Australian Accounting Standards across a range of bookkeeping practices. Defence was also criticised by the audit office for failing to take up an offer of a 10 per cent discount on as many 150 of the armoured vehicles, which would have reduced their price from $1.3 million to $1.15 million each. Defence's procurement agency, the Defence Materiel Organisation, managed the contract in a "less than satisfactory" manner, the audit office said.

Labor's defence procurement spokesman, Mark Bishop, slammed the agency for its continuing bad record on major projects. "This is the fourth audit report this year which has major criticisms of the way Defence does business - a bad record of economic mismanagement on the Government's behalf," Senator Bishop said. "The Opposition wants an inquiry into the whole way Defence conducts its procurement [process] and essential projects."

But No delays in fraudulent bonus for negligent officials

The top officers in the Defence Materiel Organisation have been earmarked for performance bonuses totalling more than $300,000. In response to questions on notice in Parliament from the Opposition, the agency said 20 top officers would share in bonuses of about $300,000 in 2006-07. The bonuses were awarded for "meeting or exceeding stringent performance targets, for example bringing projects in ahead of schedule and under budget", the agency said.

Labor's defence procurement spokesman Mark Bishop said he was staggered by the payments, as costs had escalated and projects experienced average delays of 3.3 years.


An antisemitic university press in Australia

An article by Michael Danby, MHR:

In July last year I learned that Louise Adler, publisher of Melbourne University Press, had commissioned Antony Loewenstein, a little-known online journalist who has his own far-left blog, to write a book about the Australian Jewish community and its attitudes to Israel. Mr Loewenstein sent me a questionnaire asking my views on various subjects.

After making some inquiries about him and reading the extreme anti- Israel views at his website, I decided not to participate in this project, knowing that my participation would give it a credibility it didn't deserve. I wrote to the Jewish News urging readers to have nothing to do with Mr Loewenstein's book.

Ever since, Mr Loewenstein has painted himself as a heroic dissident being persecuted by the "Jewish establishment" for daring to criticise Israel and the Jewish community. It is sometimes perfectly obvious what is going to be in a book before it is published. If a leading publisher commissioned Pauline Hanson to write a book about multiculturalism, or Fred Nile about the gay and Lesbian Mardi gras, no doubt all the commentators at the AbC and The Age would have plenty to say, because it would be obvious what such books would be like.

The fact is that I and many other people knew Mr Loewenstein's views on Israel and on Australian Jews long before his book appeared. This is the point that Mr rodgers and his ilk persistently fail to acknowledge so they can misrepresent criticism of Mr Loewenstein. After all, he stated them openly at his own website a year ago, where he called Israel "fundamentally undemocratic and colonialist" and "a terror state", and described the Australian Jewish community as "vitriolic, bigoted, racist and downright pathetic." He also said that "so-called Western `values' deserve to be challenged and overthrown." I give Mr Loewenstein credit for honesty - he stated his views quite openly, so everyone knew what would be in his book long before it appeared.

Of course, when the book appeared, my anticipation about its contents was proved to be correct. The book is shallow, predictable, trite and obvious, as well as riddled with factual errors. This was not my view alone. Dr Philip Mendes of Monash University, author of Jews and Australian Politics (and himself a frequent, but fair, critic of Israeli policies), said: "The majority of the text [of Mr Loewenstein's book] is overwhelmingly simplistic and one-sided. This could have been a serious and objective examination of the role of local lobby groups in influencing Australia's Middle East policies. Unfortunately, that book still waits to be written."

Dr Michael Fagenblat, of Monash University's Centre for the study of Jewish Civilisation, says: "There's nothing new or interesting here and several things that seem patently false. These remarks seem completely one-sided; they overlook the complexity and manifold responsibility that has contributed to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." (both these comments appeared in the Jewish News of 28 July) since his book came out, becoming a hero of the anti-Israel commentariat seems to have gone to Mr Loewenstein's head. Despite being lionised at writers' festivals around the county, he still complains that the "zionist lobby" is working to silence him. His attacks on Israel are growing more strident. In brisbane, debating Phillip Mendes, he said: "Israel's behaviour in the West bank and gaza are the tactics of a rogue, terror state. Enough with the Holocaust, alleged Palestinian `terror' and victimhood. Take some responsibility for the parlous state of Israel in the international community. For all of us who want a safer Middle East, today's Israel is currently the problem, not the cure."

In August I was given a chance to confront Mr Loewenstein faceto- face on AbC radio, and I must thank the Jon Faine program for setting up this debate, which was ably moderated by gerard Whately and gideon Haigh. The debate was conducted in a civil manner, but I made a point of taking Mr Loewenstein to task over a comment of his which I considered particularly offensive. speaking of the comedian sandy guttman (Austen tayshus), he said at his website: "Jews are often their own worst enemies. It might help if tayshus didn't look so much like those awful caricatures we know from the 1930s!" so Mr guttman is to be criticised because he looks too Jewish for Mr Loewenstein's sensibilities!

Mr Loewenstein is, of course, entitled to his views - ignorant, offensive and superficial though they are - but I don't apologise for my decision to launch a "preemptive strike" against his book last year. Nor do I resile from my view that a person who thinks that a Jewish state is "a fundamentally undemocratic and colonialist idea from a bygone era," and that the Australian Jewish community is "vitriolic, bigoted, racist and downright pathetic" was not a suitable person to be commissioned by a major publisher to write a book about our community and its attitudes towards Israel.

This is not MUP's first excursion into anti-Israel polemic under Louise Adler's direction. In 2005 she published Jacqueline rose's The Question of Zion, a tract so blatantly anti-Israel that even a self-professed anti-zionist reviewer, simon Louvish in The Independent, called it a work of "overriding shallowness" which showed "a lack of basic understanding" and "overreliance on certain dissident Israeli historians, and avoidance of others."

Ms Adler is, of course, free to publish as many bad books as she likes, but why do they all have to be anti-Israel bad books? Why does she lend the prestige of the MUP imprint to a one-sided rehashing of all the usual anti-Israel propaganda?


Vegemite retrospective

Hold onto your hats. The biggest story of the week strikes at border security, US-Australia relations, good taste and pride in the nation. Never mind Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and Paris Hilton, this time the US had gone too far.

The web lit up with news the Stars and Stripes had banned Vegemite. Customs officials were even searching Australians for jars of the national spread when they arrived, it was said. Not since Bazza McKenzie had his Fosters confiscated at Heathrow had there been such an outrage.

Well, it was good for a couple of days. Dismissing media reports and the frenzy it created, the US Food and Drug Administration soon declared there was in fact no ban on the folate-carrying expat's delight. In true US-style perhaps they were instead leaving it to the "free market" in a country where a tiny jar of the patriotic delicacy leaves the shelves for around $US4.80 ($6.33).


Sunday, October 29, 2006


Prominent Labor figures Paul Keating and Leo McLeay "demanded" a ministerial colleague grant residency for Sheik Taj al-Din al-Hilaly. The two party leaders were furious when in 1989 then-Immigration Minister Robert Ray refused their requests, Labor sources said yesterday. The sources said it was at least the second time they had sought to lobby on behalf of the controversial Muslim leader. The sheik has played a walk-on role in ALP affairs since he arrived here in 1982, with Mr McLeay being his strongest champion within the party. Other Labor identities, such as NSW Upper House member Eddie Obeid, had been in the forefront of attempts to get him kicked out.

Sheik Hilaly did not get permanent residency until 1990 when Gerry Hand was Immigration Minister. The sheik's case had been taken to Senator Ray in response to appeals from electorally powerful Islamic communities within Mr Keating's seat of Blaxland and Mr McLeay's seat of Grayndler. The Saturday Daily Telegraph understands there had been moves to deport the sheik in 1989 after one of his anti-Jewish outbursts. "But Keating and McLeay demanded that he be given residency," said one source. Senator Ray effectively put him on probation but was moved to Defence in 1990. Yesterday he said his decision had been made "on the basis of the file, not on the basis of politics".

In 1986, then Immigration Minister Chris Hurford had been asked to deport the sheik and was in the process of doing so when he was shifted to another port folio. He has since told The Australian he believed residency was granted by the Government "because they erroneously believed that this would have some political influence in the particular electorates at a NSW State election".

Even before that, in 1982, the sheik was causing ripples. The Arabic community newspaper El Telegraph in July of that year reported a speech by Sheik Hilaly in which he said "the flesh of Australian women is as cheap as pigs' flesh". The paper attacked his comments and soon had to have guards protect the journalist. Not long after, the El Telegraph office was badly damaged in a suspicious fire. Its owner was Mr Obeid, who spent the next 10 years trying to get the sheik deported.


"Climate change" as a scapegoat

Australia is the dry continent -- with recurrent droughts. But opportunists are blaming the present dry spell on global warming. Writing with particular reference to his home State of Victoria, Andrew Bolt writes that this is just a convenient excuse for governmental failure to prepare for the inevitable drought conditions

The merchants of global warming panic are wrong. Again. No, this is not the worst drought ever recorded. No, it is not so unprecedented that it proves man-made global warming is real. In fact, this may not even be a drought at all. Rainfall figures show we may be simply going back to the just-as-dry weather of the not-so-distant past. And those who shriek that global warming is now frying us like never before are peddling green hype, rather than the cool science we need to keep ourselves well-watered.

I'm referring, of course, to religious zealots such as Deputy Premier John Thwaites, the (No) Water Minister, who declared: "So all the evidence points to a significant involvement of global warming in the present drought." I'm referring also to Professor Peter Cullen, a National Water Commission member and top government adviser, who gloated that, thanks to the drought, "flat earth sceptics who have been in denial about climate change are now realising that wishing it away didn't work and are now berating governments for not building more dams". And I mustn't forget The Age, this cult's Bible, which claimed: "The continuing drought has forced . . . belated recognition by sceptics that climate change is not a fiction disseminated by doomsayers."

Nonsense. Consult not their faith but my facts, and look at the graph on the right, showing Victoria's annual rainfall from 1900 to 2005, as measured by the Weather Bureau. What you see are decades of often dry years followed by decades of often wet ones. And now -- in this past decade of drought -- we've gone back to where we once were. As in dry. Here are the figures that tell that story.

From 1900 to 1945, Victoria's average annual rainfall was 603mm. Then came 50 years of plenty, with average falls of 671mm. But in the past decade our rainfall has dropped back to around the average of those pre-war years -- or 591mm. You might say this still means we're (a fraction) drier than before. But this past decade is not even close to being the driest on record. Our average rainfall now of 591mm is still way above the panting lows recorded from 1936 to 1945 -- an average of just 543mm. And no one back then wailed in the dust about global warming.

So what does all this suggest? Three things. First, as I warned here two years ago, Victoria's patterns of rainfall may have shifted. Second, this change in climate is not at all unusual or extreme, and so certainly not proof of global warming, let alone of the man-made kind. Third, we may not even be in a drought at all, but returning to drier conditions that are perhaps more usual. What may be unusual is not this dry, but the few wet decades before that filled our big new Thomson dam.

None of what I've said will surprise people with a long history of managing the land and its water. Hear it from farmer George Warne, general manager of the giant Murray Irrigation, who says: "It is an overreaction to say this (drought) is climate change. "My family has been farming (in Victoria) since 1888, and we have kept records on weather conditions. I am certain a huge component of the latest drought is cyclical." Or hear it from the boss of water company United Utilities, Graham Dooley, who, like me, does not deny climate change, but says: "About every 50 years we get a drought. This latest dry is part of the typical cycle."

So if this drought -- or dry spell -- is not unusual, you should ask some hard questions of a few powerful people who don't seem to be facing these facts. Here's one: Why didn't the Bracks Government prepare the state for a big dry that's actually a normal part of our ever-changing climate? Why didn't it build a new dam for growing Melbourne, say, and find new supplies for Ballarat and Bendigo, when we still had time on our side?

The Government still hides behind the excuse that this drought came out of nowhere -- a sudden catastrophe caused only by this spooky and unexpected phenomenon of global warming. But these rainfall figures show that the only thing spooky is the way the Government is using a seemingly natural change in the weather as proof of the rightness of its green faith that humans are ruining the world. But the figures show something more serious besides -- that blaming the drought on man-made global warming is actually just a miserable excuse for failure. Why didn't our leaders do more long ago to save our parched cities from a normal drought that any fool could have seen coming? Even a fool like me.


Literacy tests dumbed down too

Grammar and spelling mistakes? No problem! Now the literacy tests are "a measure of students' ability to participate in the community". I guess even an armed robber "participates in the community", though

The international OECD test cited as proof that Australian students have one of the highest literacy rates in the world does not test spelling and grammar. The Program for International Student Assessment of 15-year-old students in more than 40 countries assesses their ability to understand written texts and apply that knowledge but fails to examine correct use of language.

"The concept of literacy used in PISA is much broader than the historical notion of the ability to read and write," the report says. "It is measured on a continuum, not as something that an individual either does or does not have. A literate person has a range of competencies and there is no precise dividing line between a person who is fully literate and one who is not." Head of the Australian Council for Educational Research Professor Geoff Masters, which leads the consortium that runs PISA, said the test was a measure of students' reading, not writing.

But reader in English and head of humanities at the Australian National University Simon Haines said a solid foundation in reading implied "a foundation of knowledge of what words and sentences are". "Spelling and grammar are part of this knowledge of what a word fundamentally is, what written construction fundamentally is," he said. "Relatively trivial one-off spelling and grammatical errors probably shouldn't be marked down, but repeated errors of the same type, or errors indicating more fundamental misunderstandings, probably should be. "This is part of teaching students how to use language."

The PISA reading literacy test is conducted every three years, with the first held in 2000. In that test, the best of Australian students scored second to Finland. The study defines reading literacy as "understanding, using and reflecting on written texts in order to achieve one's goals, to develop one's knowledge and potential and to participate in society". In its analysis of students' answers, the report says that spelling mistakes were very common but incorrect spelling had no bearing on the marking. "Answers with mistakes in grammar and/or spelling were not penalised as long as the correct point was made," it says.

Professor Masters said the definition of literacy had changed over time and once meant an inability to write one's name. But PISA took a broader attitude, saying literacy was a skill developed over a lifetime and a measure of students' ability to participate in the community.

The study also found that Australian students performed relatively poorly in their comprehension of continuous texts, such as narratives, and coped better with non-continuous texts, such as diagrams and maps. Boys in particular struggled with continuous texts, and were generally outperformed by girls. Professor Masters said the results indicated that teachers should make sure students read continuous texts such as books.

Literacy expert Bill Louden, head of the graduate school of education at the University of Western Australia, said PISA tested reading comprehension and was not a writing task, so "spelling and grammar errors don't come into it". "It wouldn't do in an English classroom, where you have continuous long works that needs to score kids on their capacity to write grammatically, write coherently and spell correctly," Professor Louden said.


An outspoken husband for a political lady

Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward has revealed her "disappointment" at her husband, David Barnett, for making derogatory comments about Aboriginal women. She also agrees with British Prime Minister Tony Blair that Muslim women wearing burqas are "confronting", but does not believe they should be banned. Ms Goward, who is leaving her job to run for the NSW state Liberal seat of Goulburn, said on ABC radio that her husband's comments angered her and questioned Aboriginal women's ability to mother.

Mr Barnett, a journalist and former media adviser to Malcolm Fraser, said recently that Aboriginal women "wipe themselves with a rag in the lavatory, and hang it up to dry for next time". "We must ask ourselves whether it is right to condemn Australian children to be brought up . by mothers who don't know enough about rearing children to wipe their noses and where the baby bonus sends a town on a drunken binge," he wrote in The Canberra Times. The Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission is investigating him.

"I was too cross to yell (at him)," Ms Goward told the ABC. She said she had a challenging and rewarding marriage with Mr Barnett despite his Liberal Party ties complicating her career. She said her sacking from the ABC when she was a former journalist was a result of their relationship. "I think the day I married him I probably signed my death warrant."

When speaking about Muslim dress, Ms Goward said Western women were also subjected to oppressive dress codes. "I have to admit that the burqa is very confronting - its blackness, the net over the eyes. It's hard to know how much of it is religious and how much of it is tribal or . cultural. "(But) we wear high heels. We torture our feet. Women all over the world have dress codes that, either willingly or unwillingly, they impose upon themselves that are ugly and distorting and unhealthy and it's part of the oppression of women all over the world . People are entitled to wear the clothes that they want to wear." Ms Goward said she had never received a sex discrimination complaint from a Muslim woman.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Meat good for you, say Australian science experts

The first edition of the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet has knocked The Da Vinci Code and Harry Potter off the top of the Australian bestseller list. Its sequel, launched yesterday, is expected to be as popular. A feature of the revised scientific diet book, which recommends a high-protein meat diet, is a comprehensive six-week exercise program.

The sequel was launched in Sydney by Federal Minister for Education, Science and Training Julie Bishop and CSIRO chief executive Dr Geoff Garrett, who spoke about his own weight loss after using the book's methods. Mrs Bishop said Australians had a long way to go in terms of getting fit. She said 30 per cent of Australians under 25 had high blood pressure and more than half the population was overweight. "Sixty per cent of an adult population [being overweight] in a country like Australia with magnificent weather and the opportunity to be outdoors and be physically fit is just not acceptable," Mrs Bishop said. She said insufficient physical activity caused about 8000 preventable deaths annually and cost the health budget $400 million each year.

The authors of the book, which recommends a 12-week eating plan, Dr Manny Noakes and Dr Peter Clifton, warned Australia would struggle to deal with a looming health crisis. Dr Grant Brinkworth, who developed the exercise regime, demonstrated stretches to be used in conjunction with the diet tips.

Criticisms that the first book recommended a diet that was overly based on red meat are answered in a chapter titled "Is red meat a risk factor for colorectal cancer". "The evidence that eating red meat, or any single food, is a risk for colorectal cancer is weak at best, compared to the proven negative effects of being overweight and inactive," the book states.

Recipes range from corn fritters with smoked salmon and spinach to lamb biryani.


Ritalin junkies warning

Prescribing Ritalin to children could be breeding a generation of junkies. The drug, commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), may be wiring children's brains for amphetamine addiction later in life.

Addiction expert Andrew Lawrence, from Melbourne's Howard Florey Institute, has found that amphetamines given to adolescent rats put them at greater risk of addiction in adulthood.

This means the 50,000 Australian children who take Ritalin -- an amphetamine-like stimulant with a similar chemical structure to cocaine, may be at risk. "We found that when a teenage rat is given amphetamines and then, after abstinence, has the drug again as an adult, they have a more sensitised reaction, opening the door for addiction," he said.

The researchers found adult rats became more susceptible to heart attack after this pattern of drug-taking. This year it was reported that children as young as five had suffered heart attacks after taking Ritalin.

The above article appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on October 22, 2006

A sad loss

Tourists and residents have never known speed limits on the long, straight roads of the Northern Territory, an area in Australia that is five times the size of the United Kingdom. Carmakers are even drawn to the region to test high-speed models on the thousands of miles of open road. But, faced with the worst road safety figures in the developed world, the regional parliament has decided to impose speed limits on the last unrestricted roads in the southern hemisphere.

A report tabled yesterday in the Northern Territory parliament in Darwin said that the high speeds combined with frequent drink driving, an aversion to wearing seatbelts and a blatant disregard for red lights combined to produce unusually high road fatality statistics. The road fatality rate in the Northern Territory, Australia's least-populated region, which stretches from the far north to the centre of the country, is 26 deaths per 100,000 people - the rate in the United Kingdom is 6 per 100,000.

Clare Martin, the chief minister of the Northern Territory, raised the prospect of speed limits, saying: "We Territorians drink and drive, we travel too far without rest, we drive too fast. We run red lights and we don't wear seatbelts." But she faces a tough challenge in convincing her electorate of the benefits of a 110 km/h (70mph) speed limit on all the main roads of the Northern Territory, including the 3,000km (1,800-mile) Stuart Highway south to Adelaide.

Territorians argue that the vast distances between towns and sparse traffic make high speeds a necessity. Terry Mills, an opposition MP, said yesterday: "There is no clear link between speed on our open roads and fatalities. They are largely caused by alcohol and a failure to wear seatbelts. So it would be a very naive approach to attack this [speed] issue. We need to stand by Territorians and leave things as they are."

The report tabled yesterday in the parliament argued that the case for speed limits was overwhelming. It said: "More than half of all fatal crashes in the NT are run-off-road or overturned crashes that imply loss of control and excessive speed. No matter how safely you drive, you are at risk from other motorists travelling at high speed."

But manufacturers of high-speed cars gave warning that speed limits would reduce the appeal of the region as a testing ground for new models. Paul Ellis, spokesman for Porsche Australia, said that the company tested its cars there for speed and heat. Four six-cylinder 911 Turbos and three support vehicles were put through their paces in the Territory for two weeks in August, he said. Mr Ellis added that if speed limits were introduced the Territory would also lose the economic benefits of testing teams spending weeks in its hotels and restaurants.


Youth obesity blamed on lack of exercise

The federal government has accused schools of contributing to child obesity by cutting back on physical education. State governments claimed federal parliamentary secretary for health Christopher Pyne was trying to shift the blame when he called on them to reintroduce compulsory sport in schools. They said sport and physical education were already mandatory at primary and secondary school level.

But Mr Pyne accused the state Labor governments of being "cute" in defining sport and said they were not promoting inter-school competition and after-school practice. "Their definition of what they regard as compulsory school sport is different to the traditional inter-school sporting competition and after-school activity," Mr Pyne said. "Some schools include drama, human movement and dance in their physical activity. "And if what the states are doing is adequate, why has the federal government had to introduce a $90 million after-school-hours activity program in state schools?"

Mr Pyne said the states' assessment of their commitment to school sport should not include the two hours of physical activity they must prove their schools are doing to qualify for commonwealth funding. Speaking at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia conference in Sydney, he said the state Labor governments had been misdirecting the blame for the obesity problem. "Labor has been diverting the blame, pointing the finger at fatty foods while slashing funding to exercise programs in schools and moving away from compulsory physical education as part of the curriculum," he said. "We need to bring back school sports and compulsory physical education."

NSW Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt said her state's schools were playing their part, but she used the commonwealth's two-hour minimum as the benchmark. "It is mandatory for primary school students to complete 120 minutes of planned physical activity each week and students in Years 7 to 10 complete an estimated 80 minutes a week," Ms Tebbutt said. "Students in Years 7 to 11 also participate in 80 to 120 minutes of school sport each week." Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said Mr Pyne's comments were another example of shifting blame to the states. He said Queensland was doing more than any other state to tackle childhood obesity through its Eat Well and Get Active programs. Rather than blaming states for not doing enough, the federal government should legislate to restrict television advertisements for junk food, he said. "Instead we have a federal government pointing the finger at everybody else," Mr Beattie said. A Victorian government spokesman said sport and physical education had been in the curriculum at government schools for several years. And in the Northern Territory, Education Minister Paul Henderson said students spend about half-an-hour exercising each day.

Federal opposition health spokeswoman Julia Gillard, also speaking at the CEDA conference, responded to Mr Pyne's claims that Labor was focusing on food rather than exercise in typical schoolyard style. "Well, der, of course it's both," Ms Gillard said.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Muslim leader blames women for sex attacks

The nation's most senior Muslim cleric has blamed immodestly dressed women who don't wear Islamic headdress for being preyed on by men and likened them to abandoned "meat" that attracts voracious animals. In a Ramadan sermon that has outraged Muslim women leaders, Sydney-based Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali also alluded to the infamous Sydney gang rapes, suggesting the attackers were not entirely to blame. While not specifically referring to the rapes, brutal attacks on four women for which a group of young Lebanese men received long jail sentences, Sheik Hilali said there were women who "sway suggestively" and wore make-up and immodest dress ... "and then you get a judge without mercy (rahma) and gives you 65 years". "But the problem, but the problem all began with who?" he asked.

The leader of the 2000 rapes in Sydney's southwest, Bilal Skaf, a Muslim, was initially sentenced to 55 years' jail, but later had the sentence reduced on appeal.

In the religious address on adultery to about 500 worshippers in Sydney last month, Sheik Hilali said: "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat? "The uncovered meat is the problem." The sheik then said: "If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred." He said women were "weapons" used by "Satan" to control men. "It is said in the state of zina (adultery), the responsibility falls 90 per cent of the time on the woman. Why? Because she possesses the weapon of enticement (igraa)."

Muslim community leaders were yesterday outraged and offended by Sheik Hilali's remarks, insisting the cleric was no longer worthy of his title as Australia's mufti. Young Muslim adviser Iktimal Hage-Ali - who does not wear a hijab - said the Islamic headdress was not a "tool" worn to prevent rape and sexual harassment. "It's a symbol that readily identifies you as being Muslim, but just because you don't wear the headscarf doesn't mean that you're considered fresh meat for sale," the former member of John Howard's Muslim advisory board told The Australian. "The onus should not be on the female to not attract attention, it should be on males to learn how to control themselves." Australia's most prominent female Muslim leader, Aziza Abdel-Halim, said the hijab did not "detract or add to a person's moral standards", while Islamic Council of Victoria spokesman Waleed Ali said it was "ignorant and naive" for anyone to believe that a hijab could stop sexual assault.

More here

Working hours for young doctors still insane

Young doctors are still being compelled to work far more hours than are good for either them or patients, the Australian Medical Association said today. Despite the best efforts of the AMA over recent years, the latest safety audit of doctors found some still worked more than 100 hours a week, AMA president Dr Mukesh Haikerwal said. In one case, a doctor reported working 63 hours continuously.

The audit covered more than 15,000 doctors from hospitals around the country. Details will be released today. Dr Haikerwal said it showed 62 per cent of hospital doctors still were working unsafe hours and were classified as working at high or significant risk. "It used to be part of the folklore and it continues to be part of the myth and the myth is that you need to work long hours non-stop continuously to gain the experience," he told ABC radio. "At the end of the day, you can't actually learn anything if you are dead beat on your feet. "People who are seeing a doctor would expect them to be sharp and aware and alert when they are being treated and they certainly wouldn't want to be seeing them on their 80th or 39th or so hour on the trot."

Dr Haikerwal said he had been working in this issues since his days as a student and as a young doctor. The situation had improved, "but it is still not acceptable for people to be working 39 hours non-stop and it's not acceptable for people to be working up to 100 hours on average a week," he said.

Dr Alex Markwell, from the AMA council of doctors in training, said there was still an element of older doctors who trained under the old regime who felt their junior colleagues should undergo similar experience. "We need to start putting in place strict guidelines that actually enable safe rostering, enable doctors to say 'hold on, it's 16 hours, I am tired, someone else needs to come on and take over'," she told ABC radio. "We just need to stop expecting our doctors to keep going until something tragic happens which we have unfortunately seen in some states."


Pill for infertile men 'doubled' pregnancy rates

An Australian scientist has developed a revolutionary pill for men, which has doubled the pregnancy rates of infertile couples. The capsule, Menevit, containing seven antioxidants and minerals, will be available next year. "The results have been miraculous, better than we ever expected," said inventor Kelton Tremellen, an Adelaide fertility specialist. Dr Tremellen will announce the findings of his research at the Fertility Society of Australia Conference in Sydney tomorrow.

Fertility Society of Australia chair Dr Anne Clark said the findings would have wide-ranging implications for men around the world. "To have a method of treating sperm issues rather than their partner having to go through a fertility treatment is fantastic," Dr Clarke said. She believed it would prove an effective "preventative medicine" to tackle the decline in male fertility.

Menevit is to be sold through international drug company Bayer and follows three years of intensive research including two trials. The most recent involved 60 couples, two thirds of whom were given the tablet daily. Of those who took Menevit, 17 babies were conceived, compared to four babies from couples who had the placebo.

The new pill is aimed at attacking free radicals, such as smoking, obesity and exposure to chemicals, which damage sperm. Dr Tremellen said the results suggest the pill reduces sperm DNA damage and improves embryo quality. "The men gave very positive feedback," he said. "They often feel powerless as they watch their wives going through all the injections in IVF."


Deconstructive criticism

The evidence upholds the belief that the teaching of English has fallen victim to political correctness, writes Kevin Donnelly

Geoff Masters, head of the Australian Council for Educational Research and the person in charge of the commonwealth-funded inquiry into state and territory Year 12 subjects, argues concerns about school curriculums being politically correct are without foundation. In relation to senior school English -- in particular, the NSW Higher School Certificate course -- Masters concludes there is no left-wing bias and that federal Education Minister Julie Bishop's concerns about the cultural Left taking the long march through the education system are misplaced.

Masters is wrong. As those who have followed the articles in these pages about the effect of critical literacy on English teaching and the way the theory approach of teaching has destroyed the moral and aesthetic quality of the literary canon know, there is ample evidence of how English has been politicised.

In NSW, students are made to deconstruct texts such as Shakespeare's Othello and Tim Winton's Cloudstreet from a Marxist, feminist, postmodern and post-colonial perspective. The Board of Studies English stage 6 annotated professional readings support document, designed to tell teachers how English should be taught, is awash with the kind of gobbledygook associated with theory.

In opposition to the more traditional approach to literature, NSW teachers are urged to adopt what is termed "critical-postmodernist pedagogy'', described as: "This involves drawing on and seeking to integrate into a dynamic, strategic synthesis the currently evolving and ever mutating discourses of critical pedagogy, cultural studies and postmodernism, within which notions of popular culture, textuality, rhetoric and the politics and pleasures of representation become the primary focus of attention in both 'creative' and 'critical' terms.''

As argued by writer Sophie Masson, the result is that good students jump through the hoops as they know what has to be done, while less able students drown in the arcane and turgid jargon associated with the new English.

The Victorian and Queensland English studies are also prime examples of the impact of the cultural Left on the classroom. The Victorian study asks students to analyse texts from a range of perspectives. These include: "Marxist, feminist, psychoanalytical, reader-response, deconstructionist (and) postmodern''. In a similar vein, the Queensland literature syllabus favours an approach that argues that all texts are inherently political as "texts play their part in upholding or challenging prevailing world views and compete with one another to persuade readers to accept versions on offer''.

Western Australia, not to be outdone, in addition to making students respond to texts "using different theoretical frameworks [for example, Marxist, post-colonial, feminist, psychoanalytic]'' and checking "for consistency, contradiction and the privileging of some ideas over others'', argues that there is nothing universal or profound about classic literature.

The basis for this is that "the concept of the literary is socially and historically constructed rather than objective or self-evident'' and "texts and reading practices enact particular ideologies, playing an important role in the production and maintenance of social identities and reinforcing or contesting dominant ideological understandings''.

Within the new English, as a result of theory, William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is criticised for its emphasis on stereotypical heterosexual love and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness for being inherently racist. Even worse, students' appreciation of literature is destroyed as they spend time analysing mobile-phone messages, graffiti and Australian Idol.

Evidence that senior school English courses have fallen victim to politically correct theory is easy to find. The reasons the cultural Left has targeted English are also clear. Professional associations such as the Australian Association for the Teaching of English are staunch advocates of critical literacy and theory. Both the AATE and sympathetic teacher academics such as Allan Luke, Wayne Sawyer and Bill Green argue English teaching must be used to transform society.

Says Luke: "We would argue that text analysis and critical reading activities should lead on to action with and against the text. That is, there is a need to translate text analysis into cultural action, into institutional intervention and community projects.''


The nuclear revival

It was striking how quiet it was when the nuclear industry held an international conference in Sydney this week. A handful of anti-nuclear demonstrators made a fleeting stand in Pitt Street outside the hotel hosting the 15th Pacific Basin Nuclear Conference, then left. The conference's trade hall was full of international companies spruiking the latest gadgets to make nuclear power plants go faster, as delegates from Russia, South Korea, China and Japan milled around.

Nuclear energy provides 16 per cent of the global electricity supply, with about 440 reactors operating in the world, another 30 under construction and 200 in planning or proposal stages. China alone wants to build 50 reactors by 2030. Like an ageing pop star on the comeback trail, nuclear energy is in the middle of a revival as countries look for ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions while keeping the lights on.

World Nuclear Association director-general John Ritch enthusiastically calls it "a global nuclear renaissance". Federal Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane, a nuclear sceptic turned convert, told the gathered representatives that "uranium is coming in from the cold".

But don't tell the environment movement or the Left, because they remain dug in behind their no-nukes barricades, first erected in the Cold War. "The environment movement is ideologically opposed to nuclear energy," Ritch said this week. "There is a carry-over from the anti-weapons movement and there is also an unexamined premise that nuclear power somehow embodies the evil of the military industrial complex. "Serious environmentalists who have looked at nuclear power recognise that against the cataclysmic projections of climate change this technology will be absolutely essential if we hope to avert a catastrophe. It's not even a close call."

Hang on. Is this the same technology that caused the meltdown at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania in 1979? Or, more seriously, the disaster at Chernobyl in 1986 that directly killed 56 people, caused the relocation of 336,000 others and dropped a plume of radioactive fallout across northern Europe?

The growing momentum of climate change as a threat to the planet is changing the rules of engagement. Not only has nuclear technology become safer, more reliable, more efficient and cheaper, but its ability to generate large quantities of base-load electricity with low net greenhouse gas emissions has given it new lease of life.

Prime Minister John Howard seems enchanted by its spell. Since May he has been running nuclear energy up the flagpole of public opinion with increasing ardour, from a flirtatious "may consider" in May to a full-blown proposal this week with the suggestion Australia could have nuclear power within a decade.

This is all the more intriguing as the business case for a nuclear industry in Australia remains remote. As the energy generation industry points out, Australia's abundant supplies of coal and gas mean that even with significant efficiency gains in nuclear technology, it is still about 50 per cent more expensive than existing base-load generation capacity. That means a local nuclear industry will need an unlikely large spike in the price of coal and gas or an equally brutal cost placed on carbon dioxide emissions. Neither is likely in the immediate future, but even if they were, no generator would seriously consider building a nuclear plant until the political risk had diminished. A lot.

Indeed, recent experience suggests mainstream Australia's naivety when it comes to nuclear energy makes fertile ground for a localised fear campaign, particularly over the thorny issue of where nuclear plants would be located. In July, left-wing think tank the Australia Institute mischievously issued a list of potential sites across the country, mostly picturesque seaside towns 100km or so from the big mainland cities. Media dutifully took the bait, interviewing fearful local residents who, unsurprisingly, were strongly opposed to a nuclear power plant in their back yard.

Despite these political risks, Howard obviously sees an upside in driving a nuclear debate in Australia. The debate on climate change has moved faster than even a veteran political strategist such as he could have predicted. Given his lack of any serious policy blueprint in response, promoting nuclear energy as a low-emissions technology creates the impression of a strategy, even if it is impractical in the short or medium term.

When it comes to wedge politics, there are few issues as good as nuclear energy for its ability to polarise and marginalise those on the Left, which includes some environmental groups. The environmental Left remains dogmatically opposed to nuclear energy and its perceived relationship to nuclear weapons. For these groups, no nukes is more than just a policy decision, it's a belief. Greenpeace, the first and most celebrated of these groups, was forged in the crucible of the anti-nuclear testing and anti-Vietnam war movement in 1971.

In May, former BP executive and now Australian head of the World Wildlife Fund Greg Bourne accepted the reality that Australia was a uranium exporting country. He didn't endorse it, just acknowledged its reality. That was enough to elicit a withering response from fellow non-government organisations. Wilderness Society campaign director Alec Marr told Bourne to go "back to industry where he came from".

Climate change may have been put on the radar by environmentalists but they are victims of their own success. They ignited a broad debate, but the extensive resources of government and business have taken over most of the discussion. Business leaders are more practical and less ideological than the green movement. Their position is simple: any technology that can deliver sustained growth in energy supply and cuts in greenhouse gas emissions at a bearable cost is in the mix of possible solutions. In the stable of solutions on offer there are promising yearlings such as carbon capture and storage, wind, solar thermal and hot rocks. But so far there are few real starters. For most countries without Australia's cheap energy sources, nuclear power bears closer consideration. Reflecting this, uranium demand is tipped to double by 2020.

A recent CSIRO survey found 93 per cent of Australians think climate change is a serious issue. As with other complex and global problems, they expect governments to fix it. Howard is betting they don't go to bed at night worrying about the risks of nuclear energy and he's probably right. Mainstream Australia, like business, is likely to be more than happy to accept compromises that sustain their quality of life while fixing one of the biggest challenges on the planet.

If he is right, the environmental Left will find itself isolated in its own debate, trapped in a Cold War-style dogma that ignores changes in technology and attitudes. The cracks are already appearing. While the main environmental Left groups are locked into non-negotiable opposition, individuals are not. Two years ago British environmentalist James Lovelock was the first headline act to back nuclear energy as a serious solution to climate change. Last year it was departing NSW premier Bob Carr. This year it was scientist Tim Flannery.

Labor is having headaches with its policy of no new uranium mines, with Opposition Leader Kim Beazley out on a limb in flagging a desperately needed review of that position at next year's federal convention. This week, unions gagged this month's ACTU congress from debating the ban. "We've already got a policy from 1979 opposing uranium mining and my straw poll of the union movement has detected no great desire to revisit it," ACTU chief Greg Combet says.

It speaks volumes about how hamstrung Labor is that Beazley's best shot in reply to the Government's support for nuclear energy is to back solar energy. "Solar Not Nuclear" may have made a sassy bumper sticker in the 1980s, but it makes lousy environmental policy in the noughties. Today's photovoltaic technology is about 10 times more expensive than conventional energy, while the best guesses on emerging technologies such as solar hybrid and solar thermal are about three to four times. Few see solar as anything but a bit player in the short to medium term.

Howard's other objective is more strategic: to reposition nuclear fuel in the minds of Australians as environmentally friendly. The Wilderness Society's Marr says Howard is positioning the debate to make it easier to promote Australia's more likely involvement in the technology - uranium mines, enrichment and even waste storage - after the Prime Minister's taskforce reports next month.

The green movement has a dilemma. It says climate change is the most pressing problem facing the planet, but it is prepared to accept only a narrow set of solutions. It is dealing itself out of the policy-making process.


Thursday, October 26, 2006


Australians travelling to the US can breathe easy. So can the 100,000 or so Australian expatriates living in America. The US Government today dismissed media reports it had banned Vegemite. "There is no ban on Vegemite," US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spokesman Mike Herndon said.

Media reports at the weekend claimed American border officials were confiscating Vegemite from Australians as they entered the US. The FDA, charged with policing America's food supply, has not issued an "import alert" to border officials to halt the import of Vegemite. Mr Herndon said the FDA was surprised by the media reports.

The controversy centres on folate, an ingredient in Vegemite. Under US regulations, folate can be added only to breads and cereals. "One of the Vitamin B components (in Vegemite) is folate," Mr Herndon said. "In and of itself, it's not a violation. If they're adding folate to it, boosting it up, technically it would be a violation. "But the FDA has not targeted it and I don't think we intend to target Vegemite simply because of that."

Joanna Scott, spokesperson for Vegemite's maker, Kraft, reportedly has said, "The Food and Drug Administration doesn't allow the import of Vegemite simply because the recipe does have the addition of folic acid". But Mr Herndon said, "Nobody at the FDA has told them (Kraft) there is a ban". To eradicate any grey areas or potential regulation breaches, Mr Herndon said, Kraft could petition the FDA, something other food manufacturers have done.

While many Aussies living in the US rely on visiting Australian relatives and friends to bring them a jar or two of Vegemite from Australia, the product is available in some US supermarkets. The price slapped on Vegemite, however, is tough to swallow. A tiny, four ounce jar of Vegemite sells for around $US4.80 ($6.33) in US supermarkets.


Long wait for a little girl in pain

A 10-Year-old girl with chronic tonsilitis has been told she has to wait more than a year for surgery to relieve her constant pain. Bindy Fuller, of Warren in central western NSW, is in pain and requires constant medication. Her mother, Karon Fuller, said today that when she heard the NSW government claim there were only 50 people waiting longer than a year for surgery, she was hopeful her daughter would not have to wait long for her tonsils to be removed.

But after contacting Dubbo Base Hospital in May, Mrs Fuller said she had since been told Bindy would have to wait until November 2007.

Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said the operation would only take 30 minutes. "Here's a little girl who has suffered tonsilitis all her life and has now been told she has to wait to November 2007 to have treatment," Ms Skinner said. "I can only imagine how difficult it is for a mum, hearing a premier boasting about few people waiting for surgery, to be told that you now have to wait longer than ever."

A spokesman for NSW Health Minister John Hatzistergos said it was unlikely Bindy would have to wait until November next year for surgery. He said she had been assessed as a category three patient and would therefore be scheduled for surgery within 12 months. This meant she was not due to receive surgery until May 2007 and it was unlikely the hospital would contact her before January.


Ignore the doomsday prophets

Environmental alarmist Paul Ehrlich has been wrong before and he'll be wrong again, writes economics editor Alan Wood

Australia's Treasurer has made it on to the cover and into the pages of a journal in which the world's finance ministers rarely, if ever, feature. Peter Costello loves to say demography is destiny, and it was demography that did the trick. It was Costello urging families to have "one for Australia" that made the cover of New Scientist and it is environmentalist Paul Ehrlich he has to thank. Ehrlich is well known to demographers and economists for his spectacularly wrong predictions on world population growth and its consequences, including famine, economic catastrophe and the end of industrial society.

Some of the most spectacular were in his 1968 book The Population Bomb. As it happens, the book was the result of an article Ehrlich wrote for New Scientist in 1967. Now he is back again, undaunted, with another article, written with his wife Anne.

Before we get to this, it is worth recalling a few Ehrlich gems. Perhaps most often quoted is this one from The Population Bomb: "The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now." In fact, the final quarter of the 20th century was more remarkable for the increase in food production from the Green Revolution and the reduction in famine deaths and poverty.

Another prediction was that the US would see life expectancy drop to 42 years by 1990 due to pesticide usage, and its population fall to 22.6 million by 1999. According to the US Census Bureau, life expectancy in the US in 2005 was 77.7 years and, as of yesterday, its population was 300 million and growing.

In 1969 he was prepared to take an even-money bet that England would not exist in 2000. He regularly said population growth would overtake the world's food supplies and mineral resources. Economic growth is another scourge of humanity. "We already have too much economic growth in the US," he said in the late '80s. "Economic growth in rich countries like ours is the disease, not the cure."

So has Ehrlich changed his tune in his recent New Scientist article? Not much. He is now taking world governments to task for their concern with population ageing and shrinking populations, and their measures to try to slow or reverse these trends. Which is where Costello comes in. Not only has he instigated a baby bonus of "almost 900 pounds sterling" (actually nearly twice that), he has urged young women to have one child for themselves, one for their husband and one for Australia.

Ehrlich doesn't approve of this at all: "If civilisation is to persist on our finite planet, impending resource shortages and the mounting environmental costs of overpopulation make it imperative that we gradually and humanely reduce our numbers." He thinks the planet's optimal human population is about two billion, "an excellent and achievable target to aim for over the long term". As of yesterday, the population of the world was 6.55 billion and, according to the US Census Bureau, will reach nine billion in 2042, although its rate of growth is declining sharply.

Ehrlich sounds his usual warning about the evils of consumption: if the developing countries follow the evil ways of the West we will need at least two more Earths to cope. "Despite the challenges, we see population shrinkage in the industrial nations as a hugely positive trend. It is, after all, the high-consuming rich in these regions who disproportionately damage humanity's life support systems and wield their economic and military power to keep their resource demands satisfied, without regard to the costs for the world's poor and to future generations. The more people there are, the more climate change humanity will face, with a concomitant loss of biodiversity and the crucial ecosystem services it helps provide."

At least Ehrlich is consistent: consistently wrong. One of his most trenchant and effective critics was US economist Julian Simon, who said of Ehrlich and his supporters: "As soon as one predicted disaster doesn't occur, the doomsayers skip to another ... why don't they see that, in the aggregate, things are getting better? Why do they always think we're at a turning point or at the end of the road?"

The point isn't that there are no limits but that there is no reason to believe we are anywhere near them. And there is ample evidence that the economic growth and prosperity Ehrlich rails against are the preconditions for successful environmental action. In his book The Skeptical Environmentalist, Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg demonstrated, using reputable international data sources, that things are generally getting better over a wide range of environmental indicators. Predictably, Ehrlich was one of the gang of four environmental zealots recruited to launch a vindictive but unsuccessful attack on Lomborg in Scientific American. Instead the magazine seriously damaged its own reputation when it attempted to suppress publication of an annotated reply to the articles by Lomborg on his website.

There is a wider moral to this tale. Ehrlich has jumped on the global warming bandwagon, a fertile field for serial doomsayers. When you see he has been joined by a Washington snake oil salesman such as Al Gore, it seems a pretty good reason to be cautious about accepting uncritically their greenhouse scaremongering. Global warming is taking place, but how fast it will proceed, what its causes and consequences are, and what can, or should, be done to attempt to mitigate it are still matters of legitimate debate, not the subject of a phony scientific consensus.


"Ethnic" public broadcaster under scrutiny

Key Howard loyalists are set to launch a scathing attack on multicultural broadcaster SBS and force it to answer accusations of blatant left-wing bias. Influential Victorian Liberal Senator Michael Ronaldson will lead the assault on SBS and its executives at a special Senate estimates hearing next week. He is expected to be joined by Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and Senator Alan Eggleston.

Senator Ronaldson, a key player in the Howard Government's long campaign against perceived political bias at the ABC, told The Sunday Age that SBS was "out of control" and needed to be reined in. "I am very concerned about SBS's impartiality and balance."

Just days after the ABC announced new program guidelines enforcing impartiality, Senator Ronaldson said SBS, which receives about $160 million a year from taxpayers, had a lot to learn from Australia's other national broadcaster. "The network has slipped under the radar and compared to the directions that the ABC now seems to be taking, SBS are out on their own," he said. Senator Ronaldson said he had compiled a dossier of numerous examples of political bias in both its domestic and international news coverage. "There are just so many clear examples of inappropriate political bias, which is OK as long as the robustness falls within clear guidelines. The problem is, it doesn't. "Now, in relation to the ABC, no one is looking for a sanitised national broadcaster. What we wanted was a broadcaster that, when it said its core values were impartiality and balance, actually met those core values."

He singled out SBS's coverage of the recent Hezbollah-Israel conflict as one of the most appalling examples of biased reporting he had ever seen. "Their commentary on international events, particularly the conflict between Lebanon and Israel, just displayed a clear lack of impartiality and completely lacked any balance whatsoever," Senator Ronaldson said. "I have also heard a lot of complaints that they have strayed from their charter as a multilingual, multicultural national broadcaster."

The SBS charter states that the broadcaster must "contribute to extending the range of Australian television and radio services, and reflect the changing nature of Australian society by presenting many points of view and using innovative forms of expression". Senator Ronaldson is a staunch ally of Treasurer Peter Costello and has been a passionate friend of Israel


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Appalling threat to families

NSW DOCS would have to be one of the world's worst and most negligent "child protection" agencies. To give them more power is incomprehensible

Australia will have the world's first laws shielding children in danger from bad parents, taking the unprecedented step of removing the need for court orders in some cases. The blitz on poor parenting will allow New South Wales Department of Community Services officers to sidestep the courts and automatically remove children from a home if there is a history of harm or neglect. The onus will now be reversed and placed on parents who have already had a child taken into custody to plead their case before a court as to why any other children should also be left in their care.

The only other jurisdiction to consider such radical measures is the UK. However the UK is still only considering the idea and may use NSW as a model. The Daily Telegraph can reveal the amendment Bill was approved by Cabinet late yesterday afternoon after being brought to the table by Community Services Minister Reba Meagher. It will be introduced into Parliament tonight. The new laws will address the often-debated logic of allowing parents who have already had a child taken into state custody to retain care of the child's siblings.

The changes were prompted by the possibly preventable deaths last year of nine children who had been left in parental care despite a sibling being placed under state protection because they were deemed in danger. The alarming statistics are contained in an internal DOCS working document within the Child Death and Critical Report Unit from 2005.

Two weeks ago it was revealed that a five-month-old baby had died in 2003 after his mother deliberately gave him methadone. The child's older brother had died under similar circumstances. Despite this, the coroner only ordered that any future children should be drug tested. Now the onus will now be placed on poor parents who have previously lost custody of a child to prove in the Children's Court why they should be allowed to have any children in their care at all. It will remove the need for DOCS to keep going back to the court and applying for child protection orders for every sibling. The new rules will also apply when a person has been identified by the coroner or police in connection with a child death.

Premier Morris Iemma said the laws were necessary to better protect children. "These changes mean that a risk to one child will be considered a risk to all children living under the same roof," he said. "It will also ensure that protection is extended when a new child comes along. "We're turning the tables on bad parents who have previously had their children removed and pose a risk of harm - it will now be up to them to prove they should keep their kids. "The truth is some parents are indifferent to the welfare of their children."

NSW Council for Social Services executive director Michelle Burrell said any such "scooping" mechanism would need close scrutiny.


Attack on conservative broadcaster is blatant homophobia

You can imagine the howls of outrage if a conservative columnist "outed" a prominent leftist media identity!

To speculate on lies, to peddle gossip, purely because the figure in question is a homosexual and an effective conservative one, is simple rubbish writing and muckraking, writes John Heard. Alan Jones is a homosexual. Michael Kirby is a homosexual. Sadly, both men have been targeted for vilification purely because they are attracted to their sex. In Kirby's case, it was the Left who accused the Right of homophobia following baseless allegations by Liberal senator Bill Heffernan in 2002. In Jones's case, which has come to light in a new book by the ABC's Chris Masters, the Right must accuse the Left. I know Kirby on a personal level but I've never had anything to do with Jones. It makes no difference. This situation is outrageous enough to warrant a disinterested critique.

Jones has been targeted because of a heresy dear to many on what remains of the Left. Homosexuals should not be conservatives and, if they are, they must be repressed, in denial or self-hating hypocrites. This creed, because those who profess it seem to consider it a fundamental truth, pervades public discussion of politics, religion, social justice and sport. Gay Catholics, for instance, who dare to think their Pope may know more about human flourishing than the homo-activists who act as apologists for the apparently liberated gay community must be full of hatred for themselves and those like them. There is no way, the heresy teaches, that they could be discerning individuals who are simply sick of the rot.

Similarly, gay citizens who admire John Howard, think Thatcherism did more good for the poor in Britain than many socialist ideas and are committed to free enterprise, libertarianism and social cohesion must be ingrates. How can they deny that it was Stonewall and the Left who bought their liberation from conservative social mores?

If operators on the Left had to choose a hero from the homosexuals in Australian public life, other than Kirby, who probably deserves the accolade, he would be of the John Marsden variety: brash, apparently unrepentant and lined up against the narrowness and bitterness of a life lived in the closet. And it is all nonsense. I am no fan of lies and dishonesty. A man should stand up for himself; he mustn't be afraid to list his weaknesses alongside his strengths and demand the world keep both in mind while judging him. But there is no compulsion, no sense of decency or rigour that obligates a public figure to discuss his sexuality in a particular manner or at all.

Masters's silly book reads like the worst sort of Victorian scandal sheet. One is surprised the text isn't subtitled: Exposing a Sodomite. Contra Masters, Jones's ancient arrest in London by the somewhat homophobic British police after they suspected him of public indecency does not constitute a sex scandal. Publishing details of the same, details that reveal Jones was cleared of all charges and the police were embarrassed in their ridiculous game of entrapment, while still insisting it was a sex scandal is irresponsible, if not potentially defamatory.

By making a mealy-mouthed concession - "it is not, nor should it be, a crime to be homosexual... it is not a sin to have your penis out in a public toilet", as if Masters were some sort of arbiter of what homosexuals are allowed to do - only to follow it up with a line such as, "but having easily defeated the criminal charges, Jones sought to defeat common sense as well, by asking the rest of the world to join him in his denial", Masters demonstrates the hatred, the homophobia that seethes beneath the otherwise politically correct exterior of the modern Left. Sure, they seem to like homosexuals, but only if we walk and talk, live and lie, in the manner that the Left prefers.

Am I going too far? Absolutely not and the proof is in the extracts published in the Fairfax press last weekend. Masters repeatedly suggests, at least as much as he can without leaving himself open to legal proceedings, that Jones is possibly a pedophile, thinking nothing of the damage caused to Jones or the lies that he perpetuates by linking such a high-profile discussion of homosexuality, once again, with that old canard, the predatory homosexual intent on kiddy fiddling. That he could corrupt what sounds like the earnest, chaste and otherwise successful bond between a dedicated teacher and football coach with his young male charges into the filthiest kind of homophobic slur - Jones couldn't have been motivated by anything high-minded; he must have been thinking with his penis - only reiterates the point. The Left doesn't care about homosexuals unless we vote as we are told.

The sheer arrogance of the attempt, the total lack of respect for another human being, his privacy or the plight of his brother homosexuals, is extraordinary. That The Sydney Morning Herald's David Marr - another homosexual - could go on The Insiders on the ABC and defend his involvement in this nasty business only proves the power of the deception on display. Such, at best, momentary abdications of common sense and humanity can stem only from a dissonance and the heresy: Jones is the perfect target and fair game.

How else to interpret passages that describe Jones as "resplendent in flared trousers and an orange cravat" singing a song from a "West End musical" (of all things! You can almost hear Masters sneer) before a "flabbergasted" King's School crowd? The homophobia in such passages veritably oozes. Not only is Jones fair game but he must be outed, humiliated and exposed for the dirty liar he is, the moral degenerate Masters and his mates obviously think Jones to be. It is their duty. It should be their great shame. I don't care what Jones did or didn't do in a bathroom in London all those years ago. I don't even care if he was an overbearing or demanding English teacher or football coach.

I do care if there was any wrongdoing - and Masters has no proof but repeats the rumours regardless - but an investigation would no doubt have locked up Jones. No such thing has occurred. To speculate on lies, to peddle gossip and innuendo, purely because the figure in question is a homosexual and - perhaps worse in the politics-blinded eyes of Masters, Marr and others - an effective conservative one, is simple rubbish writing and muckraking. It amounts to hate speech.

For too long, same-sex-attracted men have lived in ridiculous fear. We have been scared of blackmail. We have had to worry whether our best efforts will be interpreted in the worst possible light. We have been pursued unjustly by police and a legal system that criminalised a love that still dare not speak its name for fear of reprisals and retribution. This is just the kind of nonsense Masters and others have managed to bring once again to the pages of Australian newspapers and discuss in scandal-chasing books. The angle has changed but the methods of oppression are the same.

Anyone involved with this outing of Jones, any man who puts his name to or any paper that publishes extracts from the kind of sensationalist nonsense Masters is trying to sell, is not progressive or liberated. They are more like the ninth Marquess of Queensberry, he of the boxing rules and the "somdomite" misspelling and notorious slander case that put Oscar Wilde behind bars. He is certainly no friend to homosexuals. Even Marsden paid Cardinal George Pell and the priests of the Archdiocese of Sydney to say masses for the salvation of his apparently unrepentant soul. If they must take Marsden as a paragon, let the Left imitate him at least in that final humility and ask forgiveness for this latest expression of an old hatred.


History teaching replaced by lying propaganda

A federal Government senator is demanding the withdrawal of a school library book which paints his political hero and Australia's longest-serving prime minister as a tyrant. Sir Robert Menzies is listed alongside the likes of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, Cambodian ruler Pol Pot and the deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in the children's reference book 100 Greatest Tyrants, which is used by students at a Mount Isa high school. Senator George Brandis has slammed the book, by British author Andrew Langley, describing it as offensive and inappropriate for history studies in any Australian school.

"Of course it's absurd," Senator Brandis said. "It introduces students to the notion that there is a kind of moral equivalence between some of the most evil men in the history of the world and an Australian political leader who has been a beacon of liberal democracy."

The book, published a decade ago, lists Menzies among 100 so-called tyrants, right after the notorious Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong. Also listed are ruthless conqueror Genghis Khan, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and Chilean ruler Augusto Pinochet. The 110-page volume is part of the library collection at Mount Isa's Good Shepherd Catholic College, where even the school's principal Bernard Durie has admitted the book is flawed. "Obviously it's twaddle to suggest Menzies was a tyrant in the same class as Attila the Hun and that crowd," Mr Durie said. But he has refused to remove the book from the library, describing it as a useful resource for generating debate and critical thinking skills among students.

The Queensland Teachers' Union has backed the school's decision, accusing Senator Brandis of stepping over the line by calling for the book to be withdrawn. "I think that what he's on about is a dangerous censorship practice," said Lesley McFarlane, the union's assistant secretary for research. "I thought the days of burning books were gone."


Gun buyback has no effect on murder rate

A $500 million guess goes wrong

Half a billion dollars spent buying back hundreds of thousands of guns after the Port Arthur massacre had no effect on the homicide rate, says a study published in an influential British journal. The report by two Australian academics, published in the British Journal of Criminology, said statistics gathered in the decade since Port Arthur showed gun deaths had been declining well before 1996 and the buyback of more than 600,000 mainly semi-automatic rifles and pump-action shotguns had made no difference in the rate of decline.

The only area where the package of Commonwealth and State laws, known as the National Firearms Agreement (NFA) may have had some impact was on the rate of suicide, but the study said the evidence was not clear and any reductions attributable to the new gun rules were slight. "Homicide patterns (firearm and non-firearm) were not influenced by the NFA, the conclusion being that the gun buyback and restrictive legislative changes had no influence on firearm homicide in Australia," the study says.

In his first year in office, the Prime Minister, John Howard, forced through some of the world's toughest gun laws, including the national buyback scheme, after Martin Bryant used semi-automatic rifles to shoot dead 35 people at Port Arthur. Although furious licensed gun-owners said the laws would have no impact because criminals would not hand in their guns, Mr Howard and others predicted the removal of so many guns from the community, and new laws making it harder to buy and keep guns, would lead to a reduction in all types of gun-related deaths.

One of the authors of the study, Jeanine Baker, said she knew in 1996 it would be impossible for years to know whether the Prime Minister or the shooters were right. "I have been collecting data since 1996 . The decision was we would wait for a decade and then evaluate," she said. The findings were clear, she said: "The policy has made no difference. There was a trend of declining deaths that has continued." Dr Baker and her co-author, Samara McPhedran, declared their membership of gun groups in the article, something Dr Baker said they had done deliberately to make clear "who we are" and head off any possible criticism that they had hidden relevant details. The significance of the article was not who had written it but the fact it had been published in a respected journal after the regular rigorous process of being peer reviewed, she said.

Politicians had assumed tighter gun laws would cut off the supply of guns to would-be criminals and that homicide rates would fall as a result, the study said. But more than 90 per cent of firearms used to commit homicide were not registered, their users were not licensed and they had been unaffected by the firearms agreement. Dr Baker said many more lives would have been saved had the Government spent the $500 million on mental health or other programs rather than on destroying semi-automatic weapons. She believed semi-automatic rifles should be available to shooters, although with tight restrictions such as those in place in New Zealand.

The director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics, Dr Don Weatherburn, said he was not surprised by the study. He said it showed "politicians would be well advised to claim success of their policies after they were evaluated, not before".