Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Flag ban an 'insult' to Aussies

How the elite hate the patriotism of ordinary people! And is not the elite reaction to the deeds and attitudes of a tiny minority an example of that evil, overgeneralized "stereotyping" that they condemn in others? By the same logic, all American blacks are to blame for the actions of the criminal minority.

Big Day Out organisers face a public backlash after the New South Wales Premier predicted mass displays of red, white, and blue in defiance of a ban on the Australian flag at this Thursday's event. Senior politicians have called for Big Day Out to reverse its decision immediately, with Prime Minister John Howard saying the event itself should be cancelled unless the ban was overturned.

Reports that flags would be confiscated at the gates of Thursday's event at Homebush led to a chorus of complaints from senior Labor and Liberal politicians, the RSL and the Sydney Chamber of Commerce over the Big Day Out decision. Mr Iemma said he was examining legal avenues to challenge the request, which will apply to the Sydney event only.

BDO Organiser Ken West was quoted as saying fans' behaviour last year in the wake of the Cronulla riots and the recent ethnic violence at the Australian Open tennis tournament had forced his hand. "The Australian flag was being used as gang colours. It was racism disguised as patriotism and I'm not going to tolerate it," Mr West said.

While BDO today said Mr West had been misinterpreted, it still urged fans to leave their flags at home. "It's an insult to all Australians and they ought to withdraw it (the ban) immediately," Mr Iemma said. "Kids will have the tattoo on their nose, they'll have the t-shirts and they'll fly the flag." "You don't punish the overwhelming majority of decent law-abiding citizens that want to have a good day out, enjoy music or sport, just because there might be some louts in the crowd who want to get in the crowd and intimidate others," he said.

The Prime Minister said the Big Day Out should be cancelled unless organisers reversed their decision to ban the flag. Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd said the situation was "doubly wrong in the lead up to Australia Day". "Organisers have got it plain wrong when they try to hide our flag as if it's some symbol of shame. It's not. We should fly it with pride," he said on Channel 9.

Federal parliamentary secretary for immigration Andrew Robb said the flag was not the problem. "If they have got a security problem, they need to deal with that, not with the flag. The flag is a symbol of unity," he said. "To compare the flag to a gang colour I think is just outrageous, and totally unacceptable."

The RSL also describing the decision to ban the flag as "outrageous", while the Sydney Chamber of Commerce said a flag ban jeopardised the city's reputation as an events host. Director of the chamber Patricia Forsythe said such a ban gave an impression that major events in Sydney had been hijacked by gangs, and could damage the local economy. "Major events such as the Big Day Out generate millions of dollars and thousands of jobs for the Sydney economy," she said. "Sydney can't afford the perception that our major events ... (are) threatened by extremists and thugs."

The Big Day Out's website carried a statement this morning, saying: "Contrary to the reports in the media, it was never our intention to disrespect the symbolism of the Australian or any other flag." It said: "We are not banning the Australian flag but are simply discouraging its use for anti-social purposes at the Big Day Out. "In recent times, there has been an increased incidence of flags brandished aggressively and this has led to increased tension. "Our only intention in discouraging this activity at the Big Day Out is to ensure that our patrons are not subjected to this aggressive behaviour. "With all this in mind and the aim to create a happy, peaceful MUSICAL event, organisers would like to request that fans please leave their flags at home." The organisers said there was no need for the Australian flag to be waved at the Sydney concert as it was not an Australia Day event.

Mainstream headline act Jet have a black and white version of the flag as the backdrop for their set. Frontman Nic Cester said they used this version to display their pride in being Australian. "I can't tell anyone else what to do but we as a band are very proud to be Australian and we don't want to feel we are not allowed to feel proud because of the disgusting actions of people who don't represent Australia, in my mind," he said.

The Big Day Out event tours six cities in Australia and New Zealand but the flag issue has only been raised in Sydney, where the festival has been shifted to the day before its usual Australia Day date to avoid nationalistic overtones.



This is the drought that was supposed to be caused by global warming. It's been raining several times a week for months where I live (Brisbane, Southeast Queensland) at the Northern end of Australia too. So it's global cooling now? Don't hold your breath! The first picture below shows flooding in Tasmania and the second shows flooding in South Australia, the third is from Queensland:


A torrential downpour caused havoc across the state yesterday, leaving parts of Hobart almost a metre under water. Traffic in Hobart's northern suburbs was plunged into chaos for several hours in the afternoon as major roads were transformed into rivers, with overflowing drains spewing torrents of water into the paths of vehicles.

Some motorists -- particularly those in 4WDs -- opted to battle through the waist-deep water along parts of the Brooker Highway before police closed the road, while others abandoned their vehicles after they slid off the road or began to fill with water. Civilians were spotted attempting to direct traffic as fleets of tow trucks and council crews battled to restore order under the stormy skies and wet conditions, which were the consequence of a monsoon raging in the Northern Territory.

Swollen suburban creeks also streamed across onto the roads and footpaths. Hobart's rivulet was a torrent of white water and fire trucks and police cars dotted the city as a spate of security alarms were set off. A Tasmania Fire Service spokeswoman said firies had attended more alarm calls in one 24-hour period than they would normally attend in three weeks. Firefighters attended 53 fire alarms activated after flooding caused electrical faults. Electrical faults caused a fire in the substation under the Island State Credit Union building in Victoria St, Hobart, and at the Tasmaid Pura Milk factory in Lenah Valley and Cadbury Schweppes at Claremont.

Fire crews used pumps to stem rising waters at Cadburys until contractors arrived. Crews also assisted with flooding at various locations across the city. Police radio rooms were inundated with calls from concerned citizens, although few accidents were reported.

Businesses, particularly those in Derwent Park, worked madly to mop up their showrooms and offices. Jack Mekina, owner of Mekina Technologies on Derwent Park Rd, said he and surrounding business were facing large clean-up and damage bills. "The whole showroom is swimming in a metre of water, it's running like a river. I've been here seven years and have never seen anything like it," he said.

Ten patients had to be moved from the Old Repatriation Hospital in Davey St to the Royal Hobart Hospital as parts of the building flooded, and Woolworths in Campbell St also closed due to flooding. Sport was also disrupted, with major events including the cricket at Bellerive and racing at Elwick called off.

The massive downpour was the climax of three days of showers across the state. While the south of the state was worst hit yesterday, the north was also wet, particularly on Friday and Saturday. As much as 55mm of rain was recorded at Quarmby Bluff in the 24 hours to 9am yesterday, 45mm at Port Davey and 44mm at Strathgordon.

Bushy Park Roadhouse owner Gaylene Fenton was taken by surprise when her business was flooded on Friday, along with nearby houses. "There were frogs and worms in the shop and water everywhere. I've never seen so much rain," she said. The shop needed lots of cleaning before it reopened the following day, as well as help from the fire brigade to pump out the water, but she said at least local farmers were happy. "We desperately needed the rain and the farmers are happy. It's just a pity it had to come all at once," she said.


South Australia:

Unsealed roads devastated by flooding across South Australia's outback could be closed for days as crews attempt to repair bitumen roads, remove debris and mud and rebuild concrete floodways.

Families and a busload of tourists are stranded in the Flinders Ranges town of Hawker, 400km north of Adelaide, after it was cut off by heavy flooding over the weekend. The State Emergency Service expects the road to Quorn to be opened later today. "The roads have literally disappeared so where there was a floodway there is now a hole of three or four metres," a spokesman for the state Department of Transport told ABC radio.

The Bureau of Meteorology reported that 150mm of rain fell within 48 hours in Hawker, seven times the January average.

Mayors of towns hit by flooding have also called on governments to provide relief funding for businesses and homes damaged by water. "It may well be that we have to approach the federal Government for a state of emergency type funding to do this," Whyalla mayor Jim Pollock told local radio.



The drought broke across large tracts of western Queensland at the weekend as a monsoon low delivered rain pastoralists have been waiting nearly seven years to see. But the rain was moving northeast towards the Gulf of Carpentaria last night leaving southeast Queensland still in a dire drought, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. The huge system defied forecasts on Saturday, moving east from central Australia and dropping record rainfall on parts of Queensland's far west.

All roads to Bedourie were flooded and the town cut off, after 169mm was dumped late Saturday night. "It's gone from drought to flood," said weather bureau senior forecaster Jeff Callaghan. "Bedourie only had 65mm of rain all last year." Another 28mm fell yesterday, according to the bureau.

The bureau issued flood warnings for the Paroo and Bulloo rivers and Georgina and Eyre creeks. Winds up to 90km/h accompanied the rain. Other west Queensland towns receiving significant rain were Boulia, 77mm, Thargomindah, 68mm, and Birdsville, 39mm, according to the bureau.

The only hope for the parched southeast to receive anything more than a few storms over the next few days was the monsoonal system's unpredictability, Mr Callaghan said. "You get this incredible rain all around Queensland except for here, it's amazing," he said.


Leftist State governments hit homebuyers

And they claim to be on the side of the little guy!

The Federal Government has urged the states to cut stamp duties on conveyancing and to release new land for development to make housing more affordable. Commenting on a report released yesterday that showed housing affordability had fallen to a 22-year low, acting Treasurer Peter Dutton said that in 2005/06 the states collected $10.8 billion in stamp duties. "This is more than double the amount they collected in 2000/01 and comes despite record amounts of GST going to the states and territories,'' Mr Dutton said. "Property taxes, such as stamp duty and land tax, now make up, on average, 32.5 per cent of the total revenue raised by the states from their own imposed taxes. "This is up from 22.6 per cent in 2000/01.''

He said that in Western Australia the situation was even worse, with property taxes making up 43 per cent of total state sourced revenue, despite record levels of GST from a booming economy fuelled by the resources sector. Stamp duties on a median priced property in Perth add, on average, $20,500 to the cost of the purchase, he said.

The survey released yesterday by Australia's peak building body, the Housing Industry Association (HIA), showed that for the first time Perth housing for first-home buyers is now less affordable than Sydney. "With Perth now overtaking Sydney as the most expensive market for first home buyers it is time for the Western Australian Government to cut this excessive level of stamp duty and give back to the people who are helping to make Western Australia such a prosperous state,'' Mr Dutton said. "I call on all the state Labor governments to cut stamp duty on conveyancing now and make housing a whole lot more affordable for first home buyers.''



They are some of Australia's most trusted household brands. But as part of a campaign against childhood obesity, the independent consumer watchdog is naming and shaming the food manufacturers who are making children fat. "All natural", "low GI" and "real fruit" are just some of the descriptors used on 10 market-leading snack foods and beverages targeted at children and analysed by Choice. But even a single serve of these products can pack in as many kilojoules as a Big Mac and a middy of beer - without satisfying the tummy rumbles.

Arnott's, Uncle Tobys, Nestle and Ribena are among those named in the report, to be made public today, with two cereal-based products, hailed by the manufacturers for their energy-building qualities, leading the pack in excessive fat and sugar content.

Health-conscious parents are likely to feel dismay when they learn that one of Australia's best-loved brands - Milo, albeit in cereal form - contains almost as much sugar as and even more fat than the much-maligned Kellogg's Coco Pops. And while the childhood lunchbox staple of Arnott's Tiny Teddy biscuits may have been credited with single-handedly resurrecting the local biscuit industry more than a decade ago, a single 27-gram pack with accompanying pink dipping goo takes out top honours for cramming the most kilojoules into the least amount of food. Another lunchbox stalwart which has long been promoted by its manufacturer as a healthy children's drink, Ribena, consists of little more than sugar and water, while its essential ingredient - blackcurrants - makes up just 5 per cent of content.

Choice's spokeswoman, Indira Naidoo, said the association was exposing the market leaders because advertising and labelling led many parents to believe they were buying healthier alternatives to more overtly marketed junk foods. One product singled out by Choice, Go Natural's berry pieces in yoghurt, was even located in the health food section of a big supermarket, despite being laden with trans fatty acids. "Part of these foods' popularity is due to the misleading claims made, leading parents to believe they are not as unhealthy as they really are," she said. "But even a small serve can be as dense in kilojoules as a small meal."

Nestle's director of corporate and external relations, Peter Kelly, said Choice was confusing consumers and making "an unhelpful contribution to the debate over what constitutes a healthy diet". The kilojoules per 100 gram serve criteria used in the analysis meant that a child would have to eat three and a half bowls of Milo cereal to reach the 100-gram serving, he said, while almost seven bars of Uncle Tobys fruit roll-ups - also made by Nestle and singled out by Choice - would have to be consumed to reach the 100-gram target. "As we all know that simply doesn't make sense," Mr Kelly said. "It's a pity Choice has not taken the opportunity to provide consumers with some useful education on what is a very important subject."

But a spokeswoman for Arnott's told the Herald that choc-chip Tiny Teddy biscuits with strawberry dip were already marked for culling. The decision had more to do with low sales than their 80 per cent sugar and fat content, she said.


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