Labor emission target 'crazy' - PM
LABOR is promising to slash greenhouse emissions without knowing the impact of those cuts on jobs, Prime Minister John Howard says. Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd has committed a Labor government to reducing Australia's emissions by 60 per cent by 2050, while the Greens want an 80 per cent cut over the same period. Mr Howard said it was irresponsible to commit to greenhouse targets without knowing the full economic effect of such actions.
Mr Rudd and Greens leader Bob Brown were "peas in a pod on this issue", he said. "You've got this ridiculous situation where the Greens are advocating an 80 per cent cut by 2050, the Labor Party is only slightly less radical at 60 per cent by 2050," Mr Howard told ABC radio. "Neither the Greens or the Labor Party has any idea of what that will do to jobs. "I think it is crazy and irresponsible of any political party in this country to commit to a target when you don't know the impact of the target."
Mr Howard said Mr Rudd had borrowed his 60 per cent target from European nations, ignoring the different circumstances Australia faced. "This is not Europe. This is Australia, and I am not going to subcontract the climate change policy of this country to the European Union," he said. "European circumstances are different. Europe is not a major exporter of coal. "The people of Queensland, particularly in the coal industry, should understand that the alternative prime minister of this country has committed to a target and he doesn't know the impact of the implementation of that target on jobs in the coal industry (and) jobs in many other parts of Australia."
In a speech yesterday, Mr Howard said global warming was not the overwhelming moral challenge facing Australia, and argued that economic growth should take precedence over emissions cuts. Today, Mr Howard said the government would not commit to an emissions reduction target until he knew the effect it would have on the economy. A business and government taskforce examining emissions trading would consider the potential impacts, he said.
Police use ethnic labels: Horrors!
NSW police use the description "Middle Eastern" too frequently in media releases, skewing the perception of crime rates and contributing to racial tensions, a report says. The service constantly ignores its policy on the use of ethnic descriptions and has even issued releases referring to suspects wearing balaclavas as being of Mediterranean or Middle Eastern appearance, the report by the Australia Middle East Christian Council found.
The report said up to two-thirds of the police media releases that mentioned ethnicity referred to suspects of Mediterranean or Middle Eastern appearance. This was a disproportionate use, said Peter El Khouri, a member of the council and former Liberal Party candidate. "There is a perception that the Middle Eastern community, Australians of Middle Eastern background, are significantly responsible for crime in the state," said Mr El Khouri, who is of Lebanese descent.
The council said NSW police should use the national standards, adopted in 1993 by other police forces, which use four terms to describe appearance in public communications about crimes: Aboriginal, Asian, Caucasian and other. NSW police expand "other" into four groups: Mediterranean or Middle Eastern, Indian or Pakistani, Pacific Islander and South American.
The council also wants police units such as the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad to drop the ethnic reference in their title. Mr El Khouri said the "use and abuse of the policy on ethnic descriptors" could have contributed to racial unrest leading up to the Cronulla riots of December 2005. "Why are we not conforming to the national guidelines?" he asked. "We have not seen a riot or similar ethnic tension to the Cronulla riots in other states that conform to the guidelines."
The Minister for Police said police would retain the descriptions. "Their use does not suggest a link between ethnicity and crime, but is merely a quick and generally efficient way of identifying people who the police need to locate - be they suspects, possible victims or witnesses," said a spokesman for the Police Minister, David Campbell. Police denied that the use of ethnic descriptors increased racial tension or was in any way discriminatory or inflammatory.
The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has found no statistical link between ethnicity and crime, the report says. NSW prison population figures quoted in the report show 139 of the state's 8961 prisoners last June were born in Lebanon - a lower percentage than those born in Vietnam, China, Britain, Ireland or New Zealand. [Probably because their Muslim code of silence makes them hard to catch]
Basic subjects return to schools
The catch-all subject Studies of Society and Environment will be dropped in the nation's high schools and replaced by the traditional disciplines of history, geography and economics under a schools action plan to be released by the states and territories today. A report on the future of schooling prepared for the Council for the Australian Federation, comprising the Labor state and territory governments, outlines a 12-point plan for the implementation of a national framework for school education.
The plan, agreed to by all state and territory governments, commits them to refocus SOSE in response to criticism that the subject has become too crowded by areas such as environmental and legal studies at the expense of history and geography. "Studies of Society and Environment has been criticised by a number of commentators, partly because its focus is not clear from the label," the report says. "It has become increasingly clear that what should be studied under this label, are the disciplines of history, geography and economics." The report explicitly outlines those disciplines under the umbrella of humanities and social science as part of the plan to develop a national curriculum.
Victorian Premier Steve Bracks, who will release the report today, said the report advocated a return to traditional disciplines to ensure a well-rounded education. "It reflects our belief that there are key disciplines that are best taught within the school curriculum," Mr Bracks said. The governments will also introduce three benchmark levels for reporting students' literacy and numeracy results in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9, under a new national test to start next year. The present system under which students are reported only as passing very low, minimum standards - giving no indication of the breadth of student performance - will be replaced by three levels of minimum, medium and high achievement.
The plan also commits the states and territories to developing a plan for reporting school performance, with a focus on how much it has improved its students' results, and processes for reviewing teachers' performance based on "improved student, classroom and/or school performance".
The release of the plan follows a meeting of the nation's education ministers in Darwin last week, where the states and territories rejected the federal Government's blueprint for national curriculums, performance-based pay for teachers and the reporting of national test results. School curriculums are designed by the states and territories, hampering the federal Government's efforts to impose its will in this area.
Mr Bracks said education heads from around the nation would meet this week to start the implementation of the plan, which invites the federal Government to participate as part of a "collaborative federalism".
The COAF report, The Future of Schooling in Australia, reaffirms the primacy of literacy and numeracy in primary schools and the "fundamentally important" disciplines of English, maths, science and languages other than English for high school students. It also notes the importance of physical education, the arts and technology and identifies two areas to be added to school curriculums - civics and citizenship, and business. "The study of business and the development of commercial and financial literacy skills can assist students in their middle and later years at school to prepare for work in the 21st century," it says.
Rain lashes coast, but the "drought" is still on
There is always a drought somewhere in Australia -- but plenty of rainfall in other parts too -- which shows the need for advance planning -- exactly what governments claim to be good at. But since dam provision has been taken out of the hands of the engineers and put in the hands of Green-shy politicians, practically no new dams have been built
RAIN continued to deluge parts of the east coast yesterday but farmers beyond the ranges again missed out and have little prospect of heavy falls in the near future. As storms lashed Sydney on Sunday night and yesterday, a key weather indicator predicted another dry winter.
The Southern Oscillation Index had been rising towards neutral territory, a sign that drought is weakening, but in recent weeks it has plunged dramatically and it reached a five-month low yesterday of -13.1. Consistent negative readings indicate the likelihood of below-average rainfall, while positive values suggest more rainfall could be on the way.
Storms in Sydney on Sunday night dumped 98mm at Rose Bay, in the eastern suburbs, in just three hours. Rose Bay had another 9.6mm to 3pm yesterday.
The best fall along the Murray-Darling to 9am yesterday was 10mm at Cherrabah, on the NSW-Queensland border. Long-range rainfall forecasts hold only a slight hope that enough rain will fall in the Murray-Darling Basin to prevent the cutting of irrigation allocations next month.
A three-month outlook from the Bureau of Meteorology carries slender prospects of better-than-average falls. John Howard warned last week that "if it doesn't rain in sufficient volume over the next six to eight weeks" initial irrigation allocations in the basin would not be made.
The bureau's latest seasonal outlook, published yesterday, predicts a wetter-than-average three months to the end of July for the upper Darling catchment. But only just. It said there was a 55 per cent to 65 per cent chance of better-than-average rain in the north, northeast, central west and southeast of NSW and southern inland and coastal southeastern Queensland.
National Climate Centre meteorologist Blair Trewin said: "This is the drier time of the year there so above-average rain doesn't necessarily point to particularly large falls. If 2007 is as bad as 2006 for inflows there will be no allocations but that's a fairly unlikely scenario." Dr Trewin said expected lower-than-normal daytime temperatures would help to keep evaporation low.
In southern Queensland, all of NSW and Tasmania, and the eastern half of South Australia, there is a 55 per cent to 60 per cent chance of cooler-than-normal days. Chances of cooler days in Victoria run to 65 per cent. The Queensland Department of Primary Industries also predicts rainfall in the upper Darling catchment might exceed the average up to the end of June.
It predicts a 60 per cent chance of wetter-than-normal conditions. But along the Murray, there was only a 30 per cent to 40 per cent chance of more rain than normal.