Thursday, June 14, 2007

Big floods no help to water supply because of inadequate dams

The Greenie influence in operation. It has long been known that existing dams are to an extent in the wrong place but huge opposition from environmentalists keeps preventing the building of new ones

Sydney water authorities are 40 years too late to build new dams that could have taken advantage of the flooding rains last weekend, a water expert said yesterday. Barry Thom from the Wentworth Group warned that it would require the flooding of the picturesque and now World Heritage-listed Colo and Grose valleys in the Blue Mountains to augment Sydney's depleted water storages.

He said that despite the scale of the flooding in the Hunter Valley over the weekend, the recent rain events were still relatively minor compared with the more extensive floods along the east coast of Australia in the 1950s and 70s. "It was still a very localised event," he said. "We didn't see floods all along the east coast, as we did in the 1970s or in 1955."

Professor Thom said state governments faced decadal shifts in rainfall patterns that have delivered predominantly dry conditions since the early 80s. Most of the network of urban dams in Australia was built during higher rainfall cycles around the 60s. "If we are going to provide adequate water supplies there needs to be a recognition that, as population grows, we have to be prepared to manage for these lower rainfall conditions," Professor Thom said.

Sydney's 15-dam network is still about one-third full, with 80per cent of the supply coming from the massive 9000sqkm Warragamba Dam catchment. It received 43mm of rain over the weekend. Sydney Catchment Authority bulk water manager Ian Tanner said Sydney's dams were located uphill from the city to allow gravity to supply the water and using natural geography to minimise evaporation. "Sydney has one of the highest per capita stored waters in the world," he said.

"Brisbane can tend to rely on its summer rains, Melbourne on its winter rains. We're caught in the middle. Our rains come whenever they feel like it." Water Services Association chief executive Ross Young said the biggest problem with existing dams was that rainfall patterns were shifting to more coastal rain, which delivered less rain into these inland catchments.


Private schools fear ALP's funding plan

The Labor party is trying to walk both sides of the street again. Around 40% of Australian teenagers go to private schools so this is a big issue

IN a potential replay of Mark Latham's politically bruising fracas with the independent education sector in 2004, private schools have complained that Labor's stand on school funding could "take us back to the dark old days when parents were penalised for their financial contribution to their children's education".

In an internal circular, leaked to The Australian, Independent Schools Council of Australia chief Bill Daniels says he has written to Opposition education spokesman Stephen Smith to express the organisation's concern that promises on funding by Mr Smith and Kevin Rudd are "inconsistent with some of the statements in the ALP national platform". Mr Daniels claims a clause in the platform that says "income from private sources" will be taken into account when deciding how much money a school will receive is at odds with promises by the Opposition Leader and Mr Smith that no private school will be worse off under Labor and that Mr Latham's "hit list" of well-off private schools is dead.

Mr Smith last night committed a federal Labor government to maintaining funding levels and existing indexation arrangements for all schools. This latest problem for Mr Rudd on the policy front follows weeks of controversy over Labor's "back to the future" workplace policies, which business groups claim would force them to bargain collectively with unions and impose a centralised umpire on the wages system.

Under the Howard Government, independent schools have been funded under a formula based on the socio-economic status of a school's parent cohort. There is no reduction in funding for schools that charge high fees or engage in active fundraising - a situation private schools fear could change if the Labor platform is implemented under a Rudd government. "The current funding arrangements do not take into account resources, including income from private sources, that are available to any school, government or non-government," Mr Daniels says in his letter to Mr Smith. "While the Australian Government's socio-economic status funding model is a measure of the capacity of parents to contribute to their child's education, it does not limit that contribution."

In his circular, which will be published in the ISCA newsletter today, Mr Daniels complains that "what we see injected into the schools funding debate is the idea that it is morally wrong for governments to fund non-government schools". "Worse is the notion that parents can spend their hard-earned money on anything they like except on the education of their children - and that once they do that they must be punished, in a funding sense," he writes.

"The 'hit list' may be gone but (Labor's) policy, if implemented, would take us back to the dark old days when parents were penalised for their financial contribution to their children's education. No matter what ideologies drive the education debate, it must be acknowledged that many parents are making significant sacrifices for their children's education. "As (Labor federal president) Warren Mundine said, 'congratulate and support, not punish and denigrate'."


Staff crisis hits public hospital CT scans

MAJOR Queensland hospitals could be forced to sideline one of their key diagnostic tools because of chronic staff shortages. The Government's failure to retain and attract radiographers is impacting heavily on the ability of some hospitals to conduct CT scans on patients. The scanners, operated by radiographers, help doctors to diagnose ailments from cancers to the internal injuries of accident victims. A leaked email obtained by The Courier-Mail has exposed the dire situation faced by one of the state's biggest health facilities, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital. In the email to Queensland Health's radiology steering committee, RBWH director of medical imaging Peter Scally warns the hospital is struggling to maintain CT scanning of patients. "We are experiencing difficulties keeping the CTs functioning because of the numbers of trained radiographers. Have lost two lately," he said.

A Queensland Health spokesman said options were being considered to ensure CT scans continued. "All urgent patients and inpatients will continue to take priority," he said. [Big deal! Don't they anyway?] The spokesman said the shortage of radiographers was not unique to RBWH or Queensland Health. The revelation comes after The Courier-Mail exposed how cancer victims are being forced to wait more than three times longer than recommended for radiation treatment.

Premier Peter Beattie yesterday said the Government was addressing the problems. Mr Beattie said millions of dollars was being invested in extra cancer-fighting equipment, a new pay deal was being negotiated and Queensland Health was "aggressively recruiting" new staff. "We are also recruiting within Australia and overseas for more doctors, nurses and medical radiation staff," he said.

But an internal Queensland Health document shows the so-called "Work for Us" campaign has attracted few new staff. By January 25, Queensland Health had received 5224 expressions of interest but appointed fewer than 300 new staff. Only two of these were medical imaging professionals. The QH spokesman said the internal report was misleading because it did not include radiographers appointed directly by each district.


Your government will protect you -- again

GAPING security flaws have been exposed at Sydney Airport, with The Daily Telegraph able to gain easy and unfettered access to potential terror targets at Australia's largest airport. Access was granted to its most sensitive areas without any background checks or security searches. These included the airport's 30-million-litre jet fuel tanks, a number of 747 aircraft, refuelling stations, baggage cars, conveyor belts and customs areas.

With only photo ID, an airport contact and a cursory glance from contract security guards, we penetrated the inner sanctum of the international airport without scrutiny of identity or motive. There were no background and criminal history checks, no metal detectors, no bag or body searches, and no explosives or drugs dogs.

The Daily Telegraph exposed the risks in the wake of the foiled terror plot to blow up New York's JFK Airport and in the lead-up to APEC. All it took to obtain 24-hour access was to go to the airport's security office and have a holder of an Aviation Security Identification Card (ASIC) request a "visitor pass''. The only requirement was a driver's licence and the pass was issued in five minutes - no questions asked.

Entering the tarmac via one of dozens of "back door'' security gates, The Daily Telegraph spent more than an hour moving unhindered to and from potential terror targets. New airport staff members have the same access for a maximum three months on temporary passes until the police background checks, which take six to eight weeks, are conducted and an ASIC issued. The condition of entry for both temporary and visitor pass holders is that they are escorted by an ASIC holder, or face a fine of just $550. Once inside it was assumed that all personnel were there for lawful reasons and there were no further challenges to their legitimacy.

The security shortcomings leave the country's biggest airport vulnerable to terrorist attacks on a scale rivalling the recent attempt on New York's JFK Airport. Four Muslim radicals were charged with conspiring to attack JFK airport by blowing up jet fuel supply tanks, attempting to set off a chain reaction along the network of fuel pipelines that would have killed thousands of people and destroyed the airport. Sydney Airport's aviation fuel pipelines also run under the airport and along the tarmac. Even without access to the tarmac, the seven aviation fuel tanks situated off Airport Drive are set back only 30m from a wire fence.

A Sydney Airport spokesman said the visitor and staff passes complied with the Aviation Transport Security Regulations 2005. "The Australian Government and its expert security assessment agencies have determined these rules,'' the spokesman said. On two separate occasions, The Daily Telegraph walked around the tanks for about 30 minutes without being approached by security. The Transport Workers Union's Sam Crosby said flawed security put thousands of airport workers and passengers at risk.


The Left needs to get real

By Janet Albrechtsen

SOME fights deserve a few more rounds. So let’s go another round with the one started so magnificently by The Australian (Reality bites the psychotic Left) challenging the psychotic Left to take a reality check.

Like a tired actor who plays the same role over and over again, hamming it up each time, the leitmotif of the Left lacks a certain sparkle. They line up like drones to tell us that debate has been stifled this past decade. Bookshelves in your local bookstore are groaning under the weight of tomes written on the subject. Perhaps these evangelical intellectuals on the Left think that if they say it often enough, it will become the received wisdom. They could not be more wrong. The more they say it, the more they remind us of their own irrelevance.

A few years ago, it was historian Stuart Macintyre in his book The History Wars moaning about the “weapons of mass destruction” employed by certain commentators and historians to challenge Australian history. Weapons such as careful research and a preference for facts over fiction. Imagine the audacity of Keith Windschuttle checking original sources and finding some academics had fudged facts. Meanwhile, Australian history moved on to a healthier debate where the politics of shame no longer dominated.

Then came Robert Manne’s Do Not Disturb where leftists claimed that conservative politics was cheapening our democracy and creating social and ethnic division. Were the conservatives not aware that multiculturalism and other sacred “isms” were not policies or ideas to be challenged so much as articles of faith?

We’ve had Silencing Dissent by Clive Hamilton and Sarah Maddison whose title says it all. And now there is more of the same from David Marr and his Quarterly Essay titled “His Master’s Voice - The Corruption of Public Debate under Howard”.

By any measure, if this is silence imposed by an authoritarian Howard Government, the Left need to go back to their dictionaries. While they are there, they may want to flick back to the “narcissism” word. If you had to sum up the state of thinking from left-wing intellectuals, this word does the job. Their unrestrained intellectual vanity leaves no room for debate. So self-absorbed are they in their own genius, so obvious is their own correctness, disagreement is not merely wrong but immoral. Those on the other side of the political divide are not just misguided. They are evil. They are, said Dennis Glover in his contribution to the debate, “right-wing thugs”.

These guys are bruised by two facts: there are now more people challenging left-wing orthodoxy (and they don’t like it one bit); and fewer people are listening to their left-wing diatribes (and they really hate that).

To be fair, Glover managed to pin down part of the Left’s problem. He said that too many progressive journalists ceded ground in the culture wars when they stopped writing about ordinary people. These progressives have taken up a field way off to the Left where they decry capitalism and affluence, ignoring what matters in mainstream debates.

But it goes further than that. They stopped writing about issues that affect ordinary people because they stopped thinking about those issues. Instead, they talk down to ordinary people. Marr’s latest fulmination is filled with depictions of Australians as too lazy to care about our political culture - “more subjects than citizens” - apparently living under some mesmerising hex imposed by Howard.

Unwilling or unable to confront the arguments from opponents, they claim some conservative conspiracy is tricking mainstream Australia and trying to keep the Left out of debates. It’s a neat way of avoiding one’s own intellectual irrelevance. When they start to acknowledge their own intellectual shortcomings and their disdain for “ordinary” Australians, perhaps debate will become richer.

The market for ideas - the West’s most precious achievement - works best when ideas are tested by worthy opponents. Each side keeps the other honest. Through that intellectual argy-bargy, good ideas triumph and silly ideas are sidelined. Neither side should be heard to whine that the other hits too hard. Unfortunately, the Left still seems to want the ring to itself. That kind of sums up the strength of their positions.


1 comment:

Mondo Rock said...

The market for ideas - the West’s most precious achievement - works best when ideas are tested by worthy opponents. Each side keeps the other honest. Through that intellectual argy-bargy, good ideas triumph and silly ideas are sidelined. Neither side should be heard to whine that the other hits too hard.

John - how do you reconcile this belief with the behaviour on A Western Heart, where you are a regular contributor, and where the moderators quite openly tell Left-wing posters that their views are not welcome?