Friday, February 01, 2008

Apology wording tough, says Rudd

I applaud his caution. Seeing that no generation was in fact stolen, he is going to be reluctant to look a fool in the future when the lie about it all crumbles

WORDING the federal Government's apology to the Stolen Generations has been "really tough", Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says. The Prime Minister will deliver the apology in parliament on February 13, more than 10 years after a human rights report recommended the commonwealth say sorry.

Mr Rudd said the Government was "getting there" with the wording of the apology but it had not been easy.

"Next week we will go through a further round (of consultations) and we'll be closer to the content of that apology as we get closer to parliament itself," Mr Rudd told the Fairfax Media Network today.

But Mr Rudd said once the apology was delivered it would be "time to move on", again rejecting calls for compensation. "We will not under any circumstances be establishing any compensation arrangements or compensation fund," he said. "Absolutely blunt on that."


Australian airlines are becoming as disgusting as American ones

I hope that this incident -- "Jetstar" passengers kicked out onto the street -- becomes widely-known among potential customers of the airline concerned:

HUNDREDS of airline passengers stranded after bad weather closed Sydney's airport were kicked to the kerb when officials closed the building late last night. Four domestic Jetstar flights were cancelled and passengers booked on evening services to Melbourne, the Gold Coast and Launceston were caught up in a bureaucratic tangle involving the airline and airport authorities.

A storm which lashed Sydney during the evening peak hours forced the cancellation of a number of flights until early today. As a result, more than 300 stranded Jetstar passengers were turned out of Terminal Two when the airport closed its doors at the curfew time of 11pm.

One woman left stranded said she spent the night curled up in a bus shelter. The passenger, identified only as Stacey, said the airline had a moral responsibility to her and her two friends to look after them. "We were three young females left outside in the rain," Stacey said on ABC radio today. "There's got to be some sort of moral responsibility to look after us, not just kick us out and tell us to fend for ourselves." Stacey, along with 30 other passengers, found refuge in the bus shelter until the airport terminal reopened at 4am. "We spent the night on a bench in a bus shelter by Sydney Airport," she said. "We weren't sure how it was going to pan out but they ended up letting us back into the terminal when it opened at 4 o'clock in the morning.

However, a Sydney Airport statement released this morning confirmed announcements were made to passengers that a 24 hour waiting area, with toilets and amenities, was available in the International Terminal, and some Jetstar passengers went there. The statement also confirmed the T2 closing time was extended to around 1am to accommodate the stranded passengers. "At this time there were approximately 20 Jetstar passengers still in the terminal and no Jetstar staff were in attendance," said the statement. "People were again advised that a 24 hour waiting area was available in the International Terminal and some passengers departed the area in taxis."

Stacey said that as she and her fellow Jetstar passengers waited for flights, Virgin Blue continued to fly its passengers in and out of Sydney. "As the night went on we were hearing Virgin Blue flights leaving and arriving, and yet our flights were still delayed," she said. "The weather cleared up and we were unsure as to why we were still waiting when apparently the airport was closed - yet other airlines were leaving as per normal." She said she'd paying more than her $79 each way tickets next time she flew. "In the future I will pay a little more to get a reliable service," she said.

A Jetstar spokesman said some passengers in need of a hotel room were accommodated but said the airline's policy did not require it to assist passengers inconvenienced by bad weather. "As a condition of carriage for weather-related delays, we're not compelled to find accommodation," Jetstar spokesman Simon Westaway said. Mr Westaway said Jetstar would speak to airport officials today. "We want to know the reasons as to why the terminal was shut - to leave people on the footpath rather than inside the terminal, even if they were in a secure area," he said. "Unfortunately it was out of our hands."

A Sydney Airport spokeswoman said she was not aware of the incident but confirmed the terminal's 11pm curfew. "Generally, every evening, we do close the doors," she said.

Mr Westaway said the stranded passengers resumed their journeys on flights as early as 6am today and he expected all 300 would be on their way by noon.


Another one of Australia's charming Muslims?

The name is a Lebanese one and the behavior is barbaric so he almost certainly is a Muslim

A man [or an ape?] who tried to get a hitman to kill his teenage son's rape victim has lost an appeal against his 14-year sentence. Chaouki Bou-Antoun, 52, was jailed in 2006 for soliciting to murder. Bou-Antoun paid an undercover policeman posing as an assassin $3000 to shoot a 16-year-old girl who had accused his son of raping her. Bou-Antoun acted as a middle man between his son, Khater, and the undercover operative to arrange the $23,000 hit. He made a downpayment and told the officer he wanted the girl raped, shot in the stomach, eye and forehead to maximise the pain before death.

The father of five appealed against his 14-year term, arguing that his role had been overstated by the sentencing judge. But the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal today dismissed his bid, and upheld both the maximum and minimum 10-year terms. "Of course the killing was not in fact carried out, so that there was no involvement in gratuitous cruelty in committing the offence of soliciting to murder," said Justice Michael Grove. "However, it was intended. The criminal enterprise was embarked upon in all seriousness. "In this case,for the reasons given by his Honour (the sentencing judge) concerning the intended barbarism and cruelty, the level (of criminality) must be very high, and the finding that it is a crime above the mid-range of seriousness is unchallengeable." Justices Carolyn Simpson and Graham Barr agreed with Justice Grove's ruling.

Khater Bou-Antoun was also jailed for at least 14 years in 2006 for raping the girl and trying to have her killed. He will be eligible for parole in 2017, with his father eligible for release in 2013.

Source. More background and commentary here

Power bills to double to pay carbon costs

This could get the Rudd governments turfed out!

MAJOR Australian greenhouse gas emitters believe that emissions-trading costs of about $65 a tonne of carbon are inevitable, forcing household electricity bills to rise by almost 100 per cent.

The new director of the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network (AIGN), Mike Hitchens told The Australian business should look to evolving carbon markets in Europe to estimate the future cost of emissions trading. "We all need to understand that linking to other emissions-trading schemes outside of Australia is inevitable, whether done formally or informally," Mr Hitchens said. "That means that it's the world price of permits we need to incorporate into analysis about the impacts on the Australian economy, not simply the implications of setting our own targets. "The price of emissions in Australia will very likely be set in Europe. Australia is a price taker for commodities in all other global markets, and we will be a price taker in this global market as well."

The European Commission has estimated a future price of about $65 per tonne of carbon, with European banks predicting a price of between $60 and $80. The National Generators Forum said a price of more than $40 per tonne would eliminate the need for the Government's 20 per cent Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET), while a price at $80 per tonne would effectively double the price of retail electricity in Australia.

Ross Garnaut, who is heading an independent review of emissions-trading schemes for the Rudd Government, declined to comment yesterday, although he will be addressing the issue of international integration of emissions-trading schemes later this month at a climate change conference in Adelaide.

Treasury has enlisted the assistance of Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Reserve Bank economist Warwick McKibbin in modelling the economic impacts of different carbon prices to guide price-setting when the design of a domestic scheme is finalised later this year. Professor McKibbin said he could not speculate on the potential price of emissions in Australia, but said the risk of being forced to adopt higher world prices for carbon would be addressed if the Rudd Government implemented his own hybrid trading model.

He said his model framed a national emissions-trading scheme more like a currency than a commodity, allowing countries to set and manage their own price for emissions just as currencies trade at different values rather than creating a single world price. "We argue you don't want to trade your permits internationally except in specific circumstances, for the same reason you want to have independent monetary policies," Professor McKibbin said. "It just seems to me better to have a series of national systems that are co-ordinated. You can always map it on to a global trading system by having the same price if you want to."

Earlier this week, Professor Garnaut suggested the Government consider setting a budget for total greenhouse emissions until 2050 and then let the market determine the rate at which it wanted to make cuts. A working group to discuss how the NSW Government's Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme would be incorporated into a national regime will meet for the first time in Sydney today.


Private hospital funding growing -- as a response to long public hospital waiting lists

GOVERNMENT spending on private hospitals is growing at more than triple the rate of funding for the public sector, a report has revealed. The Report on Government Services, prepared by a committee of officials from the commonwealth, state and territory governments, found the total amount spent on public hospitals - excluding services such as community health, dental and ambulance services - was $22.5 billion in 2005-06. Public hospitals received a total of $24 billion from government ($22.5 billion) and non-government ($1.5 billion) sources, or 40.8 per cent of recurrent government health funding in 2005-06, down from 43.2 per cent one decade prior.

"This decline reflects the more rapid growth over the decade of government expenditure on private hospitals and medications," the report said. "The average annual growth rate of government real expenditure on private hospitals was 25 per cent between 1995-96 and 2005-06, compared with 9.3 per cent for medications and 7.9 per cent for public hospitals. "Policy measures introduced over the decade that were aimed at restraining growth in government health expenditure included the restriction of Medicare provider numbers, initiatives to encourage the use of generic medication brands, and increases in co-payments for medications."

Nationally, total recurrent and capital health expenditure per person in 2005-06 was $3758. Governments spent $139 million on breast cancer screening in 2005-06 and $4.1 billion on mental health in 2005-06.

The Private Health Insurance Incentive Scheme, which provides a 30 per cent rebate on private health insurance premiums, cost the Federal Government $2.1 billion in 2001-02 and blew out to $3.2 billion in 2005-06. The Federal Government spent $257.8 million in the year ending December 31, 2005, on the Medicare Safety Net, which was introduced in March 2004.

Nationally, it takes 237 days for 90 per cent of people waiting for elective surgery to be admitted to a public hospital, while 4.6 per cent of patients had to wait more than one year, the report shows. For 90 per cent of elective surgery patients in the ACT, the wait is longer than one year at 372 days. The next longest waiting period is in Tasmania, followed by the Northern Territory, NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland.

The Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision examined $120 billion in government expenditure - almost 13 per cent of Australia's gross domestic product. The committee was chaired by Productivity Commission chief, Gary Banks.

One in five aged care patients spent 35 days or more in a public hospital, the report shows. Federal Ageing Minister Justine Elliot said elderly people were stuck in hospitals because the Howard Government allowed the number of aged care beds to dwindle. She said it cost $937 million a year to accommodate 2300 elderly people in hospital when it would only cost $83 million to provide more appropriate aged care services. "If frail people are not receiving appropriate care services, this also means that much needed hospital beds are unavailable to Australians of all ages waiting for surgery or medical treatment," Ms Elliot said.


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