Sunday, February 03, 2008

Queen 'is OK with republic'

This is not really news. At the time of Australia's referendum on the subject, the Queen herself made it clear that she had no problems with it if Australia became a republic

An Australian republic would have the support of the Queen and her government, with historical ties too strong to allow a political formality to break the bond, the British Government announced yesterday.

The republican movement has seized on attacks on the "Anglocentric and out of touch" Governor-General Michael Jeffery, who during the recent devastating floods in New South Wales and Queensland toured sporting fixtures and talked about crowd etiquette. Some MPs, on both sides of the House, have privately said the action brought into question the relevance of the GG and questioned whether it was time again to have the republican debate.

During the election campaign, the pro-republic Prime Minister Kevin Rudd pledged to organise a referendum by 2010 to again allow Australians to decide whether the Queen - and through her the Governor-General - should be the head of state. The previous referendum was held in 1999. [Apparently we have to keep voting until we get it "right"]

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said any change was up to the Australian people but the relationship between the two nations was "dynamic", whichever course was taken. "It is a choice for Australians," Mr Miliband said. "I think the depth of our link is very, very strong and it's up to Australians to decide how to give these links formal recognition specifically on the issue of the position of the Queen. "Whatever the formal structures, it's very important the informal political, economic and social links are strong and I'm confident they will remain so. "We will work with Australians, the Government and the people in all circumstances and I think the Queen has said herself it was for the people to decide."


Fatally negligent government x-ray service

A Gold Coast breast cancer sufferer who sued Breast-Screen Queensland over botched mammogram readings has died, but her grieving husband has vowed to fight for answers about the bungle. Philippa Naismith was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer in July 2005 - 11 months after being given the all-clear by the state's breast-screening service. The cancer spread to her bones and she died at home on January 18, aged 54, with her husband Paul at her side.

Before she died, Mrs Naismith won a confidential out-of-court settlement from BreastScreen Queensland. Another Gold Coast victim's claim is still being finalised. The settlement followed revelations that Queensland Health had been forced to review 9300 women's mammograms after five radiologists contracted to BreastScreen had failed to detect some cancers.

Mr Naismith said yesterday that he was determined to ensure those responsible were held accountable. "Philippa died an absolutely horrendous death - she was coughing up lung tissue in the end - and I feel very angry," he said. "Presumably, these people are still working in the health system but they are not being made accountable for the lives they are supposed to protect. I'm not saying they gave my wife cancer but I am saying they took away any chance she had."


Do-gooders discover that even kids are not a blank slate!

No mention of genetics below, of course. Most personality traits, including aggressiveness and impulsiveness, are inherited so the chances of your changing them are very slim -- no matter what you do and no matter at what age you do it. But the Left and the do-gooders like to dream on about their ability to change people. That you cannot, the study below shows

PARENT training programs don't reduce reduce behavioural problems in toddlers, an Australian study shows, suggesting they may be a waste of time and money. On average, behavioural problems afflict every seventh child aged four to 17, previously studies have shown.

Aggressive or extremely defiant youngsters are said to have externalised problems, while those of kids who withdraw, or suffer anxiety and depression, are described as internalised. Troubles in childhood often have serious personal, social and economic consequences later in life, experts say. Left untreated, about 50 per cent of preschoolers with behaviour problems develop mental health problems, including depression. Besides the direct cost of treatment, there are social costs as well: unemployment, family stress or violence, drug use and increased crime have all been linked to behavioural difficulties very early in life.

One approach is to deal with the problems as they emerge through counselling, drug treatment, or psychiatry. But this is expensive, and not always effective. Another tack is to try to nip the problems in the bud by discouraging the kind of parenting that can lead to troubled behaviour, such as unduly harsh discipline and unrealistic expectations.

For the study, published in the British Medical Journal, researchers enrolled 300 mothers and their eight-month old tots in the Melbourne area into the training program. Unlike earlier studies, this one looked not just at high risk families, but a representative sampling of parents and children from poor, middle income and wealthier families. The scientists, led by Harriet Hiscock at the Centre for Community Child Health in Parkville, Australia, compared behaviour of the test group over an 18-month period with another set of mothers and kids who did not receive any special counselling.

The results showed very little difference between the two groups. Mothers in the program were somewhat less abusive and acquired more realistic expectations of how quickly their children would progress. But there was no significant difference is the level of behaviour problems in the children, or in the mental health of the mothers. "The outcome at two years are insufficient to support widespread introduction of a very early universal programme to prevent behavioural problems in toddlers,'' the researchers concluded.


Small classes labelled a waste of money

Decades of research finally heeded

AUSTRALIA'S new education tsar has surprisingly come out in support of large classes. Barry McGaw, charged with co-ordinating a new national curriculum, said reducing class sizes was a waste of money and more specialist teachers should be hired to help struggling students instead.

The decorated academic and policy maker argued that slow learners slipped through the cracks just as easily in smaller classes as they did in larger classes. "Teachers unions have pushed for reduced class sizes but I think it's not the most important thing," he said. "It's a waste of money, you don't get the best bang for your buck."

Finland, with the highest literacy rate of 15-year-olds in the world, invested heavily in the early years of education, Mr McGaw said.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appointed Mr McGaw as chair of the National Curriculum Board this week. The 12-member board will include representatives from all state and territories and public, Catholic and independent schools. Expert consultants will be employed to develop a nation-wide curriculum from kindergarten to Year 12 in English, maths, science and history.

The Howard Government's Australian history curriculum for Years 9 and 10, which was developed before the coalition's defeat in the November election, would also be considered in the new plans.

But Mr McGaw's comments on class sizes have outraged Australian Education Union Victorian branch president Mary Bluett. [They would!] The powerful union boss labelled the remarks as absurd and said smaller classes were the best way to improve academic results and school retention rates. "There's no substitute or alternative to getting class sizes down," Ms Bluett said. She said studies had shown students in smaller classes had stronger friendships and also had more respect for their teachers. [But don't learn any more]


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