Tuesday, February 05, 2008

This will have the Left frothing

But they wouldn't say a word if it were Ramadan that was involved

Kevin Rudd is under pressure from the Jewish community to change the date of his Australia 2020 summit which clashes with Passover. The Prime Minister has been accused today of inadvertently locking out the Jewish community from political talkfest by holding it during a period which is the Jewish equivalent of "Christmas or Easter."

The nation's peak representative body representing the Jewish community, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, told The Australian Online today that it will lobby the Prime Minister to change the dates or develop alternative ways Jewish people can contribute. "We are not suggesting it was deliberate as opposed to inadvertent,'' President Robert Goot said. "(But) It is most unfortunate because regardless of your religiosity, the festival of Passover and in particular the first night of the festival is almost universally observed. It will preclude I would think practically anyone of the Jewish faith of attending. "I have written to the Prime Minister today pointing it out and seeing if it is at all possible to change the dates. But if not we are seeking an assurance that people who would have been invited but will be precluded will have the opportunity to make a contribution through alternative means."

The chief executive officer of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Vic Alhadeff said he was also concerned. "It actually is a problem simply because the Passover is one of the most solemn days on the Jewish calendar. It makes it very difficult for Jewish people to be present,'' he told The Australian Online.

Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield raised the alarm this afternoon attacking Mr Rudd's decision to hold his Australia 2020 summit during Passover as "insensitive and discriminatory". "Mr Rudd says he wants to 'bring into the tent those who have got ideas to contribute to these long-term challenges', yet he has chosen dates that will preclude most of the Jewish community from attending,'' Senator Fifield said. "The Rudd Government can hardly plead ignorance. Passover is listed on the Calendar of Cultural and Religious Dates on the Federal Department of Immigration and Citizenship's website. "It is simply unacceptable for the summit to proceed on these dates. Kevin Rudd must announce new dates that do not clash with important faith festivals or national events."

Queensland Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce said today the 2020 Summit risked degenerating into a Jerry Springer-style fight club. "I'm very dubious that 1000 people, if they're truly given the chance to have their say, are going to come with a conclusive co-ordinated position," he told the ABC. "I do perceive that what we will end up with is some sort of mutli-faceted hothouse gab session with an outcome very similar to Jerry Springer. "


Queensland Health worse despite cash injection

Surprise! surprise! There's no cure for malignant bureaucracy other than abolishing it and starting again

QUEENSLAND'S health system continues to struggle and is getting worse in some areas despite a multibillion-dollar cash injection. A new report has found many patients are still waiting longer than recommended for critical surgery while record numbers are presenting to emergency departments. Queensland Health's Public Hospital Performance Report for the 2007 December quarter shows the department has already spent $5.5 million in 2007-08 outsourcing surgery to the private sector in an attempt to clear the backlog.

Health Minister Stephen Robertson yesterday said the report showed the system was performing more surgery, treating more patients and providing more outpatient services than ever before. "Now I am not for a second suggesting all of our problems are fixed," Mr Robertson said. "We still have a lot of work ahead of us to build a first-class health system for Queensland."

However, Coalition Health spokesman John-Paul Langbroek said the Government's $10 billion promise to fix the system was failing. "More Queenslanders are waiting longer for their surgery than ever before. We have never seen the situation this critical."

The report found the percentage of Category one patients who had waited longer than the recommended 30 days for surgery had almost doubled to 13.9 per cent in 12 months. The percentage of Category two patients overdue for surgery was 22.5 per cent while Category three was 29.9 per cent. Overall, 28,579 patients were waiting for elective surgery, slightly more than the number who were waiting a year earlier.

Some of the hospitals with the biggest percentage waiting lists across the elective surgery categories were Princess Alexandra (38.6 per cent), Royal Brisbane and Women's (37.6 per cent) and Mater Adult (34 per cent). The report found a record 842,725 patients were admitted to public hospitals in 2007, a 9.2 per cent increase on 2005.

Mr Robertson said the increasing number of emergency department patients was hurting the system's ability to reduce elective surgery waiting lists. "The same surgeons, the same nurses, the same operating theatres that you use to perform elective surgery are the ones where emergency surgery is performed," he said.

However, Mr Langbroek said the Government constantly had different excuses. "It begs the question about all the extra resources we keep hearing about and what is happening to it?" he said. [Most of it goes on more and more clerks and "administrators"]


Teacher unions balk at any suggestion of teacher merit

All teachers are equal, apparently

NSW schools will now be able to appoint teachers under a State Government shake-up of staffing arrangements, a move which has angered the teachers union. School principals will be able to advertise positions and select their own teachers from the second term in 2010, under changes announced by NSW education minister John Della Bosca. The Department of Education will have to sign off on appointments, but schools need no longer accept the teacher at the top of the department's transfer list.

School principals say the move will give them greater freedom, but the union has threatened industrial action over concerns the plan would leave schools in disadvantaged areas worse off and the transfer system would be dismantled.

Mr Della Bosca said the changes would not affect the number of positions or teacher tenure. "While the department will retain its obligation to ensure every class has a qualified teacher, we are giving principals the option of choosing the right teacher for their school from a larger number of qualified applicants," Mr Della Bosca said in a statement. "More schools will now have the option of either having a teacher centrally allocated or choosing their own through open advertisements." Mr Della Bosca said open advertisements had been used at schools in regional NSW and south-west Sydney, which had attracted large numbers of applicants. "Under the old system, fewer than 3 per cent of vacancies are open to all qualified teachers and a transfer can take many years," he said.

NSW Secondary Principals Council president Jim McAlpine said principals believed they could be more effective leaders if they had the right to select teachers. "Principals for years have been saying they would like a greater say in the staffing of their schools," he told Fairfax.

But NSW Teachers Federation president Maree O'Halloran said the move would benefit some school communities and disadvantage others. "We are taking this extraordinarily seriously," she told The Daily Telegraph. "It will result in unqualified teachers and larger class sizes." Teachers federation senior vice-president Gary Zadkovich also slammed the move, saying the statewide transfer system "provides security of employment ... and also ensures teachers are supplied to schools in western Sydney and country areas where teachers are less likely to want to work".

Mr Della Bosca said the incentive transfer system to attract teachers to remote and difficult to staff schools would continue. He said 50,000 teachers and principals were being briefed on the changes this week.


Total leniency for a disgusting Muslim

Previous report here

A Brisbane judge spared him a criminal conviction so as not to jeopardise his future career, but the would-be doctor who tried to give an 11-year-old boy a penis massage might not be so lucky a second time. State Attorney General Kerry Shine is seeking a jail term for disgraced University of Queensland medical student Shakeel Mirza, who escaped with only 12 months probation over his attempt to molest the boy in February 2006.

A criminal conviction was not formally recorded after his defence lawyers successfully argued that a black mark against his name could prevent Mirza, 27, from getting a government Blue Card - or security clearance - allowing him to treat children in hospital. But at an appeal hearing in Brisbane's Supreme Court today, barrister for the Crown, Michael Copely described Mirza's punishment as "manifestly inadequate", and accused sentencing judge David Searles of "closing his eyes" to other sentencing options. He asked the court to resentence Mirza to 12 months' jail - albeit wholly suspended - and record a criminal conviction. "The offence was serious enough in itself, given the age disparity of the parties and the breach of trust," Mr Copely argued.

The Pakistani-born medical student had been appointed as a mentor to the 11-year-old boy under the Lions Club's "Aunties and Uncles" program when he tried to force his hands down the youngster's pants at the family's Brisbane home.

The court heard he had been rubbing the child's head to relax him when he offered to massage the child's penis instead because "it would feel better". The boy managed to fend off Mirza's advances. It was later suggested Mirza had been inspired to touch the boy after watching the comedy film Spaceballs, which had been playing in the room at the time.

Today, Mirza's defence barrister Brad Farr argued that in some cases, shame was enough to deter people from reoffending, and that a jail sentence - even a wholly suspended one - was not warranted. He also maintained that a criminal conviction would cast a pall over his client's promising future as a doctor. [As indeed it should!] The court has reserved its decision.


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