Saturday, May 31, 2008

Warmist guru misrepresents the climate projections that he relies on

Kevin Rudd entrusts Ross Garnaut with Australia's long-term response to global warming, but the economics professor is in a tangle over how climate change will hit his own back yard. In a bid to build a sustainable second house behind his home in inner-Melbourne Princes Hill, Professor Garnaut has told the City of Yarra Council that global warming will lead to more hailstorms in Melbourne - a claim, it now emerges, at odds with those of leading climate change scientists.

In a letter to the council, the economist uses his expertise to argue that heritage traditions, including a slate roof, should not apply to the property when defending what objectors say is an ugly, curving steel roof set to dominate the streetscape at the rear of the property. He points out the greater resilience of a steel roof over slate given the increasing hailstorm threat. He says he has consulted the insurance industry in the course of his climate change work to back up his argument. But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's fourth assessment report, Climate Change 2007 - Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability - says in chapter 11: "Decreases in hail frequency are simulated for Melbourne and Mt Gambier." It does not back up Professor Garnaut's letter, which says: "Severe and more frequent hailstorms will be a feature of this change."

Professor Garnaut was quizzed about the letter at a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra on Thursday night. Victorian Liberal senator Mitch Fifield asked Professor Garnaut about an article in The Weekend Australian on May 10. Senator Fifield asked Professor Garnaut: "Were you seeking to use your position as a climate change adviser to influence a council decision for your private benefit?"

Professor Garnaut replied: "I should first point out that I did not have any role with the commonwealth at the time of those events. That relates to submissions to the Yarra Council last year. I can assure you and the committee ... that I was not trying to use my position to 'heavy' anyone."

Senator Fifield said: "Professor Garnaut, have you had any progress with the council?"

Professor Garnaut replied: "Senator, so that there will be no suggestion I am seeking to influence anyone, my wife is now handling this matter." The professor went on to tell the committee: "We instructed our architect to design a building that was exemplary in sustainability in every respect."

Ten neighbours in Park Street, Princes Hill - where Professor Garnaut wants to build the new home behind one he owns with his wife Jayne - have objected that the development does not meet heritage and residential codes. The dispute will be resolved in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal next week.

Professor Garnaut, who is due to hand down his final climate change review this year, was not available to comment yesterday, but his spokeswoman said the dispute was "a private matter".


Traditional views about women are now a "disease"

A footballer as a hero of free speech: For readers not resident in Victoria, Sam Newman is a TV commentator on Australian Rules football. He is now in his 60s but was once a distinguished footballer himself. Comments below by Andrew Bolt

Don't like Sam Newman? Then argue back. Abuse him if you must. Take away your advertising, or - even better - just turn him off. Hell, Channel 9 can even sack him from The Footy Show if it figures his act is stale. But send him to a re-education camp? Which Maoists at the station thought of that particular "cure" for inconvenient opinions? That was Nine's executive director, Jeffrey Browne, actually.

With women switching off the boofy Footy Show and advertisers pulling ads to placate women offended by Newman's ways, the boss panicked. It's two months since Newman caused uproar by groping a half-dressed mannequin he doctored to look like Age football writer Caroline Wilson, but only now has Browne decided Newman did what he did because he is actually sick. But Browne doesn't just think Newman is sick in body, needing an indefinite break "to return to full health" after two big operations, one to remove his prostate. He seemingly also figures Newman is sick in the head, and has ordered "as a component of this rehabilitation" that he "undergo counselling to address, with professional assistance, the behaviour and issues that have attended what I now believe to be his premature return to the program". How offensive and absurd.

What is this "behaviour" that Newman must be counselled out of? It is not just the fondling of that mannequin, which was indeed plain nasty and boorish. It is that Newman genuinely holds - and has expressed - certain views that some influential people in particular do not like and think it a sin to hold. A sign of poor mental hygiene. One such opinion is that some women with powerful jobs in football were "liars and hypocrites" in their criticisms of him. Another opinion is that women in top football jobs have had little to contribute and, "for very little input they demand a lot of clout".

Such comments have made Browne as jumpy as a TV executive who's just learned he's lost his parking spot. "The Nine Network, in its entirety, is respectful of women," he protests.

And Newman will now be counselled - with that grim "professional assistance" - until his own thinking on women is "rehabilitated" to the standards Browne thinks healthy.

What makes this so offensive is that Newman is already in no doubt that a lot of people object to his views. After all, The Age has lashed him hysterically from its front page to its back, devoting to his alleged sins the kind of oh-my-god coverage it normally reserves for global warming.

Lawyers have sent him stiff letters demanding satisfaction, talkback jockeys have climbed on his back, co-host Garry Lyon has fronted him, his boss has disowned him, football executives have bounced him, and all in all it's been the most wonderful lynch party. So many professional denouncers have got their rocks off on Newman that you could build a pyramid over his body to rival Giza. That's called debate. And Newman, having gone through it, will either modify his opinions or stick to them, having considered the counter-arguments and rejected them.

His opinions may be right or, more likely, wrong - matters best left to each of us to decide for ourselves. But I am sure those opinions are sincerely held by an intelligent man, who should be allowed to hold them without now being deemed to be sick and in need of treatment. Bad opinions are best countered by arguments, not cures and counsellors.

But such is the militant temper of these group-think times that lawyers and men in white coats are called in by the powerful to do what their reasoning cannot. Some opinions must now be held by everyone - or else the treatment begins. What arrogance. What an abuse of power.

See how hard it is already for people to speak their frank mind, with so many cause-pushers so ready to denounce, abuse and sue, and so many battalions of thought-police ready to help them punish bad thinkers with fines or even jail - to win by force arguments they could not win by words.

To think we've even had Christian pastors dragged through months of hearings and mountains of legal bills for having simply quoted the Koran in ways that made some people laugh. Heavens, if I didn't have a rich boss behind me, paying lawyers, I'd probably have to shut up, too.

That's why Newman is still so loved even when so widely deplored. He reassures us there is still some freedom to say what the hell we think, and damn the consequences. But to be accurate: Newman reassures us most of that freedom when he is actually at his most outrageous - because he'd prove nothing by just baa-ing, would he?

Yet even Newman seems about to fall. Counter-arguments haven't swayed him, so it's off to the re-education camp. Excuse me, Mr Browne. Newman needs none of your "counselling" or "rehabilitation". He simply disagrees with his critics. If you don't like it, sack him. But pay him the respect of treating his views as the product of his reason, not as symptoms of bad "health". Or must I send some "counsellors" of my own around to "rehabilitate" your own unhealthy thoughts?


Obesity epidemic 'a myth'

Target antifat messages at the fatties only! Whoda thunk it? Though what the government has to do with it at all needs to be questioned

AUSTRALIA'S childhood obesity epidemic has been "exaggerated" and government-led national prevention efforts may be misdirected, with childhood obesity only increasing in lower-income families. Controversial new research into childhood obesity rates has called into question whether the millions of dollars allocated by the Federal Government for obesity prevention programs should be targeted to the highest-risk groups, rather than focused at the general population.

The findings, based on measurements taken from thousands of Australian children in two nationally representative samples in 2000 and 2006, found that the growth in childhood obesity overall has slowed to a crawl, and the only statistically significant increases are now among boys and girls from low-income homes, The Australian reports.

Last night, Health Minister Nicola Roxon said obesity was "a significant challenge in health and a cause of several major chronic diseases - and will remain a priority for the Rudd Government". The overall obesity rate rose only slightly, from 6 per cent in 2000 to 6.8 per cent in 2006 - an increase researchers said was not statistically significant.

Among low-income boys, obesity almost doubled from 5.4 per cent in 2000 to 9.3 per cent in 2006. The increase for wealthier children was much less, rising from 4.9 per cent to 6.8 per cent among middle-income boys and from 3.7 per cent to 4.9 per cent for the wealthiest. Among low-income girls, the obesity rate increased from 3.9 per cent in 2000 to 6.8 per cent in 2006, whereas the rate stayed flat at 5.5 per cent for middle-income girls, and increased from 2.4 per cent to 3.9 per cent among high-income girls.

Australia's health ministers in 2003 labelled obesity "an epidemic". In this month's Budget, the Government said it would spend $62 million under its National Preventative Health Strategy to fight obesity, including nearly $13 million to fund a kitchen garden program in 190 schools nationally. But Jenny O'Dea, associate professor of child health research at the University of Sydney, will tell a Nutrition Australia conference next month that obesity in children "has not increased overall" between 2000 and 2006. In comments that have already drawn fire from some other obesity experts, Professor O'Dea told The Weekend Australian there was "no doubt that it (childhood obesity) has been exaggerated". "Some kids are more at risk than others, and that's where the prevention efforts need to go," she said.


Too bad if you need "elective" surgery

Almost 2700 Queenslanders who had elective surgery at a public hospital last financial year waited more than a year before they had their operation. And those patients needing surgery for painful hip, knee and varicose vein conditions had among the longest delays, a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare says. The new data follows the release of the State Government's own figures this month indicating its elective surgery waiting lists have blown out by 15 per cent in less than three years.

Doctors recently warned the already long queues to get into operating theatres could worsen soon, with Queensland Health now forcing some of the state's top surgeons to take their backlog of holidays. And Health Minister Stephen Robertson was under pressure again earlier this week after revelations cancer patients were waiting up to three times longer for life-saving treatment than they should be at some of the state's biggest hospitals.

But the AIHW report, to be released on Friday, May 30, revealed Queensland had among the shortest waiting times in the country for elective surgery at a public hospital in the 2006-07 financial year. The report found half of the state's 108,000 public hospital elective surgery patients that year waited 25 days or less for their operation - a better result than any other state. Only 10 per cent of Queensland patients still had not been seen by a surgeon after 142 days. Nationally, half of all elective surgery patients waited 32 days or longer and another 10 per cent had yet to be admitted for surgery after 226 days.

The AIHW report found the surgery delays varied widely depending on the type of operation. In Queensland, public hospital patients needing treatment for varicose veins faced the longest queues, with only half getting their operation within 77 days and 10 per cent still waiting after two years and 40 days. There also were backlogs for Queenslanders needing knee replacements - with half of those patients waiting 74 days or longer and 10 per cent still not seen after 343 days.

Patients wanting hip replacements in the state's public hospitals also fared badly, with only half of those patients going to hospital within two months and 10 per cent still waiting after 245 days. Nationally, orthopaedic and ear, nose and throat surgery were the specialties with the highest proportion of patients facing delays of more than a year for surgery. There were 7.6 million hospital admissions for the year.


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