Monday, March 31, 2008

Australian politicians shun "enviro-friendly" cars

POLITICIANS are spending taxpayers' money on gas-guzzling cars and four-wheel drives while telling average Aussies to cut their carbon emissions. More than 100 federal MPs drive taxpayer-funded 4WDs and V8s, and 113 MPs have family-size sedans and wagons. But there are only 10 Toyota Prius hybrids in the privately plated vehicle fleet. And only five MPs have bothered to request LPG vehicles, which are better for the environment than petrol models.

The Herald Sun obtained details of MPs' taxpayer-funded vehicles after months of bureaucratic buck-passing. But the Department of Finance refused to reveal the vehicle choices of individual MPs, claiming the information was private. The Government, which signed the Kyoto Protocol as its first official act, does not impose any environmental restrictions or guidelines on the selection of privately plated vehicles. MPs must select their car from a list of Australian-made vehicles. If they want a non-standard or imported vehicle, such as a 4WD, V8 or hybrid, they must pay the difference from their electoral allowance. "At present, the onus of choice is on the parliamentarian," said a spokesman for Special Minister of State John Faulkner.

Most of the four-wheel drives selected are Australian-made Ford Territorys, which burn about 13 litres of fuel in 100km on the open road. Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores use about 10-11 litres/100km, while the Toyota Prius uses 4.4 litres/100km.

The Australian Conservation Foundation said politicians should drive the most efficient cars available. "I think it's clear the Australian people would like to see the Government leading the way on this," acting executive director Chris Berger said. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, who drives a Mitsubishi 380 but has a Prius on order, said the Commonwealth was looking at ways to improve its environmental performance. "The Government has committed to leading by example in reducing emissions from its own operations," her spokesman said.


Hot air about black health

By Christopher Pearson

LATE last year Kevin Rudd, along with the premiers and chief ministers, announced they were committed to the target of closing the 17-year gap in life expectancy between indigenous Australians and the rest of the population. That resolution was formalised last week in a statement of intent, signed by Rudd and Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson and various health organisations, during a health equality summit in Canberra. The plan is that the gap is to be bridged within 22 years, in 2030.

There's something inescapably Mickey Mouse about an in-principle commitment to an outcome at a distant date with a suspiciously round number. By that time, of course, the main signatories and all their front bench colleagues will be long gone from parliament and in many cases from public life altogether. Still, that doesn't mean the undertaking won't keep coming back to haunt them, like Bob Hawke's line about no child left in poverty.

The level of seriousness with which the federal Government is approaching the issue can be judged by its programs and its rhetoric. Last week Rudd claimed that 17 per cent of the life expectancy gap, almost three years, could be attributed to Aborigines smoking at about twice the rate of other Australians. He promised $14.5 million over four years to tackle high smoking rates, which strikes me as no more than a drop in the bucket. Rudd says another seven years of the gap can be accounted for by factors such as alcohol abuse and poor nutrition, which lead to higher than average incidence of diabetes, renal failure and other chronic diseases.

He and Nelson committed to providing healthcare services and facilities that "are capable of bridging the gap in health standards by 2018", a phrase gnomic to the verge of meaninglessness.

Let us take the Prime Minister at his word and, for argument's sake, accept that 10 of the 17 years' gap can be put down to smoking, drinking and poor diet. The first thing to note is that these are all matters of individual choice, rather than anything that could even remotely be considered an occasion of national disgrace. In a pluralist society, the nanny state can deplore people's lifestyle choices but Aborigines are as entitled as the white proletariat to tell nanny to mind her own business. As well, at least in the short term, addictions to nicotine and alcohol are largely unresponsive to health awareness campaigns.

There are other elements of Aboriginal life, especially in remote communities, that are no doubt prejudicial to good health but are nonetheless matters of personal choice. The dogs to be found in rural encampments, for example, carry all sorts of infections and parasites, yet adults and children often curl up with them at night. Likewise, those indigenous mothers whose vestigial education didn't extend to hygiene often choose to steer clear of bush clinics and visiting doctors. In doing so, they leave untreated ear infections that can easily lead to hearing loss or deafness in young children, who are then themselves almost beyond the reach of education. Yet the state cannot and surely should not be in the business of compelling adults, with or without children, to attend a clinic.

In some settlements, betrothed girls as young as 12 and 13 are encouraged or permitted by their parents to have sexual relations with a prospective husband. This often leads to emergency caesarian sections because the girls are too small to bear a baby in the usual way, and it contributes to higher infant mortality rates. These liaisons are legally problematic, of course, but traditional. A government that tried to enforce the law regarding criminal dealings with a minor in cases such as these, regardless of particular circumstances, would be asking for trouble and would be roundly condemned for interfering with time-honoured practices. These are some of the culturally specific reasons for the bleak indigenous morbidity and mortality statistics.

However, there is a school of thought in public health that holds that the meaningful comparison is not with the rest of the population considered as an amorphous mass but with the non-Aboriginal members of the bottom income decile. It's thought to be much more of an apples and apples comparison and more instructive when it comes to gauging the nature and scale of the problems.

Leading British epidemiologist Michael Marmot has shown (in Inequalities of Health) that socioeconomic characteristics of communities, as well as individual characteristics such as income, education and occupation, affect health outcomes. When it comes to across-the-board comparisons in the lowest decile, we can extrapolate from American studies that suggest whites tend to have worse health outcomes than blacks, though on the same income. It also follows from Marmot's findings that for Aborigines to achieve the same health outcomes as the rest of the population they'd have to cover something approaching the same socioeconomic spectrum: a very tall order in only 22 years.

He has another publication, The Status Syndrome; How Your Social Standing Directly Affects Your Health and Life Expectancy, which is worth mentioning here. Its focus is also on the relationship between socioeconomic position and health outcomes. This holds even when you control for the effects of variables such as income and education and risk factors such as smoking. The direct link he identifies concerns the psychic benefits of being in control of your life and having opportunities for the full range of social engagements.

The land rights movement has always maintained that there is a considerable sense of personal and collective empowerment in returning to ancestral territory, more important than easy access to up-to-the-minute facilities. These are considerations that David Scrimgeour, an authority on indigenous epidemiology, points to when trying to explain why health outcomes in recent West Australian research are in some respects better in remote settlements on traditional lands than in cities. He told Michael Duffy, co-host of Radio National's Counterpoint, that rural mortality rates were lower, especially with "the big killers of Aboriginal people: heart disease and diabetes".

Those outcomes also suggest that access to medical facilities may not, of itself, make as much of a difference as is usually assumed. Elsewhere, in The Medical Journal of Australia, Scrimgeour says that indigenous morbidity rates from all causes appear to be the same across the urban-remote continuum, which supports Marmot's view that socioeconomic status is the central issue.

Rather than taking a health-based approach to achieve better health outcomes, there's a compelling case for adopting a wider social policy approach. Its main emphasis is going to have to be on extending the operation of the real economy into as much of rural and remote Australia as possible. If Rudd Labor is serious about Aboriginal health, it will confine itself to tinkering at the margins with the Northern Territory intervention. It should give wholehearted support to 99-year leases, building more privately owned housing in outback communities and generating real jobs. If the ALP is going to address the socioeconomic basis of indigenous morbidity and premature mortality, it is first going to have to take on board Noel Pearson's critique of passive welfare.

A less rhetorically driven and more factually based version of the relative positions of the poor and those in the middle-income deciles would be helpful, too. A recent Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey showed that those of the poor who participated in the real economy have been getting better off during the past five years. That means, among other things, that in the lowest income decile the task of catching up -- in terms of income and health -- will be that much harder for Aborigines who've been entirely reliant on benefits.

Tony Abbott, a seasoned health minister whose shadow portfolio includes indigenous affairs, takes a sceptical view of last week's announcement. "There has been no shortage of good intentions in this area but precious few good outcomes," he told The Australian. "I have a deep suspicion of statements of aspiration unless they are backed up by specific measures that can realistically be expected to make a difference. Unfortunately, that's where our modern reluctance to be judgmental about other cultures kicks in. A lifestyle characterised by domestic violence, substance abuse and unemployment is not conducive to good health, regardless of people's ethnicity or culture. There will be little change in Aboriginal health outcomes until the way they live comes more closely to resemble that of other Australians."


West slowly awakening from suicidal slumber?

It is, by any measure, a sunny day when moralising elites are forced to eat their words. Only a few short years ago many were busily deriding Australia as an "international pariah" on immigration. Indeed, only last year our new citizenship test was labelled as nasty stuff by people such as journalist David Marr and former Liberal PM Malcolm Fraser.

Enter the British Labour Government, which last month announced its intention to introduce tough new citizenship tests and, get this, bring in immigration controls "based on the Australian model". Far from pariah-dom, Australia is a role model on how to control immigration and integrate migrants. More important, as Western nations learn from one another, each new step taken looks more confident and assertive than the previous one.

Finally, perhaps, the West is realising, as Britain's Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said late last year, that "it is confidence in your own heritage that allows you to be generous to those of another heritage".

Old ideas that should have never been discarded are being revisited. Although the Brown Government is pitching this as a "vision of British citizenship for the 21st century", it is, in reality, an old one. Prime Minister Gordon Brown's vision of British citizenship as one "founded on a unifying idea of rights matched with responsibilities" marks a long overdue turning point in Western thinking, a return to more sensible times where basic Western values were asserted with confidence.

For the past few decades, the progressive fad of minority rights, fuelled by multiculturalism, has flourished. Once a hard form of multiculturalism took root, one that treated all cultures as equal, the values of the host country were effectively under attack. Cultural relativism morphed into a virulent strand of Western self-loathing where tolerance was reinterpreted to mean tolerating those intolerant of Western culture and values. Brown's reforms are aimed at overturning that rights fetish, a counterproductive and indeed dangerously one-sided notion where people could demand of the state but the state could not demand of them.

These days the multiculti crowd is dwindling to a few stragglers. But they include people who should know better. Last month, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans, called for the introduction of some aspects of sharia law into Britain and told the BBC that Muslims should not be required to choose between "the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty and state loyalty".

The cultural loyalty that Williams robustly defended explains why parts of British society are already unofficially dispensing their own form of sharia law. A few weeks ago London's Daily Mail exposed how parallel courts were operating in Sheffield, Milton Keynes, Manchester, Dewsbury, Birmingham and other towns settled by the 43,000-strong Somali population. Violence within the Somali community is dealt with by groups of elders who meet to hand out punishments in the form of an apology and compensation to the victim. Aydraus Hassan, a Somali youth worker from Woolwich, told the Daily Mail that families rarely called in the police because they preferred their own system of justice. "This is how we have dealt with crime since the 10th century. This is something we can sort out for ourselves," he said.

Cultural loyalty also explains the heartbreaking reports of female genital mutilation among African communities in Britain. Last month, a Liverpool newspaper reported that, despite new laws to prohibit FGM, up to 90 per cent of women in some ethnic communities are mutilated. African tribal elders are being flown into Britain to perform the mutilation. This is happening under the noses of authorities for the simple reason that Western nations such as Britain succumbed to the scourge of cultural relativism where migrants were allowed to openly spurn Western values.

Brown's reforms are a small but important step in reasserting the traditional three-way contract: majority tolerance, minority loyalty and government vigilance in both directions. That contract, well understood by migrants in the 1950s and '60s when they arrived with a sense of obligation to the new country, knowing what was expected of them, was scuppered by multiculturalism. In a sign that the British Government is finally learning the lessons of the past three decades of multicultural mayhem, the 60-page green paper published by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith mentions the M-word only once, as follows, quoting from an Aberdeen participant: "Multiculturalism is a two-way street; they must accept us and change too."

As Brown outlined in his speech in London to launch the reforms, British citizenship will depend on migrants entering into a contract where rights are matched with responsibilities. For example, he says, people are protected from crime but in return agree to obey the law. People can expect and receive services but in return will pay their fair share of taxes and have an obligation to work. Britain will support families but will expect families to take care of their own. Importantly, the Brown Government will consider amending its Human Rights Act to create a new British bill of rights and responsibilities that will detail "not just what people are entitled to but what they are expected to do in return".

In line with Brown's notion of "earned citizenship", a new category of probationary citizens will not be entitled to full rights associated with citizenship. The Brown Government will explore whether some services - such as the right to post-18 education, the right to public housing and social security benefits - will apply only on full citizenship. Probationary citizens will be required to donate to a fund to help finance local public services.

The Brown Government's reforms are an acknowledgment of the "progressive dilemma" - the conflict between solidarity and diversity - outlined a few years ago by David Goodhart, editor of the progressive Prospect. Coming from a member of the Left, Goodhart's observations packed a punch. He talked about us not just living among strangers but having to share with them. "All such acts of sharing are more smoothly and generously negotiated if we can take for granted a limited set of common values and assumptions," he said.

The changes outlined by Brown are unashamedly about cementing solidarity, outlining a common identity and expecting migrants to sign on to the traditional social contract in an era of globalisation where more and more people born in one country want to live in another. It is Goodhart's thesis writ large and long overdue.

That Western governments are forced to articulate the importance of Western values and the traditional social contract tells you how far these core principles fell into disrepair. But at least, finally, it suggests that the West is slowly waking from its suicidal slumber.


Let rest of world (mainly Europe) make climate errors

KEVIN Rudd has an unfortunate proclivity for proclaiming Australia should lead the world in its response to global warming. For a country so richly endowed with carbon-based energy resources, this does not immediately commend itself as the most obvious policy course for us to follow. And the latest discussion paper on emissions trading from the Garnaut review, released last Thursday, should have set political alarm bells ringing on the potential costs of action to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong is right to describe emissions trading as one of the most far-reaching and complex reforms in Australian history. Economist Ross Garnaut, who is conducting the review of climate change policies for the state and federal governments, defers to nobody in his alarm at the pace of global warming and his sense of urgency about responding to it.

However, among the "core factors" his terms of reference require him to take into account is this one: "the costs and benefits of Australia taking significant action to mitigate climate change ahead of competitor nations". While Garnaut is keen to see Australia play a full part in international efforts on climate change, his interim report suggests we should calibrate our responses so that they mirror "similar adjustment costs to other developed nations". Just what this will mean in practice is a fascinating question.

The indications are that even the relatively trivial emissions targets set under the Kyoto Protocol are likely to be missed by many signatory nations, including Canada, New Zealand and various European countries, which are looking for ways to avoid the penalties involved for so doing. Britain, which has claimed it will meet its Kyoto target comfortably (because it shut down its coal industry in the 1990s, for reasons that had nothing to do with climate change), turns out to have been using dodgy measurements. According to the method preferred by Britain's National Audit Office, there has been no reduction in its emissions from their 1990 level.

But even more interesting is the way things are unfolding when it comes to future action. The European Union has been a leading proponent of the apocalyptic view of the consequences of climate change and an advocate of strong global action. Yet in recent months there has been a far from unified response to proposals from Brussels on emissions targets and related matters from the EU's members. Germany and France, the EU's two most powerful members, have been unhappy and vocal about the effect on their energy-intensive industries, including the steel and car industries, of targets such as a 20 per cent reduction in emissions by 2020.

Ironically, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who chaired last year's EU spring summit (where she was all for the adoption of such targets), did an about-face this month. Germany led a push to get energy-intensive industries special treatment, alarming the Greens in the European parliament, who described it as small-minded and "a frenzy of bargaining for exemptions and further compromises".

There is growing concern in Europe that energy-intensive industries could move offshore if the EU is too ambitious in setting its emission reduction targets. The summit communique provides for special treatment for energy-intensive industries if international negotiations fail to get other countries to match Europe's emission targets.

The European Commission's president Jose Manuel Barroso is concerned this compromise will undermine Europe's credibility in international negotiations. He is talking of the possibility of protectionist measures against imports from countries such as China, with lower environmental standards, if international agreement on climate change action isn't reached by 2009. This would be a disastrous move, for Europe and the world.

Japan is also running into difficulties with its Kyoto target and appears to be looking for ways to shift the goalposts in the next round of climate change negotiations.

In the US all the presidential candidates are talking about commitment to an emissions trading system and targets, but there is no reason to think Congress, which is in a protectionist mood, will sign on to any international agreement that doesn't impose obligations on China and other developing countries to accept binding targets for emissions cuts. There is no sign China or India will agree to that, and if China and the US don't play ball, then it's game over for any meaningful international agreement post-Kyoto in 2012.

Garnaut has acknowledged that at the present rate of progress in global negotiations, agreement on a comprehensive plan to substantially slash greenhouse gas emissions could be decades away. This is not an environment in which Australia should be rushing to set up an ambitious national emissions trading scheme. The Rudd Government should think again about its aim of finalising its plans by the end of the year.

It is not only a matter of not getting ahead of our international competitors in imposing substantial costs on key national industries. What Garnaut proposes also involves vast transfers of wealth, jobs and resources domestically, as government reallocates the billions of dollars in revenue its emissions trading scheme would raise. Garnaut has suggested ways to use these enormous revenues to compensate households and other victims of the higher prices and job losses involved. But the whole of economic history suggests the scope for misallocation and misuse of these funds by government is great.

Neither climate change alarmism, based on still uncertain science, nor misplaced ambition to be a world leader in emission reductions should rush us into premature decisions on such a fundamental issue. The rest of the world isn't in any hurry.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Rudd and Bush in agreement

US President George Bush has praised Australia's decision to withdraw its combat troops from Iraq as a sign of both military success and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's strength of character. Making the best of a diplomatic setback, Mr Bush said Mr Rudd was not abandoning Iraq, but simply changing mission. "Obviously, the Prime Minister kept a campaign commitment, which I appreciate," Mr Bush said of Mr Rudd's election promise to withdraw 550 combat troops. "I always like to be in the presence of somebody who does what he says he's going to do. This is a guy who meant it."

Speaking after meeting the Prime Minister at the White House early yesterday, Mr Bush said Mr Rudd's plan was no different from his own intention to withdraw five US brigades by July. "Troops are coming out because we're successful. I would view the Australian decision as a return on success," he said. "That's fundamentally different from saying 'Well it's just too hard, pull them all out.' "

Mr Rudd assured the US that Australia would increase diplomatic and humanitarian assistance to Iraq and pledged $165million in aid. Both men stressed the alliance was in good shape and went beyond the individuals occupying office. "That friendship will strengthen and endure under the leadership of Kevin Rudd," Mr Bush said.

Whereas the President once called former prime minister John Howard a "man of steel" and designated him as an honorary Texan, yesterday he dubbed Mr Rudd a "fine lad". When pressed whether Mr Rudd deserved the "man of steel" moniker, Mr Bush said "yeah, heck yeah". Mr Rudd designated Mr Bush as an honorary Queenslander. Both men were united on the crisis in Chinese-occupied Tibet. Mr Rudd said China needed to discuss Tibet's administration with the Dalai Lama.


Toothless watchdog

NSW Opposition leader Barry O'Farrell has marked his first anniversary in the job with a stinging attack on the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), accusing it of ducking tough State Government corruption claims. In an extraordinary outburst, Mr O'Farrell said the ICAC was a far cry from the fearless watchdog it was under previous commissioners Ian Temby and Barry O'Keefe.

He said that although Mr Temby was appointed by former premier Nick Greiner to head the ICAC for its first five years, he was obviously no Liberal Party pin-up because a finding of corrupt conduct led to Mr Greiner's resignation in 1992. ICAC found Mr Greiner acted corruptly by appointing his former education minister, Terry Metherell, to a public service position in return for resigning from his safe Liberal seat. The finding was later overturned by the Supreme Court.

Mr Temby was much more demanding of the government than the incumbent commissioner Jerrold Cripps, Mr O'Farrell said. He added that politicians were no longer fearful of the ICAC "because its inner-spring has wound down". "That's best evidenced by its refusal to investigate the Greens' reference to ICAC of [Planning Minister] Frank Sartor's alleged phoning of corporates for donations," Mr O'Farrell said.

The ICAC decided last month not to investigate an allegation made by the Greens that Mr Sartor had called the managing director of Stockland and asked if the company would purchase a table at a political fundraiser. At the time, Mr Sartor said he did not remember the phone call, which was alleged to have been made at a time that he was considering substantial development applications from Stockland.

"I do not believe Ian Temby or his successor would have sat by and allowed a government to give a planning minister so much centralised planning power that he or she would make decisions on development applications of political donors to their party," Mr O'Farrell said. "Six months ago, ICAC to its credit put out a report saying that system should change, but for six months nothing's been done." Mr O'Farrell said the ICAC was "doing some very good work" in local government but did not "seem to want to take on the real political operators in this state". "I think you can make the case that it's been taking the low hanging fruit instead of reaching for the high stuff."

Mr O'Farrell said a Coalition state government would compel ministers to report any claims of corruption to the ICAC. "That's why Morris Iemma can get away with saying anyone who has information should pass it to ICAC rather than act himself." In veiled criticism of the previous commissioner, Irene Moss, Mr O'Farrell said the ICAC had begun to change before the appointment of Mr Cripps. "I think Mr Cripps is following in a model which was set before he arrived," he said. "I think at some stage ICAC found it all too hard and started to put its educative role ahead of its investigative role."


Sydney's killer hospital strikes again

And nothing is being done about the gross negligence concerned

A major [public] hospital has admitted that it failed to properly treat a disabled woman who died while in its care. Karen Stone, 41, was admitted to Sydney's St George Hospital in October 2004, with acute leg pain. She died a few days later from pulmonary thromboembolism after an undiagnosed clot in her leg travelled to her lung, the State Coroner found the following year. Now her mother wants to know why doctors at the hospital failed to give her routine preventative treatment.

Lynette Stone said both she and her daughter repeatedly asked hospital staff to investigate if the pain was caused by deep vein thrombosis. Their concerns were dismissed, even though Ms Stone was a high-risk patient. Mrs Stone questions if her daughter's disability meant she received less care and attention from staff. Ms Stone had a rare medical condition called Prader-Willi Syndrome that causes an obsession with food and eating, poor muscle tone and learning difficulties.

Debora Picone, who was in charge of the hospital at the time and is now the Director-General of NSW Health, said in a letter to the Health Care Complaints Commission soon after the autopsy that there was no excuse for the failure. "A satisfactory explanation was not documented in the clinical record nor was the caring medical team able to provide one when questioned," she wrote. She admitted the hospital should have provided anticoagulant therapy. The simple, but life-saving, injection was finally ordered by a professor who was taking a group of medical students on tour of the ward two days later, but the treatment was still not administered for another 24 hours. Ms Stone died the next day.

"It cannot be ascertained why the omission of treatment occurred," Professor Picone wrote. The Health Care Complaints Commission did not investigate the death, instead offering conciliation - an informal discussion with no power to make any decisions. Lorraine Long from Medical Error Action Group said government departments set up to deal with complaints had proved to be "ineffective" and a "waste of time" for bereaved families. "I have not encountered a person to be satisfied with a health-care complaints commission anywhere in the country," she said. "They want you to conciliate a death - it's obscene."

Mrs Stone said her daughter was a "wonderful soul" who brought endless joy to her family and friends. "In my heart I feel she should still be with us. If only they had taken more care, questioned more about why the pain wouldn't go away, she would not have died," she said. "If she'd been 'normal' would they have taken more notice of her?"

Venous thromboembolism, which refers to deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, causes 10,000 deaths each year in hospitals - more than lung and breast cancer combined. Professor Beng Chong, a hematologist at St George Hospital and head of the Department of Medicine at the University of NSW, said many hospitals did not assign the task of venous thromboembolism risk assessment to particular doctors or nurses, while many simply forgot.


Absurd: Firefighters answering medical emergencies

FIRE crews in Queensland have been used as a first response in medical emergencies for several years, despite denials by authorities. Documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws reveal that crews have been diverted from fires to attend medical matters because of a shortage of ambulances. In one case, a Cairns fire crew had to abort a fire call and attend a person who had been knocked unconscious in a nightclub fight.

In an exclusive Sunday Mail report in December, sources said fire trucks would soon be known as "red ambulances" in a radical plan to have firefighters attend more medical emergencies. The vehicles were to be fitted with life-saving defibrillators and used as a first response while the crisis-hit Queensland Ambulance Service struggled to cope with soaring life-threatening emergency calls.

Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts, Fire Commissioner Lee Johnson and then Ambulance Commissioner Jim Higgins strenuously denied the claims. Mr Roberts said there was "no current plan" to convert fire trucks into red ambulances. But in a letter from the United Firefighters Union in July 2006, Mr Johnson and Mr Higgins were advised of "inappropriate requests" to use fire trucks as first responders.

Union state secretary Mark Walker said members were told the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service would not be used in this capacity - but it happened regularly. "Clearly, the QAS communications centre has requested QFRS attendance to provide a first-responder role . . . (when) there is no agreement with QAS for such a role," he said. Mr Walker said TV footage had shown an incident in the Brisbane CBD where a cyclist hit a pedestrian, with firies in attendance and no ambulance. A Charters Towers fire crew had been placed on standby for medical calls one weekend due to unavailability of QAS crews.

"We have serious concerns with our members being exposed to additional risks by being called upon to do the work of the ambulance service," Mr Walker said. "We also have concerns regarding the additional risks to the community when 13-tonne fire appliances are responded to any number of other incidents that do not warrant our attention." Mr Walker sought reassurance from the commissioners that the QAS would not dispatch fire crews "to incidents for the sole purpose of providing medical assistance".

In subsequent correspondence last year, the union said it was prepared to discuss an emergency medical service role for firefighters, but there needed to be a restriction on the number and type of incidents attended plus appropriate training.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Your regulators will protect you

Controversial GP Michael Tait is under investigation over allegations he diagnosed a woman as a hypochondriac even though she was keter found to be riddled with tumours, and tried to put her on a $2000-a-month anti-ageing therapy. For 15 months, Elizabeth Orchard consulted the New Zealand and British-trained GP - now facing deregistration over his unconventional treatment of 150 terminally ill cancer sufferers - as her health deteriorated after she collapsed on the family farm in the Gold Coast hinterland. Dr Tait, who ran a GP practice alongside his Gold Coast anti-ageing clinic, was the only doctor they could find on the day of her February 2002 collapse.

According to the 57-year-old former businesswoman - who Sydney doctors later discovered had a 7.5cm-wide benign brain tumour and seven breast tumours - Dr Tait was more interested in putting her on human growth hormones, which he has since been convicted of illegally importing and selling. Despite having paralysis in one of her legs, increasingly blurred vision, bleeding from her breasts and memory loss - even forgetting her son's name - Ms Orchard said the only tests Dr Tait ordered during scores of visits were a back X-ray and an abdominal ultrasound, at her request.

Ms Orchard said she was required by her income protection insurer to have Dr Tait oversee her treatment and provide progressive reports for her benefits. In 2003, Dr Tait ruled her fit for work, leading to her benefits being cut off despite her being bedridden. "I sought opinions from other doctors but unbeknown to me, they were consulting Dr Tait, because he was my official doctor for the insurance policy," she told The Weekend Australian. "He was telling them that I had already had every necessary test possible and nothing abnormal had showed up. So no one took me seriously. He was repeatedly dismissive of my problems, my symptoms and called me a hypochondriac."

Ms Orchard said that, in June 2004, her mother paid for her to undergo a brain scan in Sydney. "They found a massive tumour in my brain and the doctors told me I had about two weeks to live, without surgery, because it had reached critical mass," she said. "The doctors told me it was an old tumour, probably 10 years or older. "I then underwent a 9 1/2-hour operation for the brain tumour and had a later operation to remove 5kg of breast tissue." Ms Orchard said she faced further operations and had ongoing seizures and a shortened life expectancy.

She is currently receiving legal advice over her treatment and last year made a complaint to the Medical Board of Queensland, but she said she was disappointed it was yet to take action. A spokesman for Dr Tait yesterday refused to comment. Authorities last week filed an action in Queensland's Health Practitioner's Tribunal against Dr Tait over his "unconventional" therapies. Some of his patients - including the late soccer legend Johnny Warren - allegedly paid up to $20,000 for treatment. In 2006, Dr Tait was convicted on nine charges of obtaining and selling a restricted drug, for which he was fined $9600.


Tasmania's 'deadly' government health-care system slammed by doctors

TASMANIA'S healthcare system is dangerous and is putting lives at risk, says the Australian Medical Association's state president. Haydn Walters says unless the $25 million bonus hospital funds promised by the Federal Government this week are spent opening beds, people will die. He said the money must be used to make the state's deadly healthcare system safe. "We have a very ragged, degraded healthcare system and it puts lives at risk," he said.

Dr Walters said surgeries were delayed because there were not an adequate number of beds to admit patients post-operatively. He said the equivalent of two wards of beds were closed at the Royal Hobart Hospital. "Beds have closed because we can't afford to open them, so without question the extra funding has to be spent on opening beds," he said.

Dr Walters said people with gall-bladder disease should have surgery within four to six weeks, but public patients in Hobart were waiting between nine to 12 months. "People with arthritis are forced to put up with the pain because they can't get in for surgery and gynaecology patients who are incontinent can't get in for reconstructive surgery at all," he said. "It is uncomfortable and unsafe in Tasmania at the moment if you don't have private health."

Dr Walters believes if beds were made available and proper staffing levels provided, the health system would be safer. "It will take the pressure off nursing staff, the emergency ward, the waiting lists -- and if we treat staff with respect, we will start to build a better public hospital system," he said.

Premier Paul Lennon said the allocation of the $25 million was a decision for Health Minister Lara Giddings and her department. Ms Giddings welcomed the additional funding but did not elaborate on how the money would be spent. Both Mr Lennon and Ms Giddings expressed disappointment that Tasmania receives only 31 per cent funding from the Commonwealth compared with 40 per cent received by Victoria. Ms Giddings said if Tasmania were to receive the same funding as Victoria, public hospitals would be $111 million better off each year. Tasmania will receive $217 million from the Commonwealth over 2007-08 with the state contributing $492.6 million, 36 per cent of the state's total Budget.


Soft life in prison, courtesy of Queensland's kindly Leftist government

QUEENSLAND'S worst criminals spend their days watching latest-release DVDs, playing PlayStation games, listening to CDs and eating chocolate and chips. The perks enjoyed by inmates, who include murderers, rapists and pedophiles, have angered prison guards. Prisoners get up to seven new DVDs a week streamed free of charge over an internal channel on TVs in their cells. Other perks such as CDs, PlayStation games, lap-top computers and junk food must be paid for by the prisoners themselves - either through prison earnings of between $25 and $40 a week, an unemployment allowance of $20 a week, or a trust fund to which relatives can contribute up to $50 a week.

President of the Queensland Prison Officers Association Brian Newman yesterday said the Corrective Services department was making it "way too easy" for prisoners. "Our members see much more than the public could imagine in terms of the benefits afforded to prisoners without having to earn them," Mr Newman said.

But Debbie Kilroy, from prisoners' support group Sisters Inside, said people were sent to jail as punishment, not to be punished when they got there. Their punishment is being in prison," Ms Kilroy said. "It's always been a very blurry line for some prison officers how they are treated once they're in there."

Prisoners are not allowed to watch R-rated films, but MA (mature adults only) classified titles such as 30 Days of Night, Alpha Dog and Black Sheep are among those provided to prisons by Amalgamated Movies, a company licensed to supply films to correctional facilities and other closed institutions.

A Townsville-based prison officer said most people would be surprised to learn inmates were able to access such luxuries. "They can refuse to attend courses that address their offending behaviour, refuse to attend court if they don't want to see the victims, and just sleep in watching videos and eating junk food instead," the officer said. "Added to this they get sport every day, guitar lessons and art and craft."

Queensland Corrective Services confirmed prisoners were able to purchase a range of items such as sports shoes, chips and chocolates as "privileges". "Depending on a prisoner's behaviour, their access to these items can be removed by Corrective Services staff," a spokesman said. QCS also confirmed DVDs were streamed free of charge to televisions hired by the prisoners for $2 a week. "All prisoners in Queensland correctional centres are locked down for 12 hours each day, from 7pm to 7am. Because of this extensive lock-down period, televisions are made available to assist in occupying prisoners during this time,in turn contributing to the safety and security of the centre," the spokesman said.

But Catholic Prison Ministry co-ordinator David Martin said it was not fair to suggest prisoners spent their days lounging in their cells, watching DVDs and scoffing junk food. "There's a lot of disillusionment, there's boredom, there's isolation. It's a tedious life with no work and it can only lead to unrest. It's not conducive to them being rehabilitated," Mr Martin said. He said prisoners could earn money for work in jail, and were entitled to spend it in fortnightly "buy-ups". "There has been no increase in the remuneration for prisoners but we've seen items like hair brushes increase from $2.59 to $12.51 in 12 months," he said.

Prisoners' Legal Service co-ordinator Matilda Alexander said there was no real benefit to anyone for a prisoner to be left staring at the walls of a jail cell. "What's the advantage of having someone sit in a cell, who wants a job but there's not enough jobs to go around, who wants to do a program but there's not enough places - why begrudge them some form of entertainment?" she said.


Bikini the new feminist symbol (?)

FORGET burning bras - today's young self-styled feminists prefer to show their girl power in a skimpy swimsuit. At least they do if they're participants in one of Australia's biggest bikini pageants being held next week on the Gold Coast. Entrants in the annual Ralph Australian Swimwear Model of the Year contest insist they were not merely sex objects.

Serial pageant entrant Ilia Valdez, 20, said far from demeaning and objectifying women, the quests empowered them. "There are always going to be people out there who say what we do isn't right, and that it's going to be degrading for women and such," said Ms Valdez, a finance manager with a boutique investment firm. "What I have to tell them is that it's the complete opposite. It builds women's self-confidence and strength and it helps if you want to get into the media industry - there are so many avenues it opens up ." Ms Valdez said while there was some bitchiness, relations between quest rivals were "generally great".

Another avid swimwear pageant entrant, Gold Coast model Christie-Lee Sharpe, 24, said the events offered good prizemoney and perks. The Ralph pageant, promoted by the national men's magazine, boasts $50,000 in cash and prizes. This year the finalists also will audition for a spot on Neighbours. "Sex sells and I think it's a case that if you've got it, flaunt it - I'm not going to look like this forever," Ms Sharpe said.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Jobs for the girls

Queensland does after all now have a female Premier. An all-Lesbian judiciary coming up? Not mentioned below is that Leanne was involved in the disgraceful prosecution of Pauline Hanson -- thrown out on appeal. As you can see below, Leanne has difficulty looking feminine even when she tries

QUEENSLAND'S controversial chief prosecutor Leanne Clare has been appointed a District Court judge. Attorney-General Kerry Shine said the director of public prosecutions would join barristers David Andrews and William Everson as the state's newest judges. "The three new judges are all highly regarded by the profession, and will complement the existing judges who perform such an important role in meeting the justice needs of Queenslanders," Mr Shine said.

Ms Clare, who has been Queensland director of public prosecutions since 2000, has faced calls for her resignation over a number of cases. She has been criticised over her handling of the extradition of former Bundaberg surgeon Dr Jayant Patel and her department's approach to a case involving nine men who raped a girl, 10, at the Aurukun community, in far north Queensland.

Ms Clare will step down as DPP next week, and Mr Shine said the search would begin immediately for her replacement. Her deputy Paul Rutledge will act in the position while it is being advertised. "The position will be advertised nationally in coming weeks and I am sure will attract a strong field of applicants," Mr Shine said. "As attorney-general I am keen to see that someone with extensive prosecution and legal experience and respect within legal circles is appointed as the next DPP."

Ms Clare began her legal career as a clerk in 1980 and joined the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in 1986. She has previously acted as a judge of the District Court and was appointed senior counsel in 2006.

Queensland Council for Civil Liberties vice-president Terry O'Gorman welcomed Ms Clare's appointment. "She's been formerly an acting judge, and performed well in the role, so it's appropriate she be appointed," Mr O'Gorman said. "It's been a long time since a judge has been appointed from the DPP's office."


Earth Hour should be grounded

A lot of hot air is going into tomorrow's Earth Hour, and I don't just mean the hot-air balloon sent up last Saturday to promote this hour-long switch-off. But, good God, why did the organisers choose that way to promote a campaign to make us cut our gases? Sending up the 32-metre light globe-shaped billboard burned so much gas - and emitted so much carbon dioxide - that we'll have to switch off 10,000 lights tomorrow just to make it up.

Perfect, then, that it landed in the Peanut Farm Reserve, and equally symbolic that The Age gave this wildly inappropriate stunt fawning coverage. Why? Because Earth Hour proves that what threatens us is not so much global warming, but lousy journalism. Asking us to turn off lights between 8pm and 9pm is a crusade by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. And already one light is staying on and flashing alarm.

You see, it's always a danger when newspapers take up campaigns. Suddenly they get tempted to report only stuff that pushes their agenda, and to ignore facts that don't. The Age and SMH - already giddy with global warming evangelism - perfectly illustrate this danger.

Earth Hour started last year in Sydney, where the SMH campaigned furiously to get everyone in the CBD to turn off their lights for an hour after dusk to "raise awareness" that our gases from electricity use were allegedly warming the world to hell. But it was a flop - lights blazed on - yet you won't read that in The Age or SMH. On the contrary, the SMH's Sunday paper, The Sun-Herald, instead ran "before and after" pictures purporting to show Sydney plunge from a blaze of light into a great gloom. But the dark "after" picture turned out to have been badly under-exposed compared with the "before" picture. And the "before" picture turned out to have been taken not just before Earth Hour but two days earlier, when, as Media Watch reported, "weather conditions helped make the whole scene look much lighter".

Nothing dishonest was done, of course. It's just that these two "mistakes" suited the paper's agenda. It didn't stop there. Check how The Age now routinely reports last year's "success":

"Last year's first Earth Hour had as many as 2.2 million Sydneysiders and 2000 businesses turn off their lights, causing a 10 per cent drop in the city's energy use."

Really? First, it's mad to think half of Sydney's population switched off for a stunt centred on the CBD. This figure is actually a huge extrapolation from a poll of fewer than 800 guilty people who claimed they'd maybe switched off something or other during the hour. Second, the claimed dip in power was just for the CBD, not all Sydney. Third, the 10 per cent cut claimed for the CBD is itself a gross exaggeration.

A cut so tiny is trivial - equal to taking six cars off the road for a year. But David Solomon, a finance PhD student at the Chicago University's graduate school of business, crunched Sydney's power figures to exclude seasonal and daily fluctuations, and concluded there was actually close to no power saving at all. "When a fixed effect is included for the whole day, the drop in electricity use during Earth Hour is statistically indistinguishable from zero."

So why does The Age exaggerate? Because it's on a campaign to persuade, not inform, which is why it also won't report other awkward facts. Here's one: global temperatures have fallen since 1998. Indeed, all four big global temperature tracking outlets, including Britain's Hadley Centre, now say global temperatures over the past year have dropped sharply. NASA adds that the oceans have also cooled for the past few years.

Why doesn't The Age tell its readers this, instead of scaring them with reports, and balloons, that are just hot air? That's crusading, not reporting.


PM cracks down on political donations

When I donated to the BNP, I was told that, as a foreigner, I could donate only 200 pounds, so Rudd is being even meaner than that. It seems an invasion of individual liberties to me. A rule that parties had to publicize overseas donations above $1,000 would seem sufficient

The Rudd Government will ban political donations from overseas in Australia and force the disclosure of all donations above $1000. Special Minister of State John Faulkner has confirmed the new laws will be introduced during the next sitting of parliament and the Government aims to pass the laws in the same period.

In a move to tackle candidates such as One Nation founder Pauline Hanson profiting from campaigns through public funding, new laws will also tie election funding to spending. "Our plan is to introduce legislation in the next session for passage in the next session,'' Senator Faulkner said today. The Government will also work on more wide-ranging reforms by commissioning a green paper to reform and modernise electoral laws.

The Prime Minister will write to the states to seek their co-operation in overhauling political donation laws across the country. "In the short term, the legislation will urgently move on five issues. The first is to set the campaign disclosure level at $1000 reversing the Howard government's huge increase in the disclosure $10,0000, indexed,'' Senator Faulkner said. "I am very committed to restoring the integrity of our electoral system in this country.'' [Any proof that it LACKS integrity?]

The Government will also remove loopholes allowing political parties to hide big donations through separate divisions and increase public scrutiny by introducing six-month timeframes for disclosure.

Because political candidates secure taxpayer funding on the basis of the votes they secure, some independent and minor candidates secure a financial windfall while spending little on campaigning. After the 1998 election, for example MsHanson's One Nation secured more than $3 million in public funding, more than the Nationals did. However, the party would have spent just a fraction of that amount on campaigning. At the time, to be eligible for any funding, a candidate or party had to win at least 4 per cent of the formal first-preference votes. The reform plan also follows controversy in NSW over big political donations from building developers in the wake of the Wollongong Council scandal.


Victoria police under fire for corruption again

GROSS mismanagement and allegations of theft, rorting [misuse of funds] and kickbacks in senior levels of Victoria Police are being investigated by a secret internal corruption taskforce. The taskforce, which includes forensic accountants, is believed to have identified tens of thousands of dollars that are either missing or unaccounted for. One senior manager who allegedly ran up a $5000 monthly bill while operating a private consultancy through his Victoria Police mobile telephone is understood to have been charged with theft. Victoria Police has confirmed a senior manager has resigned as a result of the investigation.

It is understood that investigators have so far found about 90 mobile telephones were distributed without records being kept of where they went. The wife of a senior manager was allegedly given a Victoria Police mobile phone and laptop for her private use. The potential misuse of travel budgets and allegations of kickbacks to police employees from suppliers are also being investigated.

The internal investigation into the troubled Business Information Technology Services department began about a month ago after an audit uncovered wide-ranging financial irregularities. A police source said the investigation had the potential to evolve into one of the biggest and most complex internal probes of its kind ever undertaken by Victoria Police. The information technology department, which is responsible for overseeing all information and computer technology within Victoria Police, has been dogged by controversy and allegations of incompetence, wrongdoing and cost blowouts for years. The investigation is so complex it has been put in the hands of Commander David Sprague, who previously headed such high-profile cases as the execution-style murders of two young police constables in Walsh Street, South Yarra, in 1988 and the hunt for the child killer dubbed "Mr Cruel".

Those under investigation are understood to be mostly civilian public servants employed by Victoria Police and not uniformed officers. The head of the BITS department, Valda Berzins, was appointed chief information officer from outside the force by Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon in 2004 to "clean up" chronic problems with Victoria Police's technology section. Ms Berzins, who is also part of Ms Nixon's executive management group and reports to the Chief Commissioner, declined to comment on the investigation. She referred The Australian to Victoria Police's communications director.

An initial audit of the technology department by the force's Corporate Management Review Division is understood to have resulted in a damning report with 106 recommendations, a number of them critical of the department's top management. The internal corruption investigation was ordered after an initial assessment that criminal behaviour could be involved.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said a "range of matters around process" had been identified and work was under way to "rectify these issues". "We can confirm that as a consequence of the audit one senior manager has resigned," she said.

Past problems in the department include alleged misbehaviour by senior managers, attempts to cover up budget blowouts and the discovery of child pornography links on a senior manager's laptop. The department was responsible for overseeing a contract that blew out from $151.5 million to $239.5 million.


New Zealand man 'raped by wombat' claims he now speaks Australian

A bit of fun. This belongs on a humour site but only Kiwis and Australians would get it. A wombat above. They're a sort of burrowing Koala

A New Zealand man has been sentenced to community work after telling police he was raped by a wombat and the experience had made him speak "Australian". Arthur Ross Cradock, 48, from the South Island town of Motueka, called police on February 11 and told them he was being raped at his home by the wombat and he needed help, The Nelson Mail newspaper reported. The orchard worker later called back and said: "Apart from speaking Australian now, I'm pretty all right, you know."

Cradock pleaded guilty in the local court to using a phone for a fictitious purpose. He was sentenced to 75 hours' community work. Police prosecutor Sergeant Chris Stringer told the court alcohol played a large role in Cradock's life. [Sheep too?]


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Christianity trumps socialism in caring for black kids

Community-run child dormitories should be established in remote indigenous communities in the Northern Territory to ensure children are fed, clothed and bathed, former Australian of the Year Galarrwuy Yunupingu says. Dormitory-style accommodation with cooking, showering and sleeping facilities should be built near schools, Mr Yunupingu told Fairfax. "The missionary days were good. The missionaries looked after the kids much better than the government does today," he said.

Adolescents as young as 12 in his Arnhem Land town of Nhulunbuy were still vulnerable to sexual abuse and manipulation by men selling alcohol, drugs and pornography, despite federal intervention in NT indigenous communities, Mr Yunupingu said. "I see intervention people running around trying to fix doorknobs and broken windows," he said. "What has that got to do with the kids? It's not filling up their stomachs. "There are thousands of kids waking up to no breakfast in these communities ... you can't turn a blind eye to it."

Mr Yunupingu is in Melbourne to address an economic and social outlook conference being held at Melbourne University, where he will say 60 elders of his own people in Nhulunbuy had decided to take a stand against those who had been reportedly abusing the town's indigenous youth.

The NT's Little Children are Sacred report, which prompted the federal intervention, alleged a rampant sex trade in an unnamed community where non-Aboriginal mining workers gave Aboriginal girls aged between 12 and 15 alcohol, cash and other goods in exchange for sex. The community was Nhulunbuy, Fairfax said.


"Bootcamp" for fat kids?

This is REALLY getting Fascist

Bootcamp in schools is not necessary and teachers should not cop the blame for unfit children, the State Government said yesterday. Education Minister David Bartlett said schools were already doing enough to ensure kids were fit and healthy and parents needed to play a larger role. He said bootcamp was "too extreme", school curriculums were already crowded, and schools needed to focus on literacy and numeracy over sport.

His comments come after high-profile TV fitness trainer Michelle Bridges, from the TV show The Biggest Loser, said Tasmanian students should undertake high-intensity bootcamp for at least 30 minutes at the start of each school day to reduce skyrocketing obesity rates. Bridges said she was shocked Tasmania had one of the nation's highest obesity rates and that doctors had been treating children as young as two for obesity-related health conditions. And she said Tasmanian schools could lead the nation with daily bootcamps which would have "massive results" on students' exercise, nutrition and learning.

But Mr Bartlett said he did not support bootcamps and was confident students already did enough exercise at school. "I don't like the term bootcamp because it's too extreme," Mr Bartlett said. "But in fact there are physical education programs happening in all our schools, and some of the best ones are those style of things where kids get out in the morning, do their exercise, get ready and come back in and start learning. "We have mandated two hours of physical education a week in every school in Tasmania, and in almost every school I've been into physical activity and education happens every day."

He said parents needed to stop blaming schools for unfit children, and do more at home to encourage exercise and good eating habits. "It's a crowded curriculum and people in Tasmania, I believe, as my number one priority, want me to lift literacy and numeracy rates and that's what we're working hard on," Mr Bartlett said. He said more emphasis needed to be put on what happened at home.


The wonders of a government education

Angry students have walked out of their classrooms in protest at the run down state of their primary school. More than 50 pupils holding placards, including one which read "My wet socks suck"', gathered outside Trinity Beach State School, Cairns, in far north Queensland on Wednesday to draw attention to what they call sub-standard facilities. Parents also joined the protest.

Students and parents claim the school's classrooms are run down, cramped and mouldy, there is nowhere to play when it rains, the oval is a boggy mess, the demountables need replacing and the toilets smell. Parent Neils Munksgaard held up a tattered school library book to illustrate the point. "This is out of the school library and you can see it's all patched up with tape and it doesn't look good,"' he said. "And that's pretty much the state of the buildings."

The strike went ahead despite the state government yesterday promising $40,000 in additional funding. Local MP Steve Wettenhall said Trinity Beach State School was "a great school", but organised a petition for parents to sign. "I heard what they said and I'll be taking that message back to Brisbane, and I'll be talking with the education minister (Rod Welford) about the issues at Trinity Beach State School," Mr Wettenhall said.

P&C president Ian Stone said the school was in such a state of decay that some parents had removed their children. "Due to lack of maintenance in the school's general appearance, some parents have chosen to take their kids elsewhere, and that's a crying shame," Mr Stone said.


Australia's museums becoming tools for Leftist propaganda

By all accounts Dawn Casey, the indigenous woman chosen to be the director of Sydney's largest and most popular museum, the Powerhouse, is a polished performer and formidable administrator. She managed to get Canberra's controversial $155 million National Museum of Australia (NMA) opened on time and on budget in 2001, a feat so fine the builders presented her with a framed piece of the Berlin Wall, on which was engraved, "For making the impossible possible".

But Casey, 57, is also a cultural warrior who believes museums should be political, should showcase "suppressed" voices and a multiplicity of "truths", and should be places of "dissent and debate", as she wrote two years later, in a paper for Australian Museums & Galleries Online. This is presumably what the NMA was all about, conceived by its architect, Howard Raggatt, as "one in the eye for John Howard", with its design modelled on Berlin's Holocaust museum and directly equating Australia's history with the Jewish Holocaust in Europe. Gigantic Braille messages pressed into its anodised aluminium cladding reading "Sorry" and "Forgive us our genocide" were early proof that this was a museum in the business of waging cultural war, despite the softly spoken manner of its well-liked director of four years, Casey.

Black-white relations were summed up by black figures hanging in effigy near a white trooper with a shotgun in his hand. The Anzac tradition was trivialised, with its sole presence a bleached-out statue of a digger. World War II was shoved into the corner of a display case holding Phar Lap's heart. Australia's non-Aboriginal history was treated as a silly joke, summed up in an upside down hills hoist and Victa mowers as the ultimate suburban irony. There was a monument to Gough Whitlam, alone among prime ministers, and suffusing every exhibit what the present director, Craddock Morton, calls a "black T-shirt" view of history; 1970s-style left-wing, and facile.

The arrival of the First Fleet was described in one exhibit as a "biological invasion", but in the Casey era the museum contained next to nothing about the ingenuity, scientific and technological innovations that marked the next two centuries. No Howard Florey. No CSIRO or Qantas. This is a museum as ideological battering ram, not a place for increasing knowledge.

Welcome to the postmodern future of the Powerhouse. After a worldwide hunt, the board has chosen as its director a person who is capable and admirable in many ways, but who, if she sticks to her track record at the NMA, could take the museum down a fraught path. A clue to the nature of the museum is its name, Powerhouse, as the museum was built on the site of an old electricity generation station in Ultimo. It is a science, technology, industry and design museum. Its greatest attractions are a celebration of man's ingenuity and it pays homage to cars and aircraft and space travel. Perhaps that is an anachronism but that's part of the definition of a museum; preserving the past for us to learn from, and wonder at, not twisting it to reflect fleeting modern sensibilities.

The Powerhouse is also popular, and has posted record admission revenues in recent years for shows such as Star Wars and The Lord Of The Rings, with about 200,000 visitors to each. It has become a staple Sydney school holiday outing, with plenty of gadgetry, experiments, virtual reality and genuine science to keep children amused while teaching them about, say, static electricity. In science and engineering, there are not "many truths" and the NMA under Casey was notable, according to the Carroll report of the collection, for its almost complete lack of science, technology and industrial content.

Nick Pappas, president of the Powerhouse's board of trustees, is unfazed by Casey's record at the NMA. He said yesterday Casey was chosen because of her ability and because she is "very good at bringing in audiences and dealing with government in a constructive way". The board, which includes feminist Anne Summers, financier Mark Bouris and educator Judith Wheeldon, didn't even consider the criticism of the NMA's ideological bias under Casey's watch. "We didn't see it as a positive or a negative," Pappas said, adding, ominously, that the Powerhouse is also a museum of "social history" and that Casey has "a very, very broad mandate". It was just such a broad mandate in social history that brought the NMA undone.

Pappas says he also sees the Powerhouse as "a people's museum". "I don't see radical ideology as part of that. It is a place of education and entertainment . but debate is not a bad thing. Museums should never be offensive but they should be challenging." The board's aim, he said, is to better "integrate the museum with the city and integrate it with the public", which they hope is their new director's forte. The previous director, World War I buff Kevin Fewster, who has since taken up a job in London heading the National Maritime Museum, was said to have had too low a profile, despite having brought in record crowds.

Casey, on the other hand, has a high media profile. She will be forever hailed by legions of Howard-haters as the heroine who gave Howard "one in the eye". But while there may no longer be a Howard to kick around, contrary to popular belief, last year's election did not end the culture wars. The left was not suddenly victorious, as signalled by a new prime minister who likes to call himself a conservative.

So while Casey has complained about her conservative critics, and told a Senate estimates committee that it was "extremely unhelpful that in the last few years we have been brought into the culture wars that exist out there", she is being disingenuous. It was Casey, her pet historians and the designers of the museum and its exhibits that deliberately provoked a culture war "in there" when no one was looking. It is difficult to see how Casey's philosophy can find expression at the Powerhouse without drastically changing the nature of the museum.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dangerously long hours for paramedics in Victoria

EXHAUSTED paramedics in Victoria have fallen asleep at the wheel and made mistakes drawing up drugs as their fatigue levels reached dangerously high levels. Ninety-eight per cent of 346 paramedics who took part in a union survey, to be released today, said they experienced workplace fatigue in the past 12months. More than one-third had to leave shifts prematurely because of fatigue, and 87 per cent said fatigue had affected their judgment while at work.

A number of paramedics said they had fallen asleep while driving ambulances. "I've been so tired I've drawn up the wrong drug and nearly given it to a patient," said one Melbourne paramedic, who declined to be named. Another wrote that he became "so fatigued that I fall asleep whilst driving at work (occasionally) and on the way to and from home (most days)". One employee said he was working overtime and "had to contact the duty team manager and inform him that I had actually driven past the hospital after falling asleep at the wheel, (and) being woken by my partner's shouts".

Ambulance Employees Australia Victorian secretary Steve McGhie said the findings were a wake-up call to the Brumby Government and the ambulance service. "These findings are a clear sign that our ambulance system is in crisis and that Premier Brumby has taken his eye off the ball," he said. "Will it take a paramedic or patient dying before Premier Brumby fixes this crisis? "We urgently need a major increase in ambulance funding for additional paramedics. "Extra staff will help reduce the workload of paramedics, enable them to get proper meal and rest breaks and have some down time between cases."

Mr McGhie said paramedics, patients and the broader community were being put at risk by fatigue arising from an extreme workload and "dangerous" rostering arrangements. "For the last few years, ambulance caseload has increased at a much higher rate than operational staffing levels," he said. "The Victorian Government likes talking about how it has doubled ambulance funding since it came to power, but in recent years funding has not kept pace with escalating caseloads."

According to the survey, paramedics said their workloads and the fact they often had no meal break or rest break during shifts of up to 14 hours were key reasons for their fatigue. "Jobs never seem to go smoothly when I'm fatigued," a rural paramedic said. "I'm slower to process what needs to be done. You leave equipment at the scene. It's very hard to stay awake driving at night, especially long distances like we have in the country. "Lucky I haven't had to work out drug calculations while fatigued, but it's only a matter of time."

A Melbourne paramedic said that "on a couple of occasions, on night shift I have had to try to calculate drug doses". "One was for a child that needed to be sedated and intubated," he said. "I was completely incapable of it. I had to rely totally on the dose and volumes calculated by my partner. I couldn't assist by even confirming his calculations. "My mind had turned off due to fatigue."


Dangerously long hours for paramedics in Queensland

SOME Queensland paramedics are working punishing shifts of up to 17 hours despite a recruitment drive that has so far netted more than 200 additional officers. Ambulance Employees Australia's Steve Crowe said yesterday the amount of overtime being worked also raised concerns about how many extra hours ambulance officers would do when new 12-hour shifts - designed to better spread resources - were introduced later this year. "Demand for services is skyrocketing. We've identified at least six examples of paramedics working 14 to 17 hours straight in recent weeks," he said. "I don't know how widespread it is yet, but if I was a manager of a station and I had someone working seven hours' overtime, I'd be horrified."

Shadow emergency services minister Ted Malone said he also had reports of 14 to 15-hour shifts, while a QAS spokesman said records showed that at March 2 only 3.2 per cent of shifts had an extension greater than two hours this year.

Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts said the government was on track to meet its target of 250 new recruits in 2007-08, with more than 200 already on board. Another 100 frontline officers would also be appointed following the findings of last year's audit. He said the extra staff would help cope with the unprecedented and increasing demand facing the QAS. ``Last financial year the QAS attended over 815,000 calls for assistance, averaging around one call every 39 seconds,'' he said. ``Already this year, the QAS has attended more than 610,000 call-outs.''

Mr Crowe said another 700 paramedics were required to meet demand.


Australia's self-inflicted African problem

POLICE are advising the Immigration Department for the first time about how and where to settle troubled African refugees. Senior Victorian police have urged the department to settle Sudanese families in country towns such as Mildura and Sale, away from suburban Melbourne where young African men are being caught up in street crime. The Australian understands that police first appealed to immigration officials last year following a spike in criminal activity among young Sudanese men, while Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon was attempting to play down the problem. Sudanese gang violence escalated last September, with the fatal bashing of 19-year-old Liep Gony near Noble Park railway station, in Melbourne's east.

Police advised against settling Sudanese in "dysfunctional areas" such as housing commission flats in Melbourne's north and east, and a growing number of the 15,000-member state community are now living in Mildura, Sale and Wonthaggi. African Think Tank chairman Berhan Ahmed yesterday praised the rural settlement, saying it would help the Sudanese integrate, find work and avoid drugs, alcohol and street crime. "The influence of drugs and alcohol will not be there [You're kidding!], and it will be much easier for kids and refugee families to adjust in rural areas," he said.

Dr Ahmed - a Melbourne University senior research fellow studying refugees living in rural Victoria and their city counterparts - said young Africans living in the country were more likely to perform better at school and get work. While it was difficult to resettle refugees who were already living in Melbourne, he said the Brumby Government could offer them better housing and jobs to encourage them to move. "You entice them by giving them opportunities," he said.

Victoria Police's multicultural liaison officer, Joseph Herrech said helping Sudanese refugees to settle in Melbourne was a challenge for immigration officials and police. He said grouping the Sudanese together at times led to crime-related problems, and separating them often exacerbated their emotional hardship. "We've recommended to Immigration that they be spread out slightly more," he said.

Other police recommendations to the immigration department include developing better pre-departure programs for humanitarian refugees to educate them more about Australian culture, the judicial process and the law-enforcement agencies. Police sources have told The Australian that gangs involving Sudanese men, including African Power and the Bloods and Crips - inspired by the Los Angeles-based crime groups - have grown in numbers and become more of a concern in the suburbs of Collingwood and Carlton.

Former immigration minister Kevin Andrews decided to cut back the African refugee intake last year amid fears they were not "settling and adjusting" into Australian life.


Rudd to slice red tape

Sounds good. In the right direction, anyway

The Rudd Government will today further expand its deregulation agenda, adding food, electronic conveyancing and mine safety to the 16 areas under consideration. But the move, to be discussed at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Adelaide, is expected to delay by several months proposals that have been in the pipeline for some years. COAG is expected to hail its success in clearing the political hurdles for a range of bureaucratic hotspots identified two years ago. This includes producing nationally consistent environmental assessments and approvals, product safety regulations, rail safety and a national system of trade measurements.

But as the process becomes bigger and the list of legislation longer, pressing issues such as financial credit protection for people using mortgage brokers, margin lending or non-bank borrowing, will be roped together and dealt with in a legislative discussion or green paper. In the case of protection for people using mortgage brokers, the move will further delay a five-year process that was on the verge of completion after NSW drafted legislation for COAG to consider last year.

The move has angered credit reform advocates, including the NSW Consumer Credit Legal Centre. "This is ridiculous," solicitor Katherine Lane said yesterday. "Every day that goes past is a day without protections, with no licensing, no recourse to dispute resolution regimes - none of these consumer protection measures we desperately need."

Uniform guidelines on how business reports to governments are designed to make it easier for companies to meet their obligations. "At present, business has to report financial information separately to different government agencies and in different formats, imposing a heavy compliance burden," says the COAG report to be delivered to the Prime Minister, premiers and chief ministers. "By eliminating unnecessary or duplicated reporting the project will reduce the volume of complexity of reporting business to government."

In a rare move the commonwealth will defer its administrative responsibility on environmental assessments and approvals to the states. Where the commonwealth agrees to a state's assessment it will not then re-visit the same issues when an approval is granted for a project. It is a move which would prevent a repeat of the 2006 incident where the commonwealth used the threatened orange-bellied parrot to derail a Victorian-approved windfarm.

Some of the new areas being added to the COAG deregulation agenda may contradict other proposals. A push by South Australia for others to copy its laws allowing identical labels for domestically-sold and export bottles of wine may run into problems in a push for graphic health warnings on alcohol. Graphic warnings may not be acceptable for export bottles, reversing the estimated $60 million saving the SA approach has delivered.

The Business Council of Australia, which estimates that duplicated regulation costs business $16 billion annually, yesterday welcomed renewed commitments from the federal Government to accelerate the national reform agenda under COAG.


Aussie soldiers turn noses up at ration packs

This Easter many Australian soldiers serving in Iraq will open their ration packs with disappointment. Forget the chocolate eggs; nutritionists say the traditional Australian army rations aren't appetising enough. Soldiers are refusing to eat the rations and their health and morale is suffering as a result, and the Army is spending thousands of dollars to make ration packs more appetising. It seems hard to believe, but experts say the success of military operations is being compromised by the unpalatable ration packs given to our troops.

Australia is part of a hot region and most defence personnel are deployed to high temperature zones. Soldiers stationed overseas are becoming sick, lethargic and they're under-performing, because they can't bring themselves to eat their pre-packed hot meals. Chris Forbes-Ewan, a nutritionist with Defence Science and Technology Organisation in Tasmania, says the reason for that is pretty clear that people lose appetite in the heat. "The current pack includes meals that need to be heated to be fully edible; main meals spaghetti bolognese and beef with noodles and sweet and sour foods and these sorts of things," he said. "Also freeze-dried rice and potato and onion powder."

Mr Forbes-Ewan says soldiers need to be given mission-specific ration packs according to the climate they'll be working in. "While food plays an enormous role in morale, quite often the only thing the soldier has to look forward to is his, or her next meal," he said.

Naturally his team's priority was to develop a hot-weather combat pack, and they've already made a prototype. "The new pack consists mainly of grazing type foods, eat-on-the-move goods," he said. "[It includes] trail mix, energy bars, sports bars, sports drink, beef jerky is another one." The nutritionist says a new heat-resistant Army chocolate is also on the drawing board. "It's a mood lifter, because it is so popular, it's a good food to fortify with vitamins," he said.

The new hot weather combat supplies are being trialed at the Land Command Battle School near Tully in far north Queensland. The Federal Minister for Defence Personnel, Warren Snowden, is optimistic the soldiers will like it. "Soldiers weren't that happy with the current ration packs and weren't eating enough of the ration pack food in the field," he said. "They are being required to undertake high intensity physical work, which is very stressful, for days at a time often, and we need to make sure that they're operating at their best, not only for their own safety but so that they can complete the missions, which they are being tasked to do and that is the defence of Australia."


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

More cooking the books in NSW hospitals

NSW Health appointed a nurse whose job was to massage triage data in the emergency department of a Sydney hospital to make it look favourable, emergency doctors say. The nurse, appointed just before the state election, was there specifically to ensure computer data met triage targets, the vice-president of the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine, Sally McCarthy, said yesterday.

This follows revelations in the Herald yesterday that managers at Gosford and Ryde hospitals were so under pressure by the health department to meet targets that some had falsified "time seen" data - the record of when treatment began on a patient.

On the nurse, Dr McCarthy said: "They had somebody looking at that, basically harassing other staff and putting in data themselves. That's not somebody to provide care for patients. That's simply someone to click off on the computer to basically show that patients were seen within benchmark times. It was really just an attempt to get the data looking good."

While the NSW Minister for Health, Reba Meagher, insisted the Gosford case was isolated, Dr McCarthy said the doctoring of data was more widespread and was made easier after the department about 18 months ago widened the definition of when treatment began to include nursing care in several instances. An emergency physician at Prince of Wales Hospital, who could not be named because she was prohibited from speaking to media, said yesterday that "there have been numerous verbal directives from hospital administrators to change data". "This is not an isolated instance. Most other hospitals, and I'm aware of Liverpool and Nepean hospitals being asked to do the same thing," she said. Another emergency physician said he witnessed the same thing at Blue Mountains Hospital last year: "There was a huge amount of pressure . to enter data to meet benchmarks."

Ms Meagher rejected the claims. "There is no evidence to suggest that inaccurate reporting is widespread," she said in a statement. "Hospitals in NSW have been performing well."

Triage data is highly political and used as one of the performance indicators of health bureaucrats. The chief executive officer of Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service, Matthew Daly, admitted a manager at Gosford Hospital had falsified triage data early last year and had been disciplined. "She was altering figures that had previously been entered," he said. He said new recommendations had since been implemented "about the clarity of nurse-initiated protocols - when the clock starts". Mr Daly said no pressure was placed on her to alter data and it was "just absurd to do, and simply dishonest". Another recommendation was to limit access to data.

The director of performance improvement at NSW Health, Tony O'Connell, said it was an outrageous claim that data doctoring was widespread and due to pressure from the department. "There's no evidence that I have that it has happened anywhere else [other than Ryde and Gosford]," Dr O'Connell said. "It's really quite perverse of the college to say on one hand people around Australia should be seen within recommended times . and then turn around and say the department is bullying people to deliver them


The DOCS saga continues

It seems that NOTHING can civilize this collection of prime bureaucratic assholes

A dying five-year-old girl who is chronically disabled has been left in the care of abusive foster carers who are banned from caring for any more children. A number of children have already been removed from the western Sydney couple, who at one stage requested only girls to foster. Both the New South Wales Department of Community Services (DOCS) and the police have investigated the carers, who have been categorised as dangerous, yet the State Government has done nothing to remove five-year-old "Susie" (not her real name) from their care.

The horrifying case comes after new statistics show 27 disabled children died under the care of DOCS in 2006. It also follows the death of Shellay Ward, a seven-year-old autistic girl who allegedly starved to death after being left with her parents, despite her younger sister having already been removed by DOCS.

The Foster Care Association's Michelle Irwin said four investigations have been held into Susie's carers, including three in 2005 and one in 2007 over allegations of verbal, physical and sexual abuse. "The department can't have it both ways, they can't remove some children and allow this defenceless little girl to remain there," she said. "Either clear (the couple) of the allegations or remove this child."

Susie suffers from a severe form of muscular dystrophy and has defied doctors who gave her just six months to live when she was born. A DOCS spokeswoman confirmed the investigations but was unable to explain the delay in finalising inquiries.

Ms Irwin said it was not clear whether Susie had suffered abuse but said "there have been very serious sexual allegations made against this family". "There hasn't been a thorough investigation into whether the little girl has been abused." A joint police/DOCS investigation has already led to the foster parents receiving a Category 1 and a Category 2 listing - meaning they pose a risk to children.

The Daily Telegraph understands the carers have fostered between five to 10 children over the last five years and at least one two-year-old boy was taken out of their care after witnessing a suicide attempt by a house guest.

Opposition disability spokesman Andrew Constance said DOCS put disabled children in the too-hard basket: "The Government's answer to these problems is typically to leave a child with the disability in harms way because they just can't find other solution." Community Services Minister Kevin Greene said he would look into the case. [DOCS needs to be abolished and a new body set up with none of the old employees]


More bureaucrats who don't give a damn

They should all be fired

AT LEAST 13 Queensland Health bureaucrats - including the new boss of the Torres Strait district- allegedly received a damning report into staff safety that was left to gather dust. A briefing note prepared for Health Minister Stephen Robertson claims new district manager Cindy Morseu was emailed the Torres Strait Risk Assessment report early last year. The audit report was undertaken in late 2006, 16 months before a nurse was allegedly raped by an intruder in her living quarters on remote Mabuiag Island last month.

The inaction in implementing the report's recommendations and who was responsible have been referred to the Crime and Misconduct Commission. Mr Robertson forwarded the case to the CMC after former district manager Phillip Mills, the uncle of Ms Morseu, denied he ever saw the document because he was posted to Cairns at the time. According to the briefing note, Torres Strait workplace health and safety officer Tom Sanderson claimed the report was sanctioned by the region's director of corporate services, Ashley Frost. There are conflicting versions over events but Mr Sanderson told the department the final report was sent to the Torres Strait in January 2007. "As far as I know it went to Ashley initially as the requester," Mr Sanderson said in the briefing note.

However, the briefing note warns of a lack of evidence because of a policy to delete emails after a certain time. Ms Morseu has refused interviews but Mr Frost, now working for QH on the Sunshine Coast, last night said she was acting manager while her uncle was in Cairns. "I know it went to the district manager, whoever that was at the time, and then it would have ended up at the executive meeting . . . but I can't remember when I would have seen it," Mr Frost said.

Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg questioned whether there was more damning briefing material. "The minister is either incompetent or dishonest so either way people should be very worried and so should the Premier," Mr Springborg said. Premier Anna Bligh said she could not guarantee work to upgrade security measures at centres would be completed before the nurses' union deadline this Friday.


Cops fail integrity testing, but results remain secret

The wallet containing $285 handed in at the Katoomba police station was too tempting for Senior Constable Kate Michelle Howes to ignore - so she went shopping. That mistake cost the 27-year-old officer her career. Howes had no idea the lost wallet was a deftly targeted test of her integrity, orchestrated from within the NSW Police Force.

Her case is the only public evidence that the force still conducts integrity tests among its own ranks as part of its fight against corruption. But the results of these tests, a good barometer of the cleanness of the force, is not information the police want you to know. It is one of a growing list of matters sought by The Daily Telegraph under Freedom of Information that is being refused release by the force.

Last May, Howes pleaded guilty in the Mount Druitt Local Court to embezzlement. She was fined $1000 and placed on a three-year good behaviour bond. Worse was to come. On February 2 this year, Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione dismissed Howes, using his authority under section 181d of the Police Act 1990.

Integrity testing was a key reform arising from the Wood royal commission in the mid-1990s. But details of how the tests are done - and, more important, how many officers pass or fail them - are not for public discussion. The police have argued that to discuss any aspect of its program - even the release of statistics on how many are undertaken - would undermine its effectiveness.

In a ruling earlier this month, the Ombudsman backed this secrecy. "The public interest favours the continued successful operation of the integrity testing system and consequently continued secrecy regarding the numbers and conduct of integrity testing," investigation officer Maya Borthwick said.

In Howes' case, it was a clever sting. Foreign coins were tossed in with the cash to make it appear as though the wallet belonged to a tourist who would not be around to claim it. The person who handed it in appeared to be a member of the public. Howes succumbed to temptation and went shopping, apparently for clothing and manchester. She still had $150 left when she was charged.

Figures released in 1998 revealed that of the 40 sting operations carried out, just 18 officers passed. Despite this, a police spokesman yesterday ruled out releasing any details of the integrity testing program. "Police will not reveal methodology or how regularly integrity testing is conducted," the spokesman said. "However, police can confirm that integrity tests have led to criminal charges being laid." Not all officers who fail the tests are sacked. Some remain in the force but face internal disciplinary proceedings.


Useless education degrees

Standards are so low anyhow that it is hard to imagine standards being too low for the authorities but so it seems

A TEACHING degree at a leading university has been refused accreditation for failing to properly prepare students in key primary school subjects, with some of its course units described as being more akin to TAFE-level study. Three other universities are also restructuring their 12-month graduate diplomas in primary education to meet new accreditation standards that emphasise content ahead of educational theory, with a year considered insufficient time to complete the mandatory subjects.

The four-year Bachelor of Early Childhood Education at the University of Wollongong is being restructured for next year after it was rejected by the NSW Institute of Teachers and a new set of standards agreed to by the states and territories. It is believed this is the first time a course has been rejected under the new system. Newcastle, Macquarie and the Australian Catholic University have also been forced to restructure their 12-month graduate diploma courses.

Wollongong's deputy dean of education Brian Ferry said the university had received "feedback" from the NSWIT that its four-year degree - which trains teachers for children aged up to eight in childcare centres, preschools and the first years of primary school - had failed to meet accreditation standards. But Professor Ferry said that was not the same as failing accreditation or the course being rejected. "The institute has just asked us to increase a bit more emphasis on the primary aspect of this program," he said. "We just have to make sure we cover the key learning areas in a little more detail."

Professor Ferry said the university had decided to recast the course from next year for teachers of children under five, to meet the demand anticipated from the federal Government's focus on the early years of life.

The Australian understands that the NSWIT panel found a large proportion of the course focused on children five years and younger, giving insufficient attention to key areas in the primary curriculum. It criticised the course for being of poor quality, saying a number of the early-childhood units were more at the level of TAFE study than university standard. But Professor Ferry denied the course had been described as TAFE-level.

It is understood the NSW Education Department, which previously approved courses, expressed strong reservations in 2006 about early primary teaching courses in general. The NSWIT accreditation standards require more content to be taught than under the previous system, and, critically, does not accept educational theory as content.

NSWIT chief executive Tom Alegounarias refused to comment on individual universities, but said it was always expected that not all courses would meet the new requirements. Mr Alegounarias said the higher standards had been negotiated in full co-operation with the universities. "We are in a difficult transition period where universities are deciding how to accommodate the new subject content requirements, and the literacy and numeracy requirements," Mr Alegounarias said.

NSW Education Minister John Della Bosca said Wollongong University's experience showed the new process was working and that universities were taking it seriously.

Macquarie University head of the school of education John Hedberg said the school's diploma of education was now a two-year course that undergraduates wrapped into their degree studies, such as arts.

Professor Ferry said the faculty was planning to extend the academic year, so that students started earlier and finished later with fewer breaks, to enable them to finish the required course content.