Sunday, August 31, 2008

Traditional fried breakfast a cancer risk?

Another volley in the puritanical war on fried foods below. It is all speculative (epidemiological) nonsense that has been contradicted by the double blind studies. See e.g. here and here

It has been called a "heart attack on a plate" but now the traditional Australian fry-up has also been branded a cancer risk. Experts claim those who regularly tuck into a fried breakfast with the lot have a 63 per cent increase in the risk of bowel cancer. Data from the World Cancer Research Fund warns that eating 150g of processed meat a day - equivalent to about two sausages and three rashers of bacon - increased the chance of diagnosis by two-thirds.

According to the charity, the evidence was so strong we should avoid eating these foods as much as possible. And it wasn't a matter of all or nothing, they said. Even a sausage a day could increase the risk by a fifth. The extra calories can also lead to obesity, which is linked to six types of cancer - including bowel and breast cancers - as well as heart disease.

Apart from smoking, excess weight is considered the biggest cause of human suffering from disease. Bowel cancer is the second most common in Australia, after prostate cancer. In 2005, there were about 14,237 new cases - 7765 in men and 6472 in women. The cancer kills more than 4000 Australians each year, claiming 80 lives a week - almost three times the national road toll.

Professor Martin Wiseman, medical and scientific adviser for the WCRF, said: "For some people, having a fry-up with bacon and sausages might seem like a good way to start the day. But if you are doing this regularly, then you are significantly increasing your risk of bowel cancer."

But food experts say you do not have to say goodbye to your favourite breakfast because simply changing the way the food is cooked can transform a coronary platter into a nutrient-packed plate. Dr Tim Crowe, senior lecturer of nutrition at Deakin University, said poaching eggs, adding cancer-fighting tomatoes and ensuring you don't over-cook meat can reduce the risk. He also said the findings did not mean people should avoid meat altogether. "Red meat is an important part of a healthy diet because it contains valuable nutrients - it's the processed stuff you need to be careful of," he said.


Public hospitals counting chairs as beds

The State Government has been accused of fudging hospital bed figures in the troubled health system by including chairs and other furniture. The 2008-09 State Budget, released in June, said there were 10,234 beds in Queensland public hospitals. But what it didn't reveal is that almost 14 per cent of those beds are not beds at all. Figures obtained by the State Opposition show that 1370 so-called beds included chairs, trolleys, cots, stretchers and lounge suites. Sources said some patients admitted to hospital never got to lie in a bed - instead they spent hours sitting in a chair, sometimes being treated there.

Liberal National Party Deputy Leader Mark McArdle slammed the Government for playing with the figures, and claimed the number of proper beds had been cut. The Opposition health spokesman said the fine print in Queensland Health Budget documents revealed the picture on alternative beds. "This Government has been caught out deliberately fudging the true number of public hospital beds by changing the definition of 'bed'," Mr McArdle said.

In the Budget papers, in Queensland Health's service delivery statement, it records a new measure of the "number of available bed and available bed alternatives for public acute hospitals". In notes, it says the "Queensland Health Data Dictionary defines an 'available bed' as a bed which is immediately available to be used by an admitted patient if required and an 'available bed alternative' as an item of furniture, for example, trolley and cot, non-recognised beds occupied or not, which is immediately available for use by admitted patients". Further documents revealed that "available bed alternatives" included a "number of items of furniture (eg trolleys, chairs, cots, non-recognised beds, etc)".

Health Minister Stephen Robertson said the Beattie-Bligh Government had consistently recorded alternative beds in its figures and never hid them from the public. Mr Robertson said there were 1370 available bed alternatives as of June 30 and of those, 1246 were renal dialysis and chemotherapy chairs. Others included day surgery chairs, day therapy chairs, discharge lounge/transit lounge chairs, emergency department chairs, trolleys and stretchers, and non-neonatal cots. He disagreed that it was misleading the public to identify these as beds. "I don't think the thousands of people coming into our major hospitals every day for renal dialysis or chemotherapy would agree with that," Mr Robertson said. He said the figures were kept that way to remain consistent with all hospitals and other states.


Mathematics and science teachers to get university tuition fee relief

A move in the right direction but it does nothing to deal with the major problem that is keeping men out of primary teaching: Fear of false child abuse accusations

Mathematics and science graduates who choose careers in primary teaching will have their HECS repayments halved under new government initiatives to raise numeracy standards in schools. Graduates who take up primary school teaching positions, bringing their specialist expertise, will now be eligible for a 50 per cent refund on their HECS-HELP repayments for up to five years, Education Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced yesterday. This would amount to an individual benefit of up to $1500 a year for five years.

The HECS exemption marks an extension of the Government's existing $625.8 million package of incentives to lift the number of maths and science students and graduates entering teaching at primary schools. The initiative is in response to alarming figures revealed in the preliminary National Report on Schooling in Australia for 2007, which indicated that while 93.2 per cent of year 3 students achieve numeracy benchmarks, this declines over the ensuing primary years. By Year 5 the percentage of students meeting numeracy benchmarks falls to 89 per cent and by Year 7 it is 80.2 per cent.

The National Numeracy Review, released in July, concluded that systematic teaching of numeracy in the early years of schooling, in maths lessons and across the wider curriculum, was essential if these trends were to be reversed. The measure builds on the Government's investment of $40.2 million in 29 literacy and numeracy pilot projects in schools across Australia. "We must act urgently to improve our children's performance in maths and encourage those with aptitude to go on to study it," Ms Gillard said. "Literacy and numeracy in the primary years are crucially important to ensuring all students participate in education and make a positive transition to work and learning in adult life. "Students who do not achieve the minimum standards in literacy and numeracy are least likely to stay on through secondary school or to end up in further study and employment."

Already from January 1 next year, new students in maths and science will have their HECS contributions reduced. For a new full-time student, this could mean a reduction from $7412 to $4162 in 2009, at a Government cost of about $562.2 million over four years.


Childcare for babies is 'abuse', says author Mem Fox

"Babies have much higher levels of stress in childcare." This is indeed what the research shows. Cortisol (stress hormone) levels among young children spending long periods in institutional care are often disturbingly high

Putting babies into childcare is a form of abuse, leading children's author Mem Fox claims. Fox, a children's literacy advocate and author of the best-selling Possum Magic, said she believed society would look back on the trend of allowing babies only a few weeks old to be put into childcare and wonder, "How could we have allowed that child abuse to happen?".

"I just tremble," she said. "I don't know why some people have children at all if they know that they can only take a few weeks off work. "I know you want a child, and you have every right to want a child, but does the child want you if you are going to put it in childcare at six weeks? "I don't think the child wants you, to tell the honest truth. I know that's incredibly controversial."

She said a Queensland childcare worker had told her earlier this year: "We're going to look back on this time from the late '90s onwards - with putting children in childcare so early in their first year of life for such long hours - and wonder how we have allowed that child abuse to happen". "It's just awful. It's awful for the mothers as well. It's completely heartbreaking," Fox said. "You actually have to say to yourself, 'If I have to work this hard and if I'm never going to see my kid and if they are going to have a tremendous stress in childcare, should I be doing it?' "Babies have much higher levels of stress in childcare."

Fox, 62, who has a daughter Chloe, 38, said parents were sometimes distracted by "the trappings" of having a baby, such as designer clothing and decorated nursery. "When they have the good house, the good car, the good job - we're talking about very advantaged people - they have everything and they think, 'Now we need a baby which we can dress up and make look perfect'," she said. "But do they realise that a child needs love more than anything else in the world? It needs love, time and attention."

A Federal Government census of childcare services released this year found 757 children were attending long daycare services for at least 60 hours a week in 2006. A further 9426 children were in care for between 50 and 59 hours a week. An Australian study that measured levels of the stress hormone cortisol in more than 100 children in childcare found children in centres with lower standards became more stressed throughout the day.


Citizenship test overhaul

A bipartisan approach seems important for this so it is appropriate for the Labor party to have its input. The present test was largely written by one man: John Howard

AUSTRALIA'S citizenship test set-up by the Howard government is set for a major overhaul after a review found it to be flawed and discriminatory. Richard Woolcott is the head of a committee commissioned to review the test said the 2006-document needs reform, News Ltd reports. The committee is believed to have forwarded its opinion to Immigration Minister Chris Evans in a report. The standout recommendation would be that the present test is flawed and seen by some as intimidatory and needs substantial reform,'' Mr Woolcott told News Ltd.

While Mr Howard continually defended the test, it faced much criticism for including questions which opponents claimed focussed too much on historical knowledge and the English language. "Many of the (review) submissions thought that the standard of English required was too high and discriminated against non-English speaking migrants, of which there are of course an increasing number,'' Mr Woolcott said.

The committee received 170 submissions from members of the public and has forwarded 32 recommendations to the government. Mr Woolcott declined to comment on what those recommendations are. Senator Evans' office confirmed receiving the report and a spokeswoman said it is being considered.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

How the people of NSW were sold out

By Morris Iemma, Premier of NSW

I never thought I would be running an article by Morris Iemma but on this matter he is right. A Labor government puts a huge effort into privatization and is then stymied by pissant "conservatives"

The Leader of the Opposition this week committed the single biggest act of economic vandalism ever witnessed in this state. For the benefit of five minutes of political glow, Barry O'Farrell has stolen NSW's future prosperity - in a $20 billion daylight robbery. And let's be clear - it was the decision of Barry O'Farrell's Liberal-National Party to oppose energy reform that has put NSW on credit watch. My Government does not control the Upper House. We need support from the Opposition and minor parties to get our reforms through.

I worked hard to secure their support for reform. We commissioned reports by independent experts and we spent time developing detailed responses. Eventually, I thought we had their agreement. As Mr O'Farrell told reporters on May 8 this year: "If these conditions are met, clearly it has our support." It wasn't just me who thought this signalled support for energy reform. Peter Debnam also thought this was the case and resigned as energy spokesman. So in good faith the Government worked with the Opposition to enable the independent Auditor-General to review the proposed transaction under agreed terms of reference.

When the Auditor-General's report was received last week, the Government was right to act and recall Parliament - especially given Mr O'Farrell's earlier commitments. Then, this week, in an act of treachery, Mr O'Farrell threw away the opportunity to provide new sources of baseload electricity at no cost to the taxpayer. He is the one who has violated the public interest in a cynical political game.

In doing so, he destroyed any shred of economic credibility on the other side of politics. The Liberal-National Coalition had 12 months to weigh up the most important economic reform this state has faced for a generation and they failed. I won't pretend that this issue did not test our party and its beliefs. But every member of my team made their decision based on their integrity and what they felt was right.

In contrast, Barry O'Farrell started by putting the sale of retail in his budget policy to help fill some holes, then said he supported reform subject to five tests being met. But when the tests were met and the crunch came, he opted for cheap populism and changed his position. Even allowing for the usual cut and thrust of politics, that's an extraordinary step. It was also telling that the Nationals were first to declare their opposition to the sale - which effectively suggests Mr O'Farrell has handed a right of veto to his country cousins. And when he signals his submission using the most vital, and the most overdue, economic reform in 30 years, the state will feel its effects for years.

Treasury has already estimated the value of the Coalition bastardry at $20 billion. This is made up of as much as $8 billion in forgone transaction proceeds and in the absence of private investment, up to $12 billion in funding that NSW taxpayers will now need to spend on baseload generation.

Standard & Poor's has put us on credit watch because of the Coalition's treachery. The last time this occurred was in 1991, under Nick Greiner. And when the economy was tested, Mr Greiner went to then opposition leader, Bob Carr, for support. Mr Carr put aside political differences, put the economy first, and voted with the government of the day.

I have said many times that I will not let the lights go off in NSW on my watch. I am also committed to retaining our AAA rating so we can continue to access low-cost borrowings to fund our massive infrastructure program. However, there will be tough decisions. I have commissioned a mini-budget to restructure the state's balance sheets in light of this decision. We will need to re-assess our spending and our programs in light of the Opposition's sell-out. I will also do whatever we can to ensure enough power for NSW's future jobs, growth and investment.

We have developed an alternate strategy to keep the lights on, but let me be absolutely clear: our way forward is a second-best solution. But we still need to fulfil our responsibilities and do what is right. That is the challenge for all political leaders when critical policy tests are faced. They need to set aside their own political fortunes, ignore the temptation of the low road, and make a serious decision on behalf of their constituents.

I will not turn my back on the difficult decisions, but I make no apologies for saying this: the Leader of the Opposition will be held accountable for his actions. History will show that August 28 2008 will forever be marked as the day the Leader of the Opposition chose to rat on the people of NSW.


An evil "child safety" bureaucracy

'Starved' girl, 'bashed' toddler given back to abusive black parents. If they had been white kids, their parents would have never have seen them again

Two Queensland mothers - one charged with almost starving her infant girl and the other with bashing her toddler son's head against a wall - have had their children returned to them as they await trial. The Bligh Government yesterday confirmed both parents, who live on Cape York, have been granted custody of their children since they were charged in the past two months.

Queensland's Child Safety Department approved the move to reunite the children, in one case against the protests of police prosecutors, The Weekend Australian reports. In the other case, police were unaware that the child had been returned to her mother until informed yesterday by The Weekend Australian. Police and carers have privately expressed their disgust and frustration at the decision which, in both cases, involves the children undergoing weekly checks by health authorities.

A spokesman for Child Safety Minister Margaret Keech yesterday said she could not comment on the two latest cases because of privacy issues. A spokeswoman for the Queensland Police Service yesterday confirmed that prosecutors in the Cooktown Magistrates Court this month had opposed the return of a two-year-old boy to his mother after she had been charged. The 42-year-old Cooktown mother faces a count of assault occasioning bodily harm after she allegedly picked him up and bashed his head against a wall on June 14. The spokeswoman said police were unaware that the one-year-old girl had been returned to her mother. The infant girl was reunited on August 19, several months after she was removed suffering malnourishment. It is understood the child also had scabies and weighed in at just 7kg - well below the average weight of a child at that age - when she was removed.

Her 34-year-old mother from the indigenous community of Lockhardt River appeared in court on August 21 on a charge that she had failed to provide the necessities of life. The Cooktown woman will reappear in court next week, with the Lockhardt River woman due to face a committal hearing in the Cairns Magistrates Court in late October.

Late yesterday, Queensland's Child Safety Department issued a statement to The Weekend Australian saying it also could not comment on specific cases. But the statement detailed policy in relation to "cases such as these" in which child safety officers assess the risk to a child by taking into consideration previous history of abuse or neglect and a parent's willingness to work with the department to ensure their safety.


Federal Keystone Kops clear Haneef at last

More than a year after a terrorism charge against him was dropped and more than $8 million later, the Australian Federal Police have finally confirmed they have cleared the Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef as a suspect in last year's terrorism attack on Glasgow airport. In a short statement released to the media yesterday afternoon, the AFP confirmed it had informed Dr Haneef's solicitor, Rod Hodgson, the federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, and the Home Affairs Minister, Bob Debus, that Dr Haneef was "no longer a person of interest". "The AFP has concluded its active inquiries, although some longstanding overseas inquiries are yet to be fully resolved," the statement said. "At the present time, there is insufficient evidence to institute proceedings against Dr Haneef for any criminal offence'.'

Mr Hodgson said Dr Haneef was "extremely happy" to hear the news and confirmed that his client would seek compensation and an apology from the Government. But he did not indicate if he wanted to return to Australia.

Dr Haneef, a registrar at a Gold Coast hospital, was arrested at Brisbane Airport on July 2 last year as he tried to leave Australia on a one-way ticket to India after Kafeel Ahmed, the brother of his second cousin, Sabeel Ahmed, drove a burning Jeep packed with gas cylinders into Glasgow airport on June 30.

Dr Haneef was held for 11 days without charge under Australian terrorism laws before being charged on July 14 with "intentionally providing support to a terrorist organisation" by giving Sabeel his SIM card, which police alleged was involved in the failed bombing plot. Dr Haneef was granted bail by a Brisbane magistrate on July 16 but just hours later the then immigration minister, Kevin Andrews, cancelled his 457 work visa, ensuring he remained in detention. Dr Haneef returned to India.

Charges against Dr Haneef were dropped on July 27 after it was revealed the SIM card was in Liverpool, nowhere near Glasgow airport when the airport attack occurred. It was revealed that the crown prosecutor had incorrectly alleged during the Brisbane bail hearing that the SIM card had been found in the Jeep at Glasgow airport.

In December the full bench of the Federal Court ruled that Dr Haneef was free to return to Australia after it rejected Mr Andrews' appeal against a decision to reinstate his visa. The court found the law did not allow the Government to revoke a visa on character grounds simply because a person had an "association" with an unsavoury individual.

During a Senate estimates hearing in February the AFP commissioner, Mick Keelty, revealed that more that 600 security officials had worked on the Haneef case and the related British bombings investigation, which cost more than $7.5 million. By May the figure had risen to $8.2 million. The return for the effort was the one charge against Dr Haneef, which was subsequently dropped.

An inquiry into the AFP's handling of the investigation is underway and due to report to the Government on September 30. Mr Keelty has so far refused to make public unclassified sections of the AFP's submission to the inquiry, arguing that he did not have the permission of British police to do so. This is despite the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation releasing in full its submission saying it had no evidence linking Dr Haneef to a British terrorist plot.

The Greens leader, Bob Brown, said the Government should invite Dr Haneef back to Australia. He also said the former prime minister John Howard should apologise to Dr Haneef.



This sort of thing has been a subject of debate worldwide for some time and is now getting a good airing in Australia. Three articles below

School may backflip on cartwheel ban

An Australian school which recently banned its students from doing cartwheels, somersaults and other gymnastics during recess is reviewing the decision after parents and students got all bent out of shape.

The school, in the coastal town of Townsville in Queensland state, told students they could not perform any acrobatics such as handstands outside class because they were a safety hazard.

"The school is actually reviewing this," a spokesman for the Queensland state's education department said Wednesday. A statement by Education Queensland released Wednesday said the decision had been taken "in the interests of the safety of all students as well as in recognition of the school's physical environment."

But it added: "The school will work with its parents and citizens' committee and the school community to ensure an appropriate balance between student safety and their right to engage in gymnastic activities."

The school had classified gymnastic activities a "medium risk level 2" danger to children when performed in class. But Australian media said parents shocked by the ban also discovered that other popular sports such as cricket, tennis and soccer also had the same risk classification but were not banned.


School sued over tiggy

CHILDREN are suing schools for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages for injuries caused while playing games such as tiggy [tag]. Nearly 100 lawsuits were filed against the State of Queensland for injuries suffered by schoolchildren in the last financial year. One child is asking the court to award her $280,000 plus interest after she hurt herself playing tiggy (chase) in the schoolyard when she was six. Another launched a lawsuit last month claiming more than $136,000 for an injury she says she suffered while high jumping during a Sunshine Coast school carnival.

The revelation that schoolyards are becoming fertile ground for litigation follows public outcry over the banning of cartwheels, handstands and somersaults at a north Queensland school and admissions by Education Minister Rod Welford that fear of legal action was partly behind the decision.

The case involving tiggy centres around an incident at the Bribie Island State School in 2004. Documents filed in the District Court of Queensland say the now 10-year-old girl tripped on a metal bar "comprising part of the playground equipment" during her lunchbreak. It is alleged she suffered a shortening of her right leg, disuse osteoporosis and a deformity at the neck of the right femur as a result of the fall and then inadequate medical treatment by Queensland Health.

The girl claims through her legal representative that she was not supervised adequately and the playground equipment was not safe. A notice to defend filed by the State of Queensland denies many of the allegations.

A claim for more than $136,000 was filed in the District Court last month on behalf of a girl who was eight when she allegedly injured her lower left leg and ankle during an athletics carnival at the Kuluin State School on the Sunshine Coast. The girl's foot allegedly landed between two cushioning mats during the high jump, striking the ground. The claim states the now 12-year-old has an altered gait as a result of her injury and "has since undergone hospital, surgical, medical and para-medical treatment".

The State of Queensland filed a notice of intention to defend on August 11, denying that the consequences of the incident were caused by a breach of common law duty or negligence.

State schools are not the only ones subject to claims. The St Margaret's Anglican Girls School trust is being sued over an alleged injury suffered by a Year 8 student on July 20, 2005, while skipping on concrete during a physical education class. Kerin and Co Lawyers solicitor Stuart Wright said a settlement had already been reached in the case, filed in the District Court of Queensland last month. The amount was confidential. St Margaret's Anglican School deputy principal Cynthia May said it was compulsory for all staff to be trained in first aid and there was a full-time nurse on duty at the school. "We make every effort to minimise risk for the girls," she said yesterday.


Lunchtime games ban turns children into wusses: experts

SOMETHING has crept under the skin of top child and adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg. An ambassador for the federal youth suicide prevention program MindMatters and a founding member of the National Centre Against Bullying, the Melbourne-based practitioner is generally unflappable despite his daily diet of teen angst and hurt. Yet a Townsville school's banning this week of a few allegedly unsafe gymnastic pleasures - handstands, cartwheels and somersaults - appears to have galled him.

"It's all part of this 'wussification' syndrome that we're seeing in contemporary Australia where schools have been forced to bow to the great god of occupational health and safety," Dr Carr-Gregg said. "We have schools in Victoria which have banned birthday cakes with candles on them because the children might burst into flames and where soccer has been banned during recess because the kids might be hit in the face by the ball. "Children are not accessories to dress up and keep behind glass. If we continue to cloak them in cotton wool and outsource their development to lawyers we will have a bunch of kids who are almost frightened of the world. This is very serious."

Deadly serious, according to Rob Pitt, director of the Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit. Like Dr Carr-Gregg, he believed adventurous play was a critical tool in teaching children how to appraise risk - with resulting injuries usually minor. "When you do something that's a little bit on the edge, the (lessons) are learnt before you get to an age when the toys you're playing with can potentially kill," he says. "If they haven't learnt appropriate risk-taking before they're in charge of a motor vehicle, the consequences are often fatal."

Not that Dr Pitt would class cartwheels among dicier high jinks. As well as running the QISU, he is director of the Mater Children's Hospital emergency department, which sees 42,000 patients a year. He said injuries from handstands and cartwheels "just don't turn up on our radar".

Townsville's Belgian Gardens State School principal Glenn Dickson continued to keep his public silence after mum Kylie Buschgens hit the headlines on Tuesday with claims that her daughter Cali, 10, was banned from performing cartwheels during breaks. But the cartwheels, handstands and somersaults ban will continue until at least October. The school's Parents and Citizens Association vice-president Jan Collins said about 40 to 50 parents and teachers attended their monthly meeting on Wednesday night and moved to set up a committee to discuss the ban.

Education Minister Rod Welford was slow to react, saying playground rules were a matter for individual schools. It is understood some Queensland public primary schools outlaw tree-climbing and contact games such as Red Rover. By the following day, Mr Welford had entered the wider debate, shifting blame to parents by contending it was their "mollycoddling" that had put schools on a defensive footing in case of lawsuits.

Education Queensland released figures showing that last financial year 93 compensation claims involving students allegedly injured at school or during school activities were brought against the State Government. They included a (now) 10-year-old girl who allegedly suffered a leg deformity and osteoporosis from tripping over play equipment in a game of tiggy at Bribie Island State School in 2004. The girl is seeking more than $280,000.

In reality, the paternalism stunting the liberties of modern children is all-pervasive: at once, cultural and institutional. It's there in the anxiety-ridden "helicopter parents". "Hovering over their children keeping the germs away and making sure that they're safe," explained Australian Council of State School Organisations president Jennifer Branch.

And it's underscored by skittish bureaucracy, the likes of which severed an incident-free, 57-year tradition by outlawing the Grand Carousel from this year's Ekka. A state workplace health and safety inspector speculated children could be crushed beneath sets of prancing timber hooves.

Dr Carr-Gregg was concerned all the fussing would usher in a generation of children who struggled to self-identify as adults "because we're pausing the DVD of their development". They would lack decision-making ability, independence and other life skills. Moreover, they would be low on that key survival ingredient - resilience. "If you extend this ludicrousness to its logical end, no child will ever learn to ride a bicycle because they might fall off," Dr Carr-Gregg said. "What's next? Are we going to ban the pencil because of the risk of RSI? "An essential part of growing up is exposure to the fact that life isn't always fair. "When things do go wrong, children can pick themselves up, start again and learn from the negative experience. "Because we're (sheltering) them from that, I'm seeing 12- and 13-year-old kids who are just normally sad because their dog's died or their parents have divorced. And they're running off to GPs looking for anti-depressants because they think they're depressed."

Educators like University of Queensland physical education professor Richard Tinning point out that scaling a tree or negotiating a climbing frame is a natural instinct and has benefits for honing motor co-ordination, building muscle and exploring boundaries. "But schools have increasingly sanitised the playing environment for kids, taking out a lot of the monkey bars in order to protect from litigation," Professor Tinning said. "As a result, if kids do any physical activity, it's usually not involving their upper body. Most kids today couldn't hang and support their weight."

Ironically, West Australian Ian Lillico, an internationally renowned expert on boys' education, strode into Townsville yesterday as part of a professional workshop tour for teachers and school administrators. He labels the cartwheel curb "rubbish" and says, especially for boys, broken limbs and various playground scrapes are often worn as a badge of honour.


Friday, August 29, 2008


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG does not think very highly of the un-conservative conservatives in the New South Wales parliament.

Arrogant architects who think they know what's best for other people

Regardless of what the people themselves want, of course. NOTE: 1). This is just a regurgitation of the failed American "Smart Growth" strategy. 2). Low quality houses throughout the metropolitan areas are already often torn down and replaced by apartment blocks -- so that people who are willing to live in apartments can do so almost anywhere they choose

AUSTRALIA'S big cities are being urged to ban outer suburban housing estates to cut urban sprawl and be more like London and Rome. The nation's peak architectural body wants Australian cities to focus on boosting their inner and middle suburbs' density rather than release land in outer areas, to become more sustainable.

The Royal Australian Institute of Architects' new urban design policy also pushes for greater regional development, which in Victoria would mean more people to living and working in cities such as Geelong or Ballarat. However, Victoria's peak housing developer group says a move away from outer suburbs would cripple the economy and hurt families who were calling for more housing in affordable areas.

RAIA president Howard Tanner said increasing urban density to maximise efficiency and sustainability of infrastructure was the only way forward for Melbourne and Sydney. "You have got people encouraged to buy a block of land way out of the city and they are having to travel for three hours a day to commute. That's not sustainable," he said. Mr Tanner said a roads-based city like Los Angeles was seeing infrastructure crumble, and Australian cities would do better to aim for the city models of London and Rome. "People there live in town houses or terrace houses, the houses are never one-storey and you have got the population that lives closer to the city," he said. "We have to curtail land subdivisions at the extremities of the city. The other option is to put in some very fast trains to regional centres. Somewhere like Geelong could be an attractive destination for working and living."

Victoria's housing estate developers are represented by the Urban Development Institute of Australia, and executive director Tony De Domenico said banning estate developments on Melbourne's fringe was unrealistic and blinkered. "The population is still growing and there's a demand for these properties," Mr De Domenico said. "It's near impossible to dictate to the market what should happen. The thing that's keeping Victoria's economy very competitive compared to the mining states is we are very competitive in housing." Mr De Domenico said RAIA members should spend more time in outer suburbs and see what people wanted.

Victorian Council of Social Service policy manager David Imber said a sweeping ban on outer-suburban estates was wrong.


Surgery freeze call over public hospital beds crisis

A ban on elective surgery is being called for as a desperate solution to the chronic shortages of public hospital beds in Queensland's health system. Frustrated emergency specialists have called for a two-week statewide ban on surgery to free up beds. The situation is so critical at hospital emergency departments some patients are forced to sit in waiting rooms for more than 24 hours before being admitted.

Australasian College for Emergency Medicine Queensland chairwoman Sylvia Andrew-Starkey said: "We try really hard not to put elderly people in chairs ... but we've had a situation recently where we've had to put elderly people with pneumonia in chairs for 12 hours or so because we didn't have a bed. "It's awful. It's the worst it's been for years. We're powerless to do anything."

In the past fortnight, some of the state's largest public hospitals - including the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, the Princess Alexandra and Logan - have been forced to go on bypass and redirect ambulances to other facilities because they could not cope with the numbers of patients needing a bed.

In the state's north, a backlog of trolleys and people filled the corridors at Townsville Hospital yesterday as 23 patients waited to be transferred from the emergency ward to beds. Australian Medical Association North Queensland president Dr Sam Baker said Townsville Hospital was overcrowded and in "meltdown" and backed calls for a suspension of elective surgery. "We've got no beds," Dr Baker said. "Staff are being pushed to the limits. It is a bottleneck. It is a shambles. And it is only going to get worse."

Queensland hospitals are so overcrowded that private facilities have also been redirecting patients. "We haven't been able to get a private patient into a private hospital for weeks - they're full too," said Dr Andrew-Starkey, who is based at the RBWH. Freezing elective surgery for a period would free up beds for other patients, taking pressure off emergency departments which are stretched during the traditional winter flu season. "The system needs resetting," Dr Andrew-Starkey said. "I'm not sure suspending elective surgery for a week would be enough. It might take two."

Specialists admit a freeze on elective surgery is a radical step, given lengthy public hospital waiting lists. Queensland Health Minister Stephen Robertson said an elective surgery freeze was unnecessary, but individual hospitals might need to suspend elective surgery from time to time to cope with emergency department demand. "What I do expect is hospital management to make decisions on a daily basis about what is in the best interests of providing safe patient care," Mr Robertson said. "If that means they've got to temporarily suspend elective surgery, then unfortunately, if that decision is made in the interests of patient safety, I support that. I would rather that not be the case, but that's the reality of the very busy times we are experiencing at the moment."

Townsville Hospital staff were yesterday forced to set up makeshift wards in X-ray waiting rooms and lounges. Ten operations were postponed, feeder hospitals at Ingham and Ayr were full, and every nursing home bed in the north Queensland city was occupied. It is the fourth "code yellow" - a complete lack of beds - activated by the hospital in the past two months. Townsville Hospital Acting Director of Medical Services Dr Isaac Seidl said they were working to reduce the likelihood of "ramping" where patients wait outside in ambulances.

Mr Robertson said the situation in Townsville had been exacerbated by 22 nurses calling in sick with "flu-like symptoms", with another 49 off on sick or family leave the day before.



PATIENTS have fallen off trolleys in overcrowded hospital emergency wards which overworked doctors describe as the worst they have experienced. The Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital's emergency department was in "gridlock" yesterday, forcing hospital administrators to redirect ambulances to other facilities for more than two hours, The Courier-Mail reports. As the bypass was declared, 22 patients were sitting in chairs in an overcrowded corridor. Some had been waiting more than 24 hours to be admitted, with no guarantee when a bed would become available.

Australasian College for Emergency Medicine Queensland chairwoman Sylvia Andrew-Starkey said hospital emergency departments were at crisis point. "People don't get fed properly, people get sleep deprived. The staff get frustrated as well. It leads to a whole snowball effect," she said. "I can give you three instances of elderly people falling out of trolleys because they were confused. They should never have been on trolleys in the emergency department." "Increasing the amount of time that patients spend in an emergency department leads to deaths," she said. "The number of long-stay patients in Queensland emergency departments has skyrocketed in the last couple of months."

Health Minister Stephen Robertson said the State Government was moving towards "quarantining" hospital emergency departments from elective surgery to alleviate problems. Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said the "entire health system in Queensland is in danger of collapse".


University not always the path to good money

Young Aussies are turning their backs on a university education to take advantage of the huge salaries flowing from the resources boom and skills shortage. Heading straight into the workforce and getting on-the-job training is an attractive proposition in boom towns where newcomers can walk into huge money. "Particularly in Queensland and Western Australia we're seeing many school leavers heading straight out to the mines and putting university and tertiary education on the back burner," says Peter Carey, National President of the Career Development Association of Australia.

Recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the average mining salary tops $100,000 a year - that's $1939 gross a week, or $800 a week more than the average worker. Trades are no different with the skills shortage meaning big bucks are available sooner rather than later. Construction workers' wages jumped almost 8 per cent last year to an average of $1140 a week. These pay rates compare to graduate earnings which range from as low as $35,000 for pharmacy graduates up to $51,887 for engineers.

Traineeships and "earn while you learn" apprenticeships is one way to get ahead. "With the way of the world today people need to work to survive and TAFE and traineeships often provide more work-ready skills than universities," Mr Carey said. "Student debt and poor workforce planning is influencing a move towards more practical learning," he said.

Eddie Dobosz from Apprenticeships Australia believes traineeships are no longer only an option for those who can't get into university. "A lot of people want to do training that gets them to the top quickly and furthering your skills later on in your career, via a degree is always an option," he said. The latest ABS data indicates enrolments in TAFE courses have increased by 4 per cent over recent years with practical learning undergoing a revival.

The average university graduate is $8500 in debt when they leave university. According to ABS data, over 1.2 million people pay for university via FEE-HELP or HECS with 6 per cent owing more than $20,000.

So where does a degree matter? If it's law, accounting or engineering you're looking into then you've got no choice but to hit the books, says Andrew Williams, general manager at LINK Recruitment. "However sales, commerce and business are professions more competitive driven than reliant upon an employee's tertiary education," he said Assessing what's important to you and where you want your career to go is the most important thing when it comes to choosing where to study, says Mr Williams. "Depending on where you want to be, a university degree may not be necessary," he said.


Rudd following Howard on welfare

HOW very un-Laborlike, said one Labor MP in response to the Rudd Government's proposal to introduce legislation this week that would tie welfare payments to the responsibility of parents to ensure their children attend school. Not all Labor MPs are on side, it seems. The Rudd Government is about to discover that tough love is a tough policy. Nay-sayers wedded to the failed idea that compassion comes in the form of unconditional welfare will be out in force to kill off Labor's embrace of mutual responsibility.

Where, one must ask, have these Labor MPs been? Welfare reform that matches rights with responsibilities was endorsed long ago by the Centre-Left in the US under Democratic president Bill Clinton and in Britain under Labour prime minister Tony Blair. They proved that linking rights to responsibilities was not some nasty conservative agenda to punish those most in need. It is an idea that crosses the political divide for the simple reason that it works, whereas past policies of passive welfare have failed.

So credit where it's due. Kevin Rudd is right to point out that an education revolution depends on children attending school. Education Minister Julia Gillard says there could be up to 20,000 Australian children who are not at school, with Families Minister Jenny Macklin suggesting that at least 2000 children are not enrolled at school within the Northern Territory.

Though it's a case of Labor-come-lately for some in the ALP, the Rudd Government's plan to tackle the problem of truancy by setting up trials in six NT communities and in Western Australia before a national roll-out deserves unequivocal praise.

For too long, welfare has been seen as an unfettered right, without any attendant responsibilities. The rights-based culture that emerged in the 1960s and `70s failed, in particular, an entire generation of indigenous people. Many of them are lost. Uneducated and untrained, relegated to the dysfunctional fringes, they will never have a chance of entering mainstream society. Now, the children of that generation risk being lost too unless policies encourage parents to accept responsibility for their children. Accordingly, Labor's belated acknowledgment of past policy failures is to be applauded.

But let's also pay tribute to those who got us to the point where a Labor government in Australia is ready to instil responsibilities into the welfare equation. Howard haters, shut your eyes and stick your fingers in your ears. Here it is. By tackling the old orthodoxy of no-responsibility welfare, John Howard fundamentally realigned our thinking on this issue.

Sure, we watched welfare reform unfold in the US and Britain. But in Australia the Rudd Government is proposing to link welfare to parental responsibility after a decade of conservative rule that did the hard yards on welfare reform.

Encouraged by The Australian, which provided an early and continuing platform for genuine debate about these critical issues, what was once the accepted left-wing orthodoxy has been challenged and found wanting by a more questioning mindset. Not so long ago, if you raised questions about welfare you would be labelled as mean-spirited. If you raised those questions about welfare in relation to indigenous people, you were mean-spirited and racist. Back then, orthodox thinking was framed around the virtues of Aboriginal welfarism, apologies, treaties and separatism.

By tackling that PC-infected entrenched orthodoxy, the Howard government legacy is one that has paved the way for Labor's present policy. Under Howard, the first steps to address indigenous disadvantage were premised on practical reconciliation: on outcomes, not politics. Symbolism was eschewed as demonstrably counterproductive to solving disadvantage and passive welfare uncovered as poison. When critics shouted about racism, Howard did not flinch. His government challenged mindless policies such as the Community Development Employment Program, which allowed able-bodied indigenous people to work for a few hours a week in return for full welfare.

As a reminder of that fundamental shift, it's worth remembering that Noel Pearson once derided the Howard government as "racist scum" and said Howard was "totally useless to the nation". That was before Pearson's epiphany that greater individual responsibility, not indigenous victimhood, was the way to address disadvantage and dysfunction within indigenous communities.

Today, indigenous leaders such as Pearson and former ALP federal president Warren Mundine are daily pushing the frontiers for more sensible indigenous policies that promote education, training and work as the solution to Aboriginal dysfunction. They recognise that welfare reform must escape the shackles of left-right labels. After all, as The Australian said last Friday in an editorial, Ben Chifley's vision of a Labor light on the hill did not involve "putting an extra sixpence in somebody's pocket". Chifley's 1949 call was about empowering people.

Rudd is on that path. His proposal for a 13-week suspension of welfare as a last resort for parents who do not ensure their children attend school is premised on the state providing the right signals to encourage parents to do the right thing by their children. As Gillard said, a child who misses large slabs of schooling is set up for failure for the rest of their lives.

Sadly, so many on the Left remain cemented to past policies predicated on the role of the state rather than the power of individuals. Critics immediately labelled Rudd's plan as a "blunt instrument". They prefer to point the finger of blame at anyone except parents. Blame the system. Blame the schools, they say. Australian Greens senator Rachel Siewert described Labor's policy as "crazy thinking in the 21st century from a government that's supposed to be committed to social inclusion".

Yet genuine social inclusion must mean encouraging people to take responsibility for their own lives. Those who view individual responsibility with suspicion necessarily view human potential with equal suspicion. Their paternalism is based on an inherently defeatist view of human ability and aspiration. It entrenches social exclusion and human misery, and ensures the only outcome of their paternalism is the continued existence of their own handout-premised industries.

The importance of the Rudd Government finally confronting the unprogressive consequences of the so-called progressive mindset cannot be underestimated. The Howard government was always going to be attacked by so-called progressives as launching a right-wing ideological crusade in its efforts to encourage greater personal responsibility.

The Rudd Labor Government can, depending on the strength of its conviction, bring many of these critics to a quiet halt by following Howard and showing courageous leadership aimed at moving the national conversation on disadvantage in more sensible directions.

The fear is that this will be some will-o'-the-wisp Labor policy that flickers with hope but can never be realised, either because Labor is not serious about the policy or because it falls victim to old Labor types still wedded to the past.


Thursday, August 28, 2008


Four current articles below:

Sign of the times or just climate porn?

By Christmas Eve in 2012, no rain has fallen in Sydney for more than 200 days and, despite its new desalination plant, the emerald city has run out of drinking water. The effects of climate change have created the conditions for a ring of bushfires that surround the city, but authorities don't have enough water to put them out.

This is the plot synopsis for the Nine Network's new tele-feature experiment called Scorched, which will screen nationally in prime time on Sunday night. Promoters have hailed the production a "major television event" with an all-star cast, fake news broadcasts from authentic Nine newsreaders and a comprehensive supporting website. "Mother nature is on the warpath. It's armageddon," the publicity kit modestly proclaims. Media previews have described the plot as "scarily plausible". Director Tony Tilse claims the idea of a city running out of water is "basically a true story, but it just hasn't happened yet".

Oh, really? Perhaps what is more scarily plausible is that the producers of the program didn't bother to speak to Sydney Water or the Sydney Catchment Authority before going to air. They would have discovered that even in the worst-case scenario, Sydney already has enough water in its huge network of catchments to meet demand until 2014. The city's new desalination plant will come on line by 2010 and will be able to supply 15 per cent of Sydney's demand, but has been designed to quickly double its capacity to a half-billion litres of water a day.

Scorched is the headline act in a wave of climate porn to hit Australia in coming weeks. In 2006, Britain's Institute for Public Policy Research reviewed media, government and activist reporting of climate change and found it to be confusing, contradictory and chaotic, leaving the public feeling disempowered and uncompelled to act. Most notable was the tendency to use alarmist language, or climate porn, which offered "a thrilling spectacle but ultimately distances the public from the problem". Scorched producer Kylie Du Fresne says the telemovie is not meant to be seen as a documentary, but admits "we were interested in blurring the lines between fact and fiction".

A water disaster of this magnitude is like being run over by a steamroller. It's possible, but only if you do nothing. Sydney Water spokesman Brendan Elliott says the plot is "truly a work of fiction". Given it's Sydney Water's primary job to make sure the city doesn't run out of water in the face of population growth and climate change, it's not surprising they have a range of strategies to keep moving in the face of the steamroller. These include desalination, increased water recycling and increased conservation programs.

Water Services Association chief executive Ross Young says he is concerned the show might spark a wave of panicked callers to water authorities on Monday morning. "It's very important that the program is clearly labelled a drama and not a documentary," he tells The Australian. "Even though the chances of climate change are significant, there are processes in place to manage the consequences. "The bottom line is our cities are not going to run out of water."

Climate porn is the latest manifestation of infotainment that flourishes in the no man's land between fiction and nonfiction: dramas loosely based on factual events and the communication of often credible and important ideas and theories sexed up with an extra dose of dramatic licence. On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles caused panic across the US when he broadcast a dramatisation of the H.G. Wells novel The War of the Worlds. Like Scorched, the radio broadcast used simulated news broadcasts to create an aura of authenticity; some of the program's six million listeners thought there was a Martian invasion in progress.

Climate disaster movies date back to the release of Soylent Green in 1973. The dystopian science-fiction film is set in a severely over-populated and overheated (as a result of climate change) New York in 2022 facing chronic food shortages. Charlton Heston plays a detective who discovers to his horror that the newest food substitute (Soylent Green) is made by reprocessing dead people.

Then in 1995, Kevin Costner starred in the box-office flop Waterworld, a kind of climate-change crisis meets Mad Max movie set in a futuristic Earth where the polar ice caps have melted and the few survivors sail around or live on floating islands, inevitably fighting with each other.

The most explicit climate porn may well be the 2004 blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow. Released two years before Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, it grossed 10 times more at the box office. Melting ice sheets and glaciers caused the Altantic Ocean currents to stop suddenly, plunging the entire northern hemisphere into a deep snap-freeze. The film was derided by most climate scientists and highlighted the real problem with creating drama about the effects of climate change: in reality the changes are not sudden, but slow and insidious. In a review, US paleoclimatologist William Hyde observed: "This movie is to climate science as Frankenstein is to heart transplant surgery."

But even a genuine attempt to explain the science, such as An Inconvenient Truth, sailed close to the wind at times in order to sustain the level of drama in what is basically a 90-minute lecture. In one example, Gore made much of the devastating impacts of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans as a portent of increased natural disasters caused by a warming climate.

The main cause of New Orleans' flooding was a poorly maintained system of levees holding back the Mississippi River and surrounding lakes. But holding this aside, scientists are still arguing over whether Gore's claim is actually true. Despite predictions to the contrary, the two subsequent hurricane seasons on the US Atlantic coast were well below average. Climate porn is not just confined to the cinema.


Another prominent Australian scientist predicts global cooling - Dr Ken McCracken

Climate change has been the most important and complex issue on my plate in 15 years as a science and technology correspondent for The Canberra Times. So an appropriate topic for a farewell commentary for this newspaper is an emerging scientific debate with the potential to complicate the already difficult relationship between scientists and politicians on this issue.

The effect of the sun's activity on global temperatures has loomed large in arguments from climate change sceptics over the years. Several Russian scientists have argued that the current period of global warming is entirely due to a cycle of increased solar activity. NSW Treasurer Michael Costa is understood to be among a small group of Australian politicians and other opinion-shapers to embrace this notion.It is wise to be sceptical of many Russian scientists and all politicians, so I have given this ''solar forcing'' explanation of global warming little credence until I attended a forum at the Academy of Science earlier this year and heard it from a scientist of undoubted integrity and expertise in this area.

A former head of CSIRO's division of space science, Dr Ken McCracken was awarded the Australia Prize the precursor of the Prime Minister's Science Prize in 1995. Now in his 80s, officially retired and raising cattle in the ACT hinterland, he is still very active in his research field of solar physics.McCracken is adamantly not a climate change sceptic, agreeing that rising fossil-fuel emissions will be a long-term cause of rising global temperatures.

But his analysis of the sun's cyclical activity and global climate records has led him to the view that we are entering a period of up to two decades in which reduced solar activity may either flatten the upward trend of global temperatures or even cause a slight and temporary cooling.

In a paper given in 2005 to a ''soiree'' hosted by then president of the Academy of Science, Professor Jim Peacock, McCracken said the sun was the most active it had been over 1000 years of scientific observation. This made it inevitable that its activity would decrease over the next two decades in line with historically observed solar cycles. ''The reduced 'forcing' might compensate, or over-compensate, for the effects of the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases,'' he said. ''It is likely that there will be a cessation of around 20 years in the increase in world temperature, or possibly a decrease by 0.1 [degrees] or more.''

I put this to Dr David Jones, head of climate analysis for the Bureau of Meteorology's National Climate Centre, whose overarching judgment is that the warming effect of fossil fuel emissions is an increasingly dominant factor on global temperature to the extent that it will not be slowed by lower solar activity.

After an email conversation, Jones said he and McCracken are in general agreement but differ on emphasis and one key judgment. ''Natural solar variability is potentially important, but the climate history and physics tell us that the probability of this factor sufficiently cooling the planet to offset the enhanced greenhouse effect is distinctly remote,'' Jones wrote.

The main point of disagreement was McCracken's view that the rate of global warming could be eased or reduced by a fall in solar activity. ''I have never seen a credible paper published using a climate model that shows this,'' Jones wrote. He points to recent data which indicates that global temperatures are probably rising faster than previously thought, raising the urgency of calls from climate scientists for political action to reduce emissions.

Yet any uncertainty over the sun's influence creates a lever that climate sceptics and developing nations will seize upon to stall such action.If McCracken is wrong and temperatures continue to climb during a decade or two of low solar activity, the need for emissions reductions will be dramatically reinforced. However, if temperatures do not rise over this period, steeling the political will for such action by all nations will be much more difficult.

The dilemma for the science sector is a classic: how to communicate uncertainty.As McCracken rightly observed in 2005, a lull in temperature rises would provide a wonderful opportunity for political and technological effort to gain the initiative in the fight against climate change by turning global emissions around and thus hopefully avoid worst-case warming scenarios when the sun's fires stoke up again mid-century.

But he also noted the risk that mainstream climate science, led by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, would be seen by its critics and others to have been ill-informed at best or misleading at worst, diminishing its credibility and eroding political commitment to emission reductions.

McCracken believes science should be upfront. ''I believe that we must state firmly that a cooling is possible in the near future, but that the warming would then resume 10-20 years hence,'' he said via email. ''It will be very hard to argue for public trust if we say nothing about the possibility, and then try to argue our way out after it happens. Using an Aussie rules analogy, that would be like giving the climate sceptics a free kick 10m in front of goal.''

Australia is definitely entering a footy finals period, and the Earth may be entering a period where human-induced global warming slows temporarily. Many scientists will not be comfortable to consider this possibility, and even less comfortable that journalists canvas it, because in good faith they want nothing to deflect efforts to combat global warming.

However, I have always aimed to tell readers what they deserve to know, not what they may want to hear or what governments, scientists or interest groups would prefer they were told. This has earned me brickbats and bouquets over the years, as it should do, and as I expect it will on this occasion.


More "contradictions" in the Greenie religion

Hybrid batteries spark waste fears. Old Marxists will know what I mean by "contradictions"

AUSTRALIA has no ability to environmentally dispose of the batteries from the Toyota Camry hybrids whose production has been championed by Kevin Rudd. Labor in Victoria, where the cars will be built, has conceded a "current hole" in the nation's recycling policies means there is no capacity to environmentally dispose of the nickel-metal hydride car batteries from the 10,000 hybrid cars to be produced by Toyota every year from the start of 2010.

Victorian Environment Minister Gavin Jennings appeared to concede that the hybrid Camry batteries, which can weigh more than 50kg and cost several thousand dollars, "may ultimately end up within the waste stream". The admissions prompted Opposition claims that Victoria would be faced with tens of thousands of used hybrid car batteries over the next decade, with no sustainable way of disposing of them. "The Government is busy basking in the benefits of this policy while leaving the environment to pick up the tab," said Liberal MP Andrea Coote.

In June, the Prime Minister and Toyota president Katsuaki Watanabe announced in Japan that Toyota Australia would produce 10,000 petrol-electric hybrid Camrys a year at its Altona plant in Melbourne from 2010. Mr Rudd promised Toyota $35million from its new Green Car Innovation Fund, a figure immediately matched by the state Labor Government.

Under questioning in state parliament last week, Mr Jennings said he was happy Ms Coote had "been astute enough to pick up what might be a current hole in the resource efficiency capability of not only Victoria but also the nation". Mr Jennings said he welcomed "encouragement to deal with a whole-of-life issue concerning products that may ultimately end up within the waste stream". He said the current volume of hybrid Camrys, given that production does not start until 2010, was "very low in terms of the Australian marketplace". The state Government would look at ways of tackling the issue. "I am happy to look at local-based regulation and market mechanisms, but also harmonisation with other jurisdictions across the nation, to try to make sure we have the appropriate investment and regulatory environment, whether that be most appropriate in state or national jurisdictions," he said.

Ms Coote said the Government was "clearly more focused on collecting accolades than the environmental issues associated with their policy". "In the next decade, Victoria will be faced with tens of thousands of dead hybrid car batteries, with no environmentally sustainable way of disposing of them," she said.

But Mr Jennings said the Opposition criticism showed it was opposed to the production of environmentally friendly cars. "I want Victoria to lead the way nationally in developing a clear framework for identifying when and what products require recycling at the end of their use, including car batteries, and the most appropriate market or regulatory approach to achieve that," he said.

According to Sustainability Victoria, rechargeable batteries, including nickel-metal hydride, are collected by a waste disposal company. Australia does not have the technology and services required to recycle these batteries, so they are processed overseas by a French company that "specialises in the recovery of nickel and cadmium to a strict environmental standard".

The federal Government is considering its response to former Victorian premier Steve Bracks's review of the automotive industry, handed in earlier this month. Ford, one of three companies that manufacture cars in Australia, yesterday pressed its case for a delay in tariff reductions in a private meeting at Parliament House between its global chief executive, Alan Mullaly, and Mr Rudd. Mr Mullaly was invited to make a presentation to Mr Rudd by Industry Minister Kim Carr during his visit to Detroit in June.

"The judgment was it was a good opportunity to visit Australia and to discuss what is being considered in terms of the future policy arrangements applying to the industry and the perspective of a key participant," Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries chief executive Andrew McKellar said yesterday.


"Renewables" a Mirage

Press release from Viv Forbes, Chairman of the Carbon Sense Coalition. []

The Carbon Sense Coalition today accused governments and media of spreading myths on the ability of "renewables" to supply Australia's future electricity. The Chairman of "Carbon Sense" Mr Viv Forbes said there was no chance that wind, solar, hydro and geothermal could supply 20% of Australia's electricity by 2020 without massive increases in electricity costs and severe damage to Australia's industry and standard of living. "The belief that we can go further and eliminate coal from our energy supply is a dangerous delusion."

Wind and solar suffer three fatal flaws which no amount of research dollars, climate junkets, green papers, government gifts, carbon taxes, ministerial statements or imperial mandates will change. The first fatal flaw is obvious even to children at school - no wind turbine or solar panel anywhere in the world can supply continuous power. Power from wind turbines varies with the wind speed, stops when the wind drops and they have to be shut down in strong winds, storms or cyclones. Solar power stops at night or when it is cloudy, and solar panels only supply maximum power around midday, in summer, in the tropics.

The output of both wind and solar varies or shuts down with little warning; this causes big problems in maintaining stability in large power grids. Thus any power grid with more than 10% supplied by wind and solar will risk sudden blackouts or damaging fluctuations. To maintain stable power requires that every kilowatt of solar or wind is shadowed by standby power (preferably gas or hydro) ready to switch on to full power in a very short time. The capital and operating cost of these standby facilities should be added to the real cost of "green power".

The second fatal flaw with wind and solar is that the supply of energy is very dilute, so a large area of land is required to collect significant power. This causes extensive environmental and scenic damage and very large transmission and maintenance costs.

The third fatal flaw of wind and sun power is that only a few places are ideally suited to collect significant quantities of energy, and these places are often far from the main centres of population. Solar power is best collected from places like the Tanami Desert in Northern Territory, and wind power is best collected from places in the path of the Roaring Forties, such as King Island and Western Tasmania. It will be a long time before either of these sites is connected by high voltage power lines to Penny Wong's desk in Canberra or the PM's Lodge in Sydney.

Wind power is useful for providing stock water and moving sailing ships; using solar hot water heaters makes good sense; and solar energy (combined with harmless carbon dioxide from the air and minerals from the soil) provides the primary resources for all farming, forestry, fishing and grazing industries. But neither wind nor sun will supply economical and reliable base load electricity to big cities or industries.

Hydro power can provide low cost stable energy providing it is backed by a large dam in a reliable rainfall area. Finding such spots where approvals could be obtained in a reasonable time frame is almost impossible in Australia. Hydro will not keep the lights on for a growing population.

Natural gas and coal seam gas are hydro-carbon fuels which produce the same two "greenhouse gases" as coal and oil - water vapour and carbon dioxide. They too will be crippled by Emissions Trading and carbon taxes. When the Luddites realise that gas is also a non-renewable carbon fuel, it too will be taxed and regulated to death. It is not a "renewable" and it is less abundant than coal. It is far too valuable to be mandated for base-load electricity generation or city hot water systems.

This leaves geothermal. Geothermal makes good sense in places like New Zealand and Iceland with big areas of active volcanic rocks at shallow depth. But in an old, quiet, cooling continent like Australia, hot rocks are rare and deep. Here it is a totally unproven power source likely to have very high costs for exploration, development, transmission and water. It is worth investigating by people prepared to speculate their capital, but geothermal will not prevent the power brownouts on the horizon unless someone abandons the misguided "crucify carbon" campaign.

With nuclear power and oil shale banned, and plans to tax coal, oil and gas out of existence, man is headed back to the "green" energy sources of the Dark Ages - muscles, horses, firewood and sunshine. But without carbon fuels to bring heat, light, food, transport and water to our large cities, many people will not survive the transition to green nirvana, especially if the current global cooling trend continues.

Rapper Snoop Dogg's Australian tour in doubt again

Even the Rudd government is having second thoughts about letting this criminal garbage into the country

AMERICAN rapper Snoop Dogg's Australian tour is in jeopardy as the Federal Government investigates his criminal history. The rapper, whose real name is Cordozar Calvin Broadus Jr, applied last month for a visa to Australia for a planned tour in October with fellow hip-hop star Ice Cube.

The immigration department last week gave provisional approval for the visa, but the tour once again seems in doubt after the department today said it was carrying out a full assessment of Snoop Dogg's character before granting a visa. An immigration department spokesman said the provisional approval was given after a preliminary assessment of Snoop Dogg's character. "That process is in line with the procedures established by the previous government on the consideration of visa applicants,'' he said.

"Mr Broadus has not been granted a visa, there are further steps required beyond character assessment before a visa is granted. "The department has now decided to do a full assessment of the character of Mr Broadus.''

The immigration department said it was making a more thorough assessment of the rapper's character in response from victims of crime groups, but said each application was assessed on its merits. "Community complaints have no effect on the grant or otherwise of a visa. Each application is assessed individually on its merits,'' a spokesman said. "As a result of public concern and interest, the department has decided that in fact we will be undertaking a more thorough assessment of Mr Broadus' character. "However, the decision on the granting or refusal of a visa application is made on the individual merit of the case consistent with the legal criteria for the class of the visa.''

Snoop Dogg withdrew his application for a visa to Australia last year when he failed to pass the character requirements for a visa, after pleading no contest to gun and drug charges in the United States.


FOI investigation into Sydney public hospital conditions

A Seven News investigation has revealed hospital blunders have led to dozens of serious injuries or deaths. Secret internal documents detail the errors in Western Sydney hospitals, and outline a two year review of investigations into blunders that can mean the difference between life and death. 61 people have died following serious mistakes over the past two years. The reasons for these deaths have until now been kept under wraps, because the information is not made public. Those reasons include surgical material or instruments left inside patients, procedures performed on the wrong patient or wrong body part, and incorrect diagnosis.

Furthermore, a report in 2006 led to a raft of recommendations, but 40 percent of them were ignored, and 20 percent were implemented after serious delays.

Warren Anderson's 16 year old daughter died after a bungled treatment for a fractured skull. "Vanessa should have been walking out of that hospital totally healthy," he said. He added, "Change the system that killed my daughter to make it a safe system. That's the apology I want from Reba Meagher." Health Minister Reba Meagher wouldn't comment, but she apologised to Mr Anderson.

Shadow Health Minister Jillian Skinner said, "I'm shocked with the extent of these deaths, given the government has denied them, is not reporting them, is failing to come clean with the extent of problems in our hospitals."


Rudd determined to push through school accountability

The Howard agenda lives! Curriculum reform seems to have dropped off the agenda but we must be thankful for small mercies, I guess

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is preparing for an all-in brawl with the states and unions over his plan to test schools and sack underperforming teachers. Mr Rudd has outlined his policy to rank schools across the country to give parents the ability to compare the performance of different public schools. Under the scheme, schools continuing to underperform after an injection of funds would be expected to take radical steps to lift their game - such as sacking the principal and teachers, or merging with another school. "There may be a bit of argy bargy on the way through but I think it's time to do this," Mr Rudd told Fairfax radio today. "We're prepared to have an argument if that's necessary ... you can't simply allow our kids to be in schools which are consistently underperforming."

Education Minister Julia Gillard has defended the plan to sack underperforming principals and teachers, saying it would be worse to do nothing. Asked if it was a smart move to sack teachers when they were in such high demand, Ms Gillard told ABC radio: "What's not smart is having underperforming schools year after year, decade after decade, not even measuring it, not even recognising it's happening and not even doing anything about it." The Government wanted transparency in school performances and was prepared to bring new resources to make a difference to disadvantaged schools, she said.

Under the plan schools would only be compared with other schools with a similar student population and if there were differences in performance outcomes between comparable schools, then they could be addressed. "What you should measure is if you've got like student populations ... and you can see one school that's rocketing up the attainment level and the other school that's falling behind, then you can go into this school and say; `What's happening here? What are the teachers doing? What's the principal doing? What are the parents doing that's making a difference?," Ms Gillard said. "You can take that best practice to the school that's falling behind."

Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson, a former education minister, said the laws minced legislation introduced by the Coalition government. The test for Mr Rudd was to use the laws to withhold funding from schools that did not provide information on student and school performance, he said. "The real challenge for Mr Rudd is ... will he now withhold funding from those state government and non-government schools that do not comply?" Dr Nelson said. "Mr Rudd has the power now to withhold money from states that have not complied with this, and the challenge for him is will he do so."


Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Once again climate issues lead today's posts. Three current articles below

Tim Blair has a laugh at the Warmists

I've fallen for an older woman. The oldest, in fact. Mother Nature, in the form of planet Earth, is about 4.5 billion years old. Way older than even Madonna. She's not exactly a looker, either, what with her girth of 40 million metres and mass of 12 billion tonnes. Frankly, Nature's the type of unconventional gal that Mt Isa's mayor John Molony might have been thinking about when he invited "beauty challenged" women to seek love in his female-needy town. Planet Earth doesn't just have stretch marks. She's got planar rock fracture fault lines all the way from South Australia to South America.

But she's also pretty hot. And getting hotter, if certain scientists and politicians are to be believed. Hot girls always attract bad press, and Mother Nature is no exception. Last week this saucy sphere was blamed for the death of Colette the whale. "Nature must be allowed to take its course," reported the Los Angeles Times. Closer to home, the Batemans Bay Post Star wrote: Nature is cutting its losses. So terribly cold! Reading these Colette-killing slurs, you'd almost think Mother Nature is just a kind of nebula-formed sun-orbiting Roberta Williams with tectonic plates. But to me she's much, much more than that.

Looks aren't everything. A sense of humour is sexy, and Mother Nature has the cutest joke sensibility since Dorothy Parker. Just like Parker - the celebrated New York writer and wiseass - Mother Nature reserves her cruellest jokes for those who seek to be closest to her. She's irresistible, this massive mother. When then-PM of Britain Tony Blair tried to cozy up to Mother Nature in 2005, he was repaid with chilling scorn. "Why does it always snow when I'm going to talk about global warming?" asked the puzzled PM, following a series of cursed commentaries. That's just the way Mother Nature rolls, Tone.

Ask Al Gore about it. Al's been trying to love it up with Ms Earth for years, but he routinely cops a wet and cold slap to the chops for his trouble. In 2004, Gore delivered a speech on global warming in New York City. Instead of welcoming his help, Mother Nature turned on one of the coldest days in the city's history. Gore was ridiculed even more than usual, which is one hell of lot of ridicule.

Thereafter, no matter where Gore takes his global warming message, awful cold seems to follow. He appeared in Australia two years ago for a series of global warming talks and somehow provoked snow in November. Mother Nature hates a suck-up. To this day, wherever unseasonable cold strikes, someone online will immediately ask: Is Al Gore in town?

Poor Tim Flannery. He's one of Mother Nature's most dedicated suitors, yet the elderly orb makes fun of him at every chance. She appears to single him out for special cruelty. On June 11, 2005, the ABC reported Flannery's prediction that the ongoing drought could leave Sydney's dams dry in just two years. Two years later, to the very day, the ABC ran this news item: "Sydney's largest dam, Warragamba, has received 43mm of rain since Thursday, while the region's smaller dams got a better soaking, including the Upper Nepean which got 108mm." The torrent of rain was so great that water restrictions have been lifted.

Flannery also predicted deadly dam-drying doomspells in Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth. In every city, great dam-filling rainfall followed. Five months ago, for example, Flannery announced: "The water problem is so severe for Adelaide that it may run out of water by early 2009." Mother Nature's response was 15 rainy days in a row beginning on July 30, the longest stretch since 1891. Even if no more rain falls, Adelaide's dams (now 61 per cent full) won't run dry until August 2010, going by current useage rates. This is what Old Lady Nature does to people who like her. Ain't she wicked?

The latest case of Mother meanness is so beautiful its almost transcendent. Earlier this year a film company shot a global warming-themed telemovie in Sydney. Scorched - starring Georgie Parker, Cameron Daddo and Vince Colosimo - is meant to depict events in 2012, when there has been no rain for 240 days and the whole place is toast. So the production crew went out looking for hot, horrible locations. Cue Mother Earth and that playful sense of humour. "It began raining in Sydney and didn't stop," reports online movie mag Urban Cinefile.

Scorched director Tony Tilse couldn't believe it. "Unfortunately, it was like Ireland," he said. "Everything became green, the trees were blossoming." How dreadful. Mother Nature had one more trick up her ample sleeve. Noting that Scorched goes to air on August 31, Mother turned on our coldest August in a decade. Folks tuning in to this heatwave horror show will be shivering as they watch, and not because of fear. Who knows what this cosmic comedienne will get up to next? Like the lady herself, you can bet it will be big.


Greenies trying to make new power station a 'white elephant'

The proposed federal emissions trading scheme would turn a $750 million Chinese-backed Victorian power station into a taxpayer-funded white elephant, according to legal advice. Lawyers acting for a coalition of environment groups have told the state and federal governments that the HRL-Harbin plant would not be eligible for assistance under the ETS, costing its backers $50million a year in pollution charges.

The two governments have pledged $150million for the Latrobe Valley plant in the hope it can eventually be configured for carbon capture and storage. The 400MW plant was approved by the Brumby Government on the eve of the release of the Garnaut report into climate change, but legal advice says it has missed the deadline for compensation. Lawyers from the Environment Defenders Office found that under the Rudd Government's proposal for an ETS, only existing coal-fired plants would win compensation, with the cut-off date set at June 3 last year.

"The HRL proposal will not meet the eligibility criteria for compensation as a 'strongly affected industry' even on the most generous assumption as to the cut-off date," their advice says. Mark Wakeham, the campaign director of Environment Victoria, which commissioned the advice, said the lost compensation rendered the plant uneconomic. "If the carbon price is just $20 a tonne, which is at the lower end of what is likely, HRL would have to buy $50million worth of carbon pollution permits a year just to operate," he said. "This is likely to make the project uncompetitive against renewable energy and gas-fired electricity generation."

Amid the warnings over the HRL plant's future, gas giant Santos has announced a 500MW, $800million power plant in Victoria, which could be doubled in capacity by 2020.

Environment Victoria is sending the legal advice to potential financiers of the HRL-Harbin plant. The plant uses gasification and drying technology to reduce CO2 emissions by about 30per cent compared with a conventional brown coal station. Even accounting for this, Environment Victoria said it would produce up to 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 a year. It would have to buy permits for this output unless geosequestration emerges as a viable option by its 2012 completion date. Premier John Brumby conceded in an interview with The Australian this month that Victoria, and the rest of the world, faced some major problems if geosequestration did not work. It is believed trials of the technology in natural gas cavities in the state's west are showing promising results, but commercial application is some time away.

HRL, a Victorian company that was formed out of the remnants of the former State Electricity Commission, would not comment except to say: "The rules for and the level of assistance under the draft Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme are not yet finalised." Harbin is a massive Chinese-based manufacturer and operator of coal-fired power stations.



A PHENOMENON of the increasingly tense debate on the Rudd Government's carbon policies is the unwillingness of the protagonists to quantify the risk for Australian workers.

The headline-grabbing Business Council statement on companies endangered by the proposed approach does not do so. Nor have its previous statements on the issue. Rudd Government ministers, not surprisingly, do not do so, although their frequent assurances that the policies will be economically responsible are a dog-whistle attempt to signal to workers (voters) that their interests are in mind. No trade union statement, even those expressing concern, does so. Not even leading federal Opposition spokesmen, Brendan Nelson, Malcolm Turnbull and Greg Hunt, attempt to quantify how many jobs might be in the firing line.

The environmental activists, who have been quick to rail against the BCA and other critics of carbon charges, naturally never mention this point, although they will try to claim job opportunities for their radical programs. The Greens are in the van of trying to paint over the economic threats by claiming that lost jobs in energy-intensive industry will be replaced in "clean" businesses. They bolster this by pointing to the high voter concern about global warming and support for programs that will deliver abatement.

However, recent polling by Essential Media Communications showing that 72 per cent of the people it interviewed supported the introduction of emissions trading also showed that half of those polled admit they do not know what it is.

It would seem a fair guess that these voters also don't know that Australian energy-intensive firms in the firing line of high carbon charges directly employ more than 165,000 people in the food and beverage industry, 64,000 in textiles, clothing and footwear, more than 162,000 in pulp and paper making and printing, 35,000 in non-metallic minerals production, more than 2000 in liquefied natural gas processing, about 100,000 in the petroleum, plastics and chemicals industries, more than 141,000 in metals production, 195,000 in manufacturing of equipment and machinery and about 60,000 in other factories.

This adds up to 924,000 workers and is a Howard government calculation used and accepted earlier this decade in talks on greenhouse gas abatement with both business and environmental non-government organisations. It is now several years out of date. The energy-intensive manufacturing sector claims that the total number today is actually about 1.1 million.

These are people directly employed by trade-exposed, energy-intensive companies. Many more are the beneficiaries of jobs that flow from the output of these TEEI companies. The large plastics business Qenos, for example, says in its submission to Ross Garnaut that it employs 800 people in Melbourne and Sydney and its products are the key material for downstream manufacturers employing another 10,000.

There is no way of knowing how many of these jobs - direct and indirect - will be lost under a high carbon cost regime, but recently announced redundancies in Australian manufacturing are a guide to how difficult it is for local businesses to compete against lower operating costs overseas. What's missing in the Australian carbon debate is the upfront acknowledgement of the big extra risk inherent in driving up power and gas bills that make up a substantial part of energy-intensive firms' operating costs.

None of the claims by the environmental movement and others about what a costly energy revolution could deliver in new jobs exceeds about a quarter of a million people, and this over a much longer time frame than the next few years, which is when new carbon taxes would affect existing businesses, especially those vulnerable to global cost pressures.

In this context, it is interesting to reflect on the views of Ian Macdonald, Minister for State Development, Energy, Minerals Resources and Primary Industries in NSW, who has the largest energy and energy-intensive constituency after federal ministers.

In a virtually unreported meeting with trade-exposed industries in Sydney in June, Macdonald said: "The wrong (emissions trading) policy framework could be disastrous for the economic prosperity of this state and the country." He told 150 industry participants in the meeting that it is of concern to the NSW Government that they could be forced to carry substantial extra costs when there are a number of other factors causing upward pressure on electricity prices and, he said, it was looking as if emissions trading could double power prices in the eastern seaboard electricity market.

NSW manufacturers, the largest factory sector in the country, employ more than 300,000 people, contribute $31 billion to the national economy and earn $10 billion annually in export revenue. "I shudder to think how the wealth and job-creating industries of NSW will cope," Macdonald told the meeting. The Rudd Government, he warned, "has to devise the scheme carefully so as not to send the economy in to freefall".

Macdonald's argument is that, while an emissions trading scheme is necessary to help drive Australia's greenhouse gas abatement, "it must not cause havoc to wealth-creating industries."

The task force the states employed in 2006-07 to study emissions trading, Macdonald pointed out, highlighted the importance of providing adjustment assistance to energy-intensive, trade-exposed industry.

If the core issue, as Macdonald told the meeting of trade-exposed industries is "jobs, jobs and more jobs", then the present advertising campaign to sell federal greenhouse gas policies is more about misleading and deceiving the public than helping it to make an informed judgment. A company behaving like that would be in breach of the Trade Practices Act.


Aussie men eating more meat pies

Note for American readers: Most pies sold in Australia contain minced or cubed meat, not fruit. The meat pie is Australia's national food. I LOVE meat pies and eat them frequently -- both for breakfast and for dinner

DOWNTRODDEN blokes are biting back and sending meat pie sales soaring. One of Australia's biggest pie maker, Patties, has announced a 10 per cent jump in sales and says fed-up men are fuelling the surge. "Blokes are sick of being told what they can and can't eat," Patties marketing manager Mark Connolly said. "They've had a gutful of it and are going back to living by their own rules. "If they feel like having a pie and a few beers, they'll have a pie and a few beers."

Patties holds over half the Australian market for pies, sausage rolls and pasties. Its brands include Patties, Herbert Adams and the iconic Four'N Twenty range. The Melbourne-based firm reported an 8.6 per cent overall profit rise in the 2007-08 financial year. Pie sales were slightly down the year before, in a fall blamed on unusually hot weather.

The success of its blokiest brand, Four'N Twenty, follows an advertising campaign ridiculing salads. Mr Connolly called meat pies "the nearest thing we've got to a national cuisine". He said strong sales at supermarkets were matched by a 10 per cent jump at sporting venues, despite a constantly growing range of alternatives. "Pies keep selling and selling," Mr Connolly said. "At the end of the day they can't move the more trendy stuff."

Road worker Grant Dye said there was nothing better than a hot pie on a cold day. "A good meat pie is chunky and nice and tender," Mr Dye said. "It doesn't worry me what brand it is as long as it's nice and fresh."

Spotless, which caters for the Melbourne Cricket Ground, said pies were only one of a broad range of food options now, but remained a staple seller. Any growth in sales would reflect the growth in attendances, a spokeswoman said. "There are more people going to venues and more events held at the MCG. "If it is due to anything, it would be due to the increased patronage."

But Mr Connolly said tradition and tighter economic times were also factors. But it was more about manpower. "They're not that complicated. They just want to be left to their own devices," Mr Connolly said.


Tasmanian hospitals festering, warns doctors' boss

ACUTE staff shortage in the Launceston General Hospital's emergency department is part of a problem festering across the entire hospital system, the Australian Medical Association says. Outgoing AMA state president Haydn Walters said hospitals appeared likely to suffer across-the-board staff shortages, making them extremely expensive to run - and warned that the state's health bureaucracy needed to become more doctor friendly.

Prof Walters said the department was about 10 years late in realising that doctors were not ratbags who needed to be kept in line. He said the LGH risked following the Mersey and Burnie hospitals, reliant on $2500 a day specialist locums and overseas-trained doctors - and parts of the Royal Hobart Hospital were also at risk. Prof Walters said doctors were voting with their feet.

His criticism of the department's "can't-do culture" was rejected by Health and Human Services Department secretary David Roberts. Mr Roberts, who was lured to Tasmania from the UK in January, said he was impressed by the department's innovative "can-do culture". He said he had witnessed a long hard slog of reform in the UK that enabled its hospitals to get a grip on similar emergency department problems. He said a key innovation in emergency departments - already embraced by LGH doctors - was a new acute physician's role where doctors were trained to deal with a broad range of medical problems, not unlike a general practitioner.

Mr Roberts said he had an open door policy, regularly meeting with doctors and nurses: "Doctors are coming with ideas on how we can reform ... I'm pleased to back them." Mr Roberts said Prof Walters' gloom and doom scenario - and his view that North-West hospitals had become dependant on locums - was wrong, but conceded the Mersey hospital had struggled. "It will pick up," he said.

Mr Roberts said apart from some hard-to-fill posts, Tasmanian hospitals were not having major difficulties recruiting doctors. "Our doctor shortage is not as severe as some of the mainland states," he said. [THAT'S a consolation!]

Prof Walters said the ranks of doctors who were committed to living and working in Tasmania for the long term, continued to thin. He said among those bearing the brunt of the LGH crisis were interns - doctors just out of medical school who were feeling exposed and vulnerable - as a growing number of experienced professionals who supervised them voted with their feet. Prof Walters, also from the UK, said he had nothing against overseas-trained doctors, but for the sake of stability and cost control, they needed to be balanced by local doctors.

He will step down in two weeks to begin a sabbatical.


Wee Andy gets the boot

Hurrah! The far-Left and bright-Green Scot is fired at last. Somewhere the penny has dropped: Aiming your paper at only half the audience is not the way to maximize circulation.

The Age's editor-in-chief Andrew Jaspan has been replaced one day after Fairfax Media announced 550 jobs would go at its Australian and New Zealand operations.Senior deputy editor Paul Ramadge will step into Mr Jaspan's role as acting editor-in-chief until a permanent choice made, the company said in an internal email.

"The company has decided that for this next critical stage of The Age we would have fresh editorial and executive leadership," said Don Churchill, chief executive and publisher of Fairfax's metropolitain and community publishing.