Sunday, January 25, 2009


It's on tonight. I have the saltire of St. Andrew flying from my flagpole. I have 25 guests and a whole heap of haggis. So there will be much poetry and tradition tonight.

Aussie pride outshines gloom this Australia Day, 2009

SOCIAL experts and Australia Day officials say there are clear signs that 2009 will see a rush back to patriotism. Homegrown products, talent and attitudes are all set to be back in fashion. With unemployment on the rise, credit drying up and overseas travel increasingly risky, the experts say we can expect a year where stickers and logos like "Buy Australian" suddenly will be back on car bumpers amid renewed pride in local communities and the nation as a whole.

"When times are tough you do tend to cling to your own and go back to basics," AustraliaSCAN social analyst David Chalke said. "We've seen some signs already of an upswing in 'country first' (sentiment)."

National Australia Day Council chief executive Warren Pearson said he also had noticed a rise in national pride as preparations for tomorrow's national day get into full swing. While some are saying the inauguration of new US President Barack Obama (Democrat Party) last week and the outpouring of nationalism there has helped spark Australians' own pride, others attribute record support for Australia Day and associated celebrations to slow processes over many years that are now easier to sense because of the numbers involved. Mr Pearson predicted more than one in every four Australians would attend some kind of official Australia Day event tomorrow. "I've been doing this nationally now for seven years and I've not seen a greater engagement in the day," he said.

In Brisbane, South Bank Corporation events manager David Contarini expects up to 55,000 people to take part in free activities and watch a fireworks display there. That would be a 10,000 increase on last year. Mr Contarini believes pride will prompt many people to attend, while others who may be concerned about the year ahead will see it as premier entertainment at the right price. "In an atmosphere of downturn, people look for an escape, people look for things to do," he said. "Our program is totally free. ''All you have to do is get here."

Further evidence of a swing back to all things Australian can be gleaned from the internet, which is now accessed by at least 59 per cent of Australian households. Australians are becoming more patriotic with their searches, according to statistics compiled by Yellow Pages. Online searches for items of Australiana increased by 97 per cent this year, the survey found. There was also a 52 per cent increase in the number of searches for Australian flag suppliers.

Brisbane City Council tomorrow will host one of Australia's biggest citizenship ceremonies, with 530 people listed to take part. Lord Mayor Campbell Newman said he expected more people than ever would reflect on how lucky they were to be Australian. "There might be uncertainties on the horizon but when you think about what's going on in the rest of the world, in terms of stability and things, it is fantastic to be in this city," he said. Festivities across the state today and mostly tomorrow include cockroach races, fun runs, beach cricket and concerts.


Want better sex, fellas? Have a stiff drink

IT gives the phrase "a stiff drink" a whole new meaning: Australian researchers have made the surprise discovery that alcohol improves, rather than damages, men's performance in the bedroom. They hope the finding, which flies in the face of conventional belief, will reassure men who worry about the affects of drinking on their sex lives. Until now, it has been widely believed alcohol consumption could cause erectile dysfunction, commonly called "brewer's droop''.

But a study of 1580 Australian men has shown the reverse may be true, with drinkers reporting as many as 30 per cent fewer problems than teetotallers. Even binge drinkers had lower rates of erectile dysfunction than those who never drank, although this type of drinking can cause other health problems. Lead study author Dr Kew-Kim Chew, of Western Australia's Keogh Institute for Medical Research, told The Sunday Telegraph men who drank within safe guidelines appeared to have the best erectile function. "We found that, compared to those who have never touched alcohol, many people do benefit from some alcohol, including some people who drink outside the guidelines,'' Dr Chew said. Dr Chew said he had patients with erectile dysfunction who had been told to stop drinking completely.

The latest finding should prevent them compounding the problem by feeling "guilty and stressed'' about present or past drinking, he said. After other risk factors were excluded, weekend drinkers, high-risk drinkers and those who exceeded alcohol-intake guidelines had lower rates of erectile dysfunction than those who drank one day a week or less. Ex-drinkers, however, had the highest risk.


Teachers getting fed up with chaotic schools

MORE than 530 graduate teachers will begin work in State Government schools this week, but twice as many teachers resign every year. There has been a 17 per cent jump in primary and secondary teacher resignations since 2003, according to the latest State Government figures obtained by the Opposition.

Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said there would be a shortage of teachers in specialist subjects in government secondary schools this year. Mr Ryan said maths, science and manual arts would be hit hardest. "Enrolments are increasing and the number of teachers also needs to increase," Mr Ryan said. The Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said the Beattie and Bligh governments had taken teachers for granted.

ABOUT 5 per cent of state school classes have too many children. That figure has remained constant for the past three years, despite regular complaints of overcrowding. Education Queensland and the Queensland Teachers Union have agreed on target class sizes for 2009: Prep to Year 3, 25; Years 4 to 10, 28; and Years 11 and 12, 25. "Queensland state school students spend the vast majority of their time in classes under the target sizes," a department spokesman said.

Almost 500,000 students will enrol at state primary, secondary and special schools in 2009. Just under half that number will enrol at private schools. Staffing at the 1250 state schools will be based on rolls on the eighth day of the school year - Thursday, February 5, - the official census day.


Public hospital management and staff pass the buck

A FOUR-YEAR study of NSW hospitals has revealed staff and senior health bureaucrats blame each other for shocking errors, including deaths of patients. The statewide "safety check" found patients were at significant risk of death or injury from falls, medication errors, staffing levels, lax infection control and mistakes in diagnosis and treatment.

Doctors and nurses overwhelmingly agreed that chronic understaffing and heavy reliance on inexperienced junior staff was a major risk - especially after-hours and in complex areas such as emergency and intensive care. But the area health service managers blamed adverse incidents on mistakes made by medical and nursing staff rather than problems with skill mix.

Opposition Health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said it was "scandalous" that it has been five years since the Walker inquiry into 21 deaths at Campbelltown and Camden hospitals recommended an urgent audit of risks in the health system. Since then internal reports into 85 deaths over two years at western Sydney hospitals revealed that at least 49 of the patients did not receive adequate care.

Most of the avoidable deaths were due to a delay in responding to a rapidly deteriorating patient, the Annual Review of Root Cause Analysis 2006 and 2007 found. But the chief executive of the $55 million Clinical Excellence Commission, Professor Clifford Hughes, defended the Quality Systems Assessment report released today, saying a great deal of developmental work had been done to get an accurate picture of the state's complex health system. Professor Hughes said allowing everyone from the ward staff to hospital managers to top-level administrators to nominate their three highest risks to patient safety showed there was a significant disparity between the issues front-line staff saw as important, and the priorities of management.

The report found dozens of patient safety programs had been implemented since 2004 but very few had been reviewed to assess if they actually worked. Four of the eight area health services, and the Children's Hospital at Westmead, did not have any systems or processes for reviewing deaths. It also found confusion and lack of clear policy in many areas.

The director of the Institute of Health Innovation at the University of NSW, Jeffrey Braithwaite, commended the report but said collecting information was just the first step. "On too many initiatives in NSW we've seen things chopping and changing."

Health Minister John Della Bosca said 89 per cent of respondents felt there had been an improvement in patient safety and quality culture in the past two years. "This rigorous program is a world first for the assessment of quality and safety processes in a health system that will help us achieve ongoing improvements."


No comments: