Saturday, February 21, 2009

Government seizes babies

I would fervently hope that such a grave step as this is always well justified but there are plenty of cases in Australia and Britain where the justification has been poor so I believe that there should always be a hearing before a judge in open court immediately after such action is taken so that all sides of the matter can be heard and independently adjudicated. As it is, what happens seems more like a kangaroo court than anything else. And the report immediately below this suggests gross irresponsibility or stupidity on the part of the government officials concerned

Child protection workers in Western Australia last year removed 54 babies from their mothers before the infants were a month old. The infants were removed after concerns about the mothers' ability to care for a child were raised during pregnancy.

The Australian reported yesterday that the babies of some first-time parents, with no history of child neglect, had been taken directly from the maternity ward on the grounds that the parents might pose some future risk to their children. In one case, a welfare worker told a state ward, on the day she announced her pregnancy, that her baby would be taken into care.

The director-general of the WA Department of Child Protection, Terry Murphy, said workers would never "resile from taking a baby into care at birth when it is necessary for the protection of the child". The department removed 84 babies aged under a month in 2007, and the "almost 40 per cent decrease (in the number of babies taken, between 2007 and 2008) reflects the Department of Child Protection's strong focus in the past year on the early engagement and support of mothers", Mr Murphy said. He said the department worked with King Edward Memorial Hospital and Princess Margaret Children's Hospital to "bring parties together during the pregnancy to determine whether safety for the child can be achieved".

Child protection workers and hospital staff, plus drug and alcohol workers and mental health staff, talk to the mother and other family members early in the pregnancy.


Children in foster care of prostitute

What has happened in this particular case would seem to be in part the fault of government racism: The policy that black babies must not be given to white carers. They would rather that the kids be badly treated than abandon racial segregation. The standard mantra of child welfare agencies is that "We put the interests of the child first". What crap! They put their Leftist ideology first

Child protection authorities in Western Australia were warned last May that a foster carer of four children was working as a prostitute, gambling heavily and using her taxpayer-supplied vehicle to drive to work at a suburban brothel. But nine months later, the Department for Child Protection has not removed the four children, who still live in the woman's house with a male lodger, who sleeps in a queen-size bed in the living room. The woman's brother, who has convictions for serious criminal offences, also stayed at her house until a departmental officer told the woman he had to leave, The Weekend Australian has confirmed.

The case has emerged as a glaring example of flaws in Western Australia's Aboriginal child placement principle, which gives priority to placing indigenous children in state care with family or people from within the child's indigenous community. The policy has been adopted in all states and territories, but the Barnett Liberal Government has vowed to review the policy.

Last December, an Aboriginal corporation in NSW was stripped of federal and state funding after foster children in its care were deemed to be at serious risk. A review of the Redfern-based Aboriginal Children's Service found that many children were living in overcrowded homes across NSW, with foster parents neither registered nor trained.

The four Aboriginal children in Perth -- three girls aged nine, 11 and 13 and a boy of 2 1/2 -- cannot be identified because they are state wards. They were removed by DCP from their mother in October 2006, after a long series of domestic disputes involving the children's father. The department placed the children in the care of their maternal grandmother, but after a few months she could not cope. She drove the children to their natural mother's house and left them alone in the backyard while the mother was at work. A second placement was formalised early last year with the children's paternal ex-step-grandmother. The department provided her with a $34,000 eight-seater van to transport the children, plus her own two youngest sons. It also promised an upgrade to a five-bedroom state rental house, but the woman, six children and a male lodger still live in her three-bedroom house in an outer Perth suburb.

The Weekend Australian has obtained an affidavit, signed on Tuesday, by a family friend who said she became concerned about the children's welfare after the foster carer admitted to her that she was still working as a prostitute, despite receiving around $700 per week in foster care allowance. The friend, a former youth worker who is training to be a prison officer, said she told the children's case worker last May that the carer was regularly working in a brothel and leaving the children with other people. She was also concerned welfare payments for the four children were being used for gambling. Departmental officers visited the carer's house a week later.

Yesterday, DCP director-general Terry Murphy confirmed that a complaint last May was investigated. "It was found (the carer) had worked as a cleaner in a brothel before the children came into her care. She has not worked in that capacity since caring for the children." [In other words, the chump believes what he has been told by his officials -- and they wouldn't have a clue] He said a vehicle had been provided by the department, and it was in the process of screening the woman's male paying boarder. He dismissed the allegations, saying: "This appears to be a successful example of placing Aboriginal children with an Aboriginal relative carer."

The DCP relies heavily on relatives to act as foster, or kinship, carers of indigenous children taken into care. Of 1250 kinship carers in Western Australia caring for relatives' children, about 460 or 37 per cent are indigenous households. The state Government's review into indigenous child placement is due to report at the end of next month.

Mr Murphy said last week that the policy raised concerns as it encouraged workers to place Aboriginal children with immediate or extended family "even when that family itself may be struggling". He said case workers too often misunderstood the principles and attempted to place Aboriginal children with their immediate or extended family "when in fact the children would be better placed elsewhere".


Dangerous nervous Nellies

What the writer below says is perfectly correct but she omits to name the chief guilty parties: Grant-seeking university researchers who put out an unending stream of health scares that in the end promote skepticism about all mainstream medical advice. When everything you like is bad for you and everything unpleasant is good for you, nobody but obsessionals is going to take any notice of it. Medical journal editors need to take the lead and follow the conclusions of all epidemiological articles with a prominent warning saying: "WARNING: The conclusions of this article are speculative". Wakefield was, after all, a mainstream medical researcher. I personally would burn him at the stake for all the harm he has done in pursuit of his own selfish gain but then I would pulp a lot of medical journals too.

Living in a suburb with lots of white, middle-class, educated mothers may be putting your child's health at risk. In such salubrious surroundings can be found dangerous concentrations of vaccine-resisters. These are women who spend too many hours on wacky internet health sites and become convinced immunisation is a giant conspiracy. The educated mother who thinks she knows better than the overwhelming majority of the world's scientists and doctors partly explains why some of Sydney's richest suburbs have the state's lowest child immunisation rates.

It is hardly surprising that North Coast NSW, home to alternative life-stylers and the "natural" wellness set, should rate lowly on coverage. But it was astounding - at first - to see that Sydney's eastern, south-eastern and northern suburbs rate near, or at, the bottom of a list compiled by the Division of General Practice, based on Medicare figures for child immunisation rates. In the November 2008 quarter, Sydney's eastern suburbs - including the city, Vaucluse, Double Bay, Rose Bay and Kings Cross - were ranked last among the state's 34 divisions of general practice and last among 118 divisions nationally. Just above that lot was the Northern Rivers, then north Sydney, south-east Sydney and the Blue Mountains. A similar story emerged from data published in 2005 by the National Centre for Immunisation Research when Mosman had about the same child immunisation rate as Bellingen.

It is possible doctors in these establishment suburbs are too old to be computer-literate or too lazy to record immunisation data as they are meant to do, with consequent under-estimates of the coverage in their areas. Also, parts of the eastern suburbs, such as Kings Cross, have their share of poor and transient families. But as Ray Seidler, medical director of the Eastern Sydney Division of General Practice, told me, these areas are home to "an older demographic of mothers who are conscientious objectors".

Around the world, resistance to vaccination is strongest among the affluent and educated, leading Arthur Allen, author of the book Vaccine, a history of immunisation, to observe that "living in a place with a high percentage of PhDs is a risk factor for whooping cough".

Vaccine-resisters have a range of motivations. Some believe immunisation is unnatural. Others resent the nanny state telling them how to raise their children. Some distrust the medical establishment. But the movement got a big boost in the late 1990s from a bogus health scare that linked autism with a preservative, thimerosal, in the measles/mumps/rubella jab. At least 16 epidemiological studies have disproved the link. And the British doctor responsible for the scare, Andrew Wakefield, stands accused of having doctored the results of his study, according to an investigation by The Times published earlier this month. Wakefield's theory was based on 12 cases, and now even that evidence is questionable.

But for the vaccine-resisters, facts can't be allowed to get in the way of feeling. The sceptics have a lot going for them. For the last two decades medical consumers have rightly learned to question authority; the doctor is no longer god; and consumer choice has extended to patient treatment. Aided by the internet, anyone can bone up on their diseases and ask intelligent questions. And so they should - just as independent scientists should be properly funded to monitor a vaccination's side effects.

But these dummy mummies don't differentiate between fact and hocus-pocus; between a bona fide scientific study and pseudo science. Just as some people still think fluoride is dangerous, others cling to their anti-vaccine stand as a matter of faith, regardless of the evidence. They don't distinguish between the expert view of, say, the pediatrician Paul Offit, author of Autism's False Prophets, and co-inventor of a vaccine against rotavirus, a diarrheal disease that kills tens of thousands in poor countries; and the view of former Playmate of the Year and anti-vaccine campaigner Jenny McCarthy, who has an autistic son, and brings her partner, the actor Jim Carrey, on her rallies. Offit has had death threats; McCarthy has been on Oprah.

What is indisputable is that vaccines have saved countless lives. Smallpox has been eradicated, polio almost defeated, and diphtheria confined to pockets of poor countries. Children are mostly spared debilitating illnesses such as measles and mumps.

But 8000 children in NSW got whooping cough last year, starting with an outbreak on the North Coast, a big increase on previous years. Many were babies exposed to the virus in the months before they could be vaccinated. Babies cough and cough, go blue or red, some stop breathing and need oxygen. Tetanus is just a rusty nail away, and cases of measles are still recorded in Australia.

Ultimately it's selfish not to vaccinate your child. It's relying on everyone else to do so in order to maintain "herd" immunity, which means at least 90 per cent of the community needs to be vaccinated to protect the most vulnerable from disease. It's bad enough that ill-educated, chaotic, itinerant families fail to get their children immunised because they forget, don't know, or don't get round to it. But when smart parents deliberately desist, it's wicked. So intent on not being duped by the "medical establishment", they allow themselves to be duped instead by the likes of Jim Carrey, Jennifer McCarthy, and garbage science.


Rudd's failed pretence at being an intellectual

His only expertise is in Mandarin Chinese -- and it shows

By Michael Duffy

Being a successful prime minister is tough. Not only do you have to put in the hard work of running the joint, you need to write the self-justifying book afterwards, to counter the onslaught on your reputation from the ungrateful knaves and fools who replace you. This is the position in which John Howard now finds himself. His speech at the Menzies Research Centre on Thursday was the first salvo in a battle whose main advance will be the book he is writing.

It was, of course, done in response to Kevin Rudd's assault on capitalism, which has been bubbling for a few years but burst out recently in a baroque essay in The Monthly magazine. Anyone who's tried to read this will have been struck not just by its hubris and confusion, but by its hypocrisy. The Rudd family is the wealthiest to have occupied the Lodge, thanks to the success with which the Prime Minister's wife embraced the very values he is now denigrating. People notice these things. They're going to start asking what, if anything, Kevin Rudd really stands for.

One of his motives in the essay seems clear. He wants to create a story in which the Coalition badly damages the economy through excessive market freedom, and Labor saves it with government intervention. There's nothing wrong with telling stories: Howard used to do it all the time with references to the high interest rates that Australia suffered under Paul Keating.

Mind you, now that Howard is engaged in writing history rather than the grubby business of political survival, he'd probably rather forget this. On Thursday night he said: "I have always given the previous Labor government credit for implementing changes to our financial system and also tariff reform." Well, only if you were listening carefully. He did acknowledge it from time to time, but the great rhetorical battering ram he swung for many years was the image of Labor's unique incompetence where interest rates were concerned.

That image was false but effective, thanks to the repetition with which it was swung, and possibly it's this example that has emboldened Rudd to embark on his crusade against free markets. The problem is that, with all his references to Hayek and Keynes, he's talking to a much smaller and better educated audience than Howard was with his rubbish about interest rates. And that audience can tell that Rudd's arguments are embarrassingly incoherent.

It's no exaggeration to say The Monthly essay would not have received a pass mark in most undergraduate courses. Its fundamental problem is that the PM's portrayal of recent history, in particular the claim that markets were pretty much unfettered, is largely imaginary. It is completely imaginary when it comes to Australia, which under the Howard government experienced unprecedented levels of regulation and government spending.

Not the least strange thing about all this is that Rudd himself has often acknowledged the strength of the economy he inherited from Howard. And despite what Rudd would have us believe, it was comprehensively regulated. Take the banks, which sit at the heart of current events. Howard correctly noted on Thursday that his government "resisted pressure to relax the so-called four pillars policy whereby the four major trading banks were not allowed to merge with each other. Ironically, the argument used by many in the financial sector, wanting this policy changed, was that a change was needed to strengthen the relative position of Australian banks against banks in other parts of the world.

"Yet as everyone now knows, because our banks were stronger, better supervised and better managed than others, their relative position compared to other banks has improved significantly as a consequence of the financial events of recent months. There are only 15 banks in the world which now have a AAA credit rating. The four major Australian banks are among them. Given the size of our economy this is a remarkable tribute to Australia and her banking system. The four did not need to become two in order to survive in a hostile world."

What lies at the heart of Rudd's ramblings? One can't be sure, but The Monthly essay suggests he's mistaken the market truth that what goes up must come down with the Apocalypse. This is a serious case of category confusion. It's difficult to know whether it would be worse if he believes this or is just pretending. Is it panic or pretence?

Writing in The Australian Financial Review yesterday, Mark Latham called Rudd a practitioner of "zigzag economics" who tailors his rhetoric according to his audience. Referring to a speech in which Rudd previewed the ideas in The Monthly essay, Latham wrote: "It is rare for an Australian prime minister to talk this way about capitalism. Rudd's speech was perhaps the strongest attack on the ideals and purpose of private enterprise by a national leader since Ben Chifley's attempt to nationalise the banks in 1947."

If Kevin Rudd does believe what he's been saying, and it influences his policies even more, the future looks gloomy. We face the melancholy prospect that Australia's most recent three governments will come to resemble in their effects on the economy the pattern of rise and fall seen in some wealthy families. The first generation (Hawke-Keating) establishes the fortune. The second (Howard) consolidates it. And the third pisses it up against the wall.


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