Thursday, February 19, 2009

Indians under attack in Melbourne

Strange that the police say nothing about the attackers? Not really. Past reports indicate that the attackers are mainly Africans. And we mustn't under any circumstances let anybody know how dangerous Africans can be, must we?

Indian students will be taught not to speak loudly in their native tongue or display signs of wealth such as iPods when travelling on trains at night, as part of a strategy to crack down on violent robberies. Robberies in Melbourne's western suburbs jumped by 27 per cent last financial year. Police estimated almost a third of victims were of Indian appearance. A special police group has been formed to combat the robberies amid fears that some are racially motivated and that Indian international students are soft targets because they carry iPods and laptops on trains late at night.

The Federation of Indian Students of Australia says Melbourne, which has about 33,000 Indian international students, may no longer be seen as a safe destination.

Inspector Scott Mahony, of Brimbank police, said it was crucial to stop Indian students becoming victims and address their mistrust of police. "They need to make sure they walk through a well-lit route, even if it might be longer, and they are not openly displaying signs of wealth with iPods and phones, and not talking loudly in their native language," Inspector Mahony said. " We do believe there are some where the victim is targeted because of Indian appearance."

Dayajot Singh, who helped organise a protest last year over attacks on Indians, said Indian students should be taught crime prevention as part of their university induction course. "They should be taught that if you go on public transport in this country, people don't talk loudly, they talk in a low voice. If you talk loudly it could be taken as violent behaviour. It's different cultural behaviour - speaking loudly to each other is not taken offence to in India." He said an important message was not to carry valuables on trains at night.

Federation of Indian Students of Australia president Raman Vaid said most students carried valuables. "It's not being told to other communities or other students, 'Don't speak loudly in your native tongue, don't carry laptops'," he said. Mr Vaid said racist attacks gave Indian students a bad impression and could encourage them to study in other states or countries.

The Police Indian Western Reference Group was formed after 100 Indian men marched on Sunshine police station in December to protest against what they said was a poor response to the attacks. Mr Singh said police had since met representatives of the Indian community and police behaviour had improved.

Police were frustrated that the crime prevention message did not appear to be getting through. "We need to re-examine what we are doing to find out why it's not working," Inspector Mahony said.

Ricky Ahluwalia told The Age he was knocked unconscious and robbed last year while walking to his Albion home from the station at night. "There is a lot of racism. My friends, they have always had the same problems. It only happens with Indians, no Asians, no other people." Other attacks on Indians include the stabbing of taxi driver Jalvinder Singh last year and the bashing of former Australian Medical Association president Mukesh Haikerwal.

Victoria University academic Dr Zhongjun Cao was bashed to death in Footscray last year. He was not Indian, but the court heard two gang members suggested they go out "curry bashing". Four members later bashed and robbed a second man, Binesh Mosaheb, a Mauritian, believing he was Indian.

Last month, communications and peer support teams, made up of police and Indian community representatives, were set up. Inspector Mahony said the peer support team would provide support to Indian victims of crime and explain cultural differences. "Some people simply had no concept of the meaning of bail and how we can arrest an offender on a robbery charge and they can be back on the street the next day," he said. "The perception was that offenders get away with crime."

Indian students had raised concerns police had not responded immediately to victims' calls or notified them when arrests were made. "There is a perception we don't care, and we have to do a lot of work around changing that perception," he said. Robberies in the western suburbs, including Brimbank, Hobsons Bay, Maribyrnong, Melton and Wyndham, jumped from 417 in 2006-07 to 530 in 2007-2008.


Greenies lying about their responsibility for the big fires

One of the biggest furphies in the supercharged debate in the wake of Victoria's bushfires is the claim by green groups that they are great supporters of hazard reduction burning. Also known as prescribed burning, this scientific regime creates a mosaic of lightly burned land at regular intervals of five to seven years, thus reducing surface fuel loads by varying amounts within the mosaic. This reduction of fuel loads is expensive, but Australia's pre-eminent bushfire researchers, such as the CSIRO's Phil Cheney and Monash University's David Packam, say it has been proven to reduce the power and intensity of fire. Every bushfire inquiry since the 1939 Stretton royal commission has recommended increased prescribed burning to mitigate the effects of inevitable wildfire.

It is a matter of public record that green groups have long opposed such systematic prescribed burning, as is evident in their submissions to bushfire inquiries from as far back as 1992. They complain of a threat to biodiversity, including to fungi, from "frequent burning" regimes and urge resources be spent on water bombers and early detection, as well as on stopping climate change - good luck with that.

Yet last week, Jonathan La Nauze of Friends of the Earth, Melbourne, in a letter to this newspaper claimed: ".not one Australian environmental organisation is opposed to prescribed burning . Environment groups are engaged in a sophisticated debate about where and how prescribed burning can be most effective." Yes, it's sophisticated, all right. It just depends how you define "prescribed burning".

On the other side of the country, one Peter Robertson, the West Australian co-ordinator of the Wilderness Society, was singing from a different song sheet. His letter last week to The West Australian stated: "Experience and risk analysis show that repeatedly burning tens of thousands of hectares of remote bushland and forest will do little to address the threat of bushfires to human communities . It would be a huge mistake if the community was led to believe that a massive, expensive and environmentally destructive prescribed burning program was going to protect them when it could make matters worse." Robertson is no lone ranger among greens in opposition to prescribed burning.

The WA Forest Alliance, for instance, lodged a submission to the NSW parliamentary inquiry into the 2001-02 bushfires, claiming: "Frequent fires have a disastrous effect on many species of flora and fauna and their habitat structure." WWF Australia's submission claimed: "Inappropriate fire hazard regimes can damage biodiversity leading to the loss of native species, communities and ecosystems."

The NSW Greens state on their website as part of their bushfire risk management policy: "There is an urgent need to correct the common misconception that responsible fire management always involves burning or clearing to reduce moderate and high fuel loads."

In 2003, lightning strikes in fuel-rich national parks in NSW and the ACT sparked bushfires which swept into Canberra, killing four people. Days later, the NSW Nature Conservation Council's then chairman, Rob Pallin, described calls for increased prescribed burning as "futile" and a "knee-jerk reaction". "People who claim that hazard reduction burning is a cure-all for bushfire risk are either fooling themselves or deliberately trying to fool the public." It is another clever tactic of those who oppose broadscale prescribed burning to claim that it is not a "cure-all" for bushfire risk. No one has ever claimed it is.

As Cheney repeatedly has said, wildfires will occur, but prescribed burning reduces the intensity of a fire burning "under any set of meteorological conditions", and it reduces the spread of the fire, allowing firefighters to construct effective control lines. And yet there have been recent moves to have controlled burning listed as a "key threatening process" under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Such a submission has reportedly been received by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee. In NSW, already, the Department of Environment and Conservation has listed "too frequent fire" as a "key threatening process to biodiversity".

But the real threatening process is the holocaust we have just seen in Victoria. Last week angry fire survivors in Victoria pointed the finger at local authorities who prevented clearing of vegetation. At a public meeting in Arthurs Creek, Warwick Spooner, who lost his mother and brother in the Strathewen fire, stood up criticise the Nillumbik council. "We've lost two people in my family because you dickheads won't cut trees down." Then of course, there is Liam Sheahan, the Reedy Creek home owner whose house is the only one in a two-kilometre area which survived the fires. In 2004 he was fined $50,000 for removing 247 trees around his hilltop house to protect it from fire. His two-year court battle against the Mitchell Shire Council cost him $50,000 in legal fees.

It is a rich irony that Slidders Lawyers last week launched a class action on behalf of fire victims at Kinglake, against the Singapore-owned electricity company SP AusNet, alleging the fire was caused by a fallen power line. After all, it was only in 2001 that Transgrid bulldozed a 60-metre wide firebreak under its high-voltage lines in the Snowy Mountains. For that it was prosecuted by four government agencies, blasted for "environmental vandalism" by the then NSW premier Bob Carr, and fined $500,000.

Two years later, during the disastrous firestorm that engulfed the mountains, the offending firebreak became the only safe haven for kangaroos and workers constructing a fire trail. The sad truth of such holocausts is that the environmental toll ends up worse than the most vigorous prescribed burning regime ever could be.

Victoria's bushfires have spewed millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere - more than a third of Australia's entire output for a year, according to Sydney University's Professor Mark Adams. No doubt the royal commission will recommend, like previous inquiries, that prescribed burning should be increased. After so many deaths will anyone listen this time?


Rudd has stretched the facts: Howard

John Howard has accused Kevin Rudd of "stretching the facts" of the global financial crisis in an unsustainable economic argument to score "a base political point". In his first response to the Prime Minister's extended attack on extreme capitalism, Wall Street greed, neo-liberals, free marketeers and the Howard years, Mr Howard says the global crisis is not the result of a neo-liberal failure. "Our current predicament is not the result of some malign economic philosophy having held total sway for the past 30 years," the former Liberal prime minister says in a speech to be delivered in Melbourne tonight.

"We all face a very difficult economic climate. There will be legitimate differences in our responses, based on different philosophies. Nothing, however, will be achieved by stretching the facts to serve an unsustainable economic proposition, designed to score a base political point." Mr Howard also argues that far from needing further regulation, the Australian banking system's prudential and regulatory system has kept domestic banks strong -- a direct result of sensible market forces.

Early this month, Mr Rudd wrote an essay of more than 7000 words arguing that capitalism was "cannibalising itself" and that the free-market governments of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, George W. Bush and Mr Howard had contributed to the worst global financial crisis in 75 years. "The time has come, off the back of the current crisis, to proclaim that the great neo-liberal experiment of the past 30years has failed, that the emperor has no clothes," he wrote in The Monthly. Targeting the Liberal Party and the economic policies of the Howard government, which he said had "not served Australia well in preparing for the current crisis", Mr Rudd argued that regulators had failed to stop extreme capitalism.

But in the inaugural Howard lecture for the Menzies Research Centre in Melbourne tonight, Mr Howard will say Mr Rudd's arguments are contradictory and implausible and ignore similar policies pursued by US Democratic presidents and British Labour prime ministers. Mr Howard says that if there has been a prevailing neo-liberal view in the past 30 years "that philosophy, to a greater or lesser extent, has beguiled both sides of the political divide in many countries".

He argues that instead of being a failure, the systems of free trade and competitive capitalism have succeeded. "In the past 30 years, the freer functioning of markets inherently involved in the globalisation process has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Competitive capitalism has been integral to this historic development. So far from failing, it has succeeded," he says.

"I have watched with fascination the contradictions flowing from senior government figures as they deal with current economic challenges. They deserve their rhetorical dilemma. They cannot have it both ways. "It is not plausible for the Rudd Government to argue on the one hand that Australia has entered the financial crisis in better shape than just about any other nation, and yet declare my government guilty of the extreme neo-liberalism which has allegedly brought about the crisis. "Both positions cannot be right."

Mr Howard says Julia Gillard's presentation at the World Economic Forum in Davos "declared her pride in the well-regulated Australian banking system, the great strength of the Australian economy, and the fact that our nation entered these difficult economic times in better shape than others". "The strength of the Australian banking system, of which the Deputy Prime Minister is so proud, is a direct result of a sensible balance between market forces and prudential regulation in Australia which was both reaffirmed and modernised by the Wallis Financial Inquiry's recommendations adopted by my government not long after it came to office," he says.

In the past 30 years "some regulation has failed and some have not been enforced". "In some instances, governments have not intervened enough. In others, such as through Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae in relation to the spread of sub-prime mortgages, governments, their agencies and legislators have intervened too much."

SOURCE. There is another response to Rudd's attack on capitalism: here

Private sector rescues problem students

Violent, out-of-control students as young as four are fuelling the growth of a private school sector catering for pupils the public system doesn't want. With more than 55,000 suspensions handed out to state school students last financial year - a jump of more than 20 per cent in two years - Independent Schools Queensland acting executive director David Robertson said the "disengaged and at-risk" school sector was now a growth industry. He said four private schools already catered for problem students in Queensland's southeast, with a fifth to open at Deception Bay later this year. Two more are proposed at Logan and Springfield.

The Toogoolawa School, built for secondary school students by Queensland-based millionaire property developer John Fitzgerald at Ormeau, south of Brisbane, in 1998, has opened a primary school for the increasing numbers of younger students being excluded from the mainstream system.

Principal Gerry Moloney said his students' violence and anger often stemmed from bad home and family situations, and once they were given respect, proper time and appropriate individualised academic goals, their behaviour and attitudes turned around. He said the school recently enrolled a Prep-year student, facing expulsion, who was referred to him by a mother who didn't know what else to do. Toogoolawa students have often been through heart-breaking circumstances, with some housed in more than 40 foster homes, he said. Mr Moloney said they were able to turn more than 90 per cent of their students' behaviour around within six to 12 months.

An Education Queensland spokeswoman said the "growth in the numbers of school disciplinary suspensions" was evidence it was enforcing higher behaviour standards. This was "to ensure the best quality outcomes for all state school students without the need to resort to more serious disciplinary actions of an exclusion or cancellation of enrolment", she said. But exclusions - the start of the expulsion process - also have risen over the past three financial years. The EQ spokeswoman said expulsion figures were unavailable because they were collected on a school and district basis. In the past financial year 55,302 suspensions were handed out - with multiple suspensions recorded by some students - and 866 exclusion processes were initiated. In 2005 to 2006, 43,929 suspensions were ordered and 777 exclusion processes initiated.


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