Friday, February 13, 2009

Queensland's "caring" socialist government during the recent huge floods in the North

During the floods, all road access to the historic inland town of Charters Towers was cut off. All road bridges were underwater. But the railway bridge was still above water and functioning. So the government sent in needed supplies by rail, right? No way! The government railway REFUSED repeated requests to send in any supplies at all. And when pressure was brought to bear on them while food was running out in the town, what did they finally do? Instead of food they sent in beer and a lawnmower! I kid you not. I have relatives in the town who vouch for the fact. Below is the speech given in the State Parliament by Shane KNUTH (Charters Towers-LNP) on the matter. One notes with sadness how the dead hand of bureaucracy has destroyed the natural inclination of Australians to do all they can to help one-another in emergencies. Can you be a human being and a bureaucrat at the same time? It seems doubtful

I rise to bring to the attention of the House the very serious matter of the lack of cooperation from Queensland Rail during the recent flooding of the Burdekin River over the Macrossan Bridge.

I was employed by Queensland Rail for more than 20 years. I attended many washouts, many floods and a lot of maintenance and bridge and line repairs. During these events we recognised the plight of stranded travellers and those who needed to attend medical appointments and so on in the city. There was a great Aussie spirit as we transferred trapped travelers from one bridge to another. We prided ourselves on our ability to be there to help. We used section cars, rail motors and flat tops to get the job done. This was an automatic and natural response. People were in need and we had the resources to meet their needs.

During the recent floods, the Burdekin River at Macrossan rose to a staggering height of 20.75 metres-the highest reading since 1946. While the Macrossan Bridge was closed, the road between Charters Towers and Mount Garnet was closed and the road between Charters Towers and Clermont was also closed. Charters Towers was isolated except for the still-functioning railway line, which runs parallel to the Flinders Highway.

At a time when basic necessities such as medication and food to supply our three colleges, the elderly and the general public were being depleted, Queensland Rail hierarchy resisted appeals for help with freight transport. The local disaster management committee approached Queensland Rail for assistance in a crisis but, lo and behold, QR flatly refused to provide the required help. No-one could understand why QR had developed such a resistant attitude. But since QR has stopped all small freight and now concentrates on bulk haulage, it seemed determined not to help with the carting of small freight necessities, even in the time of emergency.

During the closure of the Macrossan Bridge there was great stress amongst stranded travellers and people needing to keep their medical appointments and catch flights to their destination. Some travellers were stranded for days before being forced to find accommodation and to buy what little food remained in the town. Queensland Rail, however, threatened to prosecute desperate people who attempted walking across the rail bridge to finally get to their destination. Many felt that they had no choice but to risk prosecution and took off across the rail bridge.

That was the extent of Queensland Rail's offer-- prosecution, no section cars, no rail transport, no support, no contingency plan, nothing! The attitude was, `We don't transport small freight. The town can starve.'

However, recognising the error of its ways after appeal by the mayor, the state member, the local disaster committee and the media, QR thought it could sweeten the community by providing seven pallets of grog and a lawnmower-which turned up by rail from nowhere!

Finally, after sufficient prodding, Queensland Rail finally gave in and sent the basic necessities by rail on Saturday afternoon. All of the time QR was trying to set the perception that it was being helpful, but this is a lie. Trains continued to operate throughout the crisis carrying ballast, so no-one could understand why the basic supplies could not be brought in.

But wait! It does not finish there. The Inlander [passenger train], which was held up at Hughenden, unmanned and unstaffed, passed through to Townsville by stealth in the early hours of Saturday morning hoping that stranded passengers in Charters Towers would not see it pass by. Queensland Rail knew that passengers where stranded but did not want to fly out personnel at a cost to escort stranded passengers to Townsville.

This is a shocking disgrace and a far cry from my days of service in Queensland Rail when we felt privileged to look after people. It is all right for the state government and Queensland Rail to take a special gravy train to entertain a group of party hacks and pay all expenses to tour Brisbane with drinks and snacks provided and then wind up with a lavish lunch at Roma Street Parkland, but when it comes to a crisis which affects people and their welfare, Queensland Rail is nowhere to be seen.

What has happened to the once-proud Queensland Rail that was renowned for its excellent service to Queenslanders? It has become a heartless, profit-making, cost-cutting corporation whose aim is to service the mining industry to the exclusion of the towns and the people who have made Queensland what it is today. I call on the minister to recognise that there has been a downturn in the mining industry and that now is the time to get back to the basics of providing a freight service and looking after people in times of crisis such as we have just experienced in the major floods in north Queensland.

Private hospital emergency rooms soon to be covered by health insurance

THE nation's largest health insurer is planning to operate its own private emergency care centres, ending the up to 10-hour waits patients face for treatment in a public hospital, Medibank Private, which insures three million Australians, wants to set up the emergency centres staffed by specialised emergency doctors to serve its own members as well as other members of the public. Health insurers currently don't provide rebates for treatment in the 30 private hospital emergency centres operating around the country. And patients who use these private services often face bills of $200-$300. The situation has left health fund members with minor ailments such as broken bones with no option but to use a public hospital.

Medibank Private chief George Saviddes told The Daily Telegraph his fund was considering importing a system used in Ireland where private clinics have been set up to deal with the minor sprains, bone breaks and cuts that make up 80 per cent of public emergency work. All patients could use the centres but Medibank Private members would get most of their costs, estimated to average about $400 per patient, covered by their health fund. The fund is also looking at whether private hospitals would want to tender to provide the services.

The nation's choked public hospital emergency departments treated 6.7 million patients in 2007 but about 35 per cent of urgent and semi-urgent patients had to wait longer than recommended for care. It is estimated 40 per cent of emergency department beds are taken up by patients waiting for a bed in a hospital ward. The privately run and privately subsidised emergency care centres would help relieve some of the pressure on public hospitals.

Medibank will also later this year extend to NSW a program offering a free midwife to new mothers for the first month after the baby's birth. Health funds are also questioning why they cannot buy generic brands of hip and knee replacements that could help cut the cost of surgery for their members. These joints will cost one third less than newer branded prostheses and result in less complications and follow-up surgery.


Surprise full-time jobs jump

This is a lot better than the USA and reflects the underlying strength of the economy created by many years of conservative government under John Howard

Employers took on an additional 33,700 full-time employees in January, the most in six months, spurring hopes the economy may yet avoid a recession. All up, the economy added 1,200 job last month, compared with the 18,000 job losses economists had been tipping. The overall net gain was held back by the loss of 32,600 part-time positions last month, raising the overall unemployment rate to 4.8% from 4.5% in December. The jobless rate is now at its highest since June 2006. The gain in full-time employment marks a turnaround of more than 81,000 such positions in just one month, after the economy shed 47,700 full-time jobs in December.

Economists are expecting the country to shed more jobs as the global financial crisis prompts firms to slash growth plans and lay off staff. Stronger than-expected full-time jobs figures suggest companies are holding on to employees and the economy is responding to the Federal Government stimulus packages.

The plans unveiled by Canberra - a $10.4 billion plan in October followed by an additional $42 billion in spending in this month - are aimed at keeping people working and companies growing through the downturn.


Another Qld. government school "loses" a child

A girl with a disability is the second student in a fortnight found wandering the streets while her teachers were unaware she had left school.

Jasmine Colman's mother Vickie Liddle is furious that her five-year-old daughter, who suffers from Aspergers-related autism and stress-related epilepsy, was able to walk out of the Harris Fields State School at Woodridge, south of Brisbane, at lunchtime on Tuesday and cross a busy main road. Ms Liddle said a kindergarten teacher who knew Jasmine saw the youngster talking to a stranger on the footpath and took her back to school. "She could have been kidnapped, she could have had a seizure on the road - anything could have happened," Ms Liddle said. "The fact that she wasn't seen and no one noticed, and especially the fact that she has a disability, that was phenomenal. "They didn't even know she was gone." She said her "blood was boiling" over the incident and the fact the principal failed to apologise or talk to her about it.

A statement from Education Queensland said Jasmine became separated at the end of lunchtime when Prep students and teachers were moving back to the classroom. "The Prep student left the group. Teachers were supervising students at this time," the statement said.

"When the mother arrived at the school, she was immediately met by the deputy principal and special education teacher who apologised to her." The principal had rung the mother to apologise yesterday.

At Morayfield State School last week, a five-year-old boy was found wandering the streets while his teacher was unaware he was missing.


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