Sunday, February 15, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is surprised and pleased to note that Germaine Greer has named the culprits for the huge fires in Victoria -- politicians pandering to Greenie irrationality

Many Australian High School students can't read and write

Ever-declining standards. I think our leftist "educators" will only be happy when NO-ONE can read and write

Reading skills at some Queensland high schools have slumped to alarming levels with about one in every three students considered to be reading below their age level, according to teachers and private tutors. And in a parallel problem some students are being taught one subject by as many as 12 different teachers because of staff shortages in state high schools.

An internal screening test on Year 8 students at one school has found that most of the struggling students - one-third of that year level - were reading at the standard of a Year 4 student. The worst readers among those Year 8s - about one-sixth of the entire group needing learning support - were reading at a level of Year 3 student or below, the tests revealed.

Frustrated school learning support staff say they have begun to refer students to reading lessons outside schools, as the curriculum is failing to address the problem. Their claims are backed by private tutors interviewed by The Sunday Mail, who say they regularly encounter teenagers reading three to four years below their age. It is understood the internal testing that highlights the problem was done in schools at Logan and the northern Gold Coast. But many educators say similar reading level issues can be found state-wide. Gold Coast-based private tutor Dr Bruce Cruicks is teaching 15 state high school students with reading problems: "Some of these kids came to me with no reading level at all. They could have been in Grade 3 or 4."

A Brisbane-based tutor, who asked not to be identified to shield his students, said many were initially up to four years behind in their reading. A state school teacher who was involved in recent testing of literacy levels, and also asked not to be named, said: " Some kids are really stuck at such a basic level, and the gap between them and other students just keeps widening. Yet we get told (by governments) that (the reading level) is getting better."

Education Queensland does not gather each school's internal testing data on reading levels, and the only official guide can be found in State Budget figures. Those statistics back up the concerns of education leaders, with national benchmark figures showing that reading for Year 7 students has dropped by more than 11 percentage points in three years, down from around 93 per cent in the 2004-05 period.

Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said he believed the State and Federal governments should focus on providing more resources, rather than worrying about preparing students for national benchmark testing. An Education Queensland spokesman said the Government was investing $18 million implementing a literacy framework.

On a second front underlining more problems in education, sources say some students are being taught one subject by as many as 12 different teachers as state high schools attempt to deal with staff shortages. And when substitute teachers can't be slotted in, classes are often combined. At one school, three senior classes were combined and seated in a sports hall recently with the students told to do crosswords because of a lack of teachers, the sources told The Sunday Mail.

Figures released by the State Government show an extra 5400 students enrolled in state schools this year - leaving a shortfall of 150 teachers. Education Minister Rod Welford has acknowledged a lack of maths and science teachers, employing more than 530 graduate teachers this year in the face of a 17 per cent jump in primary and secondary teacher resignations since 2003. But The Sunday Mail understands up to eight teachers at one school, employed to teach maths, are only qualified in physical education. "They are just bringing in primary school and excess PE teachers," a source revealed.

But Mr Welford denies the system will be unable to cope with an increased influx of students this year. "Our government plans for the future, continually monitoring regions with high population growth to ensure there are local state school options for all Queenslanders," he said. "That's why we opened three new schools on the northern Gold Coast this year, to cater for population increases in one the state's fastest-growing regions. "We've also opened a new school this year north of Brisbane, another fast-growing area."

Mr Welford said there has been unprecedented growth in prep enrolments, with an increase of almost 1900 on last year. He said upper secondary schools also had more than 750 extra students enrolling in Year 11 and more than 1000 in Year 12. "All these new students create a need for more teachers so that we can continue to meet our class size targets, which are among the lowest in the country."

Mr Welford says the 150 new teaching spots would be permanent appointments in mainly manual arts, maths and science. "These are roles which have been traditionally difficult to fill because their skills were so much in demand outside of teaching," he said. "With demand slowing in other sectors we are hoping to see more of these skilled workers moving back into teaching where the jobs are available, secure and stable."


Dangerous precedent for medical profession

WHEN judges hand out damages for the birth of a child, it is a sign that society is in trouble. It suggests that some of us have become so self-obsessed that we have forgotten that the arrival of a new human being is a cause for celebration, not litigation. Many parents - and would-be parents - will be angered by this decision. But it is really a cause for pity.

What sort of mother runs off to court because she has two children instead of one? And what sort of court believes it has the capacity to restore the supposed injury caused by the arrival of a child?

Lawyers and doctors should be very worried by this ruling. It suggests that the law of negligence is in deep trouble - at least in the ACT Court of Appeal. For reasons that have not been made public, the territory's top court has taken the law of negligence and stretched it to breaking point. The Court of Appeal has overturned a compelling decision by Justice Annabel Bennett, who is also a well-regarded judge of the Federal Court. Bennett had refused to give one dollar to the greedy women at the heart of this case. Bennett based her decision on a close analysis of the facts. She found that the obstetrician in question, Sydney Robert Armellin, had conducted himself reasonably. He had no breached his duty of care.

The mother in question, Ms G, received two embryos instead of one because of flawed communication in the system used by her fertility clinic. But Armellin, in Bennett's view, was not at fault. Here's why: Ms G had changed her mind about the number of embryos she wanted implanted. And she did so in the operating theatre after earlier signing documents agreeing to have ``one to two'' embryos implanted.

When Ms G told Armellin she wanted one embryo, the doctor believed this information was not new. He thought it had previously been conveyed to the clinicians who had prepared the implant. The doctor believed Ms G would have conveyed this information during the clinic's pre-surgery procedures. In fact, Ms G had failed to take part in those procedures. It is a great pity that the Court of Appeal has not yet explained why it believes Bennett and Armellin were wrong. When it does, it had better be good.

Unless the court has extremely compelling reasons, it looks as though the real victim here is the obstetrician. If this decision stands, the ACT has a choice: change the law or accept the fact that this branch of medicine will rarely be practised in the nation's capital.


'Don't call Qld cops in a hurry'

I know from my own experience that they quite often just don't come at all in response to calls

A NSW triple-zero [emergency] operator has accused his Queensland colleagues of providing a 'shocking' service after an attack victim's call went unanswered. The NSW operator recently received a call diverted from Queensland, where a woman said she was being assaulted.

In an email to the Queensland opposition, tabled in the Queensland parliament on Thursday, the operator said he listened to the panicked call for more than three minutes before it dropped out. He said he called the Queensland Police emergency call centre in Brisbane, but the phone rang for more than eight minutes without answer. "It is the running joke in our call centre that you wouldn't call Qld Police if you needed them in a hurry," he wrote. "This delay is also causing inconvenience for the rest of the nation when they call triple-zero as we are unable to answer their calls due to being on hold waiting for Qld Police to answer." He described the Queensland Police operators' service as "shocking" given that calls were supposed to be answered within four seconds.

Queensland Police Minister Judy Spence said the complaint would be investigated. "I have not had feedback from the police that there are particular problems with our triple-zero system. If they are feeling that then I encourage them to come and talk to me about it," Ms Spence told parliament.



Three reports below

Greenie shark madness in NSW

In the same week men were attacked by sharks in Woolloomooloo and Bondi Beach, the state Government banned NSW fishermen from catching them. Despite overwhelming evidence numbers are at record levels, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal the state's 25 shark hunters last week received a letter from the NSW Department of Primary Industries declaring the ban. The letter stated the restriction was being imposed because the State's annual shark quota had already been reached. Despite a frightening summer of shark attacks and sightings up and down the NSW coast, fishermen will now be prohibited from taking sharks until July 1.

In the past week, navy diver Able Seaman Paul de Gelder, 31, was mauled by a shark at Woolloomooloo at 7am on Wednesday and lost a hand, while Glen Orgias, 33, was attacked at Bondi on Thursday at 8pm. Both men were continuing their recovery from surgery at St Vincent's Hospital yesterday. Mr Orgias's right hand has been reattached after 10 hours of surgery.

Under new fishing restrictions imposed last year, NSW fisherman are limited to catching just 160 tonnes of shark a year. In Queensland, fishermen are allowed to take 3000 tonnes.

North Coast fisherman Bill Litchfield described the ban as ludicrous given the increasing numbers of sharks being sighted. "We consistently get around 100 a night; that's an average catch. So how many of the buggers are out there?" he said. "The largest we've caught was a 15-foot (4.6m) tiger shark just 200 yards (183m) from Evans Head Surf Club. My skipper took his kids out of nippers the next day."

Mr Litchfield said he had written numerous letters to State Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald requesting the quota be reviewed. Mr Macdonald said the shark quotas affected species that were not man-eaters - a claim disputed by fishermen who said it protected bull sharks, which are thought to be were responsible for last week's attacks. The ban also protects dangerous tiger sharks, bronze whalers, hammerheads and black tips.

Mr Macdonald said: "The quotas are based on sound scientific advice. Everyone needs to remember there are no 100 per cent guarantees when swimming in the ocean - sharks are a natural part of the ocean environment."

NSW fishermen also blame a 1995 restriction on salmon beach-hauling for booming shark numbers close to the coast. "The salmon swim close to shore and bring in the sharks," Mr Litchfield said. "I've seen white pointers chasing them at surfing beaches at Newcastle. It is only time before a surfer gets taken there - it is going to happen."

Bondi fisherman Udo Edlinger also blamed a rise in salmon numbers for a spike in shark sightings. "I wouldn't be swimming around Sydney during dawn or dusk at the moment," he said. Fishing websites and live angling blogs are full of shark sightings, close encounters and stories of the day's catch. Doonside fisherman Peter Brennan said he didn't know whether to laugh or cry when he saw a 4m shark steal the kingfish right off his line on Monday at Clifton Gardens, near Mosman.

Other sightings include Roseville Marina, Woolloomooloo Wharf and Saunders Wharf at Darling Harbour. Professional Sydney fisherman and guide Craig McGill said he's never seen as much shark activity in the harbour in his 25 years of fishing. He said he had noticed a gradual increase in shark numbers over the past five years. "I certainly wouldn't be swimming anywhere in Sydney Harbour (now) ... and I wouldn't be going to Balmoral," he said. Mr McGill identified other hotspots as Chowder Bay, Clontarf and Rushcutters Bay.

Opposition industry spokesman Duncan Gay called for the quota cap to be lifted immediately. "This is serious ... and needs a Minister who is engaged with his portfolio to make sure our waters are safe as possible." Shark-hunting can be a lucrative industry, with fisherman earning up to $600 per kill. The jaws go to WA where they are sold as souvenirs, heads to The Philippines, fins and tails to Asia, spinal cords to the cosmetic industry and the meat to fish and chip shops around Australia.


Warmist celebrates economic troubles

THE international economic downturn may result in a short-term benefit with a decrease in production leading to a slowing in the growth of greenhouse pollution, one of the Federal Government's top advisers has forecast. Ross Garnaut, who was commissioned by the Government to write a comprehensive report on climate change, said the rate of the increase of greenhouse gas emissions had already fallen."[The downturn] has for a time stopped the rapid growth in emissions of the early 21st century," Professor Garnaut told a conference in Cairns yesterday.

"Since mid-2008, emissions from the developed economies as a whole, and from China, have been falling."But, he said, the reprieve would not halt the rapid rise in greenhouse pollution predicted for the coming decades." The global financial crisis gives us a little breathing space, but mitigation of climate change remains urgent and of central importance," Professor Garnaut said.

He criticised the Federal Government's proposed emissions trading scheme, saying it was offering too much compensation to heavy polluting industries. The draft legislation establishing the scheme is expected later this month.


Kyoto treaty to cost Australia $870 million

Australia faces the prospect of paying an extra $870 million for greenhouse gas emissions after Kevin Rudd's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and a new UN target for carbon pollution. After a year-long review by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change committee, Australia has been given a tougher target to cut its greenhouse gas emissions. The UN has reduced the amount of greenhouse gas emissions Australia is allowed to produce by 6.6 million tonnes ayear. If Australia is above the carbon emissions target at the end of 2012, it will be required tomake up any shortfall by buying carbon credits from other nations.

Continuing growth in carbon emissions in Australia and the new target have led leading global carbon market analyst Point Carbon to estimate a potential extra cost to taxpayers of $870 million in carbon credits in 2012. "The revision could force Australia to purchase over 30million assigned amount units (AAUs) more than expected, which could cost up to some $870 million, unless it can achieve further emission cuts domestically," Point Carbon's latest Australian emissions report says. The report adds that the credits Australia would buy are left over from the economic restructuring of former Soviet satellites after the fall of the Berlin Wall and hold "little or no environmental integrity".

The UN's reduction of 6.6million tonnes annually in Australia's emissions comes as the Department of Climate Change predicts that greenhouse gas emissions figures for 2007, to be released soon, will rise 9million tonnes above the levels of 2006. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong confirmed last night that the UN target had changed but remained confident Australia could meet it in 2012. "Our current projections, released last December, show we are on track to meet our Kyoto target, so there is no projected shortfall," Senator Wong said last night.

The Government is finalising an emissions trading scheme that is due to begin next year. The moves come as the global financial crisis puts extra cost pressures on industry, creating turmoil in world carbon markets and prompting claims that European polluters are abusing emissions trading schemes to raise quick finance. The price of carbon in the European ETS has crashed to a record low in the past two weeks - down from E30 ($59) a tonne to E10 - as heavy carbon polluters sold more than E1 billion worth of carbon credits to raise finance for their businesses.

European cement producers and electricity generators have unloaded carbon credits they do not need because economic growth has crashed. The Rudd Government's updated forecasts estimate Australian industry will have to pay $23.5billion for carbon emission permits in the first two years of the ETS. Point Carbon last week estimated the recession sparked by the financial crisis would cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 500 million tonnes


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