Tuesday, April 14, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG comments on the ever-rising popularity of Ruddman, the bringer of debt

Federal government wants under-fives taught to be politically correct

BABIES, toddlers and preschoolers across the country are set to become political activists under controversial new Federal Government guidelines. The April 2009 draft Early Years Learning Framework wants teachers to make under-fives:

* Contribute in a meaningful way to reconciliation, including flying the Aboriginal flag and inviting elders to give talks.

* Use "social inclusion puppets" and "persona dolls" to explore exclusion and ethical issues.

* Challenge and resist bias and discrimination.

* Take action in unfair situations and learn to act when injustice occurs.

* Assess and act on power dynamics as they get older.

The political emphasis of the guidelines has divided early learning experts. Some, such as leading Melbourne educational consultant Kathy Walker, have questioned the merits of such issues being "rammed down the throats" of two, three and four-year olds. "Although I welcome the emphasis on play-based learning, there is an air of political correctness about the document overall," she said.

Others, such as Kindergarten Parents Victoria CEO Meredith Carter, believe it is merely an attempt to "include and welcome all families to join in preschool and kinder". "It's not as if children will be harmed for life by this focus on difference and commonality," she said.

Under the $700,000 new approach to early childhood education, the goal will be to "promote children's civic participation and nurture socially responsible citizens for a future world," a Federal Government February 2009 briefing paper states. "The early childhood years are a time when children are developing understandings of community and citizenship and learning about democracy and the rights and responsibilities of citizens," it says.

There is also a strong emphasis on caring for the environment and reconciliation. The briefing paper notes that "such a society values Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures as a core part of the nation's history, present and future" and stresses this as a key tenet of early childhood education.

Less controversially, the guidelines also focus strongly on play-based learning, the importance of communication and language, the role of the family in children's lives, and social and emotional development.

But psychologist, author and speaker Evelyn Field questioned the need for role modelling using puppets and dolls, instead preferring teachers "keep it simple through encouraging children to play together".

Melbourne clinical psychologist Andrew Fuller agreed the emphasis should be on children playing and learning through play. "If we overwhelm children with a sense of broader issues, we could make them anxious and confused," he said.

Welcoming the guidelines, Association for Children with a Disability CEO Elizabeth McGarry said the key was not to highlight negative differences between children, but positively promote diversity.

Community Childcare executive director Barbara Romeril also welcomed the focus on equity and getting children to challenge discrimination and disadvantage. "Children are already dealing with these issues," she said.

If adopted, the Department of Education guidelines would cover all kinders, childcare centres and other early childhood settings, and would provide the basis for the education and care of all Australian preschoolers.

The guidelines have just been tested in 29 settings, including a range of childcare centres. Online consultation is still taking place. They are due to be implemented in July.


The Qld. police version of an "apology"

The police brass "were happy with the actions the police took" (!!) Some apology

QUEENSLAND police have apologised to an 18-year-old man who was handcuffed after officers thought his steering wheel lock was a gun. While Chad Hastings accepted the apology yesterday, he expressed disappointment it did not come directly from the officers involved. The Zillmere teen said he received a phone call about 4pm yesterday from a senior constable in charge of the officers who handcuffed him. "He was apologising on behalf of the police commissioner," he said.

"He said they were happy with the actions the police took but they apologised for the way they handled it in the end.

"Sorry on the spot would have healed things better, instead of going through all this. I think the only reason they said sorry is because the media got involved." Mr Hastings said he would have preferred a visit from the officers involved. "It was just a phone call and not even from the people who did it, so I'm not really happy," he said. "But it's not the end of the world, I'll get over it."

Earlier in the day, Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson had promised to apologise to Mr Hastings if an investigation found the officers were in the wrong.

Mr Hastings was stopped for a routine random breath test on Milton Rd on his way to work about 5am on Thursday. While one officer breath-tested him, another checked his Nissan Skyline. Mr Hastings was then ordered to get out of the car and sit on the footpath while the officer demanded to know why there was a gun in the vehicle. Mr Hastings explained that he had no gun in his vehicle and police eventually realised what they thought was a weapon was Mr Hasting's partially-obscured steering wheel lock.

Police late yesterday said the officer involved had acted with caution by removing Mr Hastings from the car and calling for assistance. Mr Atkinson said after reviewing the incident it would be determined if additional training or policy issues needed to be addressed. [A directive to "open your eyes" might do it]


Stupid pennypinching by Federal Left

F*ck country people, seems to be the message. Rudd to cut out remote and regional doctors' bonuses -- amid a flood of money squandered elsewhere

THE Rudd Government will take a scalpel to doctors' bonuses in a move medicos say will spark an exodus from regional and remote communities. The Government has described the current system of rewarding doctors in regional and remote areas as "broken". About 700 doctors in regional and remote Queensland have been paid $32.6 million in incentives under the Rural Retention Program, which started in 1991.

Across the country, $171.5 million has been paid to almost 3600 doctors who were eligible under the plan because they billed Medicare at least $4000 a quarter and worked in those areas between one and six years. More than half of Queensland is classified as the most remote, earning doctors who work in those areas up to $25,000 in bonuses each year. Working in the North Queensland tourist destination of Port Douglas earns doctors $5000 a year, practising in Mount Isa gives them $15,000 and in Charleville they get $25,000.

The medical profession says axing bonus payments will adversely affect the health of remote communities. Australian Medical Association national president Rosanna Capolingua and Rural Doctors Association president Nola Maxfield have lodged separate budget submissions calling for more money to attract people to the bush.

Dr Maxfield, who has submitted a $300 million proposal to give more loading to doctors on a scale of "remoteness", said the Government should scrap schemes that did not work, but must replace them with other programs. "It costs more to run your practice (in the bush) ... it (incentives) definitely gets doctors out there," Dr Maxfield said. "I don't think people in rural communities should be the ones taking the full brunt (of any changes). "Across Australia 43 per cent of doctors in rural and remote areas are international medical graduates. Australian-trained doctors do not want to go to rural practice."

A spokesman for Health Minister Nicola Roxon said he would not "engage in speculation ahead of the May Budget". He said incentives programs would be reformed. "The current incentive system is broken. The previous Liberal government relied on antiquated population figures from 1991," he said.

Dr Capolingua said bush doctors needed more relief and locums should also be paid incentives. She said doctors deserved support in tough locations.


Energy industry warns of blackouts

CONSUMERS face possible blackouts and power stations could go broke unless the Rudd Government offers an extra $6billion worth of free permits under its planned emissions trading scheme, the energy sector has warned.

If the extra assistance is not forthcoming, the sector, responsible for about 70 per cent of Australia's carbon emissions, will ask the Government for a Rudd Bank-style financing facility to help raise the capital.

A survey by the Energy Supply Association of Australia has found the sector will need to find $100 billion over the next five years for refinancing, essential upgrades and new investments in low-emission generation to comply with the emissions trading scheme and new renewable energy targets.

The industry says it is facing a "perfect storm" of a credit squeeze caused by the financial crisis and the Rudd Government's bank guarantee, inadequate compensation under the carbon pollution reduction scheme, and a decision by the Australian Energy Regulator that could reduce the profitability of energy network providers.

The Government has offered the electricity industry $3.9billion in free pollution permits to compensate for the "most probable and most extreme" writedowns in power station asset values because of the carbon pollution reduction scheme - an acknowledgement that the scheme will cause upheaval in the sector as it shuts down some high-polluting power plants early and invests in new low-polluting generation.

The ESAA said this amount must be increased to at least $10billion, to be delivered over the first five years of the scheme.

"If the Government does not increase the level of compensation, we will have no choice but to go to them asking for another finance facility for our sector," association chief executive Clare Savage said.

"What is at stake here is the future of the energy market. If nothing is done, power stations are likely to be bankrupted, and if they closed, then there would be problems with electricity supply, or more likely governments would have to step in to take them over, and that would unravel the last 10 years' hard work to set up a national electricity market."

An ESAA survey found the energy sector would need to find $50billion for refinancing over the next five years, $6.3 billion for planned spending on existing assets, $12 billion for new lower-emission generation and $31billion for investments in the electricity networks.

The sector needs to fight for access to that capital in a market where banks and state governments have received federal government guarantees and where the carbon pollution reduction scheme means asset values are being written down.

The $40 billion energy distribution industry is facing a large reduction in its returns if the Australian Energy Regulator confirms a recent draft decision at the same time as it is being asked to fund billions of dollars in new network investments as the industry shifts to new types of generation.

According to the Energy Networks Association, the draft decision would reduce returns to the industry by more than 10 per cent.

"When you combine the effects of these decisions with the debt guarantees being offered to other sectors, it is tantamount to tying one hand behind the industry's back while it fights for capital in the midst of a global financial crisis," Ms Savage said.

"To help ensure these assets remain in service to support the transition to lower-emission technologies and give new investors in the energy supply sector confidence that when the Government institutes major policy change that has the potential to strand long-lived infrastructure assets, the value of these assets must be adequately recognised."

The Government says the revenue it will raise from auctioning permits under the carbon pollution reduction scheme is already fully allocated in compensation to industry and households, meaning any increase in compensation to one sector would require taking something away from another.


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