Friday, April 17, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is alarmed about the proposals to teach political correctness in kindergartens

Killer government phone operators have been "counselled"

They should be charged with murder. Not one out of the three bitches behaved responsibly and a young man died as a result. He could have been saved if any of them had taken their lifesaving job seriously. But what can you expect of government bureaucrats? Their wimpy boss even knew what they were like but no action was taken. The kid could have called almost anyone else and got better treatment. Calling the official emergency number was his big mistake. The number 000 is the Australian equivalent of America's 911. There are similar problems with 911 operators in the USA

The last thing David Iredale would have expected when he called triple-0 was sarcasm. But that's what the Sydney schoolboy received during frantic calls for help when he became lost while bushwalking in the Blue Mountains. "OK, so you have just wandered into the middle of nowhere, is that what you're saying?" was one operator's response. "There's no need to yell," was another's.

The officer in charge of the Redfern call centre of the NSW Ambulance Service yesterday admitted there were serious deficiencies in the way the 17-year-old was dealt with when he made five calls to the ambulance service about midday on December 11, 2006. Superintendent Peter Payne told an inquest into David Iredale's death that uncaring, sarcastic and dismissive attitudes among phone operators had been a "disease" within the organisation.

David and two school friends were on the second day of a three-day walk in the Blue Mountains when, severely dehydrated, he became separated from the others.

The court heard a major failure of all calls was that relevant information David provided about his whereabouts was not recorded or passed on to police rescuers. The operators had been "fixated" on asking for a street address because it was in accordance with their training and the steps they were to follow within the computer program. "One particular call, the last call we received from Mr Iredale, the calltaker's demeanour appeared quite uncaring, not responsive to information received and the distress that was evident from the caller," Superintendent Payne said.

"Do you agree that there is no room ever for sarcasm with triple-0 operators?" counsel assisting the inquest, Jeremy Gormly, asked him. "I do," Superintendent Payne replied. He agreed the behaviour of three operators was worthy of an internal investigation and possible action. Two operators had been "counselled" about their behaviour. Superintendent Payne agreed one operator's mind was "not on the job" when she asked David where to send the ambulance after he repeatedly told her he was in the bush.

"I take it the Iredales can rest as easy as they possibly can, given the circumstances, that the NSW Ambulance Service will alter its training problems … in order to more usefully gain information from … people who find themselves in non-urban areas such as David?" counsel for the Iredale family, Michael Fordham, asked. "Yes, we will," Superintendent Payne replied.

The inquest heard that two of the operators were involved in a similar case in November 2007, where they continually asked for a street address of a caller who had had a boating accident [And who was marooned on an island without streets].

Despite this, and changes made days ago to how operators respond to calls from remote areas, the inquest heard there were still no direct guidelines on questions to help locate callers who did not have a street address.


Kevin Rudd's policies prove harsh for illegal immigrants

JOHN Howard was called cruel for his Pacific Solution. But at least no one died. At least three boat people now dead. So how much "kinder" do Kevin Rudd's policies seem now? John Howard was supposed to be the cruel one, said Labor. It was Howard when Prime Minister who put in the Pacific Solution, whisking illegal boat people to Nauru, rather than land them here. Too harsh, said Kevin Rudd, and scrapped it.

It was Howard who cut the legal circus that allowed illegal immigrants to play the system for years, until we gave up trying to deport them. Too harsh, said Rudd, and laid on lawyers.

It was Howard who cut the lure of benefits and then imposed on illegal immigrants the imminent threat of return. Too harsh, said Rudd, and scrapped the Temporary Protection Visas, giving all illegal immigrants - including well-heeled ones fleeing no particular danger - instant access to permanent residency with all the tempting benefits and rights.

Too harsh, said Rudd. And enlightened opinion cheered. Now we were nice. Really? So how nice is it to have now lured at least three people to their deaths? To have not one child overboard - oh, what a confected scandal that was - but a whole boatload of 49? Yes, indeed. This is a "people overboard" scandal, but for real this time. The Rudd Government tried at first to deny and dodge, but West Australian Premier Colin Barnett let the mangy cat out of the bag - Defence sources had told him the explosion was caused when the boat people spread petrol around their vessel, clearly to prevent being turned away.

Here's now what critics of "cruel" Howard so conveniently and willfully forgot or overlooked. Howard's "cruel" policies saved lives. While Rudd's "kind" ones now kill.

Howard stopped the illegal people smuggling almost instantly from the introduction in 2001 of his Pacific Solution. Boat arrivals went from 54 in 2000-01 to none in 2002-03. There was only one boat arrival in the two years after that, and just three in the year before Rudd's election. But now? The boat that blew up yesterday was the sixth to arrive this year - and the fourth in just a fortnight. It's also the 13th since September, when the Rudd Government announced its latest measures to soften our treatment of refugees. This short year already, we've had 276 boat people arrive, compared with just 179 in all of last year.

But it wasn't just the illegal immigrants that Howard stopped - people rich enough to pay perhaps $10,000 a head to get here, and choosy enough to pass through several safe countries before settling on ours. Howard also stopped the deaths - the drowning at sea of people drawn to our wealth, peace and too-easy welcome. Hundreds had died before he acted, most notoriously in the foundering of the SIEV X just off Indonesia's coast. A whole conspiracy over that sinking was built that falsely suggested Howard had blood on his hands, refusing to let the navy rescue the drowning. The Melbourne Theatre Company even commissioned a play showing a character clearly meant to be Treasurer Peter Costello letting the SIEV X passengers drown.

But if politicians must be blamed for boat people dying, then blame Rudd rather than Howard. It's still unfair, yes, but far, far more justified. Rudd and his ministers have tried to insist the sudden rise in arrivals has nothing to do with them going soft. It's Afghans fleeing a country gone bad, they claim, as if Afghanistan hasn't been a basket case for years. But Steve Cook, chief of mission for the International Organisation for Migration in Indonesia, had warned already in December: "People smugglers have clearly noted that there has been a change in policy and they're testing the envelope. "Up until about a year ago there was very little people-smuggling activity. Over the last year there's been a considerable up-kick. There are rumours of a lot of organising going on."

And it was already clear that tragedy was just one boat away. As I wrote at the time: "Howard's 'inhuman' policies stopped not just the people smugglers but the deaths at sea. If some of these boats lured here by Kevin Rudd now sink, how truly 'kinder' is he?" Ask the moralisers now.

But good news. Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus at last admitted yesterday that laws against people smuggling must be toughened, after all. But here's the sick joke. It's Indonesia's laws that are too soft, he claims, not our own. "We are in negotiation . . . and have been for some time with the Indonesians," he burbled. "We are hopeful that they will change a number of their laws, particularly the laws that affect people smuggling directly."

A farce. Pardon if Kevin Andrews, the former Howard Government Immigration Minister so reviled as vicious by Labor and the media, now allows himself a smile. "Labor's response shows how different it is to govern than criticise," he said yesterday. And how different is seeming good from actually achieving it.


No privacy under socialism

Patient files demanded from doctors

THE Rudd Government will demand patients' intimate medical records - from past infectious diseases to current medications - under a plan to catch doctors defrauding Medicare. Doctors will be forced to hand over the patient medical files to prove they have performed the services they have claimed in a move the Government says will save taxpayers about $148 million over four years.

The plan immediately sparked warnings about the dangers of providing bureaucrats with highly sensitive personal information. But while the draft legislation - which was released on the eve of the Easter long weekend - was condemned by the Australian Medical Association and the Australian Privacy Foundation, the Government yesterday argued it was needed to ensure the sustainability of Medicare.

AMA president Rosanna Capolingua warned that patients would not be honest with their doctors if they knew their records could be seized. "The patient record will be completely exposed, extracts obtained, copied, retained and potentially submitted in court for all to see," Dr Capolingua said. "Doctors will be compelled to hand over highly sensitive medical information to justify Medicare claims, potentially including a patient's intimate concerns and examination findings, their test results, weight, sexual health, infections - nothing is protected."

The Health Insurance Amendment (Compliance) Bill 2009 also allows the Government to fine health professionals who make incorrect claims of more than $2500.

A Senate inquiry will be held into the legislation. Human Services Minister Joe Ludwig said yesterday only authorised Medicare staff would be able to view "relevant" extracts within doctors' files, and information would be stored securely and then destroyed after the audit process. [In Britain, bureaucrats LOSE similar information roughly once a month -- exposing it to anyone who finds it. How would you like your medical details left on a train for anyone to pick up and read? That's what the British experience is. Does anybody seriously think that our bureaucrats are more careful?]


Climate plan hits mines

A CONFIDENTIAL industry briefing to Federal MPs warned at least two NSW coal mines would close under planned climate change laws. Mining giant Xstrata Australia's chairman Peter Coates said the Emissions Trading Scheme would make some mines unprofitable and cut new investment. His warnings, regarded as extremely sensitive in the industry, added to concerns the Government's ETS, to start in July 2010, would cost thousands of jobs.

They were revealed ahead of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's bid to downplay the fears by launching a "think tank" on cleaning up the coal industry. Mr Rudd will today open the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute in Canberra, to examine ways to reduce and divert emissions.

In briefings in recent weeks in his role as Minerals Council of Australia climate change committee chairman, Mr Coates gave two case studies - an Illawarra mine and one in the Hunter. He said that the Illawarra mine produced 1.5 million tonnes a year of gassy coking coal, costing an extra $27 million a year to buy a permit for its carbon emissions under the ETS. The Hunter mine's 1.8 million tonnes a year of gassy thermal coal would add $39 million to its costs. Mr Coates' study found both mines and others will close, leading to 5000 to 10,000 job losses in the coal industry nationally.

He did not identify the mines and Xstrata does not have an Illawarra operation. An Xstrata spokesman yesterday told The Daily Telegraph the company would not name mines that might be threatened because it would alarm workers, saying only that "marginal, gassy mines" would be most at risk.


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