Friday, May 29, 2009

A warning about online computer and electronics retailer OzDirect

Report from a customer

I ordered a video camera from Ozdirect on 17/03/09. It was listed as 'in stock' and the website seemed to indicate that it would ship 48 hours after funds cleared and take 24 hours by courier to reach me. I paid an additional $20 (percentage of total) to use my credit card and thus speed up funds clearing. They debited my credit card in 10 minutes flat. After a week of waiting I started to enquire where my order was. They were slow to reply and then said there were delays in the warehouse. Another week went, by...more emails...nothing changes...another week goes by...more emails...nothing changes...I start to get angry, and they finally (after 3 weeks waiting) offer the option of cancelling the order and getting a refund...It takes another week of emails to get a response. 10 days later no refund... now they tell me it can take 30 days to refund money! They have had $600+ of my money for over 5 weeks now and I have nothing to show for it.

I lodge a complaint with NSW Office of Fair Trading...a week later they tell me they can get no response from Ozdirect, so there is nothing further they can do!! In 12 years of shopping online this is the worst experience I have ever had! Nothing else even comes close. For displaying absolute contempt for customers, Ozdirect are in a league of their own!

SOURCE. See also here

Australian immigration unlikely for Tamil Sri Lankans

Given that Tamils tend to be a very aggressive lot, this is a welcome decision. Perhaps even the Leftists of the Australian government saw that violent clashes in Australia (some of which we have already seen) between Tamils and Sinhalese were best avoided

Australian immigration officials has spoken out at media reports the country will be welcoming Tamil Sri Lankans displaced by recent violence to move to Australia. The news follows reports in Australia and Sri Lanka of an Australian immigration humanitarian program that while not wholly inaccurate, ‘may have unnecessarily raised some people’s expectations’.

"The target of Australia’s humanitarian program is those applicants who are outside their home country and who are subject to persecution or substantial discrimination in their home country,” said a Department of Immigration and Citizenship spokesman.

The developments concerning Sri Lankans wanting to move to Australia has been defended by Australian immigration authorities who are keen to emphasize the views of the Australian public and consulting with refugee organisations and the UN are priorities when considering any humanitarian program.

"While applications for Australia’s humanitarian program may be lodged at the Australian High Commission in Colombo, the large majority of people who apply from within their home country will be disappointed with the outcome.

“The immediate humanitarian priority for the international community, including Australia, is to support the population in north-east Sri Lanka displaced by the conflict by helping to provide food and shelter and other assistance to stabilise living conditions.”


"Green" Labor party trading Australia's future away with very poor politics

Piers Akerman

CLIMATE Change Minister Penny Wong says the Federal Government is determined “to keep, continue to press forward” on emissions trading legislation because “it is the right thing to do”.

No, it is the Wong thing to do.

Of all the useless things the Rudd Labor Government has proposed - and we could cite many - the ETS is the most dangerous and damaging to Australia. Yet an ETS would not alter the climate. That Wong is flying the flag for this meaningless gesture and is prepared to sacrifice the jobs of Australians to this empty goal is the height of vanity politics. Both the Government and the Opposition claim they want to give “business” certainty so it can plan for the future. They should think of their other constituents.

The “business” community has no natural national interest. It has shown time and time again, through companies like Bonds or James Hardie, that it is prepared to take jobs offshore if the bottom line is at stake. Their responsibility is to shareholders, not citizens. Strip away business arguments and the proposed ETS legislation is exposed as futile. It won’t affect the Great Barrier Reef, as Kevin Rudd claimed. Or put more water in the Murray-Darling or change the weather.

The Government’s claim that the Great Barrier Reef would be saved if Australians sacrificed the equivalent of $1-a-day is an absolute nonsense. Every MP who spouts this bilge should have their mouths rinsed out with untreated effluent and be charged with false advertising. It is just not true.

What it will do is take jobs away from the mining sector at the very time Australians are looking to the miners to rebuild the economy. It will drive energy-intensive industries offshore to developing nations.

The legislation is based on the assumption that human activity is a major factor in climate change. This remains unproven and contentious, although the Rudd Government does not want to engage in this debate. Instead, it has put forward a model for an ETS that is among the most ambitious in the world. It would require that 70 per cent of carbon permits be purchased. By comparison, the US is looking to have 15 per cent of permits purchased and the European model calls for 4 per cent of permits to be purchased. It can only be concluded from proposing such a fanciful target that the Rudd Government wants to grab the international spotlight when it goes to the Copenhagen summit at the end of this year.

But the assumptions behind the Rudd Government scheme only get worse, as it is based on the hope that the US would sign up to an equivalent scheme next year, China by 2015 and India by 2020. As Opposition spokesman on emissions trading Andrew Robb has said repeatedly, none of this is remotely possible.

Rudd and his ministers are trying to nail the Opposition for deferring this ridiculous legislation but it is the Labor Government which should be put through the wringer. Labor has been so delinquent in its role to present reasonable policy that it has not even factored the impact of the global financial crisis into its climate change proposal.

An analysis leaked from the NSW Government revealed all major regional centres - the Hunter, Gladstone, Central West Queensland, Illawarra, the Kimberley, Whyalla, Port Pirie, Geelong, Gippsland and parts of Tasmania - would shrink by 20 per cent or more under the scheme. Who do they really think they are kidding with their phony protestations of good governance and concern for the future? The flaws in the scheme are obvious. It is the greatest threat facing our economic recovery, and it is coming from Canberra.


Rudd is an unpleasant person in private

There have been statements to that effect ever since his time in the Queensland bureaucracy but below is the latest episode. He sent his former chief foreign policy adviser to the diplomatic equivalent of Siberia and now nobody else wants the job

ONE of the most prestigious diplomatic jobs in Australia - foreign policy mandarin in the Prime Minister's Department - has been vacant for months because no one approached so far is willing to take the post, which involves working closely with Kevin Rudd. The Prime Minister's office confirmed last night the vacancy - first assistant secretary in the international division of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet - had been filled in an acting capacity since the departure of Hugh Borrowman, the diplomat Mr Rudd vetoed as next ambassador to Germany.

The Australian understands two senior Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade bureaucrats had rejected approaches to replace Mr Borrowman.

Nominated earlier for the top job in Berlin by Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, Mr Borrowman was vetoed by Mr Rudd on the grounds the diplomat - a university classmate - lacked the necessary language skills.

A former senior foreign affairs official with a close knowledge of the post told The Australian nobody of any seniority wanted the job because of Mr Rudd's micro-management. "They've offered that job to several senior diplomats, all of whom have rejected it. "They have offered that position to two people now, senior people in DFAT, and both of them rejected it on the grounds they weren't going to work in that environment. "Both of them said they would not take what is one of the most prestigious jobs in Australian diplomacy because they didn't want to have anything to do with Rudd."

Yesterday, Mr Smith played down damaging claims of a rift between himself and Mr Rudd over the appointment. "There's no dispute as far as the Government is concerned," he told ABC radio. "The recommendations I make in terms of our ambassadorial appointments are to the governor-general and Executive Council. "I've made a number of points about this in recent days. "Firstly, I don't get into pros and cons of various potential candidates for ambassadorial positions."

Mr Smith's predecessor, Alexander Downer, Australia's longest-serving foreign minister, was more forthcoming. In an interview with The Australian yesterday, Mr Downer said that, unlike Mr Smith, he experienced no problems with his diplomatic recommendations after they were given to John Howard. "I usually made about 10 appointments at once," the former foreign minister said. "I didn't do them one at a time so they'd be done in blocks. "I'd write to the prime minister informing that I had appointed the following people. Now, if he had any objection, he would ring me up, but did he ever? "He basically left the appointments to me. Now there is an exception for the ambassadors to Washington, the high commissioner in London or our ambassador in Jakarta, the prime minister and I would have a chat about it."

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said she would raise the issue in question time today.

Mr Rudd's claims on Tuesday that he rejected Mr Borrowman's credentials for the Berlin post because of inadequate language skills was contrary to a statement five days earlier from Mr Smith singling out his proficiency in German, Swedish and Mandarin, Ms Bishop said.


Reading syllabus hijacked by fringe groups as basics ignored

THE nation's most respected remedial reading experts have criticised the National Curriculum Board for caving in to the demands of a fringe group of university academics and teachers who argue against a back-to-basics emphasis on phonics in teaching reading. The board, which is charged with writing the national guidelines on teaching from kindergarten to Year 12, has been accused of ignoring key players in drafting its latest advice on the shape of the proposed new English curriculum.

Researchers have told federal Education Minister Julia Gillard that the board, headed by chairman Barry McGaw, has failed to consider recommendations of the national inquiry into teaching literacy, which insists that the "explicit and systematic" teaching of the letter-sound relationships is required to learn to read.

The letter to Ms Gillard accuses professional associations representing English teachers and literacy educators of hijacking the national curriculum to remove the emphasis on the teaching of phonics as the essential first step in learning to read. The 20-plus signatories also say no recognised reading researcher or infant-years expert was consulted when the board produced the framing paper.

Among those unhappy with the position of the curriculum board - which will frame a national approach to English, maths, science and history teaching for all students by next year - are the researchers who sparked the national reading inquiry in 2004, including the Macquarie University group that developed the MULTILIT program being used with great success in indigenous communities.

The reading experts say they were locked out of the consultation process and no recognised expert was consulted "despite written requests, which included the names and contact details of recognised reading researchers".

"Any individual who can read themselves can claim to be a reading researcher, but the term 'recognised' reading researcher refers to those academics who have undertaken evidence-based research in the area of learning to read and write and how these skills are best taught," they say.

The letter says the teacher professional associations - the Australian Association for the Teaching of English, the Australian Literacy Educators Association and the Primary English Teachers Association - do not represent classroom teachers but are controlled by academics in university education faculties with little experience in teaching children to read.

All three organisations are members of the international Whole Language Umbrella group of reading and literacy associations run out of the US. "(They) have very limited membership among classroom teachers," the letter says. "According to their own published annual general reports, these associations are better known to politicians and the media than to classroom teachers and their membership base amongst classroom teachers is so low that their existence is threatened. "Executive positions on these associations are mostly held by academics from schools and faculties of education or by individuals with no expertise in basic research on learning to read and write and how these skills are best taught."

National Curriculum Board general manage Rob Randall defended the draft curriculum, saying the the research and findings of the national inquiry into teaching reading would be evident in the curriculum, which was yet to be written.

The framing paper was written by Sydney University education professor Peter Freebody, whose appointment was criticised for his association with the whole-language approach to teaching reading, which holds that phonics are not always necessary in learning to read.

The initial advice paper on English released by the curriculum board last October contains a half-page discussion about the teaching of reading in the early years of school under the subheading "beginnings and basics".

"The explicit and systematic teaching of sound-script correspondences is important, and not just for students who are in their first year or so of schooling, or for whom English is not a first language," it says.

"The explicit teaching of decoding, grammar, spelling and other aspects of the basic codes of written English will be an important and routine aspect of the national English curriculum. It should be planned, put into practice and consolidated as part of a program in English education, and it should be available to students throughout the school years."

In final advice to the curriculum writers released at the beginning of the month, reading is mentioned in the general context of literacy referring to "reading, writing, speaking, viewing and listening effectively in a range of contexts". "Many students when learning to read need systematic attention to fundamentals like phonological and phonemic awareness, and sound-letter correspondences as well as the development of skills in using semantic and syntactic clues to make meaning," the paper says.

The reading researchers argue the reference to the need to develop skills in using semantic and syntactic clues, such as the syntax of the sentence and the picture on the page, "invites confusion" and could be read as supporting the "debunked three-cueing system which confuses the skills needed for reading/decoding and the skills needed for comprehension".

The letter was sent to Ms Gillard and Professor McGaw, with copies to Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne, NCB director of operations Rose Naughton, Professor Freebody and the NSW representative on the NCB, Tom Alegounaris, who is the newly appointed president of the NSW Board of Studies.


There is some accountability in government health systems after all

Nurse fired over baby left at Airport, though it seems that the aircraft pilot was also partly to blame. Any repercussions for him? None that we know of

A NURSE has been sacked and another has resigned over leaving a five-day-old baby with a stranger at regional airport in South Australia. In January, The Advertiser revealed the two nurses were suspended after they left the premature baby with a young woman at the Port Augusta Airport instead of delivering him to the hospital. The baby's father, Shahzad Hassan, said at the time that it had happened on Christmas Eve because the nurse was "in a hurry" to get back to Adelaide.

The baby, Rayaan, was left for about 10 minutes before hospital staff arrived. He was born six weeks early, which put him at risk of a range of complications and he had been sent home to Port Augusta by plane with the nurse while his parents drove.

The Government Investigation Unit confirmed last night that the nurse had resigned, while her superior – who gave her permission to leave the baby and return to Adelaide – was dismissed.

Child, Youth and Women's Health Service chief executive Gail Mondy said the staff had failed to follow proper procedures for the transfer of a baby, putting it at risk, and that they had apologised to the parents.

"We've taken steps to learn from this serious incident," she said. "We have apologised to the baby's parents and we very much regret that on this occasion the two staff involved failed to follow the hospital's and the Department of Health's patient-transfer procedures, which are designed to protect patients' safety and wellbeing."

When the plane landed in Port Augusta at about 7.40am, there was no one to meet the nurse accompanying the baby and the pilot told the nurse he needed to return to Adelaide immediately. The nurse became upset, at which point a young woman – believed to be a teacher – offered to mind the baby.

Mr Hassan said he welcomed the resolution of the case. "I can't really say anything else," he said. "I can only say that they did what they thought was right." Asked whether he was upset at the five months it took to finalise the case, he said: "I think they had to make sure of what they were doing."


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