Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Eat-your-greens fight a lost cause

George Bush Senior became a hero to little boys everywhere when he banned broccoli from all his dinners and said: "I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli"

CHILDREN really do hate their vegies and parents are apparently hopeless at doing anything about it. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's snapshot of Australian children released today shows the level of disdain children have for their greens. The report, A Picture of Australian Children 2009, citing a 2007 nutrition survey, says: "Only a very small proportion of children met the recommendations for daily serves of vegetables (excluding potatoes) - 3 per cent of 4- to 8-year-olds and 2 per cent of 9- to 13-year-olds. "Even with the inclusion of potatoes, the proportions remained low (22 per cent and 14per cent respectively).

National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines recommend one serve of fruit and two serves of vegetables a day for children aged four to seven, one serve of fruit and three serves of vegetables for those eight to 11, and three serves of fruit and four serves of vegetables for ages 12 to 18. A serve is about half a cup.

The report's author, Deanna Eldridge from the AIHW's Children Youth and Families unit, said vegetable consumption was a key concern related to children's health and wellbeing. "This is a crucial figure to highlight, because this is occurring at a time when young bodies are growing and developing," she said.

Accredited practising dietician Kate Di Prima said that however hard parents might find it to get children to eat vegetables, they must persist. "Parents find it very difficult to encourage children to eat green vegetables and fruit," Ms Di Prima said. "They are happy to eat dairy foods and soft pastas and rice, but when it comes to chewing something with more than a bland taste, parents battle."

The prime concern about low levels of vegetable consumption was the lack of fibre in children's diets and the health consequences that flowed on, such as constipation, she said. Ms Di Prima said she advised parents to start small and build up. "Put a bit of carrot and a bit of broccoli on the plate," she said. "Or grate some zucchini and put it in with the pasta. This will put some balance in their diet. It's better than nothing." Don't cave in if a child is not co-operating, she said. Let them go to bed without eating anything rather than take the easy option and fill them up with some milk or yoghurt.

Parramatta mother Alexis Henderson said she improvised to make sure her five-year-old son, Brooklyn, ate enough vegetables. "You can mash them up, hide them, you can cook a cake with pumpkin in it, or make corn muffins," Ms Henderson said. She said Brooklyn did pretty well at home, but getting him to eat vegetables at school lunch was tricky. "It's hard when most other kids are bringing chips and Nutella sandwiches and all sorts of unhealthy things."


Senate votes down Rudd Bank over executive pay caps

I rarely agree with the Greens but some limit on the pay of executives who have run their companies so badly that they need a taxpayer bailout does seem reasonable

THE Government's proposed commercial property bailout fund was last night voted down in the Senate by the Coalition and the Greens in a move the Government said could jeopardise thousands of construction jobs. The Government refused a Greens' demand to put a $1 million cap on the salaries of the banking and property executives whose companies would have benefited from Rudd Bank, reports The Australian.

The Rudd Bank was to have operated as "lender of last resort" for commercial property developers, with an initial capital injection of $4 billion -- $2bn from government coffers and $2bn from the big banks, who were also to have had seats on its board.

Greens leader Bob Brown said it was average citizens who ended up paying the executive salaries that the Prime Minister had labelled "extreme" but that the government was now refusing to limit. "It seems the Prime Minister is backing down from his strong words about executive salaries," Senator Brown said. He said the US and Germany had attached salary limitations to similar bailout funds.

But Assistant Treasurer Nick Sherry said the Government could not agree to the Greens' demands because it would create "legal uncertainties" for executives' employment contracts and was not in line with what had been done overseas.

Wayne Swan said the defeat of the government initiative was "yet more evidence of Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey putting their own selfish interests ahead of the jobs ... and the livelihoods of many thousands of Australians tied up in the commercial property sector, including plumbers, electricians and carpenters".

Ahmed Fahour, the interim chief executive of the Rudd Bank, said it was "extremely disappointing that the opposition and the Greens have voted against this sensible policy designed to protect the Australian economy and Australian jobs threatened by the global recession". "I am sorry for any companies and their employees who through no fault of their own have been dealt very harshly by opposition to this legislation."

The property sector was dismayed at Rudd Bank's demise. "It is extremely disappointing since in the end, the sticking point was not something to do with ABIP itself, but the issue of executive salaries, which is being dealt with by the government in other ways," said Property Council chief executive Peter Verwer.


Ice shelves stable over at least the last six years

Yes. Bits of ice do break off and always have but there is no increase in it happening

ANTARCTIC ice shelves are showing no sign of climate change, six years of unique research have shown. Scientists from Western Australia's Curtin University of Technology are using acoustic sensors developed to support the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty to listen for the sound of icebergs breaking away from the giant ice sheets of the south pole. "More than six years of observation has not revealed any significant climatic trends," CUT associate professor Alexander Gavrilov said yesterday.

Professor Gavrilov and PhD student Binghui Li are investigating whether it is possible to detect and monitor significant changes in the disintegration rate of the Antarctic ice shelf by monitoring the noise of ice breaking. The pair are using two acoustic stations, one 150km off Cape Leeuwin, the southwest tip of WA, and another off the gigantic US military base on Diego Garcia in the Chagos Archipelago, in the Indian Ocean. "They are part of a network of underwater acoustic receivers, or hydrophones," Dr Gavrilov told The Australian yesterday.

The stations have been used to locate nuclear explosions detonated by India.

More than 100 signals from Antarctica are detected weekly by the Cape Leeuwin station. They are then transmitted to Geoscience Australia in Canberra. "Six years of results is not long in the scheme of things, so we will keep watching," Dr Gavrilov said. The pair will present their research at a conference in Europe later this month.


Your "stimulus" money at work again

AN undercover playground with concrete floors and no doors costs $1.8 million under the Rudd Government's schools stimulus funding, the State Opposition says. And it says that's just one example of how schools are being ripped off. Other documents obtained by The Courier-Mail showed Mulgildie State School west of Bundaberg received $250,000 to build a basic 60sq m shed, after receiving a $29,000 quote from a local shed builder for a similar structure.

Opposition education spokesman Bruce Flegg said many Queensland schools believed they were being short-changed by ill-suited and overpriced buildings under the Building the Education Revolution funding. Guidelines for BER funding stipulate schools must use a design template but Dr Flegg said this was forcing principals to accept the one size fits all model or risk missing out on the money.

Beechmont State School in the Gold Coast hinterland has received $2 million in BER funding, $100,000 of which will be used for a library extension and the rest for a multi-purpose hall. Beechmont Hall Committee treasurer Greg McKenzie said that, before the funding was announced, it had costed plans for a $1.8 million, 800sq m school and community hall, which included a sports facility, kitchen, stage, and toilet. Instead under the BER funding, builders had told the committee the same amount of money would buy a smaller, concrete-floored, undercover play area, with no doors and a toilet in a separate building.

Mr McKenzie said the committee had based its original costings and feasibility study on an almost identical hall at Moorooka State School. "With no tender process, the school was never going to get a good deal," he said. "We believe we are getting a building worth half the value we should be getting." He said the building contractor, Northbuild, was from Brisbane's north, which also meant no local jobs would be created.

Dr Flegg said many schools had also expressed concerns that they had little say over the position of new buildings. "Privately most schools will tell you they are being railroaded and they fear that if they say they don't think it's the most suitable project, that they'll get nothing," he said.

Queensland Association of State School Principals president Norm Hart said principals had expressed concerns "their voices are not being heard".

An Education Queensland spokeswoman said consultation was occurring with schools within shortened timeframes to achieve the objective of stimulating the economy and creating jobs.


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