Friday, June 05, 2009

One lot of fussy women competing with another lot of fussy women?

Single girls beware: if you think finding love in Melbourne is tough, get set for even stiffer competition. Victorian tourism bosses are luring man-hungry Sydney women here to poach some of our best single blokes. Ten eligible bachelors have volunteered to hook up with NSW women as part of the internet marketing push.

Tourism Victoria hopes that arranging romantic dates for eight prominent Sydney women and two competition winners will encourage a flood of others to head south. But some solo Melbourne women are livid at the turf invasion, especially during a perceived "man drought".

Businesswoman Sarah Case [above] said the NSW women should "back off". "I think it's totally unfair. They should stay in their own state," said the founder. "We have enough trouble finding good men down here without someone else stealing them all."

The Tourism Victoria campaign is doing the rounds on YouTube and Twitter, and has a dedicated website and blog. Ms Case said she was alarmed some of her taxes might have gone to financing it.

Campaign spokeswoman Belinda Aucott said it was understandable Melbourne women would bristle at competition. "In the end, these men are single, they haven't been snapped up," she said.

Film production company owner Matt Hopper said a mate had dobbed him in as one of the 10 eligible singles. "I find Melbourne women can be hard to meet: introspective and introverted. Sydney women are much more assertive," he said. Creative director Jase McDonald admitted there were plenty of sassy Melbourne women to choose from, though he hadn't found Ms Right yet. "Maybe I'm just being a bit too fussy," he said.

Campaign match-maker Emma-Kate Dobbin said she had already received a flood of entries from Sydney women


Steve Fielding wavers on climate change

Family First senator Steve Fielding, whose vote could be critical to the Rudd Government's emissions trading system, yesterday heard warnings of dire economic consequences if carbon trading schemes were introduced.

Wisconsin Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner told a climate change conference in Washington attended by Senator Fielding that electricity bills would double or triple under US cap-and-trade legislation. And he denounced the climate change movement as simply transferring wealth to developing countries.

Mr Sensenbrenner said that without China and India signing any climate change legislation, it would be foolish for the US or any other country to take the lead, arguing that capping emissions in the US would allow other countries to take an advantage.

"What we are seeing is the Third World using the collective guilt of the First World to have a massive transfer of wealth to help them fund their development," he told more than 300 delegates at the climate conference held by a US free-market thinktank called

Mr Sensenbrenner was in China last week with Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and said he was discouraged. "What we heard from our Chinese interlocutors consistently is that they would never sign a treaty that mandates an emissions cut. They said they would do it their own way," he said. He said China would go its own way regardless of what was negotiated at the Copenhagen environmental summit in December. "If China and India stay out of it, we should stay out of it," Mr Sensenbrenner said.

Delegates heard from a number of scientists questioning whether man-made activity could influence the global climate, with keynote addresses citing solar flare activity rather than greenhouse gas emissions as a reason for global warming.

While climate change advocates challenge these claims, Senator Fielding said the arguments presented yesterday were giving him pause to reflect on the entire debate over climate change.

"I'm not sure we should be signing anything before Copenhagen," he said after listening to Mr Sensenbrenner. "If it's true climate change is driven more by solar changes, then I have to consider if (climate change legislation) is worth doing."


Unions putting ALP into reverse

THE Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, chose the first day of the Australian Council of Trade Unions congress in Brisbane to announce her plan to sell commercial government assets to address the state's difficult financial position. The irony of the choice will not be lost on Labor historians. Bligh's timing was no doubt accidental, however it exposed the fundamental institutional dilemma Labor faces. The unions may play a useful role for Labor in opposition but they are a destabilising liability in government.

The ACTU had assembled its 500 delegates to bask in the glory of its new-found relevance following the defeat of the government of John Howard. Having achieved the elimination of Work Choices and a substantial re-regulation of the Labor market in the Fair Work Australia Act, the ACTU had expected the congress to cement its self-appointed role as defenders of Australian workers and its delusion that it has a monopoly on Labor's industrial relations policy.

True, the Rudd Government's pandering to the ACTU policy priorities in developing the Fair Work Act has fed the ACTU's industrial megalomania. The speeches to congress by ACTU president Jeff Lawrence and ACTU secretary Sharan Burrow showed clearly how out of touch the union movement has become with the challenges facing the Australian economy. Both speeches were full of the overblown self-congratulation that was expected at the first congress after the defeat of the Howard government. Burrow claimed, for example, that "Your Rights at Work was the most successful union and community campaign in Australia's history".

Lawrence, not satisfied with the victory against the Howard government, reminded delegates that the fight had to continue on a global scale. According to Lawrence "workers' rights have been watered down, deregulated and attacked in countries all over the world". With such grand ambitions you could be forgiven for forgetting the Australian trade unions are in almost terminal decline.

Unions scarcely exist in the private sector and rely on the expansion of public sector employment in key growth areas such as health and education to maintain any new membership. These areas, because of the public sector's long-standing cultural unionisation, grow almost naturally independent of the direct activities of unions.

The biggest decline in private sector union density occurred before the election of the Howard government due to structural change in the economy associated with the rise of service industries.

This is why Bligh's announcement is being greeted with howls of anger from the union movement. Once these government businesses are transferred to the private sector the union movement will have to work to maintain its members.

Bligh's announcement might seem radical to the ACTU, but in many ways it is Queensland playing catch-up with other states. Burrow's claim that there has never been a successful privatisation of railways anywhere in the world is based on ignorance. Queensland Rail's freight and coal businesses have been a long-standing anachronism. NSW sold its freight and coal businesses many years ago and they have operated successfully in the private sector. Queensland Rail is risking Queensland taxpayers' funds moving coal in the Hunter Valley of NSW. This just doesn't make sense, particularly at a time when the Queensland Government is struggling to fund its ambitious infrastructure program.

Burrow's imprudent intervention in Bligh's sensible strategy to renew Queensland's economic infrastructure shows how opportunistic and irresponsible the ACTU has become. The ACTU under Bill Kelty's leadership during the Hawke-Keating years tried to engage with Labor governments to manage structural change in a manner that enhanced long-term employment security for Australian workers.

One of the principal reasons Australia has fared so well during recent periods of economic uncertainty, such as the Asian financial crisis and the present global financial difficulties, is because of the Hawke-Keating reforms, largely supported by the then leadership of the ACTU, which opened the Australian economy.

This week's positive trade and national accounts figures show how important that liberalisation was.

The fact that Trade Minister, Simon Crean, a past president of the ACTU, had to commission a study to convince primarily ACTU delegates that trade liberalisation has improved the living standards of Australian workers highlights the decline in economic understanding in the union movement.

The ACTU resolution on the global financial crisis is full of language that reflects a throwback to the class warfare of yesteryear. Unfortunately, much of that language resembles the simplistic framework cobbled together by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in his The Monthly piece. The resolution claims that the "economic model of letting markets rip" is responsible for "mass privatisation, irresponsible tax cuts, deregulation of financial markets and, most relevant to us, the unwinding of our industrial relations system".

Colourful language aside, the problem with this resolution, of course, is that all this happened under a Labor government that was in partnership with the ACTU.

Yes, even the much disparaged industrial deregulation. On this issue, the ACTU has finally acknowledged what critics have been saying: that is, the present Fair Work Australia arrangements represent a re-regulation of the labour market that go further than just unwinding Work Choices.

Lawrence in his address publicly let the cat out of the bag, claiming that the new industrial laws "go a fair way to improve on the 1993/94 Brereton reforms". He identified two areas in which he claimed the Brereton reforms were deficient: "They gave workers no enforceable right to collectively bargain" and "the only way workers could set wages and conditions over and above the award was through enterprise bargaining."

In reversing aspects of the Hawke-Keating reforms, the Rudd Government has left itself open to the further demands we are now seeing from the ACTU to reverse other key aspects of labour market reform. The ACTU has indicated that it would challenge Rudd and Labor's national conference to introduce further industrial regulation including facilitating industry-wide bargaining. This would completely destroy enterprise bargaining.

Labor governments cannot govern in the public interest when emboldened unions use their gerrymander within Labor's internal administrative structures to overturn good public policy to maintain the special interest privileges of the trade union movement. If Bligh fails in her attempt to reform Queensland's finances, she can, to a large degree, thank Rudd for his shortsighted empowerment of the union movement.


Paralysed stroke victim 'cured' with botox

An Australian stroke victim who has been paralysed for more than two decades can walk again after being injected with botox. Russel McPhee, from Gippsland, Victoria was a fit, healthy meat worker who played football, cricket and basketball when, at the age of 26, he collapsed suddenly at work. When he woke in hospital he was told he had suffered a devastating stroke and that he would never walk again. "I felt my life had ended," he told The Times. "I lost my job, my wife left me, I ended up with nothing."

Today, Mr McPhee, 49, can walk almost unaided for up to 20 metres and can cover 100 metres with a walking frame. "I thought I would die in my wheelchair,” he said. “My life has started all over again. "I have seen people cry when they realise I’m standing beside my chair. Tough men, blokes I went to school with and played sport with, weep when they see me.”

His dramatic improvement came after treatment with botox, or botulinum toxin injections at the St John of God rehabilitation centre in Nepean, Victoria. Just one month after his first injection, he was able to stand up and walk a few yards, with a helper on either side. Now he can walk the length of a room with only a guiding hand on his arm.

Botox is an accepted treatment for the type of paralysis commonly associated with strokes - it was used to treat muscle spasm years before it was adopted by the cosmetics crowd. But patients usually show the best effects if they are treated soon after a stroke. Such a dramatic improvement after so long is almost unheard of.

Mr McPhee’s doctor, rehabilition specialist Dr Nathan Johns said botox on its own would not have worked without Mr McPhee's own extraordinary strength of will. "When he came to us the spasticity in his muscles had not been treated for 20 years so it was very strong,” said Dr Johns. "Usually giving a patient botulinum toxin relieves the stiffness by relaxing the muscle, but it also weakens the muscle which means the patient would not regain much mobility. "But Russell had unusually good muscle power despite the fact that he’d been in a wheelchair for so long.”

Crucially, Mr McPhee had repeatedly, over the years, attempted to get out of his wheelchair and stand on his own. He was not successful, managing at most a few seconds on his feet before he collapsed. “Often I would lie on the floor for hours, just hoping that someone might drop by so they could pick me up again," he said. Those repeated, heart-breaking attempts to stand built up a core muscle strength on which his doctors and physiotherapists were able to work.

Dr Johns said; "We injected the botulinum toxin directly into his muscles 18 months ago. After 10 days the muscles started to relax and in 12 weeks, as the botulinum toxin took effect and he started intensive physiotherapy, we saw a marked improvement."

Russell's journey to mobility came when he was re-united with a childhood sweetheart, Kerry Crossley, who determined to help him walk again. Ms Crossley was referred to Dr Johns who was, said Mr McPhee: "The first person to give me hope. "Dr Johns took one look at me and said; ‘Botox will fix you up'. Twenty years ago I had been told I might not even live but here he was saying he could help me walk. It was a very emotional moment. Suddenly I had a chance. "The first time I was able to walk was amazing. My son was only a few months old when I had the stroke and I have always wanted to show him that I could walk like other dads."

Dr Johns said: "He is the best example we have of such significant gains after treatment with botulinum toxin. Other patients have shown improvement, but they were already ambulant.”

Professor John Olver, one of Australia's top stroke experts, said Mr McPhee's recovery after so long in a wheelchair was "highly unusual but quite feasible." Professor Olver, the Medical Director of Epworth Rehabilitation in Victoria said: "We use botulinum toxin routinely for patients with spacticity which has been caused by stroke, brain damage or heart disease. “But we use it very early on, usually within weeks of a stroke, to prevent the spasticity from becoming a problem. "After stroke muscles tend to become very stiff or spastic which can prevent movement. "Sometimes the spasticity is so severe we inject those muscles with botulinum toxin, which relaxes the muscles enough to allow a physiotherapist to strengthen and stretch them. "It is unfortunate that this patient had to wait for 20 years and extremely unusual that his treatment was so successful after being immobile for so long. But he's very fortunate that his muscles are strong enough to allow him to be able to walk."

Mr McPhee is now planning to get rid of his walking frame altogether. "I want to go dancing with Kerry and play basketball with my son," he said.


No comments: