Wednesday, June 03, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is trying to sell some merchandise connected with Susan Boyle, the Scottish singing sensation

$330m for maintenance of sub-standard subs

This is typical of Australian defence equipment procurement -- vastly incompetent and vastly expensive. Only one out of 6 subs actually working. Instead of buying proven equipment "off the shelf", they buy dreams -- dreams which don't work

IN WHAT must rate as the world's most expensive vehicle-maintenance contract, taxpayers will stump up $330 million this year just to keep the navy's trouble-plagued Collins Class submarines fit for war. The amount represents the most expensive single maintenance contract ever undertaken by Defence. It is just behind the $476m it will spend on fuel and lubricants for Australia's thousands of military vehicles, aircraft and ships.

Taxpayers will also outlay $354 million for one year's supply of bombs, missiles and bullets. The contract is with the Adelaide-based builder of the subs, ASC. The cost includes $200 million for repairs and maintenance (defects, design changes, rescue systems), $70 million to maintain the combat system and another $60 million for spares, batteries and external sensors.

Just one of the six Collins Class vessels, HMAS Farncomb, is fit to go to war today and the second deployable boat, HMAS Waller, is tied up in WA with battery problems. A third, HMAS Collins, is alongside permanently in WA for training. Three others, Sheehan, Rankin and Dechaineux, are undergoing deep maintenance out of the water at ASC.

Taxpayers have shelled out $10 billion for work on the boats since the first ones were built in the mid-'90s. Sources say ASC has pushed for even more cash to keep them going.


The notorious DOCS yet again

They seem to be beyond reform: This time a DOCS bungle led to teen being cared for by a sex offender

A TEENAGER was sexually abused after the Department of Community Services placed him with an offender without bothering to wait for a police check. Mark Robinson has spoken out to reveal the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of Patrick James Anderson, 45, who was his carer for a month before the check came back and revealed his dark past. Anderson was convicted in Port Macquarie Local Court in March of aggravated indecency with a victim under his authority and committing an act of indecency with a person 16 or over, charges relating to Mr Robinson.

DOCS was told of the problem in June 2007 but police were only alerted the following year.

In May 2007, DOCS contracted a private company, Life Without Barriers, to care for him in a house at Port Macquarie. Now 18, Mr Robinson yesterday said DOCS had been totally negligent, with Anderson's abuse robbing him of trust in men and capping off a horror upbringing. He was taken into DOCS' care when he was four following the death of his mother. His father is incapacitated in a nursing home.

Following the sexual abuse in care, which included being pinched on the bottom and his carer exposing his genitals to him, Mr Robinson said he became homeless and has lost all dreams for his future. "I don't like other men any more, that is for sure. Then I was homeless and living on the street for a year. When I moved into (the house with Anderson) I didn't have a drug and alcohol problem and now I do," Mr Robinson said yesterday. After leaving Anderson's house, he lived in his car and mowed lawns before a Port Macquarie woman offered him a room.

Life Without Barriers admitted yesterday they had a staff shortage and put Anderson to work before his police check returned a red flag four weeks into his employment. Police only found out about the sexual abuse in 2008. A Life Without Barriers spokeswoman declined to reveal the contents of Anderson's police check, citing privacy laws.

DOCS was yesterday attempting to distance itself from Mr Robinson's case but Life Without Barriers confirmed it had been contracted by the department to provide the boy's care. A DOCS spokeswoman explained the stunning lapse by blaming Life Without Barriers, saying it was up to private companies to seek police checks on their workers. DOCS later conceded it should have done more to help. "At the time the report was made, DOCS focused on supporting the young person," the spokeswoman said. "This should have included assisting him to make a report to the police. Regrettably this did not happen until some time later."


"Green" bureaucrats victimizing blacks

A $15 MILLION Howard government project to enable Aboriginal people on Cape York to build their own homes has been stalled for more than two years because the Queensland Government is insisting that trees in the vast unpopulated region cannot be cleared. The delay has become so serious that Hopevale's Mayor, Greg McLean, will be without a home in six months because he has to give back the one he is renting to his sister, who is returning to the community from Cairns where she has had to live to receive thrice-weekly dialysis treatment for kidney failure. But with a dialysis machine now being installed at nearby Cooktown hospital, she can return to her home and get her treatment there.

Mr McLean and his wife, Joan, expected the freehold home development project in Hopevale would have proceeded and they would have purchased their own home, but not a blade of grass has been cut on the 200ha block. Howard government indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough gained approval for the development in March 2007 and $15million was provided to cover the infrastructure costs - surveying, roads, sewage, water and electricity, with Indigenous Business Australia as the lead agency handling the proposal and managing the funding.

The Queensland Government ordered an environmental study of the block owned in freehold title by the Hopevale Council, which bought it several decades ago from a cattle grazier whose family had owned it for more than a century. The state Government has told Hopevale that because the block is forest country, it cannot be cleared unless the council provides a similar area of cleared country for revegetation. However, so little of the 110,000ha of land owned under native title by Hopevale people has ever been cleared that there is no such block available - so a bureaucratic green tape deadlock has been reached and no work done.

Hopevale has a severe housing shortage with 1700 residents crammed into 224 homes. No new homes have been built for three years, and because of land tenure disputes with the Government, all the homes must be rented and nobody can buy one and own it.

Mr McLean yesterday said that home ownership by indigenous people should be more than just a dream. "I have this week had to complete a tenancy agreement to try to get a rental home here, but there are none available," Mr McLean said. "My wife and I had the reasonable expectation that this housing estate known as Miller's Block would be developed with the money that Mal Brough got for Hopevale, but that has not happened."

Mr Brough, who is no longer in parliament, yesterday said it was appalling that the project had been allowed to stall through government ineptitude and bureaucratic bungling. "Enabling Aboriginal and Islander people to own their own homes and provide for their families is something that is pivotal to getting rid of welfare dependency and giving them pride and dignity," he said.

"This was a farm for more than 100 years - it is not pristine rainforest. It is unbelievable that government bungling has stalled this project and the money that the Howard government provided is sitting in a bank account somewhere. We have the temerity to demand that indigenous people get their act together, but the fact is, as is shown in this case, it is the Government that cannot get its act together.

"You just cannot keep doing this to people - building them up and then putting artificial barriers in front of them. What does the Government really want from these people? Do they want them to live in sub-standard conditions or are we actually going to do something about it, as distinct from just continuing to talk and wring our hands?"


Free public medicine struggling; Australia headed towards user-pays system

And the proposed solution? A bigger bureaucracy! It would be funny if it weren't so serious

THE Australian system of free universal healthcare is set to disappear in as little as five years, prompting a radical plan for a new federal-state partnership to take control of hospitals and patient care. It comes amid a push by the Australian Medical Association for hospital specialists to treat patients only four days a week, potentially placing further pressure on a system already hamstrung by work restrictions among emergency physicians.

In a startling warning, NSW Health director-general Debora Piccone has told The Daily Telegraph that Australia is hurtling towards a US-style user-pays system due to an ageing population and out of control costs. "We are really on the edge of losing the universal healthcare system that this country has," she said. "I would have (previously) said we'd had 10 years to run. It's now looking like we've got five years to run because the cost escalations are so significant and we haven't prepared ourselves."

Under the US system there is no free health care. Even an employer-subsidised insurance premium costs more than $3000 a year and if you are uninsured you are likely to have to pay several thousand dollars deposit just to be admitted to a hospital.

Professor Piccone and Health Minister John Della Bosca are now working on a plan to pool all state and federal health funding and have it redistributed by a joint partnership between the two governments. The $13.2 billion state hospital budget - set to grow into almost $50 billion by 2025 - would be integrated with Commonwealth funding towards Medicare, the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and aged care and jointly administered so as to slash red tape and eliminate overlap.

Mr Della Bosca said the overhaul - the biggest since universal health care was introduced under Gough Whitlam - would deliver "a single mandate" of patient care. "We need a new governance model which takes the massive pool of funds available," he said. "We need to find a forum to co-ordinate that more effectively and you can only see that as some kind of joint commonwealth-state operation. "I know the next step is right there and we've got to take it."


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