Friday, July 03, 2009


Two reports below

Nothing works with blacks -- and now Rudd knows it

Australian government policies towards Aborigines have oscillated between extreme paternalism and extreme permissiveness but nothing brings black behaviour up to a standard that whites regard as acceptable. Policy is now reduced to "data collection"! Blacks were actually at their healthiest and least self-damaging when they were living on missions run by the churches but there is never any official admission of that, of course. Some of us are old enough to remember those times, however, so we know. More detail on the report below here

The Prime Minister has admitted Australia hasn't got a clue about what's happening in its indigenous communities. Following the release of the Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage report yesterday, Kevin Rudd says there's simply not enough statistical information to give governments a clear indication of what's happening.

More than two years since the Howard government announced its intervention into remote Northern Territory communities, the Productivity Commission report has found a worsening in child abuse among indigenous children. It's also found there's been no improvements in 80 per cent of the economic and social indicators, including literacy and numeracy.

So for the first time in Australian history, the states and territories have signed up to accountable targets.

The report was released at yesterday's COAG meeting in Darwin, during which Mr Rudd pledged more than $46 million over four years to improve data collection. The intervention in indigenous communities should be extended to Western Australia, the Opposition says. Closing the gap would take decades but extending the Northern Territory intervention - initiated by the previous Howard government - would help, said deputy Opposition leader Julie Bishop. "I would like to see the intervention moved into Western Australia," she told ABC Television. [If it hasn't worked in one place, why transfer it elsewhere???]

The Labor Government has continued the [paternalist] intervention, which includes grog and pornography bans, extra policing, health checks and quarantining welfare payments.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is in Kununurra in northern WA today, where he is expected to sign off on a $200 million local development package the Government says will help improve the lives of indigenous people.


Deaf black kids

The problems are normally treatable but the parents just don't take them to hospital -- so the hospital has to come to them

TEACHERS at a primary school a few hundred kilometres northwest of Brisbane wear microphones in the classroom because so many of the children have hearing problems. Up to 90 per cent of Cherbourg State School students have some form of treatable hearing loss because of chronic ear infections.

The issue is a challenge in indigenous communities across the country where overcrowded living conditions can foster the spread of disease, a situation Brisbane surgeon Chris Perry says is a "national disgrace". "It's a shame on the country that this is allowed to continue," he said. "If people don't hear, then they don't get an education. They leave school at 14 with the reading age of somebody in grade one or grade two and they're unemployable."

As The Courier-Mail reported on Monday, a surgical team visited Cherbourg last week, setting up a makeshift theatre to deal with some of the ear complaints.

Cherbourg State School's head of special needs, Vanessa Boal, said ear disease was a factor in truancy rates and misbehaviour. "Kids with significant hearing problems experience fatigue a lot quicker than other kids, struggling to get through the day, struggling to understand, struggling to communicate," she said. "Kids who aren't caught early enough in the long term have language developmental delays. If they don't succeed in the early years at school, we can't bring bring them back from the brink. "There's just not enough magic wands in the world to fix kids if we lose them at that early stage."

Queensland Health's Deadly Ears Program aims to cut the rate of ear disease among indigenous children, taking treatment normally performed in Brisbane or provincial centres to rural and remote communities. It was under this program that Dr Perry and his team went to Cherbourg. Nurse unit manager Anette Smith doubled as truck driver, transporting 340kg of surgical equipment from Brisbane to Cherbourg. She said the program relied on indigenous health workers screening local children for hearing problems and on parents taking responsibility for their children's health.

Although the program is still in its infancy, Ms Boal said the early signs were positive. "The fact that we now can do the minor surgeries here is just phenomenal," she said. "We've got better attendances from kids that we know have had ear issues. "Previously we would have lost those kids."

Ms Boel said tests on more than 100 children at Cherbourg had found 89 per cent had hearing issues.

Without the Deadly Ears Program, Dr Perry said many indigenous children would miss out on surgery, with the trip to Brisbane too onerous and expensive for carers. He wants the Federal Government to expand the program nationally. "Queensland Health deserves a pat on the back for this" he said. "They're doing something groundbreaking. But we need more money."



Three posts below

Greenie people-hate on display again

MILLIONS of dollars worth of luxury waterfront homes at Byron Bay will be demolished in the name of climate change following a council decision to enshrine "planned retreat" in law. The radical step to block homeowners protecting their property from rising sea levels was contained in a coastal planning policy released by the Greens-run Byron Bay Council yesterday. It would be the first time in NSW that the idea of planned retreat - where nature is allowed to take its course - will be imposed on existing dwellings under state law. And it means that, once gazetted by the State Government, any house under threat of erosion can be legally demolished.

NSW Environment Minister Carmel Tebbutt, under threat in her own seat of Marrickville from the NSW Greens, has refused to intervene. She said it was up to residents to lobby the council.

Some of the country's rich and famous face losing their homes to rising sea levels, including former actor, now recluse, John Cornell. The council has prevented them building rock walls to help protect their beachfront homes from storm surges. They will now proceed with legal action against the council, claiming they have been denied the basic right of being able to protect their homes. The local business chamber has written to Premier Nathan Rees calling for State Government intervention to stop what they described as "lunacy".

Local business group Byron United president Ed Ahern said the actions of the local council were "alarming". "The State Government needs to intervene in these matters and take over responsibility," he said. "We urgently request that the Government intervenes in this important matter." He said landowners had been prevented from protecting their properties and the issue was now the subject of a formal complaint to the NSW Ombudsman.

Byron Bay Mayor Jan Barham, of the Greens, has defended the move, previously claiming planned retreat had been a policy in Byron Bay since the 1980s. Ms Barham, who is reported to be considering a move to the NSW Upper House, did not return a request to be interviewed. However, she has said that wealthy residents who built their homes along the beach were always aware of the erosion issue.

Ms Tebbutt said the NSW Government would continue to encourage Byron Shire Council to take a practical and reasonable approach when dealing with the affected landowners. "Our draft policy allows landowners affected by coastal hazards, including sea level rise, to seek approval from their local council to protect their property," she said. [In other words: "Get lost"]


Greenie delusions

A solar power station that will generate power 24 hours a day? Really?? I must be missing something. The moon must be VERY bright in South Australia

WHYALLA's 301 days of annual sunshine will be driving the world's first solar power station, producing electricity 24 hours a day by this time next year.

The $15 million plant will again put South Australia's regional areas at the forefront of sustainable and emission-free energy production. It will also address the problem of finding an emission-free electricity source capable of providing a base-load, or 24-hour, power supply, which is a necessity for the world to combat climate change.

Construction of the solar-thermal power plant, Whyalla Solar Oasis, began last week. It will initially comprise four "Big Dishes" while the technology is demonstrated, generating power for up to 1000 homes. The long-term plan is for 600 dishes to be built, each 500sq m in area, in a 2km by 1km area at the city's northern entrance. The expanded plant is expected to generate about 130 gigawatts of power a year, enough for 19,000 average homes and preventing 129,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions being produced – equal to that generated by 36,000 cars each year.

Whyalla Council deputy mayor Eddie Hughes said it was "incredibly exciting" for work to start after 12 years of planning and 30 years of research by the Australian National University.


Business baulks at extra green tape

A PUSH to force state governments and local councils to refer development proposals with a large carbon footprint to the federal government for approval has alarmed business groups, who claim it could stall economic recovery. The proposal is contained in the interim report of a review of the federal Environment Protection Act, released this week. Green groups have proposed adding greenhouse gas emissions to the seven triggers that require any proposed development to be referred to the federal environment minister.

The panel reviewing the act, chaired by former ANU chancellor Alan Hawke, rejects the idea of a permanent trigger, but says such a mechanism could be introduced as an interim measure until the onset of a national emissions trading scheme, now not anticipated until 2011 at the earliest. "If there is to be a delay in effective establishment of the carbon pollution reduction scheme, then there is a much stronger case for introduction of a greenhouse gas trigger to drive down emissions in the interim period," the report says.

The potential for significant projects to be tied up in an extra layer of bureaucracy would appear to flow counter to yesterday's push at the Council of Australian Governments to develop national performance measures on development approvals designed to speed economic recovery.

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia's Brendan Lyon said the interim report was a cause for concern on several fronts because it could risk further unnecessary delay to critical infrastructure projects. "Climate change is an important consideration and infrastructure will play a major role in equipping Australia to cut reductions, while sustaining living standards and economic productivity," Mr Lyon said. "But the mechanism for carbon abatement should be through an emissions trading scheme backed by a price on carbon. "Australia's economy will adapt best through the phasing in of a robust price for greenhouse gas emissions, rather than through adding an additional layer of complexity and potential delays in approval processes."

The present seven triggers in the act, covering actions by government or private enterprise with "a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance", have not significantly affected major developments. But the trigger for endangered species caused a stoush recently between the NSW and federal governments after federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett temporarily halted logging in a NSW state forest out of concern for declining numbers of superb parrots.

John Sheahan from the Australian Property Institute said the key point about a greenhouse trigger would be its design, given such a move would represent "the most significant intrusion ever" by the commonwealth into land use. "Some projects might end up spending many months in that office in Canberra waiting to be assessed," he said. Mr Sheahan said the innate conservatism of local councils would mean Mr Garrett's office could be flooded with referred applications it did not have the resources to deal with.

Aaron Gadiel from developers' lobby Urban Taskforce said an extension of the Environment Protection Act was "the last thing the Australian economy needs right now".


New Vegemite put to the taste test

Now THIS is important news. Like most Australians, I am never without Vegemite in the house. I had to laugh at the comment in red, though. That is a LOT of Vegemite to eat

For more than 85 years Australia has been a nation of happy little Vegemites but now there's a new version of the iconic breakfast spread. Mixing the salty taste of traditional Vegemite with milk, butter and cream cheese, it is being marketed as a snacking spread or dip.

Great grandson of the inventor of Vegemite Cyril P Callister, Jamie Callister said during today's sample release at Toowong the new Vegemite should be judged on its merits and not compared to the breakfast table favourite. "I think with this one it's probably going to have a wider appeal - it's not as sharp a taste and it might appeal to more people," Mr Callister said. "Traditionally with Vegemite you either love it or you hate it... I think this might cover a bit more of the in-between ground."

Most shoppers who tried the new spread said they were keen on the new taste but there weren't many who said they would consider switching from the original. "I do like it, it's got a slight after taste but it is smoother and creamier than the original," Sandy Mckevitt from Springwood said. "I'm a Vegemite freak so I don't think I would (switch)."

Fellow shopper Gary Rendshaw said: "It's quite nice, it's like old Vegemite but with a quieter taste." "I think I'll switch to the new one but I'll still keep the old one... I buy the two kilogram buckets of it and they last me about two months."

But outside the centre Lisa Cunningham and her daughter Lilly from Bardon were thoroughly unimpressed with the new product, saying it would not feature in their household. "It's terrible. It is too sweet and I like the saltiness of the original Vegemite. It tastes like they've put some sort of sweetness in it to lessen the taste of the original Vegemite taste," Mrs Cunningham said. Lilly said she would not be recommending the new spread to her friends at school. "Normally I like my Vegemite not too thick on toast... I don't really like the new stuff," she said.

Kraft Foods Australia/New Zealand has said in a statement there are no plans to remove traditional Vegemite from the stands and it will continue to be manufactured in Australia. The new flavour of Vegemite will be available in supermarkets across Australia from July 6.


OK. I've got no taste and know nothing about fashion but this is just a busy mess

It grieves me to see Australia so absurdly represented. I would have hoped for something a lot simpler. How about a flowing silk or satin gown in sky blue to reflect the wonderful blue skies we usually have?

PERTH fashion designer-to-the-stars Ruth Tarvydas has unveiled the dress that Australia's Miss Universe Rachael Finch will wear at the contest. There wasn't a corkscrew hat in sight as Rachael Finch unveiled the national costume she will wear when she takes on beauties from around the world at the international pageant in the Bahamas next month.

Instead there was glamour, sequins and the pre-requisite knicker-flashing that seems to come with wearing an evening gown by top WA designer Ruth Tarvydas, the woman behind Rebecca Twigley's headline-grabbing red carpet moment at the Brownlows in 2004, and Jessica Bratich's spotlight stealing arrival at the Allan Border Medal Count in February.

But the dress has attracted criticism, with average Aussies are worried it looks more like something from Las Vegas. The outfit, to be seen by a global TV audience of two billion, was derided in online forums for looking like it came from the Priscilla: Queen of the Desert musical, some calling it "hideous" and "tacky" and saying she looks like "a walking icy pole"....

Top Perth model Nicole McKendry provided window dressing, spending the night posing beautifully in the window in a peacock-blue Tarvydas gown. More glamour came in the form of the seven Miss Universe Australia WA finalists who put on a catwalk show of Tarvydas' new summer collection.

The range contained the designer's trademark sexy dresses, long and short, in colours from purple to black, cream and red. The show was slinky dresses, sequins, feathers and frizzy hair.

Finch, the star of the night, arrived in a luxury red sports car and handled the red carpet and press like a pro.

The unveiling of the national costume in Perth was probably the worst-kept secret in the city yesterday. It was also a change on previous plans, which had the dress being unveiled in Melbourne next month.


Pommy twit

Why did they give the job to a Pom? I can't imagine that any Australian would have been unaware that it was Hayman Island. It is a very well-known resort in Australia -- long popular as a honeymoon destination

BARRIER Reef caretaker Ben Southall was made to look a right twit on Twitter after he misspelt the island he is promoting. On his second day at work on Hayman Island Englishman Ben Southall renamed the tropical island 'Hayward' in his Twitter post, reports the Courier Mail. In his Twitter message he referred to "leaving the chefs table and chocolate room on Hayward Island after a stunning gastronomic presentation".

The mistake was later corrected but not before being picked up by a few keen-eyed Twitter followers. Anthony Dever, on social networking site twocents, posted: "Looks like it was a wayward first day at the office for Best Job in the World winner Ben Southall. "Luckily for Ben and Tourism Queensland, an hour and a half later Hayman Island staff or maybe the advertising agency involved with the 'Best Job' campaign alerted him to his mistake and the original Hayward Island reference was replaced with Hayman Island…

"After an exhaustive search that involved 36,648 applicants wanting to report their adventures on the Great Barrier Reef to a global audience, you'd hope the key selection criteria included knowing the names of where he is enjoying our state's hospitality.

Mr Southall, 34, an events organiser from Hampshire, in southern England, took over a luxury Hamilton Island villa on July 1 for a six-month $150,000 job that will see him roam the Great Barrier Reef as an in-house online ambassador for Tourism.


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