Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Tourists use Ayers rock as a toilet

I am inclined to see this as an appropriate response to the politically correct restrictions on access to the site. Political correctness as a whole needs to be shat upon in my view. I think that imposing Aboriginal superstitions on the rest of Australia is just as offensive as what is described below

TOURISTS are using the top of Uluru as a toilet, says the head of a Central Australian tour company. Andrew Simpson, general manager of the Aboriginal-owned Anangu Waai tour company, said many tourists took a toilet roll with them when they climbed the rock, reports the Northern Territory News. The claims could be another blow to chances of the rock staying open to climbers.

Mr Simpson said if tourists needed to go they found somewhere before making the half-hour descent. "That's been going on for years," he said. "When people climb up the top of the rock there's no toilet facilities up there. "They're sh**ting on a sacred site."

Uluru is sacred for the Anangu people, to whom the land was handed back in 1985. Traditional owners have complained rubbish and human waste has been making its way down from the top into a sacred pool.

Mr Simpson's claims are in a submission on the draft Uluru-Kata Tjuta national park management plan, which includes the proposal to ban climbing on the rock.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he believed the climb should not be closed. But Mr Garrett said he would deal with the recommendations when he saw them. "I will give proper consideration to what the board brings forward," he said. It is not likely Mr Garrett will announce his decision this year.


"Green jobs"? In China

Sun sets on Australian Solar Systems company despite funding promises. A big British windmill factory has just shut up shop too. But I hear that Chinese factories are doing well

AUSTRALIA'S leading solar energy company was placed into the hands of voluntary administrators yesterday and almost all of its 150 staff stood down pending a review to see if the business can be salvaged. PricewaterhouseCoopers partners Stephen Longley and David McEvoy were appointed voluntary administrators of Solar Systems Pty Ltd and two of its subsidiaries just two weeks after 20 per cent stakeholder, the Victorian power utility TRUenergy, wrote down its entire $53 million investment.

Solar Systems had received promises of $129m in funding from federal and state governments to build Australia's first large scale solar power station, a $420m project near Mildura in Victoria. It also had ambitions for 1000MW of large-scale solar installations in Asia, using its unique solar dish technology, at an estimated cost of more than $3 billion, and to become one of the top five global solar energy companies over the next five years.

However, despite mandating Morgan Stanley to seek new funds and bring in new strategic or financial partners, it was unable to attract new finance and TRUenergy decided to cut its losses. It is understood the decision to appoint administrators came after the late withdrawal of two international parties -- one private equity -- from talks about an equity injection of around $50m to $100m.

Mr Longley said he would assess the company's financial and operations position with a view to continuing operations on a reduced scale over the next three months to provide sufficient time to restructure and sell the business as a going concern. He said staff would be advised of their future by the end of the week and a meeting of creditors would be held on September 17.

It is understood Solar Systems has around $56m of secured debt mostly held through some of its shareholders, including TRUenergy, the British financier and founder of Australian Wildlife Conservancy, Martin Copley, and Graeme Morgan, the founder and former owner of financial planning group Sealcorp. Solar Systems' annual report shows that Morgan was the largest shareholder with 30.3million shares, while Copley held 5.5 million. Options given to executives had an exercise price of more than $3 a share. Both are directors of the company. The annual accounts show the company had revenue of just $2.9m, but losses of $21.3m in 2007-08, taking its accumulated losses to $74m.

The recently completed manufacturing facility in Abbotsford, Victoria, which had the capacity to build 500MW of solar PV installations a year, is now on care and maintenance. Development of the Mildura power station, which was not due to begin construction for another 12 months, will also be put on hold.

It is not clear whether any new owner would qualify for the state and federal funding that had been previously committed.


Obnoxious Queensland Health manages to sink even lower: Tired doctors told to drink more coffee

SIX cups of coffee - that's the State Government antidote to sleep-deprived doctors killing and harming their patients in a haze of exhaustion. The astonishing remedy forms part of Queensland Health's new doctor fatigue policy, currently being rolled out in public hospitals, The Courier-Mail reports.

The Courier-Mail yesterday reported the confessions of junior surgeons and medics whose exhaustion-induced errors had killed or hurt patients during "on-call" shifts of 30 to 80 hours.

But a guidelines document underpinning QH's Fatigue Risk Management System claims "solutions such as 'we need more staff' might not be achievable or effective in managing a fatigue risk." Instead, the 102-page document deems the "strategic use of caffeine . . . to be beneficial" as a fatigue fighter for doctors on marathon duties. "The recommended dosage for a prolonged and significant reduction in sleepiness during a night without sleep has been suggested at 400mg of caffeine . . . equivalent to about five to six cups of coffee," the document states.

As this coffee intake is "not always feasible or realistic", QH proposes caffeine tablets as an alternative. Energy drinks also are recommended. "Compared with other psychoactive drugs, for example, modafinil (a prescription-only narcolepsy treatment), caffeine is supported in its use as it is more readily available and less expensive," the document says.

World-renowned addictions physician John Saunders slammed the advice, saying it would turn doctors into addicts. He said caffeine addiction became clinically significant at 600mg a day. But some people would be addicted, or on the threshold of dependence, at 400mg daily. "They're suggesting 400mg is a perfectly fine dose? I would absolutely dispute that," said Professor Saunders, the Pine Rivers Private Hospital alcohol and drug program director. "For a health department to suggest that doctors use caffeine like this is the height of irresponsibility."

Prof Saunders said acute effects of 400mg of caffeine a day were heart palpitations, raised blood pressure, dizziness, anxiety and hand tremors. Doctors caught between caffeine fixes might suffer serious withdrawal consequences. "These will include headache, depressed mood, blurred vision and maybe some degree of confused thinking," Prof Saunders said.

He said the spectrum of side-effects could mean a doctor hooked on caffeine posed a greater threat than a tired colleague who did not use the substance. "I think it certainly could lead doctors to make potentially bad decisions when they are managing patients," Prof Saunders said.

Organisations Systems Professor Peter Smith said fostering caffeine use among doctors was "inappropriate". "It would seem to me to be a strange way of managing long-term fatigue," Prof Smith, of Central Queensland University, said. "(Queensland Health) might be aware that nicotine enhances alertness but they probably wouldn't be promoting that. It's the same with amphetamines."

The $3.6 million FRMS is a key plank of QH human resources policy, aiming to drop the risk of patient harm from doctor fatigue to "as low as reasonably practicable". Its overarching framework involves a suite of fatigue-reduction modules, strategies, education programs and auditing measures. [What a lot of crap! They just need more doctors]

Each hospital is directed to use the guidelines document, or "resource pack," to help tailor a site-specific plan. More than three pages of the document are dedicated to the case for caffeine in an appendix titled "Fatigue Countermeasures". The central nervous system stimulant is extolled for "increasing alertness, sustaining wakefulness and delaying sleep onset". "Caffeine use has been associated with (an) increase in cognitive performance such as sustained vigilance, reaction time, memory and mood."


Vaues and evidence both matter

I RECENTLY had the privilege of listening to a senior government minister speak on the subject of evidence-based policy. My immediate reaction was to be reminded of Rossini's famous quip on Wagner's opera Lohengrin, about which he said: "One cannot judge Lohengrin from a first hearing and I certainly do not intend to hear it a second time."

But history teaches us that you cannot keep a bad idea down. So I want to start by disposing of the myth that evidence-based policy is good policy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The value of public policy does not depend on whether it rests on evidence but on whether it seeks goals that are worth pursuing.....

The lesson is simple; evidence is perhaps a necessary condition for sound policy, but it is far from being sufficient. We need to ask not merely whether policy does what it claims to do but whether what it does is worth doing. Have we learned that lesson? I fear not. Already in the Howard government's third term the rot had set in. Since then it has spread, with the contrast between the rhetoric of evidence-based policy and the reality becoming ever more glaring.

Consider infrastructure policy, where more than $60 billion in taxpayers' funds has been committed in the space of 12 months. Yet staggeringly large decisions, such as the decision to build a national broadband network, have been made without any cost-benefit analysis at all. What is the objective the NBN intended to achieve? It is the objective of having an NBN. Why? As Kylie Mole said: "Cos."

Or consider climate change and greenhouse gas abatement, where the policy response will have far-reaching consequences for our economic and social future. The government's approach, we are told, is based on detailed and comprehensive modelling. But the model itself is confidential and all attempts to secure its public release have failed. I accept that, to some, sceptic is a term of abuse. But, at least in the Western intellectual tradition, evidence is only as good as the tests to which it has been put.

Then there are the schemes such as FuelWatch, the education revolution and the car plan that, rather than lack evidence, wantonly contradict it. Perhaps there lurks among these exotic birds an instance of evidence-based policy; but, so far, every attempt at exhibiting such a specimen has failed, with all those captured having to be declared unsatisfactory and released into the wild after careful examination.

When challenged on these grounds, governments typically respond as if they are in the position that Pius IX enjoyed when the doctrine of papal infallibility was being enunciated. He could say, incontrovertibly, that "before I was Pope, I believed he was infallible; now that I am Pope, I can feel it". Yet however well suited infallibility may be to matters of divinity, it appears to perform less well in the governance of ordinary mortals.

Of course, analysis of evidence has not completely disappeared. The tax review is, by all reports, doing an excellent job. In social policy, too, there is increased interest in careful analysis of data and in experimentation. But tax reform is an area where many interests are diffuse, rather than powerful and concentrated.

As for indigenous Australians, welfare recipients and the mentally ill, they are among the weakest constituencies in the country. Could it be that we are willing to carefully analyse our policies for the weak but would rather buy silence, cut deals, trade favours with the strong? A policy of being strong with the weak and weak with the strong is a recipe for inefficiency and inequity.

Ultimately, hypocrisy is the highest homage that virtue can be paid by vice. Statements of devotion to evidence are no substitute for policy based on sound principle, clear goals and careful consideration of options, and that is not merely open to independent scrutiny but genuinely invites it, especially for decisions where powerful interests are at stake. That is hardly the easy or always popular road; but as all the evidence shows, the alternative brings only ultimate failure, with much needless pain along the way.


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