Friday, September 25, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is not impressed by Kevin Rudd's poorly-attended speech at the United Nations

Sydney's huge dust storm caused by global warming?

You knew that somebody would say it was, didn't you? They knew that they had scant grounds for saying so but some in the media did. Even the guy below -- who knows what really caused it -- can't quite resist the temptation. He also leaves out a lot: like the fact that Northern and Western Australia have had exceptionally good rains recently. And even the drier Southeast (where Melbourne is) that he talks about actually got rain during the Sydney dust storm! It is utter rubbish to claim that Australia as a whole is getting drier. The rains have tended to move North but have certainly not vanished. Quite to the contrary. Most dams in Queensland are full to overflowing. And the Southeast has suffered that way before. In 1901, the mighty Murray river was just a chain of waterholes. Pesky how awkward the whole truth is!

Australia is the driest inhabited continent in the world and dust storms are fairly common — but only occasionally does the dust reach the coast, and yesterday’s storm was probably the biggest to hit Sydney for 60 years. In fact, this year has been exceptionally violent, with freak weather disasters hitting at bewildering speed every month.

Most bizarrely, this winter (June, July and August) was the hottest on record, and followed desperately dry months, with the lowest rainfall on record in Melbourne. Much of the blame for this can be pinned on an El Niño brewing in the Pacific, as the tropical seas there grow unusually warm and bring heavy rains to South America but leave eastern Australia in drought.

It is no surprise that some of the biggest dust storms in Australia’s history have come in El Niño years — and more dust storms could hit this year.

The storms are an ecological disaster, ripping up valuable topsoil from farmland. But a far greater threat is that much of Australia has been in its worst drought for several years, which has crippled its most prosperous farmland in the Murray-Darling Basin, in the southeast of the country.

This severe drought is difficult to explain simply from natural fluctuations in climate. Instead, Australians are now facing the brutal truth that theirs is largely a hot, dry country that is turning even hotter and drier — and that this is most probably caused by unnatural changes in the climate.


Why are the most negligent and hostile bureaucrats beyond all accountability?

Five people died needlessly because of their indifference to their duties. Unless some of these goons are brought to justice there is just going to be more of such reprehensible behaviour under a cloak of official protection

CRUCIAL evidence on the 2005 sinking of the immigration vessel Malu Sara in the Torres Strait, with the loss of all five on board, has forced the Australian Transport Safety Bureau to acknowledge a failure by rescue authorities to take action that could have averted the tragedy.

A supplementary report, released yesterday by the ATSB, said evidence regarding the state of the Malu Sara had not been passed on, and the "mistaken assumption" that a well-equipped helicopter was not available contributed to the failure to save the lives of five Torres Strait Islanders.

The report said this significant evidence was not provided to the ATSB during the initial safety investigation.

It was revealed during a 2007 inquest that ATSB investigators had not bothered to interview key people involved in decision-making regarding the plight of the Immigration Department boat.

Their original report largely laid the blame for the sinking of the vessel at the feet of the skipper, Wilfred Baira, an Immigration Department official who was instructed to drive the motor vessel on its fateful, 74km trip from Saibai Island near Papua New Guinea to Badu Island, in October 2005.

The instruction was issued by Immigration Department official Garry Chaston, who knew that earlier that day the Malu Sara had been taking water. He was responsible for purchasing the vessel, and knew it had no navigation equipment. Mr Chaston also knew Baira was not licensed to handle the Malu Sara.

Mr Chaston has since been allowed to resign from the department and retire with full superannuation and leave entitlements.

The supplementary report was also strongly critical of Queensland police officer Sergeant Warren Flegg, who was in contact throughout the night with the Malu Sara but did not think its plight required any rescue measures until several hours after Baira reported it was sinking.

The report said: "It was not until 1154 hours on October 15 that the Rescue Co-ordinating Centre in Canberra, at the request of the police, formally assumed responsibility for the co-ordination of the aerial search. This was over eight hours after the water police were told the Malu Sara was sinking and in need of assistance."

The report further acknowledged that Sergeant Flegg did not "task" a helicopter because he did not check earlier information that it was unserviceable. The helicopter was in fact fully operational and available.

On the issue of two people and a pilot in a search plane reporting seeing someone in the water wearing a yellow life jacket, the amended report said because the sighting was unconfirmed, it was officially recorded that there were "no sightings".

In his inquest findings, Queensland Coroner Michael Barnes said the sinking of the Malu Sara was "a foreseeable and totally avoidable disaster that resulted from official indolence and incompetence".

He reported that the five islanders who died were mocked by Sergeant Flegg and rescue officers when they made distress calls by satellite telephone.

No charges have been laid against the builders of the unseaworthy boat or anybody else in regard to the deaths.


Anti-biker laws declared invalid

These laws were a gross assault on civil liberties -- far worse than anything the bikies did. See here

SOUTH Australia's anti-bikie laws have been declared invalid by the Supreme Court, casting doubt on similar legislation elsewhere in the nation. SA was the first state or territory to introduce anti-bikie laws aimed at dismantling the outlaw motorcycle clubs. SA's legislation empowered police to ask magistrates to place control orders on bikie gang members, effectively banning them from associating with each other.

Eight members of the Finks motorcycle club had control orders imposed on them, but two - Sandro Totani and Donald Hudson - challenged the orders in court, arguing they were unconstitutional. In a judgment delivered today, the Full Court of the SA Supreme Court declared the control orders, made under section 14 of the Serious and Organised Crime (Control) Act 2008, invalid.

NSW has enacted similar laws while Queensland and Western Australia were set to follow suit.


Another government that knows how to get people out of their cars

Gross lack of track maintenance forces rail speed limit cuts

A LACK of maintenance has seen speed restrictions imposed on trains across Melbourne as the rail network crumbles. Speeds have been cut by up to 65km/h because the poor state of tracks would make normal limits dangerous. The speed restrictions add up to two minutes extra to each trip, which can lead to chronically late services throughout the day.

Details of the worst 12 locations for July have been obtained by the Herald Sun using Freedom of Information laws. Most speed restrictions were imposed in the outer suburbs. Connex spokesman John Rees said repairs were always going to be required on an older, larger and very busy rail network such as Melbourne's. "Wherever possible, we run trains at line speed, but the comfort of our customers and staff is our priority," Mr Rees said. "Connex will continue to put in place temporary speed restrictions to ensure that our customers and staff remain safe while travelling with us."

Mr Rees said many of the problems identified in the report had been fixed. The top priority for July, a 225m section of track between Watsonia and Greensborough, had been fixed. A flaw detected in the track saw the maximum speed cut from 75km/h to just 15km/h.

One of the most significant causes of delays are "tram squares", on level crossings, where tram tracks cross rail tracks. Speed limits are already low - at 30km/h - but the extreme stress they endure means the limit was cut in half. "The Kooyong tram square is due to receive the same replacement and upgrade treatment that the Glenhuntly tram square received in August," Mr Rees said. "Other speed restrictions were in place while upgrades were being made as part of the Government's infrastructure improvements."

Opposition transport spokesman Terry Mulder said not enough had been spent on maintenance. "Lynne Kosky is obsessed with giving the green light to Labor's myki mess but shows a red signal to stop sufficient investment in rail tracks, signals and points," he said.

A spokesman for Acting Public Transport Minister Peter Batchelor said Connex had spent between $80 million and $100 million on rail network maintenance. "Speed restrictions occur on the rail network when necessary maintenance and track upgrades occur," spokesman Stephen Moynihan said. "As part of the new franchise, maintenance spending will be doubled, with an additional $500 million spent over the (eight-year) life of the contract."


Another NSW government hospital doesn't give a damn

WHEN the family of Emilia Chatterjee complained to Gosford Hospital that she had contracted an infection after being left in urine-soaked clothes, the hospital apologised to the 84-year-old and said the issue had been addressed. The only problem was that Mrs Chatterjee was dead.

In a shocking bungle that heaped insult upon injury, the hospital acknowledged that staff had not cleaned rooms as they should have, nor listened to the requests of her daughters, who were forced to maintain a round-the-clock vigil on their mother to ensure she was looked after.

The family said nurses told them that the urine she was left to lie in had given her an infection - one that took her life on August 28, seven weeks after she entered hospital.

Yet when the Central Coast Health Service wrote three weeks later to say the issues had been addressed it was clearly under the impression that the great-grandmother was still alive. "The Nurse Unit Manager has asked that I extend her apologies to you and Mrs Chatterjee for any distress caused as a result of the actions of nursing staff," CCHS divisional manager Andrew Roberts wrote.

Mrs Chatterjee's daughter Giorgina Neilson said the family was horrified at the conditions her mother was in. "The hygienic condition of the hospital was totally unacceptable. We were horrified," she said. "She wasn't being fed, she wasn't being cleaned regularly . . . The hospital did acknowledge, some of the nurses did acknowledge to my sister that it was because she lay in the urine that she got the infection."

Yesterday the State Government was again forced into a grovelling apology. "Central Coast Health general manager Matt Hanrahan extends his sincere apologies on behalf of the health service for the distress experienced by the family of Mrs Chatterjee," it said in a statement. "Mr Hanrahan said that the failure to acknowledge the death of Mrs Chatterjee in correspondence with the family related to concerns regarding her care was regrettable."

The bungle was also a baptism of fire for new Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt, who yesterday ordered a full departmental investigation.


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