Friday, October 02, 2009

Aussies top world list of national pride

I just don't believe this. I think the result must be an artifact of poor sampling. Australian patriotism is generally very low key -- unlike the flag-waving American version. Most Australians are pleased to be Australians and believe that Australia is "The lucky country" (In Donald Horne's unfortunate phrase -- Donald meant it as an insult!) but overt expressions of patriotism are rare and understated

AUSTRALIANS have the highest degree of support for their own country out of 33 nationalities polled in a survey published in The Economist. The British newspaper quotes a survey by the Reputation Institute, a branding consultancy based in New York but with worldwide affiliations, that says Australians have a higher "trust, admiration, respect and pride" in their country than do the citizens of any other developed country, The Australian reports.

The high regard Australians apparently have for their nation gives it a score of just over 90 points from a possible 100 point score compared with last-placed Japan, for instance, which rates approximately 56.

The newspaper does not reveal the sample size, survey date or methodology but concludes that "Australians are almost as exuberant about their country as they are about sport".

Closely following Australia in descending order are Canada, Finland, Austria, Singapore and India while the US, usually seen as a global benchmark for national pride, rates 11th with a score in the high 70s.

What is clear from the survey, as the newspaper indicates, is that the results may be affected by the relative scale of economic recession. Australia is regarded by most experts as the country least affected by recession. That said, Spain rates two places above the US, despite having an unemployment rate approaching 15 per cent.


Ambulances get seriously ill patients to government hospitals quickly but then cannot offload them for hours

PARAMEDICS spent about 1000 hours "ramping" outside Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital in the three months to the end of August, their union says. The Liquor Hospitality Miscellaneous Union said the time "wasted" by paramedics looking after patients while they waited to be accepted by the hospital's emergency department had cost taxpayers more than $50,000.

LHMU organiser Kroy Day said some ambulances spent more than four hours at a time waiting outside the hospital's emergency department to hand over a patient. "While a crew is ramping at a hospital, they're unable to respond out in the community to the lady who's had the stroke, the man who's had the heart attack," Mr Day said. "What nobody can gauge is who's died and suffered because a crew has been ramped there."

Mr Day said the problem was an issue statewide, not just at the PA, and was costing taxpayers millions of dollars that would be better spent on medical care. "On Friday night, for example, at Nambour Hospital, we had eight ambulances ramped for up to three hours," he said. "On the week of September 14 at Logan . . . at one point we had 11 ambulances ramped for up to two hours. The public need to be very scared about what's happening."

The LHMU, which is in the 11th month of enterprise bargaining negotiations with the Queensland Ambulance Service, has called for an extra 500 paramedics over the next two years.

Australasian College for Emergency Medicine Queensland chairman David Rosengren said ambulance ramping was problem at all public hospital emergency departments, including the PA. "Every single emergency physician, every single paramedic and every single patient who comes by ambulance knows that the ability to offload our ambulance patients into emergency departments is extremely difficult and there are quite often lengthy delays," Dr Rosengren said. "The problem of ambulance ramping is a systemic problem that's been around for a long time and is progressively getting worse year after year."

Dr Rosengren said a shortage in public hospital beds was to blame. "If an emergency department doesn't have a trolley to put a patient on, ambulances can't offload them," he said. "There's an inability to make space in emergency departments because they're so full of patients that can't get a bed in a hospital ward. That's clogging up the system."


Amazing! The Rudd government has actually rejected a few "asylum seeker" claims

NINE Sri Lankan men are set to become the first asylum-seekers to be forcibly returned home since the Rudd government was elected. Last night the men were being flown from Christmas Island, where they have been detained since arriving in November, to Perth. They are expected to be detained for two days before being placed on a commercial flight to Sri Lanka.

The men were part of a group of 12 whose boat reached Shark Bay, 800km north of Perth, before being spotted by campers. Two of the men have already returned home voluntarily. The Australian understands the nine men were found by Department of Immigration and Citizenship to have come to Australia in search of work. Another man from the group remains on Christmas Island where he is appealing the rejection of his asylum claim through the Federal Court.

Last night Immigration Minister Chris Evans said none of the men would be in danger when returned to Sri Lanka. "All protection issues raised by this particular group have been fully assessed against Australia's international treaty obligations and there are no protection issues which would prevent their return to Sri Lanka," hesaid.

But refugee advocate Ian Rintoul said it was outrageous the government was deporting one of the men, Sarath Tennakoon, after he claimed his life would be in danger if forced to return. In an interview with The Australian in August, Mr Tennakoon said he had told the Department of Immigration and Citizenship that his life was in danger after he was identified by the Tamil Tigers as a member of the air force intelligence unit in 2002.

"The appalling human rights abuses of the Sri Lankan government is well known to the world," Mr Rintoul said. "It is too dangerous for anyone with problems with the Sri Lankan government, Tamil or Sinhalese, to be sent back." Mr Rintoul said he was attempting to lodge a last-minute appeal to the Federal Court against Mr Tennakoon's deportation.

All nine men appealed against the department's decision to the refugee review tribunal but were unsuccessful. They then lodged claims for the minister to intervene and allow them to stay but this was also rejected. The appeals lodged by the men were only possible because they were found so close to shore and classified as mainland arrivals. Asylum-seekers found outside Australia's migration zone do not have such appeal rights.

To date, 22 people detained on Christmas Island have returned home voluntarily and a further 58 Indonesian men are expected to leave voluntarily this weekend. The men arrived on a boat intercepted near Barrow Island last month and were believed to have come to Australia in search of work.


A timely warning about teeth whitening

A MELBOURNE magistrate has effectively ruled that teeth-whitening procedures must only be carried out by registered dentists, after a beauty therapist was fined $2000 for carrying out the treatment.

The trial of the beauty therapist, held in March, was the first time the legality of teeth-whitening by an unregistered practitioner was tested in Australia. The therapist was convicted and fined at the Heidelberg Magistrates' Court yesterday for practising dentistry while not being registered as a dental care provider. Magistrate Jill Crowe said teeth-whitening was an "invasive and irreversible procedure" and should only be performed by registered dental care providers.

The Dental Practice Board of Victoria brought the charge against the beauty therapist after a customer complained following a teeth-whitening procedure in August 2007. The customer suffered severe mottling and marbled teeth, gum ulcerations and chemical burns, the board said. A board spokesman said the ruling set a precedent and would ensure that teeth-whitening was only performed by people with dental training.


Climate folly before failure

THE inconvenient truth is that there is no hope the UN climate change negotiations that start in Copenhagen on December 7 will deliver a new Kyoto treaty, with a global agreement on binding emissions targets. This was, of course, the original aim of the meeting but has been abandoned. On Monday The Guardian in Britain quoted a top European official who described the idea of negotiating on targets as naive and said the best that could be expected was that countries would put up what they wanted to commit to.

Just as well, really, if we consider figures published in an article in The Washington Post, also on Monday, by Danish statistician and environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg.

His Copenhagen Consensus Centre commissioned well-known climate economist Richard Tol, a contributor to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to estimate the cost of emissions targets needed to keep the rise in global temperature to under the 2C limit suggested by the IPCC's work. Tol's answer is a global price tag of $US40 trillion in 2100, to avoid expected climate damage costing $US1.1 trillion. These figures are based on mainstream economic models and subject to the usual limitations of modelling over long periods.

But the global warming projections behind all the alarm about climate change are based on complex climate models that also have serious limitations and, according to Lomborg, Tol's estimates are best-case outcomes. They aren't the only reason to be uneasy about the present thrust of UN climate change policy.

Kevin Rudd has been using various arguments to push his case for urgent, substantial action on climate change and one he used in the US last week is the threat of a European carbon tax on exports from countries "not doing their bit on climate change". Rudd only mentioned remarks by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, but it is actually a joint initiative by France and Germany's newly re-elected Chancellor Angela Merkel. Instead of, at least implicitly, accepting this as a legitimate tactic by the Europeans, Rudd should be denouncing it at every opportunity. The last thing Australia and the world need is a global trade war sparked by European attempts to bully the world into adopting its climate change policies, which are under attack in the EU itself, to shelter its industries from the economic damage its climate policies will impose.

Some more figures from Lomborg. Economic estimates suggest freer trade would deliver global benefits of the order of $US50trillion. Why put these gains at risk to avoid global warming damage estimated at $US1.1 trillion? Fortunately there has already been a reaction in Europe and in other countries against the Franco-German threat.

The looming failure at Copenhagen is a powerful argument against Australia rushing to pass the Rudd government's flawed emissions trading scheme, which isn't even proposed to start operating until 2011. For Australia, with an economic structure heavily dependent on cheap, carbon-based energy, to move ahead of the rest of the world is foolish.

Rudd and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong see things differently. In their view, getting the legislation through the Senate in November is essential for Australia's negotiating position at Copenhagen. According to Wong the eyes of the world are on us, waiting to see if the government succeeds. Nonsense, of course, as Rudd gave away in an interview with CNN in New York. Asked whether the US negotiating position had been weakened by the Obama administration's inability to get emissions trading legislation through the US Senate, Rudd replied that his own legislation had been recently blocked by Australia's Senate. He continued: "That doesn't impede me from being active in these negotiations and my observation of President Obama is that it doesn't impede him either." So much for the importance of passing legislation before Copenhagen and, in any case, the UN knows what Australia's position is on targets and emissions trading.

Rudd, of course, has other arguments. He declared in New York that what drove his government's interest in an emissions trading scheme was the need for business certainty. There can be no certainty in a scheme that has flexible emissions targets that will vary with global action.

Another scare tactic is to paint water problems in the Murray-Darling Basin as a product of climate change. More nonsense. The problems on the Murray-Darling rivers have nothing to do with climate change and everything to do with gutless and short-sighted politicians. Bureau of Meteorology records of rainfall during 108 years examined by Australian physicist Tom Quirk show no statistically significant trend, with rainfall variations entirely random. So much for the impact of global warming.

The government's attempts to create a sense of urgency and set a timetable that demands its legislation be passed in November are a stunt. The issue is whether Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has the courage to do what he says is the only sensible course of action, to wait until after we know the outcome in Copenhagen.

However, having said this, Turnbull, who is in a complete funk over the possibility of a double-dissolution election on the issue, left the door open to negotiate with the government to pass its legislation, with amendments, in November. A clear majority of his back bench and probably at least half his front bench don't agree with this policy.

Both former Labor prime minister and treasurer Paul Keating and former Liberal deputy leader and treasurer Peter Costello have warned a double dissolution is not without risks for Rudd because the electorate likes governments to run their full term. Rudd has said more than once he doesn't want a double dissolution and also believes governments should run their full term.

Turnbull should take him at his word and have the guts to stand by what he says he believes is the right policy, and is indeed the sensible policy: wait until after Copenhagen.


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