Friday, November 13, 2009

More government meddling in personal matters

Australian governments back plan to boost breastfeeding rates. Is anything private any more? Mothers are already pressured over this -- leading to distress among mothers who have difficulties breast feeding

MOTHERS will be urged to ditch the baby bottle under a controversial and potentially divisive five-year plan to boost breast milk feeding rates. The government-backed pro-breast milk message will argue that babies fed on breast milk for longer may reduce risks of obesity and chronic disease.

State and federal health ministers today will endorse the plan and consider establishing a national breast milk bank, The Courier-Mail reports. The move will be among a raft of measures designed to monitor and persuade Australians to consider how their lifestyles affect public spending. It will be the latest in a series of government attempts to influence mothers' choices on feeding.

In June, a $100,000-a-year Queensland Health breastfeeding campaign was attacked for using "guilt-inducing" language. The campaign was called "12+months on the breast: Normal, natural, healthy".

The new federal strategy would include increasing community acceptance of breastfeeding as a cultural and social norm, establishing breastfeeding support networks for pregnant women and improved breastfeeding training for health professionals. A national breast milk bank would collect, screen and dispense human milk donated by nursing mothers to be fed to premature and sick babies whose mothers were unable to feed them or who needed supplementary feeds.

At the centre of the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010-15 is the goal of increasing the percentage of babies who are fully breastfed from birth to six months, and beyond 12 months. "Breast milk is an environmentally-friendly product and there are health risks and financial costs associated with not breastfeeding," the draft strategy says. "Breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from a range of serious illnesses and conditions (and) ... protective effects ... in infancy may extend to later life, with reduced risks of obesity and chronic disease."

A study of Australian children in 2004 found 92 per cent of newborns were initially breastfed but within a week that dropped to 80 per cent. At three months, about 56 per cent were still being fed breast milk. A federal report in 2007 championed the benefits of breast milk and recommended the Health Department fund a feasibility study for a network of milk banks.

A Mothers Milk Bank established on the Gold Coast in 2006 closed two years later because of a lack of funding. It is scheduled to reopen in the next few months. Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon also is likely to announce today an initiative to screen for perinatal depression.


PM Kevin Rudd branded an 'economic illiterate'

The price-maintenance decision on books is really gross. It just rips off less resourceful people (whom Labour governments claim to protect) and local booksellers. Like most internet denizens, any book I want I order from overseas -- either from Amazon or the publisher. So I don't pay the inflated local prices that Rudd supports by force of law

FORMER Labor finance minister Peter Walsh has savaged the Prime Minister as an "economic illiterate" in the wake of the government's decision to reject the Productivity Commission recommendations that would have slashed book prices.

Mr Walsh, who remade the national economy in the 1980s with Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, is regarded as a tough and uncompromising economic reformer but one who never forgot Labor's working-class roots. He slammed Kevin Rudd's reform credentials and style of governing. "The Prime Minister is an economic illiterate," he told The Australian, "an economic illiterate and an egomaniac". "He won't take any hard decisions. He's capricious. He sees himself as some sort of Platonic philosopher king."

But Mr Rudd declared himself a brave economic reformer. Mr Rudd, who has previously painted himself as the inheritor of the economic reforming zeal of the Hawke and Keating years, defended the decision on books as being partly about the preservation of Australian culture. Asked what it said about his stomach for real economic reform, the Prime Minister launched into a spirited defence of his record, insisting he had led a move to meet business calls for a seamless economy through the pursuit of regulatory reform by the Council of Australian Governments.

He was pursuing changes previous governments had found "too difficult to even touch", he said in New Delhi during a visit to India. "When it comes to our micro-economic reform agenda, it is vast, it is comprehensive, it is across the entire regulatory agenda of the commonwealth and the states," Mr Rudd said. "It is proceeding apace." He was referring to his push through COAG to harmonise business regulation across the states in areas such as licensing, occupational health and safety and fees and charges.

Although the reforms have the strong support of business groups, they are not targeted directly at benefiting consumers, which the Productivity Commission had proposed by reducing publishing- sector protection. Mr Rudd said the books decision was difficult but had his full support. "On the question of the book industry, obviously it's a controversial debate in Australia and one which actually goes to the heart of Australian culture as well," he said.

Former Hawke arts minister Barry Cohen said a review of the public lending right scheme, which makes payments to authors and publishers with books in public libraries, may have been better. "That's not a very expensive program," he told The Australian. "For a relatively small amount of money I would have thought that you could satisfy a lot of people and at the same time pass the books on cheaper to the general public."

Publishing commentator Peter Donoughue said the campaign against the reforms had been based on a "big lie". "The central thesis was that it was all about maintaining territorial copyright in Australia, because without it, this great and successful industry would collapse," he said. "The Australian book buyer shouldn't have to put up with high prices unrelated to today's exchange rates, frequent out-of-stocks and slow delivery times."


Excerpt from another comment on the book decision:

Robyn Higgins was in a Texas book store last month when she spotted Where Is The Green Sheep? by Australian children's author Mem Fox. Having bought the book in Sydney for $19.95, the mum of two was keen to see how much Americans were paying. Answer: $US10, or $11 in our money.

"It's just crazy," Mrs Higgins said. "I could have gone crazy in that bookshop. It was just amazing. I could have filled my suitcase."

The Federal Government's decision to maintain regulations protecting book publishers will mean shoppers will pay 30 per cent more for titles at stores than if the rules had been abolished, Allan Fels, the former head of the ACCC, told me yesterday. "I am puzzled why consumers are being put last," Professor Fels said of Parallel Import Restrictions (PIR).

Emergency rooms fail to deliver, say Queensland health figures

One of the world's oldest "free" hospital systems (from 1944) shows where such systems end up. They employ more bureaucrats than medical staff so the patients get the short end

EMERGENCY departments are failing to meet national performance targets in every area but non-urgent treatment, according to latest Queensland Health figures. Quarterly public hospital performance reports released yesterday showed emergency departments fell short of recommended treatment time targets for resuscitation, emergency, urgent and semi-urgent patients. The figures also revealed more than a third of Queenslanders waited in excess of eight hours for a bed in a ward after arriving at emergency departments.

Elective surgery figures showed that at October 1, 17.5 per cent (or more than 6000 patients) were still waiting longer than clinically desirable for treatment.

Defending the results Health Minister Paul Lucas said the number of long wait patients in the September quarter had decreased by 15.3 per cent compared with the 2008 September quarter. Mr Lucas said that emergency department admissions were increasing well in excess of population growth and swine flu had placed additional pressure on hospitals. "Surgeons must give priority to emergency cases and both medical and surgical emergencies use beds that would otherwise be used for elective surgery," Mr Lucas said.

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Dr Mason Stevenson said there was little good news in the report, and labelled the average wait of six hours and 20 minutes for a bed in emergency, "unacceptably high". Dr Stevenson said there was a "cascading effect of suffering" from emergency departments to elective surgery lists. "Its very frustrating for clinicians to see that patients are suffering unnecessarily as a result of unavoidable delays due to resource shortages," he said.

High priority patients at Townsville hospital waited an average of 17 days for oncology radiation – falling short of the national benchmarks of 10 working days. Mr Lucas said the three other hospitals performing the treatment, the Mater, Princess Alexandra and Royal Brisbane and Women's hospitals, had improved to easily meet the benchmark. "At Townsville there is still more work to be done . . . This report is a benchmark that identifies where our strategies are working and where we can do better."

LNP Health spokesman Mark McArdle said the figures showed Labor's 12 years of neglect and mismanagement. "Labor's ad hoc approach to health planning is downright dangerous for patient health."


Another false rape allegation

These are a dime a dozen in Britain so it is lamentable to see an Australian court taken in by an uncorroborated and false allegation that was at variance with other known facts

A COURT has quashed the conviction of a charter pilot jailed over the sexual assault of a girl in Papua New Guinea. Frederic Arthur Martens, 60, of Cairns, was sentenced to five years' jail by a Queensland court in October 2006 for a 2001 sexual assault involving a 14-year-old girl.

In April, federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland ordered the case be referred to the Queensland Court of Appeal after new evidence came to light and Mr Martens was granted bail.

The evidence revolves around an affidavit from a family member of the girl saying the teenager told her in November 2003 she had been pressured to make up the allegation by Mr Martens' former partner. The Court of Appeal today quashed the conviction and set aside the jail order. "The fresh evidence shows the conviction to have been unreasonable or unsupported by the evidence," the judgment read. "At the very least it raises a reasonable doubt about the petitioner's guilt."


Muslims allowed to rule the roost in an Australian school

Parents say son was tormented for eating salami sandwich during Ramadan

A SYDNEY couple has withdrawn their two children from a public primary school, claiming their 11-year-old son was bullied by Muslim students because he ate a salami sandwich during Ramadan. Andrew Grigoriou said yesterday he complained to the school and to police after his son Antonios was chased and later assaulted by Muslim students after a confrontation over the contents of his lunch, The Daily Telegraph reports.

Antonios, a Year 5 student of Greek-Australian background at Punchbowl Public School in Sydney's southwest, said he and a friend had to be locked inside the library for an hour after being chased by a group of Muslim boys offended by his choice of food while they were fasting. The Grigoriou family said the following exchange took place:

Muslim student to Antonios: "Why are you eating ham, it's Ramadan?"

Antonios: "My mum packed this for lunch today."

Muslim student: "Don't eat that. How can you eat pig, it's disgusting."

During the confrontation a Muslim boy allegedly accused Antonios of saying: "F--- the Muslims" but Antonios denied swearing.

Mr Grigoriou said he removed his son and a younger child from the school on Tuesday after the boy was punched in the eye and kicked in the legs by a Muslim student. "It has broken my heart to see this happening to my boy," he said. Antonios, who wrote about his experiences in words and drawings, still has nightmares.

The Department of Education and Training said it had a zero tolerance policy [A fat lot of good a "policy" is without enforcement] towards racism. "Claims of bullying or racial intolerance are taken very seriously and looked into," a spokeswoman said. "The School Education Director is looking into the matter and called the father concerned. "As a result ... the school will work with all families and students involved to ensure that the values promoted by Punchbowl Public School and the department are understood and supported." [In other words, all talk and no action]

After the salami sandwich incident a student described as "the ringleader of the group" was suspended from the school [And was back in a few days, no doubt]. The department said that the school had "ongoing cultural and interfaith awareness programs to improve understanding among students of events like Ramadan and Christmas". Other parents also complained to The Daily Telegraph about bullying at the school and claimed victims received too little protection. One said her 12-year-old son was scared to open his lunch box at school because he was harassed about what is in it. "He has been bullied from day one ... about being a Christian and about the hot salami in his lunch," she said.

"My boy has a Greek background ... the bullying is extreme. "He has been called a fat pig and hit on the back with a stick." Another mother said her young son refused to go on school excursions for fear he would be bashed.


Australian Labor Party MP wants to stop New Zealand migration to Australia

There is virtually NO objection in Australia to "Pakeha" (white) immigrants from New Zealand but Australioa also gets a large number of Maori -- who have high rates of criminality, child abuse and welfare dependency. All unspoken below, of course

New Zealand migration to Australia would be slashed under a federal Labor MP's plan to curb our population growth. Outspoken Melbourne MP Kelvin Thomson believes the open-door policy for Kiwis made it impossible for Australia to control its numbers and maintain quality of life. "The trans-Tasman travel arrangement with New Zealand would need to be renegotiated to do away with the open door," he said yesterday.

Australia's migrant intake is at record levels, with almost a quarter of the influx due to New Zealanders who have an automatic right to live here, the Herald Sun reports.

Mr Thomson said there should be a cap on Kiwi arrivals that was linked to the number of permanent departures from Australia each year. "This would give Australia control over our net migration number, which we presently don't have," he said.

In a challenge to his leader, PM Kevin Rudd, Mr Thomson last night spelled out the details of his plan to deal with the population explosion. "Population is now a runaway train," he said in a speech to a community group in North Melbourne. Mr Thomson called for annual net immigration to be slashed from more than 200,000 now to just 70,000. This would stabilise the population at 26 million by 2050, instead of the 35 million predicted by the Government.

Under the Thomson plan:

* SKILLED migrant numbers would be cut from 114,000 to 25,000 a year and refugees would rise by 6000 to 20,000.

* THE baby bonus would be abolished and family payments cut to lower the fertility rate.

Mr Thomson, who heads the Parliament's joint standing committee on treaties, said his measures would stop Australia wrecking the environment and force governments to focus on education and training. "They would address the declining quality of life in our cities, the traffic congestion and the disappearing back yards and open spaces," he said.

Monash University population expert Dr Bob Birrell said Mr Thomson's proposals were refreshing and realistic. "Population policy is not made in heaven, it's determined by government policy and, currently, Labor policy is to run record high migration," he said.

Despite concern about urban congestion and water shortages, Mr Rudd recently said he was a "big Australia" man. "I make no apology for that. I actually think it's good news that our population is growing. I think it's good ... for our national security long term, it's good in terms of what we can sustain as a nation," he said.


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