Sunday, November 15, 2009

Rudd buys off the farmers. He wants a climate deal at any price

Agriculture now to be exempt from Warmist laws but that blows a huge hole in any effect the laws might have. Rudd is showing his Chinese influences: He is now just trying to save face. He cares about global warming about as much as I do

In a shock move, the Federal Government has decided to exempt all agriculture from its proposed emissions trading scheme, turning up the heat on Malcolm Turnbull's Opposition leadership. The Coalition has been calling for the exemption – and the Government's surprise move dramatically raises the stakes for Mr Turnbull to close a deal with Climate Change Minister Penny Wong to pass the ETS in the next two weeks of Parliament.

Yet sections of the Opposition Leader's Liberal Party and the Nationals are likely to remain opposed to any such deal regardless, leaving Mr Turnbull's authority in shreds.

The surprise concession by the Government will be announced by Senator Wong today ahead of the resumption of Parliament this week. The initiative will also isolate the Nationals, who have been using the inclusion of agriculture in the proposed scheme by 2015 to spearhead its opposition to the package.

Senator Wong's announcement is likely to get backing for the scheme from key Nationals constituencies such as the National Farmers Federation, which has been lobbying heavily for such a decision. In another concession, Senator Wong will also announce the Government will develop plans to give farmers carbon credits for any efforts to capture and store carbon as part of their farm practices.

Opposition climate change spokesman Ian Macfarlane has been locked in talks with Senator Wong trying to negotiate a deal to get the scheme through the Senate. By announcing the exemption of agriculture, the Government will be able to say it has made major concessions and Mr Turnbull should now secure the backing of his party room to pass the scheme.

But Mr Turnbull is still likely to face a revolt. A number of Liberals, including Senate Leader Nick Minchin and senators Cory Bernardi and Julian McGauran, along with WA backbenchers Dennis Jensen and Wilson Tuckey, remain sceptical of the idea of man-made global warming and the Nationals are continuing to oppose the ETS outright. A refusal by the joint party room to back a compromise that includes the exemption of agriculture could make Mr Turnbull's leadership untenable. He has previously said he does not want to lead a party that does not embrace the idea of climate change.

The exclusion of agriculture had been presented by Mr Macfarlane as a "deal-breaker" in the ongoing talks. The move by the Government means farmers now will not have to buy permits for their carbon emissions, substantially reducing farm costs.

The exemption is likely to be attacked by economists, who argue that to be effective a carbon emissions system must be broadly based to share the huge costs. If one sector is exempted it increases costs on other sectors, such as energy-producing industries.

The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists has estimated Australia has the potential to store up to a billion tonnes of carbon a year for the next 40 years through improved pasture management and farm practices. The group says if Australia were to capture just 15 per cent of this capacity, it would offset the equivalent of 25 per cent of our current annual greenhouse emissions over that period. Under the new concessions farmers will be compensated for such carbon offsets, opening up new sources of income.


Ambulances sit waiting for hours before hospitals can take patients from them

Too bad that patients arriving by ambulance are generally seriously ill

MORE patients than ever are waiting over 30 minutes in ambulances "ramped" outside busy Queensland public hospitals because doctors and beds are not available. State Government figures reveal a 26 per cent increase in the number of sick and injured people being forced to wait before being seen by an emergency department doctor. Queensland Ambulance Service staff reported waits of three to four hours were not uncommon before they could hand over a patient.

In 2007-08, the cumulative hours spent waiting in the back of an ambulance were 10,528 across the state's 27 public hospitals. That jumped to 13,269 in 2008-09. Brisbane experienced the biggest jump, from 3879 hours to 5823 – a 50 per cent increase.

Opposition emergency services spokesman Ted Malone described the waiting as disgraceful and said it was costing taxpayers millions of dollars every year. "The Bligh Government's own statistics prove just how serious this issue has become," Mr Malone said yesterday. "Public hospitals have been in crisis for years and I have repeatedly questioned the Bligh Government to detail the costs of hospital ramping. "Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts has arrogantly brushed my questions aside and refused point blank to detail what the considerable cost is to the QAS."

Mr Malone said the union representing ambulance officers had kept a tally of hours spent ramped outside southeast Queensland hospitals. He said Mr Roberts should have access to the information, but suggested it would embarrass the Government. "This is a critical issue and Queensland taxpayers deserve to know what the dollar cost of ramping is to the QAS," he said.

The Liquor Hospitality Miscellaneous Union said that on one day in September, 11 ambulances were ramped at Logan Hospital for more than two hours.

In an answer to an Opposition question, Mr Roberts said the average off-stretcher time across Queensland was 13 minutes. He said 92 per cent of all patients were in hospital beds within 30 minutes and it was not possible to work out the cost of what officials termed "access block".


Another Muslim rapist?

A young woman has escaped the grasp of a man during an abduction attempt in Sydney, police say. About 12.30am today the 18-year-old woman was walking along New South Head Road at Edgecliff in Sydney's east when a man got out of a parked car and approached her. He allegedly grabbed the woman and tried to pull her towards his car.

"However, the woman managed to break free by hitting the man before running to the Double Bay CBD to seek help from her friends," police said in a statement. The woman was not injured.

Police were called and officers searched the area but found no trace of the man or his car. He is described as being aged in his mid-40s, of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean appearance, with short black hair. A car driven by the man is described as an older model Ford Falcon, with faded red paint.


Middle ground not always right

London's Mayor, Boris Johnson, rescued a woman being attacked by an armed girl gang this week by chasing them away on his pushbike and calling them ''oiks''. Johnson, a right-wing journalist and Tory politician, had been riding his bike home when Franny Armstrong, a climate activist who voted for his mayoral rival ''Red Ken'' Livingstone, called out for help.

Despite not sharing his politics, Armstrong, who directed the greenie movie The Age of Stupid, told reporters she was grateful to Johnson for his gallantry, calling him her ''knight on a shining bicycle". And she made this telling observation: ''If you find yourself down a dark alleyway and in trouble I think Boris would be of more use than Ken.''

I would suggest that, when push comes to shove, it is muscular conservatives with the courage of their convictions, of either sex, who are of more use in dark alleys than wishy-washy leftists, or simply people who don't like to get their hands dirty, make a judgment call or risk unpopularity.

If you are worried that someone might think you are a violent, chauvinistic bully if you chase the girl gang, you're no use. If you want to examine the motives of the assailants to establish beyond a shadow of a doubt that they mean Franny Armstrong harm, and aren't just asking her to admire their big iron bar, you're no use. If you are a peacenik who avoids all confrontation, you're no use. If you are a post-modernist who believes there are multiple truths, you will be too confused to be of any use.

In this age of cowardly consensus, feigned reasonableness and radical tolerance, the middle ground has been sanctified, no matter how stark the choice between right and wrong. Few are willing to do the right thing because no one will agree what the right thing might be, because that would imply there is a wrong thing, which is supposedly the view only of right-wing extremists.

Thus Kevin Rudd, the king of the middle ground, can hold two contrary ideas on asylum seekers, unpicking the allegedly heartless border-protection policies of the Howard government and replacing them with some sort of "tough and humane" apparatus that seems only to cause more suffering. His "Indonesian solution" of detaining Australia-bound asylum seekers in Indonesian camps will no doubt be harsher than keeping them in Australian-run centres in Nauru or Manus Island, and Australia will have less control over their living conditions.

But out of sight, out of mind, is a good way for the activists of the Howard era to avoid inconvenient truths.

Imagine if it were John Howard presiding over the stand-off with 78 Sri Lankan asylum seekers on the Oceanic Viking, the Australian Customs ship on which they have been languishing in Indonesian waters for three weeks, and counting. It would have been proof of his racist, xenophobic, inward-looking, 1950s-mired, white-picket-fence narrow-mindedness and meanness of spirit that had turned us into a pariah nation. As for Philip Ruddock, bring on the cadaver metaphors.

Imagine if Howard were prime minister last weekend when a boat of asylum seekers capsized near the Cocos Islands, drowning 12 people, including two teenage boys. It would have been SIEV X all over again. Blood on your hands, little Johnny. Crack journalistic investigative teams would be signing book contracts. Hannie Rayson would whip up another play applauded by chatterers and doctors' wives. The Refugee Action Coalition, Flotillas of Hope, Free the Refugees Campaign, Stop the War Coalition, North Shore Greens, Western Sydney Peace Group and North-West Friends of Refugees would be marching on Kirribilli House.

And yet the criticism of the Rudd Government from our public moral guardians has been oh, so muted. Where are Julian Burnside, Tony Kevin, Malcolm Fraser and Phillip Adams with their fearless commentary? Tom Keneally and his taped mouth? Ian Macphee, Greg Barns, Richard Woolcott, Marcus Einfeld? Oh, I forgot. He's in jail.

The lobby group A Just Australia, which hounded the Howard government over asylum seekers, has issued five press releases this year, of which four have led with attacks on the Opposition, including dire warnings about "a punitive … hardline faction within the shadow cabinet". The other press release mildly reproached Rudd for "disappointing" use of the term "illegal immigration" before moving to familiar territory, lambasting irresponsible "Sharman Stone and other shadow cabinet extremists". Old habits die hard.

Mandatory detention, it is worth pointing out at every opportunity, was introduced by Howard's Labor predecessor, with nary a murmur, even when about 350 children were locked up in 1993. It was Howard who ended the policy of detaining children.

But opportunists who despised Howard and the rednecks who voted for him used refugees as a political bludgeon, without any real attempt to help them. Those who once decried Howard's border protection policies, including the Pacific solution, which had asylum seekers processed in Nauru and on Manus Island, have a much more relaxed take on Rudd's Indonesian solution.

Howard and Ruddock were demonised for their clear, firm stand in 2001 after the Tampa crisis. Yet the results were more humane in practice than the rhetoric might suggest. Boat arrivals all but stopped by 2002 as the criminal syndicates who run people-smuggling rackets got the message that there was no point risking people's lives in leaky boats. The drownings at sea stopped.

Rudd, on the other hand, adopted a soft-talking approach, repudiating Howard's border protection policies and pandering to the activist lobby while attempting to retain border control on the quiet.

In practice his policies may turn out be less humane than Howard's, not least because his rhetoric has offered asylum seekers false hope. But at least no one hates him.


Australia gives illegals plush treatment while assessing them

They get an island holiday with all expenses paid by the Australian taxpayer

DETAINEES on Christmas Island have access to both fast-speed internet services and mobile phones, raising fears they have may have been encouraging the stand-off on the Oceanic Viking. The Department of Immigration confirmed the internet and phone access but declined to answer questions relating to detainees having made contact with either those on the Oceanic Viking, people smugglers or other family members encouraging them to make the illegal boat trip to Australia.

The department says the use of the 30 computers is "supervised''. However, according to eyewitness accounts given to The Sunday Telegraph, such supervision is minimal if it exists at all. Eyewitnesses say guards on the island told them the computers were filtered for the "usual sites like porn'', but that was all. One person who observed detainees using the two computer rooms on the island said: "It's clear they were able to have contact with the outside world. Therefore it's conceivable they might have been in contact with the Oceanic Viking.

"All they have to tell other refugees is that if you get to Christmas Island you'll spend three months max and then 90 per cent are waved through. You'll do less than three months in good surrounds.''

The department refuses to say whether it has any record of who detainees have been in contact with but "restricted internet access'' has been available since early 2007. "Any monitoring of phone calls or internet use would be under-taken by law enforcement or security agencies in accordance with relevant legislation,'' a spokeswoman said, but she did not say whether any such monitoring actually took place.

According to those who have recently been on the island, detainees are also provided with free yoga, fitness and art classes. All health costs are also paid by the Commonwealth - including free dental care. The spokeswoman would not comment on claims one group of detainees destroyed their footwear to get new shoes after one asylum-seeker, who had no shoes, received a new pair on arrival. Fresh food and vegetables are airlifted into the detention centre.

The department refused to confirm this included freshly baked bread costing $10 a loaf - despite there being a bakery on the island. But it did confirm a vegetarian option was made available on the daily menu. Snacks and cigarettes are also available under a "purchase allowance'' points scheme.

The spokeswoman said the total cost for running the island in the less than three months between July 1 this year and September 9 was just over $11 million. A breakdown of the cost included: $6.68 million for overall services, $2 million for interpreters, $1.3 million for health costs, $330,000 for aircraft charter and $800,000 in wages. Those who have been to the island recently say locals have noted the department spares no expense airfreighting the detainees' requirements, while food and supplies for locals come by boat.

The spokeswoman confirmed all health costs were met by the Commonwealth. One recent visitor observed that many ordinary Australians in the bush could not receive access to free dental care.

The spokeswoman said food supplies were ordered from the mainland. She added: "We have a duty of care to ensure the health and well-being of people in immigration detention, including ensuring access to appropriate physical and recreational activities, such as a grassed area for soccer.''

Meanwhile the stand-off on the Oceanic Viking, moored off Indonesia for more than four weeks, showed signs of thawing when 22 of the 78 Sri Lankans on board left the vessel after the Australian Government guaranteed them a special 12-week turnaround of their claim for refugee status.


1 comment:

Paul said...

As a senior registered nurse in the joke that is Queensland Health, I can't get general fast Internet access. Naybe I need to nugget my face and say "Asylum".