Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Dislike of Warmist laws causes change in conservative leadership

TONY Abbott's Liberal leadership is a remarkable result for the Liberal party and a victory for those two camps who wanted to remove Malcolm Turnbull and oppose the Rudd Government's ETS. Abbott’s position will now be to oppose the ETS but faces the prospect of rebels immediately undermining his leadership by supporting the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

Mr Divisive – as he is seen – will now have to be the conciliatory and healing leader that Joe Hockey had promised to be.

In the end Abbott’s decisiveness as a potential leader has triumphed over Turnbull’s dictatorial style and crash through approach and Hockey’s attempts to compromise so much he threatened to leave the party without a policy position.

The Liberals have voted for decisiveness and character over indecision from Hockey and overbearing character from Turnbull.

The scene is now set for further ructions within the Liberal party or revolts in the Senate and a Liberal-nationals Coalition attacking the Rudd Government’s ETS as a new tax.


Major Australian resort area runs short of public hospital beds

BOOMING coastal populations in the southeast and north are facing the gravest shortages of public hospital beds in Queensland. The lack of overnight beds, especially on the Gold and Sunshine coasts, has led AMA Queensland president Mason Stevenson to angrily accuse State Treasury of "holding sway" over patients' lives. "If you are a citizen of the Gold or Sunshine coast, (your) health and safety is compromised," Dr Stevenson said. "Dollars and cents appear to come first. "And patients will continue to suffer, and some patients will die, as a result."

For the Gold Coast, the picture only gets bleaker. The Courier-Mail can reveal the new Gold Coast University Hospital will open in late 2012 with up to 150 fewer available beds than promised. Queensland Health deputy director-general (planning and infrastructure) Michael Walsh said staff recruitment delays – not budget cuts – were to blame.

Gold Coast Medical Association president Philip Morris said the hold-up was in stark contrast to the Government's rhetoric. "They keep saying they've got a 750-bed hospital," Dr Morris said.

The Courier-Mail's hospital-by-hospital analysis found the Mackay Health Service District was Queensland's poorest provider of overnight public beds – with six hospitals, 252 beds and only 1.5 beds per 1000 people. The rate was almost half the national average of 2.5 beds for every 1000 residents. According to State Government projections, the Mackay region was expected to be one of the top growth spots from 2006-2026, increasing its population by 37.4 per cent.

However, the Gold Coast was the next most under-resourced area. And its 1.72 beds per 1000 people – based on an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figure of 855 beds – could well be flattering. A Queensland Health spokesman told The Courier-Mail the latest departmental count for the coast was 745 overnight public hospital beds. The Gold Coast Hospital claimed 472 of those, while its Robina campus had 210 and Carrara Health Centre a further 63.

Dr Morris said the coast's population was expected to balloon from 500,000 to 823,000 over the next two decades. He warned that without expansion beyond the University Hospital, the tourism mecca would dive towards a 1000-bed deficit in 25 years. "This will be a disaster for the community," he said.

Dr Stevenson said the Sunshine Coast, the third-worst facilitated district with 1.8 beds per 1000 people, was so bereft of wards and specialist treatments that 180 of its constituents occupied a Brisbane public hospital bed every night. "By 2016-17, the number will have increased to 280," he said. "That denies those beds to Brisbane residents, and also puts enormous pressure on our ambulance and patient transfer systems."

A Coolum Beach GP, Dr Stevenson said the Sunshine Coast population would grow from about 300,000 to 460,000 in 2017. Yet it was missing "tertiary-level services that are now regarded as mainstream throughout the western world". "We do not have access to public cardiology, neurosurgery, vascular surgery or public cancer radiotherapy," Dr Stevenson said.

Brisbane's Metro South Health Service District also failed to meet the national standard, with 2.13 beds per 1000 people. The zone includes major hospitals such as Logan, Mater Adult, Mater Children's, Mater Mothers, Princess Alexandra and QEII.

However, Health Minister Paul Lucas insists there is no crisis. "Of course we want to build more beds and . . . we are doing it," he said. Mr Lucas said the Commonwealth's inadequate subsidising of nursing homes was driving providers out of the sector. "(As a result), there are on average 400 (acute) beds being occupied by Queenslanders who are eligible for nursing home placement," he said.


Teachers bullied to keep quiet on problem government schools

The Queensland Opposition said whistleblowing teachers were being bullied by other teachers to keep problems in schools quiet. New figures released by the State Government showed the number of formal complaints of bullying and aggressive behaviour by teachers against other teachers had increased by more than 40 per cent over the past two years. In 2007, 26 teachers made formal complaints to the education department about other teachers. The number rose to 30 in 2008 and there have been 37 complaints so far in 2009.

Education Minister Geoff Wilson said in an answer to a parliamentary question on notice that the number represented less than one per cent of the state's 47,000 teachers.

Opposition education spokesman Bruce Flegg said he had been approached by a number of teachers concerned about being told by other teachers to keep quiet about school problems. He said the Government was also covering up by refusing to release to the Opposition details of apprehended violence orders against teachers and the number of weapons seized in schools. "There's pressure to cover up those sorts of events, but teachers in those schools want the root causes to be addressed," Dr Flegg said.

"I don't think there is any doubt whistleblowers are being bullied. "The agenda is about controlling the public relations rather than fixing the problems." He said it was a systemic problem that required government action.


Crackdown on rogue bike riders in NSW

You probably have to be full of testerone to ride a bike through fast-moving traffic but the testosterone does seem to foster a disregard for everyone else

Wear bright clothing. Leave MP3 players and mobile phones at home. Never ride more than two abreast. And never travel in packs of more than 20. That's the basic message for cyclists riding in groups contained in new NSW Government guidelines aimed at reducing the increasing number of road injuries and deaths.

"Riding in traffic can be safe and enjoyable for cyclists who follow some commonsense tips," Assistant Transport Minister David Borger said today when he launched the safety campaign at a Darlinghurst coffee shop. “We all know 'the road is there to share' and, in order to save lives, all road users need to obey the rules and respect others. "Cyclists are among our most vulnerable road users and it is important they understand the safest way to travel."

Last year, there were almost 700 cycling accidents, three involving fatalities, in the Sydney region. The number of deaths is expected to have doubled this year. There have been several highly publicised incidents recently. They include two serious accidents on Southern Cross Drive and a case in Seven Hills in which a cyclist, who was allegedly riding illegally on a T-Way lane, followed and boarded a bus, before bashing the 64-year-old driver.

Parramatta police duty officer, Inspector Beth Sturton, said police had still not been able to identify the cyclist involved in the T-Way dispute. "There's still a couple of witnesses [we're] trying to speak to but nothing's come to light there that can identify the individual at this stage," Inspector Sturton said.

Mr Borger said cyclists, like all other road users, were expected to obey the rules. "This includes all signs and signals, staying clear of moving motor vehicles, wearing a helmet, ride no more than two abreast unless passing and follow lane markings. “Cyclists should also look out for pedestrians and give way to them and they are strongly advised to wear brightly coloured or reflective clothing to help make them more visible.”


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