Saturday, December 19, 2009

I am a lucky lad!

Why? Because I received a Christmas card from Kevin Rudd! I must admit that it is the first time I have received a Christmas card from a Prime Minister. I think it is because he is my local member or something like that. It is a rather small card so I suspect that there is a hierarchy of such things and more important people get better cards. Anyway, I am happy to be at the bottom of the ladder. Climbing ladders has never been my thing.

At least I think it is a Christmas card. The word "Christmas" does not appear anywhere on it -- unsurprisingly in these times. See below. The major motif seems to be an abstract impression of one of Brisbane's splendid "CityCats" (municipal catamaran ferries on the Brisbane river) going under a bridge. The writing on the trees etc is simply a collection of names of Brisbane suburbs, misspelled in one case. I guess they are the suburbs that are covered by the CityCat service.

Kevvy's signature is a bit surprising: Almost feminine. But I doubt that he signs his cheques that way. I wonder what a graphologist would make of it?

The charade of "child protection" by Australian government agencies

By Dr Jeremy Sammut

In 2009, Dantean images of child abuse and neglect have reminded us that child protection authorities continue to fail vulnerable children. Recall the seven year-old autistic girl starved to the death by her parents on the mid-north coast of NSW. When her body was discovered in the faeces-ridden bedroom she died a prisoner in, ‘Ebony’ weighted just 9 kg. Black vomit and bull ants ran from her mouth and nose.

Remember two-year old Dean Shillingsworth who longed to be nurtured by his violent mother. When Dean ‘clung’ to the woman who bore him, she responded not with a mother’s love but with murderous rage – she choked him to death, shoved his corpse into a suitcase, and threw it into a lake in South West Sydney.

Yet amid the darkness appears a slither of light and hope. The least horrific image (relatively speaking) is the most important; it reveals the truth of the child protection crisis.

In 2004, Dean’s elder sister was hit and kicked by her mother’s boyfriend. The girl, aged just three, walked more than a kilometre, unaccompanied, to the home of a relative.

Dean’s sister knew that her family situation was abnormal, that she was in danger, and that she needed a haven. This elemental tale of human instinct and survival (detailed in the NSW Ombudsman’s report into Dean’s death) is in its own way the modern-day equivalent of the story of the ‘Rabbit-Proof Fence.’ It tells us that even a three-year-old knows that the current approach to child protection in this country is fatally flawed.

In the last 40 years, removal of children has become a last resort. Standard practice in all states and territories is to leave at risk children with their parents and instead provide dysfunctional families with ‘appropriate’ support services.

Dean and Ebony’s parents had a long history of involvement with the NSW Department of Community Services. Despite numerous reports of risk of harm, DoCS did not adequately investigate, and Ebony and Dean were not even seen to check on their welfare. Therefore, no action was taken to remove either child from obviously unsafe environments. In Dean’s case, a taxpayer-funded charity did all it could to ensure his mother kept custody of the children she was unfit to care for.

Unless child protection authorities and their political masters face up to the harsh realities and responsibilities involved in effective child protection, the deaths of Ebony and Dean will have truly been in vain.

All reports of child abuse and neglect must be fully investigated, and many children need to be removed from their families to keep them safe. Unless we start rescuing more children, this won’t be the last Christmas haunted by memories of unwanted and unloved kids who should have been saved.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated December 18. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Warmist scientists 'crying wolf' over coral reefs

At last some logic and common-sense. I notice that alarmist Hoagy is not saying much these days after some of his own research showed great resilience in coral. It's just amazing how Warmists routinely ignore the fact that corals survived much warmer episodes in the prehistoric past

A SENIOR marine researcher has accused Australian scientists of "crying wolf" over the threat of climate change to the Great Barrier Reef, exposing deep division about its vulnerability.

Peter Ridd's rejection of the consensus position that the reef is doomed unless greenhouse emissions are checked comes as new research on the Keppel group, hugging Queensland's central coast, reveals its resilience after coral bleaching. Professor Ridd, a physicist with Townsville's James Cook University who has spent 25 years investigating the impact of coastal runoff and other problems for the reef, challenged the widely accepted notion that coral bleaching would wipe it out if climate change continued to increase sea surface temperatures. Instead of dying, the reef could expand south towards Brisbane as waters below it became warmer and more tolerable for corals, he said.

His suggestion is backed up by an Australian Institute of Marine Science research team headed by veteran reef scientist Ray Berkelmans, which has documented astonishing levels of recovery on the Keppel outcrops devastated by bleaching in 2006.

Professor Ridd said scientists who predicted corals would be mostly extinct by mid-century had a credibility problem because the Great Barrier Reef was in "bloody brilliant shape". He said the reef had defied predictions that it would be overwhelmed by crown of thorns starfish, smothered in sediment from river runoff or poisoned by sediment and chemicals washed on to corals from the mainland. He accepted that ocean acidification associated with climate change was a genuine danger because it could impede the process of coral calcification, destroying the reef's building block. Scientists responsible for "crying wolf" over lesser threats had done the research community a disservice, he said.

"Ten years ago, I was told that the coral was going to die from sediment, and we have proved that is complete rubbish," Professor Ridd told The Weekend Australian. "They are saying that pesticides are a problem, but when you look at the latest data, that is a load of rubbish. They are saying bleaching is the end of the world, but when you look into it, that is a highly dubious proposition. "So when something comes along like the calcification problem, you are sort of left with this wolf story . . . they are crying wolf all the time."

Leading scientists including former AIMS chief scientist Charlie Veron and reef research pioneer Ove Hoegh-Gulberg, who attended the Copenhagen talks on climate change, have warned that the Great Barrier Reef will be destroyed by the middle of the century if ocean temperatures continue to rise, unleashing more frequent and lethal bleaching. Mass bleaching was recorded on the Great Barrier Reef in 1998 and 2002, affecting up to 60 per cent of all corals. The last severe outbreak, in which stressed corals eject the symbiotic algae that provide them with nutrients, causing many to die, was localised on the Keppel reefs three years ago.

More than 95 per cent of the corals were affected, of which about a third died. The corals became stressed after the water temperature topped 28.5C and began to die when it hit 30C and stayed at that level for a week or more, with limited wind or cloud cover to ease the heating.

Scientists have found the tolerance level of corals varies. Reefs around Magnetic Island, off Townsville, can withstand water temperatures in the low 30s, while those off Yemen, at the foot of the Arabian peninsula, live in temperatures that can reach 34C.

As The Weekend Australian reports today, some of the corals on the Keppel outcrops are more thickly covered in coral than before bleaching in 2006, raising hope the living heart of the reef can acclimatise to spikes in water temperature through a remarkable process of algal shuffling. "That was a real surprise," Dr Berkelmans said, conducting us on an underwater tour of what he calls his "lab rat" reefs at the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef.

He said the findings made him more optimistic about the ability of corals to adapt to climate change, especially on inshore reefs such as those in the Keppels. "People say the reef is dying," Dr Berkelmans said. "The Great Barrier Reef is 2000km long, with 3000 reefs. Are you telling me all of it is going to die?

"I don't think so. There are some areas that are naturally more resilient than others, there are some areas that see warmer temperatures less frequently because of favourable oceanography or other factors . . . We might lose species, and we might lose them at many reefs. The Great Barrier Reef would look vastly different, but the reef would still be there."

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority chairman Russell Reichelt, a former AIMS scientist who worked on crown of thorns outbreaks, said Professor Ridd had cherrypicked data to support his thesis that the threat to the reef was exaggerated. "I would liken it to the medical debate around `Does smoking cause cancer?'," Dr Reichelt said. [No facts. Just abuse. Typical Warmist]


Conservative leader says all children should be taught about the Bible

BIBLE classes should be compulsory so children have a fundamental understanding of Christianity on leaving school, federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says. "I think everyone should have some familiarity with the great texts that are at the core of our civilisation," Mr Abbott told the Herald Sun. "That includes, most importantly, the Bible.

"I think it would be impossible to have a good general education without at least some serious familiarity with the Bible and with the teachings of Christianity. "That doesn't mean that people have to be believers."

But former Howard government Islamic advisor Dr Ameer Ali, said Mr Abbott's remarks were "over the top". "It's one thing to say every child needs a good knowledge of history and geography or science," Dr Ali said. "But it is something else to say all children should have a knowledge of the Bible. That might hurt other people who have their own holy scriptures," he said.

And the Australian Education Union's federal president, Angelo Gavrielatos, said that religion was not a priority for schools. "There is a place for comparative studies of religion in the curriculum, but ultimately we consider it a private matter for parents and their children," he said.


Australian students save on fees by studying in New Zealand

Some New Zealand universities (e.g. Victoria, Otago) have a very good name indeed so this is good thinking. I would go there myself if I were still a poor student

AUSTRALIAN students are gaining university degrees at half the price by heading across the Tasman to study in New Zealand. It's a chance to turn the tide on the Kiwi influx, because a little-known government deal means New Zealand taxpayers are subsidising more than 2000 Australians to study at NZ universities.

Unlike other international students, Australians qualify for domestic status meaning they pay the same fees as the locals, and they also qualify for the low-cost student loan HELP (formerly HECS) equivalent, Study Link, and also the Austudy equivalent for living allowances.

Year 12 school leavers around the country will soon find out if they managed to get into their desired universities. If they miss out, Renee Walker, head of marketing for Christchurch-based Canterbury University, suggests giving the land of the long white cloud a go. "Course costs are subsidised and generally cheaper than Australian universities, especially with the exchange rate. And on-campus accommodation is also very reasonable," she said. On-campus accommodation ranges from $NZ198 ($158) a week self-catered, to $NZ375 ($299) a week for all meals, electricity and phone.

Recent figures released by the Federal Government revealed 20 per cent of first-year university students in Australia drop out with financial hardship cited as a leading factor. Other students who complete their degrees leave with a HELP debt ranging from $15,000 to $40,000. Last year there were 1.3 million Australians with accumulated HELP debts of about $14.6 billion, according to the Australian Tax Office.

Sue Sundstrom of the NSW Careers Advisory Association said New Zealand was a viable alternative, especially for regional students who faced travel to a major metro university anyway. David Berridge, a career counsellor with a Sydney eastern suburbs school, said two of the school's year 12 students were thinking of studying business at Otago. "The UAI (Universities Admissions Index) is lower, 74-76, so if kids miss out here, it's certainly worth looking at," he said.

At Sydney University, an arts degree costs $5300 a year. At Monash in Victoria, it's about $6300 and $5400 at University of Queensland. At Canterbury University in New Zealand, the same degree will cost $NZ4500 ($3598) a year. Over the course of a three-year degree, that's $6000 to $9000 saved.

More expensive courses such as economics and engineering cost $7567 a year at Sydney University, $7300 at Monash and $8625 at UQ. Over the Tasman, the most expensive courses offered at Canterbury are $NZ5500 ($4398), again a saving of between $3000 and $4000 a year.


More rapes by "refugee" Africans?

Ethnicity of offenders is zealously suppressed these days but the last sentence seems to give the game away. Lebanese Muslims are also known for callous pack rapes but Arabic interpreters should not be hard to find.

I like to do all I can towards defeating censorship. I have a whole blog specifically aimed at that, in fact. And if I get it wrong, the fault lies with the secrecy, not me.

A TEENAGE boy charged over the pack rape of two 15-year-old girls told police he'd done nothing wrong and the girls wanted it, a court heard today. The 16-year-old boy, one of two charged today with the pack rape involving up to 10 males in Melbourne in October, had shown no remorse, police informant Detective Dave Newman told a children's court.

"It seemed in the interview any girl outside at night and drinking alcohol is fair game and I have a major concern he could do this to other people," he told the court. "I am quite disturbed and have major concerns about that attitude being back on the streets and going straight back to reoffending with members of the public or witnesses."

The 16-year-old boy from Broadmeadows was charged with four counts of rape and a 17-year-old boy from Coolaroo has been charged with two counts of rape.

The court heard a graphic account of how the girls were raped repeatedly and taunted by up to 10 males. Someone close to the defendant had talked about burning the girls' house down while the defendant talked about "buying the girls" to get himself off, the court heard.

A lawyer for the boy told the magistrate he had no criminal history and should be granted bail as two other males involved in the case had been. A magistrate said she was concerned the boy was a risk and was convinced that the two girls were petrified and remanded him in custody until another hearing next month.

The 17-year-old will apply for bail next week and will spend the weekend behind bars after an interpreter could not be found to appear in court.


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