Tuesday, December 08, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is deeply unimpressed by media collusion designed to promote the Copenhagen climate conference.

Australian conservatives riling UN climate bosses

THE head of the world's top climate research body has compared Tony Abbott to former US president and climate sceptic George W. Bush and conceded the failure of Australia's cap and trade carbon bill has given momentum to climate naysayers worldwide. In an exclusive interview with The Australian just hours before he was to deliver the keynote address on the opening day of the Copenhagen global climate summit, Rajendra Pachauri denied the defeat of the legislation would provide enough impetus to derail negotiators at Copenhagen from delivering an agreement.

But Dr Pachauri, who chairs the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former US vice-president Al Gore, said more important was the decision of US President Barack Obama to defer his Copenhagen trip to coincide with the leaders meeting on the last day of the summit. "Yes, of course, it will be a motivator (for climate sceptics), but several positives have taken place, like President Barack Obama coming on December 18th and not the 9th," he said. "The Chinese and Indian prime ministers are also coming."

Asked how he might deal with Mr Abbott -- who has previously described global warming as "crap" -- should he topple Kevin Rudd at the next federal election, Dr Pachauri cited US president George W. Bush's reversal on climate change during his second term. "You don't know what a person will do from one point in time to another. People have also been known to change their opinions," Dr Pachauri said. "I talked to George W. Bush on his sixth or seventh year as president and his beliefs had changed drastically from when he first took office."

As well as the defeat of the Australian legislation, the lead-up to the Copenhagen conference, which began last night, has been complicated by the scandal of "Climategate", the leaking of emails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit which appear to undermine data showing global warming.

IPCC vice-chairman Jean-Pascal van Ypersele said the theft of the emails was not the work of amateurs, but was a sophisticated attempt to destroy public confidence in the science of man-made climate change. He said the fact the emails had first been uploaded to a sceptics' website from a computer in Russia was an indication the hackers were paid. "It's very common for hackers in Russia to be paid for their services," he said. "If you look at that mass of emails, a lot of work was done, not only to download the data, but it's a carefully made selection of emails and documents that's not random at all. This is 13 years of data, and it's not a job of amateurs."

UN Environment Program director Achim Steiner said the theft of the emails had echoes of Watergate -- the burglary of the US Democratic Party's offices at the Watergate building in Washington in 1972. "This is not climate-gate, it's hacker-gate. Let's not forget the word `gate' refers to a place where data was stolen by people who were paid to do so. So the media should direct its investigations into that."

In Adelaide yesterday, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong conceded she would go to the Copenhagen summit with Australia's position significantly weakened because of parliament's rejection of the ETS. "We wanted to go to Copenhagen with a plan to meet our targets; it's unhelpful that we're not," Senator Wong said. "But of course Australia will still be doing all we can to contribute to getting the agreement Australia needs and the world needs."

Senator Wong said that although it was unlikely a legally binding treaty would be finalised in Copenhagen, she was determined to get an "effective political agreement". "We need to do what President Obama said: that is, an agreement that's comprehensive and that has immediate effect," she said.

Last week's Senate vote on the ETS legislation, which would have seen emissions trading in Australia begin in July 2011, had been closely scrutinised by the US and other Western nations which are considering similar domestic measures to help cut greenhouse gas emissions. A political agreement on carbon trading in Australia, the developed world's biggest per capita emitter, would have helped to garner support for action in Copenhagen from other countries. But the legislation was voted down after a mutiny within opposition party ranks led by Mr Abbott, who overthrew former leader Malcolm Turnbull over his support for the ETS legislation.

Dr Pachauri described Mr Rudd, whom he met last month during the Prime Minister's lightning trip to India, as a "remarkable leader and an experienced politician". He said he was confident the ETS bill's defeat last week was a "minor setback". During his India visit Mr Rudd pledged $70 million in funding for a host of new joint agriculture and energy research projects, several of which involved India's top environmental organisation, TERI (The Energy Resources Institute), which Dr Pachauri also heads. "It seems to me the Australian public is fully committed to taking action because Australia is probably one country that has suffered from the impacts of climate change more than any other," Dr Pachauri said from Denmark. "(Climate sceptics) will get momentum from time to time but they are certainly a minority so I don't see in a democracy how they would succeed. "I think as long as Kevin Rudd is the Prime Minister of the government in power and he wants to move in a particular direction the country will rally around the PM."

Dr Pachauri said he was "pretty optimistic" an agreement could be reached in Copenhagen and had been encouraged by commitments made in the past fortnight by China, India and the US.


Hatred blinds Leftist academics to reality

The election prophecies of the Canberra psephologist Malcolm Mackerras are really just harmless entertainment. Last week he predicted that the Greens candidate Clive Hamilton would defeat the Liberal Kelly O'Dwyer in the byelection for the Melbourne seat of Higgins on Saturday, and prophesied that Liberal Paul Fletcher would be forced to preferences in Bradfield on the north shore.

Of greater concern are the byelection predictions of some social science academics who are employed to teach politics to fee-paying students at taxpayer-subsidised universities. Both O'Dwyer and Fletcher increased the total Liberal vote, after the distribution of preferences, over that which was obtained in the 2007 election.

Labor did not run candidates and the Greens were not able to match the combined anti-Liberal vote of two years ago. Yet some academics predicted not only a dismal showing for the new Liberal leader, Tony Abbott, in his first electoral test but also the demise of his party.

In a bizarre article in The Australian on Friday, Robert Manne, a politics professor at La Trobe University, canvassed not only a victory for his friend Hamilton but also "the destruction of the Liberal Party" this week. Manne acknowledged some of his views were "fantasy" but it was difficult to work out what part of his article was fantasy and what was academic analysis. Most teachers would fail a paper like this if it were presented as a university essay.

Manne also made his position clear on the Liberals, referring to the party's "troglodyte-denialist wing" and Abbott as the "troglodyte-in-chief". Such language seems acceptable in the La Trobe University politics department.

Judith Brett, Manne's professional colleague, did not throw the switch to fantasy or engage in labelling. Even so, her analysis was very similar to Manne's. Writing in the Herald on Saturday, she said that "the Liberals risk becoming a down-market protest party of angry old men in the outer suburbs". She also said the Liberals were "the natural party of the big end of town and of the big producer groups".

In fact, big business and the big producer groups are willing to co-operate with whichever party is in government. The core of the Coalition's support turns on medium to small business, farmers and middle-income earners.

According to O'Dwyer, the Liberals gained votes in such suburbs as Carnegie and Murrumbeena, which are not the high socio-economic parts of Higgins, where she received strong support from young married women. So much for Brett's analysis. Or perhaps fantasy is a better word.

Manne and Brett are not alone. Brian Costar, a professor of political science at Swinburne University, said he expected Higgins would go to preferences. And Paul Strangio, a member of the Monash University politics department, wrote in The Age that "Abbott's leadership will need emotional intelligence - a quality in short supply in the Liberal Party in recent times".

Manne, Brett, Costar and Strangio are all left-of-centre or leftist academics who comment on the Liberal Party as part of their professional career. A reading of their analyses this week reveals the pitfalls of projection. Manne, Brett, Costar and Strangio dislike Abbott's social conservatism and his rejection of the Rudd Government's emissions trading scheme. They made the familiar error of projecting their views on to the voters in Higgins and Bradfield.

There is also an unpleasant double standard here involving Tony Abbott's Catholicism. On Friday Manne wrote that "very many Australians will not vote for a Catholic party leader whose religious convictions fashion their politics". Manne was the chairman of The Monthly when it ran Rudd's essay on the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer in 2006, and enthusiastically endorsed Rudd's religious convictions at the time. The views of Rudd and Abbott on social issues are not far apart. Yet it seems, according to Manne, Rudd's religious convictions are acceptable while Abbott's are not.

Come to think of it, the fantasy surrounding last Saturday's byelections has not been confined to academics. This year, the Radio National program Breakfast has been giving publicity to Fiona Patten's new Australian Sex Party. As recently as last Friday it was suggested on Breakfast that the party could win a seat in the Senate. Not on Saturday's vote it couldn't. Patten scored 3.3 per cent of the primary vote, finishing behind the Democratic Labor Party candidate John Mulholland. This is a breakaway from the original DLP, which was formally wound up three decades ago.

Few would expect that Abbott could lead the Coalition to victory in next year's election. His task will become more difficult following the decision of Malcolm Turnbull to adopt the stance taken by such former Liberal leaders as John Gorton, Malcolm Fraser and John Hewson and become a public critic of the party he once led.

Turnbull's announcement that he would cross the floor and support Labor's emissions trading scheme is a blow to the Coalition. But it does not overturn the fact that, based on last week's Liberal Party secret ballot, 75 per cent of Coalition parliamentarians support Abbott's approach on climate change.

The Liberal vote at the weekend indicates that Abbott is capable of at least stabilising the Coalition vote at the level of the 2007 election and perhaps increasing it somewhat. Moreover, Abbott's approach may attract support among the lower socio-economic groups who elected Robert Menzies in 1949, Fraser in 1975 and John Howard in 1996. This is a fact that the left-of-centre academy has invariably been slow to appreciate.


New conservative leader talks to the coalminers

Journalists attack Abbott over his Catholic beliefs but give Rudd a free ride over his Anglican beliefs. Bigotry, anyone?

KEVIN Rudd has a reputation for donning hard hats on construction sites, while Tony Abbott's staunch Catholicism has earned him the nickname of "Mad Monk". But yesterday, in the first open hostilities between the two, it was Mr Abbott who visited a coalmine in the NSW Hunter Valley vowing to save thousands of jobs threatened by an emissions trading scheme, while the Prime Minister returned fire from the forecourt of St John's Anglican Church in Canberra.

In a direct appeal to Labor's working-class constituency, the newly elected Opposition Leader selected the Bloomfield open-cut coalmine at East Maitland as a backdrop to warn that 16,000 jobs could be lost in the Hunter should the ETS come into effect. "You only have to listen to the coalmining unions to understand there's a lot of unhappiness among Labor people with Mr Rudd's rushed emissions tax, which is going to put tens of thousands of jobs at risk around Australia and about 16,000 jobs at risk here in the Hunter," Mr Abbott warned. "The last thing we want to do is jeopardise the competitiveness of Australia's export industries, on which all of us ultimately depend."

With Mr Rudd shelving plans to fly early to the Copenhagen summit next week after US President Barack Obama indicated he would not arrive until later in the talks, Mr Abbott challenged the Prime Minister to a series of debates on climate change. "The problem is, Mr Rudd has explained his emissions tax more to Barack Obama than he has to the Australian people," he said.

In what promises to be an increasingly bitter contest between the two men, the Liberal leader took aim at critics who seek to define him by his Catholicism, and swiped at Kevin Rudd's new prime ministerial tradition of holding "press sermons" outside church most Sundays. Describing Mr Rudd as sounding "more like a public servant in a seminar than a retail politician", Mr Abbott said his personal faith was a private matter, and asked why journalists did not grill Mr Rudd on his religious beliefs.

Responding to a pointed question from the Nine Network's Laurie Oakes about whether or not he believed in evolution, Mr Abbott said his faith was "not out there in the political marketplace". "I don't do doorsteps in front of church, Laurie," Mr Abbott said. "I mean, if there's one person who's put religion front and centre in the public square, to use his phrase, it's Kevin Rudd. "So please, next time Kevin's here, grill him on evolution and all these other subjects."

As if to prove the point, down in Canberra, Mr Rudd emerged from morning service at St John's Anglican Church in Reid to issue a rebuke to Mr Abbott on climate change policy. "Despite our differences, Mr Howard had a policy on climate change, as did Mr Turnbull. It was called an emissions trading scheme. I have a policy on climate change. It's called an emissions trading scheme," Mr Rudd said. "I'd suggest the current Leader of the Opposition calms down, puts in the hard yards and actually develops a policy on climate change."

Mr Abbott has vowed that he will take neither an ETS nor a carbon tax to the next election. And that policy, raw as it is, found plenty of support with the manager of the Bloomfield mine, John Richards. Mr Richards said the miners who would be most affected by an ETS would be those in "gassy underground mines".

"Open-cut miners will also be hurt, but to a lesser extent," he said. "If the ETS goes ahead, it will impose a direct increase of $1.40 to $2 per tonne dependent on our production costs."



Four current articles below:

Surprise! Nobody knows how to fix Australia's unfixable "free" hospital system

Rudd knows he doesn't have the moneypit needed

PEAK health groups have demanded Kevin Rudd stop talking and act on improving the nation's health system, flatly declaring he is taking too long to decide how to reform the troubled sector. And the opposition has ridiculed the Prime Minister as a health bureaucrat more interested in process than action after yesterday's Council of Australian Governments meeting in Brisbane failed to deliver substantive health reform. Mr Rudd yesterday defended his reform process, insisting that reforms of the multi-billion-dollar system must be done properly and with proper consultation.

Mr Rudd won the 2007 federal election promising to end what he called "the blame game" between states and the commonwealth. He vowed he would lift funding to states but relieve them of control of public hospitals if they failed to improve their performance. Despite delivering a 50 per cent, five-year funding boost to the states in a $64 billion funding agreement signed last year, complete with more federal strings attached, Mr Rudd has yet to finalise his plans for structural reform of the system.

Yesterday, he emerged from a two-hour discussion on health with the premiers with no news beyond a $300 million boost in funding for elective surgery and an agreement on a decision-making process for next year. "Our healthcare system is under great stress and pressure, and therefore we must get it absolutely right for the long-term," Mr Rudd said.

Earlier, he had briefed the premiers on the report of the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission, produced earlier this year, proposing a range of possible changes to the operation of the health system.

The lack of progress drew a sharp response, with Australian Medical Association president Andrew Pesce saying the health sector was running out of patience. "People are losing confidence because the timeframes keep changing and getting put back," Dr Pesce said. "We can only tolerate further delays if we can get some assurance that solutions are being considered that will actually fix our deteriorating system. Our governments must give a firm indication of the direction and extent of the health reform that is being developed."

Catholic Health Australia chief executive Martin Laverty labelled COAG a talkfest and demanded Mr Rudd "stop talking and start acting". "We appreciate the level of consultation on health reform but today's Council of Australian Governments talkfest has not delivered what patients in hospitals and residents in aged care services need," he said. "Unwieldy and inconsistent legislation and regulation, and overlapping responsibilities between states and the commonwealth, are delaying or even preventing timely access to aged care for many older Australians in need. "By simplifying and centralising the funding and assessment processes, the federal government could ensure quality aged care is available to all who need it, when they need it, with choice over where and how to receive care."

Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association executive director Prue Power said she was disappointed by the lack of action. "Now that these processes have been undertaken, it is time for governments to act," Ms Power said. "The community expects it and the future of our health system depends upon it. "The outcome today can only be characterised as a continued holding pattern for the Australian community. If the government is not careful, the plane may run out of fuel before it has a chance to land safely."

Opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton said Mr Rudd had spent two years making promises but had done nothing. "Mr Rudd is Australia's favourite bureaucrat," Mr Dutton said. "He loves to talk in bureaucratic terms, he talks in convoluted terms and today he was the health bureaucrat."

Mr Rudd was unmoved. He said his reform process was adhering to his stated targets and that he had significantly boosted funding to states in the new funding agreement. "These are massive numbers which affect the totality of the health system and therefore they have to be got right," the Prime Minister said. "A bit of sticking plaster here and a bit of sticking plaster there frankly, when you are looking at long term reform won't work."


Baby sent home had blood clot that could have killed him

On the one hand, the seven-month-old's life was saved with surgery to remove an 8cm x 2.8cm blood clot pushing on his brain. However, his traumatised mother Tamara says that only hours before, when she first took James to the Gold Coast Hospital's emergency department, he was not treated and allowed to go home.

Gold Coast Hospital emergency director David Green yesterday strongly disputed Mrs Owen's account. He said Mrs Owen and James left the emergency department "against clinical advice after the patient was assessed and under observation". However, Mrs Owen said: "The triage nurse said he had only a minor head injury that didn't need to be seen by a doctor. "If we hadn't taken him back to the hospital when we did, he would have died in a matter of minutes."

Mrs Owen, 28, said James landed on his head after rolling off his parents' bed at the family's Upper Coomera home about 8am on November 24. "Immediately, his head swelled up so we put him in the car and took him straight to see our GP," she said. "Our doctor gave us a referral letter and said, 'Please take him to the hospital', so we did."

Mrs Owen and her husband Steven, 31, arrived with their baby at the Gold Coast Hospital emergency department about 9.20am. She said a triage nurse led them into a treatment room for initial assessment. "However, the nurse then pushed on the part of (my son's) head that was bruised and swollen and he didn't stop screaming," Mrs Owen said. "She said, 'If you like, you can sit in the waiting room for four hours and we'll come and check his vital signs every half-hour'. "She also said that we should try to put him to sleep out there but we thought after a head injury, the last thing you should do is go to sleep."

Mrs Owen said the family retreated to the waiting room as directed, but after 90 minutes no further medical checks had been performed. "So we decided then to take (James) home as he wouldn't calm down and we were the only ones observing him anyway," she said. She said the triage nurse agreed they could leave, handing Mrs Owen a "list of signs to watch out for." "Things like vomiting . . . being non-responsive," she said.

Once back at their house, James, would not take his bottle. He appeared extremely tired, and Mrs Owen says against her better instincts, she let him sleep. "With the nurse earlier saying, 'Put him to sleep', we (now) didn't think there was anything wrong with that," she said.

Three hours later, James barely flickered when his mother tried to rouse him. "He'd kind of look at me and crash again," Mrs Owen said. "He became unconscious."

Returned to the Gold Coast Hospital emergency department via ambulance, James was given a CT scan, which showed he was clinging to life with a fractured skull and a large haematoma compressing his brain. He was rushed to theatre, where a piece of his skull was removed to gain access to the clot and extract it.

Mrs Owen says James has bounced back remarkably and she is thankful for the skill of the surgeons. However, she remains furious with what she can only surmise are procedural flaws in the way emergency departments deal with suspected head injuries. "I'm so angry that when we took him to emergency that morning we were turned away when my baby's life was at stake," she said. "I'm still not coping with how close we came to losing our son due to this negligence. "Standing there, looking at my helpless baby boy – not knowing if he would make it – was the worst thing I have ever felt."


Pregnant women ignored as they suffered miscarriages at RBWH

A PREGNANT woman was ignored by emergency department staff for hours as she miscarried and suffered a life-threatening haemorrhage at Queensland's biggest public hospital. Just six days later, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital emergency staff were again reported over their handling of another woman's miscarriage.

This time, a specialist was shocked to discover the patient "pale" and "dizzy" and "lying in a large amount of blood". The doctor said he filed a patient harm report "given that this is the second similar episode in a week".

In the first case, blood was gushing from the cervix of an 11-weeks pregnant woman who arrived at RBWH emergency on June 8 this year. Despite this, and the fact she had already passed "several large clots at home", emergency staff did only one set of observations in three hours.

A clinical incident report, compiled by an unidentified medical officer and granted to The Courier-Mail under Right to Information laws, criticised the doctors and nurses involved. They were accused of carrying out infrequent and inadequate checks on the patient's vital signs, "distraction and inattention" and "lack of workplace knowledge".

The woman's blood was not sent away for important pre-transfusion compatibility testing and she had a heart-rate of 120 beats a minute when finally delivered to the operating theatre where her haemorrhage was controlled and her "life saved".

In the second episode, a RBWH consultant gynaecologist reported that the emergency department's failure to run tests and perform examinations as instructed – as well as its poor communication – had compromised the care of a miscarrying patient. He explained that when emergency staff initially notified him of the patient, at 9.30am, he asked about the level of bleeding and the results of a per vaginal examination. "But (I) was told these (tests) hadn't been performed as the (emergency) registrar thought it was inappropriate/unnecessary," the doctor wrote on the incident reporting system.

The doctor said he was contacted again about 1pm, by which time an ultrasound scan had confirmed an "incomplete miscarriage". But an internal vaginal examination still had not been done. "I specifically asked the resident medical officer if she thought I needed to see (the patient) immediately and the reply was 'No'," the doctor said. "(Then) I attended the patient (about) 1.30pm. (She) had been moved to (a ward) and had had observations performed showing pulse of 110 – this had not been notified to myself. "The notes also stated the patient had fainted at home after losing 1-1.5 litres of blood prior to hospital (presentation). This also wasn't conveyed to me. On entering the patient's room . . . the patient was lying in a large amount of blood (500ml)."

The doctor said he did the vaginal examination himself, which proved difficult because of the profuse bleeding. He alerted the nurses, but "could get help from only one". "I administered fluid resuscitation while transferring her to the operating theatre," the doctor said.

Queensland Health director-general Mick Reid said the incidents were concerning but media reporting of "isolated" events caused unwarranted community alarm. "Each day nearly 50,000 people are treated in Queensland Health facilities and 92 per cent of patients (are) satisfied with all aspects of their hospital stay," Mr Reid said. [Who cares if a few of the cattle die, in other words]


Public hospital negligence kills baby

A MAN who told staff at a mental institution about his urge to kill a baby was later released into the care of the girl's family, only to kill her three days later. Jayant Kumar Singh, 56, was transferred to Rozelle psychiatric hospital in mid-2006 after receiving treatment at Canterbury Hospital for diabetes and depression. At Rozelle he received a visit from the mother and her children, with whom he had boarded for years. The woman was unaware of his thoughts about killing her 10-month-old daughter.

During a hearing yesterday to determine whether Mr Singh was not guilty by reason of mental illness, the court heard he had had electroconvulsive therapy before returning to the woman's home on December 19, 2006. In the days after his release, the nursing staff who checked on Mr Singh found he had not taken his antipsychotic or antidepressant medication. But he was not readmitted, the court heard.

A crown prosecutor, Tony McCarthy, told the court that on the morning of December 22 the mother had gone shopping and left her three children in Mr Singh's care. She returned to find the back door locked and her two older children, aged two and four, screaming inside. "When the mother left the house the crown alleges that the accused … took a walking stick and commenced to hit the infant child a number of times about the head," Mr McCarthy said. "He also took the stick to the … older children … to stop them interfering." The court heard that Mr Singh tried to suffocate the baby with a pillow and to choke her with his hands. "He then went to the kitchen and took … one of the knives to its throat and ultimately [partially] decapitated the child," Mr McCarthy said.

The woman broke into her home and found Mr Singh. She removed the older children before carrying the dead baby towards her father-in-law, who was at a nearby pub. Police came and arrested Mr Singh.

"Will the Crown evidence establish whether or not the Rozelle Hospital bothered to inform the mother that the accused had told them that he had thoughts of killing the child?" Justice Robert Shallcross Hulme asked Mr McCarthy. "There is no evidence that they did do that," he replied.

The court heard that a psychiatrist, Stephen Allnutt, believed Mr Singh had been "urged" towards a decision to kill the baby. Dr Allnutt said he could not determine from hospital records why staff discharged Mr Singh, but suggested it may have been because they believed his condition had improved.

"Thoughts of killing a baby are so extreme that one would have thought one would need to be pretty well convinced that they [the thoughts] had gone for good, not just a case that he's not 100 per cent," Justice Hulme quipped back.

The family, originally from overseas, had befriended Mr Singh, a Fijian Indian, and he had lived with them for several years. The woman, now pregnant, and her husband, who was overseas at the time, intend to take civil proceedings against Sydney South West Area Health Service and Central Sydney Area Health Service, in charge of Canterbury and Rozelle hospitals.


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