Friday, July 31, 2009


Environment before people, says Wilderness Society -- by Sara Hudson

The misanthropic attitude of conservationists was revealed on Tuesday night when a group of Aboriginal protestors from Cape York gate-crashed a Wilderness Society and green fundraiser.

Dressed in chains and in two giant koala suits, the Cape York Aborigines crashed the party to protest against Queensland’s Wild Rivers legislation, which bans development within two kilometres of the Lockhart, Stewart and Archer rivers.

The protestors blame the Wilderness Society for instigating the legislation, which they argue denies them the ability to build businesses and enterprises on their traditional land – so that more of their people can move out of welfare into the real economy. Tania Major, the spokesperson for the Cape York Aborigines, said they weren’t against conservation but they were protesting because the Wilderness Society had not consulted with them or given them a choice on how to manage their land.

These arguments left the Wilderness Society members unmoved, with spokesperson Anna Christie saying on ABC Radio that environmental sustainability should come before people.

Only those comfortably off are able to so quickly disregard the importance of economic development. They forget that the only reason they can afford to shop at Macro and buy organic food is because they live in an industrialised society. Try living in the outback and getting an organic soy latte.

The fact that the greenies and the Aborigines have fallen out over this issue is a first. Historically, the green movement has tended to support Aboriginal causes. Protesting against the Intervention and the Howard government was a trendy pastime for many greenies.

However, the green movement has failed to address the causes of Aboriginal disadvantage, tending to rely on detached commentary rather than tackling real issues.

The green way of looking at sustainable development is typical of the affluent world that sees sustainability as being environmentally friendly—recycling, living in eco houses, and driving fuel-efficient cars. But for the poor and disadvantaged, sustainability is about having essential services such as housing, water, sewerage, and transport.

It is deeply hypocritical for the green movement to deny Aboriginal development on the premise that this will preserve the environment when they owe their own comfortable existence to Australia’s developed economy.

When dollars defend democracy -- by Andrew Norton

Earlier this week, I attended a forum on ‘dollars and democracy’. Its title reflects concern that political donations distort policy priorities and government decisions. To reduce the influence of private money on politics, the federal government plans to significantly expand regulation of political donors. Foreign-sourced donations and anonymous donations exceeding $50 would be banned outright. Gifts of $1,000 would have to be disclosed, down from nearly $11,000 now.

These rules apply to non-government organisations that express political views as well as to political parties. In fact NGOs face greater disclosure burdens than political parties. They must itemise their expenditure between five overlapping categories, while political parties need provide only one total sum. NGOs must report annually on their spending on ‘election issues’, even for future elections with issues that cannot be known for certain. NGO donors are potentially treated very unfairly. Donors’ names and addresses are put on the Australian Electoral Commission website if their gift finances political expenditure, even if the donor is unaware of how their money is used.

NGOs face significant dangers from these rules. Their staff and volunteers risk fines and jail for breaching the rules. NGOS run by political amateurs may not be aware they have any obligations. But the requirements are so unclear that even political professionals could easily make a mistake. The other danger is that NGO donors will be deterred. The disclosure rules give governments the names of their political opponents. This creates opportunities for improperly disfavouring people tendering for government business or applying for government grants. Cautious donors may decide that revealing their NGO allegiances is too costly.

It’s a mistake to think that ‘dollars and democracy’ are necessarily opposed. Private donations to NGOs are a vital part of Australia’s democratic political system. Without these gifts, many views would go unexpressed, many voices would never be heard, and many criticisms of government would never be made. Plans to ban or deter NGO donations have no place in a democratic society.

More spending on prevention is no solution for hospital crisis -- by Dr Jeremy Sammut

Public health experts have long claimed the problems in Australia’s public hospital system are due to government policy focusing too much on hospitals rather than on preventive and health promotion strategies. The report on health reform released this week by the National Health and Hospital Reform Commission endorses this idea.

The reality is that average life spans have increased dramatically in the last 40 years. Healthier lifestyles and more effective medications have resulted in significant falls in rates of heart attacks and strokes.

People who once would have entered hospitals and died while in their 50s and 60s now live longer. Improved medical treatments are also enabling people to live to older and older ages. These people inevitably get acutely ill and eventually become users of emergency departments and require admission to hospitals when they are older and sicker.

Overcrowded public hospitals are already bearing the brunt of the inexorable ageing of the population.

Between 2004 and 2007, the number of patients presenting at emergency departments with medical problems requiring unplanned admission increased faster than population growth by 15%.

This was driven mainly by rising admissions by frail and ‘very old’ patients aged 75 years and over. Patients in this age groups accounted for 14% of public hospital admissions in 1996–97. They accounted for 20% of public hospital patients in 2007–08.

The problem is that total public acute beds in Australia now number roughly the same as in 1996 – about 2.5 beds per 1000 population. Public hospitals simply do not have enough beds to care for Australia’s ageing population.

More spending on prevention will not address the tsunami of ageing-related demand that will hit public hospitals across the country in coming decades. For the last twenty-five years, State governments have cut bed numbers while opening offices filled with ‘area health’ bureaucrats. The challenge for policy makers is to reverse this process.

A national hospital voucher system, in combination with the reestablishment of local hospital boards, will close down offices, open beds, and rebuild and equip the hospital system to cope with the unprecedented impact of demographic change.

The above are three press releases from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated July 31st. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590. Telephone ph: +61 2 9438 4377 or fax: +61 2 9439 7310

Islamic racist loses defamation case

KEYSAR Trad, the longtime spokesman for Muslim cleric Sheik Taj bin al-Hilaly, has been described as "racist" and "offensive" by a judge who today rejected his defamation claim against radio station 2GB. Mr Trad sued the top-rating Sydney station in the NSW Supreme Court after presenter Jason Morrison described him "gutless" and " just trouble" for his conduct at a rally after the Cronulla riots in December 2005, The Australian reported. Mr Trad's comment about the "shame of tabloid journalism' caused the crowd to boo and harass a 2GB journalist near the stage.

The reporter told Mr Morrison he feared for his safety, prompting the presenter to deliver his tirade the following morning, in which he also described Mr Trad as "disgraceful and dangerous individual who incited violence, hatred and racism."

In August 2007, a jury found Mr Morrison had defamed Mr Trad but Justice Peter McClellan found for 2GB in the second - or defence - phase of the trial that was heard in May, saying the statement were true and also protected as comment based on fact. "There is little doubt that many of the plaintiff's remarks are offensive to Jewish persons and homosexuals," Justice McClellan said in his judgment. "Many of his remarks are distasteful and appear to condone violence.

"I'm satisfied that the plaintiff does hold views which can properly be described as racist. "I'm also satisfied that he encourages others to hold those views. In particular he holds views derogatory of Jewish people. "The views which he holds would not be acceptable to most right-thinking Australians."

Mr Trad, who founded the Islamic Friendship Association, faces up to $400,000 in court costs and there are question marks over his credibility after Justice McClellan's scathing judgment.

During the trial he was subjected to close scrutiny about his public profile as Sheik Hilaly's right-hand man and he frequent statements he made to "clarify" the controversial views of the cleric. These included comments that women who dressed provocatively were "uncovered meat" inviting the attention of rapists. Mr Trad suggested Hilaly was "talking about people who engage in extramarital sex."

Neither Mr Trad or Mr Morrison were at Sydney's Supreme Court to hear the judgment. Outside court, a representative for Mr Trad said he planned to appeal. Parties are due to meet again next Thursday to discuss costs.


Fad-laden food religion well-entrenched at a Melbourne hospital

FAST food giant McDonald's has been given the green light to sell Big Macs in Melbourne's new Royal Children's Hospital. But it will have to meet strict Australian-first menu guidelines.

The hospital's retail food policy revealed to the Herald Sun paves the way for several fast food chains to operate in the $1 billion hospital. They will be subject to a "traffic light" system where half their menu is made up of "green" healthy food such as fruit, vegetables and water. "Red" food, including chips, cannot form more than a fifth of the food on offer.

The decision follows a report revealing RCH staff were split over McDonald's, which opened in the existing hospital amid controversy in 1991. Many doctors believed the presence of McDonald's sent a bad health message, while others felt it was a boost for sick children.

But RCH chairman Tony Beddison said the policy - a first at an Australian hospital - encouraged healthy eating and allowed families to make their own choices. "It provides choice, it provides great variety for children and their families, but it also gives a very clear message about healthy eating," he said. [A totally misleading message, more like it. Does he know the huge amounts of fat and red meat that Eskimos eat and how they almost never get cardiovascular disease?]

"There is going to be no retailer excluded from the tender. "It will be up to the individual retailer to come forward with their plan. But those plans must comply with the traffic-light green, amber, red policy and they need to comply regardless of who they are. "Sick kids need to be nurtured and looked after, guided and helped. But above all, we need to think about their wellbeing. "As a hospital we need to provide leadership to the community. We will not be endorsing any of the tenants, but they will need to meet this policy." To earn a place in the hospital, restaurant menus must feature:

* At least 50 per cent "green" food, such as lean meat, fish, chicken, fruit, vegetables and plain water.

* No more than 30 per cent "amber" food, including ice cream, muesli and snack bars, canned fruit, diet drinks and fruit juice.

* "Red" foods - such as chips, deep fried foods, chocolate bars, lollies, chips and soft drinks - to make up no more than 20 per cent.

At least three food stores will operate in the new hospital, but there could be room for up to nine depending on the mix of plans received when the tender process opens next month. The hospital will conduct twice-yearly audits to enforce the rules.

The hospital did not want to tell families what to eat [except that they do], but Mr Beddison said the hospital policy could be adopted far more widely. "There is no doubt this policy has extensions into other parts of the community, particularly where children eat, such as tuck shops," he said.

He would not speculate on who the likely tenderers would be, but said no restaurants were involved in developing the policy.


A joke for those who follow Australian politics

On a bitterly cold morning in Canberra Kevvy is being chauffeured to Parliament House. It is so cold that Lake Burley Griffin is frozen over.

As he jumps out of the limo Kev looks over the lake and notices that someone has "peed" on the ice and left the message........."KEVVY SUCKS".

Kevvy is enraged and orders ASIO to investigate with "no expense spared" and to report within two weeks.

Two weeks later the head of ASIO reports to the PM and says ...."our investigation is over and I have three pieces of news for you... good news, bad news and terribly bad shocking news".

Well says Kevvy give me the good news. The head of ASIO says......"We spent $5 million dollars on the investigation and have come to a successful result."

Well says Kev what's the bad news ?

The head of ASIO says "The DNA testing shows that the urine is Wayne Swann's". Kevvy is shocked beyond belief.

Looking pale, Kevvy says "and what is the terribly bad shocking news?"

The ASIO chief replies..." it’s Julia Gillard’s handwriting".

Thursday, July 30, 2009

"Never write anything down"

That's advice that's been given to many people over the years and it may be wiser than ever these days, particularly for employers. Many people are unable to acknowledge their own limitations and a lawsuit could follow if those limitations are mentioned in a recoverable way

Have you ever had that creeping feeling that the reason you didn’t get a job was because someone, somewhere stuck a big knife in your back? Managers who seemed fine up until the day you left suddenly turned toxic when the reference checker called. Or perhaps an enthusiastic recruiter cooled on you after seeing your racy photos from Indy on Facebook?

The amazing thing is that you can act on your suspicions and apply to see the notes made about you during the recruitment process. That’s right. Under the existing Privacy Act you can apply to an employer or a recruiter to find out what has been said about you. And now under the Fair Work Act there could be more to check for but more on that later.

Harmers Workplace Lawyers senior associate, Bronwyn Maynard, says candidates can just apply directly to the employer or recruiter. There is no third-party process. Ms Maynard says there are some exemptions such as where the records include personal information about others or it is commercially sensitive. There is no set timeframe for employers to follow but Ms Maynard says expecting an answer back within 30 days is reasonable.

You can check to see any notes made about you during the recruitment process are accurate and relevant. If not, you can request any inaccuracies be corrected. If you deem the information “irrelevant”, you can make a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner. I did call the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and as far as they know, no one has ever made a complaint.

I will pass on what a hiring manager confided to me as a good example of info that could be deemed irrelevant. Sitting at a lunch this guy told me he didn’t hire a woman for a receptionist role because she had too many “friends” on Facebook and he was worried she would be spending all her time updating her posts. If he included this in notes made about the candidate and the candidate applied to see those notes, a claim could follow.

Social networking websites are hot with those sourcing candidates so using them to screen candidates is not a stretch. Indeed, Ms Maynard actually knows of a company that was none too happy when it discovered its line managers were collecting candidate info from social networking websites. She said the company “implemented formal policies [to] forbid the use of social media as a research tool for candidate information gathering – as they deemed this type of personal information to be illegitimate and irrelevant to their business.” “Importantly, employers must remember that these privacy obligations apply even if the information gathered was obtained from a public source as would be the case for many personal details included on an individual’s blog, twitter, Facebook or MySpace page,” she said.

The Privacy Act also requires employers and recruiters to tell you they have collected personal information about you; explain the purpose of gathering the information and let you know who else will see the information.

Ms Maynard says the Fair Work Act, which came into effect on July 1, 2009, offers candidates added protections. Under the “General Protections” section of the Fair Work Act, employers and recruiters cannot treat someone adversely for exercising a workplace right. Put in the recruitment context, this could mean that if you had made an unfair dismissal claim or worker’s compensation claim in the past, this information could not be used to discriminate against you on the job hunt.

Okay, so there is nothing to stop a savvy line manager or recruiter from not including incriminating items in their notes on a particular candidate. However, one HR manager told me she and colleagues struggle to comply with the Privacy Act so those notes are out there waiting for you.


The hate that dare not speak its name

Islamic terrorists identify their motivations and deeds as Islamic -- including Koranic references -- but we are not supposed to mention that, apparently

By Janet Albrechtsen

LANGUAGE police should stop tiptoeing and call these terrorists what they are: Islamo-fascists. The bodies of slain Australians in Jakarta were not yet back in the country when a new report warned us last week against referring to Islamo-fascists as -- dare one say it -- Islamo-fascists. If we want to reduce alienation and radicalism among young Muslims we must watch our language, says A Lexicon on Terror, a book compiled by the Victoria Police and the Australian Multicultural Foundation.

Multicultural Foundation head Hass Dellal told The Age that the wholesale branding of Islam with violence and extremism was of great concern. Speaking at a conference last week Stephen Fontana, the assistant commissioner for counter-terrorism co-ordination, said that "a comment we think is harmless, some communities read as an attack".

Would someone kindly lock up these language police for crimes against the English language? An attack is what happened in Jakarta when innocent hotel guests were murdered at the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels. And it is, quite literally, the bleeding obvious to point out that the perpetrators of the carnage are a group of Islamist militants who twist the tenets of Islam to suit their ideological purposes. They seek to bring down democracy in Indonesia and punish Western nations for fighting the Taliban and al-Qa'ida, with the ultimate aim of creating an Islamic caliphate. Yet while these terrorists go to great lengths to promote their Muslim identity and their militant Islamist ideology, it seems we are not allowed to mention that now.

There is nothing wrong with crafting careful language when dealing with terrorism. For years political leaders have used terms such as Islamist terrorist or Islamo-fascist to carefully distinguish militants from the vast majority of peace-loving Muslims. But there is a difference between being careful and being cowardly. The kind of zealous language policing endorsed by the Victoria Police and the Multicultural Foundation encourages us to hide from the truth.

Their new whitewash language is not just daft, it's dangerous. Clarity of language is a critical tool if we are serious about uncovering and understanding militant Islam. After so many attacks and the murder of so many innocent people, why would we cower from identifying the drivers of their Islamist extremism?

Yet there was too much cowering and not enough clarity from Attorney-General Robert McClelland when he addressed the Australian Strategic Policy Institute last week. Endorsing the language police's Lexicon of Terrorism project, the A-G's speech was littered with references to "violent extremism", "violent extremists", "violent extremist messages", "extremist beliefs" and "extremist ideology". McClelland was too frightened to construct a sentence that included the word Islamism. Instead he quoted from Ed Husain, in his book The Islamist, who has no problem referring to "Islamist extremists". Apparently the A-G believes it is acceptable for a Muslim to speak with factual accuracy but the rest of us must resort to meaningless generalities for fear of radicalising Muslim youth.

The suggestion from McClelland and senior police that using terms such as Islamo-fascists may drive young Muslims into the arms of jihadists is dubious. I'm willing to wager that those drawn to violence have other matters on their minds and other forces pulling them towards violence than the language employed by Westerners.

If we submit a questionnaire to young would-be jihadists asking them to list, on a scale of one to 100, the reasons they might choose jihad over, say, becoming a pastry chef or a train driver, I'm guessing none are going to suggest they are fed-up with the way Westerners used the term Islamo-fascist. Instead, they may list matters such as hating democracy, achieving glory for Islam and Muslims, destroying the infidel enemies around them, wanting to bring to account those countries that sent infidel troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, and so on. That's what the present generation of Islamist terrorists tells us and it may be useful to take them at their word.

In the A-G's woolly world, how exactly does a newspaper report on Islamic militancy if the only acceptable phrase is "violent extremism"? The Australian's Sally Neighbour has done a stellar job reporting on the role played by Islamic boarding schools such as al-Mukmin at Ngruki in Solo, Central Java, in the violent campaign to set up an Indonesian Islamic state. Described by its co-founder and Jemaah Islamiah leader Abu Bakar Bashir as "a crucible for the formation of cadres of mujaheddin" with a mission "to nurture zeal for jihad so that love for jihad and martyrdom grow in the soul of the mujaheddin", it becomes clear that Islam is used to fuel violence among young Muslim men.

As Neighbour reported last week, "The Ngruki school and others linked to JI -- chiefly the Darul Syahadah ('house of martyrs') and Al Muttaqin schools, both in Central Java -- have produced no less than dozens of young recruits linked to a string of terrorist attacks, starting with the first Bali bombings in 2002." Would the A-G have us refrain from reporting the truth, that a handful of radical Islamic schools is a breeding ground for Islamist terrorists?

There are no such sensibilities about calling a spade a bloody shovel when Christian extremists firebomb abortion clinics. No concerns about wholesale branding of Christianity by using the Christian word. Nor is there a fear that using the word will radicalise young Christians. In other areas, too, we don't shy away from using descriptors to explain extremism.

The US Department of Homeland Security had no misgivings about producing an intelligence assessment in April headed Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalisation and Recruitment. The nine-page report, which predicts a surge in violence given the present economic and political climate of the US, is littered with references to "right-wing terrorist and extremist groups".

Yet when it comes to militant Islam, we are asked to whitewash our language, tiptoeing around the truth for fear of offending and radicalising Muslims. One might have been forgiven for thinking we had long ago rejected this nonsense of letting the Islamist tail wag the Western dog. Since September 11, politicians of all hues have been falling over themselves to make it clear that the perpetrators of violence are fringe-group Islamist extremists who exploit Islam for their own ideological, anti-Western purposes. Politicians have made it clear specifically to praise, and seek the support of, moderate Muslims.

Wait on. Dellal told The Age that we should also avoid using the term "moderate Muslim" because it suggested to Muslims that they were not true to their faith. When the word moderate is labelled as a menacing, you know the thin blue line of the language police has become a perilously thick one.


Nasty bureaucrats in Australia too

This is the sort of pettiness you expect in Britain. The Brits usually back down when their actions are publicized and this lot will too. They will almost certainly have a strike on their hands if they do not do so promptly

ANGRY workers and unionists have demanded a council reinstate two workers it sacked for fixing potholes at a local club in return for a steak sandwich lunch. Mick Van Beek and Peter Anderson, who worked on a patching truck out of Geelong City council's Drysdale depot, were dismissed last week for filling in two potholes at the Leopold Sportsmans Club with spoiled asphalt destined for the tip. They did the five-minute repair job during their lunch break last November. The pair refused payment from the club's management, but they accepted the offer of a steak sandwich at the venue one week later.

A whistleblower alerted the council eight months after the incident. At a meeting on Tuesday night, about 200 workers demanded the City of Geelong reinstate both men, who have worked at the depot for a combined 27 years. Council dismissed the men on the grounds they breached its fraud policy, had stolen council property and improperly used their work time.

Australian Services Union (ASU) state assistant secretary Igor Grattan said the dismissals were disproportionate to the alleged offences. "We believe council is totally out of step with reality," he told AAP on Wednesday. "The Whistleblowers Act has got to be used in the public interest. "This isn't in the public interest."

Mr Grattan said the union would take "whatever avenues available to us" to convince the council to reinstate both workers. "The ratepayers are well behind us too."

A council spokesman said the City of Geelong did not comment on matters concerning individual staff.


Garbage collectors work too hard according to stupid council

Garbos start early and value their early finishes so work at top speed to get finished as early as possible. But it can be heavy work and some injuries can be expected however you do it

THE bins are overflowing, the stench is overpowering and the rubbish is still piling up. But it won't be collected in a hurry - because of new rules branded "dead set crazy" by annoyed garbos, The Daily Telegraph reports. Collection teams went on strike in Sydney's inner west on Monday, protesting against new safe work practices imposed by Marrickville Council. Workers said the rules - aimed at cutting injuries which spark compensation claims - doubled the time it took to do a rubbish run.

They must now push - not pull - bins and are forbidden to run, work both sides of a street at once or deal with more than one bin at a time. Collection was running more than 48 hours late yesterday, with up to 70,000 residents affected.

"Twenty blokes are working back every day," one garbage collection worker said. "The only ones that are suffering are the ratepayers, I would hate to see the overtime bill." He said shifts that would usually be finished by 11am were now stretching until 5pm or 6pm, with workers paid double and triple time. "We cannot finish the runs by pulling one bin and walking. Can you imagine doing this in another four weeks time? It is 30C when you wake up," the garbo said.

Marrickville Council spokesman Samuel Bartlett said the new rules were introduced to combat the number of workers' compensation claims. Almost 60 per cent of council staff injuries in the past financial year came from garbos, despite them being only 10 per cent of its work force. [It would be pretty hard to strain a zombie-like council clerk!] "Council has a duty of care to ensure work is being done safely and we want our staff to go home healthy at the end of their day," he said. Mr Bartlett said council staff had collected "the bulk of the material backlog" from Monday's strike.

United Services Union official Steve Donley said staff returned to work at 5am on Tuesday, having agreed to a six-week trial of the new system, but the job was taking longer. "There will be delays," he said.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is supporting the NSW police in their campaign for a pay rise

The corrupt state back again

Inquiry chief Tony Fitzgerald QC says lessons of the '70s and 80s forgotten -- blames the Left particularly

QUEENSLAND'S pre-eminent corruption reformer Tony Fitzgerald QC broke two decades of silence to warn last night that the state was sliding back to its "dark past", in a speech that savaged deals between so-called Labor mates, business and government.

Mr Fitzgerald reserved his harshest criticism for former Queensland premier Peter Beattie, now ensconced in a $490,000-a-year position as the state's Los Angeles-based trade commissioner, suggesting that Mr Beattie's election in 1998 had been the trigger for him to move to NSW.

Speaking for the first time on the reform process since he delivered his ground-breaking report on police and political corruption in July 1989, Mr Fitzgerald blasted the "ethics" of the current and former Labor governments. Secrecy was re-established by "sham claims" under which documents sought through Freedom of Information provisions were placed off limits by being run through cabinet.

"Access can now be purchased, patronage is dispensed, mates and supporters are appointed and retired politicians exploit their connections to obtain 'success fees' for deals between business and government," Mr Fitzgerald said in an address at Brisbane's Griffith University before the inaugural Tony Fitzgerald lecture. "Neither side of politics is interested in these issues except for short-term political advantage as each enjoys or plots impatiently for its turn at the privileges and opportunities which accompany power."

Mr Fitzgerald spoke out after Premier Anna Bligh said she would mark the 20th anniversary of the release of his landmark report by reviewing the increasingly controversial interaction between politicians and big business in Queensland.

This could lead to reform of political fundraising, including the practice by both Labor and the conservatives of selling access to ministers and frontbenchers to business representatives at state conferences and to holding dinners and other functions at a charge of thousands of dollars a plate. "The time has come now for a frank and open public discussion on a number of topical integrity and accountability issues," Ms Bligh said yesterday.

Separately, Queensland's Crime and Misconduct Commission is to investigate the relationship between political parties and donors. CMC chairman Robert Needham said there was "no doubt" companies and unions expected something in return for donations, especially to governing parties.

The flurry of official action caps a dramatic fortnight in Queensland in which a former Beattie government minister, Gordon Nuttall, was jailed for accepting $360,000 in corrupt payments from wealthy businessmen Ken Talbot and Harold Shand, and the CMC exposed a cash-for-confessions racket involving implicating 25 police and hard-core criminals in prisons.

Mr Fitzgerald said the current concerns about political and police misconduct were a predictable result of attitudes adopted in Queensland since the mid-1990s.

Mr Fitzgerald's inquiry and report resulted in the jailing of five Bjelke-Petersen-era National Party ministers as well as then police commissioner Terry Lewis.



Australia decouples education and citizenship

AUSTRALIA'S skilled migration policy is driven by national economic needs, not the educational choices of overseas students, Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Evans warned last week. In a speech in New Delhi that signalled immigration would be decoupled from education, and immigration, Senator Evans stressed that there was "no automatic link" between study in Australia and access to permanent residency.

"The Australian government will adjust the program to meet our national needs and not be driven by the education choices of overseas students," he said. In a possible response to mounting anger among overseas students whose hopes for permanent residency may be denied, Senator Evans said: "The skills and qualifications we seek in migrants will vary over time."

Although most of Senator Evans's speech emphasised the depth of the strategic partnership between Australia and India, he had a sharp warning for unscrupulous education agents. "Those who seek to market access to a permanent visa in Australia rather than a quality education do a grave disservice to potential students," he said.

Senator Evans's comments followed a report in The Australian last week that quoted researcher Bob Birrell as saying the attacks on Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney may have been only the beginning of the social conflict to be played out as thousands of foreign students stay on with full work rights and compete for jobs and housing. Dr Birrell told the HES that Senator Evans's speech in India was significant as it revealed a longstanding departmental concern to detach the migration selection system from the output of the overseas student industry in Australia.

Migration Institute of Australia chief executive Maurene Horder said that since the new critical skills list had come in, many applications based on the previous occupational demand list would languish in the immigration processing pipeline for many years.

The developments coincide with a recommendation from a conservative US think tank that skilled migration into the US should be restored to pre-September 11 levels to reverse the country's technological skills crisis. The US depends on science, technology, engineering and maths to maintain its position as the world superpower, according to a Heritage Foundation report, Improving US Competitiveness. But the US suffers a shortfall of 75,000 science, technology, engineering and mathematics workers every year, even after importing 65,000 foreign workers and graduating 60,000 US engineers annually, it says.

In a development with possible ramifications for Australian efforts to lift the quality of overseas postgraduate recruits, the report calls for the cap on H-1B visas to be lifted from the present 65,000 to its pre-September 11 level of 195,000 visas a year.

As Australia cracks down on the permanent residency-driven training market, the influential think tank says the technology skills crisis is undermining US competitiveness. As a result of shortages, many American companies are being forced either to expand outside the US or not expand at all, the report says.


Australia/India immigration rackets in education

Indian students ripped off by Indian crooks, assisted by Australian bureaucratic indifference and incompetence

A young Indian reporter has been attacked after going undercover to reveal migration and education scams for tonight's Four Corners program. The woman was subjected to threats during the making of the program and was attacked over the weekend. Police have been notified.

The reporter went to two different migration agents posing as someone wanting to pass an English Language Test without having the skills, and said she was willing to buy a fake work certificate. She was able to do both if she paid between $3,000 and $5,000.

It is not suggested the migration agents nor the colleges identified in the Four Corners program are behind either the threats or the attack.

Some Indian students, principally in Melbourne and Sydney, have been subjected to violent attacks which have tainted Australia's reputation as an education provider.

But tonight's Four Corners program will reveal more details on how Indian students are being exploited by dodgy colleges and unscrupulous migration and education agents. The allegations on tonight's program expose a number of cases where students have lost tens of thousands of dollars.

Prabmeet Singh is one of about 70,000 Indian students who come to Australia to study each year. His family spent more than $40,000 on a course at the Sydney flying school, Aerospace Aviation. His mother, Pushpinder Kaur, says the family is now broke and her son still has no pilot's licence. "It is a fraud. We were shown so many rosy pictures about the school and it is not what it is really, it was just a scam," she said. "I think the Government should be more alert in these type of matters because it is the career of the children which is at stake."

Other Indian students have told Four Corners the aviation college failed to deliver its promised 200 hours of flying time over 52 weeks. Aerospace Aviation's spokeswoman Sue Davis has defended the training and has questioned the level of commitment and dedication among the particular students.

Aspiring chef Kumar Khatri came from Nepal to enrol at the Sydney cooking school Austech, but after six months he had not seen the inside of a kitchen. "I don't believe that there is a kitchen because I haven't seen the college kitchen," he told Four Corners. Mr Khatri decided to quit and received a letter from professional debt collectors telling him to pay $5,000. "I just went directly to the college and he told me that if you do not pay, we will just process that, we'll take it to the immigration. Your visa will be cancelled," he said.

Mr Khatri sought advice from Biwek Thapa, an education and migration agent who was dealing with six similar complaints. "I think it was a complete exploitation of international students because of the ignorance: they're new in the country; they're scared their visa could be cancelled; enrolment could be cancelled. They would get into all sorts of problems," he said.

Tonight's Four Corners program also reveals unscrupulous practices by migration and education agents. Karl Konrad, an education and migration agent based in Sydney, says he has been aware of a black market in dodgy documents for years. "I had many students come to my offices and say, 'oh I can buy letters for $3,000 at particular restaurants'," he said. "They didn't name the restaurants, but I was getting many of these type of stories. [So] we sent that information to the Immigration Department and they in turn thanked us for the information and said they would pass it on to Trades Recognition Australia. "Nothing ever became of that."

Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard was unavailable for interview and so too was Immigration Minister Chris Evans.


Note: The Indian reporter mentioned above has subsequently claimed that her attacker was Indian, presumably one of the Indian crooks who had become suspicious of her activities


The legal threat to Christian schools

I wonder whether Muslim schools will be required to hire teachers hostile to Islam? That should be fun!

What happens when equal rights between men and women are so widely accepted mainstream Australia hardly thinks about it? Surely it is time to acknowledge that anti-discrimination statutes have done their job?

Not according to the Victorian Government. It harbours the view that discrimination has got sophisticated – so hard to find under current law – that we must widen the law to catch more of it.

Its Attorney-General has his sights set on men-only clubs (apparently it is OK to have female-only clubs and it is OK for men-only rules at gay venues). The Government has also put religion on notice it will come under closer scrutiny.

I am actually more worried about indiscriminate behaviour: things like the indiscriminate bashing of innocent people on city streets. Putting an end to that would be a real advance for their human rights. But it’s also hard, so let’s get back to some easier targets.

At present, discrimination statutes don’t apply to religious bodies and their schools on the grounds of freedom of religion. So a parliamentary committee has recommended options to extend the power of the state over the province of religion. One proposed change is to restrict the freedom of religious schools to choose their employees on the basis of their religious faith.

The churches want to continue current practice. But a host of community organisations want to change it. The Federation of Community Legal Services told the parliamentary review the current law should change, saying: "To allow religious organisations a broad exemption for conscience encourages prejudice."

Think about the moral vanity of that statement. According to these lawyers, a religious conscience leads to prejudice. How did the church arouse public conscience over slavery? How did Florence become a haven for the arts and letters to flourish? How did civilisation develop over the past couple of millennia without the Community Legal Services to guide it?

A leading discrimination law expert, Professor Margaret Thornton, wants to narrow the exemption for religious freedom of schools on the grounds that: "If private schools receive money from the state they should be subject to the law of the land." Of course they should be.

The question is whether the law should require them to employ people who are indifferent or hostile to their religion in their schools. At present it doesn’t. Changing that law will affect not only the schools who employ the staff.

Parents who send their children to a Christian school have a reasonable expectation this means the child will get a Christian education. How could the school fulfil its obligation to the parents if it is required by law to employ non-Christian or anti-Christian teachers to provide it? If the law demands this, you might as well close down the concept of a Christian school – which may be what some of the critics intend.

The provisions applying to religion have been operating for more 30 years with no great community outrage. So why is a parliamentary committee reviewing them now? Because, we are told, they have to be assessed for compliance against the 2006 Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities. This charter was introduced with the promise it would amplify rights and freedoms.

There is something so predictable about this. The human rights industry begins with grand promises and ends up intervening in non-problems. We are led to believe that the purpose of such charters is to stop arbitrary arrests, guarantee a free press and guard against dictatorship. In practice, what does it do? It complicates the life of religious schools and open lawsuits against the churches.

Another inquiry has been set up by the Federal Government to look at promoting human rights. It is looking at a statutory charter of rights. No one will tell you the purpose of such a Commonwealth charter will be to curtail religious conscience or practice. But it will work out the same way.

The crusading lawyers will use any new federal charter against those institutions to which they are hostile. They will have sympathetic ears in the equal opportunity commissions. After all, experience in the human rights industry will be a qualification for appointment to those bodies.

The churches and Christian schools will be in the firing line. As the community legal services make clear – their view is that religious conscience encourages prejudice. Once the churches and religious conscience are out of the way, lawyers will have a clear run. Lawsuits will be used to decide the great moral questions of the age.

You can see what’s in it for the lawyers. But don’t think it is a step forward for liberty.


Brilliant Education Dept. internet filter blocks education sites, but not porn

The whole idea of web filtering is a crock

An internet filter installed by the NSW education department gave students access to pornographic material - but blocked educational sites. One site a Year 10 student opened while searching for a type of bird contained graphic sexual material and was only barred on Monday after inquiries from The Daily Telegraph.

George Cochrane said his school-aged son and daughter, who study by distance education from their farm in Grenfell, were horrified by the sites they could access. Other educational sites and harmless web pages for the local member of parliament - and even Education Minister Verity Firth's own site - have been blocked by the filter.

The Department of Education and Training confirmed that the filter would be used on thousands of laptops for high school students. It is also currently used on all computers in schools.

"My daughter typed in 'swallow', as in the bird, and it blocked access to a documentary on swallowing toothpaste but gave you access to a male site talking about inappropriate material," Mr Cochrane said. "The system isn't actually protecting anybody, especially isolated kids."

An education department spokesman confirmed that the site had been blocked on Monday. He said some questionable websites escaped the filter but staff responded to each concern and updated it daily. "On rare occasions inappropriate websites are not captured," he said.

Acting Opposition education spokesman Andrew Stoner yesterday labelled the filter flaws a "debacle". "Internet access should be a key component of Kevin Rudd's so-called Education Revolution," he said. "Nathan Rees and Education Minister Verity Firth are quick to claim credit for the good news so they should accept responsibility for this debacle and fix it as soon as possible."


Bullying victim gets $484,766

This OUGHT to make the NSW government sit up and become more active in preventing school bullying but it won't. Why? Because they don't know how. The only thing that would do some good would be a good thrashing for each bully and, since there is no such thing as right and wrong anymore, that cannot be considered. Offenders can only be "helped"

A victim of school bullying in northern NSW has had his damages award increased by more than $16,000 to $484,766. Last month in the NSW Supreme Court, Justice Elizabeth Fullerton awarded $468,736 to David Gregory, who had sued the State of NSW.

The now 30-year-old had complained of years of bullying while attending Farrer Agricultural High School at Tamworth in the 1990s. He said the bullying led to behavioural problems such as obsessive compulsive disorder and symptoms of depression.

Today, the judge ruled he should also have received $6030 for past medical treatment and expenses and $10,000 for future treatment. She also ordered the State of NSW to pay the legal costs of Mr Gregory, who now lives in Mollymook on NSW's South Coast.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rudd fails economic history lesson

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd has got his economic history in his latest exercise in essaying "exactly wrong". That's the view of RMIT University academic Sinclair Davidson, who says it doesn't augur well for our future. The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age morphed into something similar to the Pyongyang Post when they ran 6000 words of the PM's most recent deep thoughts over two full pages on Saturday, replete with sub-headings rarely seen outside an election manifesto. The headline across the front page of the SMH read "Rudd's recipe for recovery".

Davidson wants to know how we can trust a bloke who has got the past wrong to lead us into the future.

There's yet more huffing and puffing about those dastardly neo-liberals in the PM's piece. He also takes the novel step of having a go at the 1931 premiers' plan where governments cut expenditure, a bugbear of the ALP since the Scullin Labor government lost power at the end of that year. "It was seen as a very anti-Labor policy," Davidson says. "It was crammed down their throats by Sir Otto Niemeyer and the Bank of England and the Scullin government introduced it and lost the election.

But he adds, "whatever the flaws of the premiers' plan, it certainly did not give rise to catastrophic unemployment". Davidson points to research by RMIT colleague Steven Kates which shows how unemployment in Australia after 1932 fell more swiftly than in the US and Britain. And he pulls out a glittering nugget of trivia -- Niemeyer beat the PM's new hero JM Keynes in their civil service economics exam.

Davidson isn't worried that the PM is channelling Paul Keating channelling Jack Lang. He's worried that Rudd is talking about an entirely different country. "Australia had a v-shaped depression while the US had a big u-shaped depression. The essay shows how ignorant Kevin Rudd is of Australian economic history. He's taking the populist lessons of the Great Depression from the United States. "Americans seem to often think America is the world but the Prime Minister of Australia shouldn't think that American history is Australian history. His advisers either don't know this or don't care enough to tell him."

All up, Davidson describes the background to Rudd's latest essay as extraordinary. "He's put us into debt to the tune of $300 billion having claimed to have learned lessons that he doesn't know."

SOURCE. More on Rudd's warped manifesto here

More beds, not more bureaucrats, are what Australia's hospitals need

RUDD should invest in a voucher scheme instead of taking over hospitals. It's a quarter of a century since Medicare was established, but no one is celebrating. No wonder, considering the critical condition of the public hospital system throughout Australia. Instead we have a 300-page reform blueprint from the National Health and Hospital Reform Commission.

At least the report has identified the main problem. The reality is that Australia's dangerously overcrowded public hospitals don't have enough beds to provide a safe and timely standard of care even for emergency patients. Unfortunately, the commission has strongly supported a range of non-solutions. The primary care reforms it proposes will not help our dysfunctional state-run public hospitals cope with an inexorable rise in demand from an ageing population.

Since 1983 the state health bureaucracies that are responsible for allocating funding, planning services and rationing public hospital care have cut the number of public hospital beds by one-third: from 74,000 beds to just over 54,000. This is a 60 per cent cut, taking population growth into account, from 4.8 public acute beds for every 1000 Australians to 2.5 beds.

Overcrowding occurs when bed occupancy exceeds 85 per cent in hospitals, operating near or beyond full capacity. Average bed occupancy in most leading metropolitan public hospitals is above 90per cent and hospitals routinely operate above 100 per cent occupancy because of political pressure to reduce electorally sensitive waiting times for elective surgery.

The nationwide bed shortage means one-third of emergency patients wait longer than eight hours for a bed to become available. Emergency staff spend more than one-third of their time caring for these patients, which leads to more than 30 per cent of patients not being seen in emergency departments within the recommended time.

The queue for free public hospital care now starts in crowded hospital corridors lined with ailing, mostly frail, elderly patients who are parked on trolleys for hours and sometimes days.

The pressure on hospitals is intensifying because rising numbers of older patients with complex conditions are requiring unplanned admission for bed-based medical and nursing care. In the past five years, admissions by patients aged between 75 and 84, and 85 and older, increased by 25 per cent. A decade ago, the 85-plus demographic wasn't even distinguished in the statistics.

The problem is not that hospitals are underfunded. Over the past decade, real expenditure on public hospitals increased by 64 per cent to top $27 billion in 2006-07. The real problem is that not enough of the money gets through to the frontlines. Between 1996 and 2006 the number of acute public hospital beds fell by 18 per cent per 1000. But between 2001 and 2006, the number of administrators increased by 69 per cent.

The large and costly area health services that administer public hospitals in most states are better at paying for bureaucrats than for beds, and have a deservedly notorious reputation among overworked hands-on hospital staff for warehousing armies of clerks and managers who have no involvement in patient care.

As more and more people live to older ages, a tsunami of demand will break in public hospitals. Increasing numbers of very old patients will inevitably require emergency and bed-based hospital care due to the age-related onset of chronic conditions. Going by the state of the health reform debate, the hospital crisis will become a catastrophe. The wrong-headed premise of the Rudd government's reform agenda is that the commonwealth must spend billions on a national network of comprehensive general practice "super clinics" to take pressure off hospitals.

The NHHRC has fully endorsed this approach. It claims that 10 per cent of public hospital admissions can potentially be prevented by providing better co-ordinated primary and allied health care for chronically ill and elderly patients.

Yet even the discussion paper on the subject commissioned by the commission shows that trial co-ordinated care programs have failed to keep people out ofhospital.

The 15 per cent boost in bed numbers recommended by the commission is welcome. But even if the government accepts this, a one-off and costly boost in bed numbers is not a long-term solution.

Instead of wasting money building stand-alone elective hospitals and wasting political capital trying to take full responsibility for the primary care system, the Rudd government should focus on structural reform of the hospital system.

Flexible and responsive funding and administrative arrangement must be created to allow hospitals to increase the supply of beds and meet the demand that rising numbers of older and sicker patients will generate in coming decades.

The first step towards rebuilding the hospital system is for the commonwealth to take full control of public hospital funding and introduce Medicare-issued, case-mix-calculated hospital vouchers to pay for treatment in either public or private hospitals. The second step is for state governments to agree to re-introduce local public hospital boards with full financial and administrative responsibility for their facilities. The third step is to close down the area health services and use the money saved to fund vouchers and open and staff more hospital beds.

This isn't a plan for Canberra to take over and run hospitals. Funding will be centralised by converting the present federal grants and state hospital budgets into vouchers, while the management of hospitals will be decentralised to local boards. Nor is this a plan to privatise the health system. Tying taxpayer funding to the treatment of patients, increasing choice and competition, and freeing hospitals to respond appropriately to the health needs of the community is not that radical.

This parallels the voucher-based policies the Rudd government is considering implementing to increase efficiency and improve access to publicly funded education in schools, TAFE and universities.

A 50 per cent increase in patients presenting at emergency aged over 85 is predicted over the next five years alone. Bed numbers must increase significantly to equip the hospital system to cope with the unprecedented impact of demographic change. The challenge for policy-makers is to dispense with the failed methods of running public hospitals that have created a continuing crisis 25 years in the making.


Whiners slapped down: Cheap fuel OK

FUEL commissioner Joe Dimasi has declared the 40c-a-litre discounts offered by Coles and Woolworths last week were not anti-competitive. Independent fuel and grocery retailers protested that the discounts were an abuse of market power by the two supermarket majors, who each control about 22 per cent of the fuel retailing sector.

But after a week of deliberation, Mr Dimasi said yesterday the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission had concluded that the promotions did not breach the Trade Practices Act.

Coles supermarkets last week ran a three-day promotion under which shoppers spending $300 in a single visit received vouchers for a 40c-a-litre discount on fuel at Coles Express petrol stations. The offer, which also included 25c- and 10c-a-litre rebates for shoppers spending $200 and $100 respectively, was matched by Woolworths.

The Australasian Convenience and Petrol Marketers Association slammed the promotion as threatening the survival of independent service stations struggling to maintain their 6 per cent market share.

But Mr Dimasi yesterday said that the offer was only a short-term discount for consumers. "For most consumers the discounts will only apply to one weekly or fortnightly shop, and to one tank of fuel," he said.

A Coles spokesman said the supermarket giant welcomed the ACCC's decision. "Our initiative was always aimed at giving customers extra value and we'll continue to look at other ways in which we can be the customer champion," he said.

Mr Dimasi also noted that Metcash, the grocery wholesaler behind the IGA chain of independently owned supermarkets, had this week made its own 40c-a-litre offer.


QANTAS again

The faults and failings never stop. Anybody who flies QANTAS these days is asking for trouble. Their maintenance is obviously close to non-existent. There has got to be a major disaster waiting in the wings

A LOSS of cabin pressure at 25,000 feet forced a Brisbane-bound Qantas aircraft to turn back to Auckland shortly after take-off from New Zealand, a spokesman for the airline says. The Boeing 737 was carrying 91 passengers and crew for the Saturday morning flight out of Auckland, but Qantas spokesman Joe Aston said it was not necessary to treat the malfunction as an emergency.

”The aircraft ... this morning experienced a subtle pressurisation problem at 25,000 feet (7,600m) on ascent out of Auckland,” Mr Aston said. ”The cabin was depressurising at a controlled rate but certainly not rapidly or noticeably to passengers. There was never any imminent threat to passengers, the crew or the aircraft.” The incident would not have been noticeable to passengers inside the main cabin of the aircraft and it was not necessary to supply oxygen masks, he said.

The aircraft landed back at Auckland without incident and passengers were transferred to a different plane which arrived in Brisbane just under three hours late. ”The original aircraft is now being inspected by our engineers in Auckland,” Mr Aston said.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Blacks reject medical care

To get ANY medical staff to serve in the behavioural sink of a black settlement is a big challenge and only a Bangladeshi doctor could be found who was willing to work at the notorious Doomadgee. Now the Doomadgee blacks are blaming that doctor for something he didn't do and say that therefore they don't want him back. So they will now most probably have NO doctor at all. Clever! But no-one ever said they were clever.

The event complained about is the death of a young girl from unknown causes. But the doctor never saw the girl until very late in the piece. It was nurses who refused to admit her to the hospital. But they are not being blamed -- presumably because they too are black.

Post-mortems have however shown that the nurses were correct in at least one aspect of their judgments. They thought she did not have swine flu and it has now been shown that she did not.

What nobody is saying is what she DID die of. So I will mention the unmentionable. She may have died as a result of sexual assault or the complications of a sexually transmitted disease. What grounds do I have for such a scabrous suggestion? Several OFFICIAL reports have now said that sexual abuse of young black children is rife in black communities.

Andrew Bolt has more

THE grandfather of a girl, 4, who died after she was turned away from Doomadgee Hospital in northwest Queensland says her doctor should not come back. Naylor Walden died in her grandmother's arms on Thursday night before her family could get her transferred to the larger Mount Isa Hospital. She had been ill for days before being admitted to the Doomadgee Hospital on Wednesday.

Her grandparents have claimed she was turned away from Doomadgee Hospital several times in the previous week because she was Aboriginal and because of swine flu concerns. Test results on Saturday showed Naylor tested negative to swine flu and the normal flu.

Doomadgee's attending doctor has been flown out of town on police advice. Naylor's grandfather, Athol Walden, told ABC Radio the doctor was no longer welcome. "I don't think he will be welcome back here any more because of the little life that was left in the palm of his hand never came back," he said on Sunday. "With us Aboriginal people, in our traditional law, it takes a long, long time to let go of what has been taken away from us. "I wouldn't welcome him back."

The racism allegations have been rejected by state Health Minister Paul Lucas. "No one more than our doctors and nurses are committed to treating people without regard to their colour," he said. "I have not seen one skerrick of evidence in my time as health minister ... to indicate anything other than our doctors and nurses are absolutely committed to the health of people regardless whether they're indigenous, non-indigenous, refugees or where they come from in the world." A joint investigation into the girl's death by Queensland Health and the state coroner Michael Barnes is underway.


Federal takeover of hospitals?

It's hard to imagine that this could make them any worse than they already are but "surprise me" is all I can say. Note that in the '70s another Labour Party leader (Gough Whitlam) set up some Federal public hospitals but those were eventually quietly and gratefully handed over to the States. Rudd will be mounting a real gorilla on his back if he goes ahead with this but I suppose he expects to be out of office before the full horrors emerge. Prediction: The State governments won't give him much opposition. They will give him control over their hospitals with a big sigh of relief

KEVIN Rudd has flagged a referendum to take control of the nation's healthcare system. Commonwealth, state and territory leaders will meet later this year to examine the health system in the wake of the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission report, unveiled by Mr Rudd today. Australians face paying a higher Medicare levy to fund a universal dental health scheme.

A preferred reform plan will be discussed at COAG in early 2010, but the Prime Minister has warned he will hold a referendum if agreement is not reached. “If there's no agreement to a comprehensive reform plan the commonwealth will proceed to seek a mandate from the Australian people for the proper reform of our health system,” he said.

Mr Rudd said today the report had “massive implications” and the Government had an obligation to get it right. “Fundamental decisions about the entire system must not be taken lightly and we don't intend to do so,” Mr Rudd said in Canberra.

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull claimed the Prime Minister had broken an election promise. “Let's be quite clear about this,” he said. “In 2007, Mr Rudd said to the Australian people he would fix the public hospital system by 30 June this year or he would take it over. “And he has done neither. He hasn't fixed it. Things have gone backwards and he hasn't taken it over. “One broken promise after another. At some point he's going to have to deliver.”

Mr Turnbull said the Opposition would not support the report's recommendation to raise the Medicare levy to 0.75 per cent to fund a universal dental scheme.

The commission has recommended the commonwealth should run and fund all primary health care, basic dental care and aged care as well as indigenous health. It also suggested the commonwealth fund all outpatient services and 40 per cent of emergency admissions. The report also leaves open the option of eventually funding 100 per cent of hospital admissions, but explicitly said that should not occur straight away.

The consultation process starts in Sydney tomorrow when Mr Rudd and Health Minister Nicola Roxon visit some of the city's public hospitals.

One recommendation, likely to be welcomed, is the suggestion that commonwealth fund a new Denticare Australia. The commission says the more than 650,000 people are presently on public dental waiting lists and the dental health of children is worsening. “To address these problems we are recommending a new universal scheme for access to basic dental services - Denticare Australia,” the report says. It will cost an estimated $3.6 billion a year. Under the scheme every Australian will have access to basic dental services “regardless of people's ability to pay”. It will be funded through an increase in the Medicare levy of 0.75 per cent of an individual's taxable income.

The reports also suggests every Australian have an electronic health record to improve continuity of care. New laws would protect the privacy of each individual's e-health record, which they would control. The changes to who runs what would be coordinated through a Healthy Australia Accord with the states and territories. [Another disaster waiting to happen. Has no-one noticed how often the British bureaucracy regularly "loses" huge amounts of confidential information?]


Another take on the Rudd proposals:

FOUR out of five people would be tied to a single doctor [This sounds like a re-creation of the British horror story, where doctors treat each patient very cursorily. They have no incentive to do otherwise] and all patients guaranteed a GP appointment within two days under $16 billion in health reforms. The reforms are set to be unveiled today by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Elderly people could be forced to sell their homes to secure a nursing home bed and a subsidised dental care scheme introduced, as part of the biggest shake-up to health in decades.

The Rudd Government is also being urged to build stand-alone elective surgery hospitals, as part of an ambitious push to cut waiting lists.

In a major attack on obesity, every primary school would have access to an on-site nurse to encourage kids to exercise and stop them from eating McDonald's and other fast foods.

The Courier-Mail has obtained the final 300-page report from the Health and Hospitals Reform Commission. The report, containing 123 recommendations, is expected to form the basis of the Rudd Government's second-term agenda. It outlines the sheer scale of health reforms confronting the Government.

With health costs rising sharply, the report warns that governments will not be able to afford our current health system within 25 years – unless radical change is introduced. Dr Christine Bennett, who was hand-picked by the Prime Minister to hold a 16-month inquiry, has bluntly warned there is a "pressing need for action" to tackle the fragmented health system.

In its 300-page report, the expert panel outlines a massive shift in the treatment of mental health patients. In the wake of high-profile suicides as a result of cyber bullying, it calls for early intervention by trained nurses in mental health cases. New 24-hour "rapid response outreach" teams would also be rolled out to respond to attempted suicides and other mental health emergencies.

The report outlines a $500 million plan to address disadvantages faced by rural communities. This includes $143 million in top-up payments for GPs and other practitioners. Sick people in the bush would also receive $250 million a year in travel and accommodation subsidies as part of efforts to ensure they received health access equal to that of city people.

The commission also recommends the formation of a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Authority which must "hold all health services to account" in its work.

The commission has backed off recommending an immediate Commonwealth takeover of state public hospitals but it does suggest that Canberra may eventually need to fully fund public health services. The report calls on the Federal Government to take over 100 per cent funding of public hospitals in the long term. It says this funding change would shift responsibility for health care away from the states to the Federal Government.

Mr Rudd said yesterday that he could still seek a mandate through a referendum at the next election.

The report calls for an urgent injection of funding of up to $5.7 billion a year. The costs of the new Denticare scheme is estimated at more than $3 billion – although this could be offset by a rise of 0.75 per cent in the Medicare levy.

With increasing levels of obesity and diabetes, the Government has been told to set up a national preventative health agency.

The report also backs greater education for young people including "teenage girls at risk of pregnancy".

The Government has also been told to introduce a national system of electronic patient records by 2012 – giving individuals the power to keep personalised health records.

With millions of Australians suffering chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity, the report says these people should be encouraged to enrol with a single doctor who will co-ordinate all their health care needs.


Mother sues public Hospital after nearly bleeding to death

A DIABETIC mother has begun legal action against Ipswich Hospital, alleging staff's negligence nearly caused her to bleed to death during childbirth. The 32-year-old has served Ipswich Hospital, west of Brisbane, with a notice of claim for negligence.

The Ipswich mother of four, who only wanted to be known by her first name Kylie, said she was traumatised after haemorrhaging 1.5 litres of blood two hours after giving birth in May. "Instead of sending me to the operating theatre, they were giving me morphine and trying to fix the clotting by reaching into my cervix not just once but four agonising times," she said. "I was screaming in agony and they had my legs pinned down telling me to be quiet.

"My daughter, who was there holding the newborn, was crying and my sister was crying because the midwives and the doctor wouldn't listen."

Her lawyer Olamide Kowalik said Kylie had begun action against the hospital over her treatment and also for the trauma her 12-year-old daughter suffered from witnessing her mother's ordeal.

Ipswich Hospital was served the notice of claim in early July and has 30 days to respond and supply medical records. The hospital's executive director, Dr Gerry Costello, declined to comment, saying it was inappropriate due to ongoing legal action.

Ms Kowalik said the hospital should have been aware there would be complications because medical records showed Kylie bled through her three previous pregnancies.


QANTAS: An airline that doesn't give a sh*t about its passengers -- or anything else much

Qantas seems not to do any real maintenance on its planes and when the inevitable malfunctions occur too bad about the passengers. The story below is about Jetstar, the low-cost tentacle of QANTAS. Qantas is the same airline that recently had a near-riot on its hands in Perth after a very long and unexplained delay. They should enable passengers to phone someone in the airline who can actually be helpful -- including offers of a no-cost transfer to another airline. The EU has strict rules about compensation that airlines must pay to delayed passengers. For once, I think Australia could learn from the EU

A FRUSTRATED Jetstar passenger is urging travellers to prepare for the worst when flying with the low-cost airline. Glenn Cullen took a swipe at Jetstar after revealing his bad experience when flying with the airline for the first time:

THERE had just never been the need to use Qantas' cheaper, younger brother Jetstar. Until recently. The occasion was a 50th birthday weekend on the Gold Coast, and I was initially travelling from Sydney to Brisbane. Despite literally dozens of flights between the two state capitals each day across a number of airlines, this proved something of a task.

When I arrived for flight JQ818 to depart at 2.35pm I was told it would now be leaving at 6.45pm. No explanation or apology, just that it was delayed until that time. I discovered I could get a refund but this did not extend to the price of a ticket with another carrier; it would cost me three times as much to fly with someone else at short notice.

I could however attempt to claim a refund on the difference for a new ticket through Jetstar head office. And that's where the fun began.

Me: "Before I purchase my ticket can I speak to someone about the likelihood of actually getting a refund for this?"

Customer Service: "No sir, you have to post it in and try your luck."

Me: "But how do I know if I will get a refund in the circumstances?"

Customer Service: "I'm sorry sir, all I can do is give you an address."

As I have a function to attend that night I ponder my options. Pay up and hope for the best, wait for the flight or ring Jetstar. I ring Jetstar Australia.

After a 20 minute wait I get put through to someone in South East Asia who eventually also tells me to send in a letter.

Me: "Do you not have someone who I can speak to now?"

Customer Service: "No".

Me: "Can I speak to a supervisor?"

Customer Service: "No, I'm the most senior person."

Me: "Well, as the most senior person, can you tell me whether I would be likely to get a refund?"

Customer service: "No I can't."

Me: "Can I speak to someone else?"

Customer Service: "No you can't, I'm the most senior person."

Me: "Can you transfer me to someone at your head office in Australia?

Customer Service: "No I can't."

And so it went.

Eventually I'm told I can hang up and dial the Jetstar number again and if I press the first option I will get onto someone in Australia. I ring, wait another 20 minutes to get through and seem to be connected to someone in Asia. Again.

Me: "Can you transfer me to someone locally?"

Customer Service: "No."

Much the same conversation transpires before I eventually hang up. Sigh.

I sit it out for three more hours in the domestic terminal before re-checking in. Then I am handed a $10 voucher by a stonefaced Jetstar check-in clerk. I think to myself this may be some compensation – back as a nine-year-old when I charged out my time at $2.50 an hour. Be that as it may I take the voucher with me onto the flight.

Once I have boarded the flight is delayed a further 45 minutes due to two missing passengers. The pilot points out our collective frustrations should not be taken out on his crew as the flight staff were on standby and it's not their fault. He does not however offer a suggestion as to where said frustrations can be taken out.

To this point I have not raised a temper. Upon ordering some cheese and crackers from the food cart this changes. The exchange goes like this.

Steward: "That will be three dollars."

Me: "I'll pay for this with the voucher, thank you."

Steward: "You can't use the voucher for this."

Me: "I'm sorry?"

Steward: "This is valid in the terminal only."

Me: "Are you kidding?

Steward: "No – and it says that on the voucher. You would have had plenty of time to use it at the terminal."

I shake my head and double check classy, photocopied stub only available for use on day and not for the purchase of alcohol.

Me: "Can you tell me exactly where on the ticket it says it's only for use in the terminal?"

Steward: Looks at ticket, pauses and responds: "Well, you would have been told that when you were given it."

Me: "No, I wasn't. Are you making this up as you go along?"

Heather "Well sir, I wasn't there so I don't know whether you were told or not."

Me: "This is (expletive). I have to wait five hours for a one hour flight and you are squabbling with me over three dollars for some cheese and crackers?"

She looks at me disdainfully and offers a punchline that could have come straight from the movie Clerks.

Steward: "Well what do you want me to do, it's my day off!"

Me: "I think I'll take it up with head office."

Steward: "You do that".

Touche – if only there was a number I could call.

Later, a spokeswoman for Jetstar said the flight was "unfortunately delayed due to a technical issue" and refreshment vouchers were only for use at the airport. "We arranged for an alternative aircraft to operate this service, however, unfortunately there was a five-hour delay," she said. "As per our normal policy, we provided all passengers with vouchers for refreshments for use at the airport."

She said Jetstar sincerely apologises to Mr Cullen (the writer) for any inconvenience this delay may have caused him. "Passengers were also able to request a free move to another Jetstar service, or a full refund of their Jetstar fare, which we would have processed immediately upon his request," she said.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Four years to ban a horror surgeon

The usual level of protection that you can expect from Australia's medical "regulators". There has got to be some means of fast-tracking this sort of thing

A SURGEON being sued for allegedly performing botched gynaecological operations - some without consent - on women in WA public hospitals has been banned from practising medicine. The obstetrician and gynaecologist, who has now left the country, has been permanently stripped of his right ever to work as a doctor in WA.

The ban comes as the Medical Board of WA pursues further shocking allegations of misconduct by the surgeon involving more than 100 female patients. The Sunday Times can now reveal the first details of what is potentially the most serious medical scandal in the state's history after a blanket suppression order was partially lifted on Monday following legal action by this newspaper and the Medical Board.

It can now be reported: The doctor is facing civil court claims that could result in large compensation payouts for the State Government. One woman interviewed by The Sunday Times said she was ``angered and disgusted at the outcome'' and the doctor had left her ``feeling and thinking I'm not normal''.

While knowing of the investigation against him, the doctor attempted to cover up the allegations while trying to obtain work overseas. He lied in an interview and produced fake documents of his good standing in WA.

The judge who banned the doctor ruled his behaviour as ``disgraceful or dishonourable'' conduct for a member of the medical profession. The scandal was so serious former attorney-general and health minister Jim McGinty thought public exposure so important he personally intervened and challenged the suppression in late 2007. He lost the application.

The Medical Board lawyers have been fighting to suspend the doctor since November 2005 and have filed 14 complaints against him in the State Administrative Tribunal. The Sunday Times, which understands all potentially affected WA patients have been contacted by health officials, has been investigating the scandal for more than a year, fighting to bring the case to the public's attention.

The doctor is also being sued by five former patients in the District Court, seeking personal-injury damages for medical negligence. More civil actions will follow in coming months. One woman claims in a writ that surgery performed by the doctor ``constituted trespass as it was performed in the absence of the plaintiff's consent to do so''.

Another alleged victim and her husband filed a writ over a botched sterilisation in which the doctor failed to apply a fishie clip to her right fallopian tube and resulted in her becoming pregnant and having a child.

The doctor at the centre of the scandal is now believed to be in South Africa, having fled halfway through the tribunal and court proceedings. He hasn't worked in WA since June 2006.

Tribunal president John Chaney ordered the doctor's permanent work ban in March this year and in a judgment found he deceived South African health officials while trying to work at a hospital near Durban....

Judge Chaney allowed his judgment to be made public but he ordered the continued suppression of the doctor's identity and all details of the 13 unresolved tribunal cases, including patient names

Mediation is listed for later this year but one alleged victim said she was ``angered'' that she has been gagged from talking about her case and the length of time taken in hearing her complaints. Health Minister Kim Hames declined to comment. The Sunday Times has lodged an appeal in the WA Supreme Court seeking to overturn the remaining suppression orders and allow us to inform the WA public about what is going on.


A young woman who likes correct grammar

Poor grammar is still unprestigious but finding people with good grammar is becoming harder as it is no longer taught in the schools

It was a Monday morning; he was frothing milk as we chatted idly about the drunken antics of our respective weekends. All the usual stuff - the people we knew in common, the places we had almost run into each other, the quality of the cocktail jugs at various Sydney locations. He might have been carefully watching the temperature gauge rise on that little jug of milk, but we both knew where the real heat was. Just as I was about to casually invite him to a rock gig he dropped a clanger.

‘Yeah I like World Bar. Dave and me were there last Thursday.’ Instinctively, impulsively, STUPIDLY I fired back. “You mean Dave and I were there.” Because nothing says “we should go out” like a grammar check.

He looked at me like I was a three week old sausage roll he’d found wedged into the tread of his shoe, mumbled a ‘“yeah, whatever” and went back to making the coffee. Silently.

It’s a look I get often. As a grammar Nazi I am the irritating friend who corrects Facebook posts from “there” to “their.” The one who has to hold back facial spasms whenever someone says “youse.” I am something of a rarity amongst my peers – a 22 year old who adores a well constructed sentence.

As a card carrying member of Gen Y, I am a product of an education system that is more focussed on alliteration and assonance than the basics of adverbs and adjectives. Somewhere during my schooling (all done at state public schools) we jumped from learning the alphabet, to examining the themes of novels and plays. The participles and pronouns – in truth the finer points of basic grammar - were lost by the wayside.

Now this isn’t to say I had a poor English education. Far from it. I had some wonderful and enthusiastic teachers during my years at school. I learned to love and appreciate good literature, I learned to debate and discuss in my essays and by the end I achieved some very good results in my HSC. To put it bluntly I fulfilled everything that the NSW English curriculum required of me. But where was the grammar? That basic stepping stone schooling that older generations had to go through.

I asked my mother about what her English education was like and she told me all about “parsing,” - basically pulling apart sentences. Examining their structure. Learning exactly what adverbs, verbs, nouns and pronouns were. Getting drilled and tested on it day in, day out. Sure it’s boring, but so is algebra – and at least it’s a sure bet you’ll need to use grammar later in life. I’m struggling to remember the last time I had to work out the value of ‘x,’ but I’m always unsure whether it’s meant to be ‘learned’ or ‘learnt.’ Why are we not still taught grammar like this at school?

What’s scary is that in my first year of a journalism degree at University, my lecturer handed out a basic grammar and punctuation test. Unsurprisingly, the entire class performed dismally. We couldn’t conjugate if our lives depended on it.

And what’s scarier is that to a certain degree they do. Name me an employer who is going to hire a young graduate doesn’t know the difference between ‘it’s’ and ‘its.’ In these times of growing unemployment and job un-security it could be the difference between getting an interview, or having a resume tossed into the reject pile.

I believe it’s time that grammar was brought back into schools, and I believe it should be done quickly – before we start having generations of English teachers who themselves don’t know the difference between a verb and an adverb.

And as for me? I changed coffee spots. The barista might have been hot but I’m hoping there’s someone out there for me that can use prepositions properly as they proposition me.


Another big government medical bungle

Something very similar happened in Britain a couple of years ago but do governments ever learn? Rhetorical question

HUNDREDS of international medical students were told this week they would not be guaranteed internships in NSW public hospitals because there are not enough staff to supervise them. The warning comes despite the Federal Government ramping up university places in the past three years to solve the state's crippling shortage of doctors.

The students, who each paid about $200,000 in course fees, are furious, saying it is now too late for them to get internships in their home countries and any forced break between the end of their studies this month and starting work in a hospital was "career suicide".

For the first time, the State Government invoked a priority system this year when 879 students applied for 670 positions, saying it did not have enough money to offer internships to all graduates wanting to work in NSW.

The Institute of Medical Education and Training, which allocates internships, has blamed a surge in the number of interstate students applying for jobs in NSW because they have been unable to find enough supervised roles in their home states. It said the problem was compounded by some students accepting multiple internships in several states, then not showing up for work when the rotations began in January.

Under the priority system, NSW students are offered places first, then Australian and New Zealand residents from interstate, then other international students studying in Sydney.

But overseas students have been told final offers will not be made until January, well after interns overseas have started their hospital rotations. "We're shell-shocked," one student said. "All along we've been assured we would get placements, then on Monday afternoon we got a two-line email rejecting us. "We wanted to live our lives in Australia and work in the NSW hospital system. Now we don't know what to do. You just can't take a break between university and vocational training. It is virtually impossible to get back in."

Medical student numbers in NSW soared from 493 in 2007 to 1104 last year, prompting universities to issue warnings the health system would not be able to support the rise. "These are people who want to work in the system," the president of the Australian Medical Association, Andrew Pesce, said yesterday. "They've paid for something and they have every right to be angry that they are not getting it. "What is the point in training yourself if you are not able to work as a doctor at the end? The Government needs to make a serious commitment to investing properly in training these people. It's an investment, not a cost."

The president of the Australian Medical Students Association, Tiffany Fulde, said hospitals were facing a "student tsunami" which would only worsen with three more medical schools turning out graduates in the next three years. "The system isn't coping now, so where will we be when we have double the number of students?" she said.

In April, the dean of medicine at the University of Sydney, Bruce Robinson, said the restrictions made NSW a "less attractive destination" for international medical students. "[It] places an extraordinary additional stress on them," he said. "International students in every year of their medical studies are rightly expressing deep concerns about their future prospects, and [this] is detracting from their experience of studying here," he said.

International students deserved a "fair go", he said. "We simply would like to be able to offer our international students the same education and training opportunities as we provide for our local students."


Conservative wobbles over climate laws

There is a widespread awareness among Australia's Federal conservative politicians that global warming is a hoax but they also see various political hazards in completely rejecting Warmist laws. The conservative coalition as a whole is fairly demoralized and disorganized so they are not game so far to declare that the emperor has no clothes. With strong leadership they could probably win an election by proclaiming the hoax but they don't have such leadership so would almost certainly lose an election fought on that basis

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has described the Opposition's demands on climate change as a "shopping list" aimed at patching up divisions within the Coalition. The Opposition says it is willing to vote for the emissions trading scheme (ETS) if the Government agrees to a number of changes.

Mr Rudd says he is surprised Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has put forward a raft of amendments, just 19 days before the ETS will be voted on. "[It is] a shopping list, which I think has more to do with patching up some of the internal divisions in the Liberal Party than it has to do with much else," he said.

Mr Turnbull has today responded to criticism of his emissions policy backflip, particularly from backbencher Wilson Tuckey. "The shadow cabinet is as arrogant as Wilson Tuckey is humble," he said. He has also refused comment on whether the policy change is simply about stopping the Government calling an early election.

Mr Turnbull says he is confident he will get the support of a majority of the party room on an ETS. "What we've said is that if the scheme is presented in its current form on August 13 then we will vote against it and that's what we agreed to do in the party room," he said. "If the changes are satisfactory, if they address the issues that we've set out in the statement and it's a different scheme, then we'll take it back to the party room."

Some National senators have expressed concerns about the change of position, but Mr Turnbull told Saturday AM it is rare for any decision to have the entire support of the party room. "We're not seeking unanimity we're seeking consensus, we're seeking the support of a majority," he said.

He has conceded that there is little chance the Government will hold off on voting on an ETS until after the United Nations climate change meeting in December. "As far as the delaying a vote until after Copenhagen, I still believe that would be more prudent and we make that point in the statement," he said. "But the reality is, Mr Rudd is the Prime Minister, he's running the legislative agenda, he's going to force a vote before Copenhagen - that's his decision.

"And so the question is, presented with that less than ideal timing, how do we react to it? And so we are reacting to it in a constructive and effective way that the Australian people will understand, is an Opposition that is seeking to engage and ensure as best we can that the emissions trading scheme is right for jobs and right for the environment."