Monday, August 31, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is critical of the lack of monetary compensation for child victims of government "care"

Australian journalism's Leftward bias

This piece by journalist Chris Wallace provides an interesting perspective on the shadow-boxing nature of political reporting and the sorting of truth from lies as well as the sorting of lies from lies, by type.

But what has chiefly stuck in my mind is this admission about how, working for the AFR, Wallace reported “some fantastically inflammatory comments” from Malcolm Turnbull, who was then the spearhead of the Australian Republican Movement (ARM): “Journalists are human. As a fervent republican I didn’t necessarily want the ARM chief blowing himself up with these quotes… On the other hand, as a journalist I thought: Great story!”

Wallace took “the middle road” by later reading the quotes back to Turnbull to give him a chance to assert they really were on the record.

It begs the question though, what if Wallace were in possession of quotes that would have been harmful to a prominent monarchist? Would that person have been given the same opportunity to rethink and possibly recant?

I commend Wallace’s candour. I doubt anyone can truly leave behind their biases when reporting or even subbing. Those biases inevitably inform how we approach and view things, even from a subconscious level. Balance is generally the way western journalists attempt to achieve a measure of objectivity, by making sure competing views get a look in, even if one voice speaks most strongly in the end.

However the one fundamental and overriding bias of journalism, as a profession, that Wallace shows here was when he thought: “Great story!” The hopeful thing is that if at least someone is committed to telling great stories, from whatever angle they may come, it will tend to negate a natural preference for stories that contain only the morals or outcomes they like.

Having said that, a bias towards great stories is still a bias and one that has its own potential pitfalls. Hopefully more on that later.

Update: Two views on bias in Australian journalism. Peter Costello says the ABC as an institution has an inherent leftward list and once an ABC staffer even hissed at him. The other argues that the overall orientation of Aussie media, especially News Ltd, is to the right of centre.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

Wheels coming off the Rudd goverrnment

Particularly the very Leftist deputy PM, Julia Gillard

In political terms Gillard went too far on Friday. Her sin was to try to pass off a $1.5 billion blowout in her Pyongyang-inspired Building the Education Revolution program as "a bump in the road".

For the first time in a long time in the period of the Rudd government the media called it for what it was; self-serving spin of the kind that sees the wheels turn furiously while nothing actually happens.

For the first time in a long time the Deputy Prime Minister was nailed when her opposite number, Christopher Pyne, got a hearing from the media he deserved when he said: "If $1.5bn is a bump in the road I'd be frightened to see what a hole in the road looks like."

The $1.5bn blowout was the big thing. Then there was the little thing; they're the ones that always get you in politics. In the same news cycle Pyne discovered that Gillard had quietly altered the regulations covering the Building the Education Revolution program (doesn't that name always conjure massed gymnasts with ribbons in a stadium?) requiring all schools to maintain a grateful sign out the front acknowledging the contribution of the government's stimulus package to their new hall.

Except that the new rules also stipulated that regardless of whether building had finished the signs had to remain in place until the last possible date for a federal election under the constitution, March 11, 2011. Talk about an eye for detail; you miss the fact you're $1.5bn short on the centrepiece program of your portfolio. But you make sure those signs are in place until the very last moment of their effective political life.

All of which prompted Pyne to rebadge Kevin Rudd and Gillard as "Dear Leader and Dear Madam Leader".

If by this stage you think it's personal between Pyne and Gillard you'd be right. Ever since Gillard called him as "mincing" and a "poodle" in the parliament, Pyne has been coming after Gillard and he won't stop. But don't be mistaken: it's with a clear-eyed intent. As much as he might want to, he won't let his feelings drive his agenda.

And if, with regard to the poodle remark, you think different standards have been applied to Gillard by the media as part of her positioning to become Australia's first female prime minister, you'd be right too. Imagine, if you will, if Pyne had referred to Gillard as a "brindle bitch". He'd be out of the parliament by now.

Put together, the $1.5bn bump in the road and the schools signs episode brought the Rudd government this week to a point of reckoning. Two-thirds into their first term in government they are beginning to be called to account. Budget blowouts can no longer be blown off. Self-interested slickness as demonstrated by the Dear Leader and Dear Madam Leader signs will no longer be missed.

But as with most tipping points there's been a slow build to the balance mark on the fulcrum. Which is why it's not all about Gillard, though she's been in the thick of it: think the $1.4bn blowout in the Computers in Schools program, the trades training centres in every school that turned into one in every 10 schools and this week's humiliating backflip on youth allowances.

The fact is the momentum of failed promise has been gathering across government for some time. While Rudd has so far delivered on the macroeconomics of avoiding a recession - no mean feat - we are yet to grasp the final cost in terms of debt and deficit. Indeed, the political ill winds of interest rate rises are already gathering on the horizon.

But when it comes to individual promises Rudd and his government must be measured by their own words, key among them from the Prime Minister himself at the National Press Club on August 27, 2008, when he said: "When we formed government, I said I had no intention of recycling the absolute cynicism of previous governments: making a swag of pre-election commitments, then reneging on them as non-core promises."

Well, let's get started, shall we? Beginning with FuelWatch and GroceryWatch and that promise to take Japanese whalers to the international courts. Ditto for Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on a charge of incitement to genocide. But let us not sweat the small stuff, such as junking the climate-saving program of pink batts for renters or banning plastic shopping bags.

On to the big things, such as Rudd's declaration to the National Press Club on December 15 last year when he said, in respect to an emissions trading scheme, that "to delay any longer would be reckless and irresponsible for our economy and for our environment". Contrast that with his announcement six months later that "the start date of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will be delayed one year to commence from 1 July, 2011".

On health, Rudd and his minister Nicola Roxon stood hand on heart endlessly before the last election promising there'd be no windback of the private health insurance rebate. And there was the promise to begin implementing a federal takeover of the state hospitals system by the middle of this year, now deferred for at least a year.

There was also the $39m five-year program to bring 7750 nurses back into the workforce (541 recruited so far) and the 30,000 people who've dropped out of the government's signature training program, the $2bn Productivity Places program. The trainees had probably already tried the government's botched jobseekers scheme before that.

The point being that sooner or later a government's failure to deliver catches up with it. For Gillard that moment happened last week. And if it's happened for her, smart and savvy as she is, can a number of her colleagues be far behind?


The moronic Queensland government ambulance service again

Young mother angry at 'stupid' grilling during emergency call -- but the QAS are not backing down or apologizing -- even though they cannot provide details to refute her claims. Sounds like she got a Pakistani callcentre operator. I am pretty sure the QAS record all calls so they must know exactly what happened and are just "hanging tough" -- in the light of the big spray of complaints that have recently been made against them. They think a policy of "no admissions" is going to help them ride out the storm caused by their own bureaucratic incompetence

A REDBANK Plains mother said she had to answer a list of "stupid" questions before she could get an ambulance for her newborn baby who was vomiting and shaking uncontrollably. Suzanne Lang said her son, Zavier, only 30 hours old, had his eyes rolling up as she struggled with a 000 dispatcher she could barely understand.

One question was whether her baby was talking or not, she said. After the ambulance arrived, she said she had a harrowing unsecured ride to Ipswich Hospital on a stretcher. Lacking a seat belt, "I literally fell across the ambulance with my baby in my arms", she said.

The emergency occurred about 10pm on August 19, the night after her baby's birth. Mrs Lang said she feared her child's convulsions were a seizure because one of her other children suffers from seizures. Doctors actually determined the cause was an allergic reaction to sterilisation chemicals.

The Queensland Ambulance Service said the ambulance arrived at the home in 10 minutes and dispatchers spent only two minutes on the phone before it was sent. "The QAS will investigate claims relating to restraints used in this case," a spokeswoman said.

The family said it was the second negative experience with the Queensland Ambulance Service in a year. Mrs Lang said she had to drive her partner, Marcus, to the hospital after he injured his back and she gave up waiting on an ambulance after 40 minutes. The hospital reprimanded the couple for driving him because of the potential for greater damage to his vertebrae.

Mrs Lang said some of the dispatcher's questions about her baby's condition were appropriate but others seemed a waste of critical time. She said the dispatcher seemed to become irritated when she couldn't answer whether the baby had a heart condition. "I said, not that I know of. I mean, he's only 30 hours old," she said.

Queensland Ambulance Service defended the way its dispatchers answered 000 calls. It could not provide a list of specific questions asked because more than 30 scripts were used depending on the emergency. However, it said of the 400-600 calls received a day from 000, audits showed 95 per cent were well handled. [And the 5%? Anybody disciplined?]


Public transport outrage

Little girl abandoned on the side of the road over $1.20 bus fare. And governments want to get parents out of their cars??

A 10-YEAR-old girl was left by the side of a busy road in Mt Gravatt last month after she didn't have enough money for the bus, it has been revealed. The girl's mother told The Courier-Mail her daughter was directed to get off the 174 bus on Newnham Rd in late July after her Go Card had insufficient credit and she did not have enough change.

But Brisbane City Council yesterday denied the girl was told to leave, saying she was only told she had insufficient credit on her Go Card. The case breached the strict "no child left behind" policy employed by TransLink and Brisbane City Council, which states that a child cannot be left behind by a bus regardless of whether they have sufficient money for the trip.

The child's mother, who asked not to be named, said she was "horrified" and "disgusted" that her daughter, who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, was left behind by the bus. "She told me she was still at school and 'the driver told me to get off the bus'," the mother said. "She said: 'My bus card wouldn't work, and I looked in my bag and I didn't have enough change, and then the bus driver just said, 'Get off the bus'."

The girl's mother said she called a TransLink operator, who said the decision to leave her child behind was "up to the driver's discretion". "When I rang the first time the man said to me: 'Well, it is up to the driver's discretion'. "I said you cannot leave a child behind for the sake of $1.20 - along that road, it is a busy road, anyone could have stopped and grabbed her."

The mother later contacted TransLink again and was given an apology for the incident. The case is among four across the southeast that were investigated by TransLink this year, including one at Caboolture and one near Ipswich. A TransLink spokesman said the driver and the call centre operator had been disciplined.

"TransLink's [previously unknown, apparently] policy is that no child will be left at a bus stop under any circumstances and takes matters where a child is left at a bus stop very seriously," the spokesman said.


Australian navy intercepts illegal immigrant boat

The 18th such boat this year -- compared with none or close to none in the final years of the conservative government. The flow started as soon as the Leftist government watered down the laws designed to stop such arrivals

An Australian naval ship on Saturday intercepted a boatload of suspected asylum seekers, a government minister said, the latest in a wave of arrivals that has stoked fears of weak border security.

The boat was stopped near Ashmore Island off Australia's northern coast, Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor said in a statement. An initial count showed 55 people on board including three crew. Their nationalities were not known.

Border protection is a hot political issue in Australia. Critics blame a new rise in people-smuggling this year on a softer stance on the issue by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, compared to the conservative government he ousted in 2007.

"The group will be transferred to Christmas Island where they will undergo security, identity and health checks as well as establish their reasons for travel," O'Connor said, referring to the latest arrivals.

Australia has a processing center for suspected asylum-seekers on Christmas Island, an Indian Ocean possession just south of the Indonesian island of Java.

Many of the people-smugglers are thought to be based in Indonesia, although the asylum seekers are generally from war-ravaged countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Schoolboy beaten to death as teachers look on

Teachers run grave legal risks if they touch a student -- courtesy of Leftist "compassion" and shrieks about "child abuse"

A SCHOOLBOY squabble during morning recess escalated into a brawl that has left a 15-year-old NSW schoolboy dead. Detectives and forensic specialists descended on Mullumbimby High School in northern NSW and declared the playground a crime scene after Jai Morcom was pronounced dead in hospital on the Gold Coast yesterday.

The Year 9 student suffered massive head injuries in the fight, which began with petty bickering shortly after 11am during "little lunch'' on Friday, The Sunday Telegraph reports.

Jai was transferred from Mullumbimby Hospital to Gold Coast Hospital's intensive care unit, where he was placed on life support. He died yesterday morning, 24 hours after the brawl.

His distraught mother Kim last night said: "You don't send your kids to school thinking they're going to die. "Jai was just a gentle little guy. He wasn't a fighter.'' Jai's older brother, Mayo, flew home on Friday night from the NSW ski-fields where he works, to join his devastated parents and sisters, Kyra, 26, and Jade, 22.

A Year 9 student said the fight was between two school gangs. The student said: "One of the gangs stole a seat from our eating area. We stole it back and it turned into an all-out brawl (and) the teachers did nothing''.

The student alleged Jai had been beaten to a pulp and ``it was really scary and intense. It was completely out of control''. A school nurse gave first aid until paramedics arrived, but witnesses said Jai was frothing at the mouth and non-responsive.

Forensic detectives, NSW and Queensland police have been called in to investigate and are preparing a brief for the coroner. A Year 9 classmate, who asked not to be named, said the two groups involved in the fight were the "emos'' and the "footy heads''. "Someone took someone else's table ... Jai was just walking through and the Year 11s just threw him,''she said. "We saw him on the ground and it was horrible. They just ran over the top of him when he was down and kept kicking him.''

Police feared revenge attacks. One student told Ten News last night: "This other kid's going to get killed.''

Tweed-Byron duty officer, Inspector Owen King, said there were several versions of how the incident unfolded and all would be investigated. One was that Jai may have felt unwell and was questioned by a teacher before recess because he did not appear to be himself. [Coverup coming!] "There are a number of conflicting versions and we're not going to speculate,'' Insp King said. ``That will be part of the investigation. "We need to determine exactly what happened. It was recess time, the playground was full.''

There was no CCTV footage, nor had any student filmed the fight on a mobile phone, he said. School liaison police would join councillors on campus tomorrow, he said, describing the incident as tragic and sad.

One Year 12 witness told The Gold Coast Bulletin Jai wasn't fully involved in the fight at the beginning. "He was shoved up against a brick wall near the girls' toilets by his throat. It was pretty rough then started to get more serious. "Someone spat on someone, then they just went psycho and started punching and kicking him. "All these boys came in and they were just dominating him. Then he fell and hit his head. "No one realised he had been knocked out and everyone kept kicking and punching him still.''

Education Department counsellors will attend tomorrow. "We are deeply shocked by the tragic situation that has occurred,'' a spokeswoman said. "Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the student at this difficult time. Additional support, including counselling, is being provided to staff and students.''

Mullumbimby High School has about 920 students and 75 teachers, and an anti-bullying policy.


More public hospital negligence -- woman dies

Her dangerous condition known but nobody cared

DAVID Cuthbertson cannot find the words to explain to his three-year-old daughter Alyssa why her mother was never able to hold her, and never will. In June 2006, having given birth by caesarean section at Nepean Hospital, Petah Kimm's blood pressure dropped suddenly. Staff failed to recognise the danger. Two hours later, at age 39, she was found dead in her hospital bed.

On Wednesday, Mr Cuthbertson will front an inquest in Sydney. ''I want this inquest to bring about change so nobody ever has to go through this again," he told The Sun-Herald. "I will not let the NSW Government sweep this under the carpet. I want them to own up."

Mr Cuthbertson and Ms Kimm were single parents when they met on the sidelines at Little Athletics near their home town of Mudgee in 2003. They became friends and gradually fell in love, creating a blended family with his son Luke and her children Steven and Nicole. "Initially I was against the idea of children because it involved IVF. But then one day I looked on as Petah nursed my brother's baby. The moment I saw the look on her face I melted. We pushed ahead with the IVF. She conceived straight away."

Alyssa was born without complication before Ms Kimm's blood pressure fell. A student midwife failed to inform senior medical staff. A Sydney West Area Health Service internal report later found that, during a changeover in nursing shifts, nobody flagged her as unwell. "Two hours passed before anyone on the next shift bothered to look. That was when Petah was found lying in bed dead," Mr Cuthbertson said.

"I've suffered with guilt. I was at the hospital until 9.30pm that night and then I went home thinking Petah was just tired. Had I stayed, maybe I could have changed this."

Last month, nurses at Nepean Hospital learnt 155 positions were being axed, including senior staff from the post-natal ward in which Ms Kimm died.

Fighting back tears, Mr Cuthbertson said: "Alyssa says 'goodnight mummy' and 'I love you' before going to bed each night." He said recently, after a family friend arrived ahead of them at their house, "I said to Alyssa, 'Guess who's going to be at our place when we get home?' She replied: 'Did you go to heaven and get mummy?' I hope one day she will understand.''

NSW Health made an out of court settlement but Mr Cuthbertson called their treatment of him during that process ''disgusting''. ''Petah and Alyssa should have been here today, playing in the park together. I want justice for them both."


Solar power a dud

Lack of savings in S.E. Queensland said to be a "mystery" but: 1). We have had a lot of rainy and overcast weather this year in the Brisbane area and: 2). Panels vary a lot in efficiency. No doubt people were given estimates based on maximum efficiency -- not the efficiency obtainable from the actual cheaper panels used

HOMEOWNERS are fuming after spending tens of thousands of dollars on solar panels only to find their power bills have stayed the same or only marginally dropped. Each of the cases involved installations by Modern Solar, which has blamed Energex meters for the problems.

One customer said he had estimated it would take 190 years to recoup the cost of the installation, when he was promised it would take 13 years in a worst-case scenario.

Energex said it was aware of the problem but, despite repeated testing of various installations, could not pinpoint the cause. Energy Ombudsman Barry Adams said there had been a rise in complaints from people unhappy with their savings. He said it appeared some companies had "over-exaggerated" the savings. Mr Adams had raised the issue with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and Queensland's Office of Fair Trading.


The alcohol merrygoround spins again: Good for you, bad for you, Good for you, bad for you, Good for you, bad for you

Boozing wards off dementia? Sounds like another failure of theory. Alcohol is a neurotoxin so should make dementia worse. Other effects, such as vascular dilation, could be helpful, however. The study is another epidemiological one so I am pleased to see that the authors are properly cautious about causal inferences: "Our results suggest that alcohol drinkers in late life have reduced risk of dementia. It is unclear whether this reflects selection effects in cohort studies commencing in late life, a protective effect of alcohol consumption throughout adulthood, or a specific benefit of alcohol in late life". Putting that into plain English: Maybe heavy drinkers have to be especially healthy to survive into old age

OLDER Australians who drink up to 28 glasses of alcohol a week have a better chance of warding off dementia than those who abstain, a study shows. Data compiled from 15 global studies, including responses from more than 10,000 people, found drinkers, not teetotallers, are better off when it comes to developing diseases affecting cognitive function.

Those aged 60 and older who consumed between one and 28 alcoholic drinks each week were almost 30 per cent less likely to have Alzheimer's later on in life, the data found.

Light and moderate drinkers were also 25 per cent less likely to contract vascular dementia – associated with circulation of blood in the brain – and 26 per cent less likely to suffer from any form of dementia. The report, Alcohol Consumption as a Risk Factor for Dementia and Cognitive Decline, was published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

But Professor Kaarin Anstey, from the Australian National University, warned this was not encouragement to start drinking 28 glasses of alcohol a week. "This article used all published studies to include one to 28 drinks per week, but in some countries (the range) differed – they were higher in some and lighter in others," Professor Anstey said. "Australian guidelines, for instance, don't say 28 drinks is moderate."


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Racist violence in Australia!

So was our smart-ass U.N. "rapporteur" right after all? In some technical sense maybe -- but I doubt if many white Australians feel guilty over hatred between Maoris and Aborigines. No doubt, however, the twisted brain of some Leftist will produce the accusation that the hatred is the result of "white oppression"

A New Zealand teenager's decision to miss a flight home from Perth cost him his life in a Lockridge brawl, his uncle says, demanding an end to racial violence. Jon Teotinga Warena, 18, from Napier, was killed in a wild street brawl between Maori and Aboriginal groups in the Perth suburb of Lockridge in the early hours of November 6, 2007.

Two men and three teenagers were given sentences of between three and eight years in the WA Supreme Court today for Mr Warena's manslaughter. Three of the accused were also sentenced on charges of inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent on Charleston Ngaha, 25, who was badly injured in the same brawl.

Mr Warena's family members who were in court for the decision said they had been informed of the likely range of the sentences before they were handed down. Mr Warena's mother, who flew in from New Zealand for the sentencing, carried a picture of her son, as did another relative. Lance McRae, an uncle of Mr Warena who had called for heavy sentences for the five, did not take issue with the penalties but said the racial violence in Perth had to end.

Mr McRae's brother Gary said he thought his nephew was boarding a flight to New Zealand on the night he died. But he had pulled out of the booking at the last moment for reasons that remained unexplained. ``It was a decision that cost the life of a really good kid,'' Mr McRae said.

Justice John McKechnie said it was ``difficult to escape the inference'' that Mr Warena had wanted to be a part of retaliatory action the Maori group had planned after the ``bricking'' of one of the men's homes.

The Maori group, including members of the Never Ending Crypts gang, drove to Germain Way in Lockridge to carry out a revenge attack but went to the wrong house, Justice McKechnie said.

Residents of the street said ``all hell broke loose'' when a group of Aboriginal men emerged from homes to confront the gang.

Justice McKechnie said the five accused had been part of a group that was entitled to protect their homes and families, and had at first taken reasonable action. ``However, what then happened went far beyond reason,'' he said. Mr Warena and Mr Ngaha had been kicked, punched, beaten and stomped on. ``The overwhelming conclusion is that you took part in an attack on people disabled, lying on the ground,'' he said. The attack continued even as people involved in the brawl had made remarks like ``he's f....d, dad'' and ``he's already dead, that's enough, dad''.

Everett James Tyson, 35, Giles Lawrence Tyson, 41, and three teenagers, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter charges.


Corrupt cop still in the Qld. police force

With only a minor demotion -- even though he used his senior position in an attempt to cover up an attempted murder!

It looks like the Misconduct Tribunal is a reincarnation of Sir Joh's old Police Whitewash Tribunal

The CMC has failed to have a police officer sacked for trying to convince a Brisbane couple not to take action against their daughter for conspiring to kill them. At the centre of Inspector Gerard McKendry's conflict of interest was that the 15-year-old schoolgirl was a good friend of his daughter's.

But although an internal police investigation also found McKendry had failed to protect the integrity of the crime scene, no sanction was imposed. New details can now be revealed about the sensational crime - and the Crime and Misconduct Commission's frustration with the police disciplinary service.

The CMC appealed the QPS decision and argued the officer should be sacked. Yesterday, the Misconduct Tribunal found he was unfit to continue as a commissioned officer and demoted him to sergeant level. The tribunal found he should not be sacked because of his history as a competent, hard-working officer.

Joshua Andrew Hockey and his teenage lover, who cannot be named, in 2006 plotted to kill the girl's mother and stepfather so they could run away. Hockey was supposed to cut the mother's throat and then kill the stepfather. But the plan went awry when Hockey could not overpower the stepfather.

Hockey and his girlfriend pleaded guilty to attempted murder and conspiracy to murder. Hockey received a nine-year jail sentence and his girlfriend, on appeal, had her sentence reduced to two years' jail.

McKendry was the regional duty officer on the night of the drama. A the scene, he provided "inappropriate advice to the (parents) in relation to providing the details of a particular solicitor, suggesting they not make a complaint against their daughter", a tribunal statement said. Evidence given by other police revealed McKendry was heard to say, "I would be getting her legal representation" and "I believe your daughter has mental health issues and I'd be directing your solicitor to take that path in relation to this". He was also heard telling the girl's mother that she could have a shower. Other police had directed the woman not to shower because it could destroy evidence.

The CMC's appeal decision comes after a major report into police corruption, a two-year investigation codenamed Operation Capri. CMC chairman Robert Needham said he was "prepared to accept" disciplinary findings taken by QPS in relation to Capri but said he was unhappy with aspects of the police disciplinary system.


Western Australian schools are independent in name only

By Jennifer Buckingham

The WA government recently announced that it would be allowing up to 30 government schools (out of 768) to become ‘Independent Public Schools.’ These schools will have full management of their recurrent budget and will be given more authority over staffing appointments. They will allegedly have more flexibility in the curriculum up to Year 10 and will not have to apply to the education department for permission to expel students.

These are all good things for schools to be able to do. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to be enough to create any real change. Some people have wrongly compared this reform to the charter school model used in the United States. In fact, it is more like a small-scale version of the self-managing schools reforms that took place more than 10 years ago in Victoria.

Unlike charter schools, Independent Public Schools in Western Australia will still be subject to the state industrial award for teachers. Schools might be able to choose the best candidate when/if a teaching position becomes available, but they will have no greater powers to get rid of bad teachers. They will have no flexibility with teacher salaries, and mandatory maximum class sizes will still apply.

Again, unlike charter schools, freedom of choice of curriculum will be tightly constrained since the schools will still have to comply with the national curriculum due to be rolled out across the country next year. Independent Public Schools might be able to make the final decision on student expulsions, but they will still have to find another school for any child they want to exclude. They will also still be obliged to take all students from within their enrolment zone, meaning that families who would like to attend these schools can only do so if there are leftover places.

The risk is that these reforms will be used as evidence that school autonomy doesn’t work, when in fact this not school autonomy at all.

The WA education minister, Liz Constable, described the Independent Public Schools policy as ‘an historic leap forward’ for public education in the state. The WA government is to be applauded for taking schools policy in the direction of flexibility and freedom, but this is more of a step than a leap.

The above is part of a recent press release from the Centre for Independent Studies. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590. Telephone ph: +61 2 9438 4377 or fax: +61 2 9439 7310

Quentin Bryce has joined the exclusive Lyceum Club in Melbourne

I guess nobody has ever accused feminists of logic or consistency

GOVERNOR-GENERAL Quentin Bryce, a former sex discrimination commissioner, has joined an exclusive women-only club in Melbourne at a time when the legality of single-sex clubs in Victoria is under review. Ms Bryce's decision to accept honorary membership of the Lyceum Club coincides with a Victorian parliamentary review of whether such single-sex clubs deserve to remain exempt from the state's equal opportunity laws.

The review follows recent controversy over Melbourne's single-sex clubs, with the city's exclusive men-only institutions such as the Melbourne Club and the Athenaeum Club being denounced as anachronistic by Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls.

Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, who holds the position Ms Bryce occupied in the early 1990s, has also weighed into the debate, declaring it is "not smart" for any institution that claims to reflect a city's elite to lock out half of the population.

A spokeswoman for Ms Bryce yesterday defended her decision to join the Lyceum Club. "The Governor-General has no issue with men or women-only clubs or organisations," the spokeswoman said. "She is patron of numerous organisations specifically for women, such as the CWA, the Girls Brigade, Business and Professional Women Australia and the National Rural Women's Coalition."

The spokeswoman declined to comment on the "political" issue of the parliamentary review of single-sex clubs in Victoria except to note that such clubs were legal under equal opportunity laws.

Lyceum Club president Annie James said it was open to members to "invite people who are like-minded and can contribute to what the club stands for and can enjoy what the club offers". The century-old Lyceum Club has almost 1200 members and is aimed at women "who are interested in the arts, literature, sciences and social concerns".



Trading of emission permits around the world will become a financial rort [racket] that fails to reduce carbon emissions - and will ultimately be scrapped in favour of a simple carbon tax, a former senior official in the Clinton administration has forecast. Robert Shapiro, former US undersecretary of commerce and author of Futurecast, predicted that the US Senate would reject the emissions trading scheme proposed by President Obama, which is now before it.

Speaking by video to the Trade 2020 conference convened by Austrade and the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, Dr Shapiro said 'cap and trade' systems as proposed by the US and the Australian governments to limit carbon dioxide emissions and allow trade in permits do not work as intended. "Cap and trade has proved very vulnerable to vested interests, and therefore too weak to deliver the necessary emission reductions'', he said. ''Cap and trade creates trillions of dollars of new financial instruments to be traded, and subjected to the next financial fads. China and India will never accept a cap and trade regime.''

A better solution is to impose a carbon tax on emissions and return the revenue from it to households so people are not made worse off, Dr Shapiro said. A similar approach in Sweden has cut emissions there by 8 per cent since 1990 while GDP rose about 40 per cent.

CEDA research director Michael Porter strongly supported Dr Shapiro. CEDA today will release a report urging the Rudd Government to scrap its emissions trading scheme in favour of a carbon tax. Dr Porter warned that a carbon market would not be trading carbon, ''it'll be trading derivatives''. International trade in permits will mean the integrity of a permit is only as good as the weakest supervisory regime.

Economists are divided over which is the better way to fight climate change. Emissions trading has won widespread support because it is a market-based solution that, in theory, will deliver certain emission reductions at the lowest cost, as companies that can't reduce emissions cheaply instead buy permits from companies that can.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Two-week "expert" says Australia is "racist"

He should be sued for defamation. State and Federal governments of all stripes have been trying for decades to solve the problems of Aborigines using all sorts of "solutions" and this prick thinks he is wiser than all of them. Being a Hispanic-American lawyer must give you special wisdom, I guess -- more likely a chip on your shoulder. He works for the same U.N. that constantly maligns Israel while ignoring huge Arab abuses -- JR

The intervention into remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory is clearly discriminatory, and that there is "entrenched" racism in Australia, the United Nations special delegate on indigenous rights says. James Anaya didn't pull any punches after his two-week visit of the country.

He said the Rudd Government should reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act in the NT "right away" because the intervention was discriminatory. "It undermines the right of indigenous peoples to control their own destinies, their right to self-determination," he said. He also said the Stolen Generations should be paid compensation.

Prof Anaya said that while there was no doubt special efforts were required to combat indigenous disadvantage and abuse of women and children, the intervention's "broad sweep" went too far and was incompatible with various international conventions, covenants, treaties and declarations.

"Some kind of special measures could be justified but they need to be narrowly tailored to the specific circumstances that exist," he said. Compulsory income management and blanket bans on alcohol and pornography were "overtly discriminatory" and further stigmatised already stigmatised communities "People who have a demonstrated capacity to manage their income are included," he said. "It's inappropriate to their circumstances but is also, as expressed by them, demeaning."

The indigenous rights expert was also scathing of federal Labor's insistence that housing funds would only flow if indigenous communities signed over their land. "It's a mistake to assume that indigenous peoples ... aren't capable of taking care of their homes," Prof Anaya said. [What would HE know? Has he SEEN how Aboriginal housing deteriorates?] "Indigenous control can be appropriate to indigenous peoples' development, to their aspirations, to indeed being in control of their lives like all others."

As for compensation for indigenous people taken from their families by government agencies, the UN rapporteur was unequivocal: "There should be reparations," he said.

But it wasn't all negative news for the Rudd Government. Prof Anaya praised Labor for taking "significant steps" to try and improve the human rights and living conditions of indigenous Australians. He also congratulated the Government for supporting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples earlier this year and officially apologising to the stolen generations in 2008. There was hope, he said. "I have been impressed by the strength, resilience and vision of indigenous communities determined to move towards a better future despite having endured tremendous suffering at the hands of historical forces and entrenched racism."

SOURCE. A couple of replies to this heap of U.N. sh*t here

Everyone's ABC? Only if you lean left

By Peter Costello

Different views would spark up our predictable national broadcaster

I WAS doing an ABC radio interview last week and a listener sent in a text message, which was read out, suggesting the ABC should engage me as a radio host. ''I don't think I have the right political views for the ABC,'' I told the broadcast audience. It was not said with any malice, just an observation of an obvious fact.

If I had been on my guard I would not have said it. The ABC does not like the idea that its presenters have a common political outlook. Although the media likes to give criticism it does not like to receive it. And if you criticise the media you can expect rough treatment in return. Experienced media hands will always advise you that no matter how bad your treatment, never complain about it: that will only lead to worse.

But I was not on my guard. I am not now at the mercy of the media so I can afford to say what everyone on the conservative side of politics knows - the ABC is hostile territory.

One time I walked into ABC headquarters in Sydney and was confronted by an employee who began hissing at me. The station manager, who was there at the time, was so shocked he organised a written apology from management. He told me the employee would be ''counselled''. I wasn't shocked, I knew I was on foreign soil. I never worried about what occurred off-air. I was always worried about what would be broadcast.

The on-air interviewers for the ABC are generally aggressive, which is a pity. In my experience, if a subject is relaxed and lulled into dropping their guard, they are more likely to make revealing disclosures. With the ABC the line of questioning is always predictable. It always comes from the Labor/Green perspective.

Now Labor will tell you that sometimes it gets a hard time on the ABC - and sometimes it does if it is perceived to be betraying ''true Labor principles'' or being too ''pro-business'' or being insensitive to the environment. But Labor will never be criticised for entrenching union power, or going soft on law enforcement, or spending money it doesn't have.

There are rural and regional programs that stick to local issues and leave the politics aside. But the flagship national current affairs programs - AM, PM, The 7.30 Report - have a consistent editorial perspective. The 7.30 Report has been a good training ground for politicians, producing the West Australian Labor premier Alan Carpenter and the former chief minister of the Northern Territory, Clare Martin.

Labor Ministers Mary Delahunty and Maxine McKew also worked for the ABC in news and current affairs. The 7.30 Report is hosted by former Labor staffer Kerry O'Brien. I have no objection to former staffers working in the media. It's just that you notice the preponderance of those from a particular side at the ABC.

When I dropped my inconvenient truth in last week's interview it didn't provoke any outrage or comment. It just hung there. There was a mild effort by my interlocutor to defend the corporation. He pointed out there is a Liberal employed on ABC local radio in Perth, which says it all. It is quite an oddity really - so odd that they know about this man in Melbourne. Out of the 4500 employees in the ABC they know there is one Liberal. The ABC would do well to get a second or a third (and, no, I am not interested).

I have no doubt that opening up the airwaves would open the ABC to wider sections of the public. There would be screams of protest from the true believers who want no plurality to the current line. But some different opinion would spice things up. It is possible to have divergent views in an organisation that broadcasts 24 hours a day seven days a week.

Five nights per week Phillip Adams broadcasts on Radio National. Adams claims that he has been close to every Labor leader from Whitlam to Beazley. Robert Manne has described Adams as ''the emblematic figurehead of the pro-Labor left intelligentsia''.

Back in 2001 the then managing director of the ABC declared he would look for a right-wing Phillip Adams to balance up that program. It must be an exhaustive search. The new managing director is now in his fourth year of office. Apparently the corporation is still looking. I will make the prediction they will still be looking under the next managing director.

It appears there is nothing urgent about the task of getting balance into the ABC. Imagine if the corporation did find a right-wing Phillip Adams? Then we would have a Liberal in Perth and one in Sydney, too.


The "Green jobs" go to China

JUST before the passage of the Rudd government's renewable energy target legislation, which was designed to ensure 20 per cent of our electricity came from solar, wind and geothermal sources by 2020 and to foster Australia's renewable energy industry, Australian Greens leader Bob Brown reassured the public about the viability of the renewable energy industry.

In Canberra on August 19 Brown responded to a statement by the ABC's Lyndal Curtis that "you can't export the sun or the wind, you can't export those renewables" with the confident declaration that indeed you could export renewables. "Oh yes, you can, and the Germans have made a feast of it and of course they've got a multi-billion-dollar export industry in renewable energy with 250,000 jobs created," Brown said.

Brown, like Climate Change Minister Penny Wong and other government ministers, was reassuring the Australian public that creation of a target for renewable energy made economic sense and would be the source of jobs, jobs, jobs.

After a compromise was reached with the Coalition in the Senate on reassurances for compensation for existing industries to protect existing jobs in Australia, the RET legislation passed, to the great relief of the Rudd government and the opposition.

Despite serious misgivings within the Coalition about supporting an RET, a political compromise was reached. Malcolm Turnbull was given credit for holding together his troops and Kevin Rudd was given credit for being prepared to negotiate and not hold national policy to ransom over the calling of an early election.

As the mid-November deadline nears for the second debate on an emissions trading scheme, it is worth considering the political processes of passing the RET and some of the policy implications in the real world of market economy and government subsidy distortions. These will end up limiting competition, pushing up prices in the long term and not cutting global greenhouse gas emissions. Which brings us back to Brown's glowing reports of renewable energy industry jobs in Germany.

Brown was right, Germany has made a feast of renewable energy. Its largest producer of solar cells, Q-Cells, indeed the world's largest producer, had been exporting huge amounts of cells, employing thousands and making millions of euros. In the first half of last year Q-Cells made a business operating profit of E119.1 million ($204m). But, six days before Brown spoke, Q-Cells announced a first-half operating loss of E47.6m, laid off 500 workers, closed a plant, put a further 2000 workers on short shifts and stepped up plans to establish a solar cell plant in Malaysia employing 2000 workers. Q-Cells production had remained almost constant, according to its business statement.

In Spain, one of the leaders in the installation of solar panels, the industry came to a halt and the main panel maker cut the shifts of 400 workers to a few hours a week. Other manufacturers simply shut down. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the collapse in Spain's photovoltaic sector "has been so drastic that jobs plunged from a peak of 41,700 early last year to 13,900 in the spring of 2009".

So what happened? In one word: China.

In its efforts to supplement its energy needs from renewable sources and fulfil its highly ambitious targets to feed in energy to supplement its growing coal-fired and nuclear-powered electricity sources, China has provided lavish subsidies to solar industries. Under these subsidies and ultra-cheap loans from Chinese banks a plethora of Chinese manufacturers has sprung up and flooded the world market with solar cells and panels, which vary remarkably in quality. (It must be said that some of the best use Australian technology.)

The biggest Chinese company, which is about to become the world's biggest solar company, Suntech, has cut the price of its panels and cells across the world. That's why Q-Cells in Germany has lost so much while maintaining the same production: cut-price Chinese products are driving down returns and making production in Europe unviable without continuing heavy government subsidies. The price of solar panels in some markets in the US has halved in the past year and in the past six months the cost of some solar panels has dropped by one-third in Australia.

This week Shi Zhengrong, chief executive and founder of Suntech Power Holdings, told The New York Times Suntech was selling solar panels on the US market for less than the cost of materials to build market share. This sounds suspiciously like dumping into a market, but there is no doubt Californian producers are pointing the finger at Suntech's prices as a reason for the global collapse in solar cell production. Another reason is that some European governments are beginning to wean the renewable energy industry off subsidies and sweetheart deals with inflated returns on rooftop electricity fed back into the national electricity grid.

All of this occurred in a two-week period when Australia's politicians were breaking their necks to do their own political deals over renewable energy, and to encourage homegrown solar industries and create instant jobs as part of the economic stimulus. The combination of a Chinese-induced price slump in Australia and the Rudd government's green stimulus, which includes roofing insulation subsidies, is that consumers have rushed to buy solar panels that may be of lesser quality and haphazardly installed because they are effectively free.

But the jobs created are for people bolting on the panels; the longer-term incentive for establishing solar cell production in Australia is diminished. Even some solar panel outlets are struggling because they have been caught with higher-priced European panels.

The supporters of the RET legislation argue that without a target and government support such industries will not get under way without a high price being set for carbon in the emissions trading scheme. This is true. The problem is that the promises of new green jobs to replace all the old brown jobs lost will be difficult to fulfil while China, for strategic reasons - not environmental sympathy - is prepared to open its bottomless pockets and distort a world market.

You'd think the global financial crisis would teach people a lesson about markets, government subsidies and intervention.


Yet another serious Queensland ambulance bungle

These episodes just keep coming

TAPES of a 000 emergency call reveal how a Wynnum family was put on hold by an ambulance dispatcher who bungled a response to a man suffering a stroke. Marcia Fielder, 80, said her son had to be privately transported to hospital after the Queensland Ambulance Service decided it could take up to one hour to respond.

The 44-year-old man, whom the family does not wish to name, suffered an embolic stroke in July last year and has since lost his job and become reclusive.

In a letter to Mrs Fielder the QAS admitted their response was "regrettable" and advised that the dispatcher had been removed from his position. Mrs Fielder called 000 last July after her son complained of a severe headache and not being able to see "the bottom half of the room". She said his mind then appeared to go entirely blank and he didn't even recognise her or know what room of the house he was in. "I must admit I became hysterical. I had never seen him that way before," she said.

The incident has raised more questions over the standard of training being offered to QAS dispatchers. The Courier-Mail has listened to tapes of the 000 call, which confirm the QAS dispatcher did not understand the urgency of the condition.

Mrs Fielder had to wait for her other son to drive from Salisbury to Wynnum to take them to Redlands Hospital. The next day a brain scan showed her son had suffered two strokes. He has lost his ability to read and is no longer employed.

Mrs Fielder believed her son, whom she described as a gentle giant who always cared for her, didn't want to speak out because he was embarrassed over the incident. "You have no idea how he's changed. It's like his life's lost," she said. "He stays in his room and when people ring up he says to tell them he's not home."

In a letter to Mrs Fielder, Queensland Ambulance Service medical director Stephen Rashford said paramedics were struggling with a high workload on that night. "The EMD (emergency medical dispatcher) should have provided you with more assurance and empathy," Dr Rashford wrote. "It was also found that the manner in which the EMD spoke to you was extremely inappropriate. "I apologise that the level of service provided by the EMD was not at the level of your or your son's expectations." [Does this asshole thinks lack of politeness was the only problem??]


Incompetent rape investigation costs Victoria police $20,000

(In the hope of shutting the woman up)

POLICE have reacted angrily to "hush money" TV claims by a woman who claims she was raped by a Carlton footballer. “Kate'', who alleges she was raped at a party after Carlton's 1999 Grand Final loss, claims she was originally offered $20,000 “hush money” by police to keep quiet before reaching a settlement with police. "They offered me some money... $20,000... on conditions that I don't proceed with having it heard it court," she told the ABC.

"You think you can pay me off with $20,000? $20,000 is nothing, not that it was ever about money. But I think in some way they owed me more than just 20 grand. They owed me - doing their job properly."

Victoria Police today confirmed they had reached a settlement with Kate, but said in a statement the offer of $20,000 was a show of good faith after legal advice provided to the force found they had no legal liability in relation to the matter. "She refused the offer and engaged in legal action against Victoria Police. That action was unsuccessful, however Victoria Police did not choose to pursue costs, even though we were within our rights to do so,” the statement said. “In a further show of good faith and for compassionate reasons, Victoria Police again offered the woman $20,000 because we believed it was the right thing to do. This offer was accepted and did include a confidentiality clause which is standard in government litigation.”

Kate says she had consensual sex with one player but later woke up to find another raping her.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Simon Overland, then an assistant commissioner, later admitted detectives had botched the case. A damning Ombudsman's report into the investigation found that police had failed to take DNA tests or interview key witnesses. Mr Overland said there had been an “almost total failure'' by investigators on the case and apologised to the woman.

Police said one member involved in the investigation was subject to disciplinary action while two other members have resigned from the force due to unrelated matters.


Thursday, August 27, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has a shot at both the NSW Labor party and the Federal Liberal party

Bill of rights would be a death knell for democracy says Howard

A BILL of rights would erode Australia's democracy, diminish the reputation and accountability of Parliament, politicise the judiciary and represent the ''final triumph of elitism in Australian politics'', the former prime minister John Howard said last night.

Delivering the annual Menzies Lecture at the University of Western Australia, Mr Howard campaigned against ceding power from elected individuals to the non-elected judiciary.

The Rudd Government is exploring whether to introduce a bill of rights. In December, it commissioned a committee chaired by Father Frank Brennan to gauge public opinion on how best to achieve greater protection of rights. It is due to report to the Government on September 30.

Mr Howard has long opposed a bill of rights. He said ministers and parliamentarians should make all the controversial decisions transparently and be accountable for them.

''A bill of rights would further diminish the prestige of Parliament, it would politicise the appointment of judges, it would increase the volume of litigation and it would not increase the rights and protections now available to Australian citizens,'' Mr Howard said.

''A charter or bill of rights would represent the final triumph of elitism in Australian politics - the notion that typical citizens, elected by ordinary Australians, cannot be trusted to resolve great issues of public policy.''

Mr Howard said the Northern Territory intervention, the banning of gay marriage and the conscience vote to lift the ban on the abortion pill RU486 could have been handballed to judges had there been a bill of rights.

He warned ''political activisits of the left'' to consider that one day a cause they may support ''might be better served by the votes of contemporary Parliament, rather than a court dominated by men and women holding views you might not share''.


The Supreme Court of the United States shows the inadvisability of entrusting our rights to unelected judges. It is now and always has been a judicial abomination. Its guiding principles have always been political rather than judicial. It is not as political as Stalin's courts but its respect for the constitution is little better. Some recent abuses: The "equal treatment" provision of the 14th amendment was specifically written to outlaw racial discrimination yet the court has allowed various forms of "affirmative action" for decades -- when all such policies should have been completely stuck down immediately. The 2nd. amendment says that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed yet gun control laws infringe it in every State in the union. The 1st amendment provides that speech shall be freely exercised yet the court has upheld various restrictions on the financing and display of political advertising. The court has found a right to abortion in the constitution when the word abortion is not even mentioned there. The court invents rights that do not exist and denies rights that do -- JR

Victorian Primary School bans bottled water

I must admit that I find the bottled water craze quite mad but if people get some satisfaction out of it, who are we to judge them? I am sure I do some things that some others might consider mad -- like blogging, for instance. I am sure the Greenies would be able to find something wrong with blogging if they tried -- uses too much electricity or some such -- JR

A Melbourne school has banned commercially bottled water in what is believed to be a Victorian first. Pupils at Eltham North Primary School are being told to drink tap water and use only environmentally friendly re-useable containers.

Principal David Foley said the ban was part of the school's green policy, which includes re-useable containers for lunches, the Herald Sun reports. "We have good water in Melbourne," he said. "It's a waste of money buying plastic bottled water and most of the bottles end up in our waterways or in landfill. "We don't want students to come to school using soft drink or bottled water."

It is estimated Australians spend about $500 million each year on bottled water. A bottled water ban was introduced in the NSW town of Bundanoon last month.

But Mr Foley said his school had been moving towards the policy since installing waste-cutting water fountains last year. "It's the way to go," he said. "We're also using it as an education process to see what can happen if water goes off and what can happen if you're using a poor bottle like a soft drink container." Mr Foley said bags wouldn't be checked for dodgy bottles, but staff would monitor the use of drink containers in class and in the playground.

Brendan Lynch, from water dispenser firm Aquabubbler, said his company had supplied eco-friendly products to hundreds of schools in Victoria. "Kids are a lot more discerning about where they drink from these days," he said. "A lot of water troughs at schools are unhygienic." Mr Lynch said it was crazy that people were buying so much bottled water during the economic crisis. "A lot of those bottles can't be recycled and end up as landfill, it's a no-win situation," he said.

Opposition education spokesman Martin Dixon said he had no problem with the bottle ban. "It's something that they have weighed up carefully," he said. "It's good to allow schools to do something innovative and environmentally friendly."


Follower of radical Islamic movement granted asylum in Australia

Extreme Islamic attitudes that are not even acceptable in a Muslim country are acceptable in Australia?

A follower of a radical Islamic movement that seeks to introduce sharia law and has been linked to terrorist groups is being granted asylum in Australia. The Refugee Review Tribunal has recommended a protection visa for an Egyptian man, who is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic political group with links to al-Qaida.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been outlawed in several countries, including Egypt. It seeks to establish a pan-Islamic state ruled by sharia law and is committed to the destruction of Israel.

The Egyptian man initially was denied a protection visa by the Department of Immigration, but the decision was overturned by the tribunal. "The tribunal is of the view that the applicant's decision to abandon ship, insistence on his rights not to return to Egypt for medical treatment, and behaviour towards his captain, if combined with his support for the Muslim Brotherhood, his low-level political activities and past expression of anti-government political views, would generate a profile that could attract the adverse attention of the authorities and focus their attention on his sympathies for the brotherhood," it found. "On this basis, the tribunal is of the opinion that there is a real chance that this could place the applicant at risk of facing arrest, detention and ill-treatment."

Prof Greg Barton of Monash University said the Muslim Brotherhood had been linked to terrorist attacks, such as the Luxor bus bombing in 1997, but had since denounced violence, though many of its goals had been taken up by terrorist groups. "Al-Qaida and other militant groups have benefited greatly from their ideas so it is true that the ideas produced by the brotherhood are taken further by more militant groups," he said. "The brotherhood connection for anybody would automatically give Australian authorities a reason to check into their background."

Jeremy Jones, director of international affairs with the Australia-Israel Jewish Affairs Council, said the brotherhood presented a threat to democratic countries. "The Muslim Brotherhood has been banned in many countries for good reason," he said. "It's not just it's attitude towards Israel that's of concern. It has strands that are very sympathetic towards terrorism."

Opposition immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone said she would write to Mr Evans asking to have the decision overturned. Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the man would have a rigorous security check before a visa was granted. "Should there be an adverse security assessment, the department cannot grant a visa," he said.


More revelations about a rotten government-run ambulance service

Paramedics operate in 'culture of fear' because management behavior in unaccountable

THE State Government will establish a panel [A "panel" three bureaucrats! Three dedicated coverup artists, no doubt. How about a judicial enquiry?] to investigate bullying and harassment amid concerns paramedics and emergency workers operate in a "culture of fear".

The Courier-Mail can reveal an internal investigation found an Emergency Management Queensland boss guilty of victimisation, harassment and inappropriate comments, which included very harsh, sexist and intimidatory language. Documents obtained under Right to Information laws show six of 10 allegations made against the manager were substantiated and he was aggressive towards EMQ office staff.

Another EMQ officer was found guilty of swearing at Emergency Service cadets during a camp exercise last year. He referred to them as "little bastards" and told them they were "full of s--- and wouldn't survive in the bush".

Recommendations made as a result included staff training in the department's code of conduct and dealing with conflict in the workplace but it is not known whether the culprits were reprimanded.

Emergency Medical Service Protection Association president Prebs Sathiaseelan said he had received numerous complaints from his members. "EMPSA on a regular basis receives calls from our membership about some form of harassment and bullying – it isn't improving," he said. Mr Sathiaseelan said it was a "culture of fear".

In another case, a Brisbane senior officer was investigated after he "dropped his trousers, exposed his genitalia and simulated oral sex" with another employee against her will. He also made offensive comments against two colleagues in relation to race and sexuality. While at least one recipient of his comments has left the QAS, his language was deemed to be "part of his character" and "generally non-offensive". [????] But a spokesman for QAS Commissioner David Melville this week said the officer concerned was asked to "show cause" at a formal disciplinary hearing. "This officer was not counselled as the Regional Assistant Commissioner determined that the matter was of such a serious nature that this officer should be formally reprimanded." The officer was warned if his behaviour deteriorated again over 12-months he would also be docked two weeks pay.

Another senior officer, who didn't want to be named, contacted The Courier-Mail concerned the organisation was cutting corners trying to keep up with patient demand. "When you stick your hand up and say anything nowadays, you just get smashed and told to shut up," he said.

Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts said yesterday after discussions with the Director-General, ambulance officers, firefighters, and staff in EMQ and the Department of Community Safety would be able to make complaints to a dedicated phone line and email service, which would then be referred to the panel. "It is my hope that this panel will be utilised by personnel who feel that they cannot confidently report instances of bullying, harassment or intimidation through existing channels," he said.

The panel will comprise Ministerial, Information and Legal Services branch executive director Fiona Rafter, Ethical Standards director Terry Christensen and Legal Services director Tracey Davern. "It is important that employees feel confident that their allegations will be taken seriously, properly investigated and dealt with without any personal ramifications," Mr Roberts said.


The Labour party has empowered productivity destruction

WHEN in opposition, more astute members of the Australian Labor Party cheered when the Howard government introduced Work Choices. They realised two things.

First, the Coalition had seriously overreached; Work Choices was political poison and it would ultimately help bring down the government. Second, it would generate a widespread mobilisation of the union movement, funding a huge election war chest for Labor.

Ironically, the Rudd government’s Fair Work laws may have the same effect, though in a much quieter, slower way. While Work Choices was a short fuse - once lit, it didn’t take long to explode - Fair Work looks like being a long, slow burn. But in time, as its effects slowly grow more obvious and more drastic, perhaps it will deliver just as big a bang.

Increasingly, Fair Work appears to represent a dramatic overreach. And though the business community has been slow to react and even slower to pick fights with a government known to be vindictive, it seems the full horror of the new regime is starting to dawn on it. Even worse, workers will end up bearing the brunt of Labor’s IR hubris.

While improved productivity was sold as the heart of Labor’s IR revolution, Julia Gillard, the minister overseeing Fair Work, is obviously nervous that the propaganda is beginning to unravel.

With no sign of a Fair Work productivity boost - in fact the opposite - Gillard told the 15th World Congress of the International Industrial Relations Association in Sydney yesterday that the “final piece of the productivity puzzle” apparently rests on “workplace leadership and the requisite culture” to build co-operation in the workplace.

But hang on. Gillard’s Fair Work regime has reinstated an adversarial system of workplace relations where unions can game the new collective bargaining system to their advantage.

Even before the laws came into operation, improved productivity under Fair Work was a sham. For months the restaurant and cafe industry - a sector that drives employment - warned that many of them would close if forced to adhere to the new award of increased minimum wages, penalty rates, casual rates, shift loadings and allowances. And Gillard agreed.

In May, when she directed the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to create a new special award for this industry, she effectively conceded that the Rudd government’s “award modernisation” reforms could not deliver promised productivity gains. Gillard also asked the AIRC to take the full five years to implement the new restaurant awards so as to ease cost pressures on employers during the tough economic climate.

Not surprisingly, the media failed to report or understand the real meaning of Gillard’s intervention. During the election campaign, Labor specifically promised voters that its new IR system was made for all seasons, economically sensible and safe in good times and in bad. Bad times arrived and Gillard personally intervened to ensure that the restaurant industry could weather the economic storm. While she was lauded for her pragmatic intervention, any system of workplace relations that relies on the grace and favour of a government minister is the antithesis of a predictable, workable industrial relations system. Unions are furious about Gillard’s intervention and other industries, not surprisingly, are lobbying the Employment and Workplace Relations Minister for similar favours to ride out the economic downturn.

The productivity promise of Fair Work has gone the way of Grocery Choice and Fuel Watch: political puffery crushed by reality. Only Fair Work is worse. Worse than failing to deliver on promises made, Fair Work diminishes productivity.

More specifically, the notion that collective bargaining will drive productivity is equally spurious. Enter Cochlear, maker of the bionic ear, a company that ought to be lauded as an Australian success story. In the past five years, Cochlear has trebled in size, generating $600 million in revenue during the past fiscal year.

It did that by moving away from an artisan or craft-based system to a 21st-century manufacturing process, allowing the company to operate in a globally competitive marketplace. Ninety per cent of Cochlear’s revenues are generated outside Australia and 90 per cent of the company’s global tax bill is paid to federal or state governments in Australia. That is, as chief executive Chris Roberts told the Senate IR hearings in February, “good news for Australia”.

Explaining the revolution at Cochlear, Roberts told The Australian: “We required different thinking and different approaches to manufacturing as we scaled up”, focusing on leaner, more flexible operations, better employee training and aligning reward with productivity increases.

Change came about by dealing directly with Cochlear employees, who earn 45 per cent above award wages, with average rates rising between 16per cent and 23 per cent during the past two years.

Yet, Roberts says incredulously, “the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union fought very hard against those changes that significantly increased productivity”.

Fair Work has brought the unions back into the game. Last week, the AMWU used Labor’s new laws to secure what it hailed as a landmark victory over Cochlear when 57 per cent of workers expressed their desire to bargain collectively. But this is a case of not so fast. Unlike many business leaders who timidly preferred to stay under Labor’s radar, Roberts remains vocal in raising his concerns about Fair Work, given his focus on productivity in the real world of commerce and innovation.

Under Fair Work laws, the AMWU will get a seat at the Cochlear bargaining table, even if only one Cochlear worker wants it there. On past evidence that does not augur well for productivity.

As Roberts says: “The behaviour of the unions to fight against initiatives that drove up our productivity and delivered financial rewards to our people made no sense.” The problem, he says, is that unions “need a conflict to be relevant”. The other problem is that 43 per cent of workers have expressed a view that they do not want the unions representing them, “so what you end up with is a divided workforce”.

Roberts is most scathing about the government’s empty productivity rhetoric. There is, he says, “no immutable law that links collective bargaining with productivity” and he was amazed at the paucity of data to support the government’s proposition. “The fundamental basis of this IR legislation is false. We moved into the age of enlightenment 259 years ago - if you consider 1750 as the dawn of the age of reasoning and logic - and we shouldn’t walk away from evidence.”

On the evidence to date, Fair Work is not the softly, safely set of IR reforms promised by then economic conservative Kevin Rudd when he was seeking office. In fact, Gillard’s reforms have restored an adversarial culture she has the temerity to claim is holding back productivity. With the country’s most militant unions already on the warpath, it is only early days for this potentially long-fuse time bomb.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Not ready for women on frontline

All Australian army recruits these days are volunteers so it is my view that if a woman is accepted into the infantry she should be willing and able to perform all infantry duties. Unwavering scrutiny on whether she is able to perform all infantry duties should be expected before she is accepted however. Having lower standards for strength and stamina should not be permitted. My Australian army contacts tell me that a lot of female soldiers are lesbians so many may have masculine physical traits -- JR

By Sally Morrell

EVERY now and then the feminist mantra I preach to my daughter - "Women can do anything men can do" - gets exposed as spin. Yes, she can be the prime minister of Australia, I tell her. Yes, she can run a top 10 company and be a world-leading scientist if she wants to. But "anything"? She'll never play for Richmond, she'll never join the Melbourne Club and I used to think she'd never be able to serve on the frontline of a war.

But that last one might be about to change. Defence Personnel Minister Greg Combet last week said a new centre of expertise at Wollongong University would study the physical requirements for modern soldiering and the results would help our defence force decide who could serve where, "regardless of gender". And that means our female soldiers could get one step closer to fighting alongside men on the frontline, rather than be kept in support or - at best - restricted to "kill at a distance" fighting. Rather than see the enemy from the safe distance of a TV monitor or electronic sights, women may then get up close and personal. Whites-of-their-eyes stuff.

And that's when my "women can do anything" mantra goes all wobbly. Part of my sudden attack of sexism - and the least important - is that when I think of a woman going head-to-head with an enemy soldier, I picture an average woman. Smaller than the average man. But the woman who puts her hand up for this sort of gig is not going to be average. It would be a very small group of the women in the army now who are champing at the bit to fight one-on-one with the Taliban, and I'm guessing they don't have the build or delicate sensitivities of perfume counter assistants.

Maybe they can indeed carry a heavy pack as far as their male colleagues. Maybe they can shoot someone dead in the firefight with just the same lack of hesitation or compunction. If they can do all that, why are they being stopped from doing what they want to do?

But it's not about their physical suitability really, is it? In fact, it's not even about their psychological ability to handle the killing jobs that for millennia have been men's work. It's actually about the psychological ability of the rest of us to deal not just with women doing the killing, but with women - our women - being killed. Or even simply captured.

Let's be frank. A captured woman will have it a lot tougher than a captured man. Who can forget the horrific plight of the Dutch "comfort women" the Japanese captured in World War II?

Nor am I sure if we could endure the sight of little children crying as the coffin carrying their mother is brought out of an RAAF Hercules. This really isn't about whether women are strong enough to fight, but whether the rest of us are strong enough to endure their death or capture. I'm not sure if we are or not.

But if we can be sure that no woman is sent to fight that didn't specifically ask to go, then nobody should stop her. They best know the risks, and we must honour not just their sacrifices but their judgment.


Greenie nonsense killed people in fire

A Greenie council has blood on its hands

RESIDENTS in one of the areas devastated on Black Saturday were not allowed to clear highly flammable, noxious tea tree on their land because it was classified as native vegetation by the local council, the royal commission into the bushfire disaster has been told. Peter Wiltshire, who suffered serious burns and damaged airways trying unsuccessfully to save his home at St Andrews on February 7, said yesterday the tea tree, known as burgan, was "extremely flammable and lets off gases in heat". Wildfire from burning burgan on a neighbouring property created enough radiant heat to cause a horsefloat at one end of his house to instantaneously burst into flame.

But the local Nillumbik Shire Council stopped landowners clearing burgan without applying for permission, Mr Wiltshire said. "They call it native vegetation and we are not allowed to clear it without a permit. It is probably the most noxious and flammable material. It really is a pest and dangerous."

Mr Wiltshire, who is chairman of the St Andrews Country Fire Authority brigade, said a massive fireball that engulfed his house and caused window glass to melt was fuelled by "black gas" above tree-top level. He suffered serious burns to his face and both arms, had damaged airways from inhaling heated air and smoke and spent 24 hours in an induced coma in hospital after escaping with his wife and daughter from their blazing home.

Twelve of the 173 people who died on Black Saturday were killed in St Andrews.

Tasmanian Fire Service fire management planning officer Mark Chladil told the hearing that Victoria's decision to allow people to automatically rebuild on the sites of their former homes using only the new national bushfire building code was "somewhat risky". Sites needed to be fully assessed for bushfire threat using the full gamut of planning issues, said Mr Chladil, who is also a member of the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council. "To be blunt, rebuilding at the moment would be somewhat risky in each of these places without considering the range of siting, water supply, access, vegetation management options as well as building options," he said. "There are going to be sites where it will be seen as foolhardy to have rushed in and rebuilt in the same place without addressing these issues." The social welfare benefits of allowing survivors to rebuild as quickly as possible could be better met by providing each family with an individual building assessor to advise them on rebuilding, Mr Chladil said.

Earlier, the inquiry was told that an essential handbook vital in ensuring the effectiveness of the new national building standard would not be available until at least the end of the year. Barry Eadie, the head of the Standards Australia committee that developed the new bushfire building standard hastily introduced after February 7, said the new code would not save houses without the companion handbook, which gave crucial advice about such things as planning, water supply, access and maintenance of landscaping and vegetation. [It's common sense among the bureaucrats that is needed, not more unreadable official bumf]


A public hospital for possums??

THIS photograph was taken in the intensive care unit at the ailing Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital. Staff found the brush-tailed possum sitting among open boxes of face masks, gloves and surgical sponges, its faeces scattered across the counter. It was sent to the Herald only days after one of the state's most senior health bureaucrats denied claims the hospital had a big problem with possums, known to spread deadly golden staph and e.coli infections. The photo was taken in 2005 but staff say possums have been plaguing the hospital for more than a decade and are removed weekly from wards and offices.

Desperate for help, they sent the picture to the Health Department at the time it was taken but the warning went unheeded. And one senior official used it as a point of laughter to show visitors to his office. After the possum was found, staff in the intensive care unit locked up medical supplies but say maintenance workers regularly move the animals to boxes in trees within the grounds. ''The one in the intensive care unit is not an isolated case. It's par for the course around here,'' one doctor said.

Possums, which have a lifespan of 15 years, can carry deadly diseases easily transmitted to humans, including Lyme disease, leptospirosis, rickettsia and mycobacteriosis, which can cause abscesses, fistulas, headaches, vomiting and renal failure. Their faeces can carry the gut parasite cryptosporidium and their urine can cause breathing problems for asthmatics.

Any animal in a hospital was a health risk but some, such as possums, were known to spread superbugs such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, said an infectious diseases expert at Canberra Hospital, Peter Collignon. ''Allowing a wild animal, which scavenges far and wide, to contaminate gloves and surgical equipment is obviously a real problem.''

The chief executive of the Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service, Matthew Daly, last week rejected allegations that the hospital had been neglected but did not deny continuing possum problems. All reports of possum urine had been addressed, he said. ''Possum nests were in a derelict buildings and were subsequently removed,'' he said.

Up to six possums might live in the roof space of a family home, but more than 25 would probably be found in a hospital, said David Bennett, the owner of a possum removal service in Adelaide. ''You definitely wouldn't want them in a hospital. And unless you get an expert in, there is no way to keep them out. They are highly territorial and will immediately return to where they were.''

A spokeswoman for the area health service said yesterday the present management was not aware of the photo and an inspection of the hospital last week found no evidence of possums in wards or patient areas. ''All such reports are taken seriously and are dealt with at the time,'' she said. [What utter bulldust! A problem known since 2005 has still not been dealt with]


West Australian police throwing their weight around again

But a court took a proper view of the matter with a negligible penalty for the "offender". The strange priorities and waste of resources are undoubted, however. They could have just cautioned him to watch where he was going if there were any real concerns. This is probably Australia's most hated police force because of its record of malpractice and brutality. See here for some instances

BRENTON Green was monkeying around when he donned a costume to entertain city shoppers, but the stunt backfired when he was arrested and tossed in the lock-up. Dressed as a monkey, Mr Green, 21, attracted the attention of two police officers on bicycles as he paraded among Perth shoppers on Sunday afternoon, hugging people, posing for photos, waving and dancing.

When the officers interrupted his show in front of about 40 onlookers and asked for his name, he responded by shaking his head and making strange sounds. The second time police asked for his name, Mr Green replied: ``Monkey''. The officers responded by pushing him against a shop window and handcuffing him in front the stunned audience.

Mr Green said the idea of Monkey's Day Out had been spawned from the Free Hugs campaign phenomenon - the story of Sydney man Juan Mann, who has led a mission to hug strangers to brighten up their lives. People worldwide from Sydney to Helsinki to Tokyo and London have now joined the Free Hugs movement, but police in some cities have ordered the campaign be banned, amid public liability concerns.

WA Police spokesman Sgt Graham Clifford said officers intervened after seeing the monkey man bump into several people and knock a hamburger out of another man's hands. Police said Mr Green failed to give them his name by ``continually shaking his head and making squeaking noises''.

Mr Green was taken to the East Perth police lock-up and was charged with failing to comply with a police request. He was bailed, with the condition not to return to the city. But as he walked to the train station, the same arresting officer, re-arrested Mr Green, claiming he had breached the conditions of his bail. He spent Sunday night in the East Perth lock-up.

``I thought it was pretty ridiculous, I thought it was some sort of a joke. And then he put the cuffs on me and I just couldn't believe it,'' Mr Green told PerthNow today. ``I was in police custody for over a day. ``Last night I saw four stories on the news with people getting bashed, home invasions...what are they doing wasting their time arresting me when they could be spending it dealing with more serious crimes.''

Mr Green's mate Brad Hurle, who filmed the arrest and posted the footage on YouTube, said he was angered at the police response. ``It's a bit ridiculous that police locked him up when there are real criminals out there,'' Mr Hurle said. ``There was absolutely nobody that had a problem with him. Everybody got a kick out of it. It was just a feel-good thing to create a bit of love, but the police put a stop to that. ''

Mr Green appeared in Perth Magistrates Court yesterday charged with failing to comply with a request given. He was released with a spent conviction, a three-month community release order and ordered to pay $60 in court costs.


One reason why your dental bills are so high

Official regulations make dentists pay sky-high prices for the equipment and supplies that they use

DENTISTS are allegedly being shown how to access unregulated overseas markets to obtain cut-price dental equipment which is not being scrutinised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

The Port Macquarie dentist Jeremy Rourke conducted a series of capital city seminars in May, titled ''Work SMART = Grow RICH: Profiting from every minute''.

He charged dentists $770 each for the one-day course, promising to show participants ''how it is possible to 'DOUBLE production and TRIPLE profitability''.

Although the Herald is not suggesting Dr Rourke is acting illegally, one professional who attended a Sydney seminar on May 18 told the Herald she became angry and walked out when he began showing participants how to access sites such as Made in and eBay, where dentists could directly import dental equipment and materials for a fraction of the price of Australian-made goods.

Under TGA regulations, all dental products and materials, local or imported, must be listed on its register before they can be used on patients. But concerns have been raised by the dental supplies industry that the practice of dentists accessing unregistered products from unregulated Asian markets has become widespread.

Raymond Shroot, the NSW president of the Australian Dental Industry Association, which represents suppliers of dental equipment, said anyone seeking to import a medical device could easily bypass the TGA's scrutiny, because there was no requirement for the importer to quote an Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods listing number.

''To get anything that is listed with the TGA through customs you should have to quote that number on the customs clearance form, but that hasn't been the case,'' Mr Shroot said. ''We've been told the TGA is unwilling to changes its practices.''

Dr Rourke told the Herald he had done nothing illegal. ''I simply tell dentists there are websites where there are items available but I make them aware that anything used in patient treatment has to go past the TGA.''

Dr Rourke denied that by showing dentists how to access cut-price unregulated equipment, he was educating them on how to avoid TGA regulations. ''You can show someone where the murder section of a library is, but that doesn't make you a murderer because you've shown them where to get the information, does it?''

The Australian Dental Association has dismissed concerns raised by the local dental supplies industry, accusing it of scaremongering to protect its business. When asked last week if he was aware of any dentists importing equipment not listed with the TGA, the national president of the association, Dr Neil Hewson, said: ''I've got no idea, how would anyone know they're doing it … we can't monitor everything our 10,000 members do.''


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Yet another Queensland ambulance meltdown

Ambulance officers 'on grog run' ignore seizure patient. These stories have never stopped coming since the State government took it over. And they will keep coming while nobody is being penalized for negligence and misbehaviour

A MAN having a seizure waited for an ambulance while a paramedic went to the pub to pick up alcohol for an office party that degenerated into a racial brawl, The Courier-Mail reports. The ambulance officer, who was only new to the job in Queensland, was pressured into ignoring a callout which became a top priority Code 1 emergency while she was driving a senior colleague to pick up more "grog". Paramedics say the incident added to stress on workers stretched trying to keep pace with a system swamped by demand.

Documents obtained by The Courier-Mail under Right to Information laws reveal that off-duty ambulance workers were holding a party at an unnamed Queensland station when they ran out of alcohol. The documents show that all paramedics involved in the booze run from the party at the station on July 13, 2007, knew that a call had been made to dispatch an ambulance to a man having an epileptic fit.

The two senior off-duty officers drinking at the party were later involved in a fight with four "indigenous males" outside the station. The officers tried to get an on-duty paramedic, who was treating a patient, to drop them home. One officer admitted he "just went out and got hammered" and the night was a "blur". The two officers were "counselled" over their bender after the allegations against them and the junior officer were substantiated.

But a clinical assessment by witnesses determined the man who had the seizure suffered "no detrimental outcome whatsoever" from the ambulance's delay of up to 30 minutes and that any emotional injury was "impossible to calculate".

Premier Anna Bligh yesterday said reports of life-threatening bungles by the QAS had occurred before the Government "made various substantial changes" to the service in 2007. The changes have been underpinned by a $105 annual levy collected from Queenslanders via electricity bills.

The response to the Code 1 call during the booze run was not met within the standard time because the dispatched officer was driving her off-duty colleague to the pub. The on-duty paramedic's partner was ready to attend the job but was told by another officer that the woman "had gone to the (name deleted) Hotel to get some more grog", according to the RTI documents.

Later, police were called to the ambulance station "to attend an altercation involving the same two off-duty ambulance officers". "It was alleged that the officers caused a conflict with a group of indigenous males and that they swore and used racist taunts during the incident," the report said. The fight was allegedly over a taxi, with one witness describing "full-on fisticuffs".

Four police cars arrived but the documents show no one was taken into custody. The two officers also repeatedly called a working paramedic to try to get a lift home after their attempt to wave her down as she attended a case was unsuccessful.

The advanced care paramedic denied he had used racist taunts but admitted he was unable to remember much of the night's events. He said he had been "put through the wringer" with a QAS internal investigation and now that the incident was being dragged up again, he was concerned for the health of one of the other officers. The report concluded the officers had breached the Code of Conduct, but made no recommendations concerning the offending officers or their managers.


Queensland ambulance service rotten at the top

ONE man who has watched the Queensland Ambulance Service more closely than most regards it as a dysfunctional bureaucracy that is jeopardising lives. Ted Malone, the opposition's emergency services spokesman, said he received calls every week about serious QAS problems and nothing had improved despite regular changes at the top.

"In any other organisation, you'd say the management is corrupt because they are not supporting the people who are actually delivering the service. This organisation works from the top-down, and it obviously doesn't work," Mr Malone said.

He accused Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts of not treating seriously problems raised by the LNP. "It's amazing that some of the cases I've talked to the minister about, he's actually abused me for raising the issue," Mr Malone said.

He argued QAS should be focused only on outcomes for residents. "The bureaucracy almost has a life of its own, the poor buggers on the front line are left out there to cop it," Mr Malone said. QAS was "top-heavy in its management" with people who seemed willing to defend their jobs "to the nth degree", he said. Fixing the system was complicated – "you almost have to go in and strip it" – to change the organisation's culture, he said.


Australian bosses forbidden to talk to their workers

Unions legally privileged under new Leftist laws

JULIA Gillard's new industrial relations umpire has begun to ban businesses from directly talking to their own employees while being forced into "good faith" bargaining with unions.

Banning business from communicating directly with its own staff will not promote the productivity growth that Kevin Rudd now claims is central to his government's agenda. But productivity growth has never been a central aim of Australia's traditional industrial relations system.

Rudd and Gillard are reimposing this system for political reasons: first to put John Howard's Work Choices to the sword and second to deal Labor's industrial wing back into the game.

Just over a week ago, Fair Work Australia senior deputy president Lea Drake instructed industrial services company Transfield how to deal with the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union in holding a collective agreement ballot of its maintenance employees doing work on Sydney's water system.

The seventh of Drake's 13 instructions state: "During this process Transfield will not attempt to bypass the bargaining agent representatives in relation to its proposal by contacting for this purpose the members of the bargaining agent representatives directly, in meetings or by text or other telephonic messages."

That is, Transfield must deal with "all officers and delegates" of the AMWU as the "bargaining agent". Transfield's workers are not so much the company's employees as "members of the bargaining agent". The union can depict the company's position in any way it wants to its members, but the company cannot argue its case - perhaps beyond setting out what it has put to the union - to its own employees. That would show "bad faith".

The sight of industrial judges limiting how business can talk to its own staff about the terms oftheir labour contract is a huge break from the direction of workplace relations since the early 1990s. That began the shift away from what Reserve Bank of Australia governor Glenn Stevens this month aptly called the "bad old days" of Australian industrial relations. This had to change because the over-regulated labour market threatened to stifle the productivity growth required by business after the rest of the economy had been opened up to foreign competition.


Criminals should pay court costs: Magistrate

Why this is not already the practice is the mystery

Judges should be allowed to force wealthy criminals to pay some of the taxpayers' costs of convicting them, Deputy Chief Magistrate Andrew Cannon says. Dr Cannon has told an ongoing Federal Parliamentary inquiry into the court system, it would be fairer to make those convicted pay a contribution. And people wrongfully charged and acquitted should also be allowed to recoup some of their defence costs.

"A person who is acquitted should generally recover a predictable amount of the costs incurred and a person with financial means who is found guilty should pay a predictable contribution to the costs of prosecution," he said in a written submission.

Taxpayers pay for court proceedings, up to $20.3 million in the most expensive case to try the Snowtown murderers. But the only payment criminals can now be forced to make is a small contribution to the Victims of Crime fund.

The State Government said it would look into the suggestion when it received a copy of the submission. Dr Cannon, who is Adjunct Professor of Law at Flinders University, told the inquiry the awarding of costs should be left up to judges, because in some acquittals the accused might not deserve money. "At the moment, just to be charged with an offence in a major indictable matter is financially extremely expensive," he said. "It is inconsistent with the presumption of innocence that a person who is acquitted is left with a legal bill which may be tens of thousands of dollars."

Victims of Crime Commissioner Michael O'Connell said wealthy convicted criminals should pay money towards victims and victims' services because this was preferable to taxpayers footing the bill. "If criminals are wealthy, then the court should order them to pay compensation to their victims," he said. "Too many victims are not compensated. "It is better that criminals pay for victim compensation and victim services – rather than victims and the public who do not commit crime."

State Government spokesman Rob Malinauskas said the ideas put by Dr Cannon could be passed on to the Criminal Justice Ministerial Taskforce for investigation. He said the Government had already acted on tracking down wealth gained by criminal means. "The Rann Government has examined ways to crack down on criminal wealth and the Serious and Organised Crime (Unexplained Wealth) Bill, which is before Parliament, is an example of how the Government will strip assets from criminals whether they are jailed or not," he said.

Mr O'Connell said both the defence and prosecution in the court system received better funding for legal advice than victims. "Victims of serious crime have a right to be consulted before a decision is made to withdraw a charge or accept a plea to a lesser charge, but during the consultation the state is represented by the prosecutor and the accused person by a lawyer," he said. "The victim has no one to represent them, except on those occasions when I step in. It seems to me that this is a bigger problem than the quality of the legal advice that prosecutors and defendants already get."

In another controversial suggestion, Dr Cannon called for police to be removed from the role of criminal prosecutions. He said it should be done by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and could be done without a significant increase in costs. "Although police officers in many cases deliver excellent service to courts, they are not legally trained and prosecution would be improved by placing all criminal cases under the umbrella of the DPP," he said. "Improved legal advice to prosecution would improve fairness to defendants by reducing the laying of charges that are overly ambitious and providing more timely response to defence requests for information." A police spokesman said there were no plans to transfer any prosecution powers and if this were done the costs to taxpayers would be significantly more.

Dr Cannon proposed people should be given more access to alternative dispute resolution to keep some matters out of courts. But he warned there was a danger that the quality of justice provided could deteriorate and it was not preferable that many such matters were heard in secret. "It is important that structures be put in place such as sharing of precedents and an appeal back to the state courts to prevent a plurality of legal principles developing," he said. "Issues of privacy that hide wrongdoing and adequate protection of judicial independence need to be carefully managed."


Big welfare agency blunder causes great hardship and distress

To them you are guilty until proven innocent. Isn't government welfare wonderful?

A DISABILITY pensioner says he was forced to sell the family home after Centrelink accused him of fraud - only to later admit he was entitled to income support. Oswald Bruggemans, who now lives with his wife and three children in a rented two-bedroom flat in Blackwood, said it was bittersweet that the government welfare giant was refunding him almost $100,000 after earlier withdrawing his pension.

"I got a letter on Monday from Centrelink saying they would refund me $92,000 - I have gone from crying with frustration to crying with happiness because I can go forward with my life," said Mr Bruggemans, who can now pay his overdue energy and telephone bills and register his car. "But I'm still furious because I lost my house and this refund won't buy it back. "I still go back to the old home I lost after living there for 19 years - it's indescribable how upsetting this has been."

Mr Bruggemans's bureaucratic nightmare started in August 2007, when Centrelink decided he no longer qualified to continue receiving a disability pension for a back injury - as new information apparently showed he had undeclared assets, in the form of a financial interest in a property owned by a son from a former marriage.

Mr Bruggemans - who has two sons aged 10 and seven and a two-year-old daughter with his second wife - protested he had no interest in the property and that his name did not even appear on the title deed. With no income and unable to work due to his disability, Mr Bruggemans said he had no choice but to sell his home - a three-bedroom house on seven hectares at Ironbank - a year ago to raise the cash to support his family.

Just five days before settlement, Centrelink informed him it would seize about $100,000 from the property settlement to recoup the pension money it believed he had claimed but was not entitled to. The 52-year-old said by the time he had paid off the mortgage, debts, settled with his former wife and Centrelink, he was left with only enough from the $510,000 settlement to support his family for less than 12 months. "We have been living on the proceeds of the sale but this money has run out and we have had to sell the furniture to pay for groceries," he said.

Centrelink, which has refunded most of the seized money, has now invited Mr Bruggemans to re-apply for a disability pension. Mr Bruggemans thinks otherwise - "I don't trust that Centrelink won't turn around and try this on me again" - and instead he has sought legal advice with a view to suing Centrelink. He alleges its actions have cost him his house, loss of income and an extreme emotional stress. "I have to talk to my lawyer but I intend to retire on the amount of money I get from compensation," he said.

Centrelink said an investigation had "determined that Mr Bruggemans owned the property from the date of purchase (February 5, 1997) but had never disclosed it to Centrelink" and the onus was on him to prove it wrong. Information later supplied by Mr Bruggemans's lawyer to Centrelink did demonstrate he was not the owner, Centrelink general manager Hank Jorgen said. "A refund of $92,089.79 is to be returned to Mr Bruggemans," he said.