Thursday, December 31, 2009

Turn the boats away, says Tony Abbott

TONY Abbott says he will turn asylum-seeker boats back out to sea if the Coalition wins the next election, accusing Kevin Rudd of lacking the "steel" to fulfil his promise to do the same. As authorities intercepted another refugee boat - the 59th this year - the Opposition Leader said asylum-seekers must know what a risky business it was coming to Australia by boat.

Mr Abbott attacked the Prime Minister over his lack of "steel" in handling the issue, The Australian reports. "If the circumstances permit it, you've got to be prepared to turn boats around," Mr Abbott told The Australian yesterday. "John Howard was fiercely criticised for this. Nevertheless, Kevin Rudd said he would be more than tough enough to turn boats around were he prime minister, but he singularly failed to show any steel whatsoever since becoming our leader."

The Opposition Leader's comments were accompanied by a fresh broadside against the Rudd Government's proposed emissions trading system. Mr Abbott challenged Mr Rudd to release Treasury modelling on who would be worse off under the scheme. Given that this is dribbling out piecemeal, I think it's high time that Mr Rudd came clean with the Australian people," Mr Abbott said.

The remarks prompted a government counter-attack, with Acting Climate Change Minister Peter Garrett challenging Mr Abbott to provide evidence for his claim the ETS would cost the average household an extra $1100 a year.

Mr Abbott's comments on boats echo a promise made by Mr Rudd in the dying days of the 2007 election campaign. "You'd turn them back," Mr Rudd said of approaching asylum boats. In the interview, given to The Australian, Mr Rudd acknowledged such an approach was contentious, but emphasised the importance of deterrence. "Deterrence is effective through the detention system but also your preparedness to take appropriate action as the vessels approach Australian waters on the high seas," the then opposition leader said.

Mr Abbott acknowledged the electoral potency of the asylum-seeker issue, saying the spike in boat arrivals had registered in the electorate. Perhaps in a measure of how the debate had evolved since the Tampa crisis of 2001, Mr Abbott indicated the refugee issue was unlikely to dominate next year's election campaign. "I think it's an important issue," the Liberal leader said. "I'm not saying it's the most important issue, I'm not saying it's necessarily a decisive issue. "But I think it has been a significant issue in terms of illustrating the comparative weakness of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister."

When asked if he was prepared to turn boats back to sea, Mr Abbott replied: "I think you've got to be prepared to turn boats around, as Kevin Rudd said he would be."

Mr Abbott's comments came as 16 Tamil asylum-seekers rescued by the Customs vessel the Oceanic Viking touched down in Australia. A total of 18 have flown to Australia, while the remainder have been taken to a UN transit facility in Romania where they will be vetted by Canadian and American immigration teams.

The Australian understands Canberra will admit more of the 23 Tamils still in detention, although it is not clear how many. The Tamils have been resettled under a special deal underwritten by the Rudd government to find them homes in the West within four to 12 weeks, in exchange for ending their month-long stand-off aboard the Oceanic Viking with Australian authorities.


School building fiasco

Bureaucatic waste again

THE Federal Government should suspend its $16.2 billion school building program until the Auditor-General's office delivers its findings on whether the stimulus money is being spent efficiently, the Opposition said yesterday. The call follows the Herald's report of a public school in Wollongong that was told it could not build a hall large enough for 320 students within its $2.5 million budget from the Commonwealth. This was despite a nearby Catholic school building a hall for 1000 students at less than half that price.

The Opposition spokesman for education, Christopher Pyne, said the Federal Government appeared to be spending twice as much as it needed on school building projects. "The so-called education revolution was more of a spending revolution," Mr Pyne said. "The story about the school in Wollongong is just another example of where the Government is spending twice as much to get half the value for taxpayers' money. "I will be referring this to the Auditor-General's inquiry. The Government should [suspend the program] until the Auditor-General has reported his findings in the … new year."

Mr Pyne said the program was riddled with problems of "profiteering, skimming by states and inflated prices. Taxpayers are probably getting about $8 billion of value for $16 billion in spending." "This is a once in a generation opportunity being wasted. "It should have been properly controlled by the minister [for education, Julia Gillard]."

The Acting Minister for Education, Kim Carr, said the Opposition has made it clear that it does not support the building of infrastructure in thousands of Australian schools. "Mr Pyne should explain to parents and students which schools he'd like to see miss out," Mr Carr said.


Paint roofs white, says "Green" mayor

FORGET painting the town red - Lord Mayor Robert Doyle wants Melbourne's roofs painted white. Cr Doyle believed slathering the tops of inner-city buildings with a white coating would make them cooler and more energy efficient, according to a report in the Herald Sun. He said the whitewash could reflect the sun's rays, reducing temperatures inside skyscrapers, apartment towers, shopping centres and other city structures.

Cr Doyle hit on the city-wide paint job idea after talking to New York mayor Michael Bloomberg at the Copenhagen climate summit. Mayor Bloomberg recently launched a "Cool Roofs" pilot scheme backed by former vice-president and environment campaigner Al Gore. Volunteers in New York will daub 10,000sq/m of roof space white to reduce air-conditioner use.

Cr Doyle has asked Melbourne council officers to investigate how the scheme could be implemented here. "I think it is a real alternative for us," Cr Doyle said.

US President Barack Obama's green guru has encouraged Americans to consider white roofs for the environmental and economic benefits. The special reflective white surface is rolled or sprayed on roofs and dries like rubber. White roofs are easier and more affordable than roof-top gardens, which are also promoted as a way of reducing a city's carbon footprint.


Even sparklers banned

This seems like overkill

With fire bans in place across South Australia today, the Country Fire Service (CFS) advises that sparklers cannot be used in open-air New Year's Eve celebrations tonight.

Temperatures are expected to soar in Adelaide and other regional centres, with severe or extreme fire danger ratings for most regions.

Brenton Eden from the CFS says only professionals are legally allowed to use fireworks and today sparklers can only be used indoors. "Sparklers are also not to be used in the open without a permit during the fire danger season," he said. "So for tonight, for celebrations for the New Year, sparklers not to be used out in the open because we are in the fire danger season."


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Putting the Angus into a burger

Some interesting background from a cynical Michael Pascoe below. I myself think that the McDonald's version is a definite improvement on an ordinary burger -- but I don't like the Hungry Jack version at all

Hats off to the year’s most spectacular marketing success, or con job, depending which way you care to look at it: the rise and rise of the Angus beef brand via the lowly means of fast food hamburger mince. McDonald's and now Hungry Jack's have pushed beyond the marketing aphorism, “sell the sizzle, not the steak”, by flogging a vague and arguably uninformed concept of the sizzle.

The Land newspaper reported in September that the launch of the two “premium” Angus burgers had resulted in McDonald's beef sales soaring by as much as 20 per cent. The greatest confirmation of that success has been rival chain Hungry Jack's jumping on the Angus bandwagon. Ah, the power of branding.

But also big winners are Angus cattle breeders – to the chagrin of other breeders - as the massive advertising campaigns print on the brains of the great unwashed that Angus is the superior breed of moo cow. Chances are the vast majority of fast food customers seeking something “a little bit fancy” only know the names of two or three breeds anyway and a great deal less about the meat itself.

It’s a dangerous thing to criticise any cattle man or woman’s breed of choice - you’re much safer criticising their religion or even brand of ute – so I’ll play safe and just say that Angus is a very fine breed, as are several others. The Sydney Royal Easter Show steer and carcase competition is by no means a definitive indication of beef superiority, but for what it’s worth, the Stanhill Trophy this year was taken out by the Limousins with the silver going to Charolais, followed by Shorthorn, Square Meaters (yes, there is such a breed), Poll Hereford, then Angus, Murray Grey, Galloway and Santa Gertrudis. Properly prepared and slaughtered, they are all very fine eating.

Beef taste testing becomes very subjective, as several other competitions can show. What’s more, the breed of the beast is well down the list of what makes a particularly tasty steak. What the animal had been eating, its age and condition and how little stress it experienced in the lead up to slaughter all count a great deal more.

And as for what goes into hamburger chain patties, well, despite the advertising, it’s not actually the prime cuts of prime beef. That sticker on the McDonald’s ads, “Prime Australian Beef“, doesn’t seem to be actually defined as anything by Meat and Livestock Australia. It doesn’t necessarily mean cattle in their prime, just good Australian hamburger mince which, depending on the season and what’s being turned off, can mean a whole pile of old cows as well as the usual offcuts and less-marketable bits from trade steers. So there’s actually nothing particularly special about McDonald’s or Hungry Jack's hamburger mince that happens to be made from cattle that are at least three-quarter Angus (the definition allowed McDonald’s by Certified Angus Beef Pty Ltd).

There might have been a hint of what the marketing success was about in this paragraph from The Land: “Bronwyn Stubbs, corporate communications manager for McDonald's Australia, said Angus beef had come up trumps in its extensive research with local customers to identify what they perceived as a good quality, great tasting beef.”

Perception is a wonderful thing. It was probably helped by the availability of plenty of cattle of that breed with a well-organised breeders’ lobby group promoting them. That Angus burgers were first launched by McDonald’s in the US three years ago no doubt has absolutely nothing to do with it. So congratulations to McDonald’s, Hungry Jack's and Angus breeders on a well-copied marketing format that has more Australians eating beef.

For what it’s worth, taste being such a personal thing, the best beef has to be grass fed – all that grain-fed nonsense just ads weight, fat and maybe some tenderness to a beast while taking out taste. The animal has to be prepared well for slaughter – no stress. And then, if you really want something a bit fancy, it will have lived on desert grasses.

Without doubt the best steak I’ve ever had was in Birdsville while doing a story on the Channel Country’s OBE organic beef. I’ve tasted nothing like it before or since. And the breed didn’t really matter.


Australia now a magnet for people smugglers

The federal opposition says the arrival of another boatload of asylum seekers shows that Australia has become a favoured destination for people smugglers. A boat carrying 11 suspected asylum seekers was intercepted near the Ashmore Islands off northern Australia late on Monday by Border Protection Command.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says the continuing arrival of boat people is putting the assessment system under too much pressure. "The government's indifference and weakness, both in their border protection policies and the decisions they've taken, have ensured that Australia has become a magnet for people smugglers," Mr Morrison told ABC radio on Tuesday. "So we're now left with a situation where we have Christmas Island full, boats arriving pretty much at will and this must be putting extraordinary pressure on the processing systems that need to be undertaken under such overcrowded conditions."

The latest suspected asylum seeker arrivals will be taken to nearby Christmas Island for questioning and to undergo security, identity and health checks.

The interception comes only days after the federal government rejected claims overcrowding in detention facilities on Christmas Island had forced it to move 30 Afghan asylum seekers to Melbourne for processing. It is the 59th asylum seeker boat to have been intercepted in Australian waters so far this year.


Victoria police again (1)

Drug case against ex-cop shooter of Gary Abdallah

A FORMER Victorian detective who was acquitted of murdering a Melbourne criminal has been charged with a serious drug offence. Cliff Lockwood was allegedly caught with thousands of pseudoephedrine tablets in a police raid in the Northern Territory. Mr Lockwood, who shot dead Gary Abdallah 20 years ago, was the first Victorian policeman charged with murder while acting in the line of duty. He was found not guilty.

Northern Territory police will allege that Mr Lockwood was found with tablets imported from Asia when he was arrested in Darwin last month. The 47-year-old is facing a charge of possessing and supplying precursor material to be used in the manufacture of a dangerous drug and possession of tainted property. He has been bailed and will face Darwin Magistrates' Court on January 6.

Abdallah was shot seven times at his flat in Drummond St, North Carlton, in April 1989. Police had wanted to interview him over what he knew of the 1988 Walsh St police killings. Mr Lockwood and his partner, Dermot Avon, were charged with murder but acquitted five years later. Prosecutors alleged Lockwood fired six shots from his own revolver and a final shot from Sen-Det Avon's gun. They said the gunfire could not be justified and amounted to murder.

The prosecution conceded Abdallah had produced an imitation .357 Magnum pistol, but said he could not have posed a danger by the time Mr Lockwood fired the seventh shot.

The then-state coroner, Hal Hallenstein, later made an open finding on the death of Abdallah, who he said police suspected of providing and possibly driving the getaway car after the murders of constables Steven Tynan and Damien Eyre in Walsh St, South Yarra. He found there was no evidence that Mr Lockwood had a pre-determined intent to kill Abdallah. Mr Lockwood returned to Victoria Police after the 20-day trial, but later resigned and went into business.


Victoria police again (2)

Drugs at a cop shop! Whoda thunk it?

DRUGS and drug paraphernalia have been found in a maintenance room at the St Kilda Rd police complex. A police statement said "a small quantity" was found and the Ethical Standards Department are investigating.

The stash was found by a building contractor yesterday, and appears to have been there for a considerable period of time, police say. The type of drug involved is not yet known.

A forensic examination will be conducted to determine the exact nature of the substances and items located, the police statement said.


Abbott untried and untested, but in with a chance

RECENT Newspoll research, showing voters are increasingly concerned their standard of living will decline, has handed new Liberal leader Tony Abbott the perfect opportunity to start rebuilding the opposition's economic management credentials. And he must do this quickly if he is to give the conservatives a fighting chance at next year's federal election.

The Rudd Labor government drained the Treasury coffers and plunged the country into enormous debt as a result of populist multi-billion-dollar stimulus handouts to offset the effect of the global financial crisis.

This buoyed the political popularity that carried Kevin Rudd into power in 2007. But three consecutive rises in mortgage rates, combined with the prospect of steep increases in living costs flowing directly from Labor's emissions trading scheme, clearly undermined voters' optimism when polling was conducted early this month before the Copenhagen climate change conference, leading to the ETS being scuttled.

Rudd and defeated opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull dismissed the effects of this tax-based ETS as a small price to pay in the interests of saving the planet and future generations. But this simply did not wash with voters who, although concerned about the effects of climate change on the environment, were spooked by the spectre of a far-reaching energy tax.

At the same time, Wayne Swan has played down the significance of the decision by the Reserve Bank of Australia to raise mortgage rates on the grounds this comes off a record low base. Surely the Treasurer doesn't really believe mortgage holders will accept a kick in the pants if they are first patted on the head a couple of times.

But whatever the case, at least one more, seemingly inevitable, Reserve Bank rate rise before the May budget will test this complacency. This budget is highly significant for several reasons, not the least of which is that it is the last before the federal election. Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner, who has been flagging an austerity budget after months of unbridled government spending, will be pushing it uphill to resist the sweeteners Labor MPs will need to shore up their constituencies in the run-up to the election.

While employment has held up stronger than initial government forecasts in the face of the international financial crisis, industry is guarded in its projections for business activity in the first quarter of next year. This coincides with the introduction from this week of the government's revamped award system, which will hit small business particularly hard.

Christmas has seen a flurry of strikes and threats of industrial action across the country, most particularly affecting transport and mail deliveries. This was preceded by handsome state government pay rises for public servants, including a pace-setting deal for Queensland schoolteachers. While militant unions are likely to succumb to pressure from Canberra to smother disruptive action in an election year, the key to this will be the post-poll price.

In the run-up to the election, Abbott needs to hone not just a range of credible policies for his alternative government but the qualities of his frontbench team if he is to maximise the opposition's electoral appeal. And there are big challenges ahead in this area. For a start, it will be the first election since 1994 that Peter Costello hasn't held the portfolio of treasurer, in or out of office. Costello may have lacked leadership nous but he was nevertheless a convincing economic policy manager. Abbott's choice for Treasury spokesman, Joe Hockey, has a long way to go to demonstrate the same depth of economic skills. And the jury is well and truly out on his potential as a future leader.

Meanwhile Turnbull's continued sledging of the new Opposition Leader and others who opposed his support for Labor's ETS shows his time as a member of the Liberal parliamentary team is up. He must stand down at the next election or lose preselection for his Sydney seat of Wentworth.

The opposition will enter the election year at long odds to reclaim the Treasury benches. Even so, a week is a long time in politics, as they say.

Rudd's mishandling of the climate change issue, coupled with a string of empty promises in areas such as national health reform, provide Abbott and his team with the platform to mount a serious challenge. At the very least the conservatives must emerge from next year's poll within striking distance of victory at the following general election. They have no chance of reaching even this goal unless they go into the campaign convinced they can win.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cancer charity donates less than 1pc

And officialdom just waffles. It's a warning about whom NOT to donate to, however. I mostly donate directly to individuals. That way I know that my money is not going to support parasites and con-men. If you want to donate to cancer research, give it directly to a university medical school. You will even get more thanks that way

LESS than one cent in every dollar raised by an Australian charity has gone to its intended cause in its first two financial years, documents show. The Adelaide-based National Cancer Research Foundation last year picked up $387,864 in donations but gave just $4900 away, according to its audited profit and loss statements. The year before, it raised almost $197,160, giving away only $935.

So far this financial year, one of the foundation's directors says the charity has passed on almost $30,000, but yesterday could not say how much had been raised.

Most of the money raised in the past two financial years went on commissions, management fees, travelling expenses and drivers. The foundation's director, Neil Menzies, blamed the start-up costs of a charity.

In heartfelt letters obtained by The Advertiser the foundation, which was launched in January 2008, outlines its fundraising aims, saying it needs hundreds of thousands of dollars for research. It says it urgently needs to raise $700,000 for ovarian cancer, $650,000 for children's cancers, $800,000 for breast cancer and $500,000 for prostate and colon cancer research. "The costs are staggering, but we will succeed again," its letters say.

Mr Menzies said the company was working hard to improve its margins, claiming it had already given away almost $30,000 this financial year to the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Camp Quality, and the Canberra Hospital. "More will be passed on before the end of the next financial year," he said. "We're changing our structure. Where we relied a lot on telemarketing, which is labour (intensive), we'll be more into events, golf days, dinner dances, quiz nights." "Within two or three years if we're able to pass on . . . (money) in the vicinity of $100,000 per year, that would be terrific."

The Office of the Liquor and Gambling Commissioner monitors charities, under the auspices of Gambling Minister Tom Koutsantonis, who said yesterday that governments were working hard to make them more accountable. "This is what we're looking into - we're making charities publish all their financial details . . . to make them more transparent and more accountable," he said. "While we believe the majority are doing the right thing, South Australians deserve to know where their hard-earned money ends up.

Philanthropy Australia chief executive officer Gina Anderson said it was difficult to pinpoint the proportion that should be passed on. She said the word "foundation", often used by charities, did not have any legal meaning, and she said Australia was finally going to accept standard accounting measures for charities.

The Productivity Commission is reviewing the not-for-profit sector. In its draft report, released in October this year, it found there was a need for wide-ranging reforms. It recommended a "one-stop shop" for regulation, to ensure community organisations and charities were transparent, and to simplify regulatory processes.


The Leftist version of "openness"

As Obama has vividly shown, saying one thing and doing the opposite is the Leftist way

KEVIN Rudd's government has refused more freedom of information requests in its first full financial year of power than John Howard's did in its last full financial year in office despite Labor's stated program to increase transparency of public information. The annual report of the Freedom of Information Act, which was quietly released just before Christmas, shows that 1530 requests, or 6.09 per cent, were refused in the 12 months to June 30. In the 12 months to June 30, 2007, the last full financial year of the Howard government, 1499 requests were refused, or 4.39 per cent. The refusal rate in the past financial year was also higher than in the power change-over year of 2007-08 when 1368 requests were refused, or 4.36 per cent. The percentage of requests granted in full in the past financial year compared with 2006-07 also declined, from 80.6 per cent to 71 per cent.

However the government's response times improved. In the 12 months to June 30, 83.29 per cent of FOI requests were dealt with in less than 30 days, compared with 67.89 per cent in the previous financial year and 77.15 per cent in 2006-07.

The Prime Minister's own department granted full access to 12 of 32 requests (38 per cent), while in 2006-07 Mr Howard's department granted full access to six of 16 requests (37.5 per cent).

The tighter flow of information came despite the government embarking on a series of major reforms of the FOI Act, including the abolition of conclusive certificates, which allowed ministers to veto FOI releases without any reasonable public interest explanations for their actions.

The opposition seized on the figures and accused the government of keeping a tighter rein on the flow of information. Opposition legal affairs spokesman George Brandis said the Rudd government's performance on FOI was "yet another example of the mismatch between the government's rhetoric and the reality of its performance". "Early this year, the then Special Minister of State Senator (John) Faulkner launched a new FOI policy and promised a fundamental change towards a pro-disclosure policy," Senator Brandis said. "But it has sunk without trace and has not been prosecuted by the new minister, Senator (Joe) Ludwig. "The heroic pro-disclosure rhetoric stands in stark contrast to the cold, hard statistical reality that would show that there is less freedom of information under the Rudd government than under the Howard government."

A spokesman for Senator Ludwig said the government remained committed to FOI reform.

The report said that about 80 per cent of FOI requests related to personal information, with Centrelink (37 per cent), Veterans Affairs (22 per cent), and Immigration and Citizenship (21 per cent) receiving the most requests.


Tidal wave of retirees threatens to break the bank

AUSTRALIA is on the crest of a demographic tsunami, with the first wave of 5.3 million baby boomers eligible for the age pension from next week. The country's money box faces the double whammy of paying for older Australians who need extra care and for workers who are retiring in greater numbers than ever before.

With the pension age for women still being phased up to 65, those born in 1946 – the first year of the baby boomer generation – will be entitled to claim a government-funded age pension from next year, when they turn 64. Men born in 1946 will be in line for a pension a year later, when they turn 65.

KPMG demographer Bernard Salt said it signalled the start of a landmark shift in Australia's population – one that would deliver a "double whammy" to Federal Government finances. "Not only will the baby boomers demand more from the tax base, but they will also be coming out of the workforce and will stop paying tax," Mr Salt said. "It is a demographic tsunami, building up, building up and then crashing ashore."

Apart from a surge in demand for age pensions, leading Australian demographers said ageing baby boomers would increase pressure on already stretched health budgets. "They are the most obese generation we've ever had, so reducing their obesity is really crucial if they are going to have healthy older years," said Adelaide University Geography professor Graeme Hugo. [Rubbish! Older people get sick more but obesity is nothing to do with it]

Professor Martin Bell, from the University of Queensland's Centre for Population Research, said the retirement of the baby boomers would also exacerbate skilled labour shortages in Australia and create planning issues for growing cities such as Brisbane. "This is an intriguing transition," Prof Bell said. "I'd rank it alongside the Industrial Revolution. "It's that kind of transition in the nature of Western society – from a young, rapidly growing population, which is broad at the bottom and thin at the top, to one that is almost the other way round."

In response to some of those emerging challenges, the Federal Government last year announced it would push out the pension eligibility age to 67 by 2023. But as the Federal Government considers the Henry tax review – expected to deliver the most sweeping reform of Australia's tax system since the GST was introduced in July 2000 – CommSec chief economist Craig James said the pension qualifying age might have to be revisited. "I think we may see further shifts over the next couple of years," he said. "Perhaps even pushing that pension age out further."

The high cost of Australia's rapidly greying population: "Perhaps it requires more incentives for employers to take on more senior workers,'' Mr James said.

Mr Salt said the problem should be met with a big rise in migration levels, targeting young skilled workers, to boost the tax base. "We either lift migration or we can ask Gen Y and Gen X to pay more tax per capita, and I don't think that's going to be popular,'' he said.

Latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate around 107,000 Australian women will turn 64 next year. By 2047, a quarter of all Australians will be aged over 65 years, almost double the current 13 per cent. In the last financial year, the Government supported 2.12 million seniors with age pensions, at a cost of $28 billion. In the previous year, $24.6 billion was spent providing age pensions for 2.04 million Australians.



Three current articles below:

Man dying because of Warmist laws

As his health begins to fail, protesting farmer Peter Spencer swore yesterday he would die before giving in to a Federal Government decision to make his farm a carbon sink. That vow came as his four children and newborn grandchild arrived in Canberra from the US to support the 58-year-old on day 37 of the protest, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Mr Spencer, who is chained to a wind tower more than 20m above ground, claims the government declared his property in Shannons Flat, north of Cooma, a carbon sink without offering any compensation. He says the move has left him unable to earn a living because he cannot clear land and redevelop the farm, and he is demanding a personal meeting with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to discuss the issue.

Aaron, Emma, Kahn and Sarah Spencer, who were all raised on the property, arrived home on Christmas Day and intend to stay until January 8. Sarah, 30, a registered nurse in her adopted home of Grand Rapids, Michigan, planned to examine her father yesterday after introducing him to her four-month-old son Saxon. "I've got my stethoscope and blood pressure cuff so I want to assess him," the farmer's daughter said. "I want to listen to his lungs, check his blood pressure and look at the swelling on his ankles. The problem is even if I tell him that I think he's coming down with pneumonia or that his kidneys are weakening ... he won't come down.

"It's heartbreaking ... but he's still very much with it mentally and is the same father we've always known. I just don't know how quickly he'll deteriorate. We're going to support him. He will come down if [Mr Rudd] makes an agreement or he'll die waiting." Aaron and Kahn climbed the tower to give their father warm clothes and helped set up a tent to protect him from heavy rainfall.

A spokesperson for Mr Rudd yesterday said the Government had "urged" Mr Spencer to stop the protest. "The Agriculture Minister responded to Mr Spencer's letter on the Prime Minister's behalf, however the Government believes this matter should be settled through the legal system and urges Mr Spencer in the strongest possible terms to end his protest and seek medical attention," the spokesperson said. "The Government sets policy in the national interest. This policy will not be changed by threats of violence or self-harm."


More evidence that CO2 is not the culprit for warming

By Michael Asten (Michael Asten is a professorial fellow in the school of geosciences at Monash University, Melbourne)

THE Copenhagen climate change summit closed two weeks ago in confusion, disagreement and, for some, disillusionment. When the political process shows such a lack of unanimity, it is pertinent to ask whether the science behind the politics is as settled as some participants maintain.

Earlier this month (The Australian, December 9) I commented on recently published results showing huge swings in atmospheric carbon dioxide, both up and down, at a time of global cooling 33.6 million years ago.

Paul Pearson and co-authors in a letter (The Weekend Australian, December 11) took exception to my use of their data and claimed I misrepresented their research, a claim I reject since I quoted their data (the veracity of which they do not contest) but offered an alternative hypothesis, namely that the present global warming theory (which was not the subject of their study) is inconsistent with the CO2-temperature variations of a past age.

Some senior scientists, who are adherents of orthodox global warming theory, do not like authors publishing data that can be used to argue against orthodoxy, a point made by unrelated authors with startling clarity in the Climategate leaked emails from the University of East Anglia.

In the scientific method, however, re-examination of data and formulation of alternative hypotheses is the essence of scientific debate. In any case, the debate on the link between atmospheric CO2 and global temperature will continue since it is not dependent on a single result.

Another example is a study by Richard Zeebe and colleagues, published in Nature Geoscience, of a release of CO2 and an increase in temperature 55 million years ago. At this time there was an increase in global temperature of between 5C and 9C, from a temperature regime slightly warmer than today's (that I will call moderate Earth) to greenhouse temperatures. It can be argued this example may have a message for humanity because the rate of release of CO2 into the atmosphere at the time of this warming was of a similar order to the rate of anthropogenic release today.

However, the analogy turns out to be incomplete when the data is compared with present estimates of climate sensitivity to atmospheric CO2, and Zeebe and his colleagues conclude that the large temperature increase cannot be explained by our existing understanding of CO2 temperature linkage. Indeed, they write, "our results imply a fundamental gap in our understanding of the amplitude of global warming associated with large and abrupt climate perturbations. This gap needs to be filled to confidently predict future climate change."

I argue there are at least two possible hypotheses to explain the data in this study: either the link between atmospheric CO2 content and global temperature increase is significantly greater (that is, more dangerous) than the existing models show or some mechanism other than atmospheric CO2 is a significant or the main factor influencing global temperature.

The first hypothesis is consistent with climate change orthodoxy. Recent writings on climate sensitivity by James Hansen are consistent with it, as was the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its pre-Copenhagen update, The Copenhagen Diagnosis.

Indeed, the 26 authors of the IPCC update went a step further, and encouraged the 46,000 Copenhagen participants with the warning: "A rapid carbon release, not unlike what humans are causing today, has also occurred at least once in climate history, as sediment data from 55 million years ago show. This `Palaeocene-Eocene thermal maximum' brought a major global warming of 5C, a detrimental ocean acidification and a mass extinction event. It serves as a stark warning to us today."

We have to treat such a warning cautiously because, as Pearson and his colleagues pointed out in their letter two weeks ago, "We caution against any attempt to derive a simple narrative linking CO2 and climate on these large time scales. This is because many other factors come into play, including other greenhouse gases, moving continents, shifting ocean currents, dramatic changes in ocean chemistry, vegetation, ice cover, sea level and variations in the Earth's orbit around the sun."

Sound science also requires us to consider the second of the above two hypotheses. Otherwise, if we attempt to reconcile Zeebe's observation by inferring climate sensitivity to CO2 is greater than that used for current models, how do we explain Pearson's observation of huge swings in atmospheric CO2, both up and down, which appear poorly correlated with temperatures cooling from greenhouse Earth to moderate Earth?

The two geological results discussed both show some discrepancies between observation and model predictions. Such discrepancies do not in any sense reduce the merit of the respective authors' work; rather they illustrate a healthy and continuing process of scientific discovery.

In addition, unrelated satellite data analyses published in the past two years by physicist David Douglass and distinguished atmospheric scientist John Christy in two journals, International Journal of Climatology and Earth and Environment, provide observational evidence that climate sensitivity associated with CO2 is less than that used in present climate modelling, by a factor of about three.

Thus we have two geological examples and two satellite data studies pointing towards a lesser role of CO2 in global warming. This argument does not discount the reality of global warming during the past century or the potential consequences should it continue at the same rate, but it does suggest we need a broader framework in considering our response.

The Copenhagen summit exposed intense political differences in proposals to manage global warming. Scientists are also not unanimous in claiming to understand the complex processes driving climate change and, more important, scientific studies do not unambiguously point to a single solution. Copenhagen will indeed prove to be a historic meeting if it ushers in more open-minded debate.


Warmist bribes will cost the country dearly

It is no surprise that the government doesn't count on the altruism of the Australian voter in framing policies. Rather, it relies on providing favours to powerful constituencies to buy support. Nowhere is this clearer than in its proposed emissions trading scheme, with the government strenuously proclaiming that 70 per cent of households will be "more than compensated" for any adverse effects. Generous compensation also will be provided to business.

Far from the "hard reform" the Prime Minister keeps announcing, what is promised is therefore a painless warm glow. That promise is, of course, too good to be true. In fact, the compensation, far from offsetting the harm, will add to it. This flows from some basic properties of taxes on "bads", such as pollution.

In theory, these are the most efficient taxes, for they raise revenue not by distorting market choices but by correcting them. However, these taxes typically raise a great deal of revenue relative to the change they purport to make. This is because while the tax is collected on every unit, the overall fall in output of the bad is small. In the case of the ETS, each emission requires the purchase of a permit, but each year total emissions fall by only a few per cent. As a result, how a tax on a bad affects efficiency depends to a large extent on what is done with the revenues. When those revenues are wasted or used to distort markets, society is worse off, even if the harm done by the bad is reduced.

In the proposed ETS, there is the Swiss cheese of payments to polluters, aimed at buying the acquiescence of a business community that, for more than a century, has more than made up in rent-seeking prowess for all it lacks in insight and backbone. These payments will distort economic activity for decades to come. For example, firms that obtain free permits cannot sell them on exit from the industry. This encourages them to continue to operate even if their output could be more cheaply supplied by others.

The compensation to households is even worse. Those payments will be income-based, phasing out as income rises. This will increase marginal tax rates that are already high, with the lost compensation meaning that each additional dollar in pre-tax earning could translate into less than 60c of take-home pay. Combined with the increase in prices relative to wages caused by the ETS itself, the effect will be to reduce the incentive to work. If this departs from self-interest, it is not out of altruism but folly.

How great are the resulting costs? Unfortunately, none of the distortions arising from the compensation package are captured in the published Treasury modelling. As a result, that modelling provides little guidance as to the efficiency effects of the ETS.

This is not to suggest that a pure ETS, pristine in its underlying economic intent, is politically possible. What it does mean is that the comparison to be made is not between a textbook ETS and less perfect alternatives. Rather, it is between an ETS mired in sordid deals and other options that may be better or worse.

Were altruism to break out, goals such as reducing emissions might be achieved without give-aways and concessions. We know tragically little about how to produce some of life's most important goods, such as mutual respect, tolerance and a genuine interest in the welfare of others. Until that secret is unlocked, government interventions will be shaped by rent-seeking and will often impose costs far greater than its benefits.

Business's search for handouts has long been a primary factor in this respect. Environmental fundamentalism adds dangerous impetus to the pressures. As the ETS shows, our political system, under the guise of public beneficence, panders all too readily to these single-issue voters, while shifting costs around, including on to future generations, in ways that are as opaque and inequitable as they are inefficient.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Comeback for religion among Australian politicians

The grumpy article below is by Leftist historian Ross Fitzgerald but does lay out some interesting facts. Australia as a whole remains overwhelmingly secular, of course

SUDDENLY, religion is making inroads again into Australian politics and our secular society. Not only have we now got a devout believer as Prime Minister but the Opposition Leader is even more devout.

The biggest influence is in NSW. When Catholic World Youth Day descended on that state in July last year, many taxpayers resented being forced to pay $20 million in security charges for the event and $40m for the use of Randwick racecourse. The reason that atheists, agnostics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Anglicans and even a few Catholics were being forced to go along with this was essentially because then premier Morris Iemma and many of his fellow committed Catholics in the NSW ALP Right were born into that religion. They didn't want a confrontation with Catholic Archbishop of Sydney George Pell over a cheaper location.

The idea that NSW taxpayers could be forced to fund a Scientology convention or a Rastafarian smoke-in would be laughable. But they're both bona fide religions in their own right and meet roughly the same criteria as Christianity and Islam for all the lurks and perks. Why was there little organised opposition, then, to this unpopular rort [abuse]? The main reason was that there was no significant dissent from within the parliament.

On the opposition side, a man who reputedly is influential in the NSW Liberal preselection processes, upper house MP David Clarke, is very strong in some of his Catholic views. Two other devout Christians, Fred Nile and Gordon Moyes, happened to sit on the all-important cross-benches in the upper house, with the result that the propriety of handing $60m in NSW taxpayers' money to support an already wealthy religion could have been better examined.

More recently, Clarke and Nile were guest speakers at last month's Australia's Future and Global Jihad conference in Sydney, alongside Danny Nalliah from the Catch the Fire Ministries. Other attendees were Peter and Jenny Stokes from the fundamentalist Christian morals group Salt Shakers Inc and Emmanuel Michael from the Assyrian Federation of Australia. Why would one of the Liberal Party's top policy-makers be at such a conference, which was backing the notion that our Christian heritage was under attack from evil forces? And what about Kevin Rudd's attendance at the Australian Christian Lobby's annual general meeting last month?

The secular Nathan Rees's elevation to the premiership in NSW afforded a glimmer of hope that the state's politics would not be dominated by conservative Christian ethics.

But those hopes were dashed by the recent ascendancy of another devout Catholic to the top job in NSW. Sporting a strange mix of American accent and fashion chic, Kristina Keneally boasts a BA in political science and religion and a masters degree in feminist theology from Ohio. She met her Young Labor husband at Catholic World Youth Day in Poland in 1991, which says much about her leanings.

The election of Christian hard-liners to positions of power and influence in NSW doesn't stop at Macquarie Street. NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione is a devout Baptist who worships at the influential Hillsong Church. He is responsible for the first official police Bible, bound in police blue with an official NSW Police crest on the cover. On Scipione's watch, all new NSW police graduates from the Goulburn Academy are routinely offered one of these special Bibles.

While Scipione is doing good work in trying to curtail alcohol-based violence, he has made no secret of the fact he brings his Christian faith into his policing work. Out at Hillsong that means treating homosexuality as a disease to be cured rather than an identity to be lived. But is it a fair whack that taxpayers are funding police Bibles? Will they also produce a Koran with a NSW Police logo for Muslim officers? With 38 per cent of our federal politicians being members of the devout Parliamentary Christian Fellowship, and a half-dozen well-known journalists in the press gallery claiming Jesus as their saviour, the non-believers, infidels, atheists, secularists and our many slightly spiritual but anti-organised religion citizens need to be delivered from this anti-intellectualism.

The final word on the Christianisation of Australian politics surely comes from the head of the Australian Christian Lobby, former SAS officer Jim Wallace. Unlike some stakeholders, Wallace has publicly claimed to have had regular contact with Communications Minister Stephen Conroy - Catholic - as Conroy developed his unpopular model for filtering our internet.

Last month Wallace sent out a media release urging other parties to preference the Australian Sex Party last in the Bradfield and Higgins by-elections, as they had done with One Nation. The Sex Party came third in Bradfield and a close fourth in Higgins. Wallace needs to take a cold shower. That there is now an Australian political party prepared to challenge the pious claptrap that dominates most of the other parties is refreshing.

The Newspoll survey published last month showed that 32 per cent of NSW voters thought there was too much religion in politics. With the orchestrated rise of Keneally and Tony Abbott, that figure may have risen.


Proposed Warmist laws: Grocery industry attacks fraudulent government cost estimates

THE grocery industry has sided with the Coalition's claim the Rudd government's emissions trading scheme will be a big tax.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett said yesterday that claims by the Australian Food and Grocery Council that food prices would be pushed up by 5 per cent overstated the reality by seven times. "The Treasury modelling found that in 2013, the average price impact of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme on food bills will be around $68 a year -- less than 1 per cent of household food bills," Mr Garrett said.

However, the council chief executive Kate Carnell said this was not realistic, given the role of electricity in the processed food supply chain. "The average shopping basket is about $200 a week, so the government's modelling suggests a barely 0.5 per cent increase off the back of increases in electricity prices of 20 to 40 per cent. That is not even vaguely credible in a manufacturing industry," she said.

Her estimate of a 5 per cent rise was based on internal modelling by food companies. She said the modelling had been presented to Coles Myer and Woolworths. "They didn't suggest we were off the money," she said.

Mr Garrett said that throughout the debate on climate change, "various industries have paid for modelling designed to suit their lobbying purposes".

A spokesman noted that Woolworths had rejected the council's claim of a 5 per cent rise when it was first presented in August. The company had put out a release in response, declaring its support for theemissions trading scheme, and noting that the exclusion of agriculture would reduce what was only ever going to be a "slight price rise". Woolworths is a signatory of the Copenhagen Communique on Climate Change, a document developed by global corporations and endorsing ambitious emission reduction targets. [Woolworths is obsessively "Green" in many ways]

However, the grocery council's renewed attack on the scheme highlights the Coalition's support base among industries which believe they will be adversely affected. Ms Carnell said baking, dairy and tinned processed food, such as canned spaghetti, were the most energy intensive parts of the food industry.


Blacks sidetracked from owning their own homes

Leftist governments want to keep blacks government-dependant -- a familiar theme in the USA

CAPE York leader Noel Pearson has called on the Rudd government to urgently realign its policies on Aboriginal housing, predicting that the many billions currently being spent on building public housing in remote communities will result in wastage on an enormous scale and little improvement in the livelihoods of indigenous people.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin's "obsession" with negotiating 40-year leases to provide secure tenure for public housing assets was "completely inconsistent with home ownership", Mr Pearson said. As The Australian revealed this week, negotiations over 40-year leases in Queensland have stalled, with Cape York mayors refusing to sign the leases and seeking legal advice.

Legislative changes introduced by the Bligh government more than 18 months ago to encourage home ownership have so far failed to result in one home loan being issued. "The priority at the moment is to vest 40-year leases in the Queensland Department of Housing, for public housing, and that is what all of the bureaucratic energies are directed towards," Mr Pearson said. "So home ownership is on the backburner and it's not a priority."

Mr Pearson said providing more public housing should not take priority over schemes that encouraged indigenous people to build their own homes or invest in homes that already existed, as risk encouraged responsibility. "We have got to get skin in the game by families, and the best way of getting skin in the game is through some form of home ownership. The second issue is, we've got to bring the construction price down, and the third issue is what the government has made its first issue, which is the urgent need for more housing."

Mr Pearson said the housing policies of successive federal governments had created an "irrational" housing market that made home ownership unattainable for most indigenous people, reflecting a government view that home ownership was only for the privileged Aboriginal few.

People living in Cape York - who, under Queensland policy, must buy the land they effectively already own before they can even think about building a house - have to spend an average of $500,000 to own a house. "It is an irrational housing market that governments are paying for here where the default position is always the most expensive option," he said.

A long-time advocate of private home ownership, Mr Pearson - a lawyer and founder of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership - rejected the notion put forward by the federal statutory body Indigenous Business Australia that native title issues were creating insurmountable complexities in the process of achieving home ownership in Cape York.

Ms Macklin said the government was committed to addressing unacceptable housing shortages in remote indigenous communities, including through encouraging home ownership. "The Australian government is keen to support as many indigenous Australians as possible to achieve their aspirations to own their own home," Ms Macklin said. "Home ownership can bring important social and economic benefits."


Elective surgery wait shows that government hospitals are still not coping with many medical needs

ALMOST 200 Queenslanders have been waiting more than five years to have elective surgery. The 183 patients have conditions classified as "non-urgent" but under Queensland Health guidelines should still have had their operations within 12 months. Another 310 people have been languishing on the waiting list for up to two years, despite having more serious illnesses or injuries that should have put them in an operating theatre within 90 days.

However, the figures – revealed in an answer to an Opposition question on notice to the Government – have improved significantly in the past year. Twelve months ago, almost 400 Queenslanders had been waiting more than five years for surgery. The release of the figures comes as Health Minister Paul Lucas prepares to unveil a new initiative to tackle the so-called long-waits for elective surgery.

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle said yesterday the State Government needed to go back to the drawing board to address the problem. "No Queenslander should be waiting any longer than the recommended time for elective surgery, particularly these 310 category two patients who have waited more than 90 days even though some of them have quite serious conditions," Mr McArdle said.

Mr Lucas said hospitals performed 115,000 elective surgery operations each year, so it was a small percentage that waited longer than the recommended times, but agreed it was "not acceptable". "Frankly it should be 0 per cent. It is simply not acceptable to have people waiting more than five years for surgery, even if it is the non-urgent type," he said. "By this time next year, I want that figure reduced to zero." Mr Lucas remains tight-lipped on his plan to tackle long waits but earlier this month took time out to meet surgeons.

One of the options believed to be under consideration is turning the Royal Children's Hospital at Herston into an elective surgery centre once the new children's hospital opens in 2014. The move would help ensure elective surgeries went ahead.

According to the figures, 310 category two patients who should have their surgery within 90 days have been waiting between one and two years for surgery, 83 have waited up to three years and 21 for four years.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thick-skulled Queensland police missed a rapist who was right under their noses

And the so-called police watchdog was not interested. The man the police framed instead has just had his conviction quashed by the Court of Appeal

A MAN suspected of killing Goodna schoolgirl Leanne Holland is a police informant and convicted rapist. He is a sadistic, violent predator, who was once friends with the Holland family, lived near them and had taken Leanne for rides in his vehicle.

The man, 56, unofficially worked with detectives investigating Leanne's murder. The Sunday Mail spoke to him briefly in 2006. He claimed to have helped police solve the killing by working "undercover" but declined to elaborate.

The Sunshine Coast man served a seven-year sentence for rape and incest before being released in 2003. Coincidentally, he was in the same jail west of Brisbane as Graham Stafford for some of that period. The man was identified by two women in a Sunday Mail report in 2005 as being responsible for Leanne's murder. The women claimed they told police the man, their biological father, carried out the shocking sex slaying but it was never investigated. In the 2005 book Who Killed Leanne? by former detective Graeme Crowley and criminologist Paul Wilson, the sisters revealed:

• Their father knew Leanne and raped them at the same spot at Redbank Plains, Ipswich, where her body was found.

• He tortured them, leaving similar cigarette lighter burns to those on Leanne's body.

• He had photos of her corpse which he either took himself or obtained from the police file and threatened that they would end up the same way if they talked.

The Sunday Mail revealed in 2006 that the man was repeatedly given weekend leave from prison during his rape sentence. Corrective Services sources said the man was given 13 weekend leave passes in one seven-month period.

The Sunday Mail took information on the man to the CMC [police watchdog] in 2007 but it declined to investigate, saying it would be an "unjustifiable use of resources".


Newer playgrounds are too dull for kids

FINDING a decent playground these school holidays should be a walk in the park, but parents and health experts say the quality of Melbourne play spots for children is on the slide. New-age playgrounds designed to minimise injury have come under fire for being boring and limiting.

Experts have warned a lack of older-style "adventure" playgrounds could be holding back our children's development. Child nutritionist Kim Bishop, of Yu Food and Lifestyle, said old-fashioned playgrounds let children exercise more effectively. "I certainly tend to go for the older playgrounds rather than the more sterile environments," Ms Bishop said. "At a playground, kids need a space where they are free to move in a variety of different ways. "There has even been controversy around sandpits as play spaces, but I think it's important to let kids put their hands and feet in dirt and sand."

Researchers at the University of Western Australia have launched a study on the declining quality and number of playgrounds and their effect on children. The project's research leader, Lisa Wood, has said councils and schools go overboard in creating safe and sterile environments, and that children should be given greater scope to play.

Docklands mum-of-three Kristy Seymour-Smith agreed, saying playgrounds should be designed for fun. "I think of the playgrounds that were around when I was a kid - they were quite a bit different," Ms Seymour-Smith said. "As long as there's supervision, they can be fun and safe at the same time."


Centre to tame violent Preschoolers

Without physical punishment, it is almost certain to be ineffective but it least it will keep the badly behaved ones away from the others for a while

CHILDREN as young as four who are too violent to teach will be sent to Queensland's first behaviour school for Prep students. The trial centre will open in January and comes as primary teachers complain of being hit, kicked and sworn at. Experts say the epidemic of broken families and substance abuse in the home is fuelling the anger and volatile behaviour in young children.

Educators want the initiative rolled out across Queensland to protect staff and other students and save troubled kids from growing into dangerous adults. The Early Years Education Centre, partly funded by Education Queensland, will be based on the Gold Coast. Problem students aged between four and six will be referred by state schools and undertake a course for up to a semester. Their parents will be encouraged to take part and will be taught life skills in recognition that behaviour problems usually stem from home.

Education Queensland's South Coast Region executive director Glen Hoppner said principals, parents, teachers and other agencies would confer before referring students. Mr Hoppner said behaviours that "impeded a student's capacity to successfully engage in learning and to interact socially" would be addressed with both parents and students. "To our knowledge, this is the first such centre with this unique collaborative community-based approach," he said.

The breakthrough early intervention centre has been welcomed by teachers, with the union calling on the State Government to extend it throughout Queensland. Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said Prep students were hitting and kicking other students and teachers and throwing furniture. "It's a sad reflection on society that we actually have to go to these steps with kids so young," said Mr Ryan, who added he was concerned the program was not being properly funded by Education Queensland.

EQ will provide a teacher, teacher aide and psychologist for the centre, which will accept 12 students at a time. The community group SAILS (Sailing Adventures in Life Skills), which came up with the idea, will wear the remaining costs for up to six program facilitators and an administration officer. Money will be sought from the community and through fundraising.

SAILS director Russell McClue said there were already more students needing help than could be accommodated. Students and parents would attend three days a week for up to a semester and undergo the American-created "Incredible Years" course which he said had been proven to have the best results. Mr McClue said students would continue their Education Queensland Prep curriculum but in smaller groups with teachers trained specifically in how to deal with them. The children would also be taught how to better interact with teachers, peers and family. At the same time parents will undergo training in life skills and parenting.

Teachers will offer praise and incentives for co-operative behaviour and establish clear rules and routines that promote responsibility. They will also help children stay calm and regulate and understand their emotions.

However, child psychologist Dr Alina Morawska, from the Parenting and Family Support Centre at the University of Queensland, warned that grouping children together with similar problems could make behaviour worse. Dr Morawska said evidence suggested the best way to treat kids was through parenting intervention. [And how do you do that?? The stupid b*tch has obviously had very little to do with the real ferals -- who respect nobody]


NSW Ambulance chiefs still failing to stop bullying by officers

AFTER 11 inquiries in nine years, the Ambulance Service of NSW has failed to properly tackle bullying and harassment, an internal report says. The Report on Staff Support Services - April 2009, obtained by the Herald under freedom-of-information laws, examined the use of counselling services and said the issue of bullying and harassment was still of "great concern". Ten of 121 employees interviewed by independent consultants identified bullying or harassment as an issue for them and all "expressed a concern about management's involvement in resolving these issues".

"We take these concerns seriously and consider that action be taken by the Ambulance Service of NSW in dealing with these harassment/bullying issues," the report said.

A parliamentary inquiry last year found widespread bullying and harassment within the service. It is due to reconvene in the new year to assess the ambulance service's progress in dealing with this and several other workplace issues.

The report said that in the six months to August 2008, 152 employees used counselling services, which was equal to 8 per cent of the workforce. The Northern Division had the most referrals. One case was categorised as "suicide or attempted suicide", and one person was on 83 weeks' paid leave for stress.

The chairwoman of the parliamentary inquiry, Robyn Parker, said she was still getting calls this week from officers complaining of being bullied by management. "They use rostering to bully people and that's still ongoing; nothing seems to have changed," she said.

The support services report also showed that the number of workers' compensation claims had halved and that the service had gone from spending almost $1.5 million on claims for psychological problems in 2006-07 to about $345,000 in 2007-08. In 2006-07 there were 39 psychological claims, including 35 from paramedics, a small proportion of the approximately 3000 paramedics. In 2007-08 there were 17 psychological claims for all employees and 16 psychological claims for paramedics.

The report does not attribute the significant drop to anything in particular, although it notes that a number of "healthy workplace" strategies were put in place last year, including the appointment of a manager to ensure grievances were dealt with swiftly, and that complaints and workplace conflict were properly mediated. The service has also implemented training sessions and standards for raising workplace concerns.

But the report also said the ambulance service needed to provide better access to chaplains in rural areas and improve training and resources for peer support officers, such as providing them with mobile phones and in some cases cars. Overall, the report said support services for staff were being provided at a "high standard".

A spokesman for the Ambulance Service said it "takes bullying and harassment very seriously and we do not and will not tolerate bullying and harassment in any form". [Except when it does, apparently] The service "has undertaken a significant program of reforms", he said. They included additional training in workplace conflict resolution and respectful workplace behaviour. ["Training" won't make a bully into a teddybear. You have to FIRE the bullies. But that needs effort, of course -- largely due to Federal "unfair dismissal" laws]


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Let's face it: the ETS is dead

By financial journalist Terry McCrann

TONY Abbott almost singlehandedly put the Emissions Trading Scheme on life support. Now Copenhagen has killed it stone cold, motherless dead. Climate change minister Penny Wong, who is too emotionally committed to it to accept that truth, will carry it into the new year.

A responsible prime minister would give the ETS a decent Christian burial. And it has to be a formal state funeral. A Treasury that was not so absolutely compromised by a bizarre combination of religious zeal, institutional pomposity and basic incompetence would be gently but persistently and emphatically advising the government that the ETS was no longer a good idea. If indeed it ever was.

While an argument could have been mounted before Copenhagen for moving towards an ETS, that is not possible after the chaos in doleful Hamlet's hometown that produced the "China solution".

There will be no global agreement to cut emissions of carbon dioxide. Formally, it was "Chindia" -- China and India. But China is the elephant in that pairing. And in any event, nothing that President Barack Obama might have promised in Copenhagen was ever going to be endorsed by the US Senate, as it has to be.

While we wouldn't have quite seen a replay of the 95-0 vote that rejected the Kyoto Treaty in 1997, there is zero prospect of the US adopting either binding CO2 emission targets or a cap-and-trade policy, their name for an ETS.

So we have a situation post-Copenhagen, where the two countries that between them are responsible for nearly half of all global emissions of CO2 are not committed to cutting emissions, far less binding targets. And more pointedly, they won't have an ETS.

It is the latter that makes any move by Australia to have an ETS even more senseless than before. We would become ground zero for every spiv and main-chancer that would have an emission permit or million in their pocket to sell us. Indeed, even "respectable" Wall Streeters would be -- correction, are -- salivating over the next big thing.

Two things simply cannot be denied about Copenhagen. Australia locking in its ETS wouldn't have made the slightest difference to the outcome. Not even Kevin Rudd is delusional enough to believe that if only he and Penny had been able to arrive with their bit of paper, China would have agreed to destroy its future.

Secondly, but for Abbott's aggression -- helped in no small part by Malcolm Turnbull's overweening arrogance -- we would have been locked into a bad policy and a disastrous process, which is even worse. The ETS.

It's time the business community woke up from its dozy slumber, with the doziest of all being the Business Council. This is something they should be able to understand. Copenhagen has shattered any prospect of a local ETS delivering the "certainty" they crave. Now it would only be the certainty of the grave. That of carbon export and permit volatility and rip-offs.

That's the export of jobs, businesses and investment to other places that had no price on carbon dioxide. Those "other places" are essentially the rest of the world except for Europe -- which doesn't matter and in any event has totally debased the permits system, just as it has cynically approached the whole sorry climate saga, starting with Kyoto.

Our ETS could only work as part of a properly regulated and audited global system in which at the very minimum the US, the second-biggest emitter, participated. Even then it would still have been extremely volatile, open to manipulation and outright rorting: the very antithesis of certainty. Without the US, an Australian ETS is an invitation to chaos.

Are our Australian Federal "Carbon Cops" Police going to control the permits that would fall from the sky like confetti from Africa, Asia and Russia? Do you sincerely believe that ASIC, Australia's Simply Ineffective (corporate) Cop, is a match for the masters of Wall St manipulation? They couldn't nail Jodee Rich and Andrew Forrest. But never fear, they'll be right on top of global real-time trading in complex permit derivatives.

It remains extraordinary that any government could embark on a policy that directly attacked its own country. The "production" of carbon dioxide is the absolute foundation of not just our economy but our modern society. It is an ironic comment on the crass stupidity of both our politicians and our bureaucrats that if they'd actually succeeded at Copenhagen, they would have succeeded in destroying our future export growth.

The issue of emission cuts has to be cut free from the dead parrot, the ETS. That leaves one or both of Abbott's direct action emission cuts or a carbon tax. If we believe we have to join hands with the rest of the world in a mutual suicide pact, let us at least choose the more efficient method.


Public hospital doctor operating 'blind' led to woman's premature death

A QUEENSLAND grandmother suffered a premature death due to a litany of failures by a rogue doctor who operated "blind" without equipment allowing him to see properly, a coronial inquest has found. In a case that sparked an apology from Queensland Health, Coroner Anne Hennessy cleared Gold Coast doctor Robin Holland of criminal negligence over the 2007 death of Yvonne Davidson, of Emerald, at Rockhampton Base Hospital.

But the coroner's report identified a raft of errors with the tracheotomy operation, including a "faulty or missing" power lead on a bronchoscope, a visual device with lights to help staff see.

The report found Dr Holland, a qualified doctor now believed to be working at a Gold Coast private facility, had failed to sign his job acceptance contract after starting as a locum six months earlier. It was this error that brought the case to light earlier this year after several locum doctors at Rockhampton and Bundaberg failed to complete their credentialling properly.

The coroner's report found Dr Holland failed to comply with protocol for the procedure at the hospital, despite evidence showing staff had told him about the protocol document. He could not recall the warnings. Ms Hennessy also blamed poor communication between staff, including Dr Holland's failure to note that nurses had problems with a carbon dioxide monitor which was not working properly. "Dr Holland did not properly listen to the nursing staff who were bringing the terms of the protocol to his attention," the report said. "In relation to the requirement to use the bronchoscope, Dr Holland informed the nurse that he would perform the procedure blind."

But Ms Hennessy found there was insufficient evidence to begin a criminal action, saying the Medical Board had already banned him from performing similar operations. She found that Mrs Davidson, 75, died of pneumonia but the operation had been an influence. "Whilst the procedure did not directly cause Mrs Davidson's death, autopsy indications were that death was hastened by the procedure," she said.

The report called for Queensland Health to ensure locum doctors have orientation at different hospitals and that tracheotomy operations require a bronchoscope and not be performed on weekends. Queensland Health yesterday said the case was still being investigated by the Medical Board and recommendations were still being implemented.


Catholics divided in the House

THE Catholic Church, traditionally a Labor heartland, is fast colonising the Liberal Party. A Herald analysis shows as many Catholics on the front bench of the Federal Opposition as that of the Government. A poll of the federal cabinet and the shadow cabinet showed six Catholics in each, or about 30 per cent. Catholics are 26 per cent of the general population.

The Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, is a staunch Catholic who studied for the priesthood as a young man. His shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, is also a Catholic and recently gave a talk at the Sydney Institute on his religious beliefs, "In Defence of God". Both men were educated at Jesuit-run schools, as was the Opposition education spokesman, Christopher Pyne.

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, was raised a Catholic but now attends Anglican services every Sunday. When he was recently photographed leaving the Catholic Mary MacKillop Memorial Chapel in North Sydney, where he reportedly took Communion, Mr Abbott accused him of "exploiting" his religious beliefs to score political points.

The debate over religion in politics comes as a Herald/Nielsen poll found 84 per cent of people agreed with the statement "religion and politics should be separate" - though three-quarters did not care whether politicians identified themselves as Christian or not.

Opposition MPs were more forthcoming about their faith than Labor MPs. Of the 20 members of shadow cabinet, 18 identified as Christian and two did not comment. None identified as atheist or non-believers.

The Labor cabinet was more diverse. Two members - the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, and the Industry Minister, Kim Carr - said they were "not religious". Six identified as Catholic, including the Small Business Minister, Craig Emerson, the Energy Minister, Martin Ferguson, and the Minister for Employment Participation, Mark Arbib. Several Labor politicians said they were "non-practising", including the Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, who said through a spokeswoman that she was a "non-practising Baptist" and "not religious".

The Leader of the House, Anthony Albanese, said he was a non-practising Catholic, and Chris Bowen identified himself as a non-practising Methodist. No one from the shadow cabinet nominated themselves as "non-practising". And no one from either side said they held a non-Christian faith.

The Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner, said he was an "agnostic Anglican", and the Opposition industry spokeswoman, Sophie Mirabella, said she was married in the Anglican church but had a Greek Orthodox ceremony to please her aged mother.


Surge in wealth as markets bounce back

AUSTRALIANS have enjoyed the fastest growth in household wealth for more than a generation, as the rebound on stock markets has given back almost half the money people lost in the global financial crisis.

Financial accounts issued by the Bureau of Statistics on Christmas Eve show that even excluding real estate, households' net financial assets shot up by a record $147 billion or 17 per cent in the September quarter alone. It is the sharpest rise in household wealth since the bureau began to measure it 21 years ago, driven by the fastest rebound on global stock markets since the false dawn in the middle of the Great Depression. Households put just $1.3 billion of new money into the stock market in September, yet soaring stock prices lifted the value of their direct holdings by $52 billion.

Super funds did better still. They invested a net $900 million in the market over the three months, but at the end of the quarter the value of their holdings had climbed by $71 billion. The entire new investment in the market for the quarter was an unremarkable $29 billion - 75 per cent of it from foreign investors - yet it generated a phenomenal $245 billion rise in market valuations. The total valuation placed on the market jumped 23 per cent, from $1080 billion to $1325 billion. In the six months from the end of March to the end of September, the market valuation shot up by 41 per cent or $385 billion.

Rises like this the world over have sparked fears of a new asset price bubble, as investors with access to cheap money have used it to drive up values.

Goldman Sachs, which now borrows from the US Federal Reserve at nominal rates, has made so much from its market investments this year that in the nine months to September it set aside $US16.7 billion for staff pay and bonuses - $US527,000 per employee.

The Australian market has since stabilised, still roughly 30 per cent below its 2007 peak. But the crisis has seen a significant shift in ownership: foreign investors now own 40 per cent of Australian shares, up from 33 per cent at the height of the boom. The foreign investors' stake dwarfs the 25 per cent of shares now owned by super funds and insurance companies, let alone the 17 per cent owned directly by households.

Similarly, the crisis has brought about a significant shift in where households put their money. Two years ago, our shares were worth $431 billion, but we had just $370 billion in bank deposits. By September, our shareholdings had dropped to $327 billion, while our bank deposits had swollen to $507 billion.

Superannuation remains Australians' largest financial asset (the definition excludes housing) but not even the record market surge between March and September, and $80 billion of net super contributions in the past year, was enough to return our stake to pre-crisis levels. Two years ago, private sector superannuation assets were worth $1152 billion. But 18 months later, despite all the new money, those assets had shrunk to $896 billion, before climbing back to $1065 billion by the end of September.

Apart from bank deposits, the only household asset that has grown during the crisis has been the amount of unfunded superannuation the federal and state governments owe to their past and present employees. In just two years, that has climbed from $170 billion to $200 billion.

Households' total financial assets grew by $180 billion in the September quarter, or a cool $8200 per head in three months. At just over $2.4 trillion, they are now almost back to their pre-crisis level two years earlier. But households' liabilities have also grown in that time, adding almost $200 billion of new borrowing in the past two years. Household debt, which was $1.2 trillion going into the crisis, is now just under $1.4 trillion, or $175,000 per household.

The bottom line is that households' net financial assets are still short of pre-crisis levels. They peaked in September 2007 at $1245 billion and then shrank to $786 billion by March 2009, a loss of almost $460 billion. But in the six months to September, with only $12.4 billion of net new saving on our part, our net assets grew by $220 billion, or 28 per cent, to close the third quarter worth $1006 billion, back where they were at the end of 2006.


Friday, December 25, 2009


Christmas day hiatus today. No news is good news. But here's some news of my personal Christmas:

I think I have had a rather good Christmas day. Anne and I just had croissants and coffee for breakfast. Alarmingly French. Anne gave me a blue-striped shirt as a present, which I quite like. I wore it to the service at the Metropolitical Cathedral of St John the Divine. We got there rather early but there was already little seating left in the nave. I however have a particular spot just off the nave which I like -- on some plastic chairs (which are much more comfortable than the pews) so Anne and I had a good view of the proceedings. And they definitely kept the show on the road with lots of things happening one after another.

The censer was energetically deployed but no bells! Very slack. They had a rather good-looking beadle, though: A young blonde woman. Rather a change from the usual elderly gents. The sermon was given by a woman, which was of course repugnant to my fundamentalist background. But I am rather deaf these days so I didn't understand a word she said, which I found satisfactory. I just sat admiring the stained glass. And the hymns were good of course.

Anne was less impressed by the service than I was. Her Presbyterian rejection of "Popery" is probably stronger than mine.

I then went off to a small family lunch. The big family do was last night, which was very lively. The lunch was excellent with ham, large prawn kebabs, calamari etc. cooked on the BBQ by our host Russell, husband of my stepdaughter Susan. Russell is a genial soul but I don't know him all that well as yet so I did at one stage ask him a question that I thought would get at least an untroublesome answer. I asked him: "Do you like steam trains?". He replied "I LOVE steam trains". So we had a good chat about that for a while. I am something of a steam fanatic too. I wonder if it's only conservatives who like steam trains? Could be something in that.

I also had a bit of a chat with Joe about 5-dimensional matrices and such things. I am very pleased to have a son who is also a born academic. His Christmas present to me was a very academic one: An excellent edition of Beowulf, with the original text, a prose translation and a verse translation. He knows I take an interest in Beowulf and have even been known to recite bits of it in the original Anglo-Saxon. But only an academic would do that.

Speaking of the Anglo-Saxons, as I sit amid the great Gothic stone cavern of St John's cathedral, it does give me some feeling of unity with my Anglo-Saxon ancestors. I realize that Gothic architecture is Norman rather than Anglo-Saxon but Gothic churches were originally built to recreate the awe of being amid the great forests of primeval Europe so my impression is an accurate one in its way. The Gothic architects have successfully transmitted their message to me.

I still have the order of service for Christmas in front of me and I wonder how many people noticed how discordant it was in a way. We went straight from the aggressive Hebrew triumphalism of Psalm 97 to the humble "justified by grace" of Titus chapter 3. But people are so used to the accepting the message of both the Old Testament and the New that few would notice any discordance, I think.

Anne is now back from her family Christmas lunch so we will shortly have a late -- and light -- evening meal. Ham sandwiches, probably.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG wants to draw your attention to the plight of hunger-striking farmer Peter Spencer. Spencer has in effect had his rights to his land taken away by NSW Greenie laws.

Corporate regulator loses AGAIN

Third strike as ASIC loses case against miner 'Twiggy' Forrest. And the judge slams them for the frivolity of their actions. ASIC cearly needs a new boss. This constant waste of taxpayers' money is no joke. How about focusing on REAL abuses?

AUSTRALIA'S corporate regulator has suffered its third high-profile court defeat in five weeks after the Federal Court cleared billionaire Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest and his Fortescue Metals Group of misleading investors. Justice John Gilmour dismissed all 22 allegations made by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and ordered it to pay Mr Forrest's and FMG's costs, which could mount to millions of dollars.

Justice Gilmour also took a swipe at ASIC in his judgment, saying it had no basis for the civil proceedings and should exercise extreme caution when making allegations because of the damage they could do to companies and personal reputations. "It is important that allegations of dishonesty should be made only where there is a reasonable evidentiary basis for them," he said. "It is my opinion that, on the totality of the evidence available to ASIC, there was no such basis in this case."

ASIC's latest court loss comes hot on the heels of its failed actions against One.Tel founder Jodee Rich and executive Mark Silbermann and former Australian Wheat Board boss Andrew Lindberg. The regulator plans to appeal those decisions and said yesterday it was considering whether to appeal the Fortescue decision.

A triumphant Mr Forrest was not in Perth's Federal Court for the judgment. However, the billionaire, who owns a $4.3 billion stake in the iron ore company, said later that he felt vindicated by the ruling. "I'd like to take this opportunity to thank God, the Australian judicial system, and my family and friends for their unswerving support throughout the proceedings," he said. "We are pleased we can now move on."

The court's decision follows three years of legal proceedings that began when ASIC claimed Mr Forrest and FMG misled the market, acted dishonestly and failed to meet their continuous disclosure obligations. The corporate regulator alleged Mr Forrest overstated the nature of agreements FMG struck in 2004 with three Chinese companies to build mining infrastructure in WA's Pilbara. At the time FMG had issued a series of statements describing the agreements as "binding contracts" whereas ASIC argued they were merely "framework agreements".

Shares in FMG surged after the announcements were made but the deals later unravelled. ASIC alleged Fortescue ignored its continuous disclosure obligations by failing to update the market when the deals came undone.

In a 285-page judgment that took seven months to produce, Justice Gilmour found there was no basis for ASIC "to assert dishonesty on the part of FMG, its board and, in particular", Mr Forrest. He warned that ASIC must be careful in making such allegations because they attracted widespread media coverage, could injure the business of a particular company and tended to "adversely affect" reputations. "Unless the allegations are withdrawn the director(s) accused have to wait until trial before these can be tested," he said. "Meanwhile, they have to live and work in their shadow. In this case the proceedings have been on foot for more than three years."

Mr Forrest could have been banned as a company director and fined up to $4.4 million, while FMG faced a $6 million penalty.


Psychiatric hospital: Moronic official "wisdom"

Keep psych ward knives in drawers after fatal stabbings, says chief psychiatrist. THAT should be a big help! (NOT). It's often said that the psychiatrists are nearly as mad as the patients and this seems rather a good example of that

AN inquiry into the stabbing deaths of two patients at a Melbourne psychiatric hospital has come up with seven recommendations, including a requirement that knife sets be kept in drawers.

Last month two patients at the Thomas Embling Hospital - Raymond Splatt and Paul Notas - were stabbed to death. Fellow patient Peko Lakovski is facing two counts of murder.

Victoria's Chief Psychiatrist Dr Ruth Vine conducted an inquiry into the deaths, aided by a team of interstate experts with forensic clinical experience. Dr Vine said the government has accepted all seven recommendations and said the inquiry found that there was a ``very high threshold" of safety at the Thomas Embling.

The inquiry recommended that the hospital find a way for night staff, who may not deal directly with inmates, to come into contact with patients so they can assess their mental state and stability.

It also recommended that the hospital remove boxed knife sets from benches and put them into drawers. It said that while Jardine Unit patients were expected to cook and clean for themselves, ``the immediate and visible availability of implements that could be used as weapons should be minimised".

Other recommendations included the regular monitoring of relationships between the residents, getting more feedback on patients from their family and carers and documenting any early relapses of illness. "It is still the case that there has never been a serious incident committed by a patient on leave or following release from Thomas Embling Hospital," Dr Vine said. "The community can feel confident that Thomas Embling Hospital is well managed." [Two patients murdered and it is "well managed"!!??]


Ill people hit by cuts to government health funding

Hitting businesses just ends up hitting the little guy in the end -- as business passes on its increased costs in the form of price rises

THOUSANDS of private hospital patients are being forced to pay gap fees running into hundreds of dollars because of a dispute over price increases between the big health funds and Australia's largest pathology company. The stand-off over a 30 per cent fee increase that Sonic is requiring from members of the second biggest health fund, Bupa Australia, is set to worsen next week when the dispute spreads to Medibank Private. The industry giant estimates some patients could be up to $500 out of pocket after a hospital stay. "We're extremely concerned that Sonic are forcing private health insurance members to pay excessive costs for pathology services, which in the worst-case scenario can be up to several hundred dollars," the managing director of Bupa, Richard Bowden, said. Mr Bowden said the fees demanded by Sonic were up to twice the level set by the Medicare benefits schedule.

Sonic's demand for an increase of more than 30 per cent on current contracted rates was "clearly unaffordable and unreasonable" and was well above prices negotiated with other pathology providers. The breakdown in negotiations has meant that since November 1, Bupa no longer has a contract for no-gap arrangements with Sonic, exposing patients to big surprise bills.

Medibank members will be in the same position once its contract with Sonic expires on December 31. The two funds account for about 200,000 private hospital patients a year.

The Federal Government's 8 per cent cut to Medicare payments for pathology has contributed to Sonic's demand for a big rise from health funds to cover reduced government cover and rising costs, but the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, refused to comment yesterday. "This is a commercial matter between Sonic and the health funds so it's not something we can comment on," a spokeswoman for Ms Roxon said.

The chief executive of Sonic, Colin Goldschmidt, stood by the fee rises, saying they followed years of inadequate payments from Medicare [government insurer], which reimburses 75 per cent of the official schedule fee, and Medibank [private insurer], which had covered part of the remaining costs. The rises were required to restore viability of many hospital pathology laboratories, which he said were running at a loss. Several other funds had accepted Sonic's terms. "Patients are free to change funds. We believe we cannot go on with the same fee structure we have had with Bupa and Medibank," Dr Goldschmidt said. He dismissed as "scurrilous" the Medibank claim that people could be $500 out of pocket.

The Bupa and Medibank members, who account for more than half of the 10 million Australians covered by health insurance, are the latest group to be exposed to surging gap costs. The Government's cut to Medicare rebates for cataract operations is leaving many patients with $300 gap bills.

The health funds have warned that the pathology rise, which would add millions of dollars to health insurance costs, would feed into premium rises currently before the Health Department.

Carol Bennett, the executive director of the Consumers Health Forum, said her organisation was concerned by the growing trend of pathology companies "to maximise their profits at the expense of vulnerable consumers who are often hit with large and unexpected pathology bills". "This is an industry that has enjoyed above average profits for many years now," Ms Bennett said. "No government can continue to drain taxpayers' money to fund ever-increasing pathology costs without proper checks and balances."


Holier than Thou

Christmas is a time when people grow even more tired of politics than usual, but it is also a time when the politically desperate take increasingly cheap shots at others in a ploy to divert media attention from their own failures.

This happened last Monday when ALP Senator Kate Lundy was despatched from the Labor dirt unit to make fun of Tony Abbott's strong Christian faith. Sent out to attack using focus group tested lines, Senator Lundy made a big mistake, and consequently a bigger fool of her emperor Kevin Rudd.

In a humiliating display, Senator Lundy inserted Mr Rudd's name where she was told to insert Mr Abbott's. Here's what she said: "What I think is important here (is) that we challenge Mr Rudd on his propensity to want to inflict his personal religious views, very strongly held, on the rest of the Australian population."

Now if it wasn't for the pointed attack on religious beliefs, pandering to the secular left, in a clumsy attempt at dog whistle politics, perhaps the faux pas could be excused. But how can we excuse the hypocrisy of Kevin Rudd, sending out the lamentable Lundy to attack a man of deep faith whilst claiming to be one himself.

But then again Kevin Rudd has claimed to be many different things in recent times. He was an economic conservative before he became a Christian socialist on his way to becoming a social democrat. He was a Catholic before becoming an Anglican but still demands communion from the Catholic Church, coincidently on the eve of Australia's first Saint being proclaimed.

Rudd condemned the 'political orchestration of organised Christianity' in his essay on Dietrich Bonhoeffer but insists upon doing doorstops in front of church almost every Sunday morning. In one ABC interview he even blamed others for the fact he had to take his faith public.

Kevin Rudd's religious beliefs are his business but he insists upon showcasing them to suggest he is a man of great virtue. Personally I am pleased he considers himself to be a Christian but is it about time we saw the real Kevin Rudd?

Rudd has repeatedly demonstrated himself to be a 'man for all seasons'. He will change his beliefs to suit the climate and is happy to send the unwitting to do his grubby work.

Notwithstanding Mr Rudd's supreme embarrassment at his Copenhagen failure, his attempt to play the religious card to attack his opponent at Christmas time gives another insight into the character of our Prime Minister. I am sure that an increasing number of Australians don’t like what they see.