Saturday, January 16, 2010

Health bureaucrats send police after a "disobedient" pregnant mother

A rough public hospital adds insult to injury. The same hospital killed a pregnant mother a couple of years ago. Their attitudes have obviously not changed

A HOSPITAL that wants a mother to have her baby induced sent police to her home after she failed to keep an appointment yesterday. Rochelle Allan, who is reluctant to be induced even though her baby is 12 days overdue, was told by the hospital they intended to go ahead with the procedure when she came in.

But after speaking to her midwife following a visit to the hospital the day before, and being assured her baby was fine, she decided not to attend the hospital the next day.

Now Ms Allan is furious after the two police officers arrived on her doorstep after they were called by Bathurst Hospital. Wanting a home birth, Ms Allan, 24, has been under the care of a private midwife and had been attending the hospital daily to monitor the baby's health. "I couldn't believe it when I saw the police officers at my door," Ms Allan said. "They told me they had been asked by the hospital to check on my welfare because I had not attended. "The hospital knew I did not want to be induced and they gave me no medical reason why I should be." Throughout her pregnancy, Ms Allan and her partner Daniel Jones have been regularly attending the hospital's antenatal clinic for mandatory tests and scans to monitor the baby's progress.

A hospital spokeswoman confirmed police were sent to Ms Allan's house to conduct a "welfare check". The spokeswoman said doctors were worried about the mother as she had previously complied with all appointments.

Ms Allan said that she had decided on having a home birth after a "horrific experience" at the same hospital two years ago when their son Bailey was born. "I was induced and I spent 48 hours in labour," she said. "I don't want to go through with that again."

Ms Allan is not against medical intervention and said she would not hesitate to deliver at the hospital if her baby's life was threatened. "If they had told me that my baby was in danger then I would have the baby in hospital," she said. "But they could give me no reason and all the tests show that there are no problems." By late yesterday, Ms Allan had started labour at home and was in the care of her midwife.

The incident comes as the debate over the safety of homebirths continues, with the Federal Government under pressure to change the law to allow midwives insurance if they attend a home birth. Homebirths Australia secretary Justine Caines said the case demonstrated how women "are too often treated during pregnancy and birth very poorly".

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists president Dr Ted Weaver said women were usually induced 14 days after their due date. "If the mum did not want to be induced after 14 days then you would conduct extra tests," he said. "The reason people get worried about going overdue is because there's a slight chance that the baby could die suddenly in utero for no reason."


Catholic schools surging ahead

CATHOLIC schools have increased their share of the highest HSC awards, almost doubling the number of their top all-rounders. A Herald analysis of official government figures for the past five years has found that the number of HSC students in the Catholic diocesan system who achieved more than 90 per cent in each of their subjects has almost doubled.

While the Catholic sector claimed credit for setting exemplary performance targets, public school advocates have told the Herald that the improvement had come from a relatively low base compared with public and independent schools. The socio-economic status of Catholic schools had also improved over the years, as had their share of Commonwealth funding relative to schools in other sectors.

Dan White, the executive director of Catholic schools in the Sydney archdiocese, attributed the long-term improvement in results to investment in the professional development of teachers and measurable literacy and numeracy targets that helped to identify areas of need. "Our focus has been on continual improvement of teacher quality," Dr White said. "Our highest priority has been to put in place targeted intervention strategies where a clear need has been identified. Put simply, we have tried to respond quickly where the need is greatest."

In 2005, 45 students from Catholic secondary schools, not including the higher-fee independent schools, achieved the State Government's all-rounder award, figures from the Board of Studies NSW show; last year 80 achieved the award. As a proportion of the increasing number of students from all school sectors in the list, the percentage from Catholic systemic schools rose from 4.9 per cent in 2005 to 6.6 per cent last year.

Catholic and independent schools account for about a quarter of all HSC students. A Herald analysis found 38 Catholic schools in the list of top all-rounders last year, compared with 33 in 2008 and 30 in 2007.

Last year, 122 students on the list came from 59 comprehensive public high schools. The year before, 149 students came from 65 comprehensive high schools. As a proportion of all students in all school sectors, the percentage on the list from comprehensive public schools fell from 12.5 per cent in 2008 to 10 per cent last year.

Dr White said Catholic schools in the Sydney archdiocese achieved results above the state mean in 67 per cent of courses last year, up from 61 per cent the year before. A quarter of the archdiocesan schools achieved results above the state mean in more than 90 per cent of courses last year.

The president of the Secondary Principals Council, Jim McAlpine, said the top all-rounders list was a limited measure that did not capture all students who achieved a ranking of 99 or above since it did not take into account students who specialised in the sciences or the humanities - and so did not score above 90 per cent in every subject. "There is a greater opportunity for Catholic schools to select students from higher SES [socio-economic status] profiles now," Mr McAlpine said. "Students in low SES schools and communities require a greater level of funding in order to lift their academic performance, and that can only happen if the Federal Government bites the bullet to create a fairer funding regime for all students."

A spokeswoman for the Board of Studies said the all-rounders list represented "a very small percentage of the overall candidature [less than 2 per cent] and is just one measure of success".


A happily unchanging Australia

By Richard Glover

I'M SITTING on a North Coast beach reading Margaret Atwood's new novel, Isn't the World Awful, a book oozing with anxiety about the imminent breakdown of civilisation. I'm finding it difficult to get into the right apocalyptic mood as I keep getting distracted by the happy laughter of the Australian beach.

I put the book aside and pick up a tabloid newspaper, The Daily Scare, but its world view is strangely similar. According to a quick scan of the first three pages, there's nary a young person who isn't running amok with a gullet full of pills and armed with a pump-action shotgun. The only exceptions are those rendered so fat by obesity, they find running amok simply too exhausting.

It's true, the beach may not be the best place to take an accurate snapshot of society. All the same, from where I'm sitting - on one of those legless beach chairs - the fear-mongers and worry-warts do seem to go on a bit.

It's striking how little this scene has changed over my lifetime. Families play beach cricket, older teenagers gambol in the surf and younger ones bury their long-suffering fathers in the sand, all using time-approved methods.

The whole scene represents a happily unchanging Australia, the existence of which is hardly ever acknowledged in either the tabloid media or the literary novel, both of which prefer the Chicken Little style of reportage, one that involves running around squawking "the sky is falling, the sky is falling".

It's true that parts of the sky sometimes appear a little shaky but could we spare a few centimetres of print to note that some sections of the firmament remain relatively intact?

I hardly see a computer game during my week up here. The main hand-held entertainment device goes by the name of "a fishing rod". You see them everywhere. A good tabloid paper would do a story about it: "Fishing epidemic among young people. Experts warn about overuse affecting arm ligaments and dangers of this much fresh air."

Every bridge is lined with kids, all happily chatting and fishing. I wander past one kid - six or seven years old - who has just pulled up a net full of tiddlers. "Holy smokes Jarryd!" he yells to his friend, "we've got moollions of them." He looks up at me, "You want some mullet?" he asks, his voice spluttering with excitement. He dances from foot to foot with the pure thrill of it and then slips the tiny, silvery fish back into the water. He's like a kid from Norman Lindsay's Saturdee or Redheap, even if in 2010, the best mate is called Jarryd.

Later, up the road, I see a father and son in the supermarket debating the relative merits of the single-plugger versus the double-plugger thong. Ah, that timeless Australian debate. In the end, they decide - as have thousands of Australians before them - the extra reinforcing on the double-plugger is worth the extra 50 cents.

Others remain thongless and dance the traditional hot-sand cha-cha as they proceed from car park to beach, going "ah, oo, ah, ah, ah" like a troupe of Motown back-up singers. The mothers chorus back, chanting from their collective Jungian memory, "It's not that hot. You'll be right."

At the picnic ground, gathered around the barbecues, are small groups of various ethnic hues. Each appears to consist of a father, a mother and two or three teenage children. Not one of the 15-year-olds appears to have a heroin needle in his arm, nor are any currently downloading pornography. Some may be wearing single-pluggers, I just can't say. The only weaponry being carried by the various groups are tongs.

Kangaroos graze. There's the tinkle of laughter. Everyone is drinking responsibly. No wonder nobody has ever bothered to record this scene.

At the beach the next day, I catch two good waves before being badly dumped. I struggle to the surface as another wave crashes into me. Momentarily blinded and putting up my arms for protection,

I find my outstretched hands neatly cupping two well-rounded breasts. Naturally, I'm mortified. It's sure to be some poor 19-year-old girl who will be awfully upset. I open my eyes and discover the breasts belong to a somewhat pudgy nine-year-old boy. I fight off the urge to say "nice set, mate" and instead make an apology.

"Sorry, mate." "No worries, mate," he answers sunnily, swimming off. Yes, it's all pretty sunny up the coast, whatever the alarmists say. Although they may have a tiny point on the issue of childhood obesity.



Three current articles below:

Green/Left rips off blacks: Leftist "concern" for blacks and black rights is empty talk

Article below by moderate black activist Noel Pearson.

NEXT time you bump into a koala conservationist begging for money in the street, ask what it thinks of Noel Pearson and his opposition to the Queensland government's wild rivers laws. The koala will tell you that I am a rapacious developer who wants to mine, clear-fell, pollute and pillage the unique environment of Cape York Peninsula. The koala will tell you that I do not speak for Aboriginal people from the region, and that the laws are strongly supported by them.

The Wilderness Society has an army of teenagers out on the streets saying that about those of us resisting its attack on the land rights of Aboriginal people in the cape. As in all propaganda campaigns, its main currency is to push its side of the story.

It spent years laying down the groundwork before Premier Anna Bligh announced three wild river declarations after the state election last March. The first step was to cause great alarm about the threats facing Cape York. From Indooroopilly to Surry Hills it distributed pamphlets and held public meetings in the suburbs talking up the threats to Cape York. Threats can be the lifeblood of campaigns such as those routinely run by the Wilderness Society.

It helps when citizens on the southeastern seaboard of the country - not the least those in the marginal seats of Brisbane - are saturated with images of the Gunns Paper Mill in Tasmania and the disaster of the Murray-Darling. Not to mention global warming.

For an environmentally anxious public, the Wilderness Society conflated Cape York Peninsula with clear-felling of old-growth forests in southern Australia and the Murray-Darling, and it had a winner.

Add a good brand name - Wild River - and there you have it: the perfect product to sell to an environmentally troubled public. The name corners the market on motherhood and apple pie, and whatever protests affected landowners in remote regions may make, they have no chance in the propaganda war because they are by the very definition of speaking against Wild Rivers, environmental vandals.

The Wilderness Society spent years campaigning about the threats facing Cape York. But when you examine what possible source of threat it is talking about, you find very little.

Take clear-felling of forests for paper mills and the like. None. Never has been. Never will be.

Take timber. There is only one small sawmill in the entire region the size of Victoria that cuts a single species, Darwin Stringybark, a dry forest timber abundant across northern Australia.

Take mining. There are only two operating mines in the entire region, both of which have been in existence for 50 years, the Mitsubishi silica mine at Cape Flattery and the Comalco bauxite mine at Weipa.

There are two new bauxite mines proposed. One is to be developed by Chinese company Chalco, which was awarded the opportunity by the Queensland government. The Chalco mining area, on the northern side of the Archer River, was excluded from the Wild River declarations announced by Bligh, but on the southern side the Aurukun community lands were included.

The Chalco mining area is an example of hypocrisy for two reasons. First, the Queensland government says mining can be consistent with the use of Wild River areas. Therefore why exclude the Chalco mining area from the Wild River declaration?

Second, the Wilderness Society has never expressed its position on the Chalco mine. Why has it not insisted the Chalco mining area be included in the Wild River areas?

The second bauxite mine is proposed by a start-up company called Cape Alumina on a pastoral property purchased by the federal government for the owners of Australia Zoo. Terry Irwin has been campaigning against this mine. This area has not been excluded from a proposed Wild River declaration of the Wenlock River, and, therefore, Irwin and the Wilderness Society have been arguing that this mine is a grave threat to the environment of what Australia Zoo promotes as Steve's Place.

The Wilderness Society is campaigning vigorously against "strip mining" by the Cape Alumina mob, but seem silent on the Chinese proposal. Why?

It is because this was the terms of the deal the Wilderness Society cut with former Queensland premier Peter Beattie. Beattie insisted the Wilderness Society could get blanket Wild Rivers over the blackfellas' land - without providing anything to the blackfellas other than a few make-work ranger jobs - provided the Chalco mining area was excluded.

This is why the Wilderness Society is silent on Chalco and screaming loud on the other mine.

Like moving pieces in a massive game of chess, the leaders of the Wilderness Society sit down with Labor Party principals in front of a map of Queensland and they make deals about what they want and what they're prepared to give away. You give us the Traveston dam, we give you Cape York. You can fight Cape Alumina, but don't fight the Chinese.

This is how you get the Greens party in Queensland not opposing the Traveston dam at state election time. The charade of participatory democracy can be seen in every region of the state where there are networks of "catchment management groups" and "natural resource management groups". Farmers, local communities, indigenous representatives and shire councils sit down with state government bureaucrats and representatives of green groups and supposedly work out consensus solutions to land use and environmental management. But what the mug stakeholders from these communities do not realise is these processes are tokenism.

The real decisions are made in Brisbane. The people who actually live in these regions and who strive to make a livelihood out of the land, are reduced to being bit-part "stakeholders", while the real players are those cutting the deals in Brisbane.

Griffith University academics James Whelan and Kristen Lyons, in a 2004 paper examining the methods successfully employed by environment groups in getting tree-clearing bans in Queensland, report that one of the principals of the Wilderness Society, Lyndon Schneiders, called community consultation processes under legislation for land-clearing management "an exercise in futility" and "a long suicide note".

The organisations funded by the state and commonwealth to facilitate these stakeholder processes are controlled by the purse-strings of government. Their employees end up compromised because jobs and funding programs are dependent on everybody toeing the line that the governments and environment groups insist on.

From the far north to western Queensland you can see what is happening. The poor buggers who live in these places are no match for the corporatist power of organisations such as the Wilderness Society and the wealthy US outfit, the Pew Foundation, who bankroll these campaigns.

If you accept that Cape York Peninsula is not threatened by wholesale commercial or industrial development, and that the best prospect will be small-scale sustainable developments that preserve the region's environment, you are then left with the tragic conclusion that the entire argument about Wild Rivers is misconstrued.

Bligh has consistently rejected that Wild Rivers was all about election deals. But that wasn't always the community perception. Whelan and Lyons reported on the land-management campaign: "Interviewees considered TWS [the Wilderness Society] had demonstrably influenced the outcome of recent Queensland elections. The Labor Party's environmental commitments had been rewarded by TWS campaigns in marginal electorates, which boosted Labor candidates, notably [in 2004] by reducing the vote of a popular Green candidate who might otherwise have won the party's first parliamentary position."

This should be the last thing consuming the attention of Aboriginal people in Cape York. We should be devoting our political and organisational energies into the abject problems of health, education, housing, child protection and criminal justice afflicting our communities. Instead we have to fight a rearguard action to preserve our rights to sustainable development against a bunch of people from the Wilderness Society who desperately want their names listed on the pantheon of environmental heroes who saved Cape York Peninsula. But saved it from what?

IN the week before Christmas, The Weekend Australian featured a story on Eddie Woibo, from Hopevale in Cape York. Eddie is a hard-working indigenous man who set up a small-scale passionfruit farm on his native land. Woibo and his family developed the land for 25 years, building a home and putting in miles of fencing, planted pasture and irrigation infrastructure, waiting for formal land title from successive Queensland governments. His land and home is a dead asset. Because he does not have title to his lands, he has never been able to leverage any further capital investment into his property through loans from banks. More than 80 other indigenous families are in the same position.

Eddie was struck by a heart condition and was hospitalised in December. While he was in recovery a bushfire gutted his property, wiping out his enterprise and ruining most of his infrastructure. Normally, Woibo would have had insurance for his passionfruit business. But he could not insure his property because he did not have title. Woibo has been waiting 25 years for title to his land, and he's still waiting.


Rudd's taxing climate policy is a liability

IN the lead-up to the December climate change conference in Copenhagen the Rudd government was full of bravado as it threatened to reintroduce, next month, its legislation for an emissions trading scheme which the Liberals had just defeated in the Senate. This was clearly designed to unsettle the opposition, and its new leader, Tony Abbott, by holding out the prospect of a double dissolution election if the legislation was again rejected. The Prime Minister may have believed he was on solid ground because Malcolm Turnbull, who Abbott displaced, was clearly spooked at the consequences for the Liberal party if such an election was fought over this legislation.

But the political sands have shifted significantly since then, and far from being intimidated by the reintroduction of this legislation the opposition should be daring Rudd to bring it on.

For a start the Copenhagen conference, where Rudd the climate change warrior took centre stage, proved an embarrassing waste of time and taxpayers' money. Rudd and his caravan of advisers and hangers-on were left desperately trying to squeeze some policy credibility out of this gabfest. If anything, Copenhagen undermined Rudd's fundamental premise that the cap and trade system, which forms the basis of his government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, is the only satisfactory way to address global warming through reducing green house gas emissions.

While the conference failed to reach any constructive agreement for a global response to the effects of climate change it did throw the spotlight on the complexities and uncertainties that surround the cap and trade system. In the wake of the Senate's defeat of the CPRS legislation in early December, Rudd rejected a challenge by Abbott to debate the issue of climate change. He advised the new Opposition Leader to calm down and develop a policy on this.

Reintroducing the legislation not only provides the opportunity for the opposition to debate the government's policy but for it to drive a wedge between the flawed, tax-based, ETS and the broader issue of climate change.

Political polling has been in hibernation over the holiday season but will be back in full swing in coming weeks, particularly as this is a federal election year. The Liberals believe that while there is community support for action to ameliorate the effects of climate change, this is overshadowed by concerns the ETS is nothing more than a tax that will drive up the cost of living.

They expect this to be reflected in opinion polling before the CPRS legislation is reintroduced, if in fact it is.

This will significantly influence Abbott's "direct action" alternative to the government's climate change policy which he will develop in a series of public speeches which began with an address to the Sydney Institute last night.

In attacking government rhetoric supporting its climate change policy, Abbott claims that this, in fact, is a smokescreen for its general environmental neglect particularly in the areas of land and water management.

The Nationals, Abbott's Coalition partners, argue that by placing all these programs under one agency - Caring for Our Country - the government has drastically reduced access to funding for farmers who have maintained a sustainable balance in land use.

Meanwhile, the government has tried to justify passage of its CPRS legislation on the basis that it is essential in the fight against global warming, which is primarily the fault of mankind. But the reality is that this legislation will create a highly intrusive, big brother organisation within the Climate Change department which will have powers of intervention and enforcement rivaling those of the Australian Taxation Office.

And it is here that the opposition should be focusing its attack on the government because this is the area of greatest community concern and uncertainty about the consequences of Labor's policy lies.

Householders have been told to brace themselves for higher prices ranging from energy to food in the ETS-based battle against carbon pollution. Not surprisingly, few can understand how this comes about through a system of trading emissions permits. And the Climate Change department's enviro-babble explanation of how this system works in terms of provisional, make good, excess surrender emissions numbers and credits doesn't help. But what is clear is that businesses and power plants are free to emit whatever level of carbon dioxide they choose as long as they surrender an "eligible emissions unit" for each tonne of pollution.

As with the tax office, the Climate Change Regulatory Authority will have powers to monitor, audit and impose penalties where necessary to enforce compliance with this system, all of which will require a growing taxpayer-funded bureaucracy.

Australians do care about the environment. What they don't care for are more taxes.


Ban protest vessels from using Australia's ports

The Australian Government has been far too even-handed in its statements about the reckless actions of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in attempting to prevent Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean.

By not condemning the harassment of Japanese ships by the anti-whaling activists, Australia is in effect acquiescing in militant tactics that come very close to piracy on the high seas.

Harassment will not change Japan's position on whaling. And not condemning these actions directed against a vessel going about its lawful business is counterproductive for Australia trying to broker a diplomatic compromise with Japan through the International Whaling Commission.

Japan could legitimately demand that Australia condemn the actions of the Sea Shepherd group before it even considers discussing any shift in its whaling policy at the next meeting of the commission in Morocco in June.

Given the public interest in these matters, the Australian Government has sensibly asked the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to examine the recent events in the Southern Ocean. But it is hard to see how, on any reading of the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, the Sea Shepherd captain, Paul Watson, could argue his actions were in compliance with it.

Given the relatively small size of the Sea Shepherd's protest boat Ady Gil, and the Japanese ship's restricted ability to manoeuvre, the speedboat was clearly placed in harm's way of the whaling vessel. It neglected the most basic precautions required by the ordinary practice of seamen to avoid a close-quarters situation from developing. Watson can't use the basic rules of the maritime road as his shield.

The Sea Shepherd group's other vessels, the Bob Barker and the Steve Irwin, visit Hobart for refuelling, as it is the closest port to where confrontations with the Japanese take place. Sea Shepherd's ships dock in Melbourne each year to prepare for the Japanese whaling season over summer. Last year the Steve Irwin also docked in Brisbane, Sydney and Fremantle as part of a tour of Australian ports.

To demonstrate that Australia does not support the activities of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society against Japanese whalers, the Australian Government should ban the entry of its vessels into Australian ports.

In deciding whether to grant consent to vessels to enter its ports, a state is free to impose conditions as it wishes - access to a port of a state is a privilege, not a right. Australia banned port access to Japanese fishing vessels in 1998 when Japan would not agree on a total allowable catch for southern bluefin tuna in the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna. The port access ban was lifted in mid-2001. It is an offence under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act for a whaling vessel to call at an Australian port unless the master has written permission from the environment minister to bring it into the port.

If the Federal Government is serious about ending whaling and shifting the Japanese Government's position - one that has hardened in response

to harassment by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society - it should completely distance itself from this group's dangerous tactics in the Southern Ocean by banning its protest vessels from Australian ports.


No comments: