Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Legal action over failed Greenie scheme

THE Federal Government faces legal action on multiple fronts over its bungled home insulation program as fresh details of repeated warnings of the dangers emerge. Lyndon Hull, the uncle of Rueben Barnes, who received an electric shock in a Rockhampton ceiling in November, revealed yesterday that the family was taking advice from a Melbourne lawyer. Melbourne barrister John Ribbands said: "The Government, in a headlong rush to establish its green credentials . . . threw billions of dollars into this half-arsed program without giving any real thought to the checks and balances needed to make sure it worked efficiently."

It comes as Wendy Sweeney, whose son Mitchell was buried at the weekend, also contemplates legal action, and a Queensland grandfather sues the federal Environment Department after he was nearly electrocuted. Colin Brierley, 63, from Windaroo, south of Brisbane, is suing after he ended up in an induced coma in October after entering his roof cavity days after foil insulation was installed. "The electric shock went in the knee and came out the top of the head," he said. "I'm having difficulty with my memory, mainly short-term and balance and I'm having a bit of trouble with that, if I lift anything reasonably heavy I get pains going through the chest."

The use of foil insulation has been suspended, and Environment Minister Peter Garrett, who is battling to keep his job, has ordered a safety check on 48,000 homes which could be potential death traps. Four young tradespeople have lost their lives working on the program.

On October 16 Master Electricians chief executive Malcolm Richards warned Mr Garrett about serious and deadly dangers associated with his $2.45 billion insulation scheme. The contents of the letter have now emerged. Sixteen weeks ago Mr Richards told the Minister "the potential for further fatalities cannot be dismissed". But Mr Garrett did not ban foil insulation until last week. Mr Richards also raised concerns about metal staples used on foil insulation, and insulation being installed directly over high temperature light fittings which could cause house fires.

Construction, Forestry, Mining, and Energy Union national secretary (construction), Lindsay Fraser, called for "an investigation in the unscrupulous employers who put untrained people into these roofs that have resulted in deaths".

Mr Garrett denied he had snubbed an emergency meeting with unions and industry representatives to discuss the dangers of foil insulation. He said he called the meeting which was about technical issues, not to make decisions.


“Fuelling Future Famines”

This generation of pampered westerners is the first tribe in the history of the world that seems determined to destroy its ability to produce food.

The history of the human race has always been a battle for protein in the face of the continual challenge of natural climate change. Nothing has changed for this generation, except the wildfire spread of a destructive new religion that requires the sacrifice of food producers on a global warming altar.

Food creation needs solar energy, land, carbon dioxide and water. All four food resources are under threat.

Eons ago, long before ancient humans learned to use the magic warmth locked in coal, millions of woolly mammoths were snap frozen in the icy wastes of Siberia. They are still being dug out of the ice today.

In the last few weeks, in a mild repeat of this past climate disaster, massive snowstorms have killed millions of domestic animals in Mongolia and China. The capacity to produce and distribute food has been decimated across the top of the world from Northern Europe and Russia to North America. When orange groves in Florida are damaged and Texas gets six snowstorms in a few weeks it is obvious that nature is damaging the world food supply.

Solar energy produces all of our food. Those who follow the sun are already recording a dramatic change in sunspots, which tend to reflect solar energy. This seems to indicate that the current frigid conditions affecting the Northern Hemisphere may not be an isolated weather event but may be a harbinger of natural climate change.

Global warming has never been a problem for mankind. But global cooling is a killer.

Australia can feed itself and is a major food supplier to the world – beef, mutton, cereals, sugar, dairy products, pork, chicken, eggs, seafood, nuts, legumes, fruit, vegetables, beer and wine.

However green extremists, supported by foolish politicians, are gnawing at the foundations of Australia’s food chain. And the biggest threat today is Climate Change Policies.

Land is an essential ingredient to most food production. All over Australia, uncontrolled regrowth of eucalypt scrub is silently reclaiming our vast grazing lands, the source of the lowest cost beef and mutton in the world. Generations of graziers have created and maintain these grasslands against the ever present threat of capture by woody weeds. Now their hands are tied and their land is being stolen by global warming politics. The suffocating scrub will soon pass the tipping point, beyond which grasslands are destroyed and the land is no longer capable of food production.

Land sterilisation is also occurring via the stealth of Wild Rivers, World Heritage and other lock-away-land policies.

Even more food producing land is lost by policies that subsidise people to grow carbon forests in the stupid belief that this will somehow improve the climate by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Trees, grasses, sub-soil critters, grazing animals and carnivores are all part of the same carbon cycle. If one life form gets to monopolise land and carbon resources, it is detrimental to other life.

Still more stupid are market destroying policies that use government mandates and subsidies to convert food producing land to growing ethanol for cars. This has already caused massive dislocations to markets for corn, sugar, soybeans and palm oils. Forcing people to convert food into motor fuel is not a sensible policy and always adds to food shortages.

Carbon dioxide is the breath of life for all food production. Imagine the stupidity of trying to capture this harmless will-o-the-wisp in order to bury it in carbon cemeteries. Luckily for our food capacity, this suicidal policy of carbon capture and burial is unlikely to succeed.

Finally, let’s look at water, the life blood of all food production. Australia probably has access to more water per head of population than most countries in the world. However, decades of government mis-management have made us more vulnerable to every drought. Many government policies have encouraged the waste of water resources.

There are huge unused water resources across the north from the Fitzroy River in the West to the Flinders River in Cape York. Most of this water is untapped and unused because of government anti-development and land sterilisation policies.

In the south, other silly government policies have supplied water for “free” to the cities. Anything free is wasted. Because of urban demand, food producers are now being denied water at any price, but there is no real price rationing in the cities.

When natural climate change in the Northern Hemisphere is combined with political climate change in our southern food baskets, the real crisis creeping up on the world is not global warming caused by industry, but global famine caused by politicians. As Genghis Khan said wisely “Only a foolish horse fights with his feed bag”.


Failed trainee teachers 'allowed to graduate'

It shows how desperate the system is to get warm bodies into failing government schools

TRAINEE teachers who fail their teaching rounds in schools are being allowed to graduate and take charge of classrooms, according to the Victorian Principals Association. Primary school principals have accused universities responsible for teacher training of ignoring their advice that some trainee teachers are unfit to graduate.

University students studying to become school teachers must complete part of their coursework in teaching rounds at schools to gain practical experience and put theory into practice. But Gabrielle Leigh, president of the VPA, which represents principals from private and public primary schools, has told The Age school leaders are angry about the incidence of universities rejecting their school's assessment of a trainee teacher's performance.

"If there's a situation where the school feels the student teacher is not ready to teach, a lot of the time the university tutor will overturn the school's recommendation," said Ms Leigh. "The institution says the person is fit to teach, they graduate and then they come into schools. There are enough instances of this happening for us to be concerned about it."

The association has written a position paper on teacher quality, prompted by a groundswell of concern from its members about the training system's flaws.

Ms Leigh said previous federal government funding cuts to universities had also weakened education faculty tutors' ability to oversee the teaching rounds of trainees. "We get a very limited service from most universities," she said. "In the past a tutor might have come out twice to see how a trainee was going. Now you might get one flying visit, if that."

Victorian Institute of Teaching chief executive officer Andrew Ius urged the association to give him details of cases where school reports on unfit trainees had been rejected. The institute is responsible for accrediting teacher-training courses and registering teachers. "I'm disappointed we have not heard from the VPA because the issue is something we would be very concerned about," he said.

The Victorian Council of Deans of Education, which represents universities that provide teacher training, rejected the principals' criticisms. Its president, Annette Gough, said she did not know of any cases where school decisions had been overturned without a university consulting the school. Under university protocols, students who fail a teaching round are given a second chance to repeat the round at another school. Those who fail two rounds are liable to be suspended for a year and have to reapply to finish their course. "We greatly value supervising teachers' opinions," Professor Gough said.

"A student could fail one round but end up graduating because they've passed other rounds at other schools." However, she said the teaching-round component of teacher training was in crisis because successive federal governments had failed to provide enough funds to universities to cover the cost. Universities were battling to find classroom teachers to supervise trainees. Only 25 per cent of teachers in government schools, 12 per cent in Catholic and 10 per cent in independent schools were willing to do the job, according to the council's research.


All talk, no action slur haunts PM

FOR any political leader there is no more damaging sobriquet than to be labelled "all talk and no action". Yet this is a perception rapidly besetting Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Today's Galaxy poll commissioned for The Courier-Mail reveals 49 per cent of Queenslanders believe Mr Rudd is "more talk than action" – a view at least partially validated yesterday by the Prime Minister's concession he and his Government had not delivered everything they promised in the lead-up to the 2007 federal election.

It was a concession long overdue, and one all the more embarrassing for Labor in light of the Government's now stalled $1 billion digital education revolution and its widely touted pledge of one million computers in high schools. Not only has a disappointing number of only 220,000 computers been delivered nationally over two years – with just 21,000 in Queensland – but those machines, yet to be connected to high-speed broadband, cannot take proper advantage of the web-based educational resources for which they were designed. While the Government pauses to consider its rollout of a $43 billion National Broadband Network, these machines are, in the words of the Opposition, little more than "glorified typewriters".

But Mr Rudd has other charges of inaction, or action not previously mandated, to answer. Despite ardent promises in 2007, the Government – after two attempts – has failed to deliver a broadly acceptable climate change package. Mr Rudd also appears to have forgotten his pledge to put to referendum a Commonwealth takeover of the states' public hospitals. And while Labor promised no change to superannuation, the past Budget saw the cap on contributions for those aged over 50 reduced to only $50,000. It's not so much the lack of action but the gaping disparity between promise and delivery that is rankling voters most.

The Prime Minister's defence is not entirely without merit. Yes, the global financial crisis has taken precedence over the past 18 months, and there have been some major policy achievements. The ratification of the Kyoto protocols, the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, increasing the pension and, perhaps most laudably, keeping unemployment well below that of our major trading partners cannot be dismissed lightly.

But, at least in voters' minds, virtues rarely compensate for glaring omissions. Moreover, Mr Rudd's inaction on key policy fronts has left him open to the type of criticism Labor in opposition hurled at former prime minister John Howard's own dubious distinction between "core" and "non-core" promises.

Even if prime ministers ignore newspaper editorials, surely they heed opinion polls, and today's Galaxy poll could hardly be clearer in its message. With federal Labor in Queensland – a key state behind Mr Rudd's 2007 victory – now seven points behind the Coalition in primary vote, and two points behind after preferences, there's little doubt a perception of Government ineptitude over a bungled roof insulation rebate scheme has coupled with a resurgent Liberal Party under Tony Abbott to change the electoral landscape.

On the back of similarly grim polling for state Labor, where the Government and Premier Anna Bligh now distantly trail the LNP and Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek respectively, there's no doubt Mr Rudd faces dire challenges in Queensland, and perhaps elsewhere. Even in Victoria, where the Brumby Labor Government enjoys a strong lead over the Liberals, Labor there suffered a 12 per cent swing at the weekend Altona by-election.

What was unthinkable just a few months ago is now eminently possible: The Rudd Government could fall victim to its own cautious style and become only the second one-term national government in 110 years. And yet it is not too late for Mr Rudd to learn the lessons and lift his game. But if he remains deaf to the charge of "all talk and no action", he will face the voters' wrath.


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