Monday, March 01, 2010

Bureaucracy is irredeemably stupid

Comments below by Sara Husdon

Despite extensive consultation with communities in the Northern Territory about what type of new houses they would like as part of the government’s Indigenous housing program, it appears that the government is still following the same old tired designs for the construction of houses.

Two years ago, federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin, promised ‘a makeover with a difference’ as part of the government’s $672 million ‘strategic’ Indigenous housing program (SIHIP).

NT Housing Minister Rob Knight said that design teams would look at the territory’s outdoor lifestyle and climate when designing houses.

But as Nigel Scullion, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs, pointed out in a recent media release, the new houses built under SIHIP look surprisingly similar to the old ones.

In the past, houses in remote NT communities were regularly criticised as being designed by white bureaucrats with no understanding of the way in which Aborigines live and no consideration for the 40 plus degree temperatures. ‘They are sweat boxes ... you wouldn’t put your dog in there during the heat of the day,’ said one government official in The Age.

Yet, it seems the two new houses built in Wadeye have not been built according to local residents’ wishes. During the extensive consultation process, residents repeatedly said that they wanted large verandas; outdoor living areas; and toilet access from outside, but these three design features have not been included.

Pictures of one of the new houses taken by Nigel Scullion as part of his press release show an ugly grey rectangular box, with a bright yellow metal awning. These houses look almost identical to the ones they were meant to replace.

Residents of existing homes have also been ignored by the government, with recent refurbishments in Ali Curang falling far short of their expectations. Houses remain filthy and incomplete. New stainless steel benches have been installed but not much else, prompting concerns that the houses would fail to meet the standards of the Residential Tenancies Act.

Macklin has come out in defence of these refurbishments, saying that they were only meant to include new kitchens and bathrooms – in contrast to her promise two years ago for a ‘makeover with a difference.’

It seems Aboriginal people have been duped again.

Rather than continuing to look to the government to meet their housing needs, residents of remote Indigenous communities would be better off copying the residents of the Ilpeye Ilpeye town camp near Alice Springs. There, traditional owners have allowed the Australian government to acquire their land and change the community lease to freehold title. This change will enable residents to become home owners and perhaps finally kiss the government and their broken promises goodbye.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated February 26. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Billions squandered: Abbott

COST blow-outs and safety risks have raised the alarm for parents and principals as cracks appear in the Rudd Government's multibillion-dollar schools stimulus program. With only 7 per cent of NSW primary school projects completed under Building the Education Revolution's (BER) Primary Schools for the 21st Century program, serious problems have emerged.

As Education Minister Julia Gillard launched a new national curriculum in Melbourne yesterday, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott launched a stinging attack on the $16.1 billion schools program, the most expensive element of the government's economic rescue package. "They [the government] were in such a hurry to spend the money that they didn't think through the consequences, with tragic results in the case of the Garrett program and wasteful results in the Gillard program," Mr Abbott said. "The Auditor-General will look at this item by item, but I suspect the government will want to delay the findings until after an election. "This hurried $16 billion program will end up delivering only $7 billion in value … Kevin Rudd thinks he's the economic genius who saved Australia from a recession but the public might conclude he's just won the gold medal for waste."

Ms Gillard rejected the claim building costs had been inflated. "The costs are not just for the actual building but all the pre-construction work as well - site investigation, concept design, detailed planning, approvals, services, site works and much more," her spokeswoman said. "Usually, school communities do not see or experience these costs as they are expended long before work starts on site.

"NSW has a rigorous system of price control in its roll-out of the Building the Education Revolution package to ensure value for money whilst still meeting the requirements of the program to provide stimulus to the state's economy. "Quotes are carefully scrutinised and compared against benchmarks for similar buildings throughout NSW. We have gone to the open market and the prices for these buildings are those set by the open market."

But schools say they are getting anything but value for money. At Berridale Public School in southern NSW, children are unable to use their newly installed $908,000 library as parents believe the building poses a safety risk. While the library, the same model of which is going into hundreds of NSW schools, complies with building codes, it has only one door. Parents say the building needs an emergency exit.

Students and staff at Tyalgum Public School in the state's north can't use their $850,000 library and office block as it doesn't fit its foundations. The building is on temporary footings until the local contractor can rectify the work. Tyalgum principal Peter Meadows has been told by the NSW Department of Education not to talk to the media about the bungle.

Builders at Rose Bay Public School last week damaged a broadband cable line and a water main while working on the site. And parents at other schools have been told they will not get items they were promised such as solar panels and rainwater tanks because their projects are over budget.

Original costings by the BER office 12 months ago show significant price discrepancies. Small libraries originally costed at $285,000 are now costing triple that amount. Covered outdoor learning areas have more than doubled in price. (The original costings excluded GST, site works, professional fees and cost escalation beyond February 2009.) The program is the subject of an Australian National Audit Office investigation, the results of which are due to be tabled this autumn.

Under the terms of the BER, managing contractors of projects are given an incentive payment - up to tens of thousands of dollars - for completing work on time. Parents have raised questions about whether projects that are more likely to be finished on time will receive priority so the managing contractor can receive the payment. But a NSW Department of Education spokesman said the projects were on track and would be finished by the deadline early next year.

While the school building projects were designed to provide work for local businesses, some schools say builders are coming from more than 100 kilometres away. The department said 80 per cent were local - within 150 kilometres or two hours' drive.

Schools told they will miss out on some promised items because of budget blow-outs may be able to re-apply for funding once costs are finalised next year.


Government-employed surgeons forced to go on leave to save cash -- while patients wait

SURGERY waiting lists could blow out even further as overworked surgeons are forced to take leave so hospitals can dig themselves out of the red. "To hell with the patients," was the message, said one frustrated Brisbane surgeon, who felt pressured to abandon his patients.

Queensland Health has issued denials, but Salaried Doctors Queensland President Dr Don Kane is adamant. "Many, if not most, of the hospitals across the state are over budget," he said. "When budgets are in trouble, I'm not surprised they are resorting to this. "They aren't concerned about surgeries. The budget is what's precious."

The SDQ also said hospitals were tightening overtime rules and delaying the filling of critical vacancies. Patients are being left on surgery waiting lists or without consultations. In November, medical staff at Rockhampton Base Hospital were told by their district chief executive all overtime had to be pre-approved.

"That's rubbish," Dr Kane said. "I can tell you SDQ has a lot of issues at the moment with Queensland Health." Dr Kane said his organisation, which represented 3000 doctors, was not opposed to the Government controlling expenses, but was sick of money being squandered on consultants and questionable programs and services.

Waiting lists for high-risk patients who should get operations in 30 days were getting worse, he said. "The Government has got its head in the sand and the minister is asleep at the wheel."

A Queensland Health spokeswoman denied surgeons were being forced on leave and admitted there were "negotiations" going on with those who had hefty time accrued. "The department is committed to meeting its obligations for employee welfare and its financial performance," she said. Asked about the financial status of hospitals, she said "I can't tell you that."

The SDQ said it was likely medical officer locums were not being used to replace surgeons on leave. "Their locums have dried up and locums are a very expensive option," Dr Kane said.

A Queensland Health spokeswoman said locums were a "relevant option" available for replacing staff, but hospitals "wouldn't automatically take a locum on."

The Courier-Mail reported in May, 2008 that top surgeons were being forced to stop working for up to six months as patients waited even longer for operations. Queensland Health had allowed doctors to rack up months of leave but demanded they take it all.


Businesses to be compelled to employ more females

So capable women will be unable to prove themselves. People will think they owe their position to quotas, not ability

BUSINESSES will be forced to employ minimum numbers of females in the workplace under new laws being considered by the Federal Government. Bosses employing 15 or more people will be required to report on the gender balance in the workplace under proposals in a new government commissioned report. The KPMG report was commissioned last year to review the role of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency.

Among the suggestions was a push for workplaces to have a voluntary 40 per cent female representation at all levels within three to five years. If this failed, mandatory quotas enforced by sanctions and penalties would be introduced.

But industry groups have rejected the quota concept. In its submission, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said it supported "the attainment of equal opportunities based on merit, rather than the filling of quotas".

But Australian Institute of Management state chief executive officer Carolyn Barker said she supported quotas. "There is evidence that when governments particularly put in quotas . . . the number of women in executive positions and on boards increase," she said. "And I have to say, is that such a bad thing?"

The Brisbane Institute CEO Karyn Brinkley said quotas were not the long-term solution for women's careers. "I don't know that I see a lot of point in quotas," she said. "I think it detracts from the argument that you appoint them because they have amazing sets of skills, and attributes that are very complementary."

A further suggestion was for the publication of league tables, listing the best and worst businesses that met gender targets.

The report showed only 54 per cent of the female labour force was in a full-time occupation, compared with 84 per cent of males. At the same time, males received 17 per cent more in their paypackets than women.

A spokesman for Minister for the Status of Women Tanya Plibersek said the department was considering the report and would release its findings in coming months.


Large areas of sub-tropical Australia have just had the heaviest rainfall in 100 years

Warmists have spent years telling us that global warming would bring drought, so ...

A MAN has drowned after falling off his motorcycle into a flooded creek as parts of Queensland receive their heaviest rain in 100 years. The 57-year-old Mirani man was last seen riding his motorcycle on Sunday night. Police were notified he was missing at 7.55pm (AEST) on Sunday and searched the Devereux Creek area near Marian. They located the man's body in the creek.

A police spokesman said it appeared heavy rain may have made the creek area boggy and dangerous. Parts of southwest Queensland have had their best rainfall in 100 years as a monsoon trough squelches over the Northern Territory border. Birdsville, in the state's far southwest corner, has received 168mm over the past 24 hours - its heaviest rain in at least 100 years. Bedourie has recorded 188mm, the best on record since 1938.

The record rain has sparked flood warnings for several rivers across the state, including the Thomson, Paroo, Fitzroy and Barcoo rivers.

Today the trough - dubbed a landphoon by forecasters - is expected to move further into the south-west causing heavy rain as far south as Cunnamulla with the potential for more downpours of 100mm plus. Meteorologist Martin Palmer from Weatherzone said in south-east Queensland the rain was expected to intensify by lunchtime moving in from Toowoomba. "We should pick up around 40mm may be even 50mm in and around Brisbane itself, but tomorrow looks like it's going to be the day for the south-east, "Mr Palmer said.

"There's a massive amount of rain showing up towards the Sunshine Coast, up towards Hervey Bay and Bundaberg. Down towards Brisbane and the Gold Coast, were looking at between 60 and 80mm over the 24 hours." The falls are expected to ease from tomorrow night into Wednesday morning but would not completely dry out.

With localised flash flooding expected over much of southern Queensland later today, Emergency Services are reminding us of the dangers, especially for children....

The Weather Bureau warns that the southeast, Channel Country, Maranoa and Warrego, southern Central West, Central Highlands, Coalfields, Darling Downs and southeast could get heavy rain due to an intense monsoonal low.


There is a new Australian blog here for those who follow the stockmarket. He invests a lot in resource stocks -- which are giving him a big pain at the moment. And his holding of bank stocks is confined to the one bank that is NOT doing well. Maybe send him some sympathy!

1 comment:

Paul said...

Just as a side note, Cairns has had quite a weak wet this year. Most of the rain seems to have fallen further south around Townsville and Bowen, not to mention the South East area of the State. This isn't "climate change" though, its just the rain falling mostly in a different place this time around.