Friday, March 05, 2010

Not happy, Kevvy

He thinks he can over-ride opposition to his hospital plans coming from States run by his own Labor Party. I don't think he can do that. He threatens to over-ride the States by putting up a constitutional referendum. But everybody knows what a bluff that is. Federal referenda are passed in Australia only if there is no significant opposition to them. Otherwise a majority of Australians vote "No".

His claim that bureaucrats are his opposition is also deceptive. At least in the State of Victoria, it's the State Premier who doesn't want his funds taken away. And if State Premiers campaign against any referendum it will surely be lost. Mind you, the NSW Premier seems to see Rudd's proposals as taking a monkey off her back, so they might all eventually come to that conclusion. Kevvy is definitely NOT a savvy politician to be taking on the public hospitals mess. John Howard wisely left that to be blamed on the States

THE states will not be allowed to block health reform, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd insists. Reiterating his belief that "health bureaucrats" are using scare tactics in New South Wales to undermine plans for a federal takeover of public hospitals, Mr Rudd said the reforms would be going ahead. "We will speak directly with the states between now and when the Council of Australian Governments convenes in the first part of April," he said. "I've written to all the state premiers and chief ministers, and there is going to be huge amount, to use the technical term, of argy bargy between now and when the Council of Australian Governments meet. "Some may agree, some may disagree ... some may tell us to jump in the lake, but you know something, that will not stand in our road."

Mr Rudd was speaking after he and federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon toured parts of St Vincent's Hospital and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney to meet patients.

Mr Rudd said no hospitals would close as a result of the reforms, which involve stripping states of some GST revenue and using it to increase the commonwealth's contribution to funding of state hospitals. Critics have said the plan could force 100 small and regional hospitals to close in NSW alone.

Mr Rudd has accused "health bureaucrats" of running a scare campaign over the issue. "There is absolutely nothing in any one of the reforms that we would put forward in this plan that would cause any hospital in the country to close," he told Channel 7. "What you have at present is a campaign... by various state governments in Victoria and NSW against any change. "Therefore you have a deliberate fear campaign that is put out there by various state health bureaucrats at the moment in NSW about hospital closures."

Asked later if the NSW Government was orchestrating the campaign, Mr Rudd told reporters at St Vincent's: "Why the NSW health bureaucrats are out there saying these sorts of things .. (is a) matter for them, you can sort that out."


Is Hansenism more dangerous than Lysenkoism?

This is the essay Australia's ABC tried to ban. See story here

On June 23, 1988, a young and previously unknown NASA computer modeller, James Hansen, appeared before a United States Congressional hearing on climate change. On that occasion, Dr. Hansen used a graph to convince his listeners that late 20th century warming was taking place at an accelerated rate, which, it being a scorching summer's day in Washington, a glance out of the window appeared to confirm.

He wrote later in justification, in the Washington Post (February 11, 1989), that "the evidence for an increasing greenhouse effect is now sufficiently strong that it would have been irresponsible if I had not attempted to alert political leaders".

Hansen's testimony was taken up as a lead news story, and within days the great majority of the American public believed that a climate apocalypse was at hand, and the global warming hare was off and running. Thereby, Dr. Hansen became transformed into the climate media star who is shortly going to wow the ingenues in the Adelaide Festival audience.

Fifteen years later, in the Scientific American in March, 2004, Hansen came to write that "Emphasis on extreme scenarios may have been appropriate at one time, when the public and decision-makers were relatively unaware of the global warming issue. Now, however, the need is for demonstrably objective climate forcing scenarios consistent with what is realistic".

This conversion to honesty came too late, however, for in the intervening years thousands of other climate scientists had meanwhile climbed onto the Hansenist funding gravy-train. Currently, global warming alarmism is fuelled by an estimated worldwide expenditure on related research and greenhouse bureaucracy of more than US$10 billion annually.

Scientists and bureaucrats being only too human, the power of such sums of money to corrupt not only the politics of greenhouse, but even the scientific process itself, should not be underestimated. In recognition of these events, the term Hansenism is now sometimes used to describe the climate hysteria which had, until recently, gripped western media sources and political, business and public opinion in a deadly grasp.

Histories of science contain an account of the ideological control of Soviet biology during the mid-20th century by plant scientist Trofim Lysenko, who by 1940 had risen to be Director of the influential Institute of Genetics of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Lysenko and his supporters rejected the "dangerous Western concepts" of Mendelian genetics and Darwinian evolution. They preferred the Lamarckian view of the inheritance of acquired characteristics; for instance, that cows could be trained to give more milk and their offspring would then inherit this trait.

Whilst this was not an unreasonable hypothesis to erect in the early 19th century, by the 1930s the idea had been tested in many ways and was known to be wrong. Requiring its application to agricultural and allied biological research in the USSR was disastrous, not least in the vicious persecution of scientists that took place, and the legacy of this sad episode still disadvantages Soviet biology today.

Lysenkoism grew from four main roots:

* a necessity to demonstrate the practical relevance of science to the needs of society;

* the amassing of evidence to show the "correctness" of the concept as a substitute for causal proof;

* noble cause corruption, whereby data are manipulated to support a cause which is seen as a higher truth; and

* ideological zeal, such that dissidents are silenced as "enemies of the truth".

The first of these roots has been strongly represented in Australian government attitudes to the funding of science as far back as the 1980s. The remaining three roots exemplify closely the techniques that are currently used by global warming alarmists in pursuit of their aims – as recently exposed for all to see by the Climategate and IPCCgate scandals.

Lysenkoism damaged mainly Soviet science and society, whereas Hansenism has now been exerting its pernicious influence worldwide for more than twenty years. The climate alarmism involved has long been undermining the precious public trust from which science draws its traditional influence and sustenance, and now Climategate has opened up new sinkholes all over the place.

Hansenist climate alarmism has also damaged the standing of many leading science journals and science organizations, which have replaced their formerly careful editorial and organizational balance with environmental alarmism and naked global warming advocacy.

Future historians of science are likely to judge the 1988-2009 frenzy of climate change alarmism as even more damaging than Lysenkoism, because of the distrust that collapse of the global warming paradigm has already inculcated about using science to inform modern policy making.

Instead of exercising the leadership that is desperately needed to correct this, and to restore public faith in science and scientists, public utterances from Australia’s senior research advisors show that they have so far lost the plot that they are no longer even in the theatre.

Thus we have Megan Clark, CEO of CSIRO, boasting on Brisbane ABC 612 radio that “there are 40 CSIRO scientists on the IPCC panel”, as if this were something to be proud of. Meanwhile, the Chairman of Universities Australia, Peter Coaldrake, describes the Climategate scandal as “this tabloid decimation of science”. Next, Margaret Sheil, CEO of the Australian Research Council, has said she is deeply concerned about the backlash generated by emails from the East Anglia Climate Research Unit [and] the criticisms of Rajendra Kuma Pachauri, head of the IPCC. Finally, Chief Scientist Penny Sackett has, so far as I can determine, remained silent since her “me too” February 9th comment in support of an anodyne statement of blessing for climate sceptics issued by the U.K.’s chief scientist, John Beddington. How much influence the views of these independent scientists have had on Dr. Beddington can be judged from reading the apocalyptic study that he has just released regarding the effects of imaginary future climate change in Britain (Land Use Futures: Making the Most of Land in the 21st Century). This study is described in a letter by Dr. Gerrit van der Lingen in today’s Christchurch Press as:
A group of 300 ivory tower scientists, economists and planners in the UK, led by the British Government’s scientific advisor, have come up with a new apocalypse scenario, still based on the belief in catastrophic man-made global warming (February 27-28). They probably felt they had to do this because Climategate and the revelations of serious errors in the IPCC report have fatally exposed the man-made-global-warming scam. Their vision lacks any scientific credibility and totally ignores human nature. Their action is nothing more than a rear-guard action.

Moreover, Copenhagen has shown that the balance of world power has shifted to the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China). Western countries, including New Zealand and Australia were totally side-lined in Copenhagen. It is now extremely unlikely that an international climate agreement will ever be reached. Thanks to the BRIC countries, we can now all heave a sigh of relief.

Breathtakingly, in the light of all this, our Australian research managers’ expressed concern remains that the revelations of Climategate and IPCCgate have caused a public re-examination of the science of global warming, with a consequent shift in public opinion. Apparently they have nary a thought for the deep scientific malaise and malfeasance that has now been exposed for the whole lay world to see – part of which is being investigated currently in a British parliamentary committee investigation.

On the heels of revelations about meteorological data tampering overseas, irregularities have also been discovered in the way that Australian temperature data have been manipulated. And, across the Tasman, NIWAgate is developing apace, as the N.Z. National Institute of Water & Atmosphere battles to provide a parliamentary accounting for its historic temperature archive, which may yet prove to include the “dog ate my homework” excuse for the apparent absence of some records. Yet no comment at all has been offered on any of this - and related matters of science ethics, procedures and policy - by Australia’s science leaders.

It is crystal clear that there is only one way to restore public confidence in climate policy and research in Australia, and that is for an independent and authoritative investigation to be carried out into the matter before an experienced judge assisted by scientifically expert counsellors.

As Senator Fielding’s four scientific advisors – all of whom are experienced and independent climate scientists – have recommended in their due diligence report (item 7) on the advice being provided to Climate Minister Wong by her department: "Parliament should defer consideration of the CPRS bill and institute a fully independent Royal Commission of enquiry into the evidence for and against a dangerous human influence on climate. We add ..... that the scientific community is now so polarised on the controversial issue of dangerous global warming that proper due diligence on the matter can only be achieved where competent scientific witnesses are cross-examined under oath and under strict rules of evidence”.


Frog die-off: Don't tell me Warmists got that one wrong too!

Not a single mention of climate change in the report from NSW below: How unusual! How surprising! A few years ago global warming was the universally acclaimed culprit

In the world of amphibians, it is the equivalent of finding the Tasmanian tiger. A species of frog presumed extinct for nearly 30 years has turned up in the Southern Tablelands. The yellow-spotted bell frog was once ubiquitous in the northern and southern tablelands of NSW, but was almost wiped out after the chytrid fungus arrived from Africa in the early 1970s.

It was found alive and well in 2008 by government researcher Luke Pearce, who was searching for a native fish, the southern pygmy perch. Instead, he spotted the bell frog, which has distinctive markings on its groin and thighs. But Mr Pearce had to wait until last October before he could return with David Hunter, the threatened species officer of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, to confirm the finding. "We heard this bell frog call," Mr Pearce said. "[We] went down looking for it and actually nearly stepped on it. It was quite amazing. This frog was just waiting there to be found."

In one stretch of stream on a farm in an unspecified part of the Southern Tablelands, an estimated 100 yellow-spotted bell frogs have been found. Six tadpoles have been taken to Taronga Zoo to establish a breeding program. "If it has a predisposition to being resistant to this fungus, as opposed to having site attributes resulting in resistance, that will afford it much greater protection when we start putting it elsewhere," Dr Hunter said.

Michael McFadden, an amphibian keeper at Taronga Zoo, said the fungus had caused the loss of seven frog species in Australia. It was thought to have wiped out two species that have been found in the past few years. In all, almost a quarter of the state's frog species have been affected by the fungus, including 15 threatened varieties such as the green and golden bell frog, the corroboree frog and the spotted tree frog. "Highland species of frogs crashed really hard," he said.

Two years ago, the armoured mist frog of northern Queensland was found after not being seen since the early 1990s. "This is the equivalent of discovering the Tasmanian tiger, in terms of amphibians, in terms of frogs," the NSW Environment Minister, Frank Sartor, said of the latest find


Sorry, but some have to suffer for their art

By Barry Cohen, who was arts minister in the Hawke government

DAVID Throsby, economics professor at Macquarie University, has brought down his latest report entitled, "Don't Give Up Your Day Job", pointing out that the lot of artists is not a very happy one, financially speaking. The report states that "census figures show artists' income fell from the median level of $30,000 in 2001 to about $26,000 in 2006 while salaries for most professional groups rose." It adds: "It has been a decade since the Australia Council released the report on the financial status of artists and found that a third lived below the poverty line. "Half earned less than $7300 for their art and only 12 per cent were working full-time."

Well there's a surprise! Most artists can't make a living out of their chosen art. Who would believe it? My mind returned to my early days as federal arts minister when I appeared on a public platform with the federal secretary of Actors Equity. He concluded his address fulminating that "of the 4000 members of my union only 400 are working". The players collective loved it but then didn't hear his sotto voce comments as he sat down. "And that's all that deserve to be working."

Periodically, we hear the nonsense parrotted by the arts community claiming that artists of Australia are treated much the same as chimney-sweeps were in Dickens' day. Comparisons are often made with salaries earned by the average worker up to and including the head honchos of our top companies. Those who struggle along on $8 million a year.

Throsby and the Australia Council are absolutely right about the low earnings for the great majority of artists but it has always been thus and will remain so. And the reason? Most occupations, be they clerks, sales assistants, miners, shearers, boilermakers, doctors, dentists or school teachers, have a limited number of positions available which, once filled, guarantees that those seeking employment in that area will look further afield. It's called the free market and it works. There aren't thousands of aspiring boilermakers lining up for jobs that don't exist. They find work that puts a roof over their heads, food on the table and financial security.

Artists, and I use the word loosely, are an entirely different kettle of fish. We must remember that there are millions of them in Australia out of a population of 22 million. Precisely how many I have no idea, but picture for a moment all those you know who fancy themselves as artists: painters, sculptors, singers, musicians, dancers, actors, composers and the millions of handicraft artists that indulge in embroidery, tatting, quilting and the like.

My First Lady, the beauteous Rae, is a dab hand at any craft she puts her mind to. Her days are full making magnificent quilts. Recently, together with a local quilting group she delivered 73 quilts to fire victims in Victoria. Does she earn anything from her art? Not a cent. Does she expect to? No and nor do her fellow quilters. They do it because they love doing it. It is an art but it is also their hobby.

I've been a little luckier over the past 20 years as a columnist with eight books, seven of which made the best-seller list. It's been a nice little earner, but thank God it wasn't my only source of income. Like Rae, I write because I love writing. Would I continue if there was no longer a market? Almost certainly, because of the pleasure it brings and not because of the financial reward.

A few artists are extremely well paid, earning in the millions, while a substantial number make a good living. However, in the arts, unlike most other trades and professions, there are 10 times more practitioners than there are opportunities for fame and fortune.

And who decides who is an artist? More importantly, who decides who is a good artist? In an occupation where there is no shortage of egos it's easy to declare oneself to be an artist and expect the world, or the government, to provide you with a living. It's nonsense and the sooner the arts community stops whining about how their talents are not being rewarded the better. The arts community should be honest with aspiring artists and warn them that their worth will be determined by the market, by who buys their records, books, paintings or pays to see them perform.

Some expect governments to provide. And they do. The federal government picks up the tab for a vast number of artistic activities. Indeed the spending on everything from the National Gallery through to the Film and Television School comes to $696 million. And then there's the ABC, SBS and extensive state and local government programs. Governments are continually expanding their arts programs, creating opportunities for artists while stimulating tourism and ensuring the arts are more widely enjoyed.

We are indebted to David Throsby for his latest report on the plight of our artists. It's the 11th in a similar vein over the past 30 years. What is needed is some solutions. Let's hope we don't go the way as some European countries where those who are declared to be artists are guaranteed a salary for life. Denmark is one such country and so is Holland. Such a system guarantees there are any number of artists beavering away filling up warehouses with paintings no one will ever see.

There is a vital role for governments to play in developing talented artists, but please spare us from the nonsense that everyone who declares themselves an artist should be guaranteed an income.


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