Sunday, April 18, 2010

Australian-born families to be a minority by 2025

Australia today is a wonderfully cohesive yet permissive society. To throw away such a rare combination would be a tragedy

THE Australian-born family will be a minority social group in 15 years, according to new research by demographic consultants Macroplan Australia. Soaring immigration and an ageing population mean that migrant families will outnumber Australian-born residents by 2025.

According to 2006 census data, 40 per cent of Australia's population were born overseas, or have at least one parent who was born overseas. But if immigration continues at current levels, that will jump to more than 50 per cent by 2025.

The news comes days after Tony Burke's appointment as Australia's first population minister, tasked with managing the huge influx of migrants expected to help swell the population to 36 million by 2050, up from 22 million today.

A survey of 3000 people has revealed 70 per cent of Australians do not want a bigger population and less than a quarter favoured immigration as the main contributor.

However, experts say the migrant majority will be a healthy development for Australian culture and attitudes. "It is all adding to the cosmopolitan nature of modern Australia," said Bernard Salt, a demographic expert at KPMG. "It means our views become less blinkered and we become more tolerant, confident, engaged, opportunistic and optimistic because we are open to new ideas and not obsessed with keeping things the same."

Brian Haratsis, chief executive of Macroplan, said Australia's current population tends to "stare at our shoes and say we're the best in the world" instead of embracing new ideas.


Australian Red Cross to review its policy on banning homosexual men from donating blood

There are good medical reasons to avoid blood transfusions. This would add another one

THE Australian Red Cross is reviewing its long-standing policy banning homosexual men from donating blood.

Gay rights lobby groups have backed the review, due to begin within 12 months, which could see homosexual men able to donate blood for the first time since 1985.

Currently, men who have had homosexual sex within a 12-month period are banned from donating blood.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service spokesman Nicholas McGowan said the policy was in place because even though all samples are tested for HIV and other blood-borne diseases, they were not "foolproof". "The issue with HIV-AIDS is there's still a window that even the most sensitive tests can't detect," Mr McGowan said.

Mr McGowan said the Red Cross would consider new research and technology as part of the review but warned against expectations it would definitely result in a relaxing of the policy. "I don't think that should stop us from taking this opportunity to talk it all through." he said.


A poor school report might punish Labor

THE last time the Auditor-General released a report during a federal election campaign the results were explosive. With one week to go in the 2007 campaign the independent investigator found the Coalition government had used a controversial grants program to funnel millions of dollars into projects in marginal seats, against departmental advice.

This year it is the Labor government's turn to wonder when the Auditor-General will drop a potentially damaging report into its Building the Education Revolution. The $16.2 billion program was announced as part of the government's efforts to keep Australia from falling over a cliff into recession.

As well as helping to upgrade school facilities the project was designed to quickly inject cash into the building sector, with the idea of keeping jobs going at a time when the government was expecting unemployment to eclipse 8 per cent.

For the past six months reports of overspending on projects have been filtering out, as have principals' and parents' complaints about their lack of input into the projects.

The temptation is to see parallels between the building program and that other federal economic stimulus program – the home insulation program. But the home insulation program was actually administered by the federal government. The state bureaucracies are the ones managing the education building funds and projects.

The federal opposition is making the most of the link, saying the school program is yet another example of the government's inability to manage programs and taxpayers' money.

Once it realised the extent of the problems of the insulation program – both practical and political – the federal government axed it. Ministers are no longer visiting homeowners talking about the benefits of ceiling insulation. But not so the schools building program.

Julia Gillard visited at least one school construction site every day last week, hard hat and reflective safety vest on.

Gillard is not backing away from the program and continues to point out the benefits of spending money to improve educational facilities. She is also taking every opportunity to ask the opposition if it would guarantee the program's future.

Tony Abbott has indicated the opposition would axe it, although this is at odds with what his education spokesman Christopher Pyne has reportedly been telling school principals. Nevertheless the opposition is not letting this get in the way of its attacks on the program.

Last week Gillard commissioned her own investigation into the billions of dollars of spending. This is in addition to the Auditor-General's report, which was originally expected last week but has been delayed. There are now nine official state and federal examinations of the scheme.

Although it is likely the reports will conclude that only a relatively small number of the 24,000 projects were problematic, the opposition will still pounce on any evidence that the government is a poor economic manager.

That is why it is in the government's interest for all the reports to come out as soon as possible. The sooner they are released the further away from the election they are.


Failed bureaucrats remain fat cats in NSW

GETTING sacked by the NSW government almost sounds like fun. Where else but in the first state can you enjoy rock-solid job security – and full pay – even after being shafted for an act of incompetence?

As ridiculous as it sounds, this is life in NSW after 15 years of Labor where a symbiotic relationship has evolved between inept ministers and highly paid public servants who know that being fired is often just a new beginning.

The system of mutual backside covering works like this: a scandal breaks, the government tries to bat it away, the pressure rises, a minister comes under fire, a bureaucrat is "stood down" before being quietly redeployed or paid off.

The latest NSW mandarin to take a stage-managed fall is Michael Bushby, the chief executive of the RTA who was sidelined last week after the F3 debacle.

For some of the many thousands of motorists who lost half a day in the mother-of-all traffic jams, it may have been heartening news to hear on Wednesday that someone had been held accountable and that action was being taken. That's certainly how the Keneally government hoped Bushby's execution would play with the public.

Shafting Bushby succeeded in taking some of the mounting pressure off Transport and Roads Minister David Campbell.

And as the government more than likely stumbles head-on into a totally different debacle in the weeks ahead the name Bushby will – happily for Campbell – fade away.

But what actually happens to the sacrificial lambs like Bushby? To answer that, it is worth rewinding to the Paul Forward sacking in 2005. Forward was a widely respected chief executive of the RTA who had taken part in the planning and delivery of Sydney's network of toll roads and tunnels. His misfortune was to be heading up the roads agency when sentiment turned against the newly opened Cross City Tunnel.

Even though the public's fury was aimed squarely at the politicians who had signed away public roads to the interests of a private company, it was Forward who was thrown to the wolves.

At the time, the Cross City Tunnel scandal had the potential to stop in its tracks the career of a relatively new roads minister, Joe Tripodi. But as the F3 debacle showed again last week, NSW Labor is not fond of letting its own heads roll.

Forward was stood down on his full salary of $342,000 and spent two months on the so-called "unattached list", a kind of safety net for NSW bureaucrats without a department to run or a division to manage. The bureaucrat was then handed an undisclosed pay-out. Established in private consultancy, Forward went on to advise the government on a range of roads matters.

There are now 615 people on the unattached list, costing taxpayers $45 million a year. Some bureaucrats have been on the list more than five years. Those who have spent time being paid to wait include Sue Sinclair, the former Sydney Ferries boss who was parked on $265,000 a year. Another mandarin to enjoy the jobs roundabout is Forward's successor Les Wielinga, a key figure in the implementation of the Cross City Tunnel who went on to the top job at the RTA.

Wielinga, who has never been sacked, then rose to the top job at the integrated Transport and Infrastructure Department where he headed the doomed Sydney Metro project.

So prospects look pretty good for Bushby, who is at home on $360,000 a year while former police commissioner Ken Moroney investigates the F3 debacle.

Having taken the hit it is unlikely that Bushby will be reappointed head of the RTA. But it is just as unlikely that Moroney will find that Bushby was so grossly incompetent as to justify his sacking. This will open the door to the unattached list, a probable role back in the bureaucracy or, as was the case with Forward, a handsome pay-out.

Like I said, getting sacked by the NSW government almost sounds like fun.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Given the behaviour of a lot of guys I know (or knew) the rule on blood donation and Gay men makes absolute sense, and was brought in for incredibly good resons. A lot of Queens these days seem to think HIV is now just an inconveniance, like diabetes, and they sometimes get told that by well-meaning but misguided doctors. Why you'd happily exchange a case of "diabetes" just to get your end in mystifies me, but they will do that. The cost to the public purse of providing the costly and dodgy medicines they find themselves needing doesn't seem to concern a lot of them. I guess one saving grace is that they tend to be, or have been taxpayers.