Saturday, April 10, 2010

Too good to be true?

By Robert Carling

That Australia’s economy performed better than many others during the recent global financial crisis is beyond doubt, but a stronger claim is often made in public commentary – that Australia avoided a recession. If such a miraculous escape from the realities of globalisation seems too good to be true, perhaps that’s because it isn’t true.

The claim that we had no recession rests on the definition of recession as two or more consecutive quarters’ decline in real gross domestic product (GDP). This definition is too rigid and arbitrary and its genesis does not justify the weight now given to it. It dates back to a 1974 New York Times article in which an economic statistician suggested ‘two down quarters of GDP’ as one among several rules of thumb for identifying a recession.

Identifying turning points in the business cycle is a task that requires a balanced assessment of a range of economic indicators. Real GDP is subject to significant measurement error and moves unevenly from quarter to quarter rather than smoothly up or down. Even then, real GDP per capita is more meaningful in the context of Australia’s brisk population growth.

Australia did not have two consecutive quarterly declines in real GDP, but on a broader and more balanced assessment we did have a recession, albeit a brief and shallow one. Employment declined for six months; total hours worked fell for 12 months by a total of 2.4%; the unemployment rate rose by 1.6 percentage points in less than a year; and business investment and home building activity contracted sharply.

This argument is not merely an academic quibble after the event. Even though the quantitative margin between having a recession and not having one was small, the qualitative difference between those outcomes is immense. If the assertion that Australia avoided a recession goes unchallenged and becomes woven into the annals of economic management, aggressive fiscal stimulus will be viewed in a more favourable light than it deserves, and is more likely to be repeated in future downturns.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated April 9. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Another triumph of airline security

SECURITY at one of the major regional airports in the Australian state of NSW is under scrutiny after a secure entrance was found to have a secret PIN code posted clearly on a gate.

Federal Government officials will next week review security at Dubbo airport in the state's Central West after it was alerted to the blatant breach of security.

A photograph of the secure entrance showed the code written on a piece of paper taped to the gate. The note, headlined "Gate Access Code," revealed the code and advised people to "please touch pad softly" and "remember code to re-enter."

A Daily Telegraph reader spotted the code posted on the back of the general aviation entrance gate at the airport. The reader said anyone with a mirror or a camera phone could get the PIN.

A spokesman for Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said the posting of access codes on the gate was "not acceptable." "We expect the urgent implementation of better arrangements," he said.

Dubbo City Council corporate development director Megan Dixon said the access code was changed on Tuesday after the airport was made aware of the potential for a security breach.

She said the PIN code was signposted on the gate to allow "itinerant airport workers who have security clearance to use this gate." "We had a security audit last year, which we passed." [Now that's a REAL worry!]


Health bureuacrats party while health workers go unpaid

Just the sort of contempt for the public and irresponsibility that one expects from government health bureaucrats. At least this didn't kill anyone, unlike some abuses by British government health bureaucrats.

And it's yet another example of custom-made computer progams failing. When will they ever learn and stick with tried and tested programs that they can buy off the shelf?

The introduction of Queensland Health's payroll system was celebrated with a roof-top party while thousands of staff went without their fortnightly pay. Senior executives and bureaucrats involved in the $40 million project were treated to beers, cheese platters and a barbecue just days after the troubled payroll system went live.

The Tuesday afternoon shindig was held on March 30 on the roof of the Department of Public Works in George St, with guests enticed by an invitation featuring a cheesy play on the poem Click Go The Shears. It went ahead despite warnings "it would be inappropriate" given at least 3800 hospital workers had not been paid or had been short-changed by the payroll system.

Some staff had just one cent transferred into their accounts. Others had data about rostered days off and overtime completely wiped from the new system.

The Courier-Mail print edition revealed this week how staff at the state's biggest hospital who may have missed out on pay were offered phone numbers for charities.

The host of the party was Corp Tech, the government's technology arm responsible for installing and seeing the system go live on Sunday, March 14. "It's outrageous," said one technology expert who worked on the project. "The first payroll errors became apparent a week after the system went live. And here they are having a barbecue a week after that."

The new rostering and payroll system within Queensland Health was to be the flagship for the combined SAP and Workbrain systems.

It was expected similar systems would be rolled out across government over coming years. Instead, the flawed $40 million project – estimated by some sources within the Queensland Health Implementation of Continuity project, as it was officially called, at more than $100 million – has had a devastating impact on many of the 80,000 Queensland Health staff it was designed to service.

Five days after the system went live, Mick Reid, director-general of Queensland Health, told staff they could be "proud of what we have achieved". In the message to all QHIC staff leaked to The Courier-Mail and dated March 19, Mr Reid said he wanted to thank his colleagues for "your tireless effort in achieving the payroll system go live".

Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek said yesterday news of a "celebration" of the so-called "successful" roll out of the payroll project would only further anger nurses and health workers who hadn't been paid properly. "Thousands of health workers across Queensland simply haven't got money in the bank to pay their bills," he said. "Health workers are sick and tired of the spin and excuses – they just want to get paid."

One Queensland Health staffer declined to attend the party, saying it was "inappropriate to have a function when there are so many people still suffering the after-effects".

Executive director of Services for Corp Tech Phil Hood yesterday said he was unable to comment.


Slap on the wrist for brutal and unprovoked bashings by men who should have known better

One of the offenders got a short jail term but what about the other guy? No jail at all?? Both sentences should be appealed. The kid was attacked while doing a good deed -- trying to break up a fight between Mitchell and Bogtstra

An off-duty bouncer who choked a promising young footballer unconscious during a brawl at a Melbourne fast-food restaurant has been jailed, while his co-accused has walked free.

Nathan Karazisis, 24, of Burwood East at the time, assaulted Luke Adams at Hungry Jacks in Prahran last July, leaving him with a fractured skull.

The Victorian County Court heard Karazisis and co-accused Mark Bogtstra, of Camberwell, had been out drinking after their shifts as bouncers before the 6.30am assault on Mr Adams and another man. During the attack, Karazisis grabbed Mr Adams from behind and placed an arm around his neck so he could not move. Karazisis then forcefully and repeatedly punched him in the head and face at least six times until he choked him unconscious.

Mr Adams fell heavily to the floor, striking his head, before Karazisis joined Bogtstra in bashing a second man, James Mitchell.

'It was shameful, criminal conduct,' Judge Ross Howie told Karazisis as he jailed him for two years and four months. Judge Howie said Karazisis, who was trained in martial arts, appeared on security footage to be calm and in control during his attack on Mr Adams. 'I'm satisfied you held him as you did and for as long as you did in order to choke him unconscious,' he said.

Mr Adams suffered bleeding in his skull, multiple facial bone fractures, a scar to his head and black eyes. The promising young footballer, who was in the Victorian Under 19s state team, was unable to play for the rest of the year.

Mr Mitchell, who was punched, kicked and stomped on as he lay on the ground, escaped serious injury.

Karazisis pleaded guilty to recklessly causing serious injury, affray and intentionally causing injury. He must serve a minimum 12 months' jail.

Bogtstra, 22, was sentenced to a nine-month intensive corrections order after pleading guilty to affray and intentionally causing injury.

Judge Howie said there was no justification for the attack. 'Like Mr Karazisis, you were a qualified security officer and should have known better,' he said. The pair have had their security licence cancelled.

Outside court, Mr Adams' father doubted the sentences would deter others.

A third man, Konstantinos Kontoklotsis, of Brunswick, will be sentenced at a date to be fixed for his role in the assault.


Why Victoria's feminist police chief fled her post

Political correctness is a magic shield for its practitioners -- but utterly useless. She once took part in a "gay pride" march, but being of any use during a major emergency was beyond her. Comment below by Andrew Bolt

Christine Nixon was hired as our police chief not because she was a great leader. She was hired first of all because of her politics - and with the added advantage of her gender - and on Black Saturday it showed. Showed disastrously. As she was hired, so she failed, in an emblematic indictment of these Days of Seeming, not Doing.

To be brutally honest, she seems to have panicked. When this burning state needed saving through action, not group hugs, she realised she was useless. Unneeded. And so she fled, first to her office, where she hid for 90 minutes doing unrelated paperwork, and then, minutes after being warned many people would die, to a restaurant. “I had to eat!” she’s protested.

So as Kinglake burned, she went to dinner. And by the time she pushed away her plate, Marysville was in ashes, too, and most of Black Saturday’s 173 victims were dead.

A telling detail: in this hour or more she spent dining with friends, Nixon’s phone rang precisely once. I suspect that after years of her leadership, her colleagues had come not to rely on her in a crisis.

You may have already heard some of the excuses made for Nixon, mostly by Age and ABC Leftists who see in her disgrace a blow to their wider agenda.

Her astonishing - and admitted - failure to do her duty at the time her citizens needed her most is waved aside as good delegating, or a cool que sera, sera fatalism about the fires, or a prudent decision to let busy men get on with it. Besides, it’s not as if people died for her diet, right?

That such excuses can be made shows not just that people tend to defend sides rather than principles, or images above reality.

It’s frightening to have to explain why a police chief should be at her post, rather than in a restaurant, when people are dying by the score and her officers are trying to save the rest.

But those inclined to excuse Nixon should know she was not just chief commissioner of police on that day. She was also charged under the Emergency Management Act with helping the Police Minister co-ordinate the response of all emergency services to the disaster.

Yet she did not do that job, or seem to even feel any instinctive need to do something, anything, to help in that hour for which all her experience, and all the greatest police traditions, had presumably prepared her.

It’s not just that she went to dinner. Read on its website the bushfire royal commission’s brutal expose of Nixon’s serial failures.

She admitted under cross-examination that she did not attend the State Emergency Response Co-ordination Centre until noon on Black Saturday, despite knowing the fires were already out of control on a day the Government warned would be “as bad a day as you can imagine”.

Not once did she check if police had fulfilled their formal responsibility to issue warnings to towns in the path of the fires.

From 1.30pm to 3pm, she actually left the SERCC and retired to her office to clean up paperwork, neither seeking nor receiving in those 90 minutes a single briefing or call on the fires. Nor did she call any police in the fire zones to check their wellbeing, ask for news or offer help.

She did not call the Premier once, even to discuss - as is her job - declaring a state of emergency.

She did not call in her Deputy Commissioner in charge of disasters, Kieran Walshe, and he himself - perhaps following his boss’s example - did not turn up at work until nightfall, and only to give a press conference.

She failed to check that every regional commander in the fire-prone areas was at their post, and to this day does not know if they were.

It was as if she were a mere spectator. Not once did she seem to actually do anything to help. And it got worse.

On returning to the emergency headquarters at 3.30pm, Nixon did not ask for another briefing on the fires, even though she says she heard the staff say: “This is looking terrible; there are many more fires.”

“I should have, but I didn’t,” she told the commission, explaining that everyone seemed “very busy” and “carrying out their responsibilities”. They acted. She watched. And was treated as a mere watcher, too.

Her senior officials didn’t bother to tell her that nursing homes and hospitals were being evacuated in Neerim South and near Bunyip. She also didn’t check how police planned to protect fans at a country music festival at threatened Whittlesea. Nor did she ask for or read the police log in the room that noted what her officers were battling to do.

“It sounds rather passive, Ms Nixon,” the startled counsel assisting the bushfire commission exclaimed.

At 5pm, the fire service chiefs did at last brief the paralysed Nixon, warning her the fires seemed about to burn Strathewen, and there was a “real potential for people to lose their lives”. Worse, a change of wind later that evening threatened Kinglake and other towns and “we were facing a disaster”.

The Police Minister had been called in to help co-ordinate the effort. It was now about 5.30pm. And what did Nixon decide to do at this moment of crisis, with lives to save? She asked an Assistant Commissioner, Steve Fontana, to brief the Police Minister in her place while she went out to dinner.

She deserted her post. And didn’t return that night, not even after hearing whole towns had been destroyed.

Nixon has tried to mislead the royal commission, in my opinion, about how profoundly she betrayed her duty. She did not tell it she’d actually gone to a restaurant, and implied instead she’d stayed at home, keeping in touch.

She denied she’d had another appointment that night, saying only she’d “had a meal” and “was obviously listening to the radio ... and watching television”. Asked if she’d had email and web access, she said: “Yes.”

But presumably not while you were at the restaurant, Christine. You weren’t properly monitoring anything then but the menu.

I cannot think of a worse failure of duty by an Australian police commissioner than this. She did leave that job just days after the fire, but why hasn’t the Premier dumped her as head of the Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority, saying such a failure of leadership could not go unsanctioned?

But that’s Nixon’s luck. She’s long been protected in this town, thanks to her socialising, her politics, her gender, her charm and her cultivating of influential friends. Her seeming has saved her, when her performance should have sunk her. And from the very start.

She was hired from the NSW force not because she’d succeeded, but because she seemed fresh, honest - and an agent of fashionable feminist change. She came vowing not to Uphold the Right, as is the police motto, but to “keep the peace”, she said. To negotiate, to be “non-deferential, anti-authoritarian and collegiate”.

This is the sweet seeming she promised. The reality, though, is that we got a feminised and demoralised force that too often surrenders the streets to mobs. One that excused away the rise in violent crime; failed to stop a gangland war until 27 people were killed; lowered physical tests to shoehorn in more and weaker women; and let the force dress like Sloppy Joe, undeserving of respect.

And in Nixon we got a chief commissioner who didn’t just blow $40 million on a dud IT system or lead a team riven by hatreds, but one who cuddled her Labor masters, hid the truth on ethnic crime, and wrongly claimed her freebie flight to the US was given by Qantas to her husband.

So she proved useless on the night she was needed most? When the times called for action? We reap what we sow.



Paul said...

She was in a Gay Pride march? Hope she wore some clothes.

Yeah, lots of clothes.

Horrified woman said...

What a terrible indictment on a Chief Commissioner of Police. She makes me ashamed to be a woman. Her fellow police officers must abhore her, that is, the ones who are not tainted by left wing politicis. She has let down all her fellow Police officers, and more particularly the many female police officers who make an admirable contribution to the execution of a particularly and now politicised job of protecting the community. Apparently in her mind 173 dead Australian bush fire victims were not a priority. She is another leftist "jobs for the Komrades" failure!