Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Conservatives lead in latest poll

THE Federal Opposition has been warned not to get too excited about the latest Newspoll which puts it ahead of Labor for the first time since 2006.

Kevin Rudd's personal satisfaction rating has dropped the most in the shortest time in the 20-year history of Newspoll surveys, and for the first time since the election Labor no longer has a clear lead over either the Coalition or the Greens on the issue of climate change, The Australian reported.

Mr Rudd's previous standing as being seen to be "decisive and strong" also fell significantly and Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is considered almost equal with the Prime Minister in his grasp of major policy issues.

After weeks of dramatic policy reversals and broken promises, culminating last week in Mr Rudd's decision to put off his Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme until at least 2013, the Government's primary vote has plunged eight percentage points to just 35 per cent. The Coalition's primary support has risen three points to 43 per cent.

According to the latest Newspoll, taken last weekend exclusively for The Australian and polling almost 1200 voters, the extraordinary shifts in the primary vote mean the two-party-preferred support for Labor has dropped to 49 per cent while the Coalition's has risen from 46 to 51 per cent.

The Prime Minister's personal satisfaction rating, down 11 points from 50 per cent two weeks ago to 39 per cent last weekend, is the lowest he has had as Labor leader, and it is the first time he has had a negative satisfaction rating, after dissatisfaction with him jumped nine points to 50 per cent.

Labor's primary vote, at 35 per cent, is at its lowest since March 2006 when Labor was in Opposition.

"Labor's taken a hit," Newspoll boss Martin O'Shannessy said today. But Mr O'Shannessy said the big turnaround should be treated with caution, saying it fell in the "rogue poll" range. "We think these numbers are probably telling us there is a protest vote ... probably against the shelving of the ETS," he said.

When asked what advice he would be giving Mr Abbott about the poll, Mr O'Shannessy told Sky News: "Don't get too excited, we haven't seen all of those (Labor) votes coming across to the Coalition." Instead, the Greens and independents were picking up much of the dissatisfaction with the Government. "That's a pretty classic sign of a protest vote," Mr O'Shannessy said.

The last time the Coalition was in front on the two-party-preferred basis, according to preference flows at the last election, was in August 2006 when Kim Beazley was opposition leader and John Howard was prime minister.

Although Labor's vote dropped heavily after the Government announced it would cancel the proposed new home roofing insulation scheme and spend $1 billion fixing up the old failed scheme, drop its CPRS this year and lift the tax on a packet of cigarettes by $2.16, the Coalition's vote did not lift to the same degree.

Satisfaction with the way Mr Abbott is doing his job as Opposition Leader dropped a little, from 46 to 45 per cent, and dissatisfaction rose back to where it was a month ago, to 43 per cent. Because of Mr Rudd's fall in favour, Mr Abbott is now the best placed Opposition Leader on the question of better prime minister.

Treasurer Wayne Swan said tough decisions taken by the Government over the past fortnight were the reason it had taken a hit in the polls. "We've taken some tough decisions in recent weeks, particularly the decision to increase the excise on cigarettes or tobacco," Mr Swan said. "That's what governments have to do. Governments have to govern in the national interest."

Opposition frontbencher George Brandis said the shift was "very striking", and that here had been a "sharp collapse" in public respect for Mr Rudd. "We've been saying all along, sooner or later, the public were bound to wake up to this bloke," he told Sky News. "He is a shallow opportunist."


NSW Police told to grow up

It's OK to call a cop a pr**k, rules magistrate

IT'S the five-letter word that police should from now on shrug-off. Why? Because a local court magistrate in Sydney ruled yesterday that the word "prick" was part of the every-day vernacular as he cleared a university student of an offensive language charge.

Waverley Local Court magistrate Robbie Williams made his comments during a hearing for science student Henry Grech, 22, who was charged following a heated argument with Senior Constable Adam Royds at Bondi Junction train station last year.

Mr Williams said he wasn't satisfied that a "reasonable person" would be offended by the word prick in general conversation. "I consider the word prick is of a less derogatory nature than other words and it is in common usage in this country," he said.

"A police officer on a number of occurrences would hear words like this used on a much worse scale. Police officers would be used to this type of language."

Mr Williams said the spectrum of acceptable offensive vocabulary in society was a "moving feast". "The words also take on different meaning. It is clear that there are some words which could be considered to be on the offensive list," he said. "As to whether the word prick falls into that category must be taken in the context of which it was used."

NSW Police Association secretary Peter Remfrey said the legal system should not be making police "second-class citizens". "We don't think it is satisfactory for the courts to sanction this sort of language against police officers," he said.

"Police shouldn't be punching bags for society, nor should they be open to this sort of abuse. One only has to contemplate the response of a magistrate if somebody called them a prick in their court. The magistrates should adopt the same approach to all people in the criminal justice system."

Senior Constable Royds stopped Mr Grech on the station's concourse area on November 5 last year after Mr Grech allegedly jumped a barrier. The pair had an aggressive exchange of words before Mr Grech told the officer that he would "see him in court" if he continued to harass him. Mr Grech then called Senior Constable Royds "a prick".

Mr Grech, who is student at the University of NSW, said he was surprised the matter had been taken to court. "When I used the word I didn't think it was offensive and didn't think it would end up in court," Mr Grech said. "I'm happy I got off."

Mr Grech's lawyer Nick Hanna used previous cases dating back to 1951 to compare other cases where magistrates and judges had dismissed offensive language charges.

He referenced decisions from court cases in NSW, Western Australia and South Australia where magistrates ruled that words including "s***" and "f***" had not been used in "an offensive manner and without sexual overtones".

Police prosecutors are unlikely to appeal against Mr Williams' decision.


The toxic NSW Ambulance service again

Bullying and mistreatment of staff by ambulance bosses seems to be endemic and ineradicable. Inquiry after inquiry has not budged it

Paramedic Al Qvist had been in the job for about five years when he plunged into deep depression. He had already endured a toxic combination of attending shocking accident scenes, being bullied and harassed by colleagues, and facing an unsympathetic, even hostile, management.

But the tipping point was in 1995 when he attended the scene of an AIDS patient who had jumped in front of a train in the Kings Cross tunnel. The man's body was severed below his pelvis and he appeared to be dead. When Mr Qvist shone his torch onto the emaciated body, the man's eyes rolled towards him and he said: "I want to die." Mr Qvist was covered in blood and was worried he had contracted HIV.

"The Ambulance didn't show any type of consideration or empathy at all," his wife, Kathy Qvist, said. "He didn't get debriefed and they were just expected to get back on and do their job."

In the following weeks he was badly assaulted by two patients. Mr Qvist asked for counselling but was instead sent to be psychiatrically assessed for his job suitability. He has never again asked for counselling despite three suicide attempts.

"He was a mess and for a while after that he went down into black places, basically, very dark places," Mrs Qvist said. "Al felt very isolated and very helpless."

She got rid of his rifle after he sat in the back room of the house with the barrel in his mouth.

Mr Qvist has not been interviewed for this story as staff are not permitted to speak to the media.

By 1999, he felt he desperately needed time off, but was refused, Mrs Qvist said. He overdosed on prescription drugs while home alone with his daughters, then aged seven and eight.

Mrs Qvist said his workers' compensation claim was rejected. "They said it's not our fault," she said. "I find it unbelievable. The Ambulance Service is an important part of the health system yet it just doesn't understand mental health."

The Ambulance Service did not respond to the Herald's questions about Mr Qvist's treatment, but said it takes the mental health of its staff very seriously. Mr Qvist has worked across the Hunter, most recently at Hamilton, Stroud and the Central West, and had a seven-year stint in Sydney, during which he had to commute from his home in Newcastle.

Again, in 2007, he was traumatised by the job when he almost drowned saving an elderly woman in the Newcastle floods. He still has nightmares and such a deep fear of water he carries an inflatable life jacket on wet days. He has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

In 2008, around the anniversary of the floods, he again tried to commit suicide. He had time off work and was recovering, but last year had a breakdown and was admitted to a psychiatric unit after a station manager allegedly abused him and physically threatened him.

The Ambulance Service, seven months later, is still investigating.

Mr Qvist is on a high dose of anti-depressant medication and works at a station 200 kilometres from home. He is due to receive a bravery award this month for the flood rescue.


Taxing the Heart out of Australia

The Carbon Sense Coalition today claimed that the Rudd Resource tax was just another in a long line of taxes helping to depopulate rural Australia.

The Chairman of “Carbon Sense”, Mr Viv Forbes, said that depopulation of the outback started with the fringe benefits tax and the removal of accelerated depreciation, both of which penalise companies who provide housing for employees.

“Every government since then has accelerated the drift to the coastal and capital cities.

“The heavy burdens of excessive fuel taxes, coal royalties, rail freights and infrastructure bottlenecks have for years restricted the development of the outback resource industry. Only deposits that are rich or close to the coast can pay their way, which is why the Galilee Basin has been undeveloped for so long.

“The vegetation control bans, water mismanagement and growth of carbon credit forests are depressing agriculture and will depopulate rural towns.

“Humans and their industries are also prohibited from vast areas of our land and sea sterilised by a confusing mixture of exclusion zones. And the lack and high cost of outback infrastructure has fed the fly-in mentality of industry and governments.

“Had the money wasted just on roof insulation been spent on new infrastructure, Australia would be a more decentralised and productive place.

“The climate alarmists urge still more carbon taxes and force the usage of expensive alternative energy. All outback industry relies almost totally on carbon fuels for motive power. None of our quad bikes, cars, trucks, road trains, tractors, dozers, trains, planes or ships are powered by solar panels or wind turbines – they need diesel, petrol, gas and electricity (from coal). And our biggest outback industries are focussed on exploring, developing, supplying or transporting carbon products. Coal, gas, oil, beef, sheep, dairy and timber are all threatened by more carbon taxes.

“The Rudd Resource tax is yet another centralising force, depressing outback industry and stimulating the population of drones around the government honey pots in Canberra. It increases the risk that the belated rush to build infrastructure will leave new trains without freight and new ports without ships.

“Taxes are creating ‘A Nation without a Heart’.”


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