Tuesday, May 11, 2010
The hollow man revealed
KEVIN Rudd will stake his political future today on the gamble that he can convince voters that Labor is better at managing the economy than the Opposition.
Labor's final Budget before this year's Federal Election will need to halt the fall in the Prime Minister's personal approval, with Mr Rudd suffering his third damaging opinion poll in on ten days yesterday and senior Labor figures warning him that his leadership hinges on no more backflips.
In the poll released by the union-aligned Essential Research, Federal Labor's primary vote fell 11 points in six months to just 37 per cent and it was now only marginally more popular than the NSW Government.
On those figures, the Government could lose 20 seats, and up to six in NSW, including the Central Coast and key western Sydney marginals.
In a sign that the Prime Minister is now Labor's greatest liability, 39 per cent of voters said they could still trust Mr Rudd, a fall of more than 10 per cent in six months.
The ER poll echoes voter sentiment in last week's Newspoll and yesterday's Nielsen poll, but is potentially more damaging for the Government as ER polls are normally regarded as being favourable to Labor.
Management of the economy was the greatest single factor that would influence the way they voted, followed by health.
In just three months Labor has squandered its commanding poll lead and is now behind where it was going into the last Federal Election against John Howard. The collapse in the Government's fortunes was reflected in the primary vote, which dropped from 48 per cent six months ago to just 37 per cent yesterday.
Mr Rudd's own personal ratings also buckled, with a 10 per cent increase in the number of people who think he is superficial and a 11 per cent drop on those who think him a capable leader.
One Labor backbencher said: "It's just astounding to think about where we were, and where we are now, and how we got here." On a two party preferred basis, the Coalition and Labor are now at 50/50, making it impossible to pick a winner if there was a vote today.
Senior Labor Party figures have made it clear that Mr Rudd's leadership will not survive any further policy backflips or bungling.
The Prime Minister has told colleagues that he accepts responsibility for broken promises and backflips, including the decision to shelve a plan for a carbon emissions trading scheme and the home insulation scheme....
With heir apparent Julia Gillard yesterday twice forced to rule out a pre-election leadership challenge, the sources said Mr Rudd had to lift his game to reconnect with voters. "The only good thing about the polls is that while we have lost support, it's not going to Tony Abbott," one source said. "We can win it back. But it will take work."
Surveyor rejects 'insane' school building costs
THE nation's most respected construction costs surveyor will exclude the "insane" cost of school buildings delivered under the $16.2 billion schools stimulus program from its cost calculations because they would distort its data.
The principal of Rawlinsons in Australia, Paul McEvoy, said the group, which publishes the renowned industry costing guide Rawlinsons Construction Handbook, would discard the high cost of buildings delivered under the scheme as "anomalous".
As revealed by The Weekend Australian, state governments are charging public schools as much as $5800 a square metre for basic school halls being erected across the nation -- more than three times the amount Rawlinsons reports those buildings should cost.
"We produce this handbook each year and we have people undertaking cost research all year round to ensure its accuracy," Mr McEvoy said. "We discard anomalous projects where it looks like something is erroneous. We would never say it is going to cost $5000 (per sq m) to build a school hall. "We have so many examples of projects where buildings are consistent with our cost estimates; we would simply not use this (scheme) information."
Mr McEvoy said level-one or two primary school buildings typically cost between $1300 per sq m and $1400 per sq m to build, plus "professional services" fees of no more than 12 per cent.
Those costings allowed for contingencies for cost overruns and the full cost of preliminaries, substructure, superstructure, finishes, fittings, and services such as plumbing, electrical, fire and mechanical.
Mr McEvoy said he had no idea why school halls and libraries in NSW were being delivered at $5400 per sq m and $5800 per sq m respectively. "I can offer no explanation for such a high figure," he said."Insanity comes in many forms".
Education Minister Julia Gillard has been unable to explain why public schools are being charged so much for buildings under the BER, except to claim media reports were not comparing "apples with apples". "I often find when these figures are used in the newspapers there isn't a clear apples-to-apples accounting," Mr Gillard told Sydney radio host Alan Jones this week.
The high cost of buildings delivered to public schools under the BER has caused anger among school principals, with buildings delivered by state governments twice as likely to be viewed as poor value for money compared with those delivered independently.
The Australian National Audit Office's report into the schools stimulus, released on Wednesday, found 82 per cent of schools that were self-managing projects -- almost exclusively private schools -- believed they had received value for money compared with 40 per cent for other schools. Private schools have been obtaining buildings within industry standard costings, delivering them for far better value for money than their public peers.
The International Grammar School in the Sydney suburb of Ultimo is building an architect-designed four-level building, complete with arts and crafts centre, library and rooftop deck -- for $3.9 million. That equates to $2785 per sq m for the multi-level complex, less than half the cost by area of the modest school halls being given to public schools.
The Mount Evelyn Christian School in Melbourne's west is building a 1600sq m architect-designed hall to house two basketball courts, a rock climbing wall and a stage, for $2.27m. That equates to $1420 a square metre.
Mr McEvoy said CBD banks were among the most expensive type of buildings covered by Rawlinsons, and cost $5030 per sq m.
Your regulators will protect you (NOT)
THE Medical Practitioners Board is set to be sued for millions of dollars over Victoria's hepatitis C scandal as it emerges there could up to 100 victims.
Investigators are expanding their search for alleged victims of a hepatitis C-carrying doctor from 18 months to four years, involving thousands of patients. Detectives have told one victim they believe 100 women may have contracted the highly infectious disease.
In an unprecedented action, the medical board is facing legal action because it allegedly failed to protect patients.
Dr James Latham Peters, an anaesthetist, had a drug problem in the years before he is alleged to have infected women with hepatitis C at Croydon Day Surgery, Victoria's only late-term abortion clinic. The board registered Dr Peters despite his history of drug abuse and a 1996 conviction for falsely obtaining pethidine.
The medical board placed Dr Peters on its program for drug-abusing doctors and forced him to do drug tests for a year. It also limited his access to certain drugs until it was convinced he was clean and renewed his registration.
But his licence was suspended on February 15 after the Department of Human Services found 12 patients had been infected with a strain of hepatitis C genetically matched to the same virus carried by Dr Peters. It has also been revealed the females exposed to the doctor included teenagers wearing school uniforms when they went to the Croydon abortion clinic.
Legal sources claim the women could seek damages of about $300,000 each and if the number infected reaches 100 it would mean a $15 million damages claim.
One victim, Suzanne, said when she contacted a board member they had no explanation why Dr Peters was registered. "I wanted them to hear from a victim that the board is responsible for this," Suzanne said. "You don't give pedophile school teachers a second chance to go back into the classroom, so why do this for a drug-addicted doctor?"
Law firm Slater & Gordon is acting on behalf of seven women - three of whom have not been identified by the Health Department, suggesting there are more unreported cases. It is also investigating an eighth case.
The firm's leading medical lawyer, Paula Shelton, said: "My clients have been betrayed at a time when they have placed their trust and their health in the hands of a health professional. "Unfortunately, I think even more infections will come to light once women are contacted and tested."
She said the medical board was a statutory authority created by an Act of Parliament and any legal claim would be based on its breach of statutory duty to protect the community.
Carbon Capture & Burial – all Carbon Cemeteries are already Full.
The Carbon Sense Coalition today called for an end to the colossal waste of community resources and energy on research and development for “Carbon Capture and Burial”.
The Chairman of “Carbon Sense”, Mr Viv Forbes, said that billions of dollars are being wasted on sacrifices to the global warming god - endless bureaucracy, politicised research, piddling wind and solar schemes, roof insulation disasters, ethanol subsidies, carbon credit forests, carbon trading frauds and huge compliance costs.
“But perhaps the biggest waste of all is the futile quest to capture carbon dioxide from power stations, separate it, compress it, pump it long distances and force it down specially drilled bore holes, hoping it will never escape.
“The effect of CO2 on global temperature, if it exists, is so small that no one has been able to demonstrate or measure it. The touted effect exists solely in computer models whose forecasts to date have all failed. Therefore there is ZERO proven benefit for mankind in trying to capture harmless CO2 in order to bury it in carbon cemeteries. Worse, it is removing valuable plant food from the biosphere – a step towards global food suicide. Moreover, for every tonne of carbon buried, we bury 2.7 tonnes of the gas of life – oxygen.
“The quantities of gas to be handled just from power stations are enormous. For every tonne of coal burnt, about 11 tonnes of gases are exhausted – 7.5 tonnes of nitrogen, 2.5 tonnes of CO2 and one tonne of water vapour. These are all harmless and valuable natural recycled atmospheric gases. Life on earth would be impossible without them.
“Normally these harmless gases are vented to the atmosphere after filters take out nasties like soot and noxious fumes. To capture the CO2 would require additional energy to collect the 11 tonnes of gases and separate the 2.5 tonnes of CO2 for every tonne of coal burnt. Then even more energy would be required to compress this 2.5 tonnes of CO2 and pump it to the burial site.
“All of this is possible, but the capital and operating costs will be horrendous. It is estimated that 30% - 40% of the power currently generated will be used just on carbon capture, compression and pumping. More energy still is required to produce and erect the steel for all those pumps and pipes and to drill the disposal wells. All this will chew up more coal resources and produce yet more carbon dioxide, for no benefit.
“But the real problem starts at the burial site. “There is no vacuum occurring naturally anywhere on earth – every bit of space is occupied by solids, liquids or gases. Thus to dispose of CO2 underground requires it to be pumped AGAINST the pressure of whatever is in the pore space of the rock formation now – either natural gases or liquids. These pressures can be substantial, especially after more gas is pumped in.
“The natural gases in rock formations are commonly air, CO2, methane or rotten egg gas. The liquids are commonly fresh or salty water or, very rarely, liquid hydrocarbons.
To find a place where you could drive out oil or natural gas in order to make space to bury CO2 would be like winning the Lottery – a profitable but very unlikely event. Pumping air out is costly, pumping CO2 out to make room for CO2 is pointless and releasing large quantities of salty water or rotten egg gas would create a real surface problem, unlike the imaginary threat from CO2.
“In normal times, pumping fresh water out would be seen as a boon for most locals, but these days it is probably prohibited. Naturally, some carbon dioxide will dissolve in groundwater and pressurise it, so that the next water driller in the area could get a real bonus – bubbling Perrier Water on tap, worth more than oil.
“Regulating carbon dioxide is best left to the oceans – they have been doing it for millions of years. It’s time for tax payers and shareholders to protest this gigantic waste of money, energy and coal resources on fantasies like carbon capture and burial.
“Because, no matter where we look for space for carbon dioxide burial, we will find signs saying: “All carbon cemeteries are already full”.