Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Federal government sees no problems with wasteful school spending

Extraordinary complacency about well-documented waste of taxpayer funds. This is a refusal to stop an ongoing disaster. But Leftists always are destructive. It seems to be in their DNA

JULIA Gillard will push ahead with the troubled $16.2 billion schools stimulus scheme after claiming an investigative taskforce had not yet uncovered any evidence of problems.

The Education Minister said the government expected to commit the final $5.5bn of Building the Education Revolution funds next month as planned, because the taskforce, headed by former merchant banker Brad Orgill, had not recommended otherwise. "I have met with Mr Orgill (and) I will continue to meet with him regularly," she said. "At this stage, I am not in possession of any recommendations from Mr Orgill that would relate to the third tranche of funds. We are obviously all ears for his recommendations."

The BER taskforce is set to deliver its first report in August, but Ms Gillard has said it can provide recommendations earlier.

Ms Gillard's statements yesterday appear to be a move by the government to shift greater responsibility for the remaining $5.5bn yet to be spent on to Mr Orgill, whose $14 million taskforce has just ended its first month of investigations. Mr Orgill did not return calls from The Australian yesterday.

As revealed by The Australian, the BER scheme has been beset by widespread waste of taxpayer money, with overdesigned building templates, onerous documentation requirements and enormous fees, causing public schools to pay up to double the amount they should for buildings.

In NSW, Catholic schools are paying $2541 per square metre for school halls and $2451 per square metre for libraries under the BER - which is in line with industry standards. By contrast, the NSW Education Department is paying $6135/sq m for the standard "7 Core" school hall and $4005/sq m for the standard "14 Core" school library.

In NSW, seven managing contractors - who are receiving fees of more than $400 million to manage the scheme - are charging $850,000-plus for 189 prefabricated classrooms, which are manufactured and delivered to schools by other companies at a cost of up to $339,000.

If the federal government commits the $5.5bn of BER funds next month as planned, a further $1bn-plus will be wasted in overcharging for the delivery of public school buildings. The federal and NSW governments have been unable to explain why public schools are paying double industry rates and double the rates being paid by non-government schools.

A spokeswoman for NSW Education Minister Verity Firth said the government would push ahead and spend the remaining 40 per cent of BER funds under the current model, despite the revelations of public schools receiving poor value for money.

The NSW government also admitted it had no mechanism for ensuring public schools received value for money other than a "benchmark" test, whereby the government approves all buildings that are within 105 per cent of values it has set. As revealed by The Australian, those benchmark values are vastly inflated and average about double industry standard rates.

Ms Gillard said yesterday the government was "all ears" to hear Mr Orgill's recommendations and that there was still time to implement those recommendations. "This is a program that will run for almost two years from where we are now so there is time to implement recommendations from Mr Orgill's implementation taskforce," Ms Gillard said.

However, once contracts are signed between state governments and managing contractors, it becomes extremely difficult to recover funds.


Cockeyed maternal leave scheme

It's high income mothers who are least likely to have babies and who are therefore in most need of encouragement to do so. But, predictably for a Leftist scheme, it does the opposite

HALF of Australia's mothers will not qualify for the new paid parental leave scheme next year because they earn too much. Many other women who have their children more than mid-way through the financial year will be better off claiming the $5185 baby bonus rather than $7342 paid parental leave.

This was because the paid parental leave payment will be taxed at a woman's marginal tax rate and tax clawbacks could eat into the new payment, which begins in January.

Mothers whose babies are due in February would be better off with the baby bonus, while those expecting in July would get the most from the new scheme, retired State Bank executive Peter Apps, who has studied the tax effect, said.

A war has broken out between working and non-working mothers over the fact working mums will get $2000 more when they have babies. Only mothers who work for a day a week in 10 of the 13 months before the birth will qualify for the payment.

FamilyVoice Australia, which wants stay at home mothers and working mothers paid the same amount of money, has told a Senate committee the Government's scheme discriminated against more than half of Australia's families.

It said the Government's own budget projections showed 148,000 mothers would qualify for paid parental leave while 158,000 mothers would get the baby bonus.

"The Paid Parental Leave scheme would therefore favour a minority (48 per cent) of Australian families by giving them nearly $2000 ($1890) more than the majority (52 per cent) of Australian families following the birth of a child," their submission said.

There are about 296,600 babies born each year and parents who adopt a child will also qualify for the leave scheme. A small number of families will miss out on any government help after they have a baby because their family income exceeded the $150,000 means test.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick wants the scheme to cover a mother's superannuation payments and pay for a small amount of paternity leave.


Wadalba Community School is literally a place of hard knocks

This report comes after a particularly vicious bashing reported yesterday

DISTRESSED mum Rachelle Mawbey pulled her daughter out of Wadalba Community School amid fears she wouldn't survive, let alone graduate.

Appalled by the bullying and violence, Ms Mawbey decided to withdraw daughter Taylor Clarke-Pepper halfway through Year 8 three years ago.

"It was not uncommon for there to be lock-downs at least once a month, [playground] fights and stories coming home that a student had brought knives or guns to school," she said, claiming that teachers also openly admitted "giving up" on students and that 20-day suspensions "were the norm".

"They said they'd just keep suspending them until they left," Ms Mawbey said. "The school says it has an anti-bullying policy but it is just lip service: Violence is ongoing."

Another mother also pulled her then 12-year-old son out of Year 7 in 2005 after he was badly bullied. At the time she said he'd been pushed down stairs and beaten with sticks. The last straw was when she claimed teachers warned they couldn't guarantee his safety.

But an education department spokesman said: "Since 2007 there has been a significant fall in the suspension rate, [now] putting the school well within the regional average."


'Inept' public hospital doctors fail to save critically ill boy

LITTLE Isaraelu "Elu" Pele was a handsome and athletic eight-year-old boy who should not have died. Instead he wasted away in front of doctors who were too "ignorant" and "inept" to realise he was slowly dying of bacterial meningitis. For four agonising days doctors believed Elu's suffering was the result of eating a hamburger.

Yesterday Deputy State Coroner Hugh Dillon handed down a scathing report on Elu's treatment by doctors at Bankstown Hospital and The Children's Hospital, at Westmead in Sydney. Their failure in not carrying out blood tests and a lumbar puncture - a definitive test for meningitis - led to Elu suffering a heart attack and dying on June 18, 2007.

The coroner recommended an overhaul of how meningitis is diagnosed in emergency departments, as well as the way emergency doctors treat children with high fevers.

"This was a lost opportunity to save Elu's life," Mr Dillon said. "Instead, the diagnosis reached was that he was suffering from a relatively benign viral gastroenteritis."

Elu had been vomiting and had a fever since June 14, a day after he had eaten a hamburger, when his parents took him to the Primary Health Care Medical Centre, at Bankstown. The doctor there did not bother to take his temperature because the thermometer was broken.

The litany of missed opportunities to diagnose Elu continued over the course of two more visits to the GP and two presentations to both hospitals' emergency departments.

Yet despite his parents Fai and Lila's concerns that something was seriously wrong with their little boy, doctors continued to treat him with Panadol for a stomach bug.

It was four days later, after suffering high fevers, lethargy, headaches, vomiting and low alertness - all signs of meningitis - that Elu was taken back to Bankstown Hospital, where he died.

Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt apologised to the family and said she would consider the coroner's findings. "Mr and Mrs Pele have been through hell and back, they have my heartfelt apology, they have my heartfelt sympathy, and we will work hard to take on board what the coroner has recommended . . . to make sure that this doesn't happen again," she said yesterday.

"There have already been some changes made since Isaraelu's tragic death including at Westmead Children's Hospital where, if a child presents twice within 48 hours, senior advice is sought and admission is considered."

Fai Pele told Mr Dillon she could not describe the horror of losing Elu: "There is nothing worse than carrying your baby, caring and guarding it so jealously and dreaming of its future, only to have it ripped away from you. "The pain of losing a child is so incomprehensible . . ."


Hatred of Israel among Australian far-Leftists

by Philip Mendes

Historically, the international Left has incorporated a wide spectrum of views on Zionism and Israel ranging from unequivocal support for Israel to even-handedness to hardline support for Palestinian positions. The contemporary Australian Left also lacks any consensus on this issue.

Nevertheless, it is fair to say that a wide majority on the Left support a two-state solution which encapsulates recognition of both Israeli and Palestinian national rights. It is also fair to say that those anti-Zionist fundamentalists who advocate the elimination of Israel and its replacement by an Arab State of Greater Palestine represent a small if vocal, minority.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, this minority group attempted to censor and exclude any Left voices in favour of the continued existence of the State of Israel. For example, the assorted Trotskyists and Maoists in the far Left Australian Union of Students (AUS), and Bill Hartley’s extreme Left faction of the Victorian ALP hurled abuse and vitriol at any Jewish-identifying leftists who didn’t identify unconditionally with the abolish Israel aims of the PLO.

Political scientist Dennis Altman – himself Jewish, non-Zionist and sceptical of both extreme Zionist and anti-Zionist perspectives – famously wrote at the time that this anti-Zionist fundamentalism had become a new symbol of ideological purity in the radical Left. In the UK, a significant number of student unions even disaffiliated Jewish student societies on the prejudiced grounds that they were Zionist and hence allegedly racist.

This fanatical intolerance for moderate two-state views went on the backburner during the years of the Oslo Accord, but returned with a vengeance as the fundamentalists were reinvigorated by the blood and guts of the Second Intifada. Recent debates suggest that this vocal, but still small, pro-Palestinian lobby is enjoying some success in excluding and censoring the majority of Left voices.

For example, the proponents of an academic boycott of Israel essentialise Israeli Jews by claiming that left and right-wing Israelis are no different, and that they are all racist oppressors of the Palestinians. They argue that the rights of the oppressed Palestinians – who they also collectively essentialise as being uniquely innocent and deserving victims – should always take precedence over the rights of Israeli Jews.

The fundamentalists also attack all Jewish supporters of Israel’s existence as apologists for oppression, irrespective of whether they are supporters of two states, or alternatively advocates of a Greater Israel. They reserve particular hate for the so-called “left Zionists” who oppose the West Bank occupation and settlements whilst also critiquing Palestinian violence and extremism. These moderates are constructed as little more than the equivalent of left-wing Nazis. And then they use the old Soviet trick of highlighting the views of a few Jewish “Uncle Toms” who are willing to exploit their own religious and cultural origins in order to vilify their own people. That malevolent game was used in the 1950s to defend Stalinist anti-Semitism. Now it is employed to misrepresent the historical and political context of the creation and development of the State of Israel.

The crude political objective is the exclusion of all Jewish-identifying leftists from Left debates on Zionism and Israel. And any means are justified to achieve this outcome including the ad-hominem abuse of individual Jewish activists, and a horrific lowering of intellectual and scholarly standards. The pro-Palestinian lobbyists are willing to throw out the most basic academic conventions regarding accurate presentation of evidence and correct citations and referencing if they don’t serve the interests of the Palestinian cause.

Two recent examples that come to mind are those of Overland and Arena Magazine. Some will say that these journals have a small readership within the Left elite and do not matter. Yet both journals are read widely by students and intellectuals, and have an influence far beyond their formal subscription figures. They are not the equivalent of party propaganda sheets such as Green Left Weekly, and that is precisely why they should incorporate a diversity (rather than narrow uniformity) of Left voices on Israel/Palestine. For the record, I have regularly contributed to both journals in the past on a range of issues, and continue to respect their broader political projects despite their current adherence to a particularly fanatical form of pro-Palestinian orthodoxy.


The case of Overland is particularly disturbing. This Melbourne-based quarterly journal was formed by ex-communist Stephen Murray-Smith in 1954 to promote progressive and democratic debate. Overland is best known for its publication of local poets and short story writers, and its powerful cultural presentation of Australian progressive politics. Although Murray-Smith published a powerful critique of Soviet anti-Semitism in issue 32 (1965), it has rarely covered Jewish-related issues. To the best of my knowledge, it rarely if ever published material on Israel until 2007.

Under the editorship of Jeff Sparrow, the pro-Palestinian lobby has captured Overland’s agenda. This is particularly reflected in the four recent articles that appeared in issues 184 by Ned Curthoys, 187 by Ned Curthoys, 193 by Antony Loewenstein, and 198 by Michael Brull. As a combination, they form a mad hatter’s picnic of fanatical attacks on Israel and supporters of Israel followed by more fanatical attacks of the same ilk.

Curthoys, who co-ordinates the two person Committee for the Dismantling of Zionism with his father John Docker, is a serial hater of Israel and Zionism. In Issue 184, he provides not surprisingly a positive review of Antony Loewenstein’s anti-Israel text, My Israel Question. He also cannot resist promoting his favourite obsession concerning the campaign for a cultural, economic and academic boycott of Israel based on the racial stereotyping of all Israeli Jews as oppressors.

But in Issue 187, he firmly criticises the founding statement of Loewenstein’s Independent Australian Jewish Voices group for being too moderate, and specifically for accepting Israel’s right to exist. Instead, Curthoys returns to his theme of the necessity of an economic and cultural boycott of Israel, and particularly targets Left Zionism as inherently racist. He proposes the elimination of Israel, and its replacement by an Arab majority state.

Arena Magazine

The case of Arena is equally disappointing. This intellectual journal of “Left political, social and cultural commentary” was formed by dissident party and non-party Communist intellectuals in 1963. Originally informed by Marxist ideology, it published a useful critique of Soviet anti-Semitism by Jewish leader Isi Leibler in the mid 1960s, and some views to the contrary. In recent decades, it has been increasingly influenced by a wider range of ideologies including particularly post-modernism.

For example, the August-September (Issue no. 85) 2006 issue published three contributions from Antony Loewenstein, Jeremy Salt and John Hinkson which all presented a parochial Palestinian narrative instead of a balanced internationalist perspective. Worse was to come. The February-March 2009 issue on the Gaza war contained no less than three pro-Palestinian articles by Jeremy Salt, Les Rosenblatt, and the Docker/Curthoys tag team backed up by four biased photo montages from anti-war demonstrations in Israel. The contribution from Docker/Curthoys of the Committee for the Dismantling of Zionism was uniquely fanatical, contesting the legitimacy of Israel’s creation in 1948, and advocating an unconditional return of 1948 Palestinian refugees to Israel which would mean the immediate end of Israel as a Jewish state.


1 comment:

Paul said...

"There have already been some changes made since Isaraelu's tragic death including at Westmead Children's Hospital where, if a child presents twice within 48 hours, senior advice is sought and admission is considered."

This is a change? Its a given in many other centres.