Sunday, July 04, 2010

I'm not PC, says Prime Minister Julia Gillard in move to end illegals arriving by boat

She's shaping up very well so far, despite the far-Leftism of her youth. There's far more sanity and realism among the Australian Left than we see in their U.S. and U.K. counterparts. Times could well have changed but it is a fact that Australia's most revered conservative Prime Minister -- R.G. Menzies -- spoke highly in his memoirs of his Labor Party opposition, calling them men of principle etc.

And Conservatives don't generally like to be reminded of it but after the inertia of conservative PM Malcolm Fraser, it was Labor Party PM Bob Hawke who pushed through in Australia the sort of reforms associated with Reagan and Thatcher in the U.S. and U.K. One can only hope that Gillard is in that mould. Her defence of John Howard is certainly remarkable. Howard has long been comprehensively loathed and derided among the Australian Left

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has charged into the asylum-seeker debate, indicating she will take a hard line approach to stop boat arrivals and declaring political correctness should be "swept out of the away".

A day after solving the mining super profits tax imbroglio, Ms Gillard set about cleaning up another one of Kevin Rudd's failed policies before calling the election - the influx of boat people. In an obvious clearing of the ground for a strong policy statement, Ms Gillard said that Australians who were concerned about asylum seekers were neither racist nor intolerant.

The new PM jumped to the defence of John Howard - the architect of the Pacific Solution and the Tampa crisis - saying the former PM is "most certainly" not racist. She also declared that:

* Political correctness was dead and should be "swept out of the way" in such sensitive national debates;

* Australia needed an "effective" border protection policy.

"I do understand the concerns when people see boats looming on the horizon, I also understand that there's nothing humanitarian about people being on boats and potentially at risk of losing their lives at sea."

Ms Gillard's straight talking on asylum-seekers comes after illegal boat arrivals exploded under the Rudd Government, causing headaches for Labor in opinion polls, particularly in crucial marginal seats in Sydney's western suburbs.

Ms Gillard said we had to be honest when talking about the problem, saying she would oppose any attempt to shut down debate by labelling people concerned about border security as racist. "I certainly dismiss labels like intolerant or racist because people raise concerns about border security, but we've also got to be very alive to the complexity of this and that there's no quick fix," she said.

Echoing Mr Howard's comments on political correctness at the beginning of his prime ministership in 1996, Ms Gillard said she wanted openness in public debate to be a mark of her prime ministership, as long as people spoke with goodwill and were not critical of race or culture.

"There's a temptation for people to use these labels and names to try and close down debate and I'm very opposed to that," she said. "People need to be able to have honest discussions. "So any sort of political correctness, or niceties that get in the way, I think, need to be swept out of the way."

Ms Gillard defended Mr Howard, who was labelled a racist by the Indian media last week over his bid to become vice- president of the International Cricket Council. "The suggestion John Howard should be labelled a racist, what a load of nonsense, he's most certainly someone who's not."


Anger as cuts to maternity service by Queensland Health force expectant mothers to travel vast distances to give birth

The vastly bureaucratized and ossified Queensland Health needs to be abolished and a fresh start made with doctors rather than bureaucrats in charge at all levels. It's been in existence since 1944 and is now completely cancerous. Ask anybody who works in it. I have

HUNDREDS of expectant mothers throughout the state are being forced to travel vast distances to have their babies - often alone and weeks before their due date - as Queensland Health cutbacks to maternity services reach crisis levels.

In the latest example of a failing health service, the booming town of Emerald, which makes a huge contribution to the Queensland economy through mining and agriculture, is losing its birthing facilities because an obstetrician and an anaesthetist cannot be found.

One of the town's GPs has had enough, saying he could no longer work at Emerald Hospital because of the "dangerous" lack of maternity services in the town of 18,000. Dr Ewen McPhee, 48, said the cutbacks had "gone too far".

More than half of Queensland's maternity units have been closed since 1995, with Emerald the 43rd out of 84 to be shut down in the past 15 years.

The service cuts have put regional babies and their mothers at risk, with the number of births by the side of the road, in the back of ambulances and cars, at home and on the way to hospital increasing a staggering 343 per cent - from 81 in 2004 to 359 in 2008 - state perinatal records reveal.

Five years ago, the Labor Government under Peter Beattie promised to reform maternity services by 2010, following the Hirst report in 2004. That report was damning of the state's maternal care after 36 closures of units, with women being forced to leave their families to have a baby and drive for hours to receive health care. Since that review, seven more maternity centres have closed.

The Emerald community is furious at Queensland Health's inability to find a doctor and an anaesthetist to operate birthing services at the town's hospital. More than 1840 residents have joined the Save Emerald Birthing Facebook page.

Spokeswoman for the Save Emerald Birthing Group, mother-of-two Larissa Burnett, lives with her husband on a cotton property an hour west of Emerald. "Emerald is an area of 52,000sq km - it's pretty big anyway without having to drive to Rockhampton," Mrs Burnett said.

A town meeting recently was attended by Queensland Health officials, who promised to find a doctor for the community.

Emerald Hospital has a midwifery-led unit that delivered 310 babies last year but to operate at full capacity it needs a doctor and an anaesthetist to perform emergency procedures such as caesareans.

Mrs Burnett said Queensland Health had known for four months that doctors were leaving but nothing had been done to fill the gap. "To be told that we need to go to Rockhampton to have our babies is ridiculous. This puts more pressure on the coast. They say they want to give services back to the bush but that is not happening."

Because of protests, Queensland Health has found a "temporary" doctor for the service for the next two weeks but there are no plans after then.

Health Minister Paul Lucas said yesterday he was extremely concerned about the situation at Emerald. "The community has a very legitimate concern with respect to birthing services and I want to make it clear that the Government is committed to those services," he said. "What my department has done is seek to arrange temporary cover but we must have a permanent solution and that is to keep providing obstetrics at Emerald."

But a scathing Australian Medical Association Queensland president Dr Gino Pecoraro, who is also an obstetrician, said last week doctors didn't want to work for Queensland Health because it was "a toxic environment".

"This boils down to a problem with leadership in management," Dr Pecoraro said. "There is a shortage of people that are well trained but it's not as bad as they would have you believe - the problem is that people don't want to work for Queensland Health. It's not just the pay issue, there is still this culture whereby Queensland Health will listen to administrators rather than clinicians."

Dr Pecoraro said he had given evidence to four maternity services reviews instigated by State Government. "A lot is written about maternity services but the decline in service has not stopped."

The sole obstetrician working for the state's Flying Specialist Services said she was working "24/7" to fill gaps around the state.

The State Government plans to expand Rockhampton Hospital's overflowing maternity unit next year.


A "Green" elephant that seems unfixable

It has cost so much and delivered so little that it would be a white elephant if it were not green. It's part of the country-wide craze to appease Greenies by building electricity-gobbling desalination plants rather than building the hated dams.

In one of the many perversies of the Greenie psyche, the fact that the electricity used is generated by coal-gobbling power stations seems to evoke no protest -- despite coal being usually a great Greenie bete noir

DIVERS and a mini-submarine will be brought in to help fix the latest drama for the $1.2 billion Tugun desalination plant. The State Government has released few details on the final commissioning of the trouble-plagued plant, other than to confirm that "hairline fractures" in the inlet pipe would be checked.

But The Sunday Mail has learnt that last checks on the plant include inspecting a build-up of sludge inside the pipe which draws in sea water. An inspection three months ago showed the pipe, built 60m below ground and stretching 1.4km offshore, has a build-up of silt.

Divers will work from a barge off Tugun to close off the inlet pipe so it can be emptied and checked. A remote-controlled mini-submarine, operated by contractors working at the plant, will be used then to film inside the pipe and search for silt and structural damage.

"They (the divers) will plug the intake shaft, the tunnel will be sealed on the offshore side, it will lower the water inside, then they will pump it out so they can manually go into the shaft," a plant insider said.

Coastal fishers working near the end of the inlet pipe warned construction crews three years ago about the build-up of sediment, after small pipes left on the ocean floor filled up with sludge. "There have been rumours that the intake pipe is silting up, so they've brought back the rig and put it right on top of the intake shaft," one fisherman said.

A build-up of sediment and organic materials in the piping has been a common problem with some desalination plants overseas, along with the rust and corrosion which has occurred at Tugun.

The Gold Coast Desalination Alliance, a consortium which includes John Holland and French water giant Veolia, was supposed to hand over the plant to the State Government in June. But the Government said last month that the controversial desalination plant would be closed for final works.

"These have not affected the integrity of the plant or the plant's ability to produce high quality drinking water," a spokesman for Planning Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said.


Promises, promises about disastrous Victorian ambulance service

Believe it when you see it. There is nothing as worthless as a politician's promise

THE father of the boy whose 65-minute wait for a MICA unit triggered a statewide campaign for better ambulance services has welcomed government pledges amounting to about $150 million for emergency services. The death of Rupert Rafferty, 5, was featured on the front page of the Sunday Herald Sun on May 2, and started a nine-week campaign by this newspaper for improved regional ambulance services.

Darren Rafferty said the promised changes were "wonderful", but lamented that they had not come sooner. "It's a shame it has taken so many people's lives to come about, but it makes me feel that Rupert's death wasn't totally in vain," he said. "Now there will be other parents whose children have a better chance of surviving, so it's a win-win for country Victoria."

The Brumby Government and State Opposition last week promised more paramedics, more MICA units and more non-emergency transfer staff for the state than before. No matter who wins November's state election, 10 new MICA teams will be established in regional and rural Victoria and about 300 extra paramedics will be appointed across the state.

Mr Rafferty said some families had paid a high price to win the $150 million promise from the Brumby Government. "But I still understand the grief people have gone through as a result of the inadequacies of Ambulance Victoria over the last few years," he said. "It's a high price to pay, but hopefully this causes change."

South Gippsland mother Naomi Terblanche, whose son Aiden came close to death a year before Rupert when she waited more than an hour for a MICA unit, was pleased the parties had committed to at least four of 10 Sunday Herald Sun recommendations to improve ambulance services.

"It's a definite improvement and it's good that they're doing something," she said. "But it also seems a little late. "It could have been done earlier to save lives and stop all the stories that have come out. "I really hope it changes things, even for the paramedics who are so overworked."

But Mrs Terblanche, the daughter of a paramedic, feared neither party was doing enough to improve radio communications. Only last week Wangaratta paramedics complained that a new dispatch system was showing their vehicles as being in Ballarat rather than northeast Victoria. "They really do need to look at their dispatch system because I think there will be more lives at risk," she said.

Ambulance Victoria chief Greg Sassella said it was "inappropriate" to compare the announcements. "But overall, anything that puts extra paramedics on the road is welcomed and the support of initiatives beyond recruitment is reflective of our strategy and what we see as necessary for maintaining a sustainable service," he said.

Ambulance Employees Association state secretary Steve McGhie said last week's funding announcements were "a good start, but won't fix all the problems". "We clearly will wait for the Government's policy for metropolitan ambulance services," he said.

Lorraine MacGillivray, whose returned serviceman father Ronald Cook died when it took seven hours and eight minutes for Ambulance Victoria to get him from Sale to Melbourne, welcomed the commitment. But she said the service should continually be monitored. "Anybody that has lost family members during this crisis knows this has got to be a bonus. It has to be a good thing," she said.

"I can't bring my dad back. "It shouldn't have happened. "But by speaking out about it, if (that) means just one more life is saved now, it's been worth it."


No comments: