Thursday, July 08, 2010

Julia's commonsense has run out already

She has wisely modified some of Kevvy's obnoxious policies but seems to have left net censorship untouched. And her new immigration policy has imploded ONE DAY after it was launched -- so the shine may be coming off her even faster than it did off Kevvy

THE federal government hopes to introduce legislation to enable its controversial internet filter by the end of the year. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the legislation would be this year "sooner rather than later".

Timing for the web filter legislation, which has earned the ire of ISPs and internet freedom advocates, depends on the date for the looming federal election and whether Labor wins office. Political commentators have earmarked August to October as possible election dates. The polls are likely to occur before the Victorian election in late November.

Since the plan was mooted in 2007, Senator Conroy has changed his mind several times on how the filtering scheme would eventually work. The latest measure is to create a list of web pages comprising refused classification-rated content and force internet service providers to automatically block them. Legislation will be introduced to require all ISPs to filter the RC content list.

New Prime Minister Julia Gillard backs the filtering plan. She made her support known to ABC radio today, saying she understood public concerns over the scheme but that Senator Conroy was working to find a resolution that would be in the "right shape".

When asked if Ms Gillard had set a deadline for the filtering legislation to be introduced, Senator Conroy said: "We are prepared to spend as much time as necessary to make sure we get it right. "The discussions we're having behind the scenes with various players are more interested in getting the implementation and the actual policy right rather than saying it's got to be done by some artificial deadline."

Those talks include consultation with ISPs on how to increase accountability and transparency for RC material. "I expect it (the legislation) to be this year. I expect that we will table the legislation this year sooner rather than later. "If you're thinking 'does that mean December?' - no, I wouldn't think it would be December, but there could be intervening events that I am not in control of," Senator Conroy told reporters in Sydney today.

The policy would be implemented 12 months from the passage of legislation.

RC broadly consists of illegal content but Google and various internet experts believe the list could potentially contain legitimate material.

Labor Senator Kate Lundy's suggestion for an opt-in approach has been rejected.

US Ambassador to Australia Jeff Bleich has urged the government to ditch the plan, saying child pornographers can be captured and prosecuted without using mandatory internet filters.

Ms Gillard told ABC Darwin she was happy with the policy aim of the filtering plan. "Clearly you can't walk into a cinema in Australia and see certain things and we shouldn't on the internet be able to access those things either so Stephen Conroy is working to get this in the right shape.

"I'm happy with the policy aim and the policy aim is if there are images of child abuse, child pornography ... they are not legal in our cinemas, you would not be able to go to the movies and watch that ... you shouldn't ... no one should want to see that. "You're not able to go to the movies and see those kinds of things why should you be able to see them on the internet? I think that that's the kind of moral, ethical question at the heart of this."

But she understood concerns raised over the filtering program, especially how it would impact speed and remove proper use of the internet. "It's not my intention in any way to jeapordise legitimate use of the internet," she said.

The filtering legislation was expected to be introduced in the autumn or winter parliamentary sessions but former prime minister Kevin Rudd postponed it until after the next election.


Children won't be left to drown … how about Gillard?


How stupid does Julia Gillard think "redneck central'' is? She can't honestly believe voters in marginal electorates will fall for her election-eve volte-face on asylum seekers, unveiled in a speech this week to the Lowy Institute.

She can't honestly believe they will be grateful for her patronising defence of them as not being the racist, bigoted "rednecks" refugee advocates such as Julian Burnside say they are. Especially while she bent over backwards to praise him as: ''Prominent Australian, Julian Burnside, QC, an eminent lawyer, much respected in our community.''

Everyone knows that it was the Labor policies crafted by Julia Gillard, when she was shadow immigration minister, that turned a trickle of about three unauthorised boat arrivals a year into an escalating three boats a week, leading to more than 150 drowning deaths of asylum seekers along the way, and almost 600 children currently in detention. But after years of vilifying conservatives for supporting the Howard government policies that stopped the flow of boats, Labor thinks it can turn around within weeks of an election, without admitting they were wrong, and create their own version of a ''Pacific solution''.

Gillard's speech was astonishingly patronising, even from someone who jokes about wearing pearls for a "dress like a Tory" outfit.

"For too long, the asylum seeker policy debate has been polarised by … a fundamental disrespect that I reject," she said. The "fundamental disrespect" was from her side of the ideological fence. And she continued it in her speech on Tuesday with an attempt to portray the opposition as "evil", implying they would "leave children to drown", even while she aped their policies.

"Today let me say one thing loud and clear: our nation would not leave children to drown. We are Australians and our values will never allow us to embrace this kind of evil."

Her minister, Chris Evans, later went further in an ABC interview: "If Tony Abbott is seriously saying he's gonna tow women, children and others out to sea and leave them there to drown, well let him say that."

It's despicable to imply Abbott would leave children to drown on the high seas. But of course that was what the chattering classes all claimed about Howard and SIEV X. It's more of the same bile.

Gillard is kidding if she thinks she can suddenly undo all the vile distortions and character assassinations of the past, which caused so much division and unpleasantness in the nation.

Peter Reith, the Howard minister who negotiated the ''Pacific solution'' with Nauru, rang ABC radio in Melbourne yesterday to make the point. "For years the Labor party belted people like me around the head with what we did with Nauru [and] the Pacific solution and now we find they were just playing a game … Talk about the ultimate vindication. They used this politically, they hit us for ages, called us liars everything under the sun and now we find when they're in government it's OK."

Reith was hounded out of office, maligned almost as much as his colleague, the former immigration minister, Philip Ruddock. Even as Coalition policies stopped the boats, emptied the detention centres and damaged the people-smuggler industry, it was open season on conservatives. It was a shameful episode of organised bullying by Gillard's ideological brethren.

Now we see, as we always knew anyway, the bullies couldn't care less about asylum seekers. They were using the issue as a battering ram against their opponents.

And it worked. Nice, well-meaning people started to believe there was something wrong with conservatives - they were hard-hearted and cruel. Thus came the rise of the doctors' wives.

Now all the usual suspects who pummelled the Howard government are lining up to support Gillard. Malcolm Fraser called in to Melbourne ABC radio yesterday to praise Gillard: "I think the Prime Minister needs to be given credit for her speech", and saying her policy was "quite different" to the opposition's policy that "takes people and drags them off to Nauru".

And there is Burnside, who said in February, "The idea of reopening Nauru as a place of detention is unnecessary, absurdly expensive and morally bankrupt.'' He slagged off Abbott as a "utilitarian", who would be shunned by priests at St Patrick's seminary and had a "pretended devotion to Christianity". Oh, but now, he's impressed with Gillard's "Dili solution".

The ABC is similarly well disposed. On the 7.30 Report we heard how Gillard had given a "a masterful landmark speech to the Lowy Institute" and had "moved to seize the initiative on the asylum-seekers issue … This was Julia Gillard at her best and most convincing."

A hasty phone call on Monday night to the East Timor President, the New Zealand Prime Minister and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had become "a round of behind-the-scenes talks".

In a new spirit of fairness, the ABC found an academic who supports offshore processing of asylum applications (something I don't ever remember they managed to do in the Howard era).

You can't, of course, mention bias at the ABC because that's just a neo-conservative conspiracy theory - like the strange phenomenon observed recently on ABC-TV of Tony Abbott's face looking as yellow as Bart Simpson's. It seems, as a television producer friend put it, as if someone has "turned up the chroma" on the Opposition Leader's skin tone in the editing suite.

The generous view is that all those who vilified conservatives as racists and bigots during the Howard era have realised they were mistaken. They will never have the grace to admit it. But those who were vilified and treated as rednecks are not so easily conned. Voters have long memories, too.


It took a newspaper to push a NSW public hospital into offering an urgent service

I go to a top private hospital and get scans same day on occaions. They are apologetic if they have to make me wait until the next day after the scan is ordered. It shows what is possible -- JR

HOW do you beat the long delays for treatment in the ailing NSW Health system? Call The Daily Telegraph. Margaret Russell had been waiting six days for an MRI scan at Nepean Hospital after suffering a brain injury akin to a stroke.

But within 30 minutes of The Daily Telegraph contacting the hospital on behalf of the family yesterday, Mrs Russell was told the scan was to occur.

"It is really unfortunate it has to come to this. I know there would be plenty of other people who are in the same shoes as Margaret," her husband, Geoff, said. "Doctors have been telling us they cannot diagnose her without an MRI. They can't treat her without it. "She has just been lying here, unable to see."

Mrs Russell, 41, was at work last Thursday when she took a bad turn, losing her vision and balance. She was taken to Nepean Hospital by ambulance and until yesterday, had no idea what caused her condition. Doctors likened her episode to a mini stroke but were forced to wait for the test, as the health system struggles to cope with the increase in patients.

"I understand that if someone has a car accident and needs a scan that they are a priority," Mr Russell, of Kurrajong Heights, said. "But what does it take to get a scan?"

Coincidentally, NSW Health director-general Debora Picone is expected to visit the hospital today.

Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said it was a disgrace that any patient should have to wait five days for an MRI. "Waiting five days for an MRI scan to help provide a diagnosis is a sign of just how broken the health system has become after 15 years of state Labor government," she said. "This poor patient has endured enough at the hands of Labor's health system without having to five wait days for an MRI scan."

Nepean Hospital general manager Kevin Hedge described the delay as "unacceptable". "Preliminary investigations show that standard procedures for prioritising patients were not followed on this occasion," Mr Hedge said. "The delay experienced by Mrs Russell is unacceptable and improved processes will be implemented to reduce the risk of recurrence."


Auditor-General probe into Victorian ambulance horrors

THE state's stressed ambulance service is to be the subject of an Auditor-General's investigation after a series of horrific deaths and near misses. Concerns were flagged for the service after it was blamed for several patient deaths since the rural and metropolitan services were amalgamated in 2008.

Nationals state leader Peter Ryan asked the Auditor-General to investigate. He received a letter on Monday confirming the audit had had already started, and said he hoped it would get to the root of the problems.

The investigation will address basic problems such as responsiveness, record keeping, pay and resource allocation, as well as more complex problems. "The simple fact is we've got problems of different scales and types, but we do have basic problems," Mr Ryan said. "The provision of this service is critical to all of us and particularly to those who live outside the Melbourne area."

Among some of the cases recently brought to the public's attention was the death of Richard Gouge, 78, of Maryborough, who died from a heart attack in May. Mr Gouge's wife, Marlene, called 000 and ran to the local ambulance station, but it took almost 40 minutes for paramedics to arrive.

"When the paramedics finally turned up they had been waiting at Bendigo Hospital for two hours with a non-urgent patient," Mrs Gouge said. Mrs Gouge applauded the investigation, saying it was a critical service needing urgent attention. "I'm just glad there's somebody actually looking into it and it's not being put on to the backburner," she said. "We've got an ambulance here and we really need it running 24 hours a day, and to do that we need more staff."

Ambulance Victoria chief executive Greg Sassella welcomed the investigation. "It will give a full and accurate picture of our service," Mr Sassella said.

A government spokesman said steps had already been taken to upgrade the service. "The Government has more than tripled the funding for our ambulance services and doubled the number of paramedics working across Victoria, with more than 1000 in rural and regional Victoria," the spokesman said.


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