Tuesday, August 10, 2010

An airline experience

There are some horror stories about air travel coming out of America but Australia is doing its best to catch up -- as the guy below reports. I have made a personal vow never to set foot on an aircraft again but it is easy for me as I did a lot of travelling when I was younger and when the airways were saner and when the roads were less congested -- JR

Melbourne to Sydney:

0520: Leave on the 100-kilometre drive to the airport from the provinces, aiming to be there an hour before the 7.45am flight.

0620: Hit my first freeway traffic jam at Laverton. Did I miss something? Since when did peak hour start at 6am?

0645: Hit my second freeway traffic jam about six kilometres from the airport on the Western Ring Road, a dangerous civil engineering design disaster that should have been bulldozed and started again.

0655: Arrive at the airport long-term car park. “Courtesy” bus doesn’t show up for 10 minutes. I thought it was supposed to be every five minutes, since car-parking provides about $100 million of the airport’s annual profit. But I’ve just discovered retrospectively the frequency is every 20 minutes – like a Sunday train timetable! Mental note to self: must buy an airport with a licence to price-gouge with impunity. And Melbourne is one of the better privatised airports!

0705: Arrive at the terminal with 35 minutes to spare, but the automatic check-in kiosk doesn’t want to know me, apparently because my travel involves two separate flight numbers. I must go to the back of a 50-metre baggage check-in queue that will take at least 15 minutes to clear, even though I have only carry-on luggage (laptop and overnight bag).

0710: An airline staffer directs me to the service desk and into another queue of five people. The backpacker at the head of the queue takes about 10 minutes to have his problem sorted out.

0725: I eventually get to the service desk to be informed the flight is closed; I’ll have to get the 8.15am if she can find me a seat and that will be a $50 change fee (later credited by the airline because I am its guest on this trip).

0915: Somewhere over southern NSW, we’re informed we’re going to be about 15 minutes late into Sydney as air traffic control has slowed our approach because of “high winds”.

1000: Disembark 20 minutes late, even though we’d pushed back on time in Melbourne. This leaves me 10 minutes to catch an onward flight. My luck changes. The next departure gate is opposite my arrival gate in T2.

Sydney to Melbourne:

1815: Push back right on time – no drama.

1820-1835: It takes roughly 15 minutes to taxi to the eastern end of the main runway in Botany Bay.

1925: An uneventful flight until my copy of The Australian (I’m a journalist, so I have to read the opposition) disintegrates and now looks like kindling for a bonfire. Captain Speaking announces Melbourne ATC has delayed our arrival by 10 minutes. Run that past me again: I thought peak hour was 1700-1900. It’s almost past my bedtime and I’m being delayed on a plane approaching Melbourne, Australia’s best-designed airport with plans for up to four runways instead of the current two, because of “congestion” not long before 8pm. Perhaps it’s time to start building the next runway.

1955: Land in the rain. It’s seven degrees.

2005-2025: A 20-minute wait for the long term carpark courtesy bus.

2030: Airport traffic jam as bus tries to escape the terminal area. Mental note to self: A train gets rid of a third of this pointless logjam, but a train line will never be built while the airport makes $100 million-plus a year from car parking.

2040-2050: Ten minutes to negotiate the exit of the long-term car park, which is now about 1.3 kilometres from end to end; old exit roads have become dead-ends requiring u-turns. Damage: $46 for 37 hours in a sealed country paddock.

2055: Another traffic jam caused by a 1960s traffic light sequence. Don’t get me started.

2100: Sixty-five minutes after my flight lands, I am finally on the highway.

2225: Home. Mental note to self: Avoid Tullamarine whenever possible. If I’m paying, hello Avalon, Jetstar and Tiger. I'd rather park in the Avalon paddock at a substantial discount with few delays.

And it seems to me they were two relatively good days inside the domestic air transport system.


A Christian candidate with old-fashioned values

Much too old-fashioned for some -- but she has a chance of getting the last Queensland Senate seat to be allocated. Such seats in the Australian system often go to minor parties

She believes a prime minister in a de facto relationship isn't role-model material, says the burqa stops women from showing who they really are and has likened gay marriage to child abuse and she's running for the Australian Senate.

At 49, Mitchelton grandmother Wendy Francis is in the race of her life. The top Senate candidate for Family First in Queensland found her views in the eye of a social media storm yesterday after she was forced to delete a Twitter post quickly dubbed offensive.

It read: "Children in homosexual relationships are subject to emotional abuse. Legitimising gay marriage is like legalising child abuse".

In an interview with The Courier-Mail yesterday, Ms Francis said she hadn't meant offence and was just desperate to preserve both "Australian values" and the Australian "way of life".

The former administration manager said a vote for the Greens was a vote for a "dangerous" and "radical" party and that political correctness was out of control.

Ms Francis moved quickly to deny she was homophobic, instead arguing she was looking out for children. "If we're doing this social experiment, can we really expect there won't be emotional suffering?" she asked.

Ms Francis also said the leaders of major political parties were "too scared" of offending Muslims. She said she believed there was a minority influence that "would want to make Australia a Muslim country". "I have Muslim friends ... but we're not a Muslim country and we don't want to become a Muslim country, so let's talk about it so we're aware of any potential and what we can do about it," she said.

Ms Francis said she wasn't against people "working within their own traditions", but noted that the burqa stopped women from showing who they were. "This is not an Australian value," she said.

The Senate candidate also took aim at Prime Minister Julia Gillard, questioning whether she was the best role model for the nation. "Everyone is entitled to be in a de facto relationship ... but people are also entitled to do other things that I don't think are a good role model," she said.

"It is perfectly OK to get drunk, but I don't think the Prime Minister would because it wouldn't be a good example."

Ms Francis believed it was a tight race between herself and the Greens candidate for the Senate, Larissa Waters. Family First is running a candidate in every seat and three candidates for the Senate in Queensland.


Anger over lack of medical internships

What's the point of half-educating future doctors? The British Labour Party government was well-known for such bungles so it is deplorable that several Australian State Labor Party governments seem to be doing the same. Just the usual Leftist bungling, I guess

NSW medical students are demanding the federal government stop increasing university places after more than 100 graduates failed to get internships in public hospitals this week.

The crisis comes three years after the government increased university places to solve the state's crippling shortage of doctors, but failed to employ extra staff in NSW hospital to supervise interns.

About 115 international students, who each paid more than $200,000 for their degrees, were told yesterday they would have to wait until Friday for final offers but there was little chance they would be employed, forcing many of them to return home.

"The intern year is a 12-month period of postgraduate training that is required for general medical registration," the president of the Sydney University Medical Society, Jon Noonan, said. "Without it, a medical degree is not worth the paper it is printed on.

"At this point last year more than two-thirds of locally trained internationals had been offered an internship within NSW. The fact that none have been placed has come as a shock to our colleagues, who had been repeatedly reassured they would be taken care of," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Institute of Medical Education and Training, which allocates internships, said 747 positions were available this year, more than enough for the state's 685 graduates, but NSW had been swamped by applicants from other states.

Last year, when the same problem occurred, the government invoked a priority system because it did not have enough money to offer internships to all graduates wanting to work in NSW.

Under that system, international students trained in NSW are only offered positions once all Australians and New Zealanders trained in Australia and overseas-trained applicants are employed, a decision that has angered the Australian Medical Students Association.

"We have a government which provides huge incentives to get these doctors back once they have left [Australia] and it seems illogical to me to do so when we have people who've been trained here to our standards," its president, Ross Roberts-Thomson, said.

"A medical degree qualifies you for nothing but an internship. If you don't get an internship, you essentially have a piece of paper which allows you to drive a taxi - or not even that."

Mr Noonan agreed, saying it defied logic that state and federal governments would shut the door on Australian-trained international students while relying on foreign-trained doctors to fill gaps in the health workforce.

Mr Noonan said his group wanted the state government to guarantee internships to all graduates in NSW and join with other states to adopt a consistent and co-ordinated framework for intern allocations.

Two years ago, the Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon, said she was aware clinical training places were "a pressure point within the system" but the government had no plans to cut university places for medical students.

"This was a crisis that was always going to happen," the former chief executive of the Australian Medical Association, Bill Coote, said yesterday.

"There has been very rapid growth in the number of medical schools and the expansion of existing schools - and there is the parallel issue of how medical schools have been allowed to attract full-fee paying students to subsidise their activities when we can't provide all graduates with appropriate training."


Tree chop fines amid fire threat

Must be a Green-dominated council

THE bushfire danger in the Blue Mountains is "frightening" - with refuges identified in only a handful of suburbs - but the local council is fining residents for cutting down dead trees.

Local firefighters have estimated fuel loads at 50 tonnes per hectare in some areas around Blackheath when just 10 tonnes is considered high. There are similarly dangerous amounts of fuel from Katoomba to Mt Victoria.

At the same time, Blue Mountains Council is raking in more than $100,000 a year in tree removal permit fees and taking residents who chop down dead trees near their bushland homes to court. Blue Mountains Council demands residents pay $90 for a permit to cut down or prune any tree taller than 4m.

The tax is in contrast to North Sydney Council which offers the same permits free and residents only need apply if the tree is more than 10m tall.

"We saw from the Victorian bushfires that common sense has to prevail, people have a responsibility and a right to ensure that their property is safe," Opposition emergency services spokeswoman Melinda Pavey said yesterday.

Woodford resident Robert Young was fined $1200 for felling dead trees with a chainsaw on his property, which adjoins bush land. When Mr Young disputed the fine, he was taken to Katoomba Local Court last year. "The [trees] posed a lot of risk. The ones that are dead and dying should be taken away. It wasn't just that - these ones were falling over as well," Mr Young said yesterday. "The council is so bloody minded."

Neighbourhood safer places were introduced after Black Saturday with buildings and open spaces that could be a "place of last resort" in an emergency identified.

In the Blue Mountains, only Katoomba, Mt Victoria, Megalong Valley, Glenbrook, Leura and Blackheath have neighbourhood safer places.

Local veteran volunteer firefighter Jim Crowther said some bushland areas adjoining properties had not been burned since the 1950s and had fuel loads of 50 tonnes per hectare.


1 comment:

Paul said...

"Children in homosexual relationships are subject to emotional abuse. Legitimising gay marriage is like legalising child abuse"

Really, there are better ways of making your point. Her values are her perogative but this is just ignorant ranting, with no factual basis. Even I have my limits.