Thursday, August 05, 2010

Julia is letting in MORE illegals -- secretly

She has decided to take in more illegals living in camps in Indonesia, to the satisfaction of the Indonesians. Despite her vague intimations to the contrary, she clearly has no intention of cutting back the flow of "asylum seekers". Deeds speak louder than words.

And even the Indonesians can see that it is a foolish decision that will just encourage more illegals to come!

Indonesia has backed Australia's secret decision to accept an additional 450 refugees annually for resettlement. But Jakarta has warned that the extra places could act as a magnet for asylum-seekers.

With Immigration Minister Chris Evans refusing to confirm the expanded resettlement arrangements, authorities in Jakarta announced they would establish a five-person taskforce to investigate claims corrupt government officials were working with smugglers to send people to Australia. The claims, aired on the ABC's Four Corners program, provoked fresh skirmishes on the campaign trail yesterday.

Julia Gillard sought to deflect questions about corruption in Indonesia. "We've made resources available to the Indonesians to assist with the disruption of people-smuggling and we have enjoyed some success in that," the Prime Minister said.

But Tony Abbott seized on the report, declaring people smugglers were "out of control". "The only way to get that situation under control is to deny the people-smugglers a product to sell, and that means bringing back temporary protection visas, and this is one thing that the Rudd-Gillard government just won't do," the Opposition Leader said.

The head of Indonesia's Immigration Department Muhammad Indra said he had formed the team in response to the allegations, which portrayed widespread and high-level corruption within Indonesia's military and Immigration Department. "We need to investigate this because we don't want to be undermined," Mr Indra said. "But it's a long process. We still have to gather evidence."

Director of enforcement and investigation for the Immigration Department Husein Alaydrus warned yesterday that news of the additional places could attract yet more asylum-seekers. "If (the extra places) reduces the numbers of asylum-seekers already in Indonesia, then I suppose its a good thing," Mr Alaydrus said. "But if it becomes an attracting factor, then I don't think that would be good."

Canberra's unannounced decision to increase refugee resettlements through Indonesia from the current 50 people annually to 500 was disclosed by UN High Commissioner for Refugees senior representative in Jakarta Manuel Jordao on the Four Corners program. Senator Evans refused to give any details on the increased number of refugees, saying only that resettlement from Indonesia was a "normal process".

But yesterday, Mr Alaydrus said he had been alerted several days earlier to the Canberra decision by Australian officials.

Indonesia currently holds about 2200 illegal registered asylum-seekers, about 1200 in 13 detention centres and the rest free in the community, awaiting processing for refugee placement or deportation.


Tony has a hospital plan that might actually do some good

The Coalition is attempting to trump one of Labor's strongest policy cards by announcing a $3.1 billion plan for 2800 new hospital beds. "What we are promising is more beds not more bureaucrats," Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said ahead of a formal announcement in Sydney later today.

To receive the funding state and territory governments first would have to create the beds. "If they want to get the money, they'll have to produce the beds," Mr Abbott told ABC Radio.

The policy also includes spending an extra $365 million on after-hours care and GP infrastructure.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard was dismissive of the Coalition plan, even though it aims to create 1500 more beds than Labor has promised so far. "Mr Abbott's plans when you look at them add up to no new doctors, no new nurses, no quicker access to emergency departments, no quicker access to elective surgery and no real local control," she told ABC Radio from Townsville.

Ms Gillard reminded voters of Mr Abbott's legacy from the time he was health minister in the Howard Government. What Mr Abbott did and what he said were "always two very different things", she said.


Fear of information from Australian education elites

School league tables splashed across newspapers earlier this year, heralding an unprecedented era of education openness in this country, are on death watch.

A coalition of teachers unions, academics and public education advocates are well advanced with their mission to strangle through technological modifications any further league tables in 2011.

The tables ranking of individual schools for literacy and numeracy were the most sensational outcome the MySchool website, arguably Prime Minister’s greatest reform triumph as Education Minister.

The information they so succinctly presented in a ranking form offered fodder for a million dinner table and bus stop debates about education choice. Overnight, parents were empowered with knowledge, even if it was a brutal outing of school performance.

But the league tables, run in various forms in newspapers including The Australian, Herald Sun and the The Sydney Morning Herald, were not an authorised part of MySchool, more like its bastard child.

MySchool helpfully compares individual school results on national literacy and numeracy (NAPLAN) tests to the Australian average and a group of “statistically similar” schools. It was the media that took the next obvious step of producing league tables ranking schools.

Many of the 1.4 million visits to MySchool in its first four days were due to teams of journalists and support staff making thousands of repeat visits to strip out its NAPLAN data to create their league tables.

While the MySchool website will be back in 2011, possibly with enhanced features that will be welcomed by parents, a new round of league tables may not be possible.

The website changes, should they not be stopped, could mean attempts to collect the data in 2011 for league tables will now take weeks or months of commitment, possibly putting their creation beyond the resource availability media organisations.

The tables were an extraordinary tearing to shreds of the secrecy shroud that hid the vast differences in the performance of individual schools based on national tests and between private and public systems.

As popular as the league tables were with parents, they also enraged teachers unions and the public school lobby which saw them as the education equivalent to opening the gates of hell.

Australian Education Union federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said that the league tables were based on “simplistic” data that was highly damaging to individual schools, teachers and students.

It was never publicly stated, but there was a fear in the public school lobby the rankings might further encourage the flight to private schools.

Following threats of industrial action to stop the next round of NAPLAN tests going ahead in May, Ms Gillard appointed a working party of teacher unions, school representatives, academics and professionalised parent groups, to respond to their concerns about use of NAPLAN data.

That working party has already reported back to the national education watchdog, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), with a list of technological proposals to prevent league tables when MySchool 2.0 is launched in 2011.

The ACARA media unit has confirmed that work is progressing on making the NAPLAN data much more difficult to strip out of the MySchool website next year.

Under one likely change, anyone logging on to check a school in 2011 will be confronted by a lengthy “click wrap” of up-front terms of conditions banning commercial use of the data they must formally agree to every time they log in, slowing down all access to a crawl.

A letter by ACARA chief executive Peter Hill, dated June 21, outlines options for changes to the 2011 MySchool website to “address” concerns expressed by the Australian Education Union and other groups.

Along with other recommendations, like adding information on funding sources, the document states that “Ministers have endorsed” investigating “action to minimise misuse” of the information on MySchool. It is clearly stated that ministers had endorsed the working party presenting “ways of deterring or preventing automatic scraping of data from the website”.

A final decision on the measures would be presented to a ministerial council of education ministers in August and October.

Australian Parents Council Executive Director Ian Dalton, a member of the appointed working party, said technical changes would stop “unauthorised usage” of MySchool data next year. Mr Dalton could not say whether the changes would prevent league tables, although he said it was important “to stop publishing data that misrepresented information included on the MySchool website”.

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Simon Crean, Ms Gillard’s replacement, would not comment on the proposal, referring all questions to ACARA.

Despite the move towards blocking league tables, there is strong evidence that the publication of league tables in NSW was handled sensibly by parents. There were no walk outs from schools that performed poorly, or any immediate flight to private schools.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act 1989 from the Department of Education and Training on enrolment changes on all schools between the period January 27 to February 28, 2010 showed no unusual enrolment changes compared to the same period in 2009.

Among those placed near bottom of league tables, Airds High School had more students withdraw in the 2009 period than in the 2010 period after My School was available and league tables were published. The school had 24 students leave in 2010 compared to 51 in 2009.

Another struggling performer, Lurnea High School had 84 students leave in 2010, compared to 100 in 2009, while another high school that was placed low in tables, Chifley College, Bidwill, had 52 enrolment withdrawals, down from 60 last year.

As well as no evidence of walkouts from individual schools, there was also no evidence of a flight from public to private schools. The documents showed there were 23,570 students who left the NSW public school system, about 2000 fewer than the same period in 2009.

But there were some parents who did react. Mum Gaynor Reid admits she quickly changed the kindergarten enrolment of her daughter Kiara Inman-Ried from Fort Street Public to Paddington Public after examining the MySchool website the night before. Fort Street recorded results below the average of schools in the inner city area in the NAPLAN test areas, so she contacted Paddington public immediately the next morning.

Ms Reid, a public relations manager with a large hotel group, even had to borrow a school uniform from a friend for the new school. “We literally had to change that very day. We had already bought the uniform for Fort Street and Kiara had even done an orientation and met a ‘buddy’ to look out for her,’’ Ms Read said.


Panic! Mt Everest is melting! Australia's public broadcasater says so

Except that they have no evidence for the claim

In early June we requested ABC substantiate claims it made in its report titled, Melting ice making Everest climbs dangerous, that: "Studies show temperatures are rising faster at Mount Everest than in the rest of South Asia." We requested ABC provide details of the studies. ABC have now replied with the following (the full reply is shown with the original post):

Received 2 August 2010

"On receipt of your complaint, we have investigated whether it could be established that a significant error had been made that warranted correction, as required by section 5.2.2(c)(ii) of the ABC’s Editorial Policies. Audience and Consumer Affairs note that studies do appear to show temperatures are rising faster at Mount Everest than in the rest of South Asia, as illustrated in Table 10.2 of the Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007. See here

In view of this, we are unable to conclude that a significant error has been made which warrants correction. However, should you have specific further information which you feel is relevant to our decision on this point, we would be happy to consider it."
We have sent ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs the following email:

The ABC report states: "Studies show temperatures are rising faster at Mount Everest than in the rest of South Asia." You have now provided the IPCC table 10.2 as a reference for this information, however for South Asia this table indicates temperature rise in Sri Lanka at "2°C increase per year in central highlands " while the annual increase for the Himalaya is given as "0.09°C per year in Himalayas".

Clearly the values for Sri Lanka greatly exceed those of the Himalaya, and Sri Lanka, not the Himalaya, is the area where temperatures are rising faster in South Asia. Clearly both trends are also worthy of further journalistic inquiry for if continued both would greatly exceed IPCC forecasts.

Table 10.2 can be viewed directly here

We wait ABC's reply. In the meantime we are investigating the source of the warming trends proposed for the Himalayas cited by the IPCC. The three references provided for the Himalaya trends in Table 10.2 are as follows...

Strangely and contrary to IPCC practice, only one of these is peer reviewed and it deals with precipitation, not temperature; the other citations are conference presentations. The actual temperature values quoted in the table originate from the following paper:

Shrestha, Arun B.; Wake, Cameron P.; Mayewski, Paul A.; Dibb, Jack E.. Maximum Temperature Trends in the Himalaya and Its Vicinity: An Analysis Based on Temperature Records from Nepal for the Period 1971--94. Journal of Climate, 9/1/99, Vol. 12 Issue 9 pp:2775-2786

This paper makes for interesting reading. It appears that the stations used to calculate Himalayan trends come from east Nepal and on face value these do not appear to confirm the warming trends claimed.... the closest weather station to Mt Everest used in the Shrestha et al 1999 paper is Chialsa, 59 km away. ABC's claims that "Studies show temperatures are rising faster at Mount Everest than in the rest of South Asia" are based on a study that has no data at Mt Everest!

More HERE (See the original for links, graphics etc.)

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