Tuesday, August 24, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has actually found something to laugh about in Australia's present political gridlock.

Queensland good to conservatives

Queensland's dramatic rejection of the Gillard government in Saturday's election was less a backlash against Labor and more about the state returning to its natural conservative mode, according to some political commentators.

As voter patterns from the past 15 federal elections show, Queenslanders only occasionally vote to install a Labor prime minister - and if they do, the ALP is virtually guaranteed the keys to the Lodge.

Since 1972, Coalition parties have claimed the majority of Queensland seats in 11 of the 16 federal elections. When Labor has managed to win the majority of federal seats in Queensland, the party has always claimed power nationally.

As soon became clear when booths closed on Saturday, that wasn't the case this year, with Labor looking at losing seven seats in the sunshine state.

Queensland has long been seen by other states as more conservative - due in part to the politics of our longest-serving premier, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, and One Nation founder, Ipswich's Pauline Hanson. Brisbane might currently be trading off its image as an upbeat 'New World City', but experts say the reality is that a majority of Queensland voters remain conservative.

Australian psephologist Malcolm Mackerras told brisbanetimes.com.au he believed the move against Labor by Queenslanders signalled a "normal return to conservatism", as well as a rejection of the ALP. "It's rare for Labor to do well [federally] in Queensland. Queenslanders will vote for Labor in execptional times, like in 2007 [when Kevin Rudd claimed power from John Howard]."

Dr Ian Ward from the University of Queensland's School of Political Science agreed the state had always been "naturally conservative". "We are intrinsically a more conservative state even though we claim to be the birthplace of Labor with the Tree of Knowledge," he said.

"The Labor vote in Queensland has always been a few percentage points behind what it has federally. "I think there’s been just three occasions where Labor has got more than 50 per cent of the two-party preferred vote [in Queensland in a federal election]."

While Queenslanders have shown themselves open to voting for Labor premiers, Dr Ward said they tended to be more conservative than those in other states. "Even when we’ve had Labor government at state level they’ve been essentially conservative. There's been nothing like Don Dunstan [the progressive former premier of South Australia]," he said.

"Historically we’ve been more decentralised, we’ve got a larger non-urban population than other states. [And] Queensland is the one state in which the National Party has been the dominant conservative party."

However he stopped short of predicting a swing against Anna Bligh at the state election. "What I think these federal election results show is that things are very fluid. "If the poll had been held the week after the election was called Labor would have won, if it had been held in the second week [Labor] would have lost."

Mr Mackerras said while Kevin Rudd's removal seemed to him a good idea at the time, Queenslanders clearly disagreed. "Queensland has objected to the removal of Rudd and the rest of Australia hasn't," he said. "The Labor powerbrokers really should have thought through what they were doing. "However I think if Kevin Rudd was still prime minister Labor would have lost anyway."


Australian Muslims Push for Islamic ‘Perspective’ in School Curriculum

Recently the Australian Curriculum Studies Association and the University of Melbourne’s Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies issued a booklet, “Learning From One Another: Bringing Muslim Perspectives into Australian Schools,” which maintains that “every Australian school student would be taught positive aspects about Islam and Muslims — and that Australia is a racist country.”

Presumably every Australian child should be taught about the fabled past of Islam and imagine the worst of Australia in order to avoid the challenges Islam poses to this peacefully integrated nation.

The report contends that there is a “degree of prejudice and ignorance about Islam and Muslims,” conditions that Australian students should oppose as they embrace diversity as the standard of civic duty. Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden are mentioned as famous names synonymous with traditional Islamic ideas, but there isn’t any reference to terrorism.

The truly remarkable dimension of this report is that a largely immigrant community, comprising a small minority, is demanding that classes be taught from its perspective rather than the perspective of the nation to which most chose to come. Australia is demonized as racist while the real challenges posed by Islam are overlooked. Moreover, it is precisely the communal values and institutions in Australia that made it a worthy destination for immigrants in the first place.

Most tellingly, Australia’s so called “racist impulses” were fomented by radical Islamists responsible for the death of 100 Australians in Bali and terrorist plots in Australia itself in which at least twenty people have been jailed.

According to the report, “most Muslims are outspoken in their criticism of terrorism regardless of the perpetrator. This is because Islam only allows for a just war. … From their perspective, the enemies of Islam are the terrorists and they are the warriors of the faith.” In addition, the authors of this booklet contend that “morally, Australia is not a good place to rear children,” citing as evidence drugs and illicit relations. They argue that these conditions militate against integration. It is also an argument employed for their own system of law, sharia.

What this adds up to is a minority intent on changing the environment in which it finds itself rather than seeking an accommodation with the prevailing norms. It seems to me the authors of the report have failed to address several obvious questions: If Australia is an undesirable place to raise children, why emigrate there in the first place? If sharia is the legal code you prefer, why not move to a nation where this code is in place? Why should the Australian school system comply with the requests of this Muslim minority?

It seems to me imprudent that the demands in the booklet are made at all. Suppose a Jewish minority in Iran argued that Talmudic law should be introduced across the board for this group. By any reasonable standard this request would be rejected. There simply is no reason for the Australian government to balkanize itself and, in the process, legitimate a minority hostile to law, custom, and tradition.

That integration of minorities may tolerate a degree of loyalty and affection for the “old country” is understandable. But there isn’t any justification for altering the school curriculum in the adopted nation. If anything is the case, Muslim students will be handicapped if, by virtue of a diversity standard, they learn about Islam but remain ignorant about the nation in which they reside.

Moreover, since Western nations have made an effort to welcome Islamic immigrants through programs that engender understanding, it seems to me reciprocity is warranted. But is it possible to promote women’s rights in Saudi Arabia? Or does the school curriculum in Pakistan include a history of constitutional provisions? Do Syrian schools incorporate the history of the Kurdish minority into their school curriculum?

What the Australian Muslim minority wants is what Australia can not grant: capitulation to a state within a state. A separate Muslim school system or one that emphasizes the unique aspects of Muslim life would be a first step toward the dissolution of Australia. No wonder there is pushback. Who would expect anything else?


Outdated medical procedure behind catastrophic epidural injury in NSW government hospital

NSW public hospitals seem to be Australia's best at killing and seiously injuring their patients

The medication practice that led to the catastrophic neurological injuries of a Sydney woman, Grace Wang, during an epidural was phased out of other hospitals more than a decade ago.

Ms Wang was poisoned during the birth of her first child in June at St George Hospital when an antiseptic skin preparation was accidentally injected into her spinal canal in place of an anaesthetic. The case has rocked NSW Health and shocked the public.

The two substances - both clear liquids - were placed in separate dishes on a sterile table in the delivery room, the Herald has learned, and were mixed up as a consequence of being unlabelled. Other hospitals insist drugs are drawn by the anaesthetist directly from their original vial or ampoule into a syringe.

The head of anaesthesia at Westmead Hospital, Peter Klineberg, said yesterday the practice of drawing medications from stainless steel dishes was routine a generation ago. "It was identified as being an undesirable and unsafe practice."

The antiseptic infused into Ms Wang's spine, chlorhexidine, has increasingly been used in the past five years in NSW because it mixes readily with alcohol, which accelerates drying and the epidural catheter can be inserted sooner.

The chlorhexidine wrongly injected into Ms Wang, who has suffered severe pain and can no longer walk, is understood to have been mixed with alcohol. Her husband, Jason Zheng, said she was extremely distressed and was vomiting during her labour, and needed pain relief urgently.

The shift to chlorhexidine has been controversial, and a senior anaesthetist told the Herald betadine - the yellow iodine-based antiseptic which is easily distinguishable from clear epidural drugs - was probably safer.

NSW Health's medication policy states that in general "the same person must select a medication, administer the medication and record its administration", but if a nurse prepares drugs the prescribing doctor is responsible for checking them. Someone other than an anaesthetist prepared Ms Wang's drug, the Herald understands.


Are seas the new green battlegounds?

The article below was written by a Greenie so he sees a conspiracy where there are only outraged fishermen who resent being locked out of places where they have been accustomed to fish

In case it passed you by in the recent, just cleared, political blizzard, there's been a shift in our domestic environmental battlefronts, to the sea. After decades as an election cutting point, forests were absent on Saturday. Instead the resource versus protection barney moved to Australia's marine domain. This contest has far to go.

In the past year, a politically sharp, well-funded recreational fisheries lobby has emerged for the first time to take on, and beat, scientists and environmentalists.

It snapped up support from both major parties, and by the campaign's climax had put marine protection on the radar of many politicians whose closest previous dealings with a fish were on a plate.

At the extremes of this argument, some fishers reject any blame for overfishing, while animal activists are opposing cruelty to sentient creatures. But the main game focuses on a national set of marine reserves that until now had bipartisan, if tediously slow, support.

Australia's ocean domain is, at 19 million square kilometres, more than twice as large as its landmass. Our seas range from tropical reefs loved by tourists to frigid deeps.

When Liberal environment minister Robert Hill released the National Oceans Policy in 1998, it claimed to make Australia "the first country in the world to deliver a comprehensive national plan to protect and manage the oceans".

The initial template covering south-eastern waters from Bermagui on the New South Wales south coast, around Victoria and Tasmania to South Australia was finalised years late in 2007. About 7 per cent of this two-million-square-kilometre region is closed to fishing.

Along the rest of the coast other "bioregions" are being studied, but so far the grand total of marine protected areas (not necessarily fisheries exclusion zones) is 765,000 square kilometres, including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

States also set up their own marine protection. In NSW, 34 per cent of waters is in "parks", and 6.7 per cent in no-fishing sanctuaries, according to a 2009 count by the Australian Marine Conservation Society. In Victoria, 9 per cent of coasts is in parks and 5 per cent in sanctuaries.

Sound reasonable? Not to recreational fishers alarmed by the "no take" concept. The first sign that this lobby was mounting a serious effort came last summer, over mako sharks.

A ban on fishing for these internationally depleted fish fulfilled Australia's obligation under the Convention on Migratory Species. It's reversal by Environment Minister Peter Garrett met electoral imperatives.

Evidence that the debate was polarising came when shadow fisheries minister Richard Colbeck began to rail against the influence of "extreme" environment groups, such as the Pew Foundation.

Come the election campaign, the Australian Fishing Trade Association also popped up with a boatload of funding, warning fishing voters their children's right to hold a rod was under threat. "Fishing may never be the same again if the Greens or Labor get into power!" said their full-page advertisements.

AFTA is composed of recreational fishing trade suppliers who claim to be at the heart of a $1 billion industry. Executive director Doug Joyner said they had up to $450,000 to spend on countering the "Green grab" for 30 per cent plus of the seas.

The Greens do indeed argue for 30 per cent of the seas to go into no-take zones, claiming this is the best insurance policy for fishing in a future where over-fished stocks also face threats from climate change.

The Australian Marine Science Association has much lower ambitions, calling for effective protection of at least 10 per cent in no-take zones. Labor rejected arbitrary targets in the campaign, and pointed out that Commonwealth reserves began five kilometres offshore, beyond the reach of the average shore fisher.

But Liberal leader Tony Abbott immediately grasped the political value of a fishing rod, and now wants to shelve all marine reserve plans. Last week in Narooma on the NSW south coast he said: "I think that it's very important that we immediately suspend this marine protected area process. The fact is that it is needlessly threatening not just the livelihoods of people who live off the sea but it's immediately threatening the entire economy of the south coast."

Whether Labor survives in government or the Coalition prevails, clearly the setting has changed. "I fish and I vote" has become more than a car sticker. Expect to see more of the fishers, and their opponents, from now on.


1 comment:

Paul said...

A few interesting points about the story of Mrs. Wang. The procedure pack used would likely have been prepared by the nurse, and the skin prep would have been poured first. Usual practice is to then show the doctor the Local and he would then draw it directly into a syringe. I suspect what happened is that the nurse may have squeezed the local into another pot on the setup which the doctor then drew up. but from the wrong pot. The doctor may have checked the ampoule but probably didn't follow through to the end of the drug preparation stage, instead allowing the drug to be poured out into a pot thus breaking a chain of checking. Chlorhex preps are coloured but not that brightly once they are outside their container. Betadine is obvious when you see it, but has slipped from common use largely because it isn't such a good antiseptic, and it stains making it harder to see the area being worked on. This looks like a failure of procedure coupled with a pre-existing bad practice, and possibly overconfidence leading to inattentiveness. Systems were being changed in the 1980s to stop this kind of error so I don't know what their excuse is.