Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Katter rubbishes climate change experts

Dismissing economists as not expert about climate change is perfectly reasonable. Katter comes from a National Party background so is basically very conservative. Given the "hung" nature of Australia's present parliament, Katter's vote will be crucial throughout the life of the parliament concerned

"Independent MP Bob Katter, who says he is a "hair's breadth" away from making a decision on who to support to form government, has dismissed as "lightweight" the positions held by internationally-recognised climate change experts Sir Nicholas Stern and Ross Garnaut.

While his fellow independents, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, held briefings yesterday with the climate experts, Mr Katter pointedly refused the invitation. "I think their (Garnaut and Stern) positions are fairly lightweight," Mr Katter said.

Mr Katter said while he was close to making up his own mind, he would wait until Mr Windsor and Mr Oakeshott determined their positions before revealing his hand. "I'm not likely to be making a decision outside of the decision of my colleagues," Mr Katter, the member for the Queensland seat of Kennedy, told ABC Radio.

With the best will in the world there should be a decision by the trio of independents by the end of the week or early next, Mr Katter said.

Numerous conversations with Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Treasurer Wayne Swan, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey have filled Mr Katter's week.

Mr Katter said he wanted to keep Australia's agricultural industry alive. While the average Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development subsidy tariff level was 49 per cent, for Australian agriculturalists it was six per cent and falling, he said. "Do you really think that you're going to have any agriculture in this country in light of that competitive advantage that they enjoy?"


'Holiday camp' prison now closed down

A QUEENSLAND prison facility has been shut down amid claims it was more like a "holiday camp" with inmates enjoying easy access to drugs and going on unsupervised day trips.

Queensland Corrective Services decommissioned the Innisfail prison work camp, south of Cairns, on Monday after a former inmate said life inside was "better than on the dole".

He claimed prisoners were allowed unsupervised outings to Innisfail, and had easy access to drugs, pornography, mobile phones and visits from their girlfriends.

The former inmate said he was amazed by the comfortable conditions inside the facility, including air conditioning, flat screen TVs, DVDs and access to pay TV. "I couldn't believe it was happening, it was an absolute holiday camp," he told The Cairns Post.

"You've got people convicted of violent crimes like murder and grievous bodily harm yet they're allowed to roam unsupervised every Wednesday and Monday."

Corrective services chief Kelvin Anderson said the work camp was closed as soon as the allegations came to light. The eight prisoners living at the facility were relocated to the Lotus Glen Prison, near Mareeba, on Monday night. "The allegations are very serious and we are treating it in that way," he said. "As soon as we became aware of these allegations action was taken very quickly."

Mr Anderson said the dog squad had gone through the facility after the prisoners were removed but did not find any drugs.

He said the chief inspector of prisoners would carry out an investigation but no staff had been stood down at this stage. Guards who had worked at the camp had also been moved to Lotus Glen, he said.


Doctor scarcity costs state $86m as expensive locums flown in to fill the gaps

QUEENSLAND Health spent more than $1.5 million a week on "fly-in, fly-out" doctors and other fill-in medical practitioners last financial year. In 2009-10, the State Government spent $86.5 million on locum doctors – those who fill in temporarily – some of them flying in from as far away as New Zealand, figures obtained by The Courier-Mail show.

The base rate for agency locum doctors is up to $1800 a day – more than double the rate of permanent doctors. Air fares are paid on top of that.

Doctors working in the bush say locums are becoming more prevalent as recruitment of permanent doctors becomes more difficult, partly because of delays in registering overseas-trained doctors [And banning perfectly good doctors on the basis of technicalities]. "Most locums are supplied by an agency and work in remote or regional communities to provide cover for full-time doctors taking leave or during recruitment of full-time staff," a Queensland Health spokeswoman said.

"Queensland Health avoids the use of locum medical practitioners wherever possible, but our primary obligation is to ensure every Queenslander has access to health services."

The issue of locum doctors was highlighted during an inquest last week into the death of a four-year-old girl in the Doomadgee Hospital on July 23 last year. Doomadgee was staffed by a locum doctor, Zulfikar Ali Hudda, who was on a two-week contract, at the time of the little girl's death, to relieve the resident doctor, Nzinga Bila.

Dr Hudda had never worked at Doomadgee previously, although he had experience of Aboriginal communities. The executive director of medical services for the Mount Isa district, Greg Coffey, told the inquest Dr Bila had been the indigenous community's lone medical officer for six years.

He said doctors such as Dr Bila generally worked 200 days a year, and locums were employed for the rest of the year. "The work of a rural doctor is generally three weeks on, working 24 hours, seven days a week, then one week off," Dr Coffey said in an inquest statement.

Although a "root cause analysis" into the little girl's death had recommended "2.5 doctors" be employed at Doomadgee, he said this had not been possible.


Australia's Liberal party really are liberals

Unlike the so-called "liberals" of the USA

MALCOLM Fraser wants the Liberal Party to return to "liberal values". But what are they? Has any ideological label been more contested, coveted and contorted than the term liberal? Its Latin root, liberalis, meaning "of freedom", is also the root of liberty; so how is it that lovers of liberty find themselves identifying enemies of liberty by calling them liberals?

Well, perhaps this morphological incongruity will soon be put right because after its orbit across the political spectrum, the term liberal may be headed home to where it belongs.

The Oxford English Dictionary presents quotations dated from 1375 to demonstrate how various spellings of the word were used to describe sciences, arts, education and behaviour. The earliest quotation to suggest a political ideology is dated 1692; its author, appropriately enough, is John Locke: "Let them find by experience, that the most liberal has always most plenty." But it wasn't until the 19th century that the term was used to denote a mature political ideology of freedom. OED defines this conception of liberal as follows: "Favourable to constitutional changes and legal or administrative reforms tending in the direction of freedom or democracy. Hence used as the designation of the party holding such opinions, in England or other states; opposed to Conservative."

Conservatives of the 19th century favoured economic controls such as import tariffs to protect the landed gentry from downward pressure on grain prices. Liberals of that time favoured liberty, which meant free trade and free enterprise; that is, capitalism. And as Locke had predicted, unprecedented liberty produced unprecedented plenty.

Liberalism was such a powerful ideal, and its economic effects so propitious, that opposition was sidelined. But from the sidelines opponents craved a return to the old order, where everyone knew what to do, because their rulers told them. By the end of the 19th century liberalism's opponents had decided that if it couldn't be beaten, maybe it could be infiltrated and redirected.

Early in the new century the Fabians set about redirecting liberalism. In 1932 H. G. Wells advised the Young Liberals at Oxford to draw inspiration from the National Socialists of Italy and become "liberal fascists". Mussolini knew better. His doctrine put it this way: "If liberalism signifies the individual, then fascism signifies the state."

After World War II an even more bizarre strategy to sabotage liberalism evolved. The spin doctors managed to wrap defeated socialism with capitalism in one web, and triumphant socialism with liberalism in another. Capitalism, the child, was abducted and branded fascism. Liberalism, the mother, was made the wet nurse of Soviet-inspired socialism.

By the 1960s liberals were considered anti-capitalist and capitalists were considered fascists. This was a complete reversal of the original meaning of liberalism. Whereas 19th-century liberals made the individual sovereign over his own life and the state his protector, 20th-century liberals restored the pre-Enlightenment order: the individual's interests subordinated to society's interests, as judged by those in power, which meant the regulation of commerce and the redistribution of wealth, from those who produced it to those who didn't.

When the 19th-century conception of liberalism was revisited it had to be identified as classical liberalism to distinguish it from contemporary liberalism, which was sometimes called social liberalism. In matters such as religious or sexual preferences it retained its original meaning: freedom. But in economic matters, on which all freedoms depend, liberalism had come to mean the opposite.

In short, whereas classical liberalism signified capitalism, social liberalism signified socialism (or the mix advocated by John Maynard Keynes). Then the Soviet Union imploded. By the 1990s the term capitalism could be used in polite society again.

Because of its handful of dogged philosophic and economic defenders, and the philosophic and economic bankruptcy of their opponents, the absurdity of equating capitalism with national socialism and of claiming that socialism was more beneficent than capitalism came to be more widely understood.

And now a reunion of liberalism with its abducted child, capitalism, may be coming to pass. In the US they drifted apart, but here in Australia mother and child kept in touch, and they have recently been brought together by some unlikely sponsors.

In his ridiculous condemnation of capitalism published in the February 2009 Monthly magazine, Kevin Rudd blamed the global financial crisis on 30 years of "neo-liberalism - that particular brand of free-market fundamentalism, extreme capitalism and excessive greed which became the economic orthodoxy of our time".

Thus he publicly, albeit pejoratively, brought capitalism and liberalism together with the neo prefix thrown in.

More recently a more acute observer, Noel Pearson, dispensed with the neo. In the May 22-23 edition of The Weekend Australian he referred to Milton Friedman as: "the leading liberal economist and nemesis of the Left" whose arguments were "in terms of freedom as well as economics".

Then, at the launch of the Liberals' election campaign, Tony Abbott stated: "As a liberal, I support lower taxes, smaller government and greater freedom." He didn't mean as a Liberal Party member, he meant as a liberal, and he didn't feel the need to qualify the term with any prefix.

Abbott has a long, long way to go to deserve the moniker liberal, but if he uses it to denote defence of liberty, of the freedom to think, speak, aspire, act and keep the property so produced, he uses it legitimately. Welcome home, prodigal liberal.


1 comment:

Paul said...

I've seen some of what Stern has to say. I wouldn't trust him for a second.