Saturday, October 09, 2010

Greenies to push up the price of food

AUSTRALIAN households are already pay the highest ever rates for electricity. Now get ready to start doing the same for food and clothing. Proposed drastic cuts to water allocations in the Murray-Darling Basin will hit farmers from Griffith to Narrabri and send supermarket prices soaring, industry experts said.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority - an independent body charged with "restoring balance" in some of the country's most productive agricultural areas - released a proposal yesterday to cut up to 37 per cent from irrigators' water allotments.

The full cost is expected to be at least $1.1 billion in lost agricultural production, while some regional towns relying on irrigation farming may become ghost towns. The authority believes just 800 jobs will be lost, but the NSW Irrigators Council reckons that figure will be more like 17,000.

Regional Australia isn't happy but the flow-on effect will be felt as keenly in the city with more costly food and clothing, to go with already high cost-of-living pressure. "There will be riots in the streets, which is a colourful statement but this is clearly a plan to not only hurt our farmers but to depopulate regional Australia," Murrumbidgee Irrigation chairwoman Gillian Kirkup said.

In NSW, the report recommends cuts of up to 43 per cent in the Murrumbidgee and up to 37 per cent in the Murray and Gwydir as part of a plan to direct more water toward environmental purposes, such as desalination.

Farmers Association vice-president Peter Darley said the report could spell the end of farming as we know it. "They have put environmental flows ahead of food security, which is disgusting," Mr Darley said. "The cuts will push the price of food up but by how much only time will tell. But retailers will certainly capitalise on this."

The report also warns that tough restrictions on the use of Australia's most productive river network - the source of 40 per cent of our food - could push cotton farmers in the state's north to alternative crops, or right off the land. "Some service centres may become more welfare dependent," the Murray-Darling Basin Authority report [smugly] said.

The authority wants to raise environmental water flow [i.e. let the water run straight out to sea] from 58 per cent to 67-70 per cent in a bid to save native birds, fish and trees. The study is a "guide" for a draft report which will lead to a final document not expected before the end of 2011.


History course 'cobbled together'

HISTORY teachers warned yesterday that the national curriculum was being "cobbled together" through a flawed process of "ad hoc" decisions.

The History Teachers Association of Australia has joined the chorus of concerns raised in recent weeks by professional and academic geographers, scientists, visual artists and principals that the rush to finish the curriculum by the end of the year is compromising the quality of courses.

HTAA president Paul Kiem told The Weekend Australian yesterday the process developed by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority was "deeply flawed" and inspired no confidence that quality courses would be produced.

"We want a course that has a pedigree and has been through a gestation period rather than something that has been cobbled together at the last moment to meet a political deadline," he said. "We want to see it got right, not just got out. We want students to emerge with a coherent view of Australian history."

The national curriculum was originally intended to provide a broad framework, setting a common core of essential knowledge for each subject that all students should learn, no matter where they attend school.

But in the process of consultation and writing, ACARA has struggled to determine the core knowledge and expanded the breadth of topics covered, prompting one insider to describe the curriculum this week as a "camel" - a horse designed by committee.

The HTAA wrote to School Education Minister Peter Garrett on September 14, asking for the deadline to be eased to allow a more considered evaluation and review of the course. A letter written in May to then education minister Julia Gillard went unanswered.

While Mr Garrett is yet to respond, he was reported last week as saying the curriculum writers might have to work later and harder to finish the courses by December, when the nation's education ministers are due to consider their approval of the first four subjects of English, maths, science and history.

The ministers were originally expected to evaluate the first four subjects next week but the deadline was extended at the request of ACARA after concerns were raised by some states.

Mr Kiem described Mr Garrett's comments as "ridiculously out of touch" and suggested he was receiving poor advice. "The process has been deeply flawed and it does nothing to inspire confidence when state governments leave it to the last moment to intervene or when the federal minister makes ill-informed comments in the media," he said.

The latest letter from the history teachers follows letters to Mr Garrett and the state and territory education ministers from the Australian Council of the Deans of Science, the Institute of Australian Geographers and geography teacher associations concerned by the direction of the national curriculum, and the speed at which it is required to be finished.

Principals in Victoria and the NSW Board of Studies were also reported last week as holding serious concerns while the Visual Arts Consortium of academics, teachers and artists described the proposed shape of the arts curriculum, which does not include the teaching of skills such as drawing, as "tokenistic participation with no education attached".

The HTAA letter to Mr Garrett says the development of the national curriculum is "operating under considerable duress" imposed by the inadequate timeline set by the federal government.

It says the association finds it difficult to endorse the curriculum when issues about implementation and teacher training remain to be addressed, while the writing of the curriculum for years 11 and 12 lacked an overall rationale and involved "a degree of ad hoc decision-making". Similar criticisms about the process were made in May by the lead writer on the history curriculum, eminent historian Stuart Macintyre.

The HTAA also warned it was being overloaded with content by lobby groups ensuring their pet topics were included.

A spokesman for Mr Garrett said the quality of the curriculum was paramount and ACARA was being given the time to do the work and get it right.

A spokesman for ACARA said it took seriously its mandate to consult widely and the HTAA had been involved extensively in this process. "This is why we are taking a few extra weeks as it finalises the first phase of the curriculum to make sure we present a document that all education authorities can endorse," he said.

Mr Kiem said yesterday the fundamental problem was that ACARA had not developed clear guidelines and criteria and the course rationale from the start, so now there was no coherent version of what the history curriculum should look like. He said it contained more content than could be taught in the time allocated to history, and, without clear guidelines about what should be removed, it was becoming more prescriptive.


States baulk at opt-out on NBN link

Very welcome news. A monopoly of internet connections would be wide open to abuse by government -- abuse both political and financial

NSW and Victoria have ruled out following Tasmania's lead and legislating for all homes to be connected to the National Broadband Network.

The states' reluctance to legislate, coupled with take-up rates mirroring Tasmania's sluggish appetite to connect to the broadband network, could result in the federal government conducting a review into the NBN's roll-out schedule.

Failure to achieve good take-up rates in the test phases of the NBN -- which include the Tasmanian roll-out and 19 sites on the mainland -- would trigger a review to correct the connection deficiencies and pare back the NBN's mandate to connect 93 per cent of the nation to the fibre network, according to the government's $25 million implementation study into the viability of the NBN.

"If the results of the first phase of roll-out suggest the . . . coverage target will not be reached, government should use its performance management mechanisms to correct the course of the roll-out and/or revise its target," the study recommends.

Concerns over the lukewarm response to the Apple Isle's new broadband network -- where only 50 per cent of premises have been connected -- were brought to the fore this week when Tasmania Premier David Bartlett announced he would legislate to change the NBN connection procedure from an opt-in system to an opt-out model.

This means customers will be connected to the NBN unless they actively refuse to have the new fibre-optic cable plugged into their home.

The move is expected to greatly bolster the Tasmanian connection rate of premises to the NBN, where only a few hundred customers have so far activated their superfast broadband services.

The exact subscription figure of the network in the first three Tasmanian towns -- Midway Point, Scottsdale and Smithton -- remains a closely guarded secret but official state estimates predict that only 16 to 25 per cent of premises passed by the roll-out would take up subscriptions to access the high-speed internet it offers.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has welcomed Tasmania's moves to legislate an opt-out method for connection to the NBN, saying that it "will enable faster and more efficient roll-out of the network and minimise inconvenience to landowners", and has thrown his support behind the other states and territories to follow Tasmania's suit. But so far, his calls have fallen on deaf ears.

The NSW government has ruled out any plans to legislate an opt-out model and so too has Victoria. "Our intention is for every Victorian home to be connected to the NBN but individuals would be able to choose whether or not to sign up and use the service," said a spokesperson for Victorian Treasurer and ICT Minister John Lenders.

A spokesman for Queensland Public Works Minister Robert Schwarten said the government was yet to decide either way. "We are contacting Tasmania today about their legislation but we have not made a decision about it," the spokesman said.

The NBN Co has not revealed how many people have opted-in to the NBN first-release sites on the mainland, which include Brunswick, Townsville, Willunga, Kiama and Armidale.

But take-up has not been what the NBN Co hoped, with the company being forced to extend the deadlines for the return of consent forms on at least one occasion. Potential recipients have until today to return the forms. The previous date was August 31.


The charming Victoria police again

What does it take to spur a Royal Commission of enquiry into this bunch of goons?

POLICE officers have been caught joking about the electrocution of an Indian train passenger in a racist email scandal. They circulated sickening video footage of the man being killed and suggested it could be a way to fix Melbourne's Indian student problem.

The Herald Sun has discovered some of the force's highest-ranked officers have been implicated in the scandal, which also involves pornographic material. Three superintendents were nabbed during an investigation into the circulation of inappropriate emails through the police computer system. Several inspectors have also been caught.

Emails probed by the Ethical Standards Department's Operation Barrot contain pornographic, homophobic, racist and violent material.

Chief Commissioner Simon Overland described the emails as "disturbing, offensive and gross".

One of the offending emails contained video footage showing the death of a man who was travelling on the roof of a crowded train in India. When the train stopped at a station the man stood up and touched an overhead power cable. Onlookers screamed as he was electrocuted.

The email containing the shocking video began circulating in the Victoria Police computer system and racist comments were added, suggesting "this might be a way to fix the Indian student problem". It came at a time when force command was trying to ease racial tension after a number of assaults and incidents involving Indians living in Melbourne.

Premier John Brumby yesterday criticised the actions of the police who circulated the racist material. "This is completely offensive and contrary to the views and values at the heart of the Victorian community - tolerance and respect," he said.

A police spokesman said the emails were offensive. "These are matters which demanded we took action. Some of the content was extremely offensive and we can't tolerate that within the ranks of Victoria Police," he said.

Federation of Indian Students spokesman Gautam Gupta said he was appalled. "It is outrageous that police officers would joke about the death of anyone. I am really shocked. This is humour in very, very bad taste," he said.

None of the superintendents or inspectors caught during the sweep have been interviewed by ESD yet. But the Herald Sun believes it has been unofficially suggested to two long-serving superintendents they should retire as soon as possible to avoid disciplinary action.

A sergeant, two leading senior constables and a senior constable have already been sacked and six other low-ranking police have been demoted or fined.

Healesville sergeant Tony Vangorp took his life in March after being suspended and being told he faced the sack over inappropriate emails. Fifteen officers will be dealt with at disciplinary hearings in the next fortnight.

SOURCE. Note that I have a special blog on Queensland cops, there is so much misbehaviour among them.

Heavy metal fan charged over T-shirt

Speech laws are rarely enforced in Queensland but I suppose there are limits

A heavy metal music fan could face six months in jail over an allegedly offensive T-shirt. Alexsei Vladmir Nikola, 34, was due to appear in court this morning on public nuisance charges after Brisbane police officers allegedly saw him wearing the shirt on George Street on May 6.

The shirt allegedly featured the words "Jesus is a c---" in large letters and shows a picture of a semi-naked, masturbating nun.

The fashion item is believed to be merchandise of the gothic-metal band Cradle of Filth. The English band have a reputation for provocative and elaborate concerts and feature band members in corpse-like make up.

Mr Nikola, of Runcorn in Brisbane's south, was due to appear in Brisbane Magistrates Court today but his case was adjourned in his absence. He has not yet entered a plea to the charge.

The offence of public nuisance is characterised by behaviour that interferes, or is likely to interfere with the peaceful passage through, or enjoyment of, a public place by a member of the public. The charge carries a maximum fine of $1000 or six months' jail.


1 comment:

~~Just Me in T~~ said...

Australian Humour!!!

You have to wonder which, if any of our opposition ministers could fill the role of Robin Hood. I have been trying to imagine Tony Abbott in green tights – it just doesn’t work!