Saturday, November 27, 2010

Land of no hope and vainglory

Contempt for others is quintessentially English. As Irishman G.B. Shaw perceptively commented: "No Englishman can open his mouth without causing another Englishman to despise him".

And while the writer below rightly mocks an outrageously unbalanced comment from England (by Matthew Norman, British Press Awards Columnist of the Year 2008) about Australia, he probably does not realize that the same ignoramus would likely be even more bigoted and patronizing in his attitude towards most of his fellow countrymen: Cockneys, Scousers and Geordies, for instance.

And the fact that England is in a deep economic crisis at the moment while Australia sailed through the global financial crisis quite unscathed must be also galling to a British bigot.

And amid all its own troubles, the cash-strapped British government now has to find 7 billion pounds to help bail out the Irish. Guess how much Australia will be up for over that? Not a cent! Must not laugh!

But perhaps the biggest laugh is the bigot's comment about the cricket: "As for our boys, the tour is going so swimmingly that the Test series is as good as ours already". Perhaps that is why the England captain was caught out in the first over at the Gabba! And must not mention Siddle's hat-trick!

See here for some comments from English cricket fans who are actually IN Australia at the moment

England, I’m told you used to be this terrifically confident place which belied its speck-on-the-map geographical status by civilising the world with such benevolent and enduring cultural endowments as the Westminster system, cricket and The Benny Hill Show.

But suddenly England, you’ve gone all insecure and snipey. England, I can’t tell you how genuinely shocked I was to read this piece by journalist Matthew Norman in The Telegraph the other day. Here’s the really surprising bit.
The peculiarly upsetting thing here is that winning at games - and I hope this doesn’t sound condescending - is all Australia has. For a country without a shred of history or a soupcon of culture, and geographically distended (with apologies to New Zealand) from the developed world, sport is the only route to international relevance. Their economy may have nimbly sidestepped the global downturn, and even be booming, but sporting success is all they care about. And with excellent reason. Without it, Australia is nothing.

England, the first thing I should tell you is that I have no idea what a soupcon is. Although after googling it, I note that it should have one of those funny little hook things underneath the c. My, you really do know so much.

Oh, and speaking of hooks, I strongly suspect that your piece is exactly that, and that Aussie-bashing is the bait. Now all you need is to reel in an outraged Aussie and fillet him or her like one of your scrummy delicious kippers.

Sorry old chap. Not biting. Instead, I am going to sit here in my 25th floor office overlooking the pristine coves and beaches and waters of one of the world’s great natural wonders (Sydney Harbour), and the shimmering sails of one of the world’s cultural marvels (the Sydney Opera House). Munching on my fresh lunch sandwich with local seasonal produce which wasn’t wrapped in 10,000 layers of plastic prior to purchase, I will refrain completely from defending the virtues of my gorgeous, clean, optimistic young nation and its diverse, outward-looking inhabitants.

Neither will I direct my readers to the very first comment underneath your inexplicably insecure piece, where the commenter mentions pharmacologist Howard Florey’s role in the development of penicillin as just one Australian contribution to global culture beyond excellence in sport and the ability to enjoy really, really good beaches without leaving beer cans all over them.

Gosh, that last sentence was a bit long, wasn’t it. Anyone would think I’m getting all worked up. I’m not. I’m actually fabulously relaxed. Why wouldn’t I be? It’s Friday, the sun’s out and I live in a country where I won’t be set upon by thousands of toothless hoons for wearing the wrong colour to a football match. Well, as long as Collingwood aren’t playing.

The real question, England, is why are you so worked up? I always thought it was the little guy in any competitive relationship who was the insecure one. The one who slanders to get attention because he’s desperately unsure of his place in the world and his general reason for being. That wouldn’t be you nowadays, would it England?


A chaotic government hospital

LAWYERS cancelling surgery at the last moment???

A 12-YEAR-OLD girl has been refused life-changing surgery after being caught in an alleged feud between surgeons at the Monash Medical Centre in Melbourne.

Emily Rycken was to have had surgery on Wednesday to treat a bone deformity that has left her unable to walk without a limp or crutches. But hours before the operation, as Emily underwent pre-op blood tests and X-rays, Southern Health corporate legal counsel John Snowden took the extraordinary step of cancelling her surgery.

After seven years of treatment at Monash, the family say it's now been "suggested" they find another hospital.

Emily suffers from fibrous dysplasia, a condition that has deformed and weakened her femurs - which have broken numerous times - and left her left leg about 7cm shorter than her right.

Rick Rycken believes his daughter has missed out after changing doctors when an earlier operation by another Monash surgeon failed. "Monash Medical Centre should be ashamed of their treatment of Emily and our family," Mr Rycken told the Herald Sun. "Emily is a sick 12-year-old caught up in a fight between doctors and the hospital. "Who is accountable for her pain and suffering in missing a vital operation? "If they can't manage this, how are they going to run the promised new $250 million children's hospital?"

Medical sources said the two surgeons had competed for the job of director of orthopaedic services at Southern Health and disliked each other intensely.

The family complained to the Health Services Commissioner in 2008 that Emily's original surgeon "had words" with the second and became abusive to his wife and daughter after they told him they had decided to seek treatment with the other surgeon, rather than repeat the failed operation. That complaint was referred to the Medical Board and is subject to ongoing investigations.

Mr Rycken said Emily was left severely scarred when pins and bracing were removed six months after the original operation in 2007.

The family's hopes were again dashed this week when the Monash unexpectedly cancelled the operation to replace a plate in her leg. In an email to Emily's new surgeon telling him that he was not to operate, Mr Snowden said he was unable to find a surgical plan or clinical evidence in support of the proposed surgery.

He also referred to the "considerable controversy" surrounding the management of Emily's case over the past three years, including the Medical Board probe. "Those factors strongly support the requirement for adequate and meaningful clinical information to be provided to Southern Health prior to performance of further surgery here on Emily," he said.

Hospital surgery program director Alan Saunder then apologised to the family for the "confusion, stress and extreme frustration".

Mr Rycken said Mr Saunder's apology came after he threatened to go to the media. "Why did it take five months to discover that (surgeon two) had not lodged the correct paperwork and no surgical plan was in place? Is he supervised? "How thoroughly was Emily's case discussed?"

Mr Saunder told the Herald Sun Southern Health had a strict policy that all complex surgery was discussed with a senior clinical team to determine the type of surgery in the patient's best interest. "In this case, the operating surgeon did not discuss the surgery with the expert team, nor did he provide a comprehensive care plan."

He denied suggesting Emily seek treatment elsewhere, but said he did agree to help if the family did so.

Opposition health spokesman David Davis said Emily's plight was the "appalling human cost of John Brumby's incompetent management of the health system". "Monash and Southern Health have more than 1000 category 2 patients waiting and hundreds of them, like Emily with very serious conditions, are forced to wait over the allowed 90 days."


The chaotic NSW school system

HUNDREDS of casual teachers had their approval to teach withdrawn after they failed to attain up-to-date teaching accreditation. At the same time, a casual teacher shortage had left some schools unable to supervise dozens of classes.

Department of Education and Training figures showed that 287 casual teachers - almost 15 per cent of all who were considered - were unable to fulfil standards for their accreditation within a five-year timeframe.

The teachers whose approval was withdrawn between 2008-09 were permitted to teach students for up to five years without attaining professional competence accreditation.

Standards teachers must meet include demonstrating communication skills, a knowledge of subject content and teaching methods, planning, assessing and ability to maintain a safe classroom environment. Eight probationary teachers failed to meet a required level of teacher performance between 2008-09, the figures obtained under Freedom of Information show.

One school had 146 classes abandoned this year after no casual teachers could be found to cover for ill staff.

Hundreds of students at Wade High School in Griffith spent the worst day of the casual teacher crisis earlier this year being supervised on the oval. "We don't have a hall so the kids had nowhere to shelter, they didn't have the staff to supervise them sitting in classrooms so the teachers supervised the kids on the oval," Julie Andreazza from the school's P&C said. "It is really disgusting." She said fill-in teachers had finally been sent from Sydney.

Other schools had to cancel library and classroom lessons.

Opposition education spokesman Adrian Piccoli said many of the casual teachers unable to gain accreditation over the five years needed more support.

The teachers have to collect evidence demonstrating their skills and work 180 days, including a block at one school, over the five years to have their performance adequately assessed. "The Government must ensure those who put their hand up to work as casual teachers are given the support needed," he said.


No one fired or demoted over disastrous Greenie scheme

Isn't it grand to be a bureaucrat or a politician?

NO POLITICIAN, nor any bureaucrat, has been held responsible for Kevin Rudd's disastrous home insulation scheme.

Even as police continue to investigate whether a series of house fires, some involving fatalities, were linked to the scheme, the Government admitted no one had been sacked or demoted over the program, under which taxpayers funded the installation of insulation material in tens of thousands of homes.

Earlier this year, Julia Gillard described the home insulation scheme as "a mess" after confirmation that shoddy installers attracted to the subsidies had improperly installed the insulation, leaving some homes live with electricity.

Despite this, the Prime Minister defied opposition demands that she sack former environment minister Peter Garrett, arguing he had been poorly served by his department and reappointing him to cabinet as Schools Minister.

However, despite Ms Gillard blaming the department, no one has been held accountable in the bureaucracy.

When The Australian recently asked Climate Change Minister Greg Combet where the buck had stopped, he referred the inquiry to his parliamentary secretary, Mark Dreyfus.

Yesterday Mr Dreyfus produced a short statement suggesting no one had been sacked or demoted but insisting the government had "learnt the lessons" of the program.

Opposition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt said Ms Gillard had attempted to blame the bureaucracy when she should have simply sacked Mr Garrett. "The department from the outset recognised the risk, warned about the risk and was overridden for political reasons," Mr Hunt said. "Responsibility rests with the then minister and the current prime minister."

Mr Hunt said the government had whitewashed what was "arguably the greatest failing of ministerial accountability" since World War II. "Peter Garrett should not be a minister," he said. "The Prime Minister owns this issue now because she was part of the gang of four that overrode the department's advice. She promoted Peter Garrett and she is complicit."


Keddies finally reined in

Long overdue. The worst legal sharks in the nation

RUSSELL KEDDIE, the founder of the law firm Keddies, plans to retire from practice after "rolling over" and admitting to the Legal Services Commissioner that he was responsible for the gross overcharging of a client. Mr Keddie, 59, has filed an affidavit with the Administrative Decisions Tribunal accepting responsibility for it.

He, the partners Tony Barakat and Scott Roulstone and the senior solicitor Phillip Scroope are facing potential findings of professional misconduct after a severely injured client complained to the legal watchdog that she had been grossly overcharged.

After the Herald wrote about overcharging at the firm, Shuang Ying Meng lodged a complaint of professional misconduct. She is also suing the Keddies partners in the Supreme Court.

Mrs Meng was left a paraplegic after a bus crash in South Australia eight years ago. While her injuries were catastrophic, her legal case was relatively straightforward as there were no issues relating to liability. Her case was settled with the insurers without going to court.

However, Mrs Meng told the Herald she did not receive a bill from Keddies and it was not until she complained to the Legal Services Commissioner that she discovered Keddies had charged her $800,000 in legal fees. This was about a quarter of her total payout of $3.5 million, which was to provide medical expenses for her disability for the rest of her life. Legal experts estimated Keddies had charged Mrs Meng at least 10 times what was reasonable.

Last month Keddies, once the state's largest personal injury firm, was taken over by a rival firm, Slater and Gordon.

On October 20, six days before the takeover was announced, Mr Keddie wrote to Mrs Meng's solicitor, Stephen Firth, stating: "I wish to give you my sincere apology for what has occurred in your claim. As you may know, I [am] presently before the ADT regarding our legal costs and disbursements which were charged by my firm on the successful completion of your case. Although the sum of $180,000 was paid back to you previously, if the ADT decides that there is a different figure I have given my undertaking to the tribunal and I give my undertaking to you to refund this amount immediately with interest from December 21, 2005. I apologise for any inconvenience, stress and anxiety this whole episode may have caused you."

Mr Roulstone, who was the partner in charge of Mrs Meng's case, and Mr Barakat will move to Slater and Gordon once due diligence is is completed in early December.

Andrew Grech, the managing partner of Slater and Gordon, said he was aware of Mr Keddie's intention of accepting the blame at the tribunal but denied it was a condition of the takeover. His firm was satisfied with the professional conduct of Mr Barakat and Mr Roulstone.

The complaint against the solicitors is listed for mention before the tribunal on December 1 and the following day Mrs Meng's matter will be in the Supreme Court. A further 31 former clients are also suing Keddies.


June 13, 2008: The Herald breaks a story about dissatisfied Keddies clients, who accuse the firm of gross overcharging.

June 25, 2008: Keddies founding partner Russell Keddie is found guilty of professional misconduct for advertising his firm's services.

May 29, 2009: Disciplinary proceedings are launched by the Legal Services Commissioner against Keddies' managing partner Russell Keddie, partners Tony Barakat and Scott Roulstone and senior solicitor Philip Scroope.


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