Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Summer freeze in Australia!

Australia generally is having an unusually cool December. I cannot remember cool nights ever before lasting this far into December -- and I live in the subtropics! Or as it says here: "Brisbane is experiencing its coldest December minimums in nearly a decade, with temperatures five degrees below average. The city last night reached 14.7 degrees, far below the average December minimum of 20.3" -- JR

Thongs and board shorts gave way to beanies and scarves yesterday as summer gave way to a wintry blast of snow and icy temperatures in the country's southeast.

While the bitter freeze in Europe continues, Victoria and NSW have had a cold snap of their own, with off-season ski slopes transformed into winter wonderlands. About 30cm of snow fell at Perisher in NSW yesterday, while Victoria's Mount Hotham received a 10cm dusting on Sunday.

Charlotte's Pass in the NSW Snowy Mountains also received a 10cm sprinkling of snow, prompting would-be bushwalkers to don clothing more suitable for skiing.

It was surprising to see the Kosciuszko Chalet Hotel blanketed with snow at this time of year, resort manager Michelle Lovius told The Australian yesterday. "I'm sitting inside in my scarf and beanie," she said. "When you walk in it, it's up past your ankles and it's just started snowing heavily again. "

In Sydney yesterday, there were blustery winds and unseasonably low temperatures of just 13C. The western suburb of Horsley Park recorded 9.8C and the Blue Mountains dropped to -2C.


Preliminary pricing for fibre broadband very high

And that's only for starters. Government cost estimates are always way lower than the final figure. For comparison, most wireless broadband services at the moment cost less than $20 p.m. -- and such services suit many people perfectly well

HOME owners could expect to pay between $53 and $58 a month for a basic internet service under the National Broadband Network. NBN Co will charge broadband retailers a uniform national wholesale fee of $24 a month for the cheapest internet package.

But retail prices are forecast to jump significantly for consumers who are looking to get a high-speed internet package with a download allowance of 500GB.

Estimated retail pricing contained in the NBN Co business case, which was released yesterday, forecasts consumers will pay about $55 for the basic internet service with speeds of 12 megabits per second and a monthly data allowance of 50GB.

This does not include voice-only customers who merely want to retain a fixed telephone line to their home.

Documents released by NBN Co yesterday said: "The government is committed to the continued availability of voice-only services for those who need them, at no greater price than they pay now."

The NBN Co business case said retail service providers that opt to move on to NBN Co fibre "could offer lower prices than are currently in the market for similar speed and download products".

Wholesale prices for NBN Co service packages range from a $24-a-month plan to $150 for super-fast fibre broadband offering speeds of up to 1000Mbps.

The wholesale network expects retail mark-ups to be in the vicinity of 10 per cent to 20 per cent.

Julia Gillard yesterday said it was up to retail service providers to determine what they would charge consumers. "Retail prices will obviously be set by the retail market, but it's just, you know, a golden rule (that) the more competition you have the better pricing consumers have," the Prime Minister said.

"So when you add it all up, what does it mean for consumers? Well, it means better quality; the NBN is obviously better quality than people have had access to. Fibre is better quality than the technologies people have been using, (and) more competition."

The opposition seized on the business plan to question the value of the NBN to consumers. Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said the business case offered "no nirvana of cheaper broadband for Australians".

"It's supposed to deliver universal and affordable broadband, and yet the broadband price that they've talked about today is comparable - it's certainly no cheaper than many comparable prices (today)," Mr Turnbull said.

NBN Co boss Mike Quigley said householders would have a choice of whether the NBN connection box was located inside or outside their home. Mr Quigley said if the householder wanted the box inside their house, they would have a choice of where it was located at no extra cost.

NBN Co is in discussions with various retail service providers over how to manage people who move into houses where the previous owner had declined the connection so they could be connected without financial penalty.


African attacks on Indians spread to Brisbane

Africans hate Indians because Indians show that a dark skin is no bar to success

A Sudanese refugee who assaulted two Indian students in separate robberies had shown little respect for the law, a court heard today. In the District Court in Brisbane Judge Kerry O'Brien was jailing Majok Mayen, 21, for four years on a total of nine offences committed over a 20 month period between February last year and October this year.

Judge O'Brien said most of the offences were committed when Mayen was either on bail, probation or a community service order. He warned Mayen he would be spending longer and longer in jail unless he mended his ways. Judge O'Brien jailed Mayen for four years with parole eligibility on September 20 next year which took into account time Mayen had already spent in custody on remand.

Mayen pleaded guilty to robbery with personal violence causing wounding, robbery with personal violence, common assault, and wilful damage. He also pleaded guilty to summary charges of disqualified driving, breach of a domestic violence order and public nuisance.

Prosecutor Dennis Kinsella said Mayen was drinking with friends and was in Melton St at Nundah, on Brisbane's northside, when he saw an Indian student, 21, walking the opposite direction, on February 14 last year. Mr Kinsella detailed how Mayen left his friends and began talking to the student before suddenly taking the student's mobile phone.

Mayen then forced the student to nearby Oxenham Park where he assaulted the victim with a broken vodka bottle as well as punching and kneeing him. Mr Kinsella said Mayen later forced the student to withdraw $500 from his bank account at an automatic teller machine.

He said while on bail for those offences Mayen assaulted a man, 21, at a video arcade at Chermside, also on the northside. Mayen was still on bail when he punched and robbed an Indian student, 24, who was working as a cab driver, on February 27 this year. Mr Kinsella said Mayen had also damaged the taxi cab's security camera.

Barrister Rob East said it was an unfortunate case of someone who had initially done very well in "the land of plenty" since coming to Australia from Sudan in 2003.

Mr East said, however, after a family upheaval Mayen had begun drinking alcohol at age 17 and his offending was directly linked to it. He said Mayen had celebrated his recent 21st birthday by going to Drug Arm in an effort to overcome his drinking problem.


British children beat Aussies for will to win, poll suggests

I fully believe this. Australia is an exceptionally relaxed society

The image of the English sportsman gracious in defeat and believing in “fair play’’ does not hold for today’s children, a poll suggests.

As England’s cricketers compete for the Ashes, the poll shows England’s youngsters are more competitive than their Australian counterparts. The Cricket Foundation survey found 83 per cent of English parents said their children were competitive (75 per cent for Australians) and 10 per cent believed winning was most important (against 5 per cent).

While more than a fifth Australian children were gracious in defeat, just 12 per cent of English were.

The survey questioned more than 1,000 English and Australian parents of children aged six to 16. Almost three in 10 Australian parents said their child was always gracious in victory when they took part in sport while almost 17 per cent of parents of English children said the same.

"The survey challenges certain stereotypes, while highlighting the benefits of competitive sport," said Wasim Khan, chief executive of the Cricket Foundation.


School bully victims paid $1m

A poor substitute for discipline

SCHOOL bullying victims have received almost $1 million in compensation from the Department of Education since January last year. One student who was harassed over 10 years won $500,000 in a court settlement, while two children were paid more than $15,000 each after their arms were broken by bullies. Another boy was paid more than $4200 because he claimed harassment by teachers caused him to fail his HSC.

The claims, which include both physical and severe psychological injuries up to September 30, were obtained under freedom of information laws by the Opposition.

The figures show students whose claims were settled by the department received less than those who went to court. A student who claimed to have been assaulted and that bullying caused a psychiatric illness was given $11,636.

The claims coincide with the Child Death Review Team this year that revealed several students committed suicide in 2009 after being bullied. One boy who claimed to suffer from gender identity disorder was "teased and threatened" at school.

Another boy was driven out of school by "taunts" in the lead-up to his suicide, while a third boy was also the subject of "taunts and bullying" while at his school.

The compensation claims show staff won payouts of more than $5000 between them over bullying cases, including ongoing sexual harassment in the school workplace and bullying and victimisation by a superior.

"These documents confirm that bullying is rife in our public schools, with both students and teachers feeling the brunt of it," Opposition education spokesman Adrian Piccoli said yesterday. "What is worse is the state is losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in claims from students and teachers that have been victims of bullying. "Bullying can leave its victims with severe and lasting physical and psychological damage, and it must be stamped out immediately."

A spokesman for Education Minister Verity Firth said there were 26 claims which were "a tiny proportion" of staff and students. "We have given principals the power to impose strong sanctions to counter bullying, including suspensions of up to 20 days," he said. "NSW public schools are among the safest places in the community for young people, and serious incidents of violence are rare."

The department has introduced a web guide for parents on cyber bullying, including tips on how to prevent it.


Sick NSW hospital data 'hidden'

THIRTEEN NSW hospitals have failed to meet infection control targets. The Sunday Telegraph has obtained NSW Health data on the hospitals with the worst records of deadly infections, such as golden staph, after it was deliberately excluded from the federal Government's MyHospital website launched last week.

The worst performers include Royal Prince Alfred at Camperdown and Blacktown and Concord hospitals, the latter having received a glowing report card last week after MyHospital rated it among the top three in NSW in terms of emergency waiting times.

The worst hospital in NSW is Gundagai, a 26-bed facility near Wagga Wagga in the state's southwest, which, with an infection rate of 6.1, is three times higher than the federal Government's national benchmark of two infections per 10,000 bed days. The data reflects the number of infections contracted out of the total number of days a hospital bed is occupied by a patient.

The infection rates, based on information collected from NSW Area Health Services between April 1 and June 30 this year, relate to staphylococcal infections such as golden staph, which has a mortality rate of 35 per cent.

Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said the Government had an obligation to make figures on the number of infections contracted in hospitals transparent, with infection rates on a bed-day basis "meaningless" for both patients and health workers. "We have to report it in a way that people working in the system can see that there is a problem," Ms Skinner said. "The Government has been trying to hide infections for a very long time. They just report very minimal stuff."

A spokeswoman for NSW Health said: "Where a hospital has a low number of patients, one infection can result in an artificially high overall rate. NSW hospital infection rates are low and consistent with rates nationally and internationally."

Harry Mavromatis, 60, of Edgecliff, contracted golden staph after undergoing a double bypass on his heart at St Vincent's Hospital in March. He said the infection led to a painful hernia, shingles and severe migraines and he had been unable to work ever since the operation.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Infection control "targets" will never be met, unless the "targets" are brought down to reflect the increased overcrowding, understaffing, deskilling, and procedural breakdown that are endemic now to the whole public health system in every State.