Sunday, January 31, 2010

Carhire: Avoid Europcar. Their predatory practices continue

Car rental outrage

Last year I rented a car from Europcar's depot at Coolangatta Airport. Four days later I returned the car and it was inspected: "No problems. Have a good flight."

Europcar's "courtesy call" on my message bank awaited me at Sydney Airport and stated that my credit card would be charged for damage to the car's rear. I made a furious call and learned that the damage was detected during washing. I demanded photos, which duly arrived, with the advice my card had been debited $381.25.

The photos revealed a minuscule black mark to a car I hadn't rented. Given only 86 minutes between inspection and billing, no time was wasted in washing the vehicle, detecting and assessing the alleged damage, obtaining and approving a written quotation and then authorising and debiting my card.

I sent a number of letters, including one from my solicitor, to Europcar. When Europcar caved in, insult was added to injury by its company secretary advising "that Europcar's decision to reimburse the amount was made purely as a goodwill gesture".

- Mel Bloom

Fuel for thought

Following a recent trip to Britain, I arrived home to find an additional charge on my credit card of $1500 from Europcar.

The car we were allocated at the Fulham Broadway branch had a broken key bound up with tape.

On expressing my concern, I was informed that this car was the only one available and the key was working. I also noticed some glue residue on the fuel cap and was informed "it's nothing to worry about".

As it turned out the missing tag and sticker from the fuel cap said "diesel only". Not realising these omissions I filled up with petrol and broke down at night in the Yorkshire Dales.

After appealing to Europcar about the charge I was informed "that it is the customer's responsibility to check what type of fuel the vehicle requires prior to refuelling and, as in this case, when this has not been made clear on the key or fuel cap, it would be deemed especially necessary to clarify this".

- Janet Reynolds

Car scrape

I read Mel Bloom's experiences with Europcar Coolangatta where he was charged $381.25 for minuscule damage to a car that was not even the one he had rented. I had a similar experience with Europcar at Launceston Airport last year.

A "courtesy call" to my message bank awaited my return to Brisbane and said my credit card would be charged $260.23 for a scrape on the front guard. This "scrape" was invisible to me in the photos but there were pre-existing scrapes, scratches and chipped areas, some rusty.

I said I would seek the car's hire records for a history of others subjected to similar treatment. Fortunately, the photos also showed a front tyre lacking sufficient tread; reason enough to have the matter resolved in my favour.

- Chris Longden

Rental quarrel

I, too, had a similar experience as Mel Bloom (Traveller, January 9) when I hired a car for four days from Europcar at Launceston Airport in 2005.

I returned the car washed and undamaged except for scratches already indicated on the signed condition report. It was Sunday morning and the Europcar counter was unattended so I deposited the key in the key slot at 9.30am.

Two days later I received a letter from Europcar advising it had debited my credit card $356.30 for damage to the front tyre, wheel trim, bumper and guard. It provided undated photos of the damage but no photograph of the entire vehicle.

The charge had been made to my credit card at 9.52am, so in the space of 22 minutes the company had supposedly checked the car and obtained quotes.

The quotes I asked for and received were not dated, so I phoned the two businesses named on the quotes and they told me they didn't open on Sundays. When I challenged Europcar it said the quotes were guesstimates. I phoned my credit-card provider for advice and it took on the case. After three months the $356.30 was credited to my card. The lesson: ensure a company representative checks the car with you when you return it.

- Lynda Simpson


Patients in Queensland government hospitals malnourished

Just like government hospitals in Britain. And the solution is very British too: More bureaucracy. That it's more nurses that are needed to help feed the elderly is beyond their tramtrack socialist comprehension

ONE in three patients in Queensland public hospitals is suffering from malnutrition, according to a State Government report. The Queensland Health briefing paper says malnutrition is "highly prevalent" in hospital patients and residents in aged care facilities. It said malnutrition could be costing Queensland more than $13 million a year. It was blamed for extended hospital stays, causing illness and disease, and exposed the department to legal action.

Liberal National Party health spokesman Mark McArdle said he was concerned that the Government had slashed health budgets by cutting patient food services. Health sources said hot meals in some hospitals had been reduced from three to one per day. "This is Third World . . . this is seriously affecting patients' recovery and ultimately tying up desperately needed hospital beds," Mr McArdle said.

In documents obtained by the Opposition under Right to Information laws, it was revealed that Queensland Health first examined the problem in 2003, but did nothing about it until 2008. A July 2009 report for Director-General Mick Reid warned of the dangers of malnutrition. "Due to the emphasis placed on the high and increasing prevalence of obesity and related disorders, there is little awareness of the existence and extent of the other extreme, malnutrition," the report said.

Queensland Health's Patient Safety Centre conducted a six-month investigation in 2008. It found that 30 per cent of hospital patients and 50 per cent of aged care facility residents suffered from malnutrition. It was estimated to have cost taxpayers $13 million in 2002-03.

The centre recommended the establishment of a malnutrition prevention manager within Queensland Health, to be paid $120,000 a year.


Parents act on schools information

PARENTS rocked by the My School website have already begun pulling their children out of poorly performing schools. At the same time, principals from Sydney schools that rate highly on the Federal Government website have received dozens of calls from parents wanting to transfer their children, the Sunday Telegraph reports.

The unprecedented interest in the website, launched last Thursday, is set to cause further fallout this week as more parents try to make last-minute changes to enrolments at the beginning of the first full week of school.

Public School Principals Forum chairperson Cheryl McBride said parents were already removing their children from schools that recorded poor numeracy and literacy results. "There are certainly anecdotal reports coming through from principals," she said. "On Friday morning, I heard of some parents of children at a western Sydney school who were extremely upset and were threatening to withdraw their children."

Ms McBride said principals were particularly concerned about how parents of pre-schoolers would react. She was worried parents whose children were due to begin school next year would be turned off their local school if its results lagged.

Under current Department of Education guidelines, all public schools must accept enrolments from students who live in the local catchment area, regardless of the existing number of pupils. Parents can enrol their children at public schools in other areas only if the school has vacancies. They are accepted at the principal's discretion.

Some highly ranked schools, such as Cheltenham Girls High, at Beecroft, and Killara High, on the lower north shore, already have more than 1200 students enrolled this year.

St Francis of Assisi Regional Primary School, at Paddington, posted one of the highest average scores in literacy and numeracy across junior schools in the State. Principal Louise Minogue said a handful of parents called her on Friday to discuss future enrolments. "Someone I spoke to, their child doesn't even begin school for a couple of years but they were worried whether the child would get in. "It's amazing how many people have gone to the website."

Federation of Parents and Citizens' Associations of NSW president Di Giblin said she had heard of parents already transferring their children out of the worst schools. Ms Giblin said she advised parents against taking such drastic action, but conceded "a small percentage" would move suburbs to nab a place at a coveted school.


Immigration detention centre continues to grow

Australia's Christmas Island detention centre is expected to keep growing as "asylum seekers" continue to arrive

Labor in opposition called it a white elephant, the Australian of the Year has labelled it a factory for mental illness, while the federal opposition says it's a visa factory. However it's described, the Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre is never far from the spotlight.

A group of Tamils staged a peaceful protest inside the compound this week, which included a short a hunger strike that has now ended. Refugee advocates say the Tamils are angry about a mobile phone ban and long processing times, inflamed by the fast-tracking of asylum seekers from the Oceanic Viking who struck a deal with the federal government after refusing to disembark from the Australian customs boat in Indonesian waters.

Built by the former Liberal government at a cost of more than $400 million, the centre has operated only under the current federal Labor government. Tucked away on Christmas Island's northwest point, the detention centre is holding about 1564 asylum seekers. The latest boatload arrived on the island for processing on Friday. Despite the monsoon season asylum seekers continue to arrive in Australian waters bound for Christmas Island, with one group intercepted last week just one nautical mile (less than 2km) to the north of the detention centre.

Last year Immigration Minister Chris Evans announced capacity of the centre and other facilities on the island would be doubled from 1200 to 2200, at a cost of $40 million, to cope with the expected influx of asylum seekers. A Department of Immigration and Citizenship spokesman said the current capacity is 1848.

Senator Steve Fielding and opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison visited the island last week to inspect the detention facilities, which also include alternate accommodation for children and women, along with traumatised asylum seekers. Senator Fielding likened the accommodation for most as 'akin to a motel'. He said Australians did not need to be concerned about how detainees were being looked after other than those who are living in tents erected to provide further capacity at the centre. 'It's very good accommodation, I think people are well fed, they're well looked after, I think the only concern is the tent city and quite frankly they are at capacity and bursting at the seams and that just can't continue,' he told AAP.

Senator Fielding said both he and Mr Morrison were kept away from the protesting Tamils who were sitting outside under a shaded area near the centre's oval. 'We were kept well away from there, in one way it would have been nice to go and chat to them about their concerns but they were very concerned about making the situation worse,' he said. 'They're basically saying they are going to remain on a hunger strike until they're treated as human beings. 'The conditions here are quite good so I'm not so sure exactly what they are complaining about.' Mr Morrison said some of the detainees had been living in tents for 28 days. [How sad!] The federal government had to realise it had a problem and the real issue was to halt the number of boats arriving, he said.

The hunger strike had been triggered by the fact asylum seekers from the Oceanic Viking had been given a special deal to fast track their cases that others had not, Mr Morrison said. 'I don't think they have a claim frankly when it comes to their treatment, I think their treatment here is outstanding,' he said.

Reports of interviews with detainees showed people smugglers were selling a good product to asylum seekers bound for Christmas Island, which was essentially a 'visa factory', Mr Morrison said. He said detainees reported people smugglers were saying the only country to come to was Australia. 'They never said that about Australia when the coalition was in government.'

Boats will continue to arrive, both Mr Morrison and Senator Fielding say. And with the boats come the immigration workers, the police, customs staff, health workers and security guards needed to run the detention centre. The remote island, 2600km northwest of Perth, is closer to Indonesia than the Australian mainland.


Bureaucratic attempts to restructure welfare-devastated Aboriginal life are going nowhere

THIS should be a time of progress and optimism in the remote Aboriginal communities of the Northern Territory. Vast reform efforts are under way, huge resources have been committed to transforming the social map, hundreds of new houses are being built or at least are on some official drawingboard, the commonwealth's emergency response is entering a much-advertised sustainable development phase.

Even the town camps of Alice Springs are being cleaned up as part of a $130 million transformation plan. New local government shires are in place across the bush to streamline public services and oversee the creation of 20 "growth towns". There is a remote service delivery headquarters in Darwin and a fresh philosophy of consultation is in the air.

"Grassroots inputs will help the tree to flourish," declares the commonwealth's co-ordinator-general for services to remote communities, Brian Gleeson, in his first report. His Territory-appointed counterpart, development expert Bob Beadman, speaks eagerly of government agencies and indigenous people keen for change, "all poised for the communities to develop a sense of wellbeing and place in society, and taking the opportunity to move forward with the options modern life has to offer".

Why, then, are fights and feuds still the chief markers of time's passage in the Aboriginal societies of the centre? Why is there a pandemic of marijuana use among the young, to go with the mass alcoholism seen in the itinerant camps of Alice Springs? Why are funerals and hospital visits the key events of the social calendar?

In a bid to take the true pulse of the central Australian bush and gauge the effect of the latest reform program, 2 1/2 years since the initial intervention on John Howard's watch, Inquirer this month made a 3000km journey through the far reaches of the Western Desert, visiting communities and outstations.

Despite the rhetoric being pumped out in Canberra and Darwin, it is plain that another policy failure is unfolding across the inland: money is being poured into the region, nourishing support staff and project managers but failing to benefit the indigenous citizens it is intended to help. Indeed, under the present dispensation little has changed and little can change: power over local affairs has been withdrawn from the communities while the welfare and training systems in place constitute a perfectly structured trap.

The consequences are widely felt. A dreadful disconnect between the administered and the administrators is palpable. What does one register in a typical desert community in this new progressive era? Depression, lassitude, a deep lack of purpose or involvement in the economic patterns of the wider world.

There are routine paid tasks to be done by locals: cleaning, rubbish collection and the like. They are overseen by managerial outsiders and helpers, tellingly referred to as staff and accommodated in little white mini-suburbs set apart from Aboriginal living areas.

But the incentives for community members to remain in the workforce or develop skills are minimal: it takes 20 hours of work a week before a remote community labourer has earned as much as he or she receives in standard welfare payments.

Beadman is one of few senior officials prepared to comment publicly on this dilemma. He says "it will take time, persistence and hard-headedness to move people out of dependency", and he cautions that he is hearing reports that remote community locals are refusing jobs at shires and stores. He even canvasses "breaching" welfare recipients who decline to work. But the flow goes both ways. Inquirer saw locals in one community approaching shire officials and pleading for work, to be told none was available.

Inquirer heard testimony that a senior local shire worker on approved leave for ceremonies was terminated because of his absence. The trap of joblessness, however reached, is profound: it is the key feature shaping the communities.

Hence, remote life's unhurried rhythms: dogs gather in their packs, card games wear on, queues form at the shop, police cars drift by on patrol. For many residents, the critical issue at any given time is the next trip into Alice Springs, where drink, drugs and casino gambling are on offer.

At least Canberra is well-informed these days about the surface conditions in the remote Territory. A network of 50 government business managers is in place, observing the 70-odd prescribed communities targeted by the initial intervention. Some of these managers are engaged, some ineffectual; some benign, some unpopular. All of them file detailed intelligence reports to Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Canberra department charged with running the emergency response's next phase, when the word intervention will be retired, and "normalisation" put in its place.

These reports which, somewhat creepily, are not shared with the target communities, are transmitted to the remote service delivery board of management in Darwin and they serve as the basis for fine-tuning policy. But since their writers speak no desert language and must rely on paid local "engagement officers", such documents catch little of the mood of discontent and cynicism that has spread through the communities.

The immediate weight of administration is now shouldered by the new shires, Territory local government bodies set up two years ago and virtually insolvent due to their funding arrangements and bizarrely ruinous IT costs. On paper, these organisations had strong potential as vehicles for the democratic control of regional priorities, for in the centre the remote shires cover exclusively indigenous populations and have indigenous councillors.

But as soon as the local shire councillors began trying to influence events on the ground, the bureaucrats hit back. Long lectures on separation of powers now consume shire meetings; Aboriginal councillors and mayors have come to realise the public service has once again clawed back control over their lives. One desert shire has 42 highly paid administrators where seven were needed in the old days when community councils operated; its human resources department alone employs three people.

Much of the tone of community life stems from the ground conditions. Overcrowding is still the key factor in the Aboriginal bush, the chief source of conflict, tension, ill-health and poor education outcomes: hence the critical importance of the $672m Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure program for public housing which, after two years has yet to have any effect in the centre. Take Kintore, the celebrated home of the modern desert painting movement, with its population of about 500. Here prominent artist Yuyuya Nampitjinpa lives in a block house with 27 residents while next door, shire councillor Irene Nangala has 29 people living in her home.

Yet no new houses will be built in Kintore. The repairs and renovations that have been scheduled will be carried out without the involvement of the local training and housing contractor. Six houses in the community stand derelict and a further two, formerly used for Aboriginal housing, have been taken over for health and social service use.

Take little Haasts Bluff, where three home renovations "to city standard" will be carried out when 18 houses need urgent repairs. Even the scope of the renovation works has been scaled back in recent months. Consider the prospective "growth town" of Papunya, where broken houses dot the landscape and many of the population of 300 live 15 to a dwelling: the renovations budget has been cut from $3.2m to $1.9m as SIHIP's program costs have blown out. Nineteen houses in the community will be worked on, at $100,000 each, maybe after Easter this year. Again, no new houses will be built in such places. Thus the largest Aboriginal housing project ever mounted in the Territory will not have the slightest effect on the overcrowding crisis in these communities.

A telling example of today's "whole of government" approach to housing is provided by recent initiatives at Imanpa, a small, functional settlement just off the Lasseter Highway leading to Yulara. Imanpa has 18 houses for its 200 people. Many houses are very full: one holds 17 family members from four generations. There are several modern houses reserved for the handful of outside staff; there is also a new police station.

Now the Territory police want to build a larger police station alongside the community to patrol the highway and three big new houses for its officers as well. Imanpa, understandably, feels over-policed: its leaders are up in arms and say they will not approve the new station unless their own people also get some new housing. Imanpa's promised repairs and renovations budget under SIHIP has already been cut from $1.1m to $700,000, or about $75,000 for each house due to be repaired: enough, on a rough estimate, for a new kitchen and laundry once the outside work crew fees have been factored in.

These are the kinds of new figures that have been quietly provided in recent weeks to the desert communities; they are, understandably, not being widely advertised by the responsible commonwealth and Territory government departments.

In theory, it should be simple to kick-start economic activity in such a landscape when so much needs to be done. Workforce training should be the first growth area. In practice, training leads nowhere: many young remote community men have already been trained as builders under the last housing program, and will now be trained again under SIHIP.

Training is outsourced by government and specialist companies are installed in larger centres. They offer skills judged useful in the brave new world of the centre. Basic courses for the mining industry are the main fare. Tourism, the obvious main chance, is a little exploited opportunity. Mutitjulu community lies next to Uluru and next to a giant tourism complex with 1000 workers, built on Aboriginal land; yet no Mutitjulu local holds a job at the Yulara resort.

There is, of course, another model for Aboriginal social development in the bush beside the vision of growth towns filled with Western businesses. For the past three decades, the dream of a contained life on outstations has held seductive sway in policy circles and, as a result, scores of small, far-flung huddles of houses and facilities dot the desert landscape.

Millions of dollars worth of infrastructure has been concentrated in these places. But many of the outstations now stand empty for much of the year as their occupants congregate in Alice Springs.

During a swing through the Kings Canyon outstation, Inquirer saw deserted facilities, damaged equipment and broken work buildings. At one large, vacant outstation, the houses had been vandalised by the abandoned pet camels. Tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage had been sustained, the septic tanks were full to overflowing, maggot casings lay thick in stagnant pools on the lounge-room floors.

From such cameos of wilful neglect, it is easy to concoct a bleak view of outstation life and the slim prospects for its successful prolongation in the centre. But there are counter-examples. Consider tiny Wanmarra and the details of its circumstances. Wanmarra outstation has 11 residents, six of them diligent market-garden workers on a community development employment program, the work subsidy scheme now being phased out by the commonwealth. There are three neat, solid family houses, all in perfect condition. Two of them were built by the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission two decades ago. Wanmarra has a cool room for the food crops it grows: tomatoes and watermelons trucked off regularly for sale in Alice Springs.

Peter Abbott, the young Community Development Employment Projects co-ordinator for the area, spells out the dilemma. It lies in the core economics of the outstation. A full crop of fruit, once sent out, may earn $3000; the program wages available for him and his fellow workers are $200 a week. "The only good thing," he says, "is we're sitting on our country and we're not somewhere in town. It makes us happy."

Wanmarra illustrates several features of the outstation model: how hard it is to make a living in the desert and to profit from the exiguous market opportunities of the centre; how much, too, depends on personal commitment. But it also shows that the welfare life is not an inevitable temptation; nor must bush houses decay within 10 years of their construction. There is a sharp, implicit lesson. It is precisely the policies of the commonweath and Territory governments, and the signals they still send, that favour the outcomes we see across most of Aboriginal central Australia.

How to recraft the model? The first step is to grasp the tone of the emotional landscape in the communities. Despite the new vogue in Canberra for constant consultations, senior bush men and women feel they have been marginalised and ignored. A mood of gloom and resignation has taken hold now that the emergency response has been smothered by a new tide of bureaucratic initiatives. Never have there been so many outsiders living on communities, and living off them, as locals well know. What limited autonomy once existed at the level of the remote community councils has been prised away and new tiers of administration imposed.

Welfare persists, though in more tightly constrained fashion. Some public housing is being provided, though at the cost of enforced leases over Aboriginal land. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Aboriginal people in the centre's remotest settlements are now being policed and watched more than they are being helped. The intensity of the outside attention tends to backfire: it infantilises and erodes capacity, rather than builds it up. Money flows in, but it is being spent on the outside contractors and providers of services rather than on bush jobs.

A complex new architecture of governance has been put in place but it is, once more, an architecture that blithely ignores the traditional patterns of Aboriginal social authority and contributes to the breakdown of old ways. Such is the map as the freshly badged policies of sustainable development begin to bite.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

The "Stolen Generations" myth is just another Leftist fraud -- entirely at variance with the facts

Summary below by Keith Windschuttle, Australia's most painstaking historian. He looks at ALL the evidence

In his 2008 parliamentary apology, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd endorsed the estimate by Peter Read, the university historian who first advanced the concept of the Stolen Generations, that 50,000 Aboriginal children were forcibly removed in the 20th century. Read had written that governments removed children as young as possible and reared them in institutions isolated from any contact with Aboriginal culture. "Welfare officers, removing children solely because they were Aboriginal," he said, "intended and arranged that they should lose their Aboriginality, and that they never return home."

The majority were allegedly babies and infants. The SBS television series First Australians claimed most of the 50,000 were aged under five. Henry Reynolds explained the rationale: "The younger the child the better, before habits were formed, attachments made, language learned, traditions absorbed."

It is not difficult to prove these assertions are untrue. When you look at the surviving individual case records in NSW, as I did for the period 1907 to 1932, they reveal that 66 per cent of the 800 children then removed were teenagers aged 13 to 19 years. Some 23 per cent were aged six to 12, and only 10 per cent were babies to five-year-olds. Most of them came from Aboriginal welfare stations and reserves. Two-thirds of the teenagers went not to institutions but into the workforce as apprentices.

For white children in welfare institutions, apprenticeship was then the standard destination too. At the time, for both white and black children, apprenticeship meant leaving home for four years and living with an employer. The principal occupations targeted by these job placement schemes, agriculture for boys and domestic service for girls, were the same for both black and white apprentices.

In Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory in the first half of the 20th century, laws and policies forbade the removal of full-blood children. The policy for segregated reserves across all of central and northern Australia, where full-blood populations still predominated, had been defined in Queensland in 1897. One of its principal aims was to preserve the ethnic integrity of the full-blood population by prohibiting sexual relations with Europeans and Asians. For J. W. Bleakley, the Queensland chief protector who also wrote the commonwealth policy that prevailed in the 1920s and 1930s, this was a matter of great principle. "We have no right to attempt to destroy their national life. Like ourselves, they are entitled to retain their racial entity and racial pride."

Only half-caste children could be removed. However, in WA, half-castes could not be removed under the age of six. In the post-war Northern Territory, 80 per cent of children in the Retta Dixon Home in Darwin and almost all those at the St Mary's hostel in Alice Springs (the Territory's sole institutions for part-Aboriginal children) were of school age, between five and 15. This was not surprising since the main reason for these homes' existence was to provide board for children sent by their parents to go to school.

The idea that most children were removed permanently is also untrue. In NSW, 80 per cent of those sent to one of the three Aboriginal child welfare institutions stayed there less than five years. Those aged 12 to 15 typically remained for months rather than years. Long-term residents were limited to those who had no parents willing or able to care for them. Rather than attempting to destroy Aboriginal culture, institutions for these children performed a temporary care function for disadvantaged and dysfunctional families, the same as welfare institutions for white children.

Those made apprentices were away from home for four years but could return for annual holidays. Their case files show that once their apprenticeships were complete, a majority returned home.

Another falsehood is that parents were not allowed to visit children in institutions. In NSW, the Aborigines Protection Board not only permitted this but from 1919 onwards it gave parents the money for the rail fare plus "a sustenance allowance" to do so. There is plenty of evidence of Aboriginal parents visiting their institutionalised children in NSW, SA and WA. As one inmate of the Cootamundra Girls' Home said, "my father, he always used to come over on pension day, and me birthday". At the Retta Dixon Home in Darwin, up to one quarter of those accommodated were working women, several of them single mothers with their children.

The notorious Moore River Settlement in WA was an institution for destitute Aborigines of all ages. Indeed, most children went there with their parents. Only a minority of children at Moore River, a total of 252 from 1915 to 1940, or 10 a year, were removed from their families. This was out of a state population of 29,000 Aboriginal people.

What support there was for the Stolen Generations thesis came from quotations taken out of context by politically motivated historians. Read claimed the files of individuals removed by the Aborigines Protection Board revealed the motives of those in charge. "The racial intention was obvious enough for all prepared to see, and some managers cut a long story short when they came to that part of the committal notice, `reason for board taking control of the child'. They simply wrote `for being Aboriginal'."

My examination of the 800 files in the same archive found only one official ever wrote a phrase like that. His actual words were "being an Aboriginal". But even this sole example did not confirm Read's thesis. The girl concerned was not a baby but 15 years old. Nor was she sent to an institution. She was placed in employment as a domestic servant in Moree, the closest town to the Euraba Aboriginal Station she came from. Three years later, in 1929, she married an Aboriginal man in Moree. In short, she was not removed as young as possible, she was not removed permanently, and she retained enough contact with the local Aboriginal community to marry into it. The idea that she was the victim of some vast conspiracy to destroy Aboriginality is fanciful.

Rather than acting for racist or genocidal reasons, government officers and missionaries wanted to rescue children and teenagers from welfare settlements and makeshift camps riddled with alcoholism, domestic violence and sexual abuse. In NSW, WA and the Territory, public servants, doctors, teachers and missionaries were appalled to find Aboriginal girls between five and eight years of age suffering from sexual abuse and venereal disease. On the Kimberley coast from the 1900s to the 1920s they were dismayed to find girls of nine and 10 years old hired out by their own parents as prostitutes to Asian pearling crews. That was why the great majority of children removed by authorities were female.

The fringe camps where this occurred were early versions of today's remote communities of central and northern Australia. Indeed, there is a direct line of descent from one to the other: the culture of these camps has been reproducing itself across rural Australia for more than 100 years.

Government officials had a duty to rescue children from such settings, as much then as they do now. Indeed, the major problem was that state treasuries would not give the relevant departments and boards sufficient funds to accommodate all the neglected and abused Aboriginal children who should have been removed.

The other great myth about the Stolen Generations is that children were removed to "breed out the colour". It is certainly true that two public servants responsible for Aborigines in the 1930s -- Cecil Cook in the Northern Territory and A.O. Neville in WA -- subscribed to a proposal for radical assimilation. Cook said in 1933 that he was endeavouring "to breed out the colour by elevating female half-castes to white standard with a view to their absorption into the white population". Neville said in 1937 that if such a scheme were put into practice we could "eventually forget that there were any Aborigines in Australia".

There are two problems with this case. For a start, the proposal was, as its name said, about "breeding", not the removal of children. It was a plan to oversee the marriage of half-caste women to white men. In practice, it was a failure. Part-Aboriginal women preferred men of their own background and few wanted to marry white men. By 1937, Cook confessed he had overseen fewer than 50 such marriages in his time in office.

Second, those who proposed it were never given the legal authority by their ministers or parliaments to institute such a scheme. Nor were they given enough funding to do so. Neville constantly complained about the tiny budget he received, half that of NSW for an Aboriginal population three times as great. He was never funded to undertake a program of inter-marriage and assimilation. Indeed, the Native Administration Act of 1936, now demonised by historians, inhibited his ability to breed out the colour by defining half-caste people as "natives" and forbidding their marriage to white people or those of lesser descent.

An earlier generation of historians support my interpretation. In his 1972 book Not Slaves, Not Citizens, Peter Biskup declared Neville's program "an unequivocal failure" that was "quietly dropped". Biskup said of the 1936 act: "Instead of being bred out, colour was being bred in." In Shades of Darkness, his history of Aboriginal affairs from 1925 to 1965, Paul Hasluck said the proposal was too unpopular with white voters and their elected representatives to ever have been implemented.

Yet recent historians and commentators have persisted in describing this proposal as "a massive exercise of social engineering" and an instrument of genocide. Robert Manne, professor of politics at La Trobe University, described it as commonwealth policy: "The officials in Canberra and the minister, J. A. Perkins, gave support to Cook's proposal for an extension of the Territory policy to Australia as a whole."

This is false. The truth is that Perkins, minister for the interior in the Joseph Lyons government, in a carefully worded statement to the House of Representatives on August 2, 1934, denounced the proposal. He said: "It can be stated definitely, that it is and always has been, contrary to policy to force half-caste women to marry anyone. The half-caste must be a perfectly free agent in the matter."

From 1932 to 1934, Cook had tried several times to get approval for his proposal from the Lyons cabinet. None of the letters and reports that circulated between Darwin and Canberra on this issue ever mentioned that it had anything to do with removing children. The whole discussion was about arranged marriages.

Once Lyons and his ministers learned about Cook's plan, and especially after being subjected to the embarrassing publicity it generated in both the Australian and English press, they wanted nothing to do with it. On September 19, 1933, cabinet sent the proposal back to the department unapproved. Bleakley's alternative recommendation for segregated reserves that retained the Aborigines' "racial entity and racial pride" remained commonwealth policy for the duration of both Cook's and Neville's tenures in office.

None of the historians of the Stolen Generations have ever reproduced Perkins's statement. Nor have they reported any of the other critical reactions made by Lyons to the press. On June 23, 1933, the Darwin newspaper, the Northern Standard, quoted Lyons government sources saying: "It is all a lot of rot." But you won't find that quoted in any of the academic literature on this topic.

Manne is not the only offender here but, as a professor of politics, he had the greater public duty to tell the full story. However, he stopped short of revealing that the events concluded with cabinet throwing out the proposal and the minister denouncing it in parliament. To have told it all would have publicly disproved his case about the Stolen Generations and the allegedly racist and genocidal objectives of government policies in the 1930s.


Traditional educational methods get results

WHEN you are already learning Sanskrit, Latin, Spanish and putting on a Shakespearean production each year, the national literacy and numeracy tests might seem like a cinch to children at John Colet School.

Gilbert Mane, the headmaster of the independent school in Belrose, which came sixth overall in a ranking of NSW primary schools based on results from NAPLAN tests, said the students also studied philosophy and meditation.

While other schools have abandoned traditional grammar, John Colet has maintained a strict approach. Its students also learn their times tables the old-fashioned way, by rote.

"Most of our parents are more interested in character building, spiritual values, our enriched curriculum and the overall care we take to build on every individual child's strengths and abilities," Mr Mane said.

"All our children, regardless of ability, study classical languages, philosophy and perform annually in a Shakespeare play. This raises the academic level naturally without the need to hothouse the children or 'teach to the test'."

Mr Mane said the 150 students shared a love of learning and were taught by a committed and passionate teaching staff. He was pleased with the results but warned parents against using them as the only measure of success.


Christmas Is detainees 'have nothing to complain about'

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison has stirred up controversy during an inspection of Christmas Island, saying that protesting asylum seekers have nothing to complain about.

Mr Morrison has been visiting the island's detention centre with Independent Senator Steve Fielding to speak with detainees and inspect the facilities.

His description of the island as a 'visa factory' and Mr Fielding's comment that the island's facilities are too attractive have drawn the ire of Labor MP Michael Danby, who nicknamed the pair "Laurel and Hardy" and accused them of fear mongering.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans says he has been told 130 Sri Lankans are staging a peaceful protest, including a hunger strike. But Mr Morrison says the facilities are first class and the protest is a cry for attention. "I think Australians can rest easy about the treatment of asylum seekers on Christmas Island," he said.

"I think this is more of a cry for attention rather at this stage rather than anything of any great seriousness, and frankly they have nothing to complain about in terms of the facilities or the services, or the treatment that they're receiving on this island. "I think we have a lot to be proud of in the way that people are being looked after here. I thought the standard of facilities at least met that standard, if not better in some cases."

Activist groups say more than 350 detainees are staging a peaceful protest and hunger strikes against the time it is taking to process their claims. Earlier, Senator Evans said the protest would do little to help the detainees' cause. "I want to make it very clear to them and to the community ... we're not going to be responding to this," he said. "What we are going to do is ensure proper process is followed - that is people have to have had their health, identity and security checks and then they have to have been successful in their application for protection."



Three current articles below

Save the planet! Stink out the homes and spread the gastro

The extremists who now infest local government would rather give you the trots if that’s what it takes to turn you green:
Residents in Penrith are furious after their council cut rubbish collections to once a fortnight. And to make matters worse they have cut the size of their bins at the same time.

Mothers with babies have been forced to store 14 days worth of dirty nappies, while residents have found maggots and some have complained to the local health service…

Penrith took action after the NSW Department of Environment began supporting the cut from weekly to fortnightly services two years ago in a bid to force more people to recycle. So far four councils across NSW have reduced collections and others are set to follow.

But a leading public health expert said thousands of residents were at risk of salmonella and gastro.

Why are our green fuhrers so happy to hurt humans to “save” an inanimate planet? Or is it just the power to bully that gives them their kicks? Cutting the sizes of people’s bins is just the kind of vindictiveness that appeals to the inner totalitarian.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

Climate sceptic warmly received during debate

LORD Christopher Monckton, imperious and articulate, won yesterday's climate change debate in straight sets. Forget facts and fictions, numbers and statistics, this British high priest of climate change sceptics is a polished performer, even against the most committed of scientists.

Aided by Adelaide's Professor Ian Plimer, Lord Monckton cruised to victory before a partisan crowd of suits and ties, movers and shakers. Hundreds of them were there for the sell-out, $130-a-head Brisbane Institute lunch – and scepticism was applauded.

Climate change scientist Professor Barry Brook and teammate Graham Readfearn, The Courier-Mail's environment blogger, were stoic in argument (even if Mr Readfearn may have foot-faulted once or twice and had to be pulled into line by moderator Ray Weeks).

But Lord Monckton is a seasoned campaigner, if not a scientist, reviled and ridiculed as he is in some quarters for his view that many are too alarmist about global warming. "As every risk manager knows, you can't just evaluate the risk of whatever it is you're frightened of, you also have to evaluate the risks inherent in the precautions you take to prevent whatever you're frightened of," Lord Monckton said.

Professor Brook argued that even if projected rates of climate change were wrong, the issue would force the world to take a big step towards a more sustainable future. "We know that the climate is changing but we don't know how much . . . If the rates are wrong we will foreshorten the period society has to go through from an old, Victorian, model of industrialisation to a more modern model," he said. Mr Readfearn urged caution in buying climate change science from non-scientists.

SOURCE (Video at link)

Australian green scheme 'close to collapse'

ONE of the Rudd Government's key climate change initiatives is close to collapse amid claims of widespread rorting [fraud] and mismanagement. Just six months after its launch, the $70 million Green Loans scheme to get Australians to install energy-efficient products will be lucky to survive past March without millions more in taxpayer funding.

Similarities are already being drawn between Green Loans and the Government's bungled $3.2 billion home insulation subsidy scheme. A Senate inquiry into the insulation rebate scheme is probing accusations of malpractice, rorting and mismanagement.

The much-vaunted Green Loans program was supposed to run for three years but is being bled dry by a flurry of unregistered operators. So far, there have been just 1000 subsidised loans approved for solar power and water-saving and energy-efficient products. Now thousands of people who paid $3000 each to become Green Loans assessors will be thrown on the unemployment scrapheap if the scheme collapses.

Instead of using only registered training organisations, unregistered groups were allowed to conduct audit training courses, with one earning $300,000 in one weekend by packing 200 people in a class at $1500 a head.

The Opposition's environment spokesman, Greg Hunt, yesterday called for a "full-scale investigation", claiming the program had been a fiasco. But the Federal Government yesterday defended the scheme, with a spokesman for Environment Minister Peter Garrett saying it had "stimulated significant growth in the market for household sustainability assessors". He said the scheme's future would be considered "in the context of Budget deliberations".

Brisbane's Gillian Steele said she thought the project had "a lot of merit" when she paid $3000 for herself and her daughter to be trained as Green Loans assessors. "I'm frustrated and disappointed," she said yesterday.


Friday, January 29, 2010

How I became a racist

This poor woman can't get over her delusion that all cultures are equal

I’m sitting in my lounge room looking at the swag of contemporary political philosophy books I own, simmering with resentment at the noise the uneducated wogs downstairs are making.

My family moved to Balmain when I was a teenager and until recently I’ve mainly lived in the Inner West of Sydney. I tried the Eastern Suburbs for a while but decided it was too cashed up and pretentious for my left-wing sensibilities. So I stayed close to Glebe and Newtown, went on the right marches, studied the right subjects at uni, and voted for the right political party.

But a couple of years ago my boyfriend and I found ourselves priced out of the inner city rental market - a direct consequence, I told myself, of my lack of materialism and desire to pursue a modest creative life.

We moved to south-western Sydney - to a suburb I had never even visited - where our newly renovated two bedroom apartment with large balcony and lock-up garage sets us back a mere $330 a week.

I now live in an epicentre of multiculturalism where Anglos are almost non-existent, and so at 41 I find myself a minority for the first time in my life. And I don’t like it. The median strips resemble the streets of Bombay - continually littered with household rubbish. We’ve renamed the corner fruit and vege shop The Rotting Fruit Emporium where the over-ripe produce is certainly cheap but has the molecular structure of cask wine.

The butchers which specialises in halal meat, particularly goat, is as hygienic as the average outdoor dunny, and the Bongo Mart, the local equivalent of a convenience store, has never stocked anything by Kraft, Arnotts or Cadbury’s.

Of course, the trouble with being immersed in difference is not that I can’t get organic truffle oil pasta or a babycino but that I’m confronted with the fact that what I thought were my values - reflected in those books with their bleeding heart titles like On Toleration, The Ethos of Pluralisation, and Multicultural Citizenship - seem to be so easily eroded by minor council violations committed by anyone I consider ‘other’.

Indeed, my self-righteousness received a boost from said council when they recently launched a ‘Quit the Spit’ campaign, designed to deter ‘foreigners’ ignorant of ‘our ways’ from gobbing all over the street. I’ve even begun to yell the slogan at people who violate it.

I’m stumped as to how the culturally specific conventions by which I live my life have come to be immutable, universal laws of nature in my mind? What’s happened to me? I’ve become the type of person I was always most intolerant of: an intolerant person. It’s positively unAustralian


Australian public health spending on course to disaster

KEVIN Rudd has declared 2010 a year of "major health reform", warning that health spending alone will outstrip state tax revenues within two decades. In the latest in a series of speeches in the lead-up to Australia Day, the Prime Minister yesterday warned that Australia faced the choice of cutting pensions, health services and aged care; running massive deficits; or, his preferred option, boosting productivity as the population aged to help lift tax revenues.

Mr Rudd told a reception in Sydney that the states' health spending was already growing at 11 per cent a year compared with revenue growth of 3 to 4 per cent a year. "Rapidly rising health costs create a real risk (that), absent major policy change, state governments will be overwhelmed by their rising health-spending obligations," he warned. "If current spending and revenue trends continue, Treasury projects that the total health spending of all states will exceed 100 per cent of their tax revenues, excluding the GST, by around 2045-46, and possibly earlier in some states. That is why 2010 must be and will be a year of major health reform."

The big-ticket item remains a new carve-up of commonwealth and state responsibilities to fund and run the nation's public hospitals, with pressure on the federal government to act at next month's Council of Australian Governments meeting. The Rudd government promised during the last election campaign to take over hospitals if the states failed to lift their game by this year. The Prime Minister must now decide whether to embrace a single-funder model for hospitals, with the commonwealth to fund health facilities, but the states to run them.

Mr Rudd said growing health-spending pressures would account for two-thirds of the total projected increase in government spending over the next 40 years. "Forty years ago, Australian government spending on health equated to 1.2 per cent of gross domestic product," Mr Rudd said. "In 2010, Australian government health spending equates to 4 per cent of GDP. And the Intergenerational Report projects that it will rise to 7.1 per cent in 2050. "In dollar terms, that's an increase of over $200 billion by 2050 and equates to an increase in average Australian government health spending per person in real terms from $2290 today to $7210 in 2050."

Australian Medical Association president Andrew Pesce said a single funder would help stop some of the blame game between the states and the commonwealth. "When things go wrong, the states blame the commonwealth," Dr Pesce said. "If there's a single funder, at least you know who is responsible for the money. The commonwealth would be the insurer or purchaser of healthcare and the states would run hospitals."

Mr Rudd surprised and angered health groups by failing to deliver a new agenda on health reform at last month's COAG meeting in Brisbane, but the issue is expected to take centrestage when premiers hold their next meeting, next month. Beyond the central issue of who funds and runs public hospitals, other items to be discussed include primary care and who, other than doctors, should have access to Medicare payments -- such as nurses. There is also a push by aged- care providers again to introduce some form of high-care nursing home bonds and reforms to help fund new infrastructure needs as the population ages.

Health groups have recently complained their patience is wearing thin as the government fails to act on promised reform. But senior Rudd government sources argue the Prime Minister was deliberately taking his time to get the policy right.

In the short term, the rising costs will make for another tough budget for Health Minister Nicola Roxon, who must deliver new spending cuts after targeting private health insurance rebates, IVF and cataract surgery in the last budget.


Higher taxes will rescue Australia's government healthcare system?

Left-leaning economist Ross Gittins replies to the above article. He says that taxes will have to rise but it won't hurt because they will be sliced from a bigger pie. He overlooks the British experience that pouring money into socialized medicine does little to improve standards of care. The money mostly goes on more bureaucrats. Despite a doubling of expenditure in recent years, British hospitals are CUTTING BACK services -- and have been doing so for some time. All economist Gittins sees is money. That the whole system needs to be rethought from scratch seems beyond him

Welcome to another year of media manipulation by our political leaders. Don't you love it? The Rudd Government is sitting on two major economic reports - from the Henry review on tax reform and Treasury's third intergenerational report - and some day soon it will let us see them. Meanwhile, it's leaking to journalists or dropping into speeches bits and pieces from them.

In the week leading up to Australia Day, Kevin Rudd gave a series of speeches in each capital city purporting to outline the findings of the intergenerational report on the implications of our ageing population. His version was both debatable and - I think we'll find - quite misleading.

In "sounding the alarm bells" on the effects of ageing, his first point was that it will lead to much slower growth in our material standard of living. Whereas average real income per person grew by 1.9 per cent a year over the past 40 years, Treasury's projections show it growing by only 1.5 per cent a year over the next 40.

This is likely because of slower growth in the size of the workforce. It may not seem much of a slowdown but compounded over 40 years it means real income per person would end up being $16,000 a year lower than otherwise by 2050. But, by my calculation, there's another, unauthorised way to view that comparison: rather than rising by about 110 per cent over the next 40 years, our real incomes are projected to grow by a paltry 80 per cent.

Rudd apparently views this gap with great concern and automatically assumes all of us do, too. He vows to take the steps necessary to prevent this slowdown in the rate of growth in the economy's production of goods and services.

How? Mainly by increasing the rate of improvement in the productivity of our labour - the average amount of goods and services produced by an hour of work. On average, our productivity improves by about 1.6 per cent each year, partly because of increased investment in equipment and other physical capital but mainly because of improvements in labour-saving technology.

If we could increase this rate of improvement to average 2 per cent a year, Rudd tells us, we wouldn't miss out on each being that last $16,000 a year better off by 2050. Just think of all the extra stuff you could buy with an extra $16,000 per family member.

Rudd, like all politicians (and business people and economists) assumes our values are primarily materialist. He's flaunting it, trying to prove Labor is just as good at delivering greater material affluence as the Liberals are.

As always, the implicit assumption is that we can have greater affluence without paying any price in reduced environmental or social amenity. Somehow, I doubt it.

It was from this intergenerational report that we were advised last year of Treasury's latest projection that the population is expected to grow more than 60 per cent in the next 40 years, from 22 million to 36 million.

From what we can tell, the report makes no claim this huge growth in population - with all the pressures it will bring on the environment, urban transport and housing - will make a significant difference to the rate at which our real incomes are likely to grow.

Rudd's second point is that the ageing of the population threatens the sustainability of government budgets. It "will result in higher costs for health, aged care and the age pension", he says. "It will also result in a smaller proportion of the population being in work, thus slowing the rate of growth of government revenues."

The key spending pressure will be on healthcare, he says. Forty years ago, federal government spending on health was equal to about 1 per cent of gross domestic product.

Today it's 4 per cent and by 2050 it's projected to be 7 per cent. (And that doesn't count the huge growth in health spending by the states, nor the growth in yours and my private health insurance and out-of-pocket payments.)

Rudd says the looming pressure on government budgets leaves us with three options: first, "cut health spending, reduce aged care and reduce payments for people entering retirement". No dice. Second, permit "long-term unsustainable budget deficits". No dice.

But third: boost government tax revenue by increasing participation in the workforce and "most critically, by boosting the productivity of the workforce". Ah, the easy option. Thank you. Sorry, but I'm not buying. Rudd's analysis is alarmist and highly misleading. There's a fourth option for covering the expected higher spending on healthcare that Rudd's not game to mention but is the most likely way we'll end up paying for it: higher taxation.

And there's nothing wrong with that. Everything we already know about the implications of ageing for government budgets tells us the higher costs associated with the greater proportion of old people are actually quite manageable. The main reason for the expected growth in health spending is the high cost of the many advances in medical technology we'll be taking advantage of.

In other words, Rudd, as Peter Costello did, is trying to "pathologise" the expected growth in health spending: make something good (our greater ability to prolong our lives and make them healthier) sound like it's bad (the elderly will be putting an intolerable burden on taxpayers).

According to the Government's projections, our real incomes are likely to grow about 80 per cent over the period. There's no good reason we shouldn't choose - as we assuredly will - to spend a higher proportion of that on improving our health and longevity. And since, for good reason, we pay for our healthcare mainly via the public purse, this will involve higher taxes. Simple as that. Pity Rudd lacks the courage to tell us so.


Amazing: Migrants with HIV, cancer allowed to settle in Australia

Chronically ill foreign workers and their families, including those with HIV-AIDS, will be allowed to settle in Australia for the first time as the Immigration Department loosens its stringent health rules to alleviate the skills shortage. The department is widening a loophole that lets it waive the health requirement for some sick dependants of Australian citizens.

Taxpayers will spend nearly $60 million on healthcare for 288 migrants granted special clearance last financial year to live in Australia, despite failing health exams. These included 59 cases of HIV infection, 10 of cancer and 26 of intellectual impairment. Most of the waivers were granted to the foreign partners of Australian citizens.

Now the federal government wants to widen the health loophole in a bid to lure skilled immigrants who otherwise would be turned away on the grounds of illness, mental health or chronically ill family members.

But NSW -- the strongest magnet for new migrants -- has so far refused to sign the change, which requires state and territory agreement because of the potential drain on their hospital systems. In a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into Australia's treatment of disabled migrants, the Immigration Department warns that removing health restrictions could strain health services already in short supply, such as organ transplants or dialysis. "Additional migration, particularly if current health restrictions were to be removed, could lead to increased pressure on healthcare systems," it says. "Any significant change to the current health requirement would need to be considered in the context of potential impacts on health and welfare expenditure . . . particularly in terms of prejudice to the access of . . . citizens and permanent residents to healthcare and community services."

Departmental data reveals that 42 health waivers were granted to foreign workers on temporary skilled visas during 2008-09. The department plans to extend the waivers to workers seeking permanent residency, and those who have set up businesses in Australia.

Health bans were lifted last financial year for 138 temporary immigrants seeking to remain in Australia -- at a total cost to taxpayers of $19.5m in health and community services. Another 150 immigrants who applied offshore were granted waivers, at an estimated cost of $38.2m. HIV was the most common health condition, involving 59 cases at a cost of $14m, with 26 cases of intellectual impairment at a cost of $1.2m, and 10 cases of cancer, at a cost of $751,500. The department knocked back applications from another 1586 would-be migrants who failed health tests -- at an estimated saving to taxpayers of $70m.

Federal parliament's migration committee began inquiring into Australia's treatment of disabled migrants after Immigration Minister Chris Evans intervened in 2008 to grant permanent residency to a German doctor whose son had Down syndrome.


Thursday, January 28, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is appalled at the amazing waste by the Leftist NSW government on failed transport projects

The social class effect on education now clear in Australia too

Leftism leads to some odd outcomes. To avoid making poor schools look bad, the Australian government classifies schools on a social class basis. Schools in wealthy areas are compared with other schools in wealthy areas and poor schools are compared with poor schools. And hey presto! It doesn't matter much whether the school is a government one or a private one. Schools drawing on wealthy areas all do well, with only random differences between them. Once again we find that social class is by far the biggest influence on educational outcomes. Why? Rich kids tend to be smarter and kids from wealthy areas also tend to be better behaved. There are not many disruptive ferals or "minorities" in wealthy areas. Note that Australia's Leftist Prime minister sends his kid to a private school. Leftist politicians do the same the word over, despite it being against their ideology. "Equality" is only for "the masses". Some pigs are more equal than others, as Orwell said

PUBLIC schools in wealthy areas are outperforming some of the nation's most expensive and prestigious private schools in reading and writing, according to the Rudd government's controversial new My School website. But Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's old school, Nambour High in Queensland is struggling, with Year 9 results below the average of all schools national literacy test results across Australia in writing, spelling, grammar and numeracy.

For the first time, the national literacy and numeracy tests of nearly 10,000 public and private schools are available for parents to compare online and the results are in many cases surprising. The website, which has been criticised by some teachers and principals, went live at 1am this morning and has experienced some technical problems. Education Minister Julia Gillard said today the technical difficulties reflected the fact that parents were “voting with their fingertips” to log on and check their school at 3am, 4am and 5am. “What that means is around the country parents were hungry for this information,” she said. “The site is experiencing huge demand. Obviously people are very enthusiastic to jump on the My School website and to have a look at their local school. So if people try again, obviously we're trying to space demand during the day.”

The deputy prime minister said while she had the greatest respect for teachers she was determined not to buckle in the face of teachers' unions threats to disrupt NAPLAN tests this year in a protest against the site. “The AEU has called this one wrong,” she said.

The website uses complex methodology to compare statistically similar schools to reveal some private schools are "coasting" by performing above the average of all schools but in some cases below the performance of similar schools. For example Geelong Grammar's Toorak campus in Victoria, which charges nearly $30,000-a-year in Year 12 fees and was once attended by Prince Charles, performed substantially below the average of similar Year 3 schools in spelling. It was also below the average of similar schools in reading, grammar and numeracy.

A comparison with other similar schools claims Year 3 students results at Geelong Grammar were "substantially below" the performance of similar public schools at Camberwell Primary in Melbourne, Castle Cove Primary in NSW, Epping North Public School in Sydney and Stirling East Public School in Adelaide. By comparison, students at the James Ruse Agricultural High School in Sydney, a selective public school for the "gifted" performed substantially above the average of similar schools and all schools in Australia across all measures.

In WA, girls at the Presbyterian Ladies College at Peppermint Grove, where fees can top $18,000-a-year, were below the average of similar schools in Year 5 reading, spelling and grammar and substantially below average in Year 5 and Year 7 numeracy. However, the school remained above the average of all schools across Australia.

At the Cranbrook School in NSW, where media heir James Packer once attended, students were below the average of similar schools in Year 9 results for reading, writing, spelling and grammar. However they were substantially above the average across all schools in Australia.

In Adelaide, students attending the prestigious Prince Alfred College, which educated cricketing greats the Chappell brothers, Year 3 and Year 5 results were below the average of similar schools in reading. Year 5 test results were also below the average of similar schools in writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation.

At St Peters College boys school in Adelaide, which boasts of "three Nobel laureates, forty one Rhodes scholars and eight state premiers", results were below the average of similar schools in writing, spelling and grammar for Year 3 NAPLAN results. By Year 5 results had improved with students outperforming all schools but still close to the average of similar well-heeled schools.

In the ACT, Radford College, a private school Mr Rudd's son Marcus attends, students outperformed similar schools in reading, writing, grammar and numeracy. Tony Abbott's old school St Ignatius Riverview at Lane Cove in NSW, students performed substantially above the average of all schools but below the average of similar schools in Year 9 results for writing and grammar.


When will they ever learn?

Australian defence bureaucrats always want to buy cutting edge technology -- which often does not work. When will they learn to buy the best of what is available "off the shelf" -- i.e. already-proven equpiment. They could, for instance, have bought Swedish "Gotland"-class boats, which are so good that the U.S. navy has recently hired one.

Instead of cutting edge equipment, what we often end up with is useless equipment, as seen below. It's the politicians' job to impose a bit of realism on the starry-eyed enthusiasts but the politicians are mostly just as bad

THE navy's trouble-prone $6 billion submarine fleet has been reduced to one operational boat, raising serious questions about the long-term serviceability of the six Collins-Class vessels designed to serve as Australia's frontline strike weapon. Chief of the navy Russ Crane yesterday confirmed a generator failure last week on board HMAS Farncomb meant the submarine would have to be returned to dry dock for urgent repairs.

Opposition defence spokesman David Johnston said by his count, the Royal Australian Navy's operational submarines were now down to one - HMAS Rankin - and the government had a major maintenance crisis to solve.

Citing security grounds, the navy declined to answer questions from The Australian about the number of submarines it can put to sea. However, senior defence sources confirmed Senator Johnston's claim that only one boat was available for training and operational duties.

Farncomb's generator failure marks the latest in a run of serious mechanical problems plaguing the Collins-Class fleet. In a brief statement, Vice-Admiral Crane expressed frustration at news of the latest mechanical breakdown. "I am very disappointed by this development," he said. "Navy will continue to work with the Defence Materiel Organisation, industry and ASC (Australian Submarine Corporation) to determine the extent of the issue and rectify this problem. "We are working hard to ensure this fault is rectified as soon as possible. "The Australian public, the Defence organisation and our navy family expect nothing less."

Battered by morale problems linked to crew shortages and engine malfunctions, the generator breakdown is just the latest blow against the elite silent service. As reported in The Australian on October 12, the submarine fleet is already operating under severe restrictions because of crippling mechanical and maintenance problems linked to chronic engine problems. Under ideal conditions, the RAN likes to have two subs ready for deployment, two in training or basic maintenance and two in deep maintenance.

But some senior engineering experts have warned that the Swedish-supplied Hedemora diesel engines may have to be replaced - a major design and engineering job that could take years to fix and cost hundreds of millions of dollars. So serious are the problems that DMO has placed the Collins boats at the top of their "projects of concern".

West Australian Senator Johnston said a major hole existed in Australia's front line of defence. "I think we're down to one and that's (HMAS) Rankin tied up at (HMAS) Stirling (navy base)." The woeful service record of the Collins-class subs raises questions about the RAN's ability to operate a planned expansion of the fleet to 12 new boats recommended in last May's Defence white paper.


New Liberal Party website in the works

THE Liberal senator sacked from Malcolm Turnbull's front bench for online comments about a colleague risks courting controversy again with the web. South Australian Cory Bernardi, now parliamentary secretary assisting Tony Abbott, admitted to The Australian yesterday he had provided web hosting and a domain name for a new political website,

Five days before it opens for business, Menzies House is already billing itself as "the No 1 Australian site for conservative, centre-right and libertarian thinkers and activists". It provides no details of who is behind the site, but its motto reads: "There's room for everyone." The claim has provoked derision from some of the Right warrior's parliamentary colleagues. "There won't be room for everyone if Cory's pulling the strings," one joked to The Australian.

Senator Bernardi insisted he would be "absolutely removed" from editorial decisions. "I thought this was an excellent idea because there is not a single area on the internet . . . where those who are Liberal supporters can gather, debate, discuss," he said yesterday. "I've been dealing with the editors but it's all their baby now."

But one of those editors is a member of Senator Bernardi's own staff, Chris Browne. Another is Tim Andrews, the former president of the Australian Liberal Students Association, a grouping that traditionally backs the party's Right. Senator Bernardi told The Australian he had emailed his parliamentary colleagues last week to promote the site and ask for contributions.

Senator Bernardi was sacked from the front bench last year for refusing to retract claims made online that one of his colleagues, believed to be his fellow South Australian and factional rival Christopher Pyne, had told him during a golf game: "I live in a Liberal seat so I had to be a member of the Liberal Party to get into parliament. If I lived in a Labor seat I would have joined the Labor Party."

Independent but party-aligned websites are becoming increasingly powerful around the world as leaders' offices tighten their grips on parliamentarians and party machines. British political commentators have claimed the five-year-old Conservative Home website has supplanted the London Daily Telegraph newspaper as the in-house journal of the Conservative Party.



I have given up recording here the disaster that QANTAS/Jetstar constitutes but anyone thinking of flying on either airline will find all the latest horrors chronicled on my QANTAS site


Three articles below

Official Australian climate alarmist retreats a little

Most of the remarks by Britain's John Beddington below are as alluded to yesterday in a post sourced from Andrew Bolt. But at that time Penelope Sackit had only alarmist things to say. In the report below we see that she has moved closer to Beddington's more responsible position. Beddington is a biologist and Sackit is an astronomer. Neither sounds like a plausible expert on climate science but Penny is probably the one who is most aware of that deficiency -- so she sticks to dogma for fear of making a mistake. I am beginning to think that my qualifications in social science make me as good an "expert" on climate matters as many of the so-called experts

THE impact of global warming has been exaggerated by some scientists and there is an urgent need for more honest disclosure of the uncertainty of predictions about the rate of climate change, according to the British government's chief scientific adviser. John Beddington said climate scientists should be less hostile to sceptics who questioned man-made global warming. He condemned scientists who refused to publish the data underpinning their reports.

Australia's chief scientist, Penny Sackett, told The Australian last night she shared Professor Beddington's concerns. Professor Sackett said climate change was a scientific reality but there was a need for absolute openness and rigour in the presentation of evidence, including recognition of which aspects of climate change science were imprecise and required further research.

Professor Beddington said public confidence in climate science would be improved if there were more openness about its uncertainties, even if that meant admitting that sceptics had been right on some hotly disputed issues. He said: "I don't think it's healthy to dismiss proper scepticism. Science grows and improves in the light of criticism. There is a fundamental uncertainty about climate change prediction that can't be changed."

He said the false claim in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2007 report that the glaciers would disappear by 2035 had exposed a wider problem with the way some evidence was presented. "Certain unqualified statements have been unfortunate. We have a problem in communicating uncertainty. There's definitely an issue there. If there wasn't, there wouldn't be the level of scepticism. "All of these predictions have to be caveated by saying, `There's a level of uncertainty about that'."

Professor Beddington said particular caution was needed when communicating predictions about climate change made with the help of computer models. "It's unchallengeable that CO2 traps heat and warms the Earth and that burning fossil fuels shoves billions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. But where you can get challenges is on the speed of change. "When you get into large-scale climate modelling, there are quite substantial uncertainties. On the rate of change and the local effects, there are uncertainties both in terms of empirical evidence and the climate models themselves."

He said it was wrong for scientists to refuse to disclose their data to their critics: "I think, wherever possible, we should try to ensure there is openness and that source material is available for the whole scientific community." He added: "There is a danger that people can manipulate the data, but the benefits from being open far outweigh that danger."

Professor Sackett said there was no real dispute within the scientific community about the reality of climate change but she wanted non-scientists to have greater access to the evidence to help inform the necessary public debate about crafting policy responses to the problem. "The public must be provided with the best possible advice," Professor Sackett said. "It must have available to it some understanding or the ability to develop an understanding about which issues the science is quite clear on and where there is less precision in our understanding." For example, Professor Sackett said, while the reality of climate change was clearly understood, there was less certainty about its effects on rainfall patterns in Australia. More research was required before conclusions could be drawn with any scientific confidence.

She said the work of Australian climate change scientists had been "quite good" and that people should not assume that because some British research had been questioned there was a doubt over the existence of the phenomenon.

Opposition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt said the scientists were correct, and he accused Kevin Rudd of taking a "McCarthyist" approach to anyone who disagreed with his views on climate change. "While I happen to believe the balance of science is that there is climate change, unlike the Prime Minister I believe it is a breach of democratic responsibility to demonise scientists and the three million Australians who disagree with me," Mr Hunt said.

Phil Jones, the director of the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit and a contributor to the IPCC's reports, has been forced to stand down while an investigation takes place into leaked emails allegedly showing that he attempted to conceal data. In response to one request for data, Professor Jones wrote: "We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?"

Professor Beddington said that uncertainty about some aspects of climate science should not be used as an excuse for inaction. "Some people ask why we should act when scientists say they are only 90 per cent certain about the problem," he said."But would you get on a plane that had a 10 per cent chance of crashing?"

Mike Hulme, professor of climate change at the University of East Anglia, said: "Climate scientists get kudos from working on an issue in the public eye, but with that kudos comes responsibility. Being open with data is part of that responsibility." He criticised Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman, for his dismissive response last November to research suggesting that the UN body had overstated the threat to the glaciers. Mr Pachauri described it as "voodoo science". Professor Hulme said: "Pachauri's choice of words has not been good. The question of whether he is the right person to lead the IPCC is for the 193 countries who make up its governing body. It's a political decision."


Climategate gives lord of the sceptics plenty of ammunition

The visit to Australia this week of Lord Christopher Monckton - the world's most effective global warming sceptic - couldn't have been better timed. Hot on the heels of the "Climategate" email leak, which called into question the "tricks" used to sex up the case for the war against global warming, have come back-to-back revelations tarnishing the reputation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

First domino down last week was the claim in the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report in 2007 - the one that won it a Nobel Prize - that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035. As one of the most dire climate change outcomes, this claim received enormous publicity and was often cited by politicians. But, it turns out, the evidence was based not on credible peer-review science, but on an unsubstantiated report by the environmental group World Wildlife Fund for Nature. It stemmed from a 1999 beat-up in the popular journal New Scientist that featured an interview with an obscure Indian scientist, Syed Hasnain, who has since admitted his glacier prediction was "speculation". Hasnain now works for the Energy and Resources Institute in Delhi, whose director-general, Rajendra Pachauri, is also head of the IPCC.

Even murkier is the fact the glacier furphy reportedly netted lots of grant money for the institute. "My job is not to point out mistakes," Hasnain told The Times of London. "And you know the might of the IPCC. What about all the other glaciologists around the world who did not speak out?" Yes, what about them indeed. Are scientists just cowardly? The mendacity of the IPCC came to light when the Indian Government fact-checked its glacier claim. Belated scrutiny of the 2007 report has uncovered other bogus claims, and at least 16 WWF references.

The next domino to fall was the IPCC's assertion that global warming was to blame for weather disasters such as hurricane and drought. The Sunday Times in London reported this was based on an unpublished scientific paper that had not been peer reviewed, and that, when it was published in 2008, had found no link.

The latest revelation is that an IPCC claim about the Amazon rainforest was also drawn from a WWF report. The IPCC says it is simply a "human mistake" to parrot WWF press releases, as if they are credible science and not green propaganda, and no one bats an eyelid.

Well, except Monckton, who has been batting his considerable eyelids (large because of a thyroid ailment) for years over bogus claims. He even succeeded in having a table in the 2007 report corrected after he pointed out that it overstated sea-level rises tenfold.

Having been singled out for vilification last year by Kevin Rudd in an extraordinary speech, Monckton finds the times suit him well. Rudd's vehemence attracted the attention of semi-retired engineer John Smeed, who splits his time between Lane Cove and Noosa. He and another engineer, Case Smit invited Monckton to Australia, footing the $100,000 bill for his eight-city tour from their own pockets, offset by donations.

I was invited to a small lunch for Monckton this week, hosted by Smeed and a Newcastle engineer, Jeff McCloy. In person, Monckton is taller and more serious than he appears on screen. Being a mathematician he has a logical mind, as well as irrepressible self-confidence, which makes him a formidable opponent for climate alarmists.

Andy Pitman, a co-director of the University of NSW's Climate Change Research Centre, complained on ABC radio this week that climate sceptics are so "well funded, so well organised [and] have nothing else to do . . . They are doing a superb job at misinforming and miscommunicating the general public, State and Federal Government." Huh? How can climate alarmists pitch themselves as the underdog when they have had on their side the full force of government (and opposition until lately), media (apart from a few individual holdouts) and big business?

Public opinion has changed as the credibility of the IPCC ebbs, the crippling cost of climate change measures becomes apparent and the array of rentseekers and phonies grows. Monckton is a man whose time has come because he owes nothing to anybody and he has the capacity to interpret the science to a public looking for answers.

As an adviser to Margaret Thatcher, he learnt that when you make policy about an issue that is outside your expertise, you must distill it down to one proposition. In this case, how much will a given increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cause warming? The answer determines whether or not you spend trillions of taxpayer dollars "and wreck the economies of the West". Monckton pored over scientific papers on climate sensitivity and concluded the IPCC exaggerated climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide at least sixfold, so we have time cautiously to decide whether or not to attempt to change global temperature.

In any case, he says, what if every nation agreed to cut emissions by 30 per cent in the next 10 years? The "warming forestalled would be 0.02 celsius degrees, at a cost of trillions. There's no point doing it."

The last refuge of alarmists is the precautionary principle, in which we "give the planet the benefit of the doubt". But Monckton says bad policy guided by the precautionary principle has already led to the death of millions of people as the transfer of farmland to grow biofuels meant less food, higher prices, food riots and starvation. He cites the United Nations special rapporteur Jean Ziegler, who said growing biofuels instead of food when the poor were starving was a "crime against humanity".

Monckton says public opinion is "galloping" in his direction, which bodes ill for Rudd as he prepares to push through his emissions trading scheme next month.


Perils of population growth

Australia has a problem of immigration quality -- large numbers of unskilled, welfare dependant and crime-prone "refugees" are being let in -- but it has no problem with population quantity. Australia is roughly the size of the continental USA yet has only 14% of America's population. The map below should be instructive too. But accomodating more people would mean clearing more trees; building on more grasslands; building more dams and building more roads -- all of which are of course a horror to any Greenie

DO you get the feeling your back yard is getting smaller? Or that the patch of turf you laid last year has disappeared to be replaced by a slab of concrete? It’s one of Australia’s most pressing issues, yet political leaders refuse to do anything to stop it. I am referring to Australia’s surging population growth. Recent projections that Australia will have to accommodate 35 million people by 2050 - up from 22 million at present - is a worrying prospect.

In the post-World War II years, the rallying call in this country was to populate or perish - a response to the fear of military invasion from a powerful northern neighbour. This gave us the Baby Boomer generation, which is now nearing retirement and creating imminent pressures of an aging population.

The greying of the nation has prompted Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to espouse a new call for a “big Australia”, propelled by a higher birth rate and increased immigration. It’s a short-term solution to a long-term problem. What will happen in another 50 years? Will another prime minister call for an even bigger population boom to replace the generation reaching retirement then?

The population debate has been hijacked until now by economic greed and rationalism. The argument has been that the higher the population growth, the greater consumption will be and therefore economic prosperity and profit - at least for the wealthy few in society. Little or no attention has been paid to the limited availability of natural resources, the dire effect on the environment and loss of quality of life as more people compete for living space in our cities.

It is good to see that questions are finally being raised about Australia’s sustainable population. This week enterpreneur-adventurer Dick Smith became the latest in a string of forward thinkers who criticised Government plans to encourage population growth, saying Australia did not have enough water or food to support millions more people. He also urged slashing immigration and discouraging women from having more than two babies, thereby allowing population growth to be contained.

Just because people in many other countries have to live in cramped high-rises in concrete urban jungles does not make it a lifestyle model Australians should aspire to.

In 1798, the Rev Robert Thomas Malthus published his Principles of Population in which he stated: “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man”. He predicted that endless population growth would block progress towards a utopian society. As an Anglican minister, Malthus, believed that God had created an inexorable tendency to human population growth for a moral purpose, with the threat of poverty and starvation designed to teach the virtues of hard work and virtuous behaviour.

We carry a responsiblity to make the world a better place for the generations that will follow. Australia is well placed to embark on a journey to a more sustainable future. The future of the country may depend on it.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Another day of national celebration, but forget about a republic or new flag

Some realism from a rather disgruntled Leftist below:

AUSTRALIA should become a republic. But it won't for a very long time, if ever. There's a better than even chance that the change won't come during the lifetime of any Australian alive today.

The political system, and Australians' deteriorating attitudes to politics and politicians, will see to that. The republican question is now what used to be called in the newspaper game a "hardy annual": a predictable, intrinsically inconsequential story that can be trotted out at the same time every year to little lasting effect.

This Australia Day weekend the hardy annual sprouted a little extra foliage with Ray Martin's revival of the suggestion that the nation should change its flag and ditch the Union Jack. That idea used to get around with the republican argument back in the 1990s, until republicans, excited by the prospect of a referendum aimed at ditching the monarchy, judged it to be too toxic and dumped it.

All these years later, the change-the-flag idea retains the same noxious qualities, unloved by politicians and the talkback radio crowd, and met with gold-plated indifference by the wider public. Republicans ignore these responses at their peril.

In a rational world, a nation such as Australia - incredibly fortunate and fabulously wealthy compared with most of the globe - should not be so resistant to changing its status and its flag. But it is. And that resistance will grow.

Australia is becoming an increasingly nationalistic and jingoistic country, a nation of flag-wavers, as evidenced by the motorists who affixed Chinese-made plastic flags on their cars and the young people - males mostly - who wandered the streets, and sports and entertainment venues, wearing outsize flags as capes in the past few days.

This is bad news for republicans because that nationalistic impulse and the growing adherence to the flag as a national symbol - and the aggression with which the flag is sometimes brandished - are affirmations of Australia as it is. Their statement is simple: the country is great, it does not need improvement, so tamper with it at your peril.

Flag-wavers do not question their country, they exalt it, and with every year their numbers grow, as do the nationalistic and patriotic atmospherics that accompany each successive Australia Day. As prime minister, John Howard used to take care at election times to declare Australia "the greatest country in the world". The line was always well received. One of his enduring legacies is the rise of an inherently more conservative attitude by greater numbers of Australians towards their country.

This makes it harder to sell the republican argument, which at its heart says something is wrong with Australia's national arrangements that must be fixed. There is no consensus within the society that this is the case.

It is probably the case that a majority of Australian voters favour the idea of a republican Australia, as the polls suggest. But the numbers are not overwhelming. And there is often a big gap between what people tell pollsters and what they do. They say they want governments to provide greater services but they bitch about every extra tax dollar, for example. And Australians have not liked voting "yes' at referendums since Federation.

The truth is that there is absolutely no urgency attached to the change and it's hard to see the circumstances in which there ever will be, unless Britain decides to declare war on Australia. Would it make us richer or make our streets safer? No.

The move to a republic would merely offer an improvement on an already functioning set of arrangements, a very hard sell in the heat of a hard-fought referendum campaign.

In any case, what sort of republic are we talking about? There is no single view: the republican position is in a pre-adolescent state. There are minimalists and there are direct-electionists, with few real signs of an accord.

Since the 1999 referendum, when the minimalist proposal attracted 45 per cent of the vote and failed to carry one state, the direct-electionists have argued that every non-monarchist is obliged to fall in behind the idea of an elected ceremonial head of state. Speaking for myself, they are dreaming. The last thing this country needs is more elections and more politics, which is what this model would bring, no matter what they say. Certainly some minimalist republicans will shift but I would never back it.

As for the political obstacles to a republic, they seem less surmountable by the day. Labor is uniformly republican but the Liberals will always be split on the republic, with the bulk of the party membership - understandably for a fundamentally conservative party - arguing vigorously for the status quo.

That alone would probably be enough to sink any referendum, especially in a wired world where email avalanches, viral campaigning and the hit-and-run style of the blogosphere get results. Witness Malcolm Turnbull's recent defenestration as leader. Anyway, we can have another talk about this. How about, say, late January next year?


Nanny state can't save us from ourselves

If we choose to accept any risks from (say) getting fat, what right has the government got to tell us not to do that?

This month Manly Council erected a surfboard-shaped sign at its most famous beach to instruct board-riders how to behave in the surf. Two years ago the council installed a $26,000 safety fence at the notorious "jump rock", where the young and young-at-heart plunge into the ocean below. This year it pledged to have rangers patrol the area, intent on catching thrill-seekers in the act. But their efforts haven't stopped the kids from jumping, and the fence has simply turned out to be an expensive ratepayer-funded diving platform.

That parents, teachers, doctors, priests, and other assorted experts claim to know best about the potential risks and dangers we face - both individually and as a community - is nothing new. But the expectation that government should legislate to protect us from these risks and dangers is.

This poses some fundamental questions about citizens' relationship with government. Protecting our physical security - for example from threats of war, violence and other types of crime - is at the core of what governments do. But how far does the definition of security extend?

Does it extend to protecting us from diseases, from addictions, or from other risky behaviours? How far should government go in telling us what we can and can't do for our own good? And what happens when, after weighing up the risks and benefits, we decide we don't want to be protected?

There are increasing calls for more regulation of junk food, and ideas such as a junk food tax are frequently floated in the media. The scientific evidence is pretty clear - a diet of ice-cream and chips will probably make you fat and in turn lead to problems like diabetes and heart disease. Your chances of living a long and healthy life diminish.

But what if you cherish the ability to sit down to a nightly Big Mac and Coke more than the prospect of living to 90? Sure, it's self-destructive and short-sighted, but a look around any shopping centre food court will confirm that it's a decision plenty of people make. So should it be the role of legislators to tell them not to?

What happens when, in an effort to protect our health and safety, rules and regulations trample on other things we value?

The stern-faced, beach-ball popping fun police at the cricket have become the stuff of infamy. But the public reaction to their unbending rules suggests many people are willing to risk getting covered in warm beer if it means they get to enjoy the Mexican wave.

Not all legislative efforts to protect us pose a problem. But for rules and regulations to be effective - and legitimate - they must be ones that people want to follow. They should reflect the community's values, not try to shape them. We happily submit to airport security measures, wear seatbelts, and drive on the left side of the road because there is a community consensus that following these rules is beneficial for us individually and as a group.

But risks to our safety, security and health involve trade-offs. While one person will gladly jump out of a plane with a parachute attached, another will decide it's just not worth the risk. When it comes to questions of health, safety and security, individuals will make widely differing decisions.

It's little wonder then that so many efforts to control the public's "risky" behaviour fail so miserably. Despite a long-standing prohibition on drugs, survey data show that nearly 40 per cent of people 14 years and over have tried illicit drugs at least once in their life, with about 15 per cent saying they have consumed them in the past year. The alcopops tax was designed to curb binge drinking among teenagers. The actual effect was not to cut their alcohol intake but to increase their consumption of hard liquor such as vodka. And authorities' unsuccessful attempts to regulate away alcohol-fuelled violence suggest they haven't learnt anything since the days of the six o'clock swill.

When a law is widely ignored or deplored by enough members of the community, we have to ask whether the problem lies with the people ignoring the law or the law itself.

Arguments for or against the nanny state rarely get to the heart of the issue. When, if ever, is it appropriate for government to protect us from ourselves? And when trade-offs between, say, security and enjoyment need to be made, who should decide?


Tell off deficient teachers, says Federal education boss

Julia seems to be a lot more conservative than her pre-ministerial record suggested

TEACHERS identified as underperformers by the Government's new school rating system should expect to be roused at by disgruntled parents, the Education Minister, Julia Gillard, says. The My School website, to be launched on Thursday, will allow parents to compare schools and will have enough data to pinpoint specific subject areas of underperformance, potentially identifying the responsible teachers.

Following a briefing on the website yesterday, Ms Gillard told the Herald the Government welcomed the fact that the website would empower parents to badger school staff to lift standards. "We would expect parents to have robust conversations with teachers and principals," she said. Ms Gillard said teachers were already trained to deal with complaints on parent-teacher nights. Now, parents would be armed with even more information with which to complain. "This should put pressure on people," Ms Gillard said.

The Australian Education Union is fiercely opposed to the website, saying it will lead to the publication of league tables and cause schools and students to be stigmatised.

Ms Gillard pointed to more than $2 billion that has been earmarked towards addressing disadvantaged schools, improving teaching standards and lifting literacy and numeracy standards. "We're going to shine a light on some schools that need a helping hand and we are ready to work in partnership with those schools with new money and new programs," she said.

The website will publish a range of information, including national test results, student and staff numbers, and attendance rates for each of the nation's almost 10,000 schools. Each school will be graded using a colour-coded system on its national tests performance in the areas of reading, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation, and numeracy for years 3, 5, 7 and 9. Each school will be compared with about 60 other schools that cater to "statistically similar" student populations, according to a specially developed Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage. Each school will also be compared against the national average. The website will be updated each September based on results of tests conducted in May.

Ms Gillard accepted that, especially with smaller schools, it would be easy to identify the teachers responsible for subjects for which the school had been poorly marked.

The Australian Education Union, which represents more than 180,000 teachers in government primary and secondary schools, has threatened to boycott this year's national literacy and numeracy tests in protest. The union's federal secretary, Angelo Gavrielatos, said his main concern was for underperforming students who could be just as easily identified as their teachers. "They know full well there will be damage caused to students," he said.

He noted that a set of protocols for school data collection and reporting devised in June by the education ministers omitted from protocols of only a year earlier an ethical principle to guard against harming members of the community. The principle says: "This could occur where the privacy of individuals would be compromised or where the reputation of an institution or group of people would be damaged through the publication of misleading information or stereotyping." Mr Gavrielatos said by "omitting this principle, education ministers conceded that there will be 'harm' to individuals and schools as a result of the creation and publication of league tables".

Barry McGaw, who is chairman of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, which created the My School website, said schools in wealthy communities that were performing below expectations would be exposed. Mr McGaw said it would show which schools in affluent areas were "coasting".



With lots from the redoubtable Andrew Bolt. Six current articles below

Conservative Federal politicians still looking for a non-destructive climate change policy

FEDERAL Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has hinted his climate action plan will centre on storing carbon in soil and planting more trees. But the Government is preparing to release modelling which will rubbish Mr Abbott's plan. Highly placed Government sources said an analysis of an Opposition carbon sequestration plan found it would cost taxpayers $10 billion but fall short of targets to cut greenhouse emissions.

Mr Abbott, who again pledged his climate action plan would not be a "big tax" like Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's scheme, has cited research showing a 50 per cent cut in carbon dioxide emissions could come from improved land management techniques. His plan yesterday received some reserved support from Ross Garnaut, the man who was appointed to head Mr Rudd's climate change review. "Let me say that there's something in the idea of focusing on biosequestration (locking up carbon through tree planting or better agricultural practices)," he said.

Mr Abbott, who yesterday toured a NSW farm said to be a world leader in carbon capture, will release his climate change strategy within a week. The strong focus on agriculture he is believed to be planning was also agreed to by the Government after the ill-fated negotiations with former leader Malcolm Turnbull. "What our policy will involve is encouraging things that will actually help the environment and reduce emissions," Mr Abbott said.

But the Government modelling is believed to show that 30 million hectares of land would need to be involved by 2020 if the Opposition aimed to achieve 150 million tonnes of carbon savings by then. The modelling estimated that each year for a decade, an average of 3 million hectares of land – about half the size of Tasmania – would need to be involved.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said Mr Abbott had only days to come clean on his policy. "If Mr Abbott cannot release a fully costed policy that outlines a clear pathway to reach the bipartisan emissions cuts he has committed to, it will confirm he cannot be trusted on climate change," Senator Wong said.


Be alert but wary on climate claims

Doubts over modelling and emissions trading schemes are justified, says the following skeptical article from "the Age", Australia's most Leftist major newspaper

PRE-COPENHAGEN, the global warming debate had been captured by prophets of doom and the language of apocalypse. This was particularly off-putting in a discussion that depends on high-quality science, cool logic, and careful argument. It raises old suspicions. The West has already experienced theories of impending environmental disaster-with the Club of Rome launching a successful scare campaign in the 1970s about the world running out of food. Its book, Limits to Growth, sold 30 million copies. Hardly a decade had passed before its predictions were proved wrong.

Of course, the objective case for global warming is separate from the manner in which some of its proponents have publicised it. And, it should be judged on its own merits. Nevertheless, I must confess to being wary of causes that attract pseudo-religious enthusiasm and intellectual fanaticism.

Current predictions of global warming and its long-term effects depend on computer-generated mathematical models. There are two major problems with such models. First, their relationship to reality is compromised by the simplifying assumptions they have to make in order to reduce the number of variables they can take into account to a workable number.

In economics this means they are next to useless for long-term prophecy. We are confronted every day with how poor economic commentators are at prediction. If this is true in the domain of economics, how much more the case is it for climate, where the potential variables are vastly greater?

The second problem with mathematical models is that they assume current factors will continue as they are-major ones will stay major, minor ones minor, and no significant new ones will emerge.

History is a story of the rise of the unexpected. Having said this, some predictions are better than others. For instance, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2007 report projects greenhouse gas emissions. In the limited case of carbon dioxide over the next two decades, there is some plausibility to the predictions - given current dependence on coal-fired power stations and the long development times needed to switch modes of electricity generation. However, when it comes to linking emissions to rising world temperatures, the models become fanciful.

The New York Times, hardly an enclave of climate scepticism, featured an article on September 23, 2009, which admitted that global temperatures have been stable for the past decade, and may even drop in the next few years. Surely, this trend may be an anomaly, but its existence does raise a serious question mark, for all but true believers.

Some disciplines in both the arts and the sciences are highly speculative, and that makes their theories and predictions unstable. Does climate science belong here? I have my suspicions. For instance, climatologists told us for a decade or more that climate in south-eastern Australia - and in particular, rainfall - was determined by weather patterns and sea currents across the Pacific Ocean. Now, suddenly we are being told that it is rather the Indian Ocean that is critical.

The claims made about the science have been rash, asserting dogmatic certainty about human-induced warming when the reality is that the overall picture is quite unclear. This has now backfired, with the IPCC admitting mistakes in its 2007 report, and the East Anglia Climatic Research Unit, which the IPCC has drawn heavily upon, shown to have been, at the least, devious in the results it has made public.

There may be some link between the rashness of the global warming campaign and the haplessness of the politics that has followed. The best current bet is that, after Copenhagen, emission controls is dead as a serious international issue. And further, only some environmental disaster that can be convincingly linked to climate change will rekindle it. The "sceptics" have won the politics.

The clumsy politics is international and local. An emissions trading scheme, as proposed by the Australian Government, is very bad policy. It is a form of taxation on carbon under another name. To tax carbon will lead to thousands of pages of regulation - a godsend to bureaucracy, but paralysing for initiative and industry.

To give one example: taxing carbon, especially in Australia, would make little sense unless agriculture is included within the scheme. Farmers tell me that the amount of carbon dioxide released from the soil during ploughing depends on the depth of the furrows. There will need to be different regulations for different types of ploughing. Multiply this small particular across the range and complexity of Australian agriculture and our farmers will be looking at a code of regulations that will make the Taxation Act look like a kindergarten primer. One of the benefits of Copenhagen is that an ETS may now be politically dead in Australia.

Leaving aside the reservations I have expressed here, what if the gloomy predictions about global warming and its consequences turn out to be justified? It is not prudent for us humans to throw too much muck up into the sky.

So where does that leave us? We do need emission controls, but they should be kept as simple as possible. Why not just target major polluters, and notably coal-fired electricity generation? But Copenhagen has rendered even that futile for a trivial world polluter such as Australia, given that China and India have made it clear they will not be cutting back on their use of coal.


It’s over. Even "The Age" is crumbling

By Andrew Bolt

The ultimate sign that the tide is turning agains the great global warming scare: "The Age" publishes an opinion piece by a sceptic [see above]

UPDATE: For Victorians wanting to hear just why the global warming scare is collapsing, I pass on this email:
You are invited to attend the Melbourne public lecture by Viscount Monckton of Brenchley

Renowned world-wide for his knowledge of global warming and the eloquence to convey his message.

In: the Ballroom of the Sofitel Hotel (25 Collins St.) At: 5:30 pm. On: Monday February 1st.

Lord Monckton will be introduced by Prof. Ian Plimer (author of best seller “Heaven + Earth") who will also participate in the Question and Answer period after Christopher Monckton’s main address… Admission will be by “donation” of $20 at the door…

Enquiries should be directed to Case SMIT ....

UPDATE 2: Another sign that the global warmists’ crusade to cut emissions is going nowhere - and that the weather isn’t matching their predictions, either:
The queue of ships at the world’s biggest coal port, Newcastle, is near its longest level since before the financial crisis and waiting times are at a one-year record.

In a sign of the booming demand for coal, figures published this week show 58 ships were waiting on Monday, just shy of the pre-Christmas peak of 60, which was the longest queue since mid-2007. Average waiting times for vessels at the port have also blown out to a fresh one-year high of 17.86 days, the Newcastle Port Corporation figures show.

The trend, mirrored at key ports around the country, points to the soaring demand from coal buyers in China and Europe, after severe winters caused a surge in demand for electricity.

UPDATE 3: Speaking of which:
Towns such as Thredbo, and Cooma in the NSW Southern Tablelands, reported a brief flurry of snow this morning, Bureau of Meteorology Duty forecaster Jane Golding said… Ms Golding said summer snow was a rare occurrence in towns such as Cooma. “In Cooma, records began there in 1973 and we’ve never had any observations of snow there in December, January and February,’’ she said.

UPDATE 4: And in further chilling news, more evidence that a colder world is much more dangerous than a warmer one:
The United Nations is raising concerns over the worsening humanitarian situation in Mongolia, brought on by drought and temperatures hitting minus 40 degrees Celsius in most provinces. The extreme weather conditions, known locally as the Dzud, have already caused the deaths of more than one million livestock, as supplies of fodder dwindles.


Ten signs that the warming scare is collapsing

By Andrew Bolt

ONCE global warming was “the great moral challenge of our generation”. Or so claimed the Prime Minister.

But suddenly it’s the great con that’s falling to bits around Kevin Rudd’s ears.

In fact, so fast is global warming theory collapsing that in his flurry of recent speeches to outline his policies for the new decade, Rudd has barely mentioned his “moral challenge” at all.

Take his long Australia Day reception speech on Sunday. Rudd talked of our ageing population and of building stuff, of taxes, hospitals and schools - but dared not say one word about the booga booga he used to claim could destroy our economy, Kakadu, the Great Barrier Reef and 750,000 coastal homes.

What’s happened?

Answer: in just the past few months has come a cascade of evidence that the global warming scare is based on often dodgy science and even outright fraud.

Here are just the top 10 new signs that catastrophic man-made warming may be just another beat-up, like swine flu, SARS, and the Y2K bug.

1. Climategate

THE rot for Rudd started last November with the leaking of emails from the Climatic Research Unit of Britain’s University of East Anglia.

Those emails from many of the world’s top climate scientists showed them conspiring to sack sceptical scientists from magazines, hide data from sceptics, and cover up errors.

One of the scientists, CRU boss Phil Jones, even boasted of having found a “trick” to “hide the decline” in recent temperature reconstructions.

Jones was also on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, so influential in convincing us our gasses are heating the planet that it won the Nobel Prize.

But he showed how political the IPCC actually is by promising in yet another email that he and another colleague would do almost anything to keep sceptical studies out of IPCC reports.

Just as damning was the admission by IPCC lead author Kevin Trenberth that the world isn’t warming as the IPCC said it must: “We cannot account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.”

2. The Copenhagen farce

MORE than 40,000 politicians, scientists and activists flew to Copenhagen last month - in clouds of greenhouse gasses - to get all nations to agree to make the rest of us cut our own emissions to “stop” global warming.

This circus ended in total failure. China, the world’s biggest emitter, refused to choke its growth. So did India. Now the United States is unlikely to make cuts, either, with Barack Obama’s presidency badly wounded and the economy so sick.

Not only did this show that Rudd’s planned tax on our emissions will now be even more suicidally useless. It also suggested world leaders can’t really think global warming is so bad.

3. The Himalayan scare


Which country’s chief scientist defends science?

By Andrew Bolt

Draw your own conclusions about which chief scientist is best defending science against dogma and politics.

THE impact of global warming has been exaggerated by some scientists and there is an urgent need for more honest disclosure of the uncertainty of predictions about the rate of climate change, according to the British Government’s chief scientific adviser.

John Beddington was speaking after an admission by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that it grossly over-stated the rate at which Himalayan glaciers were receding. Professor Beddington said that climate scientists should be less hostile to sceptics who questioned man-made global warming. He condemned scientists who refused to publish the data underpinning their reports…

“I don’t think it’s healthy to dismiss proper scepticism. Science grows and improves in the light of criticism. There is a fundamental uncertainty about climate change prediction that can’t be changed,” he said.

THE planet has just five years to avoid disastrous global warming, says the Federal Government’s chief scientist. Prof Penny Sackett yesterday urged all Australians to reduce their carbon footprint… “Australians can make an enormous contribution, so why would we not rise to this challenge and this opportunity,” she told a business conference in Melbourne.

Prof Sackett refused to comment on the failure of the emissions trading scheme to be passed by the Senate this week. She said her role was as an adviser to the Government and not a commentator on public policy, but she did not deny her appointment a year ago was a political one.

At some stage there will have to be an accounting among scientists who failed to defend the tenets of their discipline in an age of politically-motivated unreason, and who failed to defend the few sceptics who dared to speak up and were punished for it.


"Stacking" the IPCC

"Stacking" is an old custom on the Australian Left. It means to ensure that some deliberative body (e.g. a Labor Party branch) is mostly composed of people whom you favour and who will therefore decide what you want them to decide -- JR

By Andrew Bolt

How to stack the IPCC. First, let the Rudd Government have sole power to nominate Australia’s IPCC authors:
The IPCC has started work on the preparation of the Fifth Assessment Report that will detail the state of climate change knowledge, and has issued an official call for authors…

The Department of Climate Change (DCC) operates as the National Focal Point for IPCC activities and is inviting Australian experts to nominate for Coordinating Lead Author, Lead Author and Review Editor roles. Interested parties are requested to read the background information and email for an Australian Government nomination form. This form will require interested parties to detail their qualifications, areas of expertise, recent publications and contact information.

The Australian Government will select nominees to put forward to the IPCC based on selection criteria that will be provided to interested parties. The IPCC Bureau will then select these positions.

What chance this side of Armageddon that Kevin Rudd or Climate Change Minister Penny Wong will nominate a sceptical scientist to the IPCC? Ditto for Britain and other nations where alarmist governments rule.