Sunday, January 09, 2011

Politically correct confusion over male nurses

Commonsense seems to have been lost on all sides. Of course male nurses (the straight ones anyway) are better equipped to handle aggressive patients

QUEENSLAND'S mental health hospitals are at the centre of a sex discrimination row after bureaucrats ordered male nurses to handle dangerous patients instead of their female colleagues.

A leaked memo reveals Queensland Health has been attempting to stop the practice becoming the norm at two of its main mental health facilities out of fears the department is breaching anti-discrimination laws.

The move comes after a male nurse complained to management that he was being discriminated against and prompted the department to seek legal advice on the matter.

But female nurses who account for most of the workforce, and some of whom have been bashed so badly one had to eat through a straw fear they will be harmed as patient shackles and door locks often don't work properly. Some managers demand they muscle up and do their job.

In a December 13 memo obtained by The Sunday Mail, Darling Downs-West Moreton Health Services District mental health executive director Shirley Wigan told staff at Toowoomba's Baillie Henderson Hospital and The Park, west of Brisbane, to follow the Anti-Discrimination Act.

"There may be instances of directions being provided around managing . . . aggressive behaviour which suggest that some managers prefer male nurses over female nurses," Ms Wigan wrote. "There should not be a standing order in any facility that female nurses should not respond to aggressive patient situations. This must be assessed on a case-by-case basis."

But a second complaint lodged by a female staff member claims the memo was dangerous because it was clearly common sense to make it normal practice for males to handle violent patients. The complaint argues that the Anti-Discrimination Act allowed an exemption to keep staff safe under workplace health and safety. "The number of vicious assaults has increased due to the negligence of management and senior medical staff to provide a safe working environment," the complaint reads.

Queensland Health acting district chief Peter Bristow yesterday noted the workplace health and safety clause, saying the matter was up for discussion among staff. "This is designed to give staff an opportunity to express their views, and seek a way forward which is acceptable to staff, and in keeping with the law," he said.

Queensland Nurses Union state secretary Beth Mohle said no one should be put in an unsafe situation but that rostering meant this would be inevitable for females.

In Sydney last week, a male nurse died after allegedly being stabbed by a mental patient, and his young female offsider was also stabbed.


Cardinal Pell upsets a few applecarts

His Eminence is a doughty warrior for his faith. No watered-down Gospel for him -- to the consternation of the Left

PREMIER Kristina Keneally has lashed out at the head of her church in Australia, saying she was "saddened" by Cardinal George Pell for denouncing Catholic politicians who do not follow the church's teachings. In an exclusive interview, Ms Keneally said Cardinal Pell risked being "interpreted as condemnatory and threatening" by urging MPs to stick to their religious convictions when making policy decisions on contentious social issues such as same-sex marriage.

Ms Keneally, a deeply committed Catholic with a Masters degree in religious studies, said: "I read those comments from the Archbishop and, if anything, they saddened me. "Almost every Catholic politician I know takes their responsibility as an elected representative and their faith very seriously. Many have really struggled, as have I, when moral issues require us to vote - and particularly when it is a conscience vote."

Cardinal Pell told The Sunday Telegraph last week that Catholic politicians couldn't have it both ways on sensitive moral issues such as gay marriage and euthanasia, saying it was "incongruous for somebody to be a Captain Catholic one minute, saying they're as good a Catholic as the Pope, then voting against the established Christian traditions".

His remarks caused a split among Catholic MPs who have been grappling with contentious issues such as same-sex marriage, gay adoptions and euthanasia.

Liberal NSW Upper House MP David Clarke agreed with the Cardinal. "You can't just use your religion when you want to," he said.

Member for Lakemba Tony Stewart said: "I found those comments from Pell bizarre and straight from the 1950s. "Trying to get politicians to vote in accordance to the Catholic Church is really to the detriment of what parliamentary representation is all about in Australia."

In a swipe at Cardinal Pell, suggesting he could be more helpful, Ms Keneally said: "Politicians of faith often would like to turn to religious leaders for pastoral advice and guidance, and sometimes that's not available."

She said she disagreed with the Catholic church on some points and with some of its social teachings, including the church's views on abortion.


Australia is served very well by stereotypes

Greg Sheridan

THE splendid film The King's Speech is the most brilliant advertisement for Brand Australia. It features Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue, the Australian speech therapist who cured George VI, who became king in 1936, of his stammer. At a time when wireless had become ubiquitous, and given the controversy over his brother's abdication, the severe stammer may even have prevented his becoming king.

Logue is almost the perfect Aussie. He is resolutely egalitarian, insisting on addressing the king as Bertie in his treatment rooms. He is irreverent, but with no chip on his shoulder, pragmatic, just a touch earthy, though also an intellectual in his own right, devoted to Shakespeare. Above all he offers unaffected friendship and counsel to the king. In making Logue irreverent but not hostile, crucially not giving him a chip on his shoulder, Rush embodies the perfect Australian attitude.

The two big parts of the national stereotype Logue does not embody are soldier or sportsman. Every nation is trapped in its stereotypes. Even if those become outdated and inaccurate, popular entertainment, Hollywood especially, will almost always broadcast the stereotype rather than the nuance of any new reality.

Australia's main international stereotypes are that we are good at sport, our soldiers are magnificent, we are socially egalitarian, sometimes rough in our manners, have great beaches and a lot of space, are rich and lucky as a country, are close to Asia, a former British colony and now allies of the Americans. And we have a racist past. The relative strengths of these stereotypes differ in different countries, depending on their experience of us. The real significance of these stereotypes, beyond tourism, can be elusive. Often international popular opinion matters very little. But these deep stereotypes do play into the decisions governments across the world make about Australia.

I recall interviewing Ehud Barak, now Israel's Defence Minister, just before the military intervention in Iraq in 2003. Australia would make an important contribution, he told me, because there was a big shortage of special forces in the Western coalition and everyone knew our special forces were equal to the best in the world.

In this case Barak was right. The stereotype matched the reality. Our special forces are as good as any. They are in fact the one part of our defence force we keep up to world's best practice, and they have done the bulk of our work in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I have recently spent a couple of weeks in Israel and Morocco as part of the Australia Israel Leadership Forum. This forum deserves a word in its own right. It is inspired by the Australian American Leadership Dialogue and it achieves the same purpose, of forcing leaders from both countries to focus serious intellectual attention on the relationship. This has a consequence in itself, but it also reveals something of other countries' policy considerations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netnyahu met our group and remarked that "Australia is a long way away but it is a very close friend". The President of Israel, Shimon Peres, was even more effusive. He said: "Australia is a beloved country in Israel by everybody. Love is the diplomacy we have towards Australia."

Peres is a renowned nice guy, but that strikes me as the strongest endorsement you could ever get from a foreign head of state.

Danny Ayalon, Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister, told me: "Australia and Israel are like-minded countries, sharing values and interests and facing common threats".

Of course, Israel's affection for Australia follows decades of strong support for Jerusalem from Canberra. But it has deeper historical roots. Australian forces were important in driving the Ottomans out of the land of Israel in World War I, and important too in World War II in ensuring that Adolf Hitler's anti-Semitic genocide never reached the Jews of Palestine.

But the way the Australian troops conducted themselves there, the easygoing informality and friendliness of the diggers, is a legend that survives in Israel still, and it often leads to a comparison between Israeli and Australian informality and social egalitarianism. Of course, shrewder Israelis are also aware that Israel survived the global financial crisis because of its IT creativity, while Australia did because of its mineral wealth.

A sophisticated and contemporary riff on the common egalitarian theme comes from Avishay Braverman, a Labour Party Minister for Minority Affairs in Netanyahu's coalition government. He wants Labour to rediscover its social-democratic roots and also make a big push on the peace process. He is a former president of Ben-Gurion University. Here is his social-democrat take on Australia: "I think Australia will have a great future. Australia was lucky to be far [from the GFC], it didn't get damaged. The greed of US-style capitalism didn't affect Canada or Australia. They have different cultures, they have dynamic capitalism but still retain social solidarity. Australia also has great proximity to the growth engines of China and India."

In Ramallah, Nabil Shaath of the Palestinian Authority said he appreciated Australia's interest in Palestine, and its substantial and reliable aid, but he thought Australia had been too close to George W. Bush. This is not only a representative Palestinian response but a fairly typical Arab response to Australia.

Unless we completely change our whole orientation, we will always be seen as close to America, a friend of Israel and, in general, part of the Western camp. And this, of course, is no obstacle to doing business, including political business, in the Arab world.

In Morocco I asked an official why Rabat bothered to have an embassy in Canberra when Canberra couldn't be bothered to have an embassy in Rabat. He replied: "We have more than a hundred diplomatic missions abroad. Australia is a great country. The question is: why wouldn't we have an embassy in Australia?"

The nearly insane underfunding of the Australian diplomatic corps makes private initiatives such as the Australia Israel Leadership Forum all the more important. In the absence of diplomats, only the stereotypes speak for Australia. Throughout my time in Israel, I was struck by the Australian stories that got into the Israeli media. A local interview with Kevin Rudd was front page news, but every single day the fortunes of Australian cricket figured in the papers.

Sometimes I suspect the world actually knows us pretty well.


Cash for clunkers -- an idea that should not go ahead in Australia

By Victor Dial, chairman and general manager of Ford France from 1973 to 1980, and vice-president of sales and marketing for Automobiles Peugeot from 1981 to 1991

MANY countries in Europe are reporting improved car sales in December, thanks to a last-minute rush by consumers to take advantage of another "cash for clunkers" program of the kind adopted by Barack Obama and promised by Julia Gillard.

So look for poor January sales. European governments and car makers have run many such programs over the past 20 years, and they have grown addicted to them.

Cash for clunkers originated in Europe in the mid-1980s. I was in charge of sales and marketing for Peugeot at the time, and the government incentive was co-developed by my company, Renault and the French government.

The idea was twofold: get high-polluting and fuel-guzzling "clunkers" off the road and thus stimulate new car sales. It was called Prime a la Casse.

Consumers would be offered a one-off rebate for a limited time for their trade-in against the purchase of a new car if it was more than 10 years old, regardless of its market value. The rebate was worth about $1000 and was shared between manufacturers and the government.

Customers flocked to our showrooms, some with virtually worthless cars. I heard stories about people buying cars from scrap yards and hauling them to the nearest dealer. The program was considered a huge success and ran for several months. When it ended, pressure rose for the program to be repeated. And it was, again and again for two decades.

Over the years, European governments with large national production (Germany, Italy, Spain, Britain) implemented similar programs, and even states with little if any production joined in.

In my years in the industry, I never heard serious debate about the wisdom of the program, much less condemnation. In France, close co-operation between industry and government draws little comment. There was no outcry from other industries asking for similar handouts.

The car industry, the labour unions and the environmentalists: all were winners. The losers were French taxpayers.

Similar programs are still in place across Europe, although a number of governments are attempting to end them. In France it is estimated that 1.2 million new vehicles were sold under its program in 2009 and 2010, out of total sales of some four million.

I suppose the idea for cash for clunkers in the US came from an adviser to the new administration who knew of its "success" in Europe. When the program started in 2009, I admit I was surprised at the almost immediate outcry from economists, pundits and, yes, citizens, denouncing it as wasteful.

They were, of course, right: It pulls forward new car sales, but it also scraps perfectly good, serviceable vehicles, lowering supply and driving up used-car prices.

In the US, the predicted volume was underestimated, the budget was woefully inadequate, and the government was unable to process payments in a timely manner. Cash for clunkers quickly became a synonym for government overreach and incompetence.

In a program on government stimulus schemes such as cash for clunkers that aired last month, John Stossel of Fox News pointed out that if destroying perfectly good products creates wealth and jobs, then why stop with cars? Why not take a hammer to TVs, computers and durable goods?

Or how about this: There are millions of old, environmentally inefficient houses in the US and many unemployed house builders. Why not hire them to tear old houses down and build new ones with solar panels for roofs? And while we're at it, why not scrap noisy, fuel-guzzling planes? And washing machines. The possibilities are as endless as they are ridiculous.


1 comment:

Paul said...

"The Straight ones anyway"? Classy stereotyping there JJ, nice cheap shot....but really, you're not altogether wrong. The truth is the more overt masculinity and size is available, and visible, the less they play up. Basic psychology of perception. A short-ish guy with a bit of a lispy twang won't get anywhere, while a big security guard with a goatee and shaved head will. The security guard may actually be the Gay one, as is the case more often than you would think but that's unimportant because to an acting out psychotic or PD, Might is always right in the end.

We routinely place males with certain types of patient and females with other types if that's what the situation calls for. It's not discrimination in any way, it's "appropriate use of available resources for the best outcome at the time" (Dare I be unPC and say its also the "gentlemanly" thing to do?). Of course the truly florid paranoid psychotic will only see the attacking space lizards coming for him (or her, girls will defend us from space lizards too, if they are undermedicated), in which case all bets are off.