Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Immigration critic Pauline Hanson returning to Australian politics

Ms Hanson is making a comeback to politics, standing for a NSW upper house seat in the March 26 election.

NSW Premier Kristina Keneally greeted the news by saying state Labor would direct no preferences to Ms Hanson, accusing her of harbouring racist views. "We absolutely condemn the sorts of racist and discriminatory policies which come from Ms Hanson and parties like One Nation," Ms Keneally said. The NSW Liberal Party has also said it would offer no preferences to Ms Hanson.

But Ms Hanson has told told Fairfax Radio Network: "I'm not racist. No one can ever comment or make a comment on any racist statement I have ever said," she said today. "I have ... as an Australian ... a right to question immigration and multiculturalism, which I don't believe is helping our country.

"I believe in people coming here, assimilating, becoming Australians and be proud of this country and abide by the laws of the land. "I don't think there's anything wrong with that."

Ms Hanson said the major political parties feared her. "Why? Because they know I've always spoken out, I expose them for what they are," she said. "They want to hold on to their power and the positions. "It is in the people's interest of NSW to ensure that I am on the floor of NSW."

Ms Hanson is to stand for an upper house seat with a group of 16 independents but conceded it would be a "battle" to get elected.

Ms Hanson said she had been thinking about making a political comeback since last year, with voters urging her to stand. Parliamentary accountability and law and order reforms would be high on her agenda.

"Something I'd like to consider and put to the government is the separation of powers of the police force to the Parliament," she said. "I don't think the police force should be controlled by a minister of police. "They could look at separating them. So they [police] can get on and do their job."

She also said she was "completely against" Prime Minister Julia Gillard's planned carbon tax.

On the subject of Ms Keneally, Ms Hanson said, "I think she's a very nice lady but she doesn't know what she's talking about."

David Oldfield, a founder of the One Nation Party in 1996 with Ms Hanson, challenged anyone listening to his radio program on 2UE this morning to come up with any statement of hers in the past that was racist. He strongly criticised Ms Keneally's accusations that Ms Hanson's policies were racist and discriminatory, saying the Premier's comments were the opposite of freedom of speech.

His listeners agreed, welcoming her back into politics. "Congratulations to Pauline Hanson. I think our government needs a good shake-up. She's truthful ... I think give her a go, because this country is such a mess," one listener said. Another listener said Ms Hanson was just repeating what others were saying to "stop bringing these immigrants into Australia".

One caller raised Ms Hanson's refusal to sell her Queensland home to a Muslim buyer last year "because I don't believe that they are compatible with our way of life, our culture" as an example of racism, but Mr Oldfield dismissed his comments, saying: "What's racist about that?"

"If Pauline Hanson, doesn't like Muslims, she has a right not to like Muslims," he said, comparing it to whether Ms Hanson liked or did not like rainy days. "Technically speaking, Muslims are not a race," he added. Mr Oldfield said he, like the Oxford Dictionary, defined racism as one race viewing itself as superior than another race, citing the Nazis' belief in supremacy over the Jews.

Ms Hanson has spoken out strongly against multiculturalism and immigration in the past. In her maiden speech to Federal Parliament in 1996, she called for multiculturalism to be abolished and said Australia was "in danger of being swamped by Asians".

"I and most Australians want our immigration policy radically reviewed and that of multiculturalism abolished. I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians. Between 1984 and 1995, 40 per cent of all migrants coming into this country were of Asian origin. They have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate."

In 2006, she said she was concerned about immigrants from South Africa with diseases. "We're bringing in people from South Africa at the moment. There's a huge amount coming into Australia, who have diseases; they've got AIDS," she said. [There is indeed a high incidence of AIDS in South Africa and some other African nations]

"They are of no benefit to this country whatsoever; they'll never be able to work. And what my main concern is, is the diseases that they're bringing in and yet no one is saying or doing anything about it."


Greenie snake oil

Most Greenie claims are snake oil so the story below should not be too surprising

JAMIE PARKER, the man expected to become the Greens' first lower-house MP in NSW, was in charge of marketing at a natural therapies company that was repeatedly shamed by authorities for ''misleading advertising'' and ''exploiting consumers''. Mr Parker, who polls suggest will unseat Education Minister Verity Firth in Balmain, marketed products including FatBlaster, FatMagnet, Horny Goat Weed and Cholestaguard under the brand name Naturopathica.

An ad for FatBlaster, a weight loss treatment, included the line: ''Quick! Call Green Peace [sic] - there's a beached whale.''

Cat Media, the company behind Naturopathica, was the subject of 41 complaints upheld by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) between 2000 and 2006.

According to the pecuniary interests register at Leichhardt Council, where Mr Parker is mayor, he was marketing manager of Cat Media during that period.

A review of TGA decisions shows scathing comments, including this about the cholesterol treatment Cholestaguard: ''Advertisements which were unbalanced and exploited the lack of knowledge of consumers, and could bring about fear of distress among consumers''.

A FatBlaster ad was criticised for ''misleading consumers into thinking that the product had been used successfully by well-known celebrities (just like Catherine Zeta-Jones and Posh Spice)''. The company was also found to have used staff members to write supposedly independent reviews of products. Cat Media claimed falsely, according to the TGA, that its HangOver STOP could ''stop a hang over''.

Mr Parker denied that he was responsible for any of the breaches. ''It wasn't my role to be putting together advertising and copywriting, I was positioning the stuff in pharmacies,'' Mr Parker told The Sun-Herald. ''There were many directors. I had a small team of people doing things like graphic design. Yes, I've worked in the private sector, I'm not a union hack.''

Mr Parker left Cat Media in 2006.

A Labor Party source said: ''This is a tough contest for Labor, greatly helped by the fact that our opponent appears to be a snake oil salesman.''


Must not say that homosexual exhibitionism is disgusting

NETWORK Ten newsreader Ron Wilson made an on-air apology this morning after using the word "disgusting" during an interview about Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade. The comment arose during an unscripted interview with Mardi Gras co-chair Peter Urmson.

Wilson insists that his comments came in his role as a journalist playing devil’s advocate and did not reflect his own views.

Despite stating that he's in favour of the law being changed to allow marriage between same sex couples, the journalist said during yesterday's interview:

“On the night there some of the spectacles you’re seeing I’m, assuming would even make you cringe. It becomes an exploitation almost of a sexual image rather than trying to explore the diversity of lifestyle.”

After Urmson responded that the community was colourful, but not disgusting, Wilson said: “With respect, there’s a difference between colourful and disgusting in some cases.” He then added that some people “really do seem to cross the line”.

Ten issued a statement saying: “Ten Morning News featured eight minutes of overwhelmingly positive coverage of Mardi Gras. Ron Wilson congratulated organisers on the success of the 2011 event.

"One small section of the interview raised a question about behaviour by some participants. The phrasing might not have been ideal, and TEN apologises if any viewers took offence.

"However, it is not unreasonable for alternative views to be put to organisers and the interview talent agreed that while he didn’t hold the view, some sections of society may.”


Clumsy fakery of school test results

THE "gobsmacking" NAPLAN score of one disadvantaged Melbourne primary school, detailed on the My School website, has raised fresh questions about whether schools are manipulating the literacy and numeracy tests to gain an unfair advantage.

Education consultant and NAPLAN expert Philip Holmes-Smith said of the result achieved by Dallas Primary School in Broadmeadows that he had "never seen anything like it". "In statistics I never say it's impossible because there is probably a 0.0004 per cent chance it would happen," Mr Holmes-Smith said.

A growing number of principals and academics believe that schools face so much pressure to perform well in NAPLAN (National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy) that manipulation will result.

In the United States city of Atlanta, 109 educators faced scrutiny or sanctions after an investigation found test-related cheating at 58 public schools. Funding decisions there are made on test results. Similar problems have been found elsewhere in the US and in Britain.

The federal government, under its National Partnership Agreement on Literacy and Numeracy, will begin allocating large reward payments to schools based on their improvements in NAPLAN.

In the 2010 test last May, only 74 per cent of Dallas Primary students sat the test; 20 per cent were "withdrawn" and 7 per cent "absent". The national average attendance was 96 per cent.

Former education department bureaucrat John Nelson said the Dallas results were "gobsmacking". Despite a large migrant population and low socio-economic status, year 3 students were reading, spelling and understanding grammar and punctuation at significantly higher levels than the national average for year 5 students. In grammar and punctuation, the school's year 3 students outstripped its year 5 students, by a score of 596 to 522.

The students' improvement from year 3 in 2008 to year 5 in 2010 was enormous, putting year 5 students at near year 8 levels.

Dallas principal Valerie Karaitiana has in the past attributed her school's success to its specialist programs, but would not respond to questions on Friday. Northern region director Wayne Craig has, in private forums, used Dallas as an example to other principals of what can be achieved, but he refused on Friday to defend its performance. A departmental investigation of the school has found nothing wrong.

Other Victorian principals are suspicious. Doug Conway, principal of the western suburban Kings Park Primary School, believes the "lowest-performing kids were told to stay at home". "If you did that at my school, the low SES, high non-English-speaking background children, we'd get a colossal spike," he said. "I think the pressure on schools has led some schools to have lower participation rates than they should have." Terry Condon, Roxburgh Rise Primary principal, called Dallas "one of the most miraculous schools in the state".

Schools Minister Martin Dixon said he was concerned about Victoria's low participation rate in the NAPLAN tests, but was not aware of problems with any individual school.

Mr Holmes-Smith, a consultant at School Research Evaluation and Measurement Services, pointed out that Dallas's score for writing was much lower than for spelling and grammar. "Writing is the most authentic assessment because the children actually have to write something," he said. The other tests are multiple choice.

Mr Nelson, who quit his Education Department job because he thought a departmental investigation into Dallas was "a whitewash", asked: "What did they do that took a kid in Broadmeadows from the bottom 10th or 20th percentile and put them in the top percentile? Whatever they did needs to be copied by everybody, so why hasn't it? Why didn't they celebrate their methods?"


Queensland's great water ripoff

And it's similar in other States

WHAT we've got here, as the jail warden famously said to Paul Newman in the film Cool Hand Luke, is failure to communicate. The message, it seems, is just not getting through. Perhaps we're just too stupid to understand it but Allconnex Water chief executive Kim Wood is doing his best to educate us.

He announced last week that Queenslanders had been getting their water too cheaply for too long. They should, he intimated, stop whining about ever-increasing water bills because before too long, they'd really have something to whinge about because they were going to get well and truly shafted by companies like his.

Actually, he eschewed the vernacular and said we should get ready to pay much more, which amounts to the same. "Most of us think the water falls from the sky and is free," he said.

I confess to being one of those who still believes, naive simpleton that I am, that, while not completely gratis, water should be one of our more affordable commodities, central as it is to the maintenance of life. This makes me one of those people who frustrate people such as Wood, who believes that it should be collected and sold for as high a price as can be screwed out of ratepayers.

If you find it difficult to pay spiralling water bills, sent to you from one of the companies that, thanks to the State Government, now control water in the state, then it really is too bad. You've had it too good for too long and if you don't like it, then go stand outside with a bucket next time it rains.

As an example of executive arrogance, Wood's stance is one of the better ones, his attitude up there with "let them eat cake" - the difference being that while there is no evidence Marie Antoinette ever urged the starving masses to have a nice slice of sponge, Wood's stance is a matter of record.

He is, of course, better placed than most to pay his water bill, pulling down a handy $464,000 a year in total or a tad under $1800 a day for a five-day week.

Despite Wood's exhortations to cop it sweet, I still have trouble understanding how the State Government's "reform" of water supply has seen bills rise by $300 a year. These are increases which, thanks to Wood, we know will continue and compound further in the short, let alone the medium, term with the best bet being a further rise of 22 per cent in the pipeline, so to speak, next year.

It will surprise no one to hear that having created massive water distribution bureaucracies, with Wood spending $4 million fitting out his offices and planning to lift his staff by a further 100 to 900, the State Government has announced the ensuing price gouging is not its fault.

Adopting her stern look, Premier Anna Bligh has said that it's all the fault of those dreadful regional councils. Are these the ones which were forced to amalgamate by the State Government and then forced to take control of the new water utilities?

Yes, they are the same ones and Bligh has said she'll give them all a jolly good spanking if she finds out that they, through the utilities they now own, have been charging too much for water.

The councils blame the Government for foisting the hugely expensive system upon them, while Wood defends his stance by saying that this year he expects to make a profit of about $70 million selling the stuff that, as he says, most of us mistakenly think falls from the sky and is free.

He has, therefore, justified his considerable salary. Were he able to extract $100 million in 2012 - and given the fact that he'll probably raise charges by about a fifth this seems likely - then he may well be in line for a salary increase based on the improved financial performance of the company he runs.

That rattle you can hear isn't rain on the roof but another State Government-sponsored gravy train leaving the station. On board are all the managers and consultants, some mates of mates, some professional desk-dwellers, who have done very nicely out of bureaucracies such as the Water Commission and can now mine the rich salary seams of the water utilities. Standing on the station platform are the ratepayers, watching as the water mandarins wave and smile from their first-class seats.

Peering through the window of the carriages, they can see a game in progress. It involves a ball emblazoned with the word BLAME and it is being tossed from the State Government to the councils and on to the water retailers who pass it the councils who then flick it back to the Government.

What is certain is that a lot of money is now being made from water and that no one appears to have responsibility for the havoc that is being visited upon household budgets.

The one group not benefiting from this bonanza, of course, are the people who are funding it: the ratepayers.

Wood's attitude may be unfortunate and he may wish that he had not said last week that it was "regrettable" that it had rained as this had a negative impact on Allconnex's revenue, but he didn't create the system.

That was all the handiwork of our elected leaders, the same ones who are now playing handball. It may well be that the electorate will tire of trying to work out who is at fault, blame both the councillors and the state parliamentarians, and seek vengeance on both at the ballot box.


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