Saturday, April 30, 2011

Abuse in lieu of reason again -- from a Watermelon, of course

"Scepticism is bastardry", says head of ACF

THE president of the Australian Conservation Foundation has attacked the "scientific bastardry" of climate change sceptics amid weakening public consensus that humans are to blame.

Ian Lowe, who is also professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University, lamented the narrowing of the carbon tax debate.

He said it was "naive" to believe putting a price on carbon was the solution to the problem, arguing the carbon price would have to rise to "politically unrealistic" levels if it was to drive the transition away from coal-fired power.

He said other complementary measures would be needed to encourage renewable energy.

Addressing a conference in Melbourne organised by the academics' union, the National Tertiary Education Union, Professor Lowe called on scientists to become more active in promoting the scientific evidence of human-induced climate change.

"As a profession who are paid from the public purse, it is a fundamental part of our responsibility to the community to be engaged in the public debate about these issues," he said.

He said the evidence for human-induced climate change was backed by virtually all scientists. He described the views of climate change sceptics as "illegitimate arguments that you could call scientific bastardry".


Julia Gillard no hope of going the distance, says Tony Abbott

TONY Abbott has completed a week of election-style campaigning with a prediction the Gillard government will crumble before completing its term.

The Opposition Leader has criss-crossed the nation in the past week, swooping on the advantage given to him by Julia Gillard's absence from the country to further exert pressure on a government he now views as unsustainable.

He has sought to squeeze Labor's most sensitive political points, highlighting asylum-seeker unrest, community discontent with the carbon tax and ongoing violence and alcohol abuse in indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.

Speaking to The Weekend Australian yesterday, Mr Abbott said he did not expect the government to go its full term because of the mounting pressure of unpopular policies and an untenable governing position.

"This is a very fragile government with a sense of impermanence about it," he said. "I have no expectation that any of the independents are going to come knocking on my door anytime soon. And I have no expectation that a disgruntled Labor backbencher or frontbencher is going to resign anytime soon. Nevertheless, it is such an obviously incompetent government and it is in such a difficult parliamentary position that it is hard to imagine this shambles surviving for another 2 1/2 years."

Mr Abbott has taken full advantage of the Prime Minister's absence while she travelled to South Korea, Japan, China and Britain, attending yesterday's royal wedding.

The Opposition Leader said the current political climate made him feel as though he was in a "continuous campaign".

Earlier in the week, he travelled to the Christmas Island detention centre, which has been rocked by riots, as well as OneSteel's headquarters in Whyalla, South Australia, which he warned would be "wiped off the map" under a carbon tax.

On Wednesday, he arrived in Alice Springs to highlight problems in the town and outback indigenous communities, consulting with local politicians and indigenous leaders over his proposed "second intervention". While defending Ms Gillard's right to travel overseas and attend events such as the royal wedding, Mr Abbott also took a political potshot at the Prime Minister for not accompanying him to central Australia despite a standing invitation.

"Everybody understands the Prime Minister has to travel. Everyone expects the Prime Minister to go to the royal wedding.

"But I was a little disappointed that she wasn't prepared to come as part of a bipartisan joint visit or at least thus far hasn't been prepared to come under those circumstances."

Wayne Swan has been increasingly talking up the likelihood of a tough federal budget next month, but Mr Abbott said he doubted the government would make spending reductions where necessary. Instead, he said, it would favour "sneaky" cuts.

"This government has talked about a tough budget, but they have never delivered one," he said. "Every year they talk about how tough their budget is going to be, but none of their budgets have been at all tough.

"I suspect this budget will be tougher than previous ones, but I doubt very much there is going to be serious systemic cuts."

However, Mr Abbott said the Coalition would not be outlining its own list of budget savings, as it did before last year's election and before the introduction of the flood levy.

"In good time before the next election we will publish a detailed statement as to how our policies are going to be funded. But I don't think you should expect from us an alternative saving list to accompany this budget," he said.


Nambour Hospital procedures reviewed after boy dies of rare condition

QUEENSLAND Health has promised to review child assessment procedures at Nambour Hospital after a heart-wrenching campaign by the parents of a little boy who died while waiting to see a doctor.

Andrew and Trudy Olive, of Mooloolah on the Sunshine Coast, lost their four-year-old son Tom after an emergency department ordeal on August 25 last year.

In The Courier-Mail on January 26, they called for an investigation into Tom's treatment so other families did not suffer the same anguish.

They revealed every parent's worst nightmare where no doctor was on hand, a student nurse attended the boy with faulty equipment and Mr Olive had been forced to start CPR on his dying son when medical staff failed to notice his heart had stopped. Tests have since confirmed Tom died as the result of an episode brought on by a hereditary muscle-destroying disease that has claimed only a handful of lives worldwide.

The outcry brought an offer from Queensland Health management to sit down with the Olives. Mr Olive said he and Trudy felt that the latest meeting last week was a breakthrough and brought an acknowledgement that more could have been done to save Tom.

"I outlined that basic mistakes had been made at the assessment level. All the warning signs were there that Tom was dangerously ill and they were all ignored," he said.

"His temperature was low at 33.9C, his heart was racing, he was slipping in and out of consciousness and there were indications the potassium levels in his blood were soaring, which can mean cardiac arrest is imminent. And here we were in the corner with a Uni student and nurse for 30 minutes."

The latest meeting was attended by Sunshine Coast Health District chief executive Kevin Hegarty, regional Director of Emergency Medicine Dr Stephen Priestley, pediatrician Dr Tom Hurley, district executive Jackie Hanson and the Olive's solicitor Peter Boyce.

Mr Olive said the outcome was hospital management had agreed to look at what measures they could put in place to ensure what happened to Tom never happened again. "They promised us they would review procedures in the emergency department at Nambour and come back to us within a month of the April 18 meeting with a document outlining the improvements."

Mr Hegarty said the hospital would look at the Emergency Department issues raised by the Olives. "While the clinical review indicated that Thomas's treatment was appropriate, we have undertaken to Mr and Mrs Olive that we will write to them in a month indicating any changes that are being made to emergency department procedures in response to their concerns," he said. Hegarty declined to answer which issues would be looked at.

The Olives are expecting another child in two weeks and while their three-year-old daughter Laura has been cleared of having the double mutation of the LPIN1 gene that killed her brother, a sample of their baby's blood will have to be sent to Paris for testing.

Mr Olive said their new daughter would have a one in four chance of inheriting the disease, but there would be a management plan available if she did.

In recent months, the Olives have discovered a family in Port Macquarie who lost their eight-year-old boy a day before Tom to the same illness. They also have connected with a Victorian family, whose two-year-old has survived it. All three boys have two things in common, the illness and sharing the name Thomas.

An LPIN1 awareness and support page has been set up on Facebook and the Olives have plans for a "Shine for Thomas Foundation" to raise funds to have testing, currently only available in France, performed in Australia.

There has been no decision as to if, or when, a coronial inquest will be held into Tom's death as investigations are ongoing. The Olives are eagerly awaiting a response from the Coroner and are seeking an immediate investigation.


Playground stimulus

Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich

My wife and I spent the long weekend in the NSW Central West. The air was crisp, the sun shining, and the autumn leaves glowed in all shades of orange. However, even in this picture-perfect idyll of countryside Australia, you are never far from government folly.

On Easter Sunday we visited Carcoar. A heritage listed village, guidebooks describe Carcoar as one of the historic gems of the area. Rightly so: three old churches, a few former bank buildings and an Italian style courthouse remind tourists of Carcoar’s proud past. Today, however, they look grossly out of proportion in a village of 218 people.

The world probably only became aware of Carcoar’s existence when a double axe murder happened there in September 1893. The other highlights in the village’s history were the shutdown of the Carcoar Chronicle in 1943, the closure of the court in the 1950s, and the discontinuation of the railway station in 1974.

By all accounts, Carcoar is not so much a dying village as it is a dead village. Indeed, that’s what makes it such as charming place to visit – it is frozen in a time long gone by. But one thing most certainly it is not: a thriving, developing settlement.

The Australian government does not agree with this assessment. At the edge of Carcoar, in front of a small playground (without any children in sight) are two big signs. One reads ‘Nation Building – Economic Stimulus Plan supporting jobs and building our infrastructure for the future.’ The other explains that the junior swing, the small slide, and the little rocker were ‘funded through the Australian Government’s Community Infrastructure Program.’

As it turns out, the Carcoar playground was one of five ‘stimulus’ projects undertaken by Blayney Shire Council, which cost a total of $289,000. The last census counted only 34 children in Carcoar. The village’s median age in 2006 was 50 – higher than Japan’s. And Carcoar is shrinking further as local house prices under $150,000 demonstrate.

How a new playground in a fossilised village can amount to ‘nation building’ is a government secret. They could have just as well repainted the disused railway station or installed a new dock in the closed courthouse.

In two weeks’ time, Treasurer Wayne Swan will present a budget that is already foreshadowed as ‘tough’ and a deficit that will look frighteningly high for times of near full employment. For a government engaging in nation building in dead villages, this should not surprise anyone.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 29 April. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Wedding ban attracts immature reaction

Christopher Pearson

MICHAEL Shmith is a senior arts journalist with The Age. His mother's second marriage was to Lord Harewood who, as well as being an opera impresario, is a grandson of George V and a first cousin of the Queen.

Shmith has spent a good deal of time in the company of his stepfather and that branch of the family, so his response to the news that the Chaser team had been prevented from providing a running commentary on the royal wedding on ABC2 came as something of a surprise.

"Call it what you will, fetch whichever cutting device you wish from the toolshed, this is, to me, nothing short of censorship. Worse, it is censorship initiated not by the broadcasters concerned but from within the severe stucco Nash facade of Clarence House . . . How narrow-minded, how unnecessary."

No doubt there are people who imagine comedians are somehow entitled, as of right, to footage of the royal wedding and that being denied it is a form of artistic or political censorship, but Shmith really ought to know better. Would he expect the Pope to grant the Chaser team a live feed of Easter mass at St Peter's, for example?

Of course he wouldn't, because as an arts editor he'd know that the head of the Catholic Church has intellectual property rights in that celebration, not to mention the performances of the Sistine Chapel choir, and rights over permitting film crews access to the building. The Pope also has obligations to prevent the solemnities over which he presides and the Petrine office itself being profaned or, with his consent, held up to ridicule.

The comparison with the Queen is precise because she too is head of a sovereign state and supreme governor of the Church of England.

She has intellectual property rights and powers over what happens in Westminster Abbey, a church that comes into the category of "a royal peculiar institution".

Like the Pope, she is sworn to uphold the Church of England and the dignity of its solemnities. She is also duty bound in a special way that does not apply to popes, who are elected, to uphold the honour of her own dynasty and its rites of passage: coronations, baptisms, weddings and funerals.

Given the Chaser team's weakness for stunts in questionable taste, not to put too fine a point on the matter, it's perfectly understandable that Clarence House should have refused permission.

The wonder is, rather, that the BBC and the ABC could have imagined that the Windsors would meekly submit to such mockery.

It probably confirms most people's suspicions about the level of staff-capture in the highest echelons of both institutions.

The Age wasn't the only organ of the wet Left to wax indignant.

The Jesuits' online journal Eureka Street published a piece by Ellena Savage, the immediate past editor of Melbourne University's student magazine Farrago.

"Clarence House's ban on ABC's The Chaser's Royal Wedding Commentary has irreparably undermined the House of Windsor in Australia."

What's more: "Its effective ban on democratic media representation provides a welcome jolt back to reality. British monarchy is not the benevolent and benign institution we pretended it was, but a neurotic, self-perpetuating liability.

"It was their benevolence alone that guaranteed our unquestioned support, or at least tolerance, of their persistence as anachronistic figureheads in our parliamentary structure."

This is all pretty silly, even by the standards of student magazines, and the fact a Jesuit organisation chose to publish it goes a long way towards explaining why the phrase "Catholic intellectual" nowadays strikes so many people as an oxymoron. But there's worse to come.

According to Savage: "We consume the Windsors as we do soap operas. We want them to get fat and to struggle. Celebrity culture is fundamentally about schadenfreude, even where it is disguised as idolatry."

While I've no doubt that's how Savage sees Prince William and his bride, I think most of the people in Australia, as well as Britain, who are the least bit interested in the royal wedding will think they're an attractive pair, recognise that Catherine Middleton has taken on a very demanding role and wish them well.

In the same way, people of goodwill habitually wish luck and perseverance to any couple who embark on a life commitment to one another in full knowledge of the difficulties in living up to their vows.

Judging from the Chaser team's statement in response to the ban, it's hard to imagine that we'll have missed much: "To ensure that our coverage was respectful, we were only planning to use jokes that Prince Philip has previously made in public or at least the ones that don't violate racial vilification laws."

Now if the Chaser team were half as anarchic and politically incorrect as they claim to be, they'd at least give Prince Philip some credit for speaking his mind. As things stand, their parasitic relationship to the people and institutions they hold up to derision is plain for all to see.

The ABC's director of television, Kim Dalton, had the effrontery to say he was "surprised and disappointed" by Clarence House's intervention, adding "we are a mature enough country to enjoy this particular take on this event". However, the truth is that the Chaser's stunts were always undergraduate and appealed to a streak of immaturity in its audience. As well, assuring us that we're "mature enough" is an attempt to ingratiate, transparent enough to be offensive, which had well and truly passed its use-by date long ago, during the republican referendum debate.

Instead, what the public was entitled to expect from Dalton was a grovelling apology that the national broadcaster had even considered commissioning that sort of immature commentary.

If there is any lingering suspicion that the royal family is humourless or overly censorious, readers should remember that Dame Edna Everage was allowed a part in the proceedings, as she had been in the jubilee celebrations and command performances. In this respect she is like King Lear's jester, the "all-licensed fool". Edna's wit is no less anarchic than the Chaser team's. It's just better judged and funnier.


1 comment:

Paul said...

You know one of the greatest moments in showbiz that I can recall was during the wedding procession of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. Dame Edna was standing on top of a truck or bus and the camera cut to Sarah looking up from the coach, pointing and doing the "hey Andrew look, its Dame Edna" thing from inside. Now THAT is fame.