Friday, April 29, 2011

Another Greenie scheme implodes

NSW solar bonus scheme suspended

THE NSW Government has suspended the Solar Bonus Scheme due to cost blowouts.

No new applications will be considered while the future viability of the program is considered next week, Energy Minister Chris Hartcher announced today. Mr Hartcher said the scheme would add an estimated $651 million to the budget deficit over the four years to 2014-15.

The scheme pays householders for all energy generated by residential solar panels, including what they use themselves as well as what they feed into the grid. But it ran into trouble last year when the Government was forced to slash the feed-in tariff.

Responding to spiralling demand for the scheme, the former Labor government cut the tariff from 60 to 20 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), to curb the take-up and future price hikes for customers not signed up to the program.

Mr Hartcher said all applications currently under consideration would continue to be processed.

The scheme was set up by the previous Labor government and was expected to run until 2016. "People in the scheme are not affected," Mr Hartcher said in Sydney.

Closing the scheme permanently to new applications and opportunities to limit cost blowouts to the existing scheme will be considered at the government's promised Solar Summit on May 6.


Expert warns carbon tax is 'crazy'

Professor Bob Carter, speaking in Mackay, would rather see the government spend money on ‘climate reality’

QUEENSLAND’S resources sector and every day families would suffer for nothing if the Federal Government introduced a carbon tax, a Mackay forum heard last night.

Climate scientist Professor Bob Carter and Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) executive director John Roskam told the forum that a carbon tax would disproportionately impact Australia’s north and have a very negligible effect on reducing emissions.

Meanwhile, Mackay businesses reliant on the resources sector expressed concern that a carbon tax would eventually lead to mining companies looking overseas for exploration, resulting in a large downturn in the economy and local job losses.

Yesterday, Professor Bob Carter told the Daily Mercury that a carbon tax would cost Australia trillions of dollars and it would be better if the Federal Government spent money on dealing with “climate reality” by building cyclone and bushfire centres.

Prof Carter, who has studied ancient climate change, said there was no doubt human activity impacted global temperatures.

However, he said this was insignificant in the context of natural climate change and policy makers needed to abandon the “illusionary goal of preventing global warming by reducing carbon emissions”.

“Climate change always occurs.

"It is certain that humans have an affect on climate locally,” he said. “No scientist on the planet doubts that humans have an effect on temperature locally. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse and there is more in the atmosphere the extra amount of warming is so tiny we can’t measure it – so what’s the problem?”

Mr Roskin told the 120-odd people at last night’s forum that a carbon tax would have no real environmental benefit, but would hurt northern Australia’s “great economic potential”.

He said there was the real threat that mining companies would take investment elsewhere, resulting in widespread job losses.

The Federal Government plans to introduce a carbon price from July 1, 2012.

Yesterday, Treasurer Wayne Swan said setting a carbon price was a necessary move to low pollution economy and defended union claims it could wipe out industrial jobs. “For anyone to say that this transition doesn’t have to happen or should be put in the too-hard basket or should be delayed - what they are really saying is they have given up on jobs,” Mr Swan said.

However, the government has conceded that a carbon tax would impact on living costs. A treasury analysis has showed households may pay $863 a year more for food, petrol, gas and power.

Prof Carter said the cost of a carbon tax was “absolutely enormous” and described it as “crazy”.

He said the Federal Government would be better off focusing a policy which dealt with the reality of climate change and invest in disaster centres and more disaster equipment, such as firefighting helicopters.


Carrot approach replaces big stick in Queensland prisons

Another triumph of theory over reality

JAIL staff banned from punishing unruly prisoners could now be ordered to reward them for toeing the line. Prisoners who are polite, undertake work and stay off drugs look set to be offered inducements such as extra jail visits, phone calls, better accommodation and more recreation.

A leaked memo obtained by The Courier-Mail revealed Queensland Corrective Services had developed the framework for a new reward scheme.

The change of philosophy in prisoner management comes after a 2009 Ombudsman's report criticised the agency's approach to prisoner discipline and a year after officers were stripped of disciplinary powers. Now in an attempt to appease frontline staff, QCS has proposed working groups starting this week develop policy recommendations on how to manage criminals through inducements.

QCS deputy commissioner Marlene Morison said it would be the first broad policy of rewarding prisoners to be implemented in the state's 15 jails.

Inmates who remained incident and drug free, were employed, completed required programs and training, maintained good relationships with other prisoners and who were "polite and co-operative" would be rewarded. "This ranges from access to the range of privileges (e.g. visits, phone calls) through to access of less restrictive environments (e.g. residential accommodation or low custody) to additional access to recreation ... " the memo said.

Ms Morison said well-behaved prisoners could also score better jobs while in jail. "It is as much about ensuring poor behaviour has a fair and real consequence as it is about giving reasons for prisoners to behave well," she said. Prison expert Dr Dot Goulding, of Curtin University, called the plan a "huge step forward".

"I'm delighted to hear that someone has some vision that the stick doesn't always work; sometimes the carrot and reward system is a far better way of looking at things," she said. "(The plan) is looking at positives rather than just the negative and to prepare these people to be job-ready and ready to be law-abiding citizens in the community."

However, Opposition corrective services spokesman John-Paul Langbroek said the plan reeked of desperation. "Prison officers have been forced to resort to (this plan) ... just to get unruly prisoners to behave," he said. "The establishment of this working group was an admission that Labor's soft prisoner discipline system was a complete failure and needed to be fixed."

Ms Morison said the plan's draft policy would be developed by the end of next month and available for consultation with staff and the Queensland Public Sector Union, which represents prison officers.


No money for lifesaving drugs but plenty of money for a useless fibre network

THE government's dilemma over funding new medicines has deepened with its expert panel recommending another six significant drug treatments for prescription subsidies.

The drugs join seven others that have been recommended for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, but which cabinet had deferred acting on for budgetary reasons.

The new drugs to join the waiting list include novel or revised treatments for colon cancer, multiple sclerosis, bipolar disorder and hypertension.

The government's decision to pit cost-saving against potential life-saving measures has drawn criticism from doctors and patient groups for undermining the evidence-based process for determining which drugs get subsidised.

The outcry has prompted the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, to attend a summit in Melbourne tomorrow to face consumer, pharmaceutical and medical groups.

For scheme listing, drugs require a positive finding from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee and, after pricing negotiations, a decision of cabinet. But critics say the deferral for budgetary reasons in the listing of recommended drugs has undermined the committee and threatens to turn the process into a more politicised contest subject to intense lobbying from drug companies.

Drugs on the scheme, that can cost up to thousands of dollars each treatment, are available to patients for between $5 and $34 a prescription.

Cancer Council Australia's chief executive, Ian Olver, said the government's approach to the listing of new drugs was a "very worrying" development for cancer treatment.

"Over the years the PBAC has served us well in the very difficult area of balancing patient benefits with the cost of new drugs," Professor Olver said.

The Consumers Health Forum chief executive, Carol Bennett, said the addition of the new recommended drugs would "further compound the issue" for the government in choosing which drugs to subsidise. "It attacks the principle of safeguarding a cost-effective system that is the envy of the world," Ms Bennett said.

Her organisation and affiliated patients groups had received hundreds of complaints from patients affected by the deferral of scheme listings.

Anger over the issue has drawn together organisations including Medicines Australia and the Generic Medicines Industry Association, the Australian Medical Association, a variety of patient groups and the Consumers Health Forum who will attend tomorrow's meeting.

In February Ms Roxon announced the cabinet had deferred recommendations of the advisory committee to list six medicines and a vaccine, including medicines to treat chronic disabling pain and lung disease.


Australia's rejection of "asylum seeker" claims stokes detention centre unrest

IMMIGRATION officials have begun delivering a fresh round of rejections to detainees on Christmas Island, sparking concerns of more unrest.

A detainee who received one of the rejections this week sewed his lips together. A fellow detainee was found pacing the detention centre with razors in his mouth.

The Australian has been told that the Immigration Department is in the process of handing down about 200 decisions to asylum-seekers on Christmas Island and, in keeping with recent rejection rates, many of them will be what are termed "negatives".

Yesterday, protests and disputes continued at Villawood and the island's family camp but federal police and guards succeeded in ending a three-day rooftop protest at the Christmas Island detention centre by locking more than 1000 fellow detainees in their compounds on Wednesday night.

The men on the roof were told that the centre would remain "in lockdown" until they came down. The standoff lasted about four hours before the six men used a ladder left by guards to climb down, The Australian has been told.

"They got told that the others locked in their rooms would be really angry with them if they kept up their protest because as long as they stayed up there no one would be allowed out in the fresh air," one centre worker said.

Centre manager Serco took the step after West Australian Premier Colin Barnett urged the federal and NSW governments to send in police to get detainees off rooftops at Villawood and Christmas Island.

Yesterday two Iraqi men in the Perth immigration detention centre were receiving medical checks after guards intervened to stop them acting on threats to kill themselves.

It emerged yesterday that by February this year, the incidence of self-harm inside Australia's immigration detention centres was already more than four times higher than last financial year.

The number of self-harm attempts in immigration detention was the highest since 2003-04 and surpassed the 2002-03 total of 182, one of the worst years for self-harm attempts.

Responding to questions on notice from Senate estimate hearings in February, Immigration head Andrew Metcalfe revealed that, as of the end of February, there were 186 incidents of self-harm across the network this financial year.

Since then there have been numerous suicide attempts and protests that have resulted in serious incidents of self harm.

The figures came as Mr Metcalfe also revealed there were 46 full-time mental health staff at mainland detention centres, with three facilities in Perth and Brisbane having no available staff on-site.


1 comment:

Paul said...

My neighbour here is s senior prison officer. He says all this soft option management has come about since, under Labor, more and more Leftist women have been carefully placed into senior positions in Corrections. Promotion on merit does not occur in the public sector in Queensland.