Thursday, April 07, 2011

Liberal Party MP under fire for telling the truth

VICTORIAN MP Bernie Finn has landed the Liberal Party into a race row after comments about the Muslim community. But Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu has refused to condemn the Liberal MPs who denounced the Islamic religion in comments on Facebook.

The Facebook comments followed a Herald Sun story earlier this week reporting that many Muslims live in ghettoes because of racist fears. Mr Finn wrote on the social media site that he failed to understand "how concerns about a religion that seems to sanction decapitation can be construed as racism".

In a rowdy question time, Labor attacked Mr Finn's comments as racist "dog whistle" politics.

But Mr Finn defended the comments as having nothing to do with racism. "No religion is specific to a skin tone or colour. Some people need to get a hobby as they have too much time on their hands if they were concerned with those comments," he said.

Mr Baillieu yesterday told Parliament multiculturalism is vital for Victoria but refused to respond to his Upper House colleague's comments as he had not seen or heard them. And the Speaker Ken Smith refused to allow Labor to table a copy of the Facebook comments.

"I would encourage all Victorians to demonstrate tolerance and their commitment to multiculturalism," Mr Baillieu said.

Earlier this year Federal Liberal leader Tony Abbott disassociated himself from outspoken South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi's attack on Islam on as a "totalitarian, political and religious" ideology.


Greens can't hide their hatred of Israel

No hiding the fact that they are watermelons

TWO Greens senators have publicly supported calls for Australian sanctions against Israel over the Middle East conflict, putting them at odds with party policy and their leader Bob Brown.

West Australian senator Scott Ludlam last year demanded an arms embargo on Israel, which he described as "a rogue state", while South Australian colleague Sarah Hanson-Young addressed a rally where protesters called on Australia to sever ties with the Jewish state.

The stance by the two senators conflicts with Senator Brown's assurance last week that his federal party was not anti-Israel and did not support the NSW branch of the party advocating sanctions against Israel.

The Coalition last night labelled the Greens "reds", while the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council called on Senator Hanson-Young to visit Israel before jumping to conclusions.

Senator Brown yesterday refused to comment on the activities of his senators and directed The Australian to his party's policy on Israel, which clearly advocated a peaceful two-state solution.

The Greens have been criticised for having an anti-Israel position since several of its candidates in the NSW election advocated a trade embargo on the Jewish nation.

Senator Brown last week distanced himself from the policy, saying the federal Greens opposed a trade embargo and favoured a peaceful two-state solution to the decades-old conflict.

Nationals senator Ron Boswell yesterday produced photographs of Senator Hanson-Young and Senator Ludlam addressing rallies organised by the Friends of Palestine organisation. According to its website, the organisation promotes the rights of Palestinians. The West Australian branch website also calls for "sanctions to be imposed on the state of Israel by the Australian government until the occupation of Palestinian territories is ended in accordance with UN resolutions".

In a YouTube recording of Senator Ludlam's speech to a West Australian rally last June, he called for an end to Australian sales of weapons to Israel, particularly a $41 million contract for the sale of body armour. "It's time for an arms embargo," Senator Ludlam said. "If Israel chooses to behave like a rogue state, then it's going to be treated as one."

An Australian Associated Press report of the rally said Senator Ludlam had called for an embargo on Israel as he addressed a group of protesters shouting anti-Israeli slogans and waving Turkish and Palestinian flags.

The photograph of Senator Hanson-Young at an Adelaide rally in 2009 shows her surrounded by placards demanding Australia "Cut ties with apartheid Israel".

Senator Boswell yesterday described the Greens, who will assume sole control of the balance of power in the Senate from July 1, as dangerous and extreme and demanded Julia Gillard condemn the party's policies.

"The Greens are setting a dangerous agenda for this country and (are) allowed free rein to do so by their Labor joint venture partners," he said. "The Greens have morphed back into reds. They sell themselves as environmentalists but are really just a rebranded socialist alliance party. There's nothing cuddly about them."

The Australian sent Senator Hanson-Young and Senator Ludlam questions about their involvement in the rallies.

Senator Hanson-Young reiterated through a spokesman her support for the Greens' federal policy for a peaceful two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. The spokesman said the senator had never visited Israel. Senator Ludlam did not respond to The Australian's questions.

Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein hit back at the Greens' involvement in the protests, saying they should visit Israel before making statements against it.

An organiser of the rally attended by Senator Hanson-Young, Jeanie Lucas, of the Australian Friends of Palestine group, said the Greens senator had been invited to attend. She said a number of people had spoken at the rally, which was a protest against the Israeli bombing of the Gaza strip at the time. "I can't recall her words exactly at the time . . . except to say that it was outrageous that Israel was perpetrating action on innocent people," she said.

The organisers of the protest attended by Senator Ludlam, Friends of Palestine WA, did not return The Australian's calls.


Patients dying in Queensland hospital emergency departments waiting for treatment

SECRET government reports show Queensland emergency departments are so overstretched that patients are dying before seeing a doctor. The State Government has spent 20 months fighting the release of details revealing the problems leading to patient deaths including misdiagnosis, lack of staff and beds, failure to see a doctor in time, and inadequate treatment.

The documents were obtained after the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal on Monday ordered that Queensland Health obey the Information Commissioner and hand the documents to The Courier-Mail.

The documents (see below) raise concerns of "unexpected" deaths, patients dying after not being categorised as "emergency", and "red flags" that were missed in three of Queensland's major emergency departments.

Reported clinical incidents at the state emergency departments have more than doubled between 2007 and 2009 but Health Minister Geoff Wilson said only 5 per cent caused patients harm.

He acknowledged some of the details revealed in the documents highlighted systemic issues. "The records include a small number of cases in which clinical review teams found that junior doctors should have consulted earlier with more senior colleagues, or incomplete advice from a referring GP resulted in delays in diagnosis," he said.

However, the minister would not reveal the outcome of internal investigations. "Queensland Health cannot comment on . . . whether the death was ultimately found to be avoidable or not, whether there was any blameworthy action (or inaction) on the part of staff, whether co-morbidities or other external factors contributed to the death (or) whether there was any system failure," he said.

Opposition Health spokesman Mark McArdle said access to health treatment in Queensland was at a critical level. "People are dying in the emergency department after being wrongly triaged and categorised as not needing urgent treatment," he said. "It is a section of a hospital system that is in crisis and in chaos. It will continue to get worse because the Government has not planned for (population) growth."


'Stupid and insensitive': cadet punished for speaking out about sex abuse

I agree with the Defence Minister. It was a fit up -- JR

A female Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) cadet has been fined and confined to base, in a manner that creates the impression she has being punished for speaking out about sexual abuse, Defence Minister Stephen Smith says.

Mr Smith said the Commandant of the ADFA, Commodore Bruce Kafer [Commodore Kafer is a beetle; Kafer is German for beetle; rather fitting in the circumstaces], had acknowledged a major error of judgment in allowing an unrelated disciplinary matter to proceed at this time.

The charges, relating to alcohol consumption and being absent without leave last month, were dealt with yesterday, with the 18-year-old fined a day's pay and restricted to base for five days.

The action comes as the Defence Force and federal police investigate allegations that consensual sex between the woman and a male student was broadcast, without her knowledge, to six other Defence Force members watching in another room.

"Now that I have access to the full facts and circumstances, it is quite clear that, at precisely the same moment that the young woman was advised of the Skype [sex scandal] incident, she was charged with these matters," Mr Smith told ABC TV today. "I regard that ... as being somewhere from completely insensitive to completely stupid." Mr Smith said that action now coloured the entire view of what happened.

"It's very easy now to make the assertion that this was done in response to the other investigation," he said. "I could not be stronger in my response that double tracking those two processes was a most serious error of judgment and that unfortunately not only now colours my view of events, but colours the public's view of events."

He said Commodore Kafer acknowledged that he was aware of these matters and that it was a serious error of judgment by him.

Mr Smith said he had to reflect carefully on whether this indicated a systemic problem and, if it did, what needed to be done. "There are now, regrettably, two issues," the minister said. "There is a very serious issue which is the subject of a criminal investigation. "There is also now a very serious issue of the way in which this matter has been handled."

Mr Smith said he received advice late last night that the woman was immediately provided appropriate counselling and other support. He had been advised that Commodore Kafer did not demand she apologise for going to the media.


Nearly two-thirds of teachers want to quit - survey

NEARLY two-thirds of Australian teachers are considering quitting their jobs for a new career.

The Centre for Marketing Schools was commissioned to survey staff satisfaction levels of 850 teachers in government and non-government schools in South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia.

Centre for Marketing Schools director Dr Linda Vining said the survey confirmed the "deeper issues" of concern to teachers.

They included a lack of communication between staff and principals, and feeling undervalued and not being consulted.

"Teachers are feeling steamrollered . . . they are feeling that things are happening too quickly," Dr Vining said. "Through my research comes a sense they feel they are not valued members of the team - they are simply there to work and for many of them that's not fulfilling."

The survey also found:

SIXTY per cent of teachers said the school's direction was not clearly communicated.

FIFTY-ONE per cent did not feel part of a close-knit school community.

FIFTY-FOUR per cent said communication between staff and management was poor.

TWENTY-SEVEN per cent said the school principal was not approachable.

Education Minister Jay Weatherill said he had been "concerned about the morale of the workforce" when he was put in charge of the portfolio.

He said he had since announced a range of new policies aimed at improving communication between the central office and teachers.

"Many of the Supporting our Teachers initiatives are directly aimed at addressing teacher morale - such as the Public Teaching Awards, a major conference about teaching in the 21st century, a new outstanding teacher classification, a new recruitment policy and the Teacher Renewal Program," he said.

Association of Independent Schools of SA executive director Garry Le Duff said a more strategic approach to teacher retention was vital. "It seems unusually high that such a high proportion of people in teaching would be looking for alternative careers," he said. "But we certainly have to accept that people are more mobile in their occupations than a few years ago . . . and be more strategic in what sort of career pathways we're offering teachers."


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