Monday, May 23, 2011

Unlimited free phone calls for illegals detained in Australia -- a big hit on taxpayers

The figures below relate to only one of the many "detention centres" (jails) in operation

PHONE bills at the Scherger defence facility near Weipa have soared by more than a quarter of a million dollars in the first six months of the centre being used to house asylum seekers. The hidden cost is revealed in a bill for $259,455 that Defence sent to the Department of Immigration this month.

The revelations come as the Government faces a series of political attacks on its border protection policies, with the Opposition and Greens calling for inquiries into the way immigration detention centres are run.

Departmental staff will face a grilling from Opposition senators in Budget estimates hearings this week over an estimated $1.7 billion cost blowout in border protection.

Labor's plans to swap 800 asylum seekers with 4000 refugees from Malaysia will cost about $292 million. These costs are likely to increase, with the Government discussing similar deals with other countries, including Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Thailand.

The phone bill is outlined in a Government contract notice for the Scherger detention centre.

It comes after the temporary use of the Cape York centre as an immigration detention centre was extended for another year. Numbers of asylum seekers housed in the remote far north Queensland facility have almost doubled from the original capacity of 300. There were 591 detainees in the centre this month, according the most recent data.

About 100 Afghan and Sri Lankan detainees were involved in violent clashes at the centre last week, raising fears of overcrowding.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen declined to comment on the telephone costs. But a Department of Immigration spokeswoman said the costs related to all phone calls from the remote centre between October 2010 and March this year. "The figure is for the cost of all phone calls from Scherger immigration detention centre made by Defence, DIAC, Defence service provider... and local detainee phone calls," the department's spokeswoman said.

Opposition MP Jamie Briggs, who runs the Coalition's "waste watch" committee, demanded the Government provide a detailed breakdown of phone costs at Scherger and other immigration detention centres. "It appears to be an extraordinarily high cost," he said.

Mr Briggs said he did not oppose asylum seekers being able to call their families overseas, but said taxpayers should not be paying for "excessive" numbers of calls. He said he knew of examples of detainees running up large phone bills in other centres through daily calls to destinations including Iran.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison yesterday urged a wide-ranging inquiry into the immigration detention system.

The Greens and independent MP Andrew Wilkie have backed the inquiry but have called for it to consider scrapping mandatory detention.


Mother had to be flown interstate to have triplets

Australia is getting as bad as Canada -- where patients often have to fly to the USA to get treatment

A WOMAN pregnant with triplets had to be flown interstate to give birth because one of Sydney's largest maternity units did not have enough specialist neonatal cots to care for her babies.

Bronwyn Burns said she was told that she could have her babies at Sydney's Royal Women's Hospital in Randwick, but after the triplets arrived one of them would have to go to Nepean Hospital, 50kms away, while another would be flown to Melbourne for care.

The 33-year-old said she did not want her babies separated, so last Thursday she was flown to Canberra Hospital which had three neonatal cots available for triplets Montayah, Jaquarhn and Jyqueel.

The babies, two boys and a girl, were born via caesarean section on Friday morning at 31 weeks gestation, weighing 857g, 1.02kg and 1.48kg. They are all breathing on their own, but the smallest boy remains in neonatal intensive care while his siblings are in the hospital's special care nursery.

"It was a worry because we didn't know where I would end up having the babies," Ms Burns said yesterday. "First I was going to be taken by ambulance to Newcastle, but then when that couldn't happen, we had to be flown to Canberra. "My mum came with me but we weren't allowed to bring much so all the baby stuff I brought and all of mum's clothes and things are still in Sydney."

A NSW Health spokesman last night said there were 130 neonatal intensive care (NICU) cots and 400 special cots across the state. It was against NSW Health policy to separate a new mother and her babies, he said.

"If at any time the Royal Hospital for Women's Maternity or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit reaches capacity as would be the case at any other hospital in NSW, mothers and babies can be referred through the state-wide network to other NICUs," he said. "However, it is best practice, wherever possible to move the mum before the birth."

Ms Burns, a single mother with three older children, drove from her home in Dubbo to Randwick for a specialist appointment last Monday. After she underwent a number of tests, doctors decided the babies would need to be delivered by caesarean section as there were concerns about their slow growth rate.


Government electricity is extra special

Government-owned electricity networks are charging almost twice as much as privately-owned operators

THE government-owned electricity networks in NSW and Queensland are charging almost twice as much as privately owned operators in Victoria, resulting in soaring bills for consumers, a new report warns.

The report, obtained by The Australian, argues the government-owned poles and wires that deliver power are delivering windfall profits to state governments at the expense of electricity consumers.

The government-owned networks also have more frequent and longer outages than the private networks that operate in Victoria and South Australia.

The report was commissioned by the Energy Users Association of Australia - whose members include Rio Tinto and Wesfarmers - and recommends the privatisation of the NSW and Queensland distributors, as well as regulatory reforms to empower consumers.

EUAA executive director Roman Domanski said it was crucial that the energy networks became more efficient to cut costs because power was becoming less affordable and climate change policies were set to further inflate electricity costs.

The warning comes as one of the nation's biggest electricity suppliers, TRUenergy, yesterday warned that household power bills would double over six years with the introduction of a carbon price. Last night, TRUenergy chief executive Richard McIndoe estimated that households would on average face a further $300 hike to their power bills if a carbon price were introduced at about $20 a tonne.

Mr McIndoe said this would come on top of a 40 per cent rise over the past three years - largely driven by rising energy network charges - and a further 30 per cent rise over the next three years related to rising gas prices and the costs of the mandatory targets for renewable energy generation.

"You are looking at a doubling of electricity pricing over a six-year period, which is pretty significant for households," Mr McIndoe told The Australian.

He added that a much higher carbon price - of at least $60 a tonne - would be needed to drive a switch from using coal to gas or renewables to generate electricity. "Really, at that level, a $60-plus price, you are going to see quite a lot of industry frankly closing down in Australia."

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh yesterday said she would not back the carbon tax until she had seen the details of it, including how it would impact on households. The Prime Minister has blamed the states for skyrocketing electricity bills, saying there is now a costly spending catch-up after under-investment in the networks - and has said that other states could learn from the example set by Victoria.

The Kennett government privatised its entire electricity industry in the 1990s and South Australia followed suit, but NSW and Queensland have both retained their poles and wires networks in public hands.



Three articles below

The prophesied end of the world did not come on May 21 but the Greenie prophecies of doom never stop

This is an old one though: Sea levels could rise a metre by 2100. And aerial pigs could appear too -- particularly when one considers that the sea level rose only 7" (18cm) over the entire 20th century. Even journalists are no longer swallowing the bunk whole, however. Note that they use the Australian slang term "spruik" to describe the prophecy. "Spruiking" is what a con-man or an over-enthusiastic salesman does

The federal government's climate commission says global warming could cause the world's sea level to rise up to one metre by the end of the century - higher than previously thought.

The commission, established by Labor to spruik the case for tackling dangerous climate change, is also calling for a fresh approach to reducing carbon emissions. It suggests that rather than focusing on interim targets based on percentage cuts, governments should commit to emitting no more than an agreed carbon dioxide "budget" by 2050.

This so-called budget approach would allow greater flexibility and encourage investment in the most-effective technologies rather than quick-fix solutions.

The commission is releasing its first major report, The Critical Decade, on Monday. "A plausible estimate of the amount of sea-level rise by 2100 compared to 2000 is 0.5 to one metre," it says. That's higher than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's top range of 0.18m to 0.76m.

Commissioner Will Steffen, a Canberra-based climate scientist, made the assessment after surveying the existing literature and speaking to experts. "Some people may take issue with that - but that's my judgment," Professor Steffen told AAP ahead of the report's release at Parliament House. [Good for you Prof. But how good is your judgment? Prophecies are almost always wrong, you know]

The report states that even a rise of 0.5m could lead to an increase in extreme flooding events for coastal areas of Sydney and Melbourne "by factors of 1000 or 10,000 for some locations".

The global sea level has risen by about 20cm since the 1880s. But the rises aren't uniform - they vary according to ocean currents and the local conditions on the land.

In Australia, sea levels are rising fastest on the northern coastline. Around Arnhem Land it's rising by more than seven millimetres a year while the global average is 3.2mm. [So if it's not global, is it unrelated to global warming?]

Prof Steffen notes that's bad news for Kakadu. "It is low-lying and already we're seeing some salt water intrusion into some of the fresh water wetlands," he said.

When it comes to damage to the Great Barrier Reef, the Australian National University academic argues the report contains "solid data that says we are indeed starting to see some of these affects on calcifying organisms".

Prof Steffen said he hoped the report would refocus the political debate on the risks posed by climate change. "The costs of not doing something about climate change will almost surely be far, far greater than the costs of doing something about it," he said.

When it comes to taking action, the report suggests focusing on limiting emissions to an agreed global budget.

"The strategic challenge (then) changes from whether the 2020 target is a five per cent, 25 per cent or 40 per cent reduction against a particular baseline to how do we implement the transition to a low- or no-carbon economy by 2050 with the least economic and social cost while staying within the budget," the report states.

For humanity to have a 75 per cent change of limiting temperature rises to two degrees Celsius it would need to emit no more than one trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide between 2000 to 2050. Some 30 per cent of that budget has already been spent.

The report acknowledges the difficulty with this approach would be allocating the global budget to individual countries.

But Prof Steffen points out the new method "really focuses attention on the endgame which is to decarbonise economies by the middle of the century". The report argues this would encourage investment decisions to be taken from a long-term perspective.


Prominent Australian conservative attacks Climate Commission report as 'nonsense'

LIBERAL [party] powerbroker Nick Minchin has attacked a new report that declares the world is in imminent danger from human-induced climate change as offensive nonsense from known "global warming alarmists".

Senator Minchin, who played a key role in terminating Malcolm Turnbull's leadership over his support for emissions trading, said there was still a legitimate debate over the role of humans in climate change. “The so-called Climate Commission is a Labor government-appointed committee of known climate alarmists, selectively appointed ... to further the cause of global warming alarmism,” he said following today's release of the commission's first report.

“I think everybody should take anything they say with a grain of salt,” Senator Minchin said. “What's most offensive is (climate commissioner) Will Steffen suggesting the scientific debate is over. “That's nonsense because there is a very lively scientific debate about the role of human-induced Co2 emissions in climate change.”

The Climate Commission report says the world has at best 10 years to cut carbon emissions or it will face dangerous atmospheric warming and sea level rises. [They have been putting out these 10 year warnings for years -- and none of them have ever come true]

Professor Steffen also called today for an end to “fruitless, phoney” debate, saying climate change denial is a luxury the world can no longer afford.

Senator Minchin is retiring in July but he remains a close confidant of Tony Abbott and his views as a party elder are widely sought. He is on the record as being sceptical of mainstream climate science, saying earlier this year he believed the world was more likely to be cooling than getting hotter.

Senator Minchin said the new report did nothing to further Labor's case for a carbon tax. “What I think is most frustrating in all of this is this report provides no basis for Australia acting unilaterally on a carbon tax,” he said.

“Given we are responsible for about one per cent of the world's emissions of CO2 and when it's clear that China's additional emissions over the next few decades will completely swamp any reductions in our emissions, anything Australia does will be utterly pointless and have no impact whatsoever on the global climate.”

Greens senator Christine Milne backed the commission's finding that Australia faced a critical decade on climate change, and also called for an end to the debate over whether climate change is real. “What this report will do is actually help the Australian population see that what we've been having is a phoney debate in Australia that's been run by the sceptics, financed by big business, by coal, by oil around the world,” she said. [Focus on finance rather than on the scientific issues?]


Hate speech, political violence and climate change

The Australian Greenie writing below unconvincingly tries to brand two prominent conservatives as hate speakers and then manages to find only two lone hate-speakers, the deranged Loughner and some other loner. And as for quoting the lightweight and self-contradictory David Neiwert, see here. And as for the sensationalist SPLC! Exaggerated scares are their fundraisers.

Our Greenie's lack of hard data leaves him entirely reliant on recycling judgments by others (including members of the Obama administration) that are as shallow as his own. So his fancied "culture of hate" turns out to be a mirage.

He makes no mention of the extremely hostile utterances by Greenies about skeptics. No mention at all of prominent Warmists like James Hansen who compared coal trains to Nazi death trains, thus helping to excite febrile rage among some gullible young Brits -- rage which they acted out by causing what little damage they could to Kingsnorth power station. When has a skeptic acted out any rage against Warmists?

And how about this little bit of hate-speech, also from the site which hosts the rant below?
"Precisely the same pseudo-scientific “institutes,” using the same pseudo-scientific jargon and the same pseudo-scientific “conferences” are now seeking to create the appearance of a “debate” about the fundamentals of climate science. Indeed, the very same people - yes, the same individuals - who were involved in manufacturing doubt about the link between smoking and cancer are now also involved in manufacturing doubt about climate science"

So skeptics are "pseudo-scientific" and "manufacturing doubt" like the hated tobacco industry. Identifying anybody with tobacco is hate speech coming from a Greenie.

And who were those "same individuals" who were doubters about both tobacco AND global warming? There are none. It is a lie. The only individual whom Warmists sometimes refer to is Fred Singer, who once pointed out some dubious EPA statistics about SIDESTREAM smoke -- criticisms which were subsequently resoundingly confirmed. See also here and here and here and here and here and here

I could go on -- mentioning for instance the hostile emails and comments that we skeptics constantly get from Warmists -- but I would end up writing an even longer article than the one below if I did. The comments attached to the original article cover both sides of the issue, however -- including some juicy hate-speech against skeptics. I have reproduced only part of the article below but I doubt that much has been lost in my doing so

"If politicians are intent on whipping up a lynch mob to divert attention from their own culpability, it is not arsonists who should be hanging from lamp-posts but greenies." -- Miranda Devine.

"This is not some nice little debate. This is war." -- Tom DeWeese, American Policy Center, think tank linked to Exxon-Mobil and Koch Industries.

Hate speech seems to pose three serious threats to the green movement. Firstly, it may lead to acts of political violence directed against politicians, leaders or activists. Secondly, hate speech undermines the constructive political discourse we need in order to deal with climate change. Thirdly, hate speech is the leading edge of a dangerous, new species of politics that is emerging in the USA.

We are dealing with hate speech when death threats are made towards a group (or an individual based on his or her membership of a group); for example, when directed against US President Barack Obama on the basis that he is an African-American. I propose that hate speech is present in Miranda Devine’s slippery quote above, in which she sneaks a proposal to lynch greenies behind a hypothetical IF-THEN clause.

Hate speech is shifting our culture, creating a social licence to commit political violence against people who belong to designated groups: Jews, greenies, Muslims, progressives of any stripe. It is part of the deliberate political programme of the extreme right in the USA, and is funded by various ‘philanthropists’, most notably the Koch brothers, who own America’s biggest private corporation, Koch Industries (a major polluter).

The issue of hate speech and violence crystallised early this year, after the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. On 8 January 2011 a rightwing assassin shot Congresswoman Giffords in the head, killed 6 people, and injured another 13. Giffords is hated for being Jewish, pro-choice and supporting community solar energy (and despite her relatively conservative positions on immigration and in support of gun rights).

The point is that the culture of hate erodes the social taboo against political violence and reinforces the ‘intuitive’ worldview of the mob. Professor Rod Tiffen of the University of Sydney says that the political parties and the Murdoch media work in tandem to drive populism. He writes, “Together they form an outrage industry that absents proportion, reason and reasonableness, and where it is difficult – soon, perhaps, near impossible – to have a measured debate of policy options.”

David Neiwert is a US journalist who specialises in investigations of extremists. His 2009 book The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right explains how the conservatives got as crazy as they are and where they are headed.

The Eliminationists cites the story of Jim Adkisson, who killed two people and wounded seven in an act of extremist political violence in July 2008. Adkisson wrote, "Know this if nothing else: This was a hate crime. I hate the damn left-wing liberals... Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate & House...”.

Neiwert believes it is a logical step from the right-wing extremism of Fox News and sections of The Republican party to get to violence. If greenies and liberals are in a global conspiracy with climate scientists, Jews, bankers and the UN to enslave the West, then it makes ‘logical’ sense to eliminate them. Ever since the Exceptional Case Study Project, the Secret Service has implemented protective security using behavioural analysis of these ‘logical’ precursors to assassination.


Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour

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