Saturday, July 02, 2011

Proposal could give police power to lift burqa or full-face veil

WOMEN wearing the burqa or other full-face veils will be forced to show their face when stopped by police under proposed changes to the law, Attorney-General Greg Smith said yesterday.

Mr Smith said there was a duty on all citizens to identify themselves when asked by police and the law should reflect that. "The law is not that specific at the moment and that is what we are leading towards," Mr Smith said.

He said he could understand the "public outcry" over "cases like that" of Muslim woman Carnita Matthews, 47, who had her jail sentence and conviction for knowingly making a false complaint about racism by police overturned on appeal in the District Court last week.

Ms Matthews, who wears a full-face niqab, had denied she was the person who signed the complaint or delivered it to police after she was booked for not properly displaying a P-plate.

However, Mr Smith revealed he did not think there were grounds for the prosecution to appeal the court ruling that has led to the legal shake-up. He said there could only be an appeal on matters of law, not fact. "Personally, having looked at the case, I have my doubts," Mr Smith said.


A truly amazing bureaucracy

After well over a year of trying, they can't even get their payroll right

A TERMINALLY ill Queensland Health employee has been slapped with a bill for $45 for overpaid wages despite the troubled department's $200 waiver policy.

The revelation came as hundreds of health workers vented their anger via social media, only to be gagged by furious bureaucrats in damage control.

One Facebook poster told of being "severely chastised" in an "intimidating" email warning staff not to publicly air their frustration. Undeterred, the staffer said she would no longer allow fear of retribution to silence her and lauded the strength in numbers generated by the online response.

A Queensland Health Payroll Disaster - Fightback page was created on Thursday morning after 38,000 staff received letters asking them to repay a collective $62 million in overpaid wages.

Within 24 hours the page had attracted 500 respondents. By yesterday afternoon that had almost doubled and was steadily climbing last night.

Dozens used the page to tell of botched bills received for alleged overpayments, including one employee who had not worked with Queensland Health for two years.

Another payroll staffer told The Courier-Mail of the deep upset caused to a terminally ill man confronted with a letter stating he owed $44.73 in overpaid wages.

The letter was also inconsistent in that it included an invoice for just 1c.

"The poor bugger. They nearly lost him last week and then they got this letter and it just stressed him to the hilt," the payroll officer said.

QH has previously promised it would not chase any overpayments under $200 and it is understood the man's bill has now been wiped.

But the mistake is not isolated, with The Courier-Mail revealing on Thursday a retired nurse was issued with a bill for 1c. "I felt like laughing. I thought why would you waste the money on postage for 1c," she said.

Many who posted online were critical of the Queensland Nurses Union for failing to take action during the long-running payroll debacle.

The nurses administering the Facebook page are preparing a petition to send to Premier Anna Bligh and have also urged health workers to ask for a complete review of their wages, not only those payslips highlighted as overpaid.

Treasurer Andrew Fraser admitted bills for overpayments could be wrong, contradicting QH human resources deputy director-general John Cairns's assertions on Tuesday that they were accurate.

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle said the Government was "spinning and misleading" health workers.


Australia enforces new, tighter immigration rules which will affect Indians, among others

Australia has a substantial population of industrious people from the subcontinent already. They greatly improve the restaurant scene but are not as prominent in retailing as they are in Britain. Note: I have tidied up some Indian English below -- JR

Australia's new immigration rules that focus on higher qualification and advance English language skills as requirements for those wanting to migrate to Australia, came into effect today.

The new rules, according to Australian officials, aim to pick up the "best and the brightest" from the pool of applicants, and have been criticised by Indian groups.

The Australian government announced changes to its independent skilled migration points test, introducing the new immigration points system to put more emphasis on work experience and high-level educational qualifications with higher English language proficiency.

"These changes to the points test are an important next step in the series of reforms to the skilled migration programme announced by the Government in February this year," Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said. "The reforms set the foundations for a skilled migration programme that will be responsive to our economic needs and continue to serve Australia's interests in the medium to long term," he added.

However, the new programme has been criticised by the Federation of Indian Associations of Victoria (FIAV) which said the level of English proficiency is like an "iron curtain" being imposed on immigration to Australia.

IAV president Vasan Srinivasan said the organisation sympathises with the government's need to attract to Australia migrants with good English speaking skills but the requirement that is appropriate for skilled professionals such as doctors and accountants, should not be required for other less professional occupations.

The new points test will only affect skilled independent immigration and not employer-sponsored immigration.

Srinivasan said to address the skills shortage of the economy the government should allow persons skilled to do the work and understand the language with only the level of language competency required to understand directions given by their employers.

Anything more than that is merely another barrier to "legitimate migrants", Srinivasan, who also heads National Council of Indian Australians (NCIA) said. "We need skilled individuals who can contribute due to their skills and who have functional English language skills! Then adopt such a policy and stop shifting the level," he said.

The Australian government introduced the points test in the selection process whereby the applicants applying for migration are awarded points for the skills and attributes considered to be needed in Australia.

As of today, the test is said to focus on better English levels, more extensive skilled employment, higher level qualifications obtained in Australia and overseas and better targeted age ranges.



Three current articles below

Carbon tax dying

IT'S a long way from the comrades in Sydney's Sussex Street to sitting with relatives of royalty courtside at Wimbledon.
Fading public support spells doom for carbon tax

ON Friday, February 25, this year, the day after Julia Gillard had announced she would be introducing a carbon tax, she was interviewed by Alan Jones. He asked her to explain how she could say "I rule out a carbon tax" before the election and then rule it in.

She said: "Well, Alan, let me answer that. In the last election campaign I talked consistently about how climate change was real, it was caused by human activity, that we needed to cut down on carbon pollution and that the best way of doing that was to price carbon through a market-based mechanism, and that's what I announced yesterday." For good measure she added: "Rather than play any semantic word games, I was frank enough with the Australian people to say that the first few years would work effectively like a tax."

Note the tactics. First there's an undertaking to answer the question. Second, there's a very long, sly sentence that evades the question and never acknowledges she has reversed a policy. Finally she congratulates herself for her frankness in likening the mechanism to a tax, when she might instead have engaged in semantic bluster.

It makes you wonder whether her life before politics involved telling a lot of whoppers and getting away with them. It's hard to imagine her straitlaced parents, Moira and John, putting up with that sort of thing, but perhaps they were so protective of their physically frail younger daughter or so besotted with her that they just turned a blind eye.

Fortunately, the public instinctively know when a politician is telling them bare-faced lies and they tend to take it personally. Gillard's polling numbers plummeted almost immediately and have never looked like recovering. You'd think she might have learned from the experience, but as recently as Thursday she was engaging in more verbal fudging on the same subject.

She said: "Now, what Tony Abbott likes to refer to as a carbon tax, a fixed-price period for an emissions trading scheme, is a period I believe should be as short as possible. So people have heard a lot of debate about a carbon tax and today can I say to Australians the debate that they are hearing about a carbon tax is a debate about what Tony Abbott calls a carbon tax."

As the opposition and print media were quick to point out, in April she hadn't shied away from the word tax repeatedly, let alone attempted to insinuate that the term was a rhetorical feint from Abbott. She said then: "Oh, look, I'm happy to use the word tax. I understand some silly little collateral debate has broken out today. I mean, how ridiculous. This is a market-based mechanism."

The most charitable gloss that could be put on this is that some dopey spinmeister thought it would be a good idea to blunt the attack on the tax by rebadging it a carbon price and had put the word out to ministers that they should try to associate the phrase carbon tax with the Opposition Leader. However, it has the too-clever-by-half hallmark of the Prime Minister - it's a transparent ploy that takes us all for fools - and since no one else tried the same tactic it's reasonable to conclude it's all her own work. It gave Abbott a perfect opportunity to describe her as "untrustworthy and tricky".

There are some within the Gillard government who imagine that, with an announcement of the details of the carbon tax expected next week, the going will get a little easier. A careful reading of the Lowy Institute's new polling on climate change should disabuse them on that score.

Of the sample, 75 per cent described the government's overall handling of the issue as poor and 39 per cent described it as very poor. Only 3 per cent said it was very good. Obviously on such a contentious issue it's not possible to please everyone, but to have left such a substantial majority disaffected takes some doing.

Support for the most aggressive response to climate change fell four points from last year, down to 41 per cent.

This option now enjoys a similar level of support to the milder option of taking a gradual, low-cost approach, at 40 per cent.

This is dramatically different from the polling in 2006 when 68 per cent supported an aggressive response and only 24 per cent favoured a gradual approach.

The most sceptical option, doing nothing until we're sure there's a problem, is up six points from last year to 19 per cent and has nearly tripled since 2006, when it was just 7 per cent. Support for this option is strongest among the 60 and older age group, at 28 per cent.

The sample was also asked how much extra it was prepared to pay a month on power bills to help address climate change.

The most popular option, paying nothing extra, attracted 39 per cent support, up six points from last year and nearly double the 21 per cent who opted for nothing when the question was first asked in 2008.

Those who said they were prepared to pay between $1 and $10 a month extra fell from 32 per cent in 2008 to 25 per cent last year to 19 per cent this year. Those prepared to pay between $11 and $20 a month fell from 20 per cent in 2008 to 15 per cent last year and 13 per cent this year.

Those true believers who said they were prepared to pay more than $20 a month slightly increased, from 19 per cent in 2008 and 2010 to 22 per cent this year.

With the single exception of that three-point increase, the trends in the Lowy polling are all pointing in one direction.

Clearly the last time to take an aggressive policy to an election in Australia with any hope of winning was back in early 2009, when Kevin Rudd got cold feet about a double dissolution.

The next federal election will inevitably be a referendum on an uncovenanted carbon tax that in three short years will morph into the world's first economy-wide ETS.


Sending profits abroad is a good thing: A basic economics lesson for Australia's chief Greenie

Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich

On Sunday, Senator Bob Brown was interviewed on ABC 1's Insiders program. The Greens leader admitted that putting a price on carbon would ultimately mean shutting down the coal industry. But never mind, Brown explained. Since the big mining companies were largely `foreign-owned, multinational corporations,' their profits would only `line the pockets of millionaires elsewhere in the world.'

Then on Wednesday, the Greens published a new report claiming that 83% of Australia's mining industry was in fact foreign, and therefore, it should be taxed more heavily for the benefit of all Australians. So as it turns out, Brown wants to squeeze the mining industry financially before finishing it off to save the planet.

Brown's argument about exporting Australian profits is not new. `Buy Australian' campaigners also claim that purchasing goods only from Australian-owned companies keeps profits in Australia. They claim that every time you buy products of a foreign-owned company, the profits will somehow disappear from Australia and harm Australia's prosperity.

It is amazing how easily people are convinced by this `sending profits abroad' argument, when it is just a protectionist fallacy.

Let's say the Australian branch of a US company is very profitable. What happens to these profits?

First, the profits might stay in Australia to expand the business of the US company, creating more jobs and extra economic activity here. Even ardent nationalists would find it hard to argue against this.

If the parent company however decided to transfer the profits from its Australian branch to America, it would soon find out that Australian dollars are pretty useless outside Australia and change them into US dollars.

But what happens to the Australian dollars? Since Australian dollars don't buy anything abroad, they will return to Australia to buy Australian goods and services. Maybe a US company will use them to buy Australian minerals. Perhaps US tourists will come here to spend their holidays. Or the US might import Australian-made cars.

In any case, Australian dollar profits transferred abroad return to Australia sooner rather than later because outside Australia, our dollars are just printed paper that will not get you a cup of coffee.

This is where the `Australian-owned' argument falls to pieces. For Australia's wealth and prosperity, it does not matter where the profits from Australian businesses end up. All that matters for the Australian economy is that Australia remains a place where business transactions take place - irrespective of who owns the business.

In Bob Brown's Australia, national ownership matters more than creating domestic prosperity. For a party that on its website proclaims to `eliminate racism' and promote `diversity,' it is odd how these commitments do not extend to trading with foreigners.

Perhaps the Greens only like foreigners when they come as refugees, not as businesspeople.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 1 July. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Wallabies battle cattle farts

The Tamar Wallaby's digestive system is getting agricultural researchers excited, after researchers from Australia's science agency CSIRO found its gut generates far lower methane emissions than cattle.

Methane poses a greenhouse conundrum for policy makers: our dependence on livestock for meat means we keep lots of ruminants around, which generate lots of methane. Since most countries are reluctant to impose a state-sponsored vegetarianism, researchers are working hard to cut down the world's vast cloud of ruminant methane.

Enter the Tamar Wallaby: it generates 80 percent less of the gas per unit of digestible energy than livestock animals. Mark Morrison, an Ohio State University animal sciences professor who is also science leader in metagenomics at CSIRO's Livestock Industries division, says the efficiency of the macropod's digestive system offers another payoff - better nutrient retention.

The key lies in a bacterium in the wallaby's gut, which Morrison's group sequenced and isolated and believe could be used to augment the microbes normally present in livestock digestive systems.

Marsupials and ruminants share a "pre-digestive" fermentation process to break down plant food, and this fermentation produces methane. However, it's been known for some time that while cattle and sheep turn as much as 10 percent of their food into methane, the Tamar Wallaby produces only 1 percent to 2 percent.

The CSIRO researchers have identified the key bacterium in the marsupial: a member of the Succinivibrionaceae called WG-1, which produces succinate rather than methane as a by-product of fermentation. The succinate locks up hydrogen and carbon that would otherwise by grabbed by methane-producing bacteria.

Morrison says that Succinivibrionaceae also exist in ruminants, but have not been a focus of study in the past. "Our findings with the Tammar wallaby were a bit of a surprise, but we think they provide an important clue for how rumen fermentation might be directed away from methane formation."


1 comment:

Paul said...

Q Health are only waiving sub-200 dollar overpayments incurred in the last financial year. Any older than that are still being chased. Apparently its cost-effective to chase these overpayments but the second July 1st 2010 clicked over it became no longer cost-effective. Go figure.