Saturday, July 09, 2011


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG mocks the boycott call of Australian businesses issuing from the over-hyped "Get up" clique

Labor party wastes over a billion in constructing extra school facilities

THE taskforce into the $16.2 billion Building the Education Revolution school's stimulus scheme has called for a review into the construction industry after it found the nation's two largest states had failed to deliver value for money under the program.

The third and final report into the BER, handed down yesterday, found that $1.1 billion was wasted in delivering public school buildings to NSW and Victoria, when compared with their Catholic counterparts, reports the Australian.

The report, headed by former investment banker Brad Orgill, called for a Productivity Commission review into the construction industry as a whole after it uncovered a raft of problems in the way projects had been delivered under the scheme.

Mr Orgill found some governments had lost the expertise to properly manage building projects. "We believe their poorer performance on both cost and observed quality has been influenced by the hollowing out of public works capacity over the last 20 years, which has limited the ability to effectively manage an outsourced delivery model," the report said.

The taskforce found Victorian and NSW public schools had paid up to 60 per cent more than their private counterparts for buildings, despite delivering projects that were of no better quality, and in hundreds of cases of substantially poorer quality.

When comparing public school buildings delivered to NSW and Victorian schools with Catholic counterparts, $1.1bn was wasted in those states under the program. When comparing the cost of public school buildings in those states with independent schools, that figure blows out to $1.9bn. However, it is fairest to compare Catholic schools with public schools as both have centralised control structures.

For the first time, the Orgill taskforce heavily criticised the Victorian government's handling of the BER and called for more than $45 million worth of funding stimulus to be withheld from the state until numerous problems could be fixed. It found defects in building template designs had led to floods and defects in up to 175 schools, there were safety risks because of sharp metal edges and problems with storm-water drainage.

The federal government immediately agreed to the recommendation, which would mean the final lot of stimulus spending, due in September, would be held until November to allow defects to be fixed.

Mr Orgill said Victoria had been the slowest to deliver projects under the BER, with 56 per cent of school building projects complete by April. "The Victorian government has been the slowest education authority in rolling out the P21 program and many of the quality issues that have come to our attention have only arisen as projects are reaching completion," the taskforce said.

Mr Orgill's final report confirmed his earlier findings that worst excess of the BER occurred in NSW. The taskforce said NSW public schools were charged on average $3448 a square metre for all classrooms, halls and libraries delivered, compared with $2707/sq m for Catholic schools, a 27 per cent premium.

Buildings delivered to NSW public schools cost on average 60 per cent more than buildings delivered to NSW independent schools, which cost $2156/sq m.

Victorian public schools were charged $3075/sq m for buildings compared with $2406 for Victorian Catholic schools and $1975 for Victorian independent schools -- 56 per cent more than for public schools.

In NSW, more than 200 pre-fabricated buildings that had been installed by managing contractor the Reed Group had been reviewed after shoddy work had been discovered.

Concerns raised by the inquiry ranged from examples of "systemic" shoddy workmanship and problems with building certification standards to deficiencies in project management and public works capacity.


NSW fears new curriculum won't make grade

Since Professor Stuart Macintyre, a former member of the Communist Party, was a leading light in drawing up the curriculum, they have reason for concern

THE NSW government has warned it will not approve the national curriculum in October if it is inferior to the curriculum now used in the state's schools.

The state Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, issued the warning - echoing the position of the ousted Labor government - after the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs met in Melbourne yesterday.

While the federal Education Minister, Peter Garrett, trumpeted new national professional standards for principals and the endorsement of the first stage of a plan for greater school autonomy, Mr Piccoli left the federal-state meeting warning NSW would not be rushed.

He said the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), the national body leading the curriculum framing, was moving to new subjects before the first-stage subjects - English, maths, science and history - had been resolved.

"There's a lot of disquiet among stakeholders in NSW. Nobody is happy with it," Mr Piccoli said. "We're not sure how much it is going to cost [to implement]. There are a million unanswered questions."

NSW remains concerned it will be pushed to approve a weaker curriculum when ministers meet again in October. Mr Piccoli said he was worried the federal government appeared ready to begin work on the next stage "before they've even got this half right". "We've taken a strong view that we're not going to sign off on something that is inferior," Mr Piccoli said.

Mr Garrett noted the scale of the challenge ACARA continued to face. "This has been a huge task, the national curriculum, and I don't think we should underestimate that at all," he said, acknowledging "quite a lot of detailed work" with the states remained to be done.

He also rejected Mr Piccoli's pitch for extra funding to help implement the curriculum. NSW argued that less significant curriculum reforms in the 1990s had cost (in today's dollars) more than $60 million to implement.

"A single day of professional development for all teachers would cost each state many millions of dollars," Mr Piccoli said.

Teacher goodwill would depend upon the investment in professional development, he said. "If right from the very beginning there's not enough professional development - teachers aren't confident with it, don't feel they've been consulted - then the goodwill that's required to implement it won't be there," he said.

"A lot of schools run on goodwill - the goodwill of teachers. They don't run on money."

Mr Garrett said the meeting had "significantly enhanced" his government's education reform agenda, describing it as "a really important day for principals".

Apart from new national professional standards, principals will also be affected by plans to empower local schools.

For most states, this would mark a major shift away from centralised decision making and into a more localised, community-based school governance, Mr Garrett said.

The federal government has invested $69 million in the first phase of the autonomy program, which will involve 1000 - about 10 per cent - of Australian schools. But Mr Piccoli said giving principals more power would not get Australian schools "leapfrogging" other countries in performance. "It's one aspect but a relatively minor one," he said. "The real priority is teacher quality and high expectations [for schools]."


Your regulators will protect you -- NOT

Incompetent Vietnamese dentist still working despite ruining man's teeth

A DENTIST who was ordered to pay more than $1.3 million for damage he caused to a patient's mouth is continuing to practise in NSW, despite his own lawyers calling him negligent and incompetent.

Dr Mark Phung removed the nerves from every one of his patient's teeth, despite only three of them requiring surgery. Over 18 months and 53 consultations he installed 28 crowns, all of which need to be replaced.

In a decision made by the NSW Supreme Court last week, the Sydney dentist was ordered to pay more than $1.3 million to cover economic loss and future earnings for the trainee arborist whose teeth he damaged. The judgment was scathing of his conduct.

The Herald contacted Dr Phung at his surgery yesterday and asked why he was still practising. "Only God knows," he said. "I'm busy at the moment. If I can give you an answer, I will call you. I'm with a patient."

Dr Phung's own lawyer said his treatment was incompetent and carried out by a man not competent to perform it. "There is evidence and agreement, of course, that Dr Phung's treatment was hopeless."

The court accepted that the crowns and bridges were so poorly constructed that they trapped food and caused mouth infections. Every one of the procedures Dr Phung performed would require redoing, the court heard. The patient, Todd Dean, would require 50 consultations to have them repaired.

A dentist who reviewed Dr Phung's work told the court it was "inexcusably bad" and "completely outside the bounds of what any reputable practitioner might prescribe or perform".

Another expert witness said: "I find it difficult to understand how Dr Phung could proceed to remove every nerve of every tooth … without wishing to confirm his diagnosis and treatment regime with a specialist endodontist or someone experienced in managing facial pain."

A spokeswoman for the council responsible for registering and investigating dentists had no answer as to why Dr Phung had not been suspended - and was working with no conditions or reprimands noted on his registration. "The Dental Council of NSW is unable to comment as there is a matter in process."

Yesterday, Mr Dean would say only: "He's a butcher, not a dentist."



Three new articles below

Australian children are being terrified by climate change lessons

PRIMARY school children are being terrified by lessons claiming climate change will bring "death, injury and destruction" to the world unless they take action.

On the eve of Prime Minister Julia Gillard's carbon tax package announcement, psychologists and scientists said the lessons were alarmist, created unneeded anxiety among school children and endangered their mental health.

Climate change as a "Doomsday scenario" is being taught in classrooms across Australia. Resource material produced by the Gillard government for primary school teachers and students states climate change will cause "devastating disasters".

Australian National University's Centre for the Public Awareness of Science director Dr Sue Stocklmayer said climate change had been portrayed as "Doomsday scenarios with no way out".

Dr Stocklmayer said she was not a climate-change sceptic but worried that "too much time was spent presenting scary scenarios, especially to young people". "(Children) feel incredibly despondent and helpless in the face of all this negative information," she said. "To put all of this before our children ... is one of the most appalling things we can do to (them).

Child psychologist Kimberley O'Brien also said the language of climate change should be "toned down". "(Educators) should stick to the facts," she said. "They should be aware that kids do have nightmares."

Psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg called on educators to be "more circumspect and present both sides (of the climate-change debate)". "When you repeat things over and over to young people who don't have the cognitive maturity and emotional maturity to process this stuff, you end up creating unnecessary anxiety," he said.

Federal Schools Minister Peter Garrett said the government would not stop the teaching of climate science, despite moves in Britain for the subject to be withdrawn.

In a video on climate change funded by the state government, one teacher from a public school in Sydney's southwest explained: "Students are being bombarded from all sides about climate change ... it can be a very scary thing (for) a child."

The school activities are championed by the Federal Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.


Politics gets dirty as $3.2bn clean energy scheme announced by Greens

Another huge waste of taxpayer funds

PLANS for a $3.2 billion renewable energy agency were unveiled today, with the Government conspicuously deferring to the Greens on announcement honours.

Greens Deputy Leader Christine Milne held a press conference in Canberra, critical of Labor, to outline the project saying the independent agency would replace “a mess of badly designed schemes run as photo opportunities".

Meanwhile, Climate Change Minister Greg Combet and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson stayed in the background and simply released a joint statement outlining the proposed Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott immediately labelled it a “remarkable spectacle" which showed who was really running the Government.

The arrangement is being seen as confirmation that the Government traded off massive investment in alternative power sources to get Green concessions on a starting carbon price and on protection of polluting industries.

The full package, negotiated by a committee of ministers, Greens and independent MPs, will be released on Sunday.

The Greens had “gazumped the Prime Minister" Julia Gillard on the announcement, said Tony Abbott today. “This is a remarkable spectacle where you have a major Government announcement being made, not by the Government but by the Greens," said Mr Abbott. “And it shows who really is running this Government.

“What must Labor members of Parliament think when something which should be a major Government announcement is pre-empted by the Greens, who know what is in the package and they don't. “It is a sign of the shambles that this Government has become, that the Greens are out there breaking ranks already and announcing things that the Prime Minister was going to announce tomorrow."

However, understands Senator Milne's press conference had been approved by the Prime Minister's office.

In their joint statement, Mr Combet and Mr Ferguson disagreed with Senator Milne that little had been done to promote renewable energy. “The Government has a strong record of delivering support to our renewable sector and ensuring that Australians get value for money on their investments," they said. “The establishment of ARENA will build on this record."

Their statement said the statutory authority, under Mr Ferguson's portfolio, would bring together existing clean energy programs.

Around $1.7 billion in uncommitted funding from the range of consolidated programs will be included in the $3.2 billion to be spent between now and 2020. The projects will include solar, geothermal, and biofuel development.

Senator Milne said the push for renewables would be a “significant part of the architecture" of the “nation building change" to be announced on Sunday.


Best Australian snow depth since 1990

As you can see from the pic which is from the Perisher snowcam today there is a lot of snow in the Australian snowfields at the moment.

Perisher Blue snowfields reports this morning that “The Spencer’s Creek snow depth reading is 158.9cm, the best it’s been since 1990 for this time of the season!”. What are the other resorts saying?

Thredbo says “Superb snow conditions from top to bottom. There is a mountain of light, dry snow, even a few little wind-blown stashes to rip into“.

Charlottes Pass says “More than 1 METRE of fresh snow has now fallen across the resort since Monday“.

Falls Creek says; “Incredible conditions at Falls Creek. Falls Creek is a winter wonderland today receiving 72cm snow in 3 days“.

Mt Hotham, Mt Buller, Mt Selwyn etc are all likewise experiencing excellent conditions. Tasmania also got a big dump of snow. If you think this is an anomaly then the forecast is as follows;

And there is a lot more snow in store. Froggies snowatch says; “The following week should see a high pressure system bring more stable conditions before a mositure band arrives around the 17th that should bring some intitial showeres before light snowfalls across the 18th-20th. There is a chance this could build into another large snow bearing system (should know more by Monday).

Looking further ahead there are more snow bearing systems to follow this with the great season of 2011 set to continue “.

As most of the farmers along the great divide are saying – we are returning to the climate of the 60s. This is to be expected as scientists tell us we are now in a cold wet pattern as part of a cold PDO for at least another two decades if not longer. Can someone please tell the green corporates in the global warming industry as they are still pushing a warming tax, you know the one to protect us from their belief that snow will be a thing of the past!


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