Thursday, August 11, 2011

Some discrimination is OK, apparently

Gay and lesbian retirement village goes ahead at Ballan in Victoria

AUSTRALIA'S first gay and lesbian retirement village is being built on Geelong's doorstep at Ballan in Victoria.

The 120-unit complex for over 55s is being built on the Ballan-Geelong Rd, and it will include an indoor heated spa, bar and croquet lawn.

Work is expected to start on the complex early next year, and interested people will be able to buy units off the plan in two months time, the Geelong Advertiser said.

Developer Peter Dickson has billed the $30 million Linton Estate retirement village as a haven for the gay, lesbian and bisexual community.

Mr Dickson said he had expressions of interest from 226 people from across the world including Turkey, England and the United States as well as from Victoria and interstate.

He also said there had been some interest from people in Daylesford, 20 minutes up the road, which has a sizeable gay and lesbian population.

The retirement village, at the junction of Old Melbourne and Ballan-Geelong roads, will be built in five stages.

Ballan newsagent Ian Ireland said the retirement village would be a welcome addition to the town, which was experiencing rapid growth.

Mr Ireland said the area in question along the Ballan-Geelong Rd was formerly farmland which had been subdivided into large allotments of about 12 hectares. "They are just semi-rural properties," he said. "It should be good, it will mean having more people around it's growing anyway so this is no different. "It's virtually a retirement-style village development and there's nothing wrong with that."

The State Government recently confirmed it would be funding an upgrade of the Ballan Hospital to the tune of $2 million.

Moorabool Shire Council granted a planning permit for Linton Estate retirement village in 2008, but a project redesign has delayed construction.

Mr Dickson said they had hired an engineer and were now meeting with potential builders.

A spokesman for Moorabool Shire Council said the project was first mooted some years ago and he could not recall there being any objections.


Emergency staff in government hospitals don't listen properly

HOSPITAL emergency departments function almost entirely on undocumented conversations that are frequently misunderstood, which puts patients at risk of wrong diagnosis or treatment, the first big study into the question has found.

And the situation is worsening as hospitals are overwhelmed with a growing number of emergency visits, including from an increasing proportion of elderly people with complex conditions and people whose language or cultural background poses extra communication challenges.

The research by the University of Technology, Sydney - based on more than 1000 hours of direct observation in NSW and ACT hospitals - identified the failure of doctors and nurses to listen properly to patients' descriptions of their illness as particularly problematic.

Clinicians were often too focused on formal diagnostic protocols to pick up on crucial information people volunteered about their symptoms, and failed to empathise with distress or pain, said the study leader, Diana Slade, professor of applied linguistics, who conducted the study with colleagues from the nursing and sociology departments.

Professor Slade, whose team was given unprecedented access to watch and record the work of the emergency departments at the Prince of Wales, Hornsby, Gosford, St George and Canberra hospitals, said she had witnessed an incident in which clinicians treating an elderly woman for dizziness failed to elicit the vital information that her son was in the same hospital after a suicide attempt. The eventual diagnosis of depression was delayed, Professor Slade said.

"Doctors and nurses say, 'we're too busy, we're too stressed'," to explore matters patients raised, said Professor Slade, whose report was published yesterday. "We're saying, unless you attend to their issues, to their interpersonal needs, you won't make your diagnosis as quickly as you might otherwise."

Clinicians wanted to treat people sympathetically and were mortified when they read the transcripts, Professor Slade said. "What people think they are saying is very different from what they actually say," she said. "I'm not being critical at all of the doctors and nurses. It's a system issue."

The president of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Sally McCarthy, said Professor Slade's work would help clinicians balance clinical problem-solving with more personal support to patients.

But junior doctors - who provided much of the state's emergency care - were legitimately concerned not to miss physical symptoms, Dr McCarthy said.

"There's not enough doctors to see the volume of patients coming through," she said. "They're quite worried about getting things right in terms of patients' medical care.'


Coalition on attack over carbon tax modelling

THE Coalition is questioning the integrity of global carbon markets, the credibility of Treasury modelling and the introduction of a new tax in times of global economic uncertainty as the anti-carbon tax campaign ramps up ahead of the parliamentary debate in September.

As Labor, the Greens and the cross-bench independents prepare to pass the unpopular tax, the Coalition and business groups are intensifying a campaign to discredit modelling that estimates its impact on household prices to be modest and the international carbon markets with which the Australian scheme would link.

The Liberal Senator Mathias Cormann used the inquiry to accuse the Treasury of "cherry-picking" evidence from a critical World Bank report in order to turn a "bleak" picture of "collapsing" global carbon markets into a rosy one.

A Treasury official, Meghan Quinn, defended the use of the World Bank report in the modelling document, saying there had been "no cherry picking or lack of acknowledgement of the difficulties around the international regime" and that an increase of $11 billion between 2005 and 2009, to $144 billion, followed by a reduction to $142 billion in 2010 "cannot be characterised as total collapse".

The Treasury modelling found that buying pollution permits on international markets reduced the cost of Australia reaching its domestic greenhouse reduction target.

But the Coalition has highlighted examples of past fraud and the opposition finance spokesman, Andrew Robb, this week agreed with a radio announcer who said that international permits were "issued by some bloody witchdoctor in the highlands of Borneo or something who says, well, I've got a million teak trees".

The Nationals Senator Ron Boswell questioned the fact that five super-critical, coal-fired power plants in developing countries have been credited to earn carbon permits that can be sold through the United Nations "clean development mechanism" - a decision that has also been criticised by environmental groups.

And Nationals Senator John Williams asked who would police the international markets and whether permits would be "coming out of Nigeria" like tax scams.

The Department of Climate Change secretary, Blair Comley, whose department the Coalition has said it will probably abolish, said the government policy listed the types of international permits considered eligible.

Senator Cormann also asked Treasury if the department had been asked to provide advice on whether the start date for the carbon tax should be reconsidered "given current global and financial circumstances".

The executive director of Treasury's macroeconomic group, Dr David Gruen, said "no", adding that there was "no basis" on which to speculate the carbon pricing regime would be delayed.

The new Democratic Labor Party Senator, John Madigan, railed against the Treasury officials, saying "people out there are terrified" and were the ones who "suffer when Treasury assumptions turn out to be wrong" and demanding to know whether the modelling was based on "fact or assumption".

A Treasury official, Robert Heferen, said that because "no one knows the future" Treasury "marshalls information as best we can."


Combet and Gillard, not for turning?

"Why do you all hate Thatcher so much?" I asked a visiting British academic the other night. He looked at me in disbelief, as if the answer were self-evident.

"Look what she did to the coal miners," he retorted. "She deliberately put thousands of them out of work, threw them onto the scrap-heap. Fathers driven to suicide, families plunged into poverty. Twenty thousand working families sacrificed for pure ideology, nothing more."

If this sounds uncomfortably familiar, that's because it is. According to NSW Treasury figures, 20,000 is almost the exact number of coal mining jobs that will be lost – and not replaced – in the Hunter Valley by the carbon tax. Like Thatcher before them, Julia Gillard and Greg Combet are prepared to sacrifice these jobs and livelihoods for the sake of the "greater good". For ideology.

The OED definition of ideology is "a system of ideas and ideals, especially one which forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy". All political parties require an ideological framework on which to base their decisions. The point at which a set of beliefs moves from ideology to a legitimate political agenda is, of course, at the ballot box.

Thatcher never specifically asked the electorate if they wanted her to crush Arthur Scargill and his National Union of Mineworkers. But she never pretended the real battle was over anything other than ideological beliefs. "Economics are the method;" she said, "the object is to change the heart and soul".

Gillard is equally clear about the ideology of her carbon tax. "I believe climate change is real," is justification enough. Like Thatcher, she is using an economic tool so we "all change our behaviour".

For Combet: "this is a difficult political environment at the moment but this is a critical reform for the future of the country and future generations". In other words; 'even though we don't have a mandate, we have our ideological beliefs'.

Although Combet disputes the figures, the NSW Treasury modelling is unambiguous. The carbon tax will hit NSW harder than any other state and cost at least 31,000 jobs, particularly in regional areas. The analysis shows $3.7 billion will disappear from the annual output of the NSW economy by 2020, rising to $9.1 billion by 2030.

It predicts the loss of 1,850 jobs in the Hunter region alone and 7,000 fewer jobs in the Illawarra, a thousand less in the central west. "The reduction in jobs in the Hunter is absolute, not a mere reduction in growth prospects," it concludes.

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell says the Treasury predictions are "disastrous" for the Hunter Valley. NSW Minerals Council CEO Dr Nikki Williams concurs: "The Federal Government said we were scaremongering when we flagged our concern for the 3,000 NSW coal mining jobs that are at risk, but the NSW Treasury modelling now shows that loss could be replicated tenfold across the state's economy," she said. "It is becoming increasingly clear that the carbon tax will cripple economic growth and put thousands of jobs at risk, especially in regional NSW."

Aha, you say, but we are sacrificing the coal miners and their livelihoods to save the planet. So our grandchildren will inherit a cleaner world. Those mining jobs would have gone anyway, your argument runs, when coal becomes obsolete, which it must eventually do. Besides which, there will be an equal number if not more new jobs created in the renewables industry.

This "greater good" argument, worthy as it may appear at first blush, is uncannily similar to that put forward by supporters of the Thatcher government to justify the closure of 20 mining pits across Britain's north in 1984. The greater good, in that instance, was the British economy. The mines were closed so that today's Britons could inherit a more prosperous world. A plethora of jobs were created in London's freewheeling financial services industry as the British economy took off on the back of the defeat of the left-wing unions. London quickly became one of the economic powerhouses of the world. All well and good.

Except it wasn't. Many of the Yorkshire miners never found work again. For decades, poverty, depression and suicide blighted their lives as the booming economy that their defeat ushered into the south-east failed to have any positive impact on the mining ghost towns of the north. Strange as it may seem, you can't just put down your hard hat and shovel, pick up a calculator, and become a hedge-fund manager overnight.

Equally, just because you were good at digging up coal doesn't mean you'll be any good at putting up windmills.

Combet claims that sufficient money is being set aside to compensate for job losses. Maybe. But these are working Australian families, not just a set of numbers. When do they sell up and move? Now? Should they quit work and start looking for new skills? New schools? Leave behind their homes, history and communities? What about Mum? Do they move her too? Combet maintains the Hunter will be one of the areas to benefit from a growth in renewable energy sector jobs. Let's hope so. Thatcher made similar commitments about a revitalised north which sadly never came to pass.

Ironically, Greg Combet rose to prominence in the Australian equivalent of the mining strike; fighting on behalf of the wharfies' unions in the 1998 waterfront dispute, where he famously maintained that "the laws were made against workers, and bad laws have to be broken". It will be interesting to see if he gives the same advice to the coal workers of NSW.

Combet and Gillard have made clear that the carbon tax will go ahead, regardless of adverse public opinion polls, the concerns of those with jobs to lose, and without being mandated at the ballot box. It's a question, purely and simply, of ideological belief.

"The government is going to stick to its guns," Combet says. Sounds awfully like Margaret Thatcher's "the lady's not for turning".



Paul said...

Daylesford, Hepburn etc seemed to become a mecca for Lesbian chicken farmers and old Gay rose-growers quite some years back. I suppose its a bit like having a Brethren-only Nursing Home in Warnambool. You'd like to think that old age made it all a little pointless but Gays deserve equal access to undereducated, angry, and disturbingly asexual PCA's pinching the change from the bedside locker just like everyone else.

Paul said...

Seems to be some idea here that Doctors and (to a lesser extent, Nurses) ever listened to patients in the first place. Increasing workloads isn't the explanation here. A decreasing standard of real-world education and basic snobbery goes some way further to explaining it. More and more Doctors that speak felafal as a first language doesn't help either.