Saturday, October 08, 2011

BBQ send-off for the Queen

THE Queen will farewell our country for possibly the last time with a big Aussie BBQ in Perth, the official itinerary of her visit here has revealed.

Her Majesty will say goodbye to Western Australia with an Aussie sausage after her official duties at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting wrap up on October 29.

Along with the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen will visit the acclaimed sporting facilities at the Clontarf Aboriginal College on October 27 before a garden party with a who's who of Perth at Government House.

The next day Her Majesty will officially open CHOGM and attend a banquet in her honour. The royal couple will then spend their last day in Australia with a "Big Aussie BBQ" before returning to England on October 29.

The Queen plans to take a tourist's tour of Australia and ride a Melbourne tram, visit Brisbane’s Southbank city beach and have a barbecue, when she visits later this month.

The royal itinerary, released by Buckingham Palace tonight, involves a packed schedule of Aussie highlights for the Queen, 85, and Duke of Edinburgh, 90, during their 10-day visit.

The full program indicates the royal couple want to see as much of the country as they can, in what some have predicted could be their last visit to Australia.

The Queen and Prince Philip arrive in Canberra on October 19 and will visit the Floriade Flower Show on October 20 as well as spend time with the Governor General.

The Queen will also meet with Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott ahead of a party held in her honour at Parliament House on October 21.

The Queen and Prince Philip will also attend to their royal charities and causes while they are in Australia. The Duke of Edinburgh will attend a Duke of Edinburgh award ceremony for high achieving young people on October 21 and attend a Commonwealth Study Conference reception on October 22 in Canberra. The Queen will also present Colours to the Royal Military College, Duntroon, on October 22.

During the royal visit to Brisbane, the Queen and Prince Philip will catch a river craft, expected to be a City Cat, and tour the Brisbane River before stopping off at Southbank and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre on October 24.

They will also meet with emergency response personnel and communities affected by the recent floods before leading a post flood Rededication Ceremony of Rainforest and opening of Rain Bank.

The royal couple will also lunch with the Governor of Queensland.

The Queen and Prince Philip will return to Canberra on October 26 and the Queen will lay a wreath at the Afghanistan Memorial at the Australian War Memorial before meeting Australian Defence Force Personnel at Orientation Hall.

During their royal day trip to Melbourne the Queen and Prince Philip will catch a tram and walk through Federation Square on October 26. The Queen will also visit sick children and staff at the Royal Children’s Hospital, of which she is the patron, as well as view the Ian Potter Centre, National Gallery of Victoria.

The Queen is believed to highly excited about the trip and is reportedly throwing an Australian party in London next week to celebrate her historic visit.


Victorian ALP urges feds to approve gay marriage

THE Victorian ALP has said federal Labor must take a stand on marriage equality and is urging the party to support gay marriage at its national conference in December.

In opposition to Prime Minister Julia Gillard's support for the status quo, the state Labor conference voted today in support of a motion calling on the ALP to amend the party's platform to support same-sex marriage at its national conference.

Rainbow Labor co-convenor Sarah Cole, who moved the urgency resolution, said Labor was a party about progress and needed to take a stand on marriage equality.

Ms Gillard has said she expects the issue will be debated at the December conference.

Ms Cole was supported by speakers from the Australian Services Union and Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia.

Shop Distributive and Allied Employees' Association head Joe De Bruyn opposed the motion.

The delegates broke out in applause after the motion was carried.


Australia's dams defy the Greenie doomsayers

Because of its variable climate, dams=happiness for Australia and huge numbers of them were built until the Greenies stopped it

JOHN Scales refused to believe the doomsayers when they predicted there would never again be enough rain to fill the Dartmouth Dam in northeast Victoria.

A third-generation mountain farmer who helped build Victoria's largest dam in the 1970s, Mr Scales was always convinced the decade-long drought that accompanied the new millennium was nothing more than a normal, if prolonged, dry spell.

"I'm not a believer in global warming, despite some people saying it wouldn't ever rain here like it used to because the climate had changed," he said yesterday. "I was always confident it was just a long drought like we've had before, and that we would pull out of it just as we always do."

The local cattleman and pub owner - who knows this mountainous Mitta Mitta River country like few others - was right.

Sitting in a fishing boat surrounded by the dam's still-rising inky waters, Mr Scales happily admits to knowing precisely, as he always does, that the Dartmouth dam is now 72.8 per cent full.

He predicts that if the spring rains continue, the water storage that is so vital to the prosperity of irrigation farmers along the Murray River and to Adelaide's drinking water supply, will be full by next year.

Around the nation, water storage reserves are at levels not seen since the start of the decade-long drought in the late 90s.

The Bureau of Meteorology estimates Australia's 261 largest drinking water and irrigation storages, with a total capacity of 78 million megalitres of water, are on average 80 per cent full. This time last year, the figure was 65 per cent.

Drinking water supplies for the major cities have been replenished by the wettest 10-month period ever recorded, between July last year and April. Sydney's city water storages are now 79 per cent full, while dams supplying Adelaide and Brisbane are at a healthy 83 per cent capacity.

Even Melbourne's once critically low dams have climbed to 63 per cent full with recent rainfall, their highest levels in 12 years. Melbourne's largest supply dam, the Thomson, is this week half-full for the first time since 2005.

The anomaly is Perth, which is still critically dry, relying on desalination plants and aquifers for 60 per cent of its water supplies.

The bureau's manager of climate prediction, Andrew Watkins, said the reason dam levels such as the Thomson and Dartmouth were continuing to climb - even though rainfall has been less than normal since May - was because soils were saturated.

"With wet soils, runoff has not immediately decreased," Dr Watkins said yesterday. The high storage levels come from "a combination of good sustained rain over several months, and the soil becoming wet enough to allow rainfall to flow in the catchments even after the big wet ended".

The filling of the giant Dartmouth Dam is an extraordinary feat that has happened just three times since the vast reservoir in the remote Victorian high country was commissioned in 1980.

Only in 1990, 1993 and 1997 has water overflowed from the four-million-megalitre dam and thundered down its 180m drop spillway. It's a far cry from this time last year, when the Dartmouth Dam was just 26 per cent full.

Now holding 2.8 million ML of water, according to operators Goulburn-Murray Water, it's a rejuvenation that has tourists, anglers and irrigation farmers flocking to enjoy the dam's beauty and plentiful trout.

"It instils confidence everywhere from here to South Australia when the Dartmouth Dam is this full,' says Mr Scales proudly. "Pardon the pun, but it has a real flow-on effect. If the farmers in Mildura and South Australia know that up this end we're nearly at capacity, they know they're almost guaranteed to have irrigation water for the next four years, and that's their lifeblood."

But in 2007, when the dam dwindled to just 11 per cent full, Mr Scales admits it was a desolate sight. As the skies stayed dry and the water drained to its dregs, the giant reservoir on the Mitta Mitta River behind the highest earthen dam wall in the southern hemisphere came to resemble a chilling moonscape.

The small community of Dartmouth at its base, which began life as a rollicking dam construction camp on land carved from Mr Scales's family mountain cattle station, Banimboola, went into hibernation. "It was hard to stay positive," says Mr Scales, whose family owns and runs Dartmouth's only pub and motel, as well as its sole farming property.

"But the locals, we all knew it would rain again."

Goulburn-Murray Water's weir-keeper Peter Liepkalns, is another rejoicing at the dam's comeback. Two wet years in a row have meant little call for the Dartmouth's water to be drawn down, with the downstream Hume Dam at Albury that first feeds the Murray River also brimful.

Mr Liepkalns says water supply can never be guaranteed years ahead, pointing to how quickly dam levels dropped from 66 per cent to just 13 per cent in the worst drought year of 2003.

But he concedes Murray Valley irrigators can have confidence their water entitlements will be secure in the "immediate term". Just as welcome to Mr Liepkalns, who followed his father into the job as Dartmouth Dam keeper and watched the 2003 alpine bushfires devastate its dry catchment area, is the gentle return of nature to his dam and its surrounding alpine ridges.

"My peregrines are back, fish stocks are healthy again and the trout are spawning up into the creeks," he said. "The whole valley and community is buoyed."


Melbourne has one ambulance for four million people on some occasions

MELBOURNE was left with just one ambulance available to respond to the city's four million residents while 41 Code 1 jobs were awaiting action. Damning data obtained exclusively by the Herald Sun reveals that on Saturday, September 24, 14 out of its 80 rostered shifts had no staff.

That resulted in just one MICA car (Mobile Intensive Care Ambulance) being free across the whole of the metropolitan area about 11pm on the day of the preliminary final between Geelong and West Coast.

At the same time, the ambulance union's "dropped shifts" logs detail there were 41 Code 1s - such as cardiac arrest and serious traffic accidents - pending.

Paramedics say the industry is at breaking point and warn it could happen tonight. It comes just days after it was revealed people were waiting up to nine minutes to have their 000 call for an ambulance answered.

A veteran paramedic who worked on September 24 said response times were "horrendous". He said at 10pm a 14-year-old boy with a dislocated kneecap waited on the street for 90 minutes for an ambulance.

"(Those waiting times) are more common than not," he said. Ambulance Employees Association state secretary Steve McGhie said lives were clearly being compromised. "There is no question that this happens regularly it could potentially happen this weekend," Mr McGhie said.

Ambulance Victoria's annual report showed its target of reaching 85 per cent of Code 1 patients within 15 minutes was steadily declining. In 2006-07, ambulance services reached 85.7 per cent of patients within 15 minutes, but that figure dropped to 80.7 per cent by 2009-10, then to 77.1 per cent in 2010-11.

Operations manger of Ambulance Victoria, Simon Thomson, said there were times when the number of paramedics who called in sick exceeded their back-up capacity. "On that Saturday night we had more calls for attendance than ambulances available, but there are a lot of other factors that contribute to that beyond sick leave, including hospital transfer times and spikes in demand," he said.

A spokesman for Health Minister David Davis blamed the problem on mismanagement by the previous government, saying "after 11 years of mismanagement there is no doubt there are a number of operational and financial issues at Ambulance Victoria."


Victorian hospital emergency departments struggling to cope

VICTORIAN hospital emergency departments are in crisis, buckling under pressure to meet soaring demand, doctors warn.

Victorian Emergency Physicians Association president Dr Con Georgakas said that hardest hit were facilities serving the city's growth corridors, including the Frankston, Western, Sunshine and Northern hospitals.

Hospital emergency departments in regional Victoria were also struggling to cope, with even fewer resources than their city counterparts, he said.

In a case three weeks ago, an elderly woman visited a Gippsland hospital with a broken wrist, needing urgent specialist care, he said. Her doctor spent six hours calling Melbourne hospital emergency departments before finding one able to take her. He said many had refused because they were full.

Regional hospitals relied heavily on city hospitals for specialist support, but they were increasingly unable to access it.

"Emergency department demand is increasing, and over the last 10 years it has increased immensely, we have an overwhelmed healthcare system," Dr Georgakas said. "It has been getting progressively worse, and we are now reaching a crisis point."

Dr Georgakas called for an urgent meeting with Health Minister David Davis to find a solution.

AMA Victoria president Dr Harry Hemley said hospitals were under pressure across the state. "Hospital infrastructure has not kept up with Melbourne's rapid population growth and this is resulting in emergency departments being overwhelmed," Dr Hemley said.

The Government promised 800 new beds in its first term, including 100 new beds to be delivered in its first year, but there had been none so far, he said.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Gay Marriage again. Labor is trying to shift the focus off their screw-ups and look all progressive and edgy/modern.