Friday, November 04, 2011

Somebody upstairs doesn't like false prophets

Massive rain dumped in southern half of WA. Warmist Tim Flannery predicted unending drought

WA farmers are counting the cost after unseasonal rain dumped up to 70mm on some parts of the Wheatbelt, damaging crops and ruining hay.

The Great Southern and Central Wheatbelt were hit with the heaviest falls, with several farmers in the Narrogin and Kukerin areas reporting falls of 70mm in just a couple of hours yesterday afternoon, flooding roads and filling farm dams.

Officially, Narrogin had 47mm; Brookton 49mm; Katanning 42mm, the nearby Katanning research station 46mm; Wagin 39mm and Corrigin 35mm. Newdegate to the east had 22mm.

The heavy rain is a disaster for unharvested crops and cut hay which has been bailed but not yet stored undercover.

WA Farmers Federation president Mike Norton said the rain is causing huge problems for grain farmers who have not harvested crops and could wipe millions of dollars off WA's expected bumper grain harvest.

Albany Airport recorded 54mm up to 7am today, Albany town 31mm, with Rocky Gully, about 70km to the north west recording 51mm.

In the Central Wheatbelt Cunderdin Airport had 52mm, Beverley 51mm, Wongan Hills and York 25mm each.

In the south-east of the state, Ravensthorpe had 39mm, Hopetoun north recorded 28mm and Munglinup 20mm.

Mr Norton said it was too early to put an accurate figure on the losses because they would need to assess the damage to the different categories of crops.

He said this year's estimated 12 million tonne crop worth an average of $300 a tonne would definitely suffer. Some farmers could lose $100 a tonne.

Mr Norton said although many were hoping for $300 a tonne, the figure was more likely to be around $270 or $280, but he would have a more accurate picture of the extent of the damage later today.

He said this was not the first time late rains had affected crops but it had not happened "in a very long time".

Mr Norton said the late rain was detrimental to crops because it had started to distort ingredients in the seed head which in turn lowered the value.

"At this time of year the crops are in their ripening stage and the last thing you want is rain because it starts to stain the crops and for those that are perhaps still growing it starts to force feed them," he said.

"It starts to blow the crop out and pumps the seed full of a lot more moisture which starts to lower the protein level of the grain."

Mr Norton said grain used in bread needed a fairly high level of protein and lower protein content meant the standing crops were more likely to be used for animal feed.

He said the oaten hay crop that had already been cut and on the ground was discoloured due to mould and was "a complete write-off".

"There's no perfect year in this game unfortunately," Mr Norton said.

In the South West falls were widespread with many centres recording up to 15mm. Shannon had 17mm.

Perth's official rainfall was just 6.4mm (to 7am), though many suburbs had heavier falls, with Jandakot recording 11mm; Perth Airport 10mm and Rottnest 9mm.

The rain was caused by a broad surface trough which lies over the west of the state and this combined with a
mid level disturbance to produce scattered showers and thunderstorms over a large part of the state.

The surface trough will move slowly eastwards during the day with scattered showers about western coastal parts gradually easing during the afternoon and evening.

Perth can expect more showers today with the risk of a morning thunderstorm.


Principals' freedom is a winner with schools

THE push to give NSW public schools greater autonomy is gaining momentum, a trend which will be further advanced by near-unanimous support from 47 principals leading a two-year trial.

All principals told an independent review the freedoms allowed had led to concrete improvements at their schools. About 95 per cent said it had increased teacher capacity to deliver the curriculum and 83 per cent said they had been able to do more for their schools at a lower cost.

Some principals pointed to improved NAPLAN and HSC results as proof of success.

The review found principals valued the flexibility to make decisions and to reallocate parts of their budgets to employ staff to suit their schools' needs.

Principals believed creating the right staffing mix for their schools to be essential. "It's always about staffing," one said. "Get this right and nothing else matters."

Under the pilot program principals could choose staff on merit without being subject to priority transfer arrangements administered by the education department. Being able to choose staff was seen as critical if school leaders are to be held accountable for student performance.

"We are asking principals to achieve outcomes for students and be accountable for quality of teachers but we don't allow them to select staff so they don't control this," one said.

NSW, with more than 2200 schools, is among the most centrally controlled education systems in the Western world. Other Australian states have ceded significant power to the school level. Victorian principals are allowed to choose their own staff and in Western Australia schools can choose to operate independently with substantial freedoms.

The pilot program was established by the previous government and will continue under the new rules until the end of next year. The Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, is leading a consultation program, "Local Schools, Local Decisions", also aiming to devolve power.

The minister hopes to announce new rules for greater school autonomy early next year, which would be implemented in 2013. Simultaneously, special federal government funding will be available next year for 162 schools under the Empowering Local Schools national partnership.

Schools varied widely in the way they used the staffing flexibility, with some hiring an extra deputy principal, one choosing a business manager and another a diversional therapist. Castle Hill High School appointed a head teacher to coach boys in year 12 to improve their HSC results.

"We appointed someone who specifically mentored boys who were close to the top but who were underperforming, disorganised, didn't have a study program and couldn't get their act together," the principal, Vicki Brewer, said.


Report card gives public hospitals an F

AUSTRALIA'S public hospitals are failing to meet government targets for access to emergency department care and elective surgery, a new report says.

The Australian Medical Association's (AMA) latest Public Hospital Report Card has found hospital performance in every state and territory is below Council of Australian Government (COAG) targets on those two critical measures.

It said the number of public hospital beds per capita, which is the strongest measure of capacity, continued to decline.

Fewer beds meant longer waiting times in emergency departments and longer waiting times for elective surgery, said the report card, which looked at hospital performance in 2009/10.

The number of public hospital beds, per capita, had been slashed by more than 67 per cent since the 1960s, and by more than half since the start of Medicare.

In 2009/10 there were only 2.6 public hospital beds per 1000 population, down 3.5 per cent from 2008/09, the report card said.

The report looked at bed numbers and occupancy rates, emergency department waiting times, elective surgery waiting times, hospital efficiency and productivity, funding and provides a state-by-state snapshot of performance.

The AMA said it was clear the nation's public hospitals currently lacked the capacity to meet the demands of an ageing population.

The AMA is holding a press conference to detail its findings this morning.


Another triumph of multiculturalism

A FACE image of a suspect who allegedly attacked a woman in broad daylight on Melbourne Cup day has been made public.

Police have been told a 24-year-old woman was sexually assaulted as she left an accommodation facility on Peel Street, North Melbourne, just after 11am.

The woman saw a man on the corner of Peel and Market Streets who followed and verbally abused her.

But when she told him to go away there was an alleged confrontation.

Investigators have been told the man allegedly forced her to the ground and sexually assaulted her.

The victim, however, screamed and managed to kick the offender to the chin before he ran south through the Queen Victoria Market.

The man is described as having a slim build with a dark complexion and dark eyes.

He also had distinctive dark coloured dread locked hair with orange tips at the end.

He was wearing a dark coloured zip front hooded jumper.


Unrealistic child protection system

They couldn't be as bad as Britain but they're trying

In 2009, the Federal Parliament apologised to the forgotten Australians who were physically, sexually, and emotionally abused in state and charitable-run orphanages between the 1920s and '70s. The apology was accompanied by solemn pledges to never again allow child abuse to go unchecked.

It followed the closing in the 1980s and '90s of virtually all large-scale orphanages because of the detrimental impact of institutionalised care on children. Yet 30 years later, state governments are quietly re-opening institutions to house children who are again being abused by the system that should protect them.

In the past decade, the number of children unable to live safely with their parents and subsequently placed in ''residential'' out-of-home care has increased 56 per cent. Decades of decline have been reversed, with the number of children in residential facilities falling to 939 in 2004-05 and then doubling to more than 1800 in 2009-10.

Residential institutions are now generally smaller-scale group homes operated by state-funded charities where multiple, non-related children are cared for by paid staff. But they have a strong psychiatric care focus and include secure facilities.

The greater use of residential care is a result of the systemic problems besetting the child protection system, which is damaging thousands of children in the name of family preservation.

The standard policy and practice in all states is to keep vulnerable children with their families, and work with dysfunctional parents to try to fix problems such as substance abuse, mental illness and domestic violence. For many children, efforts to prevent maltreatment, including extensive contact with early intervention and other support services, does more harm than good because removal from the family home as a last resort occurs too late. Hence, most of the nearly 36,000 children in out-of-home care have serious emotional, psychological and behavioural problems.

Family preservation is also the reason the $1.7 billion out-of-home care system is increasingly costly and overwhelmed by demand. Rising numbers of children are lingering, often indefinitely, in temporary foster or kinship care while waiting for parents to be rehabilitated so reunions can be attempted. When finally returned home, unrealistic reunions break down and re-damaged children re-enter care after entrenched and hard-to-resolve parental problems re-emerge.

Foster placements involving ''difficult'' children are also more likely to break down. The instability experienced by those who bounce in and out of care, in and out of multiple placements and in and out of failed family reunions, is an additional cause of harm that exacerbates behavioural and other problems.

By adolescence, the children most severely damaged by abuse at home and unstable living arrangements are uncontrollable, violent and self-destructive. Due to their disruptive childhoods, they can no longer live safely with their biological parents or in normal foster homes, and the only suitable placement option is very high-cost residential facilities.

Residential care is absorbing an increasing and disproportionate amount of funding, between a third and up to half of total out-of-home care spending, in some states.

Policymakers should realise that a child welfare system that has to employ armies of taxpayer-funded psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and counsellors to try to fix the children the system itself has helped damage, is a failed system.

A fundamental rethink is essential. The best way to protect children from dysfunctional parents who are demonstrably incapable of properly caring for them is early and permanent removal by means of adoption by suitable families.

Only 61 children were adopted by non-relatives and 53 by foster carers in 2009-10, despite almost 23,000 children being in care continuously for more than two years. Many of these children should have found permanent homes years ago, but for the official taboo placed on adoption by family preservation-obsessed child protection services, which are unwilling to take legal action to free children for adoption no matter how inadequate their parents.

Strong political leadership is needed to make the system function in the children's best interests. Until then, national apologies for past failings ring hollow. The tragic irony is that a new generation of forgotten children is being harmed, to whom a national apology will one day be owed.


1 comment:

Paul said...

He's a man?