Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Parents camp out for exclusive enrolment

Shades of Britain! Ascot is of course a high socioeconomic area. It's the smarter and better behaved kids that make the school

PARENTS are sleeping on the footpath outside a popular state school in order to gain an enrolment spot for their children. Dedicated mums and one dad camped on the footpath in tents and chairs outside Brisbane's Ascot State School on Sunday night, in an effort to secure their child a coveted place.

While students who reside within the school's catchment area are guaranteed enrolment, others must vie for the remaining spots.

Education Queensland's Chris Rider said applications for students not living within the catchment zone were accepted annually from 9am on the first Monday in February.

Parents started arriving from 4pm on Sunday for yesterday's sign-up day. One woman whose child graduated from Year 7 last year, was lining up to secure a place for her second child. "We only want the best for our kids," mother-of-two Kerry Douglas said.

New Farm resident Georgie Robson said she had left her children with her husband while she camped at the school. "One of the girls did a drive by. We'd planned to get here about 10 but someone rang us and said 'get your skates on there are already four people here'," she said. "We dropped everything and left our husbands with our kids. I've got four kids under four and just went 'sorry got to go'."

The women said the publication by The Courier-Mail of the school's audit results, which showed the high calibre of Ascot State School, had reinforced the desire to enrol their children there. Ascot State School received top marks in the audit data for the highest performing school. Ascot, along with Eagle Junction and Wilston, are Queensland's most sought after state primary schools.

The mothers said they had been planning the camp-out for a year.

Holly Westaway said she had calculated property choices in order to improve her children's chances of getting into the school. "We moved from the Gold Coast and rented in the area just so we could get our children into the school," Mrs Westaway said. "Then we bought a street away."

Mr Rider said schools, such as Ascot State School, had developed enrolment management plans in consultation with the P and C, parents and the school community. "When developing an enrolment management plan, schools allow for in-catchment growth during the school year and ensure an even spread of students across all year levels," he said.

The audits, set up as part of the State Government's school improvement agenda, were carried out at all 1257 state schools and education centres in 2010, with 460 schools reaudited in 2011.


Queensland Health charade

Job ads give only the appearance of action on a bloated bureaucracy

MARK Twain, responding to his obituary in a New York newspaper, announced: "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." So, too, is Premier Anna Bligh's claim that "Queensland Health as we know it is over".

Over the past two Saturdays, QH has advertised locally, interstate, and nationally, offering 19 senior positions - all top-level bureaucrats, presumably with generous salaries, but no clinical qualifications whatsoever - comprising 17 "chief executive officers", one "chief operations officer" and one "executive director".

What Bligh calls QH's "sick administrative performance" certainly calls for a thorough cleansing of the Augean stables. The Jayant Patel tragedies, the payroll fiasco, the incomprehensible decision to build a new children's hospital in Bligh's electorate, the apparent theft of an estimated $16.6 million of taxpayers' funds, are all symptoms of a bureaucracy which is terminally incompetent. But is the employment of 19 additional high-end health bureaucrats the solution?

Out of every taxpayer dollar paid to QH, as little as 25c, perhaps only 20c, gets through to clinical service delivery. Actual clinicians represent less than three-eighths, perhaps as few as a third, of QH's 70,000-plus workforce.

Compare the British Colonial Office in 1935, when a mere 173 civil servants sufficed to administer an empire encompassing a quarter of the world's population and a similar proportion of its land mass. But then, empire-building within QH expands at a far quicker pace than the British Empire ever did.

The recent advertisements are obviously intended not to attract serious applicants. The closing dates - ranging between February 13 and 27 - are extraordinarily short. And there is no mention of pay scales or other benefits; not even a non-specific reference to an "attractive salary package". Their manifest object is to give the appearance of a recruiting effort, when the positions are already earmarked for internal promotions.

Under caretaker conventions, as summarised in the Bligh Government's own Cabinet Handbook, "a caretaker government should avoid, wherever possible, making appointments of significance in the caretaker period". The Government will be in caretaker mode from not later than February 19, when Parliament is dissolved. The published closing dates make it practically impossible for any external appointments to be considered before then.

Indeed, if external applications were being seriously sought, finalising such appointments before the election would be difficult. And what would be the point of advertising positions which an incoming government may not - most probably, will not - wish to fill; which an incoming government may - most probably, will - make redundant?

What, moreover, would be the merit in making external appointments to positions which are unlikely to exist under a new government? Why would anyone - let alone a person qualified for such a job - bother applying for a post which may never be filled; or accept such a position, before March 24, knowing that it is likely to be abolished?

Yet, eight weeks after Bligh announced that "Queensland Health as we know it is over", that organisation is not only alive, but still expanding, with the publication of advertisements for 19 bureaucratic positions at the highest echelon.

The position descriptions require the successful applicants to adhere to "Queensland Health policy"; provide "regular performance reports to ... Queensland Health"; and "Ensure ... engagement with ... Queensland Health".

The "Key skill requirements/competencies" include "personal qualities consistent with the Queensland Health values ... and leadership framework". The Director-General of Queensland Health is listed as a "key stakeholder" with whom successful applicants "will be required to engage, liaise or negotiate".

In the same media statement on December 12, Bligh gave her personal assurance that the bureaucrats responsible for "the sick administrative performance" of QH "have nothing to fear"; that "their jobs are safe" - promises which no incoming government would be silly enough to repeat. Does it make sense that QH would be advertising nationwide to recruit another 19 top-drawer bureaucrats, rather than redeploying some of the tens of thousands whom Bligh has personally promised never to sack?

So, are these advertisements just another monumental stuff-up by QH and the Bligh Government, or something more sinister? Is it, as it appears to be, a last-ditch effort to fill some cushy positions with another 19 "Labor mates"?

Are QH and the Bligh Government attempting to lock in a future government to their own road map of how "the sick administrative performance of this mammoth organisation" should be perpetuated? Or merely to saddle taxpayers with the cost of 19 redundancy packages for those who are most to blame for the "sick administrative performance"?


Typical bureaucracy: Locked gate traps residents during bushfire

In a bureaucracy no-one is responsible and no-one gives a damn

Black Saturday survivors David and Justine Boscaglia at the locked gate near their Kinglake West home on Coombs Rd.

A COUPLE who lost their home on Black Saturday say residents were trapped in their own street during a total fire ban on Sunday because of council bungling.

David and Justine Boscaglia, of Kinglake West, said Whittlesea City Council installed a gate at a fire access track in Coombs Rd more than a year ago to prevent it becoming a hoon playground and had not unlocked it.

Mrs Boscaglia said the couple rang the CFA - which has a key - on Sunday and crews arrived only to discover the padlock appeared to have been swapped. "Basically residents of Coombs Rd are entrapped on a day of total fire ban. It's crazy," she said. The mercury reached 27C in the Kinglake area on Sunday.

Mr Boscaglia said the gate to the track, owned by Melbourne Water, had been locked for two weeks.

Whittlesea Council CEO David Turnbull said an investigation had been launched into why the gates had not been unlocked.


2011, and the Unlucky Country finally gets a carbon dioxide tax

Australian voters entered 2011 with the pre-election commitment of Prime Minister Julia Gillard still sounding in their ears: "There will be no carbon [dioxide] tax under a government that I lead".

Nonetheless, cognitive dissonance had already arrived on the Canberra political scene, in the shape of the Multi-Party Committee on Climate Change (MPCCC) that was established in late 2010 in order to plan for the introduction of just such a tax.

Thereafter, the political year yielded a spectacular display of chicanery, scientific malfeasance, media bias and economic and social irresponsibility, all underpinned by a confusion of both purpose and morality and accompanied by an uncertainty of outcomes: and that’s just the global warming picture.

The way that science works

Climate change is self-evidently a natural process. Warmings, coolings, cyclones, floods, droughts and bushfires have been coming and going since long before human industrial processes started adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere; and, indeed, since before there were humans at all.

The appropriate question is therefore not whether climate change is “real”, but the more specific one of whether human-related greenhouse emissions are causing dangerous global warming.

Scientists assess such speculative ideas against a norm called the null hypothesis, which, following long historical practice, is fashioned to be the simplest interpretation of any given set of material facts.

The null hypothesis for today’s observed climate changes is therefore that they are of natural causation, unless and until specific evidence accrues otherwise.

Contrary to prevailing political belief, and to the alarmist messages that come from the UN’s discredited Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), much amplified by environmental organisations and a compliant media, scientists have searched for this accrual in vain.

Instead, tens of thousands of scientific papers published in reputable journals delineate changes in climate and the environment, and ecological responses, that are entirely consistent with the null hypothesis of natural causation. In contrast, not a single paper exists that demonstrates an evidential cause-effect link between change in an environmental variable (be that more or less storms, floods, droughts, cyclones, honeyeaters or even polar bears) and warming caused by human-related carbon dioxide emissions.

Given the astonishing amounts of money that are now poured into climate change research, it is no surprise that 2011 saw the publication of several thousand more scientific papers that contain data relevant to this problem. But it may perhaps be to some readers’ surprise that these papers simply added yet more evidence in favour of the validity of the null hypothesis.

2011 in review: the two universes of climate change

The 33 selected discoveries and events discussed in the main review represent but a small part of the recent evidence that challenges the belief that dangerous global warming is being caused by human-related carbon dioxide emissions. Contradictions of nearly every shibboleth of the AGW faith are present on the list, and every argument that has been advanced in favour of the speculative dangerous warming hypothesis is now feeling the breeze of contradictory fact. Many additional articles that contradict the prevailing wisdom can be found in the more comprehensive reviews of the Non-governmental International Committee on Climate Change (NIPCC).

The 2011 climate year, then, as judged from both media coverage and new scientific literature, has confirmed the existence of two entirely parallel universes of climate thought.

In the first universe, independent scientific and public opinion are moving inexorably towards the rejection of climate alarmism and the costly measures that are perpetrated in its cause. An important manifestation of this opinion was the recent publication of a reasoned statement of disagreement with warming alarmism in the Wall Street Journal, signed by 16 independent scientists. Their conclusion is that global warming is not a serious problem, and that even if it were the solutions being offered wouldn’t fix it anyway.

In contrast, the IPCC and its supporters, who include the Australian government as one of the most faithful acolytes, continue to project unrelenting alarmism. Towards which end they encourage the implementation of expensive, unnecessary and ineffectual measures that they claim will mitigate dangerous warming, such as carbon dioxide taxation and the massive subsidisation of feel good eco-bling like solar farms and windfarms.

Yet the IPCC is a discredited organisation that remains under heavy attack, and its forthcoming 5th Assessment Report is facing a barrage of fundamental criticism even before its publication. For the distinguished Dutch chemical engineer and philosopher of science, Professor Arthur Rörsch, has issued a critique of the draft version of this report, entitled “Post-modern science and the scientific legitimacy of the IPCC’s WGI AR5 draft report”. Noting that the IPCC is a political organization that applies post-modern “logic” to the science that it summarizes, Rörsch calls for thorough independent investigations to be instituted into climate change policy in Europe, thereby mirroring conclusions drawn, and similar calls made, by independent scientists in Australia, Canada and other countries over the last five years.

The political costs of irrational climate policy

The huge social, environmental, economic and (so far limited, but increasing) political costs of pursuing irrational climate policies have to date simply been swatted aside, both in Australia and overseas.

But now that major discrepancies have emerged between genuine scientific knowledge and IPCC advice, sensible policy reappraisals are occurring in many countries. In these circumstances, the compulsive Australian self-harm of continuing to demonize carbon dioxide emissions has become politically enigmatic – not to mention the ultimate ironic twist that the emissions are actually environmentally beneficial, and additionally so at a time of likely global cooling.

When the accumulating new research knowledge, and the reassurance that it provides, are compared with the statements and actions of the Australian government during 2011, an enormous disconnect becomes apparent. And when measure is taken also of the present state of Australian public opinion, and of the rapidly shifting, worldwide political movement away from climate alarmism, and away from punitive measures against carbon dioxide, that disconnect morphs into full blown cognitive dissonance.

In which state of mind, the Labor-Independent-Green government in Australia last year passed what must be the worst legislative package ever approved by a federal parliament. “Worst” because it marks a direct attack on the cheap power prices that formerly underpinned the Australian economy, thereby being a direct attack also on the living standards of all citizens – and especially the less well-off.

Those with the most to lose include not only individual citizens, but also the very lobby groups that have so assiduously fomented the dangerous warming scare.

Including, in particular, environmentalists (because anti-carbon dioxide measures, and the destruction of wealth and landscape desecration that go with them, harm the environment), scientists (because piping a called tune is the very antithesis of science), business interests (because shareholder value is never going to be enhanced by encouraging large and irrational increases in the cost of power) and politicians (because their atavistic need to be elected will not be facilitated by sharply attacking the living standards of their constituency).

The way forward will be determined by an election

The Australian government and its climate-alarmist supporters are now trapped deep inside a blind alley with walls that are labelled “scientific consensus” and “public consensus”. These have always been political siren calls, but the first is a nonsense by definition, and, in that fickle fashion that public opinion often exhibits, the public consensus dramatically reversed its direction during 2009-2010, partly because of the Climategate affair and the attendant loss of IPCC’s virginity.

Former British PM Margaret Thatcher well understood that it is the nature of consensus policy-making to spawn legislative stupidities such as Australia’s carbon dioxide legislation. As she said so well:

"Consensus is the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot [otherwise] get agreement on the way ahead."

Well, people did object but a carbon dioxide tax has still become law, and as they pass from 2011 into 2012 Australian voters are probably less interested in pondering causes, consensual or otherwise, and more interested in action towards rectifying what they see as an economically damaging, expensive, regressive, ineffectual and unnecessary new tax.

They are therefore likely to be contemplating closely the carefully chosen words of Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott:

"We have a Prime Minister who is the great betrayer of the Australian people. She was absolutely crystal-clear before the last election – 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead'. We [the Coalition] can repeal the tax, we will repeal the tax, we must repeal the tax. I am giving you the most definite commitment any politician can give that this tax will go. This is a pledge in blood. This tax will go."

Barring unforeseen and extraordinary circumstances, and terminally bored though we all are with the debate already, the next Australian federal election will therefore be won or lost on the global warming/carbon dioxide tax issue.

By pulling out of the Kyoto protocol, and scheduling formal Senate hearings on global warming from independent scientists, as they did in December, Canada has blazed a new trail.

The question is whether Australia’s Coalition partners will now muster the courage to honour Mr Abbott’s pledge, and to administer the bureaucratic restructuring and legislative repeal that is needed to restore sanity to our national climate policy.


1 comment:

Paul said...

"Their manifest object is to give the appearance of a recruiting effort, when the positions are already earmarked for internal promotions."

This line sums it all up perfectly. Skills and ability are of no serious importance. This I know well. Everyone covets an admin job because there really isn't much work, and you get to come and go as you please.