Friday, March 30, 2012

Catholic Church marshalls anti-gay marriage army

SIX Catholic bishops in Victoria will circulate 80,000 letters this weekend asking their parishioners to show the federal government their opposition to same sex marriage.

There are currently three gay marriage private member's bills before Federal Parliament, aimed at changing the legal definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

The bishops want all Catholics to contact their MPs and respond to an online survey being conducted by the Federal Parliament Standing Committee of Social Policy and Legal Affairs.

The Bishop of Sale, Christopher Prowse, said it would be a grave mistake with implications for the future of society should the legal definition of marriage be changed.

"We have asked Catholics to seriously reflect and pray about the ramifications for current and future generations of legislation which completely redefines marriage," Bishop Prowse said.

One bishop said the push was about protecting traditional marriage, and while today's discussion was on same-sex laws, "next it might be polygamy", reported the Herald Sun.

Marriage equality supporters have described the church's campaign as "alarmist" and rejected claims gay marriage would undermine family life or damage society.

"Families and societies are only strengthened when couples are allowed to commit to each other through marriage," national convenor of Australian Marriage Equality Alex Greenwich said.

"So to hear Archbishop Hart discouraging any recognition of this commitment is extraordinary and heartless."

A private bill, amending the Marriage Act to include same-sex couples, has been introduced to federal parliament by Labor MP Stephen Jones.

Another bill is being jointly proposed by Australian Greens MP Adam Bandt and independent Andrew Wilkie.

Both bills have been referred to parliamentary committees for detailed examination.
A third bill, proposed by the Greens, will be considered in the Senate.

Former NSW premier Kristina Keneally, a devout Catholic, said people of her faith should look at a range of information sources to formulate their views.

"I've come to a position, with a fully-formed conscience, that I support gay marriage," she told ABC Television.

"I would encourage all Catholics to apply critical thinking to this issue."

Ms Keneally said the teachings of the church were not infallible although it was important people take heed of what their parish priest or bishop was saying.

"But it's equally important for them to consider how they in good conscience must act."


Paracetamol to blame for mother's liver failure IN HOSPITAL

This is inexcusable negligence. The public are often unaware of the dangers of paracetamol but that is no excuse in hospitals

A MOTHER died from liver failure after being accidentally poisoned with paracetamol in hospital.  A coroner said the death of Elsa Harrington, 45, was "rare" but highlighted the need to improve awareness about the widely used drug.

Ms Harrington had been well before a hysterectomy for fibroids in September 2002.

The Coroners Court heard over the next six weeks Ms Harrington had abdominal pain, vomiting and lost 10kg.  She was admitted to Frankston Hospital on October 31, 2002, for a small bowel obstruction and underwent surgery but her recovery was slow.

Doctors prescribed 1g of paracetamol four times a day, with hospital records showing she took only 1g three times a day for four days.

During that time Ms Harrington's health began to deteriorate, first with chest pain, vomiting and shortness of breath, then loss of alertness.  A series of tests failed to find the cause and by November 10, 2002, she was unconscious and transferred to intensive care.

An inquest heard a test then discovered her high paracetamol levels and efforts were made to treat her liver toxicity.

Ms Harrington was transferred to the Austin Hospital for an urgent liver transplant, but was too unstable to undergo the operation and died on November 13, 2002.

An autopsy found the paracetamol level in her body to be "exceedingly high".  Coroner Audrey Jamieson said medical staff could have done more to find the cause of Ms Harrington's declining health earlier.



Five current articles below

Federal  Resources Minister Martin Ferguson flays green `guerillas'

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson has hit out at tactics used by -"guerilla" environmental groups, warning a decline in productivity could mean Australia misses out on new resources projects.

    His comments came as major investors Rio Tinto, Shell and ConocoPhillips warned that coal and coal seam gas projects could be marginalised and investment pushed overseas as Australia became an expensive place to do business.

    Mr Ferguson told The Australian Financial Review's National Energy Conference in Brisbane yesterday that green groups were wrong to think there was a fossil fuel conspiracy "which starts in my office" and attacked them for trying to stifle investment. "We must also recognise there are some who seek to manipulate those concerns, and use guerilla tactics through regulatory processes to frustrate economic development and job creation," he said.

    Mr Ferguson's defence of the industry came as he weathered a storm from big investors who told the conference that red tape and high costs were a handbrake on the industry.

    "Five years ago, Australia was the cheapest place for Rio Tinto to do business, now it is the most expensive," said Bill Champion, Rio Tinto Coal Australia managing director.

    Mr Champion argued that a rise in costs and lower productivity had hit the global miner's coal business.

    Two of Australia's largest energy investors, Shell and ConocoPhillips, flagged similar worries for the country's $220 billion-strong liquefied natural gas industry.

    The president of Conoco's Australian operations, Todd Creeger, warned of the risks of local ventures losing out to rivals in lower cost locations overseas. Separately, Shell's Australian head, Ann Pickard, said there were challenges for Australia as a high-cost gas supply location.

    Mr Creeger said: "Australia needs to work on its cost structure. I don't think the supply-demand situation will have a material impact unless Australia blows out on costs. When you sort the projects around the globe, Australia tends to be on the high side."

    Tactics used by environmental groups have been an issue for industry figures. Earlier this month, a Greenpeace plan to raise $6 million to disrupt and delay new coalmines sparked widespread concern from resources executives.

    The draft proposal, titled "Stopping the coal export boom", aimed to make some projects unviable. It said 2012-13 would be critical years in stopping "tens of billions of dollars in investment being locked in".

    Mr Ferguson said yesterday that instead of focusing on balanced solutions and constructive outcomes, "many of these groups are fundamentally anti-growth and refuse to address the realities and complexities of our modern economy".


Victoria's carbon target scrapped

A PLAN to cut Victoria's greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent over the next decade is set to be dumped by the Baillieu government on the basis that it would merely lighten the load imposed on other states.

An independent review of the state's key climate change laws, to be released today, has found "no compelling case" to keep the target following the introduction of the Commonwealth's minimum target to cut emissions by 5 per cent, to be mainly achieved through Labor's carbon tax.

It said keeping the larger state target operating with a smaller national target would put a disproportionately large burden on Victoria, with no benefit to the environment because other states would do less.

It also concludes that keeping the state scheme in place would distort the national scheme as Victoria did more than its share.

The former Brumby government introduced legislation to cut emissions 20 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 after the failure of the Rudd government's carbon trading scheme to pass Parliament.

In opposition, the state Coalition said it supported the 20 per cent target. After taking power in 2010, senior ministers started describing it as "aspirational".

Premier Ted Baillieu has previously backed the concept of a carbon price as the cheapest way to cut emissions. Despite this, his government is opposed to the  carbon tax, claiming it will hit Victoria  harder than other states because of its reliance of brown coal.

State Environment Minister Ryan Smith said there was "bipartisan support" for the 5per cent national target. But the government's position on how it should be achieved in the absence of a carbon tax remains unclear, given its earlier support for so-called market-based mechanisms.

Mr Smith said Victoria would do its fair share  on cutting emissions. "We will look to support practical areas such as improving energy efficiency," he said.

The review referred to research concluding that even with a Commonwealth carbon tax, meeting the 20 per cent target would have required Victoria to spend an additional $2.2 billion buying permits internationally to offset state emissions.

The  government also points to the 2009 climate  green paper released by the Brumby government, which said: "The government does not see any benefit in legislating for a state-based emissions reduction target that is inconsistent with a national target." A later Brumby government climate white paper  does not contain a similar statement.

The government says it will retain other climate change initiatives,  including  a four-year climate change adaptation plan and supporting Victorians offsetting their emissions and participating in the national Carbon Farming Initiative.

Labor climate spokeswoman Lisa Neville said dumping the target would "hurt investment, jobs and the environment. It betrays the trust of Victorians who care about reducing the state's carbon footprint".

Environment Victoria chief  Kelly O'Shanassy said the  target had been about cutting pollution from the economy and attracting clean energy investment. "Either the Baillieu government doesn't understand the threat climate change presents, or they are ignoring it," she said.

"Either way it's an irresponsible decision environmentally and economically ... Premier Baillieu has caved in to the demands of a handful of polluters instead of acting to protect the environment and the public interest."

Australian Industry Group Victorian director Tim Piper welcomed the decision, saying it was important for business to have consistency across the country. "You simply can't have a different requirement in one part of the country, different emissions targets in different states, for industry working across state lines," he said.

A spokesman for federal Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said: "While a carbon price is the most cost-effective way for Australia to cut our pollution there is still a role for cost-effective state and local initiatives that complement the carbon price."

"We encourage the Victorian government to support carbon pricing as the most economically-efficient way of tackling climate change."

Former federal government climate adviser Ross Garnaut said: "I see no need for separate state emissions targets if there is an appropriate national target and policies to make sure we meet the national target."

The Baillieu government's move  has been mirrored by the incoming government in Queensland, which is planning to save $661 million over three years by dumping a range of state-based climate change initiatives.


Gillard Government 'way out of step' on carbon tax says Reserve Bank board member

THE Gillard Government is "way out of step" with what most Australians and Australian businesses think about the carbon tax, according to the head of a leading employer association and Reserve Bank board member, Heather Ridout.

Ms Ridout, who is also the chief executive of Ai Group, the outgoing chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, urged the government to take another look at the $23 a tonne tax which takes effect from July 1.

She said she was "concerned" about the impact the Australian price - which is at least double some international carbon prices - would have on the economy.

"I don't know how much more pressure can be brought to bear on the government and on the Greens on this issue because they are way out of step with what most Australians and Australian business think," Ms Ridout told ABC Radio this morning.

"And the Queensland election result, I'm not sure how much carbon played in it, but there's this feeling that people aren't listening."

The EU emissions trading price recently collapsed to about $10, while one forecaster recently predicted the international carbon price could tank to $5 by 2020.

Ms Ridout's plea to the government came as the federal opposition's climate action spokesman Greg Hunt demanded that Prime Minister Julia Gillard insist that electricity and gas companies include details of the carbon tax in their bills to Australian households.

The coalition has written to Ms Gillard asking her to ensure electricity and gas retailers insert a line item in bills to households and businesses post 1 July, which specifies the cost of the tax.

"The Prime Minister has claimed that the electricity prices will go up 10 per cent and gas charges 9 per cent under the carbon tax," Mr Hunt said.

"The Australian people deserve to know if that promise is kept. That can only be achieved by power and gas bills detailing how much the carbon tax has added to their overall charge. Anything less, will be a cover-up."

Mr Hunt said if Ms Gillard failed to act and provide the necessary transparency, the coalition would introduce a private members bill when parliament resumes in May.

"If the Prime Minister is confident that prices will not be higher than the Treasury figures, then she should have nothing to hide and insist that the details are on the bills and easy to read," Mr Hunt said.


Carbon tax worst economic reform, says outgoing Future Fund chief

Outgoing Future Fund chairman David Murray has given a searing exit interview, blasting the carbon tax as the worst economic reform he has ever seen.

"If you want me to tell you my view, it is the worst piece of economic reform that I've ever seen in my lifetime," Mr Murray told ABC radio this morning.

Mr Murray, who is due to finish at the Future Fund next month, said that the "notion" of the carbon tax was not the issue, it was the "consequences".

He said it would raise costs within Australia and reduce Australia's competitiveness in energy exports. "[It] therefore renders us less competitive in the future," he said.

Mr Murray said Australia should look to reducing its energy consumption rather than introduce the carbon tax.

"The sweet spot in dealing with the climate problem is to reduce reliance on energy," he said.

Mr Murray added to his previous criticism of the mining tax by saying that it was "clumsily" introduced and "clumsily" designed.

Mr Murray was first appointed to the Future Fund in 2005 and reappointed for one year from April 2011.  Before that, he spent 39 years at the Commonwealth Bank.

In the interview, Mr Murray also said it would not have been a bad idea to appoint former treasurer and Future Fund board member Peter Costello as his successor.

He said Mr Costello - who was the board's choice for chairmanship - would have been in a "unique" position to lead the Future Fund, given that he founded it and is a former treasurer.

"You could expect Peter above all to stringently support the independence of the fund," Mr Murray said.
But Mr Murray also said that new chairman, businessman David Gonski, would be a good appointment.

"There's no question of that," he said, noting his stature within the business community.

Mr Gonksi was originally given the task of reporting to the government on who should replace Mr Murray for a five-year term.

Mr Gonski found that Mr Costello had the "strong endorsement" of the board, before he himself was appointed as chairman earlier this month - provoking strong criticism from the former treasurer.

Mr Costello, who has since been appointed by Queensland Premier Campbell Newman to conduct an audit of the state's finances, said the selection process damaged the Fund's reputation and called it a "shemozzle".

The $73-billion Future Fund was established in 2006 by the Howard government to help pay for public sector superannuation.


Sea level hoax hits Northern NSW coastal properties

By Cliff Ollier, a geologist, geomorphologist, emeritus professor at the University of Western Australia

THE Weekend Australian reported on March 24 that Port Macquarie Hastings Council was recommending the enforcement of a "planned retreat" because of an alleged danger from sea-level rise in the (distant) future.

    The controversy has two main aspects: is the alarming rise in sea level projected by CSIRO reliable? And is moving people from near-shore sites the correct response?

    The CSIRO projection is extreme, but before explaining why, I would note that the world's main source of alarmism is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This is not really a scientific body but one that adjusts data and subjects it to mathematical modelling before passing its "projections" on to politicians.

    The CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology, then further adjust data and produce models with even more extreme scenarios.

    In The Weekend Australian on November 7, 2009, the director of the National Tidal Centre of the BOM, Bill Mitchell, reported an Australian average sea-level rise of 1.7mm a year. This is a reasonable level accepted by most sea-level watchers outside the IPCC and CSIRO and gives a sea-level rise of about 15cm by 2100. He said the "upper end was 3mm a year", which gives a 27cm rise by 2100.

    At 8.30am on November 18, 2009, ABC Radio National had a program on sea-level changes. National Sea Change Taskforce executive director Alan Stokes said: "The IPCC estimate of rise to 2100 was up to 80cm." No new data was provided to explain the leap and, in fact, the worst estimate by IPCC in its last report was 59cm.

    Note that the IPCC estimates have been falling with each report. In its second assessment report the high-end projection of sea-level rise to 2100 was 92cm, in the third assessment report 88cm, and the fourth 59cm. It is good for the reader to look at sea-level measurements. You can see the sea-level data for the US and a few other countries here. Most stations show a rise of sea level of about 2mm a year, but note the considerable variations even within a single state, though these are no cause for alarm.

    The CSIRO uses figures far in excess of even the IPCC, which until now were the greatest alarmists. In its 2012 report, State of the Climate, the CSIRO says that since 1993 sea levels have risen up to 10mm a year in the north and west. That means that somewhere has had a 19cm-rise in sea level since 1993. Where is this place? The European satellite says that sea levels have been constant for the past eight years.

    How does the CSIRO arrive at its figures? Not from new data but by modelling. Models depend on what is put into them. For example a 2009 report, The Effect of Climate Change on Extreme Sea Levels in Port Phillip Bay, by the CSIRO for the Victorian government's Future Coasts Program, based its model on temperature projections to 2100 of up to 6.4C. That compares with the most extreme, fuel-intensive scenario of the IPCC and implies unbelievable CO2 concentration levels in 2100 of about 1550 parts per million.


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