Tuesday, March 20, 2012


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG deplores recent disgusting remarks by Germaine Greer. Another comment with video here. The episode is a rather good example of the old truth that it takes a woman to tear another woman down.

Conservative Premier attacks Green holy of holies -- wants to dig up more coal

Brown coal is a cheap source of energy. So Greenies hate it. It is currently the biggest source of electricity generation in Germany. So there is nothing impractical about it. It has been supplying cheap electricity to Victoria for generations (forgive the pun). See the full horror of it above. Dredges just scoop the stuff up

FEDERAL Greens MP Adam Bandt has labelled Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu an "environmental vandal" for looking to expand brown coal mining in the Latrobe Valley.

Mr Bandt said he was "stunned" to hear the state would potentially expand brown coal mining for both domestic use and export and vowed the Greens would try and block the move federally. "The Premier, Ted Baillieu, is an environmental vandal and must be stopped," the Melbourne MP told reporters in Canberra. "I will be seeking advice as to what can be done federally to stop this environmental madness."

The Baillieu Government is planning to unlock vast resources of brown coal in the Latrobe Valley in a controversial plan to fire overseas power stations and bring the resources boom to Victoria.

Energy Minister Michael O'Brien yesterday confirmed the Coalition was seeking expressions of interest for new allocations of coal that were hoped to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties, as well as billions of dollars of investment in mines, processing and infrastructure.

But Mr Bandt said scientists had made it clear that economies needed to "decarbonise" by mid-century and governments should be supporting clean energy manufacturing industries. "Meanwhile, Ted Baillieu has got his foot on the accelerator in the other direction," he said. "Increasing use of brown coal in Victoria will ultimately be to the state's economic detriment."

But Mr O'Brien said the Baillieu Government was determined to make the most of one of the world's biggest deposits of brown coal. "The Government believes that brown coal can and should play a key role in our energy future," Mr O'Brien said.

"Encouraging new investors and the right technologies could deliver a new generation of industry in the Latrobe Valley, boosting the local economy and creating new jobs."

Victoria is sitting on an estimated 430 billion tonnes of brown coal, of which 33 billion tonnes could be unlocked from the Latrobe Valley.

But there are doubts about whether the technology needed to dry brown coal - which has a high water content - is advanced enough.

About 65 million tonnes of brown coal is mined in the Latrobe Valley for domestic use each year, but none is exported.

The Government yesterday said it would not speculate on how much additional coal it would allow to be mined until the outcome of the allocation tender process was completed.

But the Coalition claims interests from China, India and Japan are already lining up to buy the coal for low-emission activities including conversion to diesel oil and drying it for export. The new arrangements are not expected to affect allocations already in place, including coal for the Hazelwood power station.

Victorian Greens MP Greg Barber said exporting Victorian coal would lead to onshore and offshore environmental damage as well as driving up the price for domestic power stations.

He also raised doubts about how interested overseas markets were in brown coal, which would be difficult to transport and provides less energy than black coal.

"Whether the pollution is in another country or Australia, it is doing great damage to the environment and it is quite likely to push up our own power prices in the process," he said. "If they are exporting it dry there will be huge emissions in Victoria - just associated with getting it ready for export."

Environment Victoria spokesman Mark Wakeham said the Government had "failed to grasp the problem of climate change". "It seems that the Government refuses to accept that coal causes climate change because if they accepted that they wouldn’t be taking this course of action," he said.

"They're clearly not interested in a clean energy future and it looks like they're doing the mining companies' dirty work for them by running a PR campaign for the coal industry."

Mr Wakeham said mining companies could be behind the push for exporting coal. "The 13 billion tones that are yet to be allocated in the Latrobe Valley would be equivalent of 100 years of Victoria’s current greenhouse pollution," he said.

- Brown coal is soft brown fossil fuel used in steam-electric power generation;

- It has a low energy content and is high in moisture, which makes it difficult to transport over long distances;

- Its low levels of ash, sulphur, heavy metals and nitrogen, mean it's lower in impurities than other fossil fuels; [GREEN!]

- It is highly volatile, making it easier to convert into gas and liquid petroleum;

- Victoria has one of the world's largest deposits of brown coal;

- Each year 65 million tonnes are mined from the Latrobe Valley for domestic use;

- More than 80 per cent of Victoria's 430 billion tonne brown coal deposit is located in the Gippsland Basin;

- None of Victoria's coal is currently exported, but groups in China, India and Japan have expressed interest.


Hobart hospital treating IC patient in general wards

Tasmania has been impoverished by the Greens -- with their massive destruction of jobs in resource utilizing industries

INTENSIVE care patients at the Royal Hobart Hospital are being nursed in general wards because of a lack of beds in the highly specialised unit, doctors say.

RHH medical staff association chairman Frank Nicklason said the unit was under stress because of reduced hospital beds, resulting in a near-capacity hospital.

Dr Nicklason said shrinking hospital bed numbers had created an "exit block" in the intensive care unit. "The ability to move people out of the ICU is seriously compromised because the occupancy elsewhere in the hospital is so high."

Dr Nicklason said some patients in non-ICU wards who required specialist care could not get into the unit because there were no beds.

Those patients needed specialist support until a bed became available, he said.

Dr Nicklason spoke out after two of his colleagues, senior ICU doctors, gave evidence to a closed-door parliamentary inquiry last week.

It follows fears from nurses last week of stressed staff being forced to work dangerous levels of overtime because of massive cutbacks to the hospital's budget.

Australian Nursing Federation state president Neroli Ellis said cuts to bed numbers meant the hospital had operated at more than 100 per cent capacity "quite frequently" during the past two months.

"This means there's been more patients than beds ... this is clearly unsafe," she said.

On Thursday, the Liberals revealed figures showing the hospital was operating at 96 per cent capacity before recent budget cuts.

Dr Nicklason said in some cases intensive-care staff were going on to wards to care for patients who were seriously ill with deteriorating respiratory function or experiencing complications after major surgery.

Those patients would ideally be nursed in the intensive care unit, not on other wards which were less well staffed, Dr Nicklason said.

He said the hospital's Medical Emergency Team was another casualty of the cutbacks. The team is called to patients who become suddenly, acutely ill and is made up of highly specialised medical staff.

RHH chief executive Jane Holden said the Department of Health and Human Services would not comment on matters held in-camera before the present parliamentary inquiry.


Nothing is fair about unfair dismissal laws

HANDS up, all those in favour of unfair dismissal. I can't see any hands. Are you sure? So here are some stories.

A worker in a factory located in a regional town refuses to wear safety glasses, which is a requirement of work health and safety laws. He is reminded several times, but he still refuses. He is given a warning. The employer dismisses the worker lest the firm be found guilty of violating the safety laws.

The tribunal finds that the worker has been unfairly dismissed, in part because it will be hard for him to find alternative work and he has a family to support. He is awarded monetary compensation.

Another worker - this time a teacher of English as a second language - decides to use the F-word as the basis of his lessons. His employer discovers this and dismisses the workers on the basis of gross misconduct.

The tribunal finds that the worker, who has since left the country (he was a temporary migrant), was unfairly dismissed. There was no specific instruction given to the teacher to refrain from using swear words as an aid to teaching, so the argument went. The worker receives monetary compensation (more than $20,000).

Yet another worker is found to have daubed the factory wall with swastikas, which some of the other workers understandably find offensive. But there is a culture of joshing within the workplace, according to the tribunal, and the worker is found to have been unfairly dismissed. He also is awarded monetary compensation.

So are we all still against unfair dismissal? Let's face of it: none of these actual cases passes the common sense test. Note that we are not talking about unlawful dismissal, the sacking of a worker for specified reasons that are deemed to be unlawful. We are dealing with the much more subjective adjective unfair. What may seem unfair to one party to an employment contract may seem fair - indeed, necessary - to the other.

There is no doubt that the Fair Work Act has opened the floodgates to more claims for unfair dismissal. This was always going to be the case as the exemption in the Work Choices legislation (all employers with fewer than 100 employees) was removed. The numbers are now running at about 17,000 a year, up from 6000 a year under Work Choices.

In research undertaken by academics Paul Oslington of the Australian Catholic University and Ben Freyens from the University of Canberra, they note that Fair Work Australia has failed to release important data in relation to conciliated outcomes, which are the vast majority of cases. (This is yet another blot against this organisation. Note also its clearly deficient website, which is designed mainly to confuse and obscure.)

For the 3 per cent of claims in 2010-11 settled by arbitration, 51 per cent were in favour of the plaintiff compared with 33 per cent under Work Choices. And "walk away" money is back in town, with the most common range of payment being from $2000 to $4000, with 10 per cent from $6000 to $8000.

Perhaps an even more worrying development for the business community than unfair dismissal claims is the take-up of actions under the general protection provisions of the act related to adverse action.

Adverse action is defined as any deleterious action affecting an employee or potential employee (including dismissal, but also other eventualities) that is taken by an employer for prohibited reasons. Inserted in the act at the last minute, these provisions provide much easier access for disgruntled employees to sue their employers.

One of the key sections is 346, which states "a person must not take adverse action against another person because the other person is or is not an officer or member of an industrial association (trade union)".

There is also prohibition against adverse action being taken against an employee because of the person's race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer's responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.

In the case of claims of adverse action, there is more time to lodge a claim, there are no earnings restrictions and compensation is not capped.

This is in contrast to the unfair dismissal provisions, where claims must be lodged within 14 days; earnings must be below $118,000 a year unless the worker is covered by an enterprise agreement or award; and compensation is limited to six months' pay.

Moreover, for adverse action claims, the onus of proof is reversed, so employers need to demonstrate that any adverse action affecting an employee has not occurred for a prohibited reason. It is hardly surprising that there has been rapid rise in the number of claims under this part of the act: from 1200 in 2009-10 to 1900 in 2010-11. The number is tracking to reach 2200 this financial year. (These are Oslington and Freyens's figures.)

One of the most significant adverse action cases is still being played out through the courts. It is due to be heard by the High Court at the end of this month, with the Victorian government having appealed the decision of the full Federal Court.

The background to this case is that a teacher, Mr Barclay, at a regional TAFE college, who was also president of his union sub-branch, sent an email to other union members alleging an instance of serious misconduct against a named senior person, without naming the complainants. His employer queried why the teacher had not raised the issue before sending the email, alleging that Mr Barclay was in fact guilty of serious misconduct. He was stood down on full pay.

The Full Bench of the Federal Court found in favour of the teacher because the employer action was seen to have taken adverse action against the teacher in his capacity as a representative of the union.

As Joe Catanzariti of Clayton Utz notes: "Subjective good intentions (on the part of employers) are not good enough. You've got to be very cautious if you are contemplating action against an employee in response to something the employee has done, or has arguably done, in the capacity of the union member or union official."

This sort of statement is just music to the ears of the trade union movement.

The decision of the High Court will be significant. In the meantime, employers are faced with the burden of this part of the act and Catanzariti's advice is that employers' "decision-making processes need to make sure that there are clear guidelines and to give reasons to employees for their decisions based on the work process and conditions. And, of course, document everything."

I wonder what the Deregulation Minister has to say about that - more paperwork, just what business needs.

The combined operation of the unfair dismissal and adverse action provisions sends a chill through the business community, crimping its willingness to take on new workers, particularly ones who could pose a risk. Strong employment protection laws and strong employment growth are infrequent bedfellows. It is time to reconsider these provisions and to debate the case for exempting small business.


Diets and exercise are unnecessary, new book claims

Big Fat Lies, by Australian writer David Gillespie, offers a devastating critique of the commercial diets followed by millions of Australians, including Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig.

He also offers a successful weight loss solution that doesn’t cost a cent.

After assessing decades of medical research, Gillespie concludes that many people end up putting on weight when following popular diet plans.

Or they end up losing just a couple of kilos despite years of deprivation, expense and calorie-counting, he finds.

Some techniques, such as shake meal replacements, do help people lose weight, but are very hard to stick to, he says.

However, Gillespie - a former lawyer turned home-grown food expert - does suggest a way forward for those who need to lose weight.

Gillespie also argues that exercise alone won’t help people lose weight, as working out makes us hungrier and burns through relatively few calories
He says people can lose weight and improve their health by cutting two things from their diet: sugar (particularly fructose) and polyunsaturated seed oils such as canola, sunflower, soy and rice bran.

“By doing nothing apart from avoiding two ingredients, you’ll lose weight, skip past a list of chronic diseases … and save yourself a bucket of money while you are at it,” he says. “It will cost you nothing."

In the book, just released by Penguin, Gillespie also argues that exercise alone won’t help people lose weight, as working out makes us hungrier and burns through relatively few calories.

Gillespie also launches a tirade against the multi-billion dollar vitamin industry, suggesting that expensive vitamin supplements are not necessary for people with a balanced, healthy diet – and may even be dangerous.

Yesterday a spokeswoman from the Dieticians Association of Australia said there was no “one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss”.

“DAA suggests seeking expert advice and support from an accredited practising dietitian,” she said.

Emma Stirling, a nutrition advisor from Weight Watchers, disputed Gillespie’s findings.

She said more than 100,000 Weight Watchers members “have lost weight with us, reached their goal and maintained a healthy weight”.

And a spokeswoman for the Celebrity Slim meal replacement plan said the program had “helped tens of thousands of people lose weight in a healthy, effective and sustainable way”.

“We wholeheartedly believe in meal replacement programs as an efficacious and sustainable way to lose weight,” she said.

Australians spent almost $800 million on diet programs, diet foods and weight-loss surgery in 2010-11.


1 comment:

Paul said...

"INTENSIVE care patients at the Royal Hobart Hospital are being nursed in general wards because of a lack of beds in the highly specialised unit, doctors say."

Gee. Yathink? Have they just worked at that this happens?? Everywhere and all the time?