Thursday, April 26, 2012

Australian public television presents both sides of climate debate

IT'S the taxpayer-funded TV journey which set out to change opinions on the climate change debate - and ends with little ground being made by either protagonist.

After four weeks of filming around the world and 60 hours of interviews (at a cost of 60 tonnes of carbon), I Can Change Your Mind About Climate has barely shifted the opposed views of its stars, former Howard government finance minister Nick Minchin and climate activist/author Anna Rose.

The premise was simple: Pitch up a list of people who hold your views on climate science, then go about convincing each other to change.

Funded jointly by Screen NSW (under the O'Farrell government) and Screen Australia's national documentary program scheme, it was produced by filmmaker Simon Nasht and entrepreneur Dick Smith.

It airs on ABC1 tonight.

Mr Minchin, who led opposition to a carbon trading scheme, claimed he was "a little shocked the ABC had signed off on this proposal as it involves airing the views of those sceptical of anthropological global warming ... and it doesn't do a lot of that".

The program flew the pair across Australia, then to Hawaii, Boston, New York, San Francisco, Washington and London filming meetings with leading professors and anti-global warming bloggers.

Mr Nasht said producers purchased renewable energy offsets for Ms Rose and four production crew.

Mr Minchin argued the federal government was "making a mistake spending billions on the assumption we're the ones causing climate change and I don't think that's right".

He believes the show's value was "in Anna beginning to understand what I call the scare-mongering is actually counter-productive".

Ms Rose said yesterday: "Nick did not present any evidence or coherent explanation for why the world has warmed so significantly that could be attributed to anything other than fossil fuels, cars, coal-fired power stations."

She took up the challenge to educate "people watching at home who might still have some questions about climate science and be able to answer them in a clear way".

While she is steadfast in her position that the climate crisis is a real and urgent one, the duo did share in their disappointment at having several of their suggested interview subjects cut from the final edit.


"Fiddled" hospital waiting list statistics in the Australian Capital Territory

A senior administrative staff member of ACT Health has been stood down after discrepancies were discovered in relation to statistics about the waiting times in the emergency department data.

The director-general of health Dr Peggy Brown said the matter is being treated as "serious", and a formal investigation has been launched.

Dr Brown said the inaccurate reporting on statistics had been happening for more than 12 months, and could have started as far back as late 2010.

"It appears waiting and treatment times have been altered on some records without authority,  and I am very sorry this has occurred."

The hospital’s data is checked externally and internally, and it was an external check that brought anomalies to light.  The data showed improved waiting times, but this would not have impacted on planning to cover peaks and troughs.

Dr Brown says the overall impact on data is small, but the full extent is not yet known. In national emergency access targets recorded under the new National Health Reform, the directorate believes the overall change is 2 per cent.

The errors were discovered about two weeks ago and the senior staffer was stood down on Monday pending a review.

A previous Auditor General’s report found poor documentation at the Canberra Hospital, but Dr Brown says this is the first time she is aware of data manipulation. A paramedic has told The Canberra Times data does not reflect the full extent of delays finding beds for patients delivered to the hospital by ambulance.

Dr Brown says there have been two previous cases where data has been corrected.

She would not speculate on what motivated the senior staff member to change statistics.  "I will note however, that there was no personal or financial gain for the individual. I think they have made a very serious error of judgment seeking to slightly enhance the performance data of the emergency department.  "It has been a very misguided decision."

Dr Brown says a forensic audit has started and there will be a second, overall review of data processes, both of which should take several weeks to complete.

Data, including the latest quarterly figures, will have to be corrected . Staff will have to go back and correct all records.


Very slippery indeed

FRESH claims disputing embattled Speaker Peter Slipper's travel records have emerged after a Melbourne chauffeur rejected records that claim he drove the MP 19 times.

Jamal Patto, who owns Babylon Investment Group, has threatened to take Mr Slipper to court after his company was linked to $1922 in Cabcharge payments between January 2010 and July 2011.

Two of the listed dates were for hire car travel in Sydney on January 18, 2010 - despite Mr Slipper allegedly being at his home in Queensland, raising further questions over the MP's use of entitlements.

Another Melbourne driver also claimed Mr Slipper kept him waiting for about 30 minutes at wine outlet Get Wines Direct, owned by a friend of Mr Slipper. The driver, whose initials are NR, kept a detailed file of text messages sent by Mr Slipper.

Last night, Mr Slipper said: "All my Cabcharge usage is in order and within entitlement."

Mr Patto, Babylon's only director and sole driver, is disputing records showing his company was a regular provider of travel to Mr Slipper.  He claims to have only driven Mr Slipper twice - earlier this year when Kevin Rudd and Prime Minister Julia Gillard faced off in the leadership showdown.

"I was at the (Melbourne) airport and there was a big taxi line and he asked me if I could take him to parliament house," Mr Patto said. "He later called me and asked if I could take him back to the airport. I only met this guy once. All those other dates that appear, I have no idea how."

The Department of Finance said it would "consider" the new allegations.  "The Department of Finance has no relationship with Babylon Investment Group and is therefore unable to comment on whether the company received any payments," a spokeswoman said.


Young Aborigines are the principal authors of their own misfortunes

What is the likely fact missing from the following droll entry in the NSW Police media log for Wednesday, September 28, last year?

"Police have arrested two boys aged 15 and 11 following the pursuit of a stolen car in Sydney's inner west this morning. About 3.30am police spotted a stolen white Honda Civic travelling along Parramatta Road at Stanmore.

"The car failed to stop after being directed and a pursuit was initiated … The pursuit was terminated after … the car crashed into a gutter at an intersection [in Petersham].

"When police approached the car, the 15-year-old driver was allegedly armed with a pair of scissors … The driver, from Glebe, was subjected to a breath alcohol analysis and returned a reading of 0.042."

The same likely fact is missing from a incident two weeks later on October 11, reported on "A 14-year-old girl allegedly failed to stop for a random breath test and led officers on a high-speed car chase before crashing and rolling a car in western Sydney this morning, police say."

The car chase took place about 3am in the western suburb of Whalan.

There have been other similar incidents leading up to the depressingly predictable crash and shooting in Kings Cross early on Saturday, when a stolen car, driven by a 14-year-old, ran down two pedestrians.

What sort of kids are on the streets after 3am, in stolen cars, drinking alcohol, driving recklessly and resisting police?

You know the answer. The statistical probability points to a subculture that is overwhelmingly over-represented in arrests, convictions, incarceration, child abuse, child neglect, domestic violence, alcohol abuse and substance abuse. This subculture functions in a culture of moral apartheid, which perpetuates the vicious cycle.

It was inevitable that a feral teenager in a stolen car was going to run over someone. Cars are more lethal than guns. They kill or seriously injure thousands of people a year, while guns are used in only several dozen murders or attempted murders a year.

In Kings Cross on Saturday morning, Sarah Roberts and Tanya Donaldson were on the footpath when they were bowled over. Roberts, 29, was rushed to hospital. The joyriders going to Kings Cross in a stolen car were begging for trouble and it duly came when a police foot patrol, attempting to stop a vehicle that had already hit two women, fired into the front window to immobilise the car.

In so doing the police wounded the 14-year-old driver and the 17-year-old front seat passenger. The police were aiming at the windshield, not the occupants. When a car is being driven with such callous indifference to safety that two pedestrians are knocked over, police must assume the car's occupants are also dangerous and attempt to subdue them quickly. These incidents take place in instants, not minutes.

It turns out that the driver of the car has been known to police since he was eight. Eight! Five occupants of the car, including two 14-year-olds, were later charged with various offences.

Yet since the incident the two who were shot have been presented as victims, with stories about anger in Redfern. At a rally outside NSW Parliament on Wednesday organisers accused police of "attempted murder".

Predictably, Anthony Mundine, he of the quick fists and quick mouth, entered the fray via Twitter: "Heartbreaking day for me visiting 14 y.o kid shot by police at Kings Cross. I'm at loss to understand how cops could shoot unarmed kids!!!"

He later added: "Barry O'Farrell needs to take a serious look at his police force. All I keep hearing about [is] trigger happy cops killing people. Wrong fo[r] real!!!"

It is not "trigger happy cops" the community is worried about. The bulk of the anger coming out of the Kings Cross drama is from a much wider community sick of violent, self-destructive behaviour by young Aborigines. The community is sick, too, of the constant use of the term "disadvantage" to rationalise the irrational and excuse the inexcusable.

Mundine continued to dig a hole for himself on Twitter yesterday - "police intentionally shot to kill!" - followed by this: "Yes the kids should be trailed [sic] for what they did! But the police should be trailed [sic] for attempted murder!"

Sarah Roberts and Tanya Donaldson were minding their own business when they were mowed down by a dangerous fool. As to their welfare, Mundine had nothing to say, other than this: "DID THEY DIE???"


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