Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A triumph of faith and connectedness: Fundamentalist pastor saves little girl

In a society as atomized and as anonymous as ours, church connections can be very important

A TODDLER who survived up to five days alone in her home after her mother died was within hours of dying herself, paramedics said yesterday.

Lucy Keevers, 2, has spent three days under the intensive care of doctors after she was found severely dehydrated at the house in Wagga Wagga, in the state's southwest, on Friday.

Her 36-year-old mother Liz, a severe epileptic, is believed to have had a seizure and died in the lounge room up to five days before Lucy was found.

Ambulance Service Inspector Eamonn Purcell said Lucy was close to death when she was rescued from the death house by a local preacher.

He said the two-year-old - with blonde hair like her mother, and wearing a pink outfit - did not make a sound as she sat in the back of the ambulance.

Insp Purcell said her eyes were open wide and she was weak, with a rapid pulse and low blood pressure.  "Even when they stuck a needle in her, she didn't blink. I think she was within hours of death herself," he said.

The mother and daughter moved to the suburb of Ashmont about 18 months ago, renting a house on Tarakan Ave and attending the local church with a neighbour.

Insp Purcell said paramedics were often confronted by distressing situations and had been touched by the brave little girl.

Relatives arrived in Wagga Wagga yesterday to begin the task of clearing out the death house.

Neighbour Kim Beaumont described Lucy as a happy, quiet girl who was very much loved by her mother.

Ms Beaumont said she last saw Liz as she hung out the washing on Tuesday, April 10.

"It was just awful," she said.  "The washing was still on the line and I kept telling myself I must go over and see whether Liz was OK?  "You just feel so guilty, I know you shouldn't blame yourself but you do."

Ms Beaumont said Liz was an active, full-time mum. "She was on medication and being seen by doctors but no one expected this. There were never any problems at the house," Ms Beaumont said.

Church of Christ Pastor Ross Brinkman said the mother was a much-loved member of the church and the girl regularly attended playgroup there.  He found the young mother and daughter after becoming concerned and breaking into the house by the front window.

"I received a phone call from one of our parishioners alerting me that she had not turned up to events," Pastor Brinkman said.  "I went around to investigate and that's when we made the discovery."

Pastor Brinkman said the woman's daughter would be well cared for within the Wagga community.  "The concern we have is for the welfare of the daughter. We will continue to love and care for her," he said.

A report will be prepared for the coroner.


NSW Premier wants more money for his schools

Last time I looked, education took up about a  third of the State budget so you can see why.

THE Premier, Barry O'Farrell, has voiced strong support for the Gonski review of schools funding, warning against the "perils" of ignoring its recommendations.

Speaking about the Council of Australian Governments agenda, Mr O'Farrell said it would be disappointing if the opportunity that Gonski represented was not accepted.

"He's put in place what I think is a reasonable formula for the way in which education could be funded into the future," Mr O'Farrell said. "I think it's a formula that both benefits public education and non-government education and it's a formula that we would dismiss at our own peril."

The Association of Independent Schools has raised concerns about the proposed new schools funding formula, with preliminary estimates suggesting some schools could lose as much as $3.9 million in annual funding.

The association's executive director, Geoff Newcombe, said this would force fees to increase and some schools to close.

Stephen Grieve, the president of the NSW Parents' Council, the peak body for parents of students at non-government schools, said uncertainty about the future of school funding was "generating real angst among parents".

Sixty-seven per cent of independent schools were in areas of low socio-economic status and "there's a real doubt … as to whether or not parents would be able to afford higher fees", Mr Grieve said.

While supporting reform, he called on the government to provide certainty for parents and "a clear model as to what's happening in the future".

Schools tipped to lose money include those that have had their funding "maintained" at historic levels above their strict entitlements.

The NSW Greens MP John Kaye said the school funding debate was at risk of being hijacked by the private education lobby's "scaremongering over fee rises".

Dr Kaye said the lobby was successful in obtaining an additional $2.7 billion to insulate half of non-government schools from the Howard government's funding formula.

"In 2000, the political power of the non-government sector extracted massive concessions, including huge increase in funding and a 'no-losers' provision," Dr Kaye said. "Twelve years later, the same tactics are being wheeled out again to gouge yet more money from state and federal governments.

"Despite the increases in public funding, fees for the most exclusive private schools have increased dramatically since 2001 … by almost three times the rate of inflation."

The federal opposition spokesman for education, Christopher Pyne, said the Schools Minister, Peter Garrett, should heed the calls of the non-government schools sector and guarantee school funding in real terms beyond 2013.

"Schools simply cannot plan for the future based on Mr Garrett's deliberately tricky refrain of 'no school will lose a dollar of funding'," Mr Pyne said.

The federal secretary of the Independent Education Union of Australia, Chris Watt, supported the Gonski model as "a good scaffold" for reform but said: "We have to look at the detail and what it means for individual schools, to make sure there won't be some negative consequences."

Angelo Gavrielatos, federal president of the Australian Education Union said ‘‘claims of potentially isolated cases of individual schools possibly being in receipt of less funding need to be seen in the context of a dramatic investment for the neediest students’’.

John Collier, chair of the NSW branch of the Association Heads of Independent Schools of Australia, said it was vital that all schools preserve their current entitlements, without losing a dollar of funding in real terms, and that the "acrimonious situation of taking money away from some sectors to give others" was avoided.


Qld. paramedics slam emergency calls meltdown

EMERGENCY Service workers are having to dial triple-0 themselves to talk to police on Friday and Saturday nights in Brisbane because they cannot reach busy officers on other numbers.

The Courier-Mail yesterday revealed a huge volume of calls were flooding police communications centres - most of them relating to non-emergencies.

Last month a new record was set for triple-0 calls despite the establishment of the Policelink call centre designed to handle non-urgent crime reports.

A police communication centre worker said awareness of the Policelink number was not widespread and people continued to call triple-0 because they wanted a timely response.

A Queensland Ambulance Service worker, who did not want to be named, said in their case they were often unable to get through to police on direct phone lines so they had no choice but to join the "triple-0 queue, like everyone else".

"It's worse on the Gold Coast. They don't even bother trying the police numbers there because it's so busy," they said.  "They just dial triple-0 every time they need to contact police."

The misuse of triple-0 calls is not exclusive to police, with fire and ambulance also grappling with growing numbers of calls. During the past nine months the ambulance service received an average of 47,896 triple-0 calls a month  up from 44,412 a month in 2010-11.

The fire service also experienced an upsurge in demand but although as few as 5 per cent of calls were genuine emergencies little has been done to tackle the problem.


Left-wing critique of US alliance is a little hit and myth

More media distortions and reinventions of history

The Australian-American Alliance is a constant feature of national politics since at least the Pacific War and certainly since the formalisation of the ANZUS Treaty in 1951. Even so, it remains central to the contemporary political debate.

On the ABC TV Four Corners program last night, Major-General John Cantwell reflected on the challenges he faced when commanding forces in Afghanistan. The retired general wondered how he could tell individual soldiers and their families that serving alongside NATO forces in Afghanistan was worth it in view of the potential sacrifice involved. However, he acknowledged that "at the highest level of strategy" the Australian-American alliance, and the mutual obligations that go with it, are of importance to Australia.

In yesterday's Australian, Sydney University historian James Curran described the tension that developed between the then-new Whitlam Labor government and the Nixon administration in 1973 and early 1974. This led the Americans to query the value of the alliance and to consider the re-location of US intelligence-gathering installations located in Australia.

These were the darkest years of the alliance and reflected the fact that many, but by no means all, senior Labor Party figures either queried the value of, or were opposed to, the alliance. Nowadays no one in the Labor caucus would fit this description, and opposition to the alliance finds expression within sections of the Greens and among some leftist groups.

As a general rule, Australians do not have to check the calendar to learn that it's getting close to Anzac Day. ABC TV and/or radio invariably obliges with a documentary overwhelmingly critical of Australia's involvement in one or more military commitments. This fits with the familiar left-wing line that Australia has fought other people's wars.

Certainly this was the case with the Vietnam War documentary All the Way, which aired on ABC1 last Thursday. Presenter and co-writer Paul Ham concluded the documentary in the language of the other-people's-wars brigade. According to Ham: "In the end we lost what we hoped for. America retreated across the Pacific and Australia faced an uncertain future in Asia. The Vietnam War dragged us screaming and kicking to an obvious reality that we are part of Asia and that we can only rely on ourselves for our security. And yet we fight on in new wars with old allies - still in the dark, still trusting our friends." The reference was to Afghanistan.

All the Way was based on Paul Ham's Vietnam: The Australian War, published in 2007. Like the documentary, Ham's book contains valuable information along with some valid criticisms about how the US military fought the war and how the Australian Coalition government at the time failed to adequately explain the conflict.

However there is a significant difference in content and tone between the book and the film, perhaps explained by the fact that ABC staffer and documentary maker Anne Delaney directed and co-wrote All the Way.

All the Way runs familiar criticisms of Liberal Party founder Robert Menzies. According to the documentary, Menzies "claimed the double red/yellow peril was on our doorstep". Yet Menzies never referred to the "yellow peril".

In fact, Australia's military commitments during the time of the Menzies government supported some Asian governments against some Asian communist or extreme nationalist regimes or movements - namely in the Korean War, the Malayan Emergency, Indonesia's Confrontation of Malaysia and Vietnam.

All the Way also claimed that the Americans forced "conscription on Canberra" because the US wanted more American troops in Vietnam. This is mythology. Conscription for overseas services was introduced in November 1964, well before Australia decided to send combat forces to South Vietnam. Also, as Peter Edwards makes clear in the 1992 official history Crises and Commitments, the prime reason for conscription was to help Britain defend Malaysia against an attack from Indonesia, and to help defend Papua New Guinea.

Moreover, as Craig Stockings points out in his edited collection Anzac's Dirty Dozen (2012), the commitment was entered into "not out of any misguided loyalty or foreign coercion, but as a consequence of cold self-interest".

In 1965, Australia was genuinely worried about the military designs of the nationalist Sukarno regime in Indonesia. Menzies and others believed that if Australia supported the US in Vietnam, then the US was more likely to support Australia against Indonesian militarism in the region.

Successive Australian leaders - with the exception of Whitlam in the early 1970s - have embraced the US alliance because they believed it in Australia's national interest. This was the case in Vietnam. It remains the case concerning Afghanistan.

There were many Vietnamese who supported the US and Australia at the time. Just as there are many Afghans who support NATO's involvement today.

But you would never know this from viewing the Ham/Delaney documentary All the Way, or many like it.


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