Saturday, March 31, 2012

Public schools struggle to attract male teachers as non-government sector scores more men

Because there are fewer of them, they have more choice and many choose schools where they are free to teach, instead of having to spend half their time just trying to get the kids to sit down.  I was pleased to see the number of male teachers  in my son's private High School.  It was because of them that he became enthused about mathematics  -- and he now has a B.Sc. with a First in Mathematics

Australian High Schools are heavily sorted.  With 39% of the kids going to private schools,  all the problem kids are in the State sector.  So those who most need discipline and strong role models are least likely to get that.  If the State schools had reasonable disciplinary policies, the chaos would vanish and a career there for those who really want to teach would be more atttractive

AUSTRALIA'S public schools are in the grip of a man drought.  But it's raining men in the non-government sector, where the number of male teachers has grown 25 per cent since 2001.

At the same time, the number of male teachers has dropped 2 per cent at the nation's public schools, Australian Bureau of Statistics figures reveal.

Schools have struggled to attract male teachers to the female-dominated profession.

Teachers can earn more money in the non-government sector but there can also be more demands outside school hours, such as Saturday sport.

The New South Wales Department of Education and Communities said the national trend was reflected at the state's schools but they also had a very low resignation rate.

Last year there were 15,274 male teachers at public schools, representing about 27 per cent of teaching staff.

In 2001, male teachers made up about 31 per cent. There were 9734 male teachers in the non-government sector - about 30 per cent of the teaching workforce. In 2001, male teachers represented 23 per cent.

A department spokesman said strategies were in place to recruit more male teachers but quality was more important than gender.

One man happy to be working in the public system is 29-year-old Mark Platt, who teaches Year 6 students at Kellyville Ridge Public School.

The school has almost 800 students from the boom suburbs in Sydney's northwest and nine male teachers - a rarity in the public primary system.

Mr Platt said the pay rate was probably the reason men were attracted to the non-government sector but he enjoyed the challenges of a public school.

"I'm happy where I am and couldn't see myself at another school," he said.

The school's assistant principal, Luke Hogan, said he chose to teach at a public school because he believed in its values.

He said male teachers could provide a positive role model to boys who may not have a man in the family home.

"Every child deserves to have access to an education, whether their families can afford it or not," he said.

James Galea, 24, is the only male teacher in his nine-person faculty at Mitchell High School in Blacktown, which he said reflected the perception that teaching was not an attractive career path for men.

The English and drama teacher said his wife taught in the non-government sector and earned more money than him but the main difference between the two sectors was facilities.


Bureaucratic takeover of Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital raises ire of doctors

DOCTORS at Queensland's biggest hospital have passed a no-confidence motion in their executive director over changes to senior medical roles they say hark back to pre-Patel days.

The Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital doctors yesterday called on Queensland's yet-to-be-appointed new health minister to intervene in the dispute which they say is "potentially a disaster for patients".

At a recent emergency meeting, 120 doctors passed a "no-confidence" motion against executive director David Alcorn over his ongoing pursuit of changes to the job description of medical directors covering surgery, cancer care, women's and newborn services and critical care.

The contracts of senior doctors fulfilling the roles - Barry O'Loughlin, Roger Allison, Ian Jones and Marianne Vonau - expired last April and have not been renewed.

RBWH Medical Staff Association chairwoman Dana Wainwright said doctors were in "uproar" over changes to the job descriptions and were worried they would be rolled out to all Queensland hospitals.   "The job description is now focused on managerial skills, not patient engagement and patient outcomes," she said.

"We are very concerned that this change in focus of these vital jobs to bean-counting, rather than patient care, will take us back to the dark days of the pre-Patel era.  "The ideal model is good clinical leadership, supported by business and administration, not the other way around."

Dr Wainwright said this had been emphasised "over and over again" by Tony Morris, QC, who chaired the first aborted Bundaberg Hospital inquiry, and by the Forster inquiry into Queensland Health - both sparked by the Jayant Patel fiasco.  Patel was the Bundaberg Hospital surgeon jailed over the deaths of three patients.  Subsequent inquiries revealed a lack of oversight in the hiring process.

Dr Wainwright said she had met with Queensland Health's Metro North District CEO Keith McNeil, director-general Tony O'Connell and former health minister Geoff Wilson to discuss the doctors' concerns, but her pleas had "fallen on deaf ears".

She said the existing medical directors had unblemished records in delivering good patient care while reducing overheads and improving efficiencies.  "They are all practising doctors who have long-term service to patients at RBWH while delivering budget responsibility," she said.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said resolving the dispute would be an issue for the new minister.

Dr O'Connell said the positions were responsible for the delivery of hundreds of millions of dollars of clinical services.  "These positions should be filled with highly trained and experienced clinicians who also have the proven ability to appropriately manage their resources and staff," he said.


New Qld. Premier bans mining expansion on the Darling Downs

The Darling Downs is Brisbane's food bowl but is only a small part of the State.  There is a role reversal here, however.  Leftists normally hate mining but the outgoing Labor government was more supportive of mining that Newman is.  But Newman has conservative country voters to answer to

QUEENSLAND'S new Liberal National Party government vetoed two massive coal projects after Premier Campbell Newman yesterday declared some of the nation's most fertile farmland off-limits to mining.

The decision delighted Glen Beutel, the "last man standing" in the ghost town of Acland, where Mr Newman has vowed to block New Hope Corporation's plan to double coal production to 10 million tonnes.

The ousted Bligh government had granted "significant project" status to fast-track the stage three expansion of the open-cut mine.

But the new Premier yesterday said it was "inappropriate" to expand the mine in the state's southern food bowl, 150km west of Brisbane. Mr Newman also said he would oppose the creation of Australia's first coal-to-liquids project on fertile farmland at Felton, on the Darling Downs. French company Ambre Energy claims the $3 billion project could supply one-fifth of Queensland's unleaded petrol and LPG needs.

The LNP's insistence on blocking both mines came after Queensland's Land Court ruled on Tuesday in favour of Australia's biggest open-cut coalmine at Wandoan, on fertile cattle and cropping country northeast of Brisbane. But Mr Newman said yesterday he supported Xstrata's mine at Wandoan because "this is not actually on the strategic cropping land of the Darling Downs".

"Wandoan is a different matter," he told ABC radio.  "This has been approved by the previous government, it's now been upheld by the court generally and frankly the project's going to go ahead."

A spokeswoman for Mr Newman yesterday said the LNP had been clear during the election campaign that it would not support open-cut coalmining in the Felton Valley.  "In fact, the LNP don't support open-cut coalmining on strategic cropping land anywhere in the state," she said.

"The LNP will not support the proposal for Acland stage three (because) it covers some areas of strategic cropping land, and would come too close to local communities."

Mr Newman's objections did not appear to deter the miners.  "This has been the LNP's stated position during the election campaign and we will continue to work with the new LNP government," a New Hope spokesman said.

He would not say whether the company would amend its mining proposal to try to reach a compromise with the government, whose policy addresses surging community concern over mining on farmland.

In homage to its National Party roots, the government will fast-track statutory regional plans to quarantine farmland from mining, especially coal-seam gas extraction, in the Darling Downs and the southern Scenic Rim.

Ambre Energy director Michael van Baarle said yesterday his company would not be dissuaded from pursuing the coal-to-liquid project: "We haven't had an opportunity to speak to the new government or the new bureaucracy. We've always supported protection of cropping land."

Mr Newman has also pulled the plug this week on financial support for the $1.2bn Solar Dawn solar thermal project near Chinchilla, 300km northwest of Brisbane. The showpiece of the Gillard government's $1.5bn Solar Flagships program, Solar Dawn had been promised $75 million in state funding and $464m in federal funding.

Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson told The Australian on Tuesday the federal government would need to "consider its own position" if Queensland pulled out.

Mr Newman appeared to back down yesterday, revealing he was awaiting legal advice over the "contractual commitments" with Solar Dawn.

"We're not going to, in some silly way, cancel a contract that ends up costing taxpayers money in some sort of penalty," he said.  "I'm seeking advice on that and I haven't had a formal briefing, but my intent is clear. If we can exit this project and save, I think it is $75m, we will."

He said if the federal government wanted to proceed with Solar Dawn, his government would do everything except provide funding to make it happen.


The people will deal with Labor's drift to Green

They already have in Qld.

Dr Jeremy Sammut

In his new book, Coming Apart, Charles Murray worries about the consequences of the formation in the United States of a culturally distinctive upper class – enjoying all the benefits bestowed by high intellects, high incomes, and high status professions – that has limited knowledge and understanding of the lives and attitudes of middle America.

In Australia, this aspect of the culture wars is usually discussed in political terms of ‘inner city trendies,’ with a preference for pro-Greens policies versus ‘ordinary’ Australians, aka ‘the battlers,’ with families and mortgages in the outer suburbs.

Murray does not explore the electoral consequences of the growing divide between the so-called ‘best’ and the rest in great detail. I wonder whether this is because in democratic polities, the ‘problem’ of political elitism is often self-correcting.

It is true that members of the political class these days are predominantly drawn from among university-educated elites. But politicians who ignore the values and aspirations of average voters, and become obsessed with fashionable ‘progressive’ causes of the moment to the exclusion of core or mainstream preoccupations (jobs, livings standards, transport, etc.), are liable to have brief careers.

This appears to be one of the chief lessons of the catastrophic defeat suffered by the Labor government at last weekend’s Queensland state election. The fall in Labor’s parliamentary representation from 51 seats to just seven speaks of a formidable talent for alienating average voters.

The more astute on both sides of politics appear to recognise this. Commenting on Queensland Labor’s annihilation, federal Trade Minister Craig Emerson warned his party against embracing Greens-style anti-coal hysteria, which leaves most voters cold.

‘If you think you can smash up the coal seam gas industry and harvest votes from that,’ Emerson told Sky News, ‘you’re wrong.’

The same point concerning the ‘policy inflection that’s come from the Greens’ was made in a more entertaining fashion by Senator Barnaby Joyce on ABC’s Lateline:
We can’t build a dam anymore because it’s all impossible. It’s too difficult.

Everything every time we try to make a decision to take our nation forward, to build something constructive, there is someone who stands up and says that that affects the way they see the world and therefore we can’t do it.

And they get garlands of roses thrown at their feet in Canberra, but what happens in the regions such as Queensland is you get voted out of office and the Labor Party have seen that tonight.

So, if you want to get away from the nanny state, get away from Green policies that just drag you into oblivion. And as soon as the Labor Party works that and drops crazy ideas, just dippy, loopy ideas such as the carbon tax, well the better off they will be and maybe they’ll have a chance of rebuilding.

There is more to this than a gratuitous political sledge. The policy failures of the Beattie and Bligh governments included refusing to build new dams (which arguably contributed to the scale of the devastating Brisbane floods of 2011 by delaying the release of flood water from the Wivenhoe Dam) and the Wild Rivers legislation, which banned all economic development in areas such as Cape York in return for Greens-preferences.

So if you can get past the confusion of concepts and garbled presentation, Senator Joyce has expressed a pertinent piece of political wisdom. Ultimately – and I think compulsory voting plays a part in producing this outcome in Australia – the demos can be trusted to solve the problem of political elitism by casting the trendies and all their works into the wasteland of electoral defeat.


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.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Qld.: Woolworths part-timer takes  "safe" Labor seat for the LNP

He does have a degree so he is no dummy but it does show how toxic the Labor brand has become.  Tony Abbott is going to be leading another large band of happy warriors in Parliament next year if not sooner.  Surely the Federal Greens and independents will now want to unshackle themselves from the corpse that the ALP has become

Campbell Newman's emphasis on politicians being servants of the people is very refreshing  in the context of Green/Left arrogance and is in keeping with my prior impression of his attitude.  I think he will  be in power for a long time, mercifully for Queensland

HIS last job was part-time at Woolworths, he lives with his parents and now he's a Member of Parliament.

Neil Symes claimed by a whisker the long-time Labor stronghold of Lytton, on Brisbane's bayside, at the weekend's Queensland election.  It was a win even the LNP did not predict.

In a sign of how much voters turned on the Bligh Government last Saturday, the 23-year-old will now swap his meagre Woolies deli pay packet for a six-figure salary and the surrounds of State Parliament in his first full-time job.

Premier Campbell Newman yesterday warned his large team they were not elected "for personal or financial reward" and were expected to act as servants of Queenslanders.

Mr Symes lives at southside Wishart - beyond the bounds of his new electorate - but said he was planning his first move out of home and into Lytton soon.

That would be a big step for Mr Symes, who said his parents helped out by easing his weekly food and rent costs "depending on circumstances".

But the newly-minted MP insisted he could still relate to the battlers he now represents because he learnt a lot door-knocking during the campaign.

"I know that petrol prices go up, I know that the cost of food goes up and electricity and water . . . so that's where I can relate to the people because I've seen it firsthand," he said.

"I was actually working in the supermarket sector through the seafood and delicatessen departments, so that's what I bring to Parliament is a good work ethic."

He replaced one-time ALP deputy premier and former attorney-general Paul Lucas, who retired after 15 years.

Before that, the seat had been held since its creation in 1972 by former federal Labor president and Queensland deputy premier Tom Burns.

Mr Symes narrowly beat Mr Lucas's expected successor and local identity Daniel Cheverton, who conceded via Facebook on Monday.

More than half (46) of the LNP's 77 MPs are parliamentary first-timers.

Mr Symes completed a criminology and human services degree in 2009 but put the skills into action for only about nine months while working at an Acacia Ridge community centre.

Since then, he has worked an average 30 hours a week at the Garden City Woolworths, quitting in January to contest the March election.

Mr Symes said he wore the badge of youngest LNP MP with "real honour".


How delusional can you get?  Carbon tax will turn tide in our favour, says Gillard

It's clear that she is from Labor's reality-deprived Left faction.  Doesn't she realize that everybody who can will put their prices up and blame it on her tax?

JULIA Gillard intends to tough out her dramatic collapse in support in opinion polling, convinced the looming introduction of the carbon tax will allow her to regain control of national political debate by exposing Tony Abbott as a scaremonger.

But Labor insiders are continuing to warn that the Prime Minister's broken promise over the introduction of the $23-a-tonne tax has so badly undermined her public standing among voters that she must address the integrity issue and change her political style. As Ms Gillard and her advisers put their faith in seeking to shift the political debate towards the economy yesterday, the Coalition chimed in on cue with an internet video ridiculing her claim on Monday that voters could trust her to manage the economy by highlighting her pre-2010 election promise not to introduce a carbon tax.

The mocking came as federal Labor reeled from the latest Newspoll, which shows its primary vote plunged three percentage points to 28 per cent in the past fortnight -- wiping out recent gains and pushing the party to its record low of 26 per cent recorded last September. The poll, published in yesterday's edition of The Australian, was taken nationwide last weekend, as voters in Queensland hammered the Labor government of Anna Bligh out of office, stripping it of 43 seats in its worst result on record.

Yesterday, despite calls within sections of Labor for Ms Gillard to change her style, government sources said the Prime Minister understood the serious implications of the Queensland election result, but believed that after the carbon tax was introduced on July 1, voters would see the dishonesty of the Opposition Leader's campaign to convince peopel they would be harmed by the new levy.

This would allow Ms Gillard to regain the ascendancy and begin to focus attention on Mr Abbott, particularly over the economy.

Ms Gillard, visiting South Korea for a nuclear safety conference, said she accepted that Labor needed to listen more to voters across the country. "But my job is to both listen and lead and that's what I will be doing as Prime Minister," she said. "I will be continuing to deliver the important policies that will make a difference for the future of Queensland and the future of the country."

She would not comment on the Newspoll, but said she believed the "lived experience" of the carbon tax after July 1 would expose the "silly claims" of the opposition and the "occasional shock-horror headlines" about the carbon tax, and focus public attention on government compensation for people to help them cope with the effects of the change. Despite her comments, a senior Labor source in Queensland said that if federal Labor did not heed the message about broken promises, it risked a repeat of the Queensland rout.

"The voters could not have been more clear," said the source, asking for anonymity. "They are tired of spin and they don't like broken promises."

Mr Abbott, continuing his annual Pollie Pedal fundraising event, said the Prime Minister was "in denial". "I think the Queensland election is a verdict on governments which don't tell the truth and I think that's a real problem for the Prime Minister," he said.


Kate Ellis under fire over nanny slur

Stupid woman

CHILDCARE Minister Kate Ellis has been accused of inciting class rivalry after saying the childcare rebate should not be extended to nannies because they were chauffeurs and chefs hired to do the ironing.

Ms Ellis accused Tony Abbott of intending to cut assistance for low-income families by extending the non-means-tested rebate - which allows families to claim 50 per cent of approved childcare costs, with a cap of $7500 - to the unregulated nanny sector.

"I think that when we have a look at nannies we see that they're often chauffeurs, they're often chefs . . . some of them do ironing, some of them do the washing and the household chores," Ms Ellis said yesterday. "Tony Abbott has made clear that any nanny subsidies will come from 'the existing funding envelope'. That means cutting the assistance given to families through the childcare benefit or childcare rebate. The nanny industry is unregulated and there are no quality assurance requirements in place. This new policy is undeveloped and uncosted and will hit hard-working, low-income families who rely on childcare the hardest."

Opposition childcare spokeswoman Sussan Ley accused Ms Ellis of inciting class war and said she was wrong to say the Coalition wanted to deprive women of existing resources. "I'm sure Labor would be delighted to make this some sort of class war; well, it's not, and again proves why Kate Ellis shouldn't be in the job," she said. "The Coalition's call for a Productivity Commission report is simply reading that mood and looking at what real families are saying and doing to care for their kids. What is the minister scared of? Whether it is using a nanny, grandparents or occasional care, parents are voting with their feet to find realistic and affordable options."

Former University of Canberra chancellor and director of McCarthy Mentoring, Wendy McCarthy, said childcare centres did not always meet the needs of working women, citing the 24-hour childcare centre established at Star City when she was a director of the Sydney casino. "We put in 24-hour childcare but we found . . . most people don't want to take their kids to work and pick them up at 4 o'clock in the morning," she said. "I think we should demolish the argument about nannies being just for rich women . . . (It's) such an old argument, it's just horrible. The system assumes that we still live a life of Monday to Friday, nine to five, and I just think you've got to get over it."

Feminist academic Eva Cox said subsidising nannies could lead to calls for cheap labour from overseas.

The director of Melbourne's Leading Nanny Agency and mother of three Annie Sargood slammed Ms Ellis for what she said was inverted snobbery.  "The childcare benefit is actually paying for chefs in childcare centres and cleaners who come in after hours, so why can't a nanny come in and do the same thing in a home environment?" she said.

Mr Abbott yesterday said the Coalition, if elected, would ask the Productivity Commission to consider how childcare could deliver for families in regional and remote areas, and for shift workers.


Talking out of their vaginas

Eve Ensler wrote a play called the Vagina Monologues and, following this, helped begin the V-Day Movement to end violence against women and girls. She came to Australia last month to deliver the annual Australian Human Rights Centre lecture in Sydney.

The ABC interviewed Ensler on its news analysis program, Lateline (Ensler, We don't own our bodies: Ensler, 2012). The ABC describes this program as ".a provocative, challenging and intelligent window on today's world." They continue to say, "Lateline engages the foremost experts or commentators. to bring you penetrating insights from a range of perspectives (ABC, 2012)."

The foremost expert or commentator who interviewed Ensler was Emma Alberici, who has some twenty years experience in journalism.

This, dear reader, is what passes for "an intelligent window" in Australia today.

Alberici begins the interview with a general question about her play. Ensler opens up with how "everyone" was scandalised with the word "vagina" in the 1990s. She claims that "you could say `Scud Missile' on the front pages." but, apparently "if you said vagina the whole world went crazy. "

The next part is worth quoting verbatim:

"And I think part of the reason of doing the play was that so many women I had interviewed had not only, not said the word vagina, they never saw their vaginas, they didn't know what they looked like, they didn't know how their vaginas functioned, they didn't know what gave them pleasure. They didn't even know their vaginas were their own."

In the 1970s I attended college in Scotland. In my class, a Computer Science course, the gender mix was 50/50. Every single woman on that course knew the word vagina, and a whole lot of other words for the vagina. Twenty years later, when Ensler wrote her play, and the word vagina has mysteriously vanished from the western woman's vocabulary?

I'm glad that Ensler points out that they had never seen their vaginas. I immediately became aware that I have never seen my own anus.

The real question, of course, is: so f*cking what?

To what level should a woman understand how her vagina functions? For example, should she be able to discuss in detail what part Bartholin's glands play?

And why? Does Ensler know how her thyroid glands work? Does she understand how wax gets in the outer ear? As long as she knows which end to stick over the toilet, where to put the tampon, etc. does it really matter?

Ensler's final statement, that women ".didn't even know their vaginas were their own," is feminism at its finest. Alberici doesn't ask "Who did they think their vaginas belonged to?" Or, "Were they just renting them?" Or "If I kicked them in the vagina, who did they think would feel it?"

Ensler tries to paint herself as the radical who is not afraid to break taboos. And to do this she will use any word she chooses, no matter how upset the establishment gets. The fact is that when the play was written and first performed in the nineties, the word "vagina" was seen as a proper and polite term to describe female genitalia. You could have "The Vagina Monologues" on a bill board and in neon lights. It may have been titillating, perhaps, even risqu‚, but certainly short of scandalous in Western society in the nineties.

Ensler informs us that in China the play was banned because the Chinese only had vulgar and derogatory words for vagina.

Speaking of scandalous and vulgar words, the Vagina Monologues uses the word "cunt" 30 times. Now that word, all by itself, ensures an "Adults Only" rating in Australia. You can say it in a play with that rating, but you won't be having "The Cunt Monologues" in neon on Main Street.

But Alberici doesn't ask if it was the translation of "vagina" or "cunt" that caused the Chinese such problems.

In fact, the Shanghai Drama Centre was told by the Chinese authorities who banned the play that ".it does not fit with China's national situation (USA Today, 2004)." Did Alberici ask Ensler if she was surprised that a Western play written by a "Human Rights Activist" was banned in China in 2004? No, she just lets Ensler give us the sacred babble.

There are two serious aspects about her play that Alberici should have raised with Ensler, particularly given the "Human Rights Activist" tag.

The first is a section of the play which deals with the seduction of a girl by woman, which involves the woman giving the child alcohol as part of the seduction. In one version of the script I found the girl is sixteen (Ensler, Vagina Monolgues Script - The Dialogue, 1996). However, there have been reports of other versions of the script where the child was aged as young as thirteen (Swope, 2006).

In January this year a 29 year old female teacher was found guilty of the crime of having sex with a sixteen year old female student in Melbourne, Australia (Lowe, 2012). Also, note that the legal age for drinking alcohol in Australia is eighteen.  In other words, Ensler's play is describing an act that is illegal in Australia, as well as immoral anywhere.

Ensler's monologue describes the seduction from the point of view of the child. It concludes:

"You know, I realized later, she was my surprising, unexpected, politically incorrect salvation. She transformed my sorry-ass coochie snorcher [vagina] and raised it up into a kind of heaven."

In other words, this manipulation into a sexual act was good for the child.

This blas‚ attitude is also seen in another monologue in the play, where Ensler's heroine dominates women during sex. The dialogue explains:

"Sometimes I used force, but not violent, oppressing force, no.  More like dominating, `I'm gonna take you someplace, why don't you lay back, enjoy the ride' kind of force."

So clearly, according to Ensler, domination and child sex abuse are alright when done in a feminist context. When men rape its rape, when women rape it's "salvation," so "lie back and enjoy the ride".

Alberici does not ask one thing about this. How's that for "a range of perspectives"? That's the "let's ignore it completely" perspective.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Truth falls victim to the sparkling stone

"Finkelstein" is German/Yiddish for sparkling stone or gemstone.  Judge Finkelstein seems to think he's one.  Britain has a similar inquiry into the press that is still ongoing -- under Lord Justice Leveson.  One hopes its recommendations will be less Fascistic

TELL the truth. Speak truth to power. These phrases are so familiar that we rarely stop to understand them. But in a coming age of censorship heralded by political phenomena such as hate speech legislation and the Finkelstein inquiry, humanity's relationship with truth is at breaking point.

Universities are partly to blame for events such as the Finkelstein inquiry. There is a veritable canon stretching from Russell Jacoby's The Last Intellectuals to Paul Berman's The Flight of the Intellectuals, which documents the fate of academics from the Left and Right who dared to tell unpalatable truths. Many were exiled or resigned their university posts on pain of ostracism.

Australian academics' latent refusal to have their intellectual activity monitored by the new sector regulator, the Tertiary Education and Quality Standards Agency, breathed life into the idea of intellectual freedom. But it doesn't appear to have vivified the liberty of the press.

The Finkelstein recommendations may do to the media in the 21st century what was done to higher education in the 20th.

Finkelstein, with his panel of lawyers and academics, proposes meta-regulation of the press under the lunatic pretext that gagging freedom of speech will expand democracy. They commend a progressive silencing of the press as beneficial to the public interest because "often readers are not in a position to make an appropriately informed judgment about the news". I beg your pardon?

Almost 100 pages later, we are told why we readers are apparently so witless: "Because of information asymmetry, readers are seldom in a position to judge the quality of news stories."

Information asymmetry sounds very much like the obfuscating language introduced into the higher education humanities by postmodernists in the 1980s and 1990s.

It was inevitably accompanied by the claim that there was no such thing as objective truth, the acceptance of which was supposedly prerequisite to social justice. Fret not, fellow witless reader; I never understood it either.

In fact, the culture of contemporary censorship makes little sense until you read the finest analysis of political phenomena such as the Finkelstein inquiry by philosopher John Ralston Saul: "The idea of governments invoking the public interest, as a justification for taking unjust or illegal action, has been with us since the French satirist Mathurin Regnier coined the phrase in 1609. Now raison d'etat is being turned into a blanket principle: the technocrat knows best."

On the 20th anniversary of Voltaire's Bastards, Ralston Saul has never looked more prescient. The technocrats became cultivated in their craft at leading universities that, by the 1970s, had come to resemble management schools.

What technocrats don't understand is the nature of truth; how to search for it, how to prove or disprove it and what to do with it. Their lack of knowledge about truth proves a significant impediment to the formation of public policy based on principle, rather than partisan political ideology.

The Finkelstein review's great undoing is that is has not established truth. It is deeply methodologically flawed, with statements of fact that lack supporting evidence, a line of causative argument without established cause and effect, and recommendations, however persuasively put, that consequently lack credibility.

A major claim of the report is that the Australian media is failing the public interest. There are five examples of malicious media action provided late in the report and reference to the News of the World phone hacking scandal as the origin of the inquiry. But the core evidence provided for the apparent failure of the media and subsequent recommendation for meta-regulation of the free press is a series of opinion surveys.

As Plato, Socrates and Galileo would tell us, opinion, however popular, is not truth. Nor is perception proof. The statement "I don't trust the media", which appears in the surveys, tells us nothing about the state of the media. It tells us simply that someone doesn't trust it. Public mistrust may very well be the result of a newspaper fulfilling its duty to tell the truth. Imagine a 17th-century newspaper running a series of articles on Galileo's discovery that the world was round. The Finkelstein inquiry proposes that the news media should be regulated for perceived bias and balance. So what would Galileo's reporters do -- report that the world was round-ish?

The pursuit of truth, once the common ground of journalists and academics, was sustained as an intellectual tradition by classical liberal arts universities that taught formal logic as a method of deducing fact. Formal logic was devised by Plato, Socrates and Aristotle, championed by the Enlightenment freethinkers and revived by 20th- and 21st-century philosophers such as Bertrand Russell, Hannah Arendt and A.C. Grayling. The willingness to seek truth, the ability to deduce it and the courage to publish it are what make a citizen truly free. The philosophical and legal recognition of citizen freedoms, tempered by John Stuart Mill's principle of not causing harm to another, is what makes a state democratic. Regulating the free press in the manner recommended by the Finkelstein inquiry violates these principles.

Jacob Mchangama, a lecturer in international human rights at the University of Copenhagen, wrote that "respect for freedom of expression is the hallmark of free societies and the first right to be circumscribed by illiberal states". Eleanor Roosevelt, that great democrat who drafted the UN Declaration of Human Rights, might have agreed with him. Roosevelt warned humanity about the suppression of freedom under the guise of protecting citizens against hostile speech. She was concerned in particular with Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which has been used successfully to lobby for anti-vilification laws in Australia and other Western countries.

In combination with hate speech laws, the proposed media meta-regulation recommended by the Finkelstein inquiry transforms the future of 21st-century journalism. In the new media landscape, journalists will be allowed to create their sentences from a pre-approved vocabulary, draw their own inferences from a sanctioned pool of populism and publish their own conclusions within the parameters of state ideology. It's freedom y'all. Wake up and smell the doublespeak.


Bob Katter's Australian Party wins where ALP fails

BOB Katter's party stung Labor more than the LNP with its political debut last weekend.

An analysis of the Queensland election by The Courier-Mail shows that, on average across the state, Katter's Australian Party took 30.81 per cent of ALP votes.

The figures follow a call from Federal LNP Senator Ron Boswell to put the KAP's impact on the LNP into perspective.

Senator Boswell said while KAP may have hurt Labor, it probably only cost the LNP one seat.

"The KAP will now have two seats in the new Queensland Parliament," Senator Boswell said.

"Compare this to One Nation in 1998 - they gained 11 new seats, and all of those members are now history."

The figures show there were only 11 electorates where the KAP took less than 10 per cent of the ALP's 2009 votes.

The KAP took the lowest number of votes from ALP in Ashgrove, with 3.02 per cent.

But in the regional seats of Dalrymple, Gympie, Hinchinbrook and Nanango, KAP swallowed up the bulk of Labor's 2009 vote.

In Condamine, Beaudesert, Callide, Maryborough and Mount Isa, it also elbowed the ALP aside to create two-horse races.

The KAP's Brisbane office is still refusing to concede defeat in the far northern seats of Thuringowa, Mulgrave and Hinchinbrook, where counting continues.

Senator Boswell said KAP may have cost the LNP the seat of Mulgrave, which looks to be staying with Labor.

But he said despite KAP's serious impact on the Labor vote, the party would not survive in the federal arena.

Senator Boswell said KAP had lost its state leader Aidan McLindon in Beaudesert, but also its star candidate in the Kingaroy-based seat of Nanango, former Test cricketer Carl Rackemann.

Senator Boswell sad KAP performance had to be put into perspective.

"Whilst we need to give Katter some credit for the 11.6 per cent of the vote his party got on Saturday, the reality is most of it came from Labor," he said.

The retention of one seat and a win in Mount Isa was not the "outstanding electoral wave Bob Katter would have us all believe," he said.

"For all of Bob Katter's protestations on election night, the reality is his party won one seat and his influence in the Queensland Government will be zero."

"The KAP is not the third major political force in Australian politics."


Nice doggie

POLICE dog squad officer Wayne Algie says his trusty canine colleague Bosun is as good as 10 humans.

Bosun has become one of the Queensland Police Service's most valuable staff members, involved in the thick of the action on the thin blue frontline.

The seven-year-old German shepherd helped catch the alleged killers of Gold Coast detective Senior Constable Damien Leeding last May.

Six months earlier, Bosun tracked and attacked a burglar during a wild chase in which the offender tried to flee across the Nerang River.

Earlier this month, Bosun was injured by two vicious dogs during the arrest of an Upper Coomera man, who was later charged with offences including drug production and possession of a weapon.

And on Sunday night, in his first shift back on duty, Bosun helped catch the driver of a stolen car who fled into bushland.

Police allegedly found a loaded rifle and housebreaking implements in the car.

Sen-Constable Algie, who has had Bosun since he was a pup, said his furry workmate was among the best in the dog squad.

"He's a hard dog," he said. "He's got drive and a good work ethic. Dogs like him are worth 10 blokes with the amount of work they do."

Bosun lives with Sen-Constable Algie and his family.  "I'm his chauffeur and personal butler," he said.

Despite his continued heroics, Bosun is approaching retirement age and Sen-Constable Algie will get a new pup to train in May. But he won't be parted from his best mate as Bosun is set to retire to the Algie backyard.



Four recent reports below

Heh!  New conservative Qld. Premier gives Greenie bureaucrat the job of undoing his work of the past four years

PREMIER Campbell Newman says reports that Anna Bligh's husband and a senior public servant, Greg Withers, had been asked to clear out his desk were false.

Mr Newman on Tuesday said Mr Withers, head of Queensland's Office of Climate Change, would be asked to oversee the removal of carbon reduction schemes he had helped create, which the LNP has promised to axe.

But Mr Newman admitted he had not yet conveyed that to Mr Withers because he was too busy focusing on changes at the top level of the public service.

Mr Newman said Mr Withers, who recently renewed his contract in December and would be owed a payout close to $600,000 if sacked, would be offered another position once that job was done.

"I'm telling you that he will get a job if he wants one," Mr Newman said.


Come on baby light my fire, but watch the cat

Tim Blair has some amusing comments about Earth hour.  A few excerpts:

EARTH Hour is with us again this Saturday night, so you'll want to start planning.

For your normal Earth Hour types, this is a simple procedure. Just turn all your lights off at 8.30pm and sit there thinking you're Jesus. But for those of us in the Hour of Power movement, a proper celebration requires substantial commitment.

Just follow my essential power party guide and you'll be set.

First, it's symbolically vital that you turn on every single light for the appointed hour. Sounds easy enough, but there is always a sneaky bulb out on the back porch or in the garage. Be vigilant. Don't let even the smallest or least visible globe escape illumination.

If you know anybody in the local council or the film industry, lean on them for a one-night use of something huge. These people have got lights that you wouldn't believe. Point them at your pool and it'll evaporate like a state Labor party.

Food is important. Put some thought into what you serve. According to a recent study, the basic prawn cocktail has an absolutely massive carbon footprint. Biologist J. Boone Kauffman found that, with transport and refrigeration factored in, just 100g of prawns shipped from a typical Asian farm represents a total carbon output of 198kg.

So you'll be eating prawns, then. Plus pizza. The delivery kid won't have any problems finding your house for once, what with it being lit up like a supernova.

My favourite Earth Hour moment came in 2010, when a Canadian environment minister hosted a candlelit eco-dinner. The smugness was interrupted when their cat caught fire. Holding true to the Earth Hour message, they refused to air the place with an electric fan. Open windows were the only means of dispersing stench of singed cat.

When you're scoping out foreign Earth Hour reports, don't forget to click on the reader comments at the end of every hand-wringing article begging readers to kill the lights. These comments invariably provide delightful counterpoint to the overall Earth Hour message.


More amusing news

$175k to cheer up Department of Energy and Climate Change staff

Hey, but this is alright when you are spending someone else’s money isn’t it?

Staff at the Australian Department of Climate  Change are so depressed, I can’t think why, that the government is spending $175,000 to cheer them up.

Could it be that the poor staff would enjoy their jobs more if they weren’t doing something which was a complete waste of time, and their programs weren’t a vacuous drain? Remember if we all abandon Australia, AND if the IPCC aren’t wildly overestimating the effects of extra CO2, then, and only then, will Australia cool the world by as much as — rounded to the nearest whole number –  zero degrees. (Pace Matt Ridley)

Things are so bad, people were ashamed to admit to people that they worked at the Dept of Climate Change. Worse, this study was done back in 2010 – before a round of endless-drought-breaking floods in 2011 and then another round of endless-drought-breaking floods in 2012. This was before the worst of the plummeting Labor polling, before FakeGate…  just how low do these people feel now?
THEY are responsible for some of the government’s most important policies – but staff at the Department of Energy and Climate Change are too ashamed to admit where they work.

Staff morale is so low the government has spent almost $175,000 on consultants to lift staff’s flagging spirits.

 A negative public image of the department, changing environmental policies and lack of internal support had left them feeling miserable and disengaged, an internal report has found.

 The report was conducted by consultants Right Management in July 2010 when the department was under the responsibility of Finance and Deregulation Minister Penny Wong.

 The portfolio has since been taken over by Greg Combet.

The report, which also includes a survey of 788 people, found the department to have “low levels” of employee engagement. Staff held a poor view of the department, felt a lack of purpose, were uninformed about changes to policies and procedures, and worried about their future employment.

“Many reported having to think about whether they would tell people where they worked because of the department’s negative image,” the report said.

It’s the politician’s fault for offering waste-of-time-work in the first place. I don’t blame the staff (not so much) but in the end, they are always free to leave. Except of course, they are trapped aren’t they? We know that many of them can’t find better paid work elsewhere, because the gravy train pays well, much better than private industry.

Pouring good money after bad. This is another case study in why Big-Government is a bad thing.

SOURCE  (See the original for links)

Some Australian local governments are denying people planning permission to build near the sea

Because rising se levels might submerge them.  Two letters in a newspaper below offer some germane comments.  Tim Flannery is an Australian Warmist who is perfectly calm about living by the sea

WHEN Tim Flannery is evicted from his waterfront property, then we should be concerned about sea level rise ("Fighting on the beaches as council orders retreat from climate change threat", 24-25/3).

The NSW government and the Port Macquarie Hastings Council ignore land level rises and falls which make relative sea level a local issue and hence global sea level speculations of the IPCC can not be used. To devalue properties based on half the information is, at best, deceptive.

Professor Ian Plimer, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA

So 80-year-olds are not allowed to renovate their homes because Green councillors decided they are vulnerable to sea level rises. Their houses are 7m above sea level, so if it rises by 3.5mm per year it will take 2000 years to reach them.

If Jesus Christ had been warned that by now the Sea of Galilee would be lapping the front step of his workshop he may have decided he could put that problem on the backburner until a few others were sorted out. The 80-year-olds might have priorities higher than rising seas but Greens don't recognise such realities in their dizzy, postmodern world.

John Dawson, Chelsea, Vic


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Prime Minister Julia Gillard facing poll wipe-out

LATEST polling has confirmed the Gillard government is headed for electoral oblivion with its primary vote falling to 28 per cent - just one point shy of the depths Labor plumbed in Queensland.

The exclusive Newspoll in The Australian today, which shows Labor would be wiped off the map federally as it was in the Sunshine State, comes as the Prime Minister remained in complete denial about the political shockwave, reported The Daily Telegraph.

In South Korea at a nuclear summit with world leaders, Julia Gillard said Saturday's election result was "a deep, deep disappointment" but denied it had anything to do with unpopular federal policies such as the carbon tax.

Newspoll today has federal Labor's primary vote crashing from 31 per cent to 28. Labor's primary vote in Queensland was 26.9 per cent.

The Coalition is up four points to 47 while the Greens fell one point to 11 per cent.

The two-party preferred result should also send shivers down ALP powerbrokers' spines with Labor down four points to 43 and the Coalition up four points to 57 per cent.

Senior federal Labor MPs are warning Ms Gillard that without a strategy to "win back Queensland", the party faces being decimated.


A conservative tax-cutter in NSW

TAX cuts would be offered to business under plans being championed by Barry O'Farrell to ignite the sluggish NSW economy.

The Premier wants to reduce the payroll tax rate, which at 5.45 per cent, is the highest in Australia.

In an interview with The Sun-Herald marking his government's first year in office, Mr O'Farrell said he wanted to bring NSW into line with, or lower than, other states. Victoria's payroll tax rate is 4.9 per cent and Queensland's is 4.75 per cent. The Treasurer, Mike Baird, said tax relief for business was "totally on the table" but no decision had been made, with falling GST revenue flowing from the federal government.

Payroll tax rakes in $6.6 billion a year and Mr Baird said there was "no way" the rate could be dropped to the Victorian level in one go. The cost to the state coffers would be about $360 million. A reduction of 0.2 per cent would reduce revenue by about $130 million.

About 71,000 large and medium-size companies with wage bills above $678,000 pay the tax.

Mr O'Farrell said he wants "harmonised red tape" across Australia but supported the concept of "competitive federalism".

"For me, it's never been about getting a single rate of payroll tax across the states or down the eastern seaboard, I've always wanted to get differing rates of payroll tax so we can seek to gain a competitive advantage over the other states," he said.

"We understand that taxes upon business, taxes upon investment are a barrier to economic growth. We have a higher rate, the challenge for us over this term is trying to ensure we get our tax rates down to make us at least as competitive, if not more competitive than other states."

Mr O'Farrell said he would seek meetings with a Liberal/National Queensland government to lock in a cross-border economic reform agreement like the one signed with the Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu, in December. Three conservative governments along the eastern seaboard, combined with the vocal leadership of the Western Australian Liberal Premier, Colin Barnett, represented a "fundamental shift" in the states' relationship with Canberra, Mr O'Farrell said.


Expert argues university degrees overrated

HAVING a university degree may be "grossly overrated", a leading education research body says.

The National Centre for Vocational Education Research wants to debate the merits of university degrees because it will advance thinking around expanding the tertiary sector.

It is partnering with St James Ethics Centre to bring the live debate, Intelligence Squared Australia, to Adelaide in July to debate the idea that "having a university degree is grossly overrated".

Managing director Dr Tom Karmel said the purpose of the debate was to tease out the issue, because while there were many benefits to having a university degree there were other paths to consider as well.

"Are we looking at credentialism, where everyone will have a degree when they don't really need one," he said. "There are many jobs around you do not need a degree for and wouldn't want a degree for."

The Federal Government wants 40 per cent of Australians aged between 25 and 34 to have a bachelor degree by 2020.

Skills Australia has estimated that in the five years to 2015 Australia will need an additional 2.1 million people in the workforce with a vocational education qualification at Certificate III level or higher.

"When the Government make these decisions you always have to check against reality and make sure people are getting a good return from their degree," Dr Karmel said.

"(But) as we expand the number of people with degrees, on the whole, the return is holding up."

National Tertiary Education Union assistant secretary Matthew McGowan said degrees were very important for Australians to compete intellectually on an international stage but that did not mean everyone needed one.


Clear evidence that the abandonment of double jeopardy can lead to gross abuses

We now see one reason why the double jeopady principle was entrenched British law for centuries. It's persecution the way the man below is being treated. When do the retrials stop? This could go on forever. At the very least only two trials should be permitted.

Five years ago, Philip Leung was found rocking from side to side at the foot of his stairs, cradling his blood-stained partner, Mario Guzzetti. A short time later, Mr Guzzetti was dead, having suffered head injuries.

Last week, Mr Leung, 51, broke down in the same stairwell after learning he would stand trial over his former lover's killing - for the third time.

At his original trial in 2009, Mr Leung was acquitted of murder after a judge directed the jury to find him not guilty.

The Crown, however, used NSW's controversial double jeopardy laws, introduced in 2006, to have the verdict quashed.

Mr Leung then faced court on a manslaughter charge last April, but became the first person in Australian legal history to be acquitted twice by a judge's directed verdict. As he left court that day, he said he was "finally free" to move on.

He was wrong. Last Tuesday, the unprecedented case took another twist: the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal upheld a second appeal by the Crown and ordered that Mr Leung again be tried for manslaughter.

According to uncontested facts referred to in the judgment by the appeal court, Mr Leung and his partner had been together since 2001, but a month before his death, Mr Guzzetti, 72, had told a friend he wanted to end the relationship because Mr Leung was becoming aggressive and frightening him. On the morning of April 7, Easter Eve in 2007, a neighbour heard two voices arguing at the couple's shared home in Alexandria, followed by a loud bang that resembled "a shelf falling, and pots and lids falling to the ground". She also later heard Mr Leung crying, "like roaring or having a tantrum". Almost an hour after the initial bang, Mr Leung called an ambulance, stating: "I had a fight with my friend and my friend dead."

When the first witnesses arrived at the scene, they found Mr Leung sitting at the bottom of the staircase. Holding Mr Guzzetti, he said to an acquaintance: "I want my Mario … Mario, wake up."

He told another friend: "We had an argument … I was making carrot juice and he [Mario] kept at me." Mr Guzzetti had stopped breathing before paramedics arrived and in an interview at Redfern Police Station that same day, Mr Leung could not recall the vital moments before his death. "We have breakfast, Mario argue with me. He criticise me a lot … and then my head starts spinning."

Mr Leung was charged with murder. At his trial in May 2009, the Crown alleged the couple argued while Mr Leung was making a carrot juice, resulting in him striking his lover with a bloodstained juicer that was found on the floor beside Mr Guzzetti's body, and also by applying additional pressure to his neck. However, crucial medical and scientific evidence proved inconclusive, with both a forensic pathologist and neuropathologist concluding Mr Guzzetti's blunt force head injuries were consistent with both a physical attack using the juice extractor - and a fall.

Equally, it was advised that bruising around the neck could have been the result of either force, or amateurish attempts at resuscitation. Consequently, Justice Stephen Rothman delivered a directed not-guilty verdict, ruling the Crown had failed to properly establish how Mr Guzzetti had died. In April last year, Justice Michael Adams reached the same conclusion, directing a second jury to find Mr Leung not guilty.

But on two occasions now, the Crown has utilised double jeopardy laws that permit appeals in homicide cases settled by a judge's directed verdict. In its latest appeal, the Crown pointed to the fact that prior to the second trial, Dr Paul Botterill, who had conducted the original autopsy, inspected the premises and staircase area where the death occurred. After that visit, he concluded the likelihood of the injuries being caused by falling from the top of the stairs - which change direction and feature a quarter landing - was at most a "theoretical possibility".

Mr Leung's lawyers, meanwhile, argued that with two Supreme Court judges having twice dismissed the case, a third retrial would "undermine community confidence in the criminal justice system". It was also pointed out that Mr Leung had "clearly suffered" following four months of imprisonment, strict bail conditions, as well as five years of continuing stress and uncertainty that had arisen from the Crown appeals.

In his judgment on Tuesday, the NSW Chief Justice, Tom Bathurst, said based on all available evidence, and particularly the fact that both men were alone in the house, it was "by no means certain" that a jury verdict of guilty would be set aside as "unreasonable".

He overturned the acquittal, adding it was now a matter for the prosecution to determine whether to proceed for a third time against Mr Leung.

Mr Leung is on bail for manslaughter and a trial date is yet to be set. When that day arrive, he will become the first person in Australian legal history to be tried three times over the same killing.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Is this Gillard's biggest gaffe yet?

ANZAC day is close to the heart of most Australians. It is the day we remember our many fine young men who died in war. It is often described as Australia's most sacred day. Criticizing it will both discredit the critic and lead to emphasized support for the commemorations. Gillard should have rejected this mealy-mouthed bureaucratic garbage immediately. As it is, it is now associated with her government. She's brainless and so are her ministers

THE Federal Government has been warned that celebrating the centenary of Anzac Day could provoke division in multicultural Australia - and that there are "risks" in honouring our fallen soldiers.

The centenary is a "double-edged sword" and a "potential area of divisiveness" because of multiculturalism, a taxpayer-funded report from 2010 finds.

Bureaucrats spent almost $370,000 for focus-group testing and a research paper used by the Government to guide commemoration plans, which listed multiculturalism under "risks and issues" to avoid "unexpected negative complications".

Diggers groups slammed the report, saying Australians supported the April 2015 centenary celebrations, which are expected to stop the nation, and include travelling exhibitions and special remembrance services.

The report also says organisers should avoid references to current military action because it is "unpopular with young people".

The paper states: "Commemorating our military history in a multicultural society is something of a double-edged sword.

"While the 100th anniversaries are thought to provide some opportunity for creating a greater sense of unity, it is also recognised as a potential area of divisiveness."

More research into the impact of Anzac Day commemorations on recently arrived migrants was suggested.

But the report acknowledged that making the centenary events "overly political correct" would not be well received generally or by military personnel.

Commemorations should be "culturally sensitive and inclusive", the paper said.

It said events to mark the centenary and wars which had claimed the lives of more than 100,000 Australians should not be "unrelentingly gloomy". Any commemoration "needs to allow a positive end, make it uplifting after being reflective".

"Commemoration fatigue" was identified in focus groups if events spanned a planned four years - the same amount of time Australians spent fighting in hellish conditions at places including Gallipoli and the Western Front during World War I.

The paper has been panned by the RSL, which maintains Australia's enthusiasm for the day remains as strong as ever.

RSL national president Ken Doolan, a member of the Anzac Day National Commission and the Anzac Centenary advisory board, said Anzac Day held a "central place in Australia". "The Australian people have said overwhelmingly that they want the centenary celebrated," he said.

Victorian RSL president David McLachlan said the commemoration had the full support of Australia's Turkish communities and the Turkish Government. There were no multicultural issues with the planned event, Mr McLachlan said.

Ray Brown, of the Injured Service Persons Association, was horrified by the spending. "We've always seemed to get it right, we have never offended anybody. "We seem to be able to acknowledge war is not a nice thing and that people on both sides lose out - and we have never had to spend $300,000 combined, let alone in one year," he said.

The cost is on top of more than $103,000 on focus groups to discuss "branding concepts" for the centenary in 2015.

A spokesman for Veterans Affairs Minister Warren Snowdon said the research paper was to "gain an understanding of the views, perceptions, knowledge and aspirations of the Australian people in relation to Anzac commemoration and the impending centenary".


Anna Bligh resigns from politics despite previously saying she would serve full term

Broken promises are the Labor way

VOTERS punished her for breaking a promise not to sell assets, now Anna Bligh has ditched another pre-election pledge and bowed out of politics altogether.

The overthrown premier was yesterday stoic as she announced her resignation from both the Labor leadership and her long-time seat of South Brisbane.

Ms Bligh had repeatedly insisted throughout the five-week campaign that she would serve out a full term if re-elected but yesterday said it was time to "close the book" on public life after leading Queensland Labor to such a "devastating loss".

"I apologise today to the people of South Brisbane for any inconvenience and difficulty that my decision will cause them," she said.

"The size of the loss, the loudness and clarity of the message sent by the people of Queensland is unmistakable and, in fairness to Queenslanders, I don't believe I should ignore it. I simply don't believe that Labor can develop an effective Opposition, or rebuild from this point and from this defeat, if it has me as part of its public face and in its ranks."

Ms Bligh said she took full responsibility for her decisions as premier, including the deeply unpopular privatisation of state assets announced weeks after winning the 2009 election.


The Queensland result shows Julia is finished

The Federal ALP could lose on the Qld. vote alone

LABOR hit the panic button yesterday as the size of the Queensland election catastrophe and its obvious implications for the Gillard government struck home.

Anna Bligh quit parliament after Labor was all but wiped out as voters linked Ms Bligh's broken promise on asset sales to Prime Minister Julia Gillard's on the carbon tax.

The rout echoed Labor's thumping in 1974 when the party was reduced to 11 MPs when Joh Bjelke-Petersen went to an election as the Whitlam government struggled.

With only enough MPs to fill a small van after Saturday night, it appears Labor will even fell short of the 10 seats needed for official party status.

New Premier Campbell Newman's LNP is expected to secure as many as 78 of the 89 seats in parliament.

Ms Gillard flew out to Korea for a nuclear security summit with US President Barack Obama without commenting on the result.

The rout of NSW Labor last year was dismissed as isolated to state issues and due to a scandal-plagued government but former Labor premiers and party figures lined up yesterday to warn Ms Gillard of the federal consequences of the Queensland humiliation.

One federal Labor MP said: "There's no doubt we are in a lot of trouble."

The MP said the Gillard government was fighting the same issues which destroyed the Bligh administration, including cost of living impacts from the carbon price and Ms Gillard's broken promise over the tax. The party feared there was no prospect of a "circuit breaker" to turn around federal Labor's fortunes. Another MP dismissed the result, saying the Queensland election was fought only on state issues.

If the Queensland result was replicated federally all eight Labor MPs from the state would be wiped out, including Kevin Rudd, Treasurer Wayne Swan and Trade Minister Craig Emerson.

Former Queensland premier Peter Beattie said Labor could not be an effective opposition with seven MPs, which could fall to six if Ms Bligh's now marginal South Brisbane seat is lost in a by-election.

"The guts got kicked out of the Labor party rank and file yesterday," Mr Beattie told the ABC's Insiders program.

"Federally the party at a national executive level has got to have a very careful look at what we do here. We have to rebuild or the Labor Party can lose the next federal election in Queensland alone."

He said the "Labor Party is in crisis," and added: "Julia needs to buy a house here. We have to sell what the Labor party has done or we will face a similar wipeout."

Former ALP powerbroker Graham Richardson predicted Ms Gillard would face a loss similar to Ms Bligh's defeat next year. "I can't see how she wins. She must lose and she will lose badly," he said.

"All that yesterday did was re-emphasise how difficult it is for her. What Anna Bligh did is exactly what Julia Gillard is currently doing and that is this whole line of we will stay the course, things will turn around.

"Staying the course is utterly useless and unless and until federal Labor decide to do something radical, something different, something big, they're not going to be listened to and they will head to a Bligh-like defeat."


Germaine Greer, the anti-feminist

Aging leads to many transformations

Peter FitzSimons

As to Germaine Greer, TFF noted recently her extraordinary personal attacks at the Perth Writers Festival on Julie Bishop and Gina Rinehart - the latter for her "bloated form" - which amazed me, given that as the world's most iconic living feminist, I would have thought everything she stood for was against attacking other women for the way they look.

And yet, on Tuesday night's Q&A on ABC1 she was at it again, offering the Prime Minister gratuitous advice on what she should wear. (Can anyone ever remember Greer passing comment on gear worn by the likes of Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke, Keating or Rudd? Me neither.)

But then, she followed up with the outrageous, and hurtful, "Face it, Julia, you've got a big arse!" Staggering. It's like hearing Barack Obama call a black man a "nigger", or Nelson Mandela say apartheid really was not so bad.

And the strangest thing? Not that it matters at all, but there is no truth in it (not that it matters if there was truth in it). I acknowledge this is a bit delicate - and for once I won't respond to emails on it, because such discussion would be tacky - but I happened to be on the podium, sitting right behind the PM on Wednesday morning as she made her tribute speech to Nancy Wake in the Great Hall of Parliament House, and couldn't help but notice that Greer is simply wrong. There. I've said it. So shoot me.


Catholic schools to educate more non-Catholics

THE Catholic Church will spend more than $1 billion over the next 20 years buying land and building classrooms across NSW to expand its network of schools.

The Sydney Catholic Education Office intends to offer more places to non-Catholic families who have become increasingly dissatisfied with the performance of public schools.

A budget of $50 million every year for the next 20 years has been allocated to opening new schools and expanding the grounds of established schools across the inner west, south-west and eastern suburbs.

Taxpayers will fund some of the new schools, with all Catholic schools eligible to apply for federal government building grants.

Dr Dan White, executive director for the Sydney archdiocese schools, said more than 2000 prospective students were turned away from schools in 2012 simply because there was no room for them.

Bigger grounds were needed at most schools to accommodate extra classrooms for growing student numbers, Dr White said.

Cardinal George Pell described the proposed expansion of the Catholic education system as a healthy outcome for the Church and said much of the demand came from non-Catholic families.

"It is a healthy outcome for us. The demand for places in Catholic schools is high. They are happy communities, in literacy and numeracy they are almost invariably above the national average," he said. "I think the biggest compliment is the number of non-Catholics who would like their children to attend a Catholic school.

"We hope the Catholic school system will reinforce the faith and good work of the students. It certainly does make them socially aware, keen to contribute to society and strengthen their faith also."

Principals across Sydney Catholic schools have been directed to look for vacant land or houses for sale close to their schools. "Catholic education in Sydney is going through an unprecedented period of growth," Dr White said. "Our enrolments have grown by over 1000 children every year for the past three years.

He said many parents were taking their children out of public schools because they believed Catholic schools provided a better quality education.

"We find parents are looking for a school that has a spiritual base to it and provides a real values-for-life framework for their children," he said.