Friday, August 31, 2012

Police called to investigate trolls behind Twitter tirade against Charlotte Dawson

This seems more a matter of police negligence than anything else.  The law is clear and at least some of the trolls have breached it.  Calls for more laws are just an attempt to excuse official negligence by both State and Federal governments

POLICE have been called in to investigate the "trolls" behind the Twitter tirade against TV host Charlotte Dawson that led to the celebrity being admitted to hospital yesterday.

With the Federal Coalition calling for tougher laws on online abuse, NSW Police Minister Mike Gallacher called for trolls to be "dragged out of their mother's basement and put before a court".

Any trolls caught would be prosecuted under the relevant state legislation.

Dawson's case, which saw more than 100 messages of hate aimed at her after she named a Monash University employee who had told her to "go hang yourself", has been referred to NSW police by Mr Gallacher.

Dawson was admitted to hospital early yesterday after police and an ambulance were called to her inner-Sydney residence. A St Vincent's Hospital spokesman said she was expected to remain there last night.

Mr Gallacher said "even a cursory examination of the comments made to Ms Dawson overnight reveals they are clearly offensive to a reasonable person which is the test for any prosecution under Section 474.17 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act".

That section punishes use of a "carriage service" to menace, harass or offend with a maximum three-year jail term.

University of Technology Sydney communications law expert Michael Fraser said those who attacked Dawson had committed criminal acts.   "The online world is not above the law," he said.

Still, the Coalition wants reforms that would better protect people from cyber-bullying and harassment. The chairman of its online safety working group, Paul Fletcher, said the "online hate campaign" against Dawson was "shocking" and that "no Australian should ever have to go through something like this".

"The Coalition has been consulting extensively on whether changes to laws are required, with a particular focus on cyber bullying in children and young people," he said. "The sad experience of Charlotte Dawson is another indicator of the importance of a close look at the laws in this area."

Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy declined to comment.

A spokesman for Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said the trolls' behaviour was reprehensible and had no place in the community.

Many Twitter users set up fake accounts for the purpose of joining the campaign against Dawson.

Her Wikipedia page was edited 44 times yesterday as users with Dawson's best interests at heart fought to remove the cruel and hurtful edits trolls had added to her bio including renaming her as "Charlotte the Harlotte".

Karalee Evans, APAC digital media strategist for creative agency Text 100, said social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook needed to address their operating procedures in dealing with online abuse.


Surrogacy hopes closer

THE dream of starting a family for many Tasmanians unable to conceive a child is one step closer.

The long-awaited Surrogacy Bill to allow couples, including same-sex couples and singles, the ability to enter into surrogacy arrangements legally, was debated in the Upper House of the Tasmanian Parliament last night.

After agreeing to 25 amendments to the Bill, the Upper House has paved the way for the Bill to be passed back to the Lower House to vote on as early as today.

Attorney-General Brian Wightman said last night he was confident the Bill would pass the Lower House with the new amendments.

Murchison Independent MLC Ruth Forrest said last night a lot of work had been done to get the legislation to the present point.

"It has been a real collaborative approach between the Upper and Lower House," she said.

The Bill first passed the Lower House in April 2011 after Labor and the Greens united to defeat more than 10 amendments proposed by the Liberals, which they said would force many who wanted surrogacy underground.

Most of the debate last night centred around amendments, including the requirement for birth mothers to have given birth previously and to be 25 years old at time of the birth.

Without the Bill it is not legal for two parties to enter into a legally binding agreement where a woman could agree to become pregnant and to relinquish the child to those intending to be the child's parents.

The amendment that the birth mothers should have previously given birth to a live child was agreed to all Upper House Members.

But Hobart MLC Rob Valentine and Government Leader in the Upper House Craig Farrell wanted the legal age of the birth mother to be set at 21 not 25.

The proposed new legislation does require the birth mother and the new parents to seek counselling before entering into the agreement.

Tasmania will be the last state to legalise surrogacy.


Phantom Qld. Health employees paid by the state to do nothing

THEY have jobs funded by taxpayers but no actual work to do. More than 400 employees have been discovered on the Queensland Health payroll who do not have designated positions.

The government employees, who have been dubbed "supernumeraries", have been costing Queensland taxpayers almost $30 million a year to do next to nothing at the beleaguered health department.

Many of the permanent employees, dubbed by some as "ghosts who work", have been left without a real role following corporate restructures or finite project funding.

Dozens have even maintained "frontline" staff status after being transferred from clinical positions to policy and project roles.

However, strict industrial relations laws have meant the troubled department was required to retain the workers.

No supernumeraries, who earn on average about $70,000, are believed to have taken the voluntary redundancies offered by the Bligh government.

However, they will now have to find a proper position or face being forced out by the Newman Government.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg yesterday said the idle employees were a prime example of the "archaic" workplace laws in place.

"There has been a lot of talk about public sector job security," he said. "But I suspect most Queenslanders didn't know that actually extended to paying people whose job had been abolished."

Mr Springborg said if the Government could not find them work, voluntary redundancies would be offered.

"I feel for these employees because it's not their fault they have been left in limbo by the previous government," he said. "But if we can't find meaningful employment where they can use their skills to provide real services, then I will be offering voluntary redundancies."

According to an internal briefing note on the issue, the 409 staff discovered as at July 1 ranged from level 3 operational staff to a senior officer, who earns a six-figure salary.

Of the 409 permanent staff without work, 75 were categorised as "frontline" employees, such as nurses and health practitioners.

"However, this does not mean they are working on frontline roles as they may in fact have held that classification prior to relinquishing their role and may now be working in another capacity," it said.

The internal note said surplus staff with permanent status had often occurred because of "organisational change", where they had relinquished their position by taking extended leave or filled a role where the program funding had finished.

"In such circumstances, the officers have effectively decided that they wish to maintain their permanent employment status but recognise that they do not have a specific claim against a position," the briefing note said.

Eighty of the surplus staff have been found work or quit, leaving the Government with 329 staff in Queensland Health sitting all but idle.


"Asylum" boat survivors taken to Indonesia

Indonesia's search and rescue authority says 54 asylum seekers who were pulled from the water after their boat sank are being transferred to the country's mainland.

Dozens of people are still missing after their boat, bound for Australia, sank near Indonesia's Sunda Strait two days ago.  The boat was believed to have up to 150 people on board.

An Australian navy ship and merchant ships rescued the 54 people and found one body yesterday. Three of the survivors have injuries and are in a serious but stable condition.

A senior source for Indonesia's search and rescue authority, Basarnas, has told the ABC of an overnight plan to transfer the survivors from the Australian Navy ship HMAS Maitland to Indonesian authorities.  It is understood they are being taken to Merak, in west Java.

In the past, attempts to send survivors back to Indonesia have proven difficult or even failed.

Asylum seekers have protested or threatened self harm in response to being sent back to Indonesia, which is not a party to the refugee convention and detains and deports even recognised refugees.

Four commercial ships and the Australian Navy will continue the search for survivors today.

Jo Meehan from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority says the operation will continue at full scale as it is believed that more survivors can be found.

But she still could not confirm how many are missing.  "The only report we have of the number of people on board the boat which was 150 came from the initial distress call that we received early Wednesday morning," she said.

The boat is the fourth known to have sunk on that route to Christmas Island in recent years.

Meanwhile, a customs boat intercepted 31 asylum seekers north of the Cocos Islands overnight.  Those on board have been taken to the Cocos Islands and will then be sent to Christmas Island for health, identity and security checks.

The Federal Government has again warned they are at risk of being sent to Nauru or Papua New Guinea for processing.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Must not report climate findings without mentioning global warming

In the newspaper report below you will see various mentions of the global warming faith interspersed with some actual research  findings.  If you look up the actual findings however (Abstract below) you will see that they actually had no data on global warming at all.  All they had was inferred data on rainfall derived from  Antarctic ice cores covering the last 1000 years. 

And what they found was that the climate 1000 years ago was much the same as today, with a slightly rainier period in between.  That proves global warming?  I would have thought the opposite. One thing it does prove is that you have to bow down before the great Moloch of global warming if you want to do research into climate

NEW research by Antarctic scientists has found the century-long decline in rainfall in eastern Australia is far from a usual event.

Researchers used ice cores drilled from Antarctica to analyse rainfall during the past 1000 years.

They found we are living in drier than average times, in all likelihood because of climate change caused by human activity.

Significantly, though, they also found a similar dry spell in the years 1000-1260 AD.

"There's a bit of research in eastern Australia going on that suggests that rainfall in eastern Australia is declining, probably since the 50s," says glaciologist Dr Tessa Vance, part of a team whose findings have been published in the Journal of Climate.

"But it's a bit hard to tell with short records.

"So this record now says we've got this decline, but it's not only unusual in the last few decades, it's unusual in the last thousand years."

The ice cores contain traces of sea salts deposited by winds in eastern Antarctica that provide the longest rainfall record yet for eastern Australia.

The team, from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre and the Australian Antarctic Division, attributes both dry spells to stronger or more frequent El Nino events, the cyclic dry that affects eastern Australia every few years.

But that doesn't mean the decline in rainfall over the past century is purely a natural phenomenon.

"There's other research going on that suggests that not only do El Ninos bring hotter years - so possibly there's a temperature link in one direction - but maybe hotter temperatures give you more El Ninos as well," Dr Vance said.

"We know this current period is being warmed by humans.

"So if that's having an effect on the frequency of El Ninos or the strength of them, then it's definitely leading to a drier eastern Australia."

The team plans to extend the research back at least another thousand years to provide a historical model for climate scientists.

Journal of Climate 2012

A millennial proxy record of ENSO and eastern Australian rainfall from the Law Dome ice core, East Antarctica

By Tessa R. Vance et al.


ENSO causes climate extremes across and beyond the Pacific Basin, however evidence of ENSO at high southern latitudes is generally restricted to the South Pacific and West Antarctica. Here we report a statistically significant link between ENSO and sea salt deposition during summer from the Law Dome (LD) ice core in East Antarctica. ENSO-related atmospheric anomalies from the central-western Equatorial Pacific (CWEP) propagate to the South Pacific and the circumpolar high latitudes. These anomalies modulate high latitude zonal winds, with El Niño (La Niña) conditions causing reduced (enhanced) zonal wind speeds and subsequently, reduced (enhanced) summer sea salt deposition at LD. Over the last 1010 years, the LD summer sea salt (LDSSS) record has exhibited two below average (El Niño-like) epochs, 1000-1260 AD and 1920-2009 AD, and a longer above average (La Niña-like) epoch from 1260-1860 AD. Spectral analysis shows the below average epochs are associated with enhanced ENSO-like variability around 2-5 years, while the above average epoch is associated more with variability around 6-7 years. The LDSSS record is also significantly correlated with annual rainfall in eastern mainland Australia. While the correlation displays decadal-scale variability similar to changes in the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO), the LDSSS record suggests rainfall in the modern instrumental era (1910-2009 AD) is below the long-term average. In addition, recent rainfall declines in some regions of eastern and south-eastern Australia appear to be mirrored by a downward trend in the LDSSS record, suggesting current rainfall regimes are unusual though not unknown over the last millennium.


Long Qld. public hospital  delays leave patients in agony

A WOMAN pregnant with her fifth child and experiencing contractions was turned away from Logan Hospital and told to drive herself to the Gold Coast to have her baby.

This is one of thousands of cases across Queensland in recent months where patients waited for at least two hours for treatment because of emergency department overcrowding, documents obtained by The Courier-Mail under Right to Information laws show.

The situation is so dire, a six-month- old baby suffering severe bruising from domestic violence had to wait almost four hours before being admitted to hospital, in one of the worst recent cases of ambulance ramping this year.

In another complaint, an incapacitated woman who arrived at a hospital as a passenger in a car was told to wait in the vehicle for an ambulance in order to be ramped.

While a 71-year-old man with a swollen testicle and abdominal pain had to wait two hours for an ambulance and then another four hours at the Gold Coast Hospital for admission.

Logan and Gold Coast hospitals have the worst waits, followed by Redcliffe, Ipswich and Princess Alexandra hospitals.
Authorities blame ramping when patients experience delays to admission and a chronic flu season for tying up resources resulting in regular dispatch delays, which force many ambulance officers to resort to Band-Aid solutions.

Queensland Ambulance Service reports show 1400 cases of ramping for at least two hours in only two months (April 1 to June 1) of this year involving the most urgent code 1 and 2 cases.

The State Government yesterday conceded the situation was shocking but promised it was being addressed.

"These problems are worse than many Queenslanders would imagine ... (and) have nothing to do with the quality or quantity of available facilities and everything to do with leadership and the need to take full responsibility at the local level," a spokesman for Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said yesterday.

"On top of other examples, such as the case of the elderly woman with blood poisoning who spent more than seven hours in an ambulance parked outside a succession of three Queensland hospitals, these cases show the seriousness of the situation and the need for major change," he said.

The Courier-Mail revealed earlier this month that a man died after being ramped at Nambour Hospital for more than four hours.

Mr Springborg recently handed down the Metropolitan Emergency Department Access Initiative report, which from January 1 will ban hospitals from diverting ambulances when emergency departments are full and make health boards accountable. Emergency patients will also increasingly be transferred from ramped ambulances into waiting rooms overseen by new senior nurses.

QAS officers arrive to half of all cases within 8min 16sec and 90 per cent of cases in just over 16 minutes. Ambulance commissioner Russell Bowles said in some longer waits the pick-up was prearranged but acknowledged some dispatch delays of several hours because of workload.


* Six-month-old baby suffering severe bruising after being the victim of domestic violence waited in an ambulance for almost four hours at Caboolture Hospital before being admitted

* 40-year-old woman miscarried after waiting more than two hours to get into Gold Coast Hospital

* 17-year-old having a seizure transferred from Beaudesert Hospital urgently waited two hours at PA because there were no beds available

* 19-year-old assault victim fell unconscious after being assaulted and waited almost three hours until he was admitted to Caboolture Hospital

* 51-year-old overdose victim waited 10 hours for treatment at Gold Coast Hospital and half an hour for triage

* 55-year-old suffering a psychiatric episode waited four hours before an ambulance was dispatched. Waited another two hours at Gold Coast Hospital

* 4-year-old who stabbed a pencil in his eye was transferred to Mater in Brisbane after being ramped at Ipswich for two hours

* 39-year-old injured in a motorcycle accident waited more than three hours at PA

* 57-year-old suffering chest pains fearing a heart attack waited almost half an hour for an ambulance and another 3 hours for admission to PA

* 51-year-old lost sight after waiting more than two hours for an ambulance to be dispatched and then waited more than nine hours to be seen by a doctor at Rockhampton

* 93-year-old with a blocked urinary catheter waited on a stretcher for 14 hours for admission to Caboolture Hospital

* 87-year-old suffering a collapsed uterus waited almost two hours for an ambulance and then more than three hours before being admitted to Redcliffe Hospital

* 59-year-old suffering heart failure at Cairns Base Hospital waited two hours on a stretcher

* 23-year-old motorcyclist with critical injuries was ramped at Cairns Base Hospital for two hours

* 73-year-old who fainted and was vomiting waited two hours before an ambulance was dispatched and more than two hours for admission to Redcliffe Hospital

* 89-year-old with a gall bladder infection waited four hours for an ambulance to be dispatched and another two hours once he reached PA

* 71 year-old with a swollen testicle and abdominal pain waited two hours for an ambulance and another four hours at Gold Coast Hospital for admission.


Court bars parents from smacking child

Judge-made law?

WARRING parents have been banned from threatening to smack their daughter who has been diagnosed with the latest anti-authoritarian behaviour disorder.

The parents, who have been fighting for custody of the eight-year-old, have been ordered by the Federal Magistrates Court not to use or even "threaten" to use a wooden spoon or slipper or any "other instrument to punish" the girl.

She has been diagnosed with ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder, which is characterised by persistent anti-authoritarian behaviour.

The bans follow allegations in a recently published judgment that the mother smacked her daughter with a wooden spoon after the girl went out without telling her where she was going.

In handing down his judgment, federal Magistrate Giles Coakes acknowledged the mother had sought advice from a women's refuge and now conceded smacking was "no longer appropriate". She now sends the girl to her room as punishment.

Under the orders, both parents are "restrained from physically punishing the girl by any physical means including but not limited to smacking, slapping, pushing, grabbing, holding, using a slipper, or spoon or any other instrument".

Magistrate Coakes said the orders also included "the threatened use of any such instrument".

"(Each) parent is further restrained from causing or permitting any other person to administer such form of punishment or threatening to use such form of punishment," he said.

According to the judgment, the mother had conceded her de facto had once threatened to hit the girl with a "bamboo stick" while they were "mucking around" and may have also "smacked" her on the hand.

The Victorian-based mother, who suffers from depression, lost custody of her daughter to the girl's father, who will now raise her, a 14-year-old son and 18-year-old son in Queensland.

The couple also have a 21-year-old daughter, who no longer lives with either of her parents. Magistrate Coakes said the three eldest children had behavioural difficulties but he did not elaborate on these as part of his lengthy judgment, except to refer to an incident in which the 14-year-old boy "threatened, abused and hit" his mother after an argument she had with his father.

The mother allegedly "pulled his hair" and "pushed him" during the incident.

Despite declaring both parents have a "loving relationship" with their children, the magistrate described their own relationship as "antagonistic'. He ruled both parents be banned from listening in to their childrens' conversations with the other parent on telephone or Skype.

A non-denigration order was also made to stop the parents "making rude and insulting comments, swearing, shouting and making obscene gestures or permitting others to do so" within the presence or hearing of the children.


Troll loses her job

THE woman accused of urging TV presenter Charlotte Dawson and one of her Twitter followers to "go hang yourself" has been suspended from her university mentoring job.

Tanya Heti was directed to take leave with pay over the "troll" scandal, after Dawson reported a series of abusive tweets to her employers, Monash University.

The Foxtel star used a business card Heti had posted online to phone the woman and challenge her attacks on a Melbourne fan Bernadette Casey, after she defended Dawson from an earlier suicide taunt.

Casey revealed she had lost her partner Kevin to suicide, then was set upon by Heti who tweeted: "if I was your fiance I'd hang myself too #gohangyourself."

The New Zealand expat declined to comment after the Twitter bullying was exposed, a spokesman for Monash confirming yesterday it was investigating the social media incident.

Dawson said the disciplinary action was "an important lesson in consequences when people decide to mock or encourage suicide".

Cyber crime experts have warned that hate tweets could also be prosecuted as a breach of the Commonwealth Crimes Act, relating to using "a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence or for the purposes of a threat".

Fan forums and Dawson's Twitter account have been inundated with feedback over her "troll-busting" action, with overwhelming support for her stand against bullying.

However, trolls have also upped their attacks on her practise of re-tweeting abuse so as to shame anonymous or offensive twits.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tragedy of sick baby girl who died hours after doctor gives all-clear to go home

One wonders what the doctor was thinking.  Was he manic or something?  When my son had gastro once in his childhood, I took him to a leading private hospital where he was immediately put on a drip  -- despite him not having any gross symptoms, as the child below did.  My son made a rapid recovery

A HEARTBROKEN mother whose baby died hours after seeking medical help told an inquest she felt her fears that her daughter was dehydrated were dismissed by a doctor.

Olivia Jean Johnson, 11 months, died in May 2011 from dehydration at Balcanoona station home, about 105km east of Leigh Creek, in the northern Flinders Ranges.

Deputy State Coroner Anthony Schapel yesterday opened the inquest, in Port Augusta, into the infant's death. Olivia's mother, Melissa Hands, told the inquest she took her to Leigh Creek - two hours away - after two days of diarrhoea and vomiting.

Ms Hands said she was worried Olivia was dehydrated, but Dr Geoffrey Cox had reassured her that was not the case and sent them home after a five to 10-minute consultation.  "I said, 'I think she's dehydrated because of the dark rings around her eyes'. And he said, 'Oh no, she's not'. I went 'OK, well how can you tell that' and he said 'by her lips'," Ms Hands said.

"I thought he would want to keep us in or send us to Port Augusta and that's when he cut me off and said: 'Oh no, it's just a gastro bug'."

The inquest heard Dr Cox suggested Olivia take Gastrolyte and Panadol to help control her symptoms and told Ms Hands to return should the condition worsen.

Ms Hands said her daughter had survived hernia surgery after being born seven weeks prematurely. She said because of that, she was particularly sensitive about any unhealthy signs.

The inquest heard once home from Leigh Creek, Olivia stopped breathing about 7.30pm.

Ms Hands and Olivia's father, Wade Johnson, performed CPR for about two hours before paramedics arrived. They failed to revive her.


Internet data tracking proposal seen as 'a police state'

PROPOSED laws that would allow the web and telecommunications data of all Australians to be stored for two years have been dubbed "characteristic of a police state".

The federal government has sent its contentious discussion paper on changes to the national security legislation to a parliamentary inquiry rather than introduce it as legislation. In July, the Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, acknowledged the privacy and financial costs of the scheme, saying "the case has yet to be made" for the controversial plan.

In a heated submission to that inquiry, Victoria's Acting Privacy Commissioner, Anthony Bendall, dubbed the proposals "characteristic of a police state", arguing "it is premised on the assumption that all citizens should be monitored".

"Not only does this completely remove the presumption of innocence which all persons are afforded, it goes against one of the essential dimensions of human rights and privacy law: freedom from surveillance and arbitrary intrusions into a person's life," he said.

The government says its proposals are under consideration only, and it has sought the views of the multi-party inquiry on the plans in its discussion paper.

These include allowing authorities to access anyone's computer to get to a suspect's device, or to "enter a third-party premises for the purposes of installing a surveillance device".

It is also considering increasing the scope of search warrants from 90 days to six months and establishing an "authorised operations scheme" to protect ASIO officers from civil or criminal liability.

The government says telecommunications intercept laws, which date from 1979, have become hopelessly outdated.

But civil liberties groups and telcos have slammed the proposals in submissions to the inquiry.

The Law Council of Australia said if the wide range of proposals were adopted, they would "constitute a very significant expansion of the powers of Australia's law enforcement and intelligence agencies". It questioned whether this was necessary given the "extensive catalogue" of powers the agencies already had.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre said the legislation was unnecessary and posed a threat to privacy rights.

"Extension of these powers to people not suspected of any crime who, for example, happen to live in property adjoining that of a suspect, is disproportionate to the purpose that covert search warrants are intended to achieve and is an unjustifiable incursion of the right to privacy," the centre said.

The internet provider iiNet said the government had failed to demonstrate how current laws were failing or how criminals and terrorists posed a threat to networks, and said asking carriers to intercept and store customers' data for two years could make them "agents of the state" and increase costs.

A joint submission from telco industry groups said companies were "naturally predisposed to protecting [their] infrastructure" without government requiring them to do so. Further, it argued, it would cost between $500 million and $700 million to keep data for two years. It called for full compensation from the government's security agencies.

The Australian Federal Police and the Australian Taxation Office were among the few supporting the proposal to retain all telecommunications data.

The ATO said the proposal would be consistent with European practices and that being able to access real-time telecommunications data would allow it to "respond more effectively" to attempts to defraud the Commonwealth.

The AFP said interception capabilities were increasingly being "undermined" by fundamental changes to the telecommunications industry and communications technologies.


Australian govt.  denies new asylum-seeker policy not working

Australia said Tuesday its new policy to deter asylum-seekers by shipping them to small Pacific islands would take time to work, after figures showed more than 1,000 boatpeople had arrived since it was adopted.

Canberra announced its intention to transfer asylum-seekers to tiny Nauru and Papua New Guinea on August 13 and since then 18 boats carrying 1,072 people have arrived, according to releases from Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen rejected the idea that the new approach designed to crack down on people-smugglers and deter refugees from making the dangerous boat journey was not working.

"It's not having an effect yet, but it does take time to work," Bowen told radio station 2SM.

"It will become more effective when we actually have planes going to Nauru and PNG."

Australia has said that people now arriving by boat without a visa run the risk of transfer to a regional processing country. The new policy applies to those who arrived after August 13.

But the camps on Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island, which will eventually have a total capacity of 2,100 people, are not yet up and running.

The temporary processing facility on Nauru being built by the Australian military is expected to hold some 500 people by the end of September.

Offshore processing is a sensitive issue in Australia, and is likely to be discussed by leaders at the Pacific Islands Forum, which gets under way this week.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard adopted the policy after months of bitter political debate and after several boats capsized while making the treacherous crossing to Australia and dozens of people died.

The government wants to shut down people-smugglers bringing asylum-seekers to Australia from transit hubs in places such as Indonesia amid an influx of arrivals originally from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

More than 8,800 asylum-seekers have arrived on 134 boats since the start of the year, surpassing the 2010 record of 134 boats carrying 6,555 people.

Government minister Brendan O'Connor said an increase in arrivals had been anticipated as people-smugglers "lied to those that they wanted to lure onto those vessels, in many cases unseaworthy vessels".

"That's happening now as they tell them to get in quick," he told Sky News.

O'Connor said he still believed there would be a "very significant decline in these irregular maritime arrivals" as a result of the new policy.

The policy signals a return to the policies of the previous conservative government, which sent asylum-seekers to Nauru and Manus but which center-left Labor rolled back soon after taking office in late 2007.


Gun owners set for a win in Queensland

MOVES by the State Government to cut red tape for prospective gun owners will put the public at risk of more gun violence, the Queensland Police Union has warned.

In the wake of the Robina Shopping Centre shooting on the Gold Coast, Police Minister Jack Dempsey yesterday announced a new panel comprising gun advocates, including a major firearms importer, would lead the Government crackdown on illegal gun use.

However, union president Ian Leavers said Queenslanders were just as likely to get shot by a legal firearm user, which was the case for Norm Watt and Perry Irwin - two police officers fatally wounded since 2000.

"A reduction in red tape around gun ownership will simply mean more people will die - it's as simple as that," Mr Leavers said.

"Since 2000, half the police gunned down in the line of duty were killed by licensed firearms owners. If anything, we shouldn't reduce red tape for gun owners but increase it.

"Red tape in this instance means risk mitigation and having appropriate safeguards, which we want to keep in place."

Panel members include Firearms Dealers Association of Queensland president Robert Nioa, Paul Feeney from the Queensland Shooters Association, Sporting Shooters Association of Australia president Geoff Jones, Shooters Union secretary Rob Harrold, International Coalition for Women in Shooting and Hunting chairperson Dr Samara McPhedran and David Kelly of Halls Firearms.

Announcing the panel today, Police and Community Safety Minister Jack Dempsey said it would advise on reducing red tape, delays and bureaucracy legitimate firearm owners face when applying for a new licence or weapon.

"The current system inconveniences legal firearms users, like sporting shooters and primary producers, while illegal firearms users are inadequately punished for their disregard of the law," Mr Dempsey said.

"I have created this panel to advise what legal firearms users require and any improvements that are needed, so they can safely enjoy their sport without experiencing mountains of forms and months of delays."

Mr Nioa, who operates Nioa Trading and is Bob Katter's son-in-law, welcomed the panel's creation.

"The Minister has indicated that he will be looking at ways of reducing red tape for licensed firearm owners, whilst improving public safety by targeting criminal use of illegal firearms. These are objectives I wholeheartedly endorse," said Mr Nioa.

Last year Mr Nioa threatened to launch a class action against the previous State Government over the failure of an online permit application system.  A huge backlog of applications created delays for dealers, and a significant loss of income.

Mr Jones said he was heartened by Mr Dempsey's "positive actions".

"SSAA Qld believes that the current firearm's licensing legislation and system is not evidence based and does little to contribute to public safety or the public interest," Mr Jones said.  "It is misdirected, unwieldy, costly, error ridden and is rapidly becoming unworkable."

Dr McPhedran also commended the move.  "I am especially pleased that the Minister recognises the ever increasing number of women active in the Queensland firearms community, and has ensured women are represented on his panel," Dr McPhedran said.

"This is an important step towards a more practical, common sense approach to firearms management in Queensland."


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

100 "asylum-seekers"  on hunger strike

This is excellent news and it is even being publicized in Pakistan!  It will have a significant deterrent effect on others thinking to sail for  Australia.  Such demonstrations were a major component of stopping the illegals under the Howard government

 Up to 100 asylum-seekers in detention in Australia were on hunger strike Sunday after being informed they would be transferred to a remote Pacific island under a tough new refugee policy.

An immigration department spokesman said “around 100” asylum-seekers being held at the Christmas Island detention centre had launched the strike on Saturday night after they were told they would be sent to Nauru.

They will be among the first group transferred to the tiny and remote Pacific island to await the processing of their refugee claims under a strict new policy Canberra hopes will deter a record flow of people-smuggling ships. “They were informed yesterday of the decision to transfer them to Nauru, and obviously it’s pretty difficult news to take,” the spokesman told AFP. “We’re managing that and trying to provide all the support and assistance we can, it’s obviously pretty difficult all round.” Under new legislation passed by parliament this month asylum-seekers who arrive by boat will be sent to either Nauru or Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island for indefinite periods while their visas are assessed.

It represents an about-face by the Labor Party which abandoned the policy after winning power in 2007, after complaints people had languished for years on the islands before being resettled under the previous government. Authorities have not clarified how long people would have to wait on Nauru or Manus before being resettled and have admitted that the remote facilities are so run down they were not yet suitable for use.

Refugee activists said “around 67” detainees were believed to be on hunger strike in the Christmas Island facility and “scores” of police had also been sent to the remote immigration centre to head off any protests. “The hunger strikers say that their treatment is unfair — they were not aware of any changed policy by the Australian government,” said activist Ian Rintoul.

There were reportedly similar starvation protests occurring at facilities in the northern city of Darwin, where refugee advocates said a group that included unaccompanied minors was “shocked” to learn they would also be sent offshore. “The fact that unaccompanied minors may be sent to remote locations for unknown periods of time should be a source of shame for the minister for immigration and the Australian government,” said Darwin activist Peter Robson. “There is little wonder as a result that there are reports that there are large hunger strikes now occurring in Darwin.”

The immigration spokesman said food, water and medical assistance was available to all detainees and they were “obviously encouraged” to eat and drink. “These sorts of protests and activities don’t have any effect on the outcome of their case, and likewise it won’t alter government policy,” he said. afp


High school teacher speaks out on undisciplined classroom behaviour

TEACHERS say efforts to raise literacy and numeracy standards in the state's schools are futile until a glaring issue is dealt with - bad behaviour in the classroom.

One high school teacher from the state's southwest has spoken out, attracting strong support from across the teaching spectrum.

Speaking in his role as a Queensland Teachers Union representative, high school teacher Paul Cavanagh said politicians and parents needed to know the degree of the learning problem affecting well-behaved pupils.

The QTU, Queensland Association of State School Principals and the Queensland Secondary Principals Association all agreed behaviour was a critical and daily issue confronting staff and called for more support, especially from parents.

Concerns have been raised about increasingly aggressive parents and a rising number of children with behavioural and mental health disorders.

In a recent letter to federal Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne, Mr Cavanagh warned: "Having students disrupting the learning environment is the No.1 factor that is holding public schools back, in my opinion."

Mr Cavanagh, 30, who is on leave this term, told The Courier-Mail that while violent attacks on teachers often made headlines, smaller daily behavioural problems were critical.

"It is the major contributing factor behind student performance at the moment - how does anyone concentrate or learn well with the constant disruption that is happening and nothing is being done?" he said.

"You get these lovely, quiet wonderful kids who are interested, who want to learn, and as a teacher it is heartbreaking to think that I can't spend more time helping those kids get from good to better because I am trying to get these uncontrollable kids to learn a bit of discipline.

"If I had a child of my own I would be so upset, not with the school or the teachers, but with other children to think that so much time was taken away from why my kids are there."

He said most parents really cared about their children's education and it was politicians he wanted to understand what was really happening in classrooms, given the current focus on education.

Queensland Association of State School Principals president Hilary Backus said behaviour was "getting worse and it is getting more and more critical that schools and homes work together".

Last year her organisation called for a co-ordinator at every primary school to deal with mental health, behaviour and social issues.

Queensland Secondary Principals Association president Norm Fuller said there was "no doubt" behaviour was an issue, and there had been an increase in parents wanting to argue with staff and "take some matters into their own hands".

QTU president Kevin Bates said there had been an increase in more violent behaviour among children, but this was a reflection of the community, not schools, with some parents actively working against teachers on the issue.

He said Mr Cavanagh's frustrations were shared by many teachers, and called for more positive learning centres for pupils with behavioural issues.

Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens' Associations president Margaret Leary said schools needed to be responsible for teaching, and parents for social issues.

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said poor behaviour in school should not be tolerated, and urged parents to "take responsibility for the behaviour of their children to help ensure that all Queensland students have the best education experience possible".

Education Queensland assistant director-general Sharon Mullins said the department had measures in place to help teachers manage challenging behaviour, including support staff, suspensions and exclusions.

"Education Queensland expects parents to work in partnership with the school," she said.


Desperate attempt to portray conservatives as "anti-women" in Australia too

It's also a theme of the American Left at the moment  -- on equally dodgy foundations

THE Himalayan heights of the resources boom are receding, we have an asylum-seeker policy that may just last until after the election and workers are being retrenched in their thousands but the core issue, surely, is whether Tony Abbott dislikes women.

In recent weeks, about $87 billion worth of development projects have been cancelled in this country while business leaders line up to tell the Government that the nation's productivity level is in decline, our international competitiveness is falling and the taxation system is in desperate need of reform.

Such is the parlous state of political debate in this country, however, that last week the allegation that the Leader of the Opposition had a problem dealing with women became an issue pursued fiercely by commentators, among them ABC Radio National's breakfast announcer Fran Kelly.

It was never a legitimate story and would never become one.

It was, to anyone with even a passing interest in politics, merely part of the tiresome tongue-poking and face-pulling that passes for debate in the House of Representatives.

Kelly, however, with a significant national radio audience, seemed determined to give it life.  Beginning with an interview with long-time Canberra press gallery member Michelle Grattan, Kelly said: "Labor politicians say he is disrespectful to women. Is there anything to this?"

It seemed to me that if Liberal politicians were saying Abbott was disrespectful to women, it was a story. If Labor politicians were saying that, it was, to my simple mind, just a tad predictable.

Grattan, who was apparently expected to relate examples of these unsubstantiated allegations of misogyny, shot them down.  "I don't think this is a gender issue," she said, adding that Labor had tried to discredit Abbott by making these claims in the past.

The answer to Kelly's question of Grattan was, then, effectively "No". This, you would think, would be the signal to move on to something substantive.  Kelly, however, was not to be put off. Next up was Attorney-General Nicola Roxon saying that it seemed to her that Abbott was "not very comfortable with capable women".

"Not very comfortable with", of course, was code for "hates".

No evidence was offered to support the Roxon view but it was deemed credible enough to take up prime, taxpayer-funded air time.

Next up on Kelly's morning line-up was Deputy Opposition Leader Julia Bishop.  Surely now we had heard the last of the "Tony Abbott is not comfortable with (hates) women" line and would move on to a genuine issue.

No, we hadn't.  "Some Labor people say Tony Abbott can't take direction from women, especially strong, capable women," declared Kelly to Bishop.

Did Kelly genuinely expect the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to reveal her leader had a problem dealing with women and to crumble in the face of Kelly's assertion that "some Labor people" said so?

Bishop, naturally, replied that she saw the accusations as part of a Labor smear campaign. Her answer to Kelly's assertions was "No".

"So you don't think there's anything to it?" persisted Kelly.

Bishop, who had just categorically denied there was anything in it, must have wondered if she had inadvertently replied to Kelly in Swahili.

Kelly, however, continued on her mission to get someone, anyone, to agree that Abbott had a problem with females.  "You don't think he's tougher on (Deputy Speaker) Anna Burke than he was on (Speaker) Peter Slipper, for instance?" she asked.

Even Bishop's normal ice-like composure was by now showing signs of global warming. "He does not have a problem with competent women," she replied.

Somewhere in the Prime Minister's Department, a spinmeister must have smiled as he or she watched the media take the Abbott-hates-women non-story and run with it. It was not our finest hour


Leftist Federal govt. fails to treat Aborigines as individuals

Classically Leftist

THE Northern Territory's new chief minister has warned the federal government needs to show more respect to Aboriginal people, accusing Labor of "sucking the life out of communities" in its handling of the intervention program.

The Labor Party seems likely to secure only eight seats in the NT's 25-seat Legislative Assembly, with one independent re-elected, although all votes in the weekend's election are yet to be counted.

Country Liberal Party leader Terry Mills is expected to be sworn in as chief minister on Tuesday.

He said a reduction in decision-making power for remote Aboriginal communities had damaged Labor's brand in the NT and the weekend backlash should be a lesson to the federal government.

When the NT intervention was introduced by the Howard government in 2007 it was an "emergency" measure to deal with a child abuse crisis, Mr Mills said.

"It's morphed into a monumental process that has sucked the life out of communities, wasted a lot of money and delivered no results," he told Sky News on Monday.

"Labor seems to care more about the idea of Aboriginal people but not the Aboriginal people themselves."

Mr Mills said the federal government needed to repair the relationship with indigenous people in the NT.

"It's not about the program, it's not about the legislation, it's not about the money, it's about the people concerned," he said.

"That seems to be missing in the thinking and the psyche of Labor."

He said indigenous people need to be empowered.  "We all want the same thing. An Aboriginal family on a community want something good for their kids and want programs that actually work, but they want to be involved in the implementation and shaping of the policies," he said.

"That part of it has been overlooked."

The intervention in Aboriginal communities, started by John Howard and renamed Stronger Futures after the ALP took it over, has been deeply unpopular in many indigenous communities.

Some Aboriginal leaders have said the laws unfairly branded particular communities as harbouring drunks and pedophiles and unable to manage their own affairs.

Mr Mills said while local issues had been a big factor in the election result the "the carbon tax" had also played a part in Labor's loss.

Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan told reporters in Canberra on Monday the territory election was fought on "local issues" and declined to comment on federal implications.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Low dole stops people getting ahead?

This stuff below is rubbish.  I lived on the student dole for a number of years in my youth  -- which was about the same money as the unemployed got (a bit less, I think) -- and I lived comfortably and even saved on it  -- living in a boarding house.  I got not a cent from my parents.  

But I didn't spend any of my money on beer and cigarettes either.  And being now the former proprietor of a boarding house myself, I know what "the poor" spend it on.  I even used to go to the pub to get the rent off my tenants on "payday".  And the parade of casks of Fruity Lexia entering the house later on that day had to be seen to be believed

Church bureaucrats and their ilk talk a good talk on the matter but I know the reality  -- JR

SOME people on the dole are living in such poverty that their chances of getting a job are limited, a report by the major church welfare organisations has found.

The report says single people living alone and single parents on Newstart or Youth Allowance face much greater financial hardship than other government benefit households.

UnitingCare Australia national director Lin Hatfield Dodds says people are looking for work in an environment that is inaccessible and even hostile.

"Work is increasingly part-time and causal and employers are looking for skills and experience these people don't have. Child care and transport are expensive or unavailable," she said in a statement.

Catholic Social Services Australia executive director Paul O'Callaghan said there was an urgent need for an increase in the basic allowance.

"Far from providing an incentive to find work, the current inadequate level of the payment prevents many people from seeking work and is adding to long-term and intergenerational disadvantage," he said in the statement.


Whitlam should have had warning, says Kerr adviser

Mason ignores Whitlam's smart-arse threat to "get to the phone first" and dismiss Kerr.  It was Whitlam who made it impossible for Sir John to warn him  -- JR

THE former chief justice, Anthony Mason, has broken his 37-year silence on his role in Australia's greatest political crisis to reveal that he advised John Kerr he should warn Gough Whitlam of his intention to sack his government in 1975.

Sir Anthony's comprehensive statement on his private conversations with the then governor-general, obtained exclusively by the Herald, asserts that Kerr was consistently counselled by his close friend against deceiving Mr Whitlam, but that this advice was ignored.

The statement reveals that at Kerr's request, Sir Anthony drafted a letter sacking Mr Whitlam but the governor-general chose not to use it. It also reveals he expressed relief when Kerr confided his intention to sack Mr Whitlam two days before the dismissal on November 11.

But Sir Anthony insists his expression of relief "was not, and should not have been understood as, encouragement to dismiss the prime minister as Sir John had already announced his decision to take that step".

Rather, he says, he was relieved because "I thought that the crisis should be resolved by a general election to be held before the summer vacation and any further delay could lead to instability".

Sir Anthony's statement represents the final piece in the dismissal jigsaw and, rather than vindicate Kerr's actions, the statement makes plain that the governor-general deceived Mr Whitlam against the explicit advice of his closest confidant.

Sir Anthony's decision to detail his role in a 3500-word statement - after steadfastly refusing for decades to comment - follows the discovery by the author Jenny Hocking of new documents written by Kerr. Hocking's biography, Gough Whitlam: His Time, will be released this week.

In the papers - lodged with the National Archives 15 years after Kerr's death in 1991 - Kerr asserts that Sir Anthony was the key influence who "fortified" him during the crisis that followed the Coalition's refusal to pass supply bills in the Senate.

"In the light of the enormous and vicious criticism of myself, I should have dearly liked to have had the public evidence during my lifetime of what Mason had said and done during October-November 1975 … [but] he would be happier … if history never came to know of his role," Kerr wrote.

"I shall keep the whole matter alive in my mind till the end, and if this document is found among my archives, it will mean that my final decision is that truth must prevail, and, as he played a most significant part in my thinking at that critical time, and as he will be in the shades of history when this is read, his role should be known."

Signalling that Kerr wanted his version to be history's final word, the document Hocking uncovered was not "to be read by anyone until all those concerned are dead".

But Sir Anthony's account repudiates Kerr's version on several key points, insisting Sir Anthony:

* Told Kerr he should warn the prime minister that he would terminate his commission if he did not agree to hold a general election. "The warning was not heeded";

* At no stage encouraged Kerr to dismiss Mr Whitlam;

* Did not, as Kerr claimed, volunteer or agree to give a written opinion on shadow attorney-general Bob Ellicott's statement that he had the power to sack the prime minister;

* Played no part in preparing Kerr's statement announcing his decision but at Kerr's request, prepared a draft letter terminating Whitlam's commission.

Interviewed by the Herald, Sir Anthony said the first inkling he had that Kerr had not warned Mr Whitlam he would be sacked if he refused to call a general election was when he read news reports on November 11.

A former solicitor-general, Sir Anthony was appointed to the High Court by the McMahon government in 1972. He had had no connections with either side of politics, which was one of the reasons Kerr cited for seeking his counsel.  "I wasn't advising him as a legal adviser. I was there in the capacity of a friend," Sir Anthony said.

Despite Kerr's refusal to warn Mr Whitlam, Sir Anthony maintains Kerr was subjected to "unjustified vilification" after the dismissal.  "I consider and have always considered that Sir John acted consistently with his duty, except in so far as he had a duty to warn the prime minister of his intended action and he did not do so."


Julia Gillard set up 'work safety' entity that was a slush fund

JULIA Gillard wrote in a formal application to establish an entity for her then client and boyfriend, union boss Bruce Wilson, that it was being formed for the purpose of achieving safe workplaces.

But during an internal investigation three years later by the partners of her law firm, following serious allegations that the entity had been used by Mr Wilson to misappropriate hundreds of thousands of dollars, Ms Gillard admitted it was a "slush fund" to raise cash for the re-election of union officials.

The discrepancy in the genuine purpose of the entity, the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association, at the time that it was established was not known to the West Australian government agency that had registered it in 1992.

Ms Gillard was questioned about it in a recorded and transcribed interview by the firm of Slater & Gordon, where she was a salaried partner, on September 11, 1995. She left her job soon after amid the partnership's "very serious view" of her conduct.

In the interview, a transcript of which has been obtained by The Australian, Ms Gillard said the incorporated association was set up as a slush fund to hold re-election monies, instead of the alternative of having bank accounts in the names of individuals.

"It's common practice, indeed every union has what it refers to as a re-election fund, slush fund, whatever, into which the leadership team puts money so that they can finance their next election campaign," Ms Gillard said in the interview.

The listed objects of the association, which are set out in the formal rules that were written by Ms Gillard, do not state that the purpose is to fund elections for union officials. The rules instead emphasise purposes including the promotion of safer workplaces and skills training.

In the formal application for the association, Ms Gillard wrote that it was formed for the purpose of "development of changes to work to achieve safe workplaces".

It can also be revealed that the West Australian government agency responsible for registering such entities questioned whether the union-linked association should be set up under different, more burdensome, legislation that applied to unions.

However, Ms Gillard provided assurances that it was legitimate. The Australian asked the Prime Minister yesterday if she was involved in the creation of a false document: namely, the application for the incorporation of the association.

A spokesman replied: "As the Prime Minister has repeatedly made clear, she was not involved in any wrongdoing.

"Any questions about this document should be addressed to the person who lodged and signed it, namely Ralph Blewitt."

Mr Blewitt, a former union bagman and sidekick for Mr Wilson, was also Ms Gillard's client from the AWU at the time.

He told The Australian this month that he had been involved in "sham transactions" and that he would talk to authorities in return for not being criminally prosecuted.

Ms Gillard previously declined to answer questions from The Australian, including whether the application form for the association gave a false or misleading impression. The Prime Minister has hit out at what she described as a "malicious" campaign. She said the matters being raised had nothing to do with her job now.

She has denied receiving any benefits from the funds. She has repeatedly rejected claims that renovations to her own house in Melbourne in the early-to-mid 1990s were part-funded by money allegedly siphoned off by Mr Wilson. However, in the internal interview she said she could not rule it out.

Other documents show that in April 1992, Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt sent the first invoice, headed AWU Workplace Reform Association, to a construction company, Thiess Contractors, to raise $25,272. This invoice falsely claimed that Thiess was required to pay for the "provision of an AWU Workplace Reform Association representative" to a construction project for some 700 hours. No such representative was ever on site. Many invoices followed.

The association's rules also state that "the property and income of the association must be applied solely in accordance with the objects of the association and no part of that property or income may be paid or otherwise distributed, directly or indirectly, to members, except in good faith in the promotion of those objects".

The association that Ms Gillard established was used by Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt to allegedly corruptly receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from large companies. At the time, the AWU's then national leaders, Ian Cambridge and Bill Ludwig, were not made aware of the association's existence.

They were unaware that large sums of money had been going into accounts linked to the association, and that some of those funds were withdrawn by Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt for purposes including the purchase of a $230,000 house in Kerr Street, Fitzroy.

Ms Gillard attended the auction with Mr Wilson, who had power of attorney, while her firm handled the conveyancing for the house, which was put in the name of Mr Blewitt. At the time the AWU was the client of Ms Gillard's employer, Slater & Gordon, and she was doing much of the AWU's legal work. Mr Cambridge, who called in police, the National Crime Authority and sought a royal commission to try to get to the bottom of the rorts by his then union colleagues, swore a September 1996 affidavit in the Industrial Relations Court about the scandal.

In his affidavit Mr Cambridge said his investigations revealed how bank accounts linked to the association "have been used to hold and/or launder union funds as a step in the conversion of those funds to unauthorised, invalid, irregular and possibly illegal uses".

Nick Styant-Browne, the former equity partner of Slater & Gordon who broke a 17-year silence to reveal that Ms Gillard had lost her job there as a result of the internal probe, rebuked the firm yesterday for its expressions of support for Ms Gillard.

Mr Styant-Browne said the description by the firm's managing director, Andrew Grech, of Ms Gillard's departure was "stunningly incomplete". He said he "did not contemplate the extent to which (Slater & Gordon) would seek to protect the Prime Minister".


No room for Sharia in Australia, says senior judge

A FORMER High Court chief justice has used an address in Sydney to argue against incorporating parts of Islamic law into the Australian judicial system.

Sir Gerard Brennan, who served on the High Court from 1981 to 1998, and as chief justice from 1995 to 1998, told an audience at The University of New South Wales that there was no room for Sharia law in the Australian legal system.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard last year ruled out the prospect of Sharia law becoming part of the nation's justice system, saying the only law in the country was Australian law.

In the annual Hal Wootten lecture on Thursday night, Sir Gerard said there had been suggestions there was room for a "system in which at least some parts of Islamic Sharia law might operate as part of Australian law". 

He said: "That suggestion seems to me to be misconceived."  Muslims were free to adhere to the "beliefs, customs and practices prescribed by Sharia law", the former chief justice said, but only as long as they did not conflict with Australian law.

"That freedom must be respected and protected but that does not mean that Islamic Sharia should have the force of law."

All Australian citizens, irrespective of their religion, had common values that formed the basis of Australian law, he said.   "Our citizens, including the Islamic community, share the basic Australian values of tolerance, egalitarianism, and individual freedom in thought and action," he said. [Muslims included?  Wishful thinking]


Sunday, August 26, 2012

To love and to submit: A new/old wedding ceremony in Sydney

This is good theology but it really cocks a snook at secularists and "modernizers".  I note that the wishy-washy Primate refused to criticize.  The Sydney diocese is the liveliest (and most fundamentalist by far) in Australia  -- comprising one third of  Australia's Anglicans -- so you can see his dilemma.  The Sydney diocese is only one out of 23 Anglican dioceses in Australia but its following puts the other 22 to shame.  It is close to being a church in and of itself

BRIDES will be promising to submit to their husbands under a new marriage vow the Anglican diocese of Sydney is expected to approve at its synod in October.

It requires the minister to ask of the bride: "Will you honour and submit to him, as the church submits to Christ?" and for her to pledge "to love and submit" to her husband.

The service is already being used in some Sydney parishes, under a diocese that opposes the full ordination of women and supports an exclusively male leadership doctrine.

The vows were written by the diocese's liturgical panel, which has the imprimatur of the Archbishop, Peter Jensen. The panel chairman, the Bishop of South Sydney, Robert Forsyth, said "submit" was a deeply biblical word.  "The Bible never said women must obey their husbands but Paul and Peter did say submit, which I think is a much more responsive, nuanced word."

The bishop said no one would be forced to use the new version, and an alternative would remain available to couples who did not want the woman to obey (which has been optional since 1928) or submit.

Kevin Giles, a New Testament scholar in Melbourne, said the subordination of women was exclusively related to "the fall" in the Bible and in 2012 made for bad theology.

"Jesus not once mentions the subordination of woman and says much in contradiction to this. Paul's comments over the subordination of women fit into the patriarchal culture of the day and are not the biblical ideal. The truth is that happy marriages today are fully equal, and unhappy marriages are ones where one or the other party is controlling."

Muriel Porter, a Melbourne academic and laywoman who writes on Anglican Church issues, said submit was a more derogatory word than obey and had connotations of slavery. "Frankly I'm horrified," she said. "It is a very dangerous concept, especially in terms of society's propensity for domestic violence."

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, declined to comment.


Breastfeeding fanatics

Class told baby formula 'was like AIDS'

EXPECTANT mums and their partners were told baby formula was "like AIDS" during an Australian Breastfeeding Association class.  Couples were also repeatedly told a baby died "every 30 seconds" from formula feeding, prompting a rebuke from doctors.

"Formula is a little bit like AIDS," one of the association's leading counsellors told couples in the breastfeeding education class.

"Nobody actually dies from AIDS; what happens is AIDS destroys your immune system and then you just die of anything and that's what happens with formula. It provides no antibodies.

"Every 30 seconds a baby dies from infections due to a lack of breastfeeding and the use of bottles, artificial milks and other risky products. Every 30 seconds."

The association has received $4.3 million from the Federal Government during the past five years and its patron is Governor-General Quentin Bryce.

The counsellor is commended in the ABA's latest annual report for taking the highest number of calls to the body's taxpayer-subsidised National Breastfeeding Helpline.  Other documents show she helped more than 900 callers in 2010 and was honoured at a branch conference last year.

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians said the baby mortality cited was "certainly not true in Australia" and could be "highly frightening" for new parents.

"There are better ways to try to explain the benefits of breastmilk," paediatric and child health division president Susan Moloney said.  "We highly support breastfeeding. It is the optimal form of nutrition for any human infant. But in the cases where it isn't able to be done, formula feeding is safe in Australia."

Australian Breastfeeding Association president Rachel Fuller immediately launched an investigation into the comments.

"These statements were inappropriate in this situation and the individual concerned has acted outside the instructions and guidelines given," Ms Fuller said.  "We take such matters seriously and are following this matter up internally today."

An expectant mother attended the class at the ABA's Brisbane office on behalf of The Sunday Mail after a complaint about a previous session.

A dozen couples paid $85 each, including a compulsory membership fee, to attend. Similar sessions are held regularly around the country. "Of course, there's the higher IQ and all of the diseases that you don't get," the breastfeeding counsellor said in her opening remarks.

"We used to talk about all those sorts of things, but we don't talk about any of those any more."  She added: "A couple of years ago I broke this leg, quite badly. Nobody said to me 'we have this wonderful range of wooden legs now' ... they fixed the leg."

Like wooden-leg salespeople, formula companies would try to promote benefits, attendees heard.  "That's what formula is; it's pure sales pitch. They don't say 'look, a baby dies from this product every 30 seconds' ... they forget about that bit."

No information was offered about deaths in Australia.

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Alex Markwell said the statements were "inappropriate" and could amount to "scaremongering".

"I just don't think those comments are helpful in the long term. We have enough evidence that shows breastfeeding is best wherever possible. But women who for whatever reason are unable to breastfeed should not be ostracised," Dr Markwell said.

Why we went undercover:

To gain a true picture of what was being told to couples one of our reporters, who is an expectant mother, attended the class as a member of the public. The Australian Press Council and Media Alliance guidelines allow for undercover investigations in circumstances of significant public interest and when no alternative is available.


I have personally encouraged young mothers I know to breastfeed but have also been supportive when they have been unable to manage it -- JR

Canberra public hospital surgeons shunning checklists on safety

Canberra Hospital surgeons failed to complete vital pre-surgery safety documents in most cases examined by an internal audit last year, ACT Health documents reveal.

And the papers show some Canberra Hospital surgeons were correctly filling in surgical safety checklists in just 4 per cent of the operations they performed in April 2011, the month before an elderly Yass woman died after a catastrophic surgical blunder at the hospital.

The internal papers reveal senior health officials believed the safety breaches were a "significant risk for surgery patients", and that compliance rates had become even worse by the end of last year.

But a senior hospital official defended his surgeons' conduct yesterday and said that an absence of documentation did not mean that the necessary safety checks were not being carried out.

In February last year, the auditors found that the pre-op safety checks had been completed in just 342 out of 1067 surgical procedures performed that month.

It was also found that despite surgeons being responsible for identity checks on patients - vital to ensure that surgery is not carried out on the wrong person - it was nurses who were mostly ensuring the checks were performed.

As late as March this year, executive director of quality and safety Elizabeth Trickett wrote in a memo that the audit results "highlighted that safety checks are not always being performed. This is a significant risk for surgical patients and the organisation."

The revelation will increase pressure on Chief Minister and Health Minister Katy Gallagher, who faces a motion of no-confidence in the Legislative Assembly brought by the opposition over her handling of the health portfolio. The Canberra Liberals described the latest documents yesterday as "explosive".

The audits were handed over by government solicitors to the family of Lima Thatcher, who are taking action in the Supreme Court to force an official inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of the 86-year-old, who endured botched surgery after a pre-op checklist was not completed.  [The doctors operated on the wrong hip]

Mrs Thatcher's granddaughter, Holly Chaloner, told The Canberra Times that she and her sister Kate were shocked when their legal team showed them the documents.

"We have to think again about what we were told by the hospital after seeing these statistics," Ms Chaloner said.  "We don't know how many other people this has happened to just because these simple checklists are not being followed.  "It's just astounding."

But Health deputy Ian Thompson said that the audits measured compliance with documentation requirements and not the safety procedures themselves.

"What we're trying to do with these forms is trying to develop a more effective indication that these checks are being done, it is not an indication that the check are not being done, it is a question of whether or not the forms are being filled out.  "It's an audit of whether the forms are being filled out, it's not an audit of whether the checks are being done.  "We don't have any evidence or reason to believe that checks are not being done."

Opposition Health spokesman Jeremy Hanson said the failings were systemic and that he was concerned with the hospital's own assessment that patients were being put in danger.

"The thing that concerns me is the systemic nature of this, the fact that 50 per cent, or thereabouts, of surgical patients at the Canberra Hospital are at significant risk, and that's the executive director of the compliance unit saying that," Mr Hanson said.  "That's a really disturbing figure and it flies in the face of everything we've been told by the minister."


Foot-dragging by negligent Qld. public hospital

TWO years ago today, four-year-old Tom Olive died after being rushed to a hospital where doctors didn't see him until it was too late.

In a 30-minute emergency department ordeal, a student nurse attended the boy with faulty equipment, and his dad, Andrew, had to begin CPR when medical staff failed to notice his son's heart had stopped.

Staff then could not locate a child resuscitation mask.

An investigation by the Health Quality Complaints Commission has not been finalised. The HQCC has informed Mr Olive and wife Trudy some Nambour Hospital staff were yet to be interviewed and two former health practitioners could not provide statements as they were "overseas, with no forwarding details".

The family's wait for answers has sparked a plea to Premier Campbell Newman and Health Minister Lawrence Springborg. In a letter, which was also provided to The Courier-Mail, the Olives asked why the investigation and potential lifesaving outcomes for other families were taking so long.

They said they had since discovered the condition that caused Tom's death, but would always be left wondering whether he could have been saved by better attention and communication in the emergency department and quicker diagnosis of his illness.

Tom's collapse and cardiac arrest was caused by a defective gene, named LPIN1, which breaks down muscle tissue and has officially claimed four Australian children and others around the world.  His sister Laura, 4, does not carry the mutation but his younger sister Rose, 1, does. A plan has been set up to manage her condition.

"We cannot explain the level of emotional pain and suffering this is causing our family," the Olives wrote.  "We would like you to put yourselves in our shoes. We have lost Tom, but cannot move on with our lives because we have this feeling in our gut that the circumstances surrounding his death have not been given the proper consideration."

The Olives said a coronial inquest could not be conducted until the HQCC investigation had been completed.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Australia Increases Refugee Quota in Broad Immigration Reform

 Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Thursday ordered an immediate increase in the number of refugees that her country accepts yearly, part of an immigration reform package aimed at encouraging migrants to use official channels for asylum rather than long and dangerous boat journeys.

The increase in the annual refugee intake — to 20,000 from 13,700, the biggest increase in 30 years — caps two weeks of bruising debate after the release of an expert report on immigration commissioned by the Australian government. The debate has led Ms. Gillard’s governing Labor Party to reverse its longstanding opposition to reopening remote offshore detention centers that were closed when the party came to power in 2007.

“This increase is targeted to those in most need: those vulnerable people offshore, not those getting on boats,” Ms. Gillard told reporters. “Message No. 1: If you get on a boat, you are at risk of being transferred to Nauru or P.N.G.,” she said, referring to a small Pacific island nation and to Papua New Guinea.  She continued, “Message No. 2: If you stay where you are, then there are more resettlement places available in Australia.”

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announced that the camps would cost 150 million Australian dollars, or $157 million, through the 2012-13 fiscal year. Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea could begin accepting detainees within days, he said, depending on negotiations.

But Mr. Bowen told reporters that the Nauru center would house only 1,500 people when fully operational, while Manus would hold 600 refugees, raising questions about their efficacy as deterrents. A total of 8,439 asylum seekers have arrived by boat in Australia this year, according to local news reports.

Graham Thom, an expert on immigration at Amnesty International, said that while the increase was a positive step, given the complex factors driving people to seek asylum, it was far from clear that camps of the type outlined Thursday would actually deter desperate refugees.

“For people fleeing violence and persecution, how they move and where they move is a complex interplay of both ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors,” Mr. Thom said. “With the situation in countries like Afghanistan likely to continue to force significant numbers to flee, whether or not they choose to continue to try and reach Australia, even with the reintroduction of offshore processing, remains to be seen.”

Thousands of people try to reach Australia each year on rickety, overcrowded vessels, leading to accidents at sea that have killed more than 600 people since late 2009. Around 90 asylum seekers are believed to have died in June when their boat capsized south of the Indonesian island of Java, reigniting a debate that has smoldered for more than a decade.

Australia has tried for years to formulate a policy that would deter would-be immigrants from trying to reach Christmas Island, a territory in the Indian Ocean that is Australia’s closest point to Indonesia. Ms. Gillard had proposed sending asylum seekers to Malaysia for processing, but the plan was rejected by Australia’s highest court and negotiations over a replacement plan broke down.


Defiant Pickering says he's not finished with PM yet

Regardless of what you think of Pickering's toons,  he's got a solid point in the sentence I have highlighted below

WHEN Julia Gillard lashed out at the "misogynist nut jobs on the internet" yesterday, she had in mind one man above all others, the famed former political cartoonist Larry Pickering.

Gold Coast-based Pickering began his career as a proof reader at The Canberra Times and got his break by posting cartoons on the door of the men's toilet. "There was only one dunny in the place, so I knew the editor would have to see them eventually," he said last night.

By the end of the '70s, Pickering - who last night claimed to have played for Richmond but is not listed in the encyclopedia of footballers - was at The Australian and his annual calendar of nude political portraits, Pickering's Playmates, was on many suburban toilet doors.

These days, he runs a blog, The Pickering Post, where he posts a cartoon and a column most days. His attack on Ms Gillard is seven entries into a planned 20-part series. Part eight may not be up today because he's waiting on some FOI material from Melbourne. But nothing in yesterday's press conference will deter him.

"I've got more material than ever. She's dodged every question she was asked," he said.

The site's commenters tend towards a passionate hatred of the PM common at the "nut job" end of the internet, and sexism features heavily. This one is typical, but only partly publishable: "Have you heard about the new Juliar KFC meal ….. 2 fat juicy thighs …" The rest is best left to the imagination. Or not.

Pickering frequently depicts the PM with a dildo hanging over her shoulder (it used to be a strap-on until Facebook censored him). Yesterday he rendered her as a pinata.

He refuses to concede there's anything misogynist about his treatment of her. "As for me being sexist, that's crap. I've never written a sexist thing about her. And as for the strap-on, Jesus Christ, you should see what I draw for the blokes."

Despite labelling his website "vile and sexist", the Prime Minister has ruled out suing, which is a disappointment to Pickering. "I'd love her to sue me," he said. "If she sues anyone, this will open up like a can of worms."

It may just be that Larry Pickering feels he's playing a game he can't lose. He claims to be broke, saying his ex-wife "took the helicopter, took the car, and took my kid". He's 70, and a simple pensioner, he insists.

It's a solid defence. Fairfax writer Michael Pascoe this week labelled Pickering "an inveterate liar, a bankrupt conman with a seedy history of fleecing the gullible". But, he added, "there's no point trying to sue a bankrupt".


Bill introduced into Queensland Parliament to scrap job security for public service

A slaughtered sacred cow!

A Bill scrapping job security for Queensland public servants was last night passed in State Parliament. 

The Public Service and other Legislation Amendments Bill was passed easily in the house, with 60 Members of Parliament voting in favour.  All seven Labor MPs, two members of Katter's Australia Party and two Independents voted against the Bill.

The Labor Member for Bundamba Jo-Ann Miller urged public servants to "flex off tomorrow" to protest the legislation.

In a move that stunned union leaders, Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie yesterday introduced the Bill to permanently remove job security from the government workforce, except for police.

The Government had tried to do that by "industrial instruments" known as directives but faced a Supreme Court challenge by unions, who said the move was unlawful.  But Mr Bleijie's move to amend the Bill yesterday invalidated that Supreme Court action.

Mr Bleijie said the amendments showed the Government was "committed to providing an affordable public service for Queensland".  It has claimed the state had "20,000 more public servants than it can afford".

But Together Queensland secretary Alex Scott said the legislation was a vicious attack on workers' rights that would allow the Government to sack health workers as well as other public servants.  "It's clear they're leaving no stone unturned to sack 20,000 workers," he said.  "By including health workers, it completely removes any guarantees that health jobs won't be outsourced."

As well as stripping job security and contracting out clauses, the Bill removes the requirement for workers to be consulted about workplace changes.  The amendments also mean regulations that reduce an employee's conditions will not have to be enshrined in law.

Queensland Council of Unions president John Battams said the state's workers were considering their legal options.

Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said the Bill was ill-conceived, rushed and had not allowed for sufficient consultation.   "We cannot in all conscience support a Bill that has not been adequately scrutinised by the committee system and had the required input from stakeholders," Ms Palaszczuk told Parliament.


NSW Govt. takes control of teacher numbers and class sizes

A NEW staffing arrangement for teachers was imposed on the profession yesterday, giving the state government discretion to control teacher numbers and class sizes.

The Department of Education gave the NSW Teachers Federation an ultimatum to sign a new staffing agreement by 5.30pm on Wednesday, but the federation refused. So the agreement was introduced as government policy instead of a formal industrial agreement, which means it does not legally bind the government.

The Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, said he was committed to maintaining existing class sizes as "policy" and said the federation could still sign the agreement to make it formal until 2016.

"The principals wanted the flexibility to determine their mix of staff and we've given that to them," he said.  The existing staffing agreement is due to expire within weeks.

The president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Maurie Mulheron, said he was not able to sign the agreement at "short notice" on Wednesday without first consulting his executive.

One of the sticking points in negotiations was the government's refusal to guarantee the number of senior teaching positions. It will be left to school principals to decide the number within a set budget.

Mr Mulheron said the staffing agreement would have formalised class sizes, but these were now at the minister's discretion.

He said the minister's action "confirms the fears of principals, teachers and parents that the government is intent on reducing the number of permanent classroom, executive and specialist teaching positions".  "Without a formal staffing agreement, the class size policy can be changed at any time from term 4, 2012, onwards."

In a letter to staff, the director- general of education, Michele Bruniges, said four months of negotiations with the Teachers Federation over new staffing arrangements arising from the Local Schools, Local Decisions reforms had failed.

"Unfortunately these negotiations have not resulted in an agreement and as such the department will implement the new staffing procedures from day 1, term 4, 2012, by way of policy," Dr Bruniges said. "A key element of the Local Schools, Local Decisions reforms is putting an end to the centrally determined one-size-fits-all staffing model.

"The Minister and I have been very clear that the Local Schools, Local Decisions staffing reforms will maintain a statewide staffing system, which has greater opportunities for teachers to be selected at the local level to better meet student needs; maintain the department's class size policies".

The opposition spokeswoman for education, Carmel Tebbutt, said the new arrangement meant there was no protection for the present number of teachers or class sizes. "These will now be at the whim of the minister," she said. The Greens MP John Kaye said: "Classroom sizes and important administrative positions in schools have now been completely deregulated."


Tony Abbott fights no-fishing bid in Coral Sea

PLANS to lock-up the Coral Sea as the world's biggest marine park face a fresh attack with Tony Abbott to push a Bill through Parliament to stall controversial new marine park protected areas.

The Opposition Leader, in opening the Brisbane Boat Show, will today detail a Coalition bid to stop a plan for a network of marine reserves around Australia.

He said commercial and recreational fishermen were not "environmental vandals".

"They want to be able to catch fish tomorrow as well as today, in the next decade as well as this one," Mr Abbott said. "That's why they're normally the strongest conservationists of fish stocks."

Furious fishers believe the proposed closures will kill access to fresh seafood with losses also in the Gulf of Carpentaria prawn industry.

High-profile advocates like Virgin founder Richard Branson and musicians Jackson Browne and Neil Young, calling themselves "Ocean Elders", have publicly backed the Coral Sea proposal.

The Coalition will support a private member's Bill from Member for Dawson George Christensen to put on hold any proclamation on new conservation areas and obtain independent scientific, economic and social analysis.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke yesterday rubbished a report showing a billion-dollar hit to Cairns alone as a "scare campaign".

"Their figure of $1 billion would only be correct if you were taking the impact of the marine parks over the next 200 years," Mr Burke said.

"I'm surprised that council would spend rate payers' hard earned money on a scare campaign like this."

Cairns Regional Council is asking Mr Burke's office to unveil a breakdown of its detailed cost analysis after an independent report by Cummings Economics revealed a $1 billion loss to the far north Queensland economy over three decades.

"We are all for protecting the Great Barrier Reef and our outer marine environment," said CRC officer Fiona Wilson.

"But this is not just the loss of a couple of fishing businesses, but a vast widespread impact, and we worry there is a risk they have heavily underestimated the cost.

"We want them to show us the modelling."

Protect Our Coral Sea advocates believe the green zones over nearly 1 million km sq will protect iconic marine species, fish stocks and coral reef in pristine waters.