Monday, January 14, 2013

It was REALLY hot in Sydney recently -- about the same as 1790 (i.e. over 200 years ago)

The following was written by Watkin Tench, a British military officer, just two years after white settlement in Australia.  Temperatures reached at least 108 F (42 degrees Celsius), similar to some records of maximum temperatures in Sydney in recent days. 

The current average daily maxima for Sydney are 25.1 degrees for December and 25.8 for January.  So 1790 was a year of extreme warming despite no power stations, SUVs or factories.  There were not even many people

To convey an idea of the climate in summer, I shall transcribe from my meteorological journal, accounts of two particular days which were the hottest we ever suffered under at Sydney.

December 27th 1790. Wind NNW; it felt like the blast of a heated oven, and in proportion as it increased the heat was found to be more intense, the sky hazy, the sun gleaming through at intervals.

At 9 a.m. 85 degrees At noon; 104 Half past twelve; 107 1/2 From one p.m. until 20 minutes past two; 108 1/2 At 20 minutes past two 109 At Sunset 89 At 11 p.m. 78 1/2

[By a large Thermometer made by Ramsden, and graduated on Fahrenheit’s scale.]

December 28th.

At 8 a.m. 86 10 a.m.; 93 11 a.m.; 101 At noon; 103 1/2 Half an hour past noon; 104 1/2 At one p.m. 102 At 5 p.m. 73 At sunset 69 1/2

[At a quarter past one, it stood at only 89 degrees, having, from a sudden shift of wind, fallen 13 degrees in 15 minutes.]

My observations on this extreme heat, succeeded by so rapid a change, were that of all animals, man seemed to bear it best. Our dogs, pigs and fowls, lay panting in the shade, or were rushing into the water. I remarked that a hen belonging to me, which had sat for a fortnight, frequently quitted her eggs, and shewed great uneasiness, but never remained from them many minutes at one absence; taught by instinct that the wonderful power in the animal body of generating cold in air heated beyond a certain degree, was best calculated for the production of her young. The gardens suffered considerably. All the plants which had not taken deep root were withered by the power of the sun. No lasting ill effects, however, arose to the human constitution. A temporary sickness at the stomach, accompanied with lassitude and headache, attacked many, but they were removed generally in twenty-four hours by an emetic, followed by an anodyne. During the time it lasted, we invariably found that the house was cooler than the open air, and that in proportion as the wind was excluded, was comfort augmented.

But even this heat was judged to be far exceeded in the latter end of the following February, when the north-west wind again set in, and blew with great violence for three days. At Sydney, it fell short by one degree of what I have just recorded: but at Rose Hill, it was allowed, by every person, to surpass all that they had before felt, either there or in any other part of the world. Unluckily they had no thermometer to ascertain its precise height. It must, however, have been intense, from the effects it produced. An immense flight of bats driven before the wind, covered all the trees around the settlement, whence they every moment dropped dead or in a dying state, unable longer to endure the burning state of the atmosphere. Nor did the ‘perroquettes’, though tropical birds, bear it better. The ground was strewn with them in the same condition as the bats.

Were I asked the cause of this intolerable heat, I should not hesitate to pronounce that it was occasioned by the wind blowing over immense deserts, which, I doubt not, exist in a north-west direction from Port Jackson, and not from fires kindled by the natives. This remark I feel necessary, as there were methods used by some persons in the colony, both for estimating the degree of heat and for ascertaining the cause of its production, which I deem equally unfair and unphilosophical. The thermometer, whence my observations were constantly made, was hung in the open air in a southern aspect, never reached by the rays of the sun, at the distance of several feet above the ground.


Improving welfare or wasting money?

The debate over the adequacy of the dole flared up again last week when Minister Jenny Macklin MP said that she could live on the base rate of Newstart Allowance – or $35 a day.

Given that Macklin, a senior cabinet minister, is on a salary of approximately $900 a day, the ‘gaffe’ appeared to be made by someone aloof and out of touch with reality.

More accurately, Macklin fell into a trap that was set by the welfare lobby to reignite their campaign for an increase of the base rate of Newstart Allowance by $50 a week.

Government estimates placed the cost of such an increase at $15 billion over four years. Rival estimates commissioned by the Australian Greens put the cost of such an increase at $8 billion over four years.

Whichever figure you choose, if the welfare lobby is successful in increasing the Newstart Allowance by $50 a week, it will cost taxpayers billions of extra dollars every year. That is on top of existing spending commitments for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the Gonski school reforms.

Such an increase in the Newstart Allowance will also necessarily entail wasting hundreds of millions of dollars of public money too because the data shows that even at $35 a day, Newstart Allowance seems to be serving its purpose as a short-term payment between jobs.

Around 30% of Newstart recipients move off income support within three months and more than 70% of Newstart recipients move off it within 12 months. Increasing Newstart by $50 a week will result in a windfall financial gain for these individuals without changing their behaviour.

Hundreds of thousands of Newstart recipients will receive this windfall gain if the government caves in to the welfare lobby and increases the base rate of Newstart Allowance. What this means is that the government will spend hundreds of millions of dollars of public money for no public gain.

It would be the very definition of government wasting taxpayer money.


Rush for solar power to increase Queensland electricity prices

THE rush on solar power that led more than 100,000 Queenslanders to sign up for rooftop panels could end up costing households extra on their electricity bills.

Charges are added to every electricity bill to fund incentives for people with solar power.

The State Government had estimated the feed-in tariff would add $75 to power bills in the southeast this year, but that is now predicted to blow out, rising to as high as $100 as a result of a spike in applications last week before the feed-in tariff for solar being slashed.

About 110,000 Queenslanders lodged an application with either Energex or Ergon in the two weeks before the July 9 cut-off, dubbed Mad Monday, which saw the feed-in tariff drop from 44c per kilowatt hour to 8.

Eco-Kinetics state general manager Torben Struck said he lodged 1100 applications on behalf of customers in the past fortnight.

An Energex spokesman said applicants for 5kW systems or smaller were not expected to be hit with problems caused by a solar power overload in their street after the Government moved to exclude large systems from the scheme.

Clean Energy Council policy manager Darren Gladman said householders who missed the deadline were better off installing a system where they were using the majority of electricity themselves.


Ambulance response sparks daughter's demand for inquest

A BRISBANE family is demanding the State Coroner hold an inquest into the death of their elderly father after it took an ambulance more than an hour to reach him.

The daughter of Nick Dapontes, Alexis Tubaro, claims her 76-year-old dad had to wait too long for an ambulance, and when it arrived, he was treated as "non-urgent".

She has called on State Coroner Michael Barnes to order an inquest citing "the circumstances and effect of the non-urgent transfer" of her sick father and the need to swap vehicles prior to reaching Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, where he died.

"On Monday, 29 August 2011, on or about 3pm, Nick Dapontes was transported to hospital via a non-urgent ambulance," Ms Tubaro said in documents lodged at Brisbane's District Court.

"An urgent ambulance with proper emergency equipment and adequately trained and experienced ambulance paramedics should have been called. Half way to the hospital, Nick Dapontes was transferred from a non-urgent ambulance to (an) urgent ambulance."

Queensland Ambulance Service documents lodged in court show the call was received at 12.40pm and an ambulance dispatched at 1.56pm.

Paramedics were on scene at 2.09pm and treated Mr Dapontes two minutes later. Mr Dapontes was loaded into the ambulance at 2.43pm, which reached RBWH at 3.31pm. He was off the stretcher nine minutes later and died at 10pm, according to court documents.

Mr Dapontes was a diabetic and suffered a stroke about a year before he was placed in full-time care at Eventide Nursing Home at Brighton in Brisbane's north.

He was also treated at Redcliffe Hospital for gallbladder problems and it was allegedly discovered he was suffering from "three seriously infected bedsores ... serious dehydration and pneumonia".

Ms Tubaro said Mr Dapontes died of heart problems but nobody had diagnosed a heart condition.

"The first we heard of Nick's heart problems was when we got the autopsy results (in) 2012," she claimed in court documents. "This is not appropriate care."

A QAS spokeswoman said as representatives of the patient had lodged a formal complaint the service was not in a position to comment in detail. However, she said due to a period of high demand, QAS dispatched a vehicle at 1.56pm, arriving on scene at 2.09pm.

"ICP (intensive care paramedics) met the crew who were already en route to hospital and accompanied the patient for the remainder of the journey to the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, which was deemed the most appropriate facility for this patient given the seriousness of his condition following assessment by paramedics," she said in a statement. "At no stage were any of the attending crew 'hot swapped'."


Schools banning 'outlaw' students

STATE schools are taking a tough line to keep dangerous young pupils accused of violent and disruptive behaviour out of the classroom.

During the past six years, school authorities have taken the extreme measure of barring students from attending any public school in Queensland at least 18 times, newly released figures reveal.

Separate figures show state schools are facing worsening schoolyard violence, with principals handing out almost 20,000 suspensions for "physical misconduct" last financial year - that's about 95 suspensions for every school day.

It compares to 15,400 suspensions for physical misconduct five years earlier. Physical misconduct suspensions made up about one-third of all suspensions handed out by schools during the last reporting period.

Exclusions from individual schools have surged by 50 per cent, from 766 cases in 2006-07 to 1176 last financial year.

All up, there have been 3500 cases where students have been permanently excluded from individual state schools between 2007 and 2011.

The spike comes after principals were given the power to directly expel students without departmental permission.

Principals only exclude a student after deciding their behaviour has become so serious a suspension would not be tough enough.

A small number of students have attempted to overturn an exclusion notice, but have had only limited success.

"Of the 3500 students, approximately 40 students have sought a review of their exclusion decision and fewer than 10 exclusion decisions have been revoked," a briefing note to Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek, released under Right to Information, reveals.

Mr Langbroek said while the increased number of exclusions was concerning, schools would not tolerate violent, dangerous or criminal behaviour.

"Any behaviour that endangers the safety of other students or teachers will not be tolerated and principals have my full support in taking a tough stance in these circumstances," he said.

Students handed an exclusion can apply to attend another school, unlike those issued a statewide schools ban, which can only be issued by the director-general of Education Queensland.

Two of the worst cases triggering statewide school bans involved teenagers charged with offences ranging from sexual assault to murder, the RTI documents show.

It was feared young girls, especially special education program students, could be targeted should one of the students be allowed back to school. Both students applied to return to class after a period of absence but were blocked due to the "unacceptable safety risk".

The remainder of the cases involved students already attending school but frozen out of the public system because they either persistently disrupted class or posed an unacceptable risk.

Education Queensland deputy director-general Lyn McKenzie said decisions to exclude students were not taken lightly.

She said students excluded from all state schools must still be provided with an education, with one option being a school of distance education.

Children's Court judge Michael Shanahan last month expressed concern that excluding badly behaved students was not productive.

But Queensland Teachers Union vice-president Julie Brown said disruptive behaviour put a strain on the whole classroom.


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