Tuesday, January 29, 2013
PM's partner under pressure over prostate joke
He seems to be a bit of a nong but there was nothing wrong with what he said. He was just saying that a small finger is preferable for a rectal probe and noted that Asians are generally smaller. All perfectly reasonable. But ANY mention of racial realities draws fire, these days
WAS First Bloke Tim Mathieson's quip about prostate testing funny or poor taste? Forget the floods and driving rain, that's the question lighting up our social media sites today.
Mathieson, Prime Minister Julia Gillard's partner, made the quip during a speech at The Lodge last night for the Prime Minister's XI cricket match which will be held in Canberra today.
Mr Mathieson was acting in his capacity as a men's health ambassador when he encouraged the gathering - which included the West Indian cricket team - to get a prostate examination.
"We can get a blood test for it, but the digital examination is the only true way to get a correct reading on your prostate, so make sure you go and do that, and perhaps look for a small, Asian, female doctor is probably the best way," he said.
Cue anger, disappointment, eye rolls and a couple of chuckles from the social media brigade and a surprising defence from liberal senator, George Brandis.
“I think Tim Mathieson is lucky he didn't tell this joke after the Nicola Roxon anti-discrimination bill became law, because if he did he'd probably have been carted away to the re-education camp by the thought police,"Senator Brandis told Sky News.
Queensland takes on historic changes as 26 independent public schools open
Similar to U.S. Charters and U.K. academies
HISTORY will be created in Queensland schools tomorrow as 26 Independent Public Schools open their doors for the first time.
As well, the national curriculum extends its reach into classrooms and more Year 7 students will move to high school.
Queensland primary school students will learn history as a stand-alone subject for the first time statewide in decades, under the rollout of the national curriculum.
Aspley State High School is one of 26 Government schools chosen to take part in the controversial Independent Public Schools scheme, giving them more autonomy to make decisions, including the ability to hire staff.
The school is already creating a buzz over its rapid improvement in student results, with 92 per cent of their OP-eligible students last year receiving an OP1 to 15 - a better result than some prestigious private schools. About one in four students received an OP1 to 5.
Principal Jacquita Miller said their goal under IPS was to become "the school of choice for our local community" and to build closer links to businesses, organisations and other schools in the local area.
Staff plan to use IPS to fast-track creative and flexible changes around learning and timetabling and student improvement in academic and other results. "We can be more responsive, more quickly," Ms Miller said.
"My perfect Aspley State High School is every child, every day, doing the best that they can."
The IPS scheme initially sparked controversy with the Queensland Teachers' Union threatening to strike if it was introduced. They were concerned it could pit state schools against each other, but late last year the union signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the State Government over the scheme.
An Education Department factsheet says the IPS scheme will cut red tape, enable schools to tailor curriculum to students and "also shape a more innovative school system better able to respond to community and individual student needs to improve outcomes".
Each school in the scheme has received $50,000 to assist with the change and will be given an extra $50,000 each year for administrative purposes.
It comes as a further 18 state high schools trial Year 7 this year before the grade moves into secondary statewide in 2015. Junior secondary for Years 7 to 9 will also start in all state high schools this year.
Under the Australian Curriculum, history will also be taught as a stand-alone subject in all Prep to Year 10 classes.
Experts back Premier Campbell Newman's pre-emptive dam releases strategy
EXPERTS last night commended the pre-emptive dam release strategy imposed by Premier Campbell Newman on Seqwater.
They said it made sense to keep the dam's flood compartment empty and a similar approach could have helped avoid the disastrous flooding of 2011.
Seqwater was last night releasing 630 cubic metres a second from Wivenhoe Dam, with 11 per cent of its drinking water storage capacity still unused and all of its flood mitigation capacity available. Somerset Dam was at 115 per cent and rising.
Mr Newman last week ordered dam levels be lowered to make room for floodwaters.
But Seqwater last night played down any political influence on its operations. "The role of government is to set the strategic policy direction for water supply, while Seqwater is responsible for operationalising this policy," it told The Courier-Mail. "The releases were always the decision of Seqwater and are at the low end of the Dam manual."
Seqwater said releases from Wivenhoe Dam were being made under the dam manual's "W2" strategy, under which the focus changes from minimising impact on rural life to protecting urban areas. This strategy became highly controversial last year amid confusion as to whether it had ever been adopted during 2011.
It was the focus of days of flood inquiry hearings, leading to the referral for investigation by the Crime and Misconduct Commission of dam engineers.
Once flood peaks in the Lockyer Creek and Bremer River had passed, releases from Wivenhoe Dam would be increased to allow the flood waters stored in the dams to be drained, Seqwater said.
Independent Brisbane hydrologist Max Winders said Mr Newman's intervention was "very logical" and appeared to be an attempt to replicate the strategy used successfully to handle floods in 1999, as well as creating capacity to absorb releases from Somerset Dam if required.
"He's following a precautionary principle," Mr Winders said. "Why wouldn't he after Anna Bligh and (water minister) Stephen Robertson were left in the dark and told on Christmas Eve 2010 they couldn't have the lowering of the dam they'd asked for."
Mr Winders said the lesson of 2011 was to make sure Wivenhoe Dam's full mitigation capacity, which starts when the water is at 67m above sea level, was available at the start of a flood event.
Dam engineers should have known the dangers of allowing the dam to fill in 2011 because their own research in 2007 had identified that such a strategy doubled the flood risk, he said.
Retired engineer Ian Chalmers, who oversaw the construction of Wivenhoe Dam in the 1980s, praised Mr Newman's "early and bold intervention". "It's a pity 'paralysis by analysis' did not allow similar decisive action in January 2011," he said.
But the intervention raises questions of the validity and purpose of the dam operations manual, the focus of much of the $15 million flood inquiry. The document, devised in the 1970s to prevent political interference in the running of the dams, has previously been regarded as sacred. It is still the subject of a long-term review ordered by the inquiry costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Failure to prosecute rioters means NSW laws need closer look - O'Farrell
THE Premier, Barry O'Farrell, has nominated the Muslim riot in central Sydney last year as one reason why an inquiry is needed into whether the state's racial vilification laws need strengthening.
Some conservative commentators have criticised Mr O'Farrell for asking a parliamentary committee to examine if laws dealing with complaints about serious racial vilification constitute "a realistic test" and have kept up with public expectations. On Sunday, Mr O'Farrell said he was concerned there was no attempt to prosecute those who held up "offensive" signs during violent protests sparked by an anti-Islamic film in September.
"That blackened the city; that blackened my state. That's why there is an upper house inquiry … into [the] effectiveness of this legislation," he said.