Wednesday, February 13, 2013
University focus as Rudd marks apology anniversary
Rudd is Australia's Obama in terms of saying stuff that sounds good but is totally empty of any contact with reality.
Blacks have had preferential access to universities ever since the Abschol sceme was set up decades ago. But very few of them are bright enough to handle university. And those that do get to university are, in my experience, just waved through regardless of their abilities
Thousands of people around the nation are marking five years since the formal apology and Mr Rudd has spoken of the need to boost tertiary access for Indigenous Australians.
Campaigner Brian Butler has been working to help Aboriginal people affected by forced removal of children from families over six decades.
He says the initial hope Mr Rudd gave Aboriginal people has long disappeared.
"Whether it's Kevin Rudd or anyone, no single politician is going to be able to make promises to the Aboriginal people because that's never happened before, things haven't progressed," he said.
"There might have been native title, there might have been a few payouts but it's still not reaching those people that are in this impoverished situation."
Mr Rudd was the keynote speaker at a breakfast held in Adelaide to mark the fifth anniversary.
The former prime minister said the latest Closing the Gap focus needed to be achieving university placements.
He said too few Indigenous students reached higher education and urged work to achieve a target of 10,000 extra Indigenous students going to the nation's universities.
"We must as a nation see the same number of Indigenous kids at our universities, proportional to their size and population in Australia ... and at present they are not," he said.
Mr Rudd said Indigenous participation in tertiary education should not be seen as "something exotic" but as mainstream.
Some feelgood tokenism
The House of Representatives has passed legislation recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the first inhabitants of Australia.
The bill is considered an interim step on the path towards an eventual referendum for constitutional change.
Its passage through the Lower House this morning came on the five-year anniversary of former prime minister Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generations.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has described the legislation as a "sign of good faith" that Parliament is committed to righting the wrongs of previous actions.
"No gesture speaks more deeply to the healing of our nation's fabric than amending our nation's founding charter," she told Parliament.
"This bill seeks to foster momentum for a referendum for constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples."
The legislation passed with unanimous support.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says constitutional recognition for Indigenous people is long overdue.
"We need to atone for the omissions and for the hardness of heart of our forebears, to enable us all to embrace the future as a united people," he told Parliament.
Mr Abbott has paid tribute to those who have worked to achieve reconciliation over a long period of time, including former prime ministers Gough Whitlam, Harold Holt, John Howard and Kevin Rudd.
He has also recognised the efforts of Ms Gillard.
"So often in this place, we are antagonists. Today on this matter, we are partners and collaborators," he said.
The preamble to the legislation notes that further consultation is necessary to refine plans for a referendum and to grow community support for the change.
"The Parliament is committed to building the national consensus needed for the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our Constitution," the preamble states.
"The Parliament believes this Act is a significant step in the process towards achieving constitutional change."
Shale mining coming to Australia
A BAN on shale oil mining in Queensland will be lifted, creating potentially thousands of jobs and providing the cash-strapped State Government with a new revenue stream.
Natural Resources Minister Andrew Cripps will today announce plans to lift the ban, placing the Newman Government on a collision course with environmentalists.
The decision will mean the Government can count on new royalty revenue from shale oil, liquefied natural gas and uranium in the future.
The shale oil industry has been in limbo since 2008 after a 20-year moratorium was placed over a major deposit in north Queensland and the industry told it must prove its technology before the Government would give the green light to proceed.
Shale oil is a sedimentary rock that can be mined, crushed, heated and processed or heated in place to produce petroleum and other fuels.
The Newman Government's decision will allow one operator, Queensland Energy Resources, to progress its trial plant at Gladstone and seek approval for a full commercial operation.
Other potential operators are likely to kickstart the approvals process for their own operations in coming years, with 90 per cent of Australia's known oil shale reserves in Queensland.
However, the Government will maintain until 2028 the moratorium on the controversial deposit near Proserpine in north Queensland, which critics claim is too close to the coastline and sensitive wetlands.
Mr Cripps said the industry could provide huge economic benefits to Queensland, with the current resource considered capable of producing 22 billion barrels of oil.
"As the world supply of conventional crude oil diminishes, there are strong prospects for oil shale to become the next major source of liquid fuel supplies in Australia, and Queensland is well placed to lead that charge," he said.
Under the new shale oil policy, the Newman Government promised project proponents would have to demonstrate how they would meet high environmental standards.
Environment Minister Andrew Powell stressed approvals would be made on a "case-by-case" basis.
QER chief executive Pearce Bowman said the Government's decision recognised the potential importance of oil shale to Australia's transport fuel future, and QER's achievements in constructing and operating a clean and quiet technology demonstration plant
Big Federal bungle of "Super Clinics"
IN LIMBO: The GP Super Clinic at Redcliffe. If you are sick, don't wait for the Federal government to fix you up
REDCLIFFE'S five-storey GP super clinic is nothing more than a shell six years after it was pledged as one of four clinics for Queensland during the 2007 election.
Six super clinics, including those also pledged for Mount Isa, Townsville and Gladstone, still have not opened while four clinics promised in 2010 do not even have a funding agreement.
Delays in the program, which was supposed to bring 64 bulk-billing and late-opening GP clinics to communities around Australia, are exposed in a departmental spreadsheet outlining progress on the $650 million project ahead of today's Senate estimates hearings.
A spokesman for Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said 49 GP super clinics were operational, under construction or providing early services.
Explaining the delays, he said the Government had needed to find the land for the majority of super clinics.
"This differs to other government construction projects where the land is already identified and usually zoned for the intended use," he said.
"All GP super clinics provide bulk billing for relevant Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) services. All GP super clinics also have arrangements in place to ensure patients have access to after hours services."
Three of the clinics promised in 2007 and not yet open were expected to be operational by mid-2013, he said.
They included Gladstone, Townsville and Redcliffe. Wallan and Waneroo were expected to open by late 2014. Construction of the Mount Isa clinic has not started.
Federal Member for Petrie Yvette D'Ath blamed a lack of support from the State Government for the Redcliffe delay.
A spokeswoman for Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said it wasn't a state project.
"It is definitely a federal responsibility to get the GPs in there," she said.
The problems could come back to bite Labor at this year's election.
Labor needs to win seats in Queensland if it is to hold on to power. Some super clinics are in marginal or nearly marginal electorates. Mount Isa is in the seat of key Independent Bob Katter.
A consultant report commissioned by the Department of Health on the first seven GP clinics to open found only one GP super clinic was bulk billing all patients and it had to schedule appointments for just 10 minutes to achieve the volume required to make ends meet.
Some clinics had trouble attracting staff and patients because rival local doctors had run campaigns against them.
Opposition primary healthcare spokesman Dr Andrew Southcott said: "The Coalition believes that it would have been better to harness existing general practices and encourage them to expand."
Redcliffe Hospital patient Daniel Mulligan and his wife, Jeanette, said yesterday it was outrageous necessary health services weren't being provided after $13 million was spent.
"It's absolutely disgusting," said Mrs Mulligan, of Caboolture. "It's a dreadful waste of money."