Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Federal government urged to release true cost of NBN (National Boondoggle Nonsense)

COMMUNICATIONS Minister Stephen Conroy has admitted making a false claim about the National Broadband Network as he tried to defend the project over allegations it faces massive cost blowouts.

Senator Conroy told ABC Radio this morning that the Coalition was a "fact-free zone" but wrongly claimed the NBN's corporate plan was audited by the Auditor-General as he attempted to justify its price tag.

The Coalition estimates the final price tag of the NBN could more than double to $90 billion-plus, and that it will take an extra four years to complete.

The claims are made in the Coalition's broadband policy, obtained by The Daily Telegraph, which Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull has promised will be released soon.

The NBN Co last year released a revised corporate plan which admitted to a $1.5 billion cost blowout in the capital cost of the project - to $37.4 billion - with a total cost to taxpayers of $44.1 billion.

But, using modelling from key telcos and finance industry analysis of the NBN Co's 2012 corporate plan, the Coalition has estimated the project will take four years longer to finish and potentially cost an extra $45 billion to complete.

Senator Conroy told the ABC that the coalition was relying on misleading statistics and data to try and create a scare campaign against the project.

"We have nearly a million homes under construction at the moment,'' he said.

"The corporate plan, audited by the Auditor-General, is produced each year, and what you're seeing in that corporate plan is $37.4 billion is the cost of building the NBN - not, as today the Coalition is claiming, $90 billion. I mean, the Coalition are a fact-free zone. They don't have any facts to support these claims.''

But Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull tweeted: "The NBN Co's corporate plan has NOT been audited by the auditor general.

"Conroy's statement that it has been is false and he knows it."

An Australian National Audit Office spokesman confirmed the office had not audited the corporate plan.  "We audit the financial statements so the expenditures of NBN are properly recorded,'' he said.  "While we make reference to the corporate plan, we don't audit the corporate plan.''

Senator Conroy told Sky News this afternoon he had made mistake and mis-spoke, meaning to say the annual report and not the corporate plan.  "I meant to say the annual report,'' he said.

Senator Conroy told the ABC of the $90 billion price tag alleged by the opposition: "They have no analysis behind these claims; no analysis or facts behind $90 billion, no analysis or facts behind 2025 as a finish date. They're just making false claims about the National Broadband Network."

It comes as Prime Minister Julia Gillard denied the cost for the National Broadband Network will blow out to more than $90 billion.

Asked if the figure is in the ballpark of what the major infrastructure project will eventually cost Ms Gillard responded simply: “no”.


Penis size does matter to Australian women: study

THE eternal question of whether penis size matters has been probed by a team of international scientists who, after questioning 105 Australians, found that, yes, women do find larger men more attractive.

What's more, prehistoric women who could see the sex organs of their scantily clad male counterparts may have helped influence the evolution of larger genitals in men by choosing to mate with partners who were bigger.

Researchers said they decided to tackle the topic because past studies had offered conflicting answers, and may have been sullied by asking the women too directly.

"Since penis size is a sensitive subject. It's hard to determine whether females lied or 'self-deceived' in their responses," said lead author Brian Mautz, a postdoctoral researcher in evolution and sexual selection at the University of Ottawa.

So they embarked on a new type of study, using computer-generated images of generic male figures with varying heights, body shapes and flaccid penis lengths.

A sample of 105 Australian women were asked to view 53 of these life-sized robot-like pictures, which rotated so they were visible at different angles.

The women - all heterosexual - were not told they were participating in a study about penis size. They were simply asked to rate the figures according to sexual attractiveness. Their answers were collected anonymously.

Researchers found that women rated tall men with long penises as the most attractive.

The women also tended to gaze longer at the larger men. But not too long - each rating was made in about three seconds.

But how big is best? On that question, researchers were, er, stumped.

"We didn't find an ideal (ie 'most attractive') penis size or height," Mautz explained.

"The attractiveness scores were still increasing at the largest values for these traits."

The findings were published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal in the United States, called the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The results "directly contradict claims that penis size is unimportant to most females," and also hint at why human males tend to have relatively larger genitalia when compared to other primates, the study said.

"Our results show that female mate choice could have played a role in the evolution of the relatively large human male penis," the authors wrote.

"Before clothing, the non-retractable human penis would have been conspicuous to potential mates."

The study did not get into the racial background of men and whether that may affect penis size, but it did document the ethnicity and age of the women it was studying for hints about whether penis size mattered.

More than 70 per cent of the women were of European origin, 20 per cent were Asian and seven per cent were from elsewhere. Their average age was 26.


Queensland Government spending up big to improve teaching

AN army of "master teachers" will be deployed across the state as part of a $535 million drive by the Newman Government to improve Queensland's school performance.

Premier Campbell Newman yesterday unveiled his education reform plan, including a $50 million teacher bonus pool, which he says will help lift standards across both state and independent schools with annual performance reviews to ensure changes are being made.

The top-performing teachers could earn bonuses of more than $5000 while principals will be treated more like CEOs and placed on performance-based contracts.

About 300 "master teachers" - considered at the top of their field - would also be hired on six-figure salaries and deployed across the state to help poor-performing schools pick up their act.

Those teachers will be contracted to a school for three years and armed with up to $75,000 in funding for resources to boost numeracy and literacy.

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said those teachers would provide invaluable support and knowledge.

Mr Newman said the extra funding would kick in from 2015 with $100 million allocated to private schools but where that money will come from is yet to be revealed.

A spokesman for the Premier ruled out asset sales.

Mr Newman said the plan would ensure the best quality teachers.  "To get better outcomes for our kids we've got to have the very best teachers and school principals and we need to provide appropriate support for them," he said.

Mr Newman said principals and deputy principals currently employed could choose to go on a performance-based contract but from 2016 new principals and deputies would be hired on the contracts.

Mr Langbroek said teachers would also undertake annual performance reviews and receive a ranking of one to three.

That ranking will be reviewed before those with the highest rankings receive a bonus of either 4 or 6 per cent of their annual wage.

Up to 200 scholarships a year will be offered to high-performing teachers to undertake a Masters degree. Principals and deputy principals will also be offered scholarships.

The announcement comes a week before Mr Newman is due to fly to Canberra to fight with the Commonwealth over its Gonski plan and just hours after state education ministers rejected other Federal Government school reforms.

But Mr Newman denied the new scheme was his answer to the Commonwealth's own better schools program.

"Whatever happens next week Queenslanders know there is $535 million extra over the next five years to look after our kids because we are looking after our teachers," he said.

Mr Langbroek said his plan to give principals more power when it comes to discipline would also form part of the new proposal.


Schools need discipline back

EDUCATION experts have backed State Government plans to get tough on unruly schoolchildren who continually flout the rules.
The Courier-Mail yesterday revealed state school pupils were abusing the system, with 64,324 suspensions and exclusions last year.

Education Standards Institute director Kevin Donnelly said the "politically correct" system of discipline in state schools was not working.

"A lot of the approach at the moment is very new-age and politically correct, and we need to go back to a more disciplined sense of how teachers control the classroom and how children act in the classroom."

Dr Donnelly said state schools were tied up in red tape and some disciplinary measures were more of a reward for students than a punishment.

"In government schools you can have kids who are consistently a problem, consistently misbehave or wag school, and often it takes too long for the problem to be dealt with because of regulation and red tape," he said.

Dr Donnelly said parents were also part of the solution, and needed to play a bigger role in teaching their children respect for authority.

Child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg said children had to know there were "real consequences to the choices you have made".

Dr Robyn Gillies, from the University of Queensland's School of Education, said schools had to teach continually misbehaving students better ways of behaving.


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