Monday, May 20, 2013

Drop in doctors, rise in clerks in Tasmanian hospitals

Worldwide, hospital clerical and adminstrative staff would survive a nuclear winter

TASMANIAN hospitals are down by 120 doctors and 65 nurses but the number of clerks and administrators has gone up by 15, says health analyst Martyn Goddard.

Using Australian Institute of Health and Welfare statistics in the 12 months before and after extensive budget cuts, Mr Goddard said the health system's ability to deliver basic services has declined to place Tasmania second worst in the country, behind Canberra.

"This is the first comprehensive look at two years of data, before budget cuts and the year after them," he said.

Health Minister Michelle O'Byrne said Mr Goddard's argument was based on superseded data and ignored recent elective surgery expenditure.

"The number of doctors and nurses ... is actually increasing," Ms O'Byrne said.

Mr Goddard said it appeared a lot of doctors were employed bute they were only working one day a week, and nursing numbers were falsely boosted by the large amount of overtime they worked.

Tasmania was the worst on the main measure of a healthy hospital system -- the number of services for overnight patients -- which fell further behind in the period after the cuts, he said.

The number of overnight services per 1000 population fell in Tasmania from 92.2 to 89.7, while it rose nationally from 112 to 116.2.


German newsmagazine trashes Australian climate survey

German flagship news magazine Spiegel Online today has an article authored by Axel Bojanowski which takes a close look at the recent John Cook survey. German alarmists like the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research hailed it as proof that climate science was settled and done.

But Spiegel draws a different a totally conclusion.

First Bojanowski describes how a large number of Americans have serious doubts when it comes to man-made climate change, and so surveys get conducted with the aim of trying to sway public opinion. The latest was carried out by John Cook of the University of Queensland in Australia, and the results were published in the journal of Environmental Research Letters: 97% of thousands of papers surveyed agree that climate change is man-made, it asserted.

But Bojanowski trashes the findings:

    "There’s an obvious discrepancy between the public perception and reality. The authors speak about ‘consensus on man-made climate change’ – and thus this threatens to further increase confusion within the public. The survey confirms only a banality: Climate scientists overwhelmingly agree that man is responsible for at least a part of the climate warming. The important question of how big is man’s part in climate change remains hotly disputed.

    In the draft of the next UN report that will summarize climate science knowledge in September, it is stated: ‘It is extremely likely that human activity is responsible for more than half of the warming since the 1950s.’ The estimations from scientists on the exact extent vary vastly – here the consensus ends.”

Bojanowski then gives Spiegel readers the results produced by Cook: “About two thirds took no position on the subject – they remained on the sidelines. 97% of the rest supported man-made impact.

Also in an additional step, 35% of the authors who took no position were left out of the survey results altogether.

A new German survey produces similar results: no consensus!

Bojanowski then reports on another still unpublished German survey conducted by the University of Mainz in Germany. Senja Post told SPIEGEL ONLINE that “123 of 292 climate scientists asked participated in the study“. The result (warmists may want to sit down before reading):

    "Only 5% of those responding believed natural factors played the main role in the warming. However, Post then asked about the extent of the man-made warming. The result looked very different. Only 59% of the scientists said the ‘climate development of the last 50 years was mostly influenced by man’s activity. One quarter of those surveyed said that human and natural factors played an equal role’.”

Only 10% of German scientists say computer models are sufficiently accurate

Bojanowski then writes that skepticism is even far more widespread when it comes to the reliability of computer models. ”Only 10% said climate models are ‘sufficiently accurate’ and only 15% said that ‘climatic processes are understood enough’ to allow climate to be calculated.”

Bojanowski sums up: “There’s plenty of fodder there to continue the ideologically influenced debate about climate – no matter what is said about consensus.”


Demand for private school places sees fees triple

40% of Australian teenagers now go to non-government schools

PRIVATE school fees have tripled in the past 20 years, as a surging demand for places has hit parents' hip pockets.

Education costs have also been blamed for skyrocketing fees at some of Victoria's elite private schools since the mid-1990s.

Independent Schools Victoria says the education CPI has increased 182 per cent in the past 20 years.

Chief executive Michelle Green said if parents stopped investing their own money in their children's schooling, taxpayers would have to foot a massive jump in the education bill.

The Herald Sun compared fees at 16 Victorian schools in 2013 with the cost of educating a student in 1995.

The fees, detailed in a 1996 Herald Sun article, increased by up to 222 per cent.

The average fee for Year 12 students is $24,081 this year; it was $8232 in 1995 - an average rise of 193 per cent.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows average weekly earnings have risen 119 per cent between 1995 and November 2012.

Australian Scholarships Group chief executive John Velegrinis said private schools did not fear the perception of being expensive.

He said they tried to invest more in modern, state-of-the-art facilities to protect their brand.

Mr Velegrinis said there was greater demand for private school spots, including from international students.

In January, the Herald Sun reported that since 2010 there had been a 1.6 per cent increase in enrolment at independent secondary schools while state high-school student numbers had fallen.

A University of Melbourne Department of Economics paper released last year concluded fees charged by independent schools were increasing at a very high rate, with more of the expense being borne by parents.

It found higher fees were charged at schools with more staff, better university entrance scores, more music and language offerings, were older, had more students from a higher socioeconomic background and fewer students from non-English speaking backgrounds.

The paper's researchers told the Herald Sun fees at low-socioeconomic status independent schools were not rising as fast as elite schools.

Victorian Parents Council executive officer Christine Delamore said the cost of providing schooling had risen at a much higher rate than CPI.


Labor's nightmare without end

The ICAC hearings have exposed the dark belly of the ALP

'I said that in my CE," Ian Macdonald politely reminded Peter Braham, SC, on Thursday. The abbreviation is shorthand used among Independent Commission Against Corruption staff for "compulsory examination", such as the one he had been secretly hauled to a year ago. So intimate has Macdonald become with the workings of a corruption probe that he couldn't help but volunteer his help.

It seemed not to matter, finally, after years of allegations about his conduct in newspapers and in Parliament and at the ICAC, that Braham, counsel assisting, was calling him a liar. "You knew you were doing something quite improper," he said. "No," Macdonald said repeatedly, inching towards the end, surely, of the horror show.

The closure of Operation Acacia - ICAC's probe into a multimillion-dollar coal licence Macdonald gave to ex-union boss John Maitland - was expected to mark the end of the commission's public hearings.

For seven months, the public has been deluged with the secrets of its previous government: the gritty, unedifying detail of how deals are nudged together.

But the ALP could at least look forward to the end of David Ipp's marathon inquiry.

In its term, the state parliamentary wing of the party enjoyed successes; it built major infrastructure including tunnels across Sydney, it expanded protections for the state's natural heritage, and it reformed policy such as workers compensation laws. It had, for a time, real traction, and a benevolent electorate. But for much of the past 10 years, Labor's government steadily lost its purchase. From a cabinet and a caucus, to a rabble. Its trophies were submerged by a rising tide of sleaze and ineptitude. And it began before Bob Carr decamped to Macquarie Bank.

In 2005 his newly-appointed housing minister, Joe Tripodi, was forced to appear before ICAC (but later cleared) over the Orange Grove affair. The following year, after Carr's departure, Aboriginal affairs minister Milton Orkopoulos was charged with sexual offences involving minors, and accusations flew that the ALP had engaged in a cover-up. Gillian Sneddon, the staffer who blew the whistle, was sacked the day she began giving evidence at his trial.

From then, the government's internal decay leached to the surface. Labor was exposed for having placed a higher value on loyalty than most other things.

The Macquarie Fields MP Steven Chaytor was cut loose in 2007 after an alleged domestic violence incident about which he was later cleared. Paul Gibson was let go over a similar historical allegation which the police never prosecuted, just hours before he was due to be sworn in as a member of cabinet.

The next year was no kinder. Talk between Wollongong businessmen around a so-called "table of knowledge" outside a kebab shop engulfed the government. In the publicity that followed a corruption inquiry, the ALP's head office was seen to have installed a culture in which it was acceptable for developers to buy access to decision-makers.

Wollongong MP Noreen Hay and the police minister (of just four days), Matt Brown, were embarrassed by a budget night party in a parliamentary office. Brown was alleged, but denied, to have climbed on top of Hay in his underwear and cavorted around the room.

"Our credibility, my credibility, is back to square one," premier Nathan Rees said at the time. But for both him and his replacement Kristina Keneally, the government's credibility never recovered.

Tony Stewart was next, dumped over allegations he bullied a staffer. John Della Bosca and David Campbell resigned after each was caught enjoying extramarital sex. Paul McLeay had been surfing the internet for pornography from his Parliament House computer.

Ian Macdonald rorted his travel expenses and was spiked. Angela D'Amore and Karyn Paluzzano fiddled their parliamentary expenses, and Tony Kelly falsified a letter as planning minister - all three were found corrupt by the ICAC.

Labor was virtually eliminated in the March 2011 state election, but that was, in fact, only the beginning.

Nineteen months later ICAC opened its most high-profile operation since Nick Greiner's inquiry. Since November, a string of Labor luminaries have filed into the witness box. Collectively their evidence has disemboweled the party.

Some were caught in the crossfire: former premiers Morris Iemma and Nathan Rees, ex-planning minister Frank Sartor, and federal minister Greg Combet, among them. Others are now defending serious accusations of impropriety.

Powerbroker Eddie Obeid could face a corruption finding over a $100 million secret coal deal with Macdonald. Former treasurer Eric Roozendaal is being investigated over a cheap car arranged for him by the family of Obeid.

And Macdonald himself has a litany of likely bad news ahead of him over three separate ICAC investigations - one involving a lunch he arranged for accused murderer Ron Medich in exchange for a hotel room and a prostitute, and two others concerning coal licences bestowed by the government during his term as resources minister.

Numerous businessmen have benefited from the decisions. Most notably Eddie Obeid's sons, and the seven investors behind Cascade Coal, including Macdonald's friend and former ALP staffer Greg Jones, and coal tycoons John Kinghorn, Travers Duncan and Brian Flannery.

On Thursday, ICAC announced it was recalling three MPs to explore Obeid's claim that Macdonald had not been in his office in 20 years of political life. And its reports, likely to make sensational findings about corrupt conduct by the former government, will dribble out from July.

Then there are the inevitable legal appeals and potential criminal charges. The DPP will be under pressure to lay charges, and Obeid and Macdonald have signalled they will appeal any adverse findings.

Worst of all is the prospect of a further public inquiry into the business activities of the Obeids. ICAC is still investigating revelations in the Herald concerning three government leases at Circular Quay that Obeid secretly controlled, his relationship with the former NSW speaker Richard Torbay, and the secret investment the Obeids negotiated with Australian Water.

With the closure of the public hearings, is the nightmare over? The answer is clearly no.


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