Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Cutting illegal immigration essential if the present  Australian government is to have a hope of survival

JULIA Gillard has been warned that the government's strategy to win votes through its big-picture education and disability policies is being swamped by community anger over asylum-seekers, as senior Labor figures all but write off enough seats in three states to guarantee Tony Abbott a comfortable victory.

In a meeting of Labor MPs described by some as "surreal, with a feeling of resignation", the Prime Minister was given an ultimatum by a key supporter, western Sydney MP Laurie Ferguson, to turn the public debate on asylum-seekers in Labor's favour or the government would be "dead" in the party's heartland.

As Newspoll showed that Labor continues to trail the Coalition by 16 points on a two-party-preferred basis, and a separate poll showed Labor facing a swing of more than 15 per cent that put it on track to lose the safe Victorian seat of Isaacs, held by Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, a senior source said the party had told MPs in the marginal Victorian seats of Corangamite, Deakin and La Trobe they were "on their own".

The Opposition Leader moved to play down expectations of a Coalition landslide.

"I've always likened winning an election from opposition to climbing Mount Everest, and we are 102 paces from the summit but those 102 paces are the hardest paces of all and one slip, even at that late stage, can be very, very dangerous, even fatal," he said.  "So I take nothing for granted."

Mr Ferguson, whose seat of Werriwa is considered in danger, yesterday demanded the Prime Minister get personally involved in the refugee debate and confront Mr Abbott on the issue, warning "unless you take this head on, we are dead in western Sydney".

Later, after a meeting of the Labor caucus, Mr Ferguson said the refugee issue was undermining Labor's key policies such as school improvement and DisabilityCare.

"It is so central it is blocking out everything else," Mr Ferguson said. He said he was concerned there was a feeling in the Labor caucus that the issue would go away but this was not the case.

Last night, Mr Ferguson said Labor had abandoned the field and the Prime Minister needed to explain that there were no easy options on the issue for either side of politics.

Ms Gillard needed to speak in "common language" and explain what the regional solution meant.

Aside from asylum-seekers, the caucus meeting also heard concerns from Mr Rudd and former resources minister Martin Ferguson, a Rudd supporter, about the government's attacks on 457 visa rorts.

Mr Rudd asked Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor about the number of breaches, while Mr Ferguson asked for regional and state breakdowns. However, other caucus sources said other MPs urged Mr O'Connor to take a tougher line on foreign workers.

Some Labor sources say the government's vote is holding up reasonably well in the inner city but is being punished in the suburbs. If this is repeated at the election, it will spark a debate about how to reconcile progressive inner-city issues with more conservative suburban issues.


Fact-checker for public broadcaster needs scrutiny

He wouldn't know a fact if he fell over one

By the time Mark Scott left the Senate committee hearing into the ABC on Wednesday he smelled. An unpleasant odour had attached itself to the testimony and credibility of the ABC's managing director. The source of odour could be summed up in two words: Russell Skelton.

That Skelton has had several ethical collisions, is a fierce political partisan, and has left an unedifying trail of puerile smears, would not matter to the public at large if Skelton had not just been appointed the chief fact-checker of the ABC. This is ludicrous. Either Skelton foxed the committee that appointed him, or they didn't care, or were oblivious. Either way it is a shocking look for a corporation which puts its hand out for $1 billion a year from taxpayers.

On Wednesday, before the Senate committee on environment and communications, Scott had to cover for the ABC's mistake. The hearing is going to leave an indelible mark on the Coalition's trust in the ABC, as these exchanges make clear:

Senator Eric Abetz (Liberal): "Mr Scott, do you have any sense that a recent survey which found that 41 per cent of ABC journalists said they would vote for the Greens, 32 per cent for Labor and 15 per cent for the Coalition generally reflects ABC journalists' political leanings?"

Scott: "No. There are about 1000 journalists who work across the ABC in news, radio, rural divisions and others … we have 1000 journalists and 34 were contacted … Do I believe it is an overwhelming problem? No, I do not … "

Abetz: "Why on 5 May this year would your recently appointed fact-checker, Mr Russell Skelton, have retweeted 'Abetz and Christian fundamentalists want race war. Begins in September'?"

Scott: "Who originally tweeted it?"

Abetz: "Marcia Langton. Russell Skelton retweeted it."

Scott: "Firstly, Mr Skelton was not an employee of ours at the time. Also … a retweet is not necessarily an endorsement at all … "

Abetz: "Yes … but it is completely and utterly without foundation. And yet your Mr Fact-Checker has gone about retweeting it."

Skelton had clearly repeated Langton's slur with approval, as it was one of numerous occasions when he has quoted her. His contributions on Twitter also reveal an open contempt for the Coalition, a fawning regard for Julia Gillard, an obsessive dislike of News Ltd and Rupert Murdoch, Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones, and a preoccupation with global warming, asylum-seekers and Aboriginal affairs.

Most of the ABC's revenue comes from government, the ABC's cost to taxpayers now exceeds $1 billion a year, and there were ample landmines in Skelton's record to disqualify him from a job that self-evidently required a reputation for scrupulous impartiality.

Abetz: "You know that his job includes - and the advertisement said so - 'the editor will, amongst other things, deliver engaging content that builds a reputation for accuracy, impartiality and clarity'. Impartiality is one of the very conditions that the ABC set down for this job, and here we have tweet after tweet after tweet indicating the complete opposite …

"Is this the same journalist who has been criticised, once for a one-sided story about the Aboriginal intervention and a second time in relation to his Age story, 'A town without hope', about Aboriginal degradation in Balgo? Skelton did not go to Balgo. The story was accompanied by pictures of a camp 300 kilometres away. My source? The ABC's Media Watch. Is this the journalist who has been accused of grossly inaccurate journalism and even making up interviews?"

Scott: "If there are concerns about the performance of that unit, I am sure they will generate attention here."

Abetz: "Yes, but it will all be too late after the election."

Abetz: "What about this tweet: 'Another take on Julia Gillard PM: grace under pressure'? This is just cheer-squad stuff from the person you have appointed as an allegedly impartial fact-finder." He contrasted this with a selection of Skelton's displays of scorn for the Opposition Leader: "Abbott's extremism on display", "Abbott now a liability, a proverbial albatross", "Abbott refusing to do his homework".

Abetz: "Do you still believe, given all this evidence, that Mr Skelton is a suitable appointment to this task?"

Scott: "We will judge him on the work that he does."

Abetz: "Isn't it a fundamental requirement that the position of fact checker be filled by a person without any perceived biases?"

Scott: "Yes."

The fact-checking unit's reputation for impartiality is thus stillborn. Management has blundered. The Coalition will remember.

Throughout these exchanges, the Communications Minister Stephen Conroy maintained a stream of interference on behalf of Scott, interjecting more than 40 times. This merely served to reinforce everything Abetz was saying about bias.

Here I make two personal notes. The first is that Mark Scott is an old comrade of mine at the Herald, and I know him to be a good person and a fine manager. At the committee, he was in damage control. The other note is that when I was scrolling through Skelton's Twitter feed, fact-checking Abetz's remarks, I was gob-smacked to discover a tweet that Skelton had posted on October 10: "This column by @Paul_Sheehan_ originally said 'he (Tony Abbott) raised 3 daughters, something she (Julia Gillard) was unable to do' #vomit."

It was a retweet of a tweet by Mia Freedman. At least Freedman had the decency to publish a retraction after the Herald's news director pointed out that this was a fabrication. Skelton, the ABC's fact-checker-in-chief, did not check the lie. He just passed it on, and let it stand, unchecked, uncorrected and unpleasant.


Mobility fear as man told of 1000-day hospital delay

A thousand days. That's the epic wait Trevor Perry was told he could expect to see a neurosurgeon at the John Hunter Hospital spinal unit.

"I may have to wait three years for the initial appointment, then will come the surgery wait," he said. "I fear as I'm losing mobility, at only 55 years of age, I'll be in a wheelchair before anything can be done."

Mr Perry has prolapsed spinal discs and has already waited 18 months for his appointment. He is on the pension after being forced to leave his job as a plant machinery mechanic.

"The income protection ran out two years ago and I'd like to go back to work," he said. "I might have to try to borrow the money so I can go through the private system.  "The public system is in decay. It's in free fall."

Experts say Mr Perry is not alone in his experience, with secret "waiting lists for the waiting list" plaguing public healthcare and forcing people to borrow money for private treatment.

Last week, Kurt Brinschwitz discovered he had Dupuytren's contracture, an inherited connective tissue disorder that will cripple his hand.

"After my GP gave a referral to a hand specialist, I attempted to book an appointment at Sydney Hospital - to be told there was a 1½-year waiting list. Just for the consultation," he said. "It was a bit of a wake-up call."

When Fairfax Media contacted the Sydney Local Health District, a spokeswoman said that Mr Brinschwitz had been given the wrong information.

"The patient will be seen at Sydney Hospital within a 90-day waiting period," she said.

"A letter detailing this was sent this morning to the patient prior to this complaint being known to the hospital."

The spokeswoman said patients were prioritised by clinical needs and the longest they would wait was 365 days.


KerAP, Crap and more crap: "Australia produced a record amount of renewable energy" in 2012

12% of the 13% would have been from DAMS, which Greenies hate.  Australia has a lot of old hydro-electric plants (such as the Snowy) which the Greenies would not permit today.  But they are very useful peak load facilities

Australia produced a record amount of renewable energy last year, with clean electricity sources such as hydro, wind and solar generating more than 13 per cent of the nation's power, new industry figures show.

A report by the Clean Energy Council says hydro electricity is still the most dominant clean-energy source, representing 58 per cent of all renewable electricity generated in 2012.

But the council's chief executive, David Green, said other sources were growing strongly, with wind energy rising to 26 per cent of renewable generation and solar to 8 per cent.

Despite the growth, the report also finds Australian investment in renewables fell by $1.3 billion dollars last year, from $5.5 billion in 2011 to $4.2 billion.

Much of the decline in investment came in solar, as government incentives to install rooftop panels were axed and the cost of systems fell. The fall mirrors a 10 per cent decline in renewable energy investment globally in 2012.

Mr Green said the findings showed technologies such as wind, solar and bioenergy were starting to make a major difference to the way electricity was produced and consumed.


1 comment:

Paul said...

"The public system is in decay. It's in free fall."

The way it gets abused, yes it is. The Board at Cairns Hospital is now acknowledging that mental health services are in crisis through extreme demand with little hope of us coping. Mostly indigenous and Islanders. A big part of it is the hydroponic hootch that's replaced the booze. Scrambles their already fragile brains.