Friday, August 30, 2013

Pollies decorating at your expense

Just last week, WasteWatch brought you news of the $34 000 taxpayer-funded art binge for public service offices.

Now the pollies are getting in on the action. It seems interior decorating has become the new way to pass time in the halls of Parliament House.

As we wait with bated breath for the most recent report on our parliamentarians’ expenditure, the July-December 2012 report makes interesting reading.

Top of the list of notable spending was Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie, who was the seventh most profligate parliamentarian in terms of ‘office fit-out costs’, spending over $300,000 beautifying her office.

However, she was outdone by Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, who managed to rack up a staggering $317,000 on his interior decorating. One wonders what the notoriously abstemious Bob Brown – who spent just $3,400 in his last six months in office – would think.

Independent Andrew Wilkie also spent more than $150,000 on his office fit-out.

These three were the only parliamentarians who hold no other official positions, like being a Minister or a Parliamentary Secretary, to spend over $100 000 on office fit-outs in the six-month period covered by the report.

Bear in mind, though, that the current base salary for Members of Parliament is just shy of $200,000. These are people who are used to the beautiful things in life. They just want the rest of us to pay for them.


NOTE about the surfing Senator, Peter Whish-Wilson (below). Hyphenated names can arise in a number of ways but ususally a Miss Whish (say) decides that she is really too grand to marry a mere Wilson (say) so marries on condition that all her children are known as Whishes as well as Wilsons.  So in addition to  his extravagance with taxpayer's money, Peter's hyphen would seem to betray a certain inherited arrogance.  But Greenies think that they are the real people and the rest of us are cattle so he is clearly in the right party.

A multicultural doctor

Born in Lebanon and probably Muslim

A woman had been suffering facial spasms when Dr Haissam Naim subjected her to an unnecessary and invasive internal examination, a court has heard.

Dr Naim, who was reprimanded over the examination and had his registration as a medical practitioner cancelled for a year after a hearing in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, had his appeal against the decision dismissed on Thursday.

"Regarding the matter overall, the allegations reflect a sexual overtone to the applicant's [Dr Haim's] conduct," Court of Appeal judges Hartley Hansen and Pamela Tate said.

"In these circumstances it was both open and appropriate to the tribunal to find that 'in the absence of a clinical purpose for the examination, the only available inference is that it was conducted for the sexual gratification of the practitioner'."

The woman, Ms L, had first met Dr Haim on August 28, 2010, when he was on weekend duty at a hospital emergency department on the outskirts of Melbourne. Dr Haim had been a registrar at the time before later becoming a fully qualified doctor.

Ms L had been experiencing facial spasms and was discharged at 5.30pm.

On September 1, 2010, Ms L went to her dentist concerned that her wisdom tooth might have been causing her facial spasms. The dentist referred her for an X-ray that was taken on September 7. Ms L saw Dr Haim the next day when she wanted him to examine the X-ray of her teeth to see if her wisdom tooth was the cause of her facial spasms.

It was during this consultation that Ms L claimed she was nearly in tears when Dr Haim conducted an "excruciatingly painful" internal and invasive examination after asking her if she had had stomach pains and irregular periods.

After telling Dr Naim she thought his questions unusual, Ms L said that although there had been issues with her body after she gave birth, her doctor had told her that everything was now fine.

Dr Naim told Ms L that he thought she may have a cyst on her ovary. When she said she had had a test one month earlier, and no cyst was found, the doctor replied that he needed to conduct the test himself.

Ms L claimed Dr Naim pushed hard on her stomach while her shirt was pushed up.

He repeated his belief that there was a cyst and she repeated that there was not one. Dr Naim then made the woman pull down her pants for an internal examination.

He did not leave the woman as she undressed, did not close the curtain around the bed and started to pull her jeans to get them off.

Ms L saw her own GP two days later and told her what had happened. A complaint was made to the Australian Health Professionals Registration Authority.

Dr Haim, who had been medically qualified in Lebanon in 1998, denied conducting the examination but VCAT found he had engaged in professional misconduct.

Justices Hansen and Tate said the lawyer acting for the Medical Board told VCAT that "the allegation isn't that he assaulted her, the allegation is that he performed an internal examination without clinical justification".

The judges dismissed Dr Haim's appeal and ordered he be deregistered for 12 months from September 5 this year.


Conservatives commit to "charter" schools for Australia

Schools that are funded by the government but independent of the bureaucracy are known as "charters" in the USA and "academies" in the U.K. They tend to get better results than normal government schools

Encouraging around 1500 public schools around the country to operate more like independent schools will be a focus of a Coalition government, the Opposition Leader has announced at a Christian school that requires families to sign a statement decrying homosexuality as an abomination.

Formally launching the Coalition's education policy on Thursday, Tony Abbott reiterated his pledge that there would be no real difference between the two parties on school funding. The Coalition has ditched its fervent opposition to the reforms known as Gonski and agreed to deliver the same federal funding over the next four years.

No guarantee has been made for the final two years of the existing six-year agreements signed by states including NSW and Victoria, when the bulk of the money -  about $3 billion of the total $5 billion promised for NSW schools - is set to flow.

But the Coalition did commit $70 million for an 'Independent Public Schools Fund' to help around 1500 public schools around the country become independent public schools by 2017, similar to a model already rolled out in Western Australia.

The schools in that state that have made the switch remain publicly funded and cannot charge mandatory fees, but operate with a very high degree of autonomy from the state government and have school boards.

Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne said the Coalition had decided to match Labor on Gonski because it didn't want the debate to be preoccupied with funding, and wanted to move it to a "higher plane".

"We want more characteristics from the non-government sector in the government sector," said Mr Pyne.

The Coalition has also pledged a review on the national curriculum, a "new emphasis" on teacher quality and to develop "best practice guidelines to improve admission standards into teaching courses."

"We want more great schools and we want all schools to be better," said Mr Abbott.

"Mr Rudd's scare that the Coalition is going to cut money out of education is simply false."

Mr Abbott made the announcement while visiting Penrith Christian School, in Sydney's west, which makes parents sign a statement decrying homosexuality as an abomination when they enrol their children.

The school, of around 620 pupils, is a part of the Ministry of Imagine Nations Church. The school's website includes a "Statement of Faith" outlining its religious principals, including that homosexuality is an "abomination unto God", a commitment to creationism and the power of divine healing.

According to the school's website, all families who enrol in the school "MUST sign the school's Statement of Faith as a part of the enrolment process".

Mr Abbott defended the decision to launch their policy at the school, pointing out Labor politicians had associated themselves with the school in the past.

Asking whether the school's stance on homosexuality was the kind of initiative he envisaged public schools taking on with increased autonomy, he said he did not agree with the school's view on homosexuality.

"No . . . The Independent Schools in Western Australia and the more autonomous public schools here in NSW are obviously bound by departmental and government policy on these sorts of issues," he said.

The Christian school received two-thirds of its funding in 2011 from state and federal governments, according to the My School website.


Carbon farm in trouble

The Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association wants Henbury Station in central Australia to resume operations as a cattle property and abandon plans for what was intended to be the world's largest and the nation's pioneering carbon credits farm.

The station, 230 kilometres south of Alice Springs is being put up for sale, a month after its owner, RM Williams Agricultural Holdings, was placed in administration.

The station was bought by the company for $13 million, with a $9 million contribution from the Federal Government, in 2011.

The 5,000 square kilometre property was destocked two years ago as part of the plan to create a conservation project to earn carbon credits as part of a Commonwealth plan to combat greenhouse gases and global warming..

The aim at the time was also to take a lead in establishing a business model for properties in remote areas to be used to earn carbon credits.

NT Cattlemen's Association executive director Luke Bowen says potential buyers should consider using the property to run cattle again.

"It is a high quality property that has been recognised as such for a number of years," he said.

"It is good to see that it is potentially available for somebody to come in and get it going again, and run it as a viable productive pastoral property in the central Australian region, with all the added economic benefits that that will bring with it."

Mr Bowen says the science that saw Henbury Station turned into a carbon farm was flawed.

"The methodology and the principles were based around a carbon methodology that had not been verified, that had not been tested or established and was a theoretical model," he said.

"We were concerned that this would create an artificial bubble in land values and see land go out of production."

The Federal Environment Department, handed over the $9 million to help purchase Henbury Station says it remains committed to a conservation outcome at the property.

A spokeswoman says the department wants to talk about plans to secure long-term conservation management of the land.

The original purchase of the property for use as a carbon farm drew criticism from both the cattle industry and Indigenous traditional owners.

Last year, the Central Land Council said it had been supporting local Aboriginal interests trying to buy the station since 1974.

Today, the Territory Government said the former owners of Henbury Station had never received approval to run the pastoral property as a carbon farming venture.

Primary Industry Minister Willem Westra van Holthe told the Legislative Assembly the project was illegal, because carbon farming is a non-pastoral use.

"It was unlawful because there was never a pastoral land permit issued," he said.

"In fact, there was never even an application lodged for a pastoral land permit and, even if there was, it's unsure whether it would have satisfied the requirements of the Native Title Act."


1 comment:

Paul said...

Probably a Muslim. A good Lebanese Christian would have a name like..., Oh, I don't know....Obeid?