Wednesday, January 30, 2013

More connection problems

Two days ago I lost electrical power for about 12 hours, which meant that I could not get some of my blogs up.

Today, however, I have lost my cable connection while they are doing work to repair storm damage in my area

For some reason, however, Google addresses (such as this  one) and Facebook are still accessible.  So I can still post but am cut off from most news sources and my Hotmail.

If anybody has sent me a recent email via Hotmail, I would therefore be grateful if they would resend it to my Gmail address:  jonjayray@gmail,com

As a tentacle of Google, Gmail is unaffected for some reason

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

PM's partner under pressure over prostate joke

He seems to be a bit of a nong but there was nothing wrong with what he said.  He was just saying that a small finger is preferable for a rectal probe and noted that Asians are generally smaller.  All perfectly reasonable.  But ANY mention of racial realities draws fire, these days

WAS First Bloke Tim Mathieson's quip about prostate testing funny or poor taste? Forget the floods and driving rain, that's the question lighting up our social media sites today.

Mathieson, Prime Minister Julia Gillard's partner, made the quip during a speech at The Lodge last night for the Prime Minister's XI cricket match which will be held in Canberra today.

Mr Mathieson was acting in his capacity as a men's health ambassador when he encouraged the gathering - which included the West Indian cricket team - to get a prostate examination.

"We can get a blood test for it, but the digital examination is the only true way to get a correct reading on your prostate, so make sure you go and do that, and perhaps look for a small, Asian, female doctor is probably the best way," he said.

Cue anger, disappointment, eye rolls and a couple of chuckles from the social media brigade and a surprising defence from liberal senator, George Brandis.

“I think Tim Mathieson is lucky he didn't tell this joke after the Nicola Roxon anti-discrimination bill became law, because if he did he'd probably have been carted away to the re-education camp by the thought police,"Senator Brandis told Sky News.


Queensland takes on historic changes as 26 independent public schools open

Similar to U.S. Charters and U.K. academies

HISTORY will be created in Queensland schools tomorrow as 26 Independent Public Schools open their doors for the first time.

As well, the national curriculum extends its reach into classrooms and more Year 7 students will move to high school.

Queensland primary school students will learn history as a stand-alone subject for the first time statewide in decades, under the rollout of the national curriculum.

Aspley State High School is one of 26 Government schools chosen to take part in the controversial Independent Public Schools scheme, giving them more autonomy to make decisions, including the ability to hire staff.

The school is already creating a buzz over its rapid improvement in student results, with 92 per cent of their OP-eligible students last year receiving an OP1 to 15 - a better result than some prestigious private schools.  About one in four students received an OP1 to 5.

Principal Jacquita Miller said their goal under IPS was to become "the school of choice for our local community" and to build closer links to businesses, organisations and other schools in the local area.

Staff plan to use IPS to fast-track creative and flexible changes around learning and timetabling and student improvement in academic and other results.  "We can be more responsive, more quickly," Ms Miller said.

"My perfect Aspley State High School is every child, every day, doing the best that they can."

The IPS scheme initially sparked controversy with the Queensland Teachers' Union threatening to strike if it was introduced. They were concerned it could pit state schools against each other, but late last year the union signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the State Government over the scheme.

An Education Department factsheet says the IPS scheme will cut red tape, enable schools to tailor curriculum to students and "also shape a more innovative school system better able to respond to community and individual student needs to improve outcomes".

Each school in the scheme has received $50,000 to assist with the change and will be given an extra $50,000 each year for administrative purposes.

It comes as a further 18 state high schools trial Year 7 this year before the grade moves into secondary statewide in 2015. Junior secondary for Years 7 to 9 will also start in all state high schools this year.

Under the Australian Curriculum, history will also be taught as a stand-alone subject in all Prep to Year 10 classes.


Experts back Premier Campbell Newman's pre-emptive dam releases strategy

EXPERTS last night commended the pre-emptive dam release strategy imposed by Premier Campbell Newman on Seqwater.

They said it made sense to keep the dam's flood compartment empty and a similar approach could have helped avoid the disastrous flooding of 2011.

Seqwater was last night releasing 630 cubic metres a second from Wivenhoe Dam, with 11 per cent of its drinking water storage capacity still unused and all of its flood mitigation capacity available.  Somerset Dam was at 115 per cent and rising.

Mr Newman last week ordered dam levels be lowered to make room for floodwaters.

But Seqwater last night played down any political influence on its operations.  "The role of government is to set the strategic policy direction for water supply, while Seqwater is responsible for operationalising this policy," it told The Courier-Mail.   "The releases were always the decision of Seqwater and are at the low end of the Dam manual."

Seqwater said releases from Wivenhoe Dam were being made under the dam manual's "W2" strategy, under which the focus changes from minimising impact on rural life to protecting urban areas.  This strategy became highly controversial last year amid confusion as to whether it had ever been adopted during 2011.

It was the focus of days of flood inquiry hearings, leading to the referral for investigation by the Crime and Misconduct Commission of dam engineers.

Once flood peaks in the Lockyer Creek and Bremer River had passed, releases from Wivenhoe Dam would be increased to allow the flood waters stored in the dams to be drained, Seqwater said.

Independent Brisbane hydrologist Max Winders said Mr Newman's intervention was "very logical" and appeared to be an attempt to replicate the strategy used successfully to handle floods in 1999, as well as creating capacity to absorb releases from Somerset Dam if required.

"He's following a precautionary principle," Mr Winders said. "Why wouldn't he after Anna Bligh and (water minister) Stephen Robertson were left in the dark and told on Christmas Eve 2010 they couldn't have the lowering of the dam they'd asked for."

Mr Winders said the lesson of 2011 was to make sure Wivenhoe Dam's full mitigation capacity, which starts when the water is at 67m above sea level, was available at the start of a flood event.

Dam engineers should have known the dangers of allowing the dam to fill in 2011 because their own research in 2007 had identified that such a strategy doubled the flood risk, he said.

Retired engineer Ian Chalmers, who oversaw the construction of Wivenhoe Dam in the 1980s, praised Mr Newman's "early and bold intervention".  "It's a pity 'paralysis by analysis' did not allow similar decisive action in January 2011," he said.

But the intervention raises questions of the validity and purpose of the dam operations manual, the focus of much of the $15 million flood inquiry.  The document, devised in the 1970s to prevent political interference in the running of the dams, has previously been regarded as sacred.  It is still the subject of a long-term review ordered by the inquiry costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.


Failure to prosecute rioters means NSW laws need closer look - O'Farrell

THE Premier, Barry O'Farrell, has nominated the Muslim riot in central Sydney last year as one reason why an inquiry is needed into whether the state's racial vilification laws need strengthening.

Some conservative commentators have criticised Mr O'Farrell for asking a parliamentary committee to examine if laws dealing with complaints about serious racial vilification constitute "a realistic test" and have kept up with public expectations. On Sunday, Mr O'Farrell said he was concerned there was no attempt to prosecute those who held up "offensive" signs during violent protests sparked by an anti-Islamic film in September.

"That blackened the city; that blackened my state. That's why there is an upper house inquiry … into [the] effectiveness of this legislation," he said.


Monday, January 28, 2013


No posts today due to power outage in Brisbane

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Critic of homosexuality survives his inquisition

A PERTH GP investigated after he led a group of doctors opposing gay marriage on health grounds has reportedly been cleared by the Medical Board.

Founder of the Doctors for the Family group, Lachlan Dunjey, made a submission to a Senate inquiry into marriage equality last year stating gay marriage was a health risk.

The submission prompted outrage from civil liberty groups because it stated that marriage should remain between a man and a woman, and if same-sex marriage were allowed it would normalise homosexuality and have "health consequences".

"We submit that the evidence is clear that children who grow up in a family with a mother and father do better in all parameters than children without," it read.

In May last year the Sunday Herald Sun revealed 22 Victorian GPs, anaesthetists, obstetricians, palliative care specialists and psychiatrists, including Victoria's deputy chief psychiatrist, Prof Kuruvilla George, joined 150 colleagues interstate to argue gay marriage posed a health risk to society.

Dr Dunjey told website Australian Doctor this week he had been investigated by the Medical Board of Australia after allegations of misconduct made by another doctor and cleared.

Dr Dunjey ran as a Senate candidate for the Christian Democratic Party in the 2004 federal election.

"It is about freedom of speech ... it was sad really as I received a lot of hate mail and I don't believe people should be vilified or targeted for expressing a view," he told the website


NSW to continue with its gas plan

THE state government will push ahead with the expansion of the state's Coal Seam Gas industry despite increasingly organised opposition from green groups, home owners and farmers.

Resources and Energy Minister Chris Hartcher told The Sunday Telegraph there would be "catastrophic consequences" if NSW did not develop its own supply of secure and cheap gas.

Gas supplies would begin to run dry as early as 2014 and prices are already set to soar, he said, with predictions they could double within five years without further development.

Mr Hartcher said for too long green groups with an anti-mining agenda had been allowed to spread misinformation and stir up fear in the community without being properly held to account by the government or industry.

The Minister said the state was already losing manufacturing businesses that were concerned about gas prices and supply. Australian company Incitec Pivot has decided to build an ammonia plant in Louisiana, US, rather than Newcastle, because of concerns over the prospect of the soaring price of gas. This has cost the city hundreds of jobs.

"The real problem is going to be the customers who are dependent on gas. One-third of all the state's energy needs come from gas," he said.

"It really is fundamental to not only the economy but the lifestyle of the whole state."

Mr Hartcher said the Greens had been allowed to "just stand up with great confidence and assert things as facts".

"They are determined to change our energy to solar and wind and destroy gas as an alternative," he said. "Well, people can have these forms of energy, but they will have to be prepared to pay more than ten times what they do now."

The recently released Infrastructure NSW report said exploitation of the state's vast coal seam gas deposits would be "game changing" allowing the state to re-energise its manufacturing industry.

"There are two million gas extraction wells throughout the world now, and it's difficult for the anti-gas protesters to point to one that is causing problems," he said.

"The challenge for them is to find a single example where the water has been tainted or the ground has been damaged. But they don't have a single example - anywhere in the world."

The Minister said he understood residents' concerns in southwest Sydney about drilling under homes, but expansion had yet to be approved. "People are naturally protective of their homes, but at this stage the government hasn't approved any mining under people's homes," he said.

But Greens upper house MP Jeremy Buckingham has vowed to oppose any plans to expand CSG mining in NSW.

"The claim that there are no examples of CSG mining having an impact on health is a lie," he said.

"There has been a massive impact on the health of people in the US. People are reporting adverse impacts such as nose bleeds and ear aches."


I THINK this is satire -- but maybe it really is anthropology

The author, Nick Herriman, is an anthropologist

Australia Day is upon us and, for many, what could be more natural than a barbecue? Most of us know how to have a barbie without reflecting on it, yet barbecues also communicate a lot about us.

We can see this in the 1980s Australian movie, Barbecue Area. This satire provides a powerful analysis of the barbecue, Australia Day and its connotations of "white" Australian culture, by inverting white-black relationships. The film depicts a boat of Aboriginal people arriving at an area where the soon-to-be-colonised "whites" are having a barbecue. The Aboriginal invaders wonder at this white ritual, and well they might, for the Aussie barbie is deeply meaningful.

The classic, stereotypical barbecue is set around a structured series of oppositions. Inside, women prepare raw or bland food (vegetables: salad, potatoes, rice, bread). Outside, men prepare cooked food (meat, savoury).

Once the meal is prepared, the meat goes in the middle of the table and is dished into the middle of the plate. Bland foods are peripheral to the table and also to the plate. It all must be complemented by spicy or piquant sauces. The ritual typically starts during daylight hours and finishes at night. It might also be held in the afternoon, but never earlier in the morning.

The opposition of beer and wine is also illustrative. Some wine is cheaper than beer, but we rarely use wine (or fruit juice, or even water) to clean the barbecue plate. The World Health Organisation has not yet recognised beer for its sterilising or cleaning properties, so it seems the reason we use beer derives from its symbolic potency.

Beer is construed as a masculine drink. In our imagination, it also signifies an "Australian" or local beverage, as wine is conceived of as a foreign custom in as much as it was "brought by migrants". Furthermore, beer only obtains its meaning by being not-wine or not-soft drink. Like beer, meat is also associated with Anglo-Aussie masculinity - we "feed the man meat" and men are thought to "bring home the bacon".

Meaning is thus created through a series of oppositions - inside/outside; raw/cooked; woman/man; bland/savoury; peripheral/central; day/night; wine/beer. These complementary arrangements are the basis through which our social action can become meaningful, especially in our departures from the structure.

Thus many Australians also barbecue in parks, at the beach and other areas delimited as "outdoor". We are a nation that spends a lot of time inside urban homes dreaming about, and fearing, the bush and great outdoors. The barbecue gives us a chance to symbolically reconquer these.

This also means that if we wish to resist the symbolic structures, we are inevitably also forced to use them. If a man wants to emphasise his progressive credentials, he'll go inside to prepare salads - it's saying "women don't necessarily belong in the kitchen". If it's vegetarian credentials he's after, he'll ban meat from the barbie.

Many migrants do not follow the structural patterns, and nor for that matter do a lot of Anglo-Aussies! Each action thus becomes socially meaningful in the way it departs from the structural pattern of opposites.

Let's consider the gender divide which will probably play a huge role in our next election. Our female PM accuses the male leader of the opposition of misogyny and it becomes an international YouTube hit. While contesting the gender roles, the debate will inevitably be structured along the same lines of inside-outside, nature-culture that we see in barbecue symbolism. For example, does Tony Abbot think women belong inside? Are women naturally more capable of caring for children? Again, we make meaning by departing from, as much as by conforming to, the structures.

Aside from the complementary structures (raw/cooked), the order of events through time in the barbecue is also structured. First, chips and dips are served. Ideally, these are spicy and savoury and, if there is meat, it will only be in small portions. Then comes the meal in which the meat takes pride of place. And finally, fruits and sweets for dessert.

Again this is just the ideal structure through which we make meanings. If our barbecue host wants to establish his culinary credentials, he might serve a sweet aperitif first, then mango with fish for the main, finishing off with a chilli chocolate cake for dessert. By departing from the ideal progression in this way, he marks himself as gastronomic, but also may appear feminine in some eyes. The structural progression might seem natural but it is in fact a cultural invention. For example, an Indonesian Muslim breaking fast will typically start the evening meal with very sweet food and drink and then move on to savoury. On the Indonesian plate, the bland, starchy food - rice - is central with meat on the side.

This brings issues of inclusiveness and citizenship to the fore. Many citizenship ceremonies are scheduled on Saturday as part of a long-standing attempt to associate Australia Day with migration and multiculturalism. Perhaps then, the pot luck meal rather than the barbecue (or even the melting pot) better expresses the multicultural aspirations of many Australians.

Cuisine is thus not just about being nutritious and tasting good, it's also about meaning. Although it feels natural, this meaning is actually cultural.

So what will the barbecue structures this Australia Day tell us about being Australian? If while holding the barbie tongs or the salad tongs, we ask ourselves "who am I?", the answer we come up with - whether Australian or not, ethnic or not, woman or man, black or white - will be created through, or in opposition to, the same symbols which structure the great Australian barbecue. Analysing these structures tells that the most intimate ideas of our identity are also constructed.

So, if you're chucking another prawn on the barbie this weekend, or consciously avoiding it, you are also engaged in deeply meaningful and structured symbolic action.


Insult, offence and the draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill

THE young apprentice loved to boast of his romantic conquests over the weekend. His workmates nicknamed him "Romeo", in the true Australian larrikin tradition.

But "Romeo" took offence to their ribbing. He lodged a discrimination claim on the grounds of "lawful sexual activity". His employer, a small auto-electrician company in rural Victoria, chose to pay thousands of dollars in compensation in a confidential settlement, to avoid the costs of fighting the claim in court.

"Employers are being held to ransom by claims of discriminatory conduct by employees," says Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce industrial manager Bill Chesterman, who helped negotiate the "go away" payment.

New discrimination laws planned by the Federal Fovernment will extend the workplace warfare to every facet of public life. Australians' behaviour and conversations in schools, shops, playgrounds, clubs, pubs and sporting fields will be covered by the anti-discrimination legislation drafted by Attorney-General Nicola Roxon. Hurt feelings are set to become the legal trigger for compensation claims.

The government's attempt to modernise Australia's anti-discrimination laws attracted a hornet's nest of criticism this week from churches, employers, unions and civil libertarians.

Catholic Cardinal George Pell and the shop assistants' union - unlikely allies - both decried the draft laws as "the first step towards totalitarianism".

Employer groups predict the changes will result not in a lawyers' picnic, but a lawyers' lunch - long-running and very expensive. State governments are complaining the federal laws will interfere with their power to arrest criminals, suspend driving licences or ban the mentally ill from owning guns.

Catholic hospitals fear a challenge to their bans on abortion and birth control, while a Melbourne academic claims transgender men will start taking over the women's loos.

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee has been swamped with more than 600 submissions during its ongoing inquiry into the draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill. The new legislation combines and updates five existing sets of federal discrimination laws covering race, sex, age and disability.

Discrimination on the grounds of gender identity or sexual orientation will be outlawed for the first time, delivering Labor's 2010 election promise. This change prompted University of Melbourne social sciences professor Sheila Jeffreys to complain that transgender people will access women-only housing, toilets and prisons.

"Under the right to gender identity, male-bodied persons, in many cases with penises intact, are likely to be permitted to enter women's toilets," she says in a submission to the Senate inquiry. "There are quite a surprising number of cases in which men wearing women's clothing have been arrested for ... secret photographing of women using the toilets and showers, peeping at women from adjacent stalls ... (and) luring children into women's toilets in order to assault them."

A much broader concern is that the definition of discrimination has been widened to include "conduct that offends and insults", in a change widely criticised as a threat to free speech.

ABC chairman and former NSW Supreme Court chief justice James Spigelman declared in his Human Rights Day oration last month that "the freedom to offend is an integral component of freedom of speech. There is no right not to be offended".

Even the president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, has called on the government to change the wording.

Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association national secretary Joe de Bruyn views the legislation as "fundamentally anti-democratic".

"The fact that someone may say something which offends or upsets another person is not a sufficiently valid reason to curtail their freedom of expression," his submission states.

"To provide that someone who merely offends is guilty of an offence opens the door to ... the jailng of anyone who voices a view on any controversial matter."

Queensland Council of Civil Liberties president Michael Cope fears the legislation could limit public debate to "innocuous, sterilised conversation".

"The council is not a racist organisation but we defend a person's right to express racist sentiments," he told the inquiry. "Being democratically elected does not give a government a mandate to stifle voices with which it does not agree. If a person is physically or emotionally abused, the issue is not racist expression, but instead a problem with violence or aggression which should not be tolerated".

Cardinal Pell agrees it is "one step towards totalitarianism".

"Discrimination is a regular and necessary part of daily life," he wrote in News Ltd papers on Sunday. "We discriminate between friends and foes. Society discriminates between criminals and the law-abiding ... (and) by choosing only the best students to study medicine or law and the best athletes to represent Australia. Governments choose which immigrants they will accept and those they expel."

The contentious terms "offend" and "insult" have been plucked from the existing Racial Discrimination Act, which was used to prosecute Herald-Sun columnist Andrew Bolt in 2011 over his article questioning grants to "fair-skinned Aborigines".

Under the new laws, the wording would apply for the first time to all 17 "protected attributes" that range from age and sex to political opinion, religion and breastfeeding.

In theory, any of the nursing mothers offended by Seven Sunrise host David Koch's call for "classy" breastfeeding could lodge a discrimination suit.

Unlawful discrimination in employment has also been widened, to include industrial history, religion, political opinion, social origin, nationality or citizenship, and medical history.

And discrimination on the grounds of age, sex, race, disability, pregnancy and potential pregnancy, marital or relationship status, immigrant status, gender identity, sexual orientation, and breastfeeding will be banned outside the workplace as well.

Discrimination will become illegal in all areas of public life, defined in the legislation as workplaces, schools, accommodation, clubs and "access to public places".

Constitutional law professors Nicholas Aroney, of the University of Queensland, and Sydney University's Patrick Parkinson, have told the Senate inquiry the "heavy-handed" laws blur the line between illegal discrimination and social rudeness.

"A bully in a school playground, a rude customer who pushes in front of someone waiting in a queue at a takeaway restaurant, an inconsiderate employee who gossips about another employee, and a spectator who abuses a referee at a children's soccer game ... may be considered unlawful if the behaviour can plausibly be related to a protected attribute," they stated.

"This extends the reach of the law very far into areas of community life which have hitherto been regulated largely by other norms ... by school disciplinary responses, by a public rebuke to the rude customer, by a quiet word by a manager of the gossiping employee, or through criticism of the angry spectator by others at the game."

Critics are also alarmed that the burden of proof will be reversed, so that people accused of discrimination will have to prove their innocence. And each party will have to pay their own legal costs, regardless of who wins - although a judge may still opt to award costs to one party on the grounds of "justice".

Those accused of discrimination must prove that they were exempt from the law, or else "engaged in the conduct, in good faith, to achieve a legitimate aim".

The explanatory memorandum of the legislation says this will cover situations such as denying a driver's licence to a blind person, or banning men from a swimming pool "to recognise religious and cultural reasons prohibiting some females from bathing in front of men".

Denying someone a job or promotion is not discriminatory if the person "cannot meet the inherent requirements of the job".

Other defences will be "fair commentary on matters of public interest", as well as "artistic performances, fair and accurate reporting of events or matters of public interest", and statements made for any genuine academic, artistic or scientific purpose.

The Human Rights Commission will have stronger powers to dismiss complaints, and complainants will need permission to go to court.

The Attorney-General's Department has told the Senate inquiry that "resentful ex-employees and repeat nuisance claims seeking `go-away' money" are likely to be dismissed as vexatious, frivolous or insubstantial complaints.

"Double dipping" has been banned; those who lodge a complaint under state and territory laws or the Fair Work Act can't claim under the federal law as well.

The government's Regulation Impact Statement, prepared for the draft legislation, notes that defendants are already spending more than $100,000 defending complex cases.

It admits that shifting the burden of proof to the respondent "could increase the number of complaints".

Religious organisations have been given limited exemptions, so they can continue to legally discriminate against women, gay people or employees who oppose their beliefs. But aged care services that receive federal funding will no longer be able to discriminate against gay residents.

Volunteers will be protected for the first time, so that work experience students and tuckshop mums will be able to lodge complaints and seek damages payouts.

David Goodwin, a member of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry's productivity committee, describes the law as "manna from heaven for no-win, no-fee law firms. Bosses are going to have to become the thought police," he says. "It's unworkable".


Friday, January 25, 2013

Political correctness compulsory for ALL political parties?

No diversity of opinion about homosexuals allowed, apparently.  Only a few decades ago homosexuality was illegal.  Now it is semi-sacred.  One would hope for a middle way some time:  Where what homosexuals do in bed is their business and people are allowed to say anything they like about homosexuals

BOB Katter's party has cancelled Bernard Gaynor's bid for preselection on the Senate ticket after he said he did not want his children taught by gay teachers.

Katter's Australia Party also accepted the resignation of Victorian candidate for the seat of Wannon, Tess Corbett, after she made similar comments and said gay rights would lead to acceptance of paedophiles.

The party's national director Aidan McLindon said Mr Gaynor had been suspended from the party and would not be eligible to contest Senate preselection.

"The party has made it perfectly clear on a number of occasions to all candidates and officials that KAP does not exist for individuals to air and promote their own personal preoccupations," Mr McLindon said in a written statement.

"For this reason and as a result of serious breaches of protocol the party has suspended Mr Gaynor's membership."

Earlier, Mr Katter refused to comment on the controversy, but said he backed the statement from his party.

The north Queensland MP said "everyone knows my position on this issue".  "I'm not interested in it one way or another," Mr Katter told The Courier-Mail.

But he took a swipe at Mr Gaynor, who is a former national general secretary of the party and is vying for preselection on the Senate ticket in Queensland, saying he had "a rather peculiar way" of trying to secure support.

Officials from Katter's Australia Party will hold an emergency phone hook up this afternoon to discuss whether to turf out Mr Gaynor and their candidate in the Victorian seat of Wannon Tess Corbett, who made similar comments to a local newspaper.

Earlier, KAP Senate nominee Bernard Gaynor issued the statement claiming the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader would support his views, but it was quickly followed by a brief, blunt statement from KAP National Director Aidan McLindon.

"Katter's Australian Party will not be used by people to air and promote their own personal preoccupations," Mr McLindon said.  "This position will be be communicated to all proposed and potential candidates and zone chairs across Australia."

Earlier, Mr Gaynor had issued a statement claiming Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott would both support his view that parents should be able to object to teachers who are gay.

"The Prime Minister of Australia and Opposition Leader would both agree that parents should be able to choose who teaches their children," Mr Gaynor said.

"I'm sure both of them would 100 per cent back the rights of parents if they had concerns over the values of teachers. This includes concerns over teachers who promote homosexual lifestyles, either actively or by example, to children."

"Furthermore, considering both Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard oppose gay marriage it makes perfect sense that they would also be uncomfortable with teachers promoting a lifestyle that has serious negative health consequences and is opposed to the values of the majority of Australians."

Overnight, Mr Gaynor refused to back down from a controversial tweet in which he declared he would not let a gay person teach his children.

Senate nominee and father of five Bernard Gaynor denied he was homophobic following his tweet which read: "I wouldn't let a gay person teach my children and I am not afraid to say it."

It comes after Bob Katter admitted regretting the homophobic advertisements that ran during the 2012 state election.

Mr Gaynor said: "If we value free speech and democracy then we would respect the right of Christians to hold their views about right and wrong. And as a Christian, the homosexual lifestyle is immoral."

"I don't think Bob would have a problem with me saying this. As a parent, we should have the discretion over who teaches our children."  Mr Gaynor has five children aged one to 10.

"It is my responsibility as a parent to ensure my children have good teachers.

"Bob's comments about the advertisements that ran last year is a completely separate issue."

After the State Election, Katter told an audience with former prime minister Kevin Rudd that we would regret homophobic advertisements aired by his party "for the rest of my days".

Mr Katter's Australia Party's ads, of a pixelated black and white image of an older gay man with a young lover, went to air during the Queensland election campaign.

Mr Katter said they were a "simple example of insensitivity" and "a political mistake of major proportions".


Katter candidate's halal post sparks new storm

Given the Muslim attacks on Westerners, I would think that a desire not to help Muslims was perfectly reasonable

A candidate for Bob Katter's fledgling political party declared his preference for buying "guaranteed non-halal meat" so his money does not "go to the Muslim community".

Jamie Cavanough, who is standing for Katter's Australian Party in Sydney's most marginal federal seat, Greenway, is under fire for the apparently divisive comments he made to a community forum in one of the city's most ethnically diverse areas.

They emerged a day after a Katter candidate in Victoria, Tess Corbett, sparked outrage by likening homosexuals to paedophiles, saying they should be kept out of the classroom.

Mr Cavanough made his comments on Saturday, less than a fortnight after controversy in the Greenway community over plans for a supposed Muslim enclave, dubbed "Halal housing", in Riverstone.

Mr Cavanough posted on the Riverstone Community Group forum, which has 732 members on Facebook: "Can anyone advise me where I can buy Guaranteed NON halal lamb for Australia day."

When a forum user suggested he might try a butcher, Mr Cavanough replied: "have not asked yet, just wondering if anyone new [sic] of any, I would prefer to always buy non halal as proceeds of halal goes to the Muslim community."

In a separate post, he called on people to sign a petition against a supposed plan by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to scrap the name Australia Day in favour of Harmony Day, saying "the Muslim church is in favour of this". The Prime Minister's office confirmed there was no such proposal.

Mr Cavanough told Fairfax Media he was simply looking for a better deal on meat and his comments were not racially motivated.

"In my view, and it's not the view of any party, I want to be able to purchase a product that has not been faced to a god that I don't believe in and blessed," he said.

"Every time something is deemed halal they pay for the right. I have no problem with Muslims; I breed sheep and cattle and sell them to Muslims. I don't care what they do with them, I was just simply asking where I can purchase [non-halal meat]."

Labor's Michelle Rowland, the sitting MP for Greenway, which covers parts of Blacktown, Seven Hills and Parklea, said "my jaw has just dropped" when told of Mr Cavanough's comments.

"I think those comments are bizarre, I think they are out of line and I think they are totally inappropriate for someone seeking to represent the seat of Greenway, which is a diverse part of Australia," she said.

Mr Cavanough has been courting the conservative vote in the absence of a Liberal candidate in Greenway. Fairfax Media revealed recently that Liberal Party officials were waiting for Tony Abbott to give his blessing to one of a list of candidates in the must-win seat, with concern growing at the delay in choosing a candidate.


Vic public hospitals cancel 1300 operations

ELECTIVE surgery for 1300 patients across three Melbourne hospitals will reportedly be cancelled over the next five months as the fallout from $107 million in federal budget cuts continues.

Western Health says 550 patients at the Western and Sunshine hospitals and 750 patients at Williamstown Hospital will not receive elective surgery as planned this financial year, Fairfax reports.

Thousands of elective surgeries are set to be cancelled across the state as hospitals slash services to cope with the federal funding loss.

More than 300 beds were being closed as federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek and her Victorian counterpart David Davis negotiated a time to meet on the funding issue late Thursday, Fairfax said.

Mr Davis has said Canberra has cut $107 million from existing hospital budgets, while Ms Plibersek maintains Victoria will receive $900 million more in hospital funding over four years.

The cuts have prompted The Alfred to reportedly axe 300 operations, while the Royal Children's Hospital has announced it will have to slash 50 jobs.


Hate speech warning as Dutch MP Geers Wilders faces protests

Hatred of Mr Wilders will certainly be on display

CONTROVERSIAL anti-Islamic Dutch MP Geers Wilders will face protests from Muslims and others in Melbourne next month.

The Baillieu Government has also warned that Mr Wilders could fall foul of the state's hate speech laws if he incites tensions.

Mr Wilders had been due to visit Australia last year but had to postpone the trip following delays in processing his visa.

He opposes the "Islamisation" of the Netherlands and has called for the banning of the Koran, which he equates with Adolf Hitler's autobiography Mein Kampf.

Mr Wilders was invited to Australia by a nationalist group called the Q Society.  A meeting is planned for Melbourne on February 19, and there are appearance dates in Sydney and Perth.

Islamic Friendship Association president Keysar Trad said he had been approached by Leftist groups about protests against the Right-wing politician.

Q Society spokesman Andrew Horwood said details of meetings would be released with only 48 hours' notice, for security reasons.  "We feel strongly that as a democracy we can't not talk about things because of the threat of violence," he said.

Mr Horwood said Islam was unlike any other religion, and his organisation was concerned that Australia, like Europe, was changing as Muslim numbers grew.

Victorian Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship Minister Nick Kotsiras said Mr Wilders had the right to free speech, subject to the state's racial and religious vilification laws.

Mr Wilders' Party for Freedom won 10 per cent of the vote at the Netherlands' last election in September.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Jellyfish sting victim furious over hospital wait

Ain't government medicine grand?  I would like to see some of our socialist politicians wait 6 hours with a jellyfish sting

A man who was stung by an Irukandji jellyfish in Top End waters says he had to wait six hours to be treated in Royal Darwin Hospital.

Jason McCarthy was working on a fishing boat near the Tiwi Islands on Monday when he was stung by the potentially deadly jellyfish.

Mr McCarthy says the navy came to his rescue and took him back to Darwin for treatment, but he then faced an agonising wait in the Emergency Department.

"It was disgusting to tell you the truth... I waited from 2pm, I didn't see a doctor until 8pm," he said.

"In that time I watched everyone in the same boat that came in there, just in pain."

He says after several hours, he approached the counter and asked to see a doctor.

"They said there wasn't enough doctors and there wasn't enough beds. There was nothing they could do, he said.

In a statement, the director of Medical Services Dr Sara Watson says emergency treatment at Royal Darwin Hospital is based on a triage system and the most urgent cases are dealt with first.


Can you believe two FEET of rain in two days?

That's what Tully got.  Since drought signifies warming (so the Warmists say) we sure must be getting cool.  Odd that it feels hot, though

Flooding has cut roads and forced the closure of the train line between Townsville and Cairns after torrential rain across north Queensland.

Hundreds of millimetres of rain has fallen as a result of ex-tropical cyclone Oswald and central Queensland communities are now preparing for flooding as the system moves south.

The ex-cyclone is now about 85 kilometres west of Cape Tribulation and is moving slowly south, bringing damaging winds and heavy rain.

Senior Forecaster Ken Nato warns the big rain is heading south of Townsville.

"Today and tomorrow we are expecting towns like Bowen and Townsville which is already starting to see some of the weather, down to Mackay and even down to St Lawrence by tomorrow," he said.

Queensland Rail (QR) has been forced to close the Townsville to Cairns rail line because of water over the tracks at a number of places, including Tully, Bilyana, Aloomba, and Deeral.

Crews will assess damage when flooding subsides.

A QR spokeswoman says passengers will have to wait in the cities because they cannot arrange alternative transport due to road closures.

About 130 millimetres of rain has been dumped on Ingham, north of Townsville, in the past three hours.

Residents there are being urged to stock up on supplies as the Herbert River continues to rise and is expected to peak at 11 metres later today.

Tully has recorded more than 600 millimetres of rain in 48 hours, and almost 200mm has been recorded at Mission Beach and near Cairns.

Further north, Weipa has recorded 300 millimetres of rain since 9:00am (AEST) yesterday.

Police are warning drivers to avoid travelling through Tully until further notice.


Greenpeace warns against expanding coal exports

The facts have never mattered to Greenpeace

A new report has warned Australia to stop expanding coal exports or risk inflicting "catastrophic" effects of climate change on the world.

The Greenpeace-commissioned study identifies the expansion of Australian coal exports as one of 14 proposed coal, oil and gas projects around the world that will raise greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020.

The study predicts Australia will increase coal exports to 408 million tonnes a year, producing an estimated 1,200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Greenpeace's Georgina Woods says if the projects go ahead, they will warm the globe more than two degrees Celsius.

That is considered the temperature limit to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

"Our coal exports are already our biggest single contribution to climate change, and part of a global fossil fuel expansion enterprise that will push us beyond the point of no return in climate change," she said.


Apology demand after gay and lesbian group's signs deemed 'offensive'

PARRAMATTA'S lord mayor is facing a social media backlash after a gay and lesbian youth group invited to a family fun day was asked by the council to remove its "offensive" signage.

Council staff told Twenty10 that a banner promoting its "support services for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, same-sex attracted and gender diverse young people, their families and communities" was inappropriate at last week's Rediscover the River festival, Twenty10's acting managing director, Terence Humphreys, said.

The request prompted Twenty10 to pack up its kite-making stall and leave, posting on Facebook that it could not support an event if a sign describing the group had been "deemed to contain offensive language".

The council has been inundated with complaints as news of the January 17 incident has spread. A petition calling for an apology had attracted more than 6000 signatures in a matter of hours on Monday.

The council said in a statement that organisers asked that two banners be removed "in response to numerous complaints by members of the public" but at no stage did it request Twenty10 to leave. It declined to say what aspect of the signs was deemed to be offensive.

Independent councillor and former mayor Lorraine Wearne apologised for any offence caused but labelled some of the response an overreaction.

Labor's Julia Finn said the council's reasoning was inadequate. But independent councillor Paul Garrard said Twenty10 should not have been at the family day as it was no place for "semi-political" groups.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tony Abbott says Government's draft anti-discrimination laws amount to censorship

FEDERAL Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says Prime Minister Julia Gillard faces an election-year free speech battle if she presses ahead with planned anti-discrimination law reform.

And Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie has criticised the federal plans to streamline laws against discrimination, saying they would clash with state laws and could create uncertainty for Queenslanders.

Ms Gillard defended the draft laws as "most worthy for consideration" and urged people to have their say on the proposals.

Almost 600 individuals and groups have made submissions to the draft Bill, which will be scrutinised by a Senate inquiry today and tomorrow.

A wide range of critics are lining up to pan the laws, with employer groups and human rights lobbies warning the changes could see people found to have breached the law if they merely "offend" someone.

Others have complained the proposed laws give too many exemptions to religious organisations to discriminate against single mothers or gay people.

The Bill is meant to merge and simplify five existing laws against age, disability, race, sex and other forms of discrimination. But it includes some new forms of discrimination at work, including on "medical history" and "social origins".

The new laws also change the definition of discrimination to include comments that "offend" or "insult" someone.

Mr Abbott said the proposals would amount to censorship by the Government and were against the "DNA" of his party.

"We do not need any additional restrictions on free speech in this country. I want to make that absolutely crystal clear," he said while campaigning in Brisbane.

"Not for nothing are we called the Liberal Party.

"The last thing we need is anything that shuts down legitimate debate in this country."

Mr Abbott said the Government had been "hectoring" and "bullying" those who criticised it, including in the media.

Independent Tony Windsor said he was unlikely to support the legislation in its current form and said he had received a large number of complaints about the proposed changes.

Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs has called for changes to the Bill to protect the right to free speech.

The Queensland Council for Civil Liberties said in a submission to the inquiry that the Bill "repeatedly and unjustifiably encroaches on free speech".

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry will tell the inquiry today the changes will make it easier for employers to be accused of discrimination.


The usual Greenie exploitation of the Barrier Reef

The GBR has been "threatened" as far back as I remember and I am in my 70th year.  No evidence is needed:  Just a shriek

THE Great Barrier Reef could be stripped of its world heritage status within months if action isn't taken to better protect the natural icon from coal and gas developments, environment groups say.

A coalition of green groups today launched the Fight for the Reef campaign in Canberra, warning state and federal politicians were putting the reef's international reputation at risk.

Last year UNESCO was "sufficiently concerned" enough by proposed developments along the Queensland coast it sent a mission to Australia to investigate, the campaign's director Felicity Wishart said.

It made a number of recommendations to the commonwealth and Queensland governments about how to proceed in the best interests of the reef.

The global heritage body could place the reef - the world's longest coral reef system - on the "world heritage in danger" list if it doesn't receive an adequate response by February.

Ms Wishart said such action would be an international embarrassment that threatened both the reef ecosystem and the $6 billion tourism industry it supports.

"The reef has an international reputation, it is loved globally," she said.

"That's a really alarming international black mark that we could be tracking towards if we don't lift our game."

She said the campaign, formed by the Australian Marine Conservation Society and the World Wildlife Fund, had written to all the major parties in a bid to get the reef on the 2013 election agenda.

At the centre of their concerns are 45 major industrial developments proposed for the coast, including large-scale coal and gas projects that would boost shipping over the reef.

Currently, around 4000 ships make "port calls" through the reef every year, but that number could skyrocket to 7000 if the proposals go ahead unchallenged, the campaign group warns.

The main concern is that the government, which has a "proud track record" of defending the reef, wasn't now taking this issue seriously, Ms Wishart said.

"We're calling on all sides of politics to step up and commit to greater protection for what is the most significant natural icon that Australia has," she said.

"This is something that has to be beyond politics."

The Great Barrier Reef was granted world heritage status in 1981, but has since faced numerous threats from coral bleaching to cyclones, runoff, Crown-of-thorns starfish and commercial activity.


The Backpacker has lost his way if he thinks patriotism is out of this world

There is nothing shameful in declaring that you are proud to be Australian.

Sadly, Ben Groundwater, Fairfax's globetrotter on a shoestring, who writes The Backpacker column, has declared he is not a proud Aussie. He wonders what we should be proud of and asks what makes Australia so much better than everyone else's country. He does acknowledge that as he travels the world he finds people in other countries who are also proud of their patch.

For the Fairfax world traveller, the concept of nationality and nationhood has become irrelevant. One cannot be sure but the article reads as though he believes patriotism and nationalism are one and the same. Many, including myself, will disagree on that point.

I take a patriot to be someone who loves their country above all else in the sense that they would unflinchingly put the common good for their compatriots ahead of any personal gain. Patriotism, in this sense, is a good thing.

Like it or not (and The Backpacker doesn't) nation states are the prime mechanism for citizens to group together for each other's benefit. They are also the key vehicle through which large numbers of citizens (one nation state) communicate with others (in other nation states) to encourage fairer trade, protect our natural environment and encourage world peace, to name a few laudable objectives. In other words, by being good citizens of our nation state and by Australia taking helpful and constructive positions on the international stage, we are in fact being what The Backpacker professes to want, namely good citizens of the world.

I think it is also a good thing to take pride in your country. Pride in its achievements as a nation and pride in the achievements of fellow Australians can inspire others to follow suit and be the best they can be. That people in other countries do the same thing does not mean one must be better than another, simply that we take pride in what we do well. Since when has that been a bad thing?

Nationalism is another kettle of fish. The thin veneer of what I call Vegemite nationalism clearly offends The Backpacker. Yes it can get ugly and none of us see the charm in that, but it can also be both uplifting and harmless. The Backpacker seems revolted at the VB-drinking, footy-watching Australians who holiday in Kuta which is, I think, a little harsh.

Yes, when the Olympics are on we do tend to support our country "like it's a football team". Given the most transparent thing I saw in the International Olympic Committee during my visits there (when the World Anti-Doping Agency was being established ) was the glass elevator, one might have good reason to think carefully about the time and money we put into the Olympics.

Perhaps we should follow India and admit to higher priorities for government spending. Be that as it may, whenever and wherever we are competing I think it is good that we support our team. (Although if Eric Moussambani Malonga, "The Eel", has a crack at it in 2016 I will quietly give him a cheer or two as well).

There is a more acrid form of nationalism that seeks to garner genuine feelings of pride and brotherhood about ourselves and derail them into ugly sentiments about others. A positive is turned into a negative, often to carry the ego of those with narrow and ugly minds. This type of nationalism is especially unattractive - as are the people that support it. Here's a tip: keep away from them.

The Backpacker hates the standard conversation lubricant among new acquaintances overseas "Where do you come from". He says it should be irrelevant without saying why. Quite apart from being handy to even the most shy and inept conversationalist it also holds the possibility of opening up rich avenues of participation for the other person. At the very least it does them the courtesy of showing an interest in them.

The questioner discovers where the person comes from, which gives perhaps just a little insight into the respondent and highlights possible avenues for further conversation.

For example, if they come from Argentina it is a fair bet they will have something to say about Eva Peron, the Falkland Islands or great steaks.

The respondent on the other hand has the opportunity to give very little or quite a lot. It is not so much a banal and irrelevant question as an invitation to communicate, to share stories and knowledge in a gradual way. It is an invitation to interact with others as The Backpacker would have us do, as citizens of the world.

We are just acknowledging the reality that we come from different parts of the world and consequently have vastly different experiences to share.

The Backpacker points out that it is just dumb luck for Australians to have been born on this piece of land. Putting aside the complexities of citizenship being a tad more complicated than where you were born, dumb luck doesn't seem appropriate to me. Unbelievable, windfall, mega luck gets a little closer.

The test is for The Backpacker to identify for himself the country of which he would rather be a citizen. For myself, I can't nominate one. I can nominate traits of other nationalities I admire, places that are glorious to visit and achievements that are inspiring but not a country in which I would prefer to have been born and raised and in which I would now prefer to live.

On Australia Day, The Backpacker might reflect on this question: if we shouldn't be proud of Australia, who should be? If he calls at my house, hospitable Australian though I am, I think I'll send him packing.


Election 2013 will take us back to 64 BCE

Benjamin Herscovitch

In 64 BCE, the great philosopher and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero ran for the position of consul—the highest elected office in the Roman Republic.

Not being from a noble family, Marcus was a political outsider trying to break into the inner sanctum of Roman power.

To give Marcus the best chance of realising his political aspirations, his younger brother Quintus offered some wily lessons in the pursuit of high office.

Quite aside from whether Quintus’ handbook of electioneering contributed to Marcus’ eventual election victory, it is a useful guide to the political trickery to watch out for in the lead up to the 2013 federal election.

Noting that valuable political capital can be amassed by smearing opponents, Quintus did not hesitate to endorse dirt files and rumour mongering.

He advised Marcus to remind the people of ‘what scoundrels your opponents are and to smear these men at every opportunity with the crimes, sexual scandals, and corruption they have brought on themselves.’

Whether in the form of whispers of salacious personal proclivities or resurrected stories of decades-old misjudgements, the ancient art of muckraking will almost certainly feature prominently in the 2013 election campaign.

On the off chance that distracting voters with titillating scandals is ineffective, Quintus reminded his brother that there is always the option of being the electorate’s yes man (or woman).

Quintus recommended never saying no to a request, adding that Marcus should ‘not make specific pledges either to the Senate or the people. Stick to vague generalities.’

With a proliferation of ambiguous commitments to ‘do more,’ ‘take action,’ and ‘get results,’ this election year is likely to serve up candidates who are similarly big on promises but light on details.

Like any good strategist, Quintus also understood the power of chequebook politics.

One of his most important lessons for Marcus was that undecided voters can be won over by offering them ‘even small favours.’

As with the campaign for Roman consul, we can expect to see fast and furious pledges of support for all manner of interest groups and causes during this year’s political contest.

With the playbook for ambitious politicians apparently left largely unchanged for over 2,000 years, Quintus’ words serve as a warning for the Australian electorate of 2013.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Lawyers claim dam operators caused flooding in Brisbane suburbs

Classic bureaucratic negligence.  They showed no sense that they held lives in their hands.  The Wivenhoe was built for flood  mitigation but it is not proof against bone-headed management

DAM operators should have been on an emergency footing, making significant dam releases in December 2010, but instead negligently flooded entire suburbs in a panic the following month, lawyers claim. [Blind Freddy knows that to be true]

The law firm taking on the State Government yesterday said Chelmer, Rosalie, Auchenflower, Bulimba and the entire CBD of Ipswich were among areas that should not have flooded at all in January 2011.

The firm plans to file a complaint by April, although it has not yet established in which court.

Maurice Blackburn principal solicitor Damian Scattini said his firm and the company financing the action, IMF, were convinced there had been significant negligence before and during the floods.

Mr Scattini said the dam operators had held back too much water for too long in what appeared to have been "a misguided attempt" to keep upstream bridges open.

"When they realised what they'd done they panicked and released too much at once, so we had a much larger peak than there needed to be," he said.  "Their priorities were skew-whiff."

Mr Scattini said that under dam operator Seqwater's own rules, there was a flood emergency throughout December 2010 and the first week of January 2011.  But a flood event was not declared until January 6.

"Their own rules say if the dam is at 67m and there is more rain expected then they should declare a flood emergency," he said.  "There was not a single day in December that those conditions did not apply.  "On the second of January they said the flood was over. Then they come back on the sixth of January and keep the gates closed."

Mr Scattini said US hydrologists hired as expert witnesses had found the operators were negligent deliberately in ignoring weather forecasts.

They had also "observed" that the current version of the manual used to operate the dams "had been written to cover up what they did in 2011", he said.

But he refused to name the experts and would not reveal any of their findings in detail.

Flood victims and other Brisbane residents were yesterday poring over a map released by Maurice Blackburn that shows in green areas that it claims should not have flooded.

Areas that would have received at least 150mm (6 inches) of water regardless of how the dam was managed are marked in orange.

Some complained online that locations that did not flood were nevertheless marked green. Mr Scattini blamed state government flood maps, used to delineate the flooded areas, for the errors.

"We thought, they can hardly complain if we use their basis for the map," he said.

He said more accurate maps would be used in court.

John Walker, of litigation funding firm IMF, which is risking up to $10 million in the expectation of a big government payout, said lawyers were on track to file a complaint by April.

Mr Walker said the claim, which would be the largest class action in Australia, could potentially exceed $1 billion.

He said he hoped to get insurance companies to join the action, describing them as also having been "victims" of the dam operator's negligence.

Maurice Blackburn and IMF will spend the next two months sending leaflets throughout the suburbs, identified as having been avoidably flooded in the hope of garnering further support for their action.

Public meetings will be held in these areas in the next few weeks.

A spokesman for Seqwater said the company was "acutely aware of the impact of the floods" but rejected claims of negligence.

"We've always been confident that Wivenhoe Dam was managed as it was supposed to be managed, and the dam performed as it was designed to perform during the range of flood events from October 2010 into January 2011," the spokesman said.


Private schools reap secondary student numbers at state's expense

Private schooling mainly at High School level is the Australian norm but the pattern may be acceletating

On the figures above, 42% of Australian teenagers go to non-government high schools,  which IS edging up

STUDENTS are flocking to government primary schools but the number sticking with the system for their secondary education is in free-fall.

Education Department figures, compiled for the Herald Sun, show the Catholic and independent sectors are snaring more students.Government secondary schools are expected to have 4700 fewer students than three years ago, a 2.1 per cent decline.

Deakin University Prof Jill Blackmore said parents appeared happy to trust state primary schools, but many were willing to invest to give their child the best chance at university and making lifelong contacts.

"They know that government schools actually do a good job at preparing them in the critical areas of literacy and numeracy," Prof Blackmore said. "But they know the social capital factor is the thing that is critical in secondary."

Enrolment figures, which include estimates for this year, show government primary schools are on track to record three-year growth of 5.4 per cent. The figure is on par with other sectors.

But while state secondary enrolments are going backwards, those at Catholic secondary schools are up 3.8 per cent and independent schools 1.6 per cent.

Catholic Education Office executive director Stephen Elder said growth was strong across Melbourne, particularly in new suburbs.

Independent Schools Victoria chief executive Michelle Green said many established private schools were at or near capacity.

An Education Department spokesman said a baby boom, which began in 2006, was driving government primary enrolments and would flow to secondary schools.


VCAT backs former drugs offender to work with children

VCAT are notorious Leftist lamebrains.  They will go you for criticizing Muslims but nothing else seem to bother them

A MAN who racked up 25 drug offences across four states in 17 years has won an appeal to work with children.

The decision was made after Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal deputy president Heather Lambrick said she believed the man's "prolonged history of offending is now behind him".

The appeal was heard on December 18, two weeks before Victoria's new working-with-children check laws, which changed legal tests for applicants with serious criminal convictions, applied.

It heard the man, referred to as JFC and who now wants to coach cricket and study welfare, was released from jail in 2010.  He had been sentenced to a minimum of 6 1/2 years in jail after being found to be a "major co-ordinator" in a drug ring that distributed at least 900kg of cannabis worth more than $5 million.

Ms Lambrick said JFC had also been charged with four weapons-related offences between 1985 and 2004, and been a drug addict.

She said there was no evidence JFC had sold drugs directly to children but "there is every probability that at least some of the cannabis he distributed made its way into the hands of vulnerable children".  Despite this, she said the man appeared to be reformed and had not used drugs for a decade.

The Secretary to the Department of Justice, who refused the man's application for a working-with-children check, had pointed to internal correction documents "which implicated JFC in drug use and drug dealing whilst in prison".  The man had also spent time in "separated management" after cannabis seeds were found in his unit.

But Ms Lambrick said JFC had denied he dealt or used drugs in jail and had not been charged there.

"The time has come to enable him to re-engage fully with the community and that extends to his being able to work with children," she ruled. "It can never be said that a person poses no risk to children. However I consider any risk posed by JFC to be extremely low."

A spokesman for Attorney-General Robert Clark, James Copsey, said he was not able to comment on JFC's case.  But he said the Coalition had bolstered laws applying to applicants "with previous serious convictions".


Free speech denied to Geert Wilders

The obvious question is, what are they afraid of? Is it fear of violence, or vandalism, or simply fear of association?

Debbie Robinson, a small business operator who describes herself as an ordinary citizen, wants to bring to Australia a Dutch political leader who is a supporter of democracy, freedom of religion, feminism and gay rights. But when she started making arrangements all she encountered was fear.

"In Sydney, venues that were initially available were cancelled or would not take the booking when they realised who the speaker was," she told me. She provided a list of rejections: the Hilton Hotel, North Sydney Leagues Club, Sydney Masonic Centre, Wesley Convention Centre, Luna Park Function Centre, the Concourse at Chatswood and the Sir John Clancy Auditorium at the University of NSW.

"I offered a church-based venue in Sydney a donation and their reply was, 'You could offer $4 million and we would not accept your booking'."

Finding venues was not her only problem. "Earlier in the year I approached APN Outdoor to arrange a four-week run of bus ads in Sydney. The artwork was forwarded to them and I was quoted a price for the job . . . Then I was advised they would not be able to run the ad as it was too political and would result in the buses being damaged and defaced. They would not say who would do the damage."

The same happened in Perth, where Robinson lives, when venues declined to take her booking, including the Burswood Casino. When she tried to organise a payments system for the tour, she was rejected by Westpac. The bank, which has been courting the Chinese Communist government for years, wanted nothing to do with this Dutch democrat.

"I was organising an e-way payment system with Westpac to link to the website of the Q Society [the sponsor of the tour]. I received a call from a manager who said the Westpac Risk Management Team had decided the material for sale was offensive and inappropriate and therefore they would not proceed with the e-way system. I asked to speak to the manager responsible and was told he was on leave."

The Dutch MP causing so much concern is Geert Wilders, the leader of the Party of Freedom (PVV), the king-maker in Dutch politics over the past two years. When Wilders withdrew his support for the government last year, it collapsed and a national election was called.

A month after that election, in which the PVV polled a million votes and won 16 seats, Wilders was scheduled to be in Australia. The trip was cancelled after it was sabotaged by the Minister for Immigration, Chris Bowen.

The minister then had the gall to write an opinion piece, published in The Australian on October 2 last year, in which he claimed, "I have decided not to intervene to deny [Wilders] a visa because I believe that our democracy is strong enough, our multiculturalism robust enough and our commitment to freedom of speech entrenched enough that our society can withstand the visit of a fringe commentator."

Reality check: Bowen's department sat on Wilders' visa application for almost two months, then acted only after the minister received public criticism and Wilders was cancelling his trip.

No such long delay hindered the visit of Taji Mustafa, a spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir, an apologist for jihad, when he made a speaking tour in Australia last September while Wilders was being frozen out. When questioned in Parliament, Bowen replied: "Hizb ut-Tahrir has not been proscribed in Australia . . . This entry permit was issued in accordance with the normal procedures for British nationals."

Apparently, the anti-Western Hizb ut-Tahrir is not "fringe", nor worthy of an excoriating opinion piece, but the leader of a party that won 24 seats, 1.4 million votes, and 15 per cent of the vote in the Dutch 2010 election represents an extremist fringe.

People are entitled to loathe Wilders, or shun him. They are also entitled to support him, or hear him. The problems encountered with his visit illustrate the double-speak, double-standards and fear that exists when it comes to the subject for which Wilders is notorious - confronting Muslim extremism.

Neither Wilders nor the PVV have ever been involved in violent conduct, yet he has lived under 24-hour police protection for the past nine years, since two Muslim fundamentalists were arrested after a siege in 2004 and charged with planning to assassinate him.

When Wilders comes to Australia next month for speaking engagements in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, he will be accompanied by five Dutch security officers. The venues will not be revealed until 48 hours before each speech.

Wilders believes Islam is a political ideology, not just a religion, and should be compared with totalitarian belief systems. He has compared the Koran to Fascism and Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf. He advocates ending immigration by Muslims because the Netherlands was losing its demographic and social stability. For this he was taken to court for hate speech. He won, but the case occupied three years.

Wilders is opposed to what he calls the Islamification of Europe by a combination of demography, immigration and accommodations by multiculturalism that are not reciprocated by Muslims. Two other Dutch political activists who were similarly critical of Islam were subject to numerous assassination attempts. One was murdered, the other fled to America.

Debbie Robinson believes the fear she has encountered in Australia merely confirms her reasons for arranging Wilders' visit: "With every refusal I asked why, and was almost always informed that management had concerns about the repercussions. The audience was never the issue. The issue was offending Muslims. Looking at the number of cancellations and refusals it is apparent the Islamic community are not getting their message across about being the religion of peace."


Monday, January 21, 2013

Going organic fills niche for dairy farmer

Free enterprise at work.  Pic below of Mr Watson's gorgeous little daughters -- holding newly-hatched chickens.  They are lucky.  Few kids these days will enjoy the delight of a newly hatched chicken.  Note also how green is the lush tropical landscape there.  If the huge restrictions on international agricultural trade were lifted, the region could feed millions

BREAKAWAY dairy farmer Rob Watson has seen the chickens come home to roost in the lush volcanic fields of Millaa Millaa on the Atherton Tableland.

The 53-year-old is as bio-dynamic as the speciality organic milk, cheeses and yoghurts his family produces in the once-thriving dairy region two hours drive south-west of Cairns.

His newly hatched plan is to produce free-range organic eggs in a sign that to diversify is to survive in farming.  "No one else is doing it," said Mr Watson. "It is an opportunity."

He is one of a small band of happy farmers who turned the disaster of dairy deregulation in 2000 and the Coles price war launched last Australia Day, into a $7 million-a-year boutique business.

Today Mungalli Creek Dairy delivers its organic milk products to 200 stores including the big supermarket chains in north Queensland and shops in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. "Since the price wars, demand has soared," he said.  "Some people will pay a bit extra because they don't want homogenised or permeate milk.

"It was stressful to start packaging our own milk. But we've never looked back. We can't keep up the supply."

Six dairy farmers in the region have hit the wall this year - selling up, or turning to crops, pigs or beef as Coles and Woolies sell milk for about 14 cents below farm production costs.

Some believe the dairy industry is cursed, others like Mungalli, see it is as a matter of thinking outside the box.  "We need to revitalise these tiny rural hamlets," Mr Watson said.


Watchdog call for softening of new hate laws

AUSTRALIA'S discrimination watchdog wants the federal government to water down its new hate laws to avoid litigation over workers' water-cooler chats.

Discrimination has been redefined as "conduct that offends or insults" in the government's draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill.

But Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs thinks the broad definition will spark too many lawsuits.

She said the words offend and insult "have to go".  "There is no need to set the threshold so low," she said.  "I would suggest the government consider taking the words 'offensive' and 'insulting' out (of the legislation).  "It does raise a risk of increased litigation".

Professor Triggs said discrimination cases should be based on the higher test of "intimidation, vilification or humiliation".

The Gillard government has drafted the new law to combine and update five sets of legislation banning discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, age or disability.

Professor Triggs said the words offend and insult had been "buried" in Section 198 of the Racial Discrimination Act, which will be replaced by the new legislation.

"Now it (the new legislation) extends that attribute to all areas (of discrimination)," she said.

"Probably what we'll see is an amendment to the exposure bill, taking out offensive and insulting."

The draft law says a person has been discriminated against if someone treats them "unfavorably" on the grounds of "protected attributes" that range from gender to race, disability, age, religion or sexual orientation.

It defines "unfavorable treatment" as harassing someone or "other conduct that offends, insults or intimidates the other person".

A Senate committee inquiring into the draft bill has already received 587 submissions from organisations including churches, employers, unions, mental health agencies, disability groups and state governments.

A spokeswoman for acting federal Attorney-General Jason Clare yesterday refused to say if the wording would be changed.  "The main objective of this project is to simplify and consolidate many laws into one," she said.  "If the Senate inquiry identifies the drafting goes well beyond this, the Government will closely consider those recommendations."

Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie has told the Senate inquiry the the new laws could damage freedom of speech.

"The use of subjective language such as 'insult' and 'offend' in the statutory definition of 'unfavourable treatment" may be interpreted to set a low threshold test for discrimination," he said.

"(This) will result in unmeritous complaints and lack of alignment with international human rights benchmarks that focus on the need for equality, rather than merely on the social value of being polite".

Queensland's Anti Discrimination Commission also wants the legislation be rewritten, so a "reasonable person" would have to find the conduct insulting or offensive.

Tasmania's Anti-Discrimination Commission, however, wants to keep the words "insult and offend" and add others as well.  "To provide greater certainty, this clause could also include the words humiliate, denigrate, ridicule or degrade to describe some of the specific types of behaviour that constitute unfavourable treatment," it told the inquiry.

The NSW Government has told the Senate inquiry the broader definition of discrimination "places unreasonable restrictions on freedom of speech".  "The words 'offend' and 'insult', in particular incorporate a very low threshold of unfavorable treatment," its submission says.

Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark warned that people could be accused of discrimination over what they say in private conversations held in a public place, such as a club or office.

"Many people may be subjectively offended or insulted by the simple expression or manifestation of views different to their own," he told the inquiry.

"To make such expressions of views in workplaces, schools, clubs and sports prima facie unfavourable treatment and hence discrimination ... appears to substantially erode freedom of expression."

The Law Society of South Australia told the Senate inquiry it "condemned" the new definition.  "The robust expression of opinions, short of incitement to hatred, is a strength of our social and legal system," its submission states.

"It should not be curtailed to protect subjective offence that individuals may feel when their beliefs or attitudes are criticised."


Brisbane flood bungling going to law

It's  patently obvious that if the flood compartment at Wivenhoe  had been kept available, there would have been no flood.  The Labor government used it for storage in a bid to save millions but  the people of Brisbane lost billions as a result

LEGAL action is to be brought against the Queensland Government over the 2011 floods.

Lawyers from Maurice Blackburn say they will on Monday reveal maps that will show a "very significant" number of properties would not have been flooded if Wivenhoe and Somerset dams had been managed properly.

"We have sufficient evidence to go ahead," Principal solicitor Damian Scattini told The Courier-Mail.

He said he expected a complaint would be filed within a couple of months, after Brisbane and Ipswich flood victims had been given a chance to see whether or not they might have been spared damage.

US experts have spent about a year analysing the actions of the dam operators, crunching data and modelling the water flows that would have resulted if the dam had been operated to what they consider an internationally acceptable standard.

The colour-coded maps will mark in green the area that should not have flooded, and in orange the areas that would have received at least six inches of floodwater.

Mr Scattini said people living in the orange-marked areas could still have a case against the dam operator.  "We're not ruling anyone out," he said.


For-profit schools coming to Australia

Global education companies are planning to open Australia's first for-profit schools targeting local primary and secondary students as early as next year.

Fairview Global, a for-profit schools network based in Malaysia, will send scouts to Australia within six months to find potential sites, with the aim of opening two schools next year and in 2015.

"We plan to have one school in the west and one in the east of Australia - cosmopolitan cities of intellects with international-mindedness," said the chairman of Fairview International Schools' governing council, Daniel Chian.

At present, private schools must be not-for-profit to receive public funding, a status held by Catholic and independent schools. Schools are for-profit if revenue is passed to an outside person or group for financial gain. They are legal to operate.

Mr Chian said the expansion plan was being guided by a former vice-chancellor of an Australian university who is now a member of the Fairview governing council, but would not reveal the name.

A second company, Gems Education, based in Dubai, hopes to open a school in Australia. Its original plan to start one in Melbourne was shelved two years ago.

The moves have outraged the president of the Australian Educational Union, Angelo Gavrielatos. "These are large companies driven by a profit motive that consider education as the last bastion when it comes to untapped resources. Our children cannot be seen as a commercial resource - a plaything for companies to make profit."

The NSW and federal education departments said they had not received any inquiries from overseas for-profit education companies.

For-profit schools are banned under Victorian law. "The regulator - the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority - cannot register a school, primary or secondary, for profit," said a Victorian Education Department spokesman.

Some for-profit schools exist in Australia but they mainly cater to foreign students.

A Fairfax Media investigation could not identify a for-profit school aimed at the mainstream student that is part of a global brand such as Gems Education. Gems Education claims to be the world's largest kindergarten to year 12 private education provider, offering the British, Indian, US and International Baccalaureate curriculums.

The company's communications director, Richard Forbes, who is Australian, said it had received three inquiries in the past three months from Australian investors interested in setting up schools, but its focus was on developing schools in Africa and south-east Asia.

Arguing for profit-based education, Mr Forbes said US studies showed a large portion of public-system investment never reached the classroom.  "In a competitive environment, an environment where the customer - the parent - has a choice, the quality must be high or they will look elsewhere," he said.

The former deputy prime minister Mark Vaile is a consultant for Gems Education, which is making profits from schools in at least three countries, including Britain.  "There are schools for profit in the UK and in the US, so in an economy like Australia's there will be that level of competition, they will eventually appear," he said.

A former dean of education at the University of Melbourne, Brian Caldwell, agreed that for-profit schools would make attempts to break into the Australian market in the next five to 10 years.

"But I don't think it's likely to attract significant enrolments, and I don't think they are the answer to improving Australia's school education - they're not viable," he said.

A spokesman for the NSW Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, gave Fairfax Media the same response as the department on the legality of for-profit schools, when asked whether he would allow for-profits to operate.


Staff shortage puts 000 emergency service at risk

A STAFF shortage and thousands of bogus emergency calls each year have been blamed for a series of botched triple-0 responses - including a two-hour delay before police showed up to help a caller being terrorised by a man wielding a knife.

It was one of 34 serious complaints made against police communication centres in the past two years, including another case where officers weren't sent at all despite being told the caller was afraid of getting stabbed.

The problems at Queensland's 21 police communication centres are exacerbated by operators unable to keep up as they face an average 1450 calls a day, forcing many to wait in long queues or not be answered at all.

Queensland Police Service said a review of the complaints relating to both incidents "determined that an appropriate priority and response had not been allocated".

Police statistics show 529,417 triple-0 calls were received last year - almost half at Brisbane. Less than 5 per cent of those were time-critical. Yet no guarantee would be given that communications centres wouldn't be affected by the staff cuts even though demand has increased.

"As at January 17, there are 148 staff attached to the Brisbane Police Communication Centre against an establishment of 148 positions, including 12 persons in training," a QPS spokesman said.

The Courier-Mail revealed in 2009 that police communication centres regularly operated with a staff of just 12 officers and radio operators - six fewer than the agreed minimum staffing level.

Since then, 20 more staff have been recruited but operators say the increase has not kept up with demand, with more than a 30 per cent increase in calls in the past four years (up from 1100 a day).

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said staff shortages in centres were still "at crisis point", prompting fears it would get worse under Commissioner Ian Stewart's recently announced police service changes.


- On August 6, 2012, a caller from Toowoomba region rang triple-0 to report they were being threatened with a knife but instead of getting police to respond, they "simply arranged for the job to be recorded and passed onto other police later that morning". No attempt was made to arrange for police to attend the home of the complainant.

- On September 27, 2012, police received a call at Yamanto in the Ipswich district from a person saying somebody had threatened to stab them with a knife. Later, the situation escalated and there were several people outside the complainant's home. A patrol crew were sent to three other jobs of lesser priority before turning up at this address two hours later.

- On July 12, 2012, a caller made a triple-0 call and requested police response to a "serious domestic" in Brisbane involving their defacto. The call centre staff member failed to ask basic questions such as location, the situation, whether they were safe or weapons were involved. Subsequently, it took more than an hour for police to finally reach the home.

- On July 10, 2012, A 000 call was made on "four occasions in relation to a disturbance" at a home in Brisbane. The calls were answered at two communication centres and when the complainant asked if the order had been put through, call centre staff member said: "No I haven't put the order thorough, it's not a take-away restaurant mate." [He would have got a better response from a take-away restaurant]