Monday, November 06, 2006

Big event next Tuesday

It is the Congressional mid-term elections in the USA but there is in Australia on the same day what most Australians regard as a far more important event: The Melbourne cup -- Australia's premier horse racing event. And the event is almost as famous for the fashions as the horses -- and the hats the Melbourne ladies wear are legendary. The pictures below give you an idea of the sort of hats you can expect. The report below marks the opening of the Melbourne racing carnival.

The biggest crowd in Flemington history cheered Efficient to victory in yesterday's Victoria Derby, before all attention turned to the Melbourne Cup. Flemington was bursting at the seams as 129,089 people jammed through the gates for the first day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival. The attendance eclipsed Flemington's previous record crowd -- 122,736, when Makybe Diva won her first Melbourne Cup in 2003. And it was almost 14,000 more than last year's Derby Day record, cementing the event as Australia's premier day at the gallops.

Transport problems and an ugly brawl soured the end of the day. As punters trudged off into the night, focus shifted to Tuesday's Cup. Yesterday's Derby winner, Efficient, will challenge in the race that stops the nation -- millionaire businessman owner Lloyd Williams paid $132,000 for automatic entry. Melbourne bookmaker Michael Eskander posted Efficient at $7 for the Cup after the emphatic victory -- on the third line of betting behind Tawqeet and Yeats. Williams hopes Efficient will become the first horse since 1941 to take the Derby-Cup double. "It would be nice to be part of history," Williams said. "Such opportunities don't come along often -- maybe once in a lifetime -- so you must take them." ....

But before the serious business of Tuesday's racing, Flemington yesterday erupted in glitz and glamour. Early grey skies cleared for the track to shine in afternoon sun. The sheer size of the crowd created log jams in which punters moved from one place to another. But VRC spokesman Terry Clifton said the weather aided the crowd's temperament. In one wild brawl, a man had part of his ear lobe bitten off, but police said the crowd was well behaved, except for several arrests for drunkenness.


An interesting test for Victoria's HREOC

I'm betting that the Mufti will be allowed the defence of free speech -- a defence they did not allow when they prosecuted two Christian critics of Islam. In my view both the Christians AND the Mufti were entitled to say what they did without legal penalty. The HREOC might however weasel out of this one by claiming no jurisdiction (The Sheik lives in another State -- NSW)

A Melbourne grandmother has accused Muslim cleric Sheik Taj el-Din el-Hilaly of inciting racial hatred and of sexual discrimination. Elaine Davidson made her complaint against the "divisive" mufti to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission this week. Mrs Davidson said she was deeply offended by el-Hilaly's reported comments in a service last month that claimed immodestly dressed women invited rape and were like "uncovered meat". "I'm a white, Western woman of high morals and I was offended," she said, adding that she wants a personal apology and may take civil action against the mufti. "I'm not doing this to be vindictive or anything else. As a woman I'm just sick of this man mouthing off. "He's making sweeping generalisations. Anyone who's not a Muslim woman or of his ethnic origin is being hurled into this melting pot of meat thrown to the cats."

Mrs Davidson, 52, a recreational health lecturer from Melbourne's outer east who specialises in sexual health issues, said she had complained verbally to the commission. She would reinforce it with a letter this week. "I am incensed, disgusted, offended and I feel internally brutally bashed by him," she said. "He has incited racial, religious and sexual hatred. "It's a human rights issue. I need to be protected as an Australian woman."

The mufti's Sydney friend, Keysar Trad, said the cleric "did not address the comments to her (Mrs Davidson), did not make them about her".


More child welfare failures in Queensland -- though not as bad as the scandalous British system

Your government will protect you -- NOT. For just one current example of the British child welfare system at work see here

Department of Child Safety officers say children under the State Government's care are dying because the agency is in crisis. A confidential staff survey, obtained by the State Opposition under Freedom of Information, revealed serious problems in the embattled department, including an exodus of experienced officers and lack of funding. The annual report of the independent child-death case review committee, tabled in Parliament on Thursday, said 51 children known to the department died last year. It found Queensland children with links to the child protection system were nine times more likely to die from fatal assaults and five times more likely to commit suicide than other children.

Department staff backed up those findings in the Reflecting Our Realities survey. One respondent said records were changed by senior staff to "suit the climate of the times" and often went against case-worker recommendations. Another accused the department of not supporting its officers. "The department needs to acknowledge the mass exit of valuable staff which has led to inconsistent (child) contact, enormous funding blowouts, enormous backlogs of initial assessments and a continuation of the unacceptable - child deaths," the officer said. One case worker said it took nine months to get a response from bosses on funding, by which time the department had lost nine further staff. "Often staff have too many cases and this in turn compromises standards of care." Team leaders were accused of being "too stressed" while questionable decisions were often made because of inexperience. "Of six key officers, only one has more than one year's experience and four have less than six months."

Child Safety Minister Desley Boyle said the department budget had more than doubled to more than $500 million and staff had increased 75 per cent to 2170 with more recruitment to follow. "Are we there yet? No. There's still more to do. I thank all staff for their efforts and assure them improvements will continue," she said yesterday.

But Opposition Leader Jeff Seeney said the problems in Child Safety could not continue. "Supposedly, child safety was once one of Peter Beattie's most important priorities - that is obviously not the case now," Mr Seeney said. "The Labor Government has been failing on this front for too long now. It's time the Government got serious about protecting children and stopped treating everything as if it were a public relations exercise."


Queensland public hospital radiology meltdown

And without radiography and other scans, diagnosis of many serious conditions grinds to a halt

Radiation workers will consider mass resignations from Queensland hospitals at a crisis summit today. Queensland Health staff say their own research exposes an X-ray and cancer treatment crisis in the state's major hospitals. The workers say state-run hospitals are plagued by drastic staff shortages, millions of dollars of equipment sitting idle, extensive waiting lists and the forced closure of essential services. The summit will be told breast-screening services are close to collapse and cancer patients are still waiting up to nine weeks longer than the maximum standard for life-saving radiation treatment.

More than 100 radiographers, radiation therapists, sonographers and nuclear medicine technologists will attend the emergency meeting in Brisbane, where the research will be released. "The actual frontline workforce - the people who help diagnose and treat the patients - will tell it all. This has never happened before," a spokesman for the Medical Radiation Professionals Group said yesterday. "The outcome of the summit could very well result in the start of resignations across the Queensland Health medical radiation disciplines. "In some hospitals a handful of resignations would effectively shut down most medical imaging services."

The group, which represents 800 staff, claims Queensland Health has lost more than a third of its sonography workforce, affecting 90,000 ultrasound patients a year, including pregnant women. It says major hospitals will be forced to make severe cutbacks to CT, MRI and angiography services because of an average 30 per cent staff shortage. At some hospitals, staff numbers were down by more than 50 per cent, the group says.

The summit will consider a vote of no confidence in Queensland Health Minister Stephen Robertson. "The minister will need to take the crisis seriously or he may be left with a skeleton workforce next year - not that he is far from that now," the spokesman said. "Without medical radiation professionals there is no diagnosis or treatment for most patient conditions." Sonographer Craig Collins said about 80 per cent of all patients who walked through the front door of Queensland hospitals needed medical imaging. "If they go undiagnosed they'll never make it to a waiting list," Mr Collins said.

Mr Robertson is overseas with a group of senior doctors looking at children's hospitals and talking to recruitment agencies. A spokesman for the minister said he had recently met the radiation group


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