Tuesday, November 21, 2006

PM Criticizes anti-business curricula in State schools

Australian schools should teach innovation and the virtues of a free-enterprise culture, Prime Minister John Howard said yesterday in comments likely to cause further friction with the states. Mr Howard was the keynote speaker at the Business Summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation meeting in Hanoi in Vietnam. He told 500 business leaders that free enterprise and the values of openness and innovation were not emphasised enough in Australian high schools. "I think our whole education system, starting at primary school, going into secondary school, should have a much greater focus on what we used to call, years and years ago, business principles," he told the summit.

The comments are likely to inflame an already-strained relationship with state Labor governments, increasingly nervous about the Federal Government moving into their areas of responsibility. While universities are mostly a federal responsibility, school education is firmly within the states' control. State governments are already on high alert following last week's majority 5-2 High Court ruling that the Commonwealth had the power to regulate employment contracts of corporation employees. Constitutional experts have since warned the High Court decision may open the way for other federal encroachments into state areas. Mr Howard and Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop have previously expressed concerns at aspects of state-run education, including teaching of history.

The above report appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on Nov. 19, 2006

Pennypinching NSW government tries to cut back on medical training

And Leftists say that private business is characterized by short-term thinking!

A group of the state's most senior emergency doctors has resigned en masse from a high-level government committee, signalling worsening relations between the Iemma Government and its frontline physicians. The doctors say the Government is forcing them to halve the time they spend teaching registrars, which would result in hospitals losing their accreditation to train doctors in emergency medicine. The end result, they warned, was an exodus of young doctors from the NSW health system and dangerously understaffed emergency departments.

In an open letter to the Premier, Morris Iemma, the doctors say NSW Health's plans would result in an unsafe level of care for patients and, as emergency medicine was a compulsory rotation, it would prevent interns from becoming registered. They note that even at current staffing levels not one NSW public hospital met the minimum specialist staffing requirements endorsed by state and territory health ministers.

The dispute began, the doctors say, when they learnt that NSW Health was reneging on a pay deal struck in April that gave a 25 per cent allowance for city-based emergency specialists filling shifts in rural and regional hospitals. The department said it would pay the allowance only if the doctors reduced their clinical support duties such as registrar training, further education and taking part in quality improvement programs. Any reduction in these duties would breach guidelines set by the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine - 75 per cent clinical work and 25 per cent clinical support work - the doctors say.

The executive director of the Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation, Sim Mead, said NSW Health was pushing for clinical support work to be limited to 10 per cent of doctors' time. "If they move to 10 per cent, the accreditation for all emergency departments for registrar training in NSW will be withdrawn and the registrar workforce would be completely destroyed. "Why would a registrar want to work in a hospital without a training program, if their aim was to become a qualified specialist?"

After months of talks, the specialists have resigned from the Government's emergency advisory committee, the Emergency Care Taskforce. Rod Bishop is a senior emergency physician and was, until he resigned, co-chair of the taskforce. Dedicated to the specialty for 17 years, he is deeply frustrated and disappointed at the attitude of NSW Health. "There is a terrible workforce issue - no emergency department in the state meets the minimum staff specialist requirements . nor do we have the supply of registrars . to meet predicted future needs." If NSW Health did not offer emergency specialists a reasonable employment package, doctors would leave and the losers would be the patients, he said.

A letter to the director-general of NSW Health, Robyn Kruk, sent 18 days ago, has gone unanswered, and the NSW Industrial Relations Commission is trying to resolve the matter through conciliation. The chairman of the NSW Faculty of the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine, Tony Joseph, also a senior emergency specialist in one of the state's largest public hospitals, said NSW Health did not appear to care that hospitals would lose their training accreditation if its plan was implemented. It preferred to rely on locums paid up to $200 an hour to staff emergency departments, rather than increasing its workforce of emergency specialists, who were paid half that amount. A spokeswoman for NSW Health said the department would conduct a work study and liaise with the college and the union on the matter.


Boondoggle unravels -- as expected

Nobody listened to those pesky economists and accountants. But empty trains have proven them right

The operator of the Adelaide-to-Darwin railway is locked in negotiations with 15 banks to relieve its spiralling debt levels after posting its third consecutive loss since launching the service with great fanfare in January 2004. FreightLink's annual accounts show debt jumped $36 million to $137 million in the 2005-06 financial year, a position described in September by auditor KPMG as creating "uncertainty as to whether the company will be able to continue as a going concern".

But chief executive John Fullerton said that the owners - which includes several major international engineering companies - had promised to invest an additional $14 million into the company over the next three years. Mr Fullerton was confident the debt negotiations and additional investment from the owners would be "wrapped up" by the end of next month. The new arrangements were forced on the company after it failed to sell a majority stake in the railway in August for $360 million....

But after three years of operation, Mr Fullerton admitted that international trade accounted for only between 1 per cent and 2 per cent of tonnage. It would remain a niche market for the railway, despite expectations the service would be a gateway to Asia.

The release of FreightLink's annual accounts to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission shows the company's third consecutive year of increasing losses. FreightLink posted a loss of $54.3 million for the 2005-06 financial year, slightly worse than the $53.9 million in 2004-2005 and a loss of $17 million in the service's first full year of operation....

The owners have so far injected $42 million into the project, over and above their initial $740 million investment to build the 1420km rail line from Alice Springs to Darwin. The balance of the $1.3 billion project was given by the federal, South Australian and Northern Territory governments. FreightLink has a 50-year licence to move goods along the 3000km railway linking Adelaide to Darwin. The service was launched amid great expectations of funnelling trade from Asia into Australia.

More here

Make poverty history: first by getting rid of the Greens

At U2's Sydney concerts last week, Bono urged the audience to text their names to a Make Poverty History phone number. Later he flashed the names on a big screen and sent a thank you text to all those mobile phones in Telstra Stadium. As an act of charity it doesn't come much easier, unless you count wearing wristbands. This is not to sneer at Bono for raising consciousness of the world's poor, or his audience for making a gesture. But as protesters and green activists gather in Melbourne this weekend to lay the usual blame for poverty on the greed of developed nations, a powerful new documentary shines light on a different villain.

Mine Your Own Business, which opens this week, shows that the "powerful group telling the world's poor how to live, how to work, even how to think" are not the world leaders gathered in Melbourne. They're not even wealthy multinational corporations, but wealthy multinational environment groups such as Greenpeace. "Upper-class Western environmentalists" are the greatest enemy of the world's poor, says the documentary's maker, self-described left-wing journalist Phelim McAleer, from Northern Ireland. He shows how environmental groups opposed to change and economic growth are trying to keep the developing world poor. "Poor but happy", is how they see it.

Posted to Romania by The Financial Times in 2000, McAleer covered the Greenpeace campaign to prevent the opening of a goldmine in the Transylvanian mountains. It changed his views on environmental activism. What he found in Rosia Montana was an impoverished village, with 75 per cent unemployment, little sanitation or running water and people desperate for jobs. It had been a mining town since Roman times but the last state-owned mine was closing and a Canadian company, Gabriel Resources, wanted to take over. It had promised to provide jobs, rebuild infrastructure and clean up pollution from old mines.

Early on McAleer acknowledges his film was part-funded by Gabriel Resources but says he retained editorial control. He interviews Francoise Heidebroek, a Belgian green activist who says villagers are better off being farmers and riding horses. But as the villagers explain, nothing grows except potatoes, and at minus 25 degrees they prefer cars and indoor toilets. Gheorghe Lucian, an unemployed miner, tells McAleer: "People have no food to eat. They don't have money for clothes . I know what I need - a job."

McAleer took Lucian to similar projects around the world, and interviewed activists such as Mark Fenn, World Wide Fund for Nature's American representative in southern Madagascar, who opposes a Rio Tinto mine in the impoverished fishing village of Fort Daupin, which would create 2000 jobs. "The quaintness, the small-town feeling will change," Fenn says. Fenn insists that Lucian doesn't really understand poverty. "How do we perceive who's rich, who's poor ." Fenn says. "I could put you with a family and you count how many times in a day that family smile . Then I put you with a family well off, in New York or London, and you count how many times people smile and measure stress . Then you tell me who is rich and who is poor." Underlining the hypocrisy, Fenn shows McAleer the luxury house he is building and catamaran he bought for $US30,000 ($39,000) - "a good price". As McAleer says, the average salary in the village is less than $US100 a month. But, "the indicators of wellbeing aren't housing, nutrition, health, education", says Fenn, although he sends his own children to school in South Africa.

The villagers tell McAleer the opposite. One says she wants her children to become "a midwife, a doctor, or an engineer". It's the same story in Chile where activists have halted a goldmine in the Andes. A young man tells McAleer: "I'm not asking for much, just a normal job." McAleer shows how progressives oppose progress and have become part of an "authoritarian world order", telling people in the developing world how they must live. He hopes his film will show well-meaning Westerners the consequences of their blind faith in the new "religion" of environmentalism. McAleer has been brought to Sydney this week by the conservative think tank, Institute of Public Affairs, for a screening on Wednesday night at the Dendy, East Circular Quay.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I enjoy reading a few blogs every day and today was your day. Interesting take on things are always found in every blog. I'm always researching to find out what the world is thinking. Good stuff and very entertaining as well.

Keep it up.

JL glass
Minneapolis, MN