Friday, November 03, 2006

Tough jobs policy from a Leftist

Young people who drop out of school and stay at home "twiddling their thumbs on PlayStation or Xbox" would be kicked off the dole after six months if they did not return to study or training under a reform plan from Labor backbencher Craig Emerson. The radical policy to be released today aims to prevent the formation of a permanent underclass in Australia that cannot find a job even in a boom. Dr Emerson, who last month called for school to be compulsory until Year 12, will use new research to identify the problem group in the community at risk of becoming unemployable.

More than half those of working age who failed to finish Year 10 are out of work - despite the economy achieving a generation-low unemployment rate of 4.8 per cent - according to official data commissioned by Dr Emerson. "This is not about punishment, it's about getting young people the education and skills needed for them to have a prosperous future," Dr Emerson said. "This is a learn-or-earn program where there is no third option of sitting around doing nothing."

His paper will be presented to the economic and social outlook conference in Melbourne this morning. Co-hosted by The Melbourne Institute and The Australian, the Making the Boom Pay conference will run for two days, with tonight's keynote dinner address being delivered by Treasury Secretary Ken Henry. Opposition Leader Kim Beazley will outline more of Labor's reform agenda in tomorrow's main luncheon address.

The Emerson plan is likely to upset many of his own Labor colleagues because it echoes the Fightback proposal of former Liberal leader John Hewson to remove the dole for all recipients after nine months. Labor's workforce participation spokeswoman Penny Wong said she supported the central idea behind "learning or earning", but would not go as far as Dr Emerson. "People should work if they can, and young people should be either learning or earning. Labor does not support time-limited social security," Senator Wong said.

Dr Emerson argues that if a variety of schools were funded - including "second chance" schools that help students not academically inclined - there would be "no excuse and no justification for leaving school early to sit at home on the dole". "Australia cannot afford to have up to 54,000 long-term unemployed young people neither working nor studying to improve their skills," he will say today.

Dr Emerson says that, in addition to working, studying or training, long-term unemployed young people should be given the option of doing military or community service. "As an alternative to military service, a peace corp could be established to help build community infrastructure in our Pacific island neighbouring countries. "When the range of alternatives that I am advocating is put in place, the dole should not be available to unemployed young people beyond six months. They would receive income support payments for studying or training, but not for sitting at home, twiddling their thumbs on PlayStation or Xbox."

Australian Council of Social Service director Andrew Johnson attacked Dr Emerson's idea, saying such plans had failed in the US. "Time-limited payments are both unfair and ineffective in helping disadvantaged people get into education or work. In the US, one of the few nations who cut off all payments after a time period, child poverty rates are high and levels of youth employment participation are lower than here in Australia," Mr Johnson said.

Dr Emerson says his research, which relies on unpublished figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, rebuts John Howard's claim that leaving school early is the best option for students not academically inclined. The ABS figures show that of those who finished Year 10, more than one-third are unemployed. More than 60 per cent of 15 to 24-year-olds who left school before finishing Year 10 are not employed. In the mining boom states of Western Australia and Queensland only about half of boys from disadvantaged backgrounds are finishing high school, while three-quarters of boys from more privileged backgrounds are doing so. In the Northern Territory, 13 per cent of boys and 18 per cent of girls from disadvantaged backgrounds are finishing high school.


Amazing: Nowhere to have a baby

Government health services in the State of Victoria on display

This month, Clare Hooton will give birth to her fourth child -- but she has no idea where it will be born. Nearby Alexandra Hospital was named one of the state's three best rural hospitals at the Victorian Public Healthcare Awards last month. Twelve days earlier, it closed its doors to birthing mothers, citing a chronic shortage of specialist staff.

At 39 and having suffered one miscarriage, Ms Hooton said the closure had left her feeling frightened and isolated. "When I moved from Melbourne (six years ago), I thought we're relatively close to services, but . . . it's beginning to feel more and more like the Outback," she said.

Fifteen years ago, Alexandra Hospital had five GPs who could deliver babies and three GPs qualified to administer anaesthetics. A month ago it had just one GP available to deliver babies, a gynaecologist who visited once a month, no anaesthetic service and too few midwives to fill a daily roster. The decline has seen births fall to just 10-12 a year. "Between 135 and 150 women have babies in the area each year, so it could be viable if they had the services," Ms Hooton said. She said it was ironic services were cut at the same time families were being encouraged to move to rural Victoria.

Ms Hooton had decided to move in with her parents' in Glen Waverley [Melbourne] and give birth at nearby Monash Medical Centre, but was told it only took risky pregnancies. "My doctor is trying to see if he can work out of Mansfield Hospital," Ms Hooten said.


Surgery waiting list blows out

Government health services in the State of Queensland on display

The number of Queenslanders waiting longer than recommended for urgent surgery has blown out over the past quarter, new figures show.

Queensland Health Minister Stephen Robertson said today that shortages in medical specialists and growing demand for services were putting pressure on the state's hospitals. Mr Robertson told parliament that while hospitals were treating more of the most urgent cases, the number of patients having long waits for surgery had risen over the quarter. He said 360 category 1 patients and 2942 category 2 patients had long waits - up 1 per cent and 1.5 per cent, respectively, over the quarter.

But the state's public hospitals had set a record for total activity, treating more than 467,000 patients over the past three months. "What this means is that our public hospitals are busier than ever and treating more Queenslanders than ever before," Mr Robertson said. The minister said regional hospitals' performance had improved, with Bundaberg Hospital lifting its elective surgery rate by 53 per cent over the quarter.


O'Shane in more trouble

Note: In Australia, it is customary to refer to someone with even a small amount of black ancestry as an "Aboriginal" -- mainly because of the various special benefits that attracts from governments -- such as appointing people lacking in judicial temperament to the magistracy

The company director strip-searched and jailed for contempt of court by the nation's highest profile Aboriginal magistrate, Pat O'Shane, is seeking damages for wrongful imprisonment. Paul Makucha says while he welcomes Ms O'Shane's referral to the NSW Judicial Commission's conduct division, it had come "too late" and that he had still not received an apology for the incident.

Ms O'Shane, the first Aboriginal barrister in Australia and a former head of the NSW Aboriginal Affairs Department who in 1998 was named one of Australia's 100 National Living Treasures, now risks being removed from office after senior members of the NSW judiciary referred her to the disciplinary tribunal. The state's top judges moved against Ms O'Shane, who was appointed a NSW magistrate in 1986, after she clashed with Mr Makucha in a civil case, jailed him for contempt, heard part of the case in his absence and then ruled for the other side. Mr Makucha, 60, was strip-searched, photographed and imprisoned for a day after being cited for contempt in July 2004. "They stripped me, made me lift my scrotum and bend over so they could examine my rectum and made me stand naked in a designated place," Mr Makucha told The Australian last night. He had been imprisoned from 11am to 4pm and was then given 35 minutes to raise bail of $500 to avoid spending a weekend in jail.

In November last year, the NSW Court of Appeal overturned Ms O'Shane's judgment and found that she had denied Mr Makucha procedural fairness and had made "wholly unreasonable" interpretations of his intentions. The court said Mr Makucha had behaved badly, "but it was hardly contempt in the face of the court". "The magistrate's behaviour ... when the defendant was unrepresented was quite inappropriate," the Court of Appeal judges said. "The exercise by the magistrate of a little tact from the beginning of the defendant's conduct to which she took exception would have gone a long way."

Mr Makucha said the inquiry into Ms O'Shane's conduct was excellent news but it was far too late. He had complained about Ms O'Shane to state Attorney-General Bob Debus in 2004, soon after the incident had taken place. The Judicial Commission includes the head of Ms O'Shane's own court, Chief Magistrate Graeme Henson. An adverse finding would need to be tabled in state parliament and could trigger a vote by both houses - the only constitutional way of removing judicial officers.

However, Mr Henson last night declined to discuss Ms O'Shane's future or to reveal whether he was present at the meeting of the commission that convened the inquiry. The affair is set to become a test case for reforms to disciplinary proceedings involving NSW judges. Ms O'Shane's conduct will be investigated by a three-member panel known as a conduct division that will be made up of serving or retired judges. While most of the commission's proceedings are conducted in secret, the reforms require the conduct division to consider whether it's in the public interest for the matter to be resolved publicly.

Mr Makucha has been a frequent litigant and has clashed with the bench before. In 2003, while representing himself, he was frequently found to have breached the rules of evidence to the extent that magistrate Gail Madgwick threatened to call the sheriffs. He was in court at the time after taking out 10 apprehended violence orders against neighbours at the Toaster apartment building at Circular Quay. Mr Machuka had found a strange car in his parking spot at the building that he thought represented a terrorist threat.

Mr Debus refused to comment on the affair yesterday. This is the latest in a series of incidents involving Ms O'Shane. In October last year, she threw out a case of offensive behaviour against a 27-year-old drunk who told police "youse are f...ed", arguing she was "not sure there is such a thing as a community standard any more". In 2001, Ms O'Shane survived an earlier complaint to the commission for saying some women invented stories against men in rape and domestic violence cases. In 2000, she survived another complaint and later described the commission, headed by NSW Chief Justice Jim Spigelman, as a "kangaroo court".


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have been in court before this woman. I found her to be aggressive, angry and 'scowling'. She appeared hateful to me. Someone who is as emotional as her should not be sitting as a magistrate. Magistrates should be fair and balanced, calm and neutral. Pat O'Shane is a fireball.