Saturday, February 10, 2007

Cheerleaders now incorrect at Australian football games

South Sydney co-owner Russell Crowe last night revealed his club had discarded its cheerleaders this season because they made male fans feel uncomfortable. The Hollywood star also said his wife, Danielle Spencer, supported the club's controversial move. Souths will this season replace cheerleaders with a drumming band during NRL home matches.

"Our focus is to re-establish rugby league and women," Crowe said. "The focus on game day should be a positive experience for the crowd. "We feel they (cheerleaders) made a lot of people uncomfortable. "We examined game day and wanted to contemporise and make the focus football. "We felt we didn't need cheerleaders and would like them replaced by a group of drummers, male and female. "We've talked to a lot of people and everyone sees it as being progressive. "The whole idea of percussion will be exciting for the crowd."

Crowe said his club's game day producer Dein Perry had canvassed the opinions of fans before making the decision to sack the cheer-squad. Asked if other clubs could follow Souths initiative, Crowe said: "When they see how exciting this is, there will be a big call for it. "We found it hard to work out a positive about it. There was a grey area to it. "It makes women uncomfortable and it makes blokes who take their son to the football also uncomfortable. "But we are thankful for the time and effort the girls put in and some of them probably will be disappointed."

Crowe's stance was supported by Spencer, who liked the idea of men and women performing together in the drum band. "She likes the fact that game day entertainment will be multi-sex. She likes that aspect," Crowe said. "The positive response we've got particularly from women like my wife when they heard this was happening makes it a little easier for them to go to the game and simply enjoy the actual sport.

But two of Souths cheerleaders yesterday said they were disappointed not to be dancing this year. "We were employed by Souths as professional dancers and our role as cheerleaders was simply to add glamour to the image of the NRL in terms of marketing," Ashleigh Francis said. "Children at the games were constantly approaching us and asking us for autographs and photos and little girls would even ask us if they were old enough to be cheergirls too." Another Souths cheerleader, who did not want to be named, said: "How would we make people feel uncomfortable? The aim is for us just to enjoy ourselves and entertain the fans with the sport."


Greenie dam-hatred hits power supply

The Queensland Government could be forced to mothball two power stations that produce a quarter of the state's electricity if dam levels continue to fall. The Tarong power station near Kingaroy has already cut its overall power generation by about a quarter, hoping to extend the life of the Boondooma Dam until a recycled water pipeline arrives in June 2008.

Energy Minister Geoff Wilson told Parliament it was predicted that Tarong would have enough water to generate power "this summer and the next". But Wondai Shire Mayor David Carter said he understood Tarong would be on borrowed time after November. He said it was a "big ask" to expect the dam to hold out until mid-2008. Several hundred people in Proston and the northern end of the shire have no bores and depend entirely on the Boondooma Dam. "We are concerned about what will actually happen," Cr Carter said. "There are some very, very serious decisions to be made about who gets water and who doesn't. Current predictions don't look good."

Tarong draws between 50 million and 80 million litres a day from Boondooma, which is at 16 per cent of capacity and dropping faster than 1 per cent a month. At that rate, the dam would reach its "dead storage" level of 4 per cent early next year - months before the pipeline is due for completion. Tarong has already applied to the Department of Natural Resources and Water to access water below the dead storage level, and has implemented measures it claims will further cut its usage.

Meanwhile, fears are held for the future of the nearby Tarong North facility which draws 20 million litres a day from an intake pipeline in the upper reaches of the Wivenhoe Dam. The Wivenhoe system - Wivenhoe, North Pine and Somerset dams - is at 22 per cent and falling 1 per cent a month. It was feared the pipeline would not work if Wivenhoe Dam fell below 14 per cent capacity. However, it is now believed pumping could continue, as water there has been isolated.

Shutting down the power plants has been downplayed by the Government because of the commissioning of the Kogan Creek power plant, scheduled for September. Yet figures show Kogan will generate only 750 megawatts, compared with Tarong's joint output of 1900 megawatts. Extra power will also be required in 2009 for water grid pumping stations, a desalination plant and a growing population.

Mr Wilson said lines linking southern and central Queensland would add 4500 megawatts, with a total supply of 11,000 megawatts being enough to meet last month's demand. A Tarong Energy spokesman said output would also be reduced during off-peak times to ensure customers were not affected.


"Streaming" returns to schools

Leftist government forced to recognize that not all kids are equal

Students in Queensland's state secondary schools would be grouped according to their ability levels in subjects such as maths and science, Education Minister Rod Welford said yesterday. The plan was designed to boost classroom quality and student outcomes. Separating students (or "streaming") was common across schools a generation ago but has fallen out of favour in recent years as politically incorrect.

But Mr Welford said Queensland's shortage of maths and science graduates and the needs of all students meant it was time to try it again. "The concept is that high performing students need to be grouped together so teachers can motivate and challenge them," he said. "Struggling students who need more attention need teachers with different skills to accelerate their learning."

He said he was keen to generate debate about what was taught in schools, including a discussion of English course material. Mr Welford challenged Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop to "provide me with $50 million-a-year special funding for professional development for teachers for higher performance learning".

Education Queensland would trial maths and science streaming from next year. Students would be grouped by teachers and subject heads according to their classroom work and test results, with the potential for students to move between streams if they caught up or experienced difficulties. Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said senior students already were streamed according to whether they took Maths A, B or C for Years 11 and 12. "Provided it is discussed at local level and the community agrees on how it will happen it should not be a problem," Mr Ryan said. "I would rather a student learn some basic maths they can master than struggle with maths that was too hard."

Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens Association president Brett Devenish said the proposal had credibility, provided teachers were properly prepared. "You do get classes where some of the students are coasting and others need a lot of special help, and the hardest thing the teacher has to do is work out to allocate their time between the different groups," Mr Devenish said.



It is a disgrace that a strike has to be threatened to overturn this denial of justice

Melbourne paramedics have voted to take industrial action after what they say was the unfair dismissal of a colleague accused of rape. The colleague has been charged with rape and indecent assault of a patient during a call out in early November, according to information from Ambulance Employees Australia's Victorian Branch. The paramedic vigorously denies the allegations but was sacked two days ago by the Metropolitan Ambulance Service (MAS), a statement from the union says.

"Paramedics understand these are extremely serious allegations and believe their colleague should be relieved of patient-handling duties while his case is underway," the statement says. "However, paramedics say MAS has shown contempt for natural justice principles by dismissing their colleague before he has had an opportunity to defend himself in court, and may even be compromising their colleague's right to a fair trial." The sacked paramedic is due at Melbourne Magistrates' Court for mention on March 2.

Paramedics last night voted to consider stop-work action if the man is not reinstated by Monday. They also will insist on an escort when accompanying patients, because of the serious nature of the claim against their colleague, the statement says. The branch's Victorian secretary Steve McGhie said paramedics needed to know there was a fair process in place if patients make allegations against them. "The Metropolitan Ambulance Service should allow our colleague his right to a fair trial, and not act as judge, jury and executioner," Mr McGhie said.


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