Thursday, May 31, 2007

Foolish scapegoating of majority white society

ABORIGINAL culture isn't just nice dot paintings, it includes binge drinking and wife bashing. The facts are that tribal ways do not work, writes Andrew Bolt.

An Aboriginal woman interrupted the Prime Minister's "reconciliation" ceremony in Canberra on Sunday to give him a reconciling spray. "We have been genocided . . . by your Government, your court," she shouted. And newspapers confirm: "The crowd erupted in loud applause."

How they clapped, those "genocided" Aborigines, with government cheques in their pockets and a government lunch in their bellies. That's genocide? Let them confront what's really killing young Aborigines. And it's not some white politician. No, it's their fantasy that you can live tribal ways and get Western outcomes. That Aborigines don't have to choose between "blackfella ways" or health and wealth.

Read Prof Helen Hughes's new book, Lands of Shame. See where black suffering is worst? Where we'll most likely find children sick or neglected, women bashed, men unemployable, and so many parents drunk or idle? It's not among the many Aborigines assimilated to Western culture. It's among the Aborigines who live furthest from it, leading lives more truly "Aboriginal", as deemed by spokesmen with well-funded jobs, white partners and suburban homes.

Labor leader Kevin Rudd now glibly vows to close the black-white gap in life expectancy "within the next generation", and was cheered by the same Howard hecklers for nothing but words. If kind wishes were dollars, Aborigines would be rich. Rudd's promise of a "sorry" and $261 million more in health and education spending to add to the $3.3 billion a year already spent by the Government on Aborigines will solve nothing.

No, we must instead end our love affair with the Noble Savage. You want Aborigines to be richer and healthier? Then give them every help to make lives in Western society and to leave the shattered tribal homes and culture that destroy so many. Already people who have dedicated their careers to black causes are suggesting what was once unsayable.

Prof Peter Sutton, anthropologist and author of the searingly frank The Politics of Suffering, asks how much longer Aborigines can remain in "racially segregated communities" and avoid the need to change their culture. That culture isn't just nice dot paintings, he says. It can also include binge drinking. Or wife bashing. Or letting children decide whether to go to school or -- mostly -- not. Or favouring relatives over better workers. Or blaming sorcerers for avoidable deaths. Or rejecting delegated authority. Or . . . Writes Sutton: "So many are in denial over the need for cultural change if indigenous disadvantage is to be addressed at its roots."

Hughes agrees and attacks decades of apartheid policies that gave us this failed "socialist homeland model" -- a string of cultural ghettoes which leave many Aboriginal children unable even to speak English, their futures destroyed. Cultural change hurts. For Aborigines, assimilating implies a rejection of their past. BUT assimilation will also be fought by intellectuals, whose own culture, as famed psychologist Prof Steven Pinker says, "is loath to admit that there could be anything good about the institutions of civilisation and Western society".

So corrupt is that intellectual culture that a privileged crowd cheers even preposterous claims that Aborigines are being "genocided" by their trying-hard Western government. So corrupt, that it praises instead the broken tribal culture that truly destroys black children. For shame.


Union thug lets us know what's coming when the Labor party lets unions off the leash

HE describes employers as "greedy pr. .ks" and compares workplace inspectors with paedophiles. Meet Electrical Trades Union secretary Dean Mighell the ugly face of unionism that Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd does not want you to see. In a foul-mouthed address to members of the Electrical Trades Union obtained by The Daily Telegraph, Mr Mighell brags about getting pay rises for his workers by threatening to strike.

"Now we have kept that 4 per cent agreement across our industry and I'd like to know how many millions of dollars they've paid workers that we've racked up through that little bulls. .t stunt," he told a mass meeting of members at Melbourne's Dallas Brooks Hall. "But it was good fun and it's still there, so that's a couple of pots (of beer). Just remember a little bit of bulls. .t, put it aside every week, have a little smile when you have a beer because some d. . .head's paid for that that shouldn't have."

In his speech, Mr Mighell, who apparently struggles to complete a sentence without an expletive, displayed the type of thuggish behaviour that Mr Rudd and industrial relations spokeswoman Julia Gillard have been trying to play down. The speech was delivered in November last year but a recording only emerged yesterday. Mr Mighell has since described Prime Minister John Howard as a "skidmark on the bedsheet of Australian politics".

In his tirade, Mr Mighell unleashed on government inspectors from the Australian Building and Construction and Commission, set up to clean out corruption in the building industry. He described the inspectors as "c. .k smokers" before comparing them with paedophiles. "Some of you might have seen them, usually fat blokes that look like rundown coppers," he said. "What they'll do is, they're not allowed to enter your home, which is pretty good because you just can't be too sure of their orientation in terms of certain things you wouldn't want them near your home, wouldn't want them near your children."

The maverick unionist also vowed to ignore the Federal Government's law preventing union organisers from coming on to a worksite without giving notice. "Our employers in our agreements we've negotiated don't want that. They're happy for us to go on 24/7 because they're not terrorists and we don't often belt them up unless they deserve it."

While the Opposition decides how to placate the hundreds of thousands of workers on individual contracts, Mr Mighell left his audience in no doubt that he and his union colleagues would tear them up.


Big advance in cornea surgery

Australian surgeons have restored a man's vision by performing a procedure that eliminates the need for a complete transplant of the cornea. The procedure causes fewer complications and restores eyesight faster than a cornea transplant, doctors say. Rasik Vajpayee, head of the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital's corneal unit in Melbourne, who performed the surgery, said it was an exciting development. "This new treatment has the potential to help sufferers of endothelial corneal blindness to see again, offering them the ability to lead an independent life," Professor Vajpayee said.

Diseases of the cornea -- the clear surface at the front of the eye that lets it focus -- can lead to blurred vision or blindness. Previously, doctors would make a large incision in the eye, remove the diseased or damaged cornea and replace it with a donated cornea, using sutures. Although the procedure has a 90 per cent success rate, it can take 12 months for the eye to heal and patients can experience complications, including infection and distorted vision. Some require corrective surgery if the replacement cornea becomes loose.

In the new procedure, which rarely requires sutures, surgeons make a small incision in the eye and remove only the diseased layer of the cornea, which is then replaced with a layer of healthy donor tissue. "Previously we were replacing the whole cornea, which has about five layers," Professor Vajpayee said. "But there is a serious shortage of corneas around the world. This procedure could allow us to treat two or three patients with tissue from the same donor."

Professor Vajpayee said surgeons had performed the procedure on hundreds of patients in the US, with great success. "The complete transplant uses up to 20 sutures, which all have to be removed," he said. "This has better outcomes and patients recover faster."

David Wall's vision has improved daily since a fortnight ago, when he became the first Australian to undergo the procedure. The 75-year-old's eyesight had deteriorated significantly over the past year. "Eventually I couldn't see anything out of my left eye, it was just a blur," Mr Wall said. "It was affecting my balance and I had to concentrate really hard on the ground when I walked, so I didn't fall." Mr Wall said he could already see objects and read large letters. "It's getting better each day -- I'm very happy with it."


Testing methods mask our failings

Good marks from one source can't disguise Australia's falling standards of education, writes Kevin Donnelly. The PISA assessments are very undemanding

HOW well are Australian students performing? Based on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Program for International Student Assessment test, they appear to be doing very well. The results of the 2000 literacy test ranked Australia second out of 32 countries and in 2003 only four countries outperformed our 15-year-old students in mathematics. Groups with a vested interest in arguing that all is well, such as the Australian Education Union and the Australian Council for Educational Research, quote the results in their submissions to the Senate inquiry into education standards as evidence that there is no crisis.

Wrong. While the PISA test reflects favourably on Australian students, it is open to a number of criticisms. As argued by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute in its Senate inquiry submission, the PISA test "is not a valid assessment of mathematics knowledge, as only a fragment of the curriculum is tested".

The outstanding performance of Australian students in the PISA literacy test is also open to doubt, as students did not lose marks for faulty spelling, grammar and punctuation. If our students had been corrected, many would have failed as, in the words of one researcher, "It was an exception rather than a rule in Australia to find a student response that was written in well-constructed sentences, with no spelling or grammatical error."

A second measure of the performance of Australian students is the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study carried out in 1995, 1999 and 2003 and involving up to 46 countries. These tests assess essential mathematics and science knowledge. Australian students in Years 4 and 8, while doing well, are in the second XI as measured by TIMSS and are consistently outperformed by countries such as Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, The Netherlands and the Czech Republic.

In more successful overseas education systems, more students achieve at the highest level. In the 2003 TIMSS science test, only 9per cent of Year8 Australian students performed at the advanced level, compared with 25 per cent from Taiwan and 15 per cent from Japan and England. In mathematics, only 7 per cent of Australian Year8 students performed at the advanced level, compared with 44 per cent of students in Singapore. There is also a significant gap in Australia between better performing and less able students. Successful countries overseas are able to get more children to perform at the higher end of the scale, while Australia has a long tail of underperformers.

Further proof is found in a US report by the American Institutes for Research, published on April 24. While acknowledging the difficulties in terms of methodology and making comparative judgments, the report interprets the TIMSS Year8 test results in the light of the expected levels of performance (basic, proficient and advanced) as measured by the US-based assessment of educational progress. On analysing the 1999 TIMMS results for Year8, the US report lists the following countries as having greater numbers of students achieving at the advanced level: Singapore, 34 per cent; South Korea, 26 per cent; Hong Kong, 23 per cent; Japan, 24 per cent; and Belgium, 15 per cent. The percentage of Australian students who achieve at the advanced level is 8 per cent.

The situation is not as bad with the Year8 science results: only Taiwan and Singapore appear to have significantly more students performing at the advanced level. But in the 2003 Year8 TIMMS test, Australians students again underperformed. While 35 per cent of Singaporean students performed at the advanced level, 24 per cent from Hong Kong, 29 per cent from South Korea, 30 per cent from Taiwan and 20 per cent from Japan, only 5 per cent of Australian students achieved at the top level.

Much has been made of the dumbing-down influence of Australia's adoption of outcomes-based education, where everyone is a winner and the curriculum promotes a one-size-fits-all approach, in explaining student underperformance. But also of concern is the way Australia carries out its national benchmark testing in literacy and numeracy.

The results over the past four years at Years3 and 5 suggest all is well in numeracy. About 90 to 94 per cent of students reach the benchmark standard and in reading the figure hovers close to 92 per cent. Such results appear worth celebrating. Not so. Not only is the benchmark described as the agreed minimum acceptable standard - defined as "standards of performance below which students will have difficulty progressing satisfactorily at school" - but there is the suspicion that the bar is set so low that the overwhelming majority of children are guaranteed success.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Leftist wants someone to loathe

Australian Leftist columnist Phillip Adams often writes in a rather ironic way but the article by him excerpted below does seem to be a clear confession of the hate that drives him -- as it does with so many Leftists. That they hail the slightest negativity emanating from conservatvies as "hate" shows how urgent is their need to project their own failings onto others. Adams is commenting on the likely defeat of Australia's conservative government at the next election -- due later this year. Adams is a millionaire so his hate is not born of "poverty". And, yes, that poster he has on his library wall is who you think it is

For God’s sake don’t tell Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins, but despite a lifetime’s atheism I have, over the past decade, been driven to prayer. My increasingly desperate appeals have been addressed to Jehovah, Yahweh, Allah, Thor, Ra, Vulcan and sundry totems, jujus, graven images and idols - entreating one or more of them to end the Howard Government....

But nothing happened. To be perfectly frank the disappointing lack of response considerably added to my religious scepticism. But now, suddenly, the gods are acting! The various almighties are finally showing him the door! And I’m suddenly getting a bit worried. How will I get on without him? .... Just as Mum needed Kennett to give meaning to her existence, I may well be sustained by Howard hating. How will I get through the day without the prospect of the six o’clock news when I can, in the family tradition, yell at the screen?

The world faces a similar problem with George W. Bush. The most unpopular president since Harry Truman at his nadir - and as Jimmy Carter rightly says “the worst president in US history” - will soon be banished from the political stage. For nigh on seven years - though it seems almost an eternity - countless millions have loathed the man. He has increased the blood pressure of not only hapless Democrats but also a large majority of my fellow Australians and pretty much the entire population of Europe.... Where will all that hatred go when he’s gone? What will people do with it?

For 11 years John Winston Howard has been my central focus, my obsession, my bogeyman, my nemesis. To be without him might answer those prayers. But as has been wisely said “Beware the answered prayer”!

More here

Dangerous "Green" car

The shocking image of this tangled wreck of what was a Reva all-electric car has prompted road safety authorities to keep it off Australian roads. The wreckage of the Indian-built car is the result of a simulated crash at just 48 km/h.

The crash test dummy at the wheel of the Reva has its legs crushed, and hangs limply and exposed out of the door, its head having taken the full force of the disintegrated bonnet and windshield during the crash. Watch the crash test below:

But the man who wants Australian metropolitan commuters to go green in the Reva, says the shocking crash test has little relevance and that he knows the car is not as safe as other vehicles on our roads. Adrian Ferraretto, general manager of The Solar Shop in Adelaide, has been pushing for trials of the Reva here for years, and yesterday defended its safety record on the basis that it is allowed on roads elsewhere under the classification of a heavy quadricycle.

"We know the car's not as safe as say an S-Class Mercedes Benz or a Hummer or other passenger cars, but it has a different application," Mr Ferraretto said. "It's for low-speed city motoring. I don't think (the crash tests are) relevant. While it's not as safe as other passenger cars, it's safer than a motorbike."

The test on the Reva was conducted by UK motoring magazine Top Gear. It prompted road authorities in Britain to conduct their own crash tests and re-examine the road laws which allowed it on the roads there. Footage from the test was shown at a recent Australian Transport Council meeting of state and federal transport ministers. At the start of this month, as an outcome of that meeting, the Reva all-electric car was banned from use on Australian roads as it had failed a frontal crash test and did not comply with safety standards. An application by the West Australian Government to trial the Reva, an automatic two-door hatch, was rejected by the Australian Transport Council.

In Britain, however, the Reva - known as a G-Wiz - is classed as a heavy quadricycle and therefore has not had to meet the same safety standards as a car. Australia has no such vehicle category.


Mass desertion of public hospitals

So many operations and other treatments are done in private hospitals, doctor's rooms and private clinics that public hospitals can no longer train junior doctors in the skills they need. Doctors say bone surgery, gynecology, dermatology and psychiatry are areas where specialist trainees -- known as registrars, and currently trained in public hospitals -- can no longer learn the surgical and other procedures they will need to perform later in their careers. The Australasian College of Dermatologists has had to extend its training course by a year because its registrars are no longer getting enough experience in common skin conditions in public hospitals.

Figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show private hospitals conducted 45 per cent of all same-day operations in 2004-05. The national conference of the Australian Medical Association in Melbourne at the weekend heard that doctors training to be orthopedic surgeons in public hospitals were now more likely to treat complex and urgent cases such as road crash victims.

Geoffrey Metz, clinical dean and director of education at the private Epworth Hospital in Melbourne, told the conference the situation was made urgent by the planned doubling of medical student numbers, expected to soar from about 1500 graduates a year to 2900 by 2011. "If there's no increase in the number of beds in traditional teaching hospitals, trainees will be fighting each other over the same number of patients," Associate Professor Metz said. Epworth Hospital, run by the Uniting Church, already takes trainees, he said. "We need to do part of our training outside the traditional teaching hospitals."

Psychiatry registrars training in public hospitals were mainly exposed to patients with psychoses, whereas doctors in private practice saw a lot more patients with anxiety and depressive disorders, Associate Professor Metz said. In gynecology and pathology, there were also big differences between the types of cases registrars saw and the problems of private patients.

Sending trainee doctors into private hospitals might prove tricky, as one of the vaunted benefits of private hospital treatment is that it allows patients to choose their preferred doctor. Delegates at the AMA conference backed a resolution that a position statement be developed to guide registrar training in the private sector, with a stipulation that the arrangements "must respect patient choice by ensuring that all patients treated by trainees are informed about the role of trainees in their medical care, andfreely consent to this".

The federal Government has committed $60 million through the Council of Australian Governments to expand medical training into the private sector. But Associate Professor Metz said this "can't be seen as anything other than seed funding" because of the large number of extra trainees due to come through the system.

Omar Kharshid , who completed his specialist training to become a qualified orthopedic surgeon last year, told the conference trainees in public hospitals were now more experienced in treating road crash victims than patients with common complaints such as bunions.

Health Minister Tony Abbott said the Government would "do its bit" to expand training into the private sector, but details of how the $60 million would be spent had to be finalised.


WHO WE ARE: A column about Australia by David Dale

David Dale is the author of "Who We Are -- A snapshot of Australia today". He gets it pretty right

Here's what happened: a few weeks ago a travel magazine in Singapore asked me to write an article about the Australian character, apparently because I had produced a book called Who We Are: A snapshot of Australia today. Singapore is one of our fastest-growing sources of tourists (22,000 a month), so this was quite a responsibility. But the more I thought about it, the more I grew annoyed about the way this country has been promoted overseas this year.

So this was how I started the article: "The tourism authorities will kill me for saying this, but I'm not at all comfortable with their latest international advertising campaign, built around the phrase 'So where the bloody hell are you?' "They're pleased with the way the ad agency included The Great Australian Expletive in a slogan, and with all the free publicity this has generated. My concern is not with the alleged rudeness of the word. It's with the attitude implied in the statement. There's an arrogance there, a sense of entitlement, that is not characteristic of the Australia I know and like.

"The quality I admire most in my compatriots is modesty. We know we have exported some pretty good actors, directors, cricketers, swimmers, musicians and models. And we know we have some pretty spectacular scenery, even if it's too widely separated for comfort (try seeing the Barrier Reef, Uluru, Monkey Mia and the Tasmanian wilderness in one week and you'll need a holiday when you get home). But we still don't think of ourselves as particularly worth a journey.

"The statistic that five million people visit us every year comes as a surprise to most Australians. A more realistic slogan to represent our attitude to international tourism would be 'Why the bloody hell would you bother?'. "The tone of the campaign is alien to my sense of the Australian character -- aggressive and aggrieved rather than calm and cheerful (an approach implied by the expression 'she'll be right, mate')."

My article went on to discuss a theory of John Carroll, Professor of Sociology at Melbourne's La Trobe University, that in their relaxed approach to life Australians resemble their native animals, according to. "Peoples, like individuals, take flight into ideology, dogmatism and ranting when they feel under inner threat," Carroll said in the Deakin lecture of 2001. "It is a leading mark of Australia as a political culture to have always and without exception been sceptical of idealism, hostile to extremists, innately drawn to the moderate, the sensible, the unassuming. It points to a fundamental security of being.

"Special warmth has grown for the kangaroo, koala, platypus, and echidna that is more than the cuddly toy sort. The marsupials set a tone, in their way of being. In part it is their lack of aggression, except when cornered. The quiet way they go about negotiating their habitat has affinity with the way the people respond to bureaucratic controls. The kookaburra reminds humans, prone to taking themselves seriously, that they are easy to laugh at."


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Legal discrimination against heterosexuals now in place in Australia

This is a rather fun ruling. It would seem to open the way for bars in working class areas to exclude homosexuals on similar grounds -- that they make the heterosexual patrons feel uncomfortable. After that, what is to stop homosexuals being sent to the back of the bus? The body responsible for the ruling below is however as bent as a pretzel so any consistency or application of principle cannot be expected from them. They are guided by Leftist politics not law. It is they who prosecuted two Christian pastors for quoting the nasty bits in the Koran!

A MELBOURNE pub catering for gay men has won the right to refuse entry to heterosexuals in a landmark ruling at the state planning tribunal. The owners of Collingwood's Peel Hotel applied to ban straight men and women to try to prevent "sexually based insults and violence" towards its gay patrons. The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal last week granted the pub an exemption to the Equal Opportunity Act, effectively prohibiting entry to non-homosexuals.

VCAT deputy president Cate McKenzie said if heterosexual men and women came into the venue in large groups, their number might be enough to swamp the gay male patrons. "This would undermine or destroy the atmosphere which the company wishes to create," Ms McKenzie said in her findings. "Sometimes heterosexual groups and lesbian groups insult and deride and are even physically violent towards the gay male patrons." Some women even booked hens' nights at the venue using the gay patrons as entertainment, Ms McKenzie said. "To regard the gay male patrons of the venue as providing an entertainment or spectacle to be stared at, as one would at an animal at a zoo, devalues and dehumanises them," she said. "(This exemption) seeks to give gay men a space in which they may, without inhibition, meet, socialise and express physical attraction to each other in a non-threatening atmosphere."

The Peel manager Tom McFeely [McFeely -- interesting name for a homosexual!] told the tribunal the plan to refuse entry had been advertised at the hotel, with no objections received. Mr McFeely said most of the regulars at the hotel had responded positively.

A spokeswoman for the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Lobby Group said she believed the ruling made the Peel one of only two men-only venues in Melbourne. "This exemption was not sought to exclude members of the community but to try to maintain a safe space for men to meet," the spokeswoman said. She said gay men at the Peel had recently been ostracised and made to feel like "zoo animals". "It's sad that members of our community would have to go to the VCAT to preserve their rights," the spokeswoman said. "This is one of the only free venues with live music in the area, so certainly some people may feel a bit unhappy about the decision."

The Peel attracted criticism in April over an ad for a gay Anzac Day party that showed a near-naked man in a slouch hat. The hotel used a Shrine of Remembrance guard as the unwitting star of an ad for an Anzac Day eve bash. The ad was published in gay magazines and on the venue's website. It was withdrawn after intense criticism from the Victorian RSL, which called it a "desecration of the Anzac spirit".


Multiculturalism entrenched discrimination for Australia's blacks

In 1967, a constitutional referendum gave Aborigines full Australian citizenship -- a bit like America's civil rights act of the same era

THE 1967 referendum, rather than propelling Aborigines into the national mainstream, was followed by an apartheid-like regime in which Aborigines descended into a world of poverty, illiteracy and violence, according to economist Helen Hughes. In a new book, Lands of Shame, Hughes, a former senior director of the economic analysis department at the World Bank and senior fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney, argues that after 1967, two main approaches towards Aboriginal people were emerging, one liberal and the other socialist.

"Those liberally minded considered that with the referendum's end to legislated exceptionalism, Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders would be able to integrate into the economic mainstream," she writes. "It was thought that Aboriginal lives would be enriched by participating in the technological and social advances that led to high living standards." Values such as individual freedom and equality between men and women were evolving. Immigration was leading to an ethnically plural society with a reduction in racial discrimination. Aboriginal art, dance and music were being embraced in a broader Australian culture, enabling indigenous traditions to flourish. "Thus it was thought that Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders would not only be able to look back to enjoy their traditions and links with the country, but also look forward to participating in the life of reason that would free them from sorcery and fear of spirits."

Instead, she writes, the Whitlam and Fraser governments steered Aborigines towards the socialist "homeland" model championed by former Reserve Bank governor HC "Nugget" Coombs that wove together anthropology and Marxism. Rather than ending discrimination, it would be "the culmination of 200 years of exceptionalist and separatist indigenous policies". Former prime minister Malcolm Fraser said last night it was "totally and absolutely absurd" to suggest his government allowed a form of apartheid to develop. He said his government had tried to "respect and understand the difference" between indigenous and non-indigenous people.

One of the leaders of the referendum campaign, Faith Bandler, said she had "tended to support" the Coombs approach, but generations of social engineering by governments had rarely taken account of Aboriginal opinion. "It's difficult for one group of people, whose skin is white, to plan and make decisions for another group, whose skin happens to be black," she said.

But confronting critics, including Mr Fraser, who say policies of assimilation and integration from the 1930s to the 1970s not only failed but contributed to the destruction of Aboriginal families, Hughes writes: "It is not true that various policies have been tried and have failed. Policies have always been discriminatory, treating Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders differently from other Australians. "Sadly, the most damaging discrimination in Australia's history has been the exceptionalism of the last 30 years that was intended to make up for past mistreatment."


Kidney disease treatment shame

MORE than 200 kidney patients die needlessly every year because of Queensland's "appalling" public health system, according to a leading kidney specialist. David Johnson has revealed that a "woeful" lack of doctors, equipment and understanding of the disease means patients are not getting the treatment they need to stay alive. He said some patients with chronic kidney disease were receiving dialysis only once a week rather than the recommended three five-hour sessions. Without regular dialysis to remove toxins and excess water from the blood, there is an increased risk of complications developing such as anaemia and high blood pressure. As waste products are allowed to build up, the patients can die sooner than they might have.

The latest figures reveal 224 Queenslanders die every year while on dialysis and nine out of 10 die before they even get that treatment. About 1500 are having dialysis and 139 are waiting for a transplant. Professor Johnson spoke out as chairman of Kidney Check Australia Taskforce, a group set up to lobby governments to provide better services. He is also director of kidney treatment and chairman of medicine at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, which treats a third of the state's kidney patients.

"The situation in Queensland is appalling and far worse than the rest of Australia," he said. "We have one specialist per 150,000 patients and we should have one per 80,000. "The lack of workforce and funding is just woeful." Prof Johnson said the lack of dialysis machines also meant many patients were being sent to hospitals up to 100km away from home for treatment, and others are waiting more than a year to see a consultant.

His comments come on the eve of Kidney Awareness Week, as the charity Kidney Health Australia warns the country is losing the battle against kidney disease. Deaths from kidney failure have doubled in 20 years and Australia's health bill for treating the disease is growing by $1 million a week. In Queensland, the number of patients on dialysis is increasing by 8 per cent every year and doctors believe rising rates of obesity, diabetes and the ageing population are to blame. Kidney disease is the "silent killer" - 16 per cent of the population do not even realise they have it until their condition deteriorates.

Tim Mathew, medical director at Kidney Health Australia, is calling for an early GP screening program, targeting people considered most likely to develop the disease, such as the obese, people with diabetes, or a family history of kidney problems. "We basically need to get the Federal Government's support for some active kidney programs to chase the disease," Dr Mathew said. "We also need to educate GPs. "Generally, they don't know enough about it, or if they do they are not confident to know what to do about it."

A Queensland Health spokesman said the department was working to boost dialysis services to cope with the demand, and will be opening a new 12-chair dialysis unit at Redlands Hospital.


Does the Green/Left government of NSW REALLY want to get people out of their cars and into trains?

They seem to be doing their best to discourage it. Indian conditions next?

UP to 89 commuters in every carriage are being forced to stand on peak-hour CityRail services as higher petrol prices and improved reliability push up passenger numbers. CityRail's secret official figures on overcrowding show the Western Line had some evening services carrying 180 per cent of their maximum seating capacity in March, up 40 per cent in one year. With a Tangara seating 112 people, a 180 per cent maximum load equates to 89 people being forced to stand for at least part of their journey. The Northern Line was also carrying a maximum 180 per cent (up 30 per cent), the Southern Line a maximum 170 per cent (up 20 per cent) and the North Shore Line a maximum 160 per cent (up 20 per cent).

The growth in overcrowding, revealed in documents obtained under Freedom of Information, came as RailCorp released other figures confirming a strong growth in patronage for the same period. Passenger trips overall grew by 3 per cent in just 12 months to 279.5 million journeys between March 2006 and March 2007. But the increase was even more marked on particular lines with the busy Western Line up 5 per cent, or 1.6 million journeys. The East Hills Line was up 5.1 per cent and the Main North Line up 4.2 per cent.

A RailCorp spokesman said the increase in passenger numbers was putting pressure on the network but there was more additional capacity coming on-line. "Like every metro rail system in the world our passengers will still experience some congestion on busy services during peak times," he said.

The increased patronage could be contributed to the "significant gains in reliability" since the introduction of the newer, slower timetable three years ago, he said. "It could also be expected that higher fuel prices have meant more people are leaving the car at home and taking public transport," the spokesman said. RailCorp said the introduction of 144 new Oscar-class carriages on outer urban services would progressively free up more Tangaras to run on busy suburban lines, increasing seating capacities in peak hours. A further 626 new suburban carriages are to be built under a public-private sector partnership.


NSW: The decay of school discipline shows

DESPERATE teachers abused and attacked by students, other school staff and also community members in New South Wales have been forced to take out apprehended violence orders on more than 40 occasions. The protection orders have been sought as principals and teachers are assaulted, stalked, harassed and have their property damaged in schools. The revelations come after a string of incidents in schools across the state last week, including a 12-year-old boy who allegedly threatened a teacher with a replica pistol.

While the Iemma Government claims the number of AVOs taken out by teachers is falling, The Daily Telegraph can reveal some staff still feel so helpless in the face of their attackers that they seek outside help. Data on AVOs over three years to mid-2006 show a range of psychological and physical attacks on teaching staff in both primary and secondary schools. The figures have been obtained by The Daily Telegraph under Freedom of Information as five schools battle a wave of serious threats against students and teachers.

Students, ex-students, parents and community members are shown in AVO documents to have launched assaults or threats against school staff. In one terrifying incident, three high school teachers were forced to take out a restraining order against a former student who used a baseball bat to smash his way into an office. Last year police took out an interim AVO against a student, 16, suspended and charged with attempting to throttle his female teacher, 24. The woman was treated in hospital for severe swelling and bruising to her neck, chest and right hand.

A letter from deputy director-general (schools) Trevor Fletcher went out on Friday to all schools warning criminal behaviour could attract severe penalties including jail. He urged students to report any criminal behaviour they see or know is being planned. "Just because you are a school student does not mean you cannot be held responsible for a crime," Mr Fletcher told pupils. "Nor does the fact that you are playing a prank or a trick. You can still be punished as a criminal. "You should not see reporting a crime as dobbing in a mate - such action may in fact save someone's life or prevent serious injury or damage from occurring."

Opposition education spokesman Andrew Stoner called for more professional counsellors in schools because children with mental disorders were "slipping through the cracks". "We have seen the tragic effects of violent incidents involving school students in the US," he said. "NSW public schools are ill-equipped to deal with this."

The Education Department claims stiffer penalties for crimes in schools, tighter security and quick removal of serious troublemakers have contributed to the decline in AVOs sought by teachers. Education Minister John Della Bosca said good communication between students and staff in the incident at Crookwell High School - where shooting threats were made - enabled police to take swift action and ensure safety. "Schools work closely with police and parents when these type of incidents occur," he said.


Monday, May 28, 2007

Mandrake the magician

It will be interesting to hear how Australia's chief Leftist is going to stop the major health problem among blacks -- endemic substance abuse from childhood on and pervasive adult alcoholism. He's just talking malarkey

KEVIN Rudd has promised to close the 17-year gap in life expectancy between black and white Australians within a generation. In a speech marking the 40th anniversary of the historic 1967 referendum, the Opposition Leader will tomorrow attempt to trump John Howard by committing Labor to a broad agenda to give indigenous and non-indigenous children the same life expectancy levels.

Labor's plan will cost $261.4million over four years, with $186.4 million coming from the commonwealth Government and $75 million from the states and territories. Labor would spend $112 million over four years to provide national coverage of child and maternal health services to indigenous Australians. It says its first step towards closing the life expectancy gap is halving the rate at which indigenous children die before the age of five within a decade. Labor also wants literacy and numeracy gaps halved within 10 years, saying children should be tested at Years 3, 5 and 7 to ensure progress is being made.

Mr Rudd's policy will meet the demands of a coalition of indigenous and non-indigenous medical, health and human rights organisations, which has been campaigning for a national commitment to a plan to address indigenous health standards. Mr Rudd will also reveal specific targets to improve the opportunities for Aboriginal children in health and education.

And a Rudd government would continue the Howard Government's mutual obligation principles, in a move away from previous Labor principles based on welfare. News of tomorrow's speech came as a Howard government plan to make it compulsory for indigenous children to learn English received a mixed response, including claims that teachers on indigenous communities had inadequate skills because they could not speak indigenous languages.

The plan was flagged by Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough, who says Aboriginal children in isolated communities have no hope of advancement in life if they cannot speak English. It came as some indigenous leaders rejected criticism by former ATSIC chair Lowitja O'Donoghue of the Prime Minister's refusal to apologise over the stolen generations.

In tomorrow's speech, Mr Rudd will stress his plans will be carefully administered to deliver change rather than just handing over money. He will declare the new policy -- New Directions in Indigenous Affairs -- will deliver a new deal and "reciprocal partnership between government and indigenous Australians". The Labor leader will say both sides of politics should commit to halving the mortality gap between indigenous and non-indigenous children aged under five within 10 years.

Mr Rudd will ask the Prime Minister, in a spirit of bipartisanship, for nation reconciliation goals to be set for indigenous children. Under the plan, indigenous mothers and their babies will have access to a comprehensive "mothers and babies" service to cost $92.2million over four years. It will provide new mothers, babies and children with healthcare and early learning support during the antenatal phase, through childbirth and until their child reaches age eight. Indigenous women will have access to antenatal care, including a visit to a midwife, general practitioner or obstetrician. Indigenous children will have their weight gain, immunisation status, infections and early development monitored by a primary healthcare service.

Labor will expand a Howard Government program to provide comprehensive nurse-led home visiting services of up to 20 visits in the first year, and up to 12 visits in the second year. The party will provide a $10million capital fund to establish new hostels and expand accommodation facilities in major cities and regional centres to take in indigenous women who need to leave their communities temporarily to have babies. And all indigenous four-year-olds will be eligible to receive 15 hours of government-funded early learning programs a week, for a minimum of 40 weeks a year. At least $21 million a year will help provide these services to four-year-olds. According to a study by Oxfam, New Zealand, Canada and the US have narrowed the life expectancy gap between their indigenous and non-indigenous people to about seven years.


Rogue unions to be let off the leash -- just wait for the rorts

MOST mornings, militant unionist Kevin Reynolds meanders on to the balcony of his stunning riverside apartment, built by his loyal disciples, to take breakfast and the morning papers. He can look across the Swan River to the cranes that pepper Perth's exploding CBD, knowing that should Labor win the next federal election, his nemesis -- the only authority in 20 years to rein in his hardline and volatile union -- will be destroyed. And Reynolds, as West Australian secretary of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, along with his colourful deputy, Joe McDonald, will again have total control over almost every major construction site in the booming West Australian capital.

It is a daunting scenario for a construction industry enjoying a relatively strike-free environment since the Australian Building and Construction Commission, which Labor has vowed to abolish, came to town in late 2005.

The booming West Australian economy has certainly been good to Reynolds, who is unapologetic about the wealth he has amassed as one of the country's most militant unionists. The 58-year-old and his wife, state Labor MP Shelley Archer, paid $1.05 million for their Raffles tower apartment last May after striking a deal with Multiplex, which built the luxurious complex. The apartment is now conservatively valued at $1.7 million. Reynolds and Multiplex, "The Well-Built Australian", have worked well together. Last July, Reynolds sold his share of Perth's Coolbelup Hotel, which he owned with former Multiplex director Derek Robson and his brother Peter Robson, for $3.6million. Reynolds and Archer, who described disgraced former premier Brian Burke as her mentor during a Corruption and Crime Commission grilling as to why she leaked government documents to the lobbyist, also own a $1.1 million, four-bedroom, two-bathroom home in the Kimberley's top holiday destination of Broome. Even General Strike -- the horse Reynolds owns with Burke and others -- has picked up more than $54,000 in prizemoney.

"There are dozens and dozens of my members who live in homes equivalent to what I've purchased and there are dozens of my members who have got investment properties etcetera and I have no qualms and don't feel any problems at all -- I've invested wisely, I didn't piss my money up against the wall," Reynolds said.

Reynolds and McDonald have already started boasting about what will happen when Kevin Rudd becomes prime minister and carries out his promise to dismantle the ABCC headed by John Lloyd. "I live for the day when (the ABCC staff) are all working at Hungry Jack's or Fast Eddy's or Kentucky Fried Chicken," McDonald told The Australian recently. "That is what's waiting for them. They're all ex-policemen and they can go and do whatever ex-coppers do. I'd suggest that John Lloyd and his mates will be unemployed before I will be".

It is no surprise the CFMEU is licking its lips in anticipation of a Rudd victory. Figures obtained by The Weekend Australian show an extraordinary halt to the union's rogue strikes -- including "blue flu" where hundreds of workers called in sick at once -- after the ABCC used its powers to hit unionists with individual writs that could result in fines of up to $28,600 each. In Western Australia, days lost to industrial action in the construction industry fell from 71 per 1000 workers in the December quarter of 2004 to just nine in the same quarter of last year. For the 12 months ending in December last year, there had been 45.2 days lost per 1000 workers, compared with 725 days in 2005.

Reynolds blames the ABCC and its investigators with their "Gestapo" powers for striking fear into workers with legitimate concerns, but concedes he regrets some of his union's past industrial campaigns. "I would admit that some of our disputes, like the 'no-ticket no-start' disputes and walking off concrete pours and things of that nature wouldn't be tolerated these days, by any government," he says.

The Cole Royal Commission found lawlessness widespread in the construction industry in 2003. The commission heard that 10 West Australian construction companies had handed over a combined total of $397,935.48 to the CFMEU in Western Australia for "casual" union tickets for non-union workers. The commission also found widespread disregard for right-of-entry rules on building sites. Just last month, McDonald -- who has been convicted of assault on a city building site and stripped of his right-of-entry -- was charged with trespass on a city apartment project. Reynolds is nonetheless proud of the union's hard-fought gains such as superannuation benefits, "portable" long-service leave and wage increases.

Lloyd, the ABCC commissioner who is fighting the union in 18 separate court battles across the nation, claims credit for the relative peace in Perth's construction industry in the past year. "The productivity of industry has improved, more jobs are being completed on budget, within budget, and on time and the productivity benefits all of Australia," he says. Lloyd, whose investigators have unprecedented powers to intervene, question and prosecute unionists, said the Cole Royal Commission had done much to effect change. "The union is very apprehensive now," Lloyd says. "It would be damaging if the industry in the future returned to the conduct and standards of conduct that it had in the past."

Reynolds says the commission is an arm of the Liberal Party and was designed to destroy the trade union movement. It was part of a system of unfair federal laws that, in one case, forced Perth workers to ask permission from their boss before going to the toilet. "We're going to put our shoulder to the wheel to assist in the campaign to unseat the Howard Government and then we're going to have the biggest celebration that we can have on the night he is defeated and then life will go on as normal, the sun will rise the next day and it will set and life will go on just as normal," he says.


Disgraceful legal attack on whistleblower

WHISTLEBLOWER Allan Kessing is likely to receive a prison sentence for his role in leaking a "protected" report on crime at Sydney airport, which sparked a major overhaul of security across the country.

After hearing sentencing submissions in the case yesterday, NSW District Court judge James Bennett SC said he was inclined to impose prison time, and was considering whether to make it a suspended sentence, as a deterrent to other whistleblowers. "I'm sympathetic to the view that I should impose a sentence of imprisonment," he said.

Mr Kessing, 59, is facing a maximum two-year term in prison after a jury found him guilty in April of unlawfully communicating information as a former commonwealth officer. The court heard that the leaked information, which was subsequently published in The Australian, had resulted in a major national inquiry into aviation security and federal Government expenditure of $200 million. Mr Kessing's lawyer, Peter Lowe, told the NSW District Court that the leak had had a "beneficial effect at the end of the day". He said the leak had exposed a situation that had "outraged" the public.

Crown prosecutor Lincoln Crowley acknowledged that a suspended sentence could be imposed and asked Judge Bennett to consider putting Mr Kessing behind bars. "The only appropriate sentence would be a full-time custodial sentence," Mr Crowley said. He told the court that the leak could have jeopardised undercover operations. "The breach of trust here is more serious because of the potential to disrupt these operations," Mr Crowley.

Judge Bennett indicated he was also concerned about the possibility that the leak might have potentially disrupted police operations. Gail Batman, a senior Customs executive who was the national director of border intelligence at the time of the leak, told the court the disclosure of the report had embarrassed Customs with other agencies and the Government and had led to media scrutiny. She said several security agencies were "very unhappy" the information had been made public and had blamed Customs.

Mr Lowe later told the court that there was nothing prejudicial or damaging in the report's publication. He said he could see nothing wrong with exposing a government agency to criticism. "If you can't criticise, analyse or critique a commonwealth agency that is charged with protecting us, what can you do?"

The Australian, in May and June 2005, revealed flaws in airport security and the operation of organised crime at airports, which prompted the Government to commission British security expert John Wheeler to inquire into the issue. Sir John's report in September that year recommended widespread action, including the introduction of new police squads for airports. The Government accepted most of his recommendations and committed $200 million to establish airport police commands and increase Customs surveillance. Judge Bennett will deliver his verdict on June 14.


Another government railway failure

The bottleneck at one of Australia's biggest coal ports is costing mining companies more than $1 billion a year, threatening hundreds of jobs in the industry and risking the future of exports to key Asian customers. As more than 50 ships wait off Queensland's Dalrymple Bay port to load coal, furious coal producers are blaming "sheer incompetence" by the state-owned railway for the backlog.

Confidential correspondence and briefing papers obtained by The Weekend Australian reveal that the failure of Queensland Rail to come close to meeting its pledges on the transport of coal to Dalrymple Bay, south of Mackay, is shrinking benefits from the mining boom. The Australian revealed last month that more than 150 ships were anchored off the east coast -- most of them at Newcastle, north of Sydney, and Dalrymple Bay -- waiting to load coal.

But documents, including a crisis paper from Australia's leading coalmining companies, reveal that QRNational, rather than helping clear the Queensland bottleneck, is going backwards in the amount of coal being delivered to key ports. This is leading to soaring costs, missed revenue for mine companies and looming lay-offs.

The paper -- prepared by Xstrata Coal executive Stephen Bridger on behalf of about eight top coal producers and sent to QR's acting chief executive, Stephen Cantwell -- sets out Queensland's falling performance. It warns that the coal chain in central Queensland "is currently in a crisis which has the potential to cost the Queensland coal economy over $1 billion in revenue and additional costs in 2007 alone".

It describes the "poor performance" as being of extreme concern, and blames most of the shortcomings on "QR causes" arising from locomotive faults and cancellation of trains due to a lack of crews. "The multiplier effect of this situation on the overall Queensland economy is difficult to estimate, but it is undoubtedly substantial," it says. The documents and investigations by The Weekend Australian show the inability of QRNational, QR's freight arm, to consistently provide manpower, locomotives and wagons is largely responsible for the backlog.

The crisis paper calls for service providers and customers to evolve "from no accountability to setting and delivering stretch targets", and from "indecisive committees to real leadership at all levels". Despite the most lucrative mining boom in Australia's history, the volume of coal being taken to the ports in central Queensland has fallen. The volume of coal likely to be moved this year is about 15 per cent less than the figure coal producers were given in November, when they began negotiating with overseas buyers. Coal producers revealed yesterday that Asian buyers of coal were angry that their orders were not being met, and some were threatening to source the commodity elsewhere.

Royalties from coal are also projected to pour $1.5 billion a year into Queensland's coffers, meaning that inefficiencies have a direct impact on funds for public services. Deputy Premier Anna Bligh said last night she was setting up an urgent process [Yet another committee!] with the Queensland Resources Council and an independent umpire to investigate the capacity problems and find a solution. "I'm not denying there is a problem and it has to be fixed by the parties sitting around the table and knocking heads together," she said. "The long-term interest of the state and the nation is more important than this squabble over who caused what. There are entrenched difficulties that need to be resolved."

Coal is the biggest export earner in Australia, and Queensland is the world's largest exporter. Its deposits generated overseas sales revenue of about $18billion last financial year. QR is a government-owned corporation with a coal division boasting more than 470 services a week to more than 32 coalmines in Queensland, and "an uninterrupted coal supply chain that enables the Australian coal industry to compete successfully with international competitors".

But more than 50 ships currently queued off Mackay, on the Queensland central coast, are racking up huge demurrage costs while waiting to be loaded with coal from the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal. The terminal, which is supplied with coal by QRNational, had only 220,000 tonnes of coal available for loading -- enough to load just two of the 50-plus ships. Demurrage charges for each ship run to tens of thousands of dollars a day.

The costs to coal producers and the economy will rise because QRNational is forecast to transport less coal to Dalrymple Bay this year than it moved in 2005, according to coal producers. Several coal producers are warning there will be layoffs of hundreds of jobs in Queensland's Bowen Basin because of the inability of QRNational to move their coal.

Coal producers fear that speaking out will lead to retribution, such as the withholding of mining leases, but one producer said the problems demanded top-level attention. "We are constantly hearing this garbage about the boom in commodities exports, but in fact there is not a single kilogram more of coal going out -- in fact, it's less than two years ago," he said. "Our business and others are being systematically damaged by the lack of performance of the monopoly service provider. The people who are supposed to take our product and put it on ships are bungling incompetents, and they are going to be responsible for lost jobs."

QR's Mr Cantwell said last night he was well aware that coal producers were frustrated and concerned about the hold-ups, "and we are doing everything we can to ensure that our assets are delivering as much as they can". "We are the first to acknowledge issues with the ability of the rail system to cope and we are absolutely conscious of the challenges that we face," he said.

Newcastle faces similar issues, with mining giant Rio Tinto announcing earlier this month that it would cut 250 jobs at its Hunter Valley subsidiary Coal & Allied because of rail and port blockages at the port.


What a bonzer sheila: "Terri Irwin is on a mission to save Aussie slang. The US-born environmentalist pleaded with Australians not to replace our "beautiful" vernacular with American phrases. Under her vision, phrases such as crikey, g'day, strewth and bonzer would dominate conversations. The widow of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin spoke of her dismay that US expressions were used so much. "America has so infiltrated Australia that Australianisms are starting to fade," she said. Mrs Irwin said she made sure her children Bindi and Bob were brought up with Aussie slang. "Australian slang is part of the beautiful cultural value of this nation," she said. "Crikey - hold your head up, don't feel embarrassed about ockerism."

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Another Greenie absurdity

MEET Queensland's first carbon farmer. Peter Allen, pictured, a third-generation farmer from Moura, has signed a $1 million deal for doing nothing at all. In a historic transaction, mining company Rio Tinto bought the rights to carbon dioxide stored in 3500ha of Mr Allen's heavily vegetated property, 575km northwest of Brisbane. Instead of clearing the land to run cattle, Mr Allen will preserve the trees for 120 years to ensure they soak up carbon dioxide.

When you hear talk of carbon offsets, this is where the money goes. Many of the state's farmers stand to reap multimillion-dollar incomes from selling carbon rights to large corporations or individuals wishing to become carbon neutral. "It's not like I have won the lotto or that I'm a tree-hugger. It was a purely financial decision," Mr Allen said. "We looked at the return on developing that land for grazing, compared to the return from the carbon rights. "We had to think hard before we decided to lock that land up for the next 120 years. "If it had been any less money, we wouldn't have done it."

This time last year, Mr Allen had eight bulldozers ready to knock down a swathe of trees on an investment property just outside Charleville. Under the State Government's moratorium on land clearing, farmers were given until December last year to enact one final clearing permit. Rio Tinto stepped in, offering Mr Allen and five other farmers money in exchange for their inaction. A total of 12,060ha was spared, the carbon rights secured under a legally binding contract. It is believed to be Australia's biggest carbon-trading deal.

The carbon industry is expected to boom after the Prime Minister's Task Group on Emissions Trading hands down its blueprint next Thursday. But as the carbon industry gears up, questions have been raised about the lack of regulation over the voluntary offset market - the system through which airline passengers, rock festival patrons and motorists can pay for their pollution. Green watchdogs say the voluntary market is open to exploitation, with no controls on who can sell carbon and no checks on the work carried out. Further questions have been raised about the effect of tree-planting, the popular method used by most carbon offsetters.


Pauline is back

Former One Nation party founder Pauline Hanson has put her name to a new party which she hopes will help her win a Senate spot at the next election. More than a decade after she first entered federal Parliament, Ms Hanson has launched a new political party - Pauline's United Australia Party. The party structure will help the former fish and chip shop owner improve her chances of stealing a seat from the bigger parties. "I am standing as a Senate candidate for Queensland and it was essential for me to have a party structure so I can have my name placed above the line on the ballot paper," Ms Hanson said. As an independent, she would only get votes from people bothered with numbering their entire ballot paper.

Ms Hanson entered politics in 1996 when she won the federal Queensland seat of Oxley as an independent candidate after being dumped by the Liberals for her strong views. She shocked many when, in her maiden parliamentary speech, she warned Australia was in danger of being "swamped by Asians". Ms Hanson attacked the big parties as untrustworthy and indicated she retained her firm views on immigration.

"Labor's union thugs will bash up small business and the farmers, and we will all suffer. "Mr Howard has sold us out by not halting further Muslim immigration and dumping hapless refugees from Africa on us without any consultation. "Australia must withdraw ASAP from the 1951 UN Convention on refugees."

She warned Queenslanders of the threat they faced from Labor at both state and federal levels. "Queensland coalminers and their families and all those involved in the industry are under threat from Mr Rudd and his greenie mates while another Rudd mate Peter Beattie is creating havoc with council amalgamations and his inability to solve our water problems," Ms Hanson said.

Ms Hanson predicted she would be attacked for standing up for ordinary Australians. "I will be attacked by all the usual suspects but I am used to that," she said. "I intend standing up for all those ordinary Australians who have been ignored by the big party politicians for so long."


Huge public hospital cutbacks in Tasmania

They're learning from Britain's shambling NHS -- trying to disguise cutbacks as specialization

A SWEEPING shake-up of Tasmania's health services was announced yesterday -- with Health Minister Lara Giddings declaring: "We don't have a choice here." Among major changes is a move to immediately turn the Mersey Hospital at Latrobe into an elective day surgery hospital designed to cut waiting lists around the state. In other major plans, more patients will need to travel to either the Royal Hobart Hospital or Launceston General Hospital for specialist surgery or to dedicated disease-treatment units. But a significant slice of the new reforms is also aimed at keeping Tasmanians out of hospitals, with a heightened focus on the prevention of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, both linked to ageing and lifestyle.

Launching the new Future Health blueprint, Ms Giddings said Tasmania's hospitals -- and the health budget -- would be swamped unless individuals and communities made better decisions about their lifestyles and health. She said it was not acceptable that Tasmanians did not live as long as other Australians, had higher rates of illness and disease, smoked more, exercised less and waited longer for health services. More worryingly, despite the health budget increasing by 78 per cent over the past eight years to more than $1.2 billion a year, the health status of Tasmanians and health service delivery indicators have remained worse than elsewhere. "If throwing money at the problem has not solved it, we have to ask what else needs to be done," Ms Giddings said. "The health system of the past has been a victim of politicking, ad-hoc decision-making and parochialism. We must change that (even though) I recognise some Tasmanians will be upset."

The response of the State Government, following advice from highly regarded Victorian health planner Dr Heather Wellington, has been to reform the entire structure and way Tasmanians will access health services and hospitals over the next 10 to 15 years. The Mersey Hospital will lose its crisis and acute care capabilities [REDUCING capabilities is a great way to increase already-scarce services???] to become a specialist elective day surgery hospital, with some added maternity and rehabilitation services. The North-West Regional Hospital at Burnie will become the only acute and emergency surgery hospital serving the North-West and West Coast.

However, the Mersey Hospital will keep open a 24-hour emergency reception area to stabilise or resuscitate patients needing urgent attention -- such as heart attack or stroke victims from Devonport or anyone involved in a serious car crash -- before they are sent to Burnie or Launceston by ambulance.

Australian Nursing Federation state secretary Neroli Ellis welcomed the plan but said it had severe implications for nurses, especially at the Mersey Hospital. She said many nurses, who have an average age of 51, would consider early retirement rather than stay for the transition of the Mersey to Tasmania's first dedicated elective surgery centre. "Retention is going to be a huge issue," she said, adding specialist nurses at Latrobe might not want to travel to Burnie or Launceston to continue their career paths.

In other major moves, Rosebery Hospital, in the centre of the West Coast mining district, will no longer be staffed by a doctor Another great improvement???] and nurse 24 hours a day. The small rural hospital at Ouse in the Upper Derwent Valley will no longer have a permanent doctor and will be turned into an aged and respite care and community health centre.

Ms Giddings denied the reforms were all about "cutting and gutting". "We don't have a choice here; we just don't have the staff, the people to keep the system going as it is," she said. To take pressure off the three large hospitals and to better integrate health services around the state, at least four major "one-stop" Integrated Care Centres will be built in central Hobart, in Sorell or on Hobart's Eastern Shore, at Kingston and in Launceston.

These new major community medical centres will provide health services that do not require hospitalisation or emergency treatment, such as dialysis, chemotherapy, some day-surgery procedures and regular wound dressing or medical treatments. But there is no new funding for the Government's bold Future Health plan or any new staff resources.

Ms Giddings believes that with less duplication of services, better clarity of roles and more co-operation within the health system, more staff will not be needed and that the number of locums can also be reduced. Timelines for the new changes are also vague, apart from the immediate downgrading of services at the Mersey Hospital......


Another shocking example of the vast fraud that government "child protection" constitutes

Kids died after case book was closed

SIX chronically neglected children died after Victorian authorities prematurely closed their case files, abandoning the vulnerable children to carers who repeatedly failed to access support services. The case files were closed despite child protection authorities receiving an average of eight notifications for four of the chronically neglected children, the Victorian Child Death Review Committee found in its annual report tabled in state parliament yesterday. The report found that, of a total of 37,991 notifications to child protection authorities, only 11,526 investigations were launched and 7367 cases substantiated. Eighteen children known to authorities died last year, the report found, and six of those children had their cases recently closed.

Nine of the child deaths last year were due to illness and congenital conditions, four were from accidents, one was from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and four have yet to be assessed by the coroner. But the figure may represent just a fraction of the total deaths because legislation limits the number of cases that are reviewed in the watchdog's annual report. All children who were clients of child protection authorities at the time of their death are placed on the state's Child Death Register for inquiry and review. Of those whose files are closed by the Department of Human Services' child protection service, only those who died within three months are investigated.

The Australian Childhood Foundation's chief executive, Joe Tucci, attacked the Victorian Government yesterday for being more concerned with "limiting liability" for its department rather than ensuring children were protected. "It is a fundamentally flawed system that really only is there to protect the department from criticism rather than getting to the bottom of how the system is functioning in any particular year," Dr Tucci said.

The Child Death Review Committee's chairwoman, Lisa Ward, told The Australian yesterday there had been a push from within the committee for the three-month time frame to be abolished. "Certainly the committee has discussed the issue of the time frame," Ms Ward said. "The committee would endorse a 12-month time frame."

A push last year from child welfare workers for a national approach to recording and analysing child deaths has not been realised. In addition to analysing deaths last year, the watchdog reviewed 13 deaths that occurred over a three-year period. Of the 13, six vulnerable children were left unmonitored after "incorrect assumptions" from child protection workers that families were in the hands of other support services. Most of the families had been subject to multiple notifications, and the department had failed to take into account their non-attendance at appointments with support services.

Ms Ward called for greater co-operation between agencies yesterday to ensure children did not slip through the net. "It's not enough for a family to be indicating that they will get some help before the case is closed," Ms Ward said. "Child protection and other services need to work with the family to make sure that they are getting that help." The watchdog made 22 recommendations in its report, including calling for greater co-ordination between disability and health services and child protection services. The watchdog also demanded that the DHS establish clear standards to justify why the cases of families which had been the subject of multiple notifications should be closed.


Police goons facing lawsuit after bungled raid

Let's hope the outcome from this is better than in a recent similar case in California

POLICE face a six-figure civil suit payout after drug squad detectives allegedly injured a naked father-of-three during an illegal raid on the wrong house. Daryl Hurst, 39, a disability pensioner of South Townsville, claims to have suffered a broken nose and cuts to both lips when he resisted arrest during the bungled early morning swoop on his home two years ago. Police had the right number but the wrong street, the wrong house - and an innocent man.

Mr Hurst has filed a formal complaint with the Crime and Misconduct Commission after charges of common assault against him were dropped by the Crown. "They raided the wrong house," Mr Hurst said yesterday. "They came into my house like storm troopers out of a bad cop show. "I was in bed in the nude and woke up to find eight undercover police in my home. "Then they tried to throw me into handcuffs, it was a shock. "It was only natural that I retaliate and I kicked out at them, that is when they held me down and belted me three or four times in the head. "I got a gash in both my bottom and top lip and a broken nose from where they were belting me. "They owe my family an official apology, the way they humiliated my family, the way they spoke to my children, we need an apology."

Both the CMC and Police Ethical Standards Command are looking into the allegations of excessive force in the October 2005 raid. Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson declined to respond to questions about the matter yesterday, saying it was still under investigation. Officers had a search warrant to look for Mr Hurst's brother, Bruce Wayne Hurst, at another address, only a few metres around the corner.

"The drug squad should be embarrassed by their actions. They are just too in-your-face," Mr Hurst said. "It was like a home invasion. That is how it seemed."

Judge Stuart Durward, in his concluding remarks delivered in Townsville District Court yesterday, found the police to be "careless or reckless" in the execution of the search warrant. Judge Durward said it was an "unjustified and unlawful entry". "The police had no right to be in the residence nor to have entered it in the way that they did," he said. "The police conduct had serious consequences for all involved and particularly for the accused who was subsequently charged with three very serious offences arising out of the way in which he reacted to the entry by the police and their presence in the house, in what must have been a surprising and bewildering event."

The Crown dropped the charges, the jury was released without taking a verdict, and Mr Hurst was allowed to walk free. Defence lawyer Mark Stevenson said his client was now seeking a "six-figure" damages payout in a civil action. He said the matter was highly embarrassing for police.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Leftist crapola from Amnesty condemns Australia

I used to be a member of Amnesty when they restricted themselves to helping political prisoners everywhere but now they are just another bunch of one-eyed self-righteous preachers who hate America and much else besides. Don't even MENTION Israel!

Australia has NO political prisoners. Illegal immigrants are ordinary law-breakers. There is more on Amnesty boss -- the far-Leftist Ms Khan -- here. By putting John Howard in the same camp as the revolting Robert Mugabe, however, her main achievement is to make herself look absurd.

The screenshot below of the Amnesty USA site (from Taranto's post of May 23) shows how infantile they have become and his post of 24th. has more derisive follow-up. I actually thought that the Amnesty site might have been hacked by outsiders in an attempt to discredit them but it is now clear that the juvenile nonsense was in fact all their own work.

If Amnesty were seriously concerned about human rights, they would be concentrating their attention on things like this

Prime Minister John Howard finds himself alongside Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe in an Amnesty International report which says they are among short-sighted fear-mongers dividing the world. The human rights pressure group has accused Mr Howard of portraying asylum-seekers as a threat to national security. The report also criticises Australia's role in the war on terror and its treatment of female victims of violence.

Amnesty secretary-general Irene Khan says the fear generated by leaders such as Mr Howard thrives on myopic and cowardly leadership. Ms Khan included Mr Howard with Mr Mugabe, US President George Bush and Sudan's President Omar Al-Bashir in the same scathing paragraph in her foreword to the group's annual report published today. Ms Khan said the fear generated by leaders such as Mr Howard "thrives on myopic and cowardly leadership''. "The Howard government portrayed desperate asylum-seekers in leaky boats as a threat to Australia's national security and raised a false alarm of a refugee invasion,'' Ms Khan wrote.

More here

Mr Incorrectness speaks sense again

Says Aboriginal kids must learn English. That's probably even more "incorrect" than an American leader saying that Hispanics must learn English -- but it is very realistic

INDIGENOUS people had no hope of being part of mainstream Australian society unless they could speak English, Prime Minister John Howard said today. Mr Howard backed a proposal by Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough to ensure indigenous children in remote communities learned English, and said the best way to ensure they became proficient in the language was to send them to school. Mr Brough is drawing up a Cabinet proposal that would require indigenous parents to ensure their children attended school or risk losing welfare payments. He said today there was a lot of support from Aboriginal communities for the plan.

Mr Howard said: "Indigenous people have no hope of being part of the mainstream of this country unless they can speak the language of this country. "If you require them to go to school they'll have to learn English." The children of non-English speaking immigrants learnt English through their contact with the school system and so should indigenous children, Mr Howard said. "In the case of indigenous people, none of them come to Australia as mature-aged people. They were all born in this country, in that sense they're different from migrants," he said. "The children of Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants are forced to learn English because they go to school. Equally, Aboriginal children should learn English because they should be required to go to school."

Mr Brough told today's The Australian newspaper that Aboriginal people should follow the example of Greek and Italian migrants and become bilingual. He said this - coupled with a "basic grasp" of mathematics and improved school attendance - would allow Aboriginal children living in deprived communities to find work and economic independence. "Most of the children (in many communities) don't speak any semblance of English," Mr Brough said. "So what chance have they got?" "They speak the language that in many cases only a handful of people do," Mr Brough said.

Defending his plan on ABC radio this morning, he said: "If we are all going to aspire, as most politicians say they do, that all Aboriginal children should have the same life expectancy, the same capacity to enjoy the bounty of this nation, then we are just living a lie if we don't ensure that they have the first fundamental that they need to be mobile citizens of Australia, and that is the English language. "These children, like all Australian children, will benefit from a strong grasp of English which allows them to make choices in their lives which they simply don't have when they only speak a language which only a handful of people can understand."

Mr Brough's proposal was met with amazement by NSW's first Aboriginal MP, Linda Burney. "I think that he needs to understand that culture and country is incredibly important to Aboriginal people and they will be protected at all costs," she said on ABC radio. "Aboriginal kids do need to be bilingual but it's a bit rich coming from a person who actually is part of a government that took away funding for bilingual programs in the Northern Territory."

Mr Brough said school attendance was essential and he would look into ways to encourage indigenous children to go to school, including stopping parents' welfare payments if their children were truants. "I am looking at welfare changes which can help with school attendance," he said. "I will look at anything at all, both incentives as well as things such as welfare quarantining, to assist the circumstances." "This is probably the number one issue I get from grandparents in remote communities," he said. "It's been pushed at me. Particularly the grandmothers, the grandfathers, they are so adamant. They understand the value of English and they understand the value of an education."

Mr Brough's comments come two days before the 40th anniversary of the 1967 referendum which allowed Aborigines to be counted as Australians and gave the federal government the power to make laws for them.


Leftist public broadcaster made to be more balanced -- for once

The ABC board has been accused of pressuring ABC TV to broadcast a ... British documentary questioning the science behind climate change. The ABC announced on Tuesday it had bought The Great Global Warming Swindle, a documentary that says humans are not to blame for rising global temperatures. The program caused controversy when it was aired on Britain's Channel 4 in March. Eminent scientists and some of the scientists interviewed later accused the documentary makers of using fabricated data, half-truths and misleading statements.

The ABC science journalist and broadcaster Robyn Williams, who advised the TV division not to buy the program, told the Herald yesterday the director of ABC TV, Kim Dalton, had intimated in a conversation that he was under pressure from the board on the issue. "Kim implied on April 16 the board had pressured him into it . that is what our inference was from what he said and did [in that conversation]," said Williams, who described the documentary as "deeply misleading" and "part of the school of total bollocks science journalism". A reporter on the ABC's Four Corners program, Jonathan Holmes, who took part in that conversation, said: "My impression was whether you call it pressure or some kind of indication from the board or members of the board or a member of the board that he [Mr Dalton] should look at the documentary and consider running it."

Mr Dalton denied he had come under any influence from the board or that he had spoken to any of its members about the program. The chairman of the board, Maurice Newman, and the ABC's managing director, Mark Scott, did not return the Herald's calls. Mr Dalton defended his decision to air the show by saying there was still debate about whether humans caused climate change. "Global warming is up amongst the top two or three issues of public and political debate and there is no doubt that there is still opinion out there that questions that connection between global warming and CO2 emissions."

Asked whether he thought running a program that had been shown to include falsified data would damage the ABC, Mr Dalton said: "I don't think it will at all. It will affect our credibility in a way that shows where there are areas of public importance that we will provide the forum for them to be discussed."


The Melbourne medical meltdown continues

Gran dies after sent home alone

A GREAT-grandmother died alone hours after she was discharged from a Melbourne hospital and shuttled home in a taxi wearing just a nightgown. Ann Barbara Pitt, 91, died from heart disease on April 3 after she was sent packing from the Royal Melbourne Hospital where she had been admitted 12 days earlier for a tissue infection. Ms Pitt's distraught daughter Judy Liddy found her in a pool of blood on the floor of her Coburg home 15 hours after the discharge.

Ms Liddy will lodge a formal complaint with the Health Services Commissioner over the case, which comes amid rising concern about discharge quotas at the hospital. "I felt her shoulder and it was so cold I knew she'd been dead for ages," Ms Liddy said. "I'll never get over it as long as I live. "It haunts me every day and every night."

Health Minister Bronwyn Pike has been under mounting pressure since revelations the Royal Melbourne had imposed discharge quotas to achieve cash bonuses under the Government's hospital funding scheme. Documents show it aimed to discharge about 490 patients between mid-May and July to qualify for the extra cash.

Ms Liddy said the hospital had given her just one hour's notice of its decision to eject her mum at 5.30pm on April 2. "I don't believe she was well enough to be home," she said. Ms Pitt had suffered cellulitis, a condition that commonly affects the elderly or those with weak immune systems. It can be caused by infection, which medical experts say can put extra stress on the body including the heart. A coronial report cites coronary heart disease as the official cause of death. The autopsy attributes the blood loss to a fall, Ms Liddy believes.

Ms Liddy agreed to have her mother sent home by taxi - which she paid for - because she did not have enough time to make other arrangements. She hurried to meet her mother at home and found that she had been sent home without her purse. After helping her resettle, Ms Liddy set out to find the missing valuables. She returned the following day about 10.15am to find her mother dead in the hallway. "I ran out into the street screaming for help," Ms Liddy said.

She complained about the discharge, but the hospital said it could not respond because the case was before the coroner at the time. It said it could not find Ms Pitt's missing purse, but weeks later returned the item, which had been found in a stationery cupboard, Ms Liddy said.

The Health Services Commissioner is assessing Ms Liddy's complaint. Complaints to the commissioner increased eight per cent last quarter. About 62 per cent of complaints accepted for assessment relate to treatment procedures, including misdiagnosis, negligence and inadequate treatment. A Royal Melbourne Hospital spokeswoman extended condolences to the family and said patients were discharged only when clinicians deemed them ready.


West Australia faces teacher crisis

The report below fails to mention that a major reason for teachers resigning or not starting in the first place is the postmodern garbage they have been asked to teach -- something that has been a major public controversy and which prospective teachers could be expected to be well aware of. It is only older teachers who are hanging on until retirement that is keeping the system afloat

EXTRAORDINARY mismanagement of teacher recruitment has put WA at risk of teacher shortages for years, an international recruiting agency has found. The Gerard Daniels agency accuses the state Education Department of "clearly failing" to develop a workforce strategy, and says officials should have foreseen the problems now being experienced, including some schools still being short of teachers halfway through the school year. Teacher recruitment processes were antiquated, and the department's recruitment website one of the worst the agency had seen.

The agency report, marked strictly private and confidential, was unexpectedly released yesterday by Education Minister Mark McGowan, who commissioned the investigation in January when schools were short more than 250 teachers statewide. Mr McGowan said the shortage had now been cut to 28 teachers but he admitted there was a serious problem in attracting more teachers, particularly for country areas. WA has the oldest teacher profile of any state or territory, ensuring major challenges ahead as the rate of retirements increases.

If immediate action were not taken, the Gerard Daniels report said, years of shortages would result. Graduates were dropping with "application fatigue" after being forced to fill in the same handwritten personal details on up to eight different forms. If they got through that hurdle, many rejected the offers made to them because they were so inadequate. The report said about $18million was needed to overcome the shortages, and recommended structural changes to the Education Department.

Promising to provide money to tackle the problem, but unable to say how much, Mr McGowan said the Government was trying to recruit teachers from Britain, and to encourage retired teachers to return to the workforce, particularly those interested in moving to a country location.

But Gerard Daniels said a survey of recently resigned teachers found widespread disillusionment, and 61 per cent said they would not recommend the department as an employer. The study found 44 per cent would contemplate returning under the right conditions, but the agency warned that the department's "employment brand" had been damaged. Despite being the state's largest employer, it was a matter of "grave concern" that the department did not attract recruits. The booming resources sector had provided much competition for staff.

"The department should be held out as an iconic employment brand," Gerard Daniels said. "It is one of the oldest continuous employers in WA. We recommend that the department re-engineer its brand, including its job offer to graduates."

State School Teachers Union secretary Dave Kelly said the report vindicated everything the union had been telling the Government for years. He said the starting salary of $45,000 for a graduate teacher who had done four years of study was ridiculous against the wages being offered to young unskilled workers in the resources sector. Mr Kelly said pay rates must be raised, and innovative incentives were essential to get teachers to move to country areas. Basic requirements such as housing must be addressed urgently. "We have teachers being forced to live in motel rooms for months because there's no housing provided - it's shameful," Mr Kelly said. "These problems are not suddenly appearing. We've warned about what was happening for years."

He said suggestions by Mr McGowan that he might reinstate a rule to force graduate teachers to work in country schools was not the answer. Mr McGowan said the teaching workforce was larger than the Australian army in an area bigger than Europe, and overall the department was doing a good job.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Mobile telephone fraud and regulatory capture

Regulatory capture happens when an industry regulator falls under the influence of those that they are supposed to regulate. That would seem to have happened in the case of Australia's telephone regulator -- the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO). I have found that out from my personal experience. The TIO seems to believe anything that service providers in the industry tell it.

What happened was that scammers somehow accessed my Vodafone cellphone account and rang up a lot of text-message charges against me. When I eventually realized what was happening and protested vigorously about it to Vodafone, they eventually refunded me the disputed charges. Before doing so however, they forwarded me an absurd email from the scammers which said that only I could have incurred the charges. Vodafone apparently accepted that bit of fantasy as correct so gave me an "ex gratia" refund only.

I was outraged at this slight on my good name and character and asked Vodafone for more details that would allow me to track down who exactly had been misusing my account. Vodafone refused to tell me anything further, however. They would not even tell me whether the charges were for messages that I had supposedly sent or for messages that I had supposedly received. Since I haven't even figured out HOW to send text messages on my current phone, that was a very relevant detail.

So I protested to the TIO about this stonewalling from Vodafone -- and also protested that the scammers had not apparently been in any way restricted and were free to carry on defrauding others.

I have received today a letter from TIO reviews officer Olivia Munro which just rubs salt into the wound. They have refused to do anything about my complaint and they too appear to have accepted without investigation that the fantasy letter concocted by the scammers was true, correct and factual. Australia's major banks lose big money to scammers but that the little guy might be similarly affected seems not to have occurred to the useless TIO. My only recourse now is to take the matter to court and I have not yet made my mind up about that.

So DON'T rely on your government to protect you. Insist that all bills are mailed to you in paper form so that you can examine them carefully and refer to them in the future. And DON'T authorize anybody to take money out of your bank account directly in settlement of what you owe. Pay all your bills yourself rather than authorizing automatic deductions from your account. You may never see your money again otherwise.

Rudd's wife violates her own husband's job "principles"

Once again we find Leftists thinking that they are an elite who do not have to comply with the restrictions that they want to impose on "the common herd". Al Gore has his Australian counterparts

A COMPANY owned by Kevin Rudd's wife put workers on individual contracts that stripped them of key award conditions. A common law contract, obtained by the Herald Sun, removed penalty rates, overtime and allowances for an extra 45c an hour. Workplace Minister Joe Hockey said the contracts could be illegal and he would investigate the matter further. "For a common law contract to remove conditions from an award would be unlawful but I need to get more information," he said today. "There seems to be a lot of questions that need to be asked about this matter."

The deal offered a $30,000 annual salary, or $576.93 a week. This is only marginally better than the $29,219 legal minimum ($560.11 a week) applying to the most junior class of worker in the industry. The offer did not include meal and travel allowances or loadings for work performed outside normal hours. The June 2006 contract noted that workers were covered by the Community Employment, Training and Support Services Award.

But the Herald Sun received legal advice that, if the contract were followed to the letter, the deal would be worse than the award and most likely fail the old no-disadvantage test that Labor wants to restore. The contract is not an Australian Workplace Agreement, and under the law, should not undercut the award.

Mr Rudd's wife, Therese Rein, is a multi-millionaire businesswoman whose companies employ 1400 workers in Australia and Europe. Her firm Ingeus is a global player in the employment and recruitment sector and last year achieved revenues exceeding $170 million. WorkDirections Australia Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of Ingeus, took over Frankston company Your Employment Solutions last year and transferred its workers over to her business.

Last night, WorkDirections Australia admitted that workers had been underpaid. After inquiries by the Herald Sun, a director said workers' entitlements had been reinstated. He said former staff were being traced so they could be reimbursed.

The revelation comes as Mr Rudd stakes his claim for the prime ministership on restoring fairness to industrial relations. Ms Rein's WorkDirections job contracts removed some of the very conditions her husband wants to give back to workers. The Opposition Leader said in a recent speech that a Labor government would "restore the rights of working families to have proper access to penalty rates, overtime and shift allowances".

Labor MP Tanya Plibersek said Ms Rein's business was a separate issue to her husband's politics. "She's an independent person who's running a business," Ms Plibersek said. "Therese has said and Kevin has said in the past that she will run her business at arms length from any Labor government should we be elected. "Any decisions which are made about her businesses in the future will made independently, she'll be treated like any other business."

WorkDirections director Greg Ashmead blamed former management for the irregularities and said employees' conditions had been reviewed this year. "The terms and conditions of all current staff now mirror and mostly exceed the minimum terms and conditions of the award," he said.


Muslim pests driving cabs in Australia too

Applying their version of Sharia law in defiance of Australian law. Decent people are kind and helpful to blind people but kindness and helpfulness must have got left out of the Koran

TAXI drivers regularly refuse to carry blind passengers with guide dogs - including Australia's Human Rights Commissioner - with many citing religious reasons, or other excuses like allergies. Human Rights and Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes, who is blind and reliant on his guide dog Jordie, is a regular Sydney cab user and said he was refused service on average once a month, including twice in two days recently. He has been told on a number of occasions that it would be against a driver's religion to allow a dog in the cab. Mr Innes has also been refused by drivers claiming to be allergic to dogs - or afraid of them - and was even left clutching at air on busy Market St by one belligerent driver who told him he had to take the non-existent cab in front.

Mr Innes yesterday received the backing of Vision Australia (VA), which said taxi drivers refusing to carry blind passengers with guide dogs happened with "too much regularity". VA policy and advocacy head Michael Simpson said that the problem was worse in the Sydney metropolitan area where there were more drivers unwilling to carry dogs based on Muslim objections. "It is fair to say that the (Islamic) religion has made the problem worse in the metropolitan areas than regional areas, where I've found taxi drivers are generally excellent," he said.

Mr Simpson, who has been blind for 30 years but uses a cane instead of a guide dog, said he was refused service at the airport because his two companions had dogs. "We asked the driver for his accreditation number and he gave us the wrong one," he said. It was only because an airline staff member had accompanied us that we got the right number and could properly complain about being refused."

Mr Innes was compelled to speak out after the Daily Telegraph last week revealed how an intellectually impaired man had been slapped with $1000 in train fare evasion fines even though he cannot understand what the offence is. He called for better training for all front-line public transport staff in NSW in dealing with disabled passengers. "I'm a lawyer and I know exactly what my rights are so I force the issue but my concern is for those for whom a refusal can be a damaging experience and discouraging," Mr Innes.

NSW Taxi Council spokeswoman Tracey Caine said complaints about refusing guide dogs were rare. "The problem has been much worse in Melbourne," she said. Ms Caine said all NSW drivers were spoken to by disability advocates as part of their training and there had been a number of awareness campaigns in the industry publication Meter Magazine: "It is illegal to refuse to take a guide dog and all drivers know it."


The anti-democratic Leftist media

Comment below by Greg Sheridan

THIS week I had the considerable pleasure of meeting a genuine hero, a military hero and a democratic hero, a moderate Muslim and a hero in the struggle for democratic self-determination. I refer to Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. A long-time Kurdish freedom fighter, he has been an indefatigable campaigner for Iraqi human rights and democracy.

Note, therefore, this incredible occurrence. Zebari held a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Alexander Downer on Monday. Yet The Age in Melbourne, the nation’s most left-wing newspaper and the paper that has most strongly opposed every aspect of the coalition action in Iraq, did not see fit to print a word about it on Tuesday. This is as glaring a case as you could imagine of simply not reporting the facts because they don’t fit your preconceived narrative.

The Age has spent tonnes and tonnes of newsprint excoriating the coalition efforts to liberate Iraq from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and give it a chance of establishing democracy. But it certainly did not want to hear the views of an Iraqi who has the legitimacy of 12 million Iraqis voting three times so that he could be Foreign Minister.

This is, sadly, all too representative of the irrational turn the Iraq debate has taken, where nobody is the slightest bit interested in any evidence that does not support their already held position.

The Australian carried my interview with Zebari yesterday and I don’t intend to recapitulate it here, except for one central consideration. This is what he said would be the result of a rapid pullout from Iraq by the coalition forces led by the US and including Britain and Australia. Zebari said a rapid coalition pullout would mean: “The country would disintegrate, it would be divided. There would be civil war, slaughter, sectarian war. There would be mayhem. International terrorists would find there would be a safe haven in Iraq, a much more important and sympathetic safe haven than they found in Afghanistan, and they will attack others from there. Iraq’s neighbours will be tempted to cross its borders and establish zones of influence there.”

Now here’s the thing. If Zebari is right, rapid withdrawal would be an unmitigated strategic disaster. It would be a tremendous victory for the terrorists and nothing would be more likely to cause conflict within the Middle East. Yet that is the logic of Labor’s position under Kevin Rudd, with the important qualification that Rudd would withdraw Australian troops after consultation with the US and not necessarily suddenly.

This is an issue that very few people discuss honestly. This is a US-led operation and the key question is when the Americans leave. Either they will leave because their own political will collapses or because the Iraqis can finally take care of security themselves. If it is the former, then the disastrous results that Zebari sketches are a strong possibility. If it is the latter, then the whole Iraq mission has been redeemed and the infamy of a genocidal tyrant justly brought to a close.

But in much of the Western debate, not least in Australia, you get the impression that commentators hate George W. Bush and John Howard more than they love the Iraqi people. Just as the international Left cared not a fig for the human rights of Vietnamese, Cambodians or Laotians, and in general didn’t mind a genocide or two once the communists were in power, so too you get the feeling they will rapidly lose interest in any amount of suffering by Iraqis provided the Americans and their allies have been comprehensively humiliated.

The other intriguing aspect of Zebari’s visit was his general praise for the Australian troops in Iraq and his report that they enjoyed a very high reputation in Iraq. This is significant in part because it echoes what several other critically credible sources have said in the past few weeks. It also demolishes the proposition of the Australian Left that somehow or other our participation in Iraq, which by the way is under the authorisation of a UN resolution, is somehow damaging our international reputation.

Ali A. Allawi, a former defence and finance minister in recent Iraqi governments, has written the definitive account of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, entitled, appropriately, The Occupation of Iraq. In it he deplores the amateurism and incompetence of some of the staff of the Coalition Provisional Authority under the leadership of Paul Bremer. However, he goes out of his way to contrast this with the professionalism of the Australians, especially the Australians involved in reconstruction.

Similarly, the recently published memoirs of the former chief of the CIA, George Tenet, are instructive on this point. Tenet has become a critic of Bush and his memoirs are designed to limit his guilt by association with the Iraq operation and put as much distance as possible between himself and the Bush administration. His remarks on Howard, though - again, strangely unreported - are instructive. He says that he and Bush agreed to delay the announcement of his resignation as CIA chief because Howard was due to visit and they didn’t want to detract from the attention the US media should pay to Australia’s Prime Minister. Tenet writes: “Howard had been one of our closest allies. Not only had he deployed troops to Iraq, but he’d also had the enormous political courage to say that he’d gone to war in Iraq not because of what the intelligence said but because he’d believed it was the right thing to do. The President didn’t want to do anything to step on Howard’s visit. Nor did I.”

This is much how many people see Howard internationally, unless they are dedicated haters of the coalition operation in Iraq. Australia, and Australia’s Government, are seen as immensely successful internationally.

The final word, though, belongs to Zebari. One of his most likable traits is loyalty to friends. I asked him if he had any sympathy for Paul Wolfowitz, the former US deputy defence secretary and a key architect of the operation in Iraq, who resigned this week as head of the World Bank. Zebari told me he had a lot of sympathy for Wolfowitz: “We Iraqis consider him a friend. He was a believer in Iraqi democracy. He has been criticised very unfairly. He was a close and determined friend of the Iraqi people and he never wavered in his commitment to our cause.” It is of course entirely right to receive a lesson in loyalty and consideration for a friend from a distinguished Iraqi democrat.


A great Auusie gal

Her pansy critics are up themselves

AUSTRALIA'S Miss Universe representative has hit back at criticism that her lifesaver national costume is frumpy and an outdated cultural cliche. Kimberley Busteed yesterday shrugged off the widespread criticism as "funny" and said she would not be changing her outfit for Monday night's Miss Universe final in Mexico City. "It sounds like people are just bitching about it, instead of suggesting other things that could be better for next year," she told the Daily Telegraph yesterday.

"Do they want me to dress up in a convict's outfit or something? "I think that, no matter what you do, you are going to get that negativity - you are never going to please everybody." While other contestants from around the world went for full-on glamour in interpreting their national dress, the 18-year-old Queensland beauty donned red bathers and a swim cap at the competition's national costume ball on Sunday.

Busteed, who is in Mexico City in the lead-up to Monday's final, said she had received overwhelmingly positive feedback at the ball. "For me (the costume) is great - all the girls here loved it," she said. "Even Miss China, who can't speak English, came up and said, 'Australia, swim, Australia'. "It was a big hit - the crowd loved it, the supervisors loved it, everybody here is loving it."

Among those who have criticised Busteed's choice of costume were Sydney fashion designer Alex Zabotto-Bentley, who labelled the look frumpy. "Australians are buff and sexy and wear swimsuits, but not like this one - it looks like she picked it up at the airport terminal," he said. "Looking (at) what the others are wearing, they are over the top but they are also beautiful."

Busteed, who is a former junior swimming champion, said she stood by the decision to wear the true-blue outfit in Monday's televised final, which will be broadcast in 117 countries. "I think it's an excellent idea considering it is the 100th year of the lifesavers," she said.