Saturday, June 30, 2007

Public hospitals "too busy" -- turn away 48-year-old heart attack victim -- who dies for want of attention

As a relatively young man he might well have survived if promptly given anti-clotting agents etc.

A MAN died after besieged Gold Coast and northern NSW hospitals turned away ambulances yesterday. The man, 48, from NSW, is believed to have suffered a heart attack at Currumbin yesterday morning. Tweed Heads Hospital would not accept the man and he was taken by ambulance to Gold Coast Hospital where he died, according to a Queensland Health spokesman. "He went into cardiac arrest soon after he arrived at Gold Coast and died in the emergency department," the spokesman said.

A NSW Health spokesman confirmed the Tweed Heads Hospital was on "bypass" but said the manager was unaware of an ambulance being turned away with an emergency patient on board. A Queensland Ambulance Service spokeswoman said ambulance officers contacted the Tweed Heads hospital twice but were turned away. "We were advised that the hospital was on redirect and unable to accept the patient," she said.

Several regional hospitals were turning away ambulances yesterday, including Gold Coast, Logan, Pindara, John Flynn, Allamanda, Tweed Heads and Murwillumbah. "The (Queensland) Government has been putting its head in the sand for far too long over the bypass situation," one ambulance officer said.

A Gold Coast Hospital spokeswoman said the hospital had been on bypass or "redirect" between 1pm and 3.30pm yesterday. She said the winter flu season was adding to pressure on hospitals.


A deadbeat State health system in Tasmania

THE giant $1.3-billion Health Department has delayed paying its bills, including $69 owed to a Burnie couple struggling to survive on disability pensions. Tom Browne said he had $40 to last him the next two weeks and could not believe the department had not paid him the refund for driving his son to Hobart to see a neurosurgeon. "It just peeves me off, they don't look out for the little people anymore," he said. "To me it's a lot of money and I need the money more than they do."

Health Minister Lara Giddings revealed yesterday that her department had delayed the payment of bills because of the "tight financial problems we are in". "We do need every dollar we can get," she said. "Firm control is indeed needed to ensure that we remain within our budget. "We must all live within our budgets."

Mr Browne said he had been out of pocket for a month, having spent $80 on petrol to drive his adult son to Hobart and back. The $69 refund appeared in his bank account yesterday afternoon, hours after a question about its whereabouts from Tasmanian Greens leader Peg Putt to State Parliament. Ms Putt welcomed the payment, which she said had come after she embarrassed the Government about its "extraordinary penny-pinching".

She said three weeks after the Brownes had applied for their public transport refund, a public servant had told them about a memo circulating. She said it read: "Due to budget restraints and the end of the financial year, we are currently holding payments past the due dates."

Department deputy secretary at shared services Simon Barnsley said at June 21, Tasmania's three public hospitals owed $10.7 million to creditors. He said since then $4.7 million worth of accounts had been paid to meet all accounts outstanding more than 30 days. He said payments would continue through until June 30, in line with "standard cash management practice". "At the Royal Hobart Hospital the outstanding amount was $4.7 million -- or 1.8 per cent of budget," he said. "$3.1 million was owed at the Launceston General Hospital, or 2.2 per cent of budget -- and at the North West Regional the total outstanding was $2 million or two per cent of budget."

Ms Giddings said the department did not have a "bottomless pit" of money to tap into and there were no extra funds available. "We have to live within our budgets, and it is a problem," she said.


The latest racket: An attack on free speech in the name of "privacy"

CONFIRMING the theory that nature abhors a vacuum, the NSW Law Reform Commission has declared its support for a new avenue of litigation over breach of privacy. If accepted, the commission's recommendations could deny the right to publish a whole range of information now considered part of ordinary community dialogue.

The commission was set the task of evaluating whether a tort of privacy should exist in response to an adventurous ruling by a County Court judge in Victoria. The result follows the commission's similarly flawed attempt to impose limits on taking photographs in public places that, if adopted, would have rendered photojournalism all but impossible and was rejected out of hand. The latest proposal has been put forward for community discussion.

In doing so, the commission correctly observes that formulation of a comprehensive and meaningful definition of privacy has eluded legislatures and commentators for centuries. Statutory attempts had been either so vague as to be meaningless or so circumscribed as to be arbitrary. The commission also noted that like all rights and freedoms, privacy is not absolute, but must be balanced against other interests, values and human rights in the context of the merits of each case. But it nonetheless advanced for discussion a system based on the Canadian model, which includes a breach of privacy for disclosing embarrassing facts or using a person's name, identity, likeness or voice without authority or consent.

The commission went so far as to suggest that privacy be given over material that was already on the public record and that aggrieved parties should be allowed to share in the profits of offending publications.

The Australian believes there are good reasons why attempts to legally define privacy have proved historically troublesome. We believe consideration of issues such as the introduction of a tort of privacy to be beyond the scope of the Law Reform Commission. At worst it represents an attempt by lawyers to profit at the expense of free speech, putting a nebulous right to privacy ahead of the right to know.


Hezbollah is a voice ofextremism, murder and hate

By Geoffrey Zygier, Executive director, Executive Council of Australian Jewry Inc

The Australian Jewish community can accept political debate about the rights and wrongs of the Middle East conflict. We understand the emotions it arouses and we look forward to a just and peaceful resolution that takes the interests of all affected parties into account. However, we cannot accept the recent statements by Keysar Trad and Sheik Mousselmani in support of Hezbollah.

It is well known that Hezbollah is committed to Israel's destruction. As its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah has stated: ``I am against any reconciliation with Israel. I do not even recognise the presence of a state that is called Israel.''

But of even greater concern is Hezbollah's blatant hatred of Jews. In 2002, the Lebanese press quoted Nasrallah as saying, ``if (Jews) all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide''. Some years later, Lebanese author and expert on Hezbollah Amal Saad-Ghorayeb quoted Nasrallah as saying, ``If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, I do not say the Israeli.''

Hezbollah is a voice of extremism, murder and hate. It does not ask for a two-state solution or for justice but stridently calls for genocide. By endorsing Hezbollah this is what Trad and Mousselmani are effectively supporting. While this has global implications, it also endangers local community harmony. We ask all Australians of goodwill, including the leaders of the Australian Muslim community, to reject this stance in the strongest possible terms.


Friday, June 29, 2007


Say deranged Australian "human rights" bureaucrats

The NSW Law Reform Commission and the NSW Government have shirked their responsibility to recommend the inclusion of people who are blind or deaf on NSW juries, Human Rights Commissioner and Commissioner responsible for Disability Discrimination, Graeme Innes AM, said today.

Presenting the annual Sir Ninian Stephen Lecture at the University of Newcastle, Mr Innes told law students that despite the fact the Law Reform Commission was asked in 2002 to address the exclusion of people who are blind or deaf from serving on NSW juries, they have left this to gather dust. "I call on both the NSW Government and the NSW Law Reform Commission, as I have on a number of previous occasions, to act on this issue and to recommend and make the changes needed to allow people who are blind or deaf to be on juries," Mr Innes said. "I know many people who are blind or deaf who feel that they can never be totally accepted into our society as equals until they can fully carry out their responsibilities as citizens."

Mr Innes told the students the lack of progress regarding jury participation for people who are blind or deaf marred progress the NSW legal system had made in other areas such as accessibility for people with physical disabilities and hearing loops for people with hearing impairments.

In a far-ranging speech mixed with factual stories of ordinary people from his life as a lawyer in the former Department of Consumer Affairs, the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board and the Equal Opportunity Commission in WA, Mr Innes told students they could make a difference in virtually every area of law. "All you have to do is remember that laws and their application are really just about people in the end," Commissioner Innes said.

The Sir Ninian Stephen Lecture was established in 1993 to mark the arrival of the first group of Bachelor of Laws students at the University of Newcastle. It is an annual event which is delivered by an eminent lawyer at the start of each academic year.


Destructive neglect in the Victorian public health system

A WOMAN may lose her hands after languishing on a rehabilitation waiting list for more than three years. The nails of Fran Murphy's crippled fingers are now growing into her palms, risking infection that could see her lose her hands. The 55-year-old has been on a rehabilitation waiting list since March 2004 for an aneurism and stroke suffered in September 2003. Her fingers are now clenched immovably into fists. The nursing home resident can't talk, but daughter Renae Caulkett said she constantly cried in distress.

"It's disgraceful. If she had therapy and physio from the beginning, her hands wouldn't be like this. "Now it is just going to be more resources to have her hands fixed and traumatic surgery and recovery for her. She is crying and in pain, and it is very distressing when you can't do anything to help."

Victoria's $5.6 million Slow to Recover scheme, providing intensive rehabilitation for those with brain injuries ineligible for treatment under the TAC or WorkCover, is the only one of its kind in Australia. Ms Murphy has routine physio and speech therapy. But occupational therapist Michelle French said she desperately needed specialist treatment, though she fears it is now too late. "Her hands are so tightly fisted you can't even open them to clean them or cut the nails. Had she managed to get services earlier -- hand therapy, stretching programs, and hand splints -- her hands would not be in the condition they are now," she said. Ms Murphy is on a public hospital waiting list to have her finger tendons cut. If this doesn't provide movement, or infection occurs, she faces the prospect of amputation.

Young People in Nursing Homes National Alliance director Dr Bronwyn Morkham said 67 people were waiting for help under the scheme. The State Budget allocated an extra $12.3 million over three years, but Dr Morkham said this would not be available until 2008 and then only to those already on the list.

Community Services Minister Gavin Jennings's spokeswoman said the scheme was at full capacity (140 patients) and the Government spent more than $1 billion a year on rehabilitation. There had been extra funding for Ms Murphy's rehabilitation while she waited to enter the program. "DHS are in regular contact with her family to ensure this support is flexible enough to help address her needs," she said.


Teachers don't want to be assessed

People in business prosper or go under according to their performance but any shadow of such constraint is too much for our lordly teachers. "Just give us more money" is their message

HUNDREDS of teachers rallied in Brisbane today in protest against federal workplace laws and plans for performance-based salaries. Queensland Teachers Union (QTU) spokesman Steve Ryan said delegates to the union's annual conference were met by teachers on school holidays from across the state. About 500 teachers marched from the Brisbane Exhibition and Convention Centre to nearby South Bank for the rally.

Mr Ryan said members were angry at the Government's industrial relations laws, standardised testing of students and performance-based pay for teachers, which was outlined by Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop in April. They were also angry about what he said was underfunding of state schools and TAFE institutions, saying the issues could have a backlash in the lead-up to the federal election.

"We oppose the mixing of industrial relations policies with education," Mr Ryan said. "We will continue to campaign in the context of the federal election, through an industrial-based viewpoint and in an educational sense opposing the policies of the Federal Government." Mr Ryan said performance-based pay did not take into account the workload issues or professional responsibilities which teachers faced and were not a true reflection of what they were worth.

Ms Bishop has threatened to withhold $3 billion in commonwealth education funding if the states refuse to allow performance-pay for state school teachers from 2009. The Federal Government also wants principals to be able to hire and fire teachers, which the union says will destroy the state-based transfer teacher system.


History students may skip the most hallowed events in Australian history

HIGH school students would be able to avoid studying Gallipoli and the Anzacs under the draft Australian history curriculum prepared as a result of last year's history summit. The draft for high school history, obtained by The Australian, also overlooks the achievements of the Hawke-Keating governments and theeconomic reforms of the past 25 years.

A four-member committee that includes controversial historian Geoffrey Blainey and social commentator Gerard Henderson will now review the curriculum for the federal Government, and develop a national Australian history curriculum for Years9 and 10. The Government's refusal to release the draft curriculum has prompted speculation among historians that John Howard intervened in the process and appointed Dr Henderson to ensure his more traditional view of history teaching prevailed.

Historians questioned Dr Henderson's qualifications for the role, and said his appointment suggested the Prime Minister found the draft curriculum - written by Tony Taylor, Monash University professor and head of the National Centre for History Education - too progressive. "This group might see Professor Taylor's draft as not traditional enough and not prescriptive enough and therefore they have been put into position to force the draft into a shape that is more acceptable to the Prime Minister's office," one historian said. The vice-president of the Australian Historical Association, Martin Lyons, said Dr Henderson's inclusion on the committee was puzzling because "he has no experience for this task and his inclusion looks too much like an ideological statement". "He is there to push a certain political line," he said.

The draft curriculum was intended to provide a model for teaching Australian history in a sequential way through primary and high schools, from Years 3 to 10. For high school students, it is structured around 14 guiding questions based on 29 key dates and milestones covering 10 time periods, from the arrival of the first people in 40,000BC to 60,000BC to the late 20th century. Students would be required to study three of four pre-Federation questions, three of four post-Federation questions and two of six questions covering the entire period.

Of the four post-Federation questions, only one deals with Australia going to war and the nation's experience, leaving it open for teachers and students to choose the other three questions dealing with how Australia became a nation, who could be an Australian and the role governments play in improving the welfare of the people.

In the milestone events identified in the curriculum, the period entitled "Shaping Modern Australia" from 1967 to present names the constitutional referendum on Aborigines and the end of the White Australia policy; the protests against the Vietnam War in 1970-71; the dismissal of the Labor government in 1975; the 1992 Mabo judgment; and the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Wollongong University professor of history and politics Gregory Melleuish - author of one of the background papers for the Australian History Summit - criticised the curriculum as providing a patchy view of the nation's history, particularly after World War II. Professor Melleuish said late 20th-century Australian history was presented as a series of social movements including republicanism, feminism and other rights, but was glaring in some of its omissions. "Why is the fall of the Whitlam government seen as one major event and the achievements of the Hawke-Keating governments not seen as counting for anything?" he said.

Also appointed to the review committee were ANU history fellow Nicholas Brown and the NSW school history inspector Jennifer Lawless. But NSW Education Minister John Della Bosca on Monday refused to allow Ms Lawless to participate further in the process. Mr Della Bosca questioned the suitability of Dr Henderson's appointment to the reference group, saying he was not a professional historian.

But Dr Henderson yesterday defended his inclusion, saying he had a PhD in political history and his "extensive list of publications" included two well-reviewed history books. "Della Bosca seems to hold the view that only tenured academics on taxpayer-subsidised campuses are entitled to be regarded as historians," he writes in The Australian today.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Having opinions about race is not the same as racism

The article below is a typical rant about racism from a Left-leaning Australian newspaper. Typically, it makes no distinction between opinions about race and racism. To do so would deprive the author of much of the warm inner glow of righteousness she got from writing it. But, as any psychologist can tell you, attitudes are not the same as behaviour and it has been known since the 1930s that, in this field particularly, attitudes and behaviour are often very different. My favourite example of the disjunction is a neo-Nazi I once knew who was great friends with a very dark-skinned Bengali. I also once knew a very kind man who spoke very ill of Asians but who was in fact happily married to one.

We all have opinions about groups of people. What do most men think about busty women, for instance? And what do women think about tall men? There is rarely indifference in either case. So there is nothing wrong about opinions of racial or ethnic groups either. It is only when people are ill-treated solely because of their race that there is cause for concern and the label "racism" is justified.

The article below mentions the multifarious prejudices that the English typically have -- class prejudices and regional prejudices particularly. They even mock redheads! As an Australian who has spent some time in England, I have myself experienced the mocking comments that the English sometimes direct at Australians. I just directed a few mocking comments back which were received with perfect good humour and which moved the conversation onto a perfectly amicable level.

People will always be mocked by someone for something and it is about time everyone grew up enough to handle it. So let us hear from the self-righteous one:

I was at a smart party with a bunch of people I hadn't seen for years. Suddenly there was a yelp at my elbow. Fabulous Miss C, tanned to the gills, absolutely cured. She'd also done something to her face. "I hear you're living out at Springvale now. P told me. She said there aren't any dogs out there, because the chinks have eaten them all." And off she went into a squealing peal of laughter. It's a long time since I heard someone say "chinks" and make a joke like that. I told her that what she said was ridiculous, that of course there are dogs in Springvale, hundreds of them. I should have also told her she was revoltingly racist, that talk like that is not acceptable. But I did not.

A friend was dining at the home of "aristocrats" when the hostess rattled her jewels and complained about all the new immigrants from Africa, crowing that they should "send them back up the trees". The company laughed indulgently - such a rabid old eccentric. One simply could not take her seriously. No one told her off.

Racism is a disease found among people of all incomes, education levels and ethnic types. Even within the same ethnic type: in London Australians are patronised, treated as "dumb colonials" with the wrong accent. A German friend lived there for many years and waited for the inevitable swipe at every dinner party. "It was relentless," she told me. "Germans are seen as humourless, efficient manufacturers of precision instruments. We are disliked but we are taken seriously. Australians are not taken seriously. My only defence was to get ahead of them, tell a joke against Germans before they got theirs in."

I was warned a guest I had from the Balkans was sure to be a "broken and scarred person". When I suggested that such stereotyping was racist the response was angry. How dare I accuse them. My years working in the Jewish community have elicited "concern" from some. "Do they - uh - pay you properly?" When I return a quiet, withering gaze they too get angry: "Oh for God's sake! I just wanted to make sure you were alright!"

More here

Perhaps two small examples of mocking the English back might help someone. The first is of my own devising and the second I owe to the inimitable Barry Humphries. The two examples spring from derogatory comments about Australian wine and comments about Australian male friendships being suppressed homosexuality. The two comments I make on such occasions are:

"Australians are much like the French. They make a small amount of good wine and a lot of rough wine. And the stuff that is too rough even for them they sell to the English"

"That's just a rumour put out by Australia House to attract all the English immigrants"

I have always found that both comments get a "Touche!" response.

Compassion keeping Australian blacks dirt poor

TREASURY Secretary Ken Henry says decades of misguided government policy encouraging passive welfare has consigned many Australians - particularly Aborigines - "to a life of economic and social exclusion". Dr Henry, one of the nation's top bureaucrats, said governments had been motivated by compassion but the welfare system had discouraged recipients from seeking work that could lift them out of poverty. One solution would be to create a system that encouraged people to leave home to find work if there were no opportunities in their community.

Speaking in Cairns at indigenous leader Noel Pearson's Cape York Institute, Dr Henry said decades of "passive welfare provision" had delivered dependency on the system, eroding people's capability to work and undermining indigenous development. Dr Henry said a couple with three young children could access about $36,500 a year in income support payments and family tax benefit without working. "That fact affects workforce participation decisions all around Australia, in all sorts of communities," he told the conference, co-sponsored by The Australian. "The level of income support can discourage people from entering the workforce. The higher the base income support payment, the less likely it is thata person will enter or re-enter work after they become unemployed.

"Governments have also allowed many income recipients to receive support without being required to seek work. "For instance, in the past, many indigenous Australians were granted remote area exemptions, people with disabilities could avoid work obligations unless they were assessed as being able to work for 30 hours a week at award wages for two years, and parents didn't have to seek work until their youngest child was aged 16. "Governments that designed these policies were no doubt motivated by compassion. In practice, they were consigning many Australians to a life of economic and social exclusion."

Dr Henry added that passive welfare had done little to encourage people, particularly young people, to embrace education. Achieving better results, he said, meant ensuring Australia had a welfare system that rewarded work and study above a life of "passivity and dependence". He promoted the notion that, if work was not available in a remote community, people should have the capacity to get out and look for employment.

"Where remote locations simply cannot produce sufficient job opportunities for local people, there is no point in relying on miracles," Dr Henry told the conference, called to debate social norms in indigenous communities. "A better strategy is to ensure that people have the opportunity to move to take up work if that is what they want to do. Noel (Pearson) talks about orbits - where people spend part of the year earning income in other places, returning to live part of the year on country. This seems a sensible model to me."

Kevin Rudd also endorsed the need for welfare reform. He told Mr Pearson, director of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership, that if Labor were elected to government he would provide funding of at least $15million to ensure the reform process was implemented in Cape York communities. He said the model would be evaluated and, if successful, implemented in other communities in Australia.

Mr Rudd said an important part of the Pearson reform plan was ensuring indigenous children attended school. This involved establishing a Family Responsibilities Commission, whose membership included local community elders and had the power to warn parents who were not sending their children to school. If that warning was ignored, it could "redirect" welfare payments to the person who was actually caring for the children.


Why governments are flailing at the air in thinking they can cure the problems of Aborigines

Not so long ago, Australian governments did ban anyone anywhere from selling alcohol to Aborigines but that would be "racism" today

DANNY Banjo is the face of the modern fringe-dweller on Cape York. He has been drinking since he was 10, moved to Mareeba where it is easier to get hard liquor, and is part of a migration from indigenous communities to the outskirts of towns and cities across the north. "Whatever town I go to, the grog is killing them. It is taking away lives, and it will take my life away too," said the 69-year-old of the Ang-gnarra people on Cape York.

The elder is well spoken, blunt and to the point. He thinks the Prime Minister's plan to enforce a grog ban in the Northern Territory will only do what alcohol management plans have done on Cape York - shift the problem elsewhere. "Here it is easier to get a drink. I drink anything they make in a bottle, rum, beer, wine - you name it, I drink it. "They are trying the grog ban up the Cape. But wherever you go along the highway you can find a pub. Many of the hard drinkers come down here and live on the river or in squats."

Danny is among the exodus of dedicated drinkers flowing out of strictly-controlled Aboriginal communities and into towns such as Mareeba, Cooktown and Cairns. They follow the "river of grog". And local authorities are fed up. "Police came down to the camps on the river and kicked everybody out," Danny told The Courier-Mail in the main street of Mareeba yesterday. "I went to a rehab centre, I have been to plenty of rehab centres, but they have never done any good," he said. "All these bans and heavy-handed tactics do is just shift the problem elsewhere."


Vilification battle ends

The Muslim group must have dropped its legal claims. A previous verdict against the pastors was overturned in a higher court

MEDIATION and handshakes have ended a five-year racial-vilification battle between an evangelical Christian group and a Victorian Muslim body. Catch the Fire Ministries sparked a row with the Islamic Council of Victoria in 2002 when it claimed that Muslims were demons training to make Australia an Islamic state, that the Koran promoted violence, and that Muslims derived money from drugs. [A very biased account of what the pastors did and said. For a more extensive report, see here]

Catch the Fire pastor Daniel Nalliah said he was relieved the case, which was settled in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal after a hearing in the Victorian Court of Appeal, was over. He said the two parties resolved the matter after seven hours of mediation on Friday. "The mediation brought two communities to a closer relationship. There was a lot of goodwill and a lot of shaking of hands," he said.

Former ICV president Yasser Soliman welcomed Pastor Nalliah's comments.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Limits on free speech in Australia

I largely sympathize with the thinking below. In the usual conservative way, however, I think a balance has to be struck. I don't think there should be ABSOLUTE freedom for journalists and whistleblowers to do as they like but I think a "public benefit" defence should always be allowed to them

The past few days have seen the legal system serve up yet another vivid illustration of the depressing state of free speech in Australia. On Friday the former public servant Allan Kessing copped a nine-month suspended jail sentence for his crime of leaking reports to a newspaper about the chaotic state of security at Sydney Airport.

Yesterday two journalists joined him in the ranks of the criminal class when Chief Judge Michael Rozenes, in Victoria's County Court, ordered convictions be recorded against Melbourne Herald Sun staffers Michael Harvey and Gerard McManus, and fined them $7000 each. They were convicted of contempt of court, but their crime was doing their jobs by telling the public what was really going on, rather than feeding them the spin-doctored version of events the Government had cooked up.

Their story, published in the newspaper in 2004, embarrassed the Government, humiliated the then minister for veterans' affairs, Dana Vale, and provided another reason why the Australian media have formed a Right to Know coalition to lobby for changes to the law. The story was good journalism. It should never have ended up in court. It revealed the Government had opted to accept just five of 65 recommendations on ways to improve benefits for war veterans, thereby saving about $500 million.

What stung was that the journalists got hold of the minister's "speaking notes" which, they wrote, revealed how she would "publicly sugarcoat the Government's offer to veterans and their families". By the time the story was published, a revolt by Government members had killed off the plan. But that didn't stop the Government's pursuit of the leaker.

A public servant, Desmond Patrick Kelly, was accused. During committal proceedings the two journalists were directed to identify their sources for their story. They refused, saying they were acting in accordance with the journalists' code of ethics, which requires journalists to protect the identity of their sources in such circumstances.

More here

Verbal backdown on union power by Australia's political Left

It would be much more impressive if the backdown were enshrined in the party platform. To understand the cartoon above, you may need to know that Ms Gillard is a redhead. It is also an allusion to several recent stories about abandoned babies

JULIA Gillard has flagged keeping John Howard's tough restrictions on the right of unions to enter workplaces if Labor wins this year's election, a move likely to inflame relations with the union movement.

Federal Labor's deputy leader yesterday gave credit to the Government for limits it had placed on union access to worksites under current laws. Recognising the laws had "in some ways" balanced the rights of employers and unions, Ms Gillard said Labor did not want to jeopardise work performance or cause disruption.

The comments by Ms Gillard, the Opposition's industrial relations spokeswoman, appear aimed at quelling employer fears that Labor will give a greenlight to militants such as West Australian construction union leader Joe McDonald to enter building sites to interfere with operations. Mr McDonald, who has been threatened with expulsion from the ALP over his behaviour, faces multiple trespass charges after repeatedly entering building sites despite having had his permit revoked. The ACTU has raised strong protests about how the Government's Work Choices laws, introduced last year, have made union operations intolerable by effectively wiping out their ability to enter worksites to recruit or negotiate with employers. The Howard Government's laws require union officials to gain entry permits from the Australian Industrial Relations Commission with 24 hours' notice.

Before permits are granted, union officials must prove reasonable grounds to investigate alleged breaches of the law and must have a member on site. Unions are especially irritated that employers can determine the time and place to meet employees during work breaks. Labor's industrial policy, released by Ms Gillard in April, was silent on union right of entry, apart from declaring an important role for unions in keeping workplaces fair and that employees should be free to seek their advice.

Ever since, the Australian Industry Group and other employer bodies have feared a return to relaxed worksite entry rules under Labor, swinging the balance of power back to union bargaining.

After an address to the Melbourne Press Club yesterday, Ms Gillard said the Government's existing right of entry provisions recognised "in some ways" the balance needed between the rights of employers and the rights of unions. "When we look at the current system, obviously it's got permits, it's got limitations on entry, it's got limits that you would expect about disruption to work - obviously not having entry in a way which causes disruption to work," she said. "We would not want to see changes to the right of entry systems that jeopardise work performance. "There's obviously a balance here and current legislation recognises that balance in some ways too, but in a proper and orderly system unions need to have access to union members whilst at the same time the employers have got to be able to go about their business without undue disruptions."

AI Group industrial director Steve Smith told The Australian last night: "If Ms Gillard's comments mean that Labor would retain the existing right-of-entry provisions, we welcome that because they are fair and balanced." Mr Smith said provisions under Work Choices were similar to previous ones - but they tightened up the rules by requiring union officials to specify alleged breaches of workplace laws they wanted to investigate. Mr Smith said employers remained concerned over possible misuse of worksite access under health and safety provisions.

ACTU spokesman George Wright said last night: "People who are members of unions or want to speak to members in a workplace should be able to do so without interference or impediment, and the Government's laws in many cases don't allow that."

Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey said Ms Gillard should put a pledge on union right of entry in writing if she were serious. He also claimed Ms Gillard had committed an "embarrassing gaffe" on a par with Kevin Rudd's comments on productivity last week by wrongly alleging a government spending blow-out on industrial relations. As reported by The Australian yesterday, Ms Gillard attacked the Government for imposing a huge industrial relations bureaucracy under Work Choices, quadrupling spending and boosting staffing by 80 per cent. But Mr Hockey said the increased spending came mainly from the employment "supply" side of his portfolio: welfare-to-work and income support.

In a further reassurance to business, Ms Gillard yesterday insisted that Labor would retain all the existing coercive powers of the Australian Building and Construction Commission until 2010 at least. She said she would hold talks with employers about whether Labor's proposed replacement for the building industry watchdog after 2010 would retain the full suite of coercive powers.

Mr Rudd is leading a push to rid Labor of militant unionists, such as Mr McDonald and Electrical Trades Union secretary Dean Mighell, amid concerns that voters will not vote for a party seen tacitly to endorse union thuggery. Despite being pressured to resign from the ALP for using bad language as he bragged to workers about winning wage deals, Mr Mighell is determined he will not be forgotten. The ETU's Victorian secretary has told members his union will continue to be active with Labor, the Greens or any other minor party representing workers and their families. Mr Mighell makes it clear in a letter to members that he only resigned to "ensure that I could not be used by the Howard Government as a political pawn in this forthcoming election". "Make no mistake, if the ALP wins government, the ETU will continue to campaign without fear of favour to protect our members' interest."



Record chill blitzes Tasmania. If record hot weather anywhere proves global warming (as the newspapers and Greenies so often tell us), then the story below must surely prove global cooling. Or am I missing something?

THE spate of chilly weather is set to ice southern Tasmania's coldest June on record. Grove, just south of Hobart, has had 21 mornings in a row when the mercury plunged to 2C or below, the Bureau of Meteorology said yesterday. And the average minimum for Hobart this month has been just 3.1C -- a dramatic low compared to the usual 5.2C.

A balmy May and 20 years of mild winters made the chill more of a shock, said Ian Barnes-Keoghan, from the bureau's climate section. "It's been very dramatic," he said. "Overnight temperatures have been creeping up in the past couple of decades, so cold nights have become less common and this is a bit of a flashback."

Southern Tasmania's figures were a standout for June. "And May was so warm, the temperature didn't drop below 5C," Mr Barnes-Keoghan said. "A couple of places are on track for the coldest June on record, although the temperatures might pick up during the rest of this week."

The frost has been good for fruit-growers. Huon Valley grower and Fruit Growers Tasmania spokesman Thomas Frankcomb said apples and cherries needed the chill. "It helps the fruit buds mature so when they pop in the spring they pop evenly and with good, strong flowers," Mr Frankcomb said.


South Australian public health system in big trouble

SOUTH Australian psychiatrists have threatened to resign en masse from the state system next week, dramatically widening the public sector revolt against the Rann Government's bid to rein in costs and pay growth. Up to 50 psychiatrists are believed to be ready to quit the system on Monday if the Government does not fund 20 extra specialists to provide what their union calls a "minimum" adequate level of service and pay.

Treasurer Kevin Foley sought to rein in public sector unions last month by warning a wage breakout would tear a $190million hole in the budget if it was 1 per cent above what the Government had allowed for.

Public sector psychiatrists have now joined teachers, ambulance officers, nurses and dentists in threatening industrial action to back their demands for more financial resources than the Government is willing to commit. "This is not some idle threat, dangling out there to impress people," said Andrew Murray from the South Australian Salaried Medical Officers Association, the union representing the mental health sector. In other industrial moves:

* South Australian dentists in the public system - seeking a 35per cent pay rise over three years - took unprecedented industrial action by refusing to charge public patients gap fees.

* State schools will shut early on Thursday to allow teachers to deliver protest letters to their local MPs.

* Ambulance officers could introduce work bans today.

Mental Health Minister Gail Gago said negotiations with psychiatrists were at an "extremely sensitive stage".


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Australian films give a distorted view of life in suburbia -- chaotic images highlighted

TENTACLES of settlement began spreading out from our fledgling cities in the 1800s as families sought a place to call home away from overcrowded urban living. People had left the farm for the city; now they left the city for the suburbs. In Melbourne, C.J. Dennis celebrated an ordinary larrikin in his best-selling verse novel The Sentimental Bloke. Raymond Longford turned it into one of our earliest silent films in 1919 and it was an instant hit. In the poem's final stanza, the Bloke sits in perfect contentment with wife Doreen and baby on the front porch of his suburban cottage, listening to the birds.

A detached house on a garden block was home for most people, rich, poor and otherwise, although it may not have been a way of life that lent cultural richness. In the first half of the 1900s, Australia was all about football, baked dinners and stultifying convention; at least that's how it seemed to our cultural monitors. Patrick White despised it, as did Barry Humphries, but many writers, such as Christina Stead, evoked their suburban childhoods beautifully, often in memoirs written after they'd left the country.

Sumner Locke Elliott, who was born in 1917 in Sydney, wrote Careful He Might Hear You about his youth, spent between warring aunts in working-class Carlton and ritzy Vaucluse. He left for the US in 1948 after years of an "anguished life as a covert homosexual".

Brisbane suburbia is immortalised in Johnno, David Malouf's memoir of his adolescence and early adulthood in the '40s and '50s, as it is in Over the Top with Jim (the biggest selling Australian childhood memoir), Hugh Lunn's tales about growing up in a Queenslander in Annerley Junction during the same period. (Strangely, neither has made it to film.)

Robert Drewe explored the suburbs of Perth and Sydney with his memoir The Shark Net and acerbic collection of short stories The Bodysurfers, which nailed the mores of Sydney's eastern suburbs during the '80s. (Both also became excellent television drama.)

There is little of the subtlety of these authors in films set in the suburbs. On film, it seems, we would rather deal with our demons than wallow in rosy memories. For many filmmakers, the suburbs mean cars, sport, crime, violence, westies, bogans and ethnic gangs. Some made brilliant films that were almost too convincing to stomach: The Boys and Romper Stomper. And the working class gets a bad rap, all dysfunctional families, unemployment and junkies. We did have an antidote, however, in the well-crafted, multi-layered Muriel's Wedding, Strictly Ballroom and Lantana, and, of course, the hit comedy The Castle.

Back in 1966, John O'Grady's amusing bestseller They're a Weird Mob was turned into a record-breaking film. The story of an Italian sportswriter (Walter Chiari) forced to work as a brickie's labourer pointed out with affection the foibles of Australians and the challenge of being a "New Australian". The cast included Chips Rafferty and Ed Devereaux. Clare Dunne was there, too, but a film made at the height of Australian chauvinism can't be faulted for its masculine bias.

Another striking and inflected representation of masculinity came in 1977 when Bryan Brown arrived on the scene in the short feature Love Letters from Teralba Road, about a man trying to reconcile with the wife he had bashed (an equally strong Kris McQuade). "My main aim as a director was to capture the feel of the western suburbs, which I knew well from living in Fairfield in my father's pub for five years," director Stephen Wallace said.

Don's Party, a play by David Williamson, chronicled the rise and fall of an election-night party in a middle-class house. Now Bruce Beresford's film of it wears a retro air, but in 1976 it was set in a typical home, with types familiar across the nation's aspirational suburbs talking politics and getting drunk, the sexes segregated at different ends of the house.

Donald Crombie's Caddie (1976), a story of a beautiful, tough woman battling her way through the Depression, has plenty of melodrama and soapy elements. But it's based on a true story, Caddie: The Autobiography of a Sydney Barmaid by Catherine Elliot-Mackay. It shows us what life was like for a woman forced out of the tennis-playing upper-crust suburbs and made to earn her living in rough pubs, where a few centimetres off the hem of her skirt earned enough in tips to feed her children.

In the '80s, some definitive suburban stories were produced. Puberty Blues (1981) revealed the dirty secret of life as a surfie girl in the masculine, insular world of Sydney's Cronulla beach. Even better, the two heroines leave it behind at the end of the film.

Wendy Hughes and Robyn Nevin played the duelling aunts in Careful He Might Hear You, Carl Schultz's wildly successful adaptation of Elliott's book, which swept the AFIs in 1983. Then came Bliss, adapted from Peter Carey's story of midlife crisis and directed by Ray Lawrence, about a man (Barry Otto) who dies and wakes up in a hellish world. Set in middle-class suburbia and hippiedom -- then the middle class's favourite escape hatch -- it succeeded perhaps because Carey and Lawrence worked in advertising and knew their target audience inside out.

On the other side of the country in Perth, Glenda Hambly's Fran was the story of a young mother trapped in poverty and the paucity of spirit in a housing commission estate, and her desire to have a good time. Noni Hazlehurst, who later was a real-life suburban idol in Play School and Better Homes and Gardens, won an AFI award for her role.

Jocelyn Moorhouse's Proof, with Hugo Weaving, Genevieve Picot and a baby-faced Russell Crowe, is a sharp-edged story about trust. Weaving plays a blind man who habitually takes photographs of his surroundings, then doublechecks that they match what he has been told. Proof, with its lonely parks and drive-ins, is one of our most penetrating stories of suburbia. Set in Melbourne, Death in Brunswick had Sam Neill, Zoe Carides and John Clarke in blue singlet as working-class buffoons. Then the Paris of the south took on a harder edge in Metal Skin (1994), all cars, murder and madness under rainy grey skies, and 1998's Head On, Ana Kokkinos's unsettling film with Alex Dimitriades as a speed-fuelled gay Greek boy in search of his identity.

Good or bad, suburban stories will continue to be made. Recently Last Train to Freo and Suburban Mayhem have continued the violent, confronting vein of drama, but Kenny gave a softer view. However, the blokiness is persistent: Bra Boys, Mall Boys, Wog Boys, even My Mother Frank. Another chronicler of suburbia will come along to illustrate the complexities of life in the 'burbs and capture the imagination of a nation. Meanwhile, the Kerrigan family and the Sentimental Bloke are enjoying the serenity.


Left-leaning public broadcaster hosts antisemitic comments

Hoist with their own petard

THE ABC's Media Watch is fighting claims of hypocrisy after its website published anti-Semitic comments mocking the Holocaust and claiming a Jewish conspiracy. The comments were published a day after the taxpayer-funded media watchdog accused news outlets including The Daily Telegraph of publishing racist reader comments on their websites. In a major embarrassment, the program is accused of the same conduct and faces attack from Jewish leaders and federal Labor MP Michael Danby after its viewers suggested "Zionist groups" had taken over the ABC.

"ABC is starting to show a disproportionate number of Jews in the places of power in the ABC," one viewer said on the Media Watch website. "The only understanding I can make is that Media Watch carries the torch for Globalism and maybe even Zionist groups as they are known to push Hate Speech laws so they can't be questioned themselves in crime." Media Watch also willingly published comments by another viewer slamming media outlets for the "vilification of Muslims" and claiming Islamic Australians were being treated in the same way as the Jews in Nazi Germany. "The Muslims are used as scapegoats domestically, and internationally to defend the crime of the war in Iraq. They serve the same purpose as the Jews of Hitler's Third Reich," the post said.

The comments were posted the day after the show took aim at The Daily Telegraph by gathering a tiny sample of racist reader comments, posted over an extended period, and holding them up as indicative of the site's content.

Melbourne MP Michael Danby has written to ABC managing director Mark Scott calling for Media Watch executive producer Tim Palmer to be stood down for the "appalling" incident. "I feel compelled to write this letter to you because I believe Media Watch, the centerpiece of what should be the ABC's weathervane of engagement with the media, including critics of the ABC, is now spearheaded by an individual who has a record of aggressive belligerence to criticism," he wrote. "Mr Palmer, as executive producer of Media Watch is ultimately responsible for the content of (its) website."

The comments also sparked outrage from NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff, who demanded an explanation from the national public broadcaster. "Reasoned debate has a legitimate place in a democratic society. However, freedom of speech comes with responsibilities," he said. "An openly racist statement has no place on a public broadcaster's website - unless it is there to expose racism."

When asked about the racist comments, Mr Palmer told The Daily Telegraph: "You're easily shocked." While admitting the comments were inappropriate, he said Media Watch was "caught by surprise by the sheer volume" of emails to the site last week. Mr Palmer claimed the posts remained on the website for a "few minutes" before being taken down.


"No resources" to investigate corrupt police in South Australia

THE Police Complaints Authority and State Ombudsman do not have the resources to investigate corruption, it has emerged. Former Ombudsman Eugene Biganovsky and PCA head Tony Wainwright have confirmed any allegations of official corruption, including against police, have to be investigated by SA Police.

The comments by Mr Wainwright and Mr Biganovsky follow calls by Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Pallaras, QC, and former Auditor-General Ken MacPherson for an independent anti-corruption commission, similar to those operating interstate. The State Government repeatedly has ruled out setting up an anti-corruption agency, arguing the Police Complaints Authority and SA Police Anti-Corruption Branch were capable of performing the task.

Mr Biganovsky, who retired last Friday after 22 years investigating complaints against the SA public sector, said his office did not have the capacity to investigate systemic corruption in the public sector or local government. "We're all limited on what we can do," he said. "It comes to a question of time, resources and expertise." Mr Wainwright yesterday also told The Advertiser his office did not have the staffing or expertise to investigate serious corruption allegations against police officers.

Its main role was to oversee investigations by police into public complaints against officers, not conduct inquiries. "We direct investigations (against individual police officers), oversee them and assess their results," he said. "We do not have an investigative function as such. "Our main role is to oversee the investigations conducted by police into complaints received by this office."

Mr Biganovsky said he asked Mr Wainwright last year if he could officially oversee the authority's operations but the request was declined on jurisdictional grounds. "Legally, the Ombudsman has no power to oversee the Police Complaints Authority but oversees other agencies such as the Consumer Affairs Commissioner, Equal Rights Commissioner and Health Complaints Commissioner," he said. "It is a political question about whether State Parliament wants to modify the legislation to allow the Ombudsman to look at the practices and procedures of the Police Complaints Authority to ensure they are conducted fairly, efficiently and quickly."

Mr Biganvosky said the legislation controlling the Police Complaints Authority - which, by law, must conduct all of its operations in secret - was introduced in the mid-1980s and could be reviewed to "see if it is doing all the things it was intended to do."


Crippled by paradigm paralysis

The media and governments get the terror threat. Too bad our academics and think tanks don't, writes foreign editor Greg Sheridan

THE arrest by Indonesian authorities of Jemaah Islamiah terrorists Zarkasih and Abu Dujana is of the greatest importance for Australia. It is a stunning achievement by the Indonesian police. If anyone ever doubted the benefit to us of having a competent, moderate government in Jakarta led by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, they should doubt it no longer.

Al-Qa'ida is enjoying success in the Middle East but it is suffering real setbacks in Southeast Asia, substantially because of the Indonesian Government, which has arrested 200 terrorists and put many of them through open, credible trials.

Zarkasih was the emir of JI, its overall leader and in particular its spiritual leader, a position formerly held by Abu Bakar Bashir. Dujana was the head of military operations.

These arrests grew out of intelligence gleaned in arrests in March, which also yielded a huge cache of explosives. Now Zarkasih and Dujana will yield their own intelligence treasures. JI is still a formidable threat. It still has a core membership of 1000, with many more sympathisers. Its mainstream group has reportedly decided to abandon attacks on Westerners for the moment and concentrate on recruitment, indoctrination, exacerbating ethnic and religious conflict within Indonesia and preparing for future military conflict.

Its radical splinter, led by Noordin Top, is believed still to support anti-Western bombings. No one knows for sure where Top is, but he is believed to be somewhere in Java, while another key JI figure, Dulmartin, is likely to be still hiding in the southern Philippines. The Indonesian President, his Vice-President Jusuf Kalla, former president Gus Dur and leaders of mainstream Muslim organisations have all made statements welcoming the arrests.

This is central to Indonesia's success in the war on terror. The civil society is aligned against Islamist terrorism and is therefore able to deny it the social space it paradoxically finds in the failing dictatorships of the Middle East.

Indonesia's success in the war on terror is thus a direct security dividend from its democratisation nearly a decade ago.

However, these arrests in one perverse way indicate a specific failure by Australia. The Australian media's response to them was dominated by three international researchers: Sidney Jones of the International Crisis Group, Rohan Gunaratna, an academic based in Singapore, and US academic Zachary Abuza.

Doesn't it strike you as bizarre that there is not a single Australian researcher on Southeast Asian terrorism of international repute? This represents a profoundly important institutional failure by two groups: the first, our universities; the second, our strategic class. Six years after 9/11 and five years after the Bali bombings, there is hardly a single Australian academic working full time on Southeast Asian terrorism. Universities are funded to the tune of billions of dollars, but much of what they have come up with in terrorism research is rubbish. Much of it is postmodern theoretical nonsense about how the discourse of terrorism "demonises the other". Little of it involves traipsing around the jungles of Java or Mindanao, or the region's prisons, interviewing terrorists.

Similarly, we have two main international relations think tanks, the government-funded Australian Strategic Policy Institute, and the privately funded Lowy Institute. Both do good work and we are a better country for having them. But neither has had a single person devoted full time to studying Southeast Asian Islamist terrorism.

Both the universities and the think tanks have produced some good work on terrorism. This has been done mainly by area experts, whether Indonesianists or scholars focusing on the Middle East or whatever, analysing terrorists as part of the societies they study. This is valuable. But surely Southeast Asian Islamist extremism deserves at least a few bodies actually working on it full time. If I were founding a think tank today I'd hire the best Southeast Asianists around and tell them to work 28 hours a day on this subject and dominate the Australian debate. The media is thirsty for such expertise. So is the public. So for that matter is the Government (although of course our intelligence agencies devote vast resources to the subject).

The universities have failed in part because of their postmodern and left-liberal bias, which says that the West must be the author of all sins, and therefore they don't study terrorists in their own terms. The strategic community has failed because of its continued paradigm paralysis, its chronic inability to regard terrorism as a serious strategic issue. The platonic ideal of this outlook is represented by the Australian National University's Hugh White, who declared in the June 6 issue of The Australian Literary Review that terrorism is not a threat to the international system.

He also declared, mystifyingly, that I am "confident that traditional state to state conflict is a thing of the past". As I have never uttered or written anything remotely alleging that, and it is certainly not a view I hold, this is a bit strange. I do on the other hand believe that terrorism can threaten the international system, as can state to state conflict. Where old-fashioned strategic analysts such as White are so anachronistic is in their failure to see the complexity of the interaction of these two dynamics.

Paul O'Sullivan, the head of ASIO, pointed out in a speech yesterday that al-Qa'ida does precisely want to revolutionise the international system. Apart from the question of al-Qa'ida obtaining weapons of mass destruction, O'Sullivan pointed out: "The argument that the threat from terrorism is exaggerated also ignores the dangers terrorist networks pose to vulnerable or failing states. Transnational Islamic terrorists don't require WMD to challenge the authority and legitimacy of such states, exploit their weak spots or quietly rebuild capacity under the radar."

Governments in Jakarta and Canberra and, paradoxically, the media, have to deal with the world as it is, and therefore accord terrorism the attention it deserves. Universities and think tanks can take comfort in the chummy common room embrace of dead paradigms. But, in doing so, they offer sub-optimal service to their nation.


Monday, June 25, 2007

These are the types that Labor party policy will put back in charge of Australian workplaces

OPPOSITION Leader Kevin Rudd has been embarrassed by accusations from a major union that the US is a terrorist state - and the emergence of another video allegedly showing CFMEU thugs threatening employers. As Mr Rudd struggles to distance himself from the unions, it has been revealed that the powerful Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union has openly condemned the US for sponsoring terrorism. The union provides millions of dollars to the Labor Party in campaign funding.

News of its attack on the US comes as Mr Rudd has been at pains to emphasise his commitment to the ANZUS alliance, after former Labor leader Mark Latham condemned George W. Bush as the "most incompetent and dangerous President in living memory''.

On its website, the CFMEU is promoting a campaign for the release of the so-called "Cuban Five'', offering T-shirts emblazoned with the demand "Stop US Terrorism''. According to websites on the issue, the US arrested the Cuban Five in Florida in 1998, alleging they were spies in a group called the Wasp Network. Charges included use of false identification, espionage and conspiracy to commit murder. The five were convicted on all 26 counts by a US Federal Court and jailed in December for terms of between 15 years and life. An appeal is pending.

A spokesman for Mr Rudd refused to comment on the CFMEU website, saying it was a matter for the union to explain its position. At the same time, another video tape has emerged of a CFMEU official in Perth allegedly trespassing on a construction site and threatening employers who try to evict him. It follows a similar video of West Australian CFMEU official Joe McDonald screaming obscenities at employers on the same site.

Mr Rudd is moving to expel Mr McDonald from the ALP but he is refusing to go quietly, demanding a chance to put his case to the ALP's National Executive. The latest tape involves an alleged altercation between a manager from the Q-Con company and two union officials at a Perth site during a union inspection on April 27, shortly after workers rallied to highlight safety concerns at the site. The tape shows pushing and shoving between the parties, amidst warnings from the employers that the union officials are illegally on the premises. The tape also shows police being called to end the impasse.

Mr Rudd said he understood the tape was at the centre of an ongoing police investigation. "I have made my position clear on the matter of workplace violence,'' Mr Rudd said. "We have drawn a line in the sand. I have a policy of zero tolerance when it comes to violence, threats of violence and unlawful behaviour in the workplace.''


Australian health bosses adopting British-style dirty tricks to "fiddle" their statistics

HEALTH chiefs have been accused of using "sneaky tactics" to reduce surgery waiting times at Queensland hospitals. Thousands of patients waiting for operations are getting letters from Queensland Health asking them if they still need treatment. If they fail to reply within 30 days, they are automatically taken off the list and forced to return to their GP.

The Sunday Mail can reveal there are about 32,000 Category 2 and 3 patients who currently qualify for a letter from the department. Usually about one person in four fails to respond.

Hospital staff are outraged that as many as 8000 patients could drop off the list, perhaps without realising. They spoke out after Health Minister Stephen Robertson recently boasted how his measures to reduce surgery waits were working. One doctor, who couldn't be named because of a Queensland Health ban on staff speaking out, said it was a dirty trick to play. "It's just more sneaky tactics by the Government to make the waiting times look better", he said. "There is the risk that people could move house or be on holiday and not receive the letter. They could have their letters lost in the post, and others could just forget about replying altogether."

Ross Cartmill, Queensland president of the Australian Medical Association, said it was wrong not to publicly announce the letters were being sent. "I can understand them wanting to cleanse the waiting list by finding out who still needs treatment, but they should be using the media to tell people about it." The letters are sent out to Category 2 patients needing an operation within 90 days, and Category 3, who require surgery within a year. Managers say the letters are sent out to "ensure the highest standard of service to our patients". Patients who fail to specify they still need an operation are sent a follow-up letter. It states: "If you require further treatment for your condition, we urge you to contact your general practitioner."

There are 35,583 patients on the waiting list for operations across the state. More than 10,000 of these are waiting longer than is clinically safe with almost 200 classified as needing urgent treatment within 30 days. Health bosses refused to reveal how many people have failed to respond. Spokeswoman Carolyn Varley said: "We don't collate that." But sources told The Sunday Mail about a quarter of patients do not reply.

A second Queensland Health spokesman said the figure was not "accurate", but was unable to say what the figure was: "This process is not done to reduce waiting lists, but to ensure they are accurate and that resources can be utilised efficiently." Opposition health spokesman John-Paul Langbroek said it would be more ef- ficient and cheaper to phone patients. "This is just an underhand way to try to reduce waiting lists and it's not fair on patients," he said.


Greenie politics of empty gesture from the Australian Left

Comment by Christopher Pearson

KEVIN Rudd calls climate change "the great moral challenge of our times". His guru, German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, certainly wouldn't have agreed, given his old-fashioned preoccupations with abortion and eugenics. But it's the kind of rhetorical flourish that probably tells us all there is to know about the Opposition Leader's moral compass. As he sees it, a hypothetical threat - which has got a lot of people vaguely worried about something that may well never materialise - trumps poverty and preventable disease in the developing world, international peacekeeping initiatives and winning the long war against terrorism.

If Rudd wants to paint himself as a moral crusader, with curbing greenhouse gas as his great cause, he should at least be prepared to demonstrate that he means business. So far all the Opposition has had to offer is gesture politics and desperate attempts to shirk debating the economic and social costs of bizarre prescriptions advanced by various climate change fanatics, including Labor's environment spokesman Peter Garrett.

Labor holds it as an article of faith that there can be no serious response to climate change unless and until Australia ratifies the Kyoto Protocol. That is the beginning and the end of what the Australian Labor Party is pleased to call its comprehensive approach to climate change. It's no more than a shibboleth, as group-defining as a Masonic handshake and almost as much of an anachronism.

Ratifying the Kyoto Protocol is a hand-me-down policy bequeathed to Rudd by Kim Beazley and to Beazley by Simon Crean before him. As a policy, it is intellectually threadbare because most of what it has delivered is the illusion of making a difference rather than the reality. For people looking for some sort of insurance against the risks climate change is said to pose, the debate moved beyond Kyoto years ago. Australian diplomatic initiatives culminating in the foreshadowed Sydney Declaration at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum summit, and bringing the Group of Eight nations into post-Kyoto undertakings, are much more pragmatic, but Labor has tended to trivialise them because it didn't think of them first.

The existing Kyoto targets cover barely one-third of global emissions. The agreement does not cover the US, India or China, leading emitters now and for the foreseeable future. Even in the most unlikely event that all the signatories to Kyoto meet their targets, emissions are set to rise 41 per cent in 2010. Without Kyoto, the increase would be 42 per cent. It's a case of much ado about not much.

China and India are perfectly reasonable in seeing economic development as their main priority if they are to lift many hundreds of millions more of their people out of poverty. They simply won't sign up for emissions targets that shackle their capacity for growth, notwithstanding the moral hectoring of affluent advanced economies, which historically were the main emitters. India and China sought and won exemptions that they are unlikely readily to surrender.

As for the chief proponents of the protocol, most have proved unable to meet their Kyoto aspirations. From the outset it has been obvious to all but the zealots that the Kyoto system was designed by Europeans, adopting European prescriptions that suited European interests, with precious little regard for highly fossil-fuel-reliant economies such as Australia's. Yet even in the countries where the protocol is defended most fervently, performance on carbon emission cuts is abysmal.

As the latest report of the European Union Environment Agency makes clear, the 15 EU economies of western Europe taken together have succeeded in achieving only a 1.5 per cent reduction in emissions since the 1990s, against a Kyoto target of 8 per cent. It is only when you count the eastern Europeans, whose decrepit smokestack industries crumbled after the collapse of the Soviet empire, that the EU begins to get close to meeting its commitments.

Were Rudd's Labor as serious as it claims to be about climate change, there is another crucial policy it would have to reconsider. Of those countries in western Europe that have achieved significant emission reductions, almost all have nuclear power generation or access to nuclear-powered electricity grids. For example, Sweden gets 46 per cent of its electricity supply from nuclear power, Belgium 54 per cent, Finland 28 per cent, Germany 27 per cent, Britain 15 per cent and France a hefty 78 per cent.

The ALP remains obsessed with a shambolic and unworkable Kyoto system. Yet at the same time, as John Howard never tires of pointing out, it remains an unwavering ideological opponent of the one energy source capable of providing an alternative baseload electricity supply with negligible carbon emissions. This is less of a climate change policy than a climate change posture.

For all I know, at heart Rudd may be as sceptical about greenhouse gas-induced global warming as Michael Costa, the Labor Treasurer of NSW, who openly dismisses it as a bad joke. But no matter what the Opposition Leader thinks, caucus would insist on ratifying the Kyoto Protocol if he wins the election. Julia Gillard and Greg Combet, to name but two, are feudal chieftains who just wouldn't take no for an answer.

As the last rounds of preselections are finalised, a clearer picture is emerging of what a Rudd government would look like. A lot more union officials will be entering parliament and demanding frontbench positions at the expense of younger and more politically savvy people who presently occupy them, especially the women. It would not be a ministry of all the talents, comparable with the first Hawke cabinet.

It's unlikely that many would aspire to be change-managers with a commitment to economic reform, like the best of the class of 1983. Nor are they technocrats in Tony Blair's New Labour mould. The main emphasis would be on re-entrenching the union movement's anachronistic privileges as far as possible and otherwise playing it safe and keeping faith with party pieties. The mind-set that gave us the no-new-mines policy on uranium and steadfastly resisted the sale of Telstra for the past 11 years on some elusive principle, after selling off far more strategic assets in public ownership, would be much in evidence. In so far as we can judge from its platform, it would be a government that seldom allowed the high cost of implementing bad policy to deter it from doing so.

As most readers will know, I am a greenhouse sceptic and bitterly regret that the Howard Government didn't use the advantages of incumbency to stimulate a far better informed debate on climate change than we have seen so far. I have repeatedly urged the Prime Minister to sack or move sideways the string of environment ministers who so often became the hopeless captives of their advisers, only to see the Government en masse follow suit.

Watching the federal Government poised to spend billions of dollars on a notional problem when there's no shortage of real problems that need fixing, is wormwood and gall to me. The only crumb of comfort is that some of the projects funded under the greenhouse rubric can be defended on other grounds. For example, coal is a dirty fuel as well as a source of carbon dioxide. Burning it, and any other type of fossil fuel, as cleanly and efficiently as possible makes sense. Again, there are other reasons Australia may choose to pay the developing world to stop deforestation apart from carbon storage, including protecting the diversity of species and the earth's supply of oxygen.

Apart from those considerations, I suppose if there's going to be any kind of government intervention on greenhouse gas emissions, it would be better to leave it to the Coalition's relatively cautious style of management rather than entrust it to green enthusiasts. It is, after all, only by virtue of a hard-nosed approach to bargaining and pleading a special case for fossil fuels in our domestic economy that Australia got an achievable Kyoto target in the first place and became one of the few countries on track to meet it. In any event, as we are reckoned to be responsible for only 1.5per cent of global emissions, our contribution to curbing them should also be commensurately modest.


School discipline problem greeted with the usual wringing of hands

And expressions of good intentions, of course. No suggestion of bringing back real punishment for misdeeds. A great lesson for kids to learn!

EDUCATION Minister David Bartlett does not support suspension and wants to reduce the use of the discipline tactic in Tasmanian schools. He said research showed long suspensions led to students becoming disconnected and dropping out of school. Last year, 2713 students were suspended, at least once, for an average three days for reasons including drugs, sex, weapons and physical attacks.

Yesterday Mr Bartlett flagged sending students to alternative educational venues in schools or in the community rather than suspending them. "What I believe is that we do need to keep young Tasmanians connected to schooling," he said. "A suspension of three days does not necessarily disconnect them from schooling. "But I do get concerned when students are spending longer times out of schools."

He has ordered an audit of what government and non-government venues already exist and wants to start promoting them to schools. "We need to get the schools using them," he said.

The Australian Education Union is pushing for small separate schools, or behavioural units, to send violent students to. The AEU has argued that suspension does not improve a student's behaviour and has heard reports of students attacking teachers every week. Last week, AEU state manager Chris Lane said teachers' only option was to suspend children who returned to the classroom just as badly behaved.

Mr Bartlett said suspension was not his preference but sometimes it was the "only solution". He said the Government did need to invest in education programs to provide another option to sending students home. These programs included the Keep it Big program at Rosetta High, Chance on Main at Moonah and the Bridgewater Farm School. Schools set their own policies on suspension and Mr Bartlett said a suspendable offence varied from school to school.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Federal Left backs Aboriginal reforms

PREMIER Peter Beattie's attack on a radical federal plan to combat indigenous child sexual abuse has sparked a rebuke from Labor leader Kevin Rudd. Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough also struck out at Mr Beattie yesterday, claiming the State Government's own alcohol-management plans in indigenous communities simply did not work. "I don't wish to deride him for trying . . . but there are currently truck loads of alcohol being driven through his plan as it stands," Mr Brough said.

The Government's plan to use Commonwealth powers to take over Northern Territory townships, force children into medical examinations and ban alcohol for six months appeared to gather rapid pace yesterday. Mr Brough indicated it might mark the beginning of a total overhaul of indigenous land tenure. Those who saw benefits in a more civilised, fully policed community might push to abandon collective land ownership so they could own their own home, he said. Mr Brough hopes to have 10 of an anticipated 60 new police officers sworn-in as early as Monday. The army also is ready to move into the Territory to assist. Mr Brough said doctors, accountants and business owners also wanted to help in this "national emergency."

Mr Beattie said he was concerned the plan announced by Prime Minister John Howard on Thursday was a gimmick motivated by a federal election. Mr Beattie conceded he was at odds with Mr Rudd over the issue but insisted the proposed six-month ban on alcohol, which was central to the plan, would fail. "If Kevin wants to support it, that's fine but I don't," he said. "What happens when you come off the six months . . . you either go back on another binge or you move somewhere else into another community."

But Mr Rudd said."I don't agree with what Peter has said on that. "At this stage I have no basis to doubt Mr Howard's intention on this and I'd rather work through it with Mr Howard on a positive, bipartisan basis." Mr Rudd sent a veiled warning to his Labor colleagues to toe the line on the issue. Mr Rudd said he would also support any decision by Mr Howard to recall Parliament to push through the plan. "The key challenge here is to protect little ones from all forms of abuse," he said.


No room at a major public hospital in South Australia

DOCTORS have been asked to stop sending patients to the Flinders Medical Centre emergency department. The overcrowded EU has admitted up to 74 patients a day at its emergency department during the past fortnight. That is just one below the point at which it would execute its "extreme emergency" code white plan, developed last winter after unprecedented demand for services. Documents obtained by The Advertiser show up to 180 people a day were presenting themselves at the Flinders emergency department and up to another 100 nightly. However, not all are admitted for treatment. Few are 'flu cases.

Southern Adelaide Health Service acute services executive director Michael Szwarcbord this week instructed hospital medical and nursing staff to:

DISCHARGE early as many patients as possible.

ACTIVELY "pull" patients out of emergency to other wards to free-up beds.

DEFER voluntary and planned admissions.

NOT accept any non-urgent patient transfers.

In a memo, stamped "urgent", issued to all Flinders staff on Monday, Mr Szwarcbord revealed GPs had been asked to avoid referring patients to the emergency department if there were "safe alternatives for their care".

Australian Medical Association state president Dr Peter Ford, however, said that message "placed considerable pressure on GPs" who were already heavily taxed. He claimed there was "considerable denial" in the Health Department over the pressures the system was under. As a further example, he said first-time mothers who had normal deliveries were being sent home from the Women's and Children's Hospital the same day they gave birth.

Opposition health spokeswoman Vickie Chapman yesterday claimed the documents showed Flinders was "in crisis" and the State Government's health budget was "more about saving money than lives". "The public is in pain and it is only going to get worse, not better," she said. "Those of us lucky enough to survive until 2016, when the Government's new Marjorie Jackson-Nelson Hospital opens, might have a chance but I expect the mortality rate to increase before then."

Health Minister John Hill, who is also Minister for the Southern Suburbs, admitted winter would be "a challenge for health staff". He said the Government had a strategic plan to unite hospitals, health and ambulance services, GPs and rehabilitation services in the face of a huge increase in demand. "There will also be more emphasis on keeping out of hospital patients who do not need to be there," he said. "South Australians can be assured that our health system is prepared and that our services will be providing the best possible care for our community." Mr Hill said sending patients home was "entirely a matter for the clinicians and nobody is telling them to do that". He also queried Dr Ford's suggestion officials were unaware of the pressure, saying: "We sure are, that's why we have introduced these reforms, because without them, the system will buckle."

Mr Szwarcbord's June 18 memo revealed 22 non-urgent elective surgery cases and four non-urgent elective procedures scheduled for Tuesday this week had been cancelled. "The hospital is experiencing overcrowding as a result of the high number of patients presenting to the emergency department and the number of patients requiring admission," he said. "At present, there are 61 patients in the emergency department, 35 of whom are waiting for an in-patient bed."

Memos, dated June 7, 13 and 18 obtained by The Advertiser, reveal the emergency department has been operating on code grey - 60 to 74 patients - for the past two weeks. The department has a "winter escalation plan" which works on a colour code system of green for up to 37 patients, amber for up to 54 patients, red for up to 60 patients, grey for up to 74 patients and white for 75 or more.

Mr Szwarcbord said the Flinders problem was exacerbated by the nearby Noarlunga Hospital operating at full capacity and the Repatriation General Hospital experiencing high demand. He advised staff on Monday that, while a range of measures had been implemented to "ease the situation", a "code white" would be activated if the problem escalated. Under the emergency code white, the hospital will:

INCREASE staff levels by hiring more casuals.

EXPEDITE patient discharges at all three southern region hospitals.

FACILITATE internal patient transfers, where appropriate.

LOCATE SA Ambulance staff on site to assist with transfers.

OPEN selected treatment, day patient and outpatient clinical areas for beds.

RESTRICT access to the emergency department to key staff only.

Mr Szwarcbord was unavailable for comment yesterday but Emergency Medicine director Dr Di King said in an emailed statement that high demand over the past two weeks could be the result of industrial action and reduced beds because of an upgrade of the pediatric unit. Dr King said that as part of a $153 million redevelopment at the hospital, the emergency department would be expanded to cope with a "growing volume of patients". Minor works were under way in ward 4G to provide care for 20 additional patients.


Single-sex schools the best?

So it would seem in Victoria

SINGLE-sex schools are the state's top performers when it comes to university enrolment rates, according to Government data released yesterday. Top of the class of 2006 were the students from Isik College's Broadmeadows campus for girls, with all of last year's year 12 students enrolled at university this year. Most of the students are studying at the University of Melbourne and Monash University. It's a similar story at the school's boys campus at Upfield, with 95 per cent of VCE graduates now at university and 5 per cent opting to defer their study.

Korowa Anglican Girls School in Glen Iris and Presbyterian Ladies College in Burwood tied for second place with an enrolment rate of 96 per cent, followed by Melbourne High and Melbourne Girls Grammar (both 91 per cent). Korowa's principal, Christine Jenkins, said while numerous factors played a part in students' success, many girls preferred learning in a single-sex environment. "They are much more likely to make contributions in classrooms," she said. "They aren't worried about their image and they can be themselves and take risks in a supportive environment."

PLC vice-principal Carolyn Elvins agreed single-sex education made sense because boys and girls learnt differently. "Schools can cater for those (differences) more effectively in a single-sex environment," she said, adding that girls liked to learn collaboratively and tended to be less competitive.

But Isik College principal Mehmet Koca was reluctant to link the school's results to gender. Mr Koca said small class sizes and a mentor program made for a winning combination. Under the mentoring system, graduates volunteer to return to the school to tutor students after hours in specific subjects. "That gives students a role model they can look up to and the tutoring is free of charge," Mr Koca said. "It also helps students believe in themselves and aspire to university." Isik College was set up 10 years ago as a private school for economically and socially disadvantaged Turkish-Australian students. This year's Broadmeadows school captain, Iman Zayegh, 16, said the single-sex environment was supportive and comfortable. "When you're comfortable in the environment, you're more likely to work to your full potential and achieve your goals," she said. Ms Zayegh, who gets tutoring in chemistry and is aiming to study pharmacy at Monash University next year, said the mentoring program was invaluable.


A summary of some of the lies that Australia's Leftist historians have told in order to condemn British settlement in Australia

From the inimitable Keith Windschuttle. I met Keith once many years ago -- when he still had hair

There are two central claims made by historians of Aboriginal Australia: first, the actions by the colonists amounted to genocide; second, the actions by the Aborigines were guerilla tactics that amounted to frontier warfare.

Lyndall Ryan claims that in Tasmania the Aborigines were subject to "a conscious policy of genocide". Rhys Jones in The Last Tasmanian labels it "a holocaust of European savagery". Ryan says the so-called "Black War" of Tasmania began in the winter of 1824 with the Big River tribe launching patriotic attacks on the invaders. However, the assaults on whites that winter were made by a small gang of detribalized blacks led by a man named Musquito, who was not defending his tribal lands. He was an Aborigine originally from Sydney who had worked in Hobart for ten years before becoming a bushranger. He had no Tasmanian tribal lands to defend. He was just as much a foreigner in Tasmania as the indigenous Hawaiians, Tahitians and Maoris who worked there as stockmen, sealers and whalers at the same time.

Musquito's successor as leader of the gang was Black Tom, a young man who, again, was not a tribal Aborigine. He had Tasmanian Aboriginal parents, but had been reared since infancy in the white middle class household of Thomas Birch, a Hobart merchant. Until his capture in 1827, he was Tasmania 's leading bushranger but, as with Musquito, his actions cannot be interpreted as patriotic defence of tribal Aboriginal territory.

Ryan's account of the alleged abduction of Aboriginal children by settlers is replete with so much misinformation it is impossible to excuse it as error. In 1810, she claims, Lieutenant-Governor David Collins warned settlers against kidnapping Aboriginal children. However, there is no evidence Collins ever gave such a warning. None of Collins' orders in 1810, or any other reference cited by Ryan about the abduction of children, support her claim. Ryan footnotes the newspaper, the Derwent Star of 29 January 1810, as one of the sources she consulted. However, according to the Mitchell Library, that edition of the newspaper is not held by any library in the world. It has been missing since the nineteenth century. Ryan claims that in 1819, Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell issued an order about the abducted children. She says: "Sorell ordered that all Aboriginal children living with settlers must be sent to the charge of the chaplain, Robert Knopwood, in Hobart and placed in the Orphan School." However, the proclamation Ryan cites does not say that. It merely ordered magistrates and constables to count the number of native children living with settlers. Moreover, there was no Orphan School in Hobart in 1819 or at any time during Sorell's administration. The first such institution in the colony, the King's Orphan School, was not opened until 1828 and Reverend Knopwood was never involved in running it.

Henry Reynolds claims Lieutenant-Governor Arthur recognized from his experience in the Spanish War against Napoleon that the Aborigines were using the tactic of guerilla warfare, in which small bands attacked the troops of their enemy. However, during his military career Arthur never served in Spain. If you read the full text of the statement Reynolds cites, you find Arthur was talking not about troops coming under attack by guerillas but of Aborigines robbing and assaulting unarmed shepherds on remote outstations. Reynolds edited out that part of the statement that disagreed with his thesis.

Reynolds claims that Arthur inaugurated the infamous "Black Line" in 1830 because "he feared `a general decline in the prosperity' and the `eventual extirpation of the colony'". Reynolds presents that last phrase as a verbatim quotation from Arthur. However, Arthur never said this. Reynolds actually changed the words of one of the most important documents in Tasmanian history but no university historian picked up what he had done. Historians commonly describe the "Black Line" as an attempt to capture or exterminate all the Aborigines. However, its true purpose was to remove from the settled districts only two of the nine tribes on the island to uninhabited country from where they could no longer assault white households. The lieutenant-governor specifically ordered that five of the other seven tribes be left alone.

Lyndall Ryan cites the Hobart Town Courier as a source for several stories about atrocities against Aborigines in 1826. However, that newspaper did not begin publication until October 1827 and the other two newspapers of the day made no mention of these alleged killings.

Ryan claims that frontier warfare in Tasmania's northern districts in 1827 included: a massacre of Port Dalrymple Aborigines by a vigilante group of stockmen at Norfolk Plains; the killing of a kangaroo hunter in reprisal for him shooting Aboriginal men; the burning of a settler's house because his stockmen had seized Aboriginal women; the spearing of three other stockmen and clubbing of one to death at Western Lagoon. But if you check her footnotes in the archives you find that not one of the five sources she cites mentions any of these events.

Between 1828 and 1830, according to Ryan, "roving parties" of police constables and convicts killed 60 Aborigines. Not one of the three references she cites mentions any Aborigines being killed, let alone 60. The governor at the time and most subsequent authors, including Henry Reynolds, regarded the roving parties as completely ineffectual.

Lloyd Robson claims the settler James Hobbs in 1815 witnessed Aborigines killing 300 sheep at Oyster Bay and the next day the 48th Regiment killed 22 Aborigines in retribution. However, it would have been difficult for Hobbs to have witnessed this in 1815 because at the time he was living in India. Moreover, the first sheep did not arrive at Oyster Bay until 1821 and it would have been very hard for the 48 th Regiment to have killed any Aborigines in Tasmania in 1815 because at the time they were on garrison duty in County Cork, Ireland.

The whole case is not just a fabrication, it is a romantic fantasy derived from academic admiration of the anti-colonial struggles in South-East Asia in the 1960s, when its authors were young and when they absorbed the left-wing political spirit of the day. The truth is that in Tasmania more than a century before, there was nothing on the Aborigines' side that resembled frontier warfare, patriotic struggle or systematic resistance of any kind.

The so-called "Black War" turns out to have been a minor crime wave by two Europeanised black bushrangers, followed by an outbreak of robbery, assault and murder by tribal Aborigines. All the evidence at the time, on both the white and black sides of the frontier, was that their principal objective was to acquire flour, sugar, tea and bedding, objects that to them were European luxury goods. We have statements to that effect from the Aborigines themselves.

Unlike Lyndall Ryan, Reynolds does not himself support the idea that the colonial authorities had a conscious policy of genocide against the Aborigines. Instead, Reynolds's thesis is that it was the settlers who wanted to exterminate them. He claims that throughout the 1820s, the free settlers spoke about and advocated extirpation or extermination. However, even on the evidence he provides himself, only a handful of settlers ever advocated anything like this.

In 1830, a government inquiry into Aboriginal affairs conducted a questionnaire survey of the leading settlers to determine their attitudes. It was possibly the first questionnaire survey ever conducted in Australia. Reynolds knows this survey existed because he has quoted selections from the settlers' answers in at least two of his books. However, he has never mentioned the survey's existence in anything he has written. Why not? Well, obviously, if his readers knew there had been a survey they would want to know the results, that is, all the results not just a handful of selected quotations. I examine the full results in my book. They show that in 1830, at the height of Aboriginal violence, very few of the settlers were calling for the extermination of the Aborigines. Some wanted to pursue a policy of conciliation towards the Aborigines. Othes were against violence but wanted to remove the Aborigines to a secure location, such as a peninsula or island. Only two of them seriously advocated exterminating the Aborigines. But theirs were the only words that Reynolds quoted.

The full historic record, not the selective version provided by Reynolds, shows the prospect of extermination divided the settlers deeply, was always rejected by government and was never acted upon.

In the entire period from 1803 when the colonists first arrived in Tasmania, to 1834 when all but one family of Aborigines had been removed to Flinders Island, my calculation is that the British were responsible for killing only 120 of the original inhabitants, mostly in self defence or in hot pursuit of Aborigines who had just assaulted white households. In these incidents, the Aborigines killed 187 colonists. In all of Europe's colonial encounters with the New Worlds of the Americas and the Pacific, the colony of Van Diemen's Land was probably the site where the least indigenous blood of all was deliberately shed.

Why, then, have the historians of Tasmania told this story about genocide, frontier warfare and widespread bloodshed. I suggest several of the reasons in my book: to make Australian history, which would otherwise be dull and uneventful, seem more dramatic than it really was; to assume the moral high ground and flatter their own vanity as defenders of the Aborigines; in some cases to pursue a traditional Marxist agenda or to indulge in interest group politics of gender, race and class. But the greatest influence on them has been not so much a commitment to any specific political program but the notion that emerged in the 1960s that history itself is `inescapably political'. This is a phrase Reynolds used in 1981 in the introduction to his book The Other Side of the Frontier. He also wrote in a journal article: "history should not only be relevant but politically utilitarian, . it should aim to right old injustices, to discriminate in favour of the oppressed, to actively rally to the cause of liberation."

I completely disagree. That position inevitably corrupts history. Without it in Aboriginal history, there might have been less licence taken with historical evidence and a greater sense of the historian's responsibility to respect the truth. The argument that all history is politicised, that it is impossible for the historian to shed his political interests and prejudices, has become the most corrupting influence of all. It has turned the traditional role of the historian, to stand outside his contemporary society in order to seek the truth about the past, on its head. It has allowed historians to write from an overtly partisan position. It has led them to make things up and to justify this to themselves on the grounds that it is all for a good cause. No cause is ever served by falsehood because eventually someone will come along and expose you. Truth always comes out in the end, and when it does it discredits those causes that were built on lies.

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