Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Why Brits still emigrate to Australia

Australian financial journalist Noel Whittaker says salaries may be much higher in the UK but the cost of living is way above that in Australia. Although it is wildly at variance with the exchange rate, his suggestion that purchasing power parity is reached by equating one Australian dollar to one British pound is in line with what I have observed too

I have just returned from a fact-finding trip to Britain. Let me assure you, from a financial point of view at least, that this is the lucky country. Now I know that Aussies look longingly at the salaries paid in Britain and imagine themselves living handsomely on 50,000 pounds a year, which is equivalent to $116,000 here, but you have to understand that prices there have the same nominal value as in Australia. A main course in a restaurant may be 30 pounds in Britain and $30 in Australia, so the cost of living is more than double ours. Believe me, it's a shock to the system to put 40 litres of petrol in your rental car and discover that the cost is 40 quid or $A88.

But that's not the end of it. There is a VAT (value added tax) of 17.5 per cent on most things you buy, and many restaurants add a 15 per cent compulsory service charge as well. It makes our GST of 10 per cent look cheap.

I discussed wealth-creation strategies with a director of a British firm that specialises in financial planning for high-net-worth people. He was green with envy at our superannuation system, and told me that most of his work revolved around estate planning because Britain had high death duties [Australia has none]. This is a rapidly growing market because property prices have been rising dramatically and more and more families are facing death duties as the family home is not exempt.

We discussed borrowing for investment, which is one of the best strategies to create wealth in Australia because the interest is tax deductible, and income from both property and shares carries great tax concessions. I was amazed to discover that investment borrowing is rarely used in Britain because there are no concessions whatsoever. If you borrow to invest, you pay tax at your top marginal rate on the income from that investment, yet you get no deduction for the interest. Therefore, you may be losing up to 40 per cent of the income in tax while being forced to pay the interest from after-tax dollars.

Housing affordability is a hot topic in Britain, just like in Australia, and some building societies have even gone to the extent of lending far more man the value of the house. One newspaper gave the example of a couple with no deposit who were buying their first home for 152.000 pounds, the average home price. and who were able to qualify for a loan of 190,000 pounds to enable them to consolidate their other debts and get a foothold in the housing market. This means that they will have a negative equity in their home for many years and will be reliant on capital gain to get back to square one. This is a high-risk situation and, to make matters worse, the Bank of England lifted interest rates to 5.75 per cent earlier this month, putting further pressure on home-owners' budgets and increasing the prospect of a fall in home prices.

We had a break in Spain on the way home and the conditions are no different there. In Spain, VAT is 16 per cent and our tour guide in Valencia was bemoaning the fact that home prices had risen so much that she had been forced to take out a 40-year mortgage just to buy a unit [condo].

The above article appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on July 29, 2007

More overseas doctor concerns

The inquest into the death of a 16-year-old girl who died in a Sydney hospital after being hit by a golf ball may have to be reopened following allegations about the competence and assessment of two overseas-trained doctors involved in her care. The allegations -- aired on ABC TV's Stateline program in NSW last night -- claimed neither of the overseas doctors treating Vanessa Anderson had been "subject to any appointments or selection process".

Anderson died in 2005 while being treated for a fractured skull caused by the golf ball. The inquest at Westmead Coroners Court, which held its final hearing two weeks ago, heard there were "a number of deficiencies" in her care, including one doctor's failure to give anti-convulsive drugs as ordered by a consultant. Another doctor, anaesthetics registrar Sanaa Ismail, increased the dosage of painkilling drugs to a level the consultant in charge told the inquest was "too high".

It has now emerged that the inquest may be reopened after a senior hospital anaesthetist, Stephen Barratt, wrote to Deputy State Coroner Carl Milovanich about the allegations. In a statement to Stateline, NSW Health director-general Debora Picone said the "accuracy and relevance of a number of the assertions" made by Dr Barratt were "disputed". "The tragic death of Vanessa deserves proper investigation by the state Coroner and I do not think it appropriate to pre-empt the coronial process," Professor Picone said.

In his letter, Dr Barratt said Dr Ismail -- whom he was supervising -- had previously been judged by him to be "not safe" to treat patients after two previous incidents just months earlier. Dr Barratt also revealed he was "unhappy" with how the inquest had unfolded and added "you need the truth". Azizi Bakar, the doctor who had failed to provide the anti-convulsive drugs ordered by a consultant, was the other doctor whom Dr Barratt suggested had not been properly screened prior to employment.

Dr Ismail faced questions during the inquest over her decision to double the dose of a painkilling opiate drug, oxycodone, to treat Anderson's headache, despite the fact that she only spoke to the patient for a pre-operative check. Dr Ismail said she did not realise Anderson was already receiving Panadeine Forte, a painkiller with a high level of codeine, another opiate drug.

Dr Barratt's letter alleged that Dr Ismail's salary was being paid by the Saudi Government, an arrangement that he said was "not unusual in the public hospital system -- that is, there are many others like her". "In fact, a few months before the Vanessa Anderson incident a bureaucrat from the Department of Health came pleading with us to take more of these 'trainees'," Dr Barratt wrote.

Professor Picone said "learning exchange" arrangements was a "feature of any modern health system". Out of a total 11,000 doctors in NSW public hospitals, about 100 at any one time would be paid for by an overseas government or other agency, she said.

Alison Reid, medical director of the NSW Medical Board, refused to discuss the case specifically but said that generally applications to register doctors first had to come from a prospective employer, supported by letters from the relevant medical college. Qualifications were independently verified and certificates of good standing sought from previous regulatory bodies.


The market is the solution to water shortages

Water restrictions can be lifted within five years in all capital cities - and it does not require drought-breaking rain to do it. Charging more for water for non-essential purposes, using private investment to expand supplies through desalination and recycling projects, and allowing trading between country and city can deliver all the water needed. That is the conclusion of a report on the nation's infrastructure needs, released to The Australian. Prepared by Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, which represents government as well as industry bodies, the report includes a list of more than 100 priority projects ranging from road and rail links to water and energy schemes and schools, hospitals and affordable housing plans. The goal is to refurbish Australia's capital stock within the next 10 years and set up the nation for continued strong economic growth over the next 20 years.

The report recommends the appointment of a federal minister for infrastructure, as well as an office of national infrastructure co-ordination. IPA head and former Kennett government minister Mark Birrell said that, surprisingly, no broadly agreed list of infrastructure requirements existed. "This decade we have the opportunity to deliver on age-old plans like a four-lane highway linking Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, an efficient freight rail link up the east coast of Australia, the completion of the ring roads around our largest capital cities, renewing the stock of government schools across the country and replacing super-specialist public hospitals in every capital city," he said. Mr Birrell said a combination of healthy state and federal budgets, the scope to increase government debt levels and superannuation funds that were looking for investments opened the way for large-scale infrastructure funding.

The report suggests a two-tier system for residential water. Current prices would be charged for consumption for essential needs -- say 150 kilolitres a year. Discretionary use above this level for purposes such as lawns and pools would attract the full market price, which could be as much as double the present Sydney rate of $1.42/KL. Average water use around Australia is now 376KL a household, although many families who do not water lawns or have a pool use much less.

The report suggests expanding the market in water to allow trading between rural and urban uses, thus allowing water to flow to its highest value uses. Tradeable entitlements also could be assigned to large commercial users and competing retail water businesses.

The energy sector will require $30 billion-$35 billion in investment by 2020. A true national energy market should be established, starting with a comprehensive restructuring in NSW where the industry remains in government hands. A meaningful debate of the nuclear option is premature without fundamental reforms to create a national market. Government decisions are needed to allow a fibre-to-the-node broadband rollout within two to three years, the report says.


Pupils moving out of government schools

Which pushes some government schools to lift their game

STUDENTS have fled NSW public schools at a rate of 125 a week - equal to two busloads - in the past decade as low-fee private schools boom. The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures reveal how parents have snubbed local public schools, often in favour of new faith-based schools backed by Howard Government subsidies.

A Daily Telegraph analysis of the census data shows that in areas like Penrith there has been a mass walkout on public education, cutting their market share by almost a half of all enrolments. Almost 68 per cent of Penrith students attended public high schools in 1996, but this slumped to 54.79 per cent by the 2006 census. In the same period, Catholic school enrolments grew from 23.7 to 33.21 per cent and the "Other Non-Government" category grew from 8.4 to 12 per cent. Across NSW, government secondary schools had 67.1 per cent of all enrolments in 1996 - but this has shrunk to just 60.83 per cent. In raw numbers, about 46,000 students have vanished from public primary schools and 19,000 from public high schools over the decade. There have been similar changes in areas such as Camden, Hawkesbury, Wollondilly, Liverpool, Bankstown, Holroyd, Sutherland and Warringah where public school market share has dropped 10 per cent or more.

The popularity of low-fee private school enrolments indicates why Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd has abandoned previous ALP policy to reallocate private school funding. Even in suburbs such as Canada Bay, Waverley, Marrickville, Manly, Lane Cove and Randwick parents have been moving away from public schools.

But it's not all bad news for public education. In Sydney's inner-west, Strathfield Public School enrolments have bucked the trend, surging from 39.35 to 49 per cent. Public school enrolments in nearby Ashfield and Burwood have also increased. In Baulkham Hills, the Blue Mountains, Pittwater and Ryde previous losses have been stemmed.

An Education Department spokeswoman said the public schools sector realised they now operate in an environment where "greater emphasis is being placed on choice". She said the most recent trends were positive for government schools. Kindergarten, Year 3, Year 8 and Year 11 market share had all slightly increased this year, reversing the declining trend over many years. Schools singled out as success stories include Ku-ring-gai High, Cherrybrook Technology High, Wattle Grove Public School, Arthur Phillip High, Rouse Hill Public and Parklea Public.

But Christian Schools Australia, which represents dozens of newer private schools, says its enrolment growth across NSW has increased by 25 per cent in five years. "There's no doubt people are making a choice," chief executive Stephen O'Doherty said. "Many families have gained prosperity under Howard and are using the extra income to move to affordable non-government schools. He said much of the enrolment growth in swinging seats would help determine the federal election later this year.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Out of the frying pan, into the fire? Medical desperation in Queensland

MORE than two in three people want the Federal Government to take control of Queensland's failing health system, the Queensland: Your Say survey has revealed. Data from the poll shows 69 per cent of Queenslanders have lost faith in the State Government's ability to run their health service. Despite promises that problems will be resolved, patients continue to suffer substandard levels of care, including waiting lists of up to eight years for surgery, a lack of beds, and closure of 38 maternity units in rural Queensland because of a lack of staff.

Queenslanders have spoken out loud and strong with 10,700 people raising their voices in the 2007 Sunday Mail-National Nine News Your Say survey. Readers seized the chance to share their feelings in one of the biggest responses to a survey in any Australian newspaper.

Queensland Opposition health spokesman John-Paul Langbroek said he was not surprised the public was frustrated with the State Government. "Health is such an important portfolio, and yet Beattie and Labor are not running it properly," he said. "It's certainly not a lack of money that is causing the problems because the budget has gone from $3 billion 10 years ago to $7.15 billion now."

Hospital patient Campbell Ney, 64, from Mareeba, is among Queenslanders unhappy with the system. He was last week forced to transfer from Cairns Base Hospital to Mossman Hospital because of a lack of beds. Mr Ney, who has a severe lung infection, said: "I'm a pretty easygoing sort of a bloke but this health system is off the rails."

In the past two years Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott has investigated the possibility of taking control of Queensland's health system, but yesterday told The Sunday Mail he had no plans to do so at the moment. "I'm flattered that people think the Howard Government is much better placed to fix the health system than the Beattie Government," he said. "However, the Commonwealth Government has no plans to take over the public hospital system."

State Health Minister Stephen Robertson blamed the Federal Government for failings in the health system. "Queensland's public hospitals have been short-changed by the Howard Government to the tune of $2.6 billion over the life of the current five-year Australian Health Care Agreement," he said. In a sign of falling support for public health services, the Queensland: Your Say survey revealed 64 per cent of readers had taken up private cover.


Now it's the NSW ambulance service in strife

Eerily similar to the Queensland situation

AN ambulance staffing crisis is forcing rookies with just nine weeks' training onto the streets to try to save lives without proper supervision. One in three NSW Ambulance Service officers is a trainee because experienced staff are quitting in record numbers, fed up with being overworked and underpaid, front-line sources say. Last year there were twice as many resignations as in 2002. Tensions among those left behind are said to have reached breaking point, the sources say, with suicide attempts increasing. One senior officer said patient care was being compromised by the exodus of experienced officers. "Make no mistake, patients have died because of this and they will continue to die," she said.

A copy of the service's 2007 corporate culture survey leaked to The Sun-Herald paints a grim portrait of chronically poor morale and employees who feel undervalued, restricted in how they go about their work and disengaged from decision-making processes. The vast majority believe their supervisors do not deal effectively with key issues such as stress, excessive workloads, absenteeism, harassment and bullying, and are not addressing their concerns about industrial relations.

NSW Health Minister Reba Meagher last week countered criticisms of the service's capabilities by pointing to the recruitment of 327 personnel over the past four years. However, Freedom of Information figures obtained by the Opposition and seen by The Sun-Herald show 475 resignations over the same period. Novice ambulance attendants who might normally spend more than a year teamed up with two fully qualified partners are being thrown in the deep end, sources say.

A NSW Ambulance Service spokesman insisted trainees were placed under "close supervision at all times" but Health Services Union Hunter Valley officer Peter Rumball disputed this, saying the practice of pairing trainees with a single unqualified trainer to save money was commonplace. Mr Rumball said the union had repeatedly raised concerns about how one senior officer was supposed to supervise a trainee when he or she had more than one patient to treat at a time, or if the pair had to split up, or one had to stay with a patient while the other drove to hospital or went off to retrieve equipment. "Officers who come straight out of the service's rescue school get no supervision or mentoring at all," Mr Rumball said. "They are classed as fully qualified even though they have never undertaken a rescue."

A paramedic with 10 years' experience said rookies were being pushed onto the front line without proper regard for the consequences. "You have a situation where they are performing extremely demanding tasks without the proper supervision and that is where errors can be made," she said. "The way the roster system is set up is that at training stations there should be 10 fully qualified officers. "But how it is now is that out of those 10, two or three are trainee officers and are actually not qualified but they are rostered on to fill out those positions. "The trainees are being used to fill the holes and are just thrown straight in."

Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said the number of calls she was receiving from ambulance officers in distress outstripped even those from within the ranks of the state's 40,000 nurses. "This issue is all about long-suffering ambulance officers who are under enormous stress, not getting any support and burning out," Ms Skinner said. "The fact that they're resigning at a faster rate than ever before speaks for itself. "What we're talking about is people at the coalface being forced to bear the brunt when, instead, it should be the Government dealing with it." Mr Rumball said his concerns about stress levels of the job were grave, and he knew of five colleagues who had attempted suicide in the past few years


Windpower, union stupidity and green lies

For those of you who think that our union officials are not all that bright, look no further than Dean Mighell, the southern states branch secretary of the Electrical Trades Union who recently forced to resign from Australian Labor Party. What makes this particular union Neanderthal interesting is the regrettable fact that he is genuinely representative of what is laughingly called the "unions' intelligentsia".

This union hotshot is so dense that he promotes policies that would impoverish his members in the dim-witted belief that raising the ratio of labour to capital creates high-paying jobs. As evidence one merely has to refer the statement he made several years ago that stopping the construction of gas-fired generators in favour of windmills would increase the demand for labour and raise real wages. This birdbrain and his fellow halfwits argued that centralised power generation doesn't create enough jobs.

That power stations are built not to maximise jobs but to generate electricity at the lowest possible cost is apparently far too complex an argument for Dean Mighell to grasp. In pursuit of jobs, rather than prosperity, these intellectual giants of the union movement - and the ALP - once met with state government officials and Pacific Hydro (a so-called Australian renewable energy company) to discuss building windmill generators with the purpose of creating more jobs. (The company had already built an 18-megawatt windmill in the state., the output of which has been greatly exaggerated).

According to the absurd logic of these economic and scientific illiterates, windmills create more jobs because they are labour intensive. So are wheel barrows and shovels. Does this mean that all earth moving machinery should be banned by law? That scores of factories should be set up to manufacture nothing but shovels and wheelbarrows? Think of the enormous number of jobs this would create. And think of the gigantic wage cuts that such a policy would impose on the masses.

I am deadly serious about this comparison. There is no fundamental economic difference in principle between sabotaging the building of gas-fired power stations and the banning of bulldozers. The only thing that makes them differ is that the latter proposal is self-evidently stupid while the union's proposal requires the kind of knowledge that most people do not possess - and that includes the dimwits who run the state Liberal Party.

First and foremost, what raises real wages for everyone is capital sometimes called the material means of production. The less capital per worker the lower real wages will be. It follows that any policy that raises the labour-capital ratio is a recipe for lowering real wages. And that is exactly what these windmills would do.

No the upper limit for a windmill is about 59.3 per cent. This is also called the Betz limit. What the Betz tells us is that it is impossible for any windmill or wind turbine to turn more than 59.3 the per cent of the wind's energy into mechanical or electrical energy. In English so plain that even a union official can understand it - wind power is dilute and that's where its diseconomies of scale come from. And diseconomies of scale mean rising costs, not falling costs. Another insurmountable technical problem is the scientific fact that the maximum power one can extract from a windmill is also proportional to the third power of the wind's velocity. This means that even small changes in wind velocity will generate huge disproportionate changes in output, even with the best designed windmills.

A 1978 British study will give readers some idea of just how inefficient these windmills are. It calculated that it would take 20 million windmills with 100 foot diameter blades to meet the country's electricity needs. For America, it would have been something like 250,000 windmills with 300 foot blades. How many windmills would it take today? Can you imagine our union activists climbing one of these monsters to fix a fuse? Not on your life. This is Australia, mate. (That the study is nearly 30 years old is irrelevant. Physical laws do not change with the passing of time).

Denmark is one country from whose energy mistakes Australia could certainly learn. It allowed itself to be conned by green fanatics in to diverting masses of scarce capital into building wind farms, much to the disgust of real scientists and engineers. The country is now in the ridiculous situation where its theoretical generating capacity is three times that of peak demand. Yet, according to a 1999 estimate, wind accounts for only about 1.7 per cent of electricity production - at a cost of about $AUS600 million in annual subsidies. On the other hand, gas-fired power stations have concentrated power and economies of scale, which means falling costs. By this means, the price of electricity is lowered. And that means lower input prices for industry which in turns expands the demand for more jobs.

Nevertheless, despite experience, scientific studies and engineering knowledge the Labor Government's energy kommissars are sabotaging the state's future electricity supplies by implementing so-called `clean power' policies. And they are doing it with the support of economic illiterates like Dean Mighell'. In the meantime, the State Liberal Party's economic illiterates are busy putting together its own green energy policy which will - if I have been properly informed - be tantamount to economic euthanasia.

*Any youngster with a calculator can work this out from the following very rough rule-of-thumb formula P =r2v3. So if the radius of the blades is 3 metres and wind power is 30 mph, output will be 243 megawatts. Should wind velocity drop to 15 mph output will plummet to 33.75 megawatts which amounts to an 88 per cent drop in output. Therefore the greens' claim that one can run a modern economy on windpower is a malicious lie.


Global warming policies for mass poverty

The newly formed Carbon Sense Coalition today described the Global Warming Policies of both Federal and State government and opposition parties as "Policies for Poverty". Chairman of the new group, Mr Viv Forbes, says that at a time when scientific and informed opinion was becoming more sceptical of the apocalyptic prophecies of the Global Warming Industry, politicians and the media were competing to propose the most extreme and expensive options to "solve" a non- problem.

"A coalition of big business, big government and state funded media and research bureaucrats is colluding to impose job losses, power shortages and increased costs for electricity, transport and food on the unsuspecting Australian community - a well designed total package of Policies for Poverty." "Ordinary workers, consumers and taxpayers will be sacrificed on this Altar in the vain hope that it will have some beneficial effect on earth's future climate". "Even casual analysis of the evidence will show that even if Australia closed every coal mine and power station, and stopped all cars, trucks, ships and aeroplanes, it would be impossible to detect any effect on world temperature". "Politicians seem prepared to impose enormous costs on the Australian people in order to achieve miniscule effects on a non problem".

"Professor Lance Enderbee has published graphs of mean temperatures from 27 rural recording stations in Australia for 100 years from 1890 to 1990. The trend is horizontal, with mean temperature in 1990 below that for 1880. This has occurred during the century of the motor car, two world wars, and massive growth of coal burning for steel production and power generation. Rising carbon dioxide levels have had no effect on temperatures". "A similar data set for six Australian capital cities shows a generally rising trend in temperature since 1950 - that is, rising temperature in Australia is an urban effect, not a result of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere." "Urban heating is caused by air conditioners pumping heat into or out of buildings, motors cars exhausting hot fumes, hot factories, millions of hot bodies, politicians emitting hot air, hot concrete and bitumen, polluted air, fewer breezes and less cool pastures, swamps and scrub." "This urban heating will be made worse by the silly proposal to replace electric appliances (whose source of heat and emissions is controlled in an isolated power station in the countryside) with millions of small open fires burning in gas stoves and hot water systems in every home all over the city."

"The federal government and five state governments have six different programs and models covering emissions trading, carbon caps, carbon taxes and renewable energy schemes. Each jurisdiction is rushing to set up new energy, greenhouse and climate change offices with hierarchies of expensive public officials to staff them. "Merchant banks are gearing up for the easy profits to be generated by carbon trading. Lawyers are preparing for the rush of new business from the disputes, legal challenges and shady deals which will follow the complicated sets of laws and regulations on carbon caps, emissions trading rules, conditions covering free permits, penalties, exemptions, offset policies, early abatement rules, reporting requirements and international trading rules". "All of this is creating a totally artificial industry living on the sweat of ordinary workers, farmers, miners, foresters, consumers, tax payers and shareholders."

"Every carbon cap or tax will increase the cost of electricity in every home, farm and factory. Every increase in power costs will drive one more business and its jobs to China or India. Every subsidy for playthings like solar collectors or wind farms will cause an increase in taxes. And every ethanol plant built will increase the costs of every bit of food on the table of every home in the country - all of these are Policies for Poverty."

"The long term effects on the community will be obvious, but different. Emission traders and regulators will get bonuses in their pay packets. The beautiful people in the leafy suburbs will cut back on cappuccinos. Grain and sugar farmers supplying ethanol plants will prosper. All other farmers and consumers will suffer losses as grain, sugar and electricity costs rise. Coal miners will lose their job. Factory workers will lose their house. Politicians will lose office."


Sunday, July 29, 2007

$10 billion of welfare housing funds down the drain

THE Federal Government is threatening to withdraw $1 billion a year in public housing funds from the states if it thinks the private sector can do more with the money. While Labor held a housing affordability summit in Canberra yesterday, the Government launched a scathing attack on state and territory governments, accusing them of squandering a decade's worth of Commonwealth public housing funds.

Community Services Minister Mal Brough said the states had received almost $10 billion for public housing in 10 years, yet the number of public housing properties in Australia had actually dwindled. "There are 13 less public houses than there were 10 years ago," Mr Brough said. "It beggars belief . . . that so much money could be spent and there to be actually fewer houses than 10 years ago."

With the current five-year Commonwealth-state housing agreement ending next June, Mr Brough is now inviting expressions of interest for the next round of federal public housing funds. Private developers, community groups and councils have been given two months to say how they could better use the Commonwealth's money to increase the stock of affordable housing available for those most in need. "Clearly more of the same won't work," Mr Brough said. "The money's been given to the states. The states have not delivered. For $10 billion, we've got nothing. So over the next 10 years . . . let's see if someone else can do it better. Let's look at what new innovative ways are available to actually get cost-effective houses to people."

Mr Brough said he had already had some informal talks on the subject, and believed there were "enormous opportunities" to increase affordable housing. But that was disputed by Queensland Housing Minister Robert Schwarten, who said he was flabbergasted at the idea of getting the private sector to tender for public housing. "They're privatising public housing, with brazen contempt for the poor people of Australia and Queensland," Mr Schwarten said. "Who is going to house the disabled? Who is going to take that tender? Who is going to house Aboriginal people? I mean, people who are poor, you can't make money out of them."

The housing advocacy group National Shelter also criticised the Federal Government's move, saying the Commonwealth itself was to blame for the reduced stock of public housing. National Shelter chairman Adrian Pisarski said the Federal Government had reduced its contribution to public housing in the past decade by about $3 billion - increasing the burden on the states. "What those cuts have meant is that the states have really been forced into maintenance- only - or even into reducing the level of stock," he said. "They can't really expect any new public housing growth when they haven't put in any new money."


Lara Croft clone sends message for the boys

("Digger" is Australian slang for "soldier")

MOVE over Angelina Jolie, the army is using Australia's version of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, to encourage women to join the forces. Posters approved by the office of Chief of Army Lieutenant General Peter Leahy, depict the modern woman Digger as a buxom, full-lipped wonder woman with a sculpted body wearing a tight-fitting uniform. But the posters, on which the female soldier always appears to look like a million dollars - have caused some offence.

Included in the series are images of a uniformed brunette stirring a pot as a cook; wielding a large spanner as an engineer; singing up a storm with the army band and striding across the helicopter tarmac in a skin-tight flying suit. The cartoon heroine fairly bursts out of her white medical gear in the Dental Corps poster. "We want you" is the message scrawled across the posters in Indiana Jones script.

Unfortunately, many women in the military do not believe the "you" as depicted even exists. They believe the posters send inappropriate signals. One senior air force officer was appalled by the portrayal. "I think they are woeful and say a lot about how army males see the world," she said. "They surely couldn't work and we wouldn't necessarily want the type of women attracted by the posters. "I hope the RAAF doesn't go the same way."

The sexy Digger's male comrade is a chiselled-jawed man in skin-tight overalls. A Defence spokeswoman said the posters were not designed for outside recruiting but rather to encourage soldiers to consider a change in trade. "Army accepted that this campaign might not appeal to all personnel," she said. "Professional marketing advice indicated the use of cartoon caricatures would engage the intended targeted audience, predominantly young males in combat-related roles. "In its first week of testing, 450 soldiers indicated a preference to sign-up to a trade transfer, compared with 35 the week before."

According to well-placed sources, the offending posters are about to be recalled. Meanwhile, the TV navy drama Sea Patrol is expected to deliver a recruiting boon to the navy. A website linked with the program will soon be launched so prospective sailors can interact with the Sea Patrol crew. A Defence source said it was too early to judge the impact of the show, but he said its predecessor Patrol Boat had been a good recruiting tool.


Biased Greenie TV show on Australian public broadcaster

Imagine the scandal if ABC TV ran a series promoting a controversial point of view that was partly funded by an advocacy organisation. We'd never hear the end of it, would we? Well, it all depends on the point of view. This is what the ABC is doing with its Tuesday night prime-time series Carbon Cops. This is a politically correct version of a home makeover program, where the presenters turn up and tell you the planet is doomed unless you change your house and your lifestyle.

Carbon Cops is produced in association with the ABC by FremantleMedia and December Films. December Films received $350,000 towards the series from Sustainability Victoria. This is a state government agency involved in advocacy and action, whose website claims: "Everything we do is dedicated to changing the way Victorians supply and use resources." There is no mention of this funding arrangement in the Carbon Cops program or on its website, apart from a very brief acknowledgement that the program is produced with "the assistance" of Sustainability Victoria.

Carbon Cops is at the cutting edge of global warming hysteria. It starts with this piece of emotional blackmail on the ABC website: "If you are at all concerned about your children's future . then Carbon Cops is a must-see." It continues: "We humans have caused more adverse atmospheric change in the past 100 years than the previous 1000, and the rate of change is exponentially accelerating." Both claims, put without qualification, demonstrate more certainty than the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Apparently, the energy use of the ordinary Australians who appear on the program "is creating an uncertain future" and unless this changes, "our way of life" is over.

Why did the ABC accept external funding to push this point of view? One possible answer might be that it's merely engaging in public education, because the issue is settled and all sensible people agree on what needs to be done. But the ABC itself cannot believe this, because two weeks ago it showed The Great Global Warming Swindle, a documentary sceptical of the premise of Carbon Cops. The online opinion poll held after the documentary showed 45 per cent of respondents share this scepticism.

So this is a controversial issue, which makes the acceptance of funding from an outside advocacy organisation unwise and raises some important questions. Would the ABC accept money from a coal company to fund a series putting the opposite point of view? Or is it only organisations with certain viewpoints that are to have access to the public broadcaster?

Interestingly, there is nothing technically wrong with what the ABC has done with Carbon Cops. Under its editorial policies, the corporation can't accept money from the private sector but can take it from another government organisation. The Carbon Cops example suggests this distinction ought to be questioned. There's an assumption in public debate that any point of view funded by the private sector should be regarded warily, because it might be shaped by self-interest, whereas anything funded by the public sector is pure and in the public interest. I have no problem with the first of these propositions, but the second is naive.

It's a fact of life that publicly funded bureaucrats and scientists have career interests that are influenced by the ideas and policies with which they associate themselves. Climate change is an obvious example. A large proportion of those now working in the field are in positions and organisations that did not exist 15 years ago. If it was confirmed that humans were not causing global warming, or that it was not a serious threat, most of those positions and organisations would disappear. This suggests publicly funded people in the global warming debate are just as likely to be influenced by self-interest as are people working, say, for energy or fossil fuel companies. They are all driven by the natural desire to protect their jobs and career prospects.

I don't mean they lack independence or integrity. Obviously this will vary hugely among individuals. But self-interest can occur on both sides of this debate, as with many other debates, and is not restricted to the private sector. It's time to abandon the assumption that public funding is always used to support the public interest.

The assumption is strangely persistent. One sees it in the frequent criticism of conservative think tanks and intellectuals who've received money from business. It's implicit in the ABC editorial policies' distinction between external funding from the public and the private sectors. Yet, as anyone who has worked in the public sector or watched Yes, Minister knows, public officials are human beings and often act to promote their personal interests or those of their organisation.

There was considerable disquiet some years ago when it was revealed ABC TV was taking money from the private sector to help fund some of its programs. This concern was warranted. We now need to be similarly concerned about what has happened with Carbon Cops. Ideally, the ABC ought to stop taking money from advocacy organisations. But if it sticks with the present guidelines, it should at least expand the range of government agencies from which it accepts funding. Maybe the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation would like a series on the joy of nuclear power?


Fresh questions over another Muslim doctor

New South Wales Health Minister Reba Meagher says she will not speculate on the state coroner's actions following new revelations about the death of a Sydney teenager. Vanessa Anderson, 16, died in Royal North Shore Hospital two days after being hit in the head with a golf ball in 2005. ABC's Stateline program has obtained a letter detailing concerns about the Saudi Arabian anaesthetist involved in the case. The letter details two critical incidents involving the same doctor.

A coronial inquest has already heard that the same doctor gave Ms Anderson an incorrect dose of painkillers. Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner says the new details raise concerns. "The question has to be asked, why wasn't the coroner told about this earlier?" she said. But Ms Meagher said: "I think we should allow the coroner to be able to make a statement without speculating." The coroner was due to deliver his findings on Monday, but will instead discuss the new evidence with all relevant parties during a hearing.


Saturday, July 28, 2007


Three current articles below

Crap English curriculum in NSW

ANALYSING camera angles in the Australian movie Ten Canoes, which is spoken mainly in the indigenous language Ganalbingu, or deconstructing a website on multiculturalism would hardly seem to have much to do with the study of English in high school. But those two "texts" are part of the new draft HSC English reading list for 2009 to 2012, as revealed by Hannah Edwards in The Sun-Herald last weekend.

The films, websites and various multimedia offerings that clog the draft syllabus list show that, even after six years of criticism and complaints from students, parents and teachers, the curriculum designers at the NSW Board of Studies are determined to patronise the ability and desire of high school students to comprehend great ideas and expand their minds with classics. "There is a failure of nerve on the part of curriculum [designers]," says Dr Barry Spurr, a senior lecturer in English literature at Sydney University. "They don't want to present the children with the difficulty of texts, or deal with difficult language . [and] historical context. It's a failure of belief in English as a discipline."

Even while primary school children all over the state are willingly burying their heads in the new 607-page Harry Potter book, the Board of Studies, which has apparently consulted "stakeholders" for years about its latest selections, doesn't trust senior students to read big books. Instead they can analyse Wikipedia, or websites about multiculturalism and the September 11 terrorist attacks. They can deconstruct the "visual images" of the German language film Run Lola Run or the US political satire Wag the Dog. Or they can read short novels, such as the 216-page domestic violence novel Swallow the Air, or Jhumpa Lahiri's 291-page The Namesake or 202 pages of Raimond Gaita's biographical Romulus, My Father or the 78-page play A Man with Five Children by Nick Enright.

Spurr does point to some gems in the new offerings - chiefly the return of Patrick White with The Aunt's Story (304 pages), though he says White should never have been dropped. Spurr says his department gets "the best and the brightest [school-leavers] but they do not know how to construct an essay". Since most of their university study involves essay-writing, and in the business world report-writing is a crucial skill, he is perplexed that the syllabus does not adequately equip students.

In a scathing critique of the 2006 HSC English exam for his school magazine, Spark, Roland Brennan, a year 12 student last year at St Ignatius College, Riverview, writes: "Have I really taken away anything valuable from my HSC advanced English course? I have not been nourished with substance, rather stuffed to the brim with a syrupy, sloppy waste. Junk. Welcome to the HSC English syllabus." He forensically dissects the exam paper and says essay writing is "fast becoming obsolete".

"King Lear . has now been deconstructed and rebuilt within the framework of modern theories such as feminism, Marxism and existentialism. "Contrary to what the Board of Studies seems to think, a 'text' is not 'anything'. The term implies something in a written format, poetry, drama or prose. Not an image or a film clip. Similarly, Shakespeare was a playwright, Coleridge a poet and Huxley an author. They were not 'composers' . We are . readers or viewers, not 'responders'. "The misuse of terms is typical of the HSC syllabus and appears to be used to cover up ignorance." Brennan also says many students do not speak out for fear of being labelled "uncool".

Conservatives have launched ferocious attacks on the HSC English syllabus in recent years, with little apparent effect. The Prime Minister, John Howard, who is married to a former English teacher, last year decried what he called the "dumbing down" of English in which "what I might call the traditional texts are treated no differently from pop cultural commentary".

The problem for the Board of Studies is it has to cater for many HSC students who are not interested in English. The subject is compulsory in years 11 and 12, making it a wearisome task to cajole students into the most basic learning. A high school teacher who sat on a committee choosing HSC texts in the 1990s says the pressure to make English compulsory for all HSC students came from the University of NSW medical faculty, which was worried about churning out doctors without adequate English skills. Perhaps medical schools could conduct English lessons rather than force reluctant students to do a subject they detest.

The other problem is that today's students are so focused on their HSC results that teachers are under intense pressure to confine themselves to the syllabus, says Daniel Brass, a 26-year-old teacher of advanced English at a coaching college for years 11 and 12. "English is not to improve your mind," he says. "It's just to get your marks to get into uni."

In this way the English syllabus places teachers in an intellectual straitjacket. Brass doesn't mind websites and films crowding the syllabus. He doesn't even mind authors being renamed "composers" and readers "responders". But he says the board has usurped teachers' autonomy, deciding not only the texts they must teach but prescribing how they must teach them.

There is hope, Spurr says, as the students he sees in first-year university are increasingly demanding to be taught the classics, hungry for real literature and fed up with incoherent jargon. But this is no consolation for "less-gifted students who should have as much right to be exposed to the best that has been known and thought in the world", he says. Instead they are encouraged to fritter away perhaps their only opportunity to improve their minds.


Student achievement must be detectable and rewarded

Little Johnny understands the convention of printing ... little Suzie understands the operation of addition ... The rest of us, well, we don't understand what's happening in our schools any more. If anybody other than a school teacher can decipher the true meaning of the "convention of printing" - a convoluted little phrase appearing on report cards across the state - then they deserve a ribbon. (Which is only fair, because everyone in school gets a ribbon these days. More on that later.)

NSW's school teachers have won a necessary victory over the Iemma Government in their refusal to implement a state-wide ranking system on student report cards - but hold off the backslapping just yet. There was a reason Premier Morris Iemma couldn't understand his daughter's report card, which prompted his ultimatum, and why the Federal Government also felt it necessary to weigh in. It is the teachers' fault.

Report cards have become such a dog's breakfast of political correctness, convoluted jargon and deliberate clouding that no parent can understand what they say or are meant to say. The convention of printing? Supposedly, it means little Johnny knows to hold the book the right way up, that he knows to read left to right and that one line follows another. The operation of addition? Little Susie can add up. Why teachers don't say it like it is any more is anyone's guess.

Indeed, so clouded are any meanings, and so subtle have become the gradings between "achieving", "working towards" and "more effort required", that they are virtually useless.

The grading system proposed by the State Government was impractical. For example, grading every kid from A to E is unfair on the average kid at a smart school, who is unfairly pushed to the bottom of rankings. It is unfair to the average kids at a below average school, getting A's when they are by any realistic measure average. Comparing grades uniformly from school to school doesn't work. It's apples and oranges.

The biggest reason for this awful system is, apparently, self-esteem issues. How would Johnny, struggling to understand the "convention of printing", feel if he showed Mum and Dad his report card with a D for literacy? It is an understandable concern but the pendulum has now swung too far the other way. "Rotational reward" is the term, and the liberal-thinkers have got it backwards. Rotational reward is a reaction against the naturally intelligent kids - for example, the ones who win all the prizes even though, unlike little Johnny trying hard to understand the convention of printing, they don't have to work nearly as hard.

Rotate the rewards until little Johnny, putting in all that effort, finally gets a ribbon. Sounds great. It works until the average kids work it out, then question why they should try harder when their reward is going to come around sooner or later anyway. Worse, it creates a wave of school children who drift through school, never needing to sharpen their competitive instincts because they get the reward as a matter of course. The problem comes after graduation, when they find themselves in a world that doesn't give rewards on a rotational basis but for achievement. Soon enough they find they're ill-equipped to survive the competitive environment of this real world.

Kids need to compete. There is nothing wrong with teaching a child to win. Or that work brings reward. Nothing wrong with showing a child that, if they work harder, they can climb from the middle of their class and win a ribbon. The hard-earned victories are the sweetest. If every child gets a prize, soon the prize won't mean much at all. So, far from the backslapping, the NSW Teachers Federation needs to come up with a better system, one that lets kids and parents know exactly where they stand in relation to other kids in class. The criteria for achievement in our schools has to be more clear-cut - give that gift to our children and one day those children will become our gift. Believe it.


Bloated teacher-training courses highlighted

And the establishment is resisting. I went into secondary teaching without one second of teacher training and my students did very well

The head of education at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia says it is important to consider all kinds of programs to get more people into teaching.

The Nationals are preparing a report to be tabled in State Parliament which will recommend a teaching course used in the United States be considered in WA. The Nationals' spokesman for education, Grant Woodhams, wants to introduce a fast track seven-week training course offered to university graduates. He says it will give people wanting a career change, the university qualifications to teach.

While Professor Gary Robson says all options need to be considered, but he doubts two months is enough time. "On the face of it I would be very nervous about seven weeks, if that's all it was. Seven weeks would not seem to be a sufficient time for people to acquire the skills that are needed to be a good practitioner in this day and age," he said.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Teachers' union beats attempt to set standards

TEACHERS have inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Iemma Government demands by blocking student report cards. The NSW Teachers' Union has won a three-year battle to stop a "one-size-fits-all" report that would have ranked children in the classroom based on their performance. Public school teachers are now gloating that not one of them has been disciplined over the refusal to prepare the reports requested by Premier Morris Iemma.

Mr Iemma championed A to E grades two years ago, saying he could not understand his daughter's report and needed a meeting with the teacher to determine her ranking in class. "The report that came home was confusing to us and required very careful reading and raised a number of questions that we could only have addressed at the parent-teacher night," he said in 2005.

But now, Mr Iemma's demand for a simple, uniform report card system has been stymied, with different approaches being taken across schools at the behest of the Teachers Union. Teachers were taken to the Industrial Commission after banning the new reports claiming they would label children as failures and could be used to judge their work in class. The union has told each of the state's 2240 schools to decide their own preferred format for student reports. The successful campaign effectively prevents any comparisons of performance between students, teachers or schools.

Threats by the Howard Government to withdraw $3.7 billion in school funding if the reports were not implemented also have come to nothing. The Daily Telegraph can reveal that many schools across the state are not grading students on an A to E scale or telling parents they can request details of their child's ranking. "The majority of NSW public schools did not conform to the department's reporting requirements," a fax sent to schools by the union during term two said. "No federal funding was lost. No teacher was disciplined."

Primary Principals' Association president Geoff Scott said yesterday that individual schools were deciding the best way to report to parents. "There is variety . . . most schools have reached a compromise with their communities on Plain English reports," he said. "There is no compiling of league tables ranking students." Public Schools Principals' Forum chairwoman Cheryl McBride also said a "whole lot of schools are doing their own thing in consultation with their communities". "Many schools are not doing A to E but are using word descriptors (such as 'outstanding' or 'limited' to indicate a student's progress)," she said. "Some have made up their own (descriptors) or are using just four instead of five. "There won't be a direct comparison between schools because of the differences (in report formats)."


Leftist Catholic Bishops' pious but ignorant blather about black suffering

By Christopher Pearson

A FEW years ago I had a conversation with a friend who was just about to be made a Catholic bishop. He was apprehensive, he said, because almost without exception the process of gaining a mitre involved a sudden loss of brains and backbone. He felt reasonably confident it had always been a problem, but that the Australian church was in a particularly parlous condition. Happily, he shows no signs of spinelessness to date, nor has he lost his sense of humour. Several of his brother bishops also display some capacity for wit and judgment. While no one pretends they are by any stretch of the imagination an illustrious body of men, as individuals they are often quite rational and well-adjusted. It's when they act as a group that most of them make fools of themselves.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference is an organisation philistine enough to have dispensed with the apostrophe in its name, in much the same way that Catholic education has resolved not to teach its charges the rudiments of grammar. To visit its website is to enter a twilight world of dullards; a clerical and lay bureaucracy that exists principally to issue press releases about itself and its doings. As you'd expect, its self-importance and delusions of omnicompetence know no bounds.

I have often had occasion of late to comment on the antics of social justice operatives on the clerical Left. The St Vincent de Paul Society's absurd posture on welfare reform comes to mind, along with episcopal pronouncements on Work Choices that might as well have been scripted by Hawker Britton, federal Labor's chief spin doctors. Then again, Catholic Health Australia head Francis Sullivan gave a ringing endorsement to Medicare Gold just as the wheels were falling off Mark Latham's campaign in 2004.

In each case there was a crude attempt to enlist Catholicism into party politics. St Vinnies quasi-Marxist rhetoric never betrayed the least understanding of the dangers of passive welfare or that keeping the minimum wage relatively low led to the creation of many more entry-level positions. Anti-Work Choices diatribes from the bishops invariably take the side of lower-paid workers, but at the expense of the unemployed, and never seem to grasp how it is that people are priced out of a job. Sullivan's enthusiasm for Medicare Gold blinded him to how unaffordable it was and the ways it distorted health priorities on the basis of age rather than need, but at this distance I suppose it may charitably be classed as a sudden rush of blood to the head.

No such excuse can be made for the latest outrage, a statement issued by the bishops' conference on July 7 on the federal Government's intervention in remote Aboriginal communities. Their lordships had more than a fortnight to think about the moral and legal niceties before delivering a considered opinion. Instead they appear to have delegated the task to an ideologically driven subcommittee. The statement says, among other things: "The response must be designed and implemented so as to support, rather than undermine, the future sustainability of remote Aboriginal communities. Talk of 'mainstreaming' calls to mind the following warning about the dangers of 'ethnocentricity'. The rejection of differences can lead to that form of cultural annihilation (that) sociologists have called 'ethnocide' and (that) does not tolerate the presence ofothers except to the extent that they allowthemselves to be assimilated to the dominant culture."

The Uniting Church, Wesley Mission and the National Council of Churches had already criticised the federal Government's intervention. The statement was simply a sign of solidarity from the Catholic wing of the wet Left. The nifty quote about ethnocide from a dusty 1988 document The Church and Racism, care of the Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace, was a way of upping the ante. One battle-scarred insider explained it to me as a case of "the theology of the meaningless gesture, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing".

Potential ethnocide or cultural genocide is not a charge to be levelled lightly at a government; at least not if the body doing the accusing wants to continue to be taken seriously. Can their lordships have forgotten (or perhaps not noticed) that the Howard Government's intervention enjoys the support of federal Labor, all the state governments, even the Northern Territory Labor government and Aboriginal leaders such as Labor's former party president Warren Mundine, Noel Pearson and National Indigenous Council head Sue Gordon?

Gordon, a magistrate of great experience, recently commented on the problems of an estimated 1000 remote communities with less than 100 members: "Many settlements consist of a few families who've regained access to traditional land through recognition of land rights. We don't believe the Government should be funding communities of less than 100 people. We can't put a school in every remote area. It's just too costly."

Thirty years ago most Australian Catholic bishops had a good grounding in the business of providing parochial schools in remote areas. No one at the time could have accused them of indifference to the pastoral needs ofscattered flocks, but they were hard-headed pragmatists who did their best with limited resources. The present generation seems to imagine any indigenous group, regardless of size and location, is entitled to First World standard schooling and that anything less is potentially a form of cultural annihilation.

Gordon is the head of the Government's NT taskforce and it's safe to say that she would not have lent her considerable authority to the intervention unless she had been convinced the Howard Government was serious about making it work. A lawyer by training, she has repeatedly defended ad hoc measures, including taking control of remote settlements for the next five years, promoting 99-year leases to encourage economic development and private home ownership, and compensation on just terms where land is being taken back into public ownership. She has rejected point-blank claims that the federal plan is a smokescreen for another stolen generation or a land grab or a stealthy attempt to mine Aboriginal sites for uranium.

The bishops' conference statement assumes native title is a self-evident good that should be regarded as sacrosanct rather than the weakest and least fungible form of property right. It also lends credence to the land grab hypothesis. "The Government needs to demonstrate why action to address child abuse in Aboriginal communities requires amendments to land rights and self-government legislation."

On the same day as their lordships' ill- considered response, Pearson wrote a long, trenchant column in Inquirer. He, too, is a lawyer with extensive experience in land rights negotiations, a long-time admirer of the Keating government who'd know a land grab if he saw one. "This is my two-step reasoning for supporting intervention," Pearson wrote. "The first step is that you have to know what happens in these communities, week in, week out. Urban-based critics simply do not know the realities. Neither did 90 per cent of Australia until recently. There is now no excuse because there has been a major expose and official report in almost every jurisdiction. The second step is that once you have knowledge of the realities, you must find their continuation unacceptable. Therefore you support intervention."

On the question of land he had this to say: "If political circumstances became such that we were forced to prioritise, I would place social order ahead of land rights. Of course the land problem is being overstated. I have constantly asserted that the Howard Government's one failing in indigenous policy is that it has Tourette syndrome on some ideological questions. I find the land provisions more clumsy or ill-conceived from the point of view of workability than undermining land rights. If there is a land grab, then it is principally being grabbed for the benefit of Aboriginal families obtaining private leasehold title for housing or businesses."

When it comes to assessing the takeover of remote communities in the NT, the public will take far more notice of Gordon and Pearson than the bishops' conference because they know what they're talking about. If the bishops ever wonder why their authority is steadily dwindling, they'd do well to consider this latest foolishness and take steps to dissociate themselves from any group statement they haven't read and don't wholeheartedly support.


Urgent action needed to stop black mothers drinking: doctor

And how is Dr. Lamebrain going to do that? Prohibition?

The Kimberley's senior paediatrician says an urgent study is needed to establish the number of children affected by prenatal alcohol disorders. Dr John Boulton says he works with other doctors, nurses and Aboriginal health workers who believe one in every three children in Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing are affected by the disease Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. It is an umbrella term used to describe the range of disabilities associated with prenatal exposure to alcohol. Foetal alcohol syndrome - which can cause facial abnormalities and learning difficulties - is the most readily recognised disease.

Dr Boulton says urgent action must be taken to stop Indigenous mothers drinking during their pregnancies. "The high level of alcohol abuse in Indigenous communities is a public health tragedy," he said. He says the inter-generational effects of alcohol abuse will continue if nothing is done.


Tasmania's child protection system waits too long to remove young children from bad parents

I suppose we should be grateful that SOMEONE in authority has noticed the obvious

TASMANIA'S child protection system waits too long to remove young children from bad parents, says the state's Children's Commissioner. Paul Mason said Tasmania should look to Queensland, where parents get one chance to mend their ways before a child is permanently removed. But he rejected Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop's call for children of drug addicts to be offered for adoption. Ms Bishop wants adoption, rather than fostering, used to separate children from parents addicted to drugs. Mr Mason said this would create another "stolen generation" and foster care was a better option because children were not cut off from parents.

"But I do agree with Bronwyn Bishop that child protection may take too long to explore the permanent placement option," he said. "The Tasmanian system repeatedly puts children back in homes that are never going to work, because the Government believes the best place for a child is with its parents. This is true to a point, when it is safe." He said drug, gambling and alcohol addictions were common in the child protection system and could contribute to bad parenting. "They all involve a parent putting their needs before a child's," Mr Mason said.

He said children aged under 3 who could not live safely at home should be placed in permanent foster care. "Tasmania should give the child's need for stability and safety higher priority than the needs of incompetent parents," he said. "They take a child out and put them back and take them out too often. If a parent can't take steps with their bad parenting after one or two goes, the department should look at permanent options for young children.

Ms Bishop told ABC's Four Corners last night evidence showed children living with drug-addicted parents risked death, abuse and neglect. "There are hundreds and hundreds of parents who are desperate to adopt children and give love and give good homes but there is this 'biology first' principle," she said.

Tasmania's acting Human Services Minister Steve Kons said the law stressed that families had the primary responsibility for the care and protection of their children. He said the law also recognised the importance of maintaining a child's link with its family and community. "Tasmania's focus is on improving our child protection system, to strengthen early intervention and family support services and prevent child abuse," Mr Kons said. [Empty blather]

TasCOSS and the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Council criticised Ms Bishop's proposal as dangerous, saying parents need support to kick addictions and keep children.



There is no end to official policies that are eventually seen as getting it exactly wrong -- though this recent one is rather tragic -- and when normal cyclic global cooling comes, official acceptance of the warmist scare will be seen to be yet another such folly -- much like that other famous Greenie false prophecy: Paul Ehrlich's "population bomb".

But I think there is always room for another example of official folly so let me mention one that has taken place in my home town of Brisbane.

In the old days, lots of people in Brisbane had rainwater tanks for domestic use, as the town water was rather "hard". Eventually, however, the town water improved and the tanks fell out of favour. But there were still a lot of them around. The local council eventually took notice of this and concluded that the old tanks were a health hazard. So it sent inspectors around telling people to pull down their old tanks on pain of prosecution. My neighbour over the road was one of those threatened and he did pull his tank down.

Now, however, Greenie opposition to dam building has ensured that Brisbane has a water shortage. So what is the council doing? Offering people $1,000 grants to install rainwater tanks! My bemused neigbour has signed up and reinstalled a rainwater tank roughly where his old tank used to be.

Betting that official wisdom is in fact official folly is probably the best bet in all circumstances. It is only official meddling in people's daily lives that caused the Brisbane rainwater tank fiasco. But the meddlers will always think that they know best. Don't believe them. It is almost certain that they will do more harm than good.

My FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC blog reports almost daily examples of know-alls who are getting it wrong. The whole concept of a "healthy" diet is fundamentally flawed, for instance. Who these days has not absorbed the message that a low-fat diet is healthier? The supermarkets are full of low-fat foods and the great sin of McDonalds is that their food is "high in fat". Yet a huge recent U.S. study of 50,000 people costing $400 million and lasting 8 years found absolutely no effect on health of a low-fat diet. Don't believe me? You can find the links to the actual journal articles reporting the findings in the right-hand column of my FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC blog.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The reality of Australia's "noble savages"

Note first the Rousseauian description of Aboriginal life by pathetic Australian Leftist Robert Manne:

"not an Edenic but an enchanted world, in the technical sense of the sociologist Max Weber. They discovered an intricate social order in which, through the kinship structure, every human being had a precise and acknowledged place. They discovered a world that was filled with economic purpose; leavened by playfulness, joy and humour; soaked in magic, sorcery, mystery and ritual; pregnant at every moment with deep and unquestioned meaning."

That wet dream was a fantasy about Aboriginal life before the white man came. Compare it with the reality today described below. Note that the description below is of the situation in Aboriginal settlements where Aborigines are again free to run their own lives in their own way -- in the "playful" way described by Manne if they so choose

Cockroaches and dead flies are being syringed out of the ears of Aboriginal children in remote Western Australia and their hearing is so poor that some are being educated by loudspeakers. At Balgo, in the northeastern reaches of the Great Sandy Desert and 100 km from the Northern Territory border, 85 per cent of school-age children cannot hear properly, leading to learning difficulties and social disadvantage.

Backing up a Productivity Commission report showing that hearing problems among indigenous children are three times as high as those of white kids, local doctor Nicolette deZoete said the problem was often detected when an infant was four to six weeks old. Like trachoma - the eye disease that plagues many Aboriginal communities - chronic hearing disorders were preventable, she said. "Because these kids don't have a strong immune system when they're born, combined with the health environment in which they find themselves from day one, the problem keeps on recurring, even after we clean it up," she said. "The ears of kids around here are chronically full of pus. It may be fixed in two weeks, but then they go back to their houses, where 12 or 16 people may live, they sleep on the same blanket that the dog does, and - what a surprise - they're having the same problems all over again."

These problems manifest themselves in the child's development from toddler to adolescent, as they try to learn English as their second or third language. "Quite often they can't even hear what's being taught," Dr deZoete said. Teachers at Balgo's Catholic school use loudspeakers to get their messages across to the 110 school-age children in the community.

Child health nurse Robyn Smythe, who has been running infant health programs at the outpost for three years, said locals' immune systems were low because underweight babies were born to smoking, drinking mothers, a significant proportion of them under 16. Some mothers had arrived at the community clinic the day they gave birth so their understanding of pre- and post-natal care was almost non-existent, she said. "By the time the child is 18 months, it's often up to them to find their own food," Ms Smythe said. "Quite often it's survival of the fittest."

Dr deZoete said the problem was environmental health. "Wouldn't it be smarter, simpler and cheaper to sort out the environmental health issues so they didn't get sick in the first place?" she said.

The above article by Tony Barrass appeared in "The Australian" on July 21, 2007

Crackdown on rogue unions pays big dividends for all

A NEW era of industrial peace on the nation's building sites has delivered a $15 billion boost to the economy and produced a remarkable 9.4 per cent jump in productivity. In a stark pre-election message to Labor, a new study reveals the demise of militant unionism in the $90 billion construction sector has helped trim inflation as the cost of building office towers has been cut by 5.2 per cent. On the eve of Kevin Rudd's housing summit in Canberra, the report reveals the benefits have also flowed on to residential housing, with construction costs falling by 3 per cent.

Commissioned by the Australian Building and Construction Commission, the economic report - to be released today - highlights the challenge for Labor as it considers winding back the Coalition's workplace reforms.

Under pressure from the ACTU and powerful building unions, the Labor leadership has promised to abolish the ABCC, which was established in the wake of the Cole royal commission into the building industry as a tough "cop on the beat", from 2010.

Amid industry warnings that some firms are already factoring in "risk of Rudd" premiums to future contracts, ABCC head John Lloyd last night warned it would be "most regrettable" if militant practices returned to building sites. Mr Lloyd will today release the economic study, by respected forecaster Econtech, the first of its kind since the Cole inquiry revealed a culture of union intimidation with its landmark March 2003 report. The Econtech study estimates that productivity in the building and construction sector has jumped 9.4 per cent since the Cole inquiry. It compares labour costs this year against the average over the period from 1994 to 2003. Econtech estimates the ABCC's clampdown on militant behaviour - it has about 100 matters under investigation - has also contributed to a 1.5 per cent rise in GDP above what it would otherwise have been. It also suggests inflation is 1.2 per cent lower than if the ABCC had not been established.

Mr Lloyd, who has been targeted by building unions, said the study justified the tough stance taken by the ABCC since 2005. "This study shows that significant gains are flowing through to the wider Australian economy. The ABCC has had real impact," Mr Lloyd told The Australian.

Labor announced in late May that it would retain the ABCC through to 2010. This followed lobbying by the building sector, which was alarmed that Labor would demolish a tough regulatory cop that has driven reform and radically cut strikes across the nation's big construction sites.

In a clear sign of the nervousness in Labor ranks over the Government's targeting of its union links, the Opposition Leader last month moved to expel senior Western Australian Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union official Joe McDonald from the ALP. This came after Mr McDonald was caught on camera delivering an expletive-laden tirade against an employer.

Industrial relations spokeswoman Julia Gillard said Labor has not seen the report commissioned by the ABCC, but the party supported "driving productivity in all industries, including building and construction". "Productivity will be the focus of Labor's new industrial relations system," Ms Gillard, also Deputy Opposition Leader, said. "As previously announced, Labor will always have a strong cop on the beat in the building and construction industry."

Mr Lloyd last night hailed the "marked improvement" in industrial behaviour on the nation's building sites, and said "industrial unrest" margins of up to 30 per cent had been slashed to negligible levels. In a sharp message to Labor, Mr Lloyd said it would be "most regrettable if the practices and conduct of the past re-emerged".

The Australian Constructors Association - whose membership includes the nation's biggest building firms including Leighton Holdings, Thiess, John Holland, Multiplex and Bovis Lend Lease - is considering funding a campaign in favour of the Governments's workplace relations laws. Its board will meet on August 23, with Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard scheduled to attend. Last night, Master Builders Australia - whose membership also includes some of the nation's biggest construction firms - said the ABCC study vindicated its own economic analysis on the benefits of the workplace reforms. "(The ABCC study) makes it very difficult for the ALP to argue that there are very few economic benefits," MBA chief executive Wilhelm Harnisch said. "It vindicates the position that we put to the ALP, that taking away the ABCC is turning back the clock."

The economic study reveals the previous large gap between the costs of commercial building and residential housing has been slashed as thuggish union behaviour is brought under control. While commercial building costs were on average 10.7 per cent higher compared with residential housing from 1994 to 2003, this cost gap has been whittled back to just 1.7 per cent this year. The benefits also flow to other industries which are taking advantage of the improved cost structures in construction. The Econtech study estimates a 5.4 per cent boost in mining production, for instance, while that industry's costs have been cut 1.7 per cent. Manufacturing (1.7 per cent) and transport (1.6 per cent) have experienced smaller production gains.


Australian Left reverses under pressure: Now in favour of cutting down trees

KEVIN Rudd yesterday scrapped forest policies which cost Labor two key Tasmanian seats at the last federal election - and he sweetened the deal with $20 million. The Labor leader pledged support for the Regional Forest Agreement and the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement. This means no more areas of old-growth trees would be turned into reserves and locked away from felling - which brings Labor into line with the Federal Government policy. The key forestry union, the forestry industry and the State Government all welcomed the policy change. It was condemned by The Wilderness Society.

A few days before the 2004 election, Prime Minister John Howard was greeted as a hero in Tasmania by workers afraid the old-growth reserves preservation policy of then Labor leader Mark Latham would cost them their jobs. CFMEU forestry branch national secretary Michael O'Connor said then: "I would only say Mr Howard's policy is better than Mr Latham's." The industry anger was linked to Labor's election loss of Bass and Braddon in Tasmania and a seat in Victoria.

Yesterday Mr O'Connor said: "The ghost of Mark Latham is well and truly buried." And Mr O'Connor's Tasmanian counterpart Scott McLean, who cheered Mr Howard three years ago, shook Mr Rudd's hand after the policy announcement at the 100-year-old Britton Bros sawmill at Smithton on the North-West Coast. "What this policy does is finally put the ghost of Mark Latham to bed," Mr McLean said.

Mr Rudd said: "In the last election we didn't get the balance right, that's why I came back here to Tasmania very soon after becoming leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party. "In the period since then we've been consulting with the local industry, with others here in Tasmania, with (Braddon candidate) Sid Sidebottom. Our shadow minister Kerry O'Brien has also been part and parcel of the decision. "We support its implementation in full, and believe the implementation is necessary to provide long-term stability and security to Tasmania's forest industry."

The $20 million package for industry development includes $9 million to boost value-adding in Tasmania, plans for a ban on illegal imported timber and also a major study into the impact of climate change on the timber sector. Mr Rudd said the package was a fresh commitment to the industry in Tasmania to provide long-term certainty. "I'm here today to make it clear-cut where we stand in terms of the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement," he said. "Mr Howard is locked in behind that, I'm locking in behind that, I can't be any clearer than that."

The TCFA protects 170,000ha of forest, including 45,000ha on private land through the Forest Conservation Fund. Mr Rudd said Labor's $9 million Forest Industries Development Fund would help reverse the trade deficit in forest products. Another $1 million will go to a new Forest Industry Skills Council to build capacity for the forestry workforce. The $1 million program to fight illegal timber will support certification schemes for products sold in Australia.


Greens' energy tax would destroy the Australian economy

Green fanatics are talking about cutting emissions by a suicidal 60 per cent. I say suicidal because such a policy would be devastating for living standards. To cut USA Co2 emissions by 33 per cent everything powered by petrol would have to be abandoned. If the emissions cut was raised to about 70 per cent they would have to virtually abandon electricity production. In plain English: these fanatics and their media allies are demanding that Australians should destroy their country's capital structure and adopt the `life-style' of a medieval peasant.

Some greenies have tried to use the economic concept of discounting to deceive people in thinking that emission cuts would be economically painless. Discounting recognizes the fact that we value present goods more highly than future goods. That is why we have interest. If it were not so, then $100 ten years hence would have the same value as $100 in the hand. In business planned expenditures are discounted by the rate of interest to provide an estimate of their present value. At an interest rate of 10 per cent $100 in a year's time is worth $91 today. Obviously, the higher the interest rate the lower the present value of a future good.

When a firm, for example, is appraising a potential investment it can calculate its internal rate of return. If the internal return is greater than the rate at which it can borrow, the investment is profitable. (This, of course, is a great simplification of the investment process). Therefore discounting is used by firms to measure and compare future flows of benefits and costs in dollar terms. This is basically what most economic models try to do when they attempt to compare the costs of cutting CO2 with the apparent benefits. But this approach also brings into play the economic concept of cost. Every economist knows that the real cost of anything is not its money price but displaced values: those things that must be sacrificed to obtain the desired good. Economists aptly call these sacrifices opportunity costs.

Thus the real cost of buying a car is all the other goods and services that would have otherwise have been bought. To a firm, its costs would be displaced alternative revenue flows. The effect, and intention, of reducing emissions is to burden the economy with higher production costs. Thus the costs to society of these green policies will be lower productivity, more premature deaths, fewer opportunities for more productive technologies, especially energy intensive ones, fewer resources for schools and hospitals, the loss of investments yielding more and more better paid jobs, etc. And no amount of discounting can make these costs disappear. In fact, the greater the reduction in Co2 emissions the more savage the cut in living standards

If we focus on the firm for a moment we see that when it considers a potential project it will discount the anticipated stream of earnings and costs and compare them with each other. Should the costs exceed anticipated earnings then obviously the project will be rejected. A crude way of applying the same principle to an economy would be to try and calculate the alleged future costs to the economy of CO2 emissions, discount these alleged costs at a certain rate of interest, divide the result by the population to get a per capita figure and then subtract the figure from per capita GDP.

If the per capita GDP figure is $30,000 and the per capita cost is $10,000 then the loss of income is significant. (The figures are arbitrary and chosen for reasons of exposition). Of course, it will be argued that it's still worth the cost and it's only a one-off sum anyway that doesn't have to be paid at once.

The problem is that it's not a one-off sum - none of these figures are one-offs. Journalists who claim otherwise are liars. What is being deliberately ignored is that a permanent increase in energy costs will force firms to restrict output by eventually changing their factor combinations in a way that will bring operating costs into line with a lower level of output. To argue otherwise is to assert that rising production costs do not affect output. If this were so, then an immediate doubling of wage rates would not affect output or the demand for labour.

It clearly follows that the reduction in output becomes a permanent feature of the economy. Now a non-green economist could argue that there need not be a permanent fall in living standards or any fall whatever, merely a reduction in the rate of increase in consumption. What this amounts to is that part of those savings that would have gone into increased production will be directed into reducing CO2 emissions. In other words, instead of having a 4 percent growth rate we only get 3 percent.

This argument overlooks the fact that this policy would only slowdown CO2 emissions, which would cause the greens to demand more stringent reductions. This is because the greens' goal is to use greenhouse taxes to reduce absolute production and not just its rate of growth. In other words, the greens real target is industrialisation. In any case, it's ridiculous to assert that deliberately slowing down capital accumulation is not a cost to society. Any government action that forcibly reduces investment and consumption is a cost to society. (The Nazi and Soviet economies are graphic examples of this economic truth).

Moreover, the idea of blanket energy taxes and aggregate discounting for the economy are highly questionable, falling into the trap of what I call the tyranny of aggregates. By concentrating on discounting for the economy economists have neglected the key role that the market rate of interest plays in not only equating the supply of capital with the demand for capital but of allocating capital through time. Production takes time, a fact that no one would dispute. The question is: How much time? This is where interest plays its vital hand. If the rate of interest falls naturally, i.e. people are saving more, from 5 percent to 3 percent then this will signal to entrepreneurs that more capital is available.

By definition, this means that the discount rate also falls. Many capital-intensive projects that were ignored because the previous rate of interest made them unprofitable because of their highly time-consuming nature now become profitable at the lower rate of interest. Therefore the effect of market fall in the rate of interest is to lengthen the production structure by adding more time-consuming but highly productive stages to it. (This is what is meant by allocating capital through time).

Imagine the economy expressed as a right-angled triangle with a number of rectangles going through it, with each rectangle representing a stage of production. As the triangle gets longer and wider more and more time-consuming complex stages are added to it, which eventually increases the flow of consumer goods and services. Now take two identical triangles and then have one expand at 5 percent a year and the other at 2 percent. The one expanding at 5 percent will double in size in about 14 years while the other will take about 35 years. We can see that after 14 years of growth the differences in size would be enormous. Let us now superimpose the slow growing triangle A on the fast growing one B. The area outside A but still within B is what B would have had to sacrifice if its growth rate had been cut to 2 percent.

As B is now a far richer economy than A because it has a longer production structure it can allocate more resources to fighting whatever environmental problems it comes to face. This means that instead of imposing an energy tax on production economy B can pay for the environment out of general revenue. In addition, its rapid growth also means that advances in technology would be embodied in its capital structure. On the other hand, the cost to A of fighting environmental problems will be far greater. Greens can argue that there is no time to lose; impending doom in the form of global warming calls for measures now. And that the economic benefits from cutting Co2 emissions will greatly exceed the costs. No and No. In fact, the evidence against the existence of man-made global warming is mounting.

Antarctica is getting colder and accumulating more ice, and sea levels are not rising. The IPPC has conceded that the warming up to 1940 was the result of solar activity during the early part of the century. So the ice caps are not melting and polar bears are not disappearing. The Medieval Warm period - which was much warmer than today - and the Little Ice Age happened independently of human activity, indicating that even severe weather fluctuations are a natural part of global weather patterns.

In other words - don't let the greens panic you. Considering the amount of anti-warming evidence that is accumulating, I think people are being wise in questioning the motives of those who are using hysterical language in an attempt to bulldoze us into adopting policies that would destroy our living standards while simultaneously increasing government control over our lives.


Arrogant Australian lawyers show their contempt for democracy

THE political war between much of the legal profession and the Howard Government is now open and unconcealed as barristers and the bench resort to leaking, lecturing and campaigning against the executive and the parliament. This is a deadly contest, fuelled over many years but growing more bitter over the anti-terrorist security laws. It is a war the legal profession is destined to lose because of its flawed intellectual position, its engulfing hubris and the ultimate reluctance of the Australian people to accept the legal polemic about the threat to our democracy.

The bedrock view of the lawyers' rebellion is their refusal to accept the legitimacy of executive action based on statute and invoking the national interest. Insisting they know better, the lawyers offer themselves as saviours of civil liberties (but not necessarily saviours of the best interests of their clients).

The case involving Mohamed Haneef has exposed the fracture in dramatic terms. His barrister, Stephen Keim, has become a part-time political operative, defiant in going to the media, seeking to sway public opinion and casting himself in an epic encounter "that could affect the lives of our grandchildren". Yes, that's what the barrister told the ABC's Lateline before taunting the Prime Minister and the federal police to "come and grab me" if they dare, revealing he was "very passionate" about the issue and dismissing any need to consult either his client or solicitors before providing the media with the 142-page transcript of Haneef's interview with the Australian Federal Police. Verily, any defendant would beg for the services of such an advocate.

This is a guise all too tedious: the lawyer as political hero. What good it will do his client Haneef (or how much it damages the defence case) is not clear. It is, however, a reminder of the David Hicks saga. As explained by journalist Leigh Sales in her recent book, while John Howard could have brought Hicks's suffering to an end, so could his own lawyers by striking a plea bargain three years earlier. They didn't. Their aim was to wage a political campaign to break Howard's will and force his complete backdown over Hicks. It failed.

This week Melbourne barrister Robert Richter QC identified the Howard Government as being guilty of terrorist-type tactics. "This is a terrorist threat to our legal system," he told the ABC of ministerial actions. "Not by the terrorists, but by (Philip) Ruddock and his cohorts." Assume this is a considered view. Lest anybody suspect Richter was in a minority, Australian Bar Association president Stephen Estcourt branded the cancellation of Haneef's visa "a cynical exercise" that "constitutes an assault on the rule of law". That's all.

This paper quoted Estcourt as saying that "disquiet is pretty universal" among lawyers. He was reported saying that thousands of lawyers were deeply concerned about the Howard Government's actions. There is no reason to doubt such extraordinary claims. The lawyers are mobilising against executive tyranny. Observe that only a fortnight ago former chief justice Gerard Brennan critiqued the Government's anti-terror laws at a Sydney conference. Brennan complained that the definition of a terrorist act related to the motive of advancing "a political, religious or ideological cause". This seems, at face value, an accurate portrait of the threat. But Brennan argued that motive added nothing to the criminality of the act and might "easily be misunderstood as targeting the entire group who wish to advance the religious cause of Islam".

Brennan slammed the detention powers as a "remarkable infringement on a person's common-law rights". Such an expansion of executive power was undertaken without sufficient safeguards, the defect being "to transfer the protection of individual liberty from the judicial to the executive branch of government".

Brennan's remarks are illuminating. They make the pivotal issue one of power between executive and judiciary. His clear implication is that public acceptance of the laws cannot validate this defect nor make it acceptable. Such laws were passed on the votes of the Coalition and Labor. It is noteworthy that Labor has supported the Howard Government's action over Haneef. Labor's shadow immigration minister Tony Burke has been supportive but silent.

The message is that the executive-judiciary struggle is entrenched beyond party politics. It will endure under a Labor government but without the special venom that marks the profession's attitude towards Howard and Attorney-General Ruddock. Indeed, it may be some time before the legal lions liken Kevin Rudd's government to terrorists. But it will happen.

A comic footnote in this 11-year contest was provided by Melbourne barrister Julian Burnside, who told the Future Summit in May that Australia should introduce a law making it an offence for politicians to lie. Burnside's idea won rapturous applause. He said it could be modelled on the misleading and deceptive conduct provision of the Trade Practices Act. Yes, he conceded it would mean more by-elections, but the public was sick of politicians lying. "If there were the possibility of going to jail" then the politicians might change their ways, he suggested.

This is the ultimate lawyer fantasy: being able to put politicians in jail for dishonesty in the conduct of their duties. Imagine the trials, fit only for barristers as heroes. One example Burnside gave was Howard's previous global warming policy. He said the big turnaround "in the past six months is just the best demonstration that they have been lying up to now". Howard, for better or worse, might have thought his climate change stance was about advancing Australia's interest. Poor fool. Burnside knows the truth: Howard was lying all the time. Don't worry about children overboard if you can jail him for global warming.

Such hyperbole has value. It reveals the depth of delusion and mad hubris beating at the heart of this legal culture. The lawyers are weak on political science. Influenced by the feeble and defective analysis of Australian governance, they actually believe the Howard Government has suppressed dissent, corrupted the political system and destroyed accountability, and they see themselves as the last line of defence.

The Government's main problem has been incompetence feeding declining public trust. This goes to the real issue involved in Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews's decision this week to revoke Haneef's visa. This is a ministerial power created by the parliament that vests obligations on the minister. The power is used frequently in the public interest to remove from the nation visa holders who have had associations with criminal conduct. It is usually invoked for resident non-citizens who have served jail time for an offence. It is a necessary executive power made more necessary by the terrorist threat. What is different this time is the situation in which Andrews used the power.

The legal establishment says that because a court process was under way, Andrews should not have acted and that he has prejudiced a fair trial. This is by no means clear since different criteria are involved. The test Andrews had to apply was only that of reasonable suspicion. The test for conviction at a trial is guilt beyond reasonable doubt. They are, of course, quite different tests.

The lawyers, it seems, will say almost anything to tear down executive action. Witness the claim that Andrews is really trying to get a conviction in court and the claim that Andrews is motivated merely by politics and not genuine concerns. (It is by no means obvious that Andrews's action helps the Government win votes.) Andrews's decision is reviewable at both administrative and judicial levels. He can revise his decision if the evidence changes, and the courts can also review his decision.

Nobody would argue the Government has not made a mess of the situation. The problem with Andrews's decision is that he cancelled a visa but cannot immediately deport Haneef. The deeper problem will come if Andrews and the AFP are found to have relied on false information. Haneef's has become a case study in the collapse of trust between lawyers and the executive. Australia's anti-terror laws are now hostage to both executive incompetence and the political campaign against them waged by much of the legal profession.