Sunday, September 30, 2007

It's BYO nurse at collapsing NSW government hospital

But some people see where the problem lies

The family of a dying man was forced to use his credit card to pay for a private nurse in a public ward at Royal North Shore Hospital because there were not enough staff to look after him. Phil Lindsay, 87, a World War II veteran, had less than a week to live when his wife became disgusted with the lack of care. She hired an agency nurse for four nights because the family did not want him left alone.

His cash-for-care story comes amid a wave of complaints about lack of staff and resources at the hospital after Jana Horska, 32, miscarried in the toilets of the emergency department this week. A former doctor at the hospital said funding was cut because "people on the North Shore had money" and could afford private health care. Also yesterday:

* Dr Simone Matousek, a registrar at Royal North Shore, said there was "no commitment to care", and she could do three to four more operations a day "if I did not have to deal with this grossly inefficient system". "Many people work shifts in the hospital and leave when their time is up, not when the patient has been properly cared for," she said. "Fire all the middle management in hospitals who have created this environment and contribute nothing and you will have plenty of hospital funding."

* The federal Health Minister, Tony Abbott, ordered his department to investigate claims the NSW Government steered public funding away from the hospital.

* The Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, demanded the NSW Government launch a judicial inquiry into the claims.

* The NSW Health Minister, Reba Meagher, was forced to announce that pregnant women attending emergency departments would be transferred to maternity units rather than wait for treatment in crowded waiting rooms.

Budget documents, seen by the Herald, show the Royal North Shore/Ryde Health Service went $18 million over budget in the previous two financial years. Despite this its budget was cut by $13 million from $359 million to $346 million for 2007-08, the Opposition health spokeswoman, Jillian Skinner, said.

Mr Lindsay's case is one of many reported to the Herald. His daughter, Christine Rijks, said he had been suffering kidney failure when he was left in the emergency department for several hours in July 2005. The former Catalina gunner was later admitted to a four-bed ward, "causing my mother and my father more stress than his inevitable death". "It was so difficult to see him waiting," Ms Rijks said yesterday. "We knew he didn't have long to live. We became too frightened to go home at night because we just didn't know if anyone was seeing to him. We hardly saw any staff during the day and we were worried sick about what would happen when we went home."

Her mother, Hilarie Lindsay, said she had been asked to wash her husband, to crush his pills and dress him each day. "It was very distressing. I know the nurses are stressed out of their minds, but I was exhausted by the end of every day because we were the ones nursing him." Mrs Lindsay said she took her husband's credit card and booked an agency nurse, who stayed with him overnight. Ms Rijks said: "My parents were both under a delusion that his war service veteran's gold card would provide the best level of health care in Australia. Of more use was the American Express Gold Card."


Do as I say, not as I do for the Left

What's good enough for the "peasants" is never good enough for Leftists themselves

THE latest confrontation between Kevin Rudd's wife Therese Rein's company and its staff has made world headlines, and it's not because of a Coalition 'dirt' unit.

Question: Which Australian company under fire for its shabby treatment of workers in Australia fled overseas and is now in hot water for under-cutting its competitors bids by escaping employment conditions designed to protect staff?

Answer: WorkDirections UK, part of Ingeus, the multinational group founded and run by Therese Rein, wife of Federal Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd.

Question: Which Australian company was found to have underpaid its workers by up to $4000 and was forced to repay them after shifting them from awards to common law contracts?

Answer: WorkDirections Australia, the Australian arm of the multinational group founded and run by Therese Rein, wife of Federal Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd.

Question: Which Australian company sacked 300-400 workers after failing to meet the standards required by the Australian Government for employment agencies?

Answer: WorkDirections Australia, etc, etc. Now, before Rudd's chief of staff, David Epstein, the Sultan of Spin, the Master of Muck, and former chief ANiMaLS operative arcs up and unleashes the full force of the ALP's mindless army of bloggers and Howard-haters, let it be noted that the latest confrontation between Rein's company and its staff was revealed in the pages of The Guardian, the principal Labour daily in the UK.

The details were not revealed by anyone from the Coalition's non-existent dirt unit, despite what Rudd's deputy, the strident Julia Gillard, might honk, or shadow Treasurer Wayne Swan might insinuate, or mud-slinger extraordinaire Anthony Albanese might bray, nor in some crypto-fascist neo-con sheet bankrolled by aged nazi war criminals. The Guardian is a left-wing newspaper which still believes in class war, like some in the Left of the ALP, and no doubt published its story to highlight what it believes is an attack on workers and their conditions.

Rein's company won six of 15 contracts worth more than 85 million ($A196,560,000) from the British Government under a scheme which aims to get disabled people off welfare. According to The Guardian: `'Unions and charities are furious that Mr Hain (the work and pensions secretary) has handed over the lion's share of the first tranche of privatised services to the Ingeus group under a deal which will not include union recognition and will not safeguard jobs on the same conditions as in Whitehall.''

The competitors, mainly charities, factored in the costs of TUPE staff benefits - which cover employees when their employers are taken over - into their bids. Rein's company had legal advice it did not need to provide those benefits and was able to undercut its competition. Charitably, and with an enviable display of the sportsmanship associated with thugs from the Graham Richardson school of "whatever it takes'' right-wing Labor politics, Rein's UK manager William Smith said the charities were `'whingers''. `'Frankly its their own fault. They should have bloody read the questions and answers documents.'' Indeed. If they hadn't been busily looking after the handicapped, widows and orphans, they may well have employed a firm of smart lawyers to look for such an edge.

Interestingly, The Guardian quoted angry and disappointed officials from two interested parties, the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations and the Public and Commercial Services Union, in its article about Rudd's wife's company. Stephen Bubb, the volunteer groups' representative, said he intended to ask the UK Government whether it had decided there was no future for voluntary organisations in delivering services. PCSU general secretary Mark Serwotka said: `'Not only has the voluntary sector been used as a Trojan horse by the private sector but the Government has handed a large chunk of work to a firm which is failing and mired in controversy in Australia. The Government is giving a green light to a company who we fear will try and circumvent TUPE regulations.''

A search of `'our'' ABC's worksite found just one reference to the story in which was included a quote from another representative of the PCSU, Martin John, who dodged around the issue by saying, while the union opposes the privatisation of public sector tasks it has no particular concerns with WorkDirections UK. `'I don't think we have any specific concerns about WorkDirections UK,'' he told the ABC. `'We are very concerned about the views of some in this Government in this country that they would like to follow an Australian model and contract out unemployment services. (But) we haven't got a particular problem with this company as against any others.'' Is his glass half-full or half-empty? Is WorkDirections better or worse than the other organisations he has trouble with? He's not really saying, according to `'our'' ABC.

But it doesn't take much imagination to realise what would be taking place if almost any other Australian company had undertaken the same flight offshore and engaged in the same slashing of staff benefits to beat its business competitors. The bruvvers and sisters from the Australian trade union movement who demonstrated their thuggishness on the picket lines they threw around the docks as they tried to block waterfront reform would be out in force. State and federal Labor politicians would lend their support as they did then, there would be demands that the company be ostracised for its un-Australian approach to its workforce.

Today however there is silence. Not a word is being said in Australia against the business run by the wife of the man who is telling everyone he will be the next prime minister, the business from which he derives healthy benefits at the cost of the benefits of its foreign employees. Hypocrisy, thy name is Labor.


Empty-headed Australia-bashing from Leftists

It is so often asserted as a truism: Australians have become more selfish, narrower, more materialistic. In February we had the great pleasure of having an Englishman, Oliver James, visit to diagnose the Australian malady for us as "selfish capitalism".

While in Sydney visit to promote his book, Affluenza, he dropped into Bondi and instantly distilled the vibe for us: "This kind of 'f--- you, we're rich' type thing." Now we have Hugh Mackay's book, Advance Australia Where? The veteran social researcher tells us of the findings of his focus groups: "Australians typically offer three explanations for the belief that our society is 'degenerating': a lack of connectedness (People won't even look you in the eye in the big cities); a surrender to materialism (I actually think we have too much, it makes you want more); unbridled selfishness (It's all me, me, me)."

This idea becomes politically potent when blame is attributed. Some explicitly hold the Howard Government responsible. After the 2004 election, Clive Hamilton of the Australia Institute wrote that "the relentless promotion of self-interest and the rejection of the politics of social progress is no more than we should expect from the Liberal Party".

I have long been troubled by the idea that the Australian people have become so selfish. I have also been struck that all of these claims are impressionistic or anecdotal or ideological, unsupported by empirical evidence. This puts them on the level of assertion, not fact. So let's test the claim. On the level of anecdote, you can always find evidence of anything you seek. But there are always contrary anecdotes. The real question is this: What does the systemic evidence tell us? Consider two measures. One is the level of charitable giving. The other is the level of volunteering in the community. If the country has become more selfish, surely one or both of these indicators will show a decline.

The most comprehensive survey of overall Australian giving found that, from 1997 to the end of 2004, individuals increased their total donations to non-profit organisations by 88 per cent, or an annual average increase of 12.5 per cent. Giving for victims of the Asian tsunami is explicitly excluded - no one can claim that any extraordinary one-offs somehow distorted the picture. Want to take out the effects of inflation? After adjusting for inflation, growth was 58 per cent, an annual average of 8.3 per cent. Note that this does not just represent a passive "ride" on a growing economy or rising incomes. The growth in individual giving was more than twice the speed of GDP growth and more than double the rate of the average increase in personal incomes.

The annual cash value was $7.7 billion in 2004. Is this unrepresentative, though? Eighty-seven per cent of adult Australians, a total of 13.4 million people, donated, according to the report, Giving Australia, which was co-ordinated by the Australian Council of Social Service and initiated by the Prime Minister's Community Business Partnership. If you're wondering about averages, the survey deducts $2 billion generated by charity events, and then figures out an average donation of $424 per adult per year. Incidentally, the numbers don't support the common assertion that Melburnians (average donation $485) are more generous than Sydneysiders ($524).

Companies gave a further $3.3 billion, contributed by 525,000 firms, which represents 67 per cent of all businesses in the country. The survey was unable, for methodological reasons, to measure the overall change in total business giving, but it did report that the proportion of businesses donating money - as distinct from goods or services - grew from 40 per cent to 58 per cent.

The increased generosity of Australian giving has implications at all levels. Last month, rich Australians gave donations worth $15 million to three competing art galleries, the Art Gallery of NSW, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the National Gallery of Australia. At the less glamorous end of the spectrum, Father Chris Riley's Youth Off the Streets charity is able to increase the scope of the services it offers. This year, it is expanding to Griffith and Walgett, and will need an extra $600,000. "We are going to be able to fund it through donations - we have never gone into overdraft," says Father Riley, whose organisation this year has budgeted for total outlays of $15.5 million. "Our fundraising with everyday people is rising all the time. Our greatest supporters are ordinary people, parents and grandparents and pensioners who send $5 cheques, rather than the big end of town. Our results in June with the 50,000 people on our mailing list was particularly good."

Australian gifts to good causes overseas have surged even more conspicuously than gifts at home. Figures collated by the umbrella group for non-government organisations which specialise in foreign aid, the Australian Council for International Development, show that private Australian giving abroad has risen at an annual average of 13 per cent from from $391 million in 2002 to $690 million in 2006. That's an annual average increase of 19 per cent, or 16 per cent after inflation. This is private giving only, nothing to do with government aid. (The trend of rising private generosity abroad has survived the tsunami. Last year's $690 million is far greater, by 35 per cent, than the $509 million for pre-tsunami 2004.) World Vision's Tim Costello sums it up: "Fundraising has been fantastic." He dates the surge to the terrorist attacks of September 2001: "I think Australians have redefined home. They know you can't be secure at home by pulling up the drawbridge. You can't win a war on terror without winning the war on poverty."

This ranks Australians as the second-most generous people, behind the Irish, in the developed world, according to the OECD measure of donations abroad as a proportion of the national economy.

And volunteering? There are two measures. According to the Bureau of Statistics, the proportion of people donating time to a non-profit organisation has grown from 24 per cent in 1995 to 41 per cent in 2005. The average number of hours donated had, however, fallen, from 160 per volunteer to 132. The second measure is a survey by Volunteering Australia, the peak body for the sector, which finds the same trend, with different specifics: the proportion of Australians volunteering time has grown from 24 per cent in 1996 to 34 per cent last year. The overall picture in volunteering "is one of growth", says its chief executive, Julie Pollard.

So an outfit like the NSW Cancer Council, which has 3000 volunteers, reports that it is has multiple applicants for each volunteer position it offers: "It's definitely increased over time; it's becoming a huge thing here," says a volunteer program co-ordinator, Nadine Constantini.

Far from being selfish, the hard evidence is that Australians are not only a generous people, but becoming more so. If there is no intensification of selfishness, it's hard to fit up the Howard Government, or anyone else, for the blame. There is no such phenomenon. The entire construct is a mirage, a furphy, a chimera. Messrs James, Mackay and Hamilton, begone. Australians are an increasingly generous people, and entitled to be acknowledged for it.


The N-word in Australia

If elected to office, Labor is committed to set up scores of inquiries and commissions into this or that. In view of such bureaucratic largesse, there must be room for at least one more such initiative - along the lines of an inquiry/commission into the use or misuse of historical parallels in the domestic political debate. This might be established by Labor's deputy leader Julia Gillard, who has committed a government headed by Kevin Rudd to establish a commission for social inclusion. As for the title for such an entity - how about the commission for historical exclusion?

In Parliament last Thursday, Gillard made the point that to compare someone to a Nazi is "one of the most repulsive allegations you can make against another human being". Quite so. She was referring to the clumsy attempt recently by the Coalition staffer Dr Peter Phelps to allege that Labor's candidate for Eden-Monaro, Colonel Mike Kelly, was attempting to use the Nuremberg defence to justify his past involvement with the Australian Defence Force in Iraq.

Phelps was trying to argue that Kelly now regards the invasion of Iraq as improper but that he willingly served with the Australian Defence Force in Iraq. A reasonable debating point - until Phelps went over the top by alleging that Kelly was acting "like the guards at Belsen, perhaps". The historical reference was to the fact that many Nazis, who took part in the murder of Jews and gypsies at Belsen and elsewhere, later pleaded that they were only obeying orders. This line of defence was not accepted by the war crimes tribunals which were held at Nuremberg, following the end of the Second World War.

Phelps's essential error was to attempt to equate service with the Defence Force in democratic Australia with the actions of those who implemented the genocidal policies of Adolf Hitler's Nazi totalitarian regime between 1933 and 1945. Following the intervention of the Prime Minister's Office, Phelps formally apologised to Kelly for his "clearly inappropriate" reference.

Phelps is not the first Coalition supporter to use the Nazi label when criticising political opponents. For example, some years ago senator Amanda Vanstone accused the Labor prime minister Paul Keating of behaving like the Nazi propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels. However, this tactic is much more common on the left side of the Australian political debate. Consequently, it is something that Gillard might see fit to resolve if she becomes deputy prime minister.

It will be quite a task. The fact is that large sections of the Australian left like to link their political opponents with Hitler's Nazi regime or Mussolini's Italian fascist regime. Now that the left has got over its one-time love affair with Bolshevism, some leftists also like to invoke the communism/Stalinism comparison as a term of abuse.

Writing in The Sunday Age on April 1 this year, Robert Richter, QC, went for the double. He claimed that the United States military commission which tried David Hicks at Guantanamo Bay could be compared to "Stalin's as well as the German show trials of the 1930s". In other words, the US military justice system - which was supported by the Howard Government - is a bit like the show trials that prevailed under communist and Nazi totalitarian regimes during the dictatorships of Stalin and Hitler respectively. Julian Burnside, QC, is another Melbourne barrister who has raised the spectre of Hitler's Germany when criticising the Howard Government.

If Phelps qualifies for some Gillard-style counselling, then so do Richter and Burnside. And so should the Victorian Greens which recently compared the ALP to "hardened SS troops". And so should NSW magistrate Pat O'Shane who last June criticised Rudd for supporting Howard's (alleged) "jackboot" policies concerning Aborigines in the Northern Territory. The term "jackboot" invariably equates with Nazism.

Then there are the journalists. In the current issue of Quarterly Essay, Peter Shergold (the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet) comments on his reaction when reading a Mike Carlton column that equated his views on the proper role of the Commonwealth Public Service with the position of "Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot". For good measure, Carlton threw in a reference to the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. Little wonder that Shergold maintains that such attempt at humour "is more offensive than incisive". Then there is the case of the journalist Mungo McCallum who claimed in November 2005 that, in a literal sense, the Howard Government is taking Australia on "the road to fascism". In April 2006, on this page, Alan Ramsey wrote seriously of contemporary Australia's "parallels with Hitler's Germany". And so on.

Within Australian universities there is a prevailing attitude in many a humanities department that Australia was in a pre-fascist condition in the early 1930s and on the eve of the civil war. The historian Andrew Moore has gone so far as to allege that in the 1950s, when Robert Menzies was prime minister, "it is not so very far from the truth" to suggest that the Lodge in Canberra was "Australian fascism's headquarters". Moore's approach to history was recently supported by the editorial writer in the leftist-inclined Canberra Times.

The linking of democratic Australia - under conservative or social democratic governments - with fascism or Nazism or communism not only indicates a superficial understanding of this nation. Perhaps more seriously, it demonstrates an appalling ignorance of the real totalitarian thing under Mussolini, Hitler, Lenin and Stalin. Gillard's critique of Phelps is to be welcomed. However, she should not forget her own comrades who share Phelps's historical confusion - albeit from a different ideological perspective.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Another mother miscarries after being ignored by NSW government hospital

Two babies lost in one night

A SYDNEY mother has spoken of the harrowing ordeal of being shunned by nurses at Royal North Shore Hospital while miscarrying - just minutes after a 14-week pregnant Jana Horska miscarried in the waiting-room toilet. The shocking revelation follows a string of horror stories emerging from the hospital, which has been labelled one of the worst in Sydney. The Daily Telegraph can reveal that on the same night Ms Horska miscarried in the emergency department's toilet, another expectant mother was also forced to wait while miscarrying.

Leng Liu and her husband Steve arrived at the hospital emergency ward on Tuesday night not realising the horrific circumstances that had just unfolded only minutes earlier. In acute pain and eight weeks pregnant, Ms Liu, 46, of Chatswood was seen by a nurse at 9.30pm and despite bleeding heavily was told to wait her turn. After an agonising two hour wait, Ms Liu's husband asked the triage nurse why his wife had not been admitted. "We were told we needed an ultrasound but that couldn't happen until the next morning," he said. "I decided to take my wife home and that is where she miscarried. "That nurse would have been happy to keep us waiting till God knows when and had we have not gone home we would have lost the baby there in the hospital toilet."

The couple decided to speak publicly after hearing of Ms Horska's ordeal. The 32-year-old from Mosman miscarried in the hospital's toilet after being forced to wait two hours in emergency. The Daily Telegraph has been inundated with horror stories from patients seeking help at the hospital. Just 18 months ago Angi Milos, 30, was handed a nappy and forced to sit in the waiting room while she miscarried. She was 14-weeks pregnant and crippled with pain when she arrived at RNS. After going to the toilet three hours later, she discovered she had lost her baby in the same toilet Ms Horska lost her baby. "I thought I had been just left there to bleed," she said yesterday. "They could have showed a little bit of compassion."

The State Government is refusing to hold a full investigation into the hospital, instead calling for an inquiry only into Ms Horska's ordeal. In Parliament yesterday, Health Minister Reba Meagher defended her decision not to fully investigate RNS. The hospital's director of trauma Tony Joseph also hit the airwaves yesterday to defend his staff. He said Ms Horska's miscarriage could have happened "in any emergency department in this city, in this state and in this country".

"I feel extreme sympathy for the lady ... and I apologise on behalf of the health system for what has occurred but for us working in emergency it's actually not surprising that this would happen," Dr Joseph said. Dr Joseph refused to apologise on behalf of the hospital, instead blaming a lack of government funding. "We've been telling governments of various levels of this problem for a number of years and we don't see much solution for it," he said.

Ms Meagher's refusal to launch a full investigation outraged Therese McKay, whose husband Don died last May as a result of appalling conditions at RNS. Mr Mackay died the day he left Royal North Shore after being admitted a month earlier for what should have been a routine operation to have his lungs drained. Instead he was exposed to third world conditions and mistakes such as having his breathing monitor switched off. Mrs McKay and her daughter Melissa flew from their Port Macquarie home to confront Ms Meagher. She described Ms Meagher's response to her presence in Parliament as "disgusting".


The class-war mentality behind the baby deaths

A FORMER senior doctor at Royal North Shore Hospital whose budget was slashed just before a state election says she was told people living in that area could afford to pay more. Dr Linda Dayan, who worked in the hospital's sexual health department for 11 years, said the cutbacks cost her her job. "Last year we had a massive budget cut in our area which was to halve the budget in two years," Dr Dayan told ABC Radio today.

"I called a meeting at the end of last year to speak with the deputy CEO and the woman who was directly under her ... to ask them why our budget was being halved," she said. "One of the women in the meeting said ... 'The new redistribution formula takes into account socio-economic class so everything has been cut in this area.' "She said, 'People in this area can afford to pay more'." [The North Shore is a generally affluent area of Sydney but not everybody who lives there is rich. So why should poorer people living there be discriminated against because some of their neighbouirs can and do use private hospitals? Is it to punish people for living in a somewhat nicer area? It probably is. Leftists think that only they deserve to live the good life. Witness the special treatment given to the "Nomenklatura" in the former USSR]

Dr Dayan, who now works in private practice, has called for a public inquiry into hospital funding. "I wonder if it was part of a political agenda as well - we were coming up to a state election and I was also told ... that maybe they didn't need votes in that area," Dr Dayan told Macquarie Radio shortly after speaking on ABC radio. "Things started to go from bad to worse. (The hospital) couldn't get new positions filled ... and at the last minute before the election those positions were filled so it looked on paper as if there new staff coming on board."

Services at Royal North Shore Hospital have come under the spotlight this week after a 14 weeks pregnant woman went without treatment for two hours and had a miscarriage in the emergency department toilets on Tuesday. Jana Horska was left holding her live foetus in the toilet, sparking outrage among medical groups and the community generally .

Dr Dayan spoke specifically about funding for the hospital's sexual health clinic, but said she was told there was an intention to cut budgets across all services. "Our figures were exactly the same as Western Sydney - they had $4 million, we were slashed to $2 million," she said. "Our figures were the same, our need was the same and yet the figures weren't taken into account. "I was told by an unnamed source that the guts of it was they had to cut $20 million of the budget."

A spokesman for NSW Health Minister Reba Meagher said hospital funding followed strict guidelines set out in the Australian Health Care Agreement, providing equal access to services regardless of where people lived. [Sounds like a barefaced lie]


Doctor vetting blasted

AUSTRALIANS can't trust medical authorities to hire properly trained doctors, according to Federal Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews. Mr Andrews has made the claim while requesting the Medical Board of Queensland review its procedures for hiring overseas trained doctors. He has insisted on "stringent employment verification checks" before new doctors are employed.

Gold Coast doctor Mohammed Asif Ali was sacked last month for disgraceful conduct after lying on his resume about his medical credentials. In a letter to chair of the Medical Board of Queensland, Dr Erica Mary Cohn, Mr Andrews doesn't refer to the sacking directly. But he says "a recent case" had highlighted to the Australian Government the risk to Australians' quality of health care through "inconsistent registration processes across different jurisdictions".

Mr Andrews also refers to "less than thorough" employment vetting processes. "In order for Australians to have confidence in their overseas trained doctors, they need to have full confidence that these doctors have undergone a rigorous assessment process," he said. "Given this case, I do not believe that Australians can be fully confident in the assessment system that currently exists."

Mr Andrews said the Council of Australian Governments had implemented a new national system for registration of health professionals and the accreditation of their training, to be operational by July 2008. "Until this process is complete, I believe it would be beneficial to review the processes by which employment backgrounds and qualifications of overseas trained doctors are assessed," he said. "As part of this review, I am seeking your assurances that the Medical Board of Queensland is undertaking the most stringent employment verification checks and qualification assessments in order to ensure the integrity of this program."


Teachers: No taxation without representation

Another sign of dimwittedness from this Leftist government. At least George III had the excuse of insanity

WESTERN Australia's chronic teacher shortage could worsen as thousands of teachers face the sack if they refuse to pay a $70 registration fee. Teachers have been told by the Education Department that they have until October 26 to pay membership fees to the WA College of Teaching, their professional standards body, or face deregistration and termination of contracts. The issue sparked alarm yesterday with the Opposition predicting chaos in schools as students were preparing for their TEE exams.

It is understood that about 3000 teachers, including 1600 of the state's 33,000 classroom teachers, have refused to pay their fees because they are angry over a lack of teacher representatives on the WACOT board. They say promised elections to put 10 teachers on to the board have not been held three years after the body was established. The Education Department wrote to them on Wednesday warning they would be dismissed if they failed to comply. It also told principals to prepare contingency plans to deal with any deregistrations.

Opposition education spokesman Peter Collier said the approach was extraordinary at a time of a severe teacher shortage when the Government was desperate to recruit more teachers. "What you've got potentially are 1600 teachers who are not going to be in our classrooms in a month's time," he said. "That is hundreds of classrooms across the length and breadth of the state potentially without teachers in six weeks' time, three days before the commencement of the tertiary entrance exams."

The issue caused uproar in state parliament yesterday, with Education Minister Mark McGowan rejecting the claims of looming chaos. Teachers would pay, he said. "Do you actually think that anyone would give up their job over what is, in effect, a $50 (after tax deductions) fee," he said. "There will be very few, if any, teachers that don't pay. "A $50 fee is, in effect, a half-a-morning's pay for a teacher."

State School Teachers Union president Mike Keely told The Australian the comments were provocative and Mr McGowan might be surprised at the result. "This is a sledgehammer approach to people you want to keep," he said. "That dismissive approach is the last thing teachers need to hear from the Government."


Fast food: Damned if you do, damned if you don't

FAST-FOOD makers have made efforts to stop using unhealthy trans fats - but the replacement oils are usually just as bad, an industry meeting was told yesterday. While some fast-food outlets have trumpeted their moves to abandon trans fats, the meeting was told they often turned to equally undesirable oils high in saturated fat. The nation's major fast-food chains, including McDonald's, Hungry Jack's and KFC, held the roundtable meeting to discuss their progress in switching away from frying oils linked to increased risk of heart disease.

"What we have seen, unfortunately, is in reducing trans fats, some of the industry groups have introduced fats that are very high in saturated fat, like palm oil," said Heart Foundation food strategy director Susan Anderson, who addressed the meeting in Sydney. "The commitment from the group today was to address both the trans fats and the saturated fats." Ms Anderson did not identify which fast-food providers had made the error.

A low-grade oil known to contain trans fats is also made up of 48 per cent saturated fat. Palm oil contains no trans fats, but its saturated fat content is 55 per cent. The companies were urged yesterday to switch to oils such as canola or grapeseed oil, which have no trans fat and are less than 10 per cent saturated fat.

Other fast-food chains represented at the summit include Domino's Pizza, Eagle Boys Pizza, Jesters, La Porchetta, Oporto, Red Rooster and Subway. The roundtable was chaired by federal Liberal senator Brett Mason, who said the sector had moved "very quickly" to address trans fat concerns and their focus was now on reducing the saturated fat in their food production. "It would be a bad thing if trans fatty acids left the diet and saturated fats went up," Senator Mason said. "Industry accepts that they do have a social responsibility to look at this issue. Let's face it, it harms people's health and it costs the community a lot of money." The fast-food industry is under threat of regulatory intervention unless sufficient progress is made towards cutting trans fatty acids by 2009.


Friday, September 28, 2007

More economic stupidity

LABOR has left the door open to slowing the pace of tariff reductions on Australia's textile, clothing and footwear industry in a bid to protect 60,000 manufacturing jobs. A Rudd government would also trigger an independent inquiry into the sector to consider further taxpayer-funded support, including research and development funding and export market development grants.

Labor industry spokesman Kim Carr yesterday accused John Howard of treating manufacturing as though it was "on palliative care". Asked about government claims that Labor would increase tariffs on imports, Senator Carr said he had made no such commitments. But he wanted to bring forward an inquiry already planned by the Government to examine "all matters" affecting the competitiveness of the TCF industry. "That's why I am not ruling out action on the tariff in terms of the legislated changes," Senator Carr said.

The Labor move would be the first major review of the TCF tariff regime since both sides of politics embraced the need for tariff reform in the 1980s. Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane seized on the comments last night to accuse the "socialist Left" of seeking to bring back tariffs. "The public rhetoric from Mr Rudd is calculated to reassure people that Labor would be a responsible economic manager, but his senior shadow ministers are spreading a very different message to selected people in private," Mr Macfarlane said.

Under Howard government legislation put in place in 2003, tariffs on TCF imports are being gradually reduced in line with the long-term trend towards trade liberalisation. Between 2005 and 2009, tariffs on cotton sheeting, woven fabrics, carpet and footwear will remain at 10 per cent, while 7.5 per cent tariffs will apply to sleeping bags, table linen and some footwear parts. But from January 2010, these tariffs will be reduced to 5 per cent. Tariffs on clothing and some finished textiles will be remain at 17.5 per cent until 2009 but will fall to 10 per cent from January 2010, and then to 5 per cent from January 2015.

Senator Carr flatly rejected any suggestion that Labor would increase tariff levels. But he said he would bring forward and broaden an inquiry already foreshadowed in legislation to examine thelegislated reductions and explore ways to improve the industry's competitiveness. "As far as I am concerned, manufacturing is not a dirty word and we repudiate the Government's approach, which essentially is to presume that these are sunset industries," he said. "With the right policy framework, we could actually see quite dramatic improvements."

He said the legislated tariff levels were underpinned by economic assumptions valid at the time they were put in place but which were now questionable. "What we've seen since that time is the dollar appreciate dramatically," he said. "This is an industry that still employs close to 60,000 people. They are entitled to a good deal more attention than they are getting. "The presumption that many have is that the Government wants to put them on palliative care and die quietly. That's an approach that I strongly reject."

He said focus was needed on innovation research and development and measures that improve productivity. "It's not just about tariffs," he said. "Tariffs are a second-order issue. How can we focus on greater innovation and productivity are the questions that I want answered." He said the existing regime provided several options for further industry assistance, including enhancements to an existing $575million, 10-year strategic investment scheme, a $50 million product diversification scheme, a structural adjustment program and a small business program.

Mr Macfarlane said the only reason Senator Carr would want an inquiry was so he could change the law. "The socialist Left is working hard to bring tariffs back, with Senator Carr leading the charge as shadow industry spokesman," Mr Macfarlane said. "Kim Carr's only qualification for the shadow industry portfolio is that he was a key backer of Kevin Rudd's leadership challenge in December 2006. "What a repudiation of previous reforms, proving that Labor either has no policy or has a policy it won't dare share with the Australian public."

The Howard Government remains committed to phased tariff cuts for the TCF sector and the car industry. Mr Macfarlane has previously flagged a review of the car industry next year to examine the impact of tariff cuts, which are due to fall from 10 per cent to 5per cent in 2010.


New vision for schools 'just drivel'

A FORMER senior Labor policy adviser has attacked the vision for school education unveiled by state and territory governments, describing it as "dangerous drivel" and a "retrograde step that will dumb down school curriculum across Australia". Ken Wiltshire, professor of public policy at the University of Queensland and the architect of the Queensland curriculum under the Goss government, told The Australian that the Future of Schooling report showed Labor education policy was still driven by the teachers' unions.

Professor Wiltshire seized on the idea in the report, released this week, that "the judgment of teachers is paramount", with external state exams and national tests supplementing the teachers' assessment. "External assessment should be what drives the whole national school curriculum. School-based assessment is subsidiary," he said. "This is an enormous step backwards. This is a really retrograde step that will dumb down the whole curriculum across Australia to the lowest common denominator, and the worst school will become the standard. "If this document gets through, the eight state education ministers are the greatest dunces in Australia."

Professor Wiltshire said the argument for school-based assessment was driven by teachers' unions and meant the teachers decided what would be examined and assessed, with no external checks or comparison of standards. "It's teachers' unions driving this to prevent any checks or controls on teachers and to prevent parents having appropriate measures of accountability and performance standards for the reporting of their kids," he said.

The Future of Schooling report was released on Tuesday by Victorian Premier John Brumby and commissioned by the Council for the Australian Federation from a steering committee chaired by the secretary of the Victorian education department, Peter Dawkins. The report was a final version revised after consultation with a range of organisations, with very few changes.

But the statement on public reporting of student assessment did change, with the draft version saying: "The external assessments of all students in state and national testing programs provide this kind of information (to understand personal development of students)." The final version states: "The judgment of teachers is paramount, but external assessments of all students in state and national testing programs must supplement this information."

Professor Dawkins said that to interpret this sentence as a movement away from state and national testing programs was wrong, and that they remained a critical part of the assessment and reporting process. Rather, the idea of a teacher's judgment being paramount was to reflect that teachers are trained to interpret test results and relate this to a child's development, and that they are the primary communicators with parents about their child's performance. "State and national testing programs are an important part, but not all the information that a teacher uses to determine a child's developmental needs," he said. "The judgment of teachers should always be crucial in reporting to parents. "During the consultation period, we received feedback that this is important. However, this is not intended to detract from the important role of external assessment."

Professor Wiltshire said the explanation was "gobbledegook and designed to prevent proper accountability". "Parents want to see external assessment - they're not interested in school-based assessment," he said. "They don't want to know whether the teacher likes their child, or how they rank in class. They want to know how their child is shaping up and keeping pace with the national curriculum."


Government "child welfare" organization kills another little kid

If it does lead to real skepticism about the value of university "social work" qualifications, that would be a big step forward

THE Queensland government will consider employing child safety officers with more "life experience" following the death of a toddler returned to his parents from foster care. The two-year-old died on Tuesday night after he was allegedly assaulted by his father at their home at Margate, north of Brisbane. The 34-year-old man appeared in Redcliffe Magistrates Court yesterday charged with manslaughter and torture. He was remanded in custody to reappear on November 27.

The state government, which has ordered an independent review of the case, yesterday confirmed the child had been in the care of the Department of Child Safety before being returned to his parents. Child Safety Minister Margaret Keech today defended her department, saying staff had a "really tough job, full of tough decisions".

But she said a review was under way into the skills needed to be a child safety officer. "Many of the great people in the job are young women, many of them are graduates from our universities who have had a small amount of life experience," Ms Keech told ABC Radio. "What we're considering right now is perhaps looking at not only the very important qualifications that the child safety officers need, but also they need life experience and other skills. "Perhaps professions, for example, (like) police officers, nurses, teachers may be other qualifications that may be welcome when we're looking at recruiting child safety officers."

Ms Keech described the boy's death as an "absolute tragedy", but said there was a lengthy process to determine whether children known to the department should be returned to their parents. "I believe that the process is a very strong process," she said. "I guess at the end of the day, individual parents will, unfortunately, whether it's through the effects of alcohol abuse or drug abuse or their own history etc, do actions which unfortunately lead to tragic results."

An immediate departmental review into the boy's death is to be carried out, as well as an external review by the child death case review committee, chaired by the Commission for Children and Young People. "They will review all decisions that have been made in the case and if there are any things that we can learn from the case we can accept the recommendations and implement them," Ms Keech said.

In July, two brothers aged four and 18 months were allegedly murdered by their mother's boyfriend in Toowoomba, west of Brisbane. Department of Child Safety officers had contact with the older boy a fortnight before his death and handed him back to his mother and her partner.


A MOST interesting study of ill health among war veterans

Anti-malaria drug PREVENTS cancer. A fascinating finding. Australia had conscription during the Vietnam war so the sample is unusually representative. Dapsone is quite an old drug but is still not well understood. It is related to the Sulfonamides

Australia's Vietnam veterans were not harmed by taking the drug Dapsone to protect against malaria, a new study has found. The finding has eased veterans' concerns that Dapsone might have contributed to health problems they suffered in later life. Veterans Affairs Minister Bruce Billson said the study showed the incidence of cancer among those who took Dapsone was actually 10 per cent lower than in a comparison group of veterans.

But, like earlier studies into the cancer and mortality of Vietnam veterans, the study confirmed that Vietnam war service had adverse effects on the health of many veterans, he said. "The overall incidence of cancer in both groups of veterans is significantly higher than in the Australian population," he said in a statement. "For those who took Dapsone it was seven per cent higher and 20 per cent for those who didn't." [In other words, dapsone eliminated two thirds of the bad effects. Most impressive. IT WOULD SEEM TO SUGGEST A PREDOMINANTLY BACTERIAL CAUSE IN THE GENESIS OF CANCER AMONG VETERANS]

Vietnam Veterans Association national president Ron Coxon said veterans had been concerned that they might have been used as guinea pigs to test a drug that had health risks. "We had serious concerns that the veterans on Dapsone might have had some serious side effects from that medication," he said. "But from the controlled studies that have been done it would appear that is not the case ... this would seem to allay that."

Dapsone is an anti-bacterial drug most commonly used in the treatment of leprosy. During the Vietnam war, some Australian troops took the drug Paludrine as an anti-malarial agent, while some took both Paludrine and Dapsone. A royal commission into the effects of the herbicide agent orange on Australian troops in Vietnam, established in 1983, reviewed the use of Dapsone and recommended there be further study into whether it caused cancer.

The report released on Wednesday is the fourth and final volume of The Australian Vietnam Veterans Mortality and Cancer Incidence Study. This study, produced by the Department of Veterans Affairs in conjunction with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, examined all army veterans deaths identified from the end of Vietnam service to 2001, and all cancers diagnosed from 1982 to 2000. It compared death and cancer rates among those who consumed a combination of Dapsone and Paludrine with those who used Paludrine alone and concluded there was little evidence that Dapsone was associated with an increased cancer risk.

"There are case reports of cancers among persons who have taken Dapsone, but no specific or unusual site of cancer consistently appears in these reports," it said. "None of the reports gives a biological argument for an association of specific cancers with Dapsone use." It said most cases described in scientific literature as developing cancer had been taking Dapsone in high doses over long periods to treat leprosy. "The study revealed no definite evidence that Dapsone exposure (among Australian servicemen in Vietnam) was associated with an increase in total cancer incidence," it said.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Another public hospital disgrace

Pregnant woman ignored: Miscarries in hospital toilet

A PREGNANT woman miscarried in a emergency department toilet while waiting for medical help at Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital, her family says. Despite complaining of acute pain, the 32-year-old woman was not seen by a doctor or given painkillers at the hospital overnight, Macquarie Radio reported today.

The woman's husband, identified as Mark, said his wife, Jana, had already had one miscarriage this year. He said Jana went to the hospital about 6.30pm (AEST) yesterday because she was experiencing similar symptoms to when she had the earlier miscarriage. Mark said that after Jana had been waiting more than an hour at the hospital, he was told by a triage nurse there was nothing they could do, and they should just wait in the queue.

"In the course of our waiting, she's ended up on the floor in a squatting position .. with her hands wrapped around her legs ... directly in view of the administration section of the emergency ward. "She's grimacing in pain and nothing's being done."

Jana then went to the toilet and stayed there for a while, he said. "Next minute, I just hear a scream and a smash, and I jumped up, and I raced into the toilet, and ... I just couldn't believe the scene in front of me. "It is my wife ... sitting on the toilet, screaming ... an image in my mind I'll never be able to get out, the look on her face, screaming, tears, hysterical, pants around the ankles ... holding a live, live mind you, live fetus in her hands ... with blood everywhere."

The woman's husband complained to emergency staff about the pain his wife was experiencing, but was repeatedly told to sit back down and wait, the report said. The man's cousin, identified only as Peter, said on Macquarie Radio that the treatment they received was disgraceful.

"When we weren't looking she walked off into the toilet and had a miscarriage," he said. "People have come running (from) everywhere. "I can't go into the finer details, it's just so gruesome, mate. It's just something I wouldn't say on air. "She's holding the little fetus in her hand, basically, and was wheeled out of the toilet in front of this packed waiting room. "Not only that, but once they found her a bed they left her lying with the fetus between her legs for one hour."


Climate promises so much hot air

What is it about climate change that attracts charlatans? While the focus has been on the Howard Government these past few days, what about the political snake-oil salesmen who would have you believe that we can reduce carbon emissions and fix global warming in the near term? That we can pull it off without noticeable economic or political pain and without worrying about what developing countries do. All bunkum. But you wouldn’t know that just by listening to the siren songs of the federal ALP or the Greens. They tell us breezily we can have it all, no worries. Where is the probing, sceptical media when these sorts of porkies are told?

Labor’s climate change policy represents the sort of brazen deception that Hugh Mackay would have no hesitation labelling “shameless mendacity” had it been offered up by the Liberal Party. But because Mackay and his progressive friends are barracking for Kevin 07, they have gone missing in action on the issue of what an ALP government can, and will, deliver on climate change.

A couple of striking recent developments in NSW tell us what a real live ALP government would be forced to do if it got its hands on the levers of power. It doesn’t bear any resemblance to the cuddly, idealistic promises of the Kevin 07 campaign. Federal Labor is hoping nobody will notice the yawning gap between what can be delivered on climate change without passing through the public’s pain barrier and what Peter Garrett and co are holding out to us.

Which is why we ought to take a close look at NSW, where this problem is writ large. The NSW Iemma Government is acutely aware of the chasm between reality and spin because it actually holds the reins of government.

Exhibit one from the NSW Government reality file is Moolarben. A few weeks ago, the NSW Government approved the development of a massive new coal mine at Moolarben near Mudgee despite loud protests from environmental and residents groups. Moolarben is huge. The Sydney Morning Herald reported it would produce 504 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to 168 million more cars on the roads and almost as much climate change pollution as Australia generates in a year. If you’re a climate change purist, this is surely a disaster. But the iron law of political reality meant it had to be approved. A cleaner environment tomorrow is no substitute, electorally speaking, for jobs and prosperity today.

As Tasmanian forestry unions taught us at the previous election, the first duty of any Labor government is to preserve and enhance the jobs of union members. Utopian promises of a clean, green environment free of coal mines and timber workers must always surrender to reality.

This is one reason that those telling you it is possible to have meaningful and binding international targets on carbon emission in the near term are practising a fraud. If the NSW Government cannot say no to the jobs generated by the coal industry, can we realistically expect developing countries such as China to do so?

And any scheme that imposes real and effective targets on developed countries but not on developing countries is no more than a scheme to export jobs from Australia to China. Now, Bob Brown and Garrett may have no objection to that. But the hard heads in the ALP know better.

Exhibit two from the NSW school of practical political reality. The NSW Labor Government realises that NSW needs at least one large new power station to “keep the lights on”, to quote Premier Morris Iemma. But as Tony Owen told the Government in his report, it cannot afford to have one without privatising the NSW electricity retailing sector at a minimum, and probably also the generation sector as well.

Herein lies not one but two delicious ironies. Privatising the power industry in order to fund a new power station, inevitably coal-fired, shatters two sacred tenets of the left-wing faith. Thou shalt not privatise. Thou shalt not build more coal-fired power stations.

The need to preserve the jobs of electricity workers, no matter what the cost, will likely mean privatisation will fail because the unions will oppose it, just as they did when former premier Bob Carr and his treasurer Michael Egan went down that path in 1997. Already the unions who pull the NSW Government’s strings have vetoed privatisation.

Interestingly, according to reports in The Daily Telegraph, they have done an unholy deal with the NSW Government to keep any dispute between them quiet until after the federal election. Similarly, if NSW needs a coal-fired power station to keep the lights on, they will get one. At public expense. No matter what climate change commandments are broken in the process. Union jobs will always outrank the cost to the public and certainly trump a clean atmosphere.

The hard men from Labor’s NSW Right faction learned those lessons of practical politics along with their two-times tables. And the key lesson for voters is that federal ALP is run by such practical men today. Men such as Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan. They know, though they are not saying, that Garrett, Anthony Albanese and ALP promises of a clean, green tomorrow are all just flim-flam election material. They know that, pre-election, the vast gap between what they promise on climate change and what an ALP government can actually deliver needs to be filled with a combination of smoke, mirrors and lies.

Should Labor win the federal election, these childish stunts will stop and the real business of governing will begin. Perhaps we should be grateful: adhering to idealistic targets, butchering the coal industry and banning electric hot-water systems will simply impoverish Australians and send jobs offshore without making a jot of difference to world carbon levels or global warming.

If we think the Chinese are going to stop opening new coal-fired power stations because we veto new Moolarbens and won’t sell them coal, we have a shaky grip on reality. So the realpolitik of the ALP hard heads is infinitely to be preferred to the Pollyanna-type views of the dreamers who write the campaign ads and the jingles about clean green futures.

But it would be nice to think that when this inevitable deceit is practised upon us, it would be fearlessly exposed. To think that the left-wing faithful, the artists, poets, actors and playwrights will complain about a lack of public decency in public life, led by Mackay, excoriating the mendacious in public office. To think the intelligentsia will moan about being lied to and write books titled, Not Happy, Kev.


Multiculturalism becomes poison for social capital

WE have heard little in this year's political debate about immigration or multiculturalism, although immigration is running at record levels. Yet a change of government has the potential to bring with it a marked change in both these policy areas, and one that most Australians may not like much. Kevin Rudd has, as on other issues, kept a low profile and told his shadow immigration minister to do the same. It has been left to Paul Keating to remind us what things were like under the Hawke and Keating governments, with his attack on John Howard earlier this year.

Keating said then that when Howard disparaged elites over what he celebrated as the mainstream, he was in fact disparaging cosmopolitan attitudes vis-a-vis the certainties of the old monoculture. There was even a comparison drawn and then withdrawn between Howard's populist appeal to ordinary Australians and Hitler's to the German Volk.

In the Labor years it was the role of cosmopolitan elites to keep ordinary, red-necked Australians and their inherent racism on the straight and narrow. It was an era of stifling political correctness, where critics were howled down with cries of racist by the cosmopolitan internationalist elites of the progressive Left. It was also an era of corrupt immigration policies, with family stream migration rorted to provide branch-stacking fodder. It was a time when ordinary Australians had the cosmopolitans' virulent multiculturalism shoved down their throats, with the result that support for immigration plummeted. This is no right-wing Liberal fantasy. Former Labor finance minister Peter Walsh described immigration policy under Hawke as a process of blow-out and cave in. The immigration program numbers blew out above target, bloated by regular cave-ins to the ethnic lobbyists.

Another former Labor minister, Gary Johns, saw its immigration policy as part of vote buying and branch-stacking. But most telling of all was the findings of the FitzGerald committee inquiry into immigration policy set up by the Hawke government. The committee, headed by Stephen FitzGerald, found a key problem in maintaining support for immigration was a profound distrust by Australians of the policy of multiculturalism. Historian John Hirst wrote in 1994: "Mainstream Australian society was reduced to an ethnic group and given an ethnic name: Anglo-Celt. Its right to primacy was denied; indeed, it became the most suspect of all ethnic groups given its atrocious past."

The Howard years changed all this and Rudd is unlikely to revert to the excesses of the Hawke years; however, there are signs that are worrying nonetheless. For example, Labor's platform, where immigration is dealt with in the section on human rights, itself a worrying sign of a return of the Left to policy formulation, speaks of restoring a fairer and more balanced immigration program. At the moment the program is 70per cent skilled migrants, an economic focus that is very much in Australia's interest. Restoring balance suggest Labor will increase the role of family reunion, an ominous possibility given the record of the Hawke years.

However, the real worry, given Australia will want to continue to run a strong immigration program, is a Labor government's ability to retain a national consensus in favour of immigration. There is a substantial body of research that shows the ethnic diversity driven by immigration is destructive of social capital. The most comprehensive of these studies is by American political scientist Robert Putnam, best known as the author of Bowling Alone, a book on the breakdown of community in the US. Putnam defines social capital as "social networks and the associated norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness".

Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History, told an International Monetary Fund conference on social capital some years ago: "Social capital is important to the efficient functioning of modern economies and is the sine qua non of stable liberal democracy."

Putnam, himself from the progressive Left, is somewhat embarrassed by his findings that ethnic diversity leads to the breakdown of trust and community networks that are a vital part of any society's social fabric. While his study is of the US, he says it would apply to other countries such as Australia. Worried about the impact of his research given the increased sensitivity on immigration issues since September 11, he said nothing about it for four or five years, before delivering a paper in Sweden last year. While he is at pains to say that in the long run immigration and ethnic diversity are likely to have important cultural, economic, fiscal and development benefits, his own research doesn't establish this. What it does show is that over several decades immigration and ethnic diversity lead to mistrust, challenge social solidarity, break down community and are poison to social capital.

This isn't an argument for stopping immigration or for racial purity, since, as Putnam says, ethnic diversity will inevitably increase in all modern societies. But it is a powerful argument against multicultural policies that encourage ethnic separatism and discourage assimilation. The litmus test for a Rudd government will be what it does in response to the Howard Government's changes to Australian citizenship laws designed to increase the value immigrants place on citizenship and insist on competent English and an understanding of Australia's laws, history and culture.

Australian sociologist Katharine Betts and demographer Bob Birrell provide an excellent discussion of the changing approach to citizenship since the Whitlam government in 1973 in the March issue of People & Place. What they show is that under successive Labor governments the value of citizenship was reduced to little better than a certificate you could pull out of a corn flakes packet. They note two very different concepts of citizenship, which they label the procedural position and the patriotic view. The procedural view holds that migrants should have no other commitment to Australia beyond respect for the law and rights of others.

The patriotic position, which surveys show is held by a clear majority of Australians, attaches a strong value to citizenship as a national bond and expects immigrants to live like Australians. This is the position the Howard Government has moved to in recent years. Rudd has yet to declare his attitude to the Government's citizenship approach, but Labor emphatically rejects any suggestion of assimilation. Yet the strongly adverse effect of immigration and ethnic diversity on social capital suggests a policy that brings Australians together rather than encouraging cultural separation will be essential to sustaining immigration and its long-term benefits.


"Pumpkin" reunited with grandma

ABANDONED toddler Qian Xun Xue has been reunited with her grandmother in Auckland, 10 days after being dumped by her father in Melbourne. In a photograph released by New Zealand's Child, Youth and Family (CYF) service, Qian Xun, three, is shown being lovingly embraced today by her maternal grandmother Liu Xiao Ping, who had flown in from China. Qian Xun looked healthy and content, while Ms Ping was clearly delighted to see her granddaughter.

Qian Xun's mother, Anan Liu, was found dead in Auckland last week in the boot of a car belonging to her husband, publisher Nai Xin Xue, who is now on the run in the US. Mr Xue abandoned Qian Xun at Southern Cross railway station before fleeing to America.

CYF regional director Marion Heeney said Qian Xun, nicknamed Pumpkin, had settled in well in Auckland, but had eagerly waited for her grandmother. "While Qian Xun has times where she has been quite distressed, she is generally a very sunny, happy little girl," she said. "She has been chatting away and playing with her new toys but her focus has been on seeing her grandmother."

Ms Heeney said bringing the two together was pleasing for everybody concerned. "Despite the love and affection shown by those caring for Qian Xun, for the past nine days everyone has been new to her," she said. "She needs and deserves to feel safe and secure with a family member that she knows well. "There is clearly a great deal of love and caring between Qian Xun and her nana."

Meanwhile, Mrs Liu, in an open letter, thanked the New Zealand public for their support and paid special thanks to police in New Zealand, Australia and the US. New Zealand Chinese Herald editor Jerry Yang said he received the letter from an unnamed associate of Mrs Liu. In the letter, she said she was writing on Mid-Autumn Day, a traditional day for Chinese family members to come together. But for her, it was the day she was leaving China to attend the memorial service for her murdered daughter. "At this very moment, anyone who has a conscience would understand the deepest pain in my heart," she said.

Mrs Liu wrote that she intended to take Qian Xun back with her to China. She was grateful to the authorities who have cared for her granddaughter and expressed a desire to see justice done over the death of her daughter. ``I want her to grow up healthy in a safe and warm place being well protected by us,'' she wrote. ``I want to condemn the violent crime committed against Anan that is this murder and I'm requesting that Interpol arrest this brutal criminal as soon as possible.''


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Deluge of red tape to get worse

THE federal Opposition's plans to create a raft of new departments, agencies and advisory groups and a host of additional bureaucratic appointments feeding the already bloated public service dash any hopes of real reform under a Labor government. What we can expect is change to satisfy a social engineering agenda, such as replacing the Government-created Australian Building and Construction Commission, even though the Opposition acknowledges it is doing a good job.

Reform is what is really needed to make the system work more efficiently and to lessen the burden of compliance on the individual. The bigger the public service, the more it has to justify its existence by creating more red tape for business and individuals to wade through. For example, while the federal and state governments have lived high on the hog since the introduction of the GST, life for small business operators has been a series of continual frustrations as they try to satisfy the endless demands of the tax man. And there is no suggestion from either side of politics that this is likely to change. Marginal-seat polling available to the Labor Party has highlighted this as a significant area of voter dissatisfaction with the Government, particularly among independent contractors.

But to get a real picture of how the dead hand of the bureaucracy works, you need look no further than the plight of farmers in the Murray-Darling Basin. They have been driven mad by endless bureaucratic paperwork on the allocation of water rights that often don't even exist, while they struggle to make ends meet in one of the worst recorded droughts.

The responsibility for water policy in this crucial farming area sits with the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council. This is made up of two ministers from the federal Government (including Environment and Water Resources Minister Malcolm Turnbull as chairman) two each from NSW, Victoria and South Australia and one from Queensland. The council meets at least once a year but any policy decisions require a unanimous vote. As we have seen through the collapse of the Prime Minister's Murray-Darling rescue package, there is fat chance of that happening on anything deemed to be politically sensitive, particularly on the eve of an election.

Meanwhile, the council has an executive arm in the form of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission. The commission has its own president, with two commissioners and two deputy commissioners drawn from the federal bureaucracy and the public service in each of NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland. The ACT is represented by one commissioner and a deputy commissioner. As well as overseeing project boards and committees, the commission also receives advice from 19 working groups covering everything from fish to landscape and salinity. The council is also assisted by a 22-member community advisory committee that has its own independently appointed chairman and is supported by a secretariat based in Canberra.

As the election draws near, our political leaders are vying for support from the rural sector with more promises of drought relief. But what is the real benefit of this without bureaucratic relief?

A similar situation surrounds the growing political focus on the environment and the impact of climate change, which is spinning another massive federal-state regulatory web. In the area of greenhouse emissions, industry is being confronted by a rapidly rising tide of red tape. While this significantly increases the cost of business management, it offers no incentive for compliance; indeed, all it seems to hold out is the likelihood of more regulation down the track.

For example, in the greenhouse gas emission area, industry is involved in voluntary reporting, internal company reporting, industry association reporting and reporting through the federal Government's Greenhouse Challenge program, as well as an increasing level of state government-mandated reporting requirements.

In his recent five-pillar development speech, Prime Minister John Howard acknowledged the scope for more reform in a fifth term of government. Addressing the adverse effect of bureaucratic duplication and red tape could save billions of dollars and project a forward-thinking image for business and the community generally. This may be our last hope for reform because from what we have seen so far, it looks like it is not going to come from the other side of the political fence, particularly with all the states and Canberra sharing the same bed.


Kiwis deserting socialist New Zealand

AUSTRALIA'S population is growing at its fastest pace in almost two decades, with workers from New Zealand pouring into the country to replace Britain as the biggest source of immigrants. Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics yesterday revealed the population rose 1.5 per cent to 20.9 million in the year to March, the quickest growth rate since 1990. The introduction of the baby bonus has driven the nation's birth rates higher. But the ABS figures reveal most of the population growth was driven by overseas migration. New arrivals accounted for 54 per cent of the increase, compared with natural increases of 46 per cent.

Separate figures released yesterday revealed New Zealand had overtaken Britain as the biggest source of new arrivals. Overall, the population rose an estimated 307,100 people, the biggest 12-month increase since record-keeping began in 1789.

A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews said an ageing population and a booming economy were the main reasons Australia was taking more migrants. She said that in 2006-07 about 152,000 migrants settled in Australia, 70 per cent of whom were skilled workers. This did not include the 48,000 457 visa holders in Australia temporarily to fill skills shortages.

The mining states of Queensland and Western Australia are enjoying the fastest population growth, with numbers up 2.3 and 2.2 per cent respectively. The Northern Territory population rose 2 per cent, Victoria and the ACT 1.5 per cent, South Australia and NSW 1 per cent and Tasmania 0.6 per cent.

Bill Randolph, director of the City Future Reserach program at the University of NSW, said cities were "creaking at the edges". He said a decade of underspending had left an "infrastructure deficit". Although federal government policies such as immigration drove population increases, it was largely up to the states to accommodate ballooning numbers. The result was a "policy vacuum" that fed urban overcrowding and housing affordability crunches and put pressure on transport assets and water supplies, Mr Randolph said. "The Federal Government has no cities policy," he said. "If you want immigration you've got to at least have some idea about how you're going to deal with them and their needs."

West Australian Premier Alan Carpenter agreed there was a disconnection between states and the commonwealth on infrastructure. He called for a collaborative approach to manage growth and identify infrastructure "hot spots". Mr Carpenter said immigration was a good example. "The national and West Australian governments should be sitting down with some of the big project proponents saying, 'what sort of numbers are we looking at here, how many people do we need, where do we need them, what sort of skills profile are we going to require?"' he said.

In 2006-07, the number of settlers from New Zealand jumped to 23,906 compared with 19,033 the previous year, Immigration Department figures showed. The next highest source of migrants was Britain, with 23,223. Overall, the two countries accounted for 33.6 per cent of all settler arrivals. There were 13,496 migrants from India, 12,009 from China and 5561 from the Philippines.


South Australian Certificate of Education becoming too easy

The new high school certificate will worsen the skills crisis by discouraging the study of maths and science subjects at Year 12 level, teachers say. Associations of maths and science teachers say the new format, which applies from 2011, will encourage students to drop one of either physics, chemistry, mathematical studies or specialist maths. It requires students to complete 60 study units, the equivalent of three full-year subjects and universities are yet to announce whether their entry requirements, now five Year 12 subjects, will change.

But teachers say the new certificate's focus on raising the number of students who finish school and pressure to get the best score for university entry will mean more students drop out of harder maths and science subjects and opt for "easier" studies. SA Science Teachers Association past president and president-elect of the Australian Science Teachers Association Peter Turnbull said the new high school certificate was "flying in the face" of efforts to combat the state's skills shortages. "We have a view that this is going to have an impact on the uptake of the sciences. It is a major concern for us," he said.

Course counsellors already discouraged students from difficult subjects to maximise their Year 12 score, Mr Turnbull said. "The evidence we're getting is that when kids are choosing subjects, there is often a fairly hard lobby to avoid the hard things," he said.

SA Chamber of Mines and Energy chief executive Jason Kuchel agreed easy subjects were increasingly offered to students as replacements for key subjects. "I am concerned we are continually providing more and more softer choices to students, which is encouraging them away from some of the four subjects required for engineering," he said. People with strong backgrounds in the maths and sciences are needed to address the state's skill shortages in professions such as engineering, geology, surveying and aviation.

Mathematical Association of SA vice president Carol Moule predicts specialist maths will be hardest hit under the new certificate - with universities already teaching these subjects - calculus, geometry and complex numbers - in bridging courses. About 1100 Year 12s studied specialist maths last year. Maths studies attracted about 3160 enrolments, chemistry 2200, and physics enrolments were below 2000, according to the Senior Secondary Assessment Board of SA.

Designers of the new qualification deliberately simplified the number of subjects required, reducing it to 200 points or 20 semester-long subjects, rather than the existing 22. Mrs Moule said the new SACE was designed to increase retention rates. "It is simply about encouraging kids to stay on and do Year 12 and get a certificate," she said. "I really care about the more able ones keeping up their study of the maths and sciences."

Education Minister Jane Lomax-Smith said SACE would prepare more young people for "skilled careers, further education and citizenship". "Science and maths will continue to be key subject offerings provided under a future SACE," she said. Future SACE office director Wendy Engliss said students will be able to choose either Year 11 or Year 12 subjects in addition to the compulsory requirements at each year level. "This gives scope to students to choose more full-time stage two subjects, including more maths and science, if this best suits their pathways," she said.

No limit on the number of Year 12 subjects was proposed for the new certificate and a requirement for an arts subject would also be dropped. Ms Engliss said requirement to study an in-depth project at Year 12 level would be another opportunity for students to study maths or science.

Association of Independents Schools SA executive director Garry Le Duff said university requirements needed to be resolved "in the very near future", but he believed the new SACE was flexible enough for students to do a combination of maths and science subjects.


A heavily politicized "human rights" bureaucracy

Post lifted from Leon Bertrand. See the original for links

Last week we had two separate stories on the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission's left-wing political bias. These stories can be found here and here. We have since found another example of bias for your enjoyment. ADCQ's Submission to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission for consideration in its Pay Equity Inquiry in June of this year reveals that the Commission explicitly favours a Socialist industrial relations system, again breaching the Public Sector Code of Conduct. For instance, the Commission advocates that it, or the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal, should set wages in private sector workplaces:

28. The QIRC discussion paper discusses possible amendments to the ADA to permit the Commission or Tribunal to make equal remuneration orders based on comparable worth. The discussion paper speculates whether it may be possible for an equal remuneration order based on comparable worth to direct that the specified employee or class of employees be reclassified.

Of course, recent thinking on industrial relations has come to the conclusion that employers, and not Government bodies, are best able to evaluate the worth of an employee's work. This coincides with the rise of economic rationalism and the decline of soft socialism. Nevertheless, the "fresh thinking" of the ADCQ essentially advocates a new form of centralised wage-fixing, as though Tribunal members are better judges of an employee's worth. As we have already shown, Tribunal members often know very little. In fact, the H.R. Nicholls society has pointed out that:

The inevitable problem which arises in every specialist tribunal, unstated by Justice Guidice, is the composition of these tribunals. The type of people who seek appointment to antidiscrimination tribunals, and often succeed in getting appointed, are often women, homosexual, and sometimes disabled (the former head of the Victorian tribunal was a blind woman). They tend to be steeped in student revolutionary culture of the 1970s and are living specimens of an undergraduate time warp. For them, employers, large and small, are the drivers of capitalist oppression. In this time warp, white, middle-aged males harass, intimidate, fail to promote, fail to hire and terminate employees as part of a conspiracy against non-Anglo-Saxons and women. Profoundly ignorant of how markets work in a free economy, and guided by chattering-class perceptions of how and why hiring and firing occurs, they are determined to bring light to the unenlightened and to expose the evils of the market economy. These tribunes are not judges at all-but social engineers sitting on the bench-inspired by the example of Sir William Deane, Sir Anthony Mason and Sir Gerard Brennan.

Being the left wing organisation that it is, the ADCQ couldn't resist a crack at Workchoices, the Australian left's second biggest obsession after climate change, the latter being a phenomenon which has occurred since the beginning of Earth's existence:

39. If there are no legislative constraints imposed by the WRA and Queensland does have power to adopt and implement legislative models similar to those implemented in Sweden or Quebec, United Kingdom and the Netherlands, France or Switzerland, the ADCQ submits that a strong mandatory model binding all employers should be passed in Queensland. Such a legislative model is likely to be one of the most effective means to have systemic outcomes, if combined with other measures to address the underlying causes of the gender pay gap. This type of measure becomes even more necessary, given that the individualisation and decentralisation of wage bargaining, and the removal of state based equal remuneration principles under WorkChoices eliminates some of the former means of reducing the gender pay gap.

The ADCQ goes on to express its strong support for Quebec's model which requires employers to "methodically report on their compliance" with bureaucratic regulations imposed by the state, including a "pay equity process" and a need to post results of such a process. Such a model might sound appealing to some, however from an economist's point of view there are hidden costs associated with over-regulation such as this. What ADCQ are proposing is that the compliance costs of business are increased, whilst their ability to run their businesses efficiency and flexibly are undermined. In short, it's a typical soft left proposition which, if implemented, would be detrimental to the Australian economy. On top of this authoritarian approach, ADCQ even proposes the following:

46. Preferred tenderer status should be conferred by the Government on those organisations that have undertaken an approved gender pay equity audit and have taken action to achieve pay equity at all levels of their organisation. The QIRC discussion paper notes that this measure has been introduced in Switzerland. Public procurement policies are increasingly being used internationally to further social goals including equality in employment. Procurement policies can attain these objectives by requesting contractors to modify the gender, racial or ability/disability make up of their workforce, or by encouraging contactors who are female or belong to racial or ethnic minorities to partake in public tenders. The USA, South Africa and Europe are all using procurement policies to promote equality in the workplace.

Whilst ADCQ is designed to fight against discrimination, it keenly wishes to implement AA, a form of discrimination that the left promotes. Again, there are hidden costs to the economy if you force employers to hire people for reasons other than merit. But of course, just like the rest of the soft left, ADCQ seems oblivious to this. Further mandatory regulations ADCQ wish to impose on the very businesses that generate the wealth that funds ADCQ include:

* Introduce a 14 week paid maternity leave scheme (recommendation 13).

* Phase in a more comprehensive scheme consisting of:

a) At a minimum, two weeks paid paternity leave to be taken at the birth of the child; and

b) A further 38 weeks of paid paternal leave that is available to either parent (recommendation 14).

Again, this clearly shows that ADCQ believes that businesses are generally bottomless pits of money that can be asked to fund virtually anything, even if they don't receive a cent in return. The irony of course is that compulsory paid maternal leave would actually result in discrimination to women: the very thing ADCQ seeks to avoid. It is quite apparent that the world ADCQ aims for is essentially a socialist utopia, completely divorced from economic realities which make it unworkable. It's the same dreamy utopianism which made Karl Marx pen that "religion is the people's opiate", not realising that he himself was befuddled with a rather similar narcotic.

This blog has already pointed out that women encounter few disadvantages, and are increasingly rising to the top. The only evidence that ADCQ is able to produce as evidence that Anti-Discrimination laws do not redress discrimination in the field of employment are the comments of another Tribunal leftist, namely Glynn J in the NSW Pay Equity Inquiry. It seems it has never occurred to the leftists at ADCQ that there are other reasons besides discrimination that are responsible for women generally earning less than men. For instance, women often choose to be the stay at home mothers for years, before they re-enter the workforce, thereby slowing their career development. Secondly evidence also suggests that in many cases men are more ambitious than women, and this is due to higher levels of pressure and expectation being imposed on men. ADCQ happily ignores all of these considerations, deciding to instead dogmatically assume that it is the best judge of the value of one's work. It is a push for socialism, under a new, post-Marxist guise.

In a previous post on the ADCQ, we pointed out some key principles enshrined in the Public Service Code of Conduct:

The Australian Public Service:is apolitical, performing its functions in an impartial and professional manner; provides a workplace that is free from discrimination and recognises and utilises the diversity of the Australian community it serves; has the highest ethical standards; is openly accountable for its actions, within the framework of Ministerial responsibility to the Government, the Parliament and the Australian public;is responsive to the Government in providing frank, honest, comprehensive, accurate and timely advice and in implementing the Government's policies and programs; delivers services fairly, effectively, impartially and courteously to the Australian public and is sensitive to the diversity of the Australian public;

Once again, with its push for obsolete left-wing policies, ADCQ has revealed that it is not a politically impartial organisation. Rather, it is an organisation whose political orientation can best be described as soft left, and which is quite apparently out of touch with the economic and social realities of the real world.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Below are five reports from within the last week. QLD is the State of Queensland; VIC is the State of Victoria; NSW is the State of New South Wales; SA is the State of South Australia

QLD: Ambulance death coverup

A QUEENSLAND Ambulance Service report into the death of a young heart attack victim was shredded, rewritten and a new version given to the Coroner's Office. Sources have told The Sunday Mail the original report into the death of Burbank man Vito Catenaro, 39, was damning of QAS management and its handling of the controversial case. Mr Catenaro died in June last year after his wife Silvana tried in vain to get resuscitation advice from a Triple-0 operator, a nearby ambulance was sent to another address, and eventual medical help was delayed more than 30 minutes.

Mrs Catenaro said one of Commissioner Jim Higgins' assistants admitted to her that the service had bungled at every turn, and apologised. But ambulance insiders said QAS management was now trying to shift blame. "Unhappy with the outcome which revealed a huge system f--- up, the managers ordered that the report be rewritten," a source said last week. "When the ops managers refused, the report was destroyed and a new player brought in to rewrite the facts. "Interestingly, the ethical standards unit rep advised the original investigators to keep copies of the first report handy in the event that it leaked."

The source said management was "in a panic" after new Premier Anna Bligh ordered an audit into the service. The original report was written by highly respected QAS manager Stewart Merefield, an Australia Day Award winner with more than 25 years' ambulance service. Mr Merefield declined to comment yesterday.

A QAS insider said Mr Merefield was ordered by senior ambulance management to rewrite his 60-page report so it was less critical. When he refused, they said someone else would rewrite it and he would be forced to sign. "Mr Merefield refused to play their game because he did not want to perjure himself to the coroner," the source said.

The insider said management and legal counsel ordered that the original Merefield report and all email correspondence be destroyed. Another manager with no paramedic experience was brought in to do the rewrite. The second report was handed to Deputy State Coroner Christine Clements only recently - 15 months after the death - despite repeated requests from the coroner's office, police and Mrs Catenaro to speed the process.

A spokeswoman for Ms Clements said she had not had a chance to read the QAS report to determine whether an inquest would be held. A spokesman for the commissioner admitted a preliminary report was done. "However, the commissioner requested other matters be pursued to ensure all aspects of the investigation were fully canvassed before a final report was submitted to the State Coroner," he said. A spokesman for Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts said the second report was more in-depth and produced significant recommendations, including counselling and retraining of some staff. He strenuously denied claims that there were orders to destroy the original report.

Mrs Catenaro said she hoped the coroner would investigate so "this sort of failure never happens again".


VIC: Negligent public hospital treatment of injured woman

An 8-hour wait to deal with a serious head injury is inexcusable and the consequences have been severe

THE family of a critically injured Portland woman, forced to wait eight hours to be admitted to a Melbourne hospital, have joined a campaign for a rescue helicopter for Victoria's southwest. Carolyn Meerbach remains in a coma almost six weeks after she was struck by a car while on her morning walk around Portland with her husband, Joseph. While she was taken by ambulance to the Portland hospital almost immediately after the horror crash, the Melbourne-based helicopter that flew her to the city was not called until almost four hours later.

Her brother-in-law, Keith Meerbach, has joined a 10-year campaign for a rescue helicopter to be based at Warrnambool or Portland. He said he believed Mrs Meerbach's injuries had been worsened by the delay in her undergoing surgery at the Alfred. "There's not a lot of doubt she would be better off is she could have had the pressure in her skull relieved earlier," Mr Meerbach said. He said his 46-year-old sister-in-law had been bleeding into her brain and was now on full life support at the Alfred.

Metropolitan Ambulance Service Chief executive officer Greg Sassella said he was confident Mrs Meerbach's care was not compromised by the air ambulance being based in Melbourne


NSW: Hospital keeping patients in old storage rooms

ONE of Sydney's busiest hospitals is so under-resourced that patients are being squeezed into storage rooms for treatment. Nurses at the Royal North Shore Hospital at St Leonard's report critical understaffing and that 100 positions for registered nurses and midwives are vacant.

The hospital has launched "treatment rooms'' to relieve the burden on emergency beds. But the new rooms are little more than a hospital bed stuffed into an old storage room. Frustrated nurses are threatening industrial action. They could call an emergency union meeting as early as this week, claiming they are being pushed too hard to pick up the slack. "It's a shambles," said one highly placed nurse, who did not wish to be identified. "There is barely enough room to walk around the beds, let alone treat people properly." The nurse said her colleagues were working up to 19 hours overtime every week to fill the gaps left by the vacant positions. "We are worked off our feet," she said. "We have to do so much overtime to meet targets." The nurse said her colleagues were seriously considering industrial action to improve their working conditions.

Ambulance officers, speaking through the Health Services Union, confirmed that patients were being treated in inadequate rooms with little room to move.

Northern Sydney and Central Coast Health acting chief executive Terry Clout said the hospital was actively recruiting to try and fill the vacant positions. "While international and national nursing shortages are impacting on our ability to fill these vacancies, extensive marketing and recruitment strategies are being put in place to ensure we fill (them) as soon as possible," he said.

Mr Clout confirmed the hospital runs treatment rooms that are used when the emergency department exceeds its capacity. "Clinical treatment rooms in wards at Royal North Shore Hospital are being used to accommodate patients, in response to periods of high-level demand," he said. "The use of these rooms was introduced as a capacity-management strategy in 2000, to prevent patients being kept in the emergency department when its capacity to meet demand has been exceeded."

Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said that conditions at the hospital were "disgraceful". "I have had many phone calls and contact from staff about the lack of morale in that hospital. The nurses say the only thing that keeps them there is a commitment to the patients and each other," she said. "Royal North Shore is particularly bad. The place is disgraceful in terms of the physical condition. It's dirty, seedy and rundown."


QLD: New heart defibrillators are duds

EXPENSIVE new life-saving defibrillators - which cost the State Government more than $1.5 million - do not work. The Queensland Ambulance Service confirmed yesterday the new defibrillators had to be upgraded before they could be rolled out.

It is another major embarrassment for the Government after Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts boasted in State Parliament this month about the devices. "The message that I want to give to the community is that we need to extend and broaden the range of locations where we have defibrillators... (they) are life-saving equipment. "When you are talking about cardiac arrest, every minute and every second count," Mr Roberts said. He also said $2.5 million had been allocated in the 2007-08 Budget for 240 new defibrillators "to ensure our paramedics are able to access the most modern and reliable equipment for patient care".

A defibrillator, which costs between $10,000 and $20,000, administers electric shocks to try to restart a heart that has stopped. The Sunday Mail revealed in April that faulty defibrillators had been linked to at least three deaths in Queensland since 2005. In March, a 38-year-old Mitchelton man died after the defibrillator in the ambulance taking him to Royal Brisbane Hospital did not work. New devices became a priority and were part of the record funding for the QAS announced by then-treasurer Anna Bligh in her June Budget.

But there have already been problems with the first shipment of defibrillators. Paramedics told The Sunday Mail last week that they had tried to replace their faulty old devices, but had been refused. "People die due to lack of good equipment .... it is locked up... they have pallets of new ones in a warehouse," said a frustrated ambulance officer. A spokesman for Ambulance Commissioner Jim Higgins said: "the QAS has 83 new defibrillators on hold, which are awaiting an external cable upgrade."


SA: Obstructive paramedic plus hospital delay kills man

Most surprising behaviour from a woman. Is she a lesbian or was she just hormonal?

A female paramedic with a "chip on her shoulder" actively discouraged a critically ill man from going to hospital hours before he died, an inquest has found. State Coroner Mark Johns has strongly criticised SA Ambulance Service officer Jennifer Bell over her dealings with Stefanos Markantonakis, 63, of Goodwood, who had a history of heart disease.

Ms Bell and another paramedic, Sarah Moore, were dispatched to Mr Markantonakis's home at 2pm on March 4, 2004, when he complained of chronic lower back pain. The pair decided he did not need to be taken to hospital and suggested he take painkillers. They returned at 5pm when his family said he had worsened.

Mr Johns said Ms Bell treated him in "a blunt . . . manner more calculated to dissuade him from going to hospital than to encourage him". "I had the impression that Ms Bell is a person with a chip on her shoulder," he said. Mr Johns said this attitude was evident in how she spoke to Mr Markantonakis, his wife and their daughter, Chrisoula, who said she told her it "was a case of poor me".

Mr Johns said Ms Bell left Ms Moore outside when they returned two hours later. "According to Chrisoula she came into the house and stomped through with the attitude she had and said to Mr Markantonakis 'come on we are taking you now'," he said. Mr Johns said Mr Markantonakis was driven to the Flinders Medical Centre, with Ms Bell allegedly telling him to "shut up" before they arrived at 5.24pm.

He waited until about 8pm, when he was examined by a doctor who diagnosed serious internal bleeding from a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. He died soon after during emergency surgery.


The ABC adds that the bitch: "misdiagnosed the man as having a back ache and then failed to pass on to a nurse vital information about his symptoms. The man died five hours after an ambulance was first called. SA Ambulance medical director Dr Hugh Grantham says, since then, the service has conducted its own investigation and Ms Bell is no longer employed there".