Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Labor Party gets real about Kyoto

They have finally seen that dragging down the economy for Greenie tokenism is not a good deal

KEVIN Rudd has said it is "absolutely fundamental" that developing nations sign up to Kyoto emissions targets as he tries to limit the fallout after forcing Peter Garrett into an embarrassing backflip on Labor's policy. Mr Garrett said yesterday that the inclusion of developing nations China and India - major greenhouse gas emitters - was "not a deal-breaker" to Labor signing on to a post-Kyoto climate accord if the party wins the federal election. By the evening he said it was a pre-requisite.

Mr Rudd has said on ABC radio this morning that any deal would be sent back to the drawing board if developing nations refused to sign. He had said yesterday that developed nations should show leadership by signing on first. "It's absolutely fundamental that such commitments are contained, and that for us is a pre-condition," he said. He said Labor's policy was "clear-cut" and Mr Garrett had been totally consistent. He said Mr Garrett had originally been speaking about the four years between now and 2012, when Kyoto expires. From then on, Mr Rudd said, developing nations had to be on board.

Mr Garrett's backdown came after a Labor crisis meeting, which followed a day of sustained assault by John Howard and senior ministers on Mr Garrett's comments. The Coalition seized on the Labor position. Mr Howard said it was a policy to "reduce Australian jobs", not to reduce Australian emissions.

Last night, Mr Garrett issued a statement, attempting to clarify his position. "Appropriate developing country commitments for the post-2012 commitment period ... would be an essential pre-requisite for Australian support." The blunder enabled the Coalition to shift the heat on climate change away from Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull. It was revealed on the weekend that Mr Turnbull had asked Cabinet six weeks ago to sign up to Kyoto because Australia would meet its targets anyway. Mr Rudd had attacked Mr Turnbull, highlighting his difference with Mr Howard - who rebuffed Mr Turnbull's suggestion - and the rest of Cabinet.

A Newspoll released this morning has found a four-point swing back to the Coalition, but Labor still had an election-winning lead with 54 per cent of the two-party-preferred vote. But in worse news for Labor, Peter Costello - who would take over from Mr Howard at some point if the Coalition wins - has almost double to support of Wayne Swan as preferred Treasurer. Mr Costello and Mr Swan will debate each other this afternoon.

Mr Howard had said Mr Garrett's original commitment, in an interview with The Australian Financial Review and on ABC radio, was against Australia's interests and would put Australian jobs at risk. "We can't have a situation where Australian industry is bound to take steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions, but competitive countries like China are not bound," Mr Howard said. He said that would effectively export Australian emissions - and Australian jobs - to China.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said committing to any new deal without the explicit support of developing countries was "absurd". "You cannot be the government of Australia and go into negotiations saying 'developing countries don't have to make a contribution, we'll sign the agreement anyway' and think you are going to do something to solve this problem of greenhouse gas emissions," he said.....

Only after Mr Howard and other Coalition ministers began to publicly question the policy, and the media began asking questions, did Mr Rudd, Mr Garrett and a team of advisers hold a crisis meeting at lunch-time in Cairns. It was decided that Mr Garrett, who had made the initial commitment, should release a statement that "clarified" Labor's position and recognised the need to lock developing nations into targets for greenhouse gas emission cuts.....


Kids do what a negligent Green-influenced government refused to do

Having a 6' croc living behind your house is no problem?

Two boys have admitted taking revenge on a crocodile lurking near their Cairns home, hooking it and bashing it to death with a rock. Police and wildlife officials are investigating the attack on the 1.8m croc in a drain at Dillon St, Westcourt, and have warned the boys may face hefty fines. But residents last night defended the boys' actions, saying they were fed up with the number of croc sightings in suburban creeks and drains and had been forced to take matters into their own hands.

David Stallwood, 12, last night told how they caught the animal and killed it because of safety fears. "We got a torch, a big hook and some meat and went down and got it," he said. Added his mate Henry Tabuar, 14: "We just wanted to get it out for the safety of the people."

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service conservation services manager Dr Mark Read said the croc was the same animal spotted in the Dillon St drain on Sunday. He said he would work with police today to further investigate the attack and possibly lay charges. Dr Read warned anyone caught harming a croc could face a $16,000 fine.

The incident comes after a spate of sightings of crocs in Cairns in the past week. Also yesterday, a Miriwinni woman told how her horse was mauled by a croc at a popular fishing spot and two northern beaches were closed following another sighting. Cairns Mayor Kevin Byrne said people had probably had enough of finding crocs in urban areas. But he said there was not a crocodile problem in the city. "It's a fact of life, they (crocodiles) get in, they get out," Cr Byrne said. "It's unfortunate that an animal has been killed, but it's probably an indication that people have had enough." ....

Lifeguards closed both Yorkeys Knob and Trinity beaches again yesterday morning after a croc sighting at Trinity Beach. The beaches were closed all day Friday when a crocodile was spotted swimming north, close to the shore.


Another butcher doctor still operating in Queensland -- a "Professor", would you believe?

Left-run Queensland seems to specialize in "overconfident" doctors. The scum is now in private practice. Beware!

A prominent member of the Brisbane medical establishment has been charged with manslaughter after he allegedly sliced open a woman's vein in a botched operation then prescribed blood-thinning drugs that hastened her death. Before the Dr Death scandal that brought about major health reforms in Queensland, Nardia Annette Cvitic, who was suffering from cervical cancer, went to Brisbane's Mater Hospital to have a hysterectomy performed by Bruce Ward. The 30-year-old collapsed in hospital three days after the operation, having lost half her blood volume. She died on February 22, 2002, despite having undergone emergency surgery, where Dr Ward's initial response of a double-dose of blood-thinning drugs was overruled by experts summoned by his worried colleagues.

Trained in Australia and Britain, Dr Ward - who maintains he is a good doctor - was working at the Mater and Royal Women's hospitals at the time of the death of the mother of two; he was a professor at the University of Queensland and remains a fellow of the Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. The Australian revealed last year that the Mater approached Cvitic's family to offer an out-of-court settlement in 2003 - eventually paying out $175,000 for her two young sons.

Dr Ward is understood to have been retrained after Cvitic's death. He has unrestricted registration through the Queensland Medical Board and was released on bail yesterday after Deputy State Coroner Christine Clements formally charged him with manslaughter. Ms Clements used the old Coroner's Act to charge Dr Ward with manslaughter, 18 months after the inquest into the death finished. In the inquest, Ms Clements heard evidence that the bloodied operating theatre at one point resembled the aftermath of the Granville train disaster in NSW in the 1970s.

While Dr Ward testified that he made reasonable, albeit incorrect, clinical decisions, Ms Clements found 13 instances where a properly instructed jury might find him criminally negligent and responsible for the death. Dr Ward declined to respond to the charge yesterday, leaving his barrister, David Tait, to continue his defence in the media, again extending his sympathies to the Cvitic family. Mr Tait said his client was devastated by her death and disappointed by Ms Clements's decision. "Over 20 years he has looked after thousands of women in Queensland for serious gynaecological cancers and, indeed, he has dedicated his life to medicine and to helping women in this position," Mr Tait told reporters, reading from a prepared statement. "Dr Ward is adamant that he has done nothing wrong, he has committed no criminal offence."

Cvitic's elder sister, Helen Liversidge, who was in court to hear Ms Clements's findings, said she was pleased with the result. Describing her sister as "very fun-loving, happy, vivacious young lady, full of life", Ms Liversidge said she had lost the opportunity to see her children grow up. "Her eldest son is now starting his first day as a butcher," she said.

Ms Clements was supportive of the reforms undertaken at the Mater, and across the health system, since the death, but lamented the lack of closer monitoring for blood and fluid loss. "If this had been recorded and coupled with so-called standard blood tests ... the problem of blood loss might have been identified earlier," Ms Clements said.

Ms Liversidge said she believed the reforms introduced after her sister's death were already saving lives. "My sister's death has helped a lot of people," she said. Under the 2003 Coroners Act, Queensland coroners are only able to recommend that charges be laid against a person. However, because Cvitic's death occurred before the law change, Ms Clements was able to charge Dr Ward under legislation passed in 1958.


Bureaucracy choking universities too

Three new bureaucrats for every new teaching position

Universities had increased administrative staff numbers by nearly 300 per cent in 10 years because the federal Government had swathed them in red tape, a sector union said yesterday. National Tertiary Education Union policy analyst Andrew Nette scoffed at Education Minister Julie Bishop's comment on ABC radio that universities did not need more money but rather better management, more academics and fewer administrators. "It's a simplistic argument to say that universities should employ less general staff and more academics, given the demands of her own Government that have been a significant factor in the increase in general staff," Mr Nette said.

Education Department figures show that full-time academic staff increased by 85 per cent between 1997 and last year, from 21,787 to 40,216. In the same period, general staff numbers increased by 293 per cent, from 17,665 to 51,792. The Group of Eight largest universities released a report at the weekend saying that because of a fall in public funding, university standards were falling as students paid more to attend.

In response, Ms Bishop told ABC radio: "The administration costs of universities are increasing at the expense of teaching and research. I believe the universities should be employing more lecturers and fewer administrators ... they should be changing that balance."

National lobby group Universities Australia said that since 2004, increases in academic staff were higher than in administrative staff. UA chief executive officer Glenn Withers said: "We are prioritising teaching."

Labor education spokesman Stephen Smith agreed that universities had to be efficient. "When the commonwealth hands over money, it needs to be satisfied that sufficient and appropriate governance and accountability procedures are in place," he said. "My criticism is there is not enough invested. The Government has tried to micro-manage the inputs and not stand back and focus on the outputs. There is no doubt some of the regulatory red tape-burden can be relieved."



Post below lifted from Boortz. See the original for links

In Australia they are actually thinking about using global warming as an excuse to pay the electricity bills for poor people. Prime Minister John Howard announced that money from the sale of carbon permits would be used by a Coalition government to 'subsidize' (that's a fancy word "redistribute income") electricity bills for 'low-income earners.'

This redistribution plan would come into effect after his emissions trading scheme begins in 2011. He will establish a 'climate change fund,' which will be funded from revenue from the auctioning of permits under the emissions trading system. Then that fund will used to finance a variety of government programs including financial assistance to poor people ... who will 'inevitably have to pay for higher electricity' as Australia moves toward cleaner technology.

Now, perhaps, we're seeing part of the real reason big-government liberals and anti-capitalist environmental activists are pushing this phony global warming nonsense. They see it as a source of revenue! Maneuver the government into charging private companies for carbon emissions, and then use those funds to promote leftist causes.

We all know what happened to the home heating oil assistance program here in the U.S. It was supposed to be a short-term solution to the oil crisis decades ago. It is still with us today as another massive government entitlement program. The same will happen in Australia with this aid for pitiful poor people to pay their light bills. Even when global warming has been proven (as it will) to be a massive fraud, the assistance for poor people will remain in place. Count on it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Howard on Leftist crime laxity

Howard is spot-on with this. The Queensland Police do not even try to trace car-thieves -- which is probably why Queensland has Australia's highest rate of car theft. When my car was stolen recently, it was recovered shortly after and I found in it an ID card that had obviously been dropped by one of the thieves. I took the card to Dutton Pk. police station but they were not remotely interested. When I complained in writing about their inaction, they said that they had "lost" the ID card concerned! I was thus deprived by the police of the opportunity of recovering valuable contents that had been stolen from the car

Prime Minister John Howard has slammed the State Government for failing Queenslanders over policing. Mr Howard yesterday launched a stinging attack on crime in Queensland and vowed to step in and protect communities. "Law and order should be a top priority for any responsible state government," Mr Howard told The Sunday Mail. "Sadly, the Queensland Labor Government is letting down the people of Queensland by failing to adequately fund basic policing services to protect communities."

But Police Minister Judy Spence hit back at Mr Howard yesterday, describing it as a last-ditch election stunt.

Mr Howard said the Coalition would fund community crime prevention programs, particularly focusing on hooning, vandalism, graffiti and break-ins.

In September, councils in Logan, Warwick and Thuringowa received almost $300,000 between them for closed-circuit TV cameras to crack down on local crime. Mr Howard last week announced a further $50,000 for CCTV for education facilities. sports dubs and community halls in southeast Queensland. Almost $25,000 was directed to the marginal Liberal electorate of Dickson, held by Peter Dutton.

The above article by Darrell Giles appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on October 28, 2007

Vague description of serious crime -- Sudanese?

What does the detail-deprived report below tell you? Probably that the attackers were Sudanese blacks. It certainly tells you that the police are not at all keen on catching any of them. There is no mention of the event at all on the police media site -- even though many much more minor crimes are listed there

Police are seeking help hunting down a group of about 15 men who attacked a man with baseball bats and bars in Melbourne's north-east last night. Police said the 25-year-old victim was attacked just before 11pm as he was getting out of a car, in Capricorn Avenue, Doncaster. A group of about 15 men, who had been chasing the car on foot, set upon him with shopping trolley bars and baseball bats.

The Templestowe man had his wallet and mobile phone stolen during the attack. He was taken to hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries.


Poverty exaggerations

AUSTRALIA'S welfare lobby is at it again. In a report issued last week, an alliance of welfare groups claimed that more than 11 per cent of Australian households are living in poverty, and that their numbers are rising. The Uniting Church president described this as scandalous. A St Vincent de Paul activist said it shows the need for a national vision instead of piecemeal programs. And the head of the Australian Council of Social Service came right to the point by demanding more funding for essential services.

Working people in this country are paying tax to support more than 700,000 disability support pensioners, about 600,000 welfare parents, nearly half a million unemployed and two million aged pensioners, not to mention more than three million families claiming Family Tax Benefit.

While unemployment figures are at 30-year lows, total welfare dependency is at record highs. A workforce of 10million is supporting two million welfare claimants of working age, plus another two million aged pensioners. The cost is phenomenal: more than $70 billion on social security and welfare payments alone. Yet ACOSS says we should be spending even more.

Few Australians begrudge helping those who really need support, but they do resent paying for people who could be supporting themselves. Research a few years ago found 56 per cent think the welfare state makes people less willing to look after themselves, and only 34 per cent want more of their taxes spent on welfare benefits for the poor.

The welfare lobby is well aware of this public resistance to higher welfare spending. That's why it persists in producing wildly exaggerated and misleading reports about the size of our poverty problem. They think if they can get us to believe that huge numbers of our fellow citizens are suffering, our sense of fairness will lead us to support their demands for more government spending. They even called their latest report Australia Fair.

There are two reasons why we should refuse to go along with this.

The first is that their definition of poverty is entirely arbitrary. They say anyone is poor who has less than half the median income. On this definition, 11 per cent of Australians are poor. But their report also says you could define poverty as an income less than 60 per cent of the median income, in which case 19 per cent of Australians are poor. We could play this game indefinitely. To increase your poverty estimate, simply draw your line at a higher level.

What this report is really doing is measuring income dispersion, not poverty. It shows that the proportion of the population receiving less than half the median income has grown from 10per cent to 11 per cent during the past three years. It calls this an increase in poverty, but all it really means is incomes have become slightly more spread out.

Comparing the incomes of people at the bottom with those higher up tells us about the difference between them, but it tells us nothing about whether they are poor or rich. This slight increase in the income spread has actually coincided with a rapid rise in real incomes at all levels, so everyone has been getting better off. To describe this as a growth of poverty (and even as sad and scandalous, as the Uniting Church did) is clearly absurd.

The second reason for taking this report with a pinch of salt is that it takes a static snapshot rather than looking at people's incomes over time. Household incomes fluctuate, so most people who appear under any arbitrarily drawn poverty line do not stay there long. Research following a panel of Australian households for several years found 12 per cent had less than half the median income in the first year, but only 6 per cent had an income this low for two years running, and just 4 per cent stayed under the line for three years. Sustained poverty, as against a temporary income drop, is thus much lower than the welfare lobby would have you believe.

Moreover, people adjust to fluctuating incomes through their lifetime by changing their pattern of borrowing, saving and spending, so their living standards actually vary much less dramatically than their incomes do. Research at the Melbourne Institute has found people on low incomes do not necessarily consume less food, clothing, transportation, gas, electricity, health insurance, alcohol, meals out or home maintenance than other people do. Living temporarily on a low income does not necessarily translate into poor living standards.

The Melbourne Institute study combines income and consumption into a single measure of poverty. It finds that only 3 per cent of the population comes out as poor at any one time on this measure, and just 1 per cent remains poor over two successive years. The study concludes: "Existing income-based measures (of poverty) are seriously in error. The results they give are much too high."

Some of us have been saying this for a long time, but it is not a message the welfare pressure groups seem willing to listen to.


Green/Left deal has a worrying precedent

Australian Greens leader Bob Brown says his party is moving towards a deal which would see Labor give preferences to the Greens in the Senate. However, he says it is the first time the Greens in Tasmania will not be directing preferences to either Labor or the Liberals because of both parties' support for the pulp mill and old-growth logging.

Senator Abetz, the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, says voters should remember Tasmania's Labor-Green accord. "People left the state, investment collapsed, the young people lost confidence in Tasmania and they went to the mainland," he said. "If that were to happen Australia-wide people would have to leave the country and that's not the sort of future I want for Australia."

But Mr Brown has dismissed the reference to the accord, which saw unemployment skyrocket and investment collapse, saying the Greens have alternatives. "We don't have to have a big jobs bath like the Gunns pulp mill with just 284 jobs, we're talking about hundreds and thousands of jobs in alternative clean green industry," he said. "Eric Abetz doesn't understand that, that's why he doesn't like the word accord, which means getting along well together, and that's why he's feeling a little bit panicky."


Monday, October 29, 2007

Computer systems: When will they ever learn?

Government computer projects almost always end up costing megabucks and even then they often do not work -- Britain's 12 BILLION pound hospital project being the star example. Governments should just use commercially available database programs but the arrogance of thinking that they can do it better usually seems to trump experience. But what do you expect of Leftist bureaucrats? The amusing thing is that these projects are always sold as bringing "savings". So Queensland is doing its little bit towards multiplying the waste:

A State Government management project that has blown an admitted $60 million of taxpayers' money could be $300 million in the red. Government sources said "clever accounting" may have covered up a loss five times worse than reported to Queensland Parliament. Coalition Deputy Leader Bruce Flegg called on Treasurer Andrew Fraser to reveal the true extent of losses from the controversial Shared Service Initiative.

The much-vaunted project, introduced in 2003, involved a five-year overhaul of information and communication technology systems in government departments. But a recent report by the Service Delivery and Performance Commission revealed the initiative had cost taxpayers $157 million for just $97 million in savings. The Government had expected the scheme to save $100 million a year.

A private sector management consultant, who had been contracted by the Government to work on the initiative, told The Sunday Mail that the reported loss of $60 million was way off. "They have overspent by more than $300 million ... the figures have been covered up and buried in various accounts," said the insider, who declined to be identified. He claimed millions of dollars were being spent every week on consultants charging between $1500 and $2000 a day as the Government tried to rescue the project.

Dr Flegg, who told Parliament last week the scheme was a "basket case", said it was time the Government came clean on the cost to taxpayers. "This half a billion-dollar initiative has been poorly executed and has been carried out in secrecy, if not deception," he said.

A public servant who worked on the initiative said it was an ill-thought-out scheme that had been "crippled by mismanagement". "The projected savings have not materialised, the government agencies being serviced are unhappy at the reduced level of service being provided and job satisfaction and morale amongst staff is extremely low," said the bureaucrat.

Mr Fraser told Parliament the Government had to make a significant investment up front "to make gains in the longer term". He ruled out scrapping it or making major changes. "I am moving to appoint a centralised prime contractor to ensure that costs are controlled and time lines are achieved," he told The Sunday Mail. "The Government remains firmly of the view that there are long-term savings to be made from the initiative."

The above article by Darrell Giles appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on October 28, 2007

Deceptive interest-rate propaganda

In line with its whatever-it-takes politics, Labor has been running an unrelenting - but highly misleading - campaign emphasising interest-rate rises under the Howard Government. Brought to you by former Carr spinmeister Walt Secord and the Hawker Britton team, it's sufficiently long on fabrication and short on fact to excite the naive and the foolish. Those who lived through Paul Keating's 1991-1992 "recession we had to have", and endured the crippling rate rises used as a blunt instrument to cudgel into submission galloping inflation, aren't so easily fooled.

Seeing the former prime minister and treasurer launch candidate Greg Combet's campaign last week brought to mind Marx's words from 1852 - "history repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce" - but with the twist that Keating's reappearance is history repeating itself first as tragedy and second as tragedy.

Although it's indisputable that there have been five interest-rate rises since March, 2005 and the prospect of a sixth on Melbourne Cup day seems, according to all the economists, a foregone conclusion, Labor wants to skim over the details. Why? Because each of those rate rises has been by just 0.25 per cent, for a total increase of 1.25 per cent over three years.

During last Monday's worm-infested debate, Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd counted on his fingers to lampoon the five 0.25 per cent increases. It was his little joke, but had he attempted to convey the magnitude of the size of just three rate rises under the Hawke-Keating government in just five months using 0.25 per cent as the equivalent of a finger, he would have needed both fists and a few toes. Between August and December of 1994, interest rates increased by 2.75 per cent. There was a 0.75 per cent hike in August (three times the size of any of the rises under the Howard government); a further one per cent jump in October (four times the size of any of the increases under Howard); and another one per cent in December - all within five months, as opposed to the incremental increases the present Government delivered over 36 months.

Putting it another way, in the space of five months, the Hawke-Keating government whacked home mortgagees with increases more than double the size of those delivered under Howard over three years. It's the comparison Rudd, Secord and the Hawker Britton team don't want you thinking about.

This was at the end of the period that John Howard, from Opposition, dubbed Australia's "five minutes of economic sunshine" because the number of unemployed peaked at one million during the March, 1993 election campaign. A little over 18 months after unemployment hit one million, interest rates were jacked up 2.75 per cent.

There's another significant difference between the record of the last Labor government and that of the current Government that Rudd and the myth-makers prefer to ignore: in 1993-1994, the Budget was in deficit to the tune of $17.1 billion - or 3.7 per cent of GDP - which is equivalent to $37 billion in today's terms. Under the Howard government, Australia has had significant, above-expectations Budget surpluses for four years in a row, and it aims to keep producing surpluses of one per cent of GDP. The surplus was 1.5 per cent of GDP in 2004-05, 1.6 per cent in 2005-06 and 1.6 per cent in 2006-07. For 2007-08, it's expected to be 1.3 per cent.

Further, the constant cry that the 22 per cent overnight cash rate in 1982 - when Howard was treasurer in Malcolm Fraser's government - is a record, is an absolute furphy. Labor has craftily taken Reserve Bank data for the overnight cash rate that was published on a daily basis, but the series only goes back to 1976. On its website, however, the RBA lists monthly averages for the overnight cash rate going back to 1969. They clearly show the highest monthly average for this figure was 21.75 per cent in May, 1974, whereas the monthly average in April, 1982 was 21.39 per cent. This may be splitting hairs and counting angels dancing on the heads of pins, but if you're going to toss a figure out you should get it right. Labor's claim is just not true.

For those who still don't understand the magnitude of the achievement of the Howard fiscal policy and who continue to shriek about the threat of high interest rates, let me put it another way. It would take another eight rises, each of 0.25 per cent, just to get to the 10.5 per cent interest rate that applied when Howard was first elected in 1996. To get to the Keating level, it would take nearly three years if an increase of 0.25 per cent was applied each month.

True, the Hawke-Keating government made some welcome economic reforms - all of which were supported by the Opposition at the time. True, all of the Howard government's economic reforms have been opposed by the ALP.

But, further, it is Rudd who now wants to wind back the Government's reforms, risking a breakout in wages growth that would inevitably force the RBA to impose interest-rate hikes of a magnitude not seen since the Hawke-Keating era. That threat alone shows that Rudd has no idea of the economic consequences of his industrial-relations policy. Labor claims to be able to manage an economy. The evidence clearly demonstrates otherwise, as Paul Keating's presence reminded us last week.



It's not only NSW. Three reports below

Public hospital negligence destroys a baby's future

How would YOU like to send your baby to hospital with diarrhoea and get him back with a damaged brain? It didn't happen to me. When my son developed gastro problems in his early childhood, he was taken to a top private hospital and immediately put on a drip. He was not released until he was well again. He is now a 6' tall healthy wealthy and happy mathematician. Working hard and saving your money really helps. Spending it as you get it is negligent because trusting your children to the government is negligent -- as negligence is all you can reliably expect from any government system. Negligence works in its own way too -- a very sad way, as we see below:

A year ago baby Ryan Mason was a happy, healthy newborn, delighting his young parents with his smiles. But at just 11 weeks Ryan developed severe brain damage after being sent home from Caboolture Hospital while allegedly still dehydrated and suffering gastroenteritis. A few hours after arriving home the baby turned blue, stopped breathing and suffered cardiorespiratory arrest while his parents rushed him back to hospital. Ryan was flown to Royal Brisbane Hospital, where his 22-year-old parents, Teisha-Lee and Tim Mason of Toorbul, north of Brisbane, were told he had brain damage. Ryan, now 13 months, developed cerebral palsy, cannot hold his head up or control his arms and may have vision problems.

A claim for damages for personal injuries has been served on Queensland Health, along with an expert's report, by Quinn and Scattini Lawyers. Dr John Raftos, a senior Sydney emergency medicine specialist, said in the report it was his opinion that if hospital staff "had properly assessed and treated Ryan's gastroenteritis and dehydration he would not, on balance of probabilities, have developed hypovolaemic shock and permanent brain damage".

Ryan had been having bouts of diarrhoea when Mrs Mason first took him to Caboolture Hospital on December 10 last year. He was diagnosed with gastroenteritis and sent home, but the next day he was admitted and treated with intravenous fluids for dehydration. Mrs Mason said that during his second night Ryan had diarrhoea every 20 minutes from midnight until 5am on December 13 and was screaming.

Medical records showed that a pediatric team ordered that Ryan and his wet nappies be weighed four times a day to check on his rehydration. Dr Raftos said in his report this was not done and in his opinion Ryan was discharged home while still dehydrated. Lawyer Damian Scattini said Ryan's case was "another preventable tragedy brought about by systems failure within a Queensland public hospital".

A Queensland Health spokeswoman said the department could not comment on legal proceedings.


State government caves in on one hospital

With a "fudge" that would do the British proud. A "British fudge" is a bit hard to define but it is basically a partial retreat or concession that is disguised as not being a retreat or a concession

The crisis at Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital has been solved, with all beds to be reopened and surgery restored after cancellations. A budget blowout had forced the hospital to turn away the sick last week, with 60 beds closed and 20 per cent of operating theatre procedures cancelled. But Premier Anna Bligh stepped in yesterday and ordered the impasse be resolved. She eased the squeeze on hospital budget constraints - giving the PA an extra year to balance the books - and hinted that extra funds would be handed over in December.

The situation had been in deadlock with PA management and the Australian Medical Association Queensland accusing the Queensland Government of under-funding one of the state's biggest public hospitals. Ms Bligh had refused extra money for the hospital, saying it had to manage on a record $33 million budget increase this year. An eight-hour "bypass" on Wednesday, when all new patients were redirected to another hospital, made the emergency worse.

But Ms Bligh - as she did with the Caboolture Hospital ER crisis two years ago - brokered a peace deal with the AMAQ and hospital managers. There was no initial new money, but sources said the PA Hospital would be well compensated by the Government at the mid-year Budget review. Ms Bligh told The Sunday Mail the agreement would see the projected budget over-run of $18 million progressively reduced over the next 18 months rather than in the current financial year.

She said PA chief executive officer Dr David Theile would introduce efficiency measures, including replacing nursing agency staff with Queensland Health-employed nurses. "This agreement, achieved after constructive talks between the Government, hospital managers and the AMAQ today, is good news for patients," Ms Bligh said. "The PA Hospital will progressively reopen beds and restore theatre lists. This will enable the hospital to return to full activity within a few weeks. "I have restated my commitment to reviewing the need for any increase in the PA Hospital's budget, along with all other public hospitals, in the mid-year Budget review. "Further, the Government will review funding needs for the whole public health system for 2008-09 and following years, as part of the Budget process early next year."

Ms Bligh and Dr Theile had clashed last week, with the Premier saying taxpayers were "entitled to see strong management ensuring that budgets are maintained". She denied a Government backflip on the issue yesterday after sending in her Director-General Ken Smith to negotiate with hospital management and the AMAQ. Ms Bligh said the Government would work with the hospital to manage its budget to ensure clinical standards were maintained, beds were reopened and theatre lists restored.

Leading PA visiting medical officer and AMAQ president Ross Cartmill welcomed the agreement and said the resolution was in the best interest of patients. "The Government's commitments today give me the confidence the PA Hospital can continue to provide top-quality service to our patients now and into the future," he said.


Hospital pen-pusher jobs on increase

ALMOST two-thirds of new appointments in Queensland public hospitals are non-medical, latest figures reveal. From May 2005-2006, Queensland Health boasted, clinical staff increased by 1200, but official figures show that 3196 extra staff were employed. A report stated that Queensland Health spent 82 per cent more on administration than any other state. [Because it is Australia's oldest "free" hospital system (started in 1944) and the cancer of bureaucracy has had longer to grow]

Liberal leader Bruce Flegg said money was being wasted on pen pushers: "Patients should not have to suffer because the numbers aren't right in the budget. Cuts should have been made from non-clinical areas." The Australian Medical Association said no cuts had been made to administration staff at the PA, but patients' operations had been cancelled.

Queensland AMA president Dr Ross Cartmill, who works at the PA, urged QH to investigate how many non-clinical staff were employed. "There are two types of non-clinical staff - the clinical support staff who work with the clinicians to make their life easier, and then there are the other group which is those who are employed purely in an administration role. We do believe too many of those . . . have been employed."

Representatives of QH and Health Minister Stephen Robertson refused to reveal how many non-clinical staff QH or the PA employed in the last year.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Daydreaming Left is in for a surprise: This is a contest for the centre, not the extremes

An editorial from "The Australian" below:

THERE is the real election campaign in which a centre-left challenger is fighting to regain the middle ground from a centre-right pragmatist. And then there's the fantasy election in which a left-liberal socialist is fighting to end 11 dark years of despotic rule by a scheming far-right culture-warrior. Having spent the last decade miscasting John Howard as immoral and mendacious, the intellectual Left is now compounding its mistake by portraying his likely successor as a social crusader on a mission to restore morality to public life.

Kevin Rudd has spent the past eleven months signing himself up to Mr Howard's policy agenda, but the fantasists from the Left have refused to believe him, recreating instead an Opposition Leader from a parallel universe. In an essay in The Monthly, Robert Manne details the manifesto of the fantasy Labor leader. "If Rudd is elected, the kind of mimetic foreign policy that followed our blank-cheque endorsement of the US in every twist and turn of policy in its war on terror, which led us into the catastrophe of Iraq, will be reversed," Manne muses. "If Rudd is elected, the industrial relations laws will be softened and humanised ... universities will most likely be more generously funded ... some elements of the former independence of the public service and of the former vigour of the parliament (may) be revived ... the gulf between the government and the country's creative artists will be bridged." Well dream on.

The banal truth is that Howard's Australia was never the nightmare of the Left's imaginings and Rudd's Australia would not be the liberal utopia of its dreams. In the areas where there is some substance behind its attacks, the politicisation of the public service, for example, their criticisms would equally apply to earlier governments of both persuasions and it is unlikely that Rudd, who cut his governmental teeth in the Goss administration, will be likely to turn the tide.

The most obvious failings and missed opportunities of the Howard era are conveniently ignored, the growth of big government, for example. There again, for all Labor finance spokesman Lindsay Tanner's talk of razor gangs, it is hard to imagine that the welfare promises, tax deductions, committees and commissions offered by Rudd's Labor will help facilitate a contraction in the public service.

These must be dull times for the class warriors who refuse to accept that the use-by date on Das Kapital is well and truly passed. Kevin Rudd does not look like Che Guevara and, prudently for a candidate who sees popular election rather than a proletarian uprising as a route to power, he is fundamentally conservative. He is delivering on his promise in an interview with The Weekend Australian's Christine Jackman earlier this year to "mess with Howard's mind", but his secret has been to outflank the Prime Minister on the Right rather than attack him from the Left. As Paul Kelly writes in a major profile of Mr Rudd in The Weekend Australian Magazine today, there has never been another Labor leader like him. He is dedicated to his Christian faith, trained as a Mandarin-speaking technocrat and is married to a businesswoman who runs a global company.

The tongue-in-cheek description of Mr Rudd as a politician who joined the wrong party may be a little harsh, but the fact is that his ascension to the leadership has brought the two major parties closer together on policy than at any time since World War II. His success may well have been a factor in persuading Mr Howard to modify his own position on Work Choices, climate change and reconciliation as he struggles to maintain his grip on the middle ground.

A sober analysis of the Howard years, however, does not support the portrayal of the Prime Minister as a culture warrior. If indeed he has been waging war against the insidious forces of liberalism entrenched in universities, public broadcasters and publishing houses, Mr Howard has lost. As Christopher Pearson wryly observes elsewhere in these columns, Australia's universities are still, in effect, 37 publicly funded leftist think tanks. No fair-minded listener of Radio National or viewer of The 7.30 Report would conclude that Mr Howard's culture offensive, real or imagined, has made any more progress at the ABC.

Of course, we may be wrong about Mr Rudd. He may turn out to be the most convincing actor ever to walk the Australian political stage and once in office might reveal his true identity as a starry-eyed activist waiting to unleash a Whitlamesque program of social reform.

Prime minister Rudd may withdraw Australia from the ANZUS alliance, shut down the coalmines, declare Australia a republic, make gay marriage compulsory and transform the nation into a wind-powered, mung-bean-eating Arcadia. But we think not. And while The Weekend Australian is not foolhardy enough to call the result of an election which is still four weeks away, we will make one prediction. The agenda of a Rudd government is likely to be much closer to the position advocated in the editorial columns of this newspaper than the outdated, soft-left manifesto supported by our broadsheet rivals.


Foolish failure to attack Leftist capture of the institutions

By Christopher Pearson

On Thursday The Australian's foreign editor Greg Sheridan devoted a column to the latest manifestations of the zeitgeist. While recognising that the Coalition may still win the election, he argued that it "has comprehensively lost the culture wars". Despite some tactical victories, he concluded: "This could turn out to have been a very hollow period of conservative government indeed, and our culture may move quite sharply in ways we cannot now imagine."

The most telling part of Sheridan's critique is his targeting of the "utterly unreformed" ABC. As he says, "no one seriously even argues that the ABC is balanced or unbiased, merely that it balances the Howard Government, or the commercial media, or some such. Yet every year the Government has given it generous budget increases, so the ABC world view is stronger."

Starving the national broadcaster of funds is a policy with some obvious attractions, but I doubt it's the best way of correcting the problems of "staff capture" and entrenched ultra-leftism. Well-resourced networks are far likelier to attract staff who are highly professional and don't make a habit of grinding ideological axes if the upper echelon of management has a mind to recruit them. A better-resourced ABC would also have been better able to offer packages to recalcitrants in middle management and the twilight zone of Radio National.

The unreconstructed ABC has remained a delinquent institution for lack of reforming zeal from its leadership. John Howard has to wear the responsibility for having appointed as its chairman Donald McDonald, who plainly wasn't tough-minded enough to resist the blandishments of its old guard. To make matters worse, the Prime Minister gave him a second five-year term.

If the chairman, the board and the managing director had all steadily insisted on higher professional standards, the ABC could have been a far more healthily pluralistic institution. For example, it is inconceivable that Michael Brissenden, political editor of The 7.30 Report, would have felt at liberty to resile from an agreement with Peter Costello's office about off-the-record remarks a year earlier, on the flimsiest of excuses, or that Kerry O'Brien, the show's presenter, would have sanctioned his behaviour. Nor would Media Watch have felt able to turn a blind eye.

Sheridan says the Coalition "has governed against the relentless opposition of the big institutions in our society: the media ... the public service and the universities. It has at times outmanoeuvred these institutions; it has not reformed them." The ABC and SBS are more obviously susceptible to reform than commercial media, and I'd have thought that from a conservative point of view the lighter the regulation of privately owned media, the better. The public service and tertiary education are very different kettles of fish.

The era when public servants routinely gave ministers advice without fear or favour is long gone and it's hard to imagine how sufficient levels of mutual trust and an apolitical bureaucracy could be restored. While the best career public servants are formidable operators and still have a sense of esprit de corps, there are an awful lot who chose the public service primarily as a sheltered workshop and are damned if they'll leave this side of retirement.

In terms of reining in the public sector, Howard started off by at least temporarily reducing its size and hiring a few private-sector managers capable of inspiring terror. In future, most departments should have a Max Moore-Wilton clone at or near the top. Apart from that, perhaps the best the next Coalition government could do by way of reform would be to resolve anew to cut burgeoning staff numbers and outsource where it makes sense, to get out of the habit of rewarding proven incompetence, to further foster the development of evidence-based policy and to put more people with private-sector experience in charge of service delivery.

Reform of the universities is, as Sheridan says, an important task the Coalition has largely squibbed. There have been some welcome developments, notably in freeing up the fast-growing private tertiary sector and providing funding through FEE-HELP for its students. Compulsory student union fees have been abolished and don't look likely to be reintroduced. But, as Keith Windschuttle is fond of saying, the Government still has a poisonous relationship with what are in effect 37 publicly funded leftist think tanks trying with varying degrees of enthusiasm to achieve its end.

Perhaps there should have been more initiatives along the lines of encouraging Carnegie Mellon to open a campus in Adelaide. Perhaps there should have been more weighting of funds to benefit empirical disciplines at the expense of the heavily politicised: cultural studies, history, politics, media studies and the like. Making the students who are the main beneficiaries of any course of study contribute more towards the cost was unpopular but right in principle. It fits with the ethos of the emerging enterprise culture, rather than the culture of entitlement, and it's a wholesome change to encourage young people to invest in themselves and their futures.

Sheridan thinks the Coalition "has on occasion been clever at arousing a popular backlash against elite opinion on this or that subject. But it has not changed elite opinion. And in the end it appears that it is impossible to govern permanently against elite opinion. Elite opinion shapes popular opinion." This strikes me as rather a melodramatic way to characterise the situation and I think he's selling the long-term legacy of the Howard Government short.

Elite opinion is by no means a homogeneous entity, unless your definition of the elite excludes anyone who's not a latte-sipping, inner-urban dwelling admirer of Robert Manne. Nor, almost by definition, are the latte-sippers amenable to having their minds changed, least of all by conservative governments. The views of this narrowly defined elite are only one of the many factors that influence popular opinion and it seems to me he overrates their importance.

Take, for example, the broad economic argument that the Government mounts regularly and the emergence of the enterprise culture, which is superseding the older lackadaisical values of the lucky country. There is no turning back for the hundreds of thousands of new small businesses and the enterprising people who've gone out and got themselves an Australian Business Number. Elite opinion can be as dismissive as it likes, but the experience of being your own boss and doing well by working hard changes people profoundly and most often permanently. These are people who've been persuaded of the virtues of free enterprise. To the extent that they consider voting for Kevin Rudd, it is only because he seems to stand for them too.

Elite opinion, narrowly conceived, passionately supports public-sector schools, even if many of the elite choose to send their children to private schools. About 40 per cent of senior secondary students in Victoria attend non-government schools because parents have good reason to believe they do a better job. There are similar, seemingly irreversible, trends in every state. Rudd's embrace of the existing private school funding formula for the foreseeable future is proof that this is another front of the culture wars where the Coalition is winning the argument hands down.

One area in which the Howard Government may reasonably have expected to change elite opinion is the war over teaching spelling, literacy and numeracy. It's understandable that latte-sippers would have conscientious objections to teaching history as narrative, complete with dates, but you'd think any elite worthy of the name would want the next generation to have a good grounding in the fundamentals. In fact I'm sure quite a lot of them do, some more sotto voce than others. But it is popular opinion that has shifted firmly behind a back-to-basics approach and explains the new bipartisan consensus. It was instructive to hear The Age's political editor Michelle Grattan professing herself amazed that Howard should have chosen that theme at the end of the debate with Rudd and suggests to me that he's more in touch with public opinion than she realises.

During the course of the past week Rudd was asked about his attitude to gay marriage. He was howled down for opposing any change to the law that would allow it and for upholding the traditional view that marriage was strictly for heterosexuals. Were he to win the election, it's conceivable that he might change his stance. But because Howard and his ministers very effectively harnessed popular opinion against legalising same-sex marriage, Rudd would risk alienating a crucial blue-collar, socially conservative constituency that is far less committed to him than the latte-sippers, who have no one else but the Greens to vote for.

Sheridan is worried "our culture may move quite sharply in ways we cannot now imagine" and I suppose it's always on the cards. Part of Howard's unacknowledged achievement has been in general terms a matter of keeping things on an even keel. Sometimes that's a more considerable accomplishment than it seems. Take the case of the intervention in the Northern Territory. Its ultimate justification was putting a stop to the astonishing incidence of child abuse, including sexual abuse, in remote communities. It was an appeal based on a confident assessment of the decency and common sense of middle Australia. While Labor decided to support it, no one in the political class imagines Labor would have initiated it.

Last week Marion Scrymgour, the NT's indigenous Community Services Minister, labelled the intervention an example of a "vicious new McCarthyism" and "a deliberate, savage attack on the sanctity of Aboriginal family life". Her rhetoric epitomised the elite view of matters, but one of her indigenous parliamentary colleagues, Alison Anderson, rebuked her in no uncertain terms. She said abusers were sick people who had no rights and "this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get things right". Now that it has gained bipartisan support, I can't see the new spirit of pragmatic conservatism in Aboriginal affairs dissipating anytime soon.


Suburbs attacked because the middle-class hates plumbers in big houses

Comment by Michael Duffy. When I lived in Sydney, the electrician I used for maintenance jobs on my properties lived in Vaucluse -- an elite suburb. But he was very clever at his job and a fast worker so he earned it fair and square

Sixty years ago this month something happened on Long Island near New York that was to help shape Australian cities. It deserves to be better known. The first homeowners moved into Levittown, a 17,000-residence housing estate built by Bill Levitt. Essentially, Levitt applied the principles of Henry Ford's production line to housing. In the process he brought prices down so much that suburbia became available to the working class. This did more than perhaps anything else to democratise the prosperity of the postwar economic boom.

Of course, Levitt couldn't put a house on a production line. So what he did was bring the production line to the house. He broke up the construction process into several dozen separate tasks. Then he broke up his workforce into teams, each specialising in just one task. Each team would do its job on one lot and then move on to the next house and do it again. (Levittown had just three house designs.)

When those around him refused to share his passion for cutting costs, he simply went around them. The unions didn't like his work practices so he hired non-union labour and paid them top dollar. When suppliers wouldn't give him satisfactory discounts for his bulk purchases he bought forests and timber mills and nail factories to supply himself. He reformed conveyancing practices to help low-income clients who had never been able to afford a lawyer before.

As a result of the innovations Levitt and other developers introduced, house prices tumbled. At a time when the average manufacturing worker was earning $US2400 a year, Levitt was selling a basic Cape Cod for $US7990. He went on to build other large housing estates, providing decent accommodation for hundreds of thousands of (white) working class Americans and inspiring developers in other countries, including Australia.

Another legacy of his success was the vitriolic criticism he attracted from intellectuals, people such as academics, writers, professionals, and government policy experts. The negative attitude to the outer suburbs that formed then has persisted to this day.

Lewis Mumford, the most respected writer on cities of his time, was particularly contemptuous. He said Levittown was socially "backward", inhabited by "people of the same class, the same incomes, the same age group, witnessing the same television performances, eating the same tasteless prefabricated foods, from the same freezers, conforming in every outward and inward respect to a common mould manufactured in the same central metropolis." This criticism of suburbia was to be repeated by thousands of intellectuals around the world from then to now. The grounds for the criticism have changed a bit over time, with environmentalism now providing the flavour, but the level of hostility has been pretty consistent.

A persisting feature of the criticisms of the intellectuals is that most have been mere assertions without basis in fact, and have been proved wrong once anybody bothered to test them. Eventually a sociologist named Herbert Gans went to live in one of Levitt's estates and published a book called The Levittowners in 1967, disproving just about all the assertions of Mumford and the other critics. He found there was a rich diversity of human beings living there - but his findings were largely ignored by the intellectuals, who continued to be unable to see beyond the buildings to the people living in them.

A similar blindness affects much criticism of so-called suburban sprawl today. For years it has been asserted by intellectuals that the outer suburbs, compared with areas closer to the city, are socially and environmentally inferior. There are now numerous studies disproving this (for example, the recent one showing lower density improves sociability, by Jan Brueckner and colleagues at the University of California), yet the intellectuals continue to assert it. Why so?

It comes down to self-interest. First, jobs: most of the criticism of sprawl is used to justify an alternative vision of the city where intellectuals of various kinds would play a strong role in planning and regulation. The media is happy to promote this view because a planned city, with all the reports and regulations and formalised disputes this entails, is much easier to report on than a city made of the spontaneous decisions of thousands of individuals.

Another reason for the persistent anger is middle-class status anxiety. Most intellectuals are members of the middle class, which defines itself in part by possession of an old inner-city pad or a nice house and garden in an inner-ring suburb. To see mere tradesmen in the 1980s acquiring bigger houses than those owned by many lawyers and academics sent a shiver through the middle class, and helped create an audience for absurd criticisms of prole housing, of the sort embodied in the term McMansion.

Does any of this matter? I suspect it does. I believe that over time the relentless criticism of the new suburbs helped create the intellectual and then the political environment in which governments were able to impose massive levies and taxes on new homes for the first time in history. This was one of the worst cases of intergenerational inequity this country has seen, and did much to produce the housing affordability crisis we face today. I suspect governments were able to get away with this only because the intellectuals had denigrated new suburbs to the point where they had almost no defenders among the ranks of the powerful and the influential.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Rudd's blurred vision

Australia's probable next Prime Minister seems to have a very shaky grasp of economics

WITH Kevin Rudd poised in the polls to become our next prime minister, an examination of the philosophy underpinning his policy positions is long overdue. Rudd says he's a social conservative and economic liberal, but he's neither. He's really a moderate social progressive and an economic recidivist. Rudd's very smart, but Ruddonomics is badly compromised by the influences of ideological bias and vested interests. His budding social aspirations appeal, but they'd bloom better if he'd discard the economic blinkers.

Rudd paints John Howard as a social conservative and economic neo-liberal. He claims neo-liberals push economic reform too far - beyond where his definition of a liberal would go - at the expense of the social institutions Howard professes to value, such as the family. Howard certainly is socially conservative, but he falls well short on the economic reform front and Rudd would take us even further away from the economic liberalism we so sorely need.

The best glimpses of Rudd's philosophy are contained in a couple of articles he wrote in The Monthly last year before becoming Opposition Leader. His social aspirations - and genuine passion about them - are admirable, although not ambitious enough. But his economic philosophy, or lack thereof, is worrying. The ideologically driven uni-dimensional view of the world outlined in the essays prevents him from entertaining the thought that freer markets could help him better achieve his social aspirations. Rudd depicts the "real battle of ideas in Australian politics" as the "battle between free market fundamentalism and the social-democratic belief that individual reward can be balanced with social responsibility". This depiction - replete with false mutual exclusivities (free market v social responsibility) and put-down labels (free market fundamentalism) - implies that anyone who supports free markets must be a selfish bastard who doesn't care about social goals. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Rudd confuses three crucial concepts: values, goals and means. The values and individual preferences of any community's citizens should drive the goals that its government seeks to achieve; government should choose the best means to achieve these goals. Rudd puts the cart before the horse. His attack on free marketeers is entirely values-based, a tirade against what he sees - incorrectly and, quite frankly, offensively - as their values. This reflects Rudd's misunderstanding of what economics is all about. It's about means; specifically, the best means to achieve whatever goals a community's citizens, collectively and individually, want to achieve. Markets and governments are merely two means that may help (or hinder) us in meeting these ends.

Let's examine Rudd's values and goals first, then his case against free market economics. That will put us in a better position to examine how freer markets can help. Rudd offers us "an enlarging vision that sees Australia taking the lead on global climate change ... (that) leads by example in dealing with the chronic poverty in our own region ... that becomes a leader ... in the redesign of the rules of the international order ... to render future genocides ... impossible and ... an Australia (that) takes the values of decency, fairness and compassion that are still etched deep in our national soul ... not limited by the narrowest of definitions of our national self-interest ... guided by a new principle that encompasses not only what Australia can do for itself but also what Australia can do for the world". This vision encompasses values (decency, fairness, compassion) and social goals (dealing with climate change and human suffering). Elsewhere, Rudd adds to his lists of values (family, community service, social justice) and goals (improving education, health care and industrial relations).

As Labor prides itself on social progressiveness and Rudd's goals sound progressive, his self-description as a "modern conservative in social policy" is surprising. The conservative claim reflects his view that the underlying values are traditionally Australian. It's hard to argue with those values. Who would say they're against decency, fairness or compassion?

One may wonder why some other values aren't there, such as freedom of choice for citizens. While Rudd stresses the need for greater inclusiveness, nailing his colours to the "social conservative" mast contradicts this. Emphasising conservative values (really institutions) such as family and his own Christian faith serves to disenfranchise many citizens such as single people, gay couples, people of other faiths and non-religious citizens. It deflates their hopes that Labor will take steps to give them the same rights, opportunities and respect as other citizens, and puts them off engaging in the community stuff that Rudd says is so important.

But my bigger beef is economics. Rudd describes his approach as "liberalisation in economic policy". Yet, with few exceptions (emissions trading and the recently announced partial deregulation of wheat export marketing), his economic policies don't liberalise markets at all, and many (including IR and industry policy) constrain them. Since becoming Opposition Leader, he's frequently described himself as an economic conservative, but that's in terms of fiscal policy, to head off the Howard tax-and-spending scare campaign. In terms of attitudes to markets, he thinks he's a liberal.

This startling claim is couched entirely in terms of values. Rudd fixates on the extreme polar case of economic liberalism, to which he assigns various labels: "brutopia" of "unchecked market forces", "market fundamentalism", "neo-liberalism" and "unrestrained market capitalism". He argues that this extreme case is inconsistent with his values. Yet not a single credible economic liberal advocates it. Rudd argues that his economic policies are based on the view that "the market is designed for human beings, not vice versa, and this remains the fundamental premise that separates social democrats from neo-liberals". Not a single credible economic liberal holds the premise that Rudd implies.

The essence of liberalism - following John Stuart Mill in On Liberty (1859) - is the belief that citizens should be free to do whatever they wish, provided they don't hurt anyone else. Liberals naturally tend to like markets because market participation is voluntary; citizens will participate only if they gain by doing so. Mill's broader definition of liberalism derives from Adam Smith's description of free markets, in Wealth of Nations (1776) - as allowing all citizens to pursue their "own interest" in their "own way, upon the liberal plan of equality, liberty, and justice". The last bit caused Smith and all economic liberals, even Rudd's favourite whipping boy Friedrich Hayek, to favour some checks on markets.

Rudd attacks "market fundamentalists", a label he liberally attaches to Hayek and modern economic liberals, for believing that humans are "almost exclusively self-regarding" and for holding self-regarding values themselves. He contrasts this with "other-regarding values of equity, solidarity and sustainability" of social democrats such as him. Ironically, he claims fundamentalists "distort Smith, adopting his Wealth of Nations while ignoring ... his The Theory of Moral Sentiments". I can't believe that an intelligent, reflective man such as Rudd has read either book. If he had, he would not have drawn this conclusion. It is a gross distortion....

Free marketeers have just as strong social consciences as other citizens. In fact, they're often free marketeers because they care. In 18th-century Britain, Smith advocated universal government-financed education and "just and equitable" government action to reduce poverty and "support the workman". Edmund Burke, also lauded by Rudd (and, ironically, Hayek's hero), campaigned against the persecution of Catholics in Ireland and the East India Company's widespread human rights abuses throughout Asia. Mill advocated the full rights of women in 1869. All advocated assistance to those in need. Rudd's lauding of them for advocating some taming of markets leads him to his breathtaking conclusion that he's an economic liberal. The illogicality of this claim is highlighted by reducing it to a syllogism: those liberals advocated taming markets, I advocate taming markets, therefore I'm an economic liberal. That's as logical as saying you're a lion tamer because you own a whip and a pussycat.....

Nevertheless, Rudd still has room to distinguish himself through real social and economic liberalism. Modern Australia's great reformers have generally been Laborites. Gough Whitlam launched a social revolution after years of repressive, paternalistic conservative rule. Bob Hawke and Paul Keating drove a vital economic revolution, so sorely needed following their predecessors' moribund conservative nothingness. After another 11 years of stifling conservative rule, we need a government that is progressive on both the social and economic fronts. We can only hope that, like Hawke and Keating, Rudd surprises us.

Much more here

Just "ticketing" minor crime is little deterrent

First we talked to a young thief who backed Premier Morris Iemma's plan to allow criminals to buy their way out of jail - now red-faced police are hunting for their own patrol car after an unmarked Drug Squad vehicle was stolen in Sydney's northwest. Officers were this morning warned to be on the lookout for the black SV6 Holden Commodore stolen from a Richmond address. Police Minister David Campbell today said there was nothing "particularly sensitive" in the vehicle. "There was some police equipment (inside)," Mr Campbell said. "I understand there was a police radio in the vehicle but it has been disabled."

The latest police debacle comes as delinquent Eric said Mr Iemma's bid to replace law and order with token fines held one message for him and his mates: "Go and shoplift." Eric, 17, has appeared in court twice on shoplifting charges and admitted yesterday to stealing Game Boys, DVD players, expensive clothes and mobile phones. The teenager, from St Marys, told The Daily Telegraph he would spread word of the Premier's surrender to thieves to his mates - and predicted a shoplifting bonanza. "Put it this way, my mates all wouldn't really give a f. . . about the fines, they'll just shoplift and they'll come back and do it again," said Eric, whose last name cannot be published for legal reasons. "Basically it says, 'Go and shoplift' - it is an easy way out. "If we are not getting charged for it, let's go and do it. I guarantee it is going to increase and increase and increase. I'll spread the message to my mates."

Luckily for Mr Iemma, Eric will be old enough to vote at the next state election in 2011. It can be revealed that the State Government's move to replace some criminal prosecutions with on the spot fines - dubbed Criminal Infringement Notices - has increased petty crime in several areas and failed to achieve any overall reduction in minor offences. And, in a further demonstration of the laws' absurdity, people will now receive a bigger fine for swearing at a RailCorp transit officer than for swearing at a police officer....

Figures obtained by The Daily Telegraph show that 10 of the areas where the CINs have been trialled have actually seen an overall increase in petty crime. Bureau of Crime Statistics figures from the two years to June 2007, beginning three years after the introduction of the trial, show offensive conduct was up in Bankstown, Gosford-Wyong and Sutherland Shire, while theft from a motor vehicle was up in Blacktown, Parramatta and City Central. The only areas to experience a reduction in any category of minor offences were City Central, where offensive language and "other theft" went down, and Parramatta, where miscellaneous theft also dropped. Every other area of crime was stable.

Police Minister David Campbell argued that petty crime may have risen in those areas because more criminals were being caught, but it was hoped serious offences had been reduced.

Shoplifter Eric had some extra advice for Mr Iemma, telling the Premier that most people who steal and commit other offences that attract CINs will simply ignore them. "Most of the people from around here wouldn't be able to pay fines. As well as their kids, they're stealing to support drug habits - I could go on and on," he said.

Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione conceded that the fines, if paid within 21 days, would be recorded like a traffic offence rather than as part of a person's criminal history. "If you pay the fine we will still have that record (but) it's not being deemed as part of the criminal history," he said. Eric said arresting shoplifters and forcing them to face court was the only way to "snap a shoplifter out of it".


Anger over butcher doctor's green light

SENIOR doctors at a private hospital are alarmed that a controversial obesity surgeon being pursued over a patient's death has been given the green light by Queensland's newly boosted Medical Board to continue doing the operations. Russell Broadbent, who has strenuously defended his surgical conduct and disputed mounting claims of wrongdoing -- allegedly leading to at least six deaths and dozens of serious complications -- has booked a patient, 24, for an obesity-related procedure on Monday at the Gold Coast's Allamanda Private Hospital.

The hospital's operators, publicly listed company Healthscope, are opposed to the procedure -- a limited part of the radical biliary pancreatic diversion operations which Dr Broadbent has been banned from performing since a damning 2004 internal audit. However, the Medical Board of Queensland has given its blessing.

The position of the board, which this week initiated action on a complaint against Dr Broadbent in the Health Practitioners Tribunal, has surprised surgeons at the hospital and prompted a written plea for further clarification. "The Medical Board has received new information from various sources today and we will be holding a meeting on the weekend to consider the information," said board executive officer Kaye Pulsford.

The board imposed conditions on Dr Broadbent last month after receiving an independent expert's report, which is understood to be highly critical, but the conditions do not extend to preventing him performing obesity-related surgery. Numerous patients who have undergone Dr Broadbent's surgery have come forward since patients and experts in The Weekend Australian and on the Nine Network's 60 Minutes highlighted the risks.

It is understood the Medical Board of Queensland has received a dossier of names of patients who claim to have suffered life-threatening complications, while other patients have reported massive weight loss and a positive outcome.

The procedure still being done by Dr Broadbent, known as a tube gastrectomy, will make the full-blown BPD operation with the removal of about 70per cent of the stomach inevitable. Hospital staff describe the tube gastrectomy as "BPD by stealth". Dr Broadbent declined to comment yesterday, telling The Weekend Australian: "I'm not going to talk about it." His staff and several of his patients, infuriated by the complaints against him and an ongoing investigation, describe him as a saviour.

Healthscope's chief medical officer, Michael Coglin, confirmed yesterday his staff had expressed concern that the procedure booked for Monday would inevitably require a second operation, and that the method was circumventing the hospital's embargo on BPD. It is understood that Healthscope, which has been accused by Dr Broadbent of acting in bad faith for not showing him its confidential audit and not letting him do the full BPD operations, has written to the Medical Board of Queensland with its concerns.



We have been hearing mostly about disasters in the NSW hospitals lately but the Qld. hospitals are still worthy contenders for the booby prize. Three current articles below.

Hospital expert gets sarcastic with Qld. State government

FORMER health commissioner Tony Morris, QC, has lampooned the Bligh Government's health reforms for setting up the boss of the besieged Princess Alexandra Hospital to fail. The attack came as Premier Anna Bligh yesterday refused to say whether the management at the Brisbane hospital was pressured to clear waiting list backlogs.

Mr Morris said senior doctors such as PA clinical chief executive David Theile still did not have enough funds to cope with huge workloads. The Courier-Mail reported this week that the PA's overspending by 2.1 per cent had actually achieved a 7.8 per cent increase in clinical services. The budget blowout in the first quarter, which was initially blamed on management, forced the closure of 60 beds and resulted in a 10 per cent cut in waiting lists.

Mr Morris headed the 2005 Bundaberg Hospital Commission of Inquiry, one of two inquiries that resulted in sweeping reforms including having doctors in charge of public hospitals instead of bureaucrats. "Theile's appointment has proved to be the complete disaster that the Charlotte St mandarins (at Queensland Health) would have predicted: A doctor (who) is likely to focus on trivia such as reducing waiting lists, increasing surgical throughput," Mr Morris said. "And while he is enmeshed in such trifles, who is going to concentrate on the really important issues, like whether or not . . . to send the administrative director to a conference in Acapulco? "Dr Theile was set up to fail. They put a man in charge who didn't have enough funding in the right area of clinical services."

His comments came as Ms Bligh refused to deny accusations from the Australian Medical Association that the Government pressured management to clear waiting lists more quickly without realising the extra costs involved. "I can only repeat what I have already said on this: The PA is one of our great hospitals," Ms Bligh said. "We're seeing some really terrific things happening at this hospital."

But Opposition health spokesman John-Paul Langbroek called for the Premier to immediately reopen all available hospital beds at the PA. "Hospitals are meant to treat sick people," Mr Langbroek said. "If the Bligh Government is going to make cuts to public hospitals they should focus on the non-patient areas." [i.e. the bureaucracy]


Major Queensland hospital is "broke"

As time goes by the hospital's service gets worse and worse -- as the ever-growing cancer of bureaucracy strangles it. Money to pay clerks and "administrators" MUST be found. Their pay packets never miss a beat. Too bad about the patients who have insufficient doctors and nurses to see to them

A LACK of money has forced Princess Alexandra Hospital to turn away sick people for only the third time in more than half a century - and more waiting list cancellations are on the way. The eight-hour "bypass" at the major Brisbane public hospital on Wednesday night was on the agenda at a heated meeting between furious senior management last night.

Clinical chief executive officer David Theile was yesterday forced to cancel another 17 operating theatre waiting lists from next week, taking the total cut to 20 per cent of the hospital's roster with as many as six people on each list. About 30 of the 60 beds that were closed earlier this week are expected to reopen from the weekend. PA visiting medical officer Dr Ross Cartmill yesterday said the closure of the emergency department, linked to the cutbacks, was only the third time since 1956. The PA, one of the state's biggest public hospitals, normally handles overflow from other nearby hospitals. "We can't get patients into the beds because the beds just aren't there," Dr Cartmill said.

While Queensland Health has claimed demand has "diminished" this week, hospital sources say that is only relative to peak work levels at the weekend. Premier Anna Bligh has refused extra funding for the hospital, saying it should be able to manage on a record $33 million boost this year. The Courier-Mail reported this week that while the hospital was 2.1 per cent over budget for the first quarter, it had performed 7.8 per cent more work.

Dr Cartmill yesterday said the only meaning of a hospital being efficient and over budget was that it was underfunded. "We clinicians believe we should be service-orientated - not budget-driven," said Dr Cartmill, who is also the Queensland president of the Australian Medical Association.

Acting Health Minister Rod Welford denied the bypass was linked to the bed cutbacks, saying "it can happen regardless of cutbacks". "This was utterly exceptional circumstances (on the southside, with the Mater Hospital also on bypass) and the hospitals do co-operate so if they go bypass the people are moved to another hospital," Mr Welford said.

But the State Opposition is demanding the Bligh Government reach into to its budget surpluses and find some money. Opposition Leader Jeff Seeney called for extra financial support to stop the situation getting worse. "Closing beds in a hospital that has achieved that sort of result seems incomprehensible to me," Mr Seeney said. "It is an intolerable situation."


Crazy government hospital provision in all Australian States

With the unbelievable cutbacks in available beds, it is no wonder that waiting lists are so long. As the bureaucracy has ballooned, the number of available beds has drastically shrunk: Socialism at work. Quite insane.

PUBLIC hospitals throughout the country are failing to achieve essential performance standards, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) says. AMA president Rosanna Capalingua, who will release a report card comparing the performance of public hospitals, says there has been a persistent deterioration in the ability of public hospitals to cope with demand.

"Their capacity has gone down," Dr Capalingua said on ABC radio today. "In fact, would you believe that we have a statistic that there are 67 per cent fewer beds in public hospitals across Australia compared to 20 years ago, remembering the increase in population and increase in age of population we've had in that time in Australia, for the increase in demand."

Dr Capalingua said all jurisdictions had serious problems. "Across the board, all states and territories failed to come up to the benchmarks and standards that we would expect public hospitals to deliver to the Australian public," she said. "In the Australian Healthcare Agreements, we need a top-up of $2 to $3 billion to start off with and then we need an indexation increase."


Friday, October 26, 2007

"Progressive" myths encourage child abuse

The initial reference below is to a recent and notorious case in which an underclass mother shook her toddler to death and then dumped his body in a pond. The toddler was Aboriginal. Welfare authorities knew of the case before the killing but probably threw up their hands from the beginning as Aboriginal families are very commmonly severely dysfunctional, with child abuse frequent. And it is absolutely VERBOTEN to take children away from black families. That used to be done sometimes but in recent years the Left set up a huge howl about "The stolen generation" (the black children fostered out to white families) in reference to the practice. The authorities obviously now feel that it is better to let black kids die than risk any more of that abuse

The family of the dead toddler Dean Shillingsworth this week gathered by the Ambarvale pond where his body was found stuffed into a suitcase. In his honour they launched a small boat on which was written: "An eye 4 an eye." As one of the relatives told this newspaper's Jordan Baker: "There is a lot of emotional blaming."

Since Dean's body was discovered last week and his mother, Rachel Pfitzner, was charged with his murder, there has indeed been a lot of blame going around. But the idea which seems to have taken popular hold, that the Government, or "the system", is entirely to blame for the two-year-old's tragic end is a sign of something amiss with our concept of personal responsibility. As one reader asked me in an email: "Who actually killed the child in the duck pond? A social worker? A clerk? A policeman? A member of Parliament?"

While the NSW Department of Community Services has been an incompetent bureaucratic basket case for years, you have to have some sympathy for the minister, Kevin Greene, when he says there is "no foolproof way" for DOCS to prevent all child deaths. DOCS has failed in the past to intervene when children were in danger, so the suspicion it has failed again is not unreasonable. But reflexive attacks on overloaded social workers, regardless of the evidence, not only absolves families of the prime responsibility for their children but also deflects attention from the growing community dysfunction which is the root cause of child abuse. However, Greene's absurd claim that one in five children in NSW has been reported to DOCS as being "at risk", does make you worry about the department's judgment.

It is no secret what kind of social conditions breed child abuse and neglect, so you would expect public servants with limited resources to narrow their focus if they are going to be any use. It might suit progressives babbling on ABC radio to claim abuse and neglect occurs in all families, and it's just that the richer ones "hide it behind closed doors". The facts say otherwise, and efforts to soft-soap them are part of the intellectual corruption of the elites, which has trickled down to the bottom of the social heap and wreaked such havoc over the past 40 years. It is stating the obvious to say child maltreatment occurs predominantly in the welfare-dependent underclass, whether it's in a remote indigenous community in the Northern Territory or a public housing suburb on the outskirts of Sydney.

Joblessness, jail and illegitimacy are a way of life for so many people in these chaotic parts of Australia that what the Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson describes as the "basic social cultural norms that underpin any society" have collapsed. The expectations that children will be brought up safely, of mutual obligation between citizen and society, of public order and safety that the rest of us take for granted, do not exist.

The solution is "structure", says the sociologist Peter Saunders, from the Centre for Independent Studies. "There is no doubt that work is what puts structure and discipline in people's lives. It is what makes people get up in the morning and have a shave. "You sound like a wowser [killjoy] when you say this but it's rules, responsibility, consequences for actions. You've got to enforce laws when laws are broken - including the drug laws." A life of welfare dependence "undermines autonomy and capacity and encourages you to believe you have no control of your life". It underpins the breakdown of social organisation in communities, the "anomie" described by the 19th-century French sociologist Emile Durkheim.

As a social libertarian, Saunders has always believed that people should be free to do whatever they want as long as they are not harming others. But he is coming to the more complex idea "that you have to have one rule for one population and another for another. You've got to start discriminating." While aiming to increase the autonomy and freedom of individuals in society we should recognise that we need "paternalistic intervention . for those who don't cope at the bottom or their lives will descend into chaos".

For instance, Saunders and readers of this newspaper might agree with the plan by Sydney's Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, to liberalise drinking laws to allow more small bars to open in Sydney, while also supporting the Government's crackdown on grog in the Territory, as alcohol has caused such distress and dysfunction in indigenous communities.

To avoid the charge of hypocrisy, Saunders says we need to distinguish between those who are competent to manage their affairs and the minority who "engage in such self-destructive behaviour that any reasonable person would understand the need to intervene". It is natural to feel squeamish about demanding restraints on the behaviour of others down the social scale that you would not tolerate for yourself. But warnings from conservatives that the social upheavals of the past 40 years would have their most tragic consequences on the most vulnerable have been ignored. The elites have grabbed the social freedoms to which they feel entitled, devaluing the role of fathers and the value of the old-fashioned nuclear family and proclaiming tolerance of all lifestyles as the greatest virtue.

The trickle-down effect has been disastrous, as recounted in Theodore Dalrymple's book Life at the Bottom. There is no doubting parents in the underclass love their children, but for too many, their child-rearing philosophy is what Dalrymple, a former British prison psychiatrist, calls "laissez-faire tempered by insensate rage". They "live in a torment of public and private disorder [which is] the consequence of not knowing how to live". It is the behaviour and lifestyle of these parents, particularly the mothers, which leads to the abuse and neglect of their children. So government social policies need to be focused on changing that behaviour, rather than sanctioning it by providing welfare without obligations, and refusing to be judgmental about lifestyles that are obviously detrimental to children.


Bishop of the C of E (Church of the Environment) attacks Catholic cardinal

Having abandoned the Bible, the Church of England has turned to Environmentalism instead. Who wants to save those silly old souls when you can save the planet?

AUSTRALIA'S most prominent religious sceptic of climate change, the Catholic Archbishop George Pell, was out of step within his church and the global Christian community on global warming, a leading Anglican environmentalist says. The head of the Anglican Church's international body on the environment, George Browning, said Dr Pell's position on global warming defied scientific consensus and theological imperatives to protect the Earth and its future generations. It also made no sense and would be proven a mistake. Bishop Browning's stance came as the Australian Anglican church prepared to adopt its strongest position yet on climate change, committing 23 dioceses to initiatives reducing their carbon footprint.

But Dr Pell said last night he had every right to be sceptical about extravagant claims of impending man-made climatic catastrophes. "There are many measures which are good for the environment, which we should pursue," he said. "We need to be able talk freely about this and about the uncertainties around climate change. Invoking the authority of some scientific experts to shut down debate is not good for science, the environment, for people here and in the developing world or for the people of tomorrow. "My task as a Christian leader is to engage with reality, to contribute to debate on important issues, to open people's minds, and to point out when the emperor is wearing few or no clothes. "Radical environmentalists are more than up to the task of moralising their own agenda and imposing it on people through fear. They don't need church leaders to help them with this, although it is a very effective way of further muting Christian witness. Church leaders in particular should be allergic to nonsense."

Bishop Browning supported warnings that climate change refugees would, in the future, pose a bigger threat to world security than terrorism by triggering massive population shifts. He also warned Australia had to dump the "language of drought" because it offered false hope to farmers by implying that after drought would come flood and a return to normal farming life. The warming of the planet had triggered irreversible climate changes that warranted fundamental changes in farming and investment practices. Bishop Browning took issue with Dr Pell's Easter message this year at which the cardinal said Jesus had nothing to say on global warming. He told the Anglican synod meeting in Canberra yesterday he had written to Dr Pell after the Easter message because he found his statement "almost unbelievable". [I wonder could the good bishop point out the chapter and verse of the Gospels where global warming is mentioned? I rather foolishly thought that Jesus said "my kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36)]


One unfixable public hospital

Despite huge pressures on the politicians, it is still a disaster zone

WHEN young mother Sara Claridge received a third phone call from Royal North Shore Hospital relaying the news that her urgent surgery had been postponed yet again, she broke down in tears. The 26-year-old was in line to have cervical surgery to remove pre-cancerous cells and relieve crippling pain from a gynaecological condition, but was told the hospital's theatres were closed. Ms Claridge - whose mother had a similar condition and had a hysterectomy at the age of 27 - had already had her operation cancelled once before she was moved up the priority list for surgery in October.

The incident is the latest in a string of alarming cases emerging from Royal North Shore Hospital following the case of 32-year-old Jana Horska, who miscarried in the hospital toilets last month. Following Mrs Horska's miscarriage tragedy, Associate Professor Bill Sears, a neurosurgeon at the hospital, spoke out, revealing operations are cancelled frequently at the last minute because of theatre closures.

Ms Claridge's setbacks now, sadly, catapult her into being a new symbol for Premier Morris Iemma's Government's failure to cope with the state's growing hospital crisis - a crisis that Health Minister Reba Meagher appears reluctant to admit, address or provide policy responses for. This latest case will increase pressure on the Government to explain how it intends to turnaround health care in NSW - it is another example of ordinary people being let down.

"But then she called and said the theatre was closed and we'd had to reschedule again to November. I was in tears, I just couldn't handle it any more," Ms Claridge said. "The pain knocks me sideways. Some days I can't get out of bed and I don't want to leave the house. "I'm 26, I shouldn't have to worry that when I have a shower my hair falls out in clumps. "I should be able to take my daughter to the park, or even be able to get up and make her breakfast without feeling like I have to go back to bed for the rest of the day."

An RNSH spokeswoman said the postponement of Ms Claridge's surgery was the decision of the doctor, who already had 21 patients on his waiting list. "(The) hospital has contacted Mrs Claridge and is investigating the possibility of an earlier date for surgery by transferring her care to another surgeon," the spokeswoman said.

Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said yesterday it was a standard State Government defence to blame the doctors. "It is another example of the minister being at odds with doctors and their clinical decisions," she said. "She is in discomfort and she has a toddler to care for - it is cruel to delay the surgery."


Windschuttle to take over at Quadrant

A worthy successor to Paddy McGuinness

Keith Windschuttle, scourge of leftist historians, will campaign against decadence in the arts when he takes over as editor of Quadrant magazine next year. Consider Wagner's Tannhauser, that myth of the sacred and profane now on show at the Sydney Opera House. "There's a guy painted in gold (who) stands there with a giant erection - symbolises lust or something," Windschuttle said yesterday. "That kind of gratuitous offensiveness is almost everywhere."

On Monday in the Sydney suburb of Balmain, the management committee of the small-circulation magazine chose Windschuttle, a former Leftist critic of Quadrant, as successor to Paddy McGuinness, who retires at the end of the year. His decade as editor roughly parallels the Howard years and the Prime Minister has praised Quadrant for "fine scholarship with a sceptical, questioning eye for cant, hypocrisy and moral vanity". Quadrant has an influence, especially in the history and culture wars, well beyond its modest circulation of 6000-odd.

But what if Kevin Rudd dislodges John Howard in Canberra - would the magazine have to reinvent itself? "Good heavens, no," said Peter Coleman, the longest-serving editor and Quadrant's unofficial historian. "The magazine has a certain liberal, conservative, cultural, literary outlook. That has sometimes coincided with support for the federal Government (under Mr Howard), but it's also published lots of articles sympathetic to the Labor Party cause."

Asked yesterday about Quadrant's influence, McGuinness said: "The big impact, of course, was the Windschuttle stuff on the so-called (frontier) massacres (of Aborigines) where he demolished the comfortable left-wing university consensus comprehensively. It's meant that people are increasingly open to renewed debate about how to make Aboriginal policy work." McGuinness believes he's been able to "re-establish" Quadrant as a "sceptical and non-ideological" journal in the conservative spirit of Samuel Johnson, the literary colossus of 18th-century England.

"Re-establish" is a diplomatic reference to McGuinness's predecessor, the political scientist Robert Manne, who fell out with the Quadrant crowd over economic rationalism and the Aboriginal "stolen generations". It was McGuinness who suggested Windschuttle delve into things Aboriginal. A book review assignment grew into three articles for Quadrant in 2000. The Fabrication of Aboriginal History, which accused well-known historians of exaggerating and even concocting massacre stories, emerged in 2002 and provoked bitter debate.

"If Paddy hadn't been editor, I would never have gone near the issue," Windschuttle said yesterday. Both men say not to expect radical change when the new editor's first issue appears next March. But if McGuinness, an atheist, has had a soft spot for religious debate, Windschuttle is not feeling charitable towards luvvies. "I've become concerned in recent years about the cynicism and decadence that you get in the opera, in the theatre, in other parts of high culture - even the dance companies," he said.