Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Lots of news from the education scene in Australia at the moment so I am concentrating on articles in that realm today


Two current articles belolw:

An incompetent but hungry university boss

A recent comment from "The Australian" below. Disclosure: I have personal knowledge that many who knew O'Connor as a mediocre but ambitious academic at the University of Queensland were amazed when he was appointed VC by Griffith. I am myself a graduate of the University of Queensland

Would Ian O'Connor pass an undergraduate course? Compare and contrast these two paragraphs: "The primary doctrine of Unitarianism is Tawhid, or the uniqueness and unity of God. Wahhab also preached against a perceived moral decline and political weakness in the Arabian peninsula and condemned idolatry, the popular cult of saints, and shrine and tomb visitation." And: "The primary doctrine of Wahhabism is Tawhid, or the uniqueness and unity of God ... He preached against a 'perceived moral decline and political weakness' in the Arabian peninsula and condemned idolatry, the popular cult of saints, and shrine and tomb visitation."

The first appeared in The Australian on Thursday under the byline of Professor Ian O'Connor, vice-chancellor of Griffith University. The second is from Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia blocked by some secondary schools to discourage students from sloppy research.

A former social worker who climbed the academic ladder rapidly, Professor O'Connor has admitted lifting the information and confusing strands of Islam. His stumbles came in attempting to defend his university's imprudent decision to ask for more than a million dollars from the repressive Saudi Arabian Government.

Professor O'Connor also appears to have breached his university's standards on plagiarism. If sprung, a student doing the same thing would surely be reprimanded. Many a career, including that of former Monash University vice-chancellor, Professor David Robinson, has been cut short through more serious allegations of the same behaviour. In 2002, Professor Robinson stood down after claims he plagiarised material for a book published 20 years earlier.

On the Griffith website, Professor O'Connor says the slip-up was not intentional and that his article "was not as a piece of academic scholarship" and "therefore did not follow normal citation methods used in academic publications". Not good enough for a vice-chancellor. The fully referenced version of the article also appears on the Griffith website. Three of the seven references are to Wikipedia, which in most institutions, including secondary schools, would earn a "D" for effort.

Professor O'Connor should heed the advice of his underling, Griffith University Council member Dr Dwight Zakus -- a senior lecturer in the Department of Tourism, Leisure, Hotel and Sports Management. He said he "strongly discouraged" his students from using Wikipedia because it is "a blog site, you can add and change (the information) and you're not sure of the veracity of the information there".

Professor O'Connor has yet to justify his taking the begging bowl to a repressive regime that punishes by stoning, beheading and amputation, and bars women from driving and most forms of normal life. Worse still, his university offered the Saudis a say in how the money would be spent then offered to keep it all secret. Academic freedom, like most basic freedoms, is anathema to the Saudis, who have no place influencing Islamic studies in Australia.


Saudi funds not a secret deal: Abdalla

The Griffith University academic at the heart of a funding controversy has defended the decision to accept $100,000 from the repressive Saudi Arabian Government to help finance Islamic studies. Mohamad Abdalla told the HES the money for the Griffith Islamic research unit he leads had come with no strings attached, had been acquired openly and without secrecy and there was nothing wrong with it. But he conceded the furore over a separate tranche of funding he sought - $1.37 million - had given him pause for thought. Were the Saudis to approve the money, he would recommend the university not accept it. "I would say no, don't take the money," Dr Abdalla said.

Dismissing as farcical the idea that accepting money from the Saudi Government could compromise the unit, he would not rule out accepting further funds from the same source at a later time, when the furore had died down. "If they offer it I will consider it," Dr Abdalla said.

Debate rose over the funding when The Australian's Richard Kerbaj revealed the Saudis had been offered some discretion in how the money would be spent and had also been offered anonymity over the donation. When vice-chancellor Ian O'Connor defended the university's pursuit of Saudi funding in an opinion article, he came under fire for using Wikipedia as a main source and for his confused interpretation of Islam.

Under fire for the propriety of his actions, Dr Abdalla was also forced to deny he was the Brisbane leader of the contentious Tablighi Jamaat movement, as had been reported. Although sympathetic to its ideals and acknowledging the group was represented at the Kuraby mosque, where he was a leader, he was not one of its leaders, he said.

Commentators who bought into the debate included Stephen Crittenden of the ABC's The Religion Report, who wrote: "What the Saudi Government really wants is the legitimacy that comes from being associated with a Western university. There is not a shred of evidence that it has any interest in progressive reform." The Australian Strategic Policy Institute's National Security Project director Carl Ungerer was also among those incredulous that any donation from Saudi Arabia would be considered acceptable. "It is naive to think that Saudi Arabian funding is not going to be problematic given we know the Saudi Government and its agencies have funded Wahhabist educational institutions around the world," Dr Ungerer said. "It's one of the major problems we have in the ongoing 'hearts and minds' campaign in the Muslim world."

Another Muslim academic, the University of Melbourne's Sultan of Oman professor of Arab and Islamic studies Abdullah Saeed, is an associate of Dr Abdalla through their joint involvement in the National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies and agreed funding was a sensitive area. "In the current climate one has to be very careful," Professor Saeed, the centre's lead director, said.

The Australian also reported last week that the Higher Education Funding Council for England was concerned about Saudi funding and the US Congress was examining Saudi donations to colleges. MI5 had also reportedly warned Prime Minister Gordon Brown that funding from Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries had caused a "dangerous increase in the spread of extremism in leading university campuses". At the same time The Guardian newspaper reported that HEFCE was considering a virtual centre of excellence networking academics, faith and community Islamic groups to boost Islamic studies.

The controversy has also drawn out defenders of Dr Abdalla. The Queensland Forum for Christians, Jews and Muslims praised his "ability to build bridges between the Muslim community and people of other faiths" and said it was "greatly saddened to see Dr Abdalla's integrity questioned". Uniting Church of Queensland moderator David Pitman said DrAbdalla was "an outstanding scholar and a person of great integrity" making a significant contribution to the life of the nation.

Islamic Council of Queensland president Suliman Sabdia, on behalf of 13 other signatories,wrote a letter to The Australian warning a repercussion of the reporting of the issue "could be increasing Islamophobia and a consequent decline in thousands of Muslim students coming to Australia, not only to study but also to experience our way of life".


Political correctness betrays migrant students

Migrant graduates are failing to get jobs because they can't speak much English -- but they have enough English to get an Australian university degree! How come? Because it would be "discriminatory" for the university to notice how well they speak English! In one recent case my alma mater hired a Chinese lecturer to teach law despite the fact that the students he was allegedly teaching could not understand a word of his version of English! How stupid can you get?

Another problem is that an unofficial "affirmative action" policy prevails -- less is asked of students from Asia -- which, as always, just devalues their qualifications

Fewer than a quarter of young, degree-educated migrants are finding skilled or professional jobs in their areas of study, and graduates are leaving university with poor academic standards and minimal English. A study by Monash University academics Bob Birrell and Ernest Healy found the problem was particularly acute among students from non-English-speaking backgrounds who had studied at Australian universities. Only 22 per cent of Australian-trained graduates aged between 20 and 29 who were migrants from non-English speaking countries were in professional roles in 2006. The figure compared with 57 per cent for English-speaking migrants and 64 per cent for Australian-born graduates.

The study suggests skilled migrants are satisfying immigration and university officials about the usefulness of their qualifications, but are failing to convince employers.

Overall, 38 per cent of skilled migrants were in professional roles in 2006, Professor Birrell said. But just 29 per cent of migrants from non-English-speaking countries found professional work. This compared with 63 per cent of skilled migrants from English-speaking countries.

Professor Birrell said the figures, which are based on census data, showed the skilled migration program was failing in its fundamental objective of combating the skills crisis. He said the students' poor English skills and the application of diminished academic standards were the main reasons universities were producing overseas graduates with skills and qualifications that were of little interest to employers. "The biggest problem is poor English and the lack of occupational experience," Professor Birrell said. "It also raises questions about courses that are being reduced in demand or complexity to cater for overseas-trained students."

The study, to be published in the Monash journal People and Place, looked at 212,812 degree-qualified migrants who arrived in Australia between 2001 and 2006. Of those, 90,416 were aged 20 to 29, most of them former overseas students who had studied in Australia. The remaining 122,396 migrants were aged 30 to 64. In both categories, most came from non-English speaking backgrounds. Young Chinese students fared the worst, with only 16 per cent working in professional roles.

Professor Birrell said many of the young, Australian-educated migrants took degrees in accounting, one of the professions most in demand, but only a minority ended up working as accountants. He called for a review of the way the skilled migration program was administered.


Taunts at Chinese Australian kids centre of complaint

PLAYGROUND taunts against Chinese Australian children are at the centre of a major court battle over complaints of school racism. A family has taken its case to the Supreme Court after three brothers were allegedly derided with comments including "ching chong Chinaman" at their Sydney primary school. The trio, aged 7, 9 and 10 at the time and who cannot be identified, claim the playground "bullies" teased them repeatedly, saying they hated Asians and Asian restaurants should be bombed to make way for "McDonald's and Kentucky Fried outlets".' The oldest was also allegedly threatened with a pair of scissors by a boy who said: "I'm going to kill you."

The Education Department has been fighting the case since the allegations were first made to the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board in 2000. The family is taking Supreme Court action in a bid to have the case reopened in the Administrative Decisions Tribunal - and the outcome could have serious ramifications for schools across the state. It follows the landmark $1 million award to bullying victim Benjamin Cox after it was found the department had failed to protect him in the '60s.

After an ADT hearing two years ago the family of Chinese descent was awarded $6000 in damages and the school - Excelsior Public at Castle Hill - was ordered to apologise. But the decision was overturned on appeal last year when it was ruled teachers could not be held liable if they failed to respond to racist insults in the playground. Teachers said they did not believe the gibes were racist because they were "silly talk" between children.

The department said the boys responsible had been disciplined but the school was accused of failing to provide a safe learning environment. Staff said the case put teachers under extreme stress, raising complex issues around the context in which playground comments become racist. A departmental spokesman said discrimination of any kind against students or staff in public schools and TAFEs was not tolerated [Except when it is]. "Comprehensive policies, including tough disciplinary measures, have been developed to handle such cases. The ADT appeal panel found the department appropriately handled events occurring almost 10 years ago," he said.

Teachers' Federation president Maree O'Halloran said a Supreme Court decision could change department guidelines.


High quality education for all?

That's what Leftists will tell you government schools are for -- but it is not so, never has been and never will be. Reality is not like that

Proximity to sought-after primary schools in Brisbane's dress circle suburbs has become the latest must-have selling point in the tough property market.

Just being in the catchment area for the most popular schools can add up to $70,000 to the value of your house, say agents - and buyers are lining up.

At both Wilston and Ascot state schools - and others such as Eagle Junction - the desperation to get their children on the rolls has been so great parents have been known to lie and cheat to succeed. "They fight fiercely to get in," one agent said. Fake addresses were one ploy, or getting a lease and breaking it after a month; using friends' houses as a mailing address, or even granny flats, guest cottages, business offices and investment properties have been used in a bid to get proof-of-residence documents.

Some parents said, apart from the schools' reputations, there was a social benefit in getting their children on the roll at blue-chip state schools. Not only is it good for the kids but parents get to rub shoulders with Brisbane's business and social elite. One mother of an Ascot child said: "It's one of the only private schools you don't pay fees for."

Education Minister Rod Welford said it was "extreme" for people to buy into a particular area simply because of the name of the primary school. "Most schools are within range of each other in terms of the quality of education," Mr Welford said.

But residential research director at RP Data Tim Lawless said it was clear the demand for properties within well regarded public school zones had a profound influence on property prices. "Take the example of Wilston where the local state school enjoys an enviable reputation. Median house prices within the suburb of Wilston have risen by 18.7 per cent over the last year and by 13.5 per cent per annum (on average) over the last five years," Mr Lawless he said. Agent and the mother of an Ascot student, Kim Josephson said the catchment was a primary motivator for many buyers. "If they have $2 million to spend they may buy a lesser house in the Ascot catchment rather than a better one outside," she said. "There is a nice sense of community. It would be easy to paint it as shallow and cliquey, but that has not been my experience at all. My little boy is getting a lovely education there."

Wilston State School principal Leann Griffith-Baker said she saw the school being used to market properties within its catchment every week and put it down to academic excellence and a sense of community. She said parents made a huge financial commitment to buy in the area and some had moved a few streets just to get into the catchment. "But people do invest for schools in the private ranks as well. When they apply to Gregory Terrace of St whatever they pay $1000 just to get on the waiting list," she said.

According to agent Liz Fell there's a huge demand for Wilston's catchment. "I've got two buyers who have been on my books for six to eight months. They won't compromise on being in the catchment even though Windsor, down the road, is a good school. "If you're in walking distance it's an even hotter prospect."


The reliable high standards of government schools (NOT)

The Torres Stait and Cape York areas are primarily inhabited by blacks (Sorry: "Indigenous people"). The Leftist Queensland government is big on talk about black welfare but deeds speak louder than words -- revealing once again what Leftists REALLY think about blacks

TEACHERS in the Torres Strait will be the first to strike this week over "untenable living conditions" in far north Queensland. Some teachers on Cape York have been without hot water since the beginning of the year while many throughout north Queensland face security issues. Broken locks, security doors and airconditioners, mouldy furniture and collapsed water-damaged walls and floors are all common teacher complaints, according to the Queensland Teachers' Union.

QTU state secretary Steve Ryan said an extra $5 million for maintenance and housing stock was needed to lift living standards to an acceptable level. Stop work meetings will be held from 2pm to 3pm tomorrow in the Torres Strait. Teachers around Cape York and the Gulf of Carpentaria will stop work on Wednesday between 2pm and 3pm. Mr Ryan said they will call on the State Government to guarantee sufficient, secure and regularly maintained accommodation backed by a significant funding increase in the state budget. Rolling 24-hour stoppages will be considered if that funding is not increased.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Two articles below:

Labor Party appointee defends Muslim-loving academic incompetent

Her nomination to the governorship was part of an entrenched determination by the Queensland Labor party to appoint women to high office. I don't know much about her political background but old Commos did on occasions name their daughters "Leneen" or "Lenine" -- after V.I. Lenin

The guy she is defending has some reputation for getting to the top through sycophancy rather than through any other talent. He has certainly shown no talent lately.

Note that Queensland District Court judge Clive Wall has said the Saudi connection is turning the university into a "madrassa"

Griffith University Chancellor Leneen Forde strongly defended the university's Vice-Chancellor Ian O'Connor yesterday after he admitted material he used to counter an attack on Griffith's Islamic Research Unit was lifted from the internet. The former Queensland governor said she had complete confidence in Mr O'Connor, who has vigorously backed a decision to accept a $100,000 donation from the Saudi Arabian Government to support the centre.

However an article defending the donation, written under Mr O'Connor's name, included two sentences lifted from Wikipedia without attribution. He said in a statement that the article was "based on material provided by senior staff" and "in pulling it together a small number of sentences were not directly attributed". "This was not intentional."

Ms Forde said he had acknowledged the action was inappropriate and in a statement to university staff said the article was "drafted in haste" in response to a "highly slanted version of events" published by The Australian newspaper. As a result it was not checked "as thoroughly" as desired.


Jihad body linked to begging university

THE Muslim cleric at the centre of Griffith University's Saudi embassy donation affair - Mohamad Abdalla - is regarded as the Brisbane leader of an Islamic group whose overseas members have been linked to al-Qaeda and the 2005 London bombings. Dr Abdalla, who has refused to be drawn on the Tablighi Jamaat group, has been identified as its Brisbane head by Muslim community figures, including prominent Islamic leader Fadi Rahman. "He's the head of Tablighi in Brisbane," said Mr Rahman, who attended the 2020 Summit as a delegate with Dr Abdalla. "I know Mohamad Abdalla very well," he said.

While Griffith University denied Dr Abdalla was a Tablighi leader, it praised the group - which has been investigated and cleared by ASIO - as a "peaceful movement" that provided spiritual support to disadvantaged community members. The university also said some Tablighi members attended Dr Abdalla's Brisbane mosque.

"Based on advice we have received from a number of Queensland Muslim organisations, the group Tablighi Jamaat is not a sect, is not secretive, is not political, is not violent," the university said in a statement issued last night. "It is in fact a peaceful movement with the social justice aim of helping Muslims become better Muslims. "Dr Mohamad Abdalla is not ... the leader of Tablighi Jamaat in Brisbane. "Dr Abdalla, as a leading imam in the Brisbane community, is associated with a number of groups openly involved with Brisbane's mosques. "This group is among more than 20 ethnic groups openly associated with Dr Abdalla's own mosque."

The Australian revealed last week that Dr Abdalla, director of Griffith's Islamic Research Unit, helped the university apply for a $1.37 million grant from the Saudi embassy - of which the institution received only $100,000 - and offered the Saudi ambassador a chance to keep elements of the donation a secret. The university said Dr Abdalla had in the past week received strong support from Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson, Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Susan Booth and "leaders from both the Jewish and Christian communities of Brisbane".

The Tablighi's non-violent teachings about the importance of the afterlife had left some young followers susceptible to recruitment by terrorist outfits as suicide-bombers, said former Howard government adviser Ameer Ali. "They are not violent, they don't preach violence. But their mind is set - they've prepared the minds of the youngsters who can be trapped by the jihadis and terrorists," he said. "So when the jihadis say are you prepared to go to heaven ... it carries with their thinking because they are not interested in this world, they believe (their) future is in the next world."

Dr Abdalla refused to answer questions about his connection with the Tablighi when interviewed by The Australian, except to say membership of the group was not controversial. Muslim leaders have urged Griffith University to return the Saudi grant.


Victoria's Keystone Kops traumatize innocent man -- with not even an apology

Look at the cowardly creeps below

He was probably lucky the media were present. He should sue the pants off the Victoria police

A quiet afternoon at home turned into "something from the movies" for Brad Triptree yesterday afternoon when he looked out of his Frankston house. The 22-year-old nurse was sitting at his computer when he heard a police megaphone outside his house. Mr Triptree told the Herald Sun it didn't cross his mind at first that the police were talking to him. "I heard 'Come out of your house' just like they do in the movies, but I didn't know who they were talking to," he said.

"I was nervous as hell when I realised they meant me -- my legs went all shaky. "My name's not Dave -- they were saying something like that, so I knew they had got the wrong person." Police officers apparently mistook Mr Triptree for a suspect involved in the shooting of a Frankston mother of two yesterday morning. Officers pointed guns at Mr Triptree's head and pushed him to the ground outside his apartment complex in front of the media before they let him go.

Mr Triptree, who only moved into his Burns St home three days ago said he hadn't been able to relax since his terrifying ordeal. "I just did what they told me to do," he said. "They were carrying very big guns. "I've never seen guns like that before -- it's the first time I've ever seen a gun. "I'm still shaking now."

Mr Triptree said he was puzzled about why he was a target for police. "They said they had a phone trace from this address but I don't even have a phone connected," he said. "They were just saying that." After police let Mr Triptree go, he said they acted like nothing had happened. "They didn't even say they had made a mistake. "I'm angry, my phone's been going non-stop and I haven't heard a thing from the police. "I haven't got an apology. They let me go back into my house and that was it. "It was as if they were doing me a favour."

Mr Triptree said he could not believe how different he was from the police description of the wanted man he heard on the evening news. "They're looking for a grey-haired guy in his 60s -- I don't look anything like that," he said. "I don't know what they were thinking." After his ordeal, Mr Triptree said he went to his grandparents' home nearby, where he would be staying for the next few days. Mr Triptree said both his mother in Queensland and his elderly grandmother in Frankston had found it hard to believe he had been involved in the drama. Mr Triptree said he did not know any of his neighbours on Burns St, and was considering moving out for a while after yesterday's drama. "I'm definitely not staying here," he said.


A Leftist to be missed

By Mark Steyn

The Australian columnist Pamela Bone died of cancer this weekend. She was a feminist, an atheist and most of the other -ists you might expect from a western woman of her general disposition (she was a recipient, among many other awards, of something called the "UN media peace prize").

But in her final years she came to see that the Islamization of the west represented a profound challenge to everything she believed in. It began fairly tentatively. She seems almost to be thinking aloud in this piece for the Melbourne Age on the British subjects born and bred who self-detonated on the London Tube:

In Melbourne the day after September 11, Muslim students at a state high school danced on the desks with glee. What are these young people being taught by their decent and law-abiding parents? Literature being sold at a store attached to a Brunswick mosque tells Muslims they should "hate and take as enemies" Jews, Christians, atheists and secularists, and that they should "learn to hate in order to properly love Allah". How many Muslims complain when they see this kind of hate literature? Did the large Sydney audience complain when Sheikh Feiz Muhammad charged recently that because of the way they dressed, women had only themselves to blame if they were raped? No, they applauded him.

The column ends as follows:
Perhaps it is time to say, it's been wonderful, but a few things need to be made clear. Perhaps it is time to say, you are welcome, but this is the way it is here.

"This is the way it is": That kind of talk is anathema to the multiculti elites in Oz, Canada, America, Britain and Europe. But Ms Bone saw no good in tolerant multiculturalists colluding with the avowedly unicultural and intolerant. She was especially tough on the two-tier sisterhood:
LET it be recorded that in the last decade of the 20th century the brave and great movement of Western feminism ended, not with a bang but with a whimper... I don't hold much hope on this International Women's Day of seeing big protests in Australian cities against female genital mutilation; or against honour killings, stonings, child marriages, forced seclusion or any of the other persecutions to which women are still subjected. The fire of Western feminism has quietly died away, first as a victim of its success, lately as a victim of cultural relativism, of anti-Americanism and reluctance to be seen to be condemning the enemies of the enemy.

She summed up the strange alliance between western progressives and a theocratic tyranny that stones women and executes homosexuals in this piece:
Why, in short, have Left and Right changed places?

I didn't agree with Pamela Bone on most things, even at the end. But she understood in a way that too few of the left do that her culture and her civilization need defending and that the relativist mush of the age (not to mention The Age) is insufficient to the task. I shall miss her, and I wish there were more like her.


Firms slugged with illegal Greenie fees

And the "fix" will cost them even more! No talk of refunds

THOUSANDS of Queensland businesses have been slugged fees that the State Government has secretly known for years may be illegal. The Courier-Mail can reveal a raft of fees levied by the Environmental Protection Agency since 1998 are likely to be outside the scope of the State's authority. However, despite receiving high-level legal advice more than five years ago, the Government failed to act and continued to raise millions of dollars a year from businesses.

The annual environmental fees are spread across an array of waste-emitting industries, including paint manufacturing, beverage production, seafood processing, oil refining and farming. Fees start from as low as several hundred dollars and rise to tens of thousands a year for some major industries. Many of the EPA's prices are based on a business's volume of production, but state governments are prohibited from levying such excises as they fall within the realm of the Commonwealth.

Sustainability and Climate Change Minister Andrew McNamara yesterday admitted the Government had been aware the fees may be unconstitutional but was now moving to resolve the issue before the end of the year. "These fees have been around for a long time, this is the Environmental Protection Regulation from 1998," Mr McNamara said. "But all I can do as minister is sort it out."

Mr McNamara said he was unaware of any business raising an issue with the legality of the fees but legal advice had been received in 2006 warning there could be a problem. However, it is understood the department also received legal advice in early 2003 with the same warning. This was prompted by a veiled reference in an Auditor General's report in December 2002 that raised concerns about "certain issues pertaining to licence fees".

Fixing the fees will cost some businesses dearly with the Government planning to shift from a current flat charge and volume-based method to a risk-based method. The Bligh Government has recently announced a similar risk-based assessment scheme for issuing late-night liquor licences.

The Government wants to recoup enough from the changes to plug the difference between the $9 million a year the EPA raises from the environmental fees and the $32 million it spends on patrolling businesses for waste and emissions. "While it is likely there will be fee increases for bigger polluting industries, the proposed fees are less than in other states," Mr McNamara said.


Monday, April 28, 2008


Two current articles below

No defence for academic ignorance

By Stephen Crittenden

Two weeks ago I had an email exchange with the principal policy adviser to the vice-chancellor of Griffith University. He denied that Australia's universities were secular institutions, on the grounds that they followed the Christian calendar, with holidays at Christmas and Easter, and he added that because we seemed to have no objection to the "Christianisation" of our universities, we could hardly object to attempts to "Islamify" them or any other aspects of Australian life.

If this is the standard of advice that Griffith vice-chancellor Ian O'Connor (above) is receiving, then it is little wonder that he has got himself into such an awful mess this week when he attempted to defend the university's decision to accept funding from the Saudi Arabian Government.

Yesterday, O'Connor was forced to clarify his unattributed use of material taken from Wikipedia in an opinion piece published earlier this week in The Australian. Attributed or not, this doesn't look good from the vice-chancellor of a university parading itself as a centre of excellence in Islamic studies.

Then there was his preposterous use of the term Unitarian to describe the official religion of Saudi Arabia. Unitarianism is a term properly used to describe a liberal Christian movement that included among its adherents some of the founding fathers of the US.

It has nothing to do with Islam, which has never had a non-Unitarian movement, and one can't help wondering whether the vice-chancellor has naively got himself caught up in some cynical Saudi re-branding exercise. This is the view of at least one commentator this week, Sir Wellington Boot of, who suggests that the term Wahhabism has become so toxic that it can no longer be used.

Far more troubling is O'Connor's apparent attempt to whitewash the Saudi Government when he says it "seeks to moderate reactionary elements in its own society by funding Islamic research centres in prominent Western universities to develop a form of progressive Islam that has credibility and legitimacy".

What the Saudi Government really wants is the legitimacy that comes from being associated with a Western university. There is not a shred of evidence that it has any interest in progressive reform and anyone who has any doubt about this should sober themselves by consulting the latest country report on human rights in Saudi Arabia published by the US State Department.

It is a plain fact that in recent decades Saudi Arabia has been using its oil wealth to export Wahhabism across the world. The results are plain to see in Malaysia, South Asia, Africa and, above all, Europe. This is why the greatest caution needs to be exercised in any decision to accept money from such a source.

The photograph on page two of The Australian yesterday - featuring two Islamic female students at Griffith University with their faces covered - gives ample evidence of precisely how Wahhabi influence is already making its presence felt.

Australian universities are the new front line in the battle with extremist Islam. The Muslim students associations are being taken over by Wahhabist and other ultra-conservative groups, such as Tablighi Jamaat and Hizb ut-Tahrir.

The ultimate goal of these groups is the radicalisation of a new generation of Muslim professionals, which would be a catastrophe for Australia. In this context, vice-chancellors proposing to take money from Wahhabist governments need to be relying on more than Wikipedia for their information about Islam.


A major Australian university gives the finger to justice -- denies natural justice to an employee

This is not the first time an Australian university has run a kangaroo court to deal with complaints about its employees. And I note that in the USA the denial of natural justice to students is well-known. See for example the notorious Plinton case -- where an arrogant university bureaucracy actually managed to kill an innocent black student.

One wonders what is behind a big fuss about a minor bureaucratic detail here. Nobody was deceived. One suspects that he found sexually transmitted disease to be more widespread among young people than is generally acknowledged. Why that is so sensitive would seem to be a matter of academic politics and turf protection

The University of Sydney has denied natural justice to one of its leading academics in adolescent health during an investigation into the collection of blood samples from Sydney school students for medical research, a review committee has found. Michael Booth, an associate professor in the university's school of public health, was accused in late 2005 of neglecting to follow the correct ethical approval process before collecting blood samples from 500 adolescents for a study on childhood obesity.

The university commissioned Helen Colbey of the NSW Internal Audit Bureau to investigate the allegations and she released her report in January last year. It found Dr Booth had engaged in six counts of serious ethical misconduct and recommended his dismissal. But a review committee, which was established on the insistence of Dr Booth's lawyers, found this month that the university had denied him natural justice and procedural fairness, because he was not given the chance to respond to the evidence against him. "It was like I was locked in a room, the evidence was presented to a judge and he said 'guilty' and I was taken away, so I didn't get my day in court," Dr Booth said last week.

The outgoing vice-chancellor, Gavin Brown, will now have to choose between ignoring the findings of the review committee - two of whose three members were appointed by the university - or accept them and expose the university to legal action by Dr Booth.

The case raises questions about academic freedom, government interference in universities and the ethics of using blood samples for controversial purposes, without specific consent, if it means the research leads to public benefit. The blood samples that were collected for the original study, known as the Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey, were later tested for sexually transmitted herpes and the researchers were able to glean invaluable information for a vaccine against herpes type 2. That information has been locked up, along with the blood samples, because it was deemed to have been gathered unethically.

Collecting blood samples from the 15-year-olds at schools across Sydney required extensive consultation with NSW Health, the NSW Education Department and the university's ethics committee, particularly around the parent information sheet, which explained that the blood could be used for future tests related to physical activity and nutrition.

Dr Booth said it was only after the government departments had approved the wording that a colleague, Tony Cunningham, asked if he could also use the blood samples for the development of a herpes vaccine, which clearly fell outside the scope of physical activity and nutrition. "We realised that not only did the wording of the information sheet have to be changed to allow the [herpes] tests to be conducted, but that it would also be preferable to make the wording broader to allow the possibility of other, as yet unforeseen, tests relevant to the health of young people," Dr Booth said. He changed the information sheet to allow for broader testing, but he was later accused of doing so without formal approval, which he denies, leading to the misconduct complaint.

Dr Booth said he knew the herpes research would anger the health and education departments. "[But] I really think it would be unethical of me to protect my career at the expense of the development of a vaccine." However, Bruce Robinson, the then head of the university's school of public health, said the parents should have been told their children's blood samples would be tested for herpes. "Particularly in the context of something quite sensitive, in terms of herpes antibodies in teenagers, I would see that as bad behaviour to go ahead and do that," Professor Robinson said.

NSW Health and the then health minister John Hatzistergos said the matter was now in the hands of the university and declined to comment further. The University of Sydney said: "The university is firmly committed to upholding all its policies and procedures, particularly those relating to dealings with members of the public and especially involving health matters."



Given the often-appalling outcome of the recently enacted British bill of rights, one would hope not but many starry-eyed Leftists are pushing for it amid hope that our new Centre-Left government can be led down that path. Below are two counterblasts to the idea -- one from a conservative commenter and one from a centre-Left commenter. That they say largely the same thing is rather encouraging

Beware the galloping imperialist judiciary

By Janet Albrechtsen

Do not mistake the unseasonal rush of warmth over the weekend with global warming. Put it down to those advocating a charter of rights for Australia at the 2020 Summit in the nation's capital. Their aim is to bathe us in the warm language of human rights so that, ultimately, we will soporifically sign up to a new federal charter of rights.

The heat will be cranked up over the next few years. Having found a good friend in the Rudd Labor Government, and buoyed by success in Victoria and the ACT where charters already operate, charter enthusiasts have finessed one heck of a sneaky strategy to seduce us. What is at stake is Australia's traditional democratic deal where parliaments make laws on behalf of the people and judges interpret those laws. Charter enthusiasts have a different post-democratic model in mind. This class of lawyers, human rights activists and academics distrust the people as too unenlightened to embrace their preferred social agenda. Hence they want to vest power to decide major social issues in an unelected group of guardians of the greater good: the judiciary.

Armed with a charter, these social engineers can seek out a sympathetic judge to legislate their agenda from the bench, unfettered by the messy business of taking their agenda to the people. Here is their strategy. First, promise public consultation, as Kevin Rudd has done. If genuine debate follows, that will be a fine thing.

Unfortunately, as we know from Victoria and the ACT, the so-called independent committees entrusted to consult with the people were stacked with so many charter supporters, they operated like one-way steering committees. Neither Victoria nor the ACT trusted the people's view enough to put the charter to a referendum.

And keep your eye on academic and Labor aspirant George Williams. Having slogged away at a charter for years, he oversaw Victoria's charter of rights. Ditto Hilary Charlesworth, another charter lover who chaired the ACT committee. If they pop up on the federal committee, I'll bet my house on the outcome. Talk that Malcolm Fraser may join them only confirms the one-way debate in store for us.

That "debate" goes something like this. "How can a reasonable person be against a charter of human rights?" they ask rhetorically. Human rights are not controversial, right? Wrong. A moment's reflection reveals that rights are as diverse as people themselves. And this exposes one of the greatest con jobs practised on us by the modern human rights industry: the assertion that human rights are universal, clear and immutable. Even that most basic right - the right to life - is highly contestable. Defining what is a right and the ambit of those rights is where reasonable people can and do disagree.

The charter raises one simple question: when deciding these contestable issues, should we count the votes of the Australian people or those of a handful of judges? It's a no-brainer. These are political questions for the people to determine. Sending political questions to the judiciary does not transform them into legal questions.

Relax, say the charter advocates. A charter of rights is a tame little law, a modest one which will not transfer power from the people. Just look at Britain, they say. Britain has a special provision in its Human Rights Act to ensure parliament is not stripped of power: that there is simply a "dialogue" between the judiciary and parliament. Courts in Britain can only issue a declaration of incompatibility, telling government that a law offends their Human Rights Act. On paper, that's right. Governments can ignore the courts. However, the political reality is different.

Only a brave government will ignore a declaration of inconsistency from a court. And as NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos said a few weeks back, the only meaningful dialogue for parliament should be with the people, not judges.

By all means take a close look at Britain. In Britain, after enacting the Human Rights Act to much fanfare, former PM Tony Blair changed his tune, promising a battle with the judiciary when British courts put out the welcome mat to radical Muslims, using charter rights to ignore British immigration laws. More recently, present PM Gordon Brown canvassed the need for amendments to the HRA to include responsibilities because the rights fetish was taking Britain in the wrong direction.

Not to worry, say the charter supporters. Look to Canada, they say, where a special provision in their Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows governments to specifically exclude charter rights from a specific law if that is their intention. In other words, the power of parliament is preserved. Look a little closer at Canada, I say. This clause has never been used, not once since the charter was introduced more than 20 years ago. Yet, this clause was the clincher when the charter was being proposed to Canadians. Charter advocates in Canada said it would protect parliamentary sovereignty.

Sound familiar? In fact, it has been politically untouchable for a government to draft legislation which apparently infringes the "rights" of Canadians in the charter. Williams knows that. He has written about it. And why do you suppose most Canadians now express a desire to elect their judges? The Canadian charter has siphoned power away from the people to unelected judges. Nothing modest about it.

These are not obtuse legal wrangles. They go to the heart of how Australia will be governed: by the people or by judges. The real stealth bomb in a charter of rights is the interpretation clause. Hang in there if it all sounds a bit dry. Charter advocates will hope you start tuning out right about now. Section 3 of the British Human Rights Act - more or less repeated in the Victorian Charter - says that "So far as it is possible to do so, primary legislation and subordinate legislation must be read and given effect in a way which is compatible with the Convention rights." This is an open invitation to judges to ignore even the clearest of parliament's intent. The House of Lords has said so, describing this innocuous little "reading down" provision as "dangerously seductive", and "unusual and far-reaching in character".

Charter devotees are all in favour of a galloping imperial judiciary; it is integral to their postmodern democratic model where power is stripped from politicians they regard as too stupid and too slow to mould the perfect world. Done under the guise of protecting human rights, this power play where the lawyer class triumphs over the masses is just the most recent reminder of H.L. Mencken's warning that the "urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule". Remember that when the charter bandwagon comes to a town near you.


Lawyers are already drunk with power

By Bob Carr (A former Labor party Premier of NSW -- pic below)

Call it the first swallow of summer. Last week I met a lawyer who said while she opposed a charter of rights, all the barristers on her floor supported it, and for the obvious reason: the intoxicating whiff of litigation. A bill of rights, or a charter, will lay out abstractions like the right to life, or privacy, or property, and thus enable judges to determine - after deliciously drawn-out litigation - what these mean.

A shift in power from elected parliaments to unelected judges, by a process of "judicial creep", is part of the bill of rights package. Canada has had its Charter of Rights and Freedoms since 1982, planted in the constitution. Before that there was only a legislative version. Clearly this is something the zealots want to see happen here: the first step only a law, but followed by constitutional entrenchment.

Like Australia, Canada also has a shortage of doctors in rural areas. British Columbia came up with a scheme to encourage doctors to practise there, with a finely tuned system of incentives. The provincial Supreme Court struck it down, citing section 6 ("mobility rights") and section 7 (the "right to life, liberty and security") of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Canada's rural population is still under-served by doctors, thanks to judges who want to write society's rules.

That's the trouble. A menu of abstractions - that is, any attempt to list rights - wrenches from the cabinet table and the legislature and delivers to the courtroom things that ought to be determined by governments. Thus, in the most recent burst of judicial activism, judges in Britain have determined that the justice secretary can no longer block a parole board decision to release a dangerous prisoner. Judges also determined that failed asylum-seekers in Britain could have access to the National Health Scheme, again something that should be a matter for elected politicians.

In Scotland, because of a delay in placing toilets in prison cells, the Scottish Law Reporter estimates that prisoners may be entitled to awards totalling pound stg. 76 million ($158.7 million) because their cells violated the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Government had been caught up with another priority, expanding drug rehabilitation programs for inmates. Last year, pound stg. 750,000 was paid to 197 heroin-addicted prisoners who successfully argued that cutting short their treatment while in prison breached their human rights.

But there's another phenomenon that perverts proper process: police and bureaucrats in Britain anticipate getting overruled on human rights grounds and start to shape their responses. Pity the factory owner who, this month, had to pay pound stg. 20,000 to bailiffs to remove 40 Gypsies who had torn down a 2.4m fence and occupied his factory land. The police refused to act so as not to breach the travellers' human rights.

A friend of mine who sits in the House of Commons says when his constituents talk about loutish behaviour in the streets or around housing estates, they say: "I suppose the police can't do anything about it because of their human rights." Thus creeping judicial activism around a charter of abstractions renders negative a concept that should sit nobly and proudly in the lexicon.

When Kevin Rudd looks at the 2020 Summit's endorsement of a bill or charter, he'll be politically astute enough to know a move to enact a charter or bill in any form would meet the same commonsense opposition that doomed it in 1988, when Australians voted it down 69 per cent to 31per cent.

Consider the objectors. Business knows it just represents another layer of uncertainty; what judges will do with "a right to property" is anyone's guess. Churches are becoming aware their immunity from anti-discrimination laws - a justified immunity - will end with a charter or a bill of rights. Church leaders can democratically lobby parliaments and cabinets, but not non-elected, tenured judges. The most obvious effect of a charter is to add opportunities to defence lawyers in criminal matters.

I look forward to advising victims of crime groups of the consequences of a bill or charter. The power of police to stop and search people for a knife, and remove the knife, which we enacted in NSW in 1998, would not survive judicial activism based on freewheeling interpretations. And the decisive life sentences imposed on the state's worst killers (who were originally given indeterminate "never to be released" sentences) would also be found to contravene prisoners' rights, as in Britain.

Perhaps, as former justice minister Michael Tate seemed to foreshadow in The Australian last week, we will see a proposal for a list of rights to be overseen by a parliamentary committee, not by judges. A big retreat, but it will still be objectionable. I and others will take issue with any attempt by a group of zealots to arrogate to themselves the power to define, codify and nail down their definition at this time of what they think ought to be our rights. Talk about elitism.

Rights count. So much so they need the give and take of the common law, rowdy parliaments and the ebb and flow of public opinion. It's the commonsensical ethos of a people - temper democratic, bias offensively Australian - not a declaration of abstractions that will keep us free.


Global Warmists eat your heart out

Australia's winter is approaching but the snow is falling already in places -- yet more of the global cooling that we have been seeing in recent times. The recent Northern hemisphere winter was deadly in many places

A COLD snap across Victoria's alpine region dumped a heavy layer of snow over the weekend in an encouraging sign that the coming ski season could begin early.

After sub-zero temperatures at Falls Creek early yesterday, resort operators hope the colder than normal weather could result in the best conditions on the slopes in several years. About 15cm of snow was dumped on Falls Creek and Mount Hotham yesterday and forecasters expect more falls in the region over the next 24 hours.

Keen young skiers rugged up and hit the slopes early yesterday while snow and ice covered trees and cars around the resort. With weather experts predicting bigger than expected snowfalls in Victoria this season, Melbourne Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Dean Stewart last night said the heavy falls around Falls Creek followed a cold snap in the area on Saturday night. "There have been some fairly good snowfalls in the last 12 to 18 hours in the alps," he said. "The main rain-producing cloud that led to the falls has pushed east of the alpine area. So over the next 24 hours there's going to be further showers pushing up over the alps."

Mr Stewart said more rain and snow were expected to fall before the weather cleared on Tuesday. "As far as the big dumps go, they've had that already, but there could be some more showers in the next day or so," he said.

Falls Creek spokesman Ian Talbot said the cold weather could herald the best skiing conditions since 2000, when the official season began two weeks early. The season is due to begin on the Queen's Birthday weekend of June 7. "All the predictions suggest we may have a season like 2000," he said. "That started off really well too." Mr Talbot said bookings were already strong for the school holiday period, and yesterday's heavy dumping of snow meant visitors could be confident of a good winter ahead. "For this time of year, it's been quite unusual weather, but from the industry's point of view it's very encouraging," he said.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe weather warning late yesterday for people in the southwest of NSW. Severe thunderstorms were expected to produce damaging winds in the region overnight, with towns including Wagga Wagga, Albury and Cobar likely to be most affected. Residents were urged to move cars away from trees, secure loose items around homes and avoid using their phones during the storm.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Queensland building projects stalled as red tape lifts costs

Governments constantly bloviate about the high costs of housing and try to blame the suppliers for it but governments themselves are a major cause of the high costs. Restricting the supply -- for Greenie and other reasons -- will inevitably raise prices

Leading housing industry groups are furious $10.5 billion worth of residential development earmarked for Queensland is being held up by government red tape. While the State Government has vowed to help fast-track land releases and development approvals to ease the growing housing crisis, projects now on the books may blow out by more than four years. Almost 20 affected projects still in the planning stage include the Redland Bay South subdivision, Broadlakes housing development at Merrimac, Riverside Waters at Townsville and the Riverbank community at Morayfield.

The Housing Industry Association of Queensland has accused local and state governments of holding up work. "Delays in getting development approval can be measured in years these days, not months," HIAQ executive director Warwick Temby said. "We've been making noise about these delays for some time now because it adds a lot to the cost of land."

Mr Temby said he feared the Government had overspent on projects such as the water grid and now lacked funds to supply infrastructure for many of the proposed developments. Developers Fox and Bell Group plan to build a satellite town near Redland Bay in Brisbane's southeast, to house up to 9000 people. Director Garry Hargrave said the company had been working on the project for six years. Slow approval meant construction was unlikely start before 2012.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Infrastructure and Planning Paul Lucas said he had started to meet with developers and councils because he was concerned about "land-banking" in some parts of the state's southeast, where parcels of land were being held back waiting for a more favourable market for the owner.

The article above by Hannah Martin appeared in the the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on April 27, 2008

Fewer beds at major NSW hospital than 13 years ago

Despite a significant rise in the population

THERE are 186 fewer beds at Sydney's troubled Royal North Shore Hospital than there were 13 years ago when the state Labor Government came to power, Health Department figures reveal. In March 1995, 776 beds were available to patients, but on the latest available figures the hospital has just 590 beds. The figures, obtained by the NSW Opposition under freedom of information, measured bed decline from 1993 to September last year. Opposition health spokesman Jillian Skinner said the figure was alarming when the remaining 590 beds included cots, bassinets, critical-care beds, mental-health beds, maternity beds, and "transition beds" in patients' homes.

Under the $702 million hospital redevelopment announced by Health Minister Reba Meagher in November last year, the hospital will end up with 626 beds. In 2003, when Premier Morris Iemma was health minister, the number of beds reached its lowest point at 547. "Every RNSH doctor who gave evidence at the parliamentary inquiry into the hospital last year spoke of the desperate shortage of acute-care beds," Ms Skinner said. "The NSW Labor Government has stripped more than 180 beds from RNSH since it came to power 13 years ago," Ms Skinner said. "It also expanded the definition of a bed so even those in a patient's own home are counted as hospital beds. The new hospital will be seriously short of beds."

Ms Meagher yesterday said there was less need for large numbers of beds as patients now stayed in hospital for shorter periods. "The 23-hour unit at Royal North Shore Hospital today performs a number of day-only procedures that 10 years ago would have resulted in a five-day stay in hospital," she said. "For example, hernia and varicose-vein procedures, which resulted in a three- to seven-day stay in hospital 10 years ago, are now performed mostly as day only procedures."


Stupid blame game

"Binge drinking Howard's fault". They have the same problem in Britain so I suppose that is Tony Blair's fault?

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon has blamed the former Howard government for the rise in teenage binge drinking. Ms Roxon said the decision to cut taxes on premixed alcoholic drinks eight years ago helped fuel the surge in excessive drinking by young people, particularly teenage girls.

The Rudd government overnight reversed the change, virtually doubling the excise on alcopops from midnight, pushing the cost of the drinks up by between 30 cents and $1.30 a bottle. [Big deal!]

"We can track the change in the way that young women have been drinking these products from the time that the Howard government changed the excise in 2000," Ms Roxon told the Nine Network. "We've seen patterns where it's gone from about 14 per cent of young girls drinking these products up to about 60 per cent. "So, this is an explosion that we think needs to be tackled ... We have a problem that must be turned around and this is the place where we're starting." Ms Roxon said she did not know why the Howard government had cut the excise in the first place.


A cool idea to warm to

By Christopher Pearson

About the beginning of 2007, maintaining a sceptical stance on human-induced global warming became a lonely, uphill battle in Australia. The notion that the science was settled had gathered broad popular support and was making inroads in unexpected quarters. Industrialists and financiers with no science qualifications to speak of began to pose as prophets. Otherwise quite rational people decided there were so many true believers that somehow they must be right. Even Paddy McGuinness conceded, in a Quadrant editorial, that on balance the anthropogenic greenhouse gas hypothesis seemed likelier than not.

What a difference the intervening 15 months has made. In recent weeks, articles by NASA's Roy Spencer and Bjorn Lomborg and an interview with the Institute of Public Affairs' Jennifer Marohasy have undermined that confident Anglosphere consensus. On's bestseller list this week, the three top books on climate are by sceptics: Spencer, Lomborg and Fred Singer. Archbishop of Sydney George Pell, a shrewd cleric who knows a dodgy millennial cult when he sees one, has persisted in his long-held critique despite the climate change alarmism of his brother bishops. Even Don Aitkin, former vice-chancellor of the University of Canberra, whom I'd previously been tempted to write off as a slave to political correctness, outed himself the other day as a thoroughgoing sceptic.

The latest countercultural contribution came in The Australian on Wednesday. Phil Chapman is a geophysicist and the first Australian to become a NASA astronaut. He makes the standard argument that the average temperature on earth has remained steady or slowly declined during the past decade, despite the continued increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, with a new twist. As of last year, the global temperature is falling precipitously. All four of the agencies that track global temperatures (Hadley, NASA Goddard, the Christy group and Remote Sensing Systems) report that it cooled by about 0.7C in 2007.

Chapman comments: "This is the fastest temperature change in the instrumental record and it puts us back where we were in 1930. If the temperature does not soon recover, we will have to conclude that global warming is over. It is time to put aside the global warming dogma, at least to begin contingency planning about what to do if we are moving into another little ice age, similar to the one that lasted from 1100 to 1850." A little ice age would be "much more harmful than anything warming may do", but still benign by comparison with the severe glaciation that for the past several million years has almost always blighted the planet.

The Holocene, the warm interglacial period we've been enjoying through the past 11,000 years, has lasted longer than normal and is due to come to an end. When it does, glaciation can occur quite quickly. For most of Europe and North America to be buried under a layer of ice, eventually growing to a thickness of about 1.5km, the required decline in global temperature is about 12C and it can happen in as little as 20 years.

Chapman says: "The next descent into an ice age is inevitable but may not happen for another 1000 years. On the other hand, it must be noted that the cooling in 2007 was even faster than in typical glacial transitions. If it continued for 20 years, the temperature would be 14C cooler in 2027. By then, most of the advanced nations would have ceased to exist, vanishing under the ice, and the rest of the world would be faced with a catastrophe beyond imagining. Australia may escape total annihilation but would surely be overrun by millions of refugees."

Chapman canvases strategies that may just conceivably prevent or at least delay the transition to severe glaciation. One involves a vast bulldozing program to dirty and darken the snowfields in Canada and Siberia, "in the hope of reducing reflectance so as to absorb more warmth from the sun. We may also be able to release enormous floods of methane (a potent greenhouse gas) from the hydrates under the Arctic permafrost and on the continental shelves, perhaps using nuclear weapons to destabilise the deposits".

He concludes: "All those urging action to curb global warming need to take off the blinkers and give some thought to what we should do if we are facing global cooling instead. It will be difficult for people to face the truth when their reputations, careers, government grants or hopes for social change depend on global warming, but the fate of civilisation may be at stake."

The 10-year plateau in global temperatures since 1998 has already sunk the hypothesis that anthropogenic greenhouse gas will lead to catastrophic global warming. To minds open to the evidence, it has been a collapsing paradigm for quite some time. But Chapman's argument about last year's 0.7C fall being "the fastest temperature change in the instrumental record" ups the stakes considerably. It replaces an irrational panic in the public imagination with a countervailing and more plausible cause for concern. It also raises, more pointedly than before, a fascinating question: since there are painful truths with profound implications for public policy to be confronted, how will the political class manage the necessary climb-down?

In Australia, Rudd Labor's political legitimacy is inextricably linked to its stance on climate change. If the Prime Minister wants a second term, he'll probably have to start "nuancing his position", as the spin doctors say, and soon. A variation on J.M. Keynes's line - "when the facts change, I change my mind" - admitting that the science is far from settled and awaiting further advice, would buy him time without necessarily damaging his credibility.

Taking an early stand in enlightening public opinion would be a more impressive act of leadership. While obviously not without risk and downside, it would make a virtue out of impending necessity and establish him, in Charles de Gaulle's phrase, as a serious man. I don't think he's got it in him. But we can at least expect that some of the more ruinously expensive policies related to global warming will be notionally deferred and quietly shelved. Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Minister Kim Carr will be allowed to invest in high-profile nonsense such as funding "the green car". But the coal industry is unlikely to be closed down or put into a holding pattern. Nor are new local coal-fired power stations going to be prohibited until the technology is developed to capture and sequester carbon.

Since the greater part of the funds for the research underpinning that technology is expected to come from the private sector - and there's a limit to what government can exact by administrative fiat - as the debate becomes calmer and more evidence-based, business will be increasingly reluctant to outlay money on a phantom problem. Budgetary constraints and rampant inflation provide governments with plenty of excuses for doing as little as possible until a new and better informed consensus emerges on climate.

Ross Garnaut could doubtless be asked to extend his carbon trading inquiry for the life of the parliament and to make an interim report in 12 months on the state the science. In doing so, he could fulfil the educative functions of a royal commission and at the same time give himself and the Government a dignified way out of an impasse.

Whatever happens in the realm of domestic spin doctoring, economic realities in the developing world were always going to defeat the global warming zealots. Before the election, Kevin Rudd had to concede that we would not adopt climate policies that were contrary to Australian interests unless India and China, emitters on a vastly larger scale, followed suit.

However, it has long been obvious that neither country was prepared to consign vast parts of their population to protracted poverty and to embrace low-growth policies on the basis of tendentious science and alarmist computer projections. Even if their governments were convinced that global warming was a problem - and they clearly aren't - it's doubtful they could sell the self-denying ordinances we're asking from them to their own people.

A likelier scenario would be full-page ads in our broadsheets and catchy local television campaigns paid for by the Indian and Chinese coal, steel and energy industries that buy our raw materials. Their theme would surely be that if many of the West's leading scientific authorities no longer subscribed to catastrophic global warming, why on earth should anyone else.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dumb university boss

Good grief! The clown thinks that Unitarianism is a MUSLIM sect! Unitarianism originated centuries ago among English Christians who thought that the doctrine of the Trinity is incoherent (it is) but these days they are mostly just wishy-washy Left-leaning Christians -- even more wishy-washy than the Anglicans. They are mostly found in the USA these days.

Griffith university is located in Brisbane and is widely seen there as coming a distant second to the University of Queensland in terms of academic quality. This episode certainly confirms that view

Griffith University vice-chancellor Ian O'Connor has admitted lifting information straight from online encyclopedia Wikipedia and confusing strands of Islam as he struggled to defend his institution's decision to ask the repressive Saudi Arabian Government for funding. Professor O'Connor also appears to have breached his own university's standards on plagiarism as they apply to students' academic work - a claim he denies. And he appears to have ignored his own past misgivings about Wikipedia and internet-based research.

In September, The Australian revealed that the Queensland university had accepted a grant of $100,000 from the Saudi Government. Last week, it was revealed that Griffith had asked the Saudi embassy in Australia for a $1.37million grant for its Islamic Research Unit, telling the ambassador that certain elements of the controversial deal could be kept a secret. Griffith - described by Professor O'Connor as the "university of choice" for Saudis - also offered the embassy a chance to "discuss" ways in which the money could be used.

Professor O'Connor's response to The Australian's revelations, which was published as an opinion article in the newspaper on Thursday, contained whole passages of text "cut and pasted" from Wikipedia. "The primary doctrine of Unitarianism is Tawhid, or the uniqueness and unity of God," Professor O'Connor wrote. "Wahhab also preached against a perceived moral decline and political weakness in the Arabian peninsula and condemned idolatry, the popular cult of saints, and shrine and tomb visitation." The Wikipedia entry for Wahhabism reads: "The primary doctrine of Wahhabism is Tawhid, or the uniqueness and unity of God ... He preached against a 'perceived moral decline and political weakness' in the Arabian peninsula and condemned idolatry, the popular cult of saints, and shrine and tomb visitation."

Professor O'Connor, whose academic credentials are in social work and juvenile justice, appears to have substituted the word Unitarianism for Wahhabism. He has admitted that the substitution, which came under fire from religious commentators, was not appropriate. In a statement issued yesterday, Professor O'Connor acknowledged his article "relied on several sources, and requires further clarity on Unitarianism".

"The article was based on material provided by senior staff and in pulling it together, a small number of sentences were not directly attributed; this was not intentional," he said in the statement. "It was prepared as a newspaper article for Thursday's Australian aiming to put the issue into context and communicate to the public the importance of the work of Griffith's Islamic Research Unit."

In September, Professor O'Connor expressed concern about Wikipedia and web-based research. "I am somewhat more ambivalent about Wikipedia: it and other sites in the world wide web seem to be changing social negotiation and the transfer of knowledge," he said in a paper presented with fellow academic Gavin Moodie. Wikipedia itself advises "special caution" when its material is used as a source for research projects. Professor O'Connor denies that by lifting sentences from Wikipedia he has breached his university's guidelines on plagiarism. The Griffith University council, of which Professor O'Connor is an ex-officio member, considers plagiarism an example of academic misconduct.

The policy - approved by the council on March 5 last year - defines plagiarism as "knowingly presenting the work or property of another person as if it were one's own". It gives an example of plagiarism as "word for word copying of sentences or paragraphs from one or more sources which are the work or data of other persons (including books, articles, thesis, unpublished works, working papers, seminar and conference papers, internal reports, lecture notes or tapes) without clearly identifying their origin by appropriate referencing".

Professor O'Connor yesterday tried to distance himself from the university's standards. "It was not as a piece of academic scholarship, therefore did not follow normal citation methods used in academic publications," he said. On Wednesday, Professor O'Connor published a full copy of his opinion piece on the Griffith website. Yesterday, the university added references to Wikipedia as footnotes.

Griffith University council member Dwight Zakus, senior lecturer at the university's Department of Tourism, Leisure, Hotel and Sports Management, said he "strongly discouraged" his students from using Wikipedia as an academic reference. He said it was "problematic" for Professor O'Connor not to acknowledge he used Wikipedia as a source for his piece for The Australian.

But Henry Smerdon, Griffith deputy chancellor and university council member, told The Weekend Australian Professor O'Connor had his support. "As far as I'm concerned and as far as a wide section of the university is concerned, Ian is an outstanding academic, an outstanding leader and an outstanding human being and that has been proven on many occasions," he said. Mr Smerdon - a former under-treasurer in the state Treasury Department - said Professor O'Connor told him the opinion article was researched by senior staff. "He said it was unintentional and he probably realises that in the heat of the moment he could have been a little more careful," he said. He said there needed to be "a distinction drawn" between a response to criticisms in a newspaper and academic work.

Professor O'Connor's use of the term Unitarianism has also drawn criticism from ABC religion journalists and commentators Rachael Kohn, John Cleary and Stephen Crittenden, as well as the Henry Thornton website. "Ian O'Connor's equation of Wahhabism and Salafism with Unitarianism is utter nonsense," the ABC commentators wrote. "Unitarianism emerged as a liberal Christian movement and gained ground in the early years of American democracy."

Professor O'Connor now admits the term was misused. "Responding to today's Australian article, which criticised my use of the word Unitariaism in the article, I draw on the expertise of Dr Mohamad Abdalla, director of our Islamic Research Institute, who is one of Australia's most highly regarded Islamic scholars, to clarify the issue," he said. "Dr Abdalla confirms the more correct label is Muwahiddun, rather than the popular but problematic term Wahhabism."


Children in Australia's boom State may be forced to go elsewhere for surgery

WA children could be forced to travel interstate for surgery because Princess Margaret Hospital can't cope with the booming population, staff at the hospital have warned. A six-day-old boy recently had to undergo heart surgery in the Eastern States purely because there was not enough theatre space at PMH. The boy was transferred to Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne.

The state's only children's heart surgeon Dr David Andrews warned that it could become a trend. He said that theatre space at PMH was reaching "critical'' condition. "We have had no increase in theatre space since I started (at PMH) eight years ago,'' Dr Andrews said. "There is no spare theatres... everyone has to juggle around and try to be available when they are not normally available so they can use the theatre when it's free. "I know a lot of staff are doing out of hours surgery or changing around private operating lists so they can be free when there is a spare spot at PMH. "It is getting harder and the patients are getting shuffled more to fit in. "The (Health) Minister (Jim McGinty) has all the information that the workload has gone up.''

There has been a 20 per cent increase in WA births in the past two years. It is expected a record 30,000 babies will be born in the state this year.

Opposition Health spokesman Dr Kim Hames said the State Government must announce their future plans for PMH. "They need to be getting on with it now before building prices get significantly worse,'' Dr Hames said. "We've been saying over and over again that this needs to happen now.''

Australian Medical Association vice-president Dr Gary Geelhoed said the boom in population could mean more local children are sent interstate for surgery unless PMH woes were addressed. "This will be inevitably happening in the future and more frequently if nothing changes in terms of resources available,'' Dr Geelhoed. "In the recent past they have sent one child (interstate) not because there was a clinical need but because they just couldn't fit it into the schedule here. "The equation of having the doctors, enough theatre space and ICU space was such that they just couldn't do it.''

Dr Geelhoed said interstate trips for child surgery could be problematic. "Medical risk aside, clearly the cost involved and the inconvenience to the families is a major thing,'' Dr Geelhoed said.

Dr Andrews said he was frustrated that the future of PMH was still undecided. 'There is no direction. They still haven't announced where PMH is heading,'' Dr Andrews said. "In the meantime, they need to acknowledge that the birth rate has gone up therefore the attendances to the hospital have gone up. "Every department will tell you they are under strain compared to what they used to be.''

A PMH nurse, who did not want to be named for fear of losing her job, said that WA urgently needed a bigger children's hospital. She said that PMH's Intensive Care Unit, which only has 10 beds, was running to maximum capacity. "We need a bigger children's hospital in WA,'' she said. "Children are forced to fly interstate because we just don't have the facilities to accommodate them. "As a booming state with such an exceptional increase in population, the government is severely lacking in its consideration of the children of the future.''

The nurse said a lack of government funding and red-tape was jeopardising patient care. "Late last year a five-year-old boy came in for an MRI scan on the weekend,'' she said. "We don't have government funding to use the MRI on the weekend so that child had to be kept under spinal precaution until Monday. "It was a situation that could have quite easily been managed if we could have had that scan.''



Two current articles below

Your regulators will protect you (1)

The State Government should publish online "report cards" for doctors so the public can judge their competency, the daughter of a woman who died after an obesity operation said yesterday. Leesa MacLeod's mother Ursula died in 2003 after having a biliary pancreatic diversion - which involves a radical reduction of the stomach and small intestine. Ms MacLeod said yesterday her mother, who was 57, would not have allowed Gold Coast surgeon Russell Broadbent to operate had she known there were questions about his skills.

Dr Broadbent faces suspension or deregistration for his allegedly incompetent surgical and post-operative treatment on at least 11 patients. Court documents have revealed that six of the surgeon's former patients who had radical surgery to combat obesity suffered severe complications. Three of the six died. The Medical Board of Queensland was granted leave in the Health Practitioners Tribunal yesterday to refer the names of two more patients to the tribunal for investigation after receiving an expert opinion into their treatment.

Ms MacLeod said her mother's treatment had been appalling and that she had been living a nightmare since her death more than four years ago. She said prospective patients would benefit from a system where a doctor's record - including success and mortality rates - was transparent. The Medical Board began proceedings against the surgeon in the tribunal late last year following a complaint from Ms MacLeod.

The board has also taken up the complaints of five other former patients of Dr Broadbent's, all of whom allege they received surgical procedures that resulted in complications. One of those patients has already sued Dr Broadbent and received $650,000 in damages in an out-of-court settlement. Dr Broadbent's operations took place between 2000 and 2007 in the Allamanda and Pindara private hospitals on the Gold Coast.

The board alleges that Dr Broadbent failed to manage and treat Mrs MacLeod's fluid intake and renal function after the operation. The board further says he failed to investigate her persistent vomiting, diarrhoea and rectal bleeding and that he failed to start treatment for septicaemia in a timely manner. It also accuses the doctor of failing to refer Mrs MacLeod to other specialists to assist in the investigation of her deterioration. Civil proceedings have been launched in the Supreme Court on behalf of Ms McLeod. The matter will again be mentioned before the tribunal in two weeks.


Your regulators will protect you (2)

Every time Dr Cynthia Weinstein's head pops up in the news, I get a little shock. Not just because her face looks like it has been tightly stretched, burned and painted. No, what most shocks me about seeing her face is that Dr Cynthia Weinstein is still allowed to work as a doctor. I believe she should have been struck off years ago.

I first met Cynthia Weinstein 12 years ago when investigating a story about professional standards in the cosmetic surgery business. I saw her operate on patients wearing her civilian clothes and without the obvious, usual scrubbing up. I saw the silicone she had stored for injecting into patients' faces, even though this was not an approved procedure.

One poor young woman had turned up for skin treatment and Cynthia Weinstein told her that if she didn't also have eyelid surgery she could go blind. It was all dangerous baloney, as explained by a reputable surgeon I showed my tapes to. I later found out that Dr Weinstein had also offered this particular patient a discount if she was filmed for my TV report. Sounds a lot like inappropriate inducement. It all went horribly wrong, of course, and I was not allowed to see the suffering patient after surgery because, as Dr Weinstein told me with no hint of irony, the woman was in pain and having trouble seeing.

The crucial question then and now is, how best can the public be protected from the likes of Dr Cynthia Weinstein? Dr Weinstein is currently up before the board for professional misconduct for the third time. In a spectacular case of deja vu, she is facing allegations that she messed up the surgeries of six patients and performed cosmetic procedures that she was banned from doing.

This set of allegations may or may not be proved. The main point, it seems to me, is that what already has been proved against her should be more than sufficient to retire her. Dr Weinstein has been found guilty of being grossly professionally negligent by subjecting patients to treatment by unqualified personnel. She is also guilty of ripping off Medicare and has a criminal conviction from the County Court. She is now quibbling with what surgery means, arguing if she cuts her patients with a laser instead of scalpel she's not really operating on them.

I've heard people say its hard to feel sympathy for anyone who chooses to have treatment from someone who looks like Cynthia Weinstein. But the question of appearances can do weird things to people's heads, so to speak. It seems reasonable to assume that the woman's face is not what you'd call a good advertisement for her line of work. And yet there are many, many people who think otherwise. The patient I met who was talked into having her eyes done told me she thought Cynthia's face was gorgeous and a credit to her profession. Seriously.

Cynthia herself seems very happy with the way she looks. She did her own phenol skin peel years ago and now appears to me to have skin resembling shiny plastic. Her nose appears to be a fraction of its former size and her cheeks appear strangely bulbous and sited high on her skull. She looks thin enough to snap in a mild breeze. A colleague of Dr Weinstein's has told the Practitioners Board that patients flock to Cynthia because of her looks. And it's true, she sees an average of 25 patients a day. Fair enough if this is anyone's idea of beauty, we live in a free society.

But while we can't protect people from themselves, we can help protect them from unprofessional or negligent medical practitioners.


Friday, April 25, 2008


Australia's main national day today, when we remember members of our families who died in the many wars where Australian troops have lent a hand to other people far away across the sea. And in one case -- the war with Japan -- we were actually threatened ourselves.

In WWII, the Japanese were stopped in their advance through New Guinea towards Australia by the CMF -- the "weekend warriors" of whom I was myself once a part. There are few weekend warriors any more. I myself served full-time for part of my enlistment and half of the American army in Iraq is made up of reservists. The CMF is now referred to simply as the "Reserves".

Commemoration of Anzac day traditionally includes attendance at an interdenominational "Dawn service" -- held at dawn to commemorate the time when the original Anzacs landed at Gallipoli. After that there is a huge march through the city featuring "ex-diggers" (former members of the military) and their relatives. It is a long time since I have attended the service or watched the march but my heart nonetheless goes out to the families who have lost loved-ones. Perhaps fortunately, the relatives I lost were distant ones whom I never knew personally.

But this evening I will do one very Australian thing: I will attend a family BBQ to celebrate a birthday. The picture above is from Brisbane's shrine of remembrance. It is most pleasing to note that the commemoration seems to get bigger every year -- with many young people involved.

"Right to speak extinguished"

The heading above appears today on an article about the progression of the Olympic torch through Canberra. But it could have been about lots of other places as well. The "right to speak" that was extinguished was in fact the right to harass and disrupt a legitimate and peaceful sporting activity. Like most people in the Western world, I think that the Chinese occupation of Tibet is deplorable but that the authorities have the obligation to erect barricades etc to protect the torch-bearers from aggressive Leftist demonstrators is also undisputable to any reasonable person. It was not the right to speak that was suppressed but the right to make an arsehole of yourself.

If attention-seeking Leftist demonstrators could be relied on to act peacefully, there would no doubt have been the right and opportunity to hold up any number of placards etc. but we know how peaceful the preachers of peace in fact are so if anybody suppressed the right of people to speak it was the thugs who made countermeasures to their aggression necessary.

And that the Chinese sent counter-demonstrators to protest against the protestors is entirely proper in a democratic society. It's an inevitable consequence of taking your politics to the street. But it was not the Chinese who initiated that. Both sides are entitled to their say and if one side uses disruptive tactics the same is to be expected back.

The writer of the article is however a depressed and alcoholic drug abuser so perhaps he can be forgiven his stupidity and bias. How a piece so lacking in balance and perspective got published in "The Australian" is the real mystery. I guess it was seen as something that would give Leftists a horn.

Only months in jail for participants in vicious pack attack

These sentences must be appealed

The ringleader of a vicious gang attack that left an off-duty police officer lying unconscious in a pool of blood has walked free from court. Appearing in Southport District Court yesterday, Tiani Slockee, 18, was identified as the instigator of a brutal and unprovoked attack on Constable Rawson Armitage and his girlfriend, Michelle Dodge, at Coolangatta in November. Three of the nine teens who pleaded guilty to the assault were sent to jail by Judge John Newton, who ruled that Slockee, who spent 91 days in custody after the incident, did not have to spend any more time behind bars.

Judge Newton was condemning of Slockee's role in the bashing but decided against further jail time. "Neither of these attacks would have happened if it wasn't for your disgraceful behaviour," Judge Newton said. The Chinderah teenager, who left the court in tears with her terminally ill grandmother, said she was sorry for her actions. But some of her colleagues did not appear as upset, laughing and joking as they smoked cigarettes with friends outside the building.

The court was told that after an initial altercation between Slockee and Constable Armitage, the rest of the group joined the attack "like a pack of animals", leaving Miss Dodge fearing her boyfriend had been bashed to death. Harley Trindall, 18, was ordered to spend the next four months behind bars, in addition to the five months he has spent in custody since November for being one of the main players in the bashing.

His girlfriend, a 17-year-old captured on CCTV footage leaving the scene with clumps of Miss Dodge's hair in her hand, sobbed when the sentence was delivered, although she escaped detention and was instead placed on two years' probation. Two other males, aged 15 and 16, were each sentenced to 15 months' detention for stomping Constable Armitage's head as he lay unconscious on the ground.

Judge Newton said the behaviour of the 15-year-old, who grabbed on to a nearby fence to gain better leverage to jump on the officer's head, was disgraceful. "Your conduct was the most despicable of the entire assault," he said. "How you can jump on a man's head on two occasions as he lies helpless on the ground simply defies comprehension."

Each will serve about half of that time behind bars. The others were placed on probation, while an 11-year-old boy has pleaded not guilty to any role in the attack. He will face Southport Magistrate's Court next month.


Cancer patient at death's door as a result of gross public hospital negligence

A dying woman has won a settlement from the Melbourne hospital she says misdiagnosed the cancer that will soon claim her life. The 52-year-old has been told she will die in the coming weeks from pancreatic cancer, which she claims grew unchecked for a year after Western Hospital doctors noticed a lump but failed to investigate further. The woman won an undisclosed sum from Western Health, which she sued for robbing her of a chance to overcome the disease.

She is in hospital and too sick to be interviewed, and asked not to be named. But she asked that her story be publicised, so hospitals would be forced to be more accountable and other patients would not suffer through misdiagnosis. A statement of claim lodged with the Supreme Court this month alleged that the woman had gone to the Footscray hospital in August 2006 suffering abdominal pain, and that a CT scan revealed a 1cm lump in her pancreas. She claimed that despite recommendations for further tests, informal reports advising doctors to perform a biopsy and a surgeon later suggesting the mass may need to be cut out, the lump was not investigated; instead, she was diagnosed as having mild gastritis and duodenitis, and referred back to her doctor.

A year later, she went back to the hospital in crippling pain and the lump was found to have grown to 11cm. She claimed that on Christmas Eve, doctors revealed they believed that the mass was cancer, and was spreading. By January, it was confirmed as a metastatic adenocarcinoma with widespread tumours in her liver, and complications to her portal vein and spleen. Chemotherapy could not overcome the cancer.

Arnold Thomas and Becker solicitor Larry Dent said his client had made a determined stand for other patients. "It is important that the issue of patients being lost in the system and lost to follow-up is dealt with," he said. "The root cause of this problem is that this lady was lost to follow-up. "If anyone thinks there is something wrong, they should first seek medical advice, and then legal advice if they think they are not getting anywhere. And they should not let it go."

A spokeswoman for Western Health, which did not admit liability, said the hospital could not comment on the case or the confidential settlement of it. "We are extremely sensitive to what she is going through at the moment in terms of her cancer and the impact it is having on her and her family," Anne Learmonth said. "However, we can't say much more than that."


Warmist prophecies all washed up

RAIN sure is falling this week on the parade of our global warming alarmists. Wettest of all is Tim Flannery, who was made Australian of the Year last year for wailing the world was doomed. We were making the planet heat so fast with our filthy gases, Flannery insisted, that the ice caps were vanishing and we had to "picture an eight-storey building by a beach, then imagine waves lapping its roof". No scare seemed too absurd for this Alarmist of the Year. "I think there is a fair chance Perth will be the 21st century's first ghost metropolis," he groaned. But buy his The Weather Makers before you flee.

Reporters solemnly reported even this: "He (Flannery) also predicts that the ongoing drought could leave Sydney's dams dry in just two years." And when did he say that? Oh, three years ago? Yet what do I read in my papers yesterday but this: "Sydney's run of rainy days in a row - 11 - is the most in April for 77 years." And Sydney's dams? Above 65 per cent capacity now, and rising.

How embarrassing for Flannery and others in the scary weather business. No wonder the NSW Bureau of Meteorology yesterday complained "the rain was getting people down". I bet. So it was probably no surprise Flannery didn't turn up at the Rudd Government's ideas summit last weekend to talk more about how warming was dooming Sydney, despite being issued a gold-edged invitation.

He flew to Canada instead to tell their yokels to cut gases like the ones he just blew out the back of his jet, and talked warming with British Columbia's Premier and businessmen. But once again Flannery picked the wrong time and place to preach his warming gospel. A local paper reports: "In some regions of usually balmy British Columbia, many were caught by surprise by a storm that moved in late Friday and set snowfall records in Nanaimo, Victoria and Vancouver."

How the weather mocks Flannery. He's flooded in Sydney, where he predicted drought, and snowed in in Canada when he predicted heat. It turns out, in fact, that Flannery is a metaphor for a wider phenomenon - in which our most honoured warming alarmists are finding the weather not conforming to what they predicted. Most significantly, the world has failed to warm above the record of 1998, and last year cooled dramatically, according to all four big monitoring centres.

And with solar activity now unusually low, a small but growing number of scientists is speculating we may be entering a period of cooling - far more dangerous than warming. Indeed, geophysicist Phil Chapman, the first Australian astronaut with NASA, this week put the likelihood of global cooling at 50-50.

Even Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN panel that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore for whipping up global warming panic, says he'd check the apparent pause in warming so far this century, asking: "Are there natural factors compensating?" Natural factors may indeed be at play, drenching Flannery in Sydney, chilling him in Canada, and giving a cold shower to the rest of us, warning us to at least check the predictions of a Flannery with the facts outside. Verdict? Cool it on the overheating.