Tuesday, September 30, 2008


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG comments on the Wall St bailout and the pathetic attempts of Prime Minister Rudd to get involved

Palin derangement syndrome spreads to Australia

How the Left hate normal, happy people!

Just imagine what the sneering left intelligentsia, in the United States and elsewhere, would have said if a Republican vice-presidential candidate had told CBS News that "when the stockmarket crashed [in 1929], Franklin Roosevelt got on television" and informed Americans what had happened. No doubt scores of left-liberal types would have lined-up to say the Republican Herbert Hoover, and not the Democrat Roosevelt, was in the White House when the Great Depression began, and regular TV broadcasting did not occur in the US until about 1941.

Yet the Democrat Joe Biden made these howlers in an interview with Katie Couric. She did not correct the vice-presidential candidate. This is the same Couric who grilled Sarah Palin in an interview which aired a few days later. The line of this interrogation turned on the thesis that the Governor of Alaska is not well enough informed to hold the second-highest office in the US.

Biden and Palin go head-to-head in their only debate on Friday (Sydney time). Both are able performers so, in scoring parlance, a draw is the likely outcome. However, the constant criticism of Palin by large sections of the predominantly left-liberal mainstream media means Biden will go into this verbal contest as favourite. The real outcome will turn on what impact the candidates have on voters in such swing states as Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Palin has undergone fierce and sometimes personal criticism from the left-intelligentsia, primarily because she is a conservative, Christian, married mother of five from the small town of Wasilla in Alaska. The feminist Maureen Dowd has depicted Palin as "the glamorous Pioneer Woman, packing a gun, a baby and a Bible". Professor Wendy Doniger, of the University of Chicago, has gone further, declaring that Palin's "greatest hypocrisy is her pretence that she is a woman". And the NBC News commentator Andrea Mitchell has been reported as maintaining that "only the uneducated would vote for Mrs Palin".

For her part, Palin has responded as well as possible to this criticism. She pointed to her experience as mayor of Wasilla (population 7000) and, more recently, Governor of Alaska. For an Australian comparison, the position of Alaskan governor would equate with the Tasmania premiership. Tasmania is Australia's smallest state but those who become its premier are invariably politically skilled. The former prime minister Joe Lyons, who was once premier of Tasmania, comes to mind.

Moreover, Palin responded to the Couric putdown that she has travelled very little outside of the US with a matter-of-fact depiction of her life so far: "I'm not one of those who maybe come from a background, you know, kids who perhaps graduate [from] college and their parents give them a passport and give them a backpack and say go travel the world. No, I've worked all my life. In fact, I usually had two jobs until I had kids."

Unlike most media commentators, Bill Clinton has run successfully for public office. The former Democrat president had a different take on Palin when interviewed by CNN's Larry King last week. He said he could only judge Palin from how he believes she is going in his home state of Arkansas "where half the people live in communities of less than 2500 and there are people who are pro-choice and pro-life and more than half the people have a hunting or fishing licence". He added that "they like families that hang together, that deal with adversity, that are proud of all their members". Clinton described Palin as an "appealing person" and praised John McCain's political acumen for choosing her as his running mate.

The anti-Palin ethos prevalent among left-liberals in America can also be found in Australia, at differing levels of intensity. For example, on September 17, the 7.30 Report presenter Kerry O'Brien introduced a report on Palin with a reference to "the pro-gun, pro-life mother of five". For the record, O'Brien does not mention his own family arrangements on either the 7.30 Report website or in his Who's Who In Australia entry. In the subsequent report, Tracy Bowden referred to the Governor of Alaska as "the moose-hunting, evangelical mother of five". Yes, we know.

Meanwhile The Age's house leftist, Catherine Deveny, has gone overboard in her sneering. In a recent column, she described Palin as "the closest thing Republican strategists could find to a man without a vagina", a "white trash trophy wife wearing glasses so she looks intellectual" and a "white trash moron". No need for repetition here, we got the abusive message the first time.

Even so, Deveny repeated the line last week, describing Palin as "a dangerous, divisive moron". Deveny is the embodiment of that part of Australian inner-city professional left which despises those who live middle-class lives in the suburbs and regional centres. Writing on August 6, she could hardly disguise her contempt for suburban Australia: "I can't tell you how often I seriously wish I were living in some outer suburb, content with signed and framed football jumpers on the wall, no bookshelves and a coffee table covered in remote controls, happy to read romance novels over my Cup-a-Soup".

Early in the presidential campaign, Barack Obama was reported at a private function as saying that small-town voters in the US were bitter and therefore took refuge in "guns or religion". He quickly learnt that contempt for suburban and rural America would not lead to political victory in November and he has not repeated such comments. It is most unlikely that Biden will run such a line against Palin in this week's debate. By the way, I will be watching and rooting for Palin.


Professor "Think of a number"

It is clear that there is no science involved here -- just rather inept politics

The federal government's top climate change adviser Ross Garnaut has toughened his recommended greenhouse targets - but fears they won't come to pass. After infuriating green groups earlier this month by recommending a 10 per cent greenhouse target by 2020, he's now more open to a 25 per cent cut in emissions. He also aspires to a 90 per cent target by 2050, compared with the Federal Government's 60 per cent goal.

Professor Garnaut today released his long-awaited 620-page final report on what the nation should do about climate change. "Strong mitigation, with Australia playing its proportionate part, is in Australia's interests,'' the report says. ''(Australia) should express its willingness to reduce its own entitlements to emissions from 2000 levels by 25 per cent by 2020, and by 90 per cent by 2050 in the context of an international agreement.'' [The escape hatch]


Dying man's wait for public hospital bed

A terminally ill man who spent 26 hours in the Caboolture Hospital's emergency department waiting for a bed does not want others to suffer the same fate. John Shea, from Bongaree, said he was admitted about 5pm on September 3 but it took until about 3pm the next day to find a bed in a public or private hospital.

Mr Shea, who has brain and lung cancers, said he spent another four hours waiting for an ambulance to take him to a private hospital in Brisbane. ``In four or six weeks I should be gone but I'd like to see other people be protected,'' Mr Shea said. ``They're understaffed and it's not good enough and I think we deserve something better from our politicians.''

Mr Shea contacted the Herald after reading last week's article on claims northside ambulance stations were understaffed. His wife Maureen said the Caboolture Hospital's emergency department was full when her husband was there. ``They had people coming and going everywhere,'' Mrs Shea said. ``It was just a bit chaotic.''

The Herald asked the Health Department to comment on the Sheas' claims but it did not respond before deadline. Earlier this month it said the Caboolture Hospital's usual occupancy rate was 90 percent.

Former local Australian Medical Association representative Dr Ray Huntley said the hospital had been running at close to capacity for three years and something should have been done to boost its capacity.


The government-funded maternity leave proposal

THE battle over paid maternity leave is raging and this debate has it all. Stay-at-home versus working mums, feminism versus patriarchy, big business, big government, fertility and even super-sized mortgage repayments are all factors. But the real issue boils down to one simple question - who pays?

In yesterday recommending 18 weeks of parental leave for working mums, the Productivity Commission is trying to orchestrate a carefully balanced tightrope walk. On the one hand, fiscal conservatives argue that the world is in financial meltdown - do we really want to be spending more of our taxpayers' (quickly dwindling supplies of) money? On the other hand the unions, women's groups and assorted cheerleaders of big government spending are crying out for more taxpayer dollars. How can we continue to undervalue the needs of our children, they argue.

While the Productivity Commission report resists some of the more outlandish claims to pay women - including those on well-above average incomes - their full salaries for six to 12 months from the public purse, it still calls for an extra $450 million per year from taxpayers. Given that the Government signalled cutbacks on so-called "middle class welfare' in the May Budget by means testing the Baby Bonus and Family Tax Benefit B, this extra spending represents a contradiction in terms of both policy and principle.

The 18-week scheme will cost an extra $280 million when compared to the 14 weeks that the commission was expected to recommend. Of the report's additional spending, $61 million will fund two weeks of paternity leave, reserved specifically for dads on a "use it or lose it" basis. While it seems like a great idea to give mums extra support after the birth and to get dads more involved in child-rearing, the commission's report acknowledges that overseas versions of this policy haven't had the desired effect with the dads.

Is it really appropriate to use such a large sum of taxpayer dollars for what is essentially a feminist feel-good policy? It's a lot of our money to be spending on something that we know from the research overseas doesn't work.

On the positive side, the commission argues that 18 weeks of paid leave will allow most parents to take the six to nine months off work which child health experts say is optimal. This can be achieved through a combination of the paid leave component as well as parents using their own savings and other entitlements such as annual leave. It's positive because it gives mums a chance to breastfeed their babies and recover from childbirth. Parents will be able to provide one on one care at the most important time.

Importantly, this move also sets out a principle of shared responsibility. Sure, it's helpful for the community to ease the burden on new parents through taxpayer subsidies but it also makes it clear to parents that the ultimately responsibility lies with them. Paid parental leave is about supporting healthy babies and women's employment - not about subsidising mega-mortgage repayments or the infamous Baby Bonus plasma TV.

If new parents want to keep the same standard of living, they'll need to plan and save for it themselves. It also helps the Government to resist the inevitable push which will come for longer periods of paid leave.

Australia already spends well over the OECD average on families, and any push for a bigger slice of government funding than that recommended by the Productivity Commission will be extremely hard to justify. In terms of financial support from the Government, Australian parents aren't exactly doing it tough. If longer periods of parental leave are demanded, a fair solution is to help parents fund it themselves.

It's called income smoothing: making sure that money you have had in the past, or will have in the future, is available when you really need it - such as when you're on parental leave. For most Australians, the concept isn't new. We already do it with HECS, mortgages, superannuation and insurance. Why not for parental leave too? Parental Leave Saver Accounts could allow parents to save for their parental leave, rolling unused savings into super or another asset.

The infrastructure for this system already exists, evident in First Home Saver Accounts and superannuation. If families had not saved, or if their savings ran out, they could apply for an income-contingent loan. Repayments would increase as family income increases, ensuring that loan repayments did not have a significant negative impact on household budgets.

The concept of both the community and individual parents meeting the cost of having a child is fair, but we need to keep in mind that Australian families already get it pretty good. While some families will benefit from the new parental leave scheme, everyone will have to pay.


A small smack is not child abuse

The article below is in part a response to this story of official bloody-mindedness

The NSW Department of Community Services thinks the children would be better in foster care than with a family member who smacks the bottoms of naughty children. Has the world gone mad or am I am missing something here?

While I was reading this shocking story, my kids were in a frenzy over some altercation that had quickly snowballed out of control, the way only kids can. On and on it went, until I heard myself shouting at the top of my voice for some peace and common sense. And that's all we can do, isn't it? Shout like a maniac until someone listens, though you have to wonder whether this traumatises both parent and child to a greater degree.

Of course, it was different in our day. Certainly, it was different in the days when the grandmother in the newspaper was a child. Spare the rod and spoil the child was the mantra back then.

I feel terribly sorry for this woman. She has cared for her four grandkids on and off for the last six years as their mother battled drug addiction. Surely she deserves some sympathy, not public humiliation. But some experts say what she allegedly did was unacceptable. I say to them, walk a mile in her shoes.

Bringing up happy, healthy, polite and caring children has never been easy, but it is getting more difficult because of the push for parenting to be so politically correct that there is no room for common sense and gut instinct.

I admire the work of Australian Childhood Foundation chief executive Joe Tucci, but I do not support his push for a national ban on smacking. He has pushed for it since a 2006 foundation survey found most people thought smacking was acceptable. Mr Tucci wanted the Government to legislate against parents doing it. But the Australian Family Association argued that laws which meant the Government decided who was and was not a good parent would go too far.

Former Queensland premier Peter Beattie dismissed it, saying that a smack on the bum never hurt anybody. And I think that is the belief of many of my generation.

Mr Tucci worries that when adults use physical punishment, it's usually because they're frustrated. He believes there's a risk of hurting the child because you're not in control of yourself. Of course there are derelict parents who lash out at their kids, but let's not confuse them with the 99 per cent who only wish to impose some boundaries.

When I was growing up in the 1960s, kids knew that if they behaved badly there would be consequences. Yes, often it was a smack on the bottom. But in all honesty it did us no permanent damage.

I wonder if the same is true of yelling. Verbal abuse is as destructive as physical abuse. And, yes, in a perfect world parents wouldn't yell or smack, and all children would be little angels. It doesn't work that way. I am with John Morrissey on this. The Australian Family Association spokesman says there is a big difference between a small smack and hurting or abusing a child.

In April, there was a push in Tasmania for a ban on smacking. Children's Commissioner Paul Mason told the ABC that corporal punishment taught children not to get caught and that violence was acceptable in resolving conflict. But doesn't it also teach kids not to repeat the same offence? Doesn't it impose on the child a sense that they've gone over the boundary and need to rein in their behaviour?

Of course, I am not supporting child abuse in any form, but there is a profound difference between a reproaching smack and an out-of-control slap or something worse. Most parents understand that, and surely our authorities should as well.

Flexibility and common sense are traits of good parents. It's about time the "experts" and the authorities displayed the same attributes.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Australians "racist"?

The usual facile conception of "racism" below. Believing that some groups are different in various ways is just realism. Many ethnic groups themselves assert their difference quite vigorously. There are several possible more reasonable definitions of racism but advocating that someone be oppressed purely on account of their race is surely the only sort of "racism" that is deserving of concern or condemnation -- and there would only be a hatful of Australians in that category.

Note further that many of those who opposed intermarriage would have been from ethnic minorities themselves. Many minorities have very strong beliefs in endogamy. And as for the idea that Muslims don't fit in with Australia, Muslims, particularly the Mullahs, have done much to foster that view. One again we are looking at realiam, not racism

FOUR in 10 Australians believe some ethnic groups don't belong here, a study has shown. And one in 10 have outwardly racist views, a study shows. NSW appears to be the most racist state, but the project's lead researcher, Kevin Dunn, attributed this to Sydney being the focus of immigration.

The study, led by the human geography and urban studies professor and his team from the University of Western Sydney, shows that racism remains high despite having waned over the years. He will unveil state-by-state statistics on Friday, at the Rights, Reconciliation, Respect and Responsibility international conference at Sydney's University of Technology.

Challenging Racism: The Anti-Racism Research Project randomly surveyed about 12,500 people in different studies during the past eight years. "It's an indicator of a narrow view of what constitutes Australianism," Prof Dunn said.

People were asked which cultural or ethnic groups did not fit into Australian society. In NSW, 46 per cent of respondents said some ethnic groups should not be in the country. In the ACT, 28 per cent gave such a response - the lowest figure. Among those over 65, 65 per cent gave such a response, compared with 31 per cent among those aged 18 to 34. "It's too high, isn't it?" Prof Dunn said. "We've got to bring that down."

Respondents also singled out specific groups they thought didn't belong. "The most often-mentioned groups were Muslims, or people from the Middle East," Prof Dunn said.

On average, about one in 10 people said it was not good for people of different cultures to marry, and about the same number said that not all races were equal. "It's only about one in 10 people now in Australia across the different states that would have that sort of view -- the racial supremacists, for instance," Prof Dunn said. "That's still quite high, I suppose. There's a lot of concern that comes out of that."

He said NSW ranked highest in most categories but attributed that to Sydney being the focus for immigration. "There's just more cultural diversity here - there's more opportunity for cross-cultural contact, and that means some of them will not be positive ones," he said. Prof Dunn and his team will release regional results within each state some time early next year. They will also recommend strategies to lower racist views, the prevalence of which Prof Dunn said remained low by international standards.


Lifeguard attire too brief?

Rather amazing that the younger generation is more modest than their elders -- but so it seems to be. The brief gear would obviously be a lot less drag while swimming so it seems that safety is going to be sacrificed for modesty. It sounds more like the 19th century than the 21st

Budgie smugglers [briefs -- on the left above] versus boardshorts has emerged as a burning issue among image-conscious surf life savers manning Queensland's beaches, The Courier-Mail reports. In a bid to keep more young people in the sport, surf life saving officials have introduced uniform boardshorts as an alternative to budgie smugglers and the David Hasselhoff Baywatch-style gym shorts.

Surf Life Saving Queensland boss George Hill said uniform was always a hot topic among younger clubbies. "The feedback was that they wanted some more comfortable boardshorts, so now we've given them the option," he said. [There's nothing uncomfortable about briefs!]

An official from one Gold Coast club, who asked not to be named, said he had been trying to introduce a new uniform for years, but was met with resistance by club hierachy. "The surf carnivals are a perfect example," he said. "Kids hang around the beach all day in their boardshorts and they only take them off at the last possible second for a race and as soon as the race is over they put them back on," he said. "Bright red and yellow caps and club uniform speedos or those other daggy red shorts are not a good look for a kid who would probably rather be wearing a pair of Quiksilver or Rip Curl boardies." "But some of the old salts at our club don't want to know about it, which is a shame, because we are losing young kids to the sport."

Mermaid Beach club captain Pete Degnian, himself a devoted budgie smuggler, said anything that helped keep kids in life saving was good for the movement. "It's probably cooler for kids to wear boardies than the old budgie smugglers," he admitted. Patrol member Matt Williams, 14, said the new-look boardshorts definitely had appeal. "You do get paid out on the beach wearing speedos," he admitted.


Climate change only the 5th priority for Australians

AUSTRALIANS rate protecting jobs and strengthening the economy ahead of tackling climate change on a list of foreign policy goals, according to a new poll. In a rearrangement of priorities reflecting the level of global financial uncertainty, climate change tumbled from being the most important issue in last year's pre-federal election Lowy Institute Poll to just equal fifth this year. A majority still said climate was a highly important issue, but the drop was significant - from 75% to 66%.

Comparatively, the importance of keeping the economy strong (79%) and job protection (70%) both increased. "Concern over economic issues has risen at the expense of the environment," Lowy Institute executive director Allan Gyngell said.

Environmental issues seem to create a disconnect in the public. While an overwhelming majority want action on climate change, more than half of those polled - 53% - were not willing to pay more than $10 extra a month on their electricity bill to help the fight against rising greenhouse gas.

Political leaders are often quick to highlight the limits on Australia's ability to combat global environment problems alone. However, recent surveys indicate Australians are more attuned to climate concerns. A Melbourne University AsiaLink poll earlier this month showed almost 60% of Australians ranked climate change as their main worry, compared with barely 20% of Indonesians. While in the United States, a poll in March suggested almost 60% of Americans did not believe global warming would pose a serious threat to their way of life.


Australia's criminal cops

This is unforgiveable

THERE are 133 officers with criminal convictions serving in the New South Wales police ranks - guilty of bashings, fraud, illegal use of guns and numerous high-level drink-driving offences - the state's police force admits. Among them are five officers - three senior constables and two detective sergeants - who kept their jobs despite more than one court conviction.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal the officers have 166 offences between them following the release of documents under the Freedom of Information Act.

And efforts by Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione to clean out bad apples from the ranks have been frustrated by rulings in the Industrial Relations Commission, which saw five sacked officers reinstated in the past year.

Serious traffic-related matters dominate the list, which does not name individuals, including 25 high-range and 47 mid-range drink-drive crimes, two cases of drink-driving occasioning grievous bodily harm and eight of negligent or culpable driving. There are 10 assaults, including several occasioning actual bodily harm, three officers convicted of fraud or making false instrument and three of offensive conduct. Two officers were convicted of unauthorised access to the police COPS computer system.

A police spokesman emphasised that none of the 133 officers had served jail terms and they made up less than 1 per cent of the force's 15,236 officers. "The NSW Police Force is no different from every major employer in having staff who have been before the courts," he said.

But the high number of offences raised concerns among legal experts last night that Crown cases before the courts could be placed at risk should any of these officers be involved. Barrister Stephen Odgers, while not wanting to comment on specifics, said that a police officer called as a witness could be cross-examined and challenged over their "credibility" should their criminal history be known.

The list of convictions, which police claimed at first did not exist, was released after an appeal to the Ombudsman. Opposition police spokesman Michael Gallacher said last night that the force had secretly lowered its standards under government pressure to meet election promises on officer numbers - a claim denied by police.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

More government meddling in family life called for

We're getting perilously close to the point where children will be regarded as the property of the State. Uncle Adolf would approve. And who is to judge the "fitness" of a parent? When I was growing up over 50 years ago, my parents often did not know where I was for much of the day and nor did most parents in the small country town where I lived. Were my mother and the other mothers in the town "unfit" parents? No doubt it would be poor families principally targeted by the official Fascists but lots of kids in poor families grow up in unattractive circumstances and turn out fine -- while lots of kids from good middle class families just end up as druggies etc. I know a few

One in five Australian mums and dads is unfit to be a parent, according to child-health expert and former Australian of the Year Professor Fiona Stanley. [And how would she know and how does she judge that?] She says they either lack the means or the life skills to raise children or cannot devote enough time to their kids because of excessive work commitments.

Professor Stanley, an adviser to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, has also slammed the Federal Government's policy on paid parental leave. She said a national effort - on the scale of the climate-change movement - was needed to protect the futures of Australian children. "We need an Al Gore for child development," the founder of the Institute for Child Health Research said.

"There are a worrying number of threats to children's health in society today. "If we don't respond to these challenges ... we will be looking at our generation, my generation, as being the last generation that lives longer than its parents. "If you look at the overall trend in many problems, they are actually showing no improvement - and some of them are getting dramatically worse."

Professor Stanley said paid parental leave, being assessed by the Federal Government, was crucial. "The fact we don't have maternity leave or parental leave in Australia is just indicative of our lack of valuing of parents," she said. A draft report for the Productivity Commission's inquiry into paid parental leave will be released tomorrow.

Professor Stanley said as many as one in five parents were financially and socially ill-equipped for child-rearing. "There's this increasing group of parents who are just not making ends meet. They don't have the capacity to be parents. "And they may represent as much as 20 per cent of the population when you add in Aboriginal people and the most disadvantaged in society. "There are a lot of people who are going to find it difficult to parent." Mental illness, obesity, asthma and substance abuse were the biggest risks for Australian children, Professor Stanley said.


Australia's Leftist government to devalue marriage and make most sex between singles into prostitution

Send your girlfriend home at night, guys!

De facto couples in Queensland are set to receive the same financial and property rights as married couples under a proposed new federal law. Queensland family law specialist Brett Hartley of Hartley Healy said the law could be one of the most significant pieces of relationship legislation in decades.

On June 25, the Federal Government introduced landmark legislation to allow de facto couples to access the Family Court, a federal body, to sort out property and maintenance matters. Since then, a report has been prepared by the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, and the Family Law Amendment (De Facto Financial Matters and Other Measures) Bill is soon to be debated by Parliament. "If this becomes law, a de facto couple in Australia, whether of the same sex or different sex, will have the same rights and entitlements to property settlement and maintenance as a married couple," Mr Hartley said.

It will give de facto couples - including gay partners - the right to seek maintenance, claim on a partner's superannuation and draw up the equivalent of the prenuptial agreements available to couples intending to marry. Under current Queensland law, there is no right to seek maintenance from a de facto spouse. Queensland legislation also does not include superannuation interests as property of the de facto parties.

Mr Hartley said if a de facto couple with a child split up, they currently had to go to the Family Court to sort out child-related matters, and to the Supreme or District courts to sort out property disputes. The new law would allow the Family Court to deal with all problems, saving couples money dealing with different courts. While couples have to be in a de facto relationship for two years for it to be recognised, the law will set out a new definition of de facto relationship, based on circumstances.


Gun laws eased in NSW

CHANGES to gun laws will make it easier for people to gain access to firearms from October 1. But while shooting clubs expect more people to be attracted to the sport, critics say the amendments will lead to more high-powered weapons and gun crime.

The Shooters Party-initiated bill allows more exemptions for people, including minors, without a licence to participate at shooting clubs. The law, passed with the support of the Government and Coalition, also removes the 28-day waiting period for licence-holders buying additional guns and renewing permits.

Greens MP Lee Rhiannon said the amendments "weakened" gun laws. She said the laws should have been tightened, given last week's college shooting in Finland that left 11 dead. "These changes definitely water down the gun laws that had been tightened post the Port Arthur massacre," Ms Rhiannon said. "There is so much domestic gun violence [in Australia] that basically equates to a massacre every two weeks." Ms Rhiannon said the move brought NSW politics one step closer to US-style governing, "where MPs are behoven to the gun lobby and unable to speak out against it". She blamed MPs for supporting the bill despite private concerns because Labor wanted to secure the Shooters Party's two votes in the upper house on issues such as electricity privatisation.

Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (NSW) executive officer Richard Gawned said the changes simply removed the bureaucracy involved in buying more firearms. Amendments also made it easier for people to take up the sport, with those who were unlicensed to be supervised by licence-holders at all times.

Newcomers must fill out a document at the shooting range, and if found to have a criminal record or history of mental illness, will be prohibited from handling a gun.

Mr Gawned said people aged 12-18 could not own firearms. They could only go to a range and use firearms supplied by their parents. The St Marys Indoor Shooting Centre is booked up for October and November, with more than 70 people calling to make bookings since June. Chris Totten, 25, of McGraths Hill, will be among the first to receive his firearms licence under the new laws. He has been keen to try the sport since he watched the target and clay shooting at the Beijing Olympics.


Carbon gas continues to rise -- while the weather gets COLDER!

The warming is just theory, not fact. Only the CO2 rise is fact

GLOBAL carbon emissions are continuing to rise at alarming rates despite efforts by households and governments across the developed world to go green. Official new figures show the rate of emissions is increasing at an alarming 3.5 per cent a year - exceeding the worst-case scenarios of the UN's peak scientific body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Despite years of effort to change our ways, the Global Carbon Project report shows that for the first time, humans are now emitting more than 10 billion tonnes of carbon annually. And the emissions are accelerating, having already increased over the past eight years at four times the rate in the 1990s.

The biggest problems have come from the developing world, which now accounts for more emissions than rich nations. China has overtaken the US as the world's biggest carbon emitter, two years earlier than expected and India is set to relegate Russia to fourth place within a year.

In Australia, meanwhile, the situation is just as worrying. Local fossil fuel emissions are growing by 2 per cent a year, despite all other developed nations cutting their pollution.

Perhaps most alarmingly, the report found that, globally, atmospheric carbon dioxide growth is now outstripping the growth of natural carbon dioxide sinks such as forests and oceans. And the figures only relate to carbon dioxide emissions. While the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is at 383 parts per million (ppm), the concentration of total greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is now about 410 ppm. According to the most recent UN political scientific reports, if the concentrations topped 450 ppm the world risks mass extinction of species and temperatures would soar more than 2.5C.

The report said the findings revealed a concerning trend in light of much-touted global efforts to curb emissions. All of these changes characterise a carbon cycle that is generating stronger climate forcing, and sooner than expected, it warned. British climate expert Corinne Le Quere said the numbers provided a stark reality check. The scale of efforts (to tackle emissions) is not enough, she said.

Meanwhile, the State Government announced it had purchased 18 per cent of its total energy bill last year from carbon offsets, hydro energy, wind farms and bagasse - a sugar cane by-product. But Queensland's 68,000 tonne reduction pales in comparison to the 1.8 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases produced by China last year - 26,470 times the State Government's energy offset.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Christopher Pearson on Rudd's GG and Turnbull's cabinet

The article below is for those who like a more detailed background on Australian politics. Pearson questions the suitability of affirmative action appointee Quentin Bryce as Governor General and also the shadow-cabinet choices of the new conservative leader, Malcolm Turnbull

Pearson is undoubtedly right that Bryce is a marginal choice for GG -- who is supposed to be above politics. Quentin Bryce is known for strong feminist and generally Leftist leanings and is obviously not about to tone that down. She also appears to be personally unpleasant (egotistical?) with her staff. When she was governor of Queensland, most of them resigned. Less well known is that she has been a strong supporter of my old church, Anne St Presbyterian, and she would have heard plenty of good old-fashioned values preached from the pulpit there. So there is some prospect of a balanced approach from her. After all, the quite egregious appointment of Bill Hayden, a former Labor Party leader, as GG worked out well in the end.

I think Pearson makes far too much of Bryce's quite impossible wish for the GG powers to be codified. She is simply wishing not to be vilified in the way the unfortunate Sir John Kerr was after exercising those powers. It may be noted that Kerr was also a Labor Party appointee.

Pearson is undoubtedly right in pointing out that Turnbull has not maximized the strength of his shadow-cabinet. Personal rivalries are the obvious reason for that. Perhaps he will reshuffle if egregious weaknesses in his shadow ministry emerge.

The point about prominent climate skeptics in the new shadow ministry is great good news however. Australia cannot afford to spend taxpayers's money on will o' the wisps and the more that is pointed out the better. Rudd's policies are not in general a large departure from the pragmatic policies of his conservative predecessor. It is only on global warming where he seems at risk of going seriously off the rails. So strong opposition there is just what is needed

QUENTIN Bryce, the newly installed Governor-General, broke with precedent by giving The 7.30 Report's Kerry O'Brien an interview last week on how she saw her role. He took it for granted that she had a personal agenda and asked: "Can you be a quiet activist?" She replied: "Oh, definitely."

Aside from harmless hobbyhorses such as endorsing the preservation of rainforests or promoting cancer research, activism of any kind is the last thing we should have to expect of a constitutional umpire who understands her duties. It was all of a piece with her undertaking at the swearing-in ceremony in the Senate: "I promise to be alive, open, responsive and faithful to the contemporary thinking and working of Australian society."

An indulgent reading would see this as nothing out of the ordinary: just the sort of sententious twaddle that has come to be expected of Australian viceroys. I have a horrible feeling that she means exactly what she said and that she's promising to be a slave to the zeitgeist. How else is it possible to construe being "alive, open, responsive and faithful" to contemporary thinking?

It's a sentiment that is completely at loggerheads with her pledge, minutes earlier, to do her best "to observe, sustain and uphold the principles, conventions and rule of law that are our foundation". You can keep faith with the self-effacing traditions - which she already has breached with her activism - and the constraints that serve to hedge appointed office and its vast reserve powers. Or you can be faithful to the will-o'-the-wisp of contemporary thought. I very much doubt that it's possible to do both.

Part of Bryce's problem is that she's not especially bright and is prone to saying the first thing that comes into her head. Considering that she was once a legal academic, her grasp of constitutional law in recent years has left a lot to be desired, too. I cited several howlers in this column in 2003 when she was appointed governor of Queensland.

Take, for example, her considered opinion on the reserve powers that have just been entrusted to her. "I like the idea of them being written down in the Constitution. I'm increasingly attracted to the need to codify as much as possible. It is another way of empowering people." Let us pass lightly over the notion of empowerment and concentrate on the main point. It is a given in constitutional law that codifying the reserve powers is a herculean task, virtually impossible as well as pointless.

First, it would involve a team of experts agreeing on the proper limits of emergency powers, which it has generally been thought prudent not to define too precisely because not all contingencies are foreseeable. Second, the whole process would need a large measure of bipartisan support. Finally, it would mean a referendum carrying by a majority of votes in a majority of states an amendment specifying in great detail every hypothetical circumstance in which a government's actions might warrant the exercise of the Crown's power to sack it. The consensus at the Constitutional Convention was that the existing checks and balances were the best available guarantee that the reserve powers wouldn't be abused.

Bryce also has said: "I feel very strongly the Constitution doesn't deliver representative democracy." Her reason for saying so? "A very serious lack of representation of women." Had she given more than a moment's thought to this proposition, she'd have seen that the problem is not with the Constitution but with the political parties, which preselect almost all the members of federal parliament. Nor, in the Westminster system where people's votes decide who wins each seat, would it make any sense for the Constitution to predetermine that a fixed percentage of seats be filled by either sex.

Until recently, it would have been hard to imagine a candidate with Bryce's limitations and ideological baggage winning the level of broad acceptance within the conservative wing of the political class necessary for her to function as governor-general. Indeed, since Brendan Nelson, Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull could not be described plausibly as conservatives, it may not be safe to assume that Bryce does enjoy that kind of acceptance. In less than a year, the values for which John Howard, Peter Costello and Alexander Downer provided so formidable a bulwark are no longer taken for granted in the Liberal Party room.

Turnbull tends to see every issue through the prism of Wentworth, the inner-Sydney seat he holds by a narrow margin. It's reckoned to be the gayest, richest and perhaps the most bohemian electorate in the country, light years away from the preoccupations of most of the people who regularly vote for the Coalition.

Given the need to conciliate that broader constituency and not to be seen as taking it for granted, it's surprising Turnbull should have made so few concessions to the conservatives in the party in the selection of his shadow cabinet last week. For example, Nick Minchin and Tony Abbott were the two most senior and experienced cabinet ministers in the Howard government still ready to serve on the front bench. Minchin was demoted, moving from defence, a portfolio that takes a long time to master, and replaced by David Johnston, a neophyte. Abbott, who'd made it clear he wanted a more demanding job, was left in family and community services and Aboriginal affairs, and effectively sidelined.

Unlike most of the front bench, more than half of whom were not ministers in the previous government, Minchin and Abbott have shone in difficult portfolios. Abbott in particular, in industrial relations and health, has proven he can handle tough political problems. He was probably the Howard government's most effective ideological champion and, notwithstanding Costello's brilliance, its most consistent parliamentary performer.

Minchin's imperturbable style and forensic approach are well suited to the Senate, where he remains the leader. Magnanimity in victory towards Nelson's main numbers man would have been a much smarter strategy for Turnbull. No doubt it's true, as some have argued, that Minchin will soon have the measure of Stephen Conroy, whom he shadows in broadband and communications. However, Conroy is widely seen as an easy scalp and a lesser target than Labor's Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon.

It seems that Turnbull is going to have to learn the hard way that he has to field his best team and make sure they're well matched to the ministers they shadow. He'll need to give players such as Minchin and Abbott more of a stake in his victory if it is ever to materialise. The indulgent gesture of giving Bishop the shadow treasurer's job is already beginning to look like a big miscalculation and evidence that he thinks he can just about run the Coalition as a one-man band. The Opposition needs to think carefully about product differentiation because the Rudd Government, by virtue of its leader, is about as conservative-friendly as it's possible for a modern Labor administration to be. Thankfully, it doesn't aspire to be much more than a "mind-the-store" government - except in the matter of climate change - and Rudd often gives the impression that he has already fulfilled his great ambition in life simply by getting elected.

I was agreeably surprised - bearing in mind Turnbull's views on climate change and his performance as environment minister - by one feature of his shadow ministry that should gladden conservative hearts. Three of the five frontbenchers whose portfolios impinge on climate change are known sceptics. They are John Cobb (agriculture, fisheries and forests), Ian Macfarlane (energy and resources) and Andrew Robb (infrastructure, COAG and emissions trading design).

Robb has been a bit more coy than the other two about airing his reservations. But according to Penny Wong, in answer to a Dorothy Dixer last week, he told The Australian Financial Review Magazine that anthropogenic climate change is "lies, lies and damned statistics". He apparently called it a fad, too, saying that after the fall of communism it had become the cause celebre of the Left.

Employing sceptics in shadow cabinet, who will be more than a match for Greg Hunt, his main spokesman on climate change, is a good idea. It leaves the Coalition well-placed in the event that there's no further global warming or unmistakable cooling in the next few years. Then again, in the wake of the turmoil on global markets, emissions trading schemes may suddenly look like the kind of luxury even the developed world can no longer afford. Sceptics are also the best people to be asking the hard questions on how much an ETS is going to cost, cost-benefit analysis and who will be expected to foot what share the bill.


Navy has right to fire at illegal fishing boats

Very pleasing that Rudd has not gone to water (excuse pun!) on this one

ILLEGAL fishing boats caught inside Australian territorial waters can be stopped by direct gunfire if they fail to heed orders to heave to. The Department of Defence today confirmed the extreme measure approved by the former Howard government and upheld by the Rudd Government was available to Royal Australian Navy warships as a last resort. The good news is that the option is increasingly unlikely due to a dramatic decrease in the number of detections of illegal foreign fishers this year.

"In exceptional circumstances the use of (gun) fire to stop a non-compliant vessel in the water may be permitted following consideration at senior levels within Defence," a Defence spokeswoman said in reply to questions from The Australian. Fisheries and Defence officials are now quietly confident they are winning the war on illegal fishing in Australia's northern waters, with only four boats apprehended since May. It compares with a peak of 365 illegal boats apprehended and boarded in 2006, 125 in 2007 and 77 for the current year.

Much of the success is due to a package of tough deterrent measures authorised by the former Howard government which allowed RAN commanders a range of graded options to stop illegal fishing boats. They included the use of "riot control agents" to incapacitate foreign fishing crews, distraction ammunition, the use of warning shots, acoustic devices and as a last resort, direct gunfire to sink or disable poaching vessels.

Other contributing measures are due to new education programs in Indonesia - the main offender country - warning against illegal fishing and the deployment of the new Armidale Class patrol boats has also played a major role. "The Armidale Class patrol boats have proven to be a successful presence due to their increased endurance on task, increased capabilities," Defence said.

The decrease in the number of illegal fishing boats entering Australian waters does not mean the problem has disappeared. "With this decrease in detections inside Australia's EEZ (370km Economic Exclusion Zone) the illegal fishing boats have been observed operating legally just north of the EEZ. "The continual presence of the defence and customs assets conducting surveillance and response patrols is proving to be a deterrent," Defence said.


The NSW Department for hurting kids ("DOCS")

Their own bureaucratic power trips are all that they care about

THEY were two boys who had lived their whole lives in a house with windows covered with sheets of black plastic. They had never been to school and nobody was allowed to visit them. Their mother, who cannot be named because it would identify the children, was in the grip of a serious mental illness. She feared the outside world. When police broke down the door, they found the boys, by then aged eight and 10, wearing clothes so thick with grease they stuck to their skin. Their hair had grown long and wild.

"They looked like they'd just come out of a cave," says the foster mother who took them in, who likewise cannot be named. "The oldest boy was obese, and had a knot in the back of his hair the size of a fist; it was so thick and mangled he had to sit with his head tilted forward."

The case is one of several The Weekend Australian examined as part of its ongoing investigation into the child welfare system. It is hardly a secret that the system is broken. One inquiry after another has exposed the myriad ways in which it does not protect children. What surprises is that foster parents - the volunteers who take the nation's abused and troubled children into their homes - are themselves among the shattered victims.

The foster mother above is a case in point. She took the neglected boys back to her home - a modest but clean demountable with a covered verandah, west of Sydney. She peeled their clothes from their bodies, cut their hair "into a short back and sides, like navy Seals" and enrolled them in school. "I was the flavour of the month," she says. "The Department (of Community Services in NSW) couldn't say enough good things about me."

She keeps an album of photographs of the boys taken at a gala dinner two years after they came into her care. Kim Beazley, then the Opposition leader, shook their hands, comedian Wendy Harmer was the MC. "It seemed to me I was doing everything right," the foster mother says. "But social workers have their way of doing things."

As the boys barrelled towards adolescence, they became more defiant and harder to control. One of them wanted to get an earring in his eyebrow; the other wanted to bleach his hair and get a mobile phone. "I told them, 'there are rules here and you have to obey those rules', but social workers would undermine me," the foster mother said. "The case worker would say: 'They are not your children; they are only in your care.' They wanted me to let them treat my home as if it was a boarding house, let them do whatever they wanted, because as long as the placement didn't break down, they wouldn't have extra work."

At the age of 14, the younger boy ran away with Matthew Norman (one of the Bali Nine drug-runners). The foster mother grounded him and told him "he would have had to live by my rules. But the social worker said no, and they found another foster placement for him". "That placement broke down, too, and within 12 months, he was in a group home, and that's where things really started to go wrong."

Four years ago, the boy pleaded guilty to two counts of supplying a prohibited drug, after selling an ecstasy tablet to a girl who took it and died. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't know that things might go badly for that boy because he was damaged," the foster mother said. "But I think the do-gooders helped."

Other cases encountered by The Weekend Australian during its investigation include that of a baby girl, born to a teenage mother, who was placed in foster care with an infertile couple desperate for a family of their own. She stayed with them for three years; social workers reported that she was happy and stable. "They treated her like a princess," says a woman who acted as an advocate for the foster parents. "They had her enrolled in ballet classes. "But when her birth mother reached the age of 17, she applied to the department for a 'restoration' - meaning she wanted her little girl to live with her, and another newborn baby.

"The foster parents resisted in court, saying: 'Can't you just wait to see how she does with the new baby?' They went to court and they lost, as couples in that situation almost always will, because restoration is what the department wants, and not necessarily because it's for the best, but because it's cheap. "But the restoration failed. Within months, the little girl was back in care and yet DOCS refused to return her to the foster parents who had cared for her for three years. "It was spite, pure and simple. This couple was exactly the kind the department hates: educated, capable, and prepared to take them, and they took their revenge. It was pretty sick to do that to a tiny child, but they were on a power trip. "They trot out this line - it's in the best interests of the child - but they have their own agenda and it's often to the detriment of the child. The couple were devastated. They never fostered again."

In another case, a retired couple in Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains, took a 12-year-old troubled boy into their care, and even built a wing for him on the side of the home. "They were totally committed to him," said the parents' advocate. "He went from a Grade Two level to Grade Four in six months. "But then he moved into the teenage years and he got difficult. He complained about his foster parents to DOCS, saying: 'They treat me differently from their own kids.' "But their own kids were 18 and 24. Of course he couldn't do the same things. And kids will do that. They'll have a big whinge, and say 'Life's so unfair' and if it's your own kids, you can say, 'Well, that's the rules'.

"But foster kids, they have the department. They have a way out and they don't understand the rules are good for them. "So he complained and was moved and three years later he was living on the streets in Katoomba."

NSW is the latest state government to call an inquiry into the problem of child welfare, but it dissolved into farce long ago. Complaints have been pouring in but inquiry head justice James Wood has declared that 90 per cent will remain secret. The secrecy compounds a problem in the department, of not wanting to know. A woman who works with foster parents says: "The department doesn't do exit interviews (when foster parents quit) and you've got to assume it's because they don't want to know the answer. "The foster parents say: 'I'm sorry, but I can't do it any more, and it's not the kids. It's the department. Department.'

An exodus of good-quality carers leaves the sector stacked with those described by one worker as "well below standard". The woman, who once worked for DOCS, says: "I'm not exaggerating when I say to you 70 per cent of them (the foster carers) I would not leave my dog with. They are the most inappropriate, weird people." The woman says some foster parents "are what I'd call compulsive care-givers. They have five or six kids and people are saying to them 'You're a saint', and they are all puffed up with self-importance". "One woman said to me the other day: 'I've got five under five here, and I just line them all up in the morning and spoon some food in their mouths'," says one carer.

The public face of foster care - a retired couple eager to help the troubled young, or a widow wanting to pour love into needy toddlers, "is the ones they wheel out for the gullible media", says one foster carer. "There's some of those, but there's a lot of the others."

Many foster carers are wary of raising their concerns. They speak of the department's "appetite for vengeance" and "revenge". "I went to court with one woman who was distraught at losing the girl in her care," says one advocate. "She lost and when we were walking out of the court, the DOCS worker said to her: 'Don't forget, you've got another one of ours.' I took that to mean, don't take us on again, or we'll come for the other child in your care."

Until recently, foster carers had the support of the Foster Care Association, a 20-year-old group started by foster parents who wanted to support each other. Over time, it received more than $3 million in DOCS funding. It had an office in Westmead, in western Sydney, and a 24-hour crisis line for foster parents who were at their wit's end. A former president, Mary Jane Beach, says the group was effective. "It was never my goal to be popular with DOCS," she says. "It was my goal to work with DOCS to perhaps show them things from our side."

She recalls a dinner where she asked all the case workers to get up and move to a new table, leaving purses and handbags behind. "They were horrified. I said: 'That's what it's like for a child to be picked up and moved, like you do to them, making them leave all their stuff behind."'

Funding to the group was axed in July. President Denise Crisp believes the association had become a thorn in the department's side. "We have grandparents who would come to us, fighting for their flesh and blood, and DOCS would be saying, no, the kids have to go back to some druggie mother and we'd fight that." The association was badly managed. Some of its key members were so completely poisoned by their experiences with DOCS they could not be effective advocates for other foster carers.

Security guards had to be employed to keep the peace at such events as the launch of the group's website; police were called to a board meeting that went on for more than six hours; one board member took out an apprehended violence order against another member.

DOCS says the group lost is funding because it changed its constitution to allow "non-registered" carers to join. Ms Crisp says this was done to allow "retired carers, with no kids in their care any more, to stay on the board and give us their experience". DOCS said the change opened the way for deregistered carers - that is, carers whose children had been removed because of fears for their safety - to become members of the association and, potentially, to sit on the board.

DOCS has redirected the funding toward another foster care group, the Foster Parents Support Network, which has entered into a partnership with Karitane. Together, they have formed Connecting Carers NSW, a group that will soon have a website, and offer online training, a crisis line, and holiday camps for carers.

Ms Crisp sees the group as a front for the department, and says its workers are too scared to stand up to DOCS. "We're going to have to see if they are quite happy to just go along with whatever DOCS says," said Ms Crisp. "That might make DOCS happy, but it won't be much good for foster kids."


There's no such thing as a happy Greenie

AUSTRALIA'S most active unionist pushing for clean coal technology says the Greens are becoming increasingly marginalised by maintaining their opposition to clean coal. Greenies will never be happy because what they want is self-contradictory: A return to a primitive past plus all the comforts of modern life

CFMEU mining division president Tony Maher said his union had done polling that showed roughly 5 per cent of the population supported the Greens' position of opposition to clean coal. "A few years ago there was some scepticism about clean coal, but now you even have environmentalists ... like Tim Flannery who say 'we've got to fix coal'," Mr Maher said.

"I don't think their position has any environmental credibility or any economic credibility. On the environmental front, while coal is a big industry for Australia, we still only produce 4 per cent of the world's coal. We could shut down the industry tomorrow and other countries would just pick up the slack. And economically it would throw a huge amount of people out of work."

He said clean coal research in Australia was moving to a new level and that, while individual states had pursued worthwhile projects in the area, there was now a need for a nationally co-ordinated approach.

Mr Maher said as the states had control of the power system - and in the case of Queensland, were active participants in power generation - it was natural they would initially do most research into clean coal technology. He said that he was hopeful that Kevin Rudd's Global Institute for Carbon Capture and Storage, announced last week, would be able to fill such a role. "Energy is a state-based matter, and while all the research so far has been great, it all needs a bit of direction," Mr Maher said.

"The missing link so far has been co-ordination. In my view there's sufficient money now from both government and industry to get us to the stage of building pilot plants with zero emissions. But the real issue will be the large-scale plants which are commercially viable. Being able to get them coming on stream will mean you're going to have to guarantee commercial viability, and that will need a solid business case, and that's where you need to put together all this research that's being done."

He said Queensland had been the most active state in clean coal research, followed by Victoria. "NSW have got a bit of ground to make up," he said. "There is some research being done at Newcastle University, but it's nowhere near the amount being done in Queensland with Zerogen and with Victoria's Otway Basin project."

The Queensland Government has put $300 million towards the Zerogen project in central Queensland, which involves the construction of a zero-emissions pilot plant near Rockhampton. The Howard government refused to back the project, which is proceeding on a new basis with mining companies putting in extra money. The Queensland Resources Council, which represents coal mining companies, said that, while there was a need for more research, the issue was who paid for it.

QRC chief executive Michael Roche said: "The coal industry knows that in the long term, its social licence to operate does depend on successful commercialisation of low-emission coal technologies. "And as Professor Ross Garnaut has pointed out, this will require a huge investment of public funds, alongside industry funds, over the coming decade."


Friday, September 26, 2008

Lots of surgery on wrong patients in Queensland public hospitals

THIRTY-three public hospital operations have been performed on the wrong patient or body part in a year, with four of the bungles killing or permanently impairing patients. The deaths and permanent impairments were among 127 identified as being due to bungles in the hospital system. Queensland Health today released the latest patient safety report revealing a 30 per cent spike in reported incidents within the department to 46,990 cases.

Almost a quarter of those cases involved patient harm. Three patients died or were permanently impaired after surgical tools were left inside them while six patients suffered the same fate after being given the wrong medication. Seven patients died or were permanently impaired after delays caused by long waiting lists or the department's failure to order or sanction procedures.

Queensland Health strongly defended the results, saying the increase showed more staff were reporting incidents. The report covered 2006-2007 and was compiled as part of recommendations which came from the Bundaberg Hospital Inquiry report which called for greater transparency. However, Queensland Health Patient Safety centre director Dr John Wakefield was unable to exactly how many deaths occurred during the period.

The report showed 127 patients died or suffered permanent impairment, but did not provide a break-down of deaths or impairment. Dr Wakefield said Queenslanders should have confidence in the health system, saying the figures showed it was getting safer. "Sharing information in an open and honest way is fundamental to improving patient safety and building trust in the community and our staff."


Immigration leading to housing shortages

Immigration levels are high these days but State governments and cities are still slow to release land for house building. "Developers" who subdivide and service the land are evil, you see, and must be stopped. But new housing land would not become available without them. So government intertia means that housing supply is inadequate for the new arrivals. And reversing govenment inertia is like asking the leopard to change his spots

AUSTRALIA'S biggest migration boom is exacerbating the rental crisis, while house prices are overvalued by between 5 per cent and 15 per cent, the International Monetary Fund has said. Immigration added a record 199,064 people to Australia over the year to March - the biggest annual rise in history, figures released yesterday by the Bureau of Statistics show. This surpasses the boom after World War II, which peaked at about 149,000 people in 1950. "The inflow of migration is putting pressure on the housing rental market," the IMF said in its latest report card on the Australian economy.

The proposition is supported by new evidence showing rental vacancy rates are lowest in suburban areas where most new migrants tend to settle, such as the western suburbs of Sydney.

The IMF said twin booms in migration and mining added to the risk that the economy might grow faster than desired, sparking inflationary pressures. On the downside, higher interest rates and tighter credit conditions flowing from the global finance crisis were likely to restrain consumer spending. The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, said that since the report was completed, these risks had shifted even further to the "downside". He said the report had given the Government a "very big tick" for its first budget, which the IMF described as "prudent" and "contractionary".

The IMF also concluded that while Australian banks were profitable and well capitalised, the global financial crisis had exposed some "vulnerabilities", including the high indebtedness of Australian households, and banks' reliance on offshore funding, which had become more expensive since the credit crunch. These higher costs have had a direct impact on mortgage holders as lenders were forced to lift interest rates outside the Reserve Bank and restrict lending to less attractive borrowers.

Banks could suffer a "significant fall in profits" if they lost access to funding from offshore markets, which accounted for a quarter of their total funding, the IMF said. But banks' exposure to highly indebted households was less of a concern. While house prices were moderately overvalued, it would take a huge increase in loan defaults to cause problems for the banks.

The Reserve Bank will today release its report on the health of Australia's financial system. In its report, the IMF revealed a doubling in the migration-to-population ratio over the past three years had coincided with a trebling in the pace of growth in rents More immigrants settle in NSW than in any other state or territory, the ABS figures show.

But the federal Housing Minister, Tanya Plibersek, said it was wrong to blame higher rental prices entirely on higher immigration. She said increased housing demand came from many sources, including higher divorce rates and older people staying longer in their own homes. Immigration was also important to fill skills shortages, particularly for tradespeople. "The immigration story is very important for economic development . it's not sensible to suggest then that immigration is the problem."

The Government introduced legislation for its National Rental Affordability Scheme in Parliament yesterday. [Increase the supply and affordability will take care of itself]


Guns OK in Australian schools?

THE father of the youth who took a handgun and ammunition to school said what his son did was "no big deal". The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said he couldn't understand why other parents were "making such a fuss" about his 15-year-old producing the deadly weapon and ammunition during an English class.

The Daily Telegraph yesterday revealed the Year 9 student at Kurri Kurri High School had been suspended after he was found with the gun in his bag. The Education Department had tried to keep the incident quiet from other parents. The school responded late yesterday by sending a note home to parents explaining the incident -- almost four weeks after it happened.

Police confirmed they had seized an antique-looking pistol together with bullets, which had been sent for ballistic testing. But the boy's father said the incident was "old news" and people should have better things to talk about. "What's the fuss, it's no big deal. It happened a month ago. People ought to worry about something else," he said. The teenager is expected to return to school today.

Kurri-Kurri parent Debbie Thornton said she was outraged the school did not inform parents about the incident, instead leaving them to hear about it through the media. A Year 9 student, who was in the English class when the weapon was allegedly produced, said the teenage boy had been "bragging" to his mates when he produced the gun. At that stage, English teacher Alison Miller called the boy to the front of the room and asked him to hand over the weapon. The Education Department said parents were not informed because "there had been no real threat to students".

Meanhwile, a youth who pointed a pistol at his teacher's head and pulled the trigger is about to return to school - but his victim's life may be ruined. The male teacher is now on indefinite stress leave and is undergoing counselling after the 13-year-old male student at Randwick Boys High School pointed the replica gun at him on September 5. It is unknown when - or even if - the computing skills teacher will return to the school. The Year 7 student will return to class at the start of next term after a short suspension.

Sources said the student went to the front of the class and held the pistol to the teachers head. The teacher grabbed the pistol, which he did not know was a fake, from the student and the police were called. Parents at the school say they were not informed of the incident. NSW Teacher's Federation deputy president Bob Lipscombe said schools were meant to be among the safest place in the community, yet incidents like this, and a similar one at Kurri Kurri High School in the Hunter Valley, caused a great deal of stress for teachers. "We are concerned for the wellbeing of teachers, and we expect the Education Department to act appropriately when such acts occur," he said.


Australian universities dumbing down

A REVOLUTION from below is transforming Australian higher education as leading universities unleash radical course reforms in advance of the Rudd Government's policy overhaul. The University of Western Australia has joined a group including Melbourne, Macquarie, Monash, South Australia and Victoria universities undergoing radical course reform unprompted by government policy.

Melbourne, UWA and Macquarie have jettisoned the smorgasbord of credentials characterising Australian higher education in favour of a much smaller number of broad undergraduate courses integrating the humanities and science. UWA last week announced plans to cut its undergraduate courses from 70 to six, while Macquarie University plans to cut the number of undergraduate courses by 75 per cent in time for the 2010 academic year as part of an attempt to "reinvent" and "reposition" the university.

University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Glyn Davis, who in 2005 instigated a process of curriculum reform leading to the Melbourne graduate-school model, told the HES this was the first time in living memory universities had decided to take charge of their own futures rather than allow government to determine policy. "The move for change has come from within the sector and has been attempted without additional federal investment," he said. "This means those universities pursuing change are taking all the risk."

The reform process has strong international parallels, as individual universities such as Harvard, and entire systems such as the European universities covered by the Bologna Accord, have embraced the cause of curriculum renewal. Professor Davis said the curriculum revolution was prompted in part by the sector's internationalisation, and questions about the attractiveness of Australian degrees in the light of Asian, US and European reforms. "If we remain passive, existing markets will drift away," he said. "For universities without viable local income - which is to say all public universities - losing our international markets is slow death."

In a marked departure from Australian higher-education policy's emphasis on structural and financial reform, the curriculum revolution goes to the heart of teaching, learning and graduate competencies.

UWA vice-chancellor Alan Robson told the HES that his course review committee, whose recommendations are the culmination of an exhaustive 18-month process, had on his instructions taken the university back to first principles: "What are the best educational outcomes for our students and how can we implement them?"

At Macquarie, as at Melbourne and UWA, the proliferation of narrow undergraduate courses will be replaced by a broader undergraduate education in which all students are exposed to science and the arts, taught communication skills, and encouraged to participate in projects outside the university. Macquarie vice-chancellor Steven Schwartz told the HES the revamp was needed to ensure Macquarie graduates were better prepared professionally and also ready to take their place as engaged citizens. He said: "Of course we will continue to teach professional skills - accounting students will still learn to keep books - but we will also ensure that each of our students learns how to analyse scholarly papers, criticise research methods, solve problems and integrate information into coherent arguments."

Meanwhile, Monash University has launched an "internationalisation of the curriculum" policy to foster understanding of national and global perspectives, while the University of South Australia is preparing to mandate indigenous studies in all degrees by 2010. Victoria University is also undergoing a curriculum review aimed at strengthening its relationships with local industry and the community. Students will be required to take 25 per cent of their course on the job or in the local community.

Professor Davis remarked that the curriculum revolution in many cases registered a need on the part of Australian universities to ensure their courses were "compatible" with overseas competitors. "All this is happening in a world in which a very large number of Australian graduates expect to work overseas for part of their career," he said. "Without compatible qualifications they will choose international university choices rather than risk a local qualification, such as an Australian undergraduate law degree, that is not instantly recognised in the US." "New curriculum models, such as the 3+2 graduate school structure Melbourne has adopted and UWA is now considering, allow a university to offer foundational training alongside specialisation."


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Moronic police procedures in NSW

Accused handed victim's identity

A 15-year-old girl who was allegedly stalked by a stranger had her identity revealed by police who were forced to hand it over to the suspect when he was granted bail. The teenager told friends she feared for her life in the incident on Tuesday, which is one of a staggering spate of attempted child abductions around Sydney in recent weeks.

The young woman's alleged attacker, a 27-year-old man from Greystanes, had no idea who she was. But within hours of his arrest at Rooty Hill, in Sydney's west, he was free on police bail and had her name handed to him on a charge sheet. Now, only a bail condition ordering the man to stay away from the distressed girl is protecting her.

A police source said it was normal practice to hand over charge sheets to accused criminals on bail. "We are obliged to supply as many documents at the time of charging as we can. It is practice from the Attorney-General's office, trying to streamline the system because whenever anyone appears in court they always ask for a further adjournment," the source said.

But the Attorney-General's office denied it was the result of changes this year to how and when briefs of evidence are served. Victims groups say the system is making thousands of victims of random crimes vulnerable as they wait for their case to come up in court.


Government favours open access to research data

An excellent idea. It would stop Greenies from hiding their sloppy and dishonest research methods

INNOVATION Minister Kim Carr today will flag the possibility that researchers who win grants from public funding agencies will have to make their results freely available over the internet. "Australia may want to consider making its own competitive research grants conditional on recipients sharing their research results through open-access repositories," Senator Carr will say in a video address to the Open Access and Research conference in Brisbane.

Funding agencies overseas, including the British Wellcome Trust and the US National Institutes of Health, have adopted mandatory open-access policies. The Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council only encourage open access.

In his innovation report, consultant Terry Cutler says: "(Open access) progress in Australia has been patchy and lacking the comprehensiveness and boldness of leading countries such as the UK."

In his address Senator Carr strongly endorses Cutler's open access recommendations, saying: "If we are serious about boosting innovation, we have to get knowledge and information flowing freely." He says the push to have researchers commercialise their discoveries could "safely be declared a failure" as universities on average earned less than 1 per cent of their income from royalties, patents and licences.

But Senator Carr told the HES the Government did not want to jeopardise the business done by commercialisation offices such as UniQuest, which had made a success of technology transfer. He said: "The ARC and the NHMRC distribute more than $1 billion of research funding each year. "Very few of those dollars end up as any part of an (intellectual property) deal ... so I don't think there should be any serious adverse effect ... but we want to look at that."

UniQuest managing director David Henderson said some projects, such as the Gardasil cancer vaccine, would never get to market without the confidence that IP protection gave investors: "There needs to be an ability to exclude (from any open access policy) research that requires investment to get to product."


That Would Be Courageous, Very Courageous, Mr Prime Minister

According to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd the most important challenge that Australia and indeed the world faces is global warming caused by man made carbon emissions. But what if its not? The issue is of such critical importance to the PM that during the last week's `one in a centuary" global financial meltdown, the Australian PM seemed hopelessly out of touch with reality.

As the global financial system and indeed Capitalism teetered on the verge of destruction, the PM's contribution was to announce the government was investing $100 million a year to make Australia the Hub of global climate change fighting technology. His other contribution was to announce a symposium of local government councilors. As Senator Barnaby Joyce put it so well on yesterday -
"This guy [the PM] is getting completely disconnected from what's going on and sooner or later he's going to realise that the main game is actually in this nation, not some other nation."

Indeed it is fair to say that the Kevin Rudd on the advice of his scientific adviser has staked his whole governments future on leading the world in the fight against global warming. But what if its not? What if James Hansen and his global spokesperson Al Gore are really the two swindlers from the fairy tale The Emperors New Clothes?

Certainly research from the Space and Science Research Center (SSRC) which quotes itself on its web site as "the leading science and engineering research company internationally, that specializes in the analysis of and planning for climate changes based upon the "Theory of Relational Cycles of Solar Activity," believes its not. In July of this year John L. Casey, Director of the Space and Science Research Center, Orlando Florida, issued what he described as a landmark declaration on climate change.
"After an exhaustive review of a substantial body of climate research, and in conjunction with the obvious and compelling new evidence that exists, it is time that the world community acknowledges that the Earth has begun its next climate change.

In an opinion echoed by many scientists around the world, the Space and Science Research Center (SSRC), today declares that the world's climate warming of the past decades has now come to an end. A new climate era has already started that is bringing predominantly colder global temperatures for many years into the future.

In some years this new climate will create dangerously cold weather with significant ill-effects world wide. Global warming is over - a new cold climate has begun."

In the statement Professor Casey specifically mentions the difficulty in over coming the dogma of political and media consensus on global warming.
"I have consulted with colleagues world wide who have reached a similar conclusion. They have likewise been attempting to advise their own governments and media of the impending cold era and the difficult times that the extreme cold weather may bring. They are to be commended for their bold public stances and publication of their research which of course has been in direct opposition to past conventional thought on the nature and causes of the last twenty years of global warming. "

Professor Phillip Stott in his article "Cogitative dissonance" details why the media and politician are having such difficulty with the world is not warming paradigm.
"How can you talk of the climate `warming' when, on the key measures, it isn't? .. Such media behaviour exhibits a classic condition known as `cognitive dissonance'

This is experienced when belief in a grand narrative persists blindly even when the facts in the real world begin to contradict what the narrative is saying.

Sadly, our media have come to have a vested interest in `global warming', as have so many politicians and activists.

Casey Goes on:
"Casey detailed the solar activity cycles that have been driving the Earth's climate for the past 1,200 years. He condemned the climate change confusion and alarmism which has accompanied seven separate periods over the past 100 years, where scientists and the media flip-flopped on reporting that the Earth was either entering a new `ice age' or headed for a global meltdown where melting glacial ice would swamp the planet's coastal cities.

Casey also touches on the impacts of the onset of global cooling on Agriculture.
"On the subject of cold climate effects on agriculture, Casey was not optimistic. "I can see," he added, "just like the last time this 206 year cycle brought cold, that there will be substantial damage to the world's agricultural systems. This time however we will have eight billion mouths to feed during the worst years around 2031 compared to previously when we had only one billion. Yet even then, many died from the combined effects of bitter cold and lack of food."

Casey called on all leaders to immediately move from the past global warming planning to prepare for the already started change to a cold climate.
"Now that the new cold climate has begun to arrive, we must immediately start the preparation, the adaptation process. At least because of the RC Theory we now have some advance warning. No longer do we need to wonder what the Earth's next climate changes will be two or three generations out. But we must nonetheless be ready to adjust with our now more predictable solar cycles that are the primary determinants of climate on Earth."

Now I'm not saying that John L Casey has got it right either. Readers should click on the links to his site and read the research. He certainly makes a compelling case and we will actually know if his research is ground breaking within the next 2 decades (as he predicts the planet will be 1-1.5 degrees C cooler between 2030 - 2040).

Certainly it is difficult to give the PM's science adviser James Hansen any where near the credibility that Kevin Rudd does after his warming predictions to date have been wildly inaccurate / over stated and his promotion of the universally discredited Mann Hockey Stick theory.

Is Prime Minister Rudd racing to far ahead of the science on global warming? If he is, he is doing the Nation of Australia and its people an enormous disservice and will be remembered by history as a "fool".

On the other hand if he has backed the right horse in James Hansen / Al Gores take on the science he will be viewed by history as a "great visionary" and will probably end up as head of the UN. One thing is for certain - ` he is willing to put it all on the line, no each way bets for our PM and he won't die wondering'. As a great fan of the BBC series Yes Minister, Sir Humphrey Appleby words of wisdom ring true: "That would be courageous, Minister, very courageous."


Deadly danger of hospital overflow in Tasmania

TASMANIANS could die because of ambulance delays and paramedics say there is nothing they can do about it. Angry paramedics parked their ambulances outside the Royal Hobart Hospital's Argyle St entrance yesterday to highlight the problem of "ramping". Ramping refers to when patients are forced to stay on an ambulance stretcher because there are no hospital beds free. "Overnight we had crews who were ramped for nine hours out of a 14-hour shift," one paramedic said. "They just get snowed under."

Another said ambulance officers were "baby-sitting" seriously ill patients because there were no beds for them. "We're getting ramped even with people with chest pains," he said. "There is no doubt people will, or already have, died because of this problem," another ambulance officer said.

The Health and Community Services Union said there were 36 patients in 33 cubicles in the RHH emergency department early yesterday. Nineteen of those patients were waiting to be admitted and some were given intravenous antibiotics in the waiting room. "This situation is nothing short of appalling," said HACSU assistant state secretary Tim Jacobson. "Some months ago the RHH established a committee to look at reducing the incidence of ramping. This committee has not produced any results."

He said providing extra nurses and opening beds would solve the problem. But Health Minister Lara Giddings said it was not that easy. "We are asking staff to work overtime to ensure that beds are not closed, but when you've got staff sick as well and you're already having to stretch your resources to cover the existing beds, it's certainly not an easy thing to just simply open up more beds," Ms Giddings said.

She said a flu outbreak was exacerbating the problem. "At the moment we've got around 35 nurses who are away on sick leave and we have increased admissions to our medical wards as well," Ms Giddings said. "This is putting strain on the hospital and it is impacting on ambulance ramping too."

RHH spokeswoman Pene Snashall confirmed the emergency department experienced "high demand" on Tuesday night. "There's no rhyme or reason," she said. "Saturday night was our quietest Saturday in months."


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The truly evil NSW child welfare bureaucracy again

DOCS takes children from grandparents 'over bum smack'. While children who are actually endangered are left with feral parents -- sometimes resulting in their death. Left-indoctrinated social workers just despise normal people and want to hurt them

FOUR children were removed from their grandparents' care and put into separate foster homes, allegedly because the grandmother smacked one of them on the bottom after the child tried to climb into a drain. The children had lived on and off with their grandparents for six years while their mother battled drug addiction. The children were removed in December by the NSW Department of Community Services (DOCS) and have been living in foster homes, separated from each other.

Details of the case are included in a submission to the Wood inquiry into child welfare, kept secret by inquiry staff but obtained by The Australian. The inquiry is investigating the system of child welfare in NSW, but intends to keep secret 90 per cent of the submissions it receives. The Australian has been publishing some of the secret submissions with the permission of the authors.

A woman who is close to the grandparent case, who cannot be named because it would identify the children, said the four siblings, had been "in and out" of their grandparents' home for years. "Those grandparents loved those kids," she said. "They were really nice people. They weren't hitting the kids willy-nilly. "What happened was, the children had been with their mum and it had gone badly wrong again. "They were put with the grandparents and the idea was to try to make it more permanent." Such permanent placements are often resisted by parents, because it means they lose not only their children but the Centrelink and other benefits associated with being full-time carers.

The woman said the grandmother "saw the littlest one heading down a drain pipe and grabbed him with one hand and smacked him. "It was shock. It was sudden, like a moment of frustration, or fright, a startled reflex."

Soon after the incident, DOCS case workers visited the children at school to interview them, as part of the process of making the placement with the grandparents permanent. "They said to the little one: do your grandparents ever hit you, or smack you? And of course he said: 'Yes, she smacked me last week.' "He was just telling the truth and it spiralled from there."

The children were immediately removed from the grandparents' home "and because they couldn't find emergency carers to take all four of them, they were split up. "Never mind the grandparents for a minute. It's very traumatic for small children. It's like they are being punished." The grandparents appealed to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal and the case is now under review.

"The problem is, it takes time," the woman said. "The children were removed before Christmas, so it's been nine months, and nine months is a long time in anybody's life, and a long time in a child's life."


Guilty of quoting the Bible

The scriptural quotation below is accurately summarized

Gun lobbyist Ron Owen has been told he is entitled to express his homophobic views, but that he went too far with the bumper sticker: "Gay Rights? Under God's law the only rights gays have is the right to die."

Queensland's Anti-Discrimination Tribunal found Mr Owen guilty of inciting hatred against homosexuals with the bumper sticker when he parked his car outside the Cooloola Shire Council officers in Gympie, north of Brisbane.

The publisher of the ultra-right-wing pro-militia magazine Lock Stock & Barrel and former local councillor was also chastised on Monday for comments he made in the ensuing public outcry that engulfed the rural community, The Australian reports. The former president of the National Firearm Owners of Australia was taken to the tribunal by several local lesbians, who claimed they had been offended despite only one having seen the bumper sticker. Two of the women were awarded $5000, with a third awarded $2500 in damages.

Tribunal member Darryl Rangiah handed down a 77-page decision, which also ordered Mr Owen to publish a written apology for inciting hatred and causing offence to the homosexual community of Gympie. Mr Rangiah acknowledged Mr Owen's right to free speech, but said he had gone too far with the bumper sticker and in ensuing comments made during a television interview, in a report to a subsequent council meeting and in a letter on his website. "Ron Owen is entitled to be a homophobe and he is entitled to publicly express his homophobic views," he said. "That much is required in a society that values freedom of thought and expression. However there are limits." [So how can he "publicly express his homophobic views" if even a bumper sticker is illegal?]

The tribunal ruled that Mr Owen - while not the registered owner of the car - had use of it and that the sticker went "beyond a mere joke". "The ordinary member of the public would, in my opinion, understand that he or she was being urged to hate and to have serious contempt for homosexuals," Mr Rangiah said. [That's what the Bible does too]


Envy tax watered down to almost nothing

The Greenies protect luxury car buyers!

The Federal Government's luxury car tax increase finally passed parliament's upper house tonight after being heavily amended by cross bench senators. The Government's four bills seek to lift the luxury car tax, which applies to cars worth more than $57,180, from 25 per cent to 33 per cent. The bills were defeated in the Senate earlier this month after Family First Senator Steve Fielding sided with the coalition to vote it down.

However, the Government resurrected the legislation after striking a deal with Senator Fielding to exempt primary producers and tourist operators from the increase. Senator Fielding's amendment was approved last night, against the wishes of the coalition. A Greens amendment to exempt fuel efficient cars from the tax was also passed. Under the Greens amendment, the tax would no longer apply to cars valued up to $75,000 which use no more than seven litres of fuel per 100 kilometres.

Twenty five imported car models - including the Audi A4, BMW 3 series and Jaguar X-type - would be exempted from the tax altogether as a result of the change.

Coalition front bencher Eric Abetz said only about 1500 of the one million cars sold in Australia each year would be affected by that change. "Nobody could argue that this is going to have a serious impact on climate change," Senator Abetz said. "Nothing but window-dressing."

The Senate also agreed to Senator Xenophon's request to apply a sunset clause to the tax's indexation to the controversial consumer price index for motor vehicles (CPIMV). It also approved Senator Xenophon's request to ensure the increase would not apply to people who entered into contracts before the night of the Federal Budget in May, when the Government announced its plan.

But the Senate rejected an Opposition proposal to have the tax increase applied only to vehicles worth more than $90,000. "This is just another part of the raid on the budget surplus," he said. Three of the four bills passed the Senate unchanged. The amended bill will now return to the lower house where the Government will approve the cross bench changes.

Government Senate leader Chris Evans said the legislation had passed with its major components intact. "We think it's a really useful measure, it provides revenue to the government, revenue that will assist us in dealing with really difficult economic times," he told the ABC. Senator Evans said he hoped the Opposition would abandon its stalling tactics and take a more constructive approach to the Government's other Budget bills.


Conservative politician hits out at child creation for homosexual families

DELIBERATELY creating a child to be placed in a homosexual relationship is irresponsible, a Queensland federal Liberal backbencher says. "Children need a mum and a dad," Stuart Robert told Parliament. Mr Robert was speaking on a Bill that changes many Commonwealth laws to remove discrimination against same-sex couples and their children. The Opposition, while not opposing the measure, has moved an amendment calling on a Senate committee to ensure it doesn't devalue marriage or harm the rights of children.

Mr Robert said a study in Norway and Sweden, two of the first countries to introduce similar same-sex legal protections, had found gay male unions were 50 per cent more likely and lesbian unions 167 per cent more likely to separate in the first eight years. An Australian study showed children of heterosexual couples generally developed better.

Mr Robert said the Bill removed the assumption that a child was born from a union between a male and a female. "I believe that deliberately creating a child to be placed in a homosexual relationship is irresponsible, considering all the available evidence," he said.

Labor's Mark Dreyfus said the Bill was a significant human rights and pro-family measure. It amended 68 Commonwealth statutes to remove "unfair and pervasive" discrimination against gay couples and their children. "Our Commonwealth has treated gay and lesbian couples as second class citizens," Mr Dreyfus said.