Friday, October 31, 2008

Hooray for Rudd!

What he says below sounds heartfelt, as it should be. He really is a patriot, whatever else his failings may be. And he shows a proper appreciation of the military, something rare among Leftists. I think the fact that he is a Queenslander has helped ensure that he has some good old-fashioned attitudes. Keating is just the bag of hate that he usually is. He seems to spend most of his life snarling at anything and everything. He must be a very unhappy man

Kevin Rudd says former Labor prime minister Paul Keating is wrong to reject the popular view that Australia was redeemed at Gallipoli. The Prime Minister said he believed Gallipoli was fundamental to the Australian national identity. "I think Paul is completely wrong on that, completely and utterly, absolutely 100 per cent wrong," he said on Fairfax radio in Sydney.

Speaking at a book launch in Sydney yesterday, Mr Keating said he had never visited Gallipoli and never would, and those who visited on Anzac day were misguided. He said he was disappointed some Australians still held the view that Australia was redeemed at Gallipoli. "An utter and complete nonsense," Mr Keating said. "Without seeking to simplify the then bonds of the empire and the implicit sense of obligation, or to diminish the bravery of our own men, we still go on as though the nation was born again or even was redeemed there."

Today Mr Rudd said Gallipoli was a searing national experience in which thousands and thousands of brave Australians lost their lives. "That is part of our national consciousness. It's part of our national psyche, it is part of our national identity," he said. "I, for one, as Prime Minister of the country, am absolutely proud of it."

Mr Rudd said the bottom line was that Australian men and women in uniform, whether on the shores of Gallipoli, on the western front, in the jungle at Kokoda, Milne Bay, Buna or Gona, right through to those now serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, gave us enormous pride. "The reason is they are engaged in ultimately a selfless act, putting their lives on the line for the rest of us," he said. "We may quibble as politicians and as the political community about some of the decisions which led to particular military engagements." But that was a matter for politicians, he said.

"The sheer naked act of courage of Australian men and women in uniform putting their lives on the line on behalf of all of us, that is the core to the shaping of the Australian national identity for more than 100 years," he said.


Feeling cold, thinking hot

Comment by Andrew Bolt

Treasurer Wayne Swan had to get out of his woollies yesterday before telling us the world really was warming - and we must pay. You see, just days before he stood in Canberra, waving a Treasury document he claimed would help stop us heating to hell, his own family had shivered through a day that should make him finally wonder if there really is any global warming. Brisbane, his home town, had just endured its coldest October morning in 32 years, yet here was Swan telling us to spend billions in the belief the planet was cooking instead.

It's not only here that global warming believers are feeling a chill they never expected. In London on Tuesday, British politicians overwhelmingly passed amendments to a Climate Change Bill that promises huge spending to stop a catastrophic global warming they say is caused by our gases. Yet, even as they voted, snow began to fall on Parliament House - the first October snow in London in 74 years.

Yes, this is weather, not climate - something to remember the next time some headline shrieks "global warming" at just another hot day. But the fact is, as satellite measurements show, the planet hasn't warmed since 1998, and temperatures have now fallen for six years or more. The small warming we had from the 1970s on has paused, if not stopped, and more scientists now suggest we may be in for decades of cold.

But in these mad times, cognitive dissonance rules. People feel cold but think hot. Warming preachers demand carbon sacrifices, but fly first class. In fact, cognitive dissonance is becoming government policy. Take the Government's Drought Policy Review Expert Social Panel, which last week said the word "drought" made farmers feel bad, and we should say "dryness" instead. That would also make us think the drought was actually global warming.

Likewise, Swan yesterday sold the Government's planned tax on coal-fired power and all things gassy, from steel to burping cows, as something to help, not hurt, the economy. And, of course, the Government is spending $164,000 a day on ads to persuade us that this recent cooling should be called "climate change" - and proof of warming instead. Weird, yet it works. Cooling is warming, and not even snow can persuade politicians they're not frying.


All IVF patients are suspected criminals??

The government of Victoria thinks so

Australia's National Infertility Network has blasted the Government's proposed overhaul of existing laws, saying imposing criminal checks on women and their partners was a breach of human rights. And the network claims that the Government would face legal action if the legislation passed the Upper House and became law.

ACCESS Australia spokesman Dr Railton Hill said the proposed criminal and child protection order checks under the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Bill were discriminatory. There would be a backlash at the next election if the legislation passed the Upper House, with the Government discriminating against people on the basis of a medical disability, he said. "All of us are being degraded and regarded as second-class citizens with this proposal," he said. "It's a further imposition when you're already in a stressed situation."

The IVF Directors Group has rejected the Government's claim that the early stages of fertility treatment would be exempt from the condition for a criminal and child protection order check. A spokeswoman for Attorney-General Rob Hulls said this week the checks would be required only when a woman was seeking to become pregnant and not at the stage of harvesting eggs. "The requirement for a criminal record check applies to women undergoing a treatment procedure that seeks to procure a pregnancy, such as artificial insemination or IVF", spokeswoman Meaghan Shaw said.

Rick Forbes of the IVF Directors Group said the claim was misleading and the group's legal advice found it was incorrect. "We can't commence any ART, (Assisted Reproductive Treatment) and that means we can't harvest eggs, until those checks are in place," he said. "The moment we inject a woman with hormones to harvest her eggs we have started the process of IVF."

Debate on the Bill was adjourned in the Upper House yesterday after only a handful of Liberal MPs chose to speak on the legislation. A vote is not expected until November 11 when Parliament resumes. It's believed a handful of Labor MPs may vote against the Government's Bill, which would defeat the legislation.

Premier John Brumby said he still predicted the vote in the Upper House, likely in mid-November, would be close. "I thought it would always be very close in the Upper House, I thought the Bill would pass the Lower House but it would be very close in the Upper House so I'm not in a position to make a judgment about that, it is a conscience vote but will be very close," he said. "But there won't be a vote on this for a couple of weeks so we'll wait and see."

He tried to dismiss suggestions it would take four to six weeks for a person to get a criminal and child protection order check. The Herald Sun this week revealed up to 7000 women seeking fertility treatment every year would have to undergo criminal and child protection order checks if the landmark legislation were passed in State Parliament.


Victoria: Systematic bashings by police squad

But only a slap on the wrist as punishment

A high-level probe has found many former members of the armed offenders squad believed bashing criminals was a "community service". The Office of Police Integrity director, Michael Strong, said members of the scrapped squad had a disproportionate number of complaints compared with all other Victoria Police squads.

In a report tabled in State Parliament today, Mr Strong also said some squad members believed they were a "force within the force" and that they considered themselves above the law. "The armed offenders squad should be regarded as a cultural relic within Victoria Police," he said. "Too many of its members believed that 'the end justified the means' and that bashing a 'crook', was a community service. "The squad, through a lack of appropriate monitoring and accountability within Victoria Police, was allowed to develop its own culture, out of step with the organisation's direction. "Its members drew comfort from the strong support they received from the Police Association."

The OPI secretly bugged an armed offenders squad interview room in 2006 and filmed squad members committing assaults. Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon scrapped the elite squad within weeks of a July 2007 OPI raid on the squad. Disgraced ex-squad members Robert Dabb, Mark Butterfield and Matthew Franc initially denied it was them caught on the secret OPI camera bashing a suspect. But each of the former detectives this year pleaded guilty to assault and misleading the OPI director. They were sentenced to intensive corrections orders involving community work, education and training of between 17 weeks and 22 weeks.

Mr Strong said the OPI's investigation into the armed offenders squad exposed wider problems than just the assaults committed by three members. "Lack of a stable and strong middle management clearly contributed to the fact that an unhealthy squad culture was able to continue unchecked," he said. "The absence of a stable leadership and lack of diligent supervisors gave squad members 'free rein' to use whatever policing methods they liked. "There are indications that the informal squad culture had gained such strength and impenetrability that the chain of command was effectively reversed, to the point where some squad members considered themselves immune from managerial accountability or authority."

Mr Strong said the OPI investigation exposed a flagrant disregard by some squad members for suspects' rights. "Covert audiovisual footage obtained in the course of the investigation depicts a brutal and sustained physical assault by three former members of Victoria Police as well as a purported welfare check by a squad inspector that failed to protect the suspect," he said.

"The report explores how the absence of effective management can create an environment where some police feel justified in acting outside the law in a so-called 'noble cause', to get a 'result'. "It highlights the alarming willingness of some police to lie on oath or turn a blind eye to protect themselves or colleagues.

"Victoria Police acted swiftly to disband the armed offenders squad once evidence that appeared to substantiate allegations of assault emerged. "Replacing the squad with a task force model has produced positive outcomes. "Not only has there been a significant reduction in complaints against detectives working in the area, but arrest and conviction rates have also improved."

The OPI report reveals the old armed offenders squad only solved 47 per cent of cases between July 2003 and September 2006 whereas the new armed crime task force has a clean-up rate of 80 per cent. There were 31 complaints lodged against armed offenders squad detectives in that 39-month period, compared with only two against task force detectives in the 18 months from September 2006.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Targets" followed by government cancer screener set to kill woman

Breastscreen patients who get letters stating their mammograms show "no visible evidence of breast cancer" cannot be sure they are risk-free until they see a GP or have an ultrasound, a court has found. In a "controversial and far-reaching" case, Christine Ann O'Gorman, 57, was awarded almost $406,000 damages in the Supreme Court in Sydney yesterday after she sued BreastScreen NSW - an arm of the Sydney South West Area Health Service - for failing to diagnose a cancerous tumour that spread to her lungs and brain.

Ms O'Gorman, who is terminally ill, had mammograms every two years from 1994 at BreastScreen but radiologists failed to detect that a lump in her left breast had almost doubled in size between her 2004 and 2006 scans, Justice Clifton Hoeben found. After each scan, the single mother from Moorebank was issued with a letter stating her results showed "no visible evidence of breast cancer".

In his judgment, Justice Hoeben said a letter from BreastScreen was not enough for women to rely on. "I am sure that many women who participate in the BreastScreen program believe that when they receive the pro-forma letter, the presence of cancer is excluded," he said. "That is clearly not the case. The documents which those women sign before undergoing a mammogram and the pamphlets available make it clear that there are significant qualifications applicable when a 'no visible evidence of cancer' result is communicated to them."

Justice Hoeben found that, had radiologists compared O'Gorman's 2004 and 2006 scans, the change in appearance of the lump would have been detected and would have prompted further tests. Instead, Ms O'Gorman felt the cancerous tumour herself in January last year. After seeing her GP and undergoing further tests, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and after chemotherapy her left breast was removed in August last year. The cancer has subsequently spread to her lungs and brain.

Supported in court yesterday by her partner Glen and daughter Kristy, Ms O'Gorman wept when Justice Hoeben awarded her $405,990.15. Outside court, she said she did not want her negative experience with BreastScreen to discourage women from having their breasts checked regularly through the service. But she said compliance standards that urge clinics to "keep down" the numbers of women recalled to less than 5 per cent should be abolished to allow "case by case assessments". "The system has to be changed because even if they miss just one person it's wrong," she said.

In a statement, the SSWAHS said they would be "considering the judgment very carefully".


People must not be told about help for a medical condition?

Although it is a subject of some mirth, erectile dysfunction is a real medical condition. But the purse-lipped puritans can think of no time on TV when a cure may appropriately be advertised -- "for the children", of course. One suspects that the puritans concerned aren't getting any

The advertising watchdog is set to receive a new wave of complaints when a commercial for erectile dysfunction treatment, banned from billboards, launches on television today. In the Advanced Medical Institute ads a man's voice is heard asking phrases "Are you finishing too quickly?" and "Do you want to get up and stay up?" before a woman's voice cries out "yes". The commercials, which were trialled in regional NSW, will run in the M timeslot of midday to 3pm and after 9.30pm and will not be allowed during school holidays.

But child advocate Julie Gale, director of Kids Free 2B Kids, said there were a lot of children watching TV through the day. "Its naive to think otherwise," she said. "Lots of teens are still watching after 9.30pm. "Kids and young teens simply dont need to be exposed to blatant messages about erectile dysfunction before they've had time to really understand their own naturally emerging sexuality. "The advert gives a warped and limited view about sex - that an erect penis is all a man needs, and all a woman wants."

AMI chief executive officer Jack Vaisman said men have a right to know help was available.


UK immigration reforms make visas easier to get for Australians

YOUNG Australians wanting to work in the United Kingdom should find it easier under new visa rules being introduced by the British government. Britain is revamping its working holiday visa scheme to allow 18-to-30-year-old Australians to find jobs in their chosen profession for a full two years. They will also for the first time be able to line up jobs to go to in Britain before leaving Australia. Under the old scheme, Australians faced a host of restrictions before being granted a working holiday visa, including how long they could stay in the one job.

British high commissioner to Australia Helen Liddell said the changes would make working in the UK even more attractive for Australians. "Some of the old restrictions are going and the visas will be cheaper by half,'' she said. "Britain's immigration system rewards those who come, work hard, bring their skills and strengthen cultural ties and Australians fit the bill very well.''

The new youth mobility visa scheme will come into force on November 27 and cost STG99 ($255.85), down from STG200 ($516.86) price of the working holiday visa. Those applying for the new visa will also have to show they have the equivalent of STG1,600 ($4,134.9) to cover living expenses for the first few weeks in the UK. Australia is one of just four countries Britain is allowing to take part in the new visa scheme. The others are New Zealand, Canada and Japan.

During the last financial year, the British High Commission in Canberra issued 15,204 working holiday visas to Australians. "Because of the changes, we wouldn't be surprised if those numbers increase next year,'' a British High Commission spokesman said. The changes are part of wide-ranging alterations Britain has been making to its immigration policies, including introducing an Australian-style points system for would-be migrants.


Forget fingerprints. Your bones will give you away

Identity fraudsters and other criminals will soon be flushed out by the NSW State Government using a James Bond-style computer program that electronically reads people's faces. The facial recognition program will ignore cosmetic features or accessories such as beards or glasses and study the underlying bone structure of a person's face. The biometric technology will take a photograph of someone applying for a licence and then comb through a database of 15 million photographs, searching for matches, suspicious characteristics or tell-tale signs. This could include someone trying to use an assumed name, adopt multiple identities, disguise a criminal past or what is described as "high risk customers".

The program is being tendered for by the NSW Government. It will be operated from within the RTA but also be used as a police database. The initial tender indicated it was simply a processing tool, but an addendum quietly posted by the Government revealed the program was a crime-fighting measure. The RTA told tenderers it wanted to be able to "create an arbitrary list (eg any 50 customers, or all staff members, or 50 high risk customers) on an ad hoc basis". The Government has confirmed the technology's chief purpose was to eliminate criminal behaviour.

"The program looks at the underlying bone structure of a face and checks it against the images on the database, to see if the person is already on the system," Roads Minister Michael Daley told The Daily Telegraph. "This means that if someone tries to apply for more than one licence or photo card, the program can be used to catch them out. "The technology can also be used to confirm the identity of existing licence holders by comparing their previous images on file. "Not only will the new system make it harder for criminals to get licences illegally, it will also protect the rest of the community against identify fraud."

The system is expected to be operating midway through next year. The Crime Commission estimates that identity fraud costs the country more than $3.5 billion a year. Mr Daley said the new system would form part of a national strategy. "It's a considerable step forward in the fight against criminals who try to use false ID for money laundering, drug trafficking, illegal immigration and even terrorism," he said. "Previously, the RTA and NSW Police have prosecuted 114 people for attempted identity fraud, which in some cases, involved people trying to dodge a licence suspension. "This new system will make it easier to catch these illegal motorists."


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

This is offensive

Australia to get compulsory internet filtering

The Federal Government is planning to make internet censorship compulsory for all Australians and could ban controversial websites on euthanasia or anorexia. Australia's level of net censorship will put it in the same league as countries including China, Cuba, Iran and North Korea, and the Government will not let users opt out of the proposed national internet filter when it is introduced.

Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy Minister Stephen Conroy admitted the Federal Government's $44.2 million internet censorship plan would now include two tiers - one level of mandatory filtering for all Australians and an optional level that will provide a "clean feed", censoring adult material. Despite planning to hold "live trials" before the end of the year, Senator Conroy said it was not known what content the mandatory filter would bar, with euthanasia or pro-anorexia sites on the chopping block. "We are talking about mandatory blocking, where possible, of illegal material," he told a Senate Estimates Committee.

Previously the net nanny proposal was going to allow Australians who wanted uncensored access to the web the option to contact their internet service provider and be excluded from the service.

Groups including the System Administrators Guild of Australia and Electronic Frontiers Australia have slammed the proposal, saying it would unfairly restrict Australians' access to the web, slow internet speeds and raise the price of internet access. EFA board member Colin Jacobs said it would have little effect on illegal internet content, including child pornography, as it would not cover peer-to-peer file-sharing networks. "If the Government would actually come out and say we're only targeting child pornography it would be a different debate," he said.

But the Australian Christian Lobby yesterday welcomed the Government's proposals. Its managing director Jim Wallace said he expected resistance from the industry but the measures were needed. "The need to prevent access to illegal hard-core material and child pornography must be placed above the industry's desire for unfettered access," Mr Wallace said.



Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd won office promising to be a climate change warrior but his chief weapon -- a carbon trade scheme to slash emissions -- is falling victim to shifting politics and world financial tumult. A former diplomat, Rudd made ratification of the Kyoto climate pact -- opposed by the former conservative government for more than a decade -- his first act after winning November elections tinged green by the seeming onrush of climate shift. "The Rudd government was elected partly on its promises to take strong action, not just symbolic and token gestures, to cut greenhouse gas emissions and in particular to build renewable energy," says carbon trade and environment academic Mark Diesendorf from the University of New South Wales.

Even before winning, Rudd commissioned respected climate economist Ross Garnaut to design an emissions scheme to rival in breadth the world's biggest regime already operating in Europe. Successive surveys showed Australians overwhelmingly wanted a government to fight global warming after climate scientists said the country was experiencing a pace of climate change unmatched elsewhere, bringing droughts, storms and agricultural hardship.

Now, after a sharp economic slowdown, bloodletting on world financial markets and unemployment lifting off a three-decade nadir, the government seems to have dropped its sights in line with Australians fast-shifting concern to their jobs.....

Rudd says the problem of global warming "doesn't disappear because of the global financial crisis", but appears to have softened his zeal, promising Garnaut only to take account of recommendations a year in the drafting.

Garnaut certainly sensed the shift, recommending a two-track approach towards Rudd's 2050 target of a 60 percent cut in 2000-level emissions, focusing on a "practical" interim cut of 10 percent by 2020 while also laying out more ambitious options. That offers Rudd the attractive post-crisis option of a scheme that will not bring too much upheaval, for business or the public, but allow him to have delivered on a key election promise in the possible environment of a global recession. "The government is hardly likely to have a stronger cap than Garnaut. Sadly the government has already rejected some of his best suggestions, like no free permits," says Diesendorf.

Quiggin says an artificially low fixed carbon price may go some way to mollifying big polluters, who unsurprisingly favour no scheme or a limited one, but warns it will drive international investment out of Australia's protected market and into the more lucrative $40 billion carbon trade in Europe.

Renewable energy firms want higher prices to make solar, wind and wave power more competitive, while coal-fired electricity generators and other emission intensive industries want adjustment costs as low as possible. When the prevailing carbon price in the European Union is around 22 euros, or $27, per tonne, insiders in Canberra are tipping a two-year price under A$10 a tonne, or just $6.70, with some saying it could even be as low as A$8.

"To have a serious target you need a price which is of the order of A$30 a tonne, while the other, and they go together, is you essentially need to close down brown coal power stations, replacing them with low-emission technologies," he says.

And that is Rudd's conundrum. While his public appeal is tied to recognition of climate change and helping Aborigines, he promised business to govern as an economic conservative. In Canberra, that means looking after coal and resource interests. Australia is the world's fourth largest greenhouse gas emitter on a per head basis and relies on ageing coal-fired power stations for 80 percent of its energy needs. It is also the world's biggest thermal coal exporter.

An Auspoll survey last week for the independent Climate Institute showed public backing for Rudd's management of climate change had slumped from a pre-Kyoto ratification high of 43 percent to just 28 percent. But a recent Lowy Institute poll showed voters did not back climate action if it costs jobs or income.


A small victory for parents of bullied Australian soldiers

The mother of a young soldier found hanged at the Holsworthy barracks in 2003 alleges her son was bullied by soldiers returning from their tour of duty in East Timor because of his Portuguese background and that an officer told members of his unit: "With this wog, you can do whatever you want -- won't be charges taken."

The parents of another soldier who took his life in 2004 also allege that they were bullied and threatened by the army and told that if they spoke about the report into their son's death they would be committing a federal crime and would go to prison.

The allegations surfaced as thefederal Government made ex-gratia payments to the families of four young solidiers who took their own lives after suffering intimidation, bullying, abuse and neglect. The payments, after a decision by Kevin Rudd and cabinet, ended a three-year battle by the families to force theAustralian Defence Force to recognise it had failed in its moral duty of care.

Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said the parents' claims against the military had been a long and sad saga. "The families are entitled to feel that the death of their sons was partly caused by shortcomings in the defence force system," Mr Fitzgibbon said, adding there had been substantial reforms to the military justice system and moves to change the defence force culture in recent years, "but we must always continue to work on that point".

In Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, tearful parents said their claims were aimed at revealing a culture of bullying and intimidation in the armed forces and opening up the system of military justice to independent investigation. Some of the parents are now pressing for an independent court to be established to hear charges against senior officers, and the federal Government is under pressure to make Australia's military courts fully independent, as recommended by a 2005 Senate inquiry.

In Melbourne, Rosa Satatas, mother of Gunner John Satatas, 19, who was found hanged at Holsworthy Army Base in Sydney's southwest in April 2003, alleged that her son's Portuguese background was a factor in his death and that soldiers returning from duty in East Timor were hard on him as a result.

Mrs Satatas had told a Senate inquiry that in the weeks leading up to his death, her son was subjected to racial abuse and assaults. When his body was found, the word "Spic" had been written on his forehead in felt-tipped pen and the word "Spiros" on his arm. A beard and moustache were drawn on his face.

Mrs Satatas said yesterday that, prior to his death, her son had told her that an officer, whose name she had been prevented from discovering, told members of his unit, "With this wog, you can do whatever you want - won't be charges taken." Crying, she said: "He treated him like a dog. I just want to know who this person is, but they won't show the names on the investigation."

Also in Melbourne, Wendy and Adrian Hayward alleged that they were bullied and threatened by the army after the suicide of their son David, 20, who was AWOL for more than two months before his death in March 2004. They said that a few days after his death they were told, "If you discuss this report with anybody it's a federal offence, you'll go to prison". Mrs Hayward, who said the pain of her son's death had reached so deep that "you can't hurt any more", said she felt frightened by the threat. "Can you imagine: losing your child and then having to deal with that?" she said.

Mr Hayward, who described his son as "a good kid", said the army had been "100 per cent negligent" by not contacting the family during his absence. Asked about the ex-gratia payment, he said: "It's not about the money; it's about trying to get a system in place for other children going into the army."

In Adelaide, the parents of Lance Corporal Nicholas Sheils, who took his own life in 1996, said they wanted an independent court established to seek justice against senior officers who neglect their men.

In Perth, Charles Williams saidhis son, Private Jeremy Williams, who hanged himself at Singleton, NSW, in February, 2003, was a proud and passionate soldier who had been made to feel "like scum". He hoped the compensation payment led to reforms "where the bullies ultimately dealt withare punished, not rewarded and promoted".


Scientists discover how to switch obesity cells off

A WORLD-first breakthrough by Melbourne scientists could give them the ability to switch off fat, fuelling hopes of overcoming obesity and a host of weight-related diseases. In the past month tissue engineers at the Bernard O'Brien Institute of Microsurgery have discovered chemicals that act as the switch telling fat cells to grow and multiply. They have also found two drugs, which can switch off fat cells' growth, in the laboratory and will soon begin a long study testing them in rats to see if they could become an obesity treatment.

In other world-first discoveries over the past two years, Bernard O'Brien scientists have developed a technique to grow fat cells into breast and beating heart-muscle tissue. And they are now confident their latest discovery could help to reverse the process. The team is yet to publish its findings and can't release full details or the identity of the signalling enzymes and drugs. However, director of tissue engineering Prof Greg Dusting said the breakthrough could have a huge impact in the fight against obesity and weight-related disease. "We know what those molecular signals are and we have got some molecules that block them," he said. "We can modify these molecules and turn them on to enhance the development of a breast or heart tissue, or we might be able to change those molecules to ones that block those pathways. "It's fabulous and offers all sorts of possibilities. It's what pharmacologists always think about."

Prof Dusting hopes that within two years the animal trials will provide enough information for researchers to know if they can control fat growth effectively. But he warned there was still little idea of what the consequences would be for the body or what would happen to the excess fuel caused by overeating. The institute has already been able to grow a fist-sized lump of fat in a laboratory -- the largest piece of tissue grown through tissue engineering techniques -- but until recent weeks the researchers were unsure exactly how the fat growth was stimulated.

The breakthrough discovery of oxidase enzymes -- which signal fat cell growth -- was made by Prof Dusting and colleague Dr Keren Abberton, in collaboration with Melbourne University. It is believed to be the same process that is triggered by overeating and by fat-rich diets.

The Melbourne University collaboration has seen rats fed a diet of meat pies, chips and doughnuts, increasing their body weight and fat by about 10 per cent over a few weeks. As well as suffering high blood pressure, the fat rats showed an increase in the level of the special oxidase enzyme in both their blood vessels and in their fat deposits, which are also bigger. In the laboratory, the scientists can use drugs to turn the switch on in stem cells derived from fat to produce more fat. In the human and the rat body, the same process is triggered by excessive eating and a fat-rich diet, resulting in excess body fat.

Prof Dusting said fat was being revealed as one of the most active agents in the human body and had an effect on every organ. "We don't know whether it's the central box of something smaller, but the more we look the more we find that fat has an important impact on everything," Prof Dusting said.


Nasty Greek doctor

Greek doctors are notorious for giving you any prescription you ask for. Ethics are not their strong point

A doctor ignored desperate pleas to help a man who collapsed outside his Adelaide surgery - locking himself in his office as the man died from a heart attack - the Coroners Court has heard. Brian Raymond Turner, 59, died in the car park of the Europa Medical Clinic at Salisbury Downs on Saturday, July 23, 2005.

Coroner Mark Johns yesterday heard evidence from the clinic's receptionist, Angela Conte, who said she was shocked when Dr Emmanuel Vlahakis refused point blank to help Mr Turner. Ms Conte said she was startled when Mr Turner's wife, May, started frantically banging on the locked office doors about 6pm. "She was screaming hysterically that she needed someone to help her husband. She kept saying someone help me, please help me," Ms Conte said. Ms Conte said she called Dr Vlahakis on the intercom and said there was a woman at the door begging for someone to help her stricken husband. "He asked me `is he inside or outside the clinic?' and I said he is outside, can you come out and help and he said `no, call an ambulance'," Ms Conte said.

Ms Conte and a waiting patient then went to Mr Turner's aid before she again approached Dr Vlahakis, telling him Mr Turner had blue lips and was not breathing. "I opened the doctor's door and said what do we do now, thinking we would grab an emergency trolley and go outside to help," Ms Conte said. "The doctor said `we don't do anything - lock all the doors and keep them locked until the ambulance arrives'."

Ms Conte said she had seen other doctors from the clinic help emergency cases in the past and had expected Dr Vlahakis to treat Mr Turner. Instead, she said Dr Vlahakis locked himself in his consulting room with the blinds drawn, then left as soon as the ambulance drove into the car park. Ms Conte said she later learned that the medical centre had a policy that doctors were not obliged to provide care if the patient was not physically inside the building.

Pathologist Dr John Gilbert told the court there was a chance Mr Turner would have survived the heart attack if proper CPR had been given immediately. "His situation was not necessarily irretrievable . . . you've just got to do it (CPR) to give him the best chance," Dr Gilbert said. Counsel assisting the Coroner, Amy Davis, said the inquest would examine whether Dr Vlahakis had a duty to help Mr Turner. Dr Vlahakis is listed to give evidence today.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Another Muslim rapist

Shades of Hakeem Hakeem and the Skaf brothers (etc.)!

A man has been jailed for eight years for raping an unconscious woman who woke to find him on top of her and his mates laughing and jeering. The Victorian County Court was told Mohammad Khan, 28, met the woman at the 3D nightclub in central Melbourne on December 9, 2006. The woman had been drinking and had taken ecstasy during the night when she met a group of men in the club linked to Khan, the court was told.

She was described by witnesses as being happy and alert before she awoke about 5.30am the next day in an alley to find a man on top of her assaulting her. The court was told two or three other males were watching and "laughing and jeering," Judge John Smallwood said. Judge Smallwood said the woman felt bewildered and believed she had been drugged. She yelled at the man to get off her.

A jury earlier rejected Khan's contention that the woman agreed to sex, and found him guilty of one count of rape. Judge Smallwood said Khan had taken advantage of a woman in a helpless and vulnerable situation. While he accepted that Khan had fallen into the drug and rave scene, he said he was clearly intelligent and would have been aware that what he was doing was wrong. He ordered Khan serve at least 5« years' jail.


The young are turning against proposed Warmist laws

Younger people - the strongest supporters of an emissions trading scheme to cut greenhouse gases - are turning against the Rudd Government's 2010 deadline for the implementation of such a scheme. In a reversal of support, those aged between 18 and 34 years old are now most strongly in favour of a delay in the implementation of an emissions trading scheme, The Australian reports.

According to the latest Newspoll survey, taken exclusively for The Australian last weekend, the impact of the financial crisis is turning people against a carbon reduction scheme, or making them want delays. While 72 per cent of those surveyed still favour an emissions trading scheme to drive up the cost of greenhouse gas producing energy, such as electricity and petrol, there is growing opposition.

In July, a Newspoll survey on an emissions trading scheme found that only 11 per cent of people were totally opposed to a carbon emissions reduction scheme and 23 per cent wanted a delay until other major greenhouse gas emitters, particularly China and India, acted. That Newspoll survey confirmed widespread public support for an emissions trading scheme, with 60 per cent of voters backing the adoption of a scheme "regardless of what other countries do". According to the latest Newspoll survey, 21 per cent now oppose an emissions trading scheme under any circumstances.

The Rudd Government has pledged to introduce in 2010 an emissions trading scheme that would push up energy prices by placing a price on carbon. Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has urged the Government to delay the introduction of the scheme. The former leader of the Opposition, Brendan Nelson, lost his authority within the Coalition when he was rolled in shadow cabinet over the suggestion the Opposition should take a tougher stand against an emissions trading scheme.

Dr Nelson said in July the Coalition's greenhouse gas plan would not be popular but "our priority in deciding our policy is to act in Australia's best interest and for Australia not to get too far out in front of the big guys of greenhouse gas emissions such as India and China". "We need to have our economic eyes wide open," Dr Nelson said.

Opposition to an emissions trading scheme has been strongest among men, those aged over 50 and Coalition supporters, while the strongest supporters of a carbon cutting scheme have been among the young, women and Labor supporters. The weekend's survey found the strongest support overall for an emissions trading scheme even if it put up energy costs, was still among the young, women and ALP voters.


Violence and bullying sweep Victoria's state schools

Frightened students, teachers and principals are reporting more than 12 assaults a week in state schools. Education Department records show 1227 allegations of assault involving state school students and staff have been filed in just over two school years. A further 247 sex abuse cases were alleged. Prep students have been removed from classes following harassment complaints, and threatening gangs and intruders have triggered emergency lockdowns. And 11 departmental employees have been accused of assaulting pupils.

Departmental records obtained under Freedom of Information reveal 890 reports of assaults on students at government schools, camps or excursions from 2006 to April this year. Children as young as six were among the victims, and staff were on the receiving end 337 times. The figures have spurred calls for upgraded protection, more parental control and extra welfare officers.

In the latest vicious attack last month, older invaders are said to have bashed several teenagers with a baseball bat at Keilor Downs Secondary College. Other cases alleged include:

A BOY, 15, rushed to hospital after a machete attack and fight with a former pupil from Copperfield College, St Albans.

A GIRL, 14, stabbed in the stomach with a pocket knife while visiting North Geelong Secondary College.

A BOY, 14, treated for cracked ribs after bullying at Craigieburn Secondary College.

A YEAR 8 student gashed after being shoved through a window at Cranbourne Secondary College.

A GIRL who changed into the jumper of a rival school in the western suburbs before sneaking in and attacking a female student.

BRUTAL brawls and racial feuds filmed and posted on the internet.

ANGRY parents kicking or punching school staff.

Department spokeswoman Helen Stevanovich said values and drug education, and anti-bullying and peer support programs, aimed to counter conflict and promote safety. But Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu accused the Government of downplaying a disturbing problem. He said a vital police-in-schools initiative had been scrapped. "School-aged children must understand that violence or bullying of any kind is unacceptable, and without suitable programs these incidents will continue to occur," he said.

Victorian Principals Association president Fred Ackerman said staff were taking more stress leave or retiring early, and parents and teachers needed to work together to tackle declining behaviour. "Proper role-modelling has deteriorated over time, with parents either shirking responsibility or being time-poor. Society is now reaping the repercussions," he said. "More kids seem to have an inability to deal with anger and are playing out what they see in society and films and TV," Mr Ackerman said. He said schools were now more likely to report crime and were boosting safety through camera surveillance, high fences, visitor clearances and staff training to defuse conflict.

But the Herald Sun has been told some schools in areas with stretched police resources don't report all incidents because of poor response times. Police handled a total of 8572 offences, including 502 assaults, in and around public and private schools, universities, TAFEs and other education locations last financial year. This was a 16 per cent drop on five years ago. There were 726 alleged crimes against the person, up from 636 in 2003-04. These included assaults, 17 rapes and 183 other sex offences.

Australian Education Union state president Mary Bluett said major assaults often involved intruders trying to "settle a score", but adopting US-style metal detectors would create a damaging climate of fear. "Compared to the broader society, schools are peaceful," Ms Bluett said.


Breast scans of no use to young women, says doctor

Good to see this message getting out. There is some reason to believe that ALL routine breast examinations are pointless and may even be counterproductive. See e.g. here

The deaths of Jane McGrath and Belinda Emmett from breast cancer are driving large numbers of young women to have mammograms which may be of no use. Experts have warned the scans bring no benefit for females under 40.

The so-called "Kylie effect" remains around the disease, with overblown public perception of rising rates of breast cancer in younger women and confusion around the best ways to detect it. "It is important to dispel the misconceptions, address unnecessary alarm and provide the facts for this age group," Dr Helen Zorbas, director of the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre, said at the launch of breast cancer awareness day in Sydney. She said women under 40 made up just 6 per cent of the 12,000 females diagnosed with the disease, and rates remained static. However, younger women are more prone to an aggressive form of the disease and have a 39 per cent increased risk of dying.

Diagnoses among young celebrities like pop star Kylie Minogue, fashion designer Heidi Middleton and actress Christina Applegate, and the deaths of Jane McGrath, wife of former Australian cricketer Glenn McGrath, and actress and singer Belinda Emmett, have given the public the misguided impression of an epidemic among the young, she said. "The so-called 'Kylie effect' led to an increase in the number of women who made bookings for mammograms but many of these women were in the under 40 age group, where mammographic screening is not effective," Dr Zorbas said.

Her audience at the launch included Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, federal Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull and a host of other dignitaries, doctors, scientists and survivors. Screening programs have reduced breast cancer deaths by 30 per cent among women aged 50-69 years, because the small white abnormalities can be detected with relative ease. Younger, denser breasts, however, resemble "cotton wool" in scans, making the lumps unrecognisable. "Early detection for breast cancer in young women relies almost completely on young women themselves, knowing their own bodies and picking up the early signs of the disease," Dr Zorbas said.

A new campaign recommends "breast awareness" for young women, encouraging them to check themselves regularly for lumps using no special technique after international studies found specific checking styles didn't reduce cancer deaths. The retro-style advertisements encourage women to check their breasts as part of everyday life, while drying their hair or waiting for the toast to pop. Studies show women can also reduce their breast cancer risk by up to 30 per cent by keeping alcohol consumption to a minimum, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy body weight.

Mr Rudd told the audience Australia needed to do better in tackling all forms of cancer. "It's time as a nation that we renew our national efforts in what must be a national war against cancer," he said.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Rapist doctor to practise again

Your regulators will protect you -- NOT. They say he is OK to work again because he is only dangerous when he goes mad, which he periodically does. Follow that logic!

A rapist doctor banned indefinitely amid public outcry over his serial misconduct has won the right to treat patients again, despite a history of relapses. Dr Sabi Lal, 49, can work in Victorian clinics or hospitals, even though the Medical Practitioners Board opposed his return and considers him unfit to practise. A tribunal ruled this month the GP be reinstated to the medical register, overturning the board's decision that Dr Lal should remain struck off.

The suburban doctor, who suffers obsessive compulsive disorder, was struck off in December 2003 for assaulting two female drug company representatives. Dr Lal was also convicted and given a suspended jail term in Victoria's County Court in 2002 for digitally raping a patient.

The Medical Practitioners Board had previously found him guilty of more than 40 misconduct offences involving seven women. The board strongly opposed Dr Lal being allowed to work again and fought his appeal to VCAT last month. But a three-member Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal panel ruled this month that Dr Lal could resume seeing patients, subject to strict conditions. He is not allowed to treat females or children under 16 and must be strictly supervised and monitored. Lawyers for the Medical Practitioners Board argued that the need to impose such strict conditions indicated Dr Lal was unfit to work.

The Fijian-born doctor had previously been subject to similar conditions and offended again within a year of them being lifted. The VCAT panel noted in its ruling on October 10 that Dr Lal's rehabilitation was "less than complete". They noted there was a risk he might have a relapse of mental illness, which could result in aggressive and inappropriate behaviour towards women. "We acknowledge Mr Lal's character flaws . . . but in our view these can be addressed by the imposition of a range of conditions on his registration," the panel said.

The panel -- which comprised tribunal vice-president Judge Iain Ross and members Dr Elaine Fabris and Dr Dorothy Burge - noted Dr Lal's previous offences were "very serious". "The serious nature of the offences and the limited extent of Mr Lal's rehabilitation would ordinarily warrant findings that . . . it is not in the public interest to allow the applicant to practise," they said. But Dr Lal's culpability was reduced because he suffered a mental illness at the time of the offences, they said. "We are not persuaded that Mr Lal's suitability to practise is likely to be affected because of the offences of which he has been found guilty," they said.

Experts told the hearing Dr Lal's obsessive compulsive disorder appeared to have subsided, but there was dispute about the risk of relapse. VCAT heard the GP previously suffered relapses of the disorder, with symptoms including sexual obsessions, compulsive counting of money and an obsession with "lucky" numbers.

Experts told the VCAT hearing the GP continued to display a lack of empathy and remorse for his past actions and denied the factual basis of some offences. The panel said: "Mr Lal's deficits in terms of empathy and remorse are troubling. But they must be viewed in the context of the evidence as a whole." The tribunal heard Dr Lal had "significant community involvement" and had made a pro bono contribution to the training of overseas doctors.

Members of the Medical Practitioners Board are privately concerned that Dr Lal is able to practise again, but are unable to do anything further. Board spokeswoman Nicole Newton said yesterday: "The board has reviewed the tribunal's decision closely and does not believe there are grounds for appeal. As such, the board accepts the VCAT decision."

Lawyers for Dr Lal argued he had attended treatment sessions diligently and was engaged in every aspect of his treatment. He sold his Boronia practice, but is listed as the director of a company called Lal Medical Pty Ltd. A man who answered the door at the GP's Doncaster address yesterday said "yes" when asked if he was Dr Lal. But when asked for comment about the case, the man said, "Oh, he is not here" and shut the door.


Another Labor party loss: In the Australian Capital Territory

For American readers, the ACT is equivalent to D.C.

The Greens have snatched a fourth seat as vote counting ended for last weekend's ACT election, surprising even themselves. The final results from the election have been posted, with Greens' candidate Caroline Le Couteur winning a seat from the Liberals on preferences. Ms Le Couteur, who kept a low profile during the campaign and was not expected to win a seat, has won the final seat in the Molonglo electorate. The ACT has multi-member seats.

The final make-up of the territory's 17-member Assembly is 7 Labor, 6 Liberals and 4 Greens. It is a surprise result for the Greens, who went into the election with just one MLA and were expecting to win a total of two or three seats. The Greens will now decide whether to form government with Labor or the Liberals. Winning the fourth seat gives them more weight in the ACT Legislative Assembly and makes it more likely they will hold one - or even two - ministries. The Greens last week discussed with both major parties the possibility of forming government in talks which are set to continue this week.

The final result from the election is bad news for both Labor - who previously held an outright majority under Chief Minister Jon Stanhope - and the Liberals, who have dropped one seat.


Stupid Leftist school "discipline" system a failure

All they do is nag misbehaving kids

A battle is brewing to contain a 26 per cent spike in students being suspended from Queensland schools over the past three years. The alarming wave of aggressive and disrespectful behaviour from southeast and north Queensland students comes as the Government pours another $28.6 million into "positive behaviour strategies" this financial year.

Education Queensland's prolonged trial of the Schoolwide Positive Behaviour Support program now runs in one in six of Queensland's 1250 state schools. But an arsenal of strategies including the costly SWPBS appears to have done little yet to curb problem behaviour. Brisbane and Sunshine Coast schools issued 31 per cent more suspensions and 11 per cent more expulsions in 2007-08 than in 2005-06. During the same period, suspensions rose 25 per cent at Gold Coast and Ipswich region schools, and 22 per cent in and around Townsville.

Last week, The Courier-Mail received a flood of messages from readers concerned about "soft" disciplinary codes, particularly the inability of teachers to use the threat of force, or simple punishments to exert control. The Responsible Thinking Classrooms approach was criticised. This is where bullies and other troublemakers go for "time out" after being asked a series of questions.

In such scenarios troublemakers are asked: "What are you doing? What are the rules? What happens when you break the rules? Is that what you want to happen? What do you want now? What will happen if you disrupt again?". The effectiveness of Positive Learning Centres, where suspended students undergo behaviour programs at one of 14 non-school facilities, also came under fire. The new SWPBS program includes the RTC time-out approach but academics, psychologists and politicians yesterday said it did not work in many instances.

While Griffith University school of education's Fiona Bryer backed the latest schoolwide approach for being evidence-based, she questioned the use of RTCs. "If this is repeated and there's no change in student behaviour then the student definitely wins," Dr Bryer said. The education behavioural specialist said she was "definitely anti-punishment" but said errant students needed clearly defined consequences. Dr Bryer said parents and teachers needed to be trained in proven behavioural techniques and it was critical the Government shared and acted on the data collated from SWPBS.

Psychologist Michael Carr-Greg said time-outs and talks might work for some, but it was important to get a primary schooler's behaviour corrected before high school.

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Rod Welford said positive results had been gleaned from the SWPBS trials. "Data shows that the program helps reduce problem behaviour and increases academic performance," she said.

Opposition education spokesman John-Paul Langbroek said the statistics on suspensions called for change. "What's happening at the moment isn't working," he said. Mr Langbroek said if elected the state Liberal National Party would employ 50 new teachers trained in behaviour management at a cost of $16 million over four years, to combat the problem.



Three current articles below

Carbon tax is just tilting at windmills

By Gary Johns (Gary Johns was a minister in the Keating Labor Party government)

The one certainty of climate change (anthropogenic or not) is that it is unstoppable. Government advertisements suggest worst-case scenarios but they do not concede that these are no less likely should Australia cut its carbon dioxide output. Whether or not you believe in man-made climate change, it's out of our control. More significantly, it is out of the control of every political leader. There is no prospect that nations will agree on global action sufficient to reduce the total level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

At some point, probably about the time the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill - a carbon tax - comes before parliament and in the lead-up to the next election, the electorate will realise they are being asked to pay for something they cannot have: a guarantee against climate change.

What they can have is a plan to adapt to climate change, as and when it occurs. This plan is not much in evidence. The politics of such a plan are easy: do not waste money on a carbon tax. What is the betting that in the political void created by the realisation that resistance to climate change is futile, a No Carbon Tax Party will emerge?

The world will agree to do no more than slow the rate of increase of carbon emissions a head. At best, the West will decrease its total output a little and the rest will increase their output a little more slowly than would otherwise be the case. The rate of population increase and industrial development will ensure an overall increase. In other words, there is no chance of capping the global output of carbon dioxide, much less reducing it. But the major Australian political parties and for different reasons the Greens will continue to talk of carbon reduction as if it will stop climate change.

The question is not which country will be last to sign up to a new climate change agreement, but which will be first to call a stop to the attempt. The key policy question is how Australia can waste the least amount of money avoiding the unavoidable. Every dollar saved on not proceeding with the carbon tax can be devoted to adapting to climate change as and when it occurs.

The real response to climate change is straightforward. The Queensland Government's response to the five-year drought, perhaps the most important risk of climate change, in southeast Queensland is a good example. Wisely, the Queensland Government decided it could not stop the drought (climate change) and it did not try. Instead, it responded to the needs of citizens for water by restricting water use and spending $9 billion drought-proofing the economy. It is building a new dam, thereby spreading the area of rainfall capture, connecting the dams to enable water to be pumped around in response to rainfall change, recycling water and building a desalination plant. Broadly, these are the only responses a government could make.

As the dams have filled and the alternative sources of water come nearer to completion, the Government is seeking an exit strategy from drought restrictions. Life in southeast Queensland will return to normal despite the drought, and the region will have adapted, as rich economies can and do. Southeast Queensland water users will pay the price, indeed are probably happy to, given the insignificant cost of water compared to its immense significance to everyday life. This is the real climate change debate. If the electorate sees it and tastes it, it will pay the bill. By contrast, the carbon tax looks like tilting at windmills.

The carbon tax will not stop the need for climate adaption. Even under the Greens' scenario for a carbon-free economy, climate change will occur but the economy would be less able to afford to adjust.

Within a generation, the main polluters will be the likes of China and India. These countries will want specific climate deals to suit their needs. They may berate Australia for being a higher per capita polluter, but China will want all of the liquid natural gas, and India will want all of the uranium we can sell. By contrast, international agreements to restrain carbon dioxide output will be so much hot air.

The electorate would like its leaders to fix the problem, but if it dawns on voters that there is no "stop climate change" option, they will be angry at the consequent underspend on adaption. What chance a No Carbon Tax senator or two by 2010?


Warmist laws to hit West Australia's economy

Western Australia's Government says Kevin Rudd's emissions trading scheme is a "half-baked" plan that threatens the state's economy. Treasurer Troy Buswell yesterday called for the 2010 start date to be deferred until a raft of problems were resolved. Business leaders have asked for the start to be delayed because of the downturn threatening to plunge the world into recession. Mr Buswell said the federal Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in its present form risked driving major industries overseas, as well as causing investment in the west to slow to a trickle, with "untold implications" for jobs and families.

Releasing the state's submission to the CPRS green paper, Mr Buswell said he supported national action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but much more work was needed to make the present concept workable. "Rather than reducing greenhouse, the outcome from imposing a half-baked scheme in Australia could in fact be a rise in overall global emissions should industries move away to locations with fewer environmental rules and lower costs," he said.

The Government's submission says Western Australia is the most trade-exposed economy in the nation and would suffer the negative economic effects of carbon leakage more than any other jurisdiction. Almost 47 per cent of the state's income is derived from exports, compared with about 20 per cent of the national income. "Based on the preliminary analysis ... alumina is the only commodity in the state's top 10 exports by value that would be eligible for compensation, exposing the remaining $51.6 billion of export value to the full effect of the carbon price," the submission says. "A considerable portion of this value is derived from products for which the price is set internationally and for which it will be difficult to pass on the carbon price."

It says commodities that would be affected include gold, petroleum and oil, nickel and copper ore and other base metal ores. More work was needed to improve the compensation formula, which should be changed to better reflect the effect of the carbon price on the operating margin of individual companies.

Consideration should also be given to a sliding scale to allow compensation to be targeted to activities where the likelihood of carbon leakage was greatest, to overcome the arbitrariness of hard thresholds. There was particular concern about the impact on the liquefied natural gas industry and the prospect that new projects planned for Western Australia could be shelved, leading to future shortages of domestic gas. "Much of Western Australia's new domestic gas supply depends on applying the state's domestic reservation gas policy to new LNG developments," the submission says.

Mr Buswell said the 2010 start gave insufficient lead time for companies to make changes. The submission notes the Howard government had been considering 2012 and questioned the switch by Mr Rudd. "It is unclear how the acceleration of the start date for the CPRS has been accommodated without compromising the quality of the final design and the level of preparedness of liable parties," it says.


Farmers angry at laws to "save" Barrier Reef

This is just the usual Green/Left hatred of business. That farm runoff has a significant impact on the reef is just theory. No double-blind studies have been done

FARMERS' fears have been realised as the State Government moves to introduce land run-off regulations to reduce pollution on the Barrier Reef. Premier Anna Bligh made the announcement at yesterday's Reef Summit in Brisbane, calling on assembled groups to help formulate a workable framework, targets and a timeframe.

Ms Bligh said research had shown five years of voluntary adoption of land management practices under the 2003 10-year Reef Water Quality Action Plan had not worked. She said it was time to ensure all farmers were using best practices to control use of fertilisers, pesticides and run-off to improve water quality and the Reef's resistance to climate change.

"The science is absolutely clear ... we continue to see unacceptably high levels of damaging nutrients on the Reef," she said. "We know that there are many contributing factors to the water quality of reef, and we're already addressing a number of those (but) science is telling us that the highest levels of damaging chemicals and nutrients are in those areas that have intense farming activities." Ms Bligh pledged a "significant" increase of the current $25 million funding a year and said she hoped to have the regulations in place "sometime in 2009".

Queensland Farmers' Federation CEO John Cherry said regulation would undermine any goodwill built up with farmers in the last decade and the $200 million Reef Rescue Plan, an industry-conservation-Federal Government partnership. "Landholders will be very disappointed. We've had a 20 per cent reduction in fertiliser application rates and we think we can reduce by another 20-25 per cent over the next decade with meaningful support from the Reef Rescue Plan and the State Government," he said. "But you pick a fight, you destroy goodwill and those sorts of achievements are less achievable."

Canegrowers CEO Ian Ballantyne said farmers were not "happy polluters" but were committed to adopting best practice to maximise the benefits of fertilisers to their farms. Mr Ballantyne said while the federal Reef Rescue Plan would support farmers to adopt best practice, the state had moved to undermine it. "Regulation tends to mean one size fits all, regulation has to be prescriptive and it has to apply to each and every farm, and it has to be overly administered," he said.

World Wide Fund for Nature's Nick Heath said they were cautiously optimistic about the planned regulation but were waiting to see the detail before celebrating.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bungling Kevin Rudd creates a financial crisis where there was none before

There were no problems with Australia's banks. They were and are still making profits. Sub-prime loans have not been a significant problem in Australia. So drama-queen Kevin Rudd had to puff up his own importance by "guaranteeing" bank deposits (which were already protected by long-standing "lender of last resort" facilities anyway). But he didn't guarantee other deposit-takers such as cash management trusts. Cash management trusts are widely used in Australia by those who have significant funds as they are the only way to get some interest on your money. Bank interest is negligible. So Rudd created the impression that only the banks were safe and caused a huge run on all the "left-out" institutions -- which now have had to suspend withdrawals -- with dire consequences for many, as seen below

SELF-FUNDED retiree Greg Russell is the human face of the Rudd government's mishandling of its response to the global financial meltdown: he now has $5 in his bank account. Because he put his money into a cash management account, Mr Russell's assets are frozen, along with those of his wife Debbie and the savings accounts of his two children. And, because he is in the process of selling his business, he still owes the tax man a big bill for his quarterly Business Activity Statement (BAS).

When the East Coast Mortgage Company on NSW's North Coast froze Mr Russell's assets on Tuesday, along with a raft of other secondary lenders, the results were shocking. He's had to take out a $50,000 loan to cover his BAS commitments and to maintain his, and his family's, living costs. East Coast Mortgage is just one of a series of institutions which have had to freeze customer deposits because the federal Government's guarantee of savers' deposits only applies to major banks. This has seen a flood of money pour out of smaller institutions, like East Coast Mortgage, which didn't get government backing.

East Coast isn't alone. Big non-bank players, such as AXA (formerly National Mutual), are among 13 major groups which have been forced to freeze withdrawals by depositors.

Treasurer Wayne Swan told people like Mr Russell, 59, that they should go to Government welfare agency Centrelink for income support if they found themselves in trouble. Mr Russell says the Treasurer doesn't know what he's talking about. "It's a complete joke,'' Mr Russell said. ``Imagine how the staff at Centrelink are going to cope with my circumstances.

"Wayne Swan is clutching at straws. There's pride involved here, as well. "Self-funded retirees don't want to be lining up at Centrelink. He's run out of ideas. They don't know what's going on. "I sold my business and have always supported local, well-run mortgage funds. "I have invested a large portion of the proceeds from the sale of my business into these organisations. I'm speaking, not only on behalf of myself, but for a large number of investors throughout Australia.

"The Government made a `rush of blood' decision to guarantee banks, credit unions and building societies and exclude mortgage funds. We now find there are $14 billion of frozen funds and how are investors going to survive throughout the next three, six and 12 months?'' As a result of the Government decision, Mr Russell has been left with $5 in his personal account and $165 in his business account at the NAB.


A small personal note from a quiet Sunday morning

I gather that for most employed people the financial crisis has had negligible effects. I am however one of the investor class. As a retired man, I live almost entirely on the proceeds of my stockmarket investments. And about half of those investments are in Australian bank stocks. So I am in big trouble, right?

Not at all. One reason why I invested heavily in banks was that Australian banks had big meltdowns at the time of the Hawke/Keating deregulation. Most of the State banks went broke and even Westpac tottered a bit. And that all happened because of incautious lending to Alan Bond and his ilk. So I figured that they had learned their lesson and were not likely to risk any recurrence of that. And I was right. The Australian banks are in good shape. Their share prices are way down but as long as the dividends keep coming, why should I worry about that? The new high is always higher than the old high so the share prices will bounce back in due course.

And September/October is dividend time so I have had a good cash inflow recently. I like to keep a fair bit of cash on hand to fund the various gifts and donations that I give out from time to time. My own needs are minimal. I mostly give direct to the intended beneficiary. Giving to charitable organizations usually just supports a herd of parasites. Most of what you give to Big Charity pays for "administration". The only exceptions I make are that I do give to the Salvation Army and to Legacy. The fact that I have some army background is probably sufficient explanation for the latter and it explains a lot of the former too. Many old diggers will tell you how good the Sallies have been in wartime. And I do have a soft spot for real Christians.

Even so, I recently found that I did have about $10,000 that I had no obvious use for so I BOUGHT SOME MORE SHARES. Why everybody is not doing so rather escapes me. Prices are very rarely as low as they are at the moment. It is a great time to buy cheap.

And my remaining cash is mostly in banks. Though I do have a few thousand in a cash management trust.

All of which, in my view, shows one benefit of managing your own money rather than giving it to someone else to manage. I can ride out the share price downturn because I don't need to sell anything. But superannuation funds and the like are always having to sell in order to fulfill their obligations to people who have reached retiring age. So they are selling at a huge loss, which drags down the funds available to everybody on their books. Not smart!

So my recommendation is just buy blue-chip stocks in your own name as a way of saving for retirement.

Idle Queensland Health building costs $1.5m as hospitals suffer

And the guy principally responsible for that seems unrepentant

QUEENSLAND Health has wasted almost $1.5 million of taxpayers' money while renting a Brisbane building that has stood empty for almost a year. The inner-city offices, earmarked to house IT staff trained to "optimise efficiency", will remain vacant until at least early 2009. As the state's cash-strapped hospitals cry out for staff and equipment, the wasted rent money could have paid for:

More than 1400 hospital bed nights;

The annual salaries of 20 nurses;

More than 1600 chemotherapy procedures;

672 eye operations, or

3118 renal dialysis procedures.

After The Sunday Mail revealed the chronic waste to Health Minister Stephen Robertson, he last night ordered a full investigation. A shocked Mr Robertson said he would make sure all Queensland Health buildings were audited to ensure even more vital funds were not being squandered.

Queensland Health began a seven-year lease on the 3200sq m Spring Hill property, tucked away in the dead end of Gloucester St, from December 1 last year. It was previously rented to Telstra. The annual rent on the building is $1,472,000. Property owner Draconi Pty Ltd will receive more than $10.3 million in rent for the term of the lease.

The health department has blamed the delay in occupying the building on problems with a contractor hired to refurbish the offices, needing an upgrade to accommodate improved technology. The deal was terminated in April after the contractor allegedly did not meet State Government requirements. The department said it was considering "options of recourse" to recoup funds and had employed a second contractor. It declined to reveal how much had been paid to the first contractor, saying specific financial information would not be available until tomorrow. A department spokesman said Queensland Health was unaware of any other leased buildings in a similar situation.

Queensland Health chief information officer, Dr Richard Ashby, said the building would house 250 Information Directorate staff "to optimise efficiency and drive key Queensland Health ICT projects, including e-health". "The cost of the premises is $460 per square metre, which has been deemed fair and reasonable under State Government guidelines," Dr Ashby said in a statement. "The building was a shell when the lease commenced, and accordingly the fit-out has been a major undertaking." As well as the contractor problem, there had been "power, access and other technical issues", he said.

Deputy LNP leader and Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle said that in these tough economic times, it did not make sense to pay high rent for a building just so the Bligh Government could display its logo. "This empty building is a colossal waste of money that should be going toward making sick people well and reducing elective surgery waiting lists," he said. "This is another example of the Government's poor planning and bad management. "Queenslanders would be horrified to learn that this much money was going down the drain, while sick people are languishing on trolleys in overcrowded emergency department corridors waiting for a hospital bed."

Mr McArdle said the $1,472,000 per year rent could help pay for additional improvements to the Caboolture Hospital Emergency Department (estimated to cost $700,000) or deliver special-care-nursery cots at Ipswich and Toowoomba Hospitals ($470,000).

Mr Robertson said his department was "trying to get to the bottom of what is going on", but he could guarantee that the money spent on the building had not been diverted from other health service areas. He said he was angry about the handling of the matter. "I have asked for an urgent briefing and a more detailed investigation."


More climate correctness

First "global warming" became "climate change". Now we have ....

Government experts say the word "drought" is making farmers feel bad and want people to use the word "dryness" instead. Farmers also needed to accept that drier weather was here to stay, said a report by the Government's hand-picked Drought Policy Review Expert Social Panel.

"Words like drought ... have negative connotations for farm families," the report said. "There needs to be a new national approach to living with dryness, as we prefer to call it, rather than dealing with drought."

The report criticised the Government's $1 billion annual drought program, under which drought-stricken farmers are paid Exceptional Circumstances (EC) funding. "For all the assistance provided, farm families, rural businesses and communities currently living with dryness in rural Australia do not feel or perceive they are measurably better off," the report said. Farming families in drought-declared areas can get an EC payment of up to $21,000 a year. The report quoted some farmers as saying EC payments rewarded unproductive and irresponsible farmers and were of no help to good operators.

Panel chairman Peter Kenny said dryness was tough for farmers. "We wonder why people have got so much pressure on them out there and they are blowing their brains out and there is a lot of them doing that," he said. "It is clear that drought is having an impact on the wellbeing of farming families and rural communities."

Agriculture Minister Tony Burke said the report showed rural families were not communicating with each other about their hardships. The Government had not got the policy right on tackling drought, he said. "Significant funds have gone to try and help rural communities, but you can't have these sorts of social outcomes and say that we've got it right," he said.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Service outage

I am suffering from a cable service outage at the moment and Telstra say there is no end in sight to the problem.

So probably no posts here today. Maybe tomorrow.

I am writing this from an internet cafe, which has very limited facilities for my purposes.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Australians socially mobile says OECD report

Social mobility has long been pretty good in Australia. My father was a lumberjack but I found no great trouble in becoming a university lecturer.

AUSTRALIA is a nation of social climbers - people who can pull themselves out of a poor upbringing to share in greater wealth and opportunity, an international report shows. But with doom and gloom on the economic horizon, some Australians are starting to fear the "lucky country's" good fortune is about to run out.

In Paris, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development published a report which found that despite growing poverty, Australia remains an egalitarian land of the fair go. The 309-page study of equality across 30 OECD countries, Growing Unequal, found that Australia was one of the most socially mobile countries, The Australian reports. Public education, health and housing help to bridge the gap between rich and poor, the report says.

Unlike people in Italy, the US and Britain, Australians can climb out of poverty even if their parents are impoverished or poorly educated. "What your parents earned when you were a child has very little effect on your own earnings," the report says. "Similarly, the educational attainment of the parents affects the educational achievements of the child less than in most other countries."

The OECD report says income inequality - the gap between rich and poor - has fallen "quite sharply" in Australia since 2000, to below the OECD average for the first time. But the number of people in poverty - defined as living on less than half the median income - has risen slightly to 12 per cent this decade, above the OECD average.

The report may also reflect the favourable economic circumstances Australia has experienced over the last decade but an economic survey by Sydney newspaper The Daily Telegraph warns of a dramatic reversal of fortune. An online survey or readers found that gathering economic gloom has caused 14 per cent of those responding to cancel their Christmas holiday with 19 per cent indicating they would go somewhere cheaper or for a shorter time. The poll also found that:

* More than 63 per cent of people are concerned or very concerned about the economic outlook;

* More than 44 per cent feel less secure in their job than a year ago;

* Almost half believe Australia will be doing worse in a year's time than it is now;

* More than 42 per cent plan to put any spare cash on the mortgage or towards paying off debt; and

* A quarter believe Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has not done enough to combat the crisis.

The bleak findings are being borne out across Sydney with businesses reporting sales have plummeted by up to 50 per cent in the past few weeks and some saying they had been forced to sack staff as nervous consumers tightened their belts.

For those forced onto welfare the OECD report found that Australia spends less than most developed countries on cash payments such as unemployment and family benefits but the money is better targeted to help the most needy. "In a typical country, 22 per cent of total income is from the government in the form of such benefits, compared to 14 per cent in Australia," the report says.

"However, Australia targets these benefits much more tightly on low-income households than in any other country in the OECD. Forty per cent of total spending on cash benefits goes to the poorest 20 per cent of the population."


The notorious Cairns Base hospital again

Cairns in a major international tourist destination. How to create a bad impression of Australia! The hospital serves an area roughly the size of England

An aged pensioner is appalled she was sent home from Cairns Base Hospital to cope alone with an undiagnosed broken pelvis. "They just dropped me in the gutter to wait for a taxi," Betty Rasmussen, 66, told The Cairns Post. She could not walk on crutches and had to be wheeled to the taxi rank outside the Emergency Department. "I kept saying I live on my own, but they didn't care," Ms Rasmussen said. "How heartless can you be?"

For the next few days, she had to sleep on a recliner chair at her Woree unit because she could not lower herself into her bed. The hospital's medical services executive director, Dr Kathy Atkinson, yesterday admitted doctors failed to diagnose Ms Rasmussen's injury in X-rays taken on October 3 and her office deeply regretted the pain and inconvenience this had caused. Ms Rasmussen's treatment and the way she was discharged were being reviewed and she would be given a detailed written response. The hospital has also reported the case for entry into Queensland Health's clinical incident management database.

Dr Atkinson said on receipt of Ms Rasmussen's complaint, the X-ray was magnified and the break detected. "We are very sorry that this was not picked up earlier," she said.

Ms Rasmussen said she was appalled a hospital could treat people in their senior years that way. "There was no follow-up, not even to arrange Meals on Wheels to come around," she said. "My family doctor said I should have been put into hospital for two or three days so that I had a monkey bar to lift myself up with and a bed that could be lowered up and down."

During that first week at home, struggling on crutches to care for herself, Ms Rasmussen said there were days when she cried in unbearable agony. "I felt like doing myself in," she said. "I'm a person who always has a smile on my face, nothing bloody worries me, so for me to get to a point where I want to end my life it's . just unbelievable how down you can be."

The first she knew she had a broken pelvis was almost two weeks later when her physiotherapist - worried about the pain she was in - ordered a second batch of X-rays.


"Green" options are hugely costly

Below is one example. All the useless windmills are another

Queensland taxpayers have been slugged with a $277 million water tank bill for the equivalent of one day's supply of water for the southeast of the state. The State Government and Brisbane City Council have paid out $216 million and $61 million respectively to subsidise water tanks since 2006, which has given the region an extra capacity of 362 megalitres, or one day's supply.

Lord Mayor Campbell Newman admitted that the water projects were expensive because governments had to rush to solve the crisis. While the majority of tanks are still for garden use, the Government and council are now paying subsidies only if the tanks are connected to plumbing on properties and Cr Newman said that made them far more efficient and capable of capturing more water.

He said the $61 million tank rebate was comparable to the $70 million council had spent on its aquifer project, which supplies about 20 megalitres a day. Tanks supply about 18 megalitres. "Clearly, having these tanks will take pressure off the system," he said. "It's been a good exercise and it's part of an overall drought [Drought? It rains all the time in Brisbane. Hardly a week goes by without rain] strategy. "It's not out of the ball park and I think it was good expenditure. "All the water that has been obtained through the various projects has been expensive water because everything was done in such a hurry." He said on average a 5000-litre tank that was plumbed for household use was saving about $130 a year in water costs.

A Government spokesman said every litre in a tank was one less litre the state had to collect in dams. "It is also about everyone playing their part in water conservation," the spokesman said. "Apart from having some ownership over water conservation issues, people are less likely to leave taps running if they know it is coming from their own water tanks."

Liberal National Party water spokesman Andrew Cripps said an LNP government would hand out incentives to participate in an "eco home scheme", installing rainwater tanks integrated with innovative devices that maximised the capture of rainfall on rooftops and diverted the water directly into home plumbing systems.


Torres Strait security for nurses still negligible

Black populations need a lot more policing than they get

Three terrified nurses and a child have been airlifted off remote Torres Strait islands in the latest security scares for health workers. Police were last night hunting for a man who allegedly made death threats against workers on Boigu Island. Boigu Island is the closest to Papua New Guinea and a hotspot for HIV-infected villagers seeking treatment. It is also a known jump-off point for illegal drug and people trafficking into Australia.

Last night, the State's Health Minister, Stephen Robertson, said services on the island had been shutdown indefinitely after a nurse abandoned the facility on Wednesday, along with a female health centre manager and her grandchild.

The Courier-Mail understands the Boigu Island nurse, in her 40s, had been fearing a powerfully-built islander for two weeks after intervening in a violent domestic dispute in the island's village. Boigu Island elder Vera Gibuma, a close friend of the nurse, said that the nurse had stopped a young islander from bashing his girlfriend in the main street and he responded by threatening her life. "He told her she "had the devil in her" and he was going to kill her," she said. "She was crying as she was leaving but they had to get her out before there was any serious trouble." Last night the man was thought to be hiding from police in crocodile-infested mangrove swamps.

The Boigu evacuation came just five days after another nurse on Mer Island left her post after waking to find a man inside her room at the health centre on October 17. In that case, the intruder fled but the nurse was too scared to continue. Queensland Health insists the facility was secure and the woman had left her bedroom door unlocked.

These two latest cases come amid a long-term investigation into failures by the department to provide secure staff accommodation after the alleged rape of a nurse on Mabuiag Island in February. The incident occured 16 months after a damning security report was ignored, sparking a week-long walkout from nurses in April.

Mr Robertson said accomodation security in the region had been addressed since the revelations earlier in the year. "Boigu remains closed until staff safety can be addressed with discussions underway with council and police," Mr Robertson said.

Queensland Nurses Union secretary Beth Mohle said the department had reacted well but more had to be done to protect staff. "We have a zero tolerance policy for violence," she said. "We've asked for higher level discussions with police with concerns about adequacy of protection of our staff."


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rough old Labor Party bag fancies herself as a VIP

Typical parasitic Leftist elitism. It's years since she had a real job: "Lindsay started as a teacher at a Catholic school, before moving on to be the CEO of organisations in the health, community and disability sectors. Until entering Parliament, Lindsay worked for the Council of the Ageing where she worked closely with all levels of government to achieve outcomes for South Australian retirees". So she's all heart!

An exchange between a hairdresser and a Labor MP has left the hairdresser in tears, in what she describes as the most humiliating experience of her career. Member for Morialta Lindsay Simmons stormed out of Rostrevor salon Bobby Pins Haircutters on Friday after being made to wait almost 10 minutes for her two-hour appointment, scheduled to start at 10am. "I have never been humiliated and treated so badly in the whole 32 years of my working life," Di Raggatt said. "She distressed me. I just can't believe that she would treat someone like that."

Ms Simmons yesterday said she was "frustrated" by the wait. "I desperately need a haircut and I had a very small window of opportunity, I have a very tight schedule," she said. "I am sorry if I did upset her." Ms Simmons had not been to the salon before but a staffer booked the appointment.

Mrs Raggatt said she arrived at work "extra early" on Friday to prepare for her new client, tidy the salon and lay out supplies. She was finishing with customer Terri Brunton when Ms Simmons arrived. "I said I wouldn't be long," Mrs Raggatt said. "She said, quite rudely, 'Well, I hope not'. She said 'my office didn't tell me you worked on your own'.

"It was at seven minutes she said 'don't worry about it' and walked out and slammed the door'." Mrs Brunton said: "She (Ms Simmons) was extremely rude."


Australian immigration boss flags lower migrant intake

The global financial crisis looks set to result in a cut to Australia's migrant intake, with the Rudd Government hinting strongly it will reduce next year's quota amid fears the economy will slow. Immigration Minister Chris Evans told a Senate estimates hearing yesterday that Australia's record high migrant intake should be cut. "I'd envisage certainly that the migration program for next year would be smaller than this year," Senator Evans told the hearing. "(But) no decision has been taken on that."

Senator Evans said cabinet would decide whether to cut the quota and, if so, by how much, in the lead-up to next year's budget. But he indicated that the global financial meltdown would force the Government to cut numbers. "What I'm saying to you is that it seems to me, given what the general economic forecasts of the world economy are, that your first starting point is that you'd think it would be lower," Senator Evans said.

Kevin Rudd first flagged the possibility of cutting the migrant quota two weeks ago, saying the decision would be driven by whatever economic circumstances prevailed at the time. "It's been this way since time immemorial and will be this way into the future as well," the Prime Minister said on October 9. "We adjust it according to economic circumstances."

In May, the Government added 31,000 skilled migrants to this year's migration program. The overall migration program will now be 190,300 for this year, and 133,500 of those places will be allocated to permanent skilled migrants.

The Government's rethink on migration comes as Britain announced it would cut migrant numbers, partly to offset racial tensions amid the possibility of rising unemployment. British Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said at the weekend that Britain needed a tougher immigration policy. "If people are being made unemployed, the question of immigration becomes extremely thorny," Mr Woolas told The Times.

Senator Evans said it was possible migrant numbers would shrink beyond whatever cuts the Government made. Employer-driven migration schemes, such as the 457 temporary skilled worker program, could start to slow in line with diminishing labour market demand, he said. "It stands to reason that if economic activity was to come off, demand from employers for temporary labour was to come off, then the numbers for the 457 scheme would come off," Senator Evans said. "You'd expect there'd be a direct relationship." He said a global economic downturn would affect people's ability to travel, resulting in a reduction in other forms of migration, such as the working holiday program.

Senator Evans also sought to allay fears that local workers might be laid off before temporary skilled workers, who in many cases were paid less. He said he had recently intervened after a business in Queensland planned to stand down Australian workers before foreign employees covered by the 457 scheme. "I made it very clear to the company ... that that was not acceptable," Senator Evans said. The 457 program was there to supplement the local labour force, not undercut it, he said.

Meanwhile, the Immigration Department may be forced to compensate 191 of the 247 people investigated by the Ombudsman for wrongful detention. The department has so far offered compensation in 40 of the cases and settlements have been reached in 17. In total, about $1.2million in compensation has been paid so far.


More global cooling for Australia

Brisbane has its coldest October morning since 1976. I must say I was surprised at how nippy it was when I opened my door this morning

COLD southerly winds blowing up from the snow-capped Blue Mountains have given Brisbane its coldest October morning in 32 years. The mercury fell to 10.6 degrees in the City just before 5am, more than five degrees below average for this time of year. The previous lowest for October was 7.3 degrees in 1976, although Brisbane also recorded 6.3 degrees in October in 1899 at a now-disused weather station. Amberley had an even colder start waking up to 6 degrees and Stanthorpe shivered on just two degrees.

But senior forecaster Vikash Prasad said Stanthorpe's previous coldest October day was -2 in 1966. "It's certainly our coldest day since winter. The lowest temperature in September was 11 so it is unusual for Spring," Mr Prasad said. He said the trough that caused the storms had moved off the coast and was being replaced by dry air and southerly winds coming up from interstate. "There was snow on the Blue Mountains yesterday which is very unusual for this time of year and Sydney had a very cold day," Mr Prasad said.


Doctors 'tired and dangerous'

This appalling system has been going on for ages. No-one seems willing to stop it -- on cost grounds presumably

Overworked young doctors are close to burn-out from working 20-hour shifts and are getting less than six hours sleep a night. Patients' lives are being put in "danger", with stressed young doctors confessing their "unsafe" workloads were affecting their quality of medical care. These were two key findings in a national survey of 1000 young doctors by the Australian Medical Association released yesterday.

It paints a distressing picture of junior medical staff trying to cope in hospital systems that are underfunded and understaffed. Almost half believe their excessive workload runs the risk of compromising patient safety, while a third reported they regularly worked unsafe hours. Fifty hours a week is common with short turnaround times between shifts, while some said 90 to 100-hour weeks were not uncommon. Alcohol was another worrying method young doctors were using to cope with stress and fatigue, with the survey finding almost 10 per cent drank daily.

Sydney's Westmead Hospital intensive care resident Katherine Jeffrey, who confessed to working 60 hours a week, said more younger doctors were urgently need to improve quality care and prevent patient tragedies. "There is a danger of mistakes if you don't monitor yourself and if you don't get the sleep," said the 35-year-old critical care resident, who lives at Cheltenham. "Generally most of us are doing 50-60 hours a week which also included rostered overtime."

Dr Jeffrey, who said she sailed to ease her stress, said sleep-deprived young doctors, aged between 26 and 35, were also taking out their frustration on other medical staff. "They are short with the nurses, they're short with the patients - they are intolerant of little things." Dr Jeffrey confessed to once being awake for a 21-hour shift, which was "rare", due to a doctor shortage. "I could feel that I was fatigued."

AMA Doctors In Training Council chairwoman Dr Alex Markwell said it wasn't unusual for young doctors to be on call 24 hours a day for three weeks straight. "We do need urgent assistance in the public health system," she said. Dr Markwell said the survey showed junior doctors were "really struggling to meet all of the demands that are put upon them. Doctors are people too, they are not superhuman," she said. Dr Markwell suggested establishing an internal clinic for medical staff inside hospitals.

AMA president Dr Rosanna Capolingua said the problem must be addressed by governments by having more doctors in hospitals, safer working hours and better rostering.


Illegal search warrants used by Queensland police?

Nothing about the Queensland police would surprise me

SENIOR Gold Coast police are at the centre of a corruption probe for allegedly using illegal search warrants to raid innocent people's homes. Police have launched an internal investigation into the claims, aired last night by Seven News. Self-styled whistleblower detectives told the station that Gold Coast police made up evidence for the warrants and the raids were used to enhance the careers of senior management. Senior police have rejected the allegations as "a load of rubbish", saying they were made by disgruntled officers including one who was stood down after being charged with criminal offences.

However, some detectives called for an independent judicial inquiry, claiming both the police and the Crime Misconduct Commission have failed to investigate numerous complaints about allegedly "dodgy" warrants. One detective said illegal warrants had been used in hundreds of raids for at least the past five years in a practice openly encouraged by senior management. "This is a major corruption scandal," he said. "Specific evidence is required for a search warrant application but on many occasions on the Gold Coast . . . that information is simply made up. It's unlawful and it's unethical."

The detective said police drove around carparks to pick up random licence plate numbers to use on search warrant applications, or the evidence was just invented. He said the use of illegal warrants was prolific and done hundreds of times as police management used the raid to improve their career prospects. "It is done for the purpose of arrest figures and obtaining numbers of search warrants," he said.

The detective said that on one occasion he had been sent to raid the home of an innocent, elderly couple who were terrified by the experience. A police spokesman said the allegations were "nebulous".