Saturday, January 31, 2009

Rudd must reform, not reregulate

The Prime Minister thinks the market needs more regulation. The great record of Labor leaders past proves him wrong

THE Howard government squandered the opportunity of the boom years, failing to use all its opportunities to encourage productivity, build export infrastructure and deal with the complex mess the tax and welfare systems have become. It is now up to Kevin Rudd to avoid squandering the opportunities the global economic crisis offers Australia - in hard times people will accept the need for change that seems unnecessary in periods of prosperity. The Prime Minister must push on with the reform process that he outlined last year before the slump started. But to do this he will have to stay true to the ideas that have transformed Australia over the past 30years, and which remain the foundation of our economy - the efficiency of the free market and its superiority to state management. For Mr Rudd to return Australia to the era of the all-powerful public sector that Bob Hawke and Paul Keating began to dismantle in the 1980s would reduce opportunities for young people by constraining the job-generating private sector. And it would slow the economic growth needed to fund social welfare support for their grandparents as they retire. It would, in short, dim the light on the hill.

But as The Weekend Australian reports, Mr Rudd is responding to the risk of recession by making a case for big government. In a new essay, the Prime Minister argues that the global financial crisis is the inevitable outcome of the free market "neo-liberal" ideology introduced to government in the Reagan and Thatcher years. He acknowledges the "great strengths of open competitive markets" but argues that the job for social democrats is to save capitalism from itself in mixed economies where there is "a role for the state as regulator and as a funder and provider of public goods". In criticising "the extreme capitalism and unrestrained greed that have perverted so much of the global financial system", the Prime Minister has a point. There is no doubting the case for better regulation of banks in Europe and the US after years when cheap credit led to less exuberance and more incompetence in lending. And the avarice of corporate bosses, such as the Wall Street executives who took $18 billion in bonuses while begging for taxpayer bailouts, was less capitalism than kleptomania. Mr Rudd is also right to advocate better regulation of financial systems. With taxpayers all over the world now owning banks, governments are obliged to oversee their investments.

But in suggesting "the challenge for social democrats today is to recast the role of the state and its associated political economy of social democracy as a comprehensive philosophical framework for the future", Mr Rudd runs the risk of pushing us towards the past. His argument will appeal to advocates of the old model of state control that held back Australia, the US and Britain before deregulation in the 70s and 80s, and which kept unemployment high in western Europe for the following 30 years. And his argument ignores the obvious. The causes of our economic problems are almost entirely imported. Australia's banks are stable. The share market may have lost five years of gains, but almost all Australians today, except the absolutely indigent, are still immeasurably more affluent than they were 30 years ago. And Mr Rudd's assertion that it is time to reject free market ideologues who believe in cutting taxes "to strangle the capacity of government" manifestly does not apply here. Canberra's tax take was 20.7 per cent of GDP in the last budget. Most important, in pointing to the greed of a few who abused privileged positions, Mr Rudd ignores the way the free market has been an engine of opportunity and prosperity all over the planet. The wave of reform that began in the early 80s transformed much of the world. It lifted hundreds of millions of people from poverty in China and southeast Asia. It ended the political and economic oppression of communism in eastern Europe. In a pre-crash report, the World Bank estimated the number of middle-class people on the planet would more than double, to 16 per cent of the world population, by 2030. The reduction of the economic authority of governments over the past 30 years has also made the world safer. Prosperous people invariably prefer peace to pogroms, diplomacy to war.

To take us back to the old Labor belief that a reforming government always expands the role of the state is to forget the way things were when housing loans were allocated to suit the banks, not the home buyers, and white goods were so expensive working Australians could only acquire a fridge or a washing machine on hire purchase. And it would inevitably reduce the opportunities for Mr Rudd to enact his reform agenda - bureaucrats with regulatory authority always see reason to expand it, rarely to give it up. One of the great reforms of the past 20 years was national competition policy, which abolished state regulation of all sorts of industries - adding, according to the Productivity Commission, 2.5 per cent to GDP in the process.

The Rudd Government is right to be committed to a new round of deregulation to reduce state and federal overlaps across the public and private sectors, and to be looking for ways to improve the performance of the state hospital systems, now burdened by large and unproductive bureaucracies. And Canberra is correct to be considering investments in transport infrastructure. The slump will not last forever. The International Monetary Fund estimates global growth of 3 per cent next year. We cannot afford a repeat of the problems when Australia's railways and ports cannot move wheat and coal in good time. Most important, the Government has commissioned a comprehensive review of the tax system, including the way it interacts with welfare payments. This is essential. Low-income people with small children who go back to work can be worse off, due to increased tax and lower benefits. As Labor Minister for Small Business Craig Emerson argued in this newspaper last week: "People respond to incentives. Yet public policymakers have so often put in place perverse incentives, and then wondered why people behave the way they do."

While there is no doubting we need an active and interventionist government, we need one that reforms rather than regulates. Mr Rudd's experience should show him how a reform-driven society creates wealth. His wife built a small business into a big one by providing an essential social service -helping people to find jobs more efficiently than the old public sector employment agencies. The country understands how serious our situation is and has rallied behind Mr Rudd, who enjoys the sort of support normally reserved for leaders in wartime, with a 70 per cent approval rating in the latest Newspoll. He must spend this political capital in reforming Australia, not just for the hard times of the coming year but for the decades to come. The way to do this is to hold firm to the great Labor tradition of market-based reforms, and not use a foreign banking crisis to urge us back into the inefficient embrace of big government. It is an embrace that has always failed us.



Such has been the fear of Greenland's melting glaciers that well known Australian science journalist Robyn Williams has claimed sea levels could rise by 100 metres within the next 100 years. Mr Williams, and other journalists, have been quick to report on what has become known as the "Greenland Ice Armageddon".

Last Friday there was an article in one of the most read science journals, Science, entitled "Galloping Glaciers of Greenland have Reined Themselves In" by Richard A. Kerr.

Yes, as the title suggests, the article explains that a wide-ranging survey of glacier conditions across south eastern Greenland, indicates that glacier melt has slowed significantly and that it would be wrong to attribute the higher rates of melt prior to 2005 to global warming or to extrapolate the higher melt rates of a few years ago into the future.

Mr Kerr was reporting on a presentation by glaciologist Tavi Murray at the American Geophysical Union Conference in San Francisco last December. The paper by Dr Murray was co-authored by many other members of the group at Swansea University in the UK, a team often quoted by Al Gore and others.

When I read the article last Friday I wondered how Robyn "100 metres" Williams and other journalists in the mainstream media (MSM) might report the story. To my amazement they have simply ignored it.

It seems that the mainstream media is a shameless exaggerator of global warming, and unable to report anything really significant that contradicts the established storyline.

Perhaps I should not be surprised, as a lecturer in journalism explained to me some time ago: journalists only add to narratives, as one might add to a large tapestry. [5] Yep, so, the mainstream media's news has to all fit together like a picture. What is reported tomorrow is expected to accord with what was reported yesterday. But the real world is so much more complicated.


More of the ethical standards one expects from the Queensland police

A Brisbane police officer got into a holey row with Krispy Kreme staff, demanding to be served free doughnuts. Shocked customers looked on as the officer argued with staff for several minutes in a bid to get his freebies, before finally storming off - empty handed and non-cinnamon-fingered. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing," a witness said. "He was quite rude, insisting his doughnuts should be free. He was so greedy for the doughnuts. I thought, 'you swine, get your money out and pay for them like everyone else'."

As the icing on the cake, Krispy Kreme has now decided to stop supplying Brisbane police with leftover doughnuts. The junior constable from the City Beat unit, on Adelaide St, was reprimanded by colleagues after the embarrassing scene. Before the incident, officers had been regularly popping in to collect free boxes of leftover doughnuts at the store in nearby Albert St at the end of the day. Staff were unable to sell the doughnuts and were only too happy to oblige.

A police source said the officer had become confused and thought the free doughnut arrangement applied at all times. "Everyone's a bit annoyed because they were a nice treat at the end of the day with a coffee," he said. "It's a shame the arrangement came to such a nasty end, because we do love Krispy Kremes - although our waistlines are looking a lot better now."

A spokeswoman for the Queensland Police Service said the officer's behaviour could not be condoned. "A constable from City Beat received managerial guidance at the time of the incident," she said. It is believed the Krispy Kreme store now gives the leftover doughnuts to the homeless instead.



Three more current news reports below

Amazing public hospital negligence kills man

I reported the bare bones of this story yesterday but now that we have the details below, the case is even more unforgivable

He was a devoted father who loved the outdoors, but in the final days of his life the pain in his head was so great it reduced him to tears. Yesterday the distraught family of 24-year-old Brendan Burns said he had been handed a "death sentence" by an unnamed doctor at Griffith Base Hospital, who discharged him last week after refusing to order a CT scan that might have saved his life.

Mr Burns, a road worker from Hay in the Riverina, had been experiencing debilitating headaches for about a week when he was taken to the local hospital by ambulance on Saturday. A doctor who examined him ordered his transfer from Hay to Griffith Base Hospital for an emergency CT scan. But at 11.30pm that night, Mr Burns' partner Liz Newman received a call to say he had been discharged and that she should pick him up. When she and a friend arrived at the hospital, they were horrified to find him barely conscious. "Brendan didn't even know who we were. He couldn't move. Not even the doctor could wake him - I had to get an orderly to sit him up. He had no control over his bodily functions," Ms Newman said yesterday.

Despite her friend's pleas that he be allowed to stay in hospital, the pair were told to take him home. But just hours after Ms Newman put him to bed, she heard a "horrific noise". "I rushed in and started screaming. I saw this stuff coming out of his mouth. I rolled him on to his side so he wouldn't choke." Mr Burns was rushed back to Griffith Base Hospital and was then flown to Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital, where a CT scan revealed a growth on his spinal cord. "He had hydrocephalitis and the pressure had been so great that it shifted parts of his brain," Ms Newman said. He underwent surgery, but died on Tuesday surrounded by family.

Ms Newman said she had no idea how to explain to the couple's daughter Nadia, 3, that her father wouldn't be coming home. "Brendan never got to say his goodbyes and it's their fault. "My daughter has been robbed of her father. Those doctors can get on with their lives. They don't have to live with a little girl screaming for her dad."


Ambulance could not find man two minutes drive away

They were so bureaucratized that they apparently did not even think of looking up one of those silly old-fashioned paper maps of the locality. And once upon a time, firemen, police and ambulance officers were supposed to a have a good knowledge of their local geography. More silly, oldfashioned ideas, I guess

A heartbroken Brisbane mother has launched legal action over the death of her partner after paramedics took an hour to find him because the address - which had existed for four years - was not in the state's road database. Kylie Bacon, 33, of Chermside, is suing the State Government, Moreton Bay Regional Council and the body corporate of Spinnaker Beach One Community Titles Scheme for unspecified damages for herself, daughter Letitia, 13, and son Owen, who turns three tomorrow. Her partner of seven years Adam Foks, 30, a landscape gardener, died from an asthma attack at a Bribie Island bus stop after dialling 000 on January 25, 2006. Their son, Owen, was born a week later - the day after his father's funeral.

Ms Bacon's claim, filed in the Queensland Supreme Court, states Mr Foks had caught a bus to visit his mother, Sandra Major, in the Sandpiper Court estate on Spinnaker Drive, when he had an attack. Mr Foks called 000 at 5.47pm and gave his mother's address. He collapsed on the nearby footpath, where his mother found him and called another ambulance at 6.06pm. Paramedics arrived at 6.45pm but Mr Foks had died. The claim states the nearest Queensland Ambulance Service station was about two minutes' drive from Spinnaker Drive and Sandpiper Court, which has existed since 2002.

Ms Bacon alleged the Government failed to ensure the State Digital Road Network, administered by the Department of Main Roads and used by the QAS, was kept up to date and accurate. She also alleged the council failed to keep up-to-date records of local roads and inform Main Roads of the existence of Sandpiper Court, and that the estate's body corporate should have also ensured its details were on the network.

Yesterday, Ms Bacon said the family was "broken" and still struggled to deal with their grief and find "stability". "Our lives have been turned upside down and we still haven't found our footing," the sole parent pensioner said. "Owen is the spitting image of his dad. Every night we go out and talk to the stars, where he knows Daddy is watching from heaven. "I stress every day about raising a son without a strong male role model and not being able to teach him things about being a man that a father could." Lawyers for the State Government and regional council declined to comment. Representatives for Spinnaker Beach said the matter was with their solicitors.


Unbelievable public hospital inefficiency

And all because of the Leftist love of centralization and horror at any hint of competition. Only a government could be this insane and wasteful

The Queensland Children's Hospital will deliver just 23 extra overnight beds at a cost of $1.1 billion. That's $47.8 million a bed. Of course I haven't factored in the new building that goes with the beds. And the hospital plan includes 100 or so recliner chairs or "same day" and "short stay" beds not counted in my calculation. Nevertheless, the revelation the new hospital will get 23 extra overnight beds for such an extraordinary pool of money will come as a shock to clinicians and patients - if not Health Minister Stephen Robertson himself.

The details are contained in the latest official figures released by Queensland Health showing there will be 248 overnight beds in the new hospital compared with a combined 225 overnight beds available now at Royal Children's and Mater Children's hospitals. The new hospital will come about with the closure of the Royal Children's and the Mater Children's and the pledge of a "world class" children's hospital adjoining the Mater in the South Brisbane electorate of Premier Anna Bligh.

Specialists already complain the new hospital will have inadequate beds and inadequate space for key departments like gastroenterology and respiratory medicine. Pediatricians have complained that consulting rooms may be too small for patients in wheelchairs. And vital research facilities are in limbo, with no space allocated in the main hospital site. Unless there are research and training facilities, the new "world class" hospital will not attract quality staff. Then there is the problem of an $80 million energy plant - unfunded in the hospital plan.

However, the chief executive of the Queensland Children's Hospital does not believe these problems are insurmountable. Peter Steer believes enhanced pediatric services at other hospitals in the southeast corner will take the heat off the QCH. [Thus defeating the point of the excercise?]

Good luck to Dr Steer. The world needs more optimists. He said the proposed Gold Coast University Hospital and the Sunshine Coast University Hospital would have emergency pediatric and inpatient specialty services. And pediatric services in other hospitals would be increased, he said. "The impact of these enhanced services will reduce the level of secondary service demand at the QCH so that it can operate as a truly tertiary level hospital," he said in response to questions I sent to Mr Robertson. Dr Steer added: "The current proposed total bed numbers at the QCH are considered appropriate to meet the projected demands for the hospital in conjunction with the enhancements to services in surrounding hospitals." Dr Steer said he was too busy to be interviewed face-to-face.

Dr Steer was also quoted as saying: "In addition to the services proposed for the QCH, there is currently work being undertaken to increase pediatric bed numbers for less complex patients who it is envisaged will access services in their local area." He said despite the closure of Royal Children's, Brisbane northside families would have adequate emergency pediatric cover. But he couldn't say where it would be or how much it would cost. "The proposed specialist pediatric emergency department on the northside of Brisbane will include a short-stay unit," he said. "The location of the specialist pediatric emergency department on the northside is being finalised in consultation with clinicians." The new short-stay facility would likely have 20 same-day beds. Dr Steer said funding was still to be announced.

Despite his assurances, Queensland Health bureaucrats say it is a "potentially high-risk strategy" to believe outer-Brisbane hospitals can pick up the slack. An internal report last year warned: "If further beds for QCH cannot be afforded, the only option will be to have strategies in place to enhance secondary level pediatric services at Logan, Redlands, Ipswich and Prince Charles hospitals. "This will require additional capital and recurrent funding for those hospitals and a reprioritisation within the Area Health Service Plans."

Then came the bombshell: "There is currently no capital planning under way for enhancements to emergency departments or pediatric in-patient capacity within the planning time frame for the QCH. The worst-case scenario for QCH is that it is built with too few beds and too small an emergency department on the assumption that these services will be provided elsewhere, and then the required capacity elsewhere is not delivered."


Friday, January 30, 2009

Bone idle police again

This story is from the Northern Territory but it reflects my own experience with the Queensland police. When I gave the police an ID card from one of the people who had stolen my car, they were not interested -- because the person concerned had no "record". One wonders how you get a "record" in that case. The police are mainly interested in very easy work -- such as lurking at the bottom of hills to catch unwary motorists who naturally speed up in such places. It takes publicity to get them off their fat behinds

A thief left a crucial piece of evidence - his mobile phone containing all his personal details - at the scene of an attempted burglary. But police are yet to interview the man, despite the owner of the business targeted passing on the phone and all of the offender's details more than a month ago. Text messages on the phone even indicated plans of a possible heist. One message was sent asking the recipient if they had any bolt cutters. Another gave the Darwin address as to where to pick him up from at 11pm.

QAL Transport owner-manager Ken Conlon said it was ridiculous the thief and his co-offenders were allowed to commit crimes and still walk the streets. He is now threatening his own vigilante justice. "It is just amazing - all the information is there in their (police) hands," he said. "I thought they would have got these bludgers by now and they haven't. "I have all their phone numbers, I know their addresses and I have his bank details. I even have a good description of the car they were in and the registration number. "How much more information do the police need?" Mr Conlan said police had told him that his case was not a priority as the alleged offenders had no prior offences.

When the Northern Territory News asked NT Police about the matter yesterday, police said they were investigating. "Evidence left at the scene has been examined by investigators and a number of persons of interest have been identified, which members of the Commander's Tactical Team are following up on," police said in a statement. "Investigators prioritise their investigations in order of severity or links with crime series."

The now phoneless thief and two co-offenders broke into the QAL Transport depot on Nebo Rd, Berrimah, about 1.30am on December 23. A truck driver for the company arrived at the headquarters to start his early morning shift and interrupted the trio as they scoured a courier van on the premises filled with alcohol and cigarettes. Mr Conlon said the would-be thieves quickly scampered off into the darkness, jumping through a hole they had cut in the back wire fence and fleeing in a car. He said the thieves had stacked up a pile of spirits and cigarettes but left empty handed, thanks to the truck driver arriving when he did. Mr Conlon said police had not even interviewed or taken a statement from his driver. "I don't want to criticise the cops as they have a tough job, but if I went and stole $20 from the post office down the road they would be arresting me straight away," he said.


The Greenie menace at work again: Water tanks help spread of dengue fever

Because Greenies go ballistic at plans to build dams, politicians are very slow to build them. So we have water shortages. And the very expensive "solution" to that -- promoted by the government -- is for each house to have its own rainwater tank. Talk about "drought" below is a coverup. It rains every couple of days where I live -- which must be the world's strangest "drought" -- but we still have severe restrictions on water usage and subsidies for people to buy household tanks. But the cost of the tanks is not the only problem:

Backyard water tanks, a key weapon for Australian households in the battle against drought and climate change, may prove a double-edged sword if they help the mosquito that spreads dengue fever to penetrate deep into southern and inland Australia. Melbourne researchers who set out to measure how much further the dengue mosquito might spread as the climate heats up discovered that water hoarding by households was likely to prove a much bigger help to the insect. The species responsible for spreading dengue in Australia, Aedes aegypti, is largely confined to Townsville, Cairns and Queensland's far north, where two outbreaks of dengue are continuing to worsen.

There have now been 198 confirmed cases of dengue fever in Cairns and 21 in Townsville, according to figures released last night. The Townsville outbreak is particularly alarming because two of the four types of dengue are circulating simultaneously, raising the risk that someone will suffer a potentially fatal second infection.

Scientists from Melbourne University say climate change and evolutionary adaptation are making more of Australia habitable for the insect, but human behaviours may be smoothing the mosquito's path even more. "While we predict that climate change will directly increase habitat suitability throughout much of Australia, the potential indirect impact of changed water storage practices by humans in response to drought may have a greater effect," the authors write.

Lead researcher and zoology lecturer Michael Kearney said there had been a "dramatic increase" in domestic rainwater storage in response to drought. "Water tanks and other water storage vessels, such as modified wheelie bins, are potential breeding sites for this disease-bearing mosquito," Dr Kearney said. "Without due water-storage hygiene, this indirect effect of climate change via human adaptation could dramatically re-expand the mosquito's range." Dr Kearney said the findings did not mean water tanks should be avoided. Instead, it was important for householders to realise the tanks should be properly sealed to prevent mosquito access, which meant avoiding improvised or badly made tanks and opting for versions that met Australian standards. "Australian-standard water tanks have brass mesh protecting the inlet and outlet valves, which are less likely to degrade," he said.

About 100 years ago, Aedes aegypti was more widespread, being found in Darwin and Broome, along the east coast as far south as Sydney, inland to Bourke and even in Perth. Its range diminished through the last decades of the 20th century for reasons not well understood, but Dr Kearney said his team's work suggested the removal of old galvanised water tanks and installation of town water supplies may have helped.

The invention of insecticides and even lawnmowers may also have played a part by encouraging householders to keep gardens under better control and to clear away discarded pots and other receptacles that could provide the mosquito with a place to lay eggs.

Queensland Institute of Medical Research's Tim Hurst has studied water storage in Brisbane households and how this might affect mosquito breeding. "About 50 per cent of the houses we surveyed have rainwater tanks, but about 30 per cent of those are collecting water in other containers -- such as buckets and wheelie bins," he said. [You would do that too if you were forbidden by law to water your garden]


Church schools to be allowed to ban homosexual staff in South Australia

CHURCH schools will retain the right to refuse to employ gay teachers in South Australia under a watering-down of proposed anti-discrimination laws. Religious schools also will retain the right to prevent students, who belong to a non Christian religion, from wearing the dress or adornments of that religion at school.

The new Bill, which replaces a controversial 2006 Bill, gives employers a loophole under which they can refuse to employ people wearing religious dress, such as burkas, by allowing them to set "reasonable" standards of workplace dress. Proposed legislation to make the changes is set down for debate when Parliament resumes on Tuesday. That follows nearly three years of debate and intense behind-the-scenes negotiations between Labor and the Opposition.

Under the old Bill, church schools wanting an exemption to discriminate on the grounds of sexuality were required to lodge a copy of their policy with the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity and make it available to current and prospective staff, students and parents. That has been watered down so schools only will need to have a written policy available on inquiry and publish it on their website if they have one. Other proposed changes include:

RAISING the age limit from 12 to 16 under which a student can make a formal sexual harassment complaint.

DROPPING a proposed unlawful act of victimisation if a person were to "engage in a public act inciting hatred, serious contempt or severe ridicule of a person or group".

DELETING part of the Bill which made it an offence to discriminate on the grounds of where a person lived.

LIMITING discrimination on the grounds of caring responsibilities to those looking after immediate family members while the original Bill had a much wider coverage.

Opposition justice spokeswoman Isobel Redmond said the Liberals, who supported large sections of the original Bill, would decide their position at a shadow cabinet meeting next week.



Three current news reports below

Big deal: NSW hospital death "not from lack of beds or staff"

But it obviously WAS due to insufficient diagnostic testing -- scans etc. There is no reason why diagnostic imaging could not have been done same day. That was once routine and still is in some hospitals

The NSW Government has apologised to the family of a man who died a day after being discharged from hospital, but says his death was not due to a lack of beds or medical staff. Brendan Burns, 24, was discharged from Griffith Base Hospital on Monday with a bad headache and died the following day at Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital from an undiagnosed brain tumour. Greater Southern Area Health Service (GSAHS) Chief Executive Heather Gray yesterday said the matter was being investigated, and would also be referred to the Health Care Complaints Commission.

Health Minister John Della Bosca today apologised to Mr Burns' family but said his death was not linked to staffing levels nor patient capacity at Griffith. "I extend my commiserations to his family, I feel deeply sorry that this has happened," Mr Della Bosca said. "All the evidence I have is that there was a great deal of professional skill involved in the handling of the case. "My advice is there was no bed shortage ... there was no staff shortage."

GSAHS said the man arrived at Hay Hospital on Sunday and was transferred to Griffith Base Hospital on Monday. He was discharged in the early hours of Monday, went home and returned to Hay Hospital that same morning. Later on Monday, the man was flown from Hay Hospital to St Vincent's where he died on Tuesday.


Woman left lying in agony on NSW hospital floor

Tammy Hams thought she was "going to die" when she was offered a blanket and told to lie on a waiting room floor because staff at her local hospital could not find her a bed. Ms Hams was booked in for surgery at Wyong Hospital to remove possible cancerous lesions when doctors discovered a huge abscess causing "agonising pain". The 29-year-old said she spent 3« hours writhing in agony on the waiting room floor of the hospital's surgical ward on Wednesday before she was eventually given a bed. Staff at the hospital "categorically deny" her claims. [But see picture above]

The incident comes amid yet another hospital outrage, in which a 24-year-old man was discharged from Griffith Hospital early on Monday after complaining of sinus pain. The following day he again presented to the hospital and was flown immediately to Sydney's St Vincent's where he died from unknown causes. Greater Southern Health has launched an investigation into why he was discharged. And in Dubbo, doctors are threatening to quit because they routinely run out of basic medications.

Ms Hams said her GP had been trying to get her into hospital since Friday when she began feeling stabbing pains in her stomach. A biopsy four months ago revealed pre-cancerous lesions on her cervix, which if left would turn cancerous. "I thought I was going to die," Ms Hams told The Daily Telegraph yesterday from her hospital bed. "I have never been in that much pain in my life - it was agony."

She was booked-in for a hysterectomy and told to arrive at 9am. Her mother Jenny Leatham said she was "crying and doubled-over in pain" and could not sit on the waiting room chairs or stand, so they pleaded for a bed. "They gave her a blanket and said the best she could do was lie on the floor," Mr Leatham said. "The staff were so nice and you could see they were upset about what was happening. This is just unfair, I'm not rubbishing the staff. There just wasn't enough beds. "The system has to change."

A North Sydney Central Coast Health spokeswoman said an investigation found there was no shortage of beds and Ms Hams was "treated in a caring and timely manner". "It is unacceptable for a patient to be expected to lie on the floor and staff on duty when Ms Hams arrived at the hospital deny making any such recommendation," the spokeswoman said. The hospital argues she was assessed by an anaesthetist at 10.10am and that she asked for the blanket.

Mrs Leatham said by 12.30pm staff found her daughter a bed and she was operated on at 2pm. When surgeons cut her open they discovered a huge abscess pushing on her cervix. Unable to perform the hysterectomy they removed as much of the infection as they could and inserted a tube to drain it over the next seven to 10 days.

"If the abscess had burst while she was in the waiting room she would have died," Mrs Leatham said.

Wyong Hospital is just one of the state's many hospitals plagued with debt, bed shortages and a lack of specialist doctors. Last week its emergency department - one of the busiest in the state - lost all but one of its specialist doctors to Gosford Hospital so it could retain its status as a teaching hospital.

Senior doctors at Dubbo Base Hospital threatened to walk off the job after they ran out of morphine because the hospital could not afford to pay pharmaceutical companies. Patients in intensive care also sweltered for days in record temperatures because contractors could not be paid to fix the air conditioning.

The Greater Western Area Health Service reportedly owes more than $23 million to suppliers. Many are no longer prepared to provide food or medical equipment. The situation across the state is expected to get far worse before it gets any better. A report by auditing firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers last month revealed the state's health budget would blow out by as much as $900 million by March if dramatic changes were not made.


Queensland public hospitals have worst record for killing, maiming patients, botched operations

Queensland Health is a most obnoxious bureaucracy to work for so they are able to attract high quality staff in relatively small numbers only. The rest are often the dregs with nowhere else to go -- and it shows in the quality of their work

QUEENSLAND hospitals have the nation's worst published record for killing or maiming their patients through botched operations, medication errors and other mistakes. And NSW is one of the safest, reporting a third fewer serious errors despite its larger population.

The figures, released in a Productivity Commission report, provide a rare state-by-state breakdown of so-called "sentinel events" - the most preventable and potentially deadly mistakes that occur every year in the nation's hospitals, The Australian reports. Last year, the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care reported that sentinel events - ranging from discharging an infant to the wrong family to suicides by admitted patients - more than doubled nationally in 2006-07 compared with a year earlier.

The mistakes accounted for just 10 per cent of serious hospital errors recorded by the states and territories but made public only selectively. But of the 187 deadly or damaging lapses in judgment or procedure made public yesterday, Queensland accounted for over a quarter of the national total.

Its hospitals carried out procedures on the wrong patient or body part an alarming 33 times in 2006-07. They killed another six patients through medication errors, seriously injured or killed four mothers in childbirth, left surgical instruments or material inside three patients, and transfused incompatible blood once.

The next worst offender was Victoria (45), which was slammed by its Auditor-General last year for failing to adequately monitor hospital blunders. Some 135,000 patients - or one in 10 public hospital patients - in that state had endured a medical mistake, with more errors believed to have gone unreported. South Australia, with 36 sentinel events, was next in line, followed by NSW (32), Western Australia (15), the ACT (7), the Northern Territory (2) and Tasmania (1).

"A high number of sentinel events may indicate hospital systems and process deficiencies that compromise the quality and safety of public hospitals," the Productivity Commission said. The willingness to report major mistakes could also influence the totals, it noted.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Amid all its problems, Qantas is running around like a headless chook

Wotta lotta crap the story below is. It is more money spent on engineering inspections and maintenance that is needed, not more talk. Passengers are a lot more worried about bits falling off the aircraft than they are about the brightness of someone's smile. And how about having enough check-in desks open so that passengers can board without waiting in line for an hour or more? And WTF has wine appreciation got to do with any of QANTAS's problems? John Borghetti must be another typically clueless business-school graduate. It sounds to me like Qantas is headed the way of the now defunct Ansett -- a once great Australian airline that also lost its way

QANTAS is about to send 18,000 staff, from the chief executive down, back to school as part of a massive push to boost customer service standards. A high-tech $10 million training facility, which opened yesterday in Sydney, is at the centre of the strategy to propel the Qantas brand back to the top.

The move comes after a horror year for the airline where delays and maintenance problems battered its reputation with travellers, The Australian reports. Up to a third of its planes ran late and cancellations sky-rocketed as a result of an industrial row with engineers. It also comes as full-service airlines, which face a downturn in premium passengers because of the economic crisis, are being forced to compete more fiercely to fill business and first class seats.

The new Centre of Service Excellence brings all Qantas customer service training under one roof and covers areas ranging from makeup and grooming to telesales, check-in procedures and wine appreciation. Facilities include a 126-seat auditorium, four cabin-crew training pods that simulate aircraft environments and a hi-tech area where staff can send suggestions to management using interactive screens. It also features "customer experience zones", demonstrating the environments that passengers in various classes, and on various arms of Qantas, experience in the course of their journey.

Qantas executive general manager John Borghetti, who will be the first top executive to undergo training, said one of the main changes Qantas passengers could expect as a result of the new centre was more consistency in the airline's customer service. He said customer service would be a big differentiator for airlines competing for high-end customers in difficult times.


Big Four Australian banks join global elite

THE crisis in the financial system catapulted all four majors into the ranks of the top 20 global banks for the first time. As a result Australia's big banks are expect to grab new business opportunities and draw the attention of more international investors, The Australian reported.

Although shares in the Big Four banks have collapsed more than 50 per cent in the past year, with new multi-year lows struck on Friday, they have stood up far better than their UK and US counterparts.

Despite pressure on their funding and bad-loan books, they remain highly profitable while banks overseas seek government handouts, are nationalised or allowed to collapse. In the US alone, the global shake-up means Australia's four largest banks, which have retained their AA rating, are now considered some of the biggest in the world.

The banks believe their newfound status will increase their participation in markets such as foreign exchange trading, where opportunities in the past have been limited because of the presence of bigger global players.

The elevation in world rankings has brought extra attention from fund managers, particularly in the US, and the banks expect more share buying from overseas institutions.

Westpac has already experienced an increase in foreign exchange deals, with a sharp surge in the number of $1billion-plus transactions being carried out by the bank's trading desk.

On stock market capitalisation, Westpac is now considered the world's ninth-largest bank, with a worth of $US28.2 billion ($43.2 billion), ahead of Commonwealth Bank at No15, National Australia Bank at No17 and ANZ at No19. Remarkably, all four Australian banks now rank ahead of past giants such as Citigroup and Morgan Stanley in the US, Barclays in Britain and Deutsche Bank in Germany. There are now only 13 AA-rated banks in the world, compared with 20 when the global financial crisis emerged.

The world's largest bank is now HSBC, the British institution, which is worth four times the average value of an Australian bank, while US banks JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo are next according to market capitalisation.

The renewed bout of fear about financial system stability, particularly in Britain, has decimated the value of a number of global institutions. The headline British banks of Lloyds, Halifax Bank of Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays are now worth about half of the Australian banks.

One of the largest casualties among the banks but still afloat is Citigroup, which was once the world's biggest bank but is now worth just $US15 billion and ranks No22.

Westpac head of institutional banking Phil Chronican said the maintenance of the bank's market capitalisation and value compared with its international peers had increased its reputation and knowledge among major institutional investors.

He said Westpac's move to being a stronger counterparty risk holder had brought increased foreign exchange market participation. "I don't think any of us had been in the top 40 banks until relatively recently," Mr Chronican said. "With the merger of St George being quite large, we've attracted the attention of our global peers and larger customers. We are finding more and more that we are quoting for large foreign exchange transactions. The customers have large amounts of money to move, more than $1billion in individual transactions. They have become much more frequent for us. We are seen to have counterparty stability."

Mr Chronican said Westpac's foreign exchange business would grow as the bank snared more international deals among fund managers and hedge funds. "The FX (foreign exchange) business is increasingly profitable because there are fewer banks and the pricing is more competitive and intensive," he said. "One of our strongest improving businesses has been in FX because of the margins and volume."

Bank of America-Merrill Lynch banking analyst Matthew Davison said the Australian banks were now large enough to be seen as serious contenders for overseas expansion, although it was more likely the majors would concentrate on the Australian market.

Bank stocks led a massive fall on the Australian share market on Friday, with NAB hitting its lowest level for almost 12 years after a $1.17, 6.5 per cent slide to $16.94.

Others also hit record lows -- ANZ its worst for nine years at $12.06 and Westpac and the Commonwealth their worst for six years -- on fears about the global economy.

US and British banks, which unlike Australian banks are not protected by a ban on short-sellers, collapsed last week, ahead of a second round of bailouts by the British and incoming US governments.


As government schools steadily deteriorate, guess what parents do?

They have been doing the same sort of thing in Britain and the USA for many years

PARENTS are buying houses in areas close to desirable schools and intervening more than ever to ensure their children are positioned for success in their education, University of Sydney research has found. The belief that bright children will do well at any school has been superseded with distrust in leaving anything to chance. Anxious middle-class parents have become more proactive in making sure their children enrol in "the best" school, whether measured by academic or cultural standards.

Frustration had displaced any sense of entitlement Anglo-Australians once felt in sending their children to selective high schools, a tradition that could no longer "be handed down along with the family silver". This had given way to resentment with the growing role coaching colleges played in helping students, particularly those from Asian-Australian families, gain selective school entry.

Despite feeling that coaching colleges were beneath them and a form of "cheating", some Anglo-Australian families admitted they had "given in" and commissioned their services, or had drilled their children on past selective school entry test papers, even if only the once.

The findings are based on 1350 surveys and 63 interviews with parents of year 7 students. The researchers, Craig Campbell, Helen Proctor and Geoffrey Sherington, also examined Australian census data from 1976 to 2001 for their new book, School Choice: How Parents Negotiate The New School Market In Australia.

The research highlights a shift in middle-class attitudes towards education as a commodity. Those committed to the public school system felt upset that they were being "forced" into non-government schools because of insufficient government investment in state schools. Satisfaction with the local school was more common in middle-class areas where some families had moved for no other purpose than securing a school enrolment.

Associate Professor Campbell, from the University of Sydney's faculty of education, said middle-class families interviewed for the project had expressed firm ideas about where their children should go to school. Those with the resources were moving to the catchment areas, such as Sydney's Hills District, to be near reputable public schools. Those who did not were often opting for low-fee Catholic and Christian schools despite having no religious convictions. "A good government school was still the first choice for most people," Associate Professor Campbell said, "but a lot of people are feeling frustrated that it is decreasingly available to them."

A mother of two young daughters who lives in the Ryde area yesterday told the Herald that she was considering moving to another suburb because her only choice of public school catered to a majority of children who spoke Mandarin as their first language. Her comments were given on the condition of anonymity because she was "all for multiculturalism" and did not want to "appear racist". "The school is focused on getting the kids into selective schools and there isn't much attention given to things like dance and sport," she said.

Working-class parents were generally more willing to respect their children's wishes by sending them to the same school as their friends. "Parents feel they have to intervene more than they have in the past," Associate Professor Campbell said. "The pressure has really racked up."

Meanwhile, the NSW Department of Education was yesterday embarrassed by a series of newspaper advertisements which incorrectly stated classes for the new school year started next Tuesday instead of today.


Labor's plan is having a lend of us all

Why on earth is the Rudd government intent of propping up commercial propertty owners? Is that the best thing they can do with taxpayers' money??

ALTHOUGH the details of the Government's proposed lending facility for commercial property are not yet known, it is fair to say that what is known raises more questions than answers.

At its simplest, why would supporting loans to developers of shopping centres and other forms of commercial property be a particular priority of policy? The vast bulk of loans relate to assets that already exist or are at advanced stages of development. When commercial property prices fall, the owners of those assets take a loss, while the purchasers of the assets, and the assets' users (that is, tenants) make a gain. As revenues from the buildings almost invariably continue to exceed the buildings' operating costs, the assets continue to be operated, so the real flow of services to the economy is unchanged.

Obviously, reductions in commercial property prices force banks to write down the value of their property investments. In practice, the impacts are likely to be very small, as most of the banks' commercial property loans have been securitised and are no longer on the banks' books.

But even putting that aside, any such impacts are no different from those that occur when prices fall for the many other asset classes that banks have invested in or relied upon as collateral. Should the result threaten the adequacy of banks' capital base, the right policy response is to facilitate the banks' recapitalisation, rather than artificially propping up the price of one particular kind of asset. Directly facilitating recapitalisation would be far more transparent and far less distorting of the pattern of asset prices in the economy as a whole.

With commercial property accounting for some 12 per cent of the investments made by Australian super funds, reductions in commercial property prices would also have an impact on the funds and especially on those that have been negligent or tardy in writing down the value of their property investments. It is understandable that the Government would be concerned about the resulting write-downs. But moving to a policy of trying to control asset prices is a very big call; and it seems foolish to get into that game by targeting the prices of one and only one class of asset, and a relatively minor one at that, for the purpose of protecting funds that are so poorly managed that they have failed to properly disclose the deteriorating quality of their balance sheet.

All this is not to deny that credit restrictions will result in some development projects for commercial property being cancelled or deferred. But the projects at risk are those that are most marginal and whose value to the economy has in fact diminished as growth has slowed. It makes no sense for the Government to prevent those cancellations and deferrals from occurring, all the more so as our economy, whatever its defects, is hardly short of office blocks.

This is especially the case as commercial property values are notoriously cyclical. Developers know this, and most developers hedge their position by securing anchor tenants (such as large supermarket chains in the case of shopping centres) to underpin their revenue base and their ability to secure finance. By intervening to prop up the market, the Government sends all the wrong signals, both in the short run and in the longer term.

In the short run, the scheme seems likely to induce developers to play off their existing foreign lenders against the safety net the scheme provides. This could accelerate the very withdrawal of foreign lenders the scheme is intended to guard against, while allowing developers to secure some free kicks on the basis of what amounts to taxpayer-funded insurance.

As for the longer run, the risk is that of protecting precisely those developers who did not take adequate precautions, while signalling to others the likelihood of government bailouts. The result will be to make property markets more, rather than less, cyclical.

What about the impact on jobs? This seems a furphy. To begin with, changes in the value of existing assets in no way directly alter employment prospects. Indeed, were rents to fall, business costs would be reduced and that might improve conditions across a wide range of sectors. True, the development projects that would otherwise not occur may create some jobs. But why would those jobs be any more valuable than the jobs that could be created by using the $2 billion for other purposes, including cutting economically distorting taxes?

The Government claims that taxpayers will make money from its proposed investments. This claim seems difficult to believe, especially when account is taken of the high level of risk involved in what are likely to be the most marginal commercial property projects in Australia. Funds devoted to those projects need to earn a return far above the bond rate if they are to cover their economic costs: and that is precisely why banks, foreign or domestic, are reluctant to underwrite them. If the Government has credible estimates that show it can do better as an investor than the commercial banks, with their many years of experience in real estate lending, it should make those estimates public. Until it does, taxpayers will have every right to be sceptical.

At the end of the day, the only sense one can make of the proposed fund is as a wealth transfer: from taxpayers to property developers, banks and the managers of the most poorly run superannuation schemes that would otherwise have had to incur reductions in asset values. If forcing taxpayers, most of whom have low incomes, to underwrite the incomes of property developers and financiers is not "extreme capitalism", it is very difficult to know what is.


More Greenie foot-shooting

Imported biofuel a threat to trees and wildlife. Just about all Greenie policies these days are destructive in one way or another.

AUSTRALIA is contributing directly to the widespread destruction of tropical rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia by importing millions of tonnes of taxpayer-subsidised biodiesel made from palm oil. Imports of the fuel are rising, undermining the Rudd Government's $200 million commitment to reduce deforestation in the region - a problem that globally contributes to 20 per cent of the world's carbon emissions. The bulldozing of rainforests to make way for palm oil plantations is also putting further pressure on orangutans and other endangered wildlife throughout Southeast Asia. And the Australian biofuels industry says it is struggling to compete with the cheap imports from Asia, which are touted as an environmentally friendly alternative to diesel.

Without action, the problem will only get worse, with demand for biodiesel imports likely to rise sharply when NSW legislates to introduce Australia's first biodiesel mandate - 2 per cent this year, rising to 5 per cent when sufficient supplies become available. But the Rudd Government is likely to come under pressure to follow the lead of other Western nations in banning imports of palm oil-based biodiesel. Biodiesel manufacturers in Australia use primarily tallow from abattoirs and recycled cooking oil.

Caltex, the biggest biodiesel customer in Australia, refuses to use palm oil-based fuel on environmental grounds, but it is being imported by independent operators. Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, who is conducting a review of government assistance to the biofuels industry, declined to comment on whether he was aware of the Asian biodiesel imports.

Unlike imported ethanol, imported biodiesel is not subject to the 38.14c-a-litre fuel excise, so the biodiesel imports from Asia are effectively subsidised by Australian taxpayers. Rex Wallace, the chief financial officer of the Adelaide-based Environmentally Friendly Fuels, said his company had purchased five million litres of palm oil-based biodiesel in recent years. "We would not need to import it if people could produce a quality product on a regular basis in Australia," he said. "We would love to buy more local produce but it's just not there." Mr Wallace said his company imported from certified plantations in Malaysia that had been developed on land cleared historically for other purposes such as rubber plantations.

Australian Biodiesel Group chief executive Bevan Dooley said the industry estimated that 10million litres of palm oil-based biodiesel was imported a year. "Europe and the US are closing the gates on this product, but Australian taxpayers are subsidising its import," Mr Dooley said. He said it was difficult to establish if certified plantations were environmentally friendly, and Australian imports were helping to fuel demand worldwide for "environmentally destructive" biodiesel from Malaysia and Indonesia. "These imports are causing many Australian producers to suffer losses and are detrimental to the establishment of a biodiesel industry in Australia," Mr Dooley said. "Australia is seen as a dumping ground for palm oil-based biodiesel as there is no requirement for the fuel to be derived from sustainable resources." He said there was ample capacity in Australia to meet demand.

The Australian industry produces about 50million litres of biodiesel a year, but has the capacity to produce much more. About 80 million litres will be needed annually to meet a 2 per cent mandate in NSW. Indonesia has about 6 million hectares of palm oil plantation and Malaysia 4.5 million ha. Indonesia plans to double palm oil production by 2025 and is developing a plantation of 1.8 million ha in east Kalimantan. To make way for the plantation, the largest remaining area of lowland rainforest in Kalimantan is being bulldozed, with the loss of habitat for orangutans, clouded leopards and other rare animals.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is worried about the future for highly-skilled employment in Australia

A new Hitler Jugend?

OK. That heading is a bit unfair. I think Kevvy is a bit misguided but I don't think he is a bad man at all. It is however entirely in keeping that a Leftist would have a scheme to organize the nation's youth into some form of government-run youth organization. There was the Hitler Jugend, Stalin's Komsomol, Putin's "Nashi" and Obama also has proposed something of the sort. Kevvy's version, however, seems reasonable enough, though undoubtably socialistic (government-run)

Kevin Rudd wants to recruit an army of young volunteers to help the elderly, feed the homeless, and clean up the environment. In exchange for giving up their time, members of the new Community Corps would get discounts on their university HECS debts. The proposal could attract tens of thousands of volunteers from the 1.3 million Australians with a higher education debt. The average ex-student has a $12,000 HECS debt, which typically takes more than seven years to pay off. The scheme could wipe out students' debts as they accumulate hours of community service, the Herald Sun reports.

The plan, backed by top business minds and embraced by community and welfare groups, emerged from the Prime Minister's 2020 summit. The Government is expected to adopt it within days when it releases its final 2020 summit report.

Mr Rudd, who has pleaded for Australians to pull together to beat the rapidly worsening economic downturn, has described the idea as "a very practical trade". Corps members could deliver meals on wheels, youth and Aboriginal services, become volunteer firefighters, or assist the disabled and elderly. Landcare and water projects could also benefit. It is understood the Corps would operate within Australia, unlike the US Peace Corps, which works on projects across the globe.

The plan is believed to be one of about six big ideas from the 2020 summit to get the green light. After the summit, Mr Rudd said: "We need more volunteering in the community, and students are emerging from university with a whole lot of debt. "The idea . . . where young people would go out and provide voluntary service in the community in exchange for reducing their HECS debt . . . is one we want to consider."

Brotherhood of St Lawrence chief executive Tony Nicholson said there would be plenty for Community Corps members to do. "It could range from assisting with recreational programs to driving a community bus, to assisting disadvantaged people get to the doctor or do their shopping," he said. Mr Nicholson said those with special skills, such as IT graduates, would be particularly useful.

When the idea was floated at the summit, the architect of the Higher Education Contribution Scheme, Prof Bruce Chapman, said it would appeal to wealthier students. Poorer students, he said, would probably prefer to enter the paid workforce.


It's happened again! Tiny baby found alone, abandoned and screaming in a closed childcare centre

This is gross negligence on the part of staff. I have always said that the only place for little children is in a loving home but this just reinforces that

A woman broke the window of a Darwin childcare centre with a brick when she arrived to find the building locked, the lights out and her tiny son trapped inside. Yula Williams, 30, said she could hear her eight-month-old baby Xavier "screaming and crying". "It made me terrified to know that my son was inside the centre, locked and in the dark," she said.

Ms Williams had dropped her son off at the centre in the Darwin suburb of Wagaman around 8am (CST) on Tuesday and went to work. She had dropped her car off at a local mechanic and arranged for one of her cousins to collect her son from the centre before it closed at 6pm (CST). But when she arrived home later that night her son was not at the house. "It was just a mother's instinct that I went back to the childcare centre and looked around," she said.

Ms Williams arrived at the centre shortly before 6pm but staff had already left the building. After scanning all the the security screens the frantic mother climbed the back of the building to call Xavier's name through elevated slats. "I couldn't hear him from the outside but when I walked around and called through the vents to the bedrooms I heard him scream," she told ABC radio in Darwin. Desperate to get to her tiny son, Ms Williams then picked up a brick from the garden bed and smashed it through a window. Police arrived at the scene about 7.30pm (CST) after they were called by one of the mother's relatives, who told them a baby was missing.

St John Ambulance officers also attended the centre to ensure the child was in good health. They gave Xavier the all-clear.

Ms Williams said that while she could understand the misunderstanding with her relative over the pickup arrangements, she could not understand how the centre had not called her to let her know that no-one had come to collect her son. Police said they were continuing to conduct investigations into the incident.


More photography madness

"Bordering on the absurd" understates it

A Perth library has declined to display an inoffensive photograph of two toddlers because of fears of a post-Henson backlash. Earlier this month, photographer Nicole Boenig McGrade submitted her picture, Kids in Suburbia, for an exhibition. Concerned that the photo might prompt complaints, the exhibition organiser suggested it be left out and Boenig McGrade agreed. The photographer declined to name the venue yesterday, but The Australian has since confirmed it is the Subiaco Library.

"They're just being cautious and I can understand that because no one wants to be put in a position where they might cause other people to be upset," said Boenig McGrade. But she said she was shocked to think her photo of two children playing on the footpath outside their WA home might be considered offensive. "This is an image of Australian lifestyle -- this is who we are. Children are part of our history and that's how I see my photographs," she said.

The photo, taken in 2006, shows an 18-month-old boy and his three-year-old sister, both with their shirts off. Their parents asked Boenig McGrade, a mother of two, to take the image, and they attended the photo session.

Library manager Colleen Harris is on leave and unavailable for comment, but it is understood that she was also concerned about the Australia Council's new protocols for artists working with children, released on January 1. The protocols, introduced after last year's national furore over Bill Henson's photographs of naked children, do not apply to Boenig McGrade because she receives no government funding.

Executive director of the National Association for the Visual Arts, Tamara Winikoff, said yesterday the council protocols would hinder artistic freedom. "Because of justified anxiety over the protection of children, what we're seeing here is a complete overreaction which is bordering on the absurd now," she said.

Australia Council chief executive Kathy Keele last night defended the guidelines. "I certainly hope -- and it's been our intention all along -- that this does not exclude children from our arts body of work in Australia," she said. "But we will all have to work hard to interpret what's in front of us, and talk about what it means." [More talk is not what is needed. The deficit is of realism and commonsense]


University Dismisses Climate Change Sceptic

It is common for Australian academics to publicly express an opinion on climate change including in our newspapers; think Tim Flannery, Ian Lowe and more recently Barry Brook. A couple of weeks ago Jon Jenkins, an Adjunct Professor at Bond University, had an opinion piece published by The Australian newspaper. The piece was critical of the accepted dogma on anthropogenic global warming with a focus on how global temperatures are recorded and ended with a comment on sustainable development:
"Science is only about certainty and facts. The real question is in acknowledging the end of fossil fuels within the next 200 years or so: how do we spend our research time and dollars? Do we spend it on ideologically green-inspired publicity campaigns such as emissions-trading schemes based on the fraud of the IPCC, or do we spend it on basic science that could lead us to energy self-sufficiency based on some combination of solar, geothermal, nuclear and renewable sources? The alternative is to go back to the stone age."

Interestingly Bond University has a new name for its business and IT faculties, The Faculty of Business, Technology & Sustainable Development, but apparently didn't like Professor Jenkins' very public opinion on the subject of sustainable development. For his opinion, Professor Jenkins received an official reprimand from the Bond University Registrar and then was informed last Friday that his adjunct status had been revoked. No doubt he has contravened some rule or other at the University and no doubt this would have gone unnoticed if Professor Jenkins had a more popular opinion on these most politically charged subjects.



Three articles below

Another deadbeat public hospital in NSW

Outstanding bills which have seen a security firm threaten to withdraw its services from a rural NSW hospital will be paid within 24 hours, the state government says. Health Minister John Della Bosca said he had spoken to Greater Western Area Heath Service (GWAHS) chief executive Dr Claire Blizzard, who gave an assurance the bills would be paid imminently.

Heartland Security threatened to halt work at Parkes Hospital if the bills were not paid by today. The firm also has complained about a string of late payments by the health service last year.

"I've been advised by the GWAHS by Dr Blizzard ... that she will be paying within 24 hours the outstanding account to the security firm involved," Mr Della Bosca told reporters in Sydney.

The work performed by the security personnel includes escorting nurses to their cars at the end of a night shift, to offer protection against possibly violent patients. Mr Della Bosca said there were three outstanding bills from the security firm, and only one from November was outside the new benchmark of 43 days in which a bill should be paid. But the latest case of late-payment also follows reports of staff at Mudgee Hospital using petty cash to buy sausages after a butcher refused to supply further meat, and a cancellation of surgery at Orange Base Hospital when it ran out of syringes.

Mr Della Bosca said the outstanding accounts at the GWAHS totalled $60 million when he took on the health portfolio, and they now stood at $23 million. "It has more than halved in four months so that is a very good trend line,'' he said. "I expect that to continue. I expect the GWAHS will achieve the benchmarks that we require for payment of local businesses and suppliers.''


NSW Premier 'too busy' to deal with failing hospitals

Easy interpretation: His brain is so constipated with failed Leftist ideas that he hasn't got a clue what to do

Doctors at Dubbo Base Hospital have not been paid for weeks, nurses at Orange are using their own money to buy batteries for heart monitors and cake trays to dispense pills, and students in Mudgee have bought beds for the emergency department as more reports of the state's credit meltdown come to light. But a spokesman for Nathan Rees said yesterday the Premier was "too busy with other things" to deal with the issue. The Director-General of NSW Health, Debora Picone, refused to comment, saying the Greater Western Area Health Service "managed itself".

The area health service, which covers 56 per cent of the state, is in crisis after more reports that creditors are waiting up to six months to get paid, deliveries of food and medical supplies to hospitals have been cancelled and vital maintenance work, such as fixing blocked pipes and faulty lifts, is not being carried out.

About 12 creditors came forward yesterday, including one owed more than $16,000 for delivering fruit to remote hospitals and a nurse who was angry that several wards at Orange Base Hospital had been without paper towels, vital for infection control, for several weeks because unpaid suppliers had stopped deliveries

Their claims came after the Herald reported a Parkes security firm was threatening to withdraw its services if its $6000 bill was not settled within 24 hours. Its owner, Lindsay Harvey, said he was told yesterday his money would be in his bank account by this morning. Steve Miller, the owner of Country Fruit Distributors in Dubbo, owed $14,000 for three months, was also paid about $7000 yesterday after complaining to the Herald.

The chief executive of the Greater Western Area Health Service, Claire Blizard, said it was "clearly unacceptable that some creditors are facing these delays". "We have made progress in relation to the payment of creditors and in the past couple of months we have made a 50 per cent reduction in creditors owed money. This is not a problem that can be fixed overnight," she said.

Students from Mudgee High School ran car washes, charity balls and raffles to raise $20,000 for emergency department beds last year. "It's a bit of a shame really that in a country like ours, as rich as ours, that our Government's health system has to rely upon local community donations to keep the hospital running," the former school captain, Hannah Kempton, said. Three emergency trolleys were bought by the hospital's auxiliary last week after it raised more than $15,000 in raffles, while a football team paid for carpet in the maternity ward. "It would be nice if we didn't have to buy these things, but we do," the president of the auxiliary, Glenys Goodfellow, said.

The Opposition health spokeswoman, Jillian Skinner, said it was unacceptable. "If people don't pay their speeding fines or taxes on time, then they get taken to court or there's some penalty. Why should the . Government think it's the exception?"


The hugely bureaucratized Queensland Health are such unpleasant people to work for that they have to employ any scum to fill the gaps that their bloodymindedness creates in their workforce

A Pakistan-trained doctor will face a tribunal after allegedly performing an unnecessary vaginal examination on a patient. The Queensland Medical Board referred Naseem Ashraf to the Health Practitioners Tribunal earlier this month, claiming he had engaged in "unsatisfactory professional conduct" that may require disciplinary action.

Ashraf, who is no longer registered as a doctor in Queensland, was working as a senior medical officer and anaesthetist at Mount Isa Base Hospital in October 2004 when the misconduct allegedly took place. It is alleged Ashraf performed an intra-vaginal examination on a woman who had visited him for a pre-anaesthetic consultation. The woman was due to undergo surgery one week later to remove abnormal cells detected during a routine pap smear.

According to a referral notice filed by the Queensland Medical Board in the Brisbane District Court, the vaginal examination was not required for a pre-anaesthetic assessment. The board also is claiming Ashraf did not gain the woman's consent before conducting the examination, or keep adequate medical records. Ashraf will face the tribunal at a later date.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Five reports from yesterday below. The mundane report of my own personal Australia day can be found here.

Australian patience with immigrant crime (despite official attempts to hide it) and demands for special treatment is beginning to run out

And, sadly, innocents get caught in the crossfire. And until the authorities start enforcing a "one rule for all" policy, the anger is going to get worse. Lebanese Muslims give particular offence to other Australians because of their frequently aggressive attitudes and a history of gang rapes among some of them. And Muslims tend to be big on demands for special treatment as Muslims, which offends traditionally egalitarian Australian attitudes

It was a day to celebrate all things Australian but it quickly descended into an afternoon of violence and racism echoing the ugly stain of the 2005 Cronulla riots in NSW. Once the embodiment of all things good about the country, Australia Day today became a scene of brawls and vandalism across NSW - with anger spreading from Shellharbour in the south to Port Macquarie in the north, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Wild brawls were also reported on the Gold Coast at Burleigh Beach, with hundreds of teenagers coming together in a series of violent confrontation on the popular family beach. The brawls occurred at about 3pm and a heavy police presence was on hand. Several arrests were made.

In the Sydney suburb of Manly [one of Sydney's most popular beaches], hundreds of youths draped in "Aussie pride" livery wore slogans declaring "f--k off we're full" as they smashed car windows and ran up the famous Corso targeting non-white shop keepers. A 18-year-old Asian female in one of the cars was showered with shattered glass, giving her numerous cuts to her arms. She was treated on the scene by ambulance officers. A taxi driven by a Sikh Indian was also targeted while an Asian shopkeeper was reportedly assaulted. Groups of men jumped up on cars chanting race hate to the terrified passengers within, and were heard singing "tits out for the boys" at passing girls and yelled "lets go f--k with these Lebs".

What started as chants of "Aussie Aussie Aussie" at 1pm (AEDT) had in an hour had developed the potential to resemble Cronulla Beach in 2005. By 3.30pm (AEDT) Manly Police called in the public order and riot squad and PolAir in an attempt to control the crowd, made up of a core group of troublemakers estimated by police about 80 drunks teenagers from out of town. By 4.30pm (AEDT) the rain came and the cooled tensions as police began to regain control. By the end three cars were damaged, one 16-year-old boy was charged with assaulting police, two 16-year-olds were cautioned for offensive behaviour and one cautioned for jumping into the water infront of the ferry.

Manly Superintendent Dave Darcy said group of teens came in from out of town. "We are significantly ramping up our investigative response and we're determined to hold these people to account for their behaviour," he said. "We've brought in some police from the areas where these people are from with their local knowledge in identifying these people. "If they came over to Manly seeking anonymity for their behaviour they're sadly mistaken."

Police were called to a report of a 30-person brawl on Shelly Beach Road at Port Macquarie while another 30 people were reportedly fighting on Towns St in Shellbarbour.


"Incorrect" T-shirts spark criticism

As the Territory was proudly celebrating our national day yesterday, a Darwin store was selling Australia Day shirts emblazoned with "racist" messages.

Little Ben Fox, 2, showed the world the Territory face we're proud of as he braved the rain to take part in the Australia Day fun run along with 2500 other Territorians. But at the same time, the Drunken Goat variety store in Casuarina was displaying a T-shirt in its front window proclaiming, "This is Australia. We eat meat, we drink beer, and we speak f#ckin English''. Another featured a picture of the Australian flag with the message "Support it or F#!K OFF''.

The manager of the store was unavailable to comment yesterday but community groups were outraged that the store would offer these shirts as part of their Australia Day window display. Africa-Australia Friendship Association president Judy Monkhouse said she was "appalled'' by the comments. "If indeed that's what they say, it is quite astonishing to see this in Darwin, in particular, which is celebrated for the fact that so many different ethnicities exist together in relative harmony,'' she said. Ms Monkhouse - a Zimbabwean-born english teacher - said the T-shirts "hark back to the days of Pauline Hanson''.

Greek Orthodox Community of North Australia president John Nicolakis said these shirts should have been "the last thing on display on Australia Day". "We all live in harmony and we're a lucky country," he said. "Things like that are only there to divide us - it should never have been on display."

Hakka Community Association president Henry Yap said he hoped people would not take them "seriously". "This was probably a light-hearted joke, but I wouldn't want to promote these things".

Opposition Leader Terry Mills said the items were "not acceptable". "It is not a good idea to ban such things, but I hope people don't buy it. Shame on anyone who would wear one."


Australia's charming Lebanese Muslim "refugees" once again?

There have been many reports of them carrying handguns -- something very little known among Australians generally. And they have of course the usual Muslim quickness to take great offence at any slight. In police jargon, "of Middle Eastern appearance" generally decodes as Lebanese Muslim

A man is dead after being shot twice in the back in a shocking outbreak of road rage. The 32-year-old father died slumped against his car after being hit in a hail of bullets during a confrontation on the Gold Coast Highway in Queensland. Police say the situation quickly escalated into a deadly standoff after one car crossed in front of another. The injured man died despite attempts by his mates, a nurse and an off-duty policewoman to save him.

About 20 detectives including Brisbane Homicide Squad officers are working on the case. The drama unfolded at Burleigh Heads last night and involved three people in the victim's car and three in another vehicle. Det Insp Marc Hogan said: "It would appear at this stage that the groups are unknown to each other but it has escalated very quickly and it's ended up the way it did. "It's a particularly nasty incident and obviously we are concerned for other people's safety."

He said both cars appeared to be travelling in the same direction and it appeared one crossed in front of the other. "It's as simple as that", he said. The man who was shot got out of his vehicle and the other car pulled alongside. Multiple shots were fired. Police said the dead man was in a relationship and was a father.

Detectives are looking for a red or maroon sedan and say one of the three people involved was of Middle Eastern appearance.


Record citizenship ceremonies on Australia day (26th Jan.) mark an Australian immigration success

It is undoubtedly true that Australia has successfully assimilated proportionately huge numbers of people from overseas, with minimal problems and notable enhancement of Australian life. Recent changes to the immigrant mix -- including for the first time substantial numbers of Africans and Muslims -- mean that the past is no guarantee of the future, however

Today, on the 60th anniversary of Australian citizenship ceremonies, 13,000 Australian immigrants became lawful citizens of Australia. Over 300 citizenship ceremonies were held around the country, with Perth hosting the largest group at a record 1,881 people sworn into citizenship. Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Evans attended the ceremony, saying they were joining "four million others who have done it before you," reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

The ceremony was the second-largest citizenship ceremony in Australia's history, and Senator Evans says it is all thanks to the achievements of the Australian immigration system. "We are a great success story," Senator Evans added. "You go anywhere in the world and they say no-one has done it better than Australia at settling and promoting the success of its migrants."

Being a multicultural nation, celebrations for Australians at Hyde Park included munching on Aussie beef burgers and snags (sausages), Turkish gozleme, Spanish paella, and Thai curries.

In Canberra, Leo Sayer, a British-born musician who became an Australian citizen today, said becoming an Australian citizen is better than getting a number-one hit, while in Adelaide, men from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association shouted "Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi", and Samoan women wearing traditional Samoan dress danced to the beat of a drum. In Melbourne, Chinese dragons accompanied the People's March that used the theme "We are one, but we are many" as their focus. Perth will have the final celebrations in Australia, topped off with fireworks and a partial solar eclipse.

Over 90 countries were represented around Australia at the citizenship ceremonies, and Senator Evans reminded listeners at the ceremony it is an excellent opportunity to celebrate multiculturalism and to thank those who move to Australia for their contributions to Australian society. "It's a great day to think about what Australia means to you and what we can do to make Australia the great place it is.We have refugees and business migrants building Australia ... and tasting its success."

When a permanent resident of Australia has been lawfully resident for four years or longer, they may be eligible to become an Australian citizen. They must have remained in Australia for the twelve months prior to application as a permanent resident, and had no periods outside of Australia for longer than 12 months during those four years, including no absences of three months or more in the 12 months prior to application.

If the applicant has been confined in prison or a psychiatric institution for any period during their time of residence, they may not meet the residence requirements. Some residents may be exempt from the residence requirements as determined by the government, such as those who serve in the Australian army, navy or air force. The Government provides a Residence Requirements Calculator to help determine eligibility for Australian citizenship. Applicants must also prove that they are of good character.

The government will be holding events throughout the year to celebrate Australian citizenship.


Baz Luhrmann named UnAustralian of the year

Rather sad that it takes a popular girlie magazine to state the obvious. Disparaging Australia -- and even telling lies to do so -- may be popular with the Leftist elite but ordinary Australians despise such talk

BAZ Luhrmann has been named UnAustralian of the Year for his "embarrassment" of a film Australia by Zoo Weekly magazine. He topped the lads' mag poll ahead of cricket captain Ricky Ponting and boxer Danny Green, who was included for going on reality TV show Dancing with the Stars.

Luhrmann took out the top spot after his film was panned by critics and bombed at the international box office, Zoo editor Paul Merrill said. "Australia was supposed to be something to make all Aussies proud and sell the 'Lucky Country' to the world," Merrill said. "Instead it was an embarrassment. Turning our proud history into a dismal love story full of cliches is not something we'll forgive easily."


Monday, January 26, 2009

Toilet row - man sacked over bathroom habits

It is true that many Asians see the use of toilet paper as "dirty" and wash their bottoms instead. But let me say what is unsaid below: Asian lavatories are set up for washing. Australian lavatories are not. The result is that Asians following their customs in Australia tend to leave a lot of water on the floor around the toilet pedestal -- sometimes polluted water. And that makes it most unpleasant for other users. The company was entirely reasonable in protecting its employees from that. In the circumstances, it is rather a surprise that the union representative attacked the company. I don't think he represents his workers. Below is an excerpt from an email about the matter that I received from one North Queensland worker:

"The Yanks would call this a bum rap. I read this in the Courier Mail the other day. I am geting a bit sick of these bleeding hearts coming out backing these gippo pricks crying about cultural rights. If the union wanted to do something constructive they would be placing a ban on these muslim clerics preaching wife beating etc and calling for their immediate extradition. I don't know where all this, the average Aussie is tolerant and welcomes migrants, comes from. What a crock of sh*t. The government knows that the majority of Australians don't want these pricks in Australia but keep pandering to the rowdy miniority. No one is game to say to much in case they end up in court"

A Townsville man has been sacked for `un-Australian' toilet habits. Amador Bernabe, 43, uses water to clean himself instead of toilet paper. Mr Bernabe, a machine operator on a working visa from the Philippines, said it was his culture. But on Thursday he got the shock of his life when his foreman followed him into the toilet questioning his toilet hygiene.

Mr Bernabe said his employer Townsville Engineering Industries (TEI) sacked him yesterday for not going to the toilet the Australian way. TEI, which is located at the Bohle, could not be reached for comment yesterday. The move has angered union bosses and politicians on the Australia Day weekend.

"I went to go to the toilet and I took a bottle of water when my foreman saw me and he said `you can't bring the water in there'," Mr Bernabe said. "I asked why and he said it wasn't good but I said it's our way and he followed me into the toilet. "I said it's my personal hygiene. I didn't break any law, I didn't break any rules of the company, why can't I do this, and he said he would report me to the manager.

"The next morning when I came in I went to punch my time card and he told me the manager wanted to talk to me in his office. "He asked me what had happened and I explained to him and he said if I didn't follow the Australian way I would be immediately terminated and I said `sir, then you better terminate me'."

Australian Manufacturing Worker's Union state organiser Rick Finch said the incident was shocking. "I think it is atrocious, an invasion of a person's rights and cultural beliefs," he said. "The paradox of the toilet and a person's actions is something that no boss can even think about interfering with and the thought that bosses think they have the control to get involved in the toiletry is a gross invasion of an employee's privacy. "If it wasn't so disgusting it would almost be laughable." Mr Finch slammed the move as `bigoted'.

Greens spokeswoman Jenny Stirling praised Mr Bernabe for standing up for his rights. "I commend the man for standing up for himself and I encourage the employer to have further talks with the union and the employee and I am sure commonsense will prevail," she said. "I would like to see how Australians feel when they go to Europe where in places they don't have toilet paper."

Thuringowa MP Craig Wallace said the company should re-evaluate their priorities. "Employers should be worried how their business operates rather than what their employees do in the loo," he said. "I know in a number of cultures using paper to clean yourself is considered an offence because of their beliefs. "If he is being hygienic and not bothering anyone else then good luck to him."

Mr Finch said employers should be more tolerant of their employees, especially in Mr Bernabe's case where he has been brought to the country by TEI on a 457 visa. "At the end of the day we are a multicultural society and if they want to import workers then they need to be tolerant of other workers and other cultures," he said. "They don't own these workers, they are borrowed and hired to carry out a job. "The thought these bosses think they can lord it over these workers is insane. "What it shows is the company's complete arrogance for workers' rights."

Mr Bernabe, a father of four, had been with the company since April 2008 and said he had no problems until yesterday. "It's hard work but it is my skill so it is good," he said. "The only problem was yesterday."


Sorry Mick, but Australia Day date stays: Rudd

January 26, 1788 was when the first English settlers arrived in Australia. My relatives on my mother's side have celebrated the day with a get-together for many years. We did so over a BBQ lunch today. The celebration these day includes several members of Han Chinese descent but they wear symbols of Australiana as proudly as anyone

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has said a "respectful" no to the call by Australian of the Year Mick Dodson for a "conversation" to change the date of Australia Day. Mr Rudd told a citizenship ceremony in Canberra he believed January 26 was a day all Australians could celebrate despite the historical origins of the day. "We're all in this together," he said. Mr Rudd paid tribute to Australia's indigenous heritage saying it was a "privilege" for non-indigenous Australians to share the country with indigenous Australians.

Indigenous leader Warren Mundine has said any discussions aimed at changing the date would be "a long conversation''. Professor Dodson says many Aborigines view the First Fleet's arrival in 1788 as invasion day. "I'm not suggesting we move the date. I'm saying that we should have a conversation about that,'' Prof Dodson told Fairfax Radio today.

Mr Mundine, a former Labor national president, said it would be a worthwhile conversation, but a long one. "You don't just change a powerful, emotional and symbolic day like Australia Day on a whim or over night,'' he told Fairfax Radio. "Yes, we do have an issue with the 26th January we can't get away from, but I'm a realist. "If we are going to change the date we have to bring all Australians with us and it has to be a date that we can all be comfortable celebrating together. "And if that is going to happen, that is going to be a long conversation.''

Mr Mundine said he believed the discussion was necessary because January 26 was "a festering sore within indigenous communities''.


Sentencing council to give public a say in penalties

A long overdue idea. I documented long ago the big gap between the judiciary and the public

The public could get input into penalties for criminals under a new plan which would put an end to "out of touch" sentencing by Queensland courts. The Queensland Law Society has urged the State Government to set up a sentencing council which would consult with the public, do research and advise on sentencing policy. According to a letter from QLS president Ian Berry to Attorney-General Kerry Shine, obtained yesterday by The Courier-Mail, a sentencing council might also end the "opportunistic and cynical" law and order debates governments and oppositions engaged in, in the lead up to elections.

In his January 8 letter, Mr Berry said NSW in 2003 and Victoria, the following year, had set up sentencing advisory councils similar to those in England and Scotland. He said they provided "the machinery for on-going, rational consideration of sentencing issues". The case for their establishment was "beyond any doubt". "Through no fault of the judiciary, it must be acknowledged there is a feeling in the wider community that there is a disconnection between what people might consider appropriate sentences for crimes - especially crimes of violence - and what sentences are imposed," he said. "If the public is to feel that it has some direct 'ownership' of sentencing policy ... it will go a long way towards public acceptance and understanding of the administration of justice and law and order."

A spokesman for Mr Shine said the proposal was appreciated and would be given full consideration.

Response to the proposal has been mixed. Bar Association vice-president Michael Byrne, QC, said the BAQ had full confidence in the judiciary but was "open to consider any initiative proposed by the Attorney-General". But Chief Justice Paul de Jersey said he was not in favour of the proposal. "I do not accept the community lacks general confidence in the sentencing process," he said. "I have not heard any consistent call for reform." [He must be deaf]


Dumbed down education hits home

POOR spelling and grammar, verbose resumes and applications that include too many personal details are killing the chance of job seekers finding work. Recruiters and those who help applicants prepare CVs and resumes say they are astounded by some of the obvious mistakes that job applicants make. "The world of texting and emails has lowered people's standards of English," Jeanette Hannan of Brisbane firm Resumes for Results said. "I receive emails with text message jargon. I straight away dismiss them."

Some applicants put too many details about their private lives, and wrote resumes that were 20 to 30 pages long. "They will put in that they are married, how many children they have, even the dog's name," Ms Hannan said. One woman even detailed her husband's and father's job qualifications.

Ms Hannan said job seekers often failed to sell their achievements, such as boosting sales achieved in a previous job. Kevin Alexander, practice leader with recruitment firm Hudson, said many people forgot the importance of the resume document. "It is the document that the candidate will be initially judged against, and therefore it is vital to get right," he said. While candidates could get away with a few lapses in their resume in the past, as the job market intensified this year employers would look for those who stood out, Mr Alexander said. Many people with great resumes fell at the interview hurdle and job applicants needed to be prepared for several interviews, he said.

Recruiter Glenda Stenner said the internet had made it too easy for people to apply for jobs, and as a result some applied for too many positions, including those for which they were not qualified. She has seen bad spelling mistakes, particularly in resumes of people applying for administrative positions.

Ms Stenner said employers and recruiters were being inundated with applications, and resumes and cover letters needed to have enough impact to get the job seeker on to the shortlist. "It should be just the facts," Ms Stenner said. One employer said he sometimes had to scroll down five pages of information before he found out where an applicant had worked. Ms Stenner said some applicants failed to tailor cover letters to the position, and were sending the same cover letter over and over, with the same mistakes.

Deborah Barit of Impressive Interviews said many applicants did not explain what they did and tried to give employers too much information they were not interested in.