Thursday, April 30, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is critical of the surge of illegal immigrant arrivals under the Labor government's new "soft" policy

Mice attack disabled veteran in government nursing home

What Green/Left government leads to

A BEDRIDDEN war veteran was found on Anzac Day with bloody ears, hands, face and neck after being "severely chewed" by swarming mice at a southwest Queensland nursing home.

Opposition MP Ray Hopper said Queensland Health had been slow to respond to a mice plague at the Dalby Hospital, which includes a nursing home, leading to the attack on the 89-year-old man.

The man's daughter said staff found her father bleeding from bites to his head, neck, ears and hands on Anzac Day, Mr Hopper said. "The top of his ears were severely chewed and he had bites to his head and neck,'' Mr Hopper said. "His hands were covered in blood because he was trying to get the mice off him. "We are talking about a health facility overrun by vermin. It's atrocious.''

Mr Hopper said the man was so distressed that doctors had put him on morphine to calm him down. He said it was normal to see an increase in mice in Dalby and the Darling Downs at the onset of winter, and the problem was handled with chemical sprays. "But the bureaucrats said no sprays this year because it uses agricultural chemicals, and that's not allowed to happen at a health facility,'' he said.


Leftist public broadcaster trivializes Australia's most honoured occasion

The excerpt below summarizes the author's response to an ABC website. She then goes on to make excuses for it. She was, after all, writing in a Left-leaning newspaper

And at Gallipoli gravity was, if anything, more than usually evident. From the first pre-dawn moments when Anzac soldiers drowned under the weight of their own packs to the hellish eight-month struggle for ascendancy in that jaggedly vertical terrain, gravity ruled.

Yet, to judge by the ABC's otherwise excellent new website, Gallipoli: The First Day, gravity might as well not exist. The site, launched last week, constructs a compelling narrative and shows something of its own Anzac spirit, having been produced in just a few months and for a tiny fraction of the usual gargantuan animation-type budget. Adroitly directed by the ABC's Sam Doust, it mixes flash-maps, fly-overs and digital dioramas with more traditional means such as voiced letters and diaries (by Hugo Weaving) and videoed recollections to give a blow-by-blow from both Allied and Ottoman points of view. You can clamber interactively around the island, scrutinise strategy and character, examine maps, guns and events in detail.

And yet this dreadful story is strangely light-on in the emotion department. This is partly due to Lucy Bell's hushed and girlish narration, as though she's whispering us a bedtime story that mustn't wake the children. (A pomo gesture, this, laying such a lace doily of a voice upon so blokey a tale. Doust explains that female team-members argued for estrogenism, so to speak, and the mere fact that this was from start to finish a testosterone tale seemed an insufficient reason to deny them. But doesn't that say it all, really? Death of the soldier, the bloke and the auteur, with a single democracy-soaked bullet.)

But the main reason it's Anzac Lite is that, while the camera may whiz giddily about, the characters themselves are oddly without motion or mass. Efforts are made - shadows, close-ups, a richly textured soundtrack - to bolster a sense of reality. We hear Lieutenant-Colonel Kemal's famous command, "I don't order you to attack, I order you to die," and British General Ian Hamilton's even more notorious "dig, dig, dig". We hear groans, and curses, and guns.

But there's no blood in this bloodbath, no falling or staggering or pitching headfirst into the trench. And this zero-gravity feel causes a corresponding lack of emotional weight.


Australia makes "asylum-seeking" very attractive

Asylum-seekers on Christmas Island receive generous payments for doing nothing

A FAMILY of four asylum-seekers living on Christmas Island in community detention receives up to $1000 a fortnight from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). DIAC spokesman Sandi Logan said 33 asylum-seekers who had undergone health and security checks were living in houses in the community while awaiting outcomes of their visa applications.

A further 40 asylum-seekers, mostly family groups, women, children and those with special needs, are in alternative detention while 193 single men are detained at the Christmas Island Detention Centre. Women and children are not housed in the detention centre itself, and instead live in alternative detention called the construction camp near the Poon Saan neighbourhood on the island.

Mr Logan said adults in community detention were given $100 cash and $360 in store credit, which can be used at one of two local stores, a fortnight to buy food and other items. A family of two adults and two children would receive $300 cash and $766 store credit each fortnight, which is administered by the Red Cross.

Those under the age of 18 who were deemed unaccompanied minors [In other words, young adults pretending to br teenagers] in community detention receive $50 a week and each household consisting of up to five minors, who are looked after by a carer, is given $900 a week for food and supplies.

Mr Logan said those on community detention had to cook and buy their own food. "We can't put them out in community detention and let them starve," he said. Some chose to save their money and buy luxury items including sunglasses and MP3 players, and were entitled to do so, Mr Logan said.

Inside the detention centre, detainees have 20 internet terminals. "There is also a telephone available in each of the (eight) compounds and they are issued with a phone card each week to make phone calls, it could be to their representatives, to friends or to others ...," Mr Logan said. The calls are unrestricted and include international calls.

Mr Logan said the detainees are encouraged to participate in activities and are rewarded for attending English classes and helping out in the detention centre. The reward system has been in place for some time in Australian detention centres, Mr Logan said.

Detainees are free to move around the inside of the detention centre, often playing cricket and soccer on the oval, but have a night-time curfew when they go back to their single rooms.

The centre was built by the Howard government at a cost of $400 million and is located on the remote corner of Christmas Island, an Australian territory 2,600km northwest of Perth. More than 200 people including 38 DIAC staff are on the island to support the centre.

More than 130 asylum-seekers picked up in the interception of four boats since Saturday, including two today, will also be taken to Christmas Island. It is not known when they will arrive on the island.


A nearly honest man in Australia's Leftist government

Icecap science rattles Craig Emerson but he soon backs down

FEDERAL Small Business Minister Craig Emerson has split from Kevin Rudd and ministerial colleagues by declaring science is undecided on key aspects of the global warming debate. Dr Emerson yesterday became the first minister in the Rudd Government to cast doubt on the assertion that scientific evidence was conclusive for a catastrophic meltdown of the polar icecaps if global warming was not curtailed.

He said he would like to see scientists settle the question of what would happen to sea-level rises and the polar icecaps as a result of climate change. "We have been basing our responses to this issue on the basis of scientific evidence," Dr Emerson told Sky News. "I suppose what's disappointing around the world is that there is so much disagreement around the edges or even on key issues such as what's happening to Antarctica. Now what I'd like to see is the scientists themselves settle on some of these issues."

Dr Emerson added there was little disagreement that the climate was warming. "We can't wait to see whether the sea level rises by half a metre, one metre, two metres or more, and then act," he said. "We need to act now to get ahead of it, and do everything we can to prevent these sorts of dire predictions from becoming a reality."

Dr Emerson was commenting on a report in The Australian yesterday that a rift had emerged between Climate Change Minister Penny Wong and Environment Minister Peter Garrett over the ice-melting debate. Senator Wong was concerned about Mr Garrett's claim that the calving of ice from the Wilkins ice shelf indicated the Antarctic icecap was melting, potentially causing sea levels to rise 6m. Evidence has emerged that while parts of west Antarctica are warming, much of Antarctica is cooling and sea ice around the continent generally is expanding.

The Government has previously insisted the science on global warming is not in dispute. Kevin Rudd declared in 2007 that there were no scientific doubts surrounding the issues of sea levels and ice melting. "Can I just say, the science is in. The icecaps are melting, the oceans are rising," Mr Rudd said. Mr Garrett declared last year that the "science is in" on climate change.

Last night, Dr Emerson denied he believed that the science on global warming was inconclusive. "The science is in that we are experiencing climate change and we need to act to deal with it," Dr Emerson told The Australian. "There are disagreements about projections on how severe the consequences will be but that must not prevent countries from acting now to deal with climate change."


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Warmism fading in Australia

By William Kininmonth, a former head of the National Climate Centre and a consultant to the World Meteorological Organisation. Kininmonth agrees that there is a global warming effect but points out reasons why it has to be trivial. The temperature rise across the 20th century was certainly trivial -- about a half of one degree Celsius. It takes acute imaginitis and a lot of statistical jiggery pokery to extrapolate that to a huge rise in the 21st century

The science of global warming is claimed to be too complex for the public to comprehend and judge. We are continually being told to take and act on the advice of the consensus of IPCC experts; the dissenters are no more than paid mouthpieces of industry or worse. Nevertheless, the public and their representatives are showing innate common sense.

The Australian Senate is poised to reject the "cap and trade" legislation designed by the Rudd Government to implement the Orwellian carbon pollution reduction scheme; it is unlikely the US Senate will ratify similar legislation to limit carbon dioxide emissions any time soon, despite the rhetoric of Barack Obama; and the UN's post-Kyoto dreams of global industrial regulation are destined to fail in Copenhagen later this year.

Economist John Quiggin appears so concerned at the direction of events that he claims "mainstream science is on the verge of being overturned by the efforts of a group of dedicated amateurs" (The Australian Financial Review, April 23).

With public perceptions changing so dramatically and quickly it is little wonder Ian Plimer's latest book, Heaven and Earth, Global Warming: The Missing Science, has been received with such enthusiasm and isinto its third print run in as manyweeks. The public is receptive to an expose of the many mythologies and false claims associated with anthropogenic global warming and are welcoming an authoritative description of planet Earth and its ever-changing climate in readable language.

In an interesting slant on logic, Robert Manne, writing in The Weekend Australian last Saturday, takes the position it is not what citizens should believe that is important but who they believe. Needless to say, he favours the UN's IPCC and its so-called consensus over those such as Plimer who question the anthropogenic global warming science.

What is often forgotten is that the UN established the IPCC in 1988 only because of the then raging scientific debate over the veracity of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis. The debate has continued because the dire predictions violate fundamental scientific laws and the real science cannot be suppressed.

Recognition of the essential flaw in the dangerous global warming hypothesis predates the IPCC and has been there for the world to see in the title of a paper published in 1966 by CSIRO division of meteorological physics former chief Bill Priestley: "The limitation of temperature in hot climates by evaporation."

Seventy per cent of the Earth's surface is made up of ocean and much of the remaining surface is transpiring vegetation. Evaporation and the exchange of latent energy from the surface is a strong constraint to surface temperature rise. It is not rocket science that water from a canvas bag is cool even on the hottest days.

Furthermore, the surface temperatures of the warmest tropical oceans seldom exceed 30C and for millions of years the underlying cold sub-surface waters have provided a powerful thermal buffer to warming. The suggestion of anthropogenic global warming exceeding a tipping point and leading to runaway or irreversible global warming is a violation of conservation of energy principles.

Computer models are the essential tool for prediction of future climate. Since the IPCC fourth assessment, several independent analyses of the characteristics of the various models have been published in the scientific literature. These analyses reveal serious defects. As the Earth warmed during the 1980s and '90s, it was observed that the convective overturning of the tropics (the Hadley circulation) increased. In contrast, the overturning of the computer models is portrayed to decrease as increasing carbon dioxide generates global warming.

Separately it is found that the computer models underspecify (by a factor of three) the important rate of increase of evaporation with projected temperature rise, meaning that the models underspecify rainfall increase and exaggerate the risk of drought. The same evaporation problem causes an exaggeration of the temperature response to carbon dioxide, but the exaggeration is a model failure and not reality.

The greenhouse effect is real, as is the enhancement due to increasing carbon dioxide concentration. However, the likely extent of global temperature rise from a doubling of carbon dioxide is less than 1C. Such warming is well within the envelope of variation experienced during the past 10,000 years and insignificant in the context of glacial cycles during the past million years, when Earth has been predominantly very cold and covered by extensive ice sheets.

Fundamental science has always identified that it is quixotic to attempt regulation of climate through management of carbon dioxide emissions. The pity is that community leaders have been beguiled by the mystery of powerful computers and have failed to critically assess the predictions within the context of Earth's history. Plimer's authoritative book provides the excuse and impetus to re-examine the scientific fundamentals and redress that failure.


Split in Australian government over Antarctic ice shelf claims

The phony story of an Antarctic ice breakup has now been acknowledged as such -- but not in time to prevent embarrassment

A SPLIT over global warming has emerged in Kevin Rudd's cabinet after it was revealed that a 13-month-old photograph was published this month to support the view that a catastrophic melting of Antarctic ice was imminent. Federal government sources said Climate Change Minister Penny Wong was disappointed with the way her ministerial colleague, Peter Garrett, weighed into the debate about global warming, claiming sea levels could rise by 6m as a result of melting in Antarctica. Senator Wong yesterday pointedly refused to indicate whether she supported Mr Garrett's view.

"The impacts of climate change are being seen in many ways, from sea level rise through to extreme weather events," Senator Wong said yesterday. "Climate change is a clear and present danger to our world that demands immediate attention." Senator Wong declined to nominate potential levels to which seas could rise.

At a time when the Rudd Government is battling to salvage its emissions trading scheme, some of Mr Garrett's Labor colleagues were annoyed the Environment Minister used his responsibility for Australia's Antarctic territory to weigh into the climate change debate with exaggerated claims. Mr Garrett claimed the break-up of the Wilkins ice shelf in West Antarctica indicated sea level rises of 6m were possible by the end of the century, and that ice was melting across the continent.

The Environment Minister later sought to distance himself from his comments. A study released last week by the British Antarctic Survey concluded that sea ice around Antarctica had been increasing at a rate of 100,000sqkm a decade since the 1970s. While the Antarctic Peninsula, which includes the Wilkins ice shelf and other parts of West Antarctica were experiencing warmer temperatures, ice had expanded in East Antarctica, which is four times the size of West Antarctica.

British newspaper The Observer this month published prominently a story with a photograph of breaks in the Wilkins shelf. "A huge ice shelf in the Antarctic is in the last stages of collapse and could break up within days in the latest sign of how global warming is thought to be changing the face of the planet," the story began. In March last year, US news agency msn published the same photograph with a similar story that began: "A vast ice shelf hanging on by a thin strip looks to be the next chunk to break off from the Antarctic Peninsula, the latest sign of global warming's impact on Earth's southernmost continent." The photograph was published by numerous other outlets, including The Australian. A spokeswoman for the British Antarctic Survey said the photograph in both stories was taken in March last year.

Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said the misuse of the photograph and the similar story lines 13 months apart reflected how the Wilkins ice shelf break-up was being recycled annually to fuel global warming concerns. Senator Joyce said Mr Garrett's entry into the debate demonstrated how it was being hijacked by misinformation. "We are on the edge of a possible pandemic that could cause untold misery and people are running around tilting at windmills," he said. Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt said Senator Wong should distance herself from Mr Garrett's comments.

Mr Garrett was defended by Australian Conservation Foundation director Don Henry. "The minister is right to raise concerns that melting of our ice caps could lead to that kind of sea level rise," he said.


Insane Leftist attack on jobs for young people

WHAT madness would make it more expensive to hire those Australians traditionally hit twice as hard during recessions? Answer: that provided by the Industrial Relations Commission under instruction from Julia Gillard.

An extra 34,000 teenagers have become unemployed over the past year, lifting teenage joblessness to 141,400 or 16.4 per cent. The prospect it will rise well over 20 per cent underlines last week’s warning from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that rolling back John Howard’s Work Choices will make it harder for young Australians to get a foothold in the job market. This, warns the OECD, risks a “build up of a large pool of youth at risk of becoming long-term unemployed”.

But the danger is greater than the OECD’s Paris-based analysts recognise because they haven’t got their heads around the IRC’s award “modernisation” process ordered by Gillard. The OECD’s review of Australia’s school-to-work policies assumes that “modernising” the “tangled web of binding rules” known as the award system will unwind the red tape strangling the job market.

The OECD clearly hasn’t looked at the Fast Food Industry Award that the IRC will impose from the start of 2010. It hasn’t picked up the threat to the youth-employment business model of the fast food industry, from franchise chains such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, KFC, Domino’s, Subway and Eagle Boys Pizza to thousands of small business takeaway food outlets.

Since the 1970s this sector has evolved on the edges of the federal award system, based on casual employment and minimal or no evening or weekend penalty rates. But the IRC’s award “modernisation” would force it to pay part-time student workers the sort of high casual loadings and penalty rates that it seeks to standardise across the workforce.

This would reverse the labour market liberalisation that allowed the jobless rate for those aged under 25 to fall to three-decade lows of 8.7 percent by the end of the latest boom. As the OECD notes, Howard’s individual work contracts - or Australian Workplace Agreements - are “likely to have increased the labour market competitiveness of low-skilled youth”.

But these individual contracts are being abolished just as the recession hits young Australians the hardest. Many will be seeking work for the first time just as business decides that the new unfair dismissal rules make it riskier to hire young people with no employment history. And those young people with jobs are likely to be the first to be laid off during the downturn. Firms typically have invested less in training juniors than their more senior staff, who are more expensive to retrench as redundancy pay standards have become more generous.

Such dynamics explain the OECD’s quantification of how young workers have been hit hardest in previous recessions. For every one percentage point softening of annual economic growth, the jobless rate for those aged 25 to 54 years has risen 0.87 percentage points. But at the same time, the jobless rate for those aged 15 to 24 years has increased 2.03 percentage points. That means the youth jobless rate rises 2.3 percentage points for every one percentage point increase in the adult rate.

The priority should be to retain the flexibility that allows young people to get a foothold in the job market. Most young Australians get their first job while at high school or university, often through the sort of evening and weekend casual work provided by fast food businesses. Some disparage such jobs as dead-end hamburger-flipping. Yet the OECD says casual and part-time work in Australia is typically a “stepping stone” to better-paid careers. Moreover, the frequent resort to part-time work does not mean that Australian uni students graduate any later.

Until now the fast food business has grown up under less onerous state awards or tailored enterprise deals for franchise chains, which even facilitate the direct payment of union dues. These are based on flexible rostering of a casual workforce mostly aged in its teens or early 20s with no, or minimal, penalty rates.

But the IRC’s new Fast Food Industry Award imposes a national 25 per cent penalty rate for casuals plus an extra 25 per cent for work on weekday evenings and Saturdays. An extra 75 percent applies on Sundays. Casuals working public holidays will have to be paid a 275 percent loading on their normal hourly rate.

And the IRC ropes store managers into the award penalty rates and work rules on the basis that managerial classifications are included in other “retail” awards. The IRC offers no reason why penalty rates should apply at all for student workers during the very times they are most available to work: in the evenings and on weekends.

Amid the argy-bargy, the increased costs may be phased in. But this merely concedes the breaking of Gillard’s undertaking that award modernisation would not impose extra costs on employing labour. It will still stifle the business model that is one of the biggest employers of young Australians.

Against the howls of the shop assistants’ union, Gillard has allowed franchise chains such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and KFC scope to have their own enterprise awards “modernised”. But not until Fair Work Australia - as the IRC is to be rebadged - determines whether such awards would “lessen the competitiveness” of rival fast food operators. So Fair Work Australia will consult with “other businesses in the same industry” to make sure one franchise doesn’t get a supposedly unfair competitive edge from the way it organises its workforce. Regrettably, some business lobbies even support such levelling of the playing field, as they term it, against competition.

Gillard is not deaf to the fast food sector’s complaints over its new award, but is limited by the IRC process she has unleashed. She retorts that no business person has ever told her that “this nation’s economic prosperity should be based on ripping off young Australians”. That class warfare rhetoric would be more digestible if she allowed genuine scrutiny - say by the Productivity Commission - to ensure that Labor’s job market “modernisation” does not deny young Australians a work choice.


Why the lenient sentences for egregious criminals?

I documented long ago how great the gap is between what the courts deliver and what the public want. Nothing seems to have changed. Note the latest episode: "A driver who veered onto the wrong side of the road and killed a motorcyclist while tuning his car radio has walked free from court". I think many will see no reason why negligence causing death should be treated any differently from murder yet the courts are completely indulgent of such episodes

I reckon the judiciary has a magisterial disdain for what you and I believe is justice. They certainly talk the talk. Judge Felicity Hampel thundered at stalker and nasty child pornographer Ross Andrew Sargent that he was predatory, and his secret toilet videos were a gross violation of the women and girls he filmed - then slashed his jail sentence to two months.

Judge Margaret Rizkalla had similarly harsh words for Matthew James Vernon, one of Victoria's worst sexual offenders. He raped an 11-year-old he was babysitting, and the poor girl had Vernon's child, an unimaginable physical and psychological trauma. "The complainant is now torn between the world of being a mother and the world of being a child,'' Rizkalla observed. "It cannot be overlooked, but the child will be a constant reminder (of Vernon's shocking and selfish crime),'' she said sternly - before sentencing him to a fraction of the decades he could have received.

Judge Roland Leckie was on to serial killer Peter Dupas's shortcomings 25 years ago. Sentencing Dupas in 1985 for a knife-wielding rape - and knowing his violently dark past - he told the convicted man, "there is a strong possibility of your reoffending'', and then let him serve relatively light sentences, concurrently, as well. Tragically, Nostradamus had nothing on the prescient Leckie. So far there's been lots of talking, but not much walking.

Last week there was more talk around killer-driver Brett Franklin, whose sentence for claiming the lives of sisters Glenda Thomson and Michelle Hurst, and seriously injuring Glenda's daughter Tara, has been reduced on appeal to just 5 years. It was a lenient sentence to begin with. The work of young, drunk, irresponsible drivers is one of the bigger issues in the community.

"We will catch you,'' warned Assistant Commissioner for Traffic Ken Lay on television and in billboards across the state over Christmas. And in Franklin's case they did get their man, if the young bloke can ever be called one. Franklin had previously lost his licence for speeding. On the night he killed Glenda and Michelle in a TAC ad come to life, he was about three times over the legal limit and friends begged him not to drive. Franklin knew better and, showing off doing burnouts and fish-tailing, his V8 lost control.

His original sentence would have seen him behind bars for only seven years, not much when you plead guilty to charges that could see you cop 20 years each on the two main counts - and you have form. Franklin also pleaded guilty to two charges of negligently causing serious injury. Now things get interesting, Judge John Smallwood complaining that the five-year maximum sentence for this too low.

That was a coincidence. Six days earlier Judge Joe Gullaci had dealt with a Brendon James Healey. Healey, driving drunk, had hit and almost killed Jordynne Wilkie, 6, along with her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. JUDGE Gullaci said it had been a miracle that Healey, who jumped bail and fled overseas, had not wiped out four generations of the same family. He also commented that the five-year maximum sentence for negligently causing serious injury was inadequate - but then gave Healey a minimum sentence of four years when the bloke pleaded guilty to four of the offences, and why don't we chuck in speeding, skipping bail and exceeding .05 for bad measure?

Attorney-General Rob Hulls was listening. As shadow attorney-general he had pledged he would review sentencing laws, aware that we wanted tough penalties for serious offenders. In 2007, Hulls wrote to the Sentencing Advisory Council seeking advice on the maximum penalty for negligently causing serious injury, later doubling it from five years to 10. The Government was "committed to ensuring that adequate maximum sentences are in place'' he was reported saying at the time.

But that's just talk. You can increase as many maximum sentences as you like, but if the judiciary won't apply them, or anything getting near to them, then it's just legislation taking up shelf space. According to figures compiled by the Sentencing Advisory Council, the number of people jailed after being convicted in the higher courts of causing injury intentionally or recklessly is extraordinarily low, about one in five. Another one in four receives a ``wholly suspended sentence'' - ie, they walk. MANY others get community-based orders. Gee, I can feel that soggy lettuce thrashing the backs of my legs right now.

So what about the more serious culpable driving - you've killed someone and it's your fault? The Sentencing Advisory Council says of those convicted of this between 2001 and 2006: "Imprisonment terms ranged from one year to 12 years and three months, while the median length of imprisonment was five years.'' That should break your heart. More than 100 drivers have killed more than 100 of us for a median penalty of five years' jail. The worst offender received about 60 per cent of the possible maximum. That's why you might not be safe on the roads. If a bunch of those drivers was serving the 20 years behind bars, the Brett Franklins and Brendon Healeys of this world might think twice. We should be outraged. To the maximum. It's time to help judges see things our way

THERE are few more acute moments in the life of a democracy than when one person sits in judgment on another. It is a burdensome responsibility in which those we appoint must rise above any petty reactions of the aggrieved and look beyond simple biblical punishments that remain popular, but are these days mostly meted out drunkenly in pubs. We no longer take an eye for an eye, but we have turned the other cheek too far.

Our judiciary acts without prejudice or bias, and is objective. But our judges and magistrates go easy on lawbreakers and, I believe, are failing us with sentences that do not reflect community attitudes and that too often are well short of what their authors expected. Too often, criminals receive quite light sentences, appeal them, and are further rewarded with even lighter sentences. The Sunday Herald Sun reported earlier this month that our Court of Appeals had slashed 116 years of jail time off killers, rapists and drug dealers in the past 16 months. Those precedents further damage our faith in the system because they become part of "current sentencing practices''.

I would like to see every judge and magistrate's performance recorded and constantly updated. We should be able to look up their sentencing records. Legal fraternity insiders know the hanging judges and those who go easy - so why can't we? Why doesn't every sentencing decision record what percentage of the possible maximum has just been delivered? It would shock many people to know how infrequently a robust sentence is handed down. Each of those percentage figures should be filed against a name. Soon, an insightful profile of the sentencing inclinations of judges would emerge and we could deal with any anomalies.

We have a right to know the judges whose decisions are most regularly challenged in the Appeals Court. We have a right to know which judges' have the most decision overturned. Let's put an end to concurrent sentences. They are not sentences at all.

LET'S have no time off for good behaviour. Add time for bad behaviour, and plenty of it.

Finally, given how out of touch so may magistrates and judges seem to be, let's learn from the successful Operation Beacon, in which all operational police, more than 8000 of them, were retrained throughout 1994 after a series of unnecessary shooting deaths sparked public uproar. Almost immediately, the shootings stopped and the reputation of Victoria Police recovered.

We need an Operation Beacon for the Victorian judiciary in which every magistrate and judge is "retrained'' - familiarised once more with the contours of common thought, the great aggregates of opinion held by the society in which they work. Judicial life is privileged, exclusive and too often isolated. We can fix that. We should.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The "Four Scorners" come unglued

We see once again the bias and lack of ethics we have come to expect from Left-leaning public broadcasters. It is now completely clear that nothing they say should be taken seriously

Nick Kaldas specialises in assassinations. It was not his intention, it just worked out that way. He is on leave from his job as Deputy NSW Police Commissioner to head the investigation by the United Nations Special Tribunal into the assassination of a former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafiq Hariri, and several related murders and murder attempts.

Kaldas has also served in Iraq training the new police force, which routinely deals with political murder. His expertise in such dark matters began back in 1994, when he led the investigation into Australia's first political assassination, the murder of the NSW Labor MP John Newman. A local Labor politician and Vietnamese community leader, Phuong Ngo, was convicted in 2001 of orchestrating the killing.

Eight years later, to the distress of Kaldas, he has had to deal with a different kind of assassination - character assassination. It began on April 7 last year, when ABC's Four Corners broadcast a program which questioned whether the conviction of Phuong Ngo had been a miscarriage of justice, based in part on sloppy conduct by Kaldas.

The Four Corners program was loaded with suppositions such as this one, by a former Labor politician: "I don't think they [Phuong Ngo's accusers] had anything else to go on. I think just because he was Vietnamese." Friends of Ngo, such as the refugee advocate Marion Le, were quoted claiming there had been "a miscarriage of justice".

The report was based in part on the work of two academics from the Australian National University, Hugh Selby and Don Greig. Soon after the program went to air, both men made submissions to the Chief Justice of NSW, James Spigelman, calling for the murder case to be reopened. On the basis of these submissions and the public claims made in the Four Corners program, Spigelman ordered a judicial inquiry into the case. This was highly unusual. On the same day, the NSW Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, issued a press release dissociating himself from the decision. [Spigelman was a far-Left student in his university days]

The Chief Justice ordered the inquiry without seeking advice from the NSW Police, the Director of Public Prosecutions, or the NSW Crime Commission. The matter had been exhaustively examined by hearings of the NSW Crime Commission, a coroner's inquest, a committal hearing, three Supreme Court trials (one aborted, one resulting in a 10-to-one hung jury, and one which led to the conviction of Ngo), an appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal, and an appeal to the High Court of Australia, which declined to give leave to hear the case.

The inquiry went ahead. The cost to the taxpayer was $770,000. When it was over, the judicial officer who conducted the inquiry, the retired judge David Patten, issued a devastatingly comprehensive rejection of the accusations that had been regurgitated on Four Corners and put by Ngo's supporters in submissions to the inquiry, including a former independent member of the NSW upper house, Peter Breen. To quote from Patten's report, released last week:
"Not one scintilla of evidence points to any wrongdoing or improper activity by Mr Kaldas … despite a number of allegations by various supporters of Mr Ngo there is no evidence that the investigation of Mr Newman's murder was conducted otherwise than professionally and competently …

"[The] material put before the inquiry increased rather than diminished the strength of the Crown's case at trial. Moreover, Mr Ngo's own evidence, which was not before the jury at the trial where he was convicted, was, I believe, very destructive of his claim of innocence …

"Regrettably, the strength of the evidence available against Mr Ngo was virtually ignored by his supporters in their submissions to the inquiry. Unsupported allegations of gross impropriety were substituted for analysis of the facts … Mr Selby's submission to the Chief Justice … lost all significance, in my opinion, when scrutinised at an open hearing …

"I find that nothing in the matters raised by Mr Selby [and] nothing which has come before me [suggest] the investigation into Mr Newman's murder was conducted otherwise than thoroughly and competently by police officers dedicated to the task."

During the preparation of the Four Corners report, Kaldas declined to be interviewed on camera because, he told me last week, he had come to the view that the ABC reporter, Debbie Whitmont, was biased against the Crown case. He did, however, agree to go through the trial evidence with Whitmont, in detail. He took notes of these meetings. When the Four Corners program went to air he found that not one of the points he had made to Whitmont was mentioned.

Unusually, the accusations made on Four Corners were subjected to forensic scrutiny and the report by Patten found the inquiry had "increased rather than diminished" the strength of the Crown's case. He criticised Ngo's supporters for their "lack of objectivity", "intemperate language" and "making allegations of fraud, perversion of justice, and improper conduct … without a shred of evidence".

Yet all this was the basis on which the two ANU academics and Four Corners based their claims. Debbie Whitmont submitted the report for a Walkley Award. And won.

Last week, Four Corners issued a statement standing by its report. No acknowledgement of error. No acknowledgement of distress caused. No hint of admission that the program contained innuendo, omission, supposition, false accusation and a preconceived outcome. This is exactly the sort of case another ABC program, Media Watch, should examine, but it is the last thing it would touch, because the opinionated Media Watch actually operates as Ideology Watch. Such is the ethical rigour at our ABC.



Our lab has just published a new paper in PLoS ONE, detailing the interactions of coral and algae on the Great Barrier Reef, and uncovered just how resilient some reefs can be following coral bleaching events. The southern end of the Great Barrier Reef was exposed to extended periods of high sea surface temperatures in the end of 2006, resulting in extensive coral bleaching across the Keppel Islands throughout January 2006. Following the bleaching event, a single species of fleshy macro-algae (Lobophora) overgrew the coral skeletons, causing high rates of mortality throughout the second half of 2006. But, by February 2007, corals were rapidly recovering due to an unusual seasonal dieback of the macro-algae, and astonishing regenerative capabilities of the dominant branching Acroporid corals - almost twice the rate of offshore corals on the northern Great Barrier Reef.

What is unusual about the Keppel Islands story is threefold: first, that corals recovered within months to years (reversal of macro-algae dominated reefs often takes decades), second, recovery of the corals occurred in the absence of herbivory (traditionally assumed to be the 'driving factor' in macro-algal phase shifts), and third, that corals recovered through asexual (regenerative) capacities rather than reseeding of reefs by larval recruitment. Understanding the processes that drive recovery following disturbances is critical for management of coral reefs, and the Keppel Islands example shows that managing local stressors (overfishing and water quality) helps reefs bounce back from global stressors such as coral bleaching events. PLoS One is an open-access journal, so the article is free to read - click on the link below, and feel free to rate and comments on the paper. Congratulations Guillermo et al!

Guillermo Diaz-Pulido et al. (2009) Doom and Boom on a Resilient Reef: Climate Change, Algal Overgrowth and Coral Recovery. PLoS ONE 4(4): e5239


NOTE: Hoagy (Prof. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg), Australia's no.1 coral doomster, was among the joint authors of the paper. I wonder will this slow him down any?

White refugee from the Zimbabwe horror extremely badly treated by Australia's Immigration department

Man unlawfully held in detention for six months now seeking compensation

A ZIMBABWEAN immigrant wrongly held in detention for six months is seeking $2 million in compensation. Troy Parker arrived in Western Australia with his Australian wife and two children in 1999, having fled persecution from the government of Robert Mugabe. He was granted a temporary spousal visa but his application for permanent residency was rejected in 2002 after the relationship broke down.

However, Mr Parker says he never received the notification and continued working in Perth until 2004 when immigration officials placed him in detention as an illegal immigrant. He remained at the Perth immigration detention centre for six months before being released on a bridging visa though he was denied work rights for another 12 months.

Mr Parker, who now resides in Cairns in north Queensland, was finally granted permanent residency last Wednesday, after his case came to the attention of migration agent John Young who lobbied the Federal Government on his behalf.

However, a freedom of information application to the Department of Immigration revealed department officers acknowledged in 2006 that Mr Parker had been detained unlawfully. The documents reveal the letter notifying Mr Parker his visa application had been rejected was not dated, meaning his temporary visa remained valid for the entirety of his detention. They also revealed the visa cancellation was later overturned by the migration review commission, in the interests of Mr Parker's children, but the letter notifying him of the decision was sent to the wrong address.

"This is just a total mess, it's the biggest mess up I've ever seen," Mr Young told AAP. "The whole thing was flawed. He had rights, he had a valid visa."

Mr Parker is now seeking $2 million in compensation from the Federal Government. Two weeks ago he received a letter from the Department accepting there was a risk his detention may have been unlawful and indicating the matter had been referred to the Government's insurer to consider a payout figure.

Mr Young said he and his client were unlikely to accept an offer less than $2 million. "If he'd just been held in detention for six months and had been able to work immediately and get on with his life then we'd probably accept a lesser figure," Mr Young said.

Mr Parker said he was also seeking a formal apology from the Department. "I think some people have to answer for quite a few mistakes - it's caused quite a bit of chaos, it's split families up," Mr Parker said.

An immigration spokeswoman said the Department could not comment because the matter had not been finalised. "Given that the legal issues in this case are yet to be resolved it is inappropriate to discuss at this stage whether, and the extent to which, Mr Parker's detention was indeed unlawful," she said.


Fatal ambulance bungle a complete bureaucratic disaster

The more we hear the more unbelievable the mess gets. How could anyone be so stupid? It is bordering on evil that such stupdity was left uncorrected

A COMBINATION of bureaucratic bungling and technical glitches meant vital time was lost in the search for a teenager dying in the New South Wales Blue Mountains, an inquest has heard.

Police were made to fill in request forms and wait almost 24 hours before receiving information that they admit may have saved 17-year-old David Iredale, who died after becoming separated from his friends during a trek in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. Superintendent Patrick Paroz told Penrith Coroner's Court he made two separate requests to the state emergency services for copies of 000 calls made by the Sydney Grammar student. He did not receive them until almost a day later.

The inquest heard that a "technical difficulty" was to blame for the delay. A disc containing sound files of the calls had to be driven from the city to Katoomba because computer firewalls in the ambulance service system prevented police receiving them by email.

On December 11, 2006, David repeatedly told three New South Wales Ambulance Service operators that he was on the well-known Mt Solitary walking track heading towards the Kedumba River. The inquest heard vital time was wasted time as authorities looked for "Doherty's Pass", which they concluded did not actually exist. "It was time-consuming," said Superintendent Ian Colless, who led initial rescue efforts.

Superintendent Colless said that based on information received from the ambulance service, police treated the calls as a "priority 3", classed as needing action but not urgent. "This is a call we may get every day of the week," he said. Superintendent Colless, who heard the emergency calls for the first time yesterday, agreed that immediate access to them would have given police a more accurate idea of David's location and health. "Not only of the Mt Solitary track but also which portion of the track," he said.

After hearing the calls, Superintendent Colless admitted it was "completely" wrong to assume David was not in distress. The fact David was "yelling" and had fainted meant the situation was "critical", he said.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Appalling black-run grocery stores in black communities

More Federal intervention? John Howard might have done it but Rudd and the Queensland Labor government will just talk

In one Queensland community, a packet of pasta costs $4, a kilo of tomatoes is worth almost $9 and deodorant is sold for more than $10. But the food is often out of date and the store is unclean.

In a damning submission to a federal parliamentary inquiry into indigenous community stores, Lockhart River residents say people have fallen ill after eating poor-quality food from a local store. The submission - compiled by Royal Flying Doctor Service employees on behalf of Lockhart River residents - accuses the community store of stocking "mouldy" bread, "rotten" fruit, frozen vegetables which have been defrosted and refrozen and meat that tastes like "cardboard" when cooked. The submission complains about a lack of healthy quick meal options, no pricing on some goods and a filthy store environment.

A comparison of prices shows Lockhart River residents pay up to seven times more than shoppers in Cairns for some common items. Tomatoes, for example, cost $2.45 kg in Cairns, but $8.66 kg at Lockhart River. The cheapest pasta in Lockhart River costs $4.02 for a 500g packet, but the same product could be bought in Cairns for 59c.

A submission from the Kowanyama community on Cape York says its store also sells out-of-date foods with prices up to three times those in Cairns. It says complaints are generally ignored. Supporting those submissions, the Australian Red Cross has told the inquiry such "exorbitant" prices are unjust. "The poorest people in the country are forced to endure the highest prices in the country," the submission says.

According to the Red Cross, the situation has directly contributed to malnutrition and chronic disease in Australia's indigenous population. The inquiry will hold public hearings in the Northern Territory this week.


Crook food for Australian soldiers

AUSTRALIAN Diggers risking all on the deadly battlefields of Afghanistan are fighting on a diet of tasteless gruel. Soldiers bombarded Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon with complaints when he made a secret Anzac Day visit to Oruzgan Province on Friday, prompting him to pledge to fix the problem. Senior officers have conceded the poor diet is affecting morale and soldiers' health, and have ordered a study into the nutritional value of the food.

The Herald Sun took the taste test on Friday at the Dutch-run mess at Tarin Kowt military base after learning of complaints about food quality. The tasteless slab of roast pork was submerged in a sea of equally flavour-challenged gravy, and the pumpkin had long since morphed from a solid vegetable to liquid gruel. The other choice was an equally inedible turkey slice.

As Diggers from the Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force confront a limited daily diet, just up the road their comrades from the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) enjoy fresh vegetables and quality cooking. The difference was obvious at an Anzac Day breakfast hosted by SOTG, as our exclusive images show.

Mr Fitzgibbon heard plenty of complaints about the food and vowed to act. Numerous soldiers and senior officers told him the "kings versus paupers" attitude was divisive and unfair. Special forces troops eat in a mess that is financed and run separately from the normal army channels. The "special" mess employs qualified cooks and uses only fresh ingredients. For the troops of the MRTF, it is Dutch gruel or a hamburger.

The issue is bigger than just the Diggers complaining to their partners at home. Commanding officer Lt-Col Shane Gabriel said the difference in food had affected both nutrition and morale. He has commissioned a study into the nutritional value of the MRTF food.

The SOTG runs its own tight supply lines and team of cooks, while the Dutch mess runs at half capacity and is forced to import prepared meals. After several complaints back home, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Defence Force chiefs are also now involved and want the problem fixed.


Slow road to FOI

HOW many bureaucrats does it take to process a Freedom of Information request? If a leaked Brumby Government memo is anything to go by, the answer is at least 18.

A confidential Department of Treasury and Finance report, obtained by the Sunday Herald Sun, reveals no less than seven secretaries in the department are notified of requests lodged each week. A copy is sent to the chief financial officer, chief operating officer, planning and executive services director, public affairs manager and chief of staff. The request is also viewed by advisers and chiefs of staff of Treasurer John Lenders and Finance Minister Tim Holding.

Government departments often take more than the 45 days required under the FOI Act 1982, citing lack of staff to handle requests. But Opposition scrutiny of government spokesman David Davis said the leaked documents exposed the Government for allowing ministerial advisers to interfere with the process and manage responses. "This is a government determined to obstruct the release of information to prevent the community knowing," he said.


More on how Victoria's Leftist government gets people out of their cars

Public transport services per head are DECREASING, despite a high level of demand

MELBOURNE'S busiest train lines have fewer services now than 50 years ago - when "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" was at the top of the charts, pubs closed at 6pm and commuters bought tickets with shillings and pence. A comparison of the city's 1959 and 2009 timetables showed bustling parts of the city enjoyed more trains half a century ago when there were 2.3 million fewer Melburnians.

The Public Transport Users Association said today's train services were not much faster despite more sophisticated rolling stock. The analysis revealed:

TRIPLE the number of trains from Williamstown during morning peak in 1959 and double the services to Williamstown at evening peak.

MORE total peak services on the Frankston line in 1959.

MORE end-to-end and sweeper services on the Sandringham line.

EXACTLY the same number of Hurstbridge trains - but in 1959 more total services on the line.

The PTUA said the 50-year train freeze was a disgrace. "Now we have a city loop and 20 per cent more passengers, which means we ought to be running even more trains," PTUA secretary Tony Morton said. "Even having lost the St Kilda and Port Melbourne lines, we're doing no better than in the days of the Red Rattlers."

The State Government said Melbourne had a different concentration of population 50 years ago, the city had experienced population and commuter booms in recent years and there were now more country trains sharing the tracks. "Since 1999, the Government has added more than 1300 services to the metropolitan timetable, including more than 400 in the past 12 months," a spokesman for Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky said.

The comparison revealed there had been slight improvements over the five decades on some lines. There were more Glen Waverley end-to-end evening peak services now than in 1959. The Frankston line had more end-to-end services, but fewer total trains on the line once sweepers were included. There were slightly more peak services in 1959 to and from Dandenong, but more overall services on the line including sweepers.

The analysis showed that over the same period service numbers had stagnated, Frankston's population had increased 650 per cent, Dandenong's 470 per cent, Hurstbridge's 331 per cent and Melbourne's had more than doubled.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Australian computer shops

There does not seem to be a lot of interest in the news today. No doubt most journalists are still getting over Anzac day. So I thought I might put up something a little different. I reproduce below a small memoir I wrote in the late 1990s about computer shops. My son tells me that many such shops are just as bad these days so I think the memoir still has relevance

Computer people are generally held to be pretty bright but my experience with computer shops has left me wondering.

For instance: Around 1990 I had been told that Amiga computers have very good software for helping pre-schoolers to learn to read and write etc. So I tried to buy an Amiga for my then three-year-old son, didn't I? Naturally, as computers are complicated things, I wanted to see the use of the software demonstrated before I bought. So I went into the computer shop of one of our better Department stores (Grace Bros. in Sydney) and asked for a demonstration. I found that they could indeed demonstrate two teenage-type games to me. They could not, however, demonstrate anything else as "We cannot open the packs".

So I sought out a specialist computer store didn't I? Now I already had an IBM-type computer so I knew this was not likely to be a joyous experience. I seem to be invisible in such shops. As far as I can see, in computer shops everyone always seems to be on the phone and customers in the shop can just go hang. And those phone conversations are long. They just seem to be so much more interesting than the boring business of actually selling to a customer.

So I walked into a rather big example of such a shop at what should have been a quiet time of the week in the hope that maybe there would be one person there who was on the ball. But no, I turned out to be invisible again. This time, however, the worm turned. I wandered out the back to what seemed to be the boss's office and asked the man there (who was, of course, on the phone), "Is anybody selling here?" His response? "Just wait out the front and someone will serve you". I said, "But I have already been waiting for some time and no-one has said anything to me." His reply? "What do you want?" I said, "I want to buy an Amiga." "Don't sell them", he then said and returned to his phone call with evident relief. He did not want to be bothered with a piddling $1,400 sale, did he? (At that time the average male gross wage would have been about $350 per week).

So next I went to a small computer shop in the hope that a small firm might be keener. Again, of course, I was invisible until I asked someone if anyone was selling here but I did then get some attention. Yes, he did sell software for pre-schoolers and the Amiga was indeed ideal for that but he had no software for pre-schoolers at all in stock at the moment so try him again next week. So by that stage I still had not managed to buy an Amiga.

Eventually I found a small retailer with a heavy foreign accent who was so keen that he offered the lowest prices AND even delivered the Amiga 500 to me at home. He actually travelled for over an hour through Sydney traffic from his shop at Campbelltown (outer Sydney) to Lewisham (Inner Western Sydney) to make the sale. Funny that he was foreign! (Northern Italian, it turned out).

Now let me tell what happened when I first decided to buy an Atari ST computer: I knew virtually nothing about Ataris but I did already have a 286 (i.e. an Intel machine) and an Amiga so I knew a bit about computers generally. One thing I certainly knew was that the big expense with computers is not the machine but the software. So when I rang up the main computer firm that dealt in Ataris (United Computers) to enquire about Atari prices, one thing I wanted to know was how easily I could get public domain software for Ataris. I was put on to the firm's apparent Atari "expert" to discuss this.

I said that I knew that some Bulletin boards had Atari software and asked how I could get such software onto Atari disks. If I downloaded it on my IBM machine would the Atari read my IBM disks? If not, would I have to buy an Atari modem program to download the Atari files direct onto Atari disks? I was told: NO you will need to buy an expensive program to enable an Atari to read IBM disks; and: YES you will need to buy an expensive Atari program in order to use your Atari for modem work.

Both these answers were of course bare-faced lies. Ataris read IBM disks as easily as they read their own and the commonly-used Atari modem programs, like Amiga and IBM modem programs, are mostly in the public domain or shareware. Anyway, their lies just ended up costing them business. I concluded that since the software was going to cost me such a lot I had better economize on buying the machine. So I bought a secondhand Atari rather than a new one and United Computers lost a sale.

The same firm also sold Amigas and on a later occasion quoted me outrageous prices for Amiga disk drives -- around twice what other people were charging. They also tried to sell me a box of high-density 3.5" disks for $55 -- then normally available for $20 and later available for $10 or less. Needless to say, on both occasions I walked out of the shop with my money still in my pocket!

And what about the time I tried to buy a complicated piece of software off them? They tried to demonstrate it for me but could not get it to work. I offered to buy it anyway on condition that I be allowed to return it for refund if nobody I knew could get it to work either. They refused my offer! "But you could just copy it and then return it", they said. Maybe. But the fact that the software concerned was on CD-ROM should be mentioned. The CD was going to cost miles less than a hard drive of similar capacity would have cost me. Anyway, I once again walked out with my money still in my pocket.

And then there was the time I got a secondhand copy of the game "Dungeon Master". As it was copy-protected, it had not been backed up but had just been used straight out of the box. The original buyer did the right thing and relied on the retailer to provide any backup needed. By the time I got the game, however, it had died, so I took the disk, box and manual to United Computers and asked for backup service. They undertook to provide this at a charge of $5. Quite reasonable -- at first. I then waited -- and waited -- and waited.

After two months or so I gave up, asked for the stuff back, obtained a Blitzcopy cable and re-copied the game courtesy of another owner of it. United's excuse for the delay? "The game was out of production and our supplier had to write to America for a copy". But if this begins to sound half reasonable remember that Dungeon Master was at the time arguably the most popular computer game ever. Could they really not find another copy of such a game? They were obviously not even trying. They sure knew how to encourage software piracy! Or didn't they WANT to sell software?

I mentioned above how when you walk into almost any computer shop all the staff are on the phone. Occasionally there is a receptionist there who knows nothing about computers and whose only function is to ask you to wait but that is about as good as you get. The only exceptions seem to be when the shop is run by Asians. When you walk into one of their shops you find them on the phone too but they immediately say something which must be the Cantonese (or Urdu) equivalent of, "A customer has just walked in. I will call you back." They then get up and serve you promptly.

The only way I ever found of getting reasonably prompt attention from non-Asian computer shop staff was to say, "Excuse me. I want to buy a 486". Since the 486 was at the time the top-of-the-line IBM-type machine and cost accordingly, they then put the phone down and paid some attention to me. It was amusing to see their faces when I told them that I did not really want to buy a 486 but just said that as it seemed to be the only way of getting served.

Mind you, with firms like United Computers (who of course eventually went broke) even that trick may not work. I know someone (Jason Marianoff) who once went in there to ask seriously about buying an Amiga 3000 (the top-line Amiga at the time). The staff were too busy playing a computer game to answer his questions properly! He too left their premises without putting his hand in his pocket. He then went into business on his own account as an Amiga retailer and did such a superb job at it that he ended up as the only surviving Amiga retailer in Brisbane.

So computer firms at least should think about the company they keep. If they want to sell machines they would do well to cease relying on lackadaisical and typically Australian firms like United and try instead to sign up a few small Asian retailers. They would sell a lot more gear that way. Why? Because charging like the Light Brigade puts everyone except pretentious people off and pretentious people buy Apple Macs anyway. And NOBODY -- pretentious or not -- likes to be treated like a bad smell when they go to buy something. And if a potential customer DOES get treated like a bad smell, it is very easy for him/her to go elsewhere and buy a rival product instead.

And then there was the time I wanted to get a computer monitor cable copied by a firm that specialized in such work (Qld Connectors and Cables). The firm did the job and got it wrong. The copy cable did not work -- for a rather obvious reason. Rather than listen to me when I politely asked to tell them where they had got it wrong and how to fix it, they insisted on giving me my money back instead. They would rather lose money than listen to a customer! Customers who complained, no matter how politely or with how much justification were just not to be dealt with any further. Rather British, really, but quite incredible by Japanese or American standards.

And it is not even as if the service the firm concerned was offering was anywhere near irreplaceable. Anybody can buy all the connectors they need from a Tandy or Dick Smith store and then solder them on to a bit of cable themselves if they want to. It takes little skill and less brains when all you have to do is copy the example in front of you.

Another offended shopkeeper was in a way even more amusing. I wanted to replace my 486 with a machine running a Celeron chip in late 1998. I found the cheapest Celeron being advertised in the paper (by a firm called Global Computers) and rang up and ordered one. When I arrived I asked to test the machine to see that it worked, only to find that the computer was nowhere near ready for use. All they had done was put it together. They had not even formatted the hard drive. So I had to partition and format it myself (warned by past experience with computer shops, I "just happened" to have a DOS boot disk in my pocket) plus set up access to the the CD drive plus set up the soundcard -- all of which took me about 20 minutes while the salesman just sat on his behind staring into space.

At the end I found that the sound did not work and pointed this out. He asked his technician about it and was told that a special piece of software would be needed to get the sound running. I asked if he would like my phone number so he could let me know when the sound was running. He did not seem to want to be bothered so I just walked out the door with my cash still in my pocket. As I walked out he said: "Thanks for wasting my time". He was angry with me because I would not buy an inoperable machine!

So I then rang someone I had long known ("Game Dude") and asked him for a quote. He charged $1321 -- about $200 cheaper than what the moron was charging. And when I went to Game Dude he had everything all set up. I just had to walk in, test it and hand over the cash! Shopping around can make an amazing difference. Game Dude was of course an owner/operator of his business.

Australia contrasts greatly with Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, the retailer seems to think that it is his/her job to ensure that you walk out with less money in your pocket than when you walked in. And he/she does what it takes to bring that about. He/she actually makes an effort either to give you what you want or convince you that you want something else. The retailer actually gives the impression that he/she wants to make a sale! There are no invisible customers in Hong Kong.

But Hong Kong capitalism is closer to us than you might think. When I took my train to work in Sydney of a morning (in 1990), it was not uncommon for around half the faces in the carriage to be Asian. And that is already beginning to show up in the shops. And everyone knows what it is like in a Chinese restaurant. You no sooner sit down than there is a menu in front of you. You have no sooner made your selection and closed your menu than there is someone by your elbow waiting to take your order. In other restaurants it can take half an hour just to get a menu! I wonder why I mostly eat out in Asian restaurants?

At any event, it has already happened in Britain. Polite brown people from the Indian sub-continent of Asia now seem to run almost all the small businesses in Britain -- from laundrettes and grocery shops to Post Offices, small hotels and electrical goods shops. Australia's Asians might come from a different part of Asia but they will do a similar justly deserved takeover in due course. "Old Australian" businessmen will just end up at the beach and on the dole, where they generally seem to belong -- modern-day Pacific islanders. Australia is, after all, the largest Pacific island.

Dismal record of state-run projects

Kevvy is still pushing hard with his enhanced broadband project for Australia and now seems to be intent on the government doing the installation rather than contracting out the work to private firms with expertise in the area. It is all rather comical, really, as the article below points out

IN the late 19th and early 20th century civil engineers, driven by ambition and imagination, built cities. Robert Moses in New York, Baron Haussmann in Paris and John Bradfield in Sydney mapped and transformed the city. With the exception of Bradfield, the ambition bankrupted the city but left a legacy of infrastructure to accommodate future generations.

For now it is the financial engineers who determine the future of cities. Public-private partnerships enable the fast-tracking of infrastructure.

But during the past decade taxpayers across Australia have watched aghast as major road projects have gone wrong and state governments have evaded responsibility by blaming private partners.

The BrisConnections Airport Link in Brisbane is the latest casualty of a failure of responsible state governance of infrastructure development. Under the Airport Link funding model the, mostly small, shareholders are obliged to pay a further $2 on shares that have now fallen from $1 in value to 1c. They are understandably reluctant to pay. Anna Bligh remains silent about this elephant in the city.

About $270million of the original share value of $409million went to pay the financial engineers who put the deal together. More than 20per cent of the $1.2billion of shareholder funds in the motorway is advisory transaction and management fees before it is built.

Getting the economics of urban infrastructure wrong isn't a new event. The London underground was electrified by an American, Charles Yerkes, who financed it with pound stg. 15million worth of bonds. When asked to comment on the viability of this proposition the chief accountant of London County Council said he couldn't understand a word of it and wouldn't touch it with a barge pole. The investors never got a penny back. Surely the Queensland government advisers must have had similar scepticism about the BrisConnections business model?

ASIC has suggested BrisConnections has made a number of "inadequate and deficient" statements to unitholders on their obligations to make future instalment payments, on the financial status of the Airport project.

Meanwhile, Brisbane is in gridlock morning and night. The small investors who trusted that a government-backed infrastructure project couldn't go wrong look like losing all their money. There has to be a better way.

Queensland is not alone in this. The NSW Government is a serial offender as project after project has failed to complete and resulted in losses for all concerned. But mainly for small shareholders.

In Sydney, Bob Carr's election promise to selectively fund the users of the M5 have distorted the economics of the route, making it difficult to expand a successful but quickly haemorrhaging toll road. The cross-city tunnel under Sydney's CBD is blissfully peaceful as drivers use every other route to avoid paying $4.16 for a five-minute trip. The investors in the Hills motorway have taken a bath. With this track record why would anyone get involved with state Governments in infrastructure investment?

But wait, there is more. The federal Government, through the Building Australia infrastructure fund is about to give $12.5billion to the states for infrastructure development. When the leaders of government are routinely blaming the banks and finance houses for the global financial crisis, the answer is to pour money into infrastructure.

State governments have proven themselves singularly inefficient in managing the development and financing of infrastructure yet they are about to be showered with billions of dollars and an instruction to spend it as quickly as possible.

Based on the BrisConnections model about 20percent, or $2.4billion, of the Building Australia infrastructure fund will go to banks and finance houses.

The career path of senior government personnel and politicians has been from public service to finance houses. The failing fortunes of finance may reverse this career path and provide state governments with the financial expertise to avoid future BrisConnections debacles.

Public-private partnerships in infrastructure development are a great idea. We have in Australia some of the best infrastructure construction and finance expertise in the world. But structuring such partnerships solely to avoid government debt and responsibility has clearly resulted in great financial and quality of life cost to the residents of all our capital cities.

The costs and benefits of infrastructure cannot be solely calculated on the basis of user-pays, as infrastructure has what economists call externalities. It benefits the economic efficiency of an entire city and improves quality of life with calmer, less polluted streets in adjacent neighbourhoods and in numerous other ways.

Early reports on state bids to the commonwealth infrastructure fund were that bids were so ill considered as to be unacceptable. The Infrastructure Australia Committee has formed its priority list for funding state projects and has produced a checklist of minimum information to be provided.

But the information requirements do not request that the consideration to be offered to financial engineers be identified as a proportion of the cost to taxpayers. Nor does it specify the means and penalties for monitoring compliance in the financing and construction and governance of the projects.

When we are desperate for increased infrastructure to improve our economic potential and provide for jobs growth, the principal impediment is the appalling record of government in managing such projects.

Just as we are hearing proposals to monitor the finance industry, its institutions and management of funds, so we should be hearing proposals for the federal Government to monitor the performance of states in the financing and implementation of infrastructure projects. There should be no impediment to establishing an independent authority to report on the financial engineering and realisation of development targets on such proposals.

Without an auditing process, on the basis of experience taxpayers can expect their $12.5billion may well be spent without a successful outcome, with an increased commitment to complete the project and with ongoing levies to use the infrastructure.

Hopefully, before too long some agreement can be reached between the BrisConnections financiers and the state Government that will save the small shareholders from bankruptcy and secure continued construction of the Airport Link. Without a transparent process for the commonwealth monitoring and auditing infrastructure development we shouldn't be embarking on further BrisConnections.


How Melbourne gets people out of their cars

Recently, I was on a tram at 6.30am with an Early Bird ticket (which allows free transport before 7am), when a ticket inspector approached. She took one look at my Metcard and proceeded to inform me that unlike every other ticket in the public transport system, these tickets were only valid on trains. I was stunned. I offered to validate a brand-new, 10 x 2, hourly ticket, but she refused and instead confiscated it! The proceeds from this article will go towards paying the fine.

If this were a movie, the villain would be the litigious Department of Transport. Lynne Kosky stars as its inept leader, babbling her way through disaster after disaster. "In for a penny, in for a pound!" is her battle cry as she throws more than $1 billion at the troubled myki ticket system in lieu of buying trains and laying tracks.

Meanwhile, her army of green-clad ticket inspectors are doing their best to get it all back. Remember when you could reason your way out of a misdemeanour? Well, those days ended a few years ago when operators (Connex, Yarra Trams, etc) began getting a commission from fines. And the zealous ticket inspectors? Maybe they get a gold star for everyone they catch, and at the end of the month, whoever has the most stars gets a $20 voucher.

While Connex distributes its stars, delays and cancellations have become the norm, inflaming passengers' anger when ticket inspectors are as unforgiving as the system is unreliable.

Fortunately, there are some heroes who make the journey a little easier. They may not be powerful enough to challenge Kosky and her belligerent Green Army but, with humour and empathy, they manage to crack its impersonal facade. These are the bus drivers who stop when they see you running to meet them. A small gesture, but when you run for a bus, one of two things inevitably happens: either you're left on the kerb, breathless, and cursing the driver as you lock eyes with a passenger who shrugs helplessly as they disappear down the road; or the bus stops and the driver becomes your personal hero.

Then there are tram drivers who bring people together by putting their loudspeakers to good use. "Can you please get out of the stairwell," quips the driver on the No. 1, "or you'll be crushed when I open the door and I'll have to clean it up." He jokes his way from Coburg to South Melbourne, and people take off their headphones to hear his banter.

There's also a Richmond station attendant who talks merrily into the garbled speaker system. People on the platforms grin at each other as he riffs childish rhymes about departures. If you're lucky, he'll even broadcast opera.

Public transport users develop relationships with these heroes and are willing to show empathy when something goes awry.

Patrons at my local cafe tell me their favourite driver captains the 72 to Camberwell. With his northern English accent and gracious manner, he could have a bright future in easy-listening radio. As it is, he charms passengers simply by announcing the next stop. When an older couple requested their stop as the tram was about to glide past it and he erupted in anger, everyone agreed he must have been having a bad day.

People get angry about delays, they get angry about missing meetings, and angry that receiving compensation is more trouble than it's worth. But what makes people angriest is the lack of empathy from the Department of Transport. Recorded apologies for any inconvenience caused by late trains, and ticket inspectors with scripted idioms ("we have to take your details — if you receive an infringement notice you can appeal to the department") make people seethe. But the heroes of public transport make us smile and they make us patient.

Lynne Kosky and co would benefit from catching the No. 1, and if they don't learn anything from the driver, at least there's a chance I'll bump into them and cause them a little inconvenience of my own.


Third "refugee" boat in fortnight intercepted

Another boat load of asylum seekers has been intercepted off the Australian north-west coastline, in the same region a vessel exploded less than two weeks ago, killing five refugees. The vessel, carrying more than 50 passengers and two crew, was intercepted yesterday 90 nautical miles south-west of Ashmore Reef, about 900km from Darwin, by a Royal Australian Navy patrol boat.

It is the eighth boat of asylum seekers to approach Australian waters this year and the 15th boat to be intercepted since last August when Labor made changes to Australia's immigration policy, including the scrapping of temporary protection visas.

Minister for Home Affairs Bob Debus said in a statement the boat was in international waters and the group voluntarily transferred from their boat to the HMAS Albany.

It is believed the boat was travelling from Indonesia and the passengers were most likely Afghans.

It is also understood the vessel was not being tracked by Australian authorities, although its sighting was confirmed by a Customs and Border Protection Command Dash 8 aircraft following an alert by an oil rig tender vessel. Within an hour of receiving the alert, the navy had made contact with the boat, Mr Debus said. The interception demonstrated the effectiveness of Border Protection Commands surveillance, he said. The interception came as another boatload of asylum seekers was transferred to Christmas Island.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

ANZAC day today

Australia's most solemn day of commemoration

White paper orders huge military build-up

A big surprise but realistic

KEVIN Rudd is set to announce Australia's biggest military build-up since World War II, led by a multi-billion-dollar investment in maritime defence, including 100 new F-35 fighters, a doubling of the submarine fleet, and powerful new surface warships.

The new defence white paper will outline plans for a fundamental shake-up of Australia's defence organisation to ensure that the nation can meet what the Prime Minister sees as a far more challenging and uncertain security outlook in Asia over the next two decades.

China's steadily growing military might and the prospect of sharper strategic competition among Asia's great powers are driving the maritime build-up, which will see new-generation submarines and warships equipped with cruise missiles, and a big new investment in anti-submarine warfare and electronic warfare platforms, including new naval helicopters.

The white paper will consider the emerging non-traditional threats to Australia, including cyber security, climate change and its associated risk of large uncontrolled people movements.

Senior government sources say Mr Rudd has insisted that defence spending remain largely insulated from the Government's budget difficulties, but the Defence Department will still have to find at least $15 billion of internal savings over the next decade to help pay for the $100 billion-plus long-term equipment plan.

Mr Rudd said yesterday the delivery of the white paper was proving "acutely challenging as we work to defend ourselves from the global economic storm".

"It is the most difficult environment to frame the Australian budget in modern economic history. It is also the most difficult environment to frame our long-term defence planning in modern economic history as well," he told the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce. "Nevertheless the Government will not resile even in the difficult times from the requirement for long-term coherence of our defence planning for the long-term security of our nation. This is core business for government. That is why we have forged ahead in our preparation of the defence white paper because national security needs do not disappear because of the global recession. If anything, those needs become more acute."

Funding pressures will mean the navy will not get a fourth air warfare destroyer, and the delivery of the first batch of the RAAF's F-35 joint strike fighters will slip by at least one year to 2014-15.

The huge cost of paying for the next-generation defence force, due to be detailed in the white paper and the forthcoming 10-year defence capability plan, will have little impact on the defence budget over the the next four years.

Apart from the air warfare destroyers and the F-35 fighters, most of the planned defence purchases will not have to be paid for until well into the next decade and beyond.

Mr Rudd and Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon are expected to release the long-awaited white paper as early as next week, with the more detailed 10-year defence capability plan due to be published by mid-year.

The naval build-up will be led by a planned 12-strong submarine fleet expected to replace the Collins-class boats from 2025. It will enable the RAN to deploy up to seven boats to protect Australia's northern approaches, including key maritime straits running through the Indonesian archipelago, at times of high threat.

The white paper will outline the requirement for a new class of eight 7000-tonne warships equipped with ballistic missile defence systems similar to the three air warfare destroyers already on order that will eventually replace the Anzac frigates.

A new class of 1500-tonne corvette-size patrol boats able to take a helicopter is slated to replace the Armidale-class vessels from the mid-2020s.

The more robust maritime force will also mean the RAAF's veteran AP-3 Orion fleet being replaced with a mix of at least eight P-8 Poseidon long-range surveillance aircraft, together with up to seven unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles, possibly the US-made Global Hawk, operating out of an expanded Edinburgh air base in South Australia. The navy is also expected to acquire up to 27 anti-submarine helicopters.

Mr Rudd has foreshadowed the maritime build-up as pointing to the need for Australia to accommodate "huge increases in military spending here in our own region". "If we are going to defend our sea-lines of communication to the rest of the world, we have got to make sure that we have got the naval capability to underpin that. And Australia must therefore have necessary maritime power in the future in order to give that effect," Mr Rudd said late last year.

As well as re-equipping with up to 100 F-35 fighters, the air force is expected to get up to six extra C-130J Hercules transport aircraft and a replacement for the Vietnam war-era Caribou light transport, expected to be the C-27J.

The $10 billion long-term expansion and "hardening and networking" of the army will continue with the regular army growing to about 30,000, including eight infantry battalions.

The army's Chinook helicopter fleet is expected to expand from six to 10 aircraft and the land force is expected to be re-equipped with self-propelled and towed artillery in the next decade.

The army will also acquire a new generation of armoured fighting vehicles from 2020.

The new white paper says Australia's defence force should be capable of taking the lead security role in Australia's neighbourhood, particularly the South Pacific, as well as having the ability to deploy military forces further afield.

Senior government sources say this year's white paper is a more broad-ranging and ambitious document than the 2000 white paper. It aims to give Australia more strategic weight and the Government more options when it comes to deploying military forces in the neighbourhood or further afield.

The white paper has moved defence doctrine back to a more regionally-focused approach firmly founded on the defence of Australia. It rejects the notion that terrorism and unconventional intrastate conflict should be a primary driver of the defence force structure.

The Rudd Government's focus on expensive war-fighting equipment underlines the Prime Minister's view that Australia must face up to a much broader range of contingencies, including the strategic consequences of inter-state conflict in Asia.

For the first time the white paper will address in detail electronic warfare trends, particularly the growing cyber security threat to Australia's national security network.

The Government is already investing millions of dollars to bolster Australia's cyber defence capability, led by the Defence Signals Directorate, and will invest even more heavily in the years ahead to protect critical infrastructure from cyber attacks already being mounted by a number of countries led by China and Russia. The Government is also moving quietly to bolster Australia's ability to mount offensive cyber operations.

The threat posed by ballistic missile proliferation in the Asia-Pacific will also be carefully monitored by Defence but the Government has ruled out any early development of a dedicated ballistic missile defence system for Australia. The biggest challenge to the blueprint remains the global economic crisis.


Life is more than a numbers game

AS the father of three small boys, I am well aware I am guilty of certain crimes. Like telling corny dad jokes. Or bragging about my sons' achievements to anyone who'll listen.

But in the grand scheme of things, these are mere social misdemeanours. Because it turns out that in process of raising a small brood of children, I have committed heinous crimes against humanity.

At least, that's what it felt like after I read comments by Sandra Kanck, a former South Australian Democrats politician and newly appointed leader of an advocacy group calling itself Sustainable Population Australia.

Ms Kanck said this week that Australia, whose current population is bumping up against the 22 million mark, should cut its head count to something nearer to just seven million. Kanck's suggested means of achieving this target is a China-style one child policy.

The SPA isn't what you'd call a people-friendly mob. One item at the SPA website suggests that Nadya Suleman, the American woman who recently gave birth to octuplets, should be jailed as a murderer who is killing all of us.

Never mind the Suleman case, which is admittedly at the extreme end of the scale. In the strange, Orwellian world of the population controllers, to give life is to reap death. My only hope is that if having eight children in one go is murder, perhaps some future Population Court will allow me to plea bargain my way to a charge of mere Earthslaughter.

Though there is a danger that my repeat offences - whoops, I mean "children" - arrived over a number of years might be seen as evidence of a long-running conspiracy against the planet.

Of course, the idea that even if we could depopulate Australia, anything good would come of it is laughable. As demographer Bernard Salt explains: "Australia is the only nation on the planet to lay claim to the resources of an entire continent. "In a world with a population of six billion, rising to nine billion in the foreseeable future, the cold, hard reality is that we'll have to accommodate more people, not less."

What's more, as Salt points out, Kanck's plan won't even work. "Even if you eliminated all immigration, which currently runs to about 200,000 people per year, a one-child policy would only begin to see overall population reductions by around the mid 2020s."

To achieve her complete 15 million reduction target in any speedier timeframe, Kanck presumably has a Plan B in mind.

And this does not even begin to take into account economic damage that would occur from about 2030, when an ageing population would have to be supported by a vanishingly small number of taxpayers, or what might happen to an all-but-empty continent seen as ripe for the picking by densely-populated, resource-hungry neighbours looking for more space.

As Salt puts it, Kanck's ideas are "retrograde and bizarre". For as even the deepest cuts in Australia's tiny (1.5 per cent) share of the globe's carbon emissions will do nothing to change the globe's climate, eliminating 15 million Australians would have zero impact on the global environment.

Just as the relationship between man and climate is a lot more complicated - and a lot less direct - than conventional green wisdom would have it, so to is the link between people and the planet.

The fact is, it is not people causing environmental degradation. Researchers at Rockefeller University in the US recently confirmed what dozens of studies have shown - and what anyone who has travelled in the developing world will understand.

Namely, that the primary driver of environmental damage is not people but poverty. Increasing incomes lead in the long run to cleaner air, cleaner water, and cleaner energy. Scientist Jesse Ausubel put it this way: "The long-term trend is towards natural gas and nuclear power, or conceivably solar power. If the energy system is left to its own devices, most of the carbon will be out of it by 2060 or 2070."

Yet the environmental movement is seemingly inextricably bound up in the sort of misanthropy of which Kanck is only an extreme example.

Years of dreary campaigns that turn every human achievement from powered flight to the incandescent light globe into nothing more than a carbon footprint that must be cut and eliminated show a real lack of imagination. And they suggest a subconscious desire to return to some green Garden of Eden that never was - and when life was a whole lot harder and a whole lot shorter for the lack of technology.


Eating disorders hitting five-year-olds

This is appalling. The only reasonable explanation for this recent upsurge is the recent upsurge in government persecution of "incorrect" eating: The "obesity" war. As with so many government programs, the unintended consequences are dire. Government should butt out of what people eat as weight is mostly genetic anyway.

EATING disorders are biting deeper into childhood, an expert has warned after conducting a study which included a five-year-old with the potentially fatal condition. Sloane Madden says demand for critical care beds at The Children's Hospital at Westmead, in Sydney, has surged over the past 12 months for children who were severely malnourished because of an Early Onset Eating Disorder (EOED).

The condition commonly linked to teenage girls was now becoming increasingly prevalent in Australian girls, and boys, aged 10 to 12 and even younger, he said. "Our own experience at the children's hospital, we have had a 50 per cent increase in demand for beds, and we haven't seen that increase in demand in hospitals looking after older adolescents with eating disorders,'' Dr Madden said. "At the moment, we have eight children in the hospital where we normally take six and we've got another five waiting for beds. "What we are seeing clinically, and what is being reported anecdotally around the world is that kids are presenting in greater numbers at a younger age,'' he said.

It was not just a case of the children being fussy eaters, said the Westmead-based child psychiatrist, as speaking to the children revealed a desire to be "thinner''. "They certainly will tell you that they believe that they are fat, that they want to be thinner, and they have no insight into the fact that they are malnourished and they are literally starving themselves to death,'' he says.

"And the parents when they see us are really quite terrified but they are extremely grateful that someone is finally taking their child's illness seriously.''

Dr Madden says children are often "medically unstable'' when brought to hospital with very low blood pressure, heart rate and temperature which "basically is putting them at risk of dying''. They often needed to be tube-fed, and placed on anti-depressant or anti-psychotic medication, but if treated early their chance of full recovery was were good.

However, Dr Madden's study of all Australian children with EOED from 2002 to 2005 shows there is a trend to late diagnosis diagnosis, meaning children being hospitalised with more more physical complications. "It makes us very concerned that these children are being misdiagnosed, or they are being diagnosed late and not being referred for appropriate care,'' he says.

Of the 101 cases of EOED uncovered by the study, there were 74 girls and 25 boys aged five to 13 (gender was not specified in two cases). Extrapolating this data, Dr Madden estimates Australia's incidence of EOED now stands about 1.4 cases for every 100,000 children aged five to 13 years. Of those, 1.1 cases would require a hospital intervention, according to the research published in the latest edition of the Medical Journal of Australia.

The number of cases is expected to rise, Dr Madden says, unless there is a change in the media's obsession with fat and weight. "I think that there needs to be a move away from this focus on weight and numbers and body fat, and a focus on healthy eating and exercise,'' he says. "You can see that in current (television) programs like The Biggest Loser, where it is all about numbers and weight, it's not helpful for those people and it's certainly not helpful for this group of kids.''


Rudd is being pig-headed about his foolish policies

Michael Costa

KEVIN Rudd's insistence that his Government deliver all its election commitments despite changing circumstances is naive and ultimately not in the national interest. Superficially, his commitment could be seen as him acting honestly and meeting his side of his electoral bargain with the voters who made him Prime Minister.

Politically, it is designed to market Rudd in the lead-up to the next election as a person who delivers on election commitments. Political positioning, not good policy, is driving the Government. Good government requires leadership that is able to adapt its commitments to changing circumstances. This requires a deeper level of honesty with the electorate which, on a number of policy fronts, the Rudd Government is lacking.

This rigid adherence to outdated or inadequate policy for the sole reason that it was committed to it during the election campaign has characterised the Government from its beginning.

The so-called digital education revolution based on the strategy of providing a computer to all students in years 9 to 12 was the first insight into how Rudd would implement his election commitments.

Rather than accepting the advice of state education officials with more knowledge and experience that the policy was ill-conceived, the Government attempted to bulldoze its agenda on the states. Ultimately, the federal Government had to compromise and agree to more funding and a more flexible rollout of its policy. But rather than honestly acknowledging that its original policy was ill-conceived and required modification, the Government to this day continues to argue that it hasn't changed the details of its policy and that it is meeting its election commitment in full. Confusion still remains about the long-term funding and operation of this program.

The Government emissions trading scheme, the Orwellian-named carbon pollution reduction scheme, is another example of the Government valuing unrealistic election commitments over sensible policy and the national interest. The present ETS is fatally flawed. It is complex, confused and fails even a rudimentary cost-benefit test. As comments from the Government's climate adviser Ross Garnaut demonstrate, it does not even satisfy the requirements of the environmental special-interest groups whose pre-election support it was aimed at achieving.

Thanks to the Senate inquiry into the ETS, convincing evidence is accumulating on its disastrous economic effects. Businesses across the economy have made it absolutely clear that it will cost jobs. Its regional effects are likely to create significant economic and social dislocation and disadvantage. In the NSW Hunter Valley alone, the Hunter Valley Research Foundation estimates the ETS could affect more than 30,000 jobs in a diverse range of industries, from basic food production to heavy manufacturing and mining. Many of these industries are unprepared for its introduction.

It is foolhardy to continue the implementation of this scheme.

The only benefit the introduction of the scheme will have is it will allow the Government to claim it has met its election commitment.

The Government's surprising announcement that it would terminate the tender process for the national broadband network and create a government-owned national broadband network corporation to deliver its broadband vision is driven by this misguided obsession to deliver on election commitments no matter the consequences. The announcement has all the hallmarks of a policy created on the run to meet a political objective. Its details are sketchy but clearly different from its election commitment and, more important, its tender specification.

High-speed fibre to the node has been replaced with lower speed fibre to the home. The differences in detail won't stop the Government arguing that it has met in full its election commitments. In this case, as with the education revolution and an ETS,the policy outcome is a secondary consideration.

The ostensible reason Rudd has given for abandoning the tender process is "none of the bids offered value for money". This is hardly credible coming from a government that has shown no concern about the value for money of its $52 billion experiment with fiscal stimulus.

AAPT chief executive Paul Broad argues that the $43 billion the Government is projecting to spend during the next 10 years on its broadband network doesn't make economic sense. Broad points out that a reasonable return on this sort of investment of about 10 per cent would require the new company to generate in the order of $4.3 billion. To get anywhere near this figure, the average customer would bear costs of up to about $200 a month for a service that is nowhere near the Government's original broadband speeds. Broad say: "I just don't think people will pay double for something they don't need."

The economics of fibre to the home, Broad argues, don't stack up. The Government's proposal is, in Broad's view, extravagant and represents an irrational decision with taxpayers' money. Broad's alternative and less costly strategy of filling the gaps in the network reflects his hands-on experience in telecommunications. Unfortunately, sensible as it is, it fails the Government's real objective of creating the impression that it has saved Australia from the technological policy ghetto of the Howard government and met its election commitments in full.

The International Monetary Fund's cautionary world economic outlook and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's report on the adverse effect of industrial legislation on youth unemployment only confirms what Australian critics have been arguing all along. This is not the right time to be implementing this particular election commitment. A responsible government would have delayed industrial reform in the face of the weaker labour market.

The Government's handling of the recent tragic refugee incident is tainted with the consequences of its election commitment straitjacket. The Government was right to abolish the much-criticised temporary protection visas approach to dealing with asylum seekers. But to argue that the changes have not influenced the business activities of people-smugglers defies credibility. Instead of acknowledging the change in circumstances since the election and the need for a new response, a completely defensible political response, the Government has become defensive and obstinate. To deal with the present problem it doesn't have to reintroduce temporary protection visas but it certainly has to change direction.

US President Barack Obama, confronting similar changed circumstances, graciously accepted advice from outgoing vice-president Dick Cheney not to reject policy simply because he campaigned against it. Obama showed astute leadership when he said: "I think that was pretty good advice, which is I should know what's going on before we make judgments and that we shouldn't be making judgments on the basis of incomplete information or campaign rhetoric."

The Prime Minister needs to follow Obama's lead and accept that campaign rhetoric is not the basis for good government.