Monday, May 31, 2010

Urgent ambulance plea ignored

A SUBURBAN footballer known for his wide smile and friendly nature has become another victim of Victoria's ambulance crisis. Sunbury footballer Stephen Buckman, 20, died in hospital on Thursday after waiting 20 minutes for an ambulance - five minutes outside the Brumby Government's emergency guidelines.

Witnesses said an off-duty MICA paramedic who came to his aid was refused an urgent request for an air ambulance because of Ambulance Victoria "protocol".

Instead, a MICA ambulance with more specialised equipment and expertise to treat the Rupertswood Football Club ruckman took at least 22 minutes to arrive after being sent 38km from Royal Melbourne Hospital to Sunbury, where he had collapsed at footy training. All non-MICA ambulances from the Sunbury station near the ground were out on non-urgent calls, so a vehicle had to be sent from Burnside.

Mr Buckman's mother, Sue, described him as a "loving son and brother who did everything to the best of his ability". "He had a huge, cheeky grin - a real glow about him," she said.

Mrs Buckman did not hold the ambulance service responsible for his death, saying her family was "extremely thankful" to everyone who fought to save his life. Ambulance Victoria regional services manager Tony Walker said five ambulances in the area were attending other emergencies.

"This did affect our response time, but we had the first ambulance there in 20 minutes and a MICA crew two minutes after that," Mr Walker said. "We also knew there was a doctor and off-duty MICA paramedic on scene who had commenced CPR on this patient. The helicopter was ... available, but it was decided it would be quicker to drive the patient as opposed to waiting for the helicopter."

But Ambulance Employees' Australia state secretary Steve McGhie queried why the off-duty paramedic was ignored. "There should have been a helicopter dispatched, they should have erred on the side of caution and reacted to how seriously that paramedic said the case was," he said.

Mr Buckman's heartbroken teammates observed a minute's silence before senior and reserves matches yesterday. President Rob Morrice said Mr Buckman had left the field, sat down, lost consciousness and didn't recover. He said: "We don't know what happened or what caused it.".


Paying for negligence: Public hospital birth bungles cost $115m in NSW alone

MEDICAL negligence that has left babies with brain damage and mothers permanently scarred has cost the State Government $115 million in compensation over the past five years.

When families pursue legal action against hospitals, it sometimes takes years, with the settlements often occurring out of court and normally undisclosed. But documents obtained through Freedom of Information reveal the extent of the claims over negligence involving birth.

In one tragic case, a woman died at Nepean Hospital after complications with a caesarean-section delivery. It is unclear how much her family received in compensation, but the Sydney West Area Health Service, which runs Nepean, had the largest medical negligence bills, totalling $34.5 million.

Some cases involved babies being born with cerebral palsy or starved of oxygen, doctors failing to diagnose abnormalities and injury caused to mothers.

In Hunter New England, a family received almost $8 million because doctors failed to properly diagnose abnormalities.

Bankstown Hospital has paid more than $13 million in compensation - the highest amount among hospitals in its area.

Obstetricians said they were unfairly targeted and not always to blame for negligence. "They are in the firing line because they have the insurance," Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists president Dr Ted Weaver said. "Even when it may be a case of staffing shortages or even unrelated to the doctor's negligence, the doctor will be pursued."

The college wants a no-fault compensation fund that would allow families to be compensated but without the doctor having to admit fault if he was not to blame.

But lawyer Bill Madden, a medical negligence specialist, disagreed and said people were entitled to recoup as much of the cost as they could. "There's no doubt that errors happen in our hospital system. The days are long gone when the medical profession would say anything different," he said.

A NSW Health spokesman said the amount of money paid out was no indication of the number or seriousness of the events.


Another Rudd promise broken

A FURTHER blow has been dealt to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's credibility with revelations that a secret pact was made with then NSW Premier Morris Iemma.

The deal took place when Mr Rudd was Opposition leader and centered on going to war with the union movement after he was elected Prime Minister, in return for the State Government delaying critical reforms.

An explosive tell-all book by The Daily Telegraph's chief political reporter Simon Benson, reveals that Mr Rudd broke a critical promise to help Mr Iemma privatise the state's electricity industry in return for him delaying the project until after the 2007 election.

Those reforms would have helped pay for more than $20 billion worth of road and rail projects in Sydney.

Mr Iemma confirmed the secret meeting which occurred during the 2007 APEC summit. At the meeting, Mr Rudd pleaded with Mr Iemma to delay his plans to privatise the power industry over fears that a union backlash would torpedo his election campaign - a campaign fought largely over John Howard's industrial reforms.

"If you help me, I'll get elected and you will prosper. Work with me and, when the time comes, we can f*** them (the unions) together," Mr Rudd is revealed to have told Mr Iemma in a meeting attended by two other senior Labor staffers. "Sometimes we have to save the (union) movement from itself."

Less than a year later, having walked away from the commitment, Mr Rudd refused to step in to protect Labor MPs under threat from the unions opposing privatisation, when Mr Iemma called to ask for the favour to be returned.

"I'm asking you to support me on a matter of principle," Mr Iemma asked the PM in a telephone conversation on August 27, 2008. "It's a state issue, I can't get involved," Mr Rudd replied. A week later Mr Iemma was forced from office after his privatisation plans collapsed.

The revelations contained in Betrayal come at a time when Mr Rudd's popularity has plummeted to an all-time low - primarily because of a long list of broken promises and policy backflips.


Secretive Victoria police

They're getting worse instead of better -- but I guess they've got a lot to hide

VICTORIA'S police chief Simon Overland has been warned the reputation and independence of Victoria Police command is being compromised by a "partisan refusal" to release documents requested under freedom of information laws.

The warning is contained in a letter sent to the Chief Commissioner by opposition crime spokesman Andrew McIntosh over the weekend, which accuses Victoria Police of breaching the FOI Act and withholding information about secret deals struck with private companies.

Mr McIntosh accuses the police of taking "extraordinary and unprecedented measures during an election year to block and frustrate access" to information on law and order issues.

In December, Mr Overland publicly said he would do everything he could to release under FOI details of the arrangements between Victoria Police and private companies to pass on sensitive information about known protesters.

The comments followed revelations police had authorised the release of sensitive personal information about protesters to AquaSure, the company building Victoria's desalination plant.

Mr McIntosh said in his letter, seen by The Australian: "The ongoing refusal of Victoria Police to release material consistent with their obligations under the FOI Act is not only a breach of the legislation but inappropriate.

"The standing and reputation of Victoria Police command may be damaged by what could only be interpreted as a partisan refusal to release this information."

Mr McIntosh last night reiterated his concerns. "The sudden refusal by Victoria Police in an election year to release information that had previously been freely available can only be interpreted as a political decision."

The latest stoush between Victoria Police and the opposition comes after The Australian revealed last week that the police had issued a prohibitive $17,000 quote to Mr McIntosh for access to crime statistics, when similar requests had been granted free of charge in previous years.

And in a separate battle, Mr Overland has issued legal proceedings against Mr McIntosh in the Supreme Court to overturn a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal ruling that granted him access to the police rosters.

A police spokeswoman yesterday said the organisation "rejects wholeheartedly any notion that Victoria Police does not have operational independence. All FOI requests are treated equally and no consideration whatsoever is ever given to external political factors."

On December 11 last year, Mr Overland said he was "happy to make available" a list of agreements police had entered into with private companies.

But on legal advice, two hours later, he said information would only be made available after an FOI request.

Mr McIntosh submitted his FOI request on February 5.

The police FOI department initially told the opposition the material was "too voluminous", and Mr McIntosh then narrowed his request to seven 20-page documents that have still not been released.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Crooked and totally incompetent Muslim doctor suspended for only 6 months!

How can they be considering unleashing him on the public again? We all know that doctors defend doctors but this is criminal. Is this another example of special privileges for Muslims?

A PERTH doctor has been suspended after a litany of medical errors, including failing to recognise a terminally ill patient needed treatment.

Mohamed El Rakhawy continued to practise in WA for nearly six months after he told the state Medical Board he would stop pending an investigation into his skills. He tried also to register as a doctor in other Australian states without disclosing he was being investigated for incompetence.

The Medical Board of WA told the State Administrative Tribunal that Dr El Rakhawy made a number of errors in early 2007 while working as a GP at a Midland medical centre and a Boddington clinic.

The board said that in March 2007 Dr El Rakhawy sent a male patient home without prescribing any treatment even though the patient had been losing weight for months and had difficulty swallowing. The next day the patient was taken to Royal Perth Hospital's emergency department and admitted. He died in RPH a month later.

The Medical Board said Dr El Rakhawy made several other mistakes about this time.

Among them were:

-Giving penicillin to a patient who specifically told him he was allergic to it.

-Ignoring a lump in a female patient's breast that was possibly cancerous.

-Injecting more than five times the amount of medication into a patient, causing swelling and bleeding.

-Failing to prescribe treatment for a patient suffering temporary blindness, and

-Misdiagnosing a patient who had been in a traffic accident.

In August 2008, two doctors wrote to the WA General Practice Training board claiming that Dr El Rakhawy was "deficient in his practice of medicine".

Dr El Rakhawy undertook a voluntary understanding with the Medical Board of WA that he would stop practising medicine pending an investigation into his skills.

However, from October 2008 to June 2009 he practised in breach of this undertaking.

He also tried in or about August and September 2008 to apply for mutual recognition as a doctor in other Australian states without disclosing his dealings with the Medical Board of WA.

Dr El Rakhawy admitted all the allegations made by the Medical Board of WA to the SAT.

The SAT found that Dr El Rakhawy should be suspended from practising medicine for at least six months.

He was also ordered to complete a number of medical training exams before he is allowed to practise as a doctor again.

Dr El Rakhawy will also have to pay $15,000 in court costs to the Medical Board of WA.


Creationism to be taught in Queensland classrooms

Well, Queensland IS bigger than Texas

CREATIONISM and intelligent design will be taught in Queensland state schools for the first time as part of the new national curriculum.

Creationists dismiss the science of evolution, instead believing that living things are best explained by an intelligent being or God, rather than an undirected process such as natural selection.

The issue of creationism being taught in schools has caused huge controversy in the US, where some fundamentalist religious schools teach it as a science subject instead of Darwin's theory of evolution.

In Queensland schools, creationism will be offered for discussion in the subject of ancient history, under the topic of "controversies".

Teachers are still formulating a response to the draft national curriculum, scheduled to be introduced next year.

Queensland History Teachers' Association head Kay Bishop said the curriculum asked students to develop their historical skills in an "investigation of a controversial issue" such as "human origins (eg, Darwin's theory of evolution and its critics"). "It's opening up opportunities for debate and discussion, not to push a particular view," Ms Bishop said. Classroom debate about issues encouraged critical thinking – an important tool, she said.

Associated Christian Schools executive officer Lynne Doneley welcomed the draft curriculum, saying it cemented the position of a faith-based approach to teaching. "We talk to students from a faith science basis, but we're not biased in the delivery of curriculum," Mrs Doneley said. "We say, 'This is where we're coming from' but allow students to make up their own minds."

But Griffith University humanities lecturer Paul Williams said it was important to be cautious about such content. "It's important that education authorities are vigilant that this is not a blank cheque to push theological barrows," Mr Williams said. "I would be loath to see it taught as theory. "It's up there with the world being occupied by aliens since Roswell."

Ms Bishop said there were bigger problems with the national curriculum.

History teachers are planning to object to repetitive subject matter, such as World War I being a major part of the Year 10 course and repeated in Year 11.


Australian academy rejecting global warming

Australia's former chief scientist, Professor Robin Batterham, is embroiled in a bitter dispute over climate change within one of the nation's elite science academies. As president of the peer-elected Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, Professor Batterham faces demands by members to drop plans for the academy to issue a policy statement supporting climate sceptics.

Documents obtained by The Canberra Times show Professor Batterham has indicated support for a statement clarifying the academy's position on climate change.

Professor Batterham is overseas, and could not be contacted. The academy's deputy chief executive Bill Mackey refused to comment on the growing rift within the academy over the contentious wording of the statement. "When we have something to say on this matter, we will say it," he said.

A two-page draft, posted on a password-protected section of the academy's website, said the academy "does not believe the science is settled" regarding climate change. It said many scientists believed "climate changes are nothing unusual, based on past geological records".

An exchange of emails shows the statement has sparked anger and alarm among members. More than 50 of Australia's top agricultural and environmental scientists are among those objecting to the statement. A letter signed by 12 climate scientists has also been circulated to members.

An alternative policy statement, drafted by academy member and Melbourne World Climate Research program director Professor Ann Henderson-Sellers, has been emailed to members. It says the academy will "continue to foster open and reasoned debate on all aspects of climate change" but sees "little point in promoting debate based on belief rather than evidence".

In a recent lecture to the University of Western Australia as academy president, Professor Batterham warned of the dangers of a political over-reaction to climate change. He said there was "still much of the science that is uncertain" and used data in an academy-badged slide presentation that claimed investment to create green jobs in Spain had resulted in the destruction of nearly 110,500 jobs, or 2.2 jobs for every "green job" created.

According to a report of the lecture published in a mining newsletter, Professor Batterham said despite scientific uncertainty, "we need to drastically reduce CO2 or face runaway temperature rise".


More criticism of proposed national history curriculum

Since the curriculum was designed by a well-known Marxist and former member of the Communist party, this was all foreordained. Macintyre's extreme Leftism has of course given him a charmed life in academe but Rudd knew what he was doing when he appointed him

THE new draft national history curriculum has been attacked by leading historians and educators as "politicised", "dumbed down" and pushing an agenda. The Opposition said it was a Labor-designed manifesto in the latest salvo in what has become a fresh break-out of "history wars". Its creators said the curriculum reflected changing values in society.

Prof Geoffrey Blainey said the draft curriculum appeared to represent a "left-wing view of Australian history". Prof Blainey said he was uneasy about the curriculum's treatment of Aboriginal Australians. He said it did not address the failures of pre-settlement Aboriginal society.

Education consultant and former history teacher Dr Kevin Donnelly said the new curriculum had put indigenous and Asian content and perspectives ahead of Australia's Anglo-Celtic tradition, the debt we owe to Western civilisation and the importance of our Judeo-Christian heritage. Dr Donnelly said the curriculum contained 118 references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, culture and history - with grade 5s studying White Australia and grade 9s Aboriginal massacres and displacement. There is just one reference to Parliament and none to Westminster or the Magna Carta.

Curriculum chief Prof Stuart Macintyre said the new course was not politically motivated.

Last week, this newspaper quoted a historian by the name of Andrew Garvie about the history curriculum. Andrew Garvie is a pen name used by senior Australian academic Dr Ian Pringle, who now works in sensitive parts of Asia as a teacher and consultant and is an economic history expert.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Don’t trust Google, trust the government

By Jessica Brown

Thank goodness for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and his tireless campaign to protect us from the nasty World Wide Web. Like a brave David squaring up against colossal Goliath, he vows to protect us from the evil clutches of internet behemoth Google and its dastardly ways.

In a Senate Estimates hearing this week, Conroy launched a scathing attack on the search giant for a privacy breach in which personal data were inadvertently collected from some Wi-Fi users. The breach was indeed serious, and Conroy is not the only person around the globe to raise concerns. But he just might be the angriest.

A quick scan of HANSARD, however, reveals that Conroy’s real problem with Google is that the search engine doesn’t know its place. ‘They consider themselves to be above government,’ says the Senator. ‘When it comes to their attitude to their own censorship, their response is simply, “Trust us.” They state on the website, “Trust us.”'

And it is this attitude that, according to Conroy, is so dangerous. Perhaps he has a point?

Google can decide – on a whim – to remove web pages it doesn’t like. We will never know what they are because its blacklist is a secret. We don’t even know what criteria are used to decide which pages get binned, or if and when those criteria are changed.

But guess what? It’s the same story with Conroy’s proposed internet filter.

The only difference is, if you don’t like the way Google works you can switch to Bing, Yahoo or any of the other multitude of search engines. If you don’t like the way the government’s internet filter will work, your best option is to leave the country.

Conroy doesn’t really see the connection though. While Google is a ‘corporate giant who is answerable to no one and motivated solely by profit,’ his government is driven by an altruistic urge to protect us all.
But what about those times when it is motivated not by altruism but by a desire to win the next election? Or push an ideological barrow? Or buy off an interest group? Or pander to the political views of an independent that holds the balance of power?

Can we really trust the government to decide – behind our backs – what is in our best interests any more than we can trust Google?

Perhaps a (not so?) radical idea would be for Conroy to trust us to decide for ourselves.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 28 May. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Tough immigration policy will play well for the conservatives in Australia's forthcoming election

Even the Left-leaning writer below can see that

TONY Abbott's embrace of the Pacific Solution to deter boat arrivals will be popular but it affirms the deeper story about the Coalition: it is smart on politics but weak on governing credentials.

Its new hard line on boat people is a "trust us" declaration that invokes the John Howard brand. This is a case of Abbott being Howard, hence his remark that "my values are very, very similar to those of John Howard". Because this statement is true, Abbott's pledge that his policy "is about stopping the boats" will resonate deeply.

Liberal Party research shows boat arrivals remain a red-hot issue. Much of the sentiment is ugly, hostile and deep-seated. As usual, Abbott has taken an absolutist stance: facing a complex challenge he offers populist purism. "We've done it before, we will do it again," he said. "Stop the boats, we must. Stop the boats, we will." The message: Kevin Rudd is weak on boat arrivals and Abbott is strong. That's it. Roger, over and out.

It is a variation of his stance on the resource super-profits tax. "This great big new tax has already put all investment decisions on hold," Abbott said in his budget reply. "The Coalition will oppose the mining tax in opposition and we will rescind it in government." No debate, no qualifications. No concession that taxing profits is the superior principle in a resource tax regime. Abbott's stance is policy must not hinder politics. Indeed, he told 2GB's Alan Jones this week that miners "are paying more than their fair share of tax", a claim much of the industry doesn't even make in its self-defence.

Such absolutism gives Abbott a cut-through quality that maximises his mobilisation of anti-Labor sentiment. People know what he stands for. But it raises another question: is running Australia this simple? Julia Gillard said yesterday that on boat people Abbott had "a slogan, not a solution". The day before Rudd dismissed Abbott for having no resources tax policy whatsoever despite his campaign.

The opening Labor seeks is obvious: Abbott can coin a slogan but you wouldn't want him running the country. In a sense the more progress Abbott makes the more Rudd depicts him as motor-mouth but not a viable prime minister. During a campaign Rudd's capacity to mount a disciplined argument that he is better able to manage the challenges of office should not be discounted.

Beneath Abbott's populism lies his obsession with values. Policy is hard; values are easy. Policy is about balancing competing interests; values are about taking stands. Such tensions are accentuated in the asylum-seeker debate; this is difficult policy but lends itself to populist hyperbole.

Rudd is susceptible because he tried to find a compromise (protecting the borders but softening Howard's repression of asylum-seekers) only to face a resurgence of boats.

So far in 2009-10 there have been 104 boats carrying 4893 people, the highest number on record.

This triggers an iron law of Australian politics: any prime minister is vulnerable if unable to halt the flow of boats. Put another way, every PM needs to show credibility as a border protectionist. Much of the media either cannot grasp or cannot accept this logic but it has complex and legitimate roots in our political culture.

In a tactic to intensify the heat, Abbott and his immigration spokesman Scott Morrison have unveiled a revised policy resting on three principles: where possible the Coalition will turn back the boats; all unauthorised arrivals will be processed offshore and this means negotiating "to establish an offshore processing detention centre in another country" to supplement Christmas Island because it is now at capacity; and restoration of temporary protection visas for unauthorised arrivals, with such people having no family reunion rights and no right to re-enter the country if they depart, thereby allowing the Coalition to lift Labor's discriminatory treatment of Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum-seekers.

How such pledges would work in practice is highly speculative. Abbott and Morrison know their policy is riddled with uncertainty. Turning back the boats requires another nation's co-operation, usually Indonesia. Immigration Minister Chris Evans says under Howard only seven boats were returned and none after 2003. As former foreign minister Alexander Downer said, Jakarta was prepared to allow some tow-backs after the Tampa crisis but this was kept as quiet as possible. Scope to revive this technique seems most improbable with Indonesia hardly a willing conscript. Morrison concedes prospects rest entirely on regional relations.

The Coalition's position on offshore processing duplicates Howard's Pacific Solution. This arose in 2001 because Howard refused to have the Tampa people processed in Australia and his government intimidated and bribed agreements with Nauru and Papua New Guinea for detention and processing facilities.

Morrison refuses to nominate which country an Abbott government would favour for such a deal. Obviously, it could only be revealed in office. The policy says "processing in another country provides the necessary deterrent to discourage illegal boat arrivals". It means intercepted boats would be "taken to non-Australian territory". This equates to a tactic of permanent boat diversion.

Could an Abbott government strike such an arrangement? The Coalition wants the International Organisation for Migration to operate the facility with support from other regional nations.

In this sense it would be an expensive regional solution difficult to negotiate. Coalition policy says Australia would accept some refugees from such offshore processing but "we will not take blanket responsibility for all those transferred to this facility".

Abbott has drawn a fresh line in the sand. "At the moment the Rudd government is bringing illegal arrivals onshore," he said. "That must not happen." Delivering this declaration relies on truly heroic assumptions: that a willing nation can be found and other parties will agree to Australia's conditions. Abbott's claim he sees no reason why negotiations would not succeed is blind optimism.

How smart is the Coalition to revive the Pacific Solution? It faced no compulsion to do this. While the public wants the boats stopped, the Pacific Solution is hardly calculated to win mass applause. The political lesson, however, is that once the boats flow the winner is the leader taking the toughest stand. This is the essence of Abbott's tactic. Rudd cannot out-tough Abbott on this. For Labor, Howard's Pacific Solution was the most detested of all his border protection measures, so its revival maximises the differences between Coalition and Labor.

A similar argument applies to the Coalition's commitment to temporary protection visas. The evidence under Howard is they had a poor record as deterrents or as workable policy instruments. Yet they put more product discrimination between Labor and Coalition over boat people.

This week's events will shape the election campaign. The Coalition plans an intense and researched assault in the campaign proper around asylum-seekers, surely with paid advertising as Abbott matches Howard's border protection message. If a series of boats arrive in the week before the vote, the effect will be inflammatory and unpredictable.

This policy release sets the scene. Morrison said: "We have had 60 boats arrive this year. They are arriving at a rate of more than three per week where in the last six years of the Coalition government they were arriving at a rate of three per year."

While last Thursday's Coalition policy must have been released with an eye to the weekend Newspoll, its long-run purpose is more important. The lesson is that Abbott will wipe the floor with Rudd as a populist. Labor needs to grasp this and act on it. Its strategy must be to present itself as the more capable, responsible and disciplined team for government.


Black educational handicaps CAN be beaten

With disciplined instruction and enthusiasm -- NOT with currently conventional methods

If you want to see a real Education Revolution then you should go to the remote Cape York town of Aurukun, where Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson has imported a radical teaching program into a school in which more than half of the students were barely reading at kindergarten level, if they could read at all. In terms of indigenous disadvantage, Aurukun was at rock bottom, with NAPLAN test results 70 per cent below the national benchmark, and every year the achievement gap widening.

The social dysfunction of the Cape's most violent town, driven by gambling, drugs and alcohol, was being played out in the schoolyard. But Pearson says the children's backgrounds has always been used by principals, teachers and education department bureaucrats as an "alibi for schooling failure". His philosophy is that if a student is at school and ready to learn, "a learning failure is a teaching failure". Already, after just one-and-a-half terms, the American-designed Direct Instruction program in which teachers deliver scripted lessons, according to a strictly prescribed, methodical program in literacy and mathematics, has surpassed even Pearson's extraordinarily high hopes. It is a program on which he has staked his reputation, forced into being against the will of much of the educational establishment, and on which his legacy will be judged.

This week, the 17th week of the DI program, a year 4 girl named Imani Tamwoy became the first in the school to have caught up to her grade level in reading. The grade 5 to 7 students managed to master 76 per cent of the kindergarten program in the first 11 weeks, and the prep - or pre-kindy class of four-year olds - is already 40 per cent through the kindergarten language program.

"I'm surprised," Pearson said on Thursday, during a visit with his five-year-old son Ngulunhdhul, aka Charlie, to Aurukun school, two hours by charter flight from his Cairns home. "I thought in Aurukun we'd have a hell of a time with behaviour … I thought Aurukun would be special case, with the notoriety of the school and the community. But it hasn't been, and the great thing is we're doing it with your stock standard Education Queensland teacher. This is the biggest surprise and they're doing a bloody great job."

Pearson travelled to Oregon last year to meet the architect of DI, Professor Siegfried Engelmann, and after a series of bruising negotiations, and entrenched opposition from some teachers and bureaucrats, installed a $7 million three-year trial in Aurukun and Coen schools at the beginning of the year, with the cautious support of the Queensland Education department.

The new principal, Geoff Higham, 59, drafted early this year to replace his less than enthusiastic predecessor, remembers how students in years 8 and 9 used to bring iron bars to school. "The senior boys were out of control. They were reading at kindy level and they hated everything about school," he says. "It's hard to believe the transformation in just 15 or 16 weeks. "This is a wonderful system. All the children are put into ability groups so no one is failing. The teachers aren't failing. The children aren't failing … It's a magnificent successful educational experiment."

Having taught in hardscrabble schools from Kenya to Thursday Island, the former Victorian describes himself as an old-fashioned "chalk and talk" teacher. His previous schools have been described as places where "even the grass sits up straight". He says DI accords with his educational philosophy, that every child can learn, given a disciplined routine and effective instruction. But even in his wildest dreams he hadn't known how effective DI could be.

"I have no doubt the pupils will be at the national level in maths and English in three years' time, and many children will be one, two or three years above that level."

Walking through the collection of modest white buildings nestled among stringybark and palm trees at the school of 250 pupils, you see everywhere, on teachers' shirts, on banners and in classrooms, the motto Pearson has coined for his education revolution: "Get ready. Work Hard. Be Good."

In Sarah Travers's kindy class, she wears a microphone around her neck to amplify her voice for children with chronic ear infections. It seems to work, because her 10 five-year-old students sit attentively on the floor, calling out sounds as she points to phonetic symbols in a book. At 1.45 pm at the tail end of a busy school week, their concentration and focus is remarkable.

In another classroom, children are sounding out words as the teacher clicks her fingers rhythmically to speed up their voices so that the sounds soon join up to become a fluent word.

Colleen Page, a 24-year-old teacher from the Sunshine Coast, in her third year at Aurukun, says the change DI has had on her pupils is marked. "They thrive on it. It's really good to compare the last two years with this year … Previously the kids would be running around your classroom … not listening. Now they're confident about participation in class."

She tells the story of the eight-year-old boy who came to her one morning proudly telling her how he had applied his previous day's lesson. "Miss, I saw a frog, and I said, 'You are an amphibian. You are born in water and raised on land."'

An essential part of the DI program is weekly testing and data crunching. Every Thursday, 120 pages of detailed test scores and information about each student and class is faxed to a DI centre in North America to be analysed. The following Tuesday, the school leaders have a conference call with DI experts in Oregon, about any problems identified.

For example, the data may pinpoint a deficit in a particular child's understanding that came from a particular work sheet in a particular lesson that may have been taught six weeks earlier. The solution is prescribed and the process repeats itself.

The children seem to thrive on the organised routine. Even those difficult older children in years 9 and 10, who have not gone away to boarding school like most of their peers, and who were expected to be too far behind to reap many rewards from DI, have responded in a way that is heartening and heartbreaking, as you consider countless lost opportunities.

The next stage in Pearson's plan is to extend the school day to run from 8.30 am to 4.45 pm, with direct instruction of basic skills until 2.15 pm. Afternoons will be devoted to two crucial areas of learning: Club, which is physical activities such as Auskick, and Culture, which is devoted to learning their traditional Aboriginal culture and becoming literate in the first language of most Aurukun children, Wik-Mungkan.

With growing community delight in the new DI system at school, and the charismatic leadership of Pearson, there is a feeling of renewal in the air. Or, what Principal Higham calls a corner of light.


Rudd treats us like mugs with latest backslide on government ads

Readers of my columns could have gleaned by now that I like to talk. I confess it takes a great deal to render me speechless. But when I walked into the office this morning I was handed a statement that made me open my mouth in shock, sit down, and take a moment to compose myself.

I learned there was an emergency and the Government was going to use millions of dollars of your money to fix it. I’m a bit slow on the uptake. Even though I’ve been covering the story all week, I hadn’t quite grasped that the resources tax stoush had reached the status of national emergency.

But apparently it has. Events are such that the Rudd Government has decided to suspend its own flimsy guidelines for policing taxpayer funded advertising in order to get $38.5 million worth of ads praising its tax reforms on the air. Pronto.

Like tomorrow. And the day after. The new tax ads start tomorrow. Newspapers first. TV to come. Yes, this morning, the Special Minister of State Joe Ludwig had the honourable task of telling us that the government had decided to clear any hurdle between them and a big expensive ad campaign in order to counter the sound and fury from the resources industry.

These ads have not been cleared by the independent committee now charged with ensuring government ads contain necessary information rather than thinly disguised partisan propaganda. They have been cleared by the government. No-one else.

I hope you all find them interesting and informative given you are paying for them.

The Government has set aside its own process because ...? Ludwig: ‘‘I note and accept the Treasurer's advice that there is an active campaign of misinformation about the proposed changes and that Australians are concerned about how these changes will affect them. I further note and accept the Treasurer’s advice that, as tax reform involves changes to the value of some capital assets, they impact on financial markets.’’

‘‘Given that co-ordinated misinformation about the changes is currently being promulgated in paid advertising, I accept the need for extremely urgent action to ensure the Australian community receive accurate advice about the nature and effect of the changes.’’

Let’s recap the whole sequence for a second. Kevin Rudd comes to office in 2007 promising he will not abuse the process of government funded advertising like the Howard Government did so egregiously. If climate change was the "great moral challenge of our time" government advertising, according to Rudd in 2007, was "a long term cancer on our democracy." He wins. He appoints the Auditor-General to police government ads.

The Auditor-General runs a ruler over everything, thinking he’s doing his job (given the cancer and all that). He asks lots of questions. The government gets annoyed and bones him.

The government installs a new independent committee of former public servants to play the Auditors’ role. These public servants report to the government, (unlike the Auditor-General, who is independent from Government and reports to the Parliament.)

To cap off the backflip, it amends it own guidelines to give itself more discretion to bypass even the new watered down process in order to respond in cases where someone in the government decides there is a ‘‘compelling reason’’ to — how can I put this delicately — go for broke at the taxpayers expense. Then, today, it fulfils its own disappointing prophesy.

It takes advantage of its new ‘‘flexibility’’. It decides it won’t even bother with its new watered down accountability process and just whacks ads on the air. The trend of decision-making on this issue is all bad, not quite as bad as John Howard, but getting there.

Now let’s try and see things from their point of view for a moment. Of course the miners are digging into their deep pockets in order to beat up the government and squeeze the best deal possible out of the proposed Henry changes.

A number of big reforms — most importantly the emissions trading scheme — have been killed by negative fear campaigns by special interests. There is a case to advertise the tax changes because they are far-reaching and complex. But is there really a case to suspend its own standards of accountability in order to do it?

Seriously? Does the Government conclude that voters are so silly that they can’t see a special interest campaign when they see one? Do they so doubt their own capacity to communicate a clear message that they have to bring in the ponytails of ad land to dig them out of a political hole?

Whatever Joe Ludwig gets paid, it’s not enough to be the minister responsible for accountability in this government - having to routinely and consistently announce he is hacking into the high standards the government set itself when it came to office in 2007. They are slipping on this issue, and they are mugs if they think voters won’t notice.


Friday, May 28, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is celebrating the departure of Malcolm Fraser. I don't think Zeg gets all the details of history right but he has got the general drift pretty right.

A REAL "stolen generation" needed?

If Mr Justice Martin is correct below -- and I believe that he is at least partly right -- the problem with violent black males starts when the males concerned were themselves abused as children. So shouldn't we be removing such children to more peaceful homes? And given the lack of peace in most black homes that would mean bring up black children in white foster homes -- precisely what the Leftist "stolen generation" accusers condemn

VIOLENCE in north Australian indigenous communities shows no sign of abating and it could be a further 25 years before any meaningful progress is made, a top judge has warned. In words laced with anguish and despair, Northen Territory Chief Justice Brian Martin announced his surprise resignation - eight years before compulsory retirement age - admitting that "some of the cases have been rough and demoralising". "You reach a point," he said, "where you say enough is enough."

Justice Martin said jail had become an ineffective means of rehabilitation and that he had become tired of seeing a growing tide of Aboriginal men repeatedly before the courts for violent crimes against women. "It is somewhat demoralising and distressing to see so many cases of that nature and so many offenders who are repeat offenders," he said. "These need to be addressed at a level before it gets to the court because there is a limit to what we can do. "We can put people in jail, but that in itself has proved to be an ineffective way of rehabilitating people."

Justice Martin's comments will add to an already heated debate in the Territory about the merits of so-called "soft" and "hard" sentencing of indigenous offenders.

"We (the courts) are right at the tail end of all the experiences of the life of the offender that has ultimately led to this type of offending," Justice Martin said yesterday during a candid and wide-ranging press conference at the NT Supreme Court chambers. "Being at the tail end, we can't cure them. That's the problem.

"We see many offenders who come from homes in which they were the victims. "They end up becoming offenders. We have to break that cycle somehow."

Justice Martin said stamping out the violence would take generational change and special attention needed to be given to children. "The project in my view is at least a 25-year project," he said.

"It starts with getting the very young children out of the dysfunctional lifestyle and circumstances and get them into the right lifestyle and break the vicious cycle that has been set up."

Indigenous academic Marcia Langton last night branded the 25-year timeframe as "defeatist" and insisted the situation be turned around earlier. "We shouldn't make kids wait that long for a decent life," she said. "People become defeated by how difficult the task is but you have to be tough. "It's about vigilance. There are a lot of parties that could do so much better." [Like whom?]


Official climate "experts" can't even spell

A waiver is the voluntary surrender of some right or privilege. Does the big brain below mean "waver"?
DSE invites members of the Victorian Public Service to a presentation on: Dealing with climate change denialism with Paul Holper, CSIRO

Popular opinion on climate change often waivers, particularly when the media focus on denialist views and encourage “debates” with climate change scientists. The Victorian Government, along with other governments in Australia and across the world, rely on the scientific community for advice on climate change and its likely impacts. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is recognised as the international authority on climate change science and denialist views often lack rigor and credibility in comparison. Paul Holper (CSIRO) will present on ways to approach climate change denialism in a Victorian context.

Paul Holper Paul manages the CSIRO’s involvement in the Australian Climate Change Science Program, a $15 million program supported by the Commonwealth Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. This program undertakes observations of the atmosphere, oceans and terrestrial systems, as well as climate model development, and projections of Australia’s likely future climate. Paul coordinated the most recent climate change projections for Australia (based on IPCC models), announced by BoM and CSIRO in 2007.


Note that Public servants only are invited. Secret knowledge? I'd love to go and ask some awkward questions but I don't have that much time to waste anyway.

It would be fascinating to see a transcript of Mr Holper's lecture but I'm betting that he won't have the balls to release it. He would know that to do so would expose him to ridicule and refutation.

Misleading Federal government advertising

Just a blatant use of taxpayers' money to plug as achievements what are no more than Leftist promises

Qualification and nuance discounts affirmations of all kinds, particularly when you are trying to sell somebody something.

So that's probably the reason the federal government has opted to omit the grey area when it comes to the advertising campaign currently on air at your expense - the one that intones reassuringly that the Australian Government "will deliver better health and better hospitals".

You wouldn't want to bog the advertisement down with untidy and ill-defined bits and pieces. Like the fact that Western Australia has not yet agreed to the Commonwealth's health and hospital reforms. Or that the Senate is yet to consider any legislation that might be required to give effect to that agreement. Best keep it simple.

Rather like the lovely glossy brochures printed at your expense plugging the government's new paid maternity leave scheme. It's cool. It's big. It's fabbo. "On 1 January 2011, the Australian Government will deliver Australia’s first national paid parental leave scheme."

Well let’s hope the country can strike a modest blow for modernity after all this time. But that too depends on the Senate, which is yet to consider the necessary legislation giving effect to the scheme. But why sweat the details?

After all, this wouldn't quite work would it? "On 1 January 2011, the Australian Government will (probably) deliver Australia's first national paid parental scheme (if the unrepresentative swill in the Senate allows us to)." Not so schmick. But it would be a more accurate representation of current political reality.

I wouldn't get picky if it wasn't my money. And yours. And I wouldn't harp on about this issue if this government had resolved to be just like the one it replaced: the one that thought nothing of taking large sums of your money and investing it in advertising telling you how good they were.

You remember that period of course. Eventually the degree of taxpayer-funded self-congratulation going on under the Howard government drove us all stark raving mad.

This particular Rudd government actually had an accountability agenda. It promised to be different than its predecessor. And there is evidence to show that on several fundamentals it is different from its predecessor on the issue of taxpayer funded advertising. But there is troubling evidence too of back-sliding.

In March the government dumped the Commonwealth Auditor-General, Ian McPhee, a man it had appointed (consistent with a 2007 election promise) to the important task of policing government campaigns. McPhee (who sets his own agenda and reports to the parliament) has been replaced with a committee of retired public servants (appointed on shorter contracts and answerable to the government).

That happened in March. In May, despite the Herculean effort to get the budget back into surplus earlier than forecast, the government found more than $100 million over the forward estimates to fund advertising campaigns. These campaigns are already in the pipeline.

Health is already on the air. Quite apart from its lack of disclosure, this campaign cannot be compared with an eminently justifiable information exercise: get a breast screen, check your prostate, slip slop slap. It is simply an exercise in informing all of us that the government is doing something, lest you conclude that all that’s happening in Canberra is rave parties or book clubs. If this one represents the tone of future government advertising it does not bode well.

McPhee told Senate Estimates earlier this week that his office would not be in a position to properly scrutinise any of the new spending until next year. That's after the election folks.

No one quibbles with the right of governments to inform the public, or to run campaigns where public action is required, or to communicate on issues where education is warranted.

The recent debacle surrounding the insulation program could serve as a case in point. If there had been an advertising campaign warning the public explicitly of the possible risks, and I mean possibe, then some of the disasters could have been avoided. But current practice is less than reassuring.


Freedom from information in Left-run NSW

INVESTIGATORS are repeatedly refused access to critical documents by agencies such as the Roads and Traffic Authority, despite commitments by the Premier, Kristina Keneally, and her predecessor, Nathan Rees, to reform the government's approach to freedom of information.

The Ombudsman, Bruce Barbour, is seeking to change a nine-word loophole in the legislation that governs his powers and which he says significantly hinders his ability to investigate government agencies.

The loophole allows agencies to refuse access to documents they say are covered by legal professional privilege.

Mr Barbour says his requests, over 2½ years, for a change have been met with "a series of unhelpful fob-offs" and has warned he is preparing to make a special report to Parliament to force action on the issue.

"The amendment would ensure proper scrutiny of government agencies [which are] the subject of investigation," Mr Barbour told the Herald. "Importantly, it would remove the opportunity for agencies to hide behind this exemption. "It's difficult to understand why the government is so reluctant to make such a simple yet important amendment to the Ombudsman's Act."

The NSW Ombudsman, who holds royal commission powers of investigation, is the only ombudsman in Australia hamstrung by the legal loophole. The Police Integrity Commission and the Independent Commission Against Corruption are not prevented from accessing any type of document.

Mr Barbour has written to at least two premiers, not including Ms Keneally, and the director-general of the Department of Premier and Cabinet raising his concerns and requesting an amendment to the act. In a parliamentary committee report tabled last month, he revealed that draft legislation was being prepared, but that it was "pulled before it went to Parliament".

Mr Barbour described a letter he received from Leigh Sanderson, the deputy director-general of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, as "another in a series of unhelpful fob-offs".

In the Ombudsman's latest annual report, Mr Barbour highlighted his frustration at being stonewalled during "a very significant investigation into the RTA" and another into a freedom-of-information request refused by the Board of Studies.

During the Ombudsman's investigation into the Board of Studies' refusal to grant a group of students access to their raw and "cut-off" HSC marks, he was refused access to 60 documents on the grounds of legal professional privilege.

Refusals were also made during an investigation into how the RTA handled freedom-of-information requests, which uncovered a longstanding practice of sending draft determinations to the office of the minister and not acting until it received their endorsement.

In its report, the government-controlled Committee on the Office of the Ombudsman and the Police Integrity Commission has recommended the act be changed, but the government has yet to respond. Earlier this month Ms Keneally issued a memo to her ministers and department heads warning them to abide by new freedom-of-information laws which take effect on July 1.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Curtains For

Antisemitic Leftist hate-site wonders why it attracted few advertisers. Excerpt from their announcement below. Picture of Marni Cordell, the writer of the piece below, also follows. Some background on the publication here

It’s with heavy hearts that we announce the end of the site will cease publishing on Friday, 25 June.

What’s brought us to this? The short answer is: we’ve run out of money. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that has never operated on a profit. However, we had projected that the site would break even by 2010.

We’ve now come to realise we were being too optimistic and that we’re unable to continue publishing into the next financial year. This is in large part due to the sheer difficulty of selling online advertising in the current media environment.

When was bought by its current owner Duncan Turpie in February 2007 the site was operating at a significant financial loss. That year we made the decision — perhaps too hastily in hindsight — to drop subscriptions in an effort to boost our readership and to increase our revenue from advertising.

We’ve certainly achieved the first of those aims: each year for the past three years our hits have more than doubled. There’s a steady and growing cohort of readers who return daily to for news and analysis.

However, the advertising simply hasn’t followed. Moreover, as the site has increased in popularity, so have our running costs — and with them the knowledge that we are unable to subsidise the project indefinitely. The big media players are struggling to find a workable online business model that allows them to pay their writers and maintain high standards — and so are we. Since we already run a very lean operation, cutting costs is not an option and we are taking the only path available to us at this time.


Rudd to backflip on mining tax rate

Still making policy on the run without proper consultations. He hasn't got a clue

THE Rudd Government is moving towards a major backdown on its $12 billion tax on resources and is now expected to increase the threshold at which its proposed super-profits levy kicks in from 6 per cent to 11 or 12 per cent.

Only three weeks after unveiling the new resource super-profits tax, the Government is preparing to lift the threshold definition of a super profit following a ferocious campaign by the mining companies,

Despite this expected backdown, the big mining companies have already declared the changes do not stop the risk to investment in Australia.

To offset the lost revenue in raising the threshold to the same level as the existing petroleum resources rent tax, which applies to offshore gasfields, the Government intends to withdraw the 40 per cent taxpayer-funded compensation originally offered for mining projects that fail....

But all the major mining companies have rejected the new proposals as "tinkering at the edges" and not addressing the main risk to mining investment in Australia.

The mining companies are demanding more negotiation with the government on the issues of the retrospective application of the new tax, different rates for different minerals and the 40 per cent tax rate.

BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers declared last night that any thought the petroleum tax would work for minerals was "naive" and demonstrated "a lack of knowledge as to how investments are made".

And Xstrata chief executive Mick Davis said from South Africa: "The Government needs to do what it should have done all along and enter into full and open consultations with the industry where every aspect of the super tax is open for debate. Tinkering at the margins will not avoid the significant long-term damage this tax could do to mining investment in Australia.

Rio Tinto chairman Jan du Plessis told the company's shareholders that Australia's reputation had already been damaged by the super-profits tax proposal.

"We are concerned that the proposed resources super tax will erode Australia's competitiveness, severely curtail investment and limit jobs growth," Mr du Plessis said yesterday.

More here

Conservative coalition insists refugees work for their keep

REFUGEES would be forced to work for their welfare benefits and may only be permitted to stay in Australia for as little as six months under a tough new border security policy to be announced by the Coalition today.

In an attempt to capitalise on rising community anger at the continued flow of boats that have brought 2805 asylum-seekers to Australia so far this year, the Coalition will unveil a suite of measures designed to harden its border security credentials.

At the heart of those measures is a new, tougher class of temporary protection visa to be issued to all unauthorised asylum-seekers.

In echoes of the Howard government's Pacific Solution, the Coalition is expected to announce new measures to process asylum-seekers offshore.

The Coalition will also flag its intention to dump the suspension of new refugee claims for Afghan and Sri Lankan asylum-seekers, which was unveiled by the Federal Government in April. The suspension freezes new Sri Lankan asylum claims for three months and new Afghan claims for six months.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison told The Australian that abolishing the suspension would restore the non-discriminatory tenets of Australian asylum-seeker policy. "We have tough policies but they are applied equally to everyone," Mr Morrison said.

"We have a clear view that people who arrive illegally will get different treatment to those who arrive legally. "We don't seek to hide the fact what we are trying to do is ensure there is a different outcome for those who come illegally and those who don't."

The new announcements are designed to silence Coalition critics who for months have accused the opposition of failing to provide convincing alternative policies to stop the rising number of boats.

They are also an attempt to capitalise on growing disquiet in marginal electorates in the months leading up to this year's Federal Election.

Mr Morrison yesterday defended the proposed temporary protection visa, saying it was a fairer, more versatile method of providing protection. "Refugee status is not a permanent condition and you need a policy to reflect that," he said.


Malcolm "Trousers" Fraser: A bitter old failure

No wonder he consorts with the Left these days. Bitterness is their shtick

Now comes news that Fraser formally quit the Liberal Party in December because it's too conservative for him. The former prime minister quit in spirit a long time ago. He seems eaten up with the need to settle old scores and be proved right on every little point, a sad state to be in at the age of 80. Listening to him is a reminder of how unelectable the Liberal Party would be today if he had any say in it.

He has always gone out of his way to malign and belittle John Howard, his one-time treasurer who well and truly eclipsed him in the PM stakes. How it must have rankled that some half-deaf nerd from Canterbury Boys' High could best him, the tall imperious scion of the Victorian squattocracy who speaks as if he has a mouthful of cotton wool.

He showed himself on Monday night to be no better a friend to Tony Abbott, describing Langton's fair-minded but uncompromising appraisal of the Opposition Leader as "extraordinarily kind".

"… Instinctively it's in your nature either to try and tell the truth even when you're losing your temper, or it's not, and if it's not you're entitled to say, every time a man [i.e. Abbott] says something, 'Well, is this fair dinkum or is it not?' "

He also accused the opposition, laughably, of not pursuing government wrongdoing hard enough. Better yet was his confident claim that the British and American governments knew Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and the Howard government, if it didn't know, "should have".

He's obviously been reading too much Green Left Weekly, or perhaps he gets his history from the Hollywood conspiracy genre of Green Zone. Even the host, Tony Jones, didn't pursue this fruitcake line.

The Freudian highlight of Monday night's show came when Jones inadvertently referred to Fraser as "Malcolm Turnbull". Fraser looked pleased, and you can see some similarity in the two men's unscrupulous ambition and capacity for destruction. But Turnbull is positively humble by comparison, can admit mistakes, and does not eat himself up with old grievances. He is a far sunnier fellow.

While spruiking his memoirs earlier this year, Fraser denied that he had become a leftie, insisting he had not changed but the Liberal Party had lurched to the right.

That is his perception. But to many observers the Reinvention of Malcolm Fraser is a fascinating study in internal psychological conflict writ small into the craggy creases of his former matinee-idol face.

He used to be a cartoon version of the jut-jawed, born-to-rule elite, the "Life wasn't meant to be easy", razor-ganging, Nixonian supply-blocker who became the most loathed politician of his time; now he resides in the very bosom of the progressive left which once reviled him, the pin-up boy of the GetUp! crowd.

It's as if he has a permanent case of Stockholm Syndrome - the defence mechanism in which captives identify with their tormenters and eventually adopt their beliefs.

There he was, having come to office in 1975 in a most ruthless and unorthodox manner, by overthrowing Labor's progressive darling Gough Whitlam, violently hated by those who saw him as an illegitimate symbol of oppressive patriarchy, and soon enough snubbed by his own party. On university campuses the family name was defaced with a swastika in place of the "s". For a long time he was not welcome in fashionable circles and was ridiculed for losing his trousers in Memphis. Regarded as disappointing and a bit of an embarrassment by colleagues, the prime minister who once lionised Mugabe and Mao was blamed for making the Liberals unelectable for 13 years.

It would have broken lesser men. So in a way you can understand his eager acceptance of the small kindnesses which started to come from former opponents. Whitlam always had an amused, half-bemused look on his face as he posed with his new best friend, a convert to all sorts of progressive convictions. The more Fraser converted, the kinder his former foes were to him, and the more he must have boiled at the petty injustices from his own indifferent party.

The odd thing is that he would have done a lot more damage to conservatives if he'd remained in their ranks. Instead, he's turned into the crabby old muppet Statler, harmlessly heckling the rest of the cast from his balcony seat.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Good riddance to bad rubbish

He always was "holier than thou" -- a supercilious old b*stard. I regret that I once shook his hand. After his wimpish Prime Minstership, he has been loathed by many Australian conservatives for a long time

FORMER Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser has quit the party, allegedly over a belief it has tilted too far to the right.

Mr Fraser resigned in December, shortly after Malcolm Turnbull was turfed as Opposition leader over his support for emissions trading, The Australian Financial Review reported.

He allegedly told friends his replacement, Tony Abbott, was "all over the place" on policy and disliked the racist overtones adopted by the party in the debate on immigration.

Mr Fraser, the prime minister from 1975 to 1983, confirmed his decision to quit yesterday, saying the party was no longer a liberal party but a conservative party.

Although he failed to elaborate, he has recently been critical of the Coalition in the media, particularly over its stance on the Israeli passports affair.


Useless emergency hotline again

Another case of an emergency call "diverted" to somewhere a long way away from the emergency -- where it gets "lost"

FEARS are held for the safety of teachers in a Cape York Indigenous community after a frightening attempted break-in yesterday.

Queensland Teachers Union north Queensland delegate Maureen Duffy said tension had been building in the town since a riot last week, with an attempted break-in yesterday heightening concerns.

The attempted break-in was particularly frightening for the two female victims, who were unable to get through to Aurukun police. Their call diverted to Cairns instead.

Ms Duffy said the two female teachers, both under the age of 26, were alerted by a security light about 3.15am yesterday, which revealed three intruders, who had duct tape with them, trying to break in. “They tried to get in the side door and then they went around and tried the front door,” Ms Duffy said. “They (the teachers) were screaming out ‘We are going to call the police!’. “They (the intruders) then scaled the fence and ran away.” A roll of duct tape was later found outside.

“I do know that they tried to ring police and it diverted to Cairns and the report I was told was that details was supposed to be given,” Ms Duffy said. She said the principal also tried to call Aurukun police about 8.30am yesterday and that phone call also diverted to Cairns.

Meanwhile a police officer from Aurukun Police Station denied there was a riot earlier in the week, and said there just fighting between families. "It was nothing out of the ordinary for here - just ongoing tension and family fights,’’ he said.

Aurukun police officer-in-charge Sen-Sgt Alan Dewis said the attempted break-in was not reported to police when the call was diverted to Cairns. "You can't complain about a service if you don't report what actually happened," he said. "If that information had been passed on it's without a doubt there would have been a quick response."

Sen-Sgt Dewis said he could not make any further comments as the investigation was ongoing.


Streamline teacher sackings, say NSW parents

PARENTS want the state government to speed up the process of sacking underperforming teachers from schools, which they say is too long and needs to be reviewed.

The call follows the release of a report yesterday which said principals were failing to do anything about poor teachers and that the system for evaluating teachers was "broken".

The president of the NSW Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations, Dianne Giblin, said yesterday the procedure to remove underperforming teachers was "too long and complex". "Every parent wants a quality teacher in front of a classroom," she said. "There needs to be a review and the process of removing ineffective teachers should be quicker and more succinct.

"There is a lengthy period … where teachers are monitored and reviewed and often transferred to another school where the process starts again."

The state government has backed away from its decision in early 2008 to give principals the autonomy to hire and fire teachers, in response to pressure from the NSW Teachers Federation.

A spokesman for the Education Minister, Verity Firth, said every teacher deserved "due process". Teachers deemed to be underperforming were placed on a 10-week improvement program. If, at the end of the program, the teacher has not satisfied "specific quality benchmarks" he or she is "referred for … disciplinary or … remedial action, which could include dismissal," the spokesman said.

This year the NSW Institute of Teachers will begin evaluating teachers who apply for accreditation at the higher levels of "accomplished teaching" and "teacher leadership".

The head of the institute, Patrick Lee, said 350 experienced teachers had applied for evaluation under the new standards, with 150 more expected to apply by the end of the year.

Public school teachers who receive accreditation would not qualify for higher pay in the same way as independent school teachers, who earn an extra $6862 for achieving the new standards.

The NSW Association of Independent Schools has negotiated a scale of performance pay for teachers at 120 private schools, and the highest rate is more than $100,000. Public school classroom teachers earn a maximum of about $79,000.

The Catholic Education Office in Sydney will appoint teacher educators to 20 primary and 11 secondary schools this year. The educators will be paid about $110,000 to improve standards.

Gary Zadkovich, deputy president of the NSW Teachers Federation, said the government and Department of Education had failed to provide enough support and guidance for public school principals to implement teacher improvement programs.


Anti-American Left clutches at the usual cliches

IMAGINE surprising your audience, challenging their preconceived views, allowing people to learn something new, think afresh, rather than simply seek out reaffirmation of what they already believe. Imagine this happening when five international guests gather to talk about America for the 2010 Sydney Writers Festival. A festival that promised to bring "provocative ideas" and "feisty debate" to Sydney.

Maybe next year. The festival's big event at Sydney Town Hall on Saturday evening started and finished as a caricature of all that has gone awry with the Left. Not just the refusal to try for nuance, difference or debate on a panel. Progressives seem to think gathering people of different skin colours can be used as proxies for different views.

Not just the sleep-inducing sound and sight of five voices all nodding and shaking their heads to the same anti-American melody. Yes, we all voted for Barack Obama, yes, we all want action on climate change, no to religion, nuclear power, the Tea Party movement, the Bush administration ("evil was being actively pursued every single day"), Sarah Palin and Fox News ("I blame Australia. Thanks, Rupert.") This is the same kind of blubbing uniformity you find at a Tea Party convention.

But it's the smugness of the Left that strikes you the most. Are there different views? Not among decent-minded people surely. Not among our audience anyway, who reek of sensibility with their sensible shoes, their sensibly warm cardigans and scarves.

It's true the audience seemed content, clapping, heads nodding and shaking in tune. Perhaps this is what the elderly do to relive their salad days of unruly protest marches. Past the age of youthful chanting and traipsing the streets holding up anti-American placards, the audience -- with a mean age of 60 -- seemed to be here to have their views affirmed. And so did the aging activist Anne Summers, who chaired the panel session. Alas, the taxpayer-funded Sydney Writers Festival is not meant to be a political or ideological gathering. Or a protest march for oldies.

Opening the panel, Summers mentioned an article by James Fallow in a recent edition of Atlantic Monthly. A thoughtful piece about the American cycle of crisis and renewal, Fallows has the intellectual honesty to explore what is great about America while also exploring its greatest flaws. Turns out Summers is a dreadful tease. There would be no such intellectual integrity on display in the Town Hall. No fascinating exploration of what Fallows traces as the "jeremiad" national ritual where Americans issue harsh warnings about American decline as a rallying cry to get people to address problems.

No honest appraisal of history where America is always depicted as in decline for one reason or another. Prior to World War II, America was always falling short of the expectations of God, the Founding Fathers or the past. After emerging as a global power, it was always accused of falling behind another emerging power. And no mention of the brilliant American capacity to bounce back every time.

Instead, Summers presided over and, with simplistic questions, prompted 90 minutes of bashing America in general, and conservative America in particular. She kicked it off with a quote from a book by panellist Lionel Shriver. "Americans are fat, inarticulate and ignorant. They're demanding, imperious and spoiled. They're self-righteous and superior. . ." and so on. Cue the panel. British protester Raj Patel said he recently took up American citizenship so that he "can now be arrested and not deported back to the United Kingdom".

He joined the World Trade Organisation protests in Seattle and the 2000 protests against the World Bank. He would later recite a nostalgic poem, Let America Be America Again, once published in a pamphlet by a group of communists.

Shriver, now living in Britain, told the audience to forget about moving to America because "if this is as good as it gets, then it doesn't get very good". Reza Aslan, an Iranian-American scholar, remarked on the enormous similarities between Iran and America: the sense of greatness, the role of religion in society. Americans treat their founding documents as "scripture", he said. "That's called fundamentalism." So America "feels like home," he said.

One panel member mocked the belief in small government as a "weird contradiction". Ignoring centuries of genuine liberal political philosophy, he wondered how any sensible person could believe in government only to then say they want government off your back?

An hour earlier, at an entertaining session about plain English, an intelligent chair talked to Christopher Hitchens, Annabel Crabb and former NSW premier Nathan Rees about the problems with cliches.

Clutching at cliches is not a case of bad thinking, said Hitchens. "It's not doing the thinking at all." Across town, Summers presented the 90-minute crash course: Left-Wing Anti-American Cliches 101.

There was no sign of reality. As one panel member said, "I just don't like reality." No honest scorecard of America, a big country that makes big mistakes, to be sure. But also a big country that delivered big help to Europe during World War II, to Bosnian Muslims in Serbia in 1995, to the thousands of people devastated by the Asian tsunami in 2004, to the Burmese in 2008 left to die by their military leaders, and so on. No recognition that the soft power of Europe has done precious little to rescue people in need.

Instead, there was smugness. Ironically, the very same smugness explored a few days earlier by Shriver during an intelligent discussion with broadcaster and journalist Caroline Baum. When talking about humour, Shriver said she doesn't care for the clubby nature of most political satire where it is assumed you are all on the same side. "It's what annoys me about liberals in general. Conservatives, as a type, do not assume when they meet someone that you're a conservative . . . Liberals are presumptuous and especially if you seem like a half-way decent human being. The assumption is, of course, you are wildly left-wing." Everyone is regarded as being in the same club. It's "very self-congratulatory", Shriver said.

No doubt, the authors on stage subscribe to the view of novelist Peter De Vries, mentioned in Hitchens's new book, Hitch 22. De Vries said his ambition as a writer was for his books to attract a mass audience, "one large enough for his more elite audience to look down upon".

When one panel member on Saturday evening seriously suggested that obesity in America was the fault of George W. Bush, it was time to wrap things up for anyone with a modicum of free thinking. Let's Talk About America should have been called Let's Attack America, remarked my friend as we walked out.

Memo to festival organisers: please bump up ticket prices for the 2011 festival so governments can stop subsidising you. And taxpayer money can be used somewhere useful next year.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What the hell happened here?

How did a prisoner in a Victorian police cell become "bloody"? And how come it was initially covered up?

Sickening CCTV footage of a bleeding prisoner crawling from his cell has been described as "deeply disturbing" by a Victoria Police commissioner.

The Chinese man, in his 50s, who was arrested and placed in a cell at Dandenong police station for being drunk, pleaded for help, soiled himself and was bleeding when he was bailed by police on May 12.

Five minutes later, as an interpreter tried to help him, police called an ambulance, but he died the following day in hospital.

Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said an officer had been put on alternative duties while the ethical standards department and the homicide squad investigate the Dandenong death.

"My view is that if you see a prisoner crawling on the ground, that should be a very clear signal that we should be calling an ambulance, and I'm very concerned in this case that did not occur," he said.

Mr Cornelius said there was no evidence of the man being physically mishandled by police.

"It is a deeply disturbing and very disappointing image. I would never want to see anything like that again in my policing career," he said.

Police investigating the tragedy will compile a brief for the state coroner.

The circumstances of the man's death only came to light yesterday after an interpreter who witnessed the incident phoned a radio station.

The woman, "JJ", said the man repeatedly yelled that he needed to go to hospital and was writhing in pain. She said she was struggling to erase the images of his blood-stained face and the "despair" in his eyes.


Another account of the matter:

A Chinese man who was seen bleeding from his mouth and crawling from his police cell "like a dog" begged officers for help hours before he died in hospital, his interpreter claims.

The woman, known as JJ, said she was called to Dandenong police station after the allegedly drunk man was arrested about 2.30pm on May 12.

JJ told Radio 3AW today the man had soiled himself, was bleeding from the mouth and complaining of such intense pain he couldn't stand up or walk at the police station.

She said when the cell door was opened, the man crawled out "on his knees and hands like a dog" with no assistance from police officers. "When I looked through I saw blood everywhere in the cell and he was on the floor yelling ... he was in pain," she said. "I heard him yelling out 'I can’t take this anymore I need to go to the hospital'."

After the man's paperwork had been processed, JJ said he was taken to the garage area and told by an officer to "Get out! Get out!".

"He said 'I can't move, I can't move' and then two officers came and just grabbed him and threw him out," she said. "He yelled in pain, so much pain, he yelled as if someone was killing someone."

JJ said outside the police station the man, aged about 50, told her his back and his right hip were causing him pain. After waiting on the footpath for 40 minutes police organised an ambulance, she said. He died in hospital the next day.

JJ claimed she was told by police the man was "dying anyway". She said the man was married with a 15-year-old daughter. "I just hope his family would get some fair answer," she said.

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius today confirmed the incident was being investigated by the homicide squad and ethical standards department.

He said he understood the man had been "very unwell for some considerable time" and tests had revealed a "substantial amount" of alcohol in his blood.

He said there was "no evidence of physical force in the course of his body being examined".

Assistant Commissioner Cornelius said the interpreter had provided a statement to investigators from the ethical standards department and he had "no reason to doubt the account provided by the witness".

He also revealed a police officer who had contact with the man has been assigned a new role while the investigations continue.

"I understand that the duties of one of the members involved was reviewed and as a result that member is undertaking other duties," Assistant Commissioner Cornelius said. "At this stage we haven't formed a view one way or the other about the appropriateness of the conduct of those members."


The disdain of the self-elected Leftist elite for the "illiterates" who pay their way

From New York to Sydney and on to Melbourne, many an inner-city intellectual is full of contempt for their fellow men and women. It's just that not many 'fess up to what they really think.

Not so the Australian expatriate Peter Carey. The New York-based novelist told the taxpayer-subsidised Sydney Writers' Festival at the weekend: "We are getting dumber every day; we are literally forgetting how to read." Carey has not released the text of his address but, according to a Herald report, he complained: "We have yet to grasp the fact that consuming cultural junk … is completely destructive of democracy."

According to the report, the novelist's audience was of the converted kind. No disagreement was evident when Carey declared the nation of his birth has "become intolerant of any news that is not entertaining".

Carey's complaint is, in Australia, cookbooks and Dan Brown novels top most best-seller lists. And he expressed the wish, by as early as next year, every 14-year-old would understand and adore William Shakespeare and learn to love Charles Dickens's work. If young teenagers go for Shakespeare and Dickens, well and good. But if they will settle for Brown, this should be good enough. What matters is that the young learn to love reading - and virtually any reading will do for starters.

As a novelist, Carey is worried about the status of the novel itself. In April, The Wall Street Journal reported how, at a function in the New York Public Library, Carey responded to a question about the kind of novels he writes with a version of the conversation he claims to usually have on planes. It went as follows. The person says: "What do you do?" "I write novels." Person: "Should I know your name?" Carey: "Only if you're literate."

Enough said.

The fact is people read more than ever before. This reflects increasing literacy rates in the less developed world, along with the growth in online reading in the developed world. Carey's claim "we have forgotten how to read" is hyperbole - whether spoken to American or Australian audiences. Yet it is more than this. The novelist's disdain for the reading tastes of his fellow citizens reflects a deeper disenchantment with societies which do not assess intellectuals to be as important as intellectuals regard themselves.

In an interview on Radio National's Breakfast in 2006, Carey declared if he still lived in Australia he "would spend so much time in a total blinding rage". He is on record as having described Australia as a "flea circus".

Carey's Sydney Writers' Festival whinge is but the most recent complaint of the inner-city leftist writer or commentator who decries the (alleged) lack of culture among those who live in the suburbs and regional centres. A similar critique is commonly heard in Australia.

Earlier this month, The Age dismissed its Brunswick-based columnist Catherine Deveny. The immediate cause turned on her Logie night attempt at humour - to the effect it would be a you-beaut idea if 11-year-old Bindi Irwin got laid. This controversy diverted attention away from Deveny's contempt for those who live in the suburbs, some of whom read The Age. She mocked shoppers at the suburban shopping malls, ridiculed families with signed and framed football jumpers on their walls and dismissed believers as mere idiots.

No one quite matches Deveny's contempt for the less educated and lower socio-economic groups. However, in 2004 La Trobe University academic Judith Brett warned readers of the edited collection The Howard Years that, in contemporary Australia, "the opinions of the ignorant or uninvolved are given equal weight to those of the passionate and the knowledgeable". How shocking is that?

Writing in the Herald Sun last February, columnist Jill Singer opined: "There is nothing wrong with being an accountant, farmer or fisherman - but these are insufficient credentials to, say, run a nation's finances." According to this logic, one-time train driver Ben Chifley was not qualified to be treasurer in John Curtin's successful wartime government but Jim Cairns was just the man to hold the position in Gough Whitlam's erratic government in the early 1970s. Yet Chifley was competent at his job while the former academic Cairns was a disaster.

In 2005, journalist and academic Margaret Simons wrote in the Griffith Review about her experiences in visiting the Fountain Gate shopping centre in suburban Melbourne. It was an "us" and "them" experience. One minute Simons was in Carlton with its devotion to "conspicuous refinement and good taste". Just an hour later, dressed in hemp, she was in suburban Narre Warren asking shoppers whether they had heard of the culture wars and wondering why they ignored her questions. All this in search of an answer to Simons's query as to what is "the difference between the people who chose to live here and ourselves". The question is as embarrassing as the account of her research for an answer.

It seems that some parts of the inner-city are more, in Simons's terminology, sophisticated than others. On ABC radio in Melbourne last February, John Faine dismissed Altona as so "industrial" it "gets the fumes from the industrial zones wafting across it". Not attractive, was Faine's judgment. Not enough coffee shops and insufficient hemp worn, apparently.

The irony is that much of this inner-city snobbery is funded by taxpayers who live in industrial areas or near suburban shopping malls. Carey's alienation found expression at the Sydney Writers' Festival while Simons's analysis appeared in the taxpayer-subsidised Griffith Review. Brett is an academic and Faine works for the public broadcaster. It's enough to make you reach for the nearest cookbook.


Teachers get no incentive to improve

GOOD teachers are not recognised and rewarded while poor teachers are not penalised because methods to evaluate their performance at school are meaningless and ineffective.

A report by the independent think tank the Grattan Institute, to be released today, calls for a radical overhaul of the nation's systems for evaluating teachers, saying the profession believes they are meaningless and undertaken only to satisfy administrative requirements.

"Although all Australian schools have systems of evaluation and development in place, they clearly aren't working. Teachers believe that the systems are broken," the report says.

It adds that 92 per cent of teachers work in schools where the principal never reduces the annual pay rise for underperforming teachers, and almost three-quarters, or 71 per cent, say teachers with sustained poor performance are not dismissed.

The report uses data from the first international survey of classroom teachers, by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which found Australia was the fourth worst of 23 developed nations in recognising effective teachers.

Director of school education research at the Grattan Institute, Ben Jensen, said yesterday debate on the quality of teaching in Australia in recent years had been cast in terms of using student results in a merit pay scheme or in setting standards for teachers.

But Dr Jensen, who was involved in the OECD's survey, said almost all Australian teachers, 91 per cent, report the most effective teachers in their schools do not receive the greatest recognition, and they would not receive any recognition for improving their own teaching.

"When you consider the most important way to improve the school education system is to improve the quality of the teaching workforce, it's really a shocking finding that almost all teachers say under-performance is not addressed in their school," he said.

"Teachers are saying they want the most effective school education system we can have; teachers want school improvement, they want to improve themselves and they want to see their school improve."

The report notes that with an excellent teacher, a student can achieve in half a year what would take a full year with a less effective teacher, and the impact is cumulative.

Students with effective teachers for several years in a row outperform students with poor teachers by as much as 50 percentage points over three years.

Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard said the government was committed to a better system of assessing and rewarding teachers, and was developing the first national professional standards for teachers, and funding programs paying the best teachers top salaries to work in struggling schools.

"Unlike the opposition, we are putting our money where our mouth is," she said. "All of this will go if Tony Abbott is elected. The opposition has said they will cut funding to these programs."

Opposition spokesman on education Christopher Pyne said a Coalition government would move quickly to give school principals the autonomy granted their peers in non-government schools, with the power to hire and fire and to pay staff based on performance.

"If you don't have these mechanisms at work, then the findings of the Grattan Institute are completely unsurprising," he said. "That disenchantment and disappointment teachers have in their profession will only get worse until there is a real revolution in education, which introduces competitive principles and gives principals in schools autonomy."

Federal president of the Australian Education Union, Angelo Gavrielatos, said the union supported systems that recognised and further rewarded teachers who demonstrate higher quality skills.

"Teachers prefer to work with peers or their grade group in a collaborative environment in evaluating and assessing their teaching programs, and what's lacking in schools is the space, time and respect for teachers to do so," he said.

The Grattan report says previous research in Australia has shown that nearly all teachers receive satisfactory ratings under existing evaluation schemes, and progress in their careers, making their salaries dependent on their tenure, not the quality of their work.

Dr Jensen said a meaningful system for evaluating teachers was required that identified strengths and weaknesses, providing recognition, and room to expand on their strengths and programs to address their weaknesses.

The system should pay effective teachers more and have them running professional development programs for colleagues, while underperforming teachers should have access to programs to help them improve.

Failing that, they should be moved out of the profession.


Cap and trade our way out of red-tape?

The author below, Dr Hartwich, is German and I think this is an example of German humour

WHAT do carbon emissions and red tape have in common? They are both unwanted by-products. Carbon emissions result from the use of energy, whereas red tape is caused by regulation. Since both of them are a kind of pollution, there is no reason we should treat them differently.

For both energy consumption and regulation, politicians agree it would be better to achieve more with less wasteful by-products.

We would still like to use energy but with reduced carbon emissions. And although some regulation may be necessary, we would prefer to keep the form-filling to a bare minimum.

At least until Kevin Rudd had taken temporary leave from the "greatest moral challenge of our time", cutting carbon emissions through an emissions trading scheme had been his preferred policy for addressing climate change.

Many economists have questioned whether this was the most appropriate way of tackling the problem as the government planned to compensate all the big emitters. However, the general principle behind cap and trade still has great economic appeal.

Put simply, an ETS makes it possible to cut emissions where this can be achieved in the most cost-efficient way. While the total amount of emissions is capped, polluters can trade emissions certificates among themselves, thus deciding where precisely to make the cuts.

Could we apply the same logic to cutting red tape? How about not an ETS but an RTTS, a red tape trading scheme? With red tape it's just like with carbon emissions. Almost everybody agrees it needs to be cut, yet no one seems to have any idea how this could be achieved.

This is not just an Australian phenomenon, of course. Across the globe politicians have been trying to cope with excessive form-filling, overzealous bureaucracies and regulations that, once put in place, develop lives of their own. The number of international "better regulation" commissions, proposals, strategies and initiatives is countless.

Some governments have experimented with sunset clauses that make new laws expire automatically on a certain day in the hope that unnecessary regulations will simply disappear if nobody proposes to renew them. The reality, however, is that you have only to pass a blanket, routine renewal act to circumvent this sunset clause.

Another idea is to assess the regulatory effect of new laws before they become laws. In theory, this should stop legislators from imposing high burdens on households and businesses. In practice, this has never stopped a government from legislating what it thought necessary.

It's a sad irony that the British government once issued guidelines on filling in these regulatory impact assessments, which ran to 65 densely written pages. Deregulation had become the new regulation.

It is clear, then, that new ideas are needed to deal with excessive bureaucracy and this is where the RTTS comes in.

There are two advantages to an RTTS. First, it can cut red tape in the most efficient way. Second, the public servants sitting idle in the climate change department could be given a proper task to do. They'd need only to change the signs on the doors, putting them in charge of the RTTS instead of the ETS.

Sound like a good idea? This is how it could work. First, the government would need to do a stock-taking of all present bureaucracy costs. This is not as complicated as it sounds.

The Dutch government has developed a standard cost model, which makes measuring regulatory burdens a straightforward task. The time needed to fill in forms is multiplied by the hourly costs of employing the form fillers.

Multiply this by the number of these forms filled in across the whole economy in a year and you get the red tape cost of this one form. Do this with all forms and you know what red tape costs us in total.

This may seem a little difficult but the Dutch have completed the measuring exercise for their economy within two years.

After this audit has been completed, red tape certificates could be issued to polluters -- say, the Australian Taxation Office or the health department. But there's a catch. Like an ETS, certificates would be capped at, say, 95 per cent their present bureaucracy levels.

Government departments and agencies would have to cut the red tape by 5 per cent or trade with other departments that have excelled at cutting their regulatory emissions. As a result of the RTTS, red tape would be cut by the amount specified by the cap.

It would be left to the creativity of government officials to identify the best ways to tackle bureaucracy. They would also have strong incentives to meet their targets. To most politicians, this proposal may sound crazy at first. But it only applies the logic of an ETS to red tape reduction. Maybe it is not such a barmy idea after all?