Saturday, July 31, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks that dinosaurs still walk among us -- in the form of the NSW Labor Party

Latest poll suggests that Australians are beginning to realize that Julia is just a bungler too

Kevvy in a skirt

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has taken a battering in the latest opinion poll which shows the Coalition would win the election if it was held now.

Support for both Ms Gillard and Labor has fallen dramatically while the Opposition has taken the lead in the Nielsen poll that was published in Fairfax newspapers on Saturday.

The Coalition is now ahead of Labor on a two-party preferred basis - 52 per cent to 48 per cent, a 6 percentage point swing against the Government since the last Nielsen poll a week ago. Labor's primary vote has plummeted 6 points to 36 per cent while the Coalition's primary vote has risen 4 points to 45 per cent, the poll shows. Ms Gillard's popularity has even fallen among women, with her 58-42 lead over Mr Abbott narrowing to 49-51.

Her approval rating fell 5 points to 51 per cent and her disapproval rating rose 6 points to 39 per cent. Mr Abbott's approval rose 6 points to 49 per cent and his disapproval dropped 6 points to 45 per cent. On the question of preferred prime minister, Ms Gillard's 21-point lead plummeted by 13 points to 49-41.

On a positive note for the Government, 69 per cent believe it will win the election while only 21 per cent back the Coalition.

Meanwhile, Ms Gillard has been accused of sending a former bodyguard and junior staff member to attend highly sensitive security meetings on her behalf.

In another damaging leak for Labor, sources have reportedly told The Weekend Australian that when Ms Gillard was deputy prime minister she regularly failed to attend cabinet's national security committee meetings. It's reported that she sent staffer Andrew Stark in her place.

A spokesman for Ms Gillard told the newspaper that Cabinet confidentiality meant she could not defend herself against the allegations.

Former Coalition foreign minister Alexander Downer said Ms Gillard's reported behaviour was scandalous. "The NSC takes decisions on life and death and is no place for a junior staffer," he said. "Such actions are scandalous."


More simple-minded Green/Left nonsense exposed

Energy star ratings in disarray and the Gillard government has no reply

LABOR'S push to cut greenhouse gas emissions through the use of energy efficiency schemes was yesterday dealt another blow when building industry heavyweights discredited the star ratings being applied to hundreds of thousands of homes.

Investigations by the building industry have found that the mandatory star ratings scheme is inaccurate and fundamentally flawed.

The Housing Industry Association and Master Builders Australia yesterday joined scientists in calling for urgent action by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency to resolve problems that are potentially having an impact on more than 100,000 houses built each year.

They said owners were not aware that mandatory software tools -- used to calculate whether a planned new house could achieve the minimum five-star energy efficiency rating necessary to obtain approval for construction -- gave vastly different results for the same house under identical conditions.

It is another setback for the government while it is still trying to quell criticism after the shelving of its emissions trading scheme, the disintegration of the home insulation program and green loans scheme, and the subsequent findings that both were fatally flawed, costing lives and taxpayers' money due to poor planning and execution.

It also comes after Labor's latest environmental announcements -- the 150-person citizens assembly to forge a national consensus on action on climate change and the cash-for-clunkers green car replacement scheme -- were widely criticised.

Opposition climate change spokesman Greg Hunt said last night that the government could not get its environmental programs right. "We saw that with pink batts, green loans and cancelled solar programs," Mr Hunt said. "They need to explain why home owners and builders face this confusing and potentially costly mess. "They should release all material on this to the public before the election."

Flaws in the star rating system emerged after industry bodies, private companies and scientists commissioned independent studies showing significant variations were being calculated by the three different software tools when tested on identical dwellings. The results show that the three software tools, including the original model designed by the CSIRO, were inherently unreliable.

The star ratings system was rolled out nationally several years ago and recently extended to older houses. The findings mean that in some cases houses that should be failing the energy efficiency test are being approved and built, while identical houses are going back to the drawing board for changes and costing their owners more time and money to get right.

It also means the stated objective of the federal government to cut greenhouse gas emissions in houses is in serious question.

Faulty software tools will have a greater impact from next year when the federal government's national energy strategy requires all homes being sold or leased to be star-rated and for the rating to be disclosed. Older dwellings, which will not achieve the five- or six-star minimum, may be punished financially by buyers and tenants.

The findings add weight to the concerns of energy efficiency experts that star ratings are a multi-billion-dollar debacle.

Peter Jones, chief economist of Master Builders Australia, said yesterday: "We have independent expert evidence showing us this is a real concern and it needs to be brought to light and addressed. "There are unacceptable differences between the star ratings produced by the software tools when assessing the same house. "We are drawing a line in the sand and saying, 'Look, the research is overwhelming now; something must be done', Mr Jones said.

The authorities need to come up with a solution so that consumers can be confident in the star ratings and the tools. "As builders, we do not really care (what the tool is) but we think it is bad policy when it is not working properly."

Housing Industry Association senior executive director Kristin Tomkins said the association's independent testing, which showed significant differences in energy ratings, including a variation of 3.2 stars for the same Brisbane house, were troubling and undermined the scheme's credibility. She said builders and home owners needed confidence in the mandatory energy efficiency programs that cost them time and money.

Industry sources called for an Australian Competition & Consumer Commission investigation and said some savvy energy assessors were "gaming" the star ratings and making a mockery of the scheme by switching software tools until one delivered the required result.

The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, which has recently joined the CSIRO in investigating problems with the gauges, has said it was "premature to say there is any significant impact on overall house ratings or compliance costs".

A department spokesman did not return The Weekend Australian's call yesterday to respond to the findings. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong declined to comment.


The NSW Labor government in typical form

School maintenance canned so Kristina Keneally can pay for heaters -- but schools typically have high maintenance requirements so this just cannot be done without further public outcry. That dangerous heaters continued to be installed after many warnings is also amazing. There is no doubt about the need for a fix of them

TEACHERS are up in arms over a decision by the NSW Government to defer or drop critical public school maintenance to pay for a minister's promise to replace all unflued heaters.

Last week, education bureaucrats were told funds used to fix broken pipes and holes in fences would be put on hold to cover the new heaters.

The latest embarrassment for the Government comes with Premier Kristina Keneally calling an emergency Cabinet meeting on Tuesday where she has asked all ministers to come up with five new ideas each to fix the state.

The NSW caucus is believed to be not happy with Ms Keneally and Treasurer Eric Roozendaal's performances.

Several ministers are complaining behind the scenes about alleged abusive behaviour by Mr Roozendaal towards other ministers and concern he has too great a role in running the government.

Some senior Labor sources say the Education Minister Verity Firth should resign and concentrate on winning her seat of Balmain after she was publicly humiliated over the heaters issue by Ms Keneally and Mr Roozendaal.

Ms Firth was reprimanded by the Premier and Treasurer after saying on Tuesday the Government was going to replace 50,000 heaters at a $400 million possible cost, without Cabinet approval.

Ms Keneally's handling of the Firth issue caused anger in caucus, with some MPs considering installing John Robertson in the Lower House before the election, possibly even to become leader.

A senior federal source argued the Gillard Government could not announce a major NSW transport project during the election campaign because "no one would believe" any promise involving the State Government.

Powerbroker Graham Richardson said yesterday: "The [Keneally] Government obviously isn't doing enough, you don't get a 25 per cent swing in [the Penrith] by-election, the biggest swing in history, if you are doing enough."

Principals were told this week urgent repairs for problems like broken pipes and holes in fences would be put off.

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Verity Firth said some maintenance funding would be "reprioritised", resulting in delays of up to six months.

School asset managers were told on Wednesday afternoon the money would be redirected to pay to replace unflued "low-NOx" gas heaters in 100 schools.


Another dysfunctional NSW government hospital

And they are not even honest enough to admit their problems

On the same day two burns victims were forced to wait more than 90 minutes to be treated at Liverpool Hospital a syringe bin in the emergency department's waiting room toilets was overflowing.

Mounted on the wall, the disturbing sight was enough to prompt Martin Huismann to take a photo and contact The Daily Telegraph. The freelance cameraman used the toilets on Thursday - the day two men had to wait on stretchers after suffering burns to their face and hands because there were no beds available.

About 10 ambulances queued outside the department with others advised to take patients to other hospitals because of a backlog.

"I ran in to use the toilets and saw it so I took a photo," Mr Huismann said. "I was pretty shocked and it's disturbing when you think about it that if a kid saw that or tried to reach it."

A hospital spokesman yesterday initially attacked the validity of the photo when asked to respond to questions by The Daily Telegraph. Later a statement from general manager Anthony Schembri said: "The toilets are inspected and cleaned regularly each day by allocated hospital cleaning staff. "Should a container be seen to need emptying, staff immediately arrange disposal."

Mr Huismann said he had no reason to fake the photograph. "I was in there for two minutes ... I did my business, saw the bin and took a photo. I wouldn't have had time [to fake it]," he said. "I thought it was pretty shocking that in a public toilet in a hospital you have needles spilling out of the bin."

Opposition Leader and acting health spokesman Barry O'Farrell said it was evident that cuts to frontline staff were affecting the running of hospitals. "It's simply unacceptable to have hospital staff and members of the public at risk of a needle stick injury because the Keneally Labor Government fails to clean toilets regularly enough," he said. "These are the risks which will occur when the Keneally Labor Government cuts frontline staff and fails to adequately resource hospitals."

Under NSW Health's policy, all hospitals must provide a sharps bin. A spokeswoman said there were strict protocols in place for the cleaning of the units, which were kept out of children's reach.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Seaweed smothering Great Barrier Reef?

This is an old, old claim -- but the reef is still there

SEAWEED is choking the Great Barrier Reef and killing coral, new research has found. Scientists in one of the largest studies of water quality pollution on the reef yesterday revealed the shock impact on the $1 billion-a-year tourism drawcard.

Poor water quality on the reef due to run-off, nutrients and high turbidity was increasing the amount of seaweed and reducing biodiversity of corals, the study found.

Hot spots include the inshore reef north of the Burdekin River and the entire Wet Tropics zone from Townsville to Port Douglas.

"Seaweeds are a natural part of the reef," said Australian Institute of Marine Science coral reef ecologist Dr Katharina Fabricius. "But what we don't want is billions of algae smothering coral. "Choking is a loaded term but when seaweed abundance becomes too high there is no space left for coral to grow."

The study has just been published in the authoritative scientific journal Ecological Applications. It used data collated from 150 reefs and at more than 2000 water quality stations across the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park since 1992.

Principal investigator Dr Glenn Death said seaweed cover increased fivefold under poor water quality. "The diversity of corals was also affected, decreasing in poor water quality," he said. "Currently, the water on 22 per cent of reefs - about 647 reefs - on the Great Barrier Reef does not meet water quality guidelines."

The study predicts that if water quality was improved in these areas, seaweed would be reduced by more than one-third and the number of coral species would bounce back by 13 per cent.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park extends 2000km along the northeast Australian coast and covers 345,000sq km.


Why Labor can't stop the boats

Should the Gillard government be re-elected, the boatpeople issue will continue to plague it and Labor's internal divisions will come much more strongly to the fore.

There is no equivalence between Gillard's proposed regional processing centre in East Timor and Abbott's proposed centre on Nauru. For a start, the geography is radically different. No one will intentionally sail to Nauru. It's just too far away.

Secondly, its purpose is designed to prevent people-smugglers from being able to achieve for their clients the ultimate prize: permanent residency in Australia. It is only about solving the Australian problem. Illegal immigrants would be sent there and processed. They would be treated humanely and all their human rights observed. They would be free to go to any country that would have them, or free at any time to go home. Of course there is a small element of semi-bluff. If the boats stopped absolutely, then a future Abbott government might decide, as the Howard government did, to exercise a special act of generosity and allow some of the people to come to Australia. But that would only be after some years, and after the boats had absolutely stopped.

At the same time, an Abbott government would institute temporary protection visas without family reunion rights. Despite the braying and self-regarding protests of the Malcolm Frasers and Julian Burnsides and others in their camp, TPVs are completely consistent with the 1951 Refugee Convention. According to a recent speech by UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, there are about 16 million refugees today. The vast majority of these will not be resettled anywhere, but will ultimately go home. Temporary protection is the norm.

This is not a question of compassion. This column has always supported a big immigration program, bigger than either of the main parties now supports, including a substantial refugee component. But it also supports an orderly program in which Australia chooses who gets to live here. The government's soft policies on boatpeople, and its formerly high rate of acceptance of boatpeople as genuine refugees, has encouraged many thousands to get into boats. According to the opposition, perhaps 170 people have drowned in the process. That's not compassionate.

Gillard's proposal for a regional processing centre in East Timor is entirely different from Abbott's proposal for Nauru. Her insistence that the centre has to be located in a country which is a signatory to the 1951 convention is nonsensical. Most of the refugee camps from which Australia took Indochinese refugees in the 1970s and 80s were located in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, which were not signatories to the convention. Similarly, many countries that are signatories, such as Singapore, do not take any refugees for resettlement. Another convention signatory, China, has been known to force genuine refugees back to North Korea. Being a signatory to the convention is completely meaningless.

Moreover, any centre established in East Timor would become a plaything in East Timorese domestic politics, and inevitably a point of leverage for any East Timorese government in its relationship with Australia.

But most significantly, as this column has previously pointed out, it would be positive magnet of enormous power, attracting boatpeople from far away. In the joint press conference between Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and Australia's Stephen Smith, it was clear the Indonesians have absolutely no enthusiasm for this crazy idea at all. Natalegawa, the most diplomatic and helpful of men, kept stressing that the region should not focus on establishing this centre, and even less should it focus on the putative centre's location.

The Rudd-Gillard government policies that have resulted in so many boatpeople coming to Australia have been a huge headache for Jakarta. Indonesia was a significant beneficiary of the Howard government stopping the flow of boatpeople.

It is absurd to slander the Australian people for being concerned about this unregulated flow of people, mostly from Afghanistan, the nation with perhaps the broadest and longest tradition of Islamist extremism. Some estimates are that all up 10,000 boatpeople will arrive this year.

Until recently, 95 per cent were being granted, almost automatically, refugee status and permanent residency in Australia. Say next year there are 10,000 Afghan boatpeople and they are all accepted into Australia. With permanent residency there would come family reunion rights. Say then that each brings even three relatives over time. That would be 40,000 Afghans who were never part of a considered immigration program. It is entirely reasonable for the Australian people to be concerned about this.

Given her strong rhetoric but meaningless policies on this issue, Gillard could well get back into government and deliver nothing in the way of stopping the boats. This could set her up for a public reaction, as occurred against Kevin Rudd, that she promised much and delivered nothing. On the other hand, to actually stop the boats she will have to take measures that the bleeding heart section of her party will hate. This issue will run and run.


Why big families 'bring lots of happiness'

SIZE does matter for many Australians aged over 30 who say the more children they have, the happier they are.

Proving that the bigger is better theory is correct - at least when it comes to family - the AMP.NATSEM Income and Wealth Report, released today, found 40 per cent of people aged over 30 with four or more children were very satisfied with their life overall.

This compares to 28 per cent of people aged over 30 with one child and 27 per cent with no children.

Australian Institute of Social Research executive director John Spoehr said the findings reflected the rewards of having children. "I think there's a lot of pressure initially, but when you look at the whole picture, having kids brings an immense joy to your life, it balances everything out," he said.

Australians are also among the most content in the world, according to the findings, finishing equal third with the US and Sweden, in a comparison of life satisfaction levels in OECD countries.

Australians had an average score of 7.9 out of 10, behind only Ireland, Norway and Denmark (equal first) and Finland and Canada (equal second).

"Australia fared very well in the Global Financial Crisis," Mr Spoehr said. "That's why we'd rank pretty highly in the happiness stakes."

Other results showed more men were satisfied with their relationships than women and people who did not own their own home had lower overall life satisfaction.

Adelaide's Peter Newall and wife Narissa agreed having four children - sons Riley, 6, Cooper, 5, and 18-month-old twins Poppy and Lyla, made for a "fun, happy" brood.

"It's definitely a bit of a juggling act and by the end of a long day we're all very tired," he said. "But I wouldn't change it for the world. Having four children is wonderful."


Aboriginal family gets $3.2m payment for prison van death

I suppose this is better than nothing but it is a disgrace that nobody has been held responsible for killing the guy. Surely a charge of negligence could be made to stick, if not manslaughter. It should have gone to a jury instead of being prejudged. Just more West Australian corruption

THE family of an Aboriginal elder who died of heat stroke in the back of a prison transfer van have been awarded a $3 million ex-gratia compensation. The ex-gratia payment comes on top of the $200,000 interim payment they received. The West Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter today revealed the details of the compensation payment, Perth Now reported.

Mr Ward, an elder whose full name cannot be used for cultural reasons, died of heat stroke in the back of the van on the way from Laverton to Kalgoorlie in WA's Goldfields region in January 2008.

Late in June WA's Director of Public Prosecutions Joe McGrath visited Mr Ward's widow Nancy at Warburton in the Central Desert and told her charges would not be laid over his death.

He told her there was no reasonable prospect of conviction if charges were laid against the two security guards employed by the security firm GSL, now known as G4S.

Mr Ward's family were said to be distraught over the decision, which sparked protests in the city.

A broken air conditioner in the back of the van forced Mr Ward to endure temperatures of more than 50C during the four-hour non-stop journey. He was being driven to Kalgoorlie to face a drink-driving charge in court.

Last year WA Coroner Alastair Hope found the Department of Corrective Services, security officers Graham Powell and Nina Stokoe transporting Mr Ward and their employer had all contributed to Mr Ward's death. Mr Hope referred the case to the DPP because he believed a criminal offence had been committed.

But Mr McGrath defended his decision not to prosecute, saying a thorough investigation found no one had been criminally negligent. "I'm acutely aware that the death was tragic, avoidable and rightly creates outrage in the wider Australian community," he said. But he said he had to dispassionately apply the law of WA in determining if there should be a criminal prosecution.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dangerous police secrecy in Sydney (1)

They no doubt fear public outrage if the true extent of lawlessness became known

ATTEMPTED assaults on three women in one day and less than 1km from where a woman was abducted and raped have been kept secret by police. The incidents happened within hours of each other close to Queens Park, in the Eastern Suburbs, the scene of a horrific April 29 attack by two men that only became public after the victim spoke to The Daily Telegraph. Despite three similar incidents in one day - July 6 - police did not make them public.

Suzanne, one of the women chased by a man in one of the latest incidents, said people had a right to know. "Just because I or one of the other girls was not raped doesn't make our story any less significant," she said. "The police investigating my report have been fantastic but I think it's important things like this are made public.

"While I was in the police station giving my statement police told me other women had reported the same thing, all between 6pm and 10pm. "In one case police said a man tried to get a woman into a car."

Police confirmed three women made statements saying that on July 6 they were watched or followed by men near York and Birrell Sts, adjacent to Centennial Park.

"Detectives have canvassed the area, sourcing CCTV footage locally; unfortunately none shows the men described," a police spokeswoman said. "The descriptions of the men vary. Police regularly issue warnings regarding personal safety however at this time, the intentions of the men are unknown and there's no evidence that any of the incidents are linked."

Suzanne said the fact the descriptions were different was even more frightening as it could mean the men were working in pairs. Soon after her ordeal Suzanne letter-dropped the area warning locals. "People need to be informed. It is dark around that area with poor footpaths and hardly any lighting," she said.

In her police statement, Suzanne detailed how the man appeared to be feigning talking on the phone when she saw him about 6pm. "When I was near York Place I saw a male standing on the other side of the corner on the footpath in the dark and I think he might have been on the phone," she said.

When she again looked back at the man, he was running towards her. "I started to run and headed towards the middle of the road where the cars were. I was running into my unit block and I looked behind and he was still running at me." On April 29 , young mother "Caitlan" was abducted and raped in nearby Queens Park.

A Daily Telegraph investigation showed police were keeping serious crimes hidden for days or weeks if they were releasing them at all. In one week in March, 11,508 of the 31,536 reports were listed as "check bona fides or concern for welfare" - terms which cover anything from murder to kids hanging on a street corner.


Dangerous police secrecy in Sydney (2)

WAVING a sawn-off shotgun and a 20cm knife, two men threaten the lives of drinkers and staff at a Sydney pub - the third time in 17 days.

Sick of being a victim, one patron fights back and, despite having his arm broken with a chair, his head split open by a wine bottle and being stabbed in the stomach, he unmasks a robber.

And it was his bravery that could provide the key to solving the crime, as the robber's face was caught on CCTV.

Yet, despite the obvious benefit, the images of Tuesday's robbery at the Stella Inn in Tempe were not publicly released by the NSW Police's multi-million-dollar media unit yesterday.

Instead it was the Stella Inn's manager who gave the footage to The Daily Telegraph.

"People should know there are bad guys out there running around with guns and see how frightening it is," said the manager, who did not wished to be named. "One bloke who saw the last robbery fought back and while I would tell people not to do it, his bravery and toughness means we can see the face of one of these guys.

"This is a real locals' pub and until the last three weeks we have always felt safe here. We are now increasing security patrols, cameras and time delayed safes.

"We have to make the customers feel safe again. The best way of doing that is to have these guys caught."

The Stella Inn was robbed on July 10, 21 and 27.

"Police don't think they are done by the same guys - and I agree - but something is going on," the manager said. "We were robbed last Wednesday. Just 20 minutes earlier the same guys robbed the Bankstown Hotel and a shot was fired."

The manager did not want to be critical of front-line officers, instead criticising the force's policy makers.

"They [police officers] have a really tough job but there seems to be a policy of keeping things quiet when in fact it should be made public," he said.

"If you look at the video it's obvious these guys know what they are doing."


Transport Workers Union fined $35,000 for unlawful baggage handler strike

Good to see that there is still some restraint on union coercion

THE Transport Workers Union has been fined $35,000 after it was found to have organised unlawful industrial action by Qantas baggage handlers.

The fine, handed down by the Federal Court in Adelaide last week, was given in the first case initiated against a union by the Fair Work Ombudsman since the tribunal came into effect.

Up to 19 domestic flights in Melbourne and Adelaide were delayed in the December 2007 strike. Around 130 baggage handlers walked off the job at Adelaide Airport over fears jobs would be outsourced as a result of a planned review of services.

Fair Work argued the strike was illegal because it occurred before a 2008 enterprise bargaining agreement with the baggage handlers expired.

Justice Anthony Besanko called the breaches "serious and deliberate". "The Adelaide strike resulted from encouragement by a high-ranking official of (the TWU)," he said. "In those circumstances, a substantial penalty is called for."

The result comes days after the New South Wales workplace relations tribunal forced plane refuellers from the Australian Fuel Association, which is part-owned by Qantas, to return to work after banning striking for the next month. The refuellers are striking over a pay dispute for casual workers.


Australian parents not consulted over refugee pupil plan

This is treating them as if they have already been accepted as permanent residents. Will the schools have to hire Afghan interpreters?

UP to 60 asylum-seeker children will be enrolled in Darwin schools in a move that has angered some parents who claim they weren't consulted.

The Immigration Department yesterday confirmed it was in discussions with Northern Territory education officials about getting the children, most of them Afghans, a proper education. A spokesman said it was important for their development that the children attend school.

But some parents have reacted angrily to the move, saying they were not consulted and that school resources were diverted to make way for the influx. One parent told ABC radio he only heard about the plan after receiving an email addressed to the Anula school council.

"We found out through the back door," he said. "We were told nothing. The school council organised a meeting the previous Monday. The department never came to us to explain anything. No one's consulted anyone."

While the Immigration spokesman said it was too early to say which schools would be involved, NT Education Union's Adam Lampe said he was advised last week that Anula Primary School and Sanderson Middle School had been selected to receive the children.

Anula principal Karen Modoo declined to discuss the proposal and directed calls to NT Education where the executive director of school education, Alan Green, said there would be community consultation and that only schools with room and dedicated English programs would be considered. "There's no question of us cramping kids into Anula or any other school," Mr Green said. "They'll only go there if they fit."

Mr Lampe said educating the asylum-seeker children was a "great initiative". "These kids need to be taken care of," Mr Lampe said. "It's being federally funded so there are no negatives here."

But while both Anula and Sanderson have an intensive English unit that each caters to about 100 students, Mr Lampe said more teachers would have to be recruited from interstate.

A spokeswoman for NT Education Minister Chris Burns rejected suggestions the move would put Territory schools under strain.

Asylum-seeker children have previously received schooling on Christmas Island and in the remote West Australian town of Leonora, where officials say they have settled in well.


Julia Gillard's old car trade-in plan ripe for corruption

Worth $2,000?

THE biggest question to ask about Julia Gillard's plan to give people $2000 for trading in their old bombs for newer, more fuel-efficient cars is: Who will be the first to rort it and how will they do it?

A second is whether this expensive vow will serve any useful purpose except appealing to voters with crummy cars?

But first, just how rortable [corruptible] is this scheme going to be? Just think, a bucket of nearly $400 million of Government money placed in the vicinity of people trading in used cars.

Even without resorting to stereotyping, that sounds risky, especially given the Labor Government's recent, breathtakingly botched home-insulation scheme.

This time will be different, insists Gillard. "The scheme will be ... protected by rigorous anti-fraud and compliance provisions," the Labor Party says in its new policy. But then it would say that, wouldn't it?

Read on and you discover the Government appears not to have allowed even one cent for administering this program, let alone policing it. It wants 200,000 cars taken off the road at a bonus of $2000 a car. That's $400 million, even more than the officially declared cost estimate for the scheme of $394 million.

That means, in turn, if this Australian-badged version of the US "cash-for-clunkers" program ever gets off the ground, it could cost us far more than currently forecast.

Cost aside, if overseas experience is a guide, the opportunities for crooks to scam such a scheme are many.

In the US, identity theft fraudsters began launching bogus, official-looking websites inviting consumers to "pre-register" for the program even before President Barack Obama signed it into law a year ago.

The problem was bad enough for the Federal Trade Commission to issue a public warning.

In England, which launched its own scheme last year, traders and consumers were warned about crooks stealing log books and using them to trade in stolen vehicles cloned to match log details.

And, in Germany - where drivers were paid $2500 ($3600) to scrap their old cars for new ones - an estimated 50,000 clunkers were illegally sold again, mainly in Africa and Eastern Europe. That won't happen here, insists the Government.

Here in Australia the plan is to scrap all traded-in vehicles. But first a new Gillard Government will need to "prescribe the scrapping requirements following consultation with industry to ensure they are consistent with the environmental objectives of the program".

Although it is hard to know exactly what this might mean, once again, no cost is assigned to this process of consultation, scrapping, monitoring, inspections and so on.

In the car-making economies of Europe and the US, the local versions of these schemes were sold first and foremost as economic stimulation plans for struggling local car industries. And, to the extent sales soared, they were successful.

The US "cash-for-clunkers" scheme was shut down last August after barely two months, following much higher-than-expected public interest. More than 690,000 trade-in vouchers were issued, which translated into one of the largest two-month spikes in car sales on record.

The economic benefit of such temporary sales boosts is harder to calculate and depends on assumptions about what level might have occurred without the stimulus, and how much the blip cannibalises future sales.

The best Obama's Council of Economic Advisers could come up with was that: "The program can be expected to have produced a noticeable impact on GDP growth."

But here in Australia, the scheme is being sold as an environmental initiative that will, theoretically at least, reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 1 million tonnes by getting older, less-efficient vehicles off the road.

It is an expensive way to cut emissions. The scheme prices carbon at $394 a tonne - even before making assumptions about administration and policing costs - which compares to something under $30 a tonne if you plant trees. But, of course, trees do not vote.

Perhaps Gillard should have come clean and just told us this expensive new program really was nothing more than a re-badged industry support scheme designed to bolster Australia's domestic carmakers (and win support of car-owning voters looking to trade up.)

But, even in this role, this is hugely inefficient. The international experience has been that most of the dollars spent on new vehicles head straight overseas to the Japanese and Korean carmakers with the smallest and most fuel-efficient cars, although, granted, some must go to local manufacturers.

But back to the scammers. Last August a suspected hit-and-run driver in Arizona allegedly tried to use the "cash-for-clunkers" program to offload his bloodstained BMW 325i by claiming the blood and dents were caused by a pig he hit in the desert. No one believed his story. Gillard is clearly hoping voters will believe hers.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wrongly taken girl denied visit with dying dad

There seems to be no limit to DOCS evil

A FIVE-year-old girl wrongly removed from her parents was denied a visit with her dying father, even after the Ombudsman ruled DOCS bungled the case. In a horror start to her life, the girl has suffered from cancer, lost her father and spent more than two years separated from her family because of decisions that should not have been made.

DOCS will be forced to pay compensation to the family of the Sydney girl, who had never been abused or neglected.

Community Services Minister Linda Burney was notified of the case in September and this month did not override her department's decision to prevent the girl from travelling to Taiwan for her father's funeral. Yesterday she said the case was before the court until February and that it was "inappropriate for me to intervene."

Deputy Ombudsman Steve Kinmond found the girl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was removed after a DOCS case worker made "significant errors in her interpretation" of an interview with the girl's teenage sister.

DOCS wrongly and repeatedly told the Children's Court the teenager had claimed her brother had sexually abused her and that their mother had failed to act. Police were notified of the claims and never pursued action against the boy.

Mr Kinmond found the teenage girl's statements were "misconstrued when given to [the mother] and the Children's Court."

Errors repeated to government departments and in affidavits led to the mother being tagged as "non protective of children, unwilling to believe [her eldest daughter] and dishonest".

After her children were removed the mother admitted to disciplining her teenage daughter with a bamboo cane, leading to a conviction for assault.

Mr Kinmond found the errors were crucial in the removal of the woman's youngest child who had been diagnosed with a neuroblastoma and treated with chemotherapy when four months old.

His report was handed to DOCS on March 30 but just weeks later when the girl's father was dying of cancer, DOCS refused to let the girl's mother take her to Taiwan for his funeral. "DOCS has a hard job. I understand many children need to be removed. That was not the case here; it has been a total miscarriage of justice," Opposition Community Services spokeswoman Pru Goward said.

DOCS has offered an "unconditional apology" to the mother and wrote "it is clear information wrongly summarised from an interview was relied upon in court."


Woman locked out of hospital while about to give birth

It was a preterm, too, which should have had expert attention throughout

A SYDNEY mother was forced to give birth in a hospital carpark after staff at the delivery unit failed to respond quickly enough.

Padstow’s Melissa Synnerdahl gave birth to daughter Destiney in the front seat of her car at Canterbury Hospital carpark after staff failed to respond to pleas by her husband to gain entry.

Scott Hicks was forced to deliver their 2.5kg baby, which was three weeks premature, in her Commodore on Wednesday at 10.30pm. But it was only after the 25-year-old woman gave birth that doctors came to her aid.

A Sydney South West Area Health Service spokesman said Canterbury Hospital has apologised to the family. “While the switchboard and birthing unit entry bell were working well, a temporary breakdown in communication caused a delay in attending the mother’s birth,” he said. “The hospital is reviewing the circumstances of the incident and putting additional measures in place to ensure it is avoided in the future.”

But Mr Hicks said doctors didn’t apologise for not coming to their aid instead telling them after the birth “they were busy with another emergency delivery”.


What DOES she believe in? (If anything)

JULIA Gillard has spent her first media conference in Adelaide defending herself against damaging internal leaks that she opposed the paid parental leave scheme.

But she has attempted to make a virtue of the fact, teling a media conference in Adelaide she closely scrutinised the policies because of their $50 million cost to taxpayers. "I looked at them from every angle, I held them up to the light, I asked every question," she said. "I wanted to make sure that they were affordable."

Ms Gillard admitted she was "angry" at a leak, to Channel Nine journalist Laurie Oakes, that she opposed the pension rise and paid parental leave in cabinet.....

She denied she'd argued against the pension rise because older voters did not support Labor, saying she had never put politics above policy.

Ms Gillard said she was not the kind of prime minister that would sign off on $50 billion worth of expenditure without asking questions. "I'm not a soft touch," she said....

Ms Gillard refused to discuss what happened in Cabinet but described the pride she took in both signature measures - measures she has heavily promoted since becoming Prime Minister.

"I was very proud to be a member of the Labor team that delivered these two historic achievements - delivering a better deal for pensioners and supporting parents to spend more time with their babies," she said. "Pensioners and families deserve more support, and this government has acted to give them that support."

Oakes quoted Government sources as telling him Ms Gillard argued in Cabinet the idea that paid parental leave was a political winner was "misconstrued". People over child-bearing age and stay-at-home mums would resent it, she was quoted as saying.

On pensions, Ms Gillard was said to have questioned the size of the $14 billion increase. While not opposing it, she was reported to have observed that elderly voters did not support Labor.

Under the Government's scheme, eligible parents are entitled to 18 weeks of parental leave paid at the federal minimum wage from January 1.

Mr Abbott said the claims showed voters could not be certain whether Ms Gillard was telling the truth. "(That) shows she is a very smooth talker, but you can never be sure whether she believes what she says," Mr Abbott said.


False rape claim exposed in Sydney

These are a dime a dozen in Britain but are much less common in Australia. These "her word against his" prosecutions should never proceed in the first place. Females are quite good at lying and often do. When they are caught out they should face the same jail sentence that the man would have got

A MAN'S business and reputation are tainted, a young woman's HSC and mental health are in tatters and prosecutors have been ordered to pay more than $30,000 in legal costs for a bungled rape investigation on Sydney's northern beaches.

But it could have been worse still, if not for the trove of secrets stored in one of the world's most popular mobile phones. In what may be the first time an iPhone's elephantine memory has saved someone accused of a serious crime, deleted data retrieved by a leading surveillance expert appears to have led to the dropping of five rape charges against a Sydney man.

Robert*, in his 60s, was a property manager to the rich and famous and a dog breeder. Jessica* was the 18-year-old daughter of a friend, who never knew her father and dreamed of working with animals.

Their friendship blossomed as they spent mornings training his prize German shepherds. He gave her a $20,000 dog. For three months, they had sex repeatedly en route to dog shows and at a Whale Beach mansion where Elle Macpherson has stayed.

In August last year she accused him of rape. It was - and remains - a case of his word against hers.

Robert lost a job with the Catholic Church, from which he had earned more than $100,000 over the past three years, and was told he could no longer worship there.

The investigating officer, Detective Senior Constable Karen Hennessy, seized the $20,000 dog, saying it was relevant to the investigation.

The only thing standing between Robert and five sentences of up to 14 years were the messages from her on his iPhone, which he had deleted to conceal the relationship. Robert's lawyer, John Gooley from Collins & Thompson solicitors, commissioned Gary Coulthart, a former covert operations policeman and ICAC surveillance expert, to plumb the depths of Robert's iPhone.

Mr Coulthart retrieved more than 300 deleted texts and phone calls from the alleged victim, some of which appeared to undermine the allegations. Prosecutors later withdrew the charges and have been ordered to pay $30,056 of Robert's legal costs.

"Without the ability of Coulthart to drag the content out, a man's life may have been ruined," Mr Gooley said. "[iPhone evidence is] a bit like DNA. It can work both ways."

From a cohort of about 20 people in Australia with the equipment and know-how to do this sort of forensic work, Mr Coulthart said it was the first case he had seen in which an iPhone investigation commissioned by a defence lawyer has led to charges being dropped.

"Usually [when] you get engaged by the defence and they say, 'This person says they didn't do it', you find evidence that they have done it," he said.

Apple has sold more than 50 million iPhones since 2007 but few users know how much information they collect. The keyboard logging cache means an expert can retrieve anything typed on it for up to 12 months. Its internal mapping and "geotags" attached to photos indicate where a user has been.

An iPhone has up to 32 gigabytes of data that can be "imaged" or decoded with the right equipment, Mr Coulthart said, even if it has been deleted.

Robert wants police to investigate Jessica for causing a false investigation and is considering civil action against the police and the church. "It's put huge pressure on my home life and on my business," he said. "I had to go through the denigration of being charged and I've never been in trouble in my life."

Jessica did not want to comment.

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions said it withdrew the charges because the victim did not want to proceed and that "the brief of evidence had not been given to the ODPP at the time this matter was withdrawn".

A police spokeswoman said that, for operational reasons, it was inappropriate to comment except to say that the alleged victim had told police she did not wish to pursue the matter.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More child abuse from the NSW government's notorious DOCS tentacle

Government "child protection" at work! And the doctors who were complicit in this pointless abuse are just as guilty

It was a decision no parent should have to make. When Mark and Dianne Westley were told their daughter Sarah was dying from a rare cancer, they refused chemotherapy - hoping to give her the best quality of life in the time she had left. But that choice was taken from them.

The Department of Community Services made Sarah a ward of the state and forced chemotherapy on her - a decision the Westleys said had a devastating impact on their daughter in the last months of her life.

Six years after Sarah's death the Westleys have now spoken against the DOCS intervention that they call an "incarceration", one of almost 7000 such decisions made every year to allow medical procedures on children.

"The forced treatment was a complete failure," the couple from Gloucester, north of Newcastle in New South Waels, said in a statement. "It was only after Sarah died that we got hold of the medical records and found out that Sarah already had late-stage cancer when she was first diagnosed and she was terminal when they forced her into having the painful treatments."

The Westleys relived their nightmare in the book Sarah's Last Wish, telling how the deadly ovarian tumour was first misdiagnosed as a pregnancy when their daughter was just 11.

They said their decision to refuse chemotherapy was only made after they found out as much as they could about the rare cancer.

"The authorities incarcerated Sarah in two NSW hospitals for most of 2003, where she was forced to have continuous rounds of chemotherapy for many months," the Westleys said. Between hospital visits Sarah was forced to attend school and, at times in the two years before her death, her parents were restricted to just two hours with their daughter each day.

DOCS figures showed in 12 months in 2008 and 2009, caseworkers acted on 6791 cases classified as "medical treatment not provided".

A spokeswoman said the cases could be as simple as chronic head lice or an untreated broken bone to parents refusing their child a blood transfusion for personal or cultural beliefs. "It is estimated that Community Services would receive approximately two cases each year in which parents refuse medical treatment for their child on the basis of cultural or personal beliefs," she said.

"In these matters, Community Services only intervenes based on expert medical opinion that a child or young person could be seriously harmed or even die without medical treatment."

In one case DOCS took a mother with an infectious disease to the Supreme Court to obtain an order for her child to be vaccinated.


Labor Party told its soft immigration policy 'pulling' the boats of illegals

IMMIGRATION authorities were warned the government's high success rate for refugee claims was acting as a "major pull factor" that encouraged boatpeople to make the voyage to Australia. Senior government sources have told The Australian the government was warned to brace for an influx of between 5000 and 10,000 boatpeople this year.

It is understood the government was told, before it announced its freeze on new asylum claims, that Australia's success rate for claims was "out of whack" with the rest of the world and was encouraging people-smugglers.

In the early part of this year, the "recognition rate", or success rate, for Afghan asylum-seekers was above 90 per cent. Senior government sources have told The Australian that the warning was contained in a document sent to the Rudd government prior to April 9, when it froze new Afghan and Sri Lankan asylum claims.

"It said our recognition rates were completely out of whack and this was a major pull factor," a senior government source familiar with the advice told The Australian.

Both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott have vowed to get tough on border security, with both promising to open offshore processing centres in third countries if they win the election.

Since the boats began arriving in late 2008, the government has consistently blamed instability abroad as the main cause of the surge. In October, Kevin Rudd blamed "huge push factors" in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka for the rush of boats. "Countries around the world are dealing with the same challenge," Mr Rudd said.

But the warning is the clearest evidence yet that domestic policies have been a major factor in pulling boats to Australia's shores.

It also suggests that for months, government agencies have been working at cross purposes, with the Immigration Department contributing to the very problem other agencies, such as the Australian Federal Police and the Customs Service and Border Protection Command, have been working to curtail.

The document compared Australia's recognition rate, or success rate for new refugee claims, with those of the US, Canada and particularly Europe.

It concluded Australia was running an exceptionally generous refugee program that was acting as a magnet for boatpeople. "A lot of work was done on (the document)," the government source told The Australian.

It is understood that, while the document warned about the high approval levels, it did not explicitly recommend a cut to the rate. "Essentially, what it was about was that we need to address this by providing to decision-makers better advice, more accurate advice," the source said.

Up until six months ago the success rate for Afghan asylum-seekers, who have made up more than half the total number of unauthorised boat arrivals since late 2008, was 95 per cent. It has since fallen to 30 per cent. The drop has left most Afghanistan country experts baffled as they say it has not been matched by a corresponding improvement in security.

The source said official government estimates had predicted between 5000 and 10,000 unauthorised boat arrivals this year. So far, 4067 asylum-seekers and crew have arrived in Australia by boat this year. On current trends, 2010 will set a new record for boat arrivals, eclipsing the 5516 asylum-seekers who arrived in 2001, the year of the Tampa crisis.

The government advice appears to have been acted on, with the success rate falling rapidly since the beginning of the year.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the Howard government also recognised Afghan asylum claims at rates of around 95 per cent from 1998-99 to 2000-01.

But he said last month the Afghan refusal rate exceeded 70 per cent. "If upheld at review, this increasing rate of refusals will result in many more people being returned to their homeland," the spokesman said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs declined to comment on the document, saying it did not discuss advice sent to ministers. And last night a spokesman for the Immigration Department said it would not discuss "advice or interdepartmental information-sharing". "Having said that, this in no way confirms the claims made or that such a document exists," a spokesman said.

However, The Australian has been told high recognition rates have been an issue within government for some time, with those responsible for border security arguing they are acting as a magnet.

The plummeting refugee success rate has coincided with the government's announcement in April that it was freezing new asylum claims in order to assess evolving circumstances in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. But the extent of the drop, as well as its timing, has given rise to wider questions about the integrity of what is supposed to be an objective refugee selection process.

Refugee Council president John Gibson told The Australian last week there was no way the current success rate reflected the current conditions in Afghanistan. "In terms of Afghans, there is a question mark over the integrity of the process," Mr Gibson said.

Some sources in the refugee sector have suggested the government was approving refugee claims at high rates to avoid a bottleneck in the Christmas Island detention centre.

In April, the Rudd government belatedly announced it would be forced to transfer people to centres on the mainland, because of chronic overcrowding on Christmas Island, which had been expanded from its original capacity of 400 people to about 2500.

In comments sent to The Australian last week, Immigration Department secretary Andrew Metcalfe "categorically denied" claims the high success rate was driven by a desire to move people quickly through the Christmas Island detention centre, or that it was subject to political interference.

"Any such suggestions are baseless and totally without foundation," Mr Metcalfe said.

He said new country information for Afghanistan had been prepared in February. But the department has refused to release the updated country information it is using as the basis of the tougher assessments, despite promising to do so in April.

The Department maintains it will release its guidance notes for Afghanistan when they have been "finalised". Afghans are easily the largest category of asylum-seekers to arrive in Australia. Immigration Department figures show more than 3797 Afghans have arrived since the current surge in boat arrivals began in late 2008.


Anti-vaccination fanatics in Australia

When their four-week-old baby daughter Dana died from whooping cough Toni and David McCaffery sought love and healing to ease their grief.

Instead, they say they were subjected to a campaign of harassment and abuse at the hands of anti-vaccination campaigners, a group who were yesterday labelled a serious threat to the public's health and safety.

The Health Care Complaints Commission issued a public warning against the Australian Vaccination Network after it refused to display a disclaimer on its website to inform readers its information should not be taken as medical advice.

Earlier this month the commission investigated the network, run out of Bangalow on the north coast by Meryl Dorey, and found its website presented incorrect and misleading information that was solely anti-vaccination and quoted selectively from research suggesting that vaccination may be dangerous.

Its investigation was sparked by two complaints, one from Toni and David McCaffery, whose four-week-old daughter Dana died from whooping cough last year.

The couple, from Lennox Head, allege they were subjected to months of harassment and abuse by Ms Dorey and anti-vaccination campaigners, accusing them of lying about the cause of their daughter's death. They received anonymous letters and emails that said whooping cough was not fatal and vaccinations were not needed.

Mrs McCaffery, whose daughter was too young to be vaccinated when she caught whooping cough, said Ms Dorey also tried to get her baby's medical records from the hospital without permission. "Instead of love and healing in the weeks after Dana's death, we got ugliness … it has been terrible," she said.

Mrs McCaffery also complained that Ms Dorey had quoted misleading statistics, spread misinformation through seminars and the internet, and gave poor telephone advice.

The second complaint against the network was made by Ken McLeod, a member of a group called Stop the AVN. He said Ms Dorey had claimed that meningococcal disease was harmless and "hardly kills anybody"; that vaccination was being used to spread AIDS in Third World countries; and homeopathy could take the place of vaccination.

His group now wants the state government to apply for a court injunction against the network and have it closed down. The group's website says Ms Dorey believes "vaccines are part of a global conspiracy to implant mind control chips into every man, woman and child and that the 'illuminati' plan a mass cull of humans".

Ms Dorey did not return calls yesterday but issued a statement on her website which said the HCCC's recommendation was "laughable" and she was seeking legal advice.

"Nobody would expect nuclear safety advocates to issue statements on the benefits of nuclear power; Greenpeace to make films on the pleasures of killing and eating whales … Why then should we be expected to make statements we don't believe are factual and that are not supported by the medical literature?

"If the AVN is expected to show both sides of this issue, why aren't the medical community and the government likewise cited for their lack of disclosure on the risks and ineffectiveness of vaccines?"

A spokesman for the HCCC said it could take no further action but it was disappointing the network was refusing to make its position clear.


Pithouse the shithouse again

For background, see here. Still no action against him

Wrong-way Magistrate Richard Pithouse cleared the way for a disgraced barrister colleague to get his gun licence back - a move that has worried the barrister's former wife.

And the potential conflict of interest in Mr Pithouse presiding over an earlier hearing involving the barrister colleague prompted one court onlooker to make a complaint to the Chief Magistrate about Mr Pithouse.

Ballarat barrister Graeme Jackson lost his gun licence after a court found him guilty of a string of criminal offences and police seized three guns from his house. Jackson was found guilty last year of seven counts relating to falsifying documents, including forging his wife's signature on tax cheques.

Last month he returned to court to try to get his gun licence back and appeared before his old family law colleague, Richard Pithouse. He applied to court to be deemed a non-prohibited person in relation to a firearms application, the court listing shows. Magistrate Pithouse heard the application and granted it.

Mr Pithouse heard the firearms application the same day he accidentally went to Ararat courthouse, not Ballarat, and then offended a sex assault victim by scrapping her heartfelt victim-impact statement.

He also presided over the first two court hearings of Mr Jackson's criminal charges last year. Lawyers said it may have been more appropriate for Mr Pithouse to have excused himself from sitting given the potential conflict.

Jackson said he and Mr Pithouse knew each other from the Ballarat court and Jackson had previously been briefed by Mr Pithouse's firm.

A police operation focused on Jackson raided properties at Ballarat, Horsham and Melbourne in which computers, guns and documents were seized.

Jackson was reprimanded by the Legal Services Commissioner for sledging a woman in court, but denied the woman's claim he also assaulted her. The wife, who the court heard was a victim of forgery, is now Jackson's third ex-wife. Her friends have said she is still shocked and bewildered by the actions of the man she once loved and is concerned by his recent moves to get his guns and licence back.

But Jackson said he was a hunter and though he had received several threats - including shotgun shells being left at his office - the guns were not for personal safety.

Chief Magistrate Ian Gray said no additional action was being taken against Mr Pithouse despite several complaints against him.


Monday, July 26, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG cannot see that Julia's "cash for clunkers" scheme will achieve anything at all -- other than to mollify the Greenies.

No lessons learned from a similar messy policy in America, apparently. But the Left never learn.

An Australian professor of political science says the Warmists were proven right by the various sham "Inquiries" so far launched into their notorious actions

The pathetic peroration below was published in a Left-leaning Australian daily. Note that, as usual, it is all "ad hominem", which again shows what pathetic souls Warmists are: just clinging to one-another for support.

No interest in "The science" is apparent below, of course -- such as the fact that the "decline" (in 20th century temperatures as measured by tree rings) hidden by Phil Jones & Co. completely invalidates the measures of past temperatures that Warmists have always relied upon.

But I suppose it is a big ask to expect an expert in in political science to know any real science

The author below is Rodney Tiffen. Tiffin is a light meal. A very light meal in this case, I would suggest

Chances are, you have not heard much about Climategate lately, but last November it dominated the media. Three weeks before the Copenhagen summit, thousands of emails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia were published on a Russian website.

The research institute was a leading contributor to the fourth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, and some of the leaked emails showed the scientists in a poor light.

The scandal was one of the pivotal moments in changing the politics of climate change. What seemed close to a bipartisan agreement on an environmental trading scheme collapsed with Tony Abbott's defeat of Malcolm Turnbull. Within months the Rudd government lost its nerve on what the former prime minister called "the greatest moral and economic challenge of our time".

By casting doubt on the integrity of the scientists, Climategate helped puncture public faith in the science, and probably contributed to Labor's political panic. The echo chamber of columnists reverberated with angry and accusatory claims. In Australia, Piers Akerman said: "The tsunami of leaked emails . . . reveal a culture of fraud, manipulation, deceit and personal vindictiveness to rival anything in a John le Carre or John Grisham thriller." Later he wrote: "The crowd that gathered in Copenhagen were there pushing a fraud."

Andrew Bolt thought that "what they reveal is perhaps the greatest scientific scandal" of our time. "Emails leaked on the weekend show there is indeed a conspiracy to deceive the world - and Mr Rudd has fallen for it."

Miranda Devine wrote: "We see clearly the rotten heart of the propaganda machine that has driven the world to the brink of insanity."

The ramifications of Climategate were immediate. The climate unit's head, Professor Phil Jones, was forced to stand down. Three inquiries were set up to examine the scientists' conduct.

The first, a British House of Commons select committee, reported in March that the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and the CRU remained intact. The second, a science assessment panel, set up with the Royal Society and consisting of eminent British researchers, reported in April.

Its chairman, Lord Oxburgh, said his team found "absolutely no evidence of any impropriety whatsoever" and that "whatever was said in the emails, the basic science seems to have been done fairly and properly".

The third, set up by the university itself, published its 160-page report two weeks ago. On the specific allegations made against the behaviour of the CRU scientists, "we find that the rigour and honesty [of the scientists] as scientists are not in doubt". Importantly, it concluded: "We did not find any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments."

In other words, nothing in the emails undermined the research of the climate scientists. Like the other two, the inquiry found aspects of the scientists' behaviour that fell short of professional standards - "failing to display the proper degree of openness".

What might seem the most damning was the way Jones dealt with freedom of information requests, but context makes his behaviour more understandable. In July last year alone, the CRU received 60 FoI requests. Answering them would have been too much for even all the unit's staff time. In a matter of days, it received 40 similar FoI requests, each wanting data from five different countries - 200 requests in all. Jones concluded the unit was subject to a vexatious campaign.

While not fully excusing their behaviour, one has to appreciate the embattled position of scientists who received a steady stream of obscene and abusive emails and constant public attacks on their integrity.

After the leaks, Jones, now reinstated, received death threats and said he had contemplated suicide.

You might imagine the media would be keen to report on authoritative conclusions about allegations it had found so newsworthy in December. But coverage of each of the reports has been non-existent in many news organisations and in others brief or without prominence.

At best, the coverage of the inquiries' conclusions added up to a 20th of the coverage the original allegations received, which leaves us to ponder the curiosities of a news media that gets so over-excited by dramatic allegations and then remains so incurably uninterested in their resolution.

The newspapers that gave greatest play to the allegations tended to give less attention to the findings. The columnists who gave greatest vent to their indignation have not made any revisions or corrections, let alone apologised to the scientists whose integrity they so sweepingly impugned.

Even at the time, it was clear much of the coverage was more attuned to maximising sensation rather than to reporting with precision. The sheer number of leaked emails, for instance, was sometimes taken as proof of the scale of the scandal, as if they were all disreputable. In fact, only from a handful could anything sinister be conjured.

It is a common criticism of the media that it prominently publishes allegations, but gives less coverage to the prosaic facts that later refute them. But rarely is the disproportion so stark. Rarely has such an edifice of sweeping accusation and extravagant invective been constructed on such a slender factual basis. Rarely does it do such damage.


Despite the gloss, Julia Gillard is just another phony

FOR the whole of her political life, Julia Gillard has been a member of Labor's Left faction.

This has not been a youthful indiscretion, as she remains a committed member of that faction even today. She is the first Left leader of the federal Labor Party in my lifetime. Not that anybody in the Canberra press gallery seems to have noticed. As they sleepwalk through her small-target policy announcements on a daily basis, no one in the press gallery seems to have asked the question as to why Gillard is in the Labor Left.

The policy decisions of the left-wing of the ALP have been consistent ever since I was at university in the late 1970s. On the economic front they have always believed in higher taxes and big government spending programs. Some supported death duties, capital gains taxes on the family home and cuts to government funding to non-government and Catholic schools. They were strongly opposed to privatisation and never had a problem with deficit budgeting.

On the foreign policy front, the Left was afflicted with a virulent strain of anti-Americanism. It disliked our traditional ties to Britain and clouded its hatred of Israel by pretending that its main Middle East foreign policy objective was Palestinian self-determination. On the industrial relations front, the Left strongly supported centralised wage fixing, compulsory unionism, wildcat strikes, pattern bargaining, the use of picket lines and unlimited union right of entry.

Now which of these traditional policies of the Left does Gillard believe in? Remember, she has been a member of this faction for three decades. What is it about these policies that attracted her to the Left, where she remains today?

In many respects the Gillard of today is unrecognisable from the person just three weeks ago. Now she prattles on about getting old bombs off the road, lassoing the unsuspected and bussing them to Canberra for a year-long lecture on climate change, and she now worries about deficit budgets. The truth is that Gillard today is, like Kevin Rudd, a total phony and a policy fraud. Gillard's strategy is to try to win the election on her personality, hoping like anything that no one will ask what she really believes in.

It is said she is popular among women, although if a ballot had been taken against Rudd, Jenny Macklin, Maxine McKew, Penny Wong and Tanya Plibersek would have all voted against her for factional reasons. Yes, let's have Australia's first female prime minister, unless she is in the other faction.

The real problem for Gillard is not only that she is pretending to be something she is not but that, like Rudd, she is herself a prisoner to the caucus. Rudd was in his own faction, which didn't number too many. In the end, as soon as the Right decided to remove him, he didn't even have the numbers to put up a credible showing.

Some suggest his support was about 30 out of 110, made up of a few Queenslanders, a number of people to whom he'd grown close as a result of them winning in 2007, and the usual array of disgruntled, disaffected and disillusioned MPs that make up any parliamentary party irrespective of its political colour. Oh, and add to that some opponents of Gillard's from her own faction, such as Anthony Albanese.

The truth is that Gillard, like Rudd before her, is not part of the majority grouping that makes up the caucus. In replacing Rudd with Gillard, the Right has repeated the failed experiment of NSW where it installed Nathan Rees, a member of the Left faction, with disastrous consequences. On his way out the door, Rees took aim at those nasty factional powerbrokers who'd been kind enough to install him in the first place.

Irrespective of the election outcome, it is blindingly obvious that history will repeat itself in the federal parliamentary Labor Party at some time in the future.

That is to say a member of an enemy faction (Gillard) will be replaced by one of the Right's own favoured sons when the time comes. The answer as to who that will be is also obvious: the Victorian federal member for Maribyrnong, Bill Shorten, who is the Labor Party's natural leader.

Rudd's demise was for a whole host of reasons, chief among them that he believed his deputy would never attempt to remove him. Had he been politically awake during the last few months of his prime ministership, Rudd would have been aware of the threat to his position. As of June, the only real threat to this position was in the form of Gillard.

Rudd had every reason to remove Peter Garrett on the grounds of political incompetence but he also had every political justification for sacking Gillard for her manifestly incompetent handling of what became known as the Building the Education Revolution scandal. This may sound a little far-fetched, but had he done so, he might still be leader today.

Remember, many in the ALP still regret the fact that Gough Whitlam didn't sack John Kerr, before Kerr sacked him. Still, Gough couldn't complain. Bill Hayden did ring him from a phone box not far from Yarralumla, but to no avail. Rudd's supporters were assuring him the day before the challenge that caucus was rock solid for him. No wonder Labor dumped him.


Leftist "compassion" at work again, in its usual destructive way

170 dead would-be immigrants since Australia's "softer" policies towards boat-borne illegals

Former coalition immigration minister Philip Ruddock says about 170 asylum seekers headed for Australia have died since the federal government changed Australia's border protection policies.

But Mr Ruddock, who served as immigration minister under the previous Howard government, wouldn't directly blame Labor for their deaths. "We believe that 170 people have lost their lives since Labor relaxed the policies here in Australia," he told ABC TV on Monday. "I'm saying that they were encouraged to get in boats again because of policies being changed."

Mr Ruddock said all the measures the coalition put in place to combat unauthorised boat arrivals - including offshore processing - needed to be implemented again to stem the flow.

The Liberal backbencher said it didn't matter where offshore processing actually took place, so long as the disincentive existed.


A conservative political candidate to keep an eye on?

THE woman trying to unseat dumped prime minister Kevin Rudd launched her election campaign in sky-high pink stilettos and a thigh-skimming dress.

Blonde one-time barmaid Rebecca Docherty tried to avoid the cameras when she was named as the Liberal National Party candidate for the Queensland seat of Griffith last week. However, the 30-year-old dressed in head-to-heels designer clothes for an article in Grazia magazine, which hits newstands today.

"I have champagne tastes on a beer budget. I used to buy the glossy magazines just to look at the pictures," she said. "I love high fashion but I can't afford it."

Ms Docherty's flamboyant campaigning style contrasts with Mr Rudd's more down-to-earth, intellectual and sometimes "boring" style but she is unlikely to unseat him. Mr Rudd holds Griffith, the safest Labor seat in Queensland, by a margin of 12.4 per cent. He is expected to retain the seat.

Ms Docherty said she was underwhelmed by the appointment of Ms Gillard as Australia's first female leader. "I'd never want to be judged on my gender," she said. "I'd want to be judged on whether I'm good at what I do."


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Australia's conservative coalition plans to slash immigration

Australia's immigration levels are unsustainable and will be slashed under a coalition government, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says. The coalition would cut the annual migrant intake from the current level of 300,000 to 170,000 in its first term of government, he said. "Three hundred thousand is just not sustainable," Mr Abbott told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.

The plan was separate from the asylum seeker issue. Mr Abbott said skilled migration programs would continue. "We will maintain, though, various employer-nominated categories because it's important that business has the skills as a people that it needs," he said.

Mr Abbott, who was born in London in 1957, said he was a migrant himself. "The coalition parties are pro-immigrant parties but it's very important that our immigration program has the support of our people and that is what this policy is designed to do."

Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said a coalition government would restore migration growth to the long-run average of 1.4 per cent, down from the two per cent now and slightly higher than the global average of 1.2 per cent. Cutting the intake would preserve the quality of life for future generations of Australians, he said.

"That was the fundamental dishonesty of the prime minister last week," he said. "If she doesn't like our number, she should say so. If she thinks our number is too low or too high, she should say what her number is."

Asked what a coalition government would consider as an acceptable population level for Australia, Mr Abbott said it would be "a lot lower" than the 36 million by 2050 figure nominated by former prime minister Kevin Rudd. "We would be guided, not ruled, by a white paper which we would commission shortly after coming to government, which would inform decisions that would be announced at some time next year."

Mr Abbott said a coalition government would take advice from a productivity and sustainability commission about the compatibility of population levels with economic and environmental sustainability. "But it will always be the government responsibility to set the number," he said.

The opposition leader said Prime Minister Julia Gillard was keen to talk about population but not be honest about the role of immigration in the debate. "You cannot have a population discussion without also having an immigration discussion," he said.

Mr Abbott challenged Ms Gillard to nominate an alternative figure if Labor did not agree with the coalition's intake target.

Economic forecaster BIS Shrapnel has said annual net migration from overseas - which includes permanent migration and longer-term but temporary stays - will fall from 298,900 over the year to June 2009 to 240,000 over the year to June 2010, then to 175,000 in 2010-11 and 145,000 in 2011-12. BIS Shrapnel said the slowdown reflected a slackening in the job market and fewer enrolments by foreign students.

Mr Abbott said he was "all in favour" of Australia selling education to overseas students. "But what I don't want us to be doing is selling immigration outcomes in the guise of selling education," he said.


Child sex accused priest OK to work with kids??

Your regulators will protect you -- NOT

A PRIEST stood down by his church over allegations that he had sex with a teenage boy has been handed a blue card to work with children by a Queensland tribunal.

The man, now in his 50s, lost his licence to officiate as a priest when he was found unfit to hold Holy Orders, the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal was told during an application hearing last month.

It was alleged that the priest, then a parish curate in his 20s, had sex with a boy aged from 16 to 18 on several occasions, showed him pornographic images and took him to a sex shop.

The Sunday Mail has been prevented from identifying the priest after his solicitors sought a non-publication order from the tribunal late Friday.

The case follows revelations last week that seven Queenslanders denied blue cards because of criminal convictions later won them back after appeals to the tribunal.

The tribunal heard that the boy had been a parishioner and his parents had left him in the care of the priest while they went overseas on a holiday. Some of the sexual acts allegedly occurred when the priest stayed with the boy at a motel and at a caravan park. Police investigated after a complaint was received, but no charges were laid, the tribunal was told.

However, after a recent church investigation into the allegations ruled that "sexually inappropriate behaviour" had occurred, the Board of Professional Standards decided he was not fit to hold Holy Orders due to the gravity of the breach of trust. The Commissioner for Children and Young People then cancelled his blue card.

The priest is entitled to an automatic review of the church decision, which is under way, but he has not been able to officiate in his former parish.

He had held a blue card, allowing him to work or volunteer with children, since 2007.

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which heard the former priest's appeal over his blue card, said the allegations were not contested in the church proceedings.

A forensic psychiatrist, giving evidence to the tribunal, said that there had been no indication of deviance since the time of the allegations and the priest was not a risk to the community.

He said assuming the alleged events had occurred, "it was likely to be an experimentation of early adulthood, part of the 'craziness of the age group' ".

After hearing evidence from another priest and parishioners, the tribunal found, on balance of probabilities, there was not an unacceptable risk of harm to children and ordered that the priest be given a blue card.

It found the protective factors, including that over the past 28 years he had led an "exemplary life of altruism and service", outweighed the risks. The Children's Commissioner can appeal.



Four reports below -- from just two days!

Killer overseas doctor sentenced to seven years in jail

FORMER Bundaberg Base Hospital surgeon Jayant Patel has been sentenced to seven years in jail for the deaths of three patients.

He was also sentenced to three years jail, to be served concurrently, for causing grievous bodily harm to a fourth patient.

Patel was not declared a serious violent offender and will be eligible to apply for parole in three-and-a-half years.

Justice John Byrne this afternoon sentenced Patel after the disgraced doctor was convicted of three counts of manslaughter and one of grievous bodily harm. On Tuesday Patel was found guilty of three counts of manslaughter and one of grievous bodily harm as a result of operations he performed at Bundaberg between 2003 and 2005.

The jury had deliberated for six-and-a-half days and a further 48 hours before delivering guilty verdicts to the manslaughter of Gerry Kemps, 77, James Phillips, 46, and Mervyn Morris, 75. It also found Patel had caused grievous bodily harm to Ian Rodney Vowles, 62.

Kemps and Phillips died after oesophagectomy operations while Morris died after a major operation on his colon. Vowles allegedly had a large part of his bowel wrongly removed.

Mr Martin gave an outline of Patel's background as a doctor in India and then the USA where he eventually lost the right to practise in New York and then was put under a stipulated order in Portland, Oregon.


Dodgy doctors in government hospitals still

ROGUE doctors have been caught working throughout the state without proper paperwork and their own insurance as Queensland Health continues to struggle to put the Jayant Patel scandal behind it.

The Sunday Mail can reveal some medical officers and general practitioners were recently busted for failing to obtain credentialling to work at hospitals in the state.

Credentialling is an administrative system different to registration that allows travelling doctors to move around the state with authority to do different types of work at different hospitals.

A briefing provided to Health Minister Paul Lucas after the first quarter of this year showed two doctors were also caught without the proper registration.

The briefing showed 20 people failed to have the correct credentialling, including 15 general practitioners working at an aged care home in Brisbane. They did not have the proper indemnity insurance. A further two medical officers were caught on the Darling Downs, one in Townsville, one each in the Metropolitan North and South districts, and one in the South West district.

"In all cases no harm is reported to have occurred," the brief said.

In the first unregistered case, district management only found out in February about the medical officer after his hospital found the error in September last year. The medical officer had been registered in other states, but not in Queensland.

In the second case, the doctor was stood down after it was found registration had expired because of a delay processing exam results.

Queensland Health failed to respond to inquiries on Friday. The Opposition's health spokesman, Mark McArdle, said the failures showed the department had not learnt from the past, notably the killing of patients by Patel. "You have to ask why is this still happening?"


Coroner slams NSW state hospitals

THE same fatal mistakes are made again and again in hospitals because recommendations made after one death are not followed across the state, former NSW deputy coroner Carl Milovanovich said yesterday.

Twenty months have passed since an inquiry into NSW hospitals and Mr Milovanovich still has concerns about patient treatment. "The one thing that I have constantly encountered as a coroner was the repetition of the same mistakes," Mr Milovanovich, who was delivering a paper to the Australian Lawyers Alliance Medical Law Conference in Sydney, said. "There is no doubt systemic problems will exist in an organisation as large and as diverse as the NSW health system."

Mr Milovanovich presided over the Vanessa Anderson inquest. In 2005, the 16-year-old was taken to Royal North Shore hospital after being hit on the head by a golf ball. She died two days later. He found she died because of "systemic failures" at the hospital and the inappropriate administration of pain relief.

The inquest sparked the Garling inquiry, which concluded in late 2008 and resulted in 139 recommendations into acute care in public hospitals.

Mr Milovanovich said coroners must take great steps to deliver their findings into preventable hospital deaths to the highest level in state government. "The area health services are all separate little administrative units and they don't talk to each other and that's one of the problems," he said. "There's no guarantee that a recommendation that might have resulted from a death at Wagga will be implemented in an area health service at Lismore."

He acknowledged the findings of the Garling report and said an individual practitioner's mistakes reflected a larger issue. "We have dedicated and caring professionals working in the health system and their failings are invariably associated with the lack of resources, equipment and experienced staff and overriding budgetary constraints," Mr Milovanovich said. "Almost every medical or hospital death I've examined would fall into one of these categories."

During the question and answer session, he agreed there was still a lack of holistic patient care in the public hospital system. "The parameters end according to the carer's level of expertise or professionalism and they don't take that extra step of communicating to the next level. That seems to be an emerging problem," Mr Milovanovich said.


Hospital food fails those too ill to eat it

Hospitals will be forced to show they are preventing malnutrition in their patients or else lose their accreditation after continuing concerns about how vulnerable patients are fed.

Elderly patients who stay are hospitalised for long periods are dying from malnutrition because hospitals do not currently consider food part of clinical care, said Claire Hewat, the chief executive of the Dietitians Association of Australia.

And nearly two years after the Garling inquiry heard elderly people were "starving" in public hospitals, some NSW patients were still left unable to open and eat their food.

The Australian Council on Healthcare Standards will include a nutrition standard in its Evaluation and Quality Improvement Program, to be implemented in January, which Mrs Hewat hopes will improve hospital nutrition. It will apply to more than 1200 public and private hospitals and healthcare organisations across the country.

There were no national standards on nutrition in Australia, and not all hospitals had good standards, said the council's chief executive, Brian Johnston. "Clearly this can improve and will with the introduction of the new criterion," he said.

Karen Walton, a lecturer in health sciences at the University of Wollongong, specialises in nutrition support for the elderly. She said some hospitals in NSW had programs where food service staff open food and beverage packages. "It's still a significant issue, but [the programs show] things are starting to move in the right direction," she said.

If family members were concerned about elderly relatives they should try to visit them at meal times. "But if they can't be there, they should make sure that nurses and other staff know that their relative may need assistance and encouragement," she said.

Robin McLennan said her mother was in Mona Vale Hospital this month after hip surgery, when on two occasions food was delivered to three elderly patients in the room who were left unable to open or eat it. "I was helping mum [and] from the bed near my mother comes a little voice asking for help, too. So I took off all the lids, and cooled the hot soup and raised her bed," she said. "Then the other old lady started calling out, 'Help me, help me please'."

The Opposition health spokeswoman, Jillian Skinner, said there were not enough staff in public hospitals to ensure that elderly patients ate their food. "Patients need to be able to access their meals and hospital staff need to have the time to assist those patients that require help," she said.

A spokeswoman for Mona Vale Hospital apologised to Ms McLennan and her mother. She said a food services assistant was provided to help patients eat their meals and the hospital was investigating the incident.

A spokeswoman for NSW Health said Health Support Services, which provides food to Mona Vale Hospital, was reviewing the quality and consistency of food services in public hospitals and had been in contact with the packaging industry about introducing containers that were easier to open.

The Garling inquiry, which examined acute care services in NSW public hospitals, was told that one in four elderly patients became malnourished during their hospital stay and that meals were not nutritionally sound for those admitted long-term.

Nurses complained they did not have enough time to ensure patients ate their meals and there was little monitoring of fluid and food consumption.

Dieticians also complained that many food items, presented in plastic containers, went uneaten because they were packaged in a way which made them appear inedible.