Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Australian Islamic College bans Afro hairstyle

For disciplinary reasons it has long been held that schools have the right to set standards of dress and presentation for their pupils so I fail to see anything that this school did wrongly. I think the school was rather tolerant in putting up with it as long as they did, in fact. If it is good enough for Obama to keep his hair short, it should be good enough for this kid. And why does Obama keep his hair short? Because an Afro is widely seen as unattractive

IT was the fro that had to go - but the fuzz about this teenager's hairstyle has gone all the way to the Supreme Court as his father claims he was cut off from friends at the Islamic school even after he trimmed his afro.

Mazen Zraika is taking the Australian Islamic College in Rooty Hill to court over the treatment of his son Billal, 13, who was ordered away from the school earlier this year until he changed his afro hairstyle, The Daily Telegraph reported.

After six months of asking him to cut his hair, the Year 8 student and his parents were sent a letter in April advising them that he would be suspended from school until he cut his hair into a style that wasn't in breach of its appearance code. Principal Yasmin Gamieldien told the family the hairstyle was deemed a "mop" and needed to be cut shorter.

But Mr Zraika says Billal - who is of Lebanese and Ethiopian descent - was simply being punished for his natural hairstyle. "His mum Mary is Ethiopian so it's not his fault he's got the fuzzy hair," Mr Zraika said following the school's order.

"They said it's a mop hair- style but that's something Zac Efron has. "He doesn't have to style it or anything. When he gets out of the pool and shakes his head a few times it automatically comes back into shape."

Billal returned to classes following the Easter holiday break, but the family claim they were then sent another letter by staff saying he would be expelled if it wasn't cut within a week, while Billal was left sitting in the front office in "isolation" from his friends.

The teenager had a crew-cut in order to avoid expulsion, but the family claim that he was still forced into "isolation" and kept away from classmates while being told to "catch up" on schoolwork he'd missed.


University of Queensland warned of loss of donors over enrolment scandal

THE University of Queensland risked losing major philanthropic donations as long as it failed to deal with favouritism allegations, a leading Queensland solicitor said yesterday.

David Muir, chairman of the estate of former Lord Mayor Clem Jones and a partner in HWL Ebsworth, said there was disquiet in the business world about allegations of nepotism involving a family member of UQ vice-chancellor Paul Greenfield.

He said: "Vice-chancellor Paul Greenfield ... should resign but has elected to stay on as CEO for a further six months, without giving any explanation about why he should stay on, or detail about what actually happened. "What is the example to the staff and other academics in taking this course?"

Longreach-born Muir, who set up Crime Stoppers and was a long-time state president of Amnesty International, is a director of the Foodbank charity.

He deplored the lack of transparency. "The university is a big business, dependent upon in excess of $700 million of Commonwealth funding each year, as well as significant funding by philanthropists," Mr Muir said.

"Disquiet is developing among those who provide funding, in particular those who are concerned about accountability and transparency. Accountability and transparency are essential ingredients.

"Philanthropists are generally focused on outcomes and want to be able to measure success. "After all, many philanthropists have earnt their wealth through this approach and may be as demanding of those who receive their funds as they are of themselves."

Mr Muir said: "Funders of the university are among the most significant of stakeholders.

"Risk managers of major corporations in Australia recognise that any diminution of brand reputation may impact seriously on financial performance of the business. "In the modern information age, brand reputation can be lost more readily than in previous times. Brand reputation is vital because it is the catalyst for why people want to work for the business and why people are attracted to and want to support the business. "The culture of any major business is set by the chief executive officer.

"Those who give away money are usually concerned to ensure that they maximise the impact of their giving. Accountability and transparency are critical elements in demonstrating that the giving is the most impactful. Can they be confident that these values are being upheld at the University of Queensland?

"Competition for funding among universities is highly competitive. Large sums of money are at stake, particularly in regard to the fields of medical research. "It is in the hands of the University of Queensland to ease the disquiet that may be growing among the ranks of those who fund it.

"It is the way in which the CEO of a business responds to an 'irregularity', just as much as the 'irregularity' itself that is important. Most people will forgive mistakes. What is not forgiven is a denial or cover-up of a mistake.

"The University of Queensland is in command of its own culture and of its own message. It is not in command of its stakeholders and they may vote with their feet."


Julia Gillard hits families, but won't stop Gold Pass travel scheme for retired politicians

MOTHERS who give birth before September 1 will beat a $437 cut to the baby bonus being imposed by the Government to help deliver its promised Budget surplus.

Treasurer Wayne Swan yesterday said the bonus for stay-at-home parents would be cut from $5437 to $5000 and then be frozen for three years to save the Budget $358 million. There is no change to the paid parental leave scheme for working parents, worth about $590 a week before tax for up to 18 weeks.

The surprise cut to the baby bonus came as Mr Swan also said foreigners would pay more for visas and $2.1 billion worth of promised tax breaks, including incentives for savings, would be delayed.

The Government will take a $1.5 billion axe to the public service, which Finance Minister Penny Wong said would mean slashing travel, consultants, hospitality and advertising, but unions said could mean 3000 job losses.

Mr Swan unveiled net cuts to spending of $6.8 billion as he revealed a $15 billion blow-out in the deficit for this financial year to $37 billion due to Europe's financial turmoil causing "storm clouds on the global horizon" and weaker economic growth.

Mr Swan insisted the cuts were "fair and equitable" as he revealed the $3.5 billion surplus he announced six months ago for 2012-13 would be now just a wafer-thin $1.5 billion. Economists warned it could easily be wiped out.

The Treasurer rejected suggestions he had inflicted pain and brought forward some spending and delayed other outlays just to meet a political promise to deliver a surplus. He said it was important to send a message to the world that Australia had a strong economy

But, despite the pressure on the Budget, the Government made no change to the Gold Pass free travel scheme for retired politicians, although Special Minister of State Gary Gray said he wanted to scrap it because it was"an unjustifiable perk".

The Budget update revealed economic growth is tipped to be 3.25 per cent, down from the 4 per cent expected six months ago. The jobless rate is tipped to rise from 5.2 to 5.5 per cent.

Mr Swan said while unemployment would "tick up a little", it was much lower than the 9-10 per cent jobless rates in the US and Europe, and in Spain, where 50 per cent of young people were out of work.

Mr Swan was buoyed by ratings agency Fitch upgrading Australia to AAA, the same level as Moodys and Standard & Poor's.

He defended cutting the baby bonus, saying it had risen from $3000 just a few years ago and it was time to "reset" it to make the payment sustainable over time.

He said the change would not happen until September "so people clearly know what it is going to be in nine months' time".

The Government defended its record for families saying this year it had introduced paid parental leave, increased family benefits for parents with kids aged 16-19 and delivered more childcare assistance.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott attacked the change to the baby bonus. "This is a rip-off of the forgotten families of Australia. Let's not forget that the baby bonus is there to help stay-at-home mums and I think this is a Government which has never had much respect for the stay-at-home mums," he said.

Opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb accused the Government of creating an "illusory surplus". But the Opposition refused to say if it would oppose any of the cuts or announce what savings it would make to deliver its promises.


South Australian private schools six times safer for kids

PUBLIC school students are six times more likely to be assaulted than private school students.

Figures released through Freedom Of Information show there have been 2049 assaults (1 for every 81 students) reported to police in state government schools since 2006, compared to 195 (1 per 472 students) in non-government schools.

Last year, 65 assaults in government schools involved weapons, compared to seven in non-government schools.

The figures follow the vicious bashing of Hamilton Secondary College schoolboy Callan Wade last week. The 14-year-old was so badly bashed that his spleen was ruptured and he was treated at the Women's and Children's hospital intensive care unit.

Opposition Education spokesman David Pisoni said school safety had deteriorated to unacceptable levels under the Labor government.

He said the disparity between the number of assaults in public and private school proved the best results come when communities are allowed back into schools and principals are given the autonomy to decide what works best.

"Under Labor there has been a significant drift in the number of South Australian students choosing to attend non-government schools over government-run schools," Mr Pisoni said.

"A Liberal Government would tackle school violence head on by ensuring principals and school communities are adequately resourced to deal with bullying and violence."

The number of students attending private schools has increased 10 per cent in the past decade while public school numbers have decreased about five per cent.

Education Minister Grace Portolesi said every student and teacher had the right to go to school or work in a safe environment and the government would not tolerate people who acted in a violent or disorderly way.

"The drift from public to the private sector had slowed in the past two years and figures show government school enrolments have increased consecutively each year since 2008," she said.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Push to recognise 'pathological internet misuse' as a mental health disorder

This problem seems to be most pronounced in China, where there are "boot camps" to which children are sent to cure their "addiction". But because of the one-child policy, Chinese children are greatly indulged. So what we are seeing is no deficit in the child but a deficit in childrearing. Children who are not given limits from the beginning will tend to behave in self-indulgent ways

DISTRESSED families are flooding psychiatrists with pleas for help for children hooked on the internet. The condition known as "pathological internet misuse" is growing so rapidly among adolescents and young adults that it could soon be formally recognised as a mental health disorder.

International mental health experts are considering including "video game addiction and internet addiction" in the next edition of globally recognised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders "to encourage further study".

One Sydney mother said her 13-year-old son was so addicted to computer games he had attended school only intermittently over the past two years and violently resisted attempts to remove him from the screen. "He starts punching holes through the walls, throwing things around and threatening you ... all this has to do with the most addictive game, World of Warcraft," she said. [And the fact that he has been atrociously brought up -- "spoilt", to use a common term]

Parents have told of children as young as 10 being found asleep at their home computer when they are due to leave for school because they have been up much of the night playing video games such as Minecraft.

Australian mental health specialists believe formal recognition of internet addiction will put pressure on governments to make more treatment options available.

Sydney psychiatrist Philip Tam believes internet addiction should be classified as a disorder. Dr Tam, a leader in the field, said a website would be launched this week to help carers, families and counsellors "address the growing and complex problem of internet addiction".

The Network for Internet Investigation and Research in Australia will be run by specialists with a "common passion in assessing, treating, researching and educating the public and professionals" about internet addictions. " ... such conditions are complex in nature and often overlap with common mental health disorders," he said.

Jocelyn Brewer, a member of Philip Tam's expert group, said girls also could "become obsessed with Facebook". "There's a massive divide (between teachers and parents) in expertise about kids' use of technology," she said.


The University of Sydney Ranks 18th in the World for Arts and Humanities

As a graduate of the USyd Arts faculty I am rather pleased by this. There are a lot of universities in the world (7,000 in the USA alone by some estimates -- depending on what you call a university)

I thought it was pretty impressive in my day in the late 60s too. The philosophy school was particularly distinguished and I did study philosophy there. John Maze influenced me quite a lot -- as this paper shows

The University of Sydney is ranked 18th in the world in the field of arts and humanities, according to the most recent figures from Times Higher Education.

Three Australian institutions have made the top 20, led by Australian National University in Canberra. Ranked second in Australia is The University of Sydney, which has this year beaten out University of Melbourne, which came in at spot number 19.

The Times Education ranking system claims that their highest consideration factors when comparing universities are the learning environment, research and research influence (citations), innovation and international outlook.

Professor Duncan Ivison, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences says of the achievement "The Times Higher ranking for Arts and Humanities places our Faculty in the top 20 faculties of its kind in the world, which is a remarkable tribute to our staff and the extraordinary work they do as teachers and researchers."

"Although ranking exercises such as this must always be treated with care, over the past five years our Faculty has been consistently ranked in the top 25 faculties across a range of different measures, and that suggests we are clearly on the right track. There is still even more we want to achieve, but I am delighted the University of Sydney is now unquestionably seen to be one of the best places in the world for the humanities."

The University of Sydney overall was placed at number 58, therefore to be ranked 18th in the arts and humanities shows that this area is performing particularly strongly at Sydney.


European culture of entitlement is mercifully absent Down Under

Gerard Henderson

I am currently in Jerusalem, wondering whether I will be able to make it to London later this week. There is a public-sector strike scheduled for Britain tomorrow, which is expected to close schools and hospitals and there is talk of up to 12-hour delays in getting through immigration at Heathrow.

Britain certainly does not have the worst-performing economy in Europe. However, it is likely that there will be another recession in Britain next year - due primarily to the failure of the nations of continental Europe to resolve the problems caused by the euro zone crisis. Right now, Margaret Thatcher's decision not to take Britain into the European single currency in the 1980s looks better by the day.

At a time of economic downturn and rising unemployment, the public-sector unions have taken a decision to strike for better retirement benefits for their members, who already enjoy relatively secure employment.

Many private-sector workers, whose taxes finance public-sector employees, can only dream of the pension entitlements about which the public-sector unions are demonstrating. The culture of entitlement, which has had a devastating effect on the economies of many European nations, remains a fact in Britain.

Writing earlier this month in the London Telegraph about the crisis in Europe, Kevin Rudd asked: "How did Europe get into such a difficult situation?" The Foreign Minister's answer was direct and accurate. Namely "for years now, some European governments have been spending more than they earned and running up unsustainable levels of debt". He argued that "this has been manageable in the past because banks were willing to lend to governments and economic growth had been strong enough to keep the interest bill paid". However, the global financial crisis changed all that.

The concept of governments spending more than they obtain in revenue is common to social democratic and conservative administrations. Yet it is more a phenomenon of social democracy. For example, in Britain today the leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, and the shadow chancellor of the exchequer, Ed Balls, advocate greater spending and borrowing as the way of resolving current economic difficulties. The Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, with the support of coalition partners the Liberal Democrats, advocates long-running cuts to government spending and a clampdown on schemes and benefits as an entry to lifelong welfare.

It seems that Rudd's position on economics has changed dramatically in recent times. When prime minister in February 2009, he wrote a widely quoted article in The Monthly titled "The Global Financial Crisis". Here Rudd maintained that the economic crisis "is the culmination of a 30-year domination of economic policy by a free-market ideology that has been variously called neo-liberalism, economic liberalism, economic fundamentalism, Thatcherism or the Washington Consensus".

Rudd went on to proclaim "the great neo-liberal experiment of the past 30 years has failed" and to advocate for social democracy. He wrote that "Labor, in the international tradition of social democracy, consistently argues for a central role for government in the regulation of markets and the provision of public goods".

Well, you can't have it both ways. In early 2009, Rudd argued the essential cause of the economic crisis was neo-liberalism, which is sometimes referred to as economic rationalism and is associated with expenditure restraint and debt reduction. In late 2011, Rudd argues that the essential cause of the economic crisis is deficit spending, funded by debt.

Australian politicians and senior bureaucrats cop a lot of criticism. Yet, a brief time in western Europe or the US serves as a reminder of how well Australia has been governed over the past three decades.

In the final years of Malcolm Fraser's government, John Howard commenced the first tentative step towards financial deregulation. The cause of economic reform was embraced by the Hawke and Keating governments between 1983 and 1996 and followed by Howard and Costello until 2007. When the global financial crisis arrived in 2008, the Australian economy was in good shape and Australia was not afflicted by overspending, funded by debt.

During his years as prime minister between December 1949 and January 1966, Robert Menzies was no economic reformer. But in the early 1950s, Menzies and his Coalition colleagues made a conscious decision not to take Australia down the road of from-cradle-to-grave social welfare.

Consequently, Australia never adopted the ethos of entitlement which still affects western Europe and parts of North America. It is this concept which has bankrupted so many governments and which explains the public-sector strikes scheduled for this week in Britain.


Growling grass frog cost $2.6 billion

A SMALL green frog could stop up to 66,000 houses being built and prevent $2.6 billion in development. A draft report on saving the growling grass frog has recommended the State Government declare 4400ha of the city's growth corridor off limits for developers.

Landowners say properties have been made worthless and question whether the frog is endangered.

The draft report calls for 200m no-go zones beside waterways in Melbourne's growth zones where the frogs are found.

Planning Minister Matthew Guy said he sympathised with developers, blaming an environmental agreement between the previous government and Canberra, which was adding thousands of dollars to the price of housing blocks.

"I don't know if it is endangered," he said. "All I know is it is a frog that is worth a lot of money in terms of land lots and is holding up a huge amount in our growth corridors and I question the arbitrary nature of some of the distances imposed by the Federal Government."

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said arrangements with the Victorian Government meant developments on Melbourne's fringe no longer needed individual assessments. "If the Victorian Government wishes to throw out the strategic assessment then we can go back to individual project assessments," he said. "This will increase the time it takes for approvals which will drive up the cost of housing."

Urban Development Institute of Australia chief executive Tony De Domenico said the frogs would drive the price of house blocks up by $5000 in some areas.

"We've been frustrated by growling grass frogs, bandicoots, legless lizards, mouthless moths, and the golden sun moth in particular," he said. "Some of these so-called endangered species are so endemic they are found everywhere."


Monday, November 28, 2011

DNA proves man is not child's father, mother must pay back nearly $13k

A WOMAN has been ordered to pay her former husband almost $13,000 in child support after DNA tests confirmed he was not the father of her 14-year-old son.

The man - who once caught his wife in a compromising position with a neighbour - secretly took the boy for a DNA test after his own mother raised doubts about the boy's parentage from the time he was four. "(X) is looking less and less like you. There is nothing similar, not even his ears or toes or fingers," the man's mother said.

The couple began living together in their late 20s and married in 1984. The boy was born in 1995 and still believes the man is his father. "For him, this has been an unfortunate situation not of his own making," Federal Magistrate Stephen Scarlett said in his ruling.

"In January 2009, the parties separated and the person whom the child thought was his father moved out of the matrimonial home. Less than a year and a half later, the child's father figure no longer has anything to do with him. "Effectively, he is now without a father, through no fault of his own. From the child's point of view, his father (as he thought) has rejected him, for no apparent reason.

"The applicant's desire to find out the truth about the child's paternity will result in a financial benefit to him, at the expense of collateral damage to the child."

The couple divorced in 2010, but the father continued paying for the boy's overseas holidays, school fees and $700 a month in child support. Now the court has ordered the women to pay the man $12,969.

The man has had no contact with the boy he believed was his son since the DNA tests confirmed he was not the father. The woman must repay the child support as well as $4038 in court costs within 12 months.


Federal Government to hand out $550 million to keep Queensland children at school

Poor families get a chance at bigger handouts

ALMOST $550 million will be set aside by the Federal Government to lure Queensland parents into keeping their children in school until Year 12.

New figures reveal that parents of more than 137,700 Queensland teenagers will qualify for a $4000 average payment to stop their kids dropping out of school.

The cash carrot is aimed at arresting the alarming rate of dropouts nationally, with 630,000 teens eligible across the country.

Premier Anna Bligh said last month Queensland's retention rate was higher than the national average of 78.5 per cent.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard today will urge parents to take up the offer when it kicks in on January 1, in the interests of their children's education and future employment prospects.

"There's only one place for kids to be and that's in school," she said. "My message is clear. Stay in school. When you leave school for the summer break, don't say long goodbyes. Come back next year and finish your education. It will open doors and give you a big leg-up in life."

The payments, a key election promise of Ms Gillard, will be offered to parents of 16 to 19-year-old teenagers across the state, in the form of an income tested boost to existing Family Tax Benefit A. The students would have to stay in full-time secondary school study or a vocational equivalent such as a TAFE course.

New research suggests the cost of keeping older teenagers in school is 30-40 per cent higher than younger students, yet the current family tax payments wind down by more than 70 per cent after children turn 16.

Currently, the maximum FTB A payments drop by almost 70 per cent when students turn 16, with the highest bracket dropping from up to $6300 to about $2000.

The Prime Minister said the extra money would help struggling families keep their children in school which, in turn, would help them get better jobs and higher incomes. "This will be a big help to those families under financial pressure, who are finding it hard to support older teenagers to stay at school or in training," Ms Gillard said. "It's not right that at the moment, families get less money when their kids turn 16. We're turning that around."

The $4000 boost would help families cope with the extra costs of keeping their older teenagers in school.

The maximum rate of FTB A for 16-17 year-olds in secondary school would be increased by $4208 and for 18-19 year-olds in school, by $3741 a year.


Plan for world's biggest marine park in Coral Sea will prove costly

PLANS to protect the Coral Sea as the world's biggest marine park will cost taxpayers a billion-dollar buyout, deep-sea fishing industry figures warn.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke yesterday unveiled draft plans for the Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve covering nearly 1 million square kilometres of ocean, nearly half the size of Queensland.

Great Barrier Reef Tuna owner Bob Lamason, who has four of 15 long-line tuna boats operating in the Coral Sea, said the proposal spelled the end of his multimillion-dollar family business. "We'll be left with nothing," said the veteran skipper, who sends 700 tonnes of fish to market every year. "They'll have to pay us all out - a complete buyout of licences, boats and business - or we face death by a thousand cuts."

Mr Burke said the Coral Sea had a diverse array of coral reefs, sandy cays, deep sea plains and canyons with more than 20 outstanding examples of isolated tropical reefs.

Some fish species found in the Coral Sea - from the Torres Strait to Bundaberg and between 60km and 1100km offshore - were under pressure from over-fishing and habitat degradation.

Greens environment spokeswoman Larissa Waters said the draft plan did not go far enough. "Of the handful of commercial fishers operating in the Coral Sea, most are willing to be bought out," she said. "And the Greens will push in our Budget negotiations with Government for appropriate compensation to end commercial fishing and create one large, protected area."

Senator Waters said the Greens welcomed the proposed ban on oil and gas mining, sea bed trawling and gillnet fishing.

Australian Marine Conservation Society spokesman Darren Kindleysides said only the eastern half of the Reef had been set aside while the western half contained most of the species-rich coral reefs and critical spawning sites for black marlin and threatened tuna.

Cairns and Far North Environment Centre spokesman Steve Ryan said many Coral Sea jewels were unprotected.

Queensland Seafood Industry Association president Geoff Tilton said the fishing ban would hurt fishermen and consumers.


NSW government caves in to featherbedded unionists

It’s business as usual at Sydney Ferries. Unions have managed to secure a cosy little deal with the government. Along with 3.25% annual wage increases for the next two years, workers will receive a once-off bonus payment of 30 weeks pay simply for taking a job with the soon-to-be private ferry operator. All financed of course by the NSW taxpayer.

A month ago I released a paper arguing that the franchise reform planned for Sydney Ferries will not create any meaningful change for Sydney’s taxpayers. I argued that whilst there may be a lot of talk about improvement and value for taxpayers, there will be no competition, no reduction in subsidies, and no incentive to increase productivity. The controls, the restrictions and the wasted tax dollars will all continue, only under the guise of reform and privatisation.

At the time I wrote the paper, all the hallmarks of union abuse were there – inflexible work practices, low productivity, generous pay and benefits, and abuse of sick leave and other penalties. I was hopeful that even if new management could not solve the structural problems of monopoly and subsidy, perhaps they could solve these cultural problems and increase productivity.

If these recent events are anything to go by, it looks like the unions are set to transfer their old obstructive, rent-seeking behaviours to the new operator and the government have acquiesced to it.

So what was happening in the private market while the workers were off the job securing their juicy accord? The two private fast-ferry companies that operate alongside Sydney Ferries on the Manly leg took full advantage of Sydney Ferries’ absence by adding extra services and slashing prices.

The words of Manly Fast Ferry’s Richard Ford sum it up quite nicely: ‘The market is always a better place if there’s competition.’


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Getting unqualified blacks into university is pointless in Australia too

In much of the USA a black High School diploma is meaningless, not even guaranteeing literacy -- but it will get the holder into some sort of tertiary institution, where graduation rates are low. And even if the student does graduate, his/her skillset will often still not rise much above literacy. Without primary and secondary schools that provide a meaningful education, very little can be done for the black student at the tertiary level.

The folly is less advanced in Britain, with the government putting pressure on the universities to accept underqualified students from sink schools but at least the top tier of British universities seems to be fairly successful in resisting that pressure so far. Sara Hudson below is warning the Australian government that they too should fix the schools first

The Australian Government is conducting a Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. According to the government the review will provide advice and make recommendations on achieving parity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, best practice and opportunities inside universities and other higher education providers, the effectiveness of affirmative action policies and the recognition of Indigenous knowledge in the higher education sector.

Our submission to the review (available on our website here) argues that it is not affirmative action or opportunities inside universities that the government should be concerned with but the ‘sink schools’ in welfare dependent suburbs and the Indigenous ‘schools’ in remote communities. These schools do not provide adequate primary and secondary education to enable children to proceed to university. The few Indigenous students from urban welfare dependent families or remote communities who qualify for university are almost always those whose parents have them board with relatives to access quality mainstream schools, or those at quality boarding schools on scholarships.

Conversely, Indigenous students from working families are attending university in record numbers. In 2009 Indigenous higher education enrolment had grown to 10,465 with an estimated 26, 0000 Indigenous graduates in the labour force by the end of 2010. Increasing numbers of Indigenous graduates are going on to quality post-graduate degrees that will enable them to qualify for academic posts. The remarkable success of these students shows that ‘affirmative action’ is not needed.

With a small proportion of the total population, Indigenous academics will always only form a small proportion of academic staff. It is extremely important for their reputation as well as their self-esteem that they are not stigmatized as being appointed by ‘affirmative action’ rather than on merit.

No amount of affirmative action will make any difference for those Indigenous students from urban welfare dependent and remote communities. These students will continue to have low participation in higher education until the deficits of substandard pre-school, primary and secondary education cease. To put it simply, if children are not taught to read, write and count, they have no hope of going to university.


Bungling NSW public hospitals are regular killers

MEDICAL mishaps including medication errors, misdiagnosis or botched surgery, contributed to the death of a patient a day in NSW public hospitals.

In six months from January to June 2010, 209 patients died, while a further 64,225 cases of "harmful or potentially harmful" incidents were reported to the Clinical Excellence Commission, a new report reveals.

It found 11 cases of "retained material", such as swabs or scissors being left inside a patient; 54 cases of identification mix-ups and 50 incidents of a patient receiving the wrong or no treatment.

Figures reveal the number of clinical incidents rose from 62,269 for the same period in 2009, with almost 300 cases classified as extremely severe.

Of those, 163 were "clinical management" errors, defined in the report as any incident in the diagnosis, treatment or delivery of care, including "unintended injury during a medical/surgical procedure, surgery on the wrong body part or delays in diagnosis.

CEO of the Clinical Excellence Commission Professor Clifford Hughes attributed the rise in clinical incidents to more health care staff using the reporting system. "There is an increasing willingness of the system to report. The only real reason they want to report is to improve the system," Professor Hughes said.

"Every single incident here is something for us to try to do something about. These people (staff) want to learn and they want to do it better."

Patients falling remained one of the most common incidents, with 12,670 cases reported during the first half of last year.

There were 11,171 medication or intravenous fluid incidents, which includes prescribing errors and incorrect IV infusion rates and 4,495 errors in documentation.

According to the report there were more than 780,000 patients admitted to the public health system, and clinical incidents were notified at an overall rate of 21 per 1000 bed days.

According to the Bureau of Health Information Healthcare in Focus 2011 report, released this week in NSW, 21 per cent of adults who have used health care for a serious or chronic condition think a medical mistake, medication error or incorrect lab result occurred during their care in the previous two years.

The report found that of "sicker adults" who had surgery or were hospitalised in the past two years, 13 per cent reported developing an infection during or shortly after their hospital stay.


Australia's decrepit Navy

MORE than half the Royal Australian Navy's fleet has been forced out of action for repairs to unexpected faults or defects over the past year.

Official figures reveal some vessels were out of action for months while others have been put on "extended readiness" - they could be put into service but at a later date - due to a lack of crew. Two minehunters have been mothballed indefinitely.

Opposition defence spokesman David Johnston said the fleet's parlous state was now an issue of national security.

"The past four years of the Rudd-Gillard government has seen our naval fleet fall into a state of disrepair with many ships sidelined because of a lack of care and maintenance," he said. "It has long ceased to be just a maintenance issue and is now an issue of national security."

The figures related to the state of the naval fleet between January and June this year.

Two of the navy's newest ships, minehunters HMAS Hawkesbury and HMAS Norman - built by Australian Defence Industries in Newcastle and commissioned in 2000 - were "decrewed" and placed into reserve this year.

If the ships were required to come back into service, the Department of Defence estimates it would take up to five years to bring them back to operational status.

Of the 12 frigates, Anzac and Arunta were placed in "extended readiness" due to the navy being unable to obtained sufficient numbers of qualified marine technicians.

A third, Newcastle, underwent scheduled maintenance between January and April only to be brought back to the yard twice for "unscheduled defect rectification".

Both naval supply ships, Success and Sirius, have also had maintenance setbacks.

Success was double-skinned for about $12 million in Singapore to help guard against potential oil leaks only for the vessel to be returned to Australia for maintenance.

Sirius underwent maintenance in the first half of the year only to be put out of action again in June due to defects.

Of the nine amphibious ships, Kanimbla has been placed in an "operational pause" while Manoora was decommissioned after ongoing repairs were deemed too costly.

The 14 Patrol Boat Force vessels, most of which are heavily involved in intercepting illegal boats, have also been in and out of action due to ongoing repairs.

A spokesman for Defence Minister Stephen Smith said the navy was addressing the problems as identified in the report on naval repair by the defence management expert Paul Rizzo.

"The navy currently meets its operational commitments be they in the Middle East, on border protection operations, in international engagement or in multilateral training exercises," the spokesman said.

"It is now making solid headway in progressing Mr Rizzo's recommendations."


Airline had no option but to take a stand, says Future Fund chief

THE Future Fund chief, David Murray, has backed Qantas in the dispute with its workforce, saying unless companies like the airline tackle entrenched union privilege Australia risks the same fate as Europe.

And he says the government is aping Europe by borrowing to buy votes. "My European banking counterparts tell me they can't cut jobs without offering three years redundancy," he told a forecasting conference in Sydney. "We are creeping towards that in the new industrial relations framework. It gives unions a right to bargain in areas [that were] traditionally the management's prerogative.

"Australia started out after the Second World War making work arrangements a little bit more reliable, introducing the rule of law, but the process has gone too far - it gets to the point of unaffordability.

"Qantas management have no option but to do what they are doing. They are running an unviable airline. "With terrible productivity internationally they are hostage to competitors domestically. The stakes are high. Qantas is not the only company."

The former Commonwealth Bank chief was appointed chairman of the Future Fund in 2004 by the then Coalition Treasurer Peter Costello. He steps down in April and has already accepted a part-time role with the global investment bank Credit Suisse.

"I don't see anything concrete on productivity," he said. "I don't see governments trying to wind back their debt positions rapidly, I don't see people coming off subsidy arrangements for industry, in fact new arrangements are more the norm.

"I would have thought what is happening in Europe would be one of the most timely wake-up calls in Australia's history. "Yet it is being completely ignored because we've had 20 years of growth. "The size of complacency here is outrightly dangerous.

"What is it that's wrong? It is the process by which public debt is used to buy votes with the promises of entitlements. If you borrow to buy votes you are expropriating the savings of other people."

Asked whether now was the right time to slash spending and cut debt, Mr Murray said it was better to do it when unemployment was around 5 per cent than later, when it went higher.

The carbon tax and the mining tax were also badly timed. "Irrespective of what you believe about climate change, given what's happening in the world, the timing of the policy response is not good at all," Mr Murray said. "The timing of [the] introduction of a mining tax when the terms of trade boom was just about to end is not good at all either."

Mr Murray said a simpler way of redistributing mining income would have been to end the tax deductibility of royalty payments and use the proceeds to cut company tax.

"It could be done in two lines of code, a few lines of legislation," he said.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ethicist calls for corrupt University of Queensland boss to release scandal details

It grieves me that this greedy and corrupt Jewish man seems to be doing everything in his power to reinforce hateful old stereotypes about Jews

UNIVERSITY of Queensland vice-chancellor Paul Greenfield should reveal all about the nepotism scandal or face a Commission of Inquiry, a leading jurist said yesterday.

James Thomas, a retired Supreme Court judge, urged Prof Greenfield to waive his rights to privacy and tell all. "His right to privacy is questionable, especially when there is an allegation of nepotism," Justice Thomas said. "High public sector ethics are the least that should be expected from the chief executive officer of such an institution.

"The lack of information about what the vice-chancellor and his deputy actually did continues to worry a significant minority of persons interested in university's welfare. "If there has been no more than an administrative blunder or error of judgment, it would be heartening to be told the facts."

Prof Greenfield and his deputy Michael Keniger offered to stand down after in independent barrister found "irregularities" in the enrolment process of a student. The student was a "close family member" of Prof Greenfield.

Prof Greenfield, who was paid $1,069,999 last year, said the incident arose as a result of a "misunderstanding". A relative of his was able enter a course for which they had not qualified. He has failed to elaborate.

The university Senate has decided Prof Greenfield will stay until June next year after his 65th birthday, while Prof Keniger will leave in December. There have been calls for Prof Greenfield to leave the campus immediately to avoid further tarnishing the university's reputation.

Justice Thomas, 76, lectured in ethics at the university and in 1988 published a textbook, Judicial Ethics in Australia. He was a member of the university's faculty board.

He said he could appreciate how the university's disciplinary system should ordinarily be internal and private. "It settles grievances and punishes misconduct of its students and staff through internal reviews which are not carried out under the glare of publicity," he said. "Without the protection of guaranteed privacy, many complaints would go unreported and the system would be the worse for it.

"Most issues that arise within the university are better dealt with in this way than by trial by media where there is public exposure, and public arguing of the case as it comes out piece by piece. "It is to the credit of the university that a proper inquiry was conducted and its outcome announced.

"To that extent the vice-chancellor was subjected to the same disciplinary process that applies to students, staff and university officers.

"But no charge was proceeded with following the barrister's report, and the only action taken by the university was the "standing down" announcement. "It was not regarded as sufficiently serious to require anything more than a public slap on the wrist.

"The vice-chancellor is of course legally entitled to require all information that was obtained during the investigation, and its findings, to be kept in-house. "That is his legal right.

"But it is strongly arguable that his ethical duty as leader of a great public institution demands more from him than sitting on his legal rights.

"A vice-chancellor is in a different position to a lowly student. "The university is a great institution, bigger than some government departments. "Thousands of citizens aspire to enter it.

"They need to know that its entry requirements are publicly stated and rigidly applied, and that entrance will always be on merit, not favour. "Concerns of this kind are currently held by many, and they tend to affect the reputation of the university. "His is the public face of the institution."


Win for the Greens, but a loss for Australia

Huge fishery locked away

The Government’s decision to release the proposed maps of the million square kilometre Coral Sea Marine Reserve was a great victory for the American environmental group, PEW foundation, and their public relations tactics. But it has been a huge loss to the Australian fishing charter boat industry and will have an effect on recreational fishing, Queensland Senator Ron Boswell said today. “Charter boats, trawlers, fishermen, are going to bear a very heavy cost for the government and the 'green movements' decision.

And the processors, slip ways, refrigeration operations industry and all other supporting industries, are going to take a huge hit." “There is a thirty boat, charter industry that operates out of Cairns. It pumps about sixty million dollars into the local economy every year. It brings wealthy international travellers in to enjoy the North Queensland Marlin fishery. It is tag and release fishing, and is one of the most sustainable in the world," Senator Boswell said. “The charter boats, and the small number of fisherman, will be excluded from the massive green zone."

Both the Greens and the Minister recognise that the Coral Sea is in a pristine condition. This is due to the charter boats and fishermen who fish in the green zone and monitor any illegal fishing methods, such as drift nets, super seiners, and long liners mass destructive methods, and report any illegal fishing in the area. They also monitor catches and pass that information on to government.

Senator Boswell also said that, “this decision will leave the Coral Sea with no monitoring, there will be no observation of illegal fishing, and if the Coral Sea is in pristine condition, the Greens can thank the charter boat and fishermen who work the area for keeping it so."

“There will be no activity out there in the Coral Sea to observe, it will be an open invite to illegal fishing in the Coral Sea."

“Trawlers will also be completely excluded from the marine park. Forty deep sea trawlers that work in the southern end of the marine park, and a hundred other east coast licences that work on an irregular basis will be excluded."

Press release dated 25 Nov. from Queensland Senator Boswell above

New twist on a stupid Greenie scheme

These "public bicycle" schemes usually suffer from a low uptake and theft of the bicycles. Brisbane's council has increased the uptake only at the expense of another loss

THE CityCycle trial of free helmets and more flexible subscription packages has been a success with a 72 per cent increase in the number of weekly trips since the changes were made by Lord Mayor Graham Quirk three months ago.

But council audits have found about 250 of the initial 400 courtesy helmets had been "misplaced" during the trial.

The loss of 250 helmets is the latest issue to plague CityCycle, which has faced a host of problems since its conception. Originally planned to be launched in 2009, the initiative was delayed a year when the operator couldn’t find enough free space around town to install the cycle stations.

Within three months of its launch in 2010, the amount of annual subscribers plummeted dramatically from 1251 when it started in October to just 131 in January 2011.

With less and less people subscribing, the Council dropped the daily charges from $11 to just $2 in August and offered free helmets as an incentive. The helmets cost around $10 each for the Council to replace.

The CityScycle scheme has cost ratepayers around $300,000 as of August.

Public and Active Transport Chairman Julian Simmonds said the weekly average of the scheme during its first 10 months was 1,470 trips. During the past three months the average had jumped to 2,530 trips per week.

CityCycle last week celebrated its 100,000th trip since its launch in October last year and often reaches 500 trips a day.

“Every CityCycle trip is potentially one less vehicle on the road and it is part of Brisbane’s overall public transport infrastructure and offering residents and visitors an alternative, sustainable mode of travel in the inner-city," Cr Simmonds said.

“Courtesy helmets and cheaper subscriptions have clearly made it easier for people to hop on a bike so we’re going to distribute an extra 500 free helmets at no additional cost to ratepayers and also introduce a more affordable package for students.”

Cr Simmonds said the 500 new helmets would be jointly provided with operator JC Decaux. Council’s $2,500 share of the cost would come from the existing CityCycle marketing budget.

Construction has commenced on stage two of CityCycle which will see a further 46 stations rolled out across Milton, Auchenflower, Toowong, St Lucia and Dutton Park.

Six new stations have already opened, including new stations at South Bank’s Maritime Museum, at the popular cafĂ© precinct in Park Road at Milton, as well as a new station on the Bicentennial Bikeway.


"Asylum seekers" in Australia's suburbs

THOUSANDS of asylum seekers are expected to flood the suburbs as the Federal Government rolls out bridging visas allowing boat people to live and work in the community and collect welfare.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has handed out the first bridging visas for 27 men, mostly Afghans and Sri Lankans, whose refugee claims are being assessed. Mr Bowen said the men would be released from detention centres, including Melbourne, in coming days - with 100 a month to follow.

It comes as a secret government briefing note seen by the Herald Sun suggests thousands of boat people will soon be transferred into the community.

The NSW Government note reports a warning by the Immigration Department this week that arrivals will balloon when word spreads that asylum seekers arriving by boat are no longer to be held in detention. "Once it is widely known that IMAs will live in the community while being processed, the level of entries into Australia are very likely to escalate," the note said.

The majority are expected to be housed in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

The note followed a meeting between Department of Immigration officials and the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet.

The radical move to a softened onshore processing system comes after the collapse of PM Julia Gillard's Malaysia deal and after the arrival of more than 300 asylum seekers this week.

Mr Bowen said the first batch of asylum seekers to be given bridging visas were long-term detainees who have cleared health, security and identity checks, and will live with friends or family. From next month, at least 100 people a month will be released while their asylum claims are processed.

A person's time in detention, their behavioural record and their family's ability to support them will decide who is chosen. "People who are assessed to pose an unacceptable risk to the community will remain in an immigration detention facility," Mr Bowen said.

Those released will be able to get jobs and up to $215 a week in means-tested payments, but will not qualify for Centrelink benefits.


Another bungled helicopter purchase

YET another big-ticket military helicopter project is about be added to the Government's defence project list of shame.

The $2 billion contract to supply the army and navy with 46 MRH 90 European-built multi-role helicopters will become the latest to make the so-called "projects of concern" list.

High-level military sources told The Courier-Mail that the project would be added to the list provided Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare accepted the recommendation of the latest "diagnostic review" of the project.

So far only 13 of the 46 machines have been accepted by Defence and deliveries are more than 18 months late.

A source said the chopper still had major problems with its navigation systems.

The MRH 90 will be the second helicopter project to make the list of shame following the Sea Sprite navy helicopter debacle that cost taxpayers more than $1 billion before being abandoned.

There are nine projects on the current list ranging from submarine sustainment to standoff missiles and all companies involved, including multinationals such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, are barred from further taxpayer-funded contracts until their project is removed from the list.

The hi-tech, fly-by-wire, composite, twin-engine MRH 90 helicopter is built by European giant Eurocopter and assembled in Brisbane by its subsidiary Australian Aerospace.

The project has been dogged by serious technical issues including an engine failure due to overheating, cracked windscreens, soft cargo flooring and avionic and navigation problems. It is the latter that continues to cause difficulties, especially for navy versions operating from ships.

A well-placed source said technical issues such as the navigation problems had been addressed and would soon be rectified.

Former commander of the navy's 808 Squadron, Commander Tim Leonard, last year said there had been poor system reliability or design on cabin floors, windscreens, main gear box, machinegun mounts and engines.

Due to regular groundings of the 13 choppers already delivered to Defence, the pilot training schedule had also been thrown into disarray.

The Government and Australian Aerospace are reportedly about to sign an agreement with a new timetable for fixing the outstanding faults and getting deliveries back on track by March next year.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Barrister Greg Williams reports University of Queensland nepotism scandal to police

Greenfield may be psychopathic enough to withstand the continuous battering he is attracting but it is amazing that the University Senate is ignoring its responsibilities by doing nothing about him

A BRISBANE barrister who says he is "ashamed and disgusted" at the University of Queensland nepotism scandal yesterday made a complaint to police. Greg Williams urged police to investigate whether there has been any wrongdoing.

"The university is acting like a secretive and paranoid government department," Mr Williams said. "It's time the university realised it is not a law unto itself. Now is the time to make full disclosures about these matters to uphold its reputation and the reputation of those students who have passed through its doors."

Mr Williams also chided the university Senate, the governing body, for a lack of transparency in not releasing the independent report by Tim Carmody, SC.

Vice Chancellor Paul Greenfield and his deputy Michael Keniger offered to stand down after Mr Carmody found "irregularities" in the enrolment process. Later, it was admitted the student at the centre of the row was a "close family member" of Prof Greenfield.

Prof Greenfield, who was paid $1,069,999 last year, claimed the incident arose because of an error and as the result of a "misunderstanding" but failed to elaborate.

The university Senate has decided Prof Greenfield will stay until June next year, after his 65th birthday, while Prof Keniger will leave in December.

There is growing disquiet in the community with calls for Prof Greenfield to leave the campus immediately to avoid further tarnishing the university's reputation.

Mr Williams graduated from the Law School in 1987. He was admitted as a barrister in 1996 and does not practise as a barrister. He is now a company director who is angry the reputation of his old law school at the university is under a cloud.

"Why me? Why am I doing this? There are thousands of academics at the university. Why haven't more of them stepped up to demand accountability? It's shameful," he said.


Sir Lunchalot was a VERY naughty boy

Former Labor energy minister Ian Macdonald accepted "sexual services" from a young woman named Tiffanie in return for arranging meetings between property developer Ron Medich and executives of two state-owned energy companies, the Independent Commission Against Corruption heard today.

On the first day of a corruption inquiry, counsel assisting the ICAC, Geoffrey Watson, SC, alleged Mr Medich and former boxer Lucky Gattellari arranged for Mr Macdonald to "take his pick" of a group of young women "kept" by Mr Gattellari with the knowledge of Mr Medich "for themselves and their guests".

Mr Watson told the inquiry that Mr Macdonald chose a woman named Tiffanie who was later "installed" in a room at the Four Seasons Hotel in the Rocks on July 15, 2009.

Mr Watson said Mr Macdonald had told the ICAC he "noticed some neck tightness and simply attended a remedial massage organised by Mr Medich".

But Mr Watson said: "You might think it strange that a remedial massage was to be provided by a young woman with no training or expertise as a masseuse, late at night, in a private room in a five-star hotel, rather than a conventional setting." Mr Watson said there was "some kissing and fondling, but ultimately no sexual intercourse".

Mr Watson said that, in 2009, Mr Medich owned and controlled several businesses that could have supplied electrical services to EnergyAustralia or Country Energy. The businesses included a number of companies called the Rivercorp Group.

The inquiry has heard that two meetings were organised by Mr Macdonald at the request of Mr Medich and Mr Gattellari, both at the Tuscany restaurant in Leichhardt.

The first, on June 1, 2009, was between the managing director of EnergyAustralia, George Maltabarow, and Mr Macdonald. During the evening, Mr Medich came to the table with an unidentified man and they were introduced to Mr Maltabarow. "Medich delivered a long description of the services that Rivercorp could supply to EnergyAustralia," Mr Watson said. "As it turns out, Mr Maltabarow was underwhelmed and formed a negative view about the skills and experience of Mr Medich."

The second meeting, also at Tuscany, on July 15, 2009, was a dinner between Mr Macdonald and Craig Murray, who was, at the time, managing director of Country Energy.

"Shortly after ordering their meals ... Medich and [the then chief executive of Rivercorp, Kim] Shipley came over, were introduced by Macdonald, and sat down," Mr Watson told the ICAC. Mr Medich and Mr Shipley "presented a sales pitch for the services Rivercorp could provide to Country Energy", Mr Watson said.

He said it would be alleged that Mr Macdonald's "reward" for arranging the meetings was sexual services.

The then owner of Tuscany, Frank Moio, had been approached by Mr Macdonald before the July 15 meeting to ask "that he be provided that night with a woman".

The commission heard that Mr Gattellari organised for a group of women to be seated at a separate table to Mr Macdonald at Tuscany "and to be put in a place within the view of Mr Macdonald so that Macdonald could take his pick of those ladies".

The inquiry has been told the women were in their late 20s and possibly Japanese or Chinese students.

Mr Macdonald is alleged to have chosen Tiffanie, who was taken to the Four Seasons Hotel and "installed" in a room, for which Mr Gattellari paid $400. Mr Medich is said to have driven Mr Macdonald to the hotel and given him the room key.

Mr Watson said there was no suggestion of wrongdoing by Mr Maltabarow nor Mr Murray, but that it would be alleged that Mr Macdonald, Mr Medich, Mr Gattellari and Mr Moio "engaged in corrupt conduct".


Queensland Premier Anna Bligh offers coal seam gas industry help on green tape

Sounds like it is going to need it

PREMIER Anna Bligh has promised to take on the Federal Government over any increase to red tape from its new oversight of the coal seam gas industry.

The Gillard Government has agreed to make impacts on underground water a trigger for federal intervention in the approval of coal seam gas projects. It adds to the existing triggers of heritage and threatened species.

While the State Government said it was comfortable that its processes and approvals were of the higher scientific standard, Ms Bligh said she would not accept more bureaucracy. "This has to be something that adds value, not something that adds bureaucracy," Ms Bligh said.

Queensland Gas senior vice-president Jim Knudsen said the state already had the world's most regulated gas industry. "It's an extra regulation," Mr Knudsen said. "We are disappointed that was the outcome. "Having one more level of oversight is going to be very difficult for everyone."

Mr Knudsen said the industry had just been getting comfortable with the 1500 conditions imposed by the federal and state process. "So we will have to wait and see what comes out of this new opportunity for the feds."

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association said it didn't want any duplication of existing regulations.

Association chief executive David Byers it appeared the package had the potential to cause major project delays. "The states already have rigorous regulatory processes in place and one third of eastern Australia's natural gas supply already comes from CSG, developed safely and responsibly under this oversight," he said.

"Any regulatory changes should not overturn good practice, or do anything to hurt the jobs or business interests of the thousands of Australians already working in the CSG industry. "It is concerning to see the Commonwealth flagging possible amendments to create a trigger for more intervention."

Greens senator Larissa Waters said it was unlikely the new trigger levels would affect the Queensland CSG industry because approvals had already been granted for three projects and a decision of the fourth, by Arrow, would be made well before legislation was introduced in about 18 months.


Boat arrival tally passes department danger level

THE fourth people-smugglers' boat in three days has carried the 701st passenger for November into Australian waters - confirming the Immigration Department's warning to the opposition of the consequences of the collapse of the Malaysia plan.

Two boats, carrying 144 asylum seekers and crew, were intercepted yesterday, quickly passing the controversial "600-a-month" threshold the Immigration Department secretary, Andrew Metcalfe, warned would make immigration detention unviable and could lead to European-style social unrest.

Asylum seeker arrivals have more than doubled since last month, when the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, announced the effective end of offshore processing because the opposition would not pass legislation to overcome a High Court ban on the Malaysia refugee swap.

Since then, there has been one boat tragedy with eight asylum seekers drowning off Java and the death of a skipper in an incident off Christmas Island this week.

The Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, challenged the Coalition to match "hollow words" on stopping the boats with action. "If the opposition wants to see offshore processing, we want to see offshore processing; the only difference is we're prepared to vote for it," he said.

But his opposition counterpart, Scott Morrison, called for the government to instead bring an immediate vote on the opposition's amendment to the bill, to only allow offshore processing in countries that have signed the Refugee Convention. The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, told Parliament: "The boats keep coming day in, day out".

Arrival numbers have returned to the peak seen late last year - before the December boat crash claimed 50 lives and acted as a brake on dangerous voyages - a level which led to severe overcrowding on Christmas Island, and riots among detainees.

Fourteen boats carrying 955 asylum seekers and crew have arrived since October 13, when the government said it would use bridging visas to move asylum seekers into the community to avoid detention crowding.

The Immigration Department had forecast just 750 asylum seekers arriving in 2011 in the federal budget, and the Mid-Year Economic Forecast, expected to be released next week, must revise spending upwards to account for the bigger numbers.

Mr Morrison said: "People smugglers are cramming more people onto dangerous boats in the lead-up to the monsoon season and the government has no policy in place to offer even the slightest deterrence."

Mr Bowen said the Coalition had "made a political decision, a calculation, that it is not in their political interest to see boat arrivals in Australia stop".

There were 959 people in detention on Christmas Island last Friday, with 344 more arrivals this week. There are 3923 asylum seekers in mainland detention.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Professor expresses outrage at University of Queensland enrolment scandal

That corrupt university boss Greenfield refuses to stand down is a disgrace to him personally, to his Jewish community and to my alma mater. It's hardly unknown for such a highly paid man to be so amoral but it is certainly reprehensible. The university is undoubtedly not getting value for money

A LEADING doctor and University of Queensland academic said there was "great anger" within the institution over the enrolment scandal engulfing vice-chancellor Paul Greenfield.

Associate Professor David Colquhoun yesterday urged Prof Greenfield to step down immediately because the controversy involving one of the vice-chancellor's close family members was "eating away at the integrity and morale of the university".

He said some specialist doctors teaching at the university were openly talking about boycotting the university while the cover-up continued. "We are angry. If the vice-chancellor was ethical he would ... step down now immediately," said Dr Colquhoun, a cardiologist who has taught at the university since 1984. "There is anger, great anger. Quote me as saying that. "One doctor told me he will never teach anyone at the university again. "Students, doctors and academics are all talking about it freely."

Prof Greenfield and his deputy Prof Michael Keniger offered to stand down after an integrity probe found "irregularities" in the enrolment process. Later, it was admitted the student at the centre of the row was a "close family member" of Prof Greenfield's.

Prof Greenfield, who was paid $1,069,999 last year, claimed the incident arose as the result of a "misunderstanding" but failed to elaborate.

The university Senate, the governing body, has decided Prof Greenfield will stay until June next year after his 65th birthday while Prof Keniger will leave in December.

There was community disquiet when the university tried to cover up the scandal. The details of the case still remain a closely guarded secret, with the university Senate declining to release the report.

The cover-up was continuing yesterday, with the university refusing to answer questions or release any information about the enrolment process. No students were disadvantaged, the university claims. Academic staff have been warned not to speak to the media.

Dr Colquhoun said the situation was "objectionable" and unworthy of one of the country's leading universities. "They are public servants and as such have a duty to stand down while an investigation happens," he said. "Public servants and politicians stand down while they are being investigated. That is the proper course of action.

"The vice-chancellor is the chief administrator of the rules and ethics." He said Prof Greenfield's decision to stay was an "embarrassment" and a blow to the integrity of the institution. "It's time he left so the university can begin to restore its reputation," Dr Colquhoun said.


'Slippery Pete'

Security in Parliament House is a rapid response operation. An extra guard was rustled up this morning to loiter calmly at Peter Slipper's door.

Whether trouble was expected from overly inquisitive journalists, or from Slipper's irate colleagues in the Liberal Party, was difficult to say.

The man known universally as Slippery Pete was set to occupy the Speaker's chair in the House of Representatives.

Such treachery and diabolical double dealing had not been seen in Canberra . . . well, since the last time, when Labor's Mal Colston enraged the progressive fraternity with a similarly fleet footed move in the Senate; thereby entering the pantheon of the parliamentary pariahs.

The guard at Slipper's door became two as the morning wore on.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, of course, is not amused.
Peter Slipper's move to the speaker's chair will rob the opposition of a crucial vote

Peter Slipper's move to the speaker's chair will rob the opposition of a crucial vote Photo: Glen McCurtayne GPM

Given the shock defection means an extra number for the Gillard government in the lower house, Slipper's colleagues are also far from amused.

So who is the Gillard government's new dancing partner? Slipper is a Queensland Liberal, who defected from the National Party. He holds the Sunshine Coast seat of Fisher, entering parliament as a National in 1984. He was defeated in 1987, then re-entered in 1993.

Despite harbouring considerable ambition, he languished during the Howard years. Voters outside Queensland would struggle to recognise him.

In recent times Slipper has grabbed headlines largely due to controversies surrounding travel entitlements. So far he's repaid more than $20,000 worth of incorrect claims. A lawyer, his reputation is as bon vivant.

Slipper's colourful parliamentary lifestyle has provided the Canberra beltway with plenty of anecdotal fodder over the years, has titillated the tabloids, and fuelled animosity with colleagues. His decision to accept a deputy speakers' post when it was offered by Gillard's minority government seriously rankled.

Most likely with the morning's events in the back of his mind, (or the risk of Slipper defecting permanently to the crossbench), Abbott has been trying to calm events in Queensland, where Slipper faces an acrimonious preselection challenge from former Howard government minister Mal Brough.

But momentum, once gathered, is hard to undo. Slipper enraged his colleagues last week by bringing the Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd to his electorate when John Howard was just down the road, launching the campaign of state MP John Connolly.

The estrangement from his colleagues was complete this morning, when Abbott indicated Slipper would have to quit the Liberal Party if he wanted to indulge his latest theatrics — the frolic with the speakership.

Slipper occupied the speaker's chair almost immediately after Labor's Harry Jenkins departed this morning.

As the parliamentary thunderbolts and outrage ensued, Slipper showed no signs of listening.


O'Chee influence claims sent to News lawsuit

That O'Chee is a slippery character who tries to evade his debts should be mentioned. One wonders who paid him this time

ALLEGATIONS that News Ltd offered a senator a "special relationship" if he crossed the floor on a vote of financial interest to the company have been included in a US lawsuit being run by News shareholders against the company's New York parent organisation.

Yesterday it was revealed federal police are investigating claims the News Ltd executive Malcolm Colless told then Queensland senator Bill O'Chee, during a 1998 lunch in Brisbane, he would be "taken care of" if he voted in accordance with News's interests. The allegations of Mr O'Chee were contained in a nine-page police statement made by Mr O'Chee, and seen by the Herald.

It can now be revealed that a statutory declaration making the same claims has been provided to lawyers running a class action against News Corporation's New York leadership, on behalf of shareholders who say mismanagement has damaged the company financially.

After being revealed by the Herald, the story of the federal police investigation was picked up by hundreds of newspapers and media outlets in Britain, the US and elsewhere.

The outgoing News Ltd chairman, John Hartigan, yesterday denied the allegations of improper conduct by any executive.

"The executive referred to in today's report, Malcolm Colless, has confirmed that no improper conversation took place during the 1998 lunch with former Nationals senator O'Chee."

Mr Hartigan noted that neither of the other two people at the table at Pier 9 restaurant in Brisbane in June of that year recalled any improper offer.

He also said neither News Ltd nor Mr Colless have been contacted by federal police, who have been investigating the matter since November 4.

Mr Colless worked with News Ltd for almost 50 years, as a journalist and then as an executive. He was director of corporate development when he met Mr O'Chee in 1998, and he retired in 2007 and runs a consulting company.


Criminal bungle at government hospital in Melbourne

A HEALTHY 32-week-old fetus was accidentally terminated in a botched procedure at the Royal Women's Hospital.

A Victorian mother, pregnant with twin boys she had already named, had made the agonising decision to abort one of the babies on doctors' advice, the Herald Sun reported. She had been told that one twin had a congenital heart defect that would require years of operations, if he survived at all.

An ultrasound clinician had checked the healthy baby, who was in a separate sac to the sick baby, before the termination.

But just after 2.30pm on Tuesday the wrong baby was injected, terminating the healthy pregnancy.

The mother then had an emergency caesarean section and the sick child was terminated in a three-hour operation.

A Royal Women's Hospital spokeswoman last night apologised for the "distressing clinical accident" and said the hospital was launching a full investigation.

A friend of the woman said the family was struggling to cope with the fatal mistake.

"She went to the hospital with two babies and now she has none. And she had the heartache of giving birth to her sick baby. She's traumatised," she said. "The hospital said it had followed correct procedure, but how could this happen? "The ultrasound clinician said she checked three times before the termination because she didn't want to make a mistake."

The woman's husband, a nurse, a doctor and the ultrasound clinician, who was reportedly inconsolable as a result of the error, were in the room at the time of the procedure.

The Herald Sun believes the family are considering legal action.

The ultrasound clinician performed the procedure because "she looks at ultrasounds all day", hospital sources said.

The late-term termination went ahead only after a review by the Royal Women's Hospital.

A hospital spokeswoman said: "The Royal Women's Hospital can confirm a distressing clinical accident occurred (on Tuesday). "This is a terrible tragedy and the hospital is deeply sorry for the loss suffered by the patient and her family."

Health Services Commissioner Beth Wilson, who resolves complaints against Victoria's hospitals, said she was shocked. "I have never dealt with a case like this before," she said.

Health Minister David Davis said: "This is an absolute tragedy for all concerned and my sympathies are with the family."


Labor's $100 million deal with the Greens over mining tax revealed after 12 hours of secrecy

THE Federal Government today revealed details of an extraordinary multi-million dollar pact with the Greens that secured Parliamentary support for a new law.

The deal means the Government will defer concessions for foreign banks to get $20 million a year in revenue the Greens want spent on public facilities.

Today’s announcement ended 12 hours of secrecy in which the Greens and Labor kept from Parliament and voters details of the deal to get the Mineral Resource Rental Tax (MRRT) through the House of Representatives early this morning.

Greens leader Bob Brown said today his party wanted the deal made public last night.

The tax on mining super profits will raise about $11 billion over four years.

Treasurer Wayne Swan was to have announced the details on the release of the Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) report expected next week. But it was brought forward to today following a barrage of criticism aimed at the secrecy pact enforced by the Government and Greens Leader Bob Brown.

Prime Minister Gillard defended the decision to allow the MRRT debate to proceed in Parliament without MPs being fully informed on related matters.

Ms Gillard said the Government wanted to release the details today “in accordance with normal, prudent Government measures and approaches”. “We wanted to alert stakeholders to the fact that we were acting that savings measure and we've been through that process this morning,” she told reporters.

The Prime Minister rejected a suggestion the vote should have been delayed until after the banks were told, and MPs could also have been informed.

She said the “one year pause” in the tax concession for foreign banks was a modest savings measure which had already been under consideration.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said Parliament, the Labor Caucus, cross-benchers and the Australian people had been “kept in the dark”. “The only person that the Prime Minister (Julia Gillard) appears to consult with on key issues is Bob Brown,” Mr Abbott said. “It’s not good enough. It’s no way to run a Government and it’s no way to run the country.”

The House of Representatives passed the MRRT early this morning after a night of negotiations between the Government and the Greens. The legislation is now expected to pass through the Senate.

But the Government, with Senator Brown's agreement, kept the details of the deal secret.

“There seems to be a pact between the Labor Party and the Greens that the rest of Australia is not part of,” Opposition resources spokesman Ian Macfarlane said.

The Greens demanded fresh negotiations on the tax after the Government this week increased the tax threshold - the point when the levy starts - to win the support of Independent MP Andrew Wilkie.

The complaint was that this reduced the revenue and could affect funding of schools and hospitals.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Labor's secret $100 million deal with the Greens

THE Government is keeping secret the $100 million pay-off it has made to get Green votes for its mining profits tax.

The House of Representatives passed the $11 billion Mineral Resource Rental Tax (MRRT) early this morning after a night of negotiations with the Greens leadership. It will go through the Senate next year.

But the Government is keeping secret the details of the deal with the Greens until the release of the Treasury’s latest assessment of the economy, the Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, expected next week.

“There seems to be a pact between the Labor Party and the Greens that the rest of Australia is not part of,” said Opposition resources spokesman Ian Macfarlane.

The Greens demanded fresh negotiations on the tax after the Government this week increased the tax threshold – the point when the levy starts – to win the support of independent MP Andrew Wilkie. The complaint was that this reduced the revenue and could affect funding of schools and hospitals. Senator Bob Brown said there had been a “$100 million win for the public” which he said would balance a similar concession to mining companies.

“The Government has agreed to an additional revenue measure at least equivalent to the $20 million a year ($100 million over five years) lost from raising the mining tax threshold to $75 million,” he said in a statement.

But Treasurer Wayne Swan this morning said the deal amounted to “something like $60 million over the forward estimates”. “That’s not a big call on the Budget,” Mr Swan told ABC radio. He called it “a perfectly reasonable thing to do”.

Whatever the amount, the Government will have to find further savings at a time when it already has said it will make billions in cuts with the MYEFO statement to ensure Australia gets a Budget surplus in 2012-13.

Treasurer Swan said today called the deal with the Greens - and expected passage of the bill - a win for the public. “But this isn't so much a win for the Government as it is for the Australian people and for the cause of economic reform amid an ocean of negativity and fear from (Opposition Leader Tony Abbott) and a handful of vested interests,” he said.

“Australians are entitled to share in the wealth that our natural resources bring and deserve to have extra superannuation savings to help ensure dignity in old age.

“Small business owners who work day in, day out to provide for their families and make our economy strong, also deserve to benefit from the wealth of the boom.

“It means tax cuts for 2.7m small businesses and an increase in the retirement savings for each one of our 8.4m working Australians. Much of those extra retirement savings will in turn be reinvested into Australian businesses which means more Australian jobs.

“The increase in the super guarantee from 9 to 12 per cent means that if you’re a 30 year old worker on average earnings, you’ll retire with an extra $108,000 in superannuation savings.

“It’s great news for 3.6 million low income workers, who will be given a total of $800 million in concessions each year on their employer superannuation contributions. These are the Australians who need fairness and this genuinely Labor reform will help deliver it.

“Australians know how important the mining industry is, but they also know that we can only dig up Australia’s resources once. “The MRRT will help us lock in the benefits of the boom and help those parts of our economy that aren’t in the mining boom fast-lane.”


Another blunder by Australia's defence procurement agency

Submarines that have never worked, helicopters that never flew -- and now this

DEFENCE has awarded a multi-million-dollar navy tender to a businessman who is blacklisted in the US and whose banned status shows up in even basic Google searches.

A Herald Sun investigation has found navy top brass had no idea William Thomas Rae, 38, was on the US blacklist when they selected him. Defence bosses did not require Mr Rae to disclose his status at any stage, and it was not uncovered by lawyers or probity advisers during the tender process.

The revelation of a significant gap between Australian and US vetting procedures comes as Prime Minister Julia Gillard and US President Barack Obama move to strengthen our military alliance.

Mr Rae's company Raecorp International Pty Ltd was chosen to provide logistics support to navy ships and submarines in Australian and foreign ports from April 2011 until 2014.

The supply role involves providing vessels with fuel, food, cars, security and any other required service here and overseas. He already has earned more than $3.4 million.

Queenslander Mr Rae - a director of the planned Brisbane Bombers NRL club - had been on the US government's "Excluded Parties List System" for almost a year when he won the navy work. The list is used by agencies worldwide to check for suspended or disqualified contractors.

One of Mr Rae's companies, Pure Blue Meats Pty Ltd - which once boasted of selling wagyu beef to the White House - was added to the list in June.

Defence bosses admit they did not know of Mr Rae's appearance on the list when they awarded the Standing Offer for Naval Port and Agency Services tender to his business RCI Military Logistics in April. A Defence spokeswoman said Mr Rae was not required to disclose his blacklisting in the US as part of the process, and his tender had been "fully compliant".

Defence was made aware of the issue only after the tender was awarded. The matter was investigated with no further action deemed necessary. "Raecorp International Pty Ltd has been awarded a number of contracts to provide support to ships locally, nationally and internationally over the past six months. The performance ... has been to the standards required," she said.

The Opposition's defence spokesman, David Johnston, called on Defence Minister Stephen Smith to tighten probity processes.


Single-sex class trials in Queensland state schools to be extended after good results

The old ways were not so silly after all

TRIALS of single-sex classes in some Queensland state schools will be extended after reports from teachers, parents and students of improved results.

The move is set to kickstart the debate on co-education after the State Government proposed single-sex state schools in 2008 and this week floated individual schools being given more say over how children are taught.

Pilot classes at Kedron State High School, Milton State School and Earnshaw State College will continue next year, with Education Queensland's Brisbane regional director Chris Rider citing higher student engagement and better results.

Mr Rider said student feedback at Milton - which has been trialling gender divisions in some subjects in Years 5 to 7 - was "very supportive, with the majority indicating that they have enjoyed the single-gender classes for certain subjects, have been able to engage in a more focused way and feel they have personally achieved better results".

Mr Rider said the majority of parents who responded to a survey supported the trial continuing, as did most staff.

At Kedron State High School, boys in a trial Year 9 English and iPad class have done particularly well, surpassing the girls in some tasks.

KSHS English head of department Chrissie Coogan said having only boys narrowed down what they talked about and how she taught things. "Their academic performance has improved and their level of confidence and willingness to perform at school has improved too," she said.

Principal Myron McCormick said analysis of individual students' Year 3, 5, 7 and 9 NAPLAN results showed a more significant jump among boys in the single-sex and iPad trial than any other group this year, including the adjacent girls' trial, which had also shown improvement.

"Parents are astounded that their 14-year-old son has asked to be taken to the library to get another book because he has finished the book he is reading," he said.

Griffith University School of Education's Dr Wayne Usher, who has taught Health and Physical Education for 20 years in both single-sex and co-ed schools, said there was merit in split classes with students more focused in single-sex schools.

But University of Queensland's School of Education Professor Martin Mills said it was the quality of the teacher and their engagement of students that really mattered.

In a statement last night, Education Queensland deputy director-general Lyn McKenzie said there were no plans to introduce single-gender classes throughout Queensland. "However, the issue of single-sex classes has been included in the Local decisions: stronger school communities discussion paper, which was released this week," she said.

She said seven schools in the metropolitan and southeast regions were trialling same-sex classes and proposals made in 2008 were now outdated. "Decisions on single-sex classes are best left to principals in conjunction with parents and wider school communities."

The Queensland Association of State School Principals, Queensland Teachers Union and Queensland Secondary Principals Association agreed.


Australia's forgetful Green/Left

When the American president addressed joint Houses of the Australian Parliament back in 2003, Greens Senator Bob Brown interjected. In fact so worked up was he that the Speaker ordered his removal from the chamber. He was yelling about Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.

This time Brown joined a conga line of MPs clamouring to shake hands with the President, Barack Obama. He had to jostle with Greens MP Adam Bandt (who has a PhD on Marxism) to get his chance. Both of them were beaming. It was a good speech. The President declared America's commitment to a military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, including a new proposal to train up to 2500 marines in the Northern Territory. One can only imagine what Bob's reaction would have been had George Bush announced that 2500 US marines would be stationed on Australian soil. They would have had to cart him out of the House of Representatives.

What a difference a few years and the election of a Democrat as president makes. Once upon a time the left railed against joint Australian-American military bases. That was one of the main issues that made the left the left. It was a key dividing line between the ALP Right wing, which backed such bases, and the Left wing, which opposed them.

But those were the days of the Cold War. In those days the bases were part of the Western alliance against the Soviet empire. Some on the left were Soviet supporters who wanted to help the communist cause, but most were fellow-travellers who fell for the line that somehow these bases were provocative and would tempt the Soviets to do something they would not do if only people were a whole lot nicer to them. The left never seemed to worry about Soviet military power. It was only the Americans that got them agitated.

In the end the policy of American military strength cracked the Soviet Union - not the policy of disarmament. When the Soviet Union collapsed so too did the disarmament movement and the "peace rallies". Back in those days there were enormous marches on Palm Sunday to protest over the American military build-up. You'd have to look hard to find a Palm Sunday peace rally these days. Most of the demonstrators and left-wing church leaders have moved on to climate change. When peace rallies were all the rage in the 1980s, Peter Garrett was writing songs against US bases and running for the Senate as the candidate for the Nuclear Disarmament Party. It was long before he joined this government and long before this government decided it was in favour of ramping up uranium mining and the number of US marines on Australian soil.

I sometimes wonder how all those people who voted for Peter back then feel about him now. Have they taken the same pragmatic political journey or do they feel betrayed? Should he write a "Sorry" song - for demonising the uranium industry that the government now wants to promote? Or were his previous views just a stage persona - part of the leftist costume of rock'n'roll.

Which is better? To hold sincere beliefs that are proved wrong or to be insincere about your views in the first place? I guess a person who has genuinely changed would explain their reasons. But we are not going to get that from Bob or Julia or Peter.

Bob Brown was all worked up about Guantanamo Bay when George Bush visited Australia, but he does not seem to worry so much now that Obama is in charge. Julia Gillard used to complain that Australia was subservient to America. Now she claims she has made our alliance stronger than ever before.

In opposition, Labor harvested votes on the left. In government it wants to appeal to conservatives. The Coalition should not be tempted to switch sides just because Labor has done so. The Coalition supported joint bases when the youthful Garretts and Gillards were against them. It supported uranium mining and the sale of uranium to India. It should see Labor's about-face as a massive vindication. It was proved right.

Labor MPs may feel happy to see Obama and Gillard standing in front of troops in the Northern Territory - it is a great photo opportunity for their side of politics. But alliances are between countries. They are designed to outlive the political office-holders of the day. In the future it could be Newt Gingrich and Tony Abbott standing there being cheered by US marines in the NT. The principle is either right or it is wrong and it doesn't turn on who happens to be in office.

That is why it is so useful to have the left of Australian politics now locked in to traditional Coalition policies. Bipartisan support has been firmly established. And in the future if there is ever a complaint about marines based in Australia, just pull out the footage of a beaming Bob Brown grasping the hand of the president who announced it.