Monday, December 31, 2012

Lewandowsky again attempting to sound authoritative

De-Published psychologist of climate, Stephan Lewandowski, has once again attempted to establish his wisdom in the matter of climate beliefs.  He has written an article for the ABC (where else?) in which he makes some vanilla comments about what it takes to change people's minds (A lot.  He should know) and attempts to portray climate skepticism as an unreasonably fixed belief.

He does the usual appeal to authority that is typical of people who do not want to look at the evidence but has a few refinements beyond the usual.   I will add a few comments at the foot of the  "pearls" concerned: I quote:
Those elements of a successful rebuttal can be illustrated with a recent article (paywalled) by climate "sceptic" Matt Ridley that has attracted considerable attention, having first appeared in The Wall Street Journal, before being taken up by The Australian and Forbes.

According to this article, we have nothing to worry about: the author acknowledges that the globe is warming and human greenhouse gas emissions are to blame, but claims that the warming will be slight and good for us.

However comforting it may be, this claim is misleading. The article cites only one peer-reviewed study, by Ring and colleagues, and it misrepresents the implications of their work. When I contacted one of the authors, Professor Michael Schlesinger of the University of Illinois, he replied:

    "The author of the Wall Street Journal article that mentions the findings of our paper is just plain wrong about future warming. Our research shows that global warming will exceed 2C, defined as dangerous climate change, by the middle of this century."

This correction is straightforward but may be insufficient to permit discounting of this misinformation. Let's apply the three principles for successful debunking.

First, one must point out that the author, Matt Ridley, has financial interests related to coal mining (it must be noted that he does declare this interest at the end of his article). The possible conflict of interest is clearly relevant. Moreover, because climate change is an exercise in risk management, the author's record of risk (mis-)management is also relevant. One must be concerned that Matt Ridley was chairman of a bank that experienced the first bank run in the UK in 150 years, which led a member of the UK Parliament's Select Committee on Treasury to ask of Matt Ridley:

    "you have damaged the good name of British banking; why are you still clinging to office?"

Second, one must point out that there is an overwhelming consensus in the peer-reviewed literature which suggests that future warming will be more than slight and that it will be far from beneficial for most societies. With natural weather-related disasters having nearly tripled in the last 30 years already, it takes a considerable leap of faith to hope, let alone claim, that future warming will have beneficial effects overall.

Finally, one must visualise the future warming using a graph. The figure below was provided by Professor Schlesinger, whose work was misrepresented in the Wall Street Journal piece, from one of his recent papers:

The figure shows that regardless of which data set is being used to produce projections (i.e., GISS, HADCRU, or NOAA), there will be considerably more than 2C warming (ie, the UNFCCC threshold) by century's end.

I have just re-read the Ridley article and following is the whole of what Ridley said about the Schlesinger article:

"Michael Ring and Michael Schlesinger of the University of Illinois, using the most trustworthy temperature record, also estimate 1.6°C."

What Lewandowsky has seized on was in other words entirely incidental to the thrust of Ridley's article, which relied principally on discussions with an IPCC statistician, Nic Lewis.  And what Ridley has said does not necessarily conflict with the out-of-context quote put up by Lewandowski.  Ridley quoted results for  "the most trustworthy temperature record" and those results  need not at all be the same as the results for all temperature records or even the mean temperature record.  So no points to Lewandowsky so far.

Lewandowsky then goes completely "ad hominem", a mode of argument that has no scholarly repute whatever and which therefore proves nothing: He points out that Ridley was chairman of a failed British bank.  I should ignore such an irrelevant argument but let me point out anyway that Lewandowsky somehow forgets to mention that heaps of banks worldwide -- mostly run by very bright people --  also went bust at roughly the same time (the 2007-2008 GFC).  That hardly merits pointing the finger at Ridley.  So no points to Lewandowsky for that little bit of nastiness either.

Lewandowsky then says: "With natural weather-related disasters having nearly tripled in the last 30 years..."  but the link he gives for that claim is to  one of his own prior articles!   Since I have put up plenty of evidence to the contrary in recent times (e.g. here), I will say no more at this point.  But Lewandowsky is just cherrypicking.  Certainly no points for that.

His last stab is to put up a pretty-looking graph.  But note the timescale that the graph covers.  It is all prophecy and, as  such, unfalsifiable.  So in philosophy of science terms it is not even an empirical statement.  It is a statement of belief and not a statement of fact.  And prophecies are almost always false, as we saw with the recent Mayan debacle.  So no points for that either.

So when it gets beyond vague principles and onto matters of fact, Lewandowsky is left clutching at smoke.  And he greatly discredits his own claim to scholarship in the process -- JR

Sceptics weather the storm to put their case on climate

WELL, so much for the 2012 apocalypse. If the ancient Mayans ever knew anything about the future, they made a serious miscalculation. The same fate has befallen the international climate change emergency brigade. About $1 billion and 18 "Kyoto" meetings later, the world has agreed to do nothing much more than meet again.

How did this frightening climate threat dissolve into scientific uncertainty and political confusion? What of the many billions of dollars of wasted public resources? Some might blame the "sceptics", the "merchants of doubt" or the "deniers". Others point to the global financial crisis.

We can say for certain that many hesitant individuals overcame the pressures of group-think, intimidation and tribal disapproval to have a closer look at the relationship between real science, politics and business.

I was once told by a friend that when it comes to scientific issues of major public concern, it is "not what you know but who you know". I think he meant that my fledgling scepticism about dangerous anthropogenic global warming (DAGW) was pointless, for as a cartoonist I was as unqualified to assess the science as he was.

The implication was that all who are untrained in "climate science" are required to accept the scientific and political authority of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its local colleagues such as the CSIRO: the scientific establishment.

I found my friend's advice baffling. Anyone familiar with the judicial process knows the gravest issues of liberty and fortune are often determined by a jury selected from the public. Expert witnesses can give evidence in support of either side at a trial. The judge must rule on questions of admissibility, but in the end it is the jury that decides which scientific evidence is to be believed.

In the climate debate, the only "judge" is the scientific method - a testable hypothesis followed by factual or experimental challenge. The "facts" here represent an anxious problem for the DAGW advocates. For example, everybody agrees that the warming trend paused 16 years ago, despite a corresponding 10 per cent increase in atmospheric CO2. This ought to be an embarrassment to the global warming alarmists. What exactly is the relationship between CO2 and temperature? Why did the warming trend stop as it did between 1945 and 1975, when CO2 emissions took off?

As Dr David Whitehouse, the former BBC online science editor, said in the New Statesman in 2007, "something else is happening to the climate and it is vital we find out what or we may spend hundreds of billions of pounds needlessly". Obviously we should pay close attention to the computer models that form the basis of climate scientists' projections. In fact these models apparently failed to anticipate the current pause in global warming, not to mention the abundance of post-drought rainfall in Australia. Scientific "consensus" based on these computer models is becoming rather shaky.

The reason why scientific consensus emerged in this debate is because political activists want to get things moving, and if they say that consensus is scary and urgent, then sceptics had better get out of the way.

The activist cause peaked early in 2007 when Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth became an international hit. This documentary was superficially compelling for the uninitiated, but in October 2007 the British High Court found the film contained nine errors of fact.

Professor Bob Carter of Queensland's James Cook University gave evidence in this case; few people in Australia are aware of this severe embarrassment for Mr Gore.

Later that year, the ABC broadcast Martin Durkin's provocative documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle, against the outraged objections of many prominent alarmists. How interesting. The science was "settled", the debate was said to be over and no further discussion was required. Any media professional should have been aroused by such an excited censorship campaign, and it stimulated my first cartoon on the subject (above), which depicted the family TV set as mediaeval stocks with an imprisoned climate sceptic being pelted by the family with their TV dinner.

It seemed to me that things changed after that documentary was screened. Perhaps the shock of hearing the likes of Nigel Calder, former editor of New Scientist, and Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, had joined the ranks of the sceptical was just too much for some people.

Things got nasty. Someone came up with the brilliant but insidious idea of using the term "denier" to describe a person who remained agnostic or sceptical about the exact human contribution to the 0.7 degree global warming of the past 100 years. This malicious rhetoric came to be adopted by climate activists, media reporters and politicians up to head-of-state level. Many distinguished scientists such as Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT, and Bill Kininmonth, former head of our National Climate Centre, were casually defamed in this way. The same label was applied to world-renowned theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson and Australia's distinguished Professor Bob Carter.

Holocaust denial describes the heartless and despicable refusal by anti-Semites to acknowledge the historical truth of the Jewish genocide of World War II. If you use the offensive term "denier" you do so for reasons best known to yourself. You may be calculating or you may be indifferent, but as Wong, Rudd and Gillard would have known, the effect is pungent. No sensible, morally responsible person wants to be stigmatised in such a way.

Some prominent Australian intellectuals to this day continue to explicitly endorse the moral equivalence between Holocaust and global warming denial. This is all the more incredible because it comes from academics who understand the horror of the Holocaust. For good measure, sceptics have also been compared with 18th century slave trade advocates, tobacco lobbyists and even paedophile promoters.

But times have changed, and since 2007, the non-scientific players in this great intellectual drama have been confronted by creeping uncertainty about many of the major climate science issues. These have included the composition of the IPCC and the credibility of its processes; remember Glaciergate? The IPCC predicted the end of the Himalayan glaciers based on non-scientific literature; the unusual (or not) melting of sea ice and glaciers; the evidence for warm temperatures during the mediaeval period; the importance of sun spots; changes (or not) in patterns of extreme weather events; ocean "acidification"; ocean warming and rising sea levels; bio-mass absorption and the longevity of molecules of atmospheric CO2; the influence of short-period El Nino southern oscillation (ENSO) and other similar oscillations on a multi-decade scale; the chaotic behaviour of clouds; and the impact of cosmic rays on climate. Even James Lovelock, the founder of the "Gaia", movement has turned sceptic.

By early 2010, it seemed that nearly every single element of the global warming debate was up for grabs, and scandals like Climategate and gross mistakes in their work had weakened the credibility of the IPCC. Even Professor Paul Jones of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, a leading contributor to IPCC calculations, confirmed in a 2010 BBC interview that the warming rates of the periods 1860-80, 1910-40 and 1975-98 were statistically similar. He also said that "I don't believe that the vast majority of climate scientists believe that the climate change [debate] is over".

To the great credit of The Age and its pluralistic tradition, the occasional sceptical science article has been published along with regular cartoons on the issue.

However, I still feel that the voices of highly qualified sceptics are not heard enough. In an effort to redress this imbalance, an unusual book on the sceptics' view will be published in 2013.

The text, sprinkled with cartoons and illustrations, takes the Socratic form, giving answers to commonly asked questions about the science and economics of climate change. The content is provided by a collaboration of five highly qualified experts. They include a meteorologist, the former director of the Australian National Climate Centre; a geologist, a former member of the Australian Research Council and chairman of the Earth Sciences Panel; an independent energy consultant who manages his own small hydro power station; a professor of environmental engineering (hydrology) and one of Australia's leading tax consultants.

I trust the integrity and compassion of these "deniers", and admire their courage and awesome perseverance. We hope the book will help redress the imbalance in easily accessible knowledge for a "jury" of ordinary Australians.


Australian Muslim cleric meets Hamas leader, falls in love

Australia's most senior Muslim cleric has met the leader of the Hamas government during a visit to the Gaza Strip.

A spokesman for Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, the Mufti of Australia, says the Mufti is leading a delegation of Muslim scholars to Gaza.

Local television has shown pictures of Dr Mohamed meeting with Hamas's political leader, Gaza's prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, on December 26.

"We came here in order to learn from Gaza... to learn steadfastness, sacrifice, and the defence of one's rights from them," Dr Mohamed said in remarks translated by Memri TV.

The military wing of Hamas is listed as a proscribed terrorist organisation by the Australian Government.


Insignificant and semi-literate attention-seeker jumps on the Warmist bandwagon

She is allegedly an academic but is a poor one.  She says, for instance: 

"From the moment I decided to carry my girls I have mitigated against every threat to their future." 

She doubles confusion with that language.  It is common to misquote "militate against" as "mitigate against", which no-one who knows any Latin would do, but she actually uses even the mistaken usage in a mistaken way.  "Tried to mitigate" was what she probably meant. [Clue:  "Mitis" is Latin for "mild"]. One really does expect better from an academic historian.

But that is only one indication of her low intellectual level.  Her major failing is that she is completely unscholarly.  Instead of examining the evidence for or against anthropogenic global warming theory, she just accepts partisan judgments of it as true:  No evidence of critical thinking at all.  She would seem to be motivated by a need to pump up her own importance rather than by any concern for the facts

I reproduce a fair bit of her little emission below so readers can judge for themselves.  Note both the title she puts on her article and her acknowledged attention-seeking behaviour towards the end of the article

We are guardians of the future

By Liz Conor, a  history (herstory?) academic at the National Centre for Australian Studies, Monash University.

It is our duty to protect the rights of the next generation. Climate change is a threat and we must take action - we must hold governments to account, writes Liz Conor.

Whenever my 14-year-old asks me if she can get a 'stretch' earring, a piercing or a tattoo I tell her I am the guardian of her 40-year-old self who might not like living in the future with the permanent choices her 14-year-old self made.

From the moment I decided to carry my girls I have mitigated against every threat to their future. I steered clear of alcohol during the pregnancies, and drugs during their births. I slathered them in sun block and plonked hats on their curly-haired heads. I buckled their squirming bodies into every seat they were transported in, took their little hands across every street, rinsed the pesticides off their fruit, rubbed salt off their chips, and more recently chased off a risk-taking boyfriend and blockaded their screen time.

When the latest findings of climate scientists came out last fortnight, just as Doha was coming to its negligent close, I knew then sorry doesn't quite cut it. A report released by the Global Carbon Project, a group of scientists, announced that the planet was on-track for the worst-case-scenario projections of the IPCC, of a rise in temperature of between 4 and 6 degrees by the end of the century. They found emissions have increased 54 per cent since 1990. A World Bank-commissioned study also warned that a four-degree leap was possible this century - even if current pledges to cut emissions are met. Meanwhile at the latest UN conference on climate change government heads finished a marathon meeting in Doha, Qatar, where they extended the Kyoto Protocol which proposes a set of measures many climate scientists have argued will be ineffective in halting rising greenhouse gas emissions.

For me the failure last fortnight to grasp the latest findings of peer-reviewed climate scientists, and act decisively to stop burning fossil fuels was my moral 'tipping point'. These reports are beyond alarming and frankly terrifying. They condemn our children and grandchildren to eke out a miserable existence, buffeted by violent weather, on a planet blighted by drought, fire, flood and no longer able to supply their basic needs. Already we see this nightmare of food shortages playing out in Africa as crops fail due to drought.

By any standard it is wrong, unconscionable, unfair and negligent to continue to go about my life in the business-as-usual bubble that we seem to have taken refuge in. On Monday last I took a bike lock to Parliament House and bolted myself to the members' gate. The police came and after cordial exchange called for Search and Rescue who would not wait for a key to materialise and angle grinded the lock. I was banned from the Parliament House precinct for a week and from the CBD for 72 hours. On the way home I picked up a new lock.

We are not in safe hands. For our children's and their children's sake the time has come to hold governments to account. When the full impact of climate change is massing on the horizon I hope to be able to look my girls and their children in the eye and tell them I did everything I could.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

How did the wrong man get mistaken for a mental health patient?

Easy if you know the full facts and not just the politically correct ones:  Because he was an Aborigine.  "Itinerant" is a common euphemism for an Aboriginal street-dweller.

Aborigines are very complaisant:  They tend to say what they think you want to hear.  So he answered to the name that they called him by and went along with them generally.  That the W.A. police did not recognize that shows how ignorant they are.  There is a special technique for getting a straight answer out of an Aborigine:  Give NO indication of the expected answer.

There is a large Aboriginal presence in W.A. and the police often lock them up, sometimes controversially so you would think that they would use that technique routinely.

ALL the facts below fall into place if you know Aborigines.  A pity the the W.A. police don't

Details surrounding the wrongful detainment of a man who was administered with powerful antipsychotic drugs when mistakenly identified as a patient who had absconded from Graylands Hospital have been revealed.

The insight into the incident comes as the Mental Health Minister Helen Morton admits the incident could instigate changes in policies and procedures.

The 22-year-old man who was wrongly detained has since been in contact with police and the health system and tests have revealed that he is no longer being affected by the wrongly administered drug, Clozapine.

Mrs Morton said the man was in a public place at 3am and was behaving in an unusual manner.  "That gave rise to suspicions that he was the man," she said.

While Mrs Morton also said there were other circumstances at the time that gave "a very clear suggestion that he had recently absconded from a hospital" she would not provide details of these circumstances.

She said while the wrongly detained man and the man he was mistaken for had "completely different names" at times, he responded to the involuntary patient's name.

"He responded to his name with "yes" and also he was asked if he would like to go back to the hospital and he said "yes."

Mrs Morton said a photograph was not provided to police on this occasion when looking for the man.

She said after the man was administered Clozapine in tablet form, he was then taken to the absconded man's room.

"It was in the process of being taken to his room that it became known to the staff that he wasn't the patient," Mrs Morton said

"It was recognised that he was not the patient by both another member of staff who recognised him and he was also unaware of where his room was in the hospital,  and given that he'd been there for a number of months or the involuntary patient had been, staff became quickly aware that they had the wrong patient.

"He had an adverse reaction [to the antipsychotic medication] and within two hours of being back at Graylands he was admitted to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital."

The wrongly detained man, who is understood to be itinerant has since been offered accommodation, which he has declined.

Mrs Morton said the clinical review that was currently being undertaken and would be completed by January 4 would show whether the fault lay with the policies and procedures or with the people implementing them.

"There are some amazingly stringent processes and procedures that are required both when a person is being admitted and when a person is being administered schedule four drugs and those policies and procedures are currently being reviewed in light of this and also whether those policies and procedures were followed correctly by the people concerned," she said.

Mrs Morton reiterated her comments that she would consider compensation for the man.  "On the face of it, there is every suggestion that this is a compensable case," she said.

As well as a clinical review, there are two other reviews being done which could see changes made to procedures and policies.

Mrs Morton said the state government would provide support to the man to "take the matter further" but would not say whether that would include providing legal advice.


Greens seek millionaire tax to revive parent payments

Bandt was a Trotskyite but there were no votes in that so he  turned Green.  Sounds like his thinking hasn't changed

A "millionaires tax" increase of 5¢ in the dollar would raise enough money to restore payments to single parents cut in this year's budget.

The Greens' policy, costed by federal Treasury, would generate at least $790 million over the next three years by lifting the top tax rate on income above $1 million from 45 per cent to 50 per cent.

The revenue boost could even be much higher, closer to $500 million a year, but Treasury has assumed some people on high incomes will not earn as much if their top tax rate is lifted.

The acting leader of the Greens, Adam Bandt, compared the money raised by the tax increase to a similar amount saved by the government when it cut payments to some single parents, which take effect from the start of next year.

"I think this is a reasonable step that should get the support of the government," Mr Bandt said.

"What possible justification could Labor have for hurting single parents and yet not touching millionaires? The Treasurer said he's been listening to Bruce Springsteen but he must've been listening to the records backwards," the Greens MP said of Wayne Swan's vaunted affection for the US rocker.

It was the second Greens policy to be costed by Treasury's Parliamentary Budget Office, established by the Gillard government as a price of securing the Greens' support in Parliament, and the party plans to release at least two dozen more by the time of the next election.

The tax increase would bring the top marginal tax rate to a level it last sat at in 1987, but would affect only about 8000 people listed by the Australian Taxation Office as recording annual incomes above $1 million.

The expected revenue would double from about $800 million to $1.6 billion in the next four years if Treasury dropped its assumption of "tax income elasticity", which says that growth in tax revenue will fall if tax rates are lifted.

The Greens are framing the policy in the context of cuts that kick in next week for single parents. From January 1, single parents on the parenting payment with a youngest child over the age of eight will be moved onto the lower newstart allowance, costing them about $60 a week.

The measure will save the government about $700 million in the next four years, but it has been criticised by the welfare sector and by some backbench Labor MPs.

The Gillard government argues the benefit of the measure is in encouraging parents back into the workforce.

Mr Bandt said: "If the government is wanting to improve the budget position by somewhere around $300 million a year it has a choice. It could either increase taxes on the wealthiest Australians or it could hurt single parents."

In the 1950s, Australia's top marginal tax rate sat at 75 per cent. It was above 65 per cent for most of the 1960s, and was above 60 per cent for most of the 1970s and 1980s. It now sits at 45 per cent, for any money earned about $180,000 a year.

The first Greens policy costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office was a revised mining tax that showed the government could raise an extra $26 billion in the next four year if it reversed concessions to the mining industry.


In praise of State's rights

LISTEN to enough critics for long enough and you'll be convinced that the Federation is the only thing holding Australia back from dominating the world. Apparently, without the states and a single central Commonwealth government dictating everything, Australia would be taken seriously as a middle power, we would have a well-funded and well-functioning education system, wasteful spending would be a thing of the past and populist politics would no longer exist.

You have to be kidding.

States' critics (such as Allan Patience on this page last week) seem to attribute some sort of mythical wisdom to the Commonwealth, as if only ever good things come from a central government. And that all our resources need to be concentrated there, otherwise how can we hold our heads up overseas?

This last argument ignores that the world's only superpower, the United States, and the only continental member of the European Union that is currently taken seriously, Germany, are both federations. Being a federation hardly seems a liability on the world stage.

But turning back home, can you imagine what an unfettered Commonwealth government would be like in the wrong hands? Don't worry about the damage that has been done by the current one - think roof insulation, school halls, green loans, and $900 cheques to foreign citizens and those no longer with us.

Think what would have happened if Bob Carr, Morris Iemma and Kristina Keneally had been running the country instead of John Howard and Peter Costello for all those years. The disaster that is New South Wales would be played out on a national scale.

It is also just plain wrong to say that the Federation has not changed since 1901. The High Court has applied the constitution so that the Commonwealth now has much more power than it did at the start. It is because of the High Court that the Commonwealth can tell Tasmania where it is allowed to put a dam, has the ability to allow companies around the country to choose not to pay penalty rates on public holidays and can effectively prevent the states from levying taxes that they may do lawfully. The Federation has changed, just not in a good way.

Federalism has the advantage as well of weeding out bad laws. For example, it is only because of federalism that we don't face death taxes today. It was only when Queensland abolished theirs that the rest of the country followed. Because of the mass migration of retirees to that state from everywhere else, this impost was shown for the ridiculous interference that it was. A central government that imposes such bad laws leaves us with nowhere to go (except overseas).

The major problem with the Federation is the separation of responsibility from power. Stemming from the High Court's approach to the constitution, the Commonwealth holds the whip hand when it comes to raising money, but the states are those who have to provide the programs and services.

It's ridiculous to criticise Liberal state governments struggling to balance their books not only for cutting back their Labor predecessors' largesse, but particularly when they are doing so while fiscally dependent on a Labor Commonwealth government so addicted to spending that it cannot raise enough revenue for its own habits, let alone provide sufficient funds for necessities provided by the states.

The Federation is in need of reform, but abolishing the states is not the answer. Resolving the current vertical fiscal imbalance will align the power to pass laws and spend public money with the responsibility of ensuring those funds are spent wisely. Governments that do not will lose elections (and, in the case of the states, populations).

And those who still want to see the states abolished should take pause. A central government, absent a bill of rights, is likely to be unfettered in the laws that it can pass. Had this been the case since 1901, for the left-wingers, this would mean the Communist Party would be illegal, criticism of the government could be snuffed out and voters could be disenfranchised. Conservatives, you would have nationalised banks, death taxes and Rudd's health system. And the case for a bill of rights becomes that much stronger. Be careful what you wish for.


Nasty British antisemite brings his hatreds to the University of Sydney

Among British Leftist intellectuals, antisemitism -- hiding  behind "anti-Zionism" -- is de rigeur.  See the sidebar at EYE ON BRITAIN

The head of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS) at the University of Sydney, Associate Professor Jake Lynch, has received a number of high-profile condemnations over his recent decision to refuse to work with Hebrew University of Jerusalem academic Dan Avnon.

This decision, made in accordance with the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel - of which Lynch is a strong supporter - was in spite of Avnon's work, which involves creating a civics program for Jewish and Arab students in Israel in order to work towards reconciliation between the two groups.

On the face of it, Avnon's work is exactly what Lynch purports to encourage, with the Centre's mission being to "focus on the resolution of conflict with a view to attaining just societies" and to "facilitate dialogue between individuals, groups or communities who are concerned with conditions of positive peace". 

For Lynch, however, the institutional ties to an Israeli university were so unthinkable that he could not make an exception for an academic who is working to accomplish the centre's supposed aims.

Lynch and his supporters (including Anthony Loewenstein on this website) have been adamant that there is nothing anti-Semitic about refusing to deal with anyone connected to the Jewish state.

With this in mind, looking at some of the people that Lynch actually advocates dealing with raises disturbing questions.

As I wrote in The Australian in May this year, Lynch has written a book with Norwegian Professor Johan Galtung who was recently accused of having connections to numerous white supremacist groups and renowned neo-Nazis.

In 2004, Galtung ran a workshop with CPACS in which he tasked them with re-enacting the Passion of the Christ, only this time finding a way to negotiate Jesus' release – which is not only manifestly theologically offensive to Christians, but revisits the age-old anti-Semitic trope of Jewish deicide. At the same event, he ran another workshop on how to negotiate with Al Qaeda. 

In March 2010, Lynch hosted Sameh Habeeb, who runs a website called The Palestine Telegraph and has worked for an organisation called The Palestinian Return Centre, which is proudly pro-Hamas and in favour of violence as a means of 'resistance'.

Habeeb had - and continues to - repeatedly publish anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denial material from the likes of neo-Nazi icon David Duke and Australia's own Holocaust denier Frederick Toben.

Just a few months before his CPACS appearance, Habeeb had seen fit to mark Holocaust remembrance day by publishing a piece by notorious anti-Semite Gil Atzmon, saying that "Israelis are the Nazis of our time", that the "Israeli institutional involvement in organ harvesting" is a "well-documented and an accepted fact", and that the day had come about because world leaders had "bowed to Jewish pressure and made the Holocaust into an international memorial day".

Lynch was aware of this material, however he was adamant that Habeeb had repudiated it and determined to host him regardless.

Five months later, however, a flattering profile of Toben appeared on Habeeb's website and, in October 2011, Habeeb wrote a glowing review of what he said was Atzmon's "courageous book that vividly clears the dust on many issues concerning Israel. It really guides non-Jews to an understanding of the politics behind the Jewish identity."

These 'politics', of course, include alleged organ-stealing and fabrication of the Holocaust for political ends.

In the April 2008 CPACS newsletter, Lynch wrote about a delegation of Marrickville councillors that was leaving for Bethlehem. He was outraged that they had been warned "not to meet representatives of Hamas, the party that won elections for the Palestinian Authority in 2006".

I hopefully do not have to recite Hamas' litany of genocidal statements and glorification of bloodshed.

Suffice to say that its official TV channel recently broadcast a sermon saying that, "The Jew is a satan in human form. Allah inflicted the Jews upon humanity in its entirety, and especially upon the nation of Islam".

In October 2009, Lynch took issue with the Australian Government's decision to designate al-Shabab - an official Al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia that has been tied to attempted terror attacks in Australia - as a terrorist organisation. As he opined, "the statement contained no acknowledgement of the specific circumstances in which it has grown in Somalia and - allegedly in this case - sought to export its activities to other countries such as Australia".

His solution was to call for "greater openness" and "a more even-handed approach", in order to address the "legitimate grievances" that al-Shabab might feel over the "invasion of Somalia by Ethiopian forces, with weaponry, training and reconnaissance support provided by the United States".

He was, of course, referring to the Western-backed African Union peacekeeping force that has gone into Somalia to save its people from al-Shabab. The militants have taken control of a huge chunk of the country where, in true Al Qaeda fashion, they have been busy stoning adulterers to death, coordinating terror attacks in places as far-afield as Australia, Uganda, and Denmark, and chasing-out aid workers in the height of the East Africa famine as they would sooner see their people starve than eat food from the 'infidels'.

With no apparent sense of irony, he then launched straight into a comment about how "public figures who address [the Israeli/Palestinian conflict] with reference to Palestinian perspectives ... tend to be met with condemnation from representatives of the self-identified 'mainstream Jewish community'." As he then explained, "concerns over Israel's targeting of civilians flare briefly, then abruptly subside, because no-one seems willing to pursue them."

He did not mention that Israel may have some legitimate grievances too, or that - perhaps - the Palestinians should be subjected to some criticism as well.

In essence, people that Lynch promotes dialogue with include an assorted group of violent Islamist extremists, Holocaust-deniers, and neo-Nazis. People that Lynch forbids dialogue with include Israelis.

Although, as he argues, he is not a racist, because he has hosted Jews at his centre - like American linguist Noam Chomsky, and Israeli ex-pat and historian Ilan Pappe.

That would be the Noam Chomsky who once said that "I see no anti-Semitic implications in the denial of the existence of gas chambers, or even denial of the Holocaust"; and the same Ilan Pappe who supports the anti-Semitic allegation from medieval Europe that Jews killed Christian children to use their blood in ritual bread.

For someone who is not a racist, Lynch certainly seems to spend a lot of time and energy promoting racists and helping them propagate their viewpoints, and his 'I'm not anti-Semitic, some of my friends are Jews' excuse hardly exonerates him.

His other standard response is along the lines of 'any critic of Israel is always called an anti-Semite' - which is a very convenient excuse for not addressing the issue.

It is unlikely that Lynch will be be having an epiphany on this point any time soon, but his employers at the university and the sponsors of his centre (which include the Federal Government) should be taking a very hard look at what they are promoting.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Wrongly treated man in mental hospital was an Aborigine

Which may help explain the mis-identification but does not excuse it

A mental health advocate says the case of a man who was arrested and drugged after being mistaken for a patient from a Perth psychiatric hospital is not a one-off.

Police arrested the man while on lookout for an involuntary patient who left Graylands Hospital without permission.

The man was wrongly identified as the missing patient and then given an antipsychotic drug.

He had a bad reaction and was taken to hospital, where the mistake was discovered.

Western Australia's Mental Health Minister Helen Morton says she was shocked to hear about incident.

"The policies and procedures are stringent about identifying people when they are made involuntary and when they are about to receive a Schedule 4 drug, and it would appear those policies and procedures weren't carried out," she said.

Mental Health Law Centre principal solicitor Sandra Boulter says there were probably several errors.

"There are a series of people, there were the police, there were the admitting staff, there's presumably the treating psychiatrist, and the Aboriginal Health Service, all of whom could possibly have identified the error," she told AM.

"It is always the case when there is a mistake, as even an airline pilot will tell you, it is never one mistake, it is a series of errors that accumulate leading up to the big error.

"I think it is a critically important that an independent person such as an official visitor is appointed or contacted so there is independent oversight of any admission."

Ms Boulter says this is not the first time an incident like this has occurred.

"I am certainly aware of one patient, one client of ours, who was admitted mistakenly and another two clients who were admitted on a false report where [it] was subsequently established that they did not have a psychiatric illness," she said.

She says she it is not sure if authorities are aware of the second incident.  "I'm not sure about that," she said.

"Our clients were unwilling to complain about what happened to them because they were fearful of being further traumatised by taking an action against the state."

Ms Boulter says she wants to confirm that authorities are in contact with the wrongfully detained man.


With law on their side, everyone's a victim

WHAT advice might a Boston teenager in the foster care system or a small business owner in New Mexico give to the Australian government about expanding anti-discrimination laws? Chances are, they'd suggest caution.

On November 20, Australia's Attorney-General Nicola Roxon released exposure draft legislation for the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012. The laudable stated purpose of this initiative is to consolidate five existing anti-discrimination acts into one law, making them easier to understand and more consistent across jurisdictions. But the bill actually makes a number of changes to anti-discrimination legislation in Australia.

In light of Americans' experiences, Australians should be wary of the changes this bill puts forward. One proposed change is to shift the onus of proof from the accuser to the accused, meaning that those charged with discrimination will be declared guilty unless they can prove their innocence.

Another change is to extend the definition of discrimination to include conduct that merely "offends" or "insults", which could unreasonably dampen freedom of speech. A third change is to extend the list of protected attributes to include both religion and sexual orientation, making these factors grounds for alleging discrimination in the workplace.

America's experience with anti-discrimination legislation is particularly relevant at this intersection of religion and sexual orientation. An excess of such laws in the US has increased litigation, weakened religious liberty, and threatened services to the less fortunate.

First, excessive US non-discrimination legislation has gone hand-in-hand with a ballooning culture of victimisation. As more individuals and groups perceive themselves as victims of injustice and receive protected status in the law, more litigation tends to flood the courts.

Second, expansive anti-discrimination laws have weakened Americans' freedom to operate their businesses according to their deeply held convictions. Indeed, such legislation has created a legal train wreck where the right to not be offended has derailed religious liberty.

Several years ago, a photographer in New Mexico declined to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony on the grounds that doing so would violate the photographer's religious beliefs about marriage. After the lesbian couple filed a complaint, the New Mexico Human Rights Commission found the photographer guilty of violating a non-discrimination law and imposed thousands of dollars in costs.

Across America similar cases abound of anti-discrimination laws trumping religious freedom. One commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (a federal agency that enforces laws against workplace discrimination) has even declared: "There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win."

Third, the legal landscape in the US threatens the effectiveness of social service providers, especially small, faith-based organisations. These groups lack the ability and resources of larger institutions to handle formal complaints and cover the costs of lawsuits brought against them. Hence, they face pressure to divert resources away from serving the needy and towards securing legal protection. To avoid compromising their faith, some organisations choose to stop providing services.

This is what happened in 2006 to Catholic Charities in Boston. An anti-discrimination law in Massachusetts required the ministry to place children in the custody of homosexual couples, a violation of the Catholic Church's teaching concerning marriage, sexuality and family. When that state refused to grant an exemption, the Catholic Charities adoption agency, which had placed more children than any other private agency in Massachusetts, was forced to end its services.

The US has now reached the point where private photographers must pay fines and adoption agencies must close their doors to follow the tenets of their faith.

This troubling state of affairs reveals a significant change in the way Americans have come to think about discrimination. To discriminate used to mean to make a distinction among things. Making sound distinctions is necessary when it comes to making sound decisions.

But "discrimination" has ceased to carry this sense and instead become a bad word. The US seems to have lost the ability to distinguish between acts based in relevant distinctions and those based in hate or ignorance, that is, genuine discrimination from genuine bigotry.

As discrimination has become synonymous with evil, it has ceased to help us think better about making moral judgments. Instead, it has become a legal trump card.

In short, Americans now wield "discrimination" in public debates less as a supple tool of moral discernment than as a blunt instrument of ideology.

In light of the American ex- perience, Australians should be wary about expanding anti-discrimination legislation. If "discrimination" becomes a legal trump card whenever it is asserted, Australia will likely see increased litigation and government interference and deterioration of serious public debate.

Moreover, the capacity for Australians to exercise their religious beliefs in public will likely decline.

Foster kids in Boston might have an opinion about which Australians would suffer as a result.


Secret deal in Victoria claws back carbon tax

Another budget hit for Gillard

THE state government and Alcoa have stitched up a secret deal to trigger more federal compensation to pay for Victoria's increased costs under the carbon tax, generated by subsidising the aluminum giant's electricity use.

The deal could also deliver tens of of millions of dollars in extra government benefits to Alcoa at the expense of Victorian taxpayers.

Details of the deal are shrouded in secrecy, with the two parties signing a confidentiality agreement. The value of financial dealings over electricity between the government and Alcoa have long been undisclosed.

Alcoa spokeswoman Nichola Holgate said a "mutually beneficial agreement" had been reached earlier this year, but would not provide details, citing confidentiality.

The deal follows a federal-state $44 million bailout of Alcoa's Port Henry smelter at Geelong earlier this year. Alcoa has also received just under 6 million free carbon permits as federal compensation for the carbon tax.

Alcoa's two smelters in Victoria - at Point Henry and Portland - employ almost 1200 people. The industry uses around a fifth of the state's electricity.

Under arrangements signed in the 1980s, the State Electricity Commission - a corporate shell used by the state government to manage contracts supplying electricity to Alcoa - subsidises power for the two smelters based on the global aluminum price.

As the carbon tax pushes up power prices, the state government's bill under the Alcoa power arrangements increases, potentially by hundreds of millions of dollars, but it is not eligible for federal compensation.

Alcoa, however, is. It is understood negotiations on the deal centred on moving some of the electricity onto Alcoa's books, triggering federal carbon compensation because it is deemed an "emissions-intensive, trade-exposed" company.

The deal means the state government will cover some of the higher electricity costs on the subsidised Alcoa power contracts, which end in 2014 and 2016.

While much of the extra compensation would be passed back to the state to cover its increased costs, during the negotiations Alcoa made it clear it wanted to retain some of the compensation.

A senior source told Fairfax Media in June that Alcoa was arguing it should be allowed to keep a proportion of the extra federal compensation because the carbon price would reduce the working lives of its smelters.

"There is a negotiation about how much we can pass through to Alcoa. That is significant," the source said at the time. "They only want to give 80 to 90 per cent back."

Last week, neither party would say what compensation Alcoa had been allowed to retain, if any.

Treasurer Kim Wells refused to say how much the agreement would cost taxpayers.

His spokeswoman, Stephanie Ryan, said the commission was party to an agreement that may have exposed the Victorian taxpayers to a significant carbon tax liability. "The state negotiated amendments to the electricity supply agreements in relation to the Portland and Point Henry smelters in July. The government is limited in what it can say given the commercial nature of these arrangements," she said.


Fall in demand dents shift to low emissions

THE shelving of EnergyAustralia's gas-fired power plant in Victoria raises fresh doubts about the incentives for power companies to move from high-polluting coal to lower-emitting technology, with one expert saying more projects could be cancelled.

The proposed plant, on the Yallourn power station site, was one of several gas-fired projects put on the drawing board several years ago by power companies to reduce emissions, and therefore costs, under the carbon price.

But the downturn in electricity demand due to retail price rises and the strong dollar has put pressure on generators to abandon new projects.

Bruce Mountain, the director of Carbon Market Economics, said more energy companies would be forced to consider moving away from low-emissions investments because of these changes.

"Many market pundits had three years ago indicated there would be more rapid transfer to low-emission technologies like gas-fired power generation," he said. "But with lower demand and higher gas prices, that shift is being pushed back in time."

He said power companies were more likely to close parts of their coal capacity to save money.

"Existing generators are having to fight very hard to compete in the market," he said. "The partial closures of brown coal plants makes more sense, because although they lose contribution to their profits, they are able to drive prices higher."


Greens platform 'will fail'

ANY attempt by the Australian Greens to make policies more palatable for mainstream voters is deceptive and doomed to fail, says Senate opposition leader Eric Abetz.

On Thursday The Age reported that the Greens had redefined the party platform to portray many core beliefs as "aims and principles" rather than explicit policies, to present a smaller target to critics in a federal election year.

Acting leader Adam Bandt said on Thursday the revised policy platform would give voters more information on what the party stood for and how its ideas would be funded.

Mr Bandt said the minor party wanted to go to the next election able to tell voters it had a fully costed set of policies. "Treasury wouldn't cost them for us and there wasn't an independent body that would do it," he said.

"So what we now have is a very strong policy platform that has been voted on and determined by our members by consensus."

Mr Bandt said the Greens would go to the next election on the same footing as the two major parties. "So our updated policy platform, together with the new parliamentary budget office, will allow the Greens to go to the next election as the most economically responsible party out of all the parties contesting the election."

But Senator Abetz said the Greens were trying to hide "extreme impulses" and this would fail. "The Greens will always be 'watermelons' - Green on the outside and red inside - no matter how they cloak their policies," he said. "The Greens need to actually repudiate their extremist policies before people will believe they've changed. Deciding simply not to talk about them simply will not wash."

Senator Abetz said the public viewed the party not as "benign environmentalists", but a hard-left movement bent on "Marxist social engineering".

The Greens were simply trying to change tack after setbacks in several recent state elections, he added. In the ACT election in October, the party's Legislative Assembly seats were cut from four to one.

The Greens will reportedly soften their stance on cutting federal government funding for private schools, and stop calling for the abolition of the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate.

Senator Abetz said the party had a history of supporting controversial ideas.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Good looks 'work against' female academics

BEAUTY is beneficial in most workplaces but not universities, where students' regard for 'hot' lecturers can be outweighed by colleagues' disapproval.

Cassandra Atherton, literary studies lecturer at Melbourne’s Deakin University, said good looks played well with students but not fellow academics. And with careers more dependent on peer perceptions than student ratings, glamour could be a drawback.

“We’ve still got that stereotype of the professor as socially inept and not particularly attractive,” she said.  “If you don’t fit that stereotype, you’re not working hard enough on your academic career.”

Dr Atherton said good looks disadvantaged researchers when they fronted academic boards. “The research is considered to be somehow not as rigorously intelligent. Even if you’re looking at a fiercely interesting topic, the suggestion is that you spend more time in the beauty parlour than on the article.

“After reading about how good-looking people do so well in other industries, it was shocking to me that looks could be interpreted as a statement about intelligence.”

A US study has found that on a 5-point student evaluation scale, attractive professors receive ratings an average 0.8 points higher than their plain colleagues. But Dr Atherton said they were no more likely to receive promotions, because research was considered more important than teaching.

The study was based on the ‘Rate My Professors’ website, which allows US students to judge their lecturers “hotness” as well as their helpfulness, clarity and accessibility. Lecturers considered “hottest” are identified with an exploding hot chilli pepper icon.

Dr Atherton said US academics tolerated such observations despite considering them demeaning and irrelevant. “They feel it’s something that they have no control over, and it’s not going to stop.”

She said Australia could expect the same. Local websites such as the student-created ‘My Lecturer’ and its secondary school equivalent, ‘Rate My Teachers’, already allow anonymous assessments of teaching staff.

One of the “hottest” lecturers on the American website, Bonnie Blossman of the University of North Texas, started receiving negative reviews after joining a reality TV show.

Dr Atherton, who interviewed Dr Blossman while researching a book on high profile academics, said UNT was pleased with the profile gained from having its lecturer on ‘Big Rich Texas’, which profiles women at an exclusive country club.

But colleagues – particularly women – were critical, while viewers, journalists and fellow cast members routinely questioned the developmental physiologists’s credentials.

“Blossman’s expertise as a scientist is rarely put to use on the show, and her PhD is often called into question.”

Criticism of Dr Blossman had been fuelled by her colloquial language and her association with an “anti-intellectual” television genre, but her looks were the main factor.

Dr Atherton said Canadian psychology professor Judith Waters had identified a “beauty penalty” in academe, where it was important to look acceptable “but being gorgeous can be a problem”. Dr Blossman had highlighted the issue by being filmed having a nose job and botox treatment.

Dr Atherton said it would be impossible to study how many academics had cosmetic surgery, because they wouldn’t discuss the issue. “They’re entrenched in this idea that brains over beauty is what counts.

“They would fear being judged as less intellectual because they cared about that kind of thing – surely they could have been banging out another article rather than recovering from some procedure.”


Some Labor party life

For sheer longevity and entertainment value, it's hard to go past the epic falling-out between past Labor prime ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, once politically indispensable to each other.

Outbursts tend to be triggered whenever one has the effrontery to burnish his own record at the other's expense, as happened in mid-2010 when Hawke's second wife, writer Blanche d'Alpuget, published "Old Silver's" biography.

Keating was infuriated with d'Alpuget's suggestion that his lack of a formal education was behind his eclectic range of hobbies and passions.

"The preposterousness of it is faint-making," he said in a return fusillade, adding in a letter to Hawke (which he made public) that the latter had been hobbled for years as PM by an "emotional and intellectual malaise".

For his part, Hawke launched a well-aimed barb on ABC TV's 7.30 about the Keating-esque propensity for bitterness, congratulating himself on being "more of an optimist about life, I think".

The exchange had another former Labor leader, Bill Hayden, sadly shaking his head and describing the pair as "old men croaking like cane toads".

Hawke threw one last New Year's Eve party at The Lodge in Canberra in 1991 before handing over to his one-time treasurer and usurper. Fairfax writer Tony Wright, who was an invited guest, quotes Hawke as saying, "There's a f---ing load of French champagne in the cellar here; make sure you drink the lot of it so that c--- Keating doesn't get a drop."

That the mutual animus has persisted in the more than two decades since is a testament to sheer staying power, if nothing else.

"Paul never forgives," says one-time Labor kingmaker Graham Richardson, whose own relations with Keating have long since crumbled into dust.

The executive director of the conservative Sydney Institute, Gerard Henderson, and former Labor leader Mark Latham are another pair of political adversaries who have taken to each other with gladiatorial glee.

According to Henderson, their dispute – of more recent vintage – was triggered when he wrote about Latham's run-in with a taxi driver, which left the man with a broken arm.

Writing under the banner of "Henderson Watch", the acid-tongued Latham has appointed himself monitor and critic of Henderson's "Media Watch Dog" blog, which is hosted on the institute's website.

"There are two types of people: those who like Gerard Henderson, and those who have met him," Latham sniped in a recent post. "He is that most despised of Australian characters: a non-stop whinger."

Henderson, he adds, is addicted to pedantry "like heroin". "Without his weekly fix, his existence has little meaning or purpose," Latham says.

An unfazed Henderson served it right back, describing Latham as looking like "a director of Dodgy Brothers Funerals Pty Ltd who is about to advise relatives of a recently departed that the corpse has gone missing".

With a flair for alliteration, he occasionally refers to Latham as the "Lair of Liverpool".

"What I find about Mark," Henderson says, "is that he is very good at criticising others, and doesn't mind so much being criticised himself. But if you laugh at him, he gets terribly upset. So I just laugh at him occasionally . . . and have a bit of fun."


Wheeled workers heroes of hospital

THEY don't take sick leave or smokos and their manners are impeccable. But the newest employees at Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital did not attend the staff Christmas party.

For the past month, these automated guided vehicles have been going about their work, transporting the heavy trolleys of linen and food throughout the hospital's new main building and politely telling anyone who gets in their way to "please step aside".

There are 13 of the machines, which communicate with the building via Bluetooth and GPS technology.
The new Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) at Royal North Shore Hospital which have been put into place to help staff at the hospital with tasks such as carrying meals from the kitchen to the wards. 20th December 2012. Photo by Tamara Dean

Behind-the-scenes machines … the automated guided vehicles at Royal North Shore Hospital, which move linen and food. Photo: Tamara Dean

The hospital is the first in Australia where the technology has been built into the fabric of the building.

The hospital's general manager, Sue Shilbury, said the machines delivered about 2000 meals a day for patients and carried 25,000 kilograms of linen. Another major benefit of the $4 million system was that it helped free staff to focus more on patient care.

"It has enormous benefit for the individuals working in the hospital in that it removes a lot of the repetitive manual handling tasks, which does lead to injuries, so it provides a safer working environment," she said.

The vehicles manoeuvre underneath trolleys before attaching to them via magnets. They communicate with the building, telling doors when to open and lifts when to stop.

Darryl Prince, the director of people and culture at ISS Australia, which is implementing the system, described the technology as "very clever".

"The food operator or the linen operator will order the AGV by putting the card [with a computer chip] in the call spot, a bit like you'd call for a taxi," Mr Prince said.

"The AGV will then pick that up through its wireless technology, zip up through the relevant station and then wait. It then sends a note through the paging system to tell the operator to say: 'I'm here and I've either got food with me or I'm an empty AGV ready to pick up whatever it is you want me to take."'

The machines have little contact with the public, operating mostly behind the scenes. They move at walking pace and sensors prevent them bumping into walls and people's legs. They also warn people when they are approaching with the words: "Attention, automatic transport. Please step aside."

However, during Fairfax's visit, one vehicle ran over the photographer's foot, while another could not detect a bed being wheeled by as the bed height was above its sensors.

Project manager David Newman admitted the machines had "a slight blind spot" but said there had been no problems in the past month.

Ms Shilbury said the machines had raised eyebrows in the hospital.

"People have been fascinated," she said. "They've really captured people's imagination. A lot of people have been making comments about bumping into machines that have asked them to 'mind the vehicle'.


Greens go mainstream with policy rework

THE Greens are dropping their demands for death duties as part of a new platform of policies aimed at presenting a smaller target to critics in a federal election year.

The platform does not resile from the party's core beliefs and positions, but like the main parties' manifestos it now presents them largely as "aims" and "principles" with fewer explicit policy measures.

After a year in which Labor figures have attacked the Greens as "loopy" and "extremists" who "threaten democracy", the new platform gives the federal elected MPs - nine senators and one lower house MP - more flexibility in negotiating legislation when holding the balance of power.

But it also makes it harder for opponents to attack or ridicule the party over specific policies.

For example, the new platform no longer specifies the Greens want to abolish the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate, but rather talks about "redirecting funding from subsidising private health insurance towards direct public provision".

And it no longer calls for a freeze on Commonwealth funding to private schools, but rather states that funding should be based on school need and that money not provided to the very wealthiest schools be instead given to the public sector.

The new platform was agreed at the party's November national conference and has now been approved by all the party's state branches.

It still makes clear the Greens want to increase the marginal tax rate for people earning more than $1 million, but no longer specifies that it should be put up to 50 per cent.

It advocates increasing the minerals resource rent tax and applying it to more commodities, but no longer proposes an increase in the company tax rate to 33 per cent.

It says the Greens want tax reform that improves housing affordability by no longer rewarding speculation, but it doesn't specifically call for an end to the concessional arrangements for the capital gains tax.

And - removing one of the critics' favourite lines of attack - it no longer specifies that the Greens support death duties or an "estate tax".

The Greens have had disappointing results in several recent elections, including the ACT poll when they lost three of the four seats they had held in the territory assembly.

Founder and long term leader Bob Brown retired this year and the new leader, Christine Milne, has sought to appeal to new constituencies, including rural voters and small businesses. But the Greens are attracting about 10 per cent of the national vote in most major opinion polls, compared with the almost 12 per cent they achieved at the 2010 federal election.

The party has begun a national fund-raising effort through microdonations to build a $3 million war chest for the federal election year.

Labor minister Anthony Albanese said this year that if the Greens "stood on their real platform, they would be struggling to get to 3 per cent of the electorate". AWU national secretary Paul Howes said they were "loopy" and were extremists who threatened Australia's democracy.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Innocent man held, given dangerous drugs and nearly killed at West Australian nuthouse

This could be you.  It is a revelation about how lax  police ID procedures are.   Anybody heard of fingerprints, for instance?  He presumably contested the identification so why was that totally ignored?     And there is absolutely no excuse for the hospital staff either over the ID or the adminstration of  dangerous drugs to a healthy person

The Minister for Mental Health has called for those responsible for detaining and drugging a man wrongly identified as a Graylands escapee to be held accountable.

The man was picked up by police on December 16 because he fitted the description of an involuntary patient at the mental health centre Graylands, who had left without permission.

The wrongly identified man was taken to the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, where he was held overnight and given a strong antipsychotic drug that caused him to become ill.

It was not until the real patient returned to Graylands on December 18 that the mistake was realised.

Critics have described the incident as yet another example of WA's poor mental health system.

Greens spokeswoman for mental health issues Alison Xamon has called for an inquiry.

Minister for Mental Health Helen Morton apologised for the mistake and said it would be reviewed but she stopped short of supporting a broader inquiry.   "I am shocked and appalled this could happen to anyone in WA," Ms Morton said.  "I am very sorry for the distress and hurt that the misidentified man has endured.

"I find it hard to imagine that if proper processes were followed, there is any excuse for such a terrible mistake to be made.  "I will await the outcome of the clinical review, however people must be held accountable for this dreadful mistake and to ensure that it never happens again."

The state opposition's John Quigley said the wrongly detained man deserved compensation.


Australia' conservatives  claim latest boat arrivals bring number of asylum-seekers to 25,000 under current Leftist Government

TWO more boats have arrived in Australian waters, which the opposition claims brings the number of asylum-seekers travelling to Australia by sea under the government's watch to 25,000.

HMAS Melville and HMAS Albany were called to help a suspected irregular entry vessel near Christmas Island on Sunday.

It is believed 87 passengers and three crew were on board. They will be transferred to Christmas Island for the usual security, health and identity checks.

A separate vessel with 35 people on board sailed into Australian waters north-west of Cocos Island on Friday.

Coalition border protection spokesman Michael Keenan said this meant 25,000 people had now travelled to Australia by boat during the Gillard government's watch.

"One of the main excuses Julia Gillard had for outing former prime minister Kevin Rudd was his failure to protect Australia's borders," he said in a statement on Monday night.

"Given that over 25,000 people on more than 400 boats have arrived under her leadership, then by her own measure she has categorically failed to restore any control to Australia's borders and stop the boats from coming."

He called for more funding and personnel for frontline border protection agencies.

"The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service has been spread so thin that merchant vessels, Australian Navy ships and Customs vessels are being used as water taxis because our patrol vessels are so overworked and rundown that they are literally cracking under the pressure," he said.


Sick hit by parking fees and fines from Melbourne hospitals

HOSPITALS are draining the pockets of the ill and their distressed families, gouging more than $55 million a year from them in parking fees and fines.

The state's 10 biggest hospitals pocketed an extra $5.3 million, or 11 per cent, from parking in 2011-12 and have out-galloped inflation by 22 percentage points in the past two years.

Melbourne's hospital car parks are so expensive a single hour now costs between double and triple what it does at London's biggest hospitals.

Chronic Illness Alliance executive officer Christine Walker said parking fees and transport were such a concern the alliance planned to survey members of its 48 member organisations.

"Carparking is being used to replace government budgets, which is one of the reasons it's so high - a bit more privatisation by stealth," she said.

Ms Walker said patient parking woes were likely to worsen when the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre relocates alongside the Melbourne, Women's and Children's hospitals.

The Victorian Healthcare Association, which represents public hospitals, said successive budget cuts had forced hospitals to find other ways to meet costs.

VHA chief executive Trevor Carr said the latest federal cuts would strip $67 million from the city's 10 largest hospitals, putting them under more pressure.

"If you've got less revenue coming from one source you've got to back it up from another," he said.

Mr Carr said parking was now a significant source of discretionary hospital revenue, but he said most offered discounts to regular attendees, pensioners and health-card holders.

Monash's parking profits top the state, hitting $11.3 million.

The hospital, which collected less than $1 million in parking revenue eight years ago, almost doubled its parking take in the past two years due to its soaring fees and a new multi-storey car park.


Monday, December 24, 2012

His Emininence Archbishop Pell says sorry to abuse victims in Christmas message

Catholic Cardinal George Pell has used his Christmas message to apologise to those who have been sexually abused by Christians.

Cardinal Pell says he is shocked and ashamed by the abuse suffered at the hands of priests and teachers.

He says it goes against the teachings of Jesus and Christians need faith in God's goodness and love to cope with these disasters.

The Archbishop of Sydney says where there is evil, there is less peace.

"My heart and the heart of all believers, of all people, will go out to all those who cannot find peace at this time, especially those who have suffered at the hands of fellow Christians, Christian officials, priests, religious, teachers," he said.

"I am deeply sorry this has happened.

    We need the hope that comes to us from Christ's birth with his call to conversion, to sorrow for sins and the necessity of reparation.  "We need our faith in God's goodness and love to cope with these disasters, to help those who have been hurt.  "We need the hope that comes to us from Christ's birth with his call to conversion, to sorrow for sins and the necessity of reparation."

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader have both made special mention of Australian troops serving overseas in their annual Christmas messages.

Tony Abbott was joined by his wife Margie for his message.

"All of us as Australians have much to be grateful for; we're an open, decent and generous people," he said.

Both leaders are spending Christmas with their families. [What families?  Abbott has the blessing of children.  Gillard does not]


Why call centres get my goat

I am so shat with call centres that I mostly just write a letter to the CEO of the company concerned these days.  I get much better results that way  -- JR

I WRITE this on behalf of the 3 million Australians who, like me, are fed up trying to have our domestic problems solved by doubtless well-meaning, but culturally challenged, people sitting in small cubicles in Third World countries. I am referring, of course, to the modern phenomenon of the call centre.

In my day (to use an old fogey's expression), when you needed help or advice from a company with which you were doing business, you could telephone it and be put through to someone who understood your problem and could help you solve it.

Not any more. It's almost as if businesses these days don't want to know you once they've sold you their product.

Here's a perfect example. My Outlook Express email suddenly refused, for no apparent reason, to accept my password, one that I had been using with no problem for three years.

After several attempts to solve the problem, I rang my service provider. A woman answered my call. "Are you in Australia," I asked. "No," she said, "I'm in the Philippines."

After 15 minutes of fruitless fiddling, the woman said the problem was beyond her and would have to be passed on to a higher-grade technician who would contact me in three to five working days. After I told her (in a somewhat ungentlemanly fashion) what I thought of the service, the waiting time was reduced to the next day.

Needless to say, no call came and the day after that I rang again. This time I got a man, also in the Philippines. "Can I speak with someone in Australia please," I politely asked. "Why?" he replied. "Because the lady I spoke to in your country didn't seem to know what she was about." "Oh," he said, "I can assure you I can deal with the problem" - which I thought was a bit rash since I hadn't yet told him what the problem was.

To his credit, he did solve the password problem.

That wasn't the end of the saga, however. I had foolishly mentioned in passing that I wondered if the problem could be connected with an inordinate amount of spam I had been receiving. "Probably not," he said.

The next day nothing worked: no email, no internet. Back on the blower to the Philippines again. Why wasn't it working, I asked. "Oh, we cut it off," was the reply. "Why?" I asked. "Because you said your computer was sending out lots of spam."

I rest my case.


Christmas wish appears in sky over mosque

The Lebanese Muslim Association says it arranged for a Christmas wish to be written in the sky above the country's biggest mosque, in response to reports it had banned Muslims from wishing people a happy Christmas.

Over the weekend, a message appeared on the Facebook page for Lakemba Mosque, saying that Muslims were forbidden from taking part in Christmas traditions or wishing people a merry Christmas.

The entry implied it was a fatwa, or Islamic ruling, and was based on a lecture given at the mosque during Friday prayers.

The Lebanese Muslim Association, which runs the mosque, says the comments were taken out of context and the group harbours no anti-Christmas sentiment.

Samier Dandan from the the Lebanese Muslim Association says a junior staff member of the association copied and pasted text from another website that the mosque had not endorsed.

"From our perspective this is an innocent mistake done by a youth member who's employed by this organisation," he said.

"We are basically not going to apologise for what I perceive to be an innocent mistake, which is not necessarily reflective of the true mindset and belief of this organisation."

This afternoon, the organisation arranged to have the words "Merry Xmas" written in the sky above Lakemba Mosque.

Earlier today, Islamic Friendship Association spokesman Keysar Trad said the fatwa was not valid, and described the Facebook remarks as damaging and divisive.

"These types of comments, unfortunately, do nothing to promote unity, and I'm glad they've been taken down," he said.

Ahmet Keskin from the Affinity Intercultural Foundation also spoke out against the comments.

"I have no problems passing on those well-wishes at times of Christmas," he said.  "We should be looking to pass on comments to build relations, so I think any opportunity that we can get it's always great to pass on those well-wishes, so that we can get closer and seek greater understanding of each other."


WA ocean heatwave -- with cool pockets

You mean it's not global?  Pesky!

The West Australian Department of Fisheries says it will conduct further research on a marine heatwave that has been linked to a recent spate of fatal shark attacks in Western Australia.

Scientists say the unprecedented heatwave occurred off the WA coast between 2010 and 2011, and could be responsible for declining fish stocks and increased shark activity.

Ocean temperatures rose up to five degrees last summer, and the Department says that has led to pockets of cooler water developing near the coastline.

The Department's research director, Dr Rick Fletcher, says this may be causing sharks to move closer to shore.

"If there is a relatively smaller area of cooler water inshore, then the sharks could be concentrated in that smaller area," he said.

Dr Fletcher says further studies will be carried out to determine the long-term effects of the heatwave on fish stocks and shark activity.

"If we actually understand a little bit more about what conditions are more or less likely to have concentrations of White Sharks or Tiger Sharks, than we can inform the public about what the conditions are likely to be," he said.

"Two years post that initial heatwave, what's happened both to the stocks but also what's happened to the oceanographic conditions, have they returned? Or has that change dissipated over the past two years."

There have been five fatal shark attacks along the WA coast in the past two years, prompting a raft of research aimed at trying to better understand the animals.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Fatwa on Christmas

AN IMAM at Australia's biggest mosque has issued a fatwa against Christmas, warning followers it is a "sin" to even wish people a Merry Christmas.

The ruling, which followed a similar lecture during Friday prayers at Lakemba Mosque, was posted on its Facebook site on Saturday, according to media reports.

It appears the post is no longer on the page.

The head imam at Lakemba, Sheikh Yahya Safi, told the congregation during prayers they should not have anything to do with Christmas.

The fatwa reportedly warns: "Disbelievers are trying to draw Muslims away from the straight path."

It says Christmas Day and associated celebrations are among the "falsehoods" for a Muslim to avoid.

"Therefore a Muslim is neither allowed to celebrate the Christmas Day nor is he allowed to congratulate them," it says.

The fatwa has been condemned by other Muslim leaders. The Grand Mufti of Australia,  Ibrahim Abu Mohammad, was quoted by Fairfax media as saying the foundations of Islam were peace, co-operation, respect and holding others in esteem.

"Anyone who says otherwise is speaking irresponsibly," it quoted him as saying.


Legal aid cuts a blow for anti-gas groups

FARMERS and community groups will have to seek private funding for public interest court cases against coalminers and gas drillers, after a crackdown on Legal Aid funding by the NSW government.

The Attorney-General, Greg Smith, announced changes this week to stop the funding being used on behalf of "activists" and "lobbyists" who could impede minerals industries.

But Mr Smith refused to say what he meant by "lobbyist" and "activist", or say what means or merit tests would be applied.

Asked by Fairfax Media whether a farmer could still seek help over land access during a coal seam gas dispute, he declined to comment.

The new guidelines say any Legal Aid funding must not be used for "providing legal advice to activists and lobby groups".

The ruling is likely to mean that many groups, including the Environmental Defender's Office of NSW, can no longer perform their primary jobs.

"Most of our work is for rural community groups, most of those groups would be incorporated in some way, and most of them would have a constitution with a clause about protecting the environment where they live," said its executive director, Jeff Smith.

"It's not difficult to see them being caught. But it's difficult to know, because a lot of the answers will depend on details of how the government defines 'lobby groups'."

The office has had its resources cut, with reduced funding available only until March. It had received about $1.2 million a year from the Law Society's Public Purpose Fund, which is based on interest from unclaimed solicitors' fees. The office's staff of 25 would have to be cut to three people unless previous funding from the public purpose fund was restored, Mr Smith said.

Members of the public and the legal community, including 59 environmental law academics, have asked the state government to maintain funding for the office.

The office has achieved wins on behalf of community groups, including reversing the Catherine Hill Bay housing development bordering Lake Macquarie, in which a Labor Party donor had been granted approval to build on environmentally sensitive land. Others have been stopping pollution in the Sydney drinking water catchment and improving remediation of the Barangaroo development site.

The new rules will affect 36 community legal centres across the state. They received more than $18 million last year, including $5.26 million from the Public Purpose Fund.

The rule changes specify that funding should primarily be used to give legal advice to socially and economically disadvantaged people, and that these people should be subject to a means and merit test.

The Attorney-General's position on environmental campaigning has previously been endorsed by the Premier, Barry O'Farrell. The Energy Minister, Chris Hartcher, has accused the Environmental Defender's Office of supporting "the left agenda to destroy the economy".

Asked if the Attorney-General's office had produced or vetted the guidelines, or whether they had been developed by lawyers within the department, a spokeswoman for Greg Smith did not comment.

"The funding principles will be applied by the trustees of the Public Purpose Fund and Legal Aid NSW when making decisions about the future allocation of moneys from a pool of funds which is diminishing as interest rates continue to fall," the spokeswoman said.


Leftist bias at the ABC

THE response by the managing director of the Australian Broadcasting Corp, Mark Scott, to Janet Albrechtsen's piece on ABC bias, almost defies belief. It is not the first time he has argued this case, even as he presented figures to a senate inquiry on the biased make-up of the panellists on Insiders.

Somehow, Scott trusts his "outstanding" commentators, by claiming that they are "carrying no ideological badge and pushing no line". Well that settles it, doesn't it?

There has been a very long tradition of accusations of bias in our national broadcaster. In 1981, the Dix report, a committee of review of the ABC, strongly recommended that current affairs programs would be "most arresting, informative and effective, and attract wider audience patronage, if more efforts were made to open the programs to a wider range of viewpoints".

Following the Dix report, the Institute of Public Affairs published a first attempt at media analysis. It looked "at the range of ideas being discussed in selected ABC programs over a period of time to see whether they appear to favour any particular political philosophy".

To his credit, author Ken Baker understood the "range of issues" should be related to "the views of the community". Thirty years on, the ABC is still resisting accusations it is completely out of touch with the community.

That the managing director doesn't see this defies well established perceptions from journalists themselves. In groundbreaking research in 1995 and 1998, John Henningham, a professor at Queensland University published a couple of papers on journalists' perceptions of bias and the ideological differences between them and their public.

What is striking about the research is that the journalists clearly rated the ABC as pro-Labor, indeed as the most pro-Labor of the major media outlets. In this light, indignant protests that the ABC is balanced become plain silly.

Similarly, to deny that there is a large gap between ABC presenters and their audience is simply unsustainable after Henningham surveyed 173 journalists and 262 members of the public in metropolitan Australia. He found an enormous difference between these two groups, with journalists consistently having a much more "progressive" views than the general public. The denial in the ABC has reached a point it does even bother to attempt balance. Albrechtsen has clearly outlined the major offenders. With the polls suggesting a Gillard wipeout, there is a feeling of "end of days" denial in the ABC and they, like Gillard, are going for broke.

A timely book by Californian academic Tim Groseclose, Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind is at pains to point out that political bias "does not mean not being truthful, or reporting facts honestly or even objectively". If there is one lesson to be learned and many of us in Australia have been saying it for years it is about the selectivity of issues, the bias that is formed by the things that are not reported, and in interviews, by the people who are not interviewed.

This is an exquisitely refined technique on the ABC. Presenters tend to interview only those experts who agree with their own opinions, thus transforming news from factual content into a point of view without appearing to express the view of the presenter. On a panel on Insiders or Q&A, one simply gets the false impression that there is a consensus.

Given this reality, Groseclose's most innovative and remarkable analysis comes from asking the question: what would the public really think if we could magically get rid of the biased media?

Left Turn's rigorous, objective methodology was able to measure the filtering that distorts the way we see the world and shows that it does indeed change the way we think. In particular, Groseclose has scrupulously used measures based on criteria selected by the Left itself as a hedge against potential criticism. His research indicates the views we hear expressed by people are not their natural views, but are distorted views of what they really think. Worse, he warns, "media bias feeds on itself".

As a result, in the US the population would, without the omnipresent media bias, score fully 20 percentage points further to the Right. If correct, this is very troubling and begs the intriguing question about the effects of the slant bias in Australia.

It also would explain why so many educated, generally mildly apolitical, well thinking middle class people with a regular diet of the ABC and Fairfax, simply are not aware that, for instance, the world has stopped warming for the past 16 years, that hurricanes and extreme weather events have declined and are not related to global warming, that Doha was a dismal failure, that the NBN has never had a cost benefit analysis, that Green jobs cost money ... and jobs, that growing the economic pie is not the same as redistributing tax revenue Bravo Tony Jones or that the Great Barrier Reef is not being destroyed.

As I explained 10 years ago on a panel at an ABC national staff conference in Melbourne; there is nothing more boring than a one-sided football match. Why doesn't the ABC be brave and challenge itself with controversial, mainstream ideas? It would be "most arresting, informative and effective", as the Dix report concluded more than 30 years ago.


Increasing taxes not the answer: try smart spending

"One of the problems with the idea that "the rich" should pay more tax is that, in Australia, they already pay the vast bulk of income tax revenue"

ONE of the recurring themes of a number of speeches made by Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson is the potentially persistent gap that is emerging in Australia between expectations of government spending and the scope for government to raise revenue.

In his words, "slowing economic growth, rising expectations of government and a constrained revenue base are likely to force an explicit debate about the size and scope of government".

So far, so good. Sadly, however, most of recent public discussion of this topic is based on the assumption that, one way or another, governments in Australia must raise more tax as a proportion of GDP. What needs to be figured out, so the argument goes, is how best to increase tax revenue.

Should it be done by eliminating the exemptions that apply to the GST? Should it be done by raising the rate at which the GST is levied? Should it be done by taxing "the rich" even more? Should it be done by cutting tax concessions, particularly in the superannuation area?

Let me be upfront on this topic. I do not share the assumption that the only way forward is to increase the tax burden. In fact, I think we should be doing everything we can to reduce tax revenue as a proportion of GDP. What is needed is a root-and-branch analysis of the expenditure side of the budget, to cut out wasteful spending and useless programs. Only in this way can there be reduced taxation in association with sustainable fiscal outcomes.

But let us start our story in the early 1960s. Then the share of all government spending of GDP in Australia was just over 20 per cent. It is now around 35 per cent. This is a very substantial increase in the size of government over a relatively short time frame.

In international terms, however, Australia looks like a relatively low taxing-low spending country. We are above the US, but similar to Japan and Switzerland. There are a number of countries that extract much higher proportions of their national outputs in taxation.

Examples of high taxing-high spending countries include: Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Norway and France.

But as Nigel Ray, one of the executive directors of the Treasury, points out, these comparisons can be misleading. "Data on tax revenue or spending can never fully capture the impact government will have on an economy. Most notably, this measure will not account for activity of state-owned enterprises; it hides the use of tax concessions; and it does not capture the impact of government regulations (including mandated superannuation contributions)".

For most of the 2000s, Australian government receipts as a proportion of GDP ranged between 25.1 and 25.9 per cent. Associated with the GFC, this proportion fell to 23.4 per cent in 2007-08 and has not recovered to the levels experienced in the first part of the 2000s. On the Treasury's reckoning, even by 2015-16, the ratio of receipts to GDP will not have returned to 25 per cent.

Now some commentators have seized on these numbers to make the case for higher taxes. But government receipts are the result of both explicit government decisions and the underlying level and nature of economic activity.

What has been happening over the past several years has been the consequence largely of the absence of capital gains to tax; the large deductions associated with the mining investment boom; sluggish company tax receipts more generally; and the small amount of fiscal drag in the current income tax scales. None of these factors is related to any recent government decisions.

The same commentators who recommend higher taxes will sometimes point to survey data which indicate that reasonable proportions of the Australian population seem to be happy with the idea of higher taxes.

Digging a little deeper, however, these survey results are distorted by the fact that many respondents are actually supporting other people, in particular "the rich", paying more tax, rather than being actually willing to pay more tax themselves. (Many do not pay tax in net terms, in any case.)

One of the problems with the idea that "the rich" should pay more tax is that, in Australia, they already pay the vast bulk of income tax revenue. According to the latest figures, the top quarter of income earners paid more than two-thirds of the total revenue from income tax. By contrast, the bottom 25 per cent paid less than 3 per cent of the total.

We are also seeing overseas experiments of imposing higher taxes on "the rich" go horribly wrong. In the UK, for instance, the introduction of a new 50p top tax rate for those earning more than £1 million a year saw the number of people in this tax bracket fall by over 60 per cent. Rather than raising more revenue, it is estimated that £7 billion was lost in tax revenue.

A similar trend is apparent in France, where the Hollande government has imposed an income tax surcharge on very high income earners. Significant numbers of "the rich" have sought alternative tax domiciles.

Where the argument about taxation in Australia becomes very confused is the widely acknowledged inefficiency of our present mix of taxes; in particular, some of the taxes levied by state governments, but the MRRT could be thrown in, for good measure. But it is important to bear in mind that reforming the tax base is most likely to occur when there is scope to compensate the losers of the changed tax mix.

Trying both to make taxes more efficient and, at the same time, increase the overall burden of taxation is a recipe for failure.

The story of the introduction of the GST was the removal of a number of extremely inefficient taxes and compensation to individuals and families through changes to the income tax scales and transfer payments. The overall tax burden was largely unchanged.

The theory is straightforward: it is better to impose taxes that have a ratio of output loss to revenue raised of 10 per cent, say, than 40 per cent.

In other words, eliminate the taxes with the highest deadweight losses. In practice, however, it can be very complicated to change the tax mix, particularly given the overlay of federal-state financial relations.

The bottom line is that there is a case for making taxes more efficient, but this should not be confused with the case for increasing taxes. Luckily, the scope for cutting government spending is very substantial and will set up the circumstances in which the overall burden of taxation can be reduced.

Think: Family Tax Benefit B; excessive childcare subsidies; excessive university tuition subsidies; schoolkids bonus; baby bonus; first-home buyers grant; industry assistance, including to the automotive industry and the clean energy fund; multiple regional grants - the list goes on and on.

Of course, some tax revenue is needed to fund the core functions of government. And we are best served if we can raise taxes which have the lowest impact on work effort and investment.

But the biggest breakthrough is likely to come by confining government spending to a small number of functions where private provision will be absent or inadequate and to ensuring that spending always generates benefits greater than the costs.


Miss Universe 2012 at Las Vegas

She was among the finalists but Miss Australia (Renae Ayris) did not get a placing.  I don't think I am biased in sayibg she looks by far the best to me.  And who doesn't prefer blondes, anyway?