Thursday, February 28, 2013

Australian Muslim activists lose free speech case

Two Muslim activists accused of sending offensive letters to families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan narrowly lost a court appeal Wednesday that cited their constitutional freedom of speech.

Iranian-born Man Horan Monis, a self-styled Sydney cleric also known as Sheik Haron, was charged in 2009 with 12 counts of using as postal service in an offensive way and one count of using a postal service in a harassing way. Amirah Droudis was charged with aiding and abetting the offences.

The six judges of the High Court split on whether the charges were compatible with Australians' right to free speech. When the nation's highest court is undecided, an appeal is dismissed and the lower court decision stands.

That sends the charges to a lower court where they will be heard on a date to be set.

Monis allegedly wrote letters critical of Australia's military involvement in Afghanistan and condemning the dead soldiers. He also allegedly wrote to the mother of an Australian official killed in a terrorist bomb blast in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2009 and blamed Australian government policy for the tragedy.

His lawyers argued in the High Court last year that the charges were invalid because they infringed on Australians' right to freedom of political communication.

The Australian Constitution doesn't include an equivalent of the U.S. First Amendment. But the High Court has held for decades that the constitution contains an implied right to free speech because such political communication is essential to democracy. This right is not as extensive as that guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

The pair had appealed in the High Court the unanimous ruling of three judges of the New South Wales state Court of Appeal in December 2011.

"Whilst at one level the letters are critical of the involvement of the Australian military in Afghanistan, they also refer to the deceased soldiers in a denigrating and derogatory fashion," their judgment said.

It is not immediately clear what potential jail term the charges carry.


Qld govt reveals school privatisation plan

PRIVATE companies will build and maintain 10 Queensland state schools under a Newman government plan.

The announcement comes just a day after the Queensland government revealed plans to privatise parts of the state's health system.

Treasurer Tim Nicholls says the Queensland Schools Project will see private companies contracted to finance, design, construct and maintain 10 new state schools.

Core education services will still be provided by Education Queensland.

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek says the state needs new methods to build and finance schools to meet growing population demands and the plan will give "taxpayers the best bang for their buck."

The 10 new schools will include two high schools and eight primary schools catering for up to 10,800 students.

The minister said the schools would employ up to 540 teachers and 130 non-teaching positions, and the five-year construction phase would generate about 1,700 jobs a year.

Interested companies have until March 14 to register.

Queensland's Health Minister Lawrence Springborg announced on Wednesday that certain projects and services in Queensland Health would also be outsourced to the private sector.


Purge of NSW public servants to save $65 million

Under-performing senior public servants will no longer be allowed to languish on five year contracts, but be forced to meet tougher standards under a purge of the NSW public service that is expected to save $65 million in three years.

Premier Barry O’Farrell said he expected a 20 per cent reduction in the number of senior and middle managers within three years after the changes were fully implemented.

There are currently 3884 senior and middle managers working in the public service.

Mr O’Farrell said the changes to the senior and middle management would create "a more professional public service".

"We want an innovative, professional and accountable public service which encourages and rewards performance and delivers the best possible frontline services for local communities,” he said. "The NSW Government wants to reward talent, not time, in the public service."

Under the existing system, senior managers are employed on five year contracts making it difficult for the government to terminate their employment earlier if they are not performing.

The new system would provide an ongoing contract which was conditional on senior managers meeting performance benchmarks.

The government will also removed some levels of management to streamline the public service because it has found that under the current structure, there are some managers with no people to manage.

About 16 per cent of executive staff do not manage any people and, of those who do, around 30 per cent only manage one to three people.

Mr O’Farrell said a typical manager should oversee more than six people.

Cabinet has accepted the changes which also include reducing multiple layers of management and tightening procedures to "quickly and fairly deal with poor executive performance".

Government executives in different agencies would be brought under a single Act of parliament.

NSW Police, teachers and local health districts would be allowed to retain some independence.

Mr O’Farrell said research by the Public Service Commission had found the number of senior officers had increased from 280 in 1999 to more than 1,600 in 2012.


Conservative Senator attacks ALP over jobs

QUEENSLAND Senator Ron Boswell has blasted the federal Labor Government for the destruction of jobs, saying it was often the lowest-paid workers who bore the brunt of carbon tax, renewable energy and regulatory compliance costs.

“Australian businesses operate in an increasingly tough global marketplace but are being burdened down with government-generated costs that are destroying their competitiveness,” Senator Boswell said.   “As a result, imports are rising and exports are falling. Under this Labor Government, Australia’s fastest growing export commodity is jobs.”

Speaking in the Senate today, Senator Boswell said most businesses had suffered but particularly food manufacturers and primary producers.

“The Australian Food and Grocery Council says production in its sector is down significantly and 7,000 jobs were lost in the industry in the 2011-12 financial year. According to the Council’s “State of the Industry” report for 2012, 335 businesses in the sector closed down or moved overseas.

“For example, Heinz has moved significant food processing operations from Brisbane and Melbourne to New Zealand. The currency difference and Australia’s extra on-costs, carbon tax and renewables tax mean it is 50% cheaper to do the work in New Zealand. In particular, New Zealand has the advantage of a minimal carbon tax – just one dollar and eleven cents per tonne of CO2. Australia’s Carbon Tax is 20 times more expensive, at $23 a tonne.

“Of course, when food processors shut down particular commodity processing lines or close their doors, this in turn affects Australian farmers. They lose markets for their produce. It has serious flow-on effect.

“This impacts real people. Farmers in the Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane, traditionally a premier vegetable growing region, lost important markets when the Heinz Golden Circle cannery in Brisbane moved some processing lines to New Zealand factories using New Zealand product.  It is a similar for tomato growers and other farmers in Victoria. They have been forced to cut back their operations and sack staff.

“It is the lowest-paid workers –  people like farm workers and workers on food processing lines – who are bearing the brunt of industries’ extra costs from carbon tax, renewable energy taxes, regulation compliance and other burdens imposed by this Labor Government.”

Senator Boswell said the answer was to strip “unnecessary, unproductive, job-killing costs” out of the manufacturing process.”Get rid of the job-killing carbon tax and the renewables tax, and reduce the cost burden of regulations.”

Senator Boswell accused the Labor Government of substituting “stunts and thought bubbles” for sound policies and good government.

Press release

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dr Samy Nassief

  The authorities seem to be very loath to take action against incompetent Egyptian surgeon Dr Samy Nassief, despite the harm he has done.  A reluctance to criticize "overseas trained" doctors is probably involved.  I reproduce below some press reports about him but immediately below I reproduce an email from a relative of one of his victims.  There are also a variety of comments about him here.  It would seem that he has a good bedside manner but minimal surgical skills  -- JR

The email:

The matter is before the HCCC hearing in Sydney next week. The Government and medical system have been very uncooperative with regard to stopping the doctor from practicing. What makes me furious is this surgeon has caused other ladies to suffer. Is there any way we can expose further  Dr Samy Nassief or find the women who have made comment so that other people are not hurt?

What the ladies describe as covers ups and unable to receive their medical information is all true. It has taken us 4 years, much heart ache to expose him and stop him from his poor workmanship.

However it is extremely hard to take the Government and health profession on. If you could at all help I would be most appreciative. I can’t help my sister, but if it saves another person’s life than it will be worth it. Please if we can contact the other women -- as you can understand time is of importance as the hearing is next Tuesday I need your urgent action. Many thanks

Incompetent Egyptian surgeon kills NSW woman

March 31, 2011

A COMPETENT surgeon should have known the reason for Heidi Clarke-Lewis' massive blood loss and been able to do something about it, an inquest into her death was told yesterday.

Professor Andrew Korda told the inquest a sharp medical tool known as a trocar had struck the 29-year-old's spine during an operation to remove an ectopic pregnancy, causing the fit, healthy patient to bleed to death.

Giving expert evidence yesterday, Professor Korda said it would have been "like hitting a nail into a wooden table" and should have alerted surgeon Dr Samy Nassief to the possibility of damage to major vessels.

Professor Korda agreed with assisting counsel Peggy Dwyer that he would have expected a "competent general surgeon" to identify the source of the bleeding, clamp major arteries and call for assistance if needed. "Most general surgeons should have enough rudimentary knowledge to repair a vascular injury," Professor Korda said.

Ms Clarke-Lewis died during the surgery for the ectopic pregnancy at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital on April 30, 2009.

A post-mortem examination found she died from an intra-abdominal haemorrhage, after injuries to her right common iliac artery and vein. Professor Korda said the trocar caused the damage to the artery, after entering her body about 2-3cm off target, and resulted in Ms Clarke-Lewis losing more than four litres of blood.

Dr Nassief should have made a larger incision to look for the site of the bleeding about 10-15 minutes into the surgery, he said.

"The appropriate response would have been to extend the incision and try and find out where the bleeding was coming from," Professor Korda said.

A second doctor called in to assist Dr Nassief made that larger incision after arriving in theatre about 90 minutes later but was not able to find the direct source of the bleeding in the time.

Nurse Cherie Anderson has previously told the inquest that she believed the trocar's safety mechanism failed, meaning that a sharp blade had been exposed within the stomach of Ms Clarke-Lewis.

Professor Korda said: "If a trocar is inserted in a manner in which it hits the fifth lumbar vertebra, no safety mechanism will protect the patient."

But he was not critical of Dr Nassief's decision to operate on Ms Clarke-Lewis because he said ectopic pregnancies were unpredictable.


Coroner's report

April 1, 2011

Deputy state coroner Hugh Dillon today laid the responsibility for Heidi Clarke-Lewis’s death with surgeon Dr Samy Nassief. The court heard Dr Nassief was out of his depth and parts of his evidence were at times “perplexing” and difficult to accept.

Heidi’s family said they were pleased with the outcome of the “shocking” week-long coronial inquest.

It has taken almost two years to come to a resolution after Heidi died during surgery to remove an ectopic pregnancy at Wagga Base Hospital in 2009, and father, Abbey Clarke, says the apologies have been somewhat comforting.

Family solicitor Tim Abbott, however, said it was likely the family would pursue civil damages against Dr Nassief.Mr Dillon praised the efforts of Dr Harrison and Dr Hicks and made recommendations on changes to hospital procedures, including recording surgeries.


Damages claim in  surgery death  settled

15 May, 2012

The family of a woman who died during emergency surgery at Wagga Base Hospital in 2009 has settled a damages claim.  An inquest last year found Doctor Samy Nassief was responsible for the death of 29 year old Heidi Maree Clarke-Lewis.

Her husband and the Clarke-Lewis family sued the Murrumbidgee Local Health District and Doctor Nassief.  Family solicitor Tim Abbott says the case has been mediated and finalised, with five undisclosed payouts.

Mr Abbott says the public may never know the outcome because the Health Care Complaints Commission holds closed hearings.

There is an assurance that a Wagga Base Hospital doctor found responsible for Ms Clarke-Lewis' death is working under supervisory conditions.

The Murrumbidgee Local Health District's Chief Executive, Susan Weisser says the conditions under which Doctor Nassief continues to work are set by the Medical Council of New South Wales.

The family's complaint against Dr Nassief is yet to go before the Health Care Complaints Commission.


Asylum seekers must respect the law: Bowen

ASYLUM seekers being housed in the community, in places like university campuses, must respect Australian law, Tertiary Education Minister Chris Bowen says.

A Sri Lankan asylum seeker is due to face court in Sydney on Wednesday after being charged with the indecent assault of a 20-year-old student at Macquarie University on February 21.

Asked if campuses were appropriate places to house asylum seekers, Mr Bowen said the law should be allowed to take its course.

"Australian law applies to everybody, including those who are being housed in the community as asylum seekers," the former immigration minister said.  "The law should be allowed to take its course."

The 21-year-old Sri Lankan man was arrested on Tuesday.  An immigration department spokeswoman said on Tuesday the man was not living in student accommodation at the university.

Campus Living, part of Transfield Group, provides services for asylum seekers, including temporary accommodation, under a 2012 agreement with the Red Cross' Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme (ASAS).

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison called on immigration minister Brendan O'Connor to review his department's system for releasing people into the community.

"Such a review needs to look at where the 10,000 people currently are across Australia that have been released into the community," Mr Morrison told reporters in Melbourne.

He said the government had been asked last year if asylum seekers were being housed at Macquarie University.

"It's important that the government find out where these people are," he said.

"They need to look at appropriate guidelines and what is an appropriate form of accommodation for people who are released into the community on bridging visas."


State Government plans to allow logging in areas earmarked for national parks

THE State Government is about to reopen logging in about two million hectares of environmentally sensitive land put aside by the previous government.

The move will see timber felled in prime conservation areas that were earmarked for national parks.

Logging will resume in southeast Queensland, the western hardwoods area, cypress regions in the west, central Queensland and north Queensland.

A leaked email from Agriculture Department director-general Jack Noye to National Parks Department director-general John Glaister says Agriculture Minister John McVeigh has approved the logging.

The email also notes that it is proposed that logging be conducted without Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service approval for codes or harvest plans.

It sparked a vicious response from Greens environment spokeswoman Larissa Waters, who said the letter confirmed Premier Campbell Newman was an environmental vandal.

"The reopening of native forest logging will trash invaluable habitat for native wildlife, destroy carbon stores and is an economic risk, given plantation forestry is more sustainable and provides reliable employment into the future," Senator Waters said.

Mr McVeigh said the areas being reopened were not World Heritage-listed forests.

"They are areas that have been previously available and they will ... meet the highest forest sustainability management standards," he said.

"Many of these robust, former state forests had been sustainably harvested for a century and more, supporting regional towns before being locked up by Labor in its dirty preference deals with the Greens."

He said the Greens wanted to shut down local forest industries, which forced greater reliance on imports.

It is expected about 30,000ha per year will be logged on a 30 to 40-year cycle.

In 1999, the state government signed the South East Queensland Forests Agreement with the Queensland Timber Board and conservationists.

Its aim - and other agreements that followed - was to end disputes over what areas should be logged or conserved and for producing plantations such as between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast to gradually replace native forest logging over 25 years.

But logging companies in country towns such as Monto and Mundubbera, often major local employers, complained that the agreements starved them of logs.

Senator Waters said Mr Newman was determined to repeal all environmental protection.


High Court blocks mall preachers

THE High Court has upheld the Adelaide City Council's right to stop two brothers from preaching in the city's main shopping precinct.

In a judgment on Wednesday the court ruled against previous orders from the Full Court of the South Australian Supreme Court which said the council's action had infringed constitutional freedoms.

The case centres on brothers Samuel and Caleb Corneloup who are members of a group called Street Church and want to preach in the Rundle Mall without permission.

They fought against a council by-law which prohibited preaching, canvassing or haranguing on any road without a permit.

After the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the brothers, the South Australian government took the case to the High Court, which rejected the argument that the council's action was constitutionally invalid.

Justice Kenneth Hayne said the provisions were appropriate to prevent the obstruction of roads.

He said the council's action was compatible with responsible government.


Graduates failing bosses

THE literacy standards of higher education graduates have failed to satisfy more than four in 10 bosses in a survey, while 36 per cent are not impressed with numeracy levels.

The views are revealed in Australian Industry Group research to be unveiled at a tertiary conference in Canberra starting on Wednesday.

The survey of 500 companies from all sectors of the economy, but mainly in manufacturing and construction, asked employers how satisfied they were with university graduates, higher education providers and the training system that applied for positions with them. Only 58.8 per cent of bosses were satisfied with graduates' basic literacy. Views on basic numeracy were only slightly better, with 64.1 per cent of bosses giving graduates a pass.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox will tell the higher education conference most of the ratings were generally satisfactory.

"It is hard, however, to look past the figure that only 58 per cent of employers are satisfied or very satisfied with basic literacy and English of graduates," he will say, according to speaking notes.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tasmanian police encourage drink driving

Tasmanian police have been left red-faced by a signage mishap on random breath-testing vans which encourages people to drink drive.

The vans have been emblazoned with the message: "Real mates don't let mates drink drive."

The slogan painted on the sides of vans used throughout the state shortens to "Real mates drink drive" when the sliding doors are open.

The signage was part of a major road safety campaign by police and included links to a website and social media page.

The Police Department has told officers to remove the slogans by the end of the week.

The department is yet to comment on the bungle.

It is not known how much the repainting will cost the cash-strapped department.


Another public hospital shocker:  Baby born in  Hospital carpark

THE birth of Paula and Scott Bailey's longed-for daughter should have been a time of joy.

But now all Mrs Bailey can think about is her harrowing birth in Nepean Hospital's carpark and the alleged attitudes of hospital staff who saw her.

The Dean Park couple had struggled to conceive for five years before their precious daughter Madison arrived on February 5 about 3am, weighing 3.08kg.

Mr and Mrs Bailey said they arrived at the hospital about 10pm but were sent home at 1am, without a proper medical assessment.

Mrs Bailey claimed a nurse told her: "That's pregnancy love, suck it up princess. You don't know what pain is but you will when the baby comes."

Shortly after arriving home, Mrs Bailey's waters broke and they drove back to the hospital, only to be ignored by emergency staff.

Madison was born in the hospital's carpark at 3am and it was only once her head was showing that staff came to the couple's aid.

Mrs Bailey said she was struggling to cope and that she was made to feel ashamed and embarrassed by the ordeal: "It is eating away at me and I keep hearing the (nurse's) voice in my head, but I'm trying my best to stay strong."

Mr Bailey said he was upset at what he claimed was the nurse's arrogance and lack of empathy.

"It was because of her actions that a beautiful experience was turned into this nightmare," he said.

"I am absolutely disgusted and appalled by the way we were treated by the staff at this hospital, and the lack of care and professionalism given by the staff."

They have lodged an official complaint with the hospital but said they had been "brushed aside".

Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District chief executive Kay Hyman told the Penrith Press the hospital was investigating the birthing incident.

"We are currently in contact with the family discussing their concerns," she said, but didn't comment on specific aspects of the complaint, such as the alleged comments made to Mrs Bailey at the hospital.

Their son Jacob, 9, was born at Nepean Hospital.


10PM: Mrs Bailey left her home at Dean Park for Nepean Hospital, having experienced contractions since 2pm.

1AM: Despite having regular contractions Mrs Bailey was sent home without a check-up.

1.45AM: Her waters broke at home and the couple again drove to the hospital. Upon arrival in the carpark Mrs Bailey was in considerable pain. Twice emergency staff came to see what was happening, only to walk away.

3AM: Madison was born in the carpark, and only once her head was showing did staff arrive to help, pushing aside Mr Bailey who consequently missed the birth.

6.20AM: Mrs Bailey was seen by a doctor after being left in a room sitting in blood since the birth.


Union grouchy over privatised hospital

PLANS to outsource to the private sector public health delivery at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital have been slammed by a key union as an attack on accountability.

Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg, who will deliver his much-anticipated health blueprint on Wednesday, has made it clear the Newman Government is keen to work more with the private and not-for-profit sectors to deliver public health care.

The model would be similar to Queensland Health's partnership with Mater Health Services which is paid by the taxpayer to care for public patients.

"If anyone's got a problem, look at the Mater Health Services, look at Mater Mothers', look at the Mater Children's, look at the great job they already do," Mr Springborg said. "We've been partnering with Mater Health Services since 1911 to deliver free public health services."

But Queensland Nurses Union secretary Beth Mohle said outsourcing more services would make the "health system less accountable".

"They're not subject to Right to Information. If there are concerns now about the level of accountability for health services, this is just going to make it even worse," Ms Mohle said.

Mater Health Services does not report to the same level as other public hospitals, providing no details on the QH website about patients' waiting time for an appointment at a specialist outpatient clinic, the so-called "waiting list to get on the waiting list".

But Mr Springborg said he was keen to ensure that when public health services were provided by private operators under new contract arrangements, they would be open to the same scrutiny as Queensland Health-run facilities.

Meanwhile, Kawana MP Jarrod Bleijie said he was confident Sunshine Coast University Hospital would remain a training hospital despite the University of Queensland withdrawing its agreement to provide medical school services at the $60.8 million health training centre.

UQ formed a partnership two years ago with the university and TAFE Sunshine Coast to establish a Skills, Academic and Research Centre at the new hospital.


Key climate change body loses Government funding

Amid much weeping and wailing and garnishing of teeth

A key research body charged with preparing Australia to handle the impacts of global warming is running out of money.

The National Climate Change Adaptation Research facility [NCCARF] has been running for five years but the Federal Government has decided not to extend its funding.

It means that from June the facility, which develops knowledge used by decision-makers from both the Commonwealth and industry, is expected to be wound up.

With more than 100 researchers set to be affected by the funding cut, Professor Jean Palutikof, director at the facility, says she is saddened and concerned that critical work may not being followed through.

"We've built up a lot of knowledge through our research programs that have really placed Australia in a very good position to deal with the challenge," she said.

"There are a lot of people out there now who know a lot about climate change and those people were not in that position five years ago.

"We might be seen an organisation that perhaps is meeting a future challenge rather than a current challenge although I have to say looking out of the window here in Queensland it looks to me like the challenge is pretty much here now.

"The bottom line is the activities of government in that respect of the present time are totally inadequate.

"Therefore we are also going to have to prepare ourselves to respond to the impacts of climate change that will inevitably happen because we haven't really managed that successfully on the mitigation front.

"When I say we haven't managed that successfully, I'm really talking about the global effort, not the effort of Australia individually."

Chief executive officer at the Investor Group on Climate Change, Nathan Fabian, says NCCARF has played an integral role in keeping the nation and industry up-to-date on what is proving an important global issue.

"Business is largely still working out what it knows and what it doesn't know about the physical impacts of climate change and to us," he said.

"NCCARF has played an important interpretive role between the science of climate change and its impacts on regions and resources and in some cases the assets that we invest in, so there is still an important role to be played."


Monday, February 25, 2013

Mungo still hates the rich

Because he writes with a jocular touch, Mungo MacCallum is not generally seen as the far-Leftist that he is.  In his twilight years he seems in fact to have become near-Communist.

Gillard's refusal to wreck the Australian mining industry by imposing even more taxes and royalties than they already pay is deeply disturbing to him

To take Australia's biggest miner as an example, BHP is valued by the market as worth $190 billion.  Its most recent profit was $5.7 billion.  That amounts to a return of 3% on assets employed -- which is below the rate of return that some banks offer on your savings.  And Mungo calls that very modest rate of return an "orgy of looting and pillage".  Even after allowing for comedic exaggeration, Mungo is still all hate and hot air, in the best Communist style.  No wonder he got only a third class honour (fail) from Sydney university.

Mungo makes no attempt to link to the facts the way I have done above because his hate needs no facts.  He is quite happy to live in a fantasy world created by that hate. There is no truth in him,  as Jesus said of the Devil (John 8:44).  I don't believe in the Devil or anything metaphysical at all but there is certainly an evil in human nature -- and it is in Mungo, despite all his jocularity.

So it is all the more amusing that the only authority he quotes for anything is a hymn! See below -- JR

For months now critics of Labor in general and Julia Gillard in particular have been complaining that her government lacks a narrative - a simple story that defines what it is and where it wants to go.

But last week it appeared that the Prime Minister had come up with one, or at least the one she intends to take to the election. And it can be summed up in three words: eat the rich.

Of course, Labor's strategy is not quite as crude as the ironic Trotskyite slogan of the 1960s suggests. But it certainly looks as though Gillard is determined to turn back the economic revolution of the Hawke-Keating years and even the progressive forays of the Whitlam regime that preceded them to launch an old-fashioned Labor campaign based on the simple formula of Us against Them: Us being the workers and Them being the bosses.

This at least was the theme of the AWU conference last week at which she said she was proud to lead a union-based party and willingly accepted the embraces of Australia's best-known faceless men, AWU boss Paul Howes and his predecessor Bill Shorten.

It was Howes who set the tone with his description of the mining magnates as "robber barons", rhetoric more reminiscent of the 1930s Great Depression than of the boom years of the 21st century. But if this was supposed to be a challenge, then Gillard turned it down flat. She is completely unwilling to reverse her 2010 capitulation over the mining tax or to take any other serious measures to restrain the robber barons' orgy of looting and pillage - which leaves her entire campaign looking more like bluff and bluster than a genuine crusade on behalf of the downtrodden.

She and her Treasurer, Wayne Swan - himself a factional warrior for the AWU - are pretty good at verbal bellicosity; in recent times, Swan has invoked the spirit of Bruce Springsteen, derided his opponents as antipodean versions of the American Tea Party, declared war on the banks, and lambasted sitting ducks such as Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer.

But to date nothing serious has been done to rein in either their depredations or their profits; indeed, their balance sheets show that the government has treated them with a generosity bordering on dissipation. Gillard and Swan talk a good fight, but have been very reluctant to step into the ring.

The budget will show whether they are fair dinkum or not, and on the surface at least they might as well throw a few punches, because not only do they have nothing to lose, but they have a story to tell.

It has long been accepted that executive pay packets have become quite simply unconscionable; the gap between the top and the bottom, or even the middle, is now quite obscenely wide. And as the rich have grown richer, they have also become more arrogant and selfish; they now give proportionately less to charity than the poor and spend far more time and effort in rorting the system.

Last week alone, assistant treasurer David Bradbury drew attention to devices such as the one he termed the "double Irish Dutch sandwich", by which multinationals like Google avoid paying tax in Australia. It was revealed that the big coal power generators had not only passed all or more of the carbon tax on to consumers, but were trousering billions in compensation for their trouble.

And of course, those earning 90 per cent more than their fellow Australians continued to insist that they were not rich - well, not really. And if they were, well fair enough. As a letter writer to the Sydney Morning Herald once put it, the reason the rich need more money than the poor is obvious: the rich have greater expenses.

But any attempt to introduce a modicum of restraint into this manifestly inequitable system is immediately greeted with loud cries of "Class warfare! The politics of envy!" by those with the money and the power. It is taken as a given that there is no class in Australia, and therefore any attempt at closing the gaps in society is a sinister and wrong-headed attempt to promote not equality, but division. Robert Menzies set the myth in stone back in 1944. "We believe,"  pontificated the great man, "that the class war is a false war."

In fact our longest serving prime minister was an unashamed worshipper of England, an assiduous gatherer of imperial honours. No one joined with more gusto in the now forgotten third verse of the hymn "All things bright and beautiful":

    The rich man in his castle

    The poor man at his gate;

    God made them high and lowly

    And ordered their estate.

If ever there was a Bunyip Aristocrat, it was Ming, Knight of the Ancient Order of the Thistle and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.

But, false though his premise clearly was, it appealed to the egalitarian streak in Australians, and is now considered unchallengeable. To take it on, Gillard and Swan will have to do more than simply promise the unions a blue collar future; after all, few present day Australians see their own, let alone their children's, future as a lifetime spent on the assembly lines.

And simply shovelling more lower and middle class welfare into the marginals won't cut it either. Not only is that unaffordable, it doesn't attack the real problem: the fact that the super rich are now seen to set their own salaries, choose whether or not to pay tax, and cynically ignore their obligations to the rest of the Australian community.

If Gillard and Swan want to be taken seriously, they will have to cut down a few tall poppies just for starters.

The political backlash will be fierce, but so what? Can things get any worse? And if "eat the rich" sounds a little too brutal for an election slogan, then how about "Time for a fair go"? Gillard, for one, should be able to relate to that.


Newspoll shows NSW Labor has lowest support for six months

To lose the election, Julia just has to lose Queensland -- but now she is losing NSW as well

THE latest Newspoll shows support for NSW Labor is at its lowest point for six months as a corruption scandal dims the party's prospects at a state level and federally.

In Queensland, it's not clear if Liberal National Party support is increasing or falling, but voters still rate it well ahead of Labor.

The NSW poll conducted for The Australian newspaper in January and February shows primary support for state Labor at 27 per cent, two points down on a poll conducted in November and December last year.

Labor was last at 27 per cent in a poll conducted in July-August last year after dipping to only 24 per cent in March-April.

Support for the O'Farrell coalition government is up one percentage point, at 46 per cent, indicating a 60-40 split in favour of the coalition in two-party preferred terms.

The poll, published this morning, is bad news for federal Labor, with half of the party's 20 most marginal federal seats in NSW, and big swings against it widely tipped in western Sydney and on the NSW Central Coast.

Polls have shown support for Labor has been slipping since NSW's Independent Commission Against Corruption began hearing last year into allegedly corrupt conduct by three former state Labor ministers.

Today's poll result is also bad news for state Opposition Leader John Robertson whose support as preferred premier has slipped back two points to 19 per cent.

Premier Barry O'Farrell's support has risen four points to 48 per cent.

He has 43 per cent of voters satisfied with his performance and 38 per cent dissatisfied compared with 28 per cent satisfied with Mr Robertson and 35 per cent not satisfied.

Two Queensland polls released today reveal differing trends, but both show the LNP would still decisively defeat Labor in an election.

A ReachTEL poll shows primary support for the LNP rose by almost five per cent to 47.1 per cent over the last month, but a Galaxy poll indicates it fell to 43 per cent, down one per cent since November.

Labor's primary support slid by six per cent to 28.9 per cent, according to ReachTEL, but Galaxy respondents put support up at 34 per cent.

Premier Campbell Newman's management during the ex-tropical cyclone Oswald floods impressed ReachTEL respondents, with 20.8 per cent saying he is doing a very good job, up from 18.1 per cent in January.

But Galaxy says Mr Newman's support has fallen, with people unimpressed by his performance rising by four percentage points.

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell visiting Coonabarabran. in wesern NSW after fires devastated over 50 homes. Picture: Bullard Simon

Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk isn't faring well either with 18.6 per cent of ReachTEL respondents saying she is doing a very poor job, up three per cent since January.

Galaxy shows Ms Palaszczuk has recorded a seven percentage point increase in the number of people dissatisfied with her performance.

The ReachTEL poll shows 0.5 per cent of respondents don't know who Mr Newman is, while 13.5 per cent of respondents have not heard of Ms Palaszczuk.

The response to a separate question in that poll, asking people if they believe the Newman government should lift the ban on uranium mining in Queensland, will be released at a later date.


Gillard trying to take control of schools

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is vowing to take on state governments which are unwilling to overhaul school funding, amid increasing hostility from some state and territory leaders.

Over the weekend, Victoria announced plans to implement its own scheme, with an extra $400 million in education funding focusing on areas of disadvantage.

Queensland is considering whether it should follow Victoria's lead in the absence of clear details from the Commonwealth on its proposal, and Western Australia has indicated it is not yet willing to sign up to funding changes.

Ms Gillard says she is committed to implementing the recommendations of the Gonski report, which suggested an annual boost to education funding of $6.5 billion.

"It will take political will to get this done. I've got the political will to do it, and we will fight through to get it done," Ms Gillard told reporters in Canberra.

"Now I hope that fight is concluded in April around the COAG [Council Of Australian Governments] table, but if there are states that are still holding out from giving kids the best possible education, then we will certainly fight on to secure that for those children."

Under the Gonski plan, each school would receive funding based on how many students are enrolled, with extra loadings for educational disadvantage, including students with poor English skills, disabilities or geographical distance.

On Friday, Ms Gillard told an Australian Education Union conference that if Labor lost this year's election, the opportunity to implement the Gonski report would also be lost.

The ABC understands that the Federal Government only plans to inject an extra $1 billion next financial year, with more money to be "phased in" over time.

Ms Gillard is hoping to reach an agreement with state and territory leaders within months, but several states appear unwilling to sign up in the absence of firm details.

It will take political will to get this done. I've got the political will to do it, and we will fight through to get it done.

Prime Minister, Julia Gillard
"We've had 18 months of Chinese water torture coming from the Australian Government, and the vast bulk of the populous have no idea what we're talking about," Queensland's Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek told AM.

"What we've seen from the Prime Minister is Julia Gillard saying 'this is what you'll get from the Labor government if we're re-elected'.

"And at the next COAG meeting in April, Premier Campbell Newman, along with the other premiers, will be put under pressure to agree to something, the detail of which we haven't seen yet.

"We can't sign up to Gonski until we see more detail."

Federal School Education Minister Peter Garrett says the Commonwealth is close to finalising its offer to the states, but he has declined to provide details about how much money is involved.

"My expectation is that in this week and the weeks ahead we will be sitting down and specifically going through with those states who are committed to a national plan for school improvement both what we believe are the necessary components of the plan, and also the likely offers that will come onto the table for us to pay our fair share - as we've always said we would do - and to seek the same from the states," Mr Garrett told AM.

West Australian Premier Colin Barnett says most funding for government schools comes from state funding.

He says the Gonski report would mean more state funding for private schools at the expense of government schools, something he is not prepared to do.

"We don't have to change. They're our schools. We don't have to do anything," he told reporters on Friday.

"Gonski's a fair report and points to some real issues in education, but just because the Commonwealth Government thinks we should change our funding, doesn't mean we'll do that.

"And in fact we won't."

While visiting a school in suburban Canberra this morning, Ms Gillard announced the appointment of the first National Children's Commissioner, whose job it will be to advocate for the needs of young people.

"As Government gets on with doing tasks across a wide range of portfolios, the National Children's Commissioner is there to make sure that the outlook of children and their needs is always being taken into account," Ms Gillard said.

The Government has asked Megan Mitchell to carry out the role. She is currently the New South Wales Commissioner for Children and Young People.

Ms Mitchell says it is important to have a children’s advocate at a national level, to review federal laws and policies and to ensure compliance with international agreements.

"I'm really very, very keen to ensure that children’s voice is up there and heard by adults who are making decisions on behalf of and for children," Ms Mitchell told reporters.

"Personally and professionally, I do have an interest in ensuring that we identify kids that are at risk of disengaging from education and social life, as I think there are lots of implications of that.

"I'd like to look at the laws and policies of this nation - and states and territories - to make sure that we very early on pick up any risk factors for kids and act on that."

Ms Mitchell has been appointed for a five year term beginning on March 25.


Greens encouraging single parenthood

In accord with their generally very Leftist agenda.  And they hate miners too

The Greens are proposing single parents receive a top-up to their welfare payments of up to $127 a week.

The Federal Government this year moved thousands of single parents onto the lower unemployment payment, Newstart.

The changes meant parenting payments were cut by up to $110 a week.

Deputy Greens leader Adam Bandt told the ABC's Insiders program his plan would effectively reverse those cuts.

"Labor really slugged single parents, especially those from January 1 this year who are forced to live on Newstart," he said.

"We're going to put forward a proposal that will allow single parents to work more hours, keep more of that money and have greater rights to flexible working arrangements with their employers, together with a small funding boost."

Mr Bandt says his proposal would cost an extra $340 million a year.

"You could pay for that just by closing one of the loopholes in the mining tax and you'd have change left over," he said.

"The people of Australia want to change the mining tax. The majority of the population is on our side. That we need a mining tax and/or that it should be increased.

"Let's raise the revenue to fund the services that Australians expect."


Sunday, February 24, 2013

No reason for an Asian Century cultural cringe

The underlying fixation on cultural politics is a peculiar feature of the debate about Australia’s economic prospects in a global economy centred on Asia.

Academics, business leaders, and politicians all agree that prosperity in the Asian Century requires a serious cultural re-education.

Australians apparently lack the sensitivity and understanding to effectively compete in Asian markets and forge ever-closer ties with our northern neighbours.

These calls for deeper Asia awareness are reminiscent of the cultural cringe of a bygone era and undersell Australia’s natural strengths.

The idea that we are dangerously ignorant of the languages, cultures and mores of Asia is a step back towards a time when it was fashionable to deride Australia for being crude compared to European standards of sophistication.

It suggests Australians are embarrassingly Asia-illiterate and not quite ready to move beyond their parochial shores.

This view could be the result of the sneaking suspicion that the society that brought us the White Australia policy could not possibly be successful in the Asian Century.

Or maybe it is related to a generational lag of sorts. Many of the academics, business leaders and politicians calling for re-education grew up when Australia was probably not ready to effectively engage with Asia on many levels.

Although the origin of the Asian Century cultural cringe is unclear, it is obvious that it is out of touch with the reality of modern multicultural Australia.

As my latest research report shows, there are growing numbers of Australians with the Asia-relevant capabilities it is claimed we are yet to develop.

As well as making up seven of the top 10 source countries in the overall migration program, Asian nations dominate the skilled stream.

In 2010–11, six of the top eight source countries for skilled visa grants were from Asia, accounting for the arrival of more than 50,000 Asian migrants with business acumen, technical expertise and workplace experience.

This steady stream of new Asia expertise adds to Australia’s already large pool of readymade Asia literacy. Approximately 2.2 million people speak Asian languages at home, which equates to one in 10 Australians.

As a naturally Asia-savvy nation, Australia’s supposed unpreparedness to engage with Asia is just a phantom menace.


Australian government reducing legal immigration

THOUSANDS of low-paid foreign workers will be stopped from coming into Australia and taking local jobs under a crackdown on visas.

Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor revealed to the Herald Sun that growth in the 457 visa program was "out of step" with skills shortages and said the Gillard Government had evidence "rogue employers" were abusing it to get cheap labour.

The number of 457 visas has soared from 70,000 to 100,000 in the past two years.

Mr O'Connor said while some industries and regions had genuine shortages that needed temporary foreign workers, laws and regulations needed to be beefed up to stop rorts and close loopholes.

He predicted this could stop "thousands" of foreign workers taking jobs from locals.

"Rogue employers are deliberately employing people from overseas without giving a local a chance," he said.

It is the second time in three days the Gillard Government has moved to stem pain on a hot political issue after it reversed a $107 million funding cut to Victorian hospitals.

The changes, to be announced today by Mr O'Connor, include:

EXTRA investigation powers for inspectors to get information from bosses they suspect of being dodgy.

A NEW test to prove jobs were for "genuine" skills shortages because some employers were creating positions that were really "unskilled and possibly not even a real job".

CLOSING loopholes that allow foreign workers to be paid less than an Australian citizen by increasing from $180,000 to $250,000 the threshold at which they must pay "market rates".

STOPPING employers creating their own market to manipulate pay rates.

RAISING requirements for foreign workers to speak English.

RESTRICTING foreign workers being on-hired to a different employer in regions where there are not skill shortages.

CHECKING that employers offer training for locals to fill skills shortages before they seek foreigners.

"The Government cares about Australians getting jobs first," Mr O'Connor said.

"It has become clear that the growth in the 457 program is out of step with genuine skills shortages and the Government has evidence that some employers are using 457 visas to employ foreign workers over locals."

It has found skilled Australian tradespeople earning $220,000 were under-cut by foreign workers willing to accept $180,000.

Pay levels have been especially manipulated in the IT industry in Melbourne.

Low-skilled jobs have been dressed up as high-skilled ones with one company winning permission to bring in administrators who were really unskilled security guards.

And a Melbourne "start-up" company that didn't make money was created just to secure a cheap foreign worker for other duties.

Mr O'Connor also said the Government would examine the 457 visas of four Filipino welders at the centre of protests at a Werribee water project amid claims the system has been abused because there is no shortage of those skills in the area.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said last year there was "room for expansion" of the 457 program and said claims the market was being flooded with foreign workers was "ridiculous".


Authorities investigate how  Health job given to fugitive

Your bureaucrats will protect you

MEDICAL authorities are investigating how an alleged con artist and fugitive was hired to run one of Victoria's top rural health services.

American health bureaucrat Ashton Foley, 40, was employed as Orbost Regional Health (ORH) chief executive in December.

This is despite being wanted for breaching a community order by fleeing the state two years ago and being jailed in the US over fraud and identity theft.

ORH senior vice-president Andrew Martin said they were not aware of Ms Foley's history at the time and were running a "formal investigation" into the recruitment process.

"We will be meeting with the recruitment company next week to ensure all procedures were followed during the recruitment process," Mr Martin said.

He was unsure whether a police check was conducted.

Ms Foley yesterday faced Latrobe Valley Magistrates' Court where Western Australian detectives applied for her extradition on charges of attempted extortion.

Police allege she demanded money she was not entitled to from her former WA employer, threatening to go to the media with confidential documents if they didn't comply.

The mother of seven, from Lake Bunga in the state's east, was granted bail and told to appear at a Perth court on March 1.

It is the second time this week she has faced a Victorian court. She was fined $1000 on Wednesday after pleading guilty to breaching a community-based order by leaving for WA in 2011.

That matter dated back to April 7, 2011, when she was put on the order for dishonesty offences, which had gained her a total of $4400 her lawyer said in court.

The Sunday Herald Sun understands the charges stemmed from not providing goods sold on eBay.

Recruitment company Health Financial managing director David Wenban believes all the correct procedures were followed when putting Ms Foley forward for the Orbost position, adding 10 references were checked.

But no calls were made to her former WA employee, who has since accused Ms Foley of providing false qualifications to get her job.

Ms Foley has been in the public spotlight since testifying in October to a WA Parliamentary committee about allegations of misconduct at the same workplace. She remains adamant she has done nothing wrong and the company is out to get her.


New figures show predicament of working poor

Close to 500,000 part-time workers in Australia want full-time employment but cannot find it, according to new figures.

The Bureau of Statistics has found more than one in four workers between the ages of 15 and 24 are looking for more hours.

The situation for women who are looking to increase their hours has also become worse.

The Bureau of Statistics figures relate to people who are underemployed - someone working part-time, doing less than 35 hours a week, who wants to work more.

Will Sutherland, a 23-year-old retail worker, is one of Australia's underemployed. He says he wants more shifts but cannot get them.

"For the last month, almost nothing at all, actually. I get called in really, really rarely," he said.

He says he a lot of spare time because of his lack of work hours, but he has no money to do anything.

"Most of the stuff that you want to do when you're not working costs money anyway," he said.

"So all the free time, you end up spending more because you're not working, so sometimes it can get really bad like that."

Mr Sutherland says his friends are in a similar predicament.

"I have very few friends who are working jobs who feel like they're being overworked," he said.

"Most of them would like to be working more, especially during the holiday break."

Mr Sutherland and people in a similar situation are known as the working poor; they live close to the poverty line despite having at least some work.

Bureau of Statistics spokeswoman Cassandra Gligora says there a couple of common reasons for the lack of available working hours.

"The most commonly reported reason underemployed workers gave for not finding work with more hours was that there were no vacancies in their line of work. This is most common for both men and women," she said.

"The next most commonly reported reason for men was no vacancies at all, whereas for women it was too many applicants for available jobs."

After the global financial crisis hit in 2008, the number of people who wanted full-time work but could not find it shot up.

From then on, it has remained fairly stable despite signs of a recovering domestic economy.

John Buchanan, the director of the Workplace Research Centre at the University of Sydney, says Australia has a low unemployment rate by world standards.

"But there's a sleeper in the Australian labour market and that's the large number of part-time workers who want to work more hours," he said.

"They're called the underemployed. That's a big chunk of the workforce, currently about 8 per cent."


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Coral reefs

Today is my Sabbath so I would not normally be posting anything here but I thought it might be a good occasion to publicize my new special-purpose blog on coral reefs.  The blog gathers together the most recent "wisdom" on coral reefs and the way they are "threatened" by global warming.  Rebuttals of that "wisdom" are also included of course.

The idea of the blog is as a one-stop-shop for anybody who is talking about coral reefs and wants to use just one link to blow the Warmist nonsense out of the water.  Link to the above blog and tell any coral alarmist to "go do some reading"

Because articles about coral reefs do not come up daily, the posts to the blog will not be daily.  The blog is intended as a reference rather than as regular reading.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Senate inquiry rejects 'offends and insults' law

A Senate inquiry has rejected the Federal Government's plans to prohibit conduct that offends or insults, saying the move could limit freedom of expression.

The inquiry has been considering a draft bill that wraps together five existing human rights and anti-discrimination laws.

The aim of the bill is to provide a clearer definition of what behaviour is considered unacceptable and how people can make complaints.

The draft includes a clause stating that unfavourable treatment of another person includes conduct that offends, insults or intimidates.

The Coalition and legal groups have raised concerns that would curtail freedom of speech.

Media organisations including the ABC, Fairfax and News Limited also argued against the clause, saying many media organisations publish or broadcast material that some members of the public will find offensive at times, ranging from satirical programming to political commentary.

Last month, former attorney-general Nicola Roxon acknowledged the concern and made the clause optional rather than mandatory.

But the Senate inquiry, which received more than 3,000 submissions, has recommended the clause be removed altogether.

The inquiry says the clause may have unintended consequences, including making it illegal to offend someone.

The Federal Government is not making any promises about agreeing to any of the recommendations.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus says there is a lot in the report for the Government to consider.

"Public views, which are going to help the Government identify whether its intention of consolidating these important laws," he said.

"But it's an extensive report. It will require close consideration and a full response will be made shortly."

But shadow attorney-general George Brandis says the draft legislation is so flawed it cannot be fixed.

"It creates a scheme in which Government would be much more intrusive, much more invasive, effectively establish itself as an arbiter for community standards in a way we don't think is the role of the state at all," he said.


Labor has lost the plot, and the narrative

Waleed Aly says the ALP stands for nothing, which is pretty right.  A party that stood up for the worker would reject all the Greenie restrictions that keep the workers poor -- but we see no sign of that.  The trouble is that the ALP is now more the teachers' party than the workers' party

If you're inclined to take a long-term view of politics, the hand-wringing on whether Julia Gillard should stay or go is really just so much white noise.

Labor is in crisis, but not principally for the reasons that occupy the commentariat.

It's not about a bitterly divided caucus, or political miscalculations such as the ham-fisted Nova Peris saga. It's not even simply about policy missteps such as the creation of an impotent mining tax.

Labor's problems are not nearly so managerial and technocratic. They are much, much bigger than that.

Labor's problem is ideological. It doesn't really mean anything any more, and probably hasn't since Paul Keating lost power in 1996. Sure, Labor has had its moments - most notably in its campaign against WorkChoices, which jolted its ideological memory and gave it a momentary reason to exist.

But this was no ideological revival. It was reactive: a political opportunity well taken rather than a world view reborn.

Only John Howard's pro-business, anti-union zeal, unencumbered by any resistance in the Senate, made this possible. After WorkChoices, much as before it, what then?

This isn't an optional, esoteric extra. Governments ultimately thrive on narrative. Voters are not merely electing a suite of set policies. They are electing a party that will respond to future, unforeseen policy questions. They therefore need to know what you're about. That's what a clear consistent story tells them.

A party without a narrative is reduced to seeking your support as a lesser evil. Hence Labor's focus on Tony Abbott.

Every successful government can be summarised in a phrase or two. Bob Hawke: a new, deregulated, globalised economy. Keating inherited that story, then added Asia, a growing economic power in our backyard we should embrace by shedding our British skin. Howard was about nationalism, security and capital's triumph over labour. Everything - asylum seeker policy, counterterrorism, foreign affairs, even unsolicited social commentary about minority groups - was tailored to fit the story.

Exactly what story has Labor told us since 2007? It began with something about "Australian working families", but that too was a relic of the WorkChoices campaign. After that, it has been mostly a blancmange of conflicting messages. Perhaps it started when Kevin Rudd wanted to be "tough but humane" on asylum seekers. It took Gillard only a matter of days as Prime Minister to continue the incoherence, declaring both that the number of boat people arriving in Australia was much smaller than many imagined, before swiftly going on to reassure those worried about invading hordes that their concerns were legitimate, and that they're "certainly [not] racist". We learn nothing from this about how Labor sees asylum seekers. We learn only that it's trying to please everyone.

The problem persists even in Labor-friendly policy areas. Take education, where the Rudd government announced a bold new focus on literacy and numeracy, much as Howard might have. More recently, it commissioned the Gonski review, but tied its hands on the question of private school funding so the panel couldn't even consider cutting it. Then it pledged a response it is yet to detail or fund.

Indeed, its only real response to date has been a bill it hailed as the most important of last year, but which had nothing in it at all. Explicitly. It has a section specifically saying the bill creates no rights or obligations on anyone - especially the government. To paraphrase, "section 10: this legislation does not exist".

Even Labor's most significant reform, the carbon tax, merely symbolises the party's ideological malaise. The government's heftiest achievement isn't even its own policy. Indeed, it was so infamously promised not to be its policy.

Remember the citizens' assembly? That was Gillard's pledge before the last election: a random gathering of ordinary people who would somehow reach a consensus on pricing carbon. That's a process, not a policy. It's the kind of thing you do when you want to announce something but you're not prepared to commit to a compelling vision of your own.

As the opposition hammers it on Labor's broken pledge to deliver a surplus this financial year, the government seems to have found some coherence. Confronted with falling corporate profit (and therefore falling tax revenue), it had a choice: either keep finding cuts that would make lots of people unemployed and deflate the economy, or prioritise jobs and growth. It's a nice line. It sounds like a Labor line. But it follows years of saying the opposite; of elevating the surplus to some inviolable standard of good economic management; of saying the main game was giving the Reserve Bank "room to cut interest rates". And this in the face of the ever-lengthening queue of economists advising to the contrary.

In short, Labor had bought wholly into the Coalition's narrative for no discernible reason. It conceded the philosophical debate, then lost the political fight. So now, when it has finally found a Labor story to tell, it sounds convenient and insincere. Labor has become a liberal party, so it isn't even convincing when it sounds like itself.

That's not about incompetent leadership; it is the flipside of the Hawke/Keating legacy. Once Labor embraced a deregulated, liberal economy, the political landscape was forever changed, leaving a diabolical question for subsequent Labor leaders: what exactly is the point of Labor politics? The compromise has been to talk about Labor's "reforming tradition", but reform is an act, not an ideology. WorkChoices was a reform, too.

Labor has been chasing its base ever since. Often it watched helplessly as workers became small business owners and turned into Howard's socially conservative battlers. Labor cannot offer them industrial protection, and desperately doesn't want to offend their cultural sensibilities, which is why it says things like "tough but humane".

The result is that Labor cannot even compete on social and cultural politics. Hence the flight to the Greens, the party Gillard so venomously dismissed this week as a "party of protest". To which the most devastating reply is surely: "Fine. But what are you?"


Woolies chief questions regulation call

Woolworths has questioned calls for more supermarket regulation as the competition watchdog signals a renewed focus on market power.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has flagged it will heavily scrutinise the highly concentrated supermarket and fuel sectors amid claims the retailers have mis-used their market power by squeezing suppliers.

But Woolworths chief executive Grant O'Brien says more regulation isn't the answer and denies Woolworths is intimidating its suppliers, althoug he's admitted an anonymous complaints hotline for suppliers has uncovered a few cases of wrongdoing.

"When there are calls for regulating choice in a supermarket, I really start to wonder where the Australian consumers’ interests are being prioritised,’’ he told the Queensland University of Technology forum late yesterday.

Mr O’Brien also insisted that Woolworths was not intimidating its suppliers.

"We have a very strict code in our business and all of our buyers, those people in contact with suppliers, have to go through that process before they’re allowed to be a buyer,’’ he said. "We have a zero tolerance for anything that goes outside those codes.’’

But Mr O’Brien admitted an anonymous hotline for suppliers to lodge complaints had uncovered a few cases of wrongdoing.

"Very few because we get very few calls,’’ he said.

Mr Sims said that since the last ACCC inquiry in 2008, global groceries giants had entered the Australian market and increased price competition.

"Aldi are are two to three times the size of Woolworths, Costco have come - they’re bigger," he said.

While Woolworths has defended its internal code, it continues to work with its main rival Coles, the Australian Food and Grocery Council and the National Farmers’ Federation on an industry wide code.

In a separate speech on Thursday, ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the idea of a new code had merit, as long as breaches could be prosecuted under the Competition and Consumer Act.


Public hospital defends woman giving birth alone

A SYDNEY hospital says it wasn't understaffed at the time a woman was forced to give birth on her own and hasn't received a complaint from the new mother about her care.

The NSW government's budget cuts have been blamed for the "incredibly distressing" incident in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The Mount Druitt woman was reportedly forced to take painkillers from her own handbag to ease the pain of labour in the maternity suite at Blacktown Hospital.

She gave birth to a daughter before waiting up to 10 minutes before nursing staff arrived, the Nine Network reports.

"This is an incredibly distressing case and the health minister needs to explain how on earth this was allowed to happen," said opposition health spokesman Andrew McDonald.

He said other patients in the room came to the woman's aid after she called out for help.

But David Simmonds, acting director of nursing and midwifery at Blacktown Hospital, said the woman had not complained about her care.

"We take all patient complaints seriously. In this case staff have spoken regularly with the patient, however she has not raised a complaint," he said in a statement on Friday.

"We are looking into this matter and, as with all matters, we will investigate it thoroughly."

Mr Simmonds said the birthing and maternity units at Blacktown-Mt Druitt Hospital were well staffed with highly trained midwives.

"The maternity unit had a full complement of staff at the time," he said.

"Birth can be unpredictable and can at times come on quite quickly.

"Staff provided regular monitoring of the patient and offered the best possible care in the timeframe."


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Freedom of speech struggling in Australia

If Muslims had wanted to disprove what Wilders says, they would have either stayed at home or attended the talk and listened politely.  But they were too dumb for that.  The obstructive response to the lecture by Wilders proved everything he said:  That Muslims are intolerant and violent enemies of free speech and diversity of ideas

by Ronit Fraid

I went to hear Geert Wilders speak tonight.  I already knew what he was going to talk about.   I didn't go for the information.

I had already seen him on the telly when he was "interviewed" by Tony Jones.  I didn't go in order to see him.

Had I thought about it consciously, I might have decided I didn't need to travel to Somerton and risk a confrontation with nasty protestors who might disturb my peace of mind with their violent rhetoric. But I didn't think about it.  I just went.

Now that it is over and the unanticipated confrontation is over, I realise why it was important for me to go to hear Geert Wilders speak.  It was important because I live in a free and democratic country, where people are permitted to have opinions and express their ideas.  This is a country where people are allowed to disagree with each other and talk about difficult issues openly and without fear.

I went because I wanted to be comforted that my faith in Australia as a free and open democracy is justified and that the rule of law prevails, that freedom of speech has not been compromised by entities who don't believe in it.

I also went because I wanted to say to those who threaten our civil rights that they will not succeed.  On the other hand, they did make it bloody difficult for everyone, in particular the organisers who had a nightmare job trying to book a venue...and because of the amount of security needed to keep Wilders safe and  the huge police presence required to ensure that we, the peaceful audience, could enter the hall and listen to the speakers without incident.

Geert Wilders sends a strong message.  It is a message about the nature of Islam and the effect of Islamic immigration on Europe.  It is not a comfortable message and one doesn't have to agree with Wilders or listen to what he says. That is the free choice people make in much the same way that people make the choice to listen, to hear and to evaluate for themselves the importance of the message he brings.  And that is a choice Australians need to protect fiercely...because without it we really are not free anymore; which goes to validate and support the very argument that Wilders is making.


Incredible Federal stupidity in cutting hospital funding

They must WANT to lose the election.  This enables State Premiers to blame Gillard for all deficiencies in their hospitals

The federal government will consider restoring $404 million cut from hospital budgets around Australia this financial year following the reversal  of a cut to Victorian funding and threat from the Prime Minister to bypass state governments and fund hospitals directly.

Health minister Tanya Plibersek said Prime Minister Julia Gillard had written to other states to say she would consider restoring funding to hospitals after a readjustment of population forecast figures in October had resulted in a $404 million shortfall this financial year.

The restoration of $107 million in funding to Victoria would be made directly to hospitals, bypassing the Baillieu government.

After the announcement of the new arrangement with Victoria, NSW and Queensland demanded the return of their share of cut funding.

NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said Ms Plibersek also had an obligation to reverse cuts in funding to other states.

"It doesn't relieve the federal government of its responsibilities to restore funding to all states and territories," Mrs Skinner said.

Mrs Skinner said the direct funding to Victorian local hospitals networks was "a very strange deal".  "I'm absolutely stunned by it," she said. "It goes against entirely not only the COAG agreement but the spirit of the agreement in that specifically states that the states and territories are the system managers and that funding is to go through the states and territories for disbursement to the hospitals."

Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg demanded the Commonwealth restore $103 million in federal funding cut from the Queensland's allocation this financial year.

"Queensland should get that money back because it equals thousands of operations in Queensland," he told ABC radio.  "It means that we won't have to cancel elective surgery for non-urgent patients and also it will mean that we'll be able to save some of the clinical jobs that are now at risk."

In October last year the federal government announced that it would reduce its health payments to the states by $1.6 billion nationally over four years after a review of population forecasts indicated a decline.

The backdown on Wednesday night comes after widespread concern about the closure of 350 beds and cancellations of thousands of operations around Victoria.

Speaking in Melbourne on Thursday morning, Ms Plibersek did not rule out further adjustments in the years ahead, leaving uncertainty about hospital funding around Australia for 2013-14.

She said any other funding boost around Australia for this financial year would go directly to hospitals and come from funding otherwise earmarked for those states.

Ms Plibersek said all threatened services must now be restored in Victoria and she was pleased that Casey Hospital, in Melbourne outer south-east, would not proceed with plans to close its emergency department overnight.

She said that she was "open" to making arrangements in others states similar to those she had announced in Victoria.

Ms Plibersek confirmed on Thursday that the $107 million Victorian rescue package consisted of $55 million budgeted for a project to streamline national and federal laws, and the rest from federal reward money for meeting health benchmarks.

She said there would be no need to allocate further rescue funding in the new financial year, and the federal government would continue to use the new, lower estimates of Victoria's population to calculate payments.

Speaking to reporters in Adelaide, the Prime Minister threatened to bypass other states and deliver funding directly to local hospital networks while cutting other state funding.

"I have said to premiers and chief ministers very clearly, that the federal government is not going to tolerate the continued playing of politics with health," Ms Gillard said.

"There is a very clear message to those premiers: we will go around you, we will deal direct with hospitals and local hospital networks, and we will rearrange your budget for you.  "We will rearrange state budgets by cutting them back in other areas."

Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu said the Commonwealth funding was an interim measure, adding that "the damage has already been done".  "The money will be welcomed by hospitals, but this is a short-term fix and we have certainly not had a long-term fix on this," he said.


Climate sceptic lets loose

LORD Christopher Monckton, one of the world's best-known climate change sceptics, breezes into Tasmania today with a warning the Greens are the new totalitarians and Labor is not much better.

Speaking from Melbourne yesterday, the outspoken British peer said there had been no measurable global warming for at least 16 years and quite likely longer, despite increases in carbon dioxide emissions.  Lord Monckton said the science was collapsing around the alarmists and ordinary people were angry at the lies that had been told.

He said much of the debate was driven by left-wing politics.  "The Greens are too yellow to admit they are reds," he said. "Labor is frighteningly close.

"The totalitarian left thinks they know best how we should live. It's about increasing the ability to interfere in every aspect of our lives, down to the last dim, flickering light bulb."

Lord Monckton described Australia's carbon tax as "fantastically cost-ineffective".

If the whole world adopted Australia's carbon tax scheme for 10 years, it would cost $317 trillion or 59 per cent of global GDP.   This amounted to $45,000 for every person and all it would achieve was to forestall warming by about one sixth of one degree. It would be 36 times more expensive than paying the cost of adaptation to any climate change.

While carbon dioxide did have some effect on temperatures, he believed it was vastly overstated. He dismissed the idea of a scientific consensus as intellectual baby talk. "Science is a matter of verifiable proof. Climate science is much slipperier."

Asked about warming of the sea along Tasmania's East Coast, he said Australia was one of the only places where warm currents had had any effect, but the Great Barrier Reef had experienced no temperature change at all.

Lord Monckton is speaking at the University of Tasmania's Sir Stanley Burbury Lecture Theatre in Hobart tonight at 7.30


'I was capsicum sprayed and fined after going to woman's rescue'

He's lucky he didn't get shot.  The Vic cops are good at that.  Their tiny egos need a lot of propping up

A GOOD Samaritan who rushed to the aid of a woman "having her lights punched out" was gobsmacked to get a $553 fine from police in the post.

Aaryn Hayes, 25, was with friends in Brunswick St, Fitzroy, on Sunday morning when he saw a man grab a woman by the throat and throw her to the ground.

Mr Hayes grabbed the man towering over her and pinned him against a wall.  Seconds later, police arrived and doused both men with capsicum spray.

"The guy was punching the hell out of this lady," Mr Hayes said.  "I didn't punch him or hurt him. I simply grabbed him and moved him away from her to stop the violence.

"She was having her lights punched out - he was getting really stuck in - and people were just walking past. I had to help," he said.

Mr Hayes said while one police officer dealt with "the yelling and screaming offender", he explained to the other what had happened, and they helped him clear the spray from his eyes.

"Then the other officer came over and said I was disturbing the peace and acting in a riotous way.

"I was bewildered. I was just trying to stop a woman being beaten to a pulp and police were saying I was in the wrong for helping.

"I was with seven friends and my girlfriend, who were all witnesses. But when they spoke to the officer he threatened to arrest me and take me back to the station.

"Meanwhile the guy who attacked the woman was let go because the woman didn't want to press charges."

Mr Hayes said his shock was compounded on Tuesday when he received in the post a $600 penalty notice for "riotous behaviour".  "I feel like a criminal for trying to help police," he said.

"I keep thinking, 'What if it was my girlfriend or mum who was being attacked, and no one helped?'.  "It's not in my personality to walk by, but the fine has made me think twice."

Mr Hayes said he was seeking legal advice and would contest the penalty in court.

A Victoria Police spokesman, Belle Nolan, said: "It's believed a man in his 20s intervened in a verbal dispute between a man and a woman. It's alleged the man assaulted the victim, aged in his 50s, and refused to comply with police instructions to stop.

"He was sprayed with capsicum spray and received an infringement notice for riotous behaviour."


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Leftists and Muslims try to prevent people from hearing Wilders

Video at link

A large group of angry protesters has scuffled with people attending a Melbourne speech by controversial Dutch MP Geert Wilders.

There were verbal exchanges on Monday evening as about 200 protesters wrestled with those trying to access the venue at Somerton, in the city's north.

The demonstrators took guests' tickets and pushed them to the ground.

"What are you doing? This is a democratic society. We're allowed to go in there," one guest told the protesters.

Mounted police then moved in, forming a line to try to stop the scuffles.

"We do not want this to be an issue of confrontation and we ask you to accept the rights of all the other members of the community," one policeman said.  "If you do not move aside, we will be using force."

Most of the protesters, who chanted "racism, no way, we're going to fight it all the way", then moved on.

The group Students for Palestine organised the protest, and say demonstrators did not come looking for trouble.

"We were just standing there while actually, a number of people were charging at us, are hurting us," the group's Yasmin Shamsil said.

"There are actually people in here with bloody noses and these are all the demonstrators who are just peacefully trying to raise awareness of the fact that we oppose Islamophobia and all the things that Geert Wilders and the people who come to Geert Wilders' event preach."

The far-right politician's Australian speaking tour has been sponsored by a group called the Q Society, which is against multiculturalism.

Andrew Horwood from the Q Society blamed political correctness for the trouble.

"I think it's very sad that we've got to this stage with the cloak of political correctness that's descended on this land," he said.

"That it's hard for an organisation like this, a group of volunteers, to get places where we can freely speak and discuss something that concerns the future of this country."

Security inside the function centre was tight for Mr Wilders, who told an enthusiastic audience large-scale immigration by Muslims threatened the fabric of Australian life.

"I'm also here to warn Australia about the true nature of Islam," he said.  "It's not just a religion, as so many people mistakenly think. It's primarily a dangerous and totalitarian ideology.

"And I'm also here to warn you what is happening in my native country, the Netherlands, that that might soon happen in Australia too if you fail to be vigilant."

Mr Wilders will press on to other speaking engagements across Australia, and no doubt more protests.


Abbott rejects Wilders's views on Islam as not applicable to Australia

Despite the evidence above that Islam is just as intolerant as Wilders says it is

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders is "substantially" wrong in his views on Islam, arguing there is not much Australia can learn from the Netherlands on the issue of multicultural integration.

Mr Wilders is in Australia as part of a speaking tour organised by the Q Society, which warns against the "Islamisation" of the country.

Mr Abbott says Mr Wilders is free to "say his piece", but says Australia's experience of multiculturalism is different from the Netherlands.

"Obviously he's entitled to his viewpoint, but I think that the Muslims in this country see themselves rightly as fair dinkum, dinky-di Australians, just as the Catholics and the Jews and the Protestants and the atheists," Mr Abbott told Fairfax radio.

"We see ourselves as Australians.  "We don't like to divide ourselves on the basis of race, of faith, of colour, of class, of gender.  "That's one of the great strengths of our country. "We are always conscious of what we have in common, rather than the things that divide us."

Mr Abbott was yesterday forced to defended the Coalition against accusations it was being "radicalised" by extreme right-wing political influences from the United States Tea Party movement.

Treasurer Wayne Swan used a speech to the Australian Workers' Union national conference yesterday to argue that the Coalition had "imported all the very worst aggressive negativity and reckless disregard for responsible economics from the Tea Party".

Mr Abbott responded by saying that the Coalition would always practice politics with an "Australian accent".

"We don't import our politics from overseas, we don't import our personnel from overseas," he added, in a thinly veiled reference to Prime Minister Julia Gillard's director of communications John McTernan, who is Scottish.


Racist "child protection" in W.A.

An Aboriginal baby was removed from his foster carer who he had spent the first seven months of his life with because she was non-indigenous.

Not only was the child removed from her care but according to the woman, he was placed in a home judged by the Department of Child Protection to be "inappropriate."

The case of a woman who wanted to be known only as "Audrey" and baby "Robert" was highlighted on Radio 6PR this morning.

Robert came to Audrey as a nine-week-old baby who had been born three months premature.

"There were drugs and alcohol involved with the parents, and also domestic abuse," Audrey said.

After caring for Robert for more about seven months, Audrey - who has been a foster carer for more than three years, taking children in on a short-term basis - was asked if she would be willing to take Robert on as part of a fulltime arrangement.

She said as a foster carer, she knew that a permanent arrangement still meant that the child could one day be reunited with his birth parents but was willing to take him on, which could have been an 18-year commitment.

At the same time, she knew that the DCP was assessing members of Robert's family as possible placements as well.

"Those were deemed inappropriate," she said.

"There was a placement that they were also looking at where an elder sibling of his resides, that was also deemed inappropriate because there were too many children in that foster home already."

She said five days after agreeing to take Robert on permanently, everything changed.

"I was notified that an indigenous elder had stepped in and that Robert was to be removed from my care, and two weeks later he was gone."

Audrey said she was told that she was no longer considered an acceptable full time carer for Robert as she was not indigenous.

"For me, the concern was Robert was very attached to me, he had bonded, he was healthy, he was thriving, and there was actually no need to remove him from my care."

She said Robert was then placed with his sibling in the home that was originally deemed inappropriate.

"Robert is now in a family where there are seven other foster children under the age of eight."

Audrey said the family has their own children as well as foster children.

"The last time I saw Robert, his health had deteriorated, there were several things brought up with his case worker that were noted, several conditions that he did not experience in my care, but he's still in that placement despite the health concerns," she said.

"After only a week in his new placement, he had severe nappy rash to the point where his bottom was bleeding.

"He had pale coloured stools, he had an ear infection, he was very untidily dressed."

She said never had these issues when in her care.

Audrey was concerned that the DCP had judged that an inappropriate indigenous placement was better than an appropriate non-indigenous placement.

"I was told by case workers that this was just what it was like for indigenous children in care and that I just needed to accept that," she said.

Audrey said she could not accept this situation.

"I don't think that's right for any children, they all deserve the same nurturing, love respect, they are children first and foremost and it's not acceptable that they are put in placements that their care is compromised," she said.

Audrey said that speaking out may result in her not being able to care for children in the future  but was hoping that DCP would keep her on.

Aboriginal children make up about 45 per cent of all children in foster care in WA.

While Aboriginal people only make up 3.8 per cent of WA's population 1867 of the 3927 children in care in WA at the end of 2012 were Aboriginal.

According to the DCP's website, the department tries wherever possible to place Aboriginal children within their families and local communities to "safeguard their identities."

"In some cases it may be necessary to place children with families that are not of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, therefore we are always looking for more Aboriginal people from metropolitan, regional, rural or remote locations who may be interested in becoming foster carers."


Australian Green party leader has a tantrum

Greens leader Christine Milne says her party's agreement with Labor is effectively over, citing a string of Government policies including its refusal to redesign the mining tax.

In a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra, Senator Milne says it has become clear that Labor no longer has the "courage or the will" to work with the Greens on a shared national agenda.

"Labor has effectively ended its agreement with the Greens," Senator Milne told the audience.

"Well so be it. But we will not allow Labor's failure to uphold the spirit of our agreement to advance the interests of Tony Abbott.

"We will not walk away from the undertakings we gave not only to the Prime Minister, but to the people of Australia, and that was to deliver confidence and supply until the Parliament rises for the election.  "The Greens will not add to the instability that Labor creates every day for itself."

While her announcement will add to the air of instability that often surrounds the minority Government, Senator Milne's decision to guarantee confidence and to continue passing budget bills means the current parliament will continue until the election, due on September 14.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Julia Gillard has released a one-line statement in response to Senator Milne's speech.

"This is a matter for Christine Milne and the Greens. We will always be the party that puts jobs, growth and work first."

Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan says the Greens have opposed several pieces of Government legislation over the past couple of years, and he does not think the decision will affect how Parliament operates.

He told reporters at the Australian Workers' Union national conference on the Gold Coast that Senator Milne's decision highlights the fundamental differences between the two parties.

"The Greens want to abolish the mining industry. That's right over on the fringe," he said.  "The Labor Party and the Greens are cut from a different cloth. We don't pander to special interests on our left or on the right."

Fellow Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese believes Senator Milne's speech was fuelled by internal disunity within the Greens.

"We know that Christine Milne, since Bob Brown left the leadership of the Greens, has been under siege from the extreme elements of the Greens political party, led by Lee Rhiannon from New South Wales," he said.

Powerful union figure Paul Howes, who has publicly urged Labor to distance itself from the Greens, has also played down the end of the formal alliance.

"So what? I mean, the Greens haven't been supporting a whole range of Labor's initiatives in the Parliament," he told reporters at the Australian Workers' Union national conference on the Gold Coast.  "There are numerous pieces of legislation in the Senate and in the House that the Greens have voted against.  "Frankly, if Christine Milne wants to rip up an agreement? Excellent."

Liberal Senator Eric Abetz says despite Senator Milne's speech, the Greens will continue to prop up the Labor government through their guarantee of confidence and supply.

"Senator Milne's diatribe at the National Press Club today adds to the chaos surrounding this Government, but in reality nothing has changed," Senator Abetz said in a statement.

"The Greens have worked out how toxic the Labor brand is and are trying to distance themselves from it."

After the 2010 election, the then-Greens leader Bob Brown signed an agreement with Ms Gillard which helped Labor remain in office.

But the relationship between the two parties has been strained by a string of policy disagreements, most recently the push by the Greens to overhaul the mining tax following revelations it raised just $126 million in its first six months.

And Senator Milne fired another broadside at Environment Minister Tony Burke, describing his decision to reject a proposal to list Tasmania's Tarkine wilderness on the National Heritage register as "pathetic".  "Minister Burke sold out the Tarkine to mining interests at the behest of New South Wales right [faction], Paul Howes."

"Only the Greens are standing up for the Tarkine - the largest tract of temperate rainforest left in Australia."

In March last year tensions between Labor and the Greens spilled over after Ms Gillard's described them as a "party of protest" which rejects the "moral imperative to a strong economy".

"The Greens will never embrace Labor's delight at sharing the values of every day Australians, in our cities, suburbs, towns and bush, who day after day do the right thing, leading purposeful and dignified lives, driven by love of family and nation," Ms Gillard said at the time.

Former Senator Bob Brown fired back, accusing the Prime Minister of "unfortunate and gratuitous" insults against the Greens which will "come back to bite her".