Sunday, March 31, 2013

Gai Waterhouse defends son Tom against footy betting attacks

I am sure any mother would be proud of a son like Tom:  Always well presented, doing an extraordinarily complex job and loving it.  And bookies are like royalty for many Australians -- helping to bring excitement into routine lives. And Tom pays millions for his advertising opportunities -- JR

POLITICIANS should lay off Tom Waterhouse, whose only fault is "working his butt off", according to his mother, champion horse trainer Gai Waterhouse.

In fierce defence of her star bookmaker son, Waterhouse accused some MPs of trying to kill off every industry in the country, adding that if everyone followed her son's example, the nation would be a better society.

"They should stop criticising - all they can ever do, the Greenies and all the rest of them," she said.

Tom Waterhouse was barred from offering opinions during sport broadcasts after a parliamentary hearing last week found he was blurring the lines between the roles of bookmaker and commentator. From this round of league on, he will be limited to talking about sporting odds.

But his mother said: "Bugger the criticism. They want to kill every industry in Australia and then they wonder why they are going belly up.

"He is out there working his butt off. If everyone worked as hard as my son Tom we'd have a much better society in Australia."

Senator Richard di Natale was particularly critical of the bookmaker's appearance on Channel 9's NRL coverage.

"People watching footy with their kids don't want to see Tom Waterhouse ads rammed down their throats, and see pseudo commentators giving odds," he said. "People are very, very angry at this sport being enmeshed with gambling."

Despite playing a reduced role, Tom Waterhouse has still been the victim of ongoing abuse on social media regarding Nine's numerous live crosses to him for updates on betting odds during games - with people referring to the network's rugby league coverage as "The Tom Waterhouse Show".

Gai Waterhouse expressed annoyance that her son had been singled out for criticism.

"They have the freedom of choice of turning their television off," she said, adding that her son had the skills required to be a commentator.

"He is not a pseudo commentator," she said.  "First of all he does a lot of research into it. Secondly, he's been passionate about sport since the year dot.

"But thirdly, they (viewers) don't have to pick up the phone to have a bet. They don't have to pick up a cigarette and smoke it. They don't have to do anything.

"People have got intelligence and make up their minds. There are plenty of firms out there sponsoring the sport that are selling to the public.

"But because Tom is a name and we know the name you can criticise it and that is the problem with the senator."

Speaking for the first time on the issue, the 30-year-old bookmaker said he had not been rattled by the broadcast changes.

"It's one of the many things going on - it's just part and parcel of business," he said.

"We have a million things on the go and that is one of them.

"Whether it is rugby league or other things, people will go: 'What are you doing?' And heckling a bit.

"I just try and take it in my stride and just do it."


Man dies after left to treat himself when ambulance dispatchers wrongly classed his injuries as non-life threatening

A BRISBANE man died after he was left to treat himself for 15 minutes when ambulance dispatchers wrongly classified his injuries as non-life threatening.

The man, whose leg was crushed by his own truck, died of a heart attack only three minutes from the closest ambulance station, after a series of blunders resulted in an ambulance being dispatched from a more distant station.

The case, revealed under Right to Information, is the latest to highlight problems within the Queensland Ambulance Service and emergency departments.

Paramedics have blamed inconsistent front-line staffing, unreliable communications equipment and muddled training for the problems that continue to plague the QAS despite promises of reform four years ago.

In the latest RTI, The Courier-Mail was given full access to only 73 pages of documents, partial access to 384 pages of documents but refused access to 944 pages detailing patient complaints to the Department of Community Safety.

Breaching patient privacy and cases still under investigation were cited as reasons documents were withheld.

Other cases referred for further investigation including to the Queensland Health Quality and Complaints Commission were:

 *  A 90-year-old woman vomiting from severe abdominal pain waited more than eight hours for emergency treatment after being diverted from two hospitals before being treated at QEII Hospital.

 *  Five acute patients left in an emergency department corridor "unsupervised and unmonitored".

 *  A patient with severe cramping and struggling to breathe waited 50 minutes for an ambulance to arrive and was then left in a hallway at Caboolture Hospital before being admitted.

Timeline of a tragedy

 *  An ambulance carrying a man in extreme pain returned to the depot to put him in another ambulance before taking him to hospital.

Records show the Brisbane man who was crushed by the truck was bleeding heavily while QAS staff juggled lunch breaks, and messages left on radios and pagers went unanswered.

When paramedics arrived, they realised his injuries were so severe they required an Intensive Care vehicle and a medical officer, who arrived 15-20 minutes later.

Nearly 50 minutes after he first called triple-0 the man had a heart attack and could not be revived.

QAS Commissioner Russell Bowles said he was not proud of the way the man's case was handled but recommendations for improvements had been implemented.

"We will continue to try and improve the system. When you deal with the workload we do, you make mistakes."

Paramedic unions say the system has not been fixed. "Those guys are under a hell of a lot of pressure," said United Voice ambulance co-ordinator Jeanette Temberley, who said staff usually got blamed for any bad outcomes.

Australian Paramedics Association Queensland president Prebs Sathiaseelan said radios regularly failed and there weren't enough staff to cover for breaks.

Mr Bowles denied QAS needed more staff or that staff were over-burdened or not well-managed.

"I say our workforce is adequate. It was a litany of errors that just happened," he said.

A spokeswoman for Community Safety Minister Jack Dempsey said he was too busy to be interviewed by The Courier-Mail.


Bungling doctors could face criminal charges for allegedly killing and maiming patients

SIX doctors could face criminal charges for allegedly killing and maiming patients in major medical blunders over the past six years in Queensland.

Several patients allegedly suffered unnecessary amputations and another was left a quadriplegic when a surgeon failed to detect a neck injury after a car crash. One patient is believed to have died in an operation later found to be unnecessary.

There are further allegations of patients being horribly disfigured by cosmetic surgery and of two children who suffered severe injuries when a routine medical procedure at a doctor's rooms in a country town went terribly wrong.

A total of 23 cases were referred to Queensland police last week following the completion of an independent review by a senior barrister.

The review was carried out by former Fitzgerald inquiry investigator Jeffrey Hunter, SC, who reported to Health Minister Lawrence Springborg.

Most of the accusations are directed at doctors at private and public hospitals at Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Toowoomba, Gympie and Cairns.

The review was sparked by a report in The Sunday Mail in which Queensland Health whistleblower Jo Barber, a former detective, said serious complaints against doctors were often covered up.

Mr Hunter also confirmed Ms Barber's claims that doctors with mental health and drug problems were permitted to treat patients. One doctor alone has been named in 11 cases of criminal negligence relating to surgical procedures including angioplasty, a procedure to widen blocked blood vessels.

Patients had died and suffered other complications when stents were inserted to open blocked arteries, Mr Hunter reported.

A plastic surgeon faces accusations in seven cases involving ill-fated breast enlargements and facelifts.

It is alleged one woman was left with "pixie ears" after a botched facelift.

Several others were left with misshapen breasts in operations which Mr Hunter said likely amounted to grievous bodily harm.

"In each case, my opinion is that the allegations involve breaches of such magnitude as to potentially amount to breaches of criminal law," Mr Hunter said in his report.

Mr Springborg said he had been frustrated that he couldn't get clear answers to explosive allegations made by Ms Barber and others in The Sunday Mail and The Courier-Mail, which was why he had ordered Mr Hunter's review.

He said he was especially disappointed by lengthy delays following up complaints.

"Yawning gaps in the complaints process remain unresolved in my opinion. Very real cases have been allowed to slip through the cracks." he said.

"These matters are now in the hands of police."

Mr Hunter said some allegations had been outside his terms of reference.

"In others, it was plain that although negligence and errors of judgment had occurred, the practitioner's conduct fell short of amounting to criminal negligence," the report said.

Ms Barber took her allegations of widespread medical malpractice to the CMC last year, prompting a review by former Supreme Court judge Richard Chesterman, QC.

He recommended further investigations of unresolved cases going back five years.

Mr Hunter said he had "cast a wide net" and examined 3318 files, which were whittled down to 703, and then 89. He said in his report that many files were identified that, in the end, did not involve death or serious harm to a patient.

"Many files related to practitioners who had mental health and substance abuse issues, but who were not alleged to have caused any harm to a patient."

Mr Springborg said the accountability of the complaints mechanism was also on trial.


Reforming the welfare state

Andrew Baker

Australia’s federal, state and local governments spent $316 billion on the welfare state in 2010-11 which includes spending on health, education, income support payments and public housing.

Of this spending, about half or $158 billion, can be classified as ‘tax-welfare churn’ – which is the process of levying taxes on people and then returning those taxes to the same people in the form of income support payments and welfare services, simultaneously or over the course of a lifetime.

Compared to other countries, Australia has low levels of churn, however, churn is still a problem as it imposes a number of social and economic costs, including higher taxes, administration and inefficiency costs from a bloated government, rent seeking from lobby groups, government paternalism and increased welfare dependency.

We can do something about the problem of tax-welfare churn in Australia.

In my new report, TARGET30: Tax-welfare churn and the Australian welfare state, I outline the churn problem and provide a number of policy reforms that are not only worthy in their own right, but have the additional benefit of reducing churn.

These reforms target, amongst other things, government support for the aged, family payments and the disability support pension.

Australia’s system of retirement savings needs to be reformed so that more people spend more of their own money for longer on their own retirement, rather than receiving the pension.

Further measures to reduce government expenditure on pensions include: raising and aligning the age pension and preservation ages; including the family home as part of the age pension assets test; and introducing a requirement to use superannuation savings to purchase an annuity.

Family payments like the $4.5 billion a year Family Tax Benefit Part B and the $1.2 billion a year Schoolkids Bonus should be abolished. FTB Part B is a badly targeted payment that goes to families that are clearly not poor and do not need the extra money while the Schoolkids Bonus is of dubious education benefit. Further savings can be found by means testing payments like the Carer Allowance and the Child Care Rebate.

The disability pension needs to be reformed by including activity test and participation requirements for those with a partial capacity to work, in order to maximise the economic benefits of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The current cohort of Disability Support Pension recipients should also be reassessed under tougher eligibility criteria introduced last year.

These are just some of the many ways we can reform the welfare state, cut spending, cut taxes, and empower more people to look after their own welfare, rather than relying on the welfare state.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday

I usually try to get along to church on Good Friday and I did so today  -- but to a different church.  I went to St. John's Presbyterian at Annerley.   I normally go to Ann St. Presbyterian in the city.

I "discovered" St. John's only recently, when I was driving in the area and took a wrong turn.  As I was driving down the "wrong" street, however, I noticed a very well-maintained and attractive church in it.  So I went along to the 8.30am service there today to find out a little more about it.

It is built in a Queensland 1920's style, with an exterior of both weatherboards and stucco.  The stucco is painted cream and the weatherboards maroon.  The overall effect is very pleasant.  See below

The interior was quite impressive, with  hammerbeam ceiling supports and NO GRAVEN IMAGES.  There was very attractive leadlight coloured glass in the casement windows but no stained glass, no pictures.  And there was neither a crucifix nor a cross in sight.  Presbyterians of old were quite iconoclastic and this congregation was obviously happy to continue that.  The second picture below -- looking towards the entrance of the church -- gives you some idea of it.

Note the steel bracing for the ceiling.  That was a custom in the 1920s for giving structural strength to large open spaces.  Schools used it too.  I grew up in such spaces so felt at home with it.

The congregation tended to be elderly as usual but filled up most of the back of the church.  I would say the church was about two thirds full, so that is quite creditable. 

An interesting custom among the congregation is that they nearly all followed the Bible readings in the pew Bible.  The pew Bible was a very fine one:  A NKJ version with references, concordance  and a good clear black font well adapted to being read by old eyes.

The minister was VERY elderly, walking with the help of a stick, and his message was a very traditional one, focusing on salvation  -- which is of course entirely appropriate at Easter.

So it was a pleasant way to reconnect with my Presbyterian background.  Anne enjoyed it too.  I never have to twist her arm to get her to church  -- JR

Comedienne Wendy Harmer appreciates Easter too:

When I was a child, Good Friday was my favourite day of the year.

It was deeply melancholic. A time to ponder death, sacrifice, forgiveness. All the big stuff.

And days like that, steeped as they are in deeper meaning, are rare when you're an Anglo-Australian born into an atheist household.

Back then, in country Victoria (and I'm old enough to start sentences with "almost half a century ago"), the shops and pubs were shut. There was no cheering for your footy team. No treasure hunts for sparkly, foiled eggs at the local park (or at Kirribilli House, I imagine). No cheery "Happy Easter" greetings.

Everything just … stopped. I didn't quite know it then, but what I was appreciating was a day devoted to quiet reflection.

The Greatest Story Ever Told was made when I was 10. "Awww. Truly this man was the Son of Gahd," is the infamous quote from John Wayne, improbably cast as a Roman centurion.

The movie was playing at the cinema in town and my father wouldn't take me to see it. In his mid-30s, he had declared himself a "humanist". No more Church of England Sunday school for us. It was the end of any religious malarkey.

However, I've remained deeply attracted to the tale of suffering and resurrection at the heart of the Christian narrative. Endlessly fascinated by accounts of religion, belief, myth, legend and fairytales from any and every culture.

Yes. I'm one of those pathetic non-believers philosopher Alain de Botton bangs on about. The sad, godless orphans who can't pass a church or temple without entering to light a candle or offer a flower.

We sit in abandoned pews or kneeling on woven mats inhaling the fragrance of incense and marvelling at the extraordinary human labours that built such glories to their gods. We're envious of the belonging true believers enjoy.

And, also, we wonder. What comes next?

Like de Botton, I'm in no need of a god to worship. Not for comfort or moral direction. I'm quite sure about that.

But also, as de Botton says, I do wish our society - one of the most secular on earth - would borrow from the calendars, rituals, oratory and the exhortation to physical action that propelled even my atheist father down to the river to catch a fish for Good Friday tea.

There's a hunger in this nation for something beyond the gaudy flag-waving of Australia Day. We have been having this discussion for decades. Time to move it along.

Gough Whitlam was a proud atheist. Bob Hawke, an agnostic, declared he learnt this at his father's knee: "He said if you believe in the fatherhood of God, you must necessarily believe in the brotherhood of man. It follows necessarily and, even though I left the church and was not religious, that truth remained with me."

None of our prime ministers of recent times has been overtly religious - apart from Kevin Rudd, who sought the role of kindly vicar. Defeated by nihilists, he would probably argue.

Today, we have the confirmed atheist Julia Gillard, and devout Catholic Tony Abbott in opposition. They seem to have made a pact not to offer up their beliefs for popular debate.

But with the election ahead, can you imagine a more riveting discussion from our political leaders? Do you believe in God? Or not? What's at the heart of it? What's it all for?

Even the children in the house would draw closer to the television. Beyond the meagre fare of tax, welfare and infrastructure, we're all famished for such sustenance.

I've seen that hunger satisfied at literary festivals, dubbed the "new religion", where 400 people gather under canvas on Sunday mornings to listen in rapt attention as much-loved authors exchange ideas and provoke roars of laughter or heckles from the back row. Sermons where the congregation talks back.

I've been at Marieke Hardy's Women of Letters events where almost every speaker, beautifully articulating life's losses and joys, ends up in tears as the audience sobs in unison.

As host of the the Sydney Festival "Hope" series of talks I heard the survivors of the Black Saturday fires speak of resilience and I, like everyone present, was uplifted, spirits soaring.

You can see that our children want something more, too, as they flock to Anzac Day in record numbers, drawn by its grand, enduring theme of the ultimate sacrifice.

Halloween is easy to write off as a schlock-fest of lollies and dress-ups but it's captured our children's imagination, allowing to them linger on death and mystery. They're drawn to the US Thanksgiving ritual too, which has more purchase than Christmas in the great American multicultural society.

And so I wonder what we offer our children - apart from the odd ethics or special religious education class in schools?

How do we make the public space for quiet gratitude for this peaceful society, born from such pain and inhumanity? It's hardly during "the race that stops a nation". How do we cease our frenetic activity, stop and give thanks for the "boundless plains we share"?

This year my municipal council is offering Easter "vacation activities" at its care centres with visits from "professional magicians and DJs", excursions to the reptile park, cooking classes and a workshop on how to create your own TV reality show.

On reflection, I'd rather sit down with my kids to watch The Greatest Story Ever Told.

"Peace be with you. And also with you."

I'd love to borrow this simple ritual from the Catholic Church where you turn and offer the greeting to the person sitting next to you. Imagine it observed at the State of Origin. Just after the national anthem is sung.

"She'll be right. I reckon." It could be our answer to the war cry of the haka.

An expression of respect and reconciliation. Born of suffering. Powerful. Undefeatable. Uniquely us.


Halal Easter eggs and cat food: where big money meets Islam

Cadbury will sell a mountain of chocolates this Easter, as it does every Easter. It has been careful to make sure that its products are certified as halal, even though it is not necessary. Hundreds of companies in Australia do the same. Halal certification has become a big business.

The essence of halal is that any food is forbidden to Muslims if it includes blood, pork, alcohol, the flesh of carnivores or carrion, or comes from an animal which has not been slaughtered in the correct manner, which includes having its throat slit. Food labelled as halal invariably involves the payment of a fee. It does not extend to chocolate but Cadbury lists 71 products which are halal, ranging from Dairy Milk to Freddo frogs to Red Tulip chocolates. The website also states: "We do not have any kosher-certified products."

"Cadbury also pay for halal certification on the Easter product range, even though Easter is a Christian celebration and nothing to do with Islam," says Kirralie Smith, who runs a website called Halal Choices. The website lists 340 companies in Australia that pay for halal certification, including Coles, Woolworths, Aldi, Franklins, Kellogg's, MasterFoods, Nestle and even Kraft's Vegemite.

Halal Choices has received more than 250,000 visits since Smith, a Christian activist, created the website two years ago to draw attention to the incremental extension of sharia into Australian culture.

"[Cadbury has] a standard letter to people who complain about their halal certification which says they have been assured the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils [which issues halal certifications] are not involved in any illegal activity," Smith said. "They might want to explain the $9 million in fraud involving the Malek Fahd school."

(Last year the Malek Fahd Islamic School in Sydney was ordered to repay $9 million in state funding which the state and federal governments said had been illegally transferred to the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. A federal government audit also questioned numerous payments made to AFIC by Islamic colleges in Canberra, Brisbane and Adelaide.)

Halal certification has long been an accepted practice similar to the labelling of food as kosher for Jewish consumers. The website of the Islamic Co-Ordination Council of Victoria states: "With five office staff, two external food technologists, four sharia advisers and over 140 registered halal slaughtermen/inspectors, ICCV is the largest and the most respected halal certifier in Australia … We have no shortage of manpower. We are ready to serve any company in Australia that is interested in producing halal product (meat and processed food)."

At the World Halal Forum held in Malaysia last April, Australia had 13 delegates. Nestle was a major sponsor, Fonterra another. The forum's website stated: "Two milestones [at the conference] were the first major steps towards the convergence of halal and Islamic Finance, and recognition of the importance of halal accreditation schemes, especially in the non-Muslim world."

What troubled Smith was the extensive payments for halal certification for hundreds of products that did not require any halal process. She then discovered examples of overt pressure.

"A wholesale chicken supplier in Perth lost $120,000 a year over three years because he wasn't halal certified," she said. "The chickens he sold had been ritually slaughtered and were halal, but because he would not pay for certification he found all his outlets were forced to boycott him. He was outraged and held out for three years but had to give in to save his business. … Isn't that illegal?"

Halal mainly involves meat. Much of the non-meat food supply is intrinsically halal, and thus does not require certification, including milk, honey, fish, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and grains. Yet many producers and suppliers of such products pay for halal certification.

"I emailed Capilano Honey after I discovered they were paying for halal certification," Smith said. "This was their response: 'While we appreciate that honey is considered halal under Islamic law, it is our customer's requirement to provide halal certification in order for us to conduct business with them.' This sounds like extortion to me. And why does nearly every fresh loaf of bread you buy in a supermarket or fast food chain have a paid halal certification? I have a list of 23 pages of halal certificates for breads.

"Parmalat have a huge list of halal-certified products, most of them being the white milk you buy in supermarkets. White milk does not need to be certified. They don't mark their labels and now they have removed the certificates from their website because of negative feedback.

"Purina Fancy Feast cat food is now on the list of halal-certified foods. Are cats becoming Muslim? Or is a lot of this just a money-making scheme?"


Paperwook keep frontline police officers off the beat for hours

FRONTLINE SA police are bogged down by so much paperwork they are being taken off the streets for up to several hours each shift.

The Police Association says the introduction, over the past decade, of more than 30 pieces of legislation and new regulations are to blame for officers needing up to two hours to charge a single suspect.

Association president Mark Carroll, in an exclusive column in The Advertiser today, says officers need to comply with more than 100 pages of protocols to charge a suspect.

Mr Carroll outlined more than a dozen examples - such as barring orders, impounding hoon drivers' vehicles and intervention orders - which are taking uniform and CIB officers off the streets - a move that will place pressure on Premier and Treasurer Jay Weatherill to honour a Labor promise to recruit an additional 313 police.

Mr Carroll said yesterday statements by Police Commissioner Gary Burns that promised recruiting targets would be cut to meet budget savings targets would place more pressure on uniform officers and further diminish "visible" patrols.

"We totally support the legislative changes but they have a major impact on our workload," he said. "When you look at the complex changes in procedures some (changes) also require - all of these things have a compounding effect.

"Therefore, whenever new legislation is enacted it impacts upon the workloads of police and you have to recruit extra police above attrition to deal with that new workload.

"If you do not, you force police to do more with essentially the same numbers, which reduces their visibility (on the beat).

"Ask any member of the public, they want to see police on the roads, on the beat, doing what they do best."

Some recent government initiatives that have taken police off the beat include:

THE impounding of about 8000 cars under hoon legislation annually, which consumes about 5000 hours of police time.

THE issuing of about 2500 barring orders (from licensed premises) annually which consumes around 1250 hours.

DOMESTIC violence intervention orders that can consume a patrol for an entire shift in some cases, but a minimum of 90 minutes if an arrest is made.

Rank and file officers also estimate that at least a third of all police patrol work involves people with mental health issues - a significant portion is attributable to the individuals being housed in the community instead of government facilities.

Mr Carroll said the comprehensive training required to implement many of the new legislative measures impacted on police resourcing.

"This (training) is a massive exercise in itself and takes up a large amount of police time," he said.

"You have to recruit more police just to maintain the same level of service the public has enjoyed.

"You can't have budget cuts that take away the ability for the commissioner to continue the recruiting of 313 (additional) police.

"If you do so you are not keeping pace with the legislative changes that have impacted police workloads. Those workloads will eventually diminish the police officers available to respond to calls from the public for assistance."

He said the association supported Mr Burns' recent initiatives aimed at increasing frontline officers, which included reorganising policing regions and introducing mobile task forces.

While Mr Burns declined to comment on budget deliberations, Mr Weatherill said SA had a "well-resourced police force, which is of the highest quality and integrity." "We have more operational police officers per capita than any other state," he said. "This is borne out by the 40 per cent reduction in victim-reported crime over the past decade and Adelaide being rated Australia's safest city."

Mr Carroll said Productivity Commission figures that stated SA had the highest number of operational police per capita in Australia - 320 per every 100,000 people - were "misleading."

This view was supported by the Police Federation of Australia, which had expressed concern over how the figures were collated.

Figures for SA state there are 5256 "operational police staff" when there were only 4506 "sworn staff" in SAPOL.

The Police Federation believes more categories should be included in the Productivity Commission report to give an accurate reflection of the number of operational police in each state.


NT: Unit owners could be forced to sell

UNIT owners could be compelled to sell their homes to developers under proposed changes to the Unit Titles Act.  The changes would make it easier for developers to revamp old apartment blocks, even if some owners object.

The proposals have shocked residential property owners and delighted the real estate industry.

At present if 19 out of 20 unit owners want to sell their apartments to a developer but only one refuses, the block cannot be sold.  Industry is seeking to overturn this rule.

Property owner Rachael O'Doherty was horrified. "I'd be devastated," she said.  Ms O'Doherty said her daughter was wheelchair-bound, causing her to fork out thousands of dollars in modifications for her unit.  "Where would I start again?" she said.  "This is my home, I've been here 13 years."

Ms O'Doherty would have to pay many thousands of dollars more in stamp duty on the purchase price of a replacement property, which would by necessity have to have wheelchair access.

"To be out-voted and lose your home would be shocking," she said.

The Property Council of Australia helped instigate the review, and NT president Brendan Dunn said the move was designed to help most people, not to hinder them or take away their rights.

He said blocks could deteriorate until they couldn't be repaired, and minority sellers could demand exorbitant "unfair" prices.

Similar proposals were law in other countries such as Singapore, and would prevent the creation of slums, Mr Dunn said.  "The idea is to allow for rejuvenation," he said.

Mr Dunn said one example was the units in Mitchell St, Darwin, opposite the theatre complex.  "They're holding up the development of the CBD," he said.

Refuseniks would be given "fair value" for their apartment, Mr Dunn said.

When asked what that would be, he said that would be the unit price equivalent.

All unit owners have a share of the total value of the property including common areas, and they would receive their share of the total sale price of the unit complex.

Six different options are being considered by the Department of Justice.

They range from allowing a majority of 90 per cent to as few as 70 per cent to vote out minority owners and force a sale.

Some options work on a sliding scale with blocks older than 20 years given the least proportion of owner consent.Â

The Justice Department is now looking at submissions before advising the Attorney-General on what, if any, changes should be made to the law.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Libs to fix asylum seeker problem

The opposition says it will use the full resources of the navy and customs fleets to stem the flood of asylum seeker boats.  Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said Australia had a significant fleet of navy and customs vessels and a coalition government would be deploying those assets necessary to get the job done.

But he would not explain just how that would be done.  "I am not about to give the people smugglers a heads-up about those sorts of operational matters," Mr Morrison told ABC radio on Thursday.

"What they can be assured of is they can expect an Abbott-led coalition government to put an end to this madness and we will deploy the assets that are necessary to get the job done and the resolve that is needed to get the job done."

The opposition says 600 asylum seeker boats have reached Australian waters under Labor since 2007, with a surge in recent weeks. More than 3300 asylum seekers have arrived by boat this year, more than double the arrivals in the same period in 2012.

Mr Morrison said the coalition had been very clear about its policy of turning back asylum seeker boats where it is safe to do so.

Indonesia opposes the controversial plan and Labor and the defence force say people smugglers and asylum seekers will respond by sabotaging vessels to ensure they can't be returned, endangering passengers and defence personnel.

Mr Morrison said he was confident the Australian Defence Force, and particularly the navy, were quite capable of carrying out the policies of the government of the day.

"Our officers and our naval personnel are trained in these areas and we know that they have the capacity to get the job done, just like they do over in the (Persian) Gulf where they intercepted about 1000 vessels and many of those vessels had armed weapons pointing at them when they did so," he said.


Gillard Government to grab retirement savings

Australia as the new Cyprus?

HIGH income earners could have their retirement nest eggs slashed by $80,000 as a result of tax hikes being considered by the Gillard Government to buttress the budget bottom line.

Exclusive modelling by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling for News Limited reveals a 50 year old earning $180,000 today, and with a typical nest egg for that age and income of $250,000, could expect to watch it grow to $914,000 by aged 67 under current arrangements, assuming they made no additional contributions beyond the compulsory rate.

This would be reduced to $835,000  or $79,000 less - if Labor were to increase the tax rate on super contributions to 30 cents in the dollar, up from 15 cents currently, for people earning above $180,000.

The Gillard Government has already increased the tax rate on super contributions to 30 cents for people earning over $300,000.

There is speculation Labor will extend this measure in the May budget as a key budget savings measure.Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, yesterday failed to rule out a raid on the super of high income earners to boost the tax revenue base as the population ages.

Asked directly if the contributions and earnings of the superannuation funds of high-income earners would be used to pull the budget out of its debt hole, Ms Gillard yesterday would not give a clear answer.

"Any decisions we make will be about the long term interest of the superannuation system," Ms Gillard said yesterday.  "I can assure people superannuation is a Labor creature and we will always nurture it well."

Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson last year urged the government to cut superannuation tax concessions in the May 14 budget in order to secure its revenue base as the population ages.

However, a key cabinet minister, Craig Emerson, yesterday indicated any tax grab would be directed at very high income earners.

The trade minister said Labor was "not interested in increasing taxation on the everyday working men and women of Australia."

However, "if there is any capacity for, at the very high end, in different areas . . . I'm not saying we could never even look at something like that".

A research fellow at NATSEM, Dr Marcia Keegan, said tax increases on the super of high income earners would be felt hardest by those nearing retirement who had planned to make additional voluntary contributions.

"For some households, an increase in the contributions tax may be the difference between full independence from the age pension at retirement and drawing a small part age pension.

"However, according to Dr Keegan, high income individuals would still have an incentive to salary sacrifice into super, as the 30 per cent tax rate would still be lower than their marginal tax rate of 45 per cent.

Furthermore: "The households affected by these increases are a small minority of high wealth households, and even with a higher contributions tax rate, most would still have enough for a comfortable retirement according to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia's standards."


School Lets Children Make Supervised Risks

IT'S the childhood we'd all like to remember. At Petrie Terrace State School, in Brisbane's inner city, cubby houses are tucked away and children are swinging from tyres roped to trees.

Other students are running through a tyre obstacle course fixed to the ground and teachers watch children sometimes stumble, pick themselves up and run on.

It is a far cry from the school bans on cartwheels, tiggy [tag] and red rover amid what principals have dubbed "the litigious age".

School principal Eunice Webb said she thought the fear of being sued had been behind an increase in playground crackdowns, but it was getting in the way of learning.

"What I am more afraid of is children who don't know how to take a risk, that to me is a bigger fear," she said.

She said tight supervision was paramount and this was always in place.

Parents are also behind the move, helping to build the playground.

Queensland Association of State School Principals president Hilary Backus said schools had come under pressure from parents and some children were so protected they no longer knew how to solve problems and were afraid to take risks.

"I would certainly commend Ms Webb for creating the environment where children can take risks safely with support," Mrs Backus said.


Average incomes up 38% since 1989: report

INCREASES in average incomes over the past 20 years have been shared by all, but high wage earners have benefited most, a new report shows.

The Productivity Commission study of income trends in Australia has found average incomes rose from about $800 to $1100 a week in the two decades to 2009-10, expressed as 2011-12 dollars.

On average the increase was 38 per cent since 1988-89.

But the commission said while the gains of the past 20 years had flowed to both high and low income groups, "income has grown faster among high earners than lower earners".

According to the report, pay for the top tier of workers increased by almost 70 per cent from just under $2000 to around $3200 a week (in 2011-12 dollars).

The inequality was attributed partly to differences between the average earnings of full-time, part-time and self-employed workers, and the faster growth in numbers of part-time workers over the 20-year period.

"The increase in population share of this 'low income' group in total workers moderated the growth of labour income when all employees are considered," the report said.

Over the two decades the number of part-time workers increased by 136 per cent to 3.1 million, while full time workers grew by 43 per cent to 6.6 million, the report said.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Julia Gillard to leave Australians in $165 billion dollars worth of debt this term alone

GILLARD Government debt levels are forecast to blow out by 60 per cent to $165 billion in this term alone - equal to more than $14,000 for every working Australian.

Analysis of Budget documents reveals that between the 2010 election and Federal Treasury's update in October last year, the 2012-13 net debt estimate rose $54 billion to $144 billion.

With Wayne Swan having junked the Government's commitment to a surplus this financial year, Bank of America Merrill Lynch now forecasts Treasury will raise the estimate by a further $21 billion in the May budget.

"The government is starting to develop some form when it comes to over-estimating the improvement in its budget balance," Bank of America Merrill Lynch chief economist Saul Eslake said yesterday.

Ahead of the budget, the Coalition is honing in on a number even larger than net debt - the total value of bonds and other securities issued by the Government, or gross debt, which has ballooned from $151 billion at the 2010 poll to $267 billion now. In the last budget the Government raised the gross "debt ceiling" from $250 billion to $300 billion.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott believes Mr Swan will increase it again in May.

Mr Abbott told News Limited yesterday: "If Labor is determined to increase the cap on gross debt above $300 billion, if they cannot show a credible and speedy path back to surplus, if they cannot show a plan to start seriously paying off the debt, it will add further weight to our planned No Confidence motion in the Gillard Government."

Mr Swan's spokesman said the Government had no plans to raise the gross debt limit. Merrills' Mr Eslake said the increase that had already occurred was "troubling".

"If the trends that look increasingly obvious aren't addressed at some point we might cross that threshold from safe territory to dangerous territory very, very quickly," he said.

Monash University Professor of Business and Economics Jakob Madsen said the gross debt rise was "disturbing".  "It's a dangerous trend and it's at the wrong time. It's completely unnecessary to hand out left, right and centre and the way they do it is not very clever," Professor Madsen said.

Business Council of Australia CEO Jennifer Westacott said spending had grown "out of step" with revenue.  "If that doesn't change we are going to have serious public debt problem," Ms Westacott said.

Mr Eslake, Professor Madsen and Ms Westacott all said Australia did not currently have a debt crisis.  But, Ms Westacott said, "we do have a budget management crisis".

In that context, the Coalition is intensifying pressure on the cross-benchers, seeking support for a No Confidence motion.

Independent MP Rob Oakeshott invited Mr Abbott to call him or come to his electorate if he wanted to discuss a no confidence motion.  "Let's have a bike ride, or a surf," he said.

However, Mr Oakeshott added that he was opposed to a no confidence motion in budget week. It would reflect badly on Australia internationally, he said. Between the 2011-12 Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook and the 2012-13 Myefo, Treasury's estimate for this financial year's interest payments on government net debt soared by 20 per cent from $5.9 billion to $7.1 billion.

The Merrills forecast suggest a further increase in interest payments of as much as $1.1 billion.

Government net debt of $165 billion equates to $14,238 for each of Australia's 11.6 million workers, up from $8001 per worker at the last election, an increase of $6237.

Mr Swan's spokesman said Australia's net debt levels were "dramatically lower" than those of every single major advanced economy: "Our current net debt is 10 per cent of Gross Domestic Product, compared to around 80 per cent for the US and UK and around 35 per cent for Canada.

"The Government will reduce net debt in a sustainable way that ensures our economy remains one of the strongest in the world and protects Australian jobs and economic growth," the spokesman said.

To repay the debt, cuts were required "almost everywhere", Professor Madsen said, and the GST rate could need to be raised.

Mr Eslake said not only would spending have to be reined in, but the current $111 billion a year in tax concessions could have to be wound back.

Ms Westacott advocated reducing the current number of government agencies from 932 and making "health dollars work harder".


Labor's class war is not so classy

THERE is nothing so dangerous as somebody with nothing to lose.  And so the nation should have a lot to fear from the Gillard government in its current kamikaze state.

All but the most deluded Labor MPs know that the party is heading for a landslide defeat of epic proportions.  It is the political equivalent of being hit by an asteroid.

Wayne Swan has one more budget before he and his colleagues are consigned to electoral oblivion. Already he has been forced to abandon his much vaunted surplus because of his botched mining tax - first going for a blatant cash grab to distract attention from the dumped ETS in 2010 and then swinging back so far the other way that the mining tax mach II has effectively failed to raise any revenue whatsoever.

And so having tried and failed to raid the cookie jar of the resources boom, the Treasurer has now turned his attention to Australians' superannuation savings. You can almost see the dollar signs in his eyes.

The fact that this move is even being contemplated is emblematic of all that is wrong with the Labor government and tells us why it has seen a mass exodus ahead of its inevitable plunge to the ocean floor.

Firstly, as rebel statesman Simon Crean told the Financial Review, it is a trashing of Labor's own legacy. The party that created Australia's landmark compulsory superannuation contribution scheme - the Snowy Hydro of its day - is now picking it apart one thread at a time.

The second problem is that, by targeting the contributions of higher income earners and then working down to whatever threshhold it needs to make ends meet - as the government is tipped to do - it sends a clear message that is is still fixated by the undergraduate "class war" mentality that has both failed to recapture its working class base while at the same time estranging middle-class and aspirational voters.

But then again, who cares? Not only will Ms Gillard lose government in September but Mr Swan will likely lose his seat. Their political careers are over and the flailing and backflipping all over Labor's core policy beliefs mean they do not even have a legacy to preserve.

In short, they have nothing to lose by raiding what's left of the Treasury coffers with the zeal of wanted bushrangers. Indeed, there will no doubt be a school of thought within the party that they should bleed the war chest dry so as to starve Tony Abbott of funds in his first years in office.

On that note we can offer them at least this consolation: So generous, vague and uncosted are the Opposition Leader's promises thus far - not least his pie in the sky maternity leave proposal - that he will have quite enough trouble funding them without Labor torching the village on the way out.

And so we urge the government to put the national interest ahead of its own political interests in framing next month's budget. Think of the long-term future of our country.

Yes, Labor is to be defeated but it can still be defeated with dignity and have history remember that it at least did one thing right.


Is the degree outdated?

Most school leavers take the next step and go to university to obtain a degree. But with changing workplaces and the increasing speed of technology - to what degree do you need a degree?

Earlier this month, Universities Australia released a report from "The Australian Workforce Productivity Agency" warning that the industry demand for people with higher education is set to sky rocket with growth rates of between 3 and 4 per cent every year till 2025.

Yet with so much evolution in the work place and the technologies that are running them, should a degree still be a definitive requirement or has it become more industry specific?

Ten years ago more than 50% of Australians wouldn't have been able to read this article online due to Internet access constraints. Twenty years ago, stories like this were typed on electric typewriters and faxed to editors, while 30 years ago the yellow pages was the number one source to find the phone numbers for people to interview. Times have changed... drastically.

There are still plenty of people in the work force who would have completed their university studies 20 - 30 years ago, a time before tablets, Google and smart phones, a time when you got a bad back from lugging around the fourth edition of a 10 kg textbook or writing your thesis from facts you found in your Encyclopaedia Britannica that took up an entire wall of your house.

According to many employers or if you check out the latest job listings, it's clear, a degree is still a big desire, even though they could have come fresh off the printing press when a mullet was something on your head, not on your plate and a mouse was something that ate cheese.

Of course if your life long dream is to be a scientist or a vet or a lawyer, higher education is not just necessary it's imperative to ensure you learn the knowledge required to execute these types of positions.

But for many other industries where "hard skills" are required to get the job done is university always the right way to go?

Lincoln Crawley, the Managing Director of Manpower Group Australia, New Zealand as well as the President of RSCA (Recruitment and Consultant Services Association) says in the Australian job market a degree is still an advantage.

"This is a complex issue, what is appealing to prospective employers is that a degree gives the impression of a desire for continuous learning" says Crawley.

So if Crawley was presented with two candidates with similar abilities however one has a degree and the other doesn't who usually gets the job? "If two candidates are all things being relatively equal, then it should be the propensity to do the role and add value to the work place that wins the position not the pieces of paper," he says.

At the time this article was written, a number of universities and Universities Australia were approached to comment on this issue from a Tertiary standpoint, but given the current revolving door of Ministers (Chris Bowen's replacement will be the fifth in 15 months) and the aftermath of the spill, no one was available to comment.

Do those extra letters after your name really get you those extra dollars in your pay packet? Does a degree place you in a position of power and strength in the job market or can it just another form of workplace discrimination?

Most people see the advantage of further education and the pursuit of constant learning, but not everybody believes you always need a piece of paper to prove it.


Gravy for Canberra water boss

ACTEW misled its shareholders, the government and the ACT's taxpayers over managing director Mark Sullivan's $855,000 annual salary, Chief Minister Katy Gallagher says.

A letter from the water utility's chairman, John Mackay, to the government in September 2011 assures the company's two shareholders, the Chief Minister and Treasurer, that Mr Sullivan's pay packet was $621,000.

But the managing director was paid $855,000 that year, a figure the Chief Minister says is not appropriate to manage a government-owned water monopoly.

Mr Sullivan is Australia's highest paid water executive by a margin of more than $200,000. An investigation is also under way into how Treasury and Chief Minister's department bureaucrats failed to alert their political bosses to the under-reporting of the salary for more than four months after they became aware of the discrepancy.

Mr Mackay said he based his letter to the Chief Minister on the same flawed figures that made their way into the annual report and that he and his colleague acted promptly when the mistake came to light.

"It was an honest mistake, we weren't trying to hide anything, there was no conspiracy," the chairman said on Tuesday. "The accounts people went and got a number, jammed it in a report and it was wrong. I am absolutely sure that from a company law sense, we did what we had to do."

Ms Gallagher and Treasurer Andrew Barr have been criticised after it was revealed last week that Mr Sullivan's wage had been under-reported by nearly a quarter of a million dollars in a key company publication and that the two shareholders did not know how much the executive was paid.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Abbott gets cheers from fruit shoppers

OPPOSITION leader Tony Abbott has had a rousing reception from customers in a western Sydney fruit shop as a new poll points to a landslide win for the coalition at the next election.

More than a dozen shoppers and workers applauded Mr Abbott as he left the Minchinbury fruit market on Tuesday, while some cheered and shouted "well-done".

Mr Abbott's visit to the electorate of Chifley came as the latest Newspoll showed Labor trailing the coalition by 16 percentage points - 42-58 - on a two-party preferred basis.

But Mr Abbott said he was not expecting to win the election with complacency and restated his plans to scrap the carbon tax and create a "bonfire of regulations".

"We don't take the people of Chifley for granted. People right around the country want a government that is focused on them ... not a government focused on its own survival.

"We understand your life, we want to make your life easier. That's why we want to scrap the carbon tax, and cut red tape," he said.

One of those who cheered Mr Abbott was Diane Hooper, a worker at the fruit market, who said she'd vote for the coalition at the next election.  "(Abbott) seems genuine, he seems like a really nice man," she said.

But not everyone welcomed the visit.  "Tony Abbott? He'll do anything for a vote," said one shopper.


Mahmoud Eid at the very heart of rioting in Sydney

PUNCHBOWL plumber Mahmoud Eid was in the thick of the mayhem of last September's Muslim riots in Hyde Park, kicking a police dog and pushing a policewoman into a garden bed during several violent confrontations.

Yesterday, the 26-year-old - who was identified by media reports of the riots - pleaded guilty to three charges stemming from the protests, which followed an anti-Islamic video being posted on YouTube.

Eid, wearing a black hooded jumper, was among protesters who clashed violently with police.

Two days after seeing his face in media reports, Eid walked into City Central Police station.

Police were able to identify him from the images due to a clearly visible 3cm scar on his forehead.

After sifting through protest footage, investigators were able to track his movements during the riot, despite Eid changing his outfit with three different shirts or jumpers.  "It was found that at every confrontation, (Eid) was present and was an active participant despite numerous opportunities to cease his involvement and leave the scene," a police statement of facts said.

Eid was first caught lashing out at police dog Chuck - who early last year helped catch fugitive killer Malcolm Naden - as his handler tried to arrest another protester.

He delivered a "full-force swinging right kick" to the ribs of the german shepherd, who was left limping and on pain-killing medication for a week.

Later in the afternoon, Eid was seen kicking a riot-squad officer's shield. He then pushed a female constable into a garden bed as two officers tried to arrest him.

During a search warrant on Eid's family home before his arrest, police found a high-visibility work shirt carrying his employer's name and a pair of blue cargo pants hanging on the washing line - both of which he was seen wearing during the riot.

Police prosecutor Matt Baker said the details of Eid's crimes were "probably the most serious" of the 12 people who faced court over the riots. Eid will return to court in May for sentencing with his most serious charge - rioting - carrying a maximum 15-year jail term.


Ratbag head-teacher out for good

Former Kew Primary principal Kim Dray, who stood down in 2011 amid controversy over a radical toileting policy, will not return to the school next term despite being exonerated after a 19-month inquiry.

Dr Dray, who was slated to resume as principal next term, changed her mind late last night after staff unanimously voted they did not support her return and parents bombarded the government with complaints.

Australian Principals Federation president Chris Cotching said Dr Dray felt "pretty gutted" by the whole thing, but it would be very difficult for her to return to Kew Primary next term given the hostility.

"I think the department needs to provide a lot more support to her to enable that re-entry to occur," he said.

Dr Dray came under fire from parents after she trialled a "whole class approach" to toilet breaks, in which the entire class would go to the toilets if one child needed to go.

Parents said they were not consulted over the trial and it led to children wetting themselves and girls being too embarrassed to go to school if they had their periods.

In August 2011 Dr Dray asked to be temporarily reassigned while the Education Department investigated because she was concerned about the effect of the media coverage on the school community.

But parents and teachers raised concerns when it was announced Dr Dray had chosen to return to Kew Primary in term two, after she was exonerated following a 19 month investigation conducted by Lander & Rogers Lawyers on behalf of the department.

At a full staff meeting on March 20, Kew Primary staff unanimously voted they did not support the return of Dr Dray.

"Staff made it aware that it was a very toxic environment under Kim’s leadership and staff were divided, vulnerable and damaged," according to the minutes seen by Fairfax Media.

"It is unanimously felt by staff that Kim’s style of leadership does not fit with Kew Primary School and that her return is not in the best interests of the school."

Parents had also met with Kew MP Andrew McIntosh on Friday to express their concerns and an extraordinary council meeting had been scheduled for Wednesday.

But Mr Cotching said Dr Dray had been completely exonerated by an Education Department investigation and should be allowed to resume as principal.

He blasted the department’s decision to investigate Dr Dray under division 10 – misconduct and inefficiency – of part 2.4 of the Education and Training Reform Act, saying it was a "gargantuan stuff-up" and an investigation that should have taken a month had dragged on for 19 months.

"It should never have got to this stage," Mr Cotching said. "It’s the grossest mismanagement of a complaints process I’ve seen in my experience as a principal.

The investigation is understood to have called 20 witnesses, collected three folders of information, and examined every area of Kew Primary’s operation, including school finances, security and Dr Dray’s dealings with the school council, before recommending that no action be taken.


All sweet for conservatives as Labor sours in NSW

Premier Barry O'Farrell is reaping the benefit of corruption hearings involving two former Labor ministers and ructions over the federal leadership, according to a poll that has the NSW opposition stuck on a historically low primary vote.

The Nielsen poll reveals only 23 per cent of those surveyed would give NSW Labor their primary vote - a result that will compound fears about the party's prospects at the federal election on September 14.

The NSW Coalition's primary vote sits at 52 per cent, with the Greens at 10 per cent, independents at 9 per cent and others on 5 per cent.

On a two-party preferred basis, the Coalition maintains the advantage it secured over Labor at the March 26, 2011 state election, leading by 63 per cent to 37 per cent, a swing of just 1 per cent to Labor in two years.

"What this poll really says overall is Labor has made little or no progress since the last election," research director John Stirton said.

Public inquiries into former Labor ministers Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald at the Independent Commission Against Corruption meant "voters have been continually reminded of the government they tossed out", he said.

The statewide poll of 1000 voters was taken last weekend as the dust settled after the latest Labor leadership wrangling involving Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her predecessor Kevin Rudd.

Locally, ICAC has recently concluded public hearings into allegedly corrupt mining deals involving former NSW Labor powerbroker Mr Obeid and former mining minister Mr Macdonald. ICAC has begun a second inquiry into a lucrative coal exploration licence issued by Mr Macdonald to former union official John Maitland.

The poll reveals that Mr O'Farrell has an approval rating of 54 per cent and a disapproval rating of 35 per cent for a net approval rating of 19 per cent - the highest for a NSW premier since Morris Iemma's net approval rating of 27 per cent in 2007.

Opposition Leader John Robertson recorded a net approval rating of minus 11 per cent, with a disapproval rating of 43 per cent and approval rating of 32 per cent - the

worst result for an opposition leader since the Liberals' Peter Debnam, whose rating was minus 21 per cent in March 2007.

Mr O'Farrell retains a strong lead over Mr Robertson as preferred premier, 62 per cent to 25 per cent - the biggest lead since March 2003, when then premier Bob Carr led John Brogden by 64 per cent to 25 per cent.

The results show that the ICAC inquiries have neutralised any potential political benefit to Labor from some of the O'Farrell government's controversial decisions, including cuts to the education budget and allowing recreational hunting in national parks.

Mr Robertson has sought to counter the impact of the ICAC inquiries by calling for the expulsion of Mr Obeid and Mr Macdonald from Labor. He has also announced reforms including banning Labor MPs from holding jobs outside Parliament and requiring his shadow ministry to publicly disclose their taxable income and the interests of their spouse and family members.

Mr Stirton said voters know the difference between state and federal governments, but Labor is experiencing difficulties at both levels, including the arrest in late January of federal MP Craig Thomson, who is charged with defrauding the Health Services Union.

"Those messages are reinforcing each other and that's the worry for Labor," he said.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Juvenile offenders will no longer get a clean slate when they turn 17 under proposed Qld. Government changes

MOST of the state's dangerous youth offenders, even rapists, do not have criminal records because courts are not recording convictions against them.

Three-quarters of juveniles sentenced for assaults and sexual offences in the past three years did not have convictions recorded, meaning they can legitimately tell an employer they do not have a criminal history.

It also means that if they commit another offence after they turn 17, judges cannot take into account their criminal history during sentencing if no conviction was recorded.

A three-month investigation by The Courier-Mail reveals the judiciary is reluctant to record convictions against juveniles because they are worried about the prospects of their rehabilitation.

The State Government today releases its Safer Streets Crime Action Plan - Youth Justice, which Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said would end youths "thumbing their noses at the law".

Among the proposals are for sentencing judges to take into account an adult's juvenile history; transferring young criminals to adult prisons when they turn 18; and evaluating bootcamps trialled on the Gold Coast and Cairns.

Mr Bleijie will today ask  for public feedback on youth offenders and ask for strategies on dealing with them.

He said he was considering reviewing laws that would "ensure courts are given the full picture when sentencing adults with juvenile criminal histories".

"Section 184 of the Youth Justice Act 1992 gives judges the discretion to record a conviction in relation to a young offender," Mr Bleijie told The Courier-Mail.

"Currently where a conviction is not recorded, any offences committed as a juvenile are not able to be taken into account by a court if the offender is subsequently sentenced as an adult."

He is also considering a breach-of-bail offence for juveniles, which critics said was unnecessary. A three-month investigation by The Courier-Mail into youth offending has revealed how the judiciary is reluctant to record convictions against youth offenders - even those found guilty of rape - because they are worried about their ability to rehabilitate.

Three-quarters of juvenile offenders sentenced for assaults and sexual offences in the past three years did not have convictions recorded.

However, 11 youths who appeared before the Supreme Court for murder, attempted murder and other aggravated assault charges since 2010 all had convictions recorded.

While not advocating for any particular change, Queensland Chief Justice Paul de Jersey acknowledged there was community concern.

"The point of not recording a conviction relates primarily to an offender's future employment prospects, and with some offenders, for example sports people, to the prospect of obtaining a visa if travelling for that purpose," Justice de Jersey said.

"The exercise of the discretion whether or not to record a conviction is potentially sensitive, in that many prospective employers would argue that they should be informed about the past history of an applicant for employment, warts and all," Justice de Jersey said.

He said if an offender had been convicted but no conviction was recorded to the "outside world" they do not have a criminal history.

Sentencing judges can take into consideration previous crimes if a conviction was recorded.He said the Court of Appeal had noted there was a presumption that under Section 183 of the Juvenile Justice Act convictions not be recorded.

"That has led to a general reluctance to record convictions against children," Justice de Jersey said.

Queensland Council for Civil Liberties vice-president Terry O'Gorman said there was no evidence youth justice was more of a problem.

"Fundamentally, if convictions against children haven't been recorded and there have been any appeals, then that speaks for itself," he said.

The Queensland Law Society's criminal law committee member Ken Mackenzie said courts were obliged to take into account how a conviction recorded would impact on a juvenile's future.


Flood of illegals increasing

MORE than 120 asylum seekers arrived on three boats over the weekend with new UNHCR figures showing refugee claims in Australia are increasing five times faster than the rest of the world.

The three vessels have cemented a record number of arrivals for March under Labor with 1215 so far with a week to run.

The figures, from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, show just 115 people arrived in March last year, 373 in 2011, 746 in 2010 and just 54 in 2009.

A UN report last week revealed Australia's asylum claims topped 16,000 in 2012, a 37 per cent increase compared with an eight per cent increase across 44 industrialised countries.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison claimed the figures show the government's policies were encouraging asylum seekers to travel to Australia.


Right wing? No, I'm a liberal and proud of it

by Australian physicist John Reid

Recently, a friend asked me why I have such “extreme right-wing opinions”. This came about after I had expressed some scepticism about human induced climate change and various other Green shibboleths. This is my response.

I associate the term “right wing” with the following political beliefs:

(i) the State is more important than the individual,

(ii) Capital is more important than Labour and trade unions and industrial action should be suppressed,

(iii) the State is justified in censoring books, newspapers and the media in order to suppress ideas that the government or important lobby groups may find unpalatable,

(iv) warfare is not merely unavoidable but desirable,

(v)  those in power know best; hierarchical forms of government are preferable to democracy, and

(vi) these self-evident truths are continually being undermined by the malign influence of International Communism in its various forms.

What are some of the beliefs of the Left? Nowadays, Marxist Socialism is largely discredited in the West, apart from a small minority of the faithful. In its place we have an amalgam of feminism, militant environmentalism and welfare state advocacy. This constitutes The Left in present day Australia and has, rather cleverly, avoided being branded as a particular “ism”. That is unless we include Post-Modernism, which acts as a sort of intellectual umbrella but which is so arcane and confusing that most Left-inclined non-academics tend to muddle along without it.

The Green-Left-Feminist (GLF) world-view includes many of the following:

1/ All cultures are equally valid (from Post-Modernism).

2/ Prior to the Modern Era (which usually began around the time when the speaker attended university) Western society was a Dickensian hell in which women were subjugated by their violent husbands and children underwent harsh physical punishment and rote learning at school.

3/ We have nothing to learn from our past, which was controlled by white male patriarchs.

4/ Owing to Capitalist Greed, the planet is about to come to an end as fragile ecosystems collapse under the strain of the resources taken from them and the poisons being pumped into them.

5/ All ecosystems are fragile – there is no such thing as a robust ecosystem.

6/ Human beings are a scourge on the planet. The world would be a better place without human beings.

7/ It is our job as human beings to ensure that the world is preserved exactly as it is now, like a giant museum. No more species should ever be allowed to become extinct whatever the economic cost of keeping them viable (David Attenborough).

8/ Scientists, and especially environmental scientists, have a profound understanding of the natural world and only they know how it should be managed. Lay people have no right to criticise them because they always know best.

9/ Scientific truth is whatever a consensus of grant-funded scientists say it is. Retired scientists and those employed by Big Business are not to be trusted.

10/ As there will be no more wars; all money spent on defence is wasted.

11/ Nuclear is bad. All nuclear power plants should be closed down.

12/ Carbon dioxide is bad (i.e. all combustion).We should obtain all of our energy from alternative, Green technologies.

13/ Hydro-electricity is bad because it involves building dams.

14/ Notwithstanding #1 above, pre-industrial societies like New Guinea hill tribes and Yanamomo Indians are superior to our own in their dealings with Nature and with one another. War is a product of capitalist society and is unknown among such people.

15/ All wilderness and all forests must be preserved, whatever the cost, because trees are more important than people and forests are more important than communities.

16/ Large native trees are sacred (Richard Flanagan). Whales are sacred.

17/ These self-evident truths are continually being undermined by the malign influences of the Energy Lobby and the Murdoch Press

Note the similarities. Both Right and Left downplay the individual, both appeal to authority, both, in the extreme, become totalitarian, both attribute evil motives to their detractors and subscribe to the malign influence theory.

The political philosophy which opposed them is liberalism. Liberalism is neither Right nor Left. In wartime the Left tends to be more liberal and the Right illiberal, as during the Cold War and the Viet Nam War. Today it is the Left which has become illiberal. To question the Leftist “truths” listed above is to be a “redneck” or a “denier”.

I am a liberal, with a small “l”, although recently I have joined the large “L” Liberal Party. I grew up in a family with a liberal orientation. I first became self-consciously liberal after hearing John Stuart Mill’s essay On Liberty read by Prof Sydney Orr when I was a student at the University of Tasmania. The year was 1959, the centennial of the essay.

Along with Voltaire and many others, Mill was part of the Enlightenment tradition of liberal thought. It is a tradition which is deeply embedded in our culture and one of the reasons for our stability and our success.

More than 150 years later, Mill’s ideas about the suppression of slavery and the desirability of female suffrage have come to pass in Western countries. I believe that he got it right about liberty, about freedom of speech, and about the necessity for informed and inclusive debate in a healthy democracy.

However his more socialistic ideas, about workers’ collectives and so on, sound more than a little naïve nowadays. I believe that if Mill were alive today he would not support socialism and would be horrified by the perversions to which it has led. In 1859, when he put pen to paper, Stalin’s purges, Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the excesses of Pol Pot and the sheer lunacy of North Korea were yet to happen. He would have been appalled by the unnecessary suffering and suppression of the human spirit brought about by this fervent, mindless and un-self-critical ideology which holds the State or the Party above the individual.

To me, the problem with GLF’s, particularly the Greens, is that they confuse what is desirable with what is possible. They also confuse loyalty and truth. Being Left is rather like being a Collingwood supporter: you may, in your heart of hearts, suspect that the 'Pies are going to lose next weekend but you can’t say so publicly because that would be disloyal.

A society which puts loyalty before the truth is not a healthy society. The Vietnam war might have been avoided if the US had been able to talk to the Chinese, who were equally dissatisfied with North Vietnam at the time (according to Kissinger). However the US State Department had been purged of its China experts. Anyone who had actually been to China was seen as being “soft on Communism” by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. There could be no real debate or communication with China under those circumstances, and prejudice held sway at the cost of millions of lives.

In my view, in this country, liberalism has come under threat. We can no longer assume that we live in a society in which minority opinions can be heard and debated. There are several examples where this principle is increasingly disregarded.

One is the recently shelved attempt to install a government-controlled watchdog to censor media content following from the recommendations of the Finkelstein Report.

Another is the prosecution of Andrew Bolt under the racial vilification laws. Bolt was dragged before the courts for criticizing what he wrote was the opportunist use of scholarships and prizes, intended for disadvantaged Aborigines, by relatively affluent middle-class people. He hurt their feelings by speaking the truth, evidently. He in no way vilified Aborigines per se, some of whom agree with him. It should be noted that the affirmative action provisions, under which such prizes and grants were set up, actively discriminate on the basis of race and are, ipso facto, themselves racist. The disadvantaged should be given preference according to the nature of their disadvantage, not because of their DNA.

The controversy over the visiting Dutch politician Geert Wilders is another case in point. Wilders has always emphasized that he is not opposed to Muslims, only to their religion, Islam, which, he considers an oppressive ideology and an existential threat to Western liberal values. His position is similar to that of Churchill in prewar Britain who was condemned for expressing concern about the rise of Nazism in Germany. Churchill happened to be correct and Wilders may well be wrong, but at least he should have the right to be heard and have his views discussed. We suppress the ideas of such Cassandras at our cost.

Finally, I regard the so-called “climate debate” as a classic case of the breakdown of the liberal spirit, this time within the scientific community. Putting aside the technical details about whether climate variability is or is not influenced by human activity, the manner in which this campaign has been conducted is a disgrace. Even the term “climate change” is loaded, presupposing, as it does, that the climate was once stable and is now changing; real scientists would use the phrase “climate variability”.

The polemical nature of the IPCC reports, the way in which opponents have been systematically vilified and denied access to funds and publication, the absence of any critical third party evaluation of the models, all imply an illiberal and political agenda. Certainly scientists need to seek funds and to put their best foot forward in doing so, but the way in which the climate people are using Green hysteria to attract massive funding amounts to nothing less than the prostitution of science. It is illiberal to the core.

No, I am not right wing. I am a liberal.


Don’t blame corporate sector for low Indigenous employment

According to a new report by the Diversity Council Australia, Reconciliation Australia and Lend Lease, the corporate sector needs to more effectively engage with Indigenous communities to close the gap in employment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

In the report, 27 Indigenous industry leaders gave the corporate sector an average score of 5.1 out of 10 for community engagement and employment of Aboriginal people.

But the corporate sector should not be blamed for low Indigenous employment. The barrier to improving Indigenous employment figures is not the lack of effective (what Reconciliation Australia would term ‘culturally appropriate’) engagement with Indigenous communities, but practical things, like the appalling education outcomes of remote Indigenous Australians with many unable to read, write or count.

Rather than blaming private sector employers for not engaging appropriately with Indigenous communities, governments and training providers should be held responsible. Many more Aboriginal people could be employed if government education departments were doing their jobs properly.

Remote Indigenous people may complete multiple training courses but the training never leads to employment because underlying illiteracy problems are not addressed. Indigenous students are allowed to pass courses in Business Administration from the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education without knowing how to turn on a computer or write a simple sentence in English.

The private sector, most notably mining companies, have lead the way in offering: training; support with literacy and numeracy; pre-vocational courses; introductory job rotations; flexible traineeships; and apprenticeship on-the-job programs. Several mines, including the Argyle diamond mine in the Kimberley, the Granites goldmine in the Tanami desert, and the Century zinc, lead and silver mine in the Gulf of Carpentaria, have decades of experience in providing employment opportunities for the local Aboriginal population. In some mines, Aboriginal people make up 20 per cent of the workforce.

Yet even with all the pre-employment training and accelerated training provided by mining companies, there are many remote Indigenous Australians whose literacy and numeracy is not sufficient for them to be employed safely in mining operations. Still, mining companies are so keen to employ Indigenous people they have created ancillary positions in gardening, maintenance services and land management.

To say, as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda does, that employers should not ‘pay lip service to reconciliation’ is a slap in the face to all those private sector employers who are doing everything they can to try and employ more Indigenous people.

Andrew Forrest states that under the Aboriginal Employment Covenant, 335 employers have pledged over 60,000 jobs for Indigenous people. So far 14,000 Indigenous people have moved into employment. More would be employed if they had the right education.

The Diversity Council Australia and Reconciliation Australia are perpetuating a myth that more Aboriginal people could be employed if employers were not so racist. The truth is employment opportunities abound for educated Indigenous people.

It is education not racism that is holding Aboriginal people back.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Afghans lead 37% rise in asylum seeker claims

Just what Australia needs:  A whole  swag of illiterate and aggressive Muslims

The number of people arriving in Australia to claim asylum jumped by more than a third last year, driven by an increase in arrivals from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Last year 15,800 people claimed asylum in Australia, up 37 per cent from 2011. Afghan nationals (3079) and Sri Lankans (2345) accounted for more than a third of asylum seekers to reach Australian shores.

The increase in the number of Sri Lankans travelling to Australia by boat attracted intense public and political interest last year.

The number of Sri Lankans - mainly young Tamil men, but also Sinhalese, Muslims and small numbers of women and children - to make an asylum claim in Australia jumped from 371 in 2011 to 2345 last year (a rise of 630 per cent, but from a low base), figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees show.

The agency's numbers do not include those who arrived by boat after August 13 last year, when Australia restarted offshore processing and, according to the UNHCR, ''have not yet entered a refugee determination process, or been able to lodge a formal claim for protection''.

The number of Sri Lankans who arrived ''irregularly'' by boat on Australian shores increased by a far greater amount last year, from 211 to 6428.

Continued insecurity across Afghanistan and uncertainty over that country's future post-2014 saw the number of Afghan nationals applying for asylum jump 79 per cent to 3079.

And the number of Pakistani asylum seekers reached 1512 last year, up 84 per cent from 2011.

Australia's asylum seeker numbers, while politically sensitive, remain numerically small. Australia receives about 3 per cent of the total asylum claims made in industrialised countries around the world.

The UNHCR noted in its report: ''By comparison, asylum levels in Australia continue to remain below those recorded by many other industrialised and non-industrialised countries.''

Nearly half a million - 493,000 - asylum claims were lodged in industrialised countries last year, the second highest number on record after 2003.

Europe received 355,000 asylum seeker claims, while North America had 103,000. War, civil strife, political repression and sectarian violence continue to force movements of populations across borders.

In particular, conflict in Syria has prompted a new mass wave of refugees fleeing that country.

Afghanistan continues to provide the most asylum seekers of any country in the world, with 36,600 last year, followed by the Syrian Arab Republic, Serbia, China and Pakistan.

''Wars are driving more and more people to seek asylum,'' the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said. ''At a time of conflict, I urge countries to keep their borders open for people fleeing for their lives.''

And while the latest UNHCR figures deal with asylum claims to industrialised countries, more than 80 per cent of refugees live in developing countries.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has previously called for greater equity in assisting displaced people.

''The burden of helping the world's forcibly displaced people is starkly uneven,'' he said. ''Poor countries host vastly more displaced people than wealthier ones. While anti-refugee sentiment is heard loudest in industrialised countries, developing nations host 80 per cent of the world's refugees.''

Afghanistan alone has a diaspora of more than 2.7 million refugees across 71 countries, but more than 95 per cent are in neighbouring Pakistan and Iran.


'Why didn't they help my girl?'

A HOBART father is considering legal action against the Education Department after he says his 13-year-old daughter was subjected to eight months of bullying at her school, culminating in her nose being broken and an attempt made to set her on fire.

The father, whose name has been withheld to protect his daughter's identity, said he was left dumbstruck by the failure of school authorities to provide the most basic duty of care. "I'm shattered," he said of the school's inability to deal with the repeated bullying of his daughter.

The distraught father said he could not believe his daughter's tormentors – five 13-year-old girls -- were not expelled.

Rather, the man's daughter has become a victim again by being forced to change schools.

"I was in the army, I protected my country and now I can't protect my little girl," he said.

After being contacted for a response by the Mercury, the Education Department said it would investigate.

"The department takes all incidents of violence seriously and has procedures in place to deal with them," Education Department deputy secretary Liz Banks said.

"In this instance, the school acted promptly and the actions included suspension, mediation and appropriate counselling and support for the students involved."

However, the victim's father rejected Ms Banks' claims that the school had acted "promptly".

He said the school principal failed to meet with him, despite repeated requests.

The father said the school failed to contact police when his daughter, a Year 7 student, was punched in the face by her main tormentor in the school playground on March 6.

The attack resulted in his daughter having surgery last Wednesday to reset her nose, after a week waiting for the swelling to go down.

That assault occurred on her 13th birthday and her father had allowed her to mark it by having her naturally red hair dyed brown the day before.

"The teasing had started off last year with name-calling the usual 'ranga' and the like, and she wanted to dye her hair. I held out for a long time but it didn't stop and I gave in for her birthday," he said.

"I couldn't believe they didn't call the police after my daughter was punched in the face.

"I took her to the doctor on March 6 ... She told me [my daughter's] nose was broken and I took her to the police station."

He said police had been very supportive and were dealing with the matter and the offender was suspended from school for a week.

"The day after she returned from that suspension, [my daughter] was in what was supposed to be a safe zone classroom during the lunch break," he said.

"The teacher's aide supervising the room had not been told that the girls weren't allowed near her and she let them in.

"They walked straight up to [my daughter], sprayed her with aerosol cans of hairspray and deodorant and tried to light her on fire with cigarette lighters."

The terrified girl managed to push her way through the group and run to safety with her clothing singed.

The father again met with the school and it was suggested the best option would be to remove his daughter from the school and place her elsewhere.

"I can't believe it," he said.  "I'm afraid for her life."

He said the Education Department had phoned him yesterday after it was approached by the Mercury.   "They say they're looking into it but they're eight months too late. This is going to scar her for the rest of her life."


Easy moralism on forced adoption ‘sorry’

The Prime Minister’s apology for forced adoption predictably heaped opprobrium on previous generations for the harsh and outdated attitudes that used to exist towards unwed mothers.

Equally predictably, the Prime Minister made no mention of contemporary failings, and took no responsibility for dealing with the consequences of the progressive policies of today.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the introduction of the single mother’s pension by the Whitlam Government. This policy helped end the practice of forced adoption because the provision of taxpayer-funded income support gave women who became pregnant out of wedlock the realistic option to keep their children.

The 2012 Greens-dominated Senate inquiry into forced adoption reflexively lauded this as a social leap forward that marked the start of a more tolerant era. However, in the rush to criticise the conservative attitudes of early times and praise modern-day respect for family diversity, the negative social consequences were wholly ignored.

The politically incorrect reality that has emerged in the past 40 years is that welfare for the unwed has led to the very social problem that forced adoption was designed to prevent - the inability of (some but not all) single mothers reliant on public assistance to properly care for children outside of a traditional, financially self-supporting family.

The inconvenient truth is that the right to welfare has become a pathway to welfare dependence and welfare-related dysfunction for a significant underclass of single mothers and their children, and has contributed significantly to the scale of the child protection crisis confronting the nation today.

Australia’s growing underclass of problem families with serious child protection concerns includes disproportionate numbers of single-mother families with a raft of problems (drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and mental illness) that impede proper parenting. They account for more than one-third of all substantiated incidents of child abuse and neglect in Australia, and are over-represented at more than twice the expected rate, given the number of single-mother households.

Despite these statistics, the links between family type and child welfare are rarely discussed.

Elites in the media, politics, and academia are uncomfortable making judgments about different kinds of families. This is despite the impact that the reproductive and relationship decisions made by adults has on children, and despite the reams of social science evidence that shows that the children of never-married single mothers do worse on average on all measures of child wellbeing compared to other kinds of families.

Hence, the social disaster surrounding the rise of state-sponsored single-motherhood does not get the attention it deserves. Instead, as the national apology for forced adoption shows, we prefer to practice the easy moralism that condemns the sins of the past, while ignoring the current day sins of ‘enlightened’ social policies that are toxic for child welfare.


Penalty rates and job insecurity

The government’s plan to enshrine penalty rates in the Fair Work Legislation should be seen as part of a broader campaign against insecure work run by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Unfortunately, moves to strengthen penalty rates may have the perverse effect of creating further job insecurity.

This week a full bench of the Fair Work Commission, headed by President Iain Ross, rejected a bid by employers to reduce penalty rates for retailers and fast food companies.

Retailers applied to have the 25% Saturday penalty scrapped and the 100% Sunday penalty reduced to 50%. Fast food retailers sought to scrap the 25% penalty rate for Saturdays and the 50% penalty rate for Sundays, in addition to a 10% penalty to apply on weeknights after 10pm to replace the current 15% which applies from 9pm.

President Ross claimed that ‘while aspects of the application are not without merit – particularly the proposals to re-assess the Sunday penalty rate in light of the level applying on Saturdays – the evidentiary case in support of the claims was, at best, limited.’

Moves to remove penalty rates signal a growing dissatisfaction among the business community with the costs of the award system, particularly since the changes to award wages and penalty rates brought about by modern awards. The award modernisation process, plus the recent Safety Net Review, has culminated in significant hikes to labour costs.

It comes at a time where unprecedented competition from online retailers, both at home and abroad, has created downward price pressure. Small retailers are essentially getting squeezed at both ends – their revenues are falling at the same time that labour costs are increasing.

What this means is a very uncertain business environment for small retailers, and further job insecurity for the workers they employ.

A removal or reduction in penalty rates would give small retailers much-needed relief from cost pressures and allow them to operate for longer and at higher capacity during non-standard hours. For many retailers, these are the most important trading hours and would represent significant employment opportunities for workers in a fickle job market.

Penalty rates are proving more and more incompatible with the nature of the modern retail environment. A less onerous penalty rates system will alleviate cost pressures and contribute to greater business activity and better employment opportunities.