Sunday, 28 February 2010

Enough of the yoof bashing

It's time we as a society put an end to this sort of behaviour:
Victoria's oldest hoon loses license

The Bulletin's owner on Climate Change

Great article at Rolling Stone on Rupert (owner of The Bully) Murdoch's  hypocracy on Climate Change:
The Disinformer.  Rupert Murdoch, CEO, News Corporation
I strongly recommend you read about all 17 polluters and deniers in The Climate Killers piece by Tim Dickinson of which this is part (I find the piece on Warren Buffett really scary because of his proven ability to read the future of the markets), along with Jeff Goodell's article "As the World Burns" about how Big Oil and Big Coal mounted aggressive lobbying campaigns to block progress on global warming.

FAILED? Well the Bulletin did at least

The Bulletin was at it again on Saturday – beating-up a nonsense bit of writing into a front-page murder and mayhem story.

FAILED” (their choice of all caps, but very bad form I’d say if I were their teacher) screamed the front page header followed by “Educating against era of violence” (missing an “an” – again, very bad form and lost marks) splashed across pages six and seven, just below “What’s up with North Queensland schools” (online version here).

It actually took a full 24 hours before I could summon the courage (or is that, was bored enough) to read Alexis Gillham’s “Special Report”.

Personally, I get a bit sick of everybody assuming they’re an expert on education (or hospitals, or homelessness, or blackfellas for that matter) and I was dreading reading what, I’d assumed from the editor’s headlines, was going to be yet another uninformed attack on our education system and/or the kids who use it.

Reading the story, I soon discovered that it was in fact another muddled headed diatribe of the type I’ve come to expect of The Bulletin.

The only ‘evidence’ of our schools facing an “era of violence” as the headline suggested was a quote from a “school bullying prevention and management consultant” (you immediately worry when you read ‘consultant’) who claimed in the opening paragraph that “Townsville school students will soon be wielding guns and machetes, creating a violent backdrop for ‘innocent’ classmates to spend an major chunk of their day” (my guess this was a bit of sub-editing ‘licence’ rather than an actual quote as the Bully implied).

Well, that and the hard statistic that the town has had two school lockdowns this year – exactly the same annual average as for the last unknown number of years as we later learn from the Northern Vice President of the Qld Council of Parents and Citizens Associations. Not necessarily an alarming increase, perhaps just the year’s average achieved early - only time will tell.

The story goes on to use suspensions and expulsions from school as a proxy indicator of increasing violence in schools and to argue that this region is worse than others. A few facts might help:
  • Suspensions and expulsions from school can happen for any number of reasons with violence being only one of them.
  • All of the data used in the report (and here) is from 2008. That is, it tells us nothing of what is happening in our schools in 2010
  • For every 100 students in the region there are there are about 15.4 suspensions a year – that’s not 15.4 bad kids, just 15.4 suspensions. For example, all kids who are expelled usually go through a number (at least three) suspensions – so for every 100 students there might be in reality 3-5 “problem kids”. As a matter of interest, I wonder what the ratio is on Flinders St East, at Lavarack Barracks or in the Tax Office? – not much different I’d wager!
  • North Queensland’s suspension rate is high but not the highest in the State – Wide Bay-Burnet is the highest.
  • North Queensland expulsion rates are also high, but far from the highest. Ours is 1.6 per 1,000 students, while the Far North’s is 2.6 and the South Coast’s is 2.9
  • The article quotes (twice) a figure of 21 expulsions over three years. Best I can tell, this is actually a count of ‘cancellations’ in the 2008 year. A ‘cancellation’ occurs because “a post compulsory age student if the student displays persistent refusal to participate in the program of instruction” (EQ web site) – expulsions are a totally different thing (are generally behaviour rather than attendance related) and the count was actually 47 in ‘08
Bottom line to all of this (apart from there being no evidence presented by the Bully that our kids are to blame for an “era of violence” – because surely that is their headline’s intention) is that suspension and expulsion rates are far more likely to be a reflection of a schools management practices (and the socio-demographics of their student population) than anything else as both actions are totally at the discretion of the Principal.

Finally, at least 1/3 of the article compares suspension and expulsion rates in the public sector with those in the private sector without any reference to differences in the socio-economic demographics of the student populations in the two sectors or, of course, the funding per student differentials. Either Alexis Gillham is a product of the private school sector or just plain intellectually lazy or both (they tell me it happens)

For me however, the last word comes from a mate of one of my children attending (a State) high school. She was the victim of fairly violent attack on the school bus from another girl who had already been suspended (and who had been led to believe the girl she was attacking was the cause of her suspension). The ‘bully’ was immediately expelled – for which I was glad when I first heard of this.

But interestingly, a couple of months later, the “bully” saw the “victim” at Stocklands Mall, stopped her, apologised, took her for a coffee and explained that the expulsion was the best thing that happened to her as it enabled her to get a clean start at a new school with new friends and get away from a group of girls who were using her to get at other girls.

I also learnt that that group of girls have since been left largely powerless as they have no one to get to do their bullying for them and (is often the case) are too gutless to do it themselves (a bit like The Bulletin one might say).

All-in-all, I thought that story the best advertisement for the value of suspensions and expulsions as a behaviour management tool within schools.

And lastly, if I were a Grade-10 English or SOSE teacher I would have FAILED both Alexis Gillham and the Bully’s headline writer for an incoherent, factually wrong and dreadfully argued article.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Vote now!

What's your opinion of The Bulletin? Vote now!

We've included a poll on the blog to give readers the chance to express their opinion about The Bulletin.

We tried to emulate the Bully itself by giving you that chance to vote as many times as your heart desires but unfortunately Blogger's technology is far more sophisticated than that which Rupert will buy for News Ltd, so you’re only allowed one vote.

Choose carefully.

Click ‘comments’ below to send us any other poll options that you think would be appropriate.

Could Barney be the funniest man in politics - or just a joke?

If, like me, you can't work out whether Barney Joyce is full if sh*t or just a goose, this investigation by Crikey of whether he conducted his ABC Newsradio interview this morning while on the loo or not might be enlightening:
Barnaby’s Watergate: a flush or a truck?
Not sure if the background noise is the loo flushing or a truck passing as his staff claim? - there's the definative comparison here.

A goose full of sh*t perhaps?  Ya gotta laugh

Is Peter Lindsay running for State parliament?

You'd think that Peter Lindsay was a State MP given the amount of time and effort he puts into State issues. His letter to the editor today is a case in point (not online) – ripping into the State Minister, Kate Jones, for announcing last Friday a worrying lead level reading in Mount Isa and the process the State would take to confirm if there was a problem and, if there was, their approach to handling the polluter.

No doubt Jones milked the story for all it was worth at the time and no doubt Xstrata understood the game, but if I lived in the Isa, I would have wanted to know.

Maybe Peter is looking for a consultancy with Xstrata in his coming retirement? He’s certainly not helping his LNP replacement by spending his time and effort bashing up the State Government when the Feds are supposed to be his target.

He’s probably made no friends at the Bully either, having pointed out their headline beat-up “Xstrata to be prosecuted over air pollution”

Another Bully beat-up

I got all excited when I unrolled this morning’s Bulletin and saw the front page. “Razor gang hacks budget” screams the headline followed by a list of Council budget items that are presumably going to be “hacked” – items that are sure to raise the punters’ ire (security cameras, public toilets, community grants etc).

Read the full story on page four though and you see that these, along with every other Council Budget line, are up for review in the budget process – as you would expect of a sound financial manager. None of the headline items splashed on the front page have actually been slashed (yet) – no decisions seem to have been made. But read the editorial and the shopping list has actually become a “plan”.

They probably have suckered a few more paper sales as a result and I’m sure the Bully will get an extra page of text messages to publish tomorrow.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The power of the blog

Having claimed that this blog helped embarrass The Bulletin into not running their Mooney/Hill poll on the front page as we might otherwise expect, dare I be so brash as to claim success in achieving the opposite and embarrassing Council into action?
Following this story about the state of the parks and verges on Townsville’s major tourist attraction on the eve of a visit by 80 tourism junketeers from all over Qld, the grass got mowed today - as the picture at right show.
All power to the bloggers!

The Pollytics of insulation

You gotta love Possum Comitatus at – he has a way of finding the truth in the numbers that few others are capable of.

Today he has what has to be the definitive blogs about the “insulation affair’ that The Australian and the rest of Rupert (the Monk’s lunch partner) Murdoch’s slag-sheets have been beating-up for the last couple of weeks.

Firstly, he demolishes much of the reportage to date:

Risk and Incompetence in an Insulated Media
And then he shows statistically how the Garrett insulation scheme in all probability actually reduced the rate of installation caused fires:

Read them – you won’t be sorry

Get your daughters to read this story

I sure have - a great lesson in self defence (and girl power):
Schoolgirl, 15, escapes after kicking would-be kidnapper in groin

It’s official, Mooney knows more nerds than Hill

I see The Bulletin sheepishly published its online poll results in a small article at the bottom for page two today (not online).

As I know that they monitor this blog daily and they no doubt saw my posts here and here (my final tally was 25 votes before got bored with it), perhaps I should claim some credit for their not beating it up into a front page story as we would otherwise expect?

At least the Cairns Post is smart enough to not publish the vote count on their online polls!

The only thing that the poll proves is that Tony Mooney was able to muster more nerds to lodge multiple votes (or has more kids) than Jenny Hill.

The last word however goes to RobbO on the Bully’s feedback page

(The) claim that the Bulletin on-line poll is representative of residents (Bulletin 23-10) couldn't be further from the truth. The on-line poll could not possible be used to generalise the residents views on anything, as it a at best a sub-set of Bulletin readers who own a computer.

Also it is self selective and not a random sample which again means it is difficult to get quality data.

Finally it would appear that people can lodge multiple votes, this alone makes any data collected unreliable as it is open to manipulation. (Seems that RobbO is a reader of Blogging Townsville too)
So by all means refer to it as an on-line poll but it should never be claimed to be anything more, that would be quite misleading.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

How to vote early and often at The Bulletin

Further to my earlier post here, If you want to vote multiple times for one of the candidates on the Bully's Poll - simply clear your cookies after each vote.  George and Niether could do with some help.

I'm up to 10 votes but i'm getting bored with it.

By the way - does anyone else find it interesting that the Bully isn't running a similar poll on who the punters prefer as the LNP candidate.

TCC - Just busy, just saving money, or just dumb

Today’s story in the Bully about the dangers of walking to Rasmussen State School is of course a bit of a worry for any parent whose kids use the overgrown goat track. But I can understand Cr Last’s response if it is indeed private land that is involved (although you have to wonder who is responsible for the walking track sign that is shown in the hard copy version of the page two pic).

The pic attached here though is most certainly Council land – right on the main strip from Nelly Bay to Picnic Bay and across from the Childcare Centre.
In previous wet seasons Council staff would be out on their mower at the first sign of the grass getting any higher than a few centimetres. In fact the Parks Department always made a point of saving their overtime until this time of year so that they could ensure that the Island’s parks and verges were kept pristine.

Could it be that TCC are on a savings drive this year? Not a smart move given the importance of the island to the town’s tourism industry.

I’m sure that the 80 tourism industry types from around the State who are visiting the island today will be as impressed at the ratepayers who’ve coped a 32% increase in their rates since the current council came to power.

Cr Last will have to lift his game if he really expects to be a contestant in the next Mayoral race

Memo to Tony and Jenny - Don’t trust the Bully

I wouldn’t put a lot of store in the Bulletin’s poll about people’s preferred candidate for the ALP for Herbert (especially if I were one of the candidates) – I’ve voted four times so far !!!

Monday, 22 February 2010

How will Peter Lindsay explain this to his troops as he's packing his bags

I've just finished watching Mungo MacCallum return to the fray on Q&A and on checking my in-box before bed found the follwing from another old war hourse, Richard Farmer (you can find him at the Political Owl).

I say "Bring back Mungo & Farmer - Australia needs journos who can drink and think at the same time!!"

Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.
This Labor Government is going down the gurgler of public opinion because of that Peter Garrett fellow and a jolly good read it is making. At last we journalists in Canberra can report a real election race so how dare that Gary Morgan fellow try and say it isn’t so. Simply don’t report the finding released on Friday that his poll shows Labor has re-established its huge lead in public opinion. That’s how to handle that.
I mean, how dare he say this when the collective wisdom of the press gallery is that Tony Abbott is making up ground and is now in with an excellent chance of winning:
The latest Face-to-Face Morgan Poll conducted over the last two weekends, February 6/7 & 13/14, 2010 shows the ALP (57.5%, up 1% since the last Face-to-Face poll conducted on January 23/24 & 30/31, 2010) maintaining a strong two-party preferred lead over the L-NP (42.5%, down 1%).

The ALP primary vote rose 1% to 47%, well ahead of the L-NP (37%, down 1%), while looking at the minor parties shows support for the Greens (9%, up 0.5%), Family First (2%, up 0.5%) and Independents/ Others (5%, down 1%).

Give us Dennis Shanahan’s view on Newspoll any day. At least he knows how to make things interesting.

For those of you who enjoy being kill-joys, here is the Morgan verdict:

The Bulletin's candidate for Herbert

The Bulletin’s campaign to have Tony Mooney installed as the ALP candidate for Herbert (see here and here) seems to have hit a bit of a speed bump.

"Mooney seat shock" and "Union powerbroker intervenes in Herbert" screams the front page headlines in the hard copy version of the story.

This assertion, and that in the opening para the article today, that AWU and Labor Forum faction boss, Bill Ludwig, had “intervened in the pre-selection battle for Herbert” is of course not supported by any evidence in the article - none what-se-ever.

In fact, later they report ALP state secretary Anthony Chisholm as saying that “the candidacy would be determined by a local branch vote” as is the “…standard practice”.

Doesn’t sound much like a backroom intervention to me.

The article get’s a bit weird from there – in fact Mooney himself indicates later that “his biggest hurdle would be convincing local members”, and presumably not the union and factional leaders in Brisbane (including Ludwig) that will have a 50% vote in the preselection. And, if the unsourced “…internal Labor poll (showing) members thought Mr Mooney was twice as likely to win the seat over Cr Hill” is true, the Bully’s candidate surely has nothing to worry about in a local plebiscite.

The article goes on to enshrine as fact that Mooney has PM Rudd’s endorsement for the seat. Mooney himself seems to now believe this beat-up by the Bully.

In an attempt to keep their campaign for Mooney alive the Bully goes on to raise the spectre of Jenny Hill continuing to pull a Councillor’s salary while campaigning (if she were to win the preselection) or ratepayers having to foot a $100K bill for by-election. All a bit premature it seems to me.
And in one final effort to support their candidate, the Bully is running an online poll asking “Who do you prefer as Labor’s candidate for Herbert”. I can see tomorrow’s headline already – that is of course assuming the poll goes according to the Bully’s plan. At the time of writing Jenny Hill is well ahead with 41% of the vote – almost double Mooney’s 21% (results here)

Sunday, 21 February 2010

What would the pop star say to the monk?

I wonder what Australia's newest pop star would say to the latest from the mad monk:
"...maybe the only appropriate punishment is death"
And wouldn't it just suit the ex-priest to have a death penalty debate running in the lead-up to the election - just as it suits he to have the press discussing his sexual prowess

Friday, 19 February 2010

The Race Card

Further yesterday's posts here and here about the Bulletin's use of the race card, I came across this post by Xeni Jardin on Bong Bong:
"Every once in a while some fooligan will roll to you talkin' some trash about how you discussing your racial background in a broader social context is a 'back-handed maneuver," she says. "They may even accuse you of 'playing the Race Card' because you mention that life is different for you because you are different. Next time that shit goes down, be prepared." (Incidentally, she's also Miss SF Leather 2009.)
Could it be that she read Wednesday's Townsville Bulletin editorial too?

The Monk is getting madder

This is just plain weird:
Abbott bemoans lack of sex on campaign
...and stupid - my guess is that he just lost my 85 year old mum's vote

Its not terrorism unless you're Muslim

Cross posted from No Right Turn:

Its not terrorism unless you're Muslim

This morning, a man crashed a plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas. He left behind a manifesto, an angry rant which made it clear his actions were based on libertarian / teabagger ideology.

US Law defines "terrorism" as "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents". International law defines it as violent acts motivated by a political, religious or ideological cause carried out to coerce, intimidate or influence a government or population. This act meets either definition. But the White House is saying its not terrorism.

The message is clear: crazed right wingers who murder because they hate taxation aren't terrorists. Instead, you're only a terrorist if you're Muslim. Its a disgusting double-standard, and another example of US bigotry.

The pop star solution is just what they need

I see that Australia is likely to get a new pop star today (Australia's first saint a new era for nation's Catholics).  In true pop star tradition, I'm sure she'll provide many with a welcome distraction from reality

You have to wonder what dear old Mary would have to say about her church and her (at least) 117 brother priests who have been convicted of sentenced in Australian courts in Broken Rites cases in recent years.

Given what I understand about her committment to the poor and attitude towards the church power structure, I also wonder whether she would today agree with Anglican, Kenneth Leech's conclusions about the church:
“What matters most to the churches as institutions is adaptation to, and acceptance by, the power structures. They take seriously the words of Jesus, ‘You cannot serve God and Mammon’, and they have opted for Mammon.”

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Vale Ruby Hunter

I feel for Archie

Murdoch's Townsville Bulletin – bigotry, bile, bad english and incomprehensible bullshit

I have long held that the most influential section of any paper's editorial pages is the cartoon – it is the one bit of any paper that everyone reads and absorbs.

Partly for this reason and partly because too many journos over the years have told me that you don't get to the top of the press food chain (i.e. to be Editor) because of your investigative or writing skill, I make a habit of never reading editorials – the only people who do are other journos and politicians.

But in order to top and tail this earlier post, I had to read yesterday's editorial in Rupert Murdoch's Townsville Bulletin. And what a piece of incoherent racist bile it is! You won't find it online but I have included a scan of it here so that you can judge for yourself (click to enlarge).

Leaving aside the criticisms listed in that earlier post, statements like “indigenous crime in Townsville is out of control” and “ a society we're losing a generation of young Aboriginals, and this is borne out by police statistics on juvenile crime” need to be shown up for the lies and factual nonsense they are:
  • In the five years to 2008/09 arrests of indigenous juveniles for crimes against the person (surely, the most serious crimes) in the Townsville Region (Townsville and Mt Isa Police Districts) rose it is true - by a 14 or a massive 4%. Not exactly out of control, especially when you consider that arrests of white kids for similar crimes rose by 191 or 39%
The Editorial goes on with: “A significant percentage of youth crime in North Queensland is perpetrated by young Aboriginals”.
  • At 37% of all juvenile arrests for crimes against the person in '08/9, this is actually true but there is (as you’d expect) no recognition in the editorial of the fact that this rate has fallen significantly from the 44% it was in '04/05.
Perhaps a more accurate angle for the editorial would have been “Crime by white kids out of control”
The rest of the editorial gets very confused. I’m not sure whether this is intentional, representative of a racist streak or just plain bad writing.
The Editor goes on to segue from youth crime into a diatribe about “mandatory rehabilitation” for young offenders and then on to criticism of the effectiveness of expenditure ”...on rehabilitation services for drunken Aborigines”:
  • mandatory rehabilitation” is of course a oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. Any psychologist (and anyone who battles with giving-up the fags or the grog) will tell you it is simply not possible to rehabilitate someone unless they want to.
  • I’m not sure where they get their “nearly $10 million is spent every year on rehabilitation services for drunken Aborigines” but this is more like the figure spent on homelessness and public intoxication programs in the city – services which of course are targeted to and used by both whitefellas and blackfellas alike. As a matter of contrast I’d love to know how much it costs the public purse to subsidise on the one hand and police on the other Townsville’s drink, drugs and fight area (Flinders St East).
  • You also have got to wonder what any of this has to do with juvenile crime
One final but key criticism of the editorial relates to their assertion that “for reasons that welfare and mental health experts are still trying to establish, there is a generation of young Aboriginals who are at war with the world. They are angry and disenfranchised from mainstream society”:
  • It is true that there many young people (of every colour imaginable) who could be described thus and there are copious amounts of research to show that the one common and by far most significant contributing factor, now and over the ages, is poverty – pure and simple. If young aboriginal people are over represented in this group, then it is for one reason – they are seriously over represented amongst the poor in our society.
  • To correct the editorial’s English and further to this last point – one can’t be disenfranchised from mainstream society, you are disenfranchised BY mainstream society.
I know that the staff at The Bulletin read this blog and I hope they are suitably embarrassed by the diatribe published in their editorial yesterday.
PS:  I’ve included Rupert Murdoch’s name (now three times) here in the hope that his minders will pick up this post in their daily scan of the net to see what is being said about their master and his empire. Perhaps as a result Murdoch will take a look at the editorial quality of his Townsville bull-sheet.

Alternatively, you could email him directly here:

The Bulletin - racist one day, gutless the next

A mate of mine sent the following letter to the Editor of the Bulletin yesterday in response to their “Don’t play race card on crime” editorial (not available online). Typically, they chose not to publish it – clearly because they can’t handle the criticism.

Dear Editor

What a shame that you took the opportunity "to play the race card" and call for Elders to take responsibility for "indigenous Crime out of control" in your editorial on the same day that our local Indigenous Elders were honoured by the Attorney-General for the services they donate to the courts, and other elements of the criminal and juvenile justice system, to bring about better outcomes for the whole community.

It is even more shameful that the catalyst for the latest race based commentary comes on the back of a crime (allegedly) committed by a person with a "dark complexion" who, by virtue of this detailed description, you have obviously tagged as Indigenous.

The third mark of shame is that you then use this offence as a spurious link to call for mandatory rehabilitation programs to deal with "drunken Aborigines”.

To borrow from the vernacular of those who often criticise courts for what they see as leniency, particularly when dealing with Juvenile Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, I would like to see a "three strikes and you are out" policy adopted when dealing with the Editorial practices in our local daily.

More substance and less alarmist commentary would be welcomed by this reader at least.
My own post about the appalling editorial will follow later in the day

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Leading from the rear 101 - Lindsay is trying but he really isn't very good at it

Peter Lindsay is desperately trying to gee the troops up. That would be the same troops that he has chickened out of leading into battle.

His effort in Tony Raggatt's story in today’s Bulletin is pretty lame though.

To use one poll to predict and election outcome is bad enough – especially when it has a margin of error of ±3.46% (keeping in mind that the Libs margin in Herbert is -0.4%). But to go on to suggest that punters can’t tell the difference between Federal and State Governments and will vote against Rudd because they don’t like Anna Bligh, fly’s in the face of political history.

He’d be better off consulting some of Australia’s more expert psephologists such as Scott Steel at  or William Bowe at The Poll Bludger  both of whom are showing, that across all of the opinion polls, there’s not a lot of movement and certainly nothing for the Libs to get their hopes up about.

For example Pollytics here has a sophisticated simulation using the same Galaxy Poll which projects a 56% chance of Labor winning 50.4% of the Two Party Preferred vote in Herbert and in total a one seat loss by Labor in Qld.

If that is a tad too sophisticated for poor old Peter, he need only remember back to how he and his mates were convinced that this Galaxy Poll back in June 2007 would deliver them victory later that year. Even Christian Kerr, a former staffer for South Australian Liberal Senators Robert Hill and Amanda Vanstone and former South Australian Premier John Olsen thought they were nuts.

Poor old Peter isn’t turning out to be a very good leader of the troops – even from the rear.

And if I were studying political science at JCU under the apparently new (to me anyway) member of the commentariat, Dr Doug Hunt, I’d be getting a second opinion.  Come to think of it, maybe Tony Raggatt would serve us better if he sought a second opinion too!!

Abbott survives near death experience or a reckless media tart responsible for near murder on the highways?

Lots of online stories this afternoon about the Mad Monk's near death experience today.  Here's the pick of a bad bunch:
Abbott survives near miss with semi-trailer ABC Online
Abbott narrowly avoids highway wipeout Herald Sun
Truckie's 'great job' saves Abbott Australasian Transport News
Lucky escape as Abbott misses semi-trailer crash by seconds WA today
Abbott misses semi-trailer drama by seconds Sydney Morning Herald
Read any one of them - If you apply the same logic he is using in accusing Peter Garrett of "industrial manslaugher", the headines should really read:

Abbott causes near miss with semi-trailer
Abbott narrowly avoids causing highway wipeout
Truckie's 'great job' saves Abbott from culpablity
Lucky escape as Abbott causes semi-trailer crash
Abbott misses responsibility for semi-trailer drama by seconds
Of course, I could also talk about the media's responsibility in this near 'tragedy'.

Best headline of the week - so far

You gotta love this on from The Age:
Spam attack: canned meat thrown at bus
This version from just isn't quite as creative:
Man attacks bus with Spam

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Which Federal Minister is responsible for this?

I wonder which Federal Minister the Mad Monk will accuse of industrial manslaughter over this:
Man dies in Gold Coast workplace accident
And while I'm on the subject - check this excellent piece posted on Values Australia

You won't read this in the Murdoch press

Posted in Fairfax's National Times site by Michael Perusco, Chief Executive of Sacred Heart Mission:
"I was in Canberra last week and had the opportunity to ask Opposition Leader Tony Abbott whether a government under his direction would continue with the Rudd government's goal of halving homelessness by 2020. His answer was no.

In justifying his stance, Abbott quoted from the Gospel of Matthew: ''The poor will always be with us,'' he said and referred to the fact there is little a government can do for people who choose to be homeless..."
"...Abbott's comment about people choosing to be homeless is another old and inaccurate cliche. It is a convenient myth that continues to be perpetuated by those who wish to avoid taking appropriate action to reduce homelessness..."
Read Perusco's full article here

Perhaps the rumours are true

There have been plenty of rumours that the next ALP candidate for Herbert will be decided in Brisbane or Canberra instead of by a plebiscite of local members.

I don’t know the history of such things, but could it be that the announcement that the ALP won’t be having a Qld State Conference this year be code for “we don’t want a public sh*t fight about the preselection process” (let alone asset sales)

Confirmed: Rock 'n' Roll kills (well, almost)

In the early days of rock ‘n’ roll all of the concern was about its impact on young people.

It seems that everyone should have instead been concerned about its effect on oldies:
AC/DC fan suffers heart attack

What has happened to disability services in Australia?

Guest posting by Chris Chappell

The Four Corners program, Breaking Point, (transcript here and Flash video presentation here) brought back for me a lot of bad memories and generated a storm of anger and outrage.

I grew up with a sister who lost sight in both eyes by the time I was about four. Some of my earliest memories are of my parents having to send her to a “school” for the deaf and blind in Adelaide – a dark, seemingly medieval, bluestone institution that no doubt provided the care and education that she simply could not get in country South Australia, but a bleak and disciplinarian place nevertheless. Despite a impressive musical talent, she was taught basket weaving as her means to achieving a modicum of independence in adulthood.

Memories of my beautifully strong and resilient sister are only dwarfed by the memories of the pain and sacrifice my parents went through in trying to find the best for her while also caring for two no doubt demanding and generally blissfully unaware boys.

As I reached my early teen years, my respect and admiration for my sister was only strengthened while I watched her cope with becoming a partial quadriplegic.

Anger and outrage soon took over when her 18 year life was taken because of poor patient care in a state-run institution.

Fast forward a decade and my first real job out of school in the early 1970’s was as what was then called a Registered Mental Deficiency Nurse (no joke!) at the then relatively new and purpose-built Strathmont Centre on what we called “Institution Hill” in Adelaide’s north – right next to Hillcrest Hospital for the mentally ill, across the road from Yatala Jail and the Women’s prison, and within a stone’s throw of a place that experimented on animals, another that trialled pesticides and genetically engineered crops, the Guide Dog training facility, the Repatriation Hospital, my old High School and the facility for para and quadriplegics where my sister had died.

While I’m not sure that my language is any longer appropriate, I nursed severely disabled people – people with levels of disability similar to those I saw discussed on Four Corners - along with those whose disability were unimaginably profound. I also nursed a couple of old aboriginal people who were by then ‘retarded’ (read, fully instituitionalised), having spent a lifetime in mental hospitals and other institutional care after being taken as children from their parents and country – not because they had an impairment, but rather because they were black and ‘difficult’ children.

I learnt there how to make beds in exactly the way taught by Florence Nightingale almost a century earlier (no joke, my pillow cover openings are still turned away from the window so that no germs will get in and settle).

I learnt too how the medical system and how institutions brutalise staff and how they in turn brutalised patients (we were modern enough to refer to them as ‘residents’ but the strictly hierarchical medical and institutional ‘system’ treated them no differently from how the physicians treated Florence and she in turn treated her patients).

I learnt how to drink Harvey Wallbangers at 7:00 am after a 12-hour nightshift and how to do drugs to escape for a few brief hours. I learnt how to care for, and how the ‘system’ could be relatively kind to, fellow staff members who had breakdowns and psychotic episodes.

I saw again how parents struggled with the pain and angst of caring for children with a severe disabled. I learnt how some fathers don’t cope with the reality that their progeny could be anything but in their image. I saw again how mothers grieve at not being able to provide the care their child needed.
In ’75 while working in what we called “the Back Wards” I went alone to see One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. It made me angry.

It confirmed what I was beginning to understand about the brutalisation that institutional care breeds and fosters. It shocked many of my colleagues to see themselves on the screen.

I walked out after 2 ½ years – just a few months out from receiving my qualification – the very day I hit a patient. I had come to fully realise the effect of institutional care on me as a staff member and, in turn, on the patients I cared for.

Fast forward another few years and as a Project Officer with SACOSS in the late ‘70’s, I met and was inspired by some of South Australia’s first disabled peoples’ advocates - Jeff Heath (founder of The Link magazine for people with a disability) and Neville Kennedy. I worked with Jeff and Neville and others editing "The Rights of Intellectually Handicapped People" published by SACOSS in '79.

A visit about that time to Australia by Wolf Wolfensburger introduced me to the theory and practice of Normalisation for which I (along with many others) quickly became a passionate advocate.

Wolfensburger and Normalisation provided me with an explanation (and validation) of the insidiousness of institutional care that I had come to instinctively recognise and understand. It provided a model for how people with a disability and in need of full-time care could take a dignified and rightful place in the world.

And it is here that we come back to the Four Corners story. Wolfensburger and the Normalisation principle had an enormous influence on disability policy in South Australia and, in fact, across the world. It ultimately led to the wholesale deinstitutionalisation of disabled people in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s and even ultimately to the closure of Strathmont in 2008.

But like all good public policy, the devil wasn’t in the detail – rather it was in the implementation.

While deinstitutionalisation was right and just and welcome, it also provided governments with the opportunity to create savings.

The community-based care that replaced the discredited institutional care model was, and still is, a humane and civilised approach to ensuring a comparatively normal and empowered life for people. But it was done on the cheap.

As we saw on Four Corners, families of people with severe and profound disabilities are now paying the price. Governments (in Australia at least) and the community more generally have systemically and systematically abrogated their responsibilities to those who are least able to care for themselves.

It's about time those years and decades of ‘savings’ were paid back - now and not in three or five years as Bill Shorten seemed to be suggesting on the program.

I get angry and outraged about many things - something that my sister’s experience, the Vietnam War and people like Jeff Heath inspired in me. But I only hope that the Four Corners program creates in others the sort of anger and outrage I’m feeling now.

Footnote: My apologies to readers who have a disability or their families for any inappropriate language or labels I have used in this post. It is not my intention to offend. Rather, it reflects my length of time out of the sector.

Monday, 15 February 2010

A reminder about the power of language and of labels

This post from Andrew Norton is a good reminder the power of both language and labels
"A CBS poll on gays in the US military finds that the American public is much happier with the idea of ‘gay men and lesbians’ serving in the military than ‘homosexuals’ serving in the military. For the ’strongly favour’, ‘gay men and lesbians’ adds 17 percentage points to the total"

Who’s that woman? Not an economist I bet

You have to wonder exactly what the nutty Member for Kalgoorlie, Wilson Tuckey, was doing in town over the weekend – he’s certainly no friend of Peter Lindsay’s given what the Prince had to say about him during the first attempt last year to roll Malcolm Turnbull in the party room ("Someone should give Tuckey a big needle...")?
But his support for a female candidate to replace Peter Lindsay is interesting. Could it be that they are trying to resurrect Merle Trembath’s failed political career??   I’d be interested in hearing of any other whispers.

But won’t Colin “trust me I’m and economist” Dwyer be pissed!!

PS: Don’t believe Wilson Tuckey is just a tad nuts?  This was him defending Peter Costello's giving the baby bonus to millionaires."

"I've been in the racing business for many, many years, and we tend to look at the high achievers as those that should have foals."

No wonder Peter has resigned

It’s no wonder that Peter Lindsay is not going to recontest the seat of Herbert. Other than wanting to enjoy his full Parliamentary Pension and Gold Pass entitlements, he is clearly going a bit potty – or is that spineless?

His assertion in the Bulletin today that “…a second term government always loses” is patent nonsense – if there has been any trend in Australian Politics over the last few decades is the Governments’ get at least two terms.

His second statement that “Tony Abbott has correctly pointed out that it (the proposed ETS) is just a great big tax on everything” is just plain hypocrisy given his previous support for an ETS (for which he was dumped from the outer Ministry by Tony Abbott).

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Is the Monk getting madder?

Tony, the women’s friend, Abbott’s announcement of a “policy” to institute Hospital Boards in Queensland and NSW was no doubt timed to take media attention away from their slow realisation that if anyone was responsible for insulation related deaths, it was the employers of the workers who were killed.

I wonder how long it will take the media to see how similarly ridiculous this statement is, let alone to ask why just QLD and NSW? Could it be because these are the two Labor States that won’t be going to an election this year? (think about it).

As if community controlled Hospital Boards (read, handpicked by the ruling party) can have any effect on hospital funding or nurse or doctor training?

Of course, the doctor’s union (read, AMA) will come out in support of such a move as it would no doubt give them even greater control over a system which already makes them rich.

As a former nurse, the last thing I’d want to see is for Doctors to have any greater control over the health system. Be afraid, be very afraid.

What does Haiti and Aboriginal Australia have in common?

After recently seeing so much of the devastation and poverty that is Haiti today, it is worth remembering that the average life expectancy for Haitian males is a bit over 59 years - essentially the same as it is for Aboriginal men in Australia. 

There is one key difference though - Aborigianl men live in a rich country.

You have to wonder about our ABC

The ABC 7:00pm news reported this story about a bombing in the Indian city of Pune at number two – ahead of news of two Australian casualties in fighting in Afghanistan.

You have to wonder whether the story would have received such prominence if the bombing hadn’t involved the possible (i.e. not confirmed) death of a foreigner. More to the point, you have to wonder whether the story would have got a run at all if the Australian press weren’t pissed at the reporting in India of racist attacks against Indians in Melbourne

Friday, 12 February 2010

Change is never easy but paternalism is

I’ve done a fair bit of work with and for Indigenous organisations and communities over the years and could say a lot about how Governments have got it right and (more often) got it wrong over the last couple of hundred years.

But for anyone to expect significant change (for poor blackfellas or poor whitefellas) in things like infant mortality rates or education outcomes in one or two years as Tony “the woman’s friend” Abbott seems to suggest is plainly ridiculous (or disingenuous as the Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon, has a habit of saying).

The (temporary) resurrection of Peter Lindsay?

I seldom watch local commercial news programs, and watching WIN News last night reminded me why.

They badged Peter Lindsay as “Shadow Secretary for Defence”. It’s Shadow Parliamentary Secretary (unless he has some practical skills we don’t know about) and he was dumped from the position by Tony “the woman’s friend” Abbott last year when he rolled Malcolm Turnbull last year.

Their online report of the story includes this little gem:
“The arrival comes amid reports Aussie uniforms could be made in China though defence has quashed the claims.”
So… they’re not going to be made in China and they never were. So… why include it in a legitimate story about the need for support service for Defence personnel returning from an overseas tour of duty. Indeed, why include it at all?

Not good enough but an excellent reminder of why I don’t bother to watch them.

Peter would be happy though.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Titstorm treated like a shower in a teacup

It is interesting that the denial of service attack (badged as Titstorm) launched against Australian Government websites by Anonymous, a group of hackers and activists has recieved little coverage in the mainstream press today.  Although I first heard about it on the ABCs Hungry Beast last night, the best I could find today was a small piece on page 8 of the Oz.

I wonder why that could be ????

If I worked at Yabulu, I’d be worried

News over the last couple of days that Clive Palmer got wrong the name of the Chinese company he had (apparently) done a deal with for the “China First’ coal mine southwest of Mackay should send shudders down the spine of anyone who works at Yabulu.

Not only did he get the name of the company wong, it seems that his $60 Billion price tag on the venture is a bit shonky too.

Clive honed his business skills in the property development game and it strikes me that it is those dubious skills he is applying the mining game he is now playing.

Could it be that the purpose of his (and Anna Bligh’s) now discredited announcement about the “China First” mine was simply to beat-up the profile and the potential value of his Resourcehouse company before it’s public float on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange?

As Gavin Wendt, senior resource analyst at Mine Life, said on yesterday's ABC PM program:
"Well it's curious. I mean it's sort of been done in a very stage-managed way, designed to generate maximum publicity. The fact that the announcement was made on the weekend, reported in the Sunday papers to much fanfare, it obviously generated strong headlines. You know, it wasn't the sort of conservative, sort of managed, sort of measured approach that one would expect."
Could it be that his approach to his mining business is simply the same as any property developer’s approach to business – turn a sow’s hear into a silk purse and flog it off as quickly as possible before the punters realise they are really buying a pig?

Similarly, could his purchase of Yabulu last year simply be about milking a cash cow while the dollar and commodity prices are high? Or could it simply be part of his strategy to build-up the apparent value of his portfolio ahead of the real game of sucking in the punters through his share market float?
It all smells a bit to me and if I were working at Yabulu, I’d be a bit worried.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Thank god the Prince has abdicated

Cross posted in full from ABC News online:
Liberal MP chided for Defence leak
The Member for Herbert, Peter Lindsay, passed the information given to Parliament's Standing Committee on Public Works to a journalist from the Townsville Bulletin, who used it as the basis of a story last week.
He has apologised for the disclosure, but committee member and Labor MP, Roger Price, says it is a serious matter and has asked the House of Representatives Speaker, Harry Jenkins, to consider the issue.

"The committee needs to be able to discuss commercially sensitive matters, financial options and tendering processes in a frank and open manner with government agencies," Mr Price said.

"In the committee's opinion, the action by the Member for Herbert has eroded the trust that the committee has built with agencies, and the Department of Defence in particular.

Mr Price told Parliament Mr Lindsay made a serious error of judgement.

"The full extent of the consequences of this event will only become apparent in the future," he said.

"Nonetheless, the committee concludes that the unauthorised release of this information may substantially interfere with the future work of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. "

Mr Jenkins is expected to make a ruling on the matter this week.
You have to keep in mind that this goose was the Shadow Defence Parliamentary Secretary - until the Mad Monk sacked him for hitching his wagon to the Turnbull train wreck.

Some of his other achievements indiscretions are listed here

No great loss to either the defence forces or Townsville it seems. 

No! It's not THAT sort of Pot

I got rather excited when I read this lastest report on proceedings in Senate Estimates. 

But contrary to the headline's implication (Top public servant grilled on pot plants), it's not about wrong-doing in high places (pun intended) - rather the more banal issue of how many indoor plants the Federal Minister has in his office - a most important matter of state, worthy of the "unrepresentative swill" that is the Senate!

Another great headline from the Bully

Although the headline on the hardcopy version of the story is much more accurate, the online headline (Horse stung by box jellyfish ) is a doosey.

Read the story and there's nothing about the poor horse - just its unfortunate rider.  And anyway, Horse Stung at Horseshoe would have been much more poetic

Monday, 8 February 2010

Give Bruce a Chance

While the online headline is a bit tamer (and more accurate) the hard copy headline for this story in today's Bulletin is just plain over-the-top.

"Highway Claims Life" screams the sub-editor’s headline from which you’d assume that the condition of the much maligned Bruce was responsible for the tragic death of a woman in a roll-over near Emu Creek, south of Bowen, on Saturday.

Of course, read on and you discover that ''Police investigations will continue until such time as we've ascertained the cause of this very sad incident.''

So at this stage Bruce is innocent until proven guilty!

But then, Bruce bashing along with Hospital hysteria is a favourite sport for press looking for a story on a quiet day – especially in an election year

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Climate change: the snake oil salesmen of capitalism battle it out

Call me an old lefty but I liked this analysis on En Passant and, in particular, this line:
The irony here is that the ALP is proposing a market based solution while the Opposition is championing a state interventionist approach.

Neither will work. Greenhouse gas emissions are systemic to capitalism.

Voters are worried about the impacts of climate change. That’s why both parties give the impression of action without addressing the fundamental problem – the relationship between profit and pollution.
Be warned though, the post gets a little over-the-top towards the end - even for an old lefty

The party line just doesn’t add up

I was good to see Dr Douglas Goudie from JCU raising the issue of a rail service linking the Northern Beaches and the CBD in today’s Bulletin.
The argument for rail over road makes heaps of sense to me – on environmental and (long term) cost efficiency grounds. Dr. Doug’s proposition to use the existing main line through the Northern Beaches as a first stage towards light rail makes even more sense.

But Craig Wallace’s response and that of the Transport Minister’s office seemed to miss the point. Sticking a loco and a few carriages on the existing line to service morning and afternoon commuters simply cannot be as expensive a building more road lanes and running busses into town.

You also have to wonder how comprehensive the Government’s cost effectiveness analysis was and over what timeframe it was projected. In particular, does it take into account the impact of peak oil or the future cost of carbon emissions? My guess is not.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Let the real battle for Herbert begin!

ALP opens nominations for federal seats in Qld

Seems like The Bulletin's insistent barracking (see here and here) for Federal intervention to shoe-horn Mooney into the ALP candidate’s position all came to nought!

It’s got nothing to do with us - Everybody else is to blame

The representative of many of the traders in Townsville’s fight precinct – Flinders St East - today told the House of Reps. Inquiry into the Impact of Violence on Young Australians that its members effectively have no responsibility for the fact that “violence in hotels and pubs has become more vicious, erupts more easily and often involves weapons”.

It’s all to do with drugs (of which alcohol isn’t one apparently!), the yoof of today and poor policing and sentencing it seems.

Just like the only effective response to global warming is to make polluters pay for the full cost of their profits, the only effective response to the cost to the community of alcohol is to make them that profit from it pay the full cost.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Virginity is one hell of a gift

Spot-on I reckon!

By Virginia Haussegger and cross posted in full from National Times

Virginity is not a ‘gift’. To suggest it is, as Tony Abbott has, is absurdly childish. It’s also ridiculously romantic. None of which would matter if the discussion stopped there. But it doesn’t.

Instead, the Leader of the Opposition has raised the very ugly spectre of female virtue as a tradable, marketable, sellable commodity. By telling his daughters their virginity is ‘‘the greatest gift that you can give someone’’ and ‘‘the ultimate gift’’, he’s unwittingly reduced their myriad talents, strengths and capacity to love to mere crumbs, compared to the single act of deflowering. Abbott’s logic suggests a female’s most precious and important asset- above all else - is her sex. And that asset is most highly prized when it’s presented new and unused.

Interestingly, and not surprisingly, we never talk about female virginity in terms of an exchange. There is no expectation of a ‘gift’ in return. In fact quite the opposite. Young men the world over are encouraged, and indeed expected, to be sexually experienced by the time they take a bride. What use is her precious ‘gift’ if he doesn’t know what to do with it? Or how to handle it?

I have no doubt Tony Abbott’s comment about the advice he’d give his daughters is laden with fatherly love. And I suspect that like many parents who worry about their children’s sexual experimentation, Abbott wishes he could somehow protect his daughters from the emotional blows that come with young and awkward sex. What father wouldn’t? But by playing the virtue card, suggesting a girl’s virginity is the ultimate ‘gift’ she can give her husband, Abbott has ripped open a raw wound.

Virginity gets way too much attention and very little discussion. Consequently we’ve allowed a misapprehension about female sexuality and virtue to go unchallenged for way too long. Ironically, it is the rise of Islamic fundamentalism – and now Tony Abbott – that have helped put virginity back on the agenda.

Muslim writer and former Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali was one of the first to bring this issue to our attention with her book “The Caged Virgin”. She argues that for many Muslims, ‘‘morality expresses itself through an obsession with virginity’’ and a ‘‘mastery over the sexuality of women’’. Family and male honour – be it a father, husband or brother – rests with the virtue of their women, and the virginity of their brides. The shame brought about by the loss of female virginity is irreparable, if intercourse has occurred outside marriage. Sexual assault and rape is no defence. When a young woman’s virtue is shot, so too is her future.

Hirsi Ali argues that a powerful and effective way of preserving a girl’s virginity within radical Islam is by keeping women ‘‘under house arrest’’, severely restricting their freedom of movement. Another, she argues, is the practice of keeping men and women separated at all times, unless they are family. But like young men and women around the world, Muslim lovers will find ways around such restrictions. Which also means some Mulsim women have been forced to devise painful and dangerous ways to feign virginity on their wedding night, just to satisfy their families’ obsession. Hirsi Ali has described a hideous practice of young women forcing “foreign objects into their genitals to accomplish opportune bleeding on the night in question.”

I recently witnessed the despair and angst of a Muslim mother whose teenage daughter had failed to stain the bridal sheets on her wedding night. It was an arranged marriage, in which the girl’s ‘goodness’ and virtue had been guaranteed by her parents. Nevertheless, the groom’s family was waiting for proof. The whole enterprise could have come crashing down in a hail of accusation and fury, if it wasn’t for a blood smear on the third day. The phone calls, texts and emails of celebration that followed were jubilant. The relief was immense. And the bloody delay was explained as shyness.

Islam is by no means the only religion to obsess over female virginity. Christians, Jews and Hindus have also shared a similar fixation. Although one could argue that they do so without the same level of social cost and human deprivation.

That said, Tony Abbott’s faith – Christianity - has perhaps outdone all religions when it comes to confusing sex with sin, and layering it with guilt. Here virginity is so integral to virtue that the three most important figures in the Christian story - Jesus, Mary and Joseph –apparently remain virgins throughout their life. Illogical and nonsensical as that is, the insistence on the state of virginity as a marker of purity, integrity and worthiness still sends a powerful message to the eagerly faithful. Tony Abbott has bought it. I just hope his daughters see beyond it.

Virginity is not the sum of a woman’s virtue. Nor is it her greatest ‘gift’. It’s a private and transient thing. Its passing rarely brings a young woman pleasure. In fact, it’s more likely to bring her pain. To trade it, sell it, or ‘gift’ wrap it - is to commodity it. To suggest a woman ‘gives’ her virginity to someone is to suggest sexual subordination and submission. That’s a hell of a gift.