Monday 31 August 2009

How many people won the James Hardie environmental health trifecta?

In the 1950s I grew up in the outer suburbs of Sydney in a house where the outside eaves, internal kitchen walls, all of the laundry additions and garage cum playroom were made of asbestos-based building material.

Later on I purchased a family home which had ceiling insulation made from asbestos and hessian carpet underlay which I learned last week may also been contaminated by this dangerous James Hardie product.

Thankfully I did not work directly with asbestos, but I'm not sure that the acoustic ceiling tiles above my head in the first office job I had did not contain this substance.

I feel as though my family has - without our consent - been made to run in a very dodgy three horse race so that a big international company could grow rich.

Hanging is too good for James Hardie directors - past and present - who knew and said nothing.

Tweed Heads

Perceived security threats and how Australians rate them

According to a 26 August 2009 Roy Morgan Research telephone poll; if you are a male living in Victoria who intends to vote Family First, then you are more likely than not to feel that there is currently no country which threatens Australia's security.

What is fascinating about this poll is the fact that Indonesia is still the biggest concern for the majority of Australians surveyed.

The countries that 55% of Australians feel threaten us are:


Best political & intergalactic tweets seen recently and other stray thoughts

  • Rod McGuinness
    rod3000 Can I suggest NSW Cabinet have a caged death match? Last one standing gets to be Premier for 18 months. ....

  • Since when is dying at 77 years and 6 months of age considered an "untimely death", when average male expectancy in the United States is in the vicinity of 77.7 years?

    A Scots farmer is now officially riding on the sheep's back as he took home a record £231,000 for a stud ram, named Deveronvale Perfection.

    GODWIN Grech, the Treasury official at the centre of the fake email affair, proposed a fee deal to the merchant bank running the OzCar fund whose chairman was a key backer and personal donor to Malcolm Turnbull.The effect of the deal was to enable Credit Suisse, the bank hired by Treasury to implement OzCar, to maintain its $5 million in fees, despite the fund being scaled back from $2 billion to $1.3bn. The Weekend Australian can reveal that John O'Sullivan, the chairman of investment banking for Credit Suisse, donated more than $20,000 to the Wentworth Forum, the Opposition Leader's political fighting fund. According to The Australian on 29th August 2009.

    Australia spammed outerspace on 28 August 2009 with 25,800 messages from Earth to Gliese 581d, a planet outside our solar system which may support life of some sort. These messages will take 20 years to reach this planet - at which time expect an intergalactic spam filter to activate.

    Best intergalactic tweet from the Hello from Earth project:
    "Yidigunmardin nuruku yajingewa wuremulu jandange. Our dream, we're telling to them young kids. We're talking all this dream for the future.
    Yidumduma Bill Harney
    Wardaman people, near Katherine, Australia"

    Senator "Barney Rubble" Joyce (playfully rewriting history) reduces investigations into Australia's breach of UN sanctions against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq to merely a matter of; "The main issue with AWB was there was a concerted effort, a political motive to get rid of Australia's single desk".

    Amusing DIGG cover headline for article in the Seattle Weekly, USA; Gays Too Late To Ruin Marriage, Straights Beat You To It

    Sunday 30 August 2009

    The Australian says general public won't find new Telstra CEO's email address easily. Really, truly? ROFL

    This morning I read an online James Jeffrey snippet in The Australian which ended with:

    In the meantime, Strewth's inbox has been on the receiving end of an avalanche of Telstra customers who are exceptionally keen to be given Thodey's email address. All we can say is, good luck.

    All I can say is - really?

    I suspect that all one has to do is use the Team Telstra email address and render it as .

    This was a functioning e-address at time of writing this post.

    So if you have a complaint or two..........

    Heard about Mischief the foul-mouthed feline?

    A bloke in the Northern Territory reckons his pet cat Mischief can speak English and has a vocabulary of seven different words.

    MAD MOGGIE: RJ Duncan with his talking cat, Mischief

    The Northern Territory News
    reports that ex-boxer Robert 'RJ' Duncan, of Palmerston, claims his cat can say seven words: mum, no, now, what, f**k, pr*ck and why.

    "He can't say 'dad' yet, which is a bit of a pr*ck. That's how he got the word 'pr*ck' I reckon, because I say it a lot."

    When the Northern Territory News first visited Duncan, 34, and his wife Sandra, 32, at their Gray home, the house-bound moggie grumpily declined to comment.

    Instead, he scratched Mr Duncan a few times before bolting to his bedroom and barricading himself in his cupboard.

    During a second visit, Mischief was much friendlier - and more talkative. All gathered heard him speak to Sandra, calling her "mum".

    Mr Duncan said the two-year-old cat - which he and his wife adopted from his feral mother in Katherine - was most vocal at night.

    The Shooter's Party and hunting in NSW North Coast national parks

    The Shooter's Party is not playing well on the NSW North Coast where the natural environment and diverse flora and fauna are still our biggest tourism draw cards and, where residents appreciate their contact with wildlife.

    I haven't yet spoken to anyone who favours allowing gun-toting hunters into national parks or the creation of private game reserves stocked with exotic or feral animals.

    This 25 August 2009 The Daily Examiner letter to the editor expresses a common view:

    Political shenanigans

    THE media has had a field day of late reporting on the political shenanigans that the State Labor Government has been resorting to in order to get its legislation through the State's Upper House.
    It is their cosy relationship with the Shooters Party and Fred Nile that has culminated in the controversial bill being proposed that will allow sporting shooters to hunt and kill feral animals and a range of native fauna on public land, including national parks, under the guise of conservation hunting.
    That political bond saw the creation of the NSW Game Council whose current chairman, Robert Borsak, has political ambitions of his own, and apparently dreams of joining the former council chairman as an Upper House Shooters Party representative.
    Last Friday, the ABC's Stateline program reported the scandal and alerted the nation to a website which contains Mr Borsak's account of an elephant hunt he undertook in Zimbabwe.
    His gleeful description of the poor animal's screams and subsequent death throes (he had only managed to break its spine with his first shot, so inept are his shooting skills), is sickening indeed.
    However, I urge any doubters as to the real motivation behind the Shooters Party move to log on and read that story so as to fully comprehend the implications of allowing the Shooters Bill to progress.
    I believe that the majority of those that read and understand the blood lust that is clearly conveyed in the article, would not only refuse to countenance recreational hunting in national parks, but would support moves to put a stop to this barbaric sport altogether.

    South Grafton.

    Telstra gets another serve from the Northern Rivers as Saffin takes new charges complaint to Parliament

    This time it's the hardworking Federal Labor MP for Page writing in the letters column of The Daily Examiner on 28th August 2009 concerning new over-the-top Telstra account charges.
    Sic 'em, Janelle!

    Telstra fee unfair

    I WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree with David Bancroft's editorial (DEX, August 24) regarding Telstra's unfair penalty imposed on people who want to pay their bills by phone or over the counter.
    Earlier this month Phil Redpath also wrote (DEX, August 8) calling for people to write to
    Telstra and send copies of their complaints through to me in a campaign to have the new charge dropped.

    I agree that people power can work in these situations, and ask that people send their representations directly to me if they prefer ( ) and I will pass on to Telstra.
    I have already contacted the new CEO of Telstra, David Thodey, calling on him to immediately withdraw the $2.20 charge, which is a penalty on those who can't or don't want to pay electronically.
    This penalty is particularly unreasonable in the light of Telstra's announcement of an annual profit of more than $4 billion.
    I have been working on the Telstra billing issue in Canberra with my colleague Sid Sidebottom, the Member for Braddon, and we will be speaking on a notice of motion on this issue which is listed for debate in the next sitting of Parliament.
    There is a clear opportunity here for David Thodey to demonstrate he is genuine about improving customer relations by getting rid of this unfair billing charge.
    Let's show him some people power at work.

    Member for Page


    Tamanian MP for Braddon Sid Sidebottom's letter to David Thodley protesting new Telstra charges, 20th August 2009

    Perhaps the pollies representing Clarence, Lismore, Oxley and Ballina (state), as well those looking out for Cowper, Lyne and Richmond (federal), might like to tell the world how they are approaching Telstra's latest attempt to gouge its loyal customers.

    Saturday 29 August 2009

    The League of American Voters gets down and dirty over Obama health care reform

    If Republicans in America are to be believed - a reformed US health care system (that would not be even a pale imitation of the type of Medicare public hospital cover that Australians enjoy) would mean complete societal breakdown.

    The League of American Voters is telling the world:

    We are told they are working behind the scenes to change long-standing Senate rules so that they can pass their health plan with just 50 votes! This is again a desperate measure and an attempt to subvert our democratic and constitutional system.
    I can assure you the League of American Voters is working day and night to stop Obama's plan.

    This week the US far-right online organ NewsMax is sending out emails which states in part:

    League of American Voters
    Dear Friend:
    I have some very shocking news.
    ABC television has banned our TV ad from airing on its network.
    Frankly, I was stunned when I heard the news from our media buyer yesterday.
    Right now, our TV ad exposing Obamacare is running in 12 states.
    You can see this powerful ad by Going Here Now.
    With our success — thanks to your incredible support — we were planning to go national, so we sent the ad to the major networks.
    This TV ad simply tells the truth about Obamacare.
    It was crafted by Dick Morris, the Fox News contributor and famous campaign strategist.
    This powerful ad features a respected medical doctor — a neurosurgeon, in fact — who warns that Obamacare will decimate healthcare for seniors and others in need of life-saving medical procedures.
    As Dr. Cuffe explains in the ad, if Obama gets his way and adds 50 million new patients to the government system, it inevitably will lead to rationing of healthcare procedures and vital medicines for the elderly.
    Dr. Cuffe says universal healthcare has led to this same situation in Canada and England......
    We know why ABC is so afraid of the League's TV ad. It knows the message resonates with the American people.
    This is the same network that aired an infomercial for the Obama plan directly from the White House.
    Clearly, ABC knows seniors will not be hoodwinked by Obama when they learn the truth.
    Despite ABC's brazen act of censorship, we need to continue to run this ad on other stations across the nation and on major networks.

    The appearance of a very photogenic Dr. Cuffe in this ad seems to have increased the wave of paranoia sweeping across the USA if that were possible.

    In a Free Republic forum thread which has since been pulled, Obama is accused of almost any vile deed that can be brought to mind:

    Obamacare to use FAKE "Doctors" in DNC Plan to Exterminate the Elderly
    and Deny Them All Independent Access to Real Doctors and Real Treatment.
    DNC Death Panel: "You voted wrong. Your healthcare, and you, are terminated!!"
    Obama agreed to pitch us older people over the cliff with his agreeing to hurt Medicare in return for getting his way
    Obamacare, The Final Solution"


    Yesterday FactCheck posted Twenty-six lies about H.R. 3200 in an effort to stem the flood of misinformation be spread by a viral e-mail based on one Twitter user's off the cuff assessment of the Obama health care reform proposals.

    But wait, there's more.....

    The National Republican Committee has been caught out trying to suggest that healthcare may be denied on the basis of political affiliation, with this survey question: "It has been suggested that the government could use voter registration to determine a person's political affiliation, prompting fears that GOP voters might be discriminated against for medical treatment in a Democrat-imposed health care rationing system. Does this possibility concern you?"

    75th Jacaranda Festival, Grafton NSW 30 October to 8 November 2009

    2009 is the seventy-fifth year that Grafton's floral festival has been held, making it the oldest Australian festival of this type.

    The festival begins on 30 October and the Clarence Valley hopes to see you there.

    Preliminary Jacaranda Festival Program

    2009 Junior Queen Candiates
    Left to Right
    Top: Brooke Townsend, Chelsea Cameron, Kristen Cotton, Summer Jones, Jamie-Lee Brown
    Centre: Krystal Stoker
    Bottom: Micaela Burgess, Bethany Tanner, Ashley O'Connor, Katlin Barrell

    The Daily Examiner slideshow of candidate photographs here.

    Stephen's Progress

    The Federal Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Stephen Conroy continues with his plan to censor the Aussie Internet, creates a skeleton for the national broadband network without any real cost-benefit analysis of the $43 billion infrastructure project, is paying Monopoly money for senior NBN Co Limited people to shine the seat of their pants while there are no on-the-job staff in the fledgling company yet, has put out a call for eHealth, education and emergency services project funding applications before a national broadband network is up and running in even one state (with only 25 days to lodge expressions of interest) and before the capabilities of the final configuration of any national network is known.
    He crows loudly that placing patient records online will deliver about 12,000 more jobs.
    The Minister can't guarantee the broadband speeds he quotes, can't get fibre to the node broadband to every town in the country and refuses to come clean on projected take-up rates for those who are able to connect.
    Senator Conroy is offering wireless connection to those towns which cannot be connected to broadband but doesn't appear to understand the security implications for eHealth data in those circumstances.
    As recent red faces at the Australian Federal Police testify - it would be impossible for him to give a promise that any data base is secure and files won't fall off the back of a truck courtesy of an industrious kiddie scripter, mobile scanner or disaffected staff.
    Stevo, mate - you are fast disappearing up your own fundament.

    Friday 28 August 2009

    UN tells Australia: If it has feathers, looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck - then it's a duck!

    Today the United Nations told Australia that, yes, it is that peculiar breed of duck - a country of entrenched racism and discrimination:

    Statement of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, James Anaya, as he concludes his visit to Australia

    CANBERRA/GENEVA - The Government of Australia is to be commended for taking significant steps to improve the human rights and socio-economic conditions of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia, as well as for its recent expression of support for United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and for its apology to the victims of the Stolen Generation. After several days in Australia listening and learning, however, I have observed a need to develop new initiatives and reform existing ones—in consultation and in real partnership with indigenous peoples—to conform with international standards requiring genuine respect for cultural integrity and self-determination.

    Over the past 11 days, I have met with Government authorities, representatives of indigenous communities and organisations, and others, in Canberra, South Australia, Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales. I have visited a number of indigenous communities in both remote and urban areas, and have collected information from several sources. I would like to express my appreciation for the support of the Government and to the indigenous individuals and organisations that provided indispensible support in planning and coordinating the visit. I would also like to express my appreciation to the United Nations Information Centre.

    While I must now take some time to review and analyse the substantial amount of information I have received, and to follow up with further exchanges of information with the Government, indigenous peoples of Australia, and other sources, I would like to provide here a few preliminary observations.

    During my time in Australia, I have been impressed with demonstrations of strong and vibrant indigenous cultures and have been inspired by the strength, resilience and vision of indigenous communities determined to move toward a better future despite having endured tremendous suffering at the hands of historical forces and entrenched racism. It is clear that these historical forces continue to make their presence known today, manifesting themselves in serious disparities between indigenous and non-indigenous parts of society, including in terms of life expectancy, basic health, education, unemployment, incarceration, children placed under care and protection orders, and access to basic services.

    Given these disparities, the Government has developed and implemented a number of important initiatives in order to "close the gap" of indigenous disadvantage within a wide range of social and economic areas, with a stated emphasis on women and children, and these programmes must continue to be improved and strengthened. I would also like to stress that I have learned of numerous programmes in place by indigenous authorities and organisations at the local, regional and national levels that have been working effectively to address the many problems that their communities face.

    Aspects of the Government's initiatives to remedy situations of indigenous disadvantage, however, raise concerns. Of particular concern is the Northern Territory Emergency Response, which by the Government's own account is an extraordinary measure, especially in its income management regime, imposition of compulsory leases, and community-wide bans on alcohol consumption and pornography. These measures overtly discriminate against aboriginal peoples, infringe their right of self-determination and stigmatize already stigmatized communities.

    I would like to stress that affirmative measures by the Government to address the extreme disadvantage faced by indigenous peoples and issues of safety for children and women are not only justified, but they are in fact required under Australia's international human rights obligations. However, any such measure must be devised and carried out with due regard of the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination and to be free from racial discrimination and indignity.

    In this connection, any special measure that infringes on the basic rights of indigenous peoples must be narrowly tailored, proportional, and necessary to achieve the legitimate objectives being pursued. In my view, the Northern Territory Emergency Response is not. In my opinion, as currently configured and carried out, the Emergency Response is incompatible with Australia's obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, treaties to which Australia is a party, as well as incompatible with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to which Australia has affirmed its support.

    I note with satisfaction that a process to reform the Emergency Response is currently underway and that the Government has initiated consultations with indigenous groups in the Northern Territory in this connection. I hope that amendments to the Emergency Response will diminish or remove its discriminatory aspects and adequately take into account the rights of aboriginal peoples to self determination and culture integrity, in order to bring this Government initiative in line with Australia's international obligations. Furthermore, I urge the Government to act swiftly to reinstate the protections of the Racial Discrimination Act in regard to the indigenous peoples of the Northern Territory.

    Beyond the matter of the Northern Territory Emergency Response, I am concerned that there is a need to incorporate into government programmes a more holistic approach to addressing indigenous disadvantage across the country, one that is compatible with the objective of the United Nations Declaration of securing for indigenous peoples, not just social and economic wellbeing, but also the integrity of indigenous communities and cultures, and their self-determination.

    This approach must involve a real partnership between the Government and the indigenous peoples of Australia, to move towards a future, as described by Prime Minister Rudd in his apology to indigenous peoples last year, that is "based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility," and that is also fully respectful of the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples to maintain their distinct cultural identities, languages, and connections with traditional lands, and to be in control of their own destinies under conditions of equality.

    Given what I have learned thus far, it would seem to me that the objectives of the closing the gap campaign, the Emergency Response, and other current initiatives and proposed efforts of the Government will be best achieved in partnership with indigenous peoples' own institutions and decision-making bodies, which are those that are most familiar with the local situations. It is worth stressing that during my visit, I have observed numerous successful indigenous programmes already in place to address issues of alcoholism, domestic violence, health, education, and other areas of concern, in ways that are culturally appropriate and adapted to local needs, and these efforts need to be included in and supported by the Government response, both logistically and financially. In particular, it is essential to provide continued funding to programmes that have already demonstrated achievements.

    I did observe a number of Government partnerships with local initiatives that appear to be succeeding, but I also heard many accounts of situations in which Government programmes fail to take into account existing local programmes already in place, hampering their ultimate success. In this connection, I am concerned about any initiatives that duplicate or replace the programmes of Aboriginals and Torres Straight Islanders already in place, or that undermine local decision-making through indigenous peoples' own institutions. In addition, international human rights norms, including those contained in the United Nations Declaration, affirmatively guarantee the right of indigenous peoples to participate fully at all levels of decision-making in matters which may affect their rights, lives and destinies, as well as to maintain and develop their own decision-making institutions and programmes. Further, adequate options and alternatives for socio-economic development and violence prevention programmes should be developed in full consultation with affected indigenous communities and organisations.

    It is also necessary to ensure the meaningful, direct participation of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples in the design of programmes and policies at the national level, within a forum that is genuinely representative of the rights and interests of indigenous peoples. In this regard, I welcome the initiative that is supported by the Government to move towards development of a model for a new national indigenous representative body and emphasise that indigenous participation in the development of this body is fundamental.

    At the same time, I would like to echo the statements I have heard from indigenous leaders of the need for indigenous peoples themselves to continue to strengthen their own organisational and local governance capacity, in order to meet the challenges faced by their communities, and in this connection I note the importance of restoring or building strong and healthy relationships within families and communities.

    I would also note a need to move deliberately to adopt genuine reconciliation measures, such as the proposed recognition of the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples in a charter of rights to be included in the Constitution. I am pleased that the Government has expressed its willingness in this regard, and I urge it to provide a high priority to this initiative. As has been stressed to me by the indigenous representatives with whom I have met, constitutional recognition and protection of the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples would provide a measure of long-term security for these rights, and provide an important building block for reconciliation and a future of harmonious relations between indigenous and non-indigenous parts of Australian society.

    Furthermore, it is important to note that securing the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands is of central importance to indigenous peoples' socio-economic development, self-determination, and cultural integrity. Continued efforts to resolve, clarify, and strengthen the protection of indigenous lands and resources should be made. In this regard, government initiatives to address the housing needs of indigenous peoples, should avoid imposing leasing or other arrangements that would undermine indigenous peoples' control over their lands. I also urge the Government to comply with the recommendations concerning indigenous lands and resources made by the treaty-monitoring bodies of the United Nations, including the recommendation of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to advance in discussions with Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders about possible amendments to the Native Title Act and finding solutions acceptable to all.

    Finally, I would like to reiterate the importance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples for framing and evaluating legislation, policies, and actions that affect the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Peoples. The Declaration expresses the global consensus on the rights of indigenous peoples and corresponding state obligations on the basis of universal human rights. I recommend that the Government undertake a comprehensive review of all its legislation, policies, and programmes that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in light of the Declaration.

    UNiTAB, please explain! If punters cannot win they shouldn't risk a loss.

    While many readers may have thought, "silly b*gger!" when they read about the betting agency operator who plunged $50,100 on a panlicker at the Ballarat greyhounds on Wednesday night, a few very fortunate punters are thanking their lucky stars.

    Race 4 on the Ballarat greys' program was nothing out of the ordinary. It was The Lion Quality Products Stakes over 650 metres for 4th and gth graders.

    A strange chain of events started when a mug punter bet $100 with a corporate bookie on Sweet Keeping which was starting from box 3. Rather than carry the bet, the bookie decided to "invest" it on the tote with UNiTAB where the dog was paying a very attractive $9.80 for the win. But, rather than punch in $50 and then replace it with $100, the bookie found himself holding a ticket that said "$51000 for the Win on Dog Number 3".

    You don't need to be told the punch line, but here it is anyway. The dog ran second ... that's right, second ... it didn't get the chocolates.

    Prior to the bookie's foray into the race's betting UNiTAB was holding about $2000 in its win pool. When the dogs started the pool had swollen to a miraculous $53216. The winner of the race, Rocks Back, paid $44 on UNiTAB. The lucky few punters who dabbled on the winner are still smiling.

    To put things into perspective, the winner paid $2.30 on the TAB in NSW and $2.80 in Victoria.

    But, the story doesn't end there. IF, and that's a mighty big IF, Sweet Keeping had won the race
    winning punters on UNiTAB would have queued up and received their money back. Punters betting with the TAB in NSW stood to collect $3.80, while in Victoria they would have collected $6.

    UNiTAB has a policy of paying only $1 (money back) when a runner is very heavily supported and is carrying most of the pool money.

    That's not right! Punters stood to lose (and they did) but they didn't have any prospects of getting anything more than their money back if they had won.

    There should be a law against this!

    How's this for a suggestion?
    When punters don't stand a chance of getting anything more than their money back if their selection should win, then they ought to have it refunded irrespective of whether it wins or runs stone-motherless-last.

    And to think that some people think he's premier material. They have to be joking.

    NSW Minister for Health John Della Bosca just doesn't get it.

    Della Bosca visited Lismore on Thursday and announced 11 new positions for the North Coast Area Health Service (NCAHS). Yes, that's right, e-l-e-v-e-n, 11 positions. No, he hasn't been misreported.

    What a hide the bloke has! He has more hide than Jessie the elephant.

    Sorry, John, but northern NSW doesn't need any more sick attempts at comedy by persons supposedly responsible for at least maintaining if not improving public health services in that neck of the woods.

    Only nine months ago, and under the stewardship of the NSW Ministry of Health, the NCAHS embarked on a program to slash 400 full time equivalent positions from the region's health services.

    Ironically, NSW Health has just released a media statement titled Caring Together for Lismore Base Hospital to announce that recruitment is under way for the clinical support officers and pharmacists at Lismore Base Hospital.

    And who is the Health Department's first lieutenant on the ground in northern NSW? It's none other than Chris Crawford (pictured below).

    Crawford, NCAHS's CEO, has wielded a big stick as he has gone about the demolition job that's being done on local health services. Truly, listening to the bloke on local radio as he goes about attempting to defend the cuts to health services is enough to make you sick.

    And where is the NSW Opposition? What does it have to say about what's going on in relation to this sorry saga involving north coast health services?

    Sadly, the Opposition is AWOL - there's not a bleep on the radar to indicate that lot is in tune with public sentiment that's running red-hot on this important issue.

    It's not as if the Opposition isn't at least faintly aware of the fiasco. One of its front benchers probably hears a bit about it over the breakfast table.

    The shadow minister for climate change and environmental sustainability, Catherine Cusack (pictured below), is married to Crawford.

    Perhaps Ms Cusack and the current shadow minister for health Jillian Skinner should swap jobs.

    Daily Examiner editor leaves the building: don't slam the door on the way out

    When Peter Chapman took over as The Daily Examiner editor little was known of him locally in the Clarence Valley except that he hailed from other climes in recent years, was a former television sports commentator and had been rapped over the knuckles by an ABC TV Media Watch program in the 1990s.

    I think I can safely say that a number of residents looked forward to having a new editorial voice at the helm of their only local daily newspaper on the grounds that a change was as good as a holiday.

    So at first some Daily Examiner readers were puzzled by the odd discordant notes hit by Chapman in his early articles and comments.

    Puzzlement quickly turned to something close to outrage in certain quarters, as those odd notes turned into frequent reports and opinion pieces which attempted to either demonise and marginalise segments of the Valley community or blatantly bag various small towns, villages and community facilities.
    While an increasing number of so called news reports, whose raison ĂȘtre seems to have been advertising goods or services, tried the patience of many.

    What wasn't widely known at the time was the fact that Chapman was using an APN News and Media running sheet benignly called Readers First. [APN version Ewart version Press Council version]

    This publishing philosophy calls on editors and journalists to report news which is more responsive to and reflective of the needs and interests of a newspaper's readership, to make advertising an important part of the editorial/news team and have journalists give a less detached account of events or embed themselves in their stories.

    However, in Chapman's rather clumsy hands this meant that The Daily Examiner abandoned editorials, began to pander to perceived community bias and prejudice, published blatant advertorials and allowed hearsay or downright gossip to form the basis of a significant part of the news in some issues (with a tinge of racial profiling or chauvinism often thrown in for good measure).

    The Clarence Valley reacted in various ways - by simply shrugging shoulders as they turned the page, challenging the editor in the letters column, phoning him directly to refute some of his more outrageous assertions, complaining to senior management, contacting watchdogs, stopping any engagement with the newspaper or laughing outright at claims that newspaper circulation was rising rapidly rather than merely marking time as it has done since the turn of the century.

    It was noticeable that some of the goodwill garnered by the 150 year-old newspaper was being needlessly dissipated under the Chapman editorship, but a few locals still tried to support this North Coast icon with news tips even when personal irritation levels were high and rising higher.

    After less than fifteen months as editor Peter Chapman officially left The Daily Examiner this week as far as I can tell.
    He is heading back to Queensland to take up the position of editor at yet another APN masthead, the Fraser Coast Chronicle.

    When Telstra upsets a journalist......

    The Daily Examiner, 24 August 2009
    Click on image to enlarge

    Not only in print but online goes the complaint when Telstra can't get its billing right and then charges for the bungle:

    But the really galling part of this is that Telstra, having had us jump through hoops, is going to bill us for the privilege of paying our bill. It is sick.
    I believe this move started months ago when Telstra sent me a beautifully crafted letter saying how kind it was of them to change their billing period from three months to one. We were quite happy with the three monthly billing and had no choice about the change.
    So now we are being billed monthly and being charged $2 a shot to pay the bill over the counter or a percentage of the bill if we pay electronically.
    Someone said to me over the weekend it was like a shop advertising an item for $100 but when you went to pay for it you had to fork out an extra $2 for the privilege.
    Maybe if enough people complain about this unfair imposition the giant might be forced to change.

    In the national media Telstra fares slightly better as it is reported that Telstra post-Truijillo is a much more customer friendly place and, elsewhere that complaints have leveled off (rather confusingly citing that in 2007-08 Telstra received 19,364 customer complaints).

    One has to suspect that hard-pressed metropolitan journalists haven't gone much further than the media releases.

    According to the Telecommuncations Industry Ombudman's own report, between January and June this year Telstra recorded a total of 62,541 complaints (37.3% of all telco complaints issues), with some recorded along these lines:

    You will see in the pages of notes I’ve taken over 4 months that I have made hundreds of calls and spoken to approximately 70 customer service representatives. On one occasion, I was
    on the phone to different departments from 9.30am until after 5pm. But to this day we still do not have the landline service that is so paramount, given our child’s situation. I have received conflicting information from Telstra’s representatives. Conversations have ranged from, ‘That staff member is not trained appropriately…’ ‘They shouldn’t have told you that…’ ‘Why
    did they do that?’ to comments such as, ‘Don’t panic, there is no reason why we can’t connect you today.’ At one stage I was on a conference call with two Telstra staff from two different
    departments, both disagreeing about the information they were giving me.

    The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman's January-June 2009 public report on Australian telecommunications companies here.

    It appears that Telstra is not the only telco which still has a long way to go in balancing service delivery and customer satisfaction.

    Hartsuyker gets negative press in his own Cowper electorate

    Apparently the Nats are really getting desperate over their lack of relevance and absence of policy impact.
    Federal Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker literally resorted to megaphoning his message to the Rudd Government last Tuesday.
    Which put a number of his constitients offside, as well as apparently offending the mayors of two local goverment areas who had undertaken coordinated lobbying on behalf of February-March 2009 flood victims in the Coffs and Belligen districts.
    It seems that The Coffs Coast Advocate readers are swinging away from Hartsuyker as well.
    When I last looked Luke was polling badly when it came down to this local issue.

    Snapshot from The Coffs Coast Advocate 27th August 2009

    Thursday 27 August 2009

    Bureau of Meteorology declares exceptional winter heat over large parts of Australia in 2009

    Click on graphic to enlarge

    Special Climate Statement 18 by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology National Climate Centre, 26 August 2009:

    August 2009 has seen highly abnormal heat over large parts of Australia, especially in the subtropical areas of Queensland, the southern Northern Territory and northern New South Wales....

    August 2009 is almost certain to be Australia’s warmest August on record. National maximum temperatures have averaged 3.14°C above the long-term average3 for the month so far, more than a degree above the previous record of +2.06°C set in 2006 (Table 2). It is also possible that August 2009 will break the record set in April 2005 (+3.11) for the largest monthly maximum temperature anomaly ever recorded for any month. Despite the less extreme overnight temperatures, daily mean temperatures (day and night combined) are also running well above record levels.

    Full statement, maximum & minimum temperatures list and temperature anomaly map

    Religion v Science: 'creationist' gets cranky

    Religion versus Science: Round MXIV?

    This intriguing little snippet turned up on Kwoff the other day. It is sourced from the New Scientist.

    How to spot a hidden religious agenda

    28 February 2009 by Amanda Gefter Magazine issue 2697

    This article was temporarily taken down on legal advice after New Scientist's editor, Roger Highfield, received a letter from a law firm on behalf of James Le Fanu, the GP and author of the book Why Us? Following discussions, New Scientist has now reinstated the article accompanied by a comment from Dr Le Fanu.

    Apparently Dr. Le Fanu sees himself as a firm believer in science and, objects to having both his motives questioned and to being lumped in with creationists.

    The published article in question is pay for view, however Wikileaks obligingly has a copy of the original up on its whistle blower site.

    The following are its closing paragraphs:

    Some general sentiments are also red flags. Authors with religious motives make shameless appeals to common sense, from the staid - "There is nothing we can be more certain of than the reality of our sense of self" (James Le Fanu in Why Us?) - to the silly - "Yer granny was an ape!" (creationist blogger Denyse O'Leary). If common sense were a reliable guide, we wouldn't need science in the first place.

    Religiously motivated authors also have a bad habit of linking the cultural implications of a theory to the truth-value of that theory. The ID crowd, for instance, loves to draw a line from Darwin to the Holocaust, as they did in the "documentary" film Expelled: No intelligence allowed. Even if such an absurd link were justified, it would have zero relevance to the question of whether or not the theory of evolution is correct. Similarly, when Le Fanu writes that Darwin's On the Origin of Species "articulated the desire of many scientists for an exclusively materialist explanation of natural history that would liberate it from the sticky fingers of the theological inference that the beauty and wonder of the natural world was direct evidence for 'A Designer'", his statement has no bearing on the scientific merits of evolution.

    It is crucial to the public's intellectual health to know when science really is science. Those with a religious agenda will continue to disguise their true views in their effort to win supporters, so please read between the lines.

    From the San Francisco Examiner: New Scientist mystery solved: it's James Le Fanu.

    James Le Fanu's hype site.

    Picture from Google Images

    Herding cats in the Liberal Party

    This week Malcolm Turnbull held the line according to his Newspoll results.
    With the Nationals partner well off the reservation on the subject of an emissions trading scheme and its own Wilson Tuckey very vocally critical of teh leader, senior members of the Liberal Party must be holding their breath at the thought of what the Coalition backbench will do once Parliament resumes.
    Will the boastful claim, that all Liberal MPs aren't bound to the party line in any vote but are allowed to follow their conscience, lead to a WA-inspired debacle gleefully watched by the nation?
    Or will party heavies pull the climate change deniers into line behind Turnbull?
    Despite all the closed door chest thumping that is obviously underway, I'm betting the latter. There's not a political tiger among the lot and the Bradfield by-election announced yesterday has thrown another spanner in the works.

    Newspoll graphic

    Wednesday 26 August 2009

    Brendan Nelson continues parliamentary tradition by treating the electorate as his personal plaything

    If there is one thing I hate above all else in Australian politics it is that elected members of parliament appear to think that (after standing for election and entering into a contract which lasts until the next general election) it is best practice if they decide for matters unrelated to their health or family that they will retire early.

    Liberal Party MP Brendan Nelson is the latest to treat electors as his playthings and the public purse as his to order, by deciding that he will retire at the end of September from the safe seat of Bradfield ahead of the next federal election saying:

    "I would not be returning to the frontbench or the Liberal leadership should I stay, as such it is time to go'' .

    Well, tough cheddar Mr. Nelson. It will cost the public purse at least a half million before poll results are called and, it is the height of self-indulgence (obviously endorsed by the most narcissistic of political parties) for you to decide that you have had enough of playing at politics outside of government.

    An unnecessary burden on taxpayers in times of national economic uncertainty, by a typical specimen of the political class who will also be putting his hand out for a handsome pension/superannuation payout.

    About that garden outside your back door.....

    One look at the calendar tells me that Spring is not far away and it's time to take another look at the garden with an eye to surviving Summer, keeping water use to a sustainable level and, cutting back the amount of greenhouse gas the household is responsible for by reducing the number of food items which have to travel great distances to get to the table.

    How is your garden going? Yes, I know that many of us these days have woefully small backyards to potter about in and some have little time to spend in them.

    However, no matter how small the available area, space can usually be made for a few low maintenance home-grown herbs. With a little more room one or two veggie crops can also be added.

    So get out there and turn over a patch, add some decent compost and organise a top mulch this month. Chose a spot that gets a decent amount of full sun during the day, but not so much that the ground bakes and plants require a lot of water to survive.

    Next month, go to the local nursery and pick yourself up some parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme plants. Add basil, chives, coriander, lemon grass and dill to the list or whatever else you fancy in your cooking.

    If you have the garden space look out for some of that hardy mint our grandmothers used to grow (after all mint sauce is no more than infused mint leaves with a little vinegar and sugar thrown in) and try planting out some rocket for a prolific quick pick alternative to lettuce.

    Hunt about for a small variety of chilli bush and find a spot for it among the flowers.

    For those wanting to add a vegetable - you can't go past that old staple silver beet for an easy growing and plentiful crop of spring and summer greens and two or three cherry tomato plants will give you a constant supply for months.

    Consider making space for spring onions if you are daunted by the thought of tending tomatoes or think about adding a few capsicum plants instead if that takes your fancy.

    Towards the end of Summer pick up a few Australian garlic bulbs from the green grocers and do a staggered planting of the individual cloves in March so that next year garlic will be coming up to keep company with the other herbs.

    If you live in a flat, bring home the biggest pot you can purchase and make yourself a mini herb garden on the balcony or place a row of small pots on the kitchen window sill.

    Ask the neighbours what they are growing this year - it might be possible to extend the veggie range by acting cooperatively on your street.

    There is really no excuse for buying absolutely everything from the grocery store when it is so much more convenient to open the backdoor and gather in from the garden.

    Saffin brings home the bacon for Lismore

    Federal Labor MP for Page Janelle Saffin again demonstrates that she is an effective advocate for her electorate with the announcement that the Rudd Government is funding eight extra Medical Assessment Unit beds at Lismore Base Hospital.

    "This is in addition to over $600,000 recently provided to the hospital for new surgical equipment under Stage Two of the Rudd Government's Elective Surgery program.....

    The Commonwealth is providing $4.1 million in operational funds and $5.7 million in infrastructure funds over two years to establish the University of Western Sydney's new Rural Clinical School in Lismore and Bathurst.....

    The Lismore Integrated Cancer Centre is a NSW Government project to be located at the Lismore Base Hospital. The centre will include radiation oncology, medical oncology and haematology services. The Rudd Government has delivered $15 million for the Centre to be fast tracked."

    After years of being taken for granted by the Nationals when the Coalition last held federal government, Ms. Saffin's ability to keep the electorate and Lismore on the national health agenda is most welcome.

    Let's hope that she has as much success with ongoing funding for Grafton Base Hospital and the smaller district hospitals within her bailiwick.

    The recent announcement of electoral redistribution may naturally enough have Janelle focusing on the north-west section of Page right now, but she needs to remember that the Clarence Valley and the rest of the coast delivered for her in November 2007.

    Transcript of Lismore doorstop interview with Kevin Rudd on 24th August 2009.

    Tuesday 25 August 2009

    National Party of Australia launches a new slogan under the same brand

    It will take more than the National Party of Australia's new slogan "Nationals for regional Australia" to restore confidence in this party on the NSW North Coast.

    Too many people are aware that the Nationals have not abandoned the idea of turning water from east coast rivers inland and more than a few recall the dismal performances of previous local MPs of that ilk. As well as note the politically hypocritical stance of their only federal MP left on the North Coast, Luke Hartsuyker, who only discovered local problems in a big way once he was out of government and incapable of doing anything about our urgent issues.

    With so many in the party either outright climate change sceptics or loathe to rock the agricultural vote, the latest federal council held on 21-23 August 2009 has produced little but green wash when it comes to major climate change or environmental policies.
    In part because some policy involves decisions taken by the states, such as the zoning of prime agricultural land.

    It unanimously rejected the Rudd Government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme but offers only vague promises of amendments when it comes to tackling national greenhouse gas emissions.

    According to The Daily on Sunday:

    Not all of the Nationals federal council's motions received unanimous support.
    There was some minor disagreement between members over the student services fee and adopting a policy to support a gross feed-in tariff for small scale renewable energy systems across the nation, something the Greens have been championing in the Senate.
    However, despite some discord, both policies were carried.
    The federal council continues on Sunday when members will vote on two motions that were deferred due to disagreement on their wording.
    Those motions cover protecting prime agricultural land from future mining and forestry developments, and calls for the federal government to conduct a social impact study on its water buyback scheme.
    Another motion the party is yet to vote on but has also drawn concern from the regions is the Beale Report's recommendation to the government to allow the importation of foot and mouth disease virus samples into the country for research purposes.

    The National Party of Australia (formerly known as the Country Party) did little but mark time during its decade-long term as part of the federal Howard Government and, has been a woeful loyal opposition in the NSW Parliament since under Fahey's leadership it lost power in mid-1995.

    Next year the party will celebrate its 90th anniversary. By that time its irrelevance to Australia's coastal regions may be established beyond all doubt.


    From Antony Green's post The decline of the Nationals 24 August 2009.

    Food for thought....

    Recently on SBS's Insight program, Woolworths' Environmental Manager Kane Hardingham confessed to throwing out 65,000 tonnes of food a year. "We know that's a waste," he admitted.

    The hessian bags that carried the asbestos James Hardie transported were subsequently sold to carpet companies (among others) who used them to make carpet underlay.
    Only now, two or three decades later, is that carpet being ripped up and replaced.
    The Australian workers or families who rip up their carpets are being exposed to asbestos fibres and a high risk of a painful lingering death.

    Spotted on a bumper sticker:
    Beware of promises of life where death is prerequisite.

    In The Record Searchlight on Friday:
    "[I'm] a proud right-wing terrorist" said by voter at Redding townhall meeting on Obama health care reform.

    Monday 24 August 2009

    Are we there yet?

    Click on map to enlarge

    Today at Evans Head the temperature reached 37.4 C at 1.30pm.
    I can't remember a hotter winter day on the NSW North Coast, coming as it did off a relatively hot night.

    Often accompanied by a very warm wind the unseasonable weather had gardens wilting by midday and some locals nervously wondering how dry summer may actually be this year.

    It's now 6.45pm. at the tail end of the day, the temperature is still between 20.5 to 30.5 C across the region and I'm sitting at the keypad in full summer gear.

    Where is Andrew Bolt when you need him!

    Whatever happened to our blogging PM and why is he failing to connect with regional voters online?

    If anything clearly points to the fact that the Australian Government still doesn't get the communications revolution it is the fact that, after creating a PM's Blog with a gentle riff of publicity and posting two one-way 'discussion' topics, the blog has gone into dead time.

    The Prime Minister as KRudd still uses hisTwitter account from time to time, but those short tweets just remind voters that he is alive - they don't add much to the national conversation on political, social, economic and environmental questions that concern the country.

    Kevin Rudd obviously didn't fancy the blog format all that much, because since 10 August 2009 he is now selectively inviting 20 Internet users to have a Web Chat when the mood takes him.

    Of course such chats omit so many low income households in regional areas from the conversation as it is obvious that a dial-up connection is not about to get you a timely invitation to 'chat' because all day online is not possible and, yes, rather more understandably those chats are now in dead time also.

    The Prime Minister might like to tell the world that he rather likes Twitter, however he doesn't use these tweets to really connect with regional Australia. Today Kevin Rudd is said to be in Lismore on the NSW North Coast as part of his inspection of health facilities across the country, but one wouldn't know it from his public tweets on the weekend.

    The fact that he is in the Northern Rivers is of some interest to local voters as our public hospitals are under sustained cost-cutting attack by the North Coast Area Health Service and just last Saturday The Daily Examiner reported that it is on the cards for Grafton Base Hospital to lose another 10 ordinary beds and fail to gain funding for 17 new beds that are part of the promised departmental upgrade.

    Hopefully, when it comes to old fashioned face-to-face contact, Kevin Rudd will fare better as the Rudd Government is fast becoming our last faint hope for decent regional hospitals, as one wouldn't know how dysfunctional matters are becoming if one reads the 2007/08 NSW Health annual report and it is obvious that maintaining the health system is getting beyond the capacity of the state governments.