Friday, 31 October 2008

Some of the saddest words uttered this year

Yesterday, Harry Nelson, former Yuendumu Council President, presented Minister for Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin with a statement signed by 236 residents in a meeting of the community before the Minister opened the new Yuendumu pool, funding of which predates the intervention.

The statement read:

We, the residents of Yuendumu, want you to listen to the following statement and take our message back to the Federal and NT Governments:

When John Howard and Mal Brough lost their seats, we were happy. But now you are doing the same thing to us, piggybacking Howard and Brough's policies, and we feel upset, betrayed and disappointed.

We don't want this intervention!

We talked to the Review board, and now the Government is not even listening to the report, and is keeping this intervention going almost unchanged. It is an insult to us.

This is our land. We want the Government to give it back to us. We want the Government to stop blackmailing us. We want houses, but we will not sign any leases over our land, because we want to keep control of our country, our houses, and our property.

We say NO to income management. We can look after our own money.

We want the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 reinstated now, not in 12 months.

The Government Business Manager is useless, expensive, and we don't need them. We want our community councils back instead. We want community control, not Shires. We don't want more police, we don't want more contractors, we don't want more government people.

Everything is coming from the outside, from the top down. The government is abusing us with this intervention. We want to be re-empowered to make our own decisions and control our own affairs. We want self-determination. We want support, funding and resources for things coming from our community, from the inside.

Yuendumu has a lot of things to be proud of. Our community programs, like the Mt Theo program, the bilingual education program, Warlpiri media, the Old People's program, Warlukurlunga arts centre, childcare, the youth program, should be supported, celebrated, and used as a model for other communities.

We want to keep our bilingual education program and use our own language to teach English, maths, and other things in schools.

We want you to give us respect and dignity, and stop telling lies about our people.

We want the Government to listen to us, talk with us, consult with us, and do things proper way.

[Crikey.com.au,28 October 2008]


*

I know money matters, but........

The global financial crisis appears to be dominating the media recently.
While this is understandable to a degree, the fact remains that Australia is not in financial dire peril right at this moment.

However the Murray-Darling Basin is in dire peril and its crisis directly affects the cost of meat, dairy products, fresh fruit and vegetables for us all and its long-term prognosis will have a direct effect on the national economy.

So it was more than disappointing to see this Media Monitors break down of the media-led focus on issues last week:

Click to enlarge



Media Monitors has also looked at the media response to climate change in Making Sense of the Climate Change Debate 2008 report and found that less than a third of Australian media reports over the period assessed are solution focused (including blogs of which only about 6% mention solutions), with a small 7.25% of all media reports mentioning reducing oil and coal consumption.

What was apparent though is that overall (when compared to the rest of the world) the Australian debate was very focused on what to do, how to do it and when to do it.

That was then and this is now.
With governments across this country having the attention span of gnats and seemingly glued to populist politics garnered by daily perusal of the media, there is a danger that the plight of the Murray-Darling Basin, greenhouse emission reduction plans and climate change solutions generally will slip further to the edge of political radars.

The real crisis is current and looming climate change impacts as well as ongoing water sustainability.

It is time to remind domestic media of this fact and insist that a brief journalistic flurry in response to yesterday's release of Treasury modelling of the proposed national carbon pollution reduction scheme does not mitigate the need to keep global warming high on the national issues list and so reflect ongoing national concern.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

You go (you godless) girl!

News.com.au yesterday ran this story:

LONDON'S iconic red buses could be plastered with the slogan "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life", in an atheist advertising campaign responding to a set of Christian ads.

Comedy writer Ariane Sherine, 28, objected to the Christian adverts on some London buses, which carried an internet address warning that people who rejected God were condemned to spend eternity in "torment in hell".

She sought £5 ($12.90) donations towards a "reassuring" counter-advertisement - and received the backing of the British Humanist Association (BHA) and atheist campaigner Professor Richard Dawkins.

The campaign has already smashed its £5500 ($14,215) target and the slogan is planned to hit the side of several London buses in January.

"We see so many posters advertising salvation through Jesus or threatening us with eternal damnation, that I feel sure that a bus advert like this will be welcomed as a breath of fresh air," said BHA chief executive Hanne Stinson.

Prof Dawkins said: "This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think - and thinking is anathema to religion."

Ariane Sherine gives me a bit of 'faith' in the younger generation's ability to leaven the loaf.

Her blog detailing the Atheist Bus campaign is here.

Photo from Ariane's website

Should GM food be adequately labelled so that the consumer has a real choice?

Should GMO food be adequately labelled so that the consumer has a real choice in the matter of what they purchase to eat?

Farm Online's Stock and Land asked a similar question on Monday:

Q: Should there be mandatory labelling laws to advise consumers if food contains ingredients from genetically modified (GM) crops?

Yes
(88.1%)

No
(10.4%)

Undecided
(1.5%)

Total Votes: 840
Poll Date: 27/10/2008

A small sample admittedly from what is probably a relatively small readership, but it should give the Rudd Government some indication that Australians may not be happy with the state of food labelling in this country.

Poll can be accessed here. Vote if you feel inclined - let the world know how you feel about GMO.

* This post is part of North Coast Voices' effort to keep Monsanto's blog monitor (affectionately known as Mr. Monsanto) in long-term employment.

Spring Arts Fair, Dunoon November 1 2008

A year ago a tornado hit little Dunoon on the NSW North Coast.

...causing huge damage to local homes and all but flattening Dunoon Public School.


Around 15 professional artists who live in and around Dunoon have donated artworks for the event. Students have also been putting paint to canvas and these will be displayed alongside the collection of professional paintings, photography, sculpture, felting, drawings, garden sculptures and handmade jewellery that will be for sale. Prices range from $20 to $300, so there's something for everyone. Student artworks will be $10, with family and parents given first option to buy.

There will be sparkling apple juice, stuffed olives and camembert served (it is an art event after all!) plus a jumping castle, a mural painting workshop on the school toilet block and a monster sandpit raffle with prizes including an accommodation package, macadamia hampers, plant nursery vouchers, yoga and fitness classes, dinner vouchers, toys and even a poster autographed by Eric Bana. One in four tickets wins a prize, and the list is not yet complete!

Funds raised will help the school and assist Kids for Kids to continue improving the lives of children living in impoverished regions around the world.

The Spring Arts Fair will run from 4-6pm.

For more information phone Renee on 6689 5868 or Madeleine on 6689 5542.

If you are on the North Coast this Saturday, drop by and support a very worthy effort by Dunoon Public School and the local community.

Photograph of Dunoon tornardo from www.australiasevereweather.com

Local government is best says local government (I fall about laughing)

In my entire lifetime I don't think I have ever met my Federal MP while he or she actually held office and I may only have had a two minute face-to-face conversation in passing with one or two of the State MPs elected to represent me over that time.
The nature of both types of representative remain somewhat of a mystery, although a few of their falls from grace do eventually become public knowledge over time.

However.............
It would be hard not to know a whole lot about those local government councillors who've supposedly collectively acted on my behalf since I first saw the light of day.
With some shining exceptions, they would have to be the most one-eyed, short-sighted, venial and often downright corrupt mob that ever graced government.
And the council management structure which develops under them would be just as bad on average.

So I almost fell off my perch laughing when ABC News Radio announced that:
"Councils across New South Wales have backed a push by Lake Macquarie Council to abolish the State Government.
The councils' motion, calling for a two-tier government system, was yesterday passed unchallenged at the Local Government Association Conference in Broken Hill.
But Lake Macquarie Deputy Mayor Barry Johnston says a two-tier system of government makes more sense.
"It costs the Australian people over $2 billion per year to have the three levels of government, and there is a lot of duplication between State and Federal Government," he said."

I'm sorry Barry, old china, it was hard not to guffaw at this. Given the opportunity, councils would waste more than $2 billion annually in duplication with one hand tied behind the back and then waste some more in parochial fighting over the central pot.
I would happily support Australia-wide local government directly receiving a fixed percentage of the GST or other taxes, but heaven forfend that any NSW North Coast council is my only bulwark against the centralised power of Canberra.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Global financial crisis media coverage getting you down? Some of the best things in life are free


Coastal Emu and chicks beside the road in the Brooms Head area

We have known for some weeks that Australia is about to face an unwelcome patch of belt-tightening, but the bad news doesn't seem stop if one listens to those international financial gurus holding forth in the media.

So perhaps now is a good time to remember that some of the best things in every week are free for the taking.
So walk around the block and admire the neighbourhood gardens before dinner, sit in a local park and soak up the morning sun, wander through the nearest nature reserve and listen to the birds, and if you are lucky enough to live on the NSW North Coast simply revel in all that nature can offer on your doorstep.

The definitive look at Obama and the ACORN scandal?

US Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama frequently complains (sometimes legitimately) about political slurs on his candidature, including doubts cast on his association with ACORN.
A body which is currently the subject of an investigation into allegedly improper voter registration in the 2008 national election.

The Bulletin on 26 October 2008:

Nearly 8,000 applications turned in by a group tied to the Barack Obama campaign are problematic according to Philadelphia election officials. Approximately 1,500 have already been referred to the U.S. Attorney's office for investigation of possible voter registration fraud.....

According to Tim Dowling, election finance documents specialist of the Philadelphia Voter Registration Administration, ACORN turned in 78,376 voter applications from April 28, 2008 through Oct. 6, 2008. Of this number, 6,962 have been rejected to date.
This figure does not count duplicate applications, Mr. Dowling said. It has been estimated that 80,000 voter applications were duplicates, but this total was from all sources not just ACORN.

ACORN's voter registration activities have run afoul of the law in other parts of Pennsylvania. Last July 24, Dauphin County detectives offered a $2,000 reward for information about the whereabouts of Luis R. Torres-Serrano, an ACORN worker, who was accused of submitting more than 100 fraudulent voter registrations.

Delaware County authorities arrested a former ACORN employee Oct. 21 on felony theft and forgery charges for allegedly submitting dozens of phony voter-registration applications.

Jemar Barksdale, 34, of Chester, submitted 18 fraudulent forms using the names of existing voters, and 22 other applications in which the information was "completely fictitious," according to District Attorney G. Michael Green.

The Los Angeles Times yesterday:

A similar legal drama could play out in Colorado. Republicans there are charging that the Assn. of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) is loading up the voter rolls with unqualified people. Democrats are asking a federal court to reinstate approximately 30,000 Colorado voters purged from registration lists by Secretary of State Mike Coffman, a Republican.

Here from Wikileaks is ACORN's version of its contact with him as found in a
Social Policy magazine article of Spring 2004:

Case Study: Chicago - The Barack Obama Campaign
by Toni Foulkes


ACORN'S history of nonpartisan electoral

work (voter registration and
voter turnout) and leadership development
combined during the March. 2004
primary season to make a big difference
in the level of participation of our communities
in that important election.
ACORN is active in experimenting with
methods of increasing voter participation
in our low and moderate income communities
in virtually every election. But in
some elections we get to have our cake
and eat it too: work on nonpartisan voter
registration and GOTV, which also turns
out to benefit the candidate that we hold
dear.
The March primary was not particularly
important for the presidential race, as
Kerry was just in the process of clinching
the Dem presidential nomination. But it
was critical in the U.S. Senate race. On
March 16th. State Senator Barack Obama
won the right to represent the Democratic
Party in the U.S. Senate campaign. Jack
Ryan won the Republican nomination
that day, but went on to self-destruct over
sex club revelations in his divorce
papers. Sen. Obama went on to keynote
the Democratic Convention in July and
was catapulted to the national stage. As
Sen. Obama puts it, how did a skinny kid
with a funny name become the
Democratic candidate for the U.S.
Senate, with 53% of the statewide
Democratic vote in a seven-person field?
Obama started building the base years
before. For instance, ACORN noticed
him when he was organizing on the far
south side of the city with the
Developing Communities Project. He
was a very good organizer. When he
returned from law school, we asked him
to help us with a lawsuit to challenge the
state of Illinois' refusal to abide by the
National Voting Rights Act, also known
as motor voter. Allied only with the state
of Mississippi, Illinois had been refusing
to allow mass-based voter registration
according to the new law. Obama look
the case, known as ACORN vs. Edgar
(the name of the Republican governor at
the time) and we won. Obama then went
on to run a voter registration project with
Project VOTE in 1992 that made it possible
for Carol Moseley Braun to win the
Senate that year. Project VOTE delivered
50,000 newly registered voters in
that campaign (ACORN delivered about
5000 of them).
Since then, we have invited Obama to
our leadership training sessions to run the
session on power every year, and, as a
result, many of our newly developing
leaders got to know him before he ever
ran for office. Thus it was natural for
many of us to be active volunteers in his
first campaign for State Senate and then
his failed bid for U.S. Congress in 1996.
By the time he ran for U.S. Senate, we
were old friends. And along about early
March, we started to see that the African-
American community had made its
move: when Sen. Obama's name was
mentioned at our Southside Summit
meeting with 700 people in attendance
from three southside communities, the
crowd went crazy. With about a week to
go before the election, it was very clear
how the African-American community
would vote. But would they vote in high
enough numbers?
It seemed to us that what Obama needed
in the March primary was what we
always work lo deliver anyway:
increased turnout in our ACORN communities.
ACORN is active on the south
and west sides of Chicago, in the south
suburbs and on the east side of
Springtfield, the state capital. Most of the
turf where we organize in is African
American, with a growing Latino presence
in Chicago's Little Village and the
suburbs......
As it turned out. Obama won the primary
handily, pulling white wards as well as
African American. But no one knew that
that would be the case. In each election
we must act as if our work is critical for
our communities. That is what we did in
the primary, and we learned something in
the process.
Toni Foulkes is a Chicago ACORN leader
and a member of ACORN's National
Association Board.

The Obama campaign's sensitivity to the issues of voter registration and voter fraud is illustrated by the 17 October 7-page legal letter sent to the US Attorney General concerning an investigation into the status of 200,000 Ohio voters and other matters.
As it is increasingly likely that the November presidential election will elevate Obama to the White House, one wonders what the political ramification of these investigations will be if they are not completed before his inauguration.

Smart money in the Southern Hemisphere still on Obama and American betting deserts McCain

Centrebet odds yesterday morning:

OBAMA, Barack 1.07
MCCAIN, John


Key state Ohio odds:

DEMOCRATIC PARTY 1.23
REPUBLICAN PARTY 3.75


Breakdown by all US states here.

Electoral College odds:
Obama Wins 384+ 1.50
Obama Wins 339-383 1.35
Obama Wins 311-338 3.25
Obama Wins 270-310 11.00
TIE 269 - 269 101.00
McCain Wins 270-315 9.00
McCain Wins 316-340 101.00
McCain Wins 341-369 126.00
McCain Wins 370+ 141.00


US Betfair on election betting last Monday:

"The Democrat has enjoyed a tremendous surge in favour on Betfair in all of the key swing states. At the start of October the Republicans were enjoying a slender lead in Ohio, Missouri and Florida. However, as of today that sentiment has been totally eroded with these markets now displaying high levels of confidence in a Democratic triumph.

For many weeks the signs have all been pointing towards a resounding Obama win and the real interest is now in the margin of victory. For a Democrat to be in with a chance winning in the likes of Georgia and North Dakota is quite remarkable, and the Betfair markets are showing a 65% chance that Obama will claim more than 351 Electoral College votes overall.

It means very few states can still be considered safe for the Republicans and Betfair customers are now predicting John McCain will be embarrassed when 'America Decides' next week."

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Mark Newton tells it like it is on Conroy's mad national censorship plan

It is no secret now that Senator Stephen Conroy has decided that he will go forward with a plan to impose national ISP-level mandatory censorship on Australia's access to the Internet, despite the many problems which have been highlighted concerning this repressive course of action.

Nor is it a secret that one of Conroy's advisers, Ms. Belinda Dennett (belinda.dennett@aph.gov.au or ph: 0417 011 991) attempted to silence informed dissent by Mark Newton commenting in a private capacity on the Minister's grand plan for a Great Wall of Australia .

The Age on 24 October 2008 reported:

On Tuesday, a policy advisor for Senator Conroy, Belinda Dennett, wrote an email to Internet Industry Association (IIA) board member Carolyn Dalton in an attempt to pressure Newton into reining in his dissent.
"In your capacity as a board member of the IIA I would like to express my serious concern that a IIA member would be sending out this sort of message. I have also advised [IIA chief executive] Peter Coroneos of my disappointment in this sort of irresponsible behaviour ," the email, read.
It is understood the email was accompanied by a phone call demanding that the message be passed on to senior Internode management.

Mark wrote a letter to the Minister for Youth and Sport, Kate Ellis, on 20 October 2008 comprehensively outlining problems with a mandatory filtering scheme and included the following on Senator Conroy:

While I approve of the general thrust of the Cyber Safety proposal, I have serious objections to the "clean feed" section, which will erect an online Government censorship regime in Australia for the first time.
I also have significant objections about the professional conduct of Senator Conroy as he has pursued this issue.
The Senator has attacked critics by comparing them to child abusers
2;
refused to provide details of his policy then maligned opponents for their "speculative" remarks 3;
lied to the Australian voting public about the availability of an "opt-out" in December 2007 4;
and failed to consult with the 21 million Australian stakeholders who will be most affected by this plan, in contravention of the Prime Minster's oft-repeated aim to implement a "Government for all Australians" 5.
Rather than addressing the serious policy objections which I outline below, Senator Conroy has preferred to respond with aggressive, offensive, extremist bluster.


Bravo, Mark!

US political donation transparency literally streets ahead of Australian system

In Australia not only do we cast our ballots at federal, state and local government elections without knowing how big each candidate's campaign fund was or from whom they received donations; we often have no chance of finding out until long after election day has past.

In America it is a somewhat different story as many government web sites and blogs demonstrate (although the level of transparency appears to be a might uncomfortable in its comprehensive disclosure of personal details relating to individual donors).

The Huffington Post has turned reporting on campaign donations into an art form in 2008 with a search facility which allows anyone to type in a name and address and come up with an answer or a search can simply be conducted on a town, city or occupation.

Welcome to FundRace 2008.

Want to know if a celebrity is playing both sides of the fence? Whether that new guy you're seeing is actually a Republican or just dresses like one?

FundRace makes it easy to search by name or address to see which presidential candidates your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors are contributing to. Or you can se if your favorite celebrity is putting money where their mouth is.



When you click on locations such as Salt Lake City a side box shows the names, addresses, occupations and amounts donated by everyone who identified themselves as living in that city.

Jacaranda Queen 2008

Photograph from The Daily Examiner, Grafton

It's congratulations to the Verginia Nairn the 2008 Jacaranda Festival Queen, Gemma Buckley the Princess, Alisha Beaman the Holiday Princess, Chloe Hackett the Junior Queen and Tahlia Goodwin the Junior Princess.

Enjoy your year.

Now Julie, spell after me - p.l.a.g.i.a.r.i.s.m.

I see that the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition, one Julie Bishop, has been done again for plagiarism; and not only that, was exposed as submitting for publication under her name an essay (destined to be a book chapter) which was written entirely by her staff.
Deary, deary me as Gran would say - this lazy gal is obviously beyond being taught.

However, the neo-libs as a whole and many other political types are not above this form of petty fraud, so I expect that there's more than one or two fellow travellers hastily reviewing their own speeches and media articles.
Tony Abbott would be a prime candidate - after all it wasn't all that long ago he prematurely ran to the media and falsely claimed a 'son'.

Monday, 27 October 2008

It's be kind to ethically-challenged politicians week, with exceptions

I do try to be as tolerant as possible with that class of persons known as politicians and with behaviour which illustrates that many are ethically challenged.

However, some like Deputy-Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Treasurer, Hon. Julie Bishop M.P., make it so hard to remain even nominally balanced in outlook.

It boggles the mind that someone who would have once acted as an officer of the Court should so consistently and knowingly misrepresent the facts.


The Treasurer has not resiled from that. The Prime
Minister took 10 minutes to answer a question and not
once did he say that this tax was not compulsory, nor
did he say that it would not apply from 2.23 pm yesterday.
So the Australian public must assume that they
will be subject to this new tax on their deposits. They
were told that the guarantee was going to be free of
charge; they now find that their savings will be subject
to a new tax. I ask the Prime Minister: does this mean
that the savings of ordinary Australians will now be
diluted by the fact that they must pay this tax?
(Time expired)

Now Ms. Bishop would be well aware that the only event that occurred at 2.23pm on Wednesday 22 October 2008 was that she asked a short question of the Federal Treasurer to which he gave an even shorter reply.

Ms JULIE BISHOP (2.23 pm)My question is to
the Treasurer. Treasurer, in the interests of giving depositors
and banks clear information on the proposal
being canvassed by the government to now charge a
fee for guaranteeing deposits over $1 million, I ask:
will this fee be compulsory? Will a depositor with, say,
the Commonwealth Bank, who has no concern about
the safety of their deposit, be obliged to pay the fee, or
will a bank that does not wish to have its deposits over
$1 million guaranteed by the government be obliged to
pay this fee?
Mr SWANThe very simple answer is that the fee
will be paid by all depositors in the deposit-taking institutions
that are regulated by APRA, and the fee will
be paid either by the depositor or by the bank.

So-called taxes (or for that matter new fees and charges) are not brought into legal being on such a basis and her feigned indignation is so patently false that one has to wonder if this statement was not also an attempt to support Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull's efforts to spook retirees and other small time investors and, encourage a further run on financial institutions holding managed funds.
As for the "fee" - I'm sure that I am not the only one who remembers that fees was mentioned from the start in a prime ministerial media release on 12 October 2008.

Aw Ma - tell me it ain't so? (Osama runs in US election)

Pic from Times Union


I'm still shaking my head over this from TimesUnion.com:

"TROY — Rensselaer County elections officials are blaming a computer spell-checking program for the error in hundreds of mailed absentee ballots that spelled Barack Obama's surname Osama.

A county legislator said Tuesday that a Democratic Board of Elections worker initially accepted responsibility for the error.

"We heard that she immediately put in her resignation, but it was turned down," said District 2 Legislator Keith A. Hammond, a Democrat. "Whether it was done in jest or in error, it is still an embarrassing mistake, but we now need to move on to more important issues."

The story broke Oct. 10 when a Sand Lake voter called the Times Union saying he received an absentee ballot in the mail on which Row 1A had Barack Obama's name as Barack Osama.

"The immediate problem when this first surfaced was that everyone thought the Republicans or Conservatives were to blame," said District 1 Legislator and Conservative Bob Mirch. "The people who work for the board are honest, and we are pleased a Democrat admitted the mistake."

It's hard not to believe that the Yanks really deserve any government they get.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Turf out the daily prayers in Australia's parliament

Well, wouldn't you know it?

A number of Aussie pollies are jumping up and down over a proposal to have a public debate about whether or not the daily prayer that precedes events in the Australian federal parliament should be rewritten or replaced.

And, guess what? Yes, Immigration Minister Chris Evans is right up there at the front of the group of protesters.

smh.com.au reports that Evans has poured cold water on a suggestion that the Lord's Prayer be replaced by an acknowledgment of the traditional owners of the land at the daily opening of parliament in Canberra.

That comes as no surprise to those who are aware of Evans's background. Prior to entering federal parliament in 1993 Evans was the State Secretary of the WA Fire Brigade Union, so he has form when it comes to pouring cold water on things that have any potential to spark things up.

The Speaker in the House of Representatives, Harry Jenkins, said the prayer was the most controversial aspect of parliamentary procedures and had been raised with him by MPs and members of the public.

Not unexpectedly, church groups (have) reacted angrily to any suggestion of replacing the Lord's Prayer.

But, get this. Senator Evans said he did not think it was uncomfortable for MPs who were not Christians to have to recite the prayer at the beginning of each sitting day.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said it was the responsibility of the parliament's presiding officers to decide whether the Lord's Prayer needs replacing.

Earlier this year the Australian parliament had a formal Welcome to Country and then the Apology, but still the parliament opens with the reading of prayers.

Truly, the time has arrived for daily prayers to be dispensed with and proceedings to commence with the Speaker in the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate beginning the sittings of the houses with an Acknowledgement of Country.

Saffin announces new deal over Centrelink employment benefit compliance

The Far North Coaster reported last Wednesday:

Member for Page Janelle Saffin says the Rudd Government's new welfare compliance system will be good news for job seekers in Page.

The Government has introduced legislation to give effect to measures announced in this year's Budget, to introduce a fairer job seeker compliance system from July 1, 2009.

Ms Saffin said the current penalty system, introduced by the previous Coalition Government, often hurts the most vulnerable job seekers.

"Figures show that 15 per cent of those who have payments cuts for eight weeks have a mental illness, and another five per cent have unstable housing," she said.

"These are the ones we know of for sure, but my local experience tells me that the figures would be higher.

"In the last financial year a total of 321 people in Page had their payments cut for eight weeks, an increase of 92 per cent on the previous year.

"But the Howard Government's punitive system didn't work because there was no improvement in attendance at job network interviews, job search training or Customised Assistance."

"The primary goal should not be about punishment, but about helping people secure work."

How well this new policy will work in practice depends in large measure on the attitude of Centrelink staff.
It is hoped that the somewhat punitive culture which has developed within this agency on the NSW North Coast will now fade from existence and a more realistic approach take its place.

Nevertheless, well done to those Labor federal ministers and MPs involved in bringing this change about.

Perhaps the Labor Party could now turn its attention to the woeful state of mental health services in regional areas like the NSW Northern Rivers, where badly underfunded and under resourced health systems can't even afford to pay their postage bills and local GPs frequently close their books due to pressure of work and where getting an appointment with a doctor can sometimes take between two weeks to a month.

Last week a Murwillumbah Hospital staff member went to the local Post Office to drop off the mail only to be told that the letters would not be accepted until the hospital paid its postage account.
The hospital on the NSW far north coast is so cash-stretched that it can no longer afford to pay its running expenses.
In State Parliament yesterday, MP for Tweed Geoff Provest said Murwillumbah’s sister hospital at Tweed Heads could close its doors in two weeks because of its financial crisis.
[Crikey.com.au, 23 October 2008]

The latest ABS data indicates that many of the socio-economic factors prevalent on the NSW North Coast are factors in forms of mental illness.

An ABC Local radio interview also highlighted this:

PAULA KRUGER: It isn't only young people that aren't getting access to mental health services. Despite a $1.8-billion package from the Howard government in 2006 and many other cash injections most of the people who need help aren't getting it.
The Mental Health Council of Australia says the most startling find of the report is that more than two-million Australians, that is 60 per cent of people who experienced a mental health disorder, did not use a mental health service.

When garden flowers and plants go wild

These days we are all aware that many garden plants have the potential to go wild and turn into environmental or noxious weeds in both bush and paddock.

Because this process has now been going on for over 100 years, we don't always stop to think when we take a cutting from a plant admired in someone else's garden.

So here is a link to Weeds Australia if you want to check out that plant.

The full list of declared plants is here.

Examples of some common problem weeds are:

indian fig, pussy willow, weeping willow, camphor laurel, broom rape, lambs tail, dill weed, bamboo, elephant grass, climbing asparagus, mother of millions, bridal veil creeper, burning bush, butterfly bush........

The North Coast Weeds Authority has a list of local noxious and environmental weeds here.

On the NSW North Coast we also have to be aware of the inadvisability of planting Dutchman's Pipe ornamental creeper, as the increasingly rare and lovely Richmond Bird-Winged Butterfly (pictured above from Google Images) mistakes this hostile plant for one it traditionally thrives on and consequently its larvae die.

Dutchman's Pipe

Malcolm Turnbull feeds the cat and other Aussie tall tales this week

At last the MSM is starting to poke fun at Federal Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull with this worthy effort from Chris Henning on Friday in The Sydney Morning Herald:

Malcolm Turnbull feeds the cat

The Turnbull kitchen. A large table surrounded by metal-framed chairs is in the centre; on it a heavy vase with large flowers. The Turnbull cat, Kevin, is hanging around the fridge. Enter right the Leader of the Opposition.

Malcolm Turnbull: Hullo! Malcolm Turnbull. It's Kevin, isn't it? Wonderful to see you again. (Shakes cat's paw.)
Cat: Meow.
MT: (Jocular, but rather ponderous) May I call you Kev? I detect a need for food, Kev. (Looks in fridge.) Nothing there for cats.
Cat: Meow. (Weaves excitedly around Turnbull's legs.)
MT: What? What is it?
(Cat leaps into open fridge and hauls out a T-bone.)
MT: Hey! (Cat starts chewing on it noisily.) That's my dinner. (MT lunges for the steak, but the cat is too quick, and drags it nimbly away beneath the kitchen table.)
MT (Earnest now): Look. With respect, you are being unreasonable. Give it back.
(Cat looks at him, impassive. Then resumes chewing. Turnbull opens and shuts cupboards and drawers noisily, looking for some sort of weapon. He finds a potato masher.)
MT: When facing a determined adversary, it helps to negotiate from a position of strength. (On all fours, pokes ineffectually at cat between legs of kitchen chairs. Cat looks at him quizzically, resumes chewing.)
MT: Kevin! Listen to me. Without in any way conceding your point, I am willing to take a bipartisan approach. (Cat does not respond. Turnbull is slowly turning pink. There is a tone of barely controlled rage in his voice.)
MT: Now this is a very generous offer. If you concede the unchewed half of the steak, I am willing to forgo the chewed portion. (Cat ignores him.)
MT (Bellows): KEVIN! Give me the steak! Now! (Cat insouciant, swallows large piece of meat.)
MT (Shouting): Don't think I can't see your tactic, Kevin. You think you are smart, but I am smarter. (Crawls under table. Chair legs scrape noisily as he pushes his way through.) You may be large, but I am larger. (Cat looks at him briefly, then chews on. Turnbull is now crawling head down, bum up, beneath several chairs at once.) You are persistent, but I am more persistent. I am here for the long haul, Kevin. My stamina is legendary. (Cat wolfs down another large piece, as several chairs fall over.) You may possess a certain animal cunning but ask anyone you like - my IQ is incomparably greater than yours.

Turnbull tries to force his way through, but the chairs are too thick, and he is also kneeling on his own tie. Finally, with a bellow of rage, he stands up, tipping over the table, and sending chairs, flowers, vase and water crashing to the ground.
The cat flees, leaving behind a well-chewed bone.


While Mercurius at Larvatus Prodeo provided this nice touch of satire:

Welcome to Young Liberal University

Thanks to the mysterious workings of Australia Post, I received in error this letter originally intended for Nigel Freitas:

Greetings, future Captain of Industry!

I'd like to extend the warmest of welcomes to you and your trust fund sponsor for choosing Young Liberal University, Australia's newest and fastest-growing campus.

After careful consideration of your academic record, and even more careful consideration of the cheque you enclosed, we are delighted to accept your application. I can also confirm that we mailed your receipt to the Bahamas address you specified on the post-it note labeled *VERY IMPORTANT!!!!!*

At YLU, we guarantee academic freedom for every student. And I don't mean that obsolete notion that academics should be free to pursue the truth without fear or favour. Real academic freedom exists where students like you are no longer required to engage with any ideas other than those with which you arrived. And we guarantee that's exactly how you'll graduate.

Our motto is Truth through Balance. Truth is more precious than anything, especially evidence that contradicts the Truth. And Balance helps us arrive at the Truth by ensuring that everything and everyone remains in their Proper Place.

That is why our fair and balanced curriculum includes:

  • Chair of Flat Earth Studies: to address this long-neglected aspect of geographical research.
  • Karl Rove School of Pre-Emptive Existentialism: Can you solve the world's toughest philosophical conundrum — I Know You Are But What Am I?
  • Andrew Bolt Institute of Environmental Studies: Prerequisites are Cherry-Picking 101 and Advanced Moral Indignation.
  • The Wilson Tuckey Centre for Indigenous Research: Now conducting ground-breaking research into the benefits of breeding out the colour, why missing children aren't missed all that much; and a shiny, happy look at labour gangs.

And, as a special preview of our next semester's courses, I invite you to consider:

  • The Mervyn Bendle Armchair of Peace & Conflict Studies
    Learn at the feet of the master as you grapple with such tough questions as: Are false dichotomies just rhetorical tricks to support spurious arguments, or can they reveal the traitors in our midst?
  • The Who You Know Sociology Centre
    Announcing our latest course - Oppressing the Subaltern in the 21st Century: explores the interplay of language and power as used by the nation-state and mass media in the suppression of the KKK, neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers and other free thinkers.

But of course, university life is about so much more than just hitting the books. We also have a vibrant Arts and Sports curriculum that includes:

  • The Miranda Devine Gallery: Come and view Michaelangelo's David as it was always meant to be seen — locked away in the basement of the Vice Squad's Child Protection Unit.
  • The Grace of God Holy Rollers: Our ever-reliable singers are in unison on every single word, and you can even preach to the choir!
  • Alan Jones Memorial Rugby Foundation: With new coach Tony Abbott, you can engage in all kinds of drug-related misdemeanours, sexual indiscretions and sublimated homoeroticism, secure in the knowledge that what goes on tour, stays on tour.

At YLU, we also look after our students with a host of support services, and our Dean of Students Keith Windschuttle is always available to help with your revision.

Finally, isn't it reassuring to think that once you graduate, our alumni association the Old School Tie Society, will be ready to assist you with access to the nation's boardrooms and most prestigious clubs? (no ladies, please.)

So, once again, thank you for choosing YLU. Together, we'll bring out the White, Christian and British best in Australia.

Yours sincerely,

Kevin Donnelly
Founding Chancellor
Young Liberal University

Well done Chris and Merc for once again proving that the pen is mightier!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Monsanto and its insidious influence is no laughing matter

From The Canberra Times on Tuesday:

THE food authority responsible for approving genetically modified products has been accused of pandering to agrochemical giants at the expense of consumer health, in a report set to be released today analysing the authority's recent decisions.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand is gambling with the health of consumers, the director of the University of Canterbury's Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety, Professor Jack Heinemann has warned, and is one of only a few regulators to have approved every application for genetically engineered food products.

"Many other regulators have at least stood up once where FSANZ appears to have cowered under industry or political pressure," Professor Heinemann said, describing the authority as the victim of "flawed legislation that mixes the goals of trade and public health".

Over the past 12 years the authority has approved more than 50 varieties of genetically engineered crops, from corn and soy to potato and sugar beet, the report, compiled by Greenpeace, found. Among the products approved despite what the organisation described as a weight of harmful evidence were:

- A strain of corn (MON863) by Monsanto found to cause liver and kidney toxicity when fed to rats in a peer-reviewed French scientific study last year.

- A Syngenta-manufactured corn (GE alpha-amylase) specifically designed to be used in bioethanol production and not intended for human consumption, yet with the potential to enter the human food chain through unchecked US imports.

- Another Syngenta corn (GE Bt10) approved by the authority despite being banned by the European Union and Japan because no safety assessments have yet been conducted.

- A Monsanto canola, still the subject of debate in the European Union and banned outright in Austria, after Monsanto's own testing found increases in liver sizes in rats by up to 16 per cent.

Endorsing the report, Professor Heinemann said many of the authority's decisions on genetically engineered food were based on assumptions, and "picking and choosing only the science [the authority] wants to believe". Moreover, while in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and South Africa more stringent food labelling laws are being passed, in Australia genetically engineered products such as oils, starches and sugars as well as meat, milk, cheese and eggs produced by animals that have been fed genetically engineered crops still require no labelling. Food from restaurants and takeaway outlets is also exempt.

The report notes that current labelling legislation is at odds with the ALP's national platform and constitution published last year, which stated that the party supported comprehensive labelling of genetically modified food.

The minister responsible for food labelling, Senator Jan McLucas, has not responded to the Herald's queries.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Ageing defended the authority, saying all decisions on genetically engineered food were the result of "careful assessment of human health and environmental risks".

Kay McNiece said: "The safety assessment process �c is based on internationally accepted methods and approaches." This was endorsed by the World Health Organisation.



A new photographer comes to the Clarence Valley

Yamba storm front
We will rock you
Camryn on the grass

Samantha Jefferson



Gimme, gimme, gimme (some greed after midnight)...

Friday, 24 October 2008

Yamba fringe festival starts tonight! Surfing the Coldstream, Friday 24 to Sunday 26 October 2008



Sun, sand, surf and theatre in Northern New South Wales!

Starting with the Tent of Marvels tonight at the Big Top, Yamba Oval from 7pm - 11pm and the Yaegl Welcome to Country ceremony on Saturday at noon on Yamba Oval, this is a weekend filled morning to night with bands, singers, street performance, drummers, poetry, dance, cabaret, art walk, workshops, good food, bar and a riverside market.

Right in the heart of Yamba village at the mouth of the mighty Clarence river - everyone's welcome!!

This is a free entry event.

Just how dishonest is The Oz willing to be?

It would be hard to miss recent argument and counter-argument concerning the Rudd Government pledge to guarantee all deposits held in APRA-regulated financial institutions.
The media has been playing the Federal Opposition's attack for all it is worth.

The Australian in an effort to act as Teh Opposition Gazette worked really hard to make the grade and ended up basically accusing the Rudd Government and Treasury of lying over the issue of an unlimited guarantee.

Along with Liberal Senator Abetz*, it was caught out using this tack and Treasury Secretary Henry told a Senate estimates economics hearing that The Australian's report was W.R.O.N.G.!

In the process Ken Henry pointed out that the issue of capping the amount at which deposits would be able to evade a levy was being considered:

“Far be it from me to offend anyone, and especially you Senator,” Henry began drily, “ but there’s been some misunderstanding about the term ‘cap’.” He went on to explain the difference between a cap on the guarantee and a cap at which point deposits would be treated as wholesale lending and thus attract a cost to access the guarantee. [Crikey.com.au, 22 October 2008]

Now after declaring it was right all along, The Australian has switched tactics and in a less than honest report it included a virtually unreadable version of the Stevens letter to Henry dealing with the levy.
Obviously hoping that the general public will conflate the two cap types.

The Australian version of the Stevens letter here.

* I would wishfully like to think the reason why the relevant online Senate transcript was not available at time of writing was because a contrite Senator Abetz and staff were busying trying unsuccessfully to obliterate his very unwise remarks from Hansard and history.