I might be missing something here, but the news out of New South Wales that unimmunised children could soon be excluded from childcare centres because apparently they’re a threat to the safety of us all, has me wondering one thing.
Who is actually at risk here? Surely if immunisation protects us from diseases, then unimmunised people potentially spreading diseases is only a concern for the unimmunised people, as the immunised ones should be immune. So if unimmunised people are the only ones at risk, and the parents of unimmunised children have made the decision to not immunise their children for one reason or another, surely it is their choice and excluding these kids from childcare centres provides no societal benefit as unimmunised kids should provide no risk to immunised kids.
This would seem logical if immunisation provides, as the name implies, immunity from certain diseases…but then again, maybe I’m missing something.
Thanks to the great efforts of the Boston police department, the FBI, the cooperation of the people of Boston who heeded a temporary curfew, and various other law enforcement and public safety agencies, we have witnessed a fantastic moment in history today.
The 2nd alleged Boston bomber was caught in a backyard today, and was taken alive. A resident saw something suspicious in a backyard when the suspect was on the run after authorities had flushed the suspect out, and authorities were then able to pinpoint the location of the suspect. According to what was heard on the Boston police scanner and reported by Mark Levin at the time, the FBI’s HRT (Hostage Rescue Team) which primarily provides SWAT-style assistance to the Critical Incident Response Group’s negotiation team, were the only people allowed in for the final stages of the capture…other tactical squads were told to keep out. In his book “Stalling For Time”, former FBI chief negotiator Gary Noesner, who in many ways was responsible for the building of the FBI’s hostage negotiation program, and for making the top brass take hostage negotiation seriously after the tactical errors which led to the infamous outcome of the Waco siege, wrote about how the negotiation tactics are often much more successful than an all-in tactical assault when you are faced with people who may be out to cause destruction, or believe they have nothing to lose. Gary’s work over the years has, undoubtedly in my mind, helped shape the procedures and training which have led to today’s fantastic outcome.
That’s not to say that armed response is not important. Of course it is important to have the ability to end a siege with armed means, and we should never lose sight of the fact that good guys with guns today stopped a bad guy with various weapons, but we should also acknowledge the careful and meticulous work of the tactical and negotiation teams, and all of the other people who kept the situation under control when an entire city was gripped with panic.
This really was an historic moment, and I have to give special credit to Fox News and their Boston affiliate WFXT for the excellent coverage they have provided of this whole event, ever since the awful events of the bombing. Fox News Radio, with their own coverage, have also done a fantastic job, and in my view news reporting does not get any better than what we heard at 9pm US Eastern Time (11am Canberra time) when mere minutes after the event, with rapidly changing and updating details flooding in, Fox’s Ron Flatter (who many Australians would know thanks to his work as a correspondent for Melbourne’s nationally-syndicated racing and sport station RSN 927) presented a clear, concise, and to quite frankly interesting, exciting, and urgent-feeling news bulletin.
For historical purposes, on this special occasion, I have saved a copy of the amazing work of Ron and the Fox News Radio team in presenting their 5 minute 9pm newscast.
A great day…and to think there were people who were hoping, for political purposes, earlier this week that the bombers would be crazy right-wing white folk, rather than what we are learning now and what was always most likely, that we are dealing with Al Qaeda sympathisers with links to radical Islamic terrorism and a known radical hate-filled Australian Sheikh.
Well done to the law enforcement officials who worked so hard to secure this outcome, and equally to the great law enforcement officials who killed the other suspect. I will visit the US embassy to hopefully sign a book of thanks to you all, and also a book of condolence for the people who Boston and West in Texas for the tragic (and unrelated) events which have cost so many innocent lives this week.
I must also note how pleased I was to see and hear that people were cheering for and applauding the law enforcement officials after they caught this guy. It was a great moment.
It saddens me deeply (but, I have to admit, does not surprise me) that the United States of America has once again fallen victim to a terrorist attack.
If any comfort can be taken from this despicable act, it is that it happened at a time of day when fewer people were in the location of the explosions than would have been the case had it happened a few hours earlier.
This, to my mind, highlights a critical flaw in some aspects of event security where security services seem to be almost entirely concerned about the busiest point in time, at the expense of less busy points in time. This could also be a testament to the security services in that they are protecting the busiest and most critical points in time successfully, and perhaps it may be time to re-evaluate how security is managed, and examine if there are ways to make it easier for existing resources to better manage security and some of the less-busy times which seem to be a more attractive target.
My condolences go to the families of those who have been killed and injured in this attack, and my absolute worst wishes go to the perpetrators, whoever they may be.
I should probably clarify why it does not surprise me that America has found itself in the crosshares again. It is simply that places which harbour and promote freedom, will always be the envy and target of those who oppose freedom. I have a few other thoughts, but they would be premature as we do not yet know exactly who was responsible for this atrocity.
It is very sad news that Margaret Thatcher, one of the greatest leaders of the modern era and probably of all time, has died at the age of 87, although given her recent ill health it is comforting to know that she is now in a better place.
I was quite saddened to hear of her passing. It was one of those deaths that I wasn’t entirely sure was real when I first heard the news, and I had to double check as it was quite a shock to the system. It was quite saddening at the time, and has proven somewhat more so as her legacy has had time to settle in.
Maggie was a politician who knew what she believed in, and fought for it. She was the type of politician that we need more of now. She was not the type of person to go in to a meeting with an opponent with the hope of reaching some sort of agreement where both sides got a few things they wanted and a few things they didn’t, but instead went in to fight for her beliefs and try with all her might to block the opposing view, which she saw as being wrong.
“Consensus is the absence of leadership” she once wisely said. She expanded on this by saying “Ah consensus … the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner ‘I stand for consensus’?”
She was a lady of conviction, a true leader, and regardless of what you thought of her views, you knew what she stood for and that she would consistently stand for it. She was the very essence of what a politician should be…someone who proudly put her views to the people for their consideration, and acted on those views once elected. She was not a politician who surprised people with “backflips” and broken promises. The word “divisive” has been used by many to describe her in these last few hours, and while this is true, it is true because of consistent views and statements, and not divisive in the manner of so many modern-day politicians who say one thing and do the opposite, while trying to pretend that they are doing exactly as they had promised.
I am a great admirer of Margaret Thatcher’s world view, and the brilliant work she did to bring the British economy and society back from the brink of collapse. She was in power at a great time in world history, and was only strengthened when Ronald Reagan was elected as President of the United States of America. Together, these two great, and now sadly departed, leaders were a beacon of light for hope and prosperity, and helped to vanquish to evil and sorrow of socialism and communism from much of the world. It is a tragedy that leaders since these two have been quite lax in defending people from the slow and steady encroachment of socialism and the growing power of the state.
Of particular importance in the legacy of Margaret Thatcher is the way she ran the Falklands War. Maggie knew something that our leaders during the first and second world wars knew, and that was that when your enemy is ruthless and intent on conquering you, you must fight with everything you have, and not let yourself get wrapped up in bureaucracy and thoughts of “but if we attack them, then we are no better than them”. It is not acts of defence (or acts of offence during a war) which define whether you are better than your enemy, but rather your moral character and the reasons for your actions which define your position in relation to that of your enemy.
As I have reflected on the legacy of Margaret Thatcher in the hours since her passing, it has occurred to me that she was not a part of the historical education which occurred during my primary and high school years. Perhaps, in the mid-late 1990s and early 2000s it was too early to judge her full legacy, but to the same extent as a then-recent and highly influential world leader, her part in recent history should have been discussed. Older history is very important, but recent history is critical if one is to understand the current state of the world. World leaders around the time of the two world wars were discussed in some detail, and Gough Whitlam was as well, but the more recent leaders were not discussed much at all. I gather that this was partially due to some attempt to not appear to be imparting political views on students, however given that political views were imparted either accidentally or purposefully anyway, I fail to see how discussing recent political history can really be a problem, and thus it bothers me that many of my generation may have little, if any, detailed knowledge of the legacy of as influential a figure as Margaret Thatcher.
It is my sincere hope that people learn something from the legacy of Margaret Thatcher. Of course I hope that it leads to a greater understanding and appreciation of her ideological views on the importance of liberty and of free markets, but I would be happy if it merely leads to more people, and in particular more politicians, having the courage of their convictions. Let ideas win or lose on their merits, not on the back of trickery and deception; let people be forthright and honest with each other about their views without fearing that they may offend or be offended; And may people be less interested in compromising at the drop of a hat, and be more interested in fighting for what they believe to be right and just.
I hope that this is the lasting impact that Margaret Thatcher has on the world.
There are so many great quotes and videos of this great lady, and we are fortunate that she was in power at a time when video recording and storage of things of public interest was really becoming viable on a mass scale, but there are so many great videos of Margaret Thatcher that it is difficult to choose only one with which to remember her, so I will share a few with you.
This video is my favourite. It is of Margaret Thatcher during her last speech as Prime Minister, in which a question was asked of her by opposing members of parliament, which gave her the opportunity to clearly and concisely display the folly of their socialist views.
From the same session of parliament is this video of Maggie explaining how the Euro (currency) would lead to major problems, not least of which would be the loss of democracy. If only her warnings had been heeded.
And finally, when Ronald Reagan died, Margaret Thatcher, who herself was not in the best of health, recorded a eulogy for President Reagan. Most of what she said about him could equally be applied when looking back at her life.
(There are a few brief video glitches in this clip where some words have, sadly, been lost, for which I apologise profusely)
It is a great loss that the world has suffered in the loss of Margaret Thatcher. I offer her, for her leadership, courage, and vision, the Samuel Salute.
Margaret Thatcher, 13 October 1925 – 8 April 2013. RIP.
Actually, good might not be strong enough a word, so I think I’ll use “fantastic” instead.
Barnaby Joyce will be the National Party’s candidate for the federal seat of New England. It’s a reasonable assumption that he should defeat incumbent MP Tony Windsor, so this clears the way for Barnaby to eventually take over the leadership of the National Party, and be the Deputy Prime Minister in a future Liberal/National coalition government.
BARNABY Joyce is poised to stand unopposed as the Nationals candidate in New England, after his two chief rivals for preselection indicated they were unlikely to run for the northern NSW seat currently held by Labor-leaning independent Tony Windsor.
Nominations to stand as the party’s candidate will close tomorrow afternoon, after the previous candidate, former NSW MP Richard Torbay, was expelled from the party and reported to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
Speaking to The Australian yesterday, Senator Joyce’s key potential opponent for preselection, National Farmers Federation president Jock Laurie, said he “would be surprised” if his name were among those submitted for consideration.
Senator Joyce’s other potential rival, Keith Perrett, said he was “pretty sure” he would not run, because it could force his resignation as chairman of the government’s Grain Research and Development Corporation.
Senator Joyce, 45, a New England native who represents Queensland in the Senate, has indicated he will seek the Nationals leadership – and potentially the deputy prime ministership – if current leader Warren Truss, 64, becomes “sick of the job and resigns”.
Barnaby has been a fantastic Senator for Queensland, representing the interests of Queensland and conservatives in general very well. He has been quite outspoken over the years, but is more-often-than-not correct when he makes a statement which the media thinks is “a bit out there”. One such occasion which springs to mind is when he warned Australians that the United States, under the stewardship of Barack Obama and his administration of dubious competence, were at serious risk of having their credit rating downgraded. This was at a time when anybody who had been paying attention to the situation in the US, and not just the talking points and dodgy statistics of the Obama administration, knew that this was true, but the media and Wayne Swan laughed at him and ridiculed him for it. A few months later Barnaby was proven correct…he did not get an apology or acknowledgement from those who ridiculed him.
It was my pleasure to meet Barnaby at the Convoy Of No Confidence protest against the carbon dioxide tax in 2011.
It would, in my view, be a wholly positive thing, and a privilege, for Australia to have Baranby Joyce as Deputy Prime Minister. I wish him all the best of luck with his campaign in New England, assuming that he does indeed get preselected there.
At 2:10pm I stated what seemed obvious to me about the leadership spill.
(As Twitter has gone crazy and refuses to show timestamps from my timezone, here is the automatic cross-post to facebook)
Prediction: Leadership spill is a stunt. Gillard will be reelected unopposed (autocorrect says unpolished) and will lose September election.
I was right. It was a stunt. The aim was to make Labor appear united by having Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan reelected unanimously and unopposed. Simon Crean was fired from his ministries to keep up appearances…just you watch, Simon will be given a nice cosy job after a discreet period of time so that he can gracefully retire from the stupidity of Federal Labor in its current form.
It seems that in areas of Central West NSW where 3G (not 4G) and ADSL1 (not ADSL2 or ADSL2+) services are all that is currently on offer, the National Broadband Network rollout will not occur until 2016.
Wasn’t the whole premise of the NBN that it would ensure that people in regional areas were to receive internet services which would be on-par with their counterparts in metropolitan areas? Wasn’t that the main reason behind the idea of spending $43 billion dollars? NBN Co’s Statement of Intent, which was tabled in Parliament on the 9th of October last year (more than three years after the project was started…one does have to wonder what took so long) certainly seems to think so:
In the Statement of Expectations released on 20 December 2010 the Government expressed three central objectives for the National Broadband Network (NBN):
– To deliver significant improvement in broadband service quality to all Australians;
– To address the lack of high-speed broadband in Australia, particularly outside of metropolitan areas; and
– To reshape the telecommunications sector.
The NBN will enable high-speed broadband to be delivered to all Australian households, businesses and enterprises, through a combination of Fibre-To-The-Premise (FTTP), Fixed Wireless and Satellite technologies
(start of page 4, NBN Co. Statement of Corporate Intent 2012-2015).
$43 billion dollars with a primary goal of getting regional areas up to scratch, and it’s going to take until after the “Statement of Corporate Intent” expires to get Central West NSW completed, and that’s if it doesn’t get delayed even further!
The demand is there. If the NBN wasn’t preventing the private sector from building private infrastructure, this would be done by now, or at least be almost completed. This whole government-run scheme is an expensive shambles.
It seems that, in the light of how much people liked the federal Coalition’s plan for dams across Australia, primarily in the north, Julia Gillard has taken notice of how much people like dams because they supply potable water, can supply electricity, and help to prevent flooding, and has decided that she needs a dam plan of her own…and seeing as she’s taking in the sights of western Sydney, it might as well be a plan for a dam which affects Sydney.
Enter Warragamba Dam. This dam provides the majority of Sydney’s drinking water, and helps to prevent flooding along the Napean River in the far-west of Sydney.
About 20 years ago there was a report which said that Warragamba Dam might fail in a really really bad flood and doom Sydney’s far-west. Well, good news, Julia has a plan.
INSURANCE premiums for tens of thousands of western Sydney homeowners will be slashed under a federal government plan to finally raise Warragamba dam and prevent a potential $8 billion flood disaster.
Almost 20 years since the first warnings were given to the state government that Sydney’s primary water storage dam could fail in a major flood, the Commonwealth will provide the first funding to get it started.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard will announce $50 million a year in federal government terrorism re-insurance premiums will be diverted to flood protection across the country, with the plan to raise Warragamba dam by 23m listed as the major priority.
That, I’m afraid, is where the good news ends. That $50 million is just the tip of the iceberg and, as usual, Julia wants the states to do her bidding at their own expense.
The Commonwealth would initially provide $50 million to begin work and then provide increased funding over time if the O’Farrell government will also commit to the $500 million project which its own infrastructure agency has already identified as critical to the NSW economy.
This plan requires, in order federal government to be involved (and undoubtedly run it on their own terms), the New South Wales state government to cough up an unspecified amount which could very well be $400 million before the federal government even considers tipping in more money.
The federal government is broke because of Julia Gillard and her government. The New South Wales government is walking a tightrope to fix the budgetary mess left by over a decade of state Labor incompetence. Neither of them have the money to spare for this, and yet with federal Labor’s amazing track record of wasteful, untargetted spending (economic stimulus, Building the Education Revolution, coffee machines for National Broadband Network staff, etc), inability to even come close to balancing the budget, and difficulty delivering things on time (Building the Education Revolution again, and the National Broadband Network), one has to conclude that the phrase “increased funding over time” is accurate simply because this project will almost certainly turn out like everything else federal Labor has attempted while in government.
The cost estimate is approximately $363 million for the dam and associated works, which includes construction, commissioning and alliance costs of $299 million, environmental and recreation mitigation costs amounting to $13 million and owner’s costs to ACTEW for project inception, planning, design, approvals and costs from now until completion of $51 million. It is expected to take two years to build.
(Kate Lundy press release “Cotter Dam extension starts”, November 23, 2009)
Delay after delay. Cost blowout after cost blowout. Only three days ago, on the 25th of February, 2013, was construction at a stage where it was safe to allow water to flow in to the expanded dam. A year and two months behind schedule…even more if you include the removal of the extensive amount of construction equipment. The last update on the cost of the project came in April last year when Actew Water said it would be $405 million, an announcement which came after a series of other intermittent cost blowouts.
It is good that Julia Gillard is giving serious thought to projects which could actually benefit people, although given the track record of Labor governments in recent times of having great difficulty in getting things done on time and on budget, I’m not sure that I would really want to entrust this to them, especially seeing as the $500 million expansion of Warragamba Dam was included in the Coalition’s plan:
Included in the list of dam projects, which the Coalition will consider, is a $500 million plan to raise Warragamba Dam in Sydney
I know who, when I’m faced with a choice of Labor or the Liberal/National Coalition, I would trust to get this done on time and on budget, and it certainly isn’t Labor.
Ideally, if this project is to go ahead, I would like to see one level of government take responsibility for it in its entirety so as to not have excessive inter-governmental red-tape get in the way, but given the way government budgets are placed, it probably will have to happen with input from the federal and New South Wales governments if it is to happen in the short term. That said, this seems like a low priority job compared to the benefits of building dams in northern Australia, so I hope it is not used as an election sweetener by both parties for votes in western Sydney, and that it is put on the backburner until government budgets are in a better position instead.
Besides which, one of the stated aims of the Warragamba project is to allow for the release of more land in western Sydney for residential development. Building dams in the north is supposed to, in part, alleviate the need to continue to expand Sydney at a rate of knots. It would be somewhat contradictory to run both projects at once.
Last year the federal Labor Party announced an ambitious plan to consolidate existing anti-discrimination laws in to one law. On the surface, it would seem like a sensible idea to try and simplify laws, but this was not just a “consolidation” by any known definition of the word; this was a massive expansion and redefinition of the laws.
Early on in the piece, the Institute of Public Affairs read the proposed draft legislation and noticed that “discrimination” was being redefined as anything which caused offence. The legislation would have made it illegal to offend someone with a political comment, among other things.
This set off alarm bells, and yet it was quite strange that for some months the Institute of Public Affairs was almost the sole voice of opposition to the draft legislation. In the end, their efforts paid off and almost certainly claimed the scalp of (now former) Attorney General Nicola Roxon, and led to the Coalition vowing to repeal the legislation if it ever becomes law. Right now, it’s unlikely to become law, but it’s still a possibility.
Simon Breheny, Chris Berg, Tim Wilson and John Roskam from the Institute of Public Affairs were largely responsible for the organisation’s work to expose the dangers of this draft legislation, and are owed a debt of gratitude by the entire country in my opinion.
Simon Breheny, Director of the Legal Rights Project at the Institute of Public Affairs, was one of the people to give evidence to the Senate committee looking in to this draft legislation. His opening remarks summed up the problems with the draft legislation very well.
The exposure draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012 is an attack on our fundamental freedoms.
The draft Bill is not simply a consolidation of existing Commonwealth Acts as the government has claimed. It is a radical overhaul of anti-discrimination law.
There are many problems with the draft Bill.
The most concerning aspect of the draft Bill is the significant threat it poses to freedom of speech. The definition of discrimination has been expanded to include conduct that offends or insults.
Given this new definition of discrimination, the inclusion of “political opinion” as a ground on which a claim can be made is absurd and dangerous. Under the draft Bill, you could be taken to court for saying something that offended someone because of a political opinion they hold.
The freedom to express political opinions in all areas of public life – even those that offend and insult others – is central to the functioning of our system of government as the High Court has found. By undermining freedom of speech the draft Bill poses a grave threat to the health of Australian democracy.
It is wrong to say that the draft Bill could be amended to a point where it is acceptable. Simply removing the words “offend” and “insult” from the new definition of discrimination will not save the draft Bill. The real problem is the whole project itself.
The draft Bill is not about anti-discrimination. Instead, the consolidation project has resulted in a draft Bill that undermines liberty and places the state at the centre of our interpersonal relationships. Rather than making the law clearer and simpler, the draft Bill adds significant complexity to this area of law.
The draft Bill also reverses the burden of proof for claims of discrimination. This is completely unacceptable. The person bringing a legal claim should always bear the burden of proving their case. This principle – the idea that a person is innocent until proven guilty – is the centrepiece of a just legal system. Reversing the burden of proof would create an unjust system.
The draft Bill will erode civil society by encouraging reliance on apparatus of the state for the resolution of private disputes. It threatens to lead Australia towards a US-style culture of litigation.
The constant erosion of our freedoms must end. This draft Bill is a disturbing example of the ever-increasing power of the state. It shows that it is now time to swing the pendulum back towards liberty rather than away from it, and to take back control of our own lives.
The draft Bill is a threat to freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of religion. The Institute of Public Affairs calls on the committee to recommend the outright rejection of this dangerous draft Bill.
Simon, along with Chris Berg, made a formal written submission to the Senate committee which goes in to much more detail about the problems with the draft legislation. That submission can be found on the IPA’s website. I read the whole thing last night and, although it is too long to re-publish here, I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in being able to have an opinion.
It was also interesting to see the Australian Human Rights Commission come down on the side of restricting speech. Apparently freedom of speech is not as important to them as the supposed right to not be offended or insulted. You have to listen carefully, but the Commission’s President Gillian Triggs admitted it on Weekend Sunrise when she noted that it is only public opinion which is preventing her from getting her way at this time.
My sincere thanks to the IPA for all of their hard work.
Today I intend to present you with some interesting information put together by people other than myself, which I have come across in recent days.
First up today, a video from John Moulis examining the current state of the federal election in the ACT’s electorates. John makes the very important point that, now that the Liberal Party’s preselections are completed, it is important that the Party gets behind the candidates so as to maximise their chances of winning seats and, even more importantly, ensuring that the Greens do not win a seat.
Without wanting to summarise everything John talks about, he makes the interesting point that regardless of what people might think of the Liberal Party, as they are almost certain to form government and probably hold it for multiple terms, Canberra would be best served by having at least one Liberal senator and at least one Liberal MP, so that Canberrans have direct representation in the government.
I found the video to be very interesting and to make some very important points. I hope you’ll take the few minutes to watch it.
Those of us who have been carefully monitoring the activities of Obama for some time have noticed that he has a habit of saying one thing and doing something completely different, especially when it comes to economic matters, so it came as no surprise that, yet again, he used his State Of The Union address yesterday to claim that he was hard at work reducing the debt and the deficit. All of the evidence shows this to be entirely untrue, but that’s par for the course.
It also came as no surprise that, given his flagrant disregard for the rule of the constitution, he vowed to effectively implement some sort of carbon tax scheme (or similar) via executive order if Congress doesn’t produce something along those lines, completely ignoring the facts that executive orders are not constitutionally permitted to produce that sort of scheme, or that the planet hasn’t warmed for 16 years which pretty much completely debunks the theory of man-made global warming.
To that end, it was good to see Sean Hannity and Mark Levin get together today to discuss these and related matters of Sean’s Fox News program. It’s well worth a look.
(If Fox had uploaded either of these segments to their own site, I would have used their official videos, but for reasons best known by them, they didn’t, so I didn’t).
It’s been far too long since I’ve had the opportunity to link to some of Hannity’s work or Levin’s work. I’m very pleased that they got together to so logically and insightfully discuss this topic today.
Simon Benson from The Daily Telegraph got his hands on a draft policy discussion paper from the Coalition, and wrote about it in today’s Daily Telegraph. The plan is for more dams, especially up north, for nation building and risk mitigation.
At first glance, I’m very impressed. Using all of the water which falls in the tropics has been something I have supported for many years. I have generally suggested pumping water down south, but I suppose it makes sense to dam the rivers in the north and use some of that water up there and send some of the water south (where more dams can help with distribution).
UP to 100 dams could be built across the country to prevent floods, fuel power stations and irrigate a food boom to feed 120 million people across the Asia Pacific region, under plans being considered by Opposition leader Tony Abbott.
In the second high-level policy leak in a week, The Daily Telegraph has obtained a copy of the Coalition’s draft policy discussion paper for water management of Australia.
Included in the list of dam projects, which the Coalition will consider, is a $500 million plan to raise Warragamba Dam in Sydney, and new dams for NSW in the Hunter Valley, Central Highlands and along the Lachlan River.
The last major new dam built in NSW was Splitrock – in northern NSW in 1987.
The majority of the dams would be in northern Australia, where they would be used to irrigate arid zones for agriculture and more than double Australia’s food production.
Claiming the environmental lobby had been to blame for the lack of new water infrastructure, the report from the Coalition’s water taskforce endorses a major dam-building program to “help feed 120 million people and beyond over the coming decades”.
One of the projects involves transporting water from the Kimberley region, 1500km to Perth, using canals, pipelines and ocean super tankers or large synthetic bags towed behind tug boats.
This is what I call a useful nation building project. Unlike the Rudd/Gillard government’s overpriced school halls, lethal pink batts, or out-of-date-by-the-time-it’s-built National Broadband Network, this plan has tangible long-term benefits for both the growth of the nation, and the reduction of risk from natural disasters.
It has been my belief for a very long time that the interior sections of the country can be reclaimed and used for agriculture and domestic inhabitation if water can be pumped in to those areas. I also believe that having water in those areas will increase the evaporation and precipitation cycle in those areas. I believe that some of the desert areas can be turned in to useful land…not all, but a decent chunk.
We can increase our productivity, increase our ability to export food, and minimise the downtime and expense caused by floods through this type of plan. The $30 billion price tag would be well and truly offset, and probably completely paid for, by the long-term economic advantages. When governments talk about nation building, this is the type of forward-thinking project that should be talking about.
I applaud the Federal Coalition for considering this type of visionary plan.
I was very disappointed yesterday to see politicians from all sides unanimously support a bill which paves the way for a constitutional referendum, aimed at adding a statement about the inhabitation of Australia prior to British settlement.
PARLIAMENT has taken another stride toward reconciliation on the fifth anniversary of the national apology to the stolen generation, as campaigners urged MPs on both sides not to give up.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott put aside politics on Wednesday as the lower house passed legislation to create an Act of Recognition of indigenous people.
The legislation, which contains a two-year sunset clause, is to pave the way for constitutional change while giving time to build community support.
In September, the government shelved plans to hold a referendum on the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal people because of a lack of public awareness.
It introduced the Act of Recognition as a stepping stone towards constitutional change.
The constitution has a very simple and important role. It is there to set up the basic rules by which our society is ordered, to outline the powers which can and can not be granted to the various branches and levels of government, and to outline the remedies available to the people in order to keep the government in check. It is not there to act as an historical record of the comings and goings of people from the country.
The constitution can, to a limited degree, explain things or values which give context to the rules which it sets out, but it should not act as a sounding board for documentation of truth or opinion of events which have transpired.
At the level of the basic format of a constitution, that is why I oppose what happened in Parliament yesterday, but I also have a specific reason for opposing this specific proposed change to the constitution.
Having a constitution which acknowledges “traditional owners” of the land or “prior inhabitants” or anything along those lines gives immediate rise to the very real possibility of Aboriginal people being given more rights or more legal status than other Australians, and would pave the way for racially preferential legislation to be passed in their favour.
It is bad enough that, under current legislation, there is a limited ability for government to treat Aboriginal people more preferentially than other Australians (such as Centrelink payments specifically granted to Aboriginal people due to their racial background), but this will be able to get much worse if the proposed changes to the constitution are approved by the public.
National guidelines issued late last year by a federal bureaucratic organisation called the National Transport Commission have concluded that being overweight makes you unfit to to a job which requires a lot of sitting down. That sounds silly enough on its own, but the main concern of the National Transport Commission seems not to be that being overweight increases the risk of heart attacks or diabetes (although they are slightly concerned about that, which on the latter point seems pretty silly seeing as the vast majority of diabetics are very good at managing their condition), but rather that being overweight is likely to make someone fall asleep. Seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up (unless you’re a federal bureaucrat, it seems).
Under changes to national rail safety standards, all safety-critical CityRail workers – including drivers – will now have to keep their body mass index (BMI) under 40 or face being declared temporarily unfit for work.
Drivers with a BMI over 40 are now required to undergo a sleep study while workers with a BMI between 35 and 40 and who have other risk factors, such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure, will also have to undergo further testing before being allowed to return to the job.
The article goes on to state that being overweight is the leading cause of sleep apnoea…not that there’s a direct connection between the two things, just that there’s an increased chance.
It seems like a pretty flimsy reason to suspend someone from a job which they’ve been doing without a problem. In fact, it sounds like discrimination, and I’d love to see how this policy would stack up against anti-discrimination laws.
At this point you might be thinking I’m making mountains out of molehills and that it’s a sensible idea to ensure that train drivers are able to safely drive trains. When I heard the story, I thought a similar thing but for a different reason. I thought “surely there has to be more to this…surely they wouldn’t suspend drivers just because of their weight, surely there would have to be another factor involved before they would suspend someone”, so I had a closer look at the National Transport Commission’s guidelines, and it turns out that they’re even tougher than the Daily Telegraph article makes them sound.
The presence of the following risk factors should also increase the suspicion of sleep apnoea, even in the absence of self-reported sleepiness:
• a body mass index (BMI) ≥ 40
• a BMI ≥ 35 and either
− diabetes type 2; or
− high blood pressure requiring 2 or more medications for control.
BMI should therefore be calculated routinely as part of the periodic health assessment for Safety Critical Workers (refer to Figure 22). Sleep apnoea may be present without the above features; however, the standard identifies these risk factors as a basis for further investigation and classification as Fit for Duty Subject to Review (refer to Table 17).
Note the phrase “even in the absence of self-reported sleepiness”…effectively what this is saying is that, even if a person shows absolutely no signs of dozing off while working, if they are overweight, they have to be subjected to an entirely unwarranted sleep apnoea risk assessment and suspended from duty until the risk assessment is carried out. Given that NSW rail systems are run by government-owned corporations, this means that taxpayer dollars have to be spent on:
1) The wages of an unnecessarily suspended train driver and the wages of someone covering their shifts
2) The medical people who are engaged to carry out these assessments (which in this case involves keeping a train driver in a medical facility overnight to watch them sleep)
3) The countless bureaucrats who have to administer this whole scheme
All because a train driver is overweight.
If that’s not bad enough, the guidelines continue by declaring that people who are overweight are just as dangerous as:
• those who experience moderate to severe excessive daytime sleepiness (ESS score of 16–24)
• those with a history of frequent self-reported sleepiness while driving or working
• those for whom work performance reports indicate excessive sleepiness
• those who have had a motor vehicle crash or other incident caused by inattention or sleepiness.
Workers with these high-risk features have a significantly increased risk of sleepiness-related incidents.
They should be referred to a sleep disorders specialist to assess if sleep apnoea or another medical condition is causing their excessive daytime sleepiness. These workers should be classed as Temporarily Unfit for Duty until the disorder is investigated, treated effectively and fitness for duty status determined.
I accept that being overweight does make people more likely to have various medical conditions, but I absolutely reject the idea that just because someone is overweight they should be immediately suspected of having all of these conditions until they cane prove that they don’t, or that they should be labelled as being as dangerous as people who actually show some symptoms of a problem.
It bothers me that train drivers are being subjected to this nonsense, and it bothers me that dozens of government bureaucrats who comes up with, and will have to enforce, these silly guidelines.
But what bothers me the most is the next logical step. If train drivers, who drive vehicles which can only travel on very narrow passageways called train tracks and are therefore at a relatively low-risk of maiming or killing members of the general public when compared to other forms of transport which can go virtually anywhere, are subject to these guidelines, how long will it be before these guidelines are expanded to cover drivers of other vehicles, such as cars, which are certainly much more likely to be involved in a serious collision if the driver suffers some sort of medical problem while driving?
First they came for the train drivers…I might not be a train driver, but I won’t stay silent as this is an illogical decision, and it’s very likely that it will have consequences for the rest of the population if people don’t make a noise about it. I shudder to think of the economic impacts if road authorities decide to take overweight drivers off the road until they can prove that they don’t have a medical problem.
This, in my view, is one situation where the presumption of innocence until guilt can be proven is being subverted, and the ramifications could be a serious and unwarranted reduction in freedom and liberty for everyone, not just train drivers.
The following is, for the most part, a copy of a comment I posted on The RiotACT in response to the story about a discussion paper from the Federal Liberal Party about having lower taxes in, and moving bits of the federal public service to, regional areas and specifically northern Australia. The comment seemed substantial enough to warrant a blog post of its own here.
Once upon a time it made sense to have a bureaucracy which was centralised to the place where parliament was located. These days, in the age of electronic communications, there really is no need to have so much of the public service located in one place.
Yes, moving large parts of the public service out of Canberra may have detrimental short-term effects on Canberra’s economy, but the public service does not exist to keep Canberra economy ticking over, rather it exists to serve the interest of all Australians and, as such, should be willing to serve Australia’s interests in whatever location is of most benefit. That said, given that the federal government is largely responsible for Canberra’s economy having such reliance on the public service, the federal government should give due consideration to Canberra when planning changes which would impact on Canberra’s economy. Canberra’s interests should not be the only consideration, but they should at least be considered.
I do firmly believe that the nation’s interests are best served by a distributed public service. We have large populations in coastal areas which are, in some cases, overpopulated and under-served by infrastructure, while we also have massive sections of the country which are either underpopulated or uninhabited, but could very easily cater to the needs of part of our population, and should probably be built-up now if we are to expand in to them as the population grows so as to avoid further stretching the resources of existing overpopulated areas.
It would be silly to expect the private sector to build these areas up on their own. Economic incentives will help to attract the private sector, but the whole process will be much faster and much smoother if some public servants move in to these areas as well, and increase the market demand in the areas in the process. I would see no problem with granting public servants in these areas the same economic incentives (tax cuts etc) as private sector people/businesses who set up in these areas.
Some parts of the public service probably should keep a presence in Canberra, but hypothetically speaking (and without figuring out which acronym the various departments use as names this week) it does seem silly to base Immigration and Customs so far from a coastline; Indigenous Affairs so far away from the majority of their clients; Air Services Australia and CASA so far away from major airports (with apologies to Stephen Byron whose airport serves a purpose but is not as big as our major coastal airports) etc.
Apart from the idea of basing some departments in locations which are closer to the people with which they work the most, it seems logical to me to not have a centralised public service simply for cultural reasons. It happens in every industry that if the majority of your time is spent dealing with people in your industry, your mindset becomes based around your industry. A centralised public service lends itself to this in that, by having so many public servants and departments in one place, it is easy to think more about government than about the people whom the government is supposed to serve. Having a less centralised public service would, in my view, make it easier for the public service to work in a more efficient manner for the benefit of the general population.
It also strikes me as ironic that by decentralising the public service, the NBN would be an even less necessary proposition than it already is, as the extra population in regional areas combined with departmental data needs would result in a demand for high-speed internet services in regional areas which would be very attractive to the private sector.
Admittedly the whole idea would inconvenience some public servants, and the costs of moving people may be difficult in the short-term given the government’s current financial state, but the long-term benefits would far outweigh the short-term costs, and surely the long-term benefit of the nation is what our public servants should embrace.