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December 2012

Here's the complete Courier Mail editorial from Friday in context - keen on your views please

Mud sticks as the political gets personal

Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott in Parliament

PERSONALITY POLITICS: Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott in Parliament before the Christmas break. Picture: Ray Strange  Source: The Daily Telegraph

POLITICS, at its best, is a contest of ideas, a vibrant, evolving tussle of ideology that ultimately embraces pragmatism and compromise over partisan purity.

It is as intellectually inquiring as it is robust and sometimes heated, and ideally serves to inspire and animate the wider debate.

That, sadly, is not the politics we know in Australia today.

Rather, politics here has devolved to a form of combat more akin to cage fighting than any art in which the Marquis of Queensbury rules could be expected to apply.

Ideas have given way to the politics of personality, and with that the spiteful, the destructive and the negative - a contest not of ideas, but one aimed more at annihilating an opponent than prosecuting a particular policy position.

The last 12 months in Australia would easily go down as one of the most toxic political periods this country has seen for many years.

Just look back and reflect for a moment on those issues that seemed to consume the most political time and energy.

We opened the year with the seemingly never-ending saga of Craig Thomson's days as a union official still unresolved, and subject to as much smear and innuendo as the various players could throw.

Other lowlights included the unedifying pursuit of Julia Gillard over the so-called AWU affair - a campaign so vicious and brutal that it saw extraordinary and ultimately unfounded allegations of criminality levelled against a serving prime minister. (my emphasis)

The prism of hindsight will also give us moments like Ms Gillard's now famous misogyny speech - perhaps heartfelt, passionate and sincere, but nonetheless something of an overreach in a year that was not found wanting in the hyperbole department.

It was a year that also gave us the sleaze and mud associated with the James Ashby-Peter Slipper affair, a particularly tawdry episode in Australian politics that still threatens to embroil senior Coalition figures in accusations of conspiracy, and casts a cloud over the political judgment of the Government.

It was a year of apocalyptic taxes and "illegal" immigrants invading our shores, of cheap point-scoring over the smallest slip; of failed leadership challenges, of stunts in hi-vis vests or appalling cover versions of Skyhooks.

The poisonously partisan nature of the past 12 months has completely overshadowed significant policy achievements in areas such as carbon pricing, national disability insurance, education reform and the Murray Darling solution.

At the same time, the fixation with the politics of the negative and the personal has left little oxygen for more reasoned, and indeed publicly important, debate on issues as diverse as productivity and taxation reform, defence, national health funding and federal-state financial relations.

Understandably, the voting public has had a gutful.

The consistently low personal approval ratings of both leaders is a damning indictment from an electorate that wants to engage in meaningful policy debate, not sift through unsavoury and spiteful allegations that ultimately have zero to do with the wellbeing of the average Australian.

As the next federal election looms large on the horizon, time is starting to run out in terms of either side of politics casting itself as the party of ideas, inspiration and leadership. We have reached the point where both sides must direct their energies to building policy credibility rather than demolishing their opponent.

At the same time they both must not underestimate the intelligence (and indeed the cynicism) of Australian voters, who are likely to reject policies based more on aspiration, intent and slogans than those that are concrete, funded, achievable and make a meaningful impact on the wider Australian polity.

Without such a change in direction Australians - who should be the most optimistic of people given our fortunate circumstances - will go to the polls looking to vote against a particular outcome rather than voting for something they see as a positive.


"Other lowlights included the unedifying pursuit of Julia Gillard over the socalled AWU affair- a campaign so vicious & brutal that it resulted in extraordinary & ultimately unfounded allegations of criminality against a serving prime minister".

Those are very strong words in the Editorial of a News Limited newspaper, particularly when its sister paper The Australian has made so much of the running in covering The AWU Scandal and Ms Gillard's role in it.

I'd appreciate your views please, and was it just me or is the editorial now hard to find on the Courier Mail's website.

This article from the former Western Australian anti-corruption commissioner might be of interest to the Courier Mail's editorial staff as well.

GetUp's view of its achievements in 2012

With thanks to reader Grant for the tip.

Here's the text of the GetUp email that's going out to its members.

In 2012, more than 600,000 GetUp members banded together, chipping-in and turning out when it would have been easy to stay home. We didn't pick the easy fights. You went up against the most powerful forces in Australia; politicians from all parties, powerful lobby groups and some of the wealthiest corporations in this country.

Next year is an election year, and there are many who will tell you that the writing is already on the wall for the issues we care about. Our movement would not exist if we thought like that.

This will be a tightly fought election, and the outcome - in the house and the Senate - is up for grabs. There's so much more at stake than who is elected. This is a year when public debate on the issues we most care about will be at its peak. Together, we can change the tenor and outcomes of this election. At the last two federal elections, GetUp members have run the largest independent campaigns Australia has ever seen. We've had more than 15,000 volunteers on the ground, distributed over 2 million issue scorecards, run successful High Court and Federal Court actions that gave over 169,000 Australians the chance to vote, and run the most effective issue advertising in Australia.

That's because we understand that politics is too important to be left to politicians -- it takes all of us. So let's stride into 2013, bigger and better than ever, with so much we care about at stake.

Can you help make 2013 our best year ever?

Chip-in to our election fighting fund:

Thanks again -- for all that you are, and all that you do,

The GetUp team

PS - GetUp doesn't receive any funding from government or corporations. Our movement relies on small (an average of $19.65 per person to be exact) donations from every day Australians like yourself. 2013 promises to be one of our most exciting years to date. Click here to chip in and give the GetUp movement a flying start to the election year:

How come Gina Rinehart or Andrew Forest don't employ this guy? He's got it sorted.

Thanks to reader Mel for the tip.   There must be a God to make sure we have access to this genius.   Oh sorry, that's not true, it's state funded universities with 100% approval rate HECS loans available at no cost that deliver us from the evil of a world that operated without this sort of thinking.

Dedicated to the miners, the manufacturers, the wealth creators and all who sail in them.

How Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt hid his PhD thesis

  • by: Samantha Maiden
  • From:         Sunday Herald Sun
  • September 23, 201212:00AM
Adam Bandt

Adam Bandt requested a three-year suppression order on his PhD thesis on Karl Marx. Source: Herald Sun

GREENS deputy leader Adam Bandt kept prying eyes from his PhD thesis exploring the theories of Karl Marx by slapping a three-year suppression order on the tome.

The former teenage Marxist, who confesses he once described the Greens as "bourgeois", has revealed the stunning conclusion to his 300-page epic is that Marxism did not offer "a proper explanation for what was happening in 21st century society".

He completed the thesis four years ago in 2008, but requested university officials impose a three-year ban on anyone reading it.

Now that the Bandt ban has expired, the Sunday Herald Sun was able to obtain a copy of his thesis from Monash University.

Titled Work to Rule: Rethinking Marx, Pashukanis and Law, it includes chapters on The Fuhrer of the Factory: exploring labour law in the Third Reich and examining theories of "the divine violence of the general strike".

But Mr Bandt denied he asked for his doctorate to be kept under lock and key to prevent political enemies making an issue of his Marxism doctorate at the 2010 election.

"I had hoped to publish my thesis as a book, and still do so on advice I ticked the box on the form that allows the work to remain confidential while discussions about publishing take place," Mr Bandt said.

"My thesis looked at the connection between globalisation and the trend of governments to take away peoples' rights by suspending the rule of law.

"I reviewed authors who write about the connection between the economy and the law from across the political spectrum, including Marx, Hegel and their followers, only to conclude none of them had a proper explanation for what was happening in 21st century society.

"In short, I argued that governments increasingly don't accept that people have inalienable rights, like the right to equality before the law, the right to a minimum income or the right to seek asylum."

Andrew Milner, Mr Bandt's supervisor, declined to discuss the thesis or the academic suppression order.

"As I'm sure you're aware, the relationship between graduate student and supervisor is governed by rules of strict confidentially," he said.

"So there is little I can tell you, except that the thesis was very well researched, very well written and very intelligently argued."

Two years ago it was revealed Mr Bandt once believed the Greens could prove a useful vehicle to pursue socialism.

On March 4, 1995, at Murdoch University, Mr Bandt wrote "the parliamentary road to socialism is non-existent" and described the Greens as a "bourgeois" party in a two-page memo.

"Communists can't fetishise alternative political parties, but should always make some kind of materially based assessment about the effectiveness of any given strategy come election time," he wrote.


This thesis is an attempt to rethink Marxist legal theory

The divine violence of the revolutionary general strike is capable of suspending the ban

It is beyond the scope of this thesis to fully engage with the contribution of psychoanalytic theory to law

The state’s role is no longer to entitle the subject but to create the space for neoliberal subjects to organise their  own desires

I wrote this oped piece for the Sydney Morning Herald just on two years ago

Alcatel links that secured Labor power deserve  scrutiny

January 7,  2011

Mike Smith


It was an odd thing for a bloke to utter when he also says, ''I can't even  operate a computer. I haven't got one on my desk. But I've got people in here  who can.''

Why did he hand government to Labor? Windsor said it was the national  broadband network. ''It was the game breaker. If they stuff it up, I get stuffed  too,'' he said.

As she sniffed the breeze after the election, Julia Gillard wrote to the  independents. ''Would you like a briefing with the chief executive office and  director of NBN Co, Mr Mike Quigley? He would be best placed to provide you with  the technical information on aspects of the NBN.''

Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Bob Katter met Quigley on August 31. Quigley had a  bit at stake - persuade the independents to back Labor and the NBN and he kept  his $2 million a year job. If they went the other way, NBN Co and  fibre-to-the-home were cactus.

Quigley seems to have converted Windsor into an evangelist for fibre, and no  doubt there were sighs of relief from the executives at NBN Co and at  Alcatel-Lucent, the company that has been handed $70 million in NBN contracts  and which stands to gain many hundreds of millions more.

When he announced Quigley's appointment to NBN Co, Senator Stephen Conroy  said: "Mr Quigley has had a distinguished 36-year career at Alcatel, one of the  world's largest telecoms technology and network deployment companies. He was  most recently president and chief operating officer of the company, leading more  than 55,000 staff and responsible for operations in 130 countries."

Alcatel claims it is the word's leading provider of fixed broadband services.  But the world is going mobile and Alcatel-Lucent is being left behind. It needs  more fixed broadband business.

This is not a story just about broadband. By convincing Windsor and  Oakeshott, Quigley's presentation skills may also have determined who was to  govern Australia.

It is worth looking at the history of Alcatel under the leadership of Quigley  and his chief financial officer, Jean-Pascal Beaufret.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission says that Alcatel, with Quigley as  president and chief operating officer, paid bribes to win business. Alcatel has  been fined $137 million for corrupt practices.

A US court document says the heads of several Alcatel subsidiaries and  regional bosses, some of whom reported to Alcatel's executive committee,  authorised high commission payments and so they knew, or were reckless in not  knowing, that Alcatel paid bribes to foreign officials.

NBN Co says that neither Quigley nor Beaufret ''had any involvement in the  matters that were the subject of the SEC announcement'' and the actions of  individual employees ''fell outside the accountability and jurisdiction'' of  Quigley and Beaufret.

Really? The SEC says that Alcatel was run by an executive committee made up  of senior officers including the chief executive and chief financial  officer.

In every bribery scheme in the complaint, the head of the relevant  subsidiaries and geographic regions were aware of or ignored indications that  employees were using consultants to pay bribes to foreign officials.

The offences for which Alcatel has been fined happened because of lax  management - like the lax management that led to waste in the Building the  Education Revolution scheme, and the waste, deaths and house fires in the roof  insulation scandal.

There is a common thread here - big talk, big vision, big future promises,  happy days - then a culture of slackness and lax management, rorts and, in  Alcatel's case, bribes and crimes. There are enough links between Labor, NBN Co  and Alcatel to raise serious questions.

In November 2009 Conroy's then media adviser, Tim Marshall, accepted a  position with Alcatel-Lucent Australia as its external affairs director - before  Alcatel was awarded its first contract for the network.

Conroy personally recommended the Labor figure Mike Kaiser for the $450,000  job as government relations manager at NBN Co - a job that was never  advertised.

Conroy said he was not a close friend of Kaiser. Kaiser was state secretary  of the Queensland division of the Labor Party and was elected as an MP in that  state's parliament in 2000. Kaiser appointed Conroy to scrutinise for him during  vote counting at his election. Kaiser later resigned his seat after being named  in a Criminal Justice commission report into electoral rorting.

Kaiser went on to be the chief-of-staff for the NSW premier before moving  back to a similar position for Anna Bligh in Queensland.

We'll never know whether Windsor would have handed government to Gillard if  he had known about Alcatel-Lucent's history or its links to Labor in Australia.  But there are questions to be answered about the whole NBN business.

Mike Smith is Fairfax Radio's 2UE drive time presenter. He has held  senior executive positions in the telecommunications  industry.

Read more:

Our new national first priority is to find a new national first priority for the NBN

Telemedicine ‘trebles death rate’ in elderly patients

20 April 2012

An analysis in the US has suggested the remote monitoring of elderly patients is linked to substantially increased death rates, casting doubt on the Department of Health's flagship project to roll out greater access to telemedicine.

The findings come as the DH confirmed the full results of their Whole Systems Demonstrator Project will be published shortly in the BMJ, after criticism that it had not published the full results.

The American study is a further blow to ambitious plans to increase the use of telemedicine in the NHS to save the health service up to £1.2bn over five years.

Data from the WSD project released earlier this year showed a 45% reduction in mortality and a 20% fall in emergency admissions in patients with access to telemedicine – but this new study on a separate US project published in the Archives of Internal Medicine this week showed remote telemonitoring was associated with increased mortality in vulnerable patients.

The study of 205 elderly patients with a high risk of hospitalisation showed a significant increase in the mortality rate over 12 months, with rates over 12 months for the telemonitoring group at 14.7%, compared with 3.9% for the usual care group.

Telemonitoring made no difference in hospitalisation rates, with rates of 63.7% in this group, compared with 57.3% in the usual care group. The report also found no differences in emergency department visits, compared with pre-enrollment.

The researchers were unable to explain the differences, but suggested it could be because an increased number of interventions and tests in the telemonitoring group.

The paper said: ‘The difference in mortality between the two groups could be due to the lower-than-expected mortality among the usual care group or could represent higher mortality among the telemonitoring group because of increased access to healthcare that occurred with telemonitoring.'

‘For example, the performance of unnecessary tests could have resulted in increased mortality among the telemonitoring group.'

Dr Paul Cundy, chair of the GPC's IT subcommittee and a GP in Wimbledon, south London, said: ‘This study tells us the current fashion for shoving it down everyone's throats is not supported by evidence and if anything the evidence shouts loud and clear that this needs far greater scrutiny before it is embarked on wholesale.'

Pulse has learnt the Department of Health will publish the full results of the WSD project in the BMJ shortly. A DH spokesperson said it is being peer reviewed in BMJ and will be published once the BMJ's processes have been finished.

Cornwall PCT, one of the sites chosen for the pilot alongside Kent and Newham, has announced it will lead the push to roll out the scheme nationally, despite full results of the pilot not being released.

Speaking to Pulse, Dr Mark McCartney, a GP in Cornwall said this was a mistake.

He said: ‘The delay is causing problems. In Cornwall, we have been asked to endorse a roll-out of telemedicine on the basis of the headline figures before we have been given the chance to see the academic debate.'

Pulse this month revealed that a separate pilot for telemonitoring at NHS Gloucestershire had reached less than a quarter of the 2,000 patients it was commissioned to help, despite offering referral fees to GPs.

Last month researchers working on the DH pilot revealed unpublished cost-effectiveness data that showed it had had little effect on quality of life and had shown a cost per QALY of £88,000.


In figures

- The study looked at 205 elderly patients, with an average age of 80.3 years

- There was little difference between hospitalisation rates of telemonitored patients (63.7%) and usual care group (57.3%)

- Mortality for telemonitored group was 14.7%, compared with 3.9% for usual care group

Source: Arch Intern Med 2012, online 16 April  


Thanks to Ozziebloke for the link.

It sort of makes sense doesn't it.  That decision again, deal with a doctor or a computer screen.   Anyway the NBN decision was subject to rigourous back of the beer coaster sensitivity analysis on the VIP jet by Stephen Conroy and Kevin Rudd so don't question it.


Magnificent material. Just world class material. The construction of the gag, the build-up, the timing - no, this gear has no peer.

I don't know about you, but this sort of practical joke, long time in the making, capturing a whole nation, the wait, wait, wait for the punchline.   It needs a special crew to pull it off, and the NBN people along with Red Reg Grundies and the whole Labor team have done it again.   Hats and red undies off.   You guys are in a league of your own.

In this complex joke construct, $50 billion is employed to rip up a good series of networks and replace them a new network that's better in some ways, not so hot in others.   Anyway, that's beside the point of the gag.

The crack-up was that all the way along, they said that this thing called Tele-Health was the big idea for this new $50 billion network.   Red Reg Grundies said it, Kev said it, it was the mantra.   That's why it was being built.

So here's the punch-line of the practical joke.   Red Reg, you are wicked!   He's employed this guy Mike Quigley on a few million a year.   And he lines him up to have a press conference to say that tele-health, tele-medicine is still the big ticket item, the number one app for the $50 billion network.

Only the day before, Red Reg, Miss Gillard, Wayne and the other guys all got together and pulled out funding for all the telehealth rebates.   So there's no funding for it!

Hilarious.    Poor old Mike Quigley, wouldn't you have loved to have seen his face when he got the joke?

National Broadband Network to help elderly stay in own homes, project boss says
  • by: Phillip Hudson
  • From:Herald Sun
  • December 27, 201212:00AM
    Mike Quigley

National Broadband Network (NBN) company chief executive Mike Quigley says the project will help the elderly. Picture: Renee Nowytarger  Source: The Daily Telegraph

THE National Broadband Network will help older people stay in their own homes longer and their aged care will cost a fraction of what they would pay for a nursing home, the man in charge of building the project says.

NBN boss Mike Quigley also says households will receive better and faster broadband for what they already pay.

Mr Quigley hit back at critics who had derided the NBN's slow roll-out, saying the decade-long project was like "pushing the pig through the python" but it would hit big milestones in the next 12 months.

Mr Quigley said some of the biggest benefits of the NBN's high-speed broadband to homes would be in health and aged care. Patients will be able to see doctors on TV screens and have simple tests and consultations via computer.

He said a US study found home health monitoring cost $1600 a year, compared with $13,121 for a visiting nurse or $77,745 for a nursing home.

An Australian pilot scheme by aged care provider Feros Care found the daily cost of using broadband was $3.46-$7.14, compared with $967 for an acute hospital bed.

"Most old people don't want to leave their homes," Mr Quigley said. "This could let them stay for a fraction of the cost of a day in hospital."

The NBN has about 30,000 active customers. Mr Quigley said the aim was to have the network available to 286,000 homes by June.

"I want the public to know it's now real," he said. "All of the design work and the architecture work that's taken years, and the regulatory work and structural separation - all of that's now been done."

Mr Quigley said Australia would depend on the NBN with growing demand for video services requiring fast broadband. He predicted governments would use the network to deliver services such as social security, education and health.

He rejected claims of cost blow-outs, saying deals with providers meant more upfront costs but would save money over the life of the project.

Mr Quigley denied the company was wasting taxpayers' money, following criticism it was spending too much on staff and taxis.

"In a start-up, that normally happens," he said.

He said no NBN staff flew domestic business class, and trains and taxis were used over limousines.

*Editor's note.   Oh to be in a position to say I use taxis over limousines whereever possible.

Our numbers on the blog are holding up pretty close to normal levels during the break

We're at or about our long-term average, around 30,000 per day.   That average of course includes a lot of time at the start with no page impressions, then just a few.   The average say for the week when The AWU Scandal was prominent in Question Time was around 100,000 per day, so 30,000 a day during the Christmas break is quite something.

My apologies for the time it's taking to plough through the comments still awaiting moderation.

I present as Exhibit One for the defence, this photo that documents the perfect weather, tide, inclination of whiting to be present and on the chomp, correctness of bait - and then the simple joy of seeing the kids eat for lunch fish that they'd caught themselves that morning.

Photo (23)

Stephen Conroy told me that the NBN's major benefit, the biggie, the Grand Prize, Division One - was telemedicine

Telemedicine, the big killer application.

Could someone do me a favour?   I interviewed Stephen Conroy many times and he told me that high definition videoconferencing (with such resolution as to permit the examination, indeed the counting and colour classification of nasal hair) was the big kahuna of NBN apps, it was the singular reason to rip up the bad old horrible "internet" and whack in the $50KEV new NBN.   If you know where that interview is could you send me the link?  

Poor old Stephen will have an episode of dyspepsia when he sees this.   What are we gonna use the NBN for now?   There's only so many times you can download that Gangnam bloke dancing around.

Millions across Australia to lose Telehealth rebates from New Year

THE cost of specialist healthcare will soar for millions of Australians from Tuesday under cost-cutting changes to the Federal Government's beleaguered Telehealth scheme.

And doctors will have to mothball millions of dollars worth of new computer equipment as another fallout of the troubled Telehealth scheme.

From January 1, more than eight million people in outer urban and semi-regional areas will be stripped of their Medicare rebate for internet video consultations with medical specialists, as their suburbs and towns are reclassified as "major cities".

In South Australia, the original eligible service area took in more than 1.1 million residents in suburbs and towns north and northwest of Modbury Heights, east of Magill and south of Port Noarlunga.

The redefined boundaries have slashed the number of eligible residents to just over 421,000, with patients in those areas now classified as living in a "major city".

Patients as far south as Willunga, Aldinga, Sellicks Beach and McLaren Vale and as far north as Gawler will now have to travel to the city for specialist consultations, something the Australian Medical Association federal president Dr Steve Hambleton says is a problem for those with mobility issues or without personal transport.

Quietly announced in October, the geographical changes will save the Government $128.5 million on the $620 million scheme, which was the centrepiece of Prime Minister Julia Gillard's 2010 election campaign launch.

Dr Hambleton said he had received many complaints from doctors upset their patients may be put at risk.

"I've had doctors call me to say they've had patients set up to do Telehealth with psychiatrists, for example, who bulk bill who now simply won't get access to those services," he said.

"We do need to focus these rebates where they're most needed but some people in outer urban areas were getting very beneficial access to services, particularly psychiatrists, who now just won't be."

Since July last year patients have been able to claim the cost of internet video consultations with specialists back from Medicare as long as they are conducted at a clinic within the eligible service area, and the specialist is at least 15km away.

Dr Hambleton said patients in reclassified areas would still get a rebate for Telehealth if they accessed it from rural clinics, even if consulting the same specialist.

Meanwhile, GPs in reclassified areas who have received rebates of up to $6000 to install Telehealth-equipped computers in clinics now say the equipment is virtually useless.

Grinding America Down

I can't embed the movie "Grinding America Down" on my website here in Australia.   But for a short time, as Isabell points out, you can see it on the Vimeo website.  

Thanks for the tip Isabell.


Isabell said:                           
                                I have had this movie for about a week now. After watching it I wanted to share it immediately but I felt that more people would get a chance to watch it after the busy Christmas period.  It's called "Grinding America Down" and its available for a short time in the full movie length free on the link below. It is available online to purchase thru the website and I have asked if there is a Region 4 version and am awaiting their reply. As the title suggests, its about America, but it is also about Australia. The similarities are frightening. What's happened/happening in the USA is just as relevant to Australia. The same forces that are "grinding America down" are at work right here in Australia. We cannot rely on journalism from the ABC or the MSM. These outlets are dishonest. Stalin referred to them as 'Useful idiots'. Those reports on the ABC and the MSM are not a REFLECTION OF REALITY. Introduce your family and friends to blogs like Michaels, Piers, Bolta, Miranda etc. They report honest and accurate news.  In the next few days there will be critical decisions for the USA which Australia will be drawn into. We were lucky the last time because we had adults from the previous LNP that had the sense to "set aside some padding for a rainy day".  This time however, Australia is in a precarious situation. There is no padding because the children in charge of our economy have wasted it on trinkets to buy the favors of those that feel being on welfare is an entitlement. I, like most hardworking Australians want to help the helpless and vunerable, those that have paid taxes all their working lives and now deserve a pension, but we resent funding the lazy.  Please pass this movie after you watch it onto as many family and friends as you can. They need to see just what we are up against in 2013, the election year. If the Labor party get back in next year, the Australia we know and love today, will cease to exist. What a frightening thought for our grandchildren.                           
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