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Category Archives: NSW politics

Three unrelated items

73420_159175 1. Someone has to do it…

I see from SameSame that William Yang has been photographing Matthew Mitcham. “William Yang’s ‘Photographing Matthew Mitcham’ exhibits at Barry Stern Galleries, 19 Glenmore Road, Paddington NSW 2021, from December 14.”

I think I’ll check that one. 🙂

William Yang has appeared on this blog before: Very rare and special: pics from M’s Chinese New Year Party 3.

2. Tony Blair and the WMD Fantasy.

So many have commented on Tony Blair’s latest admissions, but one of the best I have seen comes from the Legal Eagle blog cooperative: BLiar: Warmonger by his own admission. It’s one of DeusExMacintosh’s excellent visual entries.

…And no, I’m not just being funny. There are now grounds for thinking that the 45 minute claim – the sole direct threat posed by Saddam’s regime to British interests – featured in the dodgy dossier and heavily promoted by number 10 spin-doctors, now seems to be based on gossip from an Iraqi taxi driver that had been clearly flagged as unreliable.

3. OMG: I agree with Paul Sheehan

You don’t see that every day! Sirdan and I were discussing the current push for recall elections, which has been brought on by frustration with the NSW government’s performance in recent years. Sounds a good idea, but I had doubts and it seems Paul Sheehan shares them exactly.

As for constitutional change, switching from four-year to three-year terms makes sense for NSW. But creating the capacity for recall elections is problematic. In California, even a popular governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has been overmatched by the state’s structural crisis.

During a visit to California this year I saw the problem at first hand. The state constitution allows an unusually diverse array of grass-roots participation, with voter initiatives, referenda, voter ratification and recall elections. The result has created burdensome requirements on government, which should be allowed to govern.

California also has term limits. Members of the state assembly are restricted to three two-year terms and state senators are restricted to two four-year terms. But this, too, has had unintended consequences. It has served to gut the culture of compromise and the culture of experience.

The Herald, to its credit, has devoted a lot of space on its letters page to readers bucketing its petition for the introduction of recall elections. People think the media already has too much power.

Many also know that California is proof there is such a thing as too much democracy. They know not all that glisters in the golden state is gold.

 

Who killed Mr Ward? Four Corners 15 June 2009

This is a very disturbing story.

.. the shocking story of a well respected community leader in outback Western Australia who was locked in a metal cell in the back of a prison van and driven through the desert in the searing heat. Four hours later he was dead.

In his lifetime Mr Ward, whose first name is not used in respect for Aboriginal custom, had gone from a traditional hunter-gatherer life in the desert of Western Australia to becoming a spokesman for his people in Australia and overseas.

On a hot Saturday night, just over a year ago, Laverton police arrested Mr Ward for driving under the influence of alcohol. Less than 24 hours later he was dead. He had been transported 400 kilometres in the back of a prison van operated by a private security firm. The air temperature inside his cell was over 47 degrees, and the metal surface reached 56 degrees…

The guards driving the prison van did not stop to check his welfare or see if he needed a toilet break, food or water until, they say, they heard a thud from the back. Even then they didn’t unlock both the cell doors, and instead threw water on Mr Ward through the chained-up inner door.

"We don’t treat animals like that. We don’t treat our pets like that. People get put in jail for treating another… another creature the same as Mr Ward was treated." Dennis Eggington, Aboriginal Legal Service of WA

Evidence from the inquest reveals the Department of Corrective Services was explicitly warned of the high risk involved with transporting prisoners in their ageing and sub-standard fleet of vehicles, by the former company providing the transport service…

Basically, this converted a drink-driving matter into execution by cooking to death.

Today in The Sydney Morning Herald we learn this:

THE private prison operator found responsible for the gruesome death in custody of a West Australian Aboriginal elder last year was invited to bid to run a NSW prison.

Mr Ward, whose family has asked that his first name not be used, suffered third-degree burns and slowly burned to death in almost 60-degree heat in the back of a prison van on a 400-kilometre trip from Laverton to Kalgoorlie in January last year.

He had been charged with drink-driving and was refused bail in an unrepresented 10-minute hearing by an unqualified justice of the peace…

G4S Australia [formerly GSL] was one of five companies invited by the NSW Government to tender for the running of Parklea prison last month as it pursues a contentious privatisation policy at the western Sydney jail.

The company was awarded the contract to transport prisoners in WA despite a damning report by the Department of Immigration in 2005 on its transportation of five detainees from Melbourne to Baxter Detention Centre in South Australia.

The five prisoners, kept in the back of a GSL van for seven hours without food and with only one bottle of water, were forced to urinate in each other’s company. On that occasion, GSL promised it would take whatever steps it could "to ensure that this can never happen again"…

A company that previously owned the vans, AIMS, recommended the same year that they not be used for long-haul trips.

The WA government promised to replace the vans but never did, buying them instead and giving the transport contract to GSL.

In a statement the company said it took immediate action after Mr Ward’s death to prevent a recurrence, but it provided no details of the action.

The NSW Corrective Services Minister, John Robertson, was unavailable for comment last night.

No need to say more, is there?

 

Two issues fellow bloggers have taken up

1. Smoking in psychiatric clinics and hospitals

Jim Belshaw went rather over the top in his title, but I do agree with the post: NSW strikes another Hitlerian blow. The issue, as Jim says, is one of compassion versus “being right”.

I quote from the Sydney Morning Herald:

A ban on smoking in all psychiatric facilities will go ahead despite vehement opposition from some members of the mental health community, who argue that strict anti-smoking rules will destabilise acutely ill patients and put staff at risk of violence.

NSW Health has ordered all facilities, including emergency psychiatric centres, to close designated outdoor smoking areas, confiscate tobacco products and supply free nicotine replacement therapy to staff and patients.

If accurate, this is one of the most inhumane statements I have ever heard.

A comment from a schizophrenic endorsed that, as did I. So too in today’s Sydney Morning Herald letters does a practitioner in the field.

As a doctor I strongly support anti-smoking policies. But there are specific issues relating to mental health patients that make the move against smokers by NSW Health deplorable ("Tobacco ban leaves mental health groups fuming", March 19).

Mental health patients may be voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary patients may simply stroll off the hospital grounds to smoke. But involuntary patients are detained against their will in hospital under the Mental Health Act and are not allowed that liberty.

They are by definition so mentally disordered that the last resort of the act has been invoked because they may be a risk to themselves or others. These patients are frequently agitated and smoking is one method they use to calm down. In this state they lack the capacity to consider the benefit of stopping smoking, and this is clearly not the time in their lives to introduce intransigent non-smoking rules that only escalate their agitation.

In the past these patients were allowed to go outside to smoke escorted by security staff, but since the introduction of smoking bans they may no longer do so. In hospitals all over NSW these poor individuals are being physically restrained and given sedative drugs when their agitation escalates. This infringes the spirit of the Mental Health Act, which stipulates that it may be invoked to detain a person only when there is no less restrictive means of doing so. Clearly allowing them to smoke is far less restrictive than physical restraint and sedation.

We already make these patients suffer protracted stays in crowded emergency departments, due to the failure of NSW Health to provide beds for them. It is easy to imagine what effect this has on individuals who are at the lowest ebb of mental wellbeing. To add insult to injury they are now told that their last vestige of self control – to seek solace with a smoke – is being withheld, in what must seem an arbitrary and cruel act by their carers.

Doctors are placed in the unenviable position of choosing to restrain the individual or to let them out on their own, with the risk they may abscond and harm themselves. What a sad state we have sunk to.

Dr Alvaro Manovel Randwick

There is a contrary letter too, but I know from experience and observation that the idea really is a bad one – whatever you think about smoking.

Jim also expresses lack of surprise over the defeat of the alcopops tax, and I agree in fact that it was never the most brilliant of ideas and suspiciously like a tax grab rather than a well thought out policy on the social problems caused by alcohol. On the other hand, imperfect as it was, I am sorry it was defeated, particularly because I think Senator Fielding (Family First) was using his new-found power in a naive and unconsidered way. Pass it and agitate in future for better, I would have thought, which is more or less Bob Brown’s position. All that has been achieved is another problem for the economy.

2. That alleged list of sites on the government’s internet filter black list.

My position on the folly of the involuntary Net Nanny the Rudd government is so keen on is clear enough from the top of my side bar. Recently a certain site, which apparently is now on the black list itself, published what it says is the black list. That leaked list included a number of very odd choices. See Dentist, tuckshop cited on web blacklist.

Websites contained on it will be blocked for all Australians once the government implements its mandatory internet filtering scheme – originally pitched as targeting only "illegal" content – later this year.

But, as experts have long warned the government, having a top-secret blacklist of banned sites is dangerous because there is a real danger that Australian businesses could be added to the list in error, with little recourse.

Bruce has posted (with ironic discretion) here, Arthur here, and Pip Wilson here — “Senator Conroy’s and the Australian Labor Party’s infantile Internet witchhunt”.

Update Sunday 22 March

Go to Wikileaks threaten Conroy with extradition proceedings.

 

What a pity I am retired…

That was my first thought when I saw Teachers in laptop of luxury.

Every NSW public high school teacher will get a wireless mini-laptop computer just like their senior students.

The $44 million expansion of the school computers program means teachers will have access to the same equipment and software as students in years 9 to 12. It also provides an extra 20,000 computers for primary schools, ensuring more junior students have access to the latest learning technology…

Ms Firth said $16million of state funding and $28 million of federal money would be spent buying laptops for the state’s 25,000 public high school teachers and providing an extra 20,000 new computers to primary schools.

Some netbook manufacturer/seller will be rejoicing, assuming the NSW government pays on time of course – which hasn’t always been the case. But then I thought: why should 25,000 teachers get a netbook? Think about it. Surely they could buy one, if they don’t have one already? Perhaps the items will be packaged with certain wireless configurations and filters, and certain program suites, to match the student computers. Maybe that’s it. Students get to keep their computers, I believe; they would be pretty useless after three years or so anyway.

And then, what about Google? I put a tart note on one of my Google Reader selections the other day when the Reader was malfunctioning, as it does from time to time, to the effect that there is a Rule of Google: this product will work – most of the time… But this morning’s story is a corker! Tangled web as Google goes ga-ga.

YOUR local phone exchange is down and your landline and mobile are not working. You need to make an urgent business call but you have no way of communicating with the outside world. What do you do?

A similar scenario hit the internet yesterday when Google, the dominant search engine, suffered a malfunction and marked all websites as dangerous, blocking them from use.

Millions of users were unable to access the sites they were looking for, and instead received the warning: "This site may harm your computer".

While the problem lasted only about 40 minutes, experts estimate millions of dollars were lost from online transactions dependent on the company’s search functions. Users reported failures on other Google applications such as Gmail, which has 1.3 million accounts with the (NSW) Department of Education…

Must see if there has been any effect on this humble site’s visits… Hmm, there is a gap between 1 and 2 in the morning our time…

And while on the Internet, I am sorry to see that BlogExplosion seems to have exploded at last. It had been like the “Marie Celeste” for some time now, with the last faithful volunteers having jumped ship and the forums choked with spam messages. But it was a useful site, and quite a few of my blogroll people came to me via BlogExplosion – Worldman and Benjamin Solah to name just two. See also BlogExplosion is gone?, Is BlogExplosion Down, Closed, Out of Business or what? and LiveUniverse Unavailable– BlogExplosion.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2009 in computers, education, NSW politics, web stuff, www

 

This post is by no means meant to be cynical…

There’s a story in Lawrence Potter’s This May Help You Understand The World (2007) – see Book notes and footnotes – that prompted this, along with today’s Sun-Herald story NSW students to get promised laptops.

Lawrence Potter was at one time teaching in Rwanda.

The school I taught at had a link with a school in Australia, which occasionally raised funds for it. During my time, the link resulted in two improvements. A group of Australian schoolchildren visited and painted the school hall yellow, and twenty laptop computers arrived on the back of a truck.

I don’t want to be ungrateful, but it struck me that there might have been better uses for the raised funds than yellow paint and computers. The school hall had been a little dingy, but it was perfectly capable of doing its job, and was really only used by the karate club anyway. Meanwhile, the students slept two-to-a-bed in the dormitories (not out of choice), and most of the classroom windows were broken. And what about the computers? Well, I know that ICT is meant to be the solution to most problems, but it can’t do much if there is no regular electricity supply. Nor is it that helpful if nobody knows how to use it. The computers sat around in a room, to which visitors of the school were often shown. But students never went near it.

And I note: Rwandan Government to Digitalize Schools (22 July 2008).

The Rwandan government is moving to digitalize primary and secondary school curriculums based on the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) plan, which aims to provide each student with a laptop computer.

Rwanda is participating in the OLPC roll-out program, which the government said will be extended to all primary school children within five years.

The initiative is a move away from the traditional chalk-and-blackboard methodology, instead using ICT in curriculum development and transmission to students, said Théoneste Mutsindashyaka, Rwanda’s minister of state for primary and secondary education.

Integrated science and technology in the education sector is one of the ministry’s priorities, Mutsindashyaka said. Rwanda’s ICT adviser is currently in India in order to adopt that country’s digital science content, he affirmed, as the two countries have similar curriculums…

While the ministry hopes for all schools to make use of e-learning, details remain sketchy, as Mutsindashyaka was tight-lipped regarding the deal with OLPC and its cost.

Last year, Rwandan President Paul Kagame confirmed that a deal had been reached between the Rwandan government and OLPC to supply laptops to schools. Under the deal, Kagame said at the time, OLPC would provide laptops and support to fully test its concept at no cost to Rwanda.

I am not knocking that story, though the juxtaposition with the previous one is intended, as it is with our latest Kevin Rudd and NSW venture:

EVERY senior NSW public school student will get to keep a mini laptop after a new funding deal was thrashed out at yesterday’s Commonwealth-state funding talks in Canberra.

Some will receive their custom-built computers, powered by a wireless broadband network, by the end of term two next year, with the State Government planning to seek expressions of interest from manufacturers as early as Wednesday.

The successful tenderer will produce laptops based on a prototype already developed by IT experts in the Education Department. Students will be able to keep their computers after they leave school.

The funding breakthrough came after months of bitter fighting over the Federal Government’s offer of $1 billion to the states to fulfil federal Labor’s election promise to give every year 9 to 12 student a computer…

the breakthrough in negotiations yesterday means NSW students will soon add a lightweight laptop to their schoolbags after Premier Nathan Rees secured sufficient funding to finalise a massive bulk buy with a computer company.

The Federal Government has coughed up an extra $3.55 billion in education funds to the states.

Mr Rees immediately pledged that NSW would lead the country by providing 197,000 senior public school students with the specially designed teenager-friendly computers. [sic!]

Half the state’s public high schools would have wireless internet connections by mid-2009, he promised, signalling the start of the laptop rollout. Mr Rees told The Sun-Herald NSW would receive $200 million from the Commonwealth for computers in public schools – and offered the other states and territories the chance to join NSW in a huge computer spending spree.

"We’re ready to push the button to seek market players as early as Wednesday and we can help other states get on board by being the national broker for the deal."…

Hmm. This may not be as good an idea as it seems. Think about it.

Very often foisting things on people because it seemed a good idea at the time is not the brightest thing to do, but it makes good copy and gives the impression of decisiveness. I would include the former Australian government’s Northern Territory Intervention in such a critique, by the way. In another era Disadvantaged Schools in NSW were at some time (I think in the 70s) all issued with carpet, because it was decided, not all that unreasonably, that this actually had certain educational benefits, noise reduction and insulation not least. However, it soon became a standing joke that you could always tell a Disadvantaged School because even the store rooms were carpeted… Carpet was just thrown at them whether they needed or wanted it or not, and had to be used for, well, something.

I have similar niggles about what Rudd and our Premier Rees have just stitched up. I can see the potential for all sorts of duplication and wastage here. I can, I might add, see why the schools don’t, it seems, get to keep the laptops. After two to three years of “teenager-friendly” use they will probably not be worth keeping!

Back to Lawrence Potter again. I love his ability to take a really fresh look at the issues he deals with, while clearly taking great care to check his facts – a point he does make in his introduction. Don’t let his “teenager-friendly” style fool you. He is hard-nosed when needs be, but it is impossible after reading his concise account of world finances and the developing world (a term apparently not quite politically correct in some circles) to escape the conclusion that Free Market Enthusiasm is itself a convenient delusion which has among its many advantages its power to relegate concrete human problems and real ethical and moral issues so that they don’t interfere with profit too much.

And on “teenager-friendly”: should we read that as a clue? See Hewlett-Packard to Unveil Teenager-Friendly Computer Line.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2008 in Africa, Australia, Australia and Australian, awful warnings, computers, education, future schooling, globalisation/corporations, Kevin Rudd, NSW politics, Political, politics, weirdness

 

Politics — random notes…

Thomas was the first to note the Opposition’s hypocritical grab for the votes of us pensioners: Breaking news from the Australian Senate: Pension Bill passes. It is a stunt, because it fails to make systemic changes; nice to get, maybe, $30 a week — I’ll go to Brazil for a year on that — but for, what, twelve years the assholes did bugger all, and now they act like Father Christmas? Pardon my cynicism.

Meanwhile The Merchant of Venice — thanks for that, Wayne Swan — is touting his personal experience of the likes of Goldman Sachs to castigate the government. As Peter Hartcher rightly notes in the Sydney Morning Herald, That’s rich coming from him!

…There are a number of reasons that Turnbull has a reputation for economic credibility. One was his ability as a canny deal-maker; another was his time in the employ of Kerry Packer; a third is his successful accumulation of private wealth.

But perhaps the most important was his time as a “merchant banker”, an occupation which became terminally unfashionable in the 1990s when it became rhyming slang for “wanker”. It was discreetly reclassified as “investment banking”.

Turnbull founded his own investment bank, Turnbull and Partners, in 1987. He sold the business 10 years later to the great Wall Street investment bank of Goldman Sachs.

He became chairman and managing director of Goldman Sachs Australia. More profitably, he was made a partner.

Of the many incarnations of Malcolm Turnbull, it was this one that most imprinted itself on the public perception of the man; most references to him in recent years presented him as a “former merchant banker”.

Yesterday, after 139 years, Goldman Sachs ceased to exist as an investment bank. Indeed, investment banking, in the form we know it, ceased to exist…

Malcolm Turnbull has plenty of front. It has been perhaps his greatest asset so far, but what is behind the front? We await developments…

Meanwhile the man with the extremely unfortunate personality, Michael Costa, has quit NSW politics, and the good ship NSW Labor continues like the Titanic after the iceberg.

Politics! Bah humbug!

 

Local government elections today in NSW, and the State Government’s disarray

On the second, I commend Jim Belshaw to you. The farce that the NSW Labor government has become is most dispiriting, and will no doubt impact on Labor’s chances in the current round of local government elections. Unless particular candidates from Labor have good track records on local issues, and no doubt that will be the case in some Municipalities and Shires, I think it is safe to say Labor candidates will be so on the nose with the electorate after the past few months that their chances are slim. This is sad, as one of my confreres at South Sydney Uniting Church is a Labor candidate for Sydney. Clover Moore’s sitting Independent team will win.

The woes of NSW Labor do not yet seem to have dented Kevin Rudd, but I am sure he is watching all this with some concern.

And the outcome for Sydney?

Clover Moore is back with a big swing towards her personally, +12.7% for the Mayoral election and +15.2% for her group. Labor has a swing of -8.0% overall. The Left vote, it would appear, has gone to The Greens with swings of +4.2% (Mayoral election) and +5.4% (Council election). So it will be a Clover and Greens future for Sydney in the main, though some Labor will get in and, behind them, a Liberal maybe… (It’s a quota system.) That is all with just over 50% counted. Check the final result later.