Saturday, August 26, 2006

Sight unseen, but all okay

It was reported yesterday that Victoria’s Auditor-General has found serious concerns with regard to State-run aged care facilities.

The state’s aged care facilities have not improved in condition in the past five years, and more were at risk of “failing, inadequate or obsolete” infrastructure, a report by the Auditor-General finds.

The report found most facilities had not improved since 2001 and many still need rebuilding. The State Government strongly disputed this.

The Victorian State Government seems to be in denial mode.

Department of Human Services secretary Patricia Faulkner said the department did not agree with some findings as the methodology was “flawed”. She said claims the overall condition of facilities had not improved was “simply not consistent with tangible fact”. ...

Aged Care Minister Gavin Jennings backed the department. He said some of the report’s findings, particularly about fire safety, “don’t ring true”.

“I want to reassure members of the Victorian community that all Victorian public sector residential aged care facilities are fire safe and compliant and meet the standards required for their ongoing certification by the Commonwealth,” he said.

That the A-G’s findings “don’t ring true” to the Minister doesn’t really give his categorical reassurances a very firm foundation. The article goes on, “The department believes the problem identified in the report is more about poor documentation than non-compliance.” Well then, it is certainly appropriate to question how any adequate level of compliance can be assumed when the relevant documentation is “poor ”.

Assuming Mr Jennings is as bright as we’d hope he is, he will of course want to allay any unnecessary concern within the community regarding the welfare of our elderly. But we’d hope he will also be wanting, discretely but urgently, to ask some hard questions, and busy his departmental staff to make certain that his assurances are borne out in reality.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Goat Friday

A few quality blogs have a “Friday theme”. For instance, there’s Duck Friday and Friday Meltdown...

Now, since the pretension here is to aspire to “quality”, I’ve decided that Friday at Applied Hermeneutics shall be “Goat Friday”. No, I don’t intend to feature pictures of goats, but rather to describe a situation in which someone – more than likely, myself – has acted the goat.

(By the way, I’m not very good at maintaining regular habits, so this may well be both the inaugural and last “Goat Friday” – more the goat I. Let’s see how we go...)

For today’s goatery, I was inspired by a bit of foolishness I encountered at our office in the Melbourne CBD. The background is that our office is moving early next year, for economic reasons, to lowlier digs on the other, unfashionable, side of the city.

The move is being managed very efficiently and ethically, including keeping staff up-to-date with regular e-bulletins. In today’s communiqué was a set of “Frequently Asked Questions”, among which was the following FAQ:

If gym membership at gyms near the new building is more expensive than staff are currently paying here, will the company be looking at making up this shortfall?

The answer given was frankly in the negative. Fair enough too, one may think: This is an office, not a socialist collective. I thought I’d have a bit of fun with this perhaps misplaced sense of entitlement, so this afternoon I emailed my own query to be included in the FAQ:

If gym membership at gyms near the new building is less expensive than staff are currently paying here, will staff be required to pay the difference back to the company?

Okay, not all that gripping a yarn... But I promise to keep readers posted should my little prank result in summary dismissal, or workplace bastardisation ... or even a promotion.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Phil’s in phor it, now

Phillip Adams’ column today is dedicated to a long, merciless attack on conservative commentator Mark Steyn. Just for openers:

... adoring crowds of neo-cons and camp followers flock to laugh at the Canadian columnist’s jokes and to applaud his insights. Trouble is it’s near impossible to tell one from the other. The insights are comical and the jokes unfunny.

No doubt, the gloves will now be off among Steyn’s brethren.

First off, Phil can expect to be lambasted for sour grapes, because as Adams admits in his column, he wasn’t invited to any of the Steyn gigs – well, either that or “my invitation went missing in the mail”.

Still, for some of Steyn’s fans, only the most devastating of demolitions of Adams will suffice. I hope he will have prepared himself for the ultimate weapon of censure and invective.

Yes, that’s right, the taunts will again fly through the blogosphere of Phat Phil ... and worse, usually involving some lurid replacement of the letter f with ph.

I guess Adams has asked phor it.

Monday, August 21, 2006

AWB fallout continues

A couple of side issues have arisen in the last week with regard to the AWB, kickbacks, trade and all that.

US Agricultural Secretary Mike Johanns has told Australia that it must “belly up to the bar” and be prepared to end the “market distorting” single desk monopoly of the Australian Wheat Board (AWB). Mr Johanns is quoted as saying:

Whether it was the wheat board in Canada or Australia or a single desk approach in New Zealand, there was probably going to be a point during the negotiations where we said: “If you want our subsidies down, fine. We are happy to make that happen but we have to have market access and you have to contribute.” ... There are many that would argue that the Australian Wheat Board is a form of trade distortion and therefore a form of subsidy. It’s certainly a monopoly.

Tough talk indeed from Mr Johanns. Hopefully Australia’s trade representatives will talk equally tough, when they point out the assymetry between Australia’s subsidy-lite approach, in contrast to the US’s blatant and copious subsidising of much of its agricultural sector.

Meanwhile another trading-with-the-enemy embarrassment has been uncovered among documents scrutinised by the Cole Inquiry.

A Queensland company has been investigated by Australian Federal Police over fears that a 100-kilogram medical drug shipment was diverted to Iraq and possibly turned into nerve gas.

Documents show that in late 2002, as Australia geared up to support the US-led invasion to destroy Saddam Hussein’s alleged stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, the federal police questioned Alkaloids of Australia about a shipment of the anti-spasm drug hyoscine sent to the Syrian pharmaceutical company Ibn Hayan in 2001.

I did say “embarrassment”, as there doesn’t appear to be anything particularly implying deliberate wrongdoing on the part of the company. And apparently the material in question was as likely to be used in “tablets for stomach complaints” as anything more sinister.

This matter does, however, give an indication of just how fraught is the concept of “dual use” in administering trade and related sanctions.

Clarke & Dawe nail Ruddock

Clarke and Dawe have ‘nailed’ Philip Ruddock:

PHILIP RUDDOCK: ... I have been given these assurances by the United States Government and I expect these assurances to be fulfilled.


PHILIP RUDDOCK: The concept ‘fully’, Bryan, inheres in the doctrine of fulfillment.

Video of the Ruddock skit can be viewed from here (broadcast date 17 August 2006).