Saturday, 15 September 2012

A Cutting Analysis

Click on the scanned document for a better view

I've been able to obtain these figures which show cuts made to programmes by the LNP State government which have previously been supported, many of them for years.

I'd never argue that the government doesn't have to right to cease to fund these activities, but let's look at two issues. First let's examine what new initiatives have been funded, and then we'll identify the nature of those programmes which have been cut.

I'll do the second exercise first.

For the sake of brevity, let's classify them in the following way -

1. Targeting disadvantage - 5 programmes - $641000
2. Education - 19 programmes - $1729500
3. The Arts - 14 programmes - $1374400
4. Health - 3 programmes - $311000
5. Environment - 1 programme - $20000

The total savings are $4466000. It's important to understand that the withdrwal of these funds will effectivelly terminate many of these programmes,

In order of magnitude, it reads Education, The Arts, Targeting Disadvantage, Health and the Environment. This provides a pretty fair synopsis of the LNP's political ideology.

Now let's look at what has been enhanced or set up as a new initiative. This is much easier to identify. The cuts don't appear on the State Government website. The enhancements do. (Text in italics is from government press releases).

First, there's Racing -    This funding will be used to establish an additional 20 country race meetings per year, while another $5 million will be provided to the Queensland Thoroughbred Investment Scheme over the next two years, allowing Racing Queensland to increase much-needed prize money across the state.

Then there's the Commonwealth Games - The Newman Government has committed $20.9 million to the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in the 2012-13 State Budget.

There's also a reshaped first home owner's  grant - Premier Campbell Newman said first home buyers would receive $15,000 - up from $7,000 - when purchasing a newly constructed home or property off the plan, under the re-shaped First Home Owner Construction Grant (formerly First Home Owner Grant).

This always goes down well with the Real Estate Community. They simply add the grant to home prices and pocket the extra commission.

There's tourism - $20 million Tourism Investment Strategy focusing on key emerging markets 
And police - $146.9 million over four years to deliver an additional 1,100 new police officers 

As well as Agricultural research - $4.8 million for research to develop Queensland as the food bowl of Asia with a focus on pulses 

So what else does this tell us.

It tells us that racing is higher on the priority list than targeting disadvantage. It shows that splashing money on the games rates higher than education funding.

It says that tourism rates higher than health (and the environment that presumably the tourists travel to see).

Appointing more coppers is simply a payoff to the Police Union, traditionally supporters of conservative government in Queensland. Remember Fitzgerald?

And it looks as if the vegetarians will be happy with the spending on research on pulses.

Compare the scale of it all -  a saving of $4 million to kill important (and in some cases vital) programmes as against spending of $178 million for racing, the games, tourism, real estate and coppers.

Some of the programmes lost include Federation of Parents and Friends Association of Catholic Schools, Q2 Smart and Healthy Programme, Queensland Museum, Queensland Program of Assistance to Survivors of Torture and Trauma and Vision Australia.

Funds for these programmes were all comparativelly small amounts compared to the iniatives on Racing - $5 million plus $1 million a year for the next 5 years, and $20.9 million on the games.

At least the blind kids in the bush will be able to go the rural race meetings. Whether they'll get the support they need with the demise of the Vision Australia funding is another matter entirely.


Friday, 14 September 2012

Screw Unto Others

Since the LNP government in Queensland was elected, the following support has been removed from people with disabilities and their families –

It has shut down the Family Support Program, which provides medical aids, incontinence aids and childcare, administered through the Department of Communities. This funding also allowed carers to buy services such as respite care and transport designed to improve lifestyles for this group.

Taxi subsidies to people with disabilities have been capped at $400 per year. This equates to one two-way trip per fortnight, given the current fares.

The Disability Services Support Centre, an agency operating under the umbrella of Education Queensland, will be shut down at the end of the school year. This unit supplied equipment on loan to schools all over Queensland, which made it possible for many students to access schooling and to get the best out of it. It also provided training and support statewide to teachers in regular schools working with these students. It was a vital support structure to kids with disabilities in small remote schools, and there are plenty of those in Queensland.

Consider, for a moment, three different situations I know (no names – no pack drill) effected by these crass decisions.

I’m aware of a family in Toowoomba, with two severely autistic little boys. Prior to the withdrawal of the Family Support Programme, they were able to access funds to allow a once per month weekend break from caring for the boys, who have to be supervised 24/7. This means that only one parent can work, as the autistic behaviours are so severe that placement in Kindy isn’t possible without the provision of a one-on-one supervisor. They were lucky to find a Kindy which allowed the mother to attend with her children, and of course, she had to bring both boys along.

This really wasn’t working so the family were considering using the family support money to employ a support aide at the Kindy for a few hours per week, and to forgo the respite.

With the withdrawal of the Family Support Programme, they don’t have that decision to make now, of course, and are faced with no respite, no Kindy, and if you talk to them – no future.

I know an adult with a disability in Brisbane who relies on taxi transport to take her to her work as a librarian. She has a severe disability, uses a powered wheelchair, and the transport that’s viable is a hoist-equipped maxi-taxi. With the capping of the taxi subsidy, she will run out of transport in two months. She will have no way of getting to work.

Newman’s penny-pinching will mean that unless some benefactor turns up with the shortfall, she will have to resign her job, and become a disability pensioner. In summary, she will cease to be a contributing member of society, and a taxpayer. Quite apart from the economic absurdity of this, it will knock a big hole in her self-esteem. This is a proud young woman who has overcome enormous difficulty to live a dignified and fulfilling life.

Many students in small schools which lack the financial capacity to purchase essential equipment to allow them to access school rely completely on the loan equipment available through the Disability Services Support Unit. When the unit closes at year’s end, this facility will cease to exist.

Most small schools in Queensland have classrooms upstairs. If you no longer have access to a DSSU supplied stairclimbing machine, how do you get to your classroom? 

God knows what will happen to the equipment. My guess is that it will be sold off (at a fire sale of one kind or another) to a bunch of entrepreneurs who will proceed to make a quick quid out of hiring it out to the same schools that were getting the service for free - the market rules - free enterprise will prevail etc.

That notion fits very well with LNP philosophy, but unfortunately it won’t wash in the real world, as these small schools simply don’t have the money to hire equipment all year long. If you have cerebral palsy, or spina bifida, you don’t get better.

Maybe someone needs to point this out to CanDo.

There’s an irony in this. CanDo has effectively become Can’tDo for people with disabilities in Queensland.

The LNP has removed this support to the most vulnerable sector of the community on the basis of a sick ideology. This reeks of zealotry. It has nothing to do with humanity.

In forty years in this field, I’ve seen nothing like it.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Reflecting 9/11

I found this article in last week's Catholic Leader. It's moving and instructive.

The author is Fr John Chalmers.

Some extracts -  

Perhaps 1000 people were on the Memorial Plaza that day. Yet I detected a sense of awe, not dissimilar to the "something more" that Moses encountered at the burning bush. So awe-filled was his experience that day that Moses' only possible response was to take off his shoes. He was standing on Holy Ground. Ironically, in the name of security-screening, every visitor to the Memorial Plaza takes their shoes off and steps through an X-ray machine. In retrospect, how profound ... shoes are removed to ready the visitor for the sacred encounter, not so much at the burning bush but at our memories of the burning towers. Ground Zero is holy ground because of those people who lost their lives. It is holy ground for those people who miraculously survived thanks to revamped evacuation procedures after the 1993 bombing. The heroic efforts of firefighters, police and emergency services also make it holy ground. I like to think as well that the dedicated workers who occupied the World Trade Towers for over 30 years had also made it holy ground. It's equally a matter of awe, or rather of the awefulness we encounter in life, that buildings which took 10 years to construct, took less than 10 seconds to crumble on that fateful day. Is it mere coincidence or is it that "something more", "saving grace" that standing unobtrusively amid the rows of swamp white oaks, just back from the South Pool, is Ground Zero's burning bush, better known as "the Survivor Tree". "Planted on the original World Trade Centre site in the 1970s, on 9/11 it was reduced to an eight-foot stump in the wreckage at Ground Zero. Nursed back to health in a New York City park, the tree was uprooted by severe storms in March 2010. But it survived and it stands, supported by temporary guide wires as it takes root on Memorial Plaza."

And -  

My first impression as I stood beside or rather above the Memorial fountains, 21m (70 feet) below was "enormity", yes the enormous size of the two fountains, but equally the enormous loss of life on 9/11, the enormous evil we human beings can perpetrate on our fellow human beings, and the enormous capacity of human beings to reawaken the Spirit, so that respect for life is reaffirmed, respect for freedom is preserved and people are inspired to end hatred, ignorance and intolerance.

Powerful stuff.

The whole piece is here.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

More Irish Wisdom

This is timely, in that it's around the Olympic theme.

The paralympics have only just finished.

That's not why I posted it of course.

Stay with it until the's priceless.

Hugh White - Without America

Hugh White is always provocative, and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to criticising current defence policy. In 1995, he was appo...