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Helani’s death ‘highlights need for more education’

Helani’s death ‘highlights need for more education’

When Helani Sirianni died shortly after her suction delivery birth at Wollongong Hospital, her parents vowed they would fight for answers.Yesterday, more than two years later, when the findings of an inquest into her death were handed down, Michael and Marlissa Sirianni made a special trip to their daughter's bright pink gravesite at Lakeside Cemetery, Kanahooka."We wanted to let her know that fight may not yet be over," an emotional Mrs Sirianni said last night."In my heart I know she would have survived if she had been given a chance," she added.Deputy Coroner Scott Mitchell found Helani died on February 10, 2008 from lack of oxygen to the brain following hypovolemic shock and multi-organ failure probably associated with vacuum extraction.Although her death exposed certain weaknesses in medical care she received at Wollongong Hospital, Mr Mitchell found no evidence any person was responsible."Sadly the full story of how Helani came to die so young will never be known and there are many questions which cannot be answered with any clarity," he said.He said cord blood may have assisted but it had been lost.The Siriannis pushed for the inquest, claiming their child had died through systematic failures at the hospital.The three-day hearing heard Mrs Sirianni had endured a long labour with slow progress and the baby in the wrong position.There was evidence from the Siriannis there were three requests for a caesarean but the obstetrics and gynaecological registrar on duty, Dr Monique Cebola, after consideration, decided a vaginal birth was achievable.When Dr Cebola decided a suction birth was necessary she said she warned the parents there would "be some risks", but Mr Sirianni in court strongly denied this was ever done.Dr Cebola checked the CTG foetal monitoring at 10.30pm on February 7, again at 1.30am on February 8 and found them "reassuring" but made no immediate decision for an assisted delivery and invited Mrs Sirianni to start pushing. When she returned at 2.30am she found there was no progression and signs of foetal distress on the CTG trace, which the court heard had become apparent as early as 1.50am.This was not communicated to Dr Cebola.Expert witness and consultant Dr John Schmidt told the inquest the dips were indicative of danger and foetal distress and he found them particularly alarming, Mr Mitchell said yesterday.Because Dr Cebola alone was authorised to make decisions regarding delivery and she was engaged elsewhere, she was unaware things had taken a turn for the worse."In Dr Schmidt's opinion, she should have been summoned," Mr Mitchell said.There was also evidence that paediatrician Dr Steve Hartman was called in at 3.30am when there were several attempts at inserting a cannula for fluid replacement, but when Helani began to stabilise he did not persist.He returned four hours later when Helani's condition deteriorated markedly.Despite the boggy swelling, a clinical indicator of a brain bleed, Dr Hartman initially missed the diagnosis, explaining to the court it was the first of this type he'd seen in 32 years.Mr Mitchell said Dr Hartman's difficulty in diagnosing Helani's condition underlined the need for education regarding brain bleeds.The court heard the only hope in these types of bleeds was if the body repaired itself."Had Dr Hartman recognised the bleeding when he first saw Helani at about 3.30am, then she could have enjoyed a longer period of circulation support and consequently a longer period during which the chances of spontaneous cessation might have been enhanced," Mr Mitchell said.Mr Mitchell made no adverse findings against Dr Cebola or Dr Hartman.He said the need for continuing education was amplified in expert evidence regarding the failure of nursing staff to properly read Helani's CTG trace, grasp its meaning and call for assistance.The court heard that since Helani's death the health service had tightened and improved its protocol and education in neonatal.Mr Mitchell described those improvements as "significant".Outside Glebe Coroner Court, the Siriannis said they were pleased with the changes."But unfortunately there was not enough evidence to find out if Helani may or may not have survived ... we don't believe she was given a proper chance for a better outcome and we are considering our options for further action," Mr Sirianni said.
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Injury won’t bench McLeod

Injury won’t bench McLeod

Wollongong coach Gordie McLeod is adamant his job with the Hawks won't be affected by a serious Achilles injury.McLeod ruptured the tendon during a game of squash on Tuesday night and will be on crutches for the next few months.But when the question was raised whether he'd take time off work, the 2009-10 NBL Coach of the Year left no doubt he would be back on the job within days. Full coverage of the Wollongong Hawks "It's not really going to matter because I only have to coach," McLeod said. "I don't have to do any running, so I'll pretty much be doing what I would normally do."The Hawks have started preseason training at the Snakepit and McLeod has trialled a few Australian-based American guards. But he isn't rushing to sign the club's second import and will continue to scour the United States in search of a starting playmaker."The guys that came in competed very well, but obviously we still have a list of guys overseas that we're interested in," he said."Finalising your roster is something you want to try and get done, but this time last year we were only just starting that process. We're further along the track with that this year and there's certainly no need to panic or rush things."While the Hawks effectively have just one vacancy for a US point guard, former Illawarra junior representative and Gold Coast Blaze shooting guard Tyson Demos has been training with Wollongong in recent weeks.The 22-year-old is without a club and McLeod is keen to add him if he can be fitted into the budget."Tyson started establishing himself with Gold Coast last season and you don't want to see a young player like that just kicked to the kerb," McLeod said."It'd be crazy not to try and look at how we might be able to get him involved. Hopefully we'll get some information back from the NBL on that and then we can consider ... Tyson's situation."The 2010-11 season tips off for the Hawks with an October 15 home game against Gold Coast.
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Let’s blow rivals’ minds: Saffy

Let’s blow rivals’ minds: Saffy

St George Illawarra prop Jarrod Saffy (second from left) shows some speed during a sprint at training in Wollongong yesterday. Picture: SYLVIA LIBERSt George Illawarra prop Jarrod Saffy believes landing psychological blows on their premiership rivals now will be the key to avoiding a repeat of last year's finals fade out.The Dragons play six teams that are well into the finals hunt before the play-offs start in September, beginning with the stuttering Gold Coast Titans at Kogarah on Friday.The squad and coaching staff have gone to extraordinary lengths to monitor workloads and training regimes to ensure the spectacular collapse in last year's title campaign doesn't recur. Full coverage of the Dragons Saffy claimed the Dragons were ready to lift a gear to maintain their momentum in the face of opponents scrambling to secure a finals position."I think it's important for the form of your team going into the finals, regardless (if) it's a top eight team or whoever you play," he said."You want to be playing well and doing the little things right, so when you come into the finals, you're winning games and doing those things correctly."I guess beating the top eight teams and getting in the finals knowing we beat them four weeks ago sits in the back of your mind."However, Saffy said losing to Parramatta in last year's qualifying final a week after beating them in round 26, remained a stern reminder about maintaining their intensity."We beat Parra and lost to them the next week, so we can't really take anything for granted," he said.This season is South African-born Saffy's last chance to win an NRL title before joining Super 15 rugby union franchise Melbourne Rebels.The Dragons welcomed back NSW State of Origin centre Matt Cooper, who has recovered from a hamstring injury, as well as Kiwi international second-rower Jeremy Smith after overcoming a calf problem.Smith has been named on an extended bench, with Mark Gasnier to come off the interchange again.Saffy said the hard-fought victory over South Sydney last Friday was a massive shot in the arm to kick-start their campaign towards a second successive minor premiership."It's great the belief," he said."Believing in your teammates and your team and what you're doing," he said."We sort of just stuck together and hung in there and it paid off in the end, no-one panicked."St George Illawarra tackle an eighth-placed Gold Coast without NSW star Greg Bird and Queensland lock Ashley Harrison at WIN Jubilee Oval.The Dragons then face Brisbane (seventh) at Suncorp Stadium, Manly (sixth) and Souths (ninth) at Kogarah and the Roosters at the Sydney Cricket Ground in the remaining rounds.Their other games are against the Raiders - still in the finals hunt - at Canberra Stadium and the struggling Newcastle Knights at EnergyAustralia Stadium.Saffy's front row teammate Matt Prior claimed the Dragons were preparing themselves to take on some desperate opposition trying to secure their finals positions in the coming rounds."Everyone is going to want to be playing their best football at this time of year to get into the semi-finals," he said."It's the most important part of the year."
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Can you count on Lady Luck?

Can you count on Lady Luck?

You'd think in this high-tech age that superstitions would be irrelevant. But they are not, and I am as guilty as anyone in believing them.Whenever I see a single pigeon, I desperately start looking for another because the ditty "One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy" runs through my head.I don't want sorrow, I only want joy. I need to find two birds.And why pigeons and not magpies, which is the bird of choice of most Australian believers? Probably because we didn't have maggies in Fiji where I grew up.So the superstition is altered to fit the circumstances, which must surely undermine its authority.My hubby tells a story of arriving at a motel very late with his former wife and two young daughters.His then spouse took one look at the green bedspread and flatly refused to stay in the room because green was bad luck.And who hasn't avoided walking under a ladder, crossed themselves after seeing a black cat, tossed a pinch of salt over their left shoulder and tugged on a wishbone.Eleven days ago it was Friday, August 13. Without thinking of the significance, I rang a supplier to order 13 bedside lamps for the motel."Oh no," he spluttered."You can't order 13 lamps on Friday the 13th. You must make it 14."I immediately changed the order, but in hindsight perhaps I just fell for a clever marketing ploy.Interestingly, businesses generally experience a downturn on this fateful day as fewer people travel on Friday the 13th and some people don't even leave the house.Actually, you have to feel sorrow for the number 13; it comes in for a lot of flak. Motels avoid a room numbered 13, many high-rise buildings skip the 13th floor and some streets don't have a 13 house number.Many sports, including the Harlem Globetrotters and New York Jets, have retired the number 13 and no Formula One driver has had the number 13 on his car since 1976.However, in Greece and Spain 13 is only unlucky if it falls on a Tuesday and in Russia it is a bad omen on Monday.This fear of the number 13 even has a name: triskaidekaphobia.Mind you, if you live in China, Japan, Korea or Hawaii it is the number four that is considered unlucky.Maybe Lady Luck was always going to be against Julia Gillard in Saturday's federal election. There are multiple myths about redheads and who knows which ones played a part in our voting decision.The superstitions include that redheaded women can be violent and false, glib and vain, and when they die they will turn into vampires.In New Zealand they are sacred and have a clear road to heaven, but in ancient Egypt they were considered unlucky and each year a Titian-haired maiden was burnt alive.And while some people might think it lucky to rub Julia's head, others who passed her on the street might spit and turn around.Being a Catholic, Tony Abbott would regard superstitions as sinful, but then others would argue that all religious beliefs are superstitions.The only superstition I perhaps can adapt to him is my ditty pertaining to pigeons/maggies.If he has just smuggled one budgie into his swimming trunks he won't be our next prime minister, but if there happens to be two secreted within he might squeak over the line.
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Puppeteers’ power upset Australians

Puppeteers’ power upset Australians

Negotiations continue but it seems increasingly likely that Labor will be in the best position to form a minority government.As we stated here yesterday, there are quite a few examples of minority state governments that have worked, some of which have proved to be very successful administrations.Naturally, independents - and certainly the Governor-General - will need to be convinced that a Labor minority government could work.While we advocated for the re-election of a federal Labor government, and believe it could form a successful alliance with independents and the new Greens MP, we are not without one serious reservation. It concerns what has undoubtedly aggrieved many Australians; that is, the power of those unaccountable puppeteers who have treated government, both in NSW and now at a federal level, as their plaything.We had thought the furore over Kevin Rudd's political assassination would dissipate closer to polling day. But, even at an anecdotal level with our daily feature Feeling the Pulse, many ordinary voters remained agog at how a prime minister could be dumped by his own party in his first term.At the weekend, NSW Premier Kristina Keneally turned on Mr Rudd for dudding the state on infrastructure. Several other Labor figures have mused about what went wrong with the campaign and since Mr Rudd was knifed.Of course, there will be a large degree of revisionism about the root cause of how the wheels fell off such a popular and promising government.However, part of what was at play, in our opinion, was not so much a general cynicism about politics or politicians. Rather, we feel the Australian electorate was rejecting the way faceless men and women were manoeuvring a once more-principled party.Australians want to know that the mandate and blueprint they give a government through the ballot box is respected and honoured.This makes a more responsive, accountable federal Labor government - forced to work with others for survival - a fascinating and not necessarily undesirable proposition.
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State prison under siege

State prison under siege

Dramatic: The main guard tower and entrance to Risdon Prison, where 10 inmates took four hostages, including a prison officer, about 2.45pm yesterday.(1/4)Prison Action Reform president Caroline Dean and five members of the group were in mobile phone contact with the inmates during the siege.
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She said the hostage-takers were very serious.

"The prison officer's hand is on the table and if their demands are not met his fingers will be cut off. These guys don't muck around," Ms Dean said.

The hostage drama unfolded at 2.45 pm in the reception area of the maximum security jail that houses Australia's worst mass murder, Martin Bryant.

The prisoners are demanding the resignation of Attorney- General Judy Jackson and the state's Director of Prisons Graeme Barber and demanded Opposition justice spokesman Michael Hodgman attend the prison.

They are demanding improvements in their living conditions, an end to alleged human rights abuses in the prison, an end to overcrowding and implementation of rehabilitation programmes. Authorities refused to allow members of PAR or ex-prisoner Tony Bull, who was also in contact with the inmates, to join in the negotiations.

At a press conference, Mr Barber said that the custodial officer was safe and had spoken with negotiators several times, and appeared in good spirits.

Mr Barber confirmed that 19 prisoners were involved in the incident.

He said that medication had also been provided from the prison hospital for a number of prisoners with pre-existing medical conditions, while an earlier demand for food was met about 9pm.

Mrs Dean said inmates claimed other prisoners in the main yard had been hosed down in near-freezing conditions to get them back to their cells.

Government spokesman David Nicholson could not confirm the action.

Earlier in the afternoon, a prisoner calling himself Conway Richardson called the ABC claiming he was with the inmates who had taken over the jail, and outlining their demands.

He also asked for Opposition justice spokesman Michael Hodgman to attend the jail.

Mr Hodgman last night said he would not be attending Risdon Prison unless asked by those involved in attempting to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the stand-off.

Mr Hodgman called on inmates involved in the siege to release their hostages and cooperate fully with the police and prison service negotiators and then resume discussion about their conditions.

The drama follows an incident last week in which a prison officer was stabbed in the neck and ear with a narrow piece of wood and one in which an inmate was held hostage by another prisoner for more than seven hours in the top floor of Division 8.

Professional criminologist Rob White, of the University of Tasmania, said the prison's overcrowded conditions and lack of rehabilitation programmes had created a "powder keg" waiting to explode.

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Hawthorn -v- West Coast

Hawthorn -v- West Coast

Midfield focus: Hawthorn assistant coach and former Essendon and Port hardman Damien Hardwick ... predicting today's midfield battle will be vital to the outcome of the match. (1/2)The ladder leaders were keen to put behind them a torrid week which threatened to overshadow their impressive start to the season.
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A storm on Sunday caused a power failure at the club and on Wednesday captain Ben Cousins and forward Michael Gardiner were caught up in a police investigation into a nightclub shooting.

"It has not been the best week but it's nice to be here where we can just focus on the footy," said communications manager Gary Stocks.

Gardiner will miss today's game with a knee injury but the skipper was doing his best to be one of the crowd at yesterday's training session.

"Ben's been fine," said assistant coach Peter Sumich. "He's a pro. We would not think that will affect him. He'll play a role (in the game) and hopefully a pretty big one."

The Eagles' record goal-scorer said the team enjoys playing on a ground with similar dimensions to Subiaco Oval.

"We prefer playing on a ground like this," he said. "It's in terrific condition and the weather looks like it's going to be fine."

The Hawks reacquainted themselves to their second home in the setting sun and assistant coach Damien Hardwick said the players look forward to fixtures at Aurora Stadium.

"They call it home and we've won five out of six here," he said. "We've also got a good contingent of fans down here."

Hardwick predicted today's game would be won in the midfield.

"They've got a good forward line and a steady back but the top midfield line in the competition. If we can come out on top in that we've got a good chance of winning the game."

The former Port Adelaide premiership player expected Cousins to receive some flak about his newsworthy week.

"I'm sure he'll cop a bit. The media has built it up a bit but from a footballing point of view it counts for nothing.

"At the end of the day they are six-zip and it's only one player. The other players do not really care."

Sumich added: "If Ben gets sledged so be it. They are big enough to handle that sort of stuff. He'll just get on with the game.

"It cannot stop you winning the footy, taking a mark or kicking a goal and that's what we're focused on."

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Greens put fast rail back on track

Greens put fast rail back on track

After 25 years of planning, high-speed rail between Newcastle and Melbourne may become reality after the newly empowered Greens pledged to make it a key issue when they assume the balance of power in the Senate next year.The new NSW Greens senator Lee Rhiannon told the Herald that fast trains, running at up to 350 km/h between Sydney and Melbourne, had been one of the party's most prominent policies during the election campaign.The Greens leader, Senator Bob Brown, announced the policy in April and his colleague, Scott Ludlam, repeated it in July, during the federal campaign. ''There wasn't a speech that Bob gave that didn't mention high-speed rail as a priority,'' Ms Rhiannon said.''Bob said we are not demanders - and we're not going to say that you have to give us this if you want that - but this has been a clear and consistent commitment from the Greens and we will pursue it.''The Sydney-Melbourne corridor is the fourth-busiest route for passenger aircraft in the world and the Australasian Railway Association believes the population growth in both cities will boost the market for a service directly between the Sydney and Melbourne central business districts.Ms Rhiannon - who, as a NSW MP, campaigned for improved urban public transport - said the Greens would consider amending any legislation dealing with infrastructure that came before the Senate. ''If the opportunity comes up in the context of legislation, the Greens would inject that [a clause or amendment on high-speed rail],'' she said.During the campaign, the federal Minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese, announced a $20 million, 18-month study into the viability of high-speed rail between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The Nationals leader, Warren Truss, also committed the Coalition to high-speed rail.The new Greens MP for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, whose support will be crucial in forming a minority government, has also committed to a fast link between the two major cities. ''It was very much a part of his campaign,'' a Greens spokeswoman said.If the Gillard government retains office, Ms Rhiannon said the Greens would campaign for the rail plan in Mr Albanese's inner Sydney electorate of Grayndler.
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Wollongong on cash-strapped councils list

Wollongong on cash-strapped councils list

Major Sydney councils including Mosman, Liverpool and Hornsby deny that they are at risk of defaulting on their financial obligations despite being placed on a list of councils with ''unsatisfactory'' levels of accessible funds.A Department of Local Government report into the performance of councils has named 15, including 10 in urban areas, as having insufficient funds readily available to pay for the goods and services they use.To reach this finding, the report assessed the ''level of liquidity and the ability to satisfy obligations as they fall due'' at each council. It presented its findings as a ratio of the amount of money available to meet liabilities (called the unrestricted current ratio) and said any ratio less than 1.5:1 was ''unsatisfactory''.Among those ranked unsatisfactory is Mosman with a ratio of 1.4:1, Liverpool with 1.29:1 and Hornsby's at 1.19: 1. Griffith was the worst ranked council in the state with a ratio of just 0.57:1.Hornsby's mayor, Nick Berman, insisted there was ''no chance we are unable to meet our short-term commitments'' despite the council's failure to win approval to increase rates above the government imposed cap.Cr Berman agreed it would have to cut services but declined to identify where they might be. ''We are having a close look at our core business and what things we should be cutting out.''While he would not say what services he believes are ''core services'' there was ''no chance'' libraries would be cut.Hornsby's 50-year-old pool was badly in need of replacement but the council did not have the money to do so without increasing its debt levels, which he said were low and there were no plans to increase them.The finance manager at Mosman Council, Mark McDonald, said: ''There are no concerns about Mosman meeting its debts'' despite its ''unsatisfactory'' rating.His council had been doing a lot of infrastructure work, including expensive repairs to sea walls and had gone into ''a bit of debt''.The council had a 10-year financial plan that would improve the ratio, which Mr McDonald expected to be 1.8:1 at the end of that period. The plan to increase the amount of money at hand to meet expenses did not involved cuts to services, he said.Liverpool Council's acting general manager, Farooq Portelli, disputed the minimum 1.5:1 ratio advocated by the Department of Local Government and said the ''accepted benchmark for the industry'' was 1:1. ''Council's independent auditor also continues to confirm that council remains in a sound and stable financial position," he said.He said the fire that destroyed the council chambers would have no impact on the financial position as ''any recovery costs will be met by insurance".The group manager for business at Griffith Council, Max Turner, agreed ''that ratio is not ideal and we'd be looking to improve'', but denied there was any risk of not paying debts. The council cut capital expenditure programs from $15-$16 million to ''below $10 million'' and had ''tinkered'' with some services but not to the extent that it had received any complaints. He said the ratio was misleading and did not take into account that a rural workforce like his accrued large amounts of leave which distorted the ratio used in the report. ACCOUNTS DUECouncils with least access to sufficient cash reserves:1. Griffith2. Port Macquarie3. Hastings4. Wollongong5. Cobar6. Wingecarribee7. Canada Bay8. Penrith9. Hornsby10. Liverpool
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Finals play-off may be at SFS

Finals play-off may be at SFS

St George Illawarra chief executive Peter Doust yesterday left the door open for the Dragons to move next month's home qualifying final to the Sydney Football Stadium.The competition leaders are guaranteed a top-four position on the NRL ladder with two rounds remaining, but Doust said a decision was yet to be made on a venue for their first play-off game.The clash is likely - but not guaranteed - to be played at Kogarah's WIN Jubilee Oval, which holds 20,541. It can't be played in Wollongong, as WIN Stadium is out of action due to a $29 million western and southern grandstand redevelopment. Where should the Dragon's home qualifying final be held?But Doust refused to rule out the possibility of moving the semi to the SFS, which holds 45,500 fans - a move sure to upset devoted fans."It's a bit premature to say we've made a decision on a home semi," Doust said."Albeit with the WIN Stadium western grandstand currently not open, it's fair to consider the game might be played at Kogarah."Last year Doust was under immense pressure to shift the Dragons' ill-fated home final from Kogarah to the SFS.A crowd of 18,174 packed into WIN Jubilee Oval to watch Parramatta's comprehensive 25-12 win over the Dragons.This came despite the NRL having offered a $250,000 incentive for the Dragons to switch the game to the SFS in the hope of a 40,000-plus attendance.At the time, Parramatta chief executive Paul Osborne labelled Doust a "chicken" for not switching venues, but the Dragons boss stuck to his guns.NRL chief operating officer Graham Annesley yesterday told the Mercury he would not try to force St George Illawarra to move the game."At the annual conference last year clubs decided they should retain the rights to play a final at their home venue," Annesley said."It's the Dragons' call, we wouldn't stand in their way."Annesley said he expected pressure to be put on Doust to host the game at the SFS if the Dragons take on a Sydney-based team in the first week of the finals."There could be a lot of public and media calling for the game to be moved," he said."But the feeling among the clubs was they would be letting their players down by moving it, having worked all year to have the right to host a final."The Dragons let a chance to secure the minor premiership slip with Sunday's 32-16 loss to Canberra, but they only need to win one of their remaining two games to finish in first place.The race for the remaining positions in the top eight is less clear, with 12 teams still mathematically in the running to fill the finals placings.
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How to form government from a hung parliament

How to form government from a hung parliament

Australia's next government will be formed by whichever party can secure a majority of 76 votes in the House of Representatives. This is rightly a political and not a legal process. The constitution says nothing about hung parliaments, or how such a situation is to be resolved.Instead, hung parliaments are resolved by a set of unwritten rules inherited from Britain. Fortunately, these conventions are clear and well tested. They include that the governor-general acts on the advice of the caretaker prime minister.The governor-general should only act contrary to that advice where the rules have not been followed, such as if the prime minister seeks to stay on despite having lost parliamentary support. In this case, the governor-general could sack the prime minister and commission a new government.Applying such conventions has become commonplace in Australia. There is a legion of recent examples across the states and territories where no party has won a clear majority of seats. Fortunately, in most instances, initial uncertainty and instability has been replaced by stable government, including in Tasmania earlier this year and in Western Australia in 2008.These examples also demonstrate how government need not be formed by the party with the most seats or highest popular vote. Both can play a role in negotiations and grant a sense of moral authority, but neither must have any bearing on which party wins the keys to office.In the end, all that matters is who can secure enough support to command a majority in Parliament.Forming our next federal government will take time. If nothing else, neither of the two big parties will know for a week or more how much extra support they will need to secure a majority of seats.Governments are formed out of Parliament, and that usually cannot occur until the final make-up of Parliament is known.Ultimately, the relative strengths of Labor and the Coalition will need to be tested on the floor of the House of Representatives.Convention dictates that, as caretaker Prime Minister, Julia Gillard will have the first opportunity to form a government. She will do so if she survives a no-confidence motion moved against her.If she does not, the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, will be given the next opportunity. If neither succeeds, a new election is likely within months.In a hung parliament, everything will come down to the support of the independents and the Greens MP; they will have the power to make a government, and to break it.In Australia's last federal hung parliament, after the 1940 election, coalition governments were formed by Robert Menzies, then Arthur Fadden, on the back of independent support. A year after the election, those same independents switched their votes to Labor. The Coalition was forced out of office and John Curtin became prime minister.A hung parliament means a period of instability and uncertainty. The challenge facing Gillard and Abbott will be to resolve this by forming a new government that lasts the distance. In doing so, they will also face the challenge of creating a government able to realise their election promises.George Williams is the Anthony Mason professor of law at the University of NSW. Source: The National Times
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Greenslide takes upper house by storm

Greenslide takes upper house by storm

Newly-elected Greens MP Adam Bandt. Picture: CRAIG SILLITOEWhile the Greens surprised few by securing the balance of power in the Senate, the magnitude of their coming of age was unexpected even among party optimists. The party looks to have won a Senate seat in each state, come within reach of tipping the Liberal Party out of the ACT and scoring a record national vote for a third party.''From where I sit,'' said the party's leader, Bob Brown, ''that's a Greenslide.'' And it's as difficult to disagree with that assessment as it is to foretell with certainty the precise make-up of the next Senate, from next July, such is the unwieldiness of the beast.The Democratic Labor Party - the result of an ideological schism in the 1950s - may make a comeback after a Senate absence of 36 years. John Madigan, a Ballarat blacksmith, has won just 2.2 per cent of the primary vote but is favoured to nudge out Julian McGauran, who was demoted to third on the Coalition ticket after defecting from the Nationals, and Steve Fielding, the Family First senator whose 2004 election was considered a fluke of preference flows.Senator McGauran is also at risk from Labor's third candidate, the former union leader Antony Thow.The Senate may provide other surprises. With a likely nine senators - six elected on Saturday, the other three in 2007 - the Greens will decide the outcome of legislation opposed by the main parties. The Coalition, which had a brief Senate majority when John Howard was prime minister, will most likely have 34 senators to Labor's 31.In NSW, the former Legislative Council MP Lee Rhiannon is odds-on to wrest the sixth Senate spot from Labor's Steve Hutchins, with the help of Sex Party preferences.The NSW result will depend not just on the Rhiannon-Hutchins struggle but on whether the persistent independent Glenn Druery can sneak past the third Coalition candidate, Fiona Nash.The Coalition has lost Senate seats in Queensland and Tasmania and is in a battle for the sixth spot in South Australia, where Bob Day of Family First is challenging the Liberal Party's David Fawcett.The Greens' highest hopes for a senator on the eastern seaboard were invested in Victorian Richard Di Natale, and he repaid that faith by garnering a quota - 14.3 per cent of the vote.Penny Wright has been elected for the Greens in South Australia and Larissa Waters in Queensland, where the Coalition shrank below its 2004 high-water mark of four senators.In the ACT, Lin Hatfield Dodds, former president of the Australian Council of Social Service, scored a record vote for a Greens candidate in a state- or territory-wide poll but fell just short of the 33 per cent required to unseat Gary Humphries, a Liberal who benefited from Democrat preferences.Christine Milne was returned in Tasmania and Rachel Siewert in Western Australia.
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Calls for Bitar’s head after ‘inept’ campaign

Calls for Bitar’s head after ‘inept’ campaign

The former NSW premier Morris Iemma has publicly repudiated Labor's federal campaign director Karl Bitar, saying if he had a ''conscience'' he would hand his resignation to the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.In a blistering attack on Labor's five-week campaign, Mr Iemma described it as ''the most inept in living memory'' salvaged only by the ''personability and ability of Gillard''.''Labor booth workers and Labor supporters to a man and woman agree that it was the worst campaign they can recall … It is not for Julia Gillard to ask for Karl Bitar's resignation, it's for him to have a conscience and offer it up,'' Mr Iemma said, publicly stating sentiments that a number of senior insiders have voiced privately.Mr Iemma was dismissive of Mr Bitar's attempts on Channel Nine yesterday to blame Labor's poor performance on anti-Gillard leaks in the second week of the campaign.Mr Bitar said the leaks, which targeted Ms Gillard for questioning pension rises and allegedly reneging on a deal with the former Labor leader Kevin Rudd, wiped 10 points off Labor's vote.But Mr Iemma said Mr Bitar was failing to show ''contrition''.''No amount of spinning, no amount of fakery about his research can save him,'' the former premier said.Mr Bitar said the remarks were unfortunate coming from someone who played no role in the campaign.The bitterness between the pair stems from Mr Bitar's former role as a general secretary of the NSW ALP who helped end Mr Iemma's premiership.However a number of senior party figures contacted yesterday shared some of Mr Iemma's criticisms.Among the weaknesses they cited was failure to offer voters a clear strategic vision, frequent switching between messages, the failure to bring Mr Rudd into the campaign earlier, and an over-reliance on narrowly based questions put to focus groups in marginal seats.''I don't think it was a disastrously executed campaign, I think it was a very ordinary campaign run by people used to running state elections,'' said one party veteran.Several internal critics accused Mr Bitar and his mentor, Senator Mark Arbib, of setting up a ''closed loop'' of advice inside Labor's national headquarters, where dissenting voices were not welcomed.Senator Arbib and Mr Bitar hail from the NSW party office in Sussex Street. Mr Bitar took over the top campaign job after the national director Tim Gartrell resigned in 2008.He became determined to put his own stamp on Labor's campaign team, party observers say. He alienated Neil Lawrence, who had masterminded the winning Kevin07 advertising campaign, by asking other advertisers to bid for the ALP account.When Mr Lawrence left as a consequence, Mr Bitar said it was because he could no longer afford him on a tight budget. But many in Labor believe the party's TV advertising suffered as a result, failing to sell its achievement in warding off mass unemployment after the global financial crisis.Mr Bitar also edged aside Tony Mitchelmore, the pollster who had worked closely with Mr Lawrence and Mr Gartrell on the 2007 campaign.Instead, Mr Bitar took the polling work to research company UMR but is said to have personally written detailed guidelines and the questions for grilling focus groups.This, the critics claim, resulted in a small-minded federal campaign which lacked a compelling national narrative.The mixed messages, said one insider, were like ''the pearls without the string. It doesn't make a necklace. The missing string was a strategy.''Perhaps the worst mistake, in the eyes of some, was failing to reach a pact with Mr Rudd before the campaign started. It appears Labor's campaign directors grossly underestimated voters' lingering resentment about Mr Rudd's political execution.An uneasy rapprochement between Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd was finally reached in the third week of the campaign after intense diplomacy by Senator John Faulkner. But by then the damage had been done.
Nanjing Night Net

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