Monday, September 17, 2007

Taxpayer money spent funding breast enhancements

If they are mental cases, they shouldn't be in the armed forces

THE Royal Australian Navy is paying for women sailors to have breast enlargements for purely cosmetic reasons, at a cost to taxpayers of $10,000 an operation. Defence officials claim the surgery is justified because some servicewomen need bigger breasts to address "psychological issues".

Darling Point plastic surgeon Kourosh Tavakoli told The Sunday Telegraph the navy had paid for two officers, aged 25 and 32, to have breast-augmentation surgery at his private clinic. Dr Tavakoli said the women had not been injured but claimed to suffer "psychological" problems. "I've had two female officers who have got the navy to pay for breast augmentation for psychological reasons," he said. "I know for a fact two patients claimed it back on the navy. They (the navy) knew it was breast augmentation and paid for it. "I don't know why they pay for it. There's no breast augmentation, that I know of, for medical purposes. You've got to be fair to yourself."

A Defence spokesman admitted cosmetic surgery occurred at "public expense" when there were "compelling psychological/psychiatric reasons", but refused to say how many such cases were taxpayer-funded. Cosmetic surgery was also provided for servicemen or women who were disfigured by work-related injuries, he said. "Cosmetic procedures undertaken solely for the purpose of preserving or improving a person's subjective appearance will be considered only if the underlying (psychological) problem is causing difficulties that adversely impact on the member's ability to do their job. "Operations purely for cosmetic reasons are not allowed."

The Sunday Telegraph asked Defence Minister Brendan Nelson, formerly a GP, how many members of the armed forces had received taxpayer-funded cosmetic surgery. A spokesman said figures would not be available until next week.

Australian Defence Association spokesman Neil James defended the practice of taxpayers funding medical procedures such as breast enhancement surgery for psychological reasons. He said young men and women were attracted to defence careers because they offered free medical care. This, in turn, improved the efficiency of the force. "Just as there are in civilian life, there are some females who feel their breasts are too small and if their breasts were bigger, they might be more of a 'normal' woman," Mr James said. "If they were lacking in self-confidence, this might provide the measure of self-confidence that would help them tackle their wider job. "There are privacy issues here for people. It's not as if they keep a record of who has had a nose job in the Defence Force over the past 100 years."

Dr Tavakoli, a member of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons, said the navy officers had visited him in 2005 and 2006. Each had had $10,000 worth of surgery, which required a recovery period of at least two weeks. Boosting self-esteem was the biggest motivation for cosmetic surgery, Dr Tavakoli said.

The Sunday Telegraph understands Dr Tavakoli is not the usual surgeon used by the navy for reconstructive/cosmetic surgery. "I don't see a lot of them (naval officers) because they have their own plastic surgeon," he said. "I know for a fact they have their own surgeon." Last year, a Brisbane surgeon revealed that an army cook had had a taxpayer-funded nose job.


Useless cops

Too many working as bureaucrats

SEVERE staff shortages have left Queensland police officers struggling to respond to potentially life-threatening incidents. A Sunday Mail investigation has found hundreds of calls for police help are still unattended, or incomplete, at the end of shifts state-wide. Even when assistance is provided, it can take hours to arrive.

An inquiry has begun into why police failed to respond to an emergency call-out to a Southport home on the night of September 3, which came three hours before a woman was allegedly stabbed to death by her 16-year-old son at the same Gold Coast address. The Queensland Police Union says critical understaffing is to blame for the tragedy and the dramatic shortfall in frontline officers has become a major problem across the state. The union says 700 staff have been pulled off active duties and diverted into management positions and many officers are leaving the service to pursue other jobs.

The Sunday Mail found:

* Communications co-ordinators are making "life-and-death decisions every day" because there are insufficient resources to cover emergencies.

* Major 24-hour stations were shut down at night last weekend and during the week due to a lack of officers.

* Emergency calls are being downgraded to lower priorities because police don't have the numbers to attend swiftly.

* Lone patrol cars are regularly left to safeguard large metropolitan areas at night.

* Police were so busy on August 31, it took more than 3« hours to get to a Gold Coast woman who was being held by an ex-partner who had bipolar disorder and a history of firearms offences.

* In another recent case where a man known to mental-health authorities was threatening to kill his wife, her boyfriend and himself, police took more than three hours to attend.

* The night of the Southport fatality, there were nine cars on duty, 60 triple-0 calls and 105 jobs needing response. By end of shift there were still 42 jobs incomplete or unattended.

* Two days later, the Gold Coast's afternoon crews received 83 jobs and still had 27 unattended by end of shift.

* Queensland police have no minimum target-response times, unlike ambulance and fire services, or New South Wales police who set their benchmark at responding to 80 per cent of urgent calls within 10 minutes.

The union says the most critical staff shortages are at the Gold Coast, Mackay, Mt Isa, Ipswich and Rockhampton. "The community deserves to know there's a crisis on the streets, there's a crisis in first response," Queensland Police Union acting president Denis Fitzpatrick said. "They need to know that they're going to call police stations and no one's going to answer the phone. "In my view, reported crime is down because there's difficulty getting through to police stations on the phone. "Every day, hundreds of requests for assistance remain unattended at the end of shifts right across Queensland due to poor resourcing in our major population centres."

This week, police sources told The Sunday Mail that Wynnum and Capalaba stations, which both have counters that should be open 24 hours, were shut on some nights after officers called in sick and there was no one to replace them. Calls were diverted to Cleveland, which added extra pressure there, an officer said. "It's a combination of staff shortages, increasing workloads, difficulties with the new computer system and fewer officers wanting to remain on general duties," said a Brisbane police officer.

Opposition police spokesman Rob Messenger said the State Government needed to spend more money on pay and resources for frontline police, and offer greater incentives to officers to stay in general policing. Police Minister Judy Spence defended staff levels, saying Queensland now had a police-to-population ratio of 1:435, which was equal to, or better than, every other state. The Police Service says 8731 of the 9618 officers in the state by June 30 were operational.

But the union says many of those counted as operational are desk-bound administrators. "We call on the Commissioner to reallocate 700 police back into first-response and operational roles," Mr Fitzpatrick said.

Queensland Ambulance officers have a State Government benchmark to respond to Code 1 life-threatening situations in less than 10 minutes, in 68 per cent of cases. Queensland Fire and Rescue Service's benchmark is to arrive at a structural fire within 14 minutes of a triple-0 call to urban and auxiliary stations, in 90 per cent of cases.

A Police Service spokesman said the service provided the "best possible response to calls for service throughout the state, depending on the circumstances and the nature of the incident". Urgent Code 1 and Code 2 jobs in the metropolitan area were monitored by the Brisbane police communications centre and responded to "within a reasonable and appropriate time". It was "not appropriate" to compare the police with ambulance or fire services because calls to police covered a greater range of situations.

But Queensland University of Technology lecturer in justice studies and policing, Dr Colin Thorne, said there should be a minimum response rate to priority calls across all emergency services, including police. "Whether it's in Brisbane or communication centres across the state, for police, for life-threatening cases - as for ambulance officers and fire-and-rescue crews - there should be a benchmark," Dr Thorne said. "People should have an expectation that, when they ring for an emergency response, police arrive within a reasonable timeframe."

Dr Thorne, a Queensland police officer for 20 years until 1991, said that, without a minimum or average response time, it would be hard to monitor how well police were doing. He said more first-response police and 24-hour stations were needed.


Fairfax newspapers' Israel coverage panned

THE Australian Jewish News has attacked Fairfax newspapers, accusing them and their Middle East correspondent of anti-Israeli bias. The newspaper yesterday ran a news story, an opinion piece by Labor's Member for Melbourne Ports, Michael Danby, and two cartoons all lambasting Fairfax titles.

"The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald are highly influential newspapers, and their systematic anti-Israel bias has a real effect on public opinion in Australia," Mr Danby writes in AJN. Mr Danby is particularly critical of The Age's editor-in-chief, Briton Andrew Jaspan. "Under its current editor, The Age's liberalism has morphed into a peculiar sort of bitter and twisted extremism, borrowed from UK paper The Guardian."

Mr Danby, who is the only Jewish federal MP, attacks Middle East correspondent Ed O'Loughlin. "There's nothing funny about O'Loughlin's systematic bias against Israel," he says. Jason Koutsoukis, The Sunday Age's Canberra bureau chief, is quoted in the Jewish News pledging to introduce "balanced" coverage when he takes over as Fairfax Media's Middle East correspondent. "There's two sides to every story and I think we've got to tell both sides. Perhaps we've only been telling one side. That's been some of the concerns expressed to me by Jewish community leaders," he is quoted as saying. Koutsoukis last night denied attacking O'Loughlin. "I was not quoted accurately ... and it does not reflect my views."

The editor of The Sydney Morning Herald, Alan Oakley, Jaspan and O'Loughlin did not return calls or emails.


Facebook antisemite out of cricket until 2015

Follow-up to a report here on August 10th. (Scroll down)

THE cricketer who set up a page on a social networking site that sledged the Maccabi Ajax Cricket Club has been suspended from the sport for eight years. Ash Peake, from McKinnon Cricket Club, authored the page "FU Ajax Cricket Club" on Facebook and invited other cricketers from his club and the Beaumaris Cricket Club to to comment on the Jewish team.

A tribunal hearing at the Victorian Turf Cricket Association (VTCA) found Peake guilty of racial vilification and suspended him until the start of the 2015-16 season. Four other players received suspensions ranging from two months to one-and-a-half years at the VTCA tribunal, which was chaired by barrister Tim Walsh.

A sixth player, Beauamris cricketer Alex Strauch, will face the tribunal early next month. He has already issued a public apology and visited the Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Centre since the incident, which was first reported in the AJN on August 10. Walsh also exonerated McKinnon and Beaumaris of any wrongdoing at a club level.

Maccabi Ajax Cricket Club president Jamie Hyams said that his club is satisfied with the tribunal's decisions. "We regard the sentences as harsh but fair," Hyams said. "They show that the VTCA takes this matter very seriously, and we are very happy with the way both the VTCA and the McKinnon Cricket Club have handled these issues."

When news of the website surfaced, McKinnon immediately suspended several players from pre-season training. But threats of funding cuts from Glen Eira City Council forced the club to expel the men.

Following the tribunal's decision, McKinnon has called on the council to revoke any sanctions against the club, including a stop on construction of training facilities at McKinnon Reserve, the club's home ground. A council spokesman said the matter has been tabled for discussion at a council meeting on Tuesday night.

Hyams said that the players have shown remorse and will be involved in education programs.


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