Tuesday, January 13, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks sharks might be less dangerous than welfare housing

Lying Greenie haters exposed

The pastoralist nephew of one of Queensland's richest men believes he was "crucified" by false scientific claims that he had been developing his property to take water illegally from the last free-flowing river in the Murray-Darling Basin. The University of NSW has admitted the research accusing Jake Berghofer was funded by opponents of irrigation development, and has been forced to back away from the findings by some of its most senior scientists.

Mr Berghofer said he had been "crucified" by the findings of the university's School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences that he had breached a moratorium on the Paroo River. "It's not right that a big university can get away with trying to destroy someone who hasn't done anything wrong," Mr Berghofer said. His uncle, Toowoomba businessman Clive Berghofer, who has an estimated fortune of $327 million, saidhis nephew had been shabbily treated. "Jake is a very hard worker and he hasn't done anything wrong," he said.

An investigation by the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Water concluded that a series of findings in the UNSW study were wrong. The study claimed that irrigation works on Mr Berghofer's property, Springvale, south of Eulo, breached a 2003 agreement between the Queensland and NSW governments to protect the Paroo, the only river in the Murray-Darling Basin with no irrigation. The study said satellite imaging last year showed that since a moratorium on irrigation works was introduced for the Paroo in 2001, a new channel system had been developed on the property and a 21ha water storage built. It said that of nine storages on Springvale, only three were visible in satellite imaging produced in 2002. "All but two of the levee banks that existed in 2002 had new works around their perimeter that might increase storage capacity," it said.

The study triggered an avalanche of criticism of Mr Berghofer when itwas released late last year, with South Australian Premier Mike Rann describing the irrigation works as an "act of terrorism". However, the state investigation concluded that all the works referred to in the report were either completed or approved before the 2001 moratorium. Queensland Natural Resources Minister Craig Wallace said there were no breaches of the Paroo River agreement and that Mr Berghofer had done nothing wrong.

Richard Kingsford, who oversaw the study, conceded that the irrigation works identified on the property might have been legal, and that the agreement might not have been breached. "That could be the case but I think there is still a potential breach," Professor Kingsford said. "Even if it's legal, we still should be concerned about irrigation in the only Murray-Darling system river that is undeveloped." Professor Kingsford said the study was funded by the NSW-based Australian Floodplain Association, a fierce critic of irrigation upstream in the Queensland sector of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Paroo River Association president Robert Bartlett said the Queensland Government was "covering up" for Mr Berghofer. "The Paroo is in near pristinecondition and it should be able to remain that way," Mr Bartlett said. But Mr Berghofer said the irrigation work identified by the university was intended only to stop storage leakages; that it was covered by government permits; and that it was located nowhere near the Paroo River. "I'm a small bloke trying to grow a bit of hay and they've tried to crucify me," he said. Mr Berghofer said Professor Kingsford and other critics had ignored invitations to visit his property.

In June, the three-year Sustainable Rivers Audit found that of the basin's 23 rivers, only the Paroo in western Queensland was in good health.


More "caring" socialist medicine

Mother charged $500 to park at hospital but media exposure brings a backdown

THE Children's Hospital, Westmead has told a mother about to donate a kidney to her daughter she will have to pay $500 in parking fees. The case of South Granville mother Kristy Hite has exposed the confusion and heartlessness of the hospital's new parking policy. The Daily Telegraph this week revealed the State Government's plan to privatise hospital car parks and Westmead's proposal to increase fees at its car park.

Ms Hite's daughter Lily, 4, has been sick since she was born and the struggling family was entitled to free parking. Last month a hospital social worker said the free parking would be revoked and Ms Hite would have to pay for parking for at least two months until the hospital could consider her case. If Ms Hite parks at the hospital - which is now charging $16 a day, up from $12 - during visits before and after her daughter's operation she would pay about $512.

When The Daily Telegraph alerted the hospital to Ms Hite's plight yesterday, a spokeswoman said there had been a miscommunication and the family would continue to be allowed to park free. "She (the social worker) said she was looking into what we could do further down the track," Ms Hite said yesterday. "She said I would have to pay for a couple of months until they worked something out, it was a very vague conversation we had. "It is the worst time for them to cancel that card, we're going to live here for at least a month."

Ms Hite has moved from Nowra to South Granville and borrowed money to stay afloat. Before the hospital returned her parking privileges, she said she would have to park blocks from the hospital and walk to see her daughter despite undergoing serious surgery to have her kidney removed. "That cost isn't even an option . . . I am in debt up to my eyeballs," she said. "I am amazed you have to pay at all and the price is ridiculous."

Health Minister John Della Bosca said yesterday he had called the hospital to ensure families were given proper consideration. A spokeswoman for the hospital said Ms Hite would be provided with free parking.


Loophole gets criminals off

NEARLY one in six people who committed a crime in 2007 had no conviction imposed by the courts, according to figures obtained by the Herald. Overall nearly 19,000 people in NSW had the case against them proved but received no criminal record under what is known in legal circles as "section 10" - a section of the Crimes Sentencing Procedure Act giving magistrates or judges the discretion not to impose a conviction. The crimes range from drink driving - the most common and well-known use of this discretion - theft, property damage and drug offences to assault, sexual assault and manslaughter or driving causing death.

But some insiders say there is a two-tier system: if you are articulate, have good legal representation, commission expert witnesses and your job is at stake if you receive a criminal conviction, your chances of getting off without one, anecdotally, seem to be stronger.

The Opposition justice spokesman, Greg Smith, said section 10 was used too often and should be used only for trivial offences. Police already had the discretion not to proceed with prosecution for trivial offences, he said. When the section is used the charge can be dismissed, or the offender asked to enter a good behaviour bond. In either case the offence is found proved without recording a conviction. The Judicial Commission's instructions describe it as "a safety valve" to be used where there are extenuating circumstances. But it warns that its widespread use could "undermine confidence in the administration of justice".

Overall, there was a drop in the use of section 10 for drink driving offences - from nearly 7000 in 2003 to 5267 in 2007 since a guideline judgment on its use for high-range drink driving offences. During the same time, its use in driving licence offences more than doubled.

The barrister Phillip Boulten, SC, a member of the Bar Association's criminal law committee, said the figures showed magistrates or judges used their discretion only in unusual cases. "The reduction in section 10s for traffic offences including PCA [drink driving] reflects the courts' and parliament's crackdown on bad driving offences."

Mr Smith said it should rarely be used for offences as serious as drink driving. "You are risking your own life, the life of your passengers and other people. It's really not appropriate." He said he could not imagine anyone found to have committed a sexual assault escaping a conviction.

The secretary of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, said the ability of magistrates and judges not to record a conviction was an essential element of the justice system. It provided a way for a magistrate to make the point that the prosecution was unjustified or unreasonable, Mr Blanks said. The consequences of having a conviction recorded were getting ever more serious, he said, as increasing numbers of employers asked for workers to disclose such matters. Also a conviction often made it difficult to travel overseas, he said. Accused who were "better able to articulate the circumstances to a court will get better results", he said. Having a lawyer who could present the argument to the court "certainly helps", he said.

Mr Smith agreed. "People with money and the ability to afford private legal representation and expert witnesses are more likely to get [a section 10]." If the court was convinced they would not reoffend, their chances also rose, he said. One prominent example was the former Secret Life Of Us star Samuel Johnson, who in December 2007 escaped conviction when he pleaded guilty to a drunken assault at a wedding reception. In May last year the actor Alex Dimitriades received a bond but no conviction for driving with a blood alcohol reading of 0.11 - a mid-range drink-driving offence.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, said the proportion of people receiving a section 10 had fallen by one percentage point since 2003 [A whole 1%! Wow!], and about two third of offenders who received a section 10 had to enter a bond. "Rather than getting more lenient, studies . show that courts are getting tougher, with more offenders being sent to prison with longer sentences.


HMAS Sydney was sunk so quickly because of the huge firepower of its adversary

And the overconfident Capt. Burnett was careless enough to put his ship where all that firepower could be used against it

New reconstructions of the encounter between HMAS Sydney and German raider Kormoran show how the Sydney was lost. Computer re-enactments show the Australian warship was not only hit by a torpedo but also peppered with close-range gunfire. HMAS Sydney was lost with all 645 crew on November 19, 1941, following a battle with the disguised Kormoran off the West Australian coast.

Observations from the wreck site and accounts from Kormoran survivors have enabled a team of defence scientists and naval architects at the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) to create computer graphics of the battle between the two warships. The stark images were shown at an inquiry into the ship's sinking in Sydney this morning.

The graphics, shown from the Kormoran's view, show Sydney's port side being sprayed with shellfire and then hit by a large torpedo, before the ship turns and is bombarded with more shellfire on its starboard side. Another graphic then shows the doomed warship sinking onto its side as black smoke billows out.

"The battle between HMAS Sydney and HSK Kormoran was unique as a sea battle in that HMAS Sydney was not only hit by a torpedo, but also pounded by accurate and sustained gunfire from close range for an extended period of time," Commodore Jack Rush QC told the inquiry. "Other World War II ships had survived single torpedo hits, while others survived shell hits from larger calibre shells. "HMAS Sydney, however, had to endure the sustained attack of 15 centimetre shells at close range, 20 millimetre shells raking the upper deck at a rate of more than 100 rpm, and sustained shelling by 3.7 centimetre guns."


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