Monday, March 30, 2009

This is pretty disgraceful: Man imprisoned on such weak evidence that it did not even go to trial

These police "taskforces" seem to let their task go to their heads and think that suspicion alone is enough to imprison someone. One is reminded of the AFP's chaotic and dishonestly-handled Haneef case

An alleged Melbourne gangland figure has been cleared of a charge of murder. Police alleged Angelo Venditti, 43, of Aspendale Gardens, hired slain hitman Andrew "Benji'' Veniamin and another man to carry out the contract killing of drug dealer Paul Kallipolitis in 2002.

Senior Crown prosecutor Geoffrey Horgan SC today requested the charge against Mr Venditti be struck out during his committal hearing at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court.

Outside court, Mr Venditti said he was "ecstatic''. Reading from a prepared statement, he said the day marked an end to a traumatic time in his life. "As a result of being charged by the Purana taskforce with murder, a crime I did not commit, I spent five months in a maximum security jail, endured emotional and physical hardship and have incurred significant financial loss,'' Mr Venditti said.

It emerged during Mr Venditti's bail hearing in December that new AFL Richmond Tigers recruit and former West Coast Eagles player Ben Cousins was an acquaintance of the accused.

Mr Venditti asked that his privacy and that of his friends and family now be respected. "Including my good friend Ben Cousins who was exposed to smear and innuendo that was both untrue and unfair,'' he said. "He should be allowed to continue with his rehabilitation off the field and his brilliance on it.'' Mr Venditti also thanked his legal team.


Rudd on the road to disaster

DURING the 1979 oil shock, the great French political scientist Raymond Aron noted that in crises, governments usually had little to fear from Oppositions but everything to fear from themselves. Only rarely did governments display the intellectual rigour to adapt to the new circumstances. Their tendency, catastrophically evident in the presidency of Valery Giscard d'Estaing, was to retain commitments that were even more economically costly than when first made. Emerging difficulties then led to half-baked populism, with all its long-term costs.

Kevin Rudd could teach Giscard d'Estaing a thing or two. Rudd's errors are not merely the odd concession to economic folly, they go to the core of our economic prospects.

How can one justify reducing labour market flexibility when it will determine whether millions of Australians are condemned to unemployment? Rudd is fond of quoting Olivier Blanchard, the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund. Only a few years ago, Blanchard found that unfair dismissal laws increased the duration and severity of unemployment, in a result confirmed by a vast empirical literature.

How can one justify an emissions trading scheme that imposes large costs for purely symbolic benefits? Originally, the Government, adopting Churchillian tones, portrayed those costs as the white man's burden. That wore thin, not least because Rudd and Penny Wong look less like heroes than like dentists who might convince us to sit in the chair, but not to seek certain death on the barricades. Predictably, the replacement rhetoric was that the scheme wouldn't hurt a bit. Now the scheme's defenders are reduced to saying it could be worse.

As for the national broadband network, the Government seems intent on making its predecessor's policies look good, a feat I considered to be beyond human ingenuity.

The Coalition merely wasted time and money. This Government seems determined to wreck the network we have. Stephen Conroy is poised to try what no country has seriously contemplated: undertaking a complete revamp of the incumbent's network against the incumbent's active opposition. This involves huge costs and risks for users, especially in country areas, for Telstra's shareholders, and for taxpayers, who will bear the project's inevitable and mounting losses. If the Government doesn't like Telstra, so be it. But if it wants to level the Telstra house to the ground while building a house of its own on remnants, then the honest course of action would be to buy back Telstra. Anything else breaks faith with millions of Telstra shareholders, endangers service quality and places an unconscionable burden on taxpayers.

The NBN is only the largest of the Government's ill-conceived ventures. Rather than pursuing genuine regulatory reform, which would remove disincentives to invest in infrastructure, the Government's Building Australia Fund is allocating billions of dollars to projects that would likely fail any serious cost-benefit analysis.

As for the Government's car plan, the only hope is that the US industry will collapse before it can get its hands on Australian taxpayers' hard-earned dollars.

Finally, debate will continue about whether the stimulus packages were justified but there can be no debate about whether the associated spending programs make sense. They don't. The principle that taxpayers' funds should be used only where the benefits outweigh the costs has been ignored.

Consider this. The funding for schools specifically prohibits money being used to install air-conditioning. Yet many studies reveal that intense, prolonged heat reduces learning productivity. As a result, school halls will be repainted while education continues to suffer.

Ultimately, all government spending must be paid for from taxes that have high economic costs. To claim that Keynesian multipliers create magic puddings that can make this all come good is nonsense on stilts. A dollar misspent is a dollar misspent, and reduces incomes by at least that amount. The employment "created" by that dollar, when it could have been used for more worthwhile alternatives, is part of the waste, not a benefit. The quality of public expenditure is therefore crucial and on this count alone the Government's record is distressingly poor.

Lack of transparency makes the Government's record all the poorer. John Faulkner promised full disclosure. In fact, disclosure has been pitifully inadequate. Access to the modelling underpinning FuelWatch: refused. Access to the model used to evaluate the ETS: refused. Access to the cost-benefit studies underpinning the NBN: refused. Access to the Building Australia Fund's project appraisals: refused. Access to the Treasury's assessment of alternative stimulus packages: refused.

This makes a mockery of democracy, whose virtue, as the historian and philosopher R.G. Collingwood argued, lies in forcing governments to operate "in the open air, and not as a post office distributing ready-made policies to a passively receptive country". This Government seemed full of policy wonks who would bring a fresh breath of serious expertise. Unfortunately, it has proven far more adept at politics than at policy. Roosevelt too won many elections, but he did so by schemes that prolonged the Depression. And some of those schemes, such as the introduction of massive farm subsidies, imposed huge, enduring costs on the world economy.

Luckily, Australia is too small to do the world much harm. But history shows we have a rare genius for hurting ourselves. And there is no surer way of doing so than through public policies that are poorly conceived and wasteful. Rudd and Wayne Swan know that: it's time they acted on it.


Logan Hospital staff quit after government ignores complaints

ONE of Queensland's busiest public hospitals has lost five of its most senior doctors and managers, with no signs of them being replaced. Logan Hospital has been seconding staff from other public hospitals in Brisbane to cover the shortfall of experienced medical staff.

Deputy Premier and new Health Minister Paul Lucas confirmed the worrying turnover, but noted that three of the staff remained within Queensland Health at other hospitals.

Mr Lucas will today begin a two-month "health listening tour" across the state to "see first-hand the challenges facing the health network". Acknowledging major problems at Logan Hospital, Mr Lucas said the Government had to do more - something it promised during and after its successful election campaign. "Senior doctors are often harder to recruit and retain, and I'll be listening to the thoughts of medical professionals about how best to retain expert staff on my statewide listening tour," he said yesterday.

The Sunday Mail first highlighted problems at Logan Hospital last May in a frank open letter from Dr Michael Cameron, then the senior staff specialist in emergency medicine at Logan Hospital. Five months after being asked to talk to Premier Anna Bligh and then health minister Stephen Robertson about the issues Dr Cameron left Logan, saying it was "too dangerous and too dysfunctional". "Everyone is overworked and overwhelmed ... the pressure definitely got on top of me," Dr Cameron said last September.

He stayed with Queensland Health, but took his emergency skills to the newer Redland Hospital in January. Dr Cameron's position at Logan Hospital had not been filled as of last week. Sources said the director of emergency services had also left Logan Hospital last month to take up an identical position at Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital. Three other senior staff had resigned in the past year because of the workload and pressure. Sources said Queensland Health had moved doctors in from around southeast Queensland hospitals to fill the gaps.

"Logan has degenerated even further," a senior public hospital doctor told The Sunday Mail last week. "They have got major problems there. Lucas has got an uphill battle."

The Minister - handed the poisoned chalice by Ms Bligh last week - said more people would be put into frontline services. "Queensland Health tells me that since 2005, we've hired an extra 100 doctors for Logan Hospital and almost 220 extra nurses - an increase of 66 per cent and 41 per cent respectively in less than four years," said Mr Lucas, who kicks off his tour with a visit to Dr Cameron's Redland Hospital.

"I know Dr Cameron is very highly thought of and I am very keen to meet him and to understand his perspectives on the health system. "Dr Cameron is one of more than 6600 doctors employed by Queensland Health, and I'm undertaking this tour to see what's happening on the ground, and speak to professionals like him and others right across the health network."

Mr Lucas said he would visit hospitals in Cairns, Townsville and southeast Queensland this week. He also promised to visit health facilities on the Torres Strait islands to ensure repair work on sub-standard nursing accommodation had been completed. Mr Robertson was stripped of his responsibilities during the election campaign after it emerged that the housing had not been fixed. He was ultimately banished from the Health portfolio.

"I want to see every part of our health system at work - from the kitchens, to the wards, to our emergency departments and doctors out there delivering services in the community," Mr Lucas said. "Health impacts on many aspects of people's lives and I'm determined to see what's happening on the frontline and how we can improve the services Queensland Health delivers." Mr Lucas said he would also visit a hospital emergency department in action during a peak period.

Dr Cameron said he would be keen to help the new Bligh Government health regime. He said he was enjoying work under different conditions in Redland Hospital.


Melbourne Catholic Church embraces testing to ID gay priests

THE Melbourne Catholic Church has embraced a Vatican recommendation to test potential priests for sexual orientation. Under the guidelines, potential priests who "appear" to be gay must be banned. The head of the Vatican committee that made the recommendations has made it clear celibate gays should also be banned because homosexuality is ‘‘a type of deviation’’.

Archdiocese of Melbourne spokesman James O’Farrell confirmed Carlton’s Corpus Christi Catholic seminary had started adhering to the guidelines, but refused to comment further.

Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby spokeswoman Hayley Conway said the church was sending a ‘‘dangerous and offensive’’ message about sexuality. ‘‘They seem to be moving backwards in a lot of ways which is really unfortunate . . . especially for those who are Catholic and out, and there are a lot of them already struggling,’’ she said. ‘‘If the plan is to root out pedophilia or child molestation, targeting people with homosexual tendencies isn’t the way to go about it.’’

Outspoken Catholic priest Father Bob Maguire said the document ‘‘flies in the face of secular society’s sense of fairness and justice’’. ‘‘The point is not to what gender you are attracted, but how you manage that attraction,’’ he said. [Since it seems to have been badly managed in the past, surely it is best not to have that problem in the first place. Frustrated homosexual would-be priests could easily become Anglicans, where they would find many "friends" and plenty of gorgeous eucharistic services, complete with bells, smells and elaborate vestments]


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but only the Catholics do those fabulous dresses. Anglican just doesn't cut it.