Tuesday, April 21, 2009

DNA security doubts hinder Queensland Police

Is this another indictment of the notorious John Tonge forensic laboratory? There have been many claims that the John Tonge problems have been "fixed". It that coming apart again?

MAJOR crime investigations could be stalled after forensic police raised doubts over the storage and security of their own DNA profiles. The situation has escalated to the point where some of the state's forensic officers are no longer voluntarily providing their own DNA to the Queensland Police Service.

Police were first asked to volunteer their samples in July last year, after advances in technology meant forensic officers were taking more complex DNA samples from crime scenes and risked capturing their own DNA in the process. Although 400 officers have already provided their DNA, the police union posted a message on its website on Friday advising officers to withdraw consent for their samples to be used, and the remainder not to provide their DNA profiles.

The message from Acting Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said the union had "grave concerns" about the storage and processing of their DNA profiles after "inquiries within the forensic science community". He said several of the 450 forensic officers had raised concerns with the union after they were given a May 1 deadline to voluntarily provide their DNA samples. Mr Leavers said forensically trained officers had been told if they did not provide samples they would be prohibited from handling exhibits and attending crime scenes. Police were concerned their DNA profiles would be stored with thousands of criminal samples lodged on the Queensland and national DNA databases.

The Queensland Police Service said they were still negotiating with the officers, and their DNA profiles were used for exclusion purposes only. The QPS would not comment on whether the May 1 deadline still stood. A spokeswoman said the QPU was consulted at the time, but expressed no concerns.

Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson has also written to the union asking it to provide information and evidence over their "previously unexpressed concerns" about the DNA process. All police provide their fingerprints for elimination purposes when they join the service.


Warning signs to rape, murder ignored by hospital, police and doctor -- even though the offender was known to be insane

Your government will protect you

QUEENSLAND'S largest hospital was warned, so were police and a doctor, but no one stopped a mentally ill man from taking a family holiday which ended with him raping and killing his 10-year-old daughter. The man headed off on the fateful Bribie Island holiday with his four children after he was allowed to postpone a check-up with Queensland health authorities.

The disturbing revelations are contained in a Children's Commission review of the 2007 New Year's Eve tragedy obtained by The Courier-Mail. Queensland Communities Minister Karen Struthers said yesterday that the review's recommendations already had been implemented. But she could only "hope" that new legislation would prevent a similar tragedy, her spokeswoman said.

The Children's Commission review and a Mental Health Court judgment on the matter released last week paint a sorry picture of opportunities lost. The man had been released from the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital's mental health unit, where he had been under an involuntary treatment order, on December 21, 2007. He had been admitted on December 8 after a manic episode in a shopping centre.

The man was allowed to postpone a check-up with mental health workers scheduled for December 31. Late that night he ritualistically killed his daughter but spared her three younger siblings.

Sometime between his release from the RBWH and December 31, police were advised the man had left his four young children unsupervised, but they failed to report that "indicator of neglect" to the police child protection investigation unit. The CPIU would most probably have made a priority notification to the Department of Child Safety for an assessment of the family.

On December 30, the man's parents were so concerned about their son's behaviour, including a threat that "someone close to me is going to die tonight", that they contacted his GP. That also warranted a notification to DOCS but whether that doctor contacted the RBWH or the police was not revealed in the Children's Commission review or the Mental Health Court judgment.

On December 31, the RBWH was contacted by a former girlfriend of the man after he had gone to her home. The documents did not say whether the hospital took any action.

The man - who was found by the Mental Health Court to have been of unsound mind at the time of the murder - did not abide by the terms of his discharge. The judgment revealed he had stopped taking the antipsychotic drug, Risperidone, and resumed smoking large quantities of cannabis.

In her report, Children's Commissioner Elizabeth Fraser did not record any findings against the police or health services. [Isn't it wonderful to be a bureaucrat? You can be as negligent as you like and be completely unaccountable for it]


Silence over boat-people fire

Leftists talk the talk but don't walk the walk

It's just under a month since the Special Minister of State, John Faulkner, declared that "the best safeguard against ill-informed public judgment is not concealment but information". He added that "there is a growing acceptance that the right of the people to know … is fundamental to democracy".

Faulkner's remarks were delivered at the Australia's Right to Know conference. He used the occasion to announce Labor's freedom of information policy. However, the cabinet secretary's comments had wider implications. But not one, apparently, which has influenced the Rudd Government's response to the fire on, and sinking of, a boat containing asylum seekers off Western Australia last Thursday.

Five days after this tragedy, there has been virtually no official information released on the event, even though the Government would almost certainly have received a brief from the navy. HMAS Albany had intercepted the boat and some navy personnel were on board it, and were injured, when the explosion took place.

The explanation for what happened seems clear. It is known that, at times, desperate people take desperate and sometimes ill-considered actions. It is likely that petrol was ignited on the boat by a person or persons who believed that this was the most effective way to ensure that those on the boat were taken by the navy to Australian territory. It is unlikely that anyone intended that there should be an explosion followed by a sinking.

It is much the same with the children overboard controversy that occurred before the 2001 election. In fact, in that particular instance, no children were thrown from an asylum-seeker boat by their parents or guardians. But if such an eventuality had taken place, this would have been motivated by desperate persons believing that this was the best way to ensure that all the occupants of the boat were rescued by the navy. John Howard got the facts wrong. But his more significant failing was an inability to exhibit an empathetic understanding about how desperate people sometimes act.

Certainly the Howard government's treatment of asylum seekers was excessively harsh, especially during the period 2001 to 2005. But there is no doubt that the policy worked, in that the boats stopped coming to Australian shores, even if asylum seekers continued to arrive by air.

That's why, on the Friday before the 2007 election, The Australian carried a page one story reporting that Kevin Rudd in government would take a tough line on asylum seekers. He told journalists Paul Kelly and Dennis Shanahan that, in government, Labor would "turn back" boats that were heading for Australia.

Here Rudd was continuing a Labor policy. After all, mandatory detention for asylum seekers - including women and children - was introduced when Paul Keating was prime minister. In 1993, the mid-point of the Keating government, there were some 350 children in detention. It is understandable why the Assistant Treasurer, Chris Bowen, linked the Liberal Party with "kids" being locked-up in detention on the Q&A program last Thursday. But it is inexcusable that the Liberal Party shadow minister, Sophie Mirabella, did not set the record straight when she had an opportunity to do so.

Since the 2007 election Labor has softened the asylum seeker policy it inherited. For its part, the Coalition hardened the policy which it had inherited from Labor in 1996. I supported the changes announced by the Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, last year. Yet it would be an act of denial to maintain the softening of the policy would have no impact on asylum seekers seeking refuge in Australia.

There has been a world-wide increase in asylum seekers. Even so, in view of the acute risks involved in attempting to enter Australia in small boats, it seems that such trips are likely to be undertaken if the chances of success are seen to have increased. The intensity of the debate is such that there is not much room for rationality at either extreme. Contrary to what many refugee advocates proclaim, not all asylum seekers are refugees, not all tell the truth and not all are secular saints. Contrary to what many of those who are hostile to them believe, asylum seekers are not security threats and most who gain refugee status become hard working and entrepreneurial citizens. Anyone who has the ingenuity to make it here - by sea or air - has a skills set which adapts well to a multicultural migrant community such as Australia.

Even so, no government - Coalition or Labor - can be expected to go easy on asylum seekers. This is especially the case with those who arrive by numbers in boats, with all the publicity that this entails. There is widescale opposition in Australia to unregulated immigration and this has to be dealt with by whatever party is in office.

Yesterday on ABC2 News Breakfast, refugee advocate Tony Kevin accused the Government of being "at the mercy of public opinion". The very nature of representative government requires that politicians pay some respect to the views of those who elect them.

Moreover, it should be remembered that some Australian citizens who are attempting to bring out family members, including designated refugees, resent the fact that preference may be seen to be extended to those outside the UN approved system.

It would make sense for the Rudd Government to be as open as possible on all matters relating to border security, including the recent tragedy. The electorate may accept this is a difficult area for any government. But it is likely to resent being denied information.


Some "People's" propaganda below about illegals coming to Australia

Published, of course, by Australia's public broadcaster

Asylum seeking is a risky business, as shown by the tragedy that unfolded in Australian waters last week. The risks of not seeking asylum can be even more severe, and people experiencing persecution may have little choice but to avail themselves of extreme measures in attempts to seek safe haven. [Really?? When they have passed through several other countries on their way to Australia, they have obviously had PLENTY of choice. Afghans could for instance have stopped in Pakistan. Many do]

The blame game for the tragedy near Ashmore Reef has begun, with shadow immigration minister Sharman Stone holding the Government culpable for putting lives at risk through what she describes as a watering down of the Howard government's immigration policies and the cutting of surveillance.

Political memories are short-lived and the opposition and its supporters ought to tally the loss of lives during boat journeys to Australia under the harsh policies of John Howard. The starkest reminder of the risks at sea is in the nation's capital of Canberra - a memorial erected by refugee advocates to remember the 353 women, children and men who lost their lives on the ill-fated SIEV X, which sank on its way to Australia in 2001. The government's Temporary Protection Visa, aimed at deterring asylum seekers, barred family reunion and women and children were the majority of those who perished in a desperate bid to reach their husbands and fathers through the only means available to them.

During the Howard era there were other less-known fatal voyages where people died in tragic circumstances while attempting to seek refuge in Australia. In December 2000, then immigration minister Philip Ruddock defended his decision not to launch a search and rescue mission for 160 asylum seekers feared drowned on their way to Australia, adding that his government believed another 350 people had been lost earlier that year. In 2001 deaths included a young baby on the boat known as SIEV 5 and two women, one pregnant, on the SIEV X. [It is perfectly true that refugee boats sometimes sink and kill people but the best cure for that is to stop them setting out in the first place and that is precisely what the Howard government did]

In 2005, the Australian Council of Heads of Schools of Social Work convened the People's Inquiry into Detention [Much like the People's Democratic Republic of North Korea, no doubt. The Marxist language tells you all you need to know. These guys aren't even clever] in order to challenge and expose asylum seeker policies and practices. Witnesses to the inquiry told of the perilous journeys to Australia and the harsh treatment they received at the hands of the Australian government. We surely do not wish to return to an era where we again experience the treatment meted out to desperate people as illustrated in the following account. ["Desperate", my foot. They had plenty of choices before coming here. Australia is a long way from where they originated. Even the country where they got into the boats -- Indonesia -- is a Muslim one with Muslim obligations of hospitality. And how did they get to Indonesia? On regular airline flights! "Greedy" would be a better word for them. It is money they are after, not refuge]


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