Thursday, June 11, 2009

Troubles escalate when police look the other way

I also have experienced police refusal to take any notice of an approach from me: in connection with my car being stolen. They just don't want to know about anything that might give them work to do -- JR

It's a rich irony that the Prime Minister and police commanders in Sydney and Melbourne are now admonishing Indian students who have decided to take responsibility for their own security instead of continuing to be passive victims of violent crime. Sound familiar?

Assistant Police Commissioner Dave Owens warned Indian students protesting at Harris Park not to be "vigilantes" and "leave the detection of offenders and their arrest to us".

In Victoria, a police spokeswoman said Indian students doing their own security patrols at crime-ridden western suburbs railway stations should "leave and let police do their jobs".

Well, if the police had done their jobs in the first place Indian students wouldn't feel like they have to escort each other home from railway stations late at night. Nor would 1000 Indian students have gathered on Sunday at Town Hall and this week in Harris Park to protest about the lax policing.

But now that Australia's not-so-secret suburban law and order problem has become an international scandal, it's remarkable how vigilant the police can be. The Victorian commissioner, Simon Overland, was this week boasting about a "major crackdown" on crime, with uniformed police, rail transit officers, the dog squad, mounted police and the air wing to patrol the stations where Indian students have been mugged with impunity for years. In Harris Park, Sydney's new Little India, police were out in force this week as young Indians gathered to protest about the latest harassment by what they described as a gang of "Middle Eastern men".

Regardless of whether the attacks on Indian students are racially motivated, or whether the violence is being committed by Middle Eastern, Caucasian or any other ethnic group, the fact is our governments and police forces have been turning a blind eye to it. It seems that allowing our cities to become no-go zones at night is easier than enforcing the law.

Indian students in Sydney and Melbourne have simply decided they have had enough. Saurabh, who has just completed a masters at the University of Western Sydney, has been aware of attacks on his fellow Indian students since at least 2004. In an email in response to my column last week, he described a bus trip from the city to western Sydney late one night when "a group of five teenage guys were troubling this lone nightshift Indian worker who was sitting in the front … He didn't resist and just ignored them … Right when they left the bus they spat on the Indian guy and ran away laughing."

He says that in Harris Park, "muggings are a common occurrence". "I see the police as very vigilant only during protests like the G20 and the recent one by the Indian students … Also, the traffic police are very vigilant in giving tickets. But the normal police are not in giving public protection."

It's not just Indian students complaining about police inaction. It's young Chinese as well. Yuening, for instance, a student from China studying at the University of NSW: "I can tell you that every international student studying in Australia is worrying about safety every day. I think more than one-third of us would have the unpleasant experience." Recently, he says, two friends were robbed on campus, on the main road. But he claims police "tolerate modest robbery".

Murtaza, an Indian student, was mugged 18 months ago on a Saturday night about 8.30 in the heart of Melbourne's CBD. "They broke my nose and ran away and as I called the police little did I know that my complaint will be just going to deaf ears and blind eyes," he said. He went to the police station the next day but was told the offenders had not been found. "I went to the police station two more times in the same week to get my complaint in, not because I expected the police to actually nab those guys, but just wanted a recognition by the law that such an incident had occurred. But every time I went there, I was greeted by a different officer who told me that they were too busy. "It's funny how the police seem to be so busy, considering that such incidents keep occurring in various parts of the city, with the lawbreakers getting away on most of the occasions."

Another Indian student, Ajay Kumar, who was at the Harris Park protest this week, says he is so afraid of being assaulted on his way home from work at night, he doesn't go home. "If I finish my work, I stay there," he told the ABC. "Why? Because I know if I come back, someone will smash me, someone will take my money. I know. Because I'm not safe here. Because Australian police is shit, fully shit."

In a strange twist of fate, Superintendent Robert Redfern, the Parramatta local area commander who was hard at work at the Harris Park protests at midnight on Tuesday, was also police commander at Cronulla during the 2005 race riots. We saw then the dangers of vigilantism.

Back then, Cronulla locals had been complaining for months that police were playing down assaults and menacing behaviour by what they described as "Middle Eastern" youths from south-western Sydney. There was a protest, which turned into an ugly riot with racist violence against anyone who looked Middle Eastern, followed by revenge attacks as young men from the south-west drove to Cronulla damaging property and assaulting people, with police nowhere to be seen.

In Harris Park, the script is familiar. Police play down crime problems, victims lose faith in the authorities to protect them, start to protest, take matters into their own hands, attack innocent passers-by. So far there have been no revenge attacks but it's unlikely police can guarantee they won't occur.


Bus driver dumps school children at shopping centre in high-risk area instead of taking them home

It's now a fortnight later so has he been fired or prosecuted? No: Just "counselled"!!! Maybe he is a Muslim. They can do no wrong

A BUSLOAD of school children, some as young as seven, were dumped at a shopping centre and told to make their own way home because the driver was running late, The Daily Telegraph reports. The distraught children were dropped about 1.5km from their stop after the driver took the wrong route and then abandoned them in Blacktown - a suburb with one of Sydney's highest crime rates. "I'm running late, you all have to get off," he told the children before dropping them at busy Westpoint Shopping Centre.

Sandra Barber's children Luke, 7, and Jessica, 11, who were on the bus, had no way of contacting their parents. Mrs Barber said her children and two other frantic primary students were helped by a group of high school girls from Nagle College who were also on the bus. The girls gave them money to use a pay phone to contact their parents.

The children asked some police officers where the nearest phone was and when the officers learned why they were alone they took them to Blacktown police station and rang their parents.

Busways has failed to explain the May 28 incident to the Barbers and is now in the firing line of the Ministry of Transport for failing to report the breach until The Daily Telegraph made inquiries yesterday. About 25 children regularly catch the bus but a Busways spokeswoman refused to reveal how many were dumped as "management might not want that released".

"It was horrifying," Mrs Barber said yesterday. "When I got to the police station my son got very upset when he saw me. It hit my daughter later. She got very upset. "The bus was late, then it went a different way and the kids started getting worried. "One of the Nagle girls went to speak to the driver and he totally ignored them."

Local MP Paul Gibson said Busways' failure to deliver the children safely to their stops was abysmal and its claim there was a "miscommunication" was a poor excuse. "It is absolutely abysmal that something like that can happen, particularly when this company is being subsidised by the taxpayer," Mr Gibson said. "Anything could have happened, in this day and age, when you leave little kids and drop them off at a shopping centre without parents or anyone looking after them."

Transport Minister David Campbell wrote to Busways outlining two breaches of their obligations. The Busways spokeswoman conceded that the bus was late arriving at the school and apologised to parents, saying the driver had been counselled. She said that managers "suspected that a miscommunication was the cause of the incident".


TV comedy boss demoted over cruel program

I am glad someone has got the bullet over this horrible affair. How could any decent person laugh at terminally ill children and tell them that they "are going to die anyway". The ABC is of course heavily Left-leaning and this episode was yet another example of the Leftist emotional insensitivity that I discussed recently. More background on the story here

The ABC has demoted its head of TV comedy, Amanda Duthie, over last week's controversial Chaser skit about sick children, saying her failure to stop the segment going to air was an error of judgment. Before yesterday Ms Duthie was one of the ABC's most powerful executives - today her once dazzling career prospects are in limbo, The Australian reports.

ABC managing director Mark Scott announced Ms Duthie had been removed as the head of ABC TV comedy following the airing last week of the sketch on The Chaser's War on Everything that satirised the granting of wishes to terminally ill children through the "Make-a-Realistic-Wish Foundation".

ABC management's decision followed a review of the processes that led to the screening of the segment, causing the program to be suspended from broadcast for two weeks.

"The segment should not have been broadcast," Mr Scott said. "We recognise that it caused unnecessary and unreasonable hurt and offence to our viewers and the broader community and we have apologised for this." Mr Scott said Ms Duthie should have referred the skit to the next level of management as was clearly set out in the ABC's editorial policies. "Where staff are concerned about the potential for satirical material to cause harm they should refer the matter to the next level of management. "In this instance, (Ms Duthie) reviewed the segment and did not refer it up. This was an error of judgment."

A spokesperson for the Chaser team last night responded to Ms Duthie's demotion saying: "We are sorry we put the sketch forward and we think it is a harsh call on Amanda who had, and has, our full support".


Australia has best start to a snow season in a decade

Global cooling strikes again

THE best start to a snow season in a decade should have all of Australia's major ski fields up and running by the weekend. Extensive snowfalls this week have created a good base at all the major NSW and Victorian ski resorts with more snow due over the next two days. Snowmaking machines will also be enhancing the natural cover. For the first time in history, Perisher is looking to open Mt Perisher for the second weekend of the season.

The heaviest fall in either state in the past 24 hours has been at the Victorian cross country venue at Lake Mountain, where only three months ago the state's deadly bushfires had ravaged the landscape. Some 40 centimetres has fallen at Lake Mountain and all cross country trails are open. Of the main downhill locations, the Victorian resorts of Mount Buller and Falls Creek had registered the highest falls, each receiving around 25cm in the 24 hours to 5pm (AEST) on Wednesday.

Falls Creek had an average cover of 44cm with one lift open, and Mt Buller had 56cm on the ground, where six lifts are due to roll on Friday. Two lifts operated on Wednesday at Mt Hotham where there was an average cover of around 40cm.

In NSW, one lift operated at Thredbo on Wednesday with 10cm of fresh snow bringing the overall cover to around 50cm, but the slopes remained officially closed to the public. Perisher had two lifts in action with one run open, but snow falls throughout the day have made prospects of a more extensive opening likely later this week. Snowmaking will add to the cover in all resorts with a new front expected to cross the Alps from Friday.


Queensland's $6b hospitals plan full of holes

Governments can neither build nor run hospitals well

A DAMNING report has cast grave doubts over the credibility of the state's $6 billion hospital building program and exposed poor planning for the state's future health needs.

Auditor-General Glen Poole has revealed that planning surrounding the $100 million Townsville Hospital expansion was so inadequate that Queensland Health itself was concerned the result would be "dysfunctional" on an operational basis. Mr Poole identified a system which had no clear links between the health service plans drawn up by Queensland Health and the funding decisions the Government subsequently made.

His report follows a wave of controversy over the Government's decision to establish a $1.1 billion Queensland Children's Hospital near the Mater Hospital at South Brisbane, a move critics insist was done without adequate planning.

The Government's hospital infrastructure program, which it boasts is the biggest in Australia, also includes the $1.5 billion Gold Coast University Hospital, due to open in 2012, and the $1.2 billion Sunshine Coast Hospital, expected to open its doors in 2014.

Health Minister Paul Lucas admitted the Government had made health commitments before the proper planning had been undertaken. "I think that in the past what has happened is that there has been public pressure for something to happen, then an announcement is made and then off we go," Mr Lucas said.

Mr Poole said a case in point was the Townsville Hospital project, which the department admitted was announced three years ago without any supporting health services or capital infrastructure plan. The project was supposed to deliver 100 extra beds and double the hospital's emergency department by next year but Mr Poole's report reveals that nothing has been budgeted for the expansion of other parts of the hospital such as pharmacy and record-keeping services to cope with the extra load.

A business case for the entire project – which Queensland Health neglected to draw up until February this year – warned that unless more funding was found, the project would establish "a service that will be dysfunctional".

Queensland Health director-general Mick Reid admitted the report meant Queensland Health may have put services in the wrong place or provided infrastructure without recurrent funding to operate them. He said while the report exposed serious issues, it also highlighted how the department had already recognised these and taken action. "I think it is a fair cop that the department is criticised for its poor service planning functions," he said.

Mr Poole's report is yet another blow to Queensland Health, whose operations have been under intense scrutiny since the 2005 Bundaberg Base Hospital scandal. "I expected that with a focus on service planning since 2005, the department would have more advanced service planning systems in place," the report said. "Funding and resourcing implications were not identified in most plans reviewed."


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