Saturday, June 13, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is disgusted at the defamation of Australia's military men by Mark Latham

Child protection agencies are picking on soft targets and ignoring real problems

By Sara Hudson

The case of the Northern Territory teenager known as Kunmanara is yet another example of the failure of government to protect children from abuse. Meanwhile, a Queensland man is facing child-abuse charges for downloading a video of a swinging baby and publishing it on a video sharing site. Both these cases highlight the absurdity of the child abuse laws in this country.

Despite everybody from police, Family and Community Services (FACS) and health services being aware that Kunmanara was in danger they did nothing to protect her. No one seemed to notice that she did not attend school for nearly a year. The fact that she tested positive to two sexually transmitted diseases at the age of 13 did not stop FACS staff assessing the teenager as “safe.”

While the man at the centre of the Queensland case may have acted stupidly in publishing the video of the swinging baby he surely does not deserve the maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment for his actions. He is arguing that the video is not child-abuse material but is a “training film for a Russian circus family.”

Interestingly, I remember viewing a program on ABC about a young Russian weight lifter. The program showed shots of her as young baby being swung by her father as part of a ‘training’ regime he had devised to make her stronger. No one took ABC to task for republishing such footage. It is ludicrous that Police resources are being spent on prosecuting this case when many officials seem to be turning a blind eye to real cases of child abuse. It is difficult to be 100% accurate and mistakes in judgement will inevitably occur. But too often child protection agencies focus on soft targets like this Queenslander, while the really serious cases are neglected in the "too hard" basket. The challenge for people working in this field is to know when something is a distraction and when something needs a full and serious investigation.

The above is a press release dated June 12 from CIS

Australian public health bureaucrats botching swine flu response

It really is an epidemic in Victoria but the bureaucratic response there borders on the insane. It is a situation where prompt responses are crucial, but promptness is simply beyond bureaucrats

ANGRY GPs have slammed a "conspicuous lack of leadership" in Australia's response to the swine flu crisis, with some patients waiting eight days for test results or receiving anti-viral drugs too late to limit the infection. The doctors have blamed delays and inconsistent responses at state and federal levels for undermining efforts to contain the disease in Australia, placing the nation on the front line of the world's first flu pandemic in more than 40 years.

The World Health Organisation conceded defeat early yesterday in global efforts to confine the novel H1N1 strain, upgrading its six-level warning system to full-blown pandemic. Despite the worldwide upgrade, Australia yesterday did not lift its own pandemic alert status to the highest level, on the basis that the disease remained a mild one for most of the population.

The number of Australians infected with the new H1N1 strain is, however, believed to be far higher than last night's official national tally of 1391 because Victoria has abandoned its daily caseload updates. The state last Wednesday cut back its laboratory testing for the virus from about 500 to 1000 samples a day to 50 to 70 a day, after acknowledging it could no longer contain the disease.

Even then, patients were falling through the cracks in the testing system, Melbourne GP Kirstin Charlesworth told The Australian. She said a 17-year-old boy who came to her Toorak practice two weeks ago with classic flu symptoms, including a 39C fever, had to wait for eight days for test results to confirm his diagnosis, by which stage he was back at school. The patient was initially refused priority testing because he fell outside Victoria's risk criteria, and could not be fast-tracked even after classmates tested positive to swine flu. "They said they couldn't do it - it was on the slow train to nowhere and had been sent interstate," Dr Charlesworth said. "I asked if I could at least have Tamiflu for the patient, for his household, and for myself - and they said, 'No, because he doesn't have swine flu at this stage'."

Thomas Lyons, a GP from Eagleby, southeast of Brisbane, said logistics were "falling over" in the fight to contain the virus, and likened the bureaucrats responsible for organising the national swine flu response to the generals in charge at Gallipoli. "There is a conspicuous lack of leadership at the state level here in Queensland," he said. Dr Lyons said a woman who had been a passenger on the Pacific Dawn cruise liner, which hosted a major swine flu outbreak, had told him hospital staff had promised that masks and other equipment needed for her quarantine would be sent to her home. "It arrived eight days later - much too late to be of any epidemiological or biological use whatsoever," Dr Lyons said. Pathology companies were quoting him testing turnaround times of between two and five days, yet the anti-viral Tamiflu commonly used for treatment was largely ineffective more than 48 hours into the course of the disease. "Giving it more than 72 hours after the onset of symptoms is a waste of time," Dr Lyons said.

Sydney GP Mike Moore, chief executive of the Central Sydney GP Network, said authorities could have managed the situation better. "If we had been more careful, we could probably have delayed entry of the virus into the country, and (if) various jurisdictions had been more co-ordinated," he said.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon yesterday sought to head off doctors' concerns by announcing almost $4 million in new funding to provide extra support for GPs. [Irrelevant tokenism]


Climate cops?

FRONTLINE police will be forced to become "carbon cops" under the Government's blueprint to cut greenhouse emissions. The Herald Sun can reveal Australian Federal Police agents will have to prosecute a new range of climate offences. But they are yet to be offered extra resources, stretching the thin blue line to breaking point.

"The Government is effectively saying to us, 'Ignore other crime types'," Australian Federal Police Association chief Jim Torr said. The group had been trying for months, without success, to discuss the issue with Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, he said.

Interpol has warned the carbon market will be irresistible to criminal gangs because of the vast amounts of cash to be made. Possible rorts include under-reporting of carbon emissions by firms and bogus carbon offset schemes. "If someone is rorting it by even 1 per cent a year, we're talking about many, many millions of dollars," Mr Torr said.

Ms Wong's office said AFP agents would be expected to enter premises and request paperwork to monitor firms' emissions reductions. They would act on the 30-strong Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority's orders. It said the authority could appoint staff members or police as inspectors. She said the Department of Climate Change had spoken to the AFPA and the parties would talk again. Carbon trading involves carbon emissions rights buying and selling. Businesses can offset emissions by investing in climate-friendly projects, or carbon credits. Ms Wong's office said provisions had been made to ensure compliance. "Inspectors may enter premises and exercise other monitoring powers," she said. "The inspectors may ask questions and seek the production of documents. There is provision for the issue of monitoring warrants by magistrates."

The AFP's 2855 sworn agents are involved in law enforcement in Australia and overseas, investigating terrorist threats, drug syndicates, people trafficking, fraud and threats against children.

Mr Torr said breaking carbon trading laws would be like breaking other laws. "These offences will constitute another federal crime type, along with narcotics importing, people smuggling and all the rest of it, that the AFP will be expected to police," he said. "I can see very complex, covert investigations . . . a lot of scientific expertise required."

The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is facing Senate defeat unless it can secure the support of key cross-benchers or the Opposition. Opposition climate change spokesman Andrew Robb said the scheme was problematic.


NSW government hospital freezes elderly patients for two weeks

While management sit in their warm offices ignoring the problem

DOZENS of patients were left in freezing conditions, some so cold they could not eat, after one of Sydney's leading hospitals failed to fix a broken heating system as temperatures plunged during this week's cold snap. Prince of Wales Hospital, run by an area health service the Opposition says is almost bankrupt, admitted yesterday that heating on Level 7 was broken as temperatures fell to just 6C.

Orthopaedic patients struggled in the cold, with one 97-year-old woman suffering a broken hip unable to hold a spoon in her numb hands. Eva Lang's niece Marika Pogany took her a portable heater in a bid to keep her warm before she was finally moved to a rehabilitation hospital yesterday after two freezing weeks at Prince of Wales. There were another three patients in Ms Lang's room and her niece estimated another 30 patients were in the frozen wing of the hospital.

Mrs Pogany said nurses had told her the heating was supposed to be turned up on June 1 but was discovered to be broken.

"The patients are all elderly people after operations. They are freezing. At lunch time when I went there her hands were blue, (My aunt) could not even hold a spoon," Ms Pogany said. "They are fragile people. Hospitals should be warm. I don't know what they are spending the money on."

Opposition Health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said the South Eastern Sydney Area Health Service was almost bankrupt. "It is deplorable, I suspect it all comes down to not enough money to fix the problem," Ms Skinner said. "To the Government, sitting in their warm offices, the patients are out of sight and out of mind, the hospital and area health service are absolutely on the brink. "It is lucky some of these people's health hasn't been compromised to the point where they died. When people are old and frail their condition can deteriorate very quickly."

The hospital claimed maintenance staff were only alerted to the problem on Thursday and workers would try to have the heating fixed by today. "If the hospital didn't know the heating was broken, they have some answers to provide," Ms Skinner said.


Lying coverup attempt from trigger happy cops

They should be prosecuted for murder

WITNESSES to the fatal police shooting of a young man have contradicted claims the officer had no choice but to shoot him. Two women have independently sworn they did not see Elijah Holcombe armed with a knife and said he was at least 15m away from officers when he was shot in the chest. In statements obtained by The Daily Telegraph, the women claim Mr Holcombe, who suffered from mental illness, was "calm" when ordered to stop by police in Cinders Lane, Armidale, this month.

"The second person (a plain clothes police officer) was moving fast but never caught up with the first person (Elijah)," one witness said. "I estimate the distance between them to be four or five car widths."

The second witness said Mr Holcombe's "demeanor seemed casual" and he was "in no hurry just strolling along". She said he had complied with an undercover officer's orders to stop and was calm, contrary to police claims that he ignored warnings to drop his knife. "The young man turned around casually and I would say he had a look of bewilderment on his face - but he was fairly calm and casual," the woman said. "He just turned around and stood still. I can't remember anything about his hands - I was looking at his face. He didn't say anything."

On the day of the shooting Assistant Commissioner Geoff McKechnie said the officer had no choice but to shoot Mr Holcombe because he had made threats with a knife and refused to put down the weapon.

One witness said there was no attempt by the undercover officer to negotiate with Mr Holcombe. "The gun discharged immediately after the third warning. I remember also that the third warning was immediately after the second warning," she said. "The young man came off the footpath into the gutter. He fell into the gutter. His head moved around a bit. His body moved slightly. I did not see the young man with a weapon."

The sworn statements were made independently by two women who had parked their cars near the scene of the shooting behind the Armidale shopping centre.

Mr Holcombe's widow Allison Garvey had told The Daily Telegraph she is "completely devastated". "The police were presented with many choices and in every instance they (made) the most careless choice they could make," she said.

A NSW Police spokesman last night refused to comment. "An independent Critical Incident Investigation team is preparing a report," the spokesman said.


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