Friday, July 24, 2009

Bill Carter QC calls for ban on cops investigating cops

The old CJC did all its own investigations so why cannot its successor body, the CMC? Dare I suggest bureaucratic laziness? Note that even in this latest case where there was extensive wrongdoing, the CMC initially dismissed the complaints. They were only prodded into action by another body. I suggest that the CMC is not worth feeding. It is just a reincarnation of Sir Joh's old Police Whitewash Tribunal of the 1970s and 80s

FORMER Queensland corruption commissioner Bill Carter QC yesterday demanded an end to the practice of "cops investigating cops" for misconduct, saying this must be done by investigators independent of the police. The retired Supreme Court judge, who headed two investigations into police corruption in the 1990s, spoke out as Queensland's embattled Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson rejected calls for the service to be stripped of powers to investigate allegations of misconduct and corruption against its own.

Wednesday's scathing report by the state's Crime and Misconduct Commission into the so-called Dangerous Liaisons affair, in which police are alleged to have offered cash, confidential information, outings from prison and sexual encounters to prison informants to boost crime clearance rates, has unleashed criticism that the Queensland Police Service has turned its back on the hard-earned lessons of the Fitzgerald corruption inquiry of 20 years ago.

Mr Carter said that police corruption would not be arrested until all such misconduct allegations were handled by an external agency such as the CMC, not the police service's own Ethical Standards Command. This was the case in Queensland under the CMC's forerunner, the Criminal Justice Commission, which was established in the wake of the Fitzgerald inquiry to combat corruption in the police and government sector.

In an interview with The Australian, Mr Carter said he made recommendations about the need for a strong police watchdog in reports from two commissions of inquiry he headed into police corruption -- one dealing with police involvement in drugs, and the other where police were stealing and selling cars.

In both cases police depended on information from criminal contacts -- a practice Mr Carter condemned. "The current CMC operates on the basis that it responds to complaints," Mr Carter said. "It doesn't have any proactive strategy where there is an ongoing investigation and analysis of intelligence, and so forth. "It is designed to avoid having another Fitzgerald inquiry, which assumes the watchdog will be continually vigilant and working on it. They have to build up an intelligence base and ongoing strategies to identify where there might be a problem before it gets out of hand."

But CMC chair Robert Needham, who will retire from the body at the end of the year, yesterday told The Australian that it was "not physically possible or desirable" for the watchdog to handle all complaints of police misconduct. "I am of the firm belief that the less serious police misconduct should be handled relatively close to the officer against whom the allegation has been made," he said. "It's only through the supervisor taking responsibility for dealing with allegations of misconduct among his officers that high ethical standards and appropriate supervision will be embedded. "If a supervisor is able to send a complaint against an officer to an external body, like the CMC, then they will have the attitude that it's not a matter they have to worry about."

The CMC's Dangerous Liaison's report detailed how the initial two complaints about improper police dealings with prisoners were initially dismissed by the Ethical Standards Command. It was only when the Australian Federal Police later intercepted prison telephone calls of double murderer Lee Owen Henderson -- who is at the centre of the scandal -- that a full investigation was launched. Of the 25 officers -- some ranked as high as inspector -- implicated in the CMC report, three have been charged with perjury, one has been sacked, seven have resigned and there are 11 still serving, mostly as detectives.

Mr Atkinson yesterday defended the retention of the 11 police, saying it was "appropriate" because the offences were at the lower end of the misconduct spectrum. Mr Atkinson also confirmed that all 25 officers, including those facing criminal charges, would retain lucrative superannuation benefits. Only officers charged with "official misconduct" or criminally charged with "official corruption" can lose the government's contribution to their benefits.

Mr Atkinson echoed Mr Needham's comments, saying all of "the serious matters" handled by police were referred back to the CMC for review. "I think most people accept that we can't go back 20 years and rely on the CMC to investigate every complaint against a member of the police service," he said. "I do support the concept that we should be doing most of it."

Mr Atkinson yesterday also backed two retired assistant commissioners, who initially oversaw the dispensing of funds to informants, mostly prisoners, by the now-disgraced and disbanded Armed Robbery Unit. "You are not talking about people who, in my view, have any cloud or suspicion about them," he said.

Mr Atkinson also attacked Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers, who described the CMC's report as being full of "wild" allegations that relied on the word of convicted criminals. He said the union was "out of step" with the rest of the community and should cut loose some of the officers implicated in the CMC report. "Where a police officer has clearly done something criminal or it's misconduct and serious inappropriate behaviour, they have to disown that person," he said. "I'm not talking about situations which are arguable. I'm talking about situations where it is quite clear that the officer has acted wrongly, inappropriately and unlawfully."

However, Mr Leavers stood by his comments, saying everyone had the right to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. "I believe the only reason the CMC was in such a hurry to publish the allegations is so they could grandstand at an anti-corruption conference next week," he said. "The right to a fair trial is vital for any accused person. It is for the courts to decide someone's guilt or innocence, not the CMC, not the media and not the police commissioner."

Banks have asked the Queensland Police Service to return $10,000 given a decade ago to reward informants in robbery investigations. The Australian Bankers Association in 2000 provided $10,000 to Queensland police to set up a fund to assist in investigations into bank robberies.

Tabled in state parliament on Wednesday, the Dangerous Liaisons report invokes a return to the pre-Fitzgerald days, with police taking illegal payments, confecting charges and passing on confidential information to informants. It also details police organising court-approved excursions out of jail for prisoners, who later dined at restaurants or had sex with their partners in exchange for confessions.

Henderson, a double murderer and former NSW underworld figure, was allowed out on unsupervised trips and organised a drug heist using his unmonitored telephone from inside a maximum-security jail. The report said some mid-ranking officers had turned a blind eye or encouraged such behaviour.


Mother gives high-risk birth at home after being refused admittance by public hospital

A MOTHER has claimed she was forced to give birth on her bedroom floor after being turned away from a Sydney hospital because there were not enough beds. Natasha Ramirez, 27, was bleeding and in labour when she first arrived at Liverpool Hospital last Thursday but said she was told by a nurse, "We don't have enough room tonight". "She told me to go back home because I wouldn't be in labour for another 24 to 48 hours," Ms Ramirez said yesterday.

Five hours later baby Anjelita was born on the bedroom floor at the Ramirez home, The Daily Telegraph reports. The hospital last night refused to comment on the specific allegations.

Ms Ramirez was at her Liverpool unit with her partner Ricardo Hermosilla when she went into labour about 3am. With her mother Diane Burns in Dubbo, Ms Ramirez decided to call a taxi to take her to the hospital. When she arrived she was taken to the birthing unit but claimed she was not seen by a doctor, only a nurse.

At four days overdue, Ms Ramirez was concerned that there might be complications similar to those she suffered in her previous birth when she needed anti-D injections because of her O-negative blood type. "A nurse assessed me and told me to go back home because they were full that night," she said. "I was told all along during my pregnancy that as soon as I went into labour I needed to be assessed and given the injections straight away. "When I got back home I had to lie on the floor I was in so much pain."

She called the hospital again and was told by staff to return. Mr Hermosilla called an ambulance but Anjelita was born before it arrived. "I am angry because something could have happened," she said. Her mother said she was furious her daughter had been put through such an ordeal. "When she got home she rang the hospital and told them she was having contractions and then they said they would make arrangements for a bed," Ms Burns said. "It just makes you wonder why they couldn't do that in the first place."

In a statement last night, a hospital spokeswoman said patients' complaints were taken "very seriously". "Patients who have not yet begun labour, and who are assessed by a doctor and found to have no other clinical needs, are usually sent home to await the full onset of labour," the spokeswoman said.


Humanity can't power progress with green faith

By Martin Ferguson (Martin Ferguson is the federal Resources and Energy Minister in Australia's centre-Left Federal government)

ENVIRONMENTALISTS who oppose everything except renewable energy are condemning billions to poverty. THE federal government's support for a liquefied natural gas development in the Kimberley and the Four Mile uranium mine in South Australia has generated heated opposition from people who say they are true environmentalists.

The same people oppose the government's $2.4 billion commitment to accelerate low-emission coal technologies. And, despite a renewable energy target of 20 per cent by 2020 and more than $2bn also being spent to accelerate and commercialise renewable technologies, they don't like biomass even though it is proven and often the most affordable, efficient and practical of the renewable technologies on offer today. Some also oppose geothermal energy.

Such opposition demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of where our electricity comes from, how much it costs, who pays for it and what the future global energy landscape looks like. There are 1.6 billion people in the world with no access to electricity. They are the poorest people on the planet. As the developing world continues to modernise and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development economies continue to grow, global energy consumption is set to nearly double in the next 20 years.

China is the obvious case study. It already has 11 nuclear power stations in operation and a further 29 under construction or announced. China's LNG imports are set to double this year and increase a further 50 per cent next year. It already has more renewable energy capacity than any other nation and renewable energy's share of domestic capacity in China will grow to 15 per cent in 2020.

And every four months, from now until 2020, China will build new coal-fired power stations possessing the same capacity as Australia's entire coal-fired power sector. Clearly, no serious response to climate change can ignore the need to clean up coal. Those who oppose the development of Australia's uranium and LNG resources, and low-emission coal technologies, need to answer the following two questions.

Do they want the world's poor to have access to electricity? If so, how do they propose to generate it? The answers would be yes and renewables. Admirable, but impossible today. I have yet to meet anyone who opposes the use of cheap, reliable renewable energy. However, the factors limiting the uptake of renewables remain technical, not political. We must have a rational, science-based pathway to overcome those hurdles. Faith alone will not get us there.

That is precisely why the federal government is making unprecedented investments in clean-energy technology development and our budget this year contained $4.5bn to achieve this goal. Governments across the world are taking similar steps because technology created this problem and only an energy technology transformation will solve it. Many different technology pathways are being pursued because it is too early to pick winners.

Technologies capable of producing clean, affordable, reliable base-load power from the sun, the wind or the ocean, or from low-emission coal, may still be several years away. Any objective assessment of available global energy options would conclude that gas and uranium are essential transition fuels as the world moves to a cleaner energy future.

During the next few decades, uranium and LNG are set to play a significant role in the global response to climate change and, put simply, blanket opposition to these industries is a political stance, not a practical one. As an energy-rich nation with a wide range of options, Australia does not need to pursue a domestic nuclear power industry, yet many nations are not so lucky. For them, a nuclear energy capacity is vital to respond to the challenges of climate change and energy security.

With about 40 per cent of the world's uranium, Australia has an obligation to be a responsible supplier of uranium for peaceful purposes and an opportunity to make a significant contribution to global carbon dioxide abatement efforts.

This comes with significant economic benefits. Australia's uranium exports are forecast to nearly double by 2014, to $1.6bn. Our LNG sector is set to have an even greater impact.

Australia is already the fifth largest LNG exporter, with exports worth nearly $10bn in 2008-09. With the range of projects under consideration in northwestern Australia and at Gladstone, LNG exports could triple in the next decade. These are big employers and big investors. Take Woodside's Pluto LNG project in the Pilbara, Australia's largest single investment project at about $12bn. Today, at the peak of construction, it is employing about 4000 people, one in four of whom come from the east coast.

Later this year, Chevron, Shell and ExxonMobil expect to make a final investment decision on the Gorgon LNG project, also in the Pilbara. And the race is on to develop Inpex's Ichthys project in Darwin, the Sunrise project in the Timor Sea and various coal seam methane-based LNG projects in Gladstone, Queensland. The Gorgon project alone could involve total investment in the order of $50bn. That's a one-project, private sector economic stimulus package.

The federal government is also working with industry, the West Australian government and the Kimberley Land Council to establish a new regional LNG hub in the Kimberley to develop Browse Basin gas reserves. We have committed more than $340 million in the West Kimberley during the next four years to close the gap on indigenous disadvantage. An LNG hub could secure the future economic and social empowerment of indigenous communities in the Kimberley as well as add to national wealth and provide a new clean energy source for our neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region.

As an electricity source that emits about half the CO2 of coal today, a rapidly expanding Australian LNG industry will have a very positive environmental effect for the planet. When LNG is used instead of coal to generate electricity in China, nine tonnes of CO2 emissions are saved for every tonne of LNG produced.

The global energy landscape of the 21st century is complex and dynamic. As the world moves -- appropriately -- to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, the true environmentalists are those willing to embrace science and technology in the search for safe, environmentally sustainable and affordable ways to deliver uranium, LNG, low-emission coal and renewable energy technologies. The world needs all of them for a cleaner energy future.


Queensland's child protection system fails as 79 children die

QUEENSLAND Government says 79 children known to child safety authorities have died over the past year - a rise of more than 50 per cent in four years. A parliamentary estimates hearing in Brisbane yesterday was told 79 children were known to the child protection system at the time of, or within three years prior to, their deaths. The figure was well above the 63 deaths in 2007/08, 57 in 2006/07 and 51 in 2005/06.

New figures also showed the number of children coming into contact with child protection authorities rose from 53,500 in 2004/05 to 71,900 in 2007/08. Minister for Child Safety Phil Reeves said about one in seven children in Queensland are known to Child Safety at some time in their childhood. This could include reports of children being yelled at or smacked in public through to the most severe forms of child abuse and neglect.

Mr Reeves conceded 79 deaths involved children known to the department. "The most common cause of death for children known to the system was disease and morbid conditions, followed by accidental death including road fatalities, drowning and house fires,'' Mr Reeves said. "Some children come to the attention of the department when they are rushed to hospital and notified by health staff to Child Safety only to die hours later from their injuries. "Child Safety officers cannot be in every room, of every house in Queensland every hour of the day,'' he said.

Opposition child safety spokesman Jack Dempsey said the child safety system, which was transferred from a stand-alone department to the Department of Communities in March this year, was failing. "One child death is one too many. We should be doing everything possible to reduce child deaths - the minister should have this as his top priority,'' Mr Dempsey said.


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