Thursday, July 16, 2009

QANTAS does it again

You get the impression that they just don't do inspections and maintenance any more. A crash can't be far away. Sad to see a once-exemplary airline (voted second best in the world at one stage) sink so low. The deterioration in maintenance standards seems to have started in the latter half of the reign (2000 to 2007) of Margaret Jackson as chairwoman -- with a decision made in 2005 to send most maintenance work overseas -- ending up in amazingly bad Malaysian operators being given the work, for instance. We now seem to be seeing the fruit of that. A few skipped inspections might not matter, but if you keep skipping them it does eventually matter. Is Ms Jackson another example of a disastrous affirmative action appointment? Sadly, the new chairman seems to be very part-time, with lots of other fish to fry -- so would seem to be little more than a figurehead -- leaving everything to the cipher that is the new CEO. No strong leadership anywhere in the company any more so it is just drifting towards a cliff

PASSENGERS on a Qantas flight received a nasty surprise when water stored for the toilets poured from around the overhead bins. Flight QF25 was travelling from Melbourne to Los Angeles via Auckland, the Aviation Herald reported. The plane was flying over the Pacific when the water pipe supplying the toilets began to leak, causing water to pour into the passenger cabin.

The Boeing 747-400 was diverted to Honolulu Airport where it was serviced while passengers waited for two hours. The flight resumed with the same equipment after the plane was given the all-clear. The flight was delayed by five hours in total.



Two current articles below

OK for a senior cop to be offensive scum?

It seems to be in NSW -- thanks to some very lenient court decisions. It is quite clear that, far from exemplary behaviour being expected of NSW police, substandard behaviour is regarded as normal. That's NSW, I guess

A FEMALE parole officer whose breasts were commented upon by a senior policeman - after she allegedly exposed them in a bikie magazine - said she was upset that she would have to work with him again.

Although the police force tried to stand down Raymond Sewell, the NSW Court of Appeal yesterday upheld a decision that despite his sexual harassment of two women his dismissal was unjust.

Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione had taken the case to court in his campaign to purge NSW Police of dodgy officers and clean up its reputation for big drinking and sexism. The case was one of a string exposed last week by The Daily Telegraph of officers behaving badly after consuming alcohol. The Coonamble-based officer was sacked by then-commissioner Ken Moroney over a string of sexual incidents, many fuelled by alcohol. Sgt Sewell had harassed parole officer Isabel McDermott twice - at a pub and at her workplace - in late 2005 and early 2006.

In December 2005, at the Commercial Hotel, he grabbed her and pulled her to him and said words to the effect of, "Perfume smells better on breasts", according to the termination notice. In January he "made improper comments to her regarding her name badge, which was positioned on the right side of her chest . . . words similar to, 'If that one is named Isabel, what is the other?'."

Sgt Sewell said Ms McDermott had appeared in a magazine displaying her breasts with other women at a Rebels outlaw motorcycle group function. He said that since the incidents he had stopped drinking alcohol, had undertaken counselling and his medication had been adjusted.

In another three incidents, Sgt Sewell squeezed the bottom of his senior constable partner when she visited him and Senior Constable Matthew Dickson, at Coonamble Police Station in December 2005. At a New Year's Eve party at the Commercial Hotel he undid the strings of her top, causing her to become upset. And on a third occasion in February the next year, at a social gathering at the same pub, he grabbed her buttocks.

Despite these incidents, the Industrial Relations Commission found that Sgt Sewell had been unfairly dismissed. Mr Scipione appealed to the full bench of the IRC but the decision was upheld, prompting the unsuccessful Court of Appeal action.

"I'm not happy at all," Ms McDermott said. "I'm very uncomfortable having him back there, I can tell you that. "My colleagues are not happy either because we have to work with him."


'No Tasers' for Victoria's corrupt and deadly police

Victoria Police has failed to tackle the shoot-to-kill culture that made it the nation's most deadly force, and its officers should not be trusted with Taser stun guns, the state's police watchdog has declared. A damning report from the Office of Police Integrity, due to be released this month, is believed to recommend sweeping changes across Victoria Police to safeguard the public from poorly trained officers unable to defuse life-threatening situations.

Victorian police have been notorious for their deadly use of force since the mid-1980s. The OPI says successive police commanders, including recently departed chief commissioner Christine Nixon, did not do enough to combat it. The fatal shooting of 15-year-old Tyler Cassidy by three officers last December sparked debate on whether the police should be armed with Tasers.

Chief Commissioner Simon Overland, who took over from Ms Nixon in March, has read the draft OPI report and has already taken steps to tackle the problem, announcing last month that police would be retrained in how to deal with critical incidents.

OPI director Michael Strong told The Australian: "We have significant concerns about the use of force in Victoria Police. Education and training is not focused properly, there is not sufficient emphasis on alternatives to use of force, there is insufficient monitoring of use of force and insufficient analysis. "Lessons that should have been learnt have not been learnt, and recommendations for improvement have not been acted upon." Mr Strong was "gravely concerned" previous reports on the problem, including a 2005 OPI report, had been all but ignored by the force. He said it was "disappointing" Ms Nixon had not given priority to the issue.

"Mr Overland has publicly expressed his determination to improve outcomes in areas of use of force, and I am confident he will make further statements following the release of our report," Mr Strong said.

Between 1990 and 2004, Victorian police shot dead 29 people, compared with police in NSW and Queensland killing 18 and 11 respectively. Tyler's death sparked calls for Tasers to be issued to police on the beat. At present only specialist squads in Victoria Police are issued with the stun guns. Mr Strong said it was appropriate for specialist police to have Tasers, but he was opposed to the weapons being issued to regular police in Victoria because of their inadequate training. Victoria Police "is not in a space where it would be prudent to issue Tasers", he said.

Queensland has halted the rollout of Tasers to general-duty police after the death of a man last month who had been stunned 28 times.

NSW will introduce Tasers to general-duty police this month, while Western Australia already issues them to general-duty police. Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and the ACT have restricted the weapons to specialist tactical response squads. Mr Strong rejected claims that the OPI's reputation had been damaged by the collapse of its legal case against former police union strongman Paul Mullett. Mr Mullett had faced criminal charges stemming from a 2007 OPI investigation into a series of high-level leaks alleged to have compromised a murder investigation. The charges were dropped last month, prompting Mr Mullett to demand a public apology.

Mr Strong said he did not regret the OPI's decision to pursue Mr Mullett. "I express no regret for OPI doing its job," he said of the investigation, which resulted in a guilty plea from former police media chief Steve Linnell and as a result of which former assistant commissioner Noel Ashby is awaiting trial on perjury charges. "An investigation that results in one person being dealt with, another being sent to trial, and charges against a third being dropped is not at all unusual. It would not be attracting the attention it has if not for Mr Mullett's colourful protests."

Mr Strong said he backed the OPI tactic of using public hearings to expose corrupt police, saying it was a powerful deterrent. "It sends out the message that if you act in that fashion we will expose your conduct and we will do it publicly." He said the OPI was increasingly involved in prevention and education strategies to reduce the probability of police officers flirting with the dark side.


People smugglers luring passengers to Australia with cheap trips

PEOPLE smugglers are luring more passengers by offering cut-price deals because of the economic crisis, an academic says.
Dr Khalid Koser, from the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, has been looking at the financial crisis's impact on asylum seekers and migration, and says it has contributed to the recent spike in unauthorised boat arrivals to Australia.

Smugglers in countries such as Indonesia were offering "discounts and cut prices to move larger numbers of people and generate a profit", Dr Koser said. "They are reducing the prices of trips to generate more of a market and get money back because they, like everybody else, are feeling the squeeze of the financial crisis."

Rising unemployment in South-East Asia had increased the number of desperate people willing to risk fleeing to Australia. Authorities have intercepted 16 boats carrying asylum seekers in Australian waters this year, one of which exploded, killing five people.

The Opposition blames the Government's "soft" border protection policies. It says the Christmas Island detention centre is almost at capacity, with more than 1000 asylum seekers.

"Policies play a role but it's important to note that the spike in boat arrivals has coincided with the financial crisis," Dr Koser said. He also warned Australia risked stepping out of a "global market for skills" if it cut skilled migration levels. The Federal Government shed 25,000 places this year to help protect local jobs.


Parents charged after kid skips school in Queensland

Most probably a black kid. I come from up that way and there were black kids in my school classes -- and they were often absent

POLICE have charged parents of a 15-year-old Queensland teenager who has skipped high school more than 300 times with failing to send their son to school.

The parents, who cannot legally be named, face a $450 fine in a landmark case under the state's new truancy laws. Police and Education Queensland allege the year 10 student has had more than 300 "unexplained absences" since starting at Tully High School two years ago.

Police yesterday described the charges as a "last resort" after the school allegedly made numerous attempts to reach out to the parents. "This is about putting the onus back on the parents and making them responsible for their kids attending school," Tully Detective-Sergeant Scott Moon said.

Yesterday the parents, aged 54 and 53, were issued with a notice to appear in Tully Magistrates Court on August 13. [Getting them to appear should be fun]


America steps in over Chinese abuses

Several Western companies are now evacuating staff from China to prevent further arbitrary imprisonments by the Chinese

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said multinational companies in China "need to have assurances and confidence" that their workers will be treated fairly, and indicated he would raise the case of a detained Australian executive with Premier Wen Jiabao in a meeting Thursday. "We just need to continue to press" China for transparency, fair enforcement of laws and openness to foreign investment and cooperation, said Mr. Locke, in an interview in China with CNN on Wednesday.

The comments come in the wake of the detention since July 5 of the executive, Stern Hu, and three Chinese colleagues at Anglo-Australian mining company Rio Tinto. The workers were accused of bribery to obtain state secrets relating to iron-ore price talks, though Australia has yet to be officially advised of the allegations. A Chinese steel executive has also been detained.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd also stepped up pressure on China Wednesday. In his strongest statements yet on the detention of Mr. Hu, Mr. Rudd told reporters in Sydney that China's foreign trading partners and businesses operating in China would be closely watching the outcome of the incident. "And they will draw their own conclusions as to how it is conducted," he said. Previously, Mr. Rudd, who speaks Chinese and served at the Australian Embassy in Beijing, had said quiet diplomacy regarding the case would elicit a better result than public grandstanding.

The detention of the Rio Tinto employees for alleged espionage over what appears to be a commercial matter could undermine China's assertions that its state enterprises are increasingly independent of government and adhere to commercial principles. China's foreign ministry has said the case doesn't indicate Beijing is restricting the activities of foreign companies.

The China Iron and Steel Association, the lead negotiator for the Chinese side in the annual iron-ore price negotiations, and leading mining companies said talks are continuing. The negotiators failed to strike a deal by the June 30 deadline. Steelmakers and ore suppliers have moved to reach interim deals until a final price is set. Some Chinese steel mills have agreed to provisional prices for iron ore, executives from three steel companies said Wednesday.

An official at Hebei Iron & Steel Group said his mill has reached a tentative price of a 33% discount from last year's benchmark rate with both Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, as well as a 28% discount with Vale SA. The Hebei official said his company is still waiting to hear from the China Iron and Steel Association and Baosteel Group Corp., the country's largest steelmaker, on the final price agreement. "And after that, we'll pay the price difference to ore miners," he said. Hunan Valin Iron & Steel Group Co.'s general manager, Cao Huiquan, said his company currently pays for iron ore shipments based on a 33% provisional discount. "This is not the final price," he said. "We will follow CISA's decision on a final price agreement."

All shipments contracted under long-term pricing arrangements in the new contract year from April 1 have been under provisional prices. The urgency to agree on provisional prices was caused, in part, by an increase in spot prices in recent months. Discounts have ranged between 20% and 40% from last year's prices. The provisional 33% discount reached by several key buyers suggests steel mills expect that to be the final price to emerge in talks.

China's steel association has insisted on a cut of at least 40% from last year's contract price. Major Japanese and South Korean steelmakers have reached supply contracts based on price cuts of 28% to 33%.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Here in Cairns you know its school holidays when the number of white kids increases at the shopping malls. The numbers of black kids never changes.