Saturday, November 14, 2009

More dreamers who want you to believe that they can see 100 years into the future

The usual stupid straight-line extrapolation; No mention that sea levels have stopped rising in recent years; No mention that we could well be in the middle of an ice-age by then

Almost 250,000 homes, now worth up to $63 billion, will be "at risk of inundation" by the end of the century, under "worst-case but plausible" predictions of rising sea levels. The study -- released ahead of the crucial Senate vote on Labor's emissions trading scheme -- modelled the effect of a 1.1m sea-level rise on cities and towns around Australia. This is a higher level than the 79cm end-of-century rise predicted by the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but in the mid-range of some subsequently published research.

It found between 157,000 and 247,000 homes "at risk of inundation" -- meaning they would be permanently flooded or frequently flooded by storm surges or king tides -- with hospitals, water-treatment plants and other public buildings also found to be at risk. Even Sydney airport would be at "increased risk" of inundation, according to the study, written by the Department of Climate Change with input from CSIRO, Geosciences Australia and scores of academics.

The study -- which models possible risks down to township and local government areas complete with aerial photographs of towns showing the possible inundation -- appears timed to give the public a sharp reminder of the possible dangers of climate change. It also increases pressure on the opposition as the government's ETS bill is brought back to parliament next week.

It found NSW had "the greatest exposure", with between 40,800 and 62,400 homes at risk, followed by Queensland (35,900 to 56,900), Victoria (27,600 to 44,600), South Australia (25,200 to 43,000) and Western Australia (18,700 to 28,000). Within each state, it identified the local government areas where property was most "at risk" -- for NSW, Lake Macquarie, Wyong, Gosford, Wollongong, Shoalhaven and Rockdale; for Queensland, Moreton Bay, Mackay, the Gold Coast, Fraser Coast, Bundaberg and the Sunshine Coast; and for Victoria, Kingston, Geelong, Wellington and Port Phillip.

The study says that "based on the recent science 1.1m was selected as a plausible value for sea-level rise for this risk assessment. It is important to note that the purpose of a risk assessment is to identify areas of risk and therefore plausible worse-case scenarios need to be considered."

Andrew Ash, director of the CSIRO climate-change adaption flagship, said the 1.1m sea-level rise was "certainly plausible". "As things stand, the only variation will be exactly when we reach that level," Dr Ash said. Given the study was meant to help government planning decisions, it was therefore "both plausible and appropriate" to model a 1.1m rise. As well as the threat of inundation, the study calculates how many buildings are under threat from "soft" erodable shorelines.


Crooked Australian Federal Police suppressed exculpatory rape evidence

This adds further to the poor record of the AFP. They need a big shakeup

An Australian wrongly spent more than two years in jail for child rape after the Australian Federal Police and the federal prosecutor denied the existence of crucial documents that would have exonerated him. Pilot Frederic Arthur Martens, 60, is threatening to sue the two agencies for millions of dollars after his conviction was quashed and his 5 1/2-year jail sentence was set aside by Queensland's Court of Appeal yesterday.

The court slammed prosecutors and police over their mishandling of the case. In a scathing judgment, judge Richard Chesterman was critical of the AFP and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for not producing flight records from the Papua New Guinea civil aviation authority that proved Mr Martens was 1000km away from Port Moresby on the night he was accused of raping the girl. The documents were eventually discovered by Mr Martens's partner and were instrumental in the quashing of his conviction.

Mr Martens also blames the AFP for the death of his infant daughter, Stephanie, who he says died from malaria in PNG after his arrest because he was prevented from leaving Australia and his wife could not afford a doctor after police froze his bank accounts.

Mr Martens was the first person convicted under Australia's sex tourism laws, when a Cairns jury found him guilty in October 2006 of raping a 14-year-old PNG girl in Port Moresby in 2001.

Justice Chesterman said that after Mr Martens was arrested, his bail conditions prevented him from travelling to PNG so he had to rely on the federal authorities to find the records. "(The AFP and CDPP) undertook the task and informed the petitioner that the records did not exist," Justice Chesterman wrote. "The records have always existed and have now been produced.

"It is a poor reflection upon the two organisations that one should have failed to find them, and denied their existence, and the other object to their use in the (appeal) on the ground that (Martens) should have obtained them earlier."

Justice Chesterman said Mr Martens had consistently requested the documents since 2004, but the agencies did not produce the records. Justice Chesterman said the records were crucial and critical to quashing Mr Martens' conviction. "The fresh evidence shows the conviction to have been unreasonable, or unsupported by the evidence . . . at the very least it raises a reasonable doubt about (Mr Martens's) guilt," he wrote.

Mr Martens last night said his case was an example of "gross ineptitude on behalf of the AFP, the immigration department and the CDPP. I was defamed with being a child pedophile," he said. "Both the AFP and the CDPP bragged about it in their annual reports, saying I was a predator, a pedophile," he told The Weekend Australian.

Mr Martens's brother Peter Wheatley said Mr Martens and his family had suffered enormously. "I call it our nightmare of reality," Mr Wheatley said. "He's scarred for life. The wounds are not repairable."

Mr Martens's barrister, Michael Sumner-Potts, said his client was considering suing the AFP and CDPP, and called for an inquiry into the handling of the case. "His life has been wrecked, financially, emotionally, psychologically," he said. "His business has crashed."

An AFP spokeswoman declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the office of the CDPP said it had prosecuted the matter in accordance with policy. [Some policy!!]


Victoria police again

Vic Police IT unit is 'shambolic' and corrupt. This has been rumbling on for years with nothing useful done about it

VICTORIA Police's IT department has been exposed by the state's chief watchdog as a dysfunctional, shambolic unit where taxpayer funds are wasted, government tender guidelines flouted and questionable million-dollar tender deals done. In a scathing report tabled in parliament, Ombudsman George Brouwer said the Business Information and Technology Services Department had grossly inadequate record-keeping, "apparent disregard" for contract processes and should be investigated for the misuse of taxpayer funds.

He identified the two senior managers of the $191 million unit -- including one handpicked by former police commissioner Christine Nixon -- as key problems but also criticised Ms Nixon for failing to address issues in the unit first identified several years ago.

The report detailed some of the examples of oversight, including paying $81,000 for a lease for a communications tower that had held nothing but an empty cupboard since 1995, tenders blowing out by $39m more than they were given government approval for and the only record of a $27m IT deal being a scribbled handwritten note. Senior staff at the unit also accepted free tickets to the Melbourne Cup, AFL grand finals and Australian Open tennis from potential IT contractors.

Mr Brouwer found there had been "no fewer" than three external reviews and five internal audits, and two criminal investigations of the unit since August 2006 but police had only recently taken "remedial action". One of the earlier police investigations found "correct practices and policy for procurement of contractors within BTIS were blatantly disregarded by senior managers and employees, who were involved in unethical, dishonest and deceptive practices".

Chief Commissioner Simon Overland was quick to admit that he was embarrassed by the activities of the unit and had accepted all the recommendations. The state government said it had become aware of the "terrible" breaches only last Christmas and hoped the revelations did not undermine the public's confidence in the police force.

Mr Brouwer's report, which contained more than 30 recommendations, found that the head of the unit, Valda Berzins, who was Victoria Police's chief information officer at the time and has since resigned, admitted she did not "closely monitor" the day-to-day functions and left it to her offsider, John Brown. "The extent of Mr Brown's control over knowledge of BITS finances and the general lack of proper records is best illustrated by the fact that Victoria Police's figures relating to the funding of a contract worth in excess of $27m are largely based on a handwritten note he provided to a BITS manager in a meeting several months after his resignation," Mr Brouwer wrote. "In another example, in February 2007, BITS obtained the relevant approvals to redirect security services valued at more than $11m from IBM to Fujitsu," Mr Brouwer wrote. "In March 2007 the former CIO entered into a contract with Fujitsu to the value of $27.2m, some $15m above the approved expenditure."

He said there had been 56 breaches of financial regulations by unit staff when processing government IT contracts.

Mr Brouwer said Ms Nixon had not done enough to fix the problems at the unit. "I consider that Victoria Police management permitted an environment to develop where two senior BITS staff committed Victoria Police to unfunded multi-million-dollar IT projects," he wrote.

Mr Overland, who accepted the report's findings, said corruption was not the issue, rather, it was a case of "trusting people too much". "I think essentially we probably trusted some people a little too much and we didn't have appropriate oversight arrangements in place that picked up the sorts of breaches and the sorts of behaviours that have been identified (in the report)," Mr Overland said. "There are very clear guidelines, very clear rules about how we actually expend public money and essentially they haven't followed proper process so it's not money that we didn't have to spend but they've gone about it in a way that didn't follow proper process.

"The criticisms that were made are fair criticisms and we absolutely need to accept and learn from them," he said. "It is embarrassing, yes. Obviously no one likes to receive criticism of this nature but I have to say I think the ombudsman has been very thorough and very fair in the way that he's gone about his task."

Mr Overland said the behaviour of accepting gifts and benefits was "clearly unacceptable". He said a new policy had been drafted but he would wait for a broader government review being conducted by the State Services Authority before making any announcements. "I want to actually wait and see what comes out of that to make sure my policy is consistent with that position. "But I don't believe my senior managers are under any misapprehension around what are appropriate gifts, benefits and hospitality."

Mr Overland said two criminal investigations had been completed but no charges would be laid. "They are now complete and finalised so there's no criminal conduct here."

He denied that trust in his staff was diminishing. "Two of the people that most of the criticisms have been levelled against are no longer with the organisation. ... I've had an opportunity to bring in a new senior executive team. "I have the utmost confidence in my team and the people working for them. I'm not going to single people out. I think in the end all of us have to accept responsibility for what's happened, I have to accept responsibility for what's happened, and make sure that the recommendations that the ombudsman has made are implemented and that this issue is fixed," Mr Overland said.


Happy, illiterate kids won't do -- says Federal education boss

EDUCATION Minister Julia Gillard has remained defiant in the face of criticism that comparative school performance results only measure children on an academic basis. Ms Gillard this week gave principals from around the country their first look at a soon-to-be launched website which will compare nearby schools, or those that share a similar socio-economic profile, against each other. Schools will have a profile page that includes details such as student-teacher ratios, attendance rates and what happens to high school leavers.

But the website's main section will compare results attained from National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy tests, which are taken by Year 3, 5, 7 and 9 students. Teachers are worried the profiles unfairly pin student achievement solely on academic results.

In a speech to public policy think tank the Eidos Institute in Brisbane yesterday, Ms Gillard agreed the website didn't measure every element of a child's development. "But I actually don't believe our aim is to have schools full of happy, illiterate, innumerate children," she said. "Our aim is to have happy, confident children who are getting the skills they need for work and life like reading, writing and maths."

Ms Gillard said these weren't the only measures of educational progress. "But I do not believe it is controversial to expect that every child in this country should master literacy and numeracy," she said.

The website will also include general data about students' backgrounds and a value reflecting the cohort's average socio-economic status. Ms Gillard said this information would help identify why certain schools did better or worse than others. "Background characteristics such as parental occupation, family income or indigeneity may help to explain the educational challenge facing those schools and those children," she said. "But they still do not excuse poor performance or low expectations in those schools - demography is not destiny."


Taxi whistleblower fired

THIS is the man allegedly dumped for saying what many people think - that Queensland's taxi industry isn't up to scratch. Caleb Maybir has been dismissed as a taxi rank supervisor at Brisbane Airport, allegedly for speaking on ABC talkback radio about the falling driving standards.

Mr Maybir, who identified himself only as a "supervisor", said that passengers were being overcharged by drivers who didn't know basic locations in greater Brisbane or how to drive by satellite navigation.

Within five minutes of ending the interview, Mr Maybir said he was contacted by a taxi official who had recognised his voice and told that his position was in doubt. Queensland Workplace Rights Ombudsman Don Brown is investigating the Taxi Council of Queensland and Yellow Cabs for alleged retaliation against Mr Maybir, who has been supported by more than 500 taxi drivers who signed a petition demanding his reinstatement. Mr Brown said if the claims were justified it would be one of the worst cases he had seen in decades of handling industrial relations complaints.

The fallout follows Tuesday's explosive comments in State Parliament by LNP member Vaughan Johnson, who criticised overseas-born taxi drivers and claimed some may be illegally sharing the same licence. Mr Maybir was employed for six shifts a week on the airport rank by Yellow Cabs but his services were being paid by the Taxi Council.

Taxi Council chief executive Blair Davies admitted he was behind the decision, telling Yellow Cabs the council was "not prepared to pay" for Mr Maybir's services.

Mr Davies said the radio comments added to his objections, which also included unspecified complaints of which Mr Maybir said he was never informed. Mr Davies refused a request by The Courier-Mail for details about the complaints.

Mr Maybir, a 40-year veteran of the taxi industry, was off-duty and speaking from his home when he contacted the radio station on August 31. "I was very upset that night. I felt it was an invasion of my freedom of speech," Mr Maybir said. "It's been getting to the level of unacceptable service at the airport." Mr Maybir said he received at least six complaints an hour from dissatisfied passengers.

Mr Brown said he was investigating Mr Davies for allegedly providing misleading information to the Ombudsman – a criminal offence – and for allegedly taking additional action against an employee for making a complaint to his office.


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