Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What the hell happened here?

How did a prisoner in a Victorian police cell become "bloody"? And how come it was initially covered up?

Sickening CCTV footage of a bleeding prisoner crawling from his cell has been described as "deeply disturbing" by a Victoria Police commissioner.

The Chinese man, in his 50s, who was arrested and placed in a cell at Dandenong police station for being drunk, pleaded for help, soiled himself and was bleeding when he was bailed by police on May 12.

Five minutes later, as an interpreter tried to help him, police called an ambulance, but he died the following day in hospital.

Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said an officer had been put on alternative duties while the ethical standards department and the homicide squad investigate the Dandenong death.

"My view is that if you see a prisoner crawling on the ground, that should be a very clear signal that we should be calling an ambulance, and I'm very concerned in this case that did not occur," he said.

Mr Cornelius said there was no evidence of the man being physically mishandled by police.

"It is a deeply disturbing and very disappointing image. I would never want to see anything like that again in my policing career," he said.

Police investigating the tragedy will compile a brief for the state coroner.

The circumstances of the man's death only came to light yesterday after an interpreter who witnessed the incident phoned a radio station.

The woman, "JJ", said the man repeatedly yelled that he needed to go to hospital and was writhing in pain. She said she was struggling to erase the images of his blood-stained face and the "despair" in his eyes.


Another account of the matter:

A Chinese man who was seen bleeding from his mouth and crawling from his police cell "like a dog" begged officers for help hours before he died in hospital, his interpreter claims.

The woman, known as JJ, said she was called to Dandenong police station after the allegedly drunk man was arrested about 2.30pm on May 12.

JJ told Radio 3AW today the man had soiled himself, was bleeding from the mouth and complaining of such intense pain he couldn't stand up or walk at the police station.

She said when the cell door was opened, the man crawled out "on his knees and hands like a dog" with no assistance from police officers. "When I looked through I saw blood everywhere in the cell and he was on the floor yelling ... he was in pain," she said. "I heard him yelling out 'I can’t take this anymore I need to go to the hospital'."

After the man's paperwork had been processed, JJ said he was taken to the garage area and told by an officer to "Get out! Get out!".

"He said 'I can't move, I can't move' and then two officers came and just grabbed him and threw him out," she said. "He yelled in pain, so much pain, he yelled as if someone was killing someone."

JJ said outside the police station the man, aged about 50, told her his back and his right hip were causing him pain. After waiting on the footpath for 40 minutes police organised an ambulance, she said. He died in hospital the next day.

JJ claimed she was told by police the man was "dying anyway". She said the man was married with a 15-year-old daughter. "I just hope his family would get some fair answer," she said.

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius today confirmed the incident was being investigated by the homicide squad and ethical standards department.

He said he understood the man had been "very unwell for some considerable time" and tests had revealed a "substantial amount" of alcohol in his blood.

He said there was "no evidence of physical force in the course of his body being examined".

Assistant Commissioner Cornelius said the interpreter had provided a statement to investigators from the ethical standards department and he had "no reason to doubt the account provided by the witness".

He also revealed a police officer who had contact with the man has been assigned a new role while the investigations continue.

"I understand that the duties of one of the members involved was reviewed and as a result that member is undertaking other duties," Assistant Commissioner Cornelius said. "At this stage we haven't formed a view one way or the other about the appropriateness of the conduct of those members."


The disdain of the self-elected Leftist elite for the "illiterates" who pay their way

From New York to Sydney and on to Melbourne, many an inner-city intellectual is full of contempt for their fellow men and women. It's just that not many 'fess up to what they really think.

Not so the Australian expatriate Peter Carey. The New York-based novelist told the taxpayer-subsidised Sydney Writers' Festival at the weekend: "We are getting dumber every day; we are literally forgetting how to read." Carey has not released the text of his address but, according to a Herald report, he complained: "We have yet to grasp the fact that consuming cultural junk … is completely destructive of democracy."

According to the report, the novelist's audience was of the converted kind. No disagreement was evident when Carey declared the nation of his birth has "become intolerant of any news that is not entertaining".

Carey's complaint is, in Australia, cookbooks and Dan Brown novels top most best-seller lists. And he expressed the wish, by as early as next year, every 14-year-old would understand and adore William Shakespeare and learn to love Charles Dickens's work. If young teenagers go for Shakespeare and Dickens, well and good. But if they will settle for Brown, this should be good enough. What matters is that the young learn to love reading - and virtually any reading will do for starters.

As a novelist, Carey is worried about the status of the novel itself. In April, The Wall Street Journal reported how, at a function in the New York Public Library, Carey responded to a question about the kind of novels he writes with a version of the conversation he claims to usually have on planes. It went as follows. The person says: "What do you do?" "I write novels." Person: "Should I know your name?" Carey: "Only if you're literate."

Enough said.

The fact is people read more than ever before. This reflects increasing literacy rates in the less developed world, along with the growth in online reading in the developed world. Carey's claim "we have forgotten how to read" is hyperbole - whether spoken to American or Australian audiences. Yet it is more than this. The novelist's disdain for the reading tastes of his fellow citizens reflects a deeper disenchantment with societies which do not assess intellectuals to be as important as intellectuals regard themselves.

In an interview on Radio National's Breakfast in 2006, Carey declared if he still lived in Australia he "would spend so much time in a total blinding rage". He is on record as having described Australia as a "flea circus".

Carey's Sydney Writers' Festival whinge is but the most recent complaint of the inner-city leftist writer or commentator who decries the (alleged) lack of culture among those who live in the suburbs and regional centres. A similar critique is commonly heard in Australia.

Earlier this month, The Age dismissed its Brunswick-based columnist Catherine Deveny. The immediate cause turned on her Logie night attempt at humour - to the effect it would be a you-beaut idea if 11-year-old Bindi Irwin got laid. This controversy diverted attention away from Deveny's contempt for those who live in the suburbs, some of whom read The Age. She mocked shoppers at the suburban shopping malls, ridiculed families with signed and framed football jumpers on their walls and dismissed believers as mere idiots.

No one quite matches Deveny's contempt for the less educated and lower socio-economic groups. However, in 2004 La Trobe University academic Judith Brett warned readers of the edited collection The Howard Years that, in contemporary Australia, "the opinions of the ignorant or uninvolved are given equal weight to those of the passionate and the knowledgeable". How shocking is that?

Writing in the Herald Sun last February, columnist Jill Singer opined: "There is nothing wrong with being an accountant, farmer or fisherman - but these are insufficient credentials to, say, run a nation's finances." According to this logic, one-time train driver Ben Chifley was not qualified to be treasurer in John Curtin's successful wartime government but Jim Cairns was just the man to hold the position in Gough Whitlam's erratic government in the early 1970s. Yet Chifley was competent at his job while the former academic Cairns was a disaster.

In 2005, journalist and academic Margaret Simons wrote in the Griffith Review about her experiences in visiting the Fountain Gate shopping centre in suburban Melbourne. It was an "us" and "them" experience. One minute Simons was in Carlton with its devotion to "conspicuous refinement and good taste". Just an hour later, dressed in hemp, she was in suburban Narre Warren asking shoppers whether they had heard of the culture wars and wondering why they ignored her questions. All this in search of an answer to Simons's query as to what is "the difference between the people who chose to live here and ourselves". The question is as embarrassing as the account of her research for an answer.

It seems that some parts of the inner-city are more, in Simons's terminology, sophisticated than others. On ABC radio in Melbourne last February, John Faine dismissed Altona as so "industrial" it "gets the fumes from the industrial zones wafting across it". Not attractive, was Faine's judgment. Not enough coffee shops and insufficient hemp worn, apparently.

The irony is that much of this inner-city snobbery is funded by taxpayers who live in industrial areas or near suburban shopping malls. Carey's alienation found expression at the Sydney Writers' Festival while Simons's analysis appeared in the taxpayer-subsidised Griffith Review. Brett is an academic and Faine works for the public broadcaster. It's enough to make you reach for the nearest cookbook.


Teachers get no incentive to improve

GOOD teachers are not recognised and rewarded while poor teachers are not penalised because methods to evaluate their performance at school are meaningless and ineffective.

A report by the independent think tank the Grattan Institute, to be released today, calls for a radical overhaul of the nation's systems for evaluating teachers, saying the profession believes they are meaningless and undertaken only to satisfy administrative requirements.

"Although all Australian schools have systems of evaluation and development in place, they clearly aren't working. Teachers believe that the systems are broken," the report says.

It adds that 92 per cent of teachers work in schools where the principal never reduces the annual pay rise for underperforming teachers, and almost three-quarters, or 71 per cent, say teachers with sustained poor performance are not dismissed.

The report uses data from the first international survey of classroom teachers, by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which found Australia was the fourth worst of 23 developed nations in recognising effective teachers.

Director of school education research at the Grattan Institute, Ben Jensen, said yesterday debate on the quality of teaching in Australia in recent years had been cast in terms of using student results in a merit pay scheme or in setting standards for teachers.

But Dr Jensen, who was involved in the OECD's survey, said almost all Australian teachers, 91 per cent, report the most effective teachers in their schools do not receive the greatest recognition, and they would not receive any recognition for improving their own teaching.

"When you consider the most important way to improve the school education system is to improve the quality of the teaching workforce, it's really a shocking finding that almost all teachers say under-performance is not addressed in their school," he said.

"Teachers are saying they want the most effective school education system we can have; teachers want school improvement, they want to improve themselves and they want to see their school improve."

The report notes that with an excellent teacher, a student can achieve in half a year what would take a full year with a less effective teacher, and the impact is cumulative.

Students with effective teachers for several years in a row outperform students with poor teachers by as much as 50 percentage points over three years.

Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard said the government was committed to a better system of assessing and rewarding teachers, and was developing the first national professional standards for teachers, and funding programs paying the best teachers top salaries to work in struggling schools.

"Unlike the opposition, we are putting our money where our mouth is," she said. "All of this will go if Tony Abbott is elected. The opposition has said they will cut funding to these programs."

Opposition spokesman on education Christopher Pyne said a Coalition government would move quickly to give school principals the autonomy granted their peers in non-government schools, with the power to hire and fire and to pay staff based on performance.

"If you don't have these mechanisms at work, then the findings of the Grattan Institute are completely unsurprising," he said. "That disenchantment and disappointment teachers have in their profession will only get worse until there is a real revolution in education, which introduces competitive principles and gives principals in schools autonomy."

Federal president of the Australian Education Union, Angelo Gavrielatos, said the union supported systems that recognised and further rewarded teachers who demonstrate higher quality skills.

"Teachers prefer to work with peers or their grade group in a collaborative environment in evaluating and assessing their teaching programs, and what's lacking in schools is the space, time and respect for teachers to do so," he said.

The Grattan report says previous research in Australia has shown that nearly all teachers receive satisfactory ratings under existing evaluation schemes, and progress in their careers, making their salaries dependent on their tenure, not the quality of their work.

Dr Jensen said a meaningful system for evaluating teachers was required that identified strengths and weaknesses, providing recognition, and room to expand on their strengths and programs to address their weaknesses.

The system should pay effective teachers more and have them running professional development programs for colleagues, while underperforming teachers should have access to programs to help them improve.

Failing that, they should be moved out of the profession.


Cap and trade our way out of red-tape?

The author below, Dr Hartwich, is German and I think this is an example of German humour

WHAT do carbon emissions and red tape have in common? They are both unwanted by-products. Carbon emissions result from the use of energy, whereas red tape is caused by regulation. Since both of them are a kind of pollution, there is no reason we should treat them differently.

For both energy consumption and regulation, politicians agree it would be better to achieve more with less wasteful by-products.

We would still like to use energy but with reduced carbon emissions. And although some regulation may be necessary, we would prefer to keep the form-filling to a bare minimum.

At least until Kevin Rudd had taken temporary leave from the "greatest moral challenge of our time", cutting carbon emissions through an emissions trading scheme had been his preferred policy for addressing climate change.

Many economists have questioned whether this was the most appropriate way of tackling the problem as the government planned to compensate all the big emitters. However, the general principle behind cap and trade still has great economic appeal.

Put simply, an ETS makes it possible to cut emissions where this can be achieved in the most cost-efficient way. While the total amount of emissions is capped, polluters can trade emissions certificates among themselves, thus deciding where precisely to make the cuts.

Could we apply the same logic to cutting red tape? How about not an ETS but an RTTS, a red tape trading scheme? With red tape it's just like with carbon emissions. Almost everybody agrees it needs to be cut, yet no one seems to have any idea how this could be achieved.

This is not just an Australian phenomenon, of course. Across the globe politicians have been trying to cope with excessive form-filling, overzealous bureaucracies and regulations that, once put in place, develop lives of their own. The number of international "better regulation" commissions, proposals, strategies and initiatives is countless.

Some governments have experimented with sunset clauses that make new laws expire automatically on a certain day in the hope that unnecessary regulations will simply disappear if nobody proposes to renew them. The reality, however, is that you have only to pass a blanket, routine renewal act to circumvent this sunset clause.

Another idea is to assess the regulatory effect of new laws before they become laws. In theory, this should stop legislators from imposing high burdens on households and businesses. In practice, this has never stopped a government from legislating what it thought necessary.

It's a sad irony that the British government once issued guidelines on filling in these regulatory impact assessments, which ran to 65 densely written pages. Deregulation had become the new regulation.

It is clear, then, that new ideas are needed to deal with excessive bureaucracy and this is where the RTTS comes in.

There are two advantages to an RTTS. First, it can cut red tape in the most efficient way. Second, the public servants sitting idle in the climate change department could be given a proper task to do. They'd need only to change the signs on the doors, putting them in charge of the RTTS instead of the ETS.

Sound like a good idea? This is how it could work. First, the government would need to do a stock-taking of all present bureaucracy costs. This is not as complicated as it sounds.

The Dutch government has developed a standard cost model, which makes measuring regulatory burdens a straightforward task. The time needed to fill in forms is multiplied by the hourly costs of employing the form fillers.

Multiply this by the number of these forms filled in across the whole economy in a year and you get the red tape cost of this one form. Do this with all forms and you know what red tape costs us in total.

This may seem a little difficult but the Dutch have completed the measuring exercise for their economy within two years.

After this audit has been completed, red tape certificates could be issued to polluters -- say, the Australian Taxation Office or the health department. But there's a catch. Like an ETS, certificates would be capped at, say, 95 per cent their present bureaucracy levels.

Government departments and agencies would have to cut the red tape by 5 per cent or trade with other departments that have excelled at cutting their regulatory emissions. As a result of the RTTS, red tape would be cut by the amount specified by the cap.

It would be left to the creativity of government officials to identify the best ways to tackle bureaucracy. They would also have strong incentives to meet their targets. To most politicians, this proposal may sound crazy at first. But it only applies the logic of an ETS to red tape reduction. Maybe it is not such a barmy idea after all?


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